<![CDATA[The weeks and days have become hours in the countdown to the opening of the 2017 NFL free agent market.
Teams can start negotiating with players on Tuesday and contracts can officially be signed at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
It's a time when the league's landscape is altered as dozens of players change teams. A lot of rumors are swirling around regarding who will go where. Players in their 30s look a lot younger this time of year and career backups look like the answer for quarterback-needy teams.
Multiple teams interested in Terrelle Pryor
Terrelle Pryor would prefer to stay with the Browns. He’s playing for Hue Jackson, the coach who drafted him, and he’s close to his son in Pittsburgh.
The Giants, 49ers, Eagles and Titans might have something to say about that according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
Those are among the teams who will make a run at the 27-year-old receiver who caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards in 2016. Pryor has thrown nine touchdown passes, run for four touchdowns and caught four touchdowns in his career. Last season was his first as a full-time receiver and now that he’s no longer a gadget-type player he’s worth a lot of money.
Julius Peppers will return for a 16th season
Julius Peppers isn’t done yet. The 37-year-old officially threw himself into the free-agent market after announcing that he’s putting off retirement, according to ESPN.com.
Peppers is fifth on the all-time sack list with 143.5. Chris Doleman is fourth with 150.5. Peppers had 7.5 sacks last season for the Packers. He’s recorded 4.5 of his 6.5 career postseason sacks in the last three years with the Packers in his quest for that elusive Super Bowl ring.
There’s a chance Peppers will continue that championship pursuit with the Packers.
“There has been communication with the Packers, and there’s a tremendous amount of mutual respect between Julius and the Packers organization,” said Peppers’ agent, Carl Carey. “They’ve been great to him over the years, and that carries a lot of weight with him. Of course, free agency is unpredictable, so we’ll see what happens over the next several days.”
Translation: Peppers would like to stay with the Packers, if they show him the money.
Alshon Jeffery might not be going anywhere
Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is one of the most coveted free agents, but by the time everyone goes to bed Thursday night, he could sign a deal that will keep “Bears wide receiver” in front of his name for several more years.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Bears had a “positive meeting” with Jeffery’s agent Saturday.
Jeffery figures to have a lot of suitors despite a history of hamstring and knee injuries and subpar 2015 and 2016 seasons (54 catches in ’15 and 52 in ’16). He’s expressed a desire to go to a contender. The Bears were 3-13 last season and it’s anyone’s guess who their quarterback will be, but Jeffery could grin and bear those issues if the Bears throw enough money his way.
Panthers could add another Kalil to roster
There’s a chance that 40 percent of the Panthers’ offensive line next season will be made up of Kalil brothers.
Center Ryan Kalil is recovering from shoulder surgery while his younger brother, impending free agent Matt Kalil, recovers from hip surgery.
The Panthers could be in play for the Vikings’ left tackle, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. Michael Oher, the Panthers’ incumbent left tackle, is still recovering from a concussion he suffered in 2016.
Matt Kalil, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, never missed a game for the Vikings until he suffered his hip injury last season. Cam Newton has never been sacked less than 33 times in his career, and the year he was sacked 33 times was the year he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl. Offensive line is area of need for the Panthers and protecting Newton could become a family business.
Cardinals likely to lose Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson
Two key components of the Cardinals’ second-ranked defense could be on the way out.
The Cardinals are leaning toward letting defensive end Calais Campbell and safety Tony Jefferson leave in free agency, according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic.
Campbell had eight sacks and recovered three fumbles, returning one for a touchdown, in 2016. Jefferson led the Cardinals with 92 total tackles, recovered two fumbles and had two sacks.
The Cardinals apparently don’t feel that production is worth the $11 million a year (or more) that the 30-year-old Campbell will command and the $7-10 million that Jefferson could get.
The team applied the franchise tag to linebacker Chandler Jones, who was second on the team with 11 sacks. That will take up $14.55 million of salary cap space next season, and according to Spotrac the Cardinals are projected to have just over $19 million left to spend in 2017. There likely isn’t enough money to keep the defense completely together.
Broncos could pursue Calais Campbell if they don’t get Tony Romo
Calais Campbell could be going from the desert to the mountains.
According to Mike Klis of KUSA, the Cardinals’ defensive end is on the Broncos’ free-agent radar, especially if the Broncos don’t get Tony Romo.
To land the 6’8″ Campbell, the Broncos might have to pay him the same kind of money that the Jaguars did to sign Malik Jackson away from Denver. Jackson averages $14.25 million a year.
Campbell was born in Denver, but it doesn’t seem like he’s up for a “hometown” discount.
Jets could target Russell Okung, Tony Jefferson
At some point, the Jets will start making headlines for players they bring in rather than players they release.
According to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, Russell Okung and Tony Jefferson are at the top of the Jets’ shopping list.
Okung, a left tackle who made the Pro Bowl for the Seahawks in 2012, isn’t likely to be re-signed by the Broncos after a disappointing season, but he’s still only 29 and could fill the spot opened up by free agent Ryan Clady.
Jefferson could be an upgrade from Calvin Pryor, a first-round draft pick in 2014 who’s shaping up as a bust. Jefferson, undrafted in 2013, had 92 total tackles in 2016 while Pryor had 60. Pro Football Focus ranked Jefferson the second-best run stopper in the NFL among safeties in 2016.
Jerry Jones, Tony Romo have understanding that Romo won’t go to Redskins
This is a rumor within a rumor. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones shot down the rumor of a three-way deal with the 49ers and Redskins that would send Romo to the Redskins and Kirk Cousins to the 49ers.
According to the Forth Worth Star-Telegram, Jones and Romo have agreed that if Romo is released, he won’t sign with the Redskins.
“Now we’ve got to abide by every league rule. We can’t have agreements without it being within the boundaries of the NFL,” Jones said. “But when you’ve got a situation like we got, we’ll do the do-right rule. That’s it. Very important. We do the do-right rule. We have that kind of relationship.”
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