2015 Free Agency Live Blog, Day 2
An insane start to Day 1 gave way to a very busy afternoon as surprise trades were revealed, pre-arranged deals from the weekend were announced and decisions were made on more new agreements. A good mix of top-tier and next-tier players found homes and we expect a ton more to be added on Day 2 as more and more of the market is being defined. As always, the PFF team will be with you all the way through, sharing our insight on player production and fit with their new teams.
(We’ll be updating every 15 minutes so keep coming back to see our take on the developments of free agency’s opening day.)
We’re calling Day 2 done, but have no fear, our Day 3 post is starting up now! Click here to keep up with the round-the-clock notes and analysis.
23:55 VISIT! The Saints have re-signed running back Mark Ingram long-term, but that hasn’t prevented them from setting up a meeting tomorrow with former Buffalo Bill C.J. Spiller. The former first-round pick peaked in 2012 with a second-best +23.4 overall grade and a PFF record 94.6 Elusive Rating. Injuries have held him back of late and we haven’t seen that same player since. His explosiveness and style of play could be a valuable asset in New Orleans, but the Saints also have more pressing needs elsewhere around the roster.
23:40 VISIT! Denver has another visit set up this week, this one with former Raiders’ and Chiefs’ defensive end Vance Walker. Walker’s playing time was limited in Kansas City as he played less than 22% of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps. His +6.8 overall grade came entirely in run defense and his 10.5% Run Stop Percentage was one of the highest at his position, albeit on a small sample size.
23:00 SIGNING! Antrel Rolle has inked a 3 year, $11.5m deal with the Bears according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus. Rolle is just a year removed from being a top 10 safety and the Bears have been getting lackluster results from their safeties for years now. At 32 years old though there is some concern about his precipitous drop in production a year ago when he was in the top 10 in both missed tackles and yards allowed in coverage.
22:30 SIGNING! Brad Biggs is reporting that the Bears have agreed to terms with wide receiver Eddie Royal on a three-year contract. The move helps fill the void at wide receiver days after Chicago sent Brandon Marshall to the Jets and also reunites Royal with Jay Cutler. Royal put together a couple good seasons with the Chargers over which he found the end zone 15 times. He will likely continue to see considerable action from the slot in three wide receiver sets with Alshon Jeffery and Marquess Wilson on the outside.
22:15 VISIT! The Raiders have made several moves the last two days and continue to be active in free agency. Former Eagles safety Nate Allen is currently visiting with the team, according to Adam Caplan. Allen was our sixth-best available safety heading into free agency after grading positively in both run defense and coverage.
21:55 VISIT! Perrish Cox is making the rounds with a meeting in Washington today and visits set up with the Browns and Titans in the next two days. Cox played a career-high 965 snaps in 2014. He started off well with a +7.9 overall grade through the first half of the season, but his play dwindled down the stretch with a -6.7 grade over the last half. Overall, he ranked as the 48th cornerback in coverage out of 108 qualifying players.
21:30 There have already been several changes in San Francisco this offseason, but parting ways with Ahmad Brooks will not be one of them according to GM Trent Baalke. Brooks, who turns 31 on Saturday, was not quite as effective last season as he had been the previous few years. He generated just 19 pressures on 247 pass rush snaps in 2014 after averaging nearly 50 the previous three seasons.
21:05 VISIT! The Dallas Cowboys will be hosting fullback Jed Collins on Thursday. Collins was used significantly less during his only season with the Lions compared to his time with the Saints. It would be an interesting move for the Cowboys, who have rarely used a backfield blocker in their zone-blocking scheme.
20:50 VISIT! Adam Caplan is reporting that safety Darian Stewart is visiting the Broncos tonight. In his first season in Baltimore, Stewart led the Ravens’s safeties with 899 snaps played. Stewart earned a +7.0 overall grade for the season, with his best play coming in the playoffs with +2.7 and +1.3 grades against Pittsburgh and New England.
20:30 SIGNING! First reported on Monday, the New York Jets have officially signed former Seahawks’ guard James Carpenter. Official numbers have yet to be released, but it has been reported as a four-year contract worth $19 million. Carpenter struggled early on in his career, but showed some improvement in 2014. He ranked 47th out of 78 qualifying guards last season with a -6.6 overall grade. The signing helps fill a need for the Jets which previously had Brian Winters slotted as the starter at right guard in our depth chart series.
20:10 RUMOR! We mentioned earlier that the Buccaneers are working on a deal for safety Chris Conte, and Rick Stroud is now reporting that Tampa Bay is preparing to release Dashon Goldson once the Conte deal is finalized. Goldson would hit the market two years into a lucrative five-year contract. He earned a +3.0 overall grade in his final season with San Francisco, but could not find the same success in Tampa as he finished with career-low overall grades in back-to-back seasons.
19:40 SIGNING! With the Patriots’ depth chart looking thin at cornerback, the have signed former Raider Chimdi Chekwa to a one-year deal. Checkwa played just 89 snaps on defense in 2014, in which he had two pass defenses and allowed two touchdowns for a -2.0 coverage grade. He could also factor in on special teams with his best work coming as a gunner, ranking 21st at the position.
18:55 SIGNING! Not only is A.Q. Shipley breaking news, he’s just signed with the Cardinals. He’ll compete for a starting spot across the interior and at the very least end up as a valuable backup given his versatility. We’ve liked his work at center over the years but he’s struggled to generate the kind of playing time to really impress. In 2014 he turned his 386 snaps at center into a solid +4.5 grade and that number should have Lyle Sendlein sweating a bit given his down year last season (-29.1 grade).
18:45 SIGNING! Somewhat surprising one via Aaron Wilson who reports that Jabaal Sheard has signed a two-year deal with the Patriots. Our first thoughts are where will we find playing time and what kind of scheme will the Patriots run. Neither Chandler Jones or Rob Ninkovich spend a lot of time off the field, so does this suggest more of a rotation and was Sheard so keen on joining the Super Bowl champs that he ignored a possible bigger role elsewhere. He’s one of the better edge defenders against the run and has shown an ability to get to the quarterback (though he seems to alternate between being able to do one or the other from season to season). He had the second highest run defense grade of any 3-4 outside linebacker last year and the best run stop percentage.
18:35 It’s been a relatively rough week for the 49ers with retirements and what not, but need might dictate that they’re relatively busy in the second wave of free agency. One of those guys could be Erik Pears who will visit with the team tomorrow per Matt Maiocco. Pears has experience at guard and tackle, but experience only tells half the story. He was a far more competent tackle before being switched to guard this year and absolutely stinking it up with a grade even Paul Fanaika would have turned his nose up at (third lowest of all guards). It would not be the most inspiring pickup the team has ever made.
18:30 SIGNING! The Chiefs let their star lineman go in free agency when Rodney Hudson went to Oakland, but fear not for you have Paul Fanaika joining the team per Herbie Teope. It’s a three-year deal. We’ll await numbers before being too scathing but suffice to say it will have to be very cheap to provide value given Fanaika was our eighth lowest ranked guard in the entire league last year (though this did represent an improvement on his sixth worst ranking the year before). He’s a liability in the run game and in pass protection and would represent a downgrade for the Chiefs. Which is saying something given how that line has been dismantled the past couple of years. To think they had Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah battling for one starting spot.
18:20 RE-SIGNING! The Bengals are bringing back exclusive rights free agent Chris Lewis-Harris. The defensive back played one snap on defense last year, building on the 21 he earned as a rookie in 2012. Naturally he has featured more during preseason and contributed 28 snaps on special teams, but he’ll be fighting for a roster spot come the start of the 2015 season with a team not short on talented defensive backs.
18:15 RUMOR! Lovie Smith is bringing the dream team back together. Kind of. He’s bringing back someone he’ll be familiar with in the shape of Chris Conte according to Vaughn McClure, with details of the deal currently being worked on. Conte was better this year with a -3.0 grade, a bit step up from his infamous year in 2013 where he missed 16 tackles, gave up four touchdowns and earned every bit of his -15.2 grade. The Bucs have a better front seven than the Bears which would afford more protection to Conte if he was to start, but that is by no means a guarantee.
18:10 RUMOR! Michael Silver thinks that Kenny Britt coming back to the Rams is a done deal at this point. Britt had a resurgence of sorts in St. Louis after toiling away years in Tennessee. Even with shaky quarterback play the receiver managed 1.6 yards per route run and a +2.1 overall grade. At just 26 years old Britt has many productive years ahead.
18:05 SIGNING! The Patriots have agreed to terms with former Packer receiver Kevin Dorsey. Dorsey was a 7th round pick in 2013 and has 12 career snaps (all coming in 2014), and 54 career special teams snaps.
17:45 RUMOR! The top running back market is starting to heat up. The Saints have reported interest in C.J. Spiller after parting ways with Pierre Thomas, their best receiving back from a year ago. Spiller has been injury plagued the past two seasons and failed to overcome an extremely poor offensive line. Despite that he’s had a positive receiving grade last three seasons and was our second highest rated back in his last healthy season of 2012.
17:15 SIGNING! Adam Schefter is reporting that Bruce Carter will be headed to Tampa Bay. The deal is said to be worth 4 years, $20.5m. One has to think the Bucs coveted Carter’s familiarity with the ‘Tampa 2’ from the linebacker’s days under Monte Kiffin in Dallas. Carter was known for his coverage prowess prior to a poor 2014. He’ll likely feature in nickel/dime situations alongside Lavonte David to make for one of the most athletic linebacker tandems in the NFL.
17:05 RELEASE! The Bills are parting ways with Scott Chandler according to reporter Mike Rodak. The tight end signed a two year, $4.75m contract last offseason, but responded with the lowest graded season of his career at -7.8. Chandler may still provide value as a blocking tight end where he graded at +5.8 in 2013.
16:45 RUMOR! The Eagles already plucked Ryan Mathews from San Diego, but they may not be done signing free agent running backs. Chris Mortenson is reporting that DeMarco Murray himself called Chip Kelly to express interest in playing for Philadelphia. The Eagles are a running back’s dream with the number one overall line in 2013 and number two line last season. The only hold up is the money. Chip Kelly stated earlier today in a press conference that he wasn’t going to overpay in free agency so this is one to keep an eye on.
16:10 SIGNING! Andre Johnson just announced what has been rumored for a while, that he is officially a Colt. The deal is reportedly worth $21m over 3 years according to Ian Rapoport. Johnson took a backseat DeAndre Hopkins last season in Houston, but he still had some left in the tank with a +1.3 overall grade and 936 yards in 946 snaps. His 1.92 yards per route run was still 20th in the NFL despite being a number two option. Johnson will be 34 at the start of next season and is the fourth 30+ year old signing for the Colts this week.
15:45 SIGNING! The man Suh is replacing in in Miami has officially signed in Jacksonville. Jared Odrick took home a 5 year, $42.5m deal after a back-to-back seasons of positive play. Odrick should provide a solid interior pass rush, with great durability playing 1688 snaps over the last two seasons.
15:40 SIGNING! And it is official, Ndamukong Suh will be wearing a Dolphins uniform in 2015. His 6 year, $114m contract is by far the biggest for any defensive tackle in NFL history. He joins an already solid front four that featured three positively graded players with 500+ snaps last season (Olivier Vernon, Cameron Wake, Earl Mitchell).
15:30 RELEASE! In a free agency cautionary tale, the Bucs will be releasing defensive end Michael Johnson at 4pm today according to Rick Stroud. Johnson signed a 5 year, $43m deal just last offseason after five years with the Bengals. After finishing 2013 with the 4th best grade among 4-3 ends, he was on the complete oppositie end of the spectrum last season in Tampa Bay with a -12.6 overall grade. He leaves behind $7m in dead money for 2015.
15:20 RUMOR! Rams beat reporter Jim Thomas is reporting that the Rams have reached out to defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Fairley joining a defense line that features the highest graded defensive tackle from 2014 (Aaron Donald) and the highest graded defensive end from 2013 (Robert Quinn) is a scary thought. Right now it is just reported interest as Fairley is still in Cincinnati meeting with the Bengals where he’d possibly be joining PFF’s highest graded defensive tackle from 2012 (Geno Atkins).
14:55 SIGNING! A signing from Miami but perhaps not the one you were expecting! David Canter announces via Twitter that the newest Miami Dolphin is Brice McCain who joins after a season in Pittsburgh. Coming off a rough 2013 season that saw him cut by the Texans, McCain rebounded nicely with a solid season as the Steelers’ slot corner, registering 671 snaps and earning his highest coverage grade since his breakout 2011 season. The upside of that season (+9.4 coverage) is a long way in the rear view mirror at this point but Dolphins fans will hope that he can carry over a solid finish to the 2014 season (1/4, 10 yards allowed and 2 INT vs Cincinnati) into a successful season in Miami in 2015.
14:50 VISIT! A first visit does not always mean a contract signed and according to Greg Auman that could be the case with Derrick Morgan who is due to visit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tonight at the conclusion of his visit in Atlanta. Division rivals vying for the same player could help stoke up negotiations for a productive pass rusher who proved his versatility this season by maintaining his pass rushing form in spite of the Titans’ switch to a 3-4 defense that doesn’t necessarily best suit Morgan’s skill set or playing style. After successfully returning from a torn ACL early in his career Morgan looks set to contribute away from Tennessee on his second contract.
14:35 SIGNING! According to Leonard Hankerson the Atlanta Falcons have signed Leonard Hankerson on a one year deal worth $1m. A third round pick in 2011 Hankerson only played 23 snaps last season under new head coach Jay Gruden and will look to re-establish himself after playing more than 1,000 snaps across his second and third seasons in Washington. 2012 was his most productive season catching 40 passes for 570 yards and three touchdowns, including a two touchdown day against the Browns in Week 15. Hankerson has good size for a receiver and will compete to take over Harry Douglas’ role as the third option in the Falcons’ passing game, if things go well he may even be a medium term option to try and push past Roddy White on the depth chart.
14:25 SIGNING! The Cardinals cut loose a veteran interior pass rusher in the shape of Darnell Dockett and according to Aaron Wilson they have brought another in to replace him, signing Cory Redding to a two year deal. Still productive as a pass rusher with the Colts in 2014, Redding was reported to be considering retirement but will instead look to repeat and build upon the 44 pressures that he registered with the Colts last season (most on the team). Turning 35 this season Redding has sustained his production as a pass rusher long into his career, earning a positive overall and pass rushing grade in three of the last four seasons.
14:00 SIGNING! The Houston Texans have finalized a deal for quarterback Brian Hoyer confirming the speculation of the last couple of days and setting up a quarterback competition between two former backups of Tom Brady. Hoyer showed promise in 2013 before going down with a knee injury and then got off to a fine start in 2014 after winning the starting job from Johnny Manziel in training camp but after Week 11 his performances nose dived and he was benched for the Browns’ Week 15 game against the Bengals as they fell out of playoff contention. The Texans will hope that Bill O’Brien can coach Hoyer to reproduce his early 2014 form and sustain for the long term as they seek a starting quarterback from one of Hoyer or Ryan Mallett.
13:35 VISIT! The Bills are hosting wide receiver Percy Harvin today according to Aaron Wilson. Released yesterday by the Jets, Harvin would quickly re-unite with Rex Ryan if this visit were to lead to a signing. Harvin topped 500 snaps this season for the first time since 2011 which goes some way towards indicating the greatest concern any time would have when signing him. Undeniably electric with the ball in his hands Harvin’s career high in snaps is 650 from his second season with the Vikings back in 2010, only breaking the 600 snap threshold (72 receivers played 600 snaps or more this season) twice in his career. The upside with Harvin is his elusiveness when he’s on the field, in spite of averaging fewer than 500 snaps per season he still averages 16 forced missed tackles per season and his ability to consistently convert short passes into useful gains is a valuable asset for any offense.
13:10 RE-SIGNING! A bunch of Giants reporters are all dropping some knowledge. That knowledge being that Henry Hynoski is back with the team to lead block. He’s managed 12 career carries as a Giant and just 29 receptions so he’s not exactly a threat with the ball in hand. But coming off a season with a +5.3 run blocking grade he’s definitely to be replied upon in that area. He’ll need to maintain that to stay on the team with him a little used part of the Giants special team unit (and them bringing in a lot of guys who can play in that regard).
13:05 SIGNING! It’s official. The Chiefs have confirmed that they’ve snapped up Jeremy Maclin on a monster contract that will make him the sixth highest receiver in the league. That is quite frankly a ridiculous amount for a very good, but not great receiver. Maclin is coming off a career year and there’s no denying that receiver was a big need for the Chiefs, but even in his best season he still had only the 14th highest grade of all wide receivers. Fair play to Maclin for betting on himself last offseason and cashing in, but we’d be mightily surprised if he lives up to that deal. If he is to then he’ll need to keep up his ridiculous drop rate from 2014 where he dropped just one pass, as opposed to what he managed in 2012 when he put nine on the ground.
13:00 SIGNING! More news from Adam Caplan and this was inevitable once the Jets trade for Ryan Fitzpatrick went down. Houston is bringing in Brian Hoyer on a 2-year deal worth up to $10.5m with $4.75m guaranteed. That’s more money than Ryan Mallet got but not enough that you’d call him the favorite in what is shaping up to be one of the most (delete as appropriate) interesting/overhyped/ disappointing quarterback battles of the 2015 offseason. Hoyer does have the experience edge by default almost given Mallet’s lack of playing time, but Hoyer was so poor to the end the 2014 season it’s hard to see him really coming back from that. He was the lowest graded QB in the league after Week 10 and will be hoping a reunion with Bill O’Brien gets the best out of him.
12:55 SIGNING! Per Adam Caplan Marlon Moore will return to Cleveland though no terms of the deal are available. He only featured on 12 snaps on offense but has, during his time in the NFL, developed a reputation as something of a special teams stalwart where he played on 213 snaps and registered nine tackles. No surprise what kind of role he’ll be ticketed for if he makes the roster.
12:45 SIGNINGS! Darren Urban reports the Cardinals have officially announced the signings of Mike Iupati, Sean Weatherspoon and Corey Peters. We’ve already looked at Iupati in detail here and you can find out more info on Weatherspoon and Peters as well. The two former Falcons are intriguing guys, with Peters now a full year removed from his Achilles injury and Weatherspoon a talent who has struggled to get on the field. Peters brings with him plenty of versatility as someone who can line up anywhere inside the tackles and has earned positive marks in run defense the past two years. As for Weatherspoon 2011 feels like a long time ago, but that is when he looked primed to be one of the best linebackers in the game with an all action year that had him rank fifth overall in our 4-3 outside linebacker rankings. Since then his play and health have contributed to make that a distant memory, and so the Cardinals are going to hope putting him into their aggressive defense can light a fire under him. He’s played just 399 snaps the past two years.
12:40 SIGNING! This one was a done deal over the weekend with the Bears adding some much needed pass rush in the shape of the versatile Pernell McPhee per Mike Wright. McPhee was one of the premier defenders available and presuming the Bears know how to use him, should be a huge get for a team that struggled to generate much pressure (or much defense of any sort) last year. Far from a conventional outside linebacker he still managed to end up with a +26.0 grade that was second to only Justin Houston at the spot with most of his good marks coming getting after the quarterback. The question now is how much will the Bears play him, with McPhee excelling in his 540 snap role this year. Questions remain as to whether he can handle an every down role with his 2014 snap count the most he has ever managed in a regular season.
12:30 VISIT! Jim Thomas is reporting that Justin Blalock will be visiting with the St Louis Rams. Blalock has spent his entire career in Atlanta at left guard developing into a solid starter after initially struggling like few rookies have done in 2007. He’s not the kind of guard that will challenge for Pro Bowl spots but you have to go back to 2009 for the last time he graded negatively over a season. That kind of consistency is hard to find and it’s reassuring to some degree that he left Atlanta because of a change in scheme that deemed him bad value. The Rams ended the year with Rodger Saffold at left guard but you wonder with the possible losses of Jake Long and Jospeh Barksdale if the team might be making a plan to push Saffold out to tackle and slot Blalock into his place. Either that or they could just plug one of the men at guard since it would be a surprise if they re-signed Davin Joseph on the back of another disappointing season.
12:15 RE-SIGNING! The Pats seemed to be done with Brian Tyms yesterday but they’re bringing him back. Tyms topped our preseason grades for wide receivers and despite missing the early part of the season suspended seemed like someone the Patriots could get some use out of. He then went on to play 130 snaps and catch 5-of-12 balls thrown his way. Part of the problem for Tyms is that he wasn’t much of a special teamer, ending up with just eight snaps as a gunner. He’ll either need to make a bigger impression as a receiver or learn quickly on teams less he find himself looking for a new team before the 2015 season kicks off.
12:05 RE-SIGNING! The Giants are bringing back Mark Herzlich on a two-year deal per Nick Powell. He was left exposed in 2014 with the team asking way too much of him in coverage and it really showing up. His -8.1 grade in this area came after allowing 15-of-15 balls into his coverage to be complete for 211 yards and two touchdowns . But there’s a fine tuned balance with Herzlich because he is very good against the run (+11.4 grade) and does play special teams, featuring on 366 snaps there last year.
12:00 TRADE! This one has been in the works for a while as the Jets have traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick per Adam Schefter. They’ll return a conditional pick likely linked to playing time for the former Harvard quarterback. Fitzgerald started life pretty well in Houston but he was on such a short leash that when he struggled (as he really did in Weeks 8 and 9) he was always going to struggle to hold down his job. That he returned and really lit it up against the Titans is largely ignored, but he’ll provide stiff competition for Geno Smith and a possible draft pick if the Jets go that route. Never the most gun shy of quarterbacks this move has upgraded the Jets at the spot.
11:50 VISIT! He’s the best available safety on the market and he’s taking visits. Rahim Moore is already in Texas per Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo. Moore will always be remembered for that play against the Ravens two years ago, but he’s so much more than that. A center fielder more in the Jairus Byrd mode than Earl Thomas, he prevents big plays for the most part rather than making them himself. That’s a valuable commodity in a league where stopping scoring isn’t easy. He’s earned a grade of +9.5 since his tough rookie year.
11:45 While we wait for the next stunning move in free agency hear what @PFF_Gordon and @PFF_Sam have to say about Revis returning to New York and the three big trades that went down on the PFF podcast.
11:35 SIGNING! The Jaguars continue to make official the signings other sources had said were coming for days with the addition of linebacker Dan Skuta. Primarily an early down defender for the 49ers and Bengals in recent seasons Skuta will look to continue his solid form as a run defender that he has shown with the 49ers while pressing a claim for further playing time in Jacksonville. From his time in Cincinnati and San Francisco, Skuta has experience in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense with that experience the Jaguars will hope that he can very quickly acclimatize into their hybrid front.
11:20 RETIREMENT! Taking to Instragram to announce his retirement is Cortland Finnegan who saw out his playing days with the Miami Dolphins this season with a solid season by his recent standards. Finnegan’s best seasons came with the Titans in 2008 (+10.1 overall) and 2011 in particular when he earned a +18.0 overall grade, finishing the season as our 2nd highest graded corner behind only Darrelle Revis.
11:15 EXTENSION! The Buffalo Bills are rumored to be in for Charles Clay but their first order of business today has been to extend the contract of defensive tackle Kyle Williams for one season, keeping him under contract until the end of 2018. Perhaps one of the most underrated defensive players in the league Williams has consistently graded among the best players at his position on PFF, whether deployed as a 3-4 defensive end or a defensive tackle. This season Williams finished as our #7 ranked defensive tackle (+20.2 overall) with the second highest pass rush grade at the position behind Gerald McCoy. In 2013, in all but the same scheme Rex Ryan will run this season, he finished as our #3 ranked 3-4 defensive end and clearly the Bills believe there are productive years ahead of Williams yet.
11:05 SIGNING! More of the Jaguars’ free agent signings have become officially official with the team announcing on Twitter the signing of cornerback Davon House. After four seasons with the Packers, House stated that he was ready to make the leap to being a starting corner in the NFL and will get the chance to prove that with the Jaguars this season. In the last three seasons House has broken up 22 passes and in 2014 allowed fewer than 50% of the passes into his coverage to be completed.
11:00 SIGNING! Less than an hour after the signing of Julius Thomas became officially official, so the Jaguars have announced their deals to sign Jermey Parnell and Jared Odrick. Parnell joins from the Cowboys having played a career high 507 snaps this season with the Jaguars taking a risk that the form we saw in seven starts this season (+8.7 overall) will translate into longer term performances for them. Odrick joins to add versatility to the defensive line with extensive experience of both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes which should see him blend well in the Jaguars hybrid front. His experience at both end and tackle in both schemes give him the versatility to offer a short term replacement for Sen’Derrick Marks should he not be available for the start of the season while potentially adding depth and rotation for Red Bryant in the base defense, before you even consider how he could contribute in sub packages.
10:50 SIGNINGS! The Raiders are continuing to make their moves on day two with Michael C. Wright reporting that they have made a double signing on defense with Curtis Lofton and Dan Williams donning the Silver and Black in 2015. Williams joins from a two down role in Arizona where he excelled as a run defender (+11.7 in 2014) but was short of opportunities as a pass rusher to prove a more well rounded game. Meanwhile Lofton joins the Raiders off the back of a poor season in New Orleans where he missed 22 tackles (most among inside linebackers) and earned a -21.5 overall grade, only three inside linebackers (including Raiders linebacker Miles Burris) managed worse. In prior seasons Lofton was a more dependable performer in a ropey Saints defense, Raider fans will hope to see him return to his 2011-2013 form in Oakland this season.
10:35 VISIT! Officially released by the Panthers yesterday DeAngelo Williams will make his first free agent visit with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday according to Adam Schefter. Typically working in a rotation during his tenure in Carolina, Williams played a career low 152 snaps last season as he struggled with injury, only carrying the ball more than ten times in four games and only topping 50 rushing yards once. Williams only has five games with a rushing grade of +1.0 or higher in the last three seasons.
10:15 SIGNING! One of these deals that we were all told was coming is now official as the Jags announce on Twitter the signing of Julius Thomas. After snagging a dozen touchdown passes in each of the last two seasons the Jaguars will hope that Thomas’ big frame and versatility helps the development of second year quarterback Blake Bortles who didn’t have the proven weapons last season to make an immediate impact in the NFL. Far from a traditional tight end Thomas has caught 16 of his 24 career touchdowns from either a slot or a wide alignment, with 11 of his 26 catches as either the left or right wide receiver in the formation being converted into a touchdown.
09:45 RELEASE! Speaking of Ndamukong Suh the Dolphins appear to be making room for Suh with the release of veteran defensive tackle Randy Starks. Entering his 12th year in the league Starks has earned a positive pass rush grade every season dating back to 2008 for the Dolphins playing in both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses during that time. In 2013 Starks ended the regular season as our #7 graded defensive tackle with a grade above +10.0 as both a run defender and a pass rusher. Last season a strong start to the season fell away in the last six weeks with some poor work in run defense hurting his overall grade. He still picked up 20 pressures (5 Sk, 15 Hu) on only 240 pass rushes and should still be a useful contributor as a pass rusher in 2015.
09:00 Though Ndamukong Suh’s departure is yet to be officially confirmed it would seem that the Detroit Lions will be bidding farewell to both of their former first round defensive tackles. Dave Birkett reports that the Lions have indicated that they are no longer in the running to retain Nick Fairley either, leaving Detroit in a position of needing to potentially replace their top four defensive tackles in one off-season. The Lions raised some eyebrows when they chose not to pick up Fairley’s fifth year option last summer after a productive 2013 season and Fairley will seemingly be building upon that season with a new team in 2015. Fairley had some big games for the Lions this season before an injury against the Falcons in London cut short his season after eight weeks. With positive pass rush grades in each of his four seasons as a pro Fairley is one of the most disruptive defenders available on the open market.
08:30 VISIT! The Eagles are certainly being proactive in free agency with Mike Garafolo reporting a visit for running back Ryan Mathews which his source expects to lead to a signing. A talented runner, durability and ball security remain the question marks over Mathews ability to press on and become a top tier back. Since fumbling five times in each of his first two seasons Mathews has answered the questions about his ball security (five in his last three years) but he has not put to bed questions over whether he can stay on the field. For his career he averages a mere 382 snaps per season and backed up only his second career 500 snap season in 2013 with a career low 165 for the Chargers last season. Clearly in the market for a veteran running back after Frank Gore got away, Mathews would be an intriguing addition to the Eagles’ backfield.
08:00 VISITS! Not content with the signing of Stephen Paea yesterday the Washington Redskins may dip into free agency to further upgrade their defensive front as they host a visit from Terrance Knighton according to Josina Anderson. After showing promise with the Jaguars, Knighton put the whole package together consistently in two terrific seasons with the Broncos. His +31.1 overall grade for the past two regular seasons combined was sixth best among all defensive tackles, with positive grades as both a run defender and pass rusher. Also making the rounds is Reggie Bush with a visit scheduled in San Francisco according to Jason La Canfora. Bush only played 302 snaps for the Lions this season but capped off two years in Detroit by earning a positive overall grade for the second straight season, something he had never managed before in the PFF era. Rounding out a trio of visits is Brandon Browner who is in New Orleans for a visit with the Saints according to Adam Schefter. Philadelphia seems to be the vogue destination for former Seahawks corners but Rob Ryan would certainly welcome an upgrade at corner this season. Schefter reports a visit with Washington is also scheduled, any team signing Browner would be keen to see his penalty count drop after he was flagged 19 times last season including the playoffs.
07:30 Tuesday was a quiet day for two of the top free agent running backs with neither DeMarco Murray nor Justin Forsett snapped up in the early hours of free agency. This morning brings a report from Aaron Wilson that there is plenty of interest in Forsett’s signature however with Wilson linking the Colts, Falcons and Redskins as options beyond a potential return to Baltimore. Forsett was a dynamo for the Ravens last season, reinvigorating a running game that fell away in the 2013 season seeing him finish the season as our sixth highest graded running back. Though he will turn 30 during the 2015 season Forsett has only played 2,374 snaps in his seven year career so if you are of that mindset Forsett should have plenty of tread left on his tires in spite of his age.
07:00 SIGNING! An early morning wake up call in Philadelphia with Adam Schefter reporting that the Eagles have agreed to a deal with former Giants and Seahawks corner Walter Thurmond. Re-united in Philadelphia with former team-mate Byron Maxwel, Thurmond will add another physical presence at corner with the ability to cover both the outside and the slot for the Eagles. Thurmond has shown promise since entering the league in 2010 but has struggled to nail down consistent playing time, a solid year in Seattle during their Super Bowl season got him a chance in New York with the Giants but he only played 67 snaps before injury curtailed his season. That was the second time in the last three years Thurmond has played less than 100 snaps in a season and 2013 was the only time he has topped 500 snaps in his career. His +4.2 coverage grade in 2013 does however show Thurmond’s ability if he can remain on the field.
06:30 While we wait for things to pick up have a look at our Top 75 (officially) available free agents. Some of these may have deals in place but until it’s signed, sealed and delivered we’re not crossing them off our list.
06:00 VISIT! From Adamp Caplan who reports recently released guard Shelley Smith will visit with the Seahawks. Seattle isn’t the worst fit in the world for Smith, with the team committed to running the ball and that being an area of the game he is handy at. Given how the team has coped at guard the past two years (not well) he wouldn’t be the worst plug in assuming they couldn’t grab a hold of anyone better.
05:30 VISIT! One from late last night with Cory Redding heading to Arizona for a visit with the Cardinals. Redding proved he’s still a force rushing the passer in 2014 and is intent on playing another season. We’d question the value in bringing him in for an every down role, but at his age and with his ability he could do very nicely in a sub package role. He scored a +12.4 grade as a pass rusher and was particularly strong in the playoffs.
05:00 VISIT! Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun, quarterback Tyrod Taylor is set to visit with the Buffalo Bills. Taylor was a sixth round selection in 2011 but has been limited by the durability of Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco, featuring on just six snaps in 2014 and 128 during his entire career (attempting 35 passes). He’s been a mixed bag in preseason (+2.5 grade in 2013 and -1.5 grade in 2014) but should latch on somewhere as a backup. Buffalo would certainly present an intriguing option for him though after they signed Matt Cassel he might have long odds of making the roster.
04:30 Thanks for your (presumed patience) as we overcome some technical issues. We”ll be catching up on all the overnight developments over the upcoming hours for you guys and gals not fond of sleep, ready to attack all the news as and when it happens.
01:00 RUMOR! Outside of the Quarterback trade and a few releases, things have been relatively quiet for the Rams during free agency. One man that might be coming in for a visit is Akeem Ayers. According to Jim Thomas, the Rams are interested in the linebacker. With the Patriots he played 3-4 outside linebacker, but in Tennessee he was a 4-3 outside linebacker for the most part. In 2014 St. Louis blitzed more than any other team, so Ayers could play OLB in the base defense, and either linebacker or defensive end in the nickel. Ayers had four sacks, five hits and 23 hurries in his time with the Patriots, and was also a solid player against the run. He has the potential to have a big role in the defense if he signs with the Rams.
00:30 RETIREMENT! Kicking off the 24 hours of Day 2, we have yet another player calling it a career as former Pittsburgh outside linebacker, Jason Worilds has elected to retire from the NFL. He was slated to be an unrestricted free agent after leading the Steelers’ OLBs in total pressures in each of the last two years, generating an even 50 this past year. Worilds is the third player (Willis, Locker) with a retirement announcement in this early phase of free agency.