Neither Allen nor Lee saw a regular season snap in New England. Lee signed with the Patriots in April on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum. The 29-year-old (30 in November) was expected to support a wide receiver group led by Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, and N’Keal Harry. Between the opt-out and injuries, he’s a long way removed from his best work in 2016-17, when he totaled 1,551 receiving yards for the Jaguars. Instead of bringing him back, the Patriots will release him to save less than $800K.
Allen, 29, was supposed to replace Danny Shelton after he went to Detroit. Unfortunately, an undisclosed injury kept him on the shelf all year.
November 2nd, 2020 at 1:59pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
The Patriots have fallen to 2-5 after their fourth straight loss Sunday, and the hits keep on coming. Defensive tackle Beau Allen won’t play this season, head coach Bill Belichick announced Monday.
New England signed Allen to a two-year, $8MM deal back in March, and he won’t end up playing a down in 2020. The Patriots signed the big run-stuffer to help replace Danny Shelton, who signed with Detroit, but they placed him on injured reserve at the beginning of the season. It’s never been clear exactly what injury Allen is dealing with, and we still don’t have that information, so there’s some mystery here.
Without the projected starter the Patriots have been thin on the interior, and they’ve struggled to stop the run as a result, giving up the sixth-most rushing yards per game. A seventh-round pick of the Eagles in 2014 Allen spent his first four years in Philly, winning Super Bowl LII with the team. He then signed a three-year, $15MM deal with Tampa Bay in 2018, although the last year of that contract was voided.
The Buccaneers famously poached TomBrady from New England, and now the Patriots are striking back… kind of. SiriusXM’s Adam Caplan reports (via Twitter) that the Patriots are signing defensive tackle BeauAllen. It’s a two-year deal worth $8MM.
The 2014 seventh-rounder spent the first four seasons of his career with the Eagles, and he compiled a pair of tackles in Philly’s Super Bowl victory over (you guessed it) the Patriots.
He joined Tampa Bay prior to the 2018 campaign, and he started eight of his 14 games that season, finishing with 20 tackles. After reworking his contract last offseason to remove the third year from his deal, Allen took on a lesser role. He finished the season with 10 tackles and 0.5 sacks in 13 games.
While impending free agent quarterback JameisWinston may be stealing headlines, Buccaneers head coach BruceArians is more focused on retaining his team’s top defenders.
“Oh, yeah. To me, it’s the whole defense,” Arians told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “You can’t get ’em all, but … those young guys grew. We can’t let that go. I don’t care who’s my quarterback. We’ve gotta have a defense.”
On the offensive side of the ball, it doesn’t sound like Arians is all that concerned about who’s under center. The head coach did admit that it’s tough to have any clarity on the quarterbacks position considering the uncertainty of free agency.
“You don’t know who’s available,” Arians said. “You just sit there and wait to see, is there someone available. If not, is this a better option. That’s the problem. You get about two days to decide in the legal tampering period.”
One of the team’s options will naturally be Winston, who spent the first five seasons of his career in Tampa Bay. Winston set career-highs in passing yards (5,109) and touchdowns (33) in 2019, but he also set a career-high (and led the NFL) with 30 interceptions.
March 14th, 2019 at 10:00am CST by Andrew Ortenberg
The Buccaneers are clearing up a little cap space. Defensive tackle Beau Allen took a $1MM pay cut, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).
Pelissero writes that the new agreement will further guarantee what’s left of his salary “solidify his spot on the roster” in exchange for taking the pay cut. In a follow up tweet, Pelissero notes that the $4MM remaining for this year is now fully guaranteed. He’ll also have the opportunity to earn the $1MM back through incentives.
In addition, the final year of his contract, which was supposed to run through the 2020 season, has been removed, meaning Allen will hit the open market next offseason. Tampa Bay has some of the least cap space in the league, so moves like this are crucial for them if they want to have a chance at signing anybody.
They inked Allen, formerly of the Eagles, to a three-year $15MM deal last March. In fourteen games and eight starts last season, Allen had 20 tackles while working as a run-stuffer eating up blocks. He had previously spent the first four years of his career in Philadelphia, after entering the league as a seventh round pick in 2014.
Beau Allen has officially flown the nest. The former Eagles defensive lineman will sign with the Buccaneers, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter). It’s a three-year deal worth $15MM and could be worth up to $16.5MM with incentives, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Caplan (on Twitter).
Allen was being pursued heavily by both the Bucs and the Lions. The Lions lost Haloti Ngata to free agency on Tuesday when he signed with the Eagles, a move that displaced Allen. Ultimately, Tampa Bay won out.
Allen, 26, spent the first four seasons of his career with the Eagles. He was extremely durable that period, as the only game he missed during his Philadelphia tenure was a meaningless Week 17 contest last season. In 2017, Allen — a one-technique tackle — appeared on roughly 41% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps. He’s PFR’s No. 6-ranked interior defender.
The Buccaneers add Allen to a group of defensive tackles that also includes Channing Ward and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu. Sealver Siliga and Clinton McDonald are both free agents this offseason, possibly opening the door to extended playing time for Allen. Tampa Bay allowed 117.5 yards per game on the ground last season, which ranked No. 22 in the NFL.
The Eagles took Allen in the seventh round of the 2014 draft and he’s started three games in each of the last two seasons. With acquisitions such as Ngata and Michael Bennett to an already-stellar defensive line, it became pretty clear the Eagles weren’t going to be able to retain Allen’s services.
The Lions and Buccaneers are among the clubs with interest in free agent defensive tackle Beau Allen, according to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press (Twitter link).
This represents the first known interest in Allen, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Eagles. Allen, 26, was extremely durable that time, as the only game he missed during his Philadelphia was a meaningless Week 17 contest in 2017. Last year, Allen — a one-technique tackle by trade — appeared on roughly 41% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps. He’s PFR’s No. 6-ranked interior defender.
Detroit and Tampa Bay both ranked among the bottom half of the league in adjusted line yards, Football Outsiders‘ defensive line metric. The Lions could lose defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to either free agency or retirement, while the Buccaneers have already released fellow interior defender Chris Baker this offseason.
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:
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 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
Although there are a number of high-quality starting linebackers available in free agency this year, I predict most contracts signed by LBs over the next few weeks will come in lower that most expect. The linebacker market is relatively stagnant, and unless the player is a legitimate star or inking an extension with his original club, he’s usually disappointed with his annual value. The most expensive deal for an unrestricted free agent ‘backer who signed with a new team was Bruce Irvin‘s $9.25MM/year pact with the Raiders, and Irvin can almost be considered an edge rusher. After Irvin, it’s Danny Trevathan, whom the Bears signed for a $7MM annual value in 2016.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise if no linebacker listed above is able to top Trevathan’s two-year-old average, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t starting-caliber LBs on the market. Zach Brown, the poster boy for having to accept cheap contracts, is coming off another solid season, but is reportedly asking for top-three inside linebacker money. Good luck. Similarly, Demario Davis is looking for $8-10MM annually, while the Jets — who have interest in re-signing him — view him as a $3-4MM/year player.
Nigel Bradham and NaVorro Bowman should both come in around Trevathan’s $7MM average after posting excellent 2017 campaigns. While the Eagles would surely prefer to re-sign Bradham, the club’s dire cap situation may mean Bradham will hit the open market next Wednesday. Bowman, meanwhile, was traded from the 49ers to Raiders last season, and he seems like a good bet to stay with Oakland after new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther heaped lavish praise on the 29-year-old.
Top-to-bottom, the cornerback market is the deepest positional group on the defensive side of the ball. Need a No. 1 defensive back with experience in both man and zone? Trumaine Johnson is your guy. How about a top-end cornerback who, while admittedly up-and-down at times, has the ability to shut down opposing wide receivers? Malcolm Butler has you covered. A former first-round pick who has finally played up to his potential over the past two seasons? Take a look at Morris Claiborne. Or is a career journeyman who posted 10 excellent games last year more your speed? Look into Rashaan Melvin.
Slot cornerbacks are also prevalent in this year’s defensive back market, and while I ranked Aaron Colvin, T.J. Carrie, Patrick Robinson, and Nickell Robey-Coleman in order of my preference, they could each be plugged into a starting nickel package immediately. I originally though Robinson could land a disappointing deal given his age (31) and his track record of underwhelming play prior to 2017, but he’s already garnering interest from the Giants, Raiders, and Cardinals, so his market should allow him to reach at least $5MM annually. Colvin could garner even more than Robinson thanks his youth (26), and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com expects Colvin to have a “legit” market.
If teams are looking for a bargain at cornerback, they should target Ross Cockrell, whom the Steelers dealt to the Giants last year for a seventh-round pick. Cockrell has always been overlooked in the NFL, but he keeps producing results. In 2017, Cockrell finished first in Football Outsiders’ success rate, which measures cornerbacks on their ability to consistently stop opposing wideouts short of the sticks. In fact, Cockrell was one of only eight defenders who stopped a receiver short of a successful gain on over half their tackles a season ago, as FO’s Aaron Schatz recently tweeted, but the league consistently undervalues him and his skill-set.
The best free agent safety was taken off the board earlier today when the Rams used the franchise tag on Lamarcus Joyner, and the remaining market is extremely top-heavy. Eric Reid, Morgan Burnett, Tre Boston, and Kenny Vaccaro could all be in line for at least $5MM annually, but the rest of the class could struggle to find multi-year deals. Among the top-tier safeties, Vaccaro stands out as perhaps the most interesting name. A first-round pick in 2013, Vaccarro has posted three exemplary campaigns and two dreadful years; in 2017, Pro Football Focus ranked Vaccaro as the single-worst safety in the league among 87 qualifiers. But given his draft pedigree and his ability to man the slot, Vaccaro should land a solid deal.
While I like Reid and Burnett a bit more as players, it wouldn’t be a shock if Boston actually lands the largest contract. Reid and Burnett spend a lot of time close to the line of scrimmage, and both have been used as de factor linebackers from time to time. Boston, on the other hand, is a deep safety who can play coverage, and that repertoire is much more difficult to find on the open market. Similarly, Tyvon Branch has been great in coverage during his career with the Raiders, Chiefs, and Cardinals, so he could also see a nice pay bump next week.
After Branch, the crop of available safeties steeply drops off. Every other free agent we’ve listed above will be at at least 29 years old when the 2018 gets underway except for the Lions’ Tavon Wilson, and he was one of the NFL’s worst starting defensive backs last season. Veterans like Corey Graham or Ron Parker can still play as third safeties who see time in “big nickel” packages, but if you’re looking for a starting safety, you’ll want to bring in one of the top six defensive backs on the board.