Tag:Indianapolis Colts
Posted on: February 21, 2012 6:01 pm
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Jaworski thinks Manning fits best with the Jets

Jaws says he loves Mark Sanchez, just not more than Peyton Manning. (Getty Images/US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

There hasn't been much to report on the Peyton Manning front lately. The media furor surrounding the Colts' quarterback left Indianapolis about the same time the Super Bowl did. Which lends credence to the theory that the Manning-Jim Irsay back-and-forth was all about winning the PR battle while the biggest game of the year was played in their backyard.

The most recent speculation has the Seahawks interested in Manning, assuming the 36-year-old quarterback will be healthy enough to resume his career in 2012 and that the Colts cut him loose in the coming weeks. (Peyton's due $28 million on March 13; we can't see a scenario where Irsay forks over that kind of dough.)

But perhaps we're being too presumptuous. Here's what Seahawks general manager John Schnieder said last week.

“I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of really good quarterback people that have taught me a lot about the position,” Schneider said lastThursday. “So I just kind of incorporate that with the quarterbacks I’ve been around. I just try to take all the information possible from everybody I’ve been around. Ijust know if you panic at the position, it can set the organization back. So we're not going to do that,"

“That may disappoint fans, because they want to see an instant guy and have that instant success,” Schneider continued. “But really, you’re better off continuing to build your team. Initially when I got here, I thought we were going to plug the quarterback in and we were going built around him. If we had done that, we would have panicked in a way. And I’m not sure we would have been able to host the Saints (in the 2010 wild-card playoff game) and had that great atmosphere and all that.”

There's something to be said for not panicking. Then again, it's hard to convince the fan base that you're taking the position seriously when you trade for Charlie Whitehurst and a year later sign Tarvaris Jackson. The former isn't a capable backup and the latter was described perfectly by NFL Network's Mike Mayock this week, “He’s developed to a certain point, but I think that position needs to be upgraded. And I don’t mind T-Jack competing for the position, but I think you either have to get a free agent in there or you have to draft somebody.”

But Seattle isn't the only team breathlessly included in the Manning sweepstakes. There are the other usual suspects: the Redskins, Dolphins and Jets. ESPN's Ron Jaworski, most recently identified as the third wheel in Monday Night Football's new two-man booth, was asked about Manning's NFL future.

“I think Peyton Manning ends up playing somewhere else (other than Indianapolis)," he said during an appearance 97.5 in Philadelphia (via SportsRadioInterviews.com). "I think it’s a win-win for everyone. Certainly, when you look at the Colts right now, they’re a team that’s going through their development process with a new coaching staff and new players. It’s going to be just like when Peyton came on board, years to develop that football team. I think it’s best for Peyton to go and play on a team that can compete for a Super Bowl, a team that might be a quarterback away from elevating that team to Super Bowl status and I think that would be a win-win situation.”

When asked about potential destinations, Jaws suggested what a lot of people have been thinking for months.

“The New York Jets. … I love Mark Sanchez and there are 25 other quarterbacks in this league that I would take Peyton Manning over. There’s a turf war in New York. The Giants just won the Super Bowl. The Jets are fighting for every inch of space they can get in the newspaper. How do you get that inch? How do you get the headlines? You sign Peyton Manning.”

Jaworski joins Curtis Martin, us, and we imagine Rex Ryan, who won't admit it now but has almost certainly given some thought to the possibility.

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Posted on: February 21, 2012 1:10 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 5:01 pm
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: Quarterback rankings

The 2012 free-agent quarterback class is an, um, diverse group. (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 quarterbacks.

Though the list of free-agent quarterbacks for 2012 isn't necessarily the greatest crop of players in NFL history, it does have the potential to be one of the most intriguing in years, because of one man: Peyton Manning. Manning's saga is well-documented at this point; the back-and-forth between Manning's camp and Jim Irsay dominated the freaking Super Bowl.

Releasing him into the wild seems like a mere matter of timing. So we're going to take that assumption and add Manning to our lists of free agents. We're also including the Saints Drew Brees and 49ers Alex Smith on this list, since both are technically unrestricted free agents, until they receive the franchise tag from their respective teams. There's a better likelihood of Jimmy Clausen unseating Cam Newton than there is Brees not returning to New Orleans, but maybe someone in the Saints office will forget to fax in the franchise-tag paperwork.


Brees offseason could be interesting.  (Getty Images)

1. Drew Brees

Breakdown: The biggest problem for the Saints isn't that Brees might leave. He's not going to unless something really ridiculous happens. The biggest problem for the Saints is that if they're forced to use the franchise tag on Brees, they could end up losing Carl Nicks and Marques Colston. That won't make Brees any happier when it gets down to brass-tack negotiating.
Potential Landing Spots: Saints

2. Peyton Manning

Breakdown: Perhaps you've heard of Manning before. He's third all-time in passing yards (54,828). He's third all-time in passing touchdowns (399). He's won more MVPs than anyone in NFL history (four). And he's second in his own family with Super Bowl rings (one). That last item isn't a shot at Manning, though. It's the reason we believe he's not done when it comes to football, and that he'll come back to the game supremely motivated. No one knows whether or not he'll be fully healthy by the time the 2012 season begins. We do know he won't be fully healthy by the time March 13 rolls around, though. Which means that anyone who signs him will be engaging in a serious high-risk, high-reward game of chicken with Manning's neck.
Potential Landing Spots: Cardinals, Dolphins, Seahawks, Jets, Redskins

3. Matt Flynn

Breakdown: Flynn's attempted just 132 passes at the professional level, but 81 of them are pretty impressive. Those came in the only two starts of his career, when Flynn managed to go 55 of 81 for 731 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. There are concerns that Flynn can't make every throw (right now) and that he might be a product of Green Bay's system. But that system's in Miami now, as former Packers quarterbacks coach Joe Philbin is the Dolphins head coach. If Miami doesn't make a run at Flynn when free agency opens up, that should be a big red flag for anyone else interested in Aaron Rodgers backup.
Potential Landing Spots: Dolphins, Seahawks, Redskins

4. Alex Smith

Breakdown: Smith resurrected his career under new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and, in the span of about two playoff minutes against the Saints, nearly flipped the entire narrative of his career. As it is, Smith's improvement in 2011 is impressive; according to Pro Football Focus, he had the third-highest accuracy percentage in the NFL (factoring in drops, throwaways and spikes) last year, behind only Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Smith's said he isn't interested in leaving San Francisco, and Harbaugh's gotten his back publicly, even though there's zero chance they'll use the franchise tag on him.
Potential Landing Spots: 49ers
Henne could surprise in the right spot. (Getty Images)

5. Chad Henne

Breakdown: Miami drafting a quarterback in the second round: an April tradition unlike any other! But no, seriously, Henne's in a long line of signal-callers that the Dolphins took in the second round who didn't pan out. He's had serious problems with interceptions; Henne's got a 3.5 percent INT rate over his career and only nine of his 36 NFL games have not featured him throwing a pick. And Henne tends to look particularly robotic at times in the pocket (these things go hand in hand). But he's only 26 and it's not fair to blame him for all of Miami's woes the past three years. Henne can make all the throws and flashed some serious potential at times during his tenure in South Beach. He's the highest-upside backup quarterback out there and he's got several former coaches -- Brian Daboll, Tony Sparano -- coaching in spots that could use a backup quarterback.
Potential Landing Spots: Chiefs, Jets, Broncos

6. Jason Campbell

Breakdown: It's hard not to feel sympathetic for Campbell. The former Auburn star and first-round pick has had roughly 25 offensive coordinators since he started taking snaps in college and he's about to start out on his third NFL roster once the free-agency shuffling begins anew this year. He's 30 and hasn't played a full season in the past two years, either because of injury or being benched. The latter was for Bruce Gradkowski, so it's hard to tell what's worse for his reputation. He makes a lot of sense for a team that wants someone to push their starter without making a stink in the locker room.
Potential Landing Spots: Chiefs, Eagles, Jets

NFL Free Agency

7. Kyle Orton

Breakdown: Orton's was a "winner" with the Bears, he was a stat-hog for a season with the Broncos, he flirted with the Dolphins and finally he was a streak-killer with the Chiefs. He's not going to be anyone's starter in 2011, unless Washington seriously misplays everything in free agency and the draft (not out of the question). But he's an above-average backup in the NFL and could certainly compete with the starters that various teams -- KC, Washington, Jacksonville, for example -- will trot out in 2011. Orton doesn't want to deal with being a "stop-gap option" but it's unlikely he'll have a choice next year.
Potential Landing Spots:
Redskins, Chiefs, Jaguars, Bears, Broncos

8. David Garrard

Breakdown: Pete Prisco's second-favorite quarterback missed the entire 2011 season after the Jaguars cut him and he underwent surgery for a herniated disk in his back. There was interest in the 34-year-old last year after teams lost quarterbacks to injury, but he decided to recover from the surgery instead. While that's the smart move, Garrard won't find the market as friendly for his services this time, especially since his agent said on February 15 Garrard would be ready in "four to six weeks." Expect someone with a steady starter and tenuous backup to look to Garrard.
Potential Landing Spots: Bears, Broncos, Buccaneers, Rams, Raiders

9. Shaun Hill

Breakdown: Hill's 32 and not exactly a spring chicken. But he performed admirably in place of Matthew Stafford in 2010 and the fit between he and the Lions is a nice one. The Lions are tight with cap space, but Hill appears to like where he's at, and it's not like he'd break the bank in another location anyway.
Potential Landing Spots: Lions
VY's likely to remain a backup. (Getty Images)

10. Vince Young

Breakdown: Now seems like a good time to remind you that the guy who coined "Dream Team" in Philly was indeed the backup quarterback and someone on a one-year contract. His personality and turnovers will cause a problem for teams looking to sign him. Unless that team happens to run the read-option offense and could really use a mobile quarterback with success in the NFL to step in and freelance if/when Tim Tebow gets hurt/melts down.
Potential Landing Spots: Broncos

11. Rex Grossman

Breakdown: Did you know that Rex Grossman is actually "Rex Grossman III"? Poor Mike Shanahan had RG3 on his roster the whole time and didn't even know it. Sigh. Anyway, Grossman's not going to attract a lot of attention on the market, and nor should he. As the old saying goes, though, "love the one you're with." And Grossman and the Shanahans are with each other, even if Rex isn't starting next year. It would be surprising to see him playing anywhere else in 2012.
Potential Landing Spots: Redskins

HONORABLE MENTION

Unrestricted Free Agents: Dennis Dixon, Josh Johnson, Brady Quinn, Charlie Whitehurst, Donovan McNabb, Dan Orlovsky, Drew Stanton, Caleb Hanie, Charlie Batch, Kellen Clemens

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Posted on: February 19, 2012 11:32 am
Edited on: February 20, 2012 5:52 am
 

Are Seahawks front-runners for Peyton Manning?

Depending on his health, Peyton Manning should have plenty of suitors should the Colts decide to cut him. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Peyton Manning has been in the news more in the last month than he was at any point during the 2011 season. This is what happens when one of the NFL's best players is sidelined with a serious neck injury, his status remains uncertain, and he's due a $28 million bonus on March 13. There are questions about, well, everything.

Will Peyton be healthy enough to return to the field in 2012? Will the Colts pay him said $28 million? And if not, where might Manning end up?

CBSSports.com's Will Brinson handicapped those teams that might be in the Manning business next season and it included the usual suspects: the Dolphins, Redskins, Cardinals and even the Colts. But Brinson also included the Seahawks, an outfit that let Matt Hasselbeck walk after 2010 and went with Tarvaris Jackson last year.

On Sunday, Dan Pompei of the National Football Post writes that Seattle is more than intrigued by Manning.

"Based on the buzz around the league, the Seahawks could be the early frontrunner for Peyton Manning, assuming he is released," says Pompei. "Pete Carroll needs a quarterback and is believed to have a strong interest in at least exploring Manning.

"The Seahawks could offer Manning an attractive scenario. They have a young team with some fine skill players to put around him. They play in one of the league’s loudest stadiums. Manning wouldn’t be subject to the same kind of scrutiny in Seattle that he would in a lot of other markets. The Seahawks also could have a better feel for Manning’s medical situation than some teams. One of their team physicians, Stan Herring, who also is one of the country’s preeminent specialists for spine injuries. Herring is a member of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee."

Jackson played better than we expected last season, but as NFL Network's Mike Mayock said earlier this week, “I like him. He’s developed to a certain point, but I think that position needs to be upgraded. And I don’t mind T-Jack competing for the position, but I think you either have to get a free agent in there or you have to draft somebody.”

Manning would certainly fit the description of competition although, again, no one knows if or when he'll be completely healthy. Then it becomes a question of which teams are willing to take a flier on him in the hopes that if he's not ready in 2012, he'll be available in 2013. That decision, we suspect, will come down to some combination money (for Manning) and desperation (by quarterback-needy teams).

Pompei also suggests that Manning and Reggie Wayne (he'll be a free agent in a few weeks) could be a packaged deal.

"A few pro scouts believe Wayne’s production may dip, given he probably will be in a new offensive system for the first time in his career, and he is 33 years old," Pompei says. "That isn’t to say the free agent to be doesn’t have a couple of good years left in him, however. Wayne could maximize his ability if he were to continue his connection with Manning."

We've been saying this for months, too. If Peyton returns, we'd expect Wayne to join him. If Manning can't play in '12, we wouldn't be surprised if Wayne ended up in New England.

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Posted on: February 16, 2012 9:09 am
 

Pick-Six Podcast: Peyton Manning's latest surgery

What will the latest surgical report do to teams' interest in Manning? (Getty Images)

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Peyton Manning was sick of Randy Moss stealing the spotlight, obviously. Taking the attention back Wednesday was a report of a fourth procedure on Manning's neck, which, actually, probably didn't make Manning happy.

We break down that news, discuss how it affects Manning's value on the open market, what it means for "politician" Jim Irsay and all the Manning news that's fit to print.

Then we break down whether or not Andrew Luck is a "once-in-a-lifetime prospect," if Robert Griffin III can realistically compete with Luck for the No. 1 draft pick, where he would fit in the NFL. We also talk about Terrell Owens being broke, the possibility of Moss going to the IFL, Jerry Jones wanting Super Bowl L to come back to Dallas and what it means with Ron Jaworski getting the boot from the MNF booth.

(Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes? And if you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.)


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Posted on: February 15, 2012 2:50 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 11:48 am
 

Report: Manning had 4th surgery, could need more

Manning

By Josh Katzowitz

It’s generally been reported that Peyton Manning has had three procedures on his neck in the past two years -- which caused him to miss all of last season. But Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks is reporting that Manning actually had a fourth surgery sometime between May 23 and Sept. 9 of last year.

Making matters a little more opaque, Banks also reports that Manning potentially has developed bone spurs in his neck that the Colts believe will require another surgery (and possibly, gulp, another fusion surgery).


The unreported procedure occurred last summer in Chicago and it was a follow-up to Manning’s initial neck surgery. Since this occurred during the lockout, the club physicians only had very little contact with Manning.

Manning's Offseason Saga
"I wouldn't have anything to say about all of that, one way or another,” Manning’s agent, Tom Condon, told SI on Wednesday.

According to Banks’ source, Manning badly wanted to return for the Week 16 Houston game last year, and he participated in an “organized and fully-scripted 30-play practice session” the week before in front of former executive Bill Polian and former coach Jim Caldwell.

More from Banks:
Polian was said to be initially frustrated by the extent and scope of the workout, which he then viewed as a surprising attempt to play in a meaningless situation at the end of a long and defeat-filled season in Indianapolis. League sources say the former leader of the Colts front office was taken off-guard by the intensity and pace of the 30-play session that Manning took part in. Polian was under the belief that it would be conducted at walk-through speed, but instead it was held at typical regular-season tempo with scripted play calls.

A day later, league sources said, the team's strength and conditioning staff impressed upon Polian that it had wanted to see how Manning responded to a fast-paced and scripted workout, because his recovery was not going to reach the next level if he simply continued to lob passes at a leisurely pace. And the practice was conducted from the 25-yard line on in because that was then roughly Manning's ceiling in terms of his arm strength throwing the ball.
Make sure to click the above SI.com link (or this one right here) to read more details about Manning’s past and his possible future. It's strong reporting and fascinating material.

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 5:57 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 7:25 pm
 

Irsay 'would love to have' Manning back in Indy

'There’s no question it can be worked out if [Peyton] wants to be here.' - owner Jim Irsay (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

By all accounts, Indianapolis' first Super Bowl was a resounding success. From all the things the host committee could control (hotels, media, fans, transportation), to even those it couldn't (the weather), it was a seamless process that made last year's Super Bowl in Dallas seem more like Thunderdome.

If there was one blemish -- albeit a tiny one -- it was the after-school-special-style drama that played out between Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and team owner Jim Irsay. Whether the leaks about Manning's health were planned or not (we think they were), the fact remains: Peyton's neck injury is serious enough to raise questions about his future in Indy, and it's to the point where just about everybody figures he'll be playing elsewhere in 2012 (or whenever he's healthy).

Manning's Offseason Saga
Except that Irsay now seems amenable to keeping Peyton in Indy. (Seriously, we're almost at the point where Manning and the Colts are like that insane couple you know who break up every few months in a spectacularly public spectacle only to get back together days later to try to make it work. And because they really, really love each other.)

“We can make it work if he wants to be here,’’ Irsay told the Indianapolis Star's Mike Chappell Tuesday. “We’d be excited to have him back and finish his career with us.

“I want him to be able to make the choice. We would love to have him back here if he can get healthy and we can look at doing a contract that reflects the uncertainty of the . . . healing process with the regeneration of the nerve.’’

Manning, 35, missed the 2011 season while he recovered from multiple neck surgeries. The Colts went 2-14, Irsay subsequently cleaned house, and now, with a new front office, coaching staff and the first overall pick, looks to rebuild a franchise that Peyton led to one championship, 11 playoff appearances, eight 12-plus-win seasons, and a 141-67 record.

“There’s no question it can be worked out if he wants to be here,’’ Irsay, who has concerns over Manning’s long-term health, told the Star. “It can work if he wants to come back and can get back to being the old Peyton.’’

Of course, this won't preclude the Colts from taking a quarterback with that top pick. And it also means that Manning, should he want to stay, won't be in line for the $28 million bonus that's due March 8. Irsay expects to meet with Peyton in the next week, and as Chappell notes, the $28 million bonus activates the final four years and $90 million of his current contract.

In light of Irsay's comments, here are Manning's choices: a) don't budge off the $28 million and expect the Colts to release him (there will be plenty of interest in Manning's services in free agency, no matter his current health status), or b) rework his contract and stay with the Colts where he'll most likely serve as a mentor to Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.

It still seems like a long shot that Manning would return to the Colts, primarily because if he thinks he can play at a high level for 2-3 more years, he won't get that opportunity in Indy if the new franchise quarterback is standing over his shoulder.

The Star's Bob Kravitz guesses that Manning won't "be thrilled" when the owner and the quarterback eventually talk because any scenario that includes Peyton and the Colts in the same sentence will also mean that he'll have to take a hefty paycut to stay in town.

"The franchise looks good here either way," Kravitz wrote Tuesday night. "If he leaves, then the Colts can say, 'Well, it’s on Peyton. That was his choice.’' If he returns, it’s going to be on the Colts’ terms, and while Manning comes off as the ultimate hero, the Colts and Irsay get some of that reflected glory."

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:07 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 9:59 am
 

What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

Brees reportedly won't be happy if he gets tagged. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

On Monday February 20, NFL teams can begin to apply the franchise tag to players. They can do so up until March 5 at 4 p.m. ET. For those that don't know, the franchise tag is a method of keeping players from hitting the open market. Previously, the franchise-tag number was generated by averaging the top-five salaries at a position to determine a number for that position.

This year, the franchise tag value will be a percentage of the overall salary cap figure for the previous five years. As such, NFL.com (the league's official website, making the figures trustworthy, one would hope) the following figures, plus figures from last year that we've included:

Position 2012 Franchise Tag Value*
2011 Franchise Tag Value
Quarterback
$14.4 million $16.1 million
Running Back
$7.7 million $9.6 million
Wide Receiver
$9.4 million $11.4 million
Tight End
$5.4 million $7.3 million
Offensive Line
$9.4 million $10.1 million
Defensive End
$10.6 million $13 million
Defensive Tackle
$7.9 million $12.5 million
Linebacker
$8.8 million $10.1 million
Cornerback
$10.6 million $13.5 million
Safety
$6.2 million $8.8 million

*The only instances this doesn't apply: when a player already made more than the franchise-tag value, or when a player receives the franchise tag for the second-straight year, in which case tagging said player would cost 120 percent of their previous base salary.

Aside from the asterisked exception above, it's clearly much more cost effective to utilize the franchise tag on a player in 2012 than it was in 2011. Wide receivers like DeSean Jackson, Dwayne Bowe and Marques Colston might not be tag candidates at $11.4 million. At $9.4 million, they certainly are.


With all of that in mind, let's look at some possible franchise-tag candidates, in order of likelihood to be tagged.

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, Marques Colston or Carl Nicks

The Saints are all but guaranteed to use their franchise tag. Brees is a free agent and there is a zero percent chance that they let him walk into free agency. This is an absolute zero; losing Brees would not only be a disaster for the franchise in terms of winning, it would result in riots on Bourbon Street.

Various reports have emerged about where Brees and the Saints stand. (His agent, Tom Condon, is involved in a small contract situation surrounding Peyton Manning in Indianapolis.) As CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote last week, "the road could be rockier than initially thought" when getting Brees a new deal.

If the Saints can't get a deal done by the tag deadline, they will use the tag on Brees and sort out a deal later. If they can negotiate a deal with Brees before then, either Colston or Nicks will likely get tagged. My money's on Nicks, who could be a steal at less than $10 million given his age and his performance on the interior line the last two years.
DeSean might finally catch that money. (Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles: DeSean Jackson

Reports are already rolling in that Jackson will be tagged and that the team will seek to trade him once they place the tag on Jackson. Philly better be comfortable rolling with D-Jax if they can't find a suitor, though, because the wide receiver is a good bet to swoop in and sign his tender quickly. The $9.4 million represents more than triple what Jackson's made in his entire career thus far, and you can bet he'd like to see some guaranteed money.

Worst case, of course, is that Philly ends up giving its top playmaker one more "contract year" at turning in a big performance before hitting free agency. $9.4 million is a lot to pay for a wideout, but it's better than a) doling out a big contract to someone new and/or a malcontent, or b) letting Jackson walk for nothing in return.

Chicago Bears: Matt Forte

The rumors of Forte getting tagged began long ago as the Bears said they simply won't let him get to free agency. And they can't: Mike Tice replaced Mike Martz, but that could mean Chicago becoming more dependent on Forte's skills as a rusher and pass-catcher.

Forte said he's OK with the franchise tag provided it leads to further contract negotiations. Those appear to be more successful this time around, without Jerry Angelo on the other side of the table. But if Forte struggles early in his return from injury (an MCL sprain) things could get dicey.

Regardless, he's a steal at $7.7 million in 2012.

Baltimore Ravens: Ray Rice

Another no-brainer for the team here: Rice is one of the most dynamic backs in football and accounted for a large chunk of the Ravens offense. Rice's league-leading 2,068 yards from scrimmage accounted for 38.2 percent of the Ravens 5,419 yards, to be exact.

Rice lead the team in rushing ... and receptions. The Ravens need him and it's unfathomable that they'd let Rice walk. He probably won't be happy about playing for $7.7 million in 2012 and it seems obvious that Ozzie Newsome would like to lock down a guy who's averaged just shy of 2,000 yards from scrimmage in the three years he's been a starter for the team.
Will Welker's drop hurt his value? (Getty Images)

New England Patriots: Wes Welker

Welker's taken a lot of grief for his now-infamous drop in the Super Bowl. But just because the guy missed one catch doesn't mean we should forget what he's done for the past five years in New England: Welker averaged 111 catches and 1,221 yards per season since arriving from Miami.

Here's where it gets interesting though: Welker will be 31 when 2012 begins. He's considered a "slot" receiver. But he reportedly wants to be paid like an "elite" receiver. (It's, uh, kind of hard to blame him.) Lots of people think Welker wouldn't be as successful without the Patriots system, but how successful would the Patriots be without Welker?

In other words, we might be headed to an old-fashioned standoff, where the Pats use the franchise tag on Welker (it's all but certain they will, mainly to avoid him landing with an AFC East rival), and Welker refusing to play. Our Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard's speculated as much previously, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Welker sit out the first few weeks if the Pats aren't willing to give him a long-term deal.

Washington Redskins: Fred Davis

Davis had a big year in 2011, catching 59 passes for 796 yards in just 12 games (with Rex Grossman and John Beck throwing him the ball). He missed four games when he was suspended under the NFL's substance-abuse policy. But that actually works in Washington's favor here, since they can commit just $5.5 million to Davis without any fear of long-term blowback.

Buffalo Bills: Stevie Johnson

I spoke with Johnson at the Super Bowl and he said he'd be amenable to playing under the franchise tag in 2012. And it's hard to imagine Buffalo letting one of the more talented and underrated receivers in the game simply walk away. Johnson, depending on the market, could be one of the top wide receivers available.

Given the nature of Buffalo's weapons on offense, $9.4 million isn't all that steep for someone who's produced as steadily as Johnson has over the past two seasons. He took a small step back in receptions, yardage and touchdowns in 2011, but part of that can be attributed to the injuries to Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the Bills late-season swoon.

And if he's willing to ditch the penalty-inflicting celebrations? He's worth it.

Bowe's a fan favorite in KC -- for good reason.(Getty Images)

Kansas City Chiefs: Dwayne Bowe or Brandon Carr

This is quite the conundrum for KC: does new coach Romeo Crennel, recently promoted from defensive coordinator, push to keep the 25-year-old defensive back, or does he sit back while the franchise lets Carr walk and hangs onto it's top wideout?

Bowe quietly put together another monster season in 2011, catching nine more balls than he did in 2010 and only three yards less. Granted, he found the end zone 10 times less this past season, but chalk that up to the Chiefs stupid-easy schedule against the pass in 2010. Oh yeah, and because he was catching balls from Tyler Palko for a quarter of the season.

Bowe's a better value at his franchise cost ($1 million less) I suppose, but Carr will be harder to retain in free agency, because of the nature of cornerbacks on the open market.

Atlanta Falcons: Brent Grimes or Curtis Lofton

The Falcons, not so quietly, have a ton of guys up for free agency this year. Grimes, Lofton, defensive ends John Abraham and Kroy Biermann and center Todd McLure lead the list. One of Grimes or Lofton surely will get the franchise tag.

For the same reason as listed with the Chiefs, Grimes makes the most sense -- he'll simply be harder to retain in free agency. Lofton would be $2 million cheaper but Grimes is more important to the Falcons defense. A logical move might be to feel out contract negotiations with both players (provided the Falcons want to keep both of them anyway), work out an extension with one as quickly as possible, franchise the other defender and look to cut a deal with them down the road.
It's hard to put a price on Avril's pass rush. (Getty Images)

Detroit Lions: Cliff Avril

Avril's made no bones about the possibility of being franchised, and isn't happy with the notion. But the franchise tag actually doesn't exist simply to keep a guy around for another year without paying him big money. It's to keep a guy around while you work out a long-term contract.

That's what Avril, who will turn 26 in April, wants, and it should be what the Lions want too, given their dependence on a strong pass rush on the defensive end of things. At $10.6 million he would provide nice value. Provided he played the whole season anyway.

Indianapolis Colts: Robert Mathis

Chuck Pagano's a defensive guy, and even though he's coming into a rebuilding project, it's hard to see he and general manager Ryan Grigson passing on a shot to keep a talented pass-rusher like Mathis around for one more year at a reasonable rate.

Mathis probably said it himself over the weekend on Twitter when he noted that "The #TAG is an honor but personally if i was tagged now id feel they didnt want me but just have not found my replacement yet." Prepare to be honored sir.

Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Spencer

According to one report out of Texas, the Cowboys are at least considering franchising Spencer. The logic isn't that the outside linebacker, drafted 26th overall in 2007, is a monster and worth $8.8 million next year. He's not.

But Spencer might be worth holding onto if the Cowboys don't believe they can fill that spot with a reliable enough player through free agency and don't want to force themselves into selecting an outside linebacker early in the draft and forcing him to play.

Giving Spencer that sort of cash at least provides a safety net for Rob Ryan's defense.

Green Bay Packers: Jermichael Finley

Finley's case is a fascinating one. At $5.5 million, the tight end is a no-doubt-about-it franchise tag choice. But what about at $9.4 million? I ask because Finley's reportedly ready to argue that he's actually more of a wide receiver than a tight end, based on the number of snaps he takes from a wide receiver position. (He may want to remove the words "best tight ends in the league" from his website then.)

The Packers don't seem ready to give Finley a long-term deal yet, but they're also not willing to let him go. That tune could change if Finley's awarded the same price as a wide receiver in arbitration.
Wallace's RFA status is a concern. (Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Wallace

Wallace is actually on a restricted free agent, but as Wilson pointed out on Tuesday's podcast, there's been a lot of discussion in Steelers-land about the possibility of using the full-blown franchise tag on Wallace regardless of his status.

Here's some hypothetical logic: the Steelers use the non-exclusive tag on Wallace, the Patriots, with two first-round picks in the coming draft, negotiate a deal with Wallace and force the Steelers to match said deal or take one of the picks from the Pats. The pick isn't that high and Wallace is a stud, so Pittsburgh, who wants to lock down Wallace anyway, would be letting the Pats (or whomever) negotiate for them.

Lest you think this is silly, look no further than a guy we already talked about: Welker. The Patriots obtained him via trade, but only after the Dolphins used the restricted tag on Welker. After they did, the Pats negotiated with Welker to work in a provision in his contract that would include a monster bonus if he played X games in the state of Florida (AKA "a poison pill"). The Dolphins caved and simply dealt Welker to the Pats instead of trying to play chicken.

The downside is that the Steelers would be forced to paying $7 million extra in 2012 for their No. 1 wideout. The upside is not getting poison-pilled by an AFC rival who'll then hijack the Steelers for the deep threat they need. Hypothetically speaking of course.

Oakland Raiders: Michael Bush

The idea of paying Bush more than Darren McFadden's been bandied about, and it makes sense given Run-DMC's injury history. It doesn't make sense when you consider that new GM Reggie McKenzie would suddenly have a ton of money committed to two running backs. But here's an idea: tag Bush, trade McFadden and then give Bush a new contract. You keep him off the market, you recoup some of those Carson Palmer draft picks and you keep the back best suited for Greg Knapp's zone-rushing attack.

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Posted on: February 13, 2012 10:58 am
Edited on: February 14, 2012 6:20 am
 

Tommie Harris' wife dies Sunday night

Thoughts and prayers go out to Harris and his family. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Ashley Harris, the wife of defensive lineman Tommie Harris, was hospitalized on Sunday with a stroke or brain aneurysm and died on Sunday evening, Harris family friend Bill Horn said.

That's via Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times, who initially reported Harris' condition on Sunday afternoon.

Harris was drafted by the Bears with the 14th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft and played for Chicago until being released in February 2011. He then signed on with the Colts but was released before playing a game in Indianapolis. The Chargers signed Harris, who played 13 games for San Diego in 2011.

Tommie and Ashley, 29, were married in January.

Harris, according to Jensen, "remains popular with Bears teammates" and a few of them even made the trip to Oklahoma to be with the defensive lineman during his time of need.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Harris and his family for their tragic loss.

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