The playoffs are just two weeks away, but teams are looking forward to the offseason with three contract extensions signed this week. Two of these are discussed below, along with a different player being released. As always, the rest of the moves are down below with some of the more significant ones highlighted in red.
Denver Broncos re-sign CB Chris Harris Jr.
Part of an impending free agent class for the Broncos which features three players at the top of their positions, Harris Jr., will be staying in Denver.
With him locked up, Denver's focus now shifts to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, both poential All-Pro's this season.
A five-year deal, Harris Jr. is now signed through the 2019 season. This five-year deal is worth a total of $42.5 million an includes $24 million guaranteed, with a $10 million signing bonus. The average of $8.5 million per season makes him the 12th highest paid cornerback in the NFL.
This season, the 25-year old has played in all 14 games despite tearing his ACL in the divisional round of the playoffs last January. His snaps were limited to 39 in week one––though he did receive the start––but after that, he has missed just 40 snaps over the course of 13 games. This is very impressive for a player who is less than a year removed from a significant knee injury.
In these 14 games, he has recorded 48 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, 15 passes defensed and three interceptions. Pro Football Focus has him graded as the number one cornerback in the NFL so far this season. His consistent performance––never grading negative for a game––has him well above the competition, especially in pass coverage. In coverage, opposing quarterbacks have a quarterback rating of 47.8 when throwing at Harris Jr. This is the fourth best of all cornerbacks in the league. When the snap count is raised to over 400, he raises to the second best and is the best for cornerbacks over 750 snaps.
After playing his college football at Kansas, he went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft. He made the Broncos roster out of training camp as a special teams player and has worked his way into the defense from there, earning four starts as a rookie.
A versatile cornerback, the 5-foot-10 Harris Jr. is at his best when he works in the slot. However, he has the ability to play at both left and right cornerback as well. This gives defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio many options when creating his defensive calls.
Over the last few seasons, Harris Jr. has developed into one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL––and the most underrated. He didn't finish in the top 10 for fan votes at cornerback for this year's Pro Bowl. Absolutely deserving of a Pro Bowl spot, expect players and coaches to vote him in.
This is a great signing for the Broncos. Harris Jr. is one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL. In addition, he can work all over the field, which increases his value to a defense. To sign him for just $8.5 million per season is a steal compared to what some other cornerbacks have received.
Seattle Seahawks re-sign LB K.J. Wright
Not to be outdone by the team they beat in the Super Bowl last year (Denver), the Seahawks locked up one of their key, young defensive players in Wright.
The 25-year old signed a four-year contract extension that is worth $27 million. Averaging $6.75 million per season, he is now the highest paid 4-3 outside linebacker in the league.
Since being drafted by the Seahawks in the fourth round of the 2011 draft out of Mississippi State, Wright has started 54 of a possible 58 games.
During this time, he has played all three linebacker positions in a 4-3 defense. In 2011 and 2012, he started at strongside linebacker and in 2013 he moved to weakside linebacker. Mixed in have been six appearances at middle linebacker, as the linebacker corps was reshuffled due to injury.
Three of these appearances at middle linebacker came this season, when starter Bobby Wagner missed time due to a toe injury.
For the season, Wright has recorded 96 tackles, two sacks and three forced fumbles. Statistically, he is having a career season, as he is two tackles away from tying his career high, already has tied a career high in sacks and set a career high in forced fumbles. Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the 12th best 4-3 outside linebacker this season.
Wright is a key component of the Seattle defense, which is one of the best in the league. His importance has only been amplified this season as his versatility has helped the team through injuries. However, he probably shouldn't be the highest paid 4-3 outside linebackers in the league. He is a very good linebacker, but he isn't the best.
San Francisco 49ers release DL Ray McDonald
Amid an accusation of sexual assault, the 49ers decided to part ways with one of their starting defensive linemen.
Local law enforcement announced on Wednesday that they were investigating McDonald on the grounds of sexual assault. With this news in hand, San Francisco decided it was best to release him.
At the start of the season, he was accused of domestic violence. These charges were eventually dropped last month after investigation and a lack of cooperation from the victim, who was McDonald's fiancée.
When this investigation was launched, there was public outcry for the 49ers to either release or suspend him until the investigation was over. At the time, the Ray Rice and Greg Hardy domestic violence cases were in full swing, bringing domestic violence and the NFL to the forefront of the news. San Francisco decided to allow McDonald to keep playing.
This season, he recorded 39 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble while starting all 14 games for the 49ers at his left end spot in their 3-4 defense. Pro Football Focus had him graded as the 11th best 3-4 defensive end in the league, on the heels of a dominant game against the New York Giants in week 11.
Signed to a five-year contract worth $20 million in 2011, the 49ers will take a cap hit of approximately $4 million, due to a restructure that occurred before the season started.
Now that there has been a second incident in the span of a few months, the team has decided to move on. Credit to the 49ers for taking a stand and parting way with McDonald now.
The Arizona Cardinals sign WR Brittan Golden.
The Atlanta Falcons sign CB Ricardo Allen.
The Baltimore Ravens sign RB Fitz Toussaint.
The Baltimore Ravens sign G Ryan Jensen.
The Baltimore Ravens sign DL Casey Walker.
The Baltimore Ravens sign CB Chris Greenwood.
The Baltimore Ravens sign LS Patrick Scales.
The Buffalo Bills cut FB Frank Summers.
The Carolina Panthers cut LB Horace Miller.
The Carolina Panthers sign LB Kevin Reddick.
The Carolina Panthers sign DT Kyle Love.
The Carolina Panthers waive DT Micanor Regis.
The Chicago Bears sign QB David Fales.
The Cleveland Browns sign K Garrett Hartley.
The Cleveland Browns cut K Billy Cundiff.
The Cleveland Browns claim OT Andrew McDonald off waivers.
The Cleveland Browns cut LB Zac Diles.
The Dallas Cowboys sign DE Kenneth Boatright.
The Denver Broncos sign TE Dominique Jones.
The Denver Broncos cut TE Dominique Jones.
The Denver Broncos sign S Josh Bush.
The Denver Broncos sign TE Dominique Jones.
The Detroit Lions claim CB Josh Thomas off waivers.
The Green Bay Packers sign S Chris Banjo.
The Houston Texans sign DE Keith Browner.
The Houston Texans sign QB Case Keenum.
The Indianapolis Colts sign CB Sheldon Price.
The Indianapolis Colts waive OT Andrew McDonald.
The Jacksonville Jaguars sign DT Roy Miller to a four-year contract extension worth $16.25 million.
The Jacksonville Jaguars sign QB Stephen Morris.
The Miami Dolphins sign CB T.J. Heath.
The Miami Dolphins sign TE Gerell Robinson.
The Miami Dolphins waive TE Gator Hoskins.
The Minnesota Vikings cut OT J'Marcus Webb.
The Minnesota Vikings sign S Ahmad Dixon.
The New England Patriots sign TE Steve Maneri.
The New York Giants sign DT Dominique Hamilton.
The New York Giants sign G Adam Gettis.
The New York Giants sign TE Jerome Cunningham.
The New York Jets cut CB Josh Thomas.
The New York Jets sign S Rontez Miles.
The Oakland Raiders sign S Ras-I Dowling.
The Oakland Raiders sign LB Bojay Filimoeatu.
The Oakland Raiders sign CB Chance Casey.
The San Diego Chargers CB Greg Ducre.
The San Francisco 49ers sign CB Marcus Cromartie.
The San Francisco 49ers sign G Andrew Tiller.
The San Francisco 49ers sign LB Desmond Bishop.
The San Francisco 49ers sign RB Phillip Tanner.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut CB Crezdon Butler.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign FB Evan Rodriquez.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign WR Tavarres King.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign DT George Uko.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign DE Lawrence Sidbury.
The Tennessee Titans sign CB Khalid Wooten.
The Tennessee Titans sign QB Jordan Palmer.
The Tennessee Titans sign TE Matthew Mulligan.
The Tennessee Titans sign WR Rico Richardson.
The Washington Redskins cut CB Chase Minnifield from injured reserve.
The Washington Redskins sign LB Jackson Jeffcoat.