2015 Free Agency Live Blog, Day 4
The DeMarco Murray (and Ryan Mathews) to the Eagles saga ate up much of Day 3 and the evening gave us a last-minute twist that saw the Dolphins snare Jordan Cameron from a presumed done deal in Cleveland.
It was a perfect transition day of free agency as we get past the top tier at most positions and into the group of players that require a bit more homework and perhaps something more of a leap for the teams brining them in. This is when we’ll see the lingering top talents close in on deals, the “fit” players find new homes, and the capable-but-flawed crowd get looks.
(We’ll be updating every 15 minutes so keep coming back to see our take on the free agency developments.)
11:45 Subscribe! Player moves have slowed down and while the ones that happened might not be the biggest ones, we track them all. Everything is important to us which is why we chart and analyze every player on every play. A PFF Premium subscription shows you information ranging from your favorite team’s star quarterback to a player who might’ve only played a single snap. Furthermore, our Premium Stats cover every player that has seen the field since 2007!
10:00 SIGNING! The Rams bring back WR Kenny Britt who bounced back from a subpar 2013 season. He underwhelmed in the first nine weeks of 2014 averaging only 34.7 yards/game but had 62.3 yards/game in the final seven. He lined up out wide on 86.5% of his snaps so it should not be a surprise that he was second in the NFC West on targets thrown more than 20+ yards. Along with his production, he showed durability as well playing 78.4% of the offensive snaps.
9:15 Things have quieted down this Friday evening so now would be a good chance to catchup on several of our PFF Podcast Shorts. The latest episode features Sam Monson and Steve Palazzolo discussing the moves the Saints have been making. Three episodes from yesterday touch on the Cardinals, Colts, and Eagles. Also, check out our Free Agency Tracker that features the latest moves from all the teams.
8.15 VISIT! The Steelers are taking a look at corner Patrick Robinson, per Ian Rapoport. The former first rounder has been a somewhat inconsistent player for the Saints. He saw his workload reduced after a poor start to 2014 (-3.6 overall over the first two games), but managed to have a respectable season otherwise, grading in the green in coverage several times while getting his hands on nine passes to finish at +0.1 overall. Robinson missed most of 2013 with a patella injury, but before that flashed in 2011 with a +5.0 overall grade and 15 combined pass defenses and interceptions before a down year in 2012 under Steve Spagnuolo (as was the case for most of the Saints defense). This could be an interesting option for Pittsburgh after a rough season at corner apart from William Gay.
7.50 SIGNINGS! A pair of former Dolphins are off the market as the Chargers added defensive back Jimmy Wilson, who spent most of his time lined up in the slot since being drafted in 2011. Wilson finished at -7.4 overall in 2014, slightly below average in all facets while allowing a 78% catch rate and 108.0 QB rating. His 2013 marks were better as he graded positively in coverage, ranking 13th among corners with 1.04 Yards per Cover snap allowed in the slot.
Staying in the AFC West, Denver responded to the loss of Orlando Franklin by signing guard Shelley Smith. While Franklin averaged more than 1200 snaps over the past two seasons, Smith hasn’t surpassed 400 in any of the last three seasons, grading negatively in both pass protection and run blocking in 2014 (-10.1 overall). Peyton Manning‘s quick release should help him in the passing game, while the Broncos likely hope Smith can return to his 2013 run blocking form, when he finished as our 7th-ranked guard in run blocking at +13.2.
7.25 TRADE! Per Adam Schefter, the Dolphins have followed up their trade for Kenny Stills by moving Mike Wallace and his cap number along with a 7th-round pick to Minnesota in exchange for a 5th-rounder. Wallace didn’t quite live up to the sizable contract he signed, posting one of the lowest catch rates on deep passes over the last two seasons (16.7% in 2013 and 25% in 2014) while dropping 15 passes over that span. He did manage to snag 10 touchdowns last season, 7th-best among receivers, but still finished with just a -0.9 overall grade (+1.4 receiving). An interesting move for the Vikings to add a potential deep threat for Teddy Bridgewater, who ventured more than 20 yards down field on just 10.2% of his pass attempts last season, one of the lowest rates in the league.
7.05 RUMOR! Some more Saints news: Jason La Canfora reports that the team is looking to move corner Keenan Lewis. After signing with New Orleans in 2013, Lewis posted a +10.4 coverage grade, allowing just 0.89 Yards per Cover Snap while getting his hand on 10 passes. But he took a nosedive last season along with the rest of the Saints defense, surrendering 10 touchdowns (seventh-most among corners) and 1.29 Yards per Cover Snap to finish at -11.7 overall. Even with the signing of Brandon Browner, an interesting decision should the Saints get rid of their top corner.
6:45 RUMORS! According to Dianna Russini, the Patriots are targeting WR Stevie Johnson. No Patriots WR topped 2.00 YPPR this year so Johnson could provide more verticality to the offense. Per Armando Salguero, WR Mike Wallace and the Minnesota Vikings have been talking. Wallace would be a nice addition for a Vikings receiving core that had no player targeted over 100 times.
6.15 SIGNINGS! The Chiefs bring back three players, WR Jason Avant, TE Richard Gordon, and S Kelcie McCray. Avant lined up in the slot 80.4% of the time, the most by any Chiefs WR last season. McCray excelled on special teams in the vice role, grading at +4.7 on 53 snaps.
5.45 RUMOR! It appears that reports of Percy Harvin signing with the Bills may have jumped the gun. Per NBC’s Dianna Russini, the 49ers could still be in the mix to land the former Jet, Seahawk, and Viking. After the release of Stevie Johnson and with Michael Crabtree testing the market, Harvin could be a potential high-upside addition to help make up for that lost production alongside the team’s earlier signing of Torrey Smith.
5.00 Two of the top wide receivers still available are ex-49ers Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson. Crabtree had decreases in both YAC and YPPR but that makes him an attractive buy-low candidate. Johnson’s 2.13 YPPR was second-best for NFC West receivers, a significant increase from his 1.56 the previous year in Buffalo. Both veterans could help teams given their particular skill sets.
4.43 RUMOR! According to Adam Caplan the Christian Ponder visit in Oakland is expected to result in a one year deal. The signing of the former FSU star is likely to usher Matt Schaub out the exit door, with Ponder assuming the veteran backup role behind Derek Carr in his stead.
4.33 SIGNING! The Steelers have followed up Roethlisberger’s extension by coming to terms with DeAngelo Williams, as per Adam Schefter. Williams hasn’t had a 1,000 yard season since 2009, and hasn’t played 16 games in a season since 2008, but he won’t have to carry the load in Pittsburgh. Instead he will be asked to spell and support Le’Veon Bell, and gives the team a capable deputy, something they lacked when injury forced Bell out of the playoffs.
4.15 RE-SIGNINGS! The Washington Redskins have brought back CB Justin Rogers, as reported by Dov Kleiman. Rogers was picked up by the Redskins in December and saw just nine snaps in 2014. Ian Rapoport reports that the Browns have brought back defensive lineman John Hughes. Hughes has struggled with injuries throughout his Browns career, but when fit he makes a difference to the Browns defense, posting an +11.8 grade against the run in just 303 run snaps over the last two seasons. Meanwhile the Pittsburgh Steelers have agreed a contract extension with Ben Roethlisberger, the exact details of which have yet to be released. Big Ben was entering the final year of his current deal, so an extension was expected.
3.47 SIGNING! Adam Caplan reports that the Denver Broncos have signed former Ravens safety Darian Stewart. Better in run support (+2.8) than in coverage (-1.1), with 782 snaps Stewart was one of the more constant members of the seemingly ever changing Ravens secondary in 2014. He finished the year on a high, with a +4.0 grade in the playoffs and joins a team in need of safety help, though Stewart is a different sort of player to Rahim Moore.
3.38 SIGNING! As per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Percy Harvin is now a Buffalo Bill. A mercurial playmaking talent, Harvin led all receivers with 22 missed tackles in the passing game, five clear of the next best despite making roughly half the receptions.. However he has also struggled to establish himself as a leading weapon in the NFL, failing to exceed 650 snaps in any season in his career to date.
3.25 The PFF Top 75 Free Agent list has taken quite a hammering since free agency began, and today is no exception. Although it is updated daily, we have already lost four players from today’s Top 10 (Nick Fairley, Derrick Morgan, Brian Orakpo and Chris Culliver), while a fifth is reportedly close to signing (Percy Harvin). All of the moves can be followed via the PFF Free Agency Tracker where you can also search through the best remaining talent.
3.12 RUMORS! He’s been courted by several teams, but it looks like WR Percy Harvin may have made a decision as Alex Marvez reports that he is close to signing with the Buffalo Bills. Elsewhere RB DeAngelo Williams is still in Pittsburgh and could soon sign according to Ed Bouchette. While as per Mike Garafolo, QB Christian Ponder is visiting the Raiders.
3.03 RUMOR! As busy as anyone at this time of year, Ian Rapoport tells us that the 49ers are hosting CB Shareece Wright, while Michael Gehlken says that Wright has attracted interest from three other teams. It’s no surprise that the 49ers are in the hunt for new corners, Chris Culliver has signed in Washington and Perrish Cox isn’t expected to return. Including playoffs, Wright had 29 starts over the last two seasons for the Chargers but had his share of difficulties, giving up eight touchdowns and making just one pick in those starts. However he also made strides in his second season, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 57.7% of passes into his coverage in 2014, compared to 65.2% the year before.
2:44 RUMORS! On the day that the Tennessee Titans have been binge signing players, the Oakland Raiders are doing the reverse. ESPN’s Bill Williamson is reporting, that contrary to rumors earlier in the day, the Oakland Raiders are not close to signing Greg Hardy. While according to Vic Tafur the Raiders are also not signing Jermaine Gresham at this point. Free agency is a fluid period and things can change, but as it stands neither player is on their way to the Black Hole.
2:27 RUMORS! With Shane Vereen off to the Big Apple, the Patriots are in the market for a receiver out of the backfield and have brought Reggie Bush in for a visit with that in mind, as per Field Yates. Bush made little impact as a Lion in 2014, but broke 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving the year before, his first in Detroit. Meanwhile Vic Tafur reports that the Raiders have brought former Panthers CB James Dockery in for a visit. Dockery posted a 0.1 coverage grade in 164 snaps at the tail end of the 2012 season, but that’s the most playing time he has seen; he was limited to a bit part role as a slot receiver for the Panthers in 2014
2:06 RELEASE! The New Orleans Saints continue their roster overhaul by releasing CB Corey White, as reported by Lyons Yellin. A fifth round pick in 2012, the 24-year old White saw significant snaps in all three seasons with the Saints, however a very poor 2014 when he was our lowest grading cover corner (-17.9) made him expendable. White will hope that any teams scouting his play put on some 2013 tape when he was our 26th ranked cover corner (+5.4) and gave up a solid 0.98 Yards per Cover Snap.
1:30 SIGNING! Taking a break from the run of Saints-related topics, Adam Schefter has the Patriots signing for Bills tight end Scott Chandler who was let go by Buffalo earlier in the week. Forever on the lookout for additional options at the position, New England brings in the eight-year vet who finished at the top of the Pass Blocking Efficiency table for tight ends in 2014, charged with no pressures allowed on 38 pass-blocking snaps. Chandler, however, ended up near the bottom of the list for receiving grades last year, his -7.5 in that area setting him in 63rd among 67 tight ends (New England’s Rob Gronkowski topped it at +23.8).
1:15 TRADE No official announcement yet, but an update on the Kenny Stills-to-Miami news, PFT has the Dolphins sending linebacker Danelle Ellerbe and a third-rounder to New Orleans in return for the young receiver. Ellerbe missed nearly all of the 2014 season with a hip injury and was expected to be released after a disappointing two-year stint with the Dolphins. In his lone full season there, Ellerbe posted a -15.4 run defense grade that came in not far from the foot of the 2013 inside linebackers list. Unloading Ellerbe will help the Dolphins cap situation and adding Stills may spell the end of Mike Wallace’s time with the team, freeing up even more room cap-wise. Stills boasted a 2.03 Yards per Route Run (21st) on 458 snaps running routes last season while Wallace came in at 1.72 on 501 (35th).
1:00 SIGNING! In more Saints news, CJ Spiller is joining the team, per Adam Schefter’s tweet. After not working out a deal with the Bills and seeing them move on to bring in McCoy, Spiller had taken his time finding his next team. He comes into a backfield that already features recently re-signed Mark Ingram and youngster Khiry Robinson. Spiller’s 2014 was cut short by injury and his 2013 was not his most productive — a -4.2 run grade had him 49th of 55 runners — but he has shown considerable ability in the past, coming in second overall in our HB rankings with a +23.4 overall grade and topping our Elusive Rating table with a 94.6 mark in 2012.
12:40 RUMOR! Yahoo’s Rand Getlin says the Dolphins are working on a trade to bring in Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills. In his second season, Stills put up a +6.3 receiving grade that had him 18th among the 110 receivers who saw at least 275 snaps. The Saints enjoyed a 112.0 passer rating on throws his way last year and his 64% catch rate on deep balls (9 of 14) topped the league.
12:20 SIGNING! Coming out just at the same time as the Fairley announcement and understandably washed under by it, Mark Long reported the Jaguars are bringing aboard punt returner Bryan Walters. Walters’ +3.0 grade as a returner had him in the Top 10 in 2014, though he wasn’t the most aggressive, opting to return 25 while calling for a fair catch on 24. His 7.4 yars per return was 33rd among those with at least 10 returns.
12:00 SIGNING! The last of the big-name big men has found a new home as defensive tackle Nick Fairley, per Adam Schefter, has comes to terms with the St. Louis. Fairley leaves Detroit to add to an already top-flight D-line and will give the Rams a pairing in the middle with 2014’s rookie star, Aaron Donald, that few other teams can match up to. A Top-15 DT in both pass rush and run defense grades last season, Fairley’s 22 total pressures on just 170 pass-rushing snaps led to a Pass Rushing Productivity number of 10.0, tops among NT/DTs. You can see what’s left for free agents on the interior D-line here.
10:40 SIGNING! The Cowboys haven’t waited long to make a move at running back after losing DeMarco Murray to the Eagles yesterday. Dipping into the veteran market the Cowboys have signed up former Raider Darren McFadden on a two year deal. The former first round pick struggled consistently in Oakland earning a negative rushing grade in all but one of his seasons with the Raiders. A talented athlete McFadden’s inability to translate his spectacular college career into a strong pro career has been perplexing, the Raiders will hope that behind their offensive line McFadden can turn his career around and make good on his natural ability.
10:30 RE-SIGNING! Friday is the Titans’ day so far with Karl Klug their fourth signing of the morning according to Jim Wyatt. A consistent interior pass rusher has earned a positive pass rush grade every season since entering the league from Iowa in 2011. After a promising rookie season Klug has become a specialist pass rusher playing no more than 350 snaps in each of the last three seasons but he will continue to bring some punch to the Titans’ sub package pass rush which was upgraded on the edge earlier this morning with the signing of Brian Orakpo and the re-signing of Derrick Morgan. Along with Jurrell Casey the Titans are building a personnel up front to pile the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
10:00 RE-SIGNING! The Titans are continuing their busy Friday by bringing back Ryan Succop on a three year deal according to Jim Wyatt. Succop only attempted 22 field goals with the Titans last season with all three of his misses coming from beyond 40 yards. As regular as clock work Succop missed six field goals every year from 2010 to 2013 in Kansas City but has only missed one kick inside 40 yards in the last two seasons.
09:20 SIGNING! The Washington Redskins were weak in the defensive backfield last season and after upgrading in the trenches over the opening days of Free Agency they have turned their attention there this morning. Ian Rapoport reports that they have agreed to a deal to sign former 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver. After missing the entirety of his third season Culliver yet again earned a positive coverage grade in 2014, making that three from three for seasons he actually played in. His +8.2 coverage grade this season was a career high and good for 13th best in the league among corners. Always showing well in terms of coverage metrics too, Culliver has never finished a season allowing a passer rating higher than 83.3 for a complete season and this year his 66.5 passer rating allowed was 10th best in the league.
09:00 News is taking a little while roll in this morning after the early signings in Tennessee so why not take a moment to catch up on some of our content reviewing the moves thus far and what’s still out there. Our Free Agent Tracker is the place to go for finding out who has moved where and who is still out there to be signed. Yesterday Nathan Jahnke took you through Five Moves that Make Sense from the opening days of free agency with the AFC dominating those early moves. Meanwhile our Deal Grader is the place to catch up on our succinct thoughts of the deals made thus far with a focus on the upgrade potential and the value of the contract.
08:30 Now is as good a time as any to catch up on our PFF Podcast Shorts. We’ve been busy bringing you Free Agent content in bite sized chunks from before the window opened and we’ll be bringing you more over the coming days as well. Be sure to bookmark the podcast to keep up to date with our latest musings on the free agents available, signed and the teams making the moves to acquire them.
08:10 SIGNINGS! The Eagles have stolen the headlines almost every day this week but the Titans are making an early run at being the headline grabbers on Friday morning with the news that they have signed not one but two pass rushers. First up came news of the addition of Brian Orakpo from the Washington Redskins followed less than an hour later by news of the re-signing of Derrick Morgan after the latter took visits to a pair of NFC South teams in Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Morgan proved last season that he could retain his productivity as a pass rusher with the move to a 3-4 defense racking up 49 pressures a year ago. Across from him will be Brian Orakpo who needs to put injuries behind him with a fresh start in Tennessee. In 2013 he was our #4 graded 3-4 outside linebacker collecting 51 pressures but in the seasons either side he has played less than 500 snaps combined in 2012 and 2014. If the Titans can keep Orakpo healthy then they have the pair of pass rushers to really get after Andrew Luck and the front running Colts this season.
02:00 It’s that time of night again. The rumors have slowed to a trickle as most sane people are trying to get a few hours sleep after a crazy few days. We’ll pick back up as soon as news gets going again.
01:00 Top 75 Remaining – While we wait for the next round of free agent news to start flowing in, have a look at our Top 75 Remaining Free Agents. Those who’ve already found homes have been removed, so it’s a great resource for a quick check. While you’re at it, open up this look at what the original Top 75 looked like to see how far it’s all come over the past few days (Knowshon Moreno, for example, began at #73 and is already pushed up to #36).
00:30 Subscribe! We mentioned the PFF Premium subscription in the opener above, but this is the point in the free agency period when a look at the numbers becomes even more handy — when your favorite team is looking at the little-known player and you want to see how he stacks up, we’ve got you covered. Our Premium Stats cover every player that has seen the field since 2007 so you’ll hav emore than enough information to satisfy your curiosity.