All signs Thursday pointed toward Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith receiving a contract extension sooner rather than later. Now, it's official. Smith and the Bears agreed to a two-year contract extension, the financial terms of which were not immediately announced Friday. This will keep Smith with the Bears through the 2013 season, rewarding him for this year's unexpected appearance in the NFC title game. "Of course I feel great about the extension," Smith said from the NFL scouting combine. The new deal also runs the same length as that of general manager Jerry Angelo. "Jerry and I work together well," Smith said. "We feel like we're a good combination. "
Niners coach Jim Harbaugh continues to speak highly of Alex Smith, while general manager Trent Baalke remains mostly mum on the team's incumbent quarterback. Speaking at the NFL combine Thursday, Harbaugh said contract "talks are going on" between the 49ers and Smith's representatives. They have a week to finalize a deal to bring back the free-agent quarterback for a seventh year because the collective bargaining agreement will expire Thursday. "I very much like Alex," Harbaugh said. "I like being around Alex. I had an opportunity to evaluate the tape, and I think he's a very good football player. That being said, we're going to make the decision to bring in the best quarterbacks that we possibly can to compete for the starting quarterback job. "I'm hopeful that Alex, an unrestricted free agent, will choose that his next team he plays with, the fresh start, is with the San Francisco 49ers." Baalke was more guarded when he was asked about Smith. "Right now we're treating him as we do every other free-agent quarterback," he said. Smith might yet decide to test his value to other teams, but Baalke said that wouldn't influence the 49ers' draft plans. Not even with a lockout looming, and free agency possibly coming after the April draft. "You've got to be ready regardless," Baalke said. "You have to have a plan for free agency. You have to have a trade plan. You have to have a plan for the draft. The order of it, obviously, if it was a traditional order, it would make it easier for us to make decisions. But you got to be prepared. It's an obstacle and we're prepared for it."
Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman acknowledged Thursday that Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson's contract is "going to have to get addressed," once a new collective bargaining agreement is in place. Peterson wants a contract extension. He is due to make an eye-popping $10.720 million base salary in 2011, the final season of his rookie contract. Peterson is technically signed for 2012 but that year of the deal will void. The NFL did not have a salary cap in 2010, but if one returns Peterson's cap figure would be $12.775 million for this coming season, and the Vikings would like to restructure that.
The Vikings decision to place their franchise tag on linebacker Chad Greenway this week caused some questions about whether consideration was given to putting that designation on receiver Sidney Rice. Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman declined to provide much insight into the matter Thursday as he addressed a group of reporters at the NFL scouting combine. "I'm not going to go into what our internal discussions were," he said. "We made a decision that Chad was our franchise [player], and hopefully we'll be able to get Sidney under contract this year." Greenway has yet to sign the franchise tender, but is expected to in the coming days.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he has "one major issue" with the offensive line this offseason — re-signing Marshal Yanda. "That's going to be a priority for us," Harbaugh said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. Yanda, the Ravens' most versatile offensive lineman, is expected to be an unrestricted free agent when the new collective bargaining agreement is signed. A third-round pick in 2007, he started at right guard in 2009 and at right tackle in 2010. "I think he's a good player obviously, a very good player," Harbaugh said. "He's one of my favorite guys. He knows that. As a coach, you want those guys back. Other than that, we should be in pretty good shape……
Jeremy Shockey views Miami as his adopted home. The former Hurricane standout lives in South Florida during the offseason and comes home at every opportunity. It's possible the former Pro Bowl tight end could call South Florida his permanent home pretty soon. According to a league source Shockey, who was released by the Saints earlier this week to avoid paying him the $4.2 million he was due, took and passed a physical for the Miami Dolphins, which are in the market for a seam threat tight end to complement Anthony Fasano. "If you know me you know I'm going to look at every acorn that falls off the tree. He's another one so I'm going to do that," General Manager Jeff Ireland said………
In this offseason of discontent for the Bengals, the person most frustrated remains one of the central topics of conversation. Carson Palmer's request to be traded could make the Bengals consider taking a quarterback with their No. 4 pick in next month's NFL Draft. But of the quarterbacks in Indianapolis for the scouting combine, a franchise player might not exist. Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Auburn's Cam Newton have emerged as the two most likely to be selected in the top 10 of the draft, to be held April 28-30 in New York. But both quarterbacks would have to prove they can adjust to an NFL-style offensive scheme. The differences on offense in college and pro ball can be profound, especially for a quarterback.
Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey and General Manager Buddy Nix acknowledged defense is where the Bills have to focus a lot of their attention in filling out the roster this offseason. "Defense is where we're the thinnest," Gailey told The News in an interview. "We'll address all of that here in the next couple months. We'll make sure we take care of the needs going into the season." Nix said the draft is especially deep on the defensive line and at outside linebacker. "Defensive ends, defensive tackles and outside linebacker," Nix said. "That to me are the deepest areas. Defensive end is deeper than I can remember." The Bills are in need of a defensive end in the wake of last week's release of Marcus Stroud. Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson and Alex Carrington are the three incumbent defensive ends on the roster.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't want to lose free agents such as right guard Davin Joseph, linebacker Quincy Black and tackle Jeremy Trueblood, and they're taking every step possible to make sure they don't. Though a new Collective Bargaining Agreement could render them meaningless, the Bucs have sent restricted free-agent tender letters to all of their players preparing to test the market as unrestricted free agents. The tenders are for players whose contracts are set to expire in March and who have between four and six years of NFL service. Those players are expected to be unrestricted free agents, but the outcome of the CBA negotiations could change that.
The perceived needs of the Indianapolis Colts moving forward are many, but all are in lock step behind an obvious leader. A strong argument can be made that upgrades in certain areas -- defensive tackle, safety -- won't matter unless significant improvement is realized along the offensive line. And that starts with the high-profile left tackle position. The good news? The April 28-30 draft should offer immediate help. The Colts hold six selections, including the 22nd overall. "I believe that guy will be there for Indy," predicted NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock. It might be Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, Boston College's Anthony Castonzo, Colorado's Nate Solder, USC's Tyron Smith or Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod. All are in town for the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Green Bay Packers chose not to use a franchise or transition tag on any of their impending free agents and for defensive end Cullen Jenkins it means just one thing: He's out of here. After the deadline passed Thursday afternoon for NFL teams to apply the restrictive tag to their free agents, Jenkins said his chances of remaining with the Packers were slim and none. "I'm 99% sure something won't happen," Jenkins said when asked in a phone interview from his home in Michigan whether there was a chance the Packers could re-sign him before the start of free agency. "Not at this point. You get to a point where you want to go where you feel you're wanted. "
Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley apparently isn't the only player the Steelers hope to sign to a long-term deal. Director of football operations Kevin Colbert said Thursday the Steelers have had talks with cornerback Ike Taylor about a new contract. Taylor, who just completed his eighth season — sixth as a starter — becomes an unrestricted free agent after March 3. The Steelers could have used a transition tag on him — paying him the average salary of the 10 highest-paid cornerbacks in 2010 — and likely bought more negotiating time with him. Although they declined to offer Taylor a one-year deal worth $11.82 million, Colbert said bringing back the Steelers' top cornerback is one of the team's priorities.
David Harris signed his one-year franchise tender Wednesday night, a source confirmed to the Daily News. The Jets placed the franchise tag designation on the veteran linebacker less than three weeks ago. Harris, the team's leading tackler last season, will earn the average of the Top 5 players at his position in 2011, which is expected to be slightly more than $10 million.
The Jaguars will most likely keep their Pro Bowl tight end for at least another year. Jacksonville placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on Marcedes Lewis on Wednesday, unable to reach a long-term deal. The Jaguars will continue to negotiate with Lewis' representation until March 3, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires. After that, they will have to wait until a new collective bargaining agreement is in place before resuming negotiations. Because the tag is non-exclusive, Lewis can negotiate with other teams once the free agency period begins after a new CBA deal is reached. But any other team would have to give the Jaguars two first-round draft picks in order to sign Lewis.
Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley's salary jumped exponentially Wednesday when he signed a one-year franchise tender with the Steelers. The question now is whether there will be an NFL season in 2011. With players facing a potential lockout by NFL owners next week, Woodley acted quickly to sign the tender. He is the first player designated with a team's franchise tag — the Steelers placed theirs on Woodley on Friday — to sign his tender this offseason. After making $550,000 last season in the final year of his rookie contract, Woodley will earn about $10.1 million next season. That is the average salary for the top five highest-paid players at his position last season.
A few months ago, former Jaguars defensive end Paul Spicer put in a call to the office of Paul Vance, the Jaguars' senior vice president of football operations and general counsel, saying he wanted to retire a Jaguar. On Monday, Vance called Spicer to tell him the Jaguars would indeed make that happen. The Jaguars signed Spicer to a one-day deal Tuesday and placed him on the retired/reserve list Wednesday. "If it wasn't for the organization giving me the opportunity to come in as a free agent, undrafted ... they ultimately made the decision to keep me," Spicer said. "... I'm not a New Orleans Saint. I'm always going to be a Jaguar at heart……."
"The Carolina Panthers did not elect to use the franchise tag on Charles Johnson or DeAngelo Williams Tuesday. That does not mean they're simply turning them out into the wilds of free agency, with little chance to retain their stars emerging and established. Johnson and Williams will be part of a large class of players with four years experience or more who under the old rules would have been unrestricted free agents. If a collective bargaining agreement is reached soon, they may still. But until a CBA is reached, they'll be treated the way players such as Thomas Davis and Richard Marshall were a year ago, with restricted free agent tenders.
Rams general manager Billy Devaney headed to Indiana on Wednesday for the NFL scouting combine secure in the knowledge that there will be a player worth getting excited about at No. 14 overall. In fact, he thinks there will be several such players available when it's time to pick in the first round of the NFL draft April 28. "No question," Devaney said. "We know that already. There's going to be a cluster of guys there — and really good players. That's a given." So much so that Devaney and the Rams' front office already are playing "fantasy football" about the possibility of trading down from No. 14. "Gosh, it'd be great if we get there and there's three or four guys that we really love, ," Devaney said. "Where we say we'd be happy with any of those guys and then we can move back a little bit, knowing that chances are you still may have a shot at one of those four guys. That's the best scenario to be in. Oh yeah, we've already started."
Obviously, there are a lot more variables when you're picking 14th as opposed to first or second, as has been the case the previous three drafts. So Devaney says the Rams have to be ready for anything."It'll start getting clearer and clearer as we get closer," Devaney said. "There'll be the obvious top five or top seven (prospects) — we'll see how that goes. At 14, there'll be a cluster of names. But we'll have a fairly good idea who's going to be there."Conventional wisdom says the Rams should take Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones if he's still on the board at 14. Entering the combine, Jones is generally considered the second-best receiver in the draft behind Georgia's A.J. Green. And together, Green and Jones are considered the only surefire first-rounders at wide receiver this year."If Julio's there, I think they probably sprint up to the podium with the card," said draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network. "I think he's a real logical fit and I think they have to start complementing Sam Bradford. They've got to get some talent out wide. So I think he's the most logical guy in the entire draft for them at 14. And to me, I think that's where he goes, somewhere between 10 and 18. He probably won't get past St. Louis if he's there."