NFL Nation: Jarvis Green

New England Patriots cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
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Check here for a full list of roster moves.

Biggest surprise: Outside linebacker Derrick Burgess kept the Patriots waiting while he contemplated retirement at the start of training camp. The Patriots probably helped push him back toward a pensive mood when they dropped the two-time Pro Bowler. The Patriots have pass-rush concerns, and Burgess tied for second with five sacks last year. The development of second-round draft choice Jermaine Cunningham certainly played a role in New England's decision. Also notable that second-year offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger was dropped despite the Patriots' interior issues and the fact they aggressively drafted him from Penn State in the fourth round last year. The Patriots traded cornerback Ellis Hobbs for a pair of fifth-round picks and then turned those assets into the fourth-round pick they used on Ohrnberger. He dressed for only three games last year.

No-brainers: The Patriots chose to keep five running backs, which is what they did last year. Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, Laurence Maroney and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. With safety Brandon McGowan placed on injured reserve with a chest injury, they made a nice trade with the Kansas City Chiefs and old friend Scott Pioli for safety Jarrad Page.

What's next: Bill Belichick never stops tweaking, particularly at the bottom of the roster. So this list of 53 probably will change before opening day. The Patriots, in need of support at defensive end, could bring back Jarvis Green, cut by the Denver Broncos on Saturday. Green played all eight of his NFL seasons with the Patriots and started 13 games at left end before signing with the Broncos as a free agent. Right defensive end Ty Warren is out for the year with a hip injury. The Patriots also released veteran defensive end Damione Lewis on Friday.

Were big AFC East offseason needs filled?

August, 31, 2010
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On the day the New Orleans Saints held their Super Bowl parade, long before the free-agency period opened and the draft took place, Scouts Inc. analyst Gary Horton examined the top three needs of every NFL team heading into the offseason.

Now that we've gone through offseason workouts, minicamps, training camps and three preseason games, let's take a look at each AFC East need and determine whether it was addressed.

Buffalo Bills

1. Outside linebacker: At the time of Horton's analysis, he didn't know Aaron Schobel would retire. Schobel would have been Buffalo's best pass-rusher in its new 3-4 defense. The Bills signed free agent Reggie Torbor and are hoping a group that also includes Chris Kelsay, Chris Ellis and Aaron Maybin will suffice. Need addressed? No.

2. Left tackle: The Bills chose to stick with Demetrius Bell. The Bills still haven't drafted a tackle earlier than the fifth round since 2002. Of the two they did draft, fifth-rounder Ed Wang is hurt and seventh-rounder Kyle Calloway already has been released. The Bills did sign Oakland Raiders free agent Cornell Green to play right tackle. Need addressed? No.

3. Quarterback: The Bills did next to nothing at quarterback, drafting long-term project Levi Brown in the seventh round and letting Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm shoot it out. Edwards won a not-so-open competition. Need addressed? No.

[+] EnlargeMarshall
Jonathan Brownfield/US PresswireThe acquisition of Brandon Marshall filled a huge void in the Dolphins' passing game.
Miami Dolphins

1. Wide receiver: Did the Dolphins address this need? Hmmm ... Let's see ... Oh, wait. That's right. They traded for Brandon Marshall, who has recorded triple-digit receptions in three straight seasons. Marshall was one of the most enormous transactions of the offseason. Need addressed? Yes.

2. Free safety: The Dolphins drafted Reshad Jones in the fifth round, but sophomore Chris Clemons has held down the position admirably. It won't be tough to outplay last year's starter, Gibril Wilson. Need addressed? Yes.

3. Nose tackle: The situation actually got worse and worse after Horton formed his analysis. Jason Ferguson was suspended eight games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. The Dolphins re-signed Ferguson, but then he retired. The Dolphins didn't draft a nose tackle, choosing to convert defensive end Randy Starks instead. Starks is undersized for a traditional 3-4 nose tackle, but Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has claimed Starks' speed has upgraded the position. Need addressed? Yes.

New England Patriots

1. Outside linebacker: Horton wrote "This defense must generate pass-rush pressure from its outside linebackers, but the Pats are devoid of playmakers and have virtually no depth at this position." They've gotten shallower with the release of Adalius Thomas, who started their playoff game. Tully Banta-Cain and Derrick Burgess are back and penciled in as the starters. The Patriots drafted pass-rusher Jermaine Cunningham 53rd overall, but he has been too hurt to get on the practice field. Need addressed? No.

2. Wide receiver: Wes Welker was looking at a potentially long rehab at the time Horton wrote his offseason preview. Randy Moss' age also was a concern. But Welker's recovery has been quick. Moss has looked phenomenal. Emerging youngsters Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate and third-round draft pick Taylor Price should be more than enough. Need addressed? Yes.

3. Defensive end: Little did Horton know how badly the Patriots would need help here. Left end Ty Warren is done for the year because of a hip injury. Right end Jarvis Green split for the Denver Broncos. The Patriots signed free agent Gerard Warren and have moved last year's super reserve, Mike Wright, into the starting lineup. Need addressed? No.

New York Jets

1. Defensive end: Horton's concern was with the age of incumbents Shaun Ellis and Marques Douglas. Ellis is back. Douglas was a free agent who departed for the Dolphins. The Jets didn't draft any defensive linemen and didn't sign any notable free agents there. They did move Vernon Gholston from outside linebacker to defensive end. Need addressed? No.

2. Safety: Compared to the Jets' banner acquisitions, Brodney Pool was a blip. The Cleveland Browns gave up on him because of recurring concussions, but the Jets' medical staff found his problem was related to migraine headaches. He's a multifaceted safety with a nose for the ball, interception four passes in 10 games last year. Need addressed? Yes.

3. Wide receiver: The Jets practically stole Santonio Holmes from the Pittsburgh Steelers for a fifth-round draft choice. Holmes was the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII and was coming off a 1,248-yard season. But character issues, underscored by a four-game suspension to start the season, made him a bargain. Need addressed? Yes.

Camp Confidential: Denver Broncos

August, 11, 2010
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ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 23

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After he watched one key player after another limp to the training room this summer, Josh McDaniels came to a conclusion: The Denver Broncos are going to find a way to get better as a result.

Call it medical motivation.

“Sometimes, when everybody around you thinks the sky is falling because of injuries, it could rally a team,” the second-year Denver coach said. “That’s what we are doing. We are going to be motivated to show we can withstand what has happened to us. We’re not sitting here feeling sorry for ourselves.”

McDaniels swears Denver is having a productive training camp despite being the most injured team in the NFL. The biggest hit was the loss of star linebacker Elvis Dumervil. He is likely out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Other players who have been lost during camp include running backs Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, safety Brian Dawkins and linebackers D.J. Williams and Jarvis Moss. Don’t forget that left tackle Ryan Clady is out until sometime in September after hurting his knee in the offseason.

Still, McDaniels said it’s not a time of despair, because everyone but Dumervil is expected back in the near future.

“It hurts to lose Elvis, but maybe the other injuries are good that they happened now,” McDaniels said. “We are not worrying about who is not here. We trust our depth and we’re dealing with it.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
AP Photo/Jack DempseyTim Tebow got a new haircut on Tuesday, replacing the monk haircut from earlier in the week.
1. How will the Tebow factor affect the team? There is not a rookie in the NFL who is getting the attention that Tim Tebow is receiving. From special Nike shoes to a hideous training-camp haircut to operating in short yardage situations, the Tebow Watch is in full force.

The question is how his work in camp will affect the team on the field. The former Florida star quarterback has operated in short-yardage situations and he will likely be used in the Wildcat formation and in the red zone. That likely means Denver will keep quarterbacks Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Tebow on the 45-man roster on game days. In June, McDaniels said he was leaning away from that.

But it is clear that Tebow is being groomed to be active as a rookie. Unless Tebow completely leapfrogs Quinn in training camp and in the preseason, Denver could be using three quarterbacks on game days, which will take away from another position.

2. Can this team forget the final 10 games of 2009? Denver was the most perplexing team in the NFL in 2009. It shocked the league by starting 6-0. However, it suddenly fell apart and lost eight of its final 10 games.

Which team will we see in 2010? McDaniels, of course, won’t guarantee anything, but he believes Denver is heading in the right direction because of a strong training camp.

He said the team is making big strides this year because his program is established after 14 years under Mike Shanahan. McDaniels pointed out how much smoother and productive Denver was in its team scrimmage last weekend compared to last year’s scrimmage.

“It’s night and day,” McDaniels said. “Everybody knows the system now and that has helped camp.”

[+] EnlargeKnowshon Moreno
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireKnowshon Moreno, the team's leading rusher last season, is out with a hamstring injury.
3. Can the running backs stay healthy? Moreno (hamstring) and Buckhalter (back) are supposed to be ready this month. But seeing the top two running backs go down on the first full day of camp had to be scary for Denver. The team has big plans for Moreno and Buckhalter.

Denver brought in veteran LenDale White to help in camp and perhaps as a short-yardage runner once he serves a four-game NFL suspension. The team is discussing signing former Oakland tailback Justin Fargas, perhaps as soon as Wednesday.

This is still the Moreno and Buckhalter show, but the Broncos have been forced to look at other options. Expect Moreno and Buckhalter to be handled very gingerly for the rest of camp and in the preseason in an attempt to ensure their health for the start of the regular season.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

The Broncos are excited about their receivers.

Brandon Lloyd and Matthew Willis have been outstanding. Eddie Royal is playing well in camp and the team hopes he can bounce back from a poor first season under McDaniels. After catching 91 passes as a rookie, Royal had just 37 catches last season.

Add rookies Thomas and Decker and Denver could have a decent receiving crew. That looked shaky after the team sent talented but troubled Brandon Marshall to Miami in April.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

How can it be anything other than the injury to Dumervil? He is arguably Denver’s best player and he just signed a huge, new contract. Denver was looking for him to have a dominant season. Dumervil led the NFL with 17 sacks last season.

Denver will have to find a pass rush elsewhere. A top candidate is 2009 first-round pick Robert Ayers. He struggled as a rookie. But he has been good in camp. Ayers will get every chance to turn it on and help make this bad situation workable.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • [+] EnlargeKyle Orton
    Jeff Fishbein/Icon SMIKyle Orton passed for 3,802 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for the Broncos last season.
    Orton has quietly been a star in camp. He had a strong offseason and is, by far, the most accurate of three quarterbacks. While the future is Tebow’s in Denver, Orton is going to do everything he can to make 2010 special before he hits the free-agency market in 2011.
  • Quinn, the current No. 2 quarterback in Denver, has been inaccurate often. The Broncos still like Quinn, who was acquired from Cleveland in March. However, with Orton being the immediate starter and Tebow being the future starter, he has his work cut out for him to find a spot in Denver.
  • Keep an eye out for fifth-round pick Perrish Cox. He’s been outstanding in camp. “Every day, I look up and Perrish is making another big play,” Royal said. Cox is second at left cornerback behind star Champ Bailey. Cox will likely be the nickel cornerback. He is also dynamic as a return man.
  • While Cox is ascending, second-year cornerback Alphonso Smith is still not progressing. Smith was the No. 37 overall pick in 2009. Denver gave up its first-round pick for Smith in 2010 (which was No. 14). He floundered as a rookie and he is not showing much improvement in camp as Cox is stealing the show.
  • Richard Quinn, a second-round pick in 2009, is blocking very well in camp. He still must improve as a receiver, but Denver should feel comfortable with him in double tight-end sets with starter Daniel Graham.
  • So far, defensive end Ryan McBean is holding off free-agent pickup Jarvis Green. However, the team likes Green and he is very versatile.
  • Denver likes what it sees in former San Diego defensive tackle Jamal Williams in the early stages. With Dumervil out, a lot of Denver’s defensive burst must start from him at nose tackle. That may mean Williams may be on the field more than Denver likes. But he is showing, even at 34 and after missing all but one game in San Diego last year, he could still be a force.
  • Denver knows it won’t all be roses, but it is at terms with rookies J.D. Walton (center) and Zane Beadles (guard) starting. Both players have showed intelligence and toughness in camp. Most importantly, they are big and strong and they are well suited for the power-blocking scheme McDaniels is adopting. Denver is scrapping the zone-blocking scheme used during the Shanahan era. One of the reasons is McDaniels wants a bigger offensive line that can stay fresh throughout the season.
  • D’Anthony Batiste is doing well at left tackle. The Broncos think he will be a valuable backup when Clady returns from a knee injury in September.
  • Inside linebacker Joe Mays, acquired from Philadelphia for running back J.J. Arrington less than two weeks ago, is impressing. He has worked some with the first team. He is likely to be a key backup and a special teamer.
  • Veteran defensive lineman Marcus Thomas is buried on the depth chart. If he doesn’t pick up the rest of camp, he could be a candidate to be cut.
  • Punter Britton Colquitt, the younger brother of Kansas City punter Dustin Colquitt, is doing well and he will likely win the job. He is going unchallenged, but if he falters, Denver could scour the waiver wire. So far, he is showing that may not be necessary.

New Pats D-lineman confident in switch

April, 13, 2010
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Defensive lineman Damione Lewis obviously was confident he could make the transition from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4. Otherwise, he wouldn't have signed a contract to play for the New England Patriots after nine seasons as a defensive tackle.

But it's always good to hear what a new player has to say, and Boston Herald reporter Karen Guregian caught up with Lewis to get his thoughts about learning the Patriots' defense and picking up the nuances of the defensive end role Jarvis Green played for eight years. Green signed a free-agent contract with the Denver Broncos.
"At the end of the day, it's still football," Lewis said.

Lewis, 32, spent the past four years with the Carolina Panthers after five with the St. Louis Rams. He had been a reserve for most of his career before starting 31 games at right defensive tackle over the past two seasons
"I talked to some guys I played with over the years who have made the transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense," Lewis told Guregian. "I asked about the differences. They told me what they felt was the difference. They actually said it would be an easier transition going from a 4-3 to a 3-4 than vice versa.

"The game is so much faster in a 4-3 as a lineman than it is in a 3-4. They just said it's a matter of being patient, and I'd be fine."
LaDainian Tomlinson, Thomas Jones and Brandon MarshallUS Presswire/Icon SMI/US PresswireLaDainian Tomlinson is out in San Diego, Thomas Jones has a new home in Kansas City and Brandon Marshall's future in Denver remains uncertain.
We’re a week into free agency. Here is a look at the key aspects of the offseason for each team in the division so far and what’s ahead:

Denver

Big news: Brandon Marshall. The Broncos set the stage for Marshall’s departure by putting the first-round tender on him. It didn’t take long for Marshall to attract interest. Seattle set up a visit to bring in Marshall on the first day of free agency. The Marshall situation could drag on, especially if other teams show interest. But the fact that Marshall was in another team’s building over the weekend is big news.

Surprise: The new-look defensive line. Last year, in his first as Denver’s coach, Josh McDaniels remade the Broncos’ defensive line. He is doing it again in his second year. The Broncos have signed defensive linemen Justin Bannan, Jarvis Green and Jamal Williams. All three of these players are expected to play major roles.

Best decision: Giving Elvis Dumervil the high tender. Dumervil, 26, represents the future for Denver. He led the NFL with 17 sacks last season. Had Denver not put the high tender of a first- and third-round pick on Dumervil, he would be popular in free agency. With the high tender, Dumervil probably is staying put.

Worst decision: Not being flexible on Marshall’s compensation. It has been reported that the Broncos will keep Marshall if they don’t get a first-round pick in return for him. Perhaps this is posturing. But unless other teams start pursuing him, I don’t see Seattle giving up a first-round pick. Yet, the Seahawks could offer other creative compensation. Ultimately, the Broncos want to part ways with Marshall, but this high price tag could prevent that from happening.

What’s needed: Continue to get bigger. The Broncos added size to the defensive front. Now, they have to do so on the offensive line. Denver is moving away from the zone-blocking scheme to a more traditional power-blocking attack. The Broncos need a left guard and a center.

Kansas City

Big news: Thomas Jones signing. Next to the trade for quarterback Matt Cassel last year, this is the biggest move of the Scot Pioli era to date. The addition of Jones shows Kansas City is willing to spend and it wants to get better. The veteran running back will help this offense.

Surprise: How aggressive the Chiefs planned to be. Last year, the Chiefs were criticized for not being active. This year has been a different story. They were planning to pursue San Diego’s Darren Sproles had he hit the open market, and they tried to trade for receiver Anquan Boldin. Before signing Jones, Kansas City also was considering fellow running backs Justin Fargas and Willie Parker. It is clear the Chiefs are determined to get better.

Best decision: Re-signing Chris Chambers. Adding Jones and keeping Chambers will help Kansas City’s offense evolve in the first year under new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Chambers was Cassel’s favorite target when he was claimed off waivers by San Diego in November. A full season of playing with Chambers should help Cassel.

Worst decision: Not trading for Boldin. A receiving crew of Chambers, Boldin and Dwayne Bowe would have been formidable. The Chiefs have two second-round picks next month. It might have been worth it to trade one to get Boldin and really open up the offense.

What’s needed: Keep spending. The Chiefs are on the right track. But they need more talent throughout the team. They need to add more pieces, perhaps on the offensive line and in the defensive back eight.

Oakland

Big news: No big spending. For the second year in a row, the Raiders are watching free agency as bystanders. Two years ago, the Raiders spent wildly. It didn’t work, and most of their 2008 free-agency class has been cut. The Raiders are sitting on the sideline in this uncapped year. You would think Al Davis would make a splash or two, but he has been very quiet.

Surprise: The release of Greg Ellis. The defensive end was cut after one season with the team. Ellis had seven sacks last year, but he dealt with injuries. Still, he may have a year or two left. Yet, the Raiders decided to go with youth at the position. Perhaps that is a good sign of things to come. Of course, they gave another 30-year-old defensive end, Richard Seymour, the franchise tag after giving up a 2011 first-round pick for him. You never know the thought process in Oakland.

Best decision: The release of Javon Walker. This move was a long time coming. Walker was one of the worst free-agent decisions in NFL history. Oakland gave him a six-year, $55 million deal with $16 million in guaranteed money in 2008. He had 15 catches in two seasons in Oakland. He never helped.

Worst decision: Giving Stanford Routt the high tender. The backup cornerback was given the high tender of a first- and third-round pick. Routt is not a starter and is a marginal backup. Even if Oakland put the first-round tender on Routt, he wouldn’t have attracted interested. The move simply cost the Raiders money and served no purpose.

What’s needed: The Raiders have to spend some. It’s admirable that Oakland has learned its lesson from its horrible spending spree of two years ago. But the Raiders need help. This isn’t a playoff- quality roster. The team needs help in several areas. The Raiders don’t have to spend huge, but they do need some new players.

San Diego

Big news: The team is losing numbers. The Chargers cut former stars LaDainian Tomlinson and Jamal Williams. Then they traded cornerback Antonio Cromartie and lost free agents Kassim Osgood and Brandon Manumaleuna. The Chargers have not added any players of note. San Diego prides itself on its depth and none of these players are irreplaceable, but the Chargers could miss some of them.

Surprise: The Chargers gave the high tender to running back Darren Sproles. San Diego was expected to let the change-of-pace running back/return star test the market, but Sproles was tendered at the deadline. Good thing for San Diego, because Sproles probably would have been signed within 48 hours on the open market.

Best decision: Trading Antonio Cromartie. The team grew tired of the cornerback, who struggled at times on the field and had some off-field issues. Cromartie was sent to the Jets for a 2011 third-round pick that could turn into a second-round pick, depending on playing time. It was a good value for a player San Diego couldn’t wait to part ways with.

Worst decision: Not re-signing Jamal Williams. Only because it allowed Denver to sign him. Williams probably doesn’t have much left. But if he does, the Chargers will regret seeing Williams play well for a rival.

What’s needed: A running back. The Chargers are taking a calculated risk. They are not impressed with the free-agent class, so they are waiting for the draft. It is a deep draft. The Chargers clearly feel they can get a primary back then. Still, it is a tad scary waiting for an unknown rookie to be the primary back.
The Broncos have been busy revamping their defensive line with the signing of Jarvis Green and Justin Bannan, who will likely start at the end positions, and Jamal Williams, who will play nose tackle.

The group is an improvement from last season. Still, the new players are making Denver a very old defense.

A lot will happen in free agency and in the draft, but there is a chance Denver will have nine defensive starters over the age of 30. Six of Denver’s starters last season __ Champ Bailey (31), Brian Dawkins (36), Andra Davis (31), Andre Goodman (31), Mario Haggan (30) and Renaldo Hill (31) – will be 30 or older by the start of the 2010 season. Bannan will be 31 next month, Williams will be 34 next month and Green is 31.

The only current key Denver defenders are linebackers Elvis Dumervil (26) and D.J. Williams (27). Apparently, Denver believes this unit is built to win now. It better be because this group won’t be around together for long.
This move will likely hurt San Diego fans more than it will help the Denver Broncos.

Williams
Williams
Jamal Williams -- one of the great all-time Chargers -- is now a Denver Bronco. He just signed a three-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Chargers cut Williams last week because he was due a hefty bonus.

Continuing its focus on revamping the defensive line, Denver’s acquisition of Williams is intriguing. The 6-foot-3, 348-pound Williams was one of the game’s premier nose tackles. He was a great run-stuffer and anchor to a fine defense. Denver defensive line coach Wayne Nunnely is no stranger to Williams’ greatness. He coached him in San Diego.

Williams was known as a big-time Bronco killer. He ate up Denver’s small offensive linemen. The Denver line was usually effective using its zone blocking schemes, but Williams always had success against Denver.

Still, there are plenty of risks in this deal. Williams will turn 34 next month and he missed all but one game last season with a triceps injury. He has also had knee issues.

But if Denver uses Williams in a rotation and limits him 15 to 25 snaps a game he could be effective. Denver has also added defensive linemen Justin Bannan and Jarvis Green. With all of these additions, the Broncos likely will not be looking for defensive linemen in the early stages of the draft.

The Williams deal can help if he can stay healthy. Even if Williams’ better days are behind him, the sight of him in blue and orange will likely be crushing to San Diego fans.

Pats sign their own, but must look outside

March, 9, 2010
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The New England Patriots continue to welcome back their players in free agency.

On Tuesday, they finalized a four-year contract for cornerback Leigh Bodden and formally announced they'd re-signed nose tackle Vince Wilfork and right guard Stephen Neal. They previously re-signed outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain.

New England did lose a player. The Denver Broncos signed defensive end Jarvis Green to a four-year contract. Green was a key reserve and pass-rush specialist who'll be remembered for his 2.5 sacks of Peyton Manning in the 2003 AFC Championship Game.

The Patriots' re-signings so far are indicative of a strong organization. They're bringing back their players, keeping them financially happy and not necessarily chasing around other unrestricted free agents.

But ESPN analyst and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi believes they need to make a greater effort to look outside the organization to upgrade their roster and keep up with the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins.

"These moves had to be completed," Bruschi said in a video segment for ESPNBoston.com. "However, they need help."

Patriots owner Robert Kraft told Boston sports radio station WEEI on Tuesday they've reached terms with free-agent Jets defensive end Marques Murrell, but that's a depth signing. Murrell has zero NFL starts in three seasons. Various outlets have reported the Patriots are close to signing St. Louis Rams tight end Daniel Fells.

That's not the type of help Bruschi was referring to.

"Who is going to play outside linebacker for them, especially if Adalius Thomas is no longer a member of this team?" Bruschi asked. "If Wes Welker's rehabilitation takes longer than expected, they need another receiver.

"These are areas that have to be addressed via free agency. They've been very quiet up to this point. Re-signing their players is important, but they need help. They need to get off the fence and start signing some players to be competitive in this AFC East because the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are getting better with every signing that they make."

video
After relying heavily on players from his former team (New England) last year, second-year Denver coach Josh McDaniels went back to the Patriot well Tuesday as he remakes his defensive line.

The Broncos signed New England defensive end Jarvis Green. He signed for four years in a deal that will be worth a maximum of $20 million. Denver signed Baltimore defensive tackle Justin Bannan last week.

Both Green and Bannan should play significantly. Last year, Denver’s starting defensive ends were Kenny Peterson and Ryan McBean, and the nose tackle was Ronald Fields.

The Broncos are still trying to get a deal done with former San Diego nose tackle Jamal Williams to play him in a rotation.

Green is a solid but not a spectacular player. He started 12 games and he had one sack last season. Green, a veteran in the 3-4 scheme, has 28 sacks in eight seasons.

With all of the moves Denver is making on the defensive line, it may mean the Broncos will not use an early-round pick on a defensive lineman.

Meanwhile, it is being reported Denver could make a run at Tennessee veteran center Kevin Mawae.

AFC East: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
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Buffalo Bills

Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Ryan Denney, LB Chris Draft, DB Todd Johnson, G Seth McKinney, WR Terrell Owens, WR Josh Reed, S Bryan Scott, G Kendall Simmons, LB Josh Stamer.

Potential restricted free agents: LB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, TE Derek Schouman, T Jonathan Scott, S George Wilson, CB Ashton Youboty.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Bills are in a rebuilding mode and shouldn't be in too much of a hurry to sign their free agents. In fact, they took the unusual step of publicly announcing they wouldn't offer Owens, Reed or Denney contracts. The most attractive players are Incognito and Wilson. Most of the rest were bit players and injury replacements.

Miami Dolphins

Potential unrestricted free agents: NT Jason Ferguson, CB Nate Jones, QB Chad Pennington, OLB Jason Taylor.

Potential restricted free agents: RB Ronnie Brown, TE Anthony Fasano, OLB Quentin Moses.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Dolphins have a tough decision to make on Ferguson. He'll turn 36 during the 2010 season and is coming off a serious quadriceps injury. Without him, however, the Dolphins have a massive void in their 3-4 defense at a position that's difficult to replace. Pennington, Jones and Taylor all could be gone.

New England Patriots

Potential unrestricted free agents: OLB Tully Banta-Cain, CB Leigh Bodden, OLB Derrick Burgess, RB Kevin Faulk, DE Jarvis Green, P Chris Hanson, G Stephen Neal, ILB Junior Seau, TE Benjamin Watson.

Potential restricted free agents: K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins, OLB Pierre Woods.

Franchise player: NT Vince Wilfork.

What to expect: Several starters are about to go up for bids, and the Patriots can't keep them all. Expect Faulk to be re-signed without much fuss. Neal, Bodden and Banta-Cain comprise a group they'd have trouble replacing. All three could fetch offers the Patriots would rather not match. Don't count on Watson coming back.

New York Jets

Potential unrestricted free agents: LS James Dearth, DE Marques Douglas, K Jay Feely, LB Ryan Fowler, TE Ben Hartsock, LB Larry Izzo, FB Tony Richardson.

Potential restricted free agents: QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, WR Braylon Edwards, DT Howard Green, T Wayne Hunter, WR Brad Smith, S Eric Smith, RB Leon Washington.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: As a "final eight" team, the Jets have to window shop until one of their UFAs sign elsewhere. General manager Mike Tannenbaum is creative. Don't be surprised if the Jets use trades to upgrade. The key restricted free agent to monitor will be Washington, who received a second-round tender. His agent has been tweeting alarms the Pro Bowler could sign an offer sheet and dare the Jets to match.

Greetings from Gillette Stadium

November, 22, 2009
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- What a dreary Sunday afternoon in Gillette Stadium. Skies are gray. It's about 47 degrees. A few New York Jets and New England Patriots are walking around the turf with their hands stuffed into their mufflers.

Action should be plenty heated when the rivals kick off at 4:15 p.m. The Patriots want to avenge that Week 2 loss at the Meadowlands and are coming off a foul-tasting defeat to the Indianapolis Colts. The Jets need a victory to salvage their drain-circling season.

The Patriots have some interesting inactives. Left tackle Matt Light remains out, but right guard Stephen Neal will join him because of the head injury he suffered in Indy. Running back Sammy Morris will be held out again after speculation he would play.

Most notably scratched for the Jets is outside linebacker Vernon Gholston, the sixth overall pick in last year's draft. Gholston has been benched for two straight games.

All of Sunday's inactives are below:

New York Jets

New England Patriots

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The New England Patriots' chances of victory over the Miami Dolphins have improved even more.
 Ferguson
 Crowder

The Dolphins have downgraded underrated nose tackle Jason Ferguson and inside linebacker Channing Crowder from doubtful to out for Sunday's game Gillette Stadium.

A battered, inexperienced defense generally isn't the blueprint to beat Tom Brady.

A significant amount of experience has vanished from Miami's defense the past two weeks. Top cornerback Will Allen went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 7, forcing the Dolphins to start two rookie cornerbacks (Sean Smith and Vontae Davis).

In last week's victory over the New York Jets, the Dolphins took it a step further and gave safety Chris Clemons his first NFL start in place of Gibril Wilson. That gave the Dolphins a secondary comprised of three-quarters rookies.

Miami will miss Ferguson the most. He's not a star nose tackle like Kris Jenkins for the Jets or Vince Wilfork for the Patriots, but he's in their mold. Ferguson anchors the Dolphins' 3-4 defense and is a solid run-stopper who can occupy multiple blockers.

Backup defensive tackle Paul Soliai, who was in coach Tony Sparano's doghouse over weight issues and a general lack of commitment last year, is coming off the best game of his career. Soliai was credited with six tackles, a pass deflection and the forced fumble Jason Taylor returned for a touchdown against the Jets.

Soliai will need to be a force again to compensate for Ferguson.

Crowder will miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury. Reggie Torbor should start again.

Crowder's absence doesn't mean as much to the Dolphins as the casual fan might think. His mouth has made him more relevant than his play this season. He's a decent tackler but has zero sacks, zero passes defensed and zero forced fumbles.

Plus, the dropoff to Torbor isn't that considerable. The season the New York Giants won the Super Bowl, Torbor started their final five regular-season games and all four in the postseason, including that gargantuan upset to deny the Patriots a perfect season.

The Patriots, however, have their share of injuries. They've already ruled out left tackle Matt Light, running backs Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor, receiver Julian Edelman and defensive end Jarvis Green.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

New England Patriots fans must have had two immediate, positive reactions when they learned their club on Saturday dealt Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs:

  1. A strong assurance that Tom Brady's surgically repaired left knee must be fine, or the Patriots wouldn't have made the trade.
  2. Exhilaration over suddenly having about $19 million to spend in the early stages of the free-agency period.

Two of the ways they can spend it immediately are by signing more free agents or extending contracts of players already on their roster.

A lot of talent still is available on the open market. I hesitate to cobble together a list of the more prominent players still out there because it probably will be outdated within minutes.

Feel free to share your ideas of who you think the Patriots should sign. Enter those names in the comments section below.

Here are some of the Patriots who are entering the final year of their contracts:

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

SAN DIEGO -- What a glorious opportunity Sunday night for the New England Patriots to declare they would not fade away, that they very much remain viable contenders.

The Patriots resurfaced from their Week 4 bye to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in a game that brought much relief to their fretting fans. Next up were their cross-country rivals, the San Diego Chargers.

No, this wasn't the same matchup it has been in recent years, but it was a convergence of two teams eager to make a statement.

To carry out that analogy, the Chargers went on a filibuster with a loud and rambling 30-10 victory in Qualcomm Stadium.

The Patriots either couldn't get a word in edgewise or simply had no response at all. Their only touchdown came in garbage time.

"They did a better job than we did," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I would say that about the players, the coaches, the whole works. The San Diego Chargers were better than the New England Patriots tonight. That's across the board."

The Patriots never had lost two games by 20 or more points in the same season under Belichick. Until now.

Here are five storylines that emerged for New England in their setback.

 
  Christopher Hanewickel/US Presswire
 New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel is sacked by the San Diego Chargers defensive end Igor Olshansky during the first quarter Sunday.

The Patriots' offense and Matt Cassel failed to follow up.

The Patriots scored a season-high 30 points against the San Francisco 49ers, generating optimism the Patriots just might be able to cope without Tom Brady. In their previous games they managed only 17, 19 and 13 points.

With running backs Laurence Maroney and LaMont Jordan injured, more of the responsibility fell on Cassel's right arm. But the Chargers fell on him, too.

Cassel completed 22 of 38 passes for 203 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He had a 61.6 passer rating. The Chargers sacked him four times.

"He did more moving around than Brady, and with experience he'll become better with that," Chargers safety Clinton Hart said. "He held the ball a lot more than Brady would've. That's inexperience.

"We put pressure on him and gave him looks that I'm pretty sure that he wasn't confident in seeing because we were moving around back there."

The Patriots also failed to get Randy Moss involved. They threw at him, but connected only three times for 26 yards. At halftime, Moss had one catch for 6 yards.

"When you remove the best quarterback in the National Football League, of course, they're [licking] their lips," Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said of opposing defenses. "They're excited because they feel like we lost an integral part or the most important part of our team.

"But we realize that's over and done with. We can't harp on that. This year is totally different than last year. We're not going to score 38 points a game. We're not going to blow people out by 25 points at halftime. It's just not going to happen.

"We don't have that type of team. So we're going to have to go back to ways of fighting, scrapping and just fighting for every single bit of yardage, every single bit of victory that we can get."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

SAN DIEGO -- The New England Patriots won in San Francisco on Sunday and stayed in San Jose all week to get ready for their next game.

But they failed to show up in San Diego.

The Chargers pulverized the Patriots 30-10 Sunday night in Qualcomm Stadium. The Patriots stumbled in every facet. Their offense failed to matriculate with Matt Cassel, who connected with Randy Moss thrice for 26 yards.

Their secondary got shredded by Philip Rivers and a receiving corps that was missing its best target, Chris Chambers. Stephen Gostkowski missed a 48-yard field goal.Their only touchdown came with the game long decided.

New England went into the game without its best running backs. Laurence Maroney (shoulder) and LaMont Jordan (calf) were scratched.

Then defensive lineman Jarvis Green and starting right tackle Nick Kaczur were sidelined with first-half injuries.

The beating was rather thorough.

Instead of tying the Buffalo Bills for first place in the AFC East, the Patriots slipped into a tie with the New York Jets for second place at 3-2, one win ahead of the Miami Dolphins. Besides back home, where do the Patriots go from here?

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