NFC South: AFC South

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The signing of free agent Tandon Doss gives the Jacksonville Jaguars one thing they’ve been missing for several years: A big, physical receiver that has actually been productive on the field.

Doss
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Doss caught 26 passes the past two seasons in Baltimore. The Ravens took him in the fourth round in 2011 after he had a standout career at Indiana. He caught 154 passes for 1,854 yards and 13 touchdowns in his career and set a single-season school record for kickoff return yardage as a senior in 2010. He led the Big Ten and was fourth nationally with 175.8 all-purpose yards that season.

Doss had 19 catches for 305 yards for the Ravens last season, and averaged 16.5 yards per catch in his two seasons in Baltimore.

The Jaguars do have two big receivers on the roster, but neither has done much on the field. Stephen Burton (6-1, 224) played in four games for the Jaguars in 2013 and has 15 catches in three seasons with the Jaguars and Minnesota. Stephen Williams (6-5, 207) appeared in just two games for the Jaguars last season and has just nine catches in four seasons with Arizona, Seattle and Jacksonville.

The NFL trending toward bigger cornerbacks makes finding bigger receivers a priority. Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said last week that the team would try to add one in free agency and also might draft one.

This is a deep draft for receivers, and the Jaguars did work with Alabama’s Kevin Norwood (6-2, 208) at the Senior Bowl.
The Carolina Panthers made an offer to Hakeem Nicks thinking they had a legitimate shot to sign the former New York Giants receiver.

That was until the Indianapolis Colts stepped in and not only offered Nicks a one-year contract worth up to $5.5 million, but also an opportunity to be on the receiving end of passes from quarterback Andrew Luck and be a part of a team that could be one of the best in the AFC next season.

ESPN.com Panthers reporter David Newton and Colts reporter Mike Wells talk about Nicks' decision to sign with Indianapolis

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Al Bello/Getty ImagesHakeem Nicks chose the Indianapolis Colts over the Carolina Panthers.
Wells: David, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton proved last season that he's one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. But Luck has proven in just two years -- with 22 victories -- that he has the complete package: arm, foot speed and mental toughness. So it seems Nicks made the right decision to sign with the Colts. What are your thoughts?

Newton: Totally agree. When Nicks picked Indy over Carolina I mentioned one of the reasons may have been Luck was the more proven quarterback. It didn't sit well with Carolina fans. My argument was simple. Two trips to the playoffs to one. But the bigger reason is Nicks will be surrounded by proven receivers in Indy. Maybe that would have happened at Carolina, but at the time of the decision the Panthers didn't have a receiver on its roster with an NFL catch. When Brandon LaFell signed with New England on Saturday that guaranteed Newton won't have any of his top four wide receivers from last season. At Carolina, Nicks risked the possibility of being double-teamed because there wasn't anybody proven to take coverage away. He would have been the clear-cut No. 1, and I'm not sure he's a No. 1. Luck also has a more established offensive line. So when I said Luck was more proven there were other factors around that.

Having said that, if you were starting a team from scratch would you pick Luck or Newton?

Wells: I like how Newton played last season, but I've still got to give Luck the edge over him and players such as Seattle's Russell Wilson and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick. Luck's résumé speaks for itself. He led the Colts to an 11-5 record during a rookie season when his coach, Chuck Pagano, missed 12 games while battling cancer. He repeated that record last season while losing five offensive starters by Week 7. Luck has led the Colts on 11 fourth quarter or overtime game-winning drives in his young NFL career. Should I continue? It also helps that Luck's Colts have already beaten the Seahawks and 49ers. Maybe you and I can corner Rob Chudzinski somewhere after the season and ask him his thoughts because he obviously coached Newton in Carolina and he's about to coach Luck with the Colts next season.

It seems like the Panthers don't seem to know which direction they're headed with players like receiver Steve Smith being released. Am I wrong to think that could sway a free agent's decision?

Newton: It would have to cast doubt. It certainly casts doubt in my mind. It'll all come down to how convincing general manager Dave Gettleman is on selling his plan. And yes, there's a plan. Jerricho Cotchery is coming in for a visit on Monday and James Jones says he'd like to play for Carolina. If the Panthers can get a couple of solid veterans -- even if they aren't bona fide No. 1s, and select a dynamic receiver with either their first- or second-round pick, the receiving corps potentially could be better than last season. Even Smith admitted he's not a No. 1 anymore. So for all the grief I've given Gettleman for making a mistake in dumping Smith, in the long run it could work out. I mean, the beef on LaFell last season was he wasn't a bona fide No. 2. Ted Ginn Jr. had a nice season, but he had only two catches the year before. Domenik Hixon had only one catch that impacted a game. So big picture, they didn't really lose a lot.

So how do you expect Nicks to fit in at Indianapolis? Can he help put Indy over the top?

Wells: Colts fans are a little leery because there was high hope last year when Darrius Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 pick in the 2009 draft, signed a one-year contract the same way Nicks did. Heyward-Bey, to put it as nice as possible, was brutal last season. So brutal that he ended up being demoted to special teams where he actually did a great job downing punts inside the 20-yard line. I think Nicks will fit in nicely because he doesn't have the pressure of being the No. 1 receiver. He simply has to just fit in alongside of fellow receivers Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton. Tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener are also receiving options for Luck. The fact that Nicks had almost 900 yards receiving last season and that was considered a down year for him is a good thing for the Colts. Luck will find him as long as he can get open.

Newton needs somebody to throw the ball to. What are the Panthers going to do since Smith is gone and Nicks decided playing with the Colts was a better option?

Newton: As I mentioned above, Cotchery is coming in for a visit and I still believe they'll get Jones. The plan is to find a few bargains and blend them in with a draft pick. Smith would have made a nice No. 2 receiver in this package in my opinion. But from everything I gather Newton won't be heartbroken to see his top receiver gone. Smith has gotten in Newton's face more than a few times the past few years. As much as that may have been needed, there is a belief on the team that Smith might have been a distraction to Newton as the central leader of the offense. It will be interesting to hear how Newton spins it when we finally hear from him.

Now that the Colts have Nicks, what's the rest of their free-agency plans?

Wells: General manager Ryan Grigson has put an emphasis on defense so far. They still need to find a safety to replace Antoine Bethea, who signed with San Francisco last week. The interior part of the offensive line could use some help, too. They signed former Dallas center Phil Costa last week. The Colts haven't completely shut the door on Cleveland center Alex Mack even though it is a longshot that they'll be to get him because the Browns used the transition tag on him. Adding another guard wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
11:47
PM ET

HOUSTON -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 27-24 victory against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium:

What it means: Reggie Wayne or not, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck simply knows how to win. Luck shook off a brutal first half that saw him constantly pressured, and his receivers didn’t do him any favors by dropping passes, but he rebounded to pick up his 10th come-from-behind victory in just 24 NFL games. All three of Luck’s touchdown passes were to second-year receiver T.Y. Hilton, who said he had to step up in Wayne’s absence. Luck was only 3-of-12 for 56 yards in the first half. He responded by going 15-of-28 for 215 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. Hilton finished with seven catches for 121 yards.

Stock watch: Texans receiver Andre Johnson had his way against the Colts' secondary in the first half. Vontae Davis, Cassius Vaughn, Antoine Bethea and Darrius Butler all were burned by Johnson at one point in the half. Johnson had seven catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. The Colts did a better job on Johnson in the second half, when he had two catches for 25 yards.

Special teams experience: It was interesting first half on special teams for the Colts. Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt blocked Adam Vinatieri's 42-yard field. D.J. Swearinger picked up the loose ball and ran it back 37 yards before Pat McAfee made the touchdown-saving tackle. McAfee dropped the snap on a punt two series later, gathered the ball, eluded the defender and got the ball off for a 55-yard punt. The play ended up not counting because the Colts had an ineligible player down field. It’s not over yet. McAfee managed to get the punt off on the next play despite Bryan Braman running into him. Replays showed the officials missed a roughing the kicker penalty on the play, because Braman didn’t touch the ball on the play. The Colts thought they recovered a Keshawn Martin fumble on a kickoff, but the play was reversed because the officials ruled that LaVon Brazill was out of bounds.

What’s next: The Colts return home to host the St. Louis Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 10.

Countdown Live: 2013 NFL draft, Rds. 4-7

April, 27, 2013
4/27/13
10:00
AM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts for Rounds 4-7 of the 2013 NFL draft.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at noon ET. See you there.

Countdown Live: 2013 NFL draft, Rds. 2-3

April, 26, 2013
4/26/13
4:00
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts for Rounds 2 and 3 of the 2013 NFL draft.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 6 p.m. ET. See you there.

Countdown Live: 2013 NFL draft, Round 1

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
5:00
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts for the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.

We'll be analyzing every pick from 1 to 32. We'll get started an hour early at 7 p.m. ET, so submit your questions and comments and we'll see you there.

Live: ESPN.com #bloggermock draft

April, 23, 2013
4/23/13
11:45
AM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they play general manager for their divisions and execute a 2013 first-round mock draft.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at noon ET. You can also participate via Twitter using the hashtag #bloggermock. See you there.

NFL: Week 5 knee-jerk reactions

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
2:08
PM ET
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you may have even heard it here. So are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

Week 5 NFL inactives

October, 7, 2012
10/07/12
11:30
AM ET
Here are today’s inactives from around the NFL. Click here for Tristan H. Cockcroft's inactives analysis for fantasy football.

NFL: Week 4 knee-jerk reactions

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
11:50
AM ET
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you may have even heard it here. So are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

Week 4 NFL inactives

September, 30, 2012
9/30/12
11:31
AM ET
Here are today’s inactives from around the NFL. Click here for Tristan H. Cockcroft's inactives analysis for fantasy football.

NFL: Week 3 knee-jerk reactions

September, 25, 2012
9/25/12
1:40
PM ET
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you may have even heard it here. So are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

Week 3 NFL inactives

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
11:34
AM ET
Here are today’s inactives from around the NFL. Click here for Tristan H. Cockcroft's inactives analysis for fantasy football.

Week 2 NFL inactives

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
11:16
AM ET
Here are today’s inactives from around the NFL. Click here for Tristan H. Cockcroft's inactives analysis for fantasy football.
In the union’s continuing attempt to take the bounty appeals decision out from under the auspices of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFLPA has filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Louisiana. This suit is on behalf of three of the four suspended players -- Scott Fujita, Will Smith and Anthony Hargrove. Jonathan Vilma has asked for similar relief in two lawsuits; the first of which -- his defamation lawsuit against Goodell -- Goodell moved to dismiss Thursday. The following is the essence of Thursday’s filing by the NFLPA:

Hillis
Hargrove
Fujita
Fujita
The suit is an application to overturn the suspensions issued by Goodell based on what the NFLPA claims to be inherent and unfair bias by Goodell and all others involved in the process. It states in part: “The investigation and arbitration process that the Commissioner’s public relations machinery touted as 'thorough and fair' has, in reality, been a sham."

Further, the NFLPA argues:
(1) The NFL violated the CBA by refusing to provide the players with access to critical documents or witnesses;
(2) Goodell launched a vast public relations campaign defending the punishments he intended to arbitrate, rendering him incurably and “evidently biased”; and
(3) Goodell lacked proper jurisdiction to rule on this case, as the system arbitrator -- law professor Stephen Burbank -- has exclusive jurisdiction to arbitrate the “pay-for-performance” conduct here.

The latter argument -- that this matter is a cap issue rather than a conduct issue -- was brought before Burbank last month and denied. It currently is on appeal to the NFL appeals panel, a group of three arbitrators still not formally constituted a year after its creation in the new collective bargaining agreement. Now, in addition to the appealing Burbank’s ruling, the union argues Goodell may not seize Burbank’s exclusive jurisdiction merely by labeling the matter "conduct detrimental."

The NFLPA claims it is not asking the court to "second guess" Goodell on the sufficiency of the NFL's evidence; rather, it is asking it to vacate the suspensions based on the "sham process from which it was born."

The suit’s basic argument states: "It becomes more apparent with each passing day … that the NFL’s objective was not to follow the CBA and provide a fair process, but to validate a biased investigation and to deprive the Players of any meaningful ability to defend themselves against a preordained result."

As I have discussed and written about here, my sense is this will be an uphill battle for the players. Goodell’s power over player conduct -- both the NFL and the system arbitrator have determined this to be conduct -- is well-established and secure in the new CBA. The issue of “fairness” is a relative one; it is the court of Goodell, not a court of law. Federal labor policy favors employers and especially employers resolving differences through a collectively bargained agreement rather than going outside that process into a court.

I admire the creativity and persistence of the NFLPA and its increasingly busy legal team -- the enduring theme of football this offseason is billable hours -- but ultimately they are trying to circumvent a process that they agreed to in the swirl of negotiations to achieve other gains in the CBA.

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