Sam Acho

NFC Notes: Mixon, Eagles, Lions, Stafford

Thanks to his off-field transgressions, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon‘s draft stock is reportedly dropping, but the Eagles are among those who have him on their board, writes Jeff McLane of Philly.com. Owner Jeffrey Lurie has given team brass his blessing to consider drafting Mixon, two sources confirmed to McLane. Notably, two of the Eagles’ key decision-makers, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and VP of player personnel Joe Douglas, spoke highly of Mixon’s abilities on Thursday. “There’s not much he can’t do,” Roseman said. “He’s incredible with the ball in his hands, you can split him out, he’s got really good hands [as a receiver], he can pass-protect, he can make people miss.” Douglas added that “a lot of people think that he is one of the top backs in this draft,” but he noted that “most teams” are considering Mixon’s character issues.

More on Philadelphia and a pair of its NFC foes:

  • Speculatively, Mixon could be a possibility for the Eagles beginning in Round 2. Before debating whether to take him, they’ll have to make a decision in the opening round, where they’re slated to pick 14th. The club has come up with “probably about seven or eight scenarios” for that spot, according to Douglas, and Roseman expects to end up with a star-caliber player with that selection. “One thing I know — when we make a pick at 14, with the way our board looks right now, we’re going to all be high-fiving then, and very excited about that pick,” declared Roseman (via Les Bowen of Philly.com).
  • Entering a contract year, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford could become the highest-paid player in the NFL by next offseason, though Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press argues that he’s not worth it. While Monarrez expects the Lions to cave to Stafford’s demands, he opines that the signal-caller’s age (30 next February) and zero playoff wins are among the reasons the team would be better off letting him test the market than become the league’s richest player in Detroit.
  • Speaking of the Lions, general manager Bob Quinn addressed the strengths of this year’s draft Thursday, saying it’s particularly deep at running back, wide receiver, cornerback, safety and tight end (Twitter link via Tim Twentyman of the team website).
  • Linebacker Sam Acho‘s one-year deal with the Bears is worth $855K, including $130K fully guaranteed, tweets ESPN’s Adam Caplan.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Bears Re-Sign Sam Acho

A starter in 13 Bears games between the 2015 and ’16 seasons, linebacker Sam Acho is returning to Chicago on a one-year deal, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Acho re-signed with the Bears in March of 2016 and played in all 16 contests last season, starting in six of those. The former full-time Cardinals starter made 24 tackles and registered a sack, helping an injured Bears linebacking corps by functioning as a fill-in part. Acho has also forced two fumbles since joining Chicago before the 2015 season.

The 28-year-old Acho played in 500 snaps for the Bears in 2016. The team did not have Leonard Floyd or Pernell McPhee‘s services for the full season. With those two players back in the fold, Acho — who will turn 29 in September — looks like a backup. Chicago also has Willie Young and Lamarr Houston rostered, crowding the outside linebacker spots.

A seventh-year veteran, Acho made the veteran minimum last season, so this contract should come in around that figure. Chicago cut Acho in September of 2015 but re-signed him soon after. He made seven starts for the 2015 Bears and will be in line to come back for John Fox‘s third season in the Windy City.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Defense

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 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 2017:

Edge defender:

  1. Dwight Freeney
  2. Elvis Dumervil
  3. Chris Long
  4. Mario Williams
  5. Connor Barwin
  6. Paul Kruger
  7. Trent Cole
  8. Erik Walden
  9. Jason Jones
  10. Darryl Tapp
  11. Devin Taylor
  12. Eugene Sims
  13. Howard Jones
  14. Wallace Gilberry
  15. Sam Acho

The pass rushing market has been completely depleted during the first week of free agency, as 14 of our original top 15 edge players have now been franchised, signed, or, in the case of DeMarcus Ware, retired. As such, a 37-year-old with 15 NFL seasons under his belt is now the best pass rusher on the market. Dwight Freeney played on roughly a third of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2016, and posted three sacks and 18 hurries. Capable of playing in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, Freeney can still help out a club on the cheap.Dwight Freeney (Vertical)

Three players on this list — Elvis Dumervil, Connor Barwin, and Eugene Sims — were released by their respective clubs last week, meaning they won’t count against the compensatory formula if and when they’re signed. Dumervil, now 33, was hampered by injuries last season but still earned strong pass-rushing marks from Pro Football Focus. Barwin, meanwhile, wasn’t a good fit in Jim Schwartz‘s 4-3 defense, but he should flourish if he signs with a team running a 3-4 look. So far, he’s met with the Bengals (who use a 4-3) and Rams (3-4).

Chris Long has already indicated he won’t be returning to the Patriots, indicating he wants to join a roster where he’ll earn more playing time. Erik Walden, too, won’t re-sign with his 2016 club (the Colts), but he has taken a visit with the division rival Titans. Further down the list, Howard Jones has also met with at least one club, as he was hosted by the Jets on Tuesday. Jones, 27, is recovering from a torn ACL, but did post five sacks in five starts last season.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Johnathan Hankins
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Jared Odrick
  4. Vance Walker
  5. Sen’Derrick Marks
  6. Ricky Jean-Francois
  7. Roy Miller
  8. Al Woods
  9. Tony McDaniel
  10. Cullen Jenkins
  11. Frostee Rucker
  12. Cam Thomas
  13. John Jenkins
  14. Tyson Jackson
  15. Tyson Alualu

Although top-flight players such as Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams have already been signed, the crop of interior defenders remains strong at the top. The buzz around Johnathan Hankins has been virtually non-existent, as the only club that’s been even tangentially linked to the 25-year-old is the Redskins. He’s one of the youngest free agents on the market, and therefore is probably looking for a massive payday. But the lack of interest around Hankins may be an indication that he’s simply asking for too much money.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

The same issue could be surrounding Dontari Poe, although he’s not wanting for meetings around the league. He’s visited with the Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, and Dolphins, while the 49ers and Raiders also reportedly have some level of interest. Clubs may have concerns about Poe’s lingering back issues, and he might have to accept a one-year deal in order to prove he’s healthy and willing to provide full effort.

The remaining defensive interior players are mostly over-30 veterans, with names such as Tony McDaniel, Cullen Jenkins, Frostee Rucker, and Tyson Jackson still looking for new deals. While most of these guys can still play, they may have to wait awhile — possibly into the summer — before signing on with their next club. Jared Odrick (Patriots) and Vance Walker (Bears) have both taken visits, but the most intriguing lineman here may be Sen’Derrick Marks, who offers a good amount of pass rush from the interior.

Read more

FA Rumors: Dolphins, Broncos, Hillman, Bills

The Dolphins haven’t been linked to cornerback Leon Hall since the league year opened, despite the fact that defensive coordinator Vance Joseph coached Hall in Cincinnati. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald explains that Hall’s asking price has precluded the Dolphins from getting involved so far, but if that price tag eventually comes down, the veteran corner should see his market heat up, and Miami could get involved.

Here are a few more free agency updates from around the NFL:

  • The Broncos have reached out and expressed interest in bringing back free agent running back Ronnie Hillman, writes Mike Klis of 9NEWS. However, according to Klis, Denver is one of a few teams showing interest, and Hillman’s other suitors have more cap room than the Broncos.
  • The Bills continue to weigh their options on defense, bringing in a pair of defensive free agents for visits today. The club announced (via Twitter) that linebacker Zach Brown and defensive back Corey White arrived at One Bills Drive on Monday morning to meet with the team. Brown, who started 33 games for the Titans over the last four years and had 77 tackles in 2015, is one of the more intriguing free agents still available.
  • Tim Lelito, who received a low-end RFA tender from the Saints, garnered some interest from the Cowboys but opted not to sign an offer sheet with Dallas and sounds prepared to return to New Orleans for 2016, as Lyons Yellin of WWL outlines. Lelito technically remains a free agent until he formally signs his one-year, $1.671MM RFA tender.
  • Veteran guard Chris Chester, who underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, likely won’t be ready to go until sometime in June, which is why he remains unsigned, per Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The free agent lineman, who spent last season in Atlanta, has a decent chance to start somewhere once he eventually gets healthy and signs.
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune provides the details on a handful of recently-signed Bears contracts, reporting that offensive lineman Manny Ramirez, linebacker Sam Acho, wide receiver Deonte Thompson, and safety Chris Prosinski all received one-year, minimum salary benefit deals, with $80K signing bonuses.

Bears Re-Sign Sam Acho

After spending the 2015 season with the Bears, linebacker Sam Acho will be returning to Chicago for at least one more year. Acho’s agency, SportsTrust Advisors, announced today (via Twitter) that the veteran free agent has agreed to re-sign with the Bears.Sam Acho

Acho, 27, spent the first four seasons of his NFL career with the Cardinals before signing with the Bears for 2015. From a statistical standpoint, Acho’s best season was his rookie year in 2011, when he racked up seven sacks and forced three fumbles. The former fourth-round pick didn’t record a single sack in 2015 for the first time in his career.

While he didn’t make a major impact as a pass rusher during his first year in Chicago, Acho was a solid special-teamer, defensive depth piece, and locker-room presence for the Bears. Pro Football Focus assigned him a solid grade as a run defender, even as his pass rush grade dipped.

Acho earned seven starts in 2015, but if Pernell McPhee, Lamarr Houston, and Willie Young are healthy for the entire 2016 season, I wouldn’t expect him to see the field any more often going forward than he did last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/14/15

Today’s minor signings, cuts, and other moves…

  • The Packers have removed wide receiver Larry Pinkard from their IR with an injury settlement, and the Chiefs have done the same with tight end Richard Gordon, per Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post (Twitter links).

Earlier updates:

  • Not long after claiming him off waivers from the Bears, the Cowboys have cut offensive tackle Jordan Mills, according to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (via Twitter). Per Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link), taking Mills’ spot on the roster is another offensive tackle, Charles Brown, who worked out for Dallas last week.
  • The Bears have made a change on defense, re-signing outside linebacker Sam Acho and placing defensive end Cornelius Washington on injured reserve, according to Caplan (Twitter links). Acho was cut by Chicago on Saturday with a non-football illness designation, but it didn’t take him long to make his way back to the roster.
  • The Saints are signing safety Kenny Phillips, according to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Phillips was with New Orleans all summer before being released last week as a late cut. After free safety Rafael Bush suffered a chest injury on Sunday, Phillips will help provide New Orleans with additional depth.
  • The Saints have also re-signed two players they cut on Saturday, adding running back Tim Hightower and offensive lineman Mike McGlynn back to their roster, tweets Evan Woodbery of the Times-Picayune. New Orleans waived fullback Toben Opurum and wide receiver Seantavius Jones to accommodate the returning players.
  • In a reversal of the team’s weekend transactions, Washington signed defensive end Frank Kearse and cut linebacker Houston Bates, as John Keim of ESPN.com writes.
  • The Jets have officially activated backup offensive lineman Oday Aboushi from their reserve/suspended list after he missed Week 1 due to a substance abuse violation, tweets Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com. For now, the Jets have a roster exemption for Aboushi, but they’ll have to decide this week whether to cut him or to move him to their 53-man roster, removing someone else.
  • According to Caplan (Twitter links), the Raiders have released safety Brandian Ross off their injured reserve list, and the Lions have done the same with wide receiver Greg Salas, giving him an injury settlement.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Bears Release Sam Acho

For the second straight Saturday, the Bears cut ties with a veteran linebacker, this time cutting Sam Acho to make room for second-year inside backer Lamin Barrow, according to Jeff Dickerson and Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Barrow had resided on the Bears’ practice squad.

This cut, however, is due to an illness, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reports. The Bears released Acho with a non-football illness designation.

Like Mason Foster, who Chicago released last week after signing him in March, Acho was set to serve as a backup linebacker in the Bears’ new 3-4 set. The Bears added Acho to a one-year, $745K deal in April after the former fourth-round pick played four seasons with the Cardinals, accruing 13 career sacks — seven, and four forced fumbles, as a rookie in 2011.

Acho has 32 career starts, but 26 of those came in 2011-12 before a broken leg suffered in 2013 derailed his career. He is a vested veteran and can sign with any team.

A fifth-round pick of John Fox‘s last May with the Broncos, Barrow saw action in all 16 games last season, mostly on special teams. Although the LSU product participated in just 49 defensive snaps, Barrow played all three linebacker positions in Denver’s 4-3 scheme and made one start as the team battled injuries on the second level.

The Broncos waived Barrow last week. He chose to accept the Bears’ practice squad offer due to a relationship with Fox, Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets.

Bears Sign Sam Acho

The Bears continued to add to a defense-heavy free agent class today, announcing (via Twitter) that they’ve signed linebacker Sam Acho. It’s a one-year contract for Acho, according to the team.

Acho, who spent his first four NFL seasons in Arizona, originally joined the Cardinals as a fourth-round draft pick in 2011. After starting 16 games during his first two seasons, the Texas product missed most of the 2013 campaign with a broken ankle, then played a part-time role for the Cards in 2014.

The 26-year-old Acho hasn’t been an overly effective pass rusher since entering the league, recording just one sack last season. However, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) credited him with 26 overall quarterback pressures, and gave him a positive grade for his run defense.

Acho is the latest free agent defender to sign with the Bears, following Pernell McPhee, Antrel Rolle, Alan Ball, Ray McDonald, Jarvis Jenkins, and Mason Foster to Chicago. With new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio planning to make the transition from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 system in 2015, the team has been active in finding and adding players who have experience in the 3-4.

Cardinals Notes: QB, Dockett, Bowles

The Cardinals’ season is over after losing to the Panthers on Saturday, but the team has a number of decisions to make with their roster as they approach a critical offseason. The team’s front office will have to make a more than a few of choices on personnel, with a number of players’ statuses uncertain for 2015.

Receiver Larry Fitzgerald and defensive lineman Darnell Dockett both have high cap numbers going into next year and could be asked to take pay cuts to stay with the team, writes Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. The team will also have the opportunity to bring back or move on from free agents Antonio Cromartie, Larry Foote, Tommy Kelly, and Sam Acho.

One of the biggest mysteries will be how the team treats inside linebacker Daryl Washington. Washington could be reinstated from suspension in May but could face a separate suspension for an assault conviction upon his return.

  • Poor quarterback play ruined the Cardinals’ year after losing both starter Carson Palmer and backup Drew Stanton for the season. The team was forced to roll with Ryan Lindley down the stretch. Head coach Bruce Arians does not believe the team will be able to bring in another veteran signal caller in the offseason, citing the move as too expensive, according to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN (via Twitter).
  • An important part of the defense that is expected to return is Dockett, writes Weinfuss (via Twitter). Bob McNaman of the Arizona Republic also writes the team plans on bringing Dockett back, despite a cap hit of close to $9MM next season (via Twitter).
  • Coach Arians stated that defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has been requested for interviews with multiple organizations, and he expects his assistant coach to pursue openings in New York, Atlanta, and Chicago, according to Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com (via Twitter).
  • Arians was extremely complimentary of Bowles, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). “He’s a great teacher, great communicator and players love him,” said Arians. “Very bright guy. He’s soft spoken but a very good motivator and he can get on their asses as good as anybody.”
  • Arians also noted that he does not expect to make any other coaching changes this offseason, other than Bowles, according to Weinfuss (via Twitter).

NFC Mailbags: Panthers, Cards, Lions

We took a look at ESPN’s AFC mailbags earlier this morning. Let’s now focus on notes from the NFC…

  • If the Panthers get a top-10 pick, David Newton believes the team will use their selection on an offensive tackle, a defensive back or a defensive lineman. When asked if the team would trade back for multiple assets, Newton says that “quality will be more important than quantity.”
  • Josh Weinfuss isn’t convinced the Cardinals will re-sign linebacker Sam Acho, stating that the team should be able to find an adequate replacement. Meanwhile, the writer believes the team should try to retain Antonio Cromartie for a reasonable price.
  • If Lions wideout T.J. Jones continues to prove that he’s capable of a bigger role, Ryan Broyles could ultimately find himself without a job, writes Michael Rothstein.
  • Ben Goessling is under the impression that Adrian Peterson will not be playing for the Vikings next season. Instead, he believes the team will go with Jerick McKinnon as their primary running back while pursuing a running back later in the draft.
  • John Keim says the league’s new CBA, which limits the interaction between players and coaches during the offseason, hurts the development of any young quarterback (including Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III).