Jordy Nelson Cut by Packers

Written by Benjamin Hoffman at New York Times.com

Here is a look at the free agency picture as it currently stands:

Jordy Nelson Out, Jimmy Graham In for Green Bay

Where he might go: It is too soon to know which teams Nelson might be interested in joining, since the Packers did not announce his release until 5 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, but there will surely be suitors lined up for the 32-year-old wide receiver.

What that means: After a down year in which he had just 53 catches for 482 yards, Nelson became expendable to the Packers. The fact that his release will give the team $10.2 million in cap space was certainly the deciding factor considering the respect he commands in an out of the Packers organization. In the announcement of Nelson’s release, Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst said “Jordy will always be a member of the Packers family and we look forward to his eventual induction into the Packers Hall of Fame.” Nelson is expected to put off that induction by signing with another team, and just a year removed from a season in which he had 1,257 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, it is reasonable to think that he still has something to offer.

With some money freed up, the Packers are believed to have reached an agreement with Jimmy Graham, a five-time Pro Bowler at tight end, who had 57 catches for 520 yards and 10 touchdowns last season with the Seattle Seahawks. The 31-year-old was a favorite target for Drew Brees in New Orleans, had a good rapport with Russell Wilson in Seattle, and will now get a chance to catch passes from another top-shelf quarterback in Aaron Rodgers.

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NFL Free Agency Grades So Far

Written by Conor Orr at MMQB.com

Because few actually abide by the “legal tampering period” rules, the meatiest portion of free agency can strike at any time. For those on the east coast, that meant waking up to a flurry of major deals on Tuesday morning in addition to four inches of snow. Case Keenum, Sammy Watkins and Andrew Norwell were off the market before some West Coast general managers went to bed. While there are still some remaining tidbits, like how the Steelers will resolve their near future with Le’Veon Bell and where remaining players like A.J. McCarron land, the opening bell was an early climax.

Here are the biggest acquisitions thus far and how we think they graded out (in reverse-chronological order):

MALCOLM BUTLER TO THE TITANS

With about $60 million to spend this offseason, the Titans jump into the deep end on Day One of this NFL free agency extravaganza and sign Malcolm Butler, bringing the former Patriots Super Bowl hero (and, in later years, scapegoat) to New England South. New head coach Mike Vrabel gets a cover corner who, while not cheap, is hopefully desperate to prove that whatever nebulous offenses ended his career in New England were the act of a tyrannical head coach and not the faults of a rule-bending player.

Butler and new teammate Logan Ryan played well together in New England for three seasons and should resume a strong working relationship in the back end of Tennessee’s secondary. The Titans, as Tom Brady proved in the playoffs last year, are not just one cornerback away from taking the AFC South and marching toward a conference title game. However, the more versatile and capable cover corners a team has, the better they’ll fare against the class of the AFC.

The reported length and dollar amounts of these contracts should not sway opinion—as NFL Network reported, Butler gets about half of the $61 million in guarantees. If a team like the Titans is in contention, they should spend the money. This doesn’t have to be a long marriage if Butler declines a bit as he did toward the end of his Patriot tenure.

GRADE: B-


JOSH MCCOWN TO THE JETS

I was surprised to see the immediate backlash on Twitter after a season when McCown played at replacement level (and at times far above) for the Jets in 2017. A one-year, $10-million deal is easily absorbed by a team that has almost $90 million in cap space, and having an easy-going personality like McCown in the locker room makes it simple to still sign someone like Teddy Bridgewater and draft a rookie at No. 6.

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Kirk Cousins Signs Massive Deal With Vikings

Written by Marc Sessler at NFL.com

The quarterback-needy Vikings have taken a decisive lead in the open-market chase for Kirk Cousins.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that Cousins — the prize of free agency — is likely to sign a three-year deal from the Vikings that includes approximately $84 million guaranteed. As expected, that tops the $27.5 million per year Jimmy Garoppolo earned from the 49ers.

Cousins is slated to attend dinner with coaches and other essential Vikings personnel on Wednesday before visiting the club’s brand new facility on Thursday.

“They believe they’ve got him,”Rapoport tweeted Tuesday, adding: “They do not want him to leave the building.”

As he has for weeks, Rapoport described Minnesota as being in the “driver’s seat” for Cousins, the 29-year-old veteran who also drew interest from the Broncos before Denver opted to pursue ex-Vikings passer Case Keenum.

The Cardinals and Jets remain in the mix, too, but hopes are fading for anyone not named the Vikings. While New York boasts more salary-cap space than any team league-wide, it’s the Vikings who can dangle the prize of a Super Bowl-ready roster.

Despite Keenum’s marvelous work last season, the Vikings made it a priority to address their quarterback room. In Cousins, they nab the only quarterback outside of Philip Rivers with at least 4,000-plus passing yards and 25 touchdowns through the air in each of the past three seasons.

Entering his seventh campaign, Cousins has ranked as one of the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks since 2015, measuring third in completion percentage and game-winning drives.

In Minnesota, Cousins would guide a Viking’s attack flush with receiving talent and returning rookie running back Dalvin Cook to go along with one of the NFL’s deepest and grittiest defensive squads.

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Eagles Trade Torrey Smith

Written by Ryan Wilson at CBS Sports.com

The Eagles might be a month removed from their first Super Bowl title, but they’re not taking anything for granted. The team will trade wide receiver Torrey Smith to the Panthers  for cornerback Daryl Worley, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The move comes days after Philadelphia bolstered its defensive line, acquiring Michael Bennett from the Seahawks.

Worley, originally a 2012 third-round pick out of West Virginia, now gets a chance to play in his hometown. In two seasons in Carolina, he started 25 games and had three interceptions, 19 passes defended and two sacks. Worley was a replacement-level talent last season, according to Pro Football Focus, where he ranked 79th out of 120 cornerbacks. As a rookie, he ranked 33rd overall, and the hope is that Worley will flourish on an Eagles defense that was among the league’s best a season ago.

The latest offseason maneuvering reiterates the point made by Warren Sharp and others about how teams with young, relatively inexpensive quarterbacks are building to win titles right now.

Smith, meanwhile, gives the Panthers a much-needed deep threat. He started 14 games last season but had just 36 receptions for 430 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ well-balanced offense. In Carolina, running back Christian McCaffrey was the leading receiver, hauling in 80 passes. He was followed by Devin Funchess (63 receptions), which goes a long way in explaining why the Panthers would be interested in Smith, who averaged 20.1 yards per reception with the 49ers in 2015.

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Browns Trade DeShone Kizer to Packers

Written by Cody Benjamin at CBS Sports.com

Acquiring Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry in one day was not enough for the Cleveland Browns.

(Read that again, and try to do so without squinting.)

Minutes after they reportedly agreed to trades for two of the AFC East’s most prominent players, the NFL’s worst team-turned-offseason sensation got busy with another transaction, this one a deal for former Green Bay Packers first-round draft pick Damarious Randall. And in the deal, they’ll be shipping 2017 second-round pick DeShone Kizer to Green Bay. The teams will also be flipping Day 3 picks:

As ESPN’s Adam Schefter said on Twitter Friday, a full five days before trades can become official and 2018 free agency begins, the Packers have informed Randall, who intercepted a career-high four passes in 2017, that he’s been traded to Cleveland.

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Browns Trade for Jarvis Landry and Tyrod Taylor

Written by Bill Barnwell at ESPN.com

The stockpiling-draft-picks era of the Cleveland Browns has come to a close. With Sashi Brown fired and replaced by traditionalist general manager John Dorsey, it’s no surprise that the Browns put some of their record-setting draft capital to work by trading for a trio of veterans on Friday afternoon. In three separate deals, the Browns sent out midround selections in the 2018 and 2019 drafts along with former starting quarterback DeShone Kizer for three veterans who should help the team win in the short term. It’s not difficult to understand why the Browns made these trades, but it’s a sign that they’re stuck paying what amounts to a competitiveness tax.

In the case of their trades for Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Dolphins wideout Jarvis Landry, the Browns sent out draft picks to acquire a veteran they likely would not have been able to woo in free agency unless their markets totally failed to materialize. Buffalo and Miami had little leverage in making these deals, given that the Bills had no realistic intentions of paying Taylor the $6 million roster bonus he was due on March 16. Buffalo might have publicly suggested it was willing to pay Taylor to keep its options open, but outside of Nick Foles with the Rams in 2016, there’s virtually no track record of a team paying this sort of optional roster bonus for a player it didn’t plan to keep in a meaningful role.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins might not have been able to afford the $16 million franchise tag Landry signed earlier this week. Landry reportedly had interest from the Ravens, but given that Baltimore would have needed to totally restructure his deal, it’s unlikely the Dolphins would have been able to make a similar swap to the one they made here. And if there weren’t any other trade suitors for Landry, he probably wouldn’t have signed the franchise tag. The most likely outcome for both Landry and Taylor this offseason was that they were both going to hit free agency. Instead, they’re both Browns.

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Seven Teams That Could Sign Mike Glennon

Posted on Walter Football.com

Bears inform QB Mike Glennon of his impending release 
Mike Glennon had a career completion percentage of 59.4 and a YPA of 6.5 entering the 2017 season, so it seems so asinine that the Bears signed him to a big contract. Glennon predictably flopped as a starter, but should be a solid backup.

Here are some teams that could sign Glennon once he’s released:

New York Jets: If the Jets can’t retain Josh McCown, perhaps they’d sign Glennon to start while their first-round rookie gets ready, much like Mitchell Trubisky last year.

Buffalo Bills: I suppose the Bills could be desperate enough to give Glennon a starting job if they can’t do anything else at quarterback, but they should have better options.

Green Bay Packers: It would be difficult to imagine the Packers going into 2018 with Brett Hundley as the No. 2 quarterback again. They could stand to have a solid backup like Glennon.
Arizona Cardinals: I think the Cardinals will pursue A.J. McCarron or Case Keenum this offseason, but if they fail to get either one of them, they could target Glennon instead.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It’s possible that Glennon could go back home to be Jameis Winston’s backup again, as Ryan Fitzpatrick is an impending free agent.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens need a better backup quarterback than the incompetent Ryan Mallett.
Philadelphia Eagles: If the Eagles trade Nick Foles, perhaps they’d bring in Glennon to take the snaps and start until Carson Wentz is ready to play, but my money would be on Sam Bradford in this scenario.

Read more: http://walterfootball.com/nflpossibilities.php#ixzz58Scu9MnN

Aaron Rodgers New Contract Could BLOW Every Other Contract Out of the Water

Written by Connor Orr at SI.com

The first day of coaching and executive availability at the scouting combine always provides a few worthwhile tidbits as we head into free agency.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst’s thoughts on getting an Aaron Rodgers deal done this offseason will slide under the radar amid cuts and retirements but could end up being the most significant development of the 2018 calendar year—far beyond whoever signs short-term free-agent deals this spring.

Why? Rodgers will not just be another quarterback set to fall in line with the current game of salary leapfrog a la Jimmy Garoppolo and, likely, Kirk Cousins. Rodgers can absolutely obliterate the market if he sees fit.

“When you have the best player in the NFL, it’s not going to be inexpensive,” Gutekunst said, via Pro Football Talk.

Since Rodgers signed his last contract in 2013, here is the percentage of the cap he’s taken up each year:

2013: 9.65%
2014: 13.1%
2015: 12.87%
2016: 12.50%
2017: 12%
2018: 12.45%

Compare that to Andrew Luck, who is taking up nearly 20% of the Colts’ cap this coming season, or Russell Wilson (14.3%), Cam Newton (13.56%), Eli Manning (13.8%), Derek Carr (14.87%). Ndamukong Suh takes up a larger percentage of the Dolphins’ cap than Rodgers does in Green Bay. Even the notoriously (wink-wink) “team friendly” deals signed by Tom Brady have him eclipsing 13% of the Patriots’ salary cap in 2018.

In that time, the Packers have not been able to consistently use the spare cash to aid Rodgers in getting back to the Super Bowl. It hampers the argument that a team needs a (relatively) low cap number from a quarterback in order to succeed, just as Garoppolo’s record-setting deal off seven career starts emboldens Rodgers’s case to ask for the equivalent of a blank check.

The smart move would be to further strengthen his bargaining position by waiting until the Cousins deal is done (theoretically, a raise over Garoppolo’s $27.5 million APY) and drop the hammer. What recourse does Green Bay have?

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Adam Silver Warns Against Tanking

Written by ESPN Staff at ESPN.com

Commissioner Adam Silver reminded all 30 NBA teams that tanking “has no place in our game” in a memo sent last week to explain the league’s six-figure fine of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

“We have been careful to distinguish between efforts teams may make to rebuild their rosters, including through personnel changes over the course of several seasons, and circumstances in which players or coaches on the floor take steps to lose games,” Silver wrote in the memo, obtained by USA Today Sports.

“The former can be a legitimate strategy to construct a successful team within the confines of league rules; the latter — which we have not found and hope never to see in the NBA — has no place in our game. If we ever received evidence that players or coaches were attempting to lose or otherwise taking steps to cause any game to result otherwise than on its competitive merits, that conduct would be met with the swiftest and harshest response possible from the league office.”

Cuban made headlines earlier this month when he revealed during a podcast that he told members of the Mavericks that “losing is our best option.” The league responded Feb. 21 by fining him $600,000, citing “public statements detrimental to the NBA.”

Silver mentioned “integrity” on multiple occasions in the subsequent memo, portions of which were published Wednesday as part of a USA Today report. He said the league doesn’t believe the Mavericks are tanking.

The Mavericks enter Wednesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 19-42 record, just 1 1/2 games ahead of the Phoenix Suns (18-44) for the worst record in the league. The bottom eight teams in the league are separated by just 2 1/2 games in the standings.

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Tim Lincecum Signs Deal With Rangers, But How Much Does He Have Left?

Written by David Schoenfield at ESPN.com

The last we saw of Tim Lincecum was in 2016, when the two-time Cy Young winner signed with the Los Angeles Angels in May following a showcase tryout, made nine starts and was the worst pitcher in the league. He pitched 38 innings, gave up 68 hits, including 11 home runs, posted a 9.16 ERA, and his 2.374 WHIP was the highest for a pitcher with at least 30 innings since 1997.

So with reports circulating that Lincecum will sign a one-year major league contract with the Texas Rangers, the obvious question is why will this season be any different?

Lincecum had another showcase session on Feb. 15 at the Driveline Baseball facility in Kent, Washington, outside of Seattle, where he threw in front of scouts from 15 to 20 teams. Reports from the session indicated Lincecum threw about 25 pitches exclusively from the windup and hit 93 mph while averaging between 90-92. He showed no signs of the hip injury that bothered him at the end of his Giants career and required season-ending surgery in 2015. In December, Rockies pitcher Adam Ottavino posted a photo on Instagram of a ripped Lincecum working out in a sleeveless shirt.

So what do we know? Lincecum is in great shape. He can maybe hit 93 mph throwing at max effort at an indoor baseball facility. He’s well-rested after not pitching in 2017 and is now more than two years removed from the surgery. He obviously knows how to pitch, although precision control was never his forte.

This is obviously a complete roll of the dice by the Rangers, a minimal investment with the hope you hit the lottery. The most likely scenario would see Lincecum pitch out of the bullpen, where he would be a better bet to hold his velocity over short stints. With the Angels, his fastball averaged just 87.7 mph. One writer suggested that with the Rangers’ closer job wide-open, Lincecum even has a chance to win that role.

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