By BOB McGINN
This is the third of a three-part series in which subscribers will get a look at what the NFL free-agent market was when it opened and how it looks now. Part 1 looked at the players on offense, and Part 2 looked at the players on defense. Today, Part 3 will be a look at the players on special teams and restricted free agency.
The signing period began Wednesday, March 14 at 3 p.m. Players that signed or were known to have agreed to terms before that time were not considered in these rankings.
Among the players that were considered were approximately 400 unrestricted free agents, the 78 players with fewer than four accrued seasons who received no qualifying offer or minimum tender from their teams and the approximately 70 respectable players that were released since Feb. 5 and remained unsigned.
Players were ranked in order of attractiveness based on ability, production, age, medical and off-field factors.
Approximately 160 players from these lists already have signed with new teams since the start of the signing period. About 50 others have re-signed with their own teams.
So-called “street” free agents and players without qualifying offers/minimum tenders were denoted by the (ex-) before their most recent teams.
The guaranteed portion of contracts is denoted by “g.” The “M” refers to millions of dollars.
1. CODY PARKEY … 26 … Miami … (Chicago).
2. CHANDLER CATANZARO … 27 … NY Jets … (Tampa Bay).
3. CALEB STURGIS … 28 … Philadelphia … (LA Chargers).
4. CAIRO SANTOS … 26 … Chicago … (NY Jets).
5. KAI FORBATH … Minnesota … (re-signed).
OTHERS: Nick Novak, LA Chargers; Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland; Patrick Murray, Tampa Bay; Mike Nugent, Chicago; Nick Folk, ex-Tampa Bay.
OVERVIEW: This is one of the best kicker classes in years. The Bears and Buccaneers struck first on Day One, moving on from old booters cast aside in the market to add fresh ones. For Chicago, the new man is Parkey, whose 91.3% field-goal percentage in 2017 tied the Dolphins’ club record set by Jay Feely in ’07 and ranked eighth in the league. Parkey’s four-year contract was worth $15 million ($9M guaranteed). For Tampa Bay, its newcomer is Catanzaro, a pleasant surprise for the Jets last year after he fell apart in Arizona the year before. Catanzaro’s three-year deal was for $9.75 million ($3.75M g). Meanwhile, the Bears said good-bye to Santos, the second of their three kickers a year ago, and Nugent, their last. Santos, the ex-Chief who lasted just two games in Chicago before being placed on injured reserve, replaced Catanzaro with the Jets (1/$2M/$500,000 g). Sturgis, the Dolphins’ kicker in 2013-’14 before winning the Eagles’ job in ’15 over Parkey, suffered a hip injury in the opener and went on IR. The Chargers, who went through five kickers last season, waited only 48 hours before securing Sturgis (2/$4.45M/$1M g). The Vikings then re-signed the somewhat erratic Forbath (1/$1M/$100,000 g). That leaves Janikowski, 40; Novak, 36; Nugent, 36, and Folk, 33, as golden oldies seeking employment. Murray, 26, demonstrated a big leg on kickoffs but has made just 81.6% of his field goals for two teams since ’14.
1. KEVIN HUBER … 32 … Cincinnati … (re-signed).
2. PAT O’DONNELL … 27 … Chicago … (re-signed).
3. BRAD WING … 27 … ex-NY Giants … (none).
4. JACOB SCHUM … 29 … ex-Green Bay … (none).
OVERVIEW: In 26 years of free agency this rates as one of the thinnest crops ever for punters. Huber tested the market briefly before returning to the Bengals (3/$7.95M/$1.55M g). In the Bengals’ 50-year history Huber is one of just two players to play for a high school in Cincinnati and then at the University of Cincinnati before playing for them. The other, RB Clem Turner in 1969, later went into pro wrestling. The Bears tried to sign Huber before having to bring back O’Donnell (1/$1.5M/$500,000 g). Wing, the Giants’ punter since 2015, had a woeful season. Schum spent all year on injured reserve after doing a competent job for the Packers in ’16.
1. L.P. LADOUCEUR … 37 … Dallas … (re-signed).
2. ANDREW DePAOLA … 30 … Chicago … (Oakland).
3. GARRISON SANBORN … 32 … Tampa Bay … (none).
4. PATRICK SCALES … 30 … ex-Chicago … (none).
5. MATT OVERTON … 32 … Jacksonville … (none).
OTHERS: Brett Goode, Green Bay; Jon Condo, Oakland; Jeff Overbaugh, ex-Minnesota.
OVERVIEW: Ladouceur, who has not had a bad snap in 13 seasons for Dallas, will return once again (1/$1.105M/$800,000 g). The Raiders replaced the 36-year-old Condo with DePaola (4/$4.27M/$875,000 g), who spent all season on the Bears’ injured reserve list. After deciding not to tender Scales, the Bears brought him back at a reduced rate. Scales blew out his knee in August after having held the post in Chicago for 1 ½ seasons. Goode, 33, remains an insurance policy for the Packers.
1. MATT SLATER (WR) … 32 … New England … (re-signed).
2. JUSTIN BETHEL (CB) … 27 … Arizona … (Atlanta).
3. JEFF JANIS (WR) … 26 … Green Bay … (none).
4. SHERRICK McMANIS (CB) … 30 … Chicago … (re-signed).
5. JULIAN STANFORD (LB) … 27 …NY Jets … (Buffalo).
OTHERS: LB LaRoy Reynolds, Atlanta; S Don Carey, Detroit (to Jacksonville); LB Bryan Braman, Philadelphia; RB Cedric Peerman, Cincinnati; WR Eric Weems, ex-Tennessee.
OVERVIEW: Slater ranks as one of the greatest special-teams players in NFL history with Pro Bowl selections in the past seven seasons. He visited the Steelers before returning to the Patriots (2/$5M/$2.2M g). Bethel made the Pro Bowl from 2013-’15 before getting a chance to start at cornerback in 2016-’17. It didn’t go well. On Friday, the Falcons signed him to beef up their 22nd-ranked special teams. Stanford, however, was the first off the board with his return to the Jets (2/$3M/$550,000 g). He hasn’t been exceptional in the kicking game. Carey, a core special teamer in Detroit since 2011, went to Jacksonville (2/$2.495M/$200,000 g).
1. MARCUS SHERELS (CB) … 30 … Minnesota … (none).
2. ANDRE ROBERTS (WR) … 30 … Atlanta … (NY Jets).
3. MICHAEL CAMPANARO (WR) … 27 … Baltimore … (none).
4. KENJON BARNER (RB) … 28 … Philadelphia … (none).
5. DWAYNE HARRIS (WR) … 30 … ex-NY Giants … (none).
OTHERS: WR Brandon Tate, Buffalo; RB Jordan Todman, Houston; WR Bernard Reedy, ex-New England.
OVERVIEW: Sherels, 30, has taken a lot of hits as the Vikings’ full-time punt returner and off-and-on kickoff returner since 2011. Still, he remains effective, and at some point the Vikings probably will bring him back. The well-traveled Roberts took a one-year deal with the Jets after a solid season in Atlanta.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Keeping in mind that all a team must do to retain any of the 29 unsigned players in this category is match an offer, here are some players viewed as potential bargains and the round from which a compensating draft choice would come. Offer sheets must be submitted by April 20.
WR – Cameron Meredith, Chicago, no compensation.
T – Brent Qvale, NY Jets, none.
G – Quinton Spain, Tennessee, none.
DE – Matt Longacre, LA Rams, none; Chris McCain, LA Chargers, none.
DT – Xavier Williams, Arizona, none … signed with Kansas City March 20 after the Cardinals elected not to match a two-year, $5.057 million ($3.455M guaranteed) offer; Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Kansas City, sixth round.
CB – Bryce Callahan, Chicago, none.