The news out of Baltimore today suggests that the Baltimore Ravens may soon be signing free agent QB Colin Kaepernick.
While team president Dick Cass hinted that discussions between the Ravens and the controversial pivot may lead to a contract, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti threw a little cold water on the proceedings by saying he didn’t like Kaepernick’s national anthem protests and didn’t believe he could help win games in Baltimore.
The Ravens may need a quarterback, should Joe Flacco’s back injury turn out to be more severe than originally thought.
Kaepernick heads a fair list of remaining free agents still waiting to sign, including the likes of CB Darrelle Revis, C Nick Mangold, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Anquan Boldin and DE Jared Odrick.
Just about every team in the NFL has reached into opponents free agent pile and plucked out a good to great veteran or three to plug a needy gap.
Here is each team’s best veteran free agent acquisition.
Arizona Cardinals – S Antoine Bethea
One of the NFL’s stingiest teams in 2016 got a whole lot stingier in the off-season. The San Francisco 49ers released 11-year veteran safety Antoine Bethea and the Cards — who had the NFL’s second best overall defence — were only too happy to ink him to a three-year deal worth $12.75 million. Bethea is also no doubt ecstatic to put the Niners losing ways behind him for a fresh start in the desert. In his third season with San Fran, Bethea played all 16 games and recorded 110 tackles (95 solo), forced a fumble, had an interception and defended three passes. Career, he has 1,046 tackles in 162 games, along with 19 INTs and 21 pass defences. Nice pick up.
Atlanta Falcons – NT Dontari Poe
Imagine the horror on the faces of Denver Broncos defensive players when stout Kansas City Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe threw a touchdown pass against them — the largest player ever to do so. The 6’3″, 330 lb. lineman lined up in a wildcat formation, took a direct snap, faked a run up the middle, then threw a touchdown pass to tight end Demetrius Harris while jumping in the air. The Falcons are banking on the big man’s athleticism at nose tackle and hope he can return to his Pro Bowl year’s production of 2013-14, where he had 97 tackles, five pass defences and 10.5 sacks in 31 games. The Memphis native played all 16 games last season with the Chiefs, recording 27 tackles, 1.5 sacks and three passes defended.
Baltimore Ravens – CB Brandon Carr
The Ravens have made strides on defence in recent years, going from the 17th ranked team in pass defence during their 2012 championship season to ninth ranked in 2016. By inking veteran CB Brandon Carr of the Dallas Cowboys, it signals they want to get even better. The nine-year veteran never missed a start in four seasons with Kansas City and five with Big D, and owns some impressive career stats. In 144 games, he has 552 tackles, 15 interceptions (two for pick six) and 111 pass deflections. He recorded at least one tackle in every game for the Cowboys last year and had a pass defence in nine separate contests too. He is signed for four years at $23.5 million.
Buffalo Bills – S Micah Hyde
The Bills had to rebuild their secondary this off-season and the acquisition of veteran safety Hyde was fairly huge. Hyde immediately fills three roles in the Bills scheme of things — pass defence, leadership and return capability. The four-year veteran will be a stabilizing force in Buffalo’s defensive secondary and has been very durable in four years with Green Bay, never missing a game. Last year, he registered 58 tackles, a sack, three interceptions and had a career high nine pass defences. He wasn’t as active on the punt and kick return side — most likely meaning he’ll fill in there — running back just 11 punts for 64 yards last season for the Packers. Hyde is signed to a five year, $30.5 million contract.
Carolina Panthers – S Mike Adams
The Cats reached into the free agent market and got a lot of “old school” in Indianapolis Colts safety Mike Adams. One of the oldest players in the NFL at 36, Panthers opponents ought not to think the 13-year vet is washed up in any considerable way. In 15 games with the Colts last year, the two-time Pro Bowler recorded 79 tackles (his third highest career total), two interceptions, and had two pass defences. Father Time has not caught up to Adams, who was a first-time Pro Bowler at the age of 34, and then again the next season (2015) at age 35. All those two-a-day workouts in the days before the new CBA have done him wonders. The Panthers got him for two years at a friendly $4.2 million.
Chicago Bears – QB Mike Glennon
The 3-13 Bears of 2016 had so many holes to fill, team player personnel had their heads spinning. They did make a lot of noise in free agency, the loudest being the signing of Glennon — for better or worse. Jay Cutler was on his way out and they had no bigger need than at quarterback. Jameis Winston’s lanky back-up signed a three-year, $45 million pact with the Bears to be their everyday pivot. It was a lot of money to throw at a guy who got in just two games last year for the Buccaneers, completing 10 of 11 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. Glennon also didn’t take even one snap during the entire 2015 season. However, when he was given the chance to start in 2013 and 2014, he was decent. Glennon passed for 4,025 yards in 19 games total, with 29 TD passes and 15 INTs.
Cincinnati Bengals – LB Kevin Minter
For four-year vet Kevin Minter, the one-year deal he got from Cincinnati at $4.25 million is a “prove it” contract. The former Arizona Cardinals second-round pick had a career year in 2016 for the Cards, registering 81 tackles and a career high 3.5 sacks, along with two passes defended. It may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but Minter is still just 26 and seems to be on the upswing. The Bengals can certainly use his versatility and middle linebacker leadership, as they were 21st against the rush last season (1,812 yards against) and 11th versus the pass (3,800 yards against), combining to make the 17th most proficient in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns – WR Kenny Britt
The Browns have been such a gong show for so long, one has to wonder when things get turned around. Stability in the front office seems to have been sorted out, so the task at hand is improving an offence and defence going nowhere. The stockpiling of draft picks yielded potential future defensive greats in no. 1 pick Myles Garrett, no. 25 pick S Jabrill Peppers and offensive question marks in TE David Njoku (no. 29) and QB DeShone Kizer (no. 52). So, the signing of LA Rams wideout Kenny Britt, along with QB Brock Osweiler, signals a sea change in offensive philosophy. Terrelle Pryor was good as gone with Britt’s arrival and we believe he is an upgrade, given that Britt has 71 games more experience and is a better overall pass catcher.
Dallas Cowboys – CB Nolan Carroll II
The Cowboys improved measurably on offence last year, with much to look forward too in young QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. However, their defence let them down, what with the 34-31 loss to Green Bay in the divisional playoffs after a superb 13-3 season. Therefore, getting a veteran of Carroll’s pedigree — on the cheap — is a step in the right direction. For three years and $10 million, the Boys get a guy who has improved year over year and has missed just five games in the last four campaigns. In 2016 with rival Philadelphia, Carroll logged 55 tackles (second most in his career), an interception (one of 8, career) and a personal best 11 passes defended. A really nice signing, in our estimation.
Denver Broncos – DE Zach Kerr
The Broncos have a hole to fill at defensive end, as Vance Walker is a free agent and not likely to be re-signed. Enter three-year Indianapolis Colts veteran Zach Kerr, who the Broncos signed to a two year, $3.25 million contract on March 11. Undrafted out of Delaware, Kerr was signed by Denver in 2014 and played very well in a back-up role. He appeared in 12 games each of his three seasons in Indianapolis, with 2016 being arguably his best campaign. He recorded 19 tackles and 2.5 sacks to go along with three pass defences.
Detroit Lions – DE Cornelius Washington
Like Denver’s newly acquired Zach Kerr, the Chicago Bears let three-year veteran Washington test free agency, where he found a willing suitor in the Lions, who need defensive depth. With Ziggy Ansah providing pass rushing on the right side, Washington could be a good to great fit on the left. For two years and $5.825 million, the Lions get the former sixth round pick who bounced back well after missing all of 2015 with an injury. He appeared in his most games in 2016 (15) and registered his most tackles (21), sacks (2.0) and pass defences (1) since entering the league in 2013.
Green Bay Packers – TE Martellus Bennett
Jared Cook is now in the Bay Area with the Raiders. And with Martellus Bennett in the fold, the Packers get a big upgrade at tight end. The Pro Bowler (2014) inked a three-year, $21 million contract to catch passes from superstar QB Aaron Rodgers, a year after doing the same for Tom Brady. Bennett had his strongest season since his Pro Bowl 2014 campaign with the Chicago Bears, catching 55 passes for 701 yards and a career best seven touchdowns. In New England’s championship post-season, the quote machine caught another 11 passes for 98 yards, including five in Super Bowl LI for 62 yards.
Houston Texans – TE Ryan Griffin
To date, more Texans have left in free agency than the franchise has signed the other way. With no one of real consequence brought in from outside, we focus on internal signing Ryan Griffin. Entering his fifth season in Houston, the sixth round pick in 2013 earned a pay raise, signing a three-year, $9 million pact to keep him with the only team he has played for in the NFL. He very nearly eclipsed his collective totals from his first three seasons in 2016, catching 50 passes for 442 yards and two touchdowns. In three campaigns from 2013 to 2015, Griffin totaled 49 receptions for 586 yards and four scores. Now it’s just a matter who will toss to him, either Deshaun Watson, or Brandon Weeden.
Indianapolis Colts – LB Barkevious Mingo
The Key and Peele guys would absolutely love this guy’s name. After three seasons in Cleveland, the former sixth overall pick of the Browns was an understudy to the likes of Dont’a Hightower with the champion New England Patriots in 2016 and we think this will serve him well. That’s why we profile him here instead of high-profile signing Johnathan Hankins. Mingo was fairly excellent in this three seasons with the Browns, appearing in 46 games and recording 108 tackles, seven sacks and 12 pass defences. He played sparingly in New England with just 11 tackles in 16 contests and another two in three post-season games, but what he learned under Bill Belichick will come in handy in Indianapolis. He is signed to a one-year, $2 million contract.
Jacksonville Jaguars – CB A.J. Bouye
By all counts, the 2016 season in Jacksonville was a giant bust. The team went 3-13, finishing dead last in the AFC South when many expected more. While they played fairly stout defence with sixth least yards yielded, they got burned for the eighth most points at 25 per game. Which means the big play was the fly in the ointment. Needed then, were defensive backs to limit those long gains. Houston allowed four-year vet A.J. Bouye to walk, right to AFC South foe Jacksonville, where he’ll man the corner for a walloping $67.5 million over five years. That is the largest contract handed out so far to a free agent, which puts all kinds of pressure on him to prove his breakout 2016 season wasn’t a fluke. Bouye had his most tackles (63), recorded his first sack and equaled his total career pass defences of 16 with another 16. He’ll get a chance to face his old team on the first day of the regular season, in Houston no less.
Kansas City Chiefs – DT Bennie Logan
Logan is yet another escapee from Philadelphia, getting a new lease on life — for one year, anyway — in Kansas City. The Chiefs signed the four-year pro to a one-year, $8 million deal, pretty good when considering he had a bit of mixed year in 2016. Logan did register his most sacks with 2.5, but also recorded his fewest tackles with 24 and second fewest passes defended at five. The Chiefs are probably banking on Logan returning to 2014 form, when he had a career high 57 tackles and swatted away a career best 10 passes. This is a good signing on the heels of Dontari Poe’s defection to Atlanta.
Los Angeles Chargers – OT Russell Okung
We still can’t get used to putting Los Angeles in front of “Chargers.” Just doesn’t roll off the tongue like San Diego. That aside, Philip Rivers is still quarterback, and while he is still a premium pivot, he’s another year older and another year slower of foot. He was sacked another 36 times in 2016 and is tied for 20th all-time in hitting the turf with Jim Harbaugh at 361 sacks. Thus, signing a self-represented beast like OT Russell Okung was paramount to the team’s offensive hopes in their new home. A Super Bowl champion with Seattle and Pro Bowler in 2012, Okung is the kind of offensive lineman who will protect Rivers well. And he will do it for four years, at a whopping $53 million he negotiated himself.
Los Angeles Rams – WR Robert Woods
This year may be decidedly different for sophomore quarterback Jared Goff. The 2016 first overall pick will likely start the season as the no. 1 QB in L.A. and he’ll have at least one new and dynamic target to heave the ball to this year. Wide receiver Robert Woods skedaddled out of Buffalo, where the pivot position is always in a state of flux. He got a nice five-year, $34 million contract to line up outside and haul in passes from Goff in his hometown. In four seasons with a Bills after being drafted out of USC in the second round of the 2013 draft, Woods caught 203 passes for 2,451 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Miami Dolphins – TE Julius Thomas
Technically, Julius Thomas was acquired by trade. However, the Dolphins did have to sign the five-year veteran to a new contract (two years, details not disclosed). Along with fellow signee Anthony Fasano (a former Fish who returned on a one-year, $2.75 million contract) the Dolphins have the makings of a dynamic platoon at the tight end position. We believe, though, that Thomas is the better pass catcher and with Ryan Tannehill targeting him a little more often than the career low 52 from 2016, Thomas could return to the Pro Bowl form he displayed in 2013 and 2014. He caught 30 of those 52 passes thrown his way in 2016 for 281 yards and four TDs in nine games. Between 2013 and 2014, Thomas snared 108 passes for 1,277 yards and 24 TDs.
Minnesota Vikings – RB Latavius Murray
Murray will be the kind of running back not seen around Twin Cities parts since Adrian Peterson ran the ball big back in 2015. Now, Latavius Murray is not as fleet of foot — and he is recovering from bone chip surgery — but he’ll bring more bash and crash than Peterson, who now toils for New Orleans. Murray, who signed a three-year, $15 million contract in the off-season, has also been rated the third-best pass blocker among all running backs. He had a pretty good year in 2016 for the Raiders, rushing for 788 yards and a career high 12 touchdowns. He also hauled in 33 passes for 264 more yards. Murray is sidelined, as we said, for the time being, which means FSU grad Dalvin Cook may start at tailback. Stay tuned.
New England Patriots – CB Stephon Gilmore
The rich, as they say, always get richer. The champion Patriots added arguably the best corner back in free agency in Buffalo’s Stephon Gilmore, signing him to a shiny new five-year, $65 million pact (the second biggest such deal so far, just behind A. J. Bouye). The Patriots, despite their champion status, were just 12th against the pass in 2016 and the acquisition of Gilmore starts them on the path to being a whole lot better in 2017. Gilmore spent five good years in Buffalo and was named to the 2016 Pro Bowl after a breakout year. In 15 games, the former South Carolina Gamecock recorded 48 tackles, had a career high five interceptions and defended 12 passes successfully.
New Orleans Saints – WR Ted Ginn Jr.
The 7-9 New Orleans Saints were the top team on the offensive side of the ball in 2016, but sixth from last in defence. We should focus in then, on the fact they signed DT Nick Fairley and LB Alex Okafor, but with QB Drew Brees running an offence that includes RB Adrian Peterson and TE Coby Fleener, we couldn’t ignore the signing of Ted Ginn Jr. Brees led the NFL in passing yards (5,208) and was third in TDs with 37 and now will be able to chuck the pigskin at speedy wideout and 11-year veteran Ginn Jr. He caught 54 passes for 752 yards and four TDs with Carolina in 2016 and when he wasn’t lining up out wide, he was also a kick and punt return threat. He was signed for a very economical $11 million over three years. This is one scary offence.
New York Giants – WR Brandon Marshall
From one pressure cooker, right to another. Maybe that’s the way six-time Pro Bowl wideout Brandon Marshall likes it, but yeesh going from the moribund Jets to New York’s slightly better market with the Giants has all kinds of pitfalls. But the addition of the 11-year veteran gives Eli Manning two very potent offensive weapons in Marshall and Odell Beckham. By all counts, Marshall had a down year after a fantastic Pro Bowl worthy 2015 campaign. However, we’ll add the caveat that 2016 sucked in Jets land all around. After catching 109 passes for 1,502 yards and a career high 14 TDs in 2015, Marshall slipped to 59 receptions, 788 yards and just three scores in 2016. We believe firmly that this will be a bounce-back year.
New York Jets – CB Morris Claiborne
The Jets, who finished dead last in the AFC East with a 5-11 record were neither good nor very bad on defence in 2016, even worse on offence — but their biggest signee was QB Josh McCown. Thus, we turn our attention to a team that was 11th in yards against (not bad) but fifth from last in points allowed at 25.6 per game. Claiborne’s arrival from Dallas, then, comes at a time when the Jets have all but washed their hands of veteran CB Darrelle Revis. This opens the door for Claiborne to finally lend credence to his sixth overall selection in the 2012 draft. If he can stay healthy, which has been a problem since his first year causing him to miss 33 of a possible 80 games, Claiborne will be lethal. In seven games last season, the LSU grad recorded 26 tackles, an interception and five pass defences.
Oakland Raiders – TE Jared Cook
Hard to imagine that it was difficult to play with QB Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, but former TE Jared Cook gets a new lease on life in Oakland. He’ll catch passes from QB Derek Carr for at least two seasons, at $5.3 million per campaign. We believe ninth-year man Cook will achieve a renaissance in the Bay Area, as he played less than 16 games for the first time in four seasons last year, starting in 10 (a career low). His numbers then, were adversely affected, with just 30 catches for 377 yards and one lone TD. Career-wise, Cook has 303 total receptions for 3,880 yards and 17 TDs.
Philadelphia Eagles – WR Alshon Jeffery
We’re betting Eagles’ brass sucked in a big breath on Sunday when big free agent fish Alshon Jeffery injured his shoulder slightly in practice. The former Pro Bowl wide receiver from the Bears represents a legitimate deep threat for sophomore QB Carson Wentz going into the 2017 campaign and his loss would be profound. Wentz has the gun to be better than average in the NFL, but didn’t have a target like Jeffery to throw to. He goes to Philly on a one-year, $9.5 million deal, which means the team needs to maximize his return, and then some. In 12 games last year, Jeffery caught 52 passes for 821 yards and two TDs. We think that with a full season in Philly, he could post numbers closer to 2014 Jeffery (85 catches, 1,133 yds., 10 TD).
Pittsburgh Steelers – WR Justin Hunter
When your new team signs the league’s best wideout, Antonio Brown, to a rich four year extension worth $68 million, it’s not hard for a guy like former Bills WR Justin Hunter to get lost in the noise. However, make no mistake, his signing (for one year at $855,000) could be significant. The former second round pick of the Tennessee Titans is already turning heads in Steelers camp alongside Brown. He doesn’t bring a four-year resume laden with accolades, but Hunter, a Tennesse Vols grad, is a deep threat who has caught 78 passes in 47 games for 1,305 yards and an impressive 12 TDs. His nose for the red zone will come in handy for Big Ben Roethlisberger.
San Francisco 49ers – WR Pierre Garcon
So, just who in the name of Y.A. Tittle (we like saying that name) is going to throw TD passes to newly acquired receiver Pierre Garcon in San Francisco this season? Will it be Brian Hoyer (also freshly signed) or battery-mate Matt Barkley? Whoever it is, the offensive scheme ought to have a plan for several looks to the speedy nine-year veteran. Garcon, who was originally picked well down in the 2008 draft (205th overall by Indianapolis), has carved a nice career for himself. He was the NFL receptions leader in 2013 with 113 (for 1,346 yards and five TDs) and enjoyed his second best campaign in 2016, earning him a hefty five-year, $47.5 million contract to jump from the Redskins to the Niners.
Seattle Seahawks – RB Eddie Lacy
The Seahawks have not had a punishing running back since Marshawn Lynch flew the coop with his lifetime supply of Skittles in hand. In Eddie Lacy, they get that bruiser who has twice rushed for over 1,000 yards in his four-year career, but also comes with a lot of baggage, his issues with being overweight one of them. The Seahawks gave the puffy rusher a one-year, $4.25 million contract, with clauses to be met on his overall weight and fitness. So far, he has hit two of those incentive-laden clauses. He was a Pro Bowler in his first season, when he rushed for 1,178 yards on 284 carries and scored 11 touchdowns. Injuries claimed all but five games of his 2016 season with the Packers, where he ran for just 360 yards on 71 carries and didn’t register a TD. He can be a force, if he stays healthy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR DeSean Jackson
DJax is now a Buc, and Jameis Winston couldn’t be happier. Winston will only get better in this, his third season, what with having three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson to fling passes at. the nine-year vet was fairly proficient in 2016 with the Washington Redskins, hauling 56 passes for 1,005 yards (17.9 yards per reception) and four TDs. Taking out an injury-plagued 2015 campaign, Jackson has caught 194 passes in 2013, 2014 and 2016 for 3,506 yards and 19 touchdowns. And his most controversial act of 2016 was getting fined by the league for sporting a pair of cleats, the color of which the image (and sponsor) conscious NFL didn’t agree with. He goes to Tampa for three years and $33.5 million.
Tennessee Titans – S Johnathan Cyprien
The Titans were in a virtual tie with Buffalo on the defensive side of the ball in 2016, and that isn’t a good thing. The two teams gave up nearly identical numbers in yards (5,712 by the Bills, 5,720 by Tennessee) and exactly the same number of points per game (23.6). Those numbers ranked them smack in the middle at no. 16. The Titans took a stride to improving their defensive lot, inking Jacksonville’s Cyprien to a four-year, $25 million contract to play strong safety. Cyprien is a great tackler (career high 128 in 2016) who also recorded a second career sack in 2016 and added four pass defences in 16 games for the Jaguars.
Washington Redskins – WR Terrelle Pryor
Last and certainly not least here is Washington’s newly acquired wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. The Cleveland Browns refugee will probably be very happy to see Kirk Cousins lining up over center, rather than the array of has-beens and never-will-be’s that tossed him balls in his first three seasons. Pryor broke out big time in 2016 for a terrible, awful Browns team, playing in all 16 games for the first time and catching 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns. A former start quarterback, Pryor made a great switch to receiver and with the right arm chucking the pigskin at him, he could be a Pro Bowler, sooner than later. He signed a one-year, $6 million “prove it” contract with the ‘Skins and we think he will.