Big names highlight 2017 crop of NFL free agents

Big names highlight 2017 crop of NFL free agents

NEW YORK -- Free agency is not the lifeblood of NFL teams. The draft remains the most significant means by which to build and fortify a franchise.

Yet, as the salary cap increases exponentially each year under the 10-year labor agreement reached in 2011, the lure of veterans on the open market can be powerful. Not only do clubs who manage their financial structure wisely have increased funds to spend, they can get quick improvement that doesn't normally come from rookies.

To Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, it's unusual to see how much money is available for spending, and not just in Carolina.

"Different since I got here," he said. "We had to cut guys to get under, then the next year I think we had to touch one or two contracts to get under, then the last three years we've been able to create separation, sort of.

"Meanwhile, you've got teams that have got crazy money under the cap. It gives you flexibility. It allows you, for lack of a better term, it allows you to expand your thought process."

The Falcons (Alex Mack, Mohamed Sanu), Giants (Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins) and Raiders (Bruce Irvin, Kelechi Osemele, Donald Penn) scored in a big way in 2016. The Bears (Danny Trevathan), Dolphins (Arian Foster) and Texans (Brock Osweiler) not so much.

With the 2017 crop lacking big-time difference makers, that extra $12 million each team has to spend might get spread around a bit more. Then again, overspending has become second nature in free agency for far too many teams.

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HEAD OF THE CLASS

There were four All-Pros whose contracts were up after the 2015 season. Von Miller, Eric Berry and Doug Martin returned to their teams. Josh Norman had the franchise tag dropped by Carolina and scored big with a five-year, $75 million deal in Washington.

Four top guys who won't be going anywhere:

Le'Veon Bell , RB, Pittsburgh - The Steelers tagged their all-world back and he won't be leaving Steel City.

Eric Berry, S, Kansas City - He threatened to sit out 2017 rather than be tagged again and he won, getting a long-term deal as the league's highest-paid safety.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington - When a good but not great quarterback such as Cousins is making more than Super Bowl winners, it shows how valued (and overvalued) the position can be.

Jason Pierre-Paul , DE, New York Giants - The Giants are convinced he's found ways to be consistently dangerous despite his hand issues from 2015 fireworks accident.

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Still on teams' radars:

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago - If he stays healthy, Jeffery can be a No. 1 target. In this pass-first league, that's a must-have commodity.

Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland - Teams outside of Dallas have discovered the need for two running backs. Murray pretty much would fit anywhere.

Andrew Whitworth, OT, Cincinnati - Veteran left tackles with versatility, leadership skills and intelligence are difficult to find.

Dont'a Hightower, LB, New England - Probably the best defender on the NFL champions, and a good locker room guy.

Dontari Poe, DT, Kansas City - If he isn't the best at his position in the NFL, he's close.

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Superstars without a home:

Adrian Peterson, RB: Surely the former Viking will get a nice, if short, deal from a club in dire need of a ground threat who could put it over the top.

Darrelle Revis, CB: He might have legal issues, and he slipped badly in his return to the Jets. If he has anything left, Revis is a find for someone - with a short-term contract.

Jamaal Charles, RB: One of the league's most gallant and versatile players, but his knee problems might be too much to overcome.

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NEXT IN LINE

These players are not far behind those above, but some come with significant questions marks. Listed alphabetically:

A.J. Bouye, CB, Houston; Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona; Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington; DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington; Tony Jefferson, S, Arizona; Trumaine Johnson (non-exclusive tag), CB, Los Angeles Rams; Chris Long, DE, New England; Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets; Alex Okafor, LB, Arizona; Nick Perry, LB, Green Bay; Terrelle Pryor, WR, Cleveland; Kawann Short (non-exclusive tag), DT, Carolina; Brandon Williams, DT, Baltimore; Kevin Zeitler, G, Cincinnati.

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SECOND WAVE

Some of these players might get quick deals more because of the position they play than their overall production. Some have excellent timing, hitting free agency after effective seasons. Listed alphabetically:

Kamar Aiken, WR, Baltimore; Martellus Bennett, TE, New England; Zach Brown, LB, Buffalo; Trent Cole, LB (edge rusher), Indianapolis; Jared Cook, TE, Green Bay; Patrick DiMarco, FB, Atlanta; Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis; Stephon Gilmore, CB, Buffalo; Mike Glennon, QB, Tampa Bay; Micah Hyde, S, Green Bay; Melvin Ingram (non-exclusive tag), LB, Los Angeles Chargers; Chandler Jones (non-exclusive tag), LB, Arizona; Matt Kalil, LT, Minnesota; Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Cincinnati; Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay; T.J. Lang, G, Green Bay; Kelvin Sheppard, LB, New York Giants; Logan Ryan, CB, New England; J.C. Tretter, C, Green Bay; Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee.

49ers release Coffee after reinstating RB off retired list

49ers release Coffee after reinstating RB off retired list

Running back Glen Coffee, who walked away from the 49ers during training camp before his second NFL season, was reinstated Friday off the reserve-retired list.

As part of the same transaction wire released by the NFL office, the 49ers released Coffee, making him a free agent.

After seven seasons away from the game, Coffee is attempting a comeback, his agent told NBC Sports Bay Area on Saturday.

“I can tell you, he’s in great shape,” agent Ray Oubre said. “The man doesn’t have a six-pack, he’s got a 12-pack. He’s been waiting for the right time to hopefully get a workout with someone and show what he can do.

“He had a calling, and right now he feels like it’s his time to show what he can do. He explained to me, ‘I can do things now that I couldn’t do when I was initially with the 49ers.’ That’s the kind of shape he’s in.”

Coffee, who turns 30 on May 1, was a third-round draft pick (No. 74 overall) of the 49ers in 2009. He was the sixth running back selected in that year's draft. Coffee appeared in 14 games as a rookie and carried 83 times for 226 yards and one touchdown. He also caught 11 passes for 78 yards.

During training camp the next year as his teammates were exiting the locker room for the practice field in August 2010, Coffee cut the tape from his shoes and left the team's Santa Clara practice facility. He later informed then-coach Mike Singletary of his decision to stop playing football. Coffee said he believed God had a bigger plan for him.

Coffee was a specialist in the Sixth Battalion of the Army Rangers after enlisting in 2013. He is no longer active, Oubre said.

“He’s been training several months,” Oubre said. “The rigors of the Army Rangers, he was already in shape. He’s taking it to another level now. He’s been training for more than four months.

“He feels like he served and now the time is right. He’s in a good place. He understands, you can’t play football forever and you can’t do any one thing forever. He’s in a place right now that he wants to use his God-given ability as a football player.”

Coffee turned pro after his junior season at Alabama. In his final college season, Coffee rushed for 1,383 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Coffee has been training under Johnny Jackson at JDPI Sports Performance in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Oubre said he will be in contact with all 32 NFL teams to see if there’s any interest in bringing in Coffee for workouts. He might also hold an open workout for any interested teams.

Sponsored by Harbaugh, Kap named one of Top 100 most influential people

Sponsored by Harbaugh, Kap named one of Top 100 most influential people

Former 49ers quarterback and current free agent Colin Kaepernick has been named one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People on Thursday. 

Each person named to the list is represented by a sponsor who then writes on why they are worthy of the honor. For Kaepernick, his former coach Jim Harbaugh wrote on him. 

Harbaugh coached Kaepernick for four seasons from 2011-2014. The two reached the Super Bowl together in the 2012 season. 

Other sports figures named to the list include Conor McGregor, Theo Epstein, LeBron James, Tom Brady, Simone Biles, and Neymar.

Kaepernick made national headlines this past season for his decision to first sit and then kneel during the national anthem as a fight against social injustices. 

Below is what Harbaugh wrote on Kaepernick's influence: 

Colin Kaepernick was alone in his early protests last year when he boldly and courageously confronted perceived inequalities in our social-justice system by refusing to stand for the national anthem. At times in our nation's history, we have been all too quick to judge and oppose our fellow Americans for exercising their First Amendment right to address things they believe unjust.

Rather than besmirch their character, we must celebrate their act. For we cannot pioneer and invent if we are fearful of deviating from the norm, damaging our public perception or—most important—harming our own personal interests.

I thank Colin for all he has contributed to the game of football as an outstanding player and trusted teammate. I also applaud Colin for the courage he has demonstrated in exercising his guaranteed right of free speech. His willingness to take a position at personal cost is now part of our American story.

How lucky for us all and for our country to have among our citizens someone as remarkable as Colin Kaepernick.