Free Agency Reactions: Day 8
The league eased back into the free-agent action on Monday, but with plenty of visits happening some new deals got done, though re-signings seemed to be the order of the day. We could now be looking at the last chance for overspending as the top free agents on the board are seeing options at their positions dwindle and teams are still feeling the pressure to land veteran solutions.
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. For the early reactions from the first few days of free agency, you’ve just got to click: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7
Check back in every hour or two 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.
21.55 SIGNING! With a hole in the middle of their new, 2-gapping 3-4 scheme, the Texans have added former Chiefs nose tackle Jerrell Powe. He’s barely seen the field for Kansas City, playing a career-high 127 snaps in 2012, and grading at +2.0 on just 40 snaps a year ago, but he should have a chance to see the field as an early-down option for Houston.
21.15 VISIT! Former Browns and Dolphins cornerback Chris Owens is visiting the Buccaneers according to Rick Stroud. Owens played all 545 of his snaps with the Browns a year ago, finishing at +2.2 overall and -1.0 in coverage. Tampa Bay has already signed free agent cornerback Alterraun Verner as well as re-signing CB Danny Gorrer, so Owens would provide even more depth at the position for the Buccaneers.
20.00 UPDATE! In case you haven’t noticed, we are looking for new analyst to help us collect data. We will stop accepting applications shortly, so if you are interested in joining the PFF team, now is the time to act. You can find more information here.
19.00 SIGNING! It looks like our top rated free agent available as of this morning now has a job. The Dallas Cowboys were able to make their biggest signing of the off-season so far with defensive tackle Henry Melton. Their defensive line was in such disarray in 2013 that three of their four signings have been defensive linemen. Melton missed much of the 2013 season due to injury, but in 2012 Melton had a breakout year as an outstanding interior pass rusher. His Pass Rushing Productivity of 7.7 was fifth best for all defensive/nose tackles. Assuming he can make a full recovery he should fill the void that Jason Hatcher left nicely.
18.00 SIGNING! The Oakland Raiders spending spree continues as the Raiders took the best left tackle remaining off the market. Per Albert Breer, Oakland has added left tackle Donald Penn. He was cut by the Buccaneers after they upgraded with Anthony Collins. In 2013 Penn allowed way too many sacks with 12 which was second most among all left tackles. Looking beyond just his sack number he allowed a total of 45 pressures which is average for a starting offensive tackle, and much more representative of his pass blocking. His strength is in his run blocking which is something the Raiders struggled with in general in 2013. The move also gives the Raiders a little more flexibility in the draft as they have one less need.
17.00: SIGNING! They’ve looked at both Trindon Holliday and Devin Hester but it would appear the Falcons have finally settled on a kick returner. That man? Javier Arenas per D. Orlando Ledbetter who says they’ve signed the former Chief and Cardinal on a one year deal. It’s unlikely Arenas will challenge either Robert Alford or Desmond Trufant for a starting spot but with his experience in the slot from his time in KC and his time being used as a dime safety in Arizona this year, he may certainly feature in some of the Falcons sub package defensive looks. One area the team will be looking for a big contribution from Arenas is in the return game, especially returning punts where he’s an underrated talent. Playing on the same team as Patrick Peterson he didn’t really get a chance to show this off last year, but go back a year and his +6.6 punt return grade was fourth highest in the league. He’s much better in that area that he is on kick returns.
16.45: SIGNINGS! That’s right, there’s more than one of them. Both for the Bears, both reported by Jeff Dickerson, and both safeties. There’s no surprise the team might be looking at adding some competition at the spot given just how bad their starters performed last year. The combination of Major Wright and Chris Conte earned a collective -43.2 last year as they missed a terrible 31 tackles between themselves. Anyways they’ve re-signed Craig Steltz and signed former Cowboy Danny McCray. Stelz was no great shakes himself last year with a -5.7 grade but if you go back to 2011 he really made a strong case for more playing time in his 419 snaps. As for McCray he only managed nine snaps on the Dallas defense last year after flunking his audition for a starting role in 2012. The likelihood both men are fighting to be depth and to contribute on special teams where McCray had seven tackles last year and Stelz nine.
15.30: SIGNING! Adam Schefter reports that the Bengals have been kind enough to let Andrew Hawkins know that they won’t be matching the four-year, $13.6m offer sheet of the Browns. As such Babyhawk heads to Cleveland where he will look to build upon his flashes of talent in the Browns slot. Hawkins made quite the impression as an undrafted free agent, turning his 208 snaps into a +6.9 grade but hasn’t quite managed to live up to the high expectations he created for himself. Still he’s a very handy receiver who would finish 16th in the league in terms of slot yards in 2012. Injuries ensured he was limited in 2013 but it’s worth noting the 2.66 yards per slot route would have ranked third among all receivers if he’d played enough snaps.
14.30: By all accounts a release is coming and it’s that of Earl Bennett. Jeff Dickerson says Chicago politely asked Earl to take a pay cut but he was having none of that and so now shall be free to hit the open market. A once productive slot receiver with reliable hands, Bennett was anything but in 2013 as he was a distant fifth option in the Bears passing attack, averaging just 0.67 yards per route run. That’s not good, way down on his 2012 total of 1.37 showing just how much he means to the team right now. With a loaded draft full of receiving options and a number of players still on the market, Bennett might find opportunities to increase his workload limited.
13.30: SIGNING! Home is where the heart is. After a brief one year stint with the Liosn, Profootballtalk is reporting that Israel Idonije is returning to Chicago to help fill their defensive line out. Capable of playing both tackle and end, Idonije had an impressive (and underrated) run with the Bears where he spent time at both end and tackle. His time in Detroit wasn’t quite as successful though he did notch 26 combined sacks, hits and hurries on 196 pass rushes. He figures to slot right in behind Willie Young and Lamarr Houston while also offering the ability to eat up some snaps at defensive tackle depending on what the team do during the remainder of the offseason.
12.30: SIGNING! The Saints may have let Jed Collins hit the open market, but they’re not long without a lead blocker. The Bucs have announced the departure of Erik Lorig to New Orleans and what we presume will be a short term deal. There wasn’t much to separate Collins and Lorig in our 2013 rankings, with Lorig the classic case of subset scouting where his good games were eye catching, and his bad ones making you want to look away. It’s a risky move mind you because Collins has greater pedigree than the former seventh round pick, his career grade being +21.8 while Lorig is at -7.3.
11.35: SIGNING! The Jaguars have added to their receiver options by bringing in former Raven Tandon Doss according to Ryan O’Halloran. Doss was initially let go by the Ravens during the offseason but made his way back onto the roster to feature on 315 snaps, largely as a third receiver in rotation with Jacoby Jones, while also returning punts. He averaged a healthy 1.49 yards per route run which, if he had played enough snaps, would have seen him place above guys like Mike Wallace, Tavon Austin and Emmanuel Sanders. For what it’s worth. He’ll likely compete for significant playing time while also try to latch on for his work on special teams.
11.30: SIGNING! Confirming a report from last night, Tyler Dunne mentions James Starks as signing a two-year deal with the Packers to stay in Green Bay. Behind the hard hitting Eddie Lacy Starks should see plenty of action as a change of pace back and to keep the powerful Lacy. Of course that requires Starks to stay healthy, something he has found incredibly hard since entering the league. A shame since with the ball in hand he’s an extremely dangerous back and incredible elusive. You need only look at our elusive rating where he finished second overall in 2013 to see that, forcing 22 missed tackles on just 99 touches of the ball while averaging 3 yards after contact per carry.
10.00: No signings but a bit of news is trickling through. Our top ranked remaining free agent is Henry Melton who has had a number of teams express interest. Well according to Clarence Hill you can add the Rams to that list with Melton due in St Louis for a visit today. Before injury Melton was widely regarded as one of the most penetrating defensive tackles out there, but there’s obvious concern about how long it will take him to get up to speed. The fact a team like St Louis is interested in him might speak for one of two things; the team either views him as a rotational or situational body, or they’re not married to Kendall Langford. To his credit Langford upped his game after a disappointing first year with the Rams with his second half of the season being particularly impressive. That said the team, who have a couple of terrors off the edge in Chris Long and Robert Quinn, might want a little more up the middle which a healthy Melton would certainly provide rushing the passer.
09.00: Atlanta were rumored to be looking at Trindon Holliday but since he’s signed with the Giants they may turn their attentions towards another kick returner. That man? Well Adam Schefter reports the team is having Devin Hester in for a visit. The dynamic playmaker may not be the man he once was but he still finished sixth overall in our returner rankings with positive marks on both punt and kick returns. Last year the Falcons stuck with Jacquizz Rodgers on kick returns while Robert Alford and Robert McClain shared punt return duties. No man there did enough (they had a longest gain of 34) that the team won’t be looking for a spark from somewhere else.
07.00: SIGNING! The Giants clearly want to upgrade their returning because after signing Quintin Demps, they’ve also brought in Trindon Holliday. Someone must have hid the tape of his numerous fumbles from Tom Coughlin. On the surface this doesn’t appear a match made in heaven, with a Head Coach preaching ball security and a returner who hasn’t quite mastered that concept. Still if Holliday does get it right he’s a danger to take it all the way, especially on kick returns. We’d feel securer with our number two ranked kick returner from last year Demps for what it’s worth.
06.00: Aren’t we nice to you. It’s time for a final go round of our Top 75 Available Free Agents. You’re welcome.
02.00: There’s no better place to start Day 8 of free agency (or any day of free agency, for that matter) than with a glance at what your team has gained and lost so far. This set of links from our 2014 Free Agent Tracker page makes it easy: