Tag:Josh Katzowitz
Posted on: March 10, 2012 11:41 am
 

Eye on Football Blog has a new home!

 
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Posted on: March 10, 2012 11:37 am
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Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:05 pm
 

2012 Free Agency Previews: NFC North

It's understandable if you can't see him at first glance, but that's Driver making the Lambeau Leap. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Bears

In Week 11, after beating the Chargers 31-20, the Bears were 7-3, and though we didn’t expect Chicago to catch the Packers in the NFC North, we thought the Bears had a good shot to land a wild card playoff spot. And then, Jay Cutler broke his thumb. And then Matt Forte tore his MCL. And then backup quarterback Caleb Hanie didn’t produce much of anything. And then, the Bears lost five-straight to fall out of the postseason race, including an overtime loss to Tim Tebow and the Broncos (thanks Marion Barber!), leading to the firing of general manager Jerry Angelo and offensive coordinator Mike Martz. 

So yeah, not a great end to the season in Chicago.

Free agents of note
The Bears have franchise-tagged running back Matt Forte, so they don’t have to worry about whether they can sign him to a long-term deal for the time being … If defensive end Israel Idonije wants to return, as he’s said in the past, he provides solid play on the defensive line … Tight end Kellen Davis is a candidate to return, simply because there’s not a great free agent market for tight ends … Defensive tackle Anthony Adams already has been let go.

Needs
The Bears are in bad need of a receiver. Especially considering Forte was the team’s leading pass-catcher and considering Johnny Knox and Roy Williams -- two actual receivers -- combined for just 74 catches and four touchdowns. That’s not so good. If Jay Cutler had some help from his receivers, he could be a top-10 quarterback in the league.

Chicago also needs help in its secondary with a number of Bears cornerbacks on the free agent market. Only Charles Tillman is a sure bet to return, and though he’s a solid player, Chicago could become a top-10 defense if it shores up the backside of its defense.

Plus, we saw just how important a backup quarterback is for the Bears. With Josh McCown and Caleb Hanie probably not returning, the Bears will need to find Cutler’s backup.

Targets
The Bears don’t have a true No. 1 receiver, but that would change very quickly if they could land San Diego’s Vincent Jackson, who would be a great catch for Chicago. The Bears are going to have to spend some money in this area, and they should have the cash to land a top-notch receiver. Texans defensive end/linebacker Mario Williams would look good on the other end of the line from Julius Peppers, but there’s probably little chance the Bears would want to sink so much money into two defensive ends. Tennessee’s Cortland Finnegan might not be a bad idea at cornerback, if Chicago feels like paying top money to one of the better guys in the league.

Packers

Most of the way through the regular season, Green Bay was the big-time favorite to win the Super Bowl. The Packers offense was ridiculously good -- quarterback Aaron Rodgers had one of the best seasons by a quarterback ever -- and though the defense clearly had problems, we thought Green Bay’s offense more than made up for that big deficiency. Hell, even when Matt Flynn played, he did nothing but set franchise records in passing yards and touchdowns for a single game.

And then the Packers played the Giants in the postseason, and though we thought Jason Pierre-Paul was a bit crazy to guarantee a victory against Green Bay, that’s exactly what New York accomplished, upsetting the defender Super Bowl champions. To make matters worse, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin left after the season to take over the Dolphins organization.

Free agents of note
One of the most popular free agents on the market is quarterback Matt Flynn, who has put together two amazing games as Green Bay’s backup in the past two years. The Packers could have franchise-tagged him, but there was no chance they were going to sink that much money into a backup quarterback. Better to let somebody else make that mistake … Already, the Packers have wrapped up tight end Jermichael Finley by signing him to a two-year, $15 million deal ... There’s a good chance the Packers won’t re-sign running back Ryan Grant … It sounds like Green Bay might be content to let go of center Scott Wells, though he’s been very solid his entire career.

Needs
Truthfully, the Packers don’t have a huge number of high-profile needs. If Grant leaves -- which seems like a pretty good bet -- they’ll need a running back to go with James Starks. The thing with Starks is that he wasn’t all that good last season. Not that the Packers necessarily need a big-time running back, because as long as Rodgers is on the team, the offense should be fine. But still, Starks probably won’t be asked to carry most of the load by himself.

The Packers had the worst pass defense in the league, but they also have talent in the secondary. Besides, that statistic is skewed because of how high-powered Green Bay’s offense was, meaning opponents had to throw the ball in order to try to keep up with the Packers. But Green Bay would do well to upgrade the linebacker corps with A.J. Hawk struggling and with Erik Walden most likely not returning.

Targets
If the Packers decide Wells isn’t worth paying, they could go after Texans center Chris Myers. The two sides apparently met at the NFL combine.

Lions

If there was ever a time for an NFL analyst to make Detroit his “sleeper” team, it was 2011. With a tough defense featuring Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Cliff Avril and a return to health for quarterback Matthew Stafford, who could toss the ball with impunity to Calvin Johnson, it was an easy call to predict the Lions would make the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

And that’s exactly what Detroit did this season, as Stafford and Johnson overcame a tepid running game and the defense was good enough to set the Lions on a five-game winning streak to open the season and to win three of their last four to earn a wild-card berth. Although Green Bay will always make it tough, the Lions could continue making waves in the NFC North.

Free agents of note
The Lions made the right move by franchise-tagging Cliff Avril after his monster season -- it’s the first time they’ve used the tag since 2007. Now, they need to sign him to a long-term deal to make him happy. They also need to make sure he doesn’t hold out. … Shaun Hill is one of those solid backups every NFL team wants to have. He probably won’t go anywhere. If you consider Stafford’s injury history, there’s a decent chance Hill will play in Detroit anyway … It seems like there’s a good chance linebacker Stephen Tulloch will leave for Philadelphia.

Needs
As good as Stafford was last season, throwing for 5,038 yards, the Lions running game struggled. Jahvid Best and rookie Mikel Leshoure couldn’t stay on the field with injuries, meaning the Lions had to go with journeyman Kevin Smith to handle most of the carries. Though Smith, who was out of the league until Detroit called him, was solid, he’s also a free agent (along with Jerome Harrison). If Best and Leshoure are healthy, the Lions running game should be fine.

Detroit also needs to shore up its pass defense. The Lions ranked 22nd in the league against the pass, and you really saw them exploited in the playoff game against the Packers when Rodgers threw for 466 yards.

Targets
If the Detroit doesn’t re-sign left tackle Jeff Backus, the Lions could go after Jared Gaither. Since they also need help in the secondary, signing New Orleans’ Tracy Porter, New York’s Aaron Ross or Pittsburgh’s William Gay could be a good idea.

Vikings

In Leslie Frazier’s first full season as head coach, the season went relatively brutal for Minnesota. The Donovan McNabb acquisition backfired, and first-round pick Christian Ponder, who replaced him, didn’t fare much better. In fact, the best quarterback performances came when Joe Webb, who originally was supposed to be a receiver in the NFL, led the team up and down the field. Making matters worse, Adrian Peterson sustained an ankle injury, came back too soon and then tore up his knee. At this point, it’s unclear if Peterson -- rewarded with a ridiculous contract before 2011 -- will be ready to play at the beginning of next season.

One interesting note for Minnesota going forward. In the offseason, the organization hired Rick Spielman to be the general manager, though he didn’t have much success as the Dolphins GM and he contributed mightily to Minnesota’s 3-13 season last year. But before, the Vikings had shared authority with Frazier and other team executives. Now, Spielman will control the player personnel and Frazier will control his coaching staff. If Minnesota fails, expect Spielman to get more of the blame.

Free agents of note
Longtime guard Steve Hutchinson is likely on his way out because he’s 34 and very expensive for the team’s salary cap needs … The Vikings very well could lose Visanthe Shiancoe, whose stock as one of the better tight ends in the league has taken a hit. They’d better hope Kyle Rudolph is ready to go … The Vikings would like to keep linebackers E.J. Henderson and Erin Henderson.

Needs
The offensive line badly needs to be upgraded, and that’s probably most likely going to happen in the draft when (we assume) Minnesota takes USC’s Matt Kalil with the No. 3 pick and moves last year’s left tackle, Charlie Johnson -- still a dependable lineman -- to one of the guard positions. So, the Vikings will upgrade the left tackle spot and one of the guards spots.

The secondary, which intercepted only eight passes last year (tied for the worst total in the league) needs to be improved as well. Minnesota would do well to find somebody who can force turnovers. Somebody like Tennessee’s Cortland Finnegan or Kansas City’s Brandon Carr.

Targets
If, for some reason, the team doesn’t draft Kalil, it could go after Jared Gaither, whose career was boasted by his performance in San Diego at the end of the season. Assuming the Vikings don’t want to pay tons of money to Saints guard Carl Nicks, the Vikings could go after a guy like Baltimore’s Ben Grubbs, who would be less expensive. The Vikings would also prefer to upgrade their receiving corps to give Percy Harvin some help. Pierre Garcon and Mario Manningham might be two options.

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 4:27 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 4:31 pm
 

Michael Philbin was intoxicated, had marijuana

PhilbinBy Josh Katzowitz

About two months after the body of Michael Philbin, the son of new Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, was positively identified after he drowned in the Fox River in Oshkosh, Wis., toxicology reports show Michael was intoxicated and had marijuana in his system.

According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, Philbin’s blood alcohol level was 0.176, more than two times the legal limit, when he fell through the ice and into the freezing river.

His death has been ruled accidental.

"The loss of a child and sibling is absolutely heartbreaking to a family," Joe Philbin said in a statement released in conjunction with the Oshkosh police department. "Ours is no different. We hope that the results of the recent toxicology report serves as a reminder to us all that the mixture of alcohol and marijuana can be extremely dangerous, potentially even fatal.

"Michael was alone when this incident occurred. For us as a family this has been the most difficult thing to deal with. Had he been with someone this would have been avoided. The message is clear: practice moderation in the consumption of alcohol, avoid illegal drugs, and if someone appears to be in need of assistance, help them so that this situation doesn’t occur again."

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 3:49 pm
 

Jets seem split over whether to go after Manning

If Manning were to replace Sanchez in New York, that would be somewhat awkward. (Getty Images)
By Josh Katzowitz

While some players have begun to tweet out their desires to play with Peyton Manning -- I’m looking at you Darnell Dockett of Arizona and Raheem Brock of Seattle, who asked current Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson not to take offense -- I’m not sure anybody has been as forceful as what one unnamed Jets player told the New York Daily News.

“I want him in New York,” that player told Manish Mehta. “He needs to be a Jet.”

Oh, and no offense to Mark Sanchez, right?

No matter what the Jets current quarterback thinks about it, the paper reports there have been “serious” internal discussions in the organization about whether it should try to entice Peyton to become the second Manning boy to quarterback a New York team.

“I think any team in the league without an elite quarterback has to be interested in a healthy Peyton Manning,” a team source told Mehta.

But that doesn’t mean everybody in the organization believes the Jets should get involved in the Manning sweepstakes. And that doesn’t mean Manning would want to involve himself with the Jets.

After all, the organization wasn’t exactly stable in 2011 -- with Rex Ryan’s guarantees and Santonio Holmes basically quitting and Bart Scott shooting reporters the finger and, well, just about everything that’s happened there in the past 12 months -- and Manning’s presence might add to the instability.

Leave aside for the moment about the Tony Sparano issue -- would the new offensive coordinator want to change his conservative offensive philosophy to acquiesce to whatever Manning wants? -- the Jets have to weigh the risks of trying to land Manning.

“Can you imagine if word gets out that we’re trying to get Peyton Manning and then we don’t get Peyton Manning?” a member of the organization asked the paper. “Then we have to play with Sanchez?”

But according to general manager Mike Tannenbaum, every option is open in the name of improving the team.

"You still have to do what’s in the best interest of the team," Tannenbaum said last month. "My philosophy is you’ve got to be aggressive, you have to know what’s going on out there, and you have to look for opportunities. Sometimes there will be consequences, some are intended, some are unintended, and with that, you kind of factor that into the equation, and then you go from there."

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 2:23 pm
 

Baalke: 49ers aren't going after Manning

By Josh Katzowitz

While teams apparently are jumping into what should be an expensive sweepstakes to win the affections of Peyton Manning -- the Dolphins, the Redskins, the Jets, the Cardinals, etc. -- at least one potential landing place won’t be accepting Manning’s job application.

Latest news at Peyton's place
That is the 49ers, who apparently are content to re-sign Alex Smith rather than test the waters with Manning. That’s what San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke told KNBR radio (via the Sacramento Bee), saying, “We haven't had Peyton in here nor are we even talking about those things internally right now. ... Is he going to play? I don't know. That's for the doctors to make the decision on and for him himself."

Meanwhile, San Francisco is still trying to sign Smith, an unrestricted free agent who seemingly has coach Jim Harbaugh in his corner.

"We're working very hard on it like we are with all our free agents. I said this all along and I hate to be a broken record, but Alex is an important part of it,” Baalke said. “Carlos (Rogers) is an important part of it. All of these guys that were here last year, that are out there, that are free agents, we're trying our best to put the best package that we can together to keep as many of them as we can."

Maybe, though, the 49ers should take a look at Manning. As CBSSports.com’s Will Brinson recently pointed out, “If any team is ‘one guy away,’ it's the 49ers. And that's why you can't count them out.” Because who would you rather have: Smith or Manning (even if it’s a Manning that’s not 100 percent healthy)?

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 1:57 pm
 

Dolphins odds-on favorite to get Manning

By Josh Katzowitz

In case you’re a gambling man or woman (and I know you are), here are the latest odds of where Peyton Manning will end up next.

If you want expert picks, here’s what we at CBSSports.com think. Otherwise, study what Sportsbook.com -- which is making the Dolphins the odds-on favorite to win Manning's services -- has to offer.

Cardinals + 350

Broncos +2000

Field (Any Other Team) +300

Texans +1000

Chiefs +550

Dolphins +250

Jets +600

No Team (Doesn’t throw a pass in 2012/2013 Regular Season) +1500

49ers +1500

Seahawks +800

Titans +2500

Redskins +600

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 12:44 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 1:44 pm
 

Manning presser filled with memories, emotions

Manning and Irsay officially said goodbye Wednesday. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Say what you will about the dance Colts owner Jim Irsay and his superstar quarterback have performed the past few months as he and Peyton Manning have played politics, trying to gain leverage on each other. Leaked videos of Manning practicing in North Carolina, and leaked reports that Manning might need another spinal fusion surgery.

At times, it’s gotten ugly, but divorces usually are.

In the end, though, Irsay and Manning are like family, and no matter their squabbles, Irsay loves Manning. And Manning loves Irsay and the franchise.

The one moment that crystalized Manning’s affection occurred midway through Wednesday’s press conference when, after already showcasing his emotion a number of times, Manning nearly broke down when he was talking about the Colts equipment men. The equipment men for, god’s sake!

That’s what the franchise has meant to him. When you shed a tear for the men who clothe you, you know how Manning feels about the entire organization.

“I sure have loved playing football for the Indianapolis Colts,” said Manning, who was officially released by Indianapolis on Wednesday. “For 14 wonderful years, the only professional football I’ve known has been Colts football. I played with so many great teammates. This is an organization who I respect and will continue to respect them. I guess in life and in sports, nothing lasts forever. Times change. Circumstances change. That’s the reality of playing in the NFL.”

Latest news at Peyton's place
Multiple times, Irsay and Manning said this breakup was not about money -- though clearly that’s hard to believe (remember that $28 million bonus Manning was due at the end of this week?) -- but it was about the circumstances surrounding the organization. The Colts are going to have to rebuild after their 2-14 debacle last year. Manning, at the age of 36, wants to win now. There was no way to keep this relationship alive. Everybody wants -- and needs -- different things.

“We’re definitely a few years away,” Irsay said. “We want to see him come back and play great. … I want that opportunity for him to succeed at the end of his career … Hopefully we’ll watch Peyton win immediately.”

Where that is, Manning doesn’t know. At least that’s what he said Wednesday.

“I haven’t thought about where I’ll play,” Manning said. “But I’ve thought about where I’ve been. I’ve truly been blessed.”
And as far as retirement? Not a chance, Manning said. He said he’s making progress from his neck surgeries and getting closer to returning to his old form.

“I have some progress to make,” Manning said. “But I’ve come a long way. I’ve really worked hard. I can’t tell you the hours I’ve put in. I’ve really enjoyed being back out there.

“No, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. There’s no other team I wanted to play for. Nobody has had it better than I’ve had playing for the Colts these past 14 years. But I love playing quarterback.”

He just won’t get to do it in the city and the state that he’s grown to love the past 14 years. Which made him and Irsay -- who embraced after they were finished taking questions -- emotional.

“When I look down the road and see the many decades we’ll share together, he’s always part of the horseshoe,” Irsay said. “I can’t thank him enough.”

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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