Category:NFL
Posted on: February 29, 2012 9:57 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 9:59 pm
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Jones wants Romo, not trading up for Luck, RG3

The only way the Cowboys will have RG3 under center is if Tony Romo changes his name. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

There's a perception that Tony Romo isn't an elite NFL quarterback and it comes primarily from one thing: he's been underwhelming in big moments. The Week 1 fourth-quarter interception against the Jets, the two pick-sixes against the Lions, not to mention head coach Jason Garrett opting to run instead of pass late in the game against the Patriots. These are three examples from the 2011 season (all three losses, by the way) and it's enough for some fans to give up on Romo altogether.

One enterprising soul even asked DallasCowboys.com writer Josh Ellis about the possibility the team would trade up in April's draft and take Robert Griffin III.

Ellis' answer, in part: "(Owner and GM) Jerry Jones explicitly said last week he wouldn't trade Romo for Griffin or Andrew Luck. So on draft day, just hope Griffin doesn't end up in Washington."

The best response to Jones' decree comes courtesy our buddy, PFT.com's Michael David Smith: "Some might see that as further evidence of Jones’s 50 concussions…"

But Jones' son, Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones, said as much in comments to the Star-Telegram.

"There are not many better than him out there," he said. "I hear it -- he hasn't gotten it done yet. I hear it, all of that. But you are not going to find much better than Tony Romo. Every year he improves. As he gets better, our chances get better."

Wait, Tiger isn't a Navy SEAL? (US PRESSWIRE)
Jones, it turns out, it's just making stuff up. Romo ranked fourth in Football Outsiders' QB efficiency metric behind Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. The difference: those players have combined for five Super Bowl rings and their teams all made the playoffs last season. The Cowboys went 8-8 and lost four of their last five games (and their Week 17 no-show performance against the Giants cost them the division and a spot in the postseason).

Romo, meanwhile, has two years left on the six-year, $67.4 million contract he signed in 2007. Although the two sides have yet to discuss an extension, Stephen Jones' comments to the Star-Telegram says plenty.

"Tony is going to play a lot more than two more years," he said. "We are going to take care of Tony. Tony is going to be a Cowboy."

Silver lining: maybe some of Tiger Woods' Navy SEALS training rubbed off on Romo during the Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this month. It can't hurt, right?

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 8:30 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 8:31 pm
 

Report: Talks heat up between Colts, Mathis

Manning and Wayne appear gone but Indy could decide to keep Mathis around. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Colts have plenty of personnel decisions to make in the coming weeks and months, and Peyton Manning's future tops the list. After that, there's veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne and defensive end Robert Mathis. The former, barring a spectacular turn of events, is as good as gone, and Wayne could follow him to his next NFL city.

But Mathis, who was hoping for a new deal prior to the 2011 season (but made it clear that he had no intentions of holding out), appears to be in the organization's plans going forward. The Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz tweeted as much Wednesday:

bkravitz
I'm told contract talks between Colts and Robert Mathis are warming up considerably.
2/29/12 6:26 PM

New Colts head coach Chuck Pagano comes to Indy from the Ravens where he was the defensive coordinator. Historically, it's an organization that has eschewed defense and deferred to Manning -- and for good reason. Prior to the 2-14 egg the team laid in 2011, the Colts had won 10 games or more 11 times in Manning's 13 seasons, making the postseason 11 times and winning the whole thing in 2006. Prior to Manning's arrival -- and since the Colts came to Indy in 1984 -- they made three postseason appearances.

But the Manning era is done, and Pagano understands that a good defense can carry an average offense featuring a young quarterback a long way. Joe Flacco is the most obvious example, but Ben Roethlisberger was the beneficiary of a stout defense early in his career, and Mark Sanchez made two straight AFC Conference Championship game appearances in large part because of the Jets defense.  With Andrew Luck next in line in Indy, bolstering the defense only makes sense.

But Mathis is 31, not an ideal fit in the 3-4 defense Pagano will install, and will tie up valuable salary-cap dollars with a new deal. That said, he's played at a high level for all but one of his nine years in the league; he had 9.5 sacks in '11 and 11 the year before that. Not counting his rookie season, Mathis has averaged 10 sacks a season. It's reasonable to conclude that he's still a capable pass-rusher, a commodity defenses can never have enough of.

Plus, in his annual list of the top 50 free agents, CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco writes that Mathis "has improved against the run and could easily make the transition from 4-3 end to 3-4 rush 'backer."

If the two sides can't come to an agreement, CBSSports.com's Josh Katzowitz thinks that the Titans and Falcons would be likely destinations.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 7:02 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 12:50 pm
 

Henne could make $4M, challenge for starting job?

Some teams view Henne as a QB who could push the incumbent for the starting gig. Miami disagrees.  (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

The Dolphins may have no interest in Chad Henne, but Miami's 2008 second-round pick (and the No. 5 quarterback in our free-agency rankings) will generate plenty of interest from QB-needy teams.  In fact, FoxSports.com's Alex Marvez goes so far as to suggest that after Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn, Henne "has emerged as the NFL’s hottest quarterbacking commodity set to hit the market when the signing period begins March 13."

We had to read that twice, too.

But after the aforementioned Manning and Flynn (and for completeness, we'll throw in Drew Brees), it's a decidedly mediocre crop of candidates. Maybe Marvez is onto something, or more specifically: Marvez's sources, one of whom described Henne as a good fit for teams seeking a "1A" option (a player who can push the so-so incumbent for the starting gig but who ain't looking for starter's money), are onto something.

"That’s not to say he will come cheap, especially with the limited free-agent options available," Marvez wrote Wednesday. "Regarded in some circles as a better alternative than second-tier retreads like Jason Campbell, David Garrard, Vince Young and Kyle Orton, Henne is expected to land a contract that averages between $4 million to $5 million a season. Excluding demoted starters, the NFL’s top backup quarterbacks command no more than $3 million a year."

Not bad for a guy who never lived up to expectations in a market not known for its die-hard NFL fan base. Then again, we'd take Henne over Garrard, Young and Orton. (We have a soft spot for Campbell, who must've been a horrible person in a previous life to suffer his NFL fate in this one.)

We say that with the understanding that Henne is a backup, not a guy you build a team around, which is the same conclusion the Dolphins came to. So why does there appear to be legitimate interest in Henne? First: it's slim pickins' (see this link again). Second: just like the combine, coaches, scouts and front-office types fall in love with measurables. Henne looks like he should be good. And at times, he's shown promise. But frustratingly inconsistent is a more apt description of his first four years in the league.

But as PFT's Gregg Rosenthal notes, he'd take Henne over Mark Sanchez. This redefines the term "soft bigotry of low expectations." Put differently: in the right system, Henne would be adequate, maybe slightly better. And in the right system, that could be good enough. Sanchez got two two AFC Championship games, after all.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:38 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 8:06 pm
 

Steelers set to release WR Hines Ward

Hines Ward was Super Bowl XL MVP and the face of the Steelers  for more than a decade. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

After 14 seasons, 1,000 receptions and 85 touchdowns, Hines Ward's tenure in Pittsburgh is all but over. It was once a matter of if, now it's when, and team president Art Rooney II provided those details Wednesday.

“We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year,” Rooney told the team’s website.

“Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve. He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years. Hines’ accomplishments are numerous, and he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers. We wish him nothing but the best.”

Ward released a statement of his own (via NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano):

"This isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end. I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago," he said. "I want to thank the organization, my teammates and coaches and everyone who made my run as a Steeler the best years of my life. To Mr. Rooney, thank you for allowing me to play for one of the greatest organizations in the world. To my fans and in particular, Steeler Nation, thank you for your support and all the great memories. I gave my heart and soul for you every down and I will always bleed black and gold. I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac tweeted Wednesday that the organization felt that Ward had nothing left.

gerrydulac
Decision to release 86 was not about money. He could've offered to play for free and wouldn't matter. Coaches feel he can't play anymore.
2/29/12 7:12 PM

gerrydulac
Ward would have been Sunday inactive if Steelers kept him. They didn't want him taking a roster spot at expense of developing young player.
2/29/12 7:14 PM

The 2011 season was Ward's worst since his rookie campaign; he lost his starting job to second-year standout Antonio Brown and managed just 46 catches for 381 yards (and a career-worst 8.3 YPC average), and two touchdowns. Part of Ward's decline can be blamed on age (he's 35), but he also suffered a severely sprained ankle in Week 4's loss to the Texans.

Whatever the explanation, the Steelers are ready to move on without him, which means that the 2012 offense will feature quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing to Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace -- assuming the team extends his contract (he won't be franchised, at least to hear general manager Kevin Colbert at last week's combine). The three wideouts, none older than 25, constitute one of the league's most dynamic receiver corps, which should make new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's job a lot easier.

Ward, meanwhile, thinks he has a few years left. It just won't be in Pittsburgh -- unless the team re-signs him later this the summer, perhaps an option given that there are currently three wide receivers on the roster. More likely: the Steelers make a run at Jerricho Cotchery, who they signed to a one-year deal before the 2011 season to be the No. 5 wideout. By December, he had also surpassed Ward on the depth chart and proved to be a capable underneath target and a willing blocker.

While the Steelers continue their free agency and draft preparations, and Ward contemplates his NFL future, the conversation will inevitably turn to the latter's Hall of Fame credentials. In our minds, he's a lock. Then again, we don't have a vote.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 4:13 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 4:18 pm
 

Carl Nicks: 'I don't want to be franchised!!!!'

Nicks celebrates Brees breaking big records in happier times. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The Saints are currently, as our own Mike Freeman reported on Wednesday, pretty far apart in their talks with quarterback Drew Brees on a new contract. This is bad news for the Saints, bad news for Saints fans, and not good news for Brees either.

But it could be good news for New Orleans All-Pro guard Carl Nicks, who would likely receive the franchise tag if the team and Brees can work out a deal. Because, if we understand him correctly, he has no interest in being given the franchise tag.

"I don't want to be franchised!!!!" Nicks tweeted on Wednesday.

Naturally the response from Nicks' followers (he only has 800 as he joined just five days ago) was to assume he wants to hit the free-agent market and leave New Orleans. He says that's not the case.

"So I guess people are getting hot so I'll just say this... I want to be a saint but I want what's fare... Be mad... If u don't like it...Don't follow me!!!!" Nicks tweeted.

Nicks also has a slew of tweets on his page about a countdown. That's a countdown to March 5, when the Saints face a deadline for utilizing the franchise tag. Nicks tweets that his "anxiety is on a hundred thousand trillion!...march 5 is a big day!!??"

If New Orleans can't reach a deal with Brees between now and March 5, they will use the franchise tag on their quarterback. If the Saints can work out a deal with Brees, either Nicks or free-agent-to-be wideout Marques Colston will likely receive the franchise tag. Nicks is the best guess since he's a young, interior offensive lineman with an All-Pro award and two Pro Bowl appearances. He would be extremely difficult to re-sign on the open market.

Speaking of difficult to sign, if the Saints allow both Colston and Nicks to leave via free agency, it's not going to make Brees any happier about signing his new deal either. It's quite the conundrum for New Orleans right now.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 3:58 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 4:08 pm
 

Saints, Cardinals in Hall of Fame Game August 5th

Roaf will be honored before his old team plays in the 2012 Hall of Fame Game. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The Saints and Cardinals will square off in the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio on Sunday, August 5, the NFL announced on Wednesday.

The game will kickoff at 8 p.m. EST and will be aired on NFL Network.

2012 will be the Saints fifth appearance in the Hall of Fame Game and their first since 2007, when they lost to the Steelers 20-7. The Cardinals last played in the Hall of Fame Game in 1986 and also played in the first-ever Hall of Fame Game, when they tied the New York Giants 21-21.

The Hall of Fame Game traditionally follows the induction of Canton's newest class; the game will take place the day after Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin and former Saints tackle Willie Roaf are inducted. Roaf played for the Saints from 1993 to 2001, when he made seven Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams.

Last season, the NFL cancelled the Hall of Fame Game -- the Bears and Rams were scheduled to play -- because of the lockout, costing the city of Canton $30 million in revenue. Here's hoping the league does its best to make it up to the city this time around.

Tickets will go on sale March 13. Those tickets will go much faster if the Cardinals go from being a darkhorse to a serious suitor for likely-free-agent-to-be Peyton Manning.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 2:16 pm
 

Report: Redskins want 'high-profile' FA wideout

Wayne and Garcon could reportedly be targeted by Washington. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The Redskins, under Dan Snyder, are often referred to as the "offseason champs." This is not a good thing. But what might be a good thing, if the Redskins are truly intent on moving up to grab Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, is adding a talented wide receiver to a roster that features Jabar Gaffney the No. 1 target.

According to a report from Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the 'Skins have plans to do just that, and plan to add a "high-profile wide receiver" in free agency, rather than try and improve their wideouts via the draft.

The free-agent market for wide receivers is a good one, with guys like Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson, Reggie Wayne and Stevie Johnson all likely to hit the open market. DeSean Jackson, Wes Welker and Dwayne Bowe could also be available, although all three are expected to be franchised. (Maske specifically lists Vincent Jackson, Colston, Pierre Garcon as targets.)

Pursuing a wide receiver in this market, then, is a smart thing. There's talent to be had, and it's talent that's proven, rather than a risk in the draft. Additionally, the Redskins biggest need is at quarterback. And pursuing a "high-profile" wide receiver in free agency will help them no matter who they add under center.

If Washington's trying to pursue a big-name quarterback like Peyton Manning (provided he does, as expected, become available), adding a talented wideout will only make the team a more attractive destination, particularly if Manning wants to continue playing with Wayne in a new destination.

Should the Redskins make a hard push for both Wayne and Garcon, it's a clear indication of where they're going in their quarterback search. But it's a smart plan regardless, because if the Redskins end up missing out on Manning but landing RG3 in the draft, he'd be aided tremendously by the presence of veteran, talented wide receivers on the roster.

And the same thing applies to any quarterback that ends up with Washington. Even if the worst-case scenario plays out and Washington is forced to settle on someone like Kyle Orton to step in and play, it's pretty obvious that Orton will be better with players like Wayne and Garcon than he would be with someone like Gaffney.

Of course, that's all predicated on the Redskins taking a smart approach to their wideout plan and not out-pricing themselves. And that's never a guarantee when we're talking about Snyder's squad.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 1:31 pm
 

Tannenbaum won't rule out pursuit of Manning

Manning's not totally ruled out in New York yet. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

A week in Indianapolis proved a lesson already learned at the Super Bowl: if you're involved in football and have a pulse, you'll be asked about Peyton Manning. This is particularly true if the person in question is in charge of a football roster and has a shaky quarterback situation. Just ask Rex Ryan, who wouldn't rule out the possibility of taking a look at Peyton if the right opportunity presented itself.

Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum took a similar approach when asked specifically if the Jets would "kick the tires" in a recent radio interview.

"It’s really important that we always try to improve the team," Tannenbaum said, via the New York Post. "With that said, I expect Mark Sanchez to be our quarterback next year, but when we have opportunities to improve our team that’s what we’re going to do."

But what about hurting Sanchez' confidence with the potential pursuit of a player like Peyton?

"You still have to do what’s in the best interest of the team," Tannenbaum said. "My philosophy is you’ve got to be aggressive, you have to know what’s going on out there, and you have to look for opportunities. Sometimes there will be consequences, some are intended, some are unintended, and with that, you kind of factor that into the equation, and then you go from there."

Pursuing Manning at this point probably wouldn't do much to hurt Sanchez' feelings; the Jets have already made it clear that they're willing to at least consider Manning if and when he hits the free-agent market. (Though it's worth noting that their discussion of Manning doesn't really cross the line that Romeo Crennel did, in as much as it's about a specific talent.)

And if Manning's hits free agency, the Jets will warrant consideration as a spot where he could end up playing. They've gone down the veteran road before, they have offensive line talent and some weapons on offense and a defense that could put them over the top if it can bounce back from a poor showing in 2011.

But Manning would also have to be willing to play in the same city as his brother and deal with the harsh media spotlight that is the Big Apple. Even if the Jets could bring Reggie Wayne into the mix -- and idea floated on Wednesday -- it still might be a long shot. But that doesn't mean the Jets won't examine it.

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