Archive for the ‘ NFL Draft ’ Category

With the 2014 NFL draft finally almost ready to commence, here is a look at the best and worst draft picks in Patriots’ franchise history. Since the whole draft exercise has changed so drastically over the years – let’s face it, the amount of preparation for the draft by professional football teams fifty years ago was nothing at all like it is now – I’ll look at the best and worst by decades.

Any list such as this one is by going to be subjective, but as a point of reference, a couple of aspects that I did consider while compiling this ranking. When a player was drafted is a major factor for both the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ groups. For example there may be cases where a late round pick like David Givens would be considered to be a better draft pick than Deion Branch because of their draft positions, even though the latter had a better career. Secondly, unforeseen injuries are taken into consideration; in some case they may keep a player completely off a list (e.g., Robert Edwards) while in other cases they may drop a player in the bust category (e.g., Andy Katzenmoyer).


Best draft picks from 1960-69

1. LB Nick Buoniconti (13.102, ’62)
Slipped way down in the draft because he was considered to be undersized, he went on to a Hall of Fame career and played in five AFL All-Star games as a Patriot.

2. RB Jim Nance (19.151, ’65)
Big Bo still hold the franchise record for rushing touchdowns; he was the AFL’s MVP in ’66 and twice led the league in rushing.

3. RT Tom Neville (7.55, ’65)
One of a select few Patriots to be named to two all-decade teams and played in 160 games for the patriots from 1965-77.

4. DE Larry Eisenhauer (6.42, ’61)
Four-time All-AFL and three time Pro Bowler was a nine-year starter for the Pats.

5. C Jon Morris (4.29, ’64)
Seven-time all-star played in 130 games and was named to the team’s Hall of Fame in 2011.

– On the bubble: RG Len St. Jean (9.68, ’64); CB/S Don Webb (24.186, ’61); LG Charley Long (8.58, ’61); TE Jim Whalen (3.23, ’65); Carl Garrett (3.58, ’69)


Worst draft picks from 1960-69

1. OT Karl Singer (1.3, ’66)
Consider this: in the same year that Singer was drafted third overall in the AFL, he was not drafted in the NFL until the 19th round. The Purdue Boilermaker started just one game before being released after three seasons.

2. DE Dennis Byrd (1.6, ’68)
Byrd was an excellent college player at North Carolina State, but he injured his knee his senior year and was never the same. Modern medicine is far more advanced now than it was then; that injury should have been a huge red flag to avoid selecting him so early. Problem was the Patriots hadn’t even read the Carolina papers; they didn’t have a clue about the injury. When Mike Holovak gathered the media around a speakerphone to call Byrd after he was selected, he asked the person who answered if they knew how to reach Byrd. The response elicited a few dropped jaws: “The hospital; he’s just had a knee operation.”

3. The entire 1966 draft
As big as a draft bust as Singer was, that choice was just the tip of the iceberg, exacerbated by a mind-boggling array of horrible selections. Jim Boudreaux (2.10) appeared in just 12 games over three seasons. DT Harold Lucas (3.19) signed with the Cardinals but deserved to be part of the early Pats folklore: he left $300,000 on the table when he walked out of summer camp and quit, upset about having to drop 20+ pounds to reach a team-mandated 280 pound weight limit. DT John Mangum (5.35) started five games in his two-year pro career, the 4th round pick was traded to the Jets, OT Dan Irby (6.43) never played a down, and Jim Battle (7.52) signed with the Browns. The Patriots selected ten of the first 102 players in that draft, and half of them never played a down in either the NFL or AFL. Of the 18 players drafted by the Patriots (the last being just 174th overall), twelve never played in either of the two leagues, only four ever played with the Patriots, and the most productive of those four was Doug Satcher, who was the starter for just one season with the Pats. The only positive was the trade of their 4th round pick to the Jets, for which they received WR Jim Colclough and two other players.

4. Sherwyn Thorson (3.22, ’62)
I’ll give the club a pass for their first couple of drafts, but by the third time around they should have figured it out a little bit. Thorson had no interest in the AFL because he could make more playing for Winnipeg in the CFL. How about a phone call, or even a letter to see if the guy you re selecting with the 22nd pick is interested? That oversight leads us to…

5. RB Tommy Mason (1.2, ’61), and others
Mason, who later married Olympic gymnast and actress Cathy Rigby, had a decent career – with the Vikings. If you have the second overall pick, shouldn’t you use it on a player you think will sign with you, rather than with the rival NFL? Similarly the Pats wasted draft picks in their formative years on WR Gary Collins (1.6, ’62), DT Jerry Rush (1.7, ’65), LB Lee Roy Jordan (2.14, ’63), LT Bob Vogel (3.23, ’63) and QB Fran Tarkenton (5.34, ’61).


Best draft picks from 1970-79

1. NT Ray Hamilton (14.342, ’73)
Played 132 games for some very good Pats teams; pretty good value for a 14th round pick.

2. G John Hannah (1.4, ’73)
Considered to be one of the best, if not the best to ever play his position in pro football history.

3. QB Steve Grogan (5.116, ’75)
When he retired Grogan held nearly every franchise passing record, and ranked in the top-25 in most NFL career statistical categories. Far exceeded expectations of a 5th-round draft pick.

4. CB Mike Haynes (1.5, ’76)
NFL Hall of Famer went to six pro Bowls as a Patriot.

5. LB Steve Nelson (2.34, ’74)
Heart and soul of the Patriots defense for 14 years.

– On the bubble: Julius Adams (2.27, ’71); Sam Cunningham (1.11, ’73); Russ Francis (1.16, ’75); Pete Brock (1.12, ’76); Tim Fox (1.21, ’76); Raymond Clayborn (1.16, ’77); Stanley Morgan (1.25, ’77);


Worst draft picks from 1970-79

1. DT Phil Olsen (1.4, ’70)
Just because your brother was a good football player, that is no reason to be drafted this early.

2. LB Mike Ballou (3.56, ’70)
Lasted just one season in the NFL.

3. WR Tom Reynolds (2.49, ’72)
Played for just one season with the Pats, catching 8 passes for 152 yards.

4. G Steve Corbett (2.30, ’74)
The BC grad was out of the NFL after one season with the Patriots.

5. P Eddie Hare (4.106, ’79)
Why draft a punter in the 4th round? Hare averaged 36.6 yards per punt his rookie season, and was out of the NFL the following year.

– On the bubble: RB Charles Davis (3.73, ’73); NT Peter Cusick (3.66, ’75); DE Jim White (3.73, ’72); CB Sidney Brown (3.82, ’77); WR Carlos Pennywell (3.77, ’78)


Best draft picks from 1980-89

1. LB Andre Tippett (2.41, ’82)
NFL Hall of Famer had 100 career sacks and went to five consecutive Pro Bowls.

2. LT Bruce Armstrong (1.23, ’87)
Appeared in six Pro Bowls; at the time only John Hannah had appeared in more as a Patriot.

3. FS Fred Marion (5.112, ’82)
A lot of value here: the 5th-round draft pick started for eight years and finished his career with 29 interceptions.

4. ILB Vincent Brown (2.43, ’88)
Played 123 games for the Pats, with 16.5 sacks and ten interceptions.

5. CB Ronnie Lippett (8.214, ’83)
Another great value pick (214th overall), Lippett had 24 interceptions during his eight years with the Pats.
– On the bubble: OLB Don Blackmon (4.102, ’81), ILB Larry McGrew (2.45, ’80), RB Tony Collins (2.47, ’81), SS Roland James (1.14, ’80), DE Brent Williams (7.192, ’86), ILB Johnny Rembert (4.101, ’83)


Worst draft picks from 1980-89

1. DT Ken Sims (1.1, ’82)
“Game Day” wasn’t quite as horrible as some make him out to be, but he never came close to living up to the hype and expectations of a player selected first overall in an NFL draft.

2. C Trevor Matich (1.28, ’85)
Matich had a 12-year NFL career – as a long snapper. Not exactly what you’re looking for from a first round pick.

3. WR Hart Lee Dykes (1.16, ’89)
“Heartless” Dykes was a lot of talk and no action; he was never the same after a fractured kneecap, and then a barroom brawl with Irving Fryar that resulted in an eye injury.

4. RB Vagas Ferguson (1.25, ’80)
After a promising rookie season (818 yards), Ferguson lost playing time to rookie Tony Collins the next season and was out of the NFL at the age of 26.

5. RB Reggie Dupard (1.26, ’86)
Reggie “One Yard” Dupard somehow managed to have a five-year career in the NFL, despite averaging just 3.2 yards per carry.

– On the bubble: NT Lester Williams (2.27, ’82); RB Robert Weathers (2.40, ’82); RT Daryl Haley (2.55, ’82); Tony Eason (1.15, ’83); WR Darryal Wilson (2.47, ’83); LB Ed Williams (2.43, ’84); NT Mike Ruth (2.42, ’86); QB Rich Gannon (4.98, ’87); CB Eric Coleman (2.43, ’89), K Teddy Garcia (4.100, ’88)


Best draft picks from 1990-99

1. RB Curtis Martin (3.74, ’95)
I place Martin this high because of the value (3rd round pick), and because his departure to the Jets is not the fault of the scouting department. Nobody in the history of the Pats comes close to his average of 84.4 rushing yards per game, and despite his short time in Foxborough he still ranks 4th all-time on the club in career rushing yards.

2. CB Ty Law (1.23, ’95)
The future Hall of Famer is tied with Raymond Clayborn on the franchise leader board with 36 interceptions, and is perhaps most remembered for 47-yard pick-six off Kurt Warner in Super Bowl 36.

3. S Lawyer Milloy (2.36, ’96)
Four Pro Bowls, 19 interceptions, and a pair of Super Bowl rings with the Pats.

4. LB Tedy Brushi (3.86, ’96)
Heart and soul of the Patriot championship defenses needs no introduction.

5. QB Drew Bledsoe (1.1, ’93)
While the others above outperformed their draft status in comparison to Bledsoe, let’s not forget that the pats could have easily ended up with Rick Mirer rather than Drew.

– On the bubble: TE Ben Coates (5.124, ’91); WR Troy Brown (8.198, ’93); RB Kevin Faulk (2.46, ’99); DE Willie McGinest (1.4, ’94); Ted Johnson (2.57, ’95); LB Chris Slade (2.31, ’93)


Worst draft picks from 1990-99

1. G Eugene Chung (1.13, ’92)
You know it’s bad when Bob Kratch replaces you in the starting lineup. While Chubg wasn’t horrible – he did start for two years – he was certainly a disappointment considering he was the 13th player drafted overall.

2. CB Chris Canty (1.29, ’97)
Canty lasted just two seasons with the Patriots, mostly returning punts and kickoffs. He was the epitome of a player who over-celebrated the most minute of triumphs, which did not exactly endear him with fans expecting much more from a first round draft pick.

3. ILB Andy Katzenmoyer (1.28, ’99)
Some would rank The Big Kat higher on a list of draft busts, but much if not all for his lack of productivity was due to a neck injury that occurred after a helmet to helmet hit with Buffalo fullback Sam Gash that led to two surgeries and his short career. The negativity towards Katz is due in equal parts to the hype (he was the first true freshman to start at Ohio State and won the Butkus Award as a sophomore), the negative publicity before being drafted (SI wrote a two-part story on the ‘dumb jock’, focusing on Katzenmoyer as their example), and the sudden retirement (he walked out and quit the NFL during his third training camp).

4. WR Kevin Lee (2.35, ’94)
Lee started two ganes in two seasons with the Pats, finishing his NFL career with eight receptions for 107 yards and no touchdowns. The very next player drafted was offensive lineman Kevin Mawae, who went on to play 241 games and was named to eight Pro Bowls.

5. DT Christian Peter (5.149, ’96)
Why draft a guy if you’re going to cut him a week later? Either somebody failed to do their homework, or communicate with the owner; either way, this was the ultimate wasted draft pick even if releasing him was the right thing to do.

– On the bubble: K Scott Sisson (5.113, ’93); DT Ervin Collier (3.78, ’94); C Joe Burch (3.90, ’94); WR Tony Simmons (2.52, ’98); QB Tommy Hodson (3.59, ’90); G Calvin Stephens (3.56, ’91); RB Chris Floyd (3.81, ’98)


Best draft picks from 2000-09

1. QB Tom Brady (6.199, ’00)
Has any NFL team ever reaped more value from a player drafted this late?

2. LT Matt Light (2.48, ’01)
Protected Tom Brady’s blind side from 2001-11, starting 153 games and being named to three Pro Bowls.

3. NT Vince Wilfork (1.21, ’04)
Five time Pro Bowler consistently commands double teams but still collapses the pocket.

4. DE Richard Seymour (1.6, ’01)
Three times named a first team All-Pro, and five time Pro Bowler in eight years with the Patriots; the defense has never been the same since he was traded away.

5. LG Logan Mankins (1.32, ’05)
Six-time Pro Bowler has started 130 games for the Pats.

– On the bubble: WR David Givens (7.253, ’02); C Dan Koppen (5.164, ’03); CB Asante Samuel (4.120, ’03); RT Sebastian Vollmer (2.58, ’09); LB Jerod Mayo (1.10, ’08); WR Deion Branch (2.65, ’02)


Worst draft picks from 2000-09

1. DT Ron Brace (2.40, ’09)
It seemed like a reach at the time – and it was. Brace missed 25 games during his four years with the Pats, and in the final two seasons registered just three tackles and five assists.

2. QB Kevin O’Connell (3.94, ’08)
At the time I did not understand drafting a quarterback so early when Brady had plenty of time left as the starter at an elite level, and I understand that decision even less today.

3. LB Shawn Crable (3.78, ’08)
IR, IR, see ya’ later. Didn’t anybody notice those tiny chicken legs of his and wonder if he had any leg strength?

4. WR Chad Jackson (2.36, ’06)
I give Jackson a bit of a pass on lists of draft busts. Although it is often cited that Greg Jennings was the next WR selected, nobody considered Jennings to be the better prospect at the time, and in addition much of Jackson’s lack of production was due to an unforeseen knee injury. Still, the fact remains that the Pats moved up 16 slots to get Jackson, and it is difficult to not consider Jennings’ career when discussing Jackson.

5. QB Rohan Davey (4.117, ’02)
You just won the Super Bowl with Tom Brady; why draft a quarterback so early? The Pats chose Davey over linebackers Larry Foote, Andra Davis and Scott Fujita, all of whom were selected shortly afterwards.

– On the bubble: CB Brock Williams (3.86, ’01); S Guss Scott (3.95, ’04); G Adrian Klemm (2.46, ’00); FB Garrett Mills (4.106, ’06); CB Terrence Wheatley (2.62, ’08); Darius Butler (2.41, ’09)



Best of all-time:
1. Tom Brady
2. Andre Tippett
3. Ray Hamilton
4. John Hannah
5. Nick Buoniconti

Worst of all-time:
1. Karl Singer
2. Eugene Chung
3. Ken Sims
4. Chris Canty
5. Trevor Matich




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2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker



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

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



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



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





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



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



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



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.



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



Jets QB Geno Smith fires agents because he wasn’t drafted 1st overall

Jets quarterback Geno Smith fires agents after sliding out of the first round of the NFL Draft | Manish Mehta | NY Daily News


Four days after Geno Smith slid out of the first round of the draft, the former West Virginia quarterback fired his agents due to his displeasure over his draft position, according to sources.

The Daily News has learned that Smith thought that he would and should be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Sources told the News that Smith’s agents from Select Sports Group gave him no assurance of his draft position.




Confidence is one thing, but this is delusional arrogance if what I am reading is correct. He wasn’t drafted in the first round because he wasn’t a first round talent. Why is his own lack of talent the fault of his agents?


The only possibility that can save Smith from this faux pas is that perhaps he is upset at the agents filling him with dreams that were never going to happen, and they came crashing down to earth this past Thursday. There is a tendency of agents telling their clients what the player wants to hear in order to sign them and retain them. Tell the client the truth and what they need to hear, and the agent runs a large risk of losing that client.


Here is the thing though: even if that is the case, isn’t it the responsibility of the player to instruct his agent to be honest with him and act in his best interests, rather than just stroking his ego? Even though these players are relatively young, they are still adults and as such they are responsible for their own actions.


I just don’t buy that excuse. If that is the case, then it is just as much on Smith as it is on the agents. Hey, all he had to do was read any of the thousands of pre-draft rankings and mock drafts that were readily available to get an idea on where he would be drafted. If he had done so, he would have known he wasn’t going to be drafted first overall.


I can envision a serious amount of lack of accountability going forward. What kind of a leader is a person going to be, when he is so quick to blame others for his own “failings” – as if being drafted 39th overall is some sort of failure?


I can only imagine how quickly and how often he will throw his teammates and coaches under the bus. The sense of entitlement may end up making Jamarcus Russell to appear to have a strong work ethic.


If this is how Geno Smith handles negativity and adversity, then what is going to happen after his first bad game? How is he going to handle the New York media? We may be in for some Ryan Leaf comparisons before all the leaves have fallen.


Way to endear yourself to your fans, your teammates, and to your fellow NFL draftees Geno. You should fit right in at the circus known as Rex’ Jests.



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Ryan Mallett trade rumors resurface, hours before draft begins

After saying that he had heard from league sources that some teams had inquired about Ryan Mallett, Nick Underhill then backed off a bit yesterday, saying CBA restrictions could make that trade difficult.

Source: CBA restrictions make Ryan Mallett trade unlikely |

But a provision in the new collective bargaining agreement that bars rookies from renegotiating their contract until after three years makes it unlikely that the first scenario will happen, according to a league source.

Prior to the 2011 CBA, if a team wanted to trade for Mallett, New England would sign him to a new contract and then ship him off in exchange for draft picks. But since it is impossible to make a sign-and-trade deal, teams have been reluctant to meet the Patriots’ asking price, which is believed to be a first- or second-round pick.

Now if the price were lower, a team may be more willing to gamble on both Mallett’s future (he’s completed one pass in a regular-season game) and its ability to retain him if he performs well, which wouldn’t be all that difficult for the acquiring team. If Mallett were for some reason unwilling to sign an extension, the team could keep him beyond 2014 as a restricted free agent and, if his performance warranted its use, the franchise tag.

But there are questions about the Patriots’ motivation to make a deal, even though their leverage will continue to evaporate as he gets close to the end of his rookie contract. If New England were to trade Mallett, who has a base salary of $642,984 in 2013, it may need to spend considerably more to obtain another backup quarterback, assuming it isn’t comfortable with Mike Kafka in that role. Having to make a corresponding move, according to the source, could be a factor in the team’s asking price.



Greg Bedard backs up Underhill’s report of interest in Mallett:

QB Ryan Mallett in play for trade – Extra Points –

Multiple teams have called the Patriots this week about a potential trade for backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, according to three league sources.

Whether the Patriots will trade the 2011 third-round pick is the question. But all three sources said the odds are slightly stronger that Mallett is dealt than kept by the Patriots.

The Patriots have been heavily scouting quarterbacks in the leadup to the draft, and could very well select one during the draft.

The Patriots would like more than a third-round pick after developing Mallett for two years. It’s likely a second this season or a first in ’14 would close the deal.

The potential trading partners aren’t yet known, but the Browns have long been favorites to land Mallett. Not only did Browns general manager Mike Lombardi gush about the trade on NFL Network, but behind the scenes, Lombardi pushed Bill Belichick to take Mallett.



In the last few minutes Jeff Howe is reporting that the “Browns have called again about Ryan Mallett. The Patriots want at least a second-round pick in return., and Underhill now says that a “source says the Browns “really want Ryan. We’ll see.”



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Should the Browns have traded for Mallett, rather than drafting Weeden?

Recently I was discussing with another fan what the Patriots could reasonably expect to get in return if they were to trade backup QB Brian Hoyer, who will be an unrestricted free agent next spring. This person was of the opinion that rather than trading Hoyer the Pats should attempt to move Ryan Mallett. His view was that Mallett was more desirable and would therefore get more in return; in fact, he thought that the Patriots could get a first round draft pick for Mallett.


In two years at Arkansas Ryan Mallett threw for 7,493 yards and 62 touchdowns

My initial reaction was that a first was preposterous, and that he was allowing his fandom to over rate the player on the team that he roots for. My response was to compare quarterbacks just drafted. Would teams rate him as highly as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, or Ryan Tannehill?


Then I thought about the fourth quarterback selected in the first round this past April, Brandon Weeden.


Mallett and Weeden both put up gaudy numbers in college. Both have strong arms, though I would give the nod to Mallett in that category. Both were aided by playing under shotgun, but Mallett has a one-year head start on working on that. Both come out of college needing to work on their footwork, and again Mallett has had a year that Weeden has not had to work on that. Weeden at times would lock onto and stare down his primary receiver. Mallett had a better inner clock, was adept at reading coverages, and was very good with a play action pass.


The only thing separating the two was intangibles; Mallett had an arrest for public intoxication which mushroomed into allegedly having major character concerns, but he has been a model citizen in his year with the Patriots. Weeden on the other hand is portrayed as being a mature leader, much of which is based on his being 29 years old this year.


To me it is a tossup projecting which one of these two will have a better NFL career, but the bottom line is that most would agree that Mallett possesses better physical tools than Weeden does. The biggest knock on him was his character but he has been a model citizen. Is it reasonable to expect every NFL player to have gone through college without ever having a few beers or smoking some weed at some point in time before graduation?


If a first round pick for Mallett would have been too much, what if the Patriots sweetened the deal for Cleveland? The Pats traded their third round pick, #93 overall to move up to #21 to select Chandler Jones. The Patriots could have conceivably traded Mallett and that #93 selection to the Browns for their #22 pick, and still could have landed the player they wanted. If that is too much they could have packaged Mallett with a 4th round pick, #126 overall, which is what they ended up doing to trade up from #31 to #25 to select Donta’ Hightower.


I’ll be interested in comparing how the careers of Mallett and Weeden progress over the next few years. I can’t help but wonder if it would have been a win-win for both teams: the Browns could have ended up with a better quarterback, while the Patriots could have added one more blue chip prospect to their roster.





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Day 3 possibilities for the Patriots; an offensive player?

While Trayvon Martin Tavon Wilson seems to be the topic du jour, as an alternative here’s a look ahead to some draft prospects for the New England Patriots on Day Three of the 2012 NFL Draft.



With only one 2012 draft pick remaining in their arsenal the Pats don’t have much to work with. While it is possible they could couple a 2013 pick to try and move up, the chance of that seem remote – which means fans will likely sit and watch 67 names be called before the team gets an opportunity to draft one more player.


That means the top remaining prospects such as CB Brandin Boykin and DE Jared Crick will be long gone. Here’s a position-by-position look at some of the top available players.


Dan Koppen was re-signed but is near the end of his career. The Pats may look to groom a replacement for him and let Dan Connolly slide over as Brian Waters‘ replacement in 2013. Ben Jones (Georgia) and Philip Blake (Baylor) won’t last this long, but the Pats might consider 6-4 315 lb Mike Brewster of Ohio State.


Five guards were drafted in the first two days but there are still about a dozen more guards available that were projected to be drafted. If the Pats plan on leaving Connolly at center in the future and perhaps see Marcus Cannon‘s future at tackle, then they may want to bring in a guard to start working with Dante Scarnecchia now. I’m guessing James Brown (Troy) and Brandon Washington (Miami) will be gone, but 6-5 317 lb Lucas Nix from Pitt could be an option here.


If on the other hand the Pats plan on utilizing Cannon as Waters’ future replacement at guard, they may want to think about their depth at tackle; are they confident in Sebastian Vollmer‘s back – and that they’ll be able to re-sign him? Eleven tackles have been drafted thus far but there are over a dozen more that were projected to be drafted that are still available. Bobbie Massie (Ole Miss) won’t last that long but maybe Utah’s Tony Bergstrom (6-5, 313), South Dakota’s Tom Compton (6-5, 314) or UAB’s Matt McCants (6-6, 308) will be the choice.


Running Back
After drafting Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley last year I wouldn’t expect the Pats to draft another back this year; more likely they might sign a veteran free agent like Tim Hightower, Ryan Grant or Joseph Addai. But if the Patriots want to draft a short yardage, goal-line running back they could select Robert Turbin of Utah State if he falls to the 5th round. Other possibilities include Texas A&M’s Cyrus Gray, Mississippi State’s Vick Ballard and Baylor’s Terrance Ganaway.


Wide Receiver
This unit is already crowded with players looking for a roster spot but it could really use an injection of youth. With thirteen receivers already drafted the blue chippers are gone, but there were more than 30 wide receivers that were projected to be drafted by many draft experts. As an alternative to the smurfs that dominate the Pats’ roster at this position, perhaps they could snag Wisconsin’s Nick Toon (6-2, 215) or Iowa’s Marvin McNutt (6-3, 216).


One position on defense to consider: safety. It was the position of greatest need for the Pats entering the off season and we have seen the Pats double dip on a position in the draft in each of the last two years. I don’t think George Iloka will still be available when it comes to the Pats’ selection, but how about Markelle Martin? If not Martin, why not Trenton Robinson, Aaron Henry or Christian Thompson?





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First and final 2012 NFL Mock Draft

My first and final 2012 Mock Draft. Mock is a good term for these exercises, considering the low percentage of guesses that turn out to be correct. I’ll keep this one simple, with no trades – which of course makes it unrealistic.


1. Indianapolis Colts: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
This selection was set in stone more than six months ago, before I even had Halloween decorations up.


2. Washington Redskins: QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Once the Redskins traded up this instantly became another no-drama pick.


3. Minnesota Vikings: OT Matt Kalil, Southern California
I think the Vikings saw how much the Rams received by trading down and thought they’d like action too by talking about an impact player (i.e., Trent Richardson). The Jets have hinted at moving up for Richardson, but I’m sure Minnesota doesn’t want to go all the way down to 16. The only way I see that working out is if a three-way deal with Jacksonville (who would like to move down) can be worked out. Other possibilities would be Morris Claiborne (the Vikes led the NFL in touchdown passes allowed in 2011) or Justin Blackmon, which would give Christian Ponder a sorely needed target to work with.


4. Cleveland Browns: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
The Browns defense is in decent shape but their offense is not. Richardson is by far the best running back in this year’s draft and a better option than adding a wide receiver.


5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
If Richardson is still available the Bucs will snap him up, and if Kalil is still here then he is that they really should grab. Tampa Bay has been stuck with leftovers more than once in recent drafts (Gerald McCoy rather than Ndamukong Suh in 2010; Gaines Adams rather than Calvin Johnson or Joe Thomas in 2007), and that history may entice them to trade up to grab Richardson, or trade down if the draft unfolds this way.


6. St. Louis Rams: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
The Rams offense was anemic last year. With all the money they have invested in quarterback Sam Bradford and the departure of Brandon Lloyd, the top receiver in this draft makes the most sense here.


7. Jacksonville Jaguars: DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
Some people think that because the Jaguars have recently invested early draft picks on the defensive line that they won’t do so again; I say check out the New York Giants and how that strategy has worked for them. Yes they have had busts on the DL but that’s not a good reason to stop trying to upgrade the position; go back and see where your evaluations went wrong, learn from it and make a better choice next time. Games are still won and lost in the trenches. If they don’t heed that advice CB Stephon Gilmore could go here; DL Quinton Coples and DE Melvin Ingram are possibilities as well.


8. Miami Dolphins: QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
The Dolphins lost out on the Peyton Manning and Jeff Fisher sweepstakes this year, and Jim Harbaugh a year ago. Even though this is much higher than he deserves to go the ownership and front office really wants to make a splash in this draft, and nothing makes a bigger splash in the draft than selecting a quarterback in the first round. Michael Floyd is also a remote possibility to fill in the void from the departure of Brandon Marshall.


9. Carolina Panthers: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
The Carolina offense made huge strides last year but their defense remained weak. In a division with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman they look to bolster that with better pass coverage, and the PR from selecting a local favorite doesn’t hurt. There are plenty of other possibilites here as well, such as S Mark Barron, DE Quinton Coples or ILB Luke Kuechly.


10. Buffalo Bills: OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
The Bills upgraded their defense in free agency with the addition of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. They have been subpar at tackle for a very long time, and select the second best player in this year’s draft at that position. Other possibilities would be Kuechly, Barron, or Gilmore if the Panthers draft a defensive front seven player.


11. Kansas City Chiefs: G David DeCastro, Stanford
The Chiefs have a weakness in their interior offensive line and DeCastro is said to be the next Steve Hutchinson; his addition would stabilize the entire unit and help out in both their running and passing game. Other possibilities include Dontari Poe, Melvin Ingram and Luke Kuechly


12. Seattle Seahawks: ILB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
After losing David Hawthorne in free agency, Kuechly is a natural fit for the Seahawks if he should last this long. Defensive lineman such as Melvin Ingram, Fletcher Cox, Quinton Coples or Chandler Jones are other possibilities.


13. Arizona Cardinals: T Cordy Glenn, Georgia
Arizona could go with a receiver (Michael Floyd), a front seven player (Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram), but I think they’ll more likely go with an offensive lineman. Their preference would be for Reiff or DeCastro to still be available here, but even with those two gone I’m guessing they’ll still go OL.


14. Dallas Cowboys: S Mark Barron, Alabama
I actually don’t truly envision this scenario playing out only because my guess is that someone will trade up to try and leapfrog the Cowboys to get Barron, but I’m not utilizing trades in this mock draft. If Barron is gone the Cowboys will go with a defensive lineman such as Michael Brockers or another defensive back like Dre Kirkpatrick.


15. Philadelphia Eagles: DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
The Eagles don’t necessarily need a defensive lineman but Coples is the best available player at this point. Andy Reid is someone who is likely to give more weight to long-term solutions and BPA than focusing on the short term and immediate need. If Coples doesn’t last this long the Eagles could still target another defensive lineman such as Michael Brockers or Chandler Jones.


16. New Jersey Jets: DE/OLB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
If the Jets are unable to trade up for Trent Richardson or Mark Barron they will happily accept this consolation prize. If Ingram is gone and Cordy Glenn is still around that is another option.


17. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
I suspect Floyd won’t actually last this long, but that’s just the way this mock worked out. If Stephon Gilmore is still available Cincy could use a corner, or a defensive end such as Courtney Upshaw is another possibility.


18. San Diego Chargers: DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
Mercilus fills a position of need for the Chargers and is one of the best players of any position still available at this point. If he’s already gone I would think they’ll target another pass rushing DE/OLB, much to the consternation of Patriots Nation.


19. Chicago Bears: DT Michael Brockers, LSU
The Bears biggest need is on their defensive line, and there’s nobody bigger and better than the 6-6, 322 pound Brockers to fill that void. If Brockers is gone the Bears will go after another defensive lineman.


20. Tennessee Titans: NT Dontari Poe, Memphis
I think the Titans go defense here; Dont’a Hightower is another possibility.


21. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
I think the Bengals will use one of their two first round picks on a corner, although a defensive end like Courtney Upshaw is a possibility too.


22. Cleveland Browns: T Jonathan Martin, Stanford
As mentioned earlier the Browns need help on offense, and tackle is one of those positions they need to upgrade. They could also go with a wide receiver like Kendall Wright here, but I think receivers are easier to find a bit later than good tackles are.


23. Detroit Lions: CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama
The big question is whether the the news of marijuana use by other Lions players coupled with Jenkins’ usage will cause them to reconsider; I don’t think it will.


24. Pittsburgh Steelers: ILB Dont’a Hightower, Alabama
Hightower immediately replaces the departed James Farrior in the Steelers’ starting lineup.


25. Denver Broncos: WR Kendall Wright, Baylor
Another weapon for Peyton manning to work with.


26. Houston Texans: DE Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
Texans reload after losing some defensive players to free agency.


27. New England Patriots: OLB Shea McClellin, Boise State
After what has seemed like an eternity the Pats use a first round pick on a pass rusher.


28. Green Bay Packers: S Harrison Smith, Notre Dame
The Packers allowed more yards passing than any other team last year, and Nick Collins was released due to a neck injury; Smith seems like a good fit here.


29. Baltimore Ravens: WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
The Ravens defense is great, Ray Rice is great; their passing game is not; Baltimore needs another receiver opposite Torrey Smith.


30. San Francisco 49ers: G Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State
With Hill and Wright off the board the 49ers go with an offensive lineman to replace Adam Snyder.


31. New England Patriots: DE Nick Perry, Southern California
If Harrison Smith is still available the Pats will likely take him. Kendall Reyes is another distinct possibility, helping Vince Wilfork in the middle of the line. The choice of Perry means the Pats will have added a DE and an OLB on Day One, and probably target a safety in round two.


32. New York Giants: RB Doug Martin, Boise State
The Giants running game was below average in 2011. Brandon Jacobs is gone and Ahmad Bradshaw can’t carry the load himself.





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The Gregg Williams audio. The Bernard Pollard reaction. Some defend, saying the culture cannot be changed overnight and point out that just a couple years ago game was still promoted with ‘jacked up’ segments and big hits videos. But regardless, why would Williams say that on film (or for that matter, why would the Saints let him say that) when they knew they were being investigated, and had been told to stop? This new Greg Williams’ speech takes the Saints scandal to another level.


The Patriots’ Sterling Moore joined Mike Dussault of Pats Propaganda and Frenz for a podcast; you can also read Erik Frenzarticle on the interview here.


There is an espn Pre-Draft Party today at Gillette at 5 pm; I’m not sure exactly who will be there but Mike Reiss did say there would be a lot of big names on hand. The Pats 4th & 2 crew will follow with a draft podcast focusing on OL, DL and OLB tonight at 8.


Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England has a nice mock draft roundup of Patriots draft selections from a dozen well respected national and local sites with his Mock Party Wednesday column.


Mary Paoletti of CSNNE takes a look at an Average Depth of Target study by PFF, and Applies the average depth to Patriots pass catchers.


Pro Football Focus also has Aaron Hernandez: The New NFL Athlete. Will S. expands on that article with Are The Patriots Aiming Towards A More Balanced Offense In 2012?. Will looks at what the Saints have done with their offense and how the Pats can learn from that, and better utilize their running backs. In addition it could aid in putting up points against premier defenses (which has been an issue in recent playoff games), and the defense benefits as well.


The NFL preseason schedule was released. Let’s see, week one the Pats play the Saints, so all we will hear about is another rehashing of misinformation about spygate, comparing it and contrasting it to the Saints’ bounties. That should inspire Philly fans to call for a congressional hearing to award them the 2003 Super Bowl prior to the Pats week two game against the Eagles. Week three this displaced fan gets to see the Pats play locally, but do I really want to subject myself to melting in Florida humidity in August for three hours? Then to wrap things up we get to relive dozens of slow motion replays from the last two SB losses as the Pats play the Giants. Uggh.


It is opening day and the first day of the Masters, all while the Frozen Four is taking place in my own backyard – yet I still find myself more interested in NFL news. Times have changed quite a bit since I was a kid.


The Ravens’ Ed Reed becomes the latest in a long line of NFL players to invoke the word ‘family’ into contract negotiations. Perhaps it has something to do with Baltimore signing CB Lardarius Webb to a six-year deal with a $10 million signing bonus, $20 million guaranteed, and worth a maximum of $50 million. Here’s the thing though: Webb is 26; Reed will turn 34 when the season kicks off. For what it’s worth Webb did not allow a single touchdown last year, and opposing quarterbacks throwing his way had a rating of 56.6. I had hoped the Pats would make a run at Webb, but I can obviously understand why they did not after seeing those numbers. There is a very limited number of players that any NFL team can sign to big contracts like that without painting themselves into a corner in terms of quality depth in future years.


The Jets signed rugby player Hayden Smith, but at least one NYJ site is less than enthusiastic, writing that the Jets Signing of Smith is More of the Same.



In 2010 WalMart spent $110k (394th) on lobbying in New York state; in 2011 they spent $2.8 million (3rd) on lobbying there. What’s up with that?


Let’s see what has happened on April 5th over the years…

Pocahontas married John Rolfe on April 5, 1614

Educator, author, and founder of Tuskegee University Booker T. Washington was born on April 5, 1856

Movie icon Spencer Tracy was born on April 5, 1900

The greatest thing to ever come out of Lowell, Bette Davis, was born on April 5, 1908

Gregory Peck was born on April 5, 1916

The Riddler, Frank Gorshin was born on April 5, 1934

Colin Powell was born on April 5, 1937

Michael Moriarty was born on April 5, 1941

Abba singer Agnetha Faltskog was born on April 5, 1950

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to death for spying on April 5, 1951

Winston Churchill resigned as prime minister of Great Britain on April 5, 1955

Christopher Reid was born on April 5, 1964

Krista Allen was born on April 5, 1971

An emaciated and deranged Howard Hughes died on April 5, 1976 at the age of 70

Canned Heat founder Bob “the Bear” Hite dies from a heart attack at the age of 36 on April 5, 1981

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke Wilt Chamerlain‘s record for the NBA’s all-time scoring record with his 31,420th point on April 5, 1984

Kurt Cobain died at age 27 on April 5, 1994

Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley dies of a drug overdose eight years to the day after Kobain’s death on April 5, 2002

Charlton Heston died at the age of 84 on April 5, 2008

Marshall amplifiers are the reason I can only hear out of one ear

Jim Marshall, inventor of the Marshall amplifier, died today at age 88






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