2015 Free Agency Live Blog, Day 1
2015 Free Agency Live Blog, Day 1
It all starts today! …OK, it’s been going a for a few days now (and we had that covered as well here and here), but the PFF crew will be offering up our unique insight at each step through the free-agency frenzy that’s set to officially kick off this afternoon. Rumored deals will be finalized (or will they?) and surprises are sure to suface — the already blistering pace will only get faster as restrictions are removed and players, agents and teams are free to sign on the dotted line.
(We’ll be updating every 15 minutes so keep coming back to see our take on the developments of free agency’s opening day.)
Head over to our Day 2 blog to catch up with all the developments of the 11th of March.
23:30 RE-SIGNING! The Patriots are bringing back linebacker Chris White. The only time White has really seen the playing field on defense is garbage time with just 15 career defensive snaps over four years. He is a contributor to special teams for New England. On kickoffs he’s had a PFF Rating of +3.0 which was the second best for Patriots in 2014.
23:00 VISIT! Some of the biggest names at tight end have already switched teams today. There are still a few noteworthy players yet to find a team. One is Jordan Cameron who according to Pat McManamon is visiting the Dolphins. The Dolphins gave their tight end Charles Clay the transition tag but the Bills seem intent on trying to add him to their team. While he missed a few games in 2014, Cameron had the third most Yards Per Route Run for a tight end at 1.93. Most likely Cameron is just a Plan B if Clay leaves, it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Dolphins to sign Cameron while retaining Clay.
22:30 SIGNING! There are still a few noteable running backs available, but one lesser known name just signed with the Raiders. Halfback Roy Helu joined the team and will likely share time with Latavius Murray. In Washington Helu would play in passing situations but impressed when he was asked to run. His 3.4 yards after contact per carry led all backs with 40 or more carries on the year. He was great after the catch as a receiver, averaging 11.7 yards after the catch per catch which led all backs. Some of those numbers will likely go down if he has a bigger role, but it will be intriguing to see where his ceiling is. Oakland has spent a lot of today better preparing themselves to run the ball after adding Center Rodney Hudson and Tight End Lee Smith.
22:00 SIGNING! Trades had been the headline of the day until tonight. Cornerback Darrelle Revis decided to return to his previous team by signing a five year deal with the New York Jets. The main thing holding the Jets defense back from being great last year was cornerback, and they addressed it by bringing back Revis as well as signing Buster Skrine earlier in the day. In case you needed a reminder of how great Revis is, there were five games this season where Revis allowed fewer than 5 receiving yards including the Conference Championship game and the Super Bowl. With Revis gone and Browner testing the market, the Patriots top cornerbacks include Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard.
20:15 VISIT! The Eagles aren’t the only team in the NFC East trying to upgrade at the cornerback position. Ian Rapaport reports that Perrish Cox will visit with Washington tomorrow. He started 2014 well, grading at +6.7 over the first 9 weeks of the season, but at just -7.3 over his last 7 games. We know which player Washington will be hoping he can be if they sign him…
20:00 VISIT! Where will Brian Orakpo end up? Could it be Tennessee as he has a visit lined up with the Titans per Terry McCormick. The oft injured Orakpo has few concerns over his actual talent, with him an extremely productive player. But he’s struggled to stay on the field with his 2014 season seeing him play just 401 snaps, coming two years after playing just 87 in 2012. Top talent or not that’s a big concern and it’s going to scares some suitors off and lower the deal he can get. But if he can stay healthy and there’s no drop off (big ifs) then Orakpo has a career pass rushing grade of +73.2 and that is nothing to be sniffed at.
19.50 VISIT! Tampa Bay has one of, if not the, best three-techs in the game in Gerald McCoy but are hosting Henry Melton for a visit per Jenna Laine. By all accounts Melton rubbed some people the wrong way in Dallas but there’s no doubting he proved that he was healthy enough and talented enough to be a true impact player. Despite being limited with his playing time he still picked up a +15.8 pass rushing grade that was good for sixth best of all defensive tackles. That’s what makes this an odd fit. Melton and McCoy are similar players so unless you’re going to use one in a role that doesn’t play all the way to their strengths then what’s the plan? Surely Melton is looking for more than a situational or backup role now that’s he over his injury woes.
19:40 RE-SIGNING! The Chargers are bringing back Ricardo Mathews after a useful cameo in his 303 snaps with the team last year. He couldn’t make it with the Texans in preseason but by Week 4 of the regular season he was earning regular playing time with San Diego. He ended the year with a +3.4 grade and generated a useful 16 quarterback disruptions that suggest a bigger pass rush role might be in his future. Given how he played in Indianapolis it’s something of a surprise he’s having the success he is in San Diego.
19:25 VISIT! Adam Schefter reports that is the Patriots who have landed the first visit of Jabaal Sheard. The Browns edge defender has experience in both even and odd fronts which automatically piques the interest of New England given the fluidity of the defense they play to match their personnel. Sheard burst onto the scene as a rookie but you feel the constant change in Cleveland hasn’t been ideal for him, especially with high priced free agent and early draft picks taking playing time away from him. Sheard was our second ranked 3-4 outside linebacker against the run in 2014 and has shown an ability to generate pressure. But given the Patriots have both Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones on the roster (and neither man are big fans of leaving the field) we can’t really see them producing the necessary funds, playing time and role that would take Sheard off a market that has seen it’s edge rusher talent thin.
19:15 SIGNING! In a stunner that nobody saw coming after the weekend events, the Eagles have announced the signing of Byron Maxwell on exactly the same deal as everyone had previously reported. On Saturday. Oh suspense you art missed. Maxwell has traded places with Cary Williams and now it remains to be seen how well both will do in one system perceived as defensive back friendly, and the other as decidedly not. Maxwell had a rough finish to the year and has only 17 starts to his name, but brings the kind of frame and athleticism teams crave in cornerbacks. Time will tell if he is up to the task of being a top cornerback but with the amount of money he’s been guaranteed all eyes will be on him. Many a cornerback has come to Philadelphia with a reputation and left with their tail between their legs. Maxwell has allowed four career touchdowns will picking off seven balls and deflecting another 17.
19:10 SIGNING! Adam Schefter explains why Kendall Langford cancelled his visit to Denver, and that’s because he’s already signed with the Colts. Langford offers some front versatility after a so-so season in St Louis were he lost his starting spot to excellent rookie Aaron Donald. The former third round pick never delivered as we expected in St Louis, struggling to get the kind of pressure that we saw him pick up in Miami. Perhaps a move away from a quite rigid 4-3 will see the best of him as the Colts appear to have replaced Cory Redding (and perhaps surprisingly they did it without going after a former Raven). At 29 years of age he significantly brings down the average age of the Colts free agent haul.
19:05 VISIT! It’s beginning to feel a lot like the Saints might be set up for a bit of a rebuild as they deal with cap issues and more. One of those building blocks could be free agent cornerback Tramon Williams, who sits at 13th currently on our top 75 free agents. Williams has been a good corner in this league for a long time, and while he peaked in 2010 he’s maintained a positive coverage grade every year. Not bad for a former undrafted free agent who has 32interceptions and 81 pass break ups since 2007.
19:00 SIGNING! There’s been talk that the New England Patriots will look to add two wide receivers in free agency and one has come to pass already. Field Yates has announced that they have signed former Miami Dolphin Brandon Gibson. He struggled this season, with four drops from 33 catchable targets, but did impress back in 2012 with 691 receiving yards.
18:45 VISIT! Per Ian Rapoport, defensive tackle Nick Fairley is visiting the Cincinnati Bengals tomorrow morning. Fairley was having another strong season, with 22 pressures in the first half of the season before an injury ruined his year. He’d add to a defensive line that already include the talented Geno Atkins, who the Bengals will be hoping can get back to his best in 2015.
18:30 SIGNINGS! Jay Adams announces the Falcons have made two addition moves, signing Mike Person and re-signing touchdown machine Antone Smith. Smith developed something of a reputation as a big play back converting 23 carries into 144 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 15 receptions for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He is a danger in space who it’s somewhat surprising has taken the Falcons so long to get use out of. Person, a seventh round pick in 2011 out of Montana State, has never played more than 66 snaps in a season and will have to show some to earn a roster spot. He was with the Rams last year after impressing in preseason.
18:20 RELEASE! Michael Gehlken reports that the Chargers have released guard Chad Rinehart after bringing in Orlando Franklin. Rinehart had a year to forget as part of a pocket that collapsed all too frequently, earning every bit of his -22.7 grade. That was something of a surprise after a solid first year in San Diego saw him grab a +2.9 grade, and it’s that year that will no doubt earn him a shot at redemption. Only Jahri Evans gave up more combined sacks, hits and hurries than Rinehart in 2014.
18:15 SIGNING! Not a year seems to go by without the Giants brining in linebackers. This year the first they’ve landed is J.T. Thomas on a $12m deal with $4.5m guaranteed over three years. Thomas had a tough 2014 being asked to play inside and outside linebacker, earning a poor -14.8 grade after a similarly poor grade in 2013 (-6.3). We’re not huge fans of some of the moves the Giants have made so far, bringing in players who don’t really add anything to a roster that needs adding to. We wouldn’t ticket Thomas in for a starting job by any stretch especially given the long history of rotation the Giants have at linebacker.
18:10 SIGNING! Jim Ursay is back to reporting Colts transactions and its the much reported deal that sees Frank Gore join the golden oldies for a run at the Super Bowl with the Colts. He left the Eagles high and dry for a chance to play in Indianapolis in a deal that has been spoken about a great deal already. Gore is used to good run blocking in front of him and the Colts should provide that, especially with the addition of Todd Herremans. It’s an underrated aspect of the team they’ve built, often ignored because of the poor running behind it. If Gore is the player he was last year that’s a real nice upgrade, even if the guaranteed money seems a little rich for a running back at his age. Gore was our 22nd ranked pure rusher in 2014, with the Colts highest graded RB Dan Herron in 29th spot.
18:05 TRADE! The Rams have traded for another quarterback, and this time it’s a guy who they actually had on their roster last year as they give up a seventh round pick in 2016 for Case Keenum. Keenum took the league by storm in his sophomore season when he was forced into action, delivering a monster game against the Colts. Unfortunately he peaked too soon and looked out of his depth the rest of the season before stopping for a coffee in St Louis during the 2013 offseason and re-signing with Houston in time to stink it up in the preseason and earn a -5.1 grade over the course of 167 regular season snaps. We’d be surprised if he challenged Nick Foles for a starting spot. Very surprised.
18:00 RELEASES! Miami has announced via their own twitter feed that they’ve released Philip Wheeler and Shelley Smith. Wheeler was a free agent bust, asked to be an every down linebacker and incapable of holding up in coverage. When he returned to a more attack based two down role he was more productive but not enough to warrant his pay. Smith was always something of a gamble last year after impressing in limited action in St Louis, and so it proved as he was found out in Miami where his pass protection was not good enough (as predicted) and his run blocking fell off a cliff (which was somewhat surprising). He’s likely ticketed for a reserve role given his ability to cover interior positions.
17:50 RELEASE! Consider this one we got wrong. Tampa Bay have cut Anthony Collins who looked like a different player after moving from Cincinnati last offseason. As a Bengal you rarely noticed him when he was on the field, so solid he was. But in Tampa Bay it was a different story with Collins playing in 10 games and giving up 29 quarterback disruptions on his way to a -12.9 grade. He’s the poster child of why you don’t pay players big money on a small sample size, though credit to the Bucs for drawing up a deal that was easy for them to get out of. Collins will get another chance and he’ll be hoping his next step is a lot more successful than the last.
17:40 SIGNING! Those expecting a return to Green Bay for A.J. Hawk in the immediate future will be shocked to learn the former first round pick has signed with the Bengals per Mike McCartney on a two-year deal. Hawk has a lot of fans for the leadership and character he brought to Green Bay, but he’s never lived up to the expectation of a fifth overall pick. He’s never had a year where he’s graded positively and has always been something of a liability in the run game, where he’s never been the best at getting off blocks. His grade last year was a -14.4 and while the Bengals have reclaimed more than their fare share of projects, this may be the most impressive if they can coax a strong performance out of him.
17:35 RE-SIGNING! One name that won’t make our list of Top 75 Free Agents is Lance Kendricks after he re-signed with the Rams per Nick Wagoner. Kendricks has spent the past two years playing second fiddle to Jared Cook but it’s a sign of how important he is to the team that they’ve nabbed him on “day one” of free agency. He’s never picked up more than 500 yards since being a second round and isn’t the kind of difference maker in the run game that this deal makes a great deal of sense, though we await the guaranteed money before jumping to conclusions.
17:30 RELEASE! Such is the fall from grace of Percy Harvin that his release barely registers on the NFL landscape. But that doesn’t mean he’s not ultra talented and that will convince some team to pony up for him. Harvin a year ago was coming off a Super Bowl kick return touchdown and excitement about the Seahawks might use him, and now he’s coming off a year where both Seattle and the Jets have ditched him. Still he does things few others do and is a genuine difference maker whether he’s returning, receiving or rushing. It might be a couple of years back but his 2012 season (or half season) is still fondly remembered by all who watched it with a phenomenal 2.59 yards per route run and a crazy 22 forced missed tackles (the next most that year was 17). The challenge isn’t getting production out of him, it’s keeping him motivated and healthy. A challenge nobody has risen to yet.
17:20 VISIT! Ian Rapoport reports that Derrick Morgan is visiting with the Atlanta Falcons, a team desperately in need of a pass rusher like Morgan. He is among the more underrated edge defenders in the league even after showing his versatility by switching to outside linebacker with relative ease, though in Atlanta he’d likely perform the Cliff Avril role in new Head Coach Dan Quinn’s defense. Morgan had the eighth highest pass rushing grades of all 3-4 outside linebackers last year whilst finishing in the top six of 4-3 defensive ends the previous two years. His work in the run game? Not quite as impressive but Atlanta don’t need a guy in the run game nearly as much as they need someone to get to the quarterback.
17:15 SIGNING! A confirmation of a deal that was announced earlier even though it was agreed over the weekend. That deal of course is Orlando Franklin joining up with the Chargers where we presume he’ll form a formidable tackle-guard partnership with either King Dunlap or D.J. Fluker. Franklin spent his first year at guard in 2014 and largely impressed after finishing 13th overall in our guard rankings and missing just 37 snaps. Before that he was a more than solid right tackle so will bring with him some much needed versatility given their injury woes on the line last year. He’s a big get for the Chargers and is sweet revenge after the Broncos stole away Louis Vasquez two years ago.
17:10 SIGNING! From Adam Caplan who reports the Giants have made another move we’re going to struggle to get on board with in the signing of turnstile tackle Marshal Newhouse. The former Packer spent last year in Cincinnati where he was something of a bust, earning his usual -12.2 grade on just 389 snaps. Starting material he isn’t and he’ll face something of an uphill battle to make the roster if the Giants are serious about upgrading their offensive line.
17:05 SIGNING! What does this say about the recovery of Victor Cruz? Dwayne Harris has signed an eye popping deal with the Giants per Rand Getlin that includes an absurd $7.1m guaranteed. This for a receiver who was beaten out by Cole Beasley and who has 34 career receptions. He’s a fine punt returner and a difference maker in that regard, but you don’t pay that much for a returner so clearly the Giants must be hoping for something in the receiving game. For a guy who hasn’t exactly put up big numbers in preseason we don’t quite see what the Giants are seeing in Harris, but we’ll keep an open mind if he turns out to be the guy they were hoping him to be.
17:00 SIGNING! The Bills have continued to add to their backfield with the signing of Jerome Felton. The former Viking and Lion back will lead the way for LeSean McCoy after that trade went through, and promises to be a big piece of the offense. Rex Ryan is a ground and pound guy who loves his lead blockers, even if he hasn’t had one the talent of Felton for a long time. Though it’s easy to forget Felton was a big part of the monster Adrian Peterson season in 2012 where Felton himself earned the third best run blocking score of all backs. He’s finished in the top six of our full back rankings the past three years.
16:55 SIGNING! The deal is done per Adam Schefter and the 49ers, fresh off retirements galore, have snapped up Torrey Smith to reunite the Super Bowl winning dream team of him and Anquan Boldin. Terms of the deal are in and Smith is set to earn $22m guaranteed with a max value of $40m over five years, numbers too rich for Baltimore to compete. It didn’t take Smith long to establish himself as one of the league’s premier deep threats, finishing in the top 10 in his opening two years in the league on receptions on balls thrown over 20 yards in the air. Since that an erratic quarterback has slowed down his progress which we couldn’t possible imagine being a problem in San Francisco …
16:50 SIGNINGS! Oakland Raiders fans fear not, you’ve got your men (presuming the men you were hoping for were Malcolm Smith and Lee Smith). Malcolm is a former Super Bowl MVP (though we still don’t understand how we won given the play of their defensive linemen) but could never crack an every down role in Seattle where he was limited to just 286 snaps in 2014 (with a terrible -9.0 grade). Oakland better hope they get the 2013 version who was like a different player in earning a +10.9 score on 490 snaps. The turnaround in his fortunes should provide plenty of motivation.
As for the other Smith, Lee, he’s more of a blocking tight end (which kind of goes without saying when you look at his receiving totals). With the team also rumored to be bringing in Jermaine Gresham for a visit we can’t say we’re entirely sure we’ll know what the offense will look like come opening day. Smith was our fifth highest ranked run blocking tight end and excels in this area.
16:45 RETIREMENT! It’s safe to say that the NFL didn’t work out for Jake Locker who after a barrage of injuries has decided to call it quits. Injuries were only part of the problem as success didn’t follow the inaccurate Locker who ended his 2014 season with a –16.7 grade. We wish him luck in whatever his next step is.
16:40 RELEASE! Anybody want a 6’4″ corner who is fresh off winning a Super Bowl? Brandon Browner was just released by the Patriots who refused to pick up his option. Teams love physical cornerbacks and Browner is the posterchild for that, even if he keeps officials extra busy with his knack of drawing penalties. He only played in nine games for the Pats yet still got called for 15 penalties. For those doing the math that would equal 26.6 flags over a full season. Which would be fun to watch. You most definitely have to take the rough with the smooth when it comes to Browner.
16:35 SIGNING! Adam Schefter reports the Gary Kubiak-Owen Daniels journey goes on. He’s signed a three-year deal with a Broncos team that must be gearing up to use more two tight end sets than the 15% of plays that featured 12 personnel last year. No details on the numbers but Daniels will be expected to be a primary receiving threat (if he can beat out Virgil Green) afetr a nice bounce back year in Baltimore. While he only averaged 1.29 yards per route run in Baltimore, he did make his receptions count with a +2.1 grade testament to his impact for the Ravens.
16.30: SIGNING! The Washington Redskins and Stephen Paea relationship has been cemented. The big former Bear defensive tackle had a breakout year in 2014, proving about the only player on the team capable of generating consistent pressure. If he can bring a pass rushing grade that bested all but Gerald McCoy, Kyle Williams and Antonio Smith to the Washington the team will be extremely happy, with his 47 combined sacks, hits and hurries the third most of all defensive tackles. Beware one-year wonders but Paea is a player we’re eager to see how the Redskins use.
16:25 SIGNING! The deal of Mike Iupati to the Cardinals is done and dusted and it’s a monster one. He’ll get paid at least $22.5m with a max value of $40m over five years. That will see him pair him with Jared Veldheer to form a huge left side of the line, with Iupati a tremendous run blocker (even if his pass protection leaves something to be desired). He was our top ranked left guard in 2014 with his run block grade of +18.5.
16:15 SIGNING! The Jets are in the market for cornerbacks and while they await Darrelle Revis, Team Adam (Schefter and Caplan) report that they have snagged Buster Skrine. Skrine has signed on for $25m over 4 years with $13m of that guaranteed. We’d like him a lot more if he didn’t draw so much yellow, with a league leading 17 penalty flags earned that played a huge part in his -5.5 coverage grade. The Jets at least know they’re getting a tested cornerback with 123 balls thrown into the coverage of Skrine, second most in the league (of which he allowed 70 balls for eight touchdowns).
16:10: SIGNINGS! Atlanta lost a linebacker in Sean Weatherspoon but have just added two via free agency in the shape of Brooks Reed and Justin Durant. They might not be the blockbuster type signings some wanted but they give Dan Quinn two versatile players who he can plug into his defensive system as he transitions the team. Reed has spent the majority of his career as an edge rusher, a role he never really grew into. It will be interested to see how he fares in a role that might require less of that, with more focus on how he plays the run, an area he has always been better in. His signing would seem to shut a door on Kroy Biermann returning. Durant has bounced around the league for a while spending the last two years in Dallas and being part of a unit that far surpassed expectations, scoring a +3.0 grade in 2014 before his season ended in Week 15. We awaits detail to see the value in these deals but they’re two low key moves by a franchise that may need to overhaul its defense to get to where it wants to be.
16:00 TRADE! A few members of the PFF staff are feinting such is the excitement of what is going on. Albert Breer reports the Rams and Eagles are exchanging Sam Bradford and Nick Foles (plus some draft picks) A 2010 draft pick Bradford remains something of an unknown because of his horrible run of injuries that has seen him sparingly the past two years. His upside may be undeniable with a +13.7 passing grade since his 2011 but with just 463 snaps the past two years, what can you expect from him? Foles is a more known quantity at least but opinions on him are massively swayed by his two interception season back in 2013. His play behind a battered offensive line in 2014 (-7.4) should be a concern that this trade may actually have nobody win it. Expect more on this when we can get our head around these three blockbuster trades.
15:55 TRADE! Well knock us down with a feather. The Ravens have announced they’ve traded away Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions as the ability of free agency to generate surprises continues. Ngata is still a dominant player and a much needed get for a Lions team that are about to lose their best defensive player, but will represent a dropoff from what was previously manning the middle. Nonetheless he’s coming off a strong year where he was our ninth ranked 3-4 defensive end, earning positive marks against both the run and pass despite his low sack total. Expect more on this when details of what was traded for Ngata goes down.
15:45 TRADE! This is a big one per Jay Glazer who reports the Seahawks and Saints have finalized a trade that will see Jimmy Graham become a Seahawk and Max Unger a Saint. There’s some draft picks being exchanged there but the idea of two marquee players switching like that … well this is perhaps more stunning than the recent trade of LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso. Where do you start with that? Graham is coming off a down year by his high standards that saw him languish in 12th spot in our receiving tight end rankings, but you only need to have watched him to see what he is capable of (like in 2013 where he was our top ranked receiving tight end). Unger appeared a stalwart of the Seattle line and trading him away seems to show just how desperate the Seahawks were to sign him. Despite playing just 385 snaps he was our fourth ranked center last year with a superb +12.4 grade. He’s a huge upgrade for New Orleans.
15:35 RE-SIGNING! Miami has tendered free agent defensive back Michael Thomas to a one-year deal. He ended 2014 on injured reserve but still graded as our fifth highest special teamer on kick coverage. That’s the kind of attribute that will always keep you around. His two years in Miami have seen him play 112 snaps and he’ll compete for more playing time next year.
15:30 RE-SIGNING! He’s back. Who is he? Well Jeff Tarpinian of course who will return to Houston to continue his journey as backup linebacker and special teams stalwart (note this job always come with the disclaimer that come preseason he’s fighting for his roster spot). Tarpinian made it onto the field for 28 snaps during his first two years in the league in New England before ending up in Houston where he had a run of snaps in 2013 (185) before struggling for playing time a year later (43). He did however manage 275 special team snaps where he graded positively in every facet of the game he played.
15:15 RE-SIGNING! It’s a new day in Denver at the tight end position as they move on from Julius Thomas. But, according to Jeff Legwold, they will at least be returning Virgil Green. The 2011 seventh round selection has been a bit part player during his first four years with the team but has for the most part impressed enough that he warrants more a greater opportunity to showcase his skills. Clearly he feels Denver is the place for him, but if if it is to be then he’ll either need to be the starter or the team will have to run more two tight end sets (they spent just 15% of their plays in 12 personnel, down on the league average at 25%). He has 25 career receptions and a healthy +4.7 run blocking grade over his career.
15:10 RE-SIGNING! The Giants are bringing back Chris Ogbonnaya to compete for a roster spot, though with the news Shane Vereen is in town, his odds of actually making it may have taken a hit. His time in Cleveland did show his versatility with him playing both running back and full back, and he can contribute on special teams (his only snaps with the Giants last year came via 31 of them on kickoffs and punts) but his talent is questionable as his -16.3 grade over three years in Cleveland shows. An ability to do a number of things will always see him get looks, but with a backfield about to add numbers Ogbonnaya is going to have really up his game to stick on the Giants roster.
15:00 RE-SIGNING! Another re-signing and this time it’s in Carolina, where the Panthers have brought back tight end Ed Dickson. He struggled as a blocker in 2014, as he has throughout his career, but he did force three missed tackles from 13 receptions, and averaged 8.1 yards after the catch per receptions.
14.45 RE-SIGNING! We’re closing in on the official start to free agency but that doesn’t mean that things aren’t still happening, with the Miami Dolphins re-signing linebacker and special teamer Kelvin Sheppard. Sheppard (-1.5) had a negative grade on special teams last year, playing 154 snaps, but graded positively on kickoffs. While he didn’t play much on defense, he had a run stop percentage of 13.3% on the 45 snaps he played against the run.
14.30 With Julius Thomas expected to sign for the Jacksonville Jaguars once free agency officially opens, the Denver Broncos are looking as possible replacements, with Owen Daniels coming in for a visit along with defensive lineman Kendall Langford per Mike Klis. Daniels was a solid target for Joe Flacco in Baltimore last year and, while he’s not as dynamic a player as Thomas, still has something to offer the Broncos.
14:15 After a one season stint with the Oakland Raiders, LaMarr Woodley is expected to sign with the Arizona Cardinals per Mike Garafolo. The Cardinals need help on the edge and, while Woodley struggled in Oakland, he started the 2013 season well with Pittsburgh before injuries slowed him down. The Cardinals will be hoping he can find that form again in 2015.
14:00 Another one from Mike Garafolo, who’s a busy man today. He reports that the Giants have agreed terms with running back Shane Vereen, with the deal to become official when free agency opens for real in under two hours. A better receiver than he is a runner, Vereen had 71 catches including in the playoffs last season, and he’ll give the Giants a much bigger threat out of the backfield at the position.
13:45 A new addition to our free agency coverage are our Podcast Shorts. With the most recent two discussing Darrelle Revis and what he brings to whoever signs him, and Pernell McPhee and how he likely fits in Chicago with the Bears.
13:30 With the signing of Jeremy Maclin imminent, it looks like Dwayne Bowe is on the way out in Kansas City per . Bowe didn’t have a great year last year, with just 755 receiving yards, and no touchdowns and 2011 was the last time he topped 1,000 yards. He can still offer something to a wide receiver needy team though, it’s just that he’s now a better fit as a second or third option.
13:15 SIGNING! This one is official too. After being released by the Atlanta Falcons, Harry Douglas is heading to Tennessee on a three year deal according to Adam Schefter. He comes to Tennessee off the back of an average year in Atlanta, but it was just a year ago when he put up 1,068 yards and forced 15 missed tackles, something the Titans will be hoping to see more of in 2015.
13:00 The Jaguars look like they are going to be busy early in free agency, with Mike Garafolo reporting that they are expected to sign soon to be former Indianapolis Colts safety Sergio Brown. Brown impressed last season, posting an overall grade of +4.7 on 541 snaps including the playoffs. That’s the most we’ve seen on him, so there is some risk involved, but it looks like the Jaguars are willing to take that chance.
12:45 The Titans have been trying to make some moves but it appears they’ve walked into some success with one of the more underrated players in free agency, Da’Norris Searcy with Jim Wyatt reporting a deal is done. While forced into a job share last year Searcy still made the most of his 666 snaps to post a +8.6 grade with his run stop % of 6.8 the eighth highest of all safeties. At this stage in their respective careers he’d offer an upgrade on Bernard Pollard, presuming he can maintain that level of play for an entire season.
12:30 We won’t believe it until it’s signed on the dotted line but Frank Gore, fresh off jilting the Eagles, looks set to sign for Colts courtesy of Adam Schefter. While Gore isn’t getting any younger he has something Colts fans will love in a running back. Vision. Their linemans backside are a little bit safer with him carrying the ball and coupled with the pickup of Todd Herremans this may prove the turning point in them dialling down on Andrew Luck throwing the ball and committing to the run more than they previously have. That kind of balance is key for any offense and while neither man is a long term hire, they can both help change the ideology of the team. Gore was 16th in the NFL with 31 forced missed tackles.
12:15 SIGNING! More from Ian Rapoport who says that not only are the Colts hosting Frank Gore and Andre Johnson but they’ve won the Trent Cole sweepstakes. Cole spent 2008-2011 squatting in the top 10 of our 4-3 defensive end rankings, even leading them a couple of years with his knack for making on every down. The last two years he’s made a good fist of adapting to an outside linebacker role and would have comfortably graded out as the best edge rusher on a toothless Colts pass rush with his +11.3 pass rush score. What does this mean for Bjoern Werner who was bypassed by Jonathan Newsome late last year and will now find himself in a real battle for playing time. Two years in and the Colts have got a return of just 42 quarterback disruptions on their former first round pick.
12:00 RE-SIGNING! Over in Cincinnati Eric Winston has announced he is back with the team, presumably on a short term deal. With Andrew Whitworth at left tackle and Andre Smith on the right side (health permitting) he’ll act as a backup and sixth lineman after helping to stabilize the unit after the disastrous run of Marshal Newhouse. In 180 regular season snaps he scored a +0.7 grade and only allowed six quarterback disruptions, though a disastrous Wild Card outing against Indianapolis (-7.0). He’s not the player he was when he was a legitimate contender for best right tackle in the league (2007-2011) but he’s a good piece of depth to have.
11:50 Team Adam (Caplan and Schefter) are reporting that Brian Hoyer will become a Houston Texan despite some efforts from the Jets to force themselves into the equation. Let the battle of the ex-Patriots begin. On one hand you have Hoyer, the plucky upstart who far a time looked like making himself the Browns long term starter before his play nosedived in the second half of the year. On the other you’ve got Ryan Mallet, a man with 182 career snaps to his name. It’s not exactly a competition that will inspire a great deal of confidence. Hoyer finished the year our 35th ranked QB (out of 39) with the worst grade of any quarterback from Week 11 onwards.
11:45 The Jets have agreed to terms with Bilal Powell per Manish Mehta. No word on terms or length but it means the Jets fought off competition from Buffalo to retain a player who logged just 242 snaps last year, way down on the 633 he had a year before. Depending on who else they pick up he’s ticketed for a third down role at best, where his pass blocking skills will be put to the test. In 2014 he was much improved in this area allowing five QB disruptions on 51 pass blocking snaps. Expect him to contribute on special teams where he featured 270 times last year and ended up with four tackles and two assists.
11:30 This Ian Rapoport guy is like a man possessed this morning. He’s breaking news left right and center with this time it concerning the Jacksonville Jaguars. In one of those “unofficially signed” deals Davon House is going to average $6.25m per year and get the starting job he so desperately wanted. While we wait for guarantees (a cynical man would suggest agents hold that figure back so we obsess on the larger number) it’s worth noting that House has never managed more than 533 snaps in a season, thus continuing the Jaguars trend of going after gambles without the big playing time sample size (see Dan Skuta and Jeremy Parnell). House has flashed playmaking ability but consider us a little surprised by the pick given cornerback is the one area on the Jaguars deep that is probably deepest of all. House has 2 career picks and 22 pass break ups to his name.
11:00 More from Ian Rapoport who says that though the Cardinals have lined up a move for Sean Weatherspoon, they’re not done there. Instead they’ll be hosting Nate Irving for a visit which does make you wonder very loudly about the future of Daryl Washington. We can’t imagine Weatherspoon would go anywhere without being assured a starting spot and it would be an odd move for Irving to bypass guaranteed snaps in a relatively weak linebacker group of free agents. He might not have the most extensive resume (757 career snaps over four years) but his work against the run this year highlighted a player who should be expecting early downs work (+5.9 run defense grade).
10:55 RE-SIGNING! The Colts are bringing back one of their own with Joe Reitz signing a three-year extension worth up to $10m. That is an awful lot of money for a reserve lineman so we’ll wait to see the guarantees before passing too much judgement. On the plus side a guy who can play nearly every spot on the line is a valuable commodity with Reitz looking particularly useful at guard. On the downside his work at tackle really isn’t anything to write home about, as Rob Ninkovich proved in the Conference Championship game. He’ll battle for a starting spot but given the injuries every team deals with and the Colts usage of six linemen we’d expect him to see the field aplenty in 2015.
10:45 SIGNING! We’ve got a player officially moving via Ian Rapaport. Tyvon Branch has spent his entire career in the AFC West and that won’t change this year after he signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs. With Eric Berry battling cancer the team had a need for an in the box safety who could cover tight ends and in his prime that’s exactly what Branch was. The problem is just how long ago that prime of his was, with injuries the past two years limiting him to 261 snaps. Before that he was an every down force for the Raiders, capable of playing in the slot and at safety, offering the kind of versatility teams craved for (and that the Chiefs sub package defense requires).
10.30 We haven’t heard much from Atlanta these past few days, but there are reports courtesy of Mike Jones that the team has interest in Redskins receiver Leonard Hankerson. Atlanta recently released long time number three Harry Douglas and so are likely in the market for some depth at wide receiver, though Hankerson is perhaps a surprising name. The former third round pick missed most of 2014 recovering from an ACL, limited to 23 snaps in Week 11 against the Bucs where he drew more penalties than targets. The years that preceded that didn’t exactly blow you away with Hankerson never averaging more than 1.86 yards per route run in Washington. We wouldn’t expect much guaranteed money in that one if it goes through.
10:00 While waiting for some news to go down, check out the PFF Podcast with the most recent addition one on Darrelle Revis. More will be out today.
09:30 Manish Mehta reports that the inevitable will go down today, with Percy Harvin being released by the Jets. Harvin may be one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league but his long history of character concerns means whoever takes a charge will do so knowing they’re taking on a lot of baggage as well. You have to go back to 2012 to see the best of Harvin (and that was only for a season) so we’d expect any deal he gets to be of the short term, heaviliy incentivized variety.
09:00 Some details through on the Cary Williams deal courtesy of Aaron Wilson who says the deal is worth $18m. Williams has landed in a great situation in Seattle with a pass rush and backend of defense that offers as much support as any. For all the criticism he took in Philadelphia he did end the season playing well and with Byron Maxwell heading the other way it will make an interesting comparison for how both get on.
08:30 The dawn of the opening day of free agency brings with it projections by local beat writers of players they expect to see signed by their teams. In Atlanta, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com lists O’Brien Schofield as the most likely signing. Schofield would follow new head coach Dan Quinn to Atlanta presumably filling a pass rushing role similar to that which he excecuted in Seattle. Schofield was strong down the stretch for the Seahawks last season with strong games against the Rams, Panthers and Patriots in the final four games of the season. In the playoff win over Carolina, Schofield earned a career high +5.2 overall grade racking up six pressures (2 Ht, 4 Hu) as the Seahawks took down the Panthers to advance to a second straight conference title game.
08:10 News from Jason La Canfora that the Bills are planning a raid on the Dolphins for tight end Charles Clay. The Dolphins placed the Transition Tag on Clay so they have the opportunity to match any offer the Bills or any other team extends to their number one tight end so this will come down to a matter of either juggling cap figures the Dolphins can’t match or simply valuing Clay above and beyond where the Dolphins view him. Clay finished the 2014 season as our #14 graded tight end, finishing the season with 600 yards and breaking 12 tackles, bettered by only four tight ends.
08:00 Multiple reports indicate that DeMarco Murray‘s time in Dallas is almost up with the former Cowboys’ tailback deleting any mention of the team from his social media profiles. According to Adam Schefter the team has not contacted Murray since last week indicating that the team and the player simply can’t find a common ground on contract terms even though Murray reportedly wants to be back in Dallas next season. News has been quiet on the Murray front over the weekend so it may be that coming off of a 400+ carry season the market that he was expecting or hoping for simply isn’t out there for him. If running backs are continuing to be devalued then a team may yet get a bargain in a proven runner like Murray, not having to gamble big money on a potential dropoff after his extreme 2014 workload.
07:10 Re-Signing! Kicking off the first day of free agency we have a re-signing with the Vikings bringing Matt Asiata back on a one year deal. Rather than applying a tender to Asiata the Vikings have extended him a one year deal that allows their 10 touchdown running back to earn more money through incentives. Asiata’s role on offense will likely be determined in large part by whether the Vikings can convince Adrian Peterson to return to Minnesota this season but he can also add value on special teams having played 85 snaps last season on kickoffs and punts.