Zach Fulton

South Rumors: Colts, Saints, Jarrett, Jags

Chris Ballard‘s operational style through two offseasons has the Colts in rebuilding mode. They possess the second-most cap space ($51MM) and are projected to hold an NFL-high $126MM in 2019. However, the Colts are 1-5 and may be set for their worst two-year stretch since the Jim Harbaugh-to-Peyton Manning transition produced six wins between the 1997-98 seasons. Ownership isn’t wavering on the Ballard hire, though, per Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. Ballard’s been intent on building from within, with Keefer pointing out the Colts were never a serious Le’Veon Bell trade contender nor were they going to entertain a Dez Bryant signing. Only one defensive starter, Clayton Geathers, remains from the Ryan Grigson era. Although, especially during T.Y. Hilton‘s absence, the Colts have been reeling at wideout. They let Donte Moncrief walk and didn’t address the position when promising rookie Deon Cain was lost for the season, so the GM deserves some blame for the state of this spot, Keefer adds.

It will be interesting to see if Ballard deviates from his methods when the Colts begin working with that staggering amount of cap space come 2019. Here’s the latest from other South locales:

  • The Falcons will have the services of Grady Jarrett on Monday night against the Giants, Dan Quinn said. The team’s top interior defender missed the past two games because of an ankle injury. This will be key for the Falcons, who have lost several defenders thus far this season, and Jarrett, with the 2015 fifth-round pick being in a contract year.
  • Teddy Bridgewater is also in a walk year, and the timing of the Saints‘ trade to acquire the Jets reserve passer suggests they’ll be interested in attempting to convince the former first-round pick to stay as Drew Brees‘ successor. But next year’s quarterback market doesn’t look to be as strong as this year’s, and Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com doesn’t expect Bridgewater to be with the Saints in 2019. Bridgewater signed with the Jets for one year and $6MM, with an incentive package that can now be classified as NLTBE. Prior to any major cuts, Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor stand to be the centerpiece attractions in the 2019 free agent quarterback class. Katzenstein expects Bridgewater to wait and sign for far more money than the Saints, with Brees still operating in high gear, will be willing to pay him.
  • No quarterback’s taken more sacks than Deshaun Watson (25), and the Texans will be without one of their top blockers on Sunday. Zach Fulton is out for Week 7’s Houston-Jacksonville game. The fifth-year guard is dealing with an ankle injury.
  • The Jaguarstrade for Carlos Hyde seems to suggest they’re concerned about Leonard Fournette going forward, but Hays Carlyon of 1010XL (on Twitter) doesn’t believe the second-year running back endured a setback and expects him to suit up in Week 10 after the Jags’ bye. Fournette’s been dealing with hamstring trouble throughout the season, and Carlyon adds this move was likely more about the Jags’ fear of being shorthanded for much longer rather than Fournette suffering another setback.

AFC Contract Details: Butler, Johnson, Bridgewater

Here are figures on some of the recent contracts signed around the NFL, with all links going to Twitter unless noted otherwise.

Texans To Sign OL Zach Fulton

The Texans are expected to sign Chiefs free agent interior lineman Zach Fulton, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The deal will average roughly $7.5MM per season, though the length of the deal is not currently known.

Last year, Fulton appeared in 15 games (12 starts) for the Chiefs, playing primarily at center. Fulton earned an iffy 68.8 overall score from Pro Football Focus, though the advanced metrics were high on his pass blocking.

Fulton figures to play guard for the Texans rather than center. He saw time at both positions over the years for Kansas City, so there won’t be a lengthy transition for him. The Texans signed ex-Chiefs guard Jeff Allen in 2016 for $7MM per year and that contract did not turned out as planned. Still, they feel good about going back to the KC well this time around.

Given that they don’t own a first- or second-round pick, Houston is revamping its porous offensive line through free agency. The Texans have already landed former Bills tackle Seantrel Henderson, while Nate Solder — the best tackle on the open market — is deciding between the Texans and Giants.

[RELATED: Texans Depth Chart]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Likely To Sign OL Zach Fulton

It sounds like this will be a lucrative offseason for free agent offensive linemen. The Texans are the favorites to sign Chiefs free agent Zach Fulton to a multi-year deal worth more than $7MM per year, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). 

Rapoport cautions that other teams are still in the mix, so while the Texans are the likely landing spot for Fulton, it is not a done deal. It’s not clear if the Chiefs are still involved, but the asking price may be too high for their liking.

Last year, Fulton appeared in 15 games (12 starts) for the Chiefs, playing primarily at center. Fulton earned a so-so 68.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, though the advanced metrics were fond of his pass blocking.

The Texans’ plan is for Fulton to play guard for them and not center, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. He worked in both spots for the Chiefs, primarily operating as a guard since being a sixth-round pick in 2014.

Houston signed ex-Chiefs guard Jeff Allen in 2016 for $7MM per year. That agreement has not worked out like the franchise had hoped. Nevertheless, the Texans plan to use a similar strategy to bring in Fulton. Only their line is in a worse place now than it was two years ago, with Derek Newton being sidelined indefinitely and Duane Brown having since been traded.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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2017 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.Donte Moncrief (Vertical)

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.8MM in 2017. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2017 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Aaron Lynch, LB; Marcus Martin, OL

Bears: Charles Leno, T; Will Sutton, DT

Bengals: Russell Bodine, C

Bills: Preston Brown, LB; Seantrel Henderson, T

Broncos: Michael Schofield, OL

Browns: Christian Kirksey, LB

Buccaneers: Kevin Pamphile, G

Cardinals: John Brown, WR

Chiefs: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, G; Zach Fulton, G; Phillip Gaines, CB

Colts: Donte Moncrief, WR

Cowboys: Anthony Hitchens, LB

Falcons: Devonta Freeman, RB

Giants: Devon Kennard, LB

Jaguars: Aaron Colvin, CB; Brandon Linder, G; Telvin Smith, LB

Lions: Nevin Lawson, CB; Travis Swanson, C

Packers: Corey Linsley, C; Richard Rodgers, TE

Panthers: Tre Boston, S; Trai Turner, G

Raiders: T.J. Carrie, CB; Justin Ellis, DT; Gabe Jackson, G

Rams: Maurice Alexander, S; E.J. Gaines, CB

Redskins: Bashaud Breeland, CB; Spencer Long, G; Morgan Moses, T

Texans: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE; Andre Hal, S

Titans: DaQuan Jones, DL; Avery Williamson, LB

Vikings: Shamar Stephen, DT

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Issues Performance-Based Bonuses

The NFL has announced and issued its performance-based pay bonuses for the 2014 season, according to a press release from the league. The bonuses, which are based on a player’s playing time relative to his salary level, come from a pool of $3.633MM per team. Here are the top performance-based pay amounts for the past season:

  1. Seantrel Henderson, T (Bills): $373,671
  2. Corey Linsley, C (Packers): $339,566
  3. Russell Bodine, C (Bengals): $318,612
  4. Avery Williamson, LB (Titans): $315,120
  5. E.J. Gaines, DB (Rams): $308,338
  6. Zach Fulton, G (Chiefs): $303,352
  7. Kelvin Beachum, T (Steelers): $297,687
  8. Preston Brown, LB (Bills): $293,179
  9. Michael Wilhoite, LB (49ers): $292,406
  10. Paul Worrilow, LB (Falcons): $287,413

J’Marcus Webb To Sign With Chiefs

11:03am: Webb’s deal is for one year at the veteran minimum ($730k), per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (via Twitter).

8:44am: After visiting a few teams this offseason, offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb has decided to sign with the Chiefs, according to SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Twitter). Webb, who will be 26 this August, has 45 career starts under his belt and will likely vie for a role as a swing backup tackle behind starters Eric Fisher and Donald Stephenson. The Chiefs lost offenisve linemen Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz — who combined for 28 starts in 2013 — before adding a pair of late-round, developmental prospects in Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Zach Fulton.

Minor Moves: Saints, Panthers, Bucs, Eagles

We’ll round up today’s minor transactions here, including mid-to-late-round draftees agreeing to contracts, players being claimed off waivers, and the retirement of a former NFLer who most recently played in the Canadian Football League…..

  • The Chiefs announced that they have sixth-round pick Zach Fulton (Twitter link). The offensive lineman out of Tennessee was taken with the No. 193 pick.
  • The 49ers announced that they have signed fifth-round outside linebacker Aaron Lynch and seventh-round defensive lineman Kaleb Ramsey, tweets Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • The Saints have signed former Notre Dame guard Mike Golic Jr. to a two-year contract, the club announced today in a press release. Golic went undrafted in 2013 and joined the Steelers for the preseason.
  • Drake Nevis, who was cut yesterday by the Jaguars, has been awarded to the Panthers on waivers, says Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). The defensive lineman appeared in games for the Cowboys and Jags last season.

Earlier updates:

  • The Buccaneers have waived running back Michael Smith, according to Wilson (via Twitter).
  • The Eagles have locked up one of their draft picks, signing third-round wideout Josh Huff to a four-year deal, per Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter).
  • After being cut by the Seahawks yesterday, long snapper Jorgen Hus has been claimed off waivers by the Rams, according to Brian McIntyre (via Twitter).
  • The Dolphins have cut punter Matt Syzmanski, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.
  • The only NFL team to lock up any draftees so far, the Bears have agreed to terms with two more players they selected last week, according to the team (Twitter links). Fourth-round running back Ka’Deem Carey and seventh-round tackle Charles Leno Jr. have reached agreements on four-year deals with the club. At Over The Cap, Jason Fitzgerald has estimations on what sort of contracts the duo will be receiving.
  • The Jaguars have claimed linebacker Allen Bradford off waivers from the Giants, a day after he was cut, tweets Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. Bradford, a former Seahawk like a few other players the Jags have added this offseason, fills the last spot on the team’s 90-man roster.
  • Former Bills first-round pick Aaron Maybin has officially announced his retirement as a football player, according to the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts (Twitter link). After being selected 11th overall out of Penn State, Maybin failed to make a consistent impact at the NFL level, with his best season coming in 2011 as a reserve for the Jets (six sacks).