Posted on: June 15, 2010 8:45 am

Collusion in the NFL?

Yesterday we mentioned that whispers about collusion against restricted free agents could be rising to the surface. Pro Football Talk originally raised the issue after noticing that a number of different teams wrote letters to unsigned restricted free agents warning them about the June 15 deadline (RFAs who didn’t sign their tender by midnight last night ran the risk of having their offer reduced).

The letters teams sent out were suspiciously similar in tone and timing, leaving one to wonder if teams might all be operating under a set of unofficial guidelines. Speculation is that teams could also be under pressure not to aggressively pursue RFA’s, due to the ongoing labor negotiations.

The NFLPA is said to be seriously looking into this matter. Collusion would likely be hard to prove, but you have to figure some form of it is going on, and not just in regards to RFA’s. Look at Kevin Mawae, for example. Though still one of the best centers in the league, the veteran unrestricted free agent’s phone has not rang this offseason. Mawae has even said he’d be willing to accept a backup role. Still, no calls. Could it have something to do with Mawae being the president of the NFLPA?

--Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl

Posted on: June 14, 2010 11:14 pm
Edited on: June 14, 2010 11:23 pm

Rough Day in Tennessee

Bud Adams may not want to read the sports section tomorrow. In it, he’s likely to find commentary about Vince Young’s apology for his recent citation at a Dallas strip club (earlier Pro Football Talk ripped Young for reportedly telling teammates that a friend talked him into going to the strip club).

Adams will also read about the four-game suspension handed down to linebacker Gerald McRath for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. (McGrath says he took a tainted supplement, not a steroid).

That’s not all…..

There was also a fight at Titans practice – though Cortland Finnegan was involved so maybe it’s not newsworthy (reporting that the feisty Finnegan got into a scuffle is like reporting that the sun rose again today). This time, Finnegan’s adversary was wide receiver Nate Washington.

Gritty right tackle David Stewart also got into with defensive end William Hayes. Stewart was able to rip Hayes’s helmet off but missed his target when he rifled it back at him.

Cornerback Rod Hood, who was in contention for the No. 2 job opposite Finnegan, was lost for the season with a torn ACL.

Chris Johnson, as expected, did not report for minicamp. (Johnson is holding out for a long-term contract.)

On the bright side, the Titans were able to get Rhodes Scholar and sixth-round pick Myron Rolle under contract.

--Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl

Posted on: June 14, 2010 10:32 pm

Leroy Hill's Status in Seattle

After a second run-in with the law prompted the Seahawks to tell Leroy Hill to stay away for much of the offseason, the outside linebacker rejoined his teammates today. Hill’s return is somewhat curious given he still has a domestic violence case scheduled for June 23.

But don’t assume that Hill’s future is secure in Seattle. He is due to make $6 million in 2010, which is a hefty sum for an inconsistent player who has modestly regressed in recent years.

Most damning to Hill's starting prospects is that the Seahawks absolutely have to get David Hawthorne on the field this season. The undrafted third-year pro was phenomenal filling in for an injured Lofa Tatupu at middle linebacker in ’09. Tatupu is too good to bench, so Hawthorne would have to fill the weakside slot that recently became vacant when Aaron Curry switched to his collegiate strong side position. Hawthorne’s downhill speed and proclivity for infiltrating the backfield make him an ideal fit for the weak side. Hill is certainly athletic enough for this role, as well, but he doesn’t begin to have Hawthorne’s playmaking prowess.

---Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl

Category: NFL
Posted on: June 14, 2010 9:57 pm
Edited on: June 14, 2010 11:17 pm

14 RFA's Still Haven't Signed

According to, with Pierre Thomas signing his tender, 14 restricted free agents remain unsigned. The deadline to sign is midnight. Most – but not all – of these players run the risk of losing a substantial amount of money if they don’t sign, as their teams could reduce their ’10 salary from the RFA tender amount to 110% of their ’09 salary.
For the players who wouldn’t see a major financial difference in this instance (such as Bigby and Rogers), there’s still the very real risk of being dropped in the depth chart.

Here are the 14 players:

S Atari Bigby, GB
DE Johnny Jolly, GB
CB Tramon Williams, GB
S Jarrad Page, KC
RB Ronnie Brown, MIA
G Logan Mankins, NE
OT Jammal Brown, NO
SS Roman Harper, NO
WR Lance Moore, NO
WR Vincent Jackson, SD
OT Marcus McNeil, SD
OLB Shawne Merriman, SD
OT Donald Penn, TB
CB Carlos Rogers, WAS

---Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl

Posted on: June 14, 2010 9:40 pm

Deuce Lutui signs tender, but what about his job?

Deuce Lutui has improved each year since joining the Cardinals as a second-round pick in 2006. Originally sloppy in his footwork and hand technique, he polished himself into Arizona’s most consistent blocker last season. Lutui is still not quite nimble enough to make every lead or pull as a run-blocker, but he knows how to compensate by creating good angles without having to over-extend. Most impressive is the nasty way he finishes blocks.

That said, Lutui could find himself in a backup role for the first time in his NFL career. He’s been away from the club all offseason, refusing to sign his RFA tender until today. His hope of receiving a long-term contract is understandable but, given the team’s current economy and tenuous CBA situation, misguided.

Because free agent acquisition Alan Faneca immediately took the left guard position upon signing in Arizona, versatile veteran Reggie Wells finds himself vying for Lutui’s right guard job. So does less-noted free agent pickup Rex Hadnot (another versatile veteran, by the way).

We often see players avoid offseason team activities and workouts. But aside from a friendly demotion early in training camp, rarely do we see these players lose their starting job. No promises, but Lutui could change that. (The bet here is that he begins training camp on the second string but manages to crack the starting lineup sometime during the preseason.)

---Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl

Posted on: June 14, 2010 8:51 pm

Rex Ryan Talks, Takes Another Shot at Crowder

In addition to saying the Jets plan on “being the team that wins the whole thing,” Rex Ryan trumpeted his team’s OTA attendance and threw another jab in his friendly, ongoing war of words with Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder:

"We did have 100 percent participation in the voluntary OTAs. If there are teams that are looking at us not having chemistry, I think you’d be hard to find any other team with the [attendance] record we had in the OTAs.

"I'm not saying we're going to be OTA champion. I'll leave that to  Channing Crowder, but I believe we were OTA champions again this year. One of these days, we're going to be Super Bowl champions. We'll see when that is, sooner rather than later."


--Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl
Category: NFL
Posted on: June 14, 2010 8:15 pm

Five Fun, Misc. News Tidbits From Monday

T.J. Houshmandzadeh had a great response when asked whether he thought it was wise for head coach Pete Carroll to have left USC:
"Yeah, of course. Get out when the house is burning.”
By the way, Houshmandzadeh’s comments were made to TMZ.

The Oakland Raiders are making their final OTA session closed to the media, which prevents Tom Cable and Co. from having to answer about the team’s OTA violations.

Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett (of all people) Tweeted this about Vince Young: “Mann I dunno wat 2 say abt VY that was childish & very unprofessional u cant do [expletive] like that when u play qb. He needs better ppl round him." Anyone who remembers Bennett as a rookie on Hard Knocks is smilingly right now. In an testament to the tight end’s own maturity, it should be noted that his Twitter account is “KungFuAstronaut”.

Bears great DE Richard Dent, analyzing the Chicago sports scene, had this to say about the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup title: "I don't think it ranks up there with our championship. People had a swagger when they talked about our championship because they know we would go out and kick ass and take names and come home with a victory. There was no doubt, there was no worry. It was all about taking care of business. If (the Blackhawks) play like that over the next three or four years....then you can start talking about other stuff." (If you feel like harping on Dent for favoring the Bears, read the entire article. He gives some pretty fair and balanced commentary on the entire Chicago sports scene.)

Sports Illustrated sent Peter King to South Africa to cover that lower-scoring brand of football, so Raiders erudite cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha wrote the Monday Morning Quarterback this week. You can view it here. It was well written but full of fluffy advice for rookies on page 1. The most interesting part was Asomugha saying that because he transitioned from safety to cornerback upon entering the NFL, he didn’t start to feel comfortable until his third year. A lot of people forget that he was considered a bust early in his career. Page 2 was more interesting. Asomugha wrote, “I think that Raiders fans and the 49ers fans would not be happy campers if they had to share a stadium together.”

---Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl

Posted on: June 14, 2010 7:40 pm

Dunta Robinson Key in Atlanta

Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder spoke to the Atlanta Journal Constitution about the upgrades to the Falcons defense. The article refers to the upgrades as a “$75 million renovation”, though a huge chunk of that derives from non-guaranteed money in cornerback Dunta Robinson’s $57 million contract.

With Atlanta adding no prominent pass-rushers to a unit that ranked 26th in total sacks last season, Robinson is the key piece. He’s not a playmaker (seven interceptions over the last five seasons), but he’s a play-stopper. In Houston, he often shadowed the opposing team’s top wide receiver.

However, Mike Smith runs a zone-based scheme that designates a left and right corner. Robinson may not be given the freedom to shadow a specific opponent; VanGorder said the Falcons have not yet decided how they will use their corners in 2010.

VanGorder was asked two really good questions in this interview. Below are his responses, followed by analysis from a non-invested third party.

Q: Are we going to see more blitzing from the defense in 2010?
VanGorder: You just don't decide that you're a blitzing team. There are down and distance factors. There are quarterback factors. There's your personnel with respect to playing man-to-man. There are so many variables that go into making that decision. I think philosophically, we'd like to be considered a very aggressive defense. We'll continue to work that way.

Analysis: Often, the Falcons’ only chance at generating pressure last season was via the blitz. Man coverage is key in blitzing; with Robinson’s abilities and Atlanta still having no keynote pass-rushers other than John Abraham, expect even more aggressive blitz concepts in 2010.

Q: Do you have people who can get to the quarterback?
VanGorder: We're better. I think we're better. I think that the process over the last three years has been to build a bigger, faster defense. We certainly have added to the depth of our defense. I like where we are right now with respect to our personnel. We have to keep developing and decide what they are going to do well and take advantage of all of their skills.

Analysis: Almost anytime a coach uses words like “development” and “depth”, what he’s really saying is that his starters stink. VanGorder knows that defensive end Jamaal Anderson can’t rush the passer, and he’s praying (but not betting) that either Lawrence Sidbury or Kroy Biermann emerges as a genuine pass-rushing specialist in training camp.

---Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or