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Posts tagged with "free agency"

Since first year General Manager Chris Ballard arrived in Indianapolis, he has launched an aggressive rebuild for the Colts defense. The only starting spots from 2016 that are likely to be filled with the same player from a season ago are manned by veteran corner Vontae Davis and third-year defensive lineman Henry Anderson. When Clayton Geathers returns from injury he will take his spot back in the starting rotation as well (get well soon Clayton).

This leaves 8 spots that are likely to have new starters from last season. 3 of those spots might be filled by players who were on the roster before Ballard arrived — Darius Butler could start at safety if Malik Hooker needs more time, Kendall Langford may take back his starting spot at defensive end, and Rashaan Melvin could start opposite Davis in the secondary if the team wants to allow rookie Quincy Wilson a more gradual learning curve.

The new faces to the defense this summer include what could be an entirely new group of starting linebackers, a new starting safety, a new starting corner, and one new starting defensive lineman. These additions include: DT Johnathan Hankins, DT Al Woods, DL Grover Stewart, DE Margus Hunt, OLB Jabaal Sheard, OLB John Simon, OLB Barkevious Mingo, OLB Tarrell Bashsam, ILB Sean Spence, ILB Jon Bostic, ILB Anthony Walker, CB Quincy Wilson, CB Nate Hairston, and S Malik Hooker.

That is a pretty impressive group of new defensive blood that Ballard hopes will breath new life into a historically bad defense.

Still, what came of the players who were replaced? The answer speaks volumes about the poor state of the defensive roster in Indianapolis when Ballard took control.

The outliers are steady veteran safety Mike Adams who signed with the Carolina Panthers, oft-injured corner Patrick Robinson who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, and utility defensive lineman Zach Kerr who signed with the Denver Broncos. At this point only one of those players seems like a candidate to start.

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With Lawrence Timmons, Markus Wheaton and Jarvis Jones finding new teams via free agency, some fans (yes, I know, not you) never cease wondering if the team let these guys leave too soon. Sure it has happened before, most notably Rod Woodson in 1997, but for the most part the Steelers seem to have a knack for knowing when a player’s time in Pittsburgh has come to a close. Some guys like Hines Ward, Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu chose retirement instead of extending their careers elsewhere. Some players were in the Steelers plans, but the team did not feel they could afford them and failed to fight for them. With some free agents or released players, the franchise’s lack of interest screamed loudly, “Don’t let the door hit you where the Good Lord split you.”

So, it got me thinking. Of the current men (those who, at least, occupied a spot on an NFL roster in 2016) who once donned the black and gold, who are the best that left? By looking at the following list, It’s of my opinion that the departures of Steeler Nation ended up being minimal. There are no players like Woodson, that the Steelers have regretted their leaving yet. Timmons could be one of those guys, but time will tell.

Without further ado, here are the players that comprise the all Ex-Steeler list…

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Nobody will be visiting New Jersey on Tuesday. If they did, with snow and freezing rain throughout the day, they might never want to return.

The New York Giants get a day to reset in free agency. They can reassess their roster, see what’s still available on the open market, attend to some of their own free agents (over the phone) and re-open for business Wednesday when this storm passes.

This is where they stand six days into free agency. The Giants have already signed and re-signed some players. But they can’t possibly be done. The goal is to cover all their bases before the draft, so they’re not pigeon-holed into any position or player.

So let’s take a look at what they’ve done so far in free agency, what else they can do and how much money is available to make those moves.

Salary-cap space: $4 million (estimate)

(Note: There are several moves the Giants could make to add significant cap space, if necessary)

Who has signed:

WR Brandon Marshall: A tall target who serves as a dangerous red zone threat. He’s an ideal complement to Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard.

TE/FB Rhett Ellison: A solid blocker who will be a massive upgrade in the H-back role.

RB Orleans Darkwa (re-signed): He returns after not being tendered as a restricted free agent. The key for Darkwa is staying healthy.

G John Jerry (re-signed): He is back for a fourth season after starting all 17 Giants game last year at right guard. Jerry is a better pass-blocker than run-blocker.

OL D.J. Fluker: A 2013 first-round pick of the Chargers who will try to resuscitate his career. He’ll have to earn his starting spot with the Giants.

Who has left:

OL Marshall Newhouse (Raiders)

K Robbie Gould (49ers)

Positions of need:

Running back: The Giants have Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen and Darkwa under contract. An inexpensive veteran power back is on their radar.

Potential options: LeGarrette Blount, Eddie Lacy and Latavius Murray all fit. But it’s likely to come down to who the Giants can snag at the best price.

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It would make a great T-shirt or bumper sticker slogan for Steelers fans: “Free agency has started and all I got was a backup tight end.”

Or a backup quarterback.

Or a long snapper.

You’d think Steelers fans would be accustomed to the way the team does business by now. But no. Each year, as team after team spends millions on what is typically a misguided attempt to upgrade its roster and overcome poor drafting, Steelers fans gnash their teeth about every move.

And yet, all the Steelers have done in the free agency era, which began in 1993 – my first year covering the team – is have just four losing seasons in that time, make four trips to the Super Bowl and win twice.

That tells me they might be approaching things the right way.

So what is the Steelers’ way?

They identify the players on their own roster they’d like to retain and they make every effort to do so. Typically, they do so.

That doesn’t mean they always get it right. But more often than not, injuries have played a factor – Ike Taylor, LaMarr Woodley.

But you always know your own guys better than those from the outside. And they don’t have to learn a new system, scheme or vernacular.

The Steelers also are very cognizant of not upsetting the structure of their locker room. And by that, I mean pay structure.

For example, they’re not going to jump into the free agent market and pay a defensive player more than current defensive leader Cam Heyward. It upsets the apple cart in the locker room.

They’ll sign guys for the amount they have slotted and not a penny more. Typically, that means waiting for the market to settle a little before they dig in.

So complain about it all you like. But it’s been that way for 25 years and likely will be so for the next 25.

@ We should be reaching that market settling point early this week.

The Steelers had wanted to add a cornerback in free agency, but considering the going rate was around $10 million per year for average starters, that wasn’t going to happen.

After the opening flurry that has seen A.J. Buye, Logan Ryan, Stephon Gilmore, Prince Amukamara and Dre Kirkpatrick all sign deals for $10-plus million per year, the market should start to come down a little.

But who’s left at the position that’s any good or isn’t over the hill?

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INDIANAPOLIS – You don’t have to have a Ph.D in scouting to know that job No. 1 in getting the Indianapolis Colts back on track was fixing the disastrous defense.

Well, it appears Chris Ballard saw the same thing the rest of us did.

Two days into NFL free agency and the first-year general manager has made the defense his mission. Of his four acquisitions to date, three have been outside linebackers. Friday brought the additions of former New England Patriots linebacker Jabaal Sheard and former Houston Texans linebacker John Simon on three-year deals.

Sheard, 27, signed for a reported $25.5 million while Simon, according to a source, agreed to a base deal worth $14 million but with escalators that could push the total to $17 million.

Throw in the addition of free-agent linebacker Barkevious Mingo, 26, on Thursday — he’ll compete for a roster spot and to show he’s got something left — the Colts infused their defense with a significant dose of young talent at a position where it was most necessary.

The Colts haven’t solved their pass-rush problem. These players are better fits for run stopping and to be complementary pass rushers. The Colts could still target an edge rusher with the 15th overall pick in the NFL draft.

But that’s not to say that pass rushing isn’t a big part of both players’ repertoires. Sheard had 13 combined sacks the past two seasons while Simon, 26, recorded 8.5 in the past two seasons while playing a part-time role on the NFL’s top-ranked defense. Positions (strong-side linebacker vs. rush linebacker) are less important here than roles. And these are players who can do multiple things.

Either way, to come away from free agency with a pair of young, solid edge players is a huge win. A position that last season featured mostly Robert Mathis (35), Trent Cole (34) and Erik Walden (31) has been utterly transformed. Sheard and Simon give the Colts two players with significant upside and versatility. The high likelihood of them being joined by a rookie this fall just brings down the average age of the unit that much more.

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Jan 1, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver Keith Mumphery (12) is tackled by Tennessee Titans linebacker Avery Williamson (54) defensive lineman Al Woods (96) and safety Kevin Byard (31) after a catch during the second half at Nissan Stadium. The Titans won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency hasn’t officially begun yet, but the rumors are flying and the Titans have already made a few moves that need to be noted.

NFL free agency officially begins Thursday at 4 p.m. ET, but until then, there’s a period of what many call “legal tampering” where teams can negotiate with players. As oxymoronic as that phrase is, the process brings about news and rumors that give us football fiends something to talk about. Here’s some of the information, and possible misinformation, that has been going around lately in regards to the Tennessee Titans.

Brandin Cooks

In the digital age, the prevalence of misinformation has risen. Right now, I have no idea what to believe about all the Cooks rumors. So since I have no idea what’s going to happen and people keep spreading stuff, I’m just going to embed tweets to tell the story and let you all take it as you will.

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The mathematical surprise that gave Pittsburgh Steelers general manger Kevin Colbert an extra third-round Draft pick won’t just affect the team at the end of April.

It can change the Steelers’ approach to free agency, which officially opens on Thursday at 4 p.m. The “legal tampering” period began Tuesday at noon.

“Because if you’re saying ‘OK, we’d like to get five players in this whole process and you have three picks then that makes you have to go into free agency more,” Colbert said at the Combine last week. “Well now with four picks in the the first three rounds, albeit with a low pick in the third round, we have a better chance of getting a player in the Draft where maybe it affects what we do in free agency.”

In short, Pittsburgh and its $18.6 million in cap space doesn’t have to chase as hard.

And as Colbert outlined, there is a pretty clear dropoff in the Steelers’ success from picks in the first three rounds to the rest of a given year’s Draft.

The only clear “miss” Pittsburgh has made in the first three rounds in the last five years was Dri Archer, taken 97th overall, in 2014.

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Here are the moves the Tennessee Titans should consider when free agency opens at 4 p.m. ET Thursday, March 9:

Sign Dont’a Hightower: An every-down inside linebacker probably ranks behind cornerback and receiver as a need. But the Titans have plenty of salary-cap room, and the best player in free agency at any of those positions is Hightower. Titans general manager Jon Robinson was in the Patriots front office when they drafted Hightower 25th overall out of Alabama in 2012. Hightower can give the Titans a huge, middle-of-the-field presence and further diversify what defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is able to do. Hightower is a pass-rushing force, but he can cover too. If the Titans lose out on him, they should be looking at Arizona’s Kevin Minter, Washington’s Will Compton or Denver’s Todd Davis.

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There’s really no player in this year’s crop of Colts impending free agents who jumps out as a player the Colts absolutely must re-sign, but there’s certainly a case for tight end Jack Doylebeing the first priority to be brought back over any of the others.

Doyle is coming off a career year (59 catches, 584 yards, five touchdowns) and is apparently getting set to hit the free agent market, where he could command a higher price tag than the Colts want to pay. The initial reaction might be to show reluctance over throwing another large contract at a tight end after doing the same with Dwayne Allen in 2016, but a closer look reinforces the type of value Doyle could have to the team.

Doyle stepped up in a major way in 2016 after the Colts let Coby Fleener walk in free agency. Doyle’s 59 catches were second-highest on the team and was a bigger single-season total than Fleener has had in his career. Doyle established strong on-field rapport with Andrew Luck and showed the ability to make big plays when it counts.

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We’re in the position now, after two months of silence, to truly get our engines revved up at the thought of the 2017 Eagles season. What are they planning to do with a roster that won seven games last season? What is the plan they have put in place since the season ended with a win over the Dallas Cowboys?

The Eagles’ brain trust is in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine, and the workload is heavy. The Eagles want to visit with as many players as they can – teams are permitted to have 60 interviews with prospects, and coaches are able to have informal conversations with players along the way, too – and they want to evaluate the apples-to-apples athletic talents in events like the 40-yard dash, the bench press, the three-cone drill as well as the various position-specific events.

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