Agent's Take: Colin Kaepernick leads 10 notable NFL veterans still available
As the injuries mount in preseason, expect to hear these names floated as options
There are usually several notable veteran players available each year who still want to play football when preseason action gets into full swing. Most aren't available by choice. The inevitable injuries that occur in training camp and preseason games to players expected to be major contributors or a franchise's lack of confidence in depth at certain positions is what typically leads to these players getting contracts.
A majority of preseason signings get one-year minimum salary benefit contracts. A player receives his league minimum base salary and a maximum of $80,000 as additional compensation whether as a signing bonus, roster bonus, workout bonus or incentives with these deals. The player's base salary counts on the salary cap at the $615,000 minimum salary for players with two years of service instead of at his actual base salary.
Only two players, cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Antonio Cromartie, that weren't with teams for workout programs and minicamps in 2016 signed contracts last August averaging more than $2.5 million per year. Culliver's contract with the Dolphins was worth $3.575 million while Cromartie's deal with the Colts was worth $3 million.
Quarterback Jay Cutler, who had retired to become an NFL game analyst with Fox Sports after getting cut by the Bears in March, got a one-year, $10 million deal (worth up to $13 million with incentives) from the Dolphins last week after starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill reinjured his left knee early in training camp. The Bills gave wide receiver Anquan Boldin a one-year, $2.75-million contract with an additional $1.25 million in incentives last week as well.
Some of these jobless veterans might already be on rosters with lower financial demands. Unless salary expectations are adjusted, it may take a dramatic change in circumstances before a team is willing to seriously consider their monetary demands.
Here's a look 10 notable veterans players that remain available. Linebackers DeAndre Levy and Zach Orr are not included. Levy had knee surgery in April and estimates that he won't be ready to play until November. Orr hasn't received medical clearance since he decided to try to resume his career after retiring in March because of a congenital spinal condition.
Colin Kaepernick (QB)
It's hard to deny that Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the national anthem before games last season to protest racial injustice is primarily responsible for him not being on an NFL roster. Because of a steady decline over the last couple of seasons, Kaepernick probably wasn't going to find a team willing to make him a starter if his social activism wasn't a part of the equation. But he is considerably better than numerous quarterbacks that have found opportunities to be backups this year, regardless of his political stances.
The Seahawks, who brought Kaepernick in for a visit in early June, seemed like a good landing spot because of their use of read-option concepts. Mobility at quarterback is also a positive attribute playing behind a shaky offensive line. Journeyman backup Austin Davis was signed instead. Head coach Pete Carroll's justification was that he viewed Kaepernick as starter material, which is a curious reason for going in another direction.
The Ravens expressed an interest in Kaepernick a couple of weeks ago when Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco went down with a back injury that isn't expected to keep him out of regular season action. Owner Steve Bisciotti gauged public opinion about signing Kaepernick before declining. This is something the Eagles didn't do with Michael Vick after he spent nearly two years in prison for running a dog fighting operation. Kaepernick's girlfriend, New York City radio host Nessa Diab, didn't do him any favors by comparing Bisciotti to Leonardo DiCaprio's slave owner character in the movie "Django Unchained" on Twitter.
Don't expect the Cowboys, Jaguars, Jets, Patriots, Rams, Redskins or Texans to sign Kaepernick. Their ownerships each reportedly gave $1 million to President Donald Trump's inaugural committee. Trump was a harsh critic of Kaepernick's anthem protest last season.
Robert Griffin III (QB)
Griffin didn't take advantage of the opportunity to resurrect his career with the Browns in 2016. A left shoulder injury sustained during the regular season opener shelved Griffin until the latter part of the season. The Browns released the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in March a day before he was due a $750,000 roster bonus when Brock Osweiler was acquired via a trade with the Texans. Griffin's only workout since his release was with the Chargers in late July. The Chargers opted to make a trade with the Bills for backup quarterback Cardale Jones instead of signing Griffin. Scott Tolzien continuing to have lackluster preseason performances for the Colts could become a cause of concern since Andrew Luck may not be recovered from offseason shoulder surgery by the time the regular season starts.
Darrelle Revis (CB)
Before last season, a trip to Revis Island meant a wide receiver essentially was eliminated from the game because of blanket coverage. Wide receivers enjoyed going to Revis Island last season because of the hospitality. The alarming decline in Revis' play prompted the Jets to release him in March despite $6 million of his 2017 base salary being fully guaranteed. Although Revis isn't ready to retire, there hasn't been much interest in the seven-time Pro Bowler. The contract guarantees only complicates Revis' situation. The 32-year-old can make $6 million by not playing this year and trying to resume his career in 2018. Since the guarantee has an offset, the Jets obligation to Revis will reduce by the amount of his contract with another team. Revis won't make any additional money unless he signs with another team for more than $6 million, which seems remote.
The Cardinals have struggled to find a cornerback to play opposite All-Pro Patrick Peterson. The Seahawks are taking a look at Tramaine Brock, who has been cleared of the domestic violence charges that led to his release from the 49ers in April. A transition to free safety could be a possibility for Revis. The Dolphins losing starting cornerback Tony Lippett to a season ending Achilles injury may lead to a veteran cornerback signing.
Jairus Byrd (S)
Byrd didn't live up to the six-year, $52.5 million deal (worth up to $54 million with salary escalators) he signed as a free agent in 2014 during his three seasons with the Saints. Injuries, an inability to be the ballhawk he was prior to the blockbuster deal, and the development of Vonn Bell, the Saints' 2016 second-round pick, made Byrd expendable. The 49ers kicked the tires on Byrd with a workout in late May. The Jaguars adding safety depth would mean a reunion with head coach Doug Marrone, who was in charge of the Bills in 2013 during Byrd's last year in Buffalo.
Branden Albert (OT)
Albert was a no-show for Jaguars offseason workouts until the mandatory minicamp after being acquired from the Dolphins in a March trade because he wanted a new contract. He abruptly retired three days into training camp before changing his mind a week later. The Jaguars have since cut ties with Albert.
The Giants could use an upgrade at left tackle because 2015 first-round pick Ereck Flowers hasn't lived up to expectations. Offensive line is the most glaring deficiency on the Seahawks, with former college basketball player George Fant operating at left tackle. The Bengals are trying to overcome the loss of left tackle Andrew Whitworth in free agency with Cedric Ogbuehi switching over from the right side. It wouldn't be a surprise for the Raiders or Texans to kick the tires on Albert, either, because Donald Penn and Duane Brown are holdouts. If Albert finds a taker, he will be hard pressed to make the $8.9 million the Jaguars were going to pay him this season.
Nick Mangold (C)
Mangold was an early casualty of the Jets' purge of high-priced veterans from the roster. He was scheduled to make $9.075 million in 2017 before his late February release. Inquires from several teams about switching from center to guard have been consistently rebuffed. John Urschel's unexpected retirement and Alex Lewis' season-ending shoulder injury have caused instability to the Ravens' offensive line. The Colts have taken a look at Jeremy Zuttah, who the 49ers let go last week, because of Ryan Kelly's foot injury. Kelly is expected to be back for the start of the regular season. Mangold may be one of those veterans who is only willing to play if a team makes it worth his while financially.
Gary Barnidge (TE)
Barnidge was informed his services were no longer needed by the Browns a day after the team traded back into the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft to select David Njoku from the University of Miami. Barnidge caught a respectable 55 passes for 612 yards with two touchdowns from a rotating cast of quarterbacks decimated by injuries in Cleveland last season. Barnidge would instantly become the Jaguars' best receiving threat at tight end if signed. He worked out for the Jaguars right before training camp started last month and visited the Bills in May.
Dwight Freeney (DE)
Freeney is accustomed to being out of work at the beginning of training camp. He led the Cardinals with eight sacks in 2015 although he wasn't signed until five games into the regular season. Freeney joined the Falcons in early August last season. The 37-year-old edge rusher is still capable of being an effective situational pass rusher. He was more productive than Mario Williams, who the Dolphins released in February after a disappointing 2016 season and who is also available, despite being five years older.
The seven-time Pro Bowl selection could help fill the void created in New England when longtime Patriots defensive end/outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich retired at the start of training camp. The Broncos are short of pass rushers because of a rash of injuries at outside linebacker and defensive end. The Lions could use some defensive line depth with Kerry Hyder tearing an Achilles in the preseason opener against the Colts. Jared Odrick, who was cut by the Jaguars in February, is reportedly on the Lions' radar screen.
Vincent Jackson (WR)
A knee injury cut short Jackson's fifth and final season with the Buccaneers in 2016. Jackson was put on injured reserve after playing just five games. Although his play had declined, Jackson, 34, could be worth a look to a team without a veteran presence at wide receiver, like the Chiefs or Jets.
DeAngelo Williams (RB)
Williams wasn't nearly as effective last season with the Steelers as he was in 2015 picking up the slack in the running game while Le'Veon Bell was out. He didn't make an impact during the AFC Championship Game with Bell limited because of a groin injury. Williams named the Browns, Cowboys, Jaguars and Panthers as teams he had no interest in joining.
He's now open to returning to the Panthers with general manager Dave Gettleman's firing. Jay Ajayi's concussion issues and Kenyan Drake's head injury could eventually force the Dolphins to bring in another running back. The Ravens' ground game has taken a hit because Kenneth Dixon is expected to miss the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus in his left knee.
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