NFL Free Agency News and Rumors: Inside Look at the Russell Wilson Deal, 49ers Make Tough Request of Kyle Juszczyk

With free agency about to start, PFN NFL Insider Adam Caplan shares the latest news and rumors surrounding the 49ers, Titans, and Dolphins.

With the start of NFL free agency officially kicking off with the legal tampering period beginning today, we’re getting started with our notes around the league. We will be adding more as the day goes along.

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49ers’ Cap Space Causing Problems for Kyle Juszczyk

The San Francisco 49ers have approached fullback Kyle Juszczyk, an eight-time Pro Bowl (2016-2023) selection and first-team All-Pro last season, for a salary reduction for the 2024 season, a league source said. Both sides have not reached an agreement on this issue, so his situation remains up in the air going forward.

Juszczyk is on the books for a non-guaranteed $5.75 million base salary for this season, along with $400k in per-game roster bonuses.

Juszczyk, who was originally selected in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens, signed a four-year, $21 million deal with the 49ers in March 2017. He then signed a five-year, $27 million extension in March 2021.

Titans Could Have Big Plans for Free Agency

Word around the league from multiple sources is that the Tennessee Titans plan to be “fairly” aggressive in free agency. Defensively, one top target, according to multiple sources, is expected to be veteran CB Chidobe Awuzie.

Awuzie, who was originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys (2017 second round), just finished up a three-year, $21.75 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Titans, who a league source familiar with the team’s thinking, is looking for a high-character veteran who will “set the standard” in practice and on the field.

Another defensive target is veteran C.J. Gardner-Johnson, a source said. Gardner-Johnson, who is coming off a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Detroit Lions, played for new Titans defensive coordinator Dennard Wilson when Wilson was the Philadelphia Eagles defensive backs coach in 2022.

Gardner-Johnson had an outstanding year for the Eagles during that season (six interceptions, 67 combined tackles), but he’s dealt with two significant injuries over the past two years (lacerated kidney in 2022, torn pectoral muscle in 2023).

While the team is in decent shape at the nickel position with Elijah Molden and Roger McCreary, Tennessee hasn’t ruled out re-signing veteran Sean Murphy-Bunting, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

Offensively, a source said they’re looking to sign a back as a complement to second-year pro, Tyjae Spears. Some of the names to keep an eye on are Tony Pollard and Devin Singletary.

The Titans want to run a two-back system with Spears and another veteran, and Pollard and Singletary are two different players.

Pollard, who some personnel sources believe was miscast last season with the Dallas Cowboys, is seen as a home-run-hitting back when he’s at his best, and Singletary did a nice job as a “grind-it-out” type of runner with the Houston Texans last season.

The team really wants to add speed at the WR position, and from talking to league sources, the names of Calvin Ridley and Darnell Mooney have repeatedly come up.

While their plan could change, Tennessee is currently expected to retain veteran LT Andre Dillard, league sources said.

Dillard, who signed a three-year, $29 million deal last March, started 10 games last season for the Titans but was benched for some others.

It’s worth noting that $6 million of his $9 million base salary for this season becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the new league year, a league source confirmed. The new league year opens at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

If the Titans stick with Dillard, it would be expected that third-year OT Nicholas Petit-Frere and second-year OT Jaelyn Duncan would compete for the starting RT job. But even so, that wouldn’t preclude Tennessee from drafting a left tackle or adding competition to that position in free agency.

Dolphins Working on New Deal for Terron Armstead

The Miami Dolphins are working on a restructured contract for starting LT Terron Armstead, a league source confirmed.

KEEP READING: Miami Dolphins’ Terron Armstead Isn’t Going Anywhere

Armstead, who is signed through 2026, carries a base salary of $13.25 million for the 2024 season, of which $5 million became fully guaranteed on the third day of free agency last year. The rest of his salary for this season ($8.25 million) becomes fully guaranteed this coming weekend (third day of the new league year).

Eagles Looking To Keep Marcus Mariota

We’re told that while the team hasn’t eliminated the possibility of re-signing veteran QB Marcus Mariota to back up Jalen Hurts, former Los Angeles Chargers QB Easton Stick is under consideration to handle the No. 2 role, a league source said. New Philadelphia Eagles OC Kellen Moore worked with Stick last season with the Chargers.

The athletic Stick, a fifth-round pick out of the 2019 NFL Draft, wound up starting four games last season for the injury-depleted Chargers.

In other team news, sources said the Eagles are working to re-sign P Braden Mann, who averaged 49.8 yards per punt (ranked seventh in the NFL) and a net average of 43.8 (ranked fourth in the NFL) last season with the Eagles — both were career highs for the former sixth-round pick of the New York Jets (2020).

While the team informed fourth-year TE Jack Stoll a few weeks ago that they wouldn’t be tendering him as a restricted free agent, a league source tells us that the team still has interest in re-signing him.

Stoll, who made the Eagles roster in 2021 as an undrafted free agent, won the No. 2 job (“Y” position—inline) at the position that season and has held that role ever since.

The lowest RFA tender level is just under $3m ($2.985m), which is seen around the NFL as a bit high for a backup tight end of his experience.

An Inside Look at the Russell Wilson Signing

The big news obviously to break Sunday evening was the team reaching a one-year contract agreement with veteran QB Russell Wilson.

Wilson won’t be handed the starting job and will compete for it against third-year QB Kenny Pickett.

While Wilson wound up being benched last season with the Denver Broncos, there’s a feeling around the NFL that with the Steelers’ commitment to having a run-first mentality with RBs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, along with a controlled passing game, the veteran signal-caller could actually thrive in their new offensive system under OC Arthur Smith.

League sources said that what Wilson struggles with is letting plays consistently develop, and he tends to want to make the big play by moving around in the pocket rather than run the play as it’s designed.

By not getting rid of the ball on time, this makes the offensive line have to hold their blocks longer. The hope here is that with their excellent running game and solid defense, the pressure will be off Wilson to put the team on his back.

In other team news, we’re told former Kansas City Chiefs P Tommy Townsend is on the team’s radar to replace P Pressley Harvin, who was released last month.

Pittsburgh also had some interest in former Bills P Matt Araiza prior to his signing with the Chiefs, a league source said.

Another Season With Joe Flacco?

While the team has interest in re-signing veteran QB Joe Flacco and he certainly has interest in re-upping with the team, league sources said that the strong-armed passer has other teams interested in his services, and at least one of the interested teams could offer him a chance to compete for a starting job.

Should Flacco re-sign with the Browns, he would be the clear No. 2 signal caller behind starter Deshaun Watson, who is recovering from right shoulder surgery.

Watson enters year three of his five-year deal and carries a fully guaranteed $46m salary for the 2024 season.

Kevin Dotson’s Future With Los Angeles

When the team acquired veteran G Kevin Dotson from the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to the start of last season, not much was thought about the move as Dotson was no lock to make the Steelers roster coming out of the preseason.

But Dotson, a former fourth-round pick (2020) by the Steelers, wound up starting 14 games for the Rams and completely turned around his career.

In fact, one source said you can make the strong argument that he was their top offensive lineman last season.

And it was that excellent play that would eventually result in a new contract, which was above what league sources expected. Dotson wound up signing a three-year, $48m deal with $24m fully guaranteed at signing. He earned just $2.25m last season, which was the final year of his rookie contract.

KEEP READING: 2024 NFL Free Agent Rankings

And even if he struggles badly this season and the team wants to move on from him, he’ll have still earned a minimum of $24m for one season of work based on the structure of the contract.

While his base salary of $8m for the 2025 is not guaranteed at signing, he has a fully guaranteed roster bonus of $8.5m for that year.

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