Posted on: July 26, 2011 12:49 pm

Ten impactful UDFA signings thus far

Over the past 16 hours or so I've watched as veteran NFL reporters all over the country have taken to undrafted free agency with a feeding frenzy to try to capture the excitement that the scouts and fans all feel now that football is back.

As such, we're seeing undrafted free agents from Goofball State that have very limited chance at actually making an NFL roster being celebrated as if they were a team's first round pick. The reality is that many of the players being signed and celebrated today won't last long.

There are plenty of exceptions, however. These are the ten impactful free agent signings as I see them this morning.

NGs Ian Williams/Sealver Siliga -- 49ers: With incumbent starter Aubrayo Franklin likely to leave via free agency, the 49ers had a hole up front. Williams and Siliga were the two best interior run stuffers available in my opinion. In adding both of them, San Francisco helped themselves at this position as much as could be expected at this early point in the process.

WR Dane Sanzenbacher -- Bears: Sanzenbacher wasn't my highest rated WR available in undrafted free agency (Terrance Toliver was -- he reportedly signed with Houston), but he is a perfect fit for a Mike Martz offense due to his sharp route-running, toughness and reliable hands. Sanzenbacher can make this team and he'll do so by becoming one of Jay Cutler's favorite targets.

QB Adam Weber -- Broncos: Signing Weber almost surely means that the Broncos are going to attempt to move veteran Kyle Orton. I know that Weber was being looked at by a number of teams. He doesn't possess the ideal measureables as he's shorter and owns less of an arm than some talents available, but he's a gutty gunslinger who I could see sticking.

DE Brandon Bair -- Chiefs: I've been quite critical of several of the Chiefs' decisions with their 2011 draft class, but I love the signing of Bair as a developmental defensive end for their 3-4 scheme. Physically and mentally tough, he'll fit right in with this club.

TE Mike McNeill -- Colts: Colts fans saw how relatively easy it was for Indianapolis to continue to feature their athletic tight ends even after losing Dallas Clark to injury because Jacob Tamme is a receiver hybrid with good hands and athleticism. McNeill is cut from the same cloth.

RB Graig Cooper -- Eagles: It isn't that I think Cooper is going to wrestle away significant playing time from LeSean McCoy any time soon, but Cooper (when healthy) has shown starting caliber traits. Cooper is one of several nice signings by Philadelphia.

WRs Kerry Taylor/Tori Gurley -- Packers: The Packers are likely to get some competition for the rights to James Jones and love to push their incumbent receivers with young talent. Taylor and Gurley are each talented players who struggled with injury and inconsistency throuhgout their respective careers but could surprise.

LB Jeff Tarpinian -- Patriots: I spoke to several teams in the days preceding the draft that thought Tarpinian could go as high as the fifth round due to the relative lack of talent at linebacker in this class. Injuries pushed him to free agency. The Patriots could get rewarded for this gamble.

DE Pierre Allen -- Seahawks: Allen was viewed as a 4th-5th round pick by NFLDraftScout.com for much of the pre-draft process, but a nagging hamstring injury kept him from running prior to the draft. As such, he slipped into free agency. Seattle has a myriad of needs, but few loom larger than along the defensive line. Allen could be the crown jewel of what appears to be one of the better free agent classes in the league. 

RB John Clay -- Steelers: A perfect schematic fit, the bruising Clay would give the Steelers the interior power runner that they've often featured in Pittsburgh. If he's motivated (and he certainly should be), Clay could add a degree of size and physicality to this running game.

Posted on: April 29, 2011 1:12 pm

Ravens want Bears' 4th-rounder from botched trade

The Baltimore Ravens want the fourth-round pick they were seeking from the Chicago Bears when the clock ran out on their 26th pick in the first round Thursday night.

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo has apologized for the botched trade, and sources told The Chicago Tribune that Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti told the Bears and commissioner Roger Goodell about his displeasure with how the situation unfolded.

NFL senior vice president of public relations Greg Aiello told The Tribune in an email that, "We are looking into it." However, the league is not expected to take any official action.

The Bears and Ravens were discussing a trade that would have given Baltimore the 29th overall pick and a fourth-round pick to allow Chicago to move up three spots. The Bears wanted Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi, who they eventually landed at No. 29 anyway.

The confusion came when Angelo said a pair of Bears staff members thought the other was phoning in the trade. The call never happened and time expired on the Ravens' pick. Kansas City was next on the clock, and jumped in to select Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin. The Ravens then took Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, who they were believed to have been targeting in the first place, with the 27th pick.

"It was our fault," Angelo said. "They did everything according to the rules. ... We had a disconnect. Whatever you hear, Baltimore did everything right."

However, Baltimore believes it should have had Chicago's fourth-round pick based on a trade that was agreed to by both sides but botched by the Bears.

--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor
Category: NFL Draft
Posted on: April 25, 2011 1:45 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 7:41 pm

NFL's PR play will create awkward draft viewing

The public relations digs from both sides in the labor dispute have hit full tilt since the lockout began, with neither side wanting to miss an opportunity to win additional public sentiment.

You can almost feel the NFL and the players looking at the invisible pendulumn swinging and just waiting for an opportunity to push gravity in their favor.

The NFLPA immediately retreated amid strong backlash when word leaked out that the union would encourage prospects invited to the draft to skip the event at Radio City Music Hall and instead attend union-sponsored events in NYC.

Sensing the momentum, the NFL is going to squeeze every ounce of PR juice out of the door opened by the NFLPA's slip up. The league announced that a record 25 prospects have accepted invitations to attend Thursday night's first round festivities in primetime.

That's not including several who were invited but have chosen to stay home to watch the first round with their families, including quarterbacks Jake Locker and Colin Kaepernick. But it does include a host of players considered fringe first-round prospects by NFLDraftScout.com.

It could make for an uncomfortable scene late in the stanza as 5-6 prospects will likely be sitting in the "green room" as commentators discuss what a great value they'll make 24 hours later. Among those could be Kentucky WR Randall Cobb, UCLA S Rahim Moore, Baylor NT Phil Taylor, Baylor OL Danny Watkins and Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams. And a few others could slide into the category as the night wears on.

Boston College LB Mark Herzlich will also be in attendance, but the cancer survivor has an inspirational story and isn't expected to be selected until at least the middle rounds (he's projected as a sixth-round value by NFLDraftScout.com.

Update: The NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reported that Herzlich will be announced with the others and take part in a group photo, but then will be allowed to stay as long as he likes or leave to be with friends and family. That's a sensible approach for a compelling prospect who likely won't hear his name called until Saturday - if at all.

--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor
Posted on: April 21, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 12:10 pm

Draft previews: Eagles, Bears

Philadelphia Eagles 2010 record: 10-6, first place NFC East

2011 draft rundown    10 total picks (round): 23 (1); 54 (2); 85 (3); 104 (4); 120 (4); 149 (5); 153 (5); 227 (7); 237 (7); 240 (7)

   --The Eagles were awarded two seventh-round compensatory picks. The picks were awarded as compensation for the free-agent loss of DE Jason Babin and S Sean Jones.

Top needs:    Defensive end: Last year, the Eagles were concerned enough about their pass rush to trade up 11 spots in the first round of the draft and select Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham with the 13th overall pick. They also took another defensive end, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, in the third round and acquired yet another end - Darryl Tapp - in a trade. Despite all of that, defensive end remains a major need for them heading into next month's draft. The Eagles had just 39 sacks last season, including 15 in their last eight games. Their inconsistent pass-rush was a major factor in why they gave up a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes. Graham tore his ACL late in the season and isn't expected to be ready to play until well into the season.    Cornerback: The Eagles had 23 interceptions last season, but gave up a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes and had the worst red-zone defense in the league in nearly a quarter of a century. Their left corner, Asante Samuel, is a ball-hawking Pro Bowler. But they've got to find somebody on the other side to complement him. Last year's starter, Ellis Hobbs, suffered a career-threatening neck injury and probably won't be back.    Outside linebacker: The Eagles never have put a high premium on the position, but they need to change their thinking. They traded for weak-side linebacker Ernie Sims, but he was a bust. Strong-side linebacker Moise Fokou is a decent run-stopper, but isn't very good in coverage.    Right tackle: With quarterback Michael Vick being lefthanded, this is his blind side. Last year's starter, Winston Justice, didn't have a very good year. Coach Andy Reid talked up backup King Dunlap at the NFL meetings, but they need to go out and get a stud.

First-round focus
24th overall   -- After giving up a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes last season, the Eagles are badly in need of help at cornerback and coach Andy Reid, known for drafting offensive and defensive linemen in the early rounds, has said directly that the team also has to address the linebacker position.    Left cornerback Asante Samuel, a three-time Pro Bowler, is the best ballhawk in the league. He's got 16 interceptions over the last two seasons and 36 in the last five years. No defensive back in the league has more. The problem rests on the other side. Since trading Sheldon Brown after the '09 season, the right cornerback spot has been unsettled. Ellis Hobbs, who had been acquired in a trade with New England the year before, opened last season as the starter on the right side before a hip injury slowed him down. When he returned, he suffered a season-ending neck injury, his second in as many seasons, and might never play again. Joselio Hanson proved he's more effective in the slot and Trevard Lindley, a fourth-round pick in 2010, was ready for a full-time role as a rookie. Dimitri Patterson might improve, but the Eagles don't want to count on him as a starter after he was torched consistently last season.    Since there's no guarantee free agency will be an avenue for padding the roster at any position, the Eagles have to consider a top cornerback in the draft. The talent level dips dramatically after projected top-15 picks Patrick Peterson of LSU and Prince Amukamara of Nebraska. That could lead Reid to another offensive lineman. With a need at right tackle, Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi might be a natural fit.

Five names on Eagles' board:    --CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska    --CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado    --OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin    --OT Nate Solder, Colorado    --LB Martez Wilson, Illinois


Chicago Bears 2010 record: 11-5, first place NFC North

2011 draft rundown    Six total picks (round): 29 (1); 62 (2); 93 (3); 127 (4); 160 (5); 195 (6)

Top needs:    Offensive line: Line coach Mike Tice spent a good portion of last season trying to figure out who the Bears' best five were. After he did, the line showed improvement, but was never better than mediocre. Additional young talent is a must. Jay Cutler was sacked 52 times in 15 games last season, more than anyone in the NFL. Center Olin Kreutz will be 34 before training camp begins and right guard Roberto Garza just turned 32. There is some youth on the roster, but left guard Chris Williams and right tackle J'Marcus Webb are already starting, but not entrenched. Left tackle Frank Omiyale got better over the course of the season, but there is still much room for improvement, and he might be better suited at right tackle.    Defensive tackle: Anthony Adams is unrestricted and Tommie Harris has been released. Even if the Bears re-sign the underrated, underappreciated Adams, which they should, they badly need a 3-technique tackle to replace Harris. Marcus Harrison has been a career underachiever, but solid, blue-collar worker Matt Toeaina was given a contract extension.    Linebacker: The Bears cannot ignore their thin situation here, with just two players under contract. Pisa Tinoisamoa started 10 games last season at strong-side linebacker, and Nick Roach started the other six, plus 15 in 2009 when Tinoisamoa was injured for most of the season. But both are free agents, as are backups Brian Iwuh and Rod Wilson. That leaves only Pro Bowlers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.    Wide receiver: There is some big-play ability here, especially with Johnny Knox and Devin Hester. Earl Bennett is a solid and reliable possession guy, but there is a crying need for a big, physical player who can win jump balls.

First-round focus   29th overall   --The Bears are prime candidates to trade out of this spot. Their obvious needs are on both lines -- offensive line, defensive line -- but the pickings figure to be slim at this juncture of the first round.   That won't present any unique challenge to GM Jerry Angelo, who hasn't made a pick in the first round of the past two drafts. And given the way their 2008 first-round pick, Chris Williams, has worked out, perhaps Angelo and the Bears are better off picking in the middle rounds.   They've mined some fine talent over the years in the second round and third round, plucking Danieal Manning (42, 2006), Devin Hester (57, 2006), Kyle Orton (106, 2005), Charles Tillman (35, 2003) and Lance Briggs (68, 2003) after Round One.   Offers should be there for the Bears to slide back, especially given the heightened interest in second-tier quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Andy Dalton (TCU) and Christian Ponder (Florida State).   If the Bears wind up in the middle of the second round via a deal with Buffalo, Cincinnati or Jacksonville, their shopping list might shift to include the best available wide receiver, cornerback or outside linebacker. Those three positions should turn up fine value in the pick 35-50 range.

Five names on Bears' board:    --CB Brandon Harris, Miami (Fla.)    --CB-FS Aaron Williams, Texas    --OT Nate Solder, Colorado    --OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State    --OL Danny Watkins, Baylor

--Jeff Reynolds, Senior Editor, NFLDraftScout.com
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Bears, Draft, Eagles
Posted on: March 15, 2011 6:29 pm

Pouncey "a star," Black slow at Florida Pro Day

All 32 NFL teams were on hand to see Mike Pouncey and the rest of the Florida Gators go through their Pro Day today in Gainesville.

Pouncey was the unquestioned center attraction at the event, as numerous offensive line coaches attended the event, as well as general managers (Jacksonville's Gene Smith) and head coaches (New England's Bill Belichick). The Jaguars' Andy Heck, Bears' Mike Tice, and Steelers' Sean Kugler were among the offensive line coaches in attendance.

Pouncey did not do any of the timed drills after a strong performance at the Scouting Combine, but did do 24 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press.

He also performed very well in positional drills, according to a scout on hand for the workout. The scout characterized Pouncey as "a star" and said, "He is everything you're looking for in an interior lineman. He's a carbon copy of his brother."

Mike's brother, of course, is the Steelers' Maurkice Pouncey, who earned a spot on the Pro Bowl team with a standout rookie season at center for the AFC Champions.

Pouncey, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated interior lineman , is currently projected to be the No. 22 pick in the 2011 draft by the Indianapolis Colts in my recent mock draft. My fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter has him going 25th overall to the Seattle Seahawks .

This is a relatively down year of prospects for the Gators, with only two other Florida prospects being viewed as potential middle round prospects.

Another lineman, Marcus Gilbert, could make the third round. The 6-6, 330 pounder helped his cause, according to the scout with a solid performance today. A left tackle for the Gators, he projects best on the right side in the NFL.

Perhaps the player with the most on the line in today's workout was safety Ahmad Black. The diminutive Black (5-09, 184) needed a strong workout today to erase the concerns that were raised at the Combine due to disappointing times in the 40-yard dash. Black registered between 4.70-4.82 at Indianapolis and wasn't much faster in Gainesville today, unfortunately.

Scouts love his instincts and penchant for the game-changing play, but in posting another pair of 4.7s in the forty (my source had him at 4.74, 4.76), he could slip to the last two rounds of the draft.

"The kid plays fast, there's no question. But at that size and speed, it is going to be tough to convince a DB coach to get on board during [draft] meetings," the source said about Black.
Posted on: September 8, 2010 9:06 pm

'Tis the season, so here are my NFL predictions

My CBS collegeagues Clark Judge and Pete Prisco made their NFL predictions here and here .

I thought I'd chime in with my thoughts, as well.

AFC East: Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, Bills
AFC North: Ravens, Bengals*, Steelers, Browns
AFC South: Colts, Texans*, Titans, Jaguars
AFC West: Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos

NFC East: Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Redskins
NFC North: Packers, Vikings*, Lions, Bears
NFC South: Saints, Falcons,* Panthers, Buccaneers
NFC West: 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks, Rams

*Wildcard teams

Super Bowl pick: Packers over Ravens

MVP: QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers. Most talented combination of QB, skill position and OL. He's a strong, strong favorite in my mind.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings. Favre struggles this time, so Viks are forced to rely on AP (who gets over the fumblitis). 
Defensive Player of the Year: ILB Patrick Willis, 49ers: When Willis leads the league in tackles this time (he did in 2010), fans will notice as the 49ers will run away with the NFC West (and potentially a bye).
Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers. Mathews has talent and Norv Turner is going to give him every opportunity to be a star.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: DE Brandon Graham, Eagles. Perfect fit for this defense. Watch out for Oakland MLB Ro McClain too. Another perfect fit.
Comeback/Breakout Player of the Year: WR Mike Williams, Seahawks. Remember this guy? Pete Carroll does. I've seen it myself . Williams is back.
Stepback Player of the Year: RB Brandon Jacobs, Giants. I considered Favre, but he's too easy of a target with Sidney Rice's injury. Jacobs looked washed up last year and in the preseason. With the Giants giving Ahmad Bradshaw the nod, Jacobs could disappear in 2010.
Team on the Rise: Dolphins. Solid running game, Henne has the arm to keep Brandon Marshall focused, and DC Mike Nolan is among the best in the biz.
Team on the Decline: Bears. Spent their free agent millions on positions of relative strength, rather than their gaping weakness (OL).
Best Free Agent Pickup: DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lions. Love this player for this team. Steady vet helps Suh make this D formidable.
Worst Free Agent Pickup: WR Antonio Bryant, Bengals. Considering he's already off the team, how can there be a worse move?
Posted on: March 31, 2009 11:48 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2009 11:55 pm

Cutler the wild card of 2009 draft


 On the day the young quarterback I've often compared to Jay Cutler did his best to earn the first selection of the 2009 draft, Jay Cutler, himself, threw his own hat into the fray.

Denver Bronco team owner Pat Bowlen released a statement to the media today indicating that conversations with Cutler's agent, James "Bus" Cook has left the Broncos' brass with the understanding "that Jay no longer has any desire to play for the Denver Broncos."

Rather than continue to try and appease the angry quarterback, however, Bowlen went on to state, "We will begin discussions with other teams in an effort to accommodate his request to be traded."

Each of the teams rumored to be interested in drafting a quarterback in the first round -- namely the Lions, Rams, Seahawks, Browns, Jaguars, 49ers, Redskins, Jets, Bears, and Bucs -- are thought to be potentially interested. Of this group, St. Louis, Seattle, Jacksonville, Washington and Chicago have all made the playoffs under their current starting quarterback, and thus, while potentially interested in a young passer to groom, won't necessarily be as interested in adding a veteran -- even one as talented as Cutler -- therefore, leaving the Lions, Browns, 49ers, Jets, and Bucs as the most obvious candidates for the Pro Bowl quarterback.

The going rate for a quarterback of Cutler's age and skills would be at least a first round pick; likely with extra compensation to be had based on Cutler or his new team's performance in 2009.

The Bucs, with only one first day pick -- the 19th overall -- would appear to be in the worst position to bargain of these four teams, as each of the others have their 1st and 2nd round picks in which to barter...


Posted on: March 30, 2009 2:35 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2009 2:36 pm

OT Joel Bell, CB Brian McCain Flying up boards

Each year there are relative unknown players whose eye-popping workouts in February and March force scouts back into the film room. Many times scouts are quick to acknowledge the impressive athleticism of prospects to local media covering the event, but once they review the players on film, realize that the speed, agility and strength shown on the track or weight room doesn't translate onto the field. 

And then, sometimes, there are players whose workouts go well and scouts return to the film room to discover that perhaps they had simply overlooked or undervalued the prospects. Two such players moving up the charts this year are Furman offensive tackle Joel Bell and Utah cornerback Brian McCain.

Bell, a three-time all-conference selection at left tackle, was invited to the Combine and put forth one of the more impressive all-around workouts, earning top-ten marks in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical, broad, 3-cone, and 20-yard shuttle at a shade under 6-7, 315 pounds. His workout was good enough that he didn't need to workout at Furman's Pro Day, though an eye-popping 25 teams still showed up to see him go through positional drills. 

Indianapolis Colts' scout Bob Guarini put Bell through a 20 minute workout while the other team scouts' watched. Besides the Colts, the teams represented were the Eagles, Titans, Saints, Jaguars, Browns, Steelers, Seahawks, Dolphins, Texans, Patriots, Lions, Chiefs, Falcons, Cowboys, Bears, 49ers, Rams, Raiders, Vikings, Bills, Giants, Panthers, Chargers, and the Packers.

Like Bell, Utah's McCain is hardly just a workout wonder, though the workout he put forth at the Ute's Pro Day could technically classify him as one. McCain was clocked in the low 4.3s and the buzz around scouting circles is that he's been timed even faster before. McCain's 20-yard shuttle (3.99) and 3-cone (6.74) drill times would have ranked among the best among the cornerbacks tested in Indianapolis. McCain, however, was not invited to the Combine, despite earning All-Mountain West accolades each of the past three seasons. While fellow defensive Sean Smith has the size scouts covet, McCain is the more athletic of the duo and has the rare speed and agility for man to man coverage. Among the estimated two dozen teams represented at McCain's workout were the Panthers, Lions, Dolphins and Seahawks. Considering the lack of speed shown by this year's cornerback class, some believe McCain could continue to rise as the draft approaches -- perhaps all the way to the 5th round.




The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com