NFC North: Charles Rogers
Shea McClellin, the 19th overall pick in the draft, thinks the transition from linebacker, the spot at which he starred at Boise State, to defensive end is going well, ESPNChicago.com reports. "I've been hand in the dirt from day one and I'm loving it," McClellin said.
Head coach Lovie Smith and quarterback Jay Cutler are among the 10 Bears on the hot seat in 2012, according to Bob Warja.
Lions offensive tackle Jeff Backus could have been resentful of the player drafted to replace him, Riley Reiff. Instead, Backus has embraced Reiff during organized team activities, acting as a mentor.
James Jahnke raises his eyebrows at the fact that the Lions accounted for nearly a quarter -- five of 21 -- of all arrests and citations for NFL players this year, according to a database compiled by U-T San Diego.
A judge in Saginaw, Mich., issued an arrest warrant for former Lions receiver Charles Rogers after the 31-year-old failed to appear at a court hearing.
Green Bay Packers
Cornerback Davon House is glad that this offseason is nothing like the lockout-shortened one that robbed him of so much preparation time before his rookie season -- and jealous that this year's rookies have no such trouble.
On Thursday, the Jaguars cut defensive end Aaron Kampman, who spent the first eight seasons in the league with the Packers.
Receiver Jerome Simpson, signed as a free agent after a breakout season with the Cincinnati Bengals, has head coach Leslie Frazier "jacked up" with his speed, the Associated Press reports.
Running back Toby Gerhart is getting more time with the first-team offense with Adrian Peterson's status uncertain. "I am building confidence with [quarterback] Christian Ponder and being more of a leader," Gerhart told CBSSports.com.
The NFL is reviewing Jerome Felton's arrest for DWI over the weekend for possible discipline since the fullback reportedly has a prior DWI conviction. Felton is the third Vikings player in the past 10 months to be arrested for suspicion of DWI.
Good Monday morning. Hopefully everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. We're pretty much full speed ahead toward the NFL draft, which opens in just 17 days, and have plenty of ground left to cover. But first, let's ease back into the football routine with a tour around the NFC North:
- The Chicago Bears lost defensive lineman Amobi Okoye to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday night. It's not clear how intensely the Bears pursued him. Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com has more.
- Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune examines whether the Bears' offensive line can improve without changing the personnel.
- Dan Pompei of the Tribune runs through the Bears' remaining needs.
- The Detroit Lions' offensive line is confident in its future, writes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
- Maintaining their level will be the Lions' biggest challenge in 2012, writes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
- The family of former Lions receiver Charles Rogers doesn't want to comment publicly after his most recent legal entanglement. Andy Hoag of Mlive.com has more.
- Former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Blair Kiel has died, notes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
- The Packers hosted defensive lineman/linebacker Dave Tollefson on a visit, but Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette writes that it's unclear if they made Tollefson an offer before he signed Friday with the Oakland Raiders.
- Former Packers offensive linemen Daryn Colledge, Tony Moll and Jason Spitz will soon debut the third vintage of their "Fat Guys" label Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic brings us up to date on this important story.
- The Minnesota state legislature is nearing a session stalemate on a variety of important issues, including the Minnesota Vikings' stadium bill, according to Baird Helgeson of the Star Tribune.
- The Vikings are scheduled to meet with Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd, according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com.
While most of the NFL world was focused on one of the dirtiest stories in league history Thursday, the University of Oklahoma announced a $1 million pledge from Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson. It's the second seven-figure college donation by an NFC North player in recent years. Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has pledged more than $2 million to the University of Nebraska.
Peterson's pledge came about eight months after he signed a record-breaking contract extension that included $36 million guaranteed. According to a school press release, the funds will go toward construction of a privately financed housing facility and also create a football scholarship endowment.
Peterson is rehabilitating from a major knee injury and recently resumed running. He has set a goal to return to the field in time for the first game of the 2012 season.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- The White Earth Nation has offered a deal to provide $400 million for a new Vikings stadium in exchange for legislative permission to build a metro casino, according to the Star Tribune. The state is currently planning its $398 million contribution to come from electronic pull-tab revenue.
- The Vikings are facing a grievance of unknown cause from defensive tackle Kevin Williams, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
- A new Milwaukee Brewers advertisement featuring Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will debut every three weeks, according to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
- The Chicago Bears signed cornerback Jonathan Wilhite on Thursday a few hours after inking cornerback Kelvin Hayden. Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com has more.
- The Bears are likely to add a safety at some point before training camp, notes Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
- Former Detroit Lions receiver Charles Rogers turned himself in to authorities Thursday after two warrants were issued seeking his arrest. Andy Hoag of Mlive.com explains.
- The Lions lost linebacker Bobby Carpenter to the New England Patriots, notes the Associated Press.
In other words, the Lions could take any of the draft's top players and won't make a final decision until "probably [next] Thursday," Mayhew said.
It's foolish to think the Lions don't have a pretty solid plan in place, barring unexpected trade offers or some other surprising development. Mayhew is loathe to offer any hints, but I did think he made a notable comparison between this year's draft and the 2003 affair in which the Lions drafted receiver Charles Rogers at No. 2 overall.
The potential pool of players the Lions likely will be choosing this year -- defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, and left tackle Russell Okung -- have cleaner resumes than any of the players the Lions considered in 2003.
"It's never fool-proof," Mayhew said. "[But] I would say that this year, being at No. 2, is a lot better than being at No. 2 the year we drafted Charles Rogers. Just in terms of the number of concerns you have with different players, the players that are there now, a lot of them -- and I've talked to a lot of people in the last week or so, head coaches and people who have been around these guys -- a lot of these guys are solid off-the-field character guys and are relatively-healthy guys. High-effort guys, very motivated, intrinsically motivated type of guys. There is a good pool to pick from at two this year."
If you thought that sounded partly like praise and partly like an invitation to trade up into the No. 2 position, you're probably right. Mayhew said "at this point, I would anticipate being at [No. 2]" but clearly would like some trade discussion to come his way. Stranger things have happened, but that seems unlikely at this point.
We'll post the ESPN Blog Network mock draft next Monday, and you can probably guess who I chose for the Lions at No. 2. (No, it wasn't Knowshon Moreno.) For all of Mayhew's protestations to the contrary, it's safe to believe he knows who he's taking. If I had to guess, I would say that player's last name starts with an "S", ends with an "h" and has a "u" in the middle. I'll let you puzzle over that riddle for at least a minute or so.
Last week, a judge ordered Rogers (drafted in 2003) to re-pay the Lions $6.1 million after his career was cut short by violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson wrote it would take a “miracle of biblical proportions” for the Lions to see much, if any, of that money.
Roy Williams (2004) is still not in tune with Dallas quarterback Tony Romo nearly two years after the Lions traded him to Dallas, writes Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com.
And finally, Mike Williams (2005) will get a tryout during a minicamp in Seattle this week. My NFC West colleague Mike Sando notes Williams played for current Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC. Williams, however, hasn’t been in an NFL uniform since 2007. Although he is only 26, Williams has only missed three of the past six seasons of his career.
» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)
Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Busts and late-round gems.
Gems: The Bears took a chance on an unknown with elite speed in the fifth round last year and came up with receiver Johnny Knox, a Division II college player. Knox caught 45 passes, including five touchdowns, as a rookie and made the Pro Bowl as a kickoff returner. Cornerback Zack Bowman, a fifth-round pick in 2008, has seven interceptions in 17 career games. He appears to have the makeup to be a long-term starter. Busts: Running back Cedric Benson, the No. 4 overall pick in 2005, was released after three years. Defensive end Dan Bazuin, a second-round pick in 2007, never played for the Bears.
Gems: Running back Aaron Brown, a sixth-round pick last year, proved to be an explosive and exciting playmaker. He'll get more playing time as he limits mental errors, but his speed and open-field running ability give him the capacity to be a difference-maker. Linebacker Zack Follett, a seventh-round pick in 2009, is a strong special teams player. Busts: The Lions' mid-decade mistakes, from quarterback Joey Harrington to receivers Charles Rogers and Mike Williams, have been well-chronicled. The Lions have only one player remaining from the 2006 draft, linebacker Ernie Sims, and receiver Calvin Johnson is the only 2007 draftee expected to make a significant impact in 2010.
Green Bay Packers
Gems: Defensive lineman Johnny Jolly, a sixth-round pick in 2006, has proved to be a solid starter at both tackle and now end in the Packers' 3-4 scheme. His immediate future is threatened by a looming trial for felony drug possession in Houston, but from a football perspective, he has been a hit. Guard Josh Sitton, a fourth-round pick in 2008, might have been the Packers' most consistent offensive lineman last season. Busts: Quarterback Brian Brohm, the No. 56 overall pick of the 2008 draft, stumbled from the start and didn't make it through his second year with the team. Among other things, Brohm struggled with his downfield accuracy. He is now on Buffalo's roster. Defensive lineman Justin Harrell, the No. 16 overall pick in 2007, has been plagued by what could ultimately be a career-ending back injury and has made minimal impact.
Gems: Center John Sullivan started 16 games in 2009, a year after Minnesota made him the No. 187 overall pick of the 2008 draft. Although he wasn't perfect, Sullivan has already given the Vikings more starts than many sixth-round picks provide. A fourth-rounder in 2006, defensive end Ray Edwards has been a full-time starter for the past three years. Over that span, he has 18.5 regular-season sacks plus another four in the playoffs. Some have expected even more from him, but that's pretty good production for a second-day pick. Edwards was part of a draft that has helped make up for a disastrous 2005 affair. Busts: In that 2005 draft, the Vikings had three picks in the top 49, but none made an impact. Receiver Troy Williamson couldn't catch the ball, defensive end Erasmus James tore the same anterior cruciate ligament twice and offensive lineman Marcus Johnson couldn't hold a starting job.
Below is the full video of a much-anticipated Outside the Lines feature on former Detroit receiver Charles Rogers, one of the all-time busts in recent NFL memory. The piece covers Rogers' two broken collarbones, his drug use and his legacy.
Rogers tells OTL's Jemele Hill that at one point, he was smoking marijuana every day.
Those of you who plan to follow Rex Grossman's progress in Houston should check out this story from Megan Manfull of the Houston Chronicle. The ex-Chicago quarterback threw three interceptions in his first practice with the team Monday.
Manfull's story paints a relatively bleak picture for Grossman's immediate future. He's competing for the No. 3 quarterback spot on a team that hasn't had one for two years. That could change with the departure of reliable backup Sage Rosenfels, but for now Matt Schaub is the starter and former Detroit quarterback Dan Orlovsky is No. 2.
Here's what Texans coach Gary Kubiak said of Grossman's chances for making the team:
"After what I've been through the last two years, [three quarterbacks] might be the way I would lean today. But we have a long way to go, a lot of players to evaluate. And if I'm going to keep them, I'm going to keep them because they all can play. I'm not just going to keep them just so I have three bodies."
Most teams tap a young, developmental-type player at No. 3 rather than a veteran. But Grossman admitted he didn't have much choice but to accept Houston's offer.
Grossman: "There wasn't a whole lot of teams to choose from, to be honest. But I'm excited to be here, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to get back on top."
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Green Bay knocked out three contracts for its draft class Tuesday but hasn't started negotiations for its pair of first-round picks, writes Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Mike Vandermause of the Press-Gazette paraphrases a call he received from a Packers fan about the possibility of quarterback Brett Favre signing with Minnesota. "The disillusioned caller used words like disgusting, selfish and scumbag to describe Favre. The man said he gave his undying support to Favre for 16 years, and in return, the quarterback 'spits in our face.'"
- The Favre-Vikings courtship should be concluded -- one way or the other -- by the last week of July, writes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
- Vikings linebacker Ben Leber tells Zulgad he was struck by Favre's use of the world "we" during a television interview Monday night. Leber: "That really stuck in my mind because he's already including himself."
- Free-agent defensive lineman Kevin Carter has visited Detroit but isn't close to making a decision about 2009, writes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
- Lions coach Jim Schwartz might want to move training camp away from the team's practice facility in 2010, according to Doug Guthrie and John Clayton of the Detroit News. One possibility is Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.
- Former Lions receiver Charles Rogers is still hoping to return to the NFL, according to Hugh Bernreuter of Mlive.com. Rogers: "There's nothing concrete [about the NFL], just speculative. But if a team gives me a tryout, I know I'm going to be ready. I'm in better shape now than I was before."
Jeff of Minneapolis writes: If a rookie pay scale was implemented, do you think players would be more interested in staying in school instead of coming out early? It seems a lot of these players would be better off with another year of experience, rather than rushing into the NFL and maybe getting drafted later than they would if they stayed.
Kevin Seifert: I'm not sure if that's going to be a by-product. Under the current system, I think there is a lot of incentive for promising underclassmen to return to school in hopes of further improving their stock so they can take advantage of the insane money at the very top of the draft.
Say you're a junior who is being projected to go high in the second round or low in the first. Sure, you'd make pretty decent money if you jump in right away. But if you can light it up in your senior season, vaulting yourself into the top 10 of the draft, all of a sudden we're talking about another stratosphere. It could be a $10 million-plus decision.
Of course, the reverse could happen. Your stock could tumble into third- or fourth-round value. But the risk of falling from the second to the fourth round might be worth it when the reward is possibly jumping into the top 10.
But on to the meat of your question. Under a new system, players at the top of the draft would make less money. But it's still going to be a big payday, one that many college players won't be able to resist.
What I am pretty sure about is this: As speculation grows about cutting back rookie salaries, you're going to see more prominent underclassmen declare for 2010 so they can capitalize on the current system.
Robert of Columbus writes: I have been a die-hard Lions fan since birth, but I feel that many fellow Lions fans are not seeing the big picture in terms of where this team is headed. Many comments have been made comparing this draft to the drafts of the Matt Millen era, and I feel these are unjust. Millen failed to draft impact players at so many different positions. In all of Millen's drafts there was not one impact player drafted at QB, TE, OG, OC, DE, MLB, CB or S. On Saturday it appears that the Lions drafted impact players at three of those positions. While it is still early and they have not yet stepped on the field, the Lions appear to have drafted 3 players who should fit the bill. Stafford, Pettigrew and Delmas have the potential to be major players for the Lions for years to come. I think on a team with so many holes getting impact players, regardless of position, was necessary and the correct move.
Kevin Seifert: Robert, the key word is "if." None of us really have any idea if the three players you mentioned will pan out or not. Part of it will depend on whether the Lions' coaching staff can develop them into impact players, something that Martin Mayhew believes the team has fallen short on in recent years.
But in general, this is the danger of trying to judge a draft in its immediate aftermath. Sure, Charles Rogers didn't work out. Neither did Joey Harrington, nor Mike Williams. But in the days and weeks after they drafted, I don't think anyone knew for sure they would fail. If I remember right, people were pretty excited about Rogers and Harrington, at least, and were open-minded about Williams.
So I agree that some of your fellow Lions fans might be reacting a bit emotionally to the number of skill players and the dearth of linemen that were taken in this draft. But I also think it's too early to suggest anything definitive about the future of the players they did take.
Breana of Chicago writes: Kevin, who do you think will have the better passing game this year: The Vikings with their question marks at quarterback and Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, Bobby Wade, and Sidney Rice -- OR the Bears with Jay Cutler and their question marks at receiver?
Kevin Seifert: Thanks for the question, Breana. I like it so much I'm going to use it as a the jumping-off point of a debate later this week.
It comes down to this: What situation is better in football: A good quarterback with suspect receivers? Or a suspect quarterback with a deep group of receivers? If anyone wants to get an early word into this discussion, hit the mailbag.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando and Kevin Seifert
The draft won't fix these wayward teams overnight -- unless, of course, they follow the advice of NFC West blogger Mike Sando and NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert.
Kevin Seifert: Well, Mike, first off I'd like to thank the Seahawks and Lions for making our jobs a bit easier for the next six weeks. Before last weekend's trade that sent defensive tackle Cory Redding to Seattle for linebacker Julian Peterson, we were weighing the candidacies of too many players for the No. 1 overall pick in the April 25-26 draft.
|AP Photo/Darron Cummings|
|Baylor tackle Jason Smith would help solidify the Lions' offensive line.|
Would the Lions take Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford? Would they capitalize on the strong tackle class and swoop up Baylor's Jason Smith? Or would they make a compromise selection and take the player considered the safest pick in the draft, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry?
Seems to me this trade has eliminated Curry from the Lions' mix. Don't you agree? I mean, would you draft Curry after giving up a promising defensive tackle (and also a fifth-round pick) for someone who plays the same position? I don't think I would. They say Curry could project as a middle linebacker in the NFL, but it would be awfully hard to justify drafting a middle linebacker with the No. 1 overall pick.
So that pretty much settles it, right? Wouldn't you agree that Curry is much more likely to wind up with one of your NFC West teams, whether it's St. Louis at No. 2 or Seattle at No. 4? If it were up to me, the Lions would take the best left tackle in the draft, and that would be Smith.
Mike Sando: I tend to see Curry landing with Kansas City in that third slot. The Rams could use him, sure, but they pretty much have to emerge from this draft with a starting offensive tackle. Can they find one after the first round? Probably, but 'probably' might not be good enough for a team that has invested so much in Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson. Upgrading the offensive line was the No. 1 priority this offseason. Signing Jason Brown solved the problem at center, but Alex Barron is the starting left tackle now that Orlando Pace is out. They're talking about having Jacob Bell move from left guard to right tackle. That doesn't sound promising.
As much as Steve Spagnuolo wants to build that defense, I'm not sure the Rams can resist taking a tackle. Once Curry makes it past the Rams, the Chiefs would seemingly be a good fit -- which would put Seattle in an interesting position. They've got Matt Hasselbeck, but should they consider Stafford under our scenario?
So the Lions are two games away from infamy. Exactly 120 minutes of football time separate them from a perfectly awful 0-16 season. It's one record no NFL team wants to reach, and we're here to help.
As part of ESPN.com's Thursday Hot Read on the topic, we hereby offer 16 suggestions for fixing the Lions:
1. Dispatch the denial. Stop counting the near-misses and lamenting the "few plays here and there." Admit you're broken in a fundamental way. With few exceptions, the NFL's competitive model puts most teams relatively close to one another. There's a reason you hear so much about "any given Sunday." For one team to start 0-14, and lose 21 of its past 22 games, indicates an overhaul -- not a tweak -- is necessary.
2. Start at the top. No one knows exactly how the Lions' ownership runs the team. But we got a glimpse this season when vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. publicly campaigned for the firing of president/general manager Matt Millen. Two days later, chairman William Clay Ford did the deed. All indications are that the elder Ford continues to wield final say, but it's time for Ford Jr. -- whose judgment on Millen far surpassed his father's -- to take over.
|Leon Halip/US Presswire|
|Rod Marinelli has a 10-36 record in his three seasons in Detroit.|
3. Put Rod Marinelli out of his misery. Marinelli might be a good football coach, but no one can lose so many games in a such a short period while maintaining credibility inside or outside the organization. I know, Marinelli hasn't been blessed with the NFL's best personnel. But it's hard to convince anyone you're moving forward with a coach who has lost 36 of 46 games over a three-year tenure.
4. Before hiring the next head coach, settle on a front-office structure that provides checks and balances to avoid a repeat of the unchallenged mistakes Millen routinely made. Most people assume that chief operating officer Tom Lewand will retain a prominent business role, which is fine. On the football side, however, the Lions need a general manager and coach tandem that understands each other's philosophies and will consider contradictory thoughts. The current model is in Atlanta, where general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith are said to work exceptionally well together.
5. Thank interim general manager Martin Mayhew for his eye-opening work after replacing Millen. And then send him on his way. This is in no way a comment on Mayhew, who in other circumstances would make a fine general manager for the Lions. But remember our general premise: This is not an organization that needs tweaking. It needs to be rebuilt in a big-picture sense. You can't convince your fan base, free agents or even coaching candidates that you're making fundamental changes if Millen's top assistant replaces him -- no matter who it is.
6. Throw a bone to fans -- not a gimmick or a marketing slogan, but something that genuinely invites their interest. A 10 percent cut in ticket prices might be a start. Or, perhaps, a real barnstorming tour that allows fans to ask unedited questions of the Lions' football decision-makers over the course of the season. Transparency and honesty during the rebuilding process, while not comfortable, will help re-connect to a fan base that has lost faith in the team's ability to operate effectively.