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Tag:Carolina Panthers
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: 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 25, 2012 6:13 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 6:18 pm
 

Devon Still: 'I'm the best DT in this draft'

Still doesn't lack for confidence. (US Presswire)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- NFL prospects are, by the nature of the combine, forced into comparisons. The top group of guys at every position want to be the best. And many of them think they're the best. Like Devon Still, Penn State defensive tackle, who isn't interested in hearing all the hype surrounding LSU tackle Michael Brockers.

Still was asked how the defensive tackle class shapes up and said that "hands-down" he's the best DT in the draft.

"I think hands-down I'm the best defensive tackle in this draft," Still said. "I was able to take over a lot of games this season. Just the production I had -- I was able to disrupt plays even if I wasn't making the statistics."

Still was speaking specifically of Brockers. And Brockers, who met with the media later on during the day, was asked specifically about Still, but declined to make his opinion on the comparison known ... for know.

"If he said that, he said that," Brockers said. "I can’t really go back and comment on that statement. We’ll see Monday."

Monday's when the defensive tackles, defensive ends and linebackers take the field for the drills. For now, we'll simply have to rely on our own rankings: Still is the 10th-best player in the draft according to NFLDraftScout.com ... and Brockers is eighth.

Brockers is also the top defensive tackle in the draft. For now.

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Posted on: February 25, 2012 3:49 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 3:52 pm
 

LSU's Brockers up to 322 pounds for combine

Brockers somehow put on another 15 pounds before the combine. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Between the time he came to LSU as a freshman in 2009 and the time he left after the 2011 season, Michael Brockers gained more than 50 pounds. (Although Brockers might try to tell you it's closer to 30.) Since the end of the season, he's gained another 15 pounds, clocking in at 322 pounds on Saturday at the combine.

But the weight is, as NFLDraftScout.com's eighth-ranked prospect put it on Saturday, "good." Brockers, who won't run the 40 or bench at the combine, said that the addition of any weight is primarily muscle-based.

"I guess I'm just blessed to have this body frame and still be able to be quick," Brockers said before acknowledging that the weight does slow him down some. "Oh yeah. When I went from 280 and I jumped up to 310 my 40 time went from like 4.8 to five-flat."

Brockers, who said he'd probably need to put on even more weight if he wanted to truly play defensive tackle in the NFL, is a guy analysts are fawning over at the combine. He's got the combination of size, speed, success, raw talent and ability to play multiple positions is enticing.

"I'm all over the board," Brockers said. "Since I played so many positions at LSU, I feel like I'm all down the line. I played the five [technique]. Not on passing situations, really more run situations."

Some teams to watch for Brockers are the Panthers at No. 9 overall; Carolina's definitely going defense and his biggest need  gave up the 25th most rushing yards per game in the NFL in 2011 and the eighth-most yards per carry in the NFL.

"I play the run, and I feel like I'm a force in the middle," Brockers said.

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Posted on: February 25, 2012 11:19 am
Edited on: February 25, 2012 11:28 am
 

Matt Kalil runs unofficial 4.96 40-time Saturday

Kalil managed to elevate his status over the weekend. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Matt Kalil, the top-rate offensive line prospect by NFLDraftScout.com, has kept a low profile in Indianapolis. But that's not because he's not talented; it's because the focus here is on Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.

But Kalil stole some of that thunder on Saturday, when he stepped onto the field and looked incredibly athletic while running his 40-yard time, posting a 4.96 time, scored unofficially. (Matt added another unofficial time of five seconds even to his tally, which is also impressive.)

That time, incidentally, is the exact same time that Matt's brother, Panthers center Ryan Kalil, posted at his combine effort in 2006.

Matt's time puts him in good company: Joe Thomas, Eric Winston, Trent Williams and the elder Kalil are all among the group of linemen who've gone sub-five seconds on their 40 time at the combine since 2006.

Speed isn't everything when it comes to linemen, obviously. And Kalil's not the only speedy lineman: Georgia's Cordy Glenn also posted an unofficial 4.96 40 time on Saturday.

But when you start adding the pieces together on Kalil -- between the speed, the strength (30 reps) and the lineage -- it's hard to fathom how Kalil could end up busting as an NFL player.

And it's becoming even harder to fathom how anyone else, including Stanford's Jonathan Martin, could try to claim the title of best available offensive lineman in this draft.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 9:31 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 1:26 pm
 

2012 NFL Combine Day 2: Winners and losers

RG3 was the biggest winner on Friday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Day 2 of the NFL combine is in the books and we have a whole new set of fresh faces to judge. On Friday, wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks made the rounds. Perhaps you've heard of some of these guys.

Winners

Robert Griffin III: RG3 showed up to his combine interview sporting Ninja-Turtle socks, drew a crowd on par with Andrew Luck and absolutely wooed them. He said he wants a team to "fall in love with him," wouldn't care if he had to be a backup in year one, insists he is much more "football smart" than anyone would want to believe, and even said he models himself after ... Kenny Stabler. (And Randall Cunningham and "guys no one expects [him] to know about.") Oh yes, and he actually managed to growsince he last played football. The only question surrounding Griffin at this point is who's willing to give up the most in order to take him second overall.

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Alshon Jeffery: South Carolina's scrutinized wide receiver showed up the combine on Friday and laughed off reports that he gained so much weight he was tipping the scales at 250 pounds. ("Anyone can write anything on the Internet.") In fact, Jeffery lost weight, dropping from the 230 pounds during the season all the way down to 216 for his official weigh-in at the combine. Jeffery claims he just "drank a lot of water" to drop the weight. That seems unlikely, but it's not really important how he lost the weight. It's important why he lost the weight, and that was to show he's motivated to move up draft boards between now and April. We also feel compelled to note that his favorite food is lasagna.

Trent Richardson: Richardson's dealing with an injury so he's not going to participate at the combine. But he said the injury wasn't a "setback," and then he proceeded to be possibly the most quotable guy at the combine. His attitude was one of approachable confidence, and at one point he said that he's more than willing to meet Ray Lewis head on in the hole. It was throughly enjoyable to hear Richardson riff, and if he can back up his talk, he'll be worthy of a top-10 pick.

Peyton Manning: With the management from the Dolphins, Chiefs and Jets all talking to the media on Thursday and not much else going on during the day, Manning's name was freaking everywhere. On Friday, he was less talked about. Scott Pioli of the Chiefs straight no-commented any Manning talk and Ozzie Newsome looked a combo of incredulous and exasperated when he was asked about Manning replacing Joe Flacco. RG3 and Luck both got questions about Manning, but that comes with the top-pick territory, and they weren't grilled on it. With the Redskins rolling onto the schedule Saturday, Manning would be wise to enjoy the peace.

Orson Charles: The third-ranked tight end on NFLDraftScout.com's board, Charles showed up on Thursday and told the media that he'd be thrilled if he was drafted by a team like the Falcons and needed to sit until Tony Gonzalez was done. (It's an appropriate hypothetical for a kid who went to Georgia.) Then on Friday he made it a little harder for people to pass on him, when he benched 225 pounds 35 times. That's eight more than the nearest tight end and more than all but one offensive lineman.

Losers

Combine Changes: It's one thing to use fully automated timing devices for the sake of being more accurate. But what's the point of having two guys race against each other in the 40-yard dash? The answer: making the combine more fun to watch. And with all due respect to the fans who make the NFL the most popular sport in the world, there's just no reason to mess with a proven manner of evaluating players. Pitting guys one-on-one in the 40 might sound like the possibility to create really interesting matchups, but it would probably just create more "week before the combine" injuries.

Mike Adams: NFL teams can deal with a player having off-field issues. Adams has a pair of suspensions from his time at Ohio State and that has to be a concern, even if he's says he's "past" those maturity problems. Perhaps a bigger problem? He only benched 225 pounds 19 times. That's less than all but eight of the linemen who lifted on Friday, and less than all but five of the tight ends. Bench press isn't a clear-cut indicator of success, but that's a pretty big pair of red flags for the Ohio State product.

Tim Tebow: The phrase "one like Tim" would be insensitive, except John Elway's just talking about quarterbacks. But that was the phrase he used when we asked him what kind of backup quarterbacks he'd try to acquire to sit behind Tebow on the depth chart. And as Clark Judge wrote on Friday, Elway's pretty clearly not committed to Tebow as his quarterback of the future even though he and the rest of the Broncos keep trying to speak glowingly of their quarterback. Also, Tim, Fred Durst? Really? Really.

Panthers, Seahawks: Neither team did anything "bad," per se. They just happened to end up on the wrong end of a coin flip against the Dolphins and Chiefs, respectively. And while the loss only cost them one draft spot, that's a significant thing if you're a team like Carolina or Seattle who might be interested in bouncing up or down on the draft board. Lower picks are worth exponentially less in trades.

Justin Blackmon: This isn't to knock Blackmon, because we like the kid a lot. He's a talented, physical receiver who's managed to remain humble throughout his rise to stardom. But sometimes good qualities in people look bad in draft prospects: Blackmon isn't running the 40 (the primary concern about him is speed) because of a hamstring injury he said he suffered last week. He measured in shorter than the 6'1" and he admitted route-running is a problem for him. He's too talented to slip too far, but we wonder whether the Rams will definitely make him a top-five pick.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:09 am
Edited on: February 24, 2012 12:39 pm
 

Dolphins, Chiefs win coin toss, draft order set

Here's a random old pic of a coin toss, since there's no vid or pics of Friday's action. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2012 NFL Draft order is finalized: the Dolphins and Chiefs won coin tosses (against the Panthers and Seahawks, respectively) on Friday morning in Indianapolis to secure the eighth (Miami) and 11th (KC) picks in the draft.

The Panthers will now select ninth in April, and the Seahawks -- losers to the Chiefs -- will select 12th. The coin tosses took place early in the morning, utilizing specially-designed, commemorative coins. There were no media present (or allowed, for that matter), but the teams streamed the flip live on their various websites.

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"It kind of went straight up and it didn’t start flipping until it hit the ground," Chiefs GM Scott Pioli described. "It’s a huge difference because in that one spot in the draft you don’t know who the other team is going to pick. It’s just an earlier opportunity for you to get what you want in the draft."

While the difference between winning and losing the toss is only one pick, it does make a huge difference. If a team like the Panthers was (hypothetically) eying someone like UNC defensive end Quinton Coples, they'd be in a world of hurt with the Dolphins now one spot ahead of them.

"I think it makes a big difference,” Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland said on Thursday. "I’ve never been into a draft where I didn’t feel like if you’re at the 10th pick there are nine players and if you’re the 22nd pick there’s usually 20 players so you’re usually right behind it. So the higher up the board I can get, as long as it’s with the flip of a coin, I’ll take it."

Perhaps the biggest difference in the one draft spot is the value in a potential trade: for every spot that a team moves up, the value of the pick grows exponentially.

Just ask anyone trying to move up to the Rams spot at No. 2 overall.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 10:24 pm
 

Rivera says Jeremy Shockey might retire

Ron Rivera isn't sure whether Shockey wants to play next season. (US Presswire)
Eye on Football staff report

INDIANAPOLIS -- There’s little question Jeremy Shockey isn’t the same player he was when he averaged 62 catches per season from 2004-07 with the Giants and was considered one of the best tight ends in the game. But after the Saints cut him before the 2011 season, he signed with the Panthers on a one-year, $4 million contract and played admirably alongside Greg Olsen.

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His 37 catches last year were a career-low, but the fact he played 15 games, matching the most ever during his injury-ravaged career, was a good sign. Now, however, at least one person believes he’s contemplating ending his career after 10 years in the league. 

That was the word from Carolina coach Ron Rivera at Thursday’s media session at the scouting combine.

“It was a great conversation and he just said, 'Well, we'll see,'” Rivera said. “With him, who knows?”

The last time Shockey and Rivera talked was in January after the season ended. But since then, Rivera told Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer that he hasn’t heard an update because Shockey -- who’s either a hero or a scoundrel -- has been traveling abroad.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney, though, isn't buying it, telling the AP, "We’ve gotten no indication that Jeremy’s considering retirement at this point,” and that, “it’s ultimately a question for Jeremy but all indications we are getting is that he wants to play.”

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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