NFL Nation: Chaun Thompson

AFC South: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
9:12
AM ET
Houston Texans

Potential unrestricted free agents: CB Dunta Robinson, WR Kevin Walter, RB Chris Brown, DT Jeff Zgonina, G Chester Pitts, S Brian Russell, S Nick Ferguson, LS Bryan Pittman, LB Chaun Thompson, QB Rex Grossman, LB Khary Campbell, G Tutan Reyes, T Ephraim Salaam, P Matt Turk.

Potential restricted free agents: DL Tim Bulman, S John Busing, OT Rashad Butler, TE Owen Daniels, RB Ryan Moats, S Bernard Pollard, LB DeMeco Ryans, G Chris White.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: I don’t think the Texans will jump out and make any monumental moves. But by deciding not to tag Robinson they created another hole and saved themselves big dollars. With needs at corner, running back, free safety, interior offensive line and defensive tackle they may have more than they can address in one draft. That means they could jump out for one significant free agent – like they did last year with defensive lineman Antonio Smith -- and maybe another less expensive one or two.

Indianapolis Colts

Potential unrestricted free agents: MLB Gary Brackett, K Matt Stover.

Potential restricted free agents: WR Hank Baskett, S Antoine Bethea, S Melvin Bullitt, OL Dan Federkeil, CB Aaron Francisco, LB Tyjuan Hagler, CB Marlin Jackson, CB Tim Jennings, DT Antonio Johnson, OT Charlie Johnson, LB Freddy Keiaho, DT Dan Muir, CBPR T.J. Rushing.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: Brackett is priority one and the team has indicated a plan to pay him as an upper-echelon guy. The restricted list includes a lot of key guys who will remain big factors next year. Indy is not a team that looks to bring in many outsiders for big roles and it won’t start now. Bill Polian’s said the Colts will sit back and see how things unfold in the new capless landscape.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Reggie Hayward, G Kynan Forney.

Potential restricted free agents: DT Atiyyah Ellison, LB Clint Ingram, DL Greg Peterson.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Jaguars are draft-reliant, but will also shop for bargains in free agency, hoping to plug a couple holes with high-character guys with upside who fit what they are doing. As for a big splash, it’s unlikely based on their recent busts with big-name free agents like Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence and the direction they’ve moved since.

Tennessee Titans

Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, C Kevin Mawae, LB Keith Bulluck, TE Alge Crumpler, CB Nick Harper, CB Rod Hood, DE Jevon Kearse, S Kevin Kaesviharn.

Potential restricted free agents: DE Dave Ball, DT Tony Brown, TE Bo Scaife, LB Stephen Tulloch, DT Kevin Vickerson, RB LenDale White.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Titans will undergo a youth movement, especially on defense where Vanden Bosch and Bulluck, who’s recovering from ACL repair, are going to be allowed to walk. Mawae been told his only chance to return is as a backup at a backup price. Brown, Scaife and Tulloch are important guys they’ll want to retain. Beyond that, expect mostly bargain shopping.
 
  AP Photo/David J. Phillip
  The Texans' Xavier Adibi is putting on weight in a bid to beat out Zach Diles and Cato June for the starting weakside linebacker's job.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Weakside linebacker might be the most intriguing Houston Texans' training camp position battle. 

Second-year man Xavier Adibi, recovering Zach Diles and newcomer Cato June are expected to slug it out for the third starting spot alongside middle man DeMeco Ryans and rookie strongside linebacker Brian Cushing.

"With Adibi and Zach and Cato, we're as strong at that position as we've been since I've been here," coach Gary Kubiak said.

"That position group will have a heck of a battle this training camp," GM Rick Smith said. "That's one I'm looking forward to watching."

Getting more rugged and durable at linebacker was one of the team's offseason priorities.

Adibi was slow to get involved last season and played in just seven games. Diles broke his left tibia in a practice halfway through the season and was lost for the year. Kevin Bentley, Morlon Greenwood and Chaun Thompson filled in. Greenwood's gone now.

At 6-foot-2 and 243 pounds, Cushing was drafted 15th overall to help beef up the Texans at linebacker. He's a versatile player who should be able to rush and cover.

When I heard about Adibi bulking up -- he said he's gone from 220 to 240 -- I recalled comments Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio made about steady weight gain for young players. Del Rio said when he was an assistant at Baltimore, the plan was for Ray Lewis to gain five pounds a year.

Maybe Adibi will be good to go with a 20-pound leap. Everyone in Houston said it's not a concern. But maybe it will be something we have to monitor.

"I was making sure I didn't put on too much, I didn't want to get to the 245, 250 range," Adibi said. "This is weight that I need just to get through the regular season playing 17 weeks of the NFL. That's one of my goals, make it through the season 100 percent, not miss any games.

"This is what I had to do and I feel good. I feel real good."

Two things that should benefit all the linebackers: A healthy Amobi Okoye at defensive tackle and the addition of veteran lineman Antonio Smith, who will start at end but could kick inside in certain situations.

"Sometimes a linebacker is only as good as his D tackles," Adibi said. "They're keeping blocks off you, they are shooting upfield, they are penetrating, they are causing havoc and that just lets the linebackers roam and make plays."

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

There will be picks on Saturday and Sunday that prompt brows furrowed into question marks on the faces of fans of the four teams of the AFC South.

So in advance of this weekend's draft, the AFC South Blog is here to warn you: Don't be surprised when the Colts look to cornerback; don't be shocked when the Titans turn to a tight end and/or a defensive end. Should the Texans invest a reasonably high pick in a receiver or the Jaguars dip again in to the pool of defensive ends, they won't be making redundant roster choices.

They'll be thinking more about 2010 than about 2009.

We've discussed the current needs of all four teams a lot in the build-up to the draft. But teams obviously have to look further ahead than that. They can't count on the CBA expiring and the rules of free agency changing. Because if a new labor deal is struck and free agency continues to operate in the fashion we are used to -- with players who've logged at least four years and have expired contracts hitting the free market -- teams have to be prepared to lose people, and they need to have replacements ready.

Some of those potential replacements are already lined up, of course, working as backups. But others must be targeted.

"You're not just drafting for this year, you're drafting for future years too," Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. "You have to have the vision of what they might be in two or three years. ... You're always building depth on your team and you're getting, especially in the later-round guys, traits that can be developed."

Here is a look at the issues teams may be facing in terms of departing free agents in 2010 with some suggestions, courtesy of Scouts. Inc.'s Matt Williamson, on mid- and late-round picks who could fill the holes.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

 
 AP Photo/David J. Phillip
 Ahman Green (30) runs during a training camp workout Saturday.

HOUSTON -- I watched the Texans practice in pads this morning with the intention of answering the most popular question I've fielded from Houston fans: How do the running backs and the running game look?

I'll go chronologically through my notes, and hope to offer some tidbits that qualify as answers.

During positional work, D-line coach Jethro Franklin told his charges that Sunday they started well and finished poorly. If they are going to be inconsistent, he pleaded, he wants that pattern reversed and prefers a big finish.

• Alex Gibbs, the assistant head coach who's basically the run game coordinator, and John Benton, the offensive line coach, finished one period working exclusively with guards and centers -- eight guys in all. That's a 1:4 coach-to-player ratio, an impressive number for a practice in July. It has to help the learning curve.

Gibbs isn't as loud as the last time I watched him work, during Atlanta practices in Nashville a few years ago. But the intensity is the same. He offered small reviews on every little thing to multiple guys after each snap, at a breakneck pace.

• In a team period, a 9-on-7 period and a red-zone team period, I did my best to keep track of the touches of the four running backs who worked. Chris Brown was out with back issues.

Rookie Steve Slaton had 10, Ahman Green (the starter) and Chris Taylor had seven and Darius Walker had six. There seemed to be an effort to keep them all involved, a good mix of inside and outside stuff and a decent number of pass-catching chances. While some of Slaton's came at the end of each period with second- or third-teamers, I felt like they all got some chances with the ones on offense.

Two bad moments of note for Walker: On a play-action, check-down in a team period, he seemed very timid as he collected a short pass in the middle of the field. While he may have been expecting a lick, he lost a chance at additional yards as no one arrived immediately. On one bad play in 9-on-7, Walker got folded in half by safety C.C. Brown.

Chester Pitts told me Sunday the Texans are doing a better job of using the whole field in the run game, and I could see that is the case. It looks like everyone involved in the run game is making progress with the new zone-blocking scheme, though obviously the offensive line isn't cut-blocking teammates. I'll have another entry further addressing some of that soon.

Matt Schaub was 4-for-5 in his first run through in 7-on-7 passing, hitting Owen Daniels on a nice midrange ball but overthrowing Green up the right side when the back had a half-step on linebacker Morlon Greenwood. Sage Rosenfels was 1-for-3 with a drop and a throw-away. Later in a team period, what I thought was Schaub's deepest throw of the day didn't make it to Andre Johnson as rookie cornerback Antwaun Molden stayed with him up the left side and broke it up. Offense was heavy on short stuff passing-wise. Based on it being my second padded practice, I can't tell you if that's a trend or was just the way the morning unfolded.

• I felt like Daniels did the most damage receiving-wise, pulling in a handful of midrange passes. He was a big part of last year's offense. He should be a bigger part of this year's. More to come on him. If you don't like to spend high fantasy picks on Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez, get a read on where Daniels is being drafted and take him a round earlier. [Disclaimer you'll see often: I never win my league.]

• Johnson didn't have a lot of balls come his way, but when they did, you can see how smooth he is. He just carries himself, runs and moves like a top-flight receiver.

• Play of the practice: linebacker Chaun Thompson made an excellent leaping grab in front of Daniels inside the 5-yard line near the boundary in red-zone work. A very pretty interception. I didn't write down who threw it, but as it was the fifth play of a period that lasted about 20, I suspect it was Schaub.

When the entire team was gone, DeMeco Ryans and Rosenfels were still around doing interviews. (Thanks to both.) Molden and fellow corner Derrick Roberson were the last two players on the field working, catching balls shot out of a Jugs machine.

I hope that provides some insight. I can't always look for everything you ask about, but when I have the opportunity to watch a session start to finish, I will certainly try to concentrate on the most frequently asked questions or some that are especially unique.

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