AFC East: Chris Crocker

Pricing the market: Jim Leonhard

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
With the free-agent signing period approaching, we'll take a closer look at each of the Buffalo Bills' free agents, finding the closest matches in last offseason's free-agent class:

Pending Bills free agent: Jim Leonhard
Position: Safety
Experience: 9 seasons
2013 stats: 16 games played (7 starts), 41 tackles, four interceptions, six passes defensed
2013 snaps: 53.5 percent (defense), 48.2 percent (special teams)

Last offseason's closest match: Will Allen
Experience: 9 seasons (entering 2013)
2012 stats: 16 games (7 starts), 34 tackles, three passes defensed, one forced fumble (for Pittsburgh)
2012 snaps: 42.8 percent (defense), 57.6 percent (special teams)
Signed with: Dallas Cowboys
Contract: 1 year, $65,000 signing bonus, $840,000 base salary ($555,000 guaranteed)
Overview: Allen's best season came in 2006 when he started 16 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He's been a role player ever since, but had a resurgent 2012 season that earned him his free-agent deal with the Cowboys. At 31, however, Allen was part of a struggling Dallas secondary and was released after five games. He landed back in Pittsburgh, playing 12 games and snagging an interception.

Last offseason's second-closest match: Chris Crocker
Experience: 10 seasons (entering 2013)
2012 stats: 13 games (9 starts), 41 tackles, three interceptions, five passes defensed (for Cincinnati)
2012 snaps: 56.0 percent (defense), 7.6 percent (special teams)
Signed with: Cincinnati Bengals
Contract: 1 year, $940,000 base salary
Overview: Once a significant contributor for the Bengals, Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns, Crocker is now in the twilight of his career. After injuries hit the Bengals' secondary early in the 2012 season, he was signed off the street and started nine games. The Bengals didn't tender him a contract last offseason, but he again returned in September, playing in the final 12 games. He continues to be an effective role player, notching 37 tackles and two interceptions last season for a strong Bengals defense. His pact with the Bengals qualified for the veteran minimum salary benefit, reducing his cap charge.

Verdict: Leonhard is in a similar spot as Allen and Crocker were last offseason. He's looking at the final contract of his career and isn't likely to receive much, if any, guaranteed money. He proved last season that he can still be a capable role player and spot starter, but no team will sign him to be a full-time starter. Like Crocker, his next deal will likely come at the veteran minimum so that there is a reduced cap charge. At this point, it's a toss-up whether Leonhard returns to Buffalo. The departure of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to Cleveland could change how Leonhard is valued within the Bills' defense. Pettine could lure Leonhard to the Browns, adding a heady veteran with a deep knowledge of his system to Cleveland's locker room.

Dolphins sign Procter, trade Smiley

May, 24, 2010
The Miami Dolphins have swapped out guards, signing free agent Cory Procter and trading Justin Smiley to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Procter started 11 games at left guard for the Dallas Cowboys in 2008 but finished last season as their backup right guard. He was a coveted free agent after his release last week, making the rounds with several teams, including the New England Patriots.

Terms of the Smiley deal aren't yet known, and he must pass a physical before it's official.

Smiley represents another misfire by the Dolphins' front office. Football operations boss Bill Parcells and general manager Jeff Ireland made Smiley their first acquisition when unrestricted free agency opened in 2008, signing him to a five-year, $25 million contract practically at the stroke of midnight.

Smiley was a quality player when healthy but missed significant time with shoulder injuries and a busted up lower leg.

The Dolphins have made their share of mistakes in free agency, but they're not afraid to unload a player quickly when they don't think it's working out.

Under Parcells, the Dolphins previously obtained and unloaded safeties Gibril Wilson and Chris Crocker, receiver Ernest Wilford and quarterback Josh McCown.

Fins owner lets Parcells spend whatever

March, 22, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins have had their share of spending misadventures since Bill Parcells took over football operations nearly 2 1/2 years ago.

We learned Monday morning they're trying to trade left guard Justin Smiley, the player they signed to a five-year, $25 million contract one minute into 2008 free agency. They've already unloaded notable free agents such as safeties Gibril Wilson and Chris Crocker, receiver Ernest Wilford and quarterback Josh McCown.

But when it comes to running football operations, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross trusts Parcells implicitly.

So completely, in fact, that Ross said Monday he doesn't get involved in even the biggest decisions about his cash.

"I'm putting my money with Bill Parcells and our organization," Ross told a small gathering of reporters during a break in the NFL owners meetings. "Nobody bats 1.000. I just look at the bottom line and end results and where we are and what we're spending. The results are in the won-loss record."

Ross suggested he stood aside two weeks ago, when the Dolphins made Karlos Dansby the NFL's highest-paid inside linebacker with a five-year, $43 million deal.

"Bill tells me beforehand," Ross said. "We have salary caps -- this year we don't, but we still have to live in a financial world today -- and I say 'Hey, what counts is on the field.' That's what he's looking to do: deliver winners.

"I don't try to micromanage him. You can't look at every dollar you spend. One thing I found out: Sports is different than business. From a businessman, when it comes to what you do for paying players, you have to have a little different discipline than you'd otherwise have."

Ross can refrain from meddling because Forbes recently ranked the Manhattan real-estate developer the 277th wealthiest man on the planet with an estimated net worth of $3.4 billion.

Dolphins free-agency class loses another

October, 22, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

The Miami Dolphins on Tuesday cut Chris Crocker, their opening-day starter at free safety.

The move wasn't earth-shattering. He hadn't started since Week 2.

But Crocker's release marked one more failure in Miami's primary free-agency class. Of the 19 players the Dolphins signed between the end of last season and the draft, six are on the team. Left guard Justin Smiley is the lone starter of the bunch.

Only five of them (Smiley, defensive end Randy Starks, linebackers Reggie Torbor and Charlie Anderson and cornerback Nathan Jones) are playing.

Wide receiver Ernest Wilford has been inactive three times, including the past two games. The Dolphins signed Wilford to a four-year, $13 million contract with $6 million guaranteed.

AFC East reacts to Brady injury

September, 8, 2008

Posted by's Tim Graham

Bills QB Trent Edwards

You never want to see that happen to a guy. I'm obviously one of the biggest Tom Brady fans. I'd say Tom Brady and Brett Favre are my two favorite quarterbacks, and any time you have a chance to watch them play live or play against them, you want to do that.

I would rather have him in there, honestly. I'd rather beat a team when they have all of their best players on the field at all times, and I know the Patriots' style, that they're good at coming back from injury, and I'm sure they're still going to make a run at it. So I'm not sure [power in the AFC East] shifts it at all.

Bills coach Dick Jauron

It's unfortunate. He is a great football player, and if they've lost him, then it's a big loss. But they've lost a big star at that position once before, and that's where Tom Brady came from. I'm sure that they'll keep playing because they are very good around him. He's been a very special player.

Jets LB Eric Barton

It's sad that it happened to such a great player, and I wish him well. We have to go about business as we would. I don't think it makes much of a difference. He's a great player, but the Patriots are the Patriots. They're going to adjust and are going to be a good football team, as they always are.

I would consider them still the favorite. I think they won what, 18 straight regular-season games? They are what you would call the team to beat.

Dolphins S Renaldo Hill

You always want to face him. You want to try to get the upper hand on a Super Bowl quarterback, an MVP quarterback. Just being a player in the NFL you want to compete against the No. 1 guys. That being said, we're going to have to prepare even more for [Matt] Cassel, knowing we're going to have to raise it up a bar with him. He may not be a Tom Brady, but he's going to bring something to the table and we have to prepare for that.

Dolphins RB Ricky Williams

I guess I don't look at things like that. We still have to play them. He's not the only player on the team. The thing that makes them so good is they play as a team. It just goes to show in this league that's how it is. I'm sure someone else will step up. You look around the league. Different guys have big years, so I'm sure someone else will step up.

Dolphins S Chris Crocker

It's devastating. He's a guy you want to see play, regardless of if he's an opponent or not. To see him go down is devastating, not only to his team, but the league. It's mind-boggling.

We have to take it as the AFC is wide open. Without him, it's definitely a different team. They're still the New England Patriots. They're still going to win a bunch of games, but without him it is a different team.

You can't say anything about him. He's like an ambassador. He's such a positive image for the league. You're kind of speechless. No one saw that coming, him going down. It's the farthest thing from your mind.

Preseason All-AFC East defense

September, 5, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

On Thursday, I posted my inaugural preseason All-AFC East offense.

Here's the defensive unit. Since the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and New York Jets run 3-4 schemes, that's the lineup I filled out.

Special teams will be unveiled Saturday.

LEFT DEFENSIVE END: Ty Warren, Patriots.

The only member of the Patriots' D-line that hasn't been to the Pro Bowl might be its best. Teams actually have started to run away from Warren because they prefer to try Richard Seymour instead. That's saying something.

NOSE TACKLE: Vince Wilfork, Patriots.

This AFC East position is more loaded than any other. Every team has a stud, and three of them are new: Marcus Stroud (Bills), Kris Jenkins (Jets) and Jason Ferguson (Dolphins). So have fun with them, centers.

Wilfork remains the scariest. Jets C Nick Mangold and Dolphins C Samson Satele call Wilfork the best they've faced. Mangold admits he gets nervous when he faces Wilfork. Satele says Wilfork "can handle himself with three guys blocking him. If you have two 300-pound guys running after you and you can stone them in that hole, there's nothing more I can say. He's so quick, it's unbelievable."

RIGHT DEFENSIVE END: Aaron Schobel, Bills.

Seymour is everybody's default selection, but New England's five-time Pro Bowler played in only eight games last year. Besides, Schobel has done more with less. His 52 sacks since 2003 are second only to Jason Taylor's 59. Schobel went to his second Pro Bowl last year despite recording only 6.5 sacks because he often was double-teamed. He tied for fifth in the NFL with five forced fumbles (more than Seymour has in his career).

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: Mike Vrabel, Patriots, and Adalius Thomas, Patriots.

The AFC East's most experienced position is led by Vrabel, who is coming off the finest campaign of his career. He recorded 12.5 sacks and forced four fumbles. His bookend is coming off a disappointing overall first season for the Patriots, but Thomas came on strong down the homestretch and in the postseason, reminding the Patriots why they signed him after a stellar run in Baltimore. Calvin Pace? He's on the verge of becoming special. Joey Porter? He looks ragged.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS: David Harris, Jets, and Channing Crowder, Dolphins.

Here's a position that's skewing young. Based on reputation, Tedy Bruschi would be named above, but he's on the downside. Harris last year led the Jets with 117 tackles as a rookie. Crowder served with distinction as Zach Thomas' understudy for three years. Now the Dolphins defense is Crowder's to take over. Look out for Bills sophomore Paul Posluszny. The former Butkus Award winner sometimes is forgotten because he suffered a broken forearm in his third NFL game.

LEFT CORNERBACK: Darrelle Revis, Jets.

Bills veteran Terrence McGee, also a Pro Bowl KR, makes this a close call. But Revis is on his way to greatness. Revis made an impact his rookie season. The 14th overall pick had a team-high 77 solo tackles (91 total), three interceptions and 13 passes defensed.

FREE SAFETY: Ko Simpson, Bills.

I stewed on this position the most because no one is convincing. James Sanders started 15 games last year, but the Patriots brought in aged warrior John Lynch late in camp -- not the greatest vote of confidence. Chris Crocker (Dolphins) was a mild surprise to win the job despite three seasons as a starter in Cleveland and Atlanta. Eric Smith (Jets) has four starts to his name in two seasons.

So we're going strictly on upside here, and Ko Simpson has more than the others. He had a sensational rookie season in 2006, but a leg injury in Week 1 prevented him from following up last year.

STRONG SAFETY: Kerry Rhodes, Jets.

There's heavy-duty talent at strong safety. Fifteen-year vet Rodney Harrison remains a fearsome hitter. Donte Whitner, entering his third year, is emerging as a total package. But Rhodes already has established himself as a stalwart by his fourth season. Rhodes has started all 48 games of his career, and many observers insist he should have played in at least one Pro Bowl by now. He has nine interceptions over the past two seasons.

RIGHT CORNERBACK: Ellis Hobbs, Patriots.

The competition looks scarce for Hobbs, who turned in a decent season last year opposite Pro Bowler Asante Samuel. Jabari Greer took over the starter's job last year and performed well, but the Bills felt compelled to draft three CBs and sign another through free agency.

Dolphins GM speaks on Ricky, QBs and more

August, 31, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland held a rare news conference Sunday afternoon to discuss myriad roster decisions.

Ireland was asked about the club's decision to keep sophomore QB John Beck over veteran Josh McCown and RB Ricky Williams' one-year contract extension among other topics.

Here are some of the highlights:.

Why did the Dolphins decide to extend Williams?

Ireland: You guys see it out there. We see it out there. He's done an excellent job in the weight room, in the meeting rooms. He's jumped out at us on tape. He looks good in the preseason. Everything we've seen since we got here -- and [the scoreboard] was zero-zero when we got here; [head coach] Tony [Sparano] said that in the first press conference -- he's done everything we've asked him to do. He's a player that's shown he can play. So we didn't want him to make the free agent market.

How is Williams' level of commitment different than in the past?

Ireland: I wasn't here in the past, so I don't really know how he had a lack of dedication in the past. I know what I read and what circulates in NFL circles. When we sat down coming here, we said that we're going to give this guy every benefit of the doubt, and he's got to show us that he is dedicated. He's done everything that we've asked him to do. We feel really good about our decision to extend him.

Why did the Dolphins keep Beck and trade McCown to the Carolina Panthers?

Ireland: What it came down to is, obviously, we didn't know that [Chad] Pennington was going to be out there. Things changed pretty quickly when we were able to pick up that thing that fell out of the tree there. That was obviously a good move for us when we did pick up Chad. Tony was right on when he said we might keep four quarterbacks. We decided that we weren't going to keep four. We decided who probably has the best upside. We felt like John was still a young player, and he's done a great job here in the last week and a half. That was the player that we felt like had more upside and more future to him and more developmental possibilities. So John was the guy we went with.

Was there any truth to the reports the Dolphins were shopping Beck?

Ireland: I'm not going to confirm that we tried to trade or anything like that about John Beck. We traded Josh McCown.

What's the comfort level with having a rookie backup and a second-year third-stringer behind Pennington?

Ireland: We feel pretty good about it. We feel pretty good about where Chad Henne and John Beck are. Chad Henne is a guy that we feel very good about. Obviously, he's our No. 2 right now. I feel pretty good about it, as a matter of fact.

(Read full post)

Around the AFC East: Favre iffy for finale

August, 26, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

New York Jets

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots