Leonard Floyd

AFC East Notes: Becton, Jets, Howard, Bills

Mekhi Becton‘s quest to solidify himself as the Jetslong-term left tackle did not come to fruition, but the injury-prone blocker did finish the season without an IR trip. A few other Jets O-linemen could not say the same. Becton’s contract year consisted of 16 games and starts at both right and left tackle. While the 2020 first-round pick would like to re-sign with the Jets, ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini notes the team is unlikely to have a strong interest in a second contract.

Pro Football Focus graded Becton 68th overall among tackles this season, and Next Gen Stats charged the slimmed-down tackle with 12 sacks allowed. That said, the Jets will need to be aggressive in their pursuit of tackle help this offseason. Duane Brown is 38 and played out a two-year contract. He and Becton departing would leave the Jets with two tackle vacancies, though the team has explored the possibility of shifting Alijah Vera-Tucker to right tackle on a full-time basis. But Vera-Tucker, drafted as a guard, has suffered season-ending injuries in each of the past two years.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • A player the Jets look to have more interest in signing, Bryce Huff, will not stay just because he has developed as a Jet. Pointing to his family and those around him, the young defensive end said (via SNY’s Connor Hughes) he will take the best offer he receives in free agency. The Jets, however, do want to re-sign Huff, per GM Joe Douglas. A former UDFA, Huff broke through in his contract year to lead the team with 10.5 sacks despite not starting any games. The Jets and Huff, who has not graded well as a run defender, discussed an extension during the season. The Jets have first-rounders Jermaine Johnson and Will McDonald, along with John Franklin-Myers, but losing Huff would be a blow for Robert Saleh‘s defense.
  • On the same note, Xavien Howard is unlikely to accept a pay cut to stay with the Dolphins, ProFootballNetwork.com’s Adam Beasley notes. “No matter where I’m going, I’m still going to do my thing,” Howard said. “Whatever comes with it, I’m excited about what will happen.” The Dolphins’ longest-tenured starter, at eight seasons, Howard is signed through 2026 on the contract he agreed to upon voicing issue with Byron Jones out-earning him. Miami gave Howard a five-year, $90MM extension in 2022, but the veteran ballhawk is now 30 and finished the season sidelined with a foot sprain. The Dolphins, who released Jones as a post-June 1 cut last year, can only recoup notable savings by using this designation on Howard. Now employing Jalen Ramsey as its top corner, Miami would save $18.5MM this year by using the post-June 1 designation on Howard.
  • The Bills will be without Gabe Davis in a second playoff game, ruling out the contract-year wideout for their divisional-round game. Davis is battling a PCL sprain, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. Davis represents an intriguing free agent-to-be, having scored 14 touchdowns over the past two seasons, but the Bills have seen 2022 fifth-rounder Khalil Shakir emerge as a player capable of being a low-cost Stefon Diggs complement going forward.
  • Additionally, Buffalo has not ruled out Terrel Bernard for its Kansas City rematch. Bernard was carted off the field against the Steelers, but the Bills’ top tackler only suffered a sprained ankle, Rapoport adds. The second-year linebacker aggravated the ankle injury he sustained earlier this season, per the Buffalo News’ Ryan O’Halloran. While the Bills are already without Matt Milano at linebacker, starter Tyrel Dodson — who missed the team’s wild-card game — is on track to return in Round 2.
  • Leonard Floyd collected an additional $1MM by reaching 10 sacks this season, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The May free agency addition signed a one-year, $7MM deal, one that has been vital due to Von Miller‘s struggle to return to form following his second ACL tear. Floyd, 30, totaled a career-high-matching 10.5 sacks this season.

AFC East Notes: Floyd, Patriots, Dolphins

Over the past two offseasons, the Bills have added both the Super Bowl LVI-winning Rams’ top edge rushers. Leonard Floyd‘s deal did not move close to the Von Miller ballpark, with the Bills guaranteeing the younger defensive end $7MM. The incentives that could bump Floyd’s deal to $9MM are now known as well. They are each sack-based. Floyd can earn $500K bumps by reaching the eight- and 10-sack plateaus, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. If Floyd registers 12 sacks — which would be a career-high total — he can add $1MM to his base pay. Over the past three seasons, Floyd has hit the first benchmark three times (9.5 sacks in 2021, nine in ’22) and the second threshold once (10.5 sacks in 2020). The Bills tacked on three void years to the deal to keep Floyd’s cap number at $2.6MM.

The Bills began talking to Floyd just before the draft, per GM Brandon Beane, who adds (via the Buffalo News’ Katherine Fitzgerald) Miller led the way in recruiting the former top-10 pick. Floyd turned down at least one more lucrative offer to join Miller and Gregory Rousseau in Buffalo. With Miller now aiming to return in Week 1 after rehabbing an ACL tear, the Floyd addition becomes more interesting given the pair’s production together in Los Angeles.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Although Bill O’Brien‘s Patriots past undoubtedly helped him take over as offensive coordinator, but the former Texans HC is using concepts from his most recent gig as he installs his offense. O’Brien is adding pieces from the Alabama offense he ran, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required). This stands to be good news for Mac Jones, who starred at Alabama in 2020. While Tua Tagovailoa‘s Crimson Tide successor did not play for O’Brien in college, he helped the incoming Alabama OC with the playbook on his way out in 2021. Considering Jones’ issues with the Patriots’ Matt Patricia– and Joe Judge-run offense in 2022, O’Brien’s arrival is shaping up as a significant step forward. Jones looks far more comfortable thus far in O’Brien’s offense, Howe adds.
  • A period during the Patriots’ recent OTA sessions may shed some early light on Mike Gesicki‘s New England role. With other tight ends staying on one field to work an inside-run drill, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes Gesicki was working with the Pats’ wide receivers on another field. Gesicki is not known for his run-blocking ability, which became an issue in Mike McDaniel‘s Miami offense last season, but he has long been a proven pass catcher. Lining up as a receiver will not be foreign to Gesicki, though it is still a bit early to determine the five-year Dolphin’s true role with his new team.
  • The Dolphins initially came into the offseason with a goal not to devote much money to their backup quarterback spot, but Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes they became “smitten” with Mike White. Miami added White early during the legal tampering period, giving the ex-Jets starter a two-year, $8MM deal ($4.5MM guaranteed). It is interesting the Dolphins would have considered skimping at QB2, considering how Tagovailoa’s injury trouble hijacked their promising 2022 season. But White (seven starts from 2021-22) is now in Teddy Bridgewater‘s former role. White, however, has also dealt with multiple injuries over the past two years. Skylar Thompson and rookie UDFA James Blackman are the other Miami QBs.
  • James Robinson‘s Patriots release came after the team included three injury waivers in his contract, Breer tweets. This rare protection measure included waivers on both Robinson’s knees and his left Achilles. This since-scrapped contract — Robinson has cleared waivers — illustrates the ex-Jaguars starter’s lack of options. Robinson, who saw a torn Achilles halt his early-career surge in December 2021, is facing an uncertain NFL future. The 24-year-old back has yet to earn much, either. Robinson totaled a rookie UDFA-record 1,414 scrimmage yards in 2020 but spent his first three seasons attached to league-minimum salaries.

Bills Targeted Leonard Floyd Regardless Of Von Miller’s Status

Von Miller is coming off his second ACL tear. While the future Hall of Fame pass rusher re-emerged from a December 2013 tear in time for Week 1 of the ’14 season, he is now 34. Given how the Bills proceeded with Tre’Davious White, it would not surprise to see the team exercise caution with Miller’s return.

Miller now expects to be ready by Week 1, but Buffalo’s recent one-year Leonard Floyd deal provides some protection against the 13th-year veteran needing more recovery time. Though, the team will be expected to have both veterans in uniform fairly early in the season. GM Brandon Beane has since said (via ESPN.com’s Alaina Getzenberg) the Bills targeted Floyd regardless of Miller’s health situation.

Last year, the Bills gave Miller a $120MM deal with guarantees stretching into Year 3. This pried Miller from the Rams’ grasp, with the Bills viewing the star edge rusher as a missing piece in what had been a homegrown defensive end crew. Miller tallied eight sacks in the 10 games he finished last season, but the team certainly missed him following the Thanksgiving ACL tear. Floyd, who has not missed a game since the 2017 season, profiles as a seasoned insurance option.

Floyd, 30, benefited from Miller and Aaron Donald during the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI push two seasons ago but also totaled a career-high 22 quarterback hits last season — one in which the Rams shut down Donald after 12 games. Floyd collected four of his nine sacks without Donald in the lineup, offering potential as a standalone edge presence for a Bills team that hopes to see more from its younger rushers. Of course, Floyd’s presence will reduce that contingent’s playing time.

Gregory Rousseau, a 2021 first-round pick, totaled three of his eight sacks after Miller’s injury, and A.J. Epenesa (Round 2, 2020) finished with a career-best 6.5. Boogie Basham has struggled to make a steady impact since going off the board in the 2021 second round, totaling 4.5 sacks in 23 career games. The Bills also re-signed Shaq Lawson this offseason. It does not seem the team will have room for six D-ends. Unless Miller begins the season on the reserve/PUP list, it would seem likely one of the sextet is not on the team’s initial 53-man roster.

Floyd’s arrival will give the Bills three players with at least one eight-sack season on their resume. Miller and Floyd have combined for 13 such slates, with Rousseau getting there in 2022. Floyd still fared decently as a street free agent, despite waiting until June to sign. Several edge rushers resided in the same boat, as that market has not moved much this year. Floyd’s deal may help establish a veteran market of sorts, with the likes of Frank Clark, Yannick Ngakoue and Jadeveon Clowney still available.

To land Floyd, the Bills authorized $7MM guaranteed on a contract that maxes out at $9MM. The team will spread out Floyd’s $5.84MM signing bonus over four years, via the use of three void years, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The void years drop Floyd’s cap hit to $2.6MM. Thanks to Ed Oliver‘s extension taking the defensive tackle’s fifth-year option price out of the equation, the Bills created some cap room for Floyd. They still hold $5.5MM, which is nearly $5MM more than they carried at this point last week.

Bills, OLB Leonard Floyd Agree To Deal

6:25pm: Floyd agreed to join the Bills on a deal that pays $7MM in base value, Rapoport tweets. Incentives can take the contract to $9MM. While this is well off Floyd’s previous NFL contract — a four-year, $64MM pact the Rams shed in March — the former first-round pick still did reasonably well after spending nearly three months in free agency. Floyd received other offers, per Rapoport, who adds he turned down a more lucrative one to land with a contender in Buffalo.

8:58am: The next domino has fallen with respect to veteran edge rusher landing new contracts deep into free agency. Leonard Floyd has agreed to a one-year-deal with the Bills, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link).

The move will give Buffalo another experienced presence on the edge, and Floyd will be reunited with Von Miller after the pair spent time together with the Rams during their Super Bowl run. The latter is aiming to return to the lineup for Week 1 after his ACL tear, but Floyd will provide insurance for the team if that does not take place. When the Bills’ edge group is at full strength, it will have an intriguing mix of experience and upside.

Floyd enjoyed a successful run in Los Angeles after a generally underwhelming start to his career in Chicago. The 30-year-old posted 10.5, then 9.5 and 9.0 sacks in his three years with the Rams, and was a crucial part of their defense during his time there. No other edge rusher recorded more than one sack for the team in 2022, though they still committed to parting ways with the veteran this offseason.

After failing to find a trade partner willing to take on the remainder of the contract Floyd signed in 2021, the Rams released him. That fell in line with their moves at other spots on the roster, as they look to reset financially and move past what was a highly disappointing 2022 campaign. It left Floyd on the open market amongst many other accomplished pass rushers, though, and the position’s market has remained cool through June.

Floyd has landed in a new home where there could be signficant competition for playing time, especially once Miller is healthy. The Bills have 2021 first-round pick Gregory Rousseau, along with former second-rounders A.J. Epenesa and Carlos Basham Jr. in the fold; they also re-signed veteran Shaq Lawson this offseason. Floyd logged a snap share of at least 80% in all three of his Rams seasons, so he is capable of handling a heavy workload if need be.

Given the team’s depth, however, the former first-rounder is likely in line for a smaller role in Buffalo, a team which ranked mid-pack with 40 sacks last season. A strong campaign from Floyd would help boost his free agent stock ahead of next offseason, while also providing a boost up front to a team which is once again eyeing a deep postseason run.

Checking In On Edge Rusher Market

The late-spring signing period that transpires every year — due to the compensatory formula deadline passing — has produced a number of deals. Rock Ya-Sin, Foster Moreau, Randall Cobb, Donovan Smith and a few quarterbacks (John Wolford, Trevor Siemian, Brandon Allen) agreed to terms over the past week and change.

This year’s deadline, however, has not led to a thaw in the edge defender market, which is free agency’s deepest at this point. A number of accomplished veterans — some still in or close to their prime — remain unsigned. Teams often use OTAs, minicamp and training camp to determine where roster flaws are, leading to summer veteran additions. As of last week, no such moves affect teams’ 2024 compensatory picks. Some clubs will also pick up some cap space after June 1, when they will see the money saved from previous cut designations emerge.

A few longtime starters figure to receive another chance before teams configure their final depth charts. Ahead of OTAs, here are the top options available:

Frank Clark. Age in Week 1: 30

The Chiefs cut Clark in March, separating from their most prominent edge player of the Patrick Mahomes era. While Clark did not live up to the five-year, $104MM pact he signed upon being acquired from the Seahawks in 2019 and ultimately took a pay cut to return in 2022, he did continue producing in the playoffs. Clark’s 2.5 sacks during this past postseason give him 13.5 for his career. In the official sack era (1982-present), that total ranks third. Of course, the ex-Seattle second-rounder was arrested twice in 2021 and never eclipsed eight sacks during a Chiefs regular season. He remains a starter-caliber player.

Jadeveon Clowney. Age in Week 1: 30

Perennially unable to secure a long-term deal, the former No. 1 overall pick will likely end his NFL career without landing one. Injury trouble has plagued Clowney, who missed eight games during his two-year Browns tenure. Since the Texans traded Clowney to the Seahawks in August 2019, he has taken his time before reaching a free agency accord. Clowney signed with the Titans in September 2020, inked his first Browns deal in April 2021 and re-signed in May of last year. Clashes with Cleveland’s coaching staff will lead him elsewhere. Clowney only totaled two sacks and 12 QB pressures last season, though he collected nine sacks opposite Myles Garrett in 2021.

Leonard Floyd. Age in Week 1: 31

With the Rams moving on from their four-year, $64MM agreement in March, two teams have now cut Floyd in his career. The Bears picked up his fifth-year option but, back when teams were allowed to do this, ditched it free of charge a year later back in 2020. Floyd has both displayed durability and production since that Chicago separation, showing a new gear in Los Angeles. Teaming with Aaron Donald and Von Miller certainly boosted Floyd’s chances of drawing a favorable matchup, but he kept going after Donald’s shutdown last season. Four of Floyd’s 9.5 sacks came during the six games Donald missed. Floyd’s 31 QB pressures ranked 17th last season.

Markus Golden. Age in Week 1: 32

Coming off the worst season in this contingent, Golden is two years removed from an 11-sack campaign. The former second-round pick agreed to a one-year extension that covered the 2023 season, but the Cardinals’ new regime ditched that contract in March. Golden has three double-digit sack seasons on his resume, though they have come in nonconsecutive years. An early-career ACL tear threw the Mizzou alum off track, but Golden has missed just one game over the past four seasons.

Yannick Ngakoue. Age in Week 1: 28

The second-ranked edge defender in PFR’s free agent rankings back in March (behind only Marcus Davenport), Ngakoue has consistently produced sack numbers while generating a reputation as a hired gun and run-game liability. He did not come close to reaching the May compensatory deadline in the past, however, being franchise-tagged in 2020 and signed to a two-year, $26MM Raiders deal in March 2021. The Colts took on that contract last year, via a straight-up trade for Ya-Sin, and Ngakoue reeled off a 9.5-sack season. The former Jaguars third-round pick is the only player to post at least eight sacks in each of the past seven seasons.

Dawuane Smoot. Age in Week 1: 28

One of the bright spots of the Jaguars’ Urban Meyer year, Smoot finished the 2021 season with 30 pressures. The former third-round pick accumulated 22.5 sacks from 2019-22, finishing that stretch on a two-year deal worth $10MM. He likely would have a third contract in place — either from the Jaguars or another team earlier in free agency — had a December ACL tear not occurred. The Jags did not re-sign Arden Key or use a first- or second-day pick on an edge rusher. While that potentially keeps the door open to Smoot returning when cleared (or on the homestretch toward clearance), he remains an intriguing complementary option for teams.

Kyle Van Noy. Age in Week 1: 32

Although Van Noy has operated as a hybrid of sorts, his sack consistency qualifies him for such a list. Van Noy’s one-year Chargers deal ended up requiring considerable edge work, with Joey Bosa lost for much of the season. As he had done for years in New England, Van Noy made an impact in a pass-rushing capacity. He finished with five sacks, marking the fifth time in the past six seasons he has reached that number. Van Noy’s age and versatility make him one of the better options left. After signing with the Chargers in May of last year, Van Noy expressed interest in staying on another accord.

Mid-30s wing

Carlos Dunlap. Age in Week 1: 34

The Chiefs waited until July to add Dunlap last year, bringing in the longtime Bengals sack artist — on a one-year, $3MM pact — to replace Melvin Ingram as a Clark complement. Kansas City has since added younger UFA Charles Omenihu and used first-round picks on edges (George Karlaftis, Felix Anudike-Uzomah) in each of the past two years. The Bengals’ all-time sack leader, Dunlap finished with four last season after amassing 8.5 with the Seahawks in 2021. The Chiefs used the 13-year veteran on 39 defensive plays in Super Bowl LVII.

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2023 Top 50 NFL Free Agents

Super Bowl LVII provided the latest example of the value free agency can bring. The Chiefs revamped their receiving corps on last year’s market, while the Eagles acquired three defensive starters — including sack leader Haason Reddick. The Jaguars also used a March 2022 splurge to ignite their surprising surge to the divisional round.

Beginning with the legal tampering period, which starts at 3pm CT on Monday, and continuing with the official start to free agency (3pm Wednesday), the next several days represent a highlight on the NFL calendar. Which teams will change their 2023 outlooks for the better next week?

While the 2023 free agent class has absorbed its share of body blows and indeed lacks depth at certain spots, a few positions will bring waves of starter-level talent. Right tackle will invite some big-money decisions, and the safety and off-ball linebacker positions feature considerable depth. A few ascending talents and hidden gems appear in this class as well.

This list ranks free agents by earning potential. In terms of accomplishments, Bobby Wagner, Fletcher Cox and Lavonte David would lap most of the players included here. With each defender going into his age-33 season, however, the standouts’ ability to command big contracts is certainly not what it once was.

In terms of possible destinations, not every team is represented equally. Some teams will bring more needs and cap space into this year’s marketplace than others. With some help from Adam La Rose, here is this year’s PFR top 50 free agents list, along with potential landing spots for each player.

1. Orlando Brown Jr., T. Age in Week 1: 27

As the 49ers did two years ago with Trent Williams, the Chiefs will let Brown hit the market. This could end up benefiting the veteran tackle, who was offered a deal with an average annual value north of Williams’ tackle-record $23MM per year before last July’s franchise tag deadline. Citing insufficient guarantees, Brown turned it down. Kansas City’s offer did contain a bloated final year to bump up the AAV to $23.1MM, but will Brown – a quality left tackle but not a top-shelf option at the position – do as well this year? He will soon find out.

Brown has now made four Pro Bowls and carries positional versatility that would intrigue were he open to a return to right tackle, which by all accounts he is not. The 363-pound blocker can struggle against speed-rusher types, but he is set to be the rare accomplished left tackle in his prime to hit the market. The Chiefs sent a package including a first-round pick to the Ravens for Brown, whose bet on himself led to a $16.6MM tag and an open market. The bidding will run high, though it might not reach the places the Williams pursuit did in 2021.

The Chiefs’ exclusive negotiating rights with Brown end March 13; they have had nearly two years to complete a deal. The market will determine if the league views the sixth-year blocker as an elite-level left tackle or merely a good one. Then again, bidding wars drive up the prices for O-linemen on the market. O-line salary records have fallen four times (Williams, Corey Linsley, Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff) in free agency since 2021. This foray could give Brown the guaranteed money he seeks, and it puts the Chiefs at risk of seeing their two-year left tackle depart. The Ravens also passed on this payment back in 2021, in part because they already had Ronnie Stanley on the payroll.

The defending champions have Brown and right tackle Andrew Wylie eligible for free agency; some of their leftover funds from the Tyreek Hill trade went to Brown’s tag. Although some among the Chiefs were frustrated Brown passed on last year’s offer, the team will be hurting at a premium position if he walks. Given the importance the blindside position carries, fewer teams are in need compared to right tackle. The Titans losing Taylor Lewan and continuing to clear cap space could point to a run at Brown, though the team has a few needs up front. The Jets likely have needs at both tackle spots. Would the Bears relocate Braxton Jones to the right side? Ryan Poles was with the Chiefs when they traded for Brown, and the Bears could outmuscle anyone for cap space.

Best fits: Titans, Chiefs, Commanders

2. Mike McGlinchey, T. Age in Week 1: 28

Teams in need of right tackles will participate in one of the more interesting markets in recent memory. Above-average-to-good offensive linemen do well in free agency annually, and this year will send three experienced right tackles in their prime to the market. A five-year starter in San Francisco and former top-10 pick, McGlinchey has a good case as the best of this lot. The five-year vet’s run-blocking craft eclipses his pass-protection chops exiting Year 5, but he will walk into a competitive market. The former Notre Dame left tackle should have a lucrative deal in place during next week’s legal tampering period.

Although mutual interest existed regarding a second 49ers-McGlinchey agreement, John Lynch acknowledged the only viable path for McGlinchey to stay in San Francisco would be his market underwhelming. That seems unlikely, so right tackle-seeking teams – and there are a handful – will jockey for the sixth-year veteran. McGlinchey turned 28 in January, making this his obvious window to cash in. He rated fifth in ESPN’s run block win rate stat last season, bouncing back from the quadriceps injury that ended his 2021 season.

There is no shortage of Kyle Shanahan– or Sean McVay-influenced schemes around the league. The Bears employ Luke Getsy as their play-caller; Getsy worked for Shanahan/McVay tree branch Matt LaFleur, and the Bears’ cap space dwarfs every other team’s. After fielding a shaky O-line (on a team full of substandard position groups), Chicago needs a better idea of Justin Fields’ trajectory. Outbidding the field for the top right tackle available is a good start. The Patriots want a right tackle – on a line without a big contract presently – and the Raiders might have a say here as well. In need at multiple O-line spots, Las Vegas will have cash as well if it passes on a big QB investment.

Best fits: Bears, Patriots, Raiders

3. Jawann Taylor, T. Age in Week 1: 26

As expected, the Jaguars took Evan Engram off the market via the franchise tag. The tight end tag being $7MM cheaper than the $18.2MM offensive lineman tag always pointed Taylor toward free agency, and after never missing a start in four Duval County seasons, Taylor will be tough for the Jags to retain. They already drafted Walker Little in the 2021 second round, and no team that is currently paying a left tackle top-10 money (Cam Robinson is seventh) has a top-10 right tackle contract on the books. Taylor is expected to land at least a top-10 right tackle deal, with a $17MM-AAV figure being floated. That would place the former Florida Gator in the top five at the position, depending on how McGlinchey fares next week.

Taylor resembles the genre of player that usually populates the top of a position’s free agency market: a dependable performer who checks in below the top tier at his job. Taylor enjoyed his strongest year in his platform campaign. The former second-round pick dropped his hold count from 11 in 2021 to two in 2022. While PFF charged Taylor with five sacks allowed, Football Outsiders measured his blown-block rate at a career-low 1.3%. Offering a disparate skillset compared to McGlinchey, Taylor has fared better as a pass protector than in the run game. PFF slotted him as a top-10 pass protector among right tackles but viewed him as a dismal run-blocker.

The Jags have presumably made Taylor an offer, but other teams will probably top it. The Dolphins gave Terron Armstead a five-year, $75MM deal in 2022 but have needed a right tackle ever since Ja’Wuan James’ 2019 exit. They were forced to start in-season pickup Brandon Shell for much of the year and have cleared more than $45MM in cap space over the past two days. The team just picked up Tua Tagovailoa‘s fifth-year option, and the league’s lone southpaw starting QB needs better blindside protection after a season in which he suffered at least two concussions. Overspending on O-linemen is not the Patriots’ M.O., but they have a need at right tackle and do not have big dollars devoted to quarterback or any position up front. New England is on the hunt for a right tackle upgrade, and the team’s 2021 free agency showed it would spend when it deemed expenditures necessary.

Best fits: Dolphins, Patriots, Jaguars

4. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB. Age in Week 1: 31

The quarterback market cleared up this week, seeing Geno Smith and Daniel Jones extended and Derek Carr’s lengthy street free agency stretch end with $70MM in practical guarantees. Garoppolo’s injury history will affect his value, but teams kind of make it a priority to staff this position. The former Super Bowl starter is in his prime and on the market for the first time. How high this market goes will depend on what the Raiders want and what Aaron Rodgers decides.

The 49ers’ 12-game win streak that included Brock Purdy’s stunning displays began with Garoppolo at the controls. Guiding San Francisco to four straight wins, Garoppolo was at or close to his best when he suffered a broken foot in Week 13. He sported a 7-0 TD-INT ratio during that win streak and closed the season 16th in QBR. He would have walked into a better market had the injury not occurred; the setback came after a string of health issues. He tore an ACL in 2018, missed 10 games in 2020 after an ankle sprain and was significantly limited by the end of the 2021 slate due to a three-injury season. Garoppolo’s March 2022 shoulder surgery hijacked his trade market.

Ideally for Garoppolo, Rodgers returns to Green Bay or retires. While that is looking unlikelier by the day, it would put the Jets in a desperate position following Carr’s decision. The Raiders represent the other wild card. Garoppolo would slide into Josh McDaniels’ system seamlessly, given the parties’ three-plus years together in New England. The Raiders have operated a bit more stealthily compared to the Jets; they have been connected to Rodgers, Garoppolo and rolling with a rookie. Plan C here would be a tough sell given the presences of 30-year-old skill-position players Davante Adams and Darren Waller, but Las Vegas’ plans cloud Garoppolo’s market. If the Raiders pass and Rodgers chooses the Jets, Garoppolo’s earning power could drop.

McDaniels not fancying a Garoppolo reunion opens the door for the Texans, who hired ex-49ers pass-game coordinator Bobby Slowik as OC, and others. Houston’s situation may not appeal to Garoppolo, but Slowik and Nick Caserio being in Houston make this connection too clear to ignore. The Buccaneers and Commanders are in win-now positions but are giving indications they do not want to spend much at QB. The Commanders were deep in talks for the then-49ers QB last year, however. Garoppolo will test those squads, along with the Falcons, who are entering Year 3 of the Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime. The Panthers’ acquisition of the No. 1 pick likely takes them out of the running, and Carolina not being in the mix could also affect how high the Garoppolo price goes.

Bottom line, there should be enough teams interested in staffing their 2023 QB1 spots that the best free agent option should do OK no matter what happens with Rodgers.

Best fits: Raiders, Texans, Commanders

5. Jamel Dean, CB. Age in Week 1: 26

The Buccaneers retained Carlton Davis last year, but their dire cap situation should force a Dean departure. Dean’s age/performance combination should make him this year’s top cornerback available. With corner a position of need for many teams, the former third-round pick stands to do very well. Dean has only been a full-time starter in one season, however, seeing his defensive snap share jump from 67% in 2021 to 90% last season.

Excelling in press coverage, Dean played a major role for the 2020 Super Bowl champion Bucs iteration and overtook fellow free agent Sean Murphy-Bunting last year. Dean did perform better in 2021 compared to 2022, allowing no touchdowns and limiting QBs to a collective 50.0 passer rating; those numbers shot up to four and 86.0 last season. Still, PFF rated Dean as last year’s 10th-best corner. J.C. Jackson did not break into the top five among corners upon hitting the market last year; Dean should not be expected to do so, either. But many teams will be interested.

The Patriots have paid up for a corner previously, in Stephon Gilmore (2017), but Jonathan Jones – forced to primarily play a boundary role in 2022 – wants to re-sign and will be far cheaper than Dean. The Falcons need help opposite AJ Terrell and trail only the Bears in cap space. Although a Terrell payment is coming, it can be tabled to 2024 due to the fifth-year option. The Dolphins are clearing cap space and now have a corner need, with Byron Jones no longer with the team after his missed season.

Best fits: Dolphins, Falcons, Patriots

6. Jessie Bates, S. Age in Week 1: 26

Bates stands to be one of this free agency crop’s safest bets, combining extensive experience – the final two years as a pillar for a championship threat – with a host of prime years remaining. Beginning his career at 21, the Wake Forest product has started 79 games and anchored the Bengals’ secondary for most of his tenure. The Bengals did not tag Bates for a second time, passing on a $15.5MM price. With the team planning to let Bates test the market, it looks like the sixth-year defender will leave Cincinnati.

The Bengals and Bates went through two offseasons of negotiations, ending in the 2022 tag. The Bengals have some big payments to make at higher-profile positions. Safety does not qualify as such, but Bates has been a cornerstone in Lou Anarumo’s defense and will be handsomely rewarded. Bates finished as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 overall safety in 2020 and, after a shakier 2021 in which he admitted his contract situation affected his play, Bates came through with impact plays in the postseason. He graded as a top-25 safety, via PFF, in 2022.

Safety is one of this year’s deeper positions in free agency. Of the top 10 safety contracts, however, only one went to a free agent (Marcus Williams in 2022). Bates should be expected to join the Ravens defender, who signed for $14MM per year. It will be interesting if he can climb into the top five at the position; Justin Simmons’ $15.25MM-AAV accord sits fifth. Bates should be expected to approach or eclipse that, though moving to the Derwin JamesMinkah Fitzpatrick tier will be more difficult. Still, after the Bengals offered Bates less than $17MM guaranteed last summer, he should depart for more guaranteed money.

The Browns are interested in Bates, who will cost more than John Johnson cost Cleveland two years ago (three years, $33.75MM). Clear of the record-setting Matt Ryan dead-money hit, the Falcons have cash to spend and a Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime entering Year 3. The Falcons need to make progress, and they do not have much in the way of talent or costs at safety. The team has not featured much here since the Keanu NealRicardo Allen tandem splintered. Bates would be a way to remedy that.

Team fits: Falcons, Browns, Raiders

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Rams To Release OLB Leonard Floyd

MARCH 10: Although trade rumors emerged, the Rams are planning to release their top edge rusher Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. This will give Floyd a chance to catch on with a third team and create a major need for the Rams at outside linebacker. Floyd was the only Rams edge player to record more than one sack in 2022.

MARCH 6: The Rams have already made their intentions clear with linebacker Bobby Wagnerand other cost-cutting moves are expected to come as well. That will include a parting of ways with pass rusher Leonard Floyd.

[RELATED: Rams Allow Allen Robinson To Seek Trade]

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Los Angeles will look to trade the veteran, and in the absence of a deal materializing, he will be released (Twitter link). That is the same stance the team has taken with Wagner, whose tenure with his hometown team will come to an end after just one season.

Floyd, 30, was cut by the Bears after four disappointing seasons in the Windy City. That led him to Los Angeles on a one-year deal which paid enormous dividends for both player and team. Floyd recorded a career-high 10.5 sacks that season, and he inked a four-year, $64MM contract off the back of that production. In the two seasons following that deal, he has started all 17 games both years while remaining a key member of the team’s defense.

The former first-rounder racked up 9.5 sacks in 2021, then followed that up with 9.0 this past season. Floyd played snap shares of 80% and 86%, respectively, showing not only his durability after injuries were a factor early in his career, but also the dearth of consistent pass rushers the team had aside from him. The Rams are expected to pursue multiple additions at that position, something which will be made easier from a financial perspective with Floyd (whose deal was restructured last March) off the books.

Releasing Floyd right away would serve almost no purpose for the Rams (only $3MM in cap savings, against a dead money charge of $19MM). If he were to be designated a post-June 1 cut, though, those figures would become $15.5MM and $6.5MM, respectively. The latter path would therefore be the one taken by Los Angeles unless a trade partner could be found for an edge rusher who has demonstrated a consistent level of production.

If Floyd does hit free agency, he will likely be joined in that regard by Bud Dupree, who earlier today was reported to become the latest veteran the Titans are parting ways with. Those two, along with Yannick Ngakoue, Jadeveon Clowney, and Justin Houston, are set to headline the veterans available at the position when the new league year begins.

Restructured Contracts: Saints, Floyd, Hyde, Barrett

While teams are currently focused on adding free agents, some front offices are looking to carve out some extra cap space. We’ve collected some of today’s restructured deals below:

  • The Saints opened up some extra cap space earlier today. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter), the team restructured the contracts of defensive tackle David Onyemata and offensive tackle James Hurst. The moves saved the team an extra $7.015MM. Onyemata inked a three-year, $27MM deal with the Saints in 2020, and he already reworked his contract last offseason. A year ago yesterday, Hurst inked a three-year, $9MM extension with New Orleans.
  • The Rams opened up $12MM in cap space by reworking Leonard Floyd‘s contract, according to Yates (on Twitter). Floyd signed a four-year, $64MM extension with the organization last year. In two years with the Rams, the edge rusher has collected 20 sacks, and he’s added another four in six playoff games.
  • The Bills converted $5.68MM of safety Micah Hyde’s contract into a signing bonus, opening $4.54MM in cap space, per Yates (on Twitter). The veteran signed a two-year, $19.25MM extension with Buffalo last offseason. Hyde has spent the past five seasons in Buffalo, earning a pair of Pro Bowl nods while only missing a pair of regular season games.
  • The Buccaneers restructured Shaq Barrett’s contract, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). The move should open up just under $10MM in cap space, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic (on Twitter). After playing the 2020 season under the franchise tag, Barrett inked a four-year, $72MM deal ($36MM guaranteed) with the Buccaneers last offseason.

NFL Contract Details: Jones, Floyd, Williams, QBs

Some assorted contract details from around the NFL:

  • RB Aaron Jones, Packers: Four years, $48MM, including $20MM over first two years. $7MM roster bonus in 2023. Owed $16MM in 2023 and $12MM in 2024. Via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter.
  • LB Leonard Floyd, Rams: Four years, $64MM, including $32.5MM guaranteed. $14MM signing bonus. Salaries: $2MM (2021, fully guaranteed), $16.5MM (2022, fully guaranteed), $15.5MM (2023), $16MM (2024). Via Pelissero on Twitter.
  • DE Leonard Williams, Giants: Three years, $63MM, including $45MM. $22.5MM signing bonus. Salaries: $3.5MM (2021, fully guaranteed), $19MM (2022, fully guaranteed), $18MM (2023). Cap charges: $11MM (2021), $26.5MM (2022), $25.5MM (2023). Via Manish Mehta on Twitter.
  • QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington: One year, $10MM, including $6MM guaranteed. Max value of $12MM. $6MM signing bonus. $3MM base salary, $1MM per-game roster bonuses. Up to $2MM in incentives. Via Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post on Twitter.
  • QB Jacoby Brissett, Dolphins: One year, $5MM, including $2.5MM guaranteed. $2.5MM signing bonus, up to $2.5MM in incentives. Via Pelissero on Twitter.
  • QB Andy Dalton, Bears: One year, $10MM. $7MM signing bonus, $3MM base salary, up to $3MM in incentives. Via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter.
  • LB Carl Lawson, Jets: Three years, $45MM, including $30MM guaranteed. $1MM signing bonus. Salaries: $6.2MM (2021, plus $7.8MM roster bonus), $15MM (2022), $15MM (2023). Cap charges: $14.3MM (2021), $15.3MM (2022), $15.3MM (2023). Up to $800K in sack incentives each year. Via Mehta on Twitter.

Rams To Re-Sign LB Leonard Floyd

5:35pm: The Floyd market moved fast. The Giants pushed to sign him, but the Rams will win the sweepstakes, Anderson tweets. Floyd will stay in Los Angeles on a four-year, $64MM deal, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

This represents a major win for Floyd, who saw the Bears release him prior to his fifth-year option vesting in 2020. Floyd will follow Fowler in riding a Rams contract year into free agency success. The Rams are making their biggest commitment to an edge defender in years here, doing so after trading Robert Quinn and letting Fowler walk. The team’s journey toward cap compliance will continue, however, with the team now having three front-seven bastions — Donald, Floyd and Michael Brockers — signed to veteran deals.

5:15pm: Although the Rams let Dante Fowler walk in free agency last year, they are not quite ready to lose another edge rusher. They remain in talks with Leonard Floyd, according to veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson, who notes the discussions are going well (Twitter link).

The Rams will still need to clear considerable cap space to keep Floyd. They reside more than $30MM over the cap. Teams must comply with the $182.5MM salary ceiling by 3pm March 17, when the 2021 league year starts.

Like Fowler, Floyd produced in a contract year. The former Bears first-round pick, whom Chicago cut after an inconsistent tenure, recorded a career-best 10.5 sacks while teaming with Aaron Donald in Los Angeles. After battling injury issues early in his career, Floyd has now played in 16 games in each of the past three seasons.

More edge rushers are available this year, compared to a 2020 offseason in which several received franchise tags. Like Fowler, Floyd did not. And he is in much better position to land a strong deal than he was last year, when the Rams signed him to a one-year pact worth $10MM. It will be interesting to see if Floyd can improve on that salary soon.