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Tag:Randy Moss
Posted on: July 5, 2011 9:44 am
Edited on: July 5, 2011 9:22 pm
 

Could Ochocinco end up with the Patriots?

Posted by Ryan Wilson

In recent years, Bill Belichick's approach to the NFL Draft seems to involve more trading than selecting -- either down or out of the current draft altogether -- but always with the goal of accumulating future considerations. It's not a particularly exciting personnel strategy, although it's difficult to argue with the results. The Patriots have won at least 10 games a year since 2003, three times going 14-2, including last season.

While New England may be relatively quiet on draft weekends, they're generally pretty active in free agency. That hasn't been the case this offseason because of the lockout, but that could change if the owners and players agree on a new collective bargaining agreement in the next 10 days or so.

In anticipation of that eventuality, the Boston Herald takes a look at the Patriots' needs and the soon-to-be free agents who could fill them. First up: wide receivers.

New England's current depth chart includes established veterans with injury histories (Deion Branch, Wes Welker) and unproven, high-upside young guys (Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater, Brandon Tate). It's not quite the uninspiring group of wideouts that were on the team in 2006 (Reche Caldwell led the Patriots with 760 yards receiving that year), but it's not 2007, either (Tom Brady threw 50 touchdowns, 23 to Randy Moss).

Which is why the Herald lists Sidney Rice and Chad Ochocinco as possible free-agent targets. Rice, who had hip surgery last August, played in just six games with the Vikings in 2010. But in 2009, he was one of the league's most explosive players. He's also just 24.

Ochocinco's (mostly off-field) exploits are well documented. He's 33 and not technically a free agent. The Herald explains:
There’s still the popular debate on whether the Patriots need a speed receiver or not. That began when Randy Moss was traded last season and continued in the loss to the Jets. Well, this would certainly provide a solution. Rice has got the speed to stretch the field, and the skills to do a lot more. With the possible exception of Vincent Jackson, he’s the best guy out there. Brady isn’t getting any younger. Why not shoot for the moon? As for Ochocinco, he’s not actually a free agent. But if he’s treating himself like one, why shouldn’t we?
Conventional wisdom says that Ochocinco's best days are behind him, and a team in need of wideouts would be wise to look elsewhere. But this is New England, the place where over-the-hill malcontents go to revive their careers.

Take Corey Dillon and Randy Moss. Dillon rushed for 541 yards in 2003, his last season in Cincinnati. In 2004, he gained 1,635 yards for the Patriots, and he won a Super Bowl. In 2006, Moss had 42 receptions for 533 yards and three touchdowns with Oakland. The next season he caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns in New England. It's not unreasonable to think that Belichick and Brady couldn't keep Ochocinco focused, something Marvin Lewis never managed to do in Cincy.

As for Moss, whose name occasionally comes up as a possible option for the Patriots, his time in New England appears to have passed.

"It’s really hard to imagine [Moss returning to Foxboro], the Herald explains. "It’s one of those 'been there, done that, no sense doing it again' kind of stories. That’s not to say the Pats won’t be looking for a speed guy or another veteran receiver. Rice would help, if they could afford him. Ochocinco has one more year on his contract, but he’s made no secret he wants out of Cincinnati. It appears the Bengals want a divorce, too. With Bill Belichick’s affection for him, Ochocinco may, in fact, find a way to end up in Foxboro. If he behaves and still has some left in the tank, he could be the answer."

Even if the Patriots don't pursue a wide receiver during free agency, the 2011 group of pass catchers will still be plenty dangerous. Not so much because of the wide receivers, but because of the tight ends. As rookies last season, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were third and fourth on the team in receptions (45 and 42), and they accounted for 33 percent of the team's passing yards. If nothing else, Belichick learned from the 2006 season; if you don't have wideouts, find some tight ends. Tom Brady doesn't much care who he's throwing the ball to just as long as they're open.

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Posted on: June 24, 2011 7:00 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2011 7:08 pm
 

Santonio Holmes should be priority for Jets

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Last offseason, the Jets acquired Santonio Holmes for a fifth-round pick. That the Steelers were willing to part with their former first-rounder and Super Bowl XLIII MVP for the draft equivalent of a bag of doughnuts* was no reflection of Holmes' on-the-field production and had everything to do with his inability to stay out of trouble.

The Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum Jets don't share such concerns. In fact, their personnel philosophy can be loosely described as "If a guy can play he deserves a second (third, fourth, etc…) chance." And for the most part, the strategy has worked. Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie and Holmes were critical to the Jets' AFC Championship runs the last two seasons, all came to New York with a U-Haul full of baggage.

All three players are also free agents, and once the 2011 offseason officially begins, the Jets will have to decide who to keep and how to do it. According to NFL Network's Jason La Canfora, Holmes is the priority.

“I believe they will (be able to afford Holmes),” La Canfora said on Total Access. “From everything I’ve heard, he will be a priority. Look at what they’ve done in recent years with D’Brickshaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, stepping up for Darrelle Revis. They’ve done everything possible to keep their young core. … I think Holmes stays in New York.”

Holmes was suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy and he still managed 52 receptions for 746 yards and six touchdowns. According to Football Outsiders' WR efficiency ratings, Holmes led all Jets receivers in total value and value-per-play.

The Steelers were able to jettison Holmes and remain productive offensively. Part of that was because second-year player Mike Wallace emerged as a legit No. 1 wide receiver, but also because Ben Roethlisberger ia a top-10 NFL quarterback. The Jets need Holmes because Mark Sanchez is still in the developmental stages of his career. A playmaker like Holmes certainly eases that transition, even if he's not always enamored with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's game plan.

Edwards' future in New York seems less certain. Depending on how free agency plays out (assuming a new CBA isn't far off), Randy Moss and Plaxico Burress could also be possibilities.

* Turns out, the Steelers made the most of that fifth-round pick. During the 2010 draft, they acquired CB Bryant McFadden and a sixth-round pick from the the Cardinals for the fifth-rounder they got from the Jets for Holmes. That sixth-round pick would eventually become Antonio Brown.

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Posted on: June 14, 2011 11:45 am
Edited on: June 14, 2011 11:57 am
 

McCarthy not worried Packers aren't working out

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Opinions vary on the long-term importance of player-organized workouts. The lockout prohibits coaches and players from communicating, so until there's a new CBA, these informal training sessions are all we have. Or, if you're the defending champion Green Bay Packers, you forgo the workouts altogether and wait for the season to officially begin.

It's one thing for the Carolina Panthers to take this approach; they would immediately be ridiculed for not wanting to improve on last year's 2-14 season. It's something else entirely when the Super Bowl champs do it. It's akin to fans and media mocking the Raiders for taking on Randy Moss' baggage but praising the Patriots for doing the same thing a few years later. The difference: Bill Belichick has earned the benefit of the doubt.

Same deal with the Packers. And perhaps it's why we haven't heard much consternation about the fact that they haven't held informal get-togethers during the lockout. Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy, appearing on ESPN Milwaukee with Jason Wilde, addressed the issue Monday.

“I’m more interested in them being together as a group for Greg Jennings’ event or Donald Driver’s event," McCarthy said. "I think that’s as important as them going onto the field and trying to manufacture a practice. I think anytime you have a group of people, especially professionals, there’s other factors involved that obviously have to deal with risk. Part of our business in the training environment is risk assessment.

"It’s important for these players when they do come together for the first time that there’s a progression you go through as you get ready as a group. I know in my heart that every one of them has been taking care of business on an individual basis, and I know some of them have gotten together in small groups. They’ll be ready.”

Seems perfectly reasonable to us.

It also parallels the observations Browns tackle Joe Thomas made this week when he said that fewer OTA and minicamp sessions during the offseason might be better for the players in the long run.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning called the workouts "better than nothing," which isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for their effectiveness.

"It's kind of the best we can do under the circumstances," Manning said Monday, according to the New York Daily News. … "[The sessions were] really to just kind of get some of the young guys out there, to get Jerrel (Jernigan, the Giants' third-round pick) and some of the draft picks, to get them to meet some of the guys, learn a little bit of the terminology," Manning said. "You get worried. You don't know how long this lockout is going to be, where if it goes too long they'll never be able to catch up and it'll be a wash of a year for them. You're trying to prevent that."

Manning's less concerned with the veterans. "You can get your timing in training camp," Manning said. "We've got guys that have been there before."

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Posted on: June 11, 2011 7:09 pm
 

Braylon Edwards, Michael Vick give back

Posted by Ryan Wilson

We've spent enough time documenting all the recent legal run-ins of NFL players, that it's only fair that we give equal time to some of the good deeds, too. Michael Vick was a high school commencement speaker in Philadelphia Friday, and not only did he talk about redemption, he surprised two students with $5,000 college scholarships.

Nice touch, for sure. But former Browns first-round pick Braylon Edwards took it further. In May 2007, when Edwards was still in Cleveland, his foundation pledged $1 million in scholarship money to students in the Cleveland Municipal School District.

The catch, via Shutdown Corner: "Students and their parents signed a pledge that the students would complete at least 15 hours of annual community service and maintain a grade point average of 2.5 or higher. Those students were also given help from tutors and workshops through the process via Edwards' ADVANCE 100 program."

Edwards has been known for many things during his NFL career, most of them having to do with hands of stone, running afoul of the law, and his love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with Browns fans. But give him credit: he kept his word. And now, 100 students each received a $10,000 scholarship, courtesy of Edwards.

In fact, Braylon sounded downright inspirational when he tweeted the news last month.

"As the 2nd most hated man in Clev. & a man of my word, Today I will honor a promise made to 100 students in Cleveland 6 years ago … The last of my Advance 100 students will graduate from my program & head off to college on scholarships that I will provide them with. … Guys enjoy & embrace your new beginnings and remember your promise to me, to reach back & help someone else along the way!!!"

Points for pandering to his audience. As Shutdown Corner's Doug Farrar notes, "In 2009, Edwards got into it with a friend of James outside a Cleveland nightclub and punched the man, leading to comments from LeBron that Edwards' actions were motivated by jealousy." Perhaps there is still some ill-will towards Edwards for how things ended in Cleveland, but compared to LeBron, he might as well be Drew Carey. Well played, sir.

Once the lockout ends, Edwards says he'd like to stay with the Jets. One problem: New York will have to decide how to allocate their salary-cap dollars; in addition to Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Brad Smith are also free agents -- not to mention the never-ending rumors about Randy Moss or Plaxico Burress.

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Posted on: June 9, 2011 1:53 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 2:14 pm
 

Kenny Britt arrested day after court appearance

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Kenny Britt must take some perverse pleasure in legal entanglements. Because a day after he pleaded guilty to careless driving in his hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey, Britt was -- you guessed it -- arrested again. This time in Hoboken where narcotics officers charged him with two counts of resisting arrest.

Britt was issued a summons and will have to show up in Central Judicial Processing Court in Jersey City on June 16, eight days since his last court appearance.

According to WSMV.com, the complaint says Britt "did purposely prevent or attempt to prevent a public servant from lawfully performing an official function by means of force or violence, specifically by refusing to open your hand when ordered to do so then pulling your hand away."

When you've just pled guilty to another offense hours before it only makes sense that you would hassle a cop at the first opportunity, right? Look, we understand that "refusing to open your hand when ordered to do so" ranks right below jaywalking when it comes abhorrent criminal behavior. But here's a thought: if you've just had a run-in with the law, and you're a relatively high-profile athlete (or just tired of getting arrested), open your hand when the police ask you to, you know, open your hand.

Instead, Britt was charged with using his body "to push away from the officers" and pulled his arm away "while not allowing the officers to handcuff" him.

To recap: the Titans' best receiver can't get separation from law officers who probably haven't played competitive sports since high school. You know, it's not too late for the team to reconsider re-signing Randy Moss.

In related news: Ray Lewis, upon hearing the latest, nodded knowingly, and continued to preach of the impending Armageddon crime spree if the lockout isn't promptly resolved. We've been warned.

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Posted on: June 2, 2011 8:27 am
Edited on: June 2, 2011 10:19 am
 

Pats may not think much of Brandon Tate yet

With R. Moss gone, look for B. Tate to get more attention from opponents (Getty).Posted by Ryan Wilson

It was a surprise when the Patriots took wide receiver Brandon Tate in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft, but Bill Belichick is nothing if not unorthodox. Tate suffered a major knee injury during his senior season at North Carolina, and  reportedly tested positive for marijuana at the 2009 Combine. But he offered size, speed and was an explosive returner. The plan was for him to redshirt his rookie season and contribute in 2010.

Plus, Belichick had made a nice living ignoring conventional wisdom and drafting players he felt best fit New England's scheme. Offensive lineman Logan Mankins (first round, 2005) and Sebastian Vollmer (second round, 2009) are recent examples.

In 10 starts last season, Tate had 24 receptions for 432 yards, including three touchdowns. The totals aren't particularly impressive, but the 18-yards-per-catch average gets your attention. Still, for NFL Films' Greg Cosell, it was clear from watching game tape that the Patriots' staff has concerns about Tate as an NFL wideout.

"Very often, the way players are used tells you how a coaching staff feels about them," Cosell told CSN New England's Tom Curran. "The way the Patriots use Brandon Tate tells that they don't think much of him at this point. He runs about three routes and the only time the ball comes to him is when a play is specifically called for him."

Cosell acknowledges that Tate is "big, he runs well, he's got good lateral quickness," but also points out that, "…in taking the spot of Moss, he was stepping in for someone who was as good a vertical receiver as we've ever seen. Tate has vertical skills but not Randy Moss vertical skills and that's why coverage was different for Tate after Moss left."

This is about what you'd expect from a second-year player getting his first crack at substantial playing time. It's not unusual for coaches to manage their expectations in such circumstances, and Cosell notes that the work stoppage is really hurting Tate's development.

ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss adds that the coaching staff's lack of faith in Tate can be traced back to Tate's inconsistency last season. "One stat that stands out is that he was targeted 46 times and totaled 24 receptions for a 54.3 target percentage, one of the lowest among the team's pass-catchers."

But as always seems to happen, Tom Brady, superhero, will fix everything. Reiss reports that Brady is in New England to lead players-only workouts starting Wednesday. Reiss: "While the value of player-led workouts during the lockout is debatable, many believe chemistry between a quarterback and receiver can grow during the offseason. … Not surprisingly, teammates have responded, according to sources, breaking from their personal workout regimens to join Brady."

The Pats drafted two wide receivers in 2009 -- Tate and seventh-rounder Julian Edelman, a college quarterback from Kent State who moved to wide receiver in the pros and immediately drew comparisons to Wes Welker.

Ultimately, Cosell thinks Edelman has the skills to replace Welker, but warns that Welker is "a very specific kind of player" who "is a function of the entire offense and what's around him."

That was easy to forget when New England was regularly hanging 30-plus points on NFL defenses. Then again, any offense with Brady as its centerpiece is automatically high-powered. Moss was proof of that. He was invisible in Oakland before Brady helped revitalize his career, and his production fell off a cliff after the Pats shipped him to Minnesota last season.

While Tate will benefit from offseason workouts, even informal ones, Patriots will be in good shape at receiver when the labor dispute is settled. Deion Branch joins Welker as a savvy veteran who intimately understands the offense. And tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, rookies a year ago, accounted for 26 percent of all New England receptions in 2010. It's not like 2006, when Brady's top targets were Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell. The Pats' offense is plenty potent, as evidenced by their 14-2 record in 2010.

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Posted on: May 31, 2011 3:28 pm
 

Randy Moss to the Jets could be a reality

Posted by Ryan Wilson

For most NFL teams, the ubiquitous "character concerns" are enough to steer clear of a player, whether a draft prospect or a potential free agent. For the Jets, it's a term of endearment to be embraced. At least that's the perception.

Since Rex Ryan was named the Jets head coach prior to the 2009 season, the organization has welcomed with open arms Antonio Cromartie, Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes. All former first-round picks, all immensely talented, and all with off-field issues. But not only was Ryan able keep disparate personalities in check, he managed to motivate his team all the way to the AFC Championship Game twice in two years. It's not a personnel philosophy many teams would endorse, but then again, there isn't another coach like Ryan.

Which is why it's not surprising that the Jets may have legitimate interest in wide receiver Randy Moss. On Monday, in a post about potential landing spots for Plaxico Burress, we speculated that the Jets could be in the running for Moss. Stop me if you've heard this before.

NFL Network's Albert Breer writes that between the league rumor mill and divining the words of Jets owner Woody Johnson, "it's not hard to see some reality" in a Moss-to-New York scenario.

"There's no question that Randy Moss has the capability, has the God-given talent to be a superstar, and he has been a superstar, particularly with the Patriots," Johnson told Breer last week. "That's about all I can say about him, other than I admire his skill and what he's accomplished during those years."

Breer reports that the Jets have worked on "scenario development," which is a fancier, pithier way of saying "How we will deal with free agency should the lockout end tomorrow -- because it's going to be Thunderdome-type chaos around the league." It's good to have contingency plans, especially when the Jets have an abundance of would-be free agents, including Cromartie, Edwards, Holmes, and Brad Smith.

But Moss is 34 and his 2010 production suggests that his best days are firmly rooted in the past. And unless he can get his hands on a time machine, his biggest contribution to an offense will be the weekly complaints about not getting the ball. Of course, there were similar claims in 2006 that Moss was done. He had just finished his second season in Oakland and managed 42 receptions for 553 yards and three touchdowns.

The Patriots took Moss off Al Davis' hands in April 2007 for a fourth-round pick and then everyone watched in awe as Moss hauled in 98 catches for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns, and New England went undefeated in the 2007 regular season.

The seven-figure question laded with incentives then becomes: is the 2007 Moss still inhabiting the body of a man who looked disinterested and slow in 2010? It's doubtful. Moss is on the wrong side of 30, and his most explosive weapon -- his speed -- is waning. Plus, Mark Sanchez continues to improve as an NFL quarterback, but he's not Tom Brady. On more than one occasion, Moss has shown that his effort level is directly proportional to the number of passes accurately thrown his way. That could be a problem for Sanchez, whose career completion percentage is 54.4. 

Then again, Ryan has a way of getting the best from his players. Maybe he's exactly what Moss needs.

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Posted on: May 30, 2011 2:02 pm
Edited on: May 30, 2011 10:58 pm
 

Several NFL teams might have interest in Burress

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Plaxico Burress will be released from prison on June 6 after serving more than 20 months for, well, accidentally shooting himself in the leg at a Manhattan nightclub in November 2008. The punishment may not have fit the crime, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wanted to make an example out of Burress, presumably to serve as a warning to others who might consider carrying a loaded weapon in public (or shooting themselves with it, for that matter).

At the time, Bloomberg was clear: "I don't think that anybody should be exempt from [three-and-a-half years behind bars for illegally carrying a loaded handgun]. And I think it would be an outrage if we don't prosecute to the fullest extent of the law."

Now, almost two years later, Burress will finally get his release. For most inmates about to earn their freedom, the biggest concerns about life on the outside often include finding gainful employment and staying out of trouble. The latter is linked to the former, so landing a job is paramount. Which brings us to this: What will the NFL market be for Burress' services once the lockout is resolved?

First, some background: Burress last caught a pass in an NFL game on November 16, 2008. Still with the Giants, and less than a year removed from a Super Bowl title, Burress had just three receptions for 47 yards against the Ravens before a hamstring injury forced him to the sidelines, and a few days later, a self-inflicted gunshot wound changed his life. The next time Burress suits up in an NFL game he will be 34, the age most players begin their transition to life after football.

So the dilemma facing potential suitors goes something like this:
  • After more than 20 months behind bars, does Burress have anything left?
  • How would he fit in with new coaches/teammates/scheme? 
  • Will he stay out of trouble? 
All questions NFL front offices will undoubtedly consider, and a few of them will be ready to sign Burress once we have a 2011 season. In today's "Monday Morning Quarterback" column, Sports Illustrated's Peter King lists his early front runners.

"I think [Burress will] have two or three teams very interested. My guess is the Jets, Eagles and Raiders will be involved (the Jets if they don't sign Randy Moss), and I'll tell you a team that should be interested: Cleveland. A reborn Burress would do a good job giving Colt McCoy a threat he doesn't have right now -- if Burress is in shape and as interested in resuming his career as I've heard."

The Jets have proven time and again that they are unafraid to hitch their wagon to players with baggage (apparently, there's plenty of room on the wagon for both). Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie and Braylon Edwards are the most recent examples, and they helped the Jets to their second consecutive AFC Championship Game appearance last January. Coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum know what they're doing.

There is also the possibility that Edwards and Holmes could be lost via free agency should there be a season. That explains the interest in Randy Moss, although neither Moss nor Burress offer Mark Sanchez quite the dynamism that Edwards and Holmes provided a year ago.

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, intimately familiar with incarceration and second chances, appeared on Philadelphia's WIP last week and said that he'd love to have Burress on his team.

"Absolutely -- it would be a great addition for our team," said Vick, according to SportsRadioInterview.com. "With the guys we have now, I think we can fit him in and make it work. Obviously, the ultimate goal is to put that ring on your finger at the end of the year.

"I think certainly Plaxico is going to come out with a chip on his shoulder the same way I did, and he'll go out and help this football team to whatever capacity he can. I think the guys would be willing to embrace him and bring him in. If that happens, who knows? We talking about 'what ifs' now? It would certainly be a good thing."

Assuming Burress could recapture his past form, it would give the Eagles a third legitimate wideout after DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin (not to mention tight end Brent Celek). There's also a running game featuring LeSean McCoy and Vick, an offensive line bolstered by first-round pick Danny Watkins, and an already-explosive offense suddenly seems more dangerous. And let's be honest, if anybody can relate to what Burress has been through, it's Vick.

King also mentions the Browns, a team mired in futility, and on its fourth coach since 2004. The organization hired Mike Holmgren as team president in 2010 to turn things around. He drafted quarterback Colt McCoy, who played better than anyone expected as a rookie, and added wide receiver Greg Little in April. Still, Cleveland is in need of a big-play, pass-catching threat; Josh Cribbs isn't quite there and Burress could be an attractive short-term solution while McCoy and his young offensive teammates gain experience.

Whether Burress has any interest in going to the Browns is a different matter entirely, although Ron Cook, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, thinks the Steelers should give Burress a look. Pittsburgh drafted Burress in the first round of the 2000 draft, and he was then-rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's favorite target in 2004. The Steelers chose not to re-sign him after his contract expired following the season, and Burress ended up with the Giants, where he won a Super Bowl in 2008.

This is just a hunch, but the Steelers will have no interest in Burress; they currently have a depth chart full of quality young receivers to go along with veteran Hines Ward. If they take a chance on any 6-4 wideout, it will be Limas Sweed, their 2008 second-round pick who has battled injuries and drops in an unexceptional three-year career.

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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