The Raiders have placed wide receiver Griff Whalen on injured reserve. Whalen has reportedly been dealing with turf toe and was said to be questionable for Week 1, but the injury is more serious than previously believed.
Oakland also released Breno Giacomini. The veteran was set to be the Raiders’ starting right tackle before the start of camp, but he has been sidelined as of late with a knee injury.
The Raiders have dropped two wide receivers from their roster on Monday by putting Whalen on IR and trading Ryan Switzerto the Steelers. The moves aren’t necessarily the precursor to a wide receiver signing, because the Raiders have serious roster trimming to do between now and Saturday. Despite the shakeup, the Raiders still have a top four consisting of Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant, and Seth Roberts.
To take the place of Whalen and Giacomini, the Raiders have signed defensive lineman Connor Flagel and cornerback Jarell Carter.
Having funneled their pass offense through Travis Kelce for several seasons and having not invested much in their No. 2 wide receiver job in many years, the Chiefs surprised most observers by authorizing a monster contract for Sammy Watkins. The fifth-year wideout’s three-year, $48MM deal — with $30MM guaranteed — is having a league-wide effect, Joel Corry of CBS Sports writes. Julio Jones, who is signed to a $14.25MM-per-year deal, is now seeking additional dollars. And Corry adds Odell Beckham Jr.‘s hopes to become the league’s first $20MM-AAV wide receiver is not a crazy demand anymore now that Watkins has signed a top-five contract without supplying production to justify it. Corry adds that Watkins’ $16MM-AAV contract will become Brandin Cooks‘ floor, assuming he fares well in Los Angeles this season.
As for the Chiefs, Watkins justifying the contract could be difficult, as Corry writes, since the newcomer may be the No. 4 option in his next offense. Kelce and Kareem Hunt are entrenched as the top components of Kansas City’s attack, and Tyreek Hill put together a strong 2017 featuring 1,183 air yards and seven touchdowns. Watkins caught 39 passes for 583 yards last season, and his career-best numbers were 1,047 and nine with the 2015 Bills. Hill becomes extension-eligible after this season and his contract expires after 2019. Those talks could be tricky if he outproduces Watkins this season. Only two teams — the Packers and Broncos — are paying two wideouts eight figures annually, and the Chiefs could be set to encounter an interesting dilemma once Hill talks begin.
Here’s the latest from the AFC West:
Melvin Ingram may not be attending the Chargers‘ OTA sessions. The star pass rusher missed Tuesday’s session and is training in Florida, Eric Williams of ESPN.com reports, adding that Ingram cleared his absence with Anthony Lynn. Ingram skipped the start of these workouts last year, but he was not under contract because he had yet to sign his franchise tender. He’s now signed a long-term Bolts deal.
Bruce Irvin played as a 4-3 outside linebacker the past two seasons with the Raiders, but new DC Paul Guenther is moving him to defensive end, Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). Irvin often played end during his first two seasons in Oakland, but did so in sub-packages while lining up as a stand-up ‘backer in most base sets, similar to the Broncos’ usage of Von Miller from 2011-14. Irvin began his career as a defensive end before the Seahawks relocated him. Now that Irvin is at end, Gutierrez notesTahir Whitehead and Emmanuel Lamur lined up as outside linebackers with the Raiders’ first-stringers at Tuesday’s OTA session.
Also at Raiders OTAs, Gareon Conley participated fully, per Gutierrez. A shin injury wiped out most of the 2017 first-rounder’s rookie season, and only recently did the former Ohio State standout receive full clearance.
Donald Penn will be limited during these workouts, with Gutierrez noting the longtime Oakland left tackle is still recovering from Lisfranc surgery. Penn is not expected to be ready to participate fully until training camp. For now, second-year player David Sharpe took the reps in 11-on-11 work while Breno Giacomini opened with the starters at right tackle. The Raiders are planning to have Kolton Millertrain as a left tackle to start his career.
The Chiefs will be without their backup tight end in Week 1. Demetrius Harris received a one-game suspension for a 2017 marijuana arrest that induced a multi-day jail stay, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Harris established new career-high marks last season with 18 receptions for 224 yards. The Chiefs added former Jets second-rounder Jace Amaro this offseason, but Harris has been with the team for the past four seasons. Amaro hasn’t played since 2016.
Clinton McDonald did not participate in Broncos OTAs on Tuesday, and Mike Klis of 9News notes the veteran defensive lineman is still recovering from a March shoulder operation. The Broncos knew of this procedure when they signed him in March, per Klis. He adds McDonald is expected to be ready for camp.
The Raiders have signed tackle Breno Giacomini. The club confirmed the signing, but the length and value of the deal are not yet known.
Giacomini is entering his eleventh NFL season after spending time with the Packers, Seahawks, Jets, and Texans. He has appeared in 94 career games with 86 starts, including 53 starts over the last four campaigns.
Last season, the Jets bailed on Giacomini’s multi-year deal in the midst of cutting a number of other veterans. The Texans scooped him up on one-year deal with a non-guaranteed $1MM base, $750K signing bonus, and up to $1MM in active roster bonuses. Giacomini graded out as one of the worst tackles in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, so he did not exactly outperform the deal. For what it’s worth, however, he did start in all 16 games for Houston while playing nearly 1,100 snaps.
Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner played more than 1,000 snaps during his rookie campaign with the 49ers last year, a figure that new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh calls “criminal,” as Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee writes. Not only will San Francisco be transitioning to a 4-3 front in 2017, but the club will look to run a rotation along the defensive line in an effort to keep individual players fresh. 2015 first-round pick Arik Armstead should see his snaps increase during the upcoming season, while the additions of No. 3 overall selection Solomon Thomas and free agent signees Earl Mitchell and Elvis Dumervil will also give the 49ers more options up front. San Francisco ranked 20th in adjusted sack rate and 29th in adjusted line yards.
Here’s more from around the NFL:
The Texans recently added a pair of depth veterans in offensive tackle Breno Giacomini and linebacker Sio Moore, but neither player will take up much cap room in 2017, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitterlinks). Giacomini, who’s expected to help fill in at right tackle for the injured Derek Newton, will receive a $750K signing bonus, a non-guaranteed base salary of $1MM, and can earn up to $1MM in gameday active roster bonuses. Moore, meanwhile, will come even cheaper, as he’s on a minimum salary benefit deal. As such, he can earn $775K while only counting for $615K on the Texans’ cap.
While running back contracts are on the fiscal decline, deals for backs are increasingly reliant on incentive-based pay, as Joel Corry of CBSSports.com explains. Recent pacts for veterans such as Latavius Murray, Marshawn Lynch, and Adrian Peterson all contain some sort of performance-based money, whether through bonuses or escalators. Those clauses can often artificially inflate the value of contracts — in the case of Peterson, for example, more than 50% of his deal’s maximum value comes in the form of incentives.
While it’s a strategy that could be viewed as dangerous to the integrity of the game or a smart tactic in order to rebuild, “tanking” has afflicted the NFL in the past few seasons in the forms of the Browns and (certainly in 2017) the Jets. If the league wants to force teams to be competitive, it could institute an NBA-esque lottery system for the draft, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk opines. By giving each of the 20 non-playoff teams the same chance to earn the No. 1 overall pick, the NFL could dissuade clubs from failing to put forth a full effort.
Giacomini, 32 in September, figures to fill in for right tackle Derek Newton who has been ruled out for the year with torn patellar tendons in both knees. The Texans added Julien Davenport in the fourth round of this year’s draft and they have Chris Clark as a right tackle option, but Giacomini has both players beat in terms of experience. Last year, Clark graded out as one of the six worst tackles in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Jets released Giacomini in a long-expected cap clearing move this offseason. He was slated to count for $5.1MM against the cap, but the Jets saved lopped $4.5MM off of that obligation by cutting him. Last year, injuries limited the veteran to just 266 total snaps. He did not see enough action to qualify for ranking, but his 44.3 overall score from PFF would have placed him among the 15 worst tackles in the NFL and roughly in the same boat as Clark.
The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.
Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive 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 offensive position for 2017:
Tony Romo is not a free agent…at least not yet. If the Cowboys do not find a suitable trade and release him, you’ll find him at the top of this list.
Laugh if you must, but Cutler is far and away the best quarterback available on the open market. While most of this year’s QB-needy teams are done with their free agent shopping, the Jets are still searching for their 2017 starter and no one would make more sense for them than Cutler. He’s not all that far removed from playing solid football and he’s a logical transitional option for the Jets until they can isolate a better, younger option for 2018.
Kaepernick’s reps wisely told the press that he will be standing for the National Anthem this year. Still, Kaepernick is an outspoken guy who wants to use his platform to discuss hot button issues, so there’s no guarantee that the media circus around him will cease. Jets owner Woody Johnson loves seeing his team on the back pages of the New York tabloids, but even he has to have more sense than to entertain Kaepernick. McCown, who has been contact with the team, would be an okay choice if they can’t get something done with Cutler. Chase Daniel could be an option too, but there isn’t much game film on him.
Needless to say, the No. 3 ranked player on this list isn’t an option in New York.
The Vikings have moved on and Peterson will not be back in Minnesota. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess. When Peterson’s option was declined by the Vikings earlier this month, there were tons of stories (likely sourced by Peterson’s camp) about interest from a litany of contenders. Since then, each team – through anonymous sources – has denied being in the mix for the veteran. It would be easy to doubt Peterson at this juncture, but he has come back from serious injuries multiple times in his career and he is only one year removed from his stellar 2015 campaign. He gets the top spot over the bruising Blount as well as Charles, who hasn’t been healthy in a long while.
Jennings was brought to New York with the idea that he would be the team’s workhorse. Unfortunately, two of his three seasons with the G-Men were marred by injury. Jennings is currently putting his agility to good use on Dancing With The Stars and it remains to be seen how committed he is to football. After that, we have a trio of vets (Hightower, Williams, CJ2K) who could still advance the ball in limited spurts.
In case you’re wondering – Mike Gillislee is not listed here because he is a restricted free agent.
The market has been slow to develop for Aiken but it sounds like things could pick up soon as he’s set to meet with the Colts and Seahawks. Aiken, 28 in May, had only 29 receptions last year, but he had 75 grabs for 944 yards in 2015.
Cruz was on the field for 15 regular season games last year and he could recapture some of his old form if a team uses him in the slot. Quick quietly had 44 catches for 564 yards and three touchdowns with the Rams last year, and he was playing in a less-than-stellar offense. Boldin, meanwhile, had 67 catches in 2016, but he averaged just 8.7 yards per reception.
It’s a thin group at tight end and everything drops off dramatically after Tamme and Rivera at the top. Donnell made some noise during his time with the Giants but it’s been a while since he’s done anything of note. Tamme and Rivera could be the only two players from this group to land a deal with any real guaranteed cash.
Things have thinned out at tackle but there are still some impact guys here including Clady, Dunlap, and the versatile Pasztor. Sebastian Vollmer, if healthy, would be an interesting pickup for a team in need of offensive line depth.
Evans can still go and he finished out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 36 guard in the NFL last season. We have a few notable centers here as well in Mangold, Sullivan, and Barnes. Some teams are asking Mangold to switch to guard, but he is hoping to continue in the middle.
Giacomini was slated to count for $5.1MM against the cap, but the Jets will save $4.5MM by cutting him. Folk, meanwhile, was scheduled to carry a $3.6MM cap number and his release means $3MM in savings. In total, the Jets have created $7.5MM in cap room between these two moves.
The release of Giacomini has been long expected. Last year, injuries limited him to just 266 total snaps. He did not see enough action to qualify for ranking, but his 44.3 overall score from Pro Football Focus would have placed him among the 15 worst tackles in the NFL. After Ryan Cladywas let go, Giacomini stood the team’s only tackle with significant starting experience, but that did not Gang Green from going cheaper and younger. Giacomini will turn 32 in September.
Folk, 33 in November, connected on 27 of his 31 field goals last year, good for an 87.1% mark. He also went 24-for-26 on extra points. Folk finishes his Jets career with the second-most field goals made in franchise history. He has converted on 175 three-point tries with Gang Green in addition to his 64 makes with the Cowboys.
Giacomini, 31, started the season on the physically unable to perform list while dealing with back issues, and now that same injury is knocking him out for the rest of the 2016 campaign. The ailment will force Giacomini to undergo surgery, Jets head coach Todd Bowles told the media today. Giacomini is signed through the 2017 season at a base salary of $4.5MM, but New York can — and probably will — clear out most of that figure by releasing Giacomini in the spring.
Meanwhile, the Jets also worked out running back Bernard Pierce today, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Pierce signed with Gang Green this summer, but never played a game for the club and was ultimately waived off IR. The former Baltimore draft pick has also auditioned for Seattle and Denver in recent weeks.
Where will Jimmy Garoppolo be playing next season? Well, if you ask former Browns and Patriots executive Mike Lombardi, he believes the young quarterback will be playing in Cleveland.
“The next quarterback that’ll be the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback perhaps is Jimmy Garoppolo in New England,” Lombardi said on FS1’s Speak for Yourself (via Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com). “I think Cleveland understands, [coach] HueJackson specifically understands he needs a quarterback. I think they’ll be very aggressive. I think Jimmy Garoppolo’s on top of their list, and I think they’ll go hard after him.”
The Browns are stocked with picks for the upcoming draft, including a pair of firsts and a pair of second-rounders. Furthermore, the two teams have already made a pair of trades this year in the Barkevious Mingo deal and the Jamie Collins deal.
Assuming the Browns aren’t going to pursue some of the available veteran options, Garoppolo could be the most attractive option. In two full games this season, the former second-rounder completed 70-percent of his passes for 496 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. The 25-year-old will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2017.
Let’s check out some more notes out of the AFC East…
Ben Volin of The Boston Globe suggests (via Twitter) another suitor for Garoppolo: the Bears. Volin tweets that Chicago desperately wants a young quarterback, and he also notes that the Patriots signal-caller is from Chicago and went to Eastern Illinois. Volin also suggests the 49ers and Cardinals as potential landing spots.
Wideout Quincy McDuffie worked out for the Jets yesterday, tweets agent Brett Tessler. McDuffie spent the 2016 season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and Tessler notes that the speedy wideout is widely regarded as the best return man in the CFL.
The Jets could be receiving some offensive line reinforcement as soon as this weekend. According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (via Twitter), the Jets have activated right tackle Breno Giacomini from the physically unable to perform list. To make room on the roster, the team has waived wideout Jeremy Butler.
Giacomini will be a welcome addition to an offensive line that has been middle-of-the-road this season in regards to sacks and rushing yards. The 31-year-old joined the Jets in 2014, and he proceeded to start all 32 games over the previous two seasons. The tackle, who has also spent time with the Seahawks and Packers, has made 73 career appearances (65 starts). It’s uncertain whether Giacomini will immediately replace starters Ryan Clady or Ben Ijalana, although it’s worth noting that center Nick Mangold in doubtful for this weekend’s game.
Butler, 25, joined the Jets this offseason following two seasons with the Ravens. The former undrafted free agent has yet to see the field this year, but he was relatively productive in Baltimore last season. The Tennessee-Martin product appeared in eight games in 2015, collecting 31 catches for 363 yards. The wideout also had a brief stint with the Buccaneers, and Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times wonders (via Twitter) if the team may give Butler a second look.