Ryan Fitzpatrick

Buccaneers Re-Sign Ryan Fitzpatrick

It looks like the Buccaneers are going to go with their 2017 setup at quarterback for at least one more season. Tampa Bay is expected to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). It’s a one-year deal worth $3.3MM and up to $5.55MM through bonuses, according to Adam Caplan of SiriusXM (on Twitter). The deal includes $1.3MM in fully guaranteed money.

Fitzpatrick will return for a 14th season and a second with the Bucs.

A UFA for the third straight offseason, Fitzpatrick served as Jameis Winston‘s backup last season and made three starts. The Bucs could be forced to turn to their backup early in 2018, should the NFL opt to suspend Winston, who is under investigation because of an Uber driver’s accusation he groped her. So, this is a critical move for a Bucs power structure that could well be on the hot seat.

Tampa Bay was thought to be interested in bringing previous Winston backup Mike Glennon back to Florida, but the 35-year-old Fitzpatrick coming back would seem to call off any prospective reunion.

Fitzpatrick went 2-1 as a starter for a Bucs team that disappointed against reasonably high expectations. He completed just more than 58 percent of his passes and threw seven touchdowns compared to three interceptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

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:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

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.

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NFC South Notes: Falcons, Panthers, Bucs

The Falcons have opened extension talks with quarterback Matt Ryan, general manager Thomas Dimitroff told reporters, including Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (Twitter link), at the combine today. Ryan, 32, has only one year left on his current contract at a cost of $19.25MM in base salary. On an annual basis, Ryan ranks just 14th among quarterbacks, but any new deal will likely catapult him into $28MM+ range. Atlanta has previously expressed a willingness to make Ryan the highest-paid signal-caller in the NFL, so Ryan and his camp may prefer to wait until free agent passer Kirk Cousins inks a new contract (expected to be worth ~$30MM annually) before working out his own pact.

Here’s more from Atlanta and the rest of the NFC South:

  • Left tackle Jake Matthews is set to play on his fifth-year option in 2018, and Dimitroff indicated the Falcons are interested in signing both Matthews and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett to multi-year deals, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). Matthews has settled in as an above-average tackle since being selected sixth overall in the 2014 draft. He’s scheduled to earn $12.496MM next season. Jarrett, likewise, has developed into one of the league’s best interior defenders, and graded 14th among 122 defensive tackles a year ago, according to Pro Football Focus.
  • Falcons wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and linebacker Kemal Ishmael will both be allowed to hit free agency, Dimitroff said today (Twitter links via McClure). That doesn’t necessarily mean Atlanta doesn’t have interest in retaining either player, but the club will allow Gabriel and Ishmael to gauge their value on the open market. Last season, Gabriel regressed from his excellent 2016 campaign, while Ishmael spent the majority of his time on special teams.
  • Bids for the Panthers franchise haven’t yet been entered, but the sale of the club is likely to be wrapped up in time for the NFL’s spring meeting in late May, report David Newton and Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. At that point, the league’s finance committee must approve any potential deal, and 24 of the NFL’s 32 owners must vote to go forward with the sale. Presently, the only two serious contenders to purchase the Panthers from current owner Jerry Richardson are hedge fund manager/minority Steelers owner David Tepper and South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro, per the ESPN scribes.
  • While the Buccaneers have had conversations with free agent backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, they aren’t nearing a new deal, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter links). Fitzpatrick, 35, managed a 2-1 record in relief of starter Jameis Winston last season while completing 59% of his passes for six touchdowns and three interceptions. He earned $3MM for his year of work in Tampa Bay.

NFC Notes: Hyde, Ngata, McAdoo, Bucs QBs

Despite the noise of a Carlos Hyde trade, Kyle Shanahan attempted to put an end to those rumors during a media session today. Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee passes along that the first-year 49ers head coach said that the reports of a speculative trade involving the running back were “absolutely, absolutely 100 percent false.” The rumors started to pick up after San Francisco was making calls to teams about now-former 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman. Despite the pushback, rookie Matt Breida has slowly started to cut into Hyde’s touches in recent weeks. The former Georgia Southern running back had his first double-digit carry game two weeks ago against the Colts, even though the rookie touched the ball just six times this past Sunday. Nevertheless, the 49ers are still winless through six weeks, which means that the trade winds will continue to swirl around the team with the deadline just a few weeks away.

  • Building off the news that Ben McAdoo gave up play calling to offenisve coordinator Mike Sullivan for their Sunday night contest against the Broncos, it is now known that neither owner John Mara nor Giants executive chairman Steve Tisch asked the head coach to give up the offensive playbook, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. It would seem that McAdoo made this decision on his own with the results being positive thus far as the team shocked many by going into Denver and winning by double digits.
  • Now that Haloti Ngata is out for the season with a torn biceps, the question remains: Just how long will the 33-year-old continue to play in the NFL? The Lions defensive lineman told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that he has not made any decision about the future yet. “We’ll have to see. To be determined,” Ngata told the pressThe veteran has not been the same player he was with the Ravens since he joined Detroit in 2015. Ngata did show signs of life this seasn, racking up two sacks in the team’s first five games, which matched the halfway mark of the number of QB takedowns he put up in the two seasons prior.
  • Although Jameis Winston left last Sunday’s game because of a shoulder injury, the Buccaneers still don’t expect to sign another QB for this week’s affair against the Bills, tweets Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. Auman reports that Tampa Bay seems to be comfortable with Winston suiting up as an emergency backup for Ryan Fitzpatrick, if he can’t start. The move sounds a bit risky considering that the team still does not have a third-string QB with Ryan Griffin currently working to get off the IR. However, the news may be encouraging to some as it seems Winston has most likely avoided a long-term injury.

NFC Notes: Bucs, Norwell, Cowboys

Buccaneers nickel corner Jude Adjei-Barimah will have surgery to repair the patellar fracture in his right knee and will be placed on IR, as Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. When we first learned of the injury, we heard that it could sideline Adjei-Barimah for roughly four months, meaning he would miss most of the 2017 campaign. Stroud’s report suggests that the 25-year-old DB will in fact miss the entire season.

In other bad news for the Bucs, linebacker Devante Bond, who was expected to open the season as the starting strongside linebacker, has a sprained PCL in his right knee, per Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Bond could still be ready for Week 1, but it may be four to six weeks before he plays again. Meanwhile, Laine adds that QB Ryan Griffin has a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder that will take a few weeks to heal. The team is not expected to sign another quarterback, which means that Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely win the backup job.

Now let’s take a look at a few more NFC rumors:

  • Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com tweets that the Buccaneers are expected to bring in another kicker in the wake of Roberto Aguayo‘s dismissal, but the new signing will be used for camp/preseason reps. That suggests that Nick Folk, and not a new acquisition, will be the team’s starting kicker.
  • Panthers guard Andrew Norwell is playing under a one-year RFA tender worth $2.75MM this year, but he hopes to get a long-term deal before the end of the season, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. Norwell graded out as the league’s No. 11 guard in 2016, per Pro Football Focus, and has started 29 games over the past two seasons, firmly entrenching himself at left guard opposite Trai Turner. Turner, of course, recently received a lucrative extension from Carolina, and Norwell wants in on the action. He has even hired Turner’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to help him get paid.
  • Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliot has until Wednesday to appeal his six-game suspension, and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets that Elliott will likely file the necessary paperwork on Tuesday.
  • Cowboys tight end Rico Gathers was hugely impressive in Dallas’ preseason game against the Rams last night, posting four catches and a touchdown. That builds upon the solid showing he had in the team’s first preseason matchup last week, and it is clear that he is the most explosive tight end on the roster. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Gathers has come a long way in a short time — the Cowboys selected Gathers, a collegiate basketball player, in the sixth round of the 2016 draft — and makes the fairly obvious point that Gathers has a legitimate shot to make the team.
  • The Redskins are very thin at outside linebacker following Trent Murphy‘s season-ending ACL tear, so they are moving ILB Pete Robertson outside to give themselves another pass-rusher, as Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post writes. Robertson, a UDFA in 2016 who has yet to play a regular season snap, did lead the Big 12 with 13 sacks as an outside linebacker for Texas Tech in 2014.

Extra Points: Cousins, Fitz, Bills, L. Green

Franchise-tagged quarterback Kirk Cousins has spoken highly of Redskins brass lately, but it remains doubtful that the two sides will agree to a long-term contract by the July 15 deadline, writes Rich Tandler of CSNMidAtlantic.com. Cousins has little incentive to take Washington’s $20MM-per-year offer, observes Tandler, as he’s set to make a fully guaranteed ~$24MM as the team’s franchise player this season and could earn another $34MM in 2018 in the unlikely event it places the franchise tag on him again. Otherwise, Cousins could be in position next offseason to hit free agency and ink a lucrative contract with either the Redskins or someone else.

More from around the NFL:

  • Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s one-year, $3MM deal with the Buccaneers could be worth up to $5MM, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). With Fitzpatrick now off the board, the only remaining free agent QBs who started a game in 2016 are Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Shaun Hill, notes Field Yates of ESPN (on Twitter). In case you missed it, Tampa Bay did not consider signing Kaepernick before it tabbed Fitzpatrick to serve as Jameis Winston‘s backup in 2017.
  • The Bills made a few changes to their scouting staff Friday, most notably hiring former Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey as a senior college scout, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). Hickey only lasted as Miami’s GM from 2014-15, but he previously worked in a scouting capacity for several years in Tampa Bay. Along with Hickey, the Bills added scouts Gerald Dixon, Doug Majeski and Brian Fisher, per Mike Rodak of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The team dismissed all three last month, but they’ll return in newly hired GM Brandon Beane‘s front office.
  • Speaking of the Bills, quarterback Tyrod Taylor has gotten off to a nice start in OTAs in new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison‘s system, says James Palmer of NFL Network (video link). Taylor is familiar with both Dennison and the Gary Kubiak-created system the Bills are using, as the passer studied it in Baltimore as Joe Flacco‘s backup from 2011-14 (Dennison was the Ravens’ QBs coach in 2014). Moreover, Kubiak has always regarded Taylor as a good fit for the system, per Palmer. That could bode well for Taylor as he enters a crucial season in Buffalo, which will have the opportunity to easily escape his contract next winter.
  • Although injuries (especially to the head) have beset tight end Ladarius Green in recent years, he’s not planning to retire. After the Steelers released the 26-year-old on Thursday, a player Green spoke with told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that he’s hoping to catch on elsewhere as a free agent (Twitter link). Ankle and head issues limited Green to six games and 18 receptions in 2016, the first season of a four-year, $20MM contract.

Bucs Didn’t Consider Colin Kaepernick

On Friday, the Buccaneers signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and the deal drew eye rolls from those who believe that the unemployed Colin Kaepernick is more deserving of a roster spot. Not only did the Bucs choose Fitzpatrick over Kaepernick, but it turns out that they did not consider Kaepernick for the No. 2 quarterback job at all, a source tells Mike Florio of PFT. Colin Kaepernick

Kaepernick threw for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2016 while Fitzpatrick tossed 12 TDs against 17 picks. Even the advanced metrics preferred Kaepernick as he earned a 61.6 overall score from Pro Football Focus, besting Fitzpatrick’s less atrocious 42.1 posting. Neither player set the world on fire last year, but by almost any measure, Kaepernick had the better year and his offense was by no means better than Fitzpatrick’s.

However, there are plenty of reasons why the Buccaneers probably went with Fitzpatrick without first mulling Kaepernick, and none of them pertain to Kaepernick’s social positions. Fitzpatrick was an above-average starter as recently as 2015 and he had two under-the-radar quality seasons before that with the Titans and Texans, respectively. Kaepernick, meanwhile, is now two years removed from being a respectable starter. There’s also the matter of playing styles to consider. Fitzpatrick is a pro-style quarterback who can fit the offense designed for Jameis Winston if he’s called upon. Kaepernick, however, would be better suited for a playbook with more designed runs and an offensive line that’s accustomed to the blocking schemes needed for a mobile QB.

The Bucs didn’t think about signing Kaepernick, but as we learned earlier this week, the Seahawks are taking a hard look at him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers Sign QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

One of the best quarterbacks left on the board is now spoken for. The Buccaneers have agreed to terms with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, as Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. It’s a one-year, $3MM deal, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Ryan Fitzpatrick (vertical)

The Buccaneers lost their Jameis Winston backup this offseason when Mike Glennon signed a lucrative free agent deal with the Bears. Fitzpatrick, who had a surprisingly strong 2015 season with the Jets, now becomes Tampa Bay’s new insurance policy under center.

While ’15 was a banner year for the bearded signal caller, 2016 was definitely a season to forget. Things got so bad in New York last year that the veteran found himself considering retirement after the season.

“Last year was the most difficult year for me,” Fitzpatrick said. “Not physically, just kind of mentally and emotionally. I had to take a step back and think about it. Is this something I still want to do? Football is something so ingrained in me, something I love doing and definitely something I want to do. I still want to compete and I still think I can contribute whether I am in a starting role or whatever capacity.”

Fitzpatrick, 35 in November, had a shaky grip on his starting job last year as he threw for 12 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. The year prior, however, Fitzpatrick threw for 31 touchdowns. If given the opportunity to get on the field, Fitzpatrick will try to channel the magic of his ’15 campaign. If he looks like the ’16 version of himself, then this might be his last stop in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ryan Fitzpatrick Intends To Play In 2017

Free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t received a contract offer thus far, but he intends to continue his career in 2017, according to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. However, Fitzpatrick did admit that his struggles in 2016 forced him to consider retirement.Ryan Fitzpatrick (vertical)

“Last year was the most difficult year for me,” Fitzpatrick said. “Not physically, just kind of mentally and emotionally. I had to take a step back and think about it. Is this something I still want to do? Football is something so ingrained in me, something I love doing and definitely something I want to do. I still want to compete and I still think I can contribute whether I am in a starting role or whatever capacity.”

Fitzpatrick, 34, struggled through a nightmarish 2016 campaign, at times losing his starting job with the Jets while tossing 12 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. The year prior, however, Fitzpatrick managed 31 scores, and thanks to the dearth of quarterback options around the league, he’s PFR’s No. 2 free agent signal-caller at the moment. Fitzpatrick won’t be afforded another starting opportunity, but clubs that could speculatively use a backup quarterback include the Rams and Lions.

Fitzpatrick should come cheap, as he won’t garner anything close to the $12MM he earned with Gang Green last year. Thanks to the structure of his Jets contract, Fitzpatrick still counts for $5MM in dead money on New York’s 2017 salary cap.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Offense

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:

Quarterback:

  1. Jay Cutler
  2. Chase Daniel
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  4. Colin Kaepernick
  5. Josh McCown
  6. Robert Griffin III
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Christian Ponder
  11. Blaine Gabbert
  12. Ryan Nassib
  13. Shaun Hill
  14. Kellen Moore
  15. Austin Davis

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. Jay Cutler (Vertical)

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.

Running back:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. LeGarrette Blount
  3. Jamaal Charles
  4. Rashad Jennings
  5. Tim Hightower
  6. DeAngelo Williams
  7. Chris Johnson
  8. Christine Michael
  9. Benny Cunningham
  10. Bobby Rainey
  11. Brandon Bolden
  12. Denard Robinson
  13. James Starks
  14. Matt Asiata
  15. Kenjon Barner

Honorable mention: DuJuan Harris, Antonio AndrewsKhiry Robinson

Adrian Peterson (vertical)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.

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