Our first full day of free agency is now finished, with Day 2 providing almost as many thrills as spills as it’s predecessor. Now we’re ready to get a start with Day 3 with a number of intriguing options still available on the market.
As the news of signings come in, we’ll be with you around the clock to share our unique stats and the grades that have helped a number of NFL teams with their preparation for free agency (as well as other things).
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23.20: VISIT! Ian Rapoport reports that former Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri is visiting with the Bengals. Nwaneri is coming off a season that saw him grade at -0.3 overall including a -10.4 grade as a run blocker and a +6.4 in pass protection. With former Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Collins moving on to Tampa Bay, it puts OT/OG Andrew Whitworth back to left tackle for the Bengals and Nwaneri would come in to compete with Clint Boling for the starting spot at left guard.
22.55: SIGNING! According to multiple sources, the Giants have signed former Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain. McClain spent the majority of his 376 snaps in Baltimore’s base package last year, though he only graded at –10.3 on his 212 run snaps. The former undrafted free agent saw his most extensive action in 2011 and 2012 when he played 775 and 753 snaps respectively. His best work came in 2011 when he finished at +2.2, much of which came as a pass rusher. He’ll compete for snaps with recently re-signed middle linebacker Jon Beason.
22.25: UN-SIGNING! Brandon Browner’s agent reports that Browner is not even close to a deal and is in negotiations with four teams. Earlier today it looked like there was interest from both Washington and New Orleans to go along with the Patriots. We will keep you posted when we hear more.
22.20: SIGNING! Cornerback Brandon Browner has struck a two year deal with the New England Patriots per Ian Rapoport. He was one of very few players to have more passes defended than games played during the 2013 season. Once he serves his four game suspension, he will need to compete for playing time with Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington for playing time opposite Darrelle Revis.
21.50: VISIT! As they try to close the gap on the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers are looking to add to their wide receivers by bringing in former New England Patriot Julian Edelman for a visit per Adam Schefter. Edelman signed a one year deal to stay in New England a year ago, and turned in his best year as a pro to position himself for a much more lucrative deal this spring. Reeling in 121 receptions for 1,229 including in the playoffs in 2013.
21.15: VISIT! It was reported yesterday but apparently cancelled because of the weather, but there are now multiple reports claiming that running back Ben Tate is currently visiting the Cleveland Browns. A talented player who has been stuck behind Arian Foster on the Houston depth chart, he has still been able to put up solid rushing numbers, forcing 41 missed tackles from 181 carries in 2013, and looks ready to finally get his change to be a lead back.
20.45: VISIT! After losing three-fifths of their offensive line early in free agency, the Kansas City Chiefs have slowly started to add to the roster. Next up, according to Ian Rapoport, could be former Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. He was close to leaving a year ago when he signed an offer sheet with the New England Patriots as a restricted free agent but looks to be on his way out off Pittsburgh for sure this year. Coming off a year where he dropped just five of the 72 catchable balls thrown his way and forced 15 missed tackles, this isn’t his first visit, with plenty of teams showing his interest.
20.25: SIGNING! It would appear the answer to our question 10 minutes ago is yes! This time it’s the Minnesota Vikings getting in on the act and adding their second cornerback of the evening in the form of Derek Cox, with Michael Gehlken breaking the news. Cox finished 2013 with a small positive grade on special teams, but was largely disappointing on defense. He did have some solid performances in 2012, finishing the year with four interceptions and six pass breakups from the 89 passes thrown into his coverage.
20.15: SIGNING AND RE-SIGNING! Are we about to get on a roll with signings again? The San Diego Chargers official twitter account has confirmed that they’ve made two moves, bringing back linebacker Reggie Walker and adding cornerback Brandon Ghee. Walker was a versatile player for them in 2013, starting the year at inside linebacker before kicking out to the outside after injuries kicked in to others at the position. Ghee is a player we just didn’t see enough of to form a clear picture, but in just 80 snaops on defense, he managed to put up a +4.9 grade and broke up four of the nine passes thrown his way.
20.05: RE-SIGNING! It’s been quiet on the signing front for a little bit, but Ian Rapoport reports that the St. Louis Rams have brought back linebacker JoLonn Dubar. Dunbar struggled along to a -9.5 grade last year, but had a better, if not more up and down, 2012. He’s flashed big performances throughout his time in St. Louis and they’ll be hoping he can produce those type of performances now he has been re-signed.
19.50: VISIT! We all expected this move and Adam Schefter confirms that Steve Smith will be visiting with the Ravens tomorrow. We’ve written an awful lot about Mr Smith today (and we’re not alone there) so please search through the blog to find out that he a) still has something left in the tank, and b) will represent an upgrade to what Baltimore has at receiver.
19.45: VISIT! One from earlier and it’s that former Jets guard Vlad Ducasse is going to visit Cincinnati and see what the deal is. Ducasse has been a monumental disappointment in New York, despite putting in one of the best guard performances of the year when he handled Vince Wilfork in Week 2 of the 2013 season. Seeing is believing folks. After that he stunk the joint up enough to earn a -9.5 grade so he must be hoping getting put on the Bengals production line will draw out all the talent from him. In recent years the team has developed players like Evan Mathis, Evan Livings and Anthony Collins who have gone onto land big contracts while watching their own (Andrew Whitworth, Bobbie Williams and Willie Anderson to name a few) make the line the most consistent in the league. It would be a great move for him.
19.30: We’re still here, we promise. It’s just gone very quiet before the usual late evening rush. Only real news out there is that Jim Wyatt is reporting that Chris Johnson is prepared to redo his deal to any team that trades for him. Well yeah, no team is going to pay him $8m given how he’s played the last two years. His grade in that time? -12.4. There’s only so much you can constantly blame on the guys in front of you.
19.00: After the Woodley and Hatcher deals not a lot else going on. Walter Thurmond has been doing exactly what his agent would not want him to be doing and tweeting. He’s crossing lines by heading for a visit with the 49ers who could be in the market for a corner to man the slot after getting rid of Carlos Rogers. Thurmond has had some off the field issues but is part of that conveyor belt of talented corners the Seahawks have produced. He’s not short on suitors right now.
18.50: SIGNING! You’ve got to feel for Dante Rosario, he’s been treated like a yo-yo by the Chicago Bears recently. Having been re-signed in February, they cut him again earlier this week, only to bring him back tonight. Perhaps they surveyed the market and didn’t like what they saw? Playing just 186 snaps last year, he finished with a grade of +4.9. Most of that came as a run blocker while he was also a solid contributor on special teams so it makes sense that they’ve opted to keep around. Probably best not unpack your bags yet though Dante, just in case.
18.45: SIGNING! First reported by Ian Rapoport, the Redskins have signed Jason Hatcher to a 4-year $27.5 million contract, dealing a blow to their division-rival Cowboys. Hatcher was one of the league’s best interior penetrators a year ago, posting a +26.9 pass rush grade to rank fourth among defensive tackles. He’ll likely play 3-4 defensive end in Washington’s scheme, but it’s not completely foreign territory for Hatcher who played in a similar role in Dallas in their old 3-4 front. He graded at +25.7 overall as a 3-4 defensive end in 2012 after earning that starting role with a strong +9.3 effort on 428 snaps in 2011. Hatcher has been one of the league’s most underrated players in recent years, and despite his turning 32 years old this season, his late blooming should help him during the length of the contract.
18.35: SIGNING! There may not be tweets about it but the Dallas Cowboys have signed a legit special teams ace in Will Herring. Brandon George reported the signing of the player who recorded 10 special teams tackles and was tied for third amongst all special teamers with a +7.5 grade on kickoffs. He doesn’t offer much as a linebacker, and you have to go back to 2010 to find some solid work on defense for him, but there aren’t too many better special teamers in the league so they’ll be pleased to add him to that unit.
18.25: RELEASE! It’s not the biggest news of the day for Arizona, busy in negotiations with Antonio Cromartie, have cut Dontay Moch. The former third round pick struggled to find a role for himself in Cincinnati (just five career snaps) and was let go after stinking it up in preseason (earning a -5.7 grade on 131 snaps). His time in Arizona saw him initially excite as he picked up a sack, hit and hurry against Tampa Bay in Week 4 but he would only collect three further pressures on the year as the team went with recently re-signed Marcus Benard as their nickel rusher. Mid round picks are long on second chances in this league so expect him to surface at some training camp next.
18.20: SIGNING! The Raiders are making some big moves to address their pass rush today. Adam Schefter reports they’ve signed a two year deal with Lamarr Woodley for $12m. Woodley sat atop the list of our remaining free agents because of his immense upside that still sees him one of the most productive pass rushers in the league. Last year for example his 14.8 pass rushing productivity score was fourth highest of all 3-4 outside linebackers. Better than Tamba Hali, Brian Orakpo and Robert Mathis. The problem for him since his fantastic 2010 is that he’s struggled staying healthy, so when Schefter writes the deal can “max out” at $12m we’d expect some serious playing time and production incentives to ensure the talented former Steeler earns his crust. It’s a great pick of for the Raiders.
18.10 SIGNING! After losing half of their defense to free agency the Minnesota Vikings continue to add components for Mike Zimmer to work with, penning Captain Munnerlyn to a three-year deal according to Ian Rapoport. Munnerlyn is a perfect fit for the Vikings and brings the ability to cover the slot, with a +10.1 PFF grade in 2013 and 406 snaps lining up inside (more than any other corner outside of Carlos Rogers). Overall he was our 11th-ranked corner a year ago, actually finishing just ahead of Alterraun Verner thanks to the new Buccaneers man slumping through December and some strong work in run defense. Minnesota’s D still needs pieces, but the Vikings are doing work.
18.00 SIGNING! As Carolina’s 2013 receiving corps spreads out across the country to look for new homes, one of the trio has secured a spot for 2014 as Ted Ginn, per Darren Urban, has agreed to come aboard on a three-year deal. With Andre Roberts gone for Washington, Ginn should be the man they’ve got in mind for the No. 3 job and he’ll provide some up-and-down the field action out wide to one side or the other. His 1.59 Yards per Route Run in 2013 wasn’t particularly inspiring, but then again, none of the Panther wideouts excelled in that area — perhaps working in tandem with Fitz and Floyd will be a boost.
17.50 SIGNING! Jim Wyatt reports that the Tennessee Titans have agreed a two-year deal with quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Wyatt reports that the deal is worth up to $8m and the key part there is “up to”. $8m for two years is an awful lot for a backup quarterback so you would imagine that will be tied to playing time incentives. Whitehurst played just 12 snaps in his time in San Diego and, because it would mean that Jake Locker is healthy and playing well, you’d imagine they plan to keep it that way. Look for him to battle with Ryan Fitzpatrick for the backup quarterback job.
17.40 RE-SIGNING! The Bills bring back one of their own and give EJ Manuel a fighting chance of completing passes over the middle by re-signing TE Scott Chandler according to Adam Schefter. After a pretty impressive 2012, Chandler’s play suffered with the quarterback switch last year but he was still able to demonstrate impressive hands with some highlight-reel grabs. Chandler’s blocking isn’t really his strength, but his run blocking improved last year while he still notched 655 yards and caught 67.1% of all targets sent his way. He’s an important part of the offense.
17.35 SIGNING! Released by Dallas last week, center Phil Costa got looks from the Patriots and Lions before landing in Indy. With the colts in need of an anchor to fill the spot held by overmatched and recently released Samson Satele, Costa offers a curious option as a guy who hasn’t started games since a regular gig in 2011 and brief spurts in 2012 – few of which gave much hope for great things to come. Costa saw one snap for the cowboys in 2013. The search for the next Colt starting center likely isn’t over.
17.20 SIGNING! Per Ian Rapoport, the Chargers have added Kellen Clemens as a quick replacement for the departing Charlie Whitehurst in Philip Rivers’ backup spot (“Clipboard Kellen”? “Clipboard Clemens”? Nothing qute works as well). Clemens, who has eight seasons of NFL service under his belt now, actually got significant time in the fray for the first time in 2013. Making nine starts after Sam Bradford went down in Week 7, Clemens hung around the middle of the QB pack with mild ups to balance the mild downs but can point to a fifth-ranked Accuracy Percentage on deep throws (48%, just behind Payten Manning’s 48.2%) if asked for a season highlight.
17.05 VISIT! Albert Breer notes that Cortland Finnegan is heading in for a visit with the Dolphins tomorrow. A rough, to say the least, 2013 that was marred by a thigh injury produced a -19.7 overall grade that was built from bleak marks in each facet of play. He’s not far removed, though, from the 2011 Tennessee version of himself that put up a +17.4 mark that ranked second among all corners and came in just ahead of the +17.2 that his would-be partner in Miami, Brent Grimes, mustered.
16.50 UPDATE! Kevin Fishbain has reported the contract numbers for new Bears safety Ryan Mundy, who will make $800k in 2014 and $1.45m in 2015. That’s reasonable for a player of Mundy’s calibre, and when you consider that they are upgraded at the position for that cost it makes the signing seem even better. Nobody is going to confuse Mundy with an elite safety barring a massive upturn in play, but the Bears are a better team for having him back there, and have been able to spend wisely.
16.45 RESTRUCTURE! Soon after Vince Wilfork’s stated desire to step out of the picture rather than accept a pay cut, a fellow Patriot on the defensive interior agrees to move some money around and free up another chunk of cap space. Tommy Kelly, per Field Yates and Mike Reiss, has seen his deal changed to create $800k-ish of room after putting in 223 snaps in his first season in New England that ended early with a torn ACL.
16.40 RE-SIGNING! The Vikings couldn’t possibly head into a season without DT Fred Evans impressing in limited snaps as part of their rotation. According to Pro Football Talk they have re-signed him for another season. Evans has one of the quickest first-steps of any defensive tackle in the game, but hasn’t ever been able to put it all together for a full season and force his way into the starting lineup. Given his age (already 30 and will turn 31 during the season) there’s a good chance that never happens, but he has proven himself a valuable backup, earning a positive PFF grade against the run every season bar 2010.
16.30 RE-SIGNING! A one-year, $1m deal for Giants fullback Henry Hynoski is the next bit of news from Adam Schefter. Hynoski turned in a Top-5 run-blocking season among fullbacks (+7.6) as a sophomore in 2012 before going down with a broken shoulder in Week 3 of last year. With the New York backfield in flux, having another solid blocking option in the FB spot is a welcome factor.
16.20 NUMBERS! Putting figures to the earlier news (see below at the 10.30 mark), Chris Clemons’ deal with Jacksonville is said to be four years and $17.6m. Not far off what the team reportedly gave his fellow Seahawk defector, Red Bryant, yesterday (4yr, $17m). The Jags are opening the checkbook for an aging but Bradley-familiar group of D-linemen.
16.05 VISIT! Vance Walker is heading in for a chat with the Chiefs today (per Terez Paylor). Having seen Tyson Jackson move on, Kansas City could use the former Falcon and Raider 4-3 DT as a 3-4 DE to rotate in if they’re determined to give Allen Bailey at shot at time in the spot as well. Walker’s 2013 finished up right round the midline for NT/DTs, not standing out grade-wise in any department, though he did log 20 run stops and 41 total pressures on the year.
15.50 VISIT! Manish Mehta tells us via Twitter that the former Jet Antonio Cromartie is visiting the desert. Interested in landing a piece to add to the standout Patrick Peterson-Tyrann Mathieu foundation already in place, the Cardinals will get a look at the man who ably stepped in to ease New York’s Revis vacancy in 2012. The follow-up effort wasn’t as pleasing, though, as Cromartie’s 2013 coverage grade of -17.5 came in right near the bottom of the chart.
15.20 SIGNING! Journeyman defensive lineman Clifton Geathers has signed with the Redskins after spending 2013 with the Eagles. The four-year pro finished with a +0.9 grade on 254 snaps as part of the Eagles’ defensive line rotation. He proved useful against the run at +4.0 to go with 10 run stops but he notched only eight pressures on 129 pass rushes. He may have some value as an early down player in Washington’s 3-4 front.
15.05: SIGNING! Another one bites the dust. Presuming Justin Tuck passes his physical he’s going to become an Oakland Raider. Per Adam Schefter he’s signed an $11m deal over two-years and represents a big get for a Raiders team who had to make a move to make people forget about the Rdoger Saffold debacle. Tuck would actually finish the season our seventh ranked 4-3 defensive end, though that owed a lot to his work against the run. He scored, despite the 12 sacks, just a +0.8 grade rushing the passer and will need some rush opposite him to get the most out of him. Still he lessens the loss of Lamarr Houston and could actually prove a short term upgrade over him.
14.55: SIGNING! The Redskins are in the market for a London Fletcher replacement and they’ve made move in that regard. They’ve snapped up former Houston Texan and renowned downhill thumper Daryl Sharpton to a one-year deal per ProFootballTalk. Sharpton is your classic two down player, strong going forward but out of his element when dropping into his coverage. His +8.8 grade against the run was second highest of all inside linebackers, while his -11.9 grade in coverage was third worst. Early downs ahoy then if he latches on.
14.45: SIGNING! After getting released by the Jaguars, defensive end Jason Babin has now returned to Jacksonville as part of their massive defensive line haul. He had a nice season as a pass rusher, grading at +5.1 to rank ninth among 4-3 defensive ends. While his work against the run was a bit less than stellar at -3.8, the influx of defensive line talent in Jacksonville could make keep him in a pass rush specialist role which would certainly carry some value.
14.30: This one is a stunner. Ian Rapoport reports that Vince Wilfork has asked for his release from the New England Patriots. Blimey O’Reilly indeed. We expected the team to request a paycut but clearly the number they’re suggesting and what Big Vince thinks of himself means a divorce is on the cards. The problem for Wilfork is he’s a big man, is going to be 33 this year and missed all bar 177 snaps of the Patriots 2013 season with an Achilles injury. He’s not exactly entering the market from a position of strength. What he does have on his side is a fearsome reputation as a leader and run stuffer with enough athleticism that he can make plays rushing the passer. His run defense grade over the past three years is worth +17.5 and it will leave the Patriots scrambling to find some talent up the middle of their defense. They ended the year with a rotation of Chris Jones, Joe Vellano and Sealver Siliga who combined for a -17.1 run defense grade.
14.15: SIGNING! When the Browns aren’t busy messing with the Cincinnati Bengals, they’re busy wrapping up deals. Or something like. According to Vic Carucci they’ve made Jim Dray an offer he can’t refuse. What that offer is we just don’t know yet, but we do know Dray has been something of a subpar player since entering the league. Most recently he earned every bit of his -13.0 grade on 698 snaps with some woeful run blocking while contributing 26 receptions for 215 yards and two touchdowns. If you’re a Browns fan and you’re not underwhelmed by this you should be.
14.10 RE-SIGNING! There’s news to report out of Baltimore but it has nothing to do with Steve Smith at this stage. Instead Aaron Wilson reports that the team has re-signed veteran special teamer Jeromy Miles. He had his struggles in punt coverage in 2013, but Miles has been around the league for four years now and has a reputation as a solid special teamer and has graded positively in the past.
14.05 RELEASE! Earlier today the Buccaneers brought Anthony Collins in to be their left tackle. It now, according to Rick Stroud, means the end for Donald Penn who the team has released. The former undrafted free agent has been a smash hit for the team, starting 108 games since replacing Luke Petitgout and most recently finished 2013 with a solid +8.1 grade. The problem? He had rough year in pass protection that included giving up 12 sacks and earning a -2.2 grade. At 30 years of age it’s time to ask if the decline in him as begun, but even so he’s got something to offer in a league where Bradley Sowell, Lamar Holmes and Cameron Bradfield each played over 800 snaps.
13.50 SIGNING! After four years and a Super Bowl win in New Orleans to open his career, Tracy Porter will now be suiting up for his fourth team since 2011, joining the Redskins for 2014 according to a tweet from NBC’s Dianna Russini. A season in Denver disrupted by seizure issues was followed by a one-year stop in Oakland where Porter posted a -14.3 coverage grade as a 1000+ snap full-timer (to rank 106th of 110 in that area). In an odd note, the 27-year-old did manage to lead corners with 14 stops in the run game.
13.40 REPORT! The some AFC North trickery going on! After early reports that the Bengals would match the Browns offer sheet for WR Andrew Hawkins, Albert Breer has reported that they have changed their mind after having a look at the breakdown of the deal. Smartly, the Browns have front loaded the four year deal, with a first year cap hit of $5.8m. That is a lot for a slot receiver, but Hawkins has shown a shiftiness that it’s easy for teams to fall in love with and, had they not structured it that way the Bengals would have almost certainly matched.
13.15 RE-SIGNING! After logging a total of 38 snaps over the past three seasons as Cam Newton’s sideline support, Derek Anderson is back for more according to his Twitter account. Anderson’s last significant action actually throwing the ball came as a Cardinal in 2010 where he graded out as the league’s lowest-rated passer (-23.7) in 10 starts. He’s thrown four passes since joining the Panthers in 2011 when he was brought aboard in a post-lockout move to help the young Newton-Clausen combo adjust to then coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s offense.
13.05 RELEASE! Per a tweet from his own twitter account it would appear that linebacker James Harrison’s time in Cincinnati will be limited to just the one year. Harrison was solid for the Bengals last year, finishing the year with a +8.4 grade that included a +11.4 grade against the run. The problem for him, and the Bengals, was that as good as he was against the run, he was essentially just limited to that role. That meant he had six games where he played less than 15 snaps for the team and you would imagine any team who signs him will have a similar issue. Still, we saw last year that he was still very good against the run, so you would imagine there will be some interest in him.
12.45 RUMOUR! The early word from multiple sources is that the Baltimore Ravens have already expressed an interest in veteran wide receiver Steve Smith after his release from Carolina. That’s not surprising given the Ravens lack of depth and quality at the position and how much they struggled after trading away Anquan Boldin last offseason. The other thing to keep in mind is the Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is notorious for picking up veterans who have been cut, partly because it has no impact on the awarding of compensatory draft picks. Either way, despite his advancing years, Smith makes a lot of sense for a Ravens offense that badly needs upgrades, both short and long term at the position.
12.35 RE-SIGNING! After releasing Owen Daniels earlier this week, John McClain reports that the Houston Texans have re-signed tight end Garrett Graham. The move make sense given that there isn’t much in the way of a tight end market out there and because they know what they have in Graham. He struggled, particularly as a run blocker, in 2013, but in 2012 he finished the season with a positive grade both as a run blocker and as a receiver.
12.20 SIGNING! Another signing to tell you about in this late morning/early afternoon rush. Aaron Wilson is reporting that the San Diego Chargers have agreed a three year deal with former Indianapolis Colts linebacker Kavell Conner. As we mentioned earlier he’s improved in coverage in the past couple of seasons and is good against the run, something the Chargers inside linebackers outside of Donald Butler lacked last year. With Butler there already, you imagine Conner will be competing with last year’s second round draft pick Manti Te’o to start next to him, but at least we know he can be a valuable role player too even if he doesn’t wind up starting.
12.10 RELEASE! The long-rumored release of Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith has been made official this morning sending the 13-year veteran into the free agent market. Though his big play skills took a step back last season (12.0 yards/reception), he’s still an efficient receiver as his +11.5 overall grade would indicate. He still has the ability to win either on the outside or in the slot, so look for Smith to bring a versatile option to a contending team’s wide receiver corps.
12.05 SIGNING! Well it’s turning into quite a busy afternoon folks! Just minutes after announcing a the three year deal with Young, the Chicago Bears official twitter account is reporting that the team has agreed terms on a one year deal with wide receiver Domenik Hixon. Not the biggest name on the market, and he did managed just 55 receiving yards in 2013, but Hixon was a solid complementary receiver for the New York Giants in 2012, racking up 567 yards and averaging 14.5 yards per catch. With Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall as the top two in Chicago, he’s not going to be asked for anything more than that so it has the potential to work out as a smart signing by the Bears.
Turn to Page 2 for notes on the morning moves…
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