Veteran defensive tackle Bennie Logan visited with the Patriots on Thursday, ESPN’s Mike Reiss tweets.
Logan spent the 2018 campaign with the Titans and appeared in 15 games. It was the first season in the defensive tackle’s career that he didn’t operate primarily as a starter. Logan played on 288 snaps, roughly 21 percent of the team’s defensive plays.
Before his one-year run in Tennessee, Logan spent a season in Kansas City where he started 12 games, and opened his career with a four-year stay in Philadelphia, where he started 51 of his 59 games.
The Patriots defensive line depth has thinned so far this offseason with the departures of Malcom Brown and Trey Flowers to the Saints and Lions, respectively.
Dez Bryantwants to sign with the Giants after being released by the division-rival Cowboys last week, but a current New York wideout isn’t on board with that idea. In a now-deleted Instagram story, Giants receiver Brandon Marshall said there was “no room” for Bryant on Big Blue’s roster, as Jaclyn Hendricks of the New York Post writes. Marshall, for his part, bombed during his first campaign in New York, as an ankle injury limited him to just five games and 18 receptions. Viewed as a possible cap casualty heading into the offseason, Marshall has surprisingly stuck on the Giants’ roster to this point. New York could still release Marshall at any point, however, and doing so would save the club in excess of $5MM in cap space.
Here’s more from the NFC East:
The Redskins were busy hosting draft prospects over the past two days, as Georgia running back Sony Michel, Ohio State center Billy Price, and Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea all visited the nation’s capital on Tuesday/Wednesday, according to John Keim of ESPN.com (allTwitterlinks). Michel would join a running back depth chart that already includes Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, and Rob Kelley, while Price could start at either guard or center in lieu of Arie Kouandjio or Chase Roullier, respectively. Vea, meanwhile, would help fill a gap at defensive tackle that the Redskins have already attempted to fill this offseason by showing interest in free agents such as Johnathan Hankins and Bennie Logan.
Southern Methodist wideout Courtland Sutton met with the Cowboys on Wednesday, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Dallas has a gaping need at receiver after cutting Bryant, as their roster is currently littered by second- and third-tier pass-catchers. Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Deonte Thompson, and Ryan Switzer front the Cowboys’ WR depth chart, but Sutton — who is viewed as either a first- or second-round selection — could give Dallas a potential No. 1 wideout. The 6’4″, 215-pound Sutton posted at least 1,000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons.
Matt Cassel‘s deal with the Lions is for the veteran’s minimum with $350K in guarantees, according to Justin Rogers of the Detroit News (on Twitter). So, even though there are guarantees, it’s not enough to suggest that the team is moving on from backup Jake Rudock. Rudock has a $630K salary with no guarantees, but they could conceivably roll with him over Cassel if he looks better this summer.
Tackle Ben Ijalana‘s one-year deal with Jets is worth $2.5MM, Rich Cimini of ESPN tweets. The total guarantee is $500K, via his signing bonus. Ijalana does not project to start for the Jets, but the team clearly values him more than the average backup.
Jordan Matthews‘ rough year with the Bills may have cost him. The former productive Eagles slot receiver signed with the Patriots for one year and $1MM, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. While $700K is available via incentives, this is a team-friendly deal — one that only includes $170K guaranteed.
Bennie Logan‘s Titans deal is for one year and worth $4MM in base value, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Incentives can escalate Logan’s haul to $5MM.
The Chargers‘ Geno Smith contract is worth $1MM over one year, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com tweets. This comes with a $200K signing bonus.
Logan, 28, drew plenty of free agent interest before landing with the Titans. Before taking a meeting with Tennessee last week, Logan also met with the Seahawks. The Redskins, meanwhile, were reportedly eyeing Logan but never set up an official visit.
Logan, a former third-round pick, spent four seasons with the Eagles before inking a one-year, $8MM deal with the Chiefs last spring. During his lone season in Kansas City, Logan appeared in 15 games as a run-stuffing defensive tackle, racking up 35 tackles and 1.5 sacks while playing 55% of the club’s defensive snaps. Pro Football Focus, however, graded Logan as just the No. 94 interior defender among 122 qualifiers a season ago.
Bennie Logan logged his second visit of this free agency period, this one involving a trip to Tennessee.
The Titans hosted the nose tackle recently, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Logan also met with the Seahawks last month, and the Redskins were believed to be in the mix at one point.
Spending 2017 as the Chiefs’ starting nose, Logan took over for Dontari Poe after signing a one-year deal. His run-stop percentage rated as the seventh-best among defensive tackles last season, according to Pro Football Focus. While that was a tick down from his best Eagles work, Logan remains a proven NFL starter. The 28-year-old interior defender made 52 tackles with the Chiefs in 2017 and inflated his career start total to 63.
The Titans cut Sylvester Williams after one season. He’s now with the Lions. Logan would be a natural replacement, should this visit end up leading to a deal.
Although the Giants are not actively shopping wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., team owner John Mara (once again) didn’t dismiss the idea of dealing the star pass-catcher. “Do I want [Beckham] to be traded? Absolutely not,” said Mara, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY (Twitter link). “I want him to be a Giant. I can’t promise that’s going to happen. We’re not looking to get rid of him, OK? I’d like him to be a Giant. But if you’re asking me for a 100% guarantee, nobody has that.” Beckham may reportedly consider a holdout if he’s not extended by the start of the 2018 season, but he’s clearly not in the good graces of New York’s decision-makers at the moment. Mara recently indicated he’s “tired of answering questions” about OBJ, who was involved in a video that may have involved drug use earlier this year.
Let’s take a look at more from the NFC East:
Free agent defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins is in a holding pattern with the Redskins after meeting with the club last week, as John Keim of ESPN.com writes. Asking price could be an issue, as Keim indicated Washington views Hankins as a potential complementary piece of its run defense rather than a key cog. As such, Hankins may not be in the Redskins’ plans unless his cost comes down. Fellow interior lineman Bennie Logan remains under consideration, but given that Washington has yet to schedule a visit, its interest clearly isn’t serious. If neither Hankins nor Logan end up in the nation’s capital, the Redskins should be expected to target defensive tackle help through the draft.
New Cowboys linebacker Joe Thomas‘ two-year deal is worth up to $3.6MM, tweets Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Thomas, who had spent his entire career in Green Bay, received a $1MM signing bonus and will also have $400K of his base salary guaranteed. The Packers opted to non-tender Thomas as a restricted free agent rather than pay him an original round tender of $1.907MM, and Thomas won’t meet that mark with Dallas, either, as Demovsky reports Thomas will collect just $1.6MM total in 2018. Thomas, 26, will likely spend most of his time on the Cowboys’ special teams unit, but will provide depth in case Sean Lee or Jaylon Smith go down with injury.
The Redskins are “working hard” to sign Hankins, tweets Finlay, so Williams and/or Logan might not be of interest to the club for much longer. On the other hand, neither of Washington’s 2017 defensive tackle additions — Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain — made much of an impact during their respective first seasons in the nation’s capital, so one or both could be released.
Indeed, Washington altered the contract of defensive tackle McClain in a way that will make him easier to release, as Keim writes. Previously, McClain’s $3.25MM base salary was scheduled to become fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2018 league year, but Washington has since made that salary guaranteed for injury only. As such, the Redskins should be able to cut McClain at any point prior to the start of the regular season without being on the hook for his salary (provided he doesn’t get injured between now and then).
Williams, meanwhile, started 11 games and made 15 total appearances for the Titans in 2017, his first campaign outside of Denver since the Broncos made him a first-round pick in 2014. Last season, Williams played on roughly a third of Tennessee’s defensive snaps (third-most among the club’s defensive linemen) while posting 12 tackles. Pro Football Focus graded him as the league’s No. 67 interior defender among 122 qualifiers, assigning much better marks against the run than the pass.
Logan, 28, has caught the Redskins’ eye in the past, as he took a meeting with the team last spring before ultimately landing a one-year, $8MM pact from the Chiefs. Washington should have a good idea of Logan’s capabilities, as he played against the Redskins twice per year as a member of the Eagles from 2013-16. Last season, Logan appeared in 15 games and played on 55% of Kansas City’s defensive snaps, acting as a serviceable run-stuffer during that time. Washington could have competition for Logan, as he met with Seattle earlier today.
Seattle is seeking to replace defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who inked a one-year deal with the Vikings last week, and Logan could help in that regard. Logan can’t offer the interior pass rush that can Richardson, but he’s a run-stuffer that can plug the middle of the line. The 28-year-old Logan is fresh off a one-year, $8MM pact with the Chiefs, a deal he signed following four seasons with the Eagles.
Johnson, meanwhile, started 16 games for the 49ers in 2017 after serving as a reserve for the first three years of his career. The results weren’t great, as Johnson ranked near the bottom of Football Outsiders’ yards allowed per pass and success rate. He’d give Seattle depth after the club cut ties with fellow cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane and lost DeShawn Shead to free agency.
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.