Tony Jefferson

West Notes: Cardinals, Joeckel, Raiders

Let’s take a quick swing around the league’s west divisions:

  • We learned earlier today that Tony Jefferson‘s new deal with the Ravens will pay him up to $37MM over four years. We also heard reports in recent days that the Browns and possibly the Jets offered him slightly more money, but that he spurned those offers to sign with Baltimore. As Andy Benoit of TheMMQB writes in a detailed piece on Jefferson’s free agent journey, Jefferson’s former team, the Cardinals, made him an initial “low-ball” offer of three years, $12MM, before upping their proposal to four years and $24MM, still well short of the winning bid.
  • Mike Jurecki of FoxSports910 passes along some contract details on two of the Cardinals‘ recent signings (Twitter links). Jurecki reports that safety Antoine Bethea‘s new three-year deal will pay him yearly base salaries of $2MM, $3MM, and $3MM, while A.Q. Shipley‘s new two-year pact is worth a total of $3.5MM with base salaries of $775K and $1.5MM, $725K in guarantees, and $250K in roster bonuses for 2017 and 2018.
  • Luke Joeckel‘s new one-year deal with the Seahawks will pay him a fully-guaranteed $7MM, with an additional $1MM available in per-game roster bonuses (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of USA Today).
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets that Robbie Gould‘s new two-year pact with the 49ers is worth a total of $4MM, with $1MM fully guaranteed.
  • The Raiders will likely not have a lease agreement for a proposed Las Vegas stadium in place before the league owners meet later this month, a meeting during which they could approve the team’s relocation bid. However, as noted in a piece from the Associated Press, the absence of a finalized lease agreement does not mean the league owners will be precluded from voting on the relocation proposal. Instead, they could conditionally approve the relocation as long as the lease adequately addresses issues that are important to the league.
  • The Raiders have made a few changes to their coaching staff, as Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com writes. Last season’s assistant secondary coach, Rod Woodson, will coach cornerbacks, as he did previously, and Brent Vieselmeyer, who was assistant linebackers coach last year, will coach the safeties in 2017. Meanwhile, Travis Smith has been promoted from quality control to outside linebackers coach, and Nick Holz is now the assistant receivers coach. Nate Tice, son of offensive line coach Mike Tice, is the offensive quality control coach.
  • We learned earlier today that the Broncos and OT Donald Stephenson have agreed to a restructured deal.

Contract Details: Ravens, Zeitler, Guy

Let’s take a look at the details of some recently-signed free agent contracts:

  • Danny Woodhead, RB (Ravens): Three years, $8.8MM. $4.25MM guaranteed. $1.75MM cap number for 2017 (Twitter links via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun). As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com observes (via Twitter), that represents a sizeable investment for a running back in this market. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets that Woodhead gets a $2.5MM signing bonus.
  • Tony Jefferson, S (Ravens): Four years, $34MM (max value of $37MM). $19MM guaranteed. $5.5MM cap number for 2017 (Twitter links via Zrebiec). La Canfora tweets that Jefferson gets a $10MM signing bonus.
  • Kevin Zeitler, G (Browns): Five years, $60MM. $31.5MM guaranteed ($6MM 2017 base salary fully guaranteed). $12MM signing bonus. Cash per year values of $18MM, $10MM, $10MM, $10MM, $12MM (Twitter links via Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer).
  • Lawrence Guy, DL (Patriots): Four years, $19MM. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald (via Twitter) reports that Guy receives a fully-guaranteed $4.9MM in 2017, but that the total base value of his contract is $13.4MM, with the chance to reach $19MM with $1.4MM playing-time incentives each year. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets, Guy’s deal effectively amounts to a one-year pact, as the final three years of the contract are non-guaranteed. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets that Guy receives a $4MM signing bonus.
  • Marshall Newhouse, OT (Raiders): Two years, $3.5MM. Can earn an additional $1MM in playing-time bonuses (Twitter link via Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com).

Extra Points: Browns, Osweiler, Jets, Eagles

The Browns are reportedly trying to trade Brock Osweiler after acquiring him (and more specifically, his contract) from the Texans yesterday, and while Cleveland might be willing to pay Osweiler’s deal down to $8MM or so, some executives don’t think the Browns will find a taker. “Get the [expletive] out of here,” said one personnel man, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. Another evaluator: “No one will do their new trade … but I don’t blame them for trying.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Free agent safety Tony Jefferson reportedly turned down a better proposal from the Browns before signing with the Ravens, and Jefferson himself says Cleveland $1.5MM more than Baltimore, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link), Jefferson claims the Jets offered him the same overage, although Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News disputes that assertion (Twitter link).
  • Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks saw $4.35MM of his $4.85MM 2017 base salary fully guarantee today, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. Kendricks has long been the subject of trade rumors, and the base salary guarantee could impact any such discussions. Unlike signing bonus money, which accelerates onto the original team’s cap in the event of a trade, guaranteed base salaries stay with the player and carry over to the acquring club.
  • Both linebacker DeAndre Levy (Lions) and safety Aaron Williams (Bills) were designated as post-June 1 releases, according to Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com and Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Those decisions will save Detroit and Buffalo some cap space the short term, but both teams will see dead money incur on their 2018 books.

Ravens To Sign Tony Jefferson

A year after signing safety Eric Weddle, the Ravens are set to make another splash at the position in free agency. The club will sign Tony Jefferson, report Adam Schefter and Dianna Russini of ESPN (Twitter link).

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Jefferson is the second big-name defender who has agreed to depart the Cardinals this evening, joining soon-to-be Jaguar Calais Campbell. The safety’s decision to sign with the Ravens came in spite of a better offer from the AFC North rival Browns, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The Jets also had interest in Jefferson, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (Twitter link), but Weddle helped convince him to head to Baltimore, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (via Twitter).

Jefferson hit clubs’ radars in the wake of a season in which he logged career bests in tackles (92), starts (14) and sacks (two). Although Jefferson failed to intercept a pass last year, and has recorded only two picks in four NFL seasons, he’s known for his line-of-scrimmage prowess and managed to rank an outstanding fifth in performance among Pro Football Focus’ 89 qualified safeties. He also rated as our 11th-best free agent and top safety.

The addition of an in-his-prime Jefferson, 25, is a boon for the Ravens, but not for one of their other safeties, Lardarius Webb. The team is now primed to release him and pick up $5.5MM in cap room, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. Interestingly, PFF liked the 15th-ranked Webb’s play nearly as much as it did Jefferson’s last season. However, at 31, Webb is the far older of the two. To this point, he has spent his entire eight-year career in Baltimore, where he has amassed 111 appearances, 82 starts and 13 interceptions. Webb started all 16 of the Ravens’ games last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Have High Bid On Tony Jefferson

The Browns are in on Tony Jefferson and their offer is currently the most lucrative one on the table, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. The Ravens, he adds, are also involved. "<strong

This week, I ranked Jefferson No. 11 on my Top 50 Free Agents List, which lists players in order of earning power. I estimated a $10MM+/year salary for Jefferson, particularly since Eric Berry is now off of the market. Jefferson is far and away the best strong safety in this year’s free agent crop.

The Cardinals want to keep Jefferson, but they expect to lose him. The Buccaneers, Redskins, Titans, and Panthers would all make varying degrees of sense for him, but it’s not clear if they are serious bidders.

One notable safety came off the market on Wednesday when Barry Church agreed to terms with the Jaguars. Duron Harmon, Jonathan Cyprien, T.J. McDonald, and Micah Hyde remain on the board. Darius Butler could also play safety, if asked.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cole’s Latest: Jackson, Zeitler, Poe, Williams

DeSean Jackson looks set for a raise despite having turned 30 during the 2016 season. His market is heating up on Day 2 of the legal tampering period, and it’s expected to clear the $11MM mark in terms of AAV, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report notes (on Twitter). The 10th-year deep threat is likely to leave Washington, and two Redskins rivals — the Cowboys and Eagles — remain interested, per Cole. He adds the Patriots and Buccaneers are in on Jackson as well. We’ve heard Jackson’s salary could climb toward the $12MM-per-year neighborhood. That would lean toward a team like the Bucs ($58.3MM in cap space), with the Cowboys and Eagles on the lower end of the cap-room hierarchy and the Patriots not big on monster skill-position contracts. Dallas’ interest, though, has been disputed, with Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporting the team isn’t interested. The Cowboys have just $8.3MM in cap space.

Here’s more from free agency, courtesy of Cole.

  • Kevin Zeitler may raise the guard salary ceiling, and the Jaguars continue to come up in connection to the former Bengals first-round pick, Cole tweets. The Jags re-signed guard Patrick Omameh on Tuesday, but at $775K, that won’t figure to preclude them from making a splash to upgrade their front. Zeitler’s been connected to a $12MM-per-year deal on a heated guard market. Kelechi Osemele‘s $11.7MM currently tops all guards. Jacksonville has $75.6MM in cap space. The Jags’ line does not have a veteran contract on its interior, with rookie-deal cogs Brandon Linder and A.J. Cann having been the primary starters last season, along with Omameh.
  • Dontari Poe might not get the kind of long-term security he wants this year, and Cole tweets the five-year Chiefs starting nose tackle could opt for a one-year deal and re-enter free agency in 2018. The Chiefs prioritized Eric Berry among their big two free agents, signing the cornerstone safety to a record extension. They also drafted Chris Jones in the second round in 2016 and are short on cap space, with a league-low $4.6MM presently. Poe made Pro Bowls in 2013 and ’14, but a 2015 back surgery slowed him. And Poe’s 2016 season, per Pro Football Focus, didn’t compare with his work at his peak. Cole notes Poe could look for a team that wants him to rush the passer more. Poe made just more than $6MM in 2016 on a fifth-year option.
  • Conversely, Ravens 3-4 nose Brandon Williams looks like he’ll do well in his first UFA foray. Cole tweets the fifth-year defender could well sign for around what the Giants paid Damon Harrison last year (five years, $46.25MM). That would bridge the gap for 3-4 nose players between Marcell Dareus and the field, and it might be more than the Ravens ($12MM-plus in space) can afford.
  • After one tampering day, Cole notes (on Twitter) Andre Branch could have a strong market. Cole associates the veteran defensive end as being worth between $7-9MM per year. Branch recorded 5.5 sacks on what could be a short-term stay with the Dolphins in 2016. As of January, the Fins wanted to keep Branch in Miami, but not much has surfaced on the now-two-time free agent since.
  • The Tony Jefferson rise seems real, with Cole now reporting (on Twitter) the Cardinals safety could earn more than $9MM annually. Previously, Cole had Jefferson — likely the market’s top safety after Berry re-signed in Kansas City — pegged to command around $7MM per year. But Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com attached the safety to a market around nearly $10MM AAV.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents

It’s free agency week! This year, thanks to the salary cap increase, the dollars will be flying and players will make more than you ever could have expected. Our lists for offense and defense rank free agents based on overall ability, but our Top 50 ranks players based on earning power. Here, you’ll get a good sense of what the market will be like this week and who the big fish are.

The league’s “legal tampering” window will open on Tuesday at 11:00am CT. Technically, teams and players aren’t permitted to finalize agreements on contracts during that legal tampering window, but that’s often treated as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule. We will almost certainly see handshake agreements go down on Tuesday and Wednesday before they become official on Thursday, the technical beginning of free agency.

Our list of 2017’s top 50 free agents doesn’t include restricted free agents, or franchise tagged players, since they’re effectively restricted free agents as well.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive right in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2017, along with a few predictions on how much they might earn and what teams could be in the mix to sign them:

1. A.J. Bouye, CB (Texans): Bouye is an overnight sensation, going from unknown to elite talent in the blink of an eye. No one knows exactly what to make of Bouye, but his upside is too much for teams to pass up. The Texans declined to use the franchise tag on the 25-year-old (26 in August), but they’re still hoping to get a deal done this week. The Jets are said to have interest, but it’s not clear if they’ll have the room to get something done. Cornerback-needy teams like the Panthers, Saints, Jaguars, Titans, Bears, and Eagles can be expected to at least kick the tires on this year’s top player in the secondary. Could something like Janoris Jenkins‘ five year, $62.5MM contract ($28.8MM fully guaranteed) from last year be within reach? Jenkins had a longer history of success than Bouye, but consider these facts: Bouye nearly two years younger than Jenkins was at time of signing and the salary cap has risen by about $12MM.
Signed with Jaguars for five years, $67.5MM.A.J. Bouye (vertical)

2. Alshon Jeffery, WR (Bears): He was hurt for most of 2015 and he slumped along with the entire Bears offense in 2016, but his natural ability is still evident and he is a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. At one point, it seemed like Jeffery could wind up as the league’s highest-paid wide receiver. That won’t be the case, but he will likely get more cash than any other wide receiver in this year’s class. The Eagles and Titans have been hot on his tail for some time now. The 49ers could also get involved and a return to the Bears cannot be ruled out either. Ultimately, Jeffery should wind up fetching at least $10MM per year and perhaps as much as $12MM per year on his next deal.
Signed with Eagles for one year, $9.5MM.

3. Kenny Stills, WR (Dolphins): Jeffery isn’t the only wide receiver who could fetch $12MM per year. Stills isn’t necessarily the best wide receiver on his own team, but he is just on the cusp of his 25th birthday and his ability to stretch the field is tantalizing. It doesn’t sound like the Dolphins are ready to be the highest bidder for his services and it’s not hard to imagine a team like the Eagles landing him. Naturally, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the potential suitors for Jeffery and Stills: the Eagles, Titans, Bears, and 49ers will probably come calling. The Rams may not have enough room to squeeze in Stills, but they could certainly use a playmaker like him if they do not re-sign Kenny Britt. Stills reportedly likes the West Coast (who doesn’t?) so the Niners and Rams could have a leg up on the others if the bidding is close.
Re-signed with Dolphins for four years, $32MM.

4. Dont’a Hightower, LB (Patriots): The market is capped for non-rush linebackers, but Hightower is pretty much the best at what he does and is also lauded for his intangibles. The Patriots have always embraced the “next man up” philosophy, so it is possible they will allow him to go elsewhere. The Dolphins have been frequently connected to Hightower, but that might be too ambitious for a team that has multiple major needs to address. The Colts might also make sense, but the price might be too rich for their blood. A Patriots return appears to be the most likely outcome, but anything is possible.
Re-signed with Patriots for four years, $35.5MM. 

5. Kevin Zeitler, G (Bengals): Zeitler has age on his side and he’s one of the safest free agents in the top ten after three consecutive years of dominance. Interior offensive linemen don’t get as much love as their counterparts on the outside, but they are still incredibly vital and Zeitler’s next contract will reflect that. If he doesn’t circle back to the Bengals, the Jaguars, Cardinals, Packers, and Seahawks all make varying degrees of sense for Zeitler. From a football standpoint, you can add the Jets to that group too, but I’m not sure they can meet a ~$12MM/year asking price.
Signed with Browns for five years, $60MM.

6. Logan Ryan, CB (Patriots): There are bigger names available at the cornerback position, but Ryan slots ahead of many of them after a career year. It also doesn’t hurt that this fresh-faced Super Bowl champ only just turned 26 in February. If the Patriots don’t tie him down, Ryan’s earning power could conceivably vault him past Trumaine Johnson in terms of guaranteed cash. The Jaguars and Titans would be wise to zero in on Ryan if they can’t land Bouye and it’s possible that some of their evaluators might even prefer Ryan over the Houston standout. Ryan’s next deal will probably pay him eight figures per year and it should be a lengthy pact.
Signed with Titans for three years, $30MM.

7. Terrelle Pryor, WR (Browns): There is strong mutual interest in a new deal between Pryor and the Browns. Still, the Browns passed on the opportunity to franchise tag the Ohio State product and he now appears poised to test the open market. With pretty much just one year to show, how will Pryor fare in free agency? His next deal should pay him at least $10MM/year and he could get up to $12MM/year. In addition to the Browns, the usual suspects for this year’s high-end WRs will explore signing Pryor (say it with me): Eagles, Titans, and 49ers. There’s conflicting word about whether the Steelers will get involved. The Giants are known to have interest, but I don’t think they’ll be splurging on free agents like they did one year ago.
Signed with Redskins for one year, $6MM.

8 .Ricky Wagner, OT (Ravens): There’s already talk of Wagner fetching around $10MM/year and it’s not like this year’s free agent market is flush with young, quality tackles. When you also consider the lack of quality tackles in the draft, it’s apparent that Wagner is about to get PAID, in all caps.Believe it or not, $10MM/year might be his floor. When all is said and done, he’ll be the league’s biggest earner at right tackle. The Bears are particularly interested in Wagner, so he could go from the AFC North to the NFC North this week.
Signed with Lions for five years, $47.5MM.

Calais Campbell (vertical)9. Calais Campbell, DL (Cardinals): Campbell was supposed to be an afterthought in Arizona after the addition of Chandler Jones. Perhaps motivated by a perceived slight, Campbell turned in a stellar year. Now, the Cardinals would very much like to keep him, but they can only go so far as they back up the Brinks truck for Jones and look into retaining other key free agents. If Jones does not agree to a cap-smoothing long-term deal between now and March 9th, the odds of Campbell leaving increase. The Jaguars are said to be a leading contender for Campbell while the Titans, Broncos, Colts, and Bears could also use a force like him. His age (31 in September) gives him a bit of a ceiling in terms of overall compensation, but he should still do nicely this month.
Signed with Jaguars for four years, $60MM.

10. Stephon Gilmore, CB (Bills): In terms of pure talent, Gilmore might be the best cornerback available. Trouble is, no one knows what to make of him after a down 2016. Some have openly theorized that Gilmore was playing it safe to avoid injury in his pivotal contract year. It’s also possible that Buffalo’s injuries in the front seven put undue stress on the secondary. The Bears are reportedly high on Gilmore and he may represent a cheaper option than Bouye or Ryan. A Bills return would also make sense here.
Signed with Patriots for five years, $65MM.

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Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Defense

NFL free agency gets underway on Thursday 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. Here is our updated outlook for each defensive and special teams position.

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 franchised players 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 this offseason:

Edge defender:

  1. Nick Perry
  2. Jabaal Sheard
  3. John Simon
  4. DeMarcus Ware
  5. Lorenzo Alexander
  6. Andre Branch
  7. Julius Peppers
  8. Charles Johnson
  9. Datone Jones
  10. Dwight Freeney
  11. Chris Long
  12. Mario Williams
  13. Paul Kruger
  14. Courtney Upshaw
  15. Jarvis Jones

Now that Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, and Jason Pierre-Paul have all been assigned the franchise tag, Nick Perry stands as the top edge defender on the free agent market, and is now in a position to cash in. The Packers opted against the franchise tender for the 26-year-old Perry, so he’ll hit the open market following a career year which saw him post 11 sacks."<strong

The rest of this year’s crop of free agent pass rushers is a blend of young defenders searching for their first payday and veterans on the hunt for one last contract. Among players with youth still on their side, Datone Jones figures to interest clubs thanks to his versatility, as he can vacillate between end and linebacker, while fellow former first-round pick Jarvis Jones is solid against the run. John Simon has been overlooked while playing alongside the likes of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus but could represent a hidden gem, while the Dolphins are reportedly prioritizing Andre Branch.

After managing nine sacks over the first nine years of his NFL tenure, Lorenzo Alexander busted out with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2016, and now could be looking for a double-digit annual salary. Charles Johnson, meanwhile, looks like a good bet to return to the Panthers, but DeMarcus Ware could be something of a wild card — after missing 11 games in the past two seasons, does the 34-year-old have enough left in the tank? The same could be asked of Dwight Freeney, who at age-37 posted three sacks in a rotational role for the Falcons.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Calais Campbell
  2. Johnathan Hankins
  3. Brandon Williams
  4. Dontari Poe
  5. Chris Baker
  6. Bennie Logan
  7. Nick Fairley
  8. Alan Branch
  9. Jared Odrick
  10. Karl Klug
  11. Terrell McClain
  12. Lawrence Guy
  13. Stacy McGee
  14. Stephen Paea
  15. Sylvester Williams
    Honorable mention: Paul Soliai

Calais Campbell is the best overall player among interior defenders, and though he’s entering his age-31 season and may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe, Campbell will still be highly-sought after as he searches for his last substantial payday Campbell’s agent met with the Cardinals last week, but other speculative fits for the veteran defender include the Broncos, Raiders, Ravens, Colts, and Titans."<strong

Hankins is only 24 years old, and though the Giants are trying to retain him along with the rest of their defensive core, the 6’3″, 320-pound mauler should represent an attractive option to a number of clubs this offseason. Williams, too, offers a massive presence on the inside, while Poe could intrigue clubs based on his first-round pedigree and athleticism (though his play hasn’t always matched his potential). The Redskins’ Chris Baker is a solid, well-rounded defensive tackle, and could constitute a consolation prize for teams that miss out on their top targets.

The rest of the class offers an interesting mix of nose tackles (Bennie Logan), interior pass rushers (Nick Fairley, Karl Klug), and run stoppers (Alan Branch), so clubs hoping to bolster their defensive line should find no shortage of options. Jared Odrick recently hit free agency after being released by the Jaguars, while Terrell McClain, Lawrence Guy, and Stacy McGee could be underrated finds for the right team. McClain, for what it’s worth, has already been linked to the Falcons.

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Jets Rumors: Smith, Okung, Jefferson

The bidding for Mike Glennon could get out of hand, so we shouldn’t completely rule out the possibility that Geno Smith is brought back and installed as the team’s starting quarterback in 2017, a team source tells SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano. Of course, that will all depend on his recovery from ACL surgery, his desire to stay in New York, and whether the Jets are able to land a more attractive option. Even though he was selected by the previous regime, Vacchiano hears that coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan “don’t hate him.”

Here’s more on Gang Green:

  • The Jets are going to be in on the market for left tackle Russell Okung, a league source tells Vacchiano. He adds that the Jets may also target Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson but refers to Okung as the Jets’ biggest non-QB target. Personally, we don’t agree with the assessment that Okung is a more ambitious pursuit than the Cardinals safety. On our first edition of the Top 50 Free Agents list, we ranked Jefferson No. 8 in terms of earning power while Okung was all the way down at No. 43.
  • The Jets are expected to tender restricted free agent center Wesley Johnson, a source tells Vacchiano. The SNY scribe says he “seems like a candidate” for the second-round tender.
  • The Jets are putting an emphasis on the run game and have plans to add a fullback in free agency this year, a source tells Connor Hughes of NJ.com. The Jets haven’t ruled out signing former Pro Bowlers Mike Tolbert or Marcel Reece and the Falcons’ Patrick DiMarco is also an option, Hughes hears. We have DiMarco ranked as the third-best fullback on the free agent market, behind Kyle Juszczyk and James Develin. Tolbert is all the way down at No. 7 because of his age and diminished blocking skills

Cardinals Expected To Lose Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson

Two key members of the Cardinals’ defense during the franchise’s mid-2010s resurgence, Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson are expected to move on from the team in free agency. At the prices the duo is expected to command, the Cardinals are likely going to thank both for their service and allow them to seek better offers on the UFA market, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports.

Both’s per-year price could creep into eight-figure territory. Now that Eric Berry is off the market, Jefferson is expected to be the top safety pursued. Campbell tops the interior defender contingent despite being 30. Somers hears Jefferson could command close to $10MM per year. Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com agrees, noting that he’d be surprised based on what he’s heard at the Combine if Jefferson’s price was too far off that figure.

Only four safeties — Berry, Tyrann Mathieu, Harrison Smith and Earl Thomas — earn $10MM per year, while only five earn at least $9MM annually.

As for Campbell, Somers hears the defensive end will command more annually. Although he’s set to turn 31 and coming off a five-year deal, Campbell is entering free agency off of arguably his best year and will be an attractive commodity for both 3-4 and 4-3 teams looking to bolster their pass rush. Somers expects the 6-foot-8 talent to sign for more than the $11MM-per-year figure he did to stay in Arizona earlier this decade.

Instead, the Cardinals are planning to set their sights on more reasonable UFAs to retain, with Somers mentioning D.J. Swearinger and Jermaine Gresham fall into this category. A source informed Somers that the Cards making a push to re-sign Swearinger makes sense with Jefferson on his way out.

The Cardinals already authorized top-market deals for Mathieu and Patrick Peterson, so it’s natural that Jefferson would have to seek his second contract elsewhere. Arizona does not have big expenses on its defensive line but is expected to discuss a long-term deal with the recently franchise-tagged Chandler Jones in the coming months. Jones being nearly four years younger than Campbell made him a logical choice in this debate. Campbell ranked first among 3-4 defensive ends in the opinion of Pro Football Focus last season. Arizona holds just more than $17MM in cap space.

He and Jefferson rank at Nos. 6 and 8, respectively, on PFR’s top 50 free agents list.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.