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The AFC potential free agents


It’s the first weekend without football since Labor Day.  So why not start preparing for the looming offseason swap meet known as free agency?

We’ve scoured various Internet resources, relying heavily on NFLPA records, to put together a team-by-team, division-by-division list of free agents.

First up, the AFC.  With a quick click, you’ll see all impending free agents for the AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, and AFC West.

We’ll update as players re-sign, and if you see that we’ve missed one as the re-signings inevitably happen, let us know.

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Pickings are slim at veteran quarterback, as usual

Vick AP

The Seahawks’ total-team dominance notwithstanding, the NFL still consists of franchises that have franchise quarterbacks — and franchises that are looking for franchise quarterbacks.

As a result, true franchise quarterbacks never become available in free agency, barring serious injury questions, like Drew Brees in 2006 and Peyton Manning in 2012.

The quarterbacks who become available in any given year rarely become franchise quarterbacks; few become starters.  Still, every year, quarterbacks are available, via free agency or trade.

Here’s a look at the guys who will most likely be available in 2014, and where they could land.

Michael Vick:  He’s confident he’ll be a starter, and for good reason.  If there’s a coach who believes Mark Sanchez would be the starter of said coach’s team from Day One, there will be a spot for Vick, somewhere.  In Cleveland, Jacksonville, Houston, Tennessee, Oakland, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay, Vick would be the starter immediately.  With the Jets, Bills, and Bengals, Vick could give the current starter a run for his starter’s money.  While Vick is far closer to the end of his career than the beginning, he may have one solid year left.

Josh McCown:  A late-career surge in 2013 could make him an attractive option for a team looking for a veteran backup — or for a team that wants someone to mentor a younger player.  In the right situation, he also could be a full-season starter.  Regardless, McCown won offensive player of the week honors in 2013.  None of the other guys on this list can say that.

Matt Cassel:  Cassel didn’t walk away from $3.7 million in Minnesota because he thinks he’ll get less elsewhere.  He’ll make more as the short-term starter in Houston (where he would be reunited with former Pats assistant Bill O’Brien) or as the full-season answer in Oakland.  At worst, Cassel will make slightly more as the veteran backup to an established starter.

Mark Sanchez:  Destined to be cut by the Jets with a $9 million salary for 2014, Sanchez could be an intriguing option for a team that needs a quarterback and that has the supporting cast he never really enjoyed in New York.  Not many first-round busts have had strong second acts, but Sanchez could still develop into a decent starter, in the right situation.

Josh Freeman:  After being run out of Tampa and languishing on the bench in Minnesota, Freeman has become a forgotten man.  At best, he’ll get a chance to prove that he can and will work as hard as a quarterback needs to work in the today’s quarterback-driven NFL.  If he fails, it could be over for Freeman.

Matt Schaub:  With former Texans offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland, some think Schaub will land there if/when he’s cut by the Texans.  With a $10 million salary, it’s likely more “when” than “if” Schaub gets the heave-ho in Houston.  At best, he’ll keep a spot warm somewhere for a rookie, providing protection against the possibility that the newcomer won’t be ready — and a little in-house competition to help get him there.

Kirk Cousins:  Former coach Mike Shanahan showcased Cousins late in 2013, opening the door for a possible trade, even though the Redskins desperately need a competent backup to Robert Griffin III.  Washington could flip its 2012 fourth-rounder into something more this year; the smart move may be to keep Cousins around for one more season.

Matt Flynn:  While it’s unlikely that anyone will install Flynn as the starter (again) only to bench him (again), he has shown he can still play, when needed (again).  The Packers would be wise to keep him around.  If not the Packers, then a team that runs a similar system should sign him to serve as an insurance policy against an injury to the starter.

Jason Campbell:  Still under contract with the Browns for another year, Campbell could be cut loose by the latest new regime.  He played competently in 2013 for the overmatched Browns, continuing an understated career that makes him a viable presence on any depth chart — if the Browns choose not to keep him around.

Brandon Weeden:  Speaking of the Browns, their 2012 first-rounder could be on the way out, and it’s unlikely anyone else would make him a starter.  Still, every team needs backups, and Weeden surely will find a spot, somewhere.

Chad Henne:  The Jaguars would like to keep him around, and for good reason.  With limited weapons, Henne did well in 2013.  Though not a sexy name by any means, Henne could be a solid backup.  And he can still play, when needed.

Shaun Hill:  Forgotten because he hasn’t played much in the last three seasons, the 34-year-old Hill did very well in extended action in 2010, when Matthew Stafford was injured.  Hill also had respectable stretches with the 49ers.  If the Lions don’t re-sign Hill, someone will want to bring him in to serve as a solid No. 2 option.

Kellen Clemens:  After Sam Bradford tore an ACL, most thought the Rams would lose in convincing and ugly fashion, week in and week out.  But the tough, gritty Clemens overachieved, going 4-5 as a starter and engineering upsets over the Colts, Bears, and Saints.  While he may not be a starter, he still has a future in the NFL.

Tavaris Jackson:  Few quarterbacks can match the experiences of Tarvaris Jackson.  The much-hyped second-round pick in 2006 took the Vikings to the playoffs in 2008, lost his job to Brett Favre in 2009, lost it to him again in 2010, and then bounced around the league before winning a Super Bowl as the backup to Russell Wilson.  In a league without enough good quarterbacks to go around, Jackson can hold his own when he gets chances to play — even though he hasn’t gotten many in the past few years.

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NFC South potential free agents

[Editor's note:  This list of potential free agents is based on a variety of online resources, including the NFLPA's official list of impending free agents.  Free agency begins on March 11.  The players listed below could re-sign at any time with their current teams.  If any listed below already have and we've failed to update the list accordingly, let us know.]

Atlanta Falcons:  DT Jonathan Babineaux, TE Chase Coffman, WR Kevin Cone (exclusive rights), CB Dominique Franks, LB Omar Gaither, OL Joe Hawley, DT Peria Jerry, DT Mike Johnson, OT Sean Locklear, CB Robert McClain (restricted), DT Corey Peters (re-signed), OT Jeremy Trueblood.

Carolina Panthers:  QB Derek Anderson, OT Byron Bell (restricted), TE Richie Brockel (restricted; re-signed), C Jeff Byers (exclusive rights), OT Bruce Campbell, QB Jimmy Clausen, DT Colin Cole, LB Dan Connor, CB James Dockery (restricted), CB Drayton Florence, K Graham Gano (re-signed), WR Ted Ginn, Jr., OT Jordan Gross, G Geoff Hangartner, DE Greg Hardy (franchise tag), TE Ben Hartsock, WR Domenik Hixon, WR Brandon LaFell, S Quentin Mikell, S Mike Mitchell, CB Captain Munnerlyn, LB Jordan Senn, G Chris Scott (exclusive rights), G Travelle Wharton, G Garry Williams (re-signed_, LB Jason Williams.

New Orleans Saints: OT Charles Brown, S Rafael Bush (restricted), DE Kenyon Coleman, FB Jed Collins (restricted), DE Keyunta Dawson (re-signed), C Brian de la Puente, TE Jimmy Graham (franchise tag), K Shayne Graham (re-signed), LB Parys Haralson, OT Bryce Harris (exclusive rights; re-signed)), LB Will Herring, LB Ramon Humber, S Malcolm Jenkins, DE Tom Johnson (restricted), WR Robert Meachem, QB Luke McCown, WR Joseph Morgan (restricted), OT Zach Strief, LB Jonathan Vilma, CB Trevin Wade (exclusive rights; re-signed).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  CB Michael Adams, TE Kyle Adams (restricted), TE Nate Byham, LB Jonathan Casillas, CB Deveron Carr (exclusive rights), LB Jacob Cutrera, LS Andrew Economos, DT Gary Gibson, CB Danny Gorrer, LB Adam Hayward, FB Spencer Larsen, C Ted Larsen, RB Brian Leonard, K Rian Lindell, FB Erik Lorig, G Jamon Meredith, QB Dan Orlovsky, WR Eric Page (exclusive rights), RB Bobby Rainey (exclusive rights), DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, WR Tiquan Underwood, LB Dekoda Watson.

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NFC West potential free agents

[Editor's note:  This list of potential free agents is based on a variety of online resources, including the NFLPA's official list of impending free agents.  Free agency begins on March 11.  The players listed below could re-sign at any time with their current teams.  If any listed below already have and we've failed to update the list accordingly, let us know.]

Arizona Cardinals:  CB Javier Arenas, TE Jake Ballard (restricted), S Yeremiah Bell, LB Marcus Benard (restricted), CB Antoine Cason, LB Karlos Dansby, TE Jim Dray, K Jay Feely, C Mike Gibson, TE Jeff King, CB Bryan McCann, RB Rashard Mendenhall, WR Andre Roberts, DT Frostee Rucker, LB Matt Shaugnessy, RB Alfonso Smith (restricted), TE Kory Sperry, DT Alameda Ta’amu (exclusive rights; restricted), DE Ronald Talley (restricted), DT Everrette Thompson (exclusive rights), OT Eric Winston.

St. Louis Rams:  C Tim Barnes (exclusive rights), QB Kellen Clemens, LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, S Matt Giordano, TE Mike McNeill (restricted), S Quinton Pointer (exclusive rights), QB Brady Quinn, OT Rodger Saffold, G Shelley Smith, S Darian Stewart, WR Justin Veltung (exclusive rights), G Chris Williams, LB Will Witherspoon.

San Francisco 49ers:  WR Anquan Boldin (re-signed), CB Tarell Brown, CB Perrish Cox (restricted), K Phil Dawson, FB Anthony Dixon, TE Demarcus Dobbs (restricted), C Jonathan Goodwin, WR Mario Manningham, QB Colt McCoy, WR Kassim Osgood, S Donte Whitner, LB Michael Wilhoite (exclusive rights), CB Eric Wright.

Seattle Seahawks:  WR Doug Baldwin (restricted), DE Michael Bennett, CB Brandon Browner, TE Kellen Davis, OT Breno Giacomini, K Steven Hauschka, QB Tarvaris Jackson, C Lemuel Jeanpierre (restricted), S Jeron Johnson (restricted), S Chris Maragos, TE Anthony McCoy, DT Tony McDaniel, DT Clinton McDonald, OT Paul McQuistan, LB Mike Morgan (exclusive rights), FB Michael Robinson, LB O’Brien Schofield, WR Golden Tate, CB Walter Thurmond.

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The NFC North potential free agents

[Editor's note:  This list of potential free agents is based on a variety of online resources, including the NFLPA's official list of impending free agents.  Free agency begins on March 11.  The players listed below could re-sign at any time with their current teams.  If any listed below already have and we've failed to update the list accordingly, let us know.]

Chicago Bears:  LB James Anderson, G Taylor Boggs (exclusive rights; re-signed), CB Zackary Bowman, OT Eben Britton, DT Landon Cohen, DT Nate Collins (re-signed), LB Blake Costanzo, C Roberto Garza (re-signed), CB Kelvin Hayden (re-signed), WR Devin Hester, LS Patrick Mannelly, CB Derrick Martin (re-signed), QB Josh McCown, CB Sherrick McManis, DT Henry Melton, QB Jordan Palmer (re-signed), DT Jay Ratliff (re-signed), TE Dante Rosario (re-signed), OT Jonathan Scott, S Craig Steltz, CB Charles Tillman, S Anthony Walters (restricted), LB D.J. Williams, DT Corey Wootton, S Major Wright.

Detroit Lions:  S Isa Abdul-Quddus (restricted; re-signed), K David Akers, RB Joique Bell (restricted), WR Dorin Dickerson (restricted), WR Kris Durham (exclusive rights), DT Andre Fluellen, OT Jason Fox, G Dylan Gandy, CB Chris Greenwood (exclusive rights), QB Shaun Hill, DE Israel Idonije, CB Rashean Mathis, LB Rocky McIntosh, LS Don Muhlbach (re-signed), WR Kevin Ogletree, TE Brandon Pettigrew, C Dominic Raiola (re-signed), WR Jeremy Ross (exclusive rights), WR Micheal Spurlock, LB Julian Stanford (exclusive rights), TE Matt Veldman (exclusive rights) S John Wendling, DE Willie Young.

Green Bay Packers:  S Chris Banjo (exclusive rights; re-signed); RB Kahlil Bell, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, TE Jermichael Finley, QB Matt Flynn, LB Rob Francois, S M.D. Jennings (restricted), DE Johnny Jolly, WR James Jones, FB John Kuhn, LB Jamari Lattimore (restricted), DE Mike Neal, OT Marshall Newhouse, DT Ryan Pickett, TE Andrew Quarless, DE B.J. Raji, CB Sam Shields (re-signed_, RB James Starks, QB Seneca Wallace, DE C.J. Wilson.

Minnesota Vikings:  DE Jared Allen, RB Matt Asiata (exclusive rights), C Joe Berger, LB Desmond Bishop, QB Matt Cassel (re-signed), CB Chris Cook, LB Larry Dean (restricted), DT Fred Evans, QB Josh Freeman, RB Toby Gerhart, DE Everson Griffen (re-signed), G Charlie Johnson, LB Marvin Mitchell, CB Marcus Sherels (restricted; re-signed), WR Jerome Simpson, OL J’Marcus Webb, WR Joe Webb, DT Kevin Williams.

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The NFC East potential free agents

[Editor's note:  This list of potential free agents is based on a variety of online resources, including the NFLPA's official list of impending free agents.  Free agency begins on March 11.  The players listed below could re-sign at any time with their current teams.  If any listed below already have and we've failed to update the list accordingly, let us know.]

Dallas Cowboys:  K Dan Bailey (re-signed), C Ryan Cook, DT Jason Hatcher, LB Edgar Jones, P Chris Jones (exclusive rights), QB Jon Kitna, S Danny McCray, LB Ernie Sims, DE Anthony Spencer, RB Phillip Tanner (restricted), G Brian Waters, DE Jarius Wynn.

New York Giants:  LB Jon Beason, G Kevin Boothe, RB Andre Brown, K Josh Brown, S Stevie Brown, C Jim Cordle (restricted), OT David Diehl, LB Mark Herzlich (restricted; re-signed), RB Peyton Hillis, FB Henry Hynoski (restricted; not tendered), RB Brandon Jacobs, DT Linval Joseph, CB Trumaine McBride, S Ryan Mundy, WR Louis Murphy, TE Brandon Myers, WR Hakeem Nicks, QB Curtis Painter, TE Bear Pascoe, DT Mike Patterson, LB Spencer Paysinger (restricted), LB Keith Rivers, DT Shaun Rogers, CB Aaron Ross, RB Da’Rel Scott (restricted), CB Terrell Thomas, DE Justin Tuck, CB Corey Webster.

Philadelphia Eagles:  S Nate Allen, S Colt Anderson, S Kurt Coleman, WR Riley Cooper (re-signed), DE Clifton Geathers, LB Phillip Hunt (restricted), P Donnie Jones, WR Jeremy Maclin (re-signed), DT Cedric Thornton (exclusive rights; re-signed); QB Mike Vick.

Washington Redskins:  DT Chris Baker (re-signed), LB Nick Barnett, WR Dezmon Briscoe (restricted), CB E.J. Biggers, TE Fred Davis, S Reed Doughty, LB London Fletcher, QB Rex Grossman, S Jose Gumbs (exclusive rights), CB DeAngelo Hall (re-signed), DE Rob Jackson, LB Bryan Kehl, S Brandon Meriweather, WR Josh Morgan, WR Santana Moss, LB Brian Orakpo (franchise tag), LB Perry Riley, LB Darryl Tapp, C J.D. Walton, CB Josh Wilson.

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AFC West potential free agents

[Editor's note:  This list of potential free agents is based on a variety of online resources, including the NFLPA's official list of impending free agents.  Free agency begins on March 11.  The players listed below could re-sign at any time with their current teams.  If any listed below already have and we've failed to update the list accordingly, let us know.]

Denver Broncos:  S Mike Adams, DE Robert Ayers, G Zane Beadles, LB Stewart Bradley, WR Andre Caldwell, CB Tony Carter (restricted), WR Eric Decker, CB Chris Harris (restricted), KR Trindon Holliday (restricted), S Michael Huff, S Duke Ihenacho (exclusive rights), S Quentin Jammer, OT Winston Justice, C Dan Koppen, LB Paris Lenon, LB Brandon Marshall (exclusive rights), DE Jeremy Mincey, RB Knowshon Moreno, LB Shaun Phillips, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DT Mitch Unrein (restricted), C Steve Vallos, LB Wesley Woodyard.

Kansas City Chiefs:  S Hussain Abdullah, LT Branden Albert, G Jon Asamoah, S Quintin Demps, OL Thomas Gafford (re-signed), TE Richard Gordon (restricted; re-signed), G Ricky Henry (exclusive rights; re-signed), DE Tyson Jackson, LB Robert James, LB Akeem Jordan, S Kendrick Lewis, WR Dexter McCluster, DT Jerrell Powe (exclusive rights), OT Geoff Schwartz, WR Kyle Williams, LB Frank Zombo (re-signed).

Oakland Raiders:  CB Phillip Adams, OT Khalif Barnes (re-signed), LB Kaelin Burnett (exclusive rights), CB Chimdi Chekwa (exclusive rights), WR Jacoby Ford, C Andre Gurode, DE Lamarr Houston, DE Jason Hunter, CB Mike Jenkins, RB Rashad Jennings, G Lamar Mady (exclusive rights; re-signed), TE Jeron Mastrud, C Matt McCants (exclusive rights), RB Darren McFadden, DT Daniel Muir, FB Jamize Olawale (exclusive rights), OT Tony Pashos, CB Tracy Porter, S Brandian Ross (exclusive rights), DT Pat Sims, RB Jeremy Stewart (exclusive rights), OT Jared Veldheer, DT Vance Walker, DB Charles Woodson, S Usama Young.

San Diego Chargers:  WR Seyi Ajirotutu, WR Danario Alexander, LB Bront Bird (exclusive rights; not tendered), RB Ronnie Brown, LB Donald Butler (re-signed), WR Lavelle Hawkins, CB Richard Marshall, G Rich Ohrnberger, G Chad Rinehart (re-signed), G Steve Schilling (exclusive rights; not tendered), S Darrell Stuckey, DT Cam Thomas, LB Reggie Walker, QB Charlie Whitehurst.

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AFC South potential free agents

[Editor's note:  This list of potential free agents is based on a variety of online resources, including the NFLPA's official list of impending free agents.  Free agency begins on March 11.  The players listed below could re-sign at any time with their current teams.  If any listed below already have and we've failed to update the list accordingly, let us know.]

Houston Texans: LB Bryan Braman (restricted); OT Andrew Gardner; TE Garret Graham; OT Ryan Harris; WR Lestar Jean (restricted); FB Greg Jones; RB Deji Karim (restricted); CB Elbert Mack; LB Joe Mays; DT Terrell McClain (restricted); DT Earl Mitchell; LB Ricky Sapp (restricted; re-signed); LB Daryl Sharpton; DE Antonio Smith; G Wade Smith; RB Ben Tate.

Indianapolis Colts:  LB Pat Angerer; S Antoine Bethea; RB Ahmad Bradshaw; WR Deion Branch; RB Donald Brown; S Sergio Brown (restricted); LB Kavell Conner; CB Vontae Davis; CB Josh Gordy (restricted); DT Aubrayo Franklin; WR Darrius Heyward-Bey; LB Justin Hickman (exclusive rights); LB Cam Johnson (exclusive rights); G Jeff Linkenbach; LB Scott Lutrus (exclusive rights); DE Ricardo Mathews; P Pat McAfee (re-signed); G Mike McGlynn; DE Fili Moala; G Joe Reitz (restricted); LB Lawrence Sidbury; CB Cassius Vaughn; K Adam Vinatieri.

Jacksonville Jaguars:  DE Jason Babin; CB Will Blackmon; OT Cameron Bradfield (restricted; re-signed); WR Mike Brown (exclusive rights); DT Brandon Deaderick; TE Clay Harbor (re-signed); LB Larry Hart (restricted); QB Chad Henne (re-signed); RB Maurice Jones-Drew; DT Kyle Love (restricted); C Brad Meester; OT Austin Pasztor (exclusive rights); WR Taylor Price; TE Allen Reisner (restricted); FB Will Ta’ufo’ou (exclusive rights); RB Jordan Todman (exclusive rights); OT Sam Young (re-signed).

Tennessee Titans:  RB Jackie Battle (re-signed); WR Kenny Britt; DT Antonio Johnson; WR Marc Mariani; C Kevin Matthews (restricted); OT Michael Otto; DE Ropati Pitoitua (re-signed); S Bernard Pollard (re-signed); QB Rusty Smith; G Chris Spencer; C Robert Turner; CB Alterraun Verner; RB Leon Washington; WR Damian Williams.

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AFC North potential free agents

[Editor's note:  This list of potential free agents is based on a variety of online resources, including the NFLPA's official list of impending free agents.  Free agency begins on March 11.  The players listed below could re-sign at any time with their current teams.  If any listed below already have and we've failed to update the list accordingly, let us know.]

Baltimore Ravens:  S Omar Brown (exclusive rights); LB Darrell Bryant (exclusive rights); LB Josh Bynes (exclusive rights); TE Dallas Clark; DT Terrence Cody; TE Ed Dickson; WR Tandon Doss (restricted); CB Corey Graham; LB Adrian Hamilton (exclusive rights); S James Ihedigbo; DE Arthur Jones; WR Jacoby Jones; S Anthony Levine (exclusive rights); LB Albert McClellan (restricted; re-signed); S Jeromy Miles; OT Eugene Monroe; OT Michael Oher; TE Dennis Pitta (re-signed); RB Bernard Scott; LB Daryl Smith; WR Brandon Stokley; S Brynden Trawick (exclusive rights).

Cincinnati Bengals:  LB Michael Boley; OT Anthony Collins; S Chris Crocker; CB Brandon Ghee; WR Andrew Hawkins (restricted); DE Michael Johnson; S Taylor Mays; P Zoltan Mesko; G Mike Pollak; LB Vincent Rey (restricted); OT Dennis Roland; WR Dane Sanzenbacher (restricted); TE Alex Smith; WR Brandon Tate.

Cleveland Browns:  OL Oniel Cousins; K Billy Cundiff; G Shawn Lauvao; C Alex Mack (transition tag); RB Willis McGahee; LB Craig Robertson (exclusive rights); S T.J. Ward.

Pittsburgh Steelers:  S Will Allen (re-signed); WR Plaxico Burress; S Ryan Clark; WR Jerricho Cotchery; RB Jonathan Dwyer; DE Evander “Ziggy” Hood; TE David Johnson; RB Felix Jones; DE Brett Keisel; P Mat McBriar; C Eric Olsen (exclusive rights); TE Michael Palmer; WR Emmanuel Sanders; RB LaRod Stephens-Howling; LB Stevenson Sylvester; C Fernando Velasco; OL Cody Wallace; LS Greg Warren; LB Jamaal Westerman; G Guy Whimper; DE Al Woods; LB Jason Worilds (transition tag).

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AFC East potential free agents

[Editor's note:  This list of potential free agents is based on a variety of online resources, including the NFLPA's official list of impending free agents.  Free agency begins on March 11.  The players listed below could re-sign at any time with their current teams.  If any listed below already have and we've failed to update the list accordingly, let us know.]

Buffalo Bills:  S Jairus Byrd; K Dan Carpenter; TE Mike Caussin (restricted); DE Alex Carrington; TE Scott Chandler;  WR Chris Hogan (exclusive rights); S Jim Leonhard; G Antoine McClain (exclusive rights); LB Arthur Moats; P Brian Moorman (re-signed); RB Frank Summers (exclusive rights); OT Thomas Welch (restricted).

Miami Dolphins:  WR Armon Binns (exclusive rights); CB Nolan Carroll; OT Tyson Clabo; S Chris Clemons; QB Pat Devlin (restricted); LB Jonathan Freeny (exclusive rights); CB Brent Grimes (re-signed); G Richie Incognito; G John Jerry; TE Dustin Keller; OT Bryant McKinnie; WR Marlon Moore; CB Christopher Owens; DT Paul Soliai; LB Austin Spitler; CB R.J. Stanford (restricted); DT Randy Starks; G Danny Watkins (restricted); OT Will Yeatman (restricted).

New England Patriots:  LS Danny Aiken (restricted; re-signed); RB LeGarrette Blount; DE Andre Carter; WR Austin Collie; WR Julian Edelman; LB Dane Fletcher; TE Michael Hoomanawanui (re-signed); TE Matthew Mulligan; LB Brandon Spikes; OT Will Svitek; CB Aqib Talib; C Ryan Wendell.

New York Jets:  LB Nick Bellore (restricted); CB Aaron Berry; G Willie Colon; WR Josh Cribbs; TE Jeff Cumberland (re-signed); DE Leger Douzable; G Vladimir Ducasse; K Nick Folk (franchise tag); QB David Garrard; WR Vidal Hazelton (exclusive rights); RB Lex Hilliard; OT Austin Howard; CB Ellis Lankster (re-signed); LB Josh Mauga; LB Garrett McIntyre (restricted); LB Calvin Pace; RB Darius Reynaud; S Ed Reed; TE Konrad Reuland (exclusive rights); C Dallas Reynolds (exclusive rights); CB Isaiah Trufant (restricted); CB Darrin Walls (restricted; re-signed); TE Kellen Winslow.

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PFT’s Super Bowl pick

Super Bowl Football AP

MDS already has clinched the postseason contest, after winning the regular-season version fairly easily.

But there’s still one game left, and we agreed on the outcome.  With almost the exact same predicted score.So here it is, our respective takes and picks for the 48th Super Bowl, featuring the Broncos against the Seahawks.

MDS’s take: There are a lot of reasons to pick the Broncos. For starters, Peyton Manning is on the verge of completing the greatest year a football player has ever had. If Manning were to follow up his record-breaking regular season with a Super Bowl MVP, it would be not just his best year yet, but in my book the best year ever, for any NFL player. Sometimes you get a feeling that a player is just playing at a level that no one can touch.

There’s also the nagging feeling I have that Russell Wilson isn’t ready to have a huge game on a huge stage. Wilson is one of the brightest young players in the NFL, but he still has moments when he tries to do too much with his feet, and moments when he fails to make the throws the Seahawks need him to make. He hasn’t been great in the playoffs, and I’m not convinced he’s going to be great in the Super Bowl, either.

And yet I’m picking Seattle, basically for two reasons. The first is that if there’s ever been a defense that’s perfectly constructed to stop what Denver does on offense, it’s this Seattle defense. The Seahawks’ secondary is so good that even with Peyton Manning and all the Broncos’ weapons, I think Denver will struggle to sustain long drives. The second reason is that Seattle is a lot better than Denver on special teams. This feels like the kind of close game that could turn on a few big plays in the kicking game, and I expect Seattle to make those plays.

So in the end, I’m looking at a close, hard-fought game that the Seahawks find a way to win.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 23, Broncos 20.

Florio’s take:  With all the focus on whether the Seahawks defense can stop Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and whether Manning can find the weak spot before he runs out of time to do so, it’s easy to overlook the question of whether Denver can hold Seattle’s offense to fewer points.

It can’t.

Not with receiver Percy Harvin ready to give running back Marshawn Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson the ultimate complement.

The Broncos were able to shut down the New England rushing attack, in part because the Patriots abandoned it too early.  The Seahawks won’t.  Lynch will keep pounding the ball until he gets his inevitable long run, likely for a touchdown.  And Wilson will be able to get outside the pocket, since the Broncos edge rushes are neither Aldon Smith nor Ahmad Brooks.  And Harvin will do just enough to force the Broncos to pay enough attention to him that they end up flat footed just enough times for Seattle’s purposes.

Yes, there’s a chance the Seahawks aren’t properly preparing to face Manning, with portions of the first-team defensive reps used not against a scout team but against the Seattle starting offense — and with defensive players not spending every waking moment in the days preceding the ultimate final exam cramming for it by trying to crack the code of Peyton’s pre-snap histrionics.

There’s an even better chance they’re already good enough to do enough to give the Seattle offense enough of a chance to outscore Peyton.

Ultimately, that’s the only stat that ever matters.  And in Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle wins by scoring half that many points — 24 — and by holding Peyton and company to four fewer than that.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 24, Broncos 20.

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Team Mainland could compete with Team Sanders and Team Rice

jerryrice AP

When the NFL announced the 2014 Pro Bowlers last month, we knew there would be plenty of dropouts: The players in the Super Bowl don’t play in the Pro Bowl, some players get injured and some players just don’t feel like going to Hawaii.

But now that the two Pro Bowl teams have been announced (Team Rice and Team Sanders, for their Hall of Fame honorary captains), we can look back and see that a team made up of the original Pro Bowlers who won’t be in Hawaii on Sunday (which I’ve dubbed Team Mainland) would be competitive with either Team Sanders or Team Rice.

Here’s the breakdown of how many of the original Pro Bowlers ended up on Team Rice, Team Sanders and Team Mainland.

Team Mainland (27)

Patriots QB Tom Brady, Broncos QB Peyton Manning, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, 49ers RB Frank Gore, Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas, Texans WR Andre Johnson, Lions WR Calvin Johnson, 49ers OT Joe Staley, Eagles OT Jason Peters, 49ers OG Mike Iupati, Broncos OG Louis Vasquez, Seahawks C Max Unger, 49ers TE Vernon Davis, Broncos TE Julius Thomas, 49ers DT Justin Smith, Ravens DT Haloti Ngata, 49ers OLB Ahmad Brooks, 49ers ILB Navorro Bowman, 49ers ILB Patrick Willis, Seahawks CB Richard Sherman, Patriots CB Aqib Talib, Seahawks FS Earl Thomas, Seahawks SS Kam Chancellor, Steelers SS Troy Polamalu, Broncos PK Matt Prater

Team Rice (28)

Saints QB Drew Brees, Chargers QB Philip Rivers, Bears RB Matt Forte, Eagles RB LeSean McCoy, Bears WR Brandon Marshall, Browns WR Josh Gordon, Cowboys OT Tyron Smith, Browns OT Joe Thomas, Saints OG Jahri Evans, Saints OG Ben Grubbs, Panther C Ryan Kalil, Saints TE Jimmy Graham, Panthers FB Mike Tolbert, Saints DE Cameron Jordan, Rams DE Robert Quinn, Dolphins DE Cameron Wake, Bills DT Kyle Williams, Cardinals OLB John Abraham, Chiefs OLB Justin Houston, Colts OLB Robert Mathis, Bengals WLB Vontaze Burfict, Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers, Browns CB Joe Haden, Titans CB Alterraun Verner, Bills FS Jairus Byrd, Rams P Johnny Hekker, Chiefs PR Dexter McCluster, Cardinals ST Justin Bethel.

Team Sanders (30)

Panthers QB Cam Newton, Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles, Steelers WR Antonio Brown, Cowboys WR Dez Bryant, Bengals WR A.J. Green, Chiefs OT Branden Albert, Redskins OT Trent Williams, Pariots OG Logan Mankins, Ravens OG Marshal Yanda, Browns C Alex Mack, Dolphins C Mike Pouncey, Browns TE Jordan Cameron, Raiders FB Marcel Reece, Texans DE J.J. Watt, Bills DE Mario Williams, Panthers DE Greg Hardy, Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, Chiefs NT Dontari Poe, Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy, Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali, Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs, Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly, Dolphins CB Brent Grimes, Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson, Buccaneers CB Darrelle Revis, Chargers FS Eric Weddle, Chiefs SS Eric Berry, Dolphins P Brandon Fields, Ravens PK Justin Tucker, Patriots ST Matthew Slater.

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NFL morning after: Peyton Manning’s masterpiece

peyton AP

Football isn’t played any better than Peyton Manning played on Sunday.

In a masterful performance to get his Broncos to the Super Bowl, Manning threw for 400 yards, didn’t turn the ball over and was in complete control of a Broncos offense that New England simply couldn’t stop. He was just about flawless throwing the football.

Manning’s entire career is a testament to hard work, and he said after the game that it was the hard work he put in the week before that made Sunday go so well.

“I prepared hard. We were playing a good football team that was well coached, and I thought we executed our game plan, and that’s what I was focused on all week,” Manning said afterward.

That preparation is the reason that Manning is, in my opinion, the best play caller in the NFL — better even than masters like Saints head coach Sean Payton. Although the Broncos have an offensive coordinator, Adam Gase, the reality is that the offense is run by Manning, who makes the calls at the line of scrimmage. And Manning was a step ahead of Bill Belichick’s defense all day. My favorite call by Manning was actually a handoff: He saw room to run in the middle of the Patriots’ defense on a third-and-10 in the first quarter so he handed off to Knowshon Moreno, who ran through a huge hole for a first down. I also loved the pass Manning called to Jacob Tamme with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, while the Broncos were trying to conserve their lead. Some people would have played it safe and handed off there, but Manning picked up a big first down through the air.

“As always, he did an excellent job reading the defenses and he got us in some situations that were less than ideal with his astute play calling and recognition,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said after the game. “They’re obviously a good football team, a good offensive system, a good quarterback.”

The talk that Manning is a playoff choker should go away now, but that talk has always been overstated. Yes, there have been some playoff games when Manning under-performed, but he’s also had some outstanding playoff outings. Sunday was Manning’s third career playoff game with at least 400 yards, his fifth career playoff game with at least 350 yards and his ninth career playoff game with at least 300 yards. Manning is currently second all-time with 6,309 career postseason passing yards, and if he throws for at least 116 yards in the Super Bowl, he’ll pass Tom Brady for first all time.

Manning was better than Brady on Sunday, but too much is made of the head-to-head competition between those two, mostly because it isn’t a competition at all. Manning wasn’t playing against Brady on Sunday. The competition for Manning is the opposing defense. And this season, from Week One through the AFC Championship Game, Manning has riddled opposing defenses like no other quarterback in NFL history.

Manning was the best player on the field in either game on Sunday. Here are my other thoughts:

Seattle has the best pass defense Manning has faced. This Super Bowl is such a great matchup. Manning is coming off the best season for a quarterback in NFL history, but the Seahawks have by far the best pass defense in the NFL. This year’s Seahawks were just the second team ever in a 16-game season to lead the league in both passing yards allowed and interceptions. The only other team to do it was Tampa Bay in 2002, and those Buccaneers won the Super Bowl. Manning has a tall order against Seattle.

Champ Bailey finally gets to the Super Bowl. Bailey was (along with Tony Gonzalez) perhaps the greatest of all the active players who haven’t been to a Super Bowl. It’s good to see an old pro like Bailey make it at last.

Welker’s hit was legal, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Broncos receiver Wes Welker knocked Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib out of the game by drilling him on a crossing route over the middle. Welker wasn’t flagged, but the NFL should do more to protect players in the position Talib was in: A rule that protects defensive backs who are trailing one receiver from getting hit by another receiver while the ball is in the air would only be fair, after all the rules the NFL has implemented preventing defensive players from hitting receivers.

Aldon Smith is incredible. Smith, the 49ers outside linebacker who started the NFC Championship Game with a strip-sack of Russell Wilson, is one of the most talented pass rushers the NFL has ever seen. I hope he gets his personal issues straightened out, because he should have about a decade of being a great, great football player ahead of him.

Kaepernick is running like no other quarterback, ever. Colin Kaepernick has now rushed for 95 or more yards three times in six career playoff games. All other quarterbacks in NFL history, combined, have rushed for 95 or more yards in the playoffs twice. (Michael Vick did it once and Donovan McNabb did it once.) And how’s this for an amazing stat: Kaepernick and Barry Sanders have each played in six postseason games. Kaepernick has 507 career playoff rushing yards. Sanders had 386 career playoff rushing yards.

The Broncos out-played the Patriots in the trenches. Give Denver’s offensive line a lot of credit for keeping Manning upright (the Patriots barely touched him), and even more credit for opening huge holes on running plays: This was a dominant performance by the offensive line. And give Denver’s defensive line a lot of credit, too. Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, who had been so good the last couple games, had just six yards on five carries thanks to a great effort by Denver up front. For all the talk that we’ll hear over the next two weeks about Manning and Russell Wilson, the team that plays better on the line of scrimmage will probably be the team that wins the Super Bowl.

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Full list of 102 early entries in 2014 draft

[Editor's note:  On Sunday, the NFL announced that 102 college football players have been certified for early entry to the draft.  The full list, organized by school, appears below.]

Alabama:  defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, tackle Cyrus Kouandijo, defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan, defensive back Vinnie Sunseri, linebacker Adrian Hubbard (graduated).

Alabama-Birmingham:  running back Darrin Reaves.

Alabama State:  running back Isaiah Crowell, receiver Jamel Johnson.

Arizona:  running back Ka’Deem Carey.

Arizona State:  defensive end Carl Bradford (graduated).

Auburn:  running back Tre Mason, tackle Greg Robinson.

Ball State:  receiver Willie Snead.

Baylor:  running back Lache Seastrunk.

Bethune-Cookman:  defensive back Nick Addison, tackle Terrance Hackney.

Boise State:  defensive end Demarcus Lawrence.

Boston College:  defensive back Albert Louis-Jean.

Brown:  running back John Spooney.

California:  running back Brendan Bigelow, linebacker Khairi Fortt, defensive back Kameron Jackson, defensive end Chris McCain, defensive tackle Viliami Moala, tight end Richard Rodgers.

Central Florida:  quarterback Blake Bortles, running back Storm Johnson.

Clemson:  defensive back Bashaud Breeland, receiver Martavis Bryant, receiver Sammy Watkins.

Colorado:  receiver Paul Richardson.

Colorado State:  running back Kapri Bibbs.

Connecticut:  linebacker Yawin Smallwood.

Florida:  defensive end Ronald Powell, defensive back Louchez Purifoy, defensive back Marcus Roberson.

Florida State:  receiver Kelvin Benjamin, running back Devonta Freeman, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, running back James Wilder.

Fresno State:  receiver Davante Adams.

Indiana:  receiver Cody Latimer.

Jacksonville State:  defensive back Pierre Warren.

Louisiana State:  receiver Odell Beckham, running back Alfred Blue, defensive tackle Ego Ferguson, running back Jeremy Hill, defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, receiver Jarvis Landry, guard Trai Turner.

Louisville:  defensive back Calvin Pryor, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (graduated).

McNeese State:  tight end Nic Jacobs.

Mississippi:  receiver Donte Moncrief.

Missouri:  defensive end Kony Ealy, running back Henry Josey.

New Mexico State:  receiver Austin Franklin.

North Carolina:  center Russell Bodine, tight end Eric Ebron.

North Carolina State:  defensive tackle Carlos Gray.

Notre Dame:  running back George Atkinson, tight end Troy Niklas, defensive tackle Louis Nix, defensive end Stephon Truitt.

Ohio State:  defensive back Bradley Roby, linebacker Ryan Shazier.

Oklahoma State:  receiver Josh Stewart.

Oregon:  tight end Colt Lyeria, defensive back Terrance Mitchell, running back De’Anthony Thomas.

Oregon State:  receiver Brandon Cooks, defensive end Scott Crichton.

Penn State:  receiver Allen Robinson.

Rutgers:  receiver Brandon Coleman.

San Diego State:  running back Adam Muema.

South Carolina:  defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, receiver Bruce Ellington, defensive back Victor Hampton, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles.

South Florida:  defensive end Aaron Lynch.

Southern California:  tight end Xavier Grimble, receiver Marqise Lee, center Marcus Martin, defensive end George Uko, defensive back Dion Bailey (graduated).

Stanford:  tackle Cameron Fleming, defensive back Ed Reynolds, tackle David Yankey.

Syracuse:  running back Jerome Smith.

Texas A&M:  receiver Mike Evans, quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Texas Tech:  tight end Jace Amaro.

Tennessee:  tackle Antonio Richardson.

Tennessee State:  tight end A.C. Leonard.

Towson:  running back Terrance West.

Utah:  tight end Jake Murphy.

UCLA:  Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo.

Vanderbilt:  receiver Chris Boyd.

Washington:  running back Bishop Sankey, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Western Kentucky:  defensive back Jonathan Dowling.

Wyoming:  quarterback Brett Smith.

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PFT’s conference championship game picks

Peyton AP

It was another 2-2 week for yours truly in the divisional round, picking correctly the Seahawks and Broncos and incorrectly the Colts and Panthers.  MDS swapped out the Pats for the Colts, and he’s picked up a one-game lead with three games left.

But there’s still hope.  A week after picking the Pats, MDS has shunned them.  I haven’t.

As to our pick in the NFC title game, we both agree.  Which could be bad news for MDS.  And for the team we both picked.

Patriots at Broncos

MDS’s take: There are a lot of reasons to think the Patriots can put a lot of points up on the Broncos. Key Denver defenders including Chris Harris, Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and Kevin Vickerson are injured and out. LeGarrette Blount’s emergence gives the Patriots a running threat that the Broncos will have a very tough time stopping. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are a good pair of targets for Tom Brady. I fully expect the Patriots to score four touchdowns. And yet I’m picking the Broncos because Peyton Manning has played the quarterback position better this season than anyone has ever played it before, and I expect him to have a very big game against New England’s defense. In a high-scoring game, the Broncos punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 37, Patriots 35.

Florio’s take:  The easy narrative for this one, based on recent and more extended history, is that the Broncos will find a way to lose and the Patriots will find a way to win.  Sometimes, the smart move is to stick with the easy narrative.  (I otherwise don’t know much about smart moves.)  Throw in the fact that Tom Brady believes no one will pick the Patriots, I’ll also partially pick them out of spite to win a game that could end up being an all-time epic.  (Yes, I know I predicted a Broncos-Pats AFC title game in early September and at the time picked the Broncos to win.  So basically I’m covered either way.)

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 30, Broncos 27 (OT).

49ers at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The 49ers are playing better football now than they were back in Week Two, when the Seahawks blew them out in Seattle, and the 49ers beat the Seahawks in Week 14. And yet I can’t get past the fact that the 49ers have looked absolutely terrible in Seattle, losing there 29-3 in 2013 and 42-13 in 2012. The combination of a great Seahawks pass defense and a loud crowd in Seattle is going to make life miserable for Colin Kaepernick, which means San Francisco’s best chance is to win a low-scoring game. The 49ers’ defense is tough and physical, and they may be able to keep the score down. But not down far enough. With Marshawn Lynch leading the way, the Seahawks’ running game will sustain a couple of long drives, and that will be enough to secure a trip to the Super Bowl.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 14, 49ers 6.

Florio’s take:  Destiny awaits one of these teams.  And I’m destined to get make the wrong pick.  Family members know it; my kid suggested last night that I pick the 49ers, because he wants the Seahawks to win.  Even though the Seahawks have blown out, sir the Niners during their last two games in Seattle, the 49ers have the feel of a team that understands the difference between the regular season and the postseason — and that can rise to the occasion.  So I’m very, very, very tempted to pick San Francisco to return to the Super Bowl, and possibly to become the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to win the Super Bowl a year after losing it.

But the Seahawks have the offense and the defense and the motivation to qualify for a cross-country trip for a shot at their first-ever NFL title.  Marshawn Lynch moves the chains, the 12th Man moves the earth, and Russell Wilson’s steady hand doesn’t move at all no matter the pressure or attention.  Throw in a defense that can neutralize the 49ers’ weapons, and I’m picking the home team to hold serve.

Which should be good news for 49ers fans.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 27, 49ers 17.

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