Two reports on Sunday suggested tight end Julius Thomas is close to agreeing terms with the Jaguars. Jason Cole says a deal is “just about done”, while Adam Caplan states the Jaguars are “planning” on adding Thomas to the roster. There’s no firm confirmation like the Ndamukong Suh-to-Miami reports, but it seems to be heading in that direction. Although Rob Rang appears to be countering some of the reports.
The Seahawks showed interest in Thomas during the season and according to Yahoo’s Charles Robinson were considered Jacksonville’s biggest competition for the player. So why is he seemingly choosing the Jags?
League source says with the #Jaguars likely to miss on targets Suh/Cobb/Murray, tight end Julius Thomas will become a major priority.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 7, 2015
As you can see, Robinson Tweeted on Saturday that the Jags would miss out on the top three free agents on their target list. Suh is signing with the Dolphins, Randall Cobb is staying in Green Bay and DeMarco Murray will probably end up back in Dallas. They have to spend money in accordance with the new CBA. They have $68m in free cap space (the most in the NFL) and there are restrictions on minimum cash spend.
Someone was going to get a bucket-load of money from the Jaguars.
The best thing for Seattle’s pursuit of Thomas was for the Jaguars to lure Cobb and maybe another high profile free agent to Jacksonville. Instead it created a situation where the Jaguars were looking to pay big money — probably overpay — for one of the remaining big names.
If Thomas signs for the Jaguars people will scoff at the price tag. But remember this — if it wasn’t Thomas getting overpaid it was somebody else. They had to spend per the rules. Jacksonville isn’t a popular destination. Could you imagine having to dip through the second tier of free agents having to offer mega bucks just to get a meeting? That was a distinct possibility for the Jags. If they give Thomas a ridiculous contract, at least they’re paying for one of the top players on the market. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than offering Jermaine Gresham $8m a year (for example).
In a straight battle between the Seahawks and Jaguars, Thomas would have to weigh up salary versus playing for a contender. Let’s suggest the Seahawks were willing to pay $7-8m APY on a four year deal. If the contract he eventually signs is for $9-10m APY (in line with Gronkowski and Graham), you have a tough decision to make. When Robinson tweeted Sunday morning that the Jags “can pay more” — it was telling. You have to wonder if Jacksonville made sure they got this deal done with an even sweeter improved offer at some point today — taking Seattle out of the equation.
UPDATE — Jason La Canfora is suggesting he’ll sign a deal worth $10m APY. That’s a sign of the Jags being forced to do what it takes to get their man. The Seahawks can’t stretch that far.
If (when?) it’s revealed Thomas is a Jaguar, the Seahawks will have to look elsewhere. Having released Zach Miller, tight end is an even bigger hole than it was a few days ago. They need a seam-busting target who can move the chains and produce in the red zone. They don’t have a genuine touchdown maker at receiver or tight end. The attraction with Thomas, apart from his 4.64 speed at 250lbs, big hands and huge vertical, was the production — 24 touchdowns in 27 starts for Denver.
The draft will not provide many answers at tight end, even if it’s loaded at receiver. Maxx Williams will make a solid pro for somebody — but it seems unlikely to be the Seahawks. They’ve consistently gone after unique, difference making qualities early in the draft. Williams’ character, occasional flare and safe hands need to be applauded. Yet a 6-4, 249lbs tight end with 4.78 speed just doesn’t feel like a Seahawks move in round one (or the early second round if they trade back).
I’m not convinced Max Walford ticks the right boxes either — 4.79 speed at 6-4, 251lbs with a poor 30.5 vertical. Devin Funchess is the nearest thing in terms of size — but he’s a 4.70 runner at 232lbs. So he’s 20lbs lighter than your ideal move-TE and still significantly slower.
Missing out on Thomas could be seen as a blow. Although not everyone’s favorite target — he offered a genuine mismatch at the second level. There isn’t a tight end like that in this draft. Pairing Thomas with a highly selected receiver (rounds 1-3) could’ve given the offense a real shot in the arm.
So what now? They could turn to Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron to fill the void.
Like Thomas he won’t turn 27 until the summer (he’s in his prime). He actually bettered most of Thomas’ combine numbers — 4.53 forty, 1.53-split, 37.5 inch vertical. He also has the big hands (just under 10 inches) and similar size (6-5, 254lbs).
Ian Rapoport reported in October that the Seahawks asked about a trade for Cameron involving Percy Harvin. His profile on Rotoworld even claims Seattle made this move first — and when it was rejected they asked Denver about Thomas.
In 2013 he exploded onto the scene as one of the new brand of modern-TE’s with 917 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s in an offense led by Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, by the way. Big things were expected of Cameron moving forward and the idea he’d even hit free agency seemed fanciful. Then the concussion problems set in. He missed six games in 2014. He’s had three concussions in the last two years in total. It’s an alarming number that will seriously put his career at risk.
This problem isn’t likely to go away — in fact it might get much worse. That’s probably why we haven’t heard anything about his free agency market this weekend, despite all the buzz surrounding Julius Thomas.
This could play into the Seahawks’ hands.
Cameron fits the physical prototype they probably want to add to the offense. His price tag could be significantly hit by the health concerns. Signing him to a shorter-term deal with minimal guarantees would make sense — kind of like a prove-it deal. That type of contract could also be attractive for the player. He gets a chance to prove he can stay healthy playing for a contender — and he’s young enough to max-out his market in a year or two’s time.
This is where the Seahawks have had success in free agency under Carroll/Schneider. The big splashes (Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Matt Flynn) didn’t justify the price tag. When they’ve looked for shorter term value (Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril) they’ve excelled.
Some would argue it’s simply a more attractive proposition to Thomas. You’re not making any long-term commitments and Thomas had injury concerns too. You won’t lose the 2016 third-round compensatory pick you’re likely to receive when Byron Maxwell eventually signs in Philadelphia for mega-money. You can also look at other options in free agency.
Can the Seahawks afford to be a little more pro-active in the pass-rush market if they sign Cameron instead? Perhaps. They’ll certainly have the money to make an attractive offer to a player such as Tramon Williams in Green Bay. They can consider re-signing James Carpenter if they wish. They’ll also have a little more freedom to sign Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and J.R. Sweezy to longer term deals.
It might put more pressure on drafting a receiver early as a security blanket against Cameron’s concussion problems.
I’m going to do a piece on this after the initial wave of free agency. I’ve spent some time watching Breshad Perriman this weekend and earlier in the week I watched some more Jaelen Strong. I won’t give away any big details of my changing opinion on both, but it’s mostly positive on Perriman and slightly negative on Strong. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the top three receivers off the board by pick #15 — and then a long wait for the next to be taken. Kansas City and a couple of other teams could change that thinking, but the Seahawks might get a shot at the #4 receiver in the draft (whoever it may be). Stranger things have happened. More on this in the week.
Cameron isn’t Thomas because the concussion issues are a separating factor. At the right price he’s still an option the Seahawks could consider and it would fill a big hole. Seattle needs a dynamic bigger pass-catcher for the offense.
If you’re still unconvinced the Seahawks want this type of player badly — look at their pursuit a year ago of Jermichael Finley, the moves for Thomas, Jordan and Coby Fleener during the season and today’s re-signing of Anthony McCoy on a one-year contract. The Seahawks appear determined to find an X-factor at tight end or at least a dynamic big target.
You also have to wonder if they’ll look at the trade market if Cameron isn’t seen as a viable option. Do they make another call to Tampa Bay to ask about Vincent Jackson? It’s something to consider.
Other free agency notes
Mike Garafolo is backing up a report by Jayson Braddock that Byron Maxwell is signing for the Eagles in a deal worth $50m over five years and $25m guaranteed. It’s no wonder the Seahawks balked at that price.
Adam Schefter is reporting Frank Gore will also sign with the Eagles. It’s the end of an era for the 49ers, who are said to be interested in Baltimore receiver Torry Smith. Getlin believes the Arizona Cardinals are trying to clear cap space to trade for Adrian Peterson.
— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) March 8, 2015