September 1st, 2017 at 5:39pm CST by Dallas Robinson
The Lions have released veteran running back Matt Asiata, the club announced today.
Detroit signed Asiata away from the division rival Vikings in May, inking the 30-year-old to a minimum benefit contract. Always something of a plodder (3.5 yards per carry average for his career), Asiata had a chance to serve as the Lions’ power back if he performed well during the summer. However, Detroit will instead roll with Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, and Dwayne Washington behind starter Ameer Abdullah.
The Lions also announced the following transactions:
Dorial Green-Beckham, whom the Eagles acquired in a mid-August trade last year, believes Philadelphia has not seen him at his best. After all, he had to learn a new offense on the fly after the trade, and then he had to adjust to a new starting quarterback a few weeks later. But as Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, DGB has an uphill battle just to make the team, let alone make a major impact. The Eagles signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, they spent mid-round draft choices on Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson, and Jordan Matthews looks to remain with the club after being the subject of offseason trade rumors. All five of those players are roster locks, which means that Green-Beckham will battle former first-round selection Nelson Agholor — whom the Eagles have more of a commitment to from a salary and draft standpoint — for the final wide receiver spot. So, barring injury or a transcendent training camp, DGB’s days in Philadelphia could be numbered.
Now for more from the NFC:
Steve Wyche of NFL.com reports that Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a broken left left leg, and head coach Pete Carroll has no doubts that Thomas will be at full speed in training camp. WR Tyler Lockett, who is also recovering from a broken leg, is not as far along as Thomas, but Carroll indicated that Locket is still “on schedule.”
The Giants signed D.J. Fluker this offseason to help bolster an offensive line that was a major weakness last season. Fluker, whom the Chargers drafted as a tackle, shifted inside to guard over the past couple of seasons, but it was expected that he could at least compete for the Giants’ right tackle job this summer. But the Associated Press reports that Bobby Hart has manned right tackle during OTAs, which has relegated Fluker to John Jerry‘s backup at right guard.
Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune reports that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is expected to return to Minnesota today, to visit his eye doctors tomorrow, and if all goes well, he will be coaching OTAs on Tuesday (Twitterlinks).
The Lions have agreed to a one-year deal with running back Matt Asiata, reports Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press (on Twitter).
Asiata auditioned with the Lions earlier this month, though it appeared they were going to pass on signing him. Instead, the former Viking will join the Lions and remain in the NFC North, the only division he has known since he first saw NFL action in 2012. Asiata was never a particularly strong option on the ground in Minnesota, where he averaged 3.5 yards per carry on 361 attempts, but he did rush for at least six touchdowns twice and serve as a respectable receiver out of the backfield with the club. The 29-year-old combined for 101 catches from 2014-16, including 32 on 38 targets last season.
The Lions, of course, already have a legitimate pass-catching back in Theo Riddick, who, like Asiata, hasn’t shown much as a ball carrier. Their other running back options consist of prospective starter Ameer Abdullah, who missed all but two games in 2016, as well as Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner. Aside from Abdullah, with his 4.3 YPC on 161 carries, nobody on Detroit’s roster has come close to establishing himself as an above-average rusher in the pros.
Matt Asiata‘s visit with the Lions occurred this weekend, but the team is not ready to offer the former Vikings starter a contract yet, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Birkett adds that the workout went well for the first-time UFA running back, but the Lions are currently going with their holdovers. Detroit’s present backfield houses Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner. The Lions did not draft a running back. An Asiata pact would seemingly stand in the way of the Lions adding LeGarrette Blount. One of the suitors linked to the now-uniquely positioned free agent, the Lions have a need for a reliable runner after Abdullah has failed to stay healthy. The unavailability of he and Riddick, who is already a passing-down specialist, hurt the Lions last season. Asiata has not drawn any other known interest to this point.
Here’s more from Detroit and the latest from some of the Lions’ chief rivals.
Jarrad Davis will play middle linebacker and relegate Tahir Whitehead to the competition for one of the outside spots, Birkett notes. Whitehead led the Lions with 132 tackles last season — 45 more than any other Lion recorded in 2016 — but drew scrutiny from Pro Football Focus, which graded the veteran as its second-worst full-time linebacker. Davis played middle linebacker in each of the past two seasons at Florida and appears set to open there for the Lions, who also added Paul Worrilow to the equation there this offseason. Whitehead looks to be the frontrunner for one of the outside jobs in Detroit’s 4-3.
Brian Robison said he agreed to a restructured Vikings contract — one that amounts to a paycut in 2017, with his salary being slashed from $5.3MM to $3.9MM — not because the franchise forced him to but because it gives him an opportunity to play 2018 with the franchise. “No. 1 I didn’t have to take a pay cut. It was something I chose to do,” Robison said, per Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “With the Vikings, I thought it was a very complimentary deal both for myself and the organization. On the flip side of it, I got an opportunity to play an extra year here in Minnesota and gives me an opportunity to retire as a Viking and play my entire career in one uniform.” Now 34, the 11th-yaer defensive end is the Vikings’ longest-tenured player and is signed through 2018, and he plans to make that his final NFL season.
High-priced Lions guard T.J. Lang won’t join his teammates in workouts until training camp, Birkett reports. The former Packers Pro Bowler is recovering from a January hip surgery, which will shelve him for Detroit’s OTAs and minicamp.
The Bears are adjusting some of their quarterback coaching plan for rookie Mitch Trubisky, John Mullin of CSNChicago.com notes, adding, however, John Fox won’t be thinking long-term when he decides who will start come September. Mullin writes that Mike Glennon‘s status as the current starter, one he held at this juncture in the 2015 Buccaneers’ offseason, won’t deter the Bears from starting Trubisky on Day 1 if he’s ready. Trubisky is viewed as more of a project than Jameis Winston, but the Bears’ investment is quite similar to the Bucs’ then.
Matt Asiata has a workout scheduled with the Lions, a source tells Tom Pelissero of USA Today (on Twitter). In fact, Asiata will participate in Detroit’s upcoming rookie minicamp, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com. This marks Asiata’s first known audition since he became a free agent in March.
Asiata, 30 in July, first broke into the NFL as a UDFA signing in Minnesota in 2011. After several years with the team, the Vikings decided to part ways with Asiata this spring and allow him to go elsewhere in free agency. As has been the case with other veteran running backs, his market has been very slow to develop.
Asiata saw an increased workload in 2014 and 2016, seasons in which Adrian Peterson missed the majority of games. Last year, Asiata finished out with 402 yards off of 121 carries and six touchdowns. He also added 32 catches for 263 yards.
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.
The Vikings are still mulling a reunion with running back Matt Asiata, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link), who adds the door is “not closed” between the two parties. Still, Asiata is still considering other clubs, and is primarily waiting for the top free agent backs to sign before agreeing to a deal himself.
Now that Minnesota has cut ties with Adrian Peterson, its backfield is comprised of only Jerick McKinnon and C.J. Ham. Peterson might still return to the Vikings down the line, while the club is also meeting with free agent runner Eddie Lacy. Whatever running back avenue the Vikings choose to go down, the team clearly needs to add depth at the position, and possibly a starter.
Asiata, 29, would fall more into the depth category, as although he managed 121 carries for the Vikings last year, he only averaged a plodding 3.3 yards per carry. All told, he scored six touchdowns on the ground, and added 32 receptions in the passing game. Asiata also played on roughly a quarter of Minnesota’s special teams snaps.
Running back Matt Asiata is eligible for free agency next week and it sounds like he’ll wind up signing elsewhere. Asiata plans to test the open market and chances of him returning to the Vikings are low, a source tells Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.
Asiata, 30 in July, first broke into the NFL as a UDFA signing in Minnesota in 2011. Ever since 2012, he has been on the Vikings’ active roster. His workload increased in 2014 and 2016, seasons in which Adrian Peterson missed the majority of games. Asiata provides solid pass-catching ability – he averaged 38 catches between those two aforementioned campaigns – but he’s not an ultra-athletic ball carrier like teammate Jerick McKinnon.
Last year, Asiata re-signed with the Vikings on a one-year, $840K deal with a $60K signing bonus. The pact also included up to $500K in incentives based on playing-time, rushing yards, and receptions. It remains to be seen whether he can fetch a deal with significant guarantees this offseason. At his age, he may have to settle for a pact that doesn’t include any sort of safety net.
Here are several of the latest contract details on deals which were agreed upon or signed within the last week. All links are courtesy of Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle unless otherwise indicated.
James Starks, RB (Packers): Two years, $6MM. $1.5MM signing bonus. $300K in annual per-game active roster bonuses. Up to $600K in annual Pro Bowl and rushing-yard incentives (Twitter link).
Andre Smith, T (Vikings): One year, $3.5MM. $500K of $2.5MM base salary guaranteed. $250K in per-game active roster bonuses. Up to $1MM in playing-time and Pro Bowl incentives (Twitter link).
Terence Newman, CB (Vikings): One year, $2.5MM. $1MM guaranteed. $250K in per-game active roster bonuses. Up to $500K in playing-time incentives (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of USA Today).
Mitch Unrein, DL (Bears): Two years, $2.26MM. $500K guaranteed. $300K signing bonus. $200K roster bonus due April 1. $500K base escalator for 2017 (Twitter link).
Matt Asiata, RB (Vikings): One year, $840K. $60K signing bonus. Up to $500K in playing-time, rushing-yard, and catch incentives (Twitter link).
Nolan Carroll, CB (Eagles): One year, $2.36MM. Can be worth up to $3MM. $1MM in per-game active roster bonuses. $600K for eight games active. Up to $640K in playing-time and Pro Bowl incentives (Twitter link).
Junior Galette, OLB (Washington): One year, $1.6MM. Can be worth up to $4.1MM. $1MM base salary. $500K in per-game active roster bonuses. Up to $2.5MM in playing-time, Pro Bowl, and sack incentives (Twitter link).
Evan Mathis, G (Cardinals): One year, $4MM. Can be worth up to $6MM. $3MM guaranteed. $2MM signing bonus. $1MM guaranteed base salary. $1MM in per-game active roster bonuses. Up to $2MM in playing-time, Pro Bowl, and All-NFL incentives (Twitter link).