NFL: Team-by-team chatter line

The New England Patriots are planning to put the franchise tag on wide receiver Wes Welker....

The New England Patriots are planning to put the franchise tag on wide receiver Wes Welker. (REUTERS)

John Kryk, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:18 PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS - After the annual Scouting Combine wraps up Tuesday, the 328 draft-eligible prospects await their fates.

For each, though, there’s still plenty more to do — more workouts, more interviews, more convincing — until the April 26-28 draft.

Meantime, the 32 NFL teams have more than just the draft to worry about in the weeks ahead. Here’s a team-by-team capsule of news and views that came out of the combine:

AFC

EAST

MIAMI

Dolphins fans want Peyton Manning so badly to be their next QB, some have bought a billboard on I-595 imploring the team to get him. “First I’ve heard of that is five minutes ago,” Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland said. “Fans were flying a banner (at) the last game. They can do what they want to do.” But, be it Manning or free agent Matt Flynn, Ireland promised, “We’ll use every avenue available to try to get the best player available for every position.”

NEW ENGLAND

The Patriots plan to use the franchise tag on noted Super Bowl ball-dropper Wes Welker, a free-agent-to-be. This, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Welker would get $9.5 million for the season — his first important grab since, well, the AFC final anyway.

NY JETS

Head coach Rex Ryan never liked Tony Sporano, and didn’t know why. So, of course, he hired him as his new offensive coordinator. “When he was the opposing coach (of division rival Miami) and you shake hands after a game and all that stuff, I couldn’t really put my finger on why,” Ryan said. “Then when I thought about it I was like, ‘You know what? That guy thinks he’s as tough as I am.’ And he might be tougher. That’s something I really admire about him.” This is, uh, Ryan’s first step toward repairing team chemistry.

BUFFALO

Former Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler, all 6-foot-6 7/8 inches of him, said on Saturday he had talked to five NFL teams — and Buffalo was one of them. The Bills could do a lot worse than use a second-day pick on Osweiler. He was ready for the “Aren’t you too tall to be a QB?” question. “People’s opinions change” when they see him play, he said.

SOUTH

TENNESSEE

One of the big disappointments of the 2011 NFL season had to be Titans RB Chris Johnson, who entered last year as the best back in the league. “He just needs to know what is expected of him, what is going to be demanded of him,” coach Mike Munchak said. “He is excited to get last year behind him ... We know it is not going to be worse, believe me.” Meantime, can second-year QB Jake Locker beat out veteran Matt Hasselbeck? Munchak just hopes one of them separates by September.

JACKSONVILLE

New Jags head coach Mike Mularkey on how second-year QB Blaine Gabbert will benefit from working under new offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski: “Bob was in Cincinnati when Carson Palmer was drafted there, and Bob had the opportunity to work with Matt Ryan (in Atlanta) last year,” Mularkey said. “He’s had some experience with young quarterbacks, early-drafted quarterbacks ... (We’ll) see if we can get the best out of Blaine.”

HOUSTON

Texans GM Rick Smith on whether he wants OLB Mario Williams to remain on the team: “Yeah. I think we’ve been very clear ... And I don’t talk a whole bunch about negotiations publicly, but I think that there is no doubt that all the parties involved know what the desire is — and that’s for him to be here.”

INDIANAPOLIS

Very quiet in Indy these days. Nothing happening with the Colts. Move along.

 

NORTH

PITTSBURGH

The Steelers were over the salary cap at season’s end, and still have hard decisions to make to get under. GM Kevin Colbert on star WR Mike Wallace, soon to be a free agent: “There’s always a franchise (tag) possibility. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure Mike Wallace remains a Pittsburgh Steeler. I think that’s Mike’s belief as well.”

CLEVELAND

The buzz is only going to get louder that the Browns will package their two first-round draft picks (Nos. 4 and 22) — and probably more — to wrest the No. 2 pick from St. Louis. That’s so they can select QB Robert Griffin III. The Browns spoke with RG3 in Indy. “The interviews are very important,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “You try to get a feel for them in 15 minutes, then there will be other points of contact, where we’ll go out to Baylor.”

CINCINNATI

QB Andy Dalton impressed as a rookie, leading the Bengals to the playoffs. “As a couple people said to me, ‘He has it.’ You felt that about him,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “Nothing seemed too big.

“He seems to take almost everything in stride. His personality is one that’s very unassuming yet (he has) quiet determination ... He can’t wait to get the opportunity to get back to work.”

BALTIMORE

According to GM Ozzie Newsome: Safety Ed Reed has told Ravens coach John Harbaugh he’s not retiring; Joe Flacco is the team’s QB of the future and will be re-signed, be it “in two days” or “12 months”; and RB Ray Rice might have to be franchise-tagged, but only because the Ravens want to keep him for years to come.

WEST

DENVER

Trying to find non-Tebow news on the Broncos is like trying to glean non-Peyton news out of Indy. But there actually was one thing. Team executive John Elway said the team would like to re-sign DT Brodrick Bunkley — and get him some help, too.

SAN DIEGO

The Chargers are undefeated for the month of February. They expect to remain undefeated through July. So it’s not just December when the team can avoid a lengthy losing streak. Remember that. October? November? Not so much.

OAKLAND

When was the last time you heard a Raiders head coach talk about these two team priorities: upgrading the defence, and cutting down on penalties? Yet that’s exactly what new coach Dennis Allen vows. “We’ll hold guys accountable to doing it the right way,” he said of the penalties-stricken club he inherits. And Al Davis just did a 360 roll.

KANSAS CITY

Chiefs GM Scott Pioli said he’s always trying to upgrade every position — not just QB. Peyton Manning and RG3 speculation is the talk of KC right now. Wait, RG3? The Chiefs pick 11th! He’ll be lonnnng gone by then. Pioli countered: “Right now, there are 10 teams ahead of us throwing out all kinds of smoke signals ... You never know.” We know. You’ll have to trade up, Scott.

 

NFC

EAST

DALLAS

Coach Jason Garrett on DE Jason Hatcher saying the Cowboys lack leaders: “I don’t want to comment too much on what Hatch said.” And then Garrett did. “We certainly have very good leadership on our team. I don’t want to go into the names of the guys, but you know them. They set the pace for our football team and guys we wouldn’t trade for anybody.”

NY GIANTS

When it was suggested to coach Tom Coughlin that his offensive line might be under-talented, he bristled. “Well, I would argue with you about talent,” he said. “It’s a very talented offensive line. Two out of the past four Super Bowls we’ve just won, and it basically was the same guys, give or take one or two. Eli’s always been a quick decision-maker, but the combination of our protection schemes, our athletes up front, the quarterback’s ability to get the ball out quickly. That has served us very well because our sack numbers over the years have been down.”

PHILADELPHIA

Eagles GM Howie Roseman on whether QB Michael Vick needs to take off and run less: “You don’t want to take away something that he does great, and he’s got a valuable trait there. And I think he’s talked about the fact that he’s going to try to be smarter about it ... We’re just not going to bring in that Atlanta Braves speed coach that he worked with.”

WASHINGTON

Do the Redskins want Peyton Manning? That seems to be their overriding off-season question until the Peyton situation resolves itself. It is believed the Skins would be one of the most interested suitors, should the Colts release Manning by March 8.

SOUTH

TAMPA BAY

New head coach Greg Schiano, hired after the Super Bowl, has a lot to do in a short amount of time. He still has assistant coaches to hire, and it’s almost March. “It’s been kind of a crazy two weeks, trying to put together a coaching staff (and) at the same time trying to meet some of our players that stop by the facility, but it’s been fun.”

ATLANTA

The Falcons don’t pick until the second round, 55th overall. Coach Mike Smith said that doesn’t up the pressure on them. “When you get into that second round there are a lot more players that may fit into (your needs range). I don’t think it’s any more pressure. What we have to do is our due diligence as a coaching staff, and as a scouting staff, to make sure that we’ve identified the guys that are going to be available at 55.”

NEW ORLEANS

Drew Brees must be re-signed. The Saints’ off-season to-do list doesn’t end there, but it sure as hell starts there. The All-Pro QB becomes an unrestricted free agent March 13. Will the Saints use the one-year franchise tag on Brees?

CAROLINA

QB Cam Newton has everyone on the Panthers excited. “He handled the situation very well,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said of Newton’s dynamic rookie season. “Showing up early, staying late, doing the extra things that were needed, working certain things out on his own. He really exceeded the expectations of a lot of people.” Jimmy Clausen remains Newton’s backup, it appears.

NORTH

CHICAGO

The Vikings had asked for the Bears’ permission to interview defensive assistant Jon Hoke for their defensive coordinator’s job. The Bears don’t automatically reject such requests, but head coach Lovie Smith flatly rejected the Vikes: “We’re not trying to help any of our division opponents.”

DETROIT

Rating draft-class wide receivers isn’t easy. Lions GM Martin Mayhew: “Everything has to be so precise in the passing game at the NFL level. The timing of the routes, the depth of the routes. Obviously they get challenged more at the line of scrimmage (too), so it’s a much more demanding position at the NFL level. That’s why I think you see a lot of guys that really can’t step their game up in those areas when they are here, and don’t really make it as players.” One who kinda did: Detroit’s Calvin Johnson.

GREEN BAY

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy did a classy thing at the combine, regarding his hyped backup QB Matt Flynn, who becomes a free agent March 13: “I know in my conversations with Matt he’d like to come back and play in Green Bay. But the other side of the fence is he’s earned the position he’s in. In my opinion he’s ready to be an NFL starter ... I don’t know what other opportunities he’ll have, but if I was at a club and was looking for a good young quarterback, he’s definitely someone I would talk to.”

MINNESOTA

Super-fast offensive weapon Percy Harvin did not have any debilitating migraine episodes last season, a relief to the entire club. “He’s such a main factor in our offence, but also in special teams,” Vikings GM Leslie Frazier said. “(He’s) such a threat every time he touches the football. One of the things I talked with him about at the end of the season or even a few weeks ago is just our being able to keep him on the field a little bit longer.”

WEST

SAN FRANCISCO

Niners GM Trent Baalke knows he has gold in DE Justin Smith: “There are few like him ... I haven’t come across many like him — if any. He’s a different breed. He’s a warrior. He’s an every-day guy. We’re two days out from our last game and he’s back at it. He’s already in the weight room and he’s got a full lather going. And I look at the time and I go, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘It’s either here, or baby-sit at home, so I’m here.’”

SEATTLE

The off-season priority for the Seahawks? Re-sign RB Marshawn Lynch, of course. Drafting or signing a good QB couldn’t hurt either. GM John Schneider said he has had “great” discussions with Lynch and his agent. “There’s no animosity at all,” Schneider said. “It’s good. It’s a good dialogue. No fist fights.”

ARIZONA

A wiseacre Cards beat writer asked coach Ken Whisenhunt what were the odds Arizona doesn’t draft an OL for the third straight year. Whisenhunt: “Um, probably about as good as you killing us for not doing that. I don’t know.”

ST. LOUIS

New coach Jeff Fisher was emphatic that the Rams think they already have their man at QB, in Sam Bradford. “I think I share the same opinion with most (personnel people) in the league that evaluated him,” Fisher said. “He’s an outstanding person (and very) talented athletically. And he’s got a great future in this league. He’s a very, very good player. And we have to do whatever we can to surround him with good people.”

 

 

 


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