From the Plains to the Pros: Tracking Auburn Alums in the NFL

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

From the Plains to the Pros: Tracking Auburn Alums in the NFL

Jamel Dean

When the new league year began on March 15, Auburn had a whopping 26 grads and former players on an NFL roster; just under half of a team’s 53 man roster could be composed of former Tigers.

With that many players in the league, there’s bound to be some turnover from year to year as contracts come due. Five Tigers hit free agency this offseason, and all have since agreed to new deals.

Auburn free agents aren’t the only ones who have had a busy offseason: Auburn lured former Ole Miss and Liberty head man Hugh Freeze to The Plains in November with a six year, $6.5 million AAV contract. After a disappointing 5-7 2022 campaign, Caesars Sportsbook Kansas lists the Tigers as +6000 to win the College Football Playoff this upcoming season, tied for 13th best in FBS: not a bad appraisal for Freeze’s first season in the Heart of Dixie.

You’ve heard how the current Auburn team is expected to do. Let’s take a look at what former Tigers are up to across the NFL.

Jarrett Stidham – Denver Broncos

First and foremost, the only former Tiger who’s truly on the move this offseason. The other four players on this list all received new contracts from their former clubs, so while they did hit the open market, their teams wasted no time in snapping them back up, a testament to how highly franchises around the league view these former Auburn stars.

After being drafted by the New England Patriots in 2019 and stepping in when needed during his first two seasons, Stidham missed the entire 2021 season with a back injury. The Patriots traded him to the Raiders last season, where he started the final two games of the season in lieu of former starter Derek Carr.

Stidham threw for four touchdowns and three interceptions, completing 58.8 percent of his passes for 656 yards: not a world-beater, by any means, but capable enough for a young quarterback’s first two starts on a team plagued by dysfunction.

He parlayed the performance into a two year, $10 million contract from the Denver Broncos. With $300 million man Russell Wilson ahead of him on the depth chart, Stidham likely won’t be able to win the starting job via his performance: the Broncos can’t take that sort of organizational black eye. It’s great money for a backup role, however, and he’ll be waiting in the wings when needed.

Rudy Ford – Green Bay Packers

Ford signed a one year deal in Green Bay last August after the Jacksonville Jaguars cut ties with him during the preseason roster pare down. It’s clear the Packers liked what they saw from the strong safety enough to renew the relationship, giving him another one year deal. It’s loaded with incentives, meaning that Ford can increase his salary to up to $2.5 million if he continues to play well. Ford picked off three passes in 2022 despite not being a full time starter, an excellent rate for the journeyman. He’s earned more playing time with each season he’s been in the league, which bodes well as he continues to work toward a full time starting role.

Jonathan Jones – New England Patriots

The cornerback earned a two year, $19 million deal with the Patriots after his four interception season. It’s the latest chapter in a storybook career for Jones, who began his career as an undrafted free agent but still managed to play every game his rookie year.

Darius Slayton – New York Giants

After a disappointing 2021 season, Slayton bounced back last year with 724 yards and two touchdowns on 46 catches. That was enough for a two year dew worth $12 million, and Slayton could earn another $4.5 million with incentives. The Giants need receivers, so they’re keeping one of quarterback Daniel Jones’ favorite targets in town.

Jamel Dean – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The former Tiger got PAID, signing a four year, $52 million deal to stay with Tampa Bay. He’s made seven interceptions in his four NFL seasons and deflected 41 more passes, proving his worth as one of the most disruptive cornerbacks in the league.

A Florida native, Dean gets to stay home and continue to play the game he loves…and dominate in doing so.

from The War Eagle Reader

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