Tag:New England Patriots
Posted on: March 6, 2012 2:32 pm
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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 5, 2012 11:41 pm
 

2012 NFL Free Agency Preview: AFC East

New England has to be the early favorite, but could Buffalo or Miami supplant New York for No. 2 in the East? (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Buffalo Bills

The season got off to such a promising start in Buffalo -- five wins in the first seven games … and then the Bills suffered seven consecutive losses to finish tied for last in the division with the Dolphins. A lot went right over the first six weeks of the season, but a ton went wrong over the final two and a half months. Some of that can be blamed on injuries, but every team can say that. Bigger issues ill-timed mistakes (like, say, Stevie Johnson drops), poor decisions (Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions come to mind), and a porous defense all conspired to sink the season. But for the first time in a long time, the Bills have hope. And we don't mean the "Hey, maybe we'll win eight games!" type hope, either. We mean a team that could have the offensive firepower to keep up with anybody. More generally, Buffalo's fate will come down to two things: offensive consistency and a much-improved defense.

Free agents of note
Wide receiver Stevie Johnson signed a five-year deal Friday, but the team is expected to let WR Roscoe Parrish and running back Tashard Chocie hit free agency. The same holds for tight end Scott Chandler. Meanwhile, left tackle Demetrius Bell and linebacker Kirk Morrison have been negotiating with the team for a possible return in 2012.

Needs
Buffalo was 5-2 to start the season and then the wheels fell off. The offense dried up about the time that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick signed that huge extension (we later found out that he was suffering from a rib injury for the second half of the season), and the defense -- the run defense in particular -- was abysmal. Now Fitzpatrick's healthy, the Bills re-signed Johnson, and Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller give the team two explosive backs.

Dave Wannstedt is the new defensive coordinator and he'll reinstitute the 4-3 after the 3-4 experiment didn't work. This will allow defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus to be on the field at the same time, which should immediately upgrade the run D. Buffalo lacks depth at most positions but especially at linebacker. Kelvin Sheppard will likely play in the middle and Nick Barnett will move to the weak side (the team doesn't expect defensive end Shawne Merriman to be anything more than a situational pass rusher), but expect this need to be addressed in free agency and the draft.

Targets
Former Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton is headed for the open market and he makes sense. As CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco points out, Lofton is better against the run than the pass, and that was one of the Bills' biggest weaknesses a year ago. There's also a report that Buffalo could be interested in Vincent Jackson -- even after signing Johnson to a long-term contract.

Miami Dolphins

When Tony Sparano arrived in Miami in 2008, the Dolphins surprised everyone by going 11-5 and winning the conference. Unfortunately, once the shine was off the Wildcat offense, Miami faded too. They went 7-9 in back-to-back seasons before an 0-7 start doomed Sparano in 2011. The Dolphins finished strong -- a 6-3 record with backup QB Matt Moore -- but the team will look completely different heading into training camp, starting with new head coach Joe Philbin.

Free agents of note
Chad Henne is gone. He was open to returning but the Dolphins had seen enough. In the right system, Henne could be successful, just not in Miami… Paul Soliai was our top-rated free-agent defensive tackle and the organization is content to let him test the waters… Tackle Vernon Carey struggled as a pass blocker and isn't likely to be re-signed, and the same holds for defensive lineman Kendall Langford… Running back Steve Slaton, the former Texans' third-round pick, also isn't expected back, and neither is right tackle Marc Colombo.

Needs
Quarterback is the glaring need. We've mentioned it before but we might as well reiterate it here for effect -- the starters since Dan Marino retired following the 1999 season: Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, A.J. Feeley, Gus Frerotte, Sage Rosenfels, Brian Griese, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen and Matt Moore.

Which is why owner Stephen Ross was reportedly "infatuated" with Peyton Manning and why Philbin might end up with Matt Flynn, who he coached in Green Bay. Whatever happens, as long as the Dolphins don't have a legit quarterback, they'll always be playing for draft position. Miami also needs to upgrade the offensive line, specifically right tackle. Colombo was among the worst tackles in the league according to ProFootballFocus.com's numbers, and Football Outsiders ranked the entire unit 30th in their sacks-allowed metric.

Targets
Manning seems like a long shot because of lingering health issues, potential cap-busting contract demands and the possibility that Manning will want to run the offense. Flynn makes much more sense because he's familiar with Philbin and Philbin's offense, and in the right system he can be effective. The QB free-agency drop-off after Flynn is precipitous. Jason Campbell and Kyle Orton would be fine as one-year stopgaps until the next franchise quarterback arrives in South Beach, but using that logic it makes just as much sense to keep Henne around.

The free-agent market for tackles is even thinner. Jared Gaither might be the best mix of athleticism, upside and affordability, but the Chargers are reportedly interested in keeping him.

New England Patriots

The Patriots returned to the Super Bowl in February for the first time since 2007 (which is also the last time they won a postseason game). But their loss to the Giants in Indianapolis means that New England's last Lombardi Trophy came following the 2005 season. There are worse fates, of course, and as long as Tom Brady is under center the Pats are a playoff team and likely favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Still, Brady needs help. Given New England's cache of draft picks, we expect they'll address each of them in the coming weeks and months.

Free agents of note
Wide receiver Wes Welker was franchised Monday but the hope is that the two sides can come to an agreement on a long-term deal… Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried much of the workload last season but the Pats used two high draft picks on RBs. If Green-Ellis leaves via free agency second-year player Stevan Ridley could be next in line… Left tackle Matt Light is rumored to be contemplating retirement and even if he comes back for another season New England might move on without him (they drafted tackle Nate Solder in the first round last April). The Patriots may also let free agent center Dan Koppen walk… Veterans WR Deion Branch and DE Andre Carter could be back in New England if they're willing to sign for cheap, while longtime Patriot Kevin Faulk has retired but hinted that he'd love to return to the sidelines as an assistant coach…

Needs
Defense and wide receiver top the offseason to-do list. As for the former, the Patriots desperately need depth in the secondary; the team cut former first-round pick safety Brandon Meriweather in preseason and then played much of 2011 with other teams' castoffs at cornerback. CB Devin McCourty regressed in Year 2 after a fantastic rookie campaign, but he could rebound with the right players around him. Second-rounder Ras-I Dowling missed his rookie season with injuries but will be available to begin 2012.

Concerning the latter: Chad Ochocinco was an unmitigated disaster. He had 15 catches in the regular season and a lone touchdown. He was supposed to provide Brady with a deep threat. Didn't happen. In fact, Ochocinco routinely found himself on the sidelines when the Pats went to the no-huddle offense because he was still learning the playbook. There's a chance he returns in 2012 but it will be at a reduced rate. With Welker back for at least another year and Branch also likely to return, New England has to find a legitimate down-the-field target to stretch defenses and open things up for tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Which brings us to...

Targets
The Patriots have the 31st pick in April's draft. The Steelers chose not to franchise Mike Wallace Monday. New England should be working up a contract offer for Wallace right now because if they're able to prying him away from Pittsburgh it'll be worth much more than a low first-round selection. New England could also look to free agency to fill their needs in the secondary and along the defensive line.

New York Jets

The Jets' offseason began with a Rex Ryan press conference explaining why team captain Santonio Holmes quit on his teammates during an embarrassing Week 17 loss to the Dolphins with the playoffs on the line. Ryan promised to fix his locker room, proclaimed that Mark Sanchez was his quarterback, and indicated that despite the whole quitting thing, Holmes was staying put. On the other side of the ball, New York struggled to generate a pass rush and wasn't nearly as effective against the run. And that, almost as much as Sanchez' inconsistency, was responsible for the 8-8 season.

Free agents of note
We listed Sione Pouha as one of the best free-agent defensive tackles and while the Jets didn't franchise him, they'll reportedly sign him to a long-term deal before he hits the open market… Plaxico Burress' one-year stint with Gang Green is over; he along with Holmes didn't always see eye to eye with Sanchez and he said recently he'd love to play for the Eagles… Safety Jim Leonhard came to the Jets from Baltimore but he along with Brodney Pool could be allowed to test free agency… Another former Raven, linebacker Bart Scott, has been given permission to seek a trade… Running back LaDainian Tomlinson is expected to retire… The Jets saved former Bills first-rounder Aaron Maybin from the scrap heap and the team will reportedly tender him at the highest level.

Needs
Sanchez took a beating -- both mentally and physically -- last year. With Holmes set to return, the former probably won't change no matter what Ryan says. But the team can certainly do a better job of protecting their franchise quarterback, particularly if that quarterback ends up being Peyton Manning. (We think that's a longshot at this point but still not entirely outside the realm of possibility. Either way, the fact remains: if New York doesn't protect any of their quarterbacks, they can expect another long season in 2012.) Unfortunately, the Jets have committed to Wayne Hunter as their right tackle, the very same Wayne Hunter who was summarily beaten time after time in 2011. According to ESPNNewYork.com, Hunter was charged with 8.5 sacks and 11 penalties last season.

New York also needs to bolster the secondary, especially if neither Leonhard or Pool is expected to re-sign. It also didn't help that Eric Smith struggled is passing situations (not to mention losing contain on the Thursday Night get-together against the Broncos that led to Tebow's game-winning touchdown run.)

Targets
Ryan, like most coaches, favors his own guys. It explains why he brought Leonhard and Scott with him from Baltimore where he was previously the defensive coordinator. It also explains why he may pursue Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson, who's headed for free agency. Also expect the Jets to address the position -- or safety -- early in April's draft.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 5:33 pm
 

2012 NFL Franchise Tags: Winners and losers

Jackson's a big winner Monday, as he escaped the franchise tag like it was a defensive back. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

A record 21 players received a franchise tag in advance of Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, including six kicker-types. You can see everyone that got tagged at our 2012 NFL Franchise Tag Tracker. Let's break down the winners and losers below.

Winners

Vincent Jackson: Jackson held out most of 2010 because he wanted to get paid. He then signed his franchise-tag tender in 2011 because he wanted to get guaranteed money. Now that the Bolts declined to tag him, he's going to get filthy rich as one of the top two wide receivers to hit the free-agent market on March 13. Jackson and Marques Colston are the two top talents on a market that features several teams -- the Redskins, Rams, Jaguars, Vikings, and Seahawks, to name a few -- in need of a wideout.

Carl Nicks: Nicks reportedly hasn't heard anything on a new deal from the Saints and with New Orleans not reaching a deal with quarterback Drew Brees before the 4 p.m. ET deadline, Nicks is going to hit the open market on March 13. He's 26, a two-time Pro Bowler and made the All-Pro team in

Matt Flynn: Flynn wasn't expected to receive a tag from the Packers, but it's official now, and that means he'll hit the free-agent market. This is critical for Flynn given the number of quarterback-needy teams out there. It's also critical because the Packers won't control his next destination; if they tagged Flynn for the price of $14.4 million guaranteed (which he would sprint to sign), then they'd almost certainly end up trading him. Now Flynn gets to land a bigger contract on the open market.

Brandon Carr: The Chiefs decided to use their franchise tag on wideout Dwayne Bowe. That's a smart move, considering they signed cornerback Stanford Routt recently. But it also means that Carr, a 25-year-old defensive back coming off his best season in 2011, will have the chance to hit the open market. Young free-agent cornerbacks are a coveted commodity, and Carr should expect to get paid handsomely.

Stevie Johnson: The leverage of the guaranteed money involved with using the franchise tag on a wide receiver ($9.4 million) coupled with the deadline on Monday really escalated the talks with the Bills and Johnson, and he ended up netting a deal worth $7.25 million per year. That's not exactly on par with the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL, but

Losers

Wes Welker: The Pats could very well end up getting Wes Welker signed to a long-term deal, but he can't be happy about being put in a situation that could have him not reaching full free agency until he turns 32 (he'll turn 31 in May of this offseason) if the Patriots simply want him to play another year on the franchise-tag value. Welker would've hit a market that paid him handsomely and it might be difficult for the Patriots to pay him the money he wants over longer period of time. We could see a holdout here.

New Orleans Saints: As if things weren't bad enough for the Saints -- see here, here, here, here, here and, whew, here -- they're likely going to lose their top wide receiver (Marques Colston) and one of their top offensive linemen (Nicks) to free agency. Their quarterback (Drew Brees) is not happy with his contract situation, and losing two weapons like that won't do much to improve his mood. So once they get done with BountyGate, there should be plenty of more fun to deal with.

Cliff Avril
: Detroit should be thrilled that they bring Avril back, but that doesn't mean the defensive end has to be happy. He's not, because he knows he'd kill on the open market this season. He'll get more than $10 million guaranteed next year and that's why it seemed possible that the Lions could let him walk -- they've got more than half their salary cap tied up in Avril, Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh and Calvin Johnson next year. So there's some good news: the Lions very much would like to lock up Avril to a long deal.

Houston Texans
: The Texans locked up Arian Foster to a five-year deal that takes him through his 30-year-old season, which is perfect timing for a running back. But it's also giving a lot of money to a running back. (Foster is a tremendously talented guy, a perfect fit for what the Texans do, a great pass-blocker, a great pass-catcher and many other things. But he is still a running back.) On that same day, they were unable to secure Mario Williams, who was their No. 1 pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Super Mario will become a free agent, and unless he's willing to take a serious discount to stay with the Texans, it's hard to fathom how they keep him.

Pittsburgh Steelers: It seemed like the Steelers decision to go on a cutting spree and get below the salary-cap line would result in them using the franchise tag on Mike Wallace, who's a restricted free agent. They didn't and because of a confluence of events, they could be in trouble. One, Stevie got $7.2 million a year just now. Two, Jackson and Colston will get big money in free agency. And three, various tags on other high-profile wide receivers will draw more interest for teams that could consider giving Wallace an offer sheet. He may very well end up staying with the Steelers, but there's at least reason to be concerned.

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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 4, 2012 10:09 am
Edited on: March 4, 2012 10:55 am
 

Ochocinco gets drenched by lion

Ochocinco

This isn't the lion that apparently peed on Ochocinco. This is actually Joba Chamberlain. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

On Saturday, we woke to the somewhat-stunning news that somebody had leaked a “clandestine” video showing a quarterback who looked like Peyton Manning throwing good-looking passes at what was supposedly Duke University.

On Sunday, we’ve got even more important news.

Ochocinco has been peed on. By a lion. For some reason.

And late Saturday night, he decided to break that news to the world.*

*And you thought the OCNN was just a passing phase.

“I never go out at night n the night I do I get peed on by a real "Lion" I feel honored, who can say they got peed on by a "Lion,” Ochocinco tweeted (sic’s and all).
 
Not only was he breaking news, he was analyzing it.

“I wasn't that close, he sprayed like a water gun RT @mizzmccord: how in the world did u even get close enough to a lion to get pee'd on?”

OK, here’s the story, as best as I can piece together. Ochocinco, who talks all the time about how he goes to bed early in the PM, attended a charity event Saturday night, and it featured a lion in a cage. Despite the fact Ochocinco was dressed in his Sunday best, the lion deemed him fit to serve as a firing target and apparently hosed down the Patriots receiver.

What further incensed Ochocinco? The dastardly lion didn’t take aim at Ochocinco’s fiancé. All of which led Ochocinco to one conclusion.

“Tonight's mishap is one of the reasons why I'm always sleep by 8:30, nothing good happens after 9pm,” Ochocinco wrote. “I love you n goodnight.”

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 10:13 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 10:48 am
 

Rams have begun contract talks with Lloyd

By Josh Katzowitz

It makes perfect sense that Rams receiver Brandon Lloyd would try to latch onto New England when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Lloyd, the seventh-ranked free agent in our receiver rankings, wouldn’t mind a reunion with his former coach in Denver, Josh McDaniels, now the Patriots offensive coordinator. But that doesn’t mean St. Louis isn’t trying to re-sign him. And that doesn't mean he'd necessarily mind returning to the Rams.

He’s still their best receiver -- he was traded from Denver (to avoid a locker room issue?) in the middle of the season, and in the final 11 games of the season, he caught 51 passes for 683 yards and five touchdowns, all of which led the team -- and as a result, the organization has begun contract talks with him.

That’s what Rams COO Kevin Demoff told Turf Show Times, saying, “We had initial discussions in Indianapolis. We plan to continue talking."

Lloyd, though, is still leaving open the option of playing for McDaniels in New England, telling CBSSports.com during Super Bowl week, “I’d like to consider myself Josh McDaniels' prized pupil. I would like to continue it.” He also said in that same interview that he was excited about the prospects of playing for new coach Jeff Fisher and new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and playing again with quarterback Sam Bradford.

The Rams could use the franchise tag to keep Lloyd, but they’ve also recently said they won’t do it.



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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 25, 2012 7:17 pm
 

Report: Pats 'likely' to franchise tag Wes Welker

Welkers will reportedly get the franchise tag from New England. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We've mentioned Wes Welker's name several times over the past few weeks. Once as our pick for the top available free-agent wide receiver and previously as a player on whom the franchise tag would probably be used.

And that appears to be the case: according to a report from Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Patriots "are likely" to utilize the franchise tag and place it on Welker before the March 5 deadline, in order to prevent Welker from hitting the open market. If Welker signed his tender, he would receive a guaranteed, one-year salary of $9.5 million.

There was some belief that the Patriots wouldn't commit that much cash in guaranteed money to Welker and would let him test the market and then attempt to re-sign him at a lower rate than what Welker reportedly wants (it's believed he wants to be paid somewhere in the range of $14 to $15 million per year).

Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald reported on Saturday that the logic behind the Patriots change of heart is that the market for Welker in free agency would be "incredibly active."

The last time New England used the franchise tag, things did not go smoothly. Logan Mankins, one of the defendants in the Lockout Lawsuit, held out for seven games after the labor crisis was resolved.

And there's a chance that a similar stand-off could occur with Welker if the two sides don't reach a long-term deal. Welker's critical to the Patriots offense -- he has 554 receptions and 6,105 receiving yards since 2007 -- but he would also like to be paid like one of the top wideouts in the game and given his age and previous injury history, the security of one more big contract.

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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