Weston Richburg

Richburg Targeting Training Camp Return

The 49ers suffered a key loss late in what became their seventh season to end in a Super Bowl berth. Weston Richburg‘s second San Francisco season ended after 13 games with a torn patellar tendon.

Patellar tendon injuries are among the more difficult to surmount, but the 49ers’ starting center is confident he will be back by the start of the 2020 season. Richburg said he will not be able to participate in the 49ers’ offseason program. However, the former Giants second-round pick expects to be ready to return by training camp, per Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area.

After losing Richburg in December, the 49ers turned to veteran swing man Ben Garland the rest of the way. The ex-Broncos and Falcons blocker helped the 49ers keep their ground success going, peaking with Raheem Mostert‘s dominant NFC championship game. Garland, however, is a free agent. Richburg’s contract — which the 49ers recently restructured — runs through the 2022 season.

The 2020 season will be Richburg’s age-29 campaign. Pro Football Focus has not viewed Richburg as one of the league’s better centers during his time in San Francisco, grading him as the No. 25 snapper last season. Regardless, Richburg is expected to reprise his role as the 49ers’ first-string center — on an offensive line that also has its other four starters under contract for 2020. Garland, who has played for Kyle Shanahan at multiple stops, will likely be a consideration to return as an insurance option/depth piece.

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NFC West Notes: Rams, 49ers, Alexander

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is gone, but the Rams will continue to operate in a 3-4 base under new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, as ESPN.com’s Lindsey Thiry writes.

Still, personnel changes may be on the horizon – defensive lineman Michael Brockers, outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., and inside linebacker Cory Littleton are all slated for free agency. The Rams will also be on the lookout for safety help following the retirement of 13-year pro Eric Weddle.

Things are fluid at this stage of the offseason, but it seems as though Brockers and Littleton are likely to find paydays elsewhere. Fowler, on the other hand, could be cuffed with the $15MM+ franchise tag or signed to a new deal.

Interestingly, Thiry also frames cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman as a cap casualty. Despite coming off of another strong season, she believes the Rams could drop the final year of his three-year, $15.7MM contract and fill the void internally by giving more slot snaps to Troy Hill.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander agreed to restructure his contract back in November, but word of the revised deal only started to trickle out recently. According to Over The Cap, the Niners prorated $333K of Alexander’s 2019 salary to signing bonus while adjusting his 2020 salary from $11.25MM to $976K with the rest to be paid as an option bonus on April 1. Meanwhile, three added three voidable years were tacked on. Alexander’s contract will now void on the 5th day of the 2023 waiver period. This will make Alexander an unrestricted free agent in 2023, same as he was scheduled based on the original contract. Ultimately, these changes resulted in $8.1MM in badly needed cap space for the NFC champs.
  • Even with the Alexander restructure and tweaks to Weston Richburg‘s deal, SF still has only $13MM to spend. To carve out more room, the 49ers could dump running back Tevin Coleman to create another $4.9MM in space, ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner suggests. Coleman, 27 in April, averaged 4.0 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns off of 137 totes. Through the air, he had 21 grabs for 180 yards and one score.
  • The Seahawks – who finished second in the NFC West – will soon find out whether they’ve won the Greg Olsen sweepstakes. After meeting with the ‘Hawks, Bills, and Redskins, the tight end is expected to make his decision this week.

49ers Sign CB Dontae Johnson, WR Jordan Matthews

With Richard Sherman likely to miss multiple games, the 49ers have made a move to bolster their CB depth. NFL Insider Adam Caplan reports that San Francisco is re-signing veteran corner Dontae Johnson (Twitter link).

Johnson and the 49ers are quite familiar with each other at this point. The Niners selected the NC State product in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, and he was a full-time starter for the club as recently as 2017. But he has become something of a nomad, and in 2019 alone, he’s spent time with the Chiefs, Chargers, and 49ers. He played in two games for the Chargers before being cut, and San Francisco promptly scooped him up. He primarily served as a special teams contributor in his five games with the 49ers before they cut him last month.

He may see a little more action on the defensive side of the ball for the next couple of weeks, but it would still be surprising to see him get a ton of snaps. Meanwhile, fellow corner Jason Verrett, who has been on IR since Week 4, is eligible to return if the 49ers want to open his practice window.

After the Johnson signing was reported, we learned that the 49ers are also reuniting with WR Jordan Matthews, per Matt Barrows of The Athletic (via Twitter). Matthews signed a one-year, $1.8MM contract with the team this offseason, though he did not survive final cuts. He was brought back to San Francisco in early October but played in just one game and did not record a catch. He then caught on with Philadelphia and played in two games for the WR-needy Eagles before they parted ways with him.

The 49ers put Marquise Goodwin on IR yesterday, so Matthews will take his roster spot, but as the sixth WR on the roster, he’s unlikely to see much playing time. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets that the team formally placed Weston Richburg on IR, opening up space for Johnson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers’ Weston Richburg Done For Year

Bad news for the Niners. Center Weston Richburg is done for the year thanks to a torn patella tendon, head coach Kyle Shanahan announced. 

Richburg will be placed on injured reserve, leaving one of the league’s best teams without its anchor on the offensive line. He’s been a rock for the 49ers since joining the club on a five-year, $47.5MM deal prior to the 2018 season. In 2018, he played in 15 games despite an ongoing knee issue, which was addressed by surgery in January. Unfortunately, this knee injury will require another surgery and ample time to heal, ruling him out for the rest of the regular season and playoffs.

Last year, Pro Football Focus gave Richburg the lowest grade (51.9) of his five-year career. This year, he fared slightly better with a 59.8 score, but those numbers don’t quite reflect his importance to the Niners’ line. He’s allowed just one sack this year and the Niners rank No. 4 in total offense league-wide.

Without Richburg, the Niners will likely install Ben Garland as their starting center, starting this week. They’re also likely to look into some interior line reinforcements, starting with practice squad guard Ross Reynolds.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Rumors: 49ers, Seahawks, Broncos

It’s been a long offseason for the 49ers, who have seen numerous key players deal with injuries throughout the spring and summer. Add more to the list of San Francisco talents set to miss the preseason. Jerick McKinnon and Weston Richburg are both unlikely to play until Week 1. Given $18MM guaranteed, McKinnon is still dealing with knee trouble after missing all of last season with an ACL tear. The sixth-year running back received a platelet-rich plasma injection on his knee and is expected to miss the 49ers’ August slate, Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com notes. The team activated him from the PUP list Tuesday, but Kyle Shanahan said his prized 2018 offseason signing experienced significant soreness after going through individual drills the past two days. Richburg, who remains on the active/PUP list after a January knee surgery, is being targeted a Week 1 return. So are Nick Bosa and Jason Verrett. The 49ers hope Dee Ford, who received a PRP injection on his injured knee, can play by the team’s dress-rehearsal preseason game.

Here’s the latest West news from outside of San Francisco:

  • With the Seahawks in desperate need of available pass rushers come Week 1, more blitz opportunities may be on tap. Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks (should he be on the field) are in position to be used more as rushers. “If we can play really good D, it’s going to be because of Bobby and K.J. and Mychal and the guys in the linebacker spot. We’re going to utilize them as much as we can to be a factor in all aspects, run and pass [defense],” Pete Carroll said, via ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson. “Those guys are really good pass defenders, and they love coming off the edge too. We’ll plan on using those guys a lot.” After Frank Clark‘s departure, the Seahawks have Ziggy Ansah and L.J. Collier injured. Jarran Reed incurred a six-game suspension. Wright has not collected a sack since 2016, when he had four. Wagner had 4.5 that year but recorded 2.5 since.
  • Theo Riddick will earn a $2MM 2019 base salary with the Broncos, and $750K of it is fully guaranteed, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. Another $250K will be available in per-game roster bonuses. Overall, Riddick signed for $2.5MM with $1MM guaranteed. This makes it a near-certainty Riddick will appear on the Broncos’ 53-man roster in September.
  • The Broncos are already down Todd Davis for multiple weeks; they will be without one of his top backups for longer than that. Joe Jones suffered a triceps injury this week, and a second opinion delivered more clarity on the inside linebacker’s timeline. Jones will be out between six and eight weeks, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets. But he will not need surgery, which could increase his chances of making the Broncos. If Jones hits IR before the Broncos finalize their 53-man unit, the special-teamer will be ineligible to return for them this season.
  • Returning 2018 fifth-round pick Johnny Townsend would seemingly be in line to keep his job as the Raiders‘ punter, but Jon Gruden said rookie UDFA A.J. Cole has put himself in the conversation to unseat the incumbent, per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (on Twitter). Cole would be an option to handle Raiders kickoffs as well.

49ers’ Weston Richburg, D.J. Reed Undergo Surgery

49ers center Weston Richburg and cornerback D.J. Reed both recently underwent surgery, leaving their availability for the start of training camp in question, San Francisco announced today. Richburg’s operation addressed an ongoing knee issue, while Reed went under the knife to correct a shoulder injury.

Richburg inked a five-year, $47.5MM contract with the 49ers last offseason, and proceeded to play in 15 games despite dealing with his knee injury. His production wasn’t great, as Pro Football Focus assigned Richburg the lowest grade (51.9) of his five-year career, but it’s fair to assume his health questions factored into his reduced level of play.

Although Richburg could return for training camp, knee injuries can often last longer than initially expected. The 49ers don’t have a ton of depth along the interior of their offensive line, so they could potentially be in trouble if Richburg is forced to miss any regular season action. Erik Magnuson would presumably take over at center, but San Francisco could look to free agency and/or the draft to shore up their line in case Richburg isn’t ready for the 2019 campaign.

Reed, a fifth-round pick last year, appeared in 15 games (two starts) for the Niners. At 5’9″, 188 pounds, he’s mostly suited for the slot, and that’s where he primarily played in 2018. All told, Reed saw action on roughly a third of San Francisco’s defensive snaps and 43.2% of the club’s special teams plays.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Targeted Jerick McKinnon, Weston Richburg, Others

The Jets looked to be Kirk Cousinsbackup plan, and the franchise had to move on to some its own contingency signings soon after. Most notably, the Jets sought a backfield option that ended up in San Francisco.

Despite entering free agency with more than $90MM in cap space, the Jets could not land Jerick McKinnon. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports the Mike Maccagnan-led franchise put a “full-court press” on the former Vikings running back, only to see him join the 49ers instead.

While McKinnon looked to be the main target that got away, the Jets also had interest in Weston Richburg, with “strong plays” for defenders DaQuan Jones and Barkevious Mingo also not working out for Gang Green, Mehta reports.

Once the Jets didn’t sign McKinnon, they moved on to Isaiah Crowell. However, Mehta reports the Jets agreeing to terms with McKinnon would not have precluded them from adding Crowell as well. Although, the team already has Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire.

Mehta reports the Jets felt their offer was strong enough to close a deal with the 25-year-old McKinnon, but the team also felt Kyle Shanahan was determined to win a bidding war. The end result shows that to be the case. The four-year, $30MM contract makes McKinnon one of the league’s highest-paid running backs.

The 49ers also beat the Jets on Richburg, but it doesn’t sound like the competition was as fierce between the two franchises as it was for McKinnon. New York eyed Richburg but knew the ex-Giants center was going to sign for more than what the team was willing to pay him. Despite having less cap space than the Jets, the 49ers signed Richburg for five years and $47.5MM.

Jones ended up re-upping with the Titans instead of replacing Muhammad Wilkerson on the Jets’ front, signing for three years and $21MM. Mingo will be one of the players the Seahawks turn to in an effort to replace Michael Bennett. The Jets’ interest in Mingo may not have been too strong, with it only taking a two-year, $6.8MM deal for the Seahawks to sign him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers To Sign Weston Richburg

The 49ers will sign center Weston Richburg to a five-year deal when free agency officially opens, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the deal is worth $47.5MM, with $28.5MM in guaranteed money ($16.5MM fully guaranteed).

Richburg only appeared in four games in 2017 while dealing with a concussion, but he’s been since been medically cleared. The 26-year-old offers 50 games of experience at the pivot, but teams were reportedly considering Richburg at guard, as well. Richburg, a former second-round pick, hasn’t played guard since his rookie campaign, but any added versatility could potentially give him more value.

PFR recently ranked Richburg as the No. 34 overall free agent on the board, and he was one of the best interior lineman available. At his position, Richburg competed with the likes of Ryan JensenMatt Slauson, and John Sullivan for free agent dollars. Richburg had reportedly drawn early interest from the crosstown Jets, who have a glaring need at center.

The 49ers inked veteran center Daniel Kilgore to an extension earlier this offseason, so it appears either he or Richburg will move to guard. San Francisco also has Laken Tomlinson and Zane Beadles on the interior of its offensive line, while Brandon Fusco — who played well on a one-year deal in 2018 — is an unrestricted free agent.

San Francisco is expected to be active during this year’s free agent period. Even after inking quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a five-year deal that contains a $37MM cap charge in 2018, the 49ers still had about $67MM in available cap space.

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Giants Won’t Re-Sign Weston Richburg

The Giants are not interested in re-signing center Weston Richburg, who will reach free agency when the market opens next Wednesday, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. Instead, New York plans to tender restricted free agent Brett Jones and deploy him as its starting center.

Richburg only appeared in four games in 2017 while dealing with a concussion, but he’s been since been medically cleared. The 26-year-old offers 50 games of experience at the pivot, but teams are reportedly considering Richburg at guard, as well. Richburg, a former second-round pick, hasn’t played guard since his rookie campaign, but any added versatility could potentially give him more value.

PFR recently ranked Richburg as the No. 34 overall free agent on the board, and he’s one of the best interior lineman available. At his position, Richburg will compete with the likes of Ryan Jensen, Matt Slauson, and John Sullivan for free agent dollars. Richburg has reportedly drawn early interest from the crosstown Jets, who have a glaring need at center.

The Giants are expected to use the second-round tender on Jones, per Schwartz. Not only would that tender entitle Jones to a $2.914MM salary in 2018, but it would allow Big Blue to reap a second-round pick if Jones inks an un-matched offer sheet with another club. Jones, 26, started 13 games in the absence of Richburg, and graded as the NFL’s No. 18 center among 37 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

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.

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