Patrick Robinson

South Rumors: Conklin, Freeman, Reid, Colts

Jack Conklin is in line to make his season debut for the Titans. The right tackle participated fully in Tennessee’s Friday workout and is set to play Sunday, per TitanInsider.com’s Terry McCormick (on Twitter). Finalizing a recovery from the torn ACL he suffered during the Titans’ divisional-round loss last season, Conklin missed the team’s first three games. Taylor Lewan returned from a concussion in Week 3. This will mark the first time the Titans have deployed their top two tackles together since that Patriots game in January.

Adoree’ Jackson also passed concussion protocol, per McCormick, paving a path for the second-year cornerback to play Sunday as well. Here’s the latest from the South divisions:

  • Devonta Freeman‘s knee issue, though, has not progressed to the point he’ll reclaim his starting spot. The Falcons will hold their first-string running back out again this week, Dan Quinn said Friday (via ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure, on Twitter). Freeman has not played since injuring his knee against the Eagles on opening night.
  • Eric Reid‘s Panthers deal includes $390K in per-game roster bonuses, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (on Twitter). The $390K will be in addition to Reid’s $1MM base salary, and Schefter adds playing-time and Pro Bowl incentives could bump this pact up to $2MM. It’s unclear what the playing-time thresholds are, or how much a Pro Bowl nod would increase’s Reid’s pay, however.
  • Patrick Robinson underwent ankle surgery on Wednesday, ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett of ESPN.com reports. This operation came because the Saints cornerback tore multiple ligaments in his injured ankle, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (on Twitter). The Saints placed their slot corner on IR earlier this week. He is not expected to return this season.
  • Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo will miss another week because of his injured hamstring. Frank Reich confirmed (via The Athletic’s Stephen Holder, on Twitter) the eighth-year veteran is out for Sunday’s game against the Texans. Castonzo has not played in a game this season and has now experienced multiple setbacks in attempts to surmount this hamstring problem. He’s not yet being considered for IR, however.

Saints To Place Patrick Robinson On IR

The Saints are expected to place cornerback Patrick Robinson on injured reserve with a broken ankle, sources tell Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Saints initially thought Robinson was dealing with a sprain, but further tests uncovered more serious damage. 

It’s not immediately clear whether the injury will rule Robinson out for the year. Per league rules, Robinson can return after spending at least eight weeks on IR, so he could be back in the lineup later this year if he heals up quickly.

The injury will impact the Saints for however long Robinson is out of action. Through three weeks, the Saints have one of the worst-ranked pass defenses in the NFL, and the loss of their top slot man will hurt.

After winning a championship with the Eagles, Robinson inked a four-year deal with the Saints in March. Last year, he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 ranked CB.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Rumors: Saints, Brees, Robinson

Drew Brees is back with the Saints on a two-year, $50MM deal that is arguably under market for what he provides. However, a deeper look at his contract shows some additional value. There is language in Brees’ deal that prevents the team from using the franchise tag on him after the 2019 season, according to Nick Underhill of The Times-Picayune (on Twitter).

This is familiar territory for the two parties. Brees’ previous deal also prohibited the Saints from using the tag on him, which forced New Orleans to negotiate a fresh contract with him this offseason.

Brees will be 41 in 2020 and there’s no guarantee that he’ll still be an elite QB or even willing to continue playing, But, if he is still at the top of his game, the Saints will have a little less leverage to work with.

Here’s more from the NFC South:

Saints To Sign Patrick Robinson

Patrick Robinson is set to sign with the Saints, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). It’s a four-year deal for the nickel cornerback.

Robinson, 30, is heading back to where it all began, as he was originally selected as a first-round pick by New Orleans in 2010. He’ll return after posting drastically better results with other clubs than he ever did with the Saints. Largely considered a bust until joining the Chargers in 2015, Robinson is now coming off arguably the best season of his career.

Signed to one-year contact for the veteran’s minimum, Robinson exceeded all expectations as the Eagles’ slot cornerback in 2017. On 853 defensive snaps, Robinson graded as the league’s No. 6 CB, per Pro Football Focus.

Philadelphia was expected to re-sign Robinson, but their small amount of cap space — which has already been used on players such as Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata, and Nigel Bradham — made keeping him difficult. However, the Eagles actually offered Robinson more total money than the Saints, who gave Robinson more guaranteed cash, per Jenna Laine of ESPN.com.

Speaking of exceeding expectations, the Saints’ pass defense did just that last season. With rookie Marshon Lattimore playing like a shutdown corner, New Orleans ranked fifth in pass defense. Robinson will likely stick in his slot role with the Saints, although it’s possible they also ask him to play on the outside.

Meanwhile, free agent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is no longer expected to visit the Saints after taking a meeting with the Redskins. That’s likely because both DRC and Robinson would have filled the same nickelback job in New Orleans.

[RELATED: Saints Depth Chart]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Expect To Re-Sign Patrick Robinson

It seemed unlikely just a couple of weeks ago, but the Eagles believe they will have an extension hammered out with Patrick Robinson before legal tampering begins on Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Robinson emerged as both a key defensive player and a locker room leader for Philadelphia in 2017.

The Eagles don’t have a ton of cap room to work with, even after trading wide receiver Torrey Smith. The acquisition of Michael Bennett from the Seahawks has also set them back a bit, though that move will allow them to trade or release Vinny Curry before the majority of his $9MM salary becomes guaranteed for the coming year.

If Robinson isn’t retained by Philadelphia, the rival Giants will be among the teams with interest in signing him in free agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents For 2018 1.0

There will be tons of free agents available in March, but only a some of them can be real difference makers for your favorite team. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve assembled our early list of the Top 50 NFL Free Agents for 2018.

Our early version of the NFL’s top 50 free agents may include players who will be re-signed between now and March 14. When we update this list next week, a few of the big names will be spoken for while new high-profile names will join the fray as veterans become cap casualties.

Recently, we broke down the top free agents by position on both offense and defense, but our rankings below may not have each player listed in the same order. Those position lists took the short-term value of a player into account more heavily, meaning many players in their 30s received prominent placement. Our overall top 50 list favors longer-term value, and is more about forecasting which players will be in highest demand when it comes to years and dollars.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2018:

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (Redskins): At long last, Kirk Cousins is headed towards unrestricted free agency. You may or may not regard Cousins as a star, but he is the best quarterback in recent history to reach the open market and QB-needy teams will be rolling out the red carpet for him. The Jets, Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals have been named as the top suitors for his services, but the NFL is full of surprises this time of year and we would not be surprised to see other teams get involved. The cash-flush Browns are reportedly keen on signing a lower-cost vet and drafting a QB early, but who’s to say they won’t change course and get in on the Cousins sweepstakes? The Bills, Giants, Dolphins, Bucs, and Colts could also consider kicking the tires here, but there are obstacles in that bunch ranging from established starters already in place (Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Andrew Luck) to financial constraints. No matter where he goes, it’s almost certain that Cousins will become the league’s highest-paid player of all-time. That is, until another top-tier QB signs a contract extension soon after.

2. Drew Brees (Saints): There are multiple possibilities for Cousins but it’s hard to see a scenario in which Brees actually leaves the Saints. Brees has already said that he does not plan on testing free agency, so he’ll likely put pen to paper before things begin on March 14. As far as we can tell, the only way Brees will think about leaving is if he is lowballed to an extreme degree by the Saints, but that seems improbable based on his history with the team

3. Case Keenum (Vikings): One year ago, no one ever would have expected Keenum to be one of 2018’s most sought-after free agents. The Vikings signed the former Rams signal caller to a one-year, $2MM deal in March with the idea that he would back up Sam Bradford and, eventually slide down to third on the depth chart when/if Teddy Bridgewater returned to full health. When Bradford went down in September, Keenum exceeded all expectations and put together the best season of his career. The 30-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked QB in 2017, putting him above the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota, Matthew Stafford, and Tyrod Taylor. With Keenum at the helm, the Vikings earned a first-round bye and beat the Saints in a playoff thriller before succumbing to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Of course, after four seasons of mediocrity, teams are wondering whether this was an aberration or a real sign of things to come. Teams know that Keenum is not a lock, but he’s also the best Plan B for any team that loses out on Cousins or doesn’t have the means to sign him.

4. Andrew Norwell, G (Panthers): There was a time when tackles were the only offensive linemen to really cash in on the open market. That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by the contracts of Kevin Zeitler (five years, $60MM) and Kelechi Osemele (five years, $58.5MM). Osemele inked his free agent deal with the Raiders in 2016 and Zeitler signed his in the 2017 offseason. Given the cap increase and the natural progression of the market, Norwell figures to reset the market for interior linemen. Keenum figures to gross no less than $20MM/year on his next contract, so he’s slotted behind him, but an average annual value of $13-14MM is not out of the question for the former undrafted free agent.

5. Nate Solder, OT (Patriots): Solder isn’t coming off of his best season and he might be the least sexy name in the top ten. Still, there’s a dearth of tackles league-wide and Solder has been among the league’s best at his position for quite some time. The Patriots are bracing for Solder to leave as they fear he’ll garner offers of $12MM/year. No other tackle in this year’s free agent crop is even close to him in terms of ability, so we’re also buying into the hype. Injuries contributed to Solder’s up-and-down season, particularly early on, so teams will take that into account when evaluating him.

6. Allen Robinson, WR (Jaguars): The Jaguars opted against using the franchise tag on Robinson, which is understandable since they have limited cap space. Robinson missed almost all of 2017 with an ACL tear, but his 2015 season (and even his so-so 2016 campaign) gives teams reason to believe that he can be a quality WR1. Robinson is one of only two such players on the unrestricted market, so expect him to get paid. Robinson probably couldn’t do worse than Kenny Britt‘s four-year, $32MM deal with the Browns from last season (and he should do a whole lot better), but if he is underwhelmed by the multi-year offers he receives, he could always go the Alshon Jeffery route. Jeffery inked a one-year, $9.5MM prove-it deal with the Eagles and that turned out to be a smashing success for both parties. Jeffery was rewarded with a four-year, $52MM extension in December, so Robinson’s camp will surely be open to a pillow contract if necessary. 

7. Sammy Watkins, WR (Rams): Some may view Robinson and Watkins as 1A and 1B in this year’s wide receiver class, particularly since Robinson missed all of 2017 and Watkins, despite his own injury history, played in all but one of the Rams’ games. Unfortunately, Watkins did not have the platform year he was hoping for as he caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. If we strike Robinson’s lost year and Watkins’ down year from the record, the breakdown favors the Jags receiver – Robinson averaged 77 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns per 16 games in that set versus Watkins’ 66 grabs for 1,063 yards and seven scores. These two should come pretty close in average annual value, but we give the edge to Robinson.

8. Trumaine Johnson, CB (Rams): Players often bemoan the franchise tag, but Johnson can’t really complain after receiving two consecutive tags from the Rams and earning more than $30MM between 2016 and 2017. The Rams, rightfully, did not consider a third consecutive tag for Johnson at a cost of ~$20MM and they already have his replacement in Marcus Peters. That’s one suitor down, but plenty of other teams will be eager to speak with Johnson, who profiles as the best cornerback in a deep class.

9. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson gave the Jets lots of headaches, but he also gave them high-end production. He didn’t quite match that production in Seattle, but Richardson is positioned for a massive payday anyway since impactful defensive linemen are at a premium. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will garner about $9MM/year, but I would say that is his floor. The top-end of free agency rarely yields team-friendly deals, so Richardson could easily creep into eight figures in AAV, particularly since he does not turn 28 until November.

10. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe thought he was in for a monster contract last offseason, but concerns about his lingering back issues forced him to take a one-year, $8MM deal with Atlanta. Teams may still worry about his back being a ticking time bomb, but perhaps they’ll view him in a different light now that he has played back-to-back 16 game seasons and has only missed two regular season contests over the course of his career.

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Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, 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. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These 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, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more

Giants Interested In Patrick Robinson

Patrick Robinson could wind up leaving the Eagles while staying in the NFC East. The Giants have interest in signing the free agent cornerback, according to a source who spoke with Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com

We learned over the weekend that the Giants are planning to move Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from cornerback to safety, leaving a major void at nickel cornerback. Filling the gap with Robinson would be a major win for the Giants. The veteran graded out as the sixth-best cornerback in the NFL last season, per Pro Football Focus, and matched a career-high with four interceptions.

The Eagles, naturally, would like to keep Robinson, but the defending champs are placing a serious numbers crunch. The Giants are somewhat limited with just $23.68MM in cap space, but that’s far more flexibility than the Eagles have.

Free agency officially begins on March 14. Teams are permitted to contact agents of players set to become free agents on March 12, that is already happening across the league on the QT.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Free Agent Cornerback Market

Here’s a quick look at the 2018 free agent cornerback market:

  • Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson is expected to be the Raiders‘ No. 1 free agent target, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.net. Johnson is not expected to be retained by Los Angeles after it acquired fellow defensive back Marcus Peters from the Chiefs last month. After receiving the franchise tag in each of the past two seasons, the 28-year-old Johnson will finally hit the open market as one of the league’s top free agent corners. Oakland, meanwhile, is looking for a veteran corner to pair with 2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley, who barely played during his rookie campaign. The Raiders have already released one starting member of their secondary in David Amerson, and figure to do the same with Sean Smith.
  • While the Raiders have interest in Johnson, another Bay Area team — the 49ers — is also expected to pursue the free agent corner, as Pauline reports in a separate piece. San Francisco ranked just 28th in pass defense DVOA a season ago, and are not expected to re-sign its top cornerback in Dontae Johnson. Thus, the 49ers not only have a clear need atop their secondary depth chart, but have gobs of cap space: at nearly $70MM, San Francisco currently ranks fifth in available cap room.
  • If the Raiders miss out on Johnson, they could turn their attention to Eagles free agent CB Patrick Robinson, per Pauline. Robinson has played outside corner in the past, but posted arguably the best season of his career as Philadelphia’s slot cornerback in 2017. T.J. Carrie, who saw the majority of the slot action for the Raiders last year, is an unrestricted free agent, so the 31-year-old Robinson would make for a ready-made replacement. The Eagles, notably, have interest in re-signing Robinson, while Pauline reports the Cardinals could also make a bid.
  • The Jets hope to acquire two starting cornerbacks this offseason, but they’re “not close” to re-signing internal option Morris Claiborne, reports Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. Gang Green also has interest in Johnson, but most in league circles believe he will end up with Oakland or San Francisco, per Pauline.

Eagles Want To Extend CB Patrick Robinson

The Eagles are negotiating an extension with cornerback Patrick Robinson, a source tells NJ.com’s Matt Lombardo. Robinson is scheduled to reach free agency on March 14. Patrick Robinson (Vertical)

The cash-strapped defending champs will do their best to keep the band together, but they are limited in what they can offer. The Eagles are already likely to lose tight end Trey Burton, who figures to garner the most lucrative contract of any free agent tight end this offseason.

Robinson, 31 in September, emerged as a locker room leader in 2017 and gave the team quality play at slot cornerback. Last year, Pro Football Focus ranked Robinson as the sixth-best cornerback in the NFL, putting him ahead of notables such as Stephon Gilmore, Darius Slay, A.J. Bouye, and Aqib Talib. Robinson also had four interceptions, matching a career-high.

While the Eagles’ signing of Alshon Jeffery drew headlines, Robinson proved to be an excellent one-year pickup in his own right. He earned just $1MM in 2017 but he should be poised for a significant pay bump in 2018, whether it comes from Philadelphia or another team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.