Uncertain on Jason Hanson, Lions will host David Akers on visit

The Detroit Lions have offered a minimum salary to veteran kicker Jason Hanson and he doesn’t know if he wants to work for that wage this season.

So, the club will take a look at another kicker that’s been around for a long time. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that with Hanson mulling what to do, the Lions will bring in David Akers for a visit next week.

Akers was cut loose by the San Francisco 49ers after a difficult season but he is just a year removed from an excellent Pro Bowl year. Hanson, 42, has said he would like to play for a 22nd season for the Lions but there is no guarantee at this point that will happen. He was strong this past season, hitting 32 of 36 field goals. Hanson has said he is not going to go elsewhere and play.

Akers, who battled a groin injury last season, has a strong leg for kickoffs. But he is going to have to convince a team he can be accurate again after making only 29 of 42 field goals for the 49ers, who nearly replaced him on their postseason roster.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Rams unable to reach Rodger Saffold about position change

The St. Louis Rams believe Rodger Saffold will eventually be OK with a move from left to right tackle.

But no one can reach him at this point.

The Rams signed Jake Long to $34 million, four-year contract that will guarantee him $16 million provided he remains healthy through the first season. Long was signed to play left tackle, a move that pushes Saffold to the right side.

But as Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, no one can reach Saffold at this point, and it has been nearly two weeks.

Things are gonna work out,” St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said. “We’re confident they’ll get resolved.”
“We’ve been trying to reach Rodger, and he’s not returning calls right now. But we’ll get things settled, and Rodger’s a big part of our future and a big part of our plans on offense.”

According to Thomas, Saffold’s agent Alan Herman let it be known before the addition of Long that Saffold would not be thrilled moving positions. It doesn’t mean he’s requested a trade or anything.

“No. It’s just been quiet,” Fisher said. “And we’re trying to reach Rodger just like we’re trying to reach all of our other players. We stay in touch with our players. Maybe he’s traveling and is on his way back.”

Saffold’s contract expires at the end of this season, so he has a year to boost his value for the open market. Obviously, he could maximize his value playing on the left side. The guess here is the Rams will be able to reach him soon. The club’s (voluntary) offseason program commences April 15.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

March 29th – Pro Day Review

NFL personnel are nearing the end of the Pro Day schedule traveling around the country working out prospects. As there are so many Pro Days across the country, we cannot be everywhere at once, so we rely upon a network of NFL sources that we built during our time working for the Rams and Browns. Below is a breakdown of what I was told by different NFL sources at the LSU, BYU and Souteast Louisiana Pro Days:

1. LSU: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB; Sam Montgomery, DE; Bennie Logan, DT; Eric Reid, SAF; Kevin Minter, MLB; Tharold Simon, CB and Lavar Edwards, DE:

BARKEVIOUS MINGOUS PRESSWIRELSU's Barkevious Mingo crushes Tennessee QB Tyler Bray.

In a draft heavy with pass rushers, Barkevious Mingo made a statement at his Pro Day that he warrants consideration as the best 34 OLB prospect. Weighing in in the mid 230’s, Mingo’s weight will definitely be an issue for those teams that are looking at him as a 43 DE. However, his show of elite explosive athleticism has many 34 teams excited. He displayed excellent foot quickness, agility and flexibility throughout linebacker drills. Mingo was smooth and fluid changing directions, displaying the loose hips to flip and change directions with remarkable ease. The LSU Pro Day was stock full of NFL talent and Mingo worked out as well as any other player and looked so quick and agile in drills that you would have thought he was a defensive back if you did not know any better. After his performance my sources at the workout said they would be shocked if he is not drafted by the 15th pick in the first round.

While Mingo may have had the best workout, safety Eric Reid just missed beating him out as he was outstanding according to sources in attendance. For a player that many have been criticizing as not a good enough athlete to be effective covering slot receivers and in deep coverage, this workout definitely put those concerns to bed. He showed that he has great agility and coordination to change directions fast, the burst of acceleration to get to full speed fast and the elite speed to run with any slot receiver on deep routes. In addition to possessing elite athleticism, Reid is viewed as a high character kid with the type of intangibles that NFL teams love. Sources at the workout told us that the LSU people rave about what an incredible young man Reid is and that whatever teams draft him is going to love character, work ethic and passion for the game.

Although Sam Montgomery is unlikely to be drafted in the first round, he had a good, solid workout. Muscular and well built, Montgomery looked the part “on the hoof” of an NFL 43 defensive end. Being put through a hard workout, he showed that he is in very good shape by not wearing down and competing hard throughout. He showed good quickness and overall athleticism for a 43 defensive end, but looked a little stiff to consider as an outside linebacker in a 34 scheme. After this workout and Montgomery’s play in 2012, he will likely be a second or third round pick.

Backup defensive end Lamar Edwards may not have the statistical production of Mingo or Montgomery, but during the Pro Day he showed that he is not behind them both in terms of athleticism. He consistently showed explosive initial quickness, very good speed and the athleticism to change directions fast that starting defensive ends in the NFL possess. Despite his athletic showing, teams still have concerns about his awareness/instincts as he often seemed a bit late reacting to things during the positional drills. I do not expect Edwards to be a high draft pick, but with his athleticism and NFL teams being so desperate to find good pass rushers, he will likely be a third or fourth round selection.

Unlike their other defensive linemen, defensive tackle Bennie Logan did not have a stand out Pro Day. He looked better athletically than he had at the Combine, but still did not show the explosive quickness that NFL teams want. He is a high-cut kid who cannot change directions quickly and has trouble moving through traffic because he struggles to protect his long legs. Sources at the workout told me that after watching film and seeing him workout he is really a nose tackle / 2-Gap only type player as he lacks the burst to shoot gaps and does not shed quickly enough to defeat blocks and make tackles. He will likely be a third day draft pick.

While much of the attention this week was focused on how fast another inside linebacker in South Bend ran his 40 and worked out, Kevin Minter needed to improve in both of those areas also after a disappointing combine. He did just that by running about .10 faster in the 40 and showed better flexibility and agility during the positional workout. As opposed to his combine workout where he looked stiff and choppy in drills, Minter was smooth and able to change directions easily, although he was not quick or explosive doing so. Teams came away feeling much more confident that Minter can be a solid, workmanlike starting middle/inside linebacker in the NFL and is worthy of a second or third round selection.

When cornerback Tharold Simon declared for the Draft many expected he would work out well this spring to put himself in position to be a second or third round pick. However, things have not gone as planned. While Simon ran extremely well for a tall cornerback by running in the high 4.4’s, the rest of his workout was not up to par. He was stiff in positional drills, struggled changing directions and actually fell down a few times. His pedal was decent for a tall cornerback, but he struggled to transition and close out of it fast. Not only did he have struggles changing directions and athletically, but his ball skills were not good as he looked bad tracking passes and dropped some balls. As things stand now, we were told that Simon will likely be a fourth or fifth round pick.

2. BYU: Ezekiel Ansah, DE:

EZEKIEL ANSAHUS PRESSWIREBYU's Ezekiel Ansah returns interception.

For a player who is expected to be a top ten pick, our sources at BYU’s workout were surprised that only two defensive line coaches and two directors were present. It was clear that Ansah looks the part as he looked ripped up and muscular in his workout gear. However, he seemed to not be in the best of shape as he tired quickly during the defensive line workout, seemed to wear out and struggled to go full speed throughout. To be fair, the workout he was put through by the Oakland Raiders defensive line coach was a grueling one and definitely asked Ansah to maintain a high level of intensity for a long time. In the defensive line drills it was clear that Ansah is a very quick athlete who is remarkably smooth for such a big man and changes directions with ease. Amazingly, for a player that many 34 teams view as an outside linebacker prospect, Ansah was not put through any linebacker drills. In the end, Ansah’s workout was not special, b
ut he is still likely to be a top ten pick because big men with his physical talent and great intangibles are nearly impossible to find.

3. Southeast Louisiana: Robert Alford, CB:

A player who has sort of slid under the radar this spring, Alford had an excellent workout at his Pro Day and cemented his status as one of the most athletic cornerbacks in the Draft. He proved that he has the rare explosive athletic traits that few cornerbacks do. He looked quick and agile transitioning and changing directions and showed an explosive closing burst throughout the workout. Sources watching the workout said Alford looked like a starting NFL cornerback and should earn a starting job early in his career. The only area of concern during his workout was his instincts as he seemed to be late reacting to things a few times. At the end of the day, Alford will almost assuredly be a second round pick because of his production at SELA, competitiveness and rare athleticism.

Email Russ at Russelllande@yahoo.com and Follow Russ on Twitter @RUSSLANDE

Teammate says Matt Flynn headed to Raiders

If Doug Baldwin has good information, Matt Flynn will be a starting quarterback again soon.

The Seattle Seahawks wide receiver says the quarterback, signed to a lucrative deal in free agency a year ago, will be headed to the Oakland Raiders. That likely means the Raiders will be cutting ties with Carson Palmer, something that has been rumored for much of the offseason.

Wishing Flynn the best on his endeavors in Oakland,” Baldwin wrote on his Twitter account. “Sad to see a friend leave, but excited for his opportunity. Great QB, even better man.”

The Seahawks have been looking to move Flynn this offseason after Russell Wilson emerged as a start performer during his rookie year. Flynn is scheduled to earn $5.25 million this coming season, according to Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times, and moving him would create a salary cap saving of $3.25 million.

But complicating the matter, O’Neil reports, is the fact that he Raiders are without second- and fifth-round picks this year, so they might hesitate trading another one. That makes it possible Flynn would be traded for a 2014 draft pick(s). Given Flynn’s contract status and his relative inexperience, as well as a lack of high demand, Seattle probably will not get too much in return.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Donovan McNabb has something to say about Tony Romo's big extension

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo struck oil Friday, agreeing to a six-year contract extension worth $108 million. And while Romo is no doubt spending his afternoon celebrating the financial windfall, one of his former NFC East rivals didn’t waste much time blasting the move.

Jerry JonesJerry Jones clearly sees something in Tony Romo that Donovan McNabb is missing.

Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb took to twitter on Friday to express his shock at the amount of money Cowboys owner Jerry Jones threw at his star quarterback.

“Tony Romo 6 yr 55 million dollar extension. Wow, really, with one playoff win. You got to be kidding me”

Grammatical and factual mistakes aside, McNabb makes a good point. In seven seasons as the starting quarterback in Big D, Romo boasts a 1-3 postseason record with a playoff QB rating of just 80.8. Romo’s counter to McNabb—should he opt to employ one—could be that his one playoff win came against McNabb’s Eagles during the 2010 wildcard round.

McNabb’s comments aside, the bottom line is that the Cowboys have their franchise quarterback locked up for the foreseeable future. Whether or not that’s a good thing—at that price tag—will be determined soon enough.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

Romo deal gets done

Dallas Cowboys fans will fear no more that Tony Romo could be headed out of town.

And they also will not have to worry quite as much about a prohibitive salary-cap situation.

That is because Romo and the club came to terms this afternoon on a six-year extension. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports the deal is worth $108 million, meaning it will average $18 million per season, putting Romo not far behind Super Bowl MVP’s Joe Flacco, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning.

Romo’s cap number for this season was $16.8 million and the Cowboys will significantly reduce that figure for 2013 with the new pact, giving them room to operate for more player acquisitions.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

'Honey Badger' to visit with Patriots

Former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu will visit with the New England Patriots, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

Mathieu was at LSU's pro day on Wednesday, even though he was kicked off the Tigers team and did not play this season for a failed drug test.

The Patriots have a knack for taking players with question marks and getting production out of them. And while there is a long bridge to cross between a pre-draft visit and actually suiting up for a team, Mathieu is the type of player the Pats and Bill Belichick have had a history of taking smart gambles on over the years.

Follow me on Twitter @TerryMc13

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

Giants also expressing interest in Pat White

Mobile quarterbacks were the rage in the NFL last season and perhaps that explains why Pat White is in demand again.

After working out for the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday, the New York Giants will take a look. According to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, White will have a workout for the Giants early next week.

A second-round pick by the Miami Dolphins in 2009 from West Virginia, White flopped in the NFL. Now, the 27-year-old is attempting to rekindle his career and his athletic ability has made him attractive to clubs.

The Giants are also expected to meet with former Redskins running back Tim Hightower next week, according to the report.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

The market isn't always what it's cracked up to be

Players are usually eager to enter the free agent market, but it hasn’t been what they were anticipating this year. It has largely been a buyer’s market where teams have exercised more fiscal restraint than in the past. Here’s a look at a couple of positions that have been adversely impacted by the marketplace.

Pass Rushers (4-3 DE/3-4OLB)

Pass rushers are usually at a premium in free agency but that hasn’t been the case this year. Paul Kruger’s five-year, $40.5 million deal (including $20 million guaranteed) with the Cleveland Browns set the market. Cliff Avril played under his $10.605 million franchise tag last season after turning down a three-year, $30 million contract from the Detroit Lions. He needed to sign a two-year, $19.395 million deal in order to break even. Avril lost $6.395 million by turning down Detroit’s offer because he only got a two-year, $13 million deal (with an additional $2.1 million in sack escalators and incentives) from the Seattle Seahawks.

Paul KrugerPaul Kruger was one of the few pass rushers who struck it big this offseason.

Elvis Dumervil became a free agent on March 15th because of a paperwork snafu on his renegotiated contract with the Denver Broncos that reduced his 2013 salary from $12 million to $8 million. He received $500,000 more that he was scheduled to make in 2013 from the Broncos renegotiation in the five-year, $26 million deal (includes $11 million in guarantees) he subsequently signed with the Baltimore Ravens. The contract is worth up to $35 million because it contains $9 million in base salary escalators. Kamerion Wimbley was released by the Oakland Raiders around the same time as Dumervil last year, but fared much better. He signed a five-year, $35 million contract ($13.5 million in guarantees) with the Tennessee Titans.

Chris Long should be thankful he signed a four-year, $48.2 million contract extension ($36.76 million in guarantees) with the St. Louis Rams as training camp opened last season. It’s hard to imagine him getting a similar deal as an unrestricted free agent under current market conditions.

Cornerbacks

Sean Smith reportedly entered free agency seeking a contract between the Jason McCourty ($8.608 million average per year, $17 million in guarantees) and Brandon Carr/Cortland Finnegan neighborhoods ($10 million average per year, $26.5 million-$27 million in guarantees). He settled for a three-year, $16.5 million contract (with $10.915 million in guarantees and an additional $1.5 million in escalators and incentives) from the Kansas City Chiefs. His deal is at the top of this year’s cornerback market with the three-year, $17 million contract ($10.5 million in guarantees and an additional $2 million in escalators and incentives) Cary Williams received from the Philadelphia Eagles. Interestingly, the Chiefs gave Stanford Routt a three-year, $18 million deal (worth up to $19.6 million through a 2014 base salary escalator) last year after the Oakland Raiders released him towards the end of the 2012 league year.

Derek Cox, Chris Houston, Keenan Lewis and Greg Toler signed multi-year deals averaging in the $5 million per year neighborhood. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Aqib Talib took a different approach by signing one-year deals worth $5 million since they weren’t able to find suitable long-term deals. Eric Wright’s five-year, $37.5 million contract (with $14 million in guarantees that were voided because of his performance enhancing drugs suspension) may have been one of their salary benchmarks.

The average salary for starting cornerbacks was $4,761,222 in 2012, which was 49.5% greater than the 2012 average salary for starting safeties. It doesn’t seem like it considering some of the dynamics in the safety market. LaRon Landry and William Moore signed long term deals averaging $6 million per year with $14 million in guarantees. Glover Quin’s five-year deal with the Detroit Lions averaging $4.7 million per year is also comparable to the multi-year deals in the cornerback market.

Slot Wide Receivers

Wes WelkerWelker may have gotten less than he was hoping for, but he gets to play for a Super Bowl contender.

The New England Patriots didn’t make much of an effort to re-sign Wes Welker despite him averaging 112 catches and 1,243 receiving yards per year since joining the team in 2007. Welker was given a two-year, $10 million offer that was worth up to $16 million with incentives. In order to earn the incentives, Welker would have been required to sustain his level of play from his previous six seasons in New England, which may have had a difficult if the Patriots planned on using him the way they were before Aaron Hernandez was sidelined by an ankle injury last season. Since Welker wanted to play for a Super Bowl contender, he turned down more money from another team to sign a two-year, $12 million contract with the Denver Broncos.

The Patriots quickly replaced Welker by signing Danny Amendola to a five-year, $28.5 million deal (with $10 million in guarantees and an additional $500,000 of incentives each year for receptions). Neither one of these deals measure up to the five-year, $36.3 million contract (including $18 million in guarantees) Marques Colston received from the New Orleans Saints last year to forego free agency.

Follow me on Twitter: @corryjoel

Joel Corry is a former sports agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertainment, a sports management firm that represents professional athletes and coaches. Prior to his tenure at Premier, Joel worked for Management Plus Enterprises, which represented Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ronnie Lott. You can email Joel at jccorry@gmail.com

Umenyiora calls Falcons 'most talented team that I've probably seen'

Osi Umenyiora brings with him two Super Bowl rings to the Atlanta Falcons.

So, it was interesting when he was introduced with the team on Thursday and said, “This team is the most talented team that I've probably seen in my life.”

There you go. The Falcons certainly are hoping he adds a missing element to their postseason equation as a pass rusher. It is likely Atlanta will seek to fortify its line in the upcoming draft but for now Umenyiora takes the place of the departed John Abraham.

The Falcons netted Umenyiora with a two-year contract that is worth a base value of $8.5 million. He’s lived in Atlanta for a decade and has a son that is a Falcons fan, so this was an easy decision.

It was weird having a son that's a Falcons fan, but it is what it is,” Umenyiora said, according to NFL.com. “This is where I plan on living the rest of my life.

“I wouldn't even allow myself to dream this big. As soon as I came and visited, my mind was set. I didn't want to take any other trips.”

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune