NFL free-agents-to-be began finalizing deals with new teams early Tuesday, more than a day before the league technically permits it.
At about the time 39-year-old quarterback Drew Brees agreed to remain with the New Orleans Saints, for a reported $50 million over two years, free-agent deals started going down in bunches.
Other major quarterback dominos already had begun to topple. Top free agents at other positions similarly began lining up on new gigs elsewhere.
Since Monday at noon EDT, per NFL rules, teams have been permitted “to contact, and enter into contract negotiations” with agent representatives of any veteran players due to become unrestricted free agents once the new league year begins Wednesday at 4 p.m. EDT. But “a contract cannot be executed” before then.
That language is not nearly strict enough (undoubtedly by design) to prevent contract agreements in principle from being reached. And on Tuesday, reports of such deals kept blowing up on Twitter, one after another.
Before analyzing such deals-in-waiting, and what other quarterbacks remain on the as yet unopened market, let’s look at Brees remaining with the Saints.
QB Drew Brees, still a Saint.
The money for which Brees stayed is a shocker, frankly. He could have commanded $30 million a year in the open market, but accepted $25 million per, with just $27 million guaranteed – a screaming bargain for the Saints.
But since the Saints lost in heartbreaking fashion at Minnesota two months ago in an NFC divisional playoff game, Brees never hid the fact that his clear intention was to remain in New Orleans, just as club officials repeatedly said they wanted the 17-year NFL veteran back.
Reports said Brees has a no-trade clause in the new deal. He’ll likely now conclude his career in the Big Easy.
Brees moved to New Orleans in 2006 after spending his first five pro seasons in San Diego; he has been a Pro Bowl selection in New Orleans 10 times; he won a Super Bowl there in 2009; and he and wife Brittany have raised their young family there.
It’s home now. And there’s no place like home.
QB Kirk Cousins, to Minnesota.
Reports stressed this is not yet a done deal. But the terms of what the Minnesota Vikings have offered the passer on his last full day as a contracted Washington Redskin leaked out.
According to NFL Network, the Vikes are offering Cousins $86 million, fully guaranteed, over three years. That’s an average of $28.7 million per season, which would break San Francisco QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s briefly held record for highest NFL average salary, of $27.5 million.
“(The Vikings) believe they’ve got him,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted.
The New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals reportedly are, or were, the only other two serious possible destinations for Cousins, a 29-year-old entering his seventh NFL season.
After backing up fellow rookie Robert Griffin III to start his pro career in 2012, Cousins eventually ascended as the better option soon after Jay Gruden was hired as head coach in 2014. Cousins started every Redskins game over the past three seasons, and has a 66% completion percentage and 99-to-55 TD-to-interception ratio.
Reports say Cousins will follow NFL procedures and wait until Wednesday to fly to Minnesota, where he’ll visit the club’s new headquarters on Thursday and, if all goes well, announce an agreement soon thereafter.
Two weeks ago at the NFL Scouting Combine, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer – to his credit – didn’t attempt to hide or sugar-coast the question marks surrounding each of his team’s three quality quarterbacks from 2017, all due to become free agents on Wednesday: Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum.
“It’s really the $64,000 question with all three of these guys, right?” Zimmer said. “Can Sam stay healthy? Is Teddy what he was? Is Case the guy that he was last year [that is, elite] or the guy two years ago [a ham-and-egger]?”
Ultimately, Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman decided Cousins was the more sure thing, and appear to have their man.
“It’s important for myself and Rick and the organization to pick the right guy that is going to help us continue to move forward,” Zimmer said at the combine. “If I don’t do that, then I’ll probably be fired.”
If you get an $86-million guaranteed contract wrong, you’re darn right you’ll be fired.
QB Case Keenum, to Denver.
The surprise performer of the NFL’s 2017 regular season with Minnesota, Keenum didn’t feel the post-season love from the Vikings, despite leading that team to the NFC championship game.
Numerous reports say he has agreed to join the Denver Broncos. While no precise terms of the agreement have leaked, the Denver Post reported that Keenum’s deal “is expected to be a shorter-term contract, with approximately $18 million per year in average pay.”
As with Brees’ new deal, that seems light. But if accurate, it’d be a solid indication the Broncos aren’t sold on Keenum being “the guy” long term.
Hence, would it come as a surprise if, on April 26, the Broncos don’t use their No. 5 overall draft pick on the best available rookie quarterback – among USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.
If, however, the Broncos trade down from No. 5, you’ll know they’re sold on Keenum.
QB Sam Bradford, to Arizona.
Purely a temp.
The Cardinals reportedly will sign the 30-year-old to a one-year contract for $20 million. It’ll be his fourth NFL team in nine years.
The Cards are slated to pick 15th overall – perhaps not high enough to select any of Darnold, Allen, Rosen or Mayfield. Unless they’re smitten with Louisville’s Lamar Jackson – the only other QB prospect likely to be taken in the first round – expect Arizona to try to trade up.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, to New York Jets.
Looks like he’ll fight it out with Josh McCown to be the Jets’ temp QB until whichever rookie they draft No. 6 overall is ready to take over, or just as backup insurance.
This news broke Tuesday night, on ESPN, a couple hours after numerous reports said McCown will return to the Jets on a one-year, $10-million deal. Bridgewater’s deal, too, is for just one year.
The above moves leave these as the probable next best free-agent-to-be options at QB
- A.J. McCarron (Cincinnati)
- Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco)
- Matt Moore (Miami)
- Derek Anderson (Carolina)
- Geno Smith (New York Giants)
There are many more even less appealing options after them, including Chad Henne (Jacksonville), Ryan Mallett (Baltimore), EJ Manuel (Oakville) and Matt Cassel (Tennessee).
So, which other clubs still need a veteran QB, at least as a temp starter or experienced backup to a raw rookie? Certainly the Buffalo Bills, and maybe the Miami Dolphins.
Which veteran might the Bills sign? Not likely McCarron, who barely played behind Andy Dalton in four years in Cincinnati. More likely the Bills would choose a more grizzled backup, such as Moore, Anderson or Smith. Because Anderson backed up Cam Newton in Carolina, and the Bills hierarchy love them their ex-Panthers, maybe he’s the guy they’ll sign.
Teams needing a new veteran backup behind an entrenched starter – whether or not they opt to draft a raw, Day 2 or 3 rookie – include the Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars.
WR Sammy Watkins, to Kansas City.
His third NFL team before age 26. That should tell you something.
The top-five pick from 2014 spent three injury-marred, under-performing seasons in Buffalo before being traded to the Los Angeles Rams last August. He was immediately proclaimed Jared Goff’s No. 1 pass target, but effectively became only L.A.’s fourth-most productive receiver, after RB Todd Gurley, rookie Cooper Kupp and his ex-Bills teammate Robert Woods.
Watkins and the Chiefs reportedly have agreed to a $48-million, three-year deal with $30 million guaranteed. So he’s got his big money. Can he earn it? Big question. I’m skeptical.
Perhaps the Chiefs’ situation fits him better than he realizes. Smurfy, super-quick WR Tyreek Hill is so dangerous he can take a lot of double-teams off Watkins. And TE Travis Kelce might be the NFL’s best tight end right now. RB Kareem Hunt similarly can help ease second-year QB Patrick Mahomes into the starting role.
As it happens, in each of his first seasons with a new NFL team, Watkins has been brought in to help raise the play of a second-year QB.
WR Allen Robinson, to Chicago.
First of two great gets by the Bears to help second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky. Robinson played at a Pro Bowl level two years ago in Jacksonville, before deflating along with the rest of the Jags offence in 2016. He missed all of last season with a torn ACL.
Should he be able to return to form in new head coach and chief offensive strategist Matt Nagy’s new Bears attack, Robinson will be worth the $42 million over three years (with $25 million guaranteed) he’ll reportedly be paid.
TE Trey Burton, to Chicago.
The second great get by the Bears.
Burton is super athletic; he was a mobile quarterback in high school. And despite catching five TDs in 2017, his playing time was limited by starter Zach Ertz’s great year.
Burton seems ready for a breakout season in his own right. And, hey, as the “Philly Special” play proved in the Super Bowl, if the Bears ever need him to throw Trubisky a pass on a trick play, Burton’s up to it. He’ll reportedly sign for $32 million over four years.
The Bears offence already had the promising franchise QB in Trubisky and a great 1-2 punch at RB in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen (who in ’17 combined for 1,492 yards rushing, 478 receiving). Now, with two new top-end pass catchers, Chicago ought to be much more dangerous in 2018.
TE Jimmy Graham, to Green Bay.
New GM Brian Gutekunst apparently wants the league to know his Green Bay Packers are going to be selectively aggressive in free agency. He agreed to terms Tuesday with former superstar New Orleans and Seattle tight end Jimmy Graham on a reported three-year deal.
The 31-year-old’s production cratered in Seattle, where he seemed improperly used. That’s not likely to be an issue in Green Bay.
Undoubtedly to help make room for whatever gargantuan contract Graham will get, the Packers cut nine-year wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Ouch.
Nelson bounced back from a blown ACL in 2015 with 14 TDs in 2016, second most of his career. But in 15 starts last year he caught just 53 passes for 482 yards and six scores. The ginormous asterisk? Rodgers missed most of the season while incompetent backup Brett Hundley quarterbacked.
TE Derek Carrier, to Oakland.
A player joining his fifth team in seven years usually doesn’t get a three-year contract, but that’s what is being reported. But cue the confusion. Derek Carr will be throwing the passes to Derek Carrier.
WR Paul Richardson, to Washington.
Seattle loses an under-appreciated go-to receiver for Russell Wilson. Alex Smith, whose arrival in a trade from the Chiefs expected to go through on Wednesday, sure can use such a reliable downfield target.
Behind top target Doug Baldwin, Richardson caught 44 passes for 703 yards and six TDs in ’17. He’ll reportedly earn $40 million over five years with $20 million guaranteed.
WRs Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson, to Miami.
Amendola, a reliable big-play pass-catcher of Tom Brady’s since 2013, is expected to sign with the Dolphins, one of three AFC East rivals of the New England Patriots.
Amendola is set to earn $12 million over two years, with $8.25 million in reported guarantees. He’s 32. That’s not a bad deal.
Wilson’s is a less impactful addition to the Dolphins. A poor man’s Jarvis Landry, basically. Although $24 million over three years is hardly the stuff of poor men.
WR John Brown, to Baltimore.
The speedy former Arizona Cardinal reportedly will sign for just one year, for up to $6.5 million. The Ravens are desperate for a dependable receiver. Before injuries of the past two years, Brown was exactly that in Arizona.
RB Jonathan Stewart, to the New York Giants.
Cut by Carolina, Stewart found a good new home. He’ll help a terrible rushing attack.
RB Isaiah Crowell, to the New York Jets.
Under-rated with the Cleveland Browns, amid all those losses, he won’t be so overlooked if he performs as well in the Big Apple on a reported three-year deal.
OT Chris Hubbard, to Cleveland.
The first tackle to switch teams, Hubbard moves within the division, from Pittsburgh, for a reported five-year, $37.5 million with $18 million guaranteed. The Browns are thus protected should perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas retire on Wednesday, when he’s expected to inform the Browns of his tough decision.
G Andrew Norwell, to Jacksonville.
The best free-agent guard available remains in the Southeast, relocating from Carolina. Reports say he will become the NFL’s highest-paid guard ever, with the Jags’ offer of $66.5 million over five years with $30 million guaranteed. For a guard, people. He’s used to run blocking and pass-blocking for an erratic thrower, so he should feel at home.
C/G Weston Richburg, to San Francisco.
Soon to be an ex-New York Giant, Richburg jumps from the East Coast to the West Coast, for a reported $24 million over three years. That’s good money, considering that when Canadian Brett Jones replaced him in the Giants’ starting lineup at centre late last season, when Richburg was hurt, if anything the Giants’ interior line play improved
DT Star Lotulelei, to Buffalo.
Another ex-Carolina player recruited to follow GM Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott to Buffalo.
Lotulelei will help immediately fill what position group has become a dearth, with the trading away of Marcell Dareus and possible retirement of Kyle Williams. He’s much more a guard/centre occupier than a penetrator, as evidenced by his 11.5 sack total in five years of starting.
He’s durable, missing only five career starts, and played four years in McDermott’s defence.
NT Haloti Ngota, to Philadelphia.
At the tail end of his career, entering Year 13, the 34-year-old figures to play just situationally as a backup during his new one-year deal. Still, Ngato adds quality, experienced depth to what already was the NFL’s best, deepest defensive line.
LB Anthony Hitchens, to Kansas City.
A big loss for Dallas, a sharp pickup for the Chiefs. He’s an improving middle linebacker who’s stellar in pass coverage. He’ll reportedly earn $9 million per year in Kansas City.
LBs Devon Kennard and Christian Jones, to Detroit.
New head coach Matt Patricia is quickly putting his stamp on the Lions defence, by upgrading his linebacker corps. Kennard reportedly will join for $18.75 million over three years, Jones for $7.75 million over two.
CB Aaron Colbin, to Houston.
The first free-agent cornerback to line up a new team. He ranked third on Jacksonville’s depth chart last season, after Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, the latter of whom left Houston last March for the Jags. Jacksonville got the better of that year-apart ‘swap.’
CB Malcolm Butler, to Tennessee.
The former Super Bowl hero-and-zero with New England reportedly will sign with the Titans, for a huge deal: $61 million over five years, with $30 million guaranteed. Not a bad bounce-back for whatever reason Patriots head coach Bill Belichick kept him out of the Super Bowl last month.
CB Bashaud Breeland, to Carolina.
In a two-years-apart swap of sorts that also fails to even out the scales, the Panthers reportedly have a deal in place to add this former Washington Redskin. It was the Redskins who signed perhaps the top NFL cornerback at the time, Josh Norman, in 2016 after the Panthers rescinded the franchise tag they’d slapped on him. But Breeland does upgrade a Panthers secondary that needs upgrading.
CB Trumaine Johnson, to the New York Jets.
No longer needed by the Los Angeles Rams after they arranged trades to get CBs Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, Johnson reportedly will earn an average of $15 million per year with the Jets.
PK Cody Parkey, to Chicago.
The Bears will be his fourth team in five NFL seasons, after stops in Philadelphia, Cleveland and Miami. He made 21-of-23 field-goal attempts last season with the Dolphins, including all 21 from under 40 yards.
EXTRA POINTS: DT Kyle Williams has decided to return to the Buffalo Bills for a 13th season, he told a news conference: “As eloquently as I can put it, I haven’t exhausted myself in the pursuit of what my dream is of playing this game, of playing for this organization, and chasing being a champion Buffalo is home. It’s where I want to be, it’s where I want to win, and I couldn’t be more excited.” … Jacksonville LB Paul Posluszny announced his retirement … Jacksonville re-signed WR Marqise Lee, practically a must after Robinson lined up a deal with the Bears … Reports said WR Dez Bryant met with Dallas Cowboys bosses to discuss his future with the club. No immediate news followed … The Baltimore Ravens cut RB Danny Woodhead … Arizona cut RB Adrian Peterson … Philadelphia cut veteran backup TE Brent Celek … S Tavon Wilson, Detroit, re-signed for $7 million over two years … Philadelphia OT Lane Johnson agreed to restructure his contract, to free up more 2018 cap space.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies