T.J. McDonald

Dolphins To Place RT Ja’Wuan James On IR

The Dolphins will be without a key member of their offensive line for the rest of the season. According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (via Twitter), the team has placed right tackle Ja’Wuan James on the injured reserve. Head coach Adam Gase told reporters yesterday that James could be shelved due to a hamstring injury. The Dolphins have activated safety T.J. McDonald off the reserve/suspended list to take his spot on the roster.

Ja'Wuan James (Vertical)James, a 2014 first-round pick out of Tennessee, started all eight games this season. Pro Football Focus was particularly fond of his performance in 2017, ranking him 10th among 78 eligible tackle candidates. The lineman has been a mainstay on the Dolphins over the past four years, having started all 16 games in 2014 and 2016 (he missed nine games in 2015 due to a toe injury). The Dolphins had picked up James’ fifth-year option back in May, which is only guaranteed for injury. In other words, the lineman would have to pass a physical if the team wanted out of the $9.341MM obligation.

With only around $1MM in cap space, the Dolphins will be hard pressed to add reinforcement via free agency. Jesse Davis, who previously started a pair of games at offensive guard, will fill in for James at right tackle. James will join Anthony Steen and Eric Smith on the injured reserve, although Ted Larsen is expected to return from his biceps injury.

Shortly after signing a one-year deal with the Dolphins, McDonald was suspended eight games by the NFL. Following an impressive preseason, the 26-year-old ultimately signed a four-year extension with the organization. McDonald started 16 games for the Rams last season, compiling 64 tackles and six passes defended. He’ll look to displace Reshad Jones or Michael Thomas atop the depth chart.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Broncos, Ward, Dorsett

The Broncos did not discuss a pay cut with safety T.J. Ward before releasing him on Saturday, Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post tweets. “It was a football decision,” a team source tells her, adding that the motivation was to give more playing time to Justin Simmons and Will Parks. Meanwhile, Broncos players are upset about losing Ward and his locker room presence, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets.

While Ward searches for a new home, here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Colts had offers for Phillip Dorsett from other teams, but those proposed swaps involved draft choices instead of netting a young player at a positional need, Mike Lombardi of The Ringer tweets. Lombardi doesn’t name teams, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link) says the 49ers, Jets and Cardinals were among the teams that showed preliminary interest in him.
  • The Jets are expected to be interested in running back Travaris Cadet now that he has been released by New Orleans, Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets. The Jets showed interest in Cadet during free agency but ultimately lost out.
  • T.J. McDonald‘s new deal with the Dolphins has built in protections for the team that will override his guarantees if he has another suspension issue, Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald tweets. The pact includes $10MM in “guarantees,” but McDonald can’t slip up if he wants to collect on all of it.
  • Wide receiver Victor Cruz says that he got a “clean bill of health” on his MRI this week, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com tweets. He’s now a free agent after being released by Chicago.
  • Chiefs GM Brett Veach says veteran running back C.J. Spiller could still end up on the Chiefs’ roster (Twitter link via BJ Kissel of Chiefs.com). Spiller was among the Chiefs’ mass cuts on Saturday as they trimmed down to 53.

Dolphins, T.J. McDonald Agree To Extension

The Dolphins and safety T.J. McDonald have agreed to a four-year, $24MM extension, as James Walker of ESPN.com tweets. The deal includes $10MM in guaranteed money. "<strong

The Dolphins won’t get to see McDonald in live action for a while thanks to his eight-game suspension, but they have been floored by his performance thus far in the summer. He originally came to Miami on a low-risk, one-year deal, but the Fins have seen enough to warrant giving him a multi-year deal at a starter’s salary.

McDonald was a longtime starter for the Rams, but L.A. showed little interest in retaining him. His suspension didn’t come down until the end of March, but it seems that the Rams had some sense of the punishment that was coming his way for the DUI arrest and drug charges.

In 2016, McDonald had 62 total tackles, two interceptions, one sack, and six passes defensed. He graded out as as Pro Football Focus’ 58th best safety in the NFL last season. The Fins clearly disagree with the advanced metrics and see him as a much stronger player.

When McDonald is in uniform, the Dolphins will have a strong safety combo between him and Reshad Jones. In the interim, Jones will be paired with Nate Allen.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins, T.J. McDonald Discussing Extension

The Dolphins signed T.J. McDonald to a one-year deal this past offseason to bolster their secondary. They’re so happy with their decision to add the safety that they’re already discussing an extension with his representatives, Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald writes. T.J. McDonald (vertical)

McDonald, 26, has thrived over the last few months. He won’t be in action until the ninth game of the season thanks to his substance abuse suspension, but he has impressed the Dolphins by flashing the skills that made him a four-year starter with the Rams.

Last year, McDonald had 62 total tackles, two interceptions, one sack, and six passes defensed for Los Angeles, but the Rams did not show any interest in re-signing him. He graded out as as Pro Football Focus’ No. 58 safety.

McDonald projects to start opposite strong safety Reshad Jones when he is in the lineup. In the interim, Nate Allen will hold down the fort at free safety.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: McDonald, Giants, Eagles, Jets

Signing T.J. McDonald to a one-year deal despite an eight-game suspension looming, the Dolphins will prepare throughout the offseason as though the safety is part of the plan. McDonald signed a one-year, $1.344MM deal that will only guarantee the Dolphins eight regular-season games of service. But he makes for an interesting complement to Reshad Jones, and the Fins’ offseason and preseason could display those looks, even if their September and October slate won’t.

We’re just going to practice him,” Adam Gase said today, via Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post. “We’re going to give him the reps that he needs. We’ve got to go through our process with him. I’ve played against him, but I haven’t seen him practice and go through a daily routine and all those type of things, so we need to get used to him as he needs to get used to us.

It’s a good signing for us because we feel like that position is something that we didn’t do as well as we needed to. Last year, we got a little thin and some guys had to really step up and play and try to fill into some roles and they were playing multiple roles.”

Nate Allen leads a cast of safeties expected to vie for the Fins’ back-line job alongside Jones while McDonald is out.

Here’s more from the Eastern divisions.

  • The Giants did not allocate many resources to bolstering a middling offensive line, pointing to the incumbents being given another chance. Although the team added guard/tackle D.J. Fluker on a lower-level deal, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post believes Bobby Hart will still be given every chance to keep the right tackle job. This arrangement could potentially pit Fluker against recently re-signed right guard John Jerry, whom Pro Football Focus assessed as enjoying a bounce-back season in 2016. The 22-year-old Hart being a priority over putting Fluker and Jerry in the lineup together would be interesting given his history as a former seventh-round pick and a player whom PFF graded as the No. 67 full-time tackle last season.
  • Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook fascinated the Eagles, but the price to move up in Rounds 1-2 to be in range to select them was too steep, Jeff McLane of Philly.com notes. The Eagles evidently believed the gap between McCaffrey and Cook was wide enough they didn’t want to use their No. 14 overall pick on a Florida State runner who plummeted into the second round. Cook went to the Vikings at 41, two spots before the Eagles went with Sidney Jones. Philly signed LeGarrette Blount earlier this week and is expected to cut Ryan Mathews once he’s healthy.
  • Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan saw current Washington third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld as a player who could be a starter after a few development seasons, J.P. Finlay of CSNMidAtlantic.com writes. This will be Year 2 for the 2016 sixth-round pick, who sits behind Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy on the depth chart.
  • The Jets are focused on seeing if Christian Hackenberg can pan out rather than eyeing the as-of-now highly acclaimed 2018 quarterback class, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com writes. Cimini, though, does note that scouts are particularly intrigued by Wyoming’s Josh Allen, whom he adds could end up being taken No. 1 overall next year despite large-school competition from Sam Darnold (USC) and Josh Rosen (UCLA). The Jets appear to be in rebuilding mode, and in signing Josh McCown for one year, would possibly have a route to one of the aforementioned passing prospects — if Hackenberg stock falls this season.

East Notes: Dolphins, Giants, Redskins, Pats

The Dolphins have until May 2 to pick up the 2018 fifth-year option on right tackle Ja’Wuan James, and the decision is not clear-cut, as James Walker of ESPN.com writes. James, 24, has started 39 games since being selected with the 19th overall pick in 2014, and he was solid last season, grading as the league’s No. 32 tackle, per Pro Football Focus. However, because the fifth-year option salary is based on both left and right tackle contracts, it’s expected to be worth approximately $8MM, a figure that would make James the third-highest-paid right tackle in the league on an annual basis. The deal would only be for a single season, however, and is guaranteed for injury only until the first day of the 2018 league year.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • Defensive end Owa Odighizuwa is still a member of the Giants, as franchise owner John Mara told reporters, including Ralph Vacchiano of SNY (Twitter link). Mara added he “doesn’t think” Odighizuwa will follow through on his apparent retirement plans. The 25-year-old defender has posted a cryptic series of tweets in recent days, first indicating that he’d step away from the NFL, then saying he’s “grateful to be part of Big Blue.” Fellow Giants players aren’t sure exactly what’s going on with Odighizuwa, although some observers believe he’s dealing with “personal” problems.
  • Although free agent signing Stacy McGee may fit better as a nose tackle given that he’s doesn’t rush the passer well, the Redskins intend to use him as a defensive end in their 3-4 scheme, according to Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post. Either way, Washington could still use another lineman or two, even after inking McGee and Terrell McClain last month. Johnathan Hankins is still available on the open market, as are fellow free agents Jared Odrick and Vance Walker. Draft options for the Redskins could include Malik McDowell (Michigan State), Chris Wormley (Michigan), and Caleb Brantley (Florida).
  • Brandon Bolden‘s new deal with the Patriots is worth $855K and comes with a $50K signing bonus, tweets Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. The pact also includes a $30K workout bonus. As Volin notes, this contract certainly doesn’t mean Bolden is a lock to earn a spot on the New England roster, especially given the club’s crowded backfield. At present, the Pats boast Dion Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead, D.J. Foster, and are also in contact with free agents Adrian Peterson and LeGarrette Blount. If Bolden does make New England’s squad, it will be on the basis of his special teams work.
  • Safety T.J. McDonald‘s one-year contract with the Dolphins has a value of $1.344MM, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). The deal will include a base salary of roughly $945K, $213K in per-game roster bonuses, and a $200K workout bonus. Of course, McDonald will only earn half of those totals, as he’s suspended for the first eight games of the season .

NFC Rumors: Vikings, Zeke, Roseman, Cards

Harrison Smith underwent ankle surgery in February but is expected to be ready for training camp. The Vikings‘ top defensive back is ahead of schedule in his recovery from the left ankle operation, per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, but the team is expected to be cautious with him this offseason. A high ankle sprain hampered Smith toward the end of last season, and although the Pro Bowl defender returned for the Vikings’ final two games after missing two in December, a corrective procedure became necessary. A source informed Tomasson that Smith opted for surgery after playing on the injured ankle in the Pro Bowl led to it “getting worse.” Smith will enter the first season of his five-year, $51.25MM contract in 2017.

Here’s more from the NFC.

  • Jerry Jones acknowledged the Ezekiel Elliott video that emerged via TMZ last month is “not good.” The video shows the Cowboys running back lowering a woman’s top on a float at a Dallas St. Patrick’s Day parade. “There is not much that I want to say other than that was unfortunate and not good,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News,” Jones said. “It wouldn’t be the right emphasis one way or the other to get into any communications or dialogue since that happened. … I wouldn’t want to say on communication, but I’m aware of the incident and I’m aware of the criticism.” Representatives of the 21-year-old Elliott expect him to be cleared of wrongdoing in a 2016 domestic violence case, but this incident adds to a growing list of off-the-field drama for the talented back.
  • The Rams did not pursue T.J. McDonald or Case Keenum in free agency, according to the Los Angeles Times. An impending eight-game suspension reduced interest in McDonald, who landed with the Dolphins. Keenum signed with the Vikings.
  • Howie Roseman‘s given more power over the Eagles‘ draft board to VP of player personnel Joe Douglas than he did previous lieutenants Ryan Grigson or Tom Gamble, Jeff McLane of Philly.com writes. “The draft is going to be really built by Joe,” Jeffrey Lurie said, via McLane, before adding “the final decision will be made by Howie.” This will be Douglas’ first draft with the Eagles after landing in Philadelphia last May. McLane writes this will take some of the prospect-evaluation burden off of Roseman.
  • The Cardinals do not look set to add any notable help at either running back or wide receiver. Bruce Arians said (via Kent Somers of AZCentral.com) the team is content with what it has there. The fifth-year Cardinals coach noted Kerwynn Williams can be the No. 2 back behind David Johnson, and the coach expects a healthier season from John Brown. Somers notes depth pieces could come via lower-round picks or UDFAs, but it appears Arizona will address other positions with its higher draft picks.
  • Tim Hightower‘s 49ers deal is a one-year agreement, according to Nick Shook of NFL.com. The former Cardinals, Redskins and Saints back will turn 31 in May.

Dolphins Sign S T.J. McDonald

Safety T.J. McDonald has found a new home. Luckily for him, his new destination will also feature palm trees. The Dolphins have agreed to terms with McDonald, James Walker of ESPN.com tweets. It’s a one-year deal for the minimum salary, Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald tweets. The team has confirmed the move via press release."<strong

As we learned this week, McDonald will have to serve an eight-game suspension stemming from last year’s DUI arrest. It’s not an ideal situation, but Miami probably feels that the former Rams safety can be an impact player in the second half of the season. There’s something to be said for a player having fresh legs late in the season and the deal is an undeniable bargain. Heading into free agency, I had McDonald ranked as a top 50 player based on projected earnings. Now, the Dolphins have added the four-year starter for next to nothing.

The Fins really view the pact as a “one-day contract,” because if he steps out of line one day, he’s gone (Twitter link via Salguero). Salguero adds that McDonald picked the Dolphins because they provided him with an opportunity to start fresh away from the west coast (Twitter link).

The Dolphins project to start Reshad Jones at strong safety with free agent pickup Nate Allen at free safety. In November, McDonald will work try to work his way into the rotation.

McDonald was ranked as our No. 1 safety remaining in free agency. Last year, McDonald had 62 total tackles, two interceptions, one sack, and six passes defensed. He graded out as as Pro Football Focus’ No. 58 safety.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

T.J. McDonald Suspended For Eight Games

Free agent safety T.J. McDonald has been suspended for the first eight games of the 2017 season, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter links). McDonald, he adds, just had his first free agent visit with the Dolphins. The suspension stems his May 2016 DUI arrest, which included drug charges (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). T.J. McDonald (vertical)

McDonald is ranked as our No. 1 available safety in free agency and is one of the highest-ranked players remaining on my Top 50 Free Agents list, which ranked players based on projected earning power. Apparently, McDonald won’t be making anywhere near what we expected, thanks in part to the pending ban.

McDonald, a hard hitting defensive back, has been a starter for the Rams in each of the last four seasons. This year, he hit free agency and the Rams did not show any interest in re-signing him.

In 2016, McDonald had 62 total tackles, two interceptions, one sack, and six passes defensed. He graded out as as Pro Football Focus’ 58th best safety in the NFL last season.

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.

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