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So much of the legend of Kiko Alonso.

Less than two years after Alonso burst out of the gate as a rookie and became a fan favorite for his carefree personality, the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles worked out a deal Tuesday to swap Alonso for three-time Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy.

Rarely do player-for-player trades happen in the NFL, but this one makes plenty of sense for both sides, as long as McCoy is happy with the deal. A source to McCoy told ESPN's Josina Anderson that McCoy is "frustrated" and is "not going to make it easy. That's for sure." So stay tuned on that end of the story.

But assuming the deal is finalized next week, the Eagles will clear most of McCoy's $11.95 million cap hit off the books and will have a shot to find another stud running back in what's considered a deep draft class this April. Coach Chip Kelly is also reunited with Alonso -- one of his former players at Oregon -- who comes at a cheap price and brings plenty of upside to the Eagles' defense.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsLeSean McCoy should fill a huge hole in the Bills' offense assuming that Tuesday's reported trade is completed next week.
The Bills address one of their biggest offseason needs by adding McCoy. With Fred Jackson turning 34 last month and C.J. Spiller set to hit free agency this weekend, the Bills needed an infusion of talent at running back. McCoy is one of the most talented at his position in the NFL.

It just makes sense.

McCoy tallied nearly 1,500 all-purpose yards last season and eclipsed 2,100 all-purpose yards in 2013. He's only 26 and should have enough tread on his tires to play out the final three years of his current deal, and probably longer.

The question for the Bills will be their ability to block for McCoy. There were some issues with the Eagles' offensive line last season, which caused McCoy's average yards before contact per rush to drop from 3.59 in 2013 (second best in the NFL) to 2.71 last season.

The Bills' offensive line was a mess last season, and, even though they've already added Richie Incognito this offseason, they'll need to do more to upgrade that unit.

The good news is they'll have more flexibility in the draft to address their other needs. A week ago, I would have pegged running back as one of the Bills' top draft needs and considered it a serious possibility they'd take one with their second-round pick, their first of the draft.

Now, they don't need to draft a running back until the late rounds, if at all. That means quarterback, tight end and offensive line come to the forefront for the Bills' second- and third-round picks this April.

The Bills will take a $10.25 million cap hit by acquiring McCoy and save less than $1 million by trading Alonso, so the Bills' cap space -- which NFLPA records listed at $27.1 million earlier Tuesday -- will be cut considerably. Re-signing defensive end Jerry Hughes will put another dent in that number and limit what the Bills could do elsewhere in free agency.

Still, the point of free agency is to acquire good players. The Bills were able to do that Tuesday by agreeing to the deal for McCoy, so the fact that their spending power this March will be limited because of the trade is hardly a setback.

The impact on the Bills' defense shouldn't be substantial, either. They lose a cheap, rising young player in Alonso but they already have a replacement: Preston Brown, a 2014 third-round pick who played the second-most snaps of any defensive rookie in the NFL last season and held his own.

If there was any position at which the Bills could afford to lose a player such as Alonso, it was linebacker. And truth be told, the Bills got by just fine without Alonso last season. With strong performances from Brown and Nigel Bradham at linebacker, they were considerably better in run defense, jumping from 28th in yards allowed per game in 2013 to 11th last season.

Unless McCoy gives the Bills headaches all summer about coming to Buffalo, or if he drops off a cliff after posting four 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his first six years in the league, there is little reason to fret about this trade.

Savor the moment, Bills fans, because it's not often that teams can draw up player-for-player swaps that make this much sense for both sides.
ESPN's Josina Anderson tweeted the following Tuesday night, hours after news broke of the Buffalo Bills' trade with the Philadelphia Eagles:
A source close to LeSean McCoy to me on how the #Eagles RB feels about news of an agreement to trade McCoy to Buffalo: "He’s a Pennsylvania kid. He’s never played football outside of Pennsylvania—high school, college, pro. So of course he's not happy. Sounds like it’s pretty final to me unless LeSean is refusing to go to Buffalo."

On whether the source believes McCoy will make a trade to Buffalo difficult, in light of McCoy’s initial reaction to the news:
"It'll be interesting to see how this process plays itself out because he's an interesting individual. In your mind, when you think of Buffalo you think of cold and losing games. It’s not like it’s the Philadelphia market where you’re always on t.v. and you’re playing for like the division title or that type of thing…It was unexpected. I'll tell you that much.”

The source on how McCoy is feeling at the moment:
"Honestly, he's frustrated ... It's alright. It's the league. I told him that. I guess he just never experienced that, but he was like 'why me.'"

The source said he thinks McCoy is "not going to make it easy, that's for sure."

The source on whether the trade news was a surprise:
"Honestly we were under the impression the whole time, that eventually at some point, Chip [Kelly] was going to ask LeSean to restructure his contract--not a pay cut, but convert some of his signing bonus."
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PHILADELPHIA -- The news about the LeSean McCoy trade was the final puzzle piece, the one that completed the picture.

The report from ESPN's Adam Schefter said that the Eagles were trading McCoy, their Pro Bowl running back, to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso. It would be a blockbuster deal at any time. But on Tuesday, it was the last block on the top of the pyramid.

Earlier in the day, the Eagles announced the release of veteran cornerback Cary Williams. A few hours after that, news broke that outside linebacker Trent Cole was being released. Cole was the longest tenured player on the Eagles, as well as the franchise's No. 2 player in career sacks. Only Hall of Famer Reggie White got to more quarterbacks than Cole as an Eagle.

So what was happening? It seemed like chaos, but there is order in all the transactions, going back to the announcement on New Year's Eve that head coach Chip Kelly would have final say on all personnel decisions.

Kelly came to Philadelphia from the University of Oregon two years ago. For his first season, and most of his second, Kelly was content to coach the players he inherited. He didn't make finding his franchise quarterback a priority; he simply went ahead with Michael Vick and Nick Foles. He didn't jettison the veteran defenders with experience in the Eagles' 4-3 scheme. He had guys like Trent Cole and Brandon Graham change positions for the Eagles' new 3-4 defense.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesChip Kelly now has final say on all of the Eagles personnel decisions, and on Tuesday news emerged that the team was parting ways with cornerback Cary Williams, outside linebacker Trent Cole and running back LeSean McCoy.
Now we know that was not Kelly's grand plan. That was Kelly getting a feel for the NFL after a career spent in the college game. That was Kelly assessing what he had and what he would need going forward. That was Kelly waiting until he was ready to jump-start his program.

He's ready.

The first tentative sign came right after the season, when Kelly was granted full control of personnel decisions. Eagles owner Jeff Lurie gave Kelly that power at the expense of general manager Howie Roseman. It seemed like a typical NFL power struggle, pretty much like the one former coach Andy Reid won a decade earlier to gain personnel control.

But in the past few days, the picture has become much more complete. Kelly isn't just kicking back in his big office chair. He's remaking the Eagles' roster in the image that has formed in his mind.

The first big domino to fall was guard Todd Herremans, a 10-year veteran who helped McCoy lead the NFL in rushing in 2013. But Herremans missed half of 2014 with a torn biceps and was going to be pretty expensive in 2015. Kelly released Herremans on Friday.

On Tuesday, it was Cole, a player who willingly made the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker. ESPN's Adam Caplan reported Tuesday afternoon that Cole would be released as soon as Wednesday.

A little earlier, cornerback Cary Williams was released after starting all 33 games in his two years with the Eagles. That includes last year's playoff game against New Orleans.

And then came the bombshell, Schefter's report that McCoy was out. That marked the second year in a row that Kelly stunned fans by getting rid of one of the team's offensive stars. Last year's release of wide receiver DeSean Jackson could be spun as Kelly looking to move on from a player who was a poor fit for the culture he was trying to establish.

But McCoy? He is 26 years old, one season removed from leading the NFL in rushing. Yes, McCoy's rushing yardage dropped from 1,607 yards in 2013 to 1,319 in 2014, but surely that had more to do with the injuries that threw the offensive line into chaos. Kelly certainly seemed to respect McCoy's game, especially considering the number of carries (626) he gave him over their two years together.

The decision to move McCoy accomplishes a couple of things.

Obviously, the first thing it does is bring Alonso to Philadelphia. An inside linebacker who played for Kelly at Oregon, Alonso will partner with Mychal Kendricks to give the Eagles a dynamic pair on the inside. That probably means the end of the road for DeMeco Ryans, who tore his Achilles tendon halfway through the 2014 season.

The trade also removes McCoy's $11.95 million number from the Eagles' salary cap. Kelly's outlook was summarized by Herremans in a radio interview Monday. Herremans said basically that Kelly prioritizes the quarterback and the offensive line.

"Other than that," Herremans told 97.5 The Fanatic, "I think that Kelly feels like he can kind of -- you know, the system will take care of it."

In other words, McCoy's great 2013 and very good 2014 were, in Kelly's view, reflections of his offensive system. That system will be successful with other running backs, all of whom will cost less than the $11.95 million McCoy was going to count against the Eagles' salary cap.

In the span of a week, Kelly has removed the two longest-tenured players, Cole and Herremans, from the Eagles' locker room. He has cut ties with Williams and James Casey, two free agents signed in Kelly's first, hurried offseason. And he has traded away McCoy, the Eagles' all-time leading rusher.

This part was easy, if shocking. The much harder part is building a better team from what is left behind. Kelly surely has a plan for that.

After all this, the widely held belief that he covets Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota seems even more reasonable. If you're trying to win in 2015, you keep McCoy. If you're going to build around a franchise quarterback, then you're better off moving on from a running back who won't be around when that quarterback is ready to win.

With all of these moves, Kelly has left himself with almost $50 million in salary-cap space. That's enough to be very active in free agency.

Kelly has taken full control of the Eagles. With that, he has the freedom to do things his way. But with that also comes some pressure. For good or bad, the Eagles are Chip Kelly's team now.
The C.J. Spiller era is over in Buffalo.

With the Buffalo Bills set to trade linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Philadelphia Eagles for running back LeSean McCoy, there is no room for Spiller, who will hit the free-agent market next week for the first time in his career.

Spiller
Appearing on NFL Network shortly after news of the trade broke Tuesday evening, Spiller closed the door on any return to the Bills.

"Management called me and told me that they were [trading for McCoy] and pretty much giving me a thank you for your service," he said. "I feel still the same. Nothing's changed. The game plan is still the same. The only thing is that I won't be returning to Buffalo."

Spiller hadn't yet ruled out coming back to the Bills before the trade.

"I did [wish] have a chance, hoping I could return there," he said. "Very few guys get to play their whole careers with one team. But unfortunately that don't happen in this business, and I found out today that that don't happen in this business."

With the Eagles now down their top running back, Spiller offered his services to the Eagles.

"I'm pretty sure that Chip [Kelly] has my agent's phone number," he said, smiling. "I'm pretty sure that we might have to make a call over there."
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who had a close call in December when he was involved in an automobile accident, had another one Saturday night.

Newton was on stage in the Charlotte nightclub Label seconds before gun shots were fired, according to a report by WSOC-TV.

The Charlotte television station obtained photos of the two-time Pro Bowler with celebrities such as Young Jeezy during the party surrounding the CIAA basketball tournament.

This one was posted on Twitter:



According to the station, shots were heard moments after the pictures were taken. The police said in a release on Saturday night that unidentified suspects fired “several shots from inside the club."

Two people reportedly were injured, but were expect to recover. The television station reported the gunman had not been arrested.

Newton, who suffered two small fractures in his back during the December automobile crash, escaped without injury in this incident.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jonathan Massaquoi, the outside linebacker claimed by the Tennessee Titans off waivers from the Atlanta Falcons, might be more than a longshot contributor for Tennessee.

Massaquoi
He began the 2014 season as a starter for the Falcons but only started twice before playing in 13 of the team’s remaining 14 games as a reserve.

Listed at 6-foot-3, 264 pounds last season, Massaquoi was a fifth-round draft pick out of Troy in 2012. In 40 career games and seven starts, he's recorded six sacks and three passes defended.

Pro Football Focus ranked him No. 23 of 59 4-3 defensive ends, with a positive pass-rush rating and a negative run-defense mark.

ESPN.com’s Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure wrote that a carefree attitude cost Massaquoi standing with the franchise.

Massaquoi has talent. He showed flashes of it last season, particularly in games against the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens. But he rubbed some folks the wrong way with his carefree approach.

One member of the previous staff said Massaquoi was in the doghouse because he skipped treatments on the right foot he injured during a game against the Detroit Lions in London. Massaquoi was tabbed a "good kid who made some poor decisions and needs some structure."


A coach from the fired Falcons staff told McClure that Massaquoi is a “good kid.”

“Needs structure,” the coach said. “Makes some poor decisions at times, but what kid doesn't?”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans president and CEO Tommy Smith has spoken of how he wants more of a physical football team.

As the team prepares to shuffle its roster for its second season with Smith as head of the ownership group, he reiterated those themes in an appearance on 3HL on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville.

Regarding the identity of a team that went 2-14 and will draft second overall, Smith said: "I don't think we have one."

Doesn’t the smashmouth idea he touts run counter to coach Ken Whisenhunt’s desire to emphasize a downfield passing offense?

“I think you’re going to see a run game this year,” Smith said. “We didn’t have much of that last year. We lost two of our three tight ends early, we lost O-linemen and so forth. But if you’re going to go down the field you also have to have a run game to compliment it. We have a lot of work to do on that.”

Smith also addressed pass protection, which wasn’t great early and deteriorated as the offensive line injuries mounted.

“Until we protect a quarterback, we can talk about going into the draft or to a free agent or whatever but at the end of the year, we’ve got to keep the man upright for goodness sakes. It’s unfortunate [Zach Mettenberger] got injured.”

Smith said the quarterback is tough and committed, but he would like to have seen more. A shoulder injury kept Mettenberger out of the final three games.

The team needs some quarterback competition for Mettenberger, to at the very least be “safe.”

Draft and free-agent decisions will be made by general manager Ruston Webster and his staff, Smith said.

While he’d prefer to have a franchise built predominantly thorugh the draft, the current roster demands help from all available avenues.

"We're going to be very active in free agency,” Smith said. “We need to be."

A few other items he hit on in the interview:
  • After top non-football executive Don MacLachlan was ousted, the team will now have multiple public faces rather than heavy representation by one high-ranking man.
  • Smith is sticking with goals he started earlier for the Titans: the playoffs in 2015, the Super Bowl in 2016.
  • While the team is returning to navy blue as its primary color, Smith didn’t offer any indication that uniform or logo alterations are in progress.
PHILADELPHIA -- It’s either refreshing honesty or nothing more than an echo chamber. We’ll know soon enough.

 One day after recently released Eagles guard Todd Herremans told a radio interview that he would “make a splash” and go after Marcus Mariota in the draft, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin voiced a similar opinion.

Appearing on ESPN Radio’s “SVP & Russillo Show” Tuesday, Maclin was asked about the chances of Eagles coach Chip Kelly being reunited with his former Oregon quarterback.

“Chip has the green light to do what he wants to do,” Maclin said. “So I think Chip will go out and get his guy.”

After the season, Kelly was given full control over Eagles’ personnel decisions. General manager Howie Roseman, who previously worked with Kelly closely on personnel matters, was removed from the process. That’s the “green light” Maclin was referring to.

But here’s the question. Are Herremans and Maclin revealing inside information, gleaned from conversations with Kelly or members of the coaching staff? Or are they simply reacting to the rampant media speculation that Kelly would try to trade up in the draft for a shot at Mariota?

There’s no way to be sure, since neither player was asked the basis for his opinion. But it is an interesting pattern all the same. Two players who were in the Eagles’ huddle with Nick Foles during the season are publicly saying they believe Kelly will, or at least should, try to get Mariota.

Whether it’s refreshing honesty or just part of the echo chamber, that tells you something.
HOUSTON -- Until now, Andre Johnson's career has been rare. Elias Sports Bureau shared this:
Andre Johnson is one of four players in NFL history who played for only one franchise and has 1,000 career receptions. The others are Marvin Harrison (1,102 catches for the Colts), Reggie Wayne (1,070, Colts) and Hines Ward (1,000, Steelers). Four players in NFL history joined and played for a new team when they already had 1,000 lifetime receptions: Jerry Rice (Raiders and Seahawks), Cris Carter (Dolphins) Tim Brown (Buccaneers) and Terrell Owens (Bengals).

Johnson has been granted permission to seek a trade and has asked to be released if that doesn't work out. The financials would make this a difficult trade. Johnson is one of four receivers owed $11 million or more in 2015, joining Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Dwayne Bowe.

Let's take a look at some potential landing spots for the the soon-to-be former Texan.

The division first, where we'll look at every team:

[+] EnlargeAndre Johnson
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsAndre Johnson is looking for a primary role with a serious contender.
Colts: Punter Pat McAfee went into recruiting mode on Twitter on Tuesday. The Colts are set with their No. 1 receiver T.Y. Hilton, but Reggie Wayne was their second-leading receiver and his future is uncertain at this point as he prepares for surgery. Would the Colts want to add another receiver in his mid-30s if Wayne departs? Would Johnson want to enter another situation where he'd be playing second fiddle? On the other hand, I'm sure he'd love to catch passes from Andrew Luck.

Titans: A team not close to contending, and one that has another unsettled quarterback situation, might not be of interest to Johnson. Receiver is one of the many areas where the Titans could use help, so they'd likely have interest.

Jaguars: They should be getting Justin Blackmon back and have been stocking up on young receivers in recent seasons, making their need for another receiver low. If Johnson wants to contend for a Super Bowl wherever he goes, this might not be the right fit in the short term.

Now a look around the rest of the league at some possibilities:

Patriots: A team-friendly deal might work here, though if salary is an issue this wouldn't be a likely landing spot. On the other hand, he'd get to play with an elite quarterback in Tom Brady, the kind of luxury he never has had with the Texans.

Bills: Buffalo has the cap space to take him on, but it is set with its top two receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. The Bills need a third receiver, but Johnson believes he's a starter.

Ravens: They're likely to lose Torrey Smith in free agency, creating a need here, and have shown in the past that they aren't afraid of signing older receivers. They signed Derrick Mason at age 35 and Steve Smith at age 34. Cap space is an issue for the Ravens. Without getting into the "is Joe Flacco elite?" discussion, this could be a good situation for Johnson, quarterback-wise.

Browns: A good receiver would be more than welcome here, but if Johnson wants to play for a contender, well ...

Raiders: Johnson's relationship with Derek Carr, plus the fact Carr was the best rookie of last year's quarterback class, could make this an appealing situation for Johnson. On the other hand, the Raiders aren't exactly an immediate contender.

Broncos: A reunion with Gary Kubiak might be appealing to both parties, and catching passes from Peyton Manning would certainly appeal to Johnson. The problem is, the Broncos aren't in need of receivers and don't have a ton of cap space available. If Johnson is seeking another location where he can be a starter, this likely won't be it. It could be a chance to be part of a contending team, though.

Falcons: Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was the Texans' receivers coach in 2006, then quarterbacks coach and finally offensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009. That connection is a plus, and the Falcons have a good quarterback. But they also have two very talented receivers, leaving little room for Johnson to have the role he wants.

Vikings: A connection that will cause people to talk about this one is that the same agent represents Johnson and Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Johnson is a very quarterback-friendly receiver. Minnesota hasGreg Jennings, but their second-leading receiver was running back Matt Asiata.
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PITTSBURGH -- Pat Narduzzi took a break from his new job as Pitt’s head football coach to watch Pro Day inside the practice facility the Panthers share with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Narduzzi had been Michigan State’s defensive coordinator before Pitt hired him to replace Paul Chryst, and more than a few of the scouts who helped fill the indoor practice facility on Tuesday asked Narduzzi about Spartans cornerback Trae Waynes.

"A lot of the guys I talked to today asked questions about him, and it sounds like he’s going to go in the top 10 or top 15 picks so (the Steelers) may have to trade up," Narduzzi said.

Indeed, the Steelers are unlikely to get a crack at picking Waynes if they stay at No. 22 in the first round.

That has been apparent since Waynes ran a blazing time of 4.31 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine last week. Waynes tested extremely well in Indianapolis, establishing himself as the top cornerback in the draft.

ESPN analyst Todd McShay has the Minnesota Vikings taking Waynes with the 11th overall pick in his latest mock draft.

Waynes intercepted three passes and broke up eight others last season, and Narduzzi said the 6-foot, 186-pounder showed his mettle by primarily playing man coverage with the Spartans.

"He’s a smooth, fast corner,” Narduzzi said. “I think he proved his speed at the combine, and he’s a great kid on top of that."
The New York Jets announced Tuesday that ticket prices for the 2015 season will remain flat for season-ticket holders. Smart move, considering the product and outcome of last season.

Once again, the ticket prices will range from $50 to $162.50, which averages to $114 per ticket. A year ago, that ranked sixth in the NFL. It doesn't include club seats, which are way more expensive.

Owner Woody Johnson, in a renewal letter to season-ticket holders, mentions the hirings of general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles, saying he's "optimistic about the future." He said his goal is to make MetLife Stadium a "fearsome place to play." There were times last season when it was tough for his own team.
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles have made moves to give themselves about $33 million in space under the 2015 NFL salary cap.

That’s a good thing, because the Eagles have also put themselves in position to fill a lot of holes in free agency.

The release of cornerback Cary Williams on Tuesday, along with the departures of guard Todd Herremans and tight end James Casey last week, subtracted $13.3 million from the Eagles’ 2015 salary cap. Williams’ release cleared about half of that, or $6.5 million. Casey’s release cleared $4 million, and the release of Herremans cleared $2.8 million.

But releasing Williams creates an urgency for the Eagles to add some defensive backs in free agency. With cornerback Bradley Fletcher and safety Nate Allen already due to become free agents, the Eagles need three new starters in their secondary.

Williams’ release leaves the Eagles with only Nolan Carroll, slot cornerback Brandon Boykin, and 2015 fourth-round pick Jaylen Watkins at cornerback. Starting safety Malcolm Jenkins returns, as do special teamers Chris Maragos, Chris Prosinski, and last year’s sixth-round pick, Ed Reynolds.

There is always the draft, of course. Several mock drafts have had the Eagles selecting a cornerback -- Washington’s Marcus Peters is often mentioned -- or a safety such as Alabama’s Landon Collins in the first round.

But it is a big step from college to the NFL for many defensive backs. If the Eagles hope to improve their secondary immediately, then free agency seems like a safer approach.

The Eagles also created a hole in their starting offensive line with the release of Herremans. They have some in-house candidates. Andrew Gardner, Allen Barbre, and Matt Tobin all started games in 2014. But none really distinguished himself as a potential upgrade from Herremans. That might require a draft pick.

There isn’t any urgency to replace Casey. He found his playing time reduced because of the emergence of second-round 2013 pick Zach Ertz. Casey excelled on special teams, however. Trey Burton, who had a strong rookie season on special teams, can fill in at tight end if needed.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- One of the more interesting stops during the open locker room period for the Carolina Panthers is near the far end, where No. 91 Colin Cole has resided the past two seasons.

Cole has a way of putting things into perspective like few others.

So it came as no surprise on Tuesday the perspective he put on the Panthers signing him to a one-year extension at an age -- he'll be 35 in June -- when most NFL defensive tackles are contemplating retirement or already enjoying it.

"It's just like a tire not being driven for however long," said Cole, who was out of football for almost 2½ years after being released by Seattle in 2011. "That tire still has tread on it."


More on that later.

Cole also put in perspective where the Panthers, in his opinion, appear to be with defensive end Greg Hardy, a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent not expected to be re-signed when free agency begins on March 10.

While Cole is among many Carolina players who would welcome back Hardy, who has remained on the commissioner's exempt list since his domestic violence charges were dropped on Feb. 9, he understands why management might think otherwise.

It goes beyond the perception of Hardy in terms of his May 13 arrest for the charges of assaulting and threatening to kill ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder. It goes beyond a Mecklenburg County judge dropping the charges on Feb. 9 because Holder refused to cooperate with the district attorney's office after reaching a financial settlement with Hardy.

It has to do with what it could cost to re-sign Hardy and how the team played last season with the 2013 Pro Bowl selection participating in only one game.

After a slow start, the Panthers finished in the top 10 in total defense for the third straight season.

"That plays a big factor," Cole said. "That plays a big factor in everybody's career. In order to stay relevant in this business, you have to be able to last physically [and be on the field]. And then when you have a situation where you're out a couple of months or a year and the team is forced to find the next guy, if somebody comes in and does their job well, especially when it comes to doing it for less pay, you can move on without him."

Cole may be old in the NFL in terms of his age, but he's all the wiser for it.

After signing a five-year, $21 million deal in 2009 with Seattle, Cole was released prior to the 2011 season. He was unable to be ready for the opener because of an ankle injury, and the team already had moved on to Brandon Mebane at nose tackle. The team also had signed free-agent tackle Alan Branch.

So Cole not only sat out the 2011 season but the entire 2012 season before the Panthers called in 2013. He thinks the time away from the game actually extended his career.

"I figure I've got three or four more years," Cole said. "I don't see myself done after this year."

Cole is what general manager Dave Gettleman calls a space-eater. He eats up blocks so linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis can make tackles.

He's also a leader. Although not outspoken, he helps teammates keep things in proper perspective.

That he could be had for a low price -- $1.05 million with a salary-cap number of only $665,000 -- also is a plus.

"What I was told was everybody loved having me around, that they feel I'm a core player, a key contributor," Cole said. "They said they wanted to bring me back because I add great depth and experience."

And he puts things into perspective like few others in the Carolina locker room.
ESPN front office analyst Mark Dominik, the former general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, might have more educated insight on cornerback Darrelle Revis than most.

 Dominik, of course, was the Buccaneers’ primary personnel decision-maker when the team traded for Revis in 2013.

What does Dominik think will happen with Revis this offseason?

“I think Revis stays in New England, and I think you’re going to see Revis on a more marginal deal,” Dominik said Tuesday on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” program.

“I think when you say marginal, look, I know how important winning was for Darrelle Revis. I think as a player, once you get that elixir that your feel you realize it’s not all about anything else. I think he’s looking for a home, and I think he felt like home was there.

“I think Revis stays at a reasonable rate, whether that’s the $12 to $14 [million per year]. Maybe it’s more the $12 million for five years, at $60 million, and it’s done.

“I think New England is going to get a discount, and I think it’s going to be hard for Revis to not want to stay there.”

EXTRA POINT: Dominik's scenario comes in below our own projected market for Revis.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tuesday marked a week until free agency begins at 4 p.m. ET and until then, teams will work around-the-clock to make sure they're either under the salary cap or to free up enough cap space to be competitors for free-agent needs.

And when the legal negotiating period begins Saturday, there'll be a number of veteran free agents who were recently cut looking for new homes.

Here's a list of the top recently-cut veterans who are on the market, with positions and former teams:

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