Tagged with "NEWS"
Sports Friday with Hal: NFL Notes Aplenty
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NFL Football Free agency draft news notes

Happy Friday!

 

Another week gone bye and it started off with a bang as the UConn Huskies won both the men’s and women’s NCAA (or NAACP if you saw the Fox News faux pas) Division One Basketball Championship. Baseball is back and the season is rolling along inspiring excitement (Milwaukee) or panic (Boston...yes, after an early season three game sweep by Milwaukee there was panic on the airwaves...yeesh!).  

 

The NBA season is closing out and likely another Miami Heat romp through the playoffs is nigh. Meanwhile, the NHL is closing out the year and teams are locking down spots in the playoff picture. With the NHL regular season ending it kicks off the best playoffs in any sports: the NHL Playoffs. No team is safe. Seven game series that go back and forth. Upsets every year. Incredible intensity night after night. It is just fantastic.

 

NFL NOTES:

 

The big news in the NFL is once again superstars running afoul of the law in that CBA-negotiated time that keeps players away from their teams. First, let me say that the NFL is a full-time job.  This is not 1950 with professional sports players working a regular job in the off-season and then using training camp to get back into shape.  Players work-out all off-season long: coaches are at the facility researching, prepping, planning and preparing. Let the off-season camps run all spring and summer long.  The more the players are under team control the less bull**** off-season trouble goes on.

 

This week had San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick looking at his first off-field black eye as news broke about his being investigated by police for an alleged sexual assault. Of course, with many journalists needing to “break stories” TMZ--who broke the news--may have taken out of context in the report.  At this time there is the potential of a crime having been committed with Kaepernick a possible--but not charged or arrested--suspect.

 

This “suspicious incident” included 49ers and Seahawks wide receivers Quinton Patton and Ricardo Lockette as well. Personally, I hope the players did not do anything wrong as I am tired of “sports stars behaving badly” stories. I think the 49ers/Seahawks Kaepernick/Russell Wilson rivalry is the best in the NFL and could be for at least another 5 or more seasons if there are no idiotic episodes to derail it.

 

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Speaking of San Francisco, reports are that the 49ers are desperate enough to call former San Francisco, Washington Redskin, New England Patriot, St. Louis Ram, Denver Bronco, and Chicago Bear wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd had probably the least productive 900 yard receiving season in NFL history in 2012 for New England and was out of the league last year when the wide receiver needy Patriots let him walk. The fact that he burned bridges badly in so many cities is a huge flashing neon sign to stay away.

 

The 49ers have tons of draft picks (just like they did last year) and are in position to draft a wide receiver early and trade for a veteran to shore up their biggest weakness on offense. A player that would fit in San Francisco is Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson.  He is talented and obviously sick of all the losing up North. The Bills have invested heavily in the draft at wide receiver and could move the mercurial Johnson for more draft picks.

 

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The Bills are in the news again as with the passing of owner Ralph Wilson last week comes news that his will is stipulating that his surviving family sell the team. This immediately sets off theories of who will buy and where the team will play. There are already reports of rocker Jon Bon Jovi being the face of a group willing to buy the Bills and move them to Toronto.  Expect whispers of moving the team to Los Angeles with the lack of a long-term stadium deal.

 

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New England Patriots had some fun this week with new Buffalo Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes. Spikes left New England in a huff after being dumped into injured reserve during the playoffs for being late to practice in a snowstorm. Spikes is a great run-stuffing middle linebacker--a two-down backer in today’s NFL.

 

He went on a Twitter madcap adventure talking about beating New England twice and then sparring with trolls, umm, I mean...fans. He started unfollowing and blocking Patriots fans from his Twitter...pretty funny stuff. Then, his worst tweet followed, which was “Four years a slave” referring to being paid millions of dollars in New England.  What an idiot. Enjoy the snow and the 6-10 seasons, Brandon.

 

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The Cleveland Browns--with gallons and gallons of salary cap space--did not franchise their talented center Alex Mack allowed an opponent to sign him to an offer sheet that if the Browns did not match would cost them nothing but money.  The Jacksonville Jaguars--another team with scads and scads of cap space--wisely put in an offer to Mack which is reported to be for five years and $42 million.


The Browns are idiots not to match it and keep him.

 

The Browns had an offensive line that was 40% fantastic and 60% crap last year: Mack accounted for 20% of the fantastic. The Browns front office--whoever the hell is running it this week--would be idiotic to let him go and further weaken an Achilles heel last year. For Jacksonville, it would be a coup to add Mack to former Broncos guard Zane Beadles on the interior offensive line. To lose Mack and young Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward in the same off-season is a kick to the groin of Cleveland supporters.

 

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Sports Friday with Hal: April is the Cruelest Month
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NFL Football Free agency draft news PEDs baseball booing

Happy Friday!  

 

March is finally in the rear view mirror and with it I can finally put away the snow shovels and be free of winter for another few months. With that, there is Major League baseball on the television, the Final Four teams are left in the NCAA Tournament with March Madness winding down, the NFL is about done with major free agent signings and turns towards the NFL Draft, and the NBA and NHL wind down the regular season and ready for the playoffs.

 

I had a great Wednesday night of sitting on the couch watching TV and working the remote with the Red Sox, Bruins, and Celtics all on the same night locally.  Had some half-price pizza and Pabst Blue Ribbon beers at the local watering hole with my buddy and the kiddos (no beer for them!) before that. The only downer being the lovely Mrs. B. was stuck working that afternoon and missed all the fun.

 

FAST BALLS:

 

A quick shout-out to O.H. whose blog yesterday got the wheels turning in my head--which is the reason we blog, right?  He touched on the return of Milwaukee Brewers outfield Ryan Braun from his 65 game suspension for P.E.D.’s.  Braun in Milwaukee, like Barry Bonds in San Francisco, received a powerful ovation from the home crowd and will soon be coming to the friendly confines of Fenway Park in Boston.  

 

I had commented that I would not be among those booing Braun if I were at Fenway that night.  Part of that reason is I am a big fan of Braun--a large part of that from him carrying various fantasy baseball teams of mine over the years.  Another reason is he is a player who really seems to enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to play baseball for a living.   But another part of me has another reason not to boo him.

 

I was at Fenway for Roger Clemens’ first game back to Fenway as a Blue Jay where he dominated Boston’s lineup and famously pointed to General Manager Dan Duquette’s box as he left the mound. I was booing my lungs out at the Texas Con Man that day. Loudly and lustily. Not only because he was pitching so well for the opposition after having a few rough years allegedly out of shape here, but mostly due to rejection. He rejected the Red Sox. My team!

 

Fans boo for various reasons.  Some is due to simply not liking the player/coach, etc for some reason or the other.  Sometimes it is just the opposing team itself.  Sometimes it is the player who scorned the team/franchise/city, etc. It may be respect for the player doing well against your team. Or it could be due to something the player did or did not do. There are countless reasons for booing.

 

But for Ryan Braun, he cheated the system and was caught and paid the price, but that is not the real reason for booing. He was so outspoken in his own defense prior to this suspension that it had a bit of a Lance Armstrong effect. Personally, I would think the fans of Milwaukee would be more likely to boo him: he hurt their home team last year with the stupid suspension.  

Ryan Braun never did anything to me personally. In addition, he never hit a home run to knock the Red Sox out of the playoffs (Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone); he never wasted my hard-earned money by taking the field overweight and out-of-shape (Roger Clemens); he never left the team in a messy divorce that came out before the biggest game in franchise history at the time (Bill Parcells); he never beat the home team with a game winning baby hook in the NBA Championship (Magic Johnson); and he never opened his big mouth and bad-mouthed the franchise I root for either (Rex Ryan).

 

Ryan Braun is an idiot. But I cannot boo him for using P.E.D.’s. In a way, it makes him a tragic figure.  He was tempted and he gave into the temptation. As such it is very hard to fault him.  If I were approached and told that taking something would allow me the opportunity to potentially secure my family financially for life and allow me to excel at the game I love for the price of some health issues many years down the road, it would be a difficult thing to say “no” to.  

 

It is a deal with the devil, but everyday there are thousands of people give up so much more for so much less each and every day.  

 

I guess I think of it now, and its not that I’m angry at Braun, or even feel upset that he succumbed to the P.E.D. pressure, but more sad for him that he gave in to the demon and was not strong enough to say “no”.

 

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NFL NOTES:

 

The free agent signings are finally slowing down in the NFL, but as always there is plenty of NFL news each and every week.

 

The New England Patriots made an interesting move in bringing back safety Patrick Chung on  Thursday after he signed in Philadelphia last year. Chung did not burn bridges on his way out of Foxboro, MA (cough-cough Brandon Spikes cough-cough) and after one injury plagued season miscast as a free safety playing deep centerfield on defense, Chung is back as a back-up and special teamer.

 

Per ProFootballFocus.com, Chung missed 13 tackles and allowed five touchdowns in only twelve games (ten starts). Opposing quarterbacks had a 129.8 quarterback rating throwing at Chung, who was paid $3 million last year in the first year of a back-loaded deal.

 

Chung lost his job in New England in 2012 as he fell hard after the team benched him in the playoffs. Primarily a strong safety for the Patriots, the 2009 second round pick had an up-and-down career in his first run in New England. He was likely cheap (no contract details released) but he knows the defense, has some perspective after a year away, and will be competing for a job.

 

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Speaking of the Eagles, Philadelphia finally had enough and released their mercurial and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson was raked across the coals with a report of gang ties in an NJ.com story right before his release which does not help out much in free agency. Either way, he found a home in the NFC East in a hurry with Washington. For the Redskins, they are able to get two motivated games from Jackson at least (visiting Philly and Philly at Washington DC), but even more importantly he upgrades a wide receiver group in need of another playmaker for franchise quarterback RGIII.  Will he behave? Will he produce? That is the big question. Three years for $24 million and $16 million guaranteed means presumably the ‘skins get a year of Jackson before he starts moaning about wanting a new contract.

 

For Jackson, the best landing spot would have been San Francisco with the 49ers top defensive unit and Colin Kaepernick at quarterback.  San Francisco with Jackson and Seattle with Percy Harvin and their defense would have made the best match-ups in the NFL into absolute must-see prime-time games. What a pity.

 

For the Redskins, having new head coach Jay Gruden get a new toy is a big deal. Pierre Garcon gets a little less attention and fellow new receiver Andre Roberts gets more single coverage as these three wide receivers should give running back Alfred Morris a few less defenders in the box as well.  I understand where Philadelphia is coming from with all the issues off-the-field with Jackson despite his excellent on-field talent.

 

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The New York Giants continued a busy off-season of moves in free agency as they grabbed offensive tackle Charles Brown and defensive end Robert Ayers and cornerback Zack Bowman to shore up the defense at value prices. Earlier in free agency, the Giants made a splash signing underrated cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and took a flyer on former Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond. Adding further to the secondary they brought in safety Quintin Demps from the Chiefs. They also brought back wide receiver Mario Manningham on offense and signed Dolphins guard John Jerry and Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz. The Giants even brought in return specialist Trinidad Holliday from the Broncos.

 

For all the talk of teams like New England, Denver, and Seattle loading up in free agency the G-men have flown under the radar this offseason. They have a number of solid veterans to step in and the team back into the playoff picture. Their offensive line and secondary were their Achilles heel last season, and they are reloading there with a vengeance.

 

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OK, that’s all I have for this week. Have a great weekend, all!

 
Sports Friday with Hal: Marching out of March
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NFL Football Free agency draft news notes

Happy Friday!

 

Big football news in New England today as the Patriots freed up a chunk of salary cap money and ended another round of contentious negotiations with defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.  All the bad-mouthing and locker cleaning out turned out to be all posturing by Wilfork. He had no leverage and with Green Bay defensive tackle B.J. Raji getting shafted in free agency, his agent knew his only hope was to try to rile up the fan base to get public support to get his way.  

 

The team ends up reducing his cap number like they wanted, protect themselves if he bounces back by extending him, and then they can unload him easily if he washes out and cannot come back from injury.  The deal ends up working out just like it would have had it been done before free agency. There was little market for a 32 year-old defensive tackle who missed almost an entire season due to an Achilles injury. If his agent wants to babble that he had “other offers” to save face, so be it. The real deal is he to rework his contract to have any hope of earning what he wanted and saving face in public.

 

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Despite fighting it, I ended up spending Thursday night watching college basketball between flipping to watch the Boston Bruins defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 in a Stanley Cup Finals rematch.  Chicago is still one of the best teams in the NHL...just so much speed on offense.  Boston got a great game out of goalie Tuukka Rask and was able to play with a lead.  Their young defensemen may not have the experience teams want in the playoffs, but their speed and athleticism was evident tonight and a great sign for the upcoming playoffs for Boston.

 

Oh yeah, NCAA March Madness basketball. Wisconsin in a yawner, but the Dayton-Stanford game was fantastic. It is simply addictive rooting for the underdogs. I do not have a “favorite” as I attended a Division III college.  Was loving seeing San Diego State in the Sweet Sixteen as well and an exciting team to root for against Arizona. Hoping I stay awake for the second half!

 

* * *

NFL NOTES:

* Hated to see free agent defensive end Shaun Phillips sign with Tennessee...he would have been a great fit in New England. The Patriots need a defensive end as both Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones played over 1,000 snaps each last season and were visibly worn down at the end of the season. A veteran free agent and early round draft pick seems like the right move.

 

* There was a horrible nine-alarm fire in the Back Bay of Boston Wednesday that saw two Boston firefighters lose their life in the line of duty. I heard Tom Brady on the radio talking about it as he was just a few building down from the brownstone on fire. It was weird to see on the news as it was around the corner from where I worked for almost a decade.  Of course, that is also around the corner from the Boston Marathon finish line where the terrorist attack took place last April.

 

I was impressed by Brady on the radio expressing his condolences for the families of the firefighters and talking about the first responders as the true heroes.  It is on one hand an easy public relations call, but so many athletes and celebrities continually put their foot in their mouth.

 

He sounded (and looked in the pictures that came out) seriously concerned about his neighbors. It should not be news when an athlete actually does the right thing and says the right thing. But I guess that is kind of a state of the world in 2014. But kudos for Brady for at least saying the right thing.

 

* Speaking of quarterbacks, reports out of Philadelphia indicate former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will likely sign with the Eagles. I saw Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (formerly of the Boston Herald) tweeted it as did Jason La Canfora of CBS. Of course, Philadelphia backup quarterback Michael Vick signed with the Jets last week. Both teams got rid of an overpriced veteran who had no role on the team to come back to. Is that a win-win or a lose-lose?

 

* The Miami Dolphins got a great bargain in free agency grabbing Denver’s Knowshon Moreno. A 1,000 yard rusher for $3 million for one year is a heck of a deal.  Bad news for Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, and LeGarrette Blount.  NFL teams are just not going to spend for a running back not named Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, or Adrian Peterson anymore.

 

Denver is going with second-year back Montee Ball who they drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft last year. Even the running backs already signed got low money as neither Donald Brown or Toby Gerhart broke the bank in free agency. Ben Tate got some money from Cleveland, but nothing excessive. Also, Darren McFadden took a huge paycut to stay in Oakland.

 

Too many teams are passing teams these days and the ability to plug in young running backs gets easier and easier as more running backs come from pro-style offenses and run out of pistol and spread formations in college.

 

* Baltimore running back Ray Rice was indicted today for his assault on his fiancee last month in Atlantic City.  Another off-field violence issue by a former athlete barely raises an eyebrow these days. Is that an indictment on society or sports? Or both? Allegedly police have surveillance video of Rice knocking her out. If that is the case, he could be in a world of trouble. Nothing pisses me off like professional athletes (heck any guy) hitting a woman. No place for that BS, Ray Rice!

 

* The Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr. passed away week. Wilson worked hard to compete in a small market and keep his team in Buffalo, NY.  The move to branch out to Toronto and tap that market was a wise move, but questions remain if the team will stays or moves in the next few years. Personally, I hate the idea of the NFL losing an original AFL franchise and such a storied franchise. Smaller markets like Buffalo and Green Bay give the league character it desperately needs.

 

OK, that’s all for today!  Thanks as always for stopping by. (And a belated Happy Birthday to Sully!)

 

Sports Friday with Hal: St. Paddy Signed by Oakland
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NFL Football Free agency draft news notes

Happy Friday, Gabbers!  Been knee-deep in NFL football free agency through ESPN, NFL Network, Twitter, Facebook, sports talk radio, etc all week since free agency kicked off and it is simply exhausting.  Crazy rumors, failed physicals, releases, contract re-workings, fake Twitter signings, agents using “NFL Insiders” to drive up client values, visits, and more all in the first few days. It’s exhausting.

 

Of course, there is NBA basketball (the Celtics keep losing, Rajon Rondo seems to be trying to finagle a trade, and ping-pong balls keep piling up), NCAA tourneys (too many teams to follow them all but the March Madness is nearing invasion time), NHL hockey (The Bruins finally woke up and are challenging Pittsburgh), and Spring Training MLB baseball (Xander Bogaerts watch is in full effect in Boston).

 

Still, in New England the news is all about the New England Patriots making a splash in free agency and signing all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis. Revis now is playing for the coach he referred to as “a jerk” not too long ago. That should make for some fun in the locker room. That said, what a coup for the Patriots.  This is the type of signing that seemingly NEVER happens with the Patriots...its the trade for the “value” player coming off a down season, not the best player at his position at a premium price. Did losing the AFC Championship Game two years in a row wake up the Patriots front office? Stay tuned.

 

The NFL free agency was all about the cornerbacks as ridiculous money was thrown around. And the offensive linemen cashed in early in free agency as well.  It was the running backs and wide receivers who have been slow to come off the board. Like the NFL draft, the teams are prioritizing the trenches on both sides of the ball and pass coverage players. Like the shortage of running backs, quarterbacks, and wide receivers coming off the board early, the league is leaning that way with free agency as well.

 

Speaking or Revis and cornerbacks, what was with cornerback Alterraun Verner. With all the mad money tossed around, he signed with Tampa Bay for $14 million guaranteed and only 4 years for $25.5 million.  For the second best cornerback who is both young and without a lot of miles on his legs to take such a weak contract. The Bucs also loaded up with tackle Anthony Collins, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, defensive end Michael Johnson, tight end Brandon Myers, and quarterback Josh McCown. New coach Lovie Smith is certainly getting every player he asks for in free agency.

 

The Philadelphia Eagles made the best trade, as they snagged running back Darren Sproles from the New Orleans Saints. What a fit for Chip Kelly’s offense! The Eagles got him for nothing...well, technically a fifth round draft pick. Not even their draft pick. The draft pick they got from New England for the useless defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga. Now that is some shrewd maneuvering by the Eagles.

 

The Denver Broncos have bounced back from their Super Bowl loss with a binge of epic proportions in free agency. Ex-Cowboy DE Demarcus Ware, ex-Patriot CB Aqib Talib, and ex-Brown S TJ Ward all joined Denver on day one. However, they did lose WR Eric Decker (an underrated loss) and G Zane Beadles (another underrated loss).

 

Speaking of binging, this weekend is St. Patrick’s Day weekend, which in the Boston area translates as: “All College students in Boston drink more than usual”. Actually, it is a big holiday for me.  Despite marrying a fine lass whose last name was O’Shaughnnessey, my Scottish/Polish heritage did not have many Irish holidays being celebrated. Fortunately, my best friend since kindergarten is a fine Irish lad (Irish both sides as he proudly proclaims) so since high school I have been fortunate to celebrate the holiday with their family.

 

The St. Patricks Day holiday to me is the signal of spring, as baseball nears opening day and the weather finally turns from this horrendous winter to spring and all its trappings. Spring training is such a great time with so many teams optimistic about the coming season. From Arizona and Florida come so many reports of twisted ankles, elbow soreness, and--of course--the dreaded “best shape of his life” reports.

 

The great stories of spring are rolling in and one of my favorite is that reports and whispers are that shortstop Stephen Drew is indicating to teammates that he regrets turning down a $14 million qualifying offer from the Red Sox this off-season. Which makes sense since no one has made the type of offer his agent, Scott Boras, seemed to anticipate.

 

OK, on that happy note, I’m done for the week. Thanks as always for stopping by and have a fantastic St. Patrick’s Day weekend!

Sports Friday with Hal: Around the NFL
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NFL Football Free agency draft news notes

Happy Friday! It is March and the freeze of February is finally over. NFL free agency is just around the corner and teams are preparing to make their major moves to improve before the draft. Let’s make a quick run through the NFL and get ready fro free agency and the draft:

 

In Minnesota, the Vikings are trying to determine if they make an offer to keep Matt Cassel after he got out of his contract to get to free agency. With Christian Ponder still eating up space on the roster, the Vikings have a tough choice whether to dare going into another season without a quarterback who actually gives the team a chance to win. Picking eighth in the draft, Minnesota could take a quarterback, but they may be gun shy after the Ponder debacle. They basically had no wins with quarterbacks not named Cassel last year, so they may be forced to overpay for the former New England backup, especially with the Houston Texans indicating interest.

 

Cleveland is in a similar situation as former first round draft pick Brandon Weeden stinking out the joint, the Browns have the tough choice regarding grabbing a quarterback or praying that a former New England backup can do the job. Former Patriot Brian Hoyer led the Browns to two wins in 2013 before being lost for the year due to a knee injury. Of course, that was 50% of their wins, so that is kind of impressive.

 

The Jacksonville Jaguars are picking third in the draft this season and look ready to finally move past the horrible Chad Henne/Blaine Gabbert duo that has grossly underperformed the past two seasons.  One name not heard about much is Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. It seems improbable the Sanchize is back in New York next year, but will there be a market for him when the Jets inevitably part ways with him?

 

Moving past the quarterbacks, the New Orleans Saints are rumored to be shopping some veterans on offense. Running back Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas and wide receiver Lance Moore are reportedly available for teams in trades.  The Saints are trying to free up about $9 million in cap space without just releasing their playmakers. The Saints need to get younger and more athletic on both sides of the ball in a hurry to not be left in the dust by Carolina, San Francisco, and Seattle.

 

The Saints of course need to pay tight end Jimmy Graham who is likely off the market with their offer sheet. To get Graham, a team has to give New Orleans two first round draft picks. Of course, most likely to happen is that a team will let New Orleans know they are interested and work out a trade. Would the Saints be willing to listen? For sure, this team is rebuilding on the fly and Graham is basically a large wide receiver (no blocking ability at all).

 

The Buffalo Bills did not tag safety Jairus Byrd who is going to be one of the big money signings in free agency. Whether it is in Buffalo remains to be seen.

 

Atlanta signed former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora last year thinking he was the final piece in the puzzle to move on to the Super Bowl. Whoops. At 32, he is no spring chicken, but Atlanta is in a tough spot. Are they a bounce-back team? Are they rebuilding? Either way, over $3 million in cap space for a player who should be a third down pass rusher at this stage is steep. According to reports he is being asked to take a significant pay cut. Will he? That’s the question. If not, there is another pass rusher on the market.

 

Denver released greybeard cornerback Champ Bailey and freed up $10 million dollars. Champ may be full of self confidence and think he is worth all that money at 36 after an injury filled season. Bailey had a Lisfranc sprain that slowed him most of the season and is looking at a low, one year salary to prove himself still capable. Not the market he is looking for in free agency. Of course, Denver now becomes the favorite in the Darrelle Revis sweepstakes to make one last push for the Super Bowl next season.

 

Good news for New England as their center Ryan Wendell is a free agent. The Colts surprisingly cut their starting center Samson Satele. At 29, Satele is an unrestricted free agent and the Patriots can move on from their weak link in the middle of the offensive line.

 

One replacement for cornerback is off the market for New England if they cannot re-sign cornerback Aqib Talib. The Miami Dolphins signed cornerback Brent Grimes to a four year $32 million contract with half the money guaranteed. Grimes came to Miami on a one year prove it deal and proved it as he was a top ten cornerback last year bouncing back from missing the 2012 season.

 

Speaking of the Dolphins, they need a huge upgrade on the offensive line. The Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito mess leaves a bad offensive line even weaker. They need both tackle positions filled and at least one guard and some depth. Young quarterback Ryan Tannehill has looked impressive, but if he has no running game or time to throw, the Dolphins will never get over the hump to the playoffs.

 

Took a look at the running backs in free agency.  No superstars, but a lot of solid backs. Donald Brown of the Colts and Ben Tate of the Texans are looking to be a top back and paid as such, as is the resurgent LeGarrette Blount who resurrected his career in New England.  Add in the always injured Darren McFadden of the Raiders, Green Bay’s James Starks, Jacksonville back Maurice Jones-Drew, the Broncos Knowshon Moreno, former Steeler Rashard Mendenhall, the Giants’ Andre Brown, the Vikings Toby Gerhart, and former Jaguar and Raider Rashad Jennings.  One of these backs could be a breakout star, or two of them, or all of them...heck, maybe none of them. The depth will keep the prices down, which is good for teams trying to keep their backs or fall in love with another back.  There is a reason they are available...but there are some good backs who can contribute to a team in 2014 on the market.

 

One back who may end up on the market is Ravens back Ray Rice. Last seen dragging his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator in Atlantic City, it may be difficult for the Ravens to keep him on the team. Whether the team eventually releases him depends on what plays out in the courts. Most likely, he will pay his way out of trouble and the Ravens have to weigh if they are going let public opinion sway their decision.

 

Finally, following the surprise release of linebacker D’Qwell Jackson last week, he ended up with an $11 million guarantee from Indianapolis on a four year $22 million contract.  Jackson was good, but not great in Cleveland and again the Colts seem to be overpaying for scraps from Cleveland. Last year they inexplicably traded a first round pick for running back Trent Richardson who was a huge disappointment. At least Jackson only costs the Colts money and cap space.  

 
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