Zach Brown

NFC East Notes: Z. Brown, Eagles, Giants

Much of the conversation in Redskins country has understandably revolved around how the team will proceed with quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets that the team is working to extend linebacker Zach Brown. Brown’s one-year pact with Washington is among the best one-year deals that was signed last offseason, as he has started all 12 of the team’s games and has been a key component of its defense. After a strong 2016 campaign in Buffalo, Brown surprisingly had to settle for a modest contract with the Redskins, but the 28-year-old should be in line for a more lucrative multi-year deal this time around.

Now for more from the NFC East:

  • The Eagles signed wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to a four-year extension yesterday, which will further limit their 2018 cap space. Per Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, Philadelphia will go into 2018 with just $1.7MM in cap room, so obviously some cuts will need to be made. Shorr-Parks names Vinny Curry, Jason Peters, and Nick Foles as players who could be on the way out, though the rumored Brandon Graham extension would likely provide some cap relief as well.
  • Eagles RB Jay Ajayi and head coach Doug Pederson did meet this week, but according to Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia, it was not to discuss the limited playing time that Ajayi has seen since being traded to the Eagles (he has just 20 carries in his three games in Philly). Ajayi exhibited frustration and a sulky mood after last Sunday’s win over the Bears, which led to speculation that he was upset with his relative lack of action. However, he said he was merely disappointed that he lost a fumble at the goal line in the fourth quarter of the Chicago matchup, and there are no issues between him and his coach. When asked if he would like more carries, Ajayi said he just does whatever the coaches ask and will be ready when his number is called.
  • The Giants have been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the last week, from Eli Manning‘s controversial benching to Ben McAdoo‘s possible in-season ouster. But as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com writes, the team has not had any talks with any of its key upcoming free agents like Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg. Of course, there could be any number of reasons for that, but Schefter says the situation in New York has grown “depressing and dysfunctional,” and players on expiring contracts are happy to accept the team’s unofficial invitation to test the open market.

Redskins Add Four To Roster

After a rash of injuries, the Redskins are calling for backup. The Redskins announced that they have promoted linebacker Pete Robertson, nose tackle A.J. Francis, and running back LeShun Daniels from the practice squad. The team also signed center Demetrius Rhaney while placing fellow center Spencer Long (quad) on injured reserve. A.J. Francis (vertical)

The Redskins had several spots to fill after putting Long, wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, and running back Chris Thompson on IR. Meanwhile, the Redskins have even more depth concerns. Center Chase Roullier had hand surgery on Monday and tells reporters that he will be out at least a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, linebackers Martrell Spaight and Zach Brown have both been spotted with walking boots.

Washington will have to dig deep and find a way to survive all of the injuries in order to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. At 4-6, the simulations at Football Outsiders peg the Redskins with just a 9% chance of making the postseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

The 10 Best One-Year NFL Contracts Of 2017

Signing a one-year contract is almost never ideal from a player’s perspective — while a single-season pact can often mean a larger salary, it doesn’t come with the security or guarantees that a multi-year deal offers. From a team’s vantage point, however, there’s essentially no such thing as a poor one-year contract. The player doesn’t work out? No problem: he’s off the books in one season and doesn’t hinder the club’s long-term financials.

Not every player listed below was inked with the presumption that they’d become an integral piece of their respective team’s roster, but they’ve all made good on their one-year pacts. Here are the ten best one-year NFL contracts signed in 2017:

Case Keenum, QB (Vikings)

In Week 9 of the 2016 season, Keenum was appearing in his final game as the Rams’ starting quarterback, and had led the club to a 3-5 record while ranking 29th in both quarterback rating and adjusted net yards per pass attempt. Fast forward to the 2017 campaign, and Keenum is 16th in quarterback rating, 11th in ANY/A, and fronting a Vikings team that leads the NFC North at 6-2 — not bad for a one-year, $2MM deal. It’s unclear how long Keenum will remain Minnesota’s starter under center (Teddy Bridgewater is due back next week), but Keenum, who will be 30 years old when free agency opens next spring, has put himself in line to compete for a starting job in 2018, either with the Vikings or with another club.

Josh McCown, QB (Jets)

Although the Jets were thought to be tanking this season, they’ve posted a 4-5 record (a mark that includes close losses to the Dolphins and Falcons), and McCown has been a key driver of that success. Now 38 years old, McCown is posting his best statistics since 2013, and has completed 70.4% of his passes for 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s been especially productive in the deep passing game, ranking second in touchdowns and third in passer rating on throws of 20 yards or more, per Mike Castiglione of Pro Football Focus. Given his performance and his locker room presence, McCown shouldn’t have any trouble landing another job next offseason.

LeGarrette Blount, RB (Eagles)LeGarrette Blount (Vertical)

While trade acquisition Jay Ajayi figures to take over as the Eagles’ starting running back going forward, Philadelphia has already gotten value out of Blount and his one-year, $1.25MM pact. Blount has handled at least 12 carries in seven of nine games this season while posting a robust 4.6 yards per rush. While he’s scored only two touchdowns thus far, Blount ranks first among all running backs with more than 25 touches with a broken tackle per touch ratio of 39.4%, according to Football Outsiders. The Eagles are the best team in the league right now, meaning they’ll be favored in a majority of their remaining games. Even with Ajayi in tow, positive game scripts should ensure Blount still has a role in Philadelphia’s backfield.

Alshon Jeffery, WR (Eagles)

Following two consecutive down seasons in Chicago, Jeffery took a pillow contract with the Eagles — he’ll collect $9.5MM (and can earn $4.5MM via incentives) before searching for a long-term deal next spring. Jeffery is fresh off his best game of the season, as he posted six receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos’ vaunted pass defense. While he’s still not creating separation — dead last in the league in yards of separation among qualified wideouts — Jeffery and his contested catch ability are nevertheless a large part of the Eagles’ offense. He’s accounted for 35.03% of his club’s air yards (10th in the NFL), per Next Gen Stats, giving quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz a much-needed weapon on the outside.

Alex Okafor, DE (Saints)

After trying the likes of Bobby Richardson and Paul Kruger of the past two seasons, the Saints have finally found a counterpart to Cameron Jordan at defensive end in the form of Okafor, whom New Orleans lured away from Arizona with a $2MM contract. He’s since played more than three-quarters of the Saints’ defensive snaps, racking up 3.5 sacks in the process. Also excellent against the run, Okafor ranks second among 4-3 defensive ends with a 9.5% run stop percentage, per PFF. All told, Okafor has helped the Saints defense rebound to a No. 16 ranking in DVOA and No. 15 ranking in adjusted sack rate (and those numbers are prior to New Orleans’ five-sack performance against the Buccaneers on Sunday).

Julius Peppers, DE (Panthers)

Peppers is back in Carolina following a seven-year hiatus, and the former No. 1 overall pick is playing like it’s still 2008. He’s 37 years old now, so the Panthers are wisely limiting his snaps — he’s seen action on roughly half the club’s defensive plays through nine weeks. Peppers has racked up 7.5 sacks this season, a figure which ranks eighth among defenders this season and places him fourth all-time with 150.5 career sacks. If Carolina earns a postseason berth — FiveThirtyEight gives them a 52% chance to do so — it will be on the strength of the team’s defense, which currently ranks sixth in DVOA.

Zach Brown, LB (Redskins)

Coming off the best season of his career with the Bills in 2016, Brown was surprisingly forced to settle for a one-year, $2MM deal with the Redskins after initially searching for a $6MM/year contract. And that’s not due to lack of interest, as Oakland, Miami, Indianapolis, and Buffalo all expressed interest in the veteran linebacker before he landed with Washington. Several of those clubs (we’re looking at you, Raiders) would certainly love to have a defender of Brown’s caliber and price available right now. A playmaking machine who embodies a 21st-century linebacker, Brown should be able to land a multi-year pact next offseason, when he’ll still be only 28 years old.

Morris Claiborne, CB (Jets)Morris Claiborne (Vertical)

The Jets’ offseason was primarily dedicated to getting rid of veteran players, but general manager Mike Maccagnan‘s small-scale signings have worked out well, as Claiborne joins McCown as the second Gang Green addition on this list. Claiborne, 27, has always been an effective player when healthy, but injuries have often marred his performance. He’s never played an entire 16-game slate, and he’s managed more than 11 games just once during his five-plus year career. Like Brown, Claiborne can use 2017 as his platform season in order to secure a multi-year deal in 2018 — as long as stays healthy for the rest of this year, that is.

Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB (Rams)

A perfectly-named slot corner, Robey-Coleman was shockingly cut loose by the Bills earlier this year despite ranking as PFF’s No. 33 cornerback in 2016 and being on par to earn just $2.083MM in 2017. The Rams scooped him up on a one-year deal worth the minimum salary, and he’s been outstanding under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, helping Los Angeles to a No. 3 ranking in pass defense DVOA. Thus far, the 25-year-old Robey-Coleman ranks third among 64 qualified cornerbacks in success rate, per Football Outsiders.

Patrick Robinson, CB (Eagles)

While the Eagles certainly have leaned on their excellent young corps on the way to a 8-1 record, general manager Howie Roseman should be lauded for his one-year, cost-effective signings of Robinson, Jeffery, and Blount. Cast off by the Colts one year into a three-year deal, Robinson signed with Philadelphia for the minimum salary and has since become the Eagles’ best cornerback. Pro Football Focus ranks the former first-round pick as the No. 4 corner in the league, and Robinson is allowing only 56.3% of targets in his area to be caught. While Robinson may not be able to parlay his production into a hefty deal in 2018 given that he’ll be 31 years old when next season gets underway, he’s been a superb addition for the Eagles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Jets, Redskins, Samuel, Eagles

The Ravens’ trade of defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan could impact the Jets‘ asking price for Sheldon Richardson, as Rich Cimini of ESPN.com details. Gang Green may still be asking for a first-round pick in exchange for Richardson, but they’re highly unlikely to reap that level of compensation. When accounting for the draft picks swapped by Baltimore and Philadelphia, the Eagles gave the equivalent of a late third-rounder for Jernigan, as Cimini writes (using Chase Stuart of Football Perspective‘s model, the Eagles paid much less: a late fifth-round pick). Jernigan is also much cheaper in 2017, as he’ll earn just north of $1MM while Richardson will take in more than $8MM.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • New Redskins linebacker Zach Brown was reportedly looking for $6MM per year on the open market, but his new deal won’t pay him anywhere near that total. Brown’s one-year pact has a base value of only $2.25MM and comes with $700K guaranteed, per Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post (Twitter links). He’ll earn a base salary of $1.5MM and can earn $250K in per-game roster bonuses. Another $2.3MM is available via incentives, which are tied to playing, Pro Bowl and All Pro nods, and Washington making the postseason.
  • Ohio State WR/RB Curtis Samuel will work out for the Eagles on April 11, tweets Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. As Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com observes, Samuel while likely end up as a slot receiver in the NFL after playing running back at the collegiate level, but he could still manage 8-10 carries per game out of the backfield. Philadelphia’s running back corps currently boasts Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and Ryan Mathews, the latter of whom is still a release candidate.
  • Patrick Robinson‘s one-year deal with the Eagles is worth only the minimum salary of $775K and contains no guaranteed money, reports Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Initial reports indicated Robinson would make $1MM in 2017, so it’s possible the single-year pact will have a maximum value of $1MM. If incentives are involved, however, Robinson’s deal contract would not qualify for the minimum salary benefit. Robinson, 29, appears to be on track to start for Philadelphia next season, pending the results of the draft.

Redskins To Sign LB Zach Brown

The Redskins have agreed to terms with free agent linebacker Zach Brown, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The deal is pending a physical. Brown signed a one-year deal worth a maximum value of $4.65MM, including a $500K signing bonus (Twitter link).Brown was once said to be seeking a multi-year pact in the $6MM range, but this isn’t a bad outcome for an April signing.
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Brown, one of only four PFR Top 50 free agents who were unsigned going into Monday, was linked to several clubs in recent weeks. Ultimately, it’s the Redskins that are coming away with him, but the Raiders, Dolphins, Colts, and the incumbent Bills all showed varying levels of interest. The Raiders and Dolphins were said to be the two finalists for Brown, but word later leaked out that the Fins were not likely to sign him. The Colts may have backed out after adding fellow linebacker Sean Spence.

The Redskins have starting linebackers Mason Foster and restricted free agent Will Compton returning to the fold this year. Brown, it seems, will come in as an upgrade over Compton. Compton ranked as the No. 74 linebacker in the league last season, per Pro Football Focus, while Brown placed 17th.

After racking up 149 total tackles, four sacks, and two forced fumbles for the Bills last season, Brown entered March with hopes of cashing in. Ultimately, his age and lack of history as a top quality ‘backer hampered his market and limited his list of suitors.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Zach Brown To Visit Redskins

Zach Brown‘s free agent tour will continue, as the veteran linebacker will take a meeting with the Redskins on Monday, according to John Keim of ESPN.com (Twitter link)."<strong

Brown, one of only four PFR Top 50 free agents who remains unsigned, has been linked to several clubs over the past month, including the Raiders, Dolphins, Colts, and Bills. At one point, Brown was thought to be choosing between Oakland and Miami, but the Fins are now not expected to sign the 27-year-old. Reportedly looking for a multi-year pact in the $6MM range, Brown has yet to find a team willing to match that ask.

Washington, meanwhile, has two starting linebackers returning in the forms of Mason Foster and restricted free agent Will Compton, but Brown would be an upgrade on the latter. Compton ranked as only the No. 74 linebacker in the league last season, per Pro Football Focus, while Brown placed 17th.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Unlikely To Sign Zach Brown

The Dolphins don’t appear likely to sign free agent linebacker Zach Brown, tweets Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post.Zach Brown (vertical)

[RELATED: Dolphins Sign T.J. McDonald]

Brown, who has also been linked to the Bills, Colts, and Raiders, was at one point thought to be deciding between Oakland and Miami, but there’s been no movement in his market since that report was issued a week ago. The Dolphins, for what it’s worth, don’t appear to be going all-out in an effort to sign Brown.

The lion’s share of our focus right now is on the draft,” EVP of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said this week. “If an opportunity came along, we’d evaluate it appropriately. But our focus is really on the draft and something comes along, we’ll certainly look at it.”

Any lingering issue between Brown and the Dolphins almost certainly comes down to price. Brown earned just north of $1MM in 2016 and is now likely aiming to cash in after an excellent season. But while Brown may be looking for a contract in the $6MM range, Miami is only comfortable paying him $3-4MM annually.

Brown, 27, is one of only four of PFR’s Top 50 Free Agents who remain unsigned. He’s also our top-ranked linebacker, ahead of Perry Riley, Gerald Hodges, and DeAndre Levy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Texans, Browns, Jimmy G., Fins

The Texans plan to discuss a contract extension with head coach Bill O’Brien after next season, according to owner Bob McNair (via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle). The 2017 campaign will be the penultimate year of O’Brien’s contract, and he has thus far led the typically quarterback-weak Texans to three nine-win showings and two playoff berths.

Houston continues to be in dire need of help under center, of course, which McNair realizes. “It’s important that we upgrade the play at quarterback,” he told McClain. McNair did express confidence in incumbent starter Tom Savage, though he’s leery of the 26-year-old’s durability issues. “He’s played twice (in regular season) and gotten hurt twice,” McNair noted. “That’s our only concern with Tom. He’s smart enough. He knows the system. He’s got a good arm. I think he can get the job done, but if we depend on him, and he gets hurt in the first or second game . . .”

Savage is only atop the Texans’ depth chart now because of the horrid play of Brock Osweiler, whom they traded to the Browns earlier this month. The move was “a shocker” for McNair, who “couldn’t believe” general manager Rick Smith was able to dump Osweiler’s contract on the Browns (albeit at the cost of a second-round pick). Osweiler is just a year into the four-year pact the Texans handed him as a free agent last offseason. Featuring high cap hits and $37MM in guarantees, the deal quickly became an albatross, and McNair has a theory on why things went so poorly for Osweiler in Houston (via McClain). “(O’Brien) didn’t have a chance to get to know him. That’s one of the problems with free agency,” lamented McNair. “In the draft, we’re able to bring them to Houston, sit down with them, watch them interviewed by a bunch of coaches, and you have time to check them out. You can’t talk to them before they become a free agent. You can’t work them out. We didn’t know him that well.”

Texans brass, including McNair, all seemed to love Osweiler last March, but he then bombed on the field and didn’t mesh with O’Brien in his lone Houston season.

More from the AFC:

  • “An NFL source familiar with all the principals involved” speculates the Browns will “make another run” at Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at the league meetings, ESPN.com’s Tony Grossi writes. Business tends to go down at the league meetings with everyone in the same place and we could see trade talks get a jumpstart this week in Phoenix. If a trade does happen, however, the same source says it might not occur until closer to the draft on April 27.
  • Free agent linebacker Zach Brown is reportedly choosing between the Dolphins and Raiders, but Miami’s Mike Tannenbaum-led front office doesn’t seem to be going all-out to sign him, observes Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. “The lion’s share of our focus right now is on the draft,” said Tannenbaum, the team’s executive vice president of football operations. “If an opportunity came along, we’d evaluate it appropriately. But our focus is really on the draft and something comes along, we’ll certainly look at it.”
  • Defensive tackle Mike Pennel‘s one-year contract with the Jets is worth $990K, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets. There’s no guaranteed money in the deal, but it does come with up to $250K in roster bonuses and a $50K workout bonus.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Zach Brown Deciding Between Raiders, Dolphins?

Several teams have pursued Zach Brown this offseason, but the UFA linebacker may be down to his final two choices. Brown is believed to be deciding between the Dolphins and Raiders, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports.

Brown has visited the Dolphins, Raiders and Bills, while the Colts have expressed interest as well. While Oakland and Miami believe they’re in the running for the non-rush linebacker, neither looks set to meet Brown’s asking price of $6MM per year, Salguero notes. The south Florida-based writer reported earlier this week the Dolphins would be more comfortable paying Brown a deal in the $3MM- or $4MM-per-year range.

The Dolphins have been active this month in reshaping their linebacking corps, signing Lawrence Timmons as a UFA, restructuring Koa Misi‘s deal and extending Kiko Alonso. Brown would seemingly take Misi’s place in the lineup, with the 30-year-old middle ‘backer taking a pay cut to stay in south Florida, if he were to sign with the Dolphins.

Either way, Brown would be moving from a 3-4 defense to a base 4-3 look. The Raiders signed former Dolphins outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins to likely play the weakside spot but have a need inside. Bruce Irvin plays as an outside linebacker in the Raiders’ 4-3 base but slides to defensive end in pass-rush situations, leaving an opening in nickel sets. Raiders 2016 middle linebacker Perry Riley remains a free agent. He of 149 tackles in a standout season in Buffalo, Brown ranks as PFR’s No. 1 linebacker remaining in free agency. Riley sits No. 2 on this list but hasn’t generated nearly as much interest.

If Oakland sought to outmuscle Miami for Brown, the team has $32MM-plus in cap space compared to the Fins’ $15MM. But the Raiders have a possible Derek Carr extension coming this year, almost certainly contributing to their free agency plan.

Previously viewed as a plus-coverage ‘backer with the Titans, Brown experienced a tepid market for his services as a first-time UFA last year. A deal in the $3-$4MM-AAV range would put him below lesser names like A.J. Klein ($5MM AAV), or $4MM-per-year players Tahir Whitehead or Damario Davis on the inside linebacker salary spectrum. Fellow UFA Kevin Minter signed a one-year, $4.25MM deal with the Bengals last week.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

FA Notes: Fins, Seahawks, Redskins, Jags

Although the Dolphins and free agent linebacker Zach Brown are fairly far apart in negotiations, the club still believes it has a chance to land him, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). In order for an agreement to happen, though, Brown will have to reduce his asking price, which is in the range of $6MM per annum on a multiyear deal.

More from the open market:

  • The Seahawks hosted linebacker Terence Garvin on a visit Wednesday, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Garvin, 27, spent last year with Washington and was with the Steelers in the previous three seasons. Garvin has 59 career appearances on his resume but just one start.
  • Along with Garvin, the Seahawks met with yet another linebacker, Gerald Hodges, on Wednesday. The two sides “had a good visit,” though there’s no deal yet, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Hodges is coming off a quietly impressive season that saw him tally 80 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions in 15 games (12 starts) with San Francisco. He also graded 21st among Pro Football Focus’ 87 qualified linebackers.
  • The Redskins and running back Tim Hightower had a meeting, but they aren’t moving toward an agreement, reports John Keim of ESPN.com. It doesn’t appear that will change anytime soon, with Keim noting that Washington could circle back to Hightower as an insurance option down the road.
  • The Jaguars worked out free agent kicker Zach Hocker today, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Incumbent Jacksonville kicker Jason Myers‘ field goal conversion rate dipped below 80% last season, and he also missed three extra points, so the Jags may be open to adding competition. Hocker. 25, last appeared in the NFL in 2015 as a member of the Saints and Rams. Jacksonville also auditioned punter Tom Hornsey, adds Wilson.

Zach Links contributed to this post.