Posted on: February 29, 2012 12:33 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 2:28 pm

2012 NFL Free Agency: Linebacker Rankings

Fletcher, at 37, might not have many options other than returning to Washington. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Leading up to the start of free agency on March 13, we're compiling the best 2012 NFL free agents by position. These are the linebackers.

While there are a ton of free agent linebackers about to come on the market -- I’ve counted approximately 80 -- there doesn’t seem to be many surefire game-changers in the bunch. London Fletcher, vastly underrated in Washington, is one such player, but other than him, you’ve mostly got solid guys who can be contributors to whichever team signs them.

Some of the better free agent linebackers have been taken off the board already, as D’Qwell Jackson has re-signed with Cleveland while Ahmad Brooks agreed to return to San Francisco. Here are the rest of those who probably will try out their fortunes on the market.

1a. Mario Williams

Breakdown: Though we have Williams as the No. 1 defensive end available, we have to give him some love on the linebacker list, as well. Simply because in Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme, Williams was an outside linebacker. He only played five games for the Texans last year before tearing his pectoral muscle, but with five sacks, he also proved he can be successful in a 3-4 defense, meaning every team in the league should be thinking about Williams' worth. We thought he might struggle to find his balance in the first year of Phillips' scheme, but, as a linebacker, Williams is pretty damn good also.

Possible Landing Spots: Texans, Jaguars, Seahawks, Titans

1b. London Fletcher

Breakdown: Fletcher is one of those players who, unless you’re paying close attention, somehow seems to rack up the tackle numbers -- and you’re not really sure how. And before you know it, he’s leading the league with 166 takedowns, like last year.  In fact, Fletcher has recorded at least 116 tackles every year since 2001, and he’s started 224-straight games. The problem with Fletcher is that he’s 37, and you have to wonder how long his durability will hold up -- as well as his penchant for making scores of tackles every season. That shouldn’t matter, however, because it sounds like he wants to return to Washington and that the Redskins feel the same way. “We want our captain back,” Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said earlier this month. The feeling apparently is mutual.

Potential Landing Spots: Redskins

Tulloch might be a good fit in Philadelphia because he knows how to play in the wide nine. (US Presswire)

2. Stephen Tulloch

Breakdown: After a solid 2008-10 with the Titans (the dude had 160 tackles in 2010), Tennessee let the Lions take away Stephen Tulloch for 2011. After recording 111 tackles, two interceptions and five passes defended last year, Detroit would like to keep him. It’ll likely cost the Lions much more than the one-year, $3.25 million deal they paid Tulloch last year. More importantly for the Lions, though, is locking up defensive end Cliff Avril, and you have to wonder if the Lions will want to shell out that much money to two defensive players. One good option for Tulloch might be the Eagles. Considering Tulloch played for years with Jim Washburn, who installed the wide nine scheme in Philadelphia last year, Tulloch would be comfortable in that system. Besides, the Eagles linebackers last year were pretty horrible, and Tulloch would be a big upgrade. Wherever he lands, one can only hope that Tulloch gets another chance to Tebow in front of Tebow.

Possible Landing Spots: Lions, Buccaneers, Eagles

3. Anthony Spencer

Breakdown: He’s pretty much the definition of one of those solid linebackers I wrote about before, and the Cowboys don’t fancy losing him to free agency. There has been speculation that the team could place the franchise tag on him, but if not, at least one Dallas reporter has speculated that Spencer could land a Chris Canty-like deal (a six-year, $42 million contract signed in 2009). The Cowboys might be averse to giving him such a long deal, because he hasn’t necessarily lived up to his first-round draft pick expectations. Spencer’s representatives and the Cowboys were scheduled to meet at the scouting combine, and if they can’t come to a long-term agreement, Dallas might just have to grit its teeth and tag him.

Possible Landing Spots:Cowboys, Dolphins

4. Curtis Lofton

Breakdown: For the past three years, Lofton has been a tackling machine, accumulating at least 118 (including 147 in 2011), and it’s clear the Falcons want to re-sign him. But when Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff says that negotiations between the team and Lofton are “amicable,” it strikes kind of a weird tone (or is that just me?). And maybe the Falcons won’t be terrified if Lofton leaves. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote last week, “There’s growing sentiment that he’s a liability against the pass. The question thus becomes: Would you pay $8 million a year for a two-down linebacker?” Lofton might want more than that. Reportedly, Lofton is asking or a four-year deal worth $36 million.

Possible Landing Spots: Falcons, Eagles, Browns

5. David Hawthorne

Breakdown: With Hawthorne, you pretty much know what you’re getting. He’s good for about 110 tackles a season, five passes defended or so, and an interception or three. But it sounds like the Seahawks have a higher priority to sign running back Marshawn Lynch and defensive end Red Bryant than inking Hawthorne to a new deal. Hawthorne is only 26 years old, and he’s solid across the board. But maybe more than most of the other linebackers on the list, there’s not a great chance for him to return to his old team. The one caveat to that: now that Leroy Hill is facing another drug charge, that might open up Seattle’s interest in Hawthorne again.

Possible Landing Spots: Bears, Cowboys, Seahawks

6. Jarret Johnson

Breakdown: The Ravens, at some point soon, might have to make a choice between whether they want Johnson or Jameel McClain (see below) to return to Baltimore for 2012. General manager Ozzie Newsome had said he wants to keep both, but that will be tough for the club to accomplish. So, if you’re Newsome, who is the priority between Johnson and McClain? Well, McClain had more tackles (84-56) last season  but less sacks (Johnson had 2.5 to McClain’s 1), and the Baltimore Sun predicts the Ravens have a better chance of retaining Johnson. He is, though, four years older, which might mean Baltimore will actually go harder after McClain. “I’d like to fit in again here,” Johnson said last month, via the team’s official website. “But unfortunately this is a business and sometimes business decisions [have] got to be made. I hope to be back. I’d love to retire a Raven, but we’ll see.”

Possible Landing Spots: Ravens, Colts

7. Jameel McClain

Breakdown: At 26, McClain is a young talent who likely will command a large salary (moreso than Jarret Johnson (see above)). It doesn’t sound like there’s a great chance for the Ravens to keep him.

Possible Landing Spots: Ravens, Colts, Eagles

8. Honorable Mentions

Unrestricted: Barrett Ruud, Chase Blackburn, Clark Haggans, Joey Porter, Andra Davis, Manny Lawson, Geno Hayes, Wesley Woodyard, Dan Connor

Restricted: Dannell Ellerbe, Aaron Maybin

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 10:34 am

VIDEO: Three-year-old girl crushes combine drills

Grace dominates the combine. (
By Will Brinson

Because I was in Indy for the combine, I didn't get to stay at home and watch it with my kids. Also, I don't have kids.

But if I did, then I would definitely encourage them, like Grace in the video below, to compete in the combine drills while the players on the television did.

Our pal Doug Farrar of Shutdown Corner actually talked to Grace's father

"This started with Grace calling [the players at the combine] with long hair or earrings girls," Duane said. "Then, she just joined in on the fun."

Duane emphasized that she's a big Packers fan and is "NOT happy" that the season is over right now. That makes all of us, Duane.

As for Grace's performance, she warrants inclusion on the combine "winners" list. Though she doesn't have the size-plus-athleticism combo that someone like Dontari Poe does, she did absolutely give 100 percent more of an effort in her combine workouts than Vontaze Burflict did.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 10:12 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 10:20 am

Plax on Eagles: 'Nothing would make me happier'

Burress thinks playing in Philly would be 'special.' (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

It wasn't all that long ago that we passed along a report indicating that Plaxico Burress "badly" wanted to play for the Eagles next year. Philly was the team that folks originally believed would sign Plax, but he ended up being lured into New York by Rex Ryan's siren song.

Burress hopped on 97.5 the Fanatic in Philly (via on Wednesday, though, and reiterated his desire to play for Andy Reid.

"Hey man, nothing else would make me happier," Plaxico said. "Obviously coming to Philadelphia, instituting myself into the offense, it just adds a unique dynamic to what's already in place. You look at LeSean McCoy and what he did this year - he had probably the best year of any back, he and Maurice Jones-Drew. And everybody knows about what DeSean is capable of being one of the most explosive big play receivers in all of football. And Jeremy Maclin who is just getting better and better. And myself, I just see myself in that offense just being out there on the edge."

Burress would actually be a good fit with the Eagles from an offensive perspective: he caught eight touchdowns with the Jets, but that belied his overall production, as he was really more of a red-zone threat than anything. That's something Philly could use. And it doesn't hurt that Plax and Michael Vick are apparently boys and talk a lot -- Plax said that playing with Vick would be "special."

"I've talked to Mike several times," Burress said. "Not football, just normal business as human beings that we’re going through in life on a day to day basis. But I talked to him twice last week. For us to get together and be able to play together on a professional football team, especially coming from where we come from, and obviously going through the things we’ve gone through, I just think it would be a special deal.

"I really think he can bring a championship to Philadelphia, and I would love to be a part of that."

So all that remains is simply waiting until Burress is a free agent on March 13 and signing him, right? Well, maybe. It depends on how much money Plax wants. And it depends on whether or not the Eagles actually feel Burress would be a good fit with Philly. Remember, they signed plenty of big-name free agents last year, but it didn't matter a lick, as the team finished 8-8.

Unless Burress can actually provide some value for the Eagles, it's not necessarily a guarantee that he plays there.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 9:44 am

Report: Jets interested in Braylon reunion

Edwards gets down at his birthday bash in February 2011. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Braylon Edwards had a decent run in New York, statistically speaking. He caught 53 balls for 904 yards and seven touchdowns in 2010, when he was the Jets leading receiver. But they got rid of him anyway, bringing in Plaxico Burress and letting Braylon limp off into the San Francisco sunset on a one-year, $1 million deal.

The 49ers cut Edwards midway through the year, however. And the Jets are now interested in bringing Edwards back, according to a report from Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Edwards would, ironically, replace Burress, who's not expected to return to the Jets in 2011.

Rex Ryan was always a fan of Edwards, but the same wasn't necessarily true for Jets teammates. Edwards off-field antics, including a DWI arrest after the 2010 season began, caused some teammates to call him "selfish" (sound familiar?).

I'd doubtful Edwards would look selfish if he re-signed with New York: the wideout wouldn't likely cost much in terms of guaranteed money, and the Jets could almost certainly get him on a one-year contract.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 11:51 pm

For the gambler in you (DWTS edition)

By Josh Katzowitz

Occasionally in the offseason, we’ll take the best -- and most clever -- odds collected by Bovada and give our take. This is important stuff, perhaps the most important post you’ll read on this site. Because if you can’t lose money while watching a game in which you have absolutely no effect, what’s the point of watching sports at all?

With the news emerging today of Packers receiver Donald Driver participating in the latest version of “Dancing with the Stars,” that gives the fellas at Bovada the chance to regale you with the official odds of who will prevail.

Dancing With the Stars Season 14 -- odds to win

William Levy 4/1

Jaleel White 11/2

Gladys Knight 13/2

Donald Driver 13/2

Maria Menounos 7/1

Katherine Jenkins 15/2

Roshon Fegan  8/1

Gavin DeGraw 10/1

Sherri Shepherd 10/1

Jack Wagner 15/1

Melissa Gilbert 18/1

Martina Navratilova 20/1

Is it bad that I had to look up who William Levy is and why he’s the favorite to win DWTS? Well, considering he’s a “hot telenovela star,” points shouldn’t be taken away for not knowing him. I can see why White would be one of the top guys, but I’m not sure I get why Gladys Knight has the same odds as Driver. Unless her Pips are helping her along, I don’t see how a 67-year-old woman has the same chance to win as an NFL receiver.

Also, how is former tennis star Martina Navratilova the biggest underdog? Especially when you consider how many more Wimbledon titles she won than Melissa Gilbert (or the ENTIRE cast of “Little House on the Prairie” for that matter). That said, I’d go with Driver. Hell, he’s a pro athlete. He’s got as good a chance as anybody.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 28, 2012 10:41 pm

Report: Pats looking to restructure Ocho's deal

Ochocinco on the 2011 season: 'I bought into the Patriot Way, and it paid off.' (AP)
By Josh Katzowitz

With the disappointing season Chad Ochocinco had with the Patriots in 2011, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if New England cut ties with Ochocinco, especially considering the organization will have to pay him $3.1 million for each of the next two seasons.

In fact, it probably would have been MORE surprising if Ochocinco actually took the field (or was inactive but on the roster) for the Patriots in 2012.

Now, though, it seems like the Patriots might want Ochocinco back, as Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal reports New England has approached Ochocinco about restructuring his contract.

Ochocinco's highs and lows
You have to imagine that Ochocinco probably would jump at the opportunity to play with New England again. After all, when he was traded from the Bengals to the Patriots, he had to restructure his deal in order to make the transaction go through. Considering it seemed he had wanted to play for Bill Belichick for many years, Ochocinco was more than willing to do so.

Ochocinco wasn’t nearly as bombastic this year -- probably because he had the worst year of his career -- but he seemed to enjoy the Patriots system. A pretty good indication of that is when he said recently, "I bought into the Patriot Way, and it paid off."

And who knows? Maybe in his second year in the Patriots system, he could begin to reach the heights he once knew in Cincinnati.

But at a much, much cheaper price.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 9:39 pm

Report: Michael Turner in middle of GF squabble

TurnerBy Josh Katzowitz

If you’re into sleazy news, TMZ has you covered with the report that Falcons running back Michael Turner supposedly broke up a fight between a former girlfriend (and the mother of his two children) and his current live-in girlfriend in front of his house on Monday.

In a word, ugh.

According to the police report, Elizabeth Delacruz, the girlfriend, attacked Rasheeda Walker, the former girlfriend, with a golf club after Walker knocked on the door of the home so she could talk with Turner about their two children and about the possibilities of a third child (Walker apparently is pregnant).

That supposedly led Delacruz to attack her with the club and scream, “You at my house now, bitch.”

According to Delacruz, though, she only used the golf club when Walker walked into the house through an unlocked door.

Both women have decided not to press charges, so, you know, no harm, no foul (except, of course, for the head wound apparently suffered by Walker).

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 8:20 pm

Marcus Vick, expected in jail, fails to show

An arrest warrant has been issued for former Miami WR/QB Marcus Vick. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Marcus Vick, who’s spent his entire football career in the shadow of his immensely-more successful brother, Michael Vick, is, once again, in trouble with the law.

As the Newport News (Va.) Daily News reports, a circuit court judge issued an arrest warrant Tuesday morning for Marcus Vick after he failed to turn himself into jail. He was supposed to report to Newport News City jail by Monday evening for a 10-day stay on a contempt of court charge, but he never showed up.

Which shouldn’t be surprising, because the reason Vick was in contempt of court in the first place was because he twice failed to appear on a charge of driving on a suspended license.

This stems all the way back to an incident in January 2010 when he was pulled over in his car and accused of driving on a suspended license for the second time. Clearly, though, Vick has a tough time keeping up with his schedule.

The paper tries to dissect the timeline:
(Vick) failed to show up for a hearing in Newport News General District Court on Feb. 26, 2010. After a warrant was issued for his arrest, he turned himself in on April 5, 2010. He was released on a $2,500 bond and a promise to appear in court on April 23, 2010.

Again he failed to show for his court date, and another arrest warrant was issued. After several delays in the case, Vick was in court on Aug. 5, 2011, to answer the original charge of driving on a suspended license for the second time, as well as two misdemeanor failure to appear counts.

At that hearing, General District Judge Al Masters sentenced Vick to 60 days in jail on the charge of driving on a suspended license -- with all 60 days suspended. He also suspended his license for 90 days, ordered him to perform 80 hours of community service, and ordered him to pay $286 in fines and costs.

You might recall Vick from his glory days at Virginia Tech when he was suspended the entire 2004 season for a variety of criminal problems and then, in 2005, stomped on the leg of Louisville’s Elvis Dumervil. He was kicked off the Virginia Tech squad the next season and wasn’t selected in the 2006 NFL draft.

He eventually signed as a free agent with the Dolphins, where he was listed as a quarterback/receiver. He spent much of his time on the practice squad in 2006, but he did play in one game as a receiver. He did not make a catch.

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