Around the NFL Scouting Combine

Mike Florio talks NFL Scouting Combine, including why everyone’s focus is on Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, and the reasons some NFL prospects choose not to attend.

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Will DeSean Jackson return to the Eagles?

Mike Florio talks Eagles with sideline reporter Howard Eskin, looking at possible offseason moves and debating whether DeSean Jackson will be back in Philadelphia.

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Peter King talks NFL combine

Mike Florio gets Peter King’s take on the 2012 NFL Combine, looking at Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck’s performances, and debating where Peyton Manning could land.

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Heckert recovering after heart surgery


Browns G.M. Tom Heckert is recovering after undergoing heart surgery to repair blockage, Browns President Mike Holmgren revealed Monday via the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

Heckert missed both the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine, although he participated in Combine interviews via Skype. Heckert did not suffer a heart attack, but surgery was required after blockage was revealed. It’s believed the surgery was a bypass.

Holmgren stressed that Heckert “will be an integral part of the draft process” and he’ll be back at work in the office in some capacity Tuesday. (It’s unclear when the surgery took place.)

Working for an NFL team is an inherently unhealthy occupation. We wish Heckert all the best in getting healthy.

Colts not inclined to file tampering charges against Chiefs

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Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel committed an apparent violation of the tampering rules by telling the media on Friday that he “would be crazy not to consider [Peyton Manning] if he’s available.”

Given that the tampering rules prohibit at page 3 “[a]ny public or private statement of interest, qualified or unqualified, in another club’s player to that player’s agent or representative, or to a member of the news media,” and that the NFL’s anti-tampering policy provides as an example a very similar remark (“He’s an excellent player, and we’d very much like to have him if he were available, but another club holds his rights.”), the Colts could make a tampering claim, if the Colts choose to make a tampering claim.

Bob Glauber of Newsday reported on Monday via Twitter that the Colts are “not inclined” to pursue tampering charges against the Chiefs.  As Glauber points out, the league can pursue the matter on its own, if the league so chooses.  (As we pointed out in an earlier item, that’s precisely what the NFL did after Albert Haynesworth signed as a free agent with the Redskins.)

The league won’t comment, and its precedent of investigation and enforcement in past situations sheds no light on whether action will be taken.

Jason Jones likely to become free agent

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The Titans are believed to be in the market for a defensive lineman in the draft and that need might become more acute when free agency opens.

Terry McCormick of Titans Insider reports that Jason Jones will likely test free agency when it opens on March 13th. Jones, who has played both defensive end and defensive tackle since joining the team as a 2008 second-round pick, could still wind up back in Tennessee since the two sides are still talking, but, for now, a new contract before the rest of the league can join the bidding looks like a longshot.

Jones was much more effective as a pass-rushing interior lineman in his first three seasons than he was as a defensive end in 2011, which is part of the reason why the Titans are thought to be in the market for an end this offseason. Titans coach Mike Munchak has indicated that the team will continue to flip Jones between the two positions, which could give a team looking solely for an interior player a leg up in the bidding for Jones’ services.

Whatever happens with Jones, the Titans will be shopping for help up front on defense this year.

Rams not ready to bail on Jason Smith, yet

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The Rams used the second overall pick in the 2009 draft on tackle Jason Smith, passing on guys like Tyson Jackson.

Um, Aaron Curry.

Mark Sanchez?  Andre Smith?

And Darrius Heyward-Bey.

OK, so it’s not as if the Rams in hindsight picked another Mandarich with Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion Sanders on the board.  Still, Smith is due to earn a base salary of $10 million in 2012, only $1 million of which is guaranteed.  And we were told several weeks ago that at some point he’ll have to reduce that amount in order to stay with the team.

For now, though, the Rams are willing to let him prove that he deserves to keep most of it.  “We’re looking forward to putting him in the program and developing him,” G.M. Les Snead tells Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Concussions have limited Smith to 29 appearances in 48 possible games.  Which that doesn’t bode well for Smith’s future with the team.

“With any player we always talk about reliability,” Snead said of Smith, who started out as a left tackle and has since been shifted to the right side.  “Because when you have a player and you prepare for games, you like to know that player’s going to be there each and every week or it’s going to cost you consistency.  It’s not just with Jason but with any player who’s had some unreliability because of durability concerns.  That’s always a concern.”

As long as the Rams have the ability to carry Smith’s salary, his cap number won’t a concern.  And the Rams don’t have to make any final decisions about his future for months.

Still, it remains extremely unlikely that the Rams ultimately will decide to pay him $10 million for 2012.

Vontaze Burfict’s rough Combine continues


First came Mike Mayock’s strong, negative comments about Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict before the Combine.

Once Burfict got to Indianapolis, things didn’t get any better. His interviews with teams and the media were described as disastrous.

“I’m not sure any player here sparked a worse reaction than Vontaze Burfict,” writes Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports. “I wouldn’t touch him.”

“The guy is completely out of control. There’s no way you could trust him. I can’t believe they [ASU coaching staff] didn’t cut him loose,” one scout told Feldman.

Burfict cut his weight to 248 pounds before the Combine, but it didn’t help him in the forty-yard dash. He ran unofficial forty times of 4.93 and 5.10 Monday. That will draw some comparisons to Brandon Spikes two years ago, but Spikes is known as a heady, instinctive player. Burfict’s instincts have often been questioned.

Years ago, Burfict was considered a potential top-ten pick. Now he seems more likely to slide until the latter portions of the draft.

PFT Live 02/27: Howard Eskin, Peter King, Bears’/Titans’ To Do List

Mike Florio talks with Eagles sideline reporter Howard Eskin about the lastest with the Eagles. Mike Florio also talks with FNIA’s Peter King about his take on the 2012 NFL Combine. And Last, Mike Florio gives the Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans a “To Do List.”

Browns sign D’Qwell Jackson to new deal

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The annual Scouting Combine and Free Agent Meat Market has produced another new contract.

Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who should have been the 2011 Comeback Player of the Year under the usual definition of the term, will be coming back to the Browns next season, and presumably beyond.

The Browns have announced that the team has finalized an extension with Jackson.  A press conference will be held at 3:00 p.m. ET on Monday.

Jackson started 16 games in 2011.  He missed 10 games in 2009 with a torn right pectoral muscle and all of 2010 with a torn pec on the left side.  The Browns would have used the franchise tag on Jackson, absent a new deal.  Now, the Browns can use the tag on someone else.  Candidates include running back Peyton Hillis and kicker Phil Dawson.

UPDATE 2:10 p.m. ET:  Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that it’s a five-year, $42.5 million deal with $19 million in “guaranteed money and roster bonuses.”  We’ll decipher that once we get a look at the full deal, which surely will contain protections for the Browns in light of his injury history.

Even when he stumbles, Zach Brown can fly


North Carolina linebacker Zach Brown is so fast that a bad 40-yard dash for him is good for anyone else.

Brown ran his first 40-yard dash in an unofficial time of 4.45 seconds today at the NFL Scouting Combine, making him the fastest linebacker to run so far. And yet it clearly wasn’t Brown at his fastest.

Out of his start Brown appeared to stumble, and midway through his run he took an awkward step and looked like he wanted to stop. He shook his head as he crossed the finish line and looked disgusted with himself. And yet his time was still the best of any linebacker who has run today.

That’s no surprise. Brown also competed on North Carolina’s track team and is the Tar Heels’ record holder in the 60-meter dash, with a time of 6.72 seconds at a 2009 track meet.

Brown, who weighed in at 244 pounds, said he was hoping to run his 40 in 4.39 seconds. And he said NFL teams that put on the tape will see that he’s fast enough to cover anyone a linebacker would be asked to cover.

“I covered a lot at Carolina — I had seven total career picks,” Brown said. “[My speed] helps a lot so I can cover tight ends like Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finley, all of the others.”

There aren’t many people anywhere who can outrun Brown.

UPDATE: On his second attempt, Brown managed to shave one-hundredth of a second off his time and finish at 4.44 seconds. His two 40-yard dashes are easily the two fastest we’ve seen today.

UPDATE 2: Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks was unofficially timed at a 4.41-second 40-yard dash to move ahead of Brown in the linebacker speed rankings.

Giants, Jacobs talk about an eighth season together

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The man who once threw his Giants helmet into the stands at Lucas Oil Stadium hopes to keep the thing attached to his head for at least one year after winning a Super Bowl ring there.

Running back Brandon Jacobs wants to stay with the Giants.  And the Giants apparently want to keep him.  The question becomes whether an acceptable financial arrangement can be reached.

Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger reports that the team and Jacobs’ agent spoke at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, but that the two sides reached no resolution on his status for an eighth season with the team.

Jacobs, who turns 30 in July, is due to receive a roster bonus of $500,000 next month and a base salary of $4.4 million.  With the Giants believed to be $9 million over the salary cap for 2012, they surely would like to reduce that number for a part-time tailback — especially since they can find younger, cheaper running backs via free agency or the draft.

With 571 yards rushing, Jacobs had his lowest output since 2006, the final year he served as a backup to workhorse Tiki Barber.

Miami linebacker Sean Spence raises eyebrows with weak bench


The list of the weakest players on the bench press at this year’s Scouting Combine starts with seven wide receivers, and then a player who sticks out like a sore thumb: Miami linebacker Sean Spence.

Spence managed to put up just 12 repetitions at 225 pounds, which is perfectly good for a typical guy working out at a local gym, but not good at all for an NFL linebacker. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said Spence’s performance was troubling.

“This one bothers me because I loved this kid as a player,” Mayock said. “A 231-pound linebacker with instincts and speed. Come on. Have you been in the weight room? I don’t get that.”

In his session with the media, Spence acknowledged that his biggest problem on the field is getting off blocks, but he said teams that watch him on tape will see that he has elite speed.

“I think I’m a three down linebacker, very fast, I can go sideline to sideline,” Spence said. “I’m a smart, very instinctive player. I’m going to play hard. I’m a leader. I lead by example, and most of all I make plays.”

The good thing about a weak upper body is it’s something that can be improved with hard work in the weight room. But NFL teams will wonder why Spence hasn’t already done that hard work in the weight room.

Fletcher Cox makes some noise


This is an impressive class of defensive tackles. They showed up in a big way on Monday.

Mississippi State product Fletcher Cox ran “unofficial” forty times of 4.79 and 4.85 at the NFL Combine. His 10-yard split was 1.63, which is outrageous for a player at 298 pounds.

Cox also finished among the bench press leaders among his defensive linemen.  Cox has been relatively under the radar in this draft process, but he could get taken a lot higher in the first round than originally anticipated.

Chargers plan to cut Luis Castillo


We noted early this month that defensive lineman Luis Castillo would either take a pay cut or get cut, and it appears that the Chargers are going with what’s behind Door No. 2.

Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Chargers are planning to release Castillo.

The move is no surprise: Castillo is owed a $1 million roster bonus in March and a base salary of $3.9 million. With Castillo coming off a season in which he was lost for the year after suffering a broken leg in Week 1, he’s too big a question mark to commit that kind of money to.

It’s still possible that the Chargers and Castillo will work out a new contract that allows him to stay in San Diego, where he has played his entire seven-year career. But first he’ll be able to test free agency.