Posted on: February 23, 2012 4:27 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 4:28 pm
 

Are Dolphins best fit for Matt Flynn's skills?

Green Bay might franchise Flynn but only to trade him to a team in desperate need of a QB.  (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

The Packers inked tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year deal Wednesday night, which means that they can now use the franchise tag on backup quarterback Matt Flynn. The organization isn't interested in paying Flynn $14.4 million to watch Aaron Rodgers in 2012, but instead are hoping to trade him to a quarterback-needy team.

" If (the Packers) franchise Flynn before the March 5 deadline, they would be on the hook for a $14.4 million salary, but their intention would be to do a sign-and-trade," Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote late Wednesday.

"In other words, they would shop Flynn to those interested in him and take the best offer. Flynn would have to agree to renegotiate the one-year deal into a long-term contract before any team would be willing to make a trade. Then, once he was dealt, he would restructure the contract."

The Patriots did something similar with Matt Cassel in 2009 -- franchising him before eventually trading him to the Chiefs for a second-round pick.

So who might be in the market for Flynn's services? The Dolphins seem like the most logical destination; new head coach Joe Philbin was Flynn's offensive coordinator in Green Bay and Miami has no intentions of re-signing Chad Henne. Then there are the Redskins, Seahawks, Cardinals, and the Browns.

We went into painstaking detail about Flynn's future (as well as that of Peyton Manning, the other quarterback who will draw plenty of interest in free agency as soon as he's released).


NFL Films' Greg Cosell, who watches more game film than anyone whose not an NFL coach, wrote Thursday about Flynn's strengths and weaknesses. Many of the concerns scouts had about Flynn coming out of college remain (size and arm strength chief among them), but he still has the chance to be pretty good.

"Flynn, at 6-foot-2, does not possess prototypical size. He has above-average arm strength, nothing more," Cosell said. "There are power throws he will struggle to make, like deep digs at 18-22 yards, or deep comebacks. In fact, these are not throws you would ask Flynn to make. The bottom line: Flynn is not a top-level passer.

"His attributes, based on film breakdown of his two NFL starts, derive from his talent as a timing and rhythm passer who’s decisive with his reads and throws, and has shown good accuracy in the short to intermediate areas. …One thing I liked was his pocket movement. He showed the ability to slide and maintain his downfield focus. That’s a far more important trait than running out of the pocket."

So what are Flynn's long-term prospects? "Flynn, I believe, can be a successful NFL starter, but he must be carefully manipulated by the schematics of the passing game, and helped by the play-calling," Cosell said. "He’s not Aaron Rodgers simply because he put up better numbers in a late-season start. Rodgers is an exception, a supremely talented passer with rare traits. Few quarterbacks in NFL history have thrown with Rodgers’ combination of velocity and accuracy."

Cosell concludes that "It would make good sense for Flynn to join his former offensive coordinator in Miami. Philbin understands from personal experience Flynn’s strengths and limitations. If he gets the chance, he will take a page from the Bill Walsh book, and cast Flynn in his rightful role: an efficient passer in a multi-dimensional passing game in which the scheme rules, not the quarterback."

Flynn has drawn comparisons to Kevin Kolb, who was miscast in the Cardinals' scheme last season  (they run a completely different offense than the Eagles' version of the West Coast). The difference: if Flynn lands in Miami, he'll have a much greater chance for success.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said he hadn't heard about the grassroots South Florida "Manning to Miami" push until someone told him about it at the combine in Indianapolis Thursday morning, but said that "I don't think it has to be a long-term solution (at quarterback) -- I think you can look at a short-term solution."

Hopefully, Ireland meant that in the physical sense (Flynn's 6-2) and not in the "we can get a year or two out of this old-timer assuming he's completely healthy (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, we're getting Peyton!)" sense.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 4:21 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 4:31 pm
 

Rex regrets guarantee, won't rule out Peyton

The Manning-to-New York speculation won't die just quite yet. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- This time last year, Rex Ryan stood up on the podium at the NFL combine and guaranteed that the Jets would win a Super Bowl in 2011. Whoops.

No such guarantees from Rex this year, but last year's promise was the topic of his opening remarks for his 2012 press conference. And Ryan said that he believes his guarantee "contributed" to last year's "terrible" season.

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"It's something I've been thinking about a great deal and obviously we had a terrible season and I'll take full responsibility for it," Ryan said. "I think part of that guarantee really contributed to that. Now looking forward, which I can't wait to do, with that upcoming season. First off: no promises. There won't be any promises."

Rex's own comments weren't the only ones he didn't like. Asked about Greg McElroy's comments regarding the team's locker-room chemistry, Rex made it clear that didn't sit well with him.

"I was angry about it," Ryan said. "I never agreed with all the statements he made, but hey, the thing about our football team is that we're truly a transparent organization. You're going to know a lot about the New York Jets in the great times, but you're also going to know a lot about us in the not-so-good times."

"Are you talking about my son? Or some other Peyton?" "First off, Peyton's under contract to a different team so I can't talk about him specifically. But with our organization, we will look at everybody. There's a list of 10 free-agent quarterbacks that I've looked at. There's the draft guys I've looked at. In my opinion, we have the best cornerback in football history -- along with Deion Sanders -- and we're still looking at a million corners.

"We will do -- always -- what's in the best interest of our organization. For us, that means we're going to be prepared. We're going to look at any possibility that out's there, perceived or otherwise.

"We will look at all possibilities."

In other words, even though Rex is currently throwing his full support behind Mark Sanchez, the Jets not looking at Peyton is far from a guarantee.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 2:50 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 2:52 pm
 

LaRon Landry is very, very muscular

Landry looks more like Terry Tate than a defensive back. (Twitter/Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Safety LaRon Landry played in just eight games in 2011 and nine in 2010, and twice ended those seasons on injured reserve after his left Achilles tendon didn't respond to treatment. His inability to stay on the field probably means that the free agent won't return to the Redskins, the team that drafted him sixth-overall in 2007.

Whatever professional fate awaits the former LSU star, this much is certain: Landry's not sitting around bemoaning his misfortune. He's working out. A lot.

                                                                                      (Twitter)
On Thursday, D.C. Sports Bog's Dan Steinberg posted two photos of Landry, who looks huge. So huge, in fact, that our initial reaction was "When did Landry get his picture taken in front of a funhouse mirror?"

(Judging by his photo stream, he doesn't own many shirts. Then again, look at him. Off-the-rack clothes don't fit.)

This isn't the first time Landry's physique has been a story. In August 2010, Steinberg first mentioned it, that spawned The Official LaRon Landry's muscles are huge" thread on a Redskins message board, and now you, flabby girly man, can attempt his workout too.

Last December, after Landry landed on IR for the second time in as many seasons, head coach Mike Shanahan said “(In 2010), in the first nine games that he played, he should’ve been player of the year — I think he would’ve been defensive player of the year. But he hasn’t been able to stay healthy.”

Landry looks plenty healthy in those photos. Whether that means he's healthy enough to endure an entire NFL season is another matter entirely.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 2:03 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 2:08 pm
 

Cardinals won't shut the door on Peyton Manning

Eye on Football Illustration (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Cardinals, despite having Kevin Kolb and John Skelton on their roster, are considered a candidate to land Peyton Manning if/when he's released by the Colts. CBS Sports Charley Casserly first talked about this way back in January, and with Arizona's freedom to get out of Kolb's contract before March 17, speculation has only increased.

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Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves, speaking Thursday at the NFL combine, did nothing to quell that speculation, leaving the door wide open for the possibility of making a change at quarterback.

"We're about opportunities to get better," Graves said when asked about the Cardinals depth at quarterback. "Everyone out there associated with our team understands that this is a competitive game and we're all looking to get better. So if those opportunities present themselves, so be it. Otherwise we've got an outstanding group of quarterbacks right now.

"We believe we can win with those quarterbacks and we're preparing as if they're going to be the group we're working with and we'll see what other opportunities present themselves if that happens."

So what about the bonus due to Kolb on March 17? Have the Cardinals talked about whether or not they're going to exercise it?

"No, we haven't had any discussions about that," Whisenhunt, not looking entirely pleased to be asked about it, said.

Graves was less direct about the discussions surrounding the Kolb decision, but also made it pretty clear (without being too precise) that the Cardinals will explore options if and when they become available.

"Every day you have to work with the information you have at hand," Graves said. "Right now as I look at it, we fully expect that Kevin's going to be with us so we'll honor the contract as it is, obviously. But we'll see what every day brings forward and we'll make that decision accordingly. Right now, as it stands today, we're not anticipating anything different."

Based on what Whisenhunt and Graves said, it's unfair to simply state that the Cardinals will ditch Kolb and chase Manning. But it's also pretty clear that such a process is something they haven't ruled out as of right now.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 1:15 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 4:31 pm
 

Bill Polian explains why Colts struggled in 2011

One man's opinion: injuries conspired to sink Indy's season in 2011. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Colts won two games in 2011. Two days into 2012, owner Jim Irsay began the house-cleaning by firing team president Bill Polian and his son, general manager Chris Polian. The front office had come under scrutiny after quarterback Peyton Manning began the season on the sidelines while he recovered from multiple neck surgeries and the team had no viable backup to replace him.

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Then there are the swings and misses with recent first-round picks that had taken some of the luster off the elder Polians' impressive roster-building resume. Excluding Anthony Castonzo, Indy's 2011 first-rounder, Polian is on the hook for Jerry Hughes ('10), Donald Brown ('09), Anthony Gonzalez ('07), and Marlin Jackson ('05), all players who have, for various reasons, failed to live up to expectations.

On Thursday, almost two months after Polian was fired, he spoke to the media about where it all went wrong. The Boston Herald's Ian Rapoport asked Polian what he learned about team-building after Manning's injury kept him in civvies on game day.

“No. 1, don’t have injuries,” he said. “And don’t have them in big bunches, either, specifically not the offensive line. And six starters on defense. You can’t overcome that. You don’t use injuries as an excuse or a crutch during the season, but when you lose, I think we lost nine starters, excluding Peyton for the bulk of the season, you can’t overcome that. That’s just the perfect storm.”

Hmm. Here's what we got from Polian: Don't use injuries as an excuse or a crutch during the season, but after the season it's fine.

Look, injuries make it that much more difficult to win in the NFL, but it's not impossible. The Packers suffered a ton of injuries in 2010, slipped into the playoffs as a No. 6 seed and won the Super Bowl. The Patriots, Giants and Steelers also lost a number of key players this season and all three teams made the playoffs, and two made it to the championship game.

Polian also admitted that the quarterback situation behind Manning was a fiasco.

“From the backup quarterback standpoint, I’ve said all along, I thought that we probably, I probably could’ve done a better job of building up that position,” he said via Rapoport. “But it wasn’t for lack of trying. We tried very hard once we knew that Peyton was going to be a long-term situation to try to make a deal for an established quarterback, but we couldn’t do it.”

Again with the qualifications -- "It wasn't from the lack of trying!" and "We tried very hard!" This isn't Pop Warner where everybody gets a trophy and trying hard is all that matters. In the NFL, players and coaches are judged on one thing: results. Ultimately, Irsay judged Polian, too, and it cost him his job. Polian did admit, however, that he has a newfound respect for what the Patriots pulled off in 2008, when Tom Brady went down in Week 1 and Matt Cassel stepped in and went 11-5 (although New England missed the playoffs).

“Well, they did a nice job,” he said. “They did a nice job. But they didn’t have… they had a great defense to go along with it, we did not. Much of it was lost to injury over the course of the season. That’s the difference between the two.”

Remind us: whose fault was it that the Colts' defense wasn't very good?

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 12:36 pm
 

Steelers want Wallace 'to finish his career here'

Pittsburgh would love to keep top wideout Wallace. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kevin Colbert, as GM of the Steelers, is in a precarious position. Pittsburgh has little-to-no cap room and one of their top offensive players, wide receiver Mike Wallace, is a restricted free agent who's been viewed as a candidate for offer sheets from various AFC rivals.

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Colbert emphasized on Thursday at the NFL combine that the Steelers, despite rumors to the contrary, are still very much open to using the franchise tag on Wallace, even though it would tack on another $9.4 million to their salary cap.

"We won't know until we know what we're dealing with as far as cap space. So we have to leave that option open, absolutely," Colbert said. "The thing I can say for sure about Mike is that we want Mike to finish his career with the Steelers and we're confident that Mike wants to finish his career here and play with a great quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger and have the receivers we have to compliment him.

"We think he's only scratched the surface in what he can do. There's a lot left there that still can be developed and we're anxious to see it happen as a Steeler."

The Steelers are being hurt by changes to restricted free agent (RFA) rules in the new CBA; teams only have to surrender a first-round pick in exchange for Wallace if the Steelers decline to match any offer from someone else.

"The compensation is what it is," Colbert said. "We have to live within the rules and make the best decisions we can."

Cap space is the bigger issue, though. Even if the Steelers can get under the cap through cutting players and restructuring contracts, they'd still need to wiggle out another $10 million in order to easily bring Wallace back in 2012.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 11:45 am
Edited on: February 23, 2012 12:32 pm
 

Jags owner: stadium tarps are like underachieving

Shahid Khan 'absolutely' wants to get rid of those tarps that cover seats in EverBank Field. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Just in case the five wins in 2011 or the .500-or-worse records dating back to 2008 didn't make it obvious enough, new Jaguars owner Shahid Khan would like to add another item to the list of "sure signs your franchise is a failure." Those infernal tarps that cover seats in the upper deck of EverBank Field.

Officially, the stadium has 76,867 seats but the tarps cover some 10,000 seats. But the notion that fans don't support the hometown team is inaccurate. It's just that the stadium is too big for the NFL market. (And this isn't a slap at Jacksonville; Pittsburgh's Heinz Field holds fewer than 70,000, as does Indy's Lucas Oil Stadium.)

The Florida Times-Union's Tania Ganguli wrote about this Wednesday.

"The tarps aren't as shameful as they're perceived to be nationally. They bring the size of the stadium down to an appropriate size for the market, and it still seats more than the stadiums of NFL teams in bigger markets, including the Chicago Bears."

As PFT notes, EverBank Stadium has to be expanded to more than 80,000 for the Georgia-Florida game because the NFL isn't as popular as college football in Florida. Khan hopes to change that and it starts with those tarps.

"Absolutely," Khan told Sports Business Journal's Daniel Kaplan when asked if he hoped to do away with the tarps altogether. "To me, every day I look at the tarps it is like underachieving, and I can’t wait to be able to do that."

Khan was also asked about new marketing and sales initiatives.

The new owner with the new head coach. (US PRESSWIRE)
"Some of the upper bowl, we have reduced prices," he said. "One of the strategic issues with the Jaguars is it is a young team. We don’t have the second-, third-, fourth-generation fans. 'I went to a game with my grandfather, and we walked through two feet of snow,' — and things like that. You don’t have any of those connections. This year … if you bring a child to the game, those tickets are half price. In certain sections we are doing that … to really develop the next generation. "

Part of that includes expanding the Jaguars brand beyond the United States.

"London: There is an ex-pat population; they understand the sport and [have] an interest. Canada would be another one. Germany is another one. People don’t realize how many football fans, NFL fans, are in Germany. Spain is another one; Barcelona is a very sports-centric city. … Especially for teams like Jacksonville, it provides a showcase."

Ultimately, popularity comes down to one thing: winning. That's something the Jags haven't done since 2007, which was also the only time the franchise won a playoff game during Jack Del Rio's eight-plus years as head coach. Now that chore falls to new head coach Mike Mularkey and second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 10:55 am
Edited on: February 23, 2012 12:30 pm
 

John Fox says Tim Tebow, Brady Quinn are 'close'

Fox says Tebow and Quinn have a "close relationship."(Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- If you read the headlines relating to Broncos quarterbacks over the past few days, you'd think that Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow are mortal enemies. Quinn was quoted in a GQ article as saying that some of the things Tebow does in public; he later backtracked on the comments via Twitter, claiming they were taken out of context. (Michael Silver, the author of the article, points out that both he and Quinn have a copy of the audio file.) 

Broncos coach John Fox was asked about Quinn's comments Thursday at the NFL combine in Indy.

"Knowing their relationship, knowing both Brady and Tim myself, sometimes things get lost in translation," "I know their relationship is very close. They have a lot of respect for each other. They're very good teammates to each other. That's kind of what I know -- it's hard for me to stay up on all the comments, but I kind of know what I know."


Fox also said that Quinn's comments wouldn't impact whether or not the Broncos were interested in bringing back Quinn, a free agent on March 13, in 2012.

"Oh no, I know their relationship, I know he was a great teammate to Tim," Fox said. "I know Tim knows that. We still like Brady Quinn."

Fox said he was glad Quinn apologized and pointed out that "sometimes that happens." (That, we took him to mean is "saying something you immediately regret while a camera or tape recorder is running.")

We think it's still a long shot that Quinn returns to Denver. He's seen the sideshow that comes with Tebow and he knows what happens to anyone who gets playing time ahead of Tebow. There's a decent opportunity for playing time in Denver -- Tebow could get injured or struggle -- but it comes with the hefty cost, as Quinn's already learned this offseason.

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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