Four years ago today, quarterback TimTebow signed his last NFL contract. On April 20th, 2015, the two-time BCS national champion inked a one-year deal with the Eagles.
With Tebow seemingly settling for a backup gig in Philly, it emphasized how far the former first-rounder had fallen in only a few years’ time. In 2011, Tebow appeared in 14 games (11 starts) for the Broncos, completing 126 of his 271 pass attempts (46.5% completion percentage) for 1,729 yards, 12 touchdowns, and six picks. He also added 660 rushing yards and six scores on 122 carries. The Florida product also appeared in two playoff games that season, including a dramatic overtime win over the Steelers.
However, after Denver inked PeytonManning to a contract prior to the 2012 season, Tebow was traded to the Jets. The quarterback ended up making 12 appearances (two starts) for New York that year. While he only attempted eight pass attempts, he did compile 102 rushing yards on 32 carries. His season ended prematurely after he suffered two broken ribs.
Tebow was released by the Jets following that season, and he caught on with the Patriots during the 2013 preseason. Ultimately, New England let him go prior to the regular season, and Tebow transitioned to a broadcasting gig. However, on this date four years ago, he still managed to receive his final NFL opportunity.
When the Eagles signed Tebow, they were hoping he’d compete with MattBarkley to be the team’s third-string signal-caller behind SamBradford and MarkSanchez. Tebow ended up getting action in all four of Philly’s preseason games, completing 21 of his 36 attempts for 286 yards, two scores, and one pick. He also added another 82 rushing yards. However, after nearly two years away from football, Tebow was clearly a step behind the other signal-callers on the Eagles’ depth chart, and the team released him prior to the regular season.
Since that time, Tebow has taken his athletic prowess to baseball, where he’s been playing in the New York Mets’ farm system. Had the quarterback been able to establish a role on that Eagles team, perhaps the 31-year-old would still be pursuing his NFL dreams instead of lingering in the minor leagues.
Teams across the NFL have until May 2 to officially pick up their 2020 options on players who are entering the final year of their rookie contracts. These fifth-year options can only be exercised on first-round picks, and the salaries are determined by where players were drafted and what position they play.
If a player has his option exercised, his rookie contract will be extended by one year and he’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2021, after the conclusion of the 2020 season. If a player’s option is declined, he’ll be eligible to hit the open market a year earlier. Of course, if a 2016 first-rounder is no longer on his rookie contract, there will be no option to exercise or decline. We explained the intricacies of the fifth-year option in a PFR Glossary post, so you can read up on the specific details there.
Soon, we’ll learn the official salary figures for all 2020 fifth-year options. What we do know is that the option salaries for top 10 picks is equal to the transition tender at the player’s position during his fourth season. So, because the transition tag for quarterbacks this year was $22.783MM, we already know that Jared Goff and Carson Wentz‘s fifth-year option will be worth that amount.
With next month’s deadline looming, we’ll use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league based on various reports and official announcements. Here are this season’s fifth-year option decisions so far:
April 14th, 2019 at 2:00pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
The original content and analysis produced by the PFR staff during the past week:
Yesterday, I asked readers which offensive free agent was the best left available. The pickings are relatively slim, but there are still some decent options left. Some of the biggest names still on the market include Demaryius Thomas, Michael Crabtree, and Jay Ajayi. Ajayi is currently leading the poll with 27.8% of the vote.
April 13th, 2019 at 4:29pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
Last week, we asked readers who the best available defensive free agent was. Today, we’ll be looking at the best available offensive players. Most of the remaining talent left in the free agent pool is on the defensive side of the ball, but there are still some serviceable options on offense.
All the top quarterbacks are gone, but there are still some decent players left at some skill positions and along the offensive line. This late in the process, many teams will wait until after the draft to see what needs they still have unfilled. Another key date remaining in free agency is May 7th. After that date, signings no longer will count against teams in the compensatory pick formula, so more teams will re-enter the market then for bigger signings.
With that in mind, here are the top remaining offensive free agents:
Thomas would’ve likely been signed long ago, but his free agency has been complicated by both a devastating injury and an ongoing legal situation. After being traded from the Broncos to the Texans last year, Thomas tore his Achilles. He was then arrested and charged with vehicular assault, which could result in discipline from the league. New England was interested in trading for Thomas at the deadline, and they’re apparently still intrigued. Earlier this week, the Patriots hosted Thomas for a visit. It’s unclear if Thomas will be ready for Week 1, or if he’s facing a suspension. But he’s still only 31, and has remained a very productive receiver when on the field. He had 59 catches for 677 yards and five touchdowns in less than 15 full games last year. The year before that he had 949 yards and five touchdowns, which was his first time not having at least 1,000 yards since the 2011 season. Thomas has been declining, but he could still be a very nice piece for a contending team.
Levitre is an interesting case. Originally a second round pick of the Bills back in 2009, Levitre was one of the league’s better guards the past handful of seasons. He always received strong marks from Pro Football Focus, but his career was derailed by injuries the past couple of season while playing with the Falcons. Levitre was a 16-game starter each of his first eight seasons in the league, but then went down with a triceps injury after 13 games in 2017. Last season he appeared in just two games before landing on injured reserve with another triceps injury. The Falcons appears set to move on, and we haven’t heard of much interest for him yet. Levitre is 33 now, but indicated recently he isn’t planning on retiring. Levitre has started all 143 games in his career, and should resurface somewhere soon.
Crabtree is another high profile receiver still looking for a new home. Crabtree signed with Baltimore last offseason hoping to revitalize his career, and ended up starting all 16 games. Unfortunately for him, the Ravens transitioned to a very run-heavy offense with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, so he couldn’t play quite as large of a role as he would’ve hoped. He had a solid season given the circumstances, catching 54 passes for 607 yards and three touchdowns. In his previous three seasons in Oakland, he had at least eight touchdowns each year, and had over 1,000 yards in 2016. Crabtree has looked like virtually the same player he has for a while now, so it’s not clear why he hasn’t been scooped up yet. It’s possible he’s demanding too much money, as we haven’t heard much about him since the Ravens cut him in late February.
Penn is yet another player who had his 2018 season cut short due to injury. The Raiders released Penn on March 16th, ending a five-year run in Oakland. He indicated at the time that he wasn’t going to be retiring. Penn is going to turn 36 later this month, and was making too much money for the Raiders. We heard a few weeks back that the Texans were interested in Penn, but nothing has materialized yet. He was one of the league’s better tackles as recently as 2017, when he made the Pro Bowl, and is presumably still capable of playing at a high level. He only appeared in four games last year because of his groin injury. Penn should be getting plenty of calls from teams still in need of offensive line help after the draft.
Sensing a trend yet? While many of the top remaining defensive players are defensive linemen, many of the top players left on this side of the ball are offensive linemen. Bushrod was the Dolphins’ starter at right guard in 2016 and 2017, and started six games at tackle for the Saints last season. Bushrod has the versatility to play both inside and out, so it’s a little surprising he’s still on the market. ProFootballTalk rated Bushrod as their 82nd-best free agent heading into the offseason, and he’s one of very few in their top-100 who haven’t been signed yet. Bushrod has been around for a while, and was New Orleans’ starting left tackle for their Super Bowl XLIV win. He’s 34 now, but still capable of playing at a fairly high level at several different spots along the offensive line.
At this time last year, it would’ve been pretty surprising to think that Ajayi still wouldn’t be signed. After being traded from the Dolphins to Eagles in 2017, Ajayi had a great second half of the year for Philly and helped them win a Super Bowl. But his injury issues resurfaced this past season and he ended up appearing in just four games. Even super-agent Drew Rosenhaus hasn’t been able to get him a gig yet, although he has been drawing some interest. The Eagles are apparently still potentially interested in re-signing him, and he also had a visit with the Colts last month, who could still sign him down the line. In seven games with the Eagles in 2017, Ajayi averaged 5.8 yards per carry and was electric. If he can shake the injury bug and keep his knees healthy, he could still start for a team.
If your favorite team is searching for help at quarterback, running back, pass-catcher, or offensive line, you can probably go ahead and look towards the draft. Sure, Jay Ajayi can help a backfield, Jermaine Kearse can still play, and Jared Veldheer or Jermey Parnell could step in at right tackle. But there aren’t any top-end offensive options available on the offensive side of the ball.
That’s not the case on defense, where starting-quality players are still hunting for new contracts. It’s entirely possible that none of the players listed below will sign in the next few weeks. Free agent additions will still count towards the NFL’s compensatory pick calculations though May 7, so teams may be wary of adding new talent until after that date. But if a club wants an instant injection of defensive talent, the free agent market is still a place to look.
Let’s take a look at the best defensive players still available:
Ansah collected $17.143MM as the Lions’ franchise player in 2018, but his season could barely have gone worse. He missed nine games thanks to a shoulder injury and a subsequent re-aggravation, and eventually ended the campaign on injured reserve. The former first-round pick has generated legitimate interest this offseason, meeting with both the Saints and Bills, but clubs are reportedly wary of his shoulder issues. As such, Ansah isn’t expected to sign with a new club until he completes a mid-April medical check. Typically, a one-year deal would make sense for a player coming off injury like Ansah, but given that he’s entering his age-30 season, Ansah may want to reel in as much guaranteed money as possible.
Ray doesn’t have the name value or production of the other players listed here, but he does have at least one thing working for him: age. He’ll only be 26 years old when the 2019 season gets underway. Like Ansah, Ray has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, and he’s only played a full 16-game slate one time in his four NFL seasons. As recently as 2016, though, Ray was a force on the edge, posting eight sacks while tying for 21st among all defenders with 21 quarterback hits. Ray’s former Broncos teammate Shaquil Barrett landed only one year and $4MM from the Buccaneers, and while Ray may have to settle for a similar figure, he could also match Barrett as a potential bargain addition. Thus far, the Colts are the only club known to have taken a visit with Ray.
Los Angeles is reportedly unlikely to re-sign Suh, but any number of teams could use an interior defender with his track record. Other defensive tackles like Malik Jackson, Sheldon Richardson, and Henry Anderson have secured multi-year deals since the free agent period opened in March, but Suh is still on the board. That’s likely due to his asking price, as it’s fair to wonder if he’s pushing for a pay raise after collecting a fully guaranteed $14MM with the Rams in 2018. Suh is now 32 years old, but he’s still extremely effective. And perhaps even more important, he doesn’t come off the field: last season, Suh played 1,062 defensive snaps, the second-most of any interior defender behind only teammate Aaron Donald.
Because he was released by the Redskins, Brown won’t count towards the NFL’s compensatory pick calculations, but it still won’t be surprising if he’s forced to wait a while to land a new contract. Teams with vacancies at linebacker — such as the Steelers, Bengals, Broncos, and Eagles — may want to see what the draft has to offer before bringing in a veteran like Brown. Historically a streaky player, Brown was excellent in 2018, grading out as the No. 3 linebacker in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.
When Cleveland acquired Collins from New England midway through the 2016 season, he was expected to become the face of a revamped Browns roster. That was especially true after Collins signed a four-year, $50MM extension that — at the time — made him the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in the league. While he didn’t live up to that contract, Collins is still a useful player, a versatile defender who can cover and rush the passer. Could the Patriots be interested in a reunion at the right price?
A three-time All-Pro, Berry is a terrific safety when on the field. But it’s perhaps no surprise that he hasn’t found a new team after being released by Kansas City last month, as other clubs are surely concerned about his health. In five of his nine pro seasons, Berry has failed to play more than five games. He’s been available for only three total regular season contests over the past two years after rupturing his Achilles in September 2017. In spite of that, Berry doesn’t plan to undergo offseason surgery to correct his nagging heel concerns. He met with the Cowboys in March, but they’ve since signed fellow defensive back George Iloka.
Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid, and Kenny Vaccaro were all victims of a league-wide safety shun in 2018, but all three have landed multi-year deals this offseason. That’s not the case for Boston, who had to wait until last July to sign with the Cardinals and still hasn’t found a new home yet this year. Boston is just 26 years old and has posted eight interceptions over the past two seasons, excelling in a deep safety role that’s critical in most clubs’ schemes. He’s garnered interest from the Raiders and Browns in recent weeks, but Oakland and Cleveland have since added Lamarcus Joyner and Eric Murray, respectively.
So what do you think? Which of these players is the best defender still available on the free agent market? (Link for app users).
Gronk will retire (or maybe not?):This era’s tight end kingpin will leave the game shy of his 30s. Rob Gronkowski informed the Patriots he will retire at just 29. This would make him a candidate to join Jim Brown and Gale Sayers as Hall of Famers by their mid-30s, in the event Gronk stays retired. However, the Pats icon might not be 100 percent committed to this venture just yet. At least, his agent doesn’t think so. Drew Rosenhaus’ gut feeling is his client will come back at some point, though Gronkowski informed Rosenhaus he is “done, done, done.” The Patriots placed Gronk on their reserve/retired list, ensuring they would hold his rights if he reconsiders.
Patriots DC backs out:Greg Schianoreversed course on his commitment to become the Pats’ defensive coordinator. The former Buccaneers head coach decided this week to vacate his new role, barely a month after accepting it. Schiano spent the past three seasons as an Ohio State assistant head coach. His decision has Bill Belichick rumored to be taking on more responsibilities next season. The Pats lost longtime DC Matt Patricia during last year’s hiring period and de facto DC Brian Flores is now the Dolphins’ head coach, putting the defending Super Bowl champs in a bit of a bind.
Nelson, Lechler, Lang say goodbye: More Pro bowlers are leaving the game. Jordy Nelson, Shane Lechler and T.J. Langannounced theirrespective retirementsthis week. All three players were free agents. Nelson will call it quits after 11 seasons — 10 of which in Green Bay. Although Nelson was only a one-time Pro Bowler, he was one of this era’s premier scorers at the receiver position. He finished as a top-five Packer in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown grabs. Lechler did not play last season but logged 18 years as a punter, one of the best the NFL has ever seen. The former Raiders and Texans specialist finished with six first-team All-Pro nods — the most ever for a punter. A two-time Pro Bowler, Lang spent two seasons with the Lions after an eight-year Packers run. The veteran guard ran into injury trouble in Detroit, most notably dealing with concussion issues in recent years.
We heard several days ago that negotiations between the Cowboys and franchise-tagged pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence are at an impasse, and the circumstances behind that impasse are the stuff that offseason drama is made of.
Lawrence, who willingly played out the 2018 season under the franchise tag, does not want to go year-to-year anymore, and he has made it abundantly clear that he wants a long-term deal. The Cowboys are happy to give it to him, but they do not value Lawrence’s skill-set quite as highly as Lawrence himself does. Dallas reportedly would give Lawrence a contract that would make him the highest-paid 4-3 defensive end in football, which would mean an AAV of over $18MM, but Lawrence is seeking a pact that would pay him at least $22.5MM per year (of course, if Lawrence were to sign his franchise tender, he would earn over $20.5MM this year and be eligible for free agency again in 2020).
In fairness to the Cowboys, Lawrence is simply not worth that kind of commitment. The market for premium players in the NFL is reset each time a new extension is signed, so if Player X signs a $100MM pact in August, Player Y, who is good but perhaps not as good as Player X, could very well land a $110MM deal in September. But sometimes, the gulf between Player X and Player Y does not justify that type of raise.
Aaron Donald‘s contract with the Rams, which he signed just last August, pays him $22.5MM per year. Lawrence is not the kind of game-changing talent that Donald is, nor is he as impactful as Khalil Mack, who signed a $23.5MM/year deal right after Donald got his payday. To be sure, Lawrence is an excellent player, but he is just not on the same level.
Further complicating the issue is that Lawrence is trying to leverage the shoulder surgery that he needs in order to continue playing into the type of contract that he wants. Lawrence wants to wait to have the surgery, which carries a four-month recovery period, until he gets his extension, and the Cowboys obviously don’t want to play along with that plan. If Lawrence wants to be ready for the start of the 2019 season, he would have to go under the knife by early May at the latest, and if he postpones the procedure, he may only be hurting himself in the long run.
We would like to know from our readers how you think this saga will play out. The safe money in these types of scenarios is always on the two sides reaching an accord, but that does not always happen. Theoretically, the Cowboys could give Lawrence permission to seek a contract with another club and then trade him to that club if he reaches an agreement, but it is difficult to imagine another team being willing to meet Lawrence’s contract demands and cough up draft compensation to acquire the soon-to-be 27-year-old.
If Lawrence refuses to come to the table, the Cowboys could rescind the franchise tag, which would make Lawrence an unrestricted free agent. But at that point, the market may not be as robust as he would like it to be, especially if he has not had the surgery yet. He could end up having to settle for a one-year pact for less than he would have earned under the franchise tag.
The guess here is that Lawrence and the Cowboys agree to terms on a multiyear pact that will pay Lawrence about $19MM per season, and that the agreement will come in the next few weeks so that Lawrence will be ready to go come September. It appears that Dallas has the leverage, but the club obviously does not want to risk losing a key player while also creating animosity in the locker room and alienating future free agents.
But what do you think the team should do, and what do you think will ultimately happen? Let us know in the comments section.
NFL teams in need of a long-term answer at quarterback appear to have an interesting opportunity this offseason. One of 2018’s top quarterback prospects may well be available at a discount rate — both financially and in terms of draft capital — less than a year after being selected.
Nothing has cooled on the Cardinals-Kyler Murray front, leaving Josh Rosen as one of the more intriguing potential trade chips in memory. Kliff Kingsbury in February said Rosen would be the starting quarterback on his first Cardinals team, and while he has not officially changed his stance on this, the odds entering April of Rosen having a second opportunity with the Cards look longer than the likelihood of the UCLA product being traded.
The Giants loom as a possible landing spot. If/when Rosen becomes available, one of the teams that passed on him last year will be interested. Big Blue did not have a consensus on the top quarterback in last year’s draft, but with Eli Manning having recently turned 38 and Dave Gettleman having chosen Saquon Barkley over Sam Darnold 11 months ago, the prospect of a first-round quarterback talent being available at a lower rate has to be somewhat enticing — especially for a Giants team that has numerous needs on defense.
The Cardinals took Rosen at No. 10 overall, giving up merely third- and fifth-round draft picks to move up five spots last year. The results were not pretty.
Rosen completed 55 percent of his passes, averaged 5.8 yards per attempt and threw 11 touchdown passes compared to 14 interceptions. He finished with a league-worst 26.1 Total QBR. Football Outsiders assessed the 6-foot-4 passer as last year’s worst full-time quarterback, with Rosen’s DVOA and DYAR figures well behind the pack. Arizona, though, employed two offensive coordinators last year and experienced rampant trouble on its offensive line, creating a shaky setup for a rookie quarterback.
It will almost certainly not cost a team a first-round pick to land Rosen this year. A second, or possibly a third, figures to be enough to pry the 2018 prospect away. The Giants hold the No. 37 overall pick but do not have another selection until No. 132; Big Blue’s third-rounder went toward 2018 supplemental draft cornerback Sam Beal. This would complicate a Giants trade for Rosen, with other teams seemingly likely to pursue the low-cost passer as well. With the Cardinals having paid his signing bonus, a team acquiring Rosen would have him for less than $7MM through the 2021 season. That is obviously great value, if a team believes the 22-year-old is a worthwhile starter.
So should the Giants be the team that pulls the trigger for Rosen, or should they focus on one of this year’s rookie QBs? After his rough debut season, do you view him as a legitimate option to be a long-term starter? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.