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Tag:Will Brinson
Posted on: February 25, 2012 12:29 pm
 

Irsay met with Peyton in the 'last week or so'

Irsay says he and Manning have met in the 'last week or so.' (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- There's been plenty of speculation and talk about Peyton Manning this week in Indy, but not much of it coming from Colts owner Jim Irsay. That's surprising given that Irsay couldn't stop talking about Manning during the Super Bowl.

He couldn't quite make it to the end of the 2012 NFL combine without discussing Peyton, tweeting (of course) on Saturday around lunch that he and Peyton have "communicated frequently" in the last week or so. To the [sic]-mobile:

"Not sure why some speculate that Peyton n I haven't met in person recently..we've met in person n communicated frequently n last week or so," Irsay tweeted. "As we have in the last month."

We're not sure where the "Peyton and Irsay aren't talking" speculation is coming from. The only real speculation surrounding Manning the past few days has involved teams other than the Colts, with Arizona's front office not denying their potential interest in Manning, and Rex Ryan doing the same thing.

Oh, and fans in Miami who really like Peyton; but still, other teams. It's not unusual, though, for Irsay to tweet about rumors that we haven't actually heard. And it's just further proof that this saga becomes more and more convoluted as March 8 gets nearer and nearer.

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Posted on: February 25, 2012 11:19 am
Edited on: February 25, 2012 11:28 am
 

Matt Kalil runs unofficial 4.96 40-time Saturday

Kalil managed to elevate his status over the weekend. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Matt Kalil, the top-rate offensive line prospect by NFLDraftScout.com, has kept a low profile in Indianapolis. But that's not because he's not talented; it's because the focus here is on Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.

But Kalil stole some of that thunder on Saturday, when he stepped onto the field and looked incredibly athletic while running his 40-yard time, posting a 4.96 time, scored unofficially. (Matt added another unofficial time of five seconds even to his tally, which is also impressive.)

That time, incidentally, is the exact same time that Matt's brother, Panthers center Ryan Kalil, posted at his combine effort in 2006.

Matt's time puts him in good company: Joe Thomas, Eric Winston, Trent Williams and the elder Kalil are all among the group of linemen who've gone sub-five seconds on their 40 time at the combine since 2006.

Speed isn't everything when it comes to linemen, obviously. And Kalil's not the only speedy lineman: Georgia's Cordy Glenn also posted an unofficial 4.96 40 time on Saturday.

But when you start adding the pieces together on Kalil -- between the speed, the strength (30 reps) and the lineage -- it's hard to fathom how Kalil could end up busting as an NFL player.

And it's becoming even harder to fathom how anyone else, including Stanford's Jonathan Martin, could try to claim the title of best available offensive lineman in this draft.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 9:31 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 1:26 pm
 

2012 NFL Combine Day 2: Winners and losers

RG3 was the biggest winner on Friday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Day 2 of the NFL combine is in the books and we have a whole new set of fresh faces to judge. On Friday, wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks made the rounds. Perhaps you've heard of some of these guys.

Winners

Robert Griffin III: RG3 showed up to his combine interview sporting Ninja-Turtle socks, drew a crowd on par with Andrew Luck and absolutely wooed them. He said he wants a team to "fall in love with him," wouldn't care if he had to be a backup in year one, insists he is much more "football smart" than anyone would want to believe, and even said he models himself after ... Kenny Stabler. (And Randall Cunningham and "guys no one expects [him] to know about.") Oh yes, and he actually managed to growsince he last played football. The only question surrounding Griffin at this point is who's willing to give up the most in order to take him second overall.

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Alshon Jeffery: South Carolina's scrutinized wide receiver showed up the combine on Friday and laughed off reports that he gained so much weight he was tipping the scales at 250 pounds. ("Anyone can write anything on the Internet.") In fact, Jeffery lost weight, dropping from the 230 pounds during the season all the way down to 216 for his official weigh-in at the combine. Jeffery claims he just "drank a lot of water" to drop the weight. That seems unlikely, but it's not really important how he lost the weight. It's important why he lost the weight, and that was to show he's motivated to move up draft boards between now and April. We also feel compelled to note that his favorite food is lasagna.

Trent Richardson: Richardson's dealing with an injury so he's not going to participate at the combine. But he said the injury wasn't a "setback," and then he proceeded to be possibly the most quotable guy at the combine. His attitude was one of approachable confidence, and at one point he said that he's more than willing to meet Ray Lewis head on in the hole. It was throughly enjoyable to hear Richardson riff, and if he can back up his talk, he'll be worthy of a top-10 pick.

Peyton Manning: With the management from the Dolphins, Chiefs and Jets all talking to the media on Thursday and not much else going on during the day, Manning's name was freaking everywhere. On Friday, he was less talked about. Scott Pioli of the Chiefs straight no-commented any Manning talk and Ozzie Newsome looked a combo of incredulous and exasperated when he was asked about Manning replacing Joe Flacco. RG3 and Luck both got questions about Manning, but that comes with the top-pick territory, and they weren't grilled on it. With the Redskins rolling onto the schedule Saturday, Manning would be wise to enjoy the peace.

Orson Charles: The third-ranked tight end on NFLDraftScout.com's board, Charles showed up on Thursday and told the media that he'd be thrilled if he was drafted by a team like the Falcons and needed to sit until Tony Gonzalez was done. (It's an appropriate hypothetical for a kid who went to Georgia.) Then on Friday he made it a little harder for people to pass on him, when he benched 225 pounds 35 times. That's eight more than the nearest tight end and more than all but one offensive lineman.

Losers

Combine Changes: It's one thing to use fully automated timing devices for the sake of being more accurate. But what's the point of having two guys race against each other in the 40-yard dash? The answer: making the combine more fun to watch. And with all due respect to the fans who make the NFL the most popular sport in the world, there's just no reason to mess with a proven manner of evaluating players. Pitting guys one-on-one in the 40 might sound like the possibility to create really interesting matchups, but it would probably just create more "week before the combine" injuries.

Mike Adams: NFL teams can deal with a player having off-field issues. Adams has a pair of suspensions from his time at Ohio State and that has to be a concern, even if he's says he's "past" those maturity problems. Perhaps a bigger problem? He only benched 225 pounds 19 times. That's less than all but eight of the linemen who lifted on Friday, and less than all but five of the tight ends. Bench press isn't a clear-cut indicator of success, but that's a pretty big pair of red flags for the Ohio State product.

Tim Tebow: The phrase "one like Tim" would be insensitive, except John Elway's just talking about quarterbacks. But that was the phrase he used when we asked him what kind of backup quarterbacks he'd try to acquire to sit behind Tebow on the depth chart. And as Clark Judge wrote on Friday, Elway's pretty clearly not committed to Tebow as his quarterback of the future even though he and the rest of the Broncos keep trying to speak glowingly of their quarterback. Also, Tim, Fred Durst? Really? Really.

Panthers, Seahawks: Neither team did anything "bad," per se. They just happened to end up on the wrong end of a coin flip against the Dolphins and Chiefs, respectively. And while the loss only cost them one draft spot, that's a significant thing if you're a team like Carolina or Seattle who might be interested in bouncing up or down on the draft board. Lower picks are worth exponentially less in trades.

Justin Blackmon: This isn't to knock Blackmon, because we like the kid a lot. He's a talented, physical receiver who's managed to remain humble throughout his rise to stardom. But sometimes good qualities in people look bad in draft prospects: Blackmon isn't running the 40 (the primary concern about him is speed) because of a hamstring injury he said he suffered last week. He measured in shorter than the 6'1" and he admitted route-running is a problem for him. He's too talented to slip too far, but we wonder whether the Rams will definitely make him a top-five pick.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 8:43 pm
 

Luck would 'absolutely' play behind Manning

Luck and RG3 both said they'd be willing to sit behind Manning next season. (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

Even if they're not throwing this weekend, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are saying all the right things at the combine. Two months from the NFL Draft, they're considered the two best quarterbacks, and there's the strong possibility that both are off the board with the first two picks.

Most people -- from fans half-paying attention to draft experts -- expect the Colts to take Luck first overall. The former Stanford star has been called the best prospect since John Elway. Given all the upheaval in Indianapolis right now -- from the new front office and coaching staff to the speculation that Peyton Manning could be released in the coming weeks ahead of a $28 million roster bonus -- there's also reason to believe that Luck, like Manning in 1998, would be the starter from Day 1.

Despite the writing on the wall, Colts owner Jim Irsay said recently that he "would love to have" Manning back in Indy. We're guessing those comments were more PR cover than heartfelt, but either way, Luck was asked Friday about the possibility of playing behind Peyton next season.

“If I have the opportunity to learn from a guy like that, of course you’re going to take advantage of it," he said. "Absolutely. … Peyton was my football hero. That’s who I modeled myself after," he continued. "You never replace a guy like that."

Except you do replace a guy like that, perhaps soon. And many Colts fans accepted that reality when the team was on it's way to a 2-14 season without Manning, who had multiple neck surgeries in recent years and his football-playing future is still in question.

There's also this: the organization is free to sign Luck starting Friday.

Griffin, who sported Ninja Turtle socks when he spoke with the media Friday, was also asked about playing behind Manning.

"Yeah I would embrace it," he said according to CBSSports.com's Will Brinson, who is in Indianapolis this week. "It's not very often you get chances to play -- or be on a team -- with a legend like that and learn from a guy like Peyton.

"Definitely I'd come in and compete to try and be the starter, but I wouldn't be upset if Peyton was the starting quarterback of the team I'm on. It would be an honor to sit behind him. I'd hold that clipboard with pride. I'm not going to come in and demand to be the starter."

It's a fantastic answer to questions that are likely irrelevant. We suppose there is some small probability that Manning could return, but all indications are that he's taken his last snap for the Colts.

"Who knows what happens?” Luck asked Friday.

Irsay does, that's who. And we're guessing Luck will be under center when the Colts take the field in Week 1 of the 2012 season.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 5:26 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 5:27 pm
 

Ravens unlikely to chase RFA Mike Wallace

Don't expect Baltimore to pursue Wallace off the field. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Though the Steelers now look much more likely to retain wide receiver Mike Wallace, there's still a fear among Pittsburgh-area football fans that Wallace, a restricted free agent, could be lured away by another team. That team, according to GM Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh, won't be the Baltimore Ravens.

When asked about the Ravens going after potential restricted free agents, Newsome stressed the difficulty involved in doing so.

"The problem with going after a restricted free agent is that at that point, the player and the agent have all the leverage," Newsome said on Friday at the NFL combine. "Because you have to do a deal that you don't think the other team is going to match. And then giving up a first round pick -- with the new rules, that first-round pick, the amount of money you have to pay over the next four years, it's not like it was in the previous CBA.

"So you have to factor all of those things in before you decide to do it. There are some teams that have two [first-round picks] this year, but they'll be thinking about all those other ramifications."

Harbaugh was more blunt than Newsome, simply pointing out that pushing money towards a free-agent wide receiver simply isn't "smart" given the Ravens financial situation.

'I don’t see us spending high numbers on a wide receiver," Harbaugh said. "We just don’t have the cap room. It wouldn’t be smart."

And then there's this: the Ravens already have a deep-threat wide receiver. Asked about the need for one, with Torrey Smith on the roster, Newsome offered only good-natured, sarcastic-laced rhetorical questions.

"Did you watch us play this year? Do you think we need a deep threat?" Newsome said.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 5:11 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 1:29 am
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: Wide receiver rankings

The 2012 free-agent wide receivers is a stacked group of players. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

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 wide receivers.

Everyone knows the NFL is a passing league these days and that you need an elite quarterback to succeed. But take a look at the teams who made the playoffs in 2011 and you might just realize that having talented wide receivers is a must too. (Just ask Eli Manning.)

Only the Ravens, 49ers and Broncos bucked the trend, and there are mitigating circumstances. Each of those teams is run-heavy, and each of those teams has burned an early-round pick on a wideout -- Torrey Smith, Michael Crabtree and Demaryius Thomas, respectively -- in the last three years. So it’s not like they’re not trying here.

The need for wideouts was especially glaring amongst the NFL’s dregs: the Jaguars, Rams, Browns, Vikings, Redskins and Buccaneers all have something on common besides their terrible records.

Good news, then, for those teams -- this free-agent class is absolutely stacked with talented wideouts. A good portion of them could be franchise-tagged, but the guys who make it to the market are going to get straight paid.

1. Wes Welker

Breakdown: Welker’s considered the perfect fit for the Patriots, and it’s hard to argue: his numbers working in New England’s system since 2007 are absolutely bananas. 111 catches, 1,221 yards and six touchdowns ... on average. “The Patriot Way” might mean one thing on the field and at press conferences, but in the front office it means not over-paying for veterans who want too much money. That’s what Welker is right now, as he’s reportedly seeking $14-15 million per year, more than the Pats have probably invested in all their wideouts in a long time. Franchise-tagging Welker has “hold-out” written all over it, and there’s a common belief that Bill Belichick will call Welker’s bluff and let him test the market.
Potential Landing Spots: Patriots, Jets, Rams, Bears

2. Mike Wallace

Breakdown: Wallace is a restricted free agent and what happens to him this offseason is one of the more fascinating storylines to emerge from the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. If the Steelers simply tender Wallace at their non-franchise-tag max, a team in need of a deep threat could negotiate a deal with Wallace. Pittsburgh would have the right to match, but they’re in a major cap quagmire right now; if the team offering Wallace the contract simply front-loaded the deal, it would be nearly impossible for the Steelers to retain him.

They’d get a first-round pick in return, and you can bet Kevin Colbert will turn it into something nice. But there’s no better way to hurt your competition than by taking one its best players. Good news emerged for the Steelers on Thursday, as they restructured Ben Roethlisberger's contract and may have gotten under the cap. Now they just need to whack another $10 million off their total and Wallace, who is just 25 and has averaged 66 catches, 1,225 yards and nine touchdowns the past two seasons, can "finish his career" in Pittsburgh.
Potential Landing Spots: Steelers, Ravens, Patriots, Bears

3. Marques Colston

Breakdown: Colston’s the rare player who re-negotiated his rookie contract after just two years. But that’s what happens when you crank out back-to-back seasons with more than 1,000 yards and establish yourself as Drew Brees’ top target. Colston’s no longer the true No. 1 option in New Orleans -- Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles were more involved in the passing game in 2011 -- but he’s got the tools of an elite wide receiver. And at age 28 and as the only guy not sweating a franchise tag, he’s going to get paid like one too.
Potential Landing Spots: Bears, Rams, 49ers

4. Dwayne Bowe

Breakdown: Bowe was a 50/50 shot to make it to the market, because the Chiefs also needed to retain cornerback Brandon Carr. But then KC landed Stanford Routt after the defensive back was discarded by the Raiders. That gives the Chiefs some flexibility with Bowe; they can franchise tag him and try to re-sign Carr later. Bowe’s a hulking presence on the field and a physical receiver capable of acrobatic and explosive plays.

Somehow he’s broken out twice in his short career (no, really, he has, even though he's just 27), and it’s scary to think what he could do in a high-octane offense with an elite quarterback. Don’t expect him to hit the market just yet though; the Chiefs can't afford to lose him in what should be a rebound year for KC's offense. He's well worth the $9.4 million.
Potential Landing Spots: Chiefs

5. Vincent Jackson

Breakdown: The Bolts reportedly want to pay V-Jax and keep him in San Diego long term. Which is a fantastic sentiment, but one that’s too tardy to get Jackson to take a deal that doesn’t max out his value. Because he was franchised in 2011, his franchise-tag salary for 2012 would be prohibitive. There’s some concern with his off-field history; Jackson's got a pair of DUI arrests on his record. But if A.J. Smith can’t lock him up between now and March 13, he’s going to make a boatload.
Potential Landing Spots: Bears, Chargers, Jaguars, 49ers, Rams

6. DeSean Jackson

Breakdown: The Eagles are expected to use the franchise tag on D-Jax, but there’s also a possibility that they’ll look to deal him elsewhere after locking him into that tag, which means another team would likely shell out an extension for the oftentimes troubling wideout. Howie Roseman said at the combine that the Eagles want to work something out long term with the receiver.

Jackson’s a home-run hitter and one of the most explosive receivers in the game, but he also feels like a powder keg at times. He’s held out from Eagles camp, he’s talked openly about wanting more money, he’s been vulnerable to injury and he’s been accused of not trying his hardest on the field at times. Will that change if he gets a big contract?
Potential Landing Spots: Eagles, Redskins, Bears

7. Brandon Lloyd

Breakdown: It’s considered a near lock that Lloyd will figure out a way to land with in New England; he’s hitched his wagon to new Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. There’s good reason for that: McD is the guy who turned him into a Pro Bowler in Denver and salvaged his career. Lloyd would fit what the Patriots need well, as a wide receiver not named Ochocinco who can actually still stretch the field. But don’t count out the Rams -- Lloyd told us at the Super Bowl that with a new coaching staff in town, he’s certainly interested in sticking around and helping Sam Bradford grow.

There are some concerns with Lloyd. He's older (he'll turn 31 in July), the majority of his success came while working directly with Josh McDaniels. And there's Lloyd's 45.5 percent catch rate (according to Pro Football Focus, that's the fourth-lowest among wideouts who played at least 50 percent of their team's snaps), which could be alarming. But you could also point to the quarterbacks -- Tim Tebow, Kyle Orton, a dinged-up Sam Bradford, Kellen Clemens and A.J. Feeley, as the problem there.
Potential Landing Spots: Patriots, Rams

8. Stevie Johnson

Breakdown: It’s hard not to be fascinated by Johnson. A seventh-round pick out of Kentucky, Johnson came on strong during the 2010 season, catching 82 passes for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. He repeated the feat in 2011, posting similar, albeit slightly depressed numbers. But it’s also hard not to be frustrated by Johnson. He cost his team a pair of wins -- against the Steelers in 2010 and the Jets in 2011 -- thanks to dropped passes that came after aggressive touchdown celebrations (the drop against Pittsburgh was the week after his "Why So Serious?" shot at Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens).

Johnson says he’s done with those now, but the only way he’s going to get elite money ($8 million per year range) is if someone actually believes him. The one thing no one's talking about with Johnson, though, is his ability to put up big numbers against all-world Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. In four games against the Jets over the past two years, Johnson's piled up 19 catches for 262 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His final performance against Revis in 2011 -- eight catches for 75 yards and a teeter -- should especially have, as Mike Freeman wrote in November, fellow AFC East coaches curious
Potential Landing Spots: Bills, Bengals, Rams, Jaguars, 49ers

9. Reggie Wayne

Breakdown: Lost in the whole Peyton Manning shuffle is the way that the Colts appear to be discarding Wayne, one of the organization’s all-time great receivers. Wayne grew up under Marvin Harrison, honed his craft with Manning and turned into one of the best receivers in the NFL. He’s clearly lost a step at this point, but if a team wants a veteran who can lead in the clubhouse and on the field, or simply someone who runs ridiculous precise crafts and works his tail off to prepare, Wayne’s going to be a fantastic addition. Belichick’s openly stated his admiration for Wayne, so New England’s not out of the question. He could also simply heading wherever Manning lands.
Potential Landing Spots: Patriots, Dolphins, Redskins, Cardinals, Jets

Honorable Mention: Laurent Robinson, Robert Meachem, Mario Manningham, Eddie Royal, Jerome Simpson, Pierre Garcon

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 3:22 pm
 

TJ Graham guarantees 'sub-4.3' 40 time at combine

TJ Graham reps NC State with a Wolfpack sign. (Will Brinson, CBSSports.com)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Wide receiver T.J. Graham produced loud numbers -- compiling 1,713 total yards on receptions (46) and kick returns (44) -- for NC State in 2011. But he'll make a bigger noise over the weekend if he follows up on a guarantee he made at the combine to run a sub-4.3 second 40-yard dash.

On Friday, we asked Graham what he expected his time to be over the weekend.

"Sub 4.3," Graham told CBSSports.com.

Thinking we might have misheard, we asked him to confirm that number. Since, as Rob Rang noted on yesterday, only 10 guys have gone sub-4.3 since 2000.

"You guaranteeing that?"

"Yup," a smiling Graham said.

40 times aren't the end-all, be-all obviously. But look at the wideouts on Rang's list of players who have gone under 4.3 seconds: Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jerome Mathis, Mike Wallace and Johnny Knox. That's a reasonably productive group of guys; if you want to argue that speed doesn't really count for anything, you'd have some work to do.

None of this means Graham is going to vault up draft boards if he posts a low number. And he could fall if he whiffs on the guarantee (especially with the Raiders not having a first-round pick this year). But Graham, the 219th overall prospect according to Rang, could certainly leapfrog some of the 27 wide receivers ranked ahead of him if he goes particularly low over the weekend.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 12:35 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 12:45 pm
 

Fisher: Trading Bradford 'wouldn't be an option'

Bradford won't be playing anywhere other than St. Louis. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- As we noted in Thursday's "Winners and Losers" edition from the NFL combine, the Rams are sitting pretty with the No. 2 pick in the draft and the stock of Robert Griffin III growning as quickly as his measured height (RG3's added 3/8th of an inch since college!).

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They're likely to make a move at some point, with one of the Dolphins, Redskins or Browns making sense as a trading partner.

"We have options," Jeff Fisher said Friday at the combine. "There's the option to stay there and take the best player or listen to whoever's willing to talk."

Just don't expect them to do anything too crazy. Like, say, trade quarterback Sam Bradford.

"That wouldn't be an option," Fisher said when asked specifically about moving his current quarterback.

There's an argument that dealing Bradford would actually make sense, particularly if Robert Griffin III is as good as everyone thinks. (He is.) But Fisher's sticking with the guy he knows.

And he might bring in more familiar figures as well, noting that the Rams have had talks about bringing in Albert Haynesworth, who played for Fisher when he coached the Titans.

"There's some unrestricted free agents out there, now, that are not under contract that we are talking about" Fisher said when asked about a Haynesworth reunion. "He's one of them. Whether we go ahead and do something remains to be seen."

Haynesworth isn't the only fascinating football figure currently an unrestricted free agent. USTREAM star Randy Moss is out there as well. And Fisher not only didn't close the door on possibly bringing Moss to St. Louis either.

"You guys know my familiarity with Randy," Fisher said. "I thought he was good for the locker room."

Hmm. Perhaps we shouldn't be throwing around the phrase "nothing too crazy" 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