Penn State Football

Which former Penn State players have signed in NFL free agency?

Former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James talks to head coach Mike Tomlin during training camp on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 at Saint Vincent College. James signed with the Detroit Lions this offseason.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James talks to head coach Mike Tomlin during training camp on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 at Saint Vincent College. James signed with the Detroit Lions this offseason. adrey@centredaily.com

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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Safety Adrian Amos (38), seen here in 2016, recently signed a deal with the Green Bay Packers. Richard W. Rodriguez rrodriguez@star-telegram.com

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.”

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Five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake signed with the Titans after spending a decade with the Dolphins. CHARLES TRAINOR JR ctrainor@miamiherald.com

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.

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Offensive lineman Donovan Smith, seen here during Penn State’s Pro Day in 2015, signed an extension with the Tampa Bay Bucs. CDT file photo

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.”

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James runs a play during training camp on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 at Saint Vincent College. James signed with the Detroit Lions this offseason. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com

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.”

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San Francisco 49ers kicker Robbie Gould (9), seen here last season, was franchise tagged by the 49ers and will be the NFL’s highest-paid placekicker this season. Paul Kitagaki Jr. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

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.

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Tight end Ross Travis (88), seen here in 2017 when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs, re-signed with the Indianapolis Colts for this season. David Eulitt deulitt@kcstar.com

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.

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