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Some free agents will set up visits and make the rounds of interested suitors once free agency officially opens on Tuesday, but others are expecting their stay on the open market to be brief.
Cornerback Alterraun Verner is in the latter group. During an appearance on Mad Dog Radio Monday, Verner said that he thinks “it’ll be a quick process” and gave some insight into how he’ll make his choice.
“I feel more compelled to go to a team that I think can win. I haven’t had that experience for the past four years in Tennessee,” Verner said. “Money is [priority] but it isn’t. I look at it differently. Some look at it tangibly. I look at it as more of a respect value. I would feel more obliged to go to a team that paid me $6 or $7 million and made me one of the highest-paid players on the team than go to a team that paid me $8 or $9 million and I wasn’t one of the highest-paid players on the team.”
Verner said the Jets could be a fit and said the Patriots are a “possibility,” while noting that Devin McCourty, whose brother was Verner’s teammate in Tennessee, has been “lobbying” for him to come to New England. The Broncos were also mentioned as a good situation, with Verner adding he’d be interested in the 49ers but doesn’t think that’s a direction they’re looking to go.
Add another name to the free agent pass-rusher pool.
According to multiple reports, Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin has voided the final two years of his contract, and will become a free agent.
The Jaguars are “keeping their options open” with Babin, per Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, but this sounds like the good old “mutual decision.”
Babin was productive enough, with 7.5 sacks last year. But he was due to make $6 million, and that’s not the rate 33-year-olds get paid in this climate.
By jumping now, Babin gets a head start on finding a new home rather than waiting around to get cut.
Per a league source, Bennett definitely is leaning toward staying with the Seahawks. A decision could be made later today.
At issue are salary and, presumably, anticipated playing time. While the Bears reportedly are offering $8.5 million per year and the Seahawks are offering $8 million, the Seahawks used him only 57 percent of the time in 2013. The Bears could want him on the field more frequently than that.
Bennett is the No. 2 free agent on PFT’s Hot 100 list. He could be off the market before it even opens.
With the clock ticking toward the free agency period, teams are scrambling to hang onto their own role players.
Zombo played in all 16 games for the Chiefs last year, with 2.0 sacks. But he’s the kind of fill-in that good teams need.
General Manager John Dorsey brought him over after three years in Green Bay, and he was a solid part for the Chiefs.
Plus, he’s Frank Zombo, and unless you can get Barkevious Mingo, it’s the kind of name you want on your roster.
Last October, agent Pat Dye Jr. said he thought a comeback was possible for his client Rolando McClain.
McClain retired abruptly last May after another arrest was added to his lengthy police blotter, leaving the former eighth overall pick out of football entirely at the age of 24. According to Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times, McClain would like to make Dye look prescient.
Zenitz reports that McClain has been telling people that he plans to play in 2014. Per the report, McClain has been working out regularly and is in a better mental state than he was when he walked away from the game.
The Ravens own McClain’s rights after signing him following his release from the Raiders and there’s no word on their interest in a return from a player who never actually suited up for them. As Zenitz notes, it’s already been a long offseason for the Ravens on the legal trouble front and they could opt to let another team roll the dice on a McClain comeback bid.
The Seahawks played it cool with defensive end Michael Bennett. Once the Bears leaked that they “expect” to sign Bennett, the Seahawks woke up.
Now, the Seahawks have jumped into the bidding, in an effort to close the deal.
It’ll be intriguing to see what Bennett ultimately gets. There are reports that the Bears have offered $8.5 million per year, and that the Seahawks are willing to pay $8 million per year. That’s a bargain, given that the Vikings signed defensive end Everson Griffin to a five-year deal worth $8.5 million annually.
(He’s the same Everson Griffen who has started one career game. And who once was moved to linebacker for offseason workouts before moving back to defensive end in training camp. And who has a history of off-field issues.)
Still, Bennett was nearly a part-time player in 2013, participating in 57 percent of the snaps. Based on how the Seahawks used him and presumably how they plan to in 2014 and beyond, $8 million could be a very fair number — especially if the Bears will expect a lot more than 57-percent playing time for $8.5 million per year.
So now we wait, with the Seahawks having the ability for another 26 hours or so to not just negotiate but to make offers and to talk to the player directly and to get a deal done before Bennett can even go to Chicago.
When linebacker Jason Worilds signed his transition tag with the Steelers, he was guaranteed a one-year contract at $9.754 million if he can’t reach agreement on a long-term deal with the Steelers.
He also appears to have guaranteed the end of linebacker LaMarr Woodley’s run in Pittsburgh. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Steelers will release Woodley when the league year begins on Tuesday. PFT has confirmed that Woodley will be let go.
It’s a move that most saw coming as Woodley’s $13.6 million cap hit and recent injury history made him vulnerable even before Worilds got tagged. Woodley has missed 14 games over the last three seasons and drew criticism last year for his approach to offseason workouts while recording just five sacks off the edge for Pittsburgh.
Now he’ll need to go elsewhere in hopes of a bounce-back season as Pittsburgh sticks with Worilds and Jarvis Jones at outside linebacker. There will be plenty of teams looking for help in the pass rush, although Woodley will likely be settling for a deal that better fits his current circumstances than the one that’s coming to an end with the Steelers.
Woodley’s release will be designated a June 1 cut, allowing the Steelers to spread out the remaining cap hit. Doing so clears over $10 million from the cap this season.
Here’s even more evidence why you have to take the legal tampering “interest,” in certain players with a grain of salt.
The Steelers clearly need to restock their secondary. Thus, according to Scott Brown of ESPN.com, they’ve “inquired about” cornerbacks including Alterraun Verner of the Titans, Captain Munnerlyn of the Panthers and Nolan Carroll of the Dolphins.
In other news, I am considering “inquiring about” a filet from the Capital Grille tonight, either that or perhaps running through the McDonald’s drive-thru for something off the value menu.
Munnerlyn had high hopes a year ago, but settled for a cut-rate one-year deal with the Panthers. Carroll is young and being replaced by more expensive parts.
So the fact they’re interested in players at vastly different price points should indicate a few things.
Yes, they need corners.
No, they probably can’t afford Verner, but might be interested in knowing which teams might.
And once he signs elsewhere, they can turn their attention back to the cheaper items on the menu.
A well-regarded veteran safety is reportedly garnering interest from several clubs, including the team for whom he’s played the last three seasons.
The Chronicle also reports the 49ers have interest in bringing back the 28-year-old Whitner, who notched 73 tackles and intercepted two passes for San Francisco in 2013.
Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, citing an unnamed source, reported that the Browns have considerable interest in adding Whitner. If the Browns were to sign Whitner, he would likely take the place of T.J. Ward, who can also test free agency on Tuesday.
Whitner is the 28th-ranked player on PFT’s Free Agent Hot 100.
The Panthers shaved two names off their long list of potential free agents on Monday, although neither one qualifies as one of the biggest names on the list.
The team announced that they have signed offensive lineman Garry Williams to a one-year deal and tight end/fullback Richie Brockel to a two-year deal. Williams was set to become an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday while Brockel was en route to restricted free agency.
Williams started the 2013 season opener at right guard, but tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. That was part of a revolving door at both guard spots all season in Carolina. With Travelle Wharton and Geoff Hangartner both headed for free agency, Williams could be back in the mix for a starting spot this summer if his knee is sound enough to allow it.
Brockel has played the last three years for the Panthers, seeing action in 43 games and making a pair of starts. He’s caught four passes and run the ball four times in those games while seeing action on the team’s special teams units.
Cortland Finnegan doesn’t have a team at the moment.
And when he finds another one, it will be without the benefit of an agent.
Finnegan told Josina Anderson of ESPN he wants to join a contender, but doesn’t think he needs to pay someone to help him find one.
“I still feel like I can contribute and also benefit a team by bringing a young kid along,” he said. “What’s different now is that I don’t have an agent. I’m representing myself in this process. Let me tell you I am getting an upfront look at what’s it’s really like to talk to these General Managers, coordinators and coaches and take in how they really feel about you. I’m asking questions and getting answers that I would never get from an agent.
“Personally I think I’ve had some real conversations with a few teams. I may take a few visits but sometimes I feel like I can collect the information that I need on the phone. I know the teams that have a standard for winning already. That’s really my focus now.”
Finnegan’s play dropped off sharply last year, to the point that his patron Jeff Fisher cut him. That’s probably as clear a signal as could be sent.
But if a good team needs a veteran stable-pony, Finnegan seems inclined to accept a smaller role than in the past.
And with his smaller paycheck, saving the 3 percent might be a wise investment.
Seattle General Manager John Schneider has identified keeping Bennett as a “top priority,” and Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Seahawks are now the favorites to sign Bennett. Bennett led Seattle with 8.5 sacks last season, and after Red Bryant’s departure, the Seahawks would hate to lose another key player on the defensive line.
The fact that both the Bears and Seahawks are eager to sign Bennett will be good news for his bottom line. Whether it’s in Seattle or Chicago, Bennett is going to get paid somewhere.
Bennett is the No. 2 player in our Free Agent Hot 100.
San Diego announced Monday that guard Chad Rinehart has re-signed with the team on a two-year deal. Rinehart, like all free agents, has had the opportunity to hear from teams over the weekend and the decision to stay in San Diego suggests he didn’t hear anything to make him think that the grass would be greener somewhere else.
Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reported the news before the announcement. Vacchiano covers the Giants, who were one of the teams believed to be interested in potentially adding Rinehart to their offensive line. Jon Asamoah, Geoff Schwartz and Zane Beadles are some of the other options that the Giants could explore if they still plan to try to upgrade at guard.
Rinehart started 10 games when not ailing last season, his first in San Diego after stops in Washington and Buffalo. His return at left guard means the Chargers have their entire starting offensive line from last season under contract for 2014.
One of the top centers available in free agency has been linked to a club in need of offensive line help.
Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports the Giants have shown “interest” in Saints center Brian de la Puente.
The 28-year-old de la Puente is No. 87 on PFT’s Free Agent Hot 100. He has started 44 games in the last three seasons for New Orleans.
David Baas, the Giants’ starting center in 2013, is slated to make $4.75 million in 2013, and the club wants to reduce his compensation. He appeared in just three games last season because of neck and knee injuries, and he will be 33 in September.
The Steelers released linebacker Larry Foote last week as part of their effort to create cap space ahead of free agency and some wondered if that might be the end of the line for Foote.
The longtime Steeler played just one game last season before a torn biceps sent him to injured reserve and he turns 34 this summer, a combination that isn’t likely to make him a hot commodity on the open market. Foote isn’t throwing in the towel, though.
He told Josina Anderson of ESPN that he has no immediate plans to retire after 12 NFL seasons. He also told her he’d like to catch on with a contender and that he’d like to sign before the summer, although it isn’t clear if that will be the deciding factor in continuing his career if the only offers come from teams with longer shots at a championship.
Foote isn’t likely to be too high on anyone’s priority list as free agency opens and many teams may see him as a fallback option if neither free agency nor the draft brings the help they desire, so it may be tough for him to avoid an extended wait while remaining active in the NFL.