Tag:Will Brinson
Posted on: March 5, 2012 9:38 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 1:04 pm
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Bills, Stevie Johnson reach five-year deal

Johnson signs his new contract with Buffalo. (@RussBrandon, Twitter.com)
By Will Brinson

On Sunday night, the Bills and Stevie Johnson were "close" to wrapping up a five-year deal that would keep Johnson in Buffalo. On Monday morning, they closed whatever gap was missing, and the two sides agreed to a contract, the team announced.

Johnson's deal is reportedly worth $36.25 million with $19.5 million guaranteed. That's $7.25 million per year for Johnson, which is about right based on market value, and his projected performance.

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"It’s a good day for us. Our football team got better," Bills GM Buddy Nix said at the team's press conference. "One of our philosophies coming in was that we wanted to try to keep our good players here, draft good, develop them and then try to keep them and we were able to do that with Stevie Johnson. It goes without saying what he’s done in the past two years and I think it’s just going to get better. Again, playing against guys that have been here and have gotten out, one of our main goals was to keep guys like him. It took a long time and probably was going to get done because Stevie said he always wanted to be here and we always said we wanted him."

Johnson was a seventh-round pick in 2008 out of Kentucky and didn't contribute much (12 catches) in his first two years. But he exploded on the scene in 2010, catching 82 passes for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 2011, he was able to repeat his success, catching 76 passes for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns. Johnson is clearly the most important weapon in the Bills passing game, even if he's a bit of a prankster sometimes.

"I want to thank Mr. Wilson for taking that chance on me four years ago coming out of Kentucky and using the 224th pick on me," Johnson said at his press conference. "I want to thank him a lot, and my teammates, the whole Buffalo Bills organization for standing behind me through everything. It’s a great feeling. It’s a blessing to be in this organization. This is where I want to be. Everybody knows that.

"I want to thank my teammates who have looked out for me, basically walking me through things, even the younger guys for looking up to me. That’s pretty amazing right there."

Johnson said he's "done" with end-zone celebrations (the Bills must believe him?), but don't expect his personality to change. Witness the one hitch in his contract negotiations, which apparently involved Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's hairstyle.

"If you get a Mohawk mullet with a beard and a design on the left side I'll sign TODAY! If you don't think everyone in the billsmafia you'll be letting down ... The ball is in your court!" Johnson claims to have texted to Fitzpatrick. "Don't be selfish!"

Fortunately, Fitz found a barbershop, so Stevie was willing to get paid:

Fitzy's got a new haircut to celebrate Stevie's return. (Twitter.com)

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 8:39 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 12:09 pm
 

Texans, Arian Foster reach five-year deal

Everyone in Houston, including Foster, should be celebrating on Monday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Arian Foster, the NFL's leading rusher in 2010 and a restricted free agent to be, was priority No. 1 on the Texans offseason to-do list. Houston can put a check by his name, as they've extended the running back for the next five years.

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That news, originally reported by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, was confirmed by Mike McCartney, Foster's agent. Foster's contract is reportedly worth $43.5 million over the life of the deal, with a guaranteed $20.75 million. The running back will also reportedly make $30 million over the first three years of the contract.

As McClain noted, it is indeed a "major coup" for both the Texans and Foster. Foster told CBSSports.com at the Super Bowl that he "100 percent" wanted to be back with the Texans.

Houston's issue was that if they used the restricted free agent tender on Foster, a team with an extra first-round pick (hello, Cincinnati) could conceivably make him an offer and lure him away. Or, at the very least, force the Texans to match without a contract they didn't negotiate.

The Texans likely would've been forced to use the franchise tag on Foster, meaning he would get $7.7 million guaranteed. They're already hampered enough by salary-cap issues without loading that digit onto their balance sheet.

For Foster, the long-term money is big. He's the ultimate NFL success story, going from an undrafted free agent to the league's leading rusher in 2010. In 2011, Foster missed three starts because of an injury he suffered in the preseason, but he still managed to pile up over 1,200 yards.

He's a perfect fit in Gary Kubiak's offense, and by making a deal with Foster now, the Texans essentially own his rights until he's 30, when most running backs careers begin to trend downhill.

Now comes the interesting part: how will Foster's contract affect the rest of the running-back market? Foster's deal is very similar to that of DeAngelo Williams (Williams got $43 million over five years with $21 million guaranteed) which is great news for guys like Ray Rice and Matt Forte.

Rice reportedly wanted "Adrian Peterson money" but that wasn't happening. But contracts similar to what Williams got weren't out of the question, even though Williams contract really seemed to throw the market out of whack relative to the Panthers running back's value. Now Foster's deal only solidifies the market: Five years, $43 million and $20 million guaranteed is a starting point for guys like Rice and Forte going forward.

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 11:09 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 1:19 pm
 

2012 NFL Franchise Tag Tracker

Franchise tags are coming fast and furious for some big names. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Previously I broke down what players we thought would be given the franchise tag (I nailed 11 of the 21; take out the six punters and kickers and that's 11 of 15, which isn't too shabby). You'll see many of them below, as the franchise season has now ended.

Check out our winners and losers from the franchise deadline right here and look below for the franchise tags that were put on players, in chronological order:

Team Player, Position Tag Salary Analysis

DeSean Jackson, WR $9.5 million
Jackson was one of the big names that everyone expected to be tagged. And he was hit with the tag on Thursday. The question is whether or not the Eagles will shop him or look for a long-term deal.

 Brent Grimes, CB $10.4 million
 Although Grimes had a standout 2009 and 2010, his play fell off a bit last year, and Atlanta might be worried about giving him a long-term deal.

Ray Rice, RB $7.7 million
 Rice wants Adrian Peterson money (or, ahem, $100 million), but we think he's worth closer to what DeAngelo Williams makes (five years, $43 million).

 Dashon Goldson, S
$6.2 million

 After having to sign a one-year, $2 million deal for 2012 (after turning down a five-year, $25 million offer), it seems that Goldson might have to wait a little longer before a long-term deal comes his way.

Calais Campbell, DL $10.6 million
Campbell was a top priority for Arizona to keep, and the Cardinals would like to sign him to a long-term deal. For now, though, he'll have to be content with the tag.

 Mike Nugent, K
~$2.6 million
Nugent, 30, converted 87 percent of his field-goal attempts in 2011 and added an impressive 36 touchbacks.

Phil Dawson, K 
$3.8 million

The going rate for franchised kickers is about $2.6 million but Dawson was franchised in 2010 too, so he's set to make $3.8 in '11. Seems like a high price to pay for a 37-year-old who had two kicks blocked and managed just 10 touchbacks. 

Fred Davis, TE 
$5.4 million

Davis missed the final four games of the 2011 season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, but he still had a career year: 59 catches, 796 yards and three TDs in 12 games. The thinking: RG3 (or, more generally, QBs not named Rex or John) is going to need somebody to throw to, right?

Tyvon Branch, S 
$6.2 million

The Raiders informed Branch, one of the team's best players last season, that he would likely be tagged and Friday it happened. The move means that RB Michael Bush is headed for free agency.

Matt Forte, RB 
$7.7 million

No surprise here. The two sides couldn't come to an agreement before the season and then Forte went down with a knee injury late in the season.

Drew Brees, QB
$14.4 million
 This move is an utter failure in the negotiations between Brees and the Saints on a long-term deal, but both sides have to be hopeful they can still work out a deal. The problem here is that the team probably will lose guard Carl Nicks with this move.

Connor Barth, K
$2.6 million
Barth's reportedly reportedly tagged a year after knocking down 92.7 percent of his field goals for the Bucs. But yes, it's still not usually a good thing when a team has to tag its kicker.

Josh Scobee, K
$2.6 million
Scobee was the biggest point-scorer on an anemic Jags offense in 2011, and knocked down 92 percent of his field goals, making him a solid target for the tag, even if he is a kicker.

Matt Prater, K
$2.6 million
Prater only hit 76 percent of his field goals, but he nailed some long, clutch kicks for Denver. Also, he was worshipped by Jesus in a Saturday Night Live skit. That alone is worth a tag.

Cliff Avril, DE
$10.6 million
Avril would've made a fortune on the free-agent market, but Detroit isn't letting him walk. They tagged him on Monday morning and desperately need to work out an extension.

Michael Griffin, S
$6.2 million
Griffin, not cornerback Cortland Finnegan, got the franchise tag from the Titans on Monday. At $6.2 million, that's quite a nice value for the team.

Anthony Spencer, LB
$8.8 million
The Cowboys tagged Spencer late on Monday even though he hasn't been that productive of a player since being a first-round pick. However, Dallas feels that the market will be tough for pass-rushing linebackers.

Wes Welker, WR
$9.4 million
No surprise here as our Pats Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard reports that Welker got the tag. New England simply can't afford to lose their best wideout.

Dwayne Bowe, WR
$9.4 million
The expectation after the Chiefs signed Stanford Routt was that Bowe would be franchised. The Chiefs announced that he was given the tag on Monday afternoon.

Steve Weatherford, P
$2.5 million
Weatherford became just the third punter to ever receive the franchise tag when the Giants hit him with it on Monday.

Robert Mathis, DE
$10.6 million
The Colts haven't "officially" announced the move, but they've reportedly tagged Mathis and have tentatively agreed to a long-term deal.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 4:13 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 4:18 pm
 

Carl Nicks: 'I don't want to be franchised!!!!'

Nicks celebrates Brees breaking big records in happier times. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The Saints are currently, as our own Mike Freeman reported on Wednesday, pretty far apart in their talks with quarterback Drew Brees on a new contract. This is bad news for the Saints, bad news for Saints fans, and not good news for Brees either.

But it could be good news for New Orleans All-Pro guard Carl Nicks, who would likely receive the franchise tag if the team and Brees can work out a deal. Because, if we understand him correctly, he has no interest in being given the franchise tag.

"I don't want to be franchised!!!!" Nicks tweeted on Wednesday.

Naturally the response from Nicks' followers (he only has 800 as he joined just five days ago) was to assume he wants to hit the free-agent market and leave New Orleans. He says that's not the case.

"So I guess people are getting hot so I'll just say this... I want to be a saint but I want what's fare... Be mad... If u don't like it...Don't follow me!!!!" Nicks tweeted.

Nicks also has a slew of tweets on his page about a countdown. That's a countdown to March 5, when the Saints face a deadline for utilizing the franchise tag. Nicks tweets that his "anxiety is on a hundred thousand trillion!...march 5 is a big day!!??"

If New Orleans can't reach a deal with Brees between now and March 5, they will use the franchise tag on their quarterback. If the Saints can work out a deal with Brees, either Nicks or free-agent-to-be wideout Marques Colston will likely receive the franchise tag. Nicks is the best guess since he's a young, interior offensive lineman with an All-Pro award and two Pro Bowl appearances. He would be extremely difficult to re-sign on the open market.

Speaking of difficult to sign, if the Saints allow both Colston and Nicks to leave via free agency, it's not going to make Brees any happier about signing his new deal either. It's quite the conundrum for New Orleans right now.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 2:16 pm
 

Report: Redskins want 'high-profile' FA wideout

Wayne and Garcon could reportedly be targeted by Washington. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The Redskins, under Dan Snyder, are often referred to as the "offseason champs." This is not a good thing. But what might be a good thing, if the Redskins are truly intent on moving up to grab Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, is adding a talented wide receiver to a roster that features Jabar Gaffney the No. 1 target.

According to a report from Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the 'Skins have plans to do just that, and plan to add a "high-profile wide receiver" in free agency, rather than try and improve their wideouts via the draft.

The free-agent market for wide receivers is a good one, with guys like Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson, Reggie Wayne and Stevie Johnson all likely to hit the open market. DeSean Jackson, Wes Welker and Dwayne Bowe could also be available, although all three are expected to be franchised. (Maske specifically lists Vincent Jackson, Colston, Pierre Garcon as targets.)

Pursuing a wide receiver in this market, then, is a smart thing. There's talent to be had, and it's talent that's proven, rather than a risk in the draft. Additionally, the Redskins biggest need is at quarterback. And pursuing a "high-profile" wide receiver in free agency will help them no matter who they add under center.

If Washington's trying to pursue a big-name quarterback like Peyton Manning (provided he does, as expected, become available), adding a talented wideout will only make the team a more attractive destination, particularly if Manning wants to continue playing with Wayne in a new destination.

Should the Redskins make a hard push for both Wayne and Garcon, it's a clear indication of where they're going in their quarterback search. But it's a smart plan regardless, because if the Redskins end up missing out on Manning but landing RG3 in the draft, he'd be aided tremendously by the presence of veteran, talented wide receivers on the roster.

And the same thing applies to any quarterback that ends up with Washington. Even if the worst-case scenario plays out and Washington is forced to settle on someone like Kyle Orton to step in and play, it's pretty obvious that Orton will be better with players like Wayne and Garcon than he would be with someone like Gaffney.

Of course, that's all predicated on the Redskins taking a smart approach to their wideout plan and not out-pricing themselves. And that's never a guarantee when we're talking about Snyder's squad.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 10:12 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 10:20 am
 

Plax on Eagles: 'Nothing would make me happier'

Burress thinks playing in Philly would be 'special.' (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

It wasn't all that long ago that we passed along a report indicating that Plaxico Burress "badly" wanted to play for the Eagles next year. Philly was the team that folks originally believed would sign Plax, but he ended up being lured into New York by Rex Ryan's siren song.

Burress hopped on 97.5 the Fanatic in Philly (via SportsRadioInterviews.com) on Wednesday, though, and reiterated his desire to play for Andy Reid.

"Hey man, nothing else would make me happier," Plaxico said. "Obviously coming to Philadelphia, instituting myself into the offense, it just adds a unique dynamic to what's already in place. You look at LeSean McCoy and what he did this year - he had probably the best year of any back, he and Maurice Jones-Drew. And everybody knows about what DeSean is capable of being one of the most explosive big play receivers in all of football. And Jeremy Maclin who is just getting better and better. And myself, I just see myself in that offense just being out there on the edge."

Burress would actually be a good fit with the Eagles from an offensive perspective: he caught eight touchdowns with the Jets, but that belied his overall production, as he was really more of a red-zone threat than anything. That's something Philly could use. And it doesn't hurt that Plax and Michael Vick are apparently boys and talk a lot -- Plax said that playing with Vick would be "special."

"I've talked to Mike several times," Burress said. "Not football, just normal business as human beings that we’re going through in life on a day to day basis. But I talked to him twice last week. For us to get together and be able to play together on a professional football team, especially coming from where we come from, and obviously going through the things we’ve gone through, I just think it would be a special deal.

"I really think he can bring a championship to Philadelphia, and I would love to be a part of that."

So all that remains is simply waiting until Burress is a free agent on March 13 and signing him, right? Well, maybe. It depends on how much money Plax wants. And it depends on whether or not the Eagles actually feel Burress would be a good fit with Philly. Remember, they signed plenty of big-name free agents last year, but it didn't matter a lick, as the team finished 8-8.

Unless Burress can actually provide some value for the Eagles, it's not necessarily a guarantee that he plays there.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 9:44 am
 

Report: Jets interested in Braylon reunion

Edwards gets down at his birthday bash in February 2011. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Braylon Edwards had a decent run in New York, statistically speaking. He caught 53 balls for 904 yards and seven touchdowns in 2010, when he was the Jets leading receiver. But they got rid of him anyway, bringing in Plaxico Burress and letting Braylon limp off into the San Francisco sunset on a one-year, $1 million deal.

The 49ers cut Edwards midway through the year, however. And the Jets are now interested in bringing Edwards back, according to a report from Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Edwards would, ironically, replace Burress, who's not expected to return to the Jets in 2011.

Rex Ryan was always a fan of Edwards, but the same wasn't necessarily true for Jets teammates. Edwards off-field antics, including a DWI arrest after the 2010 season began, caused some teammates to call him "selfish" (sound familiar?).

I'd doubtful Edwards would look selfish if he re-signed with New York: the wideout wouldn't likely cost much in terms of guaranteed money, and the Jets could almost certainly get him on a one-year contract.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 7:21 pm
 

2012 NFL Combine: Full combine winners and losers

RG3 stole the show en route to helping St. Louis. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We knocked out a slew of Winners and Losers posts while we were at the combine, and now that the combine's all wrapped-up, it only made sense to do a final one.

It also makes sense to point out that being a "winner" here doesn't mean that someone will be "a great NFL player" or that someone is "worthy of a top pick." It simply means that they separated themselves from the crowd and have boosted their momentum in the eyes of people who follow the draft.
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Winners

Stephen Hill: A bunch of folks were kind enough to have me on the radio while I was in Indy and Hill was the name I kept giving them: he played in Paul Johnson's offense at Georgia Tech, so there's limited exposure for him as a pass-catcher. But he's 6'4" and runs a 4.36 40, looked athletic in the catching drills at the combine and is already an unselfish player who's a proficient blocker. He's not in the first-round group with some other wideouts like Michael Floyd, Reuben Randle and Justin Blackmon, but he's got a shot at making that happen. At the very worst, he's probably pushed himself up into becoming a second-round pick if he performs well at GT's pro day.

Dontarie Poe: Poe was the big winner during Monday's defensive linemen and linebacker workouts, and he's one of the top gainers in terms of draft stock from the combine. There are definitely questions about his production at Memphis (30 starts, 21.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and 98 total tackles in three seasons) and whether or not he can produce against elite competition. But he dominated the combine, running the 40 in a blazing (for a 346-pound guy) 4.98 seconds, benching 225 pounds 44 times and looking surprisingly athletic for a man of his size. It's entirely possible he could end up being taken in the top half of the first round now.

St. Louis Rams: Robert Griffin III would be a worthy candidate for this spot, because he wowed everyone with his performance on the field and electric personality at the podium. He's going to be the second player taken in the draft. (The only way he's not is if he goes first.) And that's where the Rams benefit -- there's already a report that the Redskins would give St. Louis two first-round picks (2012 and 2013) and a third- and fourth-round pick in 2012 to land Griffin. Which means the Rams, who have needs at many different areas, are in a position to get one of the biggest draft-day hauls in NFL history.

Josh Robinson: Robinson, the 139th-ranked prospect by NFLDraftScout.com, really cranked up his stock during Tuesday's workouts. He led all players at the 2012 combine with a 4.33 40 time, he finished first in the three-cone drill among defensive backs with 6.55 seconds, he finished first in the broad jump among defensive backs, and he finished second among defensive backs with the vertical jump. Rob Rang's actually expected Robinson to work out well, and the underclassman was motivated by the draft advisory board saying he wouldn't be picked in the first three rounds. He's doing good work to prove them wrong.

Morris Claiborne: Claiborne is the consensus top cornerback on almost everyone's draft board. And after Tuesday's workouts, that's even more the case. Janoris Jenkins beat Claiborne in the 40 and Dre Kirkpatrick beat Claiborne in the vertical jump, but Claiborne's the better overall prospect based on Tuesday's performance. Oh yeah: and he has no significant red flags. Jenkins has a pile of them (though he talked about them honestly, which is a plus) and Kirkpatrick's answers to his recent marijuana arrest should prompt further questions from teams.

Losers

Kendall Wright: Wright came into the combine as a top-three wideout on almost every board. With Justin Blackmon not working out, Wright had a shot to potentially even leap to the top of the wideout lists, particularly if he blazed his 40. But he didn't, running a 4.61, and possibly costing himself a shot in the first round. The good news is that Wright's still gets to perform at Baylor's pro day, where he'll have a pile of scouts on hand to view RG3. But in a year with a weak wideout class, Wright really didn't take advantage of an opportunity given to him at the combine.

Vontaze Burflict: We mentioned it on Monday afternoon, but it Bears repeating, because Burflict is almost certainly the biggest loser of the entire combine. There was plenty of discussion, based on Burflict's play on the field, that he could be a first-round pick. That's laughable at this point, and it's possible that Burflict could even go undrafted. He ripped his old coaches, he ran the slowest linebacker 40 time and he didn't look like the elite talent people claim to have seen on tape.

Michael Brockers: The hype surrounding Brockers hit a fever pitch after the LSU defensive lineman weighed in at 322 pounds, 16 LBs higher than when he left college. That's also 80 pounds higher than when he enrolled at FSU. But then on Monday, Brockers looked shockingly unathletic during the various workouts, and certainly has "plenty of red flags" for teams to examine between now and the draft. If he can push his stock back up, he's still a candidate to land as high as the Panthers at No. 9 overall, but it's possible that without a strong pro day, his JPP-like boom-or-bust status could end up scaring away a lot of teams.

NFL Trends: That's a shorter way of saying "teams want big, athletic, pass-catching tight ends and also want safeties who can cover them." Because that's a major trend we saw in 2011, with the development of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. There are two problems that became clear at the combine. One, there are not a lot of really talented tight ends. (Pete Prisco blames college football.) If someone reaches for one of the top three tight ends -- Orson Charles, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen -- it could be a big-time reach. The same goes for the safety class which, as Rang wrote on Tuesday, is particularly weak. Mark Barron out of Alabama is a real talent but couldn't work out, and Notre Dame out of Harrison Smith didn't blow anyone away either.

Jonathan Martin: As previously mentioned, Martin declared himself the best tackle in the draft ... and then promptly came out flat in his workouts. In fact, it's unlikely that anyone actually considers him the second-best tackle in the draft, with both Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff. 40 times aren't really important for tackles (relative to other positions), but Martin didn't look strong and he didn't look like the upside-riddled offensive lineman who spent his career protecting Andrew Luck.

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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