After 13 years in the NFL, Haloti Ngata is calling it a career. On Monday morning, Ngata took to Instagram to bid farewell to the Eagles and the game he loves.
“Just a man standing on top of the world with a heart full of gratitude,” Ngata wrote. “Thank you Lord for letting me play the game I love for 13 unforgettable years. I’m retiring on top. I might be finished playing football, but I’m holding tight to the friendships, memories and wisdom I’ve gained along the way.”
Ngata 35, enjoyed a long run as one of the league’s most feared defensive linemen. Over the course of his 13-year career, Ngata earned five Pro Bowl nods, two First-Team All-Pro selections, and captured a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens.
Last year, Ngata was initially set for a fill-in role with Philly, but he wound up seeing more snaps than expected while Tim Jernigan was sidelined. His final year ended with 17 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble. He ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 55th best interior defender – a respectable placement for an aging veteran.
Ngata will be missed by the Eagles, though the recent addition of Malik Jackson and the continued presence of Fletcher Cox should offset the loss. It’s also likely that the Eagles will target defensive tackle help in the draft.
October 10th, 2018 at 9:46pm CST by Dallas Robinson
The 1-4 Falcons could face the Buccaneers without running back Devonta Freeman, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Freeman, who missed three games with an MCL sprain, is actually dealing with a new injury, as Rapoport indicates it’s a bone bruise that’s threatening to keep Freeman out of Sunday’s action. While Freeman didn’t practice today, he did work on the side, although his status for Week 6 is “in doubt, per Rapoport. Without Freeman, Atlanta would deploy a Tevin Coleman/Ito Smith combination that was used in Weeks 2-5.
Here’s more from around the NFL:
Speaking of injury news, the Giants have already ruled out tight end Evan Engram for Thursday night’s game against the Eagles, meaning Rhett Ellison, who has shouldered the load since Week 3, will take over at tight end once again. Edge rusher Oliver Vernon, who’s missed the entire season to this point with an ankle issue, will make his 2018 debut. On the other side of the field, the Eagles have listed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, safety Corey Graham, and running back Darren Sproles as out. The latter two are especially concerning, as Philadelphia recent placed defensive back Rodney McLeod and running back Jay Ajayi on injured reserve.
Although Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said he’d make changes following a loss to the Jets on Sunday, defensive coordinator Joe Woods will not be relieved of his play-calling duties, tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Denver gave up 512 yards of offense against New York, including a whopping 334 on the ground. Joseph, a former defensive coordinator himself, could potentially take over play-calling, but that’s not a move that will happen this week. Joseph also indicated that cornerback Bradley Roby, who was burned by Jets receiver Robby Anderson in Week 5, is still a starter “for now.” Adam Jones, who’s played on roughly a third of the Broncos’ defensive snaps thus far, could see more snaps if Roby is benched.
Under the terms of his five-year extension with the Buccaneers, guard Ali Marpet will earn $12.365MM through one year, $23.25MM through two years, and $33.5MM through three years, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Among left guards, Marpet’s $11MM annual average now ranks third, behind only Andrew Norwell and Kelechi Osemele, while his $27.125MM in guarantees ranks second. Marpet, who has started 44 games during his time in the NFL, has displayed exceptional versatility, as he’s played both guard spots and center in his career.
Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson pleaded guilty to simple possession and failure to exercise due care while driving but subsequently had a DUI charge against him dismissed, per a report from the Associated Press. Johnson’s original arrest occurred in the summer of 2017, more than a year before Denver gave him $50K in guaranteed money to sign as an undrafted free agent. A Tennessee product, Johnson hadn’t played football in more than four years before landing with the Broncos, in part due to a rape charge of which he was later acquitted. He’s been inactive for every game in 2018.
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata inked a one-year, $2.6MM fully guaranteed deal ($3MM maximum value) with the Eagles this week, but he had the same offer on the table from the Lions, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com hears (video link). He chose the Eagles because he felt they were a better scheme fit for him. In Philadelphia’s two-gap system, Ngata is hoping to get back to his old form as he backs up Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan.
The Giants restructured linebacker Alec Ogletree‘s contract to prorate the $7MM roster bonus he was due over the remaining four years of his contract, a source tells Dan Duggan of The Athletic (on Twitter). His cap hit will be reduced from $10MM to $4.75MM in 2018, according to ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan (on Twitter).
Bears tight end Dion Sims remained on the team’s roster today and now has $4MM of his $6MM base salary fully guaranteed for 2018, as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter) notes.
The rich get richer. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has signed a one-year deal with Eagles, as first reported by Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Ngata’s one-year, $2.6MM deal is fully guaranteed, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. He can earn another $25K for each game he plays, bringing the maximum value of the pact to $3MM.
Ngata’s 2017 season was mostly lost to injury and he vowed in January to continue playing in order to finish on a high note:
“I think if I finished the year healthy I would have been a little closer to probably retiring, but I want to finish the season so I think I want to keep on playing. And definitely I loved being able to be here and help Detroit have more dominance in this league. We’ve had winning seasons, I just want to continue to build this franchise and get it to where it can be a dominant franchise and a great team. So I definitely want to be here, I definitely want to keep on playing, but we’ll have to see once free agency hits.”
When Ngata was on the field for the first five games of the season, the Lions allowed just 74.6 yards rushing per game. After Ngata’s injury, the Lions allowed 129.7 yards rushing per game. Ngata may not be the player he once was, but he is still a major difference maker on the defensive line.
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.
And that may well have been the case if Ngata had not suffered a torn biceps that ended his 2017 campaign prematurely. In an interview with WXYT-FM, Ngata said, “I think if I finished the year healthy I would have been a little closer to probably retiring, but I want to finish the season so I think I want to keep on playing. And definitely I loved being able to be here and help Detroit have more dominance in this league. We’ve had winning seasons, I just want to continue to build this franchise and get it to where it can be a dominant franchise and a great team. So I definitely want to be here, I definitely want to keep on playing, but we’ll have to see once free agency hits.”
As Birkett observes, the Lions allowed just 74.6 yards rushing per game when Ngata was healthy, but after Ngata’s injury, the Lions allowed 129.7 yards rushing per game. Ngata noticed the drop-off and said that, had he been healthy, he may have been able to help push the Lions to the postseason.
Ngata will become an unrestricted free agent in March, and despite his advanced age, and the fact that he has not played a full season since 2011 due to suspension or injury, his pedigree and his 2017 performance will surely land him a job somewhere. He has not been the same player for Detroit that he was for Baltimore for nine seasons — which is to be expected — but he clearly has something left in the tank, and he does not want his career to end to an injury.
Despite the noise of a Carlos Hyde trade, Kyle Shanahan attempted to put an end to those rumors during a media session today. Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee passes along that the first-year 49ers head coach said that the reports of a speculative trade involving the running back were “absolutely, absolutely 100 percent false.” The rumors started to pick up after San Francisco was making calls to teams about now-former 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman. Despite the pushback, rookie Matt Breida has slowly started to cut into Hyde’s touches in recent weeks. The former Georgia Southern running back had his first double-digit carry game two weeks ago against the Colts, even though the rookie touched the ball just six times this past Sunday. Nevertheless, the 49ers are still winless through six weeks, which means that the trade winds will continue to swirl around the team with the deadline just a few weeks away.
Building off the news that Ben McAdoo gave up play calling to offenisve coordinator Mike Sullivan for their Sunday night contest against the Broncos, it is now known that neither owner John Mara nor Giants executive chairman Steve Tisch asked the head coach to give up the offensive playbook, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. It would seem that McAdoo made this decision on his own with the results being positive thus far as the team shocked many by going into Denver and winning by double digits.
Now that Haloti Ngata is out for the season with a torn biceps, the question remains: Just how long will the 33-year-old continue to play in the NFL? The Lions defensive lineman told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that he has not made any decision about the future yet. “We’ll have to see. To be determined,” Ngata told the press. The veteran has not been the same player he was with the Ravens since he joined Detroit in 2015. Ngata did show signs of life this seasn, racking up two sacks in the team’s first five games, which matched the halfway mark of the number of QB takedowns he put up in the two seasons prior.
Although Jameis Winston left last Sunday’s game because of a shoulder injury, the Buccaneers still don’t expect to sign another QB for this week’s affair against the Bills, tweets Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. Auman reports that Tampa Bay seems to be comfortable with Winston suiting up as an emergency backup for Ryan Fitzpatrick, if he can’t start. The move sounds a bit risky considering that the team still does not have a third-string QB with Ryan Griffin currently working to get off the IR. However, the news may be encouraging to some as it seems Winston has most likely avoided a long-term injury.
The Vikings are facing a quarterback crossroads, as are the quarterbacks themselves. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Sam Bradford traveled to New York late this past week to begin Regenokine treatments in hopes of getting inflammation out of his ailing knee (the treatment involves drawing blood, spinning it down, and re-injecting it into the knee over the course of a few days). He is doing everything he can to ease the pain in his knee, but the fact that he missed three games due to the injury and then was pulled in the second quarter of last week’s contest is obviously not a good sign. In fact, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports said today that Bradford’s knee situation is worse than people know (Twitter link).
Teddy Bridgewater, meanwhile, will receive an important checkup tomorrow. He is eligible to begin practicing this week, and the physical will determine whether that is feasible. Sources close to Bridgewater say he is ready to go, and if he is, in fact, activated from the PUP list this season, Rapoport says his contract will not toll, which means he will be a free agent at the end of the season. If he is not activated, the contract will toll and he will remain under club control through 2018.
Now for more from the NFC:
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press says it is possible that DT Haloti Ngata, whose contract expires at the end of the year and who suffered a season-ending bicep injury last week, returns to the team in 2018. However, Birkett believes it is more likely that the longtime star retires.
The Seahawks are making a concerted effort to improve their O-line via trade, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, who says the team is focused on landing disgruntled Texans star Duane Brown. We heard last week that the Texans intend to retain Brown, but that could always change if Seattle’s offer is strong enough.
The 49ers will carry $4.774MM of dead money on the books in 2018 following Bowman’s release, but they will save all $9.45MM of his 2018 pay, per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area.
Rapoport believes the Saints may be in the trading mood after failing to trade for Bowman, and he says the team could consider trading LB Hau’oli Kikaha (Twitter link). Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune, however, suggests (via Twitter) that is not likely.
October 13th, 2017 at 9:48pm CST by Dallas Robinson
Free agent offensive tackle Branden Albert is still in the Seattle area after working out for the Seahawks on Monday, reports Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter link). Albert, 32, had reportedly been set to meet with the Giants at some point this week, but as of last night, he hadn’t yet left for New York. Whether that means he’s close to a contract with the Seahawks is unclear, but Albert would almost certainly be an improvement over Seattle blindside protector Rees Odhiambo, who currently ranks as the worst tackle in the league, per Pro Football Focus. The Giants, too, could use help along the offensive line, as Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart have posted below-average results through five games. Albert, of course, had an eventful offseason that included a “retirement” after being traded from the Dolphins to the Jaguars.
Here’s more from around the NFL:
The Vikings should offer an extension to backup quarterback Case Keenum, opines Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Keenum has been called on to appear in four games (three starts) in relief of Sam Bradford, who is still dealing with knee complications. He’s performed well, completing 64.5% of his passes for four touchdowns and zero interceptions, but his contract — like those of Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater — expires after the 2017 season. An extension would allow Minnesota to lock in a quality reserve for another year or two, while giving Keenum more cash and the possibility of competing for a starting job in 2018. Bradford has already been ruled out for Sunday’s contest against the Packers, so Keenum will earn a fourth start.
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata will require a four-month recovery period after undergoing surgery on a torn bicep Thursday, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). As had already been reported, Ngata won’t be able to return to the Lions this season, but that injury timeline means he should be fully healthy by the time free agency opens in 2018. Ngata isn’t under contract for next year, and the soon-to-be 34-year-old interior defender has flirted with retirement in the past. It’s unclear whether he intends to continue his career for another season.
Given his lengthy injury history, it would be “shocking” to see Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert garner a long-term contract like Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, or Jordan Reed, all of whom earn more than $8.5MM annually, opines Joel Corry of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Eifert, who was placed on injured reserve on Thursday, has only appeared in 39 games over four-plus seasons in the NFL. While his talent is immense (13 touchdowns in 2015), Eifert simply can’t stay on the field, a fact which makes the franchise tag — at a cost north of $10MM — an unlikely option for Cincinnati in 2018. Instead, a one-year, “prove-it” deal for the 27-year-old pass-catcher could conceivably make more sense for both sides.
The Patriots currently have three rookies on the various NFL reserve lists, but only one will be able to return in 2017, as Doug Kyed of NESN tweets. Offensive lineman Andrew Jelks, an undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt who is currently on the non-football injury list, can come back under PUP rules, meaning he must miss six weeks of the season. After that, New England has a five-week window during which it can activate Jelks. Tackle Antonio Garcia, a third-rounder from Troy who’s on the non-football illness list, and defensive lineman Keionta Davis, a UDFA on non-football injury, aren’t eligible to return this season, per Kyed.
The Lions announced that they have placed Haloti Ngata on injured reserve. Ngata suffered a bicep injury last week against Carolina that will keep him off the field for the rest of the season.
Players can return from IR after eight weeks and bicep injuries aren’t always season enders, but this tear is significant enough to rule the defensive tackle out for the rest of the year. Ngata has never played in less than 12 games in any given season, so this is largely new territory for the veteran.
Ngata’s 2017 campaign ends after five games with seven tackles, two sacks, and one forced fumble. It’s possible that this will mark the end of his career as well.
Ngata has earned many millions throughout the years and has a career resume that few can match. He’s been a starter since entering the league as a first-round pick of the Ravens in 2006 and has been playing at a high level for all 12 years. He was – and still is – among the league’s most talented interior linemen and earned five straight Pro Bowl nods from 2009 through 2013. He also picked up a pair of First-Team All-Pro selections (2010, 2011) during that stretch. With a Super Bowl ring on his finger, Ngata can walk away from the game knowing that he met all of his goals and then some.