After suffering a series of gruesome knee injuries last year, Cecil Shorts III won’t be able to take the field in 2017, he tells SiriusXM (on Twitter). He’ll take the year off and work towards an NFL return in 2018.
Shorts suffered a torn ACL, MCL, and PCL along with a dislocated knee midway through his season with the Buccaneers. That was just the latest setback for Shorts who missed 19 regular season games between 2011 and 2015. Shorts managed to gut his way through some hamstring issues, but this is the toughest challenge he has ever faced.
Even before the injury last winter, Shorts wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire. In nine games, he had just eleven catches for 152 yards.
Shorts will turn 30 in December, so he’ll be looking to get back into football on the verge of his age-31 season.
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.
Ouch. Buccaneers wide receiver Cecil Shorts says that he has suffered a torn ACL, MCL, and PCL along with a dislocated knee (Twitter link via Britt McHenry of ESPN.com). Despite the grueling rehab that surely awaits him, Shorts says that he intends to return to football once he is healthy. He will be placed on IR.
Of course, that could be easier said than done. Shorts, 29 later this month, has already been held back by injuries over the course of his NFL career. Since entering the league as a fourth-round pick of the Jaguars in 2011, Shorts has missed 19 regular season games. He has battled back from hamstring issues, but this latest injury could prove to be insurmountable.
Shorts accepted a pay cut from the Texans in June, a move which many expected would save his job. However, he was dropped in early September as Houston trimmed down to a 53-man roster. His history with coach Dirk Koetter led him to Tampa Bay over several other teams who had interest. Shorts joined Houston on a two-year, $6MM deal before the 2015 season, but his Bucs deal was for one year and just $1.05MM.
The Shorts/Koetter reunion didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Shorts’ season ends with eleven catches for 152 yards.
The Buccaneers have already suffered significant injuries to their skill-position corps this season yet are now tied for the NFC South lead. However, there appears to be another casualty from the resurgent team’s rotation, with Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reporting (via Twitter) the team fears Cecil Shorts tore all of the ligaments in his right knee against the Chargers.
Stroud reports the veteran wide receiver who is playing on a one-year contract may also have dislocated the knee, to make matters worse.
Shorts has played in eight games as a Buccaneer since signing with the team in September. The former Jaguars and Texans target caught one pass for 14 yards today, and a collision with Chargers safety Jahleel Addae may end his season. On the season, Shorts now has 11 receptions for 152 yards, which would be by far his lowest totals since his rookie season. He missed several games earlier this season due to a hamstring malady.
The Texans signed Shorts to a two-year, $6MM deal in 2015 but asked him to take a pay cut this offseason. Equipped with multiple drafted rookies at the position, Houston then cut him to route the sixth-year veteran to Tampa.
September 9th, 2016 at 5:41pm CST by Zachary Links
Quarterback Cam Newton took at least four helmet-to-helmet hits in the Panthers’ season-opening loss to Denver on Thursday, but officials only flagged the Broncos once. That led Panthers head coach Ron Rivera to opine Friday that refs discriminate against the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton because of his size (via David Newton of ESPN).
“There’s a little bit of prejudice to that,” stated Rivera. “It’s kind of like what happened to [former NBA star] Shaquille O’Neal. Here’s a big, physical basketball player and he goes to set a pick, a guy falls down and they call a foul on him. He goes to shoot a little layup and gets hacked and hammered and they don’t call it.”
The NFL admitted Friday that a helmet-to-helmet shot Newton took from Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall should have been called, per Judy Battista of NFL.com (on Twitter).
On whether proper concussion protocol was followed with the banged-up Newton, Rivera added, “I’m not going to question the doctors. OK?” There is a protocol. There is a set of rules that these doctors, these trained professionals have to follow. The understanding is when everything first happened, they followed the protocol.”
According to Battista (Twitterlinkshere), medical officials checked on Newton during a stoppage late in the game and determined that he did not have a concussion. Officials have since examined Newton several more times, including Friday, and still haven’t seen concussion symptoms.
Here’s more from the NFC South:
Guard Jahri Evans’ one-year deal with the Saints is worth $1MM and contains no guarantees or signing bonus, Nick Underhill of The Advocate tweets.
Wide receiver Cecil Shorts‘ contract with the Buccaneers is a one-year, $1.05MM pact, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). He’ll also earn a $15K+ roster bonus for each game he’s active.
Former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims worked out for the Falcons as a running back, but it doesn’t sound like they’ll be signing him at this time, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com tweets.
September 6th, 2016 at 4:43pm CST by Zachary Links
4:43pm: The Bucs have confirmed the signing via Twitter. To make room for Shorts, the team waived fellow receiver Evan Spencer.
4:13pm: Cecil Shorts‘ free agent tour didn’t last long. Hours after visiting with the Buccaneers, the two sides shook hands on a deal, as Mark Berman of FOX 26 tweets. It’s a one-year deal for Shorts, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Caplan (on Twitter). Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter) adds that it is a “prove it” deal.
Shorts previously played under coach Dirk Koetter when both were in Jacksonville in 2011, so there is history there. And with injuries at wide receiver, it only makes sense that the Bucs would have interest in one of the biggest names out there. Shorts became a roster casualty a few days ago when the Texans dropped him on their way to a 53-man roster.
Last year was Shorts’ first season in Houston and he compiled 42 catches for 484 yards and two touchdowns. Shorts also returned 11 punts, his first special teams action since 2011. For his efforts last season, Pro Football Focus ranked him 90th among 121 eligible receivers.
September 6th, 2016 at 9:50am CST by Zachary Links
The Buccaneers could be adding in another pass-catching weapon for Jameis Winston to work with. Free agent wide receiver Cecil Shorts is going to visit the Bucs within the next 24 hours, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
Shorts could be a great fit for Tampa Bay as Shorts played in coach Dirk Koetter‘s system in Jacksonville in 2011. Shorts was used sparingly in that season, but he likely made a positive impression on the Bucs’ new head coach since this will be his first visit since being cut loose by Houston. The Buccaneers are wisely looking at available receivers with Louis Murphy sidelined for at least the first six weeks of the season.
At least five teams are interested in Shorts, so it’s possible that the wide receiver may make other visits after this, even if he finds the Bucs to be a good fit. In Shorts’ first and only season in Houston, he racked up 42 catches for 484 yards and two touchdowns. His best season came in 2012, when he caught 55 passes for 979 yards and seven touchdowns for Jacksonville.
“We have a lot of interest. I’m trying to figure out the best fit for me and figure out what’s next,” Shorts said. “We’re going to take our time and make a good decision.”
Shorts, a 2011 fourth-round pick, has spent his entire career in the AFC South thus far. Before joining the Texans on a two-year, $6MM deal in March 2015, he played four seasons with the Jaguars. From 2012-15, Shorts appeared in 51 games (38 starts) and combined for 216 catches, 13 touchdowns, and a 13.0 yards-per-reception average. The 6-foot, 200-pounder missed five games and only logged four starts last year while dealing with multiple injuries, but he did rack up 42 catches – nearly four per contest – and is now healthy.
Shorts agreed to a pay cut in June to remain in Houston, though he ultimately wasn’t able to crack the club’s roster. However, based on what he told Wilson, another opportunity should come soon.
September 3rd, 2016 at 10:29am CST by Zachary Links
The Texans have cut wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26 (on Twitter). Running back Akeem Hunt has also been shown the door, and ESPN’s Josina Anderson tweets that defensive lineman Brandon Dunn has been waived.
Last year was Shorts’ first season in Houston and he compiled 42 catches for 484 yards and two touchdowns. Shorts also returned 11 punts, his first special teams action since 2011. For his efforts last season, Pro Football Focus ranked him 90th among 121 eligible receivers. Before joining the Texans, Shorts spent four seasons with the Jaguars. His best season came in 2012, when he caught 55 passes for 979 yards and seven touchdowns. Following the 2014 season, Shorts joined the Texans on a two-year, $6MM deal.
At one point in time, Shorts had a chance to be the team’s third wide receiver, sitting behind DeAndre Hopkinsand rookie Will Fuller.
Thanks to the departures of Shorts and Hunt, along with the bevy of players who received their walking papersyesterday, the Texans were already close to finalizing their 53-man roster.
11:40am: Shorts’ $15,625 per game active roster bonus (totals $250K) is still intact, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. The Texans also removed the $100K workout de-escalator from the original contract.
As Wilson notes, Shorts’ anticipated $3.421MM cap figure has now been reduced to $2.371MM.
10:02am: Texans veteran wideout Cecil Shorts has taken a slight pay cut, reports ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter). The 28-year-old’s previous base salary was $2.7MM, but that has been reduced to $1.2MM. The inclusion of a new $500K roster bonus means Shorts is ultimately eyeing about a $1MM cut.
The former fourth-rounder’s first season in Houston was a moderate success, as the receiver compiled 42 catches for 484 yards and two touchdowns. Shorts also returned 11 punts, his first special teams action since 2011. For his efforts last season, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked him 90th among 121 eligible receivers.
Before joining the Texans, Shorts spent four seasons with the Jaguars. His best season came in 2012, when he caught 55 passes for 979 yards and seven touchdowns. Following the 2014 season, Shorts joined the Texans on a two-year, $6MM deal.