Tag:Ryan Wilson
Posted on: February 18, 2012 10:08 pm
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Eagles could be open to trading Asante Samuel

Samuel's future in Philly remains uncertain. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

The Eagles were the NFL's most disappointing team last season and with many of the same faces returning in 2012, expectations will remain high. There were various reasons for Philly's 8-8 record -- injuries at quarterback, inconsistencies at wide receiver and a defense that looked absolutely lost an incapable of tackling for the first two-thirds of the season.

Despite missing the playoffs, the Eagles ended the year with four straight wins and the defense allowed an average of 11.5 points per game over that time. And if Asante Samuel returns to join Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at cornerback the defense -- and the secondary, in particular -- should be even better.

But there's no guarantee Samuel will be in Philly when training camps open in late July. In fact, he could be traded this spring.

“Whenever you have a surplus at a particular position there are talks around the league, people call and your phone does ring,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said (via the Wilmington News Journal), “and that’s happened in the past couple years by our quarterback situation.”

Samuel was mentioned in trade talks during the season and let's just say it didn't go over well.

"I've been nothing but what they expected me to be when they brought me there," Samuel said during the team's bye week in late October. "You know, 22, 23 interceptions over my years. Broke playoff records. So, definitely, it doesn't sit well with me. And obviously they don't want me there, so life goes on. So we'll see where I'll be at, ya know?"

Head coach Andy Reid addressed Samuel's comments a few days later.

“You have to understand everybody calls everybody,” he said. “We’re sitting here with a few good corners. So people call. But (shopping Samuel) wasn't the case. Asante and I talk. So listen, I’m not worried about that at all. He loves to play the game. And we’re going to move forward. I don’t have any comments past this. And I know he doesn’t. So, we’re moving on here.”

Samuel said at the time that he had Reid ware "good" and "that's all that matters," before adding, "A couple people upstairs might not want me, but who cares. They probably never played football. It's a business, they run it like a business, so they're going to do what they need to do. So they're upstairs playing with a lot of money, playing a little fantasy football, so they’re doing their thing."

On Thursday, Roseman wouldn't speak specifically about Samuel but it sure sounded like he'd be willing to trade him if the right deal came along.

“We’re always open to phone calls and to seeing if something works,” he said, “and really if there are win-win situations for particular teams and particular players, we’ll look at that and make a decision kind of in a vacuum.”

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 7:31 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 7:32 pm
 

No performance-based pay for players in 2011

Despite Cruz's breakout season, there will be no performance-based paychecks in his immediate future. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Unlike 2002-2009, there will be no performance-based pay for NFL players following the 2011 season, NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis told the Newark Star-Ledger this week. This was also the case in 2010's uncapped season and the ramifications mean this: guys like Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz will earn their base salaries for last season and not a dime more based on on-field contributions.

"Francis wrote in an email that money has been allocated elsewhere to overall salaries and benefits following the lockout and the agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement," the Star-Ledger's Mike Garalo wrote Friday. "One example of where such money has been redirected was the $3-million salary-cap exemption teams received to keep veterans this past season. This season, teams will have three $1.5-million exemptions.

"According to Francis, performance-based pay is a part of the new CBA and will be paid out in the future, though the league and the union are 'still negotiating the language.'"

In 2009, the last year for performance-based pay, Vikings center John Sullivan was rewarded with a $397,555 bonus (his base salary: $385,000) and Giants cornerback Bruce Johnson earned an extra $270,766.

Nicks, in the third year of his rookie deal, made a base salary of $575,000 in 2011. Cruz, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010, made just $405,000. (The Freakonomics blog breaks down an entire team of players who outperformed their current contracts.)

Performance-based pay was a means of rewarding low-salaried players based on productivity. And while five or six-figure checks may not mean much for guys pulling down tens of millions annually, it's a huge deal for young players making league minimum or close to it. But the system hasn't been abolished entirely; in fact, as PFT points out, the new collective-bargaining agreement explains that the fund will exist “[i]n each year League Year after the 2011 League Year.”

Which is good news for (relatively) low wage earners in 2012, less so for the Freakonomics' Dough Bowl All-Stars.

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 5:38 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 9:53 pm
 

Broncos traded Lloyd to avoid locker room issues?

Lloyd talks with us in Indy. (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)
By Ryan Wilson

Tim Tebow was officially named the Broncos' starting quarterback during the team's Week 6 bye. Five days before their Week 7 game against the Dolphins, they traded their best offensive weapon, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, to the Rams. It was a confusing move at the time since Denver was 1-4 and the offense was a mess.

But whatever Lloyd provided in terms of big-play abilities (he had 77 receptions for 1,448 and 11 touchdowns in 2010 playing with Kyle Orton and for Josh McDaniels) didn't make up for possible issues that might arise from playing in a run-first, option offense.

The Denver Post's Jeff Legwold explains:

"…[T]he Lloyd deal, which ended up being a fifth-round pick in this coming April's draft in exchange for a player who went to the Pro Bowl after the 2010 season, was made because the Broncos believed the veteran, in a contract year, was going to bristle and potentially become a problem as the offense leaned more and more on the running game.

"Lloyd had not been a problem before the trade, but it was a pre-emptive strike to avoid it. Also, the Rams had several injuries at the position, and the Broncos were able to get a conditional pick — it went from a sixth-round pick to a fifth-round pick because of Lloyd's reception totals — for a player that wasn't going to stay at season's end."

Side note: CBSSports.com's Will Brinson interviewed Lloyd at the Playboy party in Indianapolis during Super Bowl week and he couldn't' have been nicer. And, yeah, Brinson asked him about Tebow.



Still, we understand the Broncos' apprehension with keeping Lloyd around. He was something of an enigma in San Francisco and his two years in Washington can kindly be described as forgettable. It wasn't until McDaniels brought him to Denver that his career took off. And that explains why Lloyd would love to be reunited with McDaniels, now the Patriots' offensive coordinator.

In late December, Lloyd told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I can’t even lie about that. I’m tied to McDaniels. He uses me differently than other offensive coordinators used me in my entire career. He uses me as an every-play receiver. The short game, mid-range game, gimmick passes, deep balls."

New England is in desperate need of a downfield threat but there is one tiny issue. Lloyd is represented by Tom Condon, who hasn't dealt with the Patriots since 2006, when the two sides were negotiating Ben Watson's rookie contract.

“We pretend there are 31 franchises in the NFL now and they pretend we don’t exist,” Condon once said.

Apparently, that hatchet has been buried.

“I may never like them and they may never like me, but I appreciate that they’re smart guys who usually get what they want," Condon told the Boston Herald last week." I usually get what I want, too, and what I want is what my client wants. … [Lloyd would] like to be with Josh. He’d also like to get paid. I think he’ll be a player teams will be interested in.”

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 1:30 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 1:31 pm
 

Matt Flynn eager for free agency, chance to start

Flynn loves Green Bay but he also wants to be a starter. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Assuming that Peyton Manning isn't in line for some Mr. Miyagi-style healing in the coming weeks, conventional wisdom is that Packers backup Matt Flynn will be the most sought after quarterback in free agency.

Through no fault of his own, Flynn has drawn comparisons to Kevin Kolb, a former Eagles second-round pick who was traded to the Cardinals prior to the 2011 season for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second round pick, and then promptly signed a $63 million extension, including $20 million in guarantees.

Kolb made seven starts during his four years in Philly, but was underwhelming in nine games as Arizona's starter last season.

Flynn, meanwhile, has two career starts and his numbers in those games are astounding: 55 of 81 for 731 yards (67.9 completion percentage), nine touchdowns, two interceptions and eight sacks. By comparison, Kolb's numbers in his seven starts for the Eagles: 148 for 239 (61.9 completion percentage), 10 TDs, 9 INTs, 15 sacks.

Free agency doesn't begin until March 13 and unless the Packers decide to re-sign Flynn before then, there's not much he can do.

"I'm a confident person but the element of the unknown makes you wish March 13 was tomorrow," Flynn said this week according to Sports Illustrated. "I've loved being a Packer, and it's not 100 percent sure I'm leaving Green Bay, but as a competitor and football player, that's what you play the game for -- to be a starter in the league. Hopefully some teams will be interested in me and I can find a good opportunity. I want to lead a team and I'm excited about it. But I can't talk to teams now. I don't know if I'm on their radar. It's going to be a long month leading up to that time -- waiting and wondering."

The Dolphins are the front runners for Flynn's services. Former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is Miami's new head coach and he knows Flynn well. And unlike Kolb's situation in Arizona -- he hadn't worked previously with Ken Whisenhunt and the Cards' offense is nothing like the Eagles' -- Flynn would likely be running a version of the Packers' offense in Miami.

"You can have all the confidence in the world but those two NFL starts were important for me and more important for my teammates, especially the New England game (in 2010)," Flynn said. "After that, they knew if something happened to Aaron, I could keep us competitive."

During a conference call with reporters earlier this week, NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock called Flynn "interesting."

“When you look at the history of quarterbacks that were back-up guys and played a few games and then moved on and got paid a lot of money, there’s been mixed results there," he said. "… The bottom line to me, the league has minimal amount of tape on him and the league didn’t think that highly on him coming out of college.”

That's not to say players can't grow, especially in their first few years in the league (if that was an absolute truth, Tom Brady wouldn't be married to Gisele Bundchen). Still, concerns remain: “Over eight, 10 games when the league has a chance to get tape on Matt Flynn, how effective will he be?” Mayock asked. 

But such issues aren't unusual; the Dolphins are intimately familiar trying to find a franchise quarterback.

(This is quite possibly one of the saddest lists you'll ever see; after Dan Marino retired following the 1999 season, Miami's top passers in the 12 seasons since include Jay Fiedler, A.J. Feeley, Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington, Cleo Lemon, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne and Matt Moore.)

As for those Peyton-to-South Beach rumors that were swirling during Super Bowl week, Flynn's not paying attention.

"I try not to worry about things I can't control so there's no reason to have negative thoughts about that, " he told SI. "My goal is to be one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and all I can ask for is an opportunity to find a good situation with a team that wants me. And then go there and have success."

For now we wait. Free agency doesn't start for another three weeks.

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 11:09 am
 

Former Raven Jermaine Lewis arrested again

Lewis was arrested last August for resisting arrest and various other charges. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote earlier this week about an NFL awash in money while many former players struggle to hold their lives together once their careers end. Here's the latest example: Jermaine Lewis, who played nine NFL seasons and returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the Ravens' 2001 Super Bowl win, was arrested Thursday for driving on a suspended license, the Baltimore Sun reports.

It's Lewis' second arrest since August, and the latest comes two months before a court date for his previous reckless driving charge.

Details via the Sun:
Police said Lewis … was seen driving a Dodge Charger with his 4-year-old son unrestrained in the front seat just before 10 a.m. near Hanover Pike and Mt. Gilead Road in Reisterstown.

The officer conducted a traffic stop and saw that Lewis' license had been revoked, and placed him under arrest, police said. Lewis was issued citations for driving with a suspended license, driving with a revoked license and failure to secure a child by a safety belt. He was being held on $50,000 bond.
According to the police report, Lewis was asked why he was driving on a suspended license.

"He advised that he was driving because his wife was in jail and that he needed to get food for his son and something to heat his home," the report stated. "Defendant Lewis then pointed to a fire starter log in the front passenger seat of the vehicle."

In August, police had to use a stun gun to subdue Lewis, 37, before charging him with resisting arrest, driving on a revoked license, failing to control his speed to avoid a collision and failing to stop after an unattended property damage accident.

During his playing career, Lewis averaged 11.8 yards per punt return (six touchdowns) and 22.7 yards per kickoff return, including the Super Bowl XXXV touchdown return. In 2010, the Bears' Devin Hester broke Lewis' record for punt return average in a season. Hester returned 33 punts for 564 yards and three touchdowns, good for a 17.1 average. In 2000, Lewis set the mark of 16.1 yards per return (36 returns, 578 yards, two touchdowns).

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 10:30 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 9:49 am
 

Report: Lions likely to tag Avril if no new deal

Avril wants to stay in Detroit but would prefer to avoid the franchise tag.  (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Despite what Marshall Faulk might say, Matthew Stafford is a big reason that the Lions have gone from 0-16 in 2008 to 10-6 in 2011 and qualified for then playoffs for the first time since 1999. But Stafford and that high-powered offense wasn't the only reason.

Detroit's defense also had something to do with the organization's turnaround. According to FootballOutsiders.com, the unit ranked ninth overall last season, up from 22nd in 2010, and 32nd during the winless '08 season. So, yes, we tip our cap to you, Gunther Cunningham.

In an effort to keep the group together, the Lions are hoping to re-sign defensive end Cliff Avril, who would prefer a long-term deal over the franchise tag.

"I honestly don't know if they're going to franchise me or make a deal," Avril said Friday. "I want a deal, obviously."

On Friday evening, the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett writes that while two sources close to negotiations "stopped short of saying Avril definitely will be tagged, both said that’s the likely outcome if the two sides don’t agree on a long-term deal before March 5, the deadline for applying the tag."

Avril, 25, led the Lions with 11 sacks and six forced fumbles last season, and he'll be in demand should he hit the open market. If he's tagged, Avril can expect around $10.6 million which, thanks to the new CBA signed last July, is $2.6 million less than 2011 franchise tag.

As CBSSports.com's Will Brinson noted earlier this week, "Previously, the franchise-tag number was generated by averaging the top-five salaries at a position to determine a number for that position. This year, the franchise tag value will be a percentage of the overall salary cap figure for the previous five years."

But this isn't an either-or situation (or at least it doesn't have to be). Just because the two sides don't come to a long-term agreement prior to March 5 doesn't mean they can't at some point this offseason.

"The franchise tag actually doesn't exist simply to keep a guy around for another year without paying him big money," Brinson wrote Tuesday. "It's to keep a guy around while you work out a long-term contract.

As far as the Lions are concerned, Avril is an integral cog in what they want this defense to become, but issues remain. Detroit still needs depth at cornerback, which could be addressed in the first round of April's NFL Draft. First things first, however: keeping Avril, whether that means a long-term contract, the franchise tag or a combination of the two.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 8:39 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 9:42 pm
 

Goodell on 18 games: 'People want more football'

Whether fans want it or not (they don't appear to), what about the safety concerns of an 18-game schedule? (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's salary will reportedly double to $20 million as part of a new five-year contract extension from the NFL. That's a lot of coin but if the league wasn't awash in money the owners wouldn't reward Goodell with that kind of payday.

Not surprisingly, some players were less than effusive when they heard the news, probably because depending on your perspective, Goodell's tenure as commissioner falls somewhere between awesome (the owners) and awful (the players). Falcons wide receiver Roddy White tweeted apoplectically Tuesday:

"How in the hell can u pay a man this much money that can't run tackle or catch?"

And before you roll your eyes, this isn't a "he's never played the game!" argument. When someone suggested that Goodell's oversight as commissioner has allowed White to make a lot of money, White got testy.

"Thats the stupidest thing i have ever heard the players make this league dont ever forget that," White tweeted in response. "My god given talents feed me not him."

This is true. No fan in the history of tackle football has ever bought a ticket to a game to see Goodell. We talked about this on a recent Pick-6 Podcast and our opinion is basically this: Goodell is a savvy politician who worked his way up from the bottom and is now presiding over the nation's most popular sport. He is responsible for it's growth, yes, but without players the NFL wouldn't exist in it's current form. We're pretty sure Goodell would agree with this.


We mention this because Goodell spoke recently about the state of the league, specifically addressing expansion ("We are not considering expansion. I’ve tried to make that clear when I was asked by Bob Costas recently.") and the never-gonna-die 18-game schedule discussions.

“Well, I appreciate the enthusiasm for it and I hear it from the fans consistently," Goodell told ESPN 1050, dusting off his not-entirely-accurate talking points from this summer's lockout. "People want more football. I think they want less preseason and more regular season and that’s the concept we are talking about here."

Again, this is stretching the truth. Everybody -- fans, players, media -- thinks the preseason is too long. But that doesn't mean they want, say, two fewer preseason games if it means two more regular-season games. Last May, CBSSports.com's Josh Katzowitz did an informal Twitter poll and found that 83.9 percent of respondents were fine with the 16-game schedule.

In February 2011, Sports Illustrated's Peter King did his own Twitter poll and concluded that "18 percent of 1,200 football fans, less than one out of every five, want what Goodell says they want. And 82 percent want to keep it at 16 regular-season games."

But even if you call B.S. on the self-selection bias in such polls, what about this? Goodell has championed safety above all else but isn't he talking out of both sides of his mouth when he says "safety is No. 1" and then clamoring for two additional regular-season games because the fans want it?

In November 2010, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said "The additional games, the studies show, will not really increase injuries."

Technically, Ross was right. Esquire wrote about this issue back in January 2011:
Dated September 6, 2010, the 26-page version (of a study conducted by an independent research firm for an NFLPA injury report) relies on data from the NFL Injury Surveillance System in following 16,552 injuries from 2004 to 2009 — position-by-position, game-by-game, and location-by-location.

Over the course of a season, the analysis found that 16.1 percent of injuries occurred in training camp, another 24.7 percent in preseason, and 57.9 percent during the regular season. In total, 21.2 percent classified as "major" injuries, with severity increasing dramatically from the regular season to the postseason. And while game-related injuries actually trended down from week to week, the report's introduction of head-injury data provides an alarming juxtaposition…
The juxtaposition? Total team injuries decrease over the course of a 16-game season and into the postseason but the percentage of brain-related injuries increases over that same time. (You can see the charts here.)

Perhaps that's a function of better awareness about the long-term dangers of concussions, as well as improved testings procedures. "Still," the Esquire piece concludes, "the early version of the report states that each player now has a 10 percent chance of suffering from a concussion in a given season."

However you spin it, that's not good.

Back to Goodell's recent radio appearance:

"We wouldn’t add an extra two games without reducing the preseason and we are not going to do it without the players support, so we did that in the collective bargaining agreement instead of having the unilateral right, which we had," he said. "We determined that we were going to do this together. We are going to make changes in the offseason and during the preseason and during the regular season to make the game safer. If we can accomplish that we’ll look at the idea of restructuring the season and taking two preseason games away and the potential of adding regular season games, but I don’t think that will happen until at least 2013 or 14.”

Conspiracy theorists might say that while Goodell's crackdown on helmet-to-helmet hits and unprotected pass-catchers does make the game safer, it's also something he and the owners can point to in a few years and say, "See, we take this very seriously, illegal hits are down, the NFL is less violent, the next logical step: 18-game seasons."

Because other than money, there's no urgency here. If Goodell truly is listening to the fans (or the players), this wouldn't ever come up again. We're guessing that ain't happening.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 6:37 pm
 

Report: Vikings reach preliminary stadium deal

The NFL wasn't going to allow the Vikings to play in a college stadium while a new stadium was built. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

In late January, there were discussions that NFL owners might nix the Vikings' new stadium deal, primarily because the logistical gymnastics involved the Vikes playing up to three years in a temporary venue while the stadium was built.

The possibility of $67 million in losses over that time made it a non-starter. Now, according to the StarTribune.com, it appears that the team, the state and the city have a preliminary stadium deal in place. Details via the StarTribune.com's Rochelle Olson and Mike Kaszuba:
Minneapolis, the state and the Minnesota Vikings have reached preliminary agreement on the division of costs for a $975 million stadium on a site at or near the 30-year-old Metrodome, according to multiple sources who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity.

The city would contribute $150 million in construction costs to the downtown Minneapolis project. The state would pay $398 million and the Vikings would pay $427 million. The city also would pay approximately $180 million in operating costs over the next 30 years, the sources said.
The sources added that all the details -- including cost overruns -- still need to be sorted, but there could be an announcement as soon as next week.

Vikings vice president Lester Bagley wouldn't comment on the report instead insisting that “There is no agreement. Everything is subject to negotiations. We’re working hard on an agreement, but we’re not there yet.”

While a preliminary agreement is progress, the proposal would need to pass the Legislature, possibly the Minneapolis City Council, as well as the NFL. Put differently: it's a start but there's still a long way to go.

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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