With the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine a thing of the past, teams are now ramping up efforts to fill voids in the roster via free agency, which begins on March 11. This is a crazy time of year for NFL front offices and those who cover them, and there's no shortage of propagated rumors.
Truth be told, most of these rumors are likely smokescreens.
In a league as competitive as the NFL, secrets are as closely guarded as black-ops mission details, and misdirection is a big part of how teams keep them.
That said, plenty of buzz turns out to be true in the end.
With that in mind, here's the latest.
Atlanta Falcons Expected to Release Safety Thomas DeCoud
Pro Bowl safety Thomas DeCoud appears to be on his way out of Atlanta.
According to ESPN's Adam Caplan, the Falcons will reportedly release him before March 15, when his $2.25 million base salary is set to kick in:
The move might come as somewhat of a surprise to fans, as he's been one of the team's top players during his six-year career. However, DeCoud certainly saw his production fall off last year, when he failed to intercept a pass for the first time in his career and got his hands on just two balls.
After last year's 4-12 finish, general manager Thomas Dimitroff must aggressively work to improve his roster. At the combine, however, he wasn't ready to make any commitment about which players would stay or which would go.
"We have not made any decision as of yet," Dimitroff said, as noted by Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. "Again, we're still in the recalibration mode right now. Coming here and leaving the combine having viewed the next class will give us much more of an idea of where we're going with our moves."
It appears the team has an idea now.
It will be interesting to see how who he's got in mind to replace DeCoud and play opposite William Moore. There are some stellar free agents potentially coming available, such as T.J. Ward and Jairus Byrd. The draft also offers some intriguing prospects, such as Ha Ha Clinton Dix and Calvin Pryor.
Miami Dolphins Gunning for Top Free-Agent Offensive Tackles
Ryan Tannehill was sacked 58 eye-popping times last year—10 times more than any other quarterback in the league.
Miami's offensive line was a train wreck, for a number of reasons.
The Dolphins must now regroup and assemble a unit capable of protecting the team's franchise quarterback. Therefore, it's not surprising to hear the organization is hot to trot for a couple of the top free-agent offensive tackles this year.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald has the scoop:
The Dolphins also very much likeThe Dolphins also very much like Eugene Monroe and plan to pursue both Monroe (if he gets to free agency) and [Branden] Albert, with the hope of landing one of them, according to sources briefed on the team’s thinking. The Dolphins like both, and would be happy to land either.
If the team could land both players, then you have to imagine Tannehill would greatly benefit from improved protection up front. Both tackles are outstanding pass-blockers who would also be able to help the team's mediocre run game take off.
Another option would be to land one of these veterans and then pair him with one of the top young prospects coming into the league, such as Notre Dame's Zach Martin, Virginia's Morgan Moses or Antonio Richardson out of Tennessee.
Houston Texans May Not Pick a Quarterback in Round 1
After Jadeveon Clowney did what everyone expected him to do and blew up the combine, B/R's Mike Freeman is hearing the Houston Texans will likely select the pass-rusher No. 1 overall instead of drafting one of the top quarterbacks.
However, as Freeman points out, it's hard to know if this is fact or fiction, but there's no doubt Houston would love to land the defensive freak of nature:
This information comes with a caveat—at this time of the year everyone lies about everything. It's always difficult to decipher what is true and what's a smokescreen around draft time.
However, an official inside the Texans organization told me that Clowney's speed, despite being so physically imposing, was one of the more stunning things he'd seen in a long time. "We've never really seen anything like Clowney. There's the chance he could redefine the position the way Reggie White or Bruce Smith did."
Officially, Clowney ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds. His unofficial times were even more impressive, and Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com points out his amazing 10-yard split:
Pairing Clowney with J.J. Watt would give Houston an unbelievable duo on the defensive line. Both players have the ability to win one-on-one battles and get instant penetration into the backfield, and opposing offenses would face a nightmare on every snap.
It's conceivable that the Texans would be willing to take Clowney and abandon the idea of selecting one of the top quarterbacks. There are going to be some solid quarterback prospects available after Round 1, such as Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and AJ McCarron—among others.
That said, this rumor could also be Houston's way of enticing other teams to inquire about trading up to land Clowney. At this point, it's anyone's guess what the team will do, and the entire story could be one huge smokescreen to hide the franchise's true intentions.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78