ProFootballTalk: Cowboys DE DeMarcus Ware joins Erik Kuselias to discuss the hiring of Monte Kiffin. Ware believes his role will be similar to the role DE Simeon Rice played in Kiffin’s defenses back in Tampa Bay. Ware also attempted to recruit Osi Umenyiora in the offseason.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: One-on-one with DeMarcus Ware
Last year, the Bears parted ways with longtime linebacker Brian Urlacher. This year, they’re parting ways with longtime kick returner Devin Hester. Urlacher wonders what that says about the Bears.
“Look at what the Steelers have done the last couple days signing Troy Polamalu, Heath Miller, some older guys to a couple more years just so they can retire as Steelers,” Urlacher told FOXSports.com. “The Bears could do that with Devin. He should retire a Bear. He set all those records in a Bears uniform and his number 23 should be retired one day in Chicago. It’s just the loyalty factor. It’s just not there. He should be a guy that retires as a Bear.”
Hester is the NFL’s all-time record holder for combined kick return touchdowns and punt return touchdowns, and he’s tied with Deion Sanders for the most return touchdowns of all types (Hester has 13 punt return touchdowns, five kickoff return touchdowns and one missed field goal return touchdown, while Sanders had six punt return touchdowns, three kickoff return touchdowns, nine interception return touchdowns and one fumble return touchdown). Urlacher would like to see Hester get his record-breaking 20th career return touchdown in a Bears uniform.
“He’s going to break the record on another team, probably. It’s crazy to think he won’t be in a Bears uniform doing that. It’s frustrating as an ex-Bear and a player to see that happen,” Urlacher said.
The 31-year-old Hester led the league in kickoff return yards last year and will be a good addition for some other team. Urlacher said Hester should go to Tampa Bay to play for former Bears coach Lovie Smith, who feels the loyalty toward Hester that Urlacher thinks the Bears lack.
The Cowboys have told defensive end DeMarcus Ware that they want him to stay in Dallas for the 2014 season, but that he will have to cut his $12.25 million salary coming off a year plagued by injury.
If Ware were agree to the haircut or be cut, the Cowboys would be able to drop below the cap and start putting together plans for free agency. So their rationale for wanting the change is obvious. For Ware, taking a pay cut would make sense if he felt there would be a limited market for his services.
According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Ware doesn’t feel that way. Per Hill, Ware expects to get a lot of interest from the rest of the league if he’s released by the Cowboys. That interest may not add up to a $12.25 million salary, but he may be confident it is close enough to tell the Cowboys that he’s not interested in playing for anything other than the salary that the team agreed to pay him.
Ware also reportedly believes his elbow surgery will allow him to get back to his old ways on the field, although he’s not going to have a chance to prove that before his contract situation plays out.
Jets defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson is finding out he’s going to have to wait a year for his long-term contract, something most of the 2011 first round is going to learn.
According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets spoke with Wilkerson’s agents recently about his contract future, but they aren’t close to a new deal. Instead, the team will exercise the fifth-round option to lock him up through the 2015 season, and resume talks later.
For Wilkerson, that will mean another year at around $5 million to $6 million tacked onto his affordable rookie deal, which is great for the Jets. For players picked in the top 10, the option number is the transition tag amount this year. For players drafted 11th through 32nd, it’s the average of the 25 highest-paid players at the position, with the top three excluded.
But the Jets have until May 3 to exercise that option, so the current business will be in free agency and the draft. And with the cheap option year in their pockets (and a franchise tag available after that), there’s far less urgency for the Jets to do a long-term deal this offseason unless it’s good for them.
There are some teams that are thinking about adding a two-Carr garage this offseason.
Draft prospect Derek Carr told FOX Sports’ Alex Marvez and Phil Savage on SiriusXM NFL Radio that teams had mentioned the possibility of drafting him and signing his brother David as a package deal.
Derek said that he’s realized again how good his brother was during their workouts with Mike Sullivan (who coached David with the Giants), and thinks having the pair of them can only help.
“I wouldn’t want to step on anybody’s toes or anything like that,” Derek said. “But I think to have David and I on the same team, you get two things. First, you get a great quarterback, as coach Sullivan can testify. he worked us out and said it himself. Secondly, you’re getting a veteran guy who this will be his 13th year in the NFL who genuinely cares to help the rookie out. We’ll be doing it as our job, so there’s nothing more we’d care about than trying to make that team win.
“There’s so much positive things about having us both on the same team, that i don’t know why somebody wouldn’t think about it. And the truth is there are teams thinking about it, because they’ve been letting us know about it.”
While they might not match the Mannings (or the McCowns), Derek could aspire to his brother’s career.
David might not have lived up to his original draft status, as the top pick in the 2002 Draft, he has carved out a long run as a backup in the league, and that has as much to do with his ability off the field as on it.
While a team might want a non-Carr to park ahead of or at least between them on the depth chart, it’s doesn’t take a long look around to realize it isn’t the worst plan.
The Bengals took care of one item on their shopping list Thursday, hanging onto versativle offensive lineman Mike Pollak.
Pollak joined the Bengals last year on a one-year deal, and played well for them when guard Kevin Zeitler was out for a month because of a foot problem. The Bengals also have some question marks about other interior blockers because of injuries, so keeping Pollak around was good insurance.
Of course, that demands that Pollak stay healthy himself.
The former second-round pick of the Colts only played one game during his one season with the Panthers thanks to a shoulder injury, and missed the first seven games of his Bengals career with a knee problem.
The Buffalo Bills elected not to place the franchise tag on safety Jairus Byrd this season in hopes it could smooth discussions surrounding a long-term contract for Byrd to remain in Western New York.
It shouldn’t hurt that Byrd apparently wants to stick around with the Bills either.
Williams joined Alex Marvez and Phil Savage on Sirius XM NFL Radio on Thursday to discuss his own extension with the Bills and Byrd’s impending free agency. Williams said that Byrd wants to remain in Buffalo.
“I know that they’re still negotiating. I don’t want to speak on their situation because I have no say, nor do I know the full story on it, but I know Jairus does want to come back and wants to be a part of something special. Jairus and I have a great friendship. We communicate non-stop,” Williams said.
“Actually, I had the chance to talk to him last night and I wish him the best regardless of if he stays or doesn’t. We’re always going to have a great relationship with each other and always going to keep in touch. We have a great chemistry together on the field. They know that we’re probably one of the best duos of safeties in the league and I’m pretty sure they want to keep him.”
Byrd has been named an All-Pro three times in five seasons with the Bills including each of the last two seasons. If both sides get their wish, Byrd will have the chance to add more All-Pro selections to his resume in Buffalo.
The Houston Texans were considered to be a potential Super Bowl threat in the AFC last season up until Matt Schaub’s bubble burst.
Schaub fell apart as the team’s starting quarterback and lost his job to Case Keenum as the Texans plummeted to the worst record in the league. It’s made finding a new signal caller the top priority for the Texans this offseason.
With the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Texans will have their choice of any quarterback in the 2014 draft class and the team is doing their due diligence to breakdown the group.
According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Center Florida’s Blake Bortles and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel are all being “seriously considered” for the top pick in the draft.
While none of the three quarterbacks are thought to be the most talented player in the draft – that distinction is commonly thought to fall to South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or Auburn tackle Greg Robinson – it is the most glaring need for the Texans at the game’s most pivotal position.
With a Pro Bowl defensive end in J.J. Watt and a Pro Bowl left tackle in Duane Brown already on their roster, it appears likely that quarterback will be the direction the Texans will go with their top selection in May.
It’s a given that quarterback Mark Sanchez won’t return to the Jets with a $9 million base salary and a $2 million roster bonus due later this month. But until he’s cut, there’s a chance he could stay, with a revised deal.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, it’s still too early to know how it will play out. Whatever the Jets offer Sanchez on a reduced contract could be more than what another team would pay.
The Jets haven’t committed to Geno Smith as the starting quarterback in 2014, but it would be awkward for G.M. John Idzik if the guy Idzik tried to displace returns to the team after a year spent on injured reserve and knocks Smith to the bench. For coach Rex Ryan, in contrast, it could be just what he needs.
Ryan is coaching for his job once again in 2014. If Smith can’t do lead the team to victory, then Ryan needs someone else to get it done.
The final outcome hinges largely on whether the teams potentially interested in Sanchez find other quarterbacks elsewhere, in the early days of free agency. By the time March 25 approaches, much more will be known about the available options — and much more will be known about whether and to what extent the Jets’ best offer compares to what another team would pay.
Yes, it’s tampering for another team to let Sanchez or his agents know what another team would pay. That won’t stop it from happening.
The Jets have the space to carry Sanchez’s $13 million cap number. Based on the way his latest contract was written, they also have some time.
Bennett is set to become an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday and is PFT’s top-rated defensive player on the free agent market.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Bennett will not re-sign with Seattle before he becomes a free agent as he wants to test the market.
Bennett entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Seahawks in 2009. He was claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played his first four seasons primary with the Buccaneers before returning to Seattle last season. Bennett had hoped to cash in after posting nine sacks with the Buccaneers in 2012. Instead, a deflated market for defensive ends led Bennett to accept a one-year, $5 million deal with the Seahawks.
Bennett led the Seahawks with 8.5 sacks in the regular season and added 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in the playoffs.
At 28 years old and with consecutive productive seasons behind him, Bennett wants a long-term deal as it may be his only chance to truly cash in during his career.
Bennett says talks have been positive so far with the Seahawks. However, with one chance to earn a big pay-day, Bennett wants to make sure he’s getting paid top dollar for his services.
Darren Rovell of ESPN.com reports that Manziel has inked a deal with Nike. Although the terms weren’t disclosed, Rovell reports that the multi-year contract will carry a higher value than any shoe/apparel deal signed by any of this year’s class of rookies.
Nike won a competition that included Adidas, Under Armour, and New Balance. Manziel’s connection to LeBron James via business manager Maverick Carter likely had a major role in making the connection happen, given James’ ties to Nike.
At a time when Manziel’s football abilities at the NFL level are unknown, Nike is betting on Manziel performing well enough to become a star. Then again, he already is.
Former Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles continues to be a candidate to be taken at the highest reaches of the draft.
Perhaps in the highest possible spot.
Bortles recently told Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt of SiriusXM NFL Radio that Bortles will be visiting with the Texans and Jaguars in the days following his March 19 Pro Day workout. Other visits will be scheduled.
Bortles also continues to talk about his decision to throw at the Scouting Combine — and the decision of other quarterbacks not to throw.
“I don’t really understand why guys don’t throw,” Bortles said. “Every single quarterback that throws is kind of faced with a little adversity. Nobody knows those receivers. The guys are going to run at different speeds. They’re going to come out of cuts at different angles. They’re going to break routes off early and all that kind of stuff. But everybody has to deal with it. It’s a level playing field from a quarterback perspective. So I don’t really understand why guys don’t throw.”
It doesn’t really matter whether quarterback throw or don’t throw at the Scouting Combine, except to those with an interest in seeing the Underwear Olympics be as compelling as possible. The media, for example, will continue to clamor for it (well, most of the media), setting up a goofy sense of competition where no real competition exists.
And it will continue to be an issue every year, with some quarterbacks throwing and some quarterbacks not throwing and the decision having an impact on the draft only in the highly unlikely event that a quarterback who chooses to throw injures himself while doing so.
Coincidentally — or not — Vick is now emerging as a potential option for Minnesota. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Vikings could become very interested in Vick if Matt Cassel chooses to sign elsewhere.
Cassel, who signed a two-year deal in 2013, has opted out of the second season. On Thursday, coach Mike Zimmer said that he wants Cassel to stay, if Cassel wants to stay. He’d been due to earn $3.7 million in 2014.
Vick doesn’t necessarily fit with offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s system, but that may not matter. Peterson publicly has made his preference known. Privately, he could be lobbying even more strongly. The Vikings have committed to Peterson as the current and future face of the franchise; will they give him what he apparently wants?
While it’s a dangerous precedent for players to be stepping onto the turf of General Managers (and for teams to let them), the Vikings have struggled to develop a passing game that complements Peterson’s historic skills. If they sign Vick, at least Peterson can’t blame the front office if it doesn’t work out.
As veteran kick returner Devin Hester gets ready to hit the open market for the first time in his career, he’ll have some competition.
Per a league source, the Broncos have opted not to apply a restricted free agency tender to Trindon Holliday. It means that he’ll become a free agent on March 11.
Holliday, listed at five feet, five inches tall, returned 28 kickoffs in 2013, generating an average of 27.7 yards per attempt in 2013, including a 105-yard touchdown return. He also returned 32 punts, with an average of 8.5 yards and an 81-yard score.
He has four total regular-season return touchdowns in his career. Holliday racked up two in the same postseason game in January 2013, with a 90-yard punt return and a 104-yard kickoff return against the Ravens.
Holliday had the distinction of being undefeated in the 2012 regular season. He played for the 5-0 Texans. Houston then waived him, and the Broncos were 11-0 with Holliday on the roster.
The minimum tender for a restricted free agent is $1.323 million, guaranteeing a right to match any offer received by the player but no compensation if the offer sheet isn’t matched. The Broncos could still try to re-sign Holliday at a lower amount.
During much of Lions coach Jim Caldwell’s time with the Colts, quarterback Peyton Manning had Reggie Wayne to go along with Marvin Harrison. It’s no surprise, then, that Caldwell is looking at the possibility of complementing Calvin Johnson with a new Reggie Wayne.
As noted by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Caldwell and G.M. Martin Mayhew attended Watkins’ Pro Day workout on Thursday at Clemson. While all teams were represented, the presence of both coach and General Manager suggest that the Lions — who know a thing or two about drafting receivers in round one — have real interest in Watkins.
With the Lions holding the 10th overall pick in the draft, their interest level may not matter; Watkins could be long gone by the time the Lions pick.
Watkins caught 101 passes as a junior, gaining 1,464 yards. He opted not to run the 40-yard dash on Thursday, resting on the 4.43-second performance at the Scouting Combine.
Next, the process of visiting teams commences for Watkins. “I’m getting ready to travel the world,” Watkins said.
The NFL world is waiting, probably not so patiently. While many first-round wideouts fail to make an impact, Watkins is viewed as the best prospect since A.J. Green and Julio Jones exploded onto the scene as top-10 selections three years ago.
In the middle of the 2010 season, Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones fired head coach Wade Phillips and replaced him with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Phillips would like to make the case that Jones made the wrong decision.
Phillips took to Twitter on Thursday and pointed out that he and Garrett have each coached the Cowboys for three and a half seasons, and that the Cowboys’ record under Phillips was better than under Garrett. “Phillips: 34-22; Garrett: 29-27,” Phillips added.
Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) March 06, 2014
The Cowboys started that 2010 season 1-7 under Phillips, and after Jones turned to Garrett they went 5-3 the rest of the way. So it looked early on like the right choice. But since then, Garrett has gone 8-8, 8-8 and 8-8 in his three full seasons. Phillips, on the other hand, went 13-3, 9-7 and 11-5 in his three full seasons as the Cowboys’ head coach.
So Phillips has a good case that he was a better coach in Dallas than Garrett. Why he suddenly decided to make that case today is unclear.
UPDATE 7:45 p.m. ET: Moments after we published this, Phillips tweeted, “My surprise was that Jason and I had coached the same number of games. Not the record – time passes quickly -I wish Jason & Cowboys well.”