Trey Burton

Jets, Falcons, Rams, Bears To Gain Cap Room Via Post-June 1 Cuts

The Bears, Falcons, Jets, and Rams will gain additional cap space starting Tuesday, as Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter) notes. The extra flexibility comes from the following releases that have been designated as post-June 1 cuts: 

Players released after June 1 can have their remaining cap charge spread out across two seasons, rather than one. These four players were released earlier this year, but designated as post-June 1 cuts to smooth out the dead money.

For these teams, a chunk of this money will go towards funding the incoming rookie class. However, there will still be some room left over for summer upgrades, thanks to the top-51 rule. In the case of the Falcons, they’ll have about $8.25MM to spend, as Kevin Knight of The Falcoholic notes.

The additional space could jumpstart talks for June’s best remaining free agents, a group that includes defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, cornerback Logan Ryan, and guard Larry Warford. The Jets probably won’t go for Clowney, but they’ve shown serious interest in Ryan and Warford would make some sense for them if they want to upgrade over Brian Winters.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Sign TE Trey Burton

Trey Burton has found a landing spot after his Bears release. The former Eagles tight end agreed to terms with the Colts on Wednesday, according to his agency (Twitter link).

This will reunite Burton with Frank Reich, who was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator during the tight end’s final years in Philadelphia. This will be a Colts-friendly deal, with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reporting (via Twitter) Burton agreed to a veteran-minimum contract. However, Burton still has $4MM coming to him by virtue of his 2018 Bears pact.

Burton, 28, will not be asked to be Indianapolis’ clear No. 1 tight end the way he was in Chicago. Although the Colts let Eric Ebron defect to the Steelers, they still employ Jack Doyle. Burton will be in position to be an auxiliary weapon for Philip Rivers.

The passer on the Eagles’ “Philly Special” play in Super Bowl LII performed fairly well in 2018, suiting up for 16 games and hauling in a career-high 569 yards and six touchdown receptions. Last season, though, injuries hampered Burton. He only recorded 84 yards in eight games. Burton underwent hernia surgery during the 2019 offseason and went on IR after a calf injury.

The Colts will still head into the draft in need of a T.Y. Hilton complement at wide receiver, but this Burton agreement stands to make tight end a lower priority. Indianapolis also rosters Mo Alie-Cox and ex-Steelers blocking tight end Xavier Grimble.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears To Release TE Trey Burton

The Bears are cutting Trey Burton, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). With that, Burton will hit free agency and try to hook on with another team. 

The 28-year-old (29 in October) joined the Bears on a four-year, $32MM deal in 2018. However, thanks to the structure and cash flow of the deal, it was more like a two-year pact. Ultimately, that’s how the Bears treated it. Burton will be designated as a post-June 1 cut saving the Bears roughly $2.8MM in cap space (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Adam Jahns). There’s also offset language in his deal. If another teams signs Burton, the Bears will owe him less than his $4MM guaranteed sum.

Burton spent the majority of his career as a backup for Eagles, sitting behind star Zach Ertz. Over his last two Philly seasons, Burton averaged 30 receptions, 288 yards, and three touchdowns per campaign. Those weren’t eye-popping totals, but the advanced stats showed that he was extremely efficient. In his final season with the Birds, Football Outsiders ranked Burton No. 3 in DVOA among TEs, demonstrating his per-play value.

In Chicago, Burton didn’t break out the way the Bears and many fantasy owners hoped. Burton had 54 catches for 569 yards and six touchdowns in 2018. Last year, a calf injury shut him down in November. He finished out his season with 14 receptions for 84 yards and zero touchdowns.

With Burton gone, the Bears figure to be on the hunt for tight ends in the draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears To Place TE Trey Burton On IR

Trey Burton‘s second Bears season has not gone well, and it will end with the tight end on IR. The Bears will shuttle the sixth-year player to their IR list, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Burton is battling a calf injury that kept him out of practice this week. The Bears will promote linebacker James Vaughters from their practice squad to take the open roster spot. Burton missed Bears offseason activities due to sports hernia surgery but was ready by Week 1.

After catching 54 passes for 569 yards and six touchdowns in his Chicago debut season, Burton will close his 2019 slate with 14 receptions for 84 yards and no scores. Still, Burton’s 84 yards lead all Bears tight ends. This has obviously been a trouble spot for an offense that has fallen well off its 2018 performance level. Adam Shaheen, a 2017 second-round pick, has just nine grabs for 74 yards in eight games.

Burton’s four-year, $32MM contract runs through the 2021 season. It calls for a $7.5MM dead-money charge, with barely $1MM in cap savings, were the Bears to cut Burton after this season. It’s likely the ex-Philly Special passer will be back next season in an attempt to bounce back from essentially a lost year. But tight end will likely be a need for the Bears, whose 2017 Dion Sims addition also did not work out.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Bears, Vikings, Flowers

The Bears have made some splashy trades since Ryan Pace replaced Phil Emery as GM in 2015. Deals that brought Khalil Mack and Mitch Trubisky to Chicago required major assets to complete. Fourth-year starter Cody Whitehair and second-round tight end Adam Shaheen also forced the Bears to surrender multiple mid-round picks. In a detailed piece by The Athletic’s Adam Jahns (subscription required), Pace summarized his aggressiveness on these fronts.

I think if you sit on your hands and you say, ‘Oh, this player is definitely going to get to us,’ and he goes right before you and you had conviction on him — not just you but the scouts and the coaches – and you wait on it, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Pace said. “If you have a guy or a group of guys, be aggressive and make it happen.

I don’t want to undervalue any of these mid-round picks. We’ve shown a lot examples of us hitting on those players. But I know if we’re ever in a situation where, ‘Hey, we’re doing a little too much here,’ we can police ourselves on that. But as long as it’s a fair deal and we’re getting a player that we all have conviction on, then we’ll do it.”

As teams break for camp, here is more from the NFC North:

  • A knee injury Ha Ha Clinton-Dix suffered during Chicago’s offseason program resulted in the recently signed safety beginning his first Bears camp on the active/PUP list. The former Packers and Redskins defender has not missed a game since the 2014 season.
  • However, the Bears received good news on Trey Burton. The team’s second-year tight end starter has been cleared for camp work. The “Philly Special” quarterback underwent sports hernia surgery this offseason.
  • Although Alexander Mattison is the assumed next man up if Dalvin Cook again goes down with an injury, Mike Zimmer cautioned about anointing the third-round pick too soon. The sixth-year Vikings coach (via the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling) singled out third-year UDFA C.J. Ham as a player who stands to play more on passing downs, in front of Mattison, due to pass-protection skills. Backs often begin their NFL careers limited at this skill, so the 26-year-old Ham (31 touches in two seasons, when Latavius Murray played behind Cook) may function as a stopgap while Mattison is groomed.
  • The Lions‘ top offseason expense, Trey Flowers will not begin camp with the bulk of his teammates. The four-year Patriots pass rusher will start his first Lions camp on their active/PUP list. Flowers underwent shoulder surgery before signing with the Lions, but Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes the $18MM-per-year defensive end is expected to be ready by Week 1.

Extra Points: Montgomery, Bears, Miller, XFL

The Bears drafted running back David Montgomery in the third round back in April, not long after they traded away Jordan Howard. Montgomery has the opportunity to earn a large role this offseason, and so far it sounds like he’s been seizing it. Per Adam Jahns of The Athletic, Montgomery was lighting up the Bears’ OTAs and minicamp. Jahns writes that the Iowa State product “led the rookies, if not the entire team, in highlights made during the offseason program.”

Montgomery was somewhat of a bruising runner at Iowa State, so there was some concern coming out of college about how he’d fare in the passing game. That hasn’t been an issue so far, as Jahns writes that he “excelled in running routes and catching passes,” and that he “looked like a problem for the Bears’ defense.” Per Jahns, Montgomery has both teammates and coaches excited. Tarik Cohen will play his usual role, but he’s never going to be able to handle a full allotment of snaps with his frame. It’s early, but it sounds like Montgomery could take over a featured role as a rookie.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Bears sound pleased with Montgomery’s development, and that isn’t the only good news Chicago fans are getting. In the same piece, Jahns reports that the team expects both tight end Trey Burton and receiver Anthony Miller to be ready for training camp. Burton underwent offseason sports hernia surgery, while Miller had surgery to repair a torn labrum. Both players had missed the team’s recent minicamp and OTAs. Burton’s first year in Chicago was a bit of a disappointment after the big contract that he signed, while Miller showed a lot of flashes in a rookie season that was limited by recurring shoulder issues. Both players could be in for a big 2019 if they can stay healthy.
  • The XFL has been gearing up for their first season back recently, holding a series of showcases across the country. A bunch of familiar names have popped up, and we have a new one tonight courtesy of Greg Auman of The Athletic (Twitter link). Tommy Streeter, a 2012 sixth-round pick of the Ravens, will participate in the XFL’s Tampa showcase on Saturday, Auman reports. Streeter won Super Bowl XLVII with Baltimore, although he was on injured reserve at the time. He was cut by the Ravens following his rookie season, and the receiver then had stops with the Bills, Buccaneers, Dolphins, and Jaguars. Most recently, the Miami product played in the CFL in 2016.
  • In case you missed it, 2017 Seahawks second-round pick Malik McDowell is facing charges of assault, resisting arrest, and operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

NFC North Notes: LaFleur, Vikings, Burton

Matt LaFleur‘s hands-on approach in his first year as Packers HC will have to be tabled for a while. The torn Achilles LaFleur suffered this week will require immediate surgery, with Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reporting he will go under the knife Sunday. The 39-year-old coach was active in his first weeks leading the Packers, taking on an “enormous” load. But with the recovery from this surgery necessitating a potential six-month timetable, LaFleur’s methods will have to change. The coach was overseeing practice from a golf cart this week. This will certainly mark an interesting period for the Packers, LaFleur managing Achilles rehab while going through his first year as a head coach.

A couple weeks ago I kind of tweaked my calf on the other side,” LaFleur said, via Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But this one, I knew immediately. It was way more forceful. I thought somebody hit me in the leg. I looked around and nobody’s by me. It’s just one of those deals. We’ll rebound. We’ll be back.”

Shifting to some of the players in the NFC North, here is the latest out of the division:

  • Kirk Cousins does not have any early retirement plans. In discussing the arrival of rookie center Garrett Bradbury, the second-year Vikings quarterback said he would like to play well into the 2020s. “I told him, ‘I’d like to work together for about the next decade,’ ” Cousins said, via Dane Mizutani of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I just tried to set that vision for him and say, ‘You be the guy here for the next decade and let’s not have to worry about having anybody else snap for the quarterback.” While it is uncertain if Cousins will be in Minnesota beyond 2020, the final year of his fully guaranteed deal, the soon-to-be 31-year-old passer would prefer he stay in the Twin Cities on what would be multiple additional contracts.
  • With Bradbury sliding in at center, Minnesota’s incumbent snapper will slide to guard. Pat Elflein has started 28 games at center since beginning his NFL career, but he said (via Mizutani) he is now working at left guard. Elflein last played guard at Ohio State. Elflein lining up on the left side would put free agent addition Josh Kline in line to start at right guard. Both will be adjusting to the Gary KubiakRick Dennison zone-blocking scheme.
  • Trey Burton will not participate in the Bears‘ final OTA sessions next week or their mid-June minicamp. Chicago’s top tight end underwent sports hernia surgery, Matt Nagy said (via NBC 5’s Mike Berman, on Twitter). The Bears hope he will be ready by training camp. Burton played all 16 games for the Bears last season, reaching career-high marks in receptions, yards and touchdowns (54/569/6).

Bears To Sign TE Trey Burton

Former Eagles tight end Trey Burton is expected to sign with the Bears, a source tells Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). Burton will land a four-year, $32MM deal, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

This four-year agreement looks closer to a two-year deal, however. Albert Breer of SI.com reports (on Twitter) Burton’s contract contains $18MM fully guaranteed in the first two years. After that, nothing is guaranteed, making the 2020 and ’21 seasons look like option years for the Bears.

Burton will receive a $7.5MM signing bonus and a $1MM roster bonus due early next week, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. His initial two base salaries are $2.8MM and $6.7MM, with the 2020 season also coming with a $6.7MM base. If he’s still on the roster in 2021, Burton will earn a $6MM base. Although Burton doesn’t have any fully guaranteed money due after 2019, there is a $4MM injury guarantee for part of his 2020 money, per Florio.

Burton provides new head coach Matt Nagy with a serious weapon in the offense. Between Burton and new free agent addition Allen Robinson, quarterback Mitch Trubisky couldn’t ask for much more. Lat season, Trubisky was forced to throw to one of the least-inspiring group of pass-catchers in the NFL, but he’ll now have a few legitimate targets.

Burton, of course, has been a backup for the majority of his career, as he’s played second fiddle to Zach Ertz in Philadelphia. Over the past two years, Burton has averaged 30 receptions, 288 yards, and three touchdowns per season, but he’s been extremely efficient. Football Outsiders ranked Burton third in DVOA among tight ends a season ago, meaning he provided value on a per-play basis.

Despite his relative lack of experience, Burton will now become the fifth-highest-paid tight end in the league on an annual basis. His $8MM/year salary will place behind only Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed, Rob Gronkowski, and Ertz. While Burton’s guarantees haven’t yet been made public, each of those tight ends received between $10-15MM in fully guaranteed cash.

Burton, whom PFR ranked as the best tight end on the market and the No. 19 overall free agent, drew plenty of interest before landing in Chicago, as both the 49ers and Lions expressed interest.

[RELATED: Bears Depth Chart]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Interested In TE Trey Burton

The Lions are among the teams with interest in free agent tight end Trey Burton, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). With about “half a dozen serious suitors,” in the mix for Burton, they’ll have some steep competition for his services. 

Burton emerged as a real talent for the Eagles in 2017, but they do not have the space necessary to retain him. The 49ers are reportedly among the clubs with interest in signing him and they certainly have the room to pull it off.

Over the past two seasons, Burton has averaged just 30 catches, 288 yards, and three touchdowns per campaign, but he’s been very efficient. Football Outsiders ranked Burton third in DVOA among tight ends a season ago, underscoring his value on a per-play basis.

Last week, I ranked Burton as the No. 19 free agent available based on expected contract value.

While the Lions as of now have a starting tight end in Eric Ebron, the team is listening to offers on the fifth-year tight end. The Lions picked up Ebron’s fifth-year option last May, and that’s worth $8.25MM. It’s possible Detroit could cut Ebron, however, and pursue another tight end. That decision could come down to the wire, with the option becoming guaranteed on Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents For 2018 1.0

There will be tons of free agents available in March, but only a some of them can be real difference makers for your favorite team. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve assembled our early list of the Top 50 NFL Free Agents for 2018.

Our early version of the NFL’s top 50 free agents may include players who will be re-signed between now and March 14. When we update this list next week, a few of the big names will be spoken for while new high-profile names will join the fray as veterans become cap casualties.

Recently, we broke down the top free agents by position on both offense and defense, but our rankings below may not have each player listed in the same order. Those position lists took the short-term value of a player into account more heavily, meaning many players in their 30s received prominent placement. Our overall top 50 list favors longer-term value, and is more about forecasting which players will be in highest demand when it comes to years and dollars.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2018:

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (Redskins): At long last, Kirk Cousins is headed towards unrestricted free agency. You may or may not regard Cousins as a star, but he is the best quarterback in recent history to reach the open market and QB-needy teams will be rolling out the red carpet for him. The Jets, Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals have been named as the top suitors for his services, but the NFL is full of surprises this time of year and we would not be surprised to see other teams get involved. The cash-flush Browns are reportedly keen on signing a lower-cost vet and drafting a QB early, but who’s to say they won’t change course and get in on the Cousins sweepstakes? The Bills, Giants, Dolphins, Bucs, and Colts could also consider kicking the tires here, but there are obstacles in that bunch ranging from established starters already in place (Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Andrew Luck) to financial constraints. No matter where he goes, it’s almost certain that Cousins will become the league’s highest-paid player of all-time. That is, until another top-tier QB signs a contract extension soon after.

2. Drew Brees (Saints): There are multiple possibilities for Cousins but it’s hard to see a scenario in which Brees actually leaves the Saints. Brees has already said that he does not plan on testing free agency, so he’ll likely put pen to paper before things begin on March 14. As far as we can tell, the only way Brees will think about leaving is if he is lowballed to an extreme degree by the Saints, but that seems improbable based on his history with the team

3. Case Keenum (Vikings): One year ago, no one ever would have expected Keenum to be one of 2018’s most sought-after free agents. The Vikings signed the former Rams signal caller to a one-year, $2MM deal in March with the idea that he would back up Sam Bradford and, eventually slide down to third on the depth chart when/if Teddy Bridgewater returned to full health. When Bradford went down in September, Keenum exceeded all expectations and put together the best season of his career. The 30-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked QB in 2017, putting him above the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota, Matthew Stafford, and Tyrod Taylor. With Keenum at the helm, the Vikings earned a first-round bye and beat the Saints in a playoff thriller before succumbing to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Of course, after four seasons of mediocrity, teams are wondering whether this was an aberration or a real sign of things to come. Teams know that Keenum is not a lock, but he’s also the best Plan B for any team that loses out on Cousins or doesn’t have the means to sign him.

4. Andrew Norwell, G (Panthers): There was a time when tackles were the only offensive linemen to really cash in on the open market. That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by the contracts of Kevin Zeitler (five years, $60MM) and Kelechi Osemele (five years, $58.5MM). Osemele inked his free agent deal with the Raiders in 2016 and Zeitler signed his in the 2017 offseason. Given the cap increase and the natural progression of the market, Norwell figures to reset the market for interior linemen. Keenum figures to gross no less than $20MM/year on his next contract, so he’s slotted behind him, but an average annual value of $13-14MM is not out of the question for the former undrafted free agent.

5. Nate Solder, OT (Patriots): Solder isn’t coming off of his best season and he might be the least sexy name in the top ten. Still, there’s a dearth of tackles league-wide and Solder has been among the league’s best at his position for quite some time. The Patriots are bracing for Solder to leave as they fear he’ll garner offers of $12MM/year. No other tackle in this year’s free agent crop is even close to him in terms of ability, so we’re also buying into the hype. Injuries contributed to Solder’s up-and-down season, particularly early on, so teams will take that into account when evaluating him.

6. Allen Robinson, WR (Jaguars): The Jaguars opted against using the franchise tag on Robinson, which is understandable since they have limited cap space. Robinson missed almost all of 2017 with an ACL tear, but his 2015 season (and even his so-so 2016 campaign) gives teams reason to believe that he can be a quality WR1. Robinson is one of only two such players on the unrestricted market, so expect him to get paid. Robinson probably couldn’t do worse than Kenny Britt‘s four-year, $32MM deal with the Browns from last season (and he should do a whole lot better), but if he is underwhelmed by the multi-year offers he receives, he could always go the Alshon Jeffery route. Jeffery inked a one-year, $9.5MM prove-it deal with the Eagles and that turned out to be a smashing success for both parties. Jeffery was rewarded with a four-year, $52MM extension in December, so Robinson’s camp will surely be open to a pillow contract if necessary. 

7. Sammy Watkins, WR (Rams): Some may view Robinson and Watkins as 1A and 1B in this year’s wide receiver class, particularly since Robinson missed all of 2017 and Watkins, despite his own injury history, played in all but one of the Rams’ games. Unfortunately, Watkins did not have the platform year he was hoping for as he caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. If we strike Robinson’s lost year and Watkins’ down year from the record, the breakdown favors the Jags receiver – Robinson averaged 77 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns per 16 games in that set versus Watkins’ 66 grabs for 1,063 yards and seven scores. These two should come pretty close in average annual value, but we give the edge to Robinson.

8. Trumaine Johnson, CB (Rams): Players often bemoan the franchise tag, but Johnson can’t really complain after receiving two consecutive tags from the Rams and earning more than $30MM between 2016 and 2017. The Rams, rightfully, did not consider a third consecutive tag for Johnson at a cost of ~$20MM and they already have his replacement in Marcus Peters. That’s one suitor down, but plenty of other teams will be eager to speak with Johnson, who profiles as the best cornerback in a deep class.

9. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson gave the Jets lots of headaches, but he also gave them high-end production. He didn’t quite match that production in Seattle, but Richardson is positioned for a massive payday anyway since impactful defensive linemen are at a premium. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will garner about $9MM/year, but I would say that is his floor. The top-end of free agency rarely yields team-friendly deals, so Richardson could easily creep into eight figures in AAV, particularly since he does not turn 28 until November.

10. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe thought he was in for a monster contract last offseason, but concerns about his lingering back issues forced him to take a one-year, $8MM deal with Atlanta. Teams may still worry about his back being a ticking time bomb, but perhaps they’ll view him in a different light now that he has played back-to-back 16 game seasons and has only missed two regular season contests over the course of his career.

Read more