Rock Ya-Sin

49ers Sign CB Rock Ya-Sin

The 49ers are not stopping at Isaac Yiadom at cornerback this offseason; they are adding another veteran outside cover man to the mix. Rock Ya-Sin is signing with the team,’s Field Yates notes. The 49ers have since announced the agreement.

Ya-Sin, who spent last season with the Ravens, is joining the 49ers on a one-year deal. The former second-round pick will be part of the team’s boundary CB mix, joining Yiadom and a few others in the running to see regular time alongside Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir.

Not signing with Baltimore until after last year’s draft, Ya-Sin did not stay on his path of starting jobs. A regular starter for both the Colts and Raiders, Ya-Sin only started one game with the Ravens. That came in Week 18, when the team rested much of its starters due to clinching the AFC’s No. 1 seed previously. He logged a 29% defensive snap share last season, playing behind Marlon Humphrey and late-summer pickup Ronald Darby. Ya-Sin made just 13 tackles and broke up two passes as a Raven. He was on the field for just two defensive plays in the playoffs.

For his career, Ya-Sin has 39 starts on his resume. Nine of those came for the Raiders in 2022, though the former Colts draftee missed six 2022 games and has not played more than 13 in a season since his 2019 rookie year. A knee injury ended Ya-Sin’s Raiders season early. The Colts traded Ya-Sin to the Raiders straight up for Yannick Ngakoue; that relocation came in Ya-Sin’s contract year. The Temple alum, who worked as a Colts starter for parts of three seasons, will try for another bounce-back season.

Pro Football Focus ranked Ya-Sin as a mid-pack corner during his Raiders and Ravens years. In 2021, however, the advanced metrics site slotted Ya-Sin 29th at the position. Primarily playing on the outside, the soon-to-be 28-year-old defender will join a 49ers team that will feature an adjusted CB group from its Super Bowl LVIII plan. Logan Ryan primarily operated as San Francisco’s slot cog during the overtime loss to Kansas City; Ryan retired earlier this week.

The 49ers appear to be looking for an outside regular opposite Ward, which would allow Lenoir to shift to the slot in sub-packages. Lenoir and Ward are going into contract years. The 49ers added Yiadom and Ya-Sin to a group that includes Ambry Thomas, Darrell Luter and Samuel Womack. The defending NFC champs are casting a wide net in hopes of finding CB stability.

Ravens Not Likely To Push For CB Marcus Peters

When veteran cornerback Marcus Peters‘s contract expired at the end of the season, the starting cornerback spot across from Marlon Humphrey became a big point of concern for Ravens fans. Aside from times when one or the other was injured, Peters and Humphrey have manned the boundary corner positions in Baltimore together since 2019. While not completely out of the realm of possibility, it’s not looking likely to continue into 2023, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.

In a mailbag Q&A, Zrebiec fielded several questions from fans inquiring about the likelihood of Peters returning to Baltimore. Peters struggled a bit in his return from an ACL tear that held him out of the entire 2021 season. He still served as a starting-caliber cornerback that could limit damage, but his playmaking, shutdown defense was nowhere to be found in 2022. Now two years removed from seeing Peters playing his best football, the Ravens haven’t shown any sign of prioritizing the return of the 30-year-old.

Peters visited the Raiders in mid-May and has remained in close contact with the team, but as of yet, no deal seems certain. Zrebiec points out that there’s no risk in Peters waiting. Better offers or opportunities may still come his way and, until camps start, there’s truly no rush.

In Baltimore, the Ravens eventually addressed the hole in the roster by signing Rock Ya-Sin. Ya-Sin doesn’t have the resume that Peters does, but he’s younger and has shown better football more recently than Peters. Even with Ya-Sin on the roster, Baltimore still didn’t rule out the possibility of bringing Peters back. They know he fits in the locker room, but in order for him to return, he’s going to have to be realistic on his value.

In a market bereft of lockdown, star cornerback talent, Peters may be one of the top options, but he’s not so good that he’ll earn past his value. The Ravens could certainly still make a different addition to the room before training camp. Several veterans remain free agents, such as Ronald Darby, Byron Jones, Bryce Callahan, Casey Hayward, and former Raven Anthony Averett. If Peters isn’t willing to meet the Ravens halfway on a new contract, Baltimore has plenty of other avenues they can explore.

The team also seems to like what they have in house right now, even going so far as to move Brandon Stephens back to his rookie position of safety following a season at cornerback last year. They’re hoping to see big jumps in the sophomore seasons of Damarion Williams and Jalyn Armour-Davis and know they have serviceable depth pieces in Daryl Worley and Kevon Seymour. They also re-signed Trayvon Mullen and added Kyu Blu Kelly in the fifth round of the draft. They may want to bolster the room with a veteran who can slot in as CB3 still, but if they miss out on Peters because of value, they won’t beat themselves up too much over it.

So, for now, it appears most likely that Peters is Vegas bound. He appears to be waiting out the options, and the Ravens appear to be open to his return without pushing past their limits. A return to Baltimore isn’t impossible, but it will need to feel right with both sides.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Steelers, Ossai

Lamar Jackson‘s foray as his own agent involved years of proposals and counterproposals, and while the former MVP received criticism for playing out his rookie contract, the Ravens rewarded their centerpiece player with a record-setting deal. That $52MM-per-year contract includes $135MM fully guaranteed. While that is not in the Deshaun Watson stratosphere — a range Jackson sought to enter — it places the sixth-year veteran second for full guarantees. One of Jackson’s proposals along the way included a three-year, $156MM fully guaranteed deal, Albert Breer of notes. The Ravens did not relent on term length, but Jackson’s proposal probably factored into the final result. By March 2024, Jackson will see his guarantee total balloon to $156MM.

The Ravens made a seismic bet Jackson (11 missed games since 2021) will stay healthy, as this contract locks them in through 2025 at least. Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • While the Steelers drafted Joey Porter Jr. 32nd overall, he was in consideration for their first-round selection. Had the Steelers not traded up to draft tackle Broderick Jones at No. 14, The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly notes they likely would have chosen Porter at 17 (subscription required). Teams often paint rosy pictures of their draft plans in the aftermath, but Porter — who visited the Steelers’ facility, a place he is quite familiar with due to his father’s history with the team — was viewed as a first-round talent who slipped a bit. The Steelers did make it known the 32nd pick was available, and as Will Levis also fell out of Round 1, they received multiple offers. But they now have Jones and Porter in the fold.
  • Joseph Ossai‘s final-seconds hit on Patrick Mahomes may well have denied the Bengals a second straight Super Bowl berth, giving the Chiefs a better chance of avoiding overtime. Following Harrison Butker‘s game-winning field goal, Ossai headed toward a rehab-filled offseason. The edge rusher suffered a torn left shoulder labrum during a December game against the Browns and played hurt the rest of the way. Ossai, who had rebounded from a full-season rookie absence (due to a meniscus injury) to play 19 games last season, is expected to be ready for training camp, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets.
  • When the Steelers brought Bud Dupree in for a visit, they wanted to re-sign their former first-round pick back to a two-year deal, Kaboly adds. A previous report indicated the Steelers did not discuss terms with Dupree, but it does appear the club had a preferred contract range — one that would have helped keep the edge rusher’s 2023 cap number low. Dupree signed a one-year, $3MM Falcons deal that could spike to $5MM.
  • On the subject of contracts that did come to pass, Rock Ya-Sin‘s one-year Ravens deal will be worth $4MM. That amount is fully guaranteed, according to OverTheCap. This will give the former Colts and Raiders cornerback a chance to re-establish his value for a possible 2024 free agency bid.
  • Shifting back to Pittsburgh, the Steelers will see some front office turnover. Mark Gorscak, who has been with the team for 28 years, will retire from his scouting post this offseason, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes. Also known for his role as the Combine’s 40-yard dash starter, Gorscak follows another Steelers staffer in place since the 1990s — assistant coach John Mitchell — as mainstays departing the team this offseason.
  • The Steelers are hiring former Raiders southeast area scout Zack Crockett to work in the same capacity, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. Crockett, who enjoyed a 13-year career (mostly with the Raiders) as a fullback, spent the past 14 years as a Raiders scout. Las Vegas’ Dave Ziegler– and Josh McDaniels-led regime parted ways with Crockett, 50, earlier this offseason.

Ravens Sign CB Rock Ya-Sin

4:48pm: The deal is done. The Ravens announced the agreement with Ya-Sin, who will likely become the frontrunner to start opposite Humphrey.

3:34pm: Rock Ya-Sin visited the Ravens in March and has remained one of the top free agents available since. The Ravens brought in the veteran cornerback again, and Adam Schefter of reports this latest meeting is expected to produce an agreement (Twitter link).

The Ravens gave Ya-Sin a physical Wednesday, and barring any complications, the team is planning to add him on a one-year deal. The former second-round pick spent last season with the Raiders but missed some time due to injury. He will represent a veteran presence for a team that has not re-signed Marcus Peters.

Rock Ya-Sin (vertical)Ya-Sin’s contract is set to be worth up to $6MM, Schefter adds (on Twitter). Considering his experience, the Ravens look to have done well to land the former second-round pick on these terms. Both Ya-Sin and the player the Raiders included in the Colts trade last year — Yannick Ngakoue — entered May unsigned. With signings no longer counting against the 2024 compensatory formula — as of Monday — the Ravens figured to be in the mix for some vets at corner and outside linebacker.

No team prioritizes comp picks more than the Ravens, so it is unsurprising they waited here. They kept in touch with Ya-Sin since his March visit, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, who adds this May agreement would not jeopardize the projected fourth-round compensatory choice the team is in line to receive for Ben Powers‘ Denver departure (Twitter link).

Ya-Sin, who will turn 27 later this month, has 38 starts on his resume. Nine of those came for the Raiders last season, though the former Colts draftee missed six 2022 games and has not played more than 13 in a season since his 2019 rookie year. A knee injury ended Ya-Sin’s Raiders season early, and while the AFC West team was a candidate to re-sign him early in free agency, Ya-Sin remained unattached during the market’s initial waves.

Pro Football Focus slotted Ya-Sin 50th among corners last season, but the advanced metrics site graded the Temple product as a top-30 performer at the position during his final Colts campaign. Indianapolis turned to Ya-Sin as a regular during most of Matt Eberlus‘ DC stay. While he was shipped out at the start of Gus Bradley‘s Indy run, Ya-Sin joined Kenny Moore as Colts cornerback fixtures under Eberflus. The Raiders still gave the 6-foot cover man more run, using him on 665 defensive snaps despite the knee trouble limiting him. In Indianapolis and Las Vegas, Ya-Sin worked as a boundary corner.

Marlon Humphrey remains Baltimore’s corner anchor, but Peters — a Raven from 2019-22 — is a free agent heading into what would be his age-30 season. Baltimore did not address its corner spot until Round 5 (Kyu Blu Kelly) but did re-sign Kevon Seymour earlier this offseason. Two years also remain on Brandon Stephens‘ contract. A Peters fill-in, Stephens has 15 starts on his resume.

AFC North Draft Rumors: Steelers, Ravens, Bengals

There have been quite a few rumors surrounding the Steelers’ potential approach to the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette held a Q&A this week to discuss his thoughts on some of those rumors.

Many fans had questions about potential options at wide receiver, and Dulac made his thoughts very clear: no higher than the third round. With Diontae Johnson and George Pickens in place, Dulac doesn’t see any need to dip into the first two rounds to add to the group. He mentions Ole Miss wide receiver Jonathan Mingo as a name to lookout for, as Mingo has been predicted to go around the third or fourth round.

Another fan asked about the possibility of Pittsburgh trading up in the first round. Dulac dismissed the rumors as just that, insinuating that looking into trades is a common occurrence for the Steelers that doesn’t always lead to action. He referenced last year, when the team reportedly looked into trading up for quarterback Kenny Pickett, who would end up falling to them at their original position, anyway.

Here are a few other draft rumors from around the AFC North:

CB Rock Ya-Sin To Visit Ravens

The top cornerbacks on this year’s market have agreed to deals, but there are a few other higher-end veteran options still available. Rock Ya-Sin is one of them, and he will explore a relocation soon.

Ya-Sin will meet with the Ravens, according to KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter). The former second-round pick spent last season with the Raiders, who showed some interest in bringing him back. But the former Colts draftee will look for a job elsewhere.

Marcus Peters is a free agent, and Ya-Sin, at 27, is three years younger. The Ravens have Marlon Humphrey signed to a big-ticket extension but are in need of more help at the spot. Peters, who is going into his age-30 season, was up and down during his return from a summer 2021 ACL tear. The Ravens ranked in the top 10 defensively in 2022, rebounding after a tough start. But Baltimore’s run defense bettered its pass coverage; the playoff-bound team ranked 26th against the pass, seeing the likes of Tua Tagovailoa, Josh Allen and Trevor Lawrence lead fourth-quarter comebacks.

The Colts traded Rock Ya-Sin straight up for ex-Raven Yannick Ngakoue in 2022, sending the three-year starter to Las Vegas ahead of Josh McDaniels‘ first season in the desert. Pro Football Focus slotted Ya-Sin as the league’s No. 50 overall corner during his contract year, one interrupted by a knee injury that ended up sending him to IR. Ya-Sin missed six games last season. He allowed a career-low 82.6 passer rating as the closest defender in 2022, though his completion percentage yielded ballooned from from 53.3% in 2021 to 60.9% last year. PFF graded Ya-Sin as a top-30 player at the position in 2021.

The Raiders brought back Brandon Facyson, who played for the team during Gus Bradley‘s DC season, but seemingly still have a need for at least one starter-caliber outside corner. This year’s cornerback market has featured three of the top names — Jamel Dean, James Bradberry, Jonathan Jones — staying put, while Byron Murphy left for the Vikings and Cameron Sutton defected from the Steelers to the Lions. The rest of the cornerback-seeking teams have undoubtedly looked into Ya-Sin, though this Baltimore trip points to the Temple product’s market not coming in where he hoped it would.

AFC Free Agency Rumors: Jackson, Broncos, Ya-Sin, Raiders

In a recent interview, ESPN’s Adam Schefter expounded a theory on why so many teams are coming out and voicing their disinterest in Lamar Jackson, who received the non-exclusive franchise tag last week and is allowed to negotiate terms with other teams than the Ravens. The theory has nothing to do with Jackson and his outstanding abilities; it has to do with the Ravens’ player personnel staff.

One of the advantages that we teased in earlier reports on the situation was that, by tagging Jackson with the non-exclusive tag, the team would effectively be allowing other teams to do their negotiating for them, since they would likely match any offer opposing teams would make. There was speculation that the Ravens could do this to essentially allow the market to set the value on Jackson.

Schefter theorizes that other teams have no interest in doing Baltimore’s homework for them. Other franchises are fully aware that the Ravens have no intention of letting Jackson walk, so any offer they might make just does the Ravens’ job for them of organizing a new deal for Lamar.

Another added detriment for other teams is that the Ravens would have five days to match the offer or accept Jackson’s departure. In the meantime, the offering team would be stuck in salary cap purgatory, not knowing whether or not it would be taking on the contract of a premier veteran quarterback or not. This is extremely unattractive as free agency is due to open next week. If a team is stuck for five days not knowing their financial position, it becomes difficult to negotiate with other free agents.

Here are a few other free agency rumors from around the conference:

  • An example not too unsimilar from the above phenomenon may occur in Denver, where new Broncos defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has recently arrived from Arizona. Joseph may also bring along a former player as, according to freelance journalist and former Cardinals staff writer Mike Jurecki, the Broncos reportedly have lots of interest in Cardinals pending free agent defensive end Zach Allen. Allen is expected to earn an impressive contract this offseason after a standout contract year in Arizona.
  • In a recent mailbag with Las Vegas Review-Journal writer Vincent Bonsignore, a question was posed about the potential for the Raiders to re-sign cornerback Rock Ya-Sin. According to Bonsignore, the team is certainly open to bringing Ya-Sin back, for the right price. Ya-Sin followed up an impressive 2021 season in Indianapolis with a decent year in Las Vegas after being traded straight up for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. The team could certainly use Ya-Sin as their cornerback depth has been whittled down over the years, and a semi-down year for the young corner could assist in setting up the “right price” for the Raiders.

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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Raiders Place CB Rock Ya-Sin On IR

The Raiders’ depth at cornerback isn’t appearing to improve anytime soon after the team placed Rock Ya-Sin on injured reserve. Ya-Sin is now one of six defensive starters on the Raiders IR joining cornerback Anthony Averett, linebackers Jayon Brown, Divine Deablo, and Denzel Perryman, and defensive end Chandler Jones.

Ya-Sin was acquired during the offseason in a rare straight-up trade with the Colts in exchange for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Ya-Sin and free agent addition Averett were going to be relied upon heavily this season as Las Vegas looked to replace two starting cornerbacks from 2021. Casey Hayward departed in free agency for the Falcons while Trayvon Mullen was traded just prior to the start of the 2022 season in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick that would only turn into a sixth if Mullen was active for the final two weeks of the NFL season. Considering he’s on the inactive list tonight for the Cowboys, it’s safe to say that the pick Las Vegas received from Arizona in the trade will remain a seventh rounder.

Ya-Sin and Averett both stepped up to the plate, starting games alongside returning starter Nate Hobbs, to start the year. Injuries would affect both athletes’ seasons, though. Averett missed four straight weeks after getting knocked out of the season opener and has missed the team’s last four contests dating back to the start of December. Ya-Sin hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury in a Week 13 win over the Chargers. With the Raiders on the brink of elimination from postseason contention, Ya-Sin’s 2022 season could be over, barring a series of miracles that find Las Vegas in the playoffs for the second straight season.

Since Ya-Sin’s recent injury, the Raiders have experimented a bit with whom to start across from Hobbs. The first game without Ya-Sin saw the team start undrafted rookie Sam Webb, utilizing Tyler Hall, an undrafted player from 2021, as a fifth defensive back when needed. The next week, Las Vegas started veteran Sidney Jones and fifth defensive back Hall, but utilized Amik Robertson the most opposite Hobbs. In their most recent game, Robertson got the start as Hall continued his fifth-man role.

In those games, the Raiders’ cornerback group hasn’t been challenged too much with games against Baker Mayfield, Mac Jones, and Kenny Pickett. Expect that to change as the Raiders are set to face the 49ers and rookie Brock Purdy, who are firing on all cylinders, and the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes.

AFC West Notes: Reed, Raiders, Chargers

With Bradley Chubb and Von Miller suffering injuries at various points from 2019-21, the Broncos could rarely deploy their ideal edge-rushing combination. That led to extensive Malik Reed work. The 2019 UDFA has made 34 starts over the past three seasons and racked up 13 sacks over the past two. However, the Broncos have since signed Randy Gregory, drafted Nik Bonitto in Round 2 and moved 2021 inside linebacker starter Baron Browning to the edge. This creates a crowded depth chart, which features Chubb in his fifth-year option season. Reed is also going into a contract year, and’s Jeff Legwold’s 53-man roster prediction leaves the Nevada product off the team. Reed’s status could depend on Gregory’s recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, per Legwold, with the Broncos potentially going with a special-teamer over Reed if Gregory is healthy. If the Broncos determine Reed is not on track to make their team, he would be a logical trade candidate. Reed is attached to a $2.43MM salary.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • The Raiders were active at defensive tackle this offseason. They re-signed Johnathan Hankins and brought in free agents Vernon Butler, Andrew Billings, Tyler Lancaster, Kyle Peko and Bilal Nichols. The team also used fourth- and fifth-round picks (Neil Farrell Jr. and Matthew Butler) on interior D-linemen. Of this group, Nichols projects as a starter, The Athletic’s Vic Tafur and Tashan Reed note (subscription required). Hankins, who has been a Raiders first-stringer for the past four seasons, should be ticketed to keep his starter gig under new DC Patrick Graham. Among the host of veterans brought in as free agents, Nichols’ contract (two years, $11MM) would point to him having the clearest starter path. The Raiders have been linked to Ndamukong Suh, but they might not be especially interested in signing him right now.
  • Despite the Raiders changing defensive schemes and letting Casey Hayward defect to the Falcons in free agency, they are unlikely to tinker with Nate Hobbs‘ job. The second-year cornerback practiced exclusively in the slot during Las Vegas’ offseason program and will still expected to be the team’s slot defender, per Tafur and Reed. Coming into the league as a fifth-round pick, Hobbs graded as a top-10 corner as a rookie, per Pro Football Focus. Trade acquisition Rock Ya-Sin and free agent signing Anthony Averett worked as Vegas’ slot corners this summer, with starter Trayvon Mullen on the mend after a May foot surgery. Mullen missed 12 games last season, with foot trouble at the root of the absence. The recent surgery makes Mullen’s status something to monitor during camp.
  • The Chargers have taken an aggressive approach to filling offensive line needs over the past two offseasons. They gave Corey Linsley a then-record center contract and also signed guard Matt Feiler. Those moves came before the Bolts drafted Rashawn Slater in Round 1. They selected Zion Johnson in this year’s first round, and he is expected to start at right guard. That leaves right tackle vacant, with 2020’s Bryan Bulaga signing not panning out. The Bolts used Storm Norton as their primary 2021 starter, but Trey Pipkins started a game apiece at left and right tackle — due to the starters’ COVID-19 contractions — last year. Those two starts elevated the former third-round pick’s status in the Chargers building, Daniel Popper of The Athletic notes. Pipkins’ progress will be put to the test when he battles Norton for the right tackle gig in camp.