Rounding Up the Latest NFL Offseason Buzz

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IFebruary 12, 2013

Rounding Up the Latest NFL Offseason Buzz

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    The NFL is currently at a crossroads on the yearly calendar.

    Games for the 2012-13 season are in the books, but free agency is still a month away and the NFL draft doesn't start heating up until the NFL scouting combine at the end of February.

    For now, most of the NFL news is speculation or chatter from those on the inside.

    In the following slides, we'll round up all the recent NFL buzz you need to know.  

Steelers Fear Browns Will Sign Mike Wallace?

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    Looming free-agent receiver Mike Wallace may have the opportunity to cash-in next month in the AFC North, but the Pittsburgh Steelers might not be the team willing to spend the big bucks on the explosive vertical threat.

    According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, members of the Steelers organization fear that Wallace could be headed to the Cleveland Browns during free agency.

    The Browns have about $30 million in space and will be big spenders under new owner Jimmy Haslam and team president Joe Banner. Many in the Steelers organization believe Wallace will end up with their division rivals in Cleveland (Haslam was a former minority owner of the Steelers)...

    Cleveland certainly has the money to offer Wallace a mega-deal in the $10-12 million-a-year range. Any contract meeting or exceeding Vincent Jackson's five-year, $55.55 million deal (with $26 million guaranteed) would likely pique Wallace's interest. 

    Despite a down season in 2012 (64 catches, 836 yards, eight touchdowns), Wallace remains young (just 26 years old) and one of NFL's premier vertical threats. He has 32 touchdowns in four NFL seasons. 

    Pittsburgh has cooled on giving him big money to stay, especially after last season's holdout. Landing in Cleveland would give Wallace at least two chances a season to show his former club that letting him go was a mistake. 

Dolphins Hope to Lock Up Brian Hartline Before March 12

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    The Dolphins are actively trying to get top receiver Brian Hartline under contract for next season and beyond, according to the Miami Herald. 

    Hartline, who led Miami in catches (74), targets (128) and receiving yards (1,083) in 2012, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts on March 12. According to the Herald, the Dolphins are engaging in "extensive discussions" to get a new deal done before then. 

    Behind the scenes, the front office has discretely targeted at least two starters—Brian Hartline and Chris Clemons—they hope to lock into contract extensions before the NFL’s new year begins on March 12.

    The club has had extensive discussions with Hartline and Clemons about a return in 2013, according to a league source.

    Locking up Hartline and drafting or signing a top receiver in free agency would give the Dolphins a better array of passing options for second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

    The downside here could be the money needed to get Hartline back in Miami, as the Dolphins probably need to use a significant chunk of change to get a true No. 1 receiver.

    Hartline would be a fine No. 2 receiver—with Davone Bess (61 catches, 778 yards) occupying the slot—in an offense that also included someone like Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace or Dwayne Bowe.

    As a No. 1 option, Hartline is limited. 

Vikings WR Percy Harvin to Hold Out Without a New Deal?

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    Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin is set to enter the last season of his rookie contract in 2013, and he's apparently not happy about it financially. 

    According to Pro Football Talk, Harvin is prepared to hold out next season if he doesn't get a new deal. 

    ...even with one year left on his rookie deal, Harvin wants a new contract.

    And he could be preparing to take a stand in order to get it. Per a league source, Harvin currently is expected to stay away from offseason workouts and training camp absent a new deal.

    The report is hardly surprising. Harvin will make just $2.9 million in base salary next season, which is chump change compared to the kind of impact he has on so many facets of the game. 

    The Vikings have limited options in this scenario.

    They can either cave on Harvin's request for an extension, or deal the sometimes distracting but always explosive receiver before any such holdout happens.

    Giving out a new deal would cost millions, especially in guaranteed money. But a trade likely wouldn't fetch anywhere close to the value Harvin has, which should make the Vikings leery of throwing away such an asset. 

Panthers Forced to Move on from Gamble?

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    The mismanagement of the salary cap by the former regime in Carolina may force the Panthers to cut ties with their best cover corner in the coming days or weeks. 

    According to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, the Panthers are still $15 million over the 2013 cap, and cornerback Chris Gamble could be the first man they send packing to clear up space. 

    League sources expect Gettleman’s first major move to be the release of veteran cornerback Chris Gamble, which would free up $7.9 million in cap space.

    Gamble will turn 30 in March and missed 12 games in 2012 because of a shoulder injury, but he remains the team's best cornerback.

    Signed to a six-year contract in 2008, Gamble's backloaded deal will now pay over $16 million over the next two seasons.

    Thanks to a number of reckless contracts given out following the lockout in 2011, the Panthers simply can't afford to keep him at that rate. If he doesn't return at a cheaper price later, Carolina will almost certainly have to address cornerback in the 2013 NFL draft.

"Baggage" Scaring off Some Suitors for WR Dwayne Bowe?

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    Kansas City Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe is likely to receive the kind of multi-year deal he wants this spring, but not everyone in the NFL scouting world is buying in on what they'll get in the 28-year-old free agent. 

    One NFL scout expressed his worry to Peter King of Sports Illustrated:

    Speaking of stars available in free agency, one scout told me the other day: "I am scared to death of [Kansas City wideout] Dwayne Bowe. Like him a lot, but not sure what we'd be buying if we signed him. Too much baggage.

    Bowe certainly has baggage, as we outlined at length here. Among his many red flags have been conditioning, drops and a general sense of immaturity. 

    But Bowe has also been productive while working with some awful quarterback situations in Kansas City, and few receivers can match his size and speed combination. Most times in the NFL, talent overrules perceived "baggage," and we expect that idea to rule in this situation, too. 

Harvin for Flynn Deal? Maybe

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    When Mike Max of WCCO in Minneapolis reported that the Vikings would "attempt" to trade receiver Percy Harvin, a firestorm of speculation as to where he could eventually land was rekindled. 

    However, Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune brought a fresh spin to the speculation Monday. 

    Thinking out loud, Williams wondered if the Seattle Seahawks would attempt to send a draft pick and a certain backup quarterback to Minnesota for Harvin. 

    I think Harvin is the type of explosive playmaker Seattle is looking to add offensively, and could be work the risk of giving up a second-round pick...And Seattle also has another chip—quarterback Matt Flynn. The Vikings are looking for competition at quarterback, with Joe Webb’s struggles in the playoffs against Green Bay exposing the team’s lack of depth at that position. Flynn could go to Minnesota and compete with Christian Ponder for the starting job, and provide more depth at that position for the Vikings.

    You wonder which team would say no to such a deal, especially if the Seahawks threw in another draft pick to the pot, such as a fourth- or fifth-rounder. 

    Seattle would get a dynamic, uniquely talented weapon for an already dangerous offense, while the Vikings would receive draft capital and a huge upgrade at backup quarterback (and potential starter). Plus, Harvin already has experience playing for Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevel.

    Don't hold your breath on such a trade coming to fruition, but the idea Williams raises here isn't crazy. Seattle would become a heavy NFC favorite in 2013 with Harvin on board.

Eagles Willing to Take Offers for Nick Foles?

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    When the Philadelphia Eagles re-structured the deal of quarterback Michael Vick Monday, it sent a clear sign that head coach Chip Kelly probably wasn't as high on second-year quarterback Nick Foles as some originally thought. 

    Now, there's speculation that the Eagles could actively pursue a trade for Foles. 

    Sheil Kapadia of Philadelphia Magazine opened the door Monday:

    Fielding trade inquiries about Foles is absolutely an option for this organization. Given the lack of choices on the market (as mentioned above), he might have some suitors. Don’t get carried away. The Eagles aren’t going to get a first- or second-round pick for him. But perhaps a mid-round selection or a conditional pick? That’s possible.

    The Kansas City Chiefs, now under the direction of former Eagles coach Andy Reid, could be one logical option. Foles played in seven games and threw six touchdowns for Reid last season as a rookie. 

    That said, a number of teams should be interested in acquiring Foles if the asking price is only a mid-to-late-round pick. The 2012 draft pick played well enough in his limited action last season to warrant a look from any team needing help at the position. 

    Of course, Kelly also said during his Monday press conference that he knows the NFL requires having two quarterbacks, so Foles is just as likely to stay in Philadelphia. 

Maualuga on His Way out of Cincinnati?

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    Thanks to an unlikely season from rookie Vontaze Burfict and a horrifically poor season from looming free agent Rey Maualuga, it's looking more and more likely that the Cincinnati Bengals will move on from the veteran linebacker this offseason. 

    Adam Caplan of the Sideline View tweeted Monday that he was "told" the Bengals "won't be re-signing" Maualuga before free agency.

    Such a decision would make plenty of football sense. 

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Maualuga graded out as the NFL's worst interior linebacker in 2012. He missed 16 tackles and allowed 654 yards in coverage, both marks that ranked near the bottom for the position. 

    Burfict, an undrafted rookie from Arizona State, looked like a better player while starting at outside linebacker, and he could realistically take over for Maualuga inside in 2013. 

    The Bengals have no need to spend the money to keep Maualuga when they have a ready-made replacement in waiting. Expect him to get to free agency without a new deal from Cincinnati. 

Upgrade at QB Wanted in Cleveland?

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    The Cleveland Browns drafted Brandon Weeden in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft, but new ownership in Cleveland is reportedly ready to upgrade the quarterback position right now.

    Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that the Browns could look to several options to make that happen. 

    Should Vick become available, he too could be in play—this new regime badly wants to upgrade from former first-round pick Brandon Weeden—otherwise Alex Smith might make sense, among others.

    Vick is obviously no longer an option, but a deal for Alex Smith is still available, or the Browns could decide to go to the draft. 

    Either way, such a taste for quarterbacks is not a good sign for Weeden, who wasn't horrible in 15 games last season. The 29-year-old threw for 3,385 yards, 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, but the Browns won five games and were more explosive in the passing game. 

    Even so, it would still be a major shock if Weeden enters 2013 without a legitimate challenger for the starting job in Cleveland. The Browns should be big movers and shakers this offseason.

Asomugha out in Philly?

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    Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is still under contract for the 2013 season, but at least one NFL general manager is expecting the Eagles to dump the free-agent bust this spring.

    From Peter King of Sports Illustrated:

    One GM told me the most intriguing free agents on the board are Philadelphia cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and Cincinnati tackle Andre Smith. "One guy whose value is way down but still is attractive because so many teams are desperate for corners, and one guy who just played great this year after a lazy start to his career,'' the GM said.

    Asomugha is due a whopping $15 million in 2013, with $4 million of the money guaranteed. No team wants to eat that kind of change, but paying such a ridiculous price to an undeserving corner is hardly more palatable. 

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), only four cornerbacks allowed a higher passer rating than Asomugha last season. Nearly 67 percent of passes targeted at him were completed, and receivers averaged almost 16 yards a catch on those completions. 

    It's also worth noting that Asomugha is 32 years old, so the good years could be in the rear-view mirror. While he was once among the NFL's few shutdown cover corners, Asomugha could now be on the verge of looking for new employment.