Tag:Josh Katzowitz
Posted on: February 25, 2012 2:51 pm
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: Tight End Rankings

Shiancoe leads what is a fairly unimpressive group of free agent tight ends. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Leading up to the start of free agency on March 13, we're compiling the best 2012 NFL free agents by position. These are the tight ends.

Originally for this post, I listed Jermichael Finley for the No. 1 spot on this list. Obviously, he was an easy call, because he was so obviously the best tight end on the market. Now, though, he’s a signed a two-year deal with the Packers worth about $7.5 million per season, and therefore, the free agent tight end class of 2012 suddenly has grown awfully weak (let’s face it, it wasn’t all that great with Finley on top either).

The best tight ends in the game -- guys like New England’s Rob Gronkowski, New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham, San Francisco’s Vernon Davis and Finley -- are safely secure with their respective teams, and those teams who actually are looking for tight ends will have to draw on a list with very few, if any, top-line playmakers. Considering Gronkowski and Graham are helping to redefine the position, that’s not great news. Nevertheless, here we go.

1. Visanthe Shiancoe

Breakdown: Since catching 56 passes for 566 yards and 11 touchdowns when Brett Favre was throwing to him, Shiancoe’s production has decreased the past two seasons, especially in 2011 when he caught 36 passes for 409 yards and three touchdowns. Since he made $4.5 million last season, it doesn’t seem likely the Vikings will re-sign him. Especially since the Vikings seem high on Kyle Rudolph. But unless Favre is planning to return for another season (and let’s face it, we can never rule out this option), the value of Shiancoe isn’t as high as it once was.

Potential Landing Spots: Giants, Browns

2. Martellus Bennett


Breakdown: Though Bennett doesn’t have impressive receiving numbers, that’s not what he’s called upon to do. Instead, he’ll be one of the more valuable tight ends in free agency because he’s top-notch run blocker. Bennett oftentimes is overshadowed by his teammate Jason Witten, but his worth to the Cowboys is evident every time Bennett steps on the field (it also seems evident, though, that Bennett’s time in Dallas is finished). But in order to get paid tons of money, he needs to show he can catch the ball, and that’s something missing from his arsenal at this point.

Potential Landing Spots: Bears, Broncos, Jets, Bengals

3. Joel Dreessen


Breakdown: Dreessen is a solid tight end, and he’s been an important cog for the Texans as quarterback Matt Schaub, receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster have turned Houston into a consistent top-10 offense in the past three years. He’s not a big-time pass catcher, but he’s a solid run-blocker (as Foster, Ben Tate and Derrick Ward likely would attest). The Texans would like to keep their two tight end set, but assuming Owen Daniels can stay healthy, Dreessen becomes a little more expendable in Houston.
Fred Davis
Potential Landing Spots: Chiefs, Jets, Giants, Texans, Redskins

4. Fred Davis

Breakdown: He’s actually a pretty good candidate to be franchise-tagged by the Redskins (safety LaRon Landry (and his muscles!) is another candidate), and considering he caught 59 passes for 796 yards in 12 games last year in the best season of his career, Davis is a potential emerging star. Unfortunately for Davis, he was suspended for the final four games of the season for a failed drug test, and if he happens to fail another one, he’d be suspended for a year. So, there’s a little bit of a gray cloud following him around, and teams that need a tight end might shy away from a potential off-the-field problem like that.

Potential Landing Spots: Redskins

5. Jeremy Shockey


Breakdown: It was only four years ago when Shockey was considered an elite tight end, good for about 60 catches, 600 yards and six touchdowns per season from 2004-07. He’s been hurt (literally) by injuries, and after the Saints released him in 2010, he was solid enough  last season in Charlotte (though the team did like the toughness he brought to the squad). Shockey has talked about wanting to play in Miami -- he’s also talked apparently about retiring, though it seems like everybody is denying it at that point -- but with Anthony Fasano already entrenched as the Dolphins tight end, Shockey probably would have to be content to play as the No. 2 tight end. He made $4 million last season, and in order to return to the Panthers to play with tight end Greg Olsen, he’d probably have to take a paycut.

Potential Landing Spots: Dolphins, Giants, Panthers
Shockey

6. John Carlson


Breakdown: Carlson missed the entire season with a torn labrum in his shoulder, so there will be plenty of caution surrounding him, even though he’s caught at least 50 passes in two of his first three seasons in the league. Making matters worse, Carlson said in January that he’s not completely healed, estimating that he was only at 90 percent. “Obviously missing the season is not ideal,” he told the Tacoma News Tribune. “But that was the situation I was in. I feel really good. I didn’t beat my body up over the course of the season and my shoulder is repaired.” Carlson is also a solid run-blocker, and he seems like one of those guys who could move into the top-10 of tight ends around the league.

Potential Landing Spots:Seahawks, Rams

7. Jacob Tamme


Breakdown: Like most everybody inside the Indianapolis franchise, Tamme suffered without Peyton Manning around. Playing in place of the injured Dallas Clark, Tamme caught 67 passes for 631 yards and four touchdowns in 2010. Last year, those numbers dropped to 19 for 177 and one. Which obviously is not the kind of season you want to have in a contract year, but it reflects Tamme’s position on the team and, probably, in the league. He’s a solid backup, the No. 2 tight end in a two-tight end set. He has talent, but it’s unclear how much of that was reflected off Manning. He could be a low-risk, somewhat-high reward guy for the right team.

Potential Landing Spots: Colts, Dolphins, Broncos, Bengals

8. Honorable Mention


Unrestricted free agents: Scott Chandler, Reggie Kelly, Daniel Fells
Restricted free agents: None

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 4:26 pm
 

Report: Packers to cut Clifton; redo Driver deal

Cliftonem>By Josh Katzowitz

With the Packers recently agreeing to a two-year contract worth $15 million with tight end Jermichael Finley and with the team trying to figure out what to do with backup quarterback Matt Flynn, Yahoo Sports is reporting that Green Bay will cut left tackle Chad Clifton and restructure receiver Donald Driver’s contract.

If the Packers were to release Clifton and Driver, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out that the team would save about $10 million in the salary cap, which could be enough for it to franchise-tag Flynn (for the likely purposes of trading him somewhere else).

Clifton represents $5.7 million of that salary cap total, but assuming Driver restructures his contract, the Packers will add significantly to the reported $10-13 million they’re already supposedly under the cap. Tagging Flynn, meanwhile, would cost about $14 million for 2012.

While Clifton has been a key component of the Green Bay offense since the 2000 season, he only played six regular-season games last year because of a hamstring injury. Though Clifton returned for the playoffs, Marshall Newhouse played well enough in replacing Clifton that the Packers must believe he’s ready to take over the job full time.

Newhouse wasn’t great, especially in early performances, but compared to Clifton’s $5.5 million salary, the Packers could be looking at Newhouse’s $490,000 base salary for 2012 and figuring that Clifton is not 10 times the player Newhouse is.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 2:59 pm
 

Luck, Griffin won't throw at combine this week

GriffinBy Josh Katzowitz

We already knew that Robert Griffin III wasn’t planning on throwing at the scouting combine -- he confirmed that today in his talk with the media (while wearing Ninja Turtle socks!) by saying he didn’t want to throw to unfamiliar receivers.

And while there was a report that Andrew Luck wanted to throw but was told not to do so by the Colts (the team denies saying that), he confirmed today that he also won’t be showcasing his arm this weekend.

As CBSSports.com’s Clark Judge notes, Luck said he made the decision not to throw after conferring with his father.

Also, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon won’t be running the 40 at the combine. As NFLDraftScout.com’s Rob Rang writes, Blackmon injured his hamstring last week and though Blackmon said he might participate in a few short routes during receiver drills, he “won't do anything this week that requires ‘opening up’ and threaten his ability to perform at the Cowboys' March 7 Pro Day.”

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 11:59 am
Edited on: February 24, 2012 12:21 pm
 

Tim Tebow and Fred Durst: BFFs?

Can Tebow help resurrect Fred Durst's career? Let's hope not. (Getty Images)
By Josh Katzowitz

Tim Tebow and Limp Bizkit vocalist singer crooner screamer Fred Durst had dinner together Wednesday night in West Hollywood, according to a report in the New York Post. Now, some of you might be surprised to hear that, considering Durst’s nu-metal band and Tebow’s brand of philosophy and religion probably don’t mesh all that well together.

But if you think about it, OF COURSE they’d be friendly enough to have dinner together. If there’s any way to turn Limp Bizkit from a terrible creation into something that’s, at best, mediocre, it’d be Tebow’s healing touch.

And since Tebow is into performing miracles, it makes perfect sense that he’d try to save Durst’s floundering career.

Besides, if there’s anybody who can convince Durst to never again screw around with classic songs by George Michael, it’s Tim Tebow. If there’s anybody who can stop Durst from writing lyrics like, “I did it all for the nookie, c’mon/The nookie, c’mon/So you can take that cookie/And stick it up your yeah!” it’s Tim Tebow. And if there’s anybody who can demand Durst never (EVER) end up on a sex tape that somehow gets leaked to the public, it’s Tim Tebow.

Or I could be totally wrong about their conversation. In fact, let’s have a little fun*. Give me your best guess on what the two talked about during their dinner date. Be like Tebow, though (and not like Durst), and keep it clean. Otherwise, we’ll treat like you Limp Bizkit and try to forget we ever heard from you.

*In a perfect world, this contest would have a prize of the Limp Bizkit CD of your choice. But I figured that would be more of a deterrent than a prize, so forget it.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 11:12 am
 

Tyron Smith, Doug Free to switch sides for Dallas

Dallas coach Jason Garrett said Thursday he would move Smith to left tackle next year. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

When the Cowboys selected Tyron Smith with the No. 9 pick in the 2011 draft, they certainly didn’t make that move to keep him at right tackle. So, after only a season in that position while Doug Free manned the left side, Dallas coach Jason Garrett said the team has decided to make a change, moving Smith to the left side and returning Free back to the right.

"The versatility that Tyron has coming out is something that we were really attracted to,” Garrard said Thursday at the scouting combine (via the Fort Worth Star Telegram). “He was a right tackle in college. We felt like he had the physical traits to play left tackle and the same thing with Doug Free. We felt like he could play either side."

While Smith was playing well enough to be considered one of the top right tackles in the game last year, according to Pro Football Focus, Free struggled on the left side, allowing 10 sacks and 34 quarterback pressures. The Cowboys also gave Smith a few snaps at left tackle last year, and obviously, he impressed Dallas enough to make the move a permanent one. 

While CBSSports.com’s Andy Benoit pointed out in December that Smith was exploited at times early in the season by “wily defenders,” Benoit also wrote that Smith improved faster than some could have expected.

"We feel like he is ready to make that move now,” Garrett said. “We're just trying to come up with the best combination."

As PFF writes, it’s the move that makes the most sense, writing in December, “Regardless of how Dallas’ season ends they will feel reassured in the knowledge that  they’ve found a stud of a tackle for the future in the shape of the youngest player in the league, Tyron Smith … The rookie right tackle has been exceptional all year …  It’s rare to see a tackle come out and play so well, but Smith has been just that good. A move to the left side next year will surely provide him with some new challenges. If he handles the transition in the same manner that he’s handled his move to the NFL coming from Southern California I’ll be betting on him to succeed.”

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 9:55 am
 

NFL looking at more changes to the combine

Can you imagine this image with two players running the 40? The NFL can. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Although the vision of two scouting combine participants racing down the lanes during the 40-yard run might be fun for the fans to watch and could enliven the atmosphere inside the building, that potential change to the scouting schedule doesn’t necessarily sit well with NFL executives.

As we told you Thursday, the NFL is changing the approach of how scouts time the 40, moving to using fully automated timing (electronic devices will be used for the start and finish), and Friday, the New York Times wrote the league is considering changing the 40’s setup so that two combine participants would race against each other.

The Times also discusses the possibility of players participating in the 225-pound bench press at the same time next to each other, quoting Eric Grubman, the executive vice president of N.F.L. ventures and business operations, as saying, “We would not want to do something that was just good for television, or just good for the fans, if it were at the expense of either the football evaluation or the players’ preparation. It’s a balancing act. The combine works.”

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Not necessarily, according to Texans general manager Rick Smith, who wrote this on his Twitter account Friday morning: “If the NFL is serious about players racing against each other at Combine so long to players working out there. Beyond stupid.”

The changes made likely would begin at the smaller, regional combines before moving to the main one in Indianapolis, but the league also can expect more resistance from team executives.

More from the Times.
While teams often conduct private workouts with players they are most seriously considering drafting -- and certainly with those who will probably be selected highest in the draft -- the combine provides something that football people value. It’s a way to measure players in different tasks -- the 40-yard dash, the broad jump, the vertical leap -- under exactly the same conditions, on exactly the same kind of field. Having players compete head to head would change the conditions for those players, possibly, some speculate, spurring players to run faster if paired with a speedster within their position group.

“I’m old school,” said Trent Baalke, the San Francisco 49ers’ general manager. “Let’s just roll with how we’re doing it.”

Bill Polian, the former Colts executive who now has his own show on Sirius XM Radio, said: “This has grown to a football trade show and I understand that. What we have to do is be careful not to lose the player personnel evaluation purpose of this.”

That’s a concern perhaps because of the league’s decision to allow a group of 250 fans into the combine to watch the proceedings. Combine that with the NFL allowing thousands of fans into Lucas Oil Field this month to watch the Super Bowl Media Day spectacular, and some wonder about the league’s direction.

So, why make these changes at all, even in the face of what could be massive resistance from the people who actually have to evaluate the players? This quote from Grubman might give you the answer.

“When you make it interesting, people want to see it,” Grubman said. “When you let them in, it gets bigger. When it gets bigger, other people want to be there. It goes from football media, who are attracted to it because it’s such a pure event, to popular media, to sponsors because fans are watching.”

And sponsors, of course, equal more money for a league that’s always looking to make more of it.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 8:51 am
Edited on: February 24, 2012 9:36 am
 

Where does the Routt signing leave Brandon Carr?

It seems unlikely that Carr will return to Kansas City in 2012. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Just because the Chiefs made the first big signing of the offseason by inking former Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt to a three-year, $19.6 million deal, that doesn’t mean Kansas City wants to lose one of its best defenders.

In fact, general manager Scott Pioli said he’s still talking to the agent of Brandon Carr in an effort to keep him in Kansas City and keep him off the free agent market.

“We’re going to continue to talk to Brandon and his agent,” Pioli said Thursday, via the Kansas City Star. “If we can come to a deal that makes sense for both sides, then hopefully we’ll be able to keep him here.”

That, however, won’t be easy, considering the Chiefs also extended Brandon Flowers’ contract last fall, meaning they’ll pay him nearly $10 million a year for the next five seasons.

So, why pay Routt and Flowers and not pay Carr? Probably because Carr is going to get paid like one of the top cornerbacks in the game and probably because the team is already paying Flowers top cornerback money. CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco ranked Carr as the No. 2 free agent in the league this offseason, writing, “How often do good man-cover players in their primes hit the market? This kid is about to get paid. He is this high because he plays a premium position well.”

Pioli, though, feels confident about Routt, despite the fact he was penalized a league-high 17 times last season (although, to be fair, Routt is certainly an above-average defensive back whose stats aren’t dissimilar from Carr’s numbers).

“He’s been a starting NFL corner, a good corner, a productive player,” Pioli said. “We’ve had to face him the last three years so we’ve seen him play a lot.”

Meanwhile, Pioli has been insisting that the Routt signing has no impact on the team’s negotiations with Carr (though that’s pretty hard to believe).

“This signing doesn't eliminate the feelings that we have for Brandon and how we want to have him here,” Pioli said earlier this week, via Arrowhead Pride. “He knows that. He wants to be here. We want him here. If both sides find a deal that makes sense for one another, we'd love to have Brandon back."

Chances are the signing of Routt makes that rather unlikely.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 12:02 am
 

Aqib Talib will get another chance with Bucs

TalibBy Josh Katzowitz

After a nasty offseason following the 2010 season -- an offseason in which he was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was indicted on that charge before blaming his mother -- the Buccaneers welcomed Aqib Talib back to the team for 2011.

Considering Talib hasn’t shown the ability to stay out of trouble during his career, it was a surprise that he wasn’t suspended for the alleged incident that occurred in Garland, Tx. It wasn’t, however, surprising that Talib played well for the Buccaneers, because, simply put, he’s a talented cornerback -- probably one of the 10-best in the league.

And most likely because of that talent, new Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano has decided Talib will start with a clean slate.

"I had a great meeting with him and we just kind of talked about life for a little bit,'' Schiano said, via the Tampa Bay Times. "I know there’s been some things in the past. But at the end of the day, the legal stuff that’s going on right now, hopefully that will get resolved. He tells me it will.

"Then from there, we’re just going to go. Every guy on this football team will know our expectations. There won’t be any, ‘Well, I thoughts.’ I think most of the time, frustration comes out as the result of unfulfilled expectations, my frustration and theirs. So if you make the expectations clear, then discipline really isn’t discipline, it’s a choice. You knew if you did this, everything is cool and if you don’t, there’s going to be consequences. That, to me, is not that complicated. But you have to make sure you’re very, very clear on what it is your expectations are.”

Talib is lucky to be in this position, considering former Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris basically talked general manager Mark Dominik out of releasing Talib before last season began.

But with a new regime, Talib will get yet another chance. Of course, he still has to worry about the actual trial, which is set to begin in March. Talib told Schiano that he’s confident he’ll get a positive outcome from the trial.

For now, Schiano apparently is inclined to believe him. And inclined to believe that the risk of employing Talib will be less than the reward that could come.

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