The Ravens signed running back Trent Richardson in mid-April, but the former first-round pick missed the first week of OTAs with a hamstring injury. Coach JohnHarbaugh attributes the injury to a lack of conditioning. “Trent just needs to get healthy,” Harbaugh told Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. “I think the workload and the amount of work it takes to be a world-class conditioned athlete is something that he’s working on right now. That’s what he needs to understand, and that’s where he needs to get himself.”
In an attempt to clear more cap space, ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini tweets that the Jets could consider cutting kicker Nick Folk. Of course, that assumes that rookie kicker RossMartin has done enough to displace the veteran.
The Titans have the top spot in the waiver wire, and Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com suggests that the team could looking to add another receiver. With eight wideouts on the current roster, Wyatt believes the coaching staff will likely take a look at their own guys before making any moves.
The most high-profile free agent signings occurred more than two months ago, but as we near June there are still talented NFL free agents available on the open market. Most of these players (with a few exceptions) won’t command much guaranteed money, and given that we’ve passed the May 12 deadline, none will factor into the compensatory draft pick formula. Let’s take a look at the players who will try to find a home as training camp approaches:
1. Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB: The most obvious destination for Fitzpatrick remains the Jets, who don’t intend to play second-round pick Christian Hackenberg immediately but, as of the draft, hadn’t had meaningful talks with Fitz’s camp in awhile. The 33-year-old Fitzpatrick has apparently told people he’d “rather not play football” in 2016 than accept New York’s current offer, though that seems like a negotiating ploy to get the Jets to put more than $7-8MM on the table. Gang Green holds all the leverage in this scenario, as the only other club that might have still been searching for a quarterback — the Broncos — is thought to have ended their hunt for another signal-caller after drafting Paxton Lynch last month.
2. Anquan Boldin, WR: Even as he ages, Boldin continues to post solid production — he’s managed at least 65 receptions in each of the past four years, averaging nearly 1,000 yards and five touchdowns during that time. And while the 49ers have not asked him to return in 2016, Boldin could be an option for a number of wide receiver-needy teams, as the Bengals, Steelers, Colts, Chiefs, and Giants could all make varying levels of sense for the veteran pass-catcher, especially given that he’s indicated he’d prefer to play for a contender. Boldin has taken just one free agent visit this offseason, but that team — Washington — is unlikely to still have interest given that it selected TCU wideout Josh Doctson in the first round of the draft.
3. Arian Foster, RB: There’s no question that Foster offers the highest upside of any free agent on this list, as he’s topped 1,200 yards rushing in every season that he’s remained even remotely healthy. But health, of course, has remained a hindrance throughout Foster’s career — in 2015 alone, Foster was slowed by a groin injury during camp before suffering a torn Achilles in in Week 7. The Dolphins met with Foster earlier this offseason and could still be a landing spot, while the Raiders, Eagles, and Chargers (especially if Melvin Gordon‘s recovery from microfracture surgery doesn’t go well) could be options.
4. Jahri Evans, G: Knee and ankle injuries limited Evans to 11 games in 2015, but like Foster, Evans is a solid contributor when he’s on the field, as he graded as the league’s No. 27 guard among 81 qualifiers last year, per Pro Football Focus. Entering his age-33 season, Evans might have to be willing to engage in a camp battle for a starting role, or even wait until a club suffers an injury along its offensive interior. But a team like the Broncos, who are currently projected to start sixth-round rookie Connor McGovern at right guard, could express interest.
5. Louis Vasquez, G: Vasquez isn’t quite the guard that Evans is, but he offers a vast amount of experience, as he played over 1,000 snaps in 2015 with Denver, and has started 101 games since entering the league in 2009. Not yet 30 years old, Vasquez could help a number of clubs at either guard position — he met with the Titans earlier this offseason, and depending on its assessment of Jeremiah Poutasi, Tennessee may still be interested. The Chiefs, having failed to replace Jeff Allen, could also make sense as a destination.
6. Andre Johnson, WR: After posting the worst full-season results of his career, Johnson was released by the Colts just one season into a three-year pact. Whether interested clubs will determine that Johnson was victimized by a lackluster 2015 Indianapolis (and largely Andrew Luck-less) offense — or instead conclude that Johnson is just about finished at age-34 — is an open question, but the 13-year veteran has indicated that he’d like to continue playing in 2016.
7. Will Beatty, T: Beatty is expected to be fully healthy this summer after missing the entire 2015 season with a torn pectoral muscle, but he reportedly won’t be returning to the Giants. It’s a little surprising that Beatty hasn’t yet found a home for 2016, but he shouldn’t have to wait much longer, as he’s clearly the best tackle available on the open market (his top competition is the likes of Jake Long and Mike Adams). I could see the Bears bringing in Beatty to compete with Charles Leno on the blindside, while the Cardinals could also be a feasible landing spot if they aren’t happy with D.J. Humphries — who didn’t play a single snap as a rookie — at right tackle.
8. James Jones, WR: Another season catching passes from Aaron Rodgers, another successful year for Jones, who returned to Green Bay after a year in Oakland to post 50 receptions for nearly 900 yards an eight touchdowns. Jones, now 32, has indicated that he’d like to play for awhile longer, though the Packers have reportedly moved on. After waiting until July of last year to sign with the Giants (and September to reunite with the Pack), Jones could again have to wait awhile to find a new team, but whoever signs him will be acquiring a big-play threat — in 2015, Jones ranked fourth in the league with 17.8 yards per reception.
9. Ryan Wendell, C/G: Perhaps the least recognizable name on this list, Wendell spent the last seven seasons as a utility interior lineman with the Patriots, and ended up starting 44 contests from 2012-2014. A knee injury prematurely ended Wendell’s 2015 season in November, and a March report stated that Wendell would wait until he returned to full health before signing with a new team. A return to New England can’t be ruled out, but a club like the Cardinals — who are currently projecting A.Q. Shipley to start at center — could also be on Wendell’s radar.
10. Owen Daniels, TE: Daniels has spent all ten of his NFL seasons under the tutelage of Gary Kubiak, following the coach from Houston to Baltimore and, finally, to Denver. That streak of loyalty is now in danger after the Broncos released Daniels earlier this year, though Kubiak did not rule out re-signing the veteran tight end (Denver has since signed fellow TE Garrett Graham, however). Even at age-33, Daniels performed in line with his career averages, posting 48 receptions for more than 500 yards and four touchdowns.
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak addressed reporters on Tuesday morning at the NFL owners’ meetings and we have the highlights from his scrum right here, courtesy of Troy Renck of The Denver Post:
Kubiak said that he has big plans for tight end Jeff Heuerman and he sees him as a complete tight end, Renck tweets. Of more import to us at PFR, Kubiak says that he hasn’t ruled out bringing Owen Daniels back. Daniels had two years left on his contract but was released by Denver earlier this month. The veteran tight end, who will turn 34 in November, caught 46 balls for 517 yards and three touchdowns during his lone season in Denver.
Kubiak said the team is in “no hurry” to add quarterback. “We talk about it everyday. The important thing is to get it right and not rush it,” the coach said (link via Renck).
Kubiak said that he talked to Jordan Norwood on Monday and he says it’s a sign of how much the team wants the wide receiver back in the fold (link).
The coach wants a fullback on the roster again and the team is looking at options in the draft, Renck tweets. The Broncos wanted to have a fullback in 2015, but that didn’t pan out due to James Casey‘s knee issues.
Daniels, who had two years left on his contract, would have had a cap number of $4.5MM on Denver’s books in 2016. By releasing him, the Broncos trim that figure by $2.5MM to $2MM, and avoid paying him a $500K roster bonus that had been due next week. The veteran tight end, who will turn 34 in November, caught 46 balls for 517 yards and three touchdowns during his lone season in the Mile High City.
As for Brewer, he had served as the Broncos’ long snapper since the 2012 season. Any cap savings Denver creates as a result of cutting Brewer would be extremely marginal, so it appears the team is parting ways with him for other reasons.
Broncos tight end Owen Daniels is a newly-minted Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowler, and he has amassed 5,661 receiving yards and 36 touchdowns over a long and productive career. He is also 33, and he has had two of his ten professional seasons cut short, one due to a broken leg and one due to a torn ACL. All of that wear and tear has left him with no meniscus in his left knee and a right knee that caused him considerable pain throughout the course of the 2015 season.
Add it all up and it’s reasonable to wonder if Daniels is contemplating retirement. However, Daniels himself told Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today that he plans to continue playing at least through the end of his current contract, which runs through the 2017 season. He signed a three-year, $12.25MM deal last March and is set to count $4.5MM against the cap in 2016 and $5MM against the cap in 2017. The team could save $2.5MM by releasing him.
However, the Broncos do not currently have another tight end on the roster that could realistically step in for Daniels. Vernon Davis was a major disappointment after being acquired by Denver in a mid-season trade in 2015, and he is eligible for unrestricted free agency this year anyway. Virgil Green has been a quality No. 2 tight end during his five-year tenure with the Broncos, but he has not done much to show that he can step into the No. 1 role, and 2015 third-round selection Jeff Heuerman has significant upside but missed all of his rookie season after tearing his left ACL in a non-contact special teams drill last May.
Daniels spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Texans prior to signing a one-year deal with the Ravens in 2014. Current Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak was the Texans’ head coach for the entirety of Daniels’ career in Houston and served as Baltimore’s offensive coordinator in 2014 before both men moved to Denver in 2015. Daniels, a Wisconsin product, caught 46 balls for 517 yards and three scores last season, and he caught Peyton Manning‘s first pass of Super Bowl 50, good for 18 yards.
Said Daniels, “[Retirement’s] definitely an option. But I’m a man of my word, I signed a three-year deal, so I’d like to keep playing. I feel good enough as long as I can get some work done on my 33-year-old knees.”
3:40pm: Daniels will get $12MM over three years, according to Mike Klis of The Denver Post (on Twitter).
3:18pm: The Broncos announced that they have signed tight end Owen Daniels to a three-year deal, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun (on Twitter).
Daniels was scheduled to visit Denver on Wednesday, but it sounds like the two sides slid the powwow up on their schedule. Now, Daniels will give Denver some reinforcements at tight end after Julius Thomas‘ reported agreement with the Jaguars. Last season, Daniels hauled in 48 catches for 527 yards and 4 touchdowns. That campaign was his most productive since his 2012 Pro Bowl season in which he had 62 catches for 716 yards and six scores.
Daniels, 31, was limited to just five games in 2013 due to a broken leg. In his previous seven NFL seasons, however, he averaged over 51 receptions per year to go along with 26 total touchdowns. Daniels was also named to two Pro Bowl teams, in 2008 and 2012. His deal with Baltimore last year was worth $1MM with $1MM in incentives.
The Broncos have reached an agreement to re-sign linebacker Steven Johnson, who had been eligible for restricted free agency, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post. Rather than tendering him an offer worth $1.542MM, the team appears to have worked out a one-year deal worth less than that.
Johnson saw an increased role on the defensive side of the ball in the second half of the 2014 season, playing in 215 total snaps on defense for the Broncos. Typically though, he has primarily been a special teams contributor — he recorded 11 tackles in kick and punt coverage last season.
In addition to re-signing Johnson, the Broncos have also been busy trying to fill the void left by the departing Julius Thomas at tight end. According to Klis, tight end Owen Daniels, who has a long history with new Denver coach Gary Kubiak, will visit with the team on Wednesday.
While the Broncos appear set to lose Thomas to Jacksonville, the team seems to be in good position to bring back its other free agent tight end. Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports that the Broncos are the frontrunners to sign Virgil Green, who is weighing strong interest from multiple teams and is close to making a decision.
February 24th, 2015 at 3:03pm CST by Dallas Robinson
Earlier today, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and head coach John Harbaugh spoke to the media in Baltimore, and Jeff Zrebiec and Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, and Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com were on hand to document the pair’s comments. Let’s take a look at the highlights, with all links going to Twitter:
GM Ozzie Newsome
The Ravens have only $5.7MM in cap space at the moment, meaning the club might have to make moves to expand that figure. “We will exhaust every avenue that we have to get as much cap flexibility as we can,”said Newsome. “We’ve been working at it.”
Newsome said the Ravens have discussed quarterback Joe Flacco‘s cap figure for 2015, and will address it at some point. Flacco will count nearly $15MM against Baltimore’s cap next season.
It doesn’t sound like the Ravens are planning on re-signing defender Pernell McPhee, as Newsome stated “you can’t pay everyone market value.”
Newsome believes that embattled former Raven Ray Rice will find out before April if he’ll be able to land an opportunity with another team, and said that he was happy Rice was ultimately reinstated. Newsome also indicated he helped testify to get Rice reinstated.
Newsome acknowledged the team is in “wait-and-see” mode with tight end Dennis Pitta, who missed most of 2014 with a dislocated hip. The GM did indicate the Ravens would add TEs, whether through free agency or the draft.
January 16th, 2015 at 9:44pm CST by Dallas Robinson
Despite being eliminated during the Divisional Round of the playoffs, several Ravens players can rest easy knowing they’ve earned more money based on their 2014 performance. According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, receiver Steve Smith will earn an extra $1MM in incentives, which were based on playing time, individual, and team performance. Linebacker Daryl Smith will also have another $1MM tacked onto his 2014 earnings, and he also hit an escalator that will increase his 2015 salary by $500K. Tight end Owen Daniels earned $755K through incentives, and center Gino Gradkowski will see a pay raise thanks to the proven performance escalator (explained here). Here are more cap-related notes from around the NFL…
After an outstanding 2014 season that saw him record 14.5 sacks, Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin will earn a higher base salary in 2015 thanks to escalators in his contract. Per Adam Caplan of ESPN (Twitter link), Barwin hit all of his escalators, meaning he’ll make $5.5MM next year, a bump of $900K.
Cowboys safety Barry Church will earn a $1MM raise on top of his scheduled 2015 salary, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, who writes that Church met a playing time threshold by seeing action on 85% of defensive snaps last season.
As we head to the offseason, several teams are willing to offer high guarantees in order to sign highly-coveted players to reserve/futures deals. According to Brian McIntyre (via Twitter), the largest guarantees on reserve deals thus far belong to running back Ryan Williams (who signed a two-year contract with the Cowboys) and defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye, who inked a pact with the 49ers.
The Cowboys will carry over $3.26MM in cap space into 2015, tweets Todd Archer of ESPN.com.