The early reviews on new Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule seem to be very positive.
Safety Tre Boston has already been won over by the new coach, saying Rhule has won the team over and set himself up to be successful.
“I think this guy has an edge to him. I think he has a certain ‘it’ that coaches have to have,” Boston told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on the Rapsheet + Friends podcast, via Grant Gordon of NFL.com. “I’m excited to see him more in person with the guys, because right now, I think he started with a nice lead because he has a nice momentum going in between how he’s treated us, how he’s respected us, how he respects our time. That means a lot to professionals and men, adults, as well. So, I think Rhule has set himself up for success with his men. We trust him. We believe in him. And when we get together, it’s all about building chemistry and knowing that we are the Carolina Panthers and we’re gonna do what it takes to win ballgames around here.”
That’s a pretty ringing endorsement for a first-year head coach, especially when the players really haven’t met him in person yet. Still, Rhule does come with a pedigree. He’s been very successful at the college level, taking over Temple and Baylor at low points and turning them both into winners. That should serve him well in the jump up to the NFL level, as he’s shown he can handle adversity and win over players before.
If Boston is right, Rhule has won over his players. One question now is whether he’ll have the same level of trust from his front office, especially after what reportedly happened during the Panthers’ NFL Draft.
After the initial rush of NFL free agency, it turns out there are still plenty of good players available. Sure, they all have flaws, be it age, a part of their game that’s not quite as prominent as teams would like it to be, or an extensive injury history that has teams questioning whether they can stay on the field. But all of these players have had success at the NFL level and can be key contributors in the right situation if they stay healthy and find the right fit.
Here are ten NFL free agents who rank as the best still available.
10) Darqueze Dennard, CB
A slot corner turned starter for Cincinnati last season, Dennard grew into his role in the Bengals’ secondary during his time with the team. Ultimately, his financial demands forced the pair to go their separate ways this offseason. The slot corner market has been robust, and Dennard figures to play heavily into it. There are injury concerns here — Dennard has just one 16-game season to his name in his NFL career thus far — but if he can stay healthy, he’ll be a worthwhile investment for someone.
Safety Tre Boston has found a new home.
Boston is signing a 1-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. He had visited them multiple times throughout the offseason and been in contact with them, so the news is not a big surprise.
Boston, 26, was a 4th-round pick by the Panthers in 2014. He played for current Cardinals coach Steve Wilks when the two were in Carolina.
Boston had 79 tackles and five interceptions last season with the Chargers.
The early free agency frenzy is long over, the 2018 NFL Draft has passed, and organized team activities (OTAs) and mini-camps are in full swing around the league. But that doesn’t mean teams are done tweaking their rosters. There are still quite a few talented players available in free agency. As training camps approach, the interest in them will undoubtedly increase.
Here’s a look at the 15 best remaining NFL free agents.
15. Orleans Darkwa, RB
Orleans Darkwa’s name appearing on this list may come as a surprise to some, but he did some impressive things last year for the Giants. While playing with metal plates in his leg and behind a horrendous offensive line, the running back managed to rush for over 750 yards while averaging 4.4 yards per carry a season ago. With the plates having been removed this offseason, Darkwa will now see the return of his explosiveness, which he had just started to display prior to his injury in 2016. Capable of running, catching and pass protecting, Darkwa will get a well-deserved shot somewhere in 2018.
The 2017 NFL regular season is nearing the end with only three games remaining. With so many games having been played, evaluating previously signed free agents becomes a bit easier. And more often than not, the mid-season and post-season grades for such signings vastly differ from their pre-season grades.
Case in point: Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Washington Redskins. It didn’t appear to be much of an investment on the surface, and some could have considered the deal a steal. But after substantial struggles early in the season, Pryor was lost to injury and the Redskins were out $6 million. Needless to say, not every high-profile deal is a good one.
Though the Pryor signing turned out to be a bust, many others yielded excellent results for their teams this season. Here’s a look at 20 free agent signings that have paid off this season (in no particular order):
20. Barry Church, S, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have been wheeling and dealing in recent years, so they’ll be well featured on this list. First up is safety Barry Church, who was signed to a four-year, $26 million contract this offseason. Although he’s playing slightly worse than a season ago, he’s still been a solid addition to Jacksonville’s defense. In 13 games, Church has recorded 60 tackles (47 solo), one sack, five passes defensed and two interceptions. He’s also warranted a 83.7 Pro Football Focus grade.
19. Rick Wagner, OT, Detroit Lions
Wagner signed a five-year, $47.5 million deal this offseason and has rewarded the Lions with 12 starts through 13 weeks. And while he hasn’t been perfect, he has earned a 81.7 PFF grade, which is good for 10th-best among tackles in the NFL. Needless to say, for a team that struggled along the offensive line in 2017, Wagner has helped provide some much-needed stability.
After defensive back Tre Boston was released by the Carolina Panthers, he received legitimate interest from three NFL teams. But instead of consulting his family or friends like many other players do when deciding which team to choose, Boston says he received a sign from above.
Boston said this week that a man he bumped into at a gas station convinced him so sign with the San Diego Chargers, although the stranger did it unknowingly.
“I pump my gas. After I pump my gas, I put my wallet in my car,” Boston recalled, via Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com. “After I put my wallet in my car, there’s a guy with three kids and he asked me for a little bit of change, or if I had a dollar or two. I gave him a $20.
“So he tells me thank you so much, and that God put me in his life for a reason. And in my mind I’m saying you’re here for a reason, too. So in my mind I’m saying should I ask him, ‘L.A. or Buffalo.’ And before I could ask him, my man told me, ‘Thank you so much. There aren’t too many people like you in this world, God’s children. My name’s Mike Daniels, but people call me L.A.'”
Boston said the exchange brought him to tears. And if it wasn’t enough to convince him he belonged with the Chargers, he said he then spotted a “Jesus saves” advertisement on the back of a gas station card. He proceeded to chat with his new friend for a half hour.
“I ended up giving him $100 because I knew he changed my life, just like I knew I changed his life,” Boston said. “Honestly, that’s the reason why I’m here. It didn’t matter how much money was given to me. It didn’t matter really who was on the team, it just happened to be a great fit.
“God told me to come here, and that’s my testimony. And that’s why I’m here.”
Boston, 24, ended up signing a one-year deal with L.A. He had 53 total tackles, two interceptions and two sacks with the Panthers last season. Even if his time with the Chargers doesn’t work out, you can bet the former North Carolina star won’t be regretting his decision.