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Category:NFL
Posted on: February 27, 2012 1:08 pm
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive End Rankings

It sounds like Houston isn't remotely interested in letting Williams test free agency. (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 defensive ends.

Most of the categories in our 2012 free agent rankings are fairly straightforward. Running backs are running backs. Tight ends are tight ends. Quarterbacks are quarterbacks. But when it comes to the defensive line, the category gets a little blurry.

Some defensive ends also play defensive tackle. Defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme oftentimes line up as an outside linebacker. That makes ranking them in a single list a bit more complicated. Though some of the following players won’t always line up as a defensive end, the idea that each of these players will be asked to rush the passer remains the same. So, we list them as defensive ends.

1. Mario Williams

Breakdown: Williams quickly caught on to Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme where he played as more of an end/linebacker hybrid and recorded five sacks in the only five games in which he participated last year. Williams likely will return to terrorizing tackles and quarterbacks on nearly every snap if he leaves Houston and signs with a team that uses the 4-3. True, Williams is coming off a pectoral muscle injury that sent him to the IR list, but he says he’s healthy and the former No. 1 overall pick is going to be expensive. That said, Texans general manager Rick Smith continues to say that re-signing Williams is one of the teams’ top offseason priorities, though there’s a real question whether Houston has the cap room to do so. Even though Williams has failed to reach double-digits in sacks for the past three years, he still could win the richest defensive player contract of all time if he leaves Houston.

Possible Landing Spots:Texans, Jaguars, Seahawks, Titans
Avril made a name for himself in 2011. (Getty Images)

2. Cliff Avril


Breakdown: Although he’s not as well-known as teammates Ndamukong Suh or (probably) Nick Fairley, Avril emerged as one of the nastiest ends in the league this year. His 11 sacks were a career high, and he even managed his first career interception. The problem on Avril’s end is that there’s almost no chance Detroit will let him get anywhere near free agency. The Lions and Avril are working on a long-term deal. General manager Martin Mayhew said that while he doesn’t want to franchise-tag Avril, he’s also not willing to lose him. If that occurs, Avril -- who has hinted at holding out -- will have to decide if he wants to be on time for training camp.

Possible Landing Spots: Lions

3. Calais Campbell


Breakdowns: The past three seasons, Campbell has been consistent, and he has consistently improved, increasing his tackle totals every season and notching a career-high eight sacks in 2011 for the Cardinals. But like Avril, he’s got very little chance to test himself on the free agent market, because it sounds like if Arizona can’t come to terms on a long-term contract, the Cardinals will tag him. But unlike Avril, Campbell said he’s OK with that scenario. Besides, if he is tagged and makes close to $11 million for 2012 and puts forth another career-best performance, he’ll have the chance to set himself up with a huge contract.
 
Possible Landing Spots: Cardinals

4. Robert Mathis


Breakdown: Since he’s spent his entire nine-year career in Indianapolis, it’s hard to imagine Mathis in a non-Colts uniform -- almost as tough, I suppose, as imagining Peyton Manning in something other than blue and white. The potential problem, though, is new coach Chuck Pagano seems intent on installing the 3-4 scheme, and that will be a transition for somebody who’s always been a 4-3 end (it’s worth noting that CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco doesn’t seem concerned with the Colts turning Mathis into a pass-rushing linebacker). The Colts have said they want to keep Mathis in Indianapolis, but Dwight Freeney will cost $19 million against the salary cap. Another possibility for Mathis is the Colts placing the franchise tag on him, but considering Mathis is 31, the delaying of a long-term contract isn’t necessarily a great option for him.

Possible Landing Spots: Titans, Falcons, Colts

5. John Abraham

Abraham believes he's worth $12 million a year, even though he'll turn 34 before next season. (US Presswire)

Breakdown: Although Abraham will turn 34 before the start of the 2012 season, he still should draw plenty of interest throughout the league, simply because he continues to be one of the elite ends around. He’s durable, playing at least 15 games per season in the last five years, and he continues to churn out double-digit sack totals on a near-annual basis (his 9.5 sacks in 2011 just missed the cutoff). Can he command a long-term contract? Probably not, because of his age. Is he still a top-10 defensive end? Probably, yes. But is he worth $12 million? According to Abraham, the answer is: absolutely. “Check out the five top ends,” Abraham told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “Everybody is getting 12-plus. I made $8 million last year. Everybody is saying, ‘Oh, he’s so greedy.’ How am I greedy when I’m just trying to get paid the same thing they are getting paid?” The chances of Abraham getting $12 million? Slim to none.

Possible Landing Spots: Giants, Buccaneers, Patriots

6. Cory Redding

Breakdown: He had a rough year in 2009 in his only season with the Lions, but since moving to Baltimore and playing with the Ravens for the past two seasons, Redding has returned to being a solid end who can stop the run and who occasionally can muster a sack (he’s got 7.5  combined in the past two seasons). But Redding will turn 32 next season, and he had injuries at the end of last year that slowed him a bit (even though it was one of the best seasons of his career). He’s probably not a great long-term value for most teams in the league, but the Ravens are a fan of him, particularly since he took on a leadership role when linebacker Ray Lewis missed four games. Redding just seems to fit in well with Baltimore’s defense. But remember, Pagano lurks to the west in Indianapolis.

Possible Landing Spots:Colts, Ravens

7. Jeremy Mincey


Breakdown: Mincey certainly picked the best time to have a career year. In his contract year, he recorded 57 tackles, eight sacks and an interception. Considering he didn’t combine for those numbers during the first five seasons of his career, that should tell you about Mincey’s mindset entering 2011. Or, it should tell you that last season was simply an anomaly (or, I suppose, you could say that it just took Mincey a long time to develop). Either way, Mincey is looking to get paid -- he’s on record saying he won’t give Jacksonville a hometown discount -- and though it appears the Jaguars would like to keep him, they’ll have to figure out where he fits in with the team’s finances (it should be noted that Jacksonville has plenty of room under the salary cap).

Possible Landing Spots: Jaguars, Bills

8. Israel Idonije


Breakdown: He obviously doesn’t get the love that’s reserved for teammate Julius Peppers, but Idonije notched a career-high 52 tackles last season (along with five sacks). Even better for Chicago, Idonije seems intent on returning to the Bears. “I want to be here,” Idonije said earlier this month. “I have an incredible relationship with the coaching staff, and I understand the system. So my No. 1 focus is to stay.” He even intimated he would give Chicago a hometown discount. He probably won’t command an expensive long-term deal, and he’ll probably be worth it for the Bears.

Possible Landing Spots: Bears

9.  Mark Anderson


Breakdown: Anderson is a strange case, because as ESPN Boston pointed out, he only played 47.6 percent of the Patriots snaps last year. Yet, he still managed 10 sacks. Also, he played all but one snap in the team’s final two games after Andre Carter suffered a quad injury.  Carter also is an unrestricted free agent, but reportedly, Anderson is a better bet to be re-signed by New England.

Possible Landing Spot: Patriots, Dolphins

10. Honorable Mentions


Unrestricted: Kendall Langford, Raheem Brock, Red Bryant, Andre Carter

Restricted: Phillip Merling, Michael Bennett

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Posted on: February 27, 2012 11:59 am
 

Dontari Poe posts eye-popping combine numbers

Poe ran a 4.87 in his first attempt at the 40 on Monday. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

We told you earlier about Bruce Irvin, the defensive lineman/outside linebacker who ran an unofficial 4.43 in the 40 as a 245-pounder. Defensive tackle Dontari Poe, out of Memphis, might have managed to top that in terms of other-worldly feats.

After bench-pressing 225 pounds 44 times -- the most of any combine participant this year (though it was five reps short of the all-time record set by Stephen Paea) -- the 346-pounder ran an unofficial 4.87 in his first attempt at the 40 (he went 4.94 in his second attempt).

The fact a guy who weighs that much can be that strong and that fast is fairly ridiculous. As NFL.com’s Jeff Darlington writes, "RG(3)'s 4.41 40 is proportionate to a 346-lb man running it in 6.84 secs. And Poe (at 346 lbs) just did it in 4.87 secs.”

Poe is the 27th-ranked prospect in the NFLDraftScout.com rankings, and in his mock draft, Rob Rang projects Poe to go to the Bengals while the 21st pick, while Dane Brugler has him going to the Steelers at No. 24.

With a performance like today, though, Poe might have catapulted himself into the top-15.

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Posted on: February 27, 2012 10:24 am
Edited on: February 27, 2012 3:20 pm
 

Bruce Irvin runs blazing 4.5 in 40

Irvin ran a 4.43 in his second attempt at the 40 on Monday. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

When a defensive end/outside linebacker who’s 6-foot-3 and weighs 245 pounds runs an unofficial time of 4.5 in the 40, it’s an impressive feat. When he, in his second attempt, runs an unofficial 4.43, the result is rather mind-blowing.

That’s what former West Virginia standout Bruce Irvin accomplished Monday morning at the scouting combine, easily earning the fastest 40 time among defensive linemen and sending plaudits across Twitter when his times were announced. His official time was clocked at 4.50.

Irvin ranks No. 13 among outside linebackers in the NFLDraftScout.com rankings, and he has a fascinating story. He didn’t play high school football because of academic problems -- in fact, he earned a GED instead of a high school diploma -- and after a stint in junior college, he emerged as a force as a junior at West Virginia, compiling 14 sacks.

“I have a different story than a lot of these guys,” Irvin said this week. “I grew up in a rough neighborhood in Atlanta, dropped out of high school in 11th grade and got in some trouble. I ran with the wrong crowd. I finally saw the light and got my GED, took the test and passed all five parts on the first time. That January I went to school and never looked back.”

But he played less his senior year at West Virginia, coming off the bench in the second half of the season, and his draft stock dropped. Coming into the combine, he was projected as a situational pass rusher, probably as a stand-up linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. The problem there is that he played with his hand in the dirt in college, so there might be an adjustment for him.

But his performance in the 40 isn’t a surprise to CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman, who wrote the following in his analysis of who could put on the best combine performances: “A pass-rushing specialist Irvin plays super fast. According to some of his teammates, he also times that way too. They swear he can run a sub-4.4 at 235 pounds. The question is how much heavier will he been in Indy and has he retained that speed?”

The fact he was listed at 245 pounds and nearly ran a sub-4.4 makes Irvin’s performance Monday even more impressive and very well could move him up on teams' draft boards.

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Posted on: February 27, 2012 9:22 am
Edited on: February 27, 2012 9:24 am
 

Former TE Ben Patrick plays role of hero

By Josh Katzowitz

The last time we heard from Cardinals tight end Ben Patrick, he had just suffered a displaced kneecap in August 2010, and though that injury might sound rather, um, unhealthy, he said he was determined to be ready for that regular season.

It turns out, he was right, as he started in Week 1 and went on to catch a career-high 15 passes that season for Arizona, and though he was out of the league in 2011 following his surprising retirement, that kind of determination clearly isn’t reserved just for the football field.

As AZ Family reports, Patrick played the role of hero last weekend when he helped rescue a group of people who were trapped inside their overturned van following an auto accident on Saturday.

Patrick was driving his Lamborghini on Interstate 17 near Black Canyon, Az., when he came upon a van lying on its side. He stopped his car, and he smelled gas leaking from the van.

"My first thought was just to help the people on the inside," he said. “I ran over and I looked in the front window and everybody was laying sideways and I debated on kicking the window in, but I didn't want to get glass over everyone.”

Patrick retired before the 2011 season, saying he needed to attend to some family and personal matters, but about a month later, he unretired. The Giants held his rights, but released them, making him a free agent. He worked out for the Chiefs but didn’t sign a deal for 2011.

Patrick said he hopes to sign with the Panthers this year. But if not, Patrick can take solace in the fact that he’s already put forth a heroic performance so far in 2012.

                             


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Posted on: February 26, 2012 6:40 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 6:41 pm
 

2012 NFL Combine: Weekend winners and losers

Brockers stock is climbing quickly, and he hasn't even worked out yet. (US Presswire)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- We broke down the winners and losers from Thursday and Friday's action -- primarily media work, -- already. Check them here.

Now let's make some knee-jerk reactions to what happened on Saturday and Sunday at the combine, when actual drills that may not actually determine whether or not someone's good at football took place.

Winners

Michael Brockers: Brockers isn't the number one defensive tackle on Devon Still's list, but Still isn't the guy evaluating the talent and making the picks in the upcoming draft. And the people who are evaluating the talent and making the picks are starting to fall in love with Brockers as a high-end talent with a ton of upside. (The NFL Network's Mike Mayock called him "special" and believes he'll end up being a "top 10-to-12 pick.") Clark Judge wrote on Saturday that Brockers is the next boom-or-bust draftee and we tend to agree with him. (The theory is he can be the next Jason Pierre-Paul; if you want to see prescience at work, check out this Prisco piece from 2010.) He's gained 80 (!) pounds since he was a freshman in college, and it's all "good" weight. He's a physical freak. And the possibility of boom is going to ramp up his draft stock.

Matt Flynn: Mike McCarthy said of Flynn: "It's his time to play." And word on the street is that the Packers won't be using their franchise tag on Flynn, primarily because it goes against the spirit of the franchise-tag rule (you're not supposed to use it with the intention of trading it). So it appears that Flynn will hit the open market and be free to sign with whatever team can't make a move up to grab Robert Griffin III with the Rams No. 2 pick.

Stephen Hill: The gigantic (6'4") Georgia Tech wide receiver wasn't even a top-five wide receiver in this class heading into the combine. And he's still behind guys like Justin Blackmon and Kendall Wright. But his stock is climbing, and it's climbing quickly. Hill looked good on pass-catching drills, and he ran the fastest 40-time of any offensive player at the combine (4.36 seconds). Hill's stock was low primarily because he played college in Paul Johnson's offense, which netted him a whopping 59 catches. In his college career! Of course, 28 of those came in 2011, when he averaged a mind-blowing 29.3 yards per catch.

Andrew Luck: It's not that Luck needed to boost his stock in the eyes of anyone. He's Andrew Luck and everyone knows he's good. But he beat out Robert Griffin III in the broad jump and he displayed a lot of athleticism that many folks forgot he had in the wake of the swooning over the 2011 Heisman winner out of Baylor. The combine represented a lot of potential downside for Luck, simply because the expectations are already so jacked up. Luck's 4.59 unofficial 40 time might sound familiar, since it's the exact same time that Cam Newton posted last year.

Kirk Cousins -- Cousins is one of the many outsiders looking in when it comes to a quarterback class that really revolves around Luck and Griffin. That's understandable. And the Michigan State grad didn't exactly make a mark as the lock-job third guy in the class over the weekend, as that honor still belongs to Ryan Tannehill. But he did make a great impression on everyone in Indy, looking sharp in the throwing drills and sounding like a 10-year NFL veteran in interviews.

Losers

Tight Ends: No one truly dominated the tight-end workouts on Saturday, but here's the thing: the potential draft picks actually have upside. You know who doesn't have upside? The list of guys on our colleague Josh Katzowitz' free-agent tight-end rankings. Many teams already have talented tight ends. But given the way that the NFL's going -- it's the year of the tight end! -- teams are going to want and land the next difference-making tight end. Is that guy in this group, which Mayock called "a bad class"? Ehhhhh. But as Pete Prisco recently wrote guys like Clemson's Dwayne Allen, Stanford's Coby Fleener and Georgia's Orson Charles will be "in demand" come draft day anyway.

Arizona State: First there was Brock Osweiler (we prefer the nickname "Brockweiler") not throwing and not running and generally not doing much. He did talk to the press and say that he gets stereotyped for being 6'7" quarterback, which, if you play at ASU, is like being stereotyped for being a billionaire. Or Jon Hamm. Then there's Vontaze Burflict, who declared himself the best linebacker in the draft ... right before he threw his coaches under the bus by saying they "messed [him] up."

Chris Rainey: Rainey's a burner, no question. That was evident when he ran the second-fastest time 40 time for running backs at the combine. Except his time was 4.45, which more than three-tenths of a second slower than Rainey said he'd run. And that's not a lot of time. But Rainey said he would "definitely" get in the 4.1 range. Nevermind that it's really hard to do that, what does it say about a guy when he's already whiffing on guarantees, before he even gets in the NFL?

Janoris Jenkins: Honesty is a good thing, especially with NFL teams who will find out about players no matter what. But that doesn't mean that Jenkins looked good when he told reporters that he has three arrests on his records and four kids at the age of 23. And even though he said he's done with marijuana "forever," there are going to be a lot more questions coming his way from teams. At least those that still even have him on their draft board.

Wideouts: It wasn't a good weekend for the wideouts, Hill excepted. Justin Blackmon didn't work out, Kendall Wright looked slow and/or was just asked about RG3, and while Michael Floyd addressed his off-field issues, it's not like he looked so sharp that everyone simply forgot about them.  This might help the Bears and teams that are actually looking for a wideout, but it's looking a lot more risky to invest an early first-round pick in a wide receiver this year.

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Posted on: February 26, 2012 5:34 pm
 

Kirkpatrick on bust: 'Wrong place and wrong time'

Kirkpatrick had to explain his arrest at the combine. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Dre Kirkpatrick made headlines shortly after the BCS title game when he was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana while in Bradenten, Florida. Earlier this month, those charges were dropped.

Kirkpatrick, who was in the passenger side of the car being driven by former Alabama football player Chris Rogers at the time of the arrest, was asked about the bust at the NFL combine and said it was a "wrong place and wrong time" thing.

"It was me being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Kirkpatrick said. "The guy that left the marijuana in the car turned himself in and didn’t want to put me in a bad situation. He signed an affidavit saying that I was unaware of the marijuana being in the car and I was unaware of it."

We're going to gloss over some of the inconsistencies here -- Who gets in a car with someone they don't know in a strange city? How did you not know a guy who played on the same football team as you did? Why does the police report indicate that Kirkpatrick and Rogers were both "under the influence of drugs"? -- in favor of focusing on another Kirkpatrick quote.

This quote came in response to being asked if he'd had any touchdowns scored on him in 2011.

“One," Kirkpatrick said. "The Florida game. It was the first one I have ever given up."

Ha, ha. Ever. That's funny. Because, you know, it means for the entirety of Kirkpatrick's life. And surely that's not right. Turns out, it's true.

"Yes, sir. Ever," Kirkpatrick said.

The play in question was an Andre Debose 65-yard touchdown catch from John Brantley on the Gators first play from scrimmage.

“He ran a fade route on me and I was playing over aggressive," Kirkpatrick said. "Just didn’t measure my steps."

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Posted on: February 26, 2012 1:07 pm
 

Coples attempts to explain issues with hustle

Is Coples effort an issue. (US Presswire)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- There are lots of questions about whether or not UNC defensive end Quinton Coples gives 100 percent on every play. And Coples was asked those questions almost immediately when he stepped to the podium in Indy for his combine media interview.

His logic for explaining away the perceived slacking that scouts and teams and people who watched football attached to his game is pretty outstanding, provided that you appreciate people who use insane excuses.

"I can see where it can look like that on film, but overall I felt like I did the right job and did the right thing sacrificing for my team and that was important to me at the time," Coples said. "I think I have long strides and things of that nature so it may come fast to me in the game and film will slow it down a little bit. People have their own opinions and some people don't even think it was a problem."

Think about that: Coples is so fast and so in-tune to the game of football, that the game simply starts to crawl for him and when you watch film it appears as if he's not trying. Except here's the problem: that's not how it works.

If the game slows down for you, you look faster. Not slower. A sign of a supernatural understanding of the game isn't "moving around lethargically," it's "doing things before anyone could imagine you doing them."

Here's the issue though: it's hard to blame Coples for not trying too hard his senior season. He was busted by the NCAA, eventually cleared, moved to defensive tackle for Marvin Austin, watched his coach get fired and spent his entire season answering questions not about his skill as a football player, but rather about potential NCAA penalties and UNC's issues off the field.

His effort is definitely an issue, and this won't be the last time Coples has to discuss it. But it's also kind of hard to blame him for checking out a little early, given everything that UNC went through.

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Posted on: February 26, 2012 12:48 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 12:49 pm
 

Janoris Jenkins answers all character questions

Jenkins' character will be scrutinized.(Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- When the announcement that Janoris Jenkins would speak to the press came over the loudspeaker at the NFL combine, media members members moved faster than they do for the sandwich cart. And Jenkins, a character-issue-ridden cornerback who was booted from Florida and finished his college career at North Alabama, didn't disappoint.

The defensive back, considered one of the top talents in the draft, was asked about his marijuana use, his children (he has four of them), his time at Florida, and the slew of red flags that accompany his draft status. To his credit, he was -- almost to a fault -- honest, he answered every question sincerely, and he didn't pull an Antonio Cromartie and forget his kids names.

"Janoris Jenkins Jr., Legend, Janorion and Paris," Jenkins said when someone asked him what his childrens' names were.

Jenkins was dismissed from Florida after being arrested for marijuana possession and signed on with North Alabama. The experience hurt his draft stock, but he repeatedly said it's been a tremendous learning experience and that he's "done" with marijuana.

"I'm done with it forever," Jenkins said. "I can't do it, man."

Jenkins also said the last time he used marijuana was when he was arrested and kicked off the team at Florida. And Jenkins said that he's been arrested three times, twice for marijuana and once for a bar fight. Jenkins said that he failed only one drug test at Florida.

It's going to be fascinating to see what happens with Jenkins leading up to the draft in April. He's an incredible talent, who hung with the best receivers in the SEC before transferring to North Alabama, where he says he wasn't challenged enough.

But he has big-time character issues. That he's willing to stand up on a podium and speak openly and honestly about those issues is impressive and could go a long way with teams interested in improving their secondary.

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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