Lions WR Mike Williams will have a chance to start in 2006. New head coach Rod Marinelli became an acquaintance of Williams’ during his time in the Tampa area and will try to push buttons that previous coaches missed entirely. Williams was one of the few players Marinelli made contact with in his first two weeks on the job. Should Charles Rogers return, the Lions would open the other starting position opposite Roy Williams for competition.Seahawks team president Tim Ruskell told PFW at the Super Bowl that he will always have an interest in players he grew to know well in the past at stops with the Falcons and Buccaneers (ex-Bucs Joe Jurevicius and Chuck Darby are two notable examples). With that in mind, don’t be surprised if Ruskell shows a big interest in Bucs LB Derrick Brooks and Falcons RB Warrick Dunn — both of whom may possibly become available on the open market due to inflated cap figures — the latter as a stopgap if RB Shaun Alexander bolts.While normally reclusive Seahawks owner Paul Allen burst out of the woodwork in a relatively big way this postseason, we hear it would be a mistake to assume he is ready to take on a higher public profile now that his team has enjoyed the greatest success in its history. While team insiders tell us Allen has gotten a genuine kick out of his team’s magic carpet ride this season, they feel he will always prefer to stay as far away from the limelight as possible.Make no mistake: Seahawks free agent-to-be Joe Jurevicius would just as soon stay put. “I love Seattle,” the wide receiver told PFW at the Super Bowl. “I’ll do anything I have to to win. I don’t care if (I’m) catching 10 (passes) a game or none. This is a good, close group of guys.”We hear it won’t be long before the Niners add a heavyweight executive with NFL experience to the team’s front office who will have significant power within the organization. At the top of the list of prospective hires — we hear the team has had talks with at least four candidates — is Seahawks vice president/football administration Mike Reinfeldt, a key behind-the-scenes contributor to Seattle’s success in 2005.When Niners DB Mike Rumph returns from his plantar-fascia injury this offseason, word is he’ll do so as a cornerback. The team tried to convert Rumph into a safety last season but concluded that the former first-round pick was unable to develop the vision needed for the position.With the Cardinals promoting Frank Bush to assistant head coach/linebackers, supposedly giving him “additional responsibilities,” team sources tell us it will be very interesting to see if there’s a bit of a backlash among the other coaches on head coach Dennis Green’s staff, particularly defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.The latest from Cardinals QB Kurt Warner at the Super Bowl on wanting to remain in Arizona: “Not only do my family and I not want to move … this fits me. And as a player, that’s about the best you can ask for.”Don’t be surprised if the Rams show a particular interest in free agents from the Saints, Vikings and Dolphins — teams that new head coach Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett are very familiar with.With a great degree of uncertainty at the WR position, we hear that the Patriots could be interested in free-agent WRs Antwaan Randle El or Joe Jurevicius this offseason.The Bills reportedly offered ex-Packers defensive coordinator Jim Bates more money than he was paid in Green Bay last year to be Buffalo’s D-coordinator in 2006. However, we hear Bates wanted a substantial raise in order to accept the job.Word is new Bills head coach **** Jauron promoted special-teams coach Bobby April, who interviewed for the team’s head-coaching job, to assistant head coach in order to hold on to the highly regarded April, who would’ve drawn great interest on the open market.Though Dom Capers hasn’t been officially named defensive coordinator in Miami, he will be taking over that role now that co-defensive coordinators Richard Smith (the new Texans D-coordinator) and Will Muschamp (the new Auburn D-coordinator) have left the team.Word is the Bills allowed LB coach Johnny Holland to leave after less than a week on the job to accept the same position with the Texans so that he could be closer to his home and his family.We hear that the Jets didn’t just sign FB Richie Anderson for one day so that he could retire as a Jet. Though that much is true, our sources say Anderson will stay on with the Jets as their RB coach.Indianapolis pays extra close attention to the development of first- and second-year players from its own roster prior to the draft. Two young players who will be highly scrutinized by scouts’ eyes in March and April are OLB Gilbert Gardner and DE Jonathan Welsh. Gardner, a third-round pick in 2004, could be cut if he can’t overcome a long string of injury problems. If healthy, he has a chance to start in the event David Thornton, an unrestricted free agent, doesn’t return. Welsh, a light but explosive rookie, is faster over 40 yards than either Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis, according to team president Bill Polian. Mathis, a restricted free agent, and DLE Raheem Brock, an unrestricted free agent, could draw strong outside interest. If Welsh looks good over the next few months, the Colts will not keep all three.The Bears wouldn’t completely rule out drafting an offensive tackle in the middle rounds if they believe the player is a good value at the time. There are members of the organization who remain uncertain if OLT John Tait is the right blind-side blocker for a passing offense. The Bears were the only team in the NFL to run more than they passed in 2005, so Tait wasn’t exposed as often. He and ORT Fred Miller are on the wrong side of 30, but neither showed signs of breaking down physically last season.Vikings head coach Brad Childress considers the QB position the most important on the team and will discuss Daunte Culpepper’s leadership ability, performance and intelligence with current and past players on the team to devise a plan for getting Culpepper ready for 2006. His health is an ongoing concern, but Culpepper has promised members of the organization that he’ll be ready to play full speed by Week One of the regular season.The Packers have multiple needs on both sides of the ball and, we’re told, already have invested a large amount of time in studying the players expected to be available in the middle and late first round in the event that wheeler-dealer GM Ted Thompson can pull a trade to move down on Draft Day. Thompson is far more likely to deal down than up, we’re told, regardless of what needs might be created pending Brett Favre’s decision whether to continue playing.We’re told the Jaguars might have a hard time competing for top free agents this offseason because of their own philosophy on the feeding frenzy. Jacksonville refuses to throw around double-digit signing bonuses for older or unproven players and might not take a real run at the premier players on the market. We’re told the team would be interested in taking a look at both Shaun Alexander and Edgerrin James if they remain unsigned by March 3. However, both players can command a signing bonus in the range of $12 million to $15 million.Pro Bowl WR Chad Johnson told PFW at the Super Bowl that he believes the Bengals’ organization has turned the corner and that we should expect bigger things in the near future. “Yeah, we raised the bar,” he said. “And I’m going to make sure it stays raised, too. This year I’m going to raise my level and continue to put — I don’t want to say, ‘the pressure on me’ — but continue to put the city and the team on my back and carry ourselves.”We’re told that it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see either Dolphins RB Ricky Williams or Eagles WR Terrell Owens in Denver next season. Several Broncos veterans met to discuss the possible acquisition of the volatile Owens prior to Mike Shanahan meeting with T.O. in late January and decided there was enough leadership on board to handle such a move. Whether through trade, free agency or the draft, Shanahan is all but certain to add a running back to a lot that already includes Mike Anderson, Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne, if the latter is re-signed as a free agent as expected.Chargers OLB Shawne Merriman told PFW recently about his intense workout regimen: “I really take it to the limit in terms of working out and getting my body to where I think it needs to be. To be honest, I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s no big deal for me. But people will come by (the weight room) and see me doing something strange at all hours. We have sessions at 6:30 in the morning, and I get there before everybody and stay there later than everybody else. It’s just part of my work ethic I always had growing up and really helped me to get where I am today.”With OG Will Shields still pondering retirement, the Chiefs made a move for the future in announcing last week that they had inked OLG Brian Waters to a six-year extension back in November. Waters created a bit of a stir last summer after he skipped offseason workouts, reportedly because of issues with his current deal, but his new contract was negotiated sans agent, whom he fired last year.We’re told to expect Broncos OL coach-turned-offensive coordinator Rick Dennison to focus heavily on the offensive line and running game, but there is still some uncertainty as to how he will balance responsibilities with head coach Mike Shanahan and former Jets offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who now carries the title of assistant head coach in Denver. It wasn’t a secret that former Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak wanted Dennison to join him in Houston, but Shanahan valued Dennison’s ability to teach Denver’s blocking techniques too much to let him walk.Niners QB Alex Smith told PFW at the Super Bowl what advice he would have for a young quarterback like Matt Leinart or Vince Young as a highly touted rookie: “Your rookie year is so unique, and every situation is different. But as much coverage as the NFL gets, there are going to be bumps in the road, and people are going to start talking about you and different things. And of course, those guys have had so much success that most of the talk is good about them. But it will be important to just put everything aside and stay the course, stay with the grind, stay late and put the time in. And especially early, keep your mouth shut. You’re a rookie. It’s kinda good if you go unheard from or unseen for a little while. Just put in your dues. You’re going to take some bumps in the road, but it’ll pass.”Word out of Charlotte is that the Panthers, who, like many teams,, are over the salary cap at this time, will need to restructure DE Julius Pepper’s contract before they can get anything else done in free agency. We hear Pepper’s cap figure for next season is $14 million.Buccaneers RB Cadillac Williams was awarded the Diet Pepsi Rookie of the Year award during Super Bowl week in Detroit. Williams was asked about the Bucs’ Super Bowl chances for next season at the trophy presentation because last year’s winner, QB Ben Roethlisberger, led the Steelers to a Super Bowl win in his second season as a pro: “I like our chances. I mean, what we accomplished this year was good, but we feel like we could have done better. We already have a lot of good young talent, and I'm sure we're going to add some more.”NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced at his annual state-of-the-league press conference days before the Super Bowl that the New Orleans Business Council will work closely with the Saints to support the team’s return to the Big Easy: “I think that the business people in New Orleans understand and can see that the team coming back, the Superdome coming back, can be a magnet for other businesses. It can be a symbol of resilience and vitality. So I think that we have a very good shot of making it work, although this year will be difficult for our league, as it will be for tens of thousands of other individuals and businesses in the region.”League officials announced on Super Bowl Sunday that the Saints will play their first home game in New Orleans on Sept. 24 against the Falcons at the Louisiana Superdome. It will be the first event held at the Superdome since the stadium was damaged by Hurricane Katrina last August. The Saints will play their two home preseason games at yet-to-be-determined locations in the Gulf Coast region.Bengals MLB Odell Thurman, in Detroit for Super Bowl week festivities, has his list of offseason priorities together. “I’ve got to get a whole lot stronger,” he said. “And just get in the playbook more. Like I said, a smarter me will be a whole lot better.”Ravens observers are interested to see whether head coach Brian Billick will indeed be less accessible to the media this offseason. Billick is known as one of the league’s most media-friendly coaches, almost always willing to speak, and often at length. However, he’s signaled he may cut back on his interviews.The way we hear it, the Browns are intrigued by the potential of reserve OT Nat Dorsey, who was released by Minnesota last season. The 6-7, 322-pound Dorsey is only 22, and the Browns’ OT depth would take a step forward if he were to develop.Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said the reverse-option pass that led to a touchdown in Super Bowl XL had been waiting to be sprung for weeks. “We’ve carried that play for probably five or six weeks now,” he said. “The situation just hasn’t come up. It’s been another one of those things where we work on it at practice. Probably those guys get tired of working on it, because we work on it and we don’t call it. But in this game, we felt like it was going to be a good play.”In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Steelers RCB Deshea Townsend indicated he would be open to re-signing with Pittsburgh at season’s send. Both of Pittsburgh’s starting cornerbacks are free agents; Townsend is unrestricted, while LCB Ike Taylor is a restricted free agent.At the Super Bowl, Steelers NT Chris Hoke had this to say about DL coach John Mitchell: “If you look over the years, the defensive linemen are the ones who make the least amount of mistakes. He does a great job of keeping us on our toes and making sure we know the defense, we’re in the right gaps, we’re using the right technique and we’re playing at a high level.”New Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, who will have input on making the No. 1 overall draft pick, on current starting QB David Carr: “There’s tremendous upside to David Carr. There is a process in this business as a quarterback, and you don’t just hop in there and be successful from the get-go. It takes time, it takes work and it takes people caring about you and doing everything to get you in a situation to be successful.”Here's some interesting stuff from PFW:
Chris Henry’s playing status — and future with the Bengals — is murky after the talented but troubled wide receiver was arrested on firearm charges in Florida in late January. The arrest was Henry’s second in less than two months; he was charged with marijuana possession in December. Per NFL rules, Henry can be suspended without pay or banished by NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue if he admits to or is convicted of both crimes. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis’ displeasure with Henry was reflected in a statement released by the club: “The incident in Orlando involving Chris Henry is unfortunate, and does not shine a good light on the Bengals organization. We will allow the judicial system to run its course. The NFL will act on this matter according to its player conduct standards, and I will deal with Chris in relation to his standing on our football team.” Bengals MLB Odell Thurman expressed surprise about Henry’s latest arrest. “I never thought something like that would happen to him,” Thurman said at the Super Bowl. “ ‘Slim’ was quiet. Guy keeps to himself. When I heard it, I was like, ‘No, couldn’t have been him.’ ” Thurman, who is friends with Henry, said he had not talked with him, and said he did not know all of the details of Henry’s situation.
QB Charlie Frye will spend the offseason working out in the Cleveland area with WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow, both of whom are working to recover from serious knee injuries. Frye has the inside track on the starting job in 2006. Though head coach Romeo Crennel would not give the position to Frye outright at his end-of-season press conference, the second-year signalcaller from Akron would likely have to regress significantly in training camp to lose out to veteran Trent Dilfer. Frye, whose skinny frame made him look every bit like a rookie last season, said he will look to gain 10 pounds in the offseason. One of Frye’s major goals will be to get in sync with the rest of the offense. “I was just put in there with five games left, trying to start my timing,” Frye said. “That’s something you work on during the offseason or the summertime during training camp. That will be one of the big things I will focus on.”
So is QB Donovan McNabb a good leader or not? Was he to blame at all for any of the team’s chemistry problems in 2005, most of which had been blamed previously on WR Terrell Owens? This line of talk became a subject of further conjecture following McNabb’s pre-Super Bowl week commentary on Owens, and the questioning of McNabb’s leadership by former Eagle Hugh Douglas. Though other teammates came to McNabb’s defense following Douglas’ statements, there at least have been whispers in the past that McNabb needs help in the leadership department in the form of a more outspoken teammate. McNabb has demonstrated the ability to handle personal forms of controversy and negative attention — everything from getting booed on Draft Day to handling questions about his play in the Eagles’ three straight NFC title-game defeats — but team sources suggest McNabb is better at controlling his own problems than guiding an entire locker room and that there might be some players on the roster who don’t get along all that well with McNabb.
The Bears plan to use a portion of their $17 million of salary-cap space to acquire a secondary receiver. The top players available, Terrell Owens and unrestricted free agent Reggie Wayne of the Colts, are expected to be spoken for and, to a large degree, out of the Bears’ price range come March. We hear they’ll turn their attention to either Steelers WR Antwaan Randle El, a local product, or explore a handful of restricted free agents who have piqued the interest of general manager Jerry Angelo and pro personnel director Bobby DePaul. While Randle El is considered a No. 2 or slot receiver, he might be in demand and, thus, be priced out of the Bears’ budget because of the thin WR class. Only one receiver, Ohio State junior Santonio Holmes, is considered a lock to be a first-round pick among the 2006 rookie class. The Bears would have profound interest in any veteran receivers who might be released, such as Marty Booker (Dolphins), Eric Moulds (Bills) or Joe Horn (Saints), who is a long shot to be axed but someone the Bears have on their radar.
Sources in Titletown expect the Packers to recruit a veteran quarterback to Green Bay. We’re told head coach Mike McCarthy would be interested in acquiring Aaron Brooks or Tim Rattay, former pupils of his in New Orleans and San Francisco, respectively. It’s not a certainty either player will be available, but each has a high salary relative to his impact thus far. Brooks might only consider coming to Green Bay as the team’s starter, an opportunity unlikely to be extended to him unless Aaron Rodgers fails to perform in minicamps without Brett Favre. Should Favre retire, though, Brooks could be enticed to join Green Bay to compete for the starting spot.
Ex-teammates of WR Koren Robinson’s said the former first-round pick was back on the track to becoming a star. “No question, and he’s going to Hawaii because he made plays when they gave him the chance to make plays,” WR Darrell Jackson told PFW. “I think he’s turned his life all the way around. He’s always been talented — makes people miss, can run after the catch — he has all the skills of a No. 1 receiver.” Robinson could serve in that role in 2006. He has West Coast-offense roots and appears to be closer to being a top receiver than Nate Burleson, a restricted free agent the Vikings are expected to re-sign as their No. 2 receiver.
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