Prince Amukamara

Cardinals Sign CB Prince Amukamara To Practice Squad

Prince Amukamara is officially headed to the desert. We heard last week that the Cardinals were hoping to sign Amukamara once he cleared COVID-19 protocols, and now Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets that the deal is official. 

Interestingly, it’s a practice squad deal and he won’t be on the active roster initially. To make room on the practice squad Arizona released another veteran, receiver Jaron Brown. Amukamara was cut by the Bears back in February to clear cap space, then released by the Raiders shortly before the start of the regular season. Arizona has struggled in coverage at times and Amukamara has loads of starting experience, so this match makes some sense.

The Nebraska product has started 30 games over the past two seasons, and at 31 he should still have something left in the tank physically. The Cardinals of course have Patrick Peterson, but have struggled at corner outside of him.

The 19th overall pick of the 2011 draft, Amukamara will likely be on the active 53 before too long. The Giants were reportedly interested in bringing him back, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out. Brown was with the Cardinals from 2013-17, and has often showed flashes of promise as a deep threat during his career. With the Seahawks last season, he had 16 catches for 220 yards and two touchdowns. The year before that he had five scores with Seattle.

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Cardinals Hope To Sign Prince Amukamara

The Cardinals intend to bring in more veteran help for their secondary. They plan to host Prince Amukamara on a visit in the next few days and hope to sign him, should he successfully navigate COVID-19 testing protocols, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. The sides already have an agreement in place (pending testing), per ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano (on Twitter).

Amukamara has been a free agent since the Raiders released him this summer. The Bears made the longtime starting cornerback a cap casualty earlier this year.

Arizona struggled in coverage against Carolina and for much of Patrick Peterson‘s stay has experienced issues at its other outside cornerback spot. The Cards signed Dre Kirkpatrick late in the offseason. The team, however, ranks 23rd in pass defense DVOA through four games.

This would be a homecoming for Amukamara, who grew up in Glendale, Ariz. He has played regular-season games for three teams — the Giants, Jaguars and Bears — and spent time with four, if his few months with Las Vegas count. The Giants, per ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan, expressed interest in a reunion recently — something Amukamara coveted after his Raiders release — but it appears the Cards will land him (Twitter link).

The 31-year-old defender has started 99 career games. Although he submitted modest work in 2019, Amukamara was one of the NFL’s better corners in 2018. Pro Football Focus graded the former first-round pick as an upper-echelon coverage man and an elite run defender. Quarterbacks throwing at Amukamara collectively compiled a 75.3 passer rating in 2018 — 30 points lower than the rating Amukamara allowed in 2019.

Dealing with the Titans’ outbreak and having seen the Patriots lose two of their best players to COVID-19 positive tests, NFL has strengthened coronavirus protocols. Free agents need six days’ worth of negative tests to move forward with teams, so Amukamara would not be able to join the Cardinals until next week.

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Prince Amukamara Interested In Giants Reunion

The Raiders released Prince Amukamara earlier on Monday. The veteran cornerback is eyeing a reunion with a team that features a greater need at the position.

Amukamara would like to rejoin the Giants, telling the New York Post’s Steve Serby “it would be awesome” to return to New York and join the team that drafted him. Considering the Giants have changed coaches three times since Amukamara last played for the team, it is not certain the franchise views him returning in a similar light. But the Giants undeniably need help in the secondary.

The Giants have needed cornerback help for a bit now, with DeAndre Baker on the commissioner’s exempt list. The team that carried DVOA’s No. 31 pass defense last year also saw third-year contributor Sam Beal opt out last month. Logan Ryan has surfaced on the Giants’ radar and looks to have interest in signing, though his price tag has been an issue for teams since he entered free agency. At this stage of his career, Amukamara would be a much cheaper option. Ryan has also marketed himself as a safety, whereas Amukamara is a pure corner.

Moving to the Jaguars and Bears following his five-season Giants tenure, the former first-round pick signed a one-year deal for the veteran minimum with the Raiders. The Bears made him a cap casualty in February. The 31-year-old defender has been a full-time starter since 2012 and still views himself as a “top-64 corner” in the league, per Serby.

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Raiders Cut Prince Amukamara

The Raiders are set to release cornerback Prince Amukamara (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo). The former first-round pick was signed to a veteran’s minimum deal (one-year, $1.05MM) in May, so it appears to be a football decision rather than a financial one.

[RELATED: Dolphins Trade LB Raekwon McMillan To Raiders]

Amukamara was dropped by the Bears in February after a so-so year. He’s been inconsistent throughout his career, dating back to his first five seasons with the Giants. Amukamara fared well in 2018, the first season on his three-year, $27MM extension, but he was less impressive in 2019. Last year, Amukamara graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 41 corner in the NFL.

For his career, Amukamara has started in 99 of his 113 games – he’s more or less been first-string for every campaign except his rookie year. Now, he’s looking for work as his age-31 season draws near.

The Raiders will forge ahead with Trayvon Mullen, Isaiah Johnson, nickel back Lamarcus Joyner, and first-round rookie Damon Arnette as their primary corners.

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West Notes: Chiefs, Irvin, Amukamara

The Chiefs moved on from their longest-tenured player this offseason, jettisoning 15-year punter Dustin Colquitt. Although the team with Patrick Mahomes negotiations looming and Chris Jones attached to a franchise tag created cap space by cutting Colquitt, the defending Super Bowl champions also identified his potential successor in its UDFA class. Chiefs ST coordinator Dave Toub said (via the Kansas City Star’s Herbie Teope, on Twitter) he rated rookie UDFA punter Tommy Townsend as this draft class’ best punter. Twice a semifinalist for the Ray Guy award, Townsend punted at Florida after transferring from Tennessee. The Chiefs signed both Townsend and 2019 UDFA Tyler Newsome this offseason. Toub’s glowing assessment of Townsend almost certainly gives him a leg up in this competition.

Here is the latest from the West divisions:

  • Bruce Irvin had his eye on a Seahawks reunion for a while. The former Seattle first-round pick texted Bobby Wagner during the playoffs he wanted to come back (via the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta, on Twitter). Irvin also confirmed he will be playing linebacker in Seattle’s base defense while shifting to an edge-rushing role on passing downs, Condotta adds (via Twitter). This was the expected arrangement. The Seahawks used their base defense considerably last season but have not re-signed Mychal Kendricks. Irvin functioned in this versatile capacity during most of his first Seahawks stint.
  • Prince Amukamara will take a considerable pay cut to join the Raiders. The veteran cornerback signed a one-year, $1.05MM deal, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Amukamara will qualify for the new minimum salary benefit, counting only $888K against the Raiders’ cap. The Bears re-signed Amukamara in 2018, and he was set to make $9MM in base salary on that contract this season.
  • Frank Clark played a role in bringing Taco Charlton to Kansas City, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Charlton’s ex-teammate and roommate while at Michigan, Clark lobbied Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo in an effort to bring the former first-round pick to Kansas City. The Chiefs did not claim Charlton’s rookie contract but did add him at a cheaper rate. Charlton called his departure from Dallas and Miami “mutual,” according to Pelissero (via Twitter). Both teams waived the 2017 first-rounder, the Dolphins doing so despite Charlton leading the team in sacks last season with five. Charlton figures to fill a rotational role vacated by the exits of Emmanuel Ogbah and Terrell Suggs.
  • Despite Bashaud Breeland being arrested on several charges earlier this offseason, he has been part of the Chiefs’ virtual offseason since it began, Spagnuolo said (via NFL.com’s James Palmer, on Twitter). Re-signed on a one-year deal, Breeland will likely face a suspension for his arrest — which included the charge of resisting arrest.

Raiders To Sign Prince Amukamara

The Raiders are set to sign cornerback Prince Amukamara, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). The financial terms are not yet known, but Garafolo hears that everything is in place for a deal. 

The former first-round pick has been looking for work since he was cut by the Bears in February. His career began with the Giants, where he spent the first five seasons of his career. After that, he spent a year with the Jaguars before signing yet another one-year pact – this time with the Bears – in 2017. In 2018, they gave him a three-year, $27MM re-up, but he did not get to see the last year of that deal.

Amukamara was a key player in the Bears’ secondary as he started alongside Kyle Fuller. Now, he’ll spend his age-31 season and ninth pro year in Las Vegas.

Last year, Amukamara graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 41 corner in the NFL – he fared better in 2018, when the Bears had the league’s best D. For his career, Amukamara has started in 99 of his 113 games – he’s more or less been first-string for every campaign except his rookie year. With the Raiders, he’ll fight for his place alongside Trayvon Mullen, Damon Arnette, slot/safety Lamarcus Joyner, Amik Robertson, Isaiah Johnson, and Nevin Lawson.

If the Amukamara deal should fall though for some reason, look for Las Vegas to pivot to Dre Kirkpatrick. The longtime Bengal, whom Cincinnati released at the end of March, is a fallback option for the Raiders, per NFL insider Adam Caplan (via Twitter). It sounds as if the Raiders will not pursue Kirkpatrick if the Amukamara deal is finalized, but Las Vegas could probably stand to add another veteran CB to its depth chart.

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Bears To Release Prince Amukamara, Taylor Gabriel

The Bears moved to clear some cap space on Friday by jettisoning two starters. They are releasing cornerback Prince Amukamara and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Amukamara has been a Bears starter since he signed a one-year deal with Chicago in 2017. The ex-Giants first-round pick re-upped with the team on a long-term deal in 2018. One season remained on that three-year, $27MM contract. Two years remained on Gabriel’s pact. Altogether, the Bears will create $13.5MM in cap space by making these moves.

Gabriel signed a four-year, $26MM contract in 2018. That deal had no more guaranteed money. The ex-Falcon started 18 games for Chicago but battled injuries last season, limiting him to nine games. Chicago’s offense struggled as a whole last season, with Mitchell Trubisky regressing. The Bears drafted Anthony Miller and Riley Ridley over the past two years and possess greater needs than the wide receiver spot. Gabriel caught 96 passes for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns as a Bear. The 29-year-old target will get a head start on the receiver market because of this early cut.

Amukamara’s exit leaves a bigger hole. He was a key member of the Bears’ high-end defenses, starting alongside Kyle Fuller. The Bears, though, had a lot of money committed to their corner group after having signed slot man Buster Skrine a year re-upping Amukamara and matching the Packers’ offer sheet for the then-transition-tagged Fuller. Amukamara was set to earn a $9MM base salary in 2020.

Amukamara will turn 31 before Week 1 but figures to generate interest ahead of free agency. He settled for one-year deals with the Jaguars and Bears from 2016-17 before landing a multiyear Chicago accord. The Nebraska alum graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 41 corner last season, which came after he graded higher for the Bears’ No. 1-ranked scoring defense in 2018.

The Bears now hold closer to $20MM in cap space after entering Friday with barely $5MM. More moves could be on tap.

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Bears To Re-Sign CB Prince Amukamara

The Bears are re-signing cornerback Prince Amukamara, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Amukamara will collect $27MM over a three-year term, while roughly $18MM is guaranteed, per Graziano (Twitter links).

Amukamara has long been a starting-caliber NFL cornerback, but teams have thus far been reluctant to commit to the 28-year-old. After beginning his career with the Giants, Amukamara inked a series of successive one-year deals with the Jaguars and Bears in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Once considered an injury risk, Amukamara has dealt with minor ailments over the past two seasons but has appeared in 28 of 32 possible games during that time. Although he hasn’t posted an interception since 2015, Amukamara graded as the No. 41 corner among 141 qualifiers a season ago, per Pro Football Focus. Football Outsiders wasn’t as fond of the former first-round pick’s work, as Amukamara ranked as bottom-10 CB in success rate.

Chicago’s pass defense was a strength in 2017, as the unit ranked 14th in DVOA. As such, the Bears have shown a willingness to bring much of their secondary back for another run. Not only have they re-upped Amukamara, but No. 1 cornerback Kyle Fuller was assigned the transition tag, which could be enough to ward off potential suitors.

Most of the work the Bears have done on the first day of free agency has come on the other side of the ball, however. Chicago has landed wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, plus tight end Trey Burton, in an effort to upgrade quarterback Mitch Trubisky‘s weaponry.

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Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

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. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive 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 defensive position for 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more

NFC Notes: Eagles, Hicks, Packers, Bears

Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks suffered a hand injury while exiting a pool on Thursday, according to Jimmy Kempski of the Philly Voice, but the issue isn’t expected to be serious, tweets Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Hicks will only be sidelined for three-to-four weeks, per Bowen, meaning he should be available for the start of training camp. Currently on vacation in Greece, Hicks sent video of his hand to Eagles doctors in order for the club to get some idea regarding the severity of the injury. Hicks, 25, played 95% of Philadelphia’s defensive snaps a season ago, managing 86 tackles and five interceptions while grading as the league’s No. 5 linebacker, per Pro Football Focus, which labeled Hicks as the NFL’s second-best coverage ‘backer.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Although general manager Ted Thompson and the rest of the Packers‘ front office doesn’t often target external free agents, they did sign defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois to a one-year, $3MM deal in March. “To get that phone call that the Green Bay Packers want you is rare,” Jean-Francois tells Stu Courtney of PackersNews.com. “It’s rare that you see them go outside and pick guys up and if they do, it’s for a reason. On the first day of meetings when all the new guys stand up, I’m used to seeing like five or six guys stand up and there were only three guys to stand up. I’m blessed to get picked up.” Jean-Francois was released by the Redskins before signing with Green Bay, so he won’t affect the Packers’ compensatory picks (a key factor in Green Bay’s decision making). Entering his age-30 campaign, Jean-Francois will back up Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark on a Packers defensive line that already ranked sixth in adjusted sack rate in 2016.
  • Like Jean-Francois, cornerback Prince Amukamara landed a one-year pact with an NFC North club this spring, as the veteran defensive back signed a deal with the Bears. But he’s hoping his relationship with Chicago extends beyond simply the 2017 season, as Chris Emma of CBS Chicago writes. “I don’t want to start bouncing around teams,” Amukamara said. “I want to find a home somewhere soon, what I did in New York. I’m trying to give this team everything I’ve got. Every one-year deal is a prove-it deal for the player. That’s just my mindset this year.” Amukamara, 28, will be playing on his second consecutive single-season accord after spending the 2016 campaign in Jacksonville. While he did earn a bump in pay (from $5MM to $7MM), it’s understandable that Amukamara hopes to ink a long-term deal.
  • The Eaglesdecision to waive wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was due in part to the club’s confidence in fellow pass-catchers Marcus Johnson and Mack Hollins, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. Johnson, a 2016 undrafted free agent out of Texas, spent last year bouncing on and off Philadelphia’s practice squad before earning a futures deal in January. He has yet to appear in an NFL contest, but the Eagles clearly like what they’ve seen from Johnson on the practice field. Hollins, meanwhile, was selected in the fourth round in the 2017 draft, and should spent most his rookie season in special teams. Philadelphia currently has 11 wide receivers on its depth chart, including new free agent additions Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.