1 Hot Rumor Involving Each NFL Team

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIIMarch 6, 2012

1 Hot Rumor Involving Each NFL Team

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    We all know what March Madness is all about. But for the NFL, March is a month that is filled with as many rumors as any other time period on the NFL calendar.

    You have the whispers of why certain teams are downgrading certain players from the recent NFL Scouting Combines. You have rumors that teams are expressing interest in certain players for the draft, which you realize is a smokescreen to keep other teams guessing as to their true intended targets. There are the rumors of which players will receive the franchise tag and which players are going to be released.

    That is the thing about rumors, you can only put so much faith in them. Not only did none of these players have the franchise tag applied to them as was rumored, but their team didn't apply the franchise tag to any of their free agents. Matt Flynn - GB, Mario Williams - HOU, Vincent Jackson - SD, Brandon Lloyd - STL and Sione Pouha - NYJ.

    The 11 teams that didn't use their franchise tag designation were the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams.

    The Steelers did use a tender offer on Mike Wallace, and we will talk more about that on their team slide.

    Rumors are flying around everywhere. What rumors are actually tied to something that will happen and what rumors are tied to something that turns out to be nothing more than noise? As for this presentation, we are going to visit every NFL team and focus on what's the hottest rumor going on with every team right now.

Arizona Cardinals

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    The hottest Arizona Cardinals rumor is that the team is in danger of losing their starting left tackle Levi Brown, unless the team can work out a new deal for him by March 13, when he becomes a free agent.

    In an article from the National Football Post, the Cardinals are running out of time to sign Brown. Brown's original contract as a rookie, has him making $17 million against the Cardinals' salary cap this year. That won't fly, so unless the two sides can re-work a new deal, the Cardinals will have to release him and would probably lose him in free agency, due to the lack of quality left tackles in free agency.

    Brown would then be the darling of the free-agent class, and teams will line up to make bids for him. He's still young, (just 27), and is productive, so that means he will be in play. The only other left tackles that are free agents are Jared Gaither, Demetrius Bell and Anthony Collins.

    Brown was the overall No. 5 draft-pick made in the 2007 NFL draft and has since started in 75 games.

    Brown is due a $6 million roster bonus on March 12, so that's why time is running for the Cardinals and Brown.

    The only other rumor of some consequence is who will be the Cardinals starting quarterback in 2012? Will the Cardinals make a play for Peyton Manning, or are they going to be content with the investment they made in Kevin Kolb in 2011?

    Cardinals GM Rod Graves wants to have some competition for the job in training camp. According to this update from Rotoworld, the Cardinals would be interesting in Manning if he is released by Indianapolis. The question is how high are they prepared to go, because either Miami or Washington will be prepared to offer him a ton.

Atlanta Falcons

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    The hottest Atlanta Falcons' rumor involves corner Brent Grimes, who the Falcons decided to apply the franchise tag to. The problem is that Grimes may decide not to sign the franchise tag offer.

    The Falcons' pass defense was ranked No. 20 in 2011, but if the Falcons were to lose Grimes, they could tumble down even further in the pass defense rankings in 2012.

    According to this article by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.com, Grimes will not sign the franchise tag.

    Grimes and the Falcons will continue to talk about a long-term deal even if Grimes doesn't sign the franchise tag offer. They have from now until March 13 to come to terms, and then, all bets are off once free agency begins on March 13.

    If Grimes decides to accept the tag offer, he would be assured to make $10.431 million in 2012. With few top free-agent corners in the market this year, Grimes would surely be in demand, so that is why he's hesitating to sign the offer. He could be in store for a huge pay day on the open market.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Baltimore Ravens rumors ranged from would the team try to hurt the Pittsburgh Steelers by making a $11-12 million offer to wide receiver free-agent Mike Wallace, to bringing back Lee Evans at a reduced salary. 

    But there is one other rumor that is probably more important. Does the new contracts for running backs Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster help or hurt the Ravens in their negotiations with Ray Rice?

    Starting with the Mike Wallace situation, this entry from Rotoworld suggests that the Ravens and the Patriots are the two leading teams, or in their words "predators" that could take advantage of the Steelers limited protection that they have on Wallace and steal him away.

    The limited protection is due to the Steelers placing just a first-round tender on Wallace. That means that if the Ravens come u with the top offer in free agency for Wallace, if the Steelers fail to match the offer, the Ravens would only have to sacrifice their No. 29 overall pick, while the Patriots are at No. 31. Would Wallace be a reasonable trade for the No. 29 draft pick? That is a no-brainer yes in my book.

    Next, we look at the Ray Rice negotiations. According to this article from Peter King at Sports Illustrated, the new deal signed by Marshawn Lynch with Seattle may not give Rice much leverage. Lynch is young like Rice, only 25-years-old, and he signed a four-year, $32 million contract with $18 million guaranteed.

    When you figure that the franchise tag in 2012 for running backs only pays $7.7, and Lynch's deal averages $7.75 million, there isn't tremendous incentive for the Ravens to negotiate much higher. But as King points out so well, Rice has outgained Lynch by 1,532 yards over the past three years. That should translate into more compensation for Rice, so the plot continues to get thicker.

    Outside of the speculation on Mike Wallace and Ray Rice, the other main rumors have to do with other Ravens personnel. The Ravens released Lee Evans, but may be open to bringing him back on a cheaper contract. The team still hopes to sign Ben Grubbs, but may have to free up cap space by parting ways with tackle Bryant McKinnie.

Buffalo Bills

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    The latest and great rumors that involve the Buffalo Bills has to include the involvement of ex-Bills head coach Gregg Williams with his "bounty system" when he coached the team. In this article by Tim Graham of the Buffalo News, it seems there is enough evidence that the bounty system was in place in Buffalo.

    Of course, some of the comments readers made to the article were quick to point out that you actually have to tackle somebody before you can injure them. But I think they were not historically accurate. The ironic part was that the Bills defense had an overall rank of No. 1 and No. 3 for the two years running before Williams was hired, and he quickly turned the Bills into a 3-13 team.

    Now with Steve Johnson signed earlier today to a five-year contract for $36.25 million contract, with $19.5 million guaranteed. The deal will pay Johnson more than $24 million in its first three years.

    The Bills are in talks with tight end Scott Chandler to bring him back, according to this story from Pro Football Weekly. But, there is a different picture painted by this article from WGR 550, thinking that the Bills don't want to have to pay for Chandler having a break-out season on Buffalo's account.

    Finally, there is this report from Pro Football Talk that the Bills will be proactive in 2012 in free agency. Instead of sitting back and waiting for free agent bargains to fall into their lap, the Bills intend to be among the first wave of teams that are extending offers to key free agents that are considered to be difference makers. Is this a new strategy for the Bills, or is this Buddy Nix putting up a smokescreen or just a rumor?

    A late rumor surfaced Monday evening that the Bills would be one of the teams active in trying to sign Vincent Jackson to a new deal, as per this article from Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune. It seems like the Bills would like to pair Jackson with Steve Johnson, and let Ryan Fitzpatrick go to work on AFC East secondaries with as many weapons as possible.

    While Bills fans no doubt like to hear that the team will be active, seeing is believing, and the proof is in the pudding. Signing Johnson to a new deal is a good start, so let's see if they keep the good news coming.

Carolina Panthers

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    The Carolina Panthers organization have not been the subject of very many rumors in the 2012 offseason, and maybe that's just the way they prefer it to be.

    Rather then spend a ton of money on expensive free agents to improve their team defense, which was a sore spot in 2011, coach Ron Rivera wants to see what the impact is when their injured players return to the team.

    The injured Panthers on defense included Ron Edwards, Jon Beason, Thomas Davis, Sione Fua and Terrell McClain.

    Another rumor is what will be the fate of backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen? Will he return for another year in Carolina to hold the clipboard for Cam Newton, or will the Panthers simply cut him loose and limit their losses?

    According to this article in the Charlotte Observer.com, Rivera still considers Clausen to be part of mix for consideration in making the team in 2012. Clausen is due a bonus of just under $1 million if he is on the roster as of March 27, so if you see his name on the transaction prior over the next three weeks, you know that the team decided that he wasn't worth that added investment.

Chicago Bears

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    The hottest rumors involving the Chicago Bears would be what top wide receiver free-agent is still left to sign and can the Bears actually sign Matt Forte to a long-term deal?

    The Bears wish list at wide receiver got considerably shorter today when Dwayne Bowe was signed to a franchise tag and Steve Johnson signed a new five-year deal. The Steelers placed a tender offer on Mike Wallace, and Wes Welker and DeSean Jackson also have franchise tags, although the latter two weren't really discussed as options for the Bears.

    At least WR Vincent Jackson of the San Diego Chargers wasn't hit with a franchise tag, so he could be the Bears main priority.  Another key free agent that didn't get a franchise tag today was TEN corner Cortland Finnegan, who could also be on the Bears radar, according to this article from ESPN.

    As for Forte, it seems to be a mystery as to why the team can't sign Forte to a long-term deal. The team will only have to pay him the going rate for franchise tag running backs in 2012, which is $7.7 million. That is a relative bargain compared to the Chris Johnson's and Adrian Peterson's of the NFL.

    From this article on ESPN, if the Bears can't work out terms for a long-term deal with Forte, it would cost them 120 percent of the 2012 cap figure to place a franchise tag on him in 2013. Let's see what the two sides can work out.

    Finally, who will the Bears land in 2012 to back up Jay Cutler? As many sacks as the team gives up, Cutler needs an experienced quarterback who the Bears can turn to at a moments notice. This Chicago Sun-Times article talks about the backup quarterback being one of the bigger priorities in the offseason for the Bears in 2012. There will be a number of quarterbacks in the market, so the Bears should be able to land somebody decent.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    If you think it was strange that the Cincinnati Bengals used their franchise tag on kicker Mike Nugent, consider that a total of five NFL teams extended a franchise tag to kickers and a sixth team extended a franchise tag to a punter. 

    The six players in question: Mike Nugent (CIN), Phil Dawson (CLE), Matt Prater (DEN), Josh Scobee (JAX), Connor Barth (TB) and punter Steve Weatherford (NY Giants).

    From an article on ESPN, the Bengals are hoping that history doesn't repeat itself. The Bengals last used a franchise tag on a kicker was with Shayne Graham in 2009, and he missed two field goals that cost the Bengals their playoff game.

    The other rumor involves safety Reggie Nelson as the Bengals have only eight days left to sign the free agent, or risk losing him to another team. Can the Bengals get him signed to a new deal before free agency starts on March 13?

    According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Bengals have plenty of salary cap space to work with. The NFL team that was supposedly the most interested in Nelson was the the Tennessee Titans, who just put their franchise tag on Michael Griffin, which effectively takes them out of the picture. But all you need is just one mystery team to upset the plans.

Cleveland Browns

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    Cleveland Browns rumors seem to revolve around what the Browns will do to try to land Robert Griffin III, and the status of Peyton Hillis, looking at his physical health as well as his mental health and trying to determine what his commitment level to the NFL was.

    Regarding RG3, Peter King of Sports Illustrated wrote that he thinks the Browns don't want to include their No. 22 draft pick overall any longer just to move up two spots. Whether or not the Browns can come up with enough other picks to satisfy the Rams and still keep their No. 22 pick remains to be seen.

    The Browns failed to place their franchise tag on Hillis, opting to put it on kicker Phil Dawson instead.

    From this National Football Post story by Cory McCormick, Peyton Hillis contemplated retirement in the 2011 season, as well as joining the CIA. On the surface, it all seems quite bizarre, which is why you are smart to treat all rumors with caution. 

    Hillis' teammate Josh Cribbs thought that an ex-agent for Hillis was behind the CIA story.

    An unfortunate side effect of the Gregg Williams scandal is that ex-Saints players that are now on other NFL teams, may face possible suspensions due to their role in the bounty hunting. For the Browns, that could impact LB Scott Fujita, who played in New Orleans under Williams, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.




    Hillis also shot down a report that he had considered retirement and joining the CIA, saying that he believes someone gave the story to ESPN to discredit him in free agency.

    "That's ridiculous," he said. "I never one time mentioned anything to any coach about retirement or joining the CIA or anything like that. It's 100 percent false. I don't know who came up with a story like that, but they should've come up with a better one to make it sound more legit."

    At this point, Hillis is slated to become a free agent on March 13. ESPN AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley suggests one potential landing spot that would make a lot of sense for Hillis, if he does make it to the FA market.





    The Robert Griffin III sweepstakes has been a hot topic 'round these parts all offseason, and that's ramped up since RG3's impressive showing at the NFL scouting combine. In order to get their hands on the promising young passer, QB-needy teams like the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks will need to out-bid the others in a trade package being shipped to Jeff Fisher's club. If only draft picks are being considered, Cleveland has -- by far -- the easiest path to a successful deal, as they possess the highest 2012 first-rounder (No. 4, compared to No. 6, 8 and 12), and an additional 2012 first-rounder (No. 22) that can be used in conjunction.

    Not so fast. According to what a source has revealed to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns are unwilling to include the No. 22 pick in any deal with St. Louis "at this point."

    Even without the No. 22 pick, the Browns still have the advantage of having the highest first-rounder to ship to St. Louis, so this report -- if it proves true -- does not completely ruin their chances. Moreover, given that we're in the NFL's "silly season," we have to take this report with a grain of salt. It's all a big game of poker, and the disclosure of something like this must be taken in that light.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Dallas Cowboys rumors involved linebacker Anthony Spencer and if the Cowboys would decide to apply the franchise tag to him or not. Ultimately, the Cowboys decided to apply the tag today.

    Now, the Cowboys will have some time to try to work out a long-term deal with Spencer.

    According to an article on ESPN, the Cowboys didn't feel that there was adequate depth in either free agency or the draft to take their chances that they could replace him with a player of similar quality. They know what they have in Spencer, and that led them back to finally pulling the trigger on the tag.

    Another Cowboys rumor had the team hoping that the Tennessee Titans wouldn't put the franchise tag on corner Cortland Finnegan, since the Cowboys have made him a priority target in the 2012 offseason. The Cowboys got their wish, as the Titans decided to apply the tag to safety Michael Griffin instead.

    The Cowboys won't be the only team interested in his services, as Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Minnesota, Denver and Chicago are all said to have a degree of interest in him. As a result, Finnegan won't be coming cheap to any team in 2012.



Denver Broncos

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    The hottest Denver Broncos rumor has to do with running back Willis McGahee and his level of unhappiness over his current contract.

    McGahee hired Drew Rosenhaus to represent him in 2011. Rosenhaus got McGahee a four-year deal for $9.5 million, not bad considering that McGahee is 30 years old and has bad knees ever since he played at the "U". But that was before McGahee put up a solid 2011 season, so now he wants a new deal.

    McGahee fired Rosenhaus by the way, and McGahee recently asked the Broncos for a raise, according to the Denver Post. It doesn't seem likely that the Broncos will relent to his request.

    The only option for McGahee would be to hold out, so this situation might bear watching. Other than that, the rumors have been very quiet regarding the Broncos.

Detroit Lions

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    There doesn't seem to be any major rumors surround the Detroit Lions right now, but there are definitely some major questions that need answers. For starters, how smart was it for the Lions to tie up so much salary cap space by placing a franchise tag on defensive end Cliff Avril?

    As per this article by the National Football Post, the Lions might lose free-agent linebacker Stephen Tulloch in the process. Avril will earn at least $10.6 million this year due to applying the non-exclusive version of the franchise tag. That means there is $10.6 million less of salary cap space left to sign free agents like Tulloch or quarterback Shawn Hill.

    The Lions still have some time to figure out how to sign Tulloch and Hill, since free agency doesn't begin until March 13.

    The fact that the Lions felt they had no other choice than to give the franchise tag to Avril means that Lions GM Martin Mayhew had to be somewhat disappointed, since his goal was not to use the tag.

    According to an article by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, “It’s not really a good option for us to franchise Cliff,” Mayhew said last month. “That’s not appealing to me. It’s not appealing to Cliff. We don’t want to do that. But the worst option is to play without Cliff. You don’t want to play without him either.

    With one major pass-rusher like Avril off the market, the value of people like Mario Williams and John Abraham just went up.

    Another rumor to address is if Shaun Hill is willing to stay in Detroit as a backup, or does he want to test free agency to try to become a starter elsewhere?

    The Lions have reportedly made re-signing free agent QB Shaun Hill a priority, according to the National Football Post story. It seems that Hill has appeal to several teams around the league, and one of them would consider Hill as a consideration to be a starter. As a result, the Lions will probably need to pay him around $3 million to keep him employed with the Lions.

Green Bay Packers

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    Green Bay Packers rumors centered around quarterback Matt Flynn. Would the Packers place the franchise tag on him, and then attempt to do a sign and trade deal? The bottom line was that the Packers never used their franchise tag on anybody.

    They already signed tight end free-agent Jermichael Finley to a new deal, so the only question that remained was what would the Packers do with Flynn?

    As far as Flynn goes, he will now be free to start fielding offers from other teams on March 13. Since there will be more definitive word on Peyton Manning's availability as of March 8, then the pecking order for Flynn will hopefully be a little more clear. Although having multiple suitors will help to drive up the contract offers.

    Flynn is going to have to try to convince teams that he is not another version of Kevin Kolb, some nice performances, but not much of a track record to go by. Word around the NFL on Flynn is mixed. In a story from the National Football Post, one personnel man called the free agent a "dink and dunk quarterback" lacking deep-ball arm strength. The assessment also said he held the ball too long.

    The article stated that around the NFL, the feeling is that Flynn is a better game-manager quarterback but isn't a great franchise QB.

    Maybe it's telling that the Packers opted to let him walk and test the market on his own, rather than try to see what they could get for him via trade.

Houston Texans

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    Two of the biggest stars of the Houston Texans were the subject of many rumors coming into the franchise tag deadline, namely Mario Williams and Arian Foster. Of the two, the Texans worked out a new contract for Foster, but Williams was not handed the franchise tag, so it is looking more and more like he will be allowed to test free agency.

    As for Foster, the Texans signed him to a five-year contract worth $43.5 million, which includes $20.75 million guaranteed. The deal includes a $12.5 million signing bonus. Foster will make $18 million in 2012.

    While this was good news for Foster and Texans fans, it almost guarantees that the Texans will not be able to afford Mario Williams, and he will be looking for a new team. The Texans still have eight days to try to work out a new deal with him, but the reality is that they can't afford him any longer.

    According to ProFootballTalk, the Texans must have realized that they had very little chance at signing Williams, because they have yet to enter into any kind of serious negotiations with him.

    You can expect a number of teams to line up for the chance to make Williams a very rich man.The only thing that the Texans can hope for is that a AFC South rival doesn't sign him, because he could make them look bad for their decision twice a year.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Indianapolis Colts rumors centered around the Peyton Manning looming deadline, and which of the many key Colts veteran players would ultimately receive the franchise tag. When everything was said and done, the Colts made some progress today, but they also raised a few eyebrows in the process.

    According to a tweet from Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, the Colts and Robert Mathis agreed to a long-term contract. There were some details that needed to be finalized, so to play it safe the Colts put the franchise tag on Mathis, which allows them more time to get all the details of the deal worked out.

    Why they raised some eyebrows in the process had to do with the fact that Mathis is 31-years-old, and with the Colts being in the midst of a rebuilding transformation, you would think that the team would have focused more attention and effort on Pierre Garcon. In addition to his age, Mathis will be playing in a new defensive scheme for the Colts head coach, Chuck Pagano.

    There is also the strong possibility that this was some sort of public relations move by owner Robert Irsay who can show Colts fans that they were able to retain one star from the playoff years. With the deadline of March 8 fast approaching, it is only a matter of days now until the Colts will probably be releasing Peyton Manning, rather than pay him a roster bonus of $28 million.

    As for Manning, there was an interesting article in the Monday Morning QB by Peter King of Sports Illustrated. King writes that the neck injury of Peyton Manning could have initially been the result of a hit from the Washington Redskins in a game on October 22, 2006. The Redskins defensive coordinator at the time? Gregg Williams. Check out the story via the link above. The story can be found on Page 2.

    Our final Colts item is from a National Football Post article by Andrew Brandt, as the Colts are still trying to figure out what to do about their pair of wide receiver free-agents. Veteran Reggie Wayne seems to be set that he wants to follow Peyton Manning, coming as a two-for-one kind of deal.

    The younger Garcon was offered a deal for $35 million but turned it down. It looks like the Colts are going to lose their starting receivers, so if the ball is handed to Andrew Luck in September, there will be a new stable of wide receivers for him to form brand new chemistry with.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    There is a shortage of good Jacksonville Jaguars rumors floating out there in cyberspace. I have been checking on the Jaguars for three days and the best rumor or item we found was that kicker Josh Scobee was not happy with the Jaguars' decision to give him the franchise tag today.

    According to an article on ESPN, Scobee wasn't alone as a franchise tag recipient, as a total of five kickers also received the franchise tag from their teams.

    The difference that separates Scobee from his fellow kickers, is that Scobee doesn't have any plans to sign his franchise tag offer, according to this update.

    This could wind up being a bitter negotiation, but if this is the worst of the Jaguars immediate problems, then you would have to think they could be okay.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Kansas City Chiefs rumor mill has essentially focused on whether or not the Chiefs would be interested in bringing in Peyton Manning once he became a free agent and would the Chiefs be able to sign Dwayne Bowe to a long-term deal or would they have to resort to the franchise tag to keep him for 2012?

    The Chiefs weren't able to sign Bowe to a long-term deal yet, but that can still happen. The Chiefs wound up waiting until there were only 20 minutes left prior to the franchise tag deadline before they announced their move.

    Maybe there was some strategy involved in making other teams guess what they were doing, but maybe the Chiefs were doing an internal check to see if they had any leaks in the building.

    If you didn't read this when it was initially published, the Chiefs headquarters are known to be a very paranoid place to work, thanks to this story by Kent Babb of the Kansas City Star.

    The other rumor is where will Chiefs free-agent corner Brandon Carr wind up signing? The Dallas Cowboys appear to be the front-runners for now, but that remains to be seen.

    Finally, the Chiefs will be looking closely at free-agent quarterbacks, as the team wants to bring in somebody to compete with Matt Cassel.

Miami Dolphins

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    Miami Dolphins rumors center around who will be their quarterback in 2012. Robert Griffin III seems out of reach right now, so the most common fall-back option is Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn.

    From an article by Peter King of Sports Illustrated, he writes that the Dolphins are prepared to guarantee Peyton Manning more money that anybody else.The Dolphins need somebody to bring fans in to the games, and that is something that Manning could do very well.

    Imagine how much hype the Dolphins versus Patriots games would have, pairing up Manning with Tom Brady twice a year.

    So, once he becomes a free agent, the Dolphins would like to sew Manning up to a contract, assuming that he checks out with the team doctors.

    League sources tell the Boston Globe Dolphins owner Stephen Ross remains interested in pursuing Manning. It would be nice to know if Manning feels the same way about the Dolphins as they do about him, but we won't know more about that until after March 8.

    If for some reason the Manning deal goes sideways, or he somehow stays with the Colts, then you can be assured that head coach Joe Philbin would be interested in bringing in free agent Matt Flynn to compete with Matt Moore.

Minnesota Vikings

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    One of the hottest Minnesota Vikings rumors going around right now is that Adrian Peterson will be healthy and ready for the 2012 season opener. That is a relief to Vikings fans.

    In a story that ran on NFL.com, Peterson said that he hopes to be ready for the Vikings’ 2012 season opener. He is conducting therapy in the pool, and despite the doubters that he would be ready for games in September, we have learned from Peterson and his work ethic, never to doubt him about anything he sets out to do.

    It would be a remarkable recovery from ACL surgery in December, but that's just a testament to Peterson and his desire and dedication.

    Another story floating around is that Vikings safety Jarrad Page had tried out for the Los Angeles Dodgers recently. According to ESPN, Page had playing baseball at UCLA, but that was back in 2004 and 2005.

    It probably doesn't send the best message to potential NFL employers that he's considering switching careers. Kind of sends a mixed message, you know?

New England Patriots

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    The New England Patriots are rumored to be interested in landing another top wide receiver to start along with Wes Welker in 2012. While the Patriots extended a franchise tag on free agent Wes Welker, the Patriots are also said to be interesting in landing another solid receiver in free agency.

    Things couldn't have worked out any better for the Patriots wide receiver wish list today. All three of their top free-agent receiver targets are still available and in the market.

    The top three targets right now include Mike Wallace (Pittsburgh), Vincent Jackson (San Diego) and Brandon Lloyd (St. Louis). Of the three candidates, the Patriots would have to surrender a first-round draft pick to the Steelers and step up with an expensive offer to secure Wallace, hoping the Steelers won't match the offer.

    Neither Jackson nor Lloyd received a franchise tag, so now the Patriots hope they are still going to be available free agents when March 13 rolls around. Then, they will have to come up with a winning offer or promise a shot at a Super Bowl ring and see where that gets them.

    According to the Boston Globe, the Patriots desire to land another strong wide receiver is their top free-agent priority in the offseason.

    Then there is a story by Dan Pompei of the National Football Post, that thinks free-agent defensive star Mario Williams makes perfect sense for the Patriots to add to their defense. How good of a move does Pompei think this could be? Well, I quote him here:

    "There is no move any team could make that would help a defense more."

New Orleans Saints

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    New Orleans Saints rumors—wow, where do we start?

    We have to address the Gregg Williams situation first because it has far-reaching implications. Williams flew into New York City today to meet with NFL personnel, who grilled about his practices in New Orleans, Buffalo, Tennessee and Washington.

    The Saints however are the primary focus of the NFL questioning, and they could be stripped of draft picks in either 2012 or 2013, besides having defensive players suspended for multiple games. In addition there is the potential for the Saints organization to pay a huge fine and for Sean Payton to also face disciplinary actions. Like we said, this will be far-reaching in magnitude and scope.

    Normally, the lack of progress for the Saints reaching a deal with Drew Brees would have been the big leading item, but perhaps, the Saints have been preoccupied with other business matters. Whatever the reason, it is a shame that the Saints couldn't reach a multi-year deal with Brees, and had to resort to giving their quarterback the franchise tag.

    Because the Saints now don't have anything they can do to prevent guard Carl Nicks and wide receivers Marquis Colston and Robert Meachem to leave in free agency. According to ProFootballTalk, the Saints haven't even made an offer yet to Nicks, which is something of a surprise.

    According to this article by ESPN, Nicks wasn't as big a priority as Drew Brees, but now that Brees has the franchise tag, the Saints still have eight days left to try to hammer out a deal with Nicks. Since they haven't sat down yet, better late than never.

    As for the wide receiver free agents, things have been quiet on that front as well, so it the above scenario can be applied to both Colston and Meachem, maybe the Saints can still pull of another deal or two

    There's the real possibility that when Brees comes back for summer break, there will be some key veteran faces missing from the team.

New York Giants

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    The New York Giants rumors include trying to figure out where Super Bowl XLVI hero Mario Manningham is going to sign in free agency and if the Giants will be able to sign Osi Umenyiora to a contract extension.

    The Giants wound up using their franchise tag on punter Steve Weatherford, who performed so well during the Giants playoff run.

    From National Football Post article by Andrew Brandt, Manningham has a chance to parlay his impressive performance in the playoffs and Super Bowl into a big pay day in free agency.  

    Unless he is greeted by an unexpectedly soft market, Manningham probably won't be back with the Giants in 2012.

    According to ESPN New York, the Giants now think that it is possible for Osi Umenyiora to stay with the Giants beyond 2012. That would be a real development, since the Giants had been trying to trade him during the 2011 season.

New York Jets

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    New York Jets rumors continue to fly in about who the Jets will bring in this offseason to challenge quarterback Mark Sanchez. The latest rumor is courtesy of ESPN New York, who states that Jason Campbell is now on the Jets radar and could be a welcome addition to challenge Sanchez.

    Campbell is just of a number of other quarterbacks that have been talked about this offseason, which includes Peyton Manning and Chad Henne.

    As per this ESPN article, the Henne connection makes sense since he played for new Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano with the Dolphins. Henne is thought by many to be the third-best free-agent quarterback in the market behind Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn.

    To his credit, Sanchez is staying on top of the situation, by working with ex-Dolphins' quarterback Chad Pennington, who used to play under Sparano.

    Another rumor going around was that the Jets were going to place their franchise tag on nose tackle Sione Pouha. That was according to a tweet from Manish Mehta @The Jets Stream. But, the Jets ultimately decided not to use their franchise tag on anyone.

    Finally, there is a rumor that the Jets could be looking at ex-Jets wide receiver free-agent Braylon Edwards to return to the team as a replacement for Plaxico Burress, according to this story from the New York Daily News.

Oakland Raiders

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    One of the biggest rumors that will impact the Oakland Raiders is if LB Kamerion Wimbley is open to taking a pay cut to help the Raiders out with their salary cap issues.

    According to this article from ESPN, Wimbley is willing to move money around, but he won't agree to any kind of a pay cut, which could further complicate the options that the Raiders have left. Wimbley is due $11 million in 2012, so the Raiders would like to move a percentage of that into a signing bonus.

    The Raiders only have 12 days left to make a decision on what they are going to do. Wimbley had just signed a five-year deal in 2011, and now less than one year later, it looks like the deal backfired on the Raiders.

    In another story by Len Pasquarelli of the Sports Exchange, he says that the two parties are not close to an agreement on restructuring the contract. Pasquarelli felt the odds of a deal coming together at this point are now less than 50-50. For a deal to work, Wimbley would have to take a cut in his compensation, and he is not willing to do it.

    In another Raiders rumor, there is a story from ESPN Insider, that Michael Huff's roster spot is somewhat cloudy. The two biggest issues there are his compensation for 2012 and the Raiders trying to determine what his best position is going forward.

    Huff has a roster bonus of $4 million due on March 16. In addition, he has a $4 million salary for 2012. The Raiders have to decide if they are keeping Huff at safety or if they will move him to corner.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Philadelphia Eagles rumors centered around how sincere were the Eagles in wanting free-agent wide receiver DeSean Jackson for the long-term, or was the franchise tag no more than a ploy to trade Jackson and get some kind of value in exchange for him? 

    Michael Lombardi of NFL.com wrote that the Eagles are seeking at least a third-round draft pick from any team interested in trading for Jackson.

    So, if teams are interested in Jackson or Mike Wallace as an example, you can look at it from the difference of trading a first-round pick for Wallace or a third-round pick for Jackson.

    But, there is also internal debate going on in Philadelphia about what to do with Jackson. According to this article from Mike Freeman of CBS Sports, the Eagles are divided as to whether or not they can trust Jackson to be somebody they can rely on for the long haul.

    Maybe the Eagles would be better off trading Jackson away and letting him be someone else's headache. What happens over the rest of the offseason should be interesting as they figure out what to do with Jackson.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The biggest rumor for the Pittsburgh Steelers right now is will they lose Mike Wallace to free agency, or will the flurry of roster moves they made allow the team to create enough salary cap room that they can retain him for 2012 and beyond?

    According to a tweet by Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Steelers will not place the franchise tag on restricted free agent Mike Wallace. Instead, the Steelers will extend a first-round tender offer to Wallace which allows him to negotiate a deal with other teams.

    If Wallace does field another offer, the Steelers have the right to match the offer, or they can turn it down and receive a first-round draft pick as compensation. Wallace will now be guaranteed to earn at least $2.7 million.

    This could prove to be a risky move by Pittsburgh, as they might struggle to match any offer that starts to reach the $11-12 million range. Sure, they might find a good draft pick with the first-round player they acquire, but there is no guarantee that the rookie has the same chemistry with Roethlisberger that Wallace enjoys.

    Rotoworld speculates that Baltimore and New England are two teams that could capitalize on this situation and try to make a bid for Wallace that the Steelers can't match. If either team succeeds in doing that, it would be a win-win, in that it gives them a top wide out, but the move would also hurt their  AFC-rival Steelers at the same time. Making an impact of that magnitude might be worth giving up the first-round pick in addition to the big contract.

    In an article on ESPN, the Steelers have been as proactive as possible in freeing up salary cap space to keep Wallace, but all of their difficult decisions they had to make recently will still boil down to how large is the offers in the league for Wallace, and can they afford to keep him?

    Especially with the uncertainty of the running game being 100 percent due to the injury to Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers will need as many of their weapons on hand in 2012 as possible with the new offensive coordinator Todd Haley ready to take over the offense.

San Diego Chargers

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    Some recent San Diego Chargers rumors came to fruition this week, when the Chargers released defensive end Luis Castillo and decided to not apply the franchise tag to wide receiver Vincent Jackson.

    Luis Castillo was due a salary in 2012 of $3.9 million along with a roster bonus of $1 million, so the Chargers felt it was time to part ways. In addition, Castillo missed almost the entire 2011 season due to a broken leg. He played in just one game this past season.

    As for Vincent Jackson, the Chargers still have roughly one week to sign Jackson to a long-term deal. If not there are several teams that are very ready to aggressively go after Jackson, which according to a story by Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune would be the Chicago Bears and the Buffalo Bills.

    Another free agent rumor is that the Chargers want to conduct some contract discussions with free-agent tackle Jared Gaither before free agency begins on March 13. Signing Gaither is believed to be one of the Chargers top priorities in the offseason, according to Scout.com article.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Seattle Seahawks rumors were speculating on whether or not the Seahawks would use the franchise tag on defensive end Red Bryant or on running back Marshawn Lynch.

    There was no need to put a tag on Lynch, since he signed a new four-year deal to stay in Seattle. Lynch will get $32 million in the new deal.

    As far as Bryant goes, he would have received $10.6 million if he received the tag, so the Seahawks hope they can still sign him to a new deal before he hits free agency on March 13.

    The Seattle Times thought that the Seahawks would not use the tag on Bryant, and they were right, since the team didn't apply the tag on anybody.

    Another Seattle player that is subject of rumors, is free-agent tight end John Carlson. A story in the Chicago Tribune states that the Chicago Bears would have an interest in signing Carlson, while the Browns might be interested in him as well.

    Finally, we have a story by Peter King of Sports Illustrated that states that the Seahawks could have an interest in drafting Ryan Tannehill. There are some comments from Seahawks GM John Schneider in the article that speak about Tannehill in glowing terms. Worth a read. Link to the article is right here.   

San Francisco 49ers

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    San Francisco 49ers rumors were trying to determine who was the right player to apply the franchise tag to. The 49ers ultimately decided to give it to safety Dashon Goldson, and they will take their chances that they can sign Alex Smith to a new contract on their own.

    In this ESPN article, they think that Smith and his agent Tom Condon are shooting for a deal very close to what Ryan Fitzpatrick got from the Buffalo Bills in the 2011 season (six years for $59 million, with $24 million guaranteed).

    With only one week before free agency starts, you have to wonder why a deal hasn't happened yet, since both sides appear to be enamored with each other. The clock is ticking.

    Regarding Goldson, in a different ESPN article, the 49ers slapped their franchise tag on Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson Friday.

    However, Goldson is not in any rush to sign the franchise tag. Goldson and his agent will talk to the 49ers, but they are also interested to learn what the market has to bear in free agency.

    The Goldson camp may very well find the free-agent market is very cold, since the 49ers used a "non-exclusive" franchise tag on him, which means that if another team signed Goldson to an offer, and the 49ers refused to match, that team would have to give the 49ers two different first-round draft picks as compensation.

    Based on that hefty price to pay, two first-round draft picks, expect to see Goldson playing in San Francisco in 2012. According to ESPN, if Goldson becomes difficult to negotiate with, the 49ers do have the ability to pull the unsigned franchise tag away from him; that should be enough motivation to get a deal done.

St. Louis Rams

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    Based on this article from NFL.com, the St. Louis Rams will have to decide just how far they can play off the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins on each other, because each team is setting limits for how much they are willing to give up for the No. 2 overall draft pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

    It seems that Cleveland won't be willing to part with their second first-round draft pick (No. 22 overall) to move up two spots in the draft. That could be a deal breaker for the Rams.

    The Redskins would be willing to give up their first-round pick at No. 6 in 2012, along with their first-round pick in 2013, but they are not willing to part with their second-round pick this year, which might serve to be a deal breaker for the Rams.

    Is it possible the Rams are becoming overly greedy in their demands? It seems that the Rams for now to content to push until they see what the breaking points are with their potential trade partners, and then re-group to figure out how to best continue the trade negotiations.

    From a National Football Post article by Brad Biggs, the question is who will take over the Rams defense if/when defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is either suspended by the NFL or fired by the Rams? The answer it appears is that it would be Dave McGinnis.

    When Fisher played for the Chicago Bears under Buddy Ryan, one of his coaches was McGinnis, which is how far back the two of them go.

    Peter King of Sports Illustrated weighed in on the Gregg Williams possible suspension. He expects Rams DC Gregg Williams to receive "at least" an eight-game suspension for his role in the Saints' "bounty" scandal, but it is possible that Williams could be suspended for the entire 2012 season, according to King.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Tampa Bay Buccaneers rumors were few and far between. The Bucs really didn't have many candidates for the franchise tag option, and they wound up applying it to kicker Connor Barth. Barth is now the fifth kicker to have the franchise tag this offseason, the most given to any position in the NFL.

    It has been a relatively quiet offseason in the past week to 10 days for Tampa Bay, but with the start of free agency around the corner, there should be some new rumors on the Bucs' front in the near term.

    The only recent development or story to report on is that the Bucs are not very high on wide receiver Mike Williams. As per this article from the Tampa Tribune, the Bucs are concerned about Williams work ethic and lack of strength.

    If the Bucs don't feel that either Williams or Arrelious Benn are capable of being a the number one receiver, then the team will have to go in either free agency or the draft and obtain one.

Tennessee Titans

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    Tennessee Titans rumors involved their decision of who would be the player they assigned the franchise tag to. The Titans went with safety Michael Griffin, which all but assures that corner Cortland Finnegan will leave the team via free agency.

    Due to the franchise tag numbers for safeties, Griffin will only cost the Titans around $6.2 million in 2012. The Titans had more depth at corner, which is why they selected Griffin over Finnegan for the tag.

    Another rumor that deserves some attention is what penalty or fine will the Titans be assessed for the bounty practices of Gregg Williams, who served the team 11 years as a coach. According to this article by the Nashville Tennessean, the Oilers/Titans had a "player-organized performance incentives pool to reward big plays" during Williams' tenure with the organization.

    Finally, another rumor involves the amount of potential interest in free-agent defensive lineman Jason Jones, according to this ESPN article. There are several NFL teams that plan to go after Jones with an aggressive offer, if the Titans let him reach free agency.

Washington Redskins

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    Washington Redskins rumors appear to be focused on how likely it is that the Redskins can come up with the right package to trade up to the No. 2 overall draft slot to be able to draft Robert Griffin III on April 26.

    League sources tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the Redskins continue "to rate as the front-runner" to acquire the Rams' No. 2 pick, and that the Browns are currently unwilling to part with their No. 22 pick.

    The Redskins are reportedly willing to trade both their 2012 and 2013 first-round picks but don't want to part with their 2012 second-rounder, which "isn’t acceptable to the Rams."

    Another rumor was that the Redskins were going to land a key wide receiver in free agency to add to Santana Moss. But that plan right now seems not as rosy as it once was. DeSean Jackson, Wes Welker, Dwayne Bowe have all been franchise tagged. Steve Johnson signed a new deal with the Buffalo Bills. That means that competition for the leading wide receivers will be fierce. 

    The Redskins may have to turn to a rookie receiver in the draft, which is why it is important that the Redskins try to retain some of their high draft picks for 2012.

    Finally, we take a look at the odds of the Redskins landing Robert Griffin III from a Peter King article in Sports Illustrated. King gives the Redskins the best chances for landing him. He wrote:

    Fifty-one days 'til Christmas -- actually, the first round of the April 26 draft -- and here are my odds of who gets the big prize, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, via a trade with the Rams for the second pick in the draft:

    1. Washington, 3-1. But this means GM Bruce Allen, as I suspect, will lose out on Peyton Manning because he won't bid as much guaranteed money as star-famished Miami owner Stephen Ross.

    2. Cleveland 4-1. Makes the most sense. But GM Tom Heckert will hate to deal away the draft pool it will take to move up to get Griffin.

    3. Miami, 5-1. If Miami misses on Manning, it will be conflicted. Full-bore for Griffin or pursue Matt Flynn in free agency?

    Thanks for checking out the presentation. Hope that you enjoyed it.