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Tag:2012 NFL Free Agency
Posted on: March 7, 2012 1:20 pm
 

Peyton Manning 'confident' he'll play in 2012

Manning is "confident" he'll be back in 2012. (AP)
By Will Brinson

Peyton Manning is done as a member of the Colts. That was made officially official on Wednesday. But don't think he's done in the NFL; not even close.

Asked Wednesday after a class-filled speech about his playing status for 2012, Manning said he was "confident" he'd be on the field.

"I am confident," Manning said. "I don't know what these next steps are -- this is all kind of new to me."

It's new to everyone; Manning's been in a Colts uniform ever since he entered the league in 1998. And despite rumors (mainly from Rob Lowe) to the contrary, Manning isn't considering retirement.

"I don't want to retire," Manning said. "And no I don't feel like I have anything to prove. Nobody loves their job more than I do. Nobody loves playing quarterback more than I do. I still want to play. There's no other team I've ever wanted to play for."

But Manning has to find a new team now, and that new team is going to wonder about his health. According to Manning, he's "come a long way" but still has "some progress to make."

"I'm throwing it pretty well. I've still got some work to do. I've got some progress to make," Manning said. "But I've come a long way. I've really worked hard. I can't tell you the hours I've put in to working hard."

Not many people can -- the only shots of Peyton playing are some Zapruder-like film shot at Duke University. But that shouldn't stop teams from seeing just how ready Manning is to play.

I've broken down the spots where I think Manning could end up, and there are plenty of rumors as to just how interested those various teams are. Don't expect those rumors to slow down much, especially if Manning can prove in the coming days and weeks why he's so confident.

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 2:32 pm
 

Report: Randy Moss 'lit it up' at Saints workout

Moss reportedly looked 'like the old Randy' on Tuesday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

On Monday night, CBSSports.com's Ryan Wilson passed along a report that Randy Moss, currently a free agent, would be working out with the Saints on Tuesday. Some interesting reports have surfaced surrounding Moss since then.

Latest NFL News, Notes

For starters, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Moss has a pair of other tryouts lined up for next week. And more importantly, Jay Glazer of FOXSports.com reports that Moss "lit it up" in his workout with the Saints.

"Hearing from multiple sources re Randy Moss workout today he lit it up. Was told he ran about 45 routes and 'looked like the old Randy,'" Glazer tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.

If this is accurate, it's fascinating. And not just because no one expected any good news out of New Orleans for a while, hey-o. Moss has already rebounded once in his career from a season where he looked to be finished as an NFL player (in 2006, with the Raiders) to post record numbers the following year (in 2007, with the Patriots).

So it's not unfathomable that he could do the same thing again. Sure, he's several years older and took a year off of football this time. But Moss' game is predicated on speed, and if his speed is back and he's able to torch defensive backs on vertical routes, he's going to draw interest from teams in the NFL.

And even if the reports of Moss performance are being overblown a bit, he should still expect to hear his phone ringing more often in the coming weeks.

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 9:28 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 12:40 pm
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: Offensive line rankings

Is Nicks, our top free-agent offensive lineman, done hoisting Brees? (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

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

It's not the sexiest position in the NFL -- just ask Andre "C-Cup" Smith -- and there's a feeling in the NFL these days, whether it's right or wrong, that offensive line is becoming a fungible position. It's OK to laugh at that idea, because a few years ago, wide receiver was the same way. It'll shift back and forth in the next few years. Right now, you'll pay a nice price to land a wideout and offensive linemen are relatively cheap.

Some of the guys on the list below won't be cheap however. There's a pretty nice group of offensive linemen hitting the market this year, and teams might be wise to avoid trying to race in the free-agent market and focus their efforts on improving protection.

1. Carl Nicks

Breakdown: Nicks is probably the best guard in the league, and it doesn't help that his teammate, Jahri Evans, signed a $56.7 million deal for the next seven years. Especially since Nicks wants more money. With Drew Brees franchised, the Saints are essentially forced to let Nicks and top wideout Marques Colston both hit the market and good luck bringing Nicks back. He's the only guy who can hurt the guard-related stock for Stanford's David DeCastro.
Potential Landing Spots: Saints, Cowboys, Chargers, 49ers

2. Chris Myers

Breakdown: Honestly if Meyers left it would be a) a huge mistake for the Texans and b) a big surprise. Everyone talks about Mario Williams as the guy they need to re-sign, but Meyers is substantially more valuable to what they do (especially with the defensive personnel vs. the offensive personnel). Houston's offensive line is by far and away the most underrated in the NFL and while Eric Winston is the anchor, Meyers is the leader. I'd like to think that Houston won't let him walk, simply because the AFC South window is too big not to keep making a run at another division title.
Potential Landing Spots: Texans, Packers, Ravens

3. Jared Gaither

Breakdown: Gaither was a supplemental draft pick with the Ravens in 2007, washed out, went to the Chiefs and then looked finished in the NFL at an early age. But he was a big factor in revitalizing the Chargers run late in the season; after Marcus McNeil went down, Philip Rivers was offered no protection until Gaither came into town. The Chargers want to keep him, but this is a very shallow class for free-agent tackles, and Gaither could pull in good money on the market. He's got gobs of talent and is still young, but keeping him motivated is a concern.
Potential Landing Spots: Lions, Chargers, Cardinals, Vikings, Rams

4. Ben Grubbs

Breakdown: Grubbs, the Ravens 2007 first-round pick, made the first Pro Bowl of his career in 2011. He's a free agent only because Baltimore's had to use their franchise tag on Ray Rice and couldn't commit to the guard. The Ravens still want to re-sign Grubbs, and that could happen between now and March 13 when free agency begins. Working in the Ravens favor is the deep nature of this crop of free-agent guards.
Potential Landing Spots: Ravens, Bengals, Giants, Bears, 49ers

4. Scott Wells

Breakdown: Wells and the Packers are in the middle of a headed non-discussion about a new contract. Wells believes he deserves big money, and the Packers believe he deserves the type of money that a shorter, 31-year-old center would get on an open market. But Wells isn't just any center; he's proven his worth in working with different quarterbacks in Green Bay and helping to develop Aaron Rodgers. Wells made his first Pro Bowl in 2011 and has missed just one game since 2006. He won't want to leave Green Bay but he also won't take less than he's worth. It wouldn't be surprising to see him move closer to Tennessee (he's from there and played for the Vols in college) either.
Potential Landing Spots: Packers, Texans, Broncos

5. Demetrius Bell

Breakdown: Bell's been playing football for less than 10 years, but he's clearly quite good at it. Or at least good enough to keep being named the Bills left tackle. The seventh-round pick out of Northwestern State could come back to Buffalo, but if there are teams in need of offensive line help, there's a good chance he'll bail. The offensive line market is odd this year, in that it appears to be guard and center heavy. The tackles aren't exactly stacked and that could result in a nice deal for a guy like Bell.
Potential Landing Spots: Lions, Bills, Chargers, Cardinals, Vikings, Rams

6. Evan Mathis

Breakdown: Mathis hasn't started 16 games since coming into the NFL. But he's coming off easily the best season of his career and has said he'll take a discount to remain with the Eagles under the tutelage of Howard Mudd. Mathis said he'd work for "$20 and a pizza," but the reality is he got paid the league minimum last year, and at 30, he'd be insane not to maximize his money-making ability.
Potential Landing Spots: Eagles, Saints, Seahawks, 49ers

8. Geoff Schwartz

Breakdown: Schwartz played all over the line for Carolina in 2010 before missing all of 2011 with injury. It'll be interesting to see Ron Rivera's coaching staff handles the offensive line: Schwartz and Jeff Otah are holdovers from a previous regime and might not necessarily stick. But Schwartz, at 25, would be a nice, versatile and discounted signing for someone who needs help and depth across the line.
Potential Landing Spots: Giants, Bills, Panthers, Seahawks

9. Dan Koppen

Breakdown: You know what's weird? Everyone's willing to toss out the "system" word as it relates to anything with the Patriots quarterback but don't bother discussing how their offensive line, which features a pretty cohesive unit, helps Tom Brady's success. Whatever, it's fine. That's the "Patriot Way." But Koppen isn't going to get the franchise tag like fellow lineman Logan Mankins and he stands to make more money for a team that needs a center.
Potential Landing Spots: Packers, Ravens

10. Jake Scott

Breakdown: The good news is this: Scott played for an offensive-line monster in Mike Munchak. Munchak consistently creates cohesive offensive units that over-produce relative to their value. But the bad news is that Scott's 30 (not too old) and if you bring him into another organization, he's not going to have that same Titans cohesiveness. Is that overplayed? Yeah, maybe. But Scott will have bigger questions when it comes to Chris Johnson's production in 2011, whether that's fair or not.
Potential Landing Spots: Titans, Saints, Eagles, Seahawks

HONORABLE MENTION

Jeff Backus, Nick Hardwick, Vernon Carey, Anthony Collins

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 2:59 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 3:36 pm
 

Wes Welker franchise tagged by Patriots

Welker's been franchised by New England. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

At one point in time, it seemed like the Patriots might let wideout Wes Welker test the free-agency market. When it seemed like the market for Welker's services would be busy, that tone changed and according to our Patriots Rapid Reporter Greg A. Bedard, the Pats have officially decided to place the franchise tag on Welker.

Earlier on Monday, Bedard reported that Welker would receive the tag some time around Monday afternoon, so the news that Welker's been hit with the tag isn't a huge surprise.

"Wes Welker is a remarkable football player for our team and has been a vital component to our offense and special teams since we traded for him in 2007," the Patriots said in a statement released by the team. "Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal. Wes remains a contractual priority and we are hopeful that he will remain a Patriot for years to come."

The only issue for New England will be whether or not Welker's willing to sign his tender and play for a one-year contract that guarantees him $9.4 million.

As we've previously noted, Welker would very much like to receive longer deal that pays him in the same range as the other top wideouts in the NFL. Bedard points out that "both sides would prefer a multi-year contract."

The issue is whether or not the Patriots are willing to give Welker, who will turn 31-years-old in May, a deal that will carry him past the age of 35.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:02 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 6:06 pm
 

Lions use franchise tag on Cliff Avril

Avril terrorized quarterbacks in 2011. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The flurry of franchise-tag activity on Monday continued with the Lions locking up one of their more important defensive players, using the non-exclusive franchise tag on defensive end Cliff Avril.

As noted by our Lions Rapid Reporter John Kreger, Avril is guaranteed a one-year salary of $10.6 million now, but other teams may negotiate with the defensive end. If someone else offers Avril a contract, the Lions can either match or get two first-round picks in exchange from the team offering the contract.

There was some speculation that Avril would be unhappy with the franchise-tag designation, but he tweeted "#BLESSED" shortly after the news broke.

This is, as Kreger notes, the first time the Lions have used the franchise tag since 2007.

But utilizing the tag on Avril isn't all good news for Lions fans. As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free-Press notes, the Lions now have more than half of their 2012 salary cap tied up with just four players: Avril, Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh. Those are a good four players to have, but Detroit certainly needs to work on long-term contracts for Avril and Megatron.

The Lions now have, per franchise tag rules, until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal with Avril.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 9:38 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 1:04 pm
 

Bills, Stevie Johnson reach five-year deal

Johnson signs his new contract with Buffalo. (@RussBrandon, Twitter.com)
By Will Brinson

On Sunday night, the Bills and Stevie Johnson were "close" to wrapping up a five-year deal that would keep Johnson in Buffalo. On Monday morning, they closed whatever gap was missing, and the two sides agreed to a contract, the team announced.

Johnson's deal is reportedly worth $36.25 million with $19.5 million guaranteed. That's $7.25 million per year for Johnson, which is about right based on market value, and his projected performance.

Latest NFL News, Notes

"It’s a good day for us. Our football team got better," Bills GM Buddy Nix said at the team's press conference. "One of our philosophies coming in was that we wanted to try to keep our good players here, draft good, develop them and then try to keep them and we were able to do that with Stevie Johnson. It goes without saying what he’s done in the past two years and I think it’s just going to get better. Again, playing against guys that have been here and have gotten out, one of our main goals was to keep guys like him. It took a long time and probably was going to get done because Stevie said he always wanted to be here and we always said we wanted him."

Johnson was a seventh-round pick in 2008 out of Kentucky and didn't contribute much (12 catches) in his first two years. But he exploded on the scene in 2010, catching 82 passes for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 2011, he was able to repeat his success, catching 76 passes for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns. Johnson is clearly the most important weapon in the Bills passing game, even if he's a bit of a prankster sometimes.

"I want to thank Mr. Wilson for taking that chance on me four years ago coming out of Kentucky and using the 224th pick on me," Johnson said at his press conference. "I want to thank him a lot, and my teammates, the whole Buffalo Bills organization for standing behind me through everything. It’s a great feeling. It’s a blessing to be in this organization. This is where I want to be. Everybody knows that.

"I want to thank my teammates who have looked out for me, basically walking me through things, even the younger guys for looking up to me. That’s pretty amazing right there."

Johnson said he's "done" with end-zone celebrations (the Bills must believe him?), but don't expect his personality to change. Witness the one hitch in his contract negotiations, which apparently involved Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's hairstyle.

"If you get a Mohawk mullet with a beard and a design on the left side I'll sign TODAY! If you don't think everyone in the billsmafia you'll be letting down ... The ball is in your court!" Johnson claims to have texted to Fitzpatrick. "Don't be selfish!"

Fortunately, Fitz found a barbershop, so Stevie was willing to get paid:

Fitzy's got a new haircut to celebrate Stevie's return. (Twitter.com)

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 8:39 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 12:09 pm
 

Texans, Arian Foster reach five-year deal

Everyone in Houston, including Foster, should be celebrating on Monday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Arian Foster, the NFL's leading rusher in 2010 and a restricted free agent to be, was priority No. 1 on the Texans offseason to-do list. Houston can put a check by his name, as they've extended the running back for the next five years.

Latest NFL News, Notes

That news, originally reported by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, was confirmed by Mike McCartney, Foster's agent. Foster's contract is reportedly worth $43.5 million over the life of the deal, with a guaranteed $20.75 million. The running back will also reportedly make $30 million over the first three years of the contract.

As McClain noted, it is indeed a "major coup" for both the Texans and Foster. Foster told CBSSports.com at the Super Bowl that he "100 percent" wanted to be back with the Texans.

Houston's issue was that if they used the restricted free agent tender on Foster, a team with an extra first-round pick (hello, Cincinnati) could conceivably make him an offer and lure him away. Or, at the very least, force the Texans to match without a contract they didn't negotiate.

The Texans likely would've been forced to use the franchise tag on Foster, meaning he would get $7.7 million guaranteed. They're already hampered enough by salary-cap issues without loading that digit onto their balance sheet.

For Foster, the long-term money is big. He's the ultimate NFL success story, going from an undrafted free agent to the league's leading rusher in 2010. In 2011, Foster missed three starts because of an injury he suffered in the preseason, but he still managed to pile up over 1,200 yards.

He's a perfect fit in Gary Kubiak's offense, and by making a deal with Foster now, the Texans essentially own his rights until he's 30, when most running backs careers begin to trend downhill.

Now comes the interesting part: how will Foster's contract affect the rest of the running-back market? Foster's deal is very similar to that of DeAngelo Williams (Williams got $43 million over five years with $21 million guaranteed) which is great news for guys like Ray Rice and Matt Forte.

Rice reportedly wanted "Adrian Peterson money" but that wasn't happening. But contracts similar to what Williams got weren't out of the question, even though Williams contract really seemed to throw the market out of whack relative to the Panthers running back's value. Now Foster's deal only solidifies the market: Five years, $43 million and $20 million guaranteed is a starting point for guys like Rice and Forte going forward.

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 8:12 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 10:21 am
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: Cornerback rankings

Follow all our 2012 free-agent rankings here (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

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 cornerbacks.

The NFL is a passing league, which puts a premium on quarterbacks and wide receivers on offense, and pass rushers and cornerbacks on defense. Incidentally, these positions are among the league's highest paid, too. Go figure.

1. Cortland Finnegan

Breakdown: The former seventh-round pick out of Samford has turned a draft-day oversight into a career fueled by motivation. Finnegan's on-field skills are sometimes overlooked by his trash-talking and knack for playing just past the whistle. But there's no disputing his ability. And if the Titans don't re-sign him (the two sides were reportedly far apart on a deal earlier this week), expect a CB-needy team to pony up. Like, say, the Cowboys.

Possible landing spots: Cowboys, Titans, Texans (for the sheer Andre Johnson/Kevin Walter awkwardness)

2. Brent Grimes

UPDATE: The Falcons franchised Grimes Friday

Breakdown:
Another small-school player who has emerged as one of the NFL's best cornerbacks. The Falcons are working to re-sign Grimes (worst case: they'll franchise him), who played opposite Dunta Robinson in recent seasons. ProFootballFocus ranks Grimes as their No. 1 free-agent CB, noting that he allowed just 258 total receiving yards in 2011.

Possible landing spots: Falcons

3. Carlos Rogers

Breakdown: Perhaps it's coincidence that Rogers' breakout performance came a year after he left the Redskins, the team that drafted him in the first round back in 2005. In Washington, he was considered a bust, a cornerback who got beat too often and dropped too many should-be interceptions. In San Francisco, he looked like the player the Skins envisioned they were getting on draft day. Rogers recorded six interceptions (he had eight in six previous seasons) and 18 passes defended in 2011, and said recently that he hopes to get a deal down with the 49ers before free agency. If not, he's a candidate for the franchise tag, assuming that honor doesn't go to safety Dashon Goldson

Possible landing spots: 49ers, Cowboys

4. Brandon Carr

Breakdown: Carr was taken in the fifth round of the 2008 draft as a Cover-2 cornerback. In three years, he's emerged as one of the Chiefs' best defenders and if he doesn't return to K.C. (the organization hopes to keep him), the Cowboys have grand plans of bringing him to Dallas (yes, just like Finnegan). Kansas City signed Stanford Routt in February but GM Scott Pioli said during a recent radio interview that "The signing of Stanford Routt does not impact where we’re at with Brandon Carr. As a matter of fact, Romeo and I both reached out to Brandon yesterday as this was unfolding and talked to him."

Possible landing spots: Chiefs, Cowboys

5. Lardarius Webb

                                                                            (Getty Images)
Breakdown: After a solid rookie campaign in 2009, Webb regressed in Year 2 only to have his best NFL season in 2011. The Ravens appear set to tender him as a restricted free agent and have him play opposite 2011 first-rounder Jimmy Williams. According to PFF, he didn't allow a single touchdown last season. Webb is also a capable return man.

Possible landing spots: Ravens

6. Terrell Thomas

Breakdown: Thomas suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason but the Giants could choose to re-sign him and let former first-rounder Aaron Ross walk. Thomas' 2010 season can kindly be described as disastrous, but he played well in 2009and at 27, he has plenty of upside. CBSSports.com's Pat Kirwan tweeted Thursday that the Giants and Thomas are closing in on a deal.

Possible landing spots: Giants

7. Tracy Porter

Breakdown: Porter is best known as "that guy who was on the receiving end of the Peyton Manning Super Bowl gift," but he hasn't lived up to expectations as a former second-round pick. That's not to say he's been a disappointment just that he hasn't been a breakout player. In his top-50 free-agent rankings, CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco offers an apt description: "He is a good, solid starting corner, and those guys get paid. The Saints probably won't be able to keep him. He turns 26 in August."

Possible landing spots: Lions

8. Aaron Ross

Breakdown: Ross, like former teammate Thomas, has been plagued by injuries. He's also one of the six Giants cornerbacks set to hit free agency. But unlike Thomas, the former first-rounder may have played his last down in New York. As the New York Daily News noted earlier this week, "(Thomas) was the starter over Ross before he tore his ACL in August. The Giants had even expressed an interest in extending his contract last summer before he got hurt." Still, like we said at the outset: this is a passing league, which means that even mediocre cornerbacks won't have trouble finding work. If Ross can stay healthy, he'll have a job.

Possible landing spots: Lions, Cowboys

9. Tim Jennings

                                                                            (Getty Images)
Breakdown: At first glance, Jennings is undersized and outmatched. That explains why the Colts parted ways with him in 2009, four years after they drafted him in the second round. It's with some irony then that Jennings' performed well in the Bears' defense. As PFF points out, Jennings is primarily a Cover-2 cornerback, a potential limitation given that teams are moving away from that scheme. Even though he was benched last year, Jennings didn't allow a touchdown. While he's not a starter, he provides quality depth in the right system.

Possible landing spots: Cover-2 teams looking for a nickel or dime back

10. William Gay

Breakdown: Gay, like most names at the bottom of this list, isn't an NFL starter. The Steelers tried that in 2010 with disastrous results. But Gay is a pretty good nickel back who can serve as a spot starter. Given that Pittsburgh has invested five years into him learning Dick LeBeau's scheme, they might try to bring him back. If not, he won't have any issues landing with another team.

Possible landing spots: Steelers, Lions

Honorable Mention

Richard Marshall, Eric Wright, Rashean Mathis, Ronde Barber, Marcus Trufant, Phillip Buchanon, Jason Allen, Kelly Jennings, Adam Jones, Antwaun Molden, Cary Williams (RFA), Jacob Lacey (RFA), Keenan Lewis (RFA)

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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