Patrick DiMarco

AFC Notes: Chiefs, Browns, Kap, Bills

The latest news and notes from the AFC:

  • The Chiefs have announced several changes to their front office, including the hiring of Tim Terry as director of pro personnel and the promotion of Ryan Poles from college scouting coordinator to director of college scouting. Terry is joining his second NFL organization after spending the first 13 years of his career in Green Bay, where he was most recently the team’s assistant director of pro personnel. General manager John Dorsey was in the Packers’ front office before the Chiefs hired him in 2013, so he’s already familiar with Terry. Kansas City’s Dorsey-led front office also pried Chris Shea away from Philadelphia. Shea, the Chiefs’ new salary cap and legal executive, previously served as the Eagles’ director of scouting administration.
  • Former NFL head coach and current 49ers assistant Eric Mangini believes that Colin Kaepernick would be a great fit for the Browns.  “I think as the market settles and people start looking at these young quarterbacks they brought in and start evaluating the quarterback situation, they might realize it may not look as good as they hoped it would be,” Mangini told PFT. “I always thought he would be a good fit for the Browns. Hue [Jackson’s] system is multiple shifts and motions, and that’s what he did in San Francisco. Hue has an element of quarterback-driven runs, I think Colin is excellent as that. As a candidate, him vs. RGIII a year ago, I’d take Colin 10 times out of 10.” So far, the Browns have shown no interest in Kaepernick. To date, only Seattle has given him a real look.
  • Currently, the Bills are not projected to receive any 2018 compensatory picks because they signed more unrestricted free agents (seven) to qualifying contracts than they lost to other teams (five). However, the Bills can change that, as Mike Rodak of ESPN.com writes. By releasing a total of four of their seven signed free agents between now and Week 10, the Bills would be projected to tack on two compensatory picks – one being a third-rounder for losing cornerback Stephon Gilmore plus a fourth-rounder for losing wide receiver Robert Woods. The most likely UFAs to go, in Rodak’s estimation, are defensive end Ryan Davis, offensive lineman Vlad Ducasse, and wide receiver Andre Holmes. To secure that fourth-round pick, they could also cut fullback Patrick DiMarco or kicker Steven Hauschka.

AFC Contract Details: Gilmore, Kirkpatrick

The latest contract details from the AFC (all Twitter links):

  • Cornerback Stephon Gilmore‘s five-year, $65MM accord with the Patriots includes an $18MM signing bonus, reports Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. The arrangement comes with a fully guaranteed $31MM through 2018 and $9MM guaranteed for injury only in 2019. It contains up to $500K in per-game roster bonuses each year, as well (via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe).
  • Fellow corner Dre Kirkpatrick‘s Bengals deal, worth $52.5MM over a five years, includes $15MM in 2017, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today. The contract features another $2.5MM in incentives. It’s essentially a pay-as-you agreement after 2018, notes CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, who adds that Kirkpatrick got $7MM to sign, $12MM in guarantees, and will make $23.2MM during the first two years of the contract.
  • Guard Ronald Leary‘s pact with the Broncos is worth $36MM over four years and will receive $18.75MM guaranteed, writes Mike Klis of 9NEWS. Leary will collect a $3.5MM signing bonus.
  • Newly re-upped Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills landed a $7MM signing bonus, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
  • Fullback Patrick DiMarco‘s four-year deal with the Bills features $4.8MM in guarantees, more than the originally reported $4MM, per Wilson. It also comes with a $2MM bonus and an annual workout bonus worth $59K.
  • Safety Nate Allen‘s contract with the Dolphins is for one year and $3.4MM, relays Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald.
  • The Titans gave linebacker Nate Palmer $2.3MM over two years, writes Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com. He also received a signing bonus worth $850K.
  • Tight end David Johnson‘s agreement with the Steelers is worth $2.05MM over two years, per Wilson. It includes a $235K signing bonus and a $915K roster bonus.

Bills To Sign FB Patrick DiMarco

The Bills are signing fullback Patrick DiMarco, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). He’ll get a four-year deal worth $8.5MM. The pact will contain $4MM guaranteed.

DiMarco was one of the top fullbacks available this offseason. Now that he has gotten a sizable payday, the arrow will be pointing upwards for Ravens free agent fullback Kyle Juszczyk. The Bills were considered the favorites on Juszczyk earlier, and it’s possible they did not want to spend to match an asking price that’s expected to be the new fullback standard. This stands to leave the Browns, 49ers and Ravens in better position to land Juszczyk, who wants a hybrid-type role in addition to pure fullback duties.

The Falcons wanted to retain DiMarcoPFR’s No. 2 UFA fullback free agent behind Juszczyk — but could not keep him from making plans to move to Buffalo. DiMarco earned Pro Bowl acclaim in 2015 with the Falcons, his employer from 2013-16, and profiles as more of a straight-up blocking back than does Juszczyk. While the Ravens’ blocking back graded as Pro Football Focus’ top fullback, the Falcons’ lead blocker received the best run-blocking grade at the position.

Considering the Bills led the league in rushing last season and used a pure fullback in Jerome Felton, this addition — and the retention of Tyrod Taylor — may be a sign Buffalo wants to keep the offense on a similar track.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Offense

NFL free agency is right around the corner! The legal tampering period starts on Tuesday and free agency officially starts on Thursday. The list of available free agents will change between now and then as players re-sign with teams or get cut loose, but we have a pretty good idea of who will be available right now. After looking at the top defensive players, we now shift our attention to the other side of the ball.

Here are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each position. The rankings aren’t determined by earning power, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with a combination of short- and long-term value taken into account. You won’t find restricted free agents or franchise tagged guys here since they are unlikely to go leave their current clubs.

Player evaluation is always subjective, so we encourage you to make your voices heard in the comments section in cases where you disagree with us.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:

Updated 3-7-2017, 2:55pm CT

Quarterback:

  1. Mike Glennon
  2. Nick Foles
  3. Brian Hoyer (story)
  4. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  5. Colin Kaepernick
  6. Josh McCown
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Ryan Mallett
  11. Christian Ponder
  12. Blaine Gabbert
  13. Geno Smith
  14. Matt Schaub (story)
  15. EJ Manuel

Honorable mention: Ryan Nassib, Landry JonesShaun Hill Mike Glennon (vertical)

Colin Kaepernick’s agents have (wisely) let everyone know that their client will stand for the National Anthem in 2017. That may seem like a minor point, but teams say they would have automatically removed him from consideration if he continued his attention-grabbing protest. He grabbed headlines for his actions on the sidelines last year, but he actually turned in an OK season. From a football standpoint, Kaepernick would make sense for a lot of teams as a QB2 with upside.

Interestingly, this list includes three quarterbacks who couldn’t cut it as the Jets’ starter and three rejects from the 49ers. They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all six of those players (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert) come with varying degrees of potential and proven effectiveness. Smith, somehow, could reportedly be retained by the Jets and installed as the starter in 2017.

Ryan Nassib is just outside of the top 15 here with EJ Manuel getting the final spot. Despite positive word about his play in practice, Nassib is unproven and the Giants’ apparent lack of interest in re-signing him says a lot. It’s also possible that he might not be 100% after ending the 2016 season on IR with an elbow injury. Manuel, for all his warts, has shown potential in small bursts.

Running back:

  1. Eddie Lacy
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. LeGarrette Blount
  4. Latavius Murray
  5. Jamaal Charles
  6. Darren McFadden
  7. Jacquizz Rodgers
  8. Rex Burkhead
  9. Rashad Jennings
  10. Danny Woodhead
  11. Tim Hightower
  12. DeAngelo Williams
  13. Andre Ellington
  14. Chris Johnson
  15. Christine Michael

Honorable mention: Robert Turbin, Travaris Cadet, Benny Cunningham, Lance Dunbar, Bobby Rainey, Brandon BoldenDenard Robinson, James Starks

Adrian Peterson (vertical)As expected, the Vikings have cut Adrian Peterson loose and he is expected to garner interest from contending clubs this week. Some might peg Peterson as the most talented running back in this year’s free agent class, but it all comes down to how you weigh his age and injury history. Peterson has shocked the football world in the past with an incredible comeback, but I’m a little skeptical of his ability to do it again in his age-32 season. Eddie Lacy, who has injury question marks of his own, takes the top spot at the position.

The Patriots believe they won’t be able to match the offers that come in LeGarrette Blount‘s direction. Latavius Murray could circle back to the Raiders, but he won’t be agreeing to a deal with them before free agency opens on Thursday.

Jamaal Charles has the most impressive resume of anyone on this list, with the exception of Peterson. However, no one knows exactly what he can do after playing eight games in the last two years. He’ll turn 31 in December and that’s usually not an indicator of success for running backs.

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FA Rumors: Pats, Jefferson, Jags, Falcons

Free agency officially opens on March 9, so let’s round up a few FA-related notes and rumors from around the league:

  • Although it is difficult, as usual, to pin down the Patriots‘ free agency plans, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe does his best, writing that the club is “taking a long look” at the tight end position but that Martellus Bennett could certainly be back, that the team is in the defensive end market now that Chris Long is gone and Jabaal Sheard appears unlikely to return, and that Logan Ryan is likely to price himself out of the Patriots’ price range. Volin names the Jaguars and Raiders as two teams with serious interest in Bennett.
  • Speaking of the Jaguars, the club is expected to let Tyson Alualu hit the open market, as Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union writes.
  • In a separate piece, O’Halloran lists the Jaguars‘ most pressing needs in free agency and examines how they could address those needs with an aggressive approach or with a more disciplined approach. He predicts that the Jags will land this year’s top FA cornerback, A.J. Bouye, if Bouye does not re-sign with Houston.
  • Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, citing an agent who represents a FA safety, says that the CardinalsTony Jefferson can expect to land a contract that will pay him $7MM per year (Twitter link). Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, though, tweets that Jefferson is likely to get paid closer to $10MM per year.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that the Falcons, who are moving towards an extension for Desmond Trufant, want to re-sign tight end Levine Toilolo, safety/linebacker Kemal Ishmael, and fullback Patrick DiMarco before free agency opens. The team is expected to let Jacob Tamme hit free agency and to wait until after the draft to make a decision on Dwight Freeney. Atlanta is also waiting to hear back from guard Chris Chester, who is contemplating retirement.
  • The Falcons plan to upgrade their defensive front in free agency and the draft, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com writes. The club is expected to re-sign Courtney Upshaw, and McClure names Cowboys’ DT Terrell McClain as one potential target for Atlanta.
  • Mike Klis of 9News.com writes that the Broncos are seeking help on both the offensive and defensive line in free agency, but he observes that the club may be operating with two budgets: one that includes Tony Romo, and one that doesn’t. Even if Denver does not land the long-time Cowboys signal-caller, Klis says the Broncos will have to manage the cap creatively, as they have a number of housekeeping moves to make that will eat into their $35MM of cap room, and offensive and defensive linemen do not come cheap on the open market.

NFC South Notes: Bucs, Falcons, Panthers

The Buccaneers and impending free agent wide receiver Vincent Jackson have discussed a potential return, but the 34-year-old could retire, writes Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. “We did have conversations with Vincent,” general manager Jason Licht said Wednesday. “I have the utmost respect for him. Everybody in the organization does. In my mind, in head coach Dirk [Koetter’s] mind, in the owners’ minds, he’ll be a Buc for life. So whatever happens happens, but we’ll always want Vincent to be around the organization.”

Jackson has been with the Buccaneers since 2012, and he started 16 games in each of his first three seasons as a member of the club, but he has endured back-to-back knee injury-shortened campaigns. The six-time 1,000-yard man has combined for just 15 appearances since 2015.

Regardless of whether the Buccaneers re-sign Jackson, they’re going to target “playmakers” this offseason, Licht revealed. Entering free agency, only three teams have more cap space than the Bucs.

More from the NFC South:

  • Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and guard Ben Garland will be tendered as RFAs (Twitter link via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com). He did not specify what level, however. Gabriel was the far bigger contributor of the two last year, when he averaged 16.5 yards per catch on 35 receptions and combined for seven touchdowns through the air and on the ground. Garland appeared in all 16 of the Falcons’ regular-season games, but he didn’t start any.
  • Dimitroff also announced that the Falcons will let defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux become an unrestricted free agent after 12 years together, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Conversely, the Falcons are trying to re-sign fullback Patrick DiMarco (Twitter link). Babineaux, 35, has totaled 185 appearances, 133 starts, 27 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in Atlanta, which selected him in the second round of the 2005 draft. He’s coming off the eighth 16-game season of his career, in which he picked up six starts and 22 tackles. DiMarco, a four-year Falcon, has three 16-appearance seasons in a row under his belt. He made eight starts in 2016.
  • Panthers GM Dave Gettleman told reporters on Wednesday that tackle Michael Oher is still in the league’s concussion protocol. This means the Panthers could be in the market for a starting left tackle. Oher has been dealing with a brain injury since September and only played in three games last year as a result. The eight-year veteran is under contract through 2019.
  • Reserve defensive end Darryl Tapp made it clear Wednesday that he wants to re-sign with the Saints, relays Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. Tapp’s agent and the Saints have engaged in discussions about a new deal. The 32-year-old journeyman just finished his first season in New Orleans, where he started in two of 16 appearances.
  • As of last month, the Buccaneers hadn’t held contract talks with soon-to-be free agent running back Jacquizz Rodgers. However, the team would “love to have” him back, Licht stated (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com). Rodgers, 27, put up 560 yards on 129 rushes (4.3 per carry) and scored two touchdowns last season.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Top 2017 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

[UPDATE: CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST EDITION OF THE TOP 2017 NFL FREE AGENTS BY POSITION]

NFL free agency will get underway on Thursday, March 9th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Mike Glennon
  3. Nick Foles
  4. Brian Hoyer
  5. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  6. Case Keenum
  7. Matt McGloin
  8. Mark Sanchez
  9. Geno Smith
  10. Ryan Mallett
  11. Josh McCown
  12. Christian Ponder
  13. Blaine Gabbert
  14. Matt Schaub
  15. Ryan Nassib

Honorable mention: Shaun Hill

As of this writing, Kirk Cousins is far and away the best potential free agent quarterback in this year’s crop. By the time March gets here, we’re fully expecting Cousins to be spoken for. Ultimately, the Redskins could franchise tag him, work out a long-term deal with him, or swing some type of trade that nets them a massive haul of talent and picks. That will leave a crop of retread quarterbacks that would probably best serve as transitional options for QB-needy teams. Kirk Cousins

Mike Glennon hasn’t done much in his 18 career starts, but talent evaluators are still in love with his size and potential. The 6’7″ quarterback will get more money this spring than you might expect, particularly since there are no surefire QBs in this year’s draft.

Teams looking for stopgap QBs will find a plethora of experienced, though perhaps uninspiring, signal callers. Nick Foles, Brian Hoyer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick all have their best football behind them, but they could hold down the fort for a team in 2017 and maybe even find some success if the defense is strong enough. Of course, the ideal role for those guys would probably be as a backup to a better, younger quarterback.

Running back:

  1. Le’Veon Bell
  2. Eddie Lacy
  3. LeGarrette Blount
  4. Latavius Murray
  5. Darren McFadden
  6. Jacquizz Rodgers
  7. Rashad Jennings
  8. Danny Woodhead
  9. Rex Burkhead
  10. Tim Hightower
  11. DeAngelo Williams
  12. Andre Ellington
  13. Chris Johnson
  14. Christine Michael
  15. Robert Turbin

Consider Le’Veon Bell‘s name written in Etch-A-Sketch, because he is very unlikely to get near the open market. That could leave Eddie Lacy as the best tailback available in March. Lacy has struggled with weight issues in recent years and he lost much of the 2016 season to injury. Still, he is a bruising back that could nicely complement a quicker ball carrier. Before he was shut down for the year, Lacy was averaging 5.07 yards per carry in five games for Green Bay.

LeGarrette Blount (vertical)In the last two years, LeGarrette Blount seems to have put his off-the-field troubles behind him. Whether that’s a sign of his maturity or a product of the Patriots’ culture remains to be seen. Teams can ignore his past indiscretions, but they will be wary of his age. Blount turns 31 in December.

Latavius Murray has shown glimpses of being a special running back, but he has been inconsistent and his 4.0 yards-per-carry average of the last two years isn’t overly impressive. Darren McFadden ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2015, but 2016 was pretty much a lost year for him. Jacquizz Rodgers seemed to break out last year, but he wound up succumbing to the same injury bug that took down a host of other Buccaneers running backs. Speaking of injuries, Rashad Jennings was initially brought to the Giants to be a workhorse back, but two of his three years in New York were marred by ailments. Everyone in this tier has the potential to make a difference, but none should be counted on as anyone’s main guy in 2017.

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Falcons Extend DiMarco, Matthews

THURSDAY, 7:40am: Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com passes along contract details for Matthews and DiMarco, noting that both players signed two-year deals with minimum salaries in each season. DiMarco’s new pact includes a $75K signing bonus.

TUESDAY, 1:45pm: The Falcons have gotten a jump on free agency by agreeing to contract extensions with two role players, fullback Patrick DiMarco and defensive end Cliff Matthews, the club announced in a press release. Both players signed multi-year deals, adds D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta also announced that it has signed free agent receiver Nick Williams.

DiMarco, 25, has been with the Falcons since 2013, having previously spent time with the Chiefs and Chargers. During his two years in Atlanta, he’s started 14 games, catching 17 passes for 111 yards and one score. DiMarco saw 214 snaps last season, but graded out negatively according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He’s currently the only fullback on the Falcons’ roster.

Matthews saw even fewer snaps than DiMarco in 2014 (116), but he was an important factor on special teams, where he added three tackles. Like DiMarco, Matthews is a South Carolina alum — the latter was originally selected by Atlanta in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. Earlier today, we heard the Falcons were still evaluating which players fit their new scheme before making any transactions, so it seems like they’ve determined Matthews could mesh with new head coach Dan Quinn’s unit.

Williams, meanwhile, went undrafted in 2013 out of UConn, and went on to sign with Washington. He played in five games during his rookie season, acting as both a receiver and return man. His value in Atlanta will likely come on special teams duty.