Tavon Wilson

North Notes: Packers, Q. Diggs, Conner

We heard last month that the Packers would be going “back to Page 1” of their playbook, but as Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal writes, Green Bay is not going to be making any wholesale changes to its offense. In light of all of the new voices on the offensive side of the ball this year — Joe Philbin is back as OC, Frank Cignetti Jr. is in as quarterbacks coach, and there are several other staff changes besides — it made sense for all involved to thoroughly review the team’s play design and philosophy. But as Philbin said, “It’s been a process of refining, enhancing, tweaking, as opposed to, ‘Yeah we scrubbed it down.’ Yes, we went page by page. (But) we’re not starting from scratch here. These players in that locker room, they’ve done some great things.” 

Philbin, of course, is primarily referring to star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers indicated that verbiage has changed — and Philbin acknowledged that such changes were made in order to streamline the playcalling — and that has created something of a learning curve. But passing game Jim Hostler said that the goal is for the offense to look the same as it always has with Rodgers under center, even if there are some refinements and enhancements here and there.

Now for more from the league’s north divisions:

  • Opposing defenses were already treating Packers WR Davante Adams as the team’s No. 1 wideout last season, so the departure of Jordy Nelson will not represent much of a change in that regard, as Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com writes. But Green Bay has not (yet) signed a veteran wideout to replace Nelson, so Adams will need to take on a more active role in terms of leadership. The Packers drafted three receivers this year — one each in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds — and return 24-year-old Geronimo Allison as the presumed No. 3 WR on the depth chart, so Adams is suddenly the second-oldest player in the wide receiver room. He was not present for the start of OTAs, which caused some concern in light of his concussion history, but neither player nor team seem concerned about his availability. Head coach Mike McCarthy simply said Adams is “battling a couple things,” presumably minor injuries.
  • Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com says Quandre Diggs has a real chance to permanently supplant Tavon Wilson as the Lions‘ starting strong safety in 2018. Diggs, a former sixth-round selection, played well in that role last season, and Rothstein suggests he may even be the favorite to start at this point. Miles Killebrew, a former fourth-round choice, appears to be on the outside looking in and may need to continue to stand out on special teams to retain his roster spot.
  • James Conner, a feel-good story and 2017 third-round choice, is featuring prominently in Steelers‘ OTAs due to Le’Veon Bell‘s continued absence, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes. Conner showed flashes in his rookie campaign, which ended with a Week 15 MCL tear, but if he can cement himself as the team’s No. 2 back behind Bell this season — and he will need to improve in pass protection in order to do so — that could be the first step towards a starting job in 2019, depending on Bell’s contract situation.
  • John Ross is once again a full participant in the Bengals‘ OTAs, as Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer observes. Although Ross dropped a few passes, he also made some difficult grabs and is seeing a lot of passes come his way. Tyler Eifert, meanwhile, is a limited participant, but having both players involved at the beginning of full team work is a beautiful thing for Cincinnati fans.
  • Neil Stratton of InsideTheLeague.com (via Twitter) details a few more changes to the Browns‘ scouting department that were not covered several days ago.

Lions Re-Sign S Tavon Wilson

The Lions re-signed safety Tavon Wilson to a 2-year, $7MM deal, a source tells ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Wilson was scheduled for free agency, but he’s now under contract with Detroit through the 2019 season. 

Wilson, who turns 28 this month, has appeared in 25 games for the Lions with appearances at both free safety and strong safety. Last year, he totaled 55 tackles, two sacks, and one interception.

The advanced metrics were not high on his play as Pro Football Focus ranked him as one of the ten worst qualified safeties in the NFL. In the year prior, however, he earned a strong 83.8 grade and was also held in high regard for his previous seasons with the Patriots. Old friend Bob Quinn brought him to Detroit after drafting him in New England and their partnership will continue for another two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2018:

Edge defender:

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

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

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

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

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

Interior defensive line:

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

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

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

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

Lions S Tavon Wilson Done For Year

Lions safety Tavon Wilson will require shoulder surgery that will end his 2017 season, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links).Tavon Wilson (Vertical)

Wilson, 27, had started nine games and played on three-quarters of Detroit’s defensive snaps so far this season, but he hadn’t been effective, as he graded as a bottom-15 NFL safety, per Pro Football Focus. However, Wilson had been a solid starter as recently as 2016, and it’s fair to wonder if injuries — Wilson has now hurt his shoulder three times this year, per Birkett — have affected his level of performance.

Without Wilson on the active roster, the Lions will turn to 2016 fourth-round pick Miles Killebrew to play safety opposite Glover Quin. Killebrew has played roughly half of Detroit’s snaps in 2017 (and posted better results than Wilson, at least according to PFF’s metrics). With Quin playing at a Pro Bowl level as a deep safety, Killebrew will be asked to play closer to the line of scrimmage.

Wilson, a second-round pick of the Patriots in 2012, is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency next spring when his current two-year contract expires.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Bills, Taylor, Lions, Wilson

Here’s a look around the NFL:

  • Bills coach Sean McDermott says he is not considering a quarterback change, despite comments that made it seem as though he could move away from Tyrod Taylor (Twitter link via Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News). Taylor struggled against Jacksonville on Thursday night, leading some to speculate that rookie Nathan Peterman could step in as the starter. The Bills inked Taylor to a new two-year deal this past offseason, but they’re really only tied to him through 2017. Only $1MM of his $10MM salary in 2018 is guaranteed and he could theoretically be released before he can collect on his $6MM roster bonus early in the 2018 league year.
  • Lions coach Jim Caldwell says safety Tavon Wilson could still face a potential suspension for the civil lawsuit filed against him by his ex-girlfriend. “The league has the information,” Caldwell said (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press). “They’ll look at, they’ll make a determination. If there’s an issue they’ll let us know. So that’s all we can do.” The woman claims that Wilson and his friends threw her to the ground and broke her nose, but the safety was not charged with any crimes relating to the May 2016 incident.
  • The Colts did not pursue Jeremy Zuttah as hard as the Ravens did, Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star (Twitter links) hears. The Colts also had a need for Zuttah in the wake of Ryan Kelly‘s injury, but their offer apparently didn’t measure up to Baltimore’s.

Tavon Wilson Sued, Accused Of Assault

Lions safety Tavon Wilson is being accused of punching an ex-girlfriend and is being sued for $2.5MM, TMZ reports (confirmed by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press). Alanda Jackson, who is the mother of Wilson’s child, recently filed the suit over the 2016 incident. The report indicated that the 27-year-old allegedly threw Jackson to the ground and punched her in the nose. A second victim is also suing Wilson, claiming that she was stabbed during the accident by the player’s “entourage.”

Tavon Wilson“We are aware of the report regarding Tavon Wilson,” the team said in a statement. “We have spoken to Tavon and we have also notified the league office of this matter. Due to the personal nature of this situation, we will have no additional comment at this time.”

As Justin Rogers of the Detroit News notes (via Twitter), the organization has traditionally had a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence, perhaps putting Wilson’s future in Detroit in doubt.

Following four seasons with the Patriots, Wilson joined the Lions prior to last season. He went on to play in 15 games (14 starts) during the 2016 campaign, collecting a career-high 89 tackles to go with one sack and two interceptions. If Wilson is ultimately cut loose by the team, Miles Killebrew and/or Don Carey would presumably see a more significant role on defense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Rumors: Vikings, Decker, Saints

It doesn’t sound like the Vikings will be going after Eric Decker. When asked about the veteran receiver, GM Rick Spielman indicated that the team is content at the position.

We always look at everybody that is released, but we feel pretty confident with our receiving corps right now,’’ Spielman said (via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press). “Just watching Stefon Diggs (and) Adam Thielen. … Laquon Treadwell is totally different (than as a rookie last year). … And to pick up a Michael Floyd, he’s been real impressive. Jarius Wright, he’s been kind of a forgotten man, but he’s out there making plays every day and we have two rookies that are pretty impressive so far (in Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley). So we feel pretty confident at this point where our depth is at that position, that we do have some weapons. … But … you never know. We always keep the door open for everybody.’’

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • He might be getting ahead of himself a little bit, but Saints running back Adrian Peterson says that he wants to play several more years. Peterson was sporting No. 37 at a charity softball game this week and he told reporters that 37 might be a good age for him to hang ’em up. “I’d be lying to you say it doesn’t give you a chip [on your shoulder]. Especially being a competitor,” the 32-year-old said, via Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate. “It’s not my main focus. It’s something that drives you a little bit. After 30, because it was the same back then. ‘Oh, he’s 30.’ Then I ended up leading the league in 2015. Same thing the next year. Stuff will continue to repeat itself until I finish.” Peterson inked a two-year deal with New Orleans this offseason.
  • Lions safety Tavon Wilson, who is in a contract year, has changed agents. He’s now represented by Wesley Spencer (Twitter link).
  • This week, the Cardinals shifted Andre Ellington back to running back. The Cardinals were experimenting with the idea of moving Ellington to wide receiver.

NFC Contract Details: Vernon, Jenkins, Mack

Here are some of the latest details on many recent agreed-upon and signed contracts from out of the NFC (all links via Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post unless otherwise indicated)…

NFC East:

  • Olivier Vernon, DE (Giants): Five years, $85MM. $52.5MM guaranteed. $20MM signing bonus. $7MM roster bonus due on fifth day of 2016 league year (Twitter links).
  • Janoris Jenkins, CB (Giants): Five years, $62.5MM. $28.8MM guaranteed. $10MM signing bonus. $1.4MM base salary in 2016 (Twitter link).
  • Brandon Brooks, G (Eagles): Five years, $40MM. $21MM guaranteed. $11MM signing bonus. $1MM base salary in 2016 and $5MM base salary in 2017 fully guaranteed (Twitter link).
  • Chase Daniel, QB (Eagles): Three years, $21MM base value. $36MM max value. $3MM signing bonus. $3MM roster bonus due on March 14. $3MM base escalators in 2017 and 2018 (Twitter link).
  • Colt McCoy, QB (Washington): Three years, $9MM base value. Third year can be voided based on playing time. $1.8MM signing bonus. $1MM annually in playing-time incentives (Twitter link).
  • Ron Brooks, CB (Eagles): Three years, $5.5MM. $1.55MM guaranteed. $750K signing bonus (Twitter link).

NFC South:

NFC North:

  • Marvin Jones, WR (Lions): Five years, $40MM. $20MM guaranteed. $8MM signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • Alex Boone, G (Vikings): Four years, $26.8MM. $10MM guaranteed. Annual $100K workout bonus (Twitter link).
  • Danny Trevathan, LB (Bears): Four years, $24.5MM. $12MM guaranteed. $5MM signing bonus. $3.5MM roster bonus due on March 14 (Twitter link).
  • Michael Griffin, S (Vikings): One year, $2.5MM. $250K signing bonus. $500K of $1.65MM base salary guaranteed. Up to $500K in playing-time incentives (Twitter links).
  • Tavon Wilson, S (Lions): Two years, $2.2MM. $500K signing bonus. Up to $500K in annual playing-time incentives (Twitter link).

NFC West:

  • Mark Barron, OLB (Rams): Five years, $45MM. $20MM guaranteed. $5MM signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • William Hayes, DE (Rams): Three years, $17.5MM. $10MM guaranteed. $4MM roster bonus due on March 13 (Twitter link).
  • Tyvon Branch, S (Cardinals): Two years, $8MM. $1MM signing bonus. $1.75MM roster bonus in 2016, $1MM roster bonus in 2017 (Twitter link).
  • Tim Barnes, C (Rams): Two years, $5.6MM. $2.5MM guaranteed. $1.25MM roster bonus due in four days. $750K roster bonus due on third day of 2017 league year guaranteed for injury, skill; becomes fully guaranteed if on roster June 17. Up to $1MM in annual playing-time incentives. $250K annual Pro Bowl incentive (all Twitter links).
  • Brian Quick, WR (Rams): One year, $1.75MM. $1.5MM guaranteed ($1.25MM bas salary, $250K roster bonus due on March 15). $2MM stats incentive (Twitter link).

Lions Sign Tavon Wilson

The Lions have signed safety Tavon Wilson, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). Details of Wilson’s contract aren’t yet available.

Wilson, 25, spent the first four years of his career in New England, appearing in 54 regular-season games and logging four starts. He has amassed five interceptions, four of which came during his rookie year in 2012. The Patriots drafted Wilson in the second round. New Lions general manager Bob Quinn was in the Pats’ front office at the time.

AFC Rumors: Vernon, A. Jones, J. Freeman

Alex Marvex of FOX Sports is “getting strong vibes” from NFL sources that the Dolphins will rescind defensive end Olivier Vernon‘s transition tag at some point (Twitter link). Vernon could be expendable given that Miami signed Mario Williams and plans to keep Cameron Wake.

Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald agrees that the Fins could rescind the tag, and also reports that a league source expects Vernon to sign a long-term deal with another club in the next few days, and the Dolphins aren’t expected to be able to match. However, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk also chimes in, noting that he hears Miami hasn’t made a decision on Vernon yet.

Here’s the latest on the AFC free agent scene:

  • The Jets are no longer in contention for free agent corner Adam Jones, a source tells Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link).
  • The Chiefs are “poking around” on free agent linebacker Jerrell Freeman, tweets Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports. Freeman could serve as a potential replacement for Derrick Johnson, who is also a free agent.
  • Elsewhere in Kansas City, it looks like Chiefs corner Sean Smith will hit the open market, per Robinson (Twitter link), and the Raiders could be one potential suitor.
  • Despite receiving interest from other clubs, receiver Travis Benjamin is still in play for the Browns, writes Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
  • Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com believes the Titans are interested in receiver Rishard Matthews — it’s a little unclear if the ESPN scribe is reporting or speculating, but it sounds like there could be a link.
  • Free agent safety Tavon Wilson will not return to the Patriots, according to Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com. the former second-round pick has been in New England since 2012.