NFL Nation: Brandon Moore

Mark SanchezWilliam Perlman/USA TODAY Sports
Score: New England Patriots 49, New York Jets 19
Date: Nov. 22, 2012. Site: MetLife Stadium

The people have spoken. The voters picked the Butt Fumble as the New York Jets' most memorable play. My take? Give yourselves a round of applause.

"Memorable" doesn't mean the best, it means something that will be remembered. If the objective was to determine the best play, it would've been Joe Namath-to-Don Maynard in the 1968 AFL Championship Game or Ken O'Brien-to-Wesley Walker in the 1986 classic against the Miami Dolphins. Those were tremendous plays displaying great skill and poise under pressure. We could probably add a few more to a great-play list. Truth be told, the franchise's most iconic image is that of Namath, flashing the No. 1 sign as he trots off the field at Super Bowl III -- a picture that transcends a simple photo caption.

But like I said, we're talking memorable plays here, folks.

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The Butt Fumble will be talked about for years, decades probably. It will have a permanent place in blooper lore. Who knows? Maybe some day you will see it featured on an ESPN Films "30 for 30" documentary. The play contained the necessary ingredients to endure the test of time. You had a big-name player (Mark Sanchez), a slapstick moment (Sanchez crashing into the buttocks of guard Brandon Moore), a significant outcome (a fumble recovery for a touchdown), a national stage (Thanksgiving night, 2012) and two bitter rivals, the Jets and the New England Patriots.

The ramifications of the Butt Fumble were significant. It fueled an epic meltdown in the second quarter, which led to an embarrassing loss, which all but ruined the Jets' playoff hopes and led to the demise of general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

Oh, did we mention the hilarity of the play?

In many ways, the legend of the Butt Fumble was enhanced by the social-media landscape. It blew up on Twitter and YouTube, and ESPN contributed by playing it over and over and over. It topped the "Not Top 10" list for 40 consecutive weeks before it was mercifully retired. Of course, the fans voted, so don't place all the blame on us. The point is, if Namath had run into Randy Rasmussen's rear end in 1968, the fallout wouldn't have been anything close to the Butt Fumble.

I was there for the other two nominees, Dan Marino's fake spike in 1994 and Jumbo Elliott's improbable touchdown catch in 2000. The impact of Marino's play can't be overstated because it shattered the psychologically fragile Jets, who never won again that season, costing Pete Carroll his job. I was happy for Carroll when he won the Super Bowl last February at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where the fake spike occurred in the old Giants Stadium. Elliott's touchdown was a terrific moment, no doubt, but I don't consider it an all-timer.

Anyway, the fans got it right. It had to be the Butt Fumble. Anything else would've been a butt ... well, you know.

Moving day for Brandon Moore

November, 1, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Brandon Moore was known as the guy who always kept his composure, even in the most emotional of moments, but the former Jets offensive guard didn’t even get through the first few sentences of his retirement news conference without needing to pause.

“For a guy that was undrafted and came in through the back door to be escorted out the front door at the end of your career is a great accomplishment,” Moore started, and then he needed a moment.

Among the reporters in the room sat Moore’s wife and coach Rex Ryan, who watched with red eyes.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Moore
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsBrandon Moore, who announced his retirement in August, will make it official Friday.
“Some of my best years were here playing for Rex,” Moore said. “All you want to do is win. We didn’t quite finish it but we were going to die trying. I just want to tell him, 'Thank you.'”

The Jets brought Moore back to the facility to formally retire. Moore spent the day with his old teammates, and Ryan took a moment after practice to tell his current team just what Moore meant to the team.

“In my opinion he’ll go down as the best guard in the history of the Jet franchise,” Ryan said.

Moore played right guard for the Jets for 10 years, He was signed by the team as an undrafted free agent in 2002 and had a streak of 142 straight starts at one point. The Jets decided not to bring him back after last season. During the offseason, he briefly agreed to play for Dallas before deciding he didn’t want to keep playing.

“I just wasn’t willing to commit all the things that go into being the Brandon Moore, the player I thought I was in my head,” Moore said. “That means film, working out, pills, treatment, stretching, doctors, surgeries, offseason, all those things. There was no point in doing it. The game deserves more respect than that.”

He’s had a few offers from teams since, he said, but isn’t interested.

“I’m done, I’ve lost a few pounds I couldn’t play anyway,” Moore said.

The 6-foot-3 Moore was listed at 305 pounds when he played for the Jets, and he has worked to lose weight since he stopped playing.

“You see some guys who have put on weight and they’re not healthy,” Moore said. “You don’t see a lot of 70-plus-year-old 300-plus-pound men walking around. I remember Pete Kendall used to say that all the time, and I used to laugh then, but you need to lead a decent life -- a healthy, comfortable life. You need to get the weight down and that’s something I’m trying to do.”

Austin Howard stood in the back of the room as Moore spoke. Earlier, Howard told ESPNNewYork.com that Moore had taught him how to prepare and maintain his health for the duration of a 16-game season during the one season they played together on the line.

“At that time it was my third year in the league, but that one year being with him, I learned more in that one year with him than I had in my entire three years,” Howard said.

“Brandon was a great teammate,” wide receiver Jeremy Kerley said. “He was everything you look for in an older guy coming into the league. You look at him like, ‘OK, when I’m a vet that’s how I want to conduct myself.”

Willie Colon, who didn’t play with Moore but said he has learned how much Moore meant to Nick Mangold and the other longtime linemen, said it’s extremely unusual for a player to be with one team for an entire 10-year career.

“It speaks volumes about the love he had for the organization and the organization respected him and his loyalty,” Colon said.

Moore said he wakes up without pain, a blessing after a career so long, and has made it to a few games this season. He said he had the time of his life and loved being a Jet.

“Now that I’m done playing, I root for the Jets even more than I did when I was running out the tunnel Sundays,” Moore said.

Turkey Day fiasco shaped Jets franchise

September, 10, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- They happened in a span of 52 seconds, three calamitous plays that changed the season and probably changed the franchise.

Boom! Boom!! Boom!!!

You've heard of the Minute Waltz? This was the Minute Faults, three mistakes that bordered on mind-boggling.

[+] EnlargeShane Vereen
AP Photo/Julio CortezShane Vereen's 83-yard score gave the Pats a 14-0 lead with 9:43 left in the second quarter.
It was 7-0 last Thanksgiving night, the New York Jets trailing the New England Patriots, when the madness started. Suddenly, it was 28-0, because for only the third time in modern football history, a team scored three touchdowns in a 52-second span.

"Un-[bleeping]-believable," Jets coach Rex Ryan muttered on the sideline after the third touchdown, his reaction easy to decipher for a nation of television viewers.

The Jets and Patriots meet Thursday night for the first time since the Thanksgiving debacle and, even though the Jets refused to look back -- "It's very hazy," tackle Austin Howard said with a straight face -- it's impossible not to reflect on that ill-fated night. The Jets are who they are now, in part, because of what happened in those 52 seconds.

They actually went into the game with a 4-6 record, coming off a road victory, thinking they had a chance to get back into playoff contention. The 49-19 loss, which included the infamous Butt Fumble, made them a laughingstock. Owner Woody Johnson was disgusted by the performance, according to sources, some of whom believe he made up his mind that night to fire general manager Mike Tannenbaum and start a rebuilding process with a new front office.

"It was the beginning of difficult times," retired special-teams coach Mike Westhoff said Tuesday. "In reality, was it the beginning of the end? I'm not sure if I believe that. But in the big picture, yeah, it probably was."

It's probably an eerie coincidence, but three players directly involved in the three touchdowns are out of football. Linebacker Bart Scott and guard Brandon Moore are retired, and running back Joe McKnight is looking for a job after being released in training camp. A fourth, quarterback Mark Sanchez, is injured and could be finished with the Jets.

[+] EnlargeSteve Gregory
William Perlman/USA TODAY SportsForty-three seconds later, Steve Gregory scooped up the "Butt Fumble" and raced 32 yards for a score.
Could it be some kind of karmic justice?

Scott was supposed to cover running back Shane Vereen on a wheel route, but he didn't get to his spot on time and Vereen took a short pass and went for an 83-yard touchdown. There was 9:43 left on the second-quarter clock.

It would be Scott's final game versus the Patriots, against whom he enjoyed perhaps the highlight of his career. After the Jets' stunning win over them in the 2010 playoffs, Scott delivered his famous "Can't Wait!" rant.

Forty-three seconds after Tom Brady-to-Vereen, Sanchez aborted a running play after turning the wrong way on the handoff. He tried to run, the right move, but he ran into Moore's backside, hitting it with such force that Sanchez lost the football. It took a fortuitous bounce for the Pats' Steve Gregory, who made the scoop and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown.

The Butt Fumble was born, becoming part of the sports lexicon.

"It wears thin," Westhoff said of the seemingly endless references to the Butt Fumble. "I don't want to hear about it anymore."

On the ensuing kickoff, McKnight, a home-run threat, was blasted by Devin McCourty. The ball came flying out and hung in the air, as if being held up by an invisible string. Julian Edelman grabbed it on the run and sprinted 22 yards for another touchdown.

[+] EnlargeJulian Edelman
Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesOnly nine seconds elapsed before the Pats' next touchdown, as Julian Edelman plucked a fumble out of the air and raced to pay dirt.
There was 8:51 on the clock. Patriots 28, Jets 0. It was so embarrassing that the Jets' most famous fan, Fireman Ed, couldn't take it anymore and left the building. For good.

Sanchez later referred to his fumble disaster as a "car crash," meaning the randomness of it. There were three car crashes in 52 seconds or, as Westhoff called them, "crazy negative plays." The probability of three fluke plays occurring in rapid-fire succession is incalculable. That each unit -- offense, defense, special teams -- was responsible for giving up a touchdown was fitting, because it was a true team meltdown.

This week, the Jets have made it a point to avoid any references to last Thanksgiving. But there's some relevancy because it's another short week. Obviously, they need to be better prepared, mentally and physical, than the last time.

"We don't even think about that one," wide receiver Stephen Hill said. "We haven't even talked about it. It hasn't been brought up at all. We're just ready for 2013 and ready to get it kicked off with the Patriots."

There are 57,600 seconds in a 16-game season. For the Jets, 52 seconds of epic failure will remain timeless.
The San Diego Chargers are healthy going into the 2013 season other their decorated rookie linebacker.

Still, it’s got to be disappointing that rookie inside linebacker Manti Te’o is very likely not going to play Monday night at home against Houston. The second-round pick has not practiced since Aug. 8 with a foot injury. He was expected to be an instant starter. Now, special-teamer Bront Bird is set to start. The third-year player has never started an NFL game.

But, in the big picture, the Chargers are extremely healthy otherwise. Every other San Diego player practiced Thursday and is set to play against the Texans.

Meanwhile, the Chargers signed receiver Terrence Toliver to the practice squad. He spent time with the Bears. To make room for him, undrafted rookie defensive end Brandon Moore was released. Moore made the 53-man roster Saturday. It’s been a tough few days for him. It shows the team has gotten deeper since Saturday.
Most significant moves: This is a thin roster, so there weren’t a ton of standout cuts here. But there were two veteran names of note to get the axe in the first year of the Tom Telesco-Mike McCoy era in San Diego. Tackle Max Starks and receiver Robert Meachem were cut. Neither were very good this summer. Starks was signed to be the left tackle. But he was beaten out by King Dunlap and then by young Mike Harris to be the swing tackle. Meachem, signed in 2012 by the previous regime to be the No. 1 receiver, was a disaster. The team is thin at receiver and Meachem is guaranteed to make $5 million this season. Still, the Chargers decided to move away from him. Other cuts of note were center David Molk and pass-rusher Thomas Keiser. Both were expected to have roles going into camp.

Going young: This is a team that is rebuilding and the 53-man roster shows it. All six draft picks (cornerback Steve Williams is on the injured reserve) made the team and three undrafted free agents -- safety Jahleel Addae, nose tackle Kwame Geathers and defensive end Brandon Moore -- made the 53-man roster. U-T San Diego reports it’s the first time since 2007 that every draft pick made the team and the first time in 10 years that three undrafted free agents made the roster. Telesco is looking for youth to make an impact. The opportunity is there for these youngsters.

What’s next: This roster is far from set. The Chargers are going to be a work in progress. I expect Telesco will tinker with the bottom of this roster for the next several weeks, maybe even all season. As an executive in Indianapolis, Telesco was known for his eye for talent and for being able to pick up pieces off the street. Thus, this is his time to shine. He has plenty of work to do in San Diego. The Chargers could use depth on the offensive line, at receiver, on the defensive line, at outside linebacker and in the secondary. The team’s special teams was weak in the preseason. That’s a telltale sign of poor depth. So, more players are needed. Among the players San Diego could potentially look at are receivers Lavelle Hawkins, Chris Harper, Russell Shepard, Tavarres King, linemen Ben Ijalana, Fernando Velasco, Jake Scott and Danny Watkins and defensive tackle Drake Nevis.

Players cut: CB Cornelius Brown, OT Nick Becton, DE Frank Beltre, S Sean Cattouse, TE Ben Cotton, CB Marcus Cromartie, LB Phillip Dillard, CB Greg Gatson, CB Logan Harrell, DE Jerrell Harris, RB Michael Hill, CB Josh Johnson, LB Thomas Keiser, WR Robert Meachem, CB William Middleton, LB Dan Molls, WR David Molk, OT Randy Richards, TE David Rolf, G Steve Schilling, OT Max Starks, WR Luke Tasker.

Cowboys guard Leary set for surgery

August, 15, 2013
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OXNARD, Calif. -- Ronald Leary will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Friday, continuing a summer-long issue for the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line.

Kluwe
Leary
Leary was penciled in as the starting left guard, but he will now likely need two to four weeks to recover from the procedure, according to a source.

Meanwhile, Nate Livings is at least two weeks away from returning to the field after undergoing surgery on his right knee earlier in training camp.

The Cowboys had an agreement with Brandon Moore on a one-year deal last week, but the veteran elected to retire instead. The Cowboys have an offer on the table for six-time Pro Bowler Brian Waters, who has not played since 2011 with New England.

Leary missed the first week of training camp because of a calf injury, but he started and played in most of the Cowboys' first two preseason games. He spent most of last year on the practice squad after the Cowboys signed him as an undrafted free agent and guaranteed him more than $200,000.

With Leary and Livings out, David Arkin will start at left guard in Saturday's preseason game at Arizona.

The Dallas Cowboys appeared to have added a solid veteran to their offensive line Tuesday night, agreeing on a one-year contract with guard Brandon Moore. But after sleeping on it, Moore informed the Cowboys Wednesday morning that he had decided to retire.

Odd story, yes, but it may help explain why a well-regarded veteran like Moore had gone unsigned so deep into the offseason. If teams weren't convinced he was passionate about playing (which, clearly, he's not), and if he'd been giving off signals that he was considering retirement, that could be the reason there wasn't a line around the corner to sign him. Moore is one of the more thoughtful, high-minded players in the league, and it could be he's thinking more about the life that awaits him after football than about continuing his life in it.

Which, good for him, but that doesn't help the Cowboys very much, does it? There was some talk about veteran guard Brian Waters, who didn't play last year, and maybe they could revisit that. But they're banged up at guard with Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau both dealing with injury issues this camp, and for a few hours at least Moore looked like a nice upgrade. Now, they are back once again to the old, familiar offensive line drawing board.
Mark SanchezWilliam Perlman/US PresswireMark Sanchez hopes to put a miserable 2012 season behind him this coming fall.
New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez's lowest moment happened on Thanksgiving Night last season against the rival New England Patriots.

In a nationally televised game, Sanchez attempted to hand off the ball to a running back who wasn't there and panicked. Instead of sliding or taking a knee, Sanchez made it worse by deciding to become the running back. He ran directly into the large backside of starting guard Brandon Moore and fumbled the football, which was returned for a touchdown by Patriots safety Steve Gregory.

The play is infamously known as the "butt fumble." But it also serves as a watershed mark in Sanchez's NFL career.

This is the play that will define Sanchez if he's unable to revive his career, which many believe is already over. But he has a guaranteed salary of $8.25 million, so Sanchez is getting one final chance to silence the critics and start for the Jets in 2013.

"As far as the emotional side, my heart and soul is into this, and I was just excited to see a bunch of guys on the team again and get ready to get going," Sanchez said on a conference call this week to kickoff New York’s offseason program. "That’s really where my head is at. I’m fired up about this year, and I hope it’s a good one."

Few quarterbacks have received more opportunities the past few years than Sanchez. His NFL career has been a roller-coaster ride.

Sanchez struggled as a rookie in 2009 and threw more interceptions (20) than touchdowns (12). But the Jets stuck with Sanchez, and he got better during the playoffs, leading the Jets to his first AFC title game. Sanchez maintained that momentum in 2010 and led New York to another AFC title game. But Sanchez hit rock bottom in 2012 when he recorded the league's lowest Total Quarterback Rating (23.4) and was eventually benched for third-string backup Greg McElroy.

As a result, this is the first summer since Sanchez’s rookie year when he will not be handed the starting job. Sanchez must earn it by beating out veteran free agent David Garrard.

Sanchez will be playing for his third offensive coordinator in three years. He’s struggled under former offensive coordinators Brian Schottenhiemer and Tony Sparano. Now, it’s the job of new Jets offensive coordinator Marty Morhinweg to get Sanchez’s career headed in the right direction.

“I’m not sure that (Sanchez) needs to be ‘fixed,’” Morhinweg recently said to reporters. “Mark has a lot of strengths, and he’s played at a high level. It’s our job to get him to play at a high level on a consistent basis. We would certainly like competition at all spots and certainly (the quarterback) spot, the competition just makes everybody better.”

One of Sanchez’s biggest strengths is his boundless optimism. Even when much has gone wrong around him, Sanchez has always accepted blame and seen the best in every situation.

Sanchez, who is the favorite, is approaching this summer’s quarterback battle with Garrard the same way.

“I know Mr. (John) Idzik and Rex (Ryan) are big on competition, and that was really the theme heading into this year. I completely understand that,” Sanchez said. “I think it will bring out the best in everybody on the team, and everybody has to compete for their spot, so I totally respect that. I’m just concerned with preparing to play well for this team and doing everything that I possibly can, everything in my control to be the best quarterback on the roster and go play well.”

New York went 6-10 in 2012 and cut many veterans to get under the salary cap. The Jets made a few bargain-basement signings in free agency and aim to get younger in the draft with first-year general manager John Idzik calling the shots. But this is a rebuilding team that looks at least a year or two away from contending for the playoffs again.

But you can't tell that to Sanchez. This fifth season with the Jets is the most important of his career. Sanchez will prove, once and for all, whether he's a capable NFL starter or a career backup who never could match the hype of being a top-five pick.

This year Sanchez is not looking back on all his mistakes, such as the "butt fumble." He is only looking forward.

“Once you watch all that film, there’s nothing else to do except try and improve and trying to understand how you got in that position and what led to that, how to avoid some of those pitfalls if possible,” Sanchez said. “Go back and really get after the fundamentals like you do every offseason. ... It’s a whole new year and I’m excited to see the kind of team that we have when it’s all said and done and we line up on opening day.”
We know that the Dallas Cowboys are having free agents in for visits this week, and that the names include safeties Michael Huff and Will Allen and linebacker Justin Durant. We also know that the Cowboys have about $100,000 in salary-cap room, which means they can't right now sign any of those guys. And we know that their clearest way to salary-cap relief at this point lies in their ability to work out contract extensions with quarterback Tony Romo and defensive end Anthony Spencer that would reduce those players' respective 2013 cap numbers of $16.8 million and $10.6 million.

So, about those extensions. How are they going?

Well, some guy on Twitter told me today that the Romo extension was "hours away" and would be for $68 million ($30 million guaranteed) over four years. But I have been unable to find much on this guy's reporting background, so I'm assuming he's guessing, though the numbers would make some sense. (That'd be a team-favorable deal, I'd think, in the current market.) In all seriousness, I believe the Romo deal eventually gets done, though I'm not going to join my Twitter friend in guessing as to the hours remaining in the negotiations.

As for the Spencer deal, a considerably more reputable source named Ed Werder tweeted that the Cowboys were at work on a multiyear deal for him as well, and that it could free up space to sign Huff and/or offensive lineman Brandon Moore. (Ed has Moore's first name wrong on that tweet, but he later clarified.) Spencer has the upper hand in negotiations with the Cowboys, since they've already franchised him for 2013 and his worst-case scenario includes $10.6 million in guaranteed money. So any contract he signs with them will surely include at least that much in guarantees. But since they appear to be all-in on Spencer as a starting defensive end in their new 4-3 alignment, it would be a coup for the Cowboys to lock him up long term and reduce the 2013 cap hit in the process. I still think he's being overpaid off of one very good year, but the Cowboys like him and have decided to go with him, so from their perspective a long-term deal would be a nice get.

As for the names? Huff and Moore would be excellent pickups for the Cowboys, who need a veteran safety and all the help they can get at guard. The issue is of course making room for them in the budget, but it's not crazy to think that, if they're bringing these guys in for visits, they're feeling better about their chances of getting either Romo's deal or Spencer's deal done sometime soon. Who knows? Could be "hours away."
Over the weekend, the news broke that free-agent tackle Sebastian Vollmer had agreed to re-sign with the New England Patriots. Not a huge surprise, but Vollmer's was a name we heard connected with the Philadelphia Eagles early in the free-agent period, and I know some Eagles fans were excited about the possibility of signing Vollmer for right tackle and moving Todd Herremans inside to guard. With Vollmer and Jake Long off the market, the top available tackle is Andre Smith, and the popular belief seems to be that he's headed back to Cincinnati.

Now, the Eagles have the cap room to sign anyone they want to sign, so if they wanted Vollmer or Smith it's likely they'd have them. Or at least that there would have been some drama around their ultimate decisions. It could still happen with Smith, I guess, but the lack of noise in this case likely indicates a lack of serious interest. And as for free-agent guards, the top one available is the Jets' Brandon Moore, and after that our free-agent tracker drops all the way down to Jake Scott, who was most recently an Eagle himself.

So the upshot is that the Eagles don't seem to be pursuing free-agent offensive line help too intensely, possibly in the belief that a full return to health by all of last year's injured starters will be enough or possibly because they plan to draft a new starter with the fourth overall pick in the draft (or the 35th, which isn't a ridiculous idea, either). Most of their free-agent efforts so far have focused on the defensive side of the ball, where their needs were most glaring. But one of last year's many painful lessons in Philadelphia was about the importance of offensive line depth, and so Eagles fans are justified in hoping that there is some sort of plan to fortify that right side. There is time, and there may be a surprise or two still to come. But at this point, things appear to be quiet with the Eagles and the offensive line.

NFC North free-agency primer

March, 11, 2013
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» NFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Chicago Bears
GENERAL MANAGER: Phil Emery
HEAD COACH: Marc Trestman

Cap Status: The Bears have a modest amount of cap space after using $8.45 million for the franchise tag on defensive tackle Henry Melton. Over the weekend, they were projected to have between $6 million and $10 million available to them.

Strategy: Conventional wisdom suggests the Bears will seek improvement at offensive line and tight end this offseason, and free agency offers the first avenue. At the moment, the Bears' best offensive lineman is right guard Lance Louis, who is still recovering from ACL surgery and is a pending free agent himself. You wonder if the Bears have enough firepower to sign left tackle Jake Long, but New York Jets guard Brandon Moore could be a reasonably priced option. At tight end, everyone loves the Tennessee Titans' Jared Cook, but he will be costly. Incumbent Kellen Davis is signed for 2013 but had a disappointing season last year as a pass-catcher.

Detroit Lions
GENERAL MANAGER: Martin Mayhew
HEAD COACH: Jim Schwartz

Cap Status: The Lions won't have much cap space to work with unless they can renegotiate/extend one of the two huge contracts on their books: quarterback Matthew Stafford ($20.8 million cap figure) and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh ($18.2 million). According to the Detroit Free Press, the Lions are projected to have $6 million in space at the moment.

Strategy: There are plenty of needs to squeeze into that small amount of cap space. The Lions would love to find a speedy tailback to fill the role once envisioned for Jahvid Best, a profile that seems to fit veteran Reggie Bush. But with only two of their 23 projected free agents now under contract, the Lions could have needs for two safeties, two defensive ends, two cornerbacks and one outside linebacker. That's because defensive ends Cliff Avril, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young are all pending free agents. The same goes for cornerbacks Chris Houston and Jacob Lacey and safeties Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey. A weekend flooding of the cornerback/safety markets could drive down prices.

Green Bay Packers
GENERAL MANAGER: Ted Thompson
HEAD COACH: Mike McCarthy

Cap Status: The Packers are projected to have about $20 million in space, a number that could increase depending on whether they renegotiate the contract of tight end Jermichael Finley.

Strategy: Thompson signaled at least some participation in free agency by hosting a visit for defensive lineman Chris Canty last week; Canty had been released by the New York Giants. The Packers know they need to improve their defensive line, whether it is with veterans, drafted players or a combination of both. There is also plenty of fan support for the Packers to pursue running back Steven Jackson, who has said he would take a role as a "counterpuncher" on a passing offense if necessary. But to this point, there has been no indication the Packers are interested. Much of their cap space is likely to be devoted, one day, to contract extensions for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews.

Minnesota Vikings
GENERAL MANAGER: Rick Spielman
HEAD COACH: Leslie Frazier

Cap Status: They will have a moderate amount of cap space, about $15 million, if nothing changes between now and Tuesday.

Strategy: There is no doubt the Vikings need to improve their receiving corps, but to this point there has been no indication they are interested in the pre-eminent receiver on the market: Mike Wallace. Multiple reports suggest Wallace is most likely to end up with the Miami Dolphins. Monday's trade of Percy Harvin means the Vikings could get into the Wallace mix or perhaps Greg Jennings or Brandon Gibson. Meanwhile, it's quite possible the Vikings could seek a safety on the free-agent market, and they'll have to decide what to do at strongside linebacker and middle linebacker. The incumbent starters, Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley, are both free agents.

» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Welcome to Eight in the Box, an NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week's topic: Who should be the primary target (including trades) for each team when free agency begins?

Buffalo Bills: Buffalo has quite a bit of money to spend in free agency and few of its own players should be top priorities, with the exception of franchised safety Jairus Byrd and guard Andy Levitre, who should be the most sought-after free agent at his position. Bringing Levitre back should be a focus, and Buffalo could use more pieces on defense, but the Bills really need to add offensive weapons (especially if they plan to select a quarterback early in the 2013 draft). There are a lot of tight ends on the market and in the upcoming draft class, but free-agent wideout Greg Jennings would be my No. 1 target. Jennings is an established receiver who could legitimize the passing attack. The presence of Jennings would also allow Steve Johnson to see more favorable coverage matchups.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins have a lot of money to work with and should be one of the most active teams in free agency. On defense, cornerback and an edge pass-rusher are areas of need, but this offseason needs to be all about building around second-year franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill. That would put Jennings in play here, too, but Steelers wideout Mike Wallace is younger and his fantastic speed would complement Davone Bess and Brian Hartline, who has reportedly agreed to a five-year contract to stay in Miami. Wallace also would allow Tannehill to show off his big arm downfield and help create room for Miami’s running game. And with Anthony Fasano also a free agent, Miami needs to address the tight end spot as well.

New England Patriots: The Patriots have plenty of cap room to be aggressive in free agency and improve an already-stacked roster, but they also have major contributors of their own whose contracts are up. The Tom Brady/Bill Belichick window could be closing in the near future, so expect the Pats to go all-in to upgrade their roster, which could possibly include trading backup quarterback Ryan Mallett for more draft picks that could further improve New England’s young core. The Pats’ roster could look much different next season, but former New England standout defensive lineman Richard Seymour would be a great guy to pursue. Seymour is familiar with how Belichick does things and the defense as a whole. He is getting on in age, but maybe the Patriots can get him at a slight discount. Because of the defensive tackles they presently have on the roster, New England would not have to play Seymour a high number of snaps, which could appeal to the veteran and allow him to stay fresh throughout the season. Seymour’s interior pass-rush skills would help a defense that lacks consistent interior push.

New York Jets: Considering their salary-cap situation, it is possible the Jets will be without cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie next season, which opens up yet another hole on a roster that needs a lot of work. On offense, the Jets needs to improve at the skill positions, and bringing back stalwart guard Brandon Moore also would be wise for this run-first team. Quarterback is a massive need, but there isn't an obvious name to meet that need right now. However, Rex Ryan's brother, Rob, coached outside linebacker Victor Butler in Dallas. Although Butler was a backup to DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer in Dallas' 3-4 scheme, he was very productive when called upon. Butler is young, the arrow is pointing up and the Jets' pass rush desperately needs a boost from the outside linebacker position. With the Jets' cap constraints, Butler would be the perfect option to fill that need at a reasonable price.
With Peyton Manning's regular-season starting streak in question, I revisited the list of active leaders to see which NFC West players might be gaining.

There is one.

The San Francisco 49ers' Justin Smith, the NFL's active ironman among defensive linemen with 155 starts in a row, would have to remain in the lineup continuously through the sixth game of the 2014 season to surpass Manning's 208-game streak.

Smith, 31, would be turning 35 at about the time he reached 209 starts.

The chart shows current starting streaks of at least 100 games, according to the NFL. Alan Faneca is retiring, so he'll come off the list. Atlanta Falcons center Todd McClure, tied with Faneca on the list, will miss the regular-season opener after having knee surgery.

Players need toughness, luck, consistency and talent to maintain such streaks in such a physically demanding sport. The position they play also matters.

The longest active starting streak for running backs stands at only 48 games, with the Chicago Bears' Matt Forte atop the list. The Tennessee Titans' Chris Johnson is next at 32 games, with the St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson third at only 17 regular-season starts in a row. Only three other running backs have started more than 12 games in a row.

Update: The NFL's internal statistics engine listed Ronde Barber with 179 consecutive regular-season starts. The Bucs' figure is 183. Game logs available on NFL.com confirm 183. I updated the chart to 183.

Rapid Reaction: Texans 20, Jets 16

August, 15, 2011
8/15/11
11:56
PM ET
Thoughts from the Jets' 20-16 loss to the Texans in a preseason version of "Monday Night Football."

WHAT IT MEANS: Seven months after their crushing loss to the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, the Jets began another Super Bowl quest Monday night. Rex Ryan’s cast of characters hasn’t changed much since then and, despite a loss to the Texans, there were enough positives to make it a successful preseason opener. They should’ve pulled it out, but rookie reciever Michael Campbell dropped a potential touchdown pass in the final minute.

ON THE MARK: After some spotty practice performances, quarterback Mark Sanchez (6-for-7, 43 yards) stepped up in prime time and was on point with every pass. His lone incompletion was a drop by backup tight end Matt Mulligan. With two starters missing from the offensive line, the Jets kept it conservative, calling only quick throws for Sanchez. But give him credit for his accuracy; that’s an area he’s working to improve. Sanchez was pulled after one quarter and, no, he didn’t want to fight Ryan to get back on the field.

KEY INJURY: The Jets lost backup center Rob Turner (lower leg) to a potentially serious injury. This injury won’t grab big headlines, but it’s costly because of Turner’s versatility. He can play center, guard, tight end and blocks in the wedge on kickoff returns. Turner, who started for the injured Nick Mangold, was carted off in the first quarter and replaced by third-stringer Robby Felix. Luckily for the Jets, Mangold should be back to practice this week.

THIN LINE: Just the other day, Ryan boasted that the Jets’ top seven offensive linemen are the best in the league. It’s not looking that way now. Not only is Turner out, but second-year lineman Vladimir Ducasse was awful.

Ducasse, who started for injured lineman Brandon Moore, allowed a sack at right guard and another at right tackle. The first sack came on the play in which Turner was injured; Ducasse’s failure to hold off defensive end J.J. Watt put Turner in a vulnerable position. Ducasse also got some work at left guard, where -- hooray -- he didn’t allow a sack.

If Turner’s injury is long term, the Jets will have to sign an experienced backup center. It’s a thin market. In fact, the best available center might be former Giant Shaun O’Hara.

THE PLAXICO VOID: The biggest story of the game -- Plaxico Burress -- wasn’t at the game. He was home, nursing an ankle injury and schmoozing with ESPN’s Mike Tirico in a phone interview during the fourth quarter. (In case you’re wondering, Burress reiterated that he expects to practice full on Wednesday.) Without Burress, the other new receiver, Derrick Mason, was in a prominent role. Mason caught all three passes thrown to him for 21 yards -- a solid debut, considering his lack of practice time with Sanchez.

THE ROOKIES: It was a nice start for the Jets’ draft class, especially nose tackle Kenrick Ellis (one batted pass), QB Greg McElroy (208 yards passing) and WR/KR Jeremy Kerley (32.5 average on kickoff returns). Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson started the game, but didn’t have any wow moments -- although he did have an offsides penalty. Running back Bilal Powell (nine carries, 25 yards) also played well and could push Joe McKnight for the No. 3 tailback job. McKnight left with a possible concussion.

KID QB: With backup QB Mark Brunell (finger) sitting out, McElroy played the second, third and fourth quarters, leading the offense to three field goals and a touchdown (2-yard scoring pass to Patrick Turner). McElroy lost a fumble on a strip sack, but he kept his composure and demonstrated some of the attributes that led the Jets to draft him in the seventh round -- smarts, poise and accuracy. Too bad he doesn’t have a gun.

WHAT A COMEBACK: Eight months removed from breaking his shin in a freak practice collision, safety Jim Leonhard was back on the field, back in the Jets’ starting lineup. It was a welcomed sight for the defense, which relies on Leonhard to make calls on the field.

INJURY WATCH: Linebacker Bart Scott hurt his left ankle/leg on the first play of the game. The replay looked bad, but he returned on the second series. He watched most of the second half with a huge wrap on his leg. Stay tuned.

INACTIVES: QB Mark Brunell, WR Plaxico Burress, C Nick Mangold, RG Brandon Moore, LB Brandon Long, G Trevor Canfield. The Texans played without RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson, their offensive stars.

Best of NFL: AFC East players

June, 28, 2011
6/28/11
2:00
PM ET
Best of NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

As part of the Best of the NFL Week on ESPN.com, here are five bests for the AFC East:

Best hands, Davone Bess: Just to get a rise out of everybody, I could have gone with New York Jets receiver Braylon Edwards here. After all, he dropped only one ball last season on 98 targets and 53 receptions. But I couldn't bring myself to do it based on his track record. So I'm going with Bess, the Miami Dolphins' slot receiver, who drops one on occasion, but that's expected given his volume. The past two seasons, Bess has dropped 10 passes -- but on 233 targets and 155 receptions.

[+] EnlargeMeat
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIREJets offensive lineman Brandon Moore, a.k.a. Meat.
Best celebrator, Steve Johnson: The flamboyant receiver endeared himself to Buffalo Bills fans with his breakout 2010 season. He caught 82 passes for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. But his signature moment -- well, his positive signature moment -- came in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals. He caught eight passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns. He further showed up the self-proclaimed "Batman and Robin" duo of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Johnson scored a TD and triumphantly lifted his jersey to reveal a T-shirt with a line from the Joker: "Why so serious?"

Best trash talker, Channing Crowder: Not many players would get into a verbal sparring match with an NFL coach, but the Dolphins linebacker gleefully engaged Rex Ryan two summers ago. Crowder's diatribes are enthralling, although sometimes dotted with malapropisms. After he accused Baltimore Ravens fullback Le'Ron McClain of spitting in his face, Crowder went on a rant that invoked Anne Frank when trying to mock officials for being blind. He meant Helen Keller.

Best nickname, Meat: That's what the Jets call right guard Brandon Moore. Why is it the best nickname? I don't know. Because it makes me laugh when I hear it, I guess. Maybe because it reminds me of the dialogue between Crash Davis and Nuke LaLoosh in "Bull Durham."

Best intimidator, Darrelle Revis: He's not a snarling, frothing menace on the other side of scrimmage. But when it comes to eliminating top receivers, Revis is the best in the business -- and the opposition knows it. He causes dread in coaches, quarterbacks and receivers the week they play the Jets.

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