The NFL free agency period will officially begin on March 11, but teams can negotiate with their own players in the mean time and several could be close to new deals. Many more players will also be added to the free agent market, as teams like the Cleveland Browns release those who they can no longer afford.
Here's a roundup of the headlines from Wednesday, and what moves your team may soon be making.
Eagles intend to get Rile'd up
Jeff McLane of Philly.com reported Wednesday that the Philadelphia Eagles are close to signing free agent wide receiver Riley Cooper to a new, multi-year deal. McLane had earlier reported that the team preferred receiver Jeremy Maclin over Cooper, but McLane is now reporting that the Eagles are expected to sign both.
While Cooper is looking for a multi-year contract with guarantees, Maclin will likely sign a one-year deal after coming off an ACL tear that forced him to miss the entire 2013 season.
Bleeding Green Nation notes that Cooper was even better after Nick Foles took over:
Cooper experienced a career year in his first season under Chip Kelly's head coaching. He amassed a total of 47 receptions for 835 yards (17.8 average) and 8 touchdowns. Cooper was largely ineffective to start the season but things changed when Nick Foles took over at quarterback.
If both Cooper and Maclin are re-signed, it makes a relatively-thin receiver class of free agents even thinner, with Anquan Boldin, James Jones, Golden Tate and Eric Decker as the most desirable targets.
Unless they are also re-signed before free agency opens on March 11.
Vick to the Raiders?
Reports earlier in the week had free agent quarterback Michael Vick as a possibility for the New York Jets, but those rumors were quickly shot down by execs that don't think the Jets are willing to spend much money on a new QB. Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports reported Tuesday that it is more likely that Vick could be headed to the Oakland Raiders, with the Texans, Vikings, 49ers and Bucs also possibly in the market.
The other team that could be interested in Vick's services? The Eagles.
Vick never made much of a fuss over losing his starting job to Foles, and seemed to jive well in Chip Kelly's system during the beginning of the season. Philly will be looking for a backup QB if Vick departs, and since they don't have to pay much for Foles this year, there should be room in the budget for a higher-than-average priced backup.
So long, fare-Q'well
The Cleveland Browns released veteran linebacker, D'Qwell Jackson, avoiding the $4.1 million roster bonus they would have had to pay him in March. Jackson, the longest-tenured member of the Browns, was apparently in negotiations with Cleveland but the two sides could not come to an agreement on a deal that worked.
The 34th overall pick in 2006, Jackson has been the Browns' leading tackler in each of the last three seasons. He missed 10 games in 2009 and all of 2010 with a shoulder injury, but has not missed a game since.
Jackson signed a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension in 2013. He has played for four head coaches over the last six years, but it does not look like he'll be playing for his fifth -- new coach Mike Pettine -- in 2014.
Dawgs by Nature has more on the Jackson news, including how much money it will save them in 2015-16, though not as much this upcoming season:
Jackson will still account for $4.2 million against the cap, but they won't have to pay him anything in 2015 or 2016. Going based on a projected salary cap of $130 million, the Browns' available cap space just increased from from $49.71 million to $54.943 million.
Darrelle Revis back on the block?
Is it possible to be the best defensive player in the NFL and also not be worth keeping around? For the second year in a row, it looks like a team may be preparing to trade Darrelle Revis due to his contract, or contract demands. According to CBS Sports, rival execs say that Revis is on the block again.
Last offseason, the New York Jets dealt Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a 2013 first-round pick and a conditional 2014 fourth-round pick because they were unwilling to pay the high price tag he was demanding. The Bucs were more than willing to give Revis a six-year, $96 million deal, just as long as they didn't have to guarantee a single penny of it.
That means that any time they want to, Tampa Bay can release Revis and not be on the hook for any dead money, but it also means that he takes up more than 10 percent of the salary cap. For a team coming off of a 4-12 season, the Buccaneers know they need help in several areas, and Revis' $16 million salary could keep them from making other free agent moves to improve. Some executives also think that the Bucs overpaid for Revis, who may only command $8 or $9 million on the open market if released.
And that's despite the fact that Revis is arguably more valuable now than he was a year ago, when he was coming off of a season in which he played just two games due to an ACL injury. Revis was named to his fifth career Pro Bowl for his 2013 season and is still considered by many to be the best cover corner in the league, but could Tampa Bay expect a first round pick in return for a player they appear to have little leverage with?
Over at Bucs Nation, Sander Phillipse made it clear: The Bucs should trade Darrelle Revis:
For Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier, Darrelle Revis is not a premium player. Cornerbacks are not lacking in importance in their defense, but they are less important than a weakside linebacker, safeties, and front four pass rushers. It's those pass rushers the Buccaneers lack right now, and that's the one position Lovie Smith has consistently said he wants to address. They want a dominant pass rusher. They need a dominant pass rusher. That's the key to their whole defensive philosophy.
Off to Browner pastures
Free agent cornerback Brandon Browner, the former Seattle Seahawk who was suspended indefinitely for violating the league's substance abuse policy, is fighting back for his right to play. Browner and his lawyer Peter Schaffer told Mike Florio of NBC Sports that they plan on suing the NFL next week, as well as file an injunction so that Browner may enter free agency on March 11.
Browner is contending that the league continued to subject him to tests even after he was released by the Denver Broncos in 2006 and was playing in the CFL, while sending his notifications for said tests to an old address that he was no longer using. His legal team will also go a step further and contend that the NFL is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by treating chronic marijuana users as addicts while not providing "reasonable accommodation."
If allowed to negotiate with teams and sign a new deal, Browner would enter a free agent market that's rather deep with possibilities. Beyond the above-noted Revis possibly being available, other unrestricted free agent cornerbacks include: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Alterraun Verner, Aqib Talib, Charles Tillman, Brent Grimes, Vontae Davis, Sam Shields, Captain Munnerlyn and dozens more.
With Browner coming off of an injury, turning 30 this year and always having a possible lengthy drug suspension looming above his head (he was also suspended four games in 2012 for taking adderall, a banned substance) he may have a hard time finding a team to give him much of a guarantee. However, he would still like a chance to try.
Danny Kelly at Field Gulls had more to add on the Browner situation:
"I'm not afraid to fight City Hall," said Shaffer this week. "I've bent over backward to find a way to work something out with the league to make everyone comfortable. I don't understand how the league can ruin someone's career over this fact pattern." ("Fact pattern" is a reference to the fact that Browner (possibly) erroneously landed in Stage Three of the drug program while playing in Canada's CFL.)
"I'll represent Brandon zealously to make sure his career isn't ruined."
This has sort of been my point of view the whole time as well. I get that Browner should be punished for his failed drug test, and it's annoying that he failed another test after being suspended under the league's separate Performance Enhancing Drugs policy last year, but considering the pretty extraordinary circumstances (he lived in another country and didn't play in the NFL and wasn't a part of the NFLPA so the drug tests he was summoned for were subsequently missed) that landed him in Stage Three of the NFL's Drug Abuse Program, a year-long ban is absurdly overkill. Especially because you'd normally have to fail three or more drug tests to even get a mere four-game suspension.
Henry, you're Melton the Cowboys' hearts
Free agent defensive tackle Henry Melton should be one of the top players at his position on the free agent market, and the Dallas-native would have interest in signing with the Cowboys, but there's little chance the team can afford him.
The Cowboys are team dealing with salary cap nightmares this year, and aren't likely to be major players in free agency. Even if the salary cap turns out to be higher than $130 million, Dallas could be as much as $20 million over for next season, according to OvertheCap.com. The Cowboys have some very tough decisions ahead of them.
That's not to mention possible extensions for some of their own. Tyron Smith has been among the best at his position in the league, and ESPN Dallas reported that he could be seeking a deal akin to that of All-Pro Joe Thomas. Smith is not an impending free agent this year, and the Cowboys can exercise an option for 2015, but it's not long before he will also require more money.
That's just one obstacle that stands between Dallas and Melton, or pretty much any other free agent.