The NFL rumor mill has remained pretty quiet over the past couple of weeks, which is typical following the initial surge of free-agent signings. Things should begin to pick back up again as this year's draft—which is set to begin May 8—gets closer.
Even though most of the impact free agents have already signed, there's still a group of players looking for a home that are capable of playing a big role next season. Front offices must decide whether to go that route or attempt to fill the void through the draft instead.
It should make for an interesting month. The dust should settle by the middle of May, and then it will officially be time to start forecasting the new season, completing the full-year NFL cycle. But first, let's check out some of the latest buzz from around the league.
Johnson averaged less than four yards per carry for the first time in his career last season, albeit only slightly. Perhaps the bigger cause for concern among interested teams was his lack of big plays. The formally dynamic running back didn't have a single carry longer than 30 yards.
The Tennessee Titans decided the production level didn't match his contract and decided to move in another direction. So Johnson is searching for a new offense to join. Rich Cimini of ESPN New York reports his visit with the New York Jets ended without a deal, and other teams have casual interest:
Johnson spoke to a small group of reporters at the game, revealing little about the visit ("everything went well") or about his immediate plans. He indicated he's planning to visit other teams, but he didn't name them. The Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins are said to have interest, but they're obviously not making a mad rush to him.
The biggest question is what Johnson is seeking in his new deal. His fading numbers make him a risky option when it comes to signing a multi-year contract. He would probably be best off signing a one-year pact with a team where he'll get a lot of playing time to prove he can still be a major asset.
Rice is coming off a season that saw him catch just 15 passes in eight games for the Seattle Seahawks before suffering a serious knee injury. He recently sent out word on Twitter that he's been cleared to begin cutting as his rehab continues:
Now that he's taken that next step in his recovery, the amount interest should increase. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports there's a reasonable chance he will sign soon, and there are at least four teams believed to be in the mix:
Now that Rice has been cleared, don’t be surprised if something happens quickly. He could sign in the next few days.
Interested teams, we’re told, include the Seahawks, Saints, Giants, and Panthers.
Rice racked up 83 catches for over 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns for the Minnesota Vikings in 2009. He's struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, however, having played just two full seasons. That said, he could be a value signing if a bidding war doesn't ensue among desperate teams.
Conventional wisdom throughout the draft process is that a handful of quarterbacks would come off the board in the first round, including some inside the top 10. That's because most of the teams drafting early are in need of upgrades at the most important position on the field.
Peter King of TheMMQB.com reports that may not be the case. He states those quarterback-needy teams early in the draft order aren't falling in love with any of the available options and may instead go for better value in Round 1 before grabbing a QB later on:
I've heard that at least four quarterback-needy teams—Houston (first pick), Jacksonville (3), Cleveland (4) and Oakland (5)—are strongly considering passing on quarterbacks with their first picks and waiting until their second or third selections. Simple reason: They're not in love with any of the quarterbacks, and there are too many other good players who are surer things than a quarterback you have sincere doubts about. For that reason, there could be more quarterbacks taken in round two than round one.
If that's the case, it would certainly give the first round a different look. Teams later in the round that previously thought prospects would slide due to the early quarterback run may now be forced to move up to get a particular player. It adds more intrigue to the equation with a couple of weeks until draft day.