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Category:NFL
Posted on: March 5, 2012 2:34 pm
 

Stevie Johnson: Bounties are 'stupid, ridiculous'

Johnson's not a fan of NFL bounties. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Stevie Johnson, who got a brand-new, five-year contract from Buffalo on Monday, dropped by The Jim Rome Show on Monday to talk about his new deal.

While he was there, Rome also asked Johnson about the hottest story of the day, the Saints bounties. And Johnson called them "stupid" and "ridiculous," and think it goes against what NFL players work for in the first place.

"I think it's stupid," Johnson told Rome. "I don't understand why other players do that or even participate in something like that. We got in this league through blood, sweat and tears. We grinded our way to get in the position we're in and then you put out a bounty or a hit on somebody to injure them? I don't like it at all and I kind of get frustrated by it."

("ROME with Jim Rome" debuts on CBS Sports Network April 3rd. Follow Rome on Twitter @JimRome.)

Frankly, I couldn't agree more with Johnson. The NFL's a tough enough business without people purposely trying to injure players. When a defensive player blitzes a quarterback (or simply lines up to rush a quarterback), he's inherently already trying to do damage to that quarterback.

The idea that financial motivation is required for violent behavior is pretty sickening. Thankfully some players, like Johnson, aren't taking the "this happens everywhere" attitude towards bounties.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 1:21 pm
 

Safety Michael Griffin franchise tagged by Titans

Griffin, seen here tagging Lee Evans, got tagged himself on Monday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The Tennessee Titans informed safety Michael Griffin that they would use their franchise tag on him, the team announced on Monday afternoon.

With the deadline for utilizing franchise tags (4 p.m. ET) fast approaching, the Titans faced a decision as to whether Griffin or cornerback Cortland Finnegan would receive the designation.

The team ultimately chose to tag Griffin, who will receive a guaranteed, one-year salary of $6.2 million if he signs his tender. Griffin's not always the most consistent player, but that's good value for a position that doesn't feature much available elite talent.

Griffin's the third safety to be tagged this offseason, with 49ers safety Dashon Goldson and Raiders safety Tyvon Branch already receiving the tag. (Keep up with all franchise tags by bookmarking our handy 2012 NFL Franchise Tag Tracker.)

Franchising Griffin means that Finnegan is likely to hit the open market; Aaron Wilson of Scout.com reports that the Titans and Finnegan haven't had any serious talks about a long-term deal.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:02 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 6:06 pm
 

Lions use franchise tag on Cliff Avril

Avril terrorized quarterbacks in 2011. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The flurry of franchise-tag activity on Monday continued with the Lions locking up one of their more important defensive players, using the non-exclusive franchise tag on defensive end Cliff Avril.

As noted by our Lions Rapid Reporter John Kreger, Avril is guaranteed a one-year salary of $10.6 million now, but other teams may negotiate with the defensive end. If someone else offers Avril a contract, the Lions can either match or get two first-round picks in exchange from the team offering the contract.

There was some speculation that Avril would be unhappy with the franchise-tag designation, but he tweeted "#BLESSED" shortly after the news broke.

This is, as Kreger notes, the first time the Lions have used the franchise tag since 2007.

But utilizing the tag on Avril isn't all good news for Lions fans. As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free-Press notes, the Lions now have more than half of their 2012 salary cap tied up with just four players: Avril, Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh. Those are a good four players to have, but Detroit certainly needs to work on long-term contracts for Avril and Megatron.

The Lions now have, per franchise tag rules, until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal with Avril.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:32 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 3:03 pm
 

Kickers Prater, Scobee get tagged; Barth too?

It's kicker franchise tag day in the NFL! (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

For many teams in 2011, kickers were the most important players on the roster. Or, at least, the most important free-agent-to-be anyway. The Buccaneers, Jaguars and Broncos all qualify as teams with valuable kickers, and they've reportedly decided to franchise Connor Barth, Josh Scobee and Matt Prater, respectively.

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Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union reports that Scobee will get the tag. Mike Klis of The Denver Post reports that Prater will get hit with the tag. And Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times notes that Barth will be the fifth kicker to get the tag.

The Jaguars have since confirmed that Scobee will receive the tag. But he's not happy about it.

"Josh is obviously disappointed in the choice to use the franchise tender," Scobee's agent Ken Harris told Ganguli. "While we have no plans of signing the tender at this point, we'll see if the long-term contract Josh deserves can eventually be reached."

The first two, naturally, were Mike Nugent of the Bengals and Phil Dawson of the Browns. (You would know this if you'd already bookmarked our franchise-tag tracker.)

Dawson was tagged last year, so he'll make $3.8 million in 2012. The rest of the kickers stand to make about $2.6 million in 2012 as guys who were tagged and receive a one-year, guaranteed contract from their respective teams.

And Prater is official now as well, with John Elway announcing the news on Twitter. (Where else, right?)

"Placing the franchise tag on Matt Prater ensures that he'll be a Bronco in 2012," Elway tweeted. "Matt's a very talented kicker & important part of our team. This gives us the ability to continue working on a long-term agreement."

Barth could be the fifth kicker tagged, but he has not yet been given that designation. There have only been reports that he could be tagged by the 4 p.m. ET deadline.

Scobee was outstanding in 2011, hitting on 92 percent of his field goals, including five of six from 50 yards or more. Barth hit two of three from 50 yards or more and also hit 92.9 percent of all his field goals. Prater only hit 76 percent of his field goals, but knocked down three of four from 50 or more yards, including a pair against the Bears that helped launch Tebowmania into the stratosphere.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:08 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 12:18 pm
 

Favre on Saints $10K bounty: 'I'm not pissed'

Favre got leveled more than once against New Orleans back in 2009. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

At the heart of BountyGate (and I'll personally pay someone $10 to knock that name out of play) is the 2009 NFC Championship Game, when the Saints beat Brett Favre and the Vikings. As reported by CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered up $10,000 for anyone who knocked Favre out of the game.

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You'd think that news might upset Favre, but he told Sports Illustrated's Peter King that he was "not pissed" and that he respects Vilma as well as then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

"I'm not pissed," Favre said. "It's football. I don't think anything less of those guys. I would have loved to play with Vilma. Hell of a player. I've got a lot of respect for Gregg Williams. He's a great coach. I'm not going to make a big deal about it. In all honesty, there's a bounty of some kind on you on every play. Now, in that game there were some plays that, I don't want to say were odd, but I'd throw the ball and whack, on every play. Hand it off, whack. Over and over. Some were so blatant. I hand the ball to Percy Harvin early and got drilled right in the chin. They flagged that one at least.

"I've always been friends with Darren Sharper, and he came in a couple times and popped me hard. I remember saying, 'What THE hell you doing, Sharp?' I felt there should have been more calls against the Saints. I thought some of their guys should have been fined more.''

Favre did say, however, that he was glad the "truth comes out" now with respect to how the Saints behaved on the field, although he wouldn't exactly be compelled to serve as a witness in a court of law.

"Now the truth comes out. That's good. But that's football. The only thing that really pisses me off about the whole thing is we lost the game. That's the thing about that day that still bothers me. And that's the way it goes. If they wanted me to testify in court about this, they'd be calling the wrong guy."

It would be interesting to see whether or not Favre would meet with Roger Goodell, though. It's unlikely he would, and as a retired player, it's also unlikely Goodell and the league could compel him to take a trip to New York anyway.

But it's not like they have to: replays of the game against the Saints show countless instances where Favre took late shots. They were deemed "aggressive" at the time, but with the knowledge that there was a five-figure bounty on knocking Favre out, "malicious" seems like a better description.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 9:38 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 1:04 pm
 

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 4, 2012 11:17 pm
 

Report: Johnson, Bills close to a five-year deal

Johnson will be happy to hear that he's on the verge of singing a five-year deal. (Getty Images)
By Josh Katzowitz

In the past few weeks, the Bills haven’t seemed totally interested in keeping No. 1 receiver Stevie Johnson in Buffalo. They said they wouldn’t franchise tag Johnson, probably because the organization doesn’t feel he’s worthy of a $9.4 million, one-year deal, and at times, it seemed as if the team might let him walk without getting anything back in return.

But apparently that’s not the case as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported late Sunday night that Johnson and the Bills are on the verge of finalizing a five-year contract that should be completed “in the next 24 hours.”

In our free agent wide receiver rankings, Johnson was in the No. 8 slot, and though he's topped 75 catches, 1,000 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in the past two seasons, he’s, at times, inconsistent and a celebration penalty-drawing nuisance.

So, you can understand why Buffalo might have been hesitant about signing him to a long-term deal.

For the record, however, Johnson plans on being more mature after catching touchdown passes from now on, saying he’s finished with scoring celebrations.

"But no matter what: I'm done with it,” Johnson said recently. “When I was doing my first couple seasons, I was just trying to be a relevant guy, you know? I think people are beginning to know who [No.] 13 is."

And now that Johnson is on the verge of signing his deal, it really is a Happy New Year for him after all.

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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