With Cowboys punter Chris Jones out with an injury, the team is bringing in a well-known free agent as potential insurance. Marquette King worked out for the Cowboys on Saturday.
King has not punted in an NFL game since the 2018 season, when the Broncos released him. He did, however, punt in 2020, doing so with the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks. Punter Colton Schmidt joined King at the Saturday workout. Although Schmidt joined King at the team’s facility Saturday, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News notes his workout will occur next week (Twitter link).
Best known for his six-season Raiders tenure and post-punt celebrations, King visited the Texans earlier this year. They opted to go in a different direction. The Cowboys have another punter on their roster, Hunter Niswander, who will handle that role Sunday against the Steelers.
King, who led the NFL in yards per punt in 2013 (48.9) and cleared 48 yards per boot in 2017, could serve as potential insurance while Jones is out. The 32-year-old specialist would need to go through six days’ worth of COVID-19 testing before practicing with the Cowboys, should they sign him.
Schmidt served as Buffalo’s punter for nearly as long as King was with Oakland. He punted for the Bills for four-plus seasons, but the team went in a different direction three games into the 2018 season.
As for Jones, he underwent abdominal surgery this week, Gehlken tweets. This will be Niswander’s first NFL game. He spent three seasons (2015-17) as Northwestern’s punter.
With Josh Allen still sidelined by an elbow injury and Derek Anderson in concussion protocol, the Bills are expected to turn to embattled QB Nathan Peterman as their starter against the Bears. Barkley joins the club as Peterman’s likely backup for Sunday.
Barkley, 28, was most recently with the Bengals. He signed a two-year contract with the club back in March, but landed on IR after suffering a knee injury in the preseason. He was released by the Bengals on Sept. 12th with an injury settlement. The five-year pro has appeared in 11 games in his NFL career and made a season-high six starts in 2016 for the Bears, but he hasn’t done much of note on the field.
Colin Kaepernick remains available, and would represent a more accomplished alternative to Peterman or Barkley, but the Bills apparently did not want to go down that road.
September 2nd, 2018 at 4:55pm CST by Dallas Robinson
Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four AFC East teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions for theBills, Dolphins, Patriots, and Jets are noted below.
Additionally, as of 12:00pm CT today, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.
Here are Sunday’s AFC East transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day:
Shiloh Keo will re-sign with a team for the second straight offseason. This year, the Saints made a move to re-up the safety, Nick Underhill of The Advocate tweets. A former Texans draft pick, Keo caught on with the eventual 2015 Super Bowl champion Broncos late that season and re-signed in Denver in the subsequent offseason. The Broncos cut Keo while he was serving a two-game suspension for a personal conduct violation, leading to the Saints adding him. The 29-year-old defender played in 10 games for the Broncos and Saints in 2016 and recovered three fumbles while failing to record a tackle.
The Patriots are planning to re-sign tight end Michael Williams, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald tweets. Williams saw action for the 2015 Patriots but missed their latest Super Bowl season because of a torn ACL.
The Bills did not offer an RFA tender to punter Colton Schmidt but instead reached an agreement to re-sign him, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reports. Rodak estimates Schmidt will be brought back at a lower cost instead of at the RFA low-round tender rate of nearly $2MM. A fourth-year player, Schmidt made $600K last season.
Another Bills transaction involves the team parting ways with a long-tenured wide receiver. Buffalo cut Marcus Easley, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report tweets. Affiliated with the Bills since they drafted him in the fourth round in 2010, Easley missed the entire 2016 season after suffering a severe knee injury late in the 2015 campaign. He spent several seasons as one of Buffalo’s top special-teamers. Buffalo announced the move as a post-June 1 release.
The Chargers have agreed to a four-year, $4.41MM extension with long snapper Mike Windt, tweets Michael Gehlken. Windt, who has appeared in 100 games with the Chargers, received a $600K signing bonus.
Unrestricted free agent news will obviously dominate the day, but several clubs also had to make decisions on whether to offer tenders to restricted and exclusive rights free agents. All RFA tenders listed are original round/right of first refusal (worth $1.797MM), and all links go to Twitter:
NFL free agency gets underway on Thursday 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. Here is our updated outlook for each defensive and special teams position.
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 franchised players 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 this offseason:
Now that Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, and Jason Pierre-Paul have all been assigned the franchise tag, Nick Perry stands as the top edge defender on the free agent market, and is now in a position to cash in. The Packers opted against the franchise tender for the 26-year-old Perry, so he’ll hit the open market following a career year which saw him post 11 sacks.
After managing nine sacks over the first nine years of his NFL tenure, Lorenzo Alexander busted out with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2016, and now could be looking for a double-digit annual salary. Charles Johnson, meanwhile, looks like a good bet to return to the Panthers, but DeMarcus Ware could be something of a wild card — after missing 11 games in the past two seasons, does the 34-year-old have enough left in the tank? The same could be asked of Dwight Freeney, who at age-37 posted three sacks in a rotational role for the Falcons.
Calais Campbell is the best overall player among interior defenders, and though he’s entering his age-31 season and may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe, Campbell will still be highly-sought after as he searches for his last substantial payday Campbell’s agent met with the Cardinals last week, but other speculative fits for the veteran defender include the Broncos, Raiders, Ravens, Colts, and Titans.
Hankins is only 24 years old, and though the Giants are trying to retain him along with the rest of their defensive core, the 6’3″, 320-pound mauler should represent an attractive option to a number of clubs this offseason. Williams, too, offers a massive presence on the inside, while Poe could intrigue clubs based on his first-round pedigree and athleticism (though his play hasn’t always matched his potential). The Redskins’ Chris Baker is a solid, well-rounded defensive tackle, and could constitute a consolation prize for teams that miss out on their top targets.
As usual, the non-rush linebacker market isn’t exactly overflowing with elite talent, and Dont’a Hightower stands as far-and-away the best player among this group. The Patriots already traded away several of their best defenders, including Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins, an indication that they view Hightower as the best best to stick around long term. New England didn’t place the franchise nor the transition tag on Hightower, so he’ll have the ability to set the market at linebacker.
Coming off a disappointing four-year run with the Titans in 2016, Zach Brown was last year forced to sign a one-year deal with the Bills for less than $1.5MM. That won’t be the case this spring, as Brown finally lived up to his second-round draft status by grading as one of the league’s best ‘backers. Brown especially excelled in pass coverage by using his speed to chase pass-catchers around the field, and in today’s NFL, that’s a skill-set that equals a hefty paycheck.
The Texans are didn’t use the franchise tag on A.J. Bouye, a decision which sets up the young corner to be the single-most intriguing player on the 2017 free agent market. Only 25 years old, Bouye came out of nowhere to grade as PFF’s No. 3 corner in 2016. But the former undrafted free agent played on less than 900 defensive snaps over the first three years of his career, so he’s going to get paid on essentially one season of production. Bouye earned less than $3MM total during his time with Houston — his next contract could contain five times that amount…annually.
The cornerback market stands as one of the best free agent positional groups this offseason, as strong players permeate the list from top-to-bottom. Stephon Gilmore is a more high-profile name than Logan Ryan, but Ryan has simply played better over the last few campaigns, and offers a more dependable output. The Bears are expected to make a run at Gilmore, while the Bengals have already been linked to Ryan.
Morris Claiborne is a former first-round pick but didn’t play like it until last season. Dre Kirkpatrick is a former first-round pick but has never played like it. The rest of the cornerback list has warts, as well: Prince Amukamara has dealt with injury, Kayvon Webster has only two career starts, Terence Newman is entering his age-39 season, and Sam Shields is coming off multiple concussions. All of these players offer upside, but they are all undoubtedly attached to risk.
Tony Jefferson is expected to hit free agency, and could be in for a contract that nears the $8-9MM range. Jefferson did reach the free agent market in 2016 as a restricted free agent, but he didn’t come with draft compensation attached. Any club could have signed him to an offer sheet, and if the Cardinals declined to match, would have acquired Jefferson scot-free. No team did so, which could be an indication that Jefferson’s 2016 market could be less robust than expected.
Also working against Jefferson is the fact that he plays close to the line of scrimmage, a role that’s relatively easy to fill, as Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus explained on a recent podcast. Duron Harmon, on the other hand, has demonstrated an ability to play deep safety, and thus could be in for a surprisingly high salary. The Cowboys’ Barry Church is “solid at everything, great at nothing,” tweets Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated, while Jonathan Cyprien and T.J. McDonald are primarily run defenders. Darius Butler may be the most fascinating case among this list of safeties, as the former corner should theoretically offer above-average coverage skills.
Micah Hyde could have been listed among the free agent corners, as the do-it-all defensive back is capable of playing multiple roles. His versatility is central to the Packers’ defense, and D.J. Swearinger provides the same sort of flexibility to the Cardinals. If Jefferson defects via the open market, Arizona will likely hone in on re-signing Swearinger as his full-time replacement. Jairus Byrd is a late addition to the safety market after being released by the Saints, and it’s possible another will hope he can rebound to his All Pro days as he enters his age-30 season.
The Seahawks don’t figure to re-signSteven Hauschka after bringing in fellow kicker Blair Walsh, but the longtime Seattle placekicker should be able to quickly find a new home in free agency. Nick Novak attempted the second-most field goals in the NFL last season after many Texans’ drives stalled, while Robbie Gould filled in admirably for the Giants after they released Josh Brown, converting of all ten of his field goal attempts.
Nick Folk was released as a cap casualty, and still has the talent to become another club’s kicker, while Mike Nugent — cut by the Bengals at midseason — may be nearing the end of the road after missing six extra points. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Phil Dawson come back for a fifth season with the 49ers, but Greg Zuerlein could move on from the Rams after the club threatened to bring in competition last offseason.
Jeff Locke, 27, managed to pin opposing clubs inside the 20-yard line 34 times in 2016, good for fifth in the league. Now 40 years old, Shane Lechler is a seven-time Pro Bowler, but the Texans lost 12.7 points of field position on punts last season, meaning Houston could go in another direction at punter.
The Bills agreed to one-year deals with running back Mike Gillislee, cornerback Mario Butler and punter Colton Schmidt, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com tweets. The trio will be restricted free agents after the 2016 season. A 2013 fifth-round pick, Gillislee figures to be an intriguing part of the LeSean McCoy-led Buffalo backfield after he averaged 5.7 yards per carry in five games down the stretch, doing so following two nondescript seasons with the Dolphins.