NFL Free Agents 2014: Latest Buzz & Rumors After the Combine

Alessandro Miglio@@AlexMiglioFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2014

NFL Free Agents 2014: Latest Buzz & Rumors After the Combine

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    The NFL Scouting Combine is in the rear-view mirror, slowly melting away into the sunset. What's this on the horizon, though?

    Why it's free agency, of course. The market opens on March 11, just a couple of weeks away.

    Of course, with free agency come the rumors and speculation. Here is the latest post-combine roundup.

Buy: Green Bay's Disinterest in Keeping James Jones

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    In a bit of a surprise, the Green Bay Packers are reportedly set to let wide receiver James Jones go in free agency.

    Per Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Jones isn't in line for an offer from general manager Ted Thompson. 

    A source said Jones hasn't been offered a new contract and, in all likelihood, won't be.

    "I don't think Ted Thompson wants him," Frank Bauer, Jones' only agent since being drafted by Green Bay in the third round in 2007, said at the NFL scouting combine.

    Bauer has been representing football players for more than 30 years. He is one of the industry's most perceptive, respected and hard-nosed agents.

    Given Thompson didn't blink when receiver Greg Jennings left the fold last season, there is little reason to believe this report is false. It is a bit surprising given Jones' contributions to the team, however.

    With Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin and a deep rookie receiver class, it seems Thompson sees fit to spend his money elsewhere.

Sell: Rashard Mendenhall's Retirement

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Arizona Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall has said some outlandish things in the past. Most notably, Mendenhall intimated he is a "9/11 Truther," among other things, a few years ago.

    But retiring as a free agent at 26 years of age? Now that's crazy. 

    Mendenhall penned a vision he had two years ago in the Huffington Post, which sparked speculation that he might be on his way out of the NFL.

    Soon after to embark on a new voyage, hardened from the experience, and no longer alone, but with light by my side.

    That day I sat on my couch two years ago was the very next day after I tore my ACL in week 17. The journey I envisioned is the two years of rebuilding that would follow. And as I write this, today is the day that the journey is over and I am fully at peace. Eagerly looking to a new way, which lies ahead.

    Conjecture has exploded that his account is hinting at a retirement, per Pro Football Talk. But it could also mean that it's the end of his injury woes, given he believes the torn ACL was the reason for the vision.

    Mendenhall isn't exactly Adrian Peterson, but he is a serviceable 26-year-old set to hit the open market. Strange things have happened before, but it doesn't seem likely that the end of his journey means his time in the NFL. 

    Not when millions of dollars are at stake.

Buy: St. Louis Trying to Pawn off the No. 2 Pick

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Stop me if you've heard this one before—the St. Louis Rams want to trade their No. 2 draft pick.

    Of course, it's not a joke. The Rams did just that two years ago, gaining a king's ransom from Washington for the right to draft quarterback Robert Griffin III. That ransom included this year's No. 2 pick, which St. Louis can use to trade away for a slew of future picks and attempt to gain top picks in perpetuity.

    The MMQB's Peter King seems keen on general manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher wanting to do away with that No. 2 pick.

    I think the difference between this year and many recent ones is that we know which players to place at the top of the draft, but we have no idea whom to match where. I’ll take this shot at the top 10, though the Rams certainly will have a chance to trade the second pick, and will be very interested in doing so.

    Of course they're interested in trading out, especially if they are sticking with quarterback Sam Bradford as has been indicated all offseason long.

    This isn't a free-agent rumor, really, but still worth noting.

Sell: Miami's Pursuit of Jim Harbaugh

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Ah, yes, why wouldn't we expect a confluence of two of the most dramatic and beaten-to-death stories of recent weeks?

    Jim Harbaugh is reportedly clashing with general manager Trent Baalke in San Francisco, per CBSSports' Jason La Canfora, which supposedly gave the Cleveland Browns the gusto to attempt a trade for the blustery head coach.

    Whatever the actual situation, there seems to be a real possibility Harbaugh will leave when his contract is up. And that has led to speculation that the Miami Dolphins—fittingly, given all of the negative news coming out of South Florida this offseason—will be first in line to vie for his services, as NFL reporter Jason Cole tweeted this week.

    This makes sense given owner Stephen Ross reportedly went after Harbaugh while Tony Sparano was still employed as the head coach of the team. The botched attempt forced Ross to give Sparano a raise as an apology, and it likely set the team back a few years in the end.

    But here is the rub—Ross was burned by that situation. Why would he tempt fate twice?

    Granted, there is no guarantee Joe Philbin will be the head coach a year from now, but that doesn't mean Miami is automatically in line for Harbaugh's services today. It's unlikely Ross would do anything to undermine the head coach he just affirmed after a scandal by looking ahead to the hypothetical Harbaugh sweepstakes.

Buy: The Return of Jermichael Finley

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Jason La Canfora is a busy man for CBS Sports.

    Among other rumors and speculation, La Canfora recently tweeted that there is a "healthy market" developing for Jermichael Finley.

    That is great news for Finley, whose career was threatened when he suffered a spine injury against the Cleveland Browns last season. Jenny Vrentas of the MMQB recently spoke with Finley about his comeback: 

    He admits there are times now when his mind will shift to his healing neck while he reaches for a pass or lifts a weight. “You are human,” he says. But his competitive instincts take over, as after that 18th football from the JUGS machine bounces off his hands, and he makes sure not to drop another.

    Or as when Woodley needles him about signing with Pittsburgh. Finley immediately thinks about the daily battles the two would have, perhaps in those full-contact training camp practices the Steelers love. “Yeah, we’d go at it every day!” he shouts back at Woodley.

    “Hopefully . . . ” Finley starts to say, then he stops himself. “No. When I get that chance, I’m going to maximize it.”

    Hopefully, indeed. 

Sell: Maurice Jones-Drew's Westward Migration

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Word broke loose that San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis thinks Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew may be interested in moving out west.

    Per Florida Times-Union's Vito Stellino, Davis posted a picture on Instagram, giving him pause for extrapolation:

    According to Givemesport, Davis posted a picture of himself with the running back on Instagram with the caption,  “Me and Maurice Jones Drew discussing the FUTURE a few nights ago. #San Francisco.’’

    Although the 49ers have a good running back in Frank Gore, the 49ers could seem to be a good fit for Jones-Drew because it would be a homecoming.

    He’s a native of Antioch, Calif. In the Bay Area and went to college at UCLA so he spent his entire life in California until the Jaguars drafted him in 2006. And he returns frequently to the Bay Area and has many relatives still living there.

    Going to San Francisco also would give him a shot at ending his career with a Super Bowl ring. The 49ers have been in the NFC title game three years in a row and lost the Super Bowl a year ago.

    The problem with this theory is twofold—age and fit.

    You see, the 49ers already have an aging running back on their roster, Frank Gore. He might have another good year or two left in the tank, but it seems that Jones-Drew isn't far behind in the "put to pasture" line.

    Jones-Drew might have interest in returning to his native California, but it takes two to tango. It doesn't seem like a good fit for him to come back to a team loaded with running back talent. Beyond Gore, the 49ers have Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore waiting in the wings.

    If Jones-Drew makes it back to California, the Oakland Raiders seems a much likelier destination.

Buy: Michael Vick to the East Bay

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    This one went from off-the-cuff speculation to rumor rather quickly.

    I mentioned the possibility that Michael Vick could land with the quarterback-starved Oakland Raiders on San Francisco radio station 95.7 The Game earlier this week. Lo and behold, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported the Raiders are considering the 33-year-old quarterback.

    The Raiders are mulling several veteran quarterbacks, Vick included, and that looks like the best opportunity for Vick to start quickly. The Vikings49ers, Bucs and Texans are also exploring free agent options. If Matt Cassel does not return to Minnesota, Houston is seen as a likely landing spot for him.

    Of course, mutual interest doesn't put pen to paper on a contract. Vick might have a few suitors and general manager Reggie McKenzie might not be inclined to pay a stopgap big money.

Sell: Darrelle Revis Trade Rumors

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    Mr. Revis, how much do you believe these trade rumors?
    Mr. Revis, how much do you believe these trade rumors?Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Another month, another Darrelle Revis rumor. It seems the talented cornerback cannot have a quiet offseason.

    Revis is reportedly "ripe for trade," per CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora's twitter account.

    Why would the Buccaneers trade arguably the best cornerback in the league? The argument involves money—he is making $16 million this season—but it's not as if he is an albatross on that roster. Revis is still arguably the best cornerback in the league, now over a year removed from his torn ACL.

    Then there is the fact the Buccaneers traded a nice package of draft picks to get him less than a year ago. Granted, that is a sunk cost that shouldn't ultimately factor into the decision.

    His contract is also quite palatable, being it's entirely non-guaranteed. Perhaps that has some value in trade negotiations.

    Of course, if someone makes an offer they can't refuse, it would behoove the Buccaneers to take it. But head coach Lovie Smith loves a good defense, and Revis is an elite player at a premium position. 

    He might not find suitable value in the draft.