Shane Lechler

Extra Points: Bolts, Bills, Lechler, Seahawks

After parting ways with Orlando Franklin with three years remaining on his deal, the Chargers are going to have a revamped offensive line in 2017. But they will be doing some rearranging on their own as well. Matt Slauson functioned at center for the 2016 Bolts, but the former Jets and Bears guard looks like he’s going to be moving back to his original position. The second-year Charger worked at left guard during the team’s voluntary minicamp last month, Dan Woike of the San Diego Union-Tribune notes. Franklin lined up at left guard the past two years for the Bolts. Slauson played center, and graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 18 player there last season, but he was a left guard starter for his first five-plus seasons in the league. Slauson moved to center with the 2015 Bears due to a Hroniss Grasu injury. New Bolts HC Anthony Lynn was the Jets’ running backs coach throughout Slauson’s time with Gang Green.

Woike adds that Forrest Lamp has begun working at right guard, where D.J. Fluker played in 2015-16, and Indiana Dan Feeney took early reps at center. That would be a way to get both Day 2 picks in the lineup, along with Slauson. A 2016 third-round pick, Max Tuerk could also factor into the equation at center.

Here’s more from around the league.

  • In moving from the Texans to the Bills, Brian Gaine made a lateral move in Brandon Beane‘s eyes. As Bills VP of player personnel, Gaine will oversee the Bills’ pro and college scouting departments while reporting directly to Beane, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reports. Beane, of course, beat out Gaine for the Buffalo GM job. But the New York native saw enough in the Bills’ offer to move over from a similar job with what’s been a more successful franchise to the franchise with the longest active postseason drought among American major pro sports teams.
  • Speaking of the Texans, Shane Lechler‘s 2017 deal will contain a $500K signing bonus, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. The 40-year-old punter re-signed with Houston for $2MM this year and doesn’t sound like retirement is especially close. This will be his 18th season. Despite being regarded as one of the greatest punters in NFL history, Lechler at this point is a middle-of-the-pack player in terms of salary. He’ll be making $200K more than last season.
  • The Seahawks don’t plan to play Malik McDowell as a defensive tackle, but rather as an interior player on passing downs, Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com notes, adding that Pete Carroll wants him to operate in a Michael Bennett-like capacity. That means McDowell may be a second-stringer as a rookie but play multiple positions. While Carroll said the second-round pick would see time at the three-technique spot in Seattle’s 4-3 scheme, he doesn’t view the Michigan State product as a pure tackle. “We’ll play him a little more at defensive end,” Carroll said, per Kapadia. “He played inside a lot. He was over the center a lot, and he doesn’t look like that kind of player in our system to us.” The Seahawks still have 2016 second-rounder Jarran Reed and Ahtyba Rubin at defensive tackle, along with third-round rookie Nazair Jones.
  • The Eagles did not sign safety Weston Steelhammer after inviting the Air Force alum to their rookie minicamp. One of three Air Force products to receive a tryout over the weekend, Steelhammer sits in limbo after the Department of Defense reversed its more lenient ruling just before the draft. If nothing changes, Steelhammer and more prominent Air Force prospect Jalen Robinette must serve for two years before beginning an NFL career. “Things didn’t work out how we thought or how we hoped, but everything happens for a reason,” Steelhammer said, via Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com. “I’ll just try to make the most of it.”

Contract Details: Gholston, Colquitt, Doyle, Davis

Updates on the contracts signed over the past couple of days, mostly via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle…

  • Buccaneers defensive end William Gholston‘s contract includes $13.5MM in guaranteed money, as well as a guaranteed base salary of $3MM for the 2017 season (via Twitter). The 25-year-old’s $6.5MM 2018 salary becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2017 league year.
  • Defensive tackle Khyri Thornton‘s deal with the Lions is worth $3.3MM with a $325K bonus (Twitter). Thornton will make $700K in 2017, followed by a $1.325MM salary in 2018. He can earn another $12.5K via annual per game active roster bonus, as well as $225K via a weight bonus.
  • Punter Britton Colquitt‘s new deal with the Browns is worth $11.2MM and $4.5MM guaranteed (via Twitter). The former fourth-rounder will earn $1.65MM in 2017, followed by salaries of $2.55MM (2018), $2.7MM (2019), and $2.8M (2020).
  • Colts tight end Jack Doyle will earn $18.9MM on his next contract (via Twitter). Doyle will earn a guaranteed $1MM next season, followed by a $3.5MM salary in 2018 (guaranteed fifth day of league year) and $5.15MM salary in 2019. The tight end will also earn a $6.5MM roster bonus on March 10th.
  • Fullback James Develin earned a $2.45MM contract from the Patriots along with a $300K signing bonus, reports Wilson (Twitter). Develin will earn $800K each year, with a guaranteed $200K base salary for 2017. He can earn another $12.5K via a per-game active annual roster bonus.
  • ESPN’s Adam Caplan tweets that tight end Vernon Davis will receive $15MM ($7.5MM guaranteed) from the Redskins. The veteran will make $6MM in the first year of the three-year deal.
  • Punter Shane Lechler‘s new deal with the Texans is for one-year and $2MM ($1MM guaranteed), reports Caplan (via Twitter).

Texans To Re-Sign Nick Novak, Shane Lechler

The Texans have agreed to lock up both of their specialists, as the club will re-sign kicker Nick Novak and punter Shane Lechler, tweets Mark Berman of FOX 26.Shane Lechler (vertical)

[RELATED: Texans Interested In Ricky Wagner]

Novak, 35, has spent the past two seasons with the Texans after four years with the Chargers. In 2016, Novak managed to hit 85.4% of his field goal attempts, a tick above his career rate of 82.8%. From 50+ yards, Novak was three-of-six, while Novak also missed three extra points. Novak earned a $885K base salary last year under the terms of a minimum salary benefit contract.

Now 40 years old, Lechler is a seven-time Pro Bowler, but the Texans lost 12.7 points of field position on punts last season. In fact, Houston’s special teams unit finished dead least in DVOA in 2016, earning poor marks in every area except punt returns. Still, the Texans will bring back Lechler — who ranked 16th in net yards per punt — and Novak.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Defense

NFL free agency gets underway on Thursday 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. Here is our updated outlook for each defensive and special teams position.

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 franchised players 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 this offseason:

Edge defender:

  1. Nick Perry
  2. Jabaal Sheard
  3. John Simon
  4. DeMarcus Ware
  5. Lorenzo Alexander
  6. Andre Branch
  7. Julius Peppers
  8. Charles Johnson
  9. Datone Jones
  10. Dwight Freeney
  11. Chris Long
  12. Mario Williams
  13. Paul Kruger
  14. Courtney Upshaw
  15. Jarvis Jones

Now that Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, and Jason Pierre-Paul have all been assigned the franchise tag, Nick Perry stands as the top edge defender on the free agent market, and is now in a position to cash in. The Packers opted against the franchise tender for the 26-year-old Perry, so he’ll hit the open market following a career year which saw him post 11 sacks."<strong

The rest of this year’s crop of free agent pass rushers is a blend of young defenders searching for their first payday and veterans on the hunt for one last contract. Among players with youth still on their side, Datone Jones figures to interest clubs thanks to his versatility, as he can vacillate between end and linebacker, while fellow former first-round pick Jarvis Jones is solid against the run. John Simon has been overlooked while playing alongside the likes of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus but could represent a hidden gem, while the Dolphins are reportedly prioritizing Andre Branch.

After managing nine sacks over the first nine years of his NFL tenure, Lorenzo Alexander busted out with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2016, and now could be looking for a double-digit annual salary. Charles Johnson, meanwhile, looks like a good bet to return to the Panthers, but DeMarcus Ware could be something of a wild card — after missing 11 games in the past two seasons, does the 34-year-old have enough left in the tank? The same could be asked of Dwight Freeney, who at age-37 posted three sacks in a rotational role for the Falcons.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Calais Campbell
  2. Johnathan Hankins
  3. Brandon Williams
  4. Dontari Poe
  5. Chris Baker
  6. Bennie Logan
  7. Nick Fairley
  8. Alan Branch
  9. Jared Odrick
  10. Karl Klug
  11. Terrell McClain
  12. Lawrence Guy
  13. Stacy McGee
  14. Stephen Paea
  15. Sylvester Williams
    Honorable mention: Paul Soliai

Calais Campbell is the best overall player among interior defenders, and though he’s entering his age-31 season and may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe, Campbell will still be highly-sought after as he searches for his last substantial payday Campbell’s agent met with the Cardinals last week, but other speculative fits for the veteran defender include the Broncos, Raiders, Ravens, Colts, and Titans."<strong

Hankins is only 24 years old, and though the Giants are trying to retain him along with the rest of their defensive core, the 6’3″, 320-pound mauler should represent an attractive option to a number of clubs this offseason. Williams, too, offers a massive presence on the inside, while Poe could intrigue clubs based on his first-round pedigree and athleticism (though his play hasn’t always matched his potential). The Redskins’ Chris Baker is a solid, well-rounded defensive tackle, and could constitute a consolation prize for teams that miss out on their top targets.

The rest of the class offers an interesting mix of nose tackles (Bennie Logan), interior pass rushers (Nick Fairley, Karl Klug), and run stoppers (Alan Branch), so clubs hoping to bolster their defensive line should find no shortage of options. Jared Odrick recently hit free agency after being released by the Jaguars, while Terrell McClain, Lawrence Guy, and Stacy McGee could be underrated finds for the right team. McClain, for what it’s worth, has already been linked to the Falcons.

Read more

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position: Defense

NFL free agency will get underway on Thursday, March 9th, 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, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

[RELATED: Top 2017 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense]

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. Chandler Jones
  2. Melvin Ingram
  3. Jason Pierre-Paul
  4. Nick Perry
  5. Jabaal Sheard
  6. James Harrison
  7. John Simon
  8. DeMarcus Ware
  9. Lorenzo Alexander
  10. Andre Branch
  11. Julius Peppers
  12. Charles Johnson
  13. Datone Jones
  14. Mario Addison
  15. Dwight Freeney

The Cardinals have already made it abundantly clear that Chandler Jones will see the franchise tag this offseason, and Melvin Ingram and Jason Pierre-Paul are also candidates to be tagged by the Chargers and Giants, respectively. If the latter two are able to hit the open market unfettered, however, they both figure to break the bank. Ingram, Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 edge defender, could be a fit for both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, while JPP will be looking for a long-term commitment after signing consecutive one-year deals.Chandler Jones (vertical)

The rest of this year’s crop of free agent pass rushers is a blend of young defenders searching for their first payday and veterans on the hunt for one last contract. Among the players with youth still on their side, Packers edge defenders Nick Perry and Datone Jones figure to interest different clubs, as Perry is a better match for a 3-4 defense while Jones needs to restart his career as a 4-3 defensive end. John Simon has been overlooked while playing alongside the likes of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus but could represent a hidden gem, while the Dolphins are reportedly prioritizing Andre Branch.

After managing nine sacks over the first nine years of his NFL tenure, Lorenzo Alexander busted out with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2016, and now could be looking for a double-digit annual salary. James Harrison and Charles Johnson, meanwhile, look like good bets to return to Steelers and Panthers, respectively, but DeMarcus Ware could be something of a wild card — after missing 11 games in the past two seasons, does the 34-year-old have enough left in the tank? The same could be asked of Dwight Freeney, who at age-37 posted three sacks in a rotational role for the Falcons.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Kawann Short
  2. Calais Campbell
  3. Johnathan Hankins
  4. Brandon Williams
  5. Dontari Poe
  6. Chris Baker
  7. Bennie Logan
  8. Nick Fairley
  9. Alan Branch
  10. Jared Odrick
  11. Karl Klug
  12. Terrell McClain
  13. Lawrence Guy
  14. Earl Mitchell
  15. Stacy McGee

Unlike the edge defender market, the 2017 cadre of interior defensive lineman shouldn’t be overly affected by the franchise tender. Head coach Ron Rivera recently confessed the Panthers will “probably” have to use the tag on Kawann Short, but the rest of the defensive tackles listed here should be able to hit the open market. Of the remaining defenders, Campbell is the best overall player, but given that he’s entering his age-31 season, he may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

Hankins is only 24 years old, and though the Giants are trying to retain him along with the rest of their defensive core, the 6’3″, 320-pound mauler should represent an attractive option to a number of clubs this offseason. Williams, too, offers a massive presence on the inside, while Poe could intrigue clubs based on his first-round pedigree and athleticism (though his play hasn’t always matched his potential). The Redskins’ Chris Baker is a solid, well-rounded defensive tackle, and could constitute a consolation prize for teams that miss out on their top targets.

The rest of the class offers an interesting mix of nose tackles (Bennie Logan), interior pass rushers (Nick Fairley, Earl Mitchell), and run stoppers (Karl Klug, Alan Branch), so clubs hoping to bolster their defensive line should find no shortage of options. Jared Odrick recently hit free agency after being released by the Jaguars, while Terrell McClain, Lawrence Guy, and Stacy McGee could be underrated finds for the right team. McClain, for what it’s worth, has already been linked to the Falcons.

Read more

AFC Notes: Bolts, Texans, Fins, Browns

Before the Chargers hired Anthony Lynn as their head coach, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that he would retain offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt if he got the job. That will indeed be the case, Lynn confirmed Tuesday at his introductory press conference. Whisenhunt, who’s in his second stint with the Chargers, will enter his third season atop the club’s offense. He has a “strong relationship” with quarterback Philip Rivers, notes CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (Twitter link).

As for the Bolts’ defensive coordinator position, Lynn revealed that he’ll conduct a second interview with Gus Bradley on Tuesday, tweets John Keim of ESPN.com. Lynn and Bradley have been connected to one another over the past few weeks, and the ex-Jacksonville head coach is reportedly the front-runner to take over the Chargers’ defense. At the same time, though, Bradley’s waiting to see if San Francisco will vie for his services.

More from the AFC:

  • The Texans are likely to re-sign pending free agent punter Shane Lechler to a one-year deal, reports John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Lechler indicated Monday that he’d like to return for what would be his age-41 season in 2017. “Looking forward to next year,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll have me back. I’m ready to go. I feel good. We’ll see how it goes.” After spending the first 13 years of his career in Oakland, where he earned seven Pro Bowl nods and six first-team All-Pro selections, Lechler joined the Texans in 2013. He’s coming off a season in which he finished sixth in the NFL in yards per punt, ninth in kicks inside the 20 and 16th in net yardage.
  • The Dolphins held an “animated” December meeting in which they discussed moving linebacker Kiko Alonso from the middle to the weak side, but they opted against it so as not to “mess with Kiko’s head,” sources told Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Now that the Dolphins’ season is over, they’re again weighing whether to make the switch. If the Dolphins are confident Alonso can play either spot, it would give them flexibility in finding upgrades at the other two linebacker positions, writes Salguero. “We’ll see what other type of players we bring in through free agency and the draft and where Kiko fits in,” said new defensive coordinator Matt Burke. In his first year in Miami, Alonso rebounded from a torn ACL in 2014 with Buffalo and a disastrous 2015 as an Eagle to pile up a Dolphins-leading 115 tackles and two interceptions.
  • The Browns have tabbed Clyde Simmons as their assistant defensive line coach, per Sporting News’ Alex Marvez. He’ll take over for Robert Nunn, whom the Browns fired Tuesday, according to Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com (Twitter links). Simmons, a former defensive end who amassed 121.5 sacks between 1986-2000, worked as the Rams’ assistant D-line coach over the past half-decade. Heading to Cleveland means he’ll remain under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was also previously with the Rams.

Contract Details: Freeman, Sims, Claiborne

Here are the latest contract details for players who have agreed to new deals and/or signed them in recent days. Unless otherwise specified, all links are courtesy of Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle…

NFC:

  • Jerrell Freeman, LB (Bears): Three years, $12MM. Deal maxes out at $14.25MM with incentives/escalators. $6MM guaranteed at signing (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of USA Today).
  • Eugene Sims, DE (Rams): Three years, $10MM. $3.75MM in guarantees. $2.25MM salary for 2016 guaranteed. $750K roster bonus due this week. $500K roster bonuses due on the fifth day of the 2017 and 2018 league years. $750K annual incentives for sacks and playoffs (Twitter links).
  • Jon Ryan, P (Seahawks): Four years, $10MM. $3.4MM guaranteed. $2.4MM signing bonus. $1MM salary in 2016 guaranteed. $100K incentives for Pro Bowl and playoffs (Twitter link).
  • James Hanna, TE (Cowboys): Three years, $8.25MM. $2.25MM signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • Emmanuel Lamur, LB (Vikings): Two years, $5.5MM. $2MM guaranteed. $1MM roster bonus due Monday. $15,625 per-game active roster bonus in both seasons (Twitter link).
  • Gino Gradkowski, OL (Panthers): Three years, $3.15MM. $450K signing bonus. $25K annual workout bonus (Twitter link).
  • Morris Claiborne, CB (Cowboys): One year, $3MM. Deal maxes out at $3.375MM with incentives. $500K signing bonus. $1MM in per-game active bonuses (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Keenan Robinson, LB (Giants): One year, $2.6MM. $1MM roster bonus due on the 10th day of the 2016 league year. $21,500 per-game active bonus. Up to $900K in playing-time incentives (Twitter link).
  • Sean Weatherspoon, LB (Falcons): One year, $1.5MM. $500K in per-game active bonuses. $750K in playing-time incentives (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Travaris Cadet, RB (Saints): One year, $840K. $80K signing bonus (Twitter link)

AFC:

  • Eddie Pleasant, S (Texans): Two years, $2.15MM. $311K roster bonus for 2016. $36K roster bonus for 2017 (link).
  • Matt Cassel, QB (Titans): One year, $2MM. $750K signing bonus. $500K in incentives (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Shane Lechler, P (Texans): One year, $1.8MM. $500K signing bonus (link).
  • Nick Novak, K (Texans): One year, 965K. $80K roster bonus due Monday (link).

Contract Details: Kearse, Whitehead, Hali

Here are a few of the latest contract details for players who have agreed to new deals and/or signed them in recent days. All links are courtesy of Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle unless otherwise indicated…

NFC:

  • Jermaine Kearse, WR (Seahawks): Three years, $13.5MM. $6.3MM guaranteed. $5.5MM signing bonus. Up to $4.7MM in total incentives/escalators (Twitter links via Wilson and Tom Pelissero of USA Today).
  • Tahir Whitehead, LB (Lions): Two years, $8MM. $4.75MM guaranteed. $3MM signing bonus. $500K in annual playing-time/Pro Bowl incentives. $200K in per-game active roster bonuses in 2017 (Twitter links).
  • Sherrick McManis, CB (Bears): Two years, $2.85MM. $600K signing bonus. $150K roster bonus due 10th day of 2016 league year. $50K annual workout bonus (Twitter link).
  • Senio Kelemete, OL (Saints): Two years, $2.7MM. $300K signing bonus. $50K roster bonus due third day of 2017 league year. Up to $600K in annual incentives (Twitter links).
  • Kenrick Ellis, DT (Vikings): One year, $810K. $25K workout bonus. $25K bonus for one game on 53-man roster (Twitter link via Pelissero).

AFC:

  • Tamba Hali, OLB (Chiefs): Three years, $21MM. $11.5MM fully guaranteed. $4.75MM signing bonus. $500K annually in weight bonuses (five weigh-ins worth $100K each). $500K annually in per-game active roster bonuses (Twitter links via Wilson and Pelissero).
  • Robert Golden, S (Steelers): Three years, $4.95MM. $1.25MM signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • Eddie Pleasant, S (Texans): Two years, $2.15MM. $311K roster bonus in 2016. $36K roster bonus in 2017 (Twitter link).
  • Shane Lechler, P (Texans): One year, $1.8MM. $500K signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • Khiry Robinson, RB (Jets): One year, $1.175MM. $80K signing bonus. $20K roster bonus for first game. $350K in per-game roster bonuses (Twitter link).
  • Nick Novak, K (Texans): One year, $965K. Minimum salary benefit. $80K roster bonus due March 14 (Twitter link).

Texans To Re-Sign Shane Lechler, Nick Novak

TUESDAY, 5:46pm: The Texans announced that they have officially re-signed Novak.

MONDAY, 9:56am: The Texans have re-signed both Lechler and kicker Nick Novak, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter).

Novak was the Chargers’ full-time kicker from 2011 to 2014 before signing with Houston in September 2015. With San Diego, Novak converted on 101 of his 117 field goal attempts (86.3%), including 11 of 17 from 50+ yards. This past season in Houston, Novak nailed 18 of 21 field goal attempts, good for an 85.7% rate.

9:49am: The Texans will re-sign punter Shane Lechler on a one-year deal, according to Rand Getlin of NFL.com (on Twitter). Lechler averaged 47.3 yard per punt last season. "<strong

Lechler, 40 in August, logged 13 seasons with the Raiders before joining the Texans in 2013. The veteran indicated last month that he wanted to return to the league in 2016 in search of a Super Bowl ring. Despite Houston’s struggles in 2015, he believes that the Texans can give him that opportunity next season.

I played in the Super Bowl one time, didn’t get a chance to win it,” Lechler told Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com. “I want to win one. That’s my main goal. I go into every Sunday, even when I was on a 2-14 team here, 2-14 team twice in Oakland, I never went on the field thinking I wasn’t going to win. I want to win a championship. I’m not going to sit here and say I deserve to win one, because I had that chance. I want to win one.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.