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The 5 O’Clock Club: Sweeping up the slop — 7 defensive free agents we haven’t tackled yet

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

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Buffalo Bills v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Linebacker

Preston Brown

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 260 pounds

Age: 25

Entry to NFL: 3rd round, 2014 draft (Buffalo Bills)

Career Stats

Contract

Spotrac estimates that if Preston Brown were to sign a free agent contract it would be 4 years, $33.8m ($8.4m APY).

How would he fit with the Redskins?

  • 64 games / 62 starts
  • 512 tackles
  • 10 passes defended
  • 3 INTs

in 4 seasons

Brown finished tops in the league with 144 tackles while adding three passes defensed and playing a career-high 1,098 defensive snaps.

Officially, Brown tied with Cleveland’s Joe Schobert and Green Bay’s Blake Martinez in terms of the tackle total. Brown almost never accrues meaningful numbers in other areas, as his career high in sacks is one (2016 season) and interceptions is two (2015). However, he’s as steady as they come in the tackle world, with 109 or better in all four of his NFL seasons. Brown is about to be an unrestricted free agent, and even though he lacks elite speed or athleticism, coach Sean McDermott loves this type of player. It’d be a bit of a shock if the Bills let him get away.

Apparently, Preston Brown is very interested in joining the Patriots:

Brown, who has played all 64 of his NFL games in a Bills uniform since being drafted in 2014, has hinted that New England could be a possible destination if he were to hit the open market. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported on some of Brown’s sentiments.

“I think I can definitely help the young guys they have there now,” shared the middle linebacker. He also seemed to have a decent grasp on some of the personnel involved with the Patriots defense. “They’ve got some good young talent at linebacker. They run pretty well. I know (David) Harris retired. A lot of young guys were playing well, (Kyle) Van Noy and (Elandon Roberts) played well. They definitely have some things they can work on like we all do, but I think I can help that defense get better.”

“I just think the whole organization in New England does a great job of knowing what those players’ skills are and then utilizing them in that way,” Brown said.

Preston Brown would be a pretty good replacement for Zach Brown if Zach doesn’t re-sign with the Redskins. Preston isn’t as fast as Zach, but he’s a tackling machine with limited coverage & pass rush skills who played in Buffalo last season — all traits he shares with the Redskins 2017 starting linebacker. But Preston Brown seems to have his eyes on New England.

Preston Brown is a very good NFL linebacker, but, honestly, if the team is going to pay premium money for a linebacker to replace Zach Brown, I’d rather sign a linebacker with better coverage skills.

Defensive Linemen

Muhammad Wilkerson

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 216 pounds

Age: 28

Entry to NFL: #30 overall, 2011 draft (New York Jets)

Career Stats

Contract

Muhammad Wilkerson signed a five-year, $86 million deal in 2016. He was cut last week by the Jets, who took a $9m dead cap hit, but saved $11m against salary cap for 2018. Here’s the salary cap detail for ‘16 & ‘17 according to OverTheCap:

How would he fit with the Redskins?

Here’s what the New York Post had to say about Wilkerson this past week:

New York has claimed another victim, a malcontent football mercenary who cheated the Jets and himself.

Muhammad Wilkerson’s only contribution since he was signed to a five-year, $86 million deal in 2016 is the $11 million in cap savings that will help the Jets chase Kirk Cousins.

For $37 million, Wilkerson provided eight sacks and sleepless nights for an organization that couldn’t get him to team meetings on time.

Mo Wilkerson became a no-show, on the field and inside the Atlantic Health Training Center.

Showed the franchise that raised him from a pup absolutely no respect.

In essence, he became a poor-man’s version of Albert Haynesworth, who was rewarded by the Redskins with a $100 million free-agent contract ($41 million guaranteed) and played 20 games.

It seemed like there were as many benchings and suspensions as highlights.

Any Redskins fans want to sign a high-priced, unmotivated interior defensive lineman??

DaQuan Jones

Tennessee Titans v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 322 pounds

Age: 26

Entry to NFL: 4th round, 2014 draft (Tennessee Titans)

Career Stats

Contract

I haven’t been able to find any kind of independent valuation for a Jones contract, but he was ranked as the #42 Defensive Linemen by PFF (80.8 grade - above average). For comparison, Matt Ioannidis was ranked #54 (79.2 grade - average), and Jon Allen was graded 81.3 for the healthy part of his season.

So we’ve got 4th round draft pick who’s playing about the same (according to PFF) as Ioannidis and Allen.

On that basis, I expect him to get a very good payday. Tier two 3-4 defensive ends range from $9m to $12m APY. I’d say the expectation should be around $10.5m per year.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

Last season was Jones’ best in the NFL after being picked in the fourth round of the 2014 draft by the Titans. He tallied a career-high 3.5 sacks in just 12 games. Pro Football Focus ranked him No. 42 among all defensive linemen.

Jones played well in 2017 before his season ended early due to a torn biceps injury. He has been playing left defensive end in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 scheme the last few years.

Da’quan Jones is still young at age 26 and should provide an immediate upgrade to Terrell McClain, and help create the defensive line that the Redskins need to build. Jones would represent a significant financial commitment to the DL, but he would fill a position of need, and with a 4-year contract, would fit nicely into the succession plan for Washington’s DL position.

Cornerbacks

E.J. Gaines

Buffalo Bills v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 190 pounds

Age: 26

Entry to NFL: 6th round, 2014 draft (St. Louis Rams)

Career Stats

Contract

Gaines played last season for $1.797m, which indicates that he played on an RFA original round tender. That generally indicates that the team didn’t think there would be a lot of competition for Gaines.

Spotrac estimates that if E.J. Gaines were to sign a free agent contract it would be 4 years, $37.4m ($9.3m APY). Cornerbacks with contracts valued between $9m and $9.5m APY are Joe Haden, Sean Smith, Robert Alford, and Aquib Talib.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

From NYupstate.com:

When the Bills traded wide receiver Sammy Watkins to Los Angeles in the preseason, the centerpiece of the package they received was a 2018 second-round pick. 2014 sixth-round pick Gaines, however, was also acquired, and he has exceeded expectations. He has been a reliable part of Buffalo’s secondary and is now set to hit the open market. Quarterbacks, offensive linemen and defensive backs are usually the highest-paid spots in free agency, which should set up the productive Gaines for a bigger deal.

As Yates mentioned, Gaines has exceeded expectations in his first season with the Bills. The cornerback has been a great fit in Sean McDermott’s zone coverage scheme.

In 10 games this season, Gaines has recorded 51 tackles, seven passes defensed, one interception and two forced fumbles. Pro Football Focus (PFF) also has Gaines having a strong season. Gaines is currently listed as PFF’s 29th ranked cornerback with an 83.0 grade.

The only knock on Gaines was his durability. Gaines missed five games this season and he has struggled to stay on the field in his career. The cornerback missed five games in 2016 with the Los Angeles Rams and sat out the entire 2015 season after suffering a Lisfranc injury.

Buffalo may have second thoughts on paying Gaines to a sizeable deal due to his injury past, but ESPN Insider’s Field Yates believes Buffalo should pay the cornerback whatever it takes to bring him back to the team.

From BillsWire:

E.J. Gaines should be at the top of the team’s priority list.

Gaines, however, quickly silenced his doubters, recording five tackles in the Bills’ Week 1 win over the New York Jets. It would take Gaines only three weeks to record his first interception in a Buffalo uniform, as he tallied one interception and three pass deflections in the Bills’ shocking Week 3 victory over the Denver Broncos.

When Gaines was on the field in 2017, he was a lockdown cornerback who effectively complemented White, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. Unfortunately, Gaines wasn’t on the field all that much in 2017. The former Missouri Tiger dealt with a hamstring injury throughout the majority of the season, and he missed five games as a result.

In 11 games, Gaines recorded 59 tackles, nine pass deflections, and one interception. He allowed just 38 receptions on 60 targets, per Pro Football Focus. The outlet gave Gaines an overall rating of 86.6, good for 13th amongst all cornerbacks.

When people talk about a guy as a “lockdown cornerback” and you see an expected APY of less than $10m per year, that’s a signal to call his agent and express interest.

The concern with Gaines’ ability seems to be his availability.

The Redskins have a pretty deep cornerback group, and could probably handle a guy with Gaines’ skills missing a few games if they can sign him at sub-$10m.

Brent Grimes

Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 190 pounds

Age: 34

Entry to NFL: Undrafted Free Agent (Atlanta Falcons)

Career Stats

Contract

From OverTheCap:

Brent Grimes signed a four year, $32 million contract extension with the Miami Dolphins on March 4, 2014. The contract contains $16 million in fully guaranteed salary which consists of a $6 million signing bonus, fully guaranteed base salary in 2014 and partially guaranteed base salary in 2015.

Grimes had an $8m cap hit each of the past two seasons. It’s likely that a team that believes in him enough to sign the 34 year old CB will need to pay him between $6m and $8m for a one-year contract.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

Raise your hand if you want to sign a 34 year old cornerback this season.

Morris Claiborne

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 190 pounds

Age: 28

Entry to NFL: 6th overall, 2012 draft (Dallas Cowboys)

Career Stats

Contract

After 4 consecutive seasons with 10 games, 4 games, 11 games, and 7 games, Claiborne was one of the many defensive players that left — at least in part — due to salary cap issues in 2017, however, there were huge concerns with Claiborne’s durability.

He signed a $5m contract with the Jets last season, and after playing in 15 games, Claiborne and his agent might be looking for a pay increase in 2018.

General Managers will likely point to Claiborne’s PFF grade:

How would he fit with the Redskins?

ABC Sports ranks him the 43rd best free agent of 2018:

Claiborne resurrected his career in 2017 simply by remaining on the field. He started 15 games, his highest total since 2012. He has said he wants to return to the Jets, and that might make the most sense for him, but big(ger) corners usually have a market.

NFL.com ranks him 45th.

Claiborne might never live up to his No. 6 overall pick pedigree, but he’s been a rock-solid starter -- when healthy -- the past two years.

An often-injured player of uncertain skill with a Cowboy stink? No thanks.

Prince Amukamara

Cleveland Browns v Chicago Bears Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 207 pounds

Age: 28

Entry to NFL: 19th overall, 2011 draft (New York Giants)

Career Stats

Contract

Prince Amukamara signed a one-year, $7m contract with the Bears last season. He should be available for about the same money in 2018.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

NFL.com has this to say about Amukamara:

Rent-a-corner keeps supplying league-average starter value on one-year contracts.

Despite his 5 years with the Giants, and the fact that he’s only ever played 16 games once in a seven-year career, Prince Amukamara is a quality CB on a very reasonable contract. Similar to E.J. Gaines, if the ‘Skins can get 12 to 14 games from Amukamara on a one-year, $7m contract, that will likely be good value for the depth it would add to the current CB group.

Poll

Which of these defensive free agents would you most want to sign as a Redskin in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Preston Brown - LB
    (159 votes)
  • 11%
    Muhammad Wilkerson - DL
    (71 votes)
  • 31%
    DaQuan Jones - DL
    (196 votes)
  • 12%
    E.J. Gaines - CB
    (78 votes)
  • 1%
    Brent Grimes - CB
    (12 votes)
  • 2%
    Morris Claiborne - CB
    (18 votes)
  • 14%
    Prince Amukamara - CB
    (87 votes)
621 votes total Vote Now
New York Giants v Washington Redskins Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images