Steelers claim John Parker Wilson

The Pittsburgh Steelers put in a waiver claim for and were awarded former Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson on Wednesday.

Wilson was waived by the Jacksonville Jaguars and now joins Ben Roethlisberger as the only quarterbacks on the Steelers roster with neither Charlie Batch nor Byron Leftwich under contract past this season.

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Report: NFL salary cap set at $123 million

The NFL has set the salary cap for the 2013 season.

While it’s not flat, compared to 2012, it isn’t moving up much.

Ian Rapoport of reports that clubs have been informed by the league that the cap will be set at $123 million this year. That is a bump of $2.4 million from the $120.6 million it was at in 2012.

This is why many teams are scrambling to restructure player contracts and push cap issues for 2013 into future seasons.

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Report: Danny Amendola to enter free agency

Danny Amendola is expected to reach the open market before a deal is possibly done with the St. Louis Rams.

That means that the shifty slot wide receiver could also exit via free agency as he and the team have yet to find any common ground on a long-term contract. Ian Rapoport of reports that Amendola will see if he can do better than what the team has in mind once free agency opens March 12.

The Rams previously let it be known they will not place the franchise tag, at a price tag of more than $10 million, on Amendola. That makes sense. He’s been extremely productive when healthy, posting 63 receptions for 666 yards and three touchdowns last season. It’s important to note his value to the Rams is probably escalated because the team is so thin at the receiver position.

Amendola missed five games this past season and was out for 15 games in 2011 after he suffered a broken arm and then was re-injured in practice. So, durability is a legitimate concern.

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Stanford enters spring amid huge expectations

Stanford opened spring practice on Monday roughly two months after its victory over Wisconsin at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

David Shaw and the Pac-12 defending champs return a lot of talent from last season, although the Cardinal lost a lot as well. Stepfan Taylor, Chase Thomas, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo are all gone, but their replacements just may be ready to assume larger roles and help the Cardinal once again reach Pasadena — and play for the national championship in the final year of the BCS system.

Let's take a look at a few of the most important storylines for the Cardinal this spring as they work toward the Spring Game on April 13 at Stanford Stadium.

Continued development of Hogan

Kevin Hogan US PRESSWIREThe continued development of Kevin Hogan is crucial to Stanford's success in 2013.

Quarterback Kevin Hogan stepped in late last season and performed admirably, even earning Pac-12 title game MVP honors. The junior signal-caller helped the Cardinal stabilize a position that was a little shaky with Josh Nunes at the helm. Hogan was a big reason why the Cardinal were able to claim the division, the conference and the victory in the Rose Bowl. He will only grow as a leader this spring, but beginning to develop strong chemistry with his receivers will be huge going into the summer months and preseason camp.

Are there enough weapons on offense?

Despite the loss of all-time leading rusher Stepfan Taylor, the Cardinal have talent and depth in the backfield. So this program will still have a run-first mentality. Tyler Gaffney will be back in Palo Alto on April 1 for a final season after missing 2012 to play minor league baseball. Senior Anthony Wilkerson is healthy and is the big back who can be physical and provide enough speed to break off long runs. If he can find consistency, he could emerge as the No. 1 back. Sophomore Barry J. Sanders will also battle for carries after redshirting last fall. He could be the game-changer in space that the Cardinal could use, particularly as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. And, of course, there is fifth-year senior fullback Ryan Hewitt, who knows this offense better than perhaps any offensive player on The Farm.

Last year's starting receivers, Drew Terrell and Jamal-Rashad Patterson, are gone. But the Cardinal have a variety of skilled players at WR, although it is a young group. That's why building rapport with Hogan throughout spring, summer and fall camp is vital for this offense. Junior Ty Montgomery has all of the physical tools to be one of the Pac-12's best, but can he be consistent week to week? Junior Kelsey Young will get looks at both receiver and running back because he is a true playmaker, and the coaching staff hopes that junior Devon Cajuste can continue to develop because he has a good size-speed combo. And senior Keanu Nelson could be a valuable slot receiver for Hogan. However, he will miss the first spring session for disciplinary reasons.

The tight end position, though, remains of utmost importance to this offense, and losing Ertz and Toilolo hurt. The expectation, however, is that the group of emerging receivers help make up for their losses. In the meantime, sophomore Luke Kaumatule will step in as the top tight end after playing as a true freshman. The former high school defensive lineman has the athleticism to be an offensive force. Senior Davis Dudchock will also get his chance to have a breakout campaign.

The defense remains stout

On the defensive side of the ball, fifth-year senior Shayne Skov leads a unit that only really loses star outside linebacker Chase Thomas, but there is depth at that position. Plus, the Cardinal have a lot of inside 'backers that will be competing for that open spot. Skov will miss the first spring session while serving a suspension, but that gives younger players more of an opportunity to shine early this spring. With All-America candidate and fifth-year senior Trent Murphy, along with juniors Kevin Anderson and James Vaughters, and seniors A.J. Tarpley, Jarek Lancaster and Blake Lueders, this should remain one of the best linebackers corps in the nation.

Along the defensive line, four experienced players return, and they are all flexible to play different roles. Fifth-year senior Ben Gardner is the best of the bunch, while senior Henry Anderson was instrumental in the team's effort in shutting down Oregon's high-powered offense in a 17-14 victory last fall. And senior David Parry, who started the final three games last season at defensive tackle, returns as the team's top nose tackle.

In the secondary, the Cardinal have proven safeties in senior Ed Reynolds and junior Jordan Richards, and there are a good number of cornerbacks who are expected to grow up this spring. Sophomore Alex Carter started the final eight games of his freshman year and should have one of the starting jobs at corner, while senior Barry Browning and juniors Wayne Lyons and Ra'Chard Pippens will compete for the other starting spot. Browning, however, will be limited this spring while he recovers from an injury. Meanwhile, junior Ronnie Harris and fifth-year senior Usua Amanam will contribute in the nickel package.

Looking at Stanford's 2013 schedule, it's not unreasonable to think that the Cardinal could reach Pasadena for the BCS title game if Hogan continues his development and the skill players shine. While the Cardinal do have to play Oregon and Notre Dame, they get them at home. And we know defensively they match up well with the Ducks, and the physical nature they bring on defense matches up well with the Irish, too. A road game at USC looks less difficult these days because the Cardinal have owned the Trojans recently. And then there would be a potential Pac-12 title game — which could have a lot of significance.

Report: Cowboys rework contract of Jason Witten

The Dallas Cowboys remain busy reworking contracts so they can wiggle under the salary cap before the start of the new league year.

Tight end Jason Witten is the latest veteran to restructure his contract in a way that creates a cap savings in 2013 for the club. Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News reports the Cowboys have converted $4.56 million of the $5.5 million base salary Witten was due this coming season into a signing bonus. The measure frees up $3.65 million in needed space for the franchise.

The Cowboys pulled off a similar move with defensive end DeMarcus Ware on Wednesday to save $4 million vs. the cap. Next up could be defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and cornerback Orlando Scandrick, according to the report.

Dallas is projected to be about $20 million over the cap and the team will need to complete a series of restructures, especially if they cannot hammer out a long-term deal for quarterback Tony Romo, who is due to count $16.8 million vs. the cap this season.

The tight cap situation makes it highly unlikely the team will be able to keep defensive end/outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. Dallas is not expected to be active in free agency.

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Josh Morgan on the mend from three surgeries

Talk about a tough offseason for Josh Morgan.

The Washington Redskins wide receiver is on the mend from three surgeries but expects to be much healthier this coming season in his second year with the club.

According to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, Morgan had surgery on his right ankle and he’s now walking around fine but has yet to be cleared for running. He also said that the same week he had ankle surgery he underwent surgery to repair torn ligaments in each hand. One of the hand injuries was suffered in the season opener.

Basically, the whole year, I was playing with two torn ligaments in both hands,” he said. “So they corrected that and got all that stuff straight.”

A free-agent addition last year when the Redskins also signed Pierre Garcon, Morgan hopes to be more involved in the offense in 2013. But right now, he’s following a rehabilitation path.

“I’m just doing what they tell me to do,” he said. “We’re all just worried about the start of the season and nothing else.”

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Jermichael Finley will not entertain a pay cut in 2013

The Green Bay Packers have some significant decisions to make this offseason as they ultimately move toward some huge contract extensions expected for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and outside linebacker Clay Matthews.

One of them involves tight end Jermichael Finley, the outspoken performer who is entering the final year of his contract. Finley is set to count $8.75 million against the team’s salary cap in 2013. The Packers, of course, could lower that figure if they extended Finley, but there are no signs at this point that is happening.

Coach Mike McCarthy has spoken positively about Finley and the team could lose wide receiver Greg Jennings. Shedding too many playmakers for Rodgers could be problematic. But Finley isn’t looking to cut the Packers a discount.

“The Packers are barely talking to me right now. I know they're just doing it the Packer way and playing it close to the vest,” Finley told Josina Anderson of ESPN. “I haven't got a call. I haven't got a text asking me to take a pay cut or to restructure my deal at this point–not at all.”

Finley made it clear he is not interested in reducing his 2013 salary.

“I'd have to walk for sure, meaning I couldn't take a pay cut,” he told Anderson. “Maybe I'd restructure if it's a deal that I like and it makes sense, but I'm not the guy that's just going to sign anything and let anything pass. I'm not that guy. Other than that, taking a pay cut or restructuring doesn't sound good to me at this time. I like my deal. I start training in Minneapolis tomorrow and I'm more inspired than ever to start next season off right and be the tight end I know I can be. It's all business at the end of the day. I just love what I do.”

Finley cannot restructure a one-year contract to reduce the cap hit unless he is extended. So, we’ll see where this heads.

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Big Ben restructures his deal

The Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have restructured the quarterback's contract, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Per the report, the move will save the Steelers about $6 million of cap space for 2013. The Steelers had previously redone the deals of Lawrence Timmons and Antonio Brown as they try to get under the league's salary cap by the March 12 deadline.

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NFP looks at 9 players who struggled at Combine

The Final Look At Players Who Hurt Their Draft Stock The Most At The Combine

With the 2013 NFL Combine now completed I take a final look at those players whose performance was disappointing in one area or more. I have not included Star Lotulelei, who was red-flagged for a heart issue and not allowed to workout, or Jarvis Jones, whose medical check awaits MRI results to be completed, because I have not found out anything definitive in regards to either prospect at this time.

JOHNATHAN BANKSUS PRESSWIREMississippi State CB Johnathan Banks skies to make a great interception.

1. Johnathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State: Banks did not struggle throughout the entire Combine as he handled himself extremely well in team interviews. During meetings with teams he showed excellent football intelligence, the ability to think quickly and good overall character. Unfortunately, when it came to the physical workout, Banks struggled and definitely raised concerns about his athleticism. Although running a 4.60 40 was disappointing, more of an issue was how choppy and upright he was during the positional drills. He struggled to flip hips and change directions smoothly and lacked explosiveness in his movements.

2. Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin: NFL teams were excited to see Frederick up close after he came out early for the 2013 Draft because he was a good, productive center for Wisconsin this past season. Unfortunately, I do not think he could have struggled more during the workout portion of the Combine. Things started off badly when he ran in the high 5.5’s/low 5.6’s (Depending on the NFL source I spoke to) and only got worse during his workout. He looked slow footed during position drills and did not show the athleticism NFL teams want. His performance will definitely have teams going back to watch film to more thoroughly evaluate his athleticism and figure out if he has what it takes to carry over his production from Wisconsin to the NFL.

3. Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU: Nearly the entire media world ripped Manti Te’o for having a bad Combine workout despite actually doing well, while Minter who ran slower than Te’o in the 40 and struggled during positional drills slid under the radar. Minter was also a very productive inside linebacker in college, but his lack of quickness, burst and speed during positional drills raises concerns. Sources inside the stadium told us that they feel Minter’s lack of athleticism will hinder his ability to make plays outside the hash-marks and to be effective in pass coverage, both in zone and man.

DAMONTRE MOOREUS PRESSWIRETexas A&M DE Damontre Moore begins charge up the field rushing passer.

4. DaMontre Moore, DE/OLB, Texas A&M: For a player who came to the Combine being hyped as a potential top ten pick (Not by us mind you), Moore had a very disappointing performance. It started badly when he was only able to do 12 reps on the bench press, which is a big concern because his ability to play strong at the POA was supposed to be one of his fortes. Then he did not run fast in his 40’s and lacked explosiveness, burst and looked stiff during positional drills. As we expected when we evaluated him on film, Moore is not a premier athlete and after his performance in Indy I think many will agree with us now, which is why we expect him to be a second round pick.

5. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR/RET, Tennessee: There is no doubt that Patterson looks the part of an NFL receiver “on the hoof” and shined in the measured parts of the Combine. However, the rest of his time in Indy was not as impressive. During the positional drills he displayed the quickness, burst and speed that we expected, but his routes were not sharp and he fought the ball at times as he tended to body catch most passes. However, most troubling were reports from different NFL personnel that Patterson was not impressive in team interviews. While he is still likely to be a first round pick, Patterson is not assured of that now.

6. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State: As happens every year because the media is not allowed in to see the bulk of workouts, players get tagged with having a “great day” when they run a very fast 40 time, which is why everyone was hyping Rhodes. However, after speaking to people who were inside and watched the positional drills I learned the true story. Rhodes struggled throughout the drills looking upright, stiff and mechanical trying to flip hips and change directions. Additionally, he battled the ball nearly every time and did not show the hands to be counted on to make plays when he gets the chance at the next level. Lastly, Rhodes interviews were not impressive. All of this being said, it is still likely that a team that plays a lot of press coverage will take Rhodes in the first round because of his height, long arms, strong build and elite straight line speed.

7. Daimion Stafford, SAF, Nebraska: A borderline draftable prospect when he came to Indy after a disappointing senior season, Stafford is unlikely to be drafted now. Although he has the height and physique NFL teams are always looking for, his lack of agility, balance and flexibility really showed up when he had to change directions and adjust during the positional drills. Stafford has an uphill battle ahead of him to prove he warrants being drafted.

8. Levine Toilolo, TE, Stanford: The second Stanford tight end to come out early for the 2013 NFL Draft, Toilolo’s performance made it crystal clear he would have been better staying in school another season to try and improve his on field play to overcome his lack of good athleticism. A huge tight end at 6’8 with long arms and soft hands, Toilolo’s lack of athleticism really showed up in Indy. He is stiff, struggles to get moving quickly and lacks the playing speed necessary to get separation from defenders. Some team may gamble on him late in the Draft with an eye towards trying to convert him to OT, but I think he is most likely going to go undrafted.

9. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington: After an excellent week of practice at the Senior Bowl, Trufant’s stock had been on the rise. Unfortunately, his performance in Indy will likely lead teams to go back and more closely evaluate his play at Washington. In Mobile he showed the foot quickness, agility and fluid athleticism to change directions with ease to stay with receivers all over the field. However, during the positional drills in Indy, he did not stay low consistently to maintain good position and this killed his ability to flip hips and change directions easily in drills. Teams really
have to do their homework on Trufant to try and figure out where he should be drafted because his play at Washington was that of a third round pick, his performance at the Senior Bowl was first round caliber and at the Combine he moved around athletically like a third day draft pick.

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Hollywood Boot Camp set for 22 players

Some 22 current and former NFL players will take part in the second annual NFL Pro Hollywood Boot Camp at Universal Studios in Universal City, Calif., from March 11-15.

The four-day boot camp will offer a comprehensive overview of creative disciplines in the film industry including screen writing, directing, producing and film financing. Session leaders will be selected from among top industry executives and filmmakers and include Legendary Pictures partner/producer and member of the Pittsburgh Steelers ownership group Thomas Tull (The Dark Knight, Inception, We Are Marshall), director/producer Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), and writer/actor/director Robert Townsend (The Five Heartbeats, Hollywood Shuffle).

The players invited to participate include Shaun Alexander, Ramses Barden, Hank Baskett, Desmond Bishop, Phillip Buchanon, Drew Carter, Carey Davis, Justin Fargas, Derek Hagan, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ben Leber, Alex Mack, Ryan McBean, Gerald McCoy, Ryan McNeil, Zoltan Mesko, Brandon Miree, Jared Odrick, Marcus Price, L.J. Shelton, Walter Thurmond and Justin Tryon.

Participants will have the opportunity to shoot and edit a short film at Universal Studios, the largest working motion picture studio in the world which offers 30 sound stages and 30 backlot movie sets where many legendary films have been shot.

“We are excited to continue providing opportunities for active and former players to explore and develop valuable professional contacts in a wide range of career fields,” said Troy Vincent, senior vice president of NFL Player Engagement.

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