None of these options are particularly intriguing given the overall lack of production across the board, but it does show a pointed attempt to address a position that’s very much in flux with Eifert gone for the rest of the season.
Up to this point, the team has mostly relied on Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah to take snaps in Eifert’s place. Kroft, 25, has been the more offensively productive of the two, having caught 14 balls for 139 yards and two scores, which both came in the team’s first victory of the year two weeks ago against the Browns.
The Bengals had a bye in Week 6, but will look to build on their current two-game winning streak when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the AFC North division leading Steelers this coming Sunday.
Houston has an obvious need at tight end, with C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson dealing with the aftereffects of concussions. Fiedorowicz is on injured reserve, meaning he’ll miss a significant chunk of time, while neither Griffin nor Anderson dressed for the Texans’ 13-9 win over the Bengals on Thursday. As you’d expect, the tight end position was a non-factor for Houston against Cincinnati, as all 15 of quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s completions went to wide receivers and running backs.
All of the tight ends the Texans looked at Friday come with NFL experience, though only Donnell and Escobar have extensive pro track records. Donnell had a 63-catch, six-touchdown season with the Giants in 2014, but his production has gone downhill since, thanks in part to injuries, and he hasn’t stuck anywhere since becoming a free agent in the offseason. The 28-year-old’s only employment since last season ended came in the form of a short stint in Baltimore, which signed him July 30 and released him Sept. 1.
Escobar, meanwhile, was a high pick in 2013, when Dallas took him in the second round, but he didn’t make much of a mark there behind all-time great Jason Witten. The 26-year-old, who caught 30 passes and eight TDs during his four-year Cowboys run, signed with the Chiefs as a free agent in March but didn’t crack their Week 1 roster.
Reid was a teammate of Escobar’s for a brief period in Kansas City, which released the tackle/guard on the final day of August. A veteran of 61 appearances and 18 starts, he’d provide depth along a Houston line that’s without its left tackle, holdout Duane Brown, and has already yielded 13 sacks in two weeks.
The other fairly notable player on this list is the Texans’ newest addition, Hamilton, who had been looking for work since the Steelers cut him Sept. 1. The Texans are already the sixth organization for the 26-year-old Hamilton, who’s coming off a career season (albeit a modest one) in Pittsburgh. Hamilton started in eight of 11 appearances and caught 17 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns. He added another four receptions and a TD in three playoff games last January.
As is the case at tight end, Houston’s receivers aren’t the picture of health. Both Bruce Ellington and Will Fuller missed Thursday’s game with injuries (the latter will be out until the fall), leaving the Texans wanting at wideout. Believe it or not, DeAndre Hopkins and Braxton Miller are their only receivers who have caught passes this season. Hamilton could be a factor sometime this year, then.
September 1st, 2017 at 12:15pm CST by Zachary Links
The Ravens are getting a head start on their roster cuts. On Friday, they released both running back Bobby Rainey and tight end Larry Donnell.
Rainey was signed in late July and it was believed that he had a chance to make the team following Kenneth Dixon‘s season ending injury. Despite getting positive reviews from coaches this summer and performing well in preseason action against the Saints on Thursday night, the veteran is being shown the door. Rainey’s most notable pro seasons came with the Buccaneers in 2013 and 2014, as he rushed for more than 400 yards in each year. Despite his age (he’ll turn 30 in October), Rainey could still hold appeal for other clubs thanks to his experience and pass catching acumen.
Enter Donnell, who worked out with the Colts last month. The Grambling State product first made a name for himself in 2014 when he had a breakout season with the Giants, catching 63 passes for 623 yards and six scores. Since then, however, he has been hampered by his own injuries and has been unable to reprise his 2014 performance. He missed half of the 2015 season and found himself with a lesser role in the offense in 2016, catching just 15 passes (22 targets) for 92 yards and one score.
As Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun tweets, Donnell could be a quality redzone target, though his blocking prowess leaves much to be desired.
To make room for Donnell, the Ravens waived UDFA wide receiver Tim Patrick.
The Colts have invited a number of tryout players to minicamp, including cornerback Phillip Adams and former Giants tight end Larry Donnell (Twitter link via Mike Chappell of CBS4).
At this stage of the offseason, Donnell stands as one of the most notable tight ends remaining on the open market. The Grambling State product first made a name for himself in 2014 when he had a breakout season with the Giants, catching 63 passes for 623 yards and six scores. Since then, however, he has been hampered by injuries and has been unable to reprise that performance. He missed half of the 2015 season and found himself with a lesser role in the offense in 2016. Donnell is coming off of a season with just 15 catches (22 targets) for 92 yards and one score.
Adams, 29 in July, has played for six different teams across six NFL seasons. In 2016, he was out of a job, but he’s hoping to hook on with someone for the upcoming year.
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.
NFL free agency is right around the corner! The legal tampering period starts on Tuesday and free agency officially starts on Thursday. The list of available free agents will change between now and then as players re-sign with teams or get cut loose, but we have a pretty good idea of who will be available right now. After looking at the top defensive players, we now shift our attention to the other side of the ball.
Here are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each position. The rankings aren’t determined by earning power, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with a combination of short- and long-term value taken into account. You won’t find restricted free agents or franchise tagged guys here since they are unlikely to go leave their current clubs.
Player evaluation is always subjective, so we encourage you to make your voices heard in the comments section in cases where you disagree with us.
Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:
Ryan Nassib is just outside of the top 15 here with EJ Manuel getting the final spot. Despite positive word about his play in practice, Nassib is unproven and the Giants’ apparent lack of interest in re-signing him says a lot. It’s also possible that he might not be 100% after ending the 2016 season on IR with an elbow injury. Manuel, for all his warts, has shown potential in small bursts.
As expected, the Vikings have cut Adrian Peterson loose and he is expected to garner interest from contending clubs this week. Some might peg Peterson as the most talented running back in this year’s free agent class, but it all comes down to how you weigh his age and injury history. Peterson has shocked the football world in the past with an incredible comeback, but I’m a little skeptical of his ability to do it again in his age-32 season. Eddie Lacy, who has injury question marks of his own, takes the top spot at the position.
Jamaal Charles has the most impressive resume of anyone on this list, with the exception of Peterson. However, no one knows exactly what he can do after playing eight games in the last two years. He’ll turn 31 in December and that’s usually not an indicator of success for running backs.
Kyle Juszczyk graded out as the best fullback in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus. The Ravens would be wise to keep him, but if they don’t, he’ll draw interest from teams all over the league. Juszczyk earned his first career Pro Bowl nod as he caught 37 passes for 266 yards. His exceptional 92.1 pass blocking score from PFF led all other fullbacks by a wide margin.
Mike Tolbert is ranked lower than you might expect due to his age and diminished blocking skills. He’ll turn 32 in November and it’s not guaranteed that he’ll find another job after getting released by the Panthers, though the Jets are said to have interest in him. Gang Green could also look into signing Patrick DiMarco and Marcel Reece. If you ask me, they should target DiMarco if they want to truly emphasize the running game. DiMarco finished the year with the best run blocking score in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Brandon Marshall, welcome to the free agent pool. Marshall is just two years removed from a year in which he had 109 catches, 1,502 yards, and 14 touchdowns. However, his numbers dipped significantly last season as the entire Jets offense slumped. The veteran will get tons of interest this week and his suitors may include the Giants, Patriots, and Ravens.
Kenny Britt managed to put up big numbers in the midst of the Rams’ offensive quagmire last season. He now hits free agency at a great time and the WR-needy Eagles are the latest team to be connected to him. The South Jersey contingent of the Eagles fanbase will appreciate the homecoming of the Rutgers product. At the same time, they should hope he exhibits a better attitude than he did on the banks of the old Raritan.
The talent is definitely there with Markus Wheaton and the team that takes a chance on him could wind up very, very happy. Robert Woods, historically, thrived in games where Sammy Watkins was unavailable or limited. Woods doesn’t turn 25 in until April and there’s a case to be made that he should be higher on this list. Cordarrelle Patterson has turned out to be a very capable returner, but there are definitely ambitious coaches out there who think they can still mold him into a great receiver. Michael Floyd is now years removed from his best work in Arizona, so one has to wonder what he can contribute even if he has turned over a new leaf.
Victor Cruz is an exceptionally hard-worker and a team-first kind of guy. He’ll be a great addition to any locker room, but it’s anyone’s guess as to what he’ll do in 2017. We’ll say this: a return to the slot would greatly benefit him.
Anquan Boldinjust missed the top 15 and I don’t necessarily feel great about it. Brian Quickalso missed the cut and it was a toss-up between him and Cruz for that last spot.
Anthony Fasano finds himself ranked higher than some bigger names due to his blocking ability. PFF gave Fasano an 88.1 score for run blocking, which was the best of any tight end last year. His 72.9 pass blocking score was fourth-best among TEs. The Titans will make a real effort to keep him.
Andrew Whitworth spent some time at guard last season but his best (and most profitable) position is on the outside. He’s 35, so he won’t lead all FA tackles in total money this year despite being our top-ranked free at the position.
Russell Okung was thrust into the free agent market in February when the Broncos declined his option. This time around, it will be interesting to see whether he hires an agent. His previous deal was effectively a one-year pact with a club option for a four-year, $48MM deal with $20.5MM in guaranteed cash. After a so-so year, the Broncos wisely turned it down.
Austin Pasztor is listed as a tackle here, though it’s quite possible he reverts to the interior line in 2017. Mike Adams, a former second-round pick, makes the cut for his natural talent, even though he hasn’t shown much at the professional level. Will Beatty also found his way to the Top 15, but his market will be capped after two injury-ridden years.
Honorable mention: D.J. Fluker, A.Q. Shipley (C), Brian Schwenke (C)
Kevin Zeitler was the only offensive lineman to crack our Top 50 Free Agents list last week. Zeitler, 27 in March, was PFF’s No. 7 ranked guard in the NFL this year. After three consecutive strong seasons, he is going to get big bucks.
J.C. Tretter graded out as a top 10 center last year, according to PFF, and he just turned 26. Stefen Wisniewski offers experience at both guard and center and there should be at least a few teams looking at him as a potential starter.
February 13th, 2017 at 3:54pm CST by Zachary Links
The Giants are doing some major house cleaning today. Hours after releasing Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings, the Giants have informed tight end Larry Donnell that he will not be re-signed this offseason, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.
Donnell earned $1.671MM in 2016 but wound up with just 15 catches for 92 yards and one touchdown. Donnell broke out for the Giants in 2014, but he hasn’t been quite the same since suffering a severe neck injury in November 2015. That ailment was thought to be a potential career ender and its admirable that he was able to return at all. Unfortunately, the Giants don’t envision him getting back to his old form.
Donnell looked like a star in the making in ’14 when he caught 63 passes for 623 yards and six touchdowns. Since then, he has totaled just 44 catches for 315 yards and three scores. Now, at 28, he’s parting ways with the only NFL team he’s ever known.
The Giants still have Will Tye at tight end but they’re also likely to make an addition or two at the position.
During the 2015 offseason, defensive end Brandon Graham received interest from the Giants. As the 28-year-old Eagles lineman prepares to play New York this weekend, he understands that he made the correct decision to stick with the team that drafted him.
“It was real,” Graham said of the Giants interest (via Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com). “I wasn’t that close. I wanted the Eagles here to get it right, as far as keeping me here. Obviously I made the right decision. I couldn’t be cool with myself going somewhere where I play the Eagles twice a year. I would have had to go outside the division.”
Graham ultimately inked a four-year, $26MM contract ($13MM) to remain in Philadelphia, and the former first-rounded has rewarded his team with 25 tackles, four sacks, and two forced fumbles this season.
Let’s take a look at some more notes out of MetLife Stadium…
The Giants continue to deny rumors that they had discussions with Alabama’s NickSaban to become their next head coach. George Willis of The New York Post believes we still haven’t seen enough from Ben McAdoo to determine whether he’s the right man for the job. However, if the Giants continue to collect losses, the writer believes the team could revisit their talks with Saban this offseason.
According to Hall of Fame boxing promoter Bob Arum, it was Saban’s wife who didn’t want to leave Alabama for the Big Apple. Had his wife decided to make the move to New York, Willis wonders if Saban would currently be coaching the Giants.