We’re here around the clock and will continue to sprinkle PFF flavor on all of the important happenings as they happen, so bookmark it and keep the auto-refresh working all day. You can also catch up on our analysis from earlier in free agency here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, and Day 7.
Check out our Top 75 Available Free Agents for a peek at the talent still on the market as NFL teams go to work looking at the second wave of free agency.
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21:09 Of our list of the top 75 free agents for the free agent contest, only 28 players remain un-signed. At the top of the list is Brodrick Bunkley who dominated the run game with an 11.3% Stop Rate, which led all defensive and nose tackles. According to Lindsay Jones, the Broncos are working hard to bring him back. The Saints also hosted him recently. He would make sense in either defense–and most 4-3 defenses, at that–with his run-stopping prowess.
20:32 After an hour full of four signings and a trade, things have died down a little bit. If they pick up tonight we’ll still be here. While you wait for the moves, the Fantasy side of things has been on top of the fantasy impacts of the big moves. There are even Player Projections for 2012.
19:13 SIGNING! About a half hour ago it was reported that Alex Smith was close to returning to the 49ers, and now Michael Lombardi reports that the return is official. He had the eighth-highest overall PFF rating for quarterbacks last year which was surprising considering his previous years. This likely ends all of the movement at quarterback when it comes to starters or potential starters until the draft, as their aren’t any big name quarterback free agents remaining.
19:07 SIGNING! There are slim pickings left in the wide receiver market, and there are even less options with Hines Ward retiring. One of the better options remaining, Early Doucet, has agreed to return to the Arizona Cardinals. He was the third wide receiver on the Cardinals depth chart, and 78.3% of the time he was on the field he lined up in the slot. He consistently had two or three catches a game and as many as eight, but also had eight dropped passes over the course of the season.
18:53 At this point of free agency, Mark Anderson has been a popular guy. The Buffalo Bills twitter account reported that he is visiting with Bills staff tonight, and is scheduled to visit a Bills doctor in the morning. While the Patriots used 4-3 and 3-4 looks last year, Anderson was always an outside pass rusher and would be a defensive end in the Bills’ 4-3 scheme. If you include the playoffs, Anderson had a total of 15 sacks on the year. If he signs, I would not want to be a quarterback facing Buffalo, as they would have Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Anderson on the line for passing plays. Any one of those players could give a quarterback nightmares, but all four together could be elite.
18:45 For those wanting the details of the DeMeco Ryans trade, Adam Caplan reports that the Houston Texans received a fourth round pick from the Philadelphia Eagles and they also swapped third rounders with the Texans moving up in the round. It’s not a terrible amount for the Eagles to give up for a younger middle linebacker who has the potential to be great.
18:42 With the Manning signing finalized, the dominoes keep falling. Last night David Garrard went to the Miami Dolphins, which left Alex Smith with very few options. Chris Mortensen is reporting that Smith and the San Francisco 49ers are close to finalizing a deal. He was the third most accurate quarterback in 2011 with an Accuracy Percentage of 75.1%. This year he will also have Mario Manningham and Randy Moss to throw to, which might help the 49ers’ offense take things to the next level in 2012. Once Smith is off the market, Josh Johnson who has been the backup for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers becomes the most attractive free agent quarterback.
18:23 SIGNING! Of course after a quiet day of free agency, we start the evening with plenty of moves. The Detroit Lions have re-signed linebacker Ashlee Palmer according to Dave Birkett. He was scheduled to be a restricted free agent, but the Lions didn’t tender him due to salary constraints. Earlier today, the Lions brought back Stephen Tulloch, so the starting three are now all back for Detroit and Palmer will remain a backup. In 2011 Palmer played just 42 snaps, and had two stops.
18:21 TRADE! John McClain is reporting the Houston Texans have traded inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans to the Philadelphia Eagles for an undisclosed draft pick. While Ryan did alright in the Texans’ 3-4 defense playing in the base package and managing 27 stops, he has played a lot better when the team ran a 4-3. In 2009, Ryans’ last full season as a 4-3 middle linebacker, he had 54 stops which was seventh most for middle/inside linebackers that year. The Eagles have been looking at most of the available linebackers, so it fills that hole for them. There are a number of good middle linebackers available, and it will be harder for them to get the money they want now that the Eagles will no longer be in the market. A fourth round pick from 2010 Darryl Sharpton is likely to get the starting job in Houston even though he only had 55 snaps last year.
18:08 SIGNING! With Jim Kleinsasser retiring, the Minnesota Vikings are in need of some solid run blocking. They may have found help in the form of Jerome Felton who has signed with the team according to Tom Pelissero. In 2011 he spent time with the Carolina Panthers who let him go, and then he found time with the Indianapolis Colts. Only once in the last two years has he played more than 31% of snaps, so if he makes the roster he would only be in for a handful of plays. He could very well be in competition with Ryan D’Imperio who played fullback for the Vikings in place of Kleinsasser at times last year, but failed to impress.
18:06 The Green Bay Packers are typically quiet in free agency, and haven’t really brought in any big name players since Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett in 2006. This off-season they have taken a look at a few players, but haven’t signed anyone but their own men. One of the players they have had discussions with is outside linebacker Manny Lawson according to Tyler Dunne. While he was successful in the Bengals 4-3 defense last year, prior to that he was a 3-4 outside linebacker for the 49ers. In 2010 he had 33 overall pressures on 217 pass rushes. He fits a clear need in the Packers defense, as Clay Matthews was the only real pass rushing threat. It looks like Lawson has the talent to play every down, but so far no one has used him as an every down player in the pros.
17:51 The Chargers have lost backs Darren Sproles and Mike Tolbert in consecutive years, so need some bodies to lessen the load on the impressive Ryan Mathews. With that in mind they’ve brought in Jackie Battle for a visit, the former Chief back who had a decent enough year when injuries thrust him into a position where he actually got some carries. It should be noted that Battle handled himself well in an area Mike Tolbert did for San Diego; pass protection. He gave up just a hit and a hurry on 64 pass blocks.
17:47 One of the more noteworthy cuts could turn out to be that of Jamaal Jackson. The former Eagles center was among the best at his position in the league until injury ended his 2010 year, and he was unable to find his way back onto the field outside of 17 snaps this year. Perhaps the Eagles coaching staff saw a different player, or perhaps they just wanted to get younger, either way the Tennessee Titans are looking at Jackson. It’s not hard to understand why with Eugene Amano constantly one of the worst starting centers in the league since shifting from guard to replace Kevin Mawae. He was ranked 32nd at the center spot in 2011.
17.43 The Ravens have been relatively quiet in free agency, but they’re bringing in Mark Anderson for a look. Anderson is coming off a tremendous year where he ranked 13th in our defensive end rankings, while also showing up in the post season while playing with his hand off the ground. That kind of versatility makes him something of a natural fit for a Baltimore outfit that has lost a number of players on defense, though it remains to be seen if they view him as starting material, or just a situational rusher.
16.46: VISIT: Mike Klis is reporting that the Denver Broncos have C Jeff Saturday coming in for a visit. This is a move that makes tremendous logical sense. There may not be a poorer starting C in the NFL than Denver incumbent J.D. Walton, and Jeff Saturday knows the line calls of Peyton Manning’s offense like the back of his hand. To sweeten the deal, Saturday was out 5th ranked C last season, so he can still provide a massive upgrade purely in terms of performance.
15.56: RE-SIGNING! The dominoes have started to fall at linebacker as ProFootballTalk is reporting that the Lions have brought back Stephen Tulloch on a five year deal. The Lions play with an aggressive defensive line and there might not be a more important player to their D than Tulloch, who is stout enough to make plays with blockers in his face. Tulloch was our 7th ranked ILB last season but allowed just 8.1 yards per catch on receptions given up into his coverage and made 55 defensive stops.
15:24 VISITS! A couple of visits lined up for two defensive players on the free agent market. First off Tracy Porter is headed to Denver for a visit with the Broncos. Porter has had solid seasons in the past, most notably 2009 (PFF coverage grade of +5.8) but struggled last season and the former second round pick is looking to kick start his career again. If he were to land in Denver he would see a lot of the ball but potentially gain some favorable opportunities playing opposite Champ Bailey who even with his advancing years is still a corner to be feared by opposing QBs. Meanwhile the Lions have brought in another former second round pick, from a season after Porter, DE/LB Everette Brown formerly of the Panthers and Chargers to, in a manner of speaking, kick the tires. Brown struggled in Carolina but not to the extent that he should completely drop out of the league. He couldn’t get snaps in the Chargers’ 3-4 last season but back as a rush specialist in a 4-3 he could bring some returns for the Lions on a minimum contract as a training camp flier. After the Jets got production from Aaron Maybin last season it isn’t surprising to see a team take a look at Brown and see if they can do the same.
15:19 TEBOW-TIME! More updates on the Tebow front, mercifully the indications are this latest trade craze won’t last too long at least. Two AFC East teams provide our update here where first Armando Salguero reports that the Dolphins have “zero interest” in pursuing Tebow “at this time”. Having just signed David Garrard to compete with Matt Moore the signing of Tebow would smack of a desperation and unnecessary move on the Dolphins part, on football grounds at least. There is off-field turmoil around the Dolphins right now but new head coach Joe Philbin has some talent to work with on the field and could do without another media circus. Meanwhile Adam Schefter reports that the Jets have discussed trading for Tebow “even if it’s considered a long shot”. For the Jets to bring in Tebow just after re-asserting, in some way, their faith in Mark Sanchez would be a spectacular U-turn. Even as if they were just discussing bringing him in to play in certain packages the presence of Tebow in New York would have the potential to place the sort of pressure on Sanchez (from fans and the media) that the Jets have looked completely unwilling to place on him to this point in his career, including this off-season.
14:18 Adam Schefter brings us the latest update on the hunt for Tim Tebow stating that a trade will happen for Tebow, the Broncos won’t be forced to cut him. According to Schefter the 49ers are not interested, aside from kicking the tires on every available QB we’re not sure why they ever would have been, but that the shortlist currently includes Jacksonville, Green Bay and Miami. In terms of short term impact Tebow offers little to any team. Green Bay is an interesting inclusion on that list, it’s hard to see what role they would see for Tebow that would augment their offense. The two Florida teams listed have made sound moves to solidify their quarterback position this year and the only quarterback in state that Tebow might challenge is Blaine Gabbert but would the Jaguars really give up on him yet with the same front office that drafted him still in town? There are clear financial benefits to the Dolphins and Jaguars making a move, bums on seats is the theory, but with new head coaches in both towns that would be a bold and borderline reckless move by owners thrusting Tebow upon those head coaches who may or may not want him. That Schefter states that the list “includes” three teams can only be good for the Broncos getting back solid returns in compensation for Tebow.
12:42 Ted Ginn sees himself as more than a returner, and he’s going to be trying to convince the Vikings of that as he visits with them according to Jeremy Fowler. Last year was as good as he’s looked, but that owes almost as much to a 49ers offense that didn’t ask an awful lot out of him. His main upside is that he’ll guarantee you production on special teams.
12:20 So Hines Ward has done the right thing and announced his retirement. A storied career, the debate begins as to whether his consistent production trumps the fact he’s never been one of the top five receivers in the league, as people make the case for his inclusion into the Hall of Fame. This seems like a perfect opportunity to remind people that the HoF isn’t the HoVG (Hall of Very Good).
12:12 Adam Caplan reports that Everette Brown is scheduled to visit with the Detroit Lions within the next 24 hours. Incredible to think the Carolina Panthers gave up a 2010 first round pick to trade up to the second round of the 2009 NFL draft for Brown, hoping he’d be the perfect bookend for Julius Peppers. Brown flashed some ability as a rookie, but when promoted to the starting line up a year later failed to take the necessary step forward to continue the Panthers investment in him. He ended up on the field for just 21 snaps as a Charger.
11:56 RE-SIGNING! After attracting more interest that we expected on the open market, Jarrett Bush has signed on for three more years in Green Bay according to Aaron Wilson. We’re not the biggest fans of Bush, who has graded negatively in coverage each of the past three years. Still familiarity and all …
11:53 Bored of all the Tebow and Manning chatter? Want to see what guys could help your team out? Here’s our Top 75 available free agents from the start of play today.
11:00 SIGNING! It was a mere formality, but Adam Schefter lets us know that Peyton Manning is officially a Bronco now. And it will only cost them $95m over five years. Needless to say the Broncos are getting one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and they are legit contenders next year.
10:48 SIGNINGS! Courtesy of Tim Twentyman, the Lions are bringing back Andre Fluellen and adding to their ranks with Jacob Lacey. Fluellen can play any position on the defensive line, but his performance has never stood out at any spot so this move is more about familiarity and versatility than injecting talent to the roster. The former Colt Lacey has graded negatively in coverage every year that he’s been in the NFL, and has limited upside. Still if the Lions got to the playoffs with Eric Wright playing cornerback …
10:10 In one of the least surprising developments, Jeff Saturday is to visit with the Denver Broncos after his trip to Green Bay. Saturday was our fifth ranked center in 2011 and would offer a huge upgrade on J.D. Walton even looking past the Manning connection.
09:10 SIGNING! In an interesting move the Tennessee Titans have splashed some cash on a five year deal for Kamerion Wimbley. The deal is worth $35m so can we safely assume that Wimbley, for the first time in his career, is going to be an every down defensive end role? He spent the past two seasons working as a linebacker on base downs before shifting to end in the Raiders sub package defenses so it’s something of a projection to expect him to hold up. Wimbley is at his best when he can pin his ears back and go after the QB, as it proved last year when he picked up 59 combined sacks, hits and hurries.
08:40 The Pittsburgh Steelers have announced a press conference with Hines Ward at noon today. You’d imagine this would have to be the retirement announcement his career deserves, as he looked like he had next to nothing left in the tank in 2011.
07:55 According to Aaron Wilson, Anthony Hill is visiting with the Pittsburgh Steelers today. Hill hasn’t exactly had a stellar NFL career since being a fourth round pick in the 2009 NFL draft by the Houston Texans. He managed 72 unimpressive snaps for Indianapolis last year after playing just 20 snaps as a Texan.
07:36 We’ve updated our Deal Grader as well as we continue our round the clock look at free agents. We’re good like that.
06:14 Having trouble sleeping? Wondering what decent free agents are left? We’ve updated our top 75 available free agents.
05:33 Yesterday was all about Peyton Manning and the fallout from his decision to go to Denver. What will happen today? Will we see the linebacker market finally start to develop? Will those teams who have bided their time start to make some moves? Will Tim Tebow find someone other than Skip Bayless who loves him? We’ll be commenting all the way.
01:22 SIGNING! Adam Schefter is reporting via Twitter that cornerback Aaron Ross has agreed to a three-year deal with Jacksonville. An area of need that was wiped out by injury in 2011, the Jaguars had already brought back aging corner Rashean Mathis in an effort to keep hold on some form of depth. Ross is a boom-or-bust defender, but adds experience to a corps otherwise manned by the young (and improving) duo of Derek Cox (+3.1 coverage) and William Middleton (+4.7 coverage). Ross allowed 63 catches for 871 yards and six touchdowns in 2011, while intercepting four passes, picking up 11 PD’s, and finishing with a PFF coverage grade of -3.7.