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Archive for the ‘ NFL ’ Category

NFL Free Agent Update – a look at who is still available at each position

For what it’s worth, here’s a list of what’s currently available in free agency by position, along with the player’s age (as of this season/calendar year), and their last team. Apologies in advance for any incorrect positions, players that I overlooked that have been signed, players not worth mentioning that were left out, etc.

As you can see, it’s pretty slim pickings at some positions – though there are the occasional diamonds in the rough, and some players that may be very good values for the 2014 NFL season. Based on the other options, it would be nice to see the Patriots re-sign free agents Will Svitek and LeGarrette Blount, assuming the price is reasonable.

 

Defense

Defensive Tackle
29 – Pat Sims – Raiders
27 – Alex Carrington – Bills
27 – Vance Walker – Raiders
26 – Terrence Cody – Ravens
34 – Kevin Williams – Vikings
35 – Ryan Pickett – Packers
34 – Aubrayo Franklin – Colts
31 – Johnny Jolly – Packers
30 – Adam Carriker – Bills
30 – Peria Jerry – Falcons
35 – Kenyon Coleman – Saints
34 – Colin Cole – Panthers
31 – Derek Landri – Bucs
35 – Shaun Rogers – Giants
29 – Ogemdi Nwagbuo – Bengals
27 – Brandon Deaderick – Jaguars
33 – Isaac Sopoaga – Patriots

 

Defensive End
32 – Jared Allen – Vikings
33 – Shaun Phillips – Broncos
27 – Corey Wooton – Bears
30 – Anthony Spencer – Cowboys
29 – Robert Ayers – Broncos
33 – Will Smith – Saints
36 – Brett Keisel – Steelers
27 – Daniel Te’o-Nesheim – Bucs
31 – Jason Hunter – Raiders
27 – Everette Brown – Cowboys

 

Outside Linebacker
31 – James Anderson – Bears
30 – Parys Haralson – Saints
27 – O’Brien Schofield – Cardinals
30 – Desmond Bishop – Packers
29 – Rob Jackson – Redskins
36 – James Harrison – Bengals
31 – Stephen Nicholas – Falcons
28 – Lawrence Sidbury – Colts
30 – Blake Costanzo – Bears
29 – Garrett McIntyre – Jets
29 – Ernie Sims – Cowboys
29 – Marvin Mitchell – Vikings
34 – Will Witherspoon – Rams
31 – Rocky McIntosh – Lions
25 – Aaron Morgan – Bucs

 

Inside Linebacker
27 – Pat Angerer – Colts
28 – Erin Henderson – Vikings
26 – Arthur Moats – Bills
34 – Larry Foote – Steelers
33 – Nick Barnett – Redskins
32 – Jonathan Vilma – Saints
31 – Stewart Bradley – Broncos
30 – Bryan Kehl – Redskins
29 – Robert Francois – Packers
29 – Dan Connor – Panthers
28 – Austin Spitler – Dolphins
27 – Josh Mauga – Jets

 

Safety
29 – Thomas DeCoud – Falcons
26 – Kendrick Lewis – Chiefs
26 – Major Wright – Bears
31 – Steve Gregory – Patriots
31 – James Ihedigbo – Ravens
33 – Mike Adams – Broncos
32 – Jim Leonhard – Bills
32 – Reed Doughty – Redskins
34 – Quintin Mikell – Panthers
35 – Ryan Clark – Steelers
36 – Yeremiah Bell – Cardinals
36 – Ed Reed – Jets
38 – Charles Woodson – Raiders
29 – Tanard Jackson – Redskins
29 – Colt Anderson – Eagles
27 – Patrick Chung – Eagles
26 – Kurt Coleman – Eagles
26 – Darian Stewart – Rams
32 – Matt Giordano – Rams
31 – John Wendling – Lions

 

Cornerback
30 – Antonio Cromartie – Jets
33 – Carlos Rogers – 49ers
32 – Jabari Greer – Saints
29 – Terrell Thomas – Giants
31 – Dimitri Patterson – Dolphins
36 – Champ Bailey – Broncos
33 – Asante Samuel – Falcons
34 – Drayton Florence – Panthers
29 – Mike Jenkins – Raiders
31 – Josh Wilson – Redskins
32 – Aaron Ross – Giants
34 – Rashean Mathis – Lions
27 – E.J. Biggers – Redskins
28 – Antoine Cason – Cardinals
29 – Eric Wright – 49ers
30 – Zack Bowman – Bears
32 – Dunta Robinson – Chiefs
35 – Quentin Jammer – Broncos
26 – Phillip Adams – Raiders
27 – Cassius Vaughn – Colts
28 – Chris Owens – Browns
26 – A.J. Jefferson – Vikings
26 – Aaron Berry – Jets
27 – Dominique Franks – Falcons
27 – Jerome Murphy – Redskins
28 – Brice McCain – Texans

 

 

Offense

Center
29 – Brian De La Puente – Saints
36 – Jonathan Goodwin – 49ers
31 – Kyle Cook – Bengals
31 – Will Montgomery – Redskins
29 – Fernando Velasco – Steelers
28 – Ryan Wendell – Patriots
32 – Chris Spencer – Titans
36 – Andre Gurode – Raiders
35 – Dan Koppen – Broncos
33 – David Baas – Giants
32 – Dylan Gandy – Lions
30 – Samson Satele – Colts
31 – Ryan Cook – Cowboys

 

Guard
33 – Travelle Wharton – Panthers
28 – Rich Ohrnberger – Chargers
30 – Uche Nwaneri – Jaguars
31 – Davin Joseph – Bucs
32 – Daryn Colledge – Cardinals
33 – Harvey Dahl – Rams
28 – John Jerry – Dolphins
31 – Paul McQuistan – Seahawks
27 – Chris Scott – Panthers
27 – Vlad Ducasse – Jets
28 – Garrett Reynolds – Falcons
29 – Mike Gibson – Cardinals
30 – Leroy Harris – Lions
30 – Rob Turner – Titans
33 – Wade Smith – Texans
31 – Richie Incognito – Dolphins

 

Offensive Tackle
32 – David Stewart – Titans
31 – Eric Winston – Cardinals
27 – Charles Brown – Saints
32 – Will Svitek – Patriots
30 – Levi Brown – Steelers
34 – Tony Pashos – Raiders
26 – J’Marcus Webb – Vikings
26 – Marshall Newhouse – Packers
26 – Jason Fox – Lions
26 – Bruce Campbell – Panthers
27 – Eben Britton – Bears
27 – Thomas Welch – Bills
29 – Winston Justice – Broncos
29 – Ryan Harris – Texans
31 – Rashad Butler – Steelers
31 – Mike Otto – Titans
31 – Jonathan Scott – Bears
33 – Tyson Clabo – Dolphins
34 – David Diehl – Giants

 

Tight End
27 – Jermichael Finley – Packers
32 – Owen Daniels – Texans
30 – Dustin Keller – Dolphins
38 – Tony Gonzalez – Falcons
27 – Ed Dickson – Ravens
34 – Ben Hartsock – Panthers
28 – Bear Pascoe – Giants
28 – Fred Davis – Redskins
28 – Chase Coffman – Falcons
29 – Zach Miller – Bucs
31 – Jeff King – Cardinals
32 – Alex Smith – Bengals
35 – Dallas Clark – Ravens
31 – Kellen Winslow – Jets

 

Wide Receiver
26 – Kenny Britt – Titans
28 – Sidney Rice – Seahawks
31 – Lance Moore – Saints
31 – Jason Avant – Eagles
32 – Devin Hester – Bears
30 – Robert Meachem – Saints
27 – Earl Bennett – Bears
27 – Jacoby Ford – Raiders
29 – Josh Morgan – Redskins
32 – Jerricho Cotchery – Steelers
33 – Nate Burleson – Lions
26 – Damian Williams – Titans
27 – Marc Mariani – Titans
27 – Louis Murphy – Giants
30 – Miles Austin – Cowboys
31 – Michael Spurlock – Lions
23 – Eric Page – Bucs
25 – Dezmon Briscoe – Redskins
26 – Kyle Williams – Chiefs
27 – Taylor Price – Jaguars
29 – Davone Bess – Browns
30 – Santonio Holmes – Jets
37 – Plaxico Burress – Steelers

 

Running Back
27 – Knowshon Moreno – Broncos
29 – Maurice Jones-Drew – Jaguars
28 – LeGarrette Blount – Patriots
28 – Andre Brown – Giants
30 – Michael Bush – Bears
27 – Felix Jones – Steelers
27 – La’Rod Stephens-Howling – Steelers
29 – Justin Forsett – Jaguars
30 – Bernard Scott – Ravens
30 – Tashard Choice – Colts
30 – Brian Leonard – Bucs
26 – Fozzy Whittaker – Browns
26 – Phillip Tanner – Cowboys
28 – Kahlil Bell – Packers
33 – Ronnie Brown – Chargers
33 – Willis McGahee – Browns

 

Fullback
32 – John Kuhn – Packers
33 – Vonta Leach – Ravens
30 – Le’Ron McClain – Chargers
33 – Greg Jones – Texans
30 – Lex Hilliard – Jets
29 – Frank Summers – Bills

 

Quarterback
34 – Michael Vick – Eagles
32 – Ryan Fitzpatrick – Titans
33 – Jason Campbell – Browns
26 – Josh Freeman – Vikings
29 – Matt Flynn – Packers
30 – Kevin Kolb – Bills
33 – Luke McCown – Saints
34 – Shaun Hill – Lions
34 – Rex Grossman – Redskins
27 – Jimmy Clausen – Panthers
28 – Colt McCoy – 49ers
28 – Joe Webb – Vikings
31 – Dan Orlovsky – Bucs
34 – Seneca Wallace – Packers
42 – Jon Kitna – Cowboys

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

 

 

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With NFL free agency officially about to begin in just a short while, here is a recap of what has transpired with all 16 AFC teams since the end of the season.

 

AFC East

New England Patriots

Jan 20: Signed RB Sam McGuffie, WR Greg Orton, WR Reggie Dunn, C Braxston Cave, OT R.J. Mattes, T Jordan Devey and LB Taylor Reed to reserve/future contracts.

Jan 21: Linebacker coach Pepper Johnson announces he is leaving the staff; he accepts a position as the defensive line coach for the Buffalo Bills on Jan 31.

Jan 22: Offensive line coach and assistant head coach Dante Scarnecchia retired.

Jan 22: Dave DeGuglielmo named new offensive line coach; had previously been OL coach for University of Maryland, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.

Jan 22: Tight end coach George Godsey departs to accept a position as quarterbacks coach on Bill O’Briens staff with the Houston Texans.

Jan 29: Brendan Daly is named new defensive assistant coach; he had been the Minnesota Vikings defensive line coach the last two seasons.

Feb 20: Michael Lombardi hired as assistant to Pats’ coaching staff; had most recently been GM and VP of Player Personnel for Cleveland Browns.

Mar 7: RFA LS Danny Aiken agrees to terms on one-year contract.

Mar 10: WR T.J. Moe, WR Sam McGuffie, LB Taylor Reed and DT Cory Grissom were released.

Mar 10: OT Brice Schwab, OT Elvis Fisher (failed physical) and RB Quentin Hines (failed physical) were waived.

Mar 10: TE Michael Hoomanawanui will be re-signed to a 2-year contract when new league year begins.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $14,821,836

 

Miami Dolphins

Jan 7: Fired GM Jeff Ireland and OC Mike Sherman.

Jan 16: Named Bill Lazor new OC; was Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach in 2013.

Jan 20: Named Mark Duffner linebacker coach.

Jan 26: Named Dennis Hickey new GM; had most recently been Tampa Bay director of player personnel.

Jan 29: Assistant GM Brian Gaine resigned/was let go.

Feb 19: OL coach Jim Turner and head athletic trainer Kevin O’Neill were fired.

Mar 1: John Benton promoted from assistant offensive line coach to OL coach.

Mar 1: Jack Bicknell Jr. named assistant offensive line coach.

Mar 1: UFA CB Brent Grimes re-signed to four-year, $32 million contract with $16 million guaranteed.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $33,860,686

Mar 11: CB Dmitri Patterson to be released, saving $5.4 million in cap space.

Mar 11: Dolphins to sign former Lions FS Louis Delmas to a one-year, $3.5 million contract.

 

New York Jets

Jan 16: Signed HC Rex Ryan to an extension.

Jan 16: Signed C Jacolby Ashworth, S Brandon Hardin and DB Nick Taylor to reserve/future contracts.

Feb 6: Named Thomas McGaughey special teams coordinator.

Feb 28: Used franchise tag on K Nick Folk.

Mar 5: Claimed CB Johnny Patrick off waivers from the San Diego Chargers.

Mar 5: Re-signed backup CB Ellis Lankster.

Mar 5: Re-signed backup CB Darrin Walls.

Mar 8: Re-signed TE Jeff Cumberland.

Mar 9: Released CB Antonio Cromartie.

Mar 10: Released WR Santonio Holmes.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $40,089,361.

 

Buffalo Bills

Jan 10: Re-signed 38 year old UFA P Brian Moorman.

Jan 13: Fired LB coach Chuck Driesbach.

Jan 14: Signed OLB Kourtnei Brown, RB Anthony Allen and G Randy Colling to reserve/future contracts.

Jan 15: Signed WR Ramses Barden, WRChris Summers, S Jajuan Harley, OLB Willie Jefferson and OLB Nathan Williams to reserve/future contracts.

Jan 16: Named Jeff Hafley defensive assistant coach.

Jan 23: Named former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz the new defensive coordinator; Schwartz replaces Mike Pettine, who took the job as Cleveland Browns head coach.

Jan 24: Named Todd Downing quarterbacks coach.

Jan 29: Named Jim Hostler senior offensive assistant.

Jan 31: Named former Pats assistant Pepper Johnson defensive line coach.

Jan 31: Named Fred Pagac linebackers coach.

Feb 6: Named Rob Moore wide receivers coach, replacing Ike Hilliard (fired).

Feb 7: Promoted defensive quality control coach Jason Rebrovich to assistant defensive line coach.

Mar 3: Released backup OLB Willie Jefferson.

Mar 3: Extended SS Aaron Williams to a four-year, $26 million contract with $8.5 million guaranteed.

Mar 6: Re-signed backup/practice squad CB Brandon Smith.

Mar 10: Named Thad Bogardus defensive quality control coach.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $22,733,404.

 

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals

Jan 7: Signed WR Cobi Hamilton, C T.J. Johnson, DE David King, CB Onterio McCalebb, LB Bruce Taylor and C Scott Wedige to reserve/future contracts.

Jan 9: Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden departs to become head coach of Washington Redskins.

Jan 9: Promoted Hue Jackson from running backs coach to offensive coordinator.

Jan 16: Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer departs to become head coach of Minnesota Vikings.

Jan 16: Promoted Paul Guenther from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator.

Jan 18: Named Matt Burke linebackers coach; had been with Lions the last five seasons as LB coach.

Jan 21: Named Vance Joseph assistant defensive backs coach.

Jan 23: Named Brian Braswell assistant offensive line coach and quality control coach.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $27,354,957.

Mar 11: KR/WR Brandon Tate re-signs.

Mar 11: UFA DE Michael Johnson signs with Tampa Bay.

Mar 11: C Kyle Cook released, saving $2.5 million in cap space.

 

Baltimore Ravens

Jan 3: Fired RB coach Wilbert Montgomery

Jan 27: Named former Texans head coach Gary Kubiak offensive coordinator.

Jan 29: Named Steve Spagnuolo secondary coach.

Jan 29: Named Brian Pariani tight ends coach.

Feb 17: Re-signed OLB Terrell Suggs to five-year, $28.5 million contract with $16 million guaranteed.

Feb 27: Released FB Vonta Leach.

Feb 27: Released ILB Jameel McClain.

Feb 28: Re-signed TE Dennis Pitta to five-year, $32 million contract with $16 million guaranteed.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $21,983,602.

Mar 11: OLB Albert McClellan re-signed.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Jan 3: Fired offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, Jr.

Jan 23: Named former Titans head coach Mike Munchak offensive line coach.

Jan 27: Named James Saxon running backs coach, replacing Kirby Wilson.

Jan 28: Signed WR Danny Coale to a reserve/future contract.

Feb 11: Named Joey Porter defensive assistant coach.

Mar 3: Placed transition tag on OLB Jason Worilds.

Mar 5: Signed 33-year old FS Troy Polamalu with a two-year contract extension to lower his cap number, with a $6.75 million signing bonus.

Mar 5: Signed TE Heath Miller with a two-year contract extension to lower his cap number; there is $8 million in new money including a $5 million signing bonus.

Mar 10: OLB LaMarr Woodley will be released when new league year begins.

Mar 10: CB Ike Taylor accepted a pay cut, signing a one-year, $2.75 million contract that frees up $4.25 million in cap space; he had been scheduled to make a base salary of $7 million.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $3,434,434.

 

Cleveland Browns

Jan 2: Signed RB Jamaine Cook and DB Brandon Hughes to reserve/future contracts.

Jan 23: Named Mike Pettine head coach.

Jan 27: New coaching staff announced: named Jim O’Neil defensive coordinator, Chris Tabor special teams coordinator, Brian Angelichio tight ends coach, Bobby Babich assistant secondary coach, Chuck Driesbach linebackers coach, Brian Fleury assistant linebackers coach, Jeff Hafley secondary coach and Shawn Mennenga assistant special teams coach.

Feb 3: Named Kyle Shanahan offensive coordinator.

Feb 6: Remainder of new coaching staff announced: named George DeLeone assistant offensive line coach, Chris DiSanto and Derik Keyes assistant strength and conditioning coaches, Richard Hightower offensive quality control coach, Dowell Loggains quarterbacks coach, Mike McDaniel wide receivers coach, Andy Moeller offensive line coach, Wilbert Montgomery running backs coach, Paul Ricci strength and conditioning coach, Tony Tuioti defensive quality control coach and Anthony Weaver defensive line coach.

Feb 11: Announced CEO Joe Banner will resign in April.

Feb 11: General Manager Mike Lombardi fired and replaced by Ray Farmer.

Feb 12: Signed backup CB Royce Adams.

Feb 26: Released starting ILB D’Qwell Jackson.

Mar 3: Placed transition tag on C Alex Mack.

Mar 5: Released WR Davone Bess, backup WR Brian Tyms and backup OLB Paul Hazel.

Mar 10: Re-signed UFA K Billy Cundiff to a 1-year, $1.02 million contract.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $49,102,538

Mar 11: Former Cardinal ILB Karlos Dansby signs a four-year, $24 million contract.

 

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts

Feb 10: Released G Justin Anderson.

Feb 10: Signed S David Sims, ILB Henoc Muamba and OT Jack Breckner.

Mar 6: Released starting C Samson Satele.

Mar 6: Signed former Browns starting ILB D’Qwell Jackson to a four-year, $22 million contract with $10.13 million guaranteed.

Mar 7: Re-signed P Pat McAfee to a five-year, $14.5 million contract with $3.75 million guaranteed.

Mar 10: Re-signed DL Fili Moala.

Mar 10: Re-signed OLB Justin Hickman.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $35,308,213.

Mar 11: K Adam Vinatieri resigned to a two-year, $5 million contract.

 

Tennessee Titans

Jan 4: Fired head coach Mike Munchak.

Jan 8: Signed G Oscar Johnson, WR Isaiah Williams, WR Lamont Bryant and OLB David Hinds to reserve/future contracts.

Jan 13: Named Ken Whisenhunt coach.

Jan 20: Named Ray Horton defensive coordinator and Louie Cioffi defensive backs coach.

Jan 22: Named Mike Mularkey tight ends coach, Giff Smith defensive line coach and Bob Bostad offensive line coach.

Jan 28: Named Mike Sullivan assistant offensive line coach and Nick Eason assistant defensive line coach.

Feb 4: Named Cannon Matthews quality control coordinator on defense and Todd Toriscelli director of sports medicine.

Mar 3: Re-signed SS Bernard Pollard to a two-year $6,300,000 contract extension with an $850,000 signing bonus.

Mar 7: Re-signed DE Ropati Pitoitua to a three-year contract.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $9,470,202.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Feb 10: Named Robert Saleh linebackers coach, Scottie Hazelton assistant linebackers coach and Scott Trulock trainer.

Mar 4: Released starting RG Uche Nwaneri.

Mar 6: Re-signed starting LT Cameron Bradfield, backup OT Sam Young, and TE Clay Harbor.

Mar 7: Re-signed starting QB Chad Henne to a two-year, $8 million extension with $4.5 million guaranteed.

Mar 8: Signed former Seahawk UFA DE Red Bryant to a four-year, $19 million contract with $4.7 million guaranteed.

Mar 10: DE Jason Babin elected to void the final two years of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $51,114,670.

Mar 11: RB Justin Forsett released

 

Houston Texans

Jan 2: Named Bill O’Brien new head coach.

Jan 4: Signed LB D.J. Smith to a reserve/future contract.

Jan 7: Fired pretty much the whole coaching staff: defensive coordinator Wade Phillips; offensive coordinator Rick Dennison; Perry Carter, assistant defensive backs coach; Karl Dorrell, quarterbacks coach; Dan Hammerschmidt, offensive assistant coach; Chick Harris, running backs coach; Reggie Herring, linebackers coach; Vance Joseph, defensive backs coach; Bobby King, assistant linebackers coach; Larry Kirksey, wide receivers coach; Marc Lubick, assistant wide receivers coach; Brian Pariani, tight ends coach; Jim Ryan, assistant offensive line coach; Matt Schiotz, assistant strength and conditioning coach; Cedric Smith, strength and conditioning coach and Jeff Zgonina, assistant defensive line coach.

Feb 6: New coaching staff announced: Named Romeo Crennel defensive coordinator, Mike Vrabel linebackers coach, Paul Dunn offensive line coach, George Godsey quarterbacks coach, Sean Hayes assistant strength and conditioning coach, Stan Hixon wide receivers coach, Tim Kelly offensive quality control coach, Will Lawing defensive quality control coach, Charles London running backs coach, Anthony Midget assistant secondary coach, John Perry tight ends coach, Anthony Pleasant assistant strength and conditioning coach, Jim Bernhardt director of football research, John Butler secondary coach, Doug Colman assistant special teams coach and Craig Fitzgerald strength and conditioning coach. Retained Bob Ligashesky as special teams coordinator.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $8,865,377.

Mar 11: TE Owen Daniels released, clearing $4.5 million in cap space.

Mar 11: CB Brice McCain released, clearing $850k in cap space.

 

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Feb 6: Signed S John Boyett, T Paul Cormick, DE Hall Davis, DE John Youboty, DE Ben Garland, WR Nathan Palmer, WR Gerell Robinson and WR Greg Wilson to future/reserve contracts.

Feb 12: Signed executive VP John Elway to a three-year extension and also named him general manager.

Mar 6: Released CB Champ Bailey.

Mar 10: G Chris Kuper retired.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $27,345,856

Mar 11: WR Andre Caldwell re-signs, a two-year, $3.45 million contract.

 

Kansas City Chiefs

Jan 11: Signed RB Joe McKnight, LB Jordan Campbell, CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, DT Dominique Hamilton, former Patriot OT R.J. Dill, DB Jerron McMillian and DE Brandon Moore to future/reserve contracts.

Feb 6: Named Brock Olivo assistant special teams coach.

Feb 7: Released CB Dunta Robinson.

Feb 7: Re-signed WR Weston Dressler.

Feb 14: Re-signed TE Richard Gordon.

Mar 6: Released OLB Robert James and TE Dominique Jones.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $9,187,069.

Mar 11: OLB Frank Zombo re-signed.

 

San Diego Chargers

Jan 14: Promoted Frank Reich from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.

Jan 24: Named Pete Metzelaars tight ends coach.

Mar 4: Released FB Le’Ron McClain.

Mar 4: Released CB Derek Cox.

Mar 4: Released CB Johnny Patrick.

Mar 8: Re-signed LG Chad Rinehart to a two-year, $6 million contract with $2 million guaranteed.

Mar 8: Re-signed safety and special teams captain Darrell Stuckey to a four-year contract.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $6,536,580.

 

Oakland Raiders

Jan 2: Signed DT David Carter, QB Trent Edwards and DT Torell Troup to reserve/future contracts.

Jan 13: Signed LB Frank Beltre, C Jarrod Shaw, CB Neiko Thorpe and S Tony Dye to reserve/future contracts.

Jan 14: Re-signed offensive line coach Tony Sparano and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.

Feb 6: Named Joe Woods defensive backs coach, Marcus Robertson assistant defensive backs coach, Chris Boniol assistant special teams coach and Vernon Stephens assistant strength and conditioning coach.

Feb 12: Signed CFL Grey Cup MVP RB Kory Sheets.

Feb 24: Re-signed CB Taiwan Jones to a three-year contract.

Feb 28: Re-signed OT Khalif Barnes to a one-year contract.

Mar 11: Cap space entering free agency and the new league year: $59,945,373

 

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

 

 

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NFL Update: News and Team Needs for the AFC South

NFL Update: News and Team Needs for the AFC South

Here is a look at the AFC South, approaching free agency and the draft. Cap figures are per our friend Jason Fitzgerald at Over The Cap.

 

Indianapolis Colts

2013 Record: 11-5, division champions
Playoffs: The Colts made the playoffs for the second straight year of the Luck era.
Estimated current cap space: $37,514,024

 

Key Free Agents

Starters:
CB Vontae Davis
ILB Pat Angerer
SS Antoine Bethea
NT Aubrayo Franklin
RB Donald Brown
RG Mike McGlynn

Backups and role players:
K Adam Vinatieri
DT Fili Moala
RB Ahmad Bradshaw
RG Jeff Linkenbach
S Sergio Brown
OLB Lawrence Sidbury
KR/CB Cassius Vaughn
ILB Kavell Conner

The Colts have re-signed P Pat McAfee, signed former Brown ILB D’Qwell Jackson, and tendered CB Josh Gordy and G Joe Reitz. C Samson Satelle (most well known in New England as the player Miami drafted in their trade with the Patriots for Wes Welker) was released; the move was partly due to performance, and in part due to $4 million in cap savings; RB Tashard Choice was also released.

 

Team Needs – CB, S, RG, C, WR, OLB, DE, RB, K

Both the offensive line and defensive secondary need attention. The Colts need to better protect their franchise quarterback, and will have new starters at RG and C in 2014. The team needs at least one corner (two if Davis departs), and probably two new starting safeties. Bethea turns 30 this summer and is a free agent; LaRon Landry is an injury prone liability in pass coverage who will also turn 30 this year.

Indy also needs to improve their pass rush. OLB Robert Mathis is very good, but they could stand an upgrade over OLB Bjoern Werner and DE Cory Redding. Werner missed time with a torn plantar fascia in his rookie season and will be given another opportunity to live up to his first round expectations, but at minimum some better depth at the position is in order.

Brown outplayed Trent Richardson at running back, but there’s a good chance that he will sign elsewhere in free agency; even if he does return the team needs more depth here. Reggie Wayne will be back but he turns 36 this season; a replacement needs to be brought in now. Adam Vinatieri is also a free agent that the club will need to make a decision on.

 

Draft Picks

Round 2, Pick 27 (59)
Round 3, Pick 26 (90)
Round 5, Pick 26 (154)
Round 6, Pick 27 (187)
Round 7, Pick 17 (209) (From Ravens in trade for center A.Q. Shipley last May)
- Round 1, pick 26 traded to Browns last season for RB Trent Richardson.
- Round 4, pick 27 traded last year to the Browns for their 2013 3rd round pick.
- Round 7, pick 26 traded to Rams for CB Josh Gordy in 2012.

Potential first round picks: CB Victor Hampton, South Carolina; WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt; C Marcus Martin, USC

 

News

In a very politically-correct manner, McAfee said that he would be open to taking over the field goal duties from Vinatieri. McAfee signed a five-year, $14 million with $5 million guaranteed; at $2.8 million per year that makes him the league’s eighth highest paid punter, and only three have more guaranteed money. McAfee, who already handles kickoffs for Indy, said “who knows what’s going to happen with Vinatieri? If he gets re-signed, if he wants to get re-signed, however long he wants to play, I just wanted to know whenever that guy is done, whenever that Hall-of-Fame career is over, that I just want a fair shake in kicking as well. That came up in the conversation. Who knows what’s going to happen with everything else obviously with him or who else they bring in. That definitely came up during negotiations and I’m excited to see how that turns out as well.”

 

 

Tennessee Titans

2013 Record: 7-9
Playoffs: The Titans have not been to the playoffs since 2008, when Kerry Collins replaced Vince Young as the starting quarterback.
Estimated current cap space: $10,013,952

 

Key Free Agents

CB Alterraun Verner and WR Kenny Britt are the only starters hitting free agency. SS Bernard Pollard and DE Ropati Pitoitu have been re-signed. Other free agents include former starting C Rob Turner, C/G Chris Spencer, OT Mike Otto, DT Antonio Johnson, WR Damian Williams and WR Marc Mariani.

 

Team Needs – OLB, ILB, OT, NT, CB, RB, S

The Titans are moving to a 3-4 defense this year, and Kamerion Wimbley was a disappointment; an OLB at number 11 may be what Tennessee decides to do in the draft; another option would be to move Akeem Ayers outside and add an ILB such as Baltimore Raven free agent Daryl Smith.

Dave Stewart will likely be cut and Michael Roos, who will turn 32 this year, is in the final year of his contract. Offensive tackle is a position that should be used on one of the first two picks and/or with a starting caliber player in free agency.

Tennessee has dependable 4-3 defensive tackles but that don’t have that big wide body guy needed in the middle of a 3-4 defensive line. Drafting a guy like Louis Nix in the first round is a possibility.

If Alterraun Verner bolts in free agency then second year CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson will be given the chance to start opposite Jason McCourty, but some decent depth should be added if that is the plan; there’s no viable option currently as the number three corner. The club could also use some depth at safety behind Pollard and Michael Griffin.

Chris Johnson may become a cap casualty, which would mean that there will be an opening at running back; right now the backups are Shonn Greene and Jackie Battle.

Some fans think the Titans should draft another quarterback, but I think Jake Locker deserves another chance before doing so. Bridgewater, Bortles and Manziel will probably be already taken when the Titans turn comes up at number 11, and Derek Carr will likely be off the board before they pick again at number 42.

 

Draft Picks

Round 1, Pick 11
Round 2, Pick 10 (42)
Round 4, Pick 12 (108)
Round 5, Pick 11 (139)
Round 6, Pick 10 (170)
Round 7, Pick 13 (205)
- Round 3, pick 77 and two 2013 picks traded to 49ers for San Francisco’s 2nd round pick, WR Justin Hunter; SF had acquired that pick from Kansas City in the Alex Smith trade.

Potential first round picks: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA; ILB C.J. Mosely, Alabama; DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame; OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame

 

News

RB Chris Johnson is due to make $8 million this year, counting $10 million against the cap. Releasing him would save the Titans $6 million in cap space, which is likely unless he agrees to a restructure or pay cut.

RT Dave Stewart is another potential cap casualty. Stewart will turn 32 before the season kicks off and is not the player he was a few years ago; he is scheduled to be paid $6.4 million this year, and there would be no dead money as he is in the final year of his contract.

 

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

2013 Record: 4-12
Playoffs: Jacksonville’s playoff appearance was in the 2007 season, when they lost to the Patriots in the division round.
Estimated current cap space: $56,373,848

 

Key Free Agents

The only free agents that were starters are RB Maurice Jones-Drew and DE Jason Babin, but they also cut RG Uche Nwaneri and C Brad Meester retired. here’s also the situation with WR Justin Blackmon; he is suspended indefinitely, pending an appeal for reinstatement. The Jaguars have re-signed QB Chad Henne and LT Cameron Bradfield, and also signed former Seahawk DE Red Bryant. In addition the Jags have re-signed some depth players: TE Clay Harbor and OT Sam Young, and they tendered RB Jordan Todman. Other free agents include former Patriots DT Kyle Love, DE Brandon Deaderick and WR Taylor Price. CB Will Blackmon is also a free agent but because played under a minimum-salary, one-year veteran contract in 2013, his deal doesn’t expire until the start of the new league year; as a result he cannot sign a new deal until Tuesday.

 

Team Needs – QB, G, C, WR, RB, CB, S

Blaine Gabbert was not the answer at quarterback and while Chad Henne is okay, he is not the long term answer. While I would not be very surprised if the Jaguars do not select one of Bridgewater, Bortles or Manziel with their number three overall selection in the draft in light of Henne being re-signed; this is their best opportunity to grab an elite quarterback; even though they are the Jags, they can’t count on getting a top five pick every year. If they pass on a QB early and draft a defensive player such as Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack, then they might go after Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round; head coach Gus Bradley got a close look at the Eastern Illinois product when he coached the Senior Bowl.

With a new quarterback presumably selected in the first round, the next step is to improve the offensive line. The Jags will have an entirely new interior on the line in 2014 since Meester retired, Nwaneri was released, and LG Will Rackley needs to be replaced. After that there is still more to be done on offense: a running back or two will need to be added to replace MJD, and a WR to go opposite Cecil Shorts; Justin Blackmon should not be counted on at all.

On defense the Jaguars signed Red Bryant to upgrade the line; next priority is the secondary. At corner there is Dwayne Gratz, Alan Ball and Will Blackmon; that’s a position that should be upgraded. Jacksonville has two second-year players at safety: second round SS Jonathan Cyprien and sixth round FS Josh Evans. At minimum another safety should be brought in to compete with Evans, and to add depth.

 

Draft Picks

Round 1, Pick 3
Round 2, Pick 7 (39)
Round 3, Pick 6 (70)
Round 4, Pick 5 (101)
Round 4, Pick 14 (110) (From Ravens in trade for OT Eugene Monroe)
Round 5, Pick 4 (132)
Round 5, Pick 10 (138) (From Lions in trade for WR Mike Thomas)
Round 5, Pick 19 (147) (From Ravens in trade for OT Eugene Monroe)
Round 6, Pick 3 (163)
Round 7, Pick 7 (199)

Potential first round picks: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville; DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina; QB Blake Bortles, UCF; QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

 

News

 

 

Houston Texans

2013 Record: 2-14
Playoffs: After two straight playoff appearances and high expectations, the Texans bottomed out with the NFL’s worst record in 2013.
Estimated current cap space: $8,325,377

 

Key Free Agents

The biggest Texan free agent is technically not a starter: RB Ben Tate has been stuck behind Arian Foster, and will find more playing time (and a bigger paycheck) elsewhere. Greg Jones is one of the best fullbacks in the NFL, but he will turn 33 in May. DE Antonio Smith will also turn 33, but the Texans only have a pair of street free agents on the roster at DE beyond JJ Watt. DT Earl Mitchell may walk as well; Miami and Chicago have been rumored as possible destinations. Daryl Sharpton and Joe Mays got some playing time at ILB, but now serve strictly as depth with Brian Cushing presumably returning from his knee injury in time to start the season. LG Wade Smith is another free agent that started last year; he’ll be 33 next month and has had some knee troubles the last couple of seasons. Smith has said that he would like to return but new coach Bill O’Brien may prefer to get younger; he may come back for depth purposes though, since the cupboard is bare at the position. Other free agents include TE Garrett Graham and backup tackles Andrew Garner and Ryan Harris.

 

Team Needs – QB, RT, S, ILB, OLB, CB, LG

Aside from the obvious – a new QB – the team also needs an upgrade over RT Derek Newton, an ILB alongside Cushing, a passing down OLB, and a slot/nickel corner to upgrade Brice McCain, a FS to replace Ed Reed and Shiloh Keo, and a LG to replace or compete with Wade Smith.

 

Draft Picks

Round 1, Pick 1
Round 2, Pick 1 (33)
Round 3, Pick 1 (65)
Round 4, Pick 1 (97)
Round 5, Pick 1 (129)
Round 6, Pick 1 (161)
Round 7, Pick 1 (193)

Potential first round picks: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville; QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M; DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

 

News

Rumors are flying that O’Brien has interest in Patriot backup QB Ryan Mallett. It would make sense for the Pats to move Mallett and get something for him before he hits free agency, and O’Brien certainly saw plenty of him in his days in Foxboro to make a decent assessment of his capabilities.

 

 

 

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2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

 

 

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NFL Update: News and Team Needs for the AFC West

NFL Update: News and Team Needs for the AFC West

Here is a look at the AFC West, approaching free agency and the draft. Cap figures are per our friend Jason Fitzgerald at Over The Cap.

 

Denver Broncos

2013 Record: 11-5; AFC champions
Playoffs: Three straight post-season appearances
Estimated current cap space: $24,988,429

 

Key Free Agents

John Elway has stated that the club will not approach their own free agents with offers right out of the gate, and will instead let them test the waters first. The Denver general manager and director of football operations said that “I think they have to hit the market, the market sets those (contract prices). Especially where you look where we are and what we have coming up. Both Thomases (Demaryius and Julius) are up next year. Wes (Welker) is too. All that plays into it. Fitting pieces. The hard part is you’re doing it with personalities. You’re dealing with people. That’s the hard part.”

ILB Wesley Woodyard had a down year at due to in part to a neck injury, and the Broncos may let their six-time captain walk. Denver worked out middle linebackers D’Qwell Jackson (before he signed with the Colts) as well as Lofa Tatupu, perhaps a sign that they have already moved on. Woodyard was a weakside linebacker prior to 2013 but the Broncos are now set there with Danny Trevatahan, leaving him as the odd man out on this team.

CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played much better in 2013 with Denver than he did previously with the Eagles, but he still seems to have occasional mental lapses. That inconsistency will drive head coaches and general managers crazy, and the Broncosmay want to move on – even though Champ Bailey has been released and Chris Harris is coming off ACL surgery. Harris was Denver’s best corner and the surgery was relatively minor as the ligament was not torn all the way through; he is expected to be 100% when the season begins. If Denver lets DRC walk then they could try to trade for Darrelle Revis or sign Aqib Talib, or any one of the other free agent corners on the market that Patriot fans are also eyeing in case Talib walks: Alterraun Verner (Titans), Sam Shields (Packers), Vontae Davis (Colts), Captain Munnerlyn (Panthers), Tarell Brown (49ers), Walter Thurmond (Seahawks), etc.

RB Knowshon Moreno had a great season after a less than stellar start to begin his NFL career. Ronnie Hillman was handed the starting position but couldn’t hold on to it, and the most memorable part of Montee Ball‘s rookie season was whiffing on a blitz pickup that resulted in a hit that Peyton Manning must have felt for a week. Moreno had been injury prone and unproductive in his first four years in the NFL – he missed 20 games the three previous seasons – something Elway will surely remember when it comes to a decision to re-sign Moreno or let him walk.

WR Eric Decker will be looking for number one receiver pay – he’s the top free agent wide receiver in 2014 – but in Denver he’s only a WR2. I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs elsewhere, and the Broncos go after his replacement in what is a draft class that is deep at receiver.

DE Shaun Phillips had ten sacks for Denver in 2013, but he will turn 33 in a couple months. The team is set with Derek Wolfe on one side (he is reportedly healthy now, after suffering a seizure in November) but Von Miller is recovering ACL surgery and unlikely to be full speed when the season begins. I wouldn’t expect Denver to pursue a top-dollar end like Michael Johnson, but they may try to get younger and replace Phillips with somebody like Lamarr Houston (Raiders), Michael Bennett (Seahawks) or Everson Griffen (Vikings).

DE Robert Ayers is a good run defender but no more than average as a pass rusher. DE Jeremy Mincey filled in nicely in the rotation, but he’s not a starter. Ayers is not expected to return, but the coaching staff would like to keep Mincey. The club does have some depth at the position: Malik Jackson played well when given the opportunity, and they also have Hall Davis, John Youboty and Quanterus Smith on the roster.

LG Zane Beadles is only 27 and is a four-year NFL starter, which will make him an attractive option to other NFL teams. With the priority for the Broncos in free agency expected to be on their defense in free agency, Beadles could easily end up elsewhere.

CB Champ Bailey was released and three restricted free agents – CB Chris Harris, CB Tony Carter and DT Mitch Unrein were tendered. Other unrestricted free agents include CB Quentin Jammer, C Dan Koppen, WR Andre Caldwell, OT Winston Justice, G Chris Kuper, ILB Paris Lenon and ILB Stewart Bradley.

 

Team Needs – CB, S, ILB, DE, RB, LG, WR

For starters Denver will need another CB or two to replace Bailey and DRC. Rahim Moore is fine at one safety, but Mike Adams is a free agent; even if he is re-signed the team needs more depth at the position. With Woodyard probably gone Denver needs another ILB – probably early in the draft. The problem for them is that C.J. Mosley will probably be gone by the time Denver is up at the podium, and the next best inside linebackers would be reaches at number 31. The situation at DE is unsettled; the club might sign a vet and hope Miller returns quickly, while one of the young backups develops. With all that attention on defense, what about the offensive side? Who runs the ball if Moreno bolts; do you trust Montee Ball to take over? Once Decker departs what happens if Welker is out for any time with another concussion – switch midstream to a two-tight end offense with Julius Thomas and either Jacob Tamme or Joel Dreesen?

 

Draft Picks

Round 1, Pick 31
Round 2, Pick 31 (63)
Round 3, Pick 31 (95)
Round 4, Pick 31 (127)
Round 5, Pick 31 (159)
Round 6, Pick 31 (191)
Round 7, Pick 31 (223)

Potential first round picks: CB Jason Verrett, TCU; CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech; S Calvin Pryor, Louisville; DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

 

News

Peyton Manning passed his contractually obligated physical to examine his neck, which made headlines. Ho-hum, such is life on a slow news day in the off-season… The Broncos are leaving no rock unturned in an attempt to upgrade their defense; they brought in Lofa Tatupu for a visit. Mosi’s 31-year old son hasn’t played in the NFL since 2010; he was he was released by Atlanta in July 2012 after suffering a torn pec… Restricted free agent KR Trindon Holiday was not offered a tender, signaling an end to his days in Denver. Holiday scored four touchdown returns in 2012 and began the 2013 season strong, with two early season touchdown returns: an 81 yard punt return against the Giants in week two and a 105-yard kickoff return in week four against the Eagles. However, after losing two fumbles he was relieved of punt return duties and never got out of the doghouse.

 

 

Kansas City Chiefs

2013 Record: 11-5
Playoffs: the Chiefs made the playoffs for the second time in four years with their record turnaround. However, KC lost in the first round when they were unable to hold on to a 28-point lead as they lost 45-44 to the Colts; the Chiefs have not won a playoff game since defeating the Steelers in the wild card round of the 1993 post-season.
Estimated current cap space: $9,396,444

 

Key Free Agents

LT Branden Albert, DE Tyson Jackson, ILB Akeem Jordan, and FS Kendrick Lewis were all starters last year, and Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah split time as the starting right guard. Other unrestricted free agents include WR/PR Dexter McCluster, S Husain Abdullah, S Quintin Demps, OLB Frank Zombo and WR Kyle Williams.

Albert is one of the top players in this year’s free agent class and is highly unlikely to return; Miami is rumored to have the inside track and desperately needs help on their offensive line; Arizona, and Tampa Bay are all possible destinations. Jackson has been a huge bust since being drafted number three overall in 2009, but turned things around under Andy Reid and DC Bob Sutton. He excelled against the run but is still only average rushing the passer; with his only good season coming in a contract year it’s a case of buyer beware. Jordan is another player who is better against the run than the pass, but is a favorite of Reid’s – he followed him to KC after six years in Philly – and will likely be re-signed.

Lewis struggled mightily last year and is not expected to be back. He was very good his first two years in the league but has regressed since then, in part due to injuries; a change of scenery might be beneficial. Abdullah started the last two games in his place and looked much better; KC would wise to keep him. Asamoah began the season as a starter but was replaced mid-season by Schwartz; I would expect the Chiefs to make a strong effort to keep Schwartz and let Asamoah walk.

The Chiefs will make a strong effort to re-sign McCluster, who had 53 receptions for 511 yards and two touchdowns, plus 686 yards and two more touchdowns on punt returns. Kansas City also released CB Dunta Robinson just one year after signing him to a 3-year, $13.8 million deal. Robinson will be 32 next month and he appeared to have lost a step; he was unable to keep his job as a slot corner and nickel back last year.

 

Team Needs – WR, OT, ILB, S, TE, CB

The Chiefs need to get somebody they can better depend on at WR opposite Dwayne Bowe. Donnie Avery had just 40 receptions for 596 yards and 2 TD and could be released. A.J. Jenkins is raw and unproven, and 5’8″ Dexter McCluster is more suited to the slot.

Eric Fisher will probably slide over from RT to Albert’s LT spot, but that still leaves an open spot on the offensive line. If Schwartz is not re-signed there could be a second opening as the club may not want to go back to Asamoah.

An ILB will need to be brought in to replace Jordan, and it would be a good idea to add some depth at OLB as well. In the secondary a replacement at free safety will need to be found if Abdullah departs, and the roster could use some additional depth at both safety and corner.

Another tight end needs to be brought in as well, to upgrade or compliment Anthony Fasano. Between a concussion, knee and ankle injuries the former Dolphin missed seven games; with Alex Smith not known for his downfield passing ability, this position is a vital part of the offense. Travis Kelce was drafted in the third round last year and could become the new starter, but do you want to bank on a player that missed all of 2013 because of microfracture surgery?

 

Draft Picks

Round 1, Pick 23
Round 3, Pick 23 (87)
Round 4, Pick 24 (120)
Round 5, Pick 23 (151)
Round 6, Pick 24 (184)
Round 7, Pick 23 (215)

Potential first round picks: WR Odell Beckham, LSU; WR Kelvin Benjamin, FSU; WR Allen Robinson, Penn State; G Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA.

 

News

The Chiefs have four players – Dwayne Bowe, Eric Berry, Tamba Hali and Brandon Flowers – with eight-figure cap numbers, taking up a total of over $45.5 million in cap space this year. A bit of restructuring might be in order to give the team some flexibility; the lack of cap space severely hindered any chance of re-signing Branden Albert.

Rumors have been floated that Philadelphia Eagle WR DeSean Jackson could reunite with Andy Reid in Kansas City. While that may happen eventually, that’s the problem of using baseball logic to trades in the NFL. Jackson is collecting a base salary of $10.5 million this year; there’s no way that the Chiefs can afford that. The Eagles may indeed move on from Jackson at some point – they signed receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper to deals recently – but there is no incentive for Philadelphia to release or trade Jackson now.

 

 

San Diego Chargers

2013 Record: 9-7
Playoffs: The Chargers made the playoffs on the last weekend of the season, then defeated the Bengals at Cincinnati before losing to Denver. It was San Diego’s first playoff appearance in four seasons.
Estimated current cap space: $5,224,080

 

Key Free Agents

While the Chargers may be tight on cap space, they don’t have a lot of free agents to re-sign or replace either. ILB Donald Butler and S Darrell Stuckey have been re-signed. Butler was the Chargers’ top free agent, a solid every down player; Stuckey is the special teams captain as well as the primary backup safety.

FB Le’Ron McClain, CB Derek Cox and CB Johnny Patrick have been released. McClain was a starter last year but was let go due to a relatively high price ($2.5 million in cash and $3.3 million in salary cap space) for a fullback on a team tight on cap space. Cox was a huge free agent bust; he was benched for poor performance and was due $4.25 million as part of a four-year, $20 million contract signed last spring and takes up $3.9 million in dead money against the cap.

LG Chad Rinehart is a decent player but can’t seem to stay on the field; he has missed 14 games over the last two seasons. Former Patriot Rich Ohrnberger is another free agent offensive lineman; he filled in nicely in the playoff victory against the Bengals, but he too has a history of injuries. NT Cam Thomas was benched late in the year, losing his starting job to Sean Lissemore.

Other free agents include WR Danario Alexander, CB Richard Marshall, RB Ronnie Brown, ILB Reggie Walker and QB Charlie Whitehurst.

 

Team Needs – CB, OLB, WR, NT, RG, TE, RB

The Chargers need to recover from the Cox signing blunder at corner. Right now the starters would be Shareece Wright and Steve Williams; the team needs better top end talent as well as more depth at the position.

At outside linebacker the club is fine on one side with Jarrett Johnson, but Dwight Freeney is past his prime. Larry English is the depth at the position, but he has never played up to his first round draft status. Nose tackle is another position on defense that could use an upgrade.

On offense the club could use a better receiver than Malcom Floyd or Vincent Brown outside opposite Keenan Allen, and some depth at running back behind Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead would be a good idea. At some time soon TE Antonio Gates will need to be replaced, and RG Jeromey Clary is better suited as a backup than a starter.

 

Draft Picks

Round 1, Pick 25
Round 2, Pick 25 (57)
Round 3, Pick 25 (89)
Round 4, Pick 25 (121)
Round 5, Pick 25 (153)
Round 6, Pick 25 (185)
Round 7, Pick 25 (217)

Potential first round picks: CB Jason Verrett, TCU; DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota; OLB/DE Dee Ford, Auburn; G Cyril Richardson, Baylor

 

News

WR Eddie Royal restructured his contract at a reduced rate. Royal was due to make $4.5 million in base salary and would have counted $6 million against the cap; there was no way that San Diego was going to bring him back with those figures. The slot receiver had 47 receptions for 631 yards and eight touchdown catches in 2013.

 

 

Oakland Raiders

2013 Record: 4-12
Playoffs: The Raiders last playoff appearance was following the 2002 season, when they lost to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl; Oakland has not had a winning record since then.
Estimated current cap space: $63,783,470

 

Key Free Agents

Lamarr Houston is the second best defensive end in this year’s free agent class, close behind Michael Johnson. He is very productive both as a pass rusher and against the run, and deserves a big contract. The Raiders have plenty of cap space and are in need of blue chip players; I have no idea why they have not made more of an effort to re-sign him.

Running backs Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings are both free agents. McFadden is injury prone and averaged a lowly 3.5 yards per carry; Jennings averaged 4.5 but will turn 29 later this month. Coach Dennis Allen said that Jennings was a free agent priority, but said nothing about McFadden, so we know who Oakland does (and does not) want back.

OT Jared Veldheer missed all but four games with a torn triceps; because of that injury he should be able to be re-signed at a reasonable price. Khalif Barnes took Veldheer’s place at left tackle and wasn’t bad; Barnes has been re-signed to a one-year deal as insurance in case Veldheer does not return.

Starting corners Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter are both free agents, as is ancient safety Charles Woodson. None of the three were horrible, but by the same token none would be missed if they departed either; same holds true for defensive tackles Vance Walker and Pat Sims.

Other free agents include WR/KR Jacoby Ford, C Andre Gurode, OT Tony Pashos, DE Jason Hunter, CB Phillip Adams and S Usama Young.

 

Team Needs – QB, DE, CB, S, RB, DT, ILB, LG, WR, LT

Terrelle Pryor was inconsistent, and although he was in a difficult position with so little talent around him, I would have to think that Oakland will select a quarterback at number five if one of the big three (Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel) is still on the board. Another option would be to go with a QB later (Derek Carr) and address another need with the first pick.

Assuming Lamarr Houston walks – again, I’m baffled as to why he wasn’t re-signed or even franchised – a replacement will need to be found. The club may want to pick up one in free agency and another in the draft, because they’re better off with Jason Hunter as a backup rather than depending on him to produce as a starter. Jadeveon Clowney is also a possibility with the first round pick.

Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins and Phillip Adams are all free agents, and all three corners are nothing more than average. Again, a double dip in free agency and/or the draft may be in order. Last year’s top draft pick, DJ Hayden can man one side, but that still leaves an opening on the other side as well as at the slot/nickel corner position.

Safety is yet another position that could use two new starters. Charles Woodson needs to be put out to pasture, and Brandian Ross needs to be replaced. This would be normally be a top priority, if not for the glaring needs above; right now it’s just Tyvon Branch and some street free agents at the position that are on the roster.

Running back is still another position with two players possibly departing, but that is the least of the team’s concerns. If the Titans cut Chris Johnson (he’s due $8 million in salary and has a $10 million cap figure; releasing him saves $6 million in cap space) then the Raiders could go after him, and another back from the middle of the draft.

That’s plenty to revamp in one off-season, but this is just the tip of the iceberg to rebuilding the Raiders. At defensive tackle Pat Sims is a free agent, and even if he is re-signed there is still a hole to be filled at the other DT spot. The team could also use an upgrade at ILB over Kaluka Maiava or Nick Roach.

If Oakland is going to invest in a quarterback early then they should give him a top-level target; Rod Streater and Denarius Moore should be no more than WR2 and WR3 (rather than WR1 and WR2), and along the same lines a starting caliber tight end is needed as well. That may have to wait a year though, as uprades are also needed on the offensive line. LG Tony Bergstrom missed all of 2013 with a foot injury and Lucas Nix – who was horrible last year – had outplayed him for the starting position in training camp, but lost the starter’s job due to an injury of his own. There may also be an opening at left tackle, where Jared Veldheer is a free agent; with all the other positions in need of attention they may have no choice but to go with Khalif Barnes as the starter.

 

Draft Picks

Round 1, Pick 5
Round 2, Pick 4 (36)
Round 3, Pick 3 (67)
Round 4, Pick 7 (103)
Round 6, Pick 5 (165)
Round 7, Pick 4 (196)
Round 7, Pick 20 (212) (From Arizona as part of the Carson Palmer trade)

Potential first round picks: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M; QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida; WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson; DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina; OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

 

News

A year ago the Raiders finally decided to formulate a long range plan rather than continually act as if they could fix everything in one season. It painfully hamstrung the team for one season – they carried more than $50 million worth of dead money on last year’s cap – but so what; it’s not as if they were going to the Super Bowl last year. As a result they are now in a good position to genuinely rebuild the roster. Rather than once again being in a poor cap position, they have over $60 million available to maneuver with; the only dead money still on the books worth noting is $6.2 million for Michael Huff and $2.6 million for Matt Flynn. While there are holes seemingly everywhere that need to be filled, the club can formulate a plan to get better, that looks beyond the upcoming season.

 

 

 

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2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

 

 

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NFL Update: News and Club Needs for the AFC North

NFL Update: News and Club Needs for the AFC North

Here is a look at the AFC North, approaching free agency and the draft. Cap figures are per our friend Jason Fitzgerald at Over The Cap.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

2013 Record: 11-5; AFC North champions
Playoffs: three straight years and 4 of last 5 (lost in wildcard round each time)
Estimated current cap space: $29,428,957

 

Key Free Agents

DE Michael Johnson was franchised a year ago and although he was not as productive in 2013 as he was the prior year, he is still one of the top free agents available this spring – and the number one defensive end now that Carolina franchised Greg Hardy. Although Johnson had only 3.5 sacks last year, he is still one of the premier edge rushers in the NFL, a disruptive force that opponents specifically game plan to limit his productivity. Johnson does everything well; he excels in the run game, deflected 10 passes in 2013 and had 11.5 sacks in 2012. Cincinnati signed Carlos Dunlap to a big contract last year when they were unable to extend the 27-year old Johnson to a long-term deal (he was offered five years and $40 million, which was in essence a 4-year $28.8 million extension of the $11.2 million he was receiving in 2013) and it appears that he will be in a new uniform next fall.

LT Anthony Collins moved in to the starting lineup due to injury in week 13, and played very well. He is above average in pass protection, which is the most important attribute you want from a left tackle, though just average at best in the run game. The 28-year old Collins is a career backup (25 career starts in six seasons) that made the best of his opportunity, and somebody elsewhere will give him starting money that Cincy will not match.

S Taylor Mays was labeled a bust early in his career – he lasted just one season with the 49ers – but began to show some promise last season at both safety and linebacker before going on IR after week 8. He is not expected to re-sign with the Bengals, and will probably be limited to an incentive-rich, short term deal wherever he lands.

Other unrestricted free agents, all backups or role players: LB Michael Boley, CB Brandon Ghee, S Chris Crocker, G Mike Pollak, T Dennis Roland, KR/PR Brandon Tate, TE Alex Smith, DT Ogemdi Nwagbo and P Zoltan Mesko; LB Vincent Rey, WR Andrew Hawkins and WR Dan Sanzenbacher are restricted free agents that have been tendered.

 

Team Needs – C, CB, DE, WR, LT, DT

Although the Bengals have cap space available, don’t expect them to big players in free agency. First of all being big spenders in March has never been in the club’s DNA, and more importantly they need to keep an eye on 2015. Next year WR A.J. Green, TE Jermaine Gresham, LB Vontaze Burfict, LB Rey Maualuga and NT Domata Peko are all scheduled to become free agents. QB Andy Dalton will also hit free agency at the same time – though whether or not the team is sold on him as the long term answer is probably dependent on his performance this season.

Center Kyle Cook will turn 31 before the season kicks off, and is nothing more than average; don’t be surprised if the Bengals look to draft a center early to replace him.

The Bengals also need to add a cornerback early in the draft. Leon Hall has torn his Achilles twice in the last three years, Pacman Jones will turn 31 in September, Terence Newman will be 36, and Brandon Ghee is a free agent.

The team will also need to make a decision with Margus Hunt: are they satisfied that he can replace Johnson at defensive end, or do they want to take another defensive end early? Cincy could also use an upgrade over Mohamed Sanu at wide receiver to compliment Green and Marvin Jones.

Andrew Whitworth will probably move back to left tackle with Clint Boling coming back from injury to start at left guard, but Collins’ imminent departure does require the team sign a new swing tackle to back up Whitworth and Andre Smith; another possibility is to leave Whitworth at guard and draft a tackle.

With Geno Atkins coming off an ACL injury and Domata Peko a free agent in 2015, the Bengals could also be looking to add a defensive tackle for depth and insurance.

 

Draft Picks

Round 1, Pick 24
Round 2, Pick 23 (55)
Round 3, Pick 24 (88)
Round 4, Pick 23 (119)
Round 5, Pick 24 (152)
Round 6, Pick 23 (183)
Round 7, Pick 24 (216)

Potential first round picks: CB Jason Verrett, TCU; LaMarcus Joyner, Florida State; OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan; DE Vic Beasley, Clemson

 

News

The Bengals enter 2014 with a pair of new coordinators. Hue Jackson replaces Jay Gruden as the offensive coordinator, and has plenty of experience calling plays. Jackson was the OC with Washington in 2003, Atlanta in 2007, Oakland in 2010, and continued to call plays as the Raider head coach in 2011. he served as the Bengals’ running backs coach last year. Prior to working in the NFL Jackson had a 14-year coaching career in the NCAA – all of it on the offensive side of the ball – including five years as on OC (one at Cal and four at USC).

Paul Guenther takes over from Mike Zimmer as Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator. This will be Guenther’s tenth season with the Bengals; he was their linebacker coach the last few years. Both of the former Bengal coordinators wanted to bring Guenther along to serve as their DC – Gruden in Washington and Zimmer in Minnesota – but Cincinnati was fortunate to retain his services. Guenther has been credited with development of one of the league’s best linebacking corps, and inherits a defense that ranked third in yardage and fifth in points allowed.

 

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

2013 Record: 8-8
Playoffs: last appearance was an overtime loss to Tim Tebow and the Broncos two years ago; missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1998-2000.
Estimated current cap space: ($372,066)

 

Key Free Agents

DE Ziggy Hood, DE Brett Keisel, S Ryan Clark, WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Jerricho Cotchery, C Fernando Velasco, C/G Cody Wallace, NT/DE Al Woods

The Steelers need to re-sign one of either Hood or Woods; most likely it will be Woods. Hood is a better fit in a 4-3, and will probably be offered something in the $3 million range – which is much more than he is worth to the Steelers. Keisel will turn 36 in September and should be able to be retained for much less than the $4.9 million cap figure he represented last season. Similarly Sanders will most likely depart for more money elsewhere, which makes re-signing the lower-priced Cotchery an important move. With Maurkice Pouncey coming back from IR to reclaim the center position, the retention of Velasco, who tore his Achilles late last season, is highly unlikely.

 

Team Needs – CB, WR, S, OT, DE, ILB, OLB, TE

I thought CB Ike Taylor looked no better than average at best last year - at age 34 he may have hit the wall and be done. Taylor has a cap figure of nearly $12 million, and releasing him will save Pittsburgh $7 million in cap space that they need badly. It would make sense to draft a corner with their first round pick to replace him, as there is nobody else on the roster that should be starting opposite William Gay.

A couple years ago the Steelers were in great shape at wide receiver, but that is no longer the case. Mike Wallace left last year and Emmanuel Sanders (740 yards, 6 TD) will presumably do the same this month, leaving the club with Antonio Brown (1,499 yards, 8 TD) and last year’s third round pick, Markus Wheaton. As long as Cotchery – who had 602 yards receiving and 10 touchdown receptions last year – can be re-signed, then this position can become less of a priority.

Ryan Clark has been incredibly durable, missing just one game in the last four years. However, he will turn 35 this season, making safety another position that needs to get younger. Clark wants to return for another season and it may be a stretch to pencil in Shamarko Thomas as a starter. Troy Polamalu (who turns 33 next month) signed a two-year extension which converted a large chunk of his salary to bonus, which for the short term does give the club some much needed cap relief. Will Allen – another safety on the wrong side of 30 – did sign a one-year, $955,000 contract this week. Still, at the minimum there is a need for some infusion of youth and depth at safety.

Cameron Heyward is locked in as one defensive end, but with Hood about to depart the Steelers could use another DE. Keisel would be a short term solution and Woods is a better fit inside.

Lawrence Timmons is an excellent inside linebacker but with Larry Foote released in a cap-saving move, the Steelers could use another player here; that leaves just Vince Williams, a 6th round pick last year at ILB. At outside linebacker the team is set with starters Lamarr Woodley and Jason Worilds, who was given the transition tag. The club could use some depth though; first round pick from 2013 Jarvis Jones didn’t show much last year. Jones needs to get stronger and add better pass rushing moves if he is going to live up to his draft status and start in the NFL.

Heath Miller will turn 32 this year and didn’t look like his old self while coming back from an ACL last year; a mid or late round tight end selection wouldn’t be a bad idea. And with Maurkice Pouncey returning from a torn ACL and MCL, it would be wise to add a decent backup center for depth and insurance as well.

 

Draft Picks

Round 1, Pick 15
Round 2, Pick 14 (46)
Round 4, Pick 18 (114)
Round 5, Pick 17 (145)
Round 6, Pick 16 (176)
Round 7, Pick 15 (207)
* Round 3 pick traded away last year to Cleveland; Pittsburgh received the Browns’ 2013 4th round pick, which was used to select safety Shamarko Thomas.

Potential first round picks: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State; OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan; OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame; CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State; DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame

 

News

The Steelers have released OT Levi Brown, ILB Larry Foote and CB Curtis Brown, while re-signing S Will Allen to a vet minimum deal; they also placed the transition tag on OLB Jason Worilds. The club has also extended TE Heath Miller and S Troy Polamalu, converting sizeable amounts of base salary to bonus to save much needed cap space. Those moves saved about $16 million in cap space, but they still need some more room. Releasing Ike Taylor would save $7 million, and the team will probably approach Lamarr Woodley too. Woodley’s cap number is over $13.5 million, so it would make sense to try and restructure his contract.

 

 

Baltimore Ravens

2013 Record: 8-8
Playoffs: The defending Super Bowl champs saw their streak of five consecutive playoff appearances end with losses to the Patriots and Bengals in weeks 16 and 17.
Estimated current cap space: $24,929,100

 

Key Free Agents

OT Eugene Monroe, DE Arthur Jones, ILB Daryl Smith, CB Corey Graham, OT Michael Oher, WR/KR Jacoby Jones, S James Ihedigbo

Other unrestricted free agents: NT Terrence Cody, ILB Jameel McClain, TE Ed Dickson, FB Vonta Leach, RB Bernard Scott, TE Dallas Clark, S Jeromy Miles. Restricted free agents: ILB Albert McClellan, S Anthony Levine, WR/PR Tandon Doss, S Omar Brown

Monroe is the second highest rated tackle in free agency and the team should push hard to keep him in Baltimore. The club has yet to begin negotiations with Oher and will likely let him walk; he’s inconsistent and really isn’t NFL starting caliber.

Arthur Jones had a very good season and should draw a lot of interest around the league as well; it would be a huge blow to the organization if they lost both Monroe and Jones.

Smith, Graham, Jacoby Jones and Ihedigbo all started last year, as did Dickson due to Dennis Pitta‘s injury. Smith in particular played very well but is 32; Graham was solid but not spectacular. Jacoby Jones will turn 30 before the season kicks off and will have to take a substantial pay cut to stay; he made $4 million last year. Former Patriot and UMass safety Ihedigbo is a good player to have on your team, excelling on special teams and playing well against the run – he performed well enough to beat out first round pick Jason Elam – but as Pats fans know it can be tough to watch him in coverage.

McClain has been a solid role player but will likely depart for a better payday and more playing time; he has visited the Giants, Bills and Vikings. Cody has been injury prone and a bit of a disappointment; it is unlikely that he will return.

 

Team Needs – OT, C, WR, ILB, S, DE

With both starting offensive tackles free agents, this has to be the top off-season priority for Baltimore. The Ravens also want to get bigger and more physical on the interior of the offensive line; center Gino Gradkowski should be replaced. Once the offensive line is set the next order of business is to get Joe Flacco more weapons; if opponents can take Torrey Smith out of the game he has little to depend on at receiver. Rookie UDFA Marlon Brown was counted on too heavily last year; he’s more suited to be a WR3 or WR4.

The other big hole that will need to be filled is at defensive end if Arthur Jones signs elsewhere, and a decision will need to be made at running back too. Ray Rice had an abysmal year on the field (3.1 yards per carry), and has followed that up with an off the field incident he would prefer to forget. Was the poor performance due to ineffectiveness of the offensive line – or has Rice hit the wall after four years of heavy use? At inside linebacker Daryl Smith is a free agent and Jameel McClain was released, so that is yet another position that needs attention.

 

Draft Picks

Round 1, Pick 17
Round 2, Pick 16 (48)
Round 3, Pick 15 (79)
Round 6, Pick 18 (178)
* Round 4, pick 14 (110) and round 5, pick 19 (147) traded to Jaguars for OT Eugene Monroe last October. Round 7, pick 17 (209) traded to Colts last May for center A.Q. Shipley.

Potential first round picks: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan; OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame; WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M; WR Marqise Lee, USC; DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame; TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina

 

News

Whether they like it or not, the Ravens are stuck with Ray Rice for a while. Baltimore signed him to a five year deal in 2012 worth $35 million, with $15 million guaranteed; they would lose $5.5 million of cap space if he was to be cut, and that would create $14.25 million of dead cap money.

By cutting FB Vonta Leach and ILB Jameel McClain, the Ravens created about $5 million of cap space. It was a tough move – both players were hard working and very popular – but a sound decision that had to be done. With so many starters hitting free agency, the club really had no choice.

The contract given to TE Dennis Pitta (5 years, $32 million) was a bit of a surprise. The transaction opens up cap space this year (only $3.2 million), but jumps up to $6.2 million in 2015 and $7.2 million for each of the final three years. That’s a lot of cap space for two skill players (Pitta and Joe Flacco) on a team that has historically been tilted so heavily on defense. Flacco has cap numbers of $14+ million for each of the next two years, and then those figures double into the $28+ range in 2016 and 2017.

 

 

Cleveland Browns

2013 Record: 8-8
Playoffs: This rendition of the Browns has only been to the playoffs once, in 2002.
Estimated current cap space: $49,848,350

 

Key Free Agents

C Alex Mack would have looked nice in a Patriots uniform, but he’s most likely staying put. Cleveland placed the transition tag on Mack, which means that the Browns can match any offer he receives from another team.

S T.J. Ward is loathed in New England for putting Rob Gronkowski on IR, but is known throughout the rest of the NFL as being a very good safety. The team has been in negotiations with Ward’s agent for several weeks, but with no deal in place it is looking like there is a very good chance that he will depart for another club.

RG Shaun Lauvao and RB Willis McGahee are the only other free agents of note. Lauvao was a starter but was subpar, and McGahee is well past his expiration date.

 

Team Needs – QB, WR, ILB, RB, RG, S, CB

Brian Hoyer looked good when he finally got an opportunity last year, but his season was cut short after blowing out his knee after just three games. Going into the season with Hoyer as the starter might be a public relations disaster, but isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Cleveland could go with Hoyer, add a vet like Matt Schaub for competition and depth, and still draft someone like A.J. McCarron or Zach Mettenberger later.

Josh Gordon had an incredible season but there is nobody to compliment him at wide receiver. If the team is going to invest an early pick on a QB then it stands to reason that they will also add someone for him to throw the ball to – whether it is through the draft (Sammy Watkins in the 1st? Kelvin Benjamin in the 2nd?), free agency, or both.

Running back is wide open with Trent Richardson having been traded away and McGahee a free agent. The club could be a major player for Knowshon Moreno or the soon to be released Darren Sproles, as well as at least one other veteran such as Ben Tate or Donald Brown – and still need to add another back in the draft.

The Browns also need an overhaul at inside linebacker: D’Qwell Jackson was released for financial reasons, and nobody else on the roster should be starting. Cleveland tendered ILB Craig Robertson, but that was due more to their lack of bodies at the position than anything else; Robertson was a disappointment, struggling in pass coverage and regressing overall from the previous year. The club should sign a vet free agent and then add someone like FSU’s Christian Jones with a mid-round draft pick. The problem with ILB this year is that there is something lacking with every option. The best of the lot are over 30 (Karlos Dansby will be 33 and Daryl Smith will be 32) while Erin Henderson has off-field issues (two DUIs this past year); others can’t seem to stay healthy (Pat Angerer, Desmond Bishop, Jon Beason) and the best of the rest (Brandon Spikes, Akeem Jordan, Daryl Sharpton) are strong against the run but a liability in coverage.

Neither Shawn Lauvao nor Oniel Cousins impressed last year, so right guard is yet another position in need of attention; neither should be counted on to start and both are unlikely to be re-signed. Zane Beadles (Broncos), Chad Rinehart (Chargers) or Geoff Schwartz (Chiefs) are all possible free agents that could be had at a reasonable price. There are plenty of openings in the secondary as well with the lone exception of corner Joe Haden. The defense needs an upgrade over two starters, free safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Buster Skrine, and Pro Bowl strong safety T.J. Ward is a free agent who will be high on the radar of many other NFL teams.

 

Draft Picks

Round 1, Pick 4
Round 1, Pick 26 (From Colts in trade for RB Trent Richardson)
Round 2, Pick 3 (35)
Round 3, Pick 7 (71)
Round 3, Pick 19 (83) (From Steelers in trade for 2013 4th round pick)
Round 4, Pick 6 (102)
Round 4, Pick 27 (123) (From Colts in trade for 2013 5th round pick)
Round 5, Pick 5 (133)
Round 6, Pick 4 (164)
Round 7, Pick 3 (195)

Potential first round picks: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville; QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida; WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson; OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

 

News

While the team has a boatload of room to spend and still stay under the cap, that doesn’t automatically equate to them making a big splash in free agency. With so many starting positions that need to be filled and upgraded and so little quality depth, they may be better off spreading that money around on as many as a dozen or more veteran free agents. From there they have the ability to maneuver on draft day; the Browns have three of the top 35 picks, and ten picks overall.

The Browns did receive some good news with the announcement this week that DE Desmond Bryant has been cleared to play. Bryant finished last season on the non-football illness list and missed the final four games of the year due to an irregular heartbeat that flared up twice last season and once in 2012.

 

 

 

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2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

 

 

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NFL Update: News and Team Needs for the AFC East

NFL Update: News and Club Needs for the other AFC East teams

While we are waiting for free agency to commence, here is a look at what is going on with the other teams in the AFC East.

 

Buffalo Bills

2013 Record: 6-10
Last playoff appearance: 1999
Estimated current cap space: $25,667,482

Key Free Agents

With Jimmy Graham and Greg Hardy having been franchised by their clubs, safety Jairus Byrd is now the top player in the 2014 free agent class. As one of the best players at his position, he will command top dollar. The NFL is a copycat league and teams will attempt to emulate the success of the Seattle defense – beginning with the addition of Byrd. Though the two sides are keeping communication open, it will be very difficult for the Bills to retain him.

Fellow safety Jim Leonhard is also a free agent, so Buffalo would be wise to make a concerted effort to re-sign him. Kicker Dan Carpenter had a good year and the Bills would also like him back, but two other players are probably gone. Tight End Scott Chandler led Buffalo in receptions (53) and receiving yards (655), but the signing of Tony Moeaki makes his departure a strong possibility; he’s a free agent that the Patriots may want to consider bringing in to Foxboro for a look.

Linebacker Arthur Moats saw his playing time diminish, appearing in just 26% of buffalo’s defensive snaps, and is unlikely to return. Alex Carrington began the year as a starting defensive end, but his season ended early due to a quad tear suffered in week three. Buffalo just gave DE Alan Branch a three-year contract extension in December; that deal included a $3.1 million signing bonus. With Mario Williams locked in as the other defensive end, Buffalo will most likely not offer the 26-year old Carrington much – though for now Carrington is saying that the right things and that he is open to return. One-time Patriot Thomas Welch is also available; the seventh round pick from 2010 was Buffalo’s top backup tackle, but was on the field for just eight offensive snaps and 62 special team snaps in 2013.

 

Team Needs – RT, LG, ILB, WR, TE, S

The Bills never adequately replaced the 2013 free agency departure of LG Andre Levitre, and they need to upgrade RT Erik Pears, who was a liability. LB Kiko Alonso had a very good rookie season, but the team needs to support him with a decent player next to him. No Buffalo receiver had more 600 yards or three touchdowns; the team needs someone reliable to go along with Stevie Johnson. If both Byrd and Leonhard leave then there will be a substantial need to replenish the depth at safety, and the club will require somebody like Fred Davis to take Chandler’s spot as the second tight end.

 

Draft Picks
Round 1, Pick 9 (9)
Round 2, Pick 9 (41)
Round 3, Pick 9 (73)
Round 4, Pick 9 (105)
Round 5, Pick 9 (137)
Round 6, Pick 9 (169)
Round 7, Pick 9 (201)

Potential first round picks: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M; TE Eric Ebron, UNC; LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo; WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M; WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

 

News

While we speculate what two teams will kickoff the 2014 regular season (how about a Patriots-Broncos rematch to get things going?), we do know what the first game of the preseason will be: the Bills will play the Giants in the 2014 Hall of Fame Game in Canton on August 3rd. One benefit of playing in that game is that it allows for training camp to begin early – teams can commence camp fifteen days prior to their first game – and it also gives coaches a fifth preseason game to evaluate players. So why the Bills and Giants? Former Buffalo WR Andre Reed and former Giant DE Michael Strahan will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame August 2.

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine left Buffalo to become the latest head coach in Cleveland; the Bills then hired former Detroit Lion HC Jim Schwartz as their DC. Pettine did a good job of turning Buffalo’s defense around last year, and although the Detroit defenses seemed to underachieve under Schwartz, prior to that he did well as DC in Tennessee.

The Bills also made several other changes to their coaching staff. New additions include former Patriot Pepper Johnson as Defensive Line coach, Fred Pagac as Linebacker coach, Rob Moore (wide receivers), Jim Hostler (senior offensive assistant) and Todd Downing (quarterbacks); gone are Ike Hilliard (wide receivers), Chuck Driesbach (inside linebackers) and Anthony Weaver (defensive line). Downing’s position is a new one, as Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett doubled as the QB coach during the 2013 season; Weaver followed Pettine to Cleveland but was unlikely to be asked to return with Buffalo in 2014.

Head Coach Doug Marrone commented that more and better core special team players were needed, so don’t be surprised if the Bills are active in seeking out quality special team free agents. Marrone specifically pointed out New England special team ace Matthew Slater as a “special teams killer” as an example of what he was referring to. Marrone lauded Marcus Easley but said that he wanted to establish a core of six special team players that perform on three or four ST units at a high level. Some Buffalo fans and writers have been calling for the head of Special Teams coach Danny Crossman, but his job is safe for at least one more season. Football Outsiders ranked the Bills 30th in Special Teams DVOA this past season; there is plenty of room for improvement in this phase of the game.

 

 

Miami Dolphins

2013 Record: 8-8
Last playoff appearance: 2008
Estimated current cap space: $35,181,273

Key Free Agents

A year ago the Dolphins made a splash in free agency and many nominated them as winners of the April Super Bowl, but now they are paying for that short range planning. Both defensive tackles, Randy Starks and Paul Soliai, are free agents, as are S Chris Clemons, CB Nolan Carroll and TE Dustin Keller. On the offensive line LG Richie Incognito, RG John Jerry, LT Bryant McKinnie, and RT Tyson Clabo are all free agents – and T Jonathan Martin won’t be back. CB Brent Grimes figured to be a relatively big name in free agency, but he was just re-signed to a four-year, $32 million deal that includes $16 million guaranteed.

 

Team Needs – LT, RT, G, DT, CB, S, TE, RB

The entire offensive line needs to be rebuilt, so I would expect the Dolphins to focus on this area early in free agency; Ryan Tannehill led the league with 58 sacks and that much of a beating was showing by the end of the season. Kansas City’s LT Brandon Albert will likely be Miami’s top free agent target, and they should go with another tackle with their first round pick.

 

Draft Picks
Round 1, Pick 19
Round 2, Pick 18 (50)
Round 3, Pick 17 (81)
Round 4, Pick 16 (112)
Round 5, Pick 15 (143)
Round 6, Pick 14 (174)
Round 7, Pick 19 (211)

Potential first round picks: OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame; OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan; OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama

 

News

Rumors are floating that Miami is open to trading many of their starters, including WR Mike Wallace, DE Cameron Wake, and DL Dion Jordan. This could be real, given the large number of holes that need to be filled – or it could just be a smokescreen sending a message to the players in wake of the Incognito-Martin scandal?

Ravens South? The Dolphins are also rumored to be interested in FB Vonta Leach and LT Eugene Monroe, both of whom played for Baltimore last year; Monroe will be a free agent when the new league year begins, and Leach is available now after being released in a cap-saving move on February 27.

The Dolphins could also have positions to fill at cornerback, despite the extension of Grimes. Dmitri Patterson is slated to make $5.4 million in 2014, but he is not worth anything close to that much money. Nolan Carroll is an unrestricted free agent; that would leave second-year players Jamar Taylor and Will Davis at the position. Second round pick Taylor was on the field for just 45 defensive snaps (in part due to falling behind while recovering from hernia surgery last May), while Davis rode the bench reportedly due to failure to learn the playbook and understand his assignments. Considering their situation at corner, it’s no surprise that Miami opened up the bank vault to retain Grimes. Taylor and Davis both had medical red flags coming out of college; with Head Coach Joe Philbin (and most everyone else) an a short leash this year, new General Manager Dennis Hickey is unlikely to go after any similar players early in this draft.

Aside from Taylor and Davis, their are a few other recent draft picks that need to step up. Miami traded up to select DE Dion Jordan third overall last year, but for now he is stuck on the depth chart behind Olivier Vernon opposite Cameron Wake. Supposedly the defensive staff is saying (anonymously, of course) that Jordan needs to bulk up and shore up his pass-rush moves, and are concerned that he is a ‘tweener with no home in their defensive scheme. TE Dion Sims (4th round, 2013) earned a fair amount of playing time (265 offensive snaps), but accumulated just six receptions for 32 yards on the season. OL Dallas Thomas (3rd round, 2013) could not get on the field at all (just two snaps) despite all the opportunity to do so with the turnover on the offensive line.

The Fins ran for just 90 yards a game (26th in the NFL), although they did average 4.1 yards per carry. While some are calling for the club to go after a running back to upgrade the tandem of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, I can’t help but believe that the primary issue was the constant turnover of the offensive line. While neither will ever ba an All Pro, they’re not horrible – and their are more glaring needs. To me their biggest deficiency is not their ability to gain yards – it’s their liability in pass protection.

Owner Stephen Ross was very impressed by the presentation given by the Nick Caserio for that GM position six weeks ago, but the Patriots’ director of player personnel wanted to be given the authority to overhaul the organization from the ground up, including the coach. Ross not only did not want to hand over that decision to Caserio, he also reportedly likes Philbin’s intelligence and how he handled the Incognito-Martin locker room fallout. While some around the country blame Philbin for not having closer tabs on the situation, Ross has remained loyal to his coach. Still, after last year’s expectations, I have to think that if Miami does not make the playoffs this year – or at least equal last year’s record – then Philbin will be let go after the season.

 

 

New York Jets

 

2013 Record: 8-8
Last playoff appearance: 2010
Estimated current cap space: $23,608,558

Key Free Agents

The Jets don’t have a lot of free agents to be concerned with re-signing other than right tackle Austin Howard. Beyond that the most notable are guards Willie Colon and Vladimir Ducasse, tight end Kellen Winslow, and linebacker Calvin Pace, who will turn 34 this season; all should be be able to be easily replaced in terms of productivity at this point in their careers. The club used the franchise tag on kicker Nick Folk.

 

Team Needs – WR1, WR2, RG, CB, OLB, TE

Santonio Holmes just turned 30 and has missed more games than he has played over the last two years; he won’t see the $1,000,000 roster bonus that is due March 13. Holmes represents a $10,750,000 cap number and his imminent release will result in a cap savings of $8,250,000 for the Jets. Stephen Hill had just 11 catches for 109 yards, with no touchdowns after week three. One New York paper reported recently that the Jets were skeptical that Hill – who had six drops with just 24 receptions in 2013 – would ever become a reliable piece of the puzzle.

At running back the Jets currently have Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory, so at minimum the addition of another RB for depth purposes is in order. The problem is that they have more vital needs elsewhere, making this a lower priority. TE Kellen Winslow didn’t produce much on the field, and after finding his name in the news for the wrong reasons twice already in 2014, his NFL career is probably finished; there’s not much demand for a guy with bum knees facing charges for synthetic marijuana and also for pleasuring himself in public, who is on the wrong side of 30.

 

Draft Picks
Round 1, Pick 18
Round 2, Pick 17 (49)
Round 3, Pick 5 (69) – from Tampa Bay in Darrelle Revis trade
Round 3, Pick 16 (80)
Round 4, Pick 15 (111)
Round 5, Pick 14 (142)
Round 6, Pick 19 (179)
Round 7, Pick 18 (210)

Potential first round picks: WR Marquise Lee, WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M; WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State; OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA; TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina

 

News

The Jets met with representatives of Mark Sanchez during the combine, though I have no idea why either side bothered to do so. Sanchez is due a $2 million bonus if he is still on the roster March 25, and has a $9 million base salary this year – and a $13.1 million cap figure. It’s a foregone conclusion that he will be released once the new league year gets under way, much to the chagrin of Patriot fans who were looking forward to Butt Fumble: The Sequel this autumn… While rumors abound that Darrelle Revis may be traded, one place Jet fans certainly don’t want to see him go to is to the Patriots. Watching him face the anemic Jet offense twice a year would be cruel punishment, and a weekly reminder of how their team was unable to get over the hump – while their arch rivals continue to remain competitive year in and year out.

With Sanchez not returning, the Jets will be in need of a veteran quarterback to be ready to take over if or when Geno Smith falters. The name most often mentioned is Michael Vick, and that would make sense given Woody Johnson‘s perpetual desire to keep the team in the local headlines. Josh McCown would make more sense, but being a steady and consistent player could upset the team chemistry.

Another player that could be let go in a salary dump is Antonio Cromartie. The cornerback has a $14,980,000 cap figure in 2014, and his release would save the Jets $9,500,000 in cap space. Although the club is in a decent cap situation right now – they have in excess of $23 million available – they do have major holes to fill, and as mentioned above, an owner who loves to see his team mentioned above the fold in the local tabloids. That makes re-signing Austin Howard a relatively easy task, with plenty of money left over to pursue wide receiver(s) such as Eric Decker, James Jones, Emmanuel Sanders and Hakeem Nicks. Don’t be surprised if they have their eyes on free agents from Foxboro; that type of signing strengthens their team, weakens a division opponent – and for old times sake, sticks it to their hated rival. Specifically, WR Julian Edelman could be targeted, as well as CB Aqib Talib – especially if Cromartie is released.

One last piece of news to note; this from Rich Cimini in regards to former Jet Bart Scott being hired as an analyst for the CBS pregame show on Sundays, NFL Today.

Scott is smart, opinionated and loves to yap, so he has all the qualifications for the job. He was an interesting guy to cover. He was entertaining, no doubt, filling our notebooks with terrific quotes, but there were times when he wasn’t pleasant to be around. He was condescending to some reporters, combative at times. He was fined $10,000 by the team for flipping off a news photographer in the locker room, tried to organize an anti-media boycott among teammates (most of whom didn’t listen) and nearly came to blows with a blogger.

After antagonizing the media at times, Scott is one of them. Ironic, huh?

 

 

 

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2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

 

 

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2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

With free agency and the draft on the horizon after the NFL’s final game of the season, here is a preliminary look at the 2014 calendar for the Patriots and the NFL. Hopefully some of you will find this to be a handy piece of reference over the course of the year. Dates with an ~ elliptical are best guesses based on recent history, while the rest of the dates should be accurate. Updates will be made periodically throughout the year as more information becomes available. Times designated are eastern time zone unless noted otherwise.

 

Jan 4-5: Wild Card Playoff Games

Jan 5: Assistant coaches that are under contract to playoff clubs that have byes in the Wild Card weekend may be interviewed for head coaching positions through the conclusion of the Wild Card games.

Jan 11-12: Division Round Playoff Games

Jan 12: Assistant coaches that are under contract to playoff clubs that won their Wild Card games may be interviewed for head coaching positions through the conclusion of Division Round Playoff games.

Jan 18: East-West Shrine Game, St. Petersburg FL

Jan 19: Conference Championship Games

Jan 25: Senior Bowl, Mobile AL

Jan 25: An assistant coach whose team is participating in the Super Bowl, who has previously interviewed for another club’s head coaching job, may have a second interview with such club no later than the Sunday preceding the Super Bowl.

 

Feb 2: Super Bowl 48, East Rutherford NJ; 6:30 pm on CBS

Feb 3: Waiver system begins for 2014. A 24-hour claiming period will be in effect through the Friday prior to the last regular season game (waivers requests made on Friday and Saturday of each week will expire at 4:00 p.m. on the following Monday.) Players with at least four previous pension-credited seasons whom a club desires to terminate are not subject to the waiver system until after the trading deadline.

Feb 8-9: Regional Combine, Houston TX

~ Feb 15 – March 1: Existing season ticket holders invoiced for 2014 season tickets, with full payment due around March 31

Feb 15-16: Regional Combine, Florham Pak NJ

Feb 17: First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

Feb 19-25: NFL Combine, Indianapolis IN

Feb 22: Regional Combine, Los Angeles CA

Feb 28: League announces official salary cap figures for 2014. This will include each team’s individual adjusted cap number, and how much was carried forward from the previous season.
edit: NFL announces that the 2014 cap will be $133 million per club, a $10 million increase over 2013.
edit 2: Per Miguel at PatsCap.com, the Patriots adjusted cap number for 2014 will be $139,184,450; that leaves the Pats with $15,024,469 in cap space with 65 signed or tendered players at this point in time.

 

March 1-April 2: Colleges hold their Pro Days for NFL scouts.

March 1: Regional Combine, Tampa FL

March 1: Teams are no longer required to grant permission to another team to discuss the position of head coach with an assistant coach.

March 3: Prior to 4:00 p.m., deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

March 8-9: Regional Combine, Atlanta GA

March 8-11: Free Agent Contact Commences
Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2013 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. on March 11. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m. on March 11.

March 11: Start of the 2014 League Year
The 2014 League Year and Free Agency period begin at 4:00 p.m. The first day of the 2014 League Year will end at 11:59:59 p.m. on March 11. Clubs will receive a Personnel Notice that will include all transactions submitted to the league office during the period between 4:00 p.m., New York time, and 11:59:59 p.m., on March 11.

March 11: Prior to 4:00 p.m. clubs must exercise options for 2014 on all players who have option clauses in their 2013 contracts.

March 11: Prior to 4:00 p.m. clubs must submit Qualifying Offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.

March 11: Prior to 4:00 p.m. clubs must submit a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2013 contracts and who have fewer than three Accrued Seasons of free agency credit.

March 11: Top-51 Rule begins. All clubs must be under the 2014 Salary Cap prior by 4:00 p.m.

March 11: All 2013 player contracts will expire at 4:00 p.m.

March 11: Trading period for 2014 begins at 4:00 p.m., after expiration of all 2013 contracts.

March 15: Regional Combine, Chicago IL

March 22: Regional Combine, Miami FL

March 22-23: Regional Combine, Seattle WA

March 23-26: Annual NFL Owners Meeting, Orlando FL

March 24: Compensatory Draft Picks Announced

March 24: With compensatory picks announced, the full order of all draft picks will be finalized and announced.

edit: Patriots receive a 4th-round compensatory pick, the 49th pick of the 4th round and 140th pick overall

Pats’ current draft picks:
1.29.29 (1st round, 29th of round, 29th overall)
2.30.62 (2nd round, 30th of round, 62nd overall)
3.29.93
4.30.130
4.40.140 (compensatory selection; cannot be traded)
6.22.198 (from Philadelphia in Isaac Sopoaga trade)
6.30.206
7.29.244

5.29.169 dealt away to Philadelphia in Isaac Sopoaga trade

March 29-30: Regional Combine, Indianapolis IN

March 29-30: Regional Combine, Baltimore MD

 

April 2: Patriots Hall of Fame Nomination Committee meets to select three finalists for this year’s fan election process.

April 2: Draft Day movie special screening for season ticket holders, at Showcase Cinema De Lux at Patriot Place. Doors open at 5:00 PM; Nate Solder and Scott Zolak to speak at 6:00, with movie starting at 6:30.

April 5: Patriots‘ Cheerleader Tryouts, Dana Farber Field House at Gillette Stadium, 10:00 am

April 7: Clubs with new head coaches may begin off-season workout programs

April 7-21: Per the CBA this is Phase One of off-season workout programs, and can last for two weeks.
- It is limited to just strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation.
- Only strength and conditioning coaches may be present; other coaches may not attend or observe in any way.
- Footballs cannot be used, with the exception of quarterbacks throwing to uncovered receivers, and no helmets may be worn.
- First day clubs with new head coaches can begin Phase One is April 7.
- First day clubs with returning head coaches can begin Phase One is April 21.

April 9: NFL preseason schedule announced
- Preseason nationally televised games are announced with exact date and time.
- All other games are announced by week, with exact date and time released about a week later.

April 12-13: Super Regional Combine, Detroit MI

April 13: 2014 Patriots NFL Draft Preview Party; Noon-4 PM, Putnam Club West, Gillette Stadium. Free event for season ticket holders, waiting list members and guests. Hosted by espnBoston; panel includes Trey Wingo, Mike Reiss, Field Yates, Trevor Matich, Tedy Bruschi and special guest Chandler Jones.

April 15: Patriots announce three finalists for the team’s Hall of Fame; fan voting commences, concluding on May 15. The winner will be announced about a week later and the induction ceremony will likely be held the day prior to the first preseason game, with a halftime ceremony at the home opener.

April 17: Exact date and times for remaining NFL preseason games released.

April 19: Final auditions for Patriots‘ cheerleader tryouts

April 21: Clubs with returning head coaches may begin off-season workout programs

April 21: Pats voluntary off-season strength and conditioning program begins, lasting two weeks; the entire off-season program concludes June 19.

April 21-May 26: Phase Two of off-season workout programs begins, which can last three weeks.
- All coaches are now permitted on the field.
- Workouts may include individual player instructions and drills, with offense or defense only, but no offense and defense at the same time.
- Phase two includes on-field workouts, drills, and team practice conducted on a “separate” basis.
- Special-teams drills may also be conducted without opposing units on the field at the same time.
- There can be no live contact and no one-on-one competition, and no bump-and-run coverage of receivers by defensive backs.
- Helmets are still not permitted.
- First day clubs with new coaches can begin is April 21; May 5 for clubs with returning coaches.

~ April 22: NFL regular season schedule announced, 8:00 PM (NFLN and ESPN)

 

May 2: Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign Offer Sheets.

May 7: Deadline for old clubs to match offer sheets submitted by Restricted Free Agents

May 8-10: 2014 NFL Draft, New York City NY

May 8: First round of the NFL Draft, New York City, 8:00 PM (NFLN and ESPN)

May 9: Second and third round of the NFL Draft, 7:00 PM (NFLN and ESPN)

May 10: Rounds 4-7 of the NFL Draft, 12 Noon (NFLN and ESPN)

May 10: Teams can sign undrafted free agents (UDFA) as soon as the draft is concluded

~ May 13-15: Pats rookie mini-camp

May 15: Fan voting for the team Hall of Fame concludes

~ May 19: Except for a three day minicamp that may be held within 15 days of the draft (above), this is the first day that players eligible for the 2013 Draft are permitted to participate in minicamps or meetings. If final examinations at a player’s school conclude after this date, the player is prohibited from participating in any activities until after the player’s final day of examinations. If the player has left or leaves school, he is prohibited from participating in any club activities until after the final day of examinations at his school.

May 19-21: NFL Spring League Meeting, Atlanta GA

May 20-21: Location of future Super Bowl(s) announced

May 20: Clubs with new head coaches may begin OTAs

May 20-June 19: Phase Three of off-season workout programs, the Organized Team Activities or OTAs begins, which can last four weeks.
- A total of 10 days of Organized Team Activities may be conducted.
- A maximum of three OTA days may be conducted per week during the first two weeks of Phase Three, and four OTA days may be conducted in the third or fourth week, with the mandatory minicamp scheduled for the other week.
- In weeks with three OTA days, a Phase Two day may be conducted on the fourth day.
- Helmets may be worn, but no other pads.
- No live contact is permitted.
- No one-on-one offense vs. defense drills are permitted.
- Special teams drills are permitted, provided no live contact occurs.
- 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permissible.
- Participation is not mandatory.
- OTAs are closed to the public; media access is limited.
- First day clubs with new coaches can begin is May 20; May 27 for clubs with returning coaches.

Teams may have up to a maximum of ten Organized Team Activities (Phase 3 of off-season workout programs).

~ May 22: Result from fan voting for Patriots Hall of Fame announced

May 27: Clubs with returning head coaches may begin OTAs

May 27: Patriots‘ first OTA

May 29: Pats OTA #2

May 30: Pats OTA #3

 

June 1: A three day waiver claiming period goes into effect, and continues until the last business day before July 4

June 2: Deadline for Prior Club to send “June 1 Tender” to its unsigned Unrestricted Free Agents. If the player has not signed a Player Contract with a Club by July 22 or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later, he may negotiate or sign a Player Contract from that date until the Tuesday following the 10th weekend of the regular season, at 4:00 p.m., only with his Prior Club.

June 2: Deadline for Prior Club to send “June 1 Tender” to its unsigned Restricted Free Agents who received a Qualifying Offer for a Right of First Refusal Only in order for such player to be subject to the CBA’s “June 15 Tender” provision.

June 2: Pats OTA #4

June 3: Pats OTA #5

June 5: Pats OTA #6

June 9: Pats OTA #7

June 10: Pats OTA #8

June 10: First day that NFL clubs with a new head coach can hold mandatory minicamp
This cannot exceed three days, and is also known as Phase Four of off-season workout programs

June 12: Pats OTA #9

June 13: Pats OTA #10

June 16: Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to accept a qualifying offer

June 16: Deadline for a club to withdraw a qualifying offer to restricted free agents and still retain exclusive negotiating rights by submitting a June 15 Tender: a one-year deal at 110 percent of the player’s prior-year salary (with all other terms of his prior-year contract carried forward unchanged).

June 17: First day that NFL clubs with a returning head coach can hold mandatory minicamp.
This cannot exceed three days, and is also known as Phase Four of off-season workout programs.

June 17-19: Patriots full squad mandatory mini-camp.

June 22-28: NFL rookie symposium, Aurora OH

 

Mon July 7: A 24 hour waiver claiming period goes in to effect from the first business day after July 4, continuing until the Friday prior to the final regular season weekend.

July 8-20: Clubs are allowed to open preseason training camp for rookies and first-year players beginning seven days prior to the club’s earliest permissible mandatory reporting date for veterans.

Veteran players (defined as a player with at least one pension-credited season) other than quarterbacks or “injured players” (as defined in the CBA) may report to a club’s preseason training camp no earlier than 15 days prior to the club’s first scheduled preseason game or July 15, whichever is later.

Veteran quarterbacks and injured players may be required to report to the club’s preseason training camp no earlier than five days immediately prior to the mandatory reporting date for all other veteran players, provided the club has already opened (or simultaneously opens) its official preseason training camp for all rookies and first year players.

A three-day acclimation period will apply to players who are on a club’s roster up to and including the mandatory veteran reporting date. Players who join the roster after that date may practice (including wearing pads) and play immediately after passing a physical.

~ Thur July 10: NFL Supplemental Draft

~ Mon July 14: Patriots put single game tickets on sale, 10:00 AM

Tue July 15: Deadline for any club that designated a Franchise Player to sign that player to a multi-year contract or extension. After this date, the player can not be signed beyond that team’s last regular season game.

Wed July 16: Patriots rookies report to training camp in Foxboro. Teams are permitted to open preseason training camp for rookies and first-year players no earlier than 22 days prior to the club’s first preseason game.

~ July 16-18: Patriots send tickets out to season ticket holders.

Wed July 23*: End of signing period for Unrestricted Free Agents who received June 1 tender from their prior club; the old club now has exclusive negotiating rights to these players until the Tuesday after the 10th regular-season weekend.
* Note: July 23 or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later.

Wed July 23*: End of signing period for Transition Players with outstanding tenders. After this date and until the Tuesday following the 10th weekend of the regular season, the prior club has exclusive negotiating rights.
* Note: July 23 or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later.

Wed July 23: Patriots veterans report to training camp (teams can begin training camp 15 days prior to first preseason game); limited media availability, and closed to public.

~ Fri July 25: Training camp practice, 9:00-11:30 AM (open to public)

~ Sat July 26: Training camp practice, 9:00-11:30 AM (open to public)

~ Sun July 27: Training camp practice, 9:00-11:30 AM (open to public)

~ Mon July 28: Annual ticketed (free) in-stadium practice for season ticket holders and residents of Foxboro; 6:30-9:00 PM.

 

Sat Aug 2: NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Canton OH, 7:00 PM (NFLN); 2014 inductees are Ray Guy, Derrick Brooks, Walter Jones, Aeneas Williams, Claude Humphrey, Michael Strahan and Andre Reed.

Sun Aug 3: Hall of Fame Game (first preseason game, Bills vs Giants), Canton OH, 8:00 PM (NBC)

Tue Aug 5: Deadline for players under contract to report to their clubs to earn an accrued season.

Tue Aug 5: Deadline for teams to trade rights for unsigned drafted rookies.
If a drafted rookie has not signed with his club by this date, he cannot be traded to any other club in 2014, and may sign a player contract only with the drafting club until the day of the draft in the 2015 League Year.

Aug 6-11: NFL preseason week one

Thurs Aug 7: New England Patriots at Washington, 7:30 (WBZ, et al)

Aug 13-18: NFL preseason week two

Fri Aug 15: Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots, 7:30 (WBZ, et al)

Aug 20-25: NFL preseason week three

Fri Aug 22: Carolina Panthers at New England Patriots, 7:30 (WBZ, et al)

Tues Aug 26: Roster cutdown: clubs must reduce their rosters to a maximum of 75 players on the Active List by 4:00 PM.

Wed Aug 27: All tryouts on this date and for the remainder of the season must be reported to the league.

Thur Aug 28: NFL preseason week four

Thurs Aug 28: New England Patriots at New York Giants, 7:30 (WBZ, et al)

Sat Aug 30: Roster cutdown: clubs must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players on the Active/Inactive List by 6:00 PM.

Sat Aug 30: Teams with players in the categories of Active/Physically Unable to Perform or Active/Non-Football Injury or Illness must select one of the following options:
- (a) place player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness, whichever is applicable;
- (b) request waivers;
- (c) terminate contract;
- (d) trade contract; or
- (e) continue to count the player on the Active List, as of 6:00 PM.

Sun Aug 31: Final day of preseason training camp for all clubs.

Sun Aug 31: Claiming period for players placed on waivers at the final roster reduction expires, 12 noon.

Sun Aug 31: Teams may establish a practice squad of eight players by signing free agents who do not have an accrued season of free agency credit or who were on the 46-player active list for less than nine regular-season games; a player cannot be on a practice squad for more than three seasons; 12 noon.

 

Tue Sept 2: Teams are now permitted to place one player on reserve/injured as “designated for return”, 4:00 PM.

Wed Sept 3: Deadline for all NFL player contracts, practice player contracts, tender offers and miscellaneous amounts to fit within each club’s 2014 salary cap in anticipation of the midnight expiration of the Top 51 Rule.

Thur Sept 4: Top 51 Rule expires for all teams at 12:00 AM (midnight Wednesday night/Thursday morning); full salary cap is now enforced.

Thur Sept 4: First regular season game of NFL season; 8:30 PM (NBC)

Sun Sept 7: Week 1 of the 2014 NFL regular season

Sun Sept 14: Week 2

Sun Sept 21: Week 3

Sun Sept 28: Week 4

 

Sun Oct 5: Week 5

Sun Oct 12: Week 6

Sun Oct 19: Week 7

Sun Oct 26: Week 8

 

Sun Nov 2: Week 9

Sun Nov 9: Week 10

Sun Nov 16: Week 11

Sun Nov 23: Week 12

Thur Nov 27: Thanksgiving day games, commemorating the second anniversary of the Butt-Fumble

Sun Nov 30: Week 13

 

Sun Dec 7: Week 14

Sun Dec 14: Week 15

Sun Dec 21: Week 16

Sun Dec 28: Week 17

 

Sat-Sun Jan 3-4, 2015: Wild Card Round of Playoffs

Sat-Sun Jan 10-11, 2015: Division Round of Playoffs

Sun Jan 18, 2015: NFC Championship Game, 3:00 PM (FOX)

Sun Jan 18, 2015: AFC Championship Game, 6:30 PM (CBS)

Sun Jan 25, 2015: Pro Bowl, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale AZ, 8:00 PM (ESPN)

 

Sun Feb 1, 2015: Super Bowl 49, Glendale AZ, 6:30 PM (NBC)

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

 

 

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This and That (Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead)

With a bit of the flu this week, I’m very fortunate to have Zeus bail me out with today’s entry; enjoy!

Go Pats!

 

This and That (Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead)

 

1. The Final Four – There’s a pretty broad consensus that The Tournament has come down to the four best teams in football. This weekend’s matchups have the league, the networks, the idiot press and fans alike salivating. With New England-Denver up first, I anticipate 3½ hours of heart palpitations, fainting spells, gastrointestinal distress, priapism, near death experiences and the full spectrum of emotions (angst, rage, dread, mortal terror, ecstasy, confusion, disorientation, fear and loathing, revulsion, bewilderment, joy etc.). I am planning to watch the second game, but only if I survive and have sufficient faculties intact to maintain a minimal degree of sentience.


The Broncos are favored by as many as six points over the Patriots Sunday, depending on where you shop.

 

2. This week’s trivia question:

What do Mrs. Dion Phaneuf, Archie Manning and Eli Manning have in common? (Answer below)

 

3. The Rivalry – Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are The Rivalry that has defined the National Football League in the new millennium. Their annual showdown is routinely the most anticipated game of the year, with this bonus rematch having a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Ostensibly, the game is all about Manning, if only because Peyton is The Black Hole of Media Attention whose unique gravitational field literally sucks away awareness of everything else in close proximity. A hint for those who do not wish to be distracted by this circus: in the NFL playoffs, the more physical team usually wins. That will more likely be the difference for whichever team is the victor.

 

4. Good vs. Evil – Manning, the pizza pitching, Bud Light slugging every-man (see below), is the darling of the press, while Brady is vilified as a spoiled whiner who is the favorite of the league’s crack officiating staff. There is considerable irony in this comparison. Manning was born to football royalty, the undisputed linchpin of the Tennessee football program, the eventual #1 pick in the NFL draft and the putative savior of the Colts. Brady’s route to stardom was more circuitous – an unremarkable middle class upbringing, the victim of inexplicably poor coaching and personnel management at Michigan, drafted in the 6th round by a mediocre team that had just signed its franchise quarterback to a huge contract. That Manning’s opportunity was clear from the outset while Brady had to scratch and claw to even be noticed gets scant consideration. Why all the hate for Brady? Perhaps it’s his marriage to a supermodel and the resulting jet set lifestyle that fuels the resentment. Brady clearly adores his wife, but he does bear the burden of her propensity to dress him in the fashion of the day, something that is admittedly difficult for sportswriters, other players, even his biggest fans and anyone with vision correctable to 20-20 to completely fathom.

 

5. Say What? – Did Peyton’s post-game statement last week that his biggest concern was “how soon I can get a Bud Light in my mouth” strike you as staged and phony? Do you know anybody who talks like that? Of course, The National Sporting Press Peyton Manning Sycophant Marching Band ruptured themselves in gales of convulsive laughter. Now if you or I were to go to a bar this weekend and say “Hey bartender – I need a [insert name of your favorite beer here] in my mouth as soon as possible,” how long would it be before the local Animal Control Officer was summoned to the premises?

 

6. Under Pressure – Leading up to the Colts-Broncos game in Week 7, Irsay Jr. spent a good bit of time trying to get under the skin his former QB, a transparent gambit to ratchet up Manning’s blood pressure. Once Tony Dungy weighed in (“I think what [Irsay] is trying to do is have him make it such a big game he doesn’t perform well”), the cat was out of the bag. Here we had Peyton’s former owner and former coach confirming what we have all long suspected – Peyton has a Huge Case of the Yips. This week, the normally hyperbolic Sporting Press is in the process of churning out hyperbole at previously unobserved levels, with the so-called Legacy Game now a referendum on Manning’s very existence as a human being. One can well imagine that the panic stricken Broncos must be taking every possible precaution to insulate their increasingly overwrought QB from exposure to television, radio, newspapers, magazines and (most of all) the ubiquitous and omniscient Intertoob. Despite all this, there’s little question that by Sunday, Manning will be a walking time bomb, a tightly coiled bundle of nerves and tension, leaving him prone to a random embolism or explosive diarrhea or spastic seizures during the snap count (the latter a frequently observed if wholly unpleasant phenomenon routinely described by announcers as “coach-on-the-field”) or, better yet, several boneheaded interceptions.

 

7. Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead – Hard to understand the story leaked this week that the continuation of Manning’s career beyond this season hinges on an examination of his surgically repaired neck to assess its stability. If this is such a grave concern, why not examine him now rather than waiting until March? Either the neck is stable or it isn’t, and there’s nothing that’s going to happen in the next three weeks that is going to make the situation any better. The timing of the story is curious to say the least. Is Peyton looking for a trap door, an excuse to lessen the sting of another playoff gag job? Or is he secretly yearning to retire so he can while away the hours letting his kids show movies and play racquetball on his forehead?

 

8. Suicide Watch – While a loss against the Patriots Sunday night would be tough on both (the legacy of) Peyton Manning and Wes Welker, it would be crushing to CBS announcer Jim Nantz who would have little reason to go on living.

 

9. Street Fight – The genesis of the fledgling Seattle-San Francisco rivalry extends back to the Pac10 where Coaches Harbaugh and Carroll first butted heads. While they claim there is no animosity between them, it’s quite apparent to the casual observer that Harbaugh and Carroll F*****G HATE EACH OTHER.

Pete Carroll is the anti-disciplinarian coach whose goofy, laid-back sensibilities and apparent unwillingness to hold players accountable led to short, resoundingly unsuccessful gigs with the jets and Patriots. With a rare third opportunity, Carroll’s found success in Seattle, at least until the inmates finally take over the asylum, at which point, Coach Jacked and Pumped will find himself trampled by the orgiastic excesses of the PED-inhaling Seahawks.

Jim Harbaugh is an emotional wreck who seems perpetually on the verge of a cerebral hemorrhage over delay of game or marginal encroachment penalties. By all appearances, Harbaugh’s interest in officiating transcends his desire to actually coach the game. Since his wife abhors his cheap khaki-chic wardrobe, perhaps a striped shirt and a whistle would be more appropriate, although it won’t be long before it’s strait-jacket required for Coach Harbaugh.

Expect this game to be a street fight, where two of the league’s most physical teams attempt to pound each other into submission in what should be a barbaric spectacle of utter mayhem. If this game were not being televised around the world, most of the players/perpetrators would be subject to criminal prosecution because this kind of behavior is almost always considered highly illegal, for good reason.

 

10. Trivia answer:

They all share the same first name:

Elisha Cuthbert (actress, married to Phaneuf)
Elisha Archibald Manning III (retired NFL QB, career record 35-101-3, 125 TDs, 173 Ints)
Elisha Nelson Manning (intercepted)

 

11. I can honestly say that I have done my level best not to get too worked up about this weekend. This of course is an utterly futile undertaking. But the 2013 New England Patriots are playing with the house’s money, so I believe that I will be able to accept the outcome, whatever it is, with grace and equanimity. Unless they lose. In which case, I’ll probably go out of my mind and will in all likelihood be unable to sleep or eat until at least St. Patrick’s Day.

I do have have two sincere wishes for Sunday: 1) that you all get to watch and enjoy the game with people you care about; and 2) that my 25 year old son who will be at Mile High with his girlfriend’s family, returns home more or less intact.

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2013-14 Calendar: Key Dates for the Patriots and the NFL

2013 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

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NFL Division Round Playoff Games – Previews and Predictions

NFL Division Round Playoff Games – Previews and Predictions

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
Saturday January 11 at 4:30 pm ET on FOX
Announcers: Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch

Yes, the Saints did win a game against a quality opponent on the road last week. However, the Eagle defense and Seattle defense are polar opposites; the Seahawks led the NFL in points (14.4), yards (274), passing yards (172), yards per pass attempt (5.8), passer rating (63.4), takeaways (39), interceptions (28) and turnover differential (plus-20). Seattle is rested and healthy, and after losing at home three weeks ago they will be mentally prepared and not take this game lightly – despite the fact that they beat the Saints by 27 last month.

This game should be closer than last time – Drew Brees is going to pass for more than 147 yards and 3.9 yards per attempt – but there is no way that I don’t go with the team that does so very well at home, versus the club that so often looks like a different team when they have to play on the road.

Pick • Seahawks 23, Saints 17
Saints plus 9½
Under 44
Final Score: Seahawks 23, Saints 15 … Seahawks win by 8 but Saints cover by 1½ … under by 6

 


Sincere condolences to friends and family of Sam Berns

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
Saturday January 11 at 8:15 pm ET on CBS
Announcers: Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf (in his announcing farewell)

While many worry about the New England passing game, the Indy pass defense didn’t look very special last week either. This season the Pats are 8-0 at home and 5-0 at home versus teams with a .500 record or better; Colts are 5-3 on the road and 2-3 on the road against teams with a record of .500 or better. Bill Belichick game plans every week to take away an opponent’s top offensive threat – and is usually successful in doing just that – so don’t expect T.Y. Hilton to replicate his 13 reception, 224 yard, two-touchdown performance. Once that happens, how much faith do you have in LaVon Brazill, Griff Whalen and Coby Fleener winning the game for Indy?

Pick • Patriots 27, Colts 24
Colts plus 7½
Under 51½
Final Score: Patriots 43, Colts 22 … New England wins by 21 and covers by 13½ … over by 13½

 

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
Sunday January 12 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX
Announcers: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman

Carolina at home is still getting no respect, since they weren’t very good the last couple of seasons. The Panthers will do what they have been doing all season, which is to limit the number of possessions with long drives while forcing opponents to punt – while the Niners are caught looking ahead to next week against Seattle. Fans that pine for the days of yesteryear with quality physical defenses should love this game.

Pick • Panthers 23, Niners 20
Panthers plus 1½
Over 41½
Final Score: Niners 23, Panthers 10 … San Francisco wins by 13 and covers by 11½ … under by 8½

 

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
Sunday January 12 at 4:30 pm ET on CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz and Phil Simms

Peyton Manning’s playoff performances in cold or windy weather is well documented, and the Chargers have already won in Denver this year. I just don’t know if San Diego has enough talent on their roster to win this game outright, but I do believe they will make it a competitive game. While Denver has shown at times that they are vulnerable and prone to committing multiple mistakes, they also have the offensive firepower to easily overcome those miscues.

Pick • Broncos 27, Chargers 24
Chargers plus 9½
Under 55½
Final Score: Broncos 24, Chargers 17 … Denver wins by 7 but San Diego covers by 1½ … under by 14½

 

 

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

No pick were made during the wildcard round, but there are the week 17 and regular season tallies. Oddly enough I fared much better with college games than with the NFL this year, even though I follow the pro games much more closely. The most likely reason for that is that hard as I might try not to do so, I may sometime be susceptible to letting personal rooting interest cloud my judgement, which is far less likely to occur with the NCAA games than with NFL games.

 

Tale Of The Tape

Week 17 Results

Straight Up: 13-3, 81%
Underdogs to win straight up: 0-2

Against the Spread: 8-8, 50%
ATS picking favorites: 6-4, 60% (1-0, +200)
ATS picking underdogs: 2-4, 33% (0-0, +/-0)
ATS Confidence Picks: 1-0, 100% (+200)
One Unit Plays ATS: none
Two Unit Plays ATS: 1-0, +200
Three Unit Plays ATS: none
Four Unit Plays ATS: none
Five Unit Plays ATS: none
220 risked, net +200; +90.9% ROI

Over Under Total: 8-8, 50%
Picking Over: 2-4, 33% (0-1, -220)
Picking Under: 6-4, 60% (3-0, +400)
O/U Confidence Picks: 3-1, 75% (+180)
One Unit Plays O/U: 2-0, +200
Two Unit Plays O/U: 1-1, -20
Three Unit Plays O/U: none
Four Unit Plays O/U: none
Five Unit Plays O/U: none
660 risked, net +180; +27.3% ROI

Money Line: none

Best Play of the Week: correct (Dolphins-Jets under 41½); +200

3-Game Teasers: none
3-Game Parlays: none
4-Game Parlays: none

College Games: none

Week 17 Grand Total:
4-1, 80%
880 risked
net +380
+43.2% ROI

 

Season Totals

Straight Up: 172-83-1 (67%)
Underdogs to win straight up: 24-25 (49%)

Against the Spread: 125-123-8 (50%)

ATS picking favorites: 63-60-7, 51% (27-23-1, 54%, -200)
ATS picking underdogs: 62-63-1, 50% (15-9, 63%, +570)
ATS Confidence Picks: 42-32-1, 57% (+370)
One Unit Plays ATS: 28-17-1, 62% (+920)
Two Unit Plays ATS: 11-11, 50% (-210)
Three Unit Plays ATS: 1-2, 33% (-360)
Four Unit Plays ATS: 1-2, 50% (-480)
Five Unit Plays ATS: 1-0, 100% (+500)

Over Under Total: 129-127 (50%)
Picking Over: 70-62, 53% (20-14, 59%, +700)
Picking Under: 59-65, 48% (19-16, 54%, +280)
O/U Confidence Picks: 39-30, 57% (+980)
One Unit Plays O/U: 26-19, 58% (+510)
Two Unit Plays O/U: 10-10, 50% (-200)
Three Unit Plays O/U: 2-1, 67% (+270)
Four Unit Plays O/U: 1-0, 100% (+400)
Five Unit Plays O/U: none

Money Line: 2-0-1, +860

Best Play of the Week: 13-3, 81% (+2800)

3-Game Teasers: 8-6 (+610)
3-Game Parlays: 4-7 (+1420)
4-Game Parlays: 0-1 (-110)

College Games: 50-18-1, 74%; net +5415

Season Grand Total:
174-94-3 (65%)
38,840 risked (3,000 bankroll)
net +9,545
+24.6% ROI (318% ROI of bankroll)

 

 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publisher of this website. Neither the author nor this website promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, please call 1-888-ADMIT-IT.

 

 

 

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2013-14 Calendar: Key Dates for the Patriots and the NFL

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This and That (What I Like About You)

For New Year’s Eve we have a treat: another special guest appearance from Zeus.

Best wishes for a happy new year to everyone!

 

This and That (What I Like About You)

 

1. What I like about the 2013 New England Patriots is how they have taken the coaching of Bill Belichick to heart. They have faced adversity on and off the field. And yet, they have not given in to distractions and they have never, ever made a single excuse. Instead, they study film and practice hard. They focus on what they can control and they prepare, prepare, prepare. And most remarkably, no matter which 46 players dress for the game, when they take the field, they expect to win. How this works out in the tournament is anyone’s guess. But I think the Patriots have the resolve, focus and discipline to at least have a puncher’s chance. One game at a time …

 

2. Tony Dungy may be right when he calls the Broncos the team to beat in the AFC but goes too far when he says that he can’t see anyone in the AFC beating them. St. Tony’s longstanding man-crush on Peyton Manning has blinded him to certain facts obvious to even the most casual observer, most notably that the Broncos have already lost to three of this season’s AFC playoff qualifiers (Indianapolis, New England, San Diego). So Tony, just what is it that makes them unbeatable now?

 

3. The Pressure is Building – Dungy also conveniently ignores Mr. Manning’s well-documented penchant for competing in the postseason with a large bone lodged in his trachea. Manning is attempting to become the first QB to reach the Super Bowl without throwing a single spiral pass since Joe Kapp did it in 1969. The next two weeks of ruminating about past failures, lousy weather and the sorry state of his flaccid noodle-arm will clench Manning’s sphincter so tight that his lips will pucker, rendering his visage gaunt and toothless. While this year’s record-breaking performance has cemented his legacy as a greedy, stat-obsessed glory hog who is also one of the greatest regular season QBs in pro football history, Manning will once again take the field in the playoffs wallowing in a morass of uncertainty and self-doubt.

 

4. How the West was Won – Is it a coincidence that the Broncos are the top seed in the AFC while two other teams from the same division qualified for the tournament? Thank the pathetic NFC East. The Broncos, Chief and Chargers went a combined 11-1 against their so-called opposition from the NFC.

 

5. The NFL Rule Book has gotten overly prescriptive and far too technical to expect the current crew of geriatric part-time officials to enforce all of the rules with any degree of consistency. The idea that any problem, whether it be player safety or a short-term dearth of scoring, can be addressed with yet another arcane rule change, has gotten way out of hand and the byzantine interpretation of existing rules is beyond mind-boggling. Officials, coaches and players do not have a common understanding of what constitutes pass interference. Every week, the outcome of yet another game hinges on the enforcement a some bizarre, obscure, highly technical rule that no one has ever heard of before. When you can no longer shake the feeling that rule enforcement is random, subjective and capricious, the integrity of the game is called into question.

 

6. Hall of Blame – The roots of this go back to Bill Polian’s manipulation of the Competition Committee to change the emphasis and interpretation of pass defense rules. This was done not in the best interests of the great game of professional football, but rather in Polian’s naked self-interest. There’s an especially hot corner in Football Hell for Mr. Polian whose greed and shortsightedness have irreparably damaged the game.

 

7. Billionaire Boys Club – Monday was Decision Day for the captains of industry, the high achieving, brilliant geniuses who guide the fortunes of the NFL. What a freak show:

 

  • Jim Haslam (Cleveland) and the Glazer family (Tampa) did little to dispel the notion that they are petulant, impatient trigger-happy spoiled brats who will stamp their feet and fire everyone in sight if they don’t get their way, right away.
  • The Ford family in Detroit mysteriously awakened from a catatonic stupor to find their talented football team in shambles, something that was apparent to Lion fans years ago.
  • Erectile Dysfunction Icon Woody Johnson affirmed his lifelong commitment to mediocrity.
  • Mr. Daniel Snyder added another notch to his belt, a testament to the fact that that Mr. Daniel Snyder is wholly incapable of establishing a constructive working relationship with a single sentient human being anywhere on God’s green earth.
  • And Jerry Jones – oh, brother, don’t even get me started on Jerry Jones.
  • The fact that such obvious and epic mismanagement has no discernable detrimental effect on these owners’ ability to make huge money is tangible evidence of just how much people love the game of football. It’s a great business. But life needn’t be fair, so while the coaches and players are held accountable for their transgressions, the owners can be monumental screw-ups for life and still end up rolling in cash.

 

8. Tournament Time – 256 regular season games are in the record books. Twelve teams enter the eleven game tournament to determine who gets to hold The Big Parade. It is the most compelling event in sports. The next five weeks are going to fly – I dread the end of the season almost as much as I love the tournament.

 

Here’s wishing everyone a healthy, happy and fulfilling New Year!

 

 

 

 

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2013-14 Calendar: Key Dates for the Patriots and the NFL

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