Taylor Gabriel

Bears To Sign WR Taylor Gabriel

The Bears’ offense is looking downright scary. Chicago has agreed to sign wide receiver Taylor Gabriel to a four-year deal, according to former NFL player Andrew Hawkins (on Twitter). The news has been confirmed by Peter Schrager of NFL.com (Twitter link).

The four-year deal is worth $26MM, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The deal includes $14MM guaranteed with a maximum value of $28MM.

Earlier this month, Gabriel bid farewell to the Falcons as he anticipated better offers to come in from other teams. He found the proposal he was seeking from Chicago, which has changed its offensive attack for the better.

In 2016, Gabriel put himself on the map with 35 receptions for 379 yards and six touchdowns. Last year, those numbers dropped off a bit with 33 receptions for 378 yards and one score. Still, he brings lots of speed to the Bears’ passing game, which also now includes free agent pickups Allen Robinson and Trey Burton.

After settling for bargain buys last year in the form of Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright, the Bears committed to serious shopping this year. Chicago has been extremely active in free agency thus far, allocating much of its cap space to helping a passing game that injuries decimated last season.

The Bears were without Cameron Meredith and Kevin White last season, with tight end Zach Miller going down with a scary injury as well. The team tendered Meredith, an RFA, at the original-round level and still has White under contract. But Robinson, Burton and now Gabriel are going to play key roles in the Windy City.

Once waived by the Browns, Gabriel then caught on as a key target for the NFC champion Falcons in 2016. The six touchdowns Gabriel caught that year, though, represent three-fourths of Gabriel’s TDs over a four-year career. His per-catch average plummeted by five yards, to 11.5, in 2017. But he wasn’t the only Falcon to produce worse numbers in Steve Sarkisian‘s offense compared to Kyle Shanahan‘s.

Now, Mitch Trubisky will have a chance to develop a rapport with several playmakers with higher-end potential.

[RELATED: Bears Depth Chart]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

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

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

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


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

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

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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Taylor Gabriel To Leave Falcons?

It sounds like pending free agent Taylor Gabriel won’t be back with the Falcons. On Thursday, Gabriel took to Twitter to bid farewell to Atlanta fans and the organization. Taylor Gabriel (Vertical)

I’m very grateful to the owner, [GM, and] also the coaches for giving me that opportunity, but [I’m excited] for the new team and city that welcomes me with open arms,” Gabriel wrote.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff recently indicated that Gabriel would be allowed to test free agency, but it sounds as though the team has also told Gabriel’s camp that they will not be in on the bidding process. After another solid year, the 27-year-old may be in line for a pay bump.

The Falcons retained Gabriel with a second round tender last year, giving him a $2.81MM salary for 2017. Gabriel responded by catching 33 passes for 378 yards and one touchdown, numbers that were admittedly down from his 2016 stat line (35 passes, 379 yards, and six scores).

This offseason will mark Gabriel’s first turn through free agency. Free agents are permitted to speak with teams beginning on March 12 and can put pen to paper on March 14.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Notes: Falcons, Panthers, Bucs

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

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

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

Taylor Gabriel Signs RFA Tender

Taylor Gabriel will be back with the Falcons as they continue their offseason program. The wide receiver signed his RFA tender, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter).

Barring a new contract, the fourth-year wideout will make $2.81MM on the second-round tender this season. Gabriel figures to again be a key part of Atlanta’s passing attack, one that dazzled last season under Kyle Shanahan‘s guidance.

Gabriel turned in a second season of quality complementary work, with his 579-yard showing in 2016 representing the second-most of his career. Shanahan’s one year in Cleveland helped the then-rookie target to a 621-yard campaign in 2014. The six receiving touchdowns last season, though, were far and away Gabriel’s career high.

He’s yet to excel outside of Shanahan’s stewardship, though, so 2017 figures to be a critical year for the 5-foot-8 performer as he makes a case for long-term employment in Atlanta or elsewhere as a free agent. The 26-year-old receiver stands to be a UFA in 2018. For now, he’ll return to his post alongside Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu after rewarding the Falcons for their prescient preseason waiver claim.


Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons To Place Second-Round Tender On Taylor Gabriel

The Falcons will apply a $2.81MM second-round tender to restricted free agent wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, reports Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Doing so will entitle Atlanta to a team’s second-round pick if that club signs Gabriel to an offer sheet and the Falcons don’t match it. Gabriel told McClure he’d like to be a “Falcon forever,” though, and the two sides will be able to negotiate a long-term contract if they want.

Taylor Gabriel

The speedy Gabriel just finished his first season in Atlanta, which claimed him off waivers after the Browns jettisoned him leading up to Week 1. That proved to an excellent move for the Falcons, with whom Gabriel averaged a lofty 16.5 yards per catch on 35 grabs and scored seven touchdowns (six receiving, one rushing) in 13 regular-season games. The 26-year-old then added another nine catches for 171 yards in the playoffs for the NFC champions.

Since entering the NFL in as an undrafted free agent in 2014, the 5-foot-8, 167-pound Gabriel has amassed 99 catches, 1,441 yards (14.2 YPC) and eight scores scores in 42 games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Notes: Bucs, Falcons, Panthers

The Buccaneers and impending free agent wide receiver Vincent Jackson have discussed a potential return, but the 34-year-old could retire, writes Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. “We did have conversations with Vincent,” general manager Jason Licht said Wednesday. “I have the utmost respect for him. Everybody in the organization does. In my mind, in head coach Dirk [Koetter’s] mind, in the owners’ minds, he’ll be a Buc for life. So whatever happens happens, but we’ll always want Vincent to be around the organization.”

Jackson has been with the Buccaneers since 2012, and he started 16 games in each of his first three seasons as a member of the club, but he has endured back-to-back knee injury-shortened campaigns. The six-time 1,000-yard man has combined for just 15 appearances since 2015.

Regardless of whether the Buccaneers re-sign Jackson, they’re going to target “playmakers” this offseason, Licht revealed. Entering free agency, only three teams have more cap space than the Bucs.

More from the NFC South:

  • Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and guard Ben Garland will be tendered as RFAs (Twitter link via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com). He did not specify what level, however. Gabriel was the far bigger contributor of the two last year, when he averaged 16.5 yards per catch on 35 receptions and combined for seven touchdowns through the air and on the ground. Garland appeared in all 16 of the Falcons’ regular-season games, but he didn’t start any.
  • Dimitroff also announced that the Falcons will let defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux become an unrestricted free agent after 12 years together, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Conversely, the Falcons are trying to re-sign fullback Patrick DiMarco (Twitter link). Babineaux, 35, has totaled 185 appearances, 133 starts, 27 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in Atlanta, which selected him in the second round of the 2005 draft. He’s coming off the eighth 16-game season of his career, in which he picked up six starts and 22 tackles. DiMarco, a four-year Falcon, has three 16-appearance seasons in a row under his belt. He made eight starts in 2016.
  • Panthers GM Dave Gettleman told reporters on Wednesday that tackle Michael Oher is still in the league’s concussion protocol. This means the Panthers could be in the market for a starting left tackle. Oher has been dealing with a brain injury since September and only played in three games last year as a result. The eight-year veteran is under contract through 2019.
  • Reserve defensive end Darryl Tapp made it clear Wednesday that he wants to re-sign with the Saints, relays Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. Tapp’s agent and the Saints have engaged in discussions about a new deal. The 32-year-old journeyman just finished his first season in New Orleans, where he started in two of 16 appearances.
  • As of last month, the Buccaneers hadn’t held contract talks with soon-to-be free agent running back Jacquizz Rodgers. However, the team would “love to have” him back, Licht stated (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com). Rodgers, 27, put up 560 yards on 129 rushes (4.3 per carry) and scored two touchdowns last season.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

FA Notes: Cowboys, Williams, Church, Gabriel

The free agent period opens in less than one month, but at least front office staff isn’t enthralled by the prospect of adding players from the 2017 open market. “It’s a brutal free agent class,” an AFC executive tells Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. “You’ve got to hope some guys get cut who can fill a role at a decent price. We’re more interested in seeing who gets released than where these free agents sign.” While this year’s crop of players may not feature the depth of other free agent classes, there is still some intriguing talent at the top of the market, as exhibited in the latest edition of PFR’s Free Agent Power Rankings.

  • NFL front offices are more willing than ever to employ the franchise tag, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link), who notes that the franchise tender allows clubs to retain elite-level talent without worrying about large signing bonuses. Those bonuses become prorated onto teams’ salary caps, making it difficult to release players down the road, while the franchise tag — while expensive — only ties a club to a player for a single season. PFR’s Zach Links examined candidates for the 2017 franchise tag earlier today.
  • The Cowboys coaching staff is “much higher” on free agent Terrance Williams than the rest of the league, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, who notes Dallas’ decision-makers respect Williams’ consistency and availability. Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones has already expressed an interest in re-signing Williams, who finished the 2016 campaign with 44 receptions for 594 yards and four touchdowns, but Archer believes another club with more financial wiggle room will likely swoop in and steal Williams away from Dallas.
  • Pending free agent safety Barry Church sounds open to giving the Cowboys some sort of hometown discount, but like most players reaching the open market for the first time, Church wants to capitalize on his next contract. “It’s definitely a business decision, but … the Cowboys … were the team that gave me that gave me the opportunity coming out of the draft, being undrafted,” Church told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “Everybody else kind of passed up on me. But it’s definitely a business decision.” Church, 29, managed two interceptions and four passes defensed in 12 games with Dallas last season, and now joins a free agent safety class that includes Eric Berry and Tony Jefferson.
  • The Falcons will likely place a second-round restricted free agent tender on wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, and a first-round offer isn’t out of the question, writes Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. The second-round tender should be worth roughly $2.8MM in 2017, while a first-round tender will come in around $4MM. Using a high tender would dissuade a club like the 49ers, which now employs former Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, from stealing Gabriel. In his first season with the Falcons, the 25-year-old Gabriel posted 35 receptions for 579 yards and six scores.

Sunday NFL Transactions: NFC South

Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four NFC South teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions for the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are noted below.

Additionally, as of 12:00pm CT today, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.

Here are Sunday’s NFC South transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day. All links go to Twitter unless otherwise noted:

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Browns Down To 53

The Browns have officially cut down to a 53-man roster, according to a team announcement.

The team’s cuts include receivers Taylor Gabriel and Marlon Moore. Undrafted out of Abilene Christian in 2014, the 5-foot-8, 176-pound Gabriel appeared in 29 of a possible 32 regular-season games with the Browns and started four. He amassed 64 receptions for 862 yards and a touchdown during that time, with most of those numbers coming as a rookie. Gabriel caught 36 passes on 72 targets and averaged a prolific 17.1 yards per reception in his first year, but that figure fell to a paltry 8.6 on his 28 grabs in 2015.

Moore, a six-year veteran, previously saw action with the Dolphins and 49ers before joining the Browns last season. He pulled in only seven receptions in 14 games in Cleveland.

The full list is below.