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Steelers Sign Antonio Brown To Extension

The Steelers and Antonio Brown have agreed to an extension, the club announced today. The new deal, which will tie Brown to Pittsburgh through the 2021 season, will make the dynamic wide receiver the highest-paid pass-catcher of all-time.Antonio Brown (vertical)

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The pact will reportedly give Brown four new years worth $68MM, and contains a $19MM signing bonus. Brown’s 2017 base salary has been reduced to a guaranteed $910K, which along with the signing bonus, makes up the only guaranteed portions of the contract.

From there, Brown will earn base salaries of $7.875MM, $12.625MM, $11.3MM, and $12.5MM in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021, respectively. In 2018, Brown is due a $6MM roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year, and 2019, Brown is due a $2.5MM roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year.

Brown has been pushing for a new deal for more than a year now, but the Steelers held firm to their organizational policy of not addressing contracts until they are one year away from expiration. In this round of talks, the Steelers and agent with Drew Rosenhaus were aiming to have a deal done by March 9th. It seems that the deal has been agreed upon with more than a week before the start of free agency.

Currently, Julio Jones leads all wide receivers in terms of total contract value ($71.25MM overall), per-year average ($14.25MM per year), and total guaranteed cash ($35.5MM). After him, Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant are tied or roughly tied in those categories, with Thomas holding a slight edge in total guaranteed money. Apparently, Brown’s new pact will set the new watermark for the wide receiver position.

Brown, 29 in July, is coming off of his third consecutive first-team All-Pro selection. Last year, Brown finished out with 106 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns in 15 regular season games. As great as that stat line was, Brown has put up even gaudier numbers for Pittsburgh in the past. In 2014, Brown had 129 catches and 1,698 yards with 13 touchdowns. In 2015, he had an eye-popping 136 catches for 1,834 yards and ten touchdowns.

Before the multi-year agreement, Brown was slated to play out 2017 with a $13.6MM cap charge.

Adam Schefter of ESPN.com first reported the news of the extension and its basic details (Twitter links). Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link) reported the signing bonus amount. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported the financial specifics of the deal.

Chargers Franchise Tag Melvin Ingram

The Chargers have placed the franchise tag on edge rusher Melvin Ingram, according to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link). Ingram becomes the third pending free agent to be handed the franchise tender today, joining Chandler Jones, Kawann Short, and Jason Pierre-Paul.Melvin Ingram (Vertical)

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Ingram, 27, will earn a one-year, fully guaranteed salary of roughly $14.75MM, although the exact figure won’t be known until the NFL announces the official salary cap for 2017. After seeing Ingram post 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons, Los Angeles was more than willing to pay that total in order to ensure he’ll will remain with the Chargers for at least one more campaign.

Rival clubs can still bid on Ingram, but they’d have to sacrifice two first-round picks in order to sign him away. Los Angeles has until July 15 to sign Ingram to an extension, or he’ll be forced to play out the season on the one-year tender.

Ingram placed fourth on the most recent edition of PFR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, and was listed second on our list of free agent edge defenders, just behind Jones and ahead of Pierre-Paul. The No. 6 pass rusher in the NFL last season — according to Pro Football Focus — Ingram will return to Los Angeles to pair with PFF’s No. 5 edge player, Joey Bosa. Both defenders will likely play end in new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley‘s 4-3 scheme.

The 2017 free agent class of edge defenders is rapidly thinning now that Ingram, Jones, and Pierre-Paul are all under the franchise tag. Nick Perry (Packers), Jabaal Sheard (Patriots), James Harrison (Steelers), and John Simon (Texans) look like the next best options among pass rushing free agents.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 2/27/17

Today’s minor moves:

  • The 49ers have re-signed exclusive rights free agents Carl Bradford (linebacker) and Mike Purcell (defensive lineman), the team announced. San Francisco claimed Bradford, a former Green Bay fourth-round pick, off waivers near the tail end of last season, and the 24-year-old went on to play in two games with the Niners. Purcell, meanwhile, has spent the past three seasons with the 49ers. In 2016, he appeared in 15 games (five starts) and played on roughly a quarter of San Francisco’s defensive snaps.
  • The Buccaneers have re-signed exclusive rights free agents WR Adam Humphries (wide receiver), DB Jude Adjei-Barimah (defensive back), Adarius Glanton (linebacker), and Freddie Martino (wide receiver), reports Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. Humphries (55 receptions, 622 yards, two scores) and Adjei-Barimah (290 defensive snaps before a PED suspension) played the largest roles among this group in 2016.
  • The Cardinals announced that they’re re-signed linebacker Gabe Martin, who was an exclusive rights free agent. Martin, 24, played in eight games last season but spent most of his time on special teams. The former undrafted free agent was placed on injured reserve in November after suffering a knee injury.
  • The Jaguars announced that they’ve signed offensive lineman Greg Van Roten. Van Roten, 27, hasn’t appeared in the NFL since 2013, when he played in three games for Green Bay. After spending a few months with Seattle in 2014, Van Roten signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, where he’s played the past two campaigns.
  • The Colts have agreed to sign offensive lineman Fahn Cooper, the club announced today. Cooper, a 2016 sixth-round choice out of Ole Miss, spent his rookie season on the 49ers’ practice squad. The 23-year-old was placed on San Francisco’s taxi squad injured reserve list in November.
  • The Saints have waived offensive lineman Avery Young, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Young, 24, went undrafted out of Auburn in 2016, and ended up spending the entirety of his rookie campaign on the non-football injury list.

Giants To Franchise Tag Jason Pierre-Paul

The Giants will apply the franchise tag to Jason Pierre-Paul, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (on Twitter). Unless the two sides work out a new deal between now and July, JPP will play out 2017 on a one-year, $16.955MM contract. The transaction was not formally processed before the end of business on Monday, but the Giants have informed him of their decision. Jason Pierre-Paul

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The G-Men will work “aggressively” to lock Pierre-Paul up beyond 2017, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears. The Giants have about $31.5MM in cap space before factoring in the tag and they can preserve a good chunk of that by smoothing out JPP’s cap hit on a multi-year deal. Ideally, the Giants would like to retain their defensive core, which means brand new deals for JPP and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.

Had JPP reached the open market, he would have stood as one of the best free agent edge defenders in this year’s class. Now that he and Jones have been franchise tagged and Melvin Ingram probably isn’t far behind, Packers standout Nick Perry probably has to be considered the best of the bunch. Perry, 27 in April, will be heavily targeted by 3-4 teams looking to boost their pass rush.

It’s not immediately clear whether the Giants are using the non-exclusive or exclusive tag on Pierre-Paul, but it doesn’t really make a difference in this case. At his age, it would be an absolute shock to see any team sacrifice two first round draft choices for the right to sign him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs Extend Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

The Chiefs have locked up one of their starting offensive linemen for years to come. The team has agreed to a five-year, $41.25MM extension with guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The deal includes $20MM in guaranteed money, a source tells Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). It’s not immediately clear how much of that $20MM is guaranteed at signing versus yearly guarantees that are triggered at the outset of each league year. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (vertical)

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Over the last two years, the 6’5″ lineman has appeared in 30 games for KC with 27 starts. In 2016, he was ranked as the 27th best guard in the NFL by Pro Football Focus with a 78.4 overall score. That grade put him ahead of notables like Kyle Long, Austin Pasztor, and Patrick Omameh. His pass blocking was particularly strong and he had the 14th highest score amongst guards in that area by PFF’s measure.

Duvernay-Tardif had one more year to go on his rookie deal, but the Chiefs saw an opportunity to lock him up on what they feel is a team-friendly extension. The contract could take the guard through his age-30 season. Sometime after that, the McGill product hopes to become a full-time doctor.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Franchise Tag Le’Veon Bell

The Steelers have placed the franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The Steelers have opted for the exclusive tag, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter), which means that no other team can sign him away. The two sides now have until July to hammer out a new contract. If they do not, Bell will play out 2017 on a one-year, ~$12MM deal."<strong

The non-exclusive variant of the tag, which costs the same as the exclusive one, opens the door for another team to sign the player if the original club does not match. When that happens, the team losing the player collects on two first-round picks.

Bell, 25, is arguably the best running back in the NFL. Had he reached unrestricted free agency, Bell probably would have become the highest-paid tailback in the NFL, considering that Adrian Peterson‘s current deal is days away from being terminated.

In 12 games last year, Bell ran for 1,268 yards off of 261 carries (4.9 yards per attempt) and had seven rushing touchdowns. Bell was often utilized as a receiver too, totaling 75 catches for 616 yards and two scores. As if that wasn’t enough, Pro Football Focus gave him the sixth-highest pass blocking grade of any running back in the NFL last year. His overall grade, naturally, was No. 1 amongst RBs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Franchise Tag Kawann Short

The Panthers have applied the franchise tag to Kawann Short, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The long-expected move has since been confirmed by Carolina.

Kawann Short

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Now that Short has been tagged, the two sides will have until July to work out a long-term deal. If they are not able to come to a new agreement, Short will likely play out the 2017 season on a one-year, $13.468MM pact.

Short was ranked No. 3 on PFR’s most recent edition of the Free Agent Power Rankings and was our top interior defender to potentially reach the open market. Unlike former teammate Josh Norman, Short is on record as saying he’s okay with signing the franchise tender. The 28-year-old was the third-best interior defender in the league this season, per Pro Football Focus, and his 87.7 overall score was roughly in line with his 2015 mark, even though he had five less sacks. By PFF’s metrics, only defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Calais Campbell ranked ahead of Short in 2016.

The price tag for a Short extension went up when Fletcher Cox and Muhammad Wilkerson inked lucrative new deals last summer. Carolina would probably like to re-up Short at roughly $15MM per year on a multi-year deal, but it might take an AAV of ~$17MM or more to get something done based on how the market looks now. Even that number could trend upwards depending on how things break in March.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals Franchise Tag Chandler Jones

As expected, the Cardinals have placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Chandler Jones. The Cardinals had until March 1 to make the call, but they are taking care of business early.

In theory, the non-exclusive tag allows room for Jones to land elsewhere if he signs another team’s offer sheet and the Cardinals opt not to match. However, any team signing Jones away would have to give Arizona two first-round picks. That’s a steep price to pay on top of whatever contract he commands. Therefore, Jones will likely play 2017 under a one-year, $16.955MM tender unless the two sides reach agreement on a longer pact between now and July.Chandler Jones

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In January, coach Bruce Arians said that the Cards would apply the franchise tag to Jones if they were unable to immediately lock him up to a long-term deal. Weeks later, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill gave additional confirmation of those plans.

We’re not going to mess around with that,” Bidwill said with regards to Jones. “He’s a great pass rusher, but if we can’t agree to terms that work for us, we’re just going to franchise him. His people know that.”

In my most recent edition of the Free Agent Power Rankings, I had Jones as the No. 2 player available, second only to quarterback Kirk Cousins. Our defensive rankings by position naturally had Jones as the top edge rusher available. Now, that mantle belongs to teammate Calais Campbell.

Jones now becomes the first player to get hit with the franchise tag in the 2017 offseason. More players will receive the designation in the next 48 hours.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Release WR Andrew Hawkins

The Browns have released wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, according to a team press release. The Browns will save $1.8MM against the cap by parting ways with the veteran. Andrew Hawkins (vertical)

Andrew Hawkins was a great asset to the organization in his three seasons with our team,” top exec Sashi Brown said in the statement. “He was an outstanding example to our young players both on and off the field. The well-intended work he did in the Cleveland community was greatly appreciated and the respect he earned throughout our league for never being afraid to responsibly create an educated dialogue around a societal issue is commendable. I’m not sure where Andrew’s next stop will be but his history shows that whatever he sets his mind to accomplish, success is sure to follow.”

Hawkins, 31 in March, has spent his entire career to date in the AFC North. After playing for the Bengals from 2011-2013, he hooked on with the Browns as a free agent prior to the 2014 season. Cleveland gave him a four-year, $13.6MM pact and the Bengals ultimately decided against matching, allowing the restricted free agent to get away.

Hawkins was a focal part of the offense initially, tallying 63 catches for 824 yards and two scores in his first Browns season. Since then, however, he has been more of a supporting piece. In 2016, he had just 33 catches for 324 yards and three scores.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Re-Sign DE Wes Horton

The Panthers announced they’ve re-signed defensive end Wes Horton. It’s a two-year deal for the veteran. Exact terms of the deal are not yet known. Wes Horton

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Horton, 27, appeared in eleven games for the team last season, including ten starts. he finished out the year with eleven total tackles, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. When averaged out per game, the 2016 season amounted to his most productive yet.

Horton first made a name for himself in 2013 when he joined the Panthers as an undrafted rookie. He wound up making 15 starts for Carolina in 2014 while Greg Hardy was suspended. Horton might not be a starter for Carolina when the 2017 season opens, but they’re probably planning on significant playing time for him even if he’s a reserve.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.