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Dawan Landry signs restricted free agent tender

The Baltimore Ravens announced Tuesday that strong safety Dawan Landry has signed his one-year, restricted free agent tender.

Landry is a rising fifth-year player and received a second-round tender, so his salary is slated to be $1.759 million in 2010.
Everybody wants to do a long-term deal, but it probably won’t happen,” admitted Landry, the older brother of the Redskins’ LaRon.
After a lost 2008 season due to a neck injury, the Ravens’ Landry returned last season to pick off four passes, including a 48-yard pick six.  He also posted a career-high 89 tackles, starting all 16 games.  Entering a contract year, however, Landry doesn’t have a whole lot of leverage in his bid for a long-term extension.  Current No. 3 safety Tom Zbikowski showed promise while filling in for injured free safety Ed Reed last year.
Fullback Le’Ron McClain, who is publicly campaigning for an increased ball carrying role, is Baltimore’s lone restricted free agent yet to sign.
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Raiders rookie McClain vows to not hold out

Last year’s No. 8 overall pick, Jaguars offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, didn’t sign a rookie contract until roughly three weeks into training camp.

This year’s No. 8 overall pick, Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain, intends to avoid a repeat.
I’m not looking to sit out,” McClain told the Decatur Daily.  “In order to play for the team, I need to be in training camp.  I’m going to OTAs and not worried about the contract.”
McClain did acknowledge that negotiations have yet to begin.
“We haven’t started contract talks,” said the 2009 Butkus Award winner.  “I’m not sure where we are on that.  I leave that to (agent) Pat Dye Jr. and the Raiders.  I just play football.”
Based on Monroe’s deal, McClain is likely looking at a rookie contract worth some $36 million with at least $20 million guaranteed.
Of course, that’s assuming the Raiders don’t significantly overpay their top pick.
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Bills do deal with linebacker Torbor

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Bills have agreed to terms with free agent linebacker Reggie Torbor, formerly of the Dolphins.  

The deal is for two years, though financial details haven’t been disclosed.
Mostly a special teamer in his career, Torbor made two starts last year for the Fins and was credited with 37 tackles.  He also picked off one pass and recorded a sack.
In Buffalo, Torbor will likely continue to focus on special teams while competing with Kawika Mitchell to be the Bills’ No. 3 inside linebacker.  Torbor’s experience in the 3-4 defense may give him the edge.
Paul Posluszny and Andra Davis figure to be locked in as the team’s starting inside linebackers.
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Polian: Wayne, Mathis not getting new deals

Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne and defensive end Robert Mathis are sitting out mandatory minicamp due to displeasure with their contracts.  Both players have two years left on their current deals.

Speaking to ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky, Colts president Bill Polian indicated that he doesn’t intend to satisfy Wayne and Mathis’ demands.
“We’re not in a regular environment, that’s the problem,” Polian said, blaming the lack of a CBA for Indianapolis’ financial predicament.  “I’ve spoken to both their agents, and I certainly respect both men and they make a good case.  But the problem is we don’t have a system, and without a system you don’t know where contracts might or might not fit.
“So it’s futile to plan beyond just baseline kind of planning because you don’t know what the final product is going to look like.”
Polian also indicated that the Colts have not begun extension negotiations with contract-year quarterback Peyton Manning, despite owner Jim Irsay’s pledge to make Manning the league’s highest paid player.
“We’ll sit down and talk as we go forward,” Polian said.  “… We’ll talk, but there is no timetable.  I don’t put any timetable on it and neither has Jim Irsay. … [Agent] Tom [Condon] and I have always handled those things.”
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Robert Mathis, Antoine Bethea skip minicamp too

R. Mathis.jpgReggie Wayne isn’t the only Pro Bowl member of the Colts to sit out this weekend’s minicamp.

Defensive end Robert Mathis is also staying away because he’s unhappy with his contract.  Safety Antoine Bethea, who is an unsigned restricted free agent, continued his offseason absence by not attending.  (Bethea is not required to be there, and cannot be fined.)

Mathis is in the area and participated in a charity event Thursday night, so the absence is clearly contract related.  Wayne and Mathis both have two years left on their respective deals and have to understand they won’t get paid until Peyton Manning does.

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Patriots announce signing of rookie Welch

The Patriots have announced the signing of seventh-round pick Thomas Welch, an offensive lineman out of Vanderbilt.

Welch weighed in at 6-foot-6 and 307 pounds at February’s Scouting Combine.  A two-year starter for the Commodores, Welch played right tackle as a junior and on the left side as a senior.  The Patriots project him as a versatile reserve, though his primary position is expected to be guard due to a lack of ideal athleticism.
He managed just a 5.46 forty time in Indianapolis.
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Jets sign the Terminator Conner

Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports the Jets have signed rookie fullback John Conner, a fifth-round pick, to a four-year contract.
Per Mehta, the deal is worth $1.99 million in base value.  Rookie base salaries on the usual four-year deal add up to $1.79 million, indicating Conner’s signing bonus is for roughly $200,000.  Mehta says another $740,000 is available through escalators, probably in the final year of the deal.
Conner earned the nickname “Terminator” at Kentucky for obvious reasons, but he was also considered the top pure lead-blocking fullback in this year’s draft.  At 5-foot-11 and 246 pounds, Conner ran a 4.72 forty-yard dash at February’s Scouting Combine.  He also repped 225 pounds 24 times.

Conner is viewed as the heir apparent to 38-year-old Tony Richardson in New York.

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Bucs sign rookie wideout Mike Williams

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Bucs have signed rookie wide receiver Mike Williams to a four-year contract.

Schefter has presumably gotten good vibes from people close to the Bucs about Williams’ early offseason work.  Schefter predicts Williams “is going to be good.”
At least based on Williams’ play as a sophomore and the first half of his junior season, he should be.  The 6-foot-2, 204-pound receiver caught 60 passes, averaged 13.9 yards per catch, and scored 10 touchdowns in 2008.  Before (allegedly) quitting Orange coach Doug Marrone’s team after seven games last year, Williams was on pace for a 77-catch, 1,173-yard, 10-touchdown campaign.
In Tampa Bay, Williams is competing for the starting receiver position opposite second-round pick Arrelious Benn.  Williams’ competition includes Maurice Stovall, Michael Clayton, and Reggie Brown.
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Eagles reel in three draft picks

Adam Caplan of reports that the Eagles have come to terms with seventh-round picks Jamar Chaney and Jeff Owens.

Chaney, a linebacker out of Mississippi State, was a three-year starter for the Bulldogs, leading the team with 90 tackles as a senior.  His draft stock was likely hurt by a junior season in which he missed all but one game after breaking his leg.  Chaney stands an impressive 6-foot-1, 241, and ran an even more impressive forty time of 4.54 at February’s Scouting Combine.
Caplan reports Chaney’s signing bonus slightly exceeds $60,000.
Owens, a defensive tackle from Georgia, was originally a monster recruit out of high school, but never made an All-SEC team in five years as a Bulldog.  He faces an uphill battle to make the Eagles’ roster behind Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson, Antonio Dixon, Trevor Laws, and fellow rookie Daniel Te’o-Nesheim.  Te’o-Nesheim, a third-round pick and college defensive end, is ticketed for interior pass-rushing duties in Philadelphia.
Caplan reports Owens’ signing bonus is worth just over $44.000.
UPDATE: The Eagles also announced the signing of fourth-round pick Trevard Lindley, a cornerback out of Kentucky.  Versed in press coverage, Lindley is competing for snaps in the Birds’ nickel and dime packages.
The Eagles have signed four five of their 13 draft picks.
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Seahawks sign rookie safety Chancellor

Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network reports that the Seahawks have signed fifth-round safety Kam Chancellor.  

ESPN’s Adam Schefter came through with the details; it’s a four-year pact with a maximum value of $2.83 million.
An over-sized safety built in Taylor Mays’ likeness, Chancellor goes 6-foot-3, 231.  He just doesn’t possess Mays’ speed.  Chancellor ran a 4.62 forty at February’s Scouting Combine.  Mays “officially” came in at 4.43.
In Seattle, Chancellor figures to focus on covering kicks behind starters Earl Thomas and Jordan Babineaux.  If Chancellor eventually does earn playing time on defense, he’ll likely serve as an “in the box” safety.
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Report: Pierre Thomas deal "will get done"

In a subscriber-only piece for ESPN Insider last Friday, Len Pasquarelli indicated that contract talks between unsigned restricted free agent Pierre Thomas and the Saints had broken down.

The report has been disputed by Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Duncan reports that the Saints have made Thomas a long-term contract offer, and negotiations are ongoing.  “It’ll get done,” Duncan wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
Pasquarelli had asserted that Thomas was seeking Steven Jackson-like money, or something in the range of $44.805 million over six years.  Jackson averaged 25 touches per game compared to Thomas’ 13.3 last season, so Thomas isn’t considered as vital a part of New Orleans’ offense as Jackson is in St. Louis.
The Saints also extended only a second-round tender to Thomas as a restricted free agent, indicating that they don’t necessarily see him as indispensable.
Still, Thomas has been highly effective in his limited role.  Among running backs with over 120 carries in 2009, only Jamaal Charles and Chris Johnson averaged more yards per rushing attempt.  
Thomas’ role is also expected to expand this year with Mike Bell gone.  He remains a priority re-signing for the Saints.
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Bengals bring back Isaac Sowells

The Bengals announced Tuesday that they have signed offensive lineman Isaac Sowells, a former fourth-round pick of the Browns.
Once the subject of legitimately strong debate in Cleveland, Sowells’ position was an oft-discussed topic in newspapers like the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon-Journal throughout the 2006-2008 offseasons.  Seemingly no one could decide whether Sowells would play guard or tackle.  He was a tackle at Indiana University, but only goes 6-foot-3, 320.
Eventually, it was determined that Sowells couldn’t play, period.  With in-house supporters Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel gone, Sowells was among the Browns’ 2009 final roster cuts.  He spent the entire season out of football.
Sowells is probably a long shot to last until September in Cincinnati.
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Ronnie Brown not sweating contract status

It’s refreshing to hear pro athletes focusing on their performance before pay, much as Cowboys receiver Miles Austin recently indicated he would do instead of holding out for a new contract.

As an unsigned restricted free agent, Dolphins tailback Ronnie Brown is in a position similar to Austin’s.  Of course he’d like a long-term extension, but he’s participating in offseason workouts anyway because he wants to get better.  
Imagine that.
“When you worry about outside things is when you become affected on the field with how you’re playing,” said Brown.  “I try not to worry about that and not let things bother me.  … When it comes, you address it at the time.  But I just got to keep playing football, and that’s what I get paid to do.”
Brown, rehabbing from a Lisfranc foot fracture, estimated that he’s currently at 80-percent health.  Unfortunately, running backs coming off foot surgeries don’t get long-term deals.  And especially not at age 28.
Though Brown has been highly productive whenever on the field, he’s been off it too much.  Through five years in the NFL, he has just one 16-game season.  He’s suffered season-ending, surgery-requiring injuries in two of the last three years.
Brown may go down as one of the most effective per-play backs of this generation to never receive a post-rookie contract pay day that reflected it.
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Andre Johnson hires an agent

A. Johnson.jpgAndre Johnson’s uncle won’t be helping to negotiate the receiver’s next contract.

A.J. hired Houston-based agent Kennard McGuire, according to Houston-based reporter John McClain.  Texans G.M. Rick Smith was scheduled to meet with Johnson’s uncle Andre Melton Friday to talk contract.

It’s unclear if this news prevented that meeting from happening or the meeting resulted in Johnson finally getting outside help. 

Either way, it’s a good thing for Johnson long-term.  ESPN’s Michael Smith points out to us on Twitter that Smith and McGuire have a “very friendly” relationship.

We don’t know if Johnson can squeeze any money out of the Texans right now, but this greatly helps his chances.

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Broncos sign seventh-round pick Thompson

The Broncos signed the first of their nine draft picks on Friday, inking seventh-rounder Syd’Quan Thompson, a cornerback from Cal.

The folks at called Thompson one of the most physical cornerbacks in the draft.

We are going to defer to their knowledge on this one, because we don’t really know much more about him.  The first-team all Pac-10 player started every game possible during his four year college career, a school record of 52 starts.

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