Tim Hightower

Poll: Best Free Agent RB Remaining?

Even as June winds down, there are a surprising number of quality running backs still available on the open market. The current free agent crop of backfield options includes some notable names, such as: 

Charles, Hightower, Vereen, and Murray were all on the Saints’ radar recently as they canvassed the free agent market for running back support. Ultimately, they signed Terrance West to help fill in during Mark Ingram‘s four-game suspension, leaving the other vets in limbo. While Charles, Hightower, and Vereen all showed their stuff for coach Sean Payton, Murray declined his invite, preferring not to participate in a giant cattle call.

When considering only past accomplishments, the names of Peterson, Charles, and Murray obviously stand out. But, unfortunately, father time is cruel to NFL running backs and these players are on the back nines of their careers, to put it mildly. Out of this trio, Murray has the best 2017 to show teams. Even though his job as the Titans’ top rusher was usurped by Derrick Henry, he had 39 catches for 266 yards and occasionally showed the powerful rushing that made him a force to be reckoned with in Dallas. Charles, he of several 1,000-yard seasons, had only 296 rushing yards in total and found himself at the bottom of Denver’s depth chart to close out the season. Peterson, meanwhile, forced his way out of New Orleans due to a lack of playing time and had only two performances of note in his run with the Cardinals.

Lacy signed with the Seahawks last year and hoped to put concerns about his health and conditioning to rest. Unfortunately, those questions persist after he averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in nine games. Lacy was a bulldozer in his early days with the Packers, but his last season of note came in 2015 when he averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Even then, ball security was a problem as he fumbled the ball four times.

Darkwa is back on the NFL radar after doctors cleared him to workout. Darkwa won’t win this poll on name value, but unlike everyone else on this list, he’s coming off of the best season of his career.The 26-year-old (did we mention that he’s also the youngest running back here?) ran for 751 yards off of 171 carries, good for a strong 4.4 yards per carry average. It was an ugly year for the Giants on the whole, but Darkwa excelled on a personal level.

Vereen, another ex-Giant, can’t say the same for his 2017 season. However, his second act with the Giants has been respectable on the whole. Acting as a secondary ball carrier, he has averaged 4.2 yards per carry over the last three seasons. He also showed that he can still be a worthwhile pass catcher out of the backfield with 44 grabs for 253 yards last season, though he averaged a career-low 5.8 yards per catch.

Last but not least is Morris, though you can be forgiven for forgetting about this three-time 1,000-yard rusher. Morris was a force to be reckoned with from 2012-2014, but he has been riding the pine for the Cowboys over the last two years. What you might not realize is that Morris was tremendous in a small sample last year as Ezekiel Elliott‘s early-season backup and later-season fill-in. Morris averaged 4.76 yards per carry off of 115 attempts, which makes one wonder why we haven’t heard his name mentioned in recent months.

Out of the running backs listed here, which player do you feel can contribute the most in 2018? Click below to cast your vote and defend your choice in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jamaal Charles To Visit Saints

Running back Jamaal Charles will visit the Saints on Wednesday, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). We haven’t heard much about Charles since the end of the season, but he may finally get a chance to find an NFL home for 2018. 

After an exceptional, albeit injury-riddled, career with the Chiefs that included four Pro Bowl selections and two First Team All-Pro nods, Charles signed a one-year deal with the Broncos last year. Coming off multiple knee surgeries, he joined a crowded backfield that included C.J. Anderson and second-year back Devontae Booker and never established himself as the dominant force of years past.

Last year, Charles tallied 69 carries for 296 yards and a touchdown. The 31-year-old was a healthy scratch to close out the year and expressed his frustration with the team.

In addition to Charles, the Saints are also looking at old friend Tim Hightower, according to Nick Underhill of The Advocate (on Twitter). Hightower was spotted on the practice field Tuesday morning as he auditioned with the team’s running backs.

The Saints will be without Mark Ingram for the first four games of the season thanks to his suspension. The Saints have said that they’re comfortable with their remaining group – which includes Alvin Kamara, Trey Edmunds, Daniel Lasco, and roster hopefuls Boston Scott and Jonathan Williams – but they are giving some thought to adding some veteran reinforcement.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Release Tim Hightower, Kapri Bibbs

The 49ers have released running back Tim Hightower, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. The team also cut fellow RB Kapri Bibbs, per Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.

Hightower signed with the 49ers in April after spending the previous two seasons serving as Mark Ingram‘s backup on the Saints. 2016 was a bounce-back season for Hightower, who appeared in all 16 games for the first time since 2010 and totaled 748 yards (548 rushing, 200 receiving) and five touchdowns (four on the ground, one through the air). Prior to that, Hightower was effectively out of the NFL from 2012-2015, which represented a notable fall from grace for someone who had been a dependable rusher for the Cardinals early in his career.

San Francisco sent the 177th pick in this year’s draft to Denver for Bibbs and a fourth-rounder in 2018 during the spring, but the ball carrier failed to make his mark in the Bay Area. Bibbs wasn’t much of a factor as a rusher as a member of the Broncos, as he only totaled 29 carries, but he was a reliable special teamer with the club.

Thanks to the cuts of Hightower and Bibbs, the 49ers are set to lean on Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and rookie Joe Williams behind Carlos Hyde.

NFC West Notes: Cardinals, Gabbert, ‘Hawks

Carson Palmer is getting towards the end of his career, but Cardinals coach Bruce Arians says that he might already have his quarterback of the future on the roster.

Short-term, I’d be very comfortable if [Blaine Gabbert] had to play for us. Long-term, if he continues at this rate, he could be a starter,” the coach said (Twitter link via Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM).

Arians isn’t the only coach that likes Gabbert – Seattle considered him this offseason and Miami pondered trading for him after Ryan Tannehill‘s injury. Still, it’s somewhat surprising to hear that Arians views him as a future starter since the former No. 10 overall pick hasn’t really experienced success at the NFL level. In five games as San Francisco’s starter last season, Gabbert posted a 1-4 record, while completing 56.9% of his passes for five touchdowns and six interceptions.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

Contract Details: Keenum, Gilberry, Escobar

The latest contract details, most of which come via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle:

  • Quarterback Case Keenum‘s one-year, $2MM pact with the Vikings features $750K in guarantees. There’s also a $250K signing bonus, $250K in incentives and $46,875 in per game active roster bonuses (Twitter link).
  • Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry‘s accord is worth $1.4MM, including a $300K signing bonus and a $100K workout bonus. He could make another $500K via sack incentives and $6,250 in per game active roster bonuses (Twitter link).
  • Running back Tim Hightower‘s one-year deal with the 49ers is worth $1.107MM, including $300K guaranteed, Tom Pelissero of USA Today tweets. He can earn an extra $400K in incentives for rushing yards.
  • Tight end Gavin Escobar‘s one-year Chiefs contract is a minimum salary benefit deal worth $855K, including $95K fully guaranteed. It also comes with an $80K signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • Lions linebacker Nick Bellore also inked a minimum salary benefit contract. Like Escobar, Bellore’s contract includes an $80K signing bonus (Twitter link).

Zach Links contributed to this post.

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.

49ers Sign RB Tim Hightower

Veteran running back Tim Hightower has found a new home. The 30-year-old free agent has signed with the 49ers, general manager John Lynch announced on Twitter. We learned in mid-March that Hightower had taken a meeting with the organization.

Tim HightowerThe veteran had spent the past two seasons serving primarily as Mark Ingram‘s backup on the Saints. 2016 was a bounce-back season for the former fifth-rounder, as he appeared in all 16 games for the first time since 2010. He finished the campaign with 548 yards and four touchdowns on 133 attempts, and he added another 22 receptions for 200 yards and one score.

Hightower was effectively out of the NFL between 2012 and 2015. Prior to that, he was a dependable option in the Cardinals offense. In 2010, the running back finished the season with a career-high 736 rushing yards. During his rookie campaign, Hightower rushed for an equally-impressive 10 touchdowns.

Hightower will be joining a 49ers running back corps that currently features Carlos Hyde, DuJuan Harris, Mike Davis, and Raheem Mostert. Hightower was listed as the fifth-best running back in our recent positional free agent rankings. The Redskins were among the teams to also reach out to the veteran.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

FA Notes: Fins, Seahawks, Redskins, Jags

Although the Dolphins and free agent linebacker Zach Brown are fairly far apart in negotiations, the club still believes it has a chance to land him, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). In order for an agreement to happen, though, Brown will have to reduce his asking price, which is in the range of $6MM per annum on a multiyear deal.

More from the open market:

  • The Seahawks hosted linebacker Terence Garvin on a visit Wednesday, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Garvin, 27, spent last year with Washington and was with the Steelers in the previous three seasons. Garvin has 59 career appearances on his resume but just one start.
  • Along with Garvin, the Seahawks met with yet another linebacker, Gerald Hodges, on Wednesday. The two sides “had a good visit,” though there’s no deal yet, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Hodges is coming off a quietly impressive season that saw him tally 80 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions in 15 games (12 starts) with San Francisco. He also graded 21st among Pro Football Focus’ 87 qualified linebackers.
  • The Redskins and running back Tim Hightower had a meeting, but they aren’t moving toward an agreement, reports John Keim of ESPN.com. It doesn’t appear that will change anytime soon, with Keim noting that Washington could circle back to Hightower as an insurance option down the road.
  • The Jaguars worked out free agent kicker Zach Hocker today, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Incumbent Jacksonville kicker Jason Myers‘ field goal conversion rate dipped below 80% last season, and he also missed three extra points, so the Jags may be open to adding competition. Hocker. 25, last appeared in the NFL in 2015 as a member of the Saints and Rams. Jacksonville also auditioned punter Tom Hornsey, adds Wilson.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Redskins Host RB Tim Hightower On Visit

The Redskins are hosting Tim Hightower on a free agent visit, a source tells Mike Jones of The Washington Post (on Twitter). This marks the second known trip for the Saints free agent this month. He previously met with the 49ers. Tim Hightower

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Hightower was with the Redskins in 2011 but played in only five games due to a torn ACL. After that, he was out of the NFL for several years until re-emerging with the Saints in 2015. Last year, he finished out with 548 yards off of 133 carries with four rushing touchdowns. He also added 22 catches for 200 yards.

The Redskins already have four running backs under contract in Robert Kelley, Keith Marshall, Matt Jones, and Mack Brown. Many also expect the Redskins to consider a running back with their No. 17 overall pick in this year’s draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Offense

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 offensive 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 offensive position for 2017:

Quarterback:

  1. Jay Cutler
  2. Chase Daniel
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  4. Colin Kaepernick
  5. Josh McCown
  6. Robert Griffin III
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Christian Ponder
  11. Blaine Gabbert
  12. Ryan Nassib
  13. Shaun Hill
  14. Kellen Moore
  15. Austin Davis

Tony Romo is not a free agent…at least not yet. If the Cowboys do not find a suitable trade and release him, you’ll find him at the top of this list.

Laugh if you must, but Cutler is far and away the best quarterback available on the open market. While most of this year’s QB-needy teams are done with their free agent shopping, the Jets are still searching for their 2017 starter and no one would make more sense for them than Cutler. He’s not all that far removed from playing solid football and he’s a logical transitional option for the Jets until they can isolate a better, younger option for 2018. Jay Cutler (Vertical)

Kaepernick’s reps wisely told the press that he will be standing for the National Anthem this year. Still, Kaepernick is an outspoken guy who wants to use his platform to discuss hot button issues, so there’s no guarantee that the media circus around him will cease. Jets owner Woody Johnson loves seeing his team on the back pages of the New York tabloids, but even he has to have more sense than to entertain Kaepernick. McCown, who has been contact with the team, would be an okay choice if they can’t get something done with Cutler. Chase Daniel could be an option too, but there isn’t much game film on him.

Needless to say, the No. 3 ranked player on this list isn’t an option in New York.

Running back:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. LeGarrette Blount
  3. Jamaal Charles
  4. Rashad Jennings
  5. Tim Hightower
  6. DeAngelo Williams
  7. Chris Johnson
  8. Christine Michael
  9. Benny Cunningham
  10. Bobby Rainey
  11. Brandon Bolden
  12. Denard Robinson
  13. James Starks
  14. Matt Asiata
  15. Kenjon Barner

Honorable mention: DuJuan Harris, Antonio AndrewsKhiry Robinson

Adrian Peterson (vertical)The Vikings have moved on and Peterson will not be back in Minnesota. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess. When Peterson’s option was declined by the Vikings earlier this month, there were tons of stories (likely sourced by Peterson’s camp) about interest from a litany of contenders. Since then, each team – through anonymous sources – has denied being in the mix for the veteran. It would be easy to doubt Peterson at this juncture, but he has come back from serious injuries multiple times in his career and he is only one year removed from his stellar 2015 campaign. He gets the top spot over the bruising Blount as well as Charles, who hasn’t been healthy in a long while.

Jennings was brought to New York with the idea that he would be the team’s workhorse. Unfortunately, two of his three seasons with the G-Men were marred by injury. Jennings is currently putting his agility to good use on Dancing With The Stars and it remains to be seen how committed he is to football. After that, we have a trio of vets (Hightower, Williams, CJ2K) who could still advance the ball in limited spurts.

In case you’re wondering – Mike Gillislee is not listed here because he is a restricted free agent.

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