NFL Nation: Jeremy Shockey

The New York Giants hold the No. 12 pick in the first round of the NFL draft, which finally happens Thursday night. Obviously, there's no way to predict who they'll pick without knowing how the first 11 picks will go. And the only thing we know for sure is that there will be surprises in that first 11.

However, for the purposes of this Draft Eve exercise, I have identified four players I think could be there at No. 12 for the Giants. And I want to know from you guys which one you'd take if all four were available.


Which of these players would you most like to see the New York Giants draft with the No. 12 pick?


Discuss (Total votes: 10,099)

My hypothetical foursome includes offensive linemen Taylor Lewan and Zack Martin, defensive tackle Aaron Donald and tight end Eric Ebron. Each has been projected to the Giants in multiple recent mock drafts. Each fits a major need. Each is likely to be valued right around that No. 12 slot in the draft. That makes it a matter of preference.

As you likely know, I picked Lewan for the Giants in our NFL Nation mock draft on on Tuesday and on "SportsCenter" on Wednesday. As you know if you've been reading regularly, I think the Giants should and will go with an offensive lineman at this spot if one they like is available, and Lewan represents excellent value at No. 12. What I do not know is how the Giants value Lewan and Martin relative to each other, though I have heard some rumblings in the last day or so that indicate they like Martin better and would take him if presented with the choice. My sense is that Lewan will be gone by No. 12 anyway, but I personally think he's the better player and he's the one I'd take in this scenario.

If the Giants took Donald at No. 12, I wouldn't criticize the pick, because I think Donald is going to be a disruptive star in the NFL. But I do not think the Giants are going to take Donald, because I don't think he fits what they look for in a defensive tackle. The knock on him is his size, and the Giants lean more toward huge cloggers in the middle of their defensive line. I think they like him just fine, but that he doesn't fit what they look for in a defensive tackle, and at this point I'd be surprised if they took him.

I don't think they'll take Ebron either. I know, many of you want the flashy, playmaking tight end for Eli Manning to throw to. I know there's no viable tight end on the roster right now. I know other teams around the league have cool tight ends. I know. I know. I've heard it all. But I just don't think the Giants are going to use a first-half-of-the-first-round pick on this player. He's not a blocker, first of all, and those of you who bring up 2002 first-rounder Jeremy Shockey are forgetting what a good blocker he was. Shockey was a complete enough player to deserve the No. 14 pick that year, and I don't think Ebron is.

In the salary-cap era, teams have to set priorities and decide which positions are worthy of their top resources. By "top resources," I mean free-agent dollars and high draft picks. It's pretty clear that positions like tight end and linebacker aren't positions the Giants deem worthy of top resources. Shockey's draft was 12 years ago, and they've been happy to go cheap at tight end ever since he left. I just don't see the Giants holding a resource as valuable as the No. 12 pick in the draft and spending it on a position they don't value that highly.

I'm not saying there's no way they'll pick Ebron. I'm just saying I don't think they will. Frankly, if they're taking someone who touches the ball with this pick, I'd be less surprised to see them take LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., than I would to see them take Ebron.

Those are my thoughts, based on what I'm hearing and the way I've analyzed it. But I'm curious to see how you guys vote.
The awkward part of New York Giants GM Jerry Reese's pre-draft news conference Thursday came when a reporter asked him about tight end. The exchange went like this:
Q: Historically, this team has relied on the tight end quite a bit. Would you be comfortable moving forward with the guys you have on your roster right now?

Reese: Historically we've relied on our tight end?

Q: Well, they've had a prominent role.

Reese: Really?

Q: I seem to remember tight ends catching important passes.

Reese: Yeah, well, we think we've got some tight ends that can catch some important passes. But "prominent role"? We want all of our positions to be prominent roles. I'm not sure if our tight ends have had prominent roles in the past. But we want a competent tight end. We think we've got a couple of young tight ends who have been here for a couple of years who we want to develop, and we'll continue to look as we move forward.
[+] EnlargeBrandon Myers
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsIn his one season with the Giants, Brandon Myers caught 47 passes for 522 yards.
I have been on the other end of that exchange in the past. I've been the one who asked Reese a question that posited a certain level of significance for the tight end position and had him reject the premise. Obviously, this does not show Reese at his most polite, but he views this idea that the Giants' offense has relied on a tight end as an especially irksome misperception. And the numbers support his side of it:

  • Brandon Myers' 47 receptions in 2013 were the second-most in a single season by a Giants tight end since Jeremy Shockey caught 57 passes in 2007.
  • Since 2007, the Giants have employed four different starting tight ends -- Kevin Boss from 2008-10, Jake Ballard in 2011, Martellus Bennett in 2012 and Myers last year.
  • Over that six-year stretch, the Giants' leading tight end has averaged 42 receptions for 539 yards and five touchdowns per year, with Bennett's 55 catches and 626 yards in 2012 and Boss' six touchdowns in 2008 the high-water marks in those categories.

Reese is not shy about telling people he thinks he can find a tight end who can catch 42 passes every year, and this is the basis on which he rejects a characterization such as "prominent role." Yes, he could be nicer about making the point, but the Giants' offense has not, in point of fact, relied on the tight end. Shockey was an exceptional case -- an exceptional talent the Giants deemed worthy of a first-round pick. And Bennett's athleticism allowed them to use him a bit more than they've used other guys after they were able to get him on the cheap prior to the 2012 season.

But the thing to remember about Bennett and Shockey is that both were excellent and willing blockers at the position. Bennett's as good a run-blocking tight end as there is in the NFL right now, and the Giants had him on the field a lot for that reason. That his size and speed enabled him to be a slightly bigger factor in the passing game than some of his predecessors were was a bonus, and the Giants were fortunate that he wasn't in demand that year due to the perception that he was a huge disappointment in Dallas. Once he played well for them, he parlayed that into a big free-agent deal with the Bears, and the Giants made no effort to spend to keep him.

So the point to be taken from this is not that the Giants don't like the tight end position but that it's not a position on which they feel compelled to spend major resources. Other than that 2002 first-round pick they spent on Shockey, they've consistently sought cheap solutions at tight end, viewing whoever plays it as replaceable from year to year. They want guys who can block, and if those guys can catch the ball, so much the better.

For that reason, it's easy to convince yourself that they won't be taking North Carolina's Eric Ebron with the No. 12 pick in the first round next week. Ebron may be an exceptional talent as a receiver, and the tight end position leaguewide may have evolved to the point where it's worth spending a No. 12 overall pick to get one who can be a difference-maker in the passing game. But Reese insisted Thursday that the arrival of new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has not changed the way the Giants evaluate offensive players. And while Shockey was the No. 14 overall pick in that 2002 draft, it's vital to remember that Shockey was a good blocker in addition to a great pass-catcher. Ebron is a pass-catcher only. He'd be a liability as a blocker. So the comparison doesn't necessarily fit.

The Giants could find a tight end such as Jace Amaro or Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round if they really feel they need one, but it's possible they don't feel that way. They have 2012 fourth-round pick Adrien Robinson still on the roster and have been eager for some time to see him on the field more. They resisted putting Robinson on injured reserve all last year because they believed he had something to offer if he ever got healthy (which he finally did, only to injure himself again on the opening kickoff of the Week 16 game in Detroit). They signed blocking tight end Kellen Davis and Daniel Fells for depth at the position, and Larry Donnell has been a strong enough special-teams performer to earn more practice reps and show what he can do. That's the group Reese has, and he swears he doesn't feel the need to upgrade it in the draft. If their pick comes around and the best player still on their board plays tight end, sure, they could take him. But Reese isn't hunting for some huge solution at the position next week.

The question is whether he's right. I personally think the Giants would benefit from having a more permanent solution at this position than they've employed over the past four years. I think the way the league is going, it's more important than it used to be to have a big-time weapon at that position who can split out wide and bust matchups in the secondary. But I don't run the Giants. Jerry Reese does. And he and the Giants do things their way, and they believe in it. You can respect someone's conviction even if your opinion differs from theirs. Reese thinks he's OK at tight end -- or at least that he will be. And it's clear when he's asked about it that he doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.
Unfortunately for Redskins fans, still only the first round. But here's a look at who Todd McShay is picking for the other three NFC East teams in his newest mock draft Insider, hot off the presses.

4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama.

My take: Nothing wrong with this idea. Personally, I feel like 4 is a little high to take a cornerback. And with guys like offensive tackle Eric Fisher and pass-rusher Dion Jordan still available, I'd err on the side of the big guy. But Milliner certainly fills a crying need, no matter what they do in free agency, and would be a pick about which Eagles fans could feel good.

18. Dallas Cowboys: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama.

My take: Anyone else get the sense that Alabama's running a good program these days? Anyway, this is the dream-come-true pick for the Cowboys. Some have said Warmack is the best offensive lineman, regardless of position, in the entire draft. If he's there at 18, the Cowboys run to the podium. They need to get an offensive lineman in the first round, and while people keep asking me, "Well, what if the top five guys are all gone by 18?," it's worth mentioning that only once in the past 15 drafts (2008) have five offensive linemen gone in the first 17 picks.

19. New York Giants: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame.

My take: A fun, new passing game weapon for Eli Manning would be a Giants-like pick, for sure. But they've de-emphasized the tight end position from a priority and resource standpoint so much since the Jeremy Shockey days that I wonder if they'd even consider using a first-round pick on one.
Thoughtful piece here from Paul Schwartz, with the help of former New York Giants tackle Luke Petitgout, on the Giants' preference for parting ways with players before those players lose their effectiveness. At the end of the week in which the Giants cut two-time Super Bowl-winning running back Ahmad Bradshaw, as well as linebacker Michael Boley and defensive tackle Chris Canty, Petitgout remembers his own experience and sees it reflected in what's going on now:
“The Giants are a family,’’ Petitgout said. “It’s something tough to accept, like when a girlfriend dumps you. They know when your time is up. Some guys may buck the trend and have a good couple years after that but if you’ve been there a long time, they know your medical history, they know your aches and pains, they usually make the right decision. I basically had a time bomb in my back and when I went to Tampa it went off. The Giants knew what they were doing.’’
[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants parted ways this week with Ahmad Bradshaw, who was their leading rusher the past three seasons.
It cannot have been easy for GM Jerry Reese to say goodbye to Bradshaw, who played through significant pain to help deliver the team's Super Bowl title last year. But between Bradshaw's salary and the chronic foot injuries that kept him from practicing during the week or playing at full strength on Sundays, the Giants believed it was the right thing to do. It's not the first time they've cut a player while he was still an effective producer for them, and if Bradshaw's best days are behind him, it won't be the first time the Giants cut a still-productive player just in time:
Reese is rarely wrong. As a former scout, his eye for talent isn’t confined to youngsters. Steve Smith and Kevin Boss haven’t done a thing and haven’t stayed healthy. He traded away Jeremy Shockey. He did not re-sign Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward or Amani Toomer. He cut Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert and Kareem McKenzie. He didn’t think Antonio Pierce's neck was sound enough to continue playing. He passed on bringing back Plaxico Burress. In the same purge that caught Petitgout, Reese also jettisoned Carlos Emmons and LaVar Arrington. Did any of these players prove Reese wrong?

Pretty amazing list. Combine this idea with what we wrote about here Thursday -- the Giants' organizational belief in developing young players in their system so they're ready to take over when it's time for the veterans to go -- and it's easy to see that Reese has a definite plan and is sticking to it. Will it work? No way to know. If the Giants are in something of a rebuild mode, they're going to need many of their young players to be as good as the team thought they'd be when it drafted them. And not even Reese, with all of his track record, can predict how players are going to play. The point is, even as things change with the Giants and people come and go, it's still easy to see the consistency with which they operate, and it has served them well.

Observation deck: Bucs-Redskins

August, 29, 2012
Tampa Bay’s 30-3 loss to the Washington Redskins on Wednesday night didn’t make for great viewing.

Blame much of it on Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano. But, more importantly give Schiano lots of credit for making one of his best decisions since taking over the Buccaneers in January.

The Tampa Bay starters did not play. Instead, they stood on the sidelines after going through a full practice at Georgetown University earlier in the day.

It’s not unusual for an NFL coach to use his starters lightly or sit some of them in the final preseason game. But Schiano took this to an extreme. He even sat long-snapper Andrew Economos and a few guys that are likely to be key backups.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. After watching Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph go down with a season-ending knee injury last week, Schiano wasn’t taking any chances. He wants his starters healthy for the regular-season opener, which comes Sept. 9 against Carolina.

That game is going to be a lot more important -- and, hopefully more entertaining -- than the preseason finale.

Some quick observations from Wednesday night’s game:
  • The Bucs still are trying to figure out how they’re going to replace Joseph. Jamon Meredith started at right guard, but I don’t know if that means he’ll be there for the Carolina game. Meredith surrendered a sack and was called for two penalties in the first half. The Bucs are experimenting with their options at that spot. Ted Larsen, who got the start at center, and Derek Hardman, also are possibilities from the current roster. But the Bucs also could scan the waiver wire for help in the coming days. After watching all the backup offensive linemen, I’d suggest the waiver wire might be the way to go.
  • Defensive tackle Wallace Gilberry might have helped his chances of landing a roster spot. He batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage early in the game. The Bucs are expected to use Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller as their starters. Amobi Okoye is expected to be part of the backup rotation, but he’s missed a lot of time with an injury. Gilberry likely is in the mix with Gary Gibson and Frank Okam to be part of the rotation.
  • I remember a preseason or two back in the 1990s when third-stringer quarterback Scott Milanovich was the most popular quarterback in Tampa Bay. After watching Brett Ratliff get the start and play the entire game, I don’t think starter Josh Freeman or backup Dan Orlovsky have anything to worry about. In fact, I think there is at least a chance the Bucs could follow the path a lot of other teams have taken in recent years and go with only two quarterbacks on the regular-season roster. In fairness to Ratliff, he got no help from his offensive line.
  • Broadcaster and former Buc John Lynch might have stirred up some speculation when he said the Bucs should try to sign tight end Chris Cooley, who recently was released by the Redskins. Usually, I try to shoot down speculation about the Bucs signing guys in their 30s because that really doesn’t fit the profile of a team that’s doing most of its building through the draft. But I’m with Lynch on this one. I think the Bucs could use a little more depth to go with Dallas Clark and Luke Stocker. If Cooley’s healthy, he might be worth a shot. I think he’d be a better lockerroom fit than Jeremy Shockey, who still remains unsigned. General manager Mark Dominik said during a fourth-quarter interview with the broadcast team that there had been contact with Cooley's agent, but said the team is now aggressively pursuing the veteran tight end.
  • Rookie safety Sean Baker still might be a long shot to make the 53-man roster. But he intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble Wednesday night. That might help Baker land a spot on the practice squad.
  • Nice to see Bucs’ co-chairman Joel Glazer hugging Raheem Morris before the game. Morris coached the Bucs the last three seasons and is now Washington’s defensive backs coach. Morris had a good relationship with ownership, but it was obvious to all that a move had to be made as the Bucs lost their final 10 games of last season. I’m just guessing here, but I doubt any members of the Glazer family were exchanging hugs with Washington general manager Bruce Allen, who once held the same role in Tampa Bay.

Observation deck: Panthers-Jets

August, 26, 2012
One of the nicest moments of the preseason came early in the Carolina Panthers’ 17-12 victory against the New York Jets on Sunday night.

Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis sacked quarterback Mark Sanchez with one minute, 54 seconds left in the first quarter. It wasn’t the kind of jarring sack you’ll see on the highlights and it was in a meaningless preseason game. But this one was significant.

Consider it a strong sign that Davis has something left in the tank as he tries to make NFL history. Assuming Davis makes it to the regular season (and the sack was an indication that’s pretty much a certainty), he will become the first player in NFL history to make it back from three torn anterior cruciate ligaments.

If that happens, it will be a nice reflection on Carolina’s medical and training staff, but it will say even more about Davis. Coming back from one ACL is an accomplishment. Coming back three times takes a special person.

Davis, who had missed some preseason time with a calf injury, fits that description. I’ve covered him since he came into the NFL as a first-round pick in 2005 and the guy is a class act. Davis has worked hard and he deserves to make history.

I don’t know that Davis, who also showed signs he can still be a factor in pass coverage and against the run, ever will be the same player he was before the injuries started, but he’ll have a role. The indications I’ve gotten are that the Panthers plan is to start Jon Beason in the middle with James Anderson and rookie Luke Kuechly on the outside and use Davis as a situational role player in certain nickel packages. There also could be some situations where the Panthers go to a 3-4 defense and Davis would be used as the fourth linebacker.

Some other observations on the Panthers:
  • Captain Munnerlyn, who is fighting to keep his job as a starting cornerback, intercepted Sanchez late in the second quarter. Then again, Munnerlyn also dropped what should have been an easy interception a bit earlier and also was flagged for hands to the face on the same play.
  • At least for the moment, there’s some reason for concern. Running back Jonathan Stewart was carted off the field near the end of the first half with an apparent lower-leg injury. There was no immediate word on the extent of Stewart’s injury. If he’s going to miss any regular-season time, the Panthers have solid running back depth with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert. But the Panthers, who signed Stewart to a five-year contract extension a few weeks ago, appear to have big plans for a three-headed backfield. Tolbert also left the game and was seen on the sideline with ice on his knee. There was no immediate word from the team on Tolbert’s condition.
  • I continued to be impressed with Kuechly. He had a reputation for being a tackling machine in college and, so far, it looks like that will transfer over to the NFL. Kuechly seems to be near the ball on every play. He also looks pretty decent in pass coverage.
  • Quarterback Cam Newton had an unspectacular night. He completed six of 15 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown and also lost a fumble. I wouldn’t be too concerned about Newton’s performance. Newton had a few nice passes and also ran twice for 16 yards. Newton was without wide receiver Steve Smith, who is recovering from a foot infection, and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski obviously kept things pretty bland -- at least by his standards.
  • Carolina’s first-team defense wasn’t perfect, but it was very good, holding New York’s first-team offense to three field goals. That’s a whole lot better than last year, when Carolina’s defense wasn’t stopping much of anything.
  • Did you see that 43-yard catch by the backup tight end Gary Barnidge at the start of the fourth quarter? Who needs Jeremy Shockey? Barnidge also followed that up with a short touchdown catch.

Observation deck: Panthers-Texans

August, 11, 2012

This should come as absolutely no surprise, because it’s what the Carolina Panthers envisioned on draft day and what they’ve seen so far in training camp. But the world got to see the impact of rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly in Saturday night’s preseason opener, a 26-13 loss to the Houston Texans.

It didn’t take long for Kuechly to do what he’s done in practice every day -- make a big play. On Houston’s second drive of the night, Kuechly put a big hit on running back Arian Foster and forced a fumble that was recovered by safety Sherrod Martin. That turnover helped set up a field goal for the Panthers.

Kuechly left the game after the first quarter, but finished with two solo tackles, two assists and the forced fumble. Spread that out over four quarters and over an entire season, and it sure looks like the Panthers have found a playmaker at linebacker.

Some other observations on the Panthers:
  • It was hard to really get a read on quarterback Cam Newton’s performance. Statistically, it wasn’t great. He completed two of six passes for 16 yards, and also ran twice for 16 yards. But Newton didn’t get blocking from his offensive line and also had at least one pass dropped. Newton led the Panthers to a field goal before leaving the game after three offensive series. It also was pretty obvious the Panthers weren’t showing anything close to their full playbook.
  • Speaking of running back depth, rookie Tauren Poole, who had a short touchdown run in the second quarter, has a decent chance to make this team. At worst, he’s probably a guy the Panthers would like to keep on the practice squad.
  • The Panthers held middle linebacker Jon Beason out as he recovers from a minor injury that’s not related to the torn Achilles tendon he suffered last season. Jason Phillips started in Beason’s place and came up with an interception late in the first quarter. If Phillips continues to progress and Thomas Davis can get healthy, the Panthers could have some very nice depth at linebacker.
  • Speaking of linebacker depth, the Panthers have plenty on the outside as well. Jordan Senn, who was a part-time starter last season, is going to be a backup this season. But Senn was very productive Saturday night, leading the Panthers with 13 tackles.
  • The Panthers went to great lengths to try to improve their special teams in the offseason. So far, that’s not paying off. Carolina allowed Trindon Holliday to return a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
  • I'm not sure rookie Joe Adams will have much of a role as a receiver, because there's so much depth at the position. But, after watching his spectacular third-quarter punt return, I'm thinking there's a good chance Adams has a big role in the return game.
  • I think Louis Murphy already was in the mix to be the No. 3 receiver. But he might have moved into the lead for that job Saturday night. Murphy had a nice leaping catch on the sideline in the second quarter, and also caught another pass where he put a nice move on the defensive back that resulted in some yards after the catch.
  • Forget any chance of Jeremy Shockey being re-signed by the Panthers. Gary Barnidge sure looks like he’s ready to be the No. 2 tight end.
  • Be sure to check out the Camp Confidential profile on the Panthers. It's scheduled to pop up on the blog early Sunday afternoon.
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Although his franchise quarterback, Cam Newton, was one of four players named as specific targets in the Saints’ bounty program, Carolina coach Ron Rivera doesn’t anticipate further problems with the Panthers and Saints.

“I'd be surprised if there's any retribution, I really would,’’ Rivera said during a breakfast for NFC coaches Wednesday morning at the owners meetings.

The NFL report announcing the Saints’ punishment, listed Newton and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers as well as retired quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner as players that specifically were targeted for injury. As NFC South opponents, the Saints and Panthers play each other twice a season.

“When we play them it's not going to be about that,’’ Rivera said. “It's going to be us playing them trying to win our division. And that's what it should be. It should be about the game, and not what happened.’’

That’s a good message, and I’m sure Rivera will share it with his team before playing the Saints next season. Rivera’s a coach that is respected by his players and his words could keep things from getting out of hand on the field. But NFL players are intense competitors and I’m sure at least some of the Panthers will have added motivation against the Saints because they know that team was trying to injure their quarterback.

Rivera also weighed in on another issue related to the Saints’ bounty program. Former New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey was accused by former NFL defensive lineman and current television analyst Warren Sapp of being “the snitch’’ that started the investigation into the bounty program. Shockey, who played for Carolina last season and currently is a free agent, has issued strong denials.

“If you know Jeremy Shockey, you know that's not Jeremy Shockey,’’ Rivera said. “I know there was an insinuation that he had been the guy. But that's not Jeremy's makeup. That's not who Jeremy Shockey is. Jeremy Shockey's a guy that, if there was something going on, that's their business. I would be surprised, I really would. It wouldn't hurt him in my eyes either way because first of all I think Jeremy Shockey's a tremendous person. I think he's also a very good football person -- a football personality who understands this game.’’
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There still is a chance free-agent tight end Jeremy Shockey could return to the Carolina Panthers.

A team official said the Panthers remain in contact with Shockey's agent and the tight end has told the team he wants to play another season. No deal is imminent but the two sides are keeping an open dialogue.

For the record, “the snitch’’ on this was not Warren Sapp.

Shockey, 31, joined the Panthers last season. Although Shockey produced a career-low 37 catches, the Panthers believe he's a perfect complement to Greg Olsen, the team’s top pass-catching tight end. There were previous reports that Shockey had told the New York Giants he was interested in playing for them. That’s where Shockey began his career before being traded to the New Orleans Saints in 2008. There have no indications the Giants have any interest in bringing Shockey back.

Update: Shockey's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, just arrived at the NFL owners meetings and confirmed that he and the Panthers continue to talk, but said no deal is imminent.
Forget the feud between Warren Sapp and Jeremy Shockey. That’s old news.

It’s time for a new chapter in the sad saga that is the fallout from the New Orleans Saints bounty program. Now, it’s Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe telling a Minnesota radio station he believes New Orleans middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma should be banned from the NFL.

"My position has always been that I think Vilma and [former New Orleans defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams should be banned for life and then [coach Sean] Payton should get a year, their GM [Mickey Loomis] should get a year and anyone who knowingly took money after a hit that injured someone should get a year as well,’’ Kluwe said.

Vilma was specifically named in the NFL’s report for putting up $10,000 of his own money to anyone who injured Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre in a Jan. 24, 2010 playoff game in New Orleans. Kluwe recalled it was obvious something out of the ordinary was going on.

"Me and [kicker] Ryan [Longwell] were kind of looking at each other on the bench going, 'Are they really going after Brett?'" Kluwe said. "Like, 'Is this really what they're doing?' But you don't want to believe that something like that is happening because you think better of the other players.

"You don't want to think that they're doing something like that. I think that was part of the thing that the league was looking at [in its investigation] was like, 'OK, we've really got to make sure that this is true because otherwise it's going to make the sport look really bad.'"

Payton has been suspended for a year and Williams has been suspended indefinitely. There has been no disciplinary action taken against Vilma yet. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to first meet with representatives from the NFL Players Association before issuing any punishment for players involved.
We told you earlier in the day about the Twitter war in which former NFL defensive lineman and current NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp accused former New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey of being “the snitch’’ that told the NFL about the Saints’ bounty program. Shockey denied the allegation on Twitter.

He just did it again in a telephone interview on "SportsCenter."

“That is 100 percent false,’’ Shockey said. “Everyone knows how I feel about Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints.’’

Shockey emphasized several times that he has enormous respect for Payton, the coach who will be suspended for a year. He also said the same thing about general manager Mickey Loomis, who will be suspended for the first eight games of the 2012 season.

Shockey played for the Saints from 2008 through 2010 and joined the Carolina Panthers last season. Shockey said several times that he had no knowledge of the bounty program and was never in a room where it was discussed.

“The bounty system, I really don’t know how it works because I play offense,’’ Shockey said.
Jeremy Shockey hasn’t signed anywhere, but he’s making news.

The tight end that played in Carolina last season, and New Orleans the three seasons before that, got into a Twitter war with former New York Giants teammate Armani Toomer on Thursday. It started after reports in the New York media that Shockey had let the Giants know he wanted to return to them after forcing them to trade him in 2008. That prompted an unfriendly tweet from Toomer.

“No!! Shockey,” Toomer wrote on his Twitter account. “ ‘I will never play4 you again!’ he yelled at (general manager Jerry) Reese in 08. Let him keep his word. Bad teammate, worse person.”

That brought a volley back from Shockey. He tweeted that he hasn’t talked with the receiver since “he loafed on a play and got man handled in my leg that caused it to break.”

I had heard all the stories about Shockey being a problem child in his New York days. But I’ve got to be honest and say I never saw him cause any major issues while he was with the Saints and Panthers. He could be surprisingly good with the media at times, and very moody at others.

He was a role player with the Saints and Panthers, and seemed to accept that role. I think there still is a chance he could re-sign with the Panthers, if he wants, because I don’t think he burned that bridge.

But I think his bridge to New York might have been torched back in 2008. The Giants already have brought in free-agent tight end Martellus Bennett.

Jeremy Shockey might want to play

March, 15, 2012
It’s been all quiet on the Jeremy Shockey front in Carolina since the combine, when coach Ron Rivera said he thought the veteran tight end was retiring, and general manager Marty Hurney said he’d heard nothing of the sort.

In fact, we’re still not certain if Shockey has told the Panthers if he intends to play or not this season.

But it appears Shockey has let one NFL team know of his intentions. Shockey reportedly has let the New York Giants know he’d like to return to them. That’s where he started his career and had some good years before forcing his way out in 2008 with a trade to the New Orleans Saints. Shockey had three productive and peaceful (by his standards) seasons with the Saints.

Then, Shockey joined the Panthers last season and was a nice role player behind Greg Olsen, who was Carolina’s main pass-catcher at tight end. I suspect the Panthers wouldn’t mind bringing Shockey back for another season if the price is reasonable. But it’s not a high priority for the Panthers, because they have Olsen.

Besides, it looks like Shockey might have his mind on something else. He wants to return to New York, where he once clashed with quarterback Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin. But I’m not so sure the Giants are waiting with open arms for the 31-year-old tight end. They already have signed tight end Martellus Bennett from Dallas.

NFC South: Free-agency primer

March, 8, 2012
AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Free agency begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET

Atlanta Falcons

Key free agents: CB Brent Grimes (franchise), LB Curtis Lofton, DE John Abraham, WR Harry Douglas and C Todd McClure.

Where they stand: The Falcons put the franchise tag on Grimes, but still would like to sign him to a long-term contract. That would improve a salary-cap situation that’s already decent. Keeping Lofton and Douglas, who have been developed by the current coaching staff, is also likely to be a priority. Although Abraham led the team with 9.5 sacks last season, his age and salary expectations work against the possibility of his return. Unless Abraham’s price tag drops significantly, the Falcons seem likely to let him walk. McClure could opt to retire. But if he wants to play, it’s likely the Falcons would welcome him back.

What to expect: After a quick and embarrassing exit from the postseason, owner Arthur Blank made it very clear that simply making the playoffs isn’t good enough. Blank expects to contend for a Super Bowl title. The Falcons went all-in last year when they traded up to draft receiver Julio Jones and paid big money to free-agent defensive end Ray Edwards. Look for them to take a similar approach this year. The Falcons are usually good for at least one major move an offseason and this year we could see two or three. Don’t be surprised if the Falcons go hard after Mario Williams because they need a pass-rusher to replace Abraham. Without a first-round pick, the Falcons also probably will use free agency to fill a big need at left tackle. There aren’t a lot of options, but Marcus McNeill could be a target if he is released, as expected, by the Chargers. The Falcons could even make a play for New Orleans guard Carl Nicks. His presence would make life easier for any left tackle and pulling him away from the Saints also would weaken a division rival.

Carolina Panthers

Key free agents: TE Jeremy Shockey, LB Dan Connor, G Geoff Hangartner, LB/DL Antwan Applewhite and QB Derek Anderson.

Where they stand: The Panthers seem to be uncertain whether Shockey plans to retire or keep playing. If he wants to play, they’d gladly take him back because he’s a nice complement to Greg Olsen. They also are likely to make a strong attempt to keep Hangartner, who did a nice job after Carolina had several guards injured last preseason. It’s similar with Applewhite, who was signed during the season and made some nice contributions. But the Panthers seem prepared to let Connor test free agency because they can’t promise him playing time with Jon Beason returning from injury as the starting middle linebacker. Anderson could return, but it’s likely the Panthers will at least explore the possibility of looking for an upgrade as Cam Newton’s backup.

What to expect: Don’t expect a lot. The Panthers had their big splurge coming out of the lockout last summer and they’re paying the tab for that now. They will have to release players and restructure contracts just to get below the cap before free agency starts. Linebacker Thomas Davis, who is coming off his third torn ACL, is a prime candidate for release or restructure. Although the team clearly wants to improve its defense, don’t look for any major moves in free agency. The team simply doesn’t have the cap room to make any big deals. The team might sign a mid-level free agent or two, but major upgrades will have to come through the draft.

New Orleans Saints

Key free agents: QB Drew Brees (exclusive franchise), G Carl Nicks, WR Marques Colston, CB Tracy Porter and WR Robert Meachem.

Where they stand: The past three years have been the most peaceful and prosperous in franchise history. But the peaceful part already has come to an end this offseason. In addition to getting into trouble with the NFL for a bounty program, the Saints are dealing with contract issues that are beyond challenging. They used the franchise tag on Brees and that’s going to cost them around $15 million. Even if they do reach a long-term agreement with Brees, his cap figure for this year could climb above $15 million. Either way, the Saints are going to have major cap issues. They’ve already restructured the contract of defensive end Will Smith and may do the same with linebacker Jonathan Vilma or perhaps even release him and some veterans. The Saints are going to have so much cap space tied up in Brees that they’ll have a hard time keeping their other free agents. Nicks would seem to be the top priority with Colston close behind. But keeping even one of them would be a victory for the Saints.

What to expect: General manager Mickey Loomis always has been aggressive and daring and he might have to be even more creative than usual because of the cap situation. The Saints simply aren’t the type of team to sit still. They had flaws exposed in a playoff loss to San Francisco and they’re asking new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to fix their defense. The problem there is a lot of the current personnel doesn’t fit all that well in Spagnuolo’s scheme. Loomis needs to find a way to get at least one more pass-rusher up front and needs to add an athletic linebacker or two. He also may have to fill more needs if the Saints lose as many free agents as most expect. This is a team without a first-round pick in the draft, so Loomis will have to make some big moves when it comes to releasing players or restructuring contracts just to give the Saints a shot at being a little bit active in free agency.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Key free agents: K Connor Barth (franchise), CB Ronde Barber, RB Earnest Graham, LB Geno Hayes, S Sean Jones, DE Michael Bennett (restricted) and RB LeGarrette Blount (exclusive rights).

Where they stand: The Bucs begin coach Greg Schiano’s tenure in a very unique situation. They’ve got a ton of cap room and need improvement in lots of areas. But they’ll deal with what they’ve got between now and the start of free agency. A decision on Barber probably will come very soon. Schiano has indicated he’d like the veteran back, but Barber could choose to retire, which also would create a major need at cornerback. That position also could be an issue later in March when starting cornerback Aqib Talib is scheduled for trial on an assault charge. It’s possible Talib could go to prison or face a suspension from the NFL, but his fate will be an unknown at the start of free agency. Hayes didn’t have a great season last year, but he has upside and the new staff may want to keep him. The Bucs are likely to let Graham walk because of his age. A return by Jones is possible at a reasonable salary, but the Bucs still need to look to upgrade at safety.

What to expect: The exact amount will depend on how many of their free agents are brought back, but the Bucs are likely to have somewhere around $50 million in cap space at the start of free agency and that will put them near the top of the league. After barely dipping into free agency last year, the Bucs were able to carry over extra cap room and general manager Mark Dominik has publicly stated the team plans to be more active in free agency. But fans need to keep that in perspective. The Bucs aren’t going to suddenly return to the days when Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen regularly shelled out money for big-name players in their 30s. The Bucs started a youth movement three years ago and there are some parts in place. Now, it’s time for them to supplement those parts. They’ll be active in free agency, but they’ll be focusing on players still in their 20s. They’ll also be focusing on improving the supporting cast of quarterback Josh Freeman, who they believe can become great. Look for them to add a speed receiver, perhaps someone like Mario Manningham or Eddie Royal. The Bucs also want to improve at running back, where Blount is a one-dimensional power runner. They could look for a pass-catching specialist or may opt to look for a complete back who could even replace Blount as the starter. On defense, the Bucs probably will try to upgrade at linebacker. If Barber and/or Talib aren’t back, the Bucs will have to make a move or two at cornerback and probably wouldn’t hesitate to pay big money to someone such as Cortland Finnegan.

Randy Moss could fit with Saints

March, 6, 2012

The news that Randy Moss is working out for the New Orleans Saints is big, simply because names don’t come much bigger when it comes to wide receivers.

But I don’t know that a 35-year-old wide receiver who was out of football last season is suddenly going to come in and carry the Saints to a Super Bowl title. I don’t even know if the Saints actually will sign Moss.

What’s happening here is the Saints are looking at possibilities. That’s not a bad idea because they could be losing top receiver Marques Colston when free agency starts next week. They also could lose Robert Meachem, who, while not as prolific as Colston, has become an important cog in the Saints’ rotation of wide receivers.

Moss is worth a look. If he has anything left, he becomes an option if Colston and/or Meachem depart. Like Colston and Meachem, Moss is a taller wide receiver and could pair nicely with shorter receivers Lance Moore and Devery Henderson.

But Moss isn’t a carbon copy of Colston. In his best days -- and it’s been a while since Moss was at the top of his game (2009 in New England was his last good season) -- he wasn’t the same style of receiver as Colston. Moss was a long-striding receiver, who could get open deep. Colston’s never been that kind of player. But Colston’s real value to the Saints has been in the mid-level passing game. He has dependable hands and his size allowed him to make a big impact over the middle.

But the reality is that New Orleans’ cap situation could make it impossible for the Saints to keep Colston. Moss likely would come at a cheap price.

The question that’s always been associated with Moss has been, is he worth the trouble, at any price? As we all know, Moss’ enormous talent often has been overshadowed by his behavior. At just about every one of his stops, Moss has gained a reputation for being selfish and not a great influence in the locker room.

But, if the Saints lose Colston and Moss shows in his workout that he has some physical skills left, I say go ahead and sign him.

The Saints have taken shots on guys with less-than-stellar reputations in the past and that often has worked out. That’s because the Saints have a different locker room than most teams. They have a locker room that’s run with an iron hand by quarterback Drew Brees.

There’s an unwritten rule in New Orleans that nobody messes with Brees and everyone in the locker room is held accountable by the quarterback. A lot of people said tight end Jeremy Shockey would be a problem when the Saints brought him in a few years back.

Shockey had pushed Giants quarterback Eli Manning all around when the two were together in New York. But Shockey’s time in New Orleans was relatively peaceful. That’s because Shockey knew he wouldn’t be there long if he crossed Brees or didn’t work up to the standards expected by the quarterback.

It can work the same way with Moss.



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