Following a long run with the Patriots as cornerbacks and defensive backs coach, Josh Boyer will join new head coach Brian Flores in Miami, the Boston Globe’s Jim McBride writes.
Boyer joined New England in 2006 as a defensive assistant after serving as defensive coordinator at the South Dakota School of Mines. After spending three seasons as an assistant, he assumed defensive backs coach duties, and served in a similar position from 2009 to 2018. With the Patriots, Boyer won three Super Bowls.
He will become defensive backs coach in Miami while also serving as the defensive pass game coordinator.
Boyer becomes the latest member of the Patriots coaching staff to exit the team following the AFC powerhouse’s 13-3 win over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII. He joins Chad O’Shea (receivers coach) and Jerry Schuplinski (assistant quarterbacks coach) to follow former Patriots defensive coordinator Flores to Miami. Defensive line coach Brendan Daly also departed the staff, taking a similar role with the Chiefs.
Here’s more from the league’s coaching scene:
Raiders defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley is joining theUniversity of Tennessee staff in a similar role, NBC Sports’ Scott Bair writes. Ansley will reunite with head coach Jeremy Pruitt, who he served with while with the University of Alabama. Last year was Ansley’s first in the NFL, and the Raiders reportedly were happy with the job he did with the team’s young defensive backs.
Recently retired offensive lineman Matt Slauson turned down a coaching job with the Colts, SiriusXM’s Alex Marvez tweets. Marvez notes Slauson said he wants to spend more time with his family following his nine-year run in the NFL but left open the possibility of entering the coaching ranks at a later date. In 2018, the right guard made five starts with Indianapolis.
Former Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has resurfaced as the head coach of the Atlanta Legends of the AAF, ESPN’s Michael Rothstein writes. He originally joined the team expecting to be the defensive coordinator but assumed head coaching duties after former NFL head coach Brad Childress abruptly resigned. Miami’s defensive coordinator for four seasons, Coyle last appeared in the NFL as the Bengals’ defensive backs coach from 2016-17.
Colts guard Matt Slauson is hanging ’em up. On Wednesday, the veteran took to Instagram to announce his retirement from the NFL.
“It has been ten amazing years,” Slauson wrote. “Four organizations and countless friendships. What an amazing dream this has all been. Thanks to all my teammates who have gone into battle with me, the group of coaches that have made me better on and off the field, the fans that were there no matter what, and especially my wife and kids who supported me through it all. It has been a very difficult decision but we are excited for what the next chapter holds.”
Over the course of nine seasons, Slauson suited up for the Jets, Bears, Chargers, and Colts. Last year, he appeared in five games – all starts – for Indianapolis. His season ended in October when he suffered a scary back injury.
Somehow, even without Slauson, the Colts’ offensive line was exceptional in 2018. The Colts went five straight games in the fall without allowing Andrew Luck to get sacked even once. The streak lasted until Week 12 when Dolphins pass rusher Cameron Wake got to the QB.
The Colts signed Slauson to a one-year, $3MM deal last offseason. He moved into their starting lineup opposite first-rounder Quenton Nelson and played well: both guards graded as top-30 players, in the view of Pro Football Focus, through the first five games of the year.
Following in the footsteps of Plaxico Burress, Emmanuel Sanders has thrived after leaving the Steelers. Pittsburgh’s permitted many of its wideout finds to depart over the years, prioritizing only long-term partnerships with Hines Ward and Antonio Brown this century. In advance of the latest Broncos-Steelers game, Sanders said (via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Chris Adamski) Mike Tomlin told him prior to 2014 free agency the Steelers “didn’t have the money to pay me.” Denver added Sanders to a $5MM-per-year accord then extended him two years later.
The Steelers have let Sanders, Mike Wallace, Santonio Holmes, Martavis Bryant and Antwaan Randle-El go either after the wideouts’ rookie deals expired or, in Bryant’s case, trading him away. But Pittsburgh continues to find wideout talent, with JuJu Smith-Schuster being the latest such discovery. After an injury-plagued 2017, Sanders (763 receiving yards) is on pace for his fourth 1,000-yard season in five years with the Broncos. He’s signed through 2019. Despite a $10.15MM base salary next year, the 31-year-old pass-catcher may be in line to play out his contract. The Broncos traded Demaryius Thomas, with Courtland Sutton waiting in the wings, but don’t have an obvious Sanders replacement lined up just yet.
Here’s the latest from the AFC on this NFC-only Thanksgiving:
It doesn’t sound like Matt Slauson has immediate retirement plans, despite suffering a scary back injury, Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star notes. The first-year Colts lineman has contributed plenty to the cause despite being sidelined for much of this year, with Keefer noting he’s helped Indianapolis’ younger linemen. The Colts haven’t allowed Andrew Luck to be sacked in 214 straight pass attempts; that’s the longest since the Redskins kept Mark Rypien upright for 252 straight pass plays during the franchise’s 1991 Super Bowl season. Slauson continues to work out with teammates but is 32 and only signed through 2018.
Signs continue to point to Josh McCown receiving another Jets start. Sam Darnold did not participate in team drills Thursday, missing a second straight day of such work, according to the Associated Press. The rookie starter suited up Wednesday for the first time since straining his right foot but did not throw a pass in individual drills. McCown appears to be in line to face the Patriots, with Todd Bowles indicating (via the New York Post’s George Willis) the team will err on the side of caution. So, unless Darnold makes some significant strides by Friday, he’ll likely rest for at least one more week.
Matt Slauson started the first five games of the Colts’ season as their right guard. He won’t be able to suit up again for a while.
This is a strange move given Slauson’s recent work. He played all 83 snaps against the Patriots in Week 5. Nevertheless, he’ll spend at least eight weeks on IR. The Colts signed offensive lineman Evan Boehm off the Rams’ practice squad.
This news comes for a Colts team that could not use some of the players they kept on their game-day roster against the Patriots. And Indianapolis lost more players during the game. Now, either Slauson suffered an injury during the game and played through it — or has been playing through one that worsened recently — or the ninth-year blocker sustained another injury in between then and now.
The Colts signed Slauson to a one-year, $3MM deal this offseason. He moved into their starting lineup opposite first-rounder Quenton Nelson and played well. Both Colts guards graded as top-30 players, in the view of Pro Football Focus, through five games.
Slauson finished last season on IR as well. A biceps injury ended Slauson’s final Chargers season after seven games. However, he started all 16 contests for the 2016 Bolts at center. He’s been back at guard, his initial NFL position, for the past two seasons. The Colts, though, will need a new guard to step in when they resume their schedule.
A fourth-round pick in 2016, Boehm started eight games for the Cardinals last season. He did not make the Cards’ 53-man roster this year and instead latched on with the Rams’ practice squad.
An offensive line that already lost a first-team All-Pro this offseason became beleaguered by injuries in training camp. Andrew Norwell left the Panthers for the Jaguars, and Carolina then lost Daryl Williams, Amini Silatolu and Matt Kalil to injuries. However, Carolina’s receiving good news on this front entering Week 1. Williams returned to Panthers practice, per Bill Voth of Panthers.com, despite being barely a month removed from an MCL injury and a dislocated patella. The contract-year right tackle was believed to be an IR-return candidate in August, but the Panthers still have him on their active roster. He hasn’t been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, but the Panthers may be cautious with their right tackle starter.
Silatolu is also back on the field. The veteran blocker tore one of his menisci in mid-August but said he’s 100 percent, per Joe Person of The Athletic (on Twitter). Voth adds Silatolu may be available for the Panthers’ opener. Greg Van Roten took over as the team’s starting left guard after Silatolu went down.
Here’s the latest from the South divisions:
D’Onta Foreman wasn’t as fortunate with his rehab process, though the Texans‘ backup running back was rehabbing a more severe injury this offseason. The Texans placed Foreman, who tore his Achilles’ tendon in November 2017, on the Reserve/PUP list to shelve him for six weeks. And Bill O’Brien said (via Deepi Sidhu of Texans.com, on Twitter) the second-year back “no question” needed the time to finish his recovery from the malady. Foreman is expected to be Lamar Miller‘s top backup again, but it’s uncertain how quickly he’ll be able to return to that role.
The Colts may have identified their starting right-side offensive linemen. For now, as this team-issued depth chart is unofficial, Indianapolis is going with veterans to man those spots. Matt Slauson is listed as Indy’s starting right guard, and third-year starter Joe Haeg is the first-string right tackle. Second-round rookie guard Braden Smith was tried at right tackle, but for now he will learn from the sideline as his career begins. Haeg started as a Colts right guard and right tackle the past two seasons. The Colts cut Austin Howard, the Ravens’ starting right tackle last season, over the weekend.
The Titans will worked out a pair of wide receivers on Tuesday. Devin Lucien and Drew Morgan auditioned for the team, per NESN.com’s Doug Kyed and the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson (Twitterlinks). The Patriots cut Lucien last week, and Morgan didn’t make the Dolphins’ 53-man roster.
Recent Seahawks wide receiver cut Malik Turner is in Houston working out for the Texans today, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets.
As expected, the Titans placed Jack Conklin on the PUP list at the outset of training camp. The third-year right tackle tore an ACL in Tennessee’s divisional-round loss to New England in mid-January. Given that barely six months have passed, this could be expected. Mike Vrabel said this was a possibility as his team concluded minicamp, and Conklin confirmed this was a methodical process.
Here’s the latest from the Titans, along with some of their top rivals.
Tennessee also placed tight end Phillip Supernaw on the PUP list while also slotting second-round pick Rashaan Evans and free agent wideout addition Michael Campanaro on the non-football illness list. The Titans’ rookies and quarterbacks opened camp Sunday, and each of these players is eligible to be reinstated for full work by the time full practices begin Thursday.
The Colts added multiple veterans up front this offseason, with Matt Slauson and Austin Howard now in the mix for starting roles as stopgaps. Indianapolis boasts some depth at guard now with Slauson, the recently re-signed Jack Mewhort and No. 6 overall pick Quenton Nelson on the roster. Mewhort’s re-up and the Slauson addition, though, did not deter the Colts from selecting Braden Smith in the second round. The franchise’s goal is for Smith, an Auburn alum, to be the long-term starter at right guard opposite Nelson, Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star notes. Though, Holder cautions his development figures to take longer than Nelson’s. Once entrenched as a Colts guard starter and a candidate for a long-term extension, Mewhort suffered significant injury setbacks in 2016 and ’17 to limit him to a one-year, $1.5MM deal with just $300K guaranteed. Slauson is signed for one year and $2.5MM. One member of this tandem could begin the season in an unfamiliar backup role.
It looks like Denico Autry has a path toward either a full-time starting role or a prominent backup job with the Colts. Chris Ballard raved about the defensive end/tackle’s skill set this weekend. “Let me tell you the one you need to watch: It’s Autry,” Ballard said. “Denico Autry is legitimate. He’s long; he’s strong; he’s passionate. I am really excited to watch him play. He’s made up of all the right stuff.” Autry (career-high five sacks last season) served as a rotational player with the Raiders, lining up as an end and a tackle during his four-year run in Oakland.
A host of players are vying to replace Andrew Norwell on the Panthers‘ starting line. Amini Silatolu, Taylor Moton and former Viking Jeremiah Sirles are among them, with Jordan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer noting Ron Rivera has expressed optimism about the prospect Silatolu can man the first-string post opposite Trai Turner. Silatolu started 15 Panthers games as a rookie in 2012 but hasn’t been a first-stringer on more than three occasions in a season since 2014. Rodrigue adds that Moton may be the top challenger but may also be used as a tackle and be in line to succeed Daryl Williams in the event he follows Norwell’s path as a UFA defection in 2019.
The Colts have been relatively quiet this offseason. The team did acquire a haul when they traded off the third-overall pick, but they haven’t made many big splashes via free agency.
However, the team has added four notable unrestricted free agents, and head coach FrankReich and general manager ChrisBallard talked with Stephen Holder of IndyStar.com about the transactions. We’ve highlighted some of the notable soundbites below:
Reich: “I did a little homework on him even after we signed him and talked to a couple coaches who coached him and guys who played with him. I talked to one guy who had definite inside information. He said, ‘This guy will run every inside route at full speed, no matter what. He works his butt off in practice.’ That’s the kind of player we’re looking for.”
On tight end Eric Ebron, who signed a two-year deal after being let go by the Lions:
Reich: “There is a lot of man coverage in this league — the league is going more and more man coverage — so, now you put an elite tight end on the backside, it’s like clearing it out for LeBron (James), or something, in basketball. Just get everybody on one side of the court and get this guy one-on-one. Well, that’s the analogy here. So, in football, get all the receivers on one side, get the back on the other side, and then just put the tight end back here and see what (the defense) does. And some teams will double him. And then (if) you get a linebacker, you get a safety, and if you get a tight end like Ebron — and even when they have a corner on him, you feel like it’s still a winning matchup, because of his size and catch radius.”
Ballard: “We want our fans to know that we’re serious. Signing Matt Slauson was a good one for us. He’s a 32-year old. And his presence and what he’s going to bring to the O-line room, I don’t think you can put a price on. He’s the ultimate pro and he’s going to bring a level of toughness to that room that I think is going to be really good for everybody in it.”
On defensive lineman Denico Autry, who signed a three-year, $17.8MM deal ($6.5MM guaranteed):
Ballard: “I’d seen him (when I worked) in Kansas City. He’s a good player and he’s going to help our front. What you see is the defensive line is going to be one of the engines that drives us going forward. You need seven or eight guys that can get that done. And Autry is a good example. We think we got a good player at a fair market value for the player.”
The Colts have signed offensive lineman Matt Slauson, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). It’s a one-year deal worth $3MM, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
Slauson, 32, started seven games at left guard the Chargers before he was sidelined in October with a biceps injury. He also offers previous experience at center and could be an option in the middle should Ryan Kelly miss time again.
Free agent Jack Mewhort continues to float in free agent limbo and it’s not clear if he’ll be retained. If he is brought back into the fold, the Colts could have the two veterans compete in camp to see who will start at one guard spot opposite of Joe Haeg. Last season, Jeremy Vujnovich started all 16 games at left guard, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst qualified player at the position.
Slauson, 32, started seven games at left guard the Chargers before being shelved in October with a biceps injury. He also offers previous experience at center. Last year’s starting center, Travis Swanson, is a free agent, so they could be eyeing Slauson to be their new starter in the middle.
Alternatively, Graham Glasgow could be shifted over to center with Slauson displacing Joe Dahl at one starting guard spot. For a complete look at the Lions’ offensive line situation and overall depth chart, check out their page on Roster Resource.
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. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.
Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they 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 are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.
We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.
Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:
Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.
Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.
There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.
What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.
Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.
Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.
Carlos Hyde didn’t have the kind of platform year he was hoping for, but he’s still just 26 and could headline a running back by committee group.
Jerick McKinnon‘s placement on this list figures to be controversial, but his athleticism and pass-catching ability can blow a game wide open. No one will bank on McKinnon to carry the ball 20 times per game, but he can be a real difference maker for a team out there.
Can Frank Gore outrun father time? History indicates that he can’t and so does his 3.7 yards per carry average in 2017. You have to give credit where credit is due, however. Gore has been ruled out by many for years, but he has not missed a regular season game since the 2010 season. He’s also just one year removed from cracking 1,000 yards and he almost did the same last year.
For most teams, Allen Robinson would be a franchise tag candidate. However, that may be too much of a luxury for the cash-strapped Jaguars. He presents a fascinating free agent case. Robinson missed all but three snaps of the 2017 season after suffering a torn ACL, but he’s the most talented wide receiver on the board in the eyes of many. His 2015 season – 80 catches, 1,400 yards, and a league-leading 14 touchdowns – makes GMs drool. His quieter year in 2016 (73 catches, 883 yards, and six touchdowns) is less worthy of salivation. His 2017 season, of course, was a lost cause. For all the question marks, you can expect Robinson to see more dollars than any other free agent WR this year, particularly since Jarvis Landry has been held back by the tag.
Some in the football world may prefer Sammy Watkins for his big-play ability, but his down contract year amidst a capable offense is cause for concern. His injury history doesn’t do him any favors either. No matter your feelings on Watkins, there’s no debating that this year’s WR market has a top tier comprised of just two players – Watkins and Robinson. With few quality receivers out there, they’ll both get paid.
Marqise Lee represents a much less sexy option (speaking in football terms, of course), but he had the most receptions of any Jaguars receiver in 2017 (56) and finished second in receiving yards (702). Teams looking for a quality WR2 in free agency could do a lot worse than Lee and he’ll be far cheaper than the two-man top tier.
Danny Amendola hauled in 61 receptions for 659 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season and continued his strong play in the playoffs. However, teams will wonder if he can thrive in his age-33 season while playing outside of the Patriots’ offense. It’s also quite possible that he never tests the market as his stated preference is to remain in New England.
After that, you’ll notice a pretty significant drop off. That’s because this year’s WR class isn’t all that deep. Terrelle Pryor had to settle for a one-year prove-it contract last year and, to put it mildly, he did not prove it. Paul Richardson caught 44 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns in 2017, but that marked his first NFL season of real note.
Trey Burton spent most of the year behind Zach Ertz on the Eagles’ depth chart, but he emerged late in the season and set himself up nicely for free agency. Given his age and potential, there’s no question that he is the belle of the ball at tight end.
The rest of the tight end crop is not nearly as inspiring. Jimmy Graham has enjoyed back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons with the Seahawks, but he’ll turn 32 in November and he’s no longer the monster playmaker that he was in New Orleans. He had ten touchdowns in 2017, but his 9.1 yards per reception average is a career low.
Odds are, you have Tyler Eifert ranked over Austin Seferian-Jenkins given the fact that Eifert has played just ten games over the last two years. ASJ, meanwhile, rebounded from personal issues to post a 50-catch season for the Jets. Personally, I’m picking Eifert based on upside. Hopefully, we can still be friends.
Offensive line play is down across the board and evaluators around the league have been openly complaining about an increasing dearth of tackles coming out of college. That makes for a generally uninspiring lot in free agency.
Nate Solder battled through injuries in 2017 and did not miss a game. He’s no longer a top-flight option, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 32 tackle last year, meaning that he’s starter quality at left tackle. You’ll notice that three of the top five tackles on this list are Patriots. There’s little chance that the Pats let all three get away.
Justin Pugh offers the ability to play both guard and right tackle, though he might not do either one particularly well.
Andrew Norwell is the undisputed king of this category after netting an All-Pro selection in 2017. Norwell also earned a career-high 88.8 overall score from Pro Football Focus, which positioned him third in the entire NFL amongst guards. A team with greater means than the Panthers might have used the franchise tag on him. Fortunately for rival teams in need of interior help (such as the Giants), they won’t cuff him with the one-year placeholder.