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Jason Jones likely to become free agent

Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

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.

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Rams not ready to bail on Jason Smith, yet

Kansas City Chiefs v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

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.

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Vontaze Burfict’s rough Combine continues

Vontaze Burfict AP

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.

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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.”

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Browns sign D’Qwell Jackson to new deal

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

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.

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Even when he stumbles, Zach Brown can fly

Zach Brown AP

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.

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Giants, Jacobs talk about an eighth season together

Super Bowl XLVI Getty Images

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.

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Miami linebacker Sean Spence raises eyebrows with weak bench

Sean Spence AP

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.

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Fletcher Cox makes some noise

Fletcher Cox AP

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.

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Chargers plan to cut Luis Castillo

Matt Hasselbeck, Luis Castillo AP

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.

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Dontari Poe is scary

Dontari Poe, Chris Relf, Jimmy Robinson AP

Robert Griffin III won the press conference. Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe could be winning the Combine on the field.

The 346-pounder has put together a crazy combination of size and strength at Lucas Oil Field.

The Memphis product put up 44 reps at 225 pounds, which was the most of any player at the Combine. That was impressive, but not shocking. Poe’s times while running on Monday were more eye-opening.

Poe ran an “unofficial” 4.87 forty-yard dash. That is a preposterous number for a man that big. Poe’s 1.7 ten-yard split is even more telling and more impressive.

Many 3-4 teams will see Poe as a nose tackle. That’s probably where he will get drafted, but Monday’s workout shows that Poe could be moved around in a variety of defensive line positions on a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.

While Poe didn’t play quite like a top-20 pick in college just yet, he was already seen as a first round pick. This workout should push him into the top 20 or higher. Athletic 3-4 nose tackles don’t come along every year.

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Lions working toward new deal with Eric Wright

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson cannot catch the ball against the defense of the Detroit Lions cornerback Eric Wright (L) in the first half during their NFL football game in Green Bay, Wisconsin Reuters

Eric Wright hasn’t gotten as much attention as Cliff Avril with free agency approaching, but the Lions are working to keep the cornerback off the open market.

The team met with Wright’s agent on Saturday in Indianapolis to discuss a new contract. No offer was put on the table, but Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free-Press reports that both sides would like to get a deal done before free agency opens next month. Wright started all 16 games for the Lions in 2011 and intercepted four passes.

The Lions secondary got torched in the playoff loss to the Saints, making it a focus of attention as the offseason gets underway. They are looking to trade Alphonso Smith and have been linked with Cortland Finnegan, Brandon Carr and other potential free agent cornerbacks, but getting one of them while keeping Avril and/or linebacker Stephen Tulloch won’t be easy.

Re-signing Wright to team with Chris Houston and a healthy Aaron Berry isn’t a perfect solution, but it would allow them to add help at corner in the draft while using their money to shore up other spots this offseason.

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Whitney Mercilus shows off his quick first step

Whitney Mercilus, Jonathan Brown, Braxton Miller AP

Whitney Mercilus of Illinois was one of the best pass rushers in college football last season, and he’s showing at the Scouting Combine that he has just the kind of quick first step that NFL teams look for in a pass rusher.

Mercilus ran the 40-yard dash in an unofficial time of 4.63 seconds, but the 10-yard split may be more important than the full 40-yard time for defensive linemen, and Mercilus had a very good 10-yard split of 1.57 seconds.

“I come off the line — I have a good first step,” Mercilus told reporters over the weekend. “I’m able to come off the line pretty quickly. Definitely I’m able to wear out players, too. I have a never-ending motor, and I’m able to keep going until the fourth quarter until somebody is dog tired and just take advantage of them.”

Although his workout numbers are great, the more important number is 16: That’s how many sacks Mercilus had last season.

“It’s just going out and there and getting it each and every down, each and every game,” Mercilus said. “There’s no fluke to it, 16 is 16. There’s no way you can just fall onto a sack.”

Mercilus decided to leave Illinois with one year of eligibility remaining after the NFL draft advisory board gave him a third-round grade. He may be boosting that stock today.

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League not commenting on possible Peyton tampering by Chiefs

Kansas City's interim coach Roeo Crennel looks around the field before the start against Green Bay in Kansas City, Missouri AP

If the NFL plans to investigate and/or punish the Chiefs for tampering based on coach Romeo Crennel’s recent comments regarding Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, the league isn’t saying so.

Spokesman Greg Aiello tells PFT via email that the league declines to comment on whether Crennel’s remarks constitute tampering.

But what of a recent tweet from Will Brinson of, in which Brinson says an “NFL spokesperson told me Romeo Crennel’s comments on Peyton Manning won’t be considered tampering“?

As it turns out, that was a miscommunication.  Either way, Aiello says the league won’t comment on speculation about tampering.

But is it speculation?  Crennel made comments that either violate, or don’t violate, the tampering rules.  Examining that issue becomes speculation only if the league has a habit of not enforcing the rules as written, selectively nailing some teams and giving others a pass.

Um.  OK, under that standard it really is speculation.

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Rams see three windows to trade No. 2 pick

Robert Griffin III AP

NFL teams usually pretend that they aren’t set on trading out of a certain draft position; just that they are “open” to making a move.

The Rams don’t seem interested in playing this game. They don’t need to play games; they know how much interest Robert Griffin III will attract.’s Peter King talked to Rams COO Kevin Demoff; King left the conversation writing that the Rams will trade the pick “for sure” in King’s words. The question: When will the trade happen?

Demoff points to three windows: Before free agency, at the late March league meetings, and in the few days before the draft.

The third option is the most likely. Teams usually don’t put all their cards on the table until the last minute. Then again, Demoff’s words may be a strong signal from the Rams that they’d love seriously consider aggressive offers early in the bidding.  (And why not? The price will only go up.)

“You can’t tell what the musical chairs will do,” said Demoff  in MMQB about the post free agency period. “Maybe someone will get left out and need Griffin. You don’t know.”

The risk for the Rams is that teams that sign Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn will no longer need a quarterback. The Rams need at least two teams dying to move up for Griffin to get the best deal possible.

Based on Griffin’s immense talent and character, we don’t think that will be a problem for Demoff and the Rams.

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Stephen Jones: We don’t have enough talent to win on defense

Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones AP

The Cowboys have struggled badly against the pass for two years running. The Jones family usually talks about the team’s talent level in flowery terms, but VP Stephen Jones got real with his assessment this week.

“Obviously we are not pleased with where we are on defense,” Stephen Jones said via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We got to get better over there. I don’t know that we got good enough talent to win over there. We have to improve it.”

Based on conversations PFT had at the Combine, we expect the Cowboys to be very aggressive in free agency in an effort to upgrade that defensive talent base. They may be especially aggressive try to improve the secondary.
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“High interest” in Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning AP

It’s easy for a team to claim, publicly and/or privately, that it’s not interested in Peyton Manning before Manning actually is available.  But as the divorce is becoming more and more inevitable, folks apparently are reconsidering those knee-jerk reactions of non-interest.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that, at the Scouting Combine, teams that “once said they wouldn’t pursue Peyton Manning [are] now pondering that possibility.”  Schefter adds that “[i]nterest in 18 is high.”

As it should be.  If Manning can throw even at 60 percent of his past arm strength, he’ll be in the top half of all NFL quarterbacks.  And the closer he gets to 100 percent, the closer he gets to the top of the heap.

Taking a quick look through the list of conferences and divisions, the following teams should be very interested:  Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Browns, Jaguars, Titans, Chiefs (the head coach has already said the team will be), Broncos, Raiders, Redskins, Vikings, 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks.

Even teams like the Bengals, Ravens, Texans, Eagles, Bears, and Buccaneers should consider the possibility of pursuing Peyton.

NFL coaches constantly talk about having a willingness to upgrade at every position.  Though tinkering with the starting quarterback can be problematic, especially if the team swings and misses and then has to love the one it’s with, the quest for championships begins and ends with a having high-level quarterback.

That’s why the Jets jettisoned Chad Pennington for Brett Favre, and why the Vikings twice told Tavaris Jackson to take a seat.  Once Manning is on the market, some other guy who’s supposedly a starter will soon find himself either not atop the depth chart, or not employed.

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Irvin, Coples run well at Combine

Q. Coplespoint AP

Every year, the defensive linemen seem to get bigger and faster at the Combine.  The start to Monday’s early workout was no exception.

West Virginia linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin ran an unofficial 4.43 forty at 245 pounds, although his long speed was not a surprise.  He could be a situational pass rusher.

Perhaps more impressive: Clemson’s Andre Branch ran a 4.62 with a 1.56 ten-yard split. At defensive end, the early split is a better sign of the player’s explosiveness.  Branch could be a late first or second round pick.

The big names at the position did not disappoint. South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram ran a 4.66 and North Carolina’s Quinton Coples ran a 4.72 at 284 pounds. That’s ridiculous. Coples also ranked in the top-five defensive linemen among his in his ten-yard split.

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Monday morning one-liners

Vontaze Burfict AP

Bills LB Nick Barnett is trying to help Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict learn to keep his emotions in check.

Former Dolphins DE Kenny Mixon was arrested in Broward County on a charge of domestic violence.

Would the Patriots take a chance on North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins?

Looking at some wide receiver options for the Jets.

After grabbing two last year, cornerbacks don’t figure to be high on the Ravens’ draft-day shopping list.

Said Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer on whether there’s a need to grab a cornerback with one of the team’s first-round picks, “Right now at this point and stage you’re probably correct.”

Virginia CB Chase Minnifield wouldn’t mind following in his father Frank’s footsteps with the Browns.

An inside linebacker makes sense for the Steelers in the first round.

If Mario Williams leaves, will the Texans try to replace him in the draft?

Mike Freeman of senses impatience growing with the Colts’ timetable for a Peyton Manning decision.

Are the Jaguars picking too late to get LSU CB Morris Claiborne in the first round?

Titans CB Cortland Finnegan’s ability to play man and zone well make him appealing in free agency.

Undrafted free agents have done well in Broncos camps over the years.

Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden’s age might not be a big concern for the Chiefs.

Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp helped lead quarterback and wide receiver workouts at the combine.

The Chargers are in the market for a young tight end.

The Cowboys are being linked with a run at CB Brandon Carr in free agency.

LSU DL Michael Brockers is drawing some comparisons to Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul.

Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer thinks there might be something to the Eagles’ meeting with Baylor QB Robert Griffin III.

Is Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill the right man for the Redskins?

Bears G.M. Phil Emery’s background as a strength and conditioning coach might help him assess draft prospects.

Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict fits what the Lions look for in their linebackers.

The Packers could take a quarterback late in the draft.

A look at reasons why the Vikings might pass on drafting USC T Matt Kalil with the third overall pick.

Former Falcons LB Chris Draft has kept up the fight against lung cancer that he started with his late wife.

The Panthers scouting department believes the combine reinforces things seen during games, but that the games are more important.

Are the Saints in the market for a new middle linebacker?

Said Buccaneers G.M. Mark Dominik, “But we’re learning from Coach Schiano, what’s the perfect corner for you? What’s the perfect safety? How do you like your linebackers to look? What do you ask them to do? What can our guys do? What don’t we have?”

The Cardinals have no problem playing in the Hall of Fame Game.

Cornerback is a big need for the Rams this offseason.

49ers president Gideon Yu said that team owner Jed York has “audacious big visions” for the team’s future.

Grabbing a pass rusher in the first round might be the best move for the Seahawks.

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Report: Packers pursuing Texans center Chris Myers

Chris Myers,  Arian Foster AP

In public, Packers G.M. Ted Thompson won’t reveal much about his plans for 2012, or any year.  Behind closed doors, he reportedly has begun pursuing at least one player who is under contract with another team.

Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that, with efforts to re-sign center Scott Wells going nowhere, the Packers have turned their attention to Texans center Chris Myers.  Specifically, McGinn reports that the Packers met with Myers’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to discuss Myers.

Wells is 31, but Myers isn’t far behind.  He’ll be 31 on September 15.  (That’s also Florio Jr.’s birthday.  Who is now nearly large enough to play center for the Packers.  Or the Texans.  Or any other team.)

It’s a clear and direct violation of the rules for the Packers to talk to Myers, but the Packers aren’t the only team doing it.  Indeed, if the famously rules-conscious Thompson is tampering, everyone is tampering.

“Almost every re-signing, waiver and UFA signing upcoming germinate from supposedly illegal club-agent meetings in Indy,” McGinn writes.  “All happens here.”

McGinn uses “supposedly” because the rules prohibit meetings with free agents who won’t be free until March 13 at 4:00 p.m. ET.  But no one follows the rules.  Indeed, as the Packers negotiate with Myers, Wells undoubtedly is negotiating with some other team, or teams.

Sometimes, this gauging of the market helps lay the foundation for a player to stay put.  The bigger issue is that tampering remains rampant, and the NFL will continue to look foolish until the rules are revised to reflect the reality.

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