Free Agency Reactions: Day 5
Free Agency’s first weekend has arrived and the pace of the breaking news may have down-shifted into less frequent bursts, but our analysis carries on. From this point in the game, we’ll be updating every couple hours with pertinent selections of grades, stats, and quick-shot reactions.
To see some ofour other Free Agent tool features and keep on top of the action, we’d recomend with our Free Agent Tracker, our updating list of Top 75 free agents and the massively popular Deal Grader that offers an easy-to-follow comparison of free agent signings… and, of course, follow us on Twitter at: @PFF.
Check back in every one to two hours for updates and if you can’t wait but want more info, well then you should grab yourself a PFF Premium membership for $26.99 to get all the grades, stats and snap counts out there.
23.45: RUMOR! As mentioned earlier, former Chicago Bears DT Henry Melton has been in close negotiations with the Seahawks today, but according to Erskine Hinds, the deal could get done as soon as tonight.
23.15: SIGNING! According to Tom Curran, the Patriots have signed WR Brandon LaFell to a reported 3-year deal. The former Panther graded at -3.3 last season including a -5.3 as a receiver. His top receiving game came against New England (+1.3), perhaps enacting one of Neil Hornsby’s nine mistakes a GM will make during free agency. He spent 63 percent of his snaps in the slot a year ago, but he’ll likely be asked to play on the outside in New England with his physical, 6-foot-2, 211-pound frame. Lafell’s 2013 route chart:
22.30: VISIT! Per Dave Lolley on Twitter a few minutes ago, the Steelers, interested in securing a backup for Le’Veon Bell, will be hosting running back James Starks on Monday. Starks, who was recently highlighted in our Free Agent Bargains piece, was given a limited workload to show his wares, but impressed on his 224 snaps in 2013, posting a 5.5 yards per carry average and 3.0 yards per carry after contact.
21.30: NEAR-SIGNING! According to Adam Schefter, the Broncos are expected to sign former Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. He’s been a hot name in free agency the last two years, first re-signing with the Steelers a year ago after they matched the Patriots’ offer sheet and now moving on to Denver to likely take over as the No. 2 receiver formerly manned by Eric Decker. Sanders finished at +1.5 overall a year ago, hauling in 67 catches for 735 yards while forcing 15 missed tackles, tied for fourth most among wide receivers.
21.15: VISIT! After visiting the Jets today, it appears that CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is staying in New York to visit the Giants tomorrow. Rodgers-Cromartie was the No.5 cornerback in 2013 at +13.0, but after reportedly turning down an offer to re-sign with the Broncos who then turned their attention to Aqib Talib, he’s now making the rounds with hopes of striking a multi-year deal.
20.15: VISIT! According to Ian Rapoport, free agent wide receiver Kenny Britt is leaving St.Louis tonight and he’ll visit the Patriots tomorrow. Britt’s career has been saddled with off-field incidents and his on-field play has been poor of late (-13.2 in 2013), but there’s no denying his talent. The former first round pick graded at +6.5 and +7.4 in his first two seasons while averaging 17.6 yards/reception, so the big play ability is certainly there. Any team looking to sign Britt is hoping to recapture his early-career magic and it looks like the Patriots may be next in line to take on the reclamation project.
19.50: RUMORS! The Seattle Seahawks are apparently in close negotiations with free agent defensive tackle Henry Melton. The former Chicago Bear played only 125 snaps before tearing his ACL and missing the majority of the season in 2013. He graded at +15. 8 in 2012 while his +15.8 pass rush grade ranked seventh among defensive tackles. Seattle has been in play for other interior rushers throughout the week as they look at add to one of the league’s best pass rushes.
17:50: RUMORS! Albert Breer is hearing that the Raiders, in their search for a quaterback, would consider Matt Schaub or Josh Freeman before considering Michael Vick as a free agent signing. Schaub is still on the Texans, but he’s not expected to be a part of the team next season. He’s coming off his worst year as a pro, finishing at –15.9 overall, while Freeman is coming off a difficult season of his own that saw him finish at –12.5 between Tampa Bay and Minnesota. He may be the most intriguing remaining free agent quarterback as he’s still young (26) and he’s had a season of strong play, even though it was in 2010.
Also, Ian Rapoport reports that the Patriots are unlikely done filling out their wide receiving corps despite re-signing Julian Edelman earlier today.
16.45: RE-SIGNING! It feels like it’s been an age since a deal but Darren Wolfson reports the Vikings have re-signed left guard Charlie Johnson. The former Colt was signed to play left tackle, but kicked inside to guard after it didn’t go so well and the team drafted Matt Kalil. The apparent lack of interest in him is the result of an underwhelming season but it should be noted he held up in pass protection, and the bonus for the team is the continuity it brings to the offensive line as they return all five starters. It’s a move that makes a lot of sense but don’t be surprised if team drafts an offensive linemen to compete or if Jeff Baca is given a shot. He was our 48th (out of 81) ranked guard last year.
15.30: SIGNING! The Panthers have lost starters left, right and center, including both their starting safeties. Well they’ve moved to fill one of those holes by signing former Saint Roman Harper to a two-year deal according to Adam Schefter. It’s not the move Carolina fans needed to get over the loss of Steve Smith with Harper an extremely limited safety at this stage of his career and a complete liability in coverage. His reputation was boosted somewhat by only seeing the field for 374 snaps as his -3.2 grade was a huge improvement on the -18.1 he scored in 2012. The hope has to be the Panthers scheme will protect him more than the Saints did, keeping him away from situations where he might be asked to cover one on one.
15.15: RE-SIGNING! Mr Rapoport is reporting another one as Julian Edelman has re-signed with New England. The team brought in plenty of receivers via the draft and free agency but it was the man on the roster Edelman who most impressed for them putting in a season that would see him finish with a very healthy +10.6 receiving grade that was 18th best of all wide outs. His versatility (506 of his yards came from the slot) was a big part of the teams offense and so it’s an important rehire for Tom Brady. Edelman had garnered plenty of interest but teams went in different directions, likely valuing him a lot less than he valued himself.
15.00: SIGNING! In a lot of eyes Ben Tate was the best available running back on the free agent market. Well he’s no longer on the market according to Ian Rapoport as he’s completed his much speculated move to Cleveland. Tate played through the pain this year and still earned a +4.6 rushing grade, though his four fumbles and substandard work in the passing game saw some sour on him. The Browns represent an ideal landing spot for him given their shortage of running backs and will finally give him the true chance to emerge from the shadow of Arian Foster. It’s an important move for a Browns offense that outside of Josh Gordon has lacked playmakers.
14.00: Rumor time and Chris Perkins is reporting that Devin Hester may be drawing some interest from Miami. His failed tenure as a wide receiver aside, Hester remains an exciting get because he can still make plays as a returner. He was our sixth ranked special teamer in that regard this year with positive marks in both the punt and kick returner sections.
13.00: RESTRUCTURING! There was a lot of talk about the Seahawks saying so long to Zach Miller given his cap hit. Well they’ve renegotiated his final two years according to Danny O’Neil so now you needn’t worry about that. Miller was our tenth ranked tight end in 2013, grading positively for his blocking and his receiving. Seattle may not feature the tight end as prominently as others, but his every down ability whether they run or pass has proven a big asset for the team.
12.00: After the big news of Julius Peppers joining the Green Bay Packers not much else is going on this morning as can be the way once free agency hits the weekend. One news item picking up a little bit of traction is from the Charlotte Observer who report that since the team lost out on Hakeem Nicks, they’re now entering negotiations with Brandon LaFell. He was their number two receiver last year and failed to set the world alight with a truly pedestrian season that saw him finished with the 18th lowest receiving grade of his peers. It’s a testament to their current desperation that this move looks likely to go down.
11.00: SIGNING! A favorite of our own Sam Monson, terming him the “Nearly Man”, Usama Young has re-signed with the Raiders for two years per Mike Garafolo. Young played well enough in his 208 2013 snaps with Oakland to earn a +2.5 grade, helped by picking up three sacks, three hurries, a pick and a pass break up. He is recovering from a neck injury that always causes concern, but you’d assume that a low cost deal will come with very little risk. He’ll battle for a starting job and if nothing else provide depth and contribute on special teams (where he had five tackles).
10.30: Jason La Canfora reports that the Falcons are looking to upgrade their kick returning unit and are hosting boom or bust returner Trindon Holliday. That Holliday had two touchdowns yet still only finished with a -0.1 grade for his returning should tell you exactly what happens when things don’t go to plan. A favorite of the highlight reel, something good or something bad is likely to happen nearly everything he touches the ball. He’s a far more reliable kick returner than punt returner mind you.
10.00: RE-SIGNING! The Bengals lost a linebacker this week when they said goodbye to James Harrison but per Aaron Wilson they’ve re-signed Vincent Rey to a two year extension. The former undrafted free agent managed 353 snaps last year and was extremely impressive when filling in for Rey Maualuga. He earned a +6.3 grade for his efforts including a quite marvellous outing against Baltimore where he logged three sacks, four more defensive stops and a pick. In a just world he’ll get a bigger role going forward.
09.15: SIGNING! And who said Saturday would be quiet. According to Josina Anderson Julius Peppers has signed a three-year deal with the Green Bay Packers. Hands up if you saw that one coming. Peppers gets a chance to stick it to the Bears twice a year though if he’s to do that he’ll need to play a lot better than he did this. Even Shea McClellin had a higher pass rushing productivity score than the man who would rank 36th out of 52 4-3 defensive ends in our rankings. The question is how do the team intended on using the former Panther. When Peppers left Carolina he was quite vocal in saying he wanted to challenge himself in a 3-4 defense, but at this stage of his career would that be with his hand in the ground or not?
07.00: Sometimes you go out and have such a good time. The drinks are flowing, the laughs bouncing out, and then you over indulge. Will any teams, caught up in the fun and festivities of free agency be feeling a little worse for wear today? While those who abstained might have a clear head and ready to go about the real business of attacking the third wave of free agency where some real bargains can be had. Today we might out so stay tuned as we keep you up to date with the goings on. Once those brilliant beat men wake up of course.
05.00: We’ll be updating our Top 75 Free Agents at some point but as many men found homes for the next year the top man left on that is … Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who appears to be visiting with the Giants and Jets. Though not at the same time obviously.
03.00: If you’re up this early then you need something to take your mind off being up this early. Are we right? Check out our Deal Grader to see how we rate the moves your team has made.
01.00: RUMOR! Wide receiver Julian Edelman’s venture into the open market has sent him back to New England according to Ben Volk. The former Patriot has tested the free agency waters, but with some of his potential suitors making moves for wide receivers, it may be in his best interest to return to New England.
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