NFL Nation: Jimmy Kennedy

Video: Jimmy Kennedy slams Goodell

October, 19, 2012
10/19/12
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Chris Mortensen, Andrew Brandt and Lomas Brown weigh in on Jimmy Kennedy's comments, and the damage done to Roger Goodell's administration.
video
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has recused himself from hearing the appeals of player suspensions in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty saga.

I’d say that’s at least a momentary victory for Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita.

The players had been asking Goodell to recuse himself and claiming that he is biased and wouldn’t be able to give them a fair hearing on their appeals. I think this also could set a precedent that might limit Goodell’s power to be the sole judge and jury in player discipline. That’s something players fought for, but didn’t get, in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. This doesn't help Goodell's public image, especially on the same day that former Minnesota defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy accused the commissioner of being a liar for saying Kennedy was a "whistleblower'' on the bounty program.

Goodell said he has appointed former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to hear the appeals.

That brings the question of if the appeals really can be fair. Goodell worked for Tagliabue for years and the two are close. When Tagliabue retired, Goodell had his blessing to be the successor.

“To be clear, I have not consulted with Paul Tagliabue at any point about the Saints matter nor has he been any part of the process,’’ Goodell said in a statement. “Furthermore, under our process the hearing officer has full authority and complete independence to decide the appeal and determine any procedural issues regarding the hearings. I will have no role in the upcoming hearings or in Mr. Tagliabue’s decisions.”

Tagliabue will hear the appeals Oct. 30.

At the very least, getting a fresh set of eyes and ears on the appeals at least gives the appearance that the players are getting a fair shake. At most, it might convince federal judge Ginger Berrigan, who has implied she thinks that Vilma’s suspension was too harsh, that this case could go beyond Goodell’s jurisdiction and into her jurisdiction.

There still are likely to be a lot of twists and turns in this saga, but I'd say right now things have swung in favor of the players.
The NFL's explanation for how it learned of the New Orleans Saints alleged bounty program goes like this: Former Saints defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove told former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy about it at some point near the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Kennedy told Vikings coach Brad Childress, and Childress reported it to the league.

Friday, Kennedy denied his role as the bounty whistleblower and said the NFL has distributed "blatant lies about me." In a statement released by the NFL Players Association, Kennedy said: "Coach Childress approached me and asked me if I knew anything about such an allegation, and I told him the truth: I did not. I had no knowledge of any such alleged bounty."

Further, Kennedy said it is "an utter lie" to suggest Hargrove told him about the bounty. Kennedy: "It simply never happened. I never discussed an alleged bounty with Anthony Hargrove before, during or after the NFC Championship Game. The only discussion I have had with Anthony about the alleged bounty occurred when we recently spoke about the NFL’s egregiously flawed and unjust investigation and proceeding."

I've had plenty to say about the NFL's investigation of the bounty program, especially as it related to Hargrove during the time he spent with the Green Bay Packers. To be blunt, much of it doesn't pass the smell test. (Many of those posts can be found in this link.)

Hargrove and Kennedy have now both denied the NFL's claims on how Childress became convinced there was a bounty; Childress hasn't commented to my knowledge. And as we've discussed, the evidence the NFL presented against Hargrove has either been debunked or substantially discredited.

We all know the NFL didn't have to meet a legal standard in order to make these accusations and distribute discipline. And part of the language in Kennedy's statement no doubt is setting up the inevitable legal battle that is only beginning. But I agree with one sentiment in the statement from Kennedy, who said he is now among "the list of men whose reputations and character have been irreparably damaged by the shoddy, careless, shameful so-called investigation behind this sham proceeding."

That language might be a bit over the top, but careers have been altered and lives changed forever as a result of this bounty investigation. To this point, it's difficult to say that impact has been merited.
Green Bay Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove has insisted on multiple occasions that a key piece of evidence against him in the New Orleans Saints bounty issue is a case of mistaken identity. Voice recognition analysis confirmed that Hargrove was not the person who said "Bobby, give me my money," a quote captured on an NFL Films video of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Amazingly, it now appears the league has agreed.

As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out, commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to Hargrove and three other suspended players that he is "prepared to assume" Hargrove was not the one speaking. But Goodell went on to claim that the video, which the league introduced during the appeal hearing and in a meeting with reporters, was not a factor in Hargrove's eight-game suspension.

[+] EnlargeFavre
Tom Hauck/Getty ImagesCommissioner Roger Goodell says a quote captured on an NFL Films video of the 2009 NFC Championship Game had no bearing on Anthony Hargrove's eight-game suspension.
"The identity of the player who made the statement was immaterial to my decision on your appeals and did not affect the level of discipline imposed on Mr. Hargrove," Goodell wrote in a letter that was attached to legal filings submitted Tuesday. The commissioner said the video nevertheless provides ample evidence of a bounty program, no matter who said the words, and that "members of the Saints defense, including Mr. Hargrove, were well aware" of it.

Wow. The league was wrong, but the inaccuracy doesn't matter? That's convenient.

So once again, we're back to a question we've asked several times: What evidence does the NFL have to justify Hargrove's eight-game suspension? Was Hargrove "very well aware" of a bounty program because he was in a sideline huddle when one player said "give me my money" to another? That's a bit of a leap.

Let's go back to the original accusation the NFL publicized against Hargrove in March. As you might recall, here is what the league wrote:
Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (now with the Green Bay Packers) is suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2012 regular season. Hargrove actively participated in the program while a member of the Saints. Hargrove submitted a signed declaration to the league that established not only the existence of the program at the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it. The evidence showed that Hargrove told at least one player on another team that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was a target of a large bounty during the NFC Championship Game in January of 2010. Hargrove also actively obstructed the league’s 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators."

Now let's go through those sentences one-by-one:

  • "Hargrove actively participated in the program while a member of the Saints." If the NFL has evidence of this, it remains private.
  • "Hargrove submitted a signed declaration to the league that established not only the existence of the program at the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it." As we discussed in the spring, this sentence is at best a mischaracterization. In the declaration, Hargrove said only that "I denied all knowledge of a bounty or bounty program." To me, there is a big leap between establishing the existence of and participation in a program when all that happened was a denial of knowledge.
  • "The evidence showed that Hargrove told at least one player on another team that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was a target of a large bounty during the NFC Championship Game in January of 2010." In the declaration, Hargrove said former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams told him that "some people" thought he had told Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy about the bounty. Both Hargrove and Kennedy have denied that conversation took place.
  • "Hargrove also actively obstructed the league’s 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators." That goes back to Hargrove originally denying all knowledge of any program, something he said Williams and fellow Saints assistant Joe Vitt asked him to do. It requires an assumption that Hargrove knew all of the details of any program that might have existed in order for a denial to be interpreted as "untruthful."

The video evidence was introduced later in the process, but now that the NFL has disregarded it, we're back to the original accusations. So essentially, again, we're left to assume that Hargrove was suspended eight games because he denied existence of a bounty program in 2010 -- even if there is no evidence that he participated in it or was aware of it. Yikes.
Good afternoon. NFC West blog headquarters will be relocating from the Northwest to Indianapolis for Super Bowl week.

The plane I'm riding in, a Boeing 757, is traveling 565 mph at 35,637 feet, according to tracking software. I'll be connecting through Atlanta, so this will be a full travel day.

Once situated in Indy, I'll be helping with our Super Bowl coverage, with an eye toward this division. Josh McDaniels, David Baas, Bear Pascoe, David Carr, Rocky Bernard, Jimmy Kennedy, Deon Grant, Antrel Rolle, Isaiah Stanback, Deion Branch, Niko Koutouvides, Tracy White and Andre Carter are among the NFC West alumni currently with the Super Bowl participants.

Quite a few current NFC West players will be filtering through Indianapolis for various events during the week. I'll be catching up with some of them.

The week will conclude with Hall of Fame voting, followed by the Super Bowl itself. I don't have a strong feeling as to which team will win the game. Both should like their chances. I did pick New England to win it all before the season -- one of the few predictions that remains on track -- so I'll likely stick with the Patriots when ESPN solicits staffers' predictions later in the week.

Here's hoping this Sunday treats you well.
Earlier this week, the Minnesota Vikings told defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy that he would be released. That decision left us with some obvious questions: Who will start opposite Kevin Williams if free-agent nose tackle Pat Williams doesn’t return? And who would start in place of Kevin Williams during his presumed four-game suspension?

Ayodele
Ayodele
The Vikings answered one of those questions Thursday by agreeing to terms with free-agent nose tackle Remi Ayodele, who spent the past three seasons with the New Orleans Saints. I believe the Times-Picayune had the news first. Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune reports the deal is worth $9 million over three seasons.

Ayodele figures as a prototypical nose tackle to play opposite the so-called “three-technique” position that Kevin Williams mans. At 28, he is 10 years younger than Pat Williams. And at 6-foot-2 and 318 pounds, he is appropriately squat for the position. (Although like Fletch, his hair style makes him closer to 6-foot-9.)

Recent Vikings posts: The best way to view the acquisition of quarterback Donovan McNabb is as (expensive) insurance for rookie Christian Ponder. Rice wanted a fresh start. The Vikings made the right call in bringing back place-kicker Ryan Longwell. Receiver Percy Harvin plans to play at about 10 pounds lighter this season. The Vikings have a tough decision on Peterson's contract. Adrian Peterson was surprised to see Rice leave.

Scramble'11: Day 1 thoughts

July, 26, 2011
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I'm continuing to get my head around the Minnesota Vikings' reported pursuit of quarterback Donovan McNabb, which to this point qualifies as the biggest NFC North development on Day 1 of the 2011 free agent market. We've also discussed issues from Matthew Stafford's swagger to Aaron Rodgers' free agent wish list, and I'm sure there will be much more to come.

McNabb
McNabb
For now, let's review in rapid-fire fashion a number of other developments that merit comment but maybe not their own blog post:

Item: Former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson agreed to terms with the Seattle Seahawks, where he will reunite with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Comment: Someone in the Seahawks' building clearly wants someone else to win the starting job, be it Charlie Whitehurst or Matt Leinart. As much as I respect Jackson as a person, I don't see him as an NFL starter -- and neither do many other people in the league.

Item: The Vikings agreed to terms receiver Devin Aromashodu, formerly of the Chicago Bears, to a one-year contract.
Comment: Aromashodu isn't a possible replacement for Sidney Rice or even Bernard Berrian, should he be released. Aromashodu remains an intriguing big target who had a career game against the Vikings in 2009, catching seven passes for 150 yards and a game-winning touchdown. Opponents don't forget games like that.

Item: Free agent receiver Santana Moss agreed to terms with the Washington Redskins.
Comment: Send your condolences to Bears receiver Devin Hester, who publicly lobbied the team to sign Moss.

Item: The Bears have interest in free agent receiver Brad Smith, according to ESPNChicago.com's Michael C. Wright.
Comment: Smith offers a bigger look than the rest of the Bears' receivers and could also return kickoffs following the expected departure of Danieal Manning. Bring him on.

Item: The Bears want free agent linebacker Nick Roach to return as a backup, according to ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson.
Comment: That means the Bears still need a starter at strong-side linebacker. They are interested in Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Justin Durant, according to ESPNChicago.com.

Item: The Detroit Lions will release receiver Bryant Johnson, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
Comment: It wouldn't have made sense to bring Johnson to training camp after drafting Titus Young as the likely No. 3 receiver. That gives a player many of you have asked about, Derrick Williams, a fighting chance to make the team as a No. 4 receiver.

Item: The Vikings have told defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy he won't return in 2011, according to Kennedy's Twitter feed.
Comment: Cross off another candidate to start at defensive tackle if free agent Pat Williams signs elsewhere and during Kevin Williams' expected four-game suspension.

Item: The Bears are the only NFC North team to release a list of undrafted free agents they have signed.
Comment: All 26 names are published over at ESPNChicago.com for your enjoyment.

Item: And today will be better than yesterday.
Comment: That's my friend Buster Olney's signature blog sign-off. I like it.

Brett Favre will start, plus inactives

October, 31, 2010
10/31/10
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It's official. Brett Favre will start for the Minnesota Vikings against the New England Patriots on Sunday, extending his record streak to 292 games.

Here are the inactives:

Minnesota Vikings
New England Patriots

Computing NFC North progress

May, 11, 2010
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Best/Bulaga/GerhartUS Presswire/Getty ImagesThe Lions, Packers and Vikings addressed some of their most urgent needs on offense by using early draft picks to acquire Jahvid Best, Bryan Bulaga and Toby Gerhart, respectively.
In the weeks since the NFL draft, we've taken some big-picture looks at the NFC North. We've made a run at naming a preseason division favorite, tried to identify a preseason rookie of the year and examined some faulty assumptions.

Through it all, I've struggled to incorporate a gold mine of statistical analysis forwarded by ESPN's Stats & Information, a series of numbers that help illustrate some of the division's most notable areas of concern entering the offseason. So with the help of ESPN.com editor Brett Longdin, I want to use some of that information to open a unique window into whether NFC North teams have responsibly shored up their weaknesses over the past months.

Chicago Bears

Issue: The short-yardage running game
Stats & Information revelation: The Bears had the NFL's worst per-carry average (1.5 yards) on third-and-2 or less last season.
How the Bears responded: Hiring offensive line coach Mike Tice, who brings a power-running sensibility to Mike Martz's passing offense. Moving left guard Frank Omiyale to right tackle. Signing free agent tailback Chester Taylor.
Seifert analysis: Much of the Bears' hopes rest on Tice's shoulders to make over this group; as many as four 2009 starters will remain in their positions. Starting tailback Matt Forte is known more for shiftiness than power, opening an opportunity for Taylor to take over some of those opportunities. But effective power running, especially in short-yardage situations, requires frequency in play calling. Martz isn't known for his patience in the run game.

Issue: Pass defense in obvious passing situations
Stats & Information revelation: The Bears ranked near the bottom of the NFL when defending against third-and-8 or more.
How the Bears responded: Overhauling their pass rush by signing free-agent defensive end Julius Peppers and jettisoning incumbents Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye (for now). The safety position is also in transition after the re-acquisition of safety Chris Harris and the drafting of Major Wright.
Seifert analysis: That's about as much personnel change as you'll see generated in one offseason from an incumbent coaching staff/front office. (Unless you're in Detroit.) The Peppers acquisition speaks for itself. He'll cause more havoc than Brown or Ogunleye, and new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli isn't expected to be a heavy blitzer. Harris is no world-beater, but even mediocre play would be an improvement. If nothing else, the Bears get an A for effort in addressing this issue.

Detroit Lions

Issue: Explosive running plays, or lack thereof
Stats & Information revelation: The Lions had five running plays of 20 or more yards last season, the second-fewest in the NFL.
How the Lions responded: Trading up to draft Cal tailback Jahvid Best, who runs the 40 in 4.35 seconds and averaged 7.3 yards per carry in his college career.
Seifert analysis: Best was widely considered the most explosive runner in the draft. The Lions did take a step to shore up their offensive line, trading for Seattle guard Rob Sims, but they're hoping Best will be the kind of player who can make big plays on his own. That would make a huge difference for a team that had to work too hard to score touchdowns last season. The Lions ranked No. 29 in the NFL last season in yards per play (4.6) and tied for No. 27 with 28 total touchdowns. To keep up in their division, they need to be able to score quicker and easier.

Issue: Historically horrible pass defense, especially on downfield throws
Stats & Information revelation: The Lions were the only NFL team to allow opponents better than 50 percent completion percentage on passes that traveled 21 or more yards in the air last season.
How the Lions responded: Overhauling their personnel on the defensive line and secondary. Of the eight combined starters in those two units, at least five will be new. Depending on how competition plays out, safety Louis Delmas might be the only returning starter among the eight.
Seifert analysis: The defensive line is far ahead of the secondary in terms of credibility and potential to impact games. At different points in their careers, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and defensive tackle Corey Williams have been dominant pass-rushers relative to their positions. The sky is the limit for defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The Lions' pass defense will go as far as their pass rush takes them. It stands to reason they should at least cut down on opponents' downfield percentage; more pass rush equals less time to let long passes develop. As for coverage, it probably couldn't be much worse than last season.

Green Bay Packers

Issue: Although it settled in the second half of the season, the Packers' pass protection allowed NFL-high sack levels.
Stats & Information revelation: The Packers allowed 31 sacks against defensive formations of four or fewer pass-rushers, tied for the league lead. That rate speaks to consistent 1-on-1 defeats.
How the Packers responded: Re-signing both veteran tackles, Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. Drafting tackle Bryan Bulaga at No. 23 overall.
Seifert analysis: Some might question the wisdom of bringing back a pair of 30-something tackles. But the Packers at least have smoothed out the cliff they started last season on. They have a more reliable safety net should Clifton or Tauscher falter or get injured, and Bulaga promises a solid future at one of the tackle positions. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers also has agreed there are times he should throw the ball quicker. The combination of better depth and Rodgers' experience should minimize the issues Green Bay suffered through last season.

Issue: Elite quarterbacks scorched the Packers' pass defense last season.
Stats & Information revelation: Despite disappointing performances against Minnesota, Pittsburgh and -- in the playoffs -- Arizona, the Packers led the NFL in defense against four-receiver sets.
How the Packers responded: They took only one aggressive step to address their personnel here: Trading up to draft safety Morgan Burnett. Otherwise, they are counting on the healthy return of cornerbacks Al Harris, Will Blackmon, Pat Lee and Brandon Underwood. They also are hoping Brad Jones can provide consistent pass rush as an outside linebacker.
Seifert analysis: Although this statistic is culled from a relatively small sample of the Packers' defensive plays, it might help explain why they are not as worked up about this situation as some of us are. Like it or not, they have chosen not to overreact to some disappointing games against Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks. They're trusting their developmental system to give them the personnel reinforcements they need. It should also be re-emphasized that they'll take on "elite" quarterbacks in only three games this season: Twice against Minnesota's Brett Favre, assuming he doesn't retire, and once against New England's Tom Brady.

Minnesota Vikings

Issue: Minnesota's running game was less effective in 2009.
Stats & Information revelation: Nearly 27 percent of the Vikings' rushing attempts went for no gain or a loss, the second-highest rate in the NFL.
How the Vikings responded: Allowing Taylor to depart via free agency. Trading up to draft Toby Gerhart, a 231-pound tailback.
Seifert analysis: The Taylor-Gerhart swap will be secondary to the larger issues Minnesota must address. First, they'll need more even-handed performances from an offensive line that introduced two new starters in center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt. Second, tailback Adrian Peterson must continue his career-long efforts to contain his aggressiveness long enough to allow the hole to develop. It's an especially important task in a zone-blocking scheme.

Issue: Minnesota nose tackle Pat Williams has flirted with retirement, and both he and teammates Kevin Williams might have to serve a four-game suspension after testing positive for a diuretic.
Stats & Information revelation: Even with Williams' advancing age, the Vikings' up-the-gut defense still led the NFL by allowing 3.0 yards per carry last season.
How the Vikings responded: Re-signed backup Jimmy Kennedy and issued a high tender to fellow backup Fred Evans, a restricted free agent.
Seifert analysis: The Vikings are satisfied with their depth at both defensive tackle positions and have long groomed Evans to replace Pat Williams. No matter whom they acquire, there will be a drop-off if their two starters are suspended concurrently. The bigger issue is finding a long-term replacement for Pat Williams. Is Evans the guy? He'll get his chance to prove it should the suspensions stand.
What's next in the Williams Wall case, now that a Hennepin County judge has sided with the NFL and upheld its suspensions of Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams?

Technically, nothing has changed. The suspensions apply to the regular season only, so both players are free to participate in the Vikings' offseason program. And plenty will happen in this case before we get to September.

As we discussed earlier this week, both players will appeal the decision. Judge Gary Larson ruled the NFL did in fact violate Minnesota labor laws, but said the players were not harmed by the violations. Given the yes-no nature of that decision, both players have asked for a temporary injunction that would delay their suspensions until the appeals process is exhausted.*

I think we would have been in for a longer fight if Larson had ruled against the NFL, given the bigger ramifications on drug testing throughout sports if he would have allowed state law to trump federal law. But it appears the players will at least seek a reversal of Larson's decision.

For football fans, the question becomes how long the appeals process will take and whether it could possibly be resolved before the 2010 regular season. If it is, the Vikings will have to tap an 18-month-old contingency plan to replace the heart of their defensive line for a quarter of the season.

If you remember, the team signed free agent Jimmy Kennedy shortly after the suspensions were originally announced in December 2008.

Kennedy re-signed for the 2009 season, had three sacks in limited playing time, and then signed a two-year deal over the winter. Between Kennedy, Fred Evans and 2008 draft pick Letroy Guion, the Vikings consider themselves covered.

"We have pretty good depth there," vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said after the draft last month. Scott Studwell, director of college scouting, said a potential suspension wasn't discussed in the week leading up to the draft.

"That's been an ongoing issue that we're almost immune to," Studwell said. "I know it's ongoing, and it's certainly a concern. But we've got a lot of depth in our defensive tackle group right now."

As always, stay tuned.

*Update: According to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Larson told attorneys on both sides to submit briefs on the injunction matter and said he would rule on it in two weeks. If he grants the injunction, both players will be available for games until the appeals process is exhausted. If he denies it, they will have to hope they can win an appeal before the start of the 2010 regular season.

Updating UFA movement in NFC North

March, 15, 2010
3/15/10
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As we head into the second full week of free agency, it's probably a good time to revise our look at each NFC North team's unsigned players. We haven't had a restricted free agent (RFA) receive an offer sheet yet, so we'll limit this post to unrestricted free agents (UFAs) -- who have total freedom to sign with another team.

Chicago Bears
UFAs as of March 5: Linebacker Darrell McClover, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, running back Adrian Peterson, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.
Comment: None have re-signed. The Bears are trying to bring back Tinoisamoa.

Detroit Lions
UFAs as of March 5: Linebacker Vinny Ciurciu, offensive lineman Damion Cook, quarterback Daunte Culpepper, tight end Casey Fitzsimmons, linebacker Larry Foote, tight end Will Heller, cornerback Anthony Henry, cornerback Will James, offensive lineman Jon Jansen, safety Marquand Manuel, quarterback Patrick Ramsey.
Comment: Ciurciu, Heller and Jansen have re-signed. Foote seems likely to return to Pittsburgh.

Green Bay Packers
UFAs as of March 5:
Offensive lineman Chad Clifton, running back Ahman Green, linebacker Aaron Kampman, offensive lineman Mark Tauscher.
Comment: Clifton and Tauscher have re-signed. Kampman signed with Jacksonville.

Minnesota Vikings
UFAs as of March 5:
Offensive lineman Artis Hicks, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, cornerback Benny Sapp, running back Chester Taylor.
Comment: Kennedy and Sapp re-signed. Taylor signed with Chicago. Hicks signed with Washington.

Bills host Vikings DT Jimmy Kennedy

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
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The Buffalo Bills have been slow to act in free agency. That's not unusual for them, and new general manager Buddy Nix has stated his intention to build through the draft.

But this year the Bills have many holes to fill. They're overhauling their defense, converting to a 3-4. Suitable personnel is missing.

The Bills finally might act on their defensive conversion. Jason La Canfora of NFL Network reports the Bills will host defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy on Thursday.

Can the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Kennedy handle the Bills' opening at nose tackle?

The Bills would have to project how he'd look at nose tackle because the four teams Kennedy has played for operate out of 4-3 defenses.

Kennedy's career has been a disappointment. The St. Louis Rams drafted him 12th overall in 2003. He has been with five teams (released by the Denver Broncos in 2007 before getting into a game) and has started only 31 games.

He is coming off a decent season with the Minnesota Vikings. They picked him up in late 2008 as an emergency replacement when the Williams Wall (defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams) faced suspensions for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Kennedy was the primary backup in 2009 and, as NFC blogger Kevin Seifert writes, "made more plays than you would think, but probably had something to do with at least one Williams and Jared Allen usually being on the field with him."

Kennedy recorded 18 tackles, three sacks, four tackles for losses and seven hurries in the regular season. In three postseason games, he notched three tackles and one sack.

NFC North: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
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Chicago Bears

Potential unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Darrell McClover, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, running back Adrian Peterson, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.

Potential restricted free agents: Defensive end Mark Anderson, safety Josh Bullocks, safety Danieal Manning, linebacker Nick Roach, linebacker Jamar Williams.

Franchise player: None

What to expect: With no picks in the first or second round of next month's draft, the Bears are gearing up for a relatively major jump into free agency. They're expected to bid for defensive end Julius Peppers and possible safety Antrel Rolle and would also like to re-sign linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa. Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna could also be a target. Manumaleuna played for new offensive coordinator Mike Martz in St. Louis.

Detroit Lions

Potential unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Vinny Ciurciu, offensive lineman Damion Cook, quarterback Daunte Culpepper, tight end Casey Fitzsimmons, linebacker Larry Foote, tight end Will Heller, cornerback Anthony Henry, cornerback Will James, offensive lineman Jon Jansen, safety Marquand Manuel, quarterback Patrick Ramsey.

Potential restricted free agents: Defensive end Copeland Bryan, offensive lineman Dylan Gandy, defensive lineman Jason Hunter, offensive lineman Daniel Loper, offensive lineman Manny Ramirez, safety Ko Simpson, linebacker Cody Spencer.

Franchise player: None

What to expect: The Lions aren't likely to be as active as they were last year, but general manager Martin Mayhew said over the winter that he could envision a five- or six-man free agent class. Running back, defensive end and defensive back are all positions they will investigate. They'll also need to find a backup quarterback, assuming Daunte Culpepper moves on.

Green Bay Packers

Potential unrestricted free agents: Offensive lineman Chad Clifton, running back Ahman Green, linebacker Aaron Kampman, offensive lineman Mark Tauscher.

Potential restricted free agents: Safety Atari Bigby, defensive back Will Blackmon, offensive lineman Daryn Colledge, safety Nick Collins, defensive end Johnny Jolly, running back John Kuhn, offensive lineman Jason Spitz, cornerback Tramon Williams.

Franchise player: Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett

What to expect: The Packers will have a demanding offseason filled with difficult decisions. To this point, they haven't re-signed either of their starting offensive tackles. They are clearly approaching injured linebacker Aaron Kampman with caution. And they have a long line of restricted free agents who would like long-term contracts, starting with Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins. The Packers have more than enough to keep them busy, but they haven't dabbled much in free agency in recent years, anyway.

Minnesota Vikings

Potential unrestricted free agents: Offensive lineman Artis Hicks, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, cornerback Benny Sapp, running back Chester Taylor.

Potential restricted free agents: Offensive lineman Ryan Cook, defensive end Ray Edwards, defensive tackle Fred Evans, safety Eric Frampton, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, fullback Naufahu Tahi.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Vikings are awaiting word from quarterback Brett Favre on the 2010 season, a decision that could impact their offseason plans. They would like tailback Chester Taylor back, but it's possible Taylor will at least test his value on the open market. As a Final Four team, the Vikings will be limited to signing players that have been released by other teams unless they lose one of their own unrestricted free agents first.

Putting Rams on the clock at No. 1

February, 23, 2010
2/23/10
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Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy Getty ImagesNdamukong Suh, left, and Gerald McCoy are candidates to be selected with the No. 1 draft pick.
The St. Louis Rams keep rising in April. They chose 24th overall in the 2004 NFL draft (Steven Jackson), 19th overall in 2005 (Alex Barron), 15th in 2006 (Tye Hill) and 13th in 2007 (Adam Carriker). They picked second in both 2008 (Chris Long) and 2009 (Jason Smith) before landing the No. 1 choice this year.

Long made significant strides last season, but only one of those choices, Jackson, has caught a whiff of a Pro Bowl.

A new draft brings new hope and, perhaps, better odds for the Rams.

Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy? What about Sam Bradford? Could the Rams trade out of the top spot altogether, acquiring additional picks to help them stock a depleted roster?

Draft analysts Steve Muench (Scouts Inc.) and Rob Rang (NFLdraftscout.com) helped sort through the possibilities.

Suh vs. McCoy

The St. Louis-era Rams have lots of practice selecting defensive tackles early. Carriker, Jimmy Kennedy (2003), Damione Lewis (2001) and Ryan Pickett (also 2001) were first-round defensive tackles for the Rams.

None met expectations, though Carriker still has a chance.

Suh (Nebraska) and McCoy (Oklahoma) appear more complete than any of them.

"I think they would have beaten out Matthew Stafford last year," Rang said. "They are phenomenal talents. They would deserve top one or two consideration in any draft class I have studied."

Neither Rang nor Muench -- nor anyone else I've consulted -- has strongly projected anything other than Suh or McCoy for the Rams at No. 1. Both give Suh the slightest edge.

"I think that Suh is stronger at the point of attack, more productive and I do think he will develop as a pass-rusher," Muench said. "He will be an every-down difference-maker at defensive tackle. He makes your entire defense better. McCoy does, too, but Suh is just a little bit better. To me, I think Suh is so dominant strength-wise at the point of attack that that is the difference for me. McCoy is more of an upfield guy."

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Jackson Laizure/US PresswireIf the Rams determine a QB is their top priority, Sam Bradford could be their guy.
The quarterback dilemma

The Rams need a quarterback, no question, and if Bradford is good enough to go in the top 10, shouldn't the Rams at least consider him as the top choice?

"I would have a very difficult time taking him first overall because of the shoulder problem and questions about the scheme he was in," Muench said. "I don’t think any of these quarterbacks is going to sniff the first overall pick. I would be surprised, to put it gently."

Rang thinks the Rams will seek a strong leader in their next franchise quarterback.

"With Bradford, I think there is a perception, fair or not, that he is not a rah-rah leader kind of guy," Rang said. "He is pretty quiet. I think for a guy like [Rams coach] Steve Spagnuolo -- a passionate coach, and his guys play hard for him -- I think he would want a guy who would want some innate leadership skills. That is a little bit of a question mark with Bradford."

This point resonated with me because the Rams' current quarterback, Marc Bulger, suffers from the same perceptions. I do think the Rams will want their next quarterback to show more obvious signs of strong leadership.

Although it's possible the Rams will fall for Bradford at the combine, general manager Billy Devaney has vowed the team won't dramatically adjust its thinking on players based on a few days in Indianapolis.

All signs point to one of the defensive tackles.

The Rams are big believers in building from the inside out. They spent last offseason rebuilding their offensive line. Rebuilding the defensive line is a logical next step, particularly with a defensive-minded head coach who wants to build a deep rotation up front.

"I hate the quarterback class and that is where the Rams have to look in free agency and see what they can get for at least a year," Muench said. "Next year’s class is shaping up to be a little better."

Trading the pick

This option usually sounds better in theory than reality.

Although the Jets traded into the fifth spot from No. 17 to snatch Mark Sanchez last year, that type of move is the exception, not the rule. Teams rarely trade into the top five picks from lower in the round.

Devaney shot down a recent report suggesting the Rams had spoken with the Bucs about a possible trade involving the first and third overall choices. It's unlikely, in my view, that the Rams would have serious discussions along those lines this early in the process.

But if another team did make a generous offer for the top pick, the Rams would be wise to at least give it some thought. Devaney and staff have shown an ability to find promising players early in the second round, first with receiver Donnie Avery (2008) and then with linebacker James Laurinaitis (2009).

I just don't foresee other teams rushing into the top spot for a defensive tackle, no matter how good Suh and McCoy might project to be.

"Just considering Spagnuolo's background on defense, they are far and away the favorite to take Suh or McCoy," Rang said. "These two guys are just that damn good. They deserve their consideration."

Free agency: NFC North

February, 16, 2010
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AFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

An early look at the free agency situation in the NFC North.

Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.

Chicago Bears

Unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Darrell McClover, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, running back Adrian Peterson, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.

Key figures: Defensive end Mark Anderson and safety Danieal Manning are two key players who would have joined the list of unrestricted free agents if the NFL weren't on track for an uncapped offseason. The Bears can block both from moving now. Ogunleye is unlikely to return if he's seeking significant money. The Bears want to re-sign Tinoisamoa, even after his injury-shortened 2009 debut. Peterson's eight-year run with the team might be coming to a close.

Culpepper
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireDaunte Culpepper could return to Detroit as Matthew Stafford's backup.
Detroit Lions

Unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Vinny Ciurciu, offensive lineman Damion Cook, quarterback Daunte Culpepper, tight end Casey Fitzsimmons, linebacker Larry Foote, tight end Will Heller, cornerback Anthony Henry, cornerback Will James, offensive lineman Jon Jansen, safety Marquand Manuel, quarterback Patrick Ramsey.

Key figures: The Lions have a total of 20 unrestricted and restricted free agents, a product of the extended roster tryouts they held throughout the 2009 season. The biggest name among their UFAs is Foote, who seems unlikely to return and should be replaced by DeAndre Levy. Culpepper will seek offers on the open market, but it's not out of the question he could return as Matthew Stafford's backup. James had some moments in 2009 and might be worth a return engagement.

Green Bay Packers

Unrestricted free agents: Offensive tackle Chad Clifton, running back Ahman Green, linebacker Aaron Kampman, nose tackle Ryan Pickett, offensive tackle Mark Tauscher.

Key figures: The Packers have a notable list that includes four starters and would have included six more if not for the uncapped year. Clifton will be 34 this summer and Tauscher will turn 33, and it's time for the Packers to begin a succession plan at both positions. T.J. Lang figures as Tauscher's replacement, but Tauscher was actually playing better than Clifton at the end of 2009. Kampman seems unlikely to return as a linebacker in the 3-4, especially while he rehabilitates a knee injury. Pickett could be phased out by B.J. Raji.

Minnesota Vikings

Unrestricted free agents: Offensive lineman Artis Hicks, defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy, receiver Greg Lewis, cornerback Benny Sapp, running back Chester Taylor.

Key figures: Taylor is perhaps the most valuable backup tailback in the league, considering his abilities as a receiver and third-down converter. He will be 31 when the 2010 season begins, but figures to get some attention if he enters the free-agent market. The Vikings want him back, but probably won't devote a huge salary to him with starter Adrian Peterson approaching the expiration of his contract. Sapp probably made himself some money with a credible replacement of injured starter Antoine Winfield.

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