Ravens want Dumervil, Suggs, Upshaw on field together

With the Baltimore Ravens adding Elvis Dumervil as a part of their defense, they now have a variety of options in terms of which players to use while rushing the passer.

Dumervil now figures to pair with Terrell Suggs to give the Ravens a formidable pass rush threat again on the edge from the linebacker position. But where does that leave 2012 second-round pick Courtney Upshaw, who was being counted upon to help fill the slack created by Paul Kruger's departure in free agency before Dumervil was signed?

According to Dean Pees, the Ravens defensive coordinator, Upshaw is still in the mix and might even see some time at inside linebacker, where Baltimore is trying to replace the retired Ray Lewis and free agent loss Dannell Ellerbe.

'The way we teach this defense, all the [linebackers] have to know all four spots … because, again, I’ve always told these guys that I don’t want a good player standing on the sideline by me with a player out there on the field that I don’t think is as good because you can’t play another position. So, our guys have always learned a lot of different spots,” Pees told 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore in an interview picked up by the Carroll County Times.

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Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

NFP Sunday Blitz

It is fair to wonder how Alex Smith will perform without Jim Harbaugh on the other end of his strings.

After all, the new Chiefs quarterback had a 95.1 passer rating with Harbaugh as his coach compared to 72.1 for the previous six years of his career, according to STATS.

And it also is fair to wonder why Smith cannot continue to perform under Andy Reid as he did under Harbaugh. The first thing to be understood about Smith is he is gifted. Very gifted.

So gifted in fact that most of the NFL agreed he should be picked ahead of Aaron Rodgers in 2004. So gifted that he was the first pick of the draft that year. So gifted that new Chiefs general manager John Dorsey had no qualms about giving up two second round picks in a trade with the 49ers to acquire him.

“He has the physical skill to push the ball down the field, the accuracy and ability to drive the medium routes and at times the ability to drive the long routes with accuracy,” Dorsey told me. “He minimizes mistakes. He understands he can’t turn the ball over.”

So why haven’t we always seen the talent with Smith? Why did the Niners try to replace him? There may be a ceiling in terms of how good he can be, but it also is possible, maybe even probable, that he has not yet reached it.

SmithThings will be different for Alex Smith this year without Jim Harbaugh in his ear.

His development likely was slowed by the fact that he faced enormous expectations and pressure as the No. 1 pick of the draft. And he wasn’t exactly surrounded by all pros for most of his career. He never had a Pro Bowl wide receiver or a receiver who gained 1,000 yards in a season. Among his leading wide receivers during his time in San Francisco were Brandon Lloyd, Antonio Bryant and Arnez Battle.

And then there was the coordinator issue. Before Harbaugh arrived, Smith played for six coordinators in five years—from Mike McCarthy to Norv Turner to Jim Hostler to Mike Martz to Jimmy Raye to Mike Johnson to Greg Roman. Every season for his first six seasons, he had to learn a new offense. He has had the same offensive coordinator in place for two full seasons only once in his NFL career.

“I think stability is an important thing for quarterbacks,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told me. “If you look at all the change that took place in that kid’s NFL life early, that’s a wild ride. Look at how many quarterbacks have been ruined going through that situation. He came out on top. That’s a tribute to him.”

When Smith was paired with Harbaugh, there were immediate results. Harbaugh refutes the notion it was about him though.

“These guys do it themselves or they don’t do it themselves,” Harbaugh told me. “Players in general, quarterbacks specifically. Standing here saying, ‘Here is what I told them,’ is shameless self promotion. It’s such a small part of why they were really good. It’s a little phony.

“He improved at playing his game, knowing how to be successful, going out every week and playing that ace of spades. He’s a one of a kind guy, one of a kind person. He’s extremely talented, extremely smart. He did the best job of just playing his game.”

Dorsey sees it similarly. “It’s far to say San Francisco has begun to have a lot of success the last couple of years,” he said. “But in the beginning, Alex Smith had a lot to do with it. Jim Harbaugh is a good coach. That doesn’t take anything away from what Alex did when he got on the field, or from what his teammates did.”

There is another factor in this story too. It’s not like Smith now is being coached by some meathead straight out of the Pee Wee League. When it comes to quarterback coaching, Andy Reid has some chops. Remember his work with Brett Favre? Donovan McNabb? Reid also was responsible for helping to turn backups A.J. Feeley and Kevin Kolb into tradable commodities.

“Andy does a great job of getting guy son board and coaching them up,” Dorsey said.

Reid has studied what Harbaugh did with Smith. He’ll do some of the same things. He said his system is not that much different from Harbaugh’s.

“One of the keys as a coach is you play to a player’s strength,” he said. “You continue to try to improve things that he needs improving on, but heck, if they are good at something, you cut him loose and let him do it. We’ll do that.”

“The bottom line is you can’t hide the fact that he’s won games and he has a great quarterback rating, he’s consistent.”

It’s up to Smith to prove he was more than the product of a great coach in San Francisco. The Chiefs are betting he’ll do that.

My Sunday Best: Quarterbacks Acquired In Trades

Some of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game have been traded. Some, like Joe Montana, made their reputations before they were traded. Others, like Len Dawson, were traded but then released before hitting it big. I didn’t include either of those great QBs. I was looking for quarterbacks who excelled with the teams that traded for them. Here are my Sunday best quarterbacks who paid off big after being traded. Do you think I missed someone? Let’s hear it.

ElwayTrading for John Elway was one of the best moves in NFL history.

1. John Elway, Broncos 1983. The first pick in the draft, Elway wanted nothing to do with playing for the Baltimore Colts and forced them to deal him to the Broncos. Some rank him as the best quarterback of all-time. He certainly was one of the greatest clutch performers in NFL history. His 148-82-1 record as a starter is one of the best ever. Here is the bonus part of the Elway acquisition: he’s still paying dividends for the team at the age of 52 as he is quickly becoming one of the most respected executives in the game.

2. Brett Favre, Packers 1992. He became a three-time MVP, eight time division winner, 11 time Pro Bowler and one time Super Bowl winner after the Falcons gave up on him and Ron Wolf offered a first round pick. He played 16 seasons for the Packers and started 297 straight games, a record that might never be broken.

3. Steve Young, 49ers, 1987. The Bucs chose Vinny Testaverde and gave Young to the 49ers for second and fourth round picks. Thirteen years, seven Pro Bowls and three Super Bowl rings later, Young was on his way to the Hall of Fame. His 96.8 passer rating is second best all-time.

4. Bobby Layne, Lions 1950. This hall of famer was traded three times, first from the Bears to the New York Bulldogs for a first round pick and $50,000, then to the Lions for defensive end Bob Mann, and finally to the Steelers for Earl Morrall, and probably first and second round picks (records are sketchy). He won two NFL championships for the Lions and made it to four Pro Bowls.

5. Fran Tarkenton, Vikings 1972. He actually was traded twice, in 1967 from the Vikings to the Giants for two first round picks and two second round picks, and in 1972, back to the Vikings for Norm Snead, Bob Grim, Vince Clements, a first round pick and a second round pick. On his second stint with the Vikings, he went to three Pro Bowls, was named NFL MVP in 1975, and made it to three Super Bowls.

6. Sonny Jurgensen, Redskins 1964. The Eagles shipped him to their rivals after Jurgensen had been their starter for only three seasons, getting Norm Snead and Claude Crabb in return. In Washington, Jurgensen won three
passing titles, inspiring Vince Lombardi to call him the greatest passer he had seen.

7. Eli Manning, Giants 2004. He has become a great clutch quarterback and two-time Super Bowl winner. Ernie Accorsi pulled the trigger on a draft day deal with the Chargers, giving up Philip Rivers, who had been chosen thre picks later, a third round pick and two fifth rounders.

8. Philip Rivers, Chargers 2004. Yes, the Chargers came out alright in this deal too. Rivers has been to four Pro Bowls and he has a career passer rating of 94.5, which is sixth highest in history.

Things I Didn’t Used To Know

RodgersICONAaron Rodgers is changing his workout routine as his body changes.

*Aaron Rodgers is changing up his offseason workout routine. The Packers quarterback

Kolb finishing up deal with Bills

After booting Ryan Fitzpatrick and re-signing Tarvaris Jackson, the Buffalo Bills are in the process of finishing a deal with quarterback Kevin Kolb, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.

Once Kolb is in the fold, that gives the Bills their possible starting quarterback for 2013, even if they wind up drafting Matt Barkley, whom they are reportedly working out soon, or Geno Smith.

Kolb was let go in Arizona as the Cardinals did not want to pay a roster bonus to him for the second straight year.

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Bucs add Derek Landri for 2 seasons

Roy Miller exited via free agency for the Jacksonville Jaguars but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made an addition that just might fill the void.

The Bucs have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with Derek Landri. According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, the contract is worth $3.25 million, so Landri did better than many of the veterans who have been getting deals done in the last week-plus.

Landri started seven games last season for the Philadelphia Eagles and previously played in Carolina and Jacksonville. Landri started 16 games for the Panthers in 2010 but he’s more of a rotational player. The Bucs could look to augment the position via the draft as well.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Grimes lands with Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins announced Saturday that they have signed cornerback Brent Grimes.

“We are very excited that we were able to reach an agreement with Brent,” Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland said. “His experience and history of play making production will add a great deal to our secondary.”

Grimes joins Miami after spending the last six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, where he played in 59 games with 43 starts.

Grimes was a Pro Bowl selection in 2010, but is working his way back from an Achilles injury that has his availability, at least for off-season work, in question for now.

“I am doing great. I’m doing everything. It’s just about getting all of your strength back to where you were before,” Grimes said. “As far as…I don’t have any restrictions right now. My workouts…if you look on the internet, my wife is always putting up videos of me doing stuff (laughing). I am doing great. I am really encouraged by this rehab. I look it as a challenge and I respond well to challenges and I am 100% confident that I will be straight in no time.”

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Free agency will slow down as draft nears

The deals for veteran players will not stop this coming week but they’re going to slow down.

It’s been a frustrating period for veteran players, many of them starters for several seasons. The free-agent market has not been what players have expected and since the opening 72-hour bonanza of free agency, most have been forced to sign one-year contracts.

A mostly flat salary cap has forced teams to be frugal and rank-and-file players simply are not being valued like they were before. Agents have had to talk their clients through frustrating moments, educating them along the way. What was there for similar players three and four years ago – multi-year deals with solid signing bonuses – is gone.

Deals are going to slow down because teams are going to shift the focus from free agency to the draft, which is now less than four weeks away. They will look to fill remaining roster holes with cheaper players on rookie contracts. That’s going to create another issue for veterans after the draft is some teams will be cutting experienced players they believe have been replaced via the draft.

So, that will once again create a little bit of a shopping rush as NFL clubs seek bargains post-draft in the first week of May. For the remaining unsigned players, it’s probably not going to be a fun time. That is why you hear plenty of folks grumbling about the CBA.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Cowboys believe they can win Super Bowl with Tony Romo

Some may question the $108 million, six-year contract the Dallas Cowboys have given Tony Romo.

But the Cowboys believe in the quarterback – that is why he got the deal that includes $55 million guaranteed. Ultimately, they are the only ones that matter.

Absolutely, we feel that we can win a championship with Tony,” Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones told Jarrett Bell of USA . “We wouldn't be doing all of this if we didn't think we could win with him.”

Romo has won just one playoff game since becoming the team’s quarterback midway through the 2006 season. But he has a 55-38 record even though he is 17-21 over the past three seasons. Dallas needs to rebuild its offensive line to improve Romo’s chances for success. Th3 32-year-old – and he turns 33 next month – believes the team is on the verge of turning the corner.

“This is an organization that always gives us a chance to win, and that is always the main focus here,” Romo said in a statement, according to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We haven't had the type of success that we have all wanted the last few years, but I do know that we are on the verge of doing that. I have been around good teams and bad teams and our team is about to take that next step with a lot of things that are taking shape around Valley Ranch. Today just further instills that and I am excited about our team and the direction we are headed.

“This football team that we have is a good team and with all the people we have coming back and the things we are doing behind the scenes, it will make us a very difficult ball club to beat. I am excited that ownership and the organization believes in me to get this job done. Our goal is the Super Bowl, and I am determined and honored to be the guy in this position to help our team do that.”

Only time will tell if the Cowboys are going to get what they expect out of their investment.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Bengals retain Terence Newman

Veteran cornerback Terence Newman said on Twitter that his loyalty to Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer led him to remain with the Bengals.

Newman and Zimmer were together when both were with the Dallas Cowboys.

The Oakland Raiders had been after Newman, but he elected to remain in Cincinnati for another go around with Zimmer and the Bengals, The cornerback said the Raiders offered more money than the Bengals in order to try and lure him to Oakland.

Newman tweeted “After much time and thought, I'm heading back to Cincy. And for those of you who think it was about money, the Raiders offered more.”

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Choice agrees to one-year deal with Bills

The Buffalo Bills have agreed to terms on a new deal wtih running back Tashard Choice, the Buffalo News reports.

Choice has been the Bills No. 3 running back since coming to them off waivers from the Washington Redskins. He has played behind both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.

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Cowboys can do some shopping now

Don’t expect the Dallas Cowboys to go on a wild spending spree.

But at least the team can do some budget shopping now without having to cut players to sign one.

The robust $108 million, six-year contract for quarterback Tony Romo not only secured his future with a star on the side of his helmet, it provided the franchise with desperately needed salary-cap relief. The Cowboys were pressed right against the $123 million limit and Romo’s new deal reduces his cap figure from $16.8 million to $11.8 million, freeing up $5 million in space, according to Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas.

The Cowboys will be able to add multiple players with that space in what is now the second wave of free agency where teams are benefitting from an extreme buyers market. Dallas was interested in some players but simply couldn’t make offers to guard Matt Slauson and linebacker Chase Blackburn, according to Archer. Now, the team will have some freedom to operate.

If the Cowboys can work out a multi-year contract for defensive end Anthony Spencer, who has been secured with the franchise tag, that would create even more space.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune