Tag:Ryan Wilson
Posted on: February 29, 2012 8:30 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 8:31 pm
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Report: Talks heat up between Colts, Mathis

Manning and Wayne appear gone but Indy could decide to keep Mathis around. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Colts have plenty of personnel decisions to make in the coming weeks and months, and Peyton Manning's future tops the list. After that, there's veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne and defensive end Robert Mathis. The former, barring a spectacular turn of events, is as good as gone, and Wayne could follow him to his next NFL city.

But Mathis, who was hoping for a new deal prior to the 2011 season (but made it clear that he had no intentions of holding out), appears to be in the organization's plans going forward. The Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz tweeted as much Wednesday:

bkravitz
I'm told contract talks between Colts and Robert Mathis are warming up considerably.
2/29/12 6:26 PM

New Colts head coach Chuck Pagano comes to Indy from the Ravens where he was the defensive coordinator. Historically, it's an organization that has eschewed defense and deferred to Manning -- and for good reason. Prior to the 2-14 egg the team laid in 2011, the Colts had won 10 games or more 11 times in Manning's 13 seasons, making the postseason 11 times and winning the whole thing in 2006. Prior to Manning's arrival -- and since the Colts came to Indy in 1984 -- they made three postseason appearances.

But the Manning era is done, and Pagano understands that a good defense can carry an average offense featuring a young quarterback a long way. Joe Flacco is the most obvious example, but Ben Roethlisberger was the beneficiary of a stout defense early in his career, and Mark Sanchez made two straight AFC Conference Championship game appearances in large part because of the Jets defense.  With Andrew Luck next in line in Indy, bolstering the defense only makes sense.

But Mathis is 31, not an ideal fit in the 3-4 defense Pagano will install, and will tie up valuable salary-cap dollars with a new deal. That said, he's played at a high level for all but one of his nine years in the league; he had 9.5 sacks in '11 and 11 the year before that. Not counting his rookie season, Mathis has averaged 10 sacks a season. It's reasonable to conclude that he's still a capable pass-rusher, a commodity defenses can never have enough of.

Plus, in his annual list of the top 50 free agents, CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco writes that Mathis "has improved against the run and could easily make the transition from 4-3 end to 3-4 rush 'backer."

If the two sides can't come to an agreement, CBSSports.com's Josh Katzowitz thinks that the Titans and Falcons would be likely destinations.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 7:02 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 12:50 pm
 

Henne could make $4M, challenge for starting job?

Some teams view Henne as a QB who could push the incumbent for the starting gig. Miami disagrees.  (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

The Dolphins may have no interest in Chad Henne, but Miami's 2008 second-round pick (and the No. 5 quarterback in our free-agency rankings) will generate plenty of interest from QB-needy teams.  In fact, FoxSports.com's Alex Marvez goes so far as to suggest that after Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn, Henne "has emerged as the NFL’s hottest quarterbacking commodity set to hit the market when the signing period begins March 13."

We had to read that twice, too.

But after the aforementioned Manning and Flynn (and for completeness, we'll throw in Drew Brees), it's a decidedly mediocre crop of candidates. Maybe Marvez is onto something, or more specifically: Marvez's sources, one of whom described Henne as a good fit for teams seeking a "1A" option (a player who can push the so-so incumbent for the starting gig but who ain't looking for starter's money), are onto something.

"That’s not to say he will come cheap, especially with the limited free-agent options available," Marvez wrote Wednesday. "Regarded in some circles as a better alternative than second-tier retreads like Jason Campbell, David Garrard, Vince Young and Kyle Orton, Henne is expected to land a contract that averages between $4 million to $5 million a season. Excluding demoted starters, the NFL’s top backup quarterbacks command no more than $3 million a year."

Not bad for a guy who never lived up to expectations in a market not known for its die-hard NFL fan base. Then again, we'd take Henne over Garrard, Young and Orton. (We have a soft spot for Campbell, who must've been a horrible person in a previous life to suffer his NFL fate in this one.)

We say that with the understanding that Henne is a backup, not a guy you build a team around, which is the same conclusion the Dolphins came to. So why does there appear to be legitimate interest in Henne? First: it's slim pickins' (see this link again). Second: just like the combine, coaches, scouts and front-office types fall in love with measurables. Henne looks like he should be good. And at times, he's shown promise. But frustratingly inconsistent is a more apt description of his first four years in the league.

But as PFT's Gregg Rosenthal notes, he'd take Henne over Mark Sanchez. This redefines the term "soft bigotry of low expectations." Put differently: in the right system, Henne would be adequate, maybe slightly better. And in the right system, that could be good enough. Sanchez got two two AFC Championship games, after all.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:38 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 8:06 pm
 

Steelers set to release WR Hines Ward

Hines Ward was Super Bowl XL MVP and the face of the Steelers  for more than a decade. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

After 14 seasons, 1,000 receptions and 85 touchdowns, Hines Ward's tenure in Pittsburgh is all but over. It was once a matter of if, now it's when, and team president Art Rooney II provided those details Wednesday.

“We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year,” Rooney told the team’s website.

“Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve. He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years. Hines’ accomplishments are numerous, and he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers. We wish him nothing but the best.”

Ward released a statement of his own (via NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano):

"This isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end. I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago," he said. "I want to thank the organization, my teammates and coaches and everyone who made my run as a Steeler the best years of my life. To Mr. Rooney, thank you for allowing me to play for one of the greatest organizations in the world. To my fans and in particular, Steeler Nation, thank you for your support and all the great memories. I gave my heart and soul for you every down and I will always bleed black and gold. I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac tweeted Wednesday that the organization felt that Ward had nothing left.

gerrydulac
Decision to release 86 was not about money. He could've offered to play for free and wouldn't matter. Coaches feel he can't play anymore.
2/29/12 7:12 PM

gerrydulac
Ward would have been Sunday inactive if Steelers kept him. They didn't want him taking a roster spot at expense of developing young player.
2/29/12 7:14 PM

The 2011 season was Ward's worst since his rookie campaign; he lost his starting job to second-year standout Antonio Brown and managed just 46 catches for 381 yards (and a career-worst 8.3 YPC average), and two touchdowns. Part of Ward's decline can be blamed on age (he's 35), but he also suffered a severely sprained ankle in Week 4's loss to the Texans.

Whatever the explanation, the Steelers are ready to move on without him, which means that the 2012 offense will feature quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing to Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace -- assuming the team extends his contract (he won't be franchised, at least to hear general manager Kevin Colbert at last week's combine). The three wideouts, none older than 25, constitute one of the league's most dynamic receiver corps, which should make new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's job a lot easier.

Ward, meanwhile, thinks he has a few years left. It just won't be in Pittsburgh -- unless the team re-signs him later this the summer, perhaps an option given that there are currently three wide receivers on the roster. More likely: the Steelers make a run at Jerricho Cotchery, who they signed to a one-year deal before the 2011 season to be the No. 5 wideout. By December, he had also surpassed Ward on the depth chart and proved to be a capable underneath target and a willing blocker.

While the Steelers continue their free agency and draft preparations, and Ward contemplates his NFL future, the conversation will inevitably turn to the latter's Hall of Fame credentials. In our minds, he's a lock. Then again, we don't have a vote.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 12:00 am
Edited on: February 28, 2012 11:17 am
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive tackle rankings

Follow all our 2012 free-agent rankings (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

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

Unlike our previous free-agent breakdowns, the defensive tackles lack big names and depth; but that doesn't mean their roles have diminished. Getting into the backfield is more important now than ever, and while sacks aren't necessarily a hallmark of the position, disrupting what the offense wants to do certainly is. And that's where some of the names below excel.

1. Paul Soliai

Breakdown: Soliai spent the first five years of his NFL career with the Dolphins. They thought so much of him that they franchised him before the 2011 season. The two sides have yet to agree on a long-term deal, although it isn't from a lack of trying. With the Dolphins likely switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3, the nose tackle looks to be headed for free agency. Six-four, 355-pound space-eaters seldom have trouble finding work and we suspect that'll be the case for Soliai, too.

Possible landing spots: Chiefs, Chargers, other 3-4 teams with cap room and a need for a nose tackle.

2. Sione Pouha

Breakdown: The Jets' defense wasn't the reason the team imploded down the stretch last season, but the unit wasn't as good as it had been during Rex Ryan's first two seasons in New York. Luckily, the Mark Sanchez-Santonio Holmes afterschool special obscured all that. But locker-room catfights aside, the Jets' defense has to get better in 2012 and that starts up the middle. Pouha is a run-stuffing nose tackle who at 33 shows no signs of slowing down. Because of the Jets' precarious salary-cap situation, they have no plans to tag Pouha, but as the Newark Star-Ledger's Jenny Vrentas noted last week, "Pouha is coming off a strong season and also has leverage because Kenrick Ellis, last year's third-round draft pick, is not yet ready for the role."

Possible landing spots: Patriots, Chargers, Chiefs.

3. Jason Jones

Breakdown: Jones is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the NFL. At 6-5, 276, he might appear undersized for the tackle position but he had 12.5 sacks playing primarily inside during his first three seasons. But under a new coaching staff in 2011, Jones played both tackle and end and saw his numbers slip (he had just three sacks). Following the season, he admitted that how the Titans plan to use him could determine the likelihood he re-signs. Earlier this month, Titans head coach Mike Munchak said (via the Tennessean) “We’re going to use him whatever way we think is best to win football games. Obviously, if we felt leaving him at defensive tackle for every snap was the way to go, we would have done that. We didn’t do that. So now it’s just a matter of us having the right mix and having him feel good about it."

The Titans and Jones have begun contract talks but he appears headed for free agency.

Possible landing spots: Eagles, Broncos, Colts.
                                                                          (US PRESSWIRE)

4. Antonio Garay

Breakdown: Word on the street is that the Chargers will release defensive end Luis Castillo and hope to re-sign Garay and Tommie Harris (though both will be allowed to test free agency). At 32, Garay's best days may be behind him, but at the right price he makes a lot of sense. Pro Football Weekly noted several weeks ago that "Many believe Garay wore down at the end of the year, as he was not used to playing three downs for an entire season. With a capable backup in place, a better rotation would allow the lineman to stay fresh for the entire grind of the year."

The nose tackle rotation would include 2010 fifth-rounder Cam Thomas.

Possible landing spots: Defenses running the 3-4 and looking for a savvy, reasonably priced, two-down veteran. Patriots, Steelers, Cardinals.

5. Brodrick Bunkley

Breakdown: Bunkley washed out as the Eagles' 2006 first-round pick but experienced a rebirth of sorts in Denver last season. "There was at least some injury concern when Bunkley went to the Broncos," the Denver Post's Jeff Legwold wrote earlier this month, "but once he arrived, he didn't miss a practice on the way to playing in every game in the 2011 season. His statistics were modest on the surface — 43 tackles and no sacks — but his teammates, particularly the ones who have been with the Broncos for a while, say he was a key part of any improvement the team made defensively over 2010."

Team president John Elway, taking a break from talking Tim Tebow, offered this. "He really played well. Like all of our free agents, we would like to get them back in the building and consider (re-signing them)."

Possible landing spots: Broncos, cash-strapped teams looking for affordable depth.

6. Aubrayo Franklin

Breakdown: New Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will have to decide whether Franklin is worth re-signing but if not, Franklin could have a future as a nose tackle. "The nine-year veteran signed just a one-year, $4 million contract with New Orleans in '11, playing tackle in the 4-3 after the 3-4 market never really developed for him," Sports Xchange's Len Pasquarelli wrote in mid-February. "Two personnel directors at the Super Bowl last week mentioned Franklin as a possible 'sleeper' at the position." Which means Franklin could be in demand with 3-4 teams, or teams looking to move to the 3-4.

Possible landing spots: Chiefs, Patriots, Steelers, Redskins.

7. Shaun Rogers

Breakdown: Remember when Rogers did this? (Tebow never lets that happen, by the way.) After stints in Cleveland and New Orleans, Rogers had developed a reputation for taking plays off. In 2011, he got off to a slow start with the Saints but improved as the season progressed. New Orleans could choose to give him a short-term deal, but it's just as likely that Rogers is headed for free agency. 

Possible landing spots: Chiefs, Saints.

8. Amobi Okoye

Breakdown: Okoye was 19 years old when the Texans took him out of Louisville in the first round of the 2007 draft (10th overall). He never lived up to expectations in Houston, and Chicago signed him to a one-year deal before the 2011 season. He played in 16 games for the Bears and had 18 tackles and four sacks. Last week, head coach Lovie Smith said "Amobi had a heck of a year," and sounded like the organization would make a real effort to keep him. On Sunday, CSNChicago.com's John Mullin wrote that "the Bears had contract talks late last season (with Okoye) and likely will have re-signed before the outset of free agency."

Possible landing spots: Chicago.

9. Albert Haynesworth

                                                                          (US PRESSWIRE)
Breakdown: Haynesworth makes the list on reputation alone. And we mean his pre-Redskins reputation, when Jim Washburn got the most out of the man now known as one of the biggest free-agent busts in recent years. Not even Bill Belichick could revive Haynesworth's career, cutting him midway through last season.

The Bucs signed him only to release him a few weeks ago. Maybe his career is over, but then again, coaches and GMs are seduced by potential. And Haynesworth certainly has plenty of that.

Possible landing spots: Realistically, Haynesworth's probably done. That said, we wouldn't be shocked if the Redskins signed him to another $100 million deal.

10. Tommie Harris

Breakdown: Injuries derailed a great career in the making for the Bears' former first-round pick. Chicago released Harris before the 2011 season, and after a brief stopover with the Colts, he made a home in San Diego. He played so well, in fact, that the Chargers are hoping to re-sign him and Garay to provide depth for a crop of young defensive linemen.

Possible landing spots: Teams looking for depth.

Honorable mention

Rocky Bernard, Kelly Gregg (possible retirement), Pat Sims, Jimmy Kennedy, Kyle Love (RFA), Trevor Laws

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Posted on: February 27, 2012 11:01 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 11:02 pm
 

Jets give LB Bart Scott permission to seek trade

After three years, Bart Scott's tenure with the Jets appears to be over.  (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

When Rex Ryan arrived in New York three years ago, he wasted little time bringing some of his former Ravens players with him. Linebacker Bart Scott was one of the first, signing a six-year, $48 million deal with the Jets in February 2009. Scott's skills have diminished to the point that the organization has given him permission to seek a trade, according to the New York Daily News's Manish Mehta.

The Jets restructured Scott's deal before the 2011 season, which offered some immediate cap relief in exchange for a 2012 base salary of $4.2 million. As his production slips, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify that salary.

More details via Mehta:
Scott's base salary is $6.9 million in 2013 and 2014. Scott's guaranteed base salary in 2012 makes it unlikely that the Jets would simply cut him. Financially, it won't make much sense.

Scott, 31, grew increasingly unhappy with his diminished playing time during the Jets' disappointing 8-8 season. He was routinely taken out on third downs due to the team's belief that he had difficulty in coverage.
Scott had 54 solo tackles in 2011, his lowest total since arriving in New York (though he had four sacks after logging one each in '10 and '09). And according to Pro Football Focus, Scott played fewer snaps last season than he did the previous two.

Not surprisingly (at least not after watching this again), Scott's frustrated. His agent Harold Lewis told ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini that Scott's diminished role was "destroying him," but noted that his client's "ultimate goal" is to stay with the Jets.

"If we can't fix what's broken," Lewis said, "there will be other opportunities."

It appears that Scott's tenure with the Jets will end one way or another this offseason. Ideally, New York would like to trade him in the hopes of getting something in return for a guy that'll count $5.9 million against the cap. The most likely scenario, however is that the team will end up releasing Scott, who probably won't generate much interest on the trading block when teams know that he'll be a free agent in the coming weeks.

As for possible destinations, Lewis declared that Scott would play for the Giants "in a heartbeat."

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Posted on: February 27, 2012 7:22 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 2:10 am
 

Rams will deal No. 2 overall pick

The RG3 sweepstakes gains momentum after the combine. (Getty Images, US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The NFL Draft is two months off, but this much is certain: some team in desperate need of a franchise quarterback will trade up to the No. 2 spot and take Robert Griffin III, which was confirmed by CBSSports.com NFL Insider Pat Kirwan. This is great news for the Rams, who currently own the second pick. While St. Louis has its own franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford, they have plenty of other needs.

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On Friday, CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote about Griffin's future, noting that "League sources maintain at least three teams are strongly considering moving up in a blockbuster deal with the Rams to snag Griffin. Those teams, sources say, include Washington, Miami and Seattle. Team officials also say Cleveland has interest in trading up, though not as much as other teams." 

Freeman added that "It will likely take two No. 1 picks (at least) to make that trade, and the reason is some teams view Griffin as similarly talented as Luck or such a close facsimile in terms of potential that the difference isn't a great one."

RG3 had a nice showing at the combine and in Peter King's "Monday Morning Quarterback" column he writes that "The Rams will drive a hard bargain. Cleveland (fourth overall pick), Washington (sixth) and Miami (eighth) will be in the derby to move up; Seattle (12) and a couple of mystery teams could be, too. Add the fact that the money involved (four years, about $22 million) is likely to be less than the money paid to the top (current) free agent Matt Flynn, and the market for Griffin will be hopping."

That last point can't be emphasized enough. Right or wrong, Flynn's getting paid, just like Kevin Kolb did last year. If teams truly are sold on RG3's potential, then the new CBA means that trading up, by itself, isn't cost prohibitive -- although that could change based on the Rams' asking price. (ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted Monday night that the Rams could get a deal similar to what the Chargers got for Eli Manning in 2004: two first-rounders, a third-rounder, and a fifth-rounder.)

A possible monkey wrench for teams not located in DC: the Redskins have a history of overpaying for talent, although they've been much better about it in recent years. Still, we liken owner Daniel Snyder's approach to player personnel to that of a prospective homebuyer who waives the home inspection and offers $40,000 over asking. It's a no-holds barred approach that ultimately doesn't work -- in real estate or for the 'Skins.

But the heart wants what the heart wants. And if Snyder is convinced that RG3 is the answer in Washington, we wouldn't be surprised if he had a roster-building relapse. Other potential suitors would be priced out of the bidding, which is great news for the Rams. Still, even if the 'Skins show restraint in the race for RG3, St. Louis should benefit.

"The whole paradigm has changed in several ways,'' Rams COO Kevin Demoff told King Saturday night. "Griffin could be cheaper than Flynn. The fact that you can get a potential franchise quarterback for what the top picks are paid now makes it easier to justify trading a lot for it.''

And fear not, RG3 sweepstakes losers. CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco tweets an important point:

PriscoCBS
For teams that might rush to trade up to No. 2 to get Griffin, just remember Matt Barkley and other QBs will be in next year's draft.
2/27/12 5:59 PM

The problem, of course, is that there's no guarantee that those quarterback-needy teams in range of RG3 this offseason will have similar opportunities to draft Barkley a year from now. That risk has to be weighed against the cost of getting Griffin now, as well as exploring other options, like trying to sign Flynn.

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Posted on: February 27, 2012 5:46 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 5:59 pm
 

LB Leroy Hill arrested for marijuana possession

It's Hill's third arrest in three years. (Getty Images)
By Ryan Wilson

It's been a busy news day for drug arrests. Jaguars defensive tackle Nate Collins was charged with marijuana possession in Virginia, and free-agent linebacker Leroy Hill was arrested on similar charges in Atlanta, the Atlanta police department confirmed to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Curtis Crabtree.

The Tacoma News Tribune first reported the news.

Hill, who spent seven years with the Seahawks, was arrested along with his girlfriend after officers received a complaint of the strong smell of marijuana coming from the 17th floor of an apartment unit. Per the police report, officers obtained a search warrant after confirming the odor. After entering the premises, partially smoked "blunts" were in plain view.

Crabtree notes that "Hill was arrested in 2009 on marijuana charges after falling asleep at the wheel at an intersection in the Atlanta area."

And the News Tribune's Eric Williams writes that Hill has now been arrested three times in the last three years. Including the two incidents above, he was charged with fourth-degree assault/domestic violence in April 2010 for an incident involving his live-in girlfriend at the time.

The previous two arrests resulted in probation for misdemeanor drug possession and a settlement that led to the dismissal of the domestic-assault charges.

As for the latest run-in with authorities, Hill might not be so fortunate. He was suspended for the first game of the 2010 season for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. Now he could face a four-game ban for violating the substance-abuse policy.

"That’s not good news for Hill, a soon-to-be free agent coming off his best season in five years," Williams points out. "For the first time in his seven years in the league Hill, 29, played a full 16 games, finishing fourth on the team in tackles with 89, and second on the team with four sacks."

If they weren't already (they almost certainly were), Seattle's scouts, coaches and front-office types can add "linebacker" to the to-do list at the NFL combine.

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Posted on: February 27, 2012 4:54 pm
 

Jags DL arrested on marijuana possession charges

Nate Collins was pulled over for illegal window tint. That turned out to be the least of his issue. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Jaguars defensive lineman Nate Collins was arrested for marijuana possession in Warrenton, Virginia last week, according to the Fauquier Times-Democrat (via the Florida Times-Union's Tania Ganguli).

Collins, a former University of Virginia player, was originally signed to the Giants' practice squad in April 2010. He spent the last two seasons in Jacksonville and will be an exclusive right's free agent this offseason. He played in 12 games in 2011 registering a half a sack and one pass defended.

The Times-Democrat reports that Collins was pulled over by a Virginia state trooper for illegal window tint, the officer noticed the smell of marijuana coming from the car and "found a duffle bag with marijuana joints in the trunk."

As an exclusive rights free agent, Collins can only sign with his previous team, assuming the Jaguars offer him a contract. The marijuana possession charge certainly doesn't help Collins' job prospects in Jacksonville -- where there's a new owner and a new head coach -- or elsewhere.

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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