PFF Live Free Agency Reaction Blog: Day 2, 03/14/12
PFF Live Free Agency Reaction Blog: Day 2, 03/14/12
Yep, we’re up and watching 24 hours a day and now we dig into Day 2 of the 2012 free agency period (whew, Day 1 was fun!)
Keep checking back for constant updates and quick PFF thoughts on all of the major news that breaks as players hunt down new homes for 2012.
Get in touch with us on twitter and keep up to date with free agency moves by following our Free Agent Tracker that comes complete with player grades and snap count numbers from 2011. If you want more, click here for one stop shop for all things free agency including team needs and rankings.
(Refresh every 10-15 minutes for constant updates )
You can click here to join our Live Free Agency Blog for Day Three
23:38 Tonight seems to be the night of older offensive linemen and visits. This time it’s recently cut Marcus McNeill and the Detroit Lions setting up a visit for tomorrow. He hasn’t been able to stay consistently healthy in recent years, and his play has also been inconsistent. In 2011 he allowed just 5 sacks/hits in 329 pass blocks which is strong, but consistently graded negatively in run blocking. If signed, he would likely be replacing Jeff Backus at left tackle who is also a free agent. He started off the season struggling allowing 31 pressures in eight games, but then improved to just allowing 19 pressures in the last nine games. While Backus has played consistently better in recent season, McNeill is a much younger option.
23:24 It’s a quiet evening on the free agent front, but anything that happens, we’ll be here to let you know! Guard Leonard Davis made a visit to the 49ers earlier today. We last saw Davis in action in 2010 with the Cowboys, where he earned a slightly above average PFF rating in pass blocking, run blocking, screen blocking and penalties. He is 33 now, and will be 34 by Week 1 so he won’t be a long term solution, but the 49ers offensive line is not it’s strong point and Davis could potentially be a low cost upgrade.
22:49 While many elite offensive linemen are available, the Cowboys have decided to bring in Nate Livings for a visit. He played every snap for the Bengals in 2011 at left guard. He looked good in pass protection, allowing just one sack and five hits in the regular season, although he struggled in the playoff game against Houston. In run blocking he was very hot or very cold, but had more bad games than good. The Cowboys left guard Montrae Holland is a free agent, and while Livings might not play to the ability of Holland who had a +5.9 overall rating last year. However he would still be an upgrade over Bill Nagy who definitely didn’t look ready to be a starter yet at the beginning of the 2011 season. He managed to have the 15th lowest run block rating despite only playing in four games.
21:54 SIGNING! Cornerback Richard Marshall let us know via his twitter account that he has agreed to a three year deal with the Miami Dolphins. Last year Will Allen was the Dolphins slot cornerback, and he allowed 61% of passes thrown his way to be caught, and allowed 199 yards after the catch. Allen is a free agent so Marshall will likely take over the slot duties, where he allowed just 52% of balls thrown his way to be caught and 130 yards after the catch. Being that Marshall is also a younger player, this is a nice upgrade to the Dolphins secondary.
21:31 RE-SIGNING! Speaking of offensive linemen and Seattle the Seahawks have re-signed Paul McQuistan. In 2011 he started three games at left guard, three games at right guard, and four games at right tackle. With all the moving around, he had some games where he looked very good in run blocking and others not so much. In his games as a guard he allowed just eight overall pressures, but struggled more as a tackle allowing 11 pressures. He looks more suited for guard than tackle, but if the Seahawks bring someone else in he might be a backup for most positions again.
21:16 RELEASE! Agent Rick Smith announced his client Robert Gallery will be released from the Seahawks. In 12 games last year, he had nine penalties, allowed 21 overall pressures and consistently looked poor in run blocking. To be fair Smith tweeted that Gallery was playing hurt all season and is finally healthy. This means there is a better chance of former Viking Steve Hutchinson who allowed just three sacks/hits last season to be re-united with his former team. There are some good guards available, so it might take a little time for Gallery to find a new job.
21:01 Even though Peyton Hillis signed with the Chiefs earlier today, it’s being reported that Mike Tolbert will still visit Kansas City as a potential landing spot. If he is signed it would make for a very crowded backfield, and might be a sign that Jamaal Charles recovery isn’t going as well as one would hope. Both Hillis and Tolbert were at one point fullbacks, and can both catch out of the backfield and run with the ball. Tolbert had just 120 rushes in 2011, and in that time had eight touchdowns and caused 12 players to miss tackles on him. With a young Dexter McCluster also in the backfield, if Tolbert arrives than someone won’t be getting the touches they want.
20:49 While some positions such as wide receiver has seen the top players get picked up left and right, their are other positions such as middle/inside linebacker where we haven’t seen anything. All 10 men from our Ranking the 2012 Free Agents piece are still available. Once one gets a contract, we’ll probably start seeing more action as other players will base their contracts off the first person. It’s just a matter of time before someone moves on the talent available.
20:08 Former Raven safety Haruki Nakamura is visiting with the Panthers tomorrow according to Jason LaCanfora. Nakamura is desperate for more playing time after seeing the field for just 39 snaps last year. Carolina seems like an odd place to go to expect an awful lot of playing time.
19:58 According to Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union the Jaguars have added a new quarterback to go along with their new wide receiver. In a clear statement that they want to push Blaine Gabbert but not too hard they have brought in former Dolphin signal caller Chad Henne on a two year deal. Henne is capable enough that if Gabbert really does need to be sat as an essential “reset” then Henne can hold the fort for a short time period whilst offering solid competition to drive Gabbert forward during the summer. Henne started the season off like a house on fire shredding the Patriots defense but injury robbed him of his chances to really be a player in the free agent market this season. This has the potential to be a solid pick up for the Jags both as competition and insurance for Blaine Gabbert.
19:47 UPDATE: According to Aaron Wilson, who spoke to Winston, the former Houston RT’s main motivation is signing with a winner. “I want to win right now. That’s what’s important to me.” Wilson cites a league source stating that Winston will visit with the Chiefs tomorrow followed by visits to St Louis, Baltimore and Detroit.
19:38 According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle free agent OT Eric Winston will also visit Baltimore and St Louis on his free agent tour. Winston has been in with the Dolphins for most of the day according to a wide range of reports but clearly there are a lot of teams interested in the former Texan. St Louis makes a great deal of sense, offensive line was almost as much of a disaster for the Rams this season as their defensive backfield. After signing Cortland Finnegan to start the overhaul on defense Winston would be an immediate upgrade at RT for the Rams. Baltimore is a more interesting destination for Winston who the Ravens got to see play first hand during the Texans two visits in 2011. It’s a long way off to being even discussed let alone a deal yet, with no guarantee the Dolphins let him leave, but presumably this would lead the Ravens to cut Bryant McKinnie and move Michael Oher back to left tackle to accomodate Winston? Oher’s last stint at LT in 2010 didn’t work out well and he didn’t settle back into RT immediately in 2011 either. A little consistency could work wonders for Oher who was excellent during his rookie season at RT. Certainly the pursuit of Winston and the knock on effects it produces is one of the most interesting free agent stories to track this week.
19:28 According to Adam Caplan the Bears have re-signed TE Kellen Davis to a two year deal. Davis led all Bears TE’s in snaps this season and looked like a solid all rounder grading out around average in every facet of the game of the Bears whilst flashing with quality games as a run blocker in Philadelphia and Green Bay. With the addition of Brandon Marshall outside Chicago will look for Davis to add more as a receiver with Davis only showing glimpses of his ability as a receiver in 2011. Davis visited with the Cowboys prior to re-signing at Halas Hall.
19:06 Having just landed a new tailback the Chiefs look like they are about to lose a member of their backfield within the division. Adam Schefter is reporting that FB LeRon McClain will join the San Diego Chargers on a 3 year deal. McClain failed to carry his form from the Ravens into Kansas City this season carrying noticeably less weight than he did in Baltimore. It will be interesting to see whether McClain picks that weight and that form back up again to give the Chargers the strong lead blocker to unleash Ryan Mathews on the AFC West.
18:59 Josh Looney of kcchiefs.com reports that the Chiefs have landed much talked about potential CIA recruit Peyton Hillis to play football for them this season. Hillis has undeniable talent and in combination with Jamaal Charles offers the Chiefs a deeply envious one-two punch in the Kansas City backfield. With Hillis and Charles on best form the Chiefs have a thunder and lightning pairing both of whom are capable of creating plays in both run and pass games. This also gives the Chiefs our #1 and #2 ranked running backs from the 2010 season.
18:54 After reports earlier from Pro Football Talk that Mario Williams would be leaving Buffalo tonight the Bills’ own twitter feed is apparently disputing that report. They are saying that Williams will spend another night in Buffalo and return for more discussions with the team tomorrow at One Bills Drive. This is the most protracted discussions of free agency so far and if the Bills were to let Williams off the hook having had him in Buffalo for so long it would have to be utterly demoralising for a fan base that is so close to getting the defensive playmaker they so desperately need.
18:50 We have long been banging the drum that the Saints need to upgrade their linebacking corps and it would appear that GM Mickey Loomis is of the same opinion. Larry Holder reports that Seattle free agent David Hawthorne will visit with the team on Friday. Hawthorne played well whenever he was given starts by the Seahawks at both inside and outside linebacker and that gives the Saints options with a pressing need outside but a potential need inside depending upon how the saga over bounty payments plays out.
18:44 The busy day for the Eagles continues as Tommy Lawlor reports that they are bringing back former draft pick G Mike Gibson who most recently played with the Seattle Seahawks. Gibson’s most recent playing time on offense was during the 2010 season when he registered 584 snaps during 10 starts split between left guard and right guard. Gibson was solid and reliable for the Seahawks that season but rarely flashed being anything other than that. With Evan Mathis reportedly drawing interest from Baltimore, Washington and Indianapolis the Eagles need to look at other options at left guard. Gibson offers that whilst also offering the ability to back up both guard spots if Philadelphia are to bring Mathis back.
18:43 Reports abound that unexpectedly Jason Jones will be leaving St Louis without a contract and is heading for Seattle for a visit with the Seahawks. St Louis seemed a logical fit for Jones re-uniting with former HC Jeff Fisher but these things don’t always pan out as planned.
18:38 The Jaguars tack on signings back to back as they bring DT C.J. Mosley back on a three year deal with $2 million of guaranteed money which has a max value of $10 million. Mosley registered 323 snaps last season, including three starts, and was a solid interior run defender for the Jaguars though offered little as a pass rusher.
18:33 SIGNING! Another scoop from Adam Schefter has the Jaguars reaching a widely anticipated agreement with former Cowboy WR Laurent Robinson. The two sides have been in discussions since yesterday and Robinson’s agent has landed him a deal around the ballpark of Robert Meachem‘s deal in San Diego with the Jaguars’ forking out $32.5 million over the course of a five year deal with $14 million guaranteed. Robinson has struggled early in his career with injuries but showed his quality this year in Dallas when fully healthy snagging 11 touchdown catches. This is a sizeable investment on the back of one full season’s worth of production but he has always looked the part when he has gotten on the field. Can he continue this sort of production as the Jaguars’ go to guy to help Blaine Gabbert develop in Jacksonville?
18:21 After having their advances for John Carlson spurned the Chiefs are on the rebound and will welcome former Oakland and NY Giants TE Kevin Boss in for a visit. The Chiefs got an impressive rookie season from Tony Moeaki but when he went down injured this season Kansas City struggled to replicate his passing threat. Boss failed to make an impact in Oakland but with the pressure off behind a threat like Moeaki could flourish in Kansas City whilst offering insurance if Moeaki’s struggles in his first year back from an ACL surgery.
17:51 In a widely expected move the Buccaneers have parted ways with veteran C Jeff Faine. Faine had a big cap number this year and with Tampa Bay’s investment in Davin Joseph, Jeremy Zuttah and now Carl Nicks in the last 12 months there was simply no room for Faine anymore. A former first round pick Faine has plenty of experience but with plenty of center’s still unsigned and Faine’s form dipping it seems likely he will need to be patient before he signs on with his next team.
17:45 With all of the quality guards available this year the Cardinals appear to be taking the line of least resistance and aren’t allowing themselves to be drawn in to a bidding war for their services. Instead they are starting right at the bottom of the pile and according to Adam Schefter they are on the verge of signing Adam Snyder from division rival San Francisco. Snyder was consistently poor for the 49ers where ever he started but did have two of his better games (-0.2, +0.3) against the Cardinals this season. This is better news for the 49ers than the Cardinals on two counts. 1) They get to face Snyder twice a season, Ray McDonald should be very excited. 2) They get to clean house at right guard with the infuriatingly inconsistent Chilo Rachal also hitting free agency. Word has it they have a visit lined up with former Cardinal, Cowboy and Lion G Leonard Davis about filling their open spot at RG with other options being explored by the front office as well.
17:35 For the second time in as many days a bogus report about Curtis Lofton signing on the dotted line. The Bucs were involved yesterday and they were involved, indirectly, today as Gerald McCoy tweeted that Lofton would be signing with the Eagles. He has however since retracted that statement saying that the former Falcon is “still available”. We’re still waiting for the first ILB to go in this free agency period to set the market. As soon as one goes you could see a domino effect as teams and agents have a measuring stick against which to judge the value of guys like Lofton, Stephen Tulloch and David Hawthorne.
17:17 RE-SIGNING! Something of a surprise but it seems the Dolphins are on the verge of re-signing Paul Soliai. He found his playtime cut last year and we examined why in this piece over the weekend. This move has now been confirmed courtesy of the infamous ‘League Source’. That guy is everywhere.
17:10 New Vikings tight end John Carlson has shown a remarkable degree of self awareness, declaring that he’s ‘not Jim Kleinsasser in the run game that’s for sure, I’m never going to be Jim Kleinsasser in the run game’. At the other end of the spectrum Martellus Bennett believes he could be the next Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham. Do you root for the humble guy who knows his limitations, or the ambitious chap who believes he can do it all?
17:06 RELEASE! The Panthers punter Jason Baker is now the Panthers former punter Jason Baker. They cut him because he had a cap value of $2m, and well … he’s a punter. He was our 26th ranked punter in 2011 so you imagine the Carolina will be able to get by without him.
17:02 The Bills are at pains to tell us that Mario Williams is still in the building. At what point does someone check the the Bills haven’t just looked the doors until he signs on the dotted line?
16:40 The ‘Exodus in Texas’, which kind of rhymes if you squint and stand on one leg, could be continuing. With Eric Winston released and Chris Myers shopping his services around the league, we find out that Mike Brisiel is visiting with the Raiders. Brisiel was probably the most replaceable of the Texans line given how Antoine Caldwell has rotated with him at times and done a solid job, but losing another lineman would really hurt. To compound things, one of the most complete tight ends in the league, Joel Dreessen is being courted by the New Orleans Saints. Dreessen was our 6th ranked tight end on the year last year, brought on by some excellent blocking and serviceable receiving work.
16:30 RE-SIGNING! Because 2011 doesn’t really matter, the Eagles have handed deep threat Desean Jackson a five year, $51m deal per Adam Schefter. A difference maker, you get a trade off with Jackson because he drops too many balls and is a bit of a one trick pony. What a trick it is though and the Eagles will be hoping he can eliminate the plays that some him drop a league leading four balls on passes thrown over 20 yards in the air.
16:28 RE-SIGNING! The Panthers will be bringing back Derek Anderson to back up Cam Newton. Somewhere Jimmy Clausen is wondering where it all went wrong. Anderson got on the field for 11 snaps in 2011 and the Panthers will be happy if he maintains those snap levels.
16:26 SIGNING! The Cowboys have replaced one inconsistent fullback with another. In comes Lawrence Vickers, a man who Bart Scott described as the hardest hitting FB in the league.
16:24 In more left guard news (what is with those guy always hogging all the limelight) Evan Mathis is due to visit with the Ravens. Baltimore made a heavy push to retain Ben Grubbs but the football Gods may be shining down on them as Mathis is a markedly better player. He was our top ranked guard and would give the Ravens the best set of guards in the league.
16:21 Time heals all wounds right? Steve Hutchinson is set to visit with the Seahawks which should go along way to telling you they weren’t exactly pleased with how Robert Gallery performed last year. His -21.5 grade was the 6th lowest grade of all guards and not exactly a return on the money Seattle had given him.
16:16 RELEASE! In a move that will surprise nobody who has watched him over the past four years (excluding last year where he was on injured reserve), the Browns have cut ties with Eric Steinbach according to Mary Kay Cabot. Steinbach has consistently been one of the worst guards in the league and a poster child for how teams can overpay linemen. Between 2008 and 2010 he earned a -46.5 grade. Nonetheless he was a former second round pick and once got a big deal so no doubt some ‘genius’ will see him as a bargain.
16:00 SIGNING! A bigger move by the Cowboys has finally happened, with Brandon Carr locked up on a five year, $50.1m deal according to Adam Schefter. The former Chief spent most of his time manning the right cornerback spot where he was largely outplayed by the excellent Brandon Flowers. There’s no shame in that, but to pay Carr that amount of money is a bit of a projection based on his body of work. He had our 21st highest coverage grade in 2011 and while looking good, has rarely looked in the upper echelon of cornerbacks. That said he’s a big upgrade on Terence Newman so the Cowboys secondary just got a whole lot better.
15:56 SIGNING! The Cowboys have picked up former Carolina Panther guard Mackenzy Bernadeau. He had a tough 2010 when pressed into starting duty, then found himself on the outs with a new coaching staff, playing just 125 snaps. He did manage to grade in the positive with a +3.4 so it will be interesting to see what happens with him in Dallas as they re-tool the interior portion of their line.
15:47 While Ben Stockwell takes a well earned rest, it’s up to the man behind @PFF_Khaled to guide you through the upcoming stories while @SamMonson and @PFF_NateJahnke man the PFF twitter station. Let’s get it on.
15:43 SIGNING! Straight from the horse’s mouth! The Giants have locked up Martellus Bennett stealing away the Cowboys back up tight end so the new Giant has told the world from his own twitter account. Bennett entered the league as an athletic freak but has struggled to establish himself as a receiving threat behind Jason Witten in Dallas. What Bennett has done however is establish himself as one of the best run blocking tight ends in the entire NFL. The Giants have been in a state of flux at tight end due to injury for most of the 2011 season and Bennett should allow the Giant to up their game on rushes off end moving forwards. This is only a one year deal for Bennett who could well be hoping to shine as a #1 tight end for one season and earn himself a big pay day next season.
15:11 Fanene isn’t the only defensive end leaving Cincinnati today as the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that Frostee Rucker will sign with the Browns today. Rucker was our 13th ranked 4-3 DE as a run stopper during the 2011 regular season and now leaves a hole for the Bengals to fill. If Cincinnati has any sense they will give more snaps to one of the most under-utilised defensive ends from the 2011 season, Carlos Dunlap. If Dunlap can parley the departure of Rucker and Fanene into more playing time expect to see his productivity trend upwards. He was third in the league among 4-3 DE’s last year with 13 QB hits in spite of playing only 423 snaps.
14:50 Per Aaron Wilson the New England Patriots have signed former Bengal defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene. Fanene fits the Patriots mould of being a solid all round player, bringing good ability in run defense whilst providing at least some pass rush from a variety of positions. He’s not an all star but having played 292 of his 486 snaps at defensive tackle he brings the versatility that the Patriots crave in their defensive players. The Patriots have also re-signed LB/ST Tracy White today.
14:14 Few teams are harder pressed against the cap than the Raiders and they have just cleared a little more space for themselves by cutting ties with DT John Henderson and G Cooper Carlisle. Carlisle was our 61st ranked guard this season and the Raiders should easily be able to find an upgrade on Carlisle for less than they were due to pay him. Henderson should still have something of a market and some interest in him from around the league. He has only played limited snaps during his time in Oakland, only playing a combined 627 snaps in his two seasons in Oakland. However Henderson still proved to be a force in that time registering a combined grade of +38.3 across his two seasons as the Raiders managed his snaps perfectly.
14:02 Adam Caplan reports that Baltimore stalwart Jarret Johnson has signed a 4 year deal with the San Diego Chargers. Johnson has maintained a large role in the Ravens defense throughout their moves between 4-3, 3-4 and hybrid defenses, his versatility was doubtless a major selling point to the Chargers. We charted Johnson playing 15 different positions in various formations for the Ravens last season and whilst he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher there may be no better OLB in force defense in the league, in either a 4-3 or 3-4 front. This does limit the Chargers ability to get another former Raven on the field however, the opposite of what they need as Antwan Barnes is the Chargers most consistently disruptive pass rusher. Johnson recorded only 15 total pressures on 223 pass rushes last year.
13:51 The Eagles are having a busy second day of free agency this time parting ways with former starting C Jamaal Jackson. Jackson was our fourth graded center in 2008 and ranked seventh in 2009. However after tearing his triceps in Week 1 of the 2010 season he has only played 37 snaps in the final two seasons and after Jason Kelce‘s rookie season the Eagles are moving on. At age 32 Jackson is up there in years but has proven his quality in the past and for a team looking for a one year stop gap if they miss on the top center’s in the draft they could do worse than take a look at Jackson considering teams rarely trust young players to start at center straight away.
13:18 Adam Schefter breaks the news again and it’s official, Kyle Orton‘s days of challenging for a starting spot in the NFL are done. Orton has agreed to a three year deal with the Cowboys to be Tony Romo‘s backup. It is somewhat surprising that Orton didn’t hold out to see if there was any interest out there for him to push an incumbent starter but perhaps he saw the writing on the wall? There were rumours of the Cowboys being interested in Orton when he hit waivers during the 2011 season but that move was trumped. They finally got their guy and Orton takes over from Kitna as the veteran, “safe pair of hands”, behind Romo on the Cowboys’ depth chart.
12:53 A signing was rumoured to be in the offing and Adam Schefter has broken the news that the Vikings have sealed the deal with former Seahawk TE John Carlson. The Vikings have shelled out $25 million on a five year deal for Carlson which we think is a pretty rich deal for a one dimensional tight end who had a steady decline in his receiving during his time in Seattle. Carlson appears to have profited on his potential after missing the entire 2011 season. Carlson hasn’t had a catch of longer than 20 yards since his rookie season in 2008 and he has only forced two missed tackles during his three years in Seattle.
12:27 More good news for Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers! Just a day after the Chargers brought back C Nick Hardwick the Chargers have re-upped one of their free agent left tackles and it’s former Raven and Chief Jared Gaither who is receiving a four year deal. We have long said that Gaither is a quality left tackle and just needs someone to put faith in him at left tackle, this four year deal would appear to suggest that the Chargers are ready to do that. It’s time for Gaither to repay that faith and continue his fine end to the season. Gaither yielded only 3 pressures on 177 pass blocks with the Chargers last season.
12:23 According to Josina Anderson on twitter the Colts have inked a deal with former Raven DE Cory Redding on a 3 year deal. With the Colts transitioning from a cover 2 defense to Chuck Pagano’s defense it was always likely that Pagano would go after someone who knew the system and a veteran like Redding adds some much needed beef up front. Redding elevated his play in Baltimore and earned a +12.3 grade for his run defense this season.
12:13 Adam Caplan has just released the figures on Trent Cole‘s deal with the Eagles and it makes good reading, for both parties. In terms of total his extension is worth $53 million over four years and he gets $15 million guaranteed. This is a good day to be getting re-signed by your own team it would seem.
12:03 Whilst confirming what we already knew in making official the deal with Cortland Finnegan, Jeff Fisher has also confirmed that the St Louis Rams are negotiating with free agent DT Jason Jones. According to Evan Silva the Rams hope to finish the deal soon in a move that would re-unite Jones with his first head coach. We have explored Jones’ options at length and the Rams seem like a sensible fit for him with him likely moving back inside to defensive tackle in all likelihood. Jones’ question marks surround his issues with durability but when on the field he was a force for the Titans recording a +26.9 grade with the Titans during his second and third seasons in Tennessee.
11:56 Jason Cole is reporting that Paul Soliai is weighing up two different contract offers from the Denver Broncos of a two or five year contract in the Mile High City. This would be a clear sign that Brodrick Bunkley is not returning to the Broncos if this deal goes through. Soliai was our 24th ranked run defending defensive tackle this season but was one of the better nose tackles in a down year for the position. Soliai is not the only former Dolphin lineman out taking visits with Kendall Langford reportedly visiting with the Bengals on Thursday.
11:53 Bill Williamson is reporting that the Vikings will sign TE John Carlson at some point today. This will give the Vikings’ a pair of Notre Dame tight ends but their focus should be on developing Kyle Rudolph. Carlson was a solid receiving option in his rookie season in 2008 but never contributed to Seattle as a blocker and saw his receiving grade diminish every season from 2008 to 2010. Many teams and media still appear to be excited about Carlson’s raw talent so it will be interesting to see how this pair of former Fighting Irish TEs develop in Minnesota over the coming seasons.
11:25 RE-SIGNING! Following up on the deal for Trent Cole the Eagles have re-signed DT Antonio Dixon to a one year contract per Jonathan Tamari of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Dixon’s 2011 season was limited to just 86 snaps this season due to injury but in 2010 was an excellent run defender for the Eagles. Philadelphia got good value out of Derek Landri in 2011 and in welcoming back Dixon will look to shore up their interior defense further in 2012.
11:14 TRADE! According to Jason LaCanfora the Colts have announced a deal with the Eagles which will see OT Winston Justice head to Indianapolis in a deal which includes a swap of picks, this reportedly sees the Eagles move up around 15 spots in the sixth round. Justice didn’t play much in 2011, only 84 snaps, but had some solid performances in 2010 at right tackle. However Justice’s most memorable performances from that year were his abominations against the Packers in the 2010 playoffs and a -4.4 grade for his display at home to the Colts in Week 9 of that season. If Justice can cut out the really bad games the Colts have got themselves a clear upgrade over Jeff Linkenbach at right tackle.
10:59 That move creates an awful lot more cap space for the Lions this season and it is now crucial that they convert that extra cap space into bring back another one of their own, MLB Stephen Tulloch. Signed on a one year deal from Tennessee Tulloch excelled behind the Lions’ aggressive up the field defensive line making plays and cleaning up when plays found the creases left by the defensive lineman. The Lions backup plan has been reported as moving DeAndre Levy back to MLB if Tulloch leaves. Tulloch was a +17.8 this year at MLB, in 2010 Levy received a +2.0 grade for his 11 starts at MLB. That’s passable but if the Lions can keep Tulloch it would be a tremendous boost for that defense.
10:56 Adam Schefter just reported the numbers for Calvin Johnson‘s extension with the Lions and as expected they are monumental, the biggest contract for any wide receiver in the entire NFL. For his seven year extension Johnson gets $132 million total and includes $60 million guaranteed. On a per year basis that is $18.857 million per year which comfortably trumps Larry Fitzgerald‘s deal from the Cardinals. Schefter says it is the “richest” deal ever handed out in the NFL.
10:54 The Buffalo Bills have just tweeted that Mario Williams is at One Bills Drive to begin his official visit with the team. So if today is the official visit, what was yesterday? After some negativity about the Bills’ inability to lock up Williams yesterday it would appear that their patience and wooing may yet pay off.
10:45 Dollar amount is yet to be released but it’d seem that we’re on the verge of March’s biggest contract so far as the Lions have reportedly agreed a seven year extension with WR Calvin Johnson that would keep him in Detroit through 2019. If Johnson’s contract is to exceed Larry Fitzgerald‘s then that extension would need to be worth in excess of $112 million. It certainly looks like it’s a good year to be a wide receiver.
10:20 The Bucs are this year’s big spenders in free agency, trumping even the Redskins, and they have released basic figures for Eric Wright‘s contract. The deal is for 5 years and is worth $37.5 million in total. That is a colossal investment in an admittedly talented cornerback but one who hasn’t put it all together for an extended period of time.
10:09 Reaction to day one of free agency from Sam Monson who takes a look at the market that has been set at wide receiver: Who over spent? Who got value? What might the remaining free agents get? Check it out here.
09:59 SIGNING! There goes one of the big free agents, our #3 available free agent after day one has just signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Reports yesterday identified the the Buccaneers as G Carl Nicks‘ only visit and with a $47.5 million contract, $31 million of which is guaranteed, now in tow the Bucs have locked up the NFC South’s number one free agent. Nicks said he wanted to get paid and he has, topping the deal that former team-mate Jahri Evans received (on a per year basis). This is now a colossal amount of money that the Bucs have invested in their interior offensive line and with three big bodies. New HC Greg Schiano has a penchant for the running game, expect the running game to be the center piece of the Bucs’ offense next season. Time for the trio of Nicks, Zuttah and Joseph to deliver on the big investment.
09:49 Citing a league source Aaron Wilson is reporting that the Bears have agreed to a deal with former Atlanta WR/KR Eric Weems. Chicago have had great special teams units during Lovie Smith’s tenure as HC and Weems is just another addition to this special teams unit but this is a little confusing. Weems wouldn’t appear to offer much as a receiver, snagging only 11 catches on 275 snaps in Atlanta last season. Whilst he is one of the most consistent returners in the league the Bears have this guy called Hester who we here is pretty good. Perhaps the Bears plan to have Weems handle return duties for 14 games a season whilst allowing Hester to continue tearing the Vikings apart on returns in the other two games.
09:05 More details are beginning to emerge regarding the Eagles extension for Trent Cole. The Eagles have now locked up arguably the best defensive end in the NFL through 2017 with Adam Caplan reporting that “it’s a pretty significant deal”. Some reports had the Eagles in the running for Mario Williams, well that big money did go on a defensive end but the Eagles have taken care of their own. Cole led the league with a 14.9 Pass Rushing Productivity rating last year in our 4-3 defensive end rankings.
08:58 Various reports have CB Kelvin Hayden visiting the Bears today. If this develops into a signing this would re-unite Hayden with former Indianapolis team-mate Tim Jennings who was re-signed by the Bears yesterday. Hayden never established himself in Atlanta in 2011 but showed good form at times in Indianapolis. Hayden allowed a completion percentage of 75.0% on 28 passes targeted into his coverage during his time in Atlanta.
08:55 Never let it be said the Patriots aren’t active at the start of free agency. ESPN are reporting that New England are finalizing a deal to re-sign WR/ST Matthew Slater. The question is who are they going to sign to give extra depth at defensive back to ensure that Slater doesn’t have to play defensive snaps again this season?
07:42 We have news! Adam Schefter reports those busy Bucs have found themselves a cornerback and his name Eric Wright. This may spell the end of Ronde Barber, with Wright being the kind of cornerback who can play in the slot. He’s coming off a pretty poor year, earning our fifth lowest grade of the year. Incredibly two of the guys who finished below him played for the Bucs. As Sam Monson puts it, ‘somehow I still like Eric Wright’, because there are times (remember Week 14 against Minnesota) where he looks like something of a player. It will be interesting seeing the money involved.
07:24 We’ve just updated our top 75 available free agents. That’s nice of us right? We’re primed to react to any news so keeping checking back on the live blog for all sorts of reaction from the PFF staff.
06:30 Things are getting interesting at PFF headquarters. Renown for his inability with all things of a technical nature, Sam Monson is currently confused as heck by an excel spreadsheet that is examining the production of the receivers who got paid yesterday. If you hear a man screaming, “but what do the numbers mean?” then you’re not far away from our technologically challenged friend. He assures us an article will follow.
04:55 Are you ready for another exciting day of free agency action? Team PFF will be all over the news as we were yesterday as we analyze all the moves and rumors. Mario Williams remains the top free agent out there after Buffalo couldn’t close the deal, but there’s plenty of other talent as evidenced by our top 75 free agents and our bargain buys.
01:20 VISIT On a day swamped with wide receiver news, one of the top free agents available at the position is still on the market and has now been linked to a familiar destination. Brandon Lloyd (+8.9 receiving in 2011) is headed to his first NFL city, SF, to check in and see if he fits with their hopes of adding some kind of receiving option outside of TE Vernon Davis. With Moss already in the fold, the 49ers continue to look at the position in an effort to supplement/complement what Michael Crabtree (+5.4 receiving in 2011) gives them on the other side. If the deep ball is indeed their concern, Lloyd has seen 40 more targets of 20+ yards in the past two seasons than Crabtree has, hauling 27 of 69 with two drops on long balls. Eternally-injured former Raider Chaz Schilens is also scheduled to stop in for a chat with the SF brass.
01:06 VISIT So, Carl Nicks has traveled to Tampa (Bucs beat the Eagles to the first-visit prize, though Philly’s interest was disputed) and Jason LaCanfora tweets that the two sides (Nicks and the Bucs) are hammering away on deal details late tonight. With a huge cache of cap cash, Tampa Bay would be making another splash by landing a dominant blocker who made it clear he wanted to pad his wallet with his next contract. Nicks has consistently graded out among the top guards since entering the league–Top 4 overall here at PFF in each of the last three seasons–and would be a trophy piece to add to any line.
00:38 RE-SIGNING! It’s being reported now by Aaron Wilson and Tania Ganguli that DE Jeremy Mincey has re-signed with Jacksonville. Carrying 2011 PFF grades of +11.8 pass rush and +8.2 run D left him in select company: also grading above +8.0 in both facets = Trent Cole, Jared Allen, Jason Pierre-Paul, Michael Bennett, and Terrell Suggs. A few years since his NFL arrival, and past a stint on the IR, Mincey settled in nicely these past two seasons and established himself as a legit top-end DE in 2011. UPDATE: Mincey’s deal being reported as four years, $27mil max, $9mil guaranteed.
00:32 SIGNING! While the Chargers lost one of the better receivers the franchise has seen, they made a move to replace him with Robert Meachem. While he never had more than five receptions in a game this past season, he was very reliable with both a high catch rate at 65.3% as well as a high yards per catch at 15.9. There are places Meachem could have gone to become the main guy, but in San Diego he will be joined by Malcom Floyd who has excelled being the number two man and Vincent Brown who had a solid rookie season. With so many receivers getting taken off the market already, it’s becoming more likely that teams will consider making a move for Mike Wallace, and that Laurent Robinson will have a big pay day soon.
00:19 The Brandon Marshall trade didn’t seem to make all that much sense to Dolphin fans for most of the day, but this evening Adam Schefter reports there was an incident that will involve the league following up on it. Assuming Miami knew about the incident, it makes more sense why they could have wanted to trade him.