Merry Free Agency to one and all, as the Christmas of the NFL calendar is finally with us. Now is the time to find out if your team has been naughty (hello Dallas and Washington) or nice, because the fun is about to start and teams are set to begin opening their checkbooks. Well we’re so excited about this season of joy, that we’re going to have a dedicated PFFer on call at all times to frequently update our Live Action Blog to comment on all the days developments.
So really all you need to do is just sit back and relax. Get in touch with us on twitter and keep up to date with free agency moves by following our Free Agent Tracker that comes complete with player grades and snap count numbers from 2011. If you want more then just click here for one stop shop for all things free agency including team needs and rankings. Let’s start the blogging!
* On to Day 2!
23:57 SIGNING! The Jaguars have brought back linebacker Russell Allen to a three year contract. Throughout the season either he or Clint Session took the weakside linebacker role. Allen had more stops on the season with 18 compared to Session’s 17. Allen also allowed fewer receiving years (86) despite allowing more catches (15), and had an interception and pass defended.
23:45 Richard Marshall let us all know via his twitter that he is visiting the Dolphins. He played 232 snaps in the slot, so he could replace Will Allen who is an unrestricted free agent and played the slot role in 2011. While Marshall had a rough start to the 2011 season, from Week 5 on he allowed just 44.7% of passes thrown his way to be caught while playing over 70% of the Cardinals defensive snaps on the season.
23:13 Jason La Canfora is reporting that Mario Williams will leave Buffalo without a contract. With so many teams wanting him, it’s not all that surprising that he wants to check out his options. While it’s unclear where his next stop is, the Bears and Titans look to be the next logical choice. With 31 sacks and hits over his last 18 games, it’s hard to imagine a team still with cap space not making a move for him.
22:58 Things have started to quiet down, but if anything happens throughout the night we’ll be here to let you know! During the day and from this day on, our Fantasy guys will keep you posted on the fantasy impact of the major moves that go down. Today shook things up a bit when it comes to wide receivers, and they have broken down the new players with their new teams.
22:16 SIGNING! Special teams stalwart Blake Costanzo could be out to fill the shoes of the Chicago Bears former special teams ace Corey Graham who is currently testing the open market. What’s the difference between a special teams stud and a special teams ace? Well the ace is much better at it, but Costanzo will also add depth to an ageing linebacker unit.
22:13 RE-SIGNING! Courtesy of Tania Ganguli the Jaguars will return starting safety Dwight Lowery. A shrewd pick up from the Jets, he formed a decent enough partnership with Dawan Landry and finished the year with a +2.0 grade in coverage. It’s not flashy but it’s a solid move for a defense that was a revelation in 2011.
22:08 RE-STRUCTURING! The Giants David Diehl has dropped his salary from $4.3m to $1.2m per Ralph Vacchiano. That’s still an awful lot of money for a player who was not only the worst tackle in the league when it came to giving up pressure, but also the worst guard. Consistency? Still when Eli Manning is this good under pressure, it doesn’t matter quite as much.
22:02 RE-SIGNING! Jason Cole is reporting that the 49ers are about to bring back Carlos Rogers for about $7.3m over three years. One of the starts of the last free agent class, Rogers left his stone hands (for the most part) in Washington and thrived as a starter who moved into the slot in nickel situations. He was our 11th ranked CB last year and keeps that 49ers secondary looking oh so formidable.
21:48 RE-SIGNING! It seemed very unlikely at the start of free agency, but Reggie Wayne is back with the Colts on a three year deal according to Adam Schefter. It may not appear to make a lot of sense, but think about it. A new quarterback really could use a receiver who runs exceptional routes and does a great job of getting open. Even with a down year in 2011 Wayne still impressed us enough to earn a +10.3 receiving grade.
21:36 Numbers for that Finnegan deal are $50m over five years. Given how poor he was in 2009 and 2010 we’d have been a bit reluctant to go that high for him.
21:23 SIGNING! It’s down to Alex Marvez of Fox Sports to break the sad news for cornerback hungry teams that Cortland Finnegan appears set to reunite with Jeff Fisher in St Louis. The top CB on the market Finnegan stopped with the nuisance nonsense in 2011, and actually just covered people. And he did it rather well. Our third ranked cornerback on the year, he stepped up by playing the slot in nickel and remains one of the better defensive backs in the run game.
20:54 RE-SIGNING! One of the leagues’ premier garbage time quarterbacks, Chris Redman, will be staying in Atlanta as the AJC lets us now he’s signed on for (hopefully) another year of clipboard duty. Redman enjoyed 64 snaps in 2011.
20:48 It seemed the Falcons might let Harry Douglas go, but the receiver has tweeted that it ‘looks like i’ll be staying in Atlanta’. We await confirmation but Douglas will need to be put of a passing attack that steps up its games without the shackles of Mike Mularky holding them back. He was our 99th ranked receiver (out of 111) in an offense that didn’t always seem to get the best out of him.
20:21 SIGNING! Schefter is on a roll and gives the Bucs fans the news they’ve been waiting for; you have Vincent Jackson. One of the leagues’ premier deep threats, he’ll cost the princely sum of $55.5m over five years. He put up big yards in 2011 but didn’t have his best year, and you really need to go back to 2009 to see a receiver who is one of the most dominant in the league. In that year he was our top ranked receiver and 2008 he was fourth. There’s some serious talent there.
20:05 SIGNING! Adam Schefter reports that the Bears have reached a one year agreement with Jason Campbell. Well that’s one way to deal with a sieve like offensive line; line up on starting caliber quarterbacks for when the inevitable happens and your actual starter can take no more abuse. It’s something of a surprise Campbell doesn’t find himself in a situation where he could at least put pressure on a struggling incumbent QB. He ranked 15th in our 2011 QB rankings.
19:37 Jeremy Mincey is reportedly a target for the Chicago Bears according to various reports. The man drafted by the Patriots in 2006 was our 12th ranked defensive end in 2011, and was that rare breed of DE who played the run and pass equally well. He would prove an upgrade on Israel Idonije who struggled to consistently generate pressure when playing an every down role. He may not be Mario Williams, but Mincey would give the Bears a dominant set of defensive ends.
19:12 The Cardinals spent at guard last year and could do so again, with Jake Scott in for a visit. The former Colt, for what it’s worth, finished the year our 7th ranked guard, excelling in pass protection. That’s not a move that is going to annoy Peyton Manning, even if nothing comes of it.
19:00 Not much going on at the moment as everyone calms down from the initial frenzy. One piece that warms you up inside is that the Eagles are close to agreeing an extension with Trent Cole. You’d think Cole is about to become one of the highest paid defensive players in the league. He’s topped our 4-3 defensive end rankings for the past two years, and finished in the top five the two years before that. Why isn’t there more chatter for Cole being the best defensive end in the league?
18:45 RELEASE! So the Raiders said they were going to release Kevin Boss tomorrow, but their official twitter account says they’ve got rid of him today. Far removed from his excellent 2009, Boss will find a market for his talents as a big target and good in line blocker, but his value will have come down after a poor 2011.
18:40 SIGNING! So according to Pro Football Talk the Redskins are going to pay Josh Morgan up to $12m over two years. That’s nice of them. Morgan, much like Garcon, is capable of making stuff happen after the catch but where on the Redskins roster is that number one receiver? The Redskins have depth at the position but it’s still rather underwhelming when you compare it to what the rest of the NFC East has.
18:35 The Bengals have been very quiet so far, but will at least be hosting cornerback Aaron Ross on Thursday. A secondary lacking in depth, it could stand to get an infusion of talent. Ross was deemed expendable by the Giants, not helping his cause by giving up six touchdowns but he has shown an ability to make plays.
18:30 RE-SIGNING! The Seahawks have re-signed special teams ace Heath ‘Nails’ Farwell. Sam Monson claims to have invented that nickname so good for him. Farwell led the team with 18 special teams tackles.
18:19 We profiled Geoff Schwartz as one of our potential bargain buys in free agency, and it looks like the Lions are stealing a march on the competition by lining up a visit with the former Panther. Check out the other guys who could be had for a reasonable price.
18:16 CUT! The Panthers have cleared up some room by releasing Travelle Wharton. A serviceable guard, Wharton earned a -1.8 grade courtesy of our fine selves struggling big time with his pass blocking. A decent enough run blocker he’ll find a market but with guys like Nicks, Mathis and Grubbs still out there he may have to wait.
18:10 RE-SIGNING! There were rumors earlier in the day of the Patriots taking a good long look at Red Bryant but they need look no more, as Bryant as re-signed with the Seahawks according to Adam Schefter. Since moving to defensive end in the Seahawks (heavily) 4-3 leaning hybrid, Bryant has emerged as one of the best run defenders from the DE spot, making life a lot easier for the guys behind him. Still giving a two down player who gets very little push in the run game $35m over five years seems a lot of money.
18:05 SIGNING! Grant Paulsen is tweeting that Eddie Royal has become the latest not-a-number-one receiver to join up with the Redskins. That’s something of a shame as it would have been nice for him to link up with Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler in an ode to 2008. It’s interesting the Redskins are once again being super aggressive when it comes to picking up receivers as they try and give a potential new quarterback lots of toys to play with.
17:55 RE-SIGNED Russell Allen of the Jaguars has re-signed for three years. After spending big on linebackers last year, Allen offers solid depth even if he isn’t the best special teamer in the world (four missed tackles). He graded positively for his work on defense with a +3.3 grade.
17:50 The 49ers, Redskins and Bucs are after Eric Wright according to Adam Schefter. After picking up a -14.1 grade for his work in 2011, it’s something of a surprise that teams keep taking a shine to Wright who doesn’t always play up to his talent levels. He offers value as a player who has experience playing in the slot and outside.
17:47 The Saints appear ready to move on from Carl Nicks. Mike Triplett tells us that league sources have confirmed Ben Grubbs will be visiting the Saints tomorrow. A consistently good (but never great) guard, Grubbs isn’t the player Nicks or Evan Mathis is but would soften the blow of losing Nicks. It’s a pricey possible downgrade.
17:41 Adam Caplan suggests John Carlson is very much a man in demand. In addition to his visit with the Chiefs the Bucs, Cowboys and Colts appear to have interest. Remember that rookie year when Carlson caught a lot of balls? All those teams must be because Carlson hasn’t exactly done much the past three years and is a pretty poor blocker.
17:40 RESIGNING! The Browns have re-signed tight end Alex Smith on a one year deal according to Scott Petrak. Just when you think the Browns can’t find more ways not to get Evan Moore on the field, they re-sign a player who earned a -7.2 grade on just 312 snaps in 2011.
17:35 In a move that makes a lot of sense, Cory Redding is talking with the Colts. Chuck Pagano was his defensive coordinator in Baltimore, where he is coming off a very good year in the Ravens hybrid defense. More change in Indianapolis who are normally reluctant to do anything in free agency, and a move that could speak volumes for the future of Dwight Freeney. Redding finished 2011 with a +14.5 grade.
17:30 $$$ We thought Pierre Garcon was a little bit mental when he turned down $7m a year from the Colts. Well he got a deal for five years for $42.5m with half of that guaranteed. That’s more money that Marques Colston. Even with Colstons’ injury history how does that happen?
17:25 RE-SIGNING! Bryan Thomas technically became a FA at 4PM ET but a short while ago agreed in principle to a new deal with the NYJ. Thomas went down injured in Week 4 of this season but has been a consistent performer for the Jets in Rex Ryan’s hybrid defense. This takes the Jets out of the running for Ravens FA Jarret Johnson and also takes away some of Johnson’s leverage for extracting a better deal from the Ravens.
17:15 VISITS! Titan Insider is reporting that DT Jason Jones will visit with the STL and former HC Jeff Fisher. One of the least surprising visits of the FA period. Jones struggled at defensive end this season but as we examined in a recent article Jones was a force at defensive tackle. John Glennon reports that the Titans are more than willing to move Jones back inside to tackle. Competition for Jones at tackle will only drive his price up with the Seahawks also lining up a visit.
17:03 CLOSING IN! Adam Schefter has reported the Redskins are on the verge of signing Josh Morgan. Because it worked out so well for them last year signing a bunch of number two and three receivers? The upside to both Morgan and Garcon is what they can do after the catch, with both being among the best receiver when it comes to shrugging off tacklers. Odd move to get two quite similar players.
16:57 CORRECTION! According to Geoff Mosher citing a league source the Eagles are not in the running for former Saint Carl Nicks, contrary to Jason LaCanfora’s report of just a minute ago.
16:53 VISITS! According to Jason LaCanfora the Buccaneers and Eagles are trying to push to the front of the queue for former New Orleans’ LG Carl Nicks. They are competing to get Nicks in for the first visit. That the Eagles want to overspend on Nicks rather than make the better value signing of Evan Mathis is somewhat surprising.
16:49 CLOSING IN! Stephen Holder confirms what many said before with the Buccaneers being big players in free agency. They’ve snapped up Curtis Lofton and now they’re apparently close to landing a deal for Vincent Jackson. He’ll walk the suspension tight rope given past indiscretions, but the Bucs could be about to land themselves the downfield receiver threat they absolutely need. Josh Freeman attempted just 36 balls of 20 yards or more, representing just 6.5% of total aimed passes. That was the lowest percentage in the league.
16:48 VISITS! Calvin Watkins has let us all know that Martellus Bennett is visiting with the New York Giants. This possible move makes a lot of sense for all concerned. The Giants like their tight ends who can block, and there isn’t a better blocking tight end than Bennett. For the player himself he’d get his chance to be the man, and his physical tools present an intriguing upside. Bennett has picked up a +19.0 grade for his blocking over the past two years.
16:47 UDPATE – SIGNING! As reported at 16:37 the Redskins were in negotiation with Pierre Garcon. According to Garcon’s own facebook page he will be signing with the Washington Redskins.
16:46 VISITS! Eric Winston is reportedly headed “home” for a visit with the Miami Dolphins. Winston played his college ball in Miami and after they struggled through a reject from the state of Texas with Marc Colombo’s poor play with Winston they would be getting one of the best right tackles in the league to give them a fantastic pair of bookends with Jake Long on QB TBD’s blindside.
16:43 SIGNING! The first big signing of free agency goes to the Buccaneers who have reportedly landed Curtis Lofton from division rival Atlanta. No details yet on money and years but this would suggest that the Bucs want him as a three down linebacker which is not Lofton’s best role. This spells the end of the Mason Foster era in Tampa Bay and finally gives that defense a sure tackler in the middle, something that the Bucs’ defense lacked everywhere last season.
16:43 VISITS! Laurent Robinson is visiting with the Jaguars according to Howard Balzer. Robinson isn’t short on talent as last year showed, but he’s spent an awful lot of time either off the field (2008+2009) or struggling to make an impact (2010). That said he does offer a downfield threat as evidenced by having the 3rd highest catch rate of all wide receivers on balls aimed 20 yards or more.
16:40 VISITS! Further to the Rams interest in Cortland Finnegan there is also apparently reciprocal interest with Tracy Porter. The Rams have a clear need to completely overhaul their corps of cornerbacks but Porter would represent somewhat of a risk. The former Indiana Hoosier was good early in his career in New Orleans but has tailed off badly since.
16:37 DISCUSSIONS! Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports has dropped some knowledge the way of the twitterverse, letting us all know that Pierre Garcon is talking contract with Washington. A maddeningly inconsistent receiver, Garcon does bring with him an ability after the catch as evidenced by breaking 20 tackles over the past two years.
16:36 VISITS! Time for updates on the backup quarterback market. Adam Schefter is reporting that Kyle Orton will visit the Cowboys whilst Chad Henne will visit with the Jaguars. This wouldn’t be the stiffest competition for Gabbert to face and would be merely paying lip service to “competition” to push Gabbert on. That said if things went south Henne looked solid at the start of this season and could pick up the pieces for the short term if Gabbert tanked completely.
16:31 RE-SIGNING! Jason LaCanfora reports that the Panthers have agreed to a three year deal with starting RG Geoff Hangartner. This extends Hangartner’s second stint in Carolina and he was a solid run blocker for the Panthers last season after struggling at center during his time in Buffalo. Hangartner struggled a little in pass protection but seemed far more at home at guard with the Panthers than he did at center with the Bills.
16:27 VISITS! The Broncos have a visit lined up according to Adam Schefter. No, Peyton Manning is not back in town, the Broncos will apparently host Brandon Merriweather. Not entirely sure why the Broncos would be in such a hurry to bring in such an overrated safety, but clearly they are enticed by his natural talents and that Pro Bowl nod.
16:24 VISITS! The report of visits from ESPN keeps on rolling in. According to the guys up in Bristol the Cowboys will be hosting former Kansas City CB Brandon Carr tonight. This would be a swift replacement and rejuvenation of the Cowboys’ top slot on the depth chart at cornerback.
16:22 VISITS! Another report from ESPN regarding free agent visits. The first stop on the Cortland Finnegan free agent tour will be tomorrow (Wednesday) in St Louis. Obvious links with former HC Jeff Fisher and with the Rams waiving good bye to long time #1 CB Ronald Bartell, St Louis’ need for a top corner are only heightened.
16:18 VISITS! According to Adam Schefter the Bills will host an official visit from Mario Williams this evening. Generally speaking if a player visits you first you can’t let him leave without a deal. This could be a big move for the Bills who are usually quiet in free agency. This would give their defense the legitimate three down defensive end and pass rushing threat that they so desperately lacked last season. A defensive line featuring Marcel Dareus, the returning Kyle Williams and Mario thrown in is a scary prospect for sure. Williams was our top ranked defensive tackle in 2010. The Bills will also apparently be hosting a visit from Robert Meachem this evening as well. Are the Bills lining themselves up to be the big spenders on the first day of free agency?
16:08 RE-SIGNING! Our first announcement, not a big name though. The 49ers have agreed a one year deal with ILB/ST Tavares Gooden. Gooden was usurped on the ILB depth chart in San Francisco by Larry Grant but Grant has only received a seventh round tender as a restricted free agent so Gooden may get another chance to be first reserve behind Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
16:00 FREE AGENCY! Yep it’s that time on this day, free agency is now officially open. Let the madness begin!
15:59 RE-SIGNING! According to Aaron Wilson the Vikings have re-signed DT Letroy Guion to a three year deal. Guion didn’t start after Kevin Williams’ returned from suspension but he did register more snaps than borderline invisible starter Remi Ayodele. Guion also played six snaps at fullback.
15:55 TRADE! Five minutes short of free agency and we have a trade announced! According to Jay Glazer the Bears and Dolphins have agreed to a trade which sends former Pro Bowl WR Brandon Marshall to Chicago to re-unite him with his former QB Jay Cutler. The Dolphins will receive 2 third round picks in return. Back in 2008 when Cutler and Marshall were together in Denver, Cutler was our sixth highest graded passer for that regular season. Scratch the Bears off of the list of potential teams to sign Vincent Jackson? This gives Cutler back the big bodied, vertical receiving threat that he has been dying for ever since he arrived in Chicago.
15:48 UPDATE! The PFF staff are just grabbing some dinner to re-fuel before the madness commences at 4pm. Only just more than ten minutes to go and we should start to get a clearer picture on where guys like Vincent Jackson, Mario Williams and Carl Nicks are going to land. Remember, in ten minutes time it’s not tampering!
15:07 RE-SIGNING! The Bears have announced that they have reached an agreement to keep CB Tim Jennings in Chicago for at least two more years. Jennings was rather strangely benched late last season but is a perfect fit for the Bears’ cover 2 scheme. Jennings was one of only two starting corners, along with Baltimore’s Lardarius Webb, not to concede a touchdown last season. Quarterbacks had a passer rating of only 68.8 (tied for 23rd best) when targeting Jennings in coverage last season.
15:02 CHARGERS UPDATE! San Diego have been busier than anyone in the run up to the start of free agency so here’s a recap on all of their moves per their press release. As we’ve already mentioned, Marcus McNeill and Dante Hughes are on their way out, joining them on the cut list are DE/OLB Everette Brown, ILB Nate Triplett and WR Bryan Walters. The Chargers have tendered OT Brandyn Dombrowski, WR/RS Richard Goodman and LS Mike Windt. Of those we haven’t already covered Everette Brown is probably the most interesting name the Chargers are letting go. The Chargers only set Brown loose to rush the passer on seven occasions in 2011 and flattered to deceive in Carolina during his previous stop. He didn’t live up to his draft stock but did record seven sacks and nine hits across his two seasons (557 pass rushes) in Carolina. Will anyone kick the tires and see whether the former Florida State Seminole still has something to offer?
14:52 UPDATE! Per Todd Archer the Cowboys’ cutting Terence Newman now has “cost” them $2 million in cap room. Had they made the move as a June 1st cut it would have saved them $7.26 million in cap space, right now it has saved them “only” $5.26 million.
14:48 RE-SIGNING! The Chargers have got one of their free agent offensive linemen locked up with just over an hour left before free agency opens. C Nick Hardwick has got a shiny new three contract in San Diego as the league’s best pass blocking center will be returning to Southern California. The Chargers now have 70 minutes to lock up Jared Gaither to make this an excellent day for Philip Rivers
14:44 RELEASE! According to Aaron Wilson the Chargers are parting ways with CB Dante Hughes. Hughes had a solid start to the season but had a tough second half including giving up 75 yards on six catches against the Lions in Week 16. Hughes only registered five snaps the following week against the Raiders, signalling an end to his time in San Diego.
14:38 RELEASE! The Jaguars are saying goodbye to Kassim Osgood. One of the best special teamers in the league, Osgood was given more of an opportunity on offense with the Jags but managed just 11 receptions in two years in Jacksonville.
14:38 RELEASE! According to Calvin Watkins and Todd Archer at ESPN Dallas, the Cowboys have released veteran CB Terence Newman. This was expected at some point this off-season but may have been accelerated by the Cowboys cap penalty for indiscretions in the “uncapped” year. Newman received a grade of -11.2 for his coverage 2011, ranking 102nd out of 109 qualifying corners during the regular season. Newman allowed 16.3 yards per catch in 2011 and capped off his Cowboys career by allowing 174 yards on eight catches, nine targets, in Dallas’ division decider against the Giants. Some way to sign off.
14:26 UPDATE! According to Adam Schein on twitter the negotiations between the Texans and C Chris Myers are more “conversations than negotiations”. The implication is that there is no deal imminent and Myers will hit the open market in just over 90 minutes time. This creates the real prospect of Houston losing two of the best players from their offensive line a 24 hour span. With Eric Winston looking for teams as well the Texans could be in serious rebuild mode on their front line. Myers told us in a recent interview that he wanted to return to the Texans, is that desire reciprocated?
14:18 RELEASE! The Cowboys have cut kicker/kickoff specialist David Buehler. After Dan Bailey‘s successes this season the ability to cut $1.6 million off of the Cowboys’ shrunken cap by cutting a kickoff specialist was clearly too good an opportunity to pass up. Buehler went 24/31 as the Cowboys’ kicker in 2010, strong leg but his mark of 4/7 (57.1%) on field goals between 30 and 39 yards is somewhat alarming. Will anyone else continue the Cowboys project with Buehler?
14:08 RE-SIGNING! The Jaguars tagged their kicker and now they have re-signed P Nick Harris. Harris was one of only three “regular” (playing eight games or more) punters to grade negatively last season.
14:02 SIGNING! According to Josina Anderson quoting a source on twitter the San Francisco 49ers have agreed to a 2 year deal with former Denver Broncos CB Perrish Cox. Cox graded above average on 787 snaps with Denver in 2010 recording 10 PDs which was as many as Darrelle Revis recorded that year. The 49ers have a clear need for a slot corner, but Cox only played 44 snaps in the slot two years ago. A potentially shrewd signing by the 49ers that adds extra depth to their defensive backfield.
13:40 RELEASE! News doing the rounds on twitter that the Texans have released FB Lawrence Vickers. 2011 was one of Vickers’ better seasons but has never really lived up to the hype that he earned in Cleveland as, apparently, one of the league’s better lead blockers. This leaves James Casey as the only “fullback”, he also plays tight end, on the Houston roster. Casey lined up in the backfield on 53.7% of his snaps last season. Do the Texans stick with Casey? Or are they in the market for a new lead blocker in 2012?
13:18 RELEASE! According to his agent, Alvin Keels, on twitter the Chargers will release LT Marcus McNeill before the start of free agency in less than three hours time. Unless a last minute deal is agreed with Jared Gaither this leaves San Diego with only Brandyn Dombrowski at left tackle. You only need to watch their Week 10 game with the Raiders to realise that that is not a good situation for San Diego to find themselves in. Philip Rivers will be praying for a quick solution to the left tackle problem, Gaither is reportedly the Chargers priority free agent and this only elevates that further.
12:41 RE-SIGNING! With free agency less than four hours away here is the first big name that will not be hitting the open market, Marques Colston has agreed a five year deal to stay in New Orleans according to Jay Glazer. New Orleans was always the best fit for Colston and vice versa so it is not a great surprise to see this deal done. This is just another example of the Saints being amongst the league’s best at keeping hold of their own free agents though this does likely mean that fellow free agent wide receiver, Robert Meachem will be on his way out of the Big Easy. Colston graded above +2.0 in his receiving in four of his final six games of the 2011 regular and post season. Drew Brees should be ecstatic at this news, finally some good news in New Orleans after a tough fortnight for the Saints franchise. ETA: According to Jason La Canfora, Colston’s deal is worth $40 million total over the five years with just under half of that figure guaranteed.
12:34 TENDERING! or not! According to Tom Pelissero the Vikings will not be tendering restricted free agents Kenny Onatolu and Lorenzo Booker. Onatolu was a core special teamer with the Vikings last year registering 11 special teams tackles, topped by only Eric Frampton. Booker meanwhile struggled badly fumbling twice on only 13 carries. Booker was picked up from the UFL by the Vikings so could be struggling to find options in the NFL but Onatolu should see some special teams offers.
12:15 RE-SIGNING! The Titans have re-signed Jordan Babineaux to an undisclosed deal. The former Seahawk had plenty of issues in new surroundings, finishing the year as our 67th ranked safety out of 87 who played the qualifying number of snaps. Still he made the 8th highest amount of tackles for a safety so that’s something right?
11:53 EXTENSION! It’s not the move many Eagles fans had hoped for on their offensive line as they wait to see what happens with Evan Mathis, but the team has added three years to the contract of Todd Herremans for an extra $21m. You’d expect Herremans to return at right tackle after he played well in the role (outside of a horror show against Seattle), but it does give Philadelphia some leverage in their negotiations with Mathis given Herremans is a capable left guard.
11:37 RESTRUCTURING! The Giants have freed up some cap room by getting David Baas to restructure his deal. Baas didn’t have the greatest of debut seasons despite winning a Super Bowl, grading out as our 29th ranked center in the regular season. He was part of an offensive line that struggled throughout the year, making it all the more remarkable how Eli Manning was able to deliver them the Lomardi trophy.
11:05 We’re now less than five hours away from free agency kicking off. Plenty of rumors floating around, it’s just a shame nearly every one has a contradictory source saying it won’t happen. At least one thing everyone seems in agreement on (but first reported by Alex Marvez) is that the Buccaneers plan on making a play for Curtis Lofton. It’s always nice to take one away from a divisional rival, and the Bucs have a massive need at middle linebacker with Mason Fosters’ ability to over pursue a play causing no end of problems. The Bucs spent big on free agent bust Quincy Black last year and will likely have to top that to get our 6th ranked 4-3 MLB from last year.
10:32 TENDERING! A bit of a lull at the moment with not much going on. The New York Jets plan on bringing Aaron Maybin back next year after tendering him. Yep you don’t often see a former first round pick get tendered. He flashed ability as a situational rusher picking up 24 combined sacks, hits and hurries on 185 pass rushing opportunities.
09:50 TENDERING! Adam Caplan confirms the Patriots gave the 2nd round tender to Brian Hoyer. He’s up to 142 snaps, a number you will imagine to rise as New England continue their regular season blowouts. He’s as good as it gets when the Patriots roll out the victory formation and get him to handle the QB kneels.
09:26 RE-SIGNING! Adam Schefter breaks a little bit more news by informing us all that Terrell Thomas will be returning with the New York Giants. Thomas had a tremendous 2009 (8th in our CB rankings) but wasn’t quite so good in 2010 when he gave up seven touchdowns, and missed all of 2011 with an ACL injury. He clearly has talent but he has some serious question marks hanging over him.
09:06 The Panthers Thomas Davis is expected back with Carolina on a restructured deal. Good luck to him, but he’s coming off a third ACL tear and has managed just 526 snaps over the past three years in the NFL. The odds appear long which is a shame. Back in 2009 he was really coming into his own with a +10.7 grade for less than half a seasons work. We may never see how could he could have been.
08:40 The Detroit Free Press tells us that backup QB Shaun Hill plans to test the open market. Life as a clipboard holder can be fun it’s own special way, but Hill may want to go somewhere that either a) gives him more money or b) gives him a realistic shot at seeing some playing time. Hill ranked 14th in our QB ratings in 2010 and it’s fair to say could represent something of a short term upgrade for a number of teams.
08:10 According to Howard Eskin the Eagles have changed tack from pursuing linebacker Dan Connor to focusing on their own. Not a surprise when Evan Mathis, our top ranked guard from 2011, is set to hit the open market. Connor, who has excelled as a two down linebacker in Carolina, is the kind of downhill force who would fit in perfectly to the Eagles wide-9 defense, capable of shedding blocks and making plays. Connor has picked up a +19.6 run defense grade over the past two years.
07:33 Adam Schefter is awake which means we have some news. The Titans are preparing a visit for former Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson. It’s an interesting fit, with Hutchinson offering a definite upgrade on Leroy Harris at left guard in terms of his run blocking. That said Hutchinson has been something of a declining force in this regard, and looks at his best in pass protection – something that isn’t a massive need for a Titans team that gets rid of the ball quicker than any other when Matthew Hasselbeck is behind center. Of course whose to say Hasselbeck will be come the start of next year? Hutchinson finished 2011 as our 8th ranked guard largely on the back of his +9.0 pass blocking grade.
07:21 There are rumors from the Miami Herald that re-signing Kendall Langford is the Dolphins biggest priority when it comes to returning talent. Langford’s greatest value probably rests with the Dolphins after a zero sack season would have failed to land him on the radar of many teams. All the better for Miami as Langford did register 27 hits and hurries and does generate consistent pressure for a 3-4 end. He’s the kind of player who may never put up huge sack numbers but will always cause the quarterback problems.
7:00 So we’re off and running on what promises to be a huge day in the NFL with implications that will be felt for a long time to come. Will we be any closer to finding out what happens with Peyton Manning? Will we see any more surprise cuts like the Houston Texans releasing Eric Winston? What will happen to our Top 75 free agents? Will any of the teams have read our bargain buys and be as excited as us (not in a sexual way) at the prospect of Geoff Schwartz as their new right tackle or guard? How much more news will there be for us to cover than on our countdown to free agency blog? Will we set a record for the amount of links in a paragraph? These are just some of the questions to ponder as we move to the 4pm start of the new league year.