2013 Free Agency Live Blog: Day 3
The free agent action doesn't stop and we're here to offer takes on each move.
2013 Free Agency Live Blog: Day 3
With the second day of NFL free agency in the books, we turn the page, catch our breath, and dig into Day 3.
Of course we’ll have the blog manned around the clock to update with PFF notes and comments on each bit of free agent news, but between flurries make sure you stop in to the past days’ entries to get our takes on all of the moves to date:
You can also catch up to us on Twitter, and browse our exhaustive Free Agent Tracker that comes complete with 2012 PFF player grades and snap counts. And, if you want more detail than that, then you really need to get yourself a PFF Premium Subscription.
Let’s start the Day 3 blogging!
(Manually refresh the page every 15 minutes to update the blog)
We’re onto Day Four now, so join our blog over here.
23:59 With Day Three coming to a relatively quiet close, be sure to catch up on some of our latest articles breaking down the first three days of free agency: By the Numbers: Welker and Amendola, Jermon Bushrod: Upgrade or Side-Step?, and On the Market: Huff and Heyward-Bey. Also, our Free Agency Deal Grader continues to update as the signings trickle in.
22.35: The numbers are out on Matt Cassel’s new contract with the Minnesota Vikings. He is getting four millions dollars on a one year deal, which makes him one of the highest paid backup quarterbacks in the league. For anyone that wants to see Christan Ponder out as the starting quarterback, this contact only encourages their hopes as they can see just how much the Vikings think of Cassel.
22.25: Adm Schefter is reporting that if Matt Schaughnessy plans on visiting the Titans next followed by the Eagles if nothing works out with him in Arizona. A move to Tennessee would make sense, as the Titans defensive line was made up of mostly pass rushers, and the addition of Sammie Lee Hill earlier in the week only contributed to that. Defensive Tackle Jurrell Casey is an excellent run stuffer and they have other linemen who are decent in run defense, Schaughnessy would allow some of the other defensive ends to focus more on their pass rushing. Like Arizona, Schaughnessy seems like an odd fit for a 3-4 defense so Philadelphia might not be the best fit for him.
22.15: VISIT! To continue the string of late night Patriot news, Albert Breer is reporting the Patriots will have John Abraham in for a visit tomorrow. New England has lacked a consistent pass rusher. Last year Chandler Jones was their best pass rushing option. He started the season strong with six sacks over his first eight games, he had zero over his last eight. Adding someone like Abraham would allow them to have a quick fix at the pass rushing position, and eliminate one of the Patriots biggest remaining needs.
21.55: VISIT! Ian Rapoport is giving us some late night news. Safety Adrian Wilson is set to visit the New England Patriots. The Patriots have a number of defensive backs who are unrestricted free agents with the most notable one being Aqib Talib. The Patriots still have Steve Gregory, Devin McCourty, and 2012 second round pick Tavon Wilson at safety, although McCourty can always move back to cornerback again. The Patriots interest in a safety might be a sign that McCourty would go back to cornerback, which would lesson the likelihood of Talib’s return. Adrian Wilson wasn’t nearly the same player he was in 2011, but he can still be a decent player in coverage. He allowed just 44.4% of passes thrown his way to be caught in 2012.
21.45: So far most of the younger free agents have been signed, with a lot of the big names remaining being the older more established players that can be short time fixes. One exception to that has been at offensive tackle. After rumors yesterday about Jake Long to the Rams, all has been quiet on that front today. We haven’t heard much about Andre Smith and Sebastian Vollmer and they are two of the best free agents remaining. When Eric Winston was released he was linked to a number of teams, but recently we haven’t heard his name either. Once one player signs, the rest are likely soon to follow, but to this point offensive tackle is arguably the deepest position with younger talent remaining in free agency.
21.20: Things again seemed to have quiet down in terms of signing and visits. However the last two nights in the later hours of the night a signing or two has broken. When they do, we’ll be here to give you the info you need to know.
20.50: SIGNING! Mike Garafolo of the USA Today is reporting that the Cardinals have signed Linebacker Jasper Brinkley to a two year deal. The Cardinals have been attempting to replace Inside Linebacker Paris Lenon who received our second lowest overall rating for inside/middle linebackers last year. Rumors linked players like Larry Foote and Rey Maualuga to Arizona who also both ended up with very poor PFF ratings, but they settled on the man who had the second most missed tackles for inside/middle linebackers at 19, and allowed a QB Rating of 113.6 when quarterbacks threw his way. The Cardinals have made plenty of additions this off-season, but there has been little reason to believe they can compete with what San Francisco and Seattle has done.
20.25: VISIT! Pro Football Talk is reporting that Raiders Defensive End Matt Shaughnessy is on his way to Arizona tonight to have a visit with the Cardinals. He is a reliable player in the run game with just two missed tackles last year and a decent Run Stop Percentage of 6.0%. However don’t let the five sacks fool you, as he only came up with five hits and five hurries outside of those five sacks which doesn’t make for that strong of a pass rusher. The fit seems a little weird, as he is not a strong enough pass rusher to do much as a 3-4 outside linebacker pass rusher, yet he is also a little small to be a 3-4 defensive end. It certainly raises some questions to why the Cardinals might be interested in a player like Shaughnessy.
20.00 RUMOR! Adam Schefter is reporting that all signs point to Ed Reed signing with the Houston Texans at some point tomorrow. The Texans lost Glover Quin to free agency, so signing Reed would pair him up with Danieal Manning as the starters at safety in Houston. If Reed does in fact sign, it will be interesting to see how the Texans plan to replace Quin in the dime defense, as he would play more of a strong safety role.
19.45: SIGNING!: Pro Football Talk is reporting that the the Seahawks have signed defensive end Michael Bennett to a one year, 5 million dollar deal. During the Seahawks playoff run they became very thin at defensive end, and are now doing their best to make sure that won’t happen again after signing Cliff Avril yesterday and now Bennett today. Prior to the start of free agency we placed Bennett at the top of our top edge rushers list due to his ability to make tackles for losses in the run game and for giving a consistent pass rush, while Avril was second. It is probably a sign that the Seahawks aren’t optimistic about Chris Clemons recovery at the moment. At just five million dollars, this move is a complete bargain for Seattle and makes the Seahawks Super Bowl chances even more realistic.
19.30: It is now Nathan Jahnke taking over the live blog for the early evening shift. If any visits are revealed or signings made, you know where to find the news along with some reactions.
19.15: SIGNING! The Jaguars have been one of the quieter teams in free agency but they’ve added to their cornerback ranks with the re-signing of Antuwan Molden. He made one special teams tackle with the team last year after earning a -4.9 grade as part of the New England Patriots Super Bowl losing team in 2011. He gave up 1.51 yards per snap in coverage, but it’s hard to see this being the kind of move that will appease a fanbase concerned with their depth at the position.
19.00: It was only a couple of days ago when we couldn’t move for the amount of news that was coming our way. Not so now. It’s gotten a bit quiet. The usual leverage the players have doesn’t seem to be there in a deep class of free agents. Still the blog keeps on going and we’re ready to break the news to you as and when it happens.
18.45: It’s all a bit quiet at the moment so if you have a spare moment or two and are interested in some numbers comparing Wes Welker and Danny Amendola, well then you really ought to click here.
18.30: RUMOR! This one is also from Ben Volin which should let you it’s about the Dolphins. They’re taking a look at Thomas Howard who missed all bar 62 snaps of the 2012 season with a torn ACL. Back in 2011 Howard was our 23rd ranked outside linebacker, in large part thanks to a +7.0 grade he picked up in coverage. The downside is his work in the run game which might indicate he’s being viewed either as depth, or for a situational role after the big signings of Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe.
18.20 SIGNING! The Patriots are adding to their return game with the signing of former Jet Leon Washington. You never know if New England (for whom Danny Woodhead is a free agent) might be looking at what Washington can do on offense. He was only on the field for 73 offensive snaps last year in Seattle, but did finish with the ninth highest punt return rating we handed out. The news was broken by Washington on his own twitter feed.
18.15: VISIT! We know the Dolphins hosted Michael Bennett and Dustin Keller today, but Ben Volin has also let us know Lance Louis was in town. The versatile lineman has some experience as tackle, but would like come into play at right guard, with rumors John Jerry would move to right tackle. Louis started off strong in 2012 with a couple of good games, but hard a tough four game stretch before his season ended against Minnesota in Week 12. He earned a positive grade for his pass blocking, but like a lot of Bears didn’t do so well in the run game.
18.05: And the numbers are in for Connor Barwin to the Eagles. It’s a six-year deal for $36m for a guy who was our second lowest ranked 3-4 outside linebacker last year. That one isn’t going to score well on the old Deal Grader is it? On the plus side only $8m is guaranteed. Unless his play takes a giant leap, hard to see him seeing much of that money.
18.00 Number are in on the Steven Jackson to Atlanta deal. He’s going to get $12m over three years with $4m guaranteed. That’s less guaranteed money than Shonn Greene. You read that right. Atlanta have done well to not overpay and get stronger at an area of need. The Falcons are getting themselves ready for another run at the big one.
17.50: We, like you, kind of expected Miami to close Dustin Keller but Rich Cimini is reporting that Keller left the Dolphins without having signed. It’s surprising given how prolific the Dolphins have been in upgraded their team, but leads you to believe perhaps Keller things he can get more money from elsewhere. Keller isn’t much of a blocker but is the kind of mismatch from the tight end spot Miami are craving.
17.40: SIGNING! Per Tania Ganguli the deal is done and the Eagles are signing Connor Barwin. It’s something of a surprise and has you asking a lot of questions about the future of Trent Cole in Philadelphia. You can check out our twitter timeline and our comments from 16.50 with what we think about this signing. Essentially we don’t see it making the Eagles a better team.
17.30: From earlier today Sean Smith got a three-year deal worth $18m with $12m of that guaranteed. Now is the time to go out there and show you’re worth it on every down.
17.15: VISIT! Joey Galloway is known for his ability to stretch a defense. He’s now known as the guy who informed us that Ted Ginn is visiting with the Bengals. In a revamped receiver group Ginn only saw the field for 101 snaps all year (including the playoffs), with his real value coming on special teams. His punt returning is likely why Cincinnati are interested.
17.00: SIGNING! We heard earlier that the Bucs had signed former Saint Jonathan Casillas. Well they’ve also announced the acquisition of Kevin Ogletree. Remember when, after the season opener, Ogletree was the next big thing after catching eight balls for 114 yards and two touchdowns. He would finish the year with another 322 yards and two touchdowns. He’ll battle it out for a possible third receiver job in Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay also announced the sad release of Quincy Black who suffered a severe injury and may never play football again.
16.50: It’s not official yet, but Jason La Canfora is reporting that the team set to overpay for Connor Barwin is … the Philadelphia Eagles. Barwin put up some good sack numbers back in 2011 and as a report was the coolest pass rusher in town. It didn’t matter that Wade Phillips ultra attacking defense drew blockers away from him and his pass rushing productivity score was only an 8.7 (17th best out of all 3-4 outside linebackers). In any case he’s coming off a year where that number dropped to 5.8. The fourth lowest of any 3-4 outside linebacker. That helped him to a -22.4 grade. Still, not as bad as Erik Walden.
16.40: SIGNING! The Redskins are bringing back Bryan Kehl on what we assume is a one-year deal courtesy of Chris Russell. Kehl didn’t play a snap on defense for Washington but made six special teams tackles and it’s likely that’s the role he’s ticketed for in 2013. Though with the Redskins cap woes who knows. Maybe next year he works his way into their linebacker rotation. He has 391 career defensive snaps to his name.
16.20 SIGNING! These signings really are coming thick and fast and this tweet from Sean Jensen came more than 15 minutes ago so I apologise if he wasn’t the first. Jensen reports that not only is Keenan Lewis signing with the New Orleans Saints but also that he turned down significant money from another team to sign for his hometown team. Jensen’s source says that Lewis’ contract is worth a maximum of $26million over five years with further proof that the cornerback market is significantly lower in cash terms than 12 months ago. Lewis’ lack of an interception in Pittsburgh last season was well documented but his 16 pass defenses and a positive coverage grade paint a picture of a player who can cover opposing receivers very well. One thing that is for sure, playing in a Rob Ryan defense that at present doesn’t have a demonstrably potent pass rush Lewis’ coverage skills will be sternly tested on an island in New Orleans this season.
16.15 SIGNING! The hits just keep on coming this afternoon as Adam Schefter reports that the Atlanta Falcons have reached an agreement with former Rams RB Steven Jackson. You would think that, injuries aside, this will bring to an end Jackson’s long wait for a playoff game but more than that he still offers some spark and physicality as a ball carrier earning a +9.2 overall grade with the Rams this season. In combination with Jacquizz Rodgers, Jackson could form a devastating one two punch in the running game to go with the Falcons phenomenal 1-2-3 punch of White, Jones and Gonzalez in the passing game. Last season Jackson tied Rodgers with a mark of 2.7 yards per carry after first contact which put them both inside the league’s top 20. If the Falcons can bring upgrades to their run blocking on the offensive line the mind boggles at how good this offense could be.
16.10 SIGNINGS! Note the multiple there the Eagles have been busy today and according to Mike Garafolo have signed up two defensive backs from a division rival and a geographical neighbor. Joining from the New York Giants is S Kenny Phillips whilst joining from Super Bowl champions the Baltimore Ravens is CB Cary Williams. In New York Phillips battled injuries to try and stay on the field but when on the field he is one of the league’s better safeties and is a clear and present upgrade over the Eagles’ starting duo from last season. In the last three seasons Phillips graded positively in both run defense and pass coverage peaking with his role in the Giants’ Super Bowl run where he recorded a +13.6 overall grade including a +11.1 coverage grade. Meanwhile Williams has, numbers pending, cashed in on his role in the Ravens’ Super Bowl run this season. Williams was blighted by inconsistency this season grading +1.5 or above in coverage three times this season but grading out -2.0 or worse four times, including an abysmal -5.1 against the Patriots in Week 3. Numbers will dictate how much of a risk tihs is for the Eagles.
16.05 UPDATE! Everyone loves a saga? Right? Matt Cassel may not be Tim Tebow, and Christian Ponder might not be Mark Sanchez but maybe this is the low budget equivalent for 2013? Refuting Schefter’s tweet (15.50) local beat writer Dan Wiederer reports that, “To be clear. The Vikings have no intention to have Cassel be their starter. None.” That’s a pretty clear update on that front, let’s see how it plays out. I wonder whether ESPN will be broadcasting live from Vikings training camp this season?
16.00 RETIREMENT! After 12 seasons in the league the Detroit Lions have just tweeted that veteran left tackle Jeff Backus is retiring. Backus graded positively as a pass protector in each of the last four seasons in the Lions’ pass happy offense peaking in 2009 with a +13.5 grade that was sixth best amongst left tackles. Backus’ retirement and Gosder Cherilus’ departure for Indianapolis leaves the Lions needing to replace both tackles. Last year’s first round pick Riley Reiff figures to take one of those two spots, could the Lions go tackle with their first round pick for the second straight season?
15.50 UPDATE! Further to that last signing of Matt Cassel to Minnesota, Adam Schefter reports that he is not only en route to Minnesota’s facility but that he is expected to challenge for the starting job with Christian Ponder. The Vikings were widely expected to be in the running for a momentous signing but I suspect many fans were expecting or hoping for a certain receiver from Green Bay to help out their incumbent and embattled starter rather than for the Vikings to pick up a quarterback at a similar level to provide one of the least appetising quarterback competitions of the summer.
15.30 SIGNING! In a move that was as widely predicted as it was mystifying Jay Glazer announces that the Vikings have completed the signing of former Kansas City QB Matt Cassel. Ever since he arrived in Kansas City there has been very little positive to see and say about Cassel’s performances. While things were never as bad as his first season in Kansas City (-24.2 grade in 2009) he also never finished a season with a positive overall grade and only had nine games with an overall grade of +1.0 or better in his four seasons. Cassel is at least a better backup option for the Vikings than Joe Webb proved to be in the playoff loss to Green Bay and brings some veteran presence that was sorely lacking on the Vikings’ depth chart. However if the Vikings are viewing this as a competition signing for Ponder then they might be a little wide of the mark.
15.20 SIGNING! More news out of Chicago this free agency period where Brad Biggs reports that the Bears have re-signed defensive tackle Nate Collins on a one year deal. Collins has been in the league since 2010 but exploded into awareness this season with a stellar debut for the Bears in Week 8 against Carolina. Earning a +5.4 grade in that game on the back of a pair of hurries in the passing game and a pair of stops and some further destructive work in run defense. Limited to a bit part role for the rest of the season Collins is an intriguing player to keep an eye on in a Bears’ defensive tackle rotation that, outside of Henry Melton, didn’t deliver on its promise last season.
15.15 NEWS! Also going on right now on top of free agency is the league’s Competition Committee Meeting. Ian Rapoport reports that one of the changes coming is a change to the infamous “Tuck Rule”. To paraphrase Rapoport’s tweet if a passer now loses the football while “tucking” the ball this will now be a fumble. Unfortunately for Raider fans this decision comes more than a decade too late for them.
EDIT: Just a note to say that the “Tuck Rule” and any other proposal from the Competition Committee is just that, a proposal. The owners will vote on whether they enter or leave the rulebook at the next Owner’s Meeting.
15.10 SIGNING! Jim Irsay tweeted for Colts fans to get excited for another free agent signing and both Adam Caplan and Jason La Canfora appear to have beaten him to the punch this time by announcing that Ricky Jean-Francois has signed with the Colts. Caplan reports that the deal is worth $22million over 4 years with Jean-Francois seemingly now grasping the starting spot that he was never likely to earn in San Francisco. Playing 328 snaps on the 49ers run to a Super Bowl defeat the former LSU Tiger earned the fourth most snaps of any San Francisco defensive lineman this season and if he maintains his performance level (+4.2 run defense) will bring some much needed stoutness to the Colts’ run defense. Jean-Francois has been lauded for his position versatility during the free agency period after registering 76 of his 328 snaps last season at nose tackle in a 3-man line.
14.45 SIGNING! The Giants struggled desperately at linebacker last season but Jenny Vrentas reports that they are going to try again with one of their budget signings from last off-season with the re-signing of Keith Rivers. Ending the season fifth on the team’s linebackers with 238 snaps Rivers missed a number games in the middle of the season and after a strong debut (+2.2 run defense, 4 stops) against the Cowboys in Week 1 struggled to find a consistent performance level. His last extended action in Cincinnati (2011, 512 snaps) saw him earn a +5.9 overall grade and finish among the league’s top 10 4-3 OLB’s with a run stop percentage of 8.7%.
14.25: We could have another cornerback exiting the market soon. Adam Schefter is reporting that it’s looking likely that Keenan Lewis will sign with the New Orleans Saints today. Lewis didn’t intercept any balls last year but led the league with 16 pass deflections. We’d expect him to replace Patrick Robinson who led the league in yards allowed into his primary coverage with 1,071 yards.
14.10: VISIT! The market for Michael Bennett has appeared slow to develop but per Pro Football Talk he’ll be taking a visit with the Dolphins today. Bennett spent most of his time at left defensive end in Tampa Bay but would likely be ticketed for a role on the right side of the defense, with Miami bound to be extremely happy with the production they’re getting from Cameron Wake at that spot already. Bennett is coming off a tremendous year and was our top ranked edge rusher to hit the market. Capable of making an impact rushing the passer and in the run game, he’s a true every down threat. He was our seventh ranked 4-3 defensive end in 2012.
14.05: Not much going on this very second. Just a lot of speculation regarding how much Smith got. Most people seem to think it was around the $5m per year mark which would be considerably less than most speculated before free agency.
Turn the page for the events of earlier in the day