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NFL Free Agency: Latest Rumors from Around the League

John RozumCorrespondent IJune 10, 2016

NFL Free Agency: Latest Rumors from Around the League

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    NFL free agency is literally up next on pro football's agenda.

    The anticipation is quite suspenseful, because we have numerous popular names slated to hit the market.

    Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens is just one player we'll check out moving forward.

    Arguably the best safety of his era, Reed finally won his Super Bowl this past season. But is it time for him and the Ravens to split?

    Obviously that remains to be seen, but keeping up with the rumors is what lies ahead. Let's jump in and see what's going on.

Charles Woodson

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    It never hurts to consider a veteran defensive back in the pass-happy NFL—especially when that defensive back is Charles Woodson.

    According to ESPN.com's Josina Anderson, Woodson is of interest to some teams:

    NFL sources tell me that the Seahawks, the Dolphins, the Jets and the Giants are among teams that have called to discuss Charles Woodson.

    — Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 7, 2013

    This comes as no surprise given Woodson's playmaking ability. Whether it's recording an interception, forcing a fumble, making a key tackle or preventing a big play, the guy brings irreplaceable instincts.

    Although he turns 37 years old next season, Woodson's coverage skills have not diminished.

Ed Reed

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    Ed Reed is doing the Baltimore Ravens a small favor this weekend.

    First, per NFL Communications, there is a negotiating period before the new NFL year kicks off:

    Beginning at 12:00 midnight ET on Saturday, March 9 (i.e., after 11:59:59 p.m. ET, on Friday, March 8) and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 12, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2012 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 12.

    However, according to Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk, Reed does not have an agent, as he represents himself. Getting back to the negotiating period mentioned above, Reed's favor to Baltimore becomes clear:

    If a player is self-represented, clubs are prohibited from discussions with the player during the negotiating period.

    Therefore, Baltimore has until March 12 at 4 p.m. ET to talk with Reed before anyone else. Unfortunately, he has yet to hear from the team, as Reed stated in an interview with NFL AM via Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com:

    "I haven't spoken to anyone. Hopefully that call comes soon," Reed said.

    Asked about Bill Belichick's long-simmering appreciation of Reed, (he) made his intentions in free agency clear.

    "I'm a Raven. I plan on being a Raven. I couldn't see me anywhere else right now," Reed said. "If it happens, I'm a football player. I can adapt to any situation."

    Although he'll turn 35 years old early next season, Reed still brings the best of instincts to a defense. In short, he'll find a spot somewhere and make a strong impact.

Brian Urlacher

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    Brian Urlacher wants to remain with the Chicago Bears.

    Per Lou Canellis of Fox News 32 Chicago, talks have begun between Urlacher and the Bears:

    according to a source @burlacher54 agents made an offer to the #bears this morning, awaiting team's counter offer

    — Lou Canellis FOX 32 (@LouCanellis) March 8, 2013

    ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson also wrote on the situation:

    League sources at the NFL combine said the Bears, in particular the new coaching staff, wanted Urlacher back, but that compensation would be the key issue when it came to negotiating a contract with the 34-year-old linebacker.

    Despite Urlacher turning 35 years old before the 2013 campaign, the guy belongs in Chicago, and the Bears need him.

    His leadership is virtually impossible to match, and Urlacher is still capable of generating turnovers. He recorded 227 tackles between 2010 and 2011, and although 2012 was a disappointment in numbers, Urlacher managed to defend seven passes and force two fumbles in 12 games.

    Provided the Bears retain him and assist their defense with improved offensive efficiency, Urlacher will get the Windy City into January play.

Dashon Goldson

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    There's a lot of recent buzz on the Dashon Goldson front.

    Earlier this week ESPN.com's Adam Schefter tweeted:

    RT @realestninerfan: what about dashon goldson? ... Don't expect him back in San Francisco. Goldson's going to be gone.

    — Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 5, 2013

    Then Goldson spoke favorably of the Cincinnati Bengals on NFL Sirius XM Radio, via Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

    I like those guys down there. I went to school with Reggie Nelson, played with Nate Clements, I was here with Taylor Mays and Manny Lawson so I’m familiar with some of those guys and how they play. They’ve got a good football team down there. They’re on track and they’ve got a good quarterback and receivers. I will have to consider all my options and we’ll have to see who's interested in me.

    Finally, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the 49ers may regret not franchise tagging Goldson:

    The thinking in league circles is that Goldson will be the hottest safety in a fairly deep market. Hotter even than Ravens safety Ed Reed, whose lack of an agent puts him at a distinct disadvantage.

    Potentially more sought after than Reed, his departure would not be shocking. Goldson is only 28 years old and coming off arguably his two best seasons. With the NFL being offensively driven, a young defensive talent like Goldson is extremely appealing.

Wes Welker

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    There are contradictory reports on Wes Welker's potential return to Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

    Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweeted on March 6 that Welker was leaving:

    Patriots free-agent WR Wes Welker has no plans to re-sign with New England before first testing the free-agent market next week.

    — Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 6, 2013

    But Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe wrote on March 7 that Welker is expected to remain:

    The overwhelming sentiment, from sources on both sides of the Welker situation, is he will be back with the Patriots. It’s not a matter of if, but when. What you are seeing now is part of the process.

    Expect the focus on Welker to keep increasing.

    He's among the NFL's best receivers and definitely the best slot target. In a passing league that needs receivers to be constantly reliable, Welker also supplies the innate ability to compile yards after the catch.

    Mix that with siphoning zones and beating man coverage at a consistent rate, and Welker will continue to make an impact wherever he plays next season.

Mike Wallace

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    Mike Wallace is an attractive target for anyone needing to bolster the passing game.

    Enter the Minnesota Vikings, who are desperate to stretch defenses so Adrian Peterson can get some help.

    As Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com wrote, Wallace would fill a gargantuan void in Minnesota's offense:

    The question isn't whether the Vikings will pursue Wallace or whether they can compete financially. They will and they can. The question is whether they're willing to pay, and perhaps overpay, for a player who figures to be the NFL's third-highest paid receiver by next weekend.

    "Needless to say," an AFC executive said, "if I was looking at a big-play threat, explosive-play element, a vertical stretcher, I think you're looking at a Mike Wallace."

    The Miami Dolphins are expected to remain in the sweepstakes for Wallace as well, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

    It's just important to know that the 'Fins won't be the lone team anticipated to make a run at the deep-threat receiver.

Cliff Avril

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    Cliff Avril has established himself as a solid pass-rusher in pro football.

    Recording 20.5 sacks the past two seasons, he has also forced eight fumbles in that same span.

    Factor in his size and tenacity for the position, and Avril possesses the athleticism to line up in a 4-3 or 3-4. According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, defenses with the 3-4 front are interested in the rusher:

    Per a source with knowledge of the situation, multiple 3-4 teams will pursue Avril, with the idea of making him an outside linebacker.  The Cleveland connection is obvious, given that former Lions defensive line coach Joe Cullen now works for the Browns.

    This would be an intriguing position alteration for Avril, because he'll still have the opportunity to rush.

    In addition, the dimension of occasionally sinking into coverage can be an advantage to a defense. This provides the luxury of disguising a mixture of blitz packages with coverage from one side of the front.

    Avril can also be asked to line up across from slot receivers to press. That option simply assists a secondary when needing to adjust to quicker developing plays.

Dwight Freeney

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    Dwight Freeney saw a regression last season, as he managed only five sacks and 12 tackles.

    The guy still has plenty left in the tank, though. The 3-4 front for a true 4-3 defensive end just wasn't the most ideal of fits last season.

    Plus, he is now 33 years old, and making that change is much easier earlier in one's career.

    As a result, Freeney is reportedly of interest to the Denver Broncos, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post:

    If the Broncos can’t work a pay reduction with Elvis Dumervil, a league source said the team would be interested in pursuing former Indianapolis Colt pass rusher and Peyton Manning teammate Dwight Freeney.

    The Colts have already announced they would allow Freeney to enter free agency when the market opens Tuesday.

    It's a sound fit for the Broncos because Von Miller will draw attention away from Freeney. With the skill set to still wreck a backfield, Freeney's veteran experience would be a huge get for Denver's defense.

Reggie Bush

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    Reggie Bush is coming off the best two-year span of his NFL career.

    Since joining the Miami Dolphins in 2011, Bush has amassed 2,660 total yards and 15 touchdowns.

    But according to Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald, Bush is not expected to return to the 'Fins.

    Two teams—the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals—have been mentioned regarding Bush. ESPN.com's John Clayton says Bush will be "valued" by Detroit and Arizona.

    NFL.com's Marc Sessler also lists the Lions and Cardinals as "potential landing spots."

    Of the two, the Lions are not surprising. As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press wrote in late February:

    The Lions' interest in Reggie Bush is real.

    Plenty of NFL people at the combine believe the Lions will make Bush a primary target in free agency.

    Detroit ranked No. 23 in rushing last season, so presenting Bush in the backfield inflates the dynamics of Matthew Stafford's offense.

    Arizona could definitely use Bush to upgrade the position. He fills a void there, because the Cardinals need to rely on quicker-developing plays until the pass protection gets fixed.

Ronde Barber

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    Ronde Barber can still play reliably well, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could certainly use him for at least one more season.

    Ranking last in pass defense in 2012 and giving up 30 passing scores, Tampa can't afford to remain vulnerable in coverage—especially in the pass-oriented NFC South.

    A glimmer of hope on Barber came about via Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune:

    Tiki Barber told 98.7 hosts Booger and Rich today that Ronde was slated to meet with Bucs today or tonight

    — Roy Cummings (@RCummingsTBO) March 7, 2013

    Even more impressive was Barber enjoying arguably his best campaign since 2006 last year. He accounted for 13 defended passes, returned four picks for 160 yards, recorded 92 tackles and scored one time.

    The guy turns 38 years old next month, but he brings the intelligence and athletic combo every snap. Age is just a number, and Barber's consistent dependability proves that for older veterans.

Jake Long

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    The Dolphins may look to retain tackle Jake Long.

    According to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports, Long is healthy, and there is a bit of optimism for Miami fans to grasp:

    Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long got a clean bill of health from Dr. James Andrews this week. ...

    Andrews said if the season were about to start, Long would be cleared to play, though he recommends the lineman take another month to let his triceps injury heal.

    The issue is whether the Dolphins, who a source familiar with the circumstances said offered Long a five-year extension before the 2012 season, are willing to take a chance on the lineman.

    Long must remain with the Dolphins if Ryan Tannehill is to speed up his development. Yes, the NFL draft features plenty of excellent talent at the tackle position, but Long is an established veteran, and his experience cannot be replaced.

    No matter how much potential one prospect may hold, that player still has to prove he has NFL talent; the draft never guarantees anything. Failing to keep Long will just slow Tannehill's continued progression and ensure a massive void in Miami's pass protection.

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