The Bucs are in the books with their 53-man roster. To get there, they’ve (naturally) dropped a boatload of players.
Among those released is running back Andre Ellington, who was out of football in 2018 but was thought to have a good shot at the roster thanks to his history with Bruce Arians in Arizona. UDFA tailback Bruce Anderson is also out, despite his pass-catching prowess.
Kicker Cairo Santos has also been shown the door after re-signing with the team in March. With that, Matt Gay has won the job.
Running back Ronald Jones was a disappointment for the Buccaneers and dynasty fantasy football players alike last year, as the 2018 second-rounder turned in a very quiet rookie campaign. The USC product did not displace Peyton Barber as Tampa Bay’s lead back, as many expected, and in fact played only 90 offensive snaps all season. Meanwhile, Barber started all 16 games and led the club in rushing yards for the second straight year, though he only managed 3.7 yards per carry.
Given that the Bucs did not do much to upgrade their RB room in free agency or the draft this year, Jones has a good opportunity to break out in his second professional season. And, as Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk writes, Jones plans to do just that.
He said, “I just want to lead the team in rushing and be that player who can ignite the offense and things like that, because that’s who I am. I’m a playmaker. I just want that opportunity.”
To that end, Jones says he has put on 13 pounds of muscle. He added, “[l]ast year was a disappointment for me. I’m putting in the work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Unsurprisingly, Greg Auman of The Athletic believes that Jones is a lock to make the club, as there is no way the Bucs will give up on a second-round running back so quickly. However, Auman also notes that Barber has garnered plenty of praise from Tampa Bay’s coaching staff this year, and since Barber is eligible for unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career in 2020, he will be plenty motivated (Twitter link). In fact, Auman believes that Barber will lead the team in rushing for the third consecutive season, though he also notes (via Twitter) that Jones emerging as a solid complementary option would still be a big help to the offense.
Auman believes one of the other available spots on the Bucs’ RB depth chart will be filled by 2019 UDFA Bruce Anderson, who excelled at North Dakota State and who offers solid pass-catching ability, which is not a strong suit of either Barber or Jones. Veteran Andre Ellington — who was out of football in 2018 but who played for new HC Bruce Arians in Arizona — would seem to have a decent chance of making the team, though Tampa Bay could also elect to carry just three RBs (unless a backup like Dare Ogunbowale wins a job as a return specialist).
The club will almost certainly remain on the lookout for veteran depth, and players like Jay Ajayi and old friend Jacquizz Rodgersremain available. An intriguing name or two may also shake loose from another club’s roster as the regular season gets closer.
February 19th, 2019 at 3:11pm CST by Zachary Links
The Buccaneers signed running back Andre Ellington, according to a team announcement. The deal reunites the former Cardinals tailback with Bruce Arians, who has taken over as the Bucs’ head coach.
Ellington may have a chance to compete for the club’s third-down back role, a spot that is up for grabs as Jacquizz Rodgers approaches free agency. Ellington was once a regular in Arizona’s backfield, but he was not in football in 2018.
The 30-year-old has a reputation as a solid pass catcher and, at one point, the Cardinals considered transitioning him to the wide receiver position. In 2014, Ellington collected a career-high 46 catches. In 2017, his last NFL season, he had a total of 39 grabs for the Cardinals and Texans.
Ellington was largely overshadowed during his Arizona tenure, but he did average 4.2 yards per carry under Arians. If he can prove that he still has something left, he may have an opportunity to get his career back on track in Tampa.
While Breida was able to avoid a high ankle sprain, he’ll likely miss Monday’s contest. With Jerick McKinnon already out for the season, this leaves the 49ers with a pair of healthy running backs: Alfred Morris and Raheem Mostert. Head coach KyleShanahan said the team could end up promoting Jeff Wilson from the practice squad for some extra depth, or maybe they’ll look outside the organization for reinforcement.
Breida has stepped up during McKinnon’s absence, compiling 369 rushing yards and one touchdown on 49 carries. His 7.5 yards per attempt is currently the best mark in the NFL, and he’s yet to commit a fumble this season. On the flip side, Morris and Mostert have been underwhelming, combining for 3.5 yards per carry.
The team may be willing to ride it out with Morris as their starting running back, especially since the majority of the auditionees have served as third-down backs throughout their careers. Vereen was the most productive in 2017, as he hauled in 44 receptions for 253 yards (he also had another 164 rushing yards on 45 carries). West finished last season with 27 receptions in 13 games with the Chiefs, while Ellington had 39 receptions during his stints with the Cardinals and Texans.
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. 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. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.
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 2018:
Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.
Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.
There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.
What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.
Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.
Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.
Carlos Hyde didn’t have the kind of platform year he was hoping for, but he’s still just 26 and could headline a running back by committee group.
Jerick McKinnon‘s placement on this list figures to be controversial, but his athleticism and pass-catching ability can blow a game wide open. No one will bank on McKinnon to carry the ball 20 times per game, but he can be a real difference maker for a team out there.
Can Frank Gore outrun father time? History indicates that he can’t and so does his 3.7 yards per carry average in 2017. You have to give credit where credit is due, however. Gore has been ruled out by many for years, but he has not missed a regular season game since the 2010 season. He’s also just one year removed from cracking 1,000 yards and he almost did the same last year.
For most teams, Allen Robinson would be a franchise tag candidate. However, that may be too much of a luxury for the cash-strapped Jaguars. He presents a fascinating free agent case. Robinson missed all but three snaps of the 2017 season after suffering a torn ACL, but he’s the most talented wide receiver on the board in the eyes of many. His 2015 season – 80 catches, 1,400 yards, and a league-leading 14 touchdowns – makes GMs drool. His quieter year in 2016 (73 catches, 883 yards, and six touchdowns) is less worthy of salivation. His 2017 season, of course, was a lost cause. For all the question marks, you can expect Robinson to see more dollars than any other free agent WR this year, particularly since Jarvis Landry has been held back by the tag.
Some in the football world may prefer Sammy Watkins for his big-play ability, but his down contract year amidst a capable offense is cause for concern. His injury history doesn’t do him any favors either. No matter your feelings on Watkins, there’s no debating that this year’s WR market has a top tier comprised of just two players – Watkins and Robinson. With few quality receivers out there, they’ll both get paid.
Marqise Lee represents a much less sexy option (speaking in football terms, of course), but he had the most receptions of any Jaguars receiver in 2017 (56) and finished second in receiving yards (702). Teams looking for a quality WR2 in free agency could do a lot worse than Lee and he’ll be far cheaper than the two-man top tier.
Danny Amendola hauled in 61 receptions for 659 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season and continued his strong play in the playoffs. However, teams will wonder if he can thrive in his age-33 season while playing outside of the Patriots’ offense. It’s also quite possible that he never tests the market as his stated preference is to remain in New England.
After that, you’ll notice a pretty significant drop off. That’s because this year’s WR class isn’t all that deep. Terrelle Pryor had to settle for a one-year prove-it contract last year and, to put it mildly, he did not prove it. Paul Richardson caught 44 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns in 2017, but that marked his first NFL season of real note.
Trey Burton spent most of the year behind Zach Ertz on the Eagles’ depth chart, but he emerged late in the season and set himself up nicely for free agency. Given his age and potential, there’s no question that he is the belle of the ball at tight end.
The rest of the tight end crop is not nearly as inspiring. Jimmy Graham has enjoyed back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons with the Seahawks, but he’ll turn 32 in November and he’s no longer the monster playmaker that he was in New Orleans. He had ten touchdowns in 2017, but his 9.1 yards per reception average is a career low.
Odds are, you have Tyler Eifert ranked over Austin Seferian-Jenkins given the fact that Eifert has played just ten games over the last two years. ASJ, meanwhile, rebounded from personal issues to post a 50-catch season for the Jets. Personally, I’m picking Eifert based on upside. Hopefully, we can still be friends.
Offensive line play is down across the board and evaluators around the league have been openly complaining about an increasing dearth of tackles coming out of college. That makes for a generally uninspiring lot in free agency.
Nate Solder battled through injuries in 2017 and did not miss a game. He’s no longer a top-flight option, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 32 tackle last year, meaning that he’s starter quality at left tackle. You’ll notice that three of the top five tackles on this list are Patriots. There’s little chance that the Pats let all three get away.
Justin Pugh offers the ability to play both guard and right tackle, though he might not do either one particularly well.
Andrew Norwell is the undisputed king of this category after netting an All-Pro selection in 2017. Norwell also earned a career-high 88.8 overall score from Pro Football Focus, which positioned him third in the entire NFL amongst guards. A team with greater means than the Panthers might have used the franchise tag on him. Fortunately for rival teams in need of interior help (such as the Giants), they won’t cuff him with the one-year placeholder.
November 21st, 2017 at 3:40pm CST by Zachary Links
The Texans have claimed Andre Ellington off waivers, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Cardinals released the running back on Monday, giving the league’s other 31 teams a chance to snag him.
Ellington will help provide depth to a badly depleted group in Houston. Rookie D’Onta Foreman landed on injured reserve this week with a torn Achilles, joining Tyler Ervin (knee). Meanwhile, Alfred Blue‘s status is unclear due to a lingering hamstring injury. Ellington will slot in as one of three fully healthy backs along with starter Lamar Miller and reserve Jordan Todman.
Ellington, cousin of Texans wide receiver Bruce Ellington, had just 15 carries for 53 yards before his release from Arizona. He did, however, have 33 receptions for 297 yards. He could prove to be a nice complement to Miller, even if he’s not as effective of a runner as he once was. In his first two NFL seasons, Ellington ran for 1,312 yards on 319 carries and caught 85 passes for 766 yards.
The 4-6 Texans were No. 8 in line to claim Ellington based on the inverse of the standings. This means the Browns, 49ers, Giants, Bears, Broncos, Colts, and Bengals all passed on claiming the 28-year-old.
Although Ellington is a vested veteran, he will be subject to waivers since we are past the trading deadline. He hasn’t had the role of a starter or looked the part of one in some time (he was inactive on Sunday, his final game with the Cardinals), but he could hold value for several teams looking to fortify their running situation. The Redskins, for example, might consider claiming him after losing Chris Thompson for the season. Ellington is not as explosive as Thompson, but he does have soft hands out of the backfield.
In eight games this year, Ellington had 15 carries for 53 yards – good for just 3.5 yards per attempt – and one touchdown. He made a bigger impact as a pass-catcher, hauling in 33 grabs for 297 yards Heading into the season, the Cardinals planned to line up Ellington exclusively as a receiver instead of at running back, though they backed down from that plan in June.
The 0-10 Browns will have top priority on the waiver wire, so they’ll have the first opportunity to add Ellington to the roster. The 49ers (1-9), Giants (2-8), Bears (3-7), Colts (3-7), and Broncos (3-7) will also be among the teams at the front of the line.
In September, the Cardinals planned to have David Johnson, T.J. Logan, and Ellington as their top three backs. Thanks to injuries and Ellington’s ineffectiveness, all three players are out of the equation.
The Cardinals’ experiment of moving Andre Ellington to wide receiver is over. Starting today, he is back to practicing as a running back, coach Bruce Arians told reporters (Twitter link via Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic).
We typically don’t cover position changes in great detail here at Pro Football Rumors, but Ellington’s switch is notable since it could impact other moves made by the Cardinals this summer. For one, Ellington’s move back to RB could hurt Chris Johnson‘s chances of returning to the team. Now, Ellington and Kerwynn Williams stand as the top reserves behind starter David Johnson with youngsters T.J. Logan and Eli Penny jockeying for roster spots.
Ellington’s classification as a running back may also improve the chances of receivers like Brittan Golden, Jeremy Ross, and Marquis Bundy of making the roster. With Ellington back at his original position, the Cards’ top five receivers are Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, J.J. Nelson, third round pick Chad Williams, and Jaron Brown.
Ellington, 28, had just 96 rushing yards off of 34 carries last season. He also added 12 grabs for 85 yards. His best season arguably came as a rookie in 2013 when he ran for 652 yards off of 118 carries (5.5 ypc) and three scores. In that year, he also had 39 receptions for 371 yards and one score.