Another day, another Giants retirement. Offensive lineman Zach Fulton has decided to step away from the game, as Tom Rock of Newsday tweets.
Fulton joins veteran linebacker Todd Davis and fellow offensive lineman Joe Looney as recent Giants retirees. Fulton hooked on with the Giants in late March, shortly after he was cut by the Texans. He started in at least 13 games across his three Texans seasons. And, this past year, he was first-string for all 16.
Fulton didn’t set the world on fire in Houston, but he profiled as a worthwhile and experienced hand for the Giants’ offensive line. Last year, Pro Football Focus had him tied as the No. 42 guard in the NFL — good enough for a starter. And, in 2019, PFF ranked him as one of the best pass-blocking guards in the league, though his weak run-blocking marks brought down his overall score.
Fulton leaves the game after seven seasons and 107 appearances (including 90 starts). Not bad for a former sixth-round pick. Meanwhile, his retirement also raises questions about the nature of the Giants’ training camp practices. However, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link) hears that Fulton, like Looney, simply felt that his body could no longer withstand the rigors of football.
The Giants have signed guard Zach Fulton, per a club announcement. Details of the deal were not disclosed.
Fulton was cut by the Texans, just before he was set to collect a $1MM bonus on March 22. The veteran was in set to enter the final season of a four-year, $28MM deal. Before his release, Fulton started in at least 13 games across his three Texans seasons. This past year, he was first-string for all 16.
Fulton didn’t set the world on fire in Houston, but the Giants see him as an experienced hand who can help to fortify their offensive line. Last year, Pro Football Focus had him tied as the No. 42 guard in the NFL last year — good enough for a starter. And, in 2019, PFF ranked him as one of the best pass-blocking guards in the league, though his weak run-blocking marks brought down his overall score.
The former Chiefs sixth-round pick should have an opportunity to make an impact in New York that Kevin Zeitler is out the picture.
March 17th, 2021 at 4:00pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
Houston is clearing some more cap space. The Texans have released veteran offensive lineman Zach Fulton, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.
Fulton had been due a $1MM bonus on March 22nd, which explains the timing of this move. He had a $3.75MM cap charge for 2021. That’s not very much for a starting guard, but apparently Houston wasn’t too happy with his play. The Tennessee product originally entered the league as a sixth-round pick of the Chiefs back in 2014.
He started all 16 games as a rookie, and after riding out his rookie contract in Kansas City he signed a four-year, $28MM contract with the Texans in 2018. He started at least 13 games in all three of his seasons in Houston, including all 16 this past year.
The release clears about $3MM in cap space for this season, numerous beat writers tweeted. Pro Football Focus graded Fulton acceptable enough and considering he has NFL starting experience at both center and guard there should be suitors. The 29-year-old has started 90 career games.
The Texans and starting right guard Zach Fulton have agreed to a reworked contract, per ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter). Pursuant to the terms of the four-year pact Fulton signed in March 2018, the 28-year-old was due to earn $6.5MM in base salary in each of the next two seasons, along with $500K roster bonuses.
However, none of those amounts were guaranteed, which means that Fulton may have been a potential cap casualty. In order to guard against that, he agreed to a pretty sizable paycut. He will earn a fully-guaranteed $5MM in 2020 and is now due to receive $3MM in 2021, but that sum is non-guaranteed.
Houston was not exactly strapped for cap space, with about $17MM or so of wiggle room. However, the club is gearing up for a massive extension for quarterback Deshaun Watson, and LT Laremy Tunsil‘s cap number will approach $20MM next season, so the Texans need all the help they can get.
Fulton, a former sixth-round pick of the Chiefs, has started all 28 games in which he has appeared for Houston. His run-blocking has always been suspect, but his pass-blocking is what allows him to be a starter in the NFL. In 2019, Pro Football Focus ranked him as one of the best pass-blocking guards in the league, though his weak run-blocking marks brought down his overall score.
The reworked deal will allow him to continue his quest to keep Watson upright in 2020. It also gives the Texans a rare chance at continuity, as the club will return all five of its 2019 O-line starters this season.
The Texans deployed one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines last season and are likely to return multiple starters from the group that yielded 62 an NFL-most sacks. But the team looks to be planning on getting a key addition into the lineup in an unexpected fashion.
Tytus Howard is the frontrunner to open the season as Houston’s starting left guard, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes. A first-round tackle out of Alabama State, Howard would replace 2018 starter Senio Kelemete if this plan ends up coming to fruition. Recent signing Matt Kalil is in place as the team’s left tackle, Wilson adds.
Although Howard was viewed as a bit of a reach as a first-rounder, the Texans — despite firing GM Brian Gaine, who oversaw this year’s draft — clearly believe the former high school quarterback has a chance to play immediately. Gaine said after the draft the college tackle could play both guard positions, and Bill O’Brien‘s staff is testing that stance.
Additionally, the Texans are considering second-round guard Max Scharping as a Week 1 starter on the right side. But Wilson adds 2018 starter Zach Fulton is firmly in the mix to keep his job to start this season. Seantrel Henderson, who re-signed after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 1, is expected to start at right tackle.
Deshaun Watson took the most sacks any NFL passer has since Jon Kitna in 2006. The Texans were quiet in free agency on this front, despite entering the marketplace with more than $80MM in cap space. They added the oft-maligned Kalil and used first- and second-round picks on a Division I-FCS tackle (Howard) and mid-major guard (Scharping, out of Northern Illinois). All three additions could be Week 1 starters, doing so after 2018’s batch of newcomers frequently failed to protect Watson.
Chris Ballard‘s operational style through two offseasons has the Colts in rebuilding mode. They possess the second-most cap space ($51MM) and are projected to hold an NFL-high $126MM in 2019. However, the Colts are 1-5 and may be set for their worst two-year stretch since the Jim Harbaugh-to-Peyton Manning transition produced six wins between the 1997-98 seasons. Ownership isn’t wavering on the Ballard hire, though, per Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. Ballard’s been intent on building from within, with Keefer pointing out the Colts were never a serious Le’Veon Bell trade contender nor were they going to entertain a Dez Bryant signing. Only one defensive starter, Clayton Geathers, remains from the Ryan Grigson era. Although, especially during T.Y. Hilton‘s absence, the Colts have been reeling at wideout. They let Donte Moncrief walk and didn’t address the position when promising rookie Deon Cain was lost for the season, so the GM deserves some blame for the state of this spot, Keefer adds.
It will be interesting to see if Ballard deviates from his methods when the Colts begin working with that staggering amount of cap space come 2019. Here’s the latest from other South locales:
The Falcons will have the services of Grady Jarrett on Monday night against the Giants, Dan Quinn said. The team’s top interior defender missed the past two games because of an ankle injury. This will be key for the Falcons, who have lost several defenders thus far this season, and Jarrett, with the 2015 fifth-round pick being in a contract year.
Teddy Bridgewater is also in a walk year, and the timing of the Saints‘ trade to acquire the Jets reserve passer suggests they’ll be interested in attempting to convince the former first-round pick to stay as Drew Brees‘ successor. But next year’s quarterback market doesn’t look to be as strong as this year’s, and Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com doesn’t expect Bridgewater to be with the Saints in 2019. Bridgewater signed with the Jets for one year and $6MM, with an incentive package that can now be classified as NLTBE. Prior to any major cuts, Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor stand to be the centerpiece attractions in the 2019 free agent quarterback class. Katzenstein expects Bridgewater to wait and sign for far more money than the Saints, with Brees still operating in high gear, will be willing to pay him.
No quarterback’s taken more sacks than Deshaun Watson (25), and the Texans will be without one of their top blockers on Sunday. Zach Fulton is out for Week 7’s Houston-Jacksonville game. The fifth-year guard is dealing with an ankle injury.
The Jaguars‘ trade forCarlos Hyde seems to suggest they’re concerned about Leonard Fournette going forward, but Hays Carlyon of 1010XL (on Twitter) doesn’t believe the second-year running back endured a setback and expects him to suit up in Week 10 after the Jags’ bye. Fournette’s been dealing with hamstring trouble throughout the season, and Carlyon adds this move was likely more about the Jags’ fear of being shorthanded for much longer rather than Fournette suffering another setback.
Here are figures on some of the recent contracts signed around the NFL, with all links going to Twitter unless noted otherwise.
MalcolmButler, CB (Titans): Five years, $61.25MM. $10MM signing bonus. $3.5MM and $10.5MM guaranteed base salaries for full guarantee of $24MM (max value $25.1MM). $11MM 2020 salary becomes guaranteed on fifth day of league year (via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe).
TeddyBridgewater, QB (Jets): $5MM base salary, $500K signing bonus, $500K workout bonus. $9MM in incentives include $250K/game he plays at least half the snaps, $250K for 2500 yards, $500K for 2751 yards, $1.25M for 3001 yards, $250K for 10 touchdowns, $500K for 16 touchdowns, $1.25M for 21 touchdowns, $2.5M for half the snaps and playoffs (via Albert Breer of The MMQB).
The Texans are expected to sign Chiefs free agent interior lineman Zach Fulton, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The deal will average roughly $7.5MM per season, though the length of the deal is not currently known.
Last year, Fulton appeared in 15 games (12 starts) for the Chiefs, playing primarily at center. Fulton earned an iffy 68.8 overall score from Pro Football Focus, though the advanced metrics were high on his pass blocking.
Fulton figures to play guard for the Texans rather than center. He saw time at both positions over the years for Kansas City, so there won’t be a lengthy transition for him. The Texans signed ex-Chiefs guard Jeff Allen in 2016 for $7MM per year and that contract did not turned out as planned. Still, they feel good about going back to the KC well this time around.
It sounds like this will be a lucrative offseason for free agent offensive linemen. The Texans are the favorites to sign Chiefs free agent Zach Fulton to a multi-year deal worth more than $7MM per year, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).
Rapoport cautions that other teams are still in the mix, so while the Texans are the likely landing spot for Fulton, it is not a done deal. It’s not clear if the Chiefs are still involved, but the asking price may be too high for their liking.
Last year, Fulton appeared in 15 games (12 starts) for the Chiefs, playing primarily at center. Fulton earned a so-so 68.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, though the advanced metrics were fond of his pass blocking.
The Texans’ plan is for Fulton to play guard for them and not center, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. He worked in both spots for the Chiefs, primarily operating as a guard since being a sixth-round pick in 2014.
Houston signed ex-Chiefs guard Jeff Allen in 2016 for $7MM per year. That agreement has not worked out like the franchise had hoped. Nevertheless, the Texans plan to use a similar strategy to bring in Fulton. Only their line is in a worse place now than it was two years ago, with Derek Newton being sidelined indefinitely and Duane Brown having since been traded.
NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.
Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.
We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.
Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:
Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.
Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.
There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.
What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.
Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.
Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.
Carlos Hyde didn’t have the kind of platform year he was hoping for, but he’s still just 26 and could headline a running back by committee group.
Jerick McKinnon‘s placement on this list figures to be controversial, but his athleticism and pass-catching ability can blow a game wide open. No one will bank on McKinnon to carry the ball 20 times per game, but he can be a real difference maker for a team out there.
Can Frank Gore outrun father time? History indicates that he can’t and so does his 3.7 yards per carry average in 2017. You have to give credit where credit is due, however. Gore has been ruled out by many for years, but he has not missed a regular season game since the 2010 season. He’s also just one year removed from cracking 1,000 yards and he almost did the same last year.
For most teams, Allen Robinson would be a franchise tag candidate. However, that may be too much of a luxury for the cash-strapped Jaguars. He presents a fascinating free agent case. Robinson missed all but three snaps of the 2017 season after suffering a torn ACL, but he’s the most talented wide receiver on the board in the eyes of many. His 2015 season – 80 catches, 1,400 yards, and a league-leading 14 touchdowns – makes GMs drool. His quieter year in 2016 (73 catches, 883 yards, and six touchdowns) is less worthy of salivation. His 2017 season, of course, was a lost cause. For all the question marks, you can expect Robinson to see more dollars than any other free agent WR this year, particularly since Jarvis Landry has been held back by the tag.
Some in the football world may prefer Sammy Watkins for his big-play ability, but his down contract year amidst a capable offense is cause for concern. His injury history doesn’t do him any favors either. No matter your feelings on Watkins, there’s no debating that this year’s WR market has a top tier comprised of just two players – Watkins and Robinson. With few quality receivers out there, they’ll both get paid.
Marqise Lee represents a much less sexy option (speaking in football terms, of course), but he had the most receptions of any Jaguars receiver in 2017 (56) and finished second in receiving yards (702). Teams looking for a quality WR2 in free agency could do a lot worse than Lee and he’ll be far cheaper than the two-man top tier.
Danny Amendola hauled in 61 receptions for 659 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season and continued his strong play in the playoffs. However, teams will wonder if he can thrive in his age-33 season while playing outside of the Patriots’ offense. It’s also quite possible that he never tests the market as his stated preference is to remain in New England.
After that, you’ll notice a pretty significant drop off. That’s because this year’s WR class isn’t all that deep. Terrelle Pryor had to settle for a one-year prove-it contract last year and, to put it mildly, he did not prove it. Paul Richardson caught 44 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns in 2017, but that marked his first NFL season of real note.
Trey Burton spent most of the year behind Zach Ertz on the Eagles’ depth chart, but he emerged late in the season and set himself up nicely for free agency. Given his age and potential, there’s no question that he is the belle of the ball at tight end.
The rest of the tight end crop is not nearly as inspiring. Jimmy Graham has enjoyed back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons with the Seahawks, but he’ll turn 32 in November and he’s no longer the monster playmaker that he was in New Orleans. He had ten touchdowns in 2017, but his 9.1 yards per reception average is a career low.
Odds are, you have Tyler Eifert ranked over Austin Seferian-Jenkins given the fact that Eifert has played just ten games over the last two years. ASJ, meanwhile, rebounded from personal issues to post a 50-catch season for the Jets. Personally, I’m picking Eifert based on upside. Hopefully, we can still be friends.
Offensive line play is down across the board and evaluators around the league have been openly complaining about an increasing dearth of tackles coming out of college. That makes for a generally uninspiring lot in free agency.
Nate Solder battled through injuries in 2017 and did not miss a game. He’s no longer a top-flight option, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 32 tackle last year, meaning that he’s starter quality at left tackle. You’ll notice that three of the top five tackles on this list are Patriots. There’s little chance that the Pats let all three get away.
Justin Pugh offers the ability to play both guard and right tackle, though he might not do either one particularly well.
Andrew Norwell is the undisputed king of this category after netting an All-Pro selection in 2017. Norwell also earned a career-high 88.8 overall score from Pro Football Focus, which positioned him third in the entire NFL amongst guards. A team with greater means than the Panthers might have used the franchise tag on him. Fortunately for rival teams in need of interior help (such as the Giants), they won’t cuff him with the one-year placeholder.