Todd Davis

Broncos LB Todd Davis Partially Tears Calf Muscle

Broncos linebacker Todd Davis suffered a partially torn calf muscle at practice today and is expected to miss three-to-four weeks, according to Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (Twitter link).

If Davis sticks to that timeline, he won’t be in danger of missing any regular season action. However, he’s likely to miss all of training camp and at least some of the preseason, which could put him behind the eight ball for the regular season. In the meantime, backups like Keishawn BierriaAlexander Johnson or Joseph Jones could see more action alongside starter Josey Jewell.

A former undrafted free agent, Davis began his career in Denver as a special-teamer but became a starter at inside linebacker when Danny Trevathan left via free agency in 2016. Over the past three years, Davis has started 45 games and played at least 500 defensive snaps in each season. In 2018, the 27-year-old played a career-high 842 snaps and graded as the league’s No. 25 linebacker among 92 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos To Re-Sign ILB Todd Davis

The Brandon MarshallDanny Trevathan inside linebacker setup the Broncos used during their Super Bowl season broke up after one season when Trevathan defected in free agency, but Denver plans to ensure its post-Trevathan arrangement will continue for much longer.

Todd Davis loomed as one of the Broncos’ top UFAs, and he will stay in Denver, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The fifth-year linebacker agreed to a three-year, $15MM deal to stay, according to Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link). She adds $6MM will come Davis’ way in guarantees.

Davis has been a starter alongside Marshall for two seasons, and now both of the Broncos’ first-string inside ‘backers are attached to veteran contracts. However, with Davis profiling as more of a run-defending type and less of a pure three-down performer, the Broncos were able to keep him for $3MM (per year) cheaper than it took to extend Marshall two years ago.

The Broncos were hoping to re-sign Corey Nelson, but the longtime backup opted for a one-year Eagles deal. They ramped their efforts to retain Davis after that transpired, and Davis will be back for a fifth Broncos season and third as a starter.

Davis, 25, graded as one of the league’s best run-defending linebackers last season, per Pro Football Focus.

[RELATED: Broncos Depth Chart]

Extra Points: Broncos, Cousins, Coleman

Despite the Broncos being interested in Kirk Cousins throughout the offseason, they moved on Case Keenum and reached an agreement before the Cousins domino fell. The Broncos, who do not have as much cap space as their top Cousins competitors do, spoke with the quarterback’s representation on Monday but did not submit an official offer, James Palmer of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). The team’s Keenum agreement being at least $18MM represented a significant discount from Cousins’ near-$30MM-AAV deal — one expected to be with the Vikings. Despite Cousins having proven more than Keenum, Broncos brass moved quickly on this agreement and was on the same page about the belated breakout passer. Palmer reports that went a long way toward completing this deal. Gary Kubiak is currently serving as a top Broncos front office bastion. Kubiak initially brought Keenum into the NFL as a UDFA while serving as Texans HC.

Here’s more from Denver and elsewhere around the league on Day 2 of pre-free agency.

  • Now that the Broncos lost one of the UFAs they were trying to keep, when Corey Nelson agreed to terms with the Eagles, Denver is trying to retain a higher-profile linebacker. The Broncos are expected to try and ramp up their efforts to retain Todd Davis before he hits free agency on Wednesday, Mike Klis of 9News reports (on Twitter). This would continue a change of pace for the John Elway-era Broncos. Previous offseasons saw off-ball ‘backers Wesley Woodyard, Nate Irving and Danny Trevathan depart. But in 2016, Elway authorized an $8MM-per-year deal for Brandon Marshall. Davis almost certainly won’t cost that much, profiling as more of a two-down thumper than sideline-to-sideline rover who can reliably operate in coverage, but he won’t come cheap since he’s been a two-year starter on one of the league’s top defenses.
  • Kurt Coleman took two visits before agreeing to join the Saints, meeting with the Giants and Bengals, Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com tweets. Coleman has bounced around the league, with his most recent stop being his most notable since the Panthers deployed him as a three-year starter — including in Super Bowl 50 — and signed him to an extension in 2016. Despite having played for three teams and having started 74 games, Coleman won’t turn 30 until July. The Giants are in need of a safety to complement Landon Collins. The Bengals, though, don’t have as obvious a need on their back line.

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

FA Notes: Burkhead, Seahawks, Broncos

Free agent running back Rex Burkhead is expected to see a “competitive market” for his services and it’s not a lock that he re-signs with the Patriots, according to Doug Kyed of NESN. Burkhead, 27, inked a one-year deal with New England last offseason and went on to produce 518 yards from scrimmage in 10 games. Viable in both the running and passing game, Burkhead ranked seventh in receiving DVOA in 2017, meaning he was highly effective on a per-play basis. The Patriots, of course, have another free agent running back in Dion Lewis, who is expected to draw interest from six-to-seven teams on the open market.

Here’s more from the free agent front:

  • The Texans and cornerback Johnathan Joseph have mutual interest in a return, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Joseph, 33, has spent the past seven seasons in Houston after beginning his career in Cincinnati. Last year, Joseph started all 16 games for the Texans and managed two interceptions. Even more impressive, Joseph ranked 21st in Football Outsiders’ success rate, meaning he was excellent at stopping wideouts short of the sticks. If he does re-sign with Houston, Joseph will need to accept less than the $7.3MM annual salary he earned under his previous contract, per Wilson, who adds Joseph would also likely see a reduced role in the Texans’ secondary.
  • With Kam Chancellor‘s status for the 2018 season in doubt, the Seahawks have discussed moving cornerback DeShawn Shead to safety, reports Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. Shead is a free agent, so Seattle would have to re-sign him if it wants him to play safety, but the club clearly has interest in retaining him. A 15-game starter as recently as 2015, Shead tore his ACL in January 2016 and took awhile to recover. Two surgeries later, Shead is hitting the free agent market after appearing in only two contests a season ago. Fellow reserve defensive back Bradley McDougald is also a pending free agent, so the Seahawks will need to work to retain their secondary depth this offseason.
  • Although the Broncos would prefer to re-sign linebacker Todd Davis, they will likely allow him to gauge his value on the open market, general manager John Elway told reporters, including Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link). The Broncos plan to meet with the representatives for both Davis and fellow linebacker Corey Nelson on Saturday, per Jhabala. Davis, for his part, has started 29 games for Denver over the past two seasons. Now 25 years old, Davis graded as the No. 34 linebacker among 87 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Extra Points: Pack, Panthers, Broncos, 49ers

As teams prepare their free agency budgets, several marquee players will be notified soon they will be cap casualties. Brian Cushing was one of the first to find out in 2018. But Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com expects some key members of NFC teams to be jettisoned soon. The Packers are likely to keep one of the Jordy Nelson/Randall Cobb tandem, but Rosenthal does not expect both to return. Not after Davante Adams signed for $14MM AAV. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com noted this week Cobb is more likely to be shown the door than Nelson, who has been Aaron Rodgers‘ favorite target for years. A Cobb cut would save the Packers $9.5MM in dead money. Nelson would create $10.2MM in space if released. The duo count as the Nos. 2-3 players on Green Bay’s 2018 cap sheet.

The Panthers have used either DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart, or a combination of both, as their top ground producer since the 2007 season. But Rosenthal expects Stewart to be cut along with Charles Johnson. A Stewart cut would create $3.7MM in cap space while tagging Carolina with $1.5MM in dead money. He will turn 31 next month. This would create a void at running back, with Christian McCaffrey more of a pass-catching hybrid type, but Stewart’s yards-per-carry average dropped to a career-low 3.4 last season. Although, his 15 games of work were his most since the 2011 slate.

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • Though the Broncos have Matt Paradis and Shaquil Barrett as impending RFAs, they don’t have many high-profile UFAs. Todd Davis profiles as a player who will generate interest on the open market after garnering some as an RFA last year, and Mike Klis of 9News notes the Broncos would like to have their two-year inside linebacker starter back. But the player that might be more likely to return and complement Brandon Marshall in 2018 is Corey Nelson. A four-year backup who started six games in 2016, Nelson is the free agent the Broncos would most like to bring back, Klis writes, adding the former seventh-round pick may receive some heavy Broncos interest during the legal tampering period that begins March 12.
  • Virgil Green and Cody Latimer saw their Denver deals expire, and Green would like to stay on a third contract. A member of every John Elway-era Broncos team, the eighth-year player has functioned as a blocking tight end for most of his Broncos tenure. Green signed a three-year, $12MM deal to stay in Denver in 2015 when many of his 2011 draft class mates departed, but with a Kirk Cousins push coming, the Broncos may not have much money to spend to retain him. Latimer did not develop into what the Broncos hoped as a second-round pick but became a dependable special teams player. Klis writes the Broncos will consider re-signing him if his market doesn’t develop.
  • Oklahoma State wide receiver Marcell Ateman has impressed the 49ers, among other teams, Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com reports. Ateman has been working with former 200- and 400-meter world-record holder Michael Johnson in developing for the draft and is viewed as a Day 2 prospect, but Pauline writes his stock figures to rise based on the speed and vertical numbers he’s been posting. Ateman broke out for 59 receptions, 1,156 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior.

Minor NFL Transactions: 4/10/17

The latest minor moves from around the NFL:

  • Broncos linebacker Todd Davis has signed his restricted free agent tender, reports Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post (Twitter link). The Broncos applied a second-rounder tender to Davis, meaning it would have been quite costly for anyone to sign him away from Denver. The 24-year-old Davis set career highs in starts (15) and tackles (97) last season, when his performance ranked a decent 43rd among Pro Football Focus’ 87 qualified linebackers.
  • Patriots offensive lineman Cameron Fleming has signed his RFA tender, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Pats applied an original-round tender last month to Fleming, who was a fourth-round pick in 2014. Fleming has started in 14 of 35 appearances in three seasons, and is coming off his first 16-game campaign.
  • The Rams are keeping defensive end Ethan Westbrooks, who signed his original-round RFA tender, relays Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com. Westbrooks, undrafted in 2014, was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence last month, but the Sacramento County District Attorney chose not to file charges. Los Angeles is also retaining exclusive rights free agents Matt Longacre (DE) and Louis Trinca-Pasat (DT). Meanwhile, the team has officially waived wide receiver Stedman Bailey, whose career likely ended when he survived two gunshot wounds to the head in 2015.
  • Nose tackle Mike Purcell and linebacker Carl Bradford have signed their ERFA tenders with the 49ers, tweets Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area. Purcell, the more experienced of the two, logged career-best totals in appearances (15), starts (five) and tackles (26) in 2016.
  • The Raiders have waived defensive lineman Demetrius Cherry, according to James Palmer of NFL.com (Twitter link). Cherry signed with the 49ers last spring as an undrafted free agent from Arizona State. After the 49ers cut him prior to the season, he caught on with Oakland’s practice squad.
  • The Falcons have signed former University of Georgia track and field athlete Garrett Scantling, who will try and make the team as a receiver (Instagram link). Scantling has not played football since his senior year of high school. However, he performed well when partaking in Jacksonville University’s pro day last month.
  • LSU’s Cyril Grayson, who also has a background in track, has signed with the Seahawks, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The seven-time All-American hasn’t played football since 2011, but he did run a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at LSU’s pro day last week, writes Christopher Dabe of NOLA.com.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Broncos Place Tender On Brandon McManus

The Broncos have placed a hefty second-round tender on restricted free agent kicker Brandon McManus, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). A second-round tender is valued at $2.746MM.

Brandon McManusThe Broncos now have the opportunity to match any offer sheet to the kicker, and they’ll be compensated with a second-round pick if the veteran signs elsewhere.

After losing the starting job, McManus served mostly as a kickoff specialist during his first season in the league. However, he has handled full-time kicking duties over the past two years. The 25-year-old has made at least 85-percent of his field goals since 2015, and he’s connected on 8-of-13 field goals beyond 50 yards. The former undrafted free agent has only missed two extra point attempts over the past two seasons.

Mike Klis of 9News reports (via Twitter) that inside linebacker Todd Davis also received a second-round tender from the Broncos. In 15 starts last season, the 24-year-old collected 64 tackles, 0.5 sacks, and one forced fumble.

We’ve been collecting the rest of today’s tenders here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Not Guilty Of Roster Impropriety

3:36pm: The NFL has issued a statement clearing the Saints (link via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk): “The Saints have been in compliance with league rules with regard to this situation.”

10:00am: The Saints are under investigation for possible rules infractions concerning linebacker Todd Davis, writes ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Citing unnamed sources, Schefter says that the Saints, who waived Davis on Wednesday of last week, planned to sign him back to their practice squad, so they kept him in team meetings at their training facility on Thursday. The Broncos, meanwhile, claimed Davis on Thursday after putting Nate Irving on IR.

Denver wanted to bring Davis in to practice with the team on Friday but could not reach him because he was in meetings in New Orleans. Davis ultimately met with the Broncos in St. Louis on Saturday, but by that time the NFL had already begun looking into the matter. If the Saints are found to have engaged in any sort of impropriety, which a team official denies, they could face a hefty fine. For a team that has already been in trouble with the league for a much more serious matter, illegal roster gamesmanship for a borderline NFL player would seem particularly foolish.

Broncos Place Nate Irving On IR

The Broncos announced that they have placed linebacker Nate Irving on IR. To fill his spot, Denver has claimed rookie linebacker Todd Davis off waivers, according to Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Irving suffered a knee injury earlier this month and while the early prognosis was promising, it was apparently more severe than once thought. Irving made four starts in 2013, when he played mainly sam linebacker, and started in each of his eight games this season at middle linebacker. The 26-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Davis, an undrafted Sacramento State product, spent most of the season on the Saints’ taxi squad but saw three games on the NFL roster. He was waived yesterday but he didn’t have to wait long to find his next gig. Davis is a depth signing and Mike Klis of The Denver Post notes that the Broncos are expected to stick with Steven Johnson as their starting MLB with fifth-round rookie Lamin Barrow also in the mix. Davis was let go by New Orleans yesterday in a series of moves that included the signing of running back Brian Leonard.