NFL free agency is in full swing, and former Nittany Lions are on the move.
Six Penn State products have signed with another team, re-signed with their old squad or franchise tagged.
There are still a few Nittany Lions figuring out their next destination. Chris Hogan is talking with the New York Giants, Stefen Wisniewski’s option wasn’t picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles, and Nate Stupar and Gerald Hodges remain without a home.
But let’s take a look at those Penn State players with money bags in-hand.
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S Adrian Amos
Old team: Chicago Bears
New team: Green Bay Packers
Terms: 4 years, $37 million ($21 million first two seasons)
Outlook: The Packers allowed 25 points per game last season, which ranked 22nd in the NFL. The Bears’ 17.7 allowed per game was tops in the league, thanks in large part to Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith and Eddie Jackson. But it was Amos’ flexibility in the secondary that helped Vic Fangio’s defense dominate.
Amos played 97 percent of Chicago’s defensive snaps, the most of any Bear in 2018. And 62.5 percent of those snaps were played at free safety, according to Pro Football Focus, nixing the notion that he’s a box-only safety.
“He’s made significant strides the past two seasons,” CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco wrote. “He’s a good player in coverage, and he’s a nice tackler in the run game. He’s scheduled to make $37 million over four years, which is a bargain compared to the deal Landon Collins got from the Redskins.”
EDGE Cameron Wake
Old team: Miami Dolphins
New team: Tennessee Titans
Terms: 3 years, $23 million ($10 million guaranteed)
Outlook: When his three-year deal is up, the five-time Pro Bowler will likely wrap up his career at age 39. And what a career it’s been so far.
After 10 years with the Dolphins, Wake’s 98 sacks sits second on the franchise’s all-time list behind Jason Taylor. It’s also the second-most sacks in NFL history by an undrafted player behind John Randle.
Can Wake get 40 sacks in three seasons with Tennessee and pass Randle? That’s probably asking too much.
But he can continue to make his quiet Pro Football Hall of Fame push with the Titans, who need his pass-rushing ability.
OL Donovan Smith
Old team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Terms: 3 years, $41.25 million ($27 million guaranteed)
Outlook: Smith is just the second player in Buccaneers franchise history to start every game in his first four seasons.
Now, his play hasn’t been fantastic; Smith allowed a career-high eight sacks in 2018 to go along with 49 QB pressures.
But it’s difficult to find a young, capable tackle that hasn’t dealt with injury issues. For that, he got paid (and maybe overpaid).
“Donovan has been a valuable player and a model of durability since we drafted him four years ago,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said in a statement. “Donovan’s presence ensures continuity at one of our most crucial positions on the offensive line.”
TE Jesse James
Old team: Pittsburgh Steelers
New team: Detroit Lions
Terms: 4 years, $25 million ($11 million guaranteed)
Outlook: James believes his production in Pittsburgh “could have been better.”
“Offensively, I wasn’t used the way I feel I could be used here,” the tight end said at his introductory press conference. “I feel like my ceiling is much higher here than it was in the past.”
Detroit, after releasing Eric Ebron last offseason, settled for 45 catches, 461 yards and four touchdowns out of its tight ends in 2018. James, meanwhile, played about half of Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps and frequently gave way to Vance McDonald, especially on third down.
In Detroit, James will be the Lions’ No. 1 tight end.
“I just think I can do more,” James added. “I’m still young, 24 years old, so my ceiling hasn’t been reached yet. I still have a long way to go to get better, and I’ll do that while I’m here.”
K Robbie Gould
Old team: San Francisco 49ers
New team: San Francisco 49ers
Terms: 1 year, $4.97 million (franchise tag)
Outlook: Tagging Gould was a no-brainer for San Francisco. If he hit the open market, the former Bear might’ve returned to Chicago. Instead, the 49ers made him the highest-paid placekicker in 2019.
Gould has made 72 of 75 field goals in two years with San Francisco; that 96 percent clip ranks second-highest in NFL history over a two-year span.
Gould’s career mark of an 87.7 percent field-goal rate also ranks second in NFL history among players with at least 100 made field goals.
TE Ross Travis
Old team: Indianapolis Colts
New team: Indianapolis Colts
Terms: 1 year, $720,000
Outlook: Travis tore his ACL in the fourth quarter of the Colts’ final preseason game in 2018. According to the Indianapolis Star, the former Penn State basketball player was “on his way to a roster spot.”
Now Travis gets another crack at making the 52-man.
It won’t be easy. The Colts have Ebron, Jack Doyle and Mo-Alie Cox under contract in 2019. But Frank Reich and Indy use tight ends more than most teams, and they will likely carry four at the position.