Orlando Brown

AFC East Notes: Jets, Allen, Dolphins

The Jets have been most closely linked to Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason, but like Aaron Rodgers, the talented wide receiver is not yet with the team. Beckham may well be waiting on the Rodgers trade to be finalized, though other teams — including the Ravens — have made offers. The Jets are interested at the right price, per the New York Post’s Brian Costello, who adds an OBJ signing likely means a Corey Davis release.

With the Jets adding Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman to the mix and continuing to pursue Beckham, Davis has hovered around the chopping block for weeks. The Jets can save $10.5MM by releasing the former top-five pick even if they do not designate him as a post-June 1 cut. If Beckham signs elsewhere, it would be interesting to see how the Jets navigate the Davis matter. The team has traded Elijah Moore, removing a potentially promising weapon from its receiver stable, and Hardman displayed inconsistency during his rookie-deal Chiefs years. Davis, however, has not topped 550 yards in a season as a Jet. His three-year, $37.5MM deal calls for an $11.6MM 2023 cap number.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Georgia tackle Broderick Jones is visiting the Jets on Wednesday, and this high-profile position seems like a logical move for Gang Green at No. 13 overall. Now that it seems that pick is off the table in Rodgers negotiations, the Jets can devote it to a need area to complement their apparent QB-in-waiting. But the team discussed a deal with Orlando Brown Jr., Costello adds. The Steelers joined the Jets in being connected to Brown during his time on the market, but the Bengals came in with a frontloaded deal (four years, $64MM; $42.4MM due by 2024) to land the former Ravens and Chiefs Pro Bowler. The Jets have major questions at both tackle spots, with Duane Brown going into an age-38 season and Mekhi Becton having played one game in two years. Multiyear starter George Fant remains a free agent.
  • Josh Allen handled a career-high 124 rushing attempts last season, and the superstar Bills quarterback logged 122 in 2021. The 237-pound QB has operated as Buffalo’s go-to rushing option, but Sean McDermott would like to see his centerpiece player adjust his style of play. That likely means limiting the hits he takes as a runner, as NFL.com’s Judy Battista noted the five-year veteran has been tackled on 66% of his downfield runs (Twitter links). In an effort to prioritize Allen’s health and extend his career, it would be in the Bills’ best interest to curtail his run-game aggressiveness. Allen has, however, topped 700 rushing yards in each of the past two seasons; only he, Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts have done that over the past two seasons. It will be interesting to see how the Bills go about creating a delicate balance here.
  • The Dolphins recently extended Durham Smythe through 2025, but Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes the team will be expected to draft at least one tight end. Per an agent representing one of this year’s top free agent tight ends, the Dolphins did not want to spend much on the position. Seeing as Mike Gesicki saw his role significantly reduced in Mike McDaniel‘s first year as HC, that makes sense. But after losing Gesicki and Hunter Long (included in the Jalen Ramsey trade), Miami will need to make at least one addition here.

Steelers Rumors: Peterson, Sutton, OL

Still opting to conserve costs at cornerback, the Steelers let Cameron Sutton walk in free agency and replaced him with Patrick Peterson. While the latter’s resume laps Sutton’s, the new Pittsburgh cover man is going into his age-33 season. Peterson bounced back in Minnesota, intercepting five passes last season, and Mike Tomlin plans to take advantage of the All-Decade corner’s experience. Tomlin said he will not shy away from using Peterson around the formation, including at safety, this season. The 17th-year Steelers HC has discussed this with Peterson, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets.

This would be a transition to monitor, and increased safety usage would be a way for Peterson to play well into his mid-30s. Rod Woodson, Charles Woodson and Ronde Barber transitioned to safety as their careers advanced; each Hall of Famer finished his career at the position. Peterson will have a Hall of Fame case when he retires; his Steelers tenure will help determine if he can ascend to first-ballot status. The Steelers have Minkah Fitzpatrick rostered at safety and have Damontae Kazee and Keanu Neal at the position, with the latter agreeing to terms Thursday, whereas their corner group invites more questions. Citing Peterson’s intelligence, Tomlin is still planning to move the 13th-year defender off his usual boundary corner post at times.

Here is the latest out of Pittsburgh:

  • Sutton signed a three-year, $33MM deal with the Lions. While the Steelers expressed interest in keeping him on a third contract, Dulac notes their offer was not in this ballpark. Pittsburgh had kept Sutton on a two-year, $9MM deal in 2021; he outplayed that contract and will now be asked to be Detroit’s No. 1 corner. The Steelers gave Peterson a two-year, $14MM pact with just $5.9MM guaranteed; they still roster Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon, who are each on $4MM-per-year deals.
  • On the subject of rejected Steelers offers, the team is believed to have extended a proposal to Eric Kendricks. Pittsburgh has been connected to making a strong offer to Kendricks, Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com writes. A UCLA alum, Kendricks will return to Los Angeles on a two-year, $13.25MM Chargers contract. The Steelers have still overhauled their linebacker group, cutting Myles Jack and letting Devin Bush leave for a Seahawks deal. Cole Holcomb (three years, $18MM) and Elandon Roberts (two years, $7MM) are now in the fold.
  • Shifting to the O-line, Tomlin offered support for scrutinized tackles Dan Moore and Chukwuma Okorafor by indicating he was “comfortable” with the starting duo, per Kaboly. Pro Football Focus rated both between No. 55 and No. 60 at tackle last season. The Steelers have added both Isaac Seumalo, whom Tomlin has not determined which guard spot he will play, and Nate Herbig this offseason but largely left the tackle spots alone. The Steelers, whom Kaboly notes were briefly tied to Orlando Brown Jr. during a free agency stretch that ended with Brown a Bengal, will be connected to tackles early in the draft. Though, the cornerback need may take precedence. Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock sends a corner (Maryland’s Deonte Banks) to Pittsburgh.
  • The team also added swingman Le’Raven Clark recently. A former Colts third-rounder who spent last season with the Titans, Clark signed a one-year, $1.2MM deal, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets. The experienced O-lineman’s $50K signing bonus represents the only guarantees in this deal, which will qualify the eighth-year veteran as a competitor for a depth role.
  • The Steelers made a coaching tweak recently, promoting assistant outside linebackers coach Denzel Martin to OLBs coach, Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com tweets. The former scout has been with the team eight years. Pittsburgh also hired Jason Brooks as a defensive quality control assistant; Brooks previously was on Baltimore’s staff.

Jonah Williams Trade Market Limited; Bengals T Blindsided By Brown Signing

Jonah Williams requested a trade out of Cincinnati shortly after the team gave Orlando Brown a four-year, $64MM contract. While many around the league view Brown’s best position as right tackle, the Bengals are accommodating the former Ravens and Chiefs blocker’s wish to play on the left side.

When the Bengals signed Brown, Williams learned about it like the rest of the football world did. The three-year Cincinnati left tackle starter was “blindsided” by the move, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. The Bengals have talked about wanting Williams at right tackle, but Conway adds they did not communicate those plans to the former first-round pick ahead of time.

It is not exactly uncommon for teams to move forward with big-picture plans without informing players those strategies will affect, though franchises have made a habit of alerting quarterbacks to future additions at the position in recent years. The Bengals, however, did not expect to land Brown. The Pro Bowl tackle’s reps contacted the team, according to Bengals director of pro scouting Steven Radicevic (via The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr.).

Nearly three days after the legal tampering period gave agents permission to negotiate with teams, Brown remained unsigned. The Bengals entered free agency wanting to re-sign Vonn Bell, Germaine Pratt, Hayden Hurst and Samaje Perine, Dehner adds, noting the team viewed Jessie Bates as out of its price range. Bates signed a four-year, $64MM Falcons deal on the tampering period’s first day. Bell’s age prompted the Bengals to set a firm ceiling on his negotiations, leading the eighth-year safety to the Panthers, who later signed Hurst to what turned out to be this year’s top tight end deal. Perine defected to the Broncos for terms nearly identical to what the Bengals offered.

Brown’s camp showed interest in the Bengals on March 14; the sides agreed to terms March 15. Seeking a job on another contender, Brown said Joe Burrow‘s presence attracted him to Cincinnati; the Bengals will give him $42.4MM in the deal’s first two years. The upfront cash sealed the deal, per Dehner. The Bengals were looking at free agent tackles, Dehner adds, but initially eyeing lower-priced options. One of those coming to Cincinnati may not have led to Williams being moved off his starting spot without competition, but Brown’s pedigree will. As a result, Williams wants out.

Zac Taylor said this week he expects Williams to be back and partake in a competition at right tackle, a position the former has not played since his freshman season at Alabama. Going into a contract year, Williams wants to stay at his position.

We want guys that are willing to do to help us win games,” Taylor said, via Conway. “And I understand there’s comfort levels playing certain sides. Trust me, I played quarterback so I’m not going to sit there and pretend that I’ve got experience moving from right guard to left guard. I know that there’s some reps that need to take place to feel completely comfortable with that, but most of these guys have done it at some point in their career. So they’ve at least got experience doing it and that’s just the way it will go for us.”

Williams’ 6-foot-4, 305-pound frame was a factor in the team prioritizing the 6-8, 340-pound Brown, Conway adds, and Dehner notes Collins’ injury issues — which also included a back problem that prevented the ex-Cowboys standout from practicing on Wednesdays last season — and struggles in pass protection led to the Bengals pursuing tackles. Bengals O-line coach Frank Pollack has said the plan is for Collins to compete for the job, and Taylor alluded to former second-round pick Jackson Carman — a converted guard the team moved to tackle to replace Williams during the playoffs — being part of it as well.

Although an early report surfaced indicating Williams was generating interest from several teams, Outkick.com’s Armando Salguero notes no team has proven willing to send the Bengals a high draft choice for their hopeful right tackle. Williams is due $12.6MM on his fifth-year option this season. Teams like the Colts, Jets and Buccaneers would make sense as Williams destinations, but as of now, he is ticketed for what would be an unusual position battle with Collins, whom the Bengals gave a three-year, $21MM deal in 2022, and potentially Carman.

Both Williams and Collins are coming off season-ending knee injuries; Williams suffered a dislocated kneecap and Collins ACL and MCL tears. These maladies played a major role in the Chiefs prevailing in the teams’ AFC championship game rematch despite a gimpy Patrick Mahomes. Brown switching sides in this rivalry may lead to another falling domino, but as of now, no Williams trade is imminent.

Bengals To Sign OT Orlando Brown Jr.

MARCH 17: Brown’s guarantee numbers are in. The new Bengals left tackle’s only guarantees come via the $31.1MM signing bonus. That money is due Sunday, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. He will be tied to only a $1.5MM base salary in 2023 and a $4.5MM base, along with a $4MM roster bonus, in 2024. Brown will earn $42.35MM over the deal’s first two years, Breer adds. Brown’s fully guaranteed number checks in sixth among left tackles.

Brown indicated the Chiefs’ 2022 offer did not include enough guaranteed money. While his Bengals AAV and guarantee number do not quite match the $23MM per year and $38MM fully guaranteed the Chiefs were offering, respectively, those figures were tied to a six-year proposal. Brown will be tethered to the Bengals through his age-30 season and will have a chance at another negotiation earlier than he would have had he accepted the Chiefs’ summer offer.

MARCH 15: After winning a Super Bowl with the Chiefs, Orlando Brown Jr. is heading to a conference foe. The free agent offensive tackle is finalizing a deal with the Bengals, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter).

It will be a four-year, $64MM deal with Cincinnati, notes Pelissero. The front-loaded contract also includes a $31MM signing bonus, the largest ever for an offensive lineman. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that two-thirds of the contract is guaranteed, and the contract will only make Brown the 17th-highest-paid offensive tackle in the NFL.

Brown played out the 2022 season on the franchise tag, earning him $16.7MM. The Chiefs were rumored to be prepared to re-tag Brown, but they passed on doing so, all but ensuring that he’d hit unrestricted free agency. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweets that the veteran was insistent on staying at left tackle, and the Bengals will allow him to do just that.

“I’m super thankful for the opportunity to carry on my father’s legacy and be a left tackle,” Brown told Garafolo (Twitter link). “It was important to be able to play that position and play for a winning team and a winning quarterback. Who Dey!”

Brown has established himself as one of the league’s top tackles while protecting Lamar Jackson in Baltimore and Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. He was traded to the Chiefs in 2021 and has earned a Pro Bowl nod in each of his two seasons with the organization. This past year, he appeared in all 17 games en route to a Super Bowl championship. Pro Football Focus graded Brown as the NFL’s 19th-best offensive tackle among 81 qualifiers, the fourth straight year he’s finished in the top-half at the position.

Last offseason, the Bengals were busy investing money in their offensive line as they looked to keep quarterback Joe Burrow upright. The team ended up signing La’el Collins, Alex Cappa, and Ted Karras for a combined $21MM in guaranteed money. Those three players each contributed more than 950 offensive snaps, as did fellow starters Cordell Volson and Jonah Williams.

All of those players are still under contract, and it remains to be seen who Brown will be knocking out of the lineup. Williams was generally the team’s LT in 2022, although Collins was the tackle with the worst Pro Football Focus grade in 2022. Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com tweets that the Bengals rarely bail on acquisitions after only one season, although cutting Collins would save the team $6MM against the cap.

Brown, 26, turned down the Chiefs’ extension offer at last year’s July deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign extensions. Kansas City offered Brown a six-year, $139MM deal that would have topped Trent Williams‘ $23MM-AAV record for offensive linemen. While this Cincinnati pact obviously carries a much lower AAV, Brown cited insufficient guarantees as the reason he passed on the Chiefs’ offer. The team offered Brown $52.5MM in total guarantees and $38MM fully guaranteed. Brown bet on himself, stayed healthy and landed his long-term deal. Given what the Chiefs offered last year, it will be interesting to learn the full details of Brown’s Bengals contract.

Latest On Free Agent T Orlando Brown Jr.

Former Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. is one of the top remaining unrestricted free agents on the market three days after the negotiating period opened. According to Charean Williams of NBC Sports, there’s a specific reason why Brown remains unsigned, and it’s not a reason unfamiliar to the 26-year-old lineman. Williams references an indication from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that “Brown’s preference to play left tackle, and the league’s view as a whole that Brown is a better right tackle, is what is holding up” any new deals for Brown.

Brown’s expectation to play left tackle is the reason he’s not still with the team that drafted him, as well. A former third-round selection for the Ravens, Brown worked his way into a starting position at right tackle as a rookie, taking the place of a struggling James Hurst across from the team’s star left tackle Ronnie Stanley. The two excelled on the line together for the next two years, helping with the development of a young Lamar Jackson and earning Brown his first Pro Bowl.

In 2020, the Ravens saw Stanley go down with a season-ending injury. Requiring a strong blocker on the blindside, Baltimore moved Brown to the left side in Stanley’s place. He excelled in the new position for the team, earning his second straight Pro Bowl selection. With the Ravens expected to return a healthy Stanley at left tackle in 2021, Brown was to be reinstalled on the right side of the line.

Instead, Brown requested a trade, quoting his late father as a reason, saying that the senior Orlando Brown always wanted him to be a left tackle. Conveniently, left tackles also happen to make more money on average than right tackles in the NFL. Regardless, the Ravens respected Brown’s request and traded him to Kansas City in an exchange than included a package of picks. The Chiefs gave him the opportunity he desired to start at left tackle, and with the team, Brown earned his third and fourth Pro Bowl selections, making him the only offensive tackle in the league to make each of the last four Pro Bowls, and won a Super Bowl ring.

After Brown played out the last year of his rookie contract in Kansas City, the Chiefs placed the franchise tag on him as the two parties worked towards a potential long-term extension. The relationship turned a bit fraught as the team became frustrated with Brown during negotiations. This led Brown to hold out of training camp as he felt the team’s offer was too light on guarantees. The two sides continued to negotiate as time went on, and after failing to reach an agreement, the Chiefs optioned not to use a second straight tag on Brown. Brown made $16.6MM on the tag in 2022, but a franchise tag in 2023 would cost the Chiefs $19.92MM.

Despite the difference between the way Brown and the rest of the NFL sees his abilities, Brown feels his free agency is “going pretty well.” He refused to get into any specifics, but he called free agency “a weird and long process” and, once again, claimed it was going well. Will Brown find a new franchise willing to pay him the big bucks to protect their passer’s blindside? Or will Brown find himself back on the right side of another team’s offensive line? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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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Chiefs Aiming To Keep JuJu Smith-Schuster, Likely To Let Mecole Hardman Walk

This year’s franchise tag deadline passed without the Chiefs re-tagging Orlando Brown Jr. They will take their chances on the market, with the veteran left tackle seemingly unlikely to sign before seeing what else could be out there for him. The defending Super Bowl champions are, however, interested in retaining at least one of their notable free agents.

The plan remains for the Chiefs to re-sign JuJu Smith-Schuster. After making substantial changes to their receiving corps in 2022, the Chiefs want to keep Smith-Schuster in the fold, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. It will take a fairly significant raise to keep Smith-Schuster, though the allure of returning to Kansas City’s Andy Reid– and Patrick Mahomes-led offense will be a factor in the seventh-year receiver’s free agency. Smith-Schuster has said he wants to return to the Chiefs, but after playing on an incentive-laden deal, he will command a nice contract in what will be his third run at free agency.

Although the Chiefs carved out some cap space via the Frank Clark release, they remain a few million over the salary ceiling as of Tuesday afternoon. Teams have until 3pm CT March 15 to move under the 2023 cap. On that note, the Chiefs are viewing Mecole Hardman as a likely departure candidate. They are expecting Hardman’s market to be out of their price range, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. Palmer doubles down on that, with the former second-round pick who missed Super Bowl LVII due to injury likely to leave Kansas City (Twitter link).

Hardman, 25 on Sunday, submitted an inconsistent four seasons with the Chiefs. The Pro Bowl return man did, however, eclipse 500 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons as a tertiary Mahomes target. He has totaled 18 touchdowns; three of those came in a Chiefs rout of the 49ers last season. A groin injury that required surgery shelved Hardman shortly after, and although he suited up for the AFC championship game, an aggravation led to a Super Bowl absence and a surgery.

Hardman, however, is not in danger of missing 2023 time, and Fowler adds some teams believe he will do well in free agency. This promises to be a thin market, headlined by the likes of Smith-Schuster, Jakobi Meyers and Odell Beckham Jr., the latter of whom having not played since Super Bowl LVI. The Panthers are believed to be one of the teams interested in Hardman, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Carolina traded the now-Chosen Anderson last season but still has D.J. Moore and Terrace Marshall under contract. Hardman would make for an intriguing complementary piece in Frank Reich‘s offense.

The Chiefs have big plans for their most recent receiver addition as well. They are viewing Kadarius Toney as a No. 1 wide receiver candidate, Palmer adds. Toney’s substantial injury history clouds that vision. Hence, the Smith-Schuster interest. Marquez Valdes-Scantling also remains under contract, and Skyy Moore should be expected to make bigger contributions in 2023. But Toney has a first-round pedigree and often flashes when he gets the ball. He set a Super Bowl punt-return yardage record and scored a walk-in touchdown in the narrow win. The high-variance speedster will also have a full offseason to acclimate in Reid’s offense, pointing his arrow up despite the injury troubles.

Kansas City may also lose safety Juan Thornhill in free agency, Fowler adds. The Chiefs drafted Thornhill in the 2019 second round as well. This is a fairly crowded safety market, but Thornhill has 52 career starts and made steady contributions for two Super Bowl-winning teams. Some teams view him as this class’ No. 2 safety, behind only Jessie Bates. That is high praise considering Jordan Poyer, Vonn Bell, Julian Love, John Johnson and Adrian Amos join Thornhill in free agency. Pro Football Focus rated Thornhill as a top-30 safety in each of the past two seasons.

Circling back to Brown, the Chiefs are taking the chance they will lose a central part of their O-line rebuild. The team brought in Brown, Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith in 2021, fortifying an O-line that had a brutal night in Super Bowl LV. Rather than another Brown tag, Albert Breer of SI.com notes the Chiefs want to solidify their long-term tackle spot this offseason (Twitter link). A Brown tag could have tabled matters to 2024 and created a Kirk Cousins-like situation, when a tag — at 144% of his 2023 salary — would have been untenable. Brown leaving this year, however, will make the Chiefs a candidate to draft a tackle or trade for one; this left tackle market is not particularly deep, Donovan Smith‘s Tuesday addition notwithstanding.

Chiefs Won’t Use Tag On Orlando Brown Jr.

The Chiefs attempted to sign left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to a long-term deal last offseason, but he ended up playing on the franchise tag. That will not be repeated this year; Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets that Kansas City will not place a second tag on Brown in 2023.

The Chiefs acquired Brown, 26, in a trade with the Ravens in the 2020 offseason. That allowed them to upgrade considerably at the blindside, but the move came with the understanding that a huge second contract would be needed at some point. That could have come to fruition in 2022, but talks broke down in the end, leaving the Oklahoma product to play on the one-year franchise tag.

Brown reportedly sought to become the league’s highest-paid left tackle during talks last offseason, and the Chiefs were willing to go that far in terms of AAV, but not guaranteed money. The former third-rounder thus earned $16.6MM in 2022, a figure which comfortably dwarfed his career earnings up to that point, but which fell short of his desired terms on a multi-year extension. Had the Chiefs placed the tag on him once again, Brown would have been due $19.9MM.

That had been the expected path for the Chiefs, who have stated their intention of keeping not only Brown in the fold but also right tackle Andrew Wylie. Instead, Brown will be able to hit the open market for the first time in his career next week, presuming talks don’t result in an eleventh-hour deal allowing him to remain with the Super Bowl champs. He has spoken favorably about the prospect of continuing his career with the Chiefs, albeit while making clear that a hometown discount would not be on the table.

Assuming Brown is able to reach free agency, he will no doubt be one of the top commodities at any position. He was named a Pro Bowler for the fourth straight season in 2022, helping a Chiefs offense which entered the year with plenty of question marks remain the most productive in the league. The 6-8, 363-pounder has experience on the right side dating back to (part of) his time in Baltimore, but his desire to be recognized as a left tackle drove his trade request and, no doubt, his contract demands.

Brown joins the likes of Taylor LewanGeorge Fant and Matt Pyror as blindside protectors set to hit the open market. Lewan’s release from the Titans could lead him to retirement, which could add further to the bidding war likely to ensue for Brown’s services. Meanwhile, Kansas City would have a significant roster hole to fill if he departed, though money saved at the LT spot could go towards new deals for defensive stalwarts Chris Jones and Frank Clark.

Chiefs Eyeing New Deals For Chris Jones, Frank Clark

The Chiefs have a number of key decisions to make in their attempt to retain as many core pieces of their Super Bowl winning roster as possible. That will likely include moves keeping their two most expensive defenders in place beyond the coming season.

Both defensive tackle Chris Jones and edge rusher Frank Clark are under contract for 2023. However, their deals are each scheduled to carry cap hits over $28MM, which would be a significant obstacle to the team’s other priorities, such as a long-term deal for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. New contracts (rather than restructures) for both Jones and Clark could thus be mutually beneficial for team and player.

“The good thing for us is that we have these strong connections with these players that have played here a long time,” general manager Brett Veach said on the subject this week, via Nate Taylor of The Athletic (subscription required). “They love being here. That’s a good starting point for us.”

Jones is likely to be a higher priority from the Chiefs’ perspective, but working out a new deal with the 28-year-old won’t be a simple matter. Taylor reports that Jones is seeking a contract which will make him “at least” the second-highest paid interior d-lineman in the league, behind only Aaron Donald. The latter agreed to a massive restructure last offseason, bringing his average annual compensation over $31.6MM. Jones currently sits at $20MM in that regard, which trails Donald, DeForest Buckner and Leonard Williams.

Jones remained a crucial member of Kansas City’s defense in 2022. He matched his career high with 15.5 sacks, setting a new personal mark in tackles with 44 and playing time with an 80% snap share. The former second-rounder earned a First-Team All-Pro nod, along with Pro Bowl recognition for the fourth straight season. A deal flattening his 2023 cap hit would pay dividends, of course, but Jones’ continued production could leave the Chiefs in a similar situation to that of wideout Tyreek Hill last year. The latter’s contract demands led the team to trade him to Miami, a deal which allowed them to divert resources elsewhere on the roster.

Clark re-worked his contract last offseason, something which came as a surprise given the expectation that he would be destined to leave in free agency. That possibility remains once again in 2023, as Taylor notes that a release prior to free agency is a consideration for the team to save much-needed cap space. A March cut would lead to $21MM in savings and a dead cap hit of $7.6MM. Veach stressed his desire to talk with Clark’s agents in the hopes of finalizing an extension before that becomes necessary though, adding that Kansas City would remain interested in re-signing the 29-year-old if he were to be cut and allowed to test the open market.

The Chiefs still have work to do to become cap compliant, something which will become more difficult assuming a second franchise tag is placed on Brown in the coming days. Extensions for at least one of Jones or Clark could be coming soon to grant the team flexibility to afford a multi-year Brown deal, while keeping the team’s defensive leaders in place for at least the intermediate future.

Bears Rumors: Fields, Brown, Needs

A rather surprising rumor has hit the NFL this week concerning the future of the Bears. According to a tweet from Jason la Canfora of the Washington Post, “more than one NFL general manager came away from the Senior Bowl fairly convinced that Justin Fields will be dealt.”

Going a step further, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe went as far as to assert that perhaps the Bears “should” move Fields. Volin puts forth that, as holders of the No. 1 overall pick, the Bears may be best served by trading away Fields for assets and selecting a new quarterback with the first pick of the draft.

Fields made large strides in his second year under center but still went 3-12 as a starter. He found a way to make more plays with his legs, but he was only able to average 149.5 passing yards per game, just over six less passing yards per game than his rookie year. He’s made comments, as well, that he feels “way slower” in the cold and that he struggles to play in the cold and wind of Chicago.

Many former executives have stated their beliefs that Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud each have higher ceilings than Fields. It would also make sense financially if the Bears decide that Fields isn’t the future. Instead of waiting another two years until his contract is expired, wasting any current assets on the roster, why not draft a new quarterback in the first round and have five more potential years with a rookie quarterback’s salary and cap hit?

There are no direct sources from the team on this yet, but if these rumors hold true, it will certainly be something to keep an eye on as the 2023 NFL Draft draws near.

Here are a few other rumors out of the Windy City:

  • When discussing how best to build an offense around Fields (should he stay the team’s focus at quarterback), The Athletic’s Adam Jahns clearly labeled who Chicago’s top free agent target should be. In an attempt to improve the offensive line, Jahns believes that Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. should be the first name on the Bears’ list. Chicago has an in with Brown. General manager Ryan Poles played a part in bringing Brown in from Baltimore when he was still a part of the front office in Kansas City. Adding Brown would allow tackle Braxton Jones to move over to the right side and would certainly provide an immediate improvement on the line. The Chiefs, however, may not let Brown hit the market. They are expected to use the franchise tag on him for a second year.
  • What other positions need to be a priority this offseason, according to Jahns? Aside from offensive tackle, the Bears biggest positions of need are wide receiver and pass rusher. The need at wide receiver is an obvious one. Backup receivers Byron Pringle, Dante Pettis, and N’Keal Harry all are headed towards free agency, so at the very least, depth is needed. Past that, the Bears’ top receivers are Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, and Equanimeous St. Brown. If Fields’s passing yards per game were any indication, none of these pass catchers had stellar years with each one failing to reach 500 yards receiving and Claypool proving to be a majorly disappointing offseason addition. The need for a pass rusher should be nearly as obvious. The leading sack getter for the team last season was rookie safety Jaquan Brisker with four. No one on the Bears defensive line or linebacking corps really strikes fear in an opposing quarterback, but adding a top pass rusher from the draft like Alabama’s Will Anderson or Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson or signing a top defensive lineman like Daron Payne in free agency may help add some sacks to the team’s tally next year.