NFL Nation: Jeff Saturday

INDIANAPOLIS -- Khaled Holmes and Phil Costa.

Those two names might cause you to look at their Wikipedia page to find out their background.

Here’s the condensed version of who Holmes and Costa are: They are centers for the Indianapolis Colts and will be the two competing for the right to hike the ball to franchise quarterback Andrew Luck next season.

[+] EnlargePhil Costa
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesThe Colts signed center Phil Costa to a one-year, $1.2 million contract. He'll compete with Khaled Holmes for the starting job this fall.
That essentially was the message general manager Ryan Grigson passed along during a conference call with reporters late Friday morning.

“We feel pretty good where we’re at,” he said. “You always like to be able to plug in a Pro Bowler there or someone that’s a five-year starter, have that luxury, but I’ll say this to make this point: You guys had great success here with (Jeff) Saturday who was a (college free agent) that I think was stocking shelves when they brought him in.

“About center in general, I personally have been fortunate enough to be to three Super Bowls with two teams, and on all three of those teams the centers were (college free agents). That’s a position where you can find a quality guy and you don’t need always to have that high-profile player at that spot."

Samson Satele was the Colts’ starting center the past two seasons, but he was released this month after performing poorly last season.

The Colts had interest in Cleveland center Alex Mack, but being able to land him was a longshot from the start because the Browns used their transition tag on him, meaning they could match any offer made to Mack.

Indianapolis signed Costa, who spent his first four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, to a one-year, $1.2 million contract last week. He started every game in 2011 for the Cowboys. His 2012 season was cut short because of ankle and back problems. Costa, an undrafted free agent, dressed for 12 games in 2013 but only played in three of those games, losing his starting job to Travis Frederick, the team’s first-round pick last season.

Holmes, the Colts’ fourth-round pick in 2013, still remains a 6-3, 319-pound mystery. He played a total of 12 snaps last season. That number is alarming when you consider the problems the Colts had on the interior part of the offensive line last season.

“We signed Phil Costa, he’s a tough young center that has started games,” Grigson said. “We drafted Khaled Holmes to be that center of the future. He never got a chance in camp really because of the ankle, so he’s still a little bit of an unknown at the professional level. But it’s going to be a good competition.”

So for now, learn as much as you can about Holmes and Costa, because they are currently the two players with the best shot of being the Colts’ starting center next season.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In his first nine seasons as the Green Bay Packers starting quarterback, Brett Favre had two starting centers -- James Campen (two years) and Frank Winters (seven).

Aaron Rodgers will be on his fourth in four seasons after Evan Dietrich-Smith signed a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday. And there is a decent chance it will be someone who has never played the position in the NFL.

Dietrich-Smith completed his first full season as a starter last year after taking over for Jeff Saturday late in the 2012 season. Saturday lasted just one year after replacing Scott Wells, who was Rodgers' primary center in his first four seasons as a starter.

Perhaps the center-quarterback relationship isn't crucial, but don’t tell that to Rodgers. Shortly after the season on his ESPN 540 Milwaukee radio show, he called it "very important."

He then recalled a conversation he had with Dietrich-Smith during training camp.

"I just challenged him that this was a great opportunity and that he could really set up himself up to be a long-term guy here with a solid performance in training camp," Rodgers said. "And he did that and more.

"He's a very intelligent guy who had a very good season for us, and I'm proud of him in his development, and I hope that he’s around a long time."

Instead, Rodgers will have to adjust to someone new again.

The Packers have plenty of options, although none with any significant experience.

They like JC Tretter, a fourth-round pick last season who played tackle in college at Cornell. But Tretter did not play at all last season after breaking his ankle during the first week of offseason practices in May and only began working at center in November, when he returned to practice from the physically unable perform list.

"I think that kid has a lot of potential to play all five positions," Campen, the Packers' offensive line coach, said after the season. "Will he take reps at center? Yeah, sure he will. Wouldn't be surprised if he's taking reps at guard or tackle. You know, there's a lot of things that have to go through that process, certainly [Tretter] has displayed the ability to play center, yes."

Third-year pro Don Barclay, who played right tackle the past two seasons, could be an option. He worked at center during training camp last summer before he took over at right tackle. With Bryan Bulaga expected to return from his knee injury and go back to right tackle, it could free up Barclay to move inside.

The Packers have no plans to move T.J. Lang to center even though Lang slid over from right guard in two games last season when Dietrich-Smith was injured. The Packers don’t think Lang is a long-term solution at center and also believe he’s far more valuable at guard.

It's possible they could draft another center prospect, although it wouldn't likely be a high pick.

They also could pursue a free-agent center. The best one on the market is Alex Mack, a Pro Bowler with the Cleveland Browns. Mack currently carries the transition tag from the Browns, who could match any offer Mack gets from another team. The transition tag would pay Mack a $10 million salary this season. The most likely scenario for Mack to leave Cleveland might be in a trade.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- John Wooten compared it to winning a Presidential election.

The chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation, an organization committed to helping minority candidates get a fair look in coaching jobs, among other things, could think of no other comparison to describe Jim Caldwell being hired by the Detroit Lions.

“To be openly frank, we felt that he should be the guy,” Wooten said Tuesday afternoon. “We really wanted him in that particular team. Thought it was an excellent fit.

“Our overall reaction was probably very similar to what we felt when President (Barack) Obama was elected six years ago, when the Virginia vote came in. That’s how we felt. We felt that strongly about it. Great move for us.”

Caldwell, the first black coach in Detroit Lions history, was at Wake Forest from 1993 to 2000, where he compiled a 26-63 record before being fired. Then he was a quarterbacks coach for Tampa Bay for a season before heading to Indianapolis, where he was the quarterback coach for Peyton Manning from 2002 to 2008.

Then he was hired to replace Tony Dungy and took the Colts to the Super Bowl in 2009, where they lost to the New Orleans Saints. He followed that with a 10-6 season in 2010 and then a 2-14 season in 2011 when the Colts lost Peyton Manning and had no viable option as a backup.

Indianapolis fired him following that season.

The Lions owner, William Clay Ford, was pleased with the way the hiring process went and feels like Caldwell is the right hire.

"On behalf on my entire family, I want to express how thrilled we are with the appointment of Jim Caldwell as our new head coach,” Ford said in a statement. “We believe Jim is the right man to lead our team and deliver a championship to our fans.

“I also want to commend Tom (Lewand) and Martin (Mayhew) on the thoroughness of the coaching search,” Ford continued. “We had a very specific plan and profile for our next head coach, and I am convinced that we found that man in Jim Caldwell.”

To Wooten and his foundation, Caldwell’s hiring for a second NFL head coaching job had that much meaning. Since the Lions fired Jim Schwartz on Dec. 30, Wooten had been speaking frequently about how good a fit Caldwell would be for the spot.

He also spoke glowingly of Caldwell's interview with the Lions, saying he laid out the entire plan of what he wanted to do and how he would improve Matthew Stafford.

That message reached the Detroit players Stafford spoke with following the interview.

“Excited about him,” Lions wide receiver Kris Durham told in a text message. “Have heard nothing but amazing things about Coach Caldwell. Matthew (Stafford) spoke highly of him after their meeting during the interview process.”

He wasn’t the only one.

Running back Joique Bell played for Caldwell in Indianapolis in 2010.

“Good to know I’ll have my old head coach back to replace another great coach,” Bell tweeted earlier Tuesday. “Great move by our front office.”

Offensive guard Rob Sims said some of the team’s veterans had been communicating over the past few weeks about who could be the replacement for Jim Schwartz, who was fired after five seasons on Dec. 30.

Like many on the outside, he had initially thought he would be playing for Ken Whisenhunt, but when he found out he’d be playing for Caldwell, he was also happy, saying he thinks “is a good fit here.”

“To be honest, I don’t know too much about Jim other than the fact of where he’s coached and the success he’s had. I’m excited about the change from where we were a few weeks ago. I think that’s going to help our team morale, just his presence as somebody who has been there and seen what it looks like to have a winner.

“...We still have a winner here and somebody to lead the ship that’s been there is going to help out tremendously.”

One of the players who helped make Caldwell a winner, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, called Caldwell a friend and someone he respected both personally and professionally.

“Through his calming influence and extensive knowledge of the game, he was an integral part of our success over the past few years,” Flacco said. “He will be missed by me and the Ravens. I wish him the best of luck in Detroit.”

His former players were also pleased.

Jeff Saturday played three seasons for the Indianapolis Colts under Caldwell, and what the former center saw is someone who will hold his players accountable, will be well organized and consistent with players.

“This will be a disciplined, well-balanced football team,” Saturday said on ESPN just after the hire was announced. “He will set forth a plan, he does it every Wednesday. I heard people talk about how he’s not known as the most charismatic guy, that’s not true when he’s in a team setting.

“This guy calls you to a level of accountability and gets you excited. He sets up a gameplan on Wednesday and that gameplan will be followed, and he will hold you to the line he has drawn.”

Saturday also said much of Manning’s success was enhanced by Caldwell.

“A great deal. Every player has to be coached. And Peyton Manning wants to be coached and always wanted to be coached. He wants a guy who’s as committed to the organization and team as he is, and that was Jim Caldwell for him,” Saturday said. “He’s not afraid to correct or to talk about, ‘You have to do this better’ or ‘here’s a mistake you made.’ That was what Caldwell brought to us. He has a great offensive mind, but he knows how to work with quarterbacks to get the most out of them.

“He did with Flacco, he did it with Manning and he’ll again do it with Stafford. … He comes with such a calm demeanor that you never feel attacked as a player, you always feel like he’s trying to build you up as a player and as a man.”

Some of Caldwell’s former players were also happy for their now-former offensive coordinator to land a head coaching job.

NFL Nation Baltimore Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.

Midseason Report: Green Bay Packers

November, 6, 2013

How many other NFL teams could survive for any length of time without three of their top four targets in the passing game and minus their best defensive player?

Probably not many.

But the Green Bay Packers managed -- even after injuries to receivers Randall Cobb (fractured fibula), James Jones (knee) and tight end Jermichael Finley (neck) on offense and to outside linebacker Clay Matthews (broken thumb) on defense.

That was until they lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone in Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears.

When Rodgers went down, so did their four-game winning streak.

Before Rodgers’ injury, the Packers looked every bit like one of the top teams in the NFC thanks to stellar play, as usual, from the quarterback and a rejuvenated running game with rookie Eddie Lacy.

Now, even at 5-3 and in a three-way tie with the Bears and Detroit Lions atop the NFC, the Packers’ prospects for the second half are in jeopardy.

Game day with Gruden: Packers thoughts

November, 4, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Jon Gruden has spent the better part of the past week studying the Green Bay Packers in advance of Monday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

A few hours before the ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst would head over to Lambeau Field to call the game, he spent some time with me discussing the Packers’ 5-2 start to the season.

The former Packers assistant coach (1992-94) offered his thoughts on the play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the new-found success in the running game with Eddie Lacy, the revamped offensive line including rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari, the defense’s performance without injured outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, his memories of the Packers-Bears rivalry and more.

Here’s Gruden on:
  • Rodgers’ play since losing receivers Randall Cobb, James Jones and tight end Jermichael Finley to injuries: “It’s similar, and it’s amazing. It’s always been the quickest release, pinpoint accuracy but it’s the scrambling ability, the decision-making, the mastery of this offense that separates him. But his ability to adjust with a new supporting cast not only at wide receiver but at running back and on the offensive line is quite amazing to me.”
  • Whether the running game is for real: “It is for real and as a matter of fact, it’s formidable. Nobody talks about the line here. Where they’ve made the biggest strides is in their offensive line. They switched both guards [flip-flopping T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton]. They’ve got a new starter at center [Evan Dietrich-Smith], who’s better than the center they had last year [Jeff Saturday], and this left tackle is a pretty good player.”
  • Bakhtiari’s play: "He’s getting better and better. He’s got to eliminate some penalties and some rough edges in his play, but he can move his feet, he can run block. And [right tackle Don] Barclay’s a guy that in the running game is a pretty good player. Without Finley, they put [Andrew] Quarless in there and some of these other tight ends that are blocking tight ends, John Kuhn is a good blocking back and the lead dog is a helluva runner, No. 27."
  • Maintaining the pass rush without Matthews: “The last couple of weeks, no disrespect, but they’ve sacked Brandon Weeden, a young quarterback, and they’ve sacked Christian Ponder, who I don’t know what they’re doing at quarterback. They’ll get a chance to see a really good offensive line tonight, but [defensive coordinator] Dom Capers has leaned on an inside pass rush that’s different. Mike Daniels is a good inside rusher, and some of the inside blitzes that he’s called – A.J. Hawk’s got three sacks in one game – but what’s good about him is they’ve got an inside pass rush with Datone Jones, even though his numbers aren’t there, he does a great job of creating for these linebackers, and Mike Daniels is a bear to block. So when they get the outside guys back, Perry and Matthews, the outside rush with the inside rush will be very good.”
  • The Packers’ weaknesses: “Well, we’re still early in the season. Defensively, let’s see them go up against a top-flight quarterback with these injuries that they’ve had. But I don’t see a lot of weaknesses, man. Can they pass protect when they have to? If they fall behind and get into predictable passing situations, can the right tackle handle it? I don’t know that.”
  • The Packers’ chances if they had to play a road playoff game at San Francisco, Seattle or New Orleans: “If they can run it. What happens to them is they’ve always seen a split-safety look in coverage, and it forces Rodgers to hold the ball a long time to attack those coverages, and the pass rush has eaten him up. They’ve give up a lot of sacks. Now, they’re running the ball against those looks, so now they’re seeing an eight-man front or a seven-man box, and they’ve got one-on-one with these healthy receivers. That’s when they’re going to be at their best.”
  • His favorite Packers-Bears memory when was an assistant coach: “It was perfectly clear to us, we have to win this game. In 1992, Mike Holmgren made that perfectly clear. I remember I got my first game ball in this series. He gave me a game ball. I came up with one play that actually worked. Halloween night, 1994. It was Brett Favre’s 36-yard touchdown run. He called it on third-and-2 in a monsoon, and Favre ran around the right side and picked up a block from Edgar Bennett, and I got a game ball. And I stuck it right in Andy Reid’s face.”
SAN DIEGO -- Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea is in his eighth season in the NFL. He’s watched as teammates have departed during that time.

Marvin Harrison. Bob Sanders. Dwight Freeney. Jeff Saturday. Peyton Manning.

That’s why Bethea isn’t buying into the hype surrounding Manning’s return to Indianapolis with the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

“We see players come and go all the time,” Bethea told “We have to go out there and just play ball. I don’t think it’s going to be weird. The media is going to make a big hoopla about him coming back to Indy.”

Manning spent 14 seasons with the Colts, leading them to two Super Bowl appearances before the team released him in 2012.

The Colts have to quickly regroup from Monday’s loss to San Diego because all eyes will be on Lucas Oil Stadium when Manning and the undefeated Denver Broncos visit in what should be one of the most watched games of the season.

Manning appears to be on his way to picking up his fifth MVP trophy. He’s passed for 2,179 yards, 22 touchdowns and only two interceptions while completing 74.2 percent of his attempts this season.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Bethea said. “He’s been playing that way his whole career. You’d be a fool to say you’re surprised. We’re really going to have to be on top of things next week. He’s a mastermind of what he does.”

Video: Monumental day for NFL, NFLPA

August, 29, 2013
Jeff Saturday and Hall of Fame RB Barry Sanders discuss the settlement reached between the NFL and former players in concussion-related lawsuits.

Former center Jeff Saturday didn't get to play with quarterback Andrew Luck like his former teammate Reggie Wayne.

That's why if Wayne says there are similarities between Luck and Peyton Manning, he must be telling the truth, Saturday said.

"I can tell you this, Reggie Wayne does not make those comments lightly. To get a compliment out of Weezy is next to a miracle," Saturday said this morning on ESPN. "So for him to be saying that about Andrew Luck is very impressive."

Wayne talked about Luck and Manning during an interview with NBCSN'S Pro Football Talk on Tuesday.

“The way [Luck] approaches practice, I hate to do this, but it’s somewhat like a Peyton Manning,” Wayne told Pro Football Talk. “Even though I hate to compare the two, he takes practice just like it’s a game."

Saturday echoed the same thing.

"I know the way Peyton approached practice, it was a high-tempo, lets get there, lets get this done, lets move," he said. "That's what I keep hearing out of Colts camp."

Saturday was Manning's teammate in Indianapolis for nine seasons. Saturday played in Green Bay last season before retiring and becoming an ESPN analyst.
You can cross Jeff Saturday off a list of possible Denver Broncos center candidates.

ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that QB Peyton Manning’s longtime battery mate has no plans of ending his retirement. Saturday, who retired after last season, is down to close to 230 pounds. Manning and Saturday played together from 1999-2011 in Indianapolis.

Manning and the Broncos have a hole at center. Dan Koppen suffered a torn ACL Sunday in practice and is out for the year. Regular starter J.D. Walton suffered an ankle injury last September, and he is out until at least midseason. Right now, guard Manny Ramirez is Denver’s starting center.

In other AFC West notes:

The San Diego Chargers are a future “Hard Knocks” candidate.
NFL analysis needs more voices that come from the inside, and as a center with 14 years of NFL experience I think Jeff Saturday will bring an excellent, different perspective.

He’s set to soon join ESPN, per Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

In covering the NFL, I used to think it’d be easy to see who would be good as a media member and who wouldn’t be based on how they were on the other end of questions.

I’ve come to realize that’s far from the case, and that being able to deliver good answers does not necessarily correlate with being able to offer good analysis.

With Saturday, however, I feel very confident we’re going to see a guy who is quickly good in his next line of work.

Interested offensive linemen can be among the most thoughtful players in the game. Saturday’s experience as a player went well beyond snapping and blocking and taking questions, win or lose. He was also a key piece of the NFL Players Association in brokering a new collective bargaining agreement in the summer of 2011.

I’m not supposed to venture into media criticism. But I think some of the worst analysts we see on TV are the guys who were big stars and have big personalities and some of the best are guys who had to scrap and claw to make it in football.

Saturday scraped and clawed. He started with the ball in his hands but quickly gave it up at the start of every play and eagerly did dirty work.

I look forward to learning more from him about the game.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The major question facing each team in the NFC North as summer break looms.

Chicago Bears: Offensive line. Jay Cutler has been sacked a whopping 148 times over the past four seasons. That won’t do. I commend the Bears for their efforts to improve their abysmal offensive line from 2012, but did they do enough? Honestly, I think they did, but I am having a tough time finding holes in Chicago’s roster right now so offensive line is still my choice for its biggest remaining question. One more wide receiver or defensive back would be great, but with all the changes in the front five, there could be growing pains in terms of continuity and finding exactly who should be the starter at each position. From left to right, the Bears most likely will be starting Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long and J'Marcus Webb. Only Garza and Webb were on the team in 2012, and Webb is moving from left to right tackle. Change was needed, but continuity is a key aspect of offensive-line play, and I don’t see a singular great player in this group. That could be an early problem for the Bears. The scheme will help though, as will former offensive-line coach Aaron Cromer as the offensive coordinator. This line will be better, but it does remain a question.

Detroit Lions: Offensive line. Quietly, the Lions’ offensive line did a fine job last season. But three of their starting five are gone, including both offensive tackles. My hunch is Detroit would have loved to select Lane Johnson to plug in at left tackle with the fifth pick overall in this latest draft, but three offensive tackles, including Johnson, went in the top four picks. As a result, Riley Reiff, who is best fit as a right tackle, will start on the left side and highly unproven Corey Hilliard or Jason Fox will man the right side, which is an obvious concern. I loved the drafting of Larry Warford, a mauling pure guard who should upgrade the right guard spot. He should solidify the interior of Detroit’s offensive line, especially in the run game, along with incumbent Dominic Raiola at center and the vastly underrated Rob Sims at left guard. But the tackles certainly worry me, especially considering the edge pass-rushers in the division, headlined by Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews and Jared Allen. Matthew Stafford is very tough and has been durable over the past two seasons, but the Lions certainly don’t want their franchise quarterback taking a lot of punishment, particularly considering how passing-oriented this offense has become.

Green Bay Packers: Offensive line. Seeing a trend developing in this division? The reality is, like the Bears, I don’t have a lot of major concerns with Green Bay’s roster at this point of the process. I understand moving Bryan Bulaga to left tackle, as he is the best candidate on the roster for that job. And moving Josh Sitton, Green Bay’s best offensive lineman, to left guard to keep that continuity intact between the two players while improving Aaron Rodgers’ blindside protection also makes sense. But I also feel like it was messing with a very good thing on the right side, which gives me mixed feelings on those changes. Marshall Newhouse is clearly better suited for the right side, but it wouldn’t shock me if he was unseated as the starter by David Bakhtiari, who I thought was a mid-round steal for Green Bay. T.J. Lang is solid, the loss of Jeff Saturday should be addition by subtraction and maybe Derek Sherrod is finally healthy and can contribute at tackle. I also liked the selection of J.C. Tretter, a small-school prospect who is tough and smart. Improved play at the running back position also should help this line immensely. Still, there are quite a few questions that need answering from this unit overall, and the Packers can’t afford for Rodgers to be sacked anywhere close to the 51 times he was in 2012.

Minnesota Vikings: Quarterback. I still have hope for Christian Ponder, but he was extremely up and down during his second season. Many ask me during my chats and radio hits, “What would be a successful season for Ponder?” My response is that he needs to play within himself -- allowing his impressive supporting cast to do what it does best -- and show composure and leadership late in games. He doesn’t have to become Dan Marino as a passer for this offense to be successful. In case you forgot, the Vikings do still have Adrian Peterson as the foundation of this offense. But in addition to Peterson, Minnesota has one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, and I expect that group to be further improved in 2013 with Matt Kalil developing into one of the league’s better left tackles in his second season. The line, fullback blocking and Peterson will allow Ponder to see many favorable matchups in the passing game. Gone is Percy Harvin, but the trio of Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph should be able to exploit single coverage with a varied skill set. Patterson is far from a refined wide receiver, but if the Vikings limit him to deep routes or quick hitters where he can use his amazing run-after-the-catch abilities, he can be very effective in his rookie season. Jennings is a true professional who understands the position well, and Rudolph’s ability in the red zone and in the middle of the field should provide Ponder with plenty of throws that won’t challenge his average passing skills. It also must be noted that Minnesota upgraded its backup quarterback spot by signing Matt Cassel. Cassel had a nightmare of a 2012 season, but before that, he showed the caretaker quarterback skills that Ponder needs to develop.
Some Colts fans have been in touch, confused about the awarding of compensatory draft picks. The Colts were awarded one pick, the final pick of the draft (No. 254).

But in the league's formula that figures out who gets what in terms of the extra draft selections, Indianapolis didn't actually "earn" a pick. Compensatory picks add the equivalent of one round worth of selections to the draft. When there aren't enough awarded by the formula, the league adds picks for the near misses until it gets to 32.

One thing many people forget is that many of the biggest losses for the Colts were released. Only players who reach free agency with expiring contracts count here. So Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Gary Brackett and Curtis Painter were all let go and didn't factor in at all.

According to the NFL, these are the players who did factor into the equation for compensatory draft picks for Indianapolis.

Players lost: Jamaal Anderson (Cincinnati), Pierre Garcon (Washington), Dan Orlovsky (Tampa Bay), Jeff Saturday (Green Bay), Jacob Tamme (Denver), Philip Wheeler (Oakland).

Players signed: Guard Mike McGlynn, defensive tackle Brandon McKinney, defensive end Cory Redding, center Samson Satele, quarterback Drew Stanton and safety Tom Zbikowski.

Stanton counted despite the fact that the Colts traded for him, because he was signed by the Jets as a free agent in 2012 before that deal. A player with such circumstances is part of the formula.

Garcon was the lone giant contract on either side of that ledger, and apparently the Colts did enough to offset that signing with what they brought in.

Here's the league's language explaining the process.
Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks.

The number of picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four. The 32 compensatory choices announced today will supplement the 222 choices in the seven rounds of the 2013 NFL draft (April 25-27), which will kick off in prime time for the fourth consecutive year.

The first round will be held on Thursday, April 25 and begin at 8 p.m. ET. The second and third rounds are set for Friday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. ET followed by rounds 4-7 on Saturday, April 27 at Noon ET.

This year, the compensatory picks will be positioned within the third through seventh rounds based on the value of the compensatory free agents lost.

Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula.

Two clubs this year (Indianapolis and the New York Giants) will each receive a compensatory pick even though they did not suffer a net loss of compensatory free agents last year. Under the formula, the compensatory free agents lost by these clubs were ranked higher than the ones they signed (by a specified point differential based upon salary and performance).
When I started to think of my broad reflection of Jeff Saturday I circled to this piece.

"I've played 10 years man, it's only ended good once," Saturday said, referring to Super Bowl XLI at the end of the 2006 season. "It's awful. What are you going to say? How do you make that finish good? You come out with full expectations to beat this team and play bad. That sums it up."

That quote about the Colts’ staggering loss at San Diego was quintessential Saturday to me: candid, no-nonsense, real, revealing.

[+] EnlargeJeff Saturday and Jim Irsay
AP Photo/AJ MastJim Irsay signed Jeff Saturday to a one-day contract so that Saturday could retire a Colt.
History will always link Saturday to Peyton Manning, and there isn’t a center in football who wouldn’t be pleased to be tied to a quarterback of that quality. ("I rode his coattails for a long time,” Saturday said, per a transcript provided by the Colts.)

History too will remember his role in the CBA solution in 2011, and the picture of him hugging Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Saturday came out of contentious negotiations looking fantastic, something that's not easily done.

The classy Saturday was sure to hit on trainers and equipment men right along with family, fans, ownership and teammates as he offered thanks Thursday at an official retirement news conference at Colts headquarters.

He talked about all the guys he played with, listing 14 specifically, from Manning to Justin Snow.
"Those men had a tremendous impact on my life. This is why we play the game, right? The players, the camaraderie we have in the locker room is unlike anything else on this planet. How much fun I’ve had in that locker room, how much fun I’ve had on plane trips on the way back from wins, on events you have to do in the community, you name it. All the things that we get to do together as a group, it made this job a family for me. I loved playing with each and every one of those guys and all the players that I had the opportunity to play with. I’ve played with a number of men who truly made a marked difference on my life. I encourage people to be a part of this game for that reason. I've played other team sports, I’ve been involved in a lot of other things, but football is the ultimate team sport. These men became my family and made this thing a true sport. We made it happen and we watched the city turn into a football city and I watched all these men mature and have families. We began to do life together and that’s unparalleled and that’s something I will never forget and I always will remember."

He'll function as some sort of ambassador for the Colts as he figures out life in retirement. It will be fun to see how that role evolves and to see him around the team.

Pro Bowl: Game no longer relevant

January, 26, 2013

This week, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning offered a direct and impassioned plea to those surrounding him in a Hawaii ballroom. According to Jeff Darlington of the NFL Network, Manning asked players to give better effort in Sunday's Pro Bowl to preserve the long history of the game.

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsDetroit's Calvin Johnson joins a long list of stars who will not participate in the Pro Bowl this year.
Of course, the audience Manning spoke to included only one of the five other quarterbacks originally elected to play. Both of the NFC's starting receivers, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall, were missing after opting out of the game. All five of the NFC's original linebackers were missing, as well. One player who was in attendance, Green Bay Packers center Jeff Saturday, had such a poor season that he was benched with two games remaining in the regular season.

The Pro Bowl as currently constituted is beyond repair, even if Manning's plea leads to a short-term dose of intensity. The selection process is flawed, to say the least, and there will never be a long-term motivation to play hard as long as the risks far outweigh the rewards.

There are plenty of ways to bring together the NFL's best players for a week of postseason honors and entertainment. Attempting to stage a typically violent game, with players selected by highly unscientific measures, isn't one of them.

Instead of a game, why not gather players for a tropical week of (safe) skill and physical challenges that benefit the charity? How about mirroring a reality show to appeal to a broad audience? I would watch Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady compete, "Top Chef" style. And I wouldn't mind finding out whether Justin Smith or Ray Lewis would eat, say, more cockroaches for charity.

While they're at it, why not make the rosters of players more legitimate by tweaking the selection process? Including the kind of analytics that all NFL teams now use to evaluate players would seem a logical shift. The NFL might think it is empowering fans, players and coaches by giving them the full vote each year, but the results annually disappoint and anger those same groups in equal proportions.

There is no reason to preserve something that has run its course. The Pro Bowl is worthwhile as an event, but the centerpiece shouldn't be -- and doesn't need to be -- a game.

Should Redskins have more Pro Bowlers?

December, 27, 2012
Man, you know things have turned around for the Washington Redskins when they put three players in the Pro Bowl and everybody's talking about the Redskins players who should have made it and didn't. Quarterback Robert Griffin III, left tackle Trent Williams and linebacker/special teamer Lorenzo Alexander will represent the Redskins in Hawaii. But in this SportsCenter video, Adam Schefter lists three other Redskins as Pro Bowl "snubs." They are:
  • Running back Alfred Morris, who has 267 more rushing yards and three more touchdowns than San Francisco's Frank Gore, and has a strong case.
  • Center Will Montgomery, who would have been a better choice than Green Bay's Jeff Saturday, who just got benched last week.
  • Linebacker London Fletcher, who ranks, as usual, in the top 10 in the league in tackles and has five interceptions this season.

I can see the argument for each of the first two. But while anyone who reads this blog regularly knows how much respect I have for Fletcher and everything he brings to the Redskins' defense, I don't think his omission is a true "snub." The five interceptions jump out, to be sure, and Fletcher's the kind of guy who could make it on reputation every year and feel justified about it. But he's not having the same kind of flying-around, dominating defensive season he's had in recent years. He's struggled with injuries, most significantly to his ankle, and for much of the season he appeared to be limited physically. While he's certainly come on strong lately as the Redskins have made their big run, I don't see how he makes a case to be included over either of the 49ers inside linebackers, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, who got the spots.

In fact, having watched every Redskins game this season at least once, I think Fletcher's teammate and protege, Perry Riley, has been the higher-impact guy. He's not mentioned as a snub because he doesn't have Fletcher's well-earned reputation as a leader, an ironman and an on-field thumper, but Riley is exceeding his mentor in a lot of ways this season, to Fletcher's delight.

Anyway, as I said, these must be fun times to be a Redskins fan if you're chief complaint is an insufficient amount of Pro Bowl recognition.