Phil Dawson

Cardinals Cut Andre Smith, Bene Benwikere

The Cardinals made a host of moves Monday afternoon. Another of Patrick Peterson‘s top sidekicks is now out of the picture, with Arizona making the decision to waive cornerback Bene Benwikere.

Additionally, the Cards are cutting veteran tackle Andre Smith. They also placed Phil Dawson and linebacker Josh Bynes on IR and are elevating kicker Zane Gonzalez from the practice squad. The team announced the moves.

Smith’s inconsistency will end his Arizona tenure, per Steve Wilks (via ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss, on Twitter). He started eight games at right tackle for the Cardinals, including Sunday’s 45-10 loss to the Chargers, but has not played to the level he displayed during his earlier Bengals days. The 31-year-old edge blocker will head to the waiver wire, joining the less experienced Benwikere.

The Cards already parted ways with Jamar Taylor, acquired in hopes he could fill the Peterson-sidekick role the team has long had issues with, after Benwikere beat him out for that job. The young journeyman started eight Arizona games this season, intercepting one pass and making 51 tackles. Benwikere’s eight starts represent a career high in his five-season NFL run.

Dawson’s been dealing with a hip injury this season. It forced the 43-year-old kicker to miss a game earlier this month. The Cardinals’ kicker over the past two seasons, the 20-year veteran is a free agent after this season. He’s attempted a career-low eight field goals, making five. This will end Dawson’s least accurate season.

Previously going with rookie Matthew McCrane to fill in for Dawson, the Cardinals will now turn to Gonzalez. The Browns waived Gonzalez after a rough Week 2. The 2017 seventh-round pick has not kicked in a game since.

Despite being retained on a low-level deal, Bynes was playing ahead of both Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick this season. He made 75 tackles, registered two sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown in a standout season. Bynes is signed through the 2020 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Jones, Gresham, Church

Let’s take a look at the details of some recently-signed contracts:

Cardinals Sign K Phil Dawson

The Cardinals have signed veteran kicker Phil Dawson, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Kent Somers of AZCentral.com reports (via Twitter) first reported that the two sides were talking. It’ll be a two-year deal for the special teamer, according to Darren Urban of the Cardinals website (via Twitter).

Phil DawsonDawson, 42, represents a more experienced option than 26-year-old Chandler Catanzaro, who is now a free agent (the Cardinals non-tendered him yesterday). Dawson hadn’t missed a game during his four-year tenure with the 49ers, and despite getting up there in age, he hasn’t shown too many signs of decline. The veteran connected on 85.7-percent of his field goals last season, and he only missed one extra point in 34 attempts.

Meanwhile, Catanzaro took a step back in 2016. After connecting on 90-percent of his field goals the previous year, the former undrafted free agent saw the number drop to 75 percent this past season. The kicker also connected on 91.5-percent of his extra points – a mark that Dawson has reached in each of the past 11 seasons.

Dawson ranked sixth on our listing of the best available kickers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Defense

NFL free agency gets underway on Thursday 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. Here is our updated outlook for each defensive and special teams position.

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 franchised players 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 this offseason:

Edge defender:

  1. Nick Perry
  2. Jabaal Sheard
  3. John Simon
  4. DeMarcus Ware
  5. Lorenzo Alexander
  6. Andre Branch
  7. Julius Peppers
  8. Charles Johnson
  9. Datone Jones
  10. Dwight Freeney
  11. Chris Long
  12. Mario Williams
  13. Paul Kruger
  14. Courtney Upshaw
  15. Jarvis Jones

Now that Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, and Jason Pierre-Paul have all been assigned the franchise tag, Nick Perry stands as the top edge defender on the free agent market, and is now in a position to cash in. The Packers opted against the franchise tender for the 26-year-old Perry, so he’ll hit the open market following a career year which saw him post 11 sacks."<strong

The rest of this year’s crop of free agent pass rushers is a blend of young defenders searching for their first payday and veterans on the hunt for one last contract. Among players with youth still on their side, Datone Jones figures to interest clubs thanks to his versatility, as he can vacillate between end and linebacker, while fellow former first-round pick Jarvis Jones is solid against the run. John Simon has been overlooked while playing alongside the likes of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus but could represent a hidden gem, while the Dolphins are reportedly prioritizing Andre Branch.

After managing nine sacks over the first nine years of his NFL tenure, Lorenzo Alexander busted out with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2016, and now could be looking for a double-digit annual salary. Charles Johnson, meanwhile, looks like a good bet to return to the Panthers, but DeMarcus Ware could be something of a wild card — after missing 11 games in the past two seasons, does the 34-year-old have enough left in the tank? The same could be asked of Dwight Freeney, who at age-37 posted three sacks in a rotational role for the Falcons.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Calais Campbell
  2. Johnathan Hankins
  3. Brandon Williams
  4. Dontari Poe
  5. Chris Baker
  6. Bennie Logan
  7. Nick Fairley
  8. Alan Branch
  9. Jared Odrick
  10. Karl Klug
  11. Terrell McClain
  12. Lawrence Guy
  13. Stacy McGee
  14. Stephen Paea
  15. Sylvester Williams
    Honorable mention: Paul Soliai

Calais Campbell is the best overall player among interior defenders, and though he’s entering his age-31 season and may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe, Campbell will still be highly-sought after as he searches for his last substantial payday Campbell’s agent met with the Cardinals last week, but other speculative fits for the veteran defender include the Broncos, Raiders, Ravens, Colts, and Titans."<strong

Hankins is only 24 years old, and though the Giants are trying to retain him along with the rest of their defensive core, the 6’3″, 320-pound mauler should represent an attractive option to a number of clubs this offseason. Williams, too, offers a massive presence on the inside, while Poe could intrigue clubs based on his first-round pedigree and athleticism (though his play hasn’t always matched his potential). The Redskins’ Chris Baker is a solid, well-rounded defensive tackle, and could constitute a consolation prize for teams that miss out on their top targets.

The rest of the class offers an interesting mix of nose tackles (Bennie Logan), interior pass rushers (Nick Fairley, Karl Klug), and run stoppers (Alan Branch), so clubs hoping to bolster their defensive line should find no shortage of options. Jared Odrick recently hit free agency after being released by the Jaguars, while Terrell McClain, Lawrence Guy, and Stacy McGee could be underrated finds for the right team. McClain, for what it’s worth, has already been linked to the Falcons.

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Top 2017 Free Agents By Position: Defense

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. After looking at offense, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

[RELATED: Top 2017 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense]

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 2017:

Edge defender:

  1. Chandler Jones
  2. Melvin Ingram
  3. Jason Pierre-Paul
  4. Nick Perry
  5. Jabaal Sheard
  6. James Harrison
  7. John Simon
  8. DeMarcus Ware
  9. Lorenzo Alexander
  10. Andre Branch
  11. Julius Peppers
  12. Charles Johnson
  13. Datone Jones
  14. Mario Addison
  15. Dwight Freeney

The Cardinals have already made it abundantly clear that Chandler Jones will see the franchise tag this offseason, and Melvin Ingram and Jason Pierre-Paul are also candidates to be tagged by the Chargers and Giants, respectively. If the latter two are able to hit the open market unfettered, however, they both figure to break the bank. Ingram, Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 edge defender, could be a fit for both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, while JPP will be looking for a long-term commitment after signing consecutive one-year deals.Chandler Jones (vertical)

The rest of this year’s crop of free agent pass rushers is a blend of young defenders searching for their first payday and veterans on the hunt for one last contract. Among the players with youth still on their side, Packers edge defenders Nick Perry and Datone Jones figure to interest different clubs, as Perry is a better match for a 3-4 defense while Jones needs to restart his career as a 4-3 defensive end. John Simon has been overlooked while playing alongside the likes of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus but could represent a hidden gem, while the Dolphins are reportedly prioritizing Andre Branch.

After managing nine sacks over the first nine years of his NFL tenure, Lorenzo Alexander busted out with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2016, and now could be looking for a double-digit annual salary. James Harrison and Charles Johnson, meanwhile, look like good bets to return to Steelers and Panthers, respectively, but DeMarcus Ware could be something of a wild card — after missing 11 games in the past two seasons, does the 34-year-old have enough left in the tank? The same could be asked of Dwight Freeney, who at age-37 posted three sacks in a rotational role for the Falcons.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Kawann Short
  2. Calais Campbell
  3. Johnathan Hankins
  4. Brandon Williams
  5. Dontari Poe
  6. Chris Baker
  7. Bennie Logan
  8. Nick Fairley
  9. Alan Branch
  10. Jared Odrick
  11. Karl Klug
  12. Terrell McClain
  13. Lawrence Guy
  14. Earl Mitchell
  15. Stacy McGee

Unlike the edge defender market, the 2017 cadre of interior defensive lineman shouldn’t be overly affected by the franchise tender. Head coach Ron Rivera recently confessed the Panthers will “probably” have to use the tag on Kawann Short, but the rest of the defensive tackles listed here should be able to hit the open market. Of the remaining defenders, Campbell is the best overall player, but given that he’s entering his age-31 season, he may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

Hankins is only 24 years old, and though the Giants are trying to retain him along with the rest of their defensive core, the 6’3″, 320-pound mauler should represent an attractive option to a number of clubs this offseason. Williams, too, offers a massive presence on the inside, while Poe could intrigue clubs based on his first-round pedigree and athleticism (though his play hasn’t always matched his potential). The Redskins’ Chris Baker is a solid, well-rounded defensive tackle, and could constitute a consolation prize for teams that miss out on their top targets.

The rest of the class offers an interesting mix of nose tackles (Bennie Logan), interior pass rushers (Nick Fairley, Earl Mitchell), and run stoppers (Karl Klug, Alan Branch), so clubs hoping to bolster their defensive line should find no shortage of options. Jared Odrick recently hit free agency after being released by the Jaguars, while Terrell McClain, Lawrence Guy, and Stacy McGee could be underrated finds for the right team. McClain, for what it’s worth, has already been linked to the Falcons.

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49ers Sign Phil Dawson To One-Year Deal

MARCH 14, 3:19pm: The 49ers have officially re-signed Dawson, the team announced today in a press release.

MARCH 11, 8:48pm: Dawson and the 49ers have agreed to a one-year deal, reports Janie McCauley of The Associated Press. He’ll get a fully guaranteed base salary of $3.134MM, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

7:18pm: The 49ers are making progress toward a new deal with free agent kicker Phil Dawson and look poised to bring him back for his age-41 season, reports Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com (Twitter link). Dawson would be the second over-40 kicker to ink Phil Dawsona contract this offseason, joining the Colts’ Adam Vinatieri (43).

Despite his age, Dawson didn’t show any obvious signs of decline last season. The 17-year veteran hit an impressive 24 of 27 field goals, good for an 88.9% success rate (10th in the NFL). He also connected on all three of his attempts over 50 yards and nailed 20 of 21 extra points. Dawson hasn’t converted worse than 80% of his field goal tries since 2006, when he made only 72.4% of attempts as a member of the Browns.

As of now, Dawson, Josh Brown and Greg Zuerlein are among a thin class of established kickers who haven’t signed contracts. Dawson’s previous deal was a two-year pact worth $6.13M, including $3.5MM in guarantees. Earlier this month, Vinatieri landed two years, $6MM and $1MM in guarantees, which should be the neighborhood in which Dawson’s next accord resides.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Notes: Dawson, Niners, Rams

49ers kicker Phil Dawson will turn 41 next month, which would make him one of the NFL’s oldest players, but the 17-year veteran wants to sign a new contract and continue his career next season, writes Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. Dawson also believes he can still handle kickoff duties, a role the Niners handed over to rookie punter Bradley Pinion this season.

“I miss [kicking off],” Dawson said. “I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of the game, and I still feel like I can do it. But Bradley has done a tremendous job, and he’s helped the team. So (there’s) no problem here on that front.”

For now, Dawson hasn’t spoken to the 49ers about signing an extension with the club, but he hopes to discuss the topic sometime after the regular season finale, and it sounds like he intends to convey an interest in remaining in San Francisco.

“When the proper time and place comes, I’ll definitely communicate how I feel about this place and how grateful I am to have been here for three seasons,” Dawson said. “But the time is not now for those conversations.”

Here’s more from around the NFC West:

  • The two running backs signed by the 49ers last week received multiyear deals, according to Maiocco, who tweets that DuJuan Harris was signed through 2016 and Jarryd Hayne was locked up through 2017.
  • The fact that the Rams get all stadium revenue for football, including naming rights, is a key aspect of St. Louis’ stadium proposal, says Howard Balzer of The SportsXchange (Twitter links). The plan also includes a rebate on amusement tax, and revenue from the lease if an MLS team moves in, which should make it more appealing to the Rams and to the NFL.
  • With his contract set to expire at season’s end, Rams quarterback Case Keenum will be looking for a more permanent NFL home this winter, and he’s increasing his free agent value with a nice run to end the year. If he can lead the Rams to victory in San Francisco this weekend, Keenum will finish the season with four straight wins. Michael Wagaman of The Associated Press examines the QB’s situation.
  • Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu will go under the knife next Tuesday, undergoing a procedure to repair his torn right ACL, per Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com.

West Notes: Weddle, Rucker, Cards, Dawson

Longtime Chargers safety Eric Weddle “seems destined to depart San Diego as a free agent” when his contract expires after the 2015 season, says Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Acee, who reported on Monday that the team has told Weddle and agent David Canter that they won’t negotiate a new contract this year, says the bridge between the two sides may not be irreparable. However, head coach Mike McCoy is believed to be siding with management in Weddle’s contract dispute – reportedly rubbing some veteran players the wrong way in the process – and Canter describes the Chargers’ current stance as “disgusting.”

“It’s blatantly obvious after me asking the team time and again to extend us that Eric isn’t wanted,” Canter said. “So it’s time for Eric to move on [to] where he can win and is wanted.”

Weddle is still expected to play out the 2015 season in San Diego, and anything could happen between now and March, when he’s slated to hit the open market. But at this point, the two-time All-Pro appears to be preparing to play his last 16 games with the Chargers.

Here’s more from out of the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • Field Yates of ESPN.com has the details on Frostee Rucker‘s new deal with the Cardinals, tweeting that the extension includes $500K guaranteed, a $1MM base salary for 2016, and $2MM in total new money. Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post provides a few more specifics on Rucker’s contract, which includes bonuses and incentives as well.
  • Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians thinks his team is set at the quarterback position, but Bob McManamon of AZCentral.com makes a case for why the club should consider bringing in another veteran signal-caller.
  • $500K of Phil Dawson‘s $3.134MM base salary for 2015 became fully guaranteed this week, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The veteran 49ers kicker is eligible for free agency after the coming season.
  • While Floyd Kephart is expected to propose a financing plan for a stadium in Oakland, the executive director of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, Scott McKibben, says his group is prepared to move on to “other options” quickly if a deal with Kephart doesn’t happen, writes Bill Williamson of ESPN.com. “We need to get something done sooner than later,” McKibben said, addressing the possibility of the Raiders remaining in Oakland.

Contract Details: Munnerlyn, Dawson, McBride

Here are a few extra details on contracts that have been agreed to and signed in recent days:

  • Captain Munnerlyn‘s three-year contract with the Vikings, initially reported to be worth $14.25MM, is actually worth $11.25MM, but another $3.3MM can be added through escalators and incentives, says Tom Pelissero of USA Today (via Twitter). The deal includes $4.45MM guaranteed in guaranteed money, but Pelissero tweets that due to a small signing bonus, it could potentially just turn into a one-year contract if 2014 doesn’t go well.
  • According to Pelissero (via Twitter), the two-year contract Phil Dawson signed with the 49ers is worth a total of $6.134MM and came with a $2MM signing bonus.
  • The two-year deal Trumaine McBride inked with the Giants is worth $2.875MM, with a $100K signing bonus and $900K in roster bonuses, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.
  • Wilson (via Twitter) has Will Herring‘s one-year contract with the Cowboys as an $855K base salary plus a $65K signing bonus. That would seem to suggest it’s a minimum salary benefit deal, but Wilson says the total is $1.02MM, which indicates there’s another $100K in bonuses somewhere. Either way, $300K of the deal is guaranteed, says Wilson.
  • According to Wilson (via Twitter), Phil Costa‘s contract with the Colts features base salaries of $1.2MM (2014) and $1.5MM (2015), with no bonuses. $450K of Costa’s first-year salary is guaranteed.
  • Wilson adds (via Twitter) that Henry Hynoski‘s $1MM contract with the Giants includes a $250K signing bonus.
  • Although we heard yesterday that Chris Williams‘ contract with the Bills included a 2016 “trigger point,” when Williams was owed a significant roster bonus, the deal has been modified since being entered in the NFLPA system, says ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak. Instead of having a $1.5MM signing bonus and $2.5MM roster bonus in ’16, the deal now features a $3.5MM signing bonus and $250K roster bonus.

49ers, Dawson Agree To New Deal

Kicker Phil Dawson announced via Twitter that he has reached agreement on a new deal with the 49ers, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. Dawson adds that it’s a two-year pact (link).

Dawson, 39, set the 49ers franchise record with 27 consecutive made field goals. He made 32 of 36 attempts during the regular season in 2013 and was 7-for-7 in the postseason, including a 33-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Packers in the playoffs. The 15-year veteran holds the NFL record in accuracy of (84.5 percent) among all kickers with at least 300 made field goals in his career.