November 29th, 2017 at 3:20pm CST by Zachary Links
The 49ers have signed offensive lineman Tim Barnes. In a related move, running back Jeremy McNichols has been promoted from the taxi squad to the 53-man roster.
This technically marks Barnes’ second stint in San Francisco. The center/guard, who spent the first five years of his career with the Rams, signed with the 49ers in May after encountering a weaker-than-expected free agent market. Barnes started in all 32 of the Rams’ games over the past two seasons, but evaluators apparently did not see him as starting caliber and the advanced metrics were in agreement. Pro Football Focus ranked him as a bottom 10 center in both 2015 and 2016.
Barnes, who spent the first five years of his career with the Rams, signed with the 49ers in May after encountering a tepid market in free agency. While Barnes started in all 32 of the Rams’ games over the past two seasons, Pro Football Focus ranked him as a bottom 10 center in each campaign.
For San Francisco, center Daniel Kilgore did enough during the preseason to hold off both Barnes and the also-departed Jeremy Zuttah. Barnes’ exit will clear $755K of his $775K cap hit for 2017 off the books.
With some help from PFR’s Dallas Robinson, here are centers that New Orleans could look into acquiring:
Nick Mangold (free agent): Mangold remains on the open market and he stands as the most obvious choice for the Saints to consider. The Saints would be hard-pressed to find anyone with a resume as impressive as Mangold’s and the seven-time Pro Bowler probably wouldn’t cost all that much at this stage of the offseason. At the same time, there’s a reason why he is still available here in May and word of clubs asking him to change positions isn’t exactly encouraging.
Jason Kelce (Eagles): Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com was quick to connect the dots on Monday morning after word of Unger’s injury broke. The Eagles reportedly have had Kelce on the trading block for some time now and the Saints would now be a logical landing spot for him. The Eagles beat writer suggests that a Kelce deal could see running back Mark Ingram going to Philly, but I personally have a hard time seeing that happen. If the Saints are unable to meet the Eagles’ asking price for Kelce, however, they might be able to swing a deal for another interesting option on their roster.
Stefen Wisniewski (Eagles): If the Eagles were to trade Kelce, Wisniewski or guard Isaac Seumalo would be the top candidates to step into the starting role. However, Wisniewski himself would make lots of sense as a stopgap for the Saints. Wisniewski was a starter for five straight years with the Raiders and Jaguars before landing with the Eagles as a reserve. In addition to that starting experience, he also offers experience at guard, so he could be used at multiple spots once Unger returns to action. Pro Football Focus ranked him 39th among 72 eligible guards last season with strong marks for his pass blocking skills.
Joe Hawley (Buccaneers): The Buccaneers are movingAli Marpet to center and he could very well wind up as the starter. There’s also Evan Dietrich-Smith and guard/tackle Ken Pamphile to consider for the No. 1 job and that could make Hawley expendable. The 28-year-old (29 in October) has been the Bucs’ primary center for the last two years, but he could be on the outside looking in after camp concludes. This offseason, he re-signed with the team on a two-year, $5.5MM deal with just $1MM guaranteed. It’s an affordable deal that the Saints could easily wiggle out of next year, if need be. Alternatively, the Bucs may want to dangle Dietrich-Smith in New Orleans’ direction.
Tim Barnes (49ers): Barnes just showed up in San Francisco, but indications are that the Niners will use Jeremy Zuttah as their starting center in 2o17. Before getting cut this offseason, Barnes spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons as the Rams’ starter. Another Niner, Daniel Kilgore, could have appeal for the Saints.
Matt Slauson (Chargers): Slauson isn’t guaranteed to start this year thanks to the presence of Max Tuerk, Forrest Lamp, and Dan Feeney. All three players are rookies (Tuerk didn’t play in 2016 thanks to his knee injury) but the team is high on each of them. In theory, Slauson could be shifted over to guard with Tuerk starting in the middle, but it’s also possible that Feeney starts at right guard over him. Slauson would be a valuable swing reserve for Los Angeles, but the Bolts might also be willing to trade him thanks to their glut of O-Line options.
Joe Berger (Vikings): Vikings coach Mike Zimmer sees third round rookie Pat Elflein as a center, and that could potentially make Berger expendable. Berger, 35 later this month, has started 68 games over the course of his career. He graded out as the 12th best guard in the entire NFL last season, according to PFF. He earned an even stronger overall score in 2015 when he primarily played in the middle. Berger still has plenty in the tank, so it would be harder to pry him away than some of the other names on this list.
Former Rams center Tim Barnes will sign with Niners today, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter link). Barnes visited the Niners in late April and just over one week later, he has himself a contract.
The Rams surprised many when they cut Barnes earlier this offseason. After starting two seasons in the NFL, Barnes didn’t find a ton of interest once he hit the open market. Now he’ll join the Niners and it’s not clear whether he’ll be given a chance to compete for a starting job. Jeremy Zuttah, who was acquired via trade with the Ravens, currently projects as the team’s primary center.
In 2015, Barnes ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 29th-best center out of 39 qualifiers. This past season, PFF ranked him 31st out of 38 qualifiers.
The 49ers will work out center Tim Barnes on Tuesday, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (on Twitter). This marks Barnes’ first known audition since being let go by the Rams earlier this offseason.
Barnes’ release came as a mild surprise in Los Angeles since he had adequately served as the team’s starting center for two seasons. After 32 consecutive starts for St. Louis/Los Angeles, he’s now seeking his next home. In 2015, he ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 29th-best center out of 39 qualifiers. This past season, PFF ranked him 31st out of 38 qualifiers.
The Niners acquired Jeremy Zuttah earlier this offseason and he currently projects to start at center. If they sign Barnes, it’s possible that the Niners could have an open competition to determine the No. 1 role.
The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.
Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.
Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.
We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.
Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:
Tony Romo is not a free agent…at least not yet. If the Cowboys do not find a suitable trade and release him, you’ll find him at the top of this list.
Laugh if you must, but Cutler is far and away the best quarterback available on the open market. While most of this year’s QB-needy teams are done with their free agent shopping, the Jets are still searching for their 2017 starter and no one would make more sense for them than Cutler. He’s not all that far removed from playing solid football and he’s a logical transitional option for the Jets until they can isolate a better, younger option for 2018.
Kaepernick’s reps wisely told the press that he will be standing for the National Anthem this year. Still, Kaepernick is an outspoken guy who wants to use his platform to discuss hot button issues, so there’s no guarantee that the media circus around him will cease. Jets owner Woody Johnson loves seeing his team on the back pages of the New York tabloids, but even he has to have more sense than to entertain Kaepernick. McCown, who has been contact with the team, would be an okay choice if they can’t get something done with Cutler. Chase Daniel could be an option too, but there isn’t much game film on him.
Needless to say, the No. 3 ranked player on this list isn’t an option in New York.
The Vikings have moved on and Peterson will not be back in Minnesota. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess. When Peterson’s option was declined by the Vikings earlier this month, there were tons of stories (likely sourced by Peterson’s camp) about interest from a litany of contenders. Since then, each team – through anonymous sources – has denied being in the mix for the veteran. It would be easy to doubt Peterson at this juncture, but he has come back from serious injuries multiple times in his career and he is only one year removed from his stellar 2015 campaign. He gets the top spot over the bruising Blount as well as Charles, who hasn’t been healthy in a long while.
Jennings was brought to New York with the idea that he would be the team’s workhorse. Unfortunately, two of his three seasons with the G-Men were marred by injury. Jennings is currently putting his agility to good use on Dancing With The Stars and it remains to be seen how committed he is to football. After that, we have a trio of vets (Hightower, Williams, CJ2K) who could still advance the ball in limited spurts.
In case you’re wondering – Mike Gillislee is not listed here because he is a restricted free agent.
The market has been slow to develop for Aiken but it sounds like things could pick up soon as he’s set to meet with the Colts and Seahawks. Aiken, 28 in May, had only 29 receptions last year, but he had 75 grabs for 944 yards in 2015.
Cruz was on the field for 15 regular season games last year and he could recapture some of his old form if a team uses him in the slot. Quick quietly had 44 catches for 564 yards and three touchdowns with the Rams last year, and he was playing in a less-than-stellar offense. Boldin, meanwhile, had 67 catches in 2016, but he averaged just 8.7 yards per reception.
It’s a thin group at tight end and everything drops off dramatically after Tamme and Rivera at the top. Donnell made some noise during his time with the Giants but it’s been a while since he’s done anything of note. Tamme and Rivera could be the only two players from this group to land a deal with any real guaranteed cash.
Things have thinned out at tackle but there are still some impact guys here including Clady, Dunlap, and the versatile Pasztor. Sebastian Vollmer, if healthy, would be an interesting pickup for a team in need of offensive line depth.
Evans can still go and he finished out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 36 guard in the NFL last season. We have a few notable centers here as well in Mangold, Sullivan, and Barnes. Some teams are asking Mangold to switch to guard, but he is hoping to continue in the middle.
The Rams are in the market for a center. The team released center Tim Barnes on Thursday, agent Matt Brei tweets.
Barnes made 32 consecutive starts for the Rams. Now, he’s free to sign with any club.
Last year, Barnes re-signed with the Rams on a two-year, $5.6MM deal with $2.5MM guaranteed. His $750K roster bonus would have become guaranteed for injury if he remained on the team on the third day of 2017 league year (later this week). That would have become fully guaranteed if he remained on the roster through June 17.
In 2015, he ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 29th-best center out of 39 qualifiers. This past season, PFF ranked him 31st out of 38 qualifiers.
Tyvon Branch, S (Cardinals): Two years, $8MM. $1MM signing bonus. $1.75MM roster bonus in 2016, $1MM roster bonus in 2017 (Twitter link).
Tim Barnes, C (Rams): Two years, $5.6MM. $2.5MM guaranteed. $1.25MM roster bonus due in four days. $750K roster bonus due on third day of 2017 league year guaranteed for injury, skill; becomes fully guaranteed if on roster June 17. Up to $1MM in annual playing-time incentives. $250K annual Pro Bowl incentive (allTwitterlinks).
Brian Quick, WR (Rams): One year, $1.75MM. $1.5MM guaranteed ($1.25MM bas salary, $250K roster bonus due on March 15). $2MM stats incentive (Twitter link).
5:07pm: Barnes will get a new two-year deal worth $5.5MM, with $3.25MM guaranteed, tweets Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Thomas adds that the max value of the contract is $9MM. The team has officially confirmed Barnes’ signing.
3:58pm: The Rams have re-signed center Tim Barnes to a two-year deal, Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter link). Financial details aren’t yet available.
Since signing with the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of Missouri in 2012, Barnes has appeared in 61 of a possible 64 regular-season games and logged 20 starts. Sixteen of those starts came last season, when he ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 29th-best center (39 qualifiers).
Offensive tackle Russell Okung, who will be representing himself in free agency, confirmed to Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com that he has had some conversations with the Seahawks about a new deal. According to Okung, the two sides have been “going back and forth” and still may “figure something out” before the veteran tackle hits the open market.
“It’s very possible that I could stay here,” Okung said. “But I know my value, and I’m not going to settle for anything less than that. If it works out, great. And if it doesn’t, that’s great as well.”
Let’s check out a few more Friday updates on pending free agents around the NFL….
The Rams have made a five-year contract offer to cornerback Janoris Jenkins, but haven’t yet formally proposed a multiyear deal to their other free agent corner, Trumaine Johnson, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link). However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the team prefers Jenkins, or won’t re-sign Johnson. Cole believes that one of the two free agent corners will get a franchise or transition tag from Los Angeles, which would allow the club to focus on negotiations with the other player.
While the secondary remains their top priority, the Rams would also like to re-sign veteran center Tim Barnes, writes Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. “The plan at center is, hey, I’ll give Tim Barnes credit, he’s one of those guys we’d like to get back,” GM Les Snead said. “At the end of the day, we didn’t think he was a weak link so we definitely want to get him back.”
According to Cole (video link), the Broncos and Von Miller‘s reps are meeting at the combine, but the expectation from Miller’s side is that the team will use its franchise tag on the star pass rusher rather than getting a long-term deal done within the next few days.
The Panthers met in Indianapolis with Josh Norman‘s agent, but didn’t make a whole lot of progress, tweets Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. Still, talks are expected to continue, and Norman is a franchise tag candidate if the two sides can’t reach an agreement by March 1st.
The Falcons met with the representatives for restricted free agent linebacker Paul Worrilow about the possibility of a contract – or at least an RFA tender – but no decisions were made, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (via Twitter).