NFL Nation: Brandon Browner

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If the Green Bay Packers' plan was to feature Davante Adams on Sunday against the New England Patriots, they might have some alterations to make.

Adams did not take part in the portion of Thursday's practice that was open to the media. He was in attendance but spent the early part of the session talking with members of the team's training staff.

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He could be a critical piece on Sunday if the Patriots, with two top-flight cornerbacks in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, can effectively cover the Packers' top-two receivers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

A full injury update will be available after practice.

Adams practiced on Wednesday and also spoke with reporters in the locker room afterward. However, during Sunday's win against the Minnesota Vikings, he left the game for three plays during the first quarter after he appeared to fall awkwardly on his midsection after a 10-yard reception on the Packers' second series. He returned for the next series after missing only three plays.

Linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder) and cornerback Jarrett Bush (groin) were the only other players not practicing during the session that was moved to earlier in the day in order to allow everyone to get home for Thanksgiving.

Guard T.J. Lang (ankle) returned to practice after sitting out on Wednesday. Fellow starting guard Josh Sitton (toe) practiced for the second straight day.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers aren't sure whether the New England Patriots will assign Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner to shadow Jordy Nelson on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Whichever way the Patriots decide to play the Packers' top receiver, it most likely will remain that way for the entire game, leaving the other New England cornerback to stalk Randall Cobb wherever he goes.

"It's a matchup defense," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "They'll figure out who they want on Jordy, who they want on Randall, who they want on [tight end Andrew Quarless] and who they want on Davante [Adams], and we'll run our offense and adjust if we have to."

But don't tell Adams, the rookie No. 3 receiver, that more opportunities will come his way because of it.

To him, that line of thinking is an insult to the work that Cobb and Nelson -- who have combined for 126 catches, 1,903 yards and 19 touchdowns -- have put in through the first 11 games of this season.

"I feel like if everybody's saying that the ball's just going to come to me, they're saying that Revis is going to lock [up] Jordy," Adams said. "Jordy is one of the best receivers in the game right now. Why not still throw to Jordy if he's open? We're all going to run our routes and do our best to get open. I don't really like the whole, 'it could come to you Davante because they're going to put Revis on Jordy and Browner on Randall,' because it kind of down plays our receivers."

Few teams have gone the way of matching one cornerback on Nelson or Cobb all game long. This season, only the Miami Dolphins did it with Brent Grimes on Nelson, who still caught nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in the Week 6 victory.

Few teams, if any other than the Patriots, have two cornerbacks capable of doing it.

In last Sunday's win over the Detroit Lions, Patriots coach Bill Belichick went with Revis on Golden Tate and the more physical Browner on Calvin Johnson. Safety Devin McCourty usually helped bracket Johnson.

If they follow that same plan, it could be Browner (with help) on Nelson and Revis on Cobb, who plays more in the slot.

"You look at both of them," said Nelson, who last Sunday went over 1,000 yards for the second straight season. "I'm pretty confident I'll get one or the other. But you look at past games, how they've treated other teams, so you kind of get a feel for it. But they can change it up. You go through it kind of like a normal game and guys aren't going to follow you, especially when you don't know who will. So you're watching both and how they play and try to get a feel for it and have a game plan for each of them."

Whatever the scenario, Adams will almost certainly face the Patriots' number three corner.

"Depending on whether they want to put Browner inside or out, so depending on that, but yeah, most likely," said Adams, who since his career-high seven catches for 75 yards against the Saints in Week 8 has caught only for passes the last three games combined.

But that does not mean Adams' number will be called more often this week.

"We'll see," he said. "You know just as much as I do where it's going."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Remember last week when Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels said it was time for the defense to get mean?

Count quarterback Aaron Rodgers among those who think they have the personnel to do so.

Rodgers
In our continuing series based on Rodgers' lengthy interview with ESPN.com last week, I asked what he liked about this year's team that perhaps he has not seen from other recent Packers' squads.

His answer seemed to fit perfectly with what Daniels was talking about.

"I think we're a bigger, more physically intimidating team," Rodgers said. "We haven't had the kind of physical talent as far as size here in a while. I think there's been times -- I think back to playing Jacksonville in '08 in Jacksonville [a 20-16 Packers' loss], some of the battles we've had with our division teams at times -- where you walk on the field and feel like you're kind of a JV team."

"We've still won a lot of games looking like that, but it's fun when you walk around the locker room and you've got guys like [Julius] Peppers, [Adrian] Hubbard, Datone Jones and then with Derek [Sherrod] back with his size, adding size at receiver, tight end with Richard Rodgers. We just haven't had guys in some of these positions with those body types, and that's exciting."

Rodgers said he believes building a team with bigger players was by design.

"It's natural when teams win the Super Bowl, everybody takes a hard look at what makes their team a championship-caliber team," Rodgers said. "With Seattle, you've got large players in positions you haven't quite seen that size player in a while.

"Both of their corners, [Brandon] Browner and [Richard] Sherman -- I know Browner didn't play a whole lot because of his suspension and injury -- are bigger corners. You're seeing bigger wide receivers. You're seeing larger guys up front in size and length. That's kind of the trend to combat some of the athleticism on the defensive size. On the flip side, it's to have big tight ends and big wide receivers and big offensive linemen to combat them, whereas a few years ago you saw kind of a mix of the zone blocking scheme, smaller quicker offensive linemen. Now you're going back to bigger guys on the offensive line."

Coming tomorrow: Rodgers on the Packers' offense circa 2011.

Ex-Bucs GM weighs in on Revis

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
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BRISTOL, Conn. -- Just as teams have been busy signing free agents this offseason, ESPN has been as well.

Revis
The latest NFL Insider is former Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik, who can be seen on NFL Insiders and read on ESPN Insider on ESPN.com.

We had the chance to catch up with Dominik to pick his brain on new Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis, a player he acquired via trade during the 2013 offseason.

Below are some of his thoughts.

On what makes Revis an elite CB:
"Revis to me, in spending time around him, has unique anticipation. Elite anticipation is probably the right way to use it. He has a way of feeling it, understanding routes, reading the hops of players, reading the eyes, [the] general feel and he's exceptional with ball skills. He knows how to break on the ball, where to use his hands to avoid penalties, and he obviously has soft hands for interceptions. His ball awareness and ball skills, and then again anticipation, are what make him an elite corner."

On Revis' size and speed, which some people might underrate:
"You know, he's bigger than you think. With Darelle, because of his quickness and he has no wasted motion in his transitions, there's not an extra step, and so, you think Darelle is going to be this 5-10, 5-11, 195-pound corner, he's every bit of 6 foot and change, and he's a 205-pound corner. So he's a big, thick corner, which I think makes him physical enough against the run and certainly gives him a chance to match up against those more physical receivers."

On whether he could be used in the slot:
"You could, but I think you'd waste him in the slot. I don't see that being a strength of Darrelle. I think he's always going to be a perimeter guy because of the crossing patterns you run out of the slot. I think he's better up at the line of scrimmage, using his hands, and then allow him to just play with anticipation."

On Revis as a person:
"Darrelle is very low maintenance, very down to earth. Not full of himself, a really good dude, soft spoken, but will speak when he feels like he needs to. He's a great teammate that way. And really, he's a good man. He comes from a good family, his mother is a wonderful lady, and Darrelle's a unique person, and I think he doesn't usually talk much unless he's provoked. And Darrelle just lets his play talk."

On whether he believes Revis' knee, which was surgically repaired following a 2012 ACL tear, is an issue anymore:
"No. I think Darrelle played last year a little cautious throughout most of the year, just because he wasn't quite sure. And I don't blame him. Coming off an ACL as a cornerback, a lot of guys have made that transition, and sometimes it takes more than a year. I think Darrelle still played at a very high level, we put him in some tough spots in terms of coverage, but at the end of the day he still was what I thought was the elite corner that we traded for. That's why I think it's a great acquisition for the New England Patriots."

We also had the chance to tap into Dominiki for some thoughts on a pair of other Patriots cornerbacks that have drawn interest this offseason

On Brandon Browner:
"Brandon Browner is a huge corner. Just really long from his ankle to knee and then his knee to his arms. I mean that's what his advantage is. He's going to be a little bit tighter in space, short-area quickness, [those are] the things he's going to struggle with. He's going to come up and maul you at the line of scrimmage, beat you up, and he'll tackle you. They have big corners, thick corners, and that's obviously what coach Belichick is looking for."

On Logan Ryan:
"Very smart football player, extremely smart. Understands angle, good positioning. Again, good with his hands, and he has enough speed. His big thing that everybody talks about is the top-end speed, but again, if you get a pass rush and you get a guy who understands early stuff and uses his hands well, you can eliminate some of that speed deficiency, and I think Logan can do that."

Pete Carroll talks Brandon Browner

March, 26, 2014
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has long been a proponent of cornerbacks playing a physical bump-and-run style, and when he considers what the New England Patriots now have with Brandon Browner, it’s his ability to be effective in that area that stands out most.

Browner
“That’s when he’s at his best, on the line of scrimmage," Carroll said Wednesday at the NFC coaches breakfast. “He’s built for that. He’s so long, so big and so aggressive."

With this in mind, count Carroll among those intrigued as to Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s defensive plans with Browner (6-4, 221) and Darrelle Revis (5-11, 198).

“It’s going to be really fun to watch those guys play together. I’m anxious to see how they use them, how they do it,” Carroll said. “Bill’s a great football coach, and he’ll figure out how to use those guys. Look forward to watching it.”

Carroll expounded more on Browner as a collection of New England reporters gathered at his table.

“He’s a fantastic football player, a great competitor. He has a great depth of understanding of the position,” he said. “He’s played bump-and-run press technique since he was a freshman in college, back at Oregon State. We played against him back in the day. He was only there a couple of years because he left early.

“He was a fantastic player in college, went to Canada and was a fantastic player in Canada. By the time we got him, he was so savvy in playing the position, and I think he really blossomed, again took another step forward just with our commitment to the style of play and all.

“I talked to Bill about it, and I’m kind of envious. He’s a great baller. He’s going to get a really special guy in Brandon.”

As for why the Seahawks didn’t retain Browner, Carroll pointed to 2011 sixth-round draft choice Byron Maxwell as a primary factor. Economics were also part of the consideration.

Carroll thinks the Patriots will be pleased but cautioned that there might be some early bumps in the road with Browner's four-game suspension.

“Under the circumstances, he’s going to have to bounce back,” Carroll said. “It’s been a difficult time for him. He was really stressed by the whole thing. But the fact that the Patriots stepped up in a significant way, are paying him well, when he finally gets there and gets on the field, I would expect nothing other than him being a great competitor.”

Carroll smiled when a link was made between Browner’s style of play and one of his first-round draft choices with the Patriots (1997-99), bigger defensive back Tebucky Jones.

“All you guys were wondering, what the heck were we thinking? Nobody understood it at the time,” he said. “I wanted to see if we could make him a great corner. We didn’t have enough time. I wasn’t there very long.”
The talk of the NFL's free-agency period through the first two weeks in the AFC has centered on the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.

The Broncos bulked up their defense by acquiring defensive end DeMarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib to go with quarterback Peyton Manning and the rest of the offense. The Patriots signed cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner while re-signing receiver Julian Edelman.

The Indianapolis Colts?

They didn’t make any free-agent splashes outside of re-signing cornerback Vontae Davis. General manager Ryan Grigson easily could have panicked as the Patriots and Broncos, the two teams who played in the AFC Championship Game last season, made their moves.

Nope.

The Colts went into the free-agency period with a plan, a plan they weren’t going to deviate from. Grigson said they signed all the players they wanted to get.

"You're competitive, but you can't be competitive in that way where you're watching what they're doing and say, 'We’re going to one-up you.' That makes no sense to me," he said. "We're in our own little world over here with our own vision of the future with our own set of problems and circumstances and things we're trying to work through positionally and needs we're trying to address. And they have a completely different landscape on all of those different teams."

The Broncos loaded up their roster in an attempt to make at least one more run at a Super Bowl with Manning before his Hall of Fame career likely ends in the next couple of years.

The Colts, like the other 31 teams, want to win the Super Bowl, but don’t have a short window to win a title like Denver and New England. Their quarterback, Andrew Luck, is headed into only his third season. Grigson also has to be financially conscious because they’ll have to pay players such as Luck, offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo and receiver T.Y. Hilton sooner than later.

"It's a team effort when we bring guys into the building," Grigson said. "We really attack it like a team and at the end of the day, we stick to our plan and our vision. Again, it's forward thinking and always looking ahead and not necessarily living in the now even though we feel like Super Bowl XLIX is something that we can attain. With the quarterback that we have and the young players around him, you want to build for sustained success. It's something that you have to stay disciplined in day in and day out."

Contract breakdown: Tracy Porter

March, 17, 2014
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Tracy Porter might end up as the Redskins’ third cornerback, covering receivers in the slot. He’s already ended up as their most expensive corner -- not that he cost a while lot, however. And that would only last for this season.

The Redskins signed Porter, who played in Oakland last season, rather than go harder after other free agents such as Brandon Browner (three years, $17 million from New England, but I have not seen the breakdown yet) and Walter Thurmond (one year, $3.5 million from the Giants). Both had visits scheduled with Washington, but it’s very possible the Redskins knew both players might opt for elsewhere.

Regardless, they signed Porter who will count more against the salary cap than any other corner on the roster, including the re-signed DeAngelo Hall. Porter received a $2 million bonus for signing with Washington. Hall's cap number this season is $2,062,500; but in 2015 it will be $4,812,500.
Here’s how Porter’s contract breaks down:

2014
Base salary: $1.25 million
Cap hit: $2.8 million
Note: Porter will receive a roster bonus of $15,625 for each game he is active, up to a maximum of $250,000. He also has likely to be earned incentives of $300,000.

2015
Base salary: $2.25 million
Cap hit: $3.8 million
Note: Porter will receive a roster bonus of $15,625 for each game he is active, up to a maximum of $250,000. He also has likely to be earned incentives of $300,000.

Browner bits from conference call

March, 17, 2014
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Cornerback Darrelle Revis held his introductory conference call with reporters on Monday at 1:45 p.m. ET and stressed that the primary factor in his decision to sign with the Patriots was winning. Immediately following Revis, fellow cornerback Brandon Browner held a conference call and here are some of the highlights:

Browner
Revis
Teaming up with Revis. Asked his thoughts about teaming up with Revis, Browner said “it will be fun”, before mentioning it isn’t just about him and Revis. Browner said Revis is someone he’s studied in the past, calling him a “pretty good technician who always seems like he has a good base, a good balance in his backpedal.” Browner envisions Revis pushing him in the same way that Richard Sherman and his “Legion of Boom” teammates did in Seattle.

Expect a lot of man coverage. Browner relayed that, “a lot of the stuff I’ll be doing on defense, I did in Seattle; the only thing that [is different] is the terminology. I was also told we play a lot of man to man, which is my strong suit. From what I understand they're going to have us matched up [a lot].” Browner later added that one of his goals now is “to win the big one” and “that’s part of the reason I made the decision to come to New England.”

Not getting into suspension. Asked to provide details on his suspension, in the interest of clarity, Browner said he’d share a few thoughts but didn’t want to get into too many details in the hopes of putting that behind him. “The last few months, my future was in a dark place. I made a few mistakes and that’s one of the mistakes I regret. I look forward to righting my wrong. I’m blessed with the opportunity to come play in New England and start on a [good] foot, so to say.”

No talk about playing safety. Browner said all discussions with the Patriots have been about playing cornerback. If the coaching staff approached him about playing safety, he’d be willing to because, “I just want to play some football and I’m fortunate to be playing for a team like the Pats.”

First impressions of organization. Browner said he met a few of his teammates while in town the last few days, and went out to eat at Patriot Place with one of the team’s defensive backs coaches (presumably Josh Boyer). He also watched a few videos with strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash, “which I was very impressed with.”
Chances appear high that the New Orleans Saints could re-sign right tackle Zach Strief. His agent Ralph Cindrich said Friday that he’s continued to talk with the Saints among other teams, and it “looks like we’re moving” toward a possible deal. Nothing, however, has been finalized.

Strief
There were reports out of Miami that the Dolphins wanted Strief to come for a visit, but Strief declined. Cindrich responded only that no visit has ever been scheduled with the Dolphins or any other team. Strief was back in his hometown of Cincinnati for a charity event this week.

There have been no recent updates available on any of the Saints’ other unsigned free agents -- including center Brian De La Puente, fullback Jed Collins, receivers Robert Meachem and Joe Morgan, and linebacker Parys Haralson.

There also haven’t been any developments with Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner. ESPN’s John Clayton and Adam Schefter both reported that Browner will likely visit with the Saints. He also visited with the New England Patriots and has been talking with the Oakland Raiders, as well.
It was a busy day Thursday and there could be more action Friday. So let's take a look ahead and then look back:

Scheduled visits
CB Walter Thurmond
Note: I have not heard that his visit has been cancelled after the Tracy Porter signing and interest in Brandon Browner. So as of now it looks like he’ll still visit here (originally scheduled for Friday). He also has visited with Jacksonville and tweeted Thursday that he was visiting with San Francisco that afternoon. Lots of frequent-flyer mile potential here.

CB Brandon Browner
Note: The Redskins just signed Tracy Porter, but clearly want to add more corners to go with DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson. They want to upgrade this position, but I also wonder what they have in mind because every one of these corners is capable. I have a tough time believing Thurmond or Browner or Porter, based on their experience, would want to be a fourth corner. The NFL Network reported Thursday night that Browner had agreed to a deal with New England. But Browner’s agent, Peter Schaffer, vehemently denied a deal had taken place to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. But Schefter reported this morning that Browner will visit with New Orleans after his stop in Washington (while also negotiating with New England and Oakland).

TE Owen Daniels
Note: Daniels arrived Thursday night and will leave after a visit Friday. He visited with Green Bay, but the Packers re-signed tight end Andrew Quarless afterward so it’s uncertain if the Packers still have any interest. The Redskins could use another pass-catching tight end to pair with Jordan Reed, coming off a concussion and limited to nine games as a rookie last season. They still like Logan Paulsen, but he’s a blocker. Niles Paul has not developed into that second pass-receiving threat after two years playing the position. Daniels has 365 career receptions, including 62 in 2012. But he was limited to five games and 24 receptions this past season because of a fractured fibula. Houston cut Daniels earlier this offseason. Given his age (31) and some durability concerns (he’s missed a combined 18 games the past four seasons, but only two in 2011 and ’12), he’d probably be best in a role where he’s not the primary pass-catching tight end. If healthy, he'd also provide good insurance in case Reed isn't durable.

Players of interest
OT Donald Penn
Note: The former Tampa Bay tackle’s first stop will be in Oakland. There’s a feeling that Penn’s play dropped off a decent amount at left tackle last season, but that a move to right tackle could be a good one -- and that’s what the Redskins would want him to play.

Waiting on
FS Ryan Clark
Note: He visited Thursday and, according to agent Joel Turner, it was “very good.” Of course, that’s how they’re usually termed; sort of like every surgery an athlete has was successful until we find out later that it wasn’t. Still, it must have been pretty good because both sides were still talking after it was over. Clark has interest from other teams, but his agent declined to say where he was headed next -- or to characterize the negotiations with Washington. Stay tuned on this one.

LB Anthony Spencer
Note: He visited Thursday as well and the Redskins remain in talks with him. If healthy, he's an excellent linebacker (or, at least, he was before 2013). Spencer played just one game last season because of microfracture knee surgery, and he's also 30. But if he can still play, Spencer could be used as a situational pass-rusher and, depending on his deal, provide insurance in case Brian Orakpo leaves after this season. Spencer played mostly on the left side in Dallas, but would occasionally flip to the right.

Done Deals
CB Tracy Porter
Note: Experienced in the slot and coming off his best season, but now playing with his third new team in three years since leaving the New Orleans Saints.

DL Jason Hatcher
Note: He'll turn 32 before the season, but will fit nicely in the Redskins’ defense with his ability to play outside in a base package and inside in their nickel. One Redskins source said Hatcher's ability to disrupt against them last year was the best they had seen in a couple years.

DL Clifton Geathers
Note: He's a big fella at 6-foot-8 and 340 pounds. In a game of leverage, that sort of height can be difficult. Last season with Philadelphia was the first time he had played in all 16 games since entering the league in 2010. He’s worth taking a shot on because the Redskins already have some depth at this position so it's not as if they're in trouble if he can’t play.

LB Daryl Sharpton
Note: Injuries have been an issue throughout his career, which could explain why he signed for just one season. If healthy he could start. He’s considered better against the run, but that’s what the Redskins want first and foremost from this position.

He’s out?
OL Bruce Campbell
Note: For a guy who has done nothing in his career (nine games, zero starts, let go by two teams), he’s sure been mentioned a lot. The contract he agreed to showed up on the NFLPA site, but it was never signed. The Washington Post reported that he underwent shoulder surgery this past fall (he was not on a roster) and that could have led to an issue with his physical. But according to The Baltimore Sun, Campbell will visit with the New York Giants. Yes, it happens where one team has an issue in the physical but another team does not. There's still a chance he ends up back in Washington. But considering the agreed-upon deal was for one year and worth a maximum of $715,000 this season, he's far from a lock to make the roster even if he does eventually sign.

Brandon Browner buzz intensifies

March, 13, 2014
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The deal might not officially be done, but one thing we learned Thursday night is that the Patriots have a real interest in signing free-agent cornerback Brandon Browner. The interest appears to be mutual.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter quoted a well-placed Patriots source, who said: "Browner wants to be in New England, I think we are close, but it's a tough deal to do because of suspension, etc."

Browner visited the Patriots on Thursday, then was scheduled to meet with the Redskins. His agent, Peter Schaffer, told ProFootballTalk.com that he was negotiating with four teams.

One report Thursday night indicated that Browner and the Patriots had agreed on a two-year deal, which sparked the buzz surrounding Browner.
MINNEAPOLIS -- For as much as the first day of free agency was marked by the Vikings' ability to add a critical piece to their defense in former New York Giants tackle Linval Joseph, it ended with several cornerbacks finding other teams. Indianapolis' Vontae Davis re-signed with the Colts for $39 million over the next four years, New England's Aqib Talib got $57 million over six years from Denver, while Tennessee's Alterraun Verner -- in whom the Vikings had expressed interest on Saturday -- signed not to play with his old defensive coordinator (new Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray) in Minnesota, but with former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier in Tampa Bay.

Verner only got $26 million over four years (with $14 million guaranteed), which might reflect some teams' apprehension about putting him in a man coverage scheme. The Titans had used man coverage more often early last season, but Verner's best work there had been as a zone corner, and teams that plan to play a good chunk of man coverage -- like the Vikings now do -- might have decided Verner wasn't their best fit. That won't be a problem in Tampa, where the Buccaneers will lean heavily on the Cover-2 scheme used by Frazier and head coach Lovie Smith in their previous stops. But it does leave the Vikings still looking elsewhere for a corner.

So where might they look? Denver's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could be an option, especially now that the Broncos spent their money on Talib. He's 6-foot-2, is only 28 and was compared to Terence Newman (a Mike Zimmer favorite in Dallas and Cincinnati) when entering the draft in 2008. Miami's Nolan Carroll is another big corner who has essentially played in Zimmer's scheme; Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle was Zimmer's defensive backs coach in Cincinnati before going to Miami, and Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards was brought to town in part because he'd been working in the same scheme as the Dolphins' linebackers coach. Carroll would be cheaper than Rodgers-Cromartie, and he's a couple years younger, too. Cincinnati's Brandon Ghee could fit, for obvious reasons. And if the Vikings are looking for a slot corner after Josh Robinson struggled there last year, Carolina's Captain Munnerlyn could be an option, as Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com points out.

One thing I don't see happening -- and the thing I probably got more questions about today than anything else -- is Darrelle Revis coming to Minnesota. Revis is only 28, and might be the best man coverage corner in the game when he's on, but he's had lots of contract squabbles, and will probably have more interest from teams closer to a championship than the Vikings.

Lastly, it's important to remember what Zimmer said last week about how he wanted to build his defense. "My thing has always been play good team defense, not just be great players, but be good as a team," he said. "I do believe you can be real good, if you get the correct guys in there that buy into the system, that want to play for one another, that want to take ownership in something bigger than themselves. Everybody sees that Maserati and they want to go buy it and you know you probably shouldn’t. You should probably buy a Ford F-150 like I got. Because if you get the F-150, you can keep building the pieces you need. So I think we have to be smart about it."

The Vikings could still draft a corner like Justin Gilbert in the first round. They could sign someone like Rodgers-Cromartie or Carroll, or possibly take a look at Seattle's Brandon Browner (who will be suspended for the first four games of the season). The position remains at or near the top of the Vikings' list of needs, but it might not get fixed with a $40 million investment on the free-agent market.

We'll see how things develop over the next few days, but options still remain for the Vikings at corner.

Should the Redskins pursue ...

March, 7, 2014
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It happens quite often: Well-known Player gets released and within seconds the question is asked. Will the Redskins pursue Well-known Player? It’s a, uh, fun game. But it’s also understandable, especially when the team involved (the Redskins) has many spots to fill.

So I thought I’d take a look at four players who have been in the news lately, which prompted a round of questions:

CB Champ Bailey: Loved covering him early in his career in Washington and also watching him play. But what does he have left? The assumption is he could move to safety. However, in doing that he’d have to learn a new defense and a new position. That’s a lot to ask. Denver’s decision to release him is not about money, it’s about where his game stands. Perhaps if that Lisfranc injury heals well this offseason he’ll regain some of that lost explosiveness. But the team that knows him best did not think that would happen. It’s a tricky injury. He liked playing in Washington. He definitely tired of the organization so it’s debatable if he’d even want to return.

CB Cortland Finnegan: The Redskins likely would have pursued him in 2012 had the salary-cap penalty not been applied. This is why free agency is dangerous: Finnegan never came close to living up to his five-year, $50 million contract in St. Louis. Just remember that next week. Injuries cost him nine games this past season – three because of a hamstring issue; he was then placed on injured reserve because he fractured an orbital bone behind his left eye. But he was playing poorly before the injury. Last year, he had a nagging hamstring injury that left him mostly as a nickel corner (though he played in every game). He’s considered good in the locker room. At 30, once corners start breaking down it’s hard to trust them. And, at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds a move to safety is probably not the best idea. St. Louis apparently wants him back. If I’m the Redskins, I stay away from an aging corner coming off injuries who is smaller and doesn’t know my defense.

CB Brandon Browner: Unlike the other two, he already was an unrestricted free agent. But I’m including him here because of his recent reinstatement, so he became a popular one to ask about. But as part of his return to the NFL, he’ll have to sit out the first four games of 2014. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, he’s big and physical. That style works great – when you have a pass rush like Seattle to match. But he’ll also turn 30 before the season and he’s limited as to his style of play. What they don’t need are more aging defensive players. And when physical corners age, if they can’t get their hands on a receiver, they struggle. However, Browner was well-liked in the Seattle locker room. I’d consider him more for safety than corner at this point.

KR/PR Devin Hester: Another player who already was a free agent. But, like Browner, Hester was in the news when the Bears confirmed they would not be re-signing him So ... there were questions. I would definitely consider him because it’s clear he’s still good. Hester averaged 27.6 yards on 52 kickoff returns last season (with four fumbles) and 14.2 on punt returns. He returned a punt 81 yards for a score against the Redskins. Shocker there, I know. Of his 18 punt returns, four went for at least 20 yards -- that’s three more than the Redskins had in 35 returns.

Hester counted $2.98 million against the salary cap in 2013. The Bears do not want to pay a return specialist that kind of money and it’s hard to blame them when they have other areas to fill. His lack of versatility hurts – he was tried at other spots and never produced. Do not fool yourself into thinking it would be different elsewhere. He’s a bit of a luxury and for a team with bigger holes, should he be signed even for, say, $2 million a year? But he has averaged at least 14.2 yards per punt return in three of the past four years.
The NFL's free-agent market is suddenly being flooded with former Pro Bowl cornerbacks -- which is a great thing for the New Orleans Saints.

I think the cornerback position should rank as New Orleans' No. 1 priority in free agency -- even more than the draft, because I think they could use an experienced veteran capable of stepping right into their starting lineup along with Keenan Lewis now that Jabari Greer has been released. I still like third-year pro Corey White's potential, but think he’d be an even better fit as a nickel back.

Whether the Saints have interest in guys such as Champ Bailey, Cortland Finnegan or Brandon Browner, they should still benefit from the fact that there are more options available in a free-agent class that was already pretty deep to begin with.

[+] EnlargeTarell Brown
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezThe 49ers' Tarell Brown is considered one of the top free-agent cornerbacks available this offseason.
The Saints won’t be huge spenders in free agency because they're pretty snug against the salary cap. But I think they'll still be aggressive with one or two acquisitions -- like when they signed Lewis to a five-year, $26.3 million contract last year (after first flirting with pricier outside linebacker Paul Kruger).

Here is a glimpse of who is available in free agency, with some insight from ESPN Scouting Insider Matt Williamson:

TOP TIER: I don’t expect the Saints to be in the market for the New England Patriots' Aqib Talib or the Tennessee Titans’ Alterraun Verner. Those guys could be closer to the $8 million range, similar to what the Miami Dolphins just paid to re-sign Brent Grimes (four years, $32 million). The Indianapolis Colts’ Vontae Davis probably will be too pricey as well.

It's possible the Saints could flirt with the Green Bay Packers' Sam Shields or the Denver Broncos' Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, especially if those players don’t find big offers quickly. But chances are, the Saints will be shopping in the next tier down.

SECOND TIER: This is the range I’d most expect the Saints in -- experienced starters who won’t necessarily break the bank. I like the possibility of the San Francisco 49ers' Tarell Brown (29 years old, 5-foot-10, 193 pounds, a starter for the past three years). ESPN analyst KC Joyner recently tabbed him as a good fit for the Saints Insider. And ESPN’s Free-Agent Tracker Insider, which used input from former general manager Bill Polian and analysts Williamson, Gary Horton and Field Yates, ranks Brown among the top options overall.

"[Brown’s] a good one," Williamson said. "I think he starts for just about every team out there, though it didn’t hurt that he benefited from a great supporting cast."

Or maybe the Saints should consider stealing Captain Munnerlyn from the rival Carolina Panthers after the 25-year-old just had his best year to date in 2013. Munnerlyn is just 5-8, 195 pounds, but he plays physical. And he has an uncanny knack for turning interceptions into touchdowns (all four of his picks over the past two seasons and five out of seven in his career).

"I would think maybe that’s the position you would splurge on a little bit," Williamson said. "I really like Captain Munnerlyn, and you’d steal him from a rival. He’s a slot guy who could be a starter. ... He’s really feisty, a little undersized but a slot guy, tough. He played his best football this last year; he’s peaking at the right time."

Williamson said he also likes Seattle Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond (age 26, 5-11, 190) after his best year to date as a part-time starter in 2013. But Williamson wonders if Thurmond will get overpaid after being part of that Super Bowl-winning defense.

Bailey, Finnegan, Browner and Chicago Bears standout Charles Tillman probably all fit in this same class now, too, but they all come with some question marks.

Bailey, who is being released by the Denver Broncos, is a 12-time Pro Bowler and an all-time great who might have another strong year left in him. But he's 35 years old and missed most of last season with a foot injury.

Likewise, Tillman is 33 and missed most of last season with a torn triceps.

Finnegan, 30, also landed on injured reserve last season with a fractured orbital bone. And his two years with the St. Louis Rams were disappointing after he signed a blockbuster contract there in 2012. Still, the 5-10, 179-pounder is still young enough to have a bounce-back year.

Browner, 29, is facing a four-game suspension to start the season after repeated violations of the league's substance abuse policy. But the 6-4, 221-pounder who helped define the Seahawks' physical style of pass defense should still be coveted.

THIRD TIER: I don’t think the Saints are likely to bring back Tracy Porter, but I found it interesting that he earned one of the highest grades of any corner on ESPN’s Free-Agent Tracker after a nice season with the Oakland Raiders. Health wasn't an issue for Porter last season after it was his biggest issue during his time with the Saints from 2008-2011.

Another wild-card possibility is Derek Cox (age 27, 6-1, 195). Cox was released by the San Diego Chargers after one very disappointing 2013 season (after he signed a four-year deal worth up to $19.8 million). The Saints had lined up a visit with Cox last year before signing Lewis. Maybe they’ll be glad they dodged a bullet -- or maybe they will consider taking a chance again now that he’ll come cheap.

Williamson also suggested Will Blackmon (age 29), Drayton Florence (33), and Rashean Mathis (33) as guys who have had up-and-down careers but played well last year and might be good "under-the-radar" signings on short-term deals.
RENTON, Wash. -- While the Seahawks prepare for the biggest moment of their career, one man who helped them get there is outside looking in.

Cornerback Brandon Browner is serving a one-year suspension, reportedly for marijuana use, a suspension that started, officially, last month. Browner is planning legal action against the NFL to fight his suspension.

But for now, the Super Bowl is something Browner will have to watch on TV. In some ways, Browner is the forgotten man, but not with teammate Earl Thomas.

"I check on him all the time," Thomas said Thursday. "He’s still my brother. He has shed blood like everybody else on this team. You never forget the guys you sweat with and had so many good times with. You love him like a brother.

"Of course he wants to be a part of this, but we don’t throw that in his face. He knows this team is special. We’re playing for him now. We all talk about how much we miss him. We wish he was here."

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