NFL Nation: John Estes

Tuesday is the deadline for teams to put tender offers on restricted free agents, guys who have played for three years and have expiring contracts.

There are three levels of tenders:
  • $2.879 million comes with a first-round draft pick attached as compensation
  • $2.023 million comes with a second-round draft pick attached as compensation
  • $1.323 million comes with an original-round draft pick attached as compensation

If another team negotiates an offer sheet with a restricted free agent, the original team can choose to match the offer or let the player go for the corresponding draft pick. Tender numbers count against the cap, so teams must have the room carved out and ready for a player to sign the offer.

Here’s a team-by-team look at RFAs and their status as we know it.

Houston

OT Andrew Gardner (status unknown)

Indianapolis

LB A.J. Edds (not tendered), G Seth Olsen (not tendered), CB Cassius Vaughn ($1.323 million), G Jeff Linkenbach ($1.323 million)

Jacksonville

DE George Selvie, FB Brock Bolen, C John Estes, WR Jordan Shipley, LB Kyle Bosworth, TE Zach Potter

Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union has reported none will be tendered.

Tennessee

C-G Fernando Velasco ($2.023 million per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean).
One of my arguments against the Jaguars selection of punter Bryan Anger in the third round of the draft was that it was an area of the draft where the team could likely have upgraded its depth on the offensive line.

See the previous year, when the Jaguars found Will Rackley, the starting left guard when healthy, in the third round.

It has not taken long for the Jaguars depth on the line to come into play.

Rackley’s recovering quickly from a high ankle sprain, but is out at least another week.

Rackley’s backup, Jason Spitz, is now out for about six weeks with a foot injury.

Backup center John Estes (knee) is a having surgery, which means right guard Uche Nwaneri is the emergency third option at the spot.

The Jaguars moved right tackle Eben Britton to left guard and inserted Cameron Bradfield at right guard for their preseason opener, and that construct remains in place on the revised, unofficial depth chart released Monday in advance of preseason game No. 2 on Friday in New Orleans.

"That’s a difficult thing when you get (multiple injuries at) the same position," coach Mike Mularkey told Jaguars reporters. "We’ve got some guys that can move around though, and not totally put you in a bind. It’s not the same as having the guys.”

Drew Nowak played defensive tackle at Western Michigan and was on the team's first depth chart as a defensive tackle. He's now a backup guard.

"He played fifty plays the other night," Mularkey said Sunday. "He’s been a guard for five days. He wasn’t perfect. He had five mental errors. But you talk about a guy that has a chance to be a player. He’s smart, he’s tough, it’s just amazing what he did. There’s another one. And he can work at center.”

While Britton is versatile, the team is looking to play better on the line, and his return from a back injury that cost him most of last season was the most significant change. Now he’s not where they had planned for him to be.

The Giants might be the best defensive front the Jaguars see, but they got pushed backwards a lot.

Jacksonville’s line is a better run blocking group than it is in pass protection, and pass protection has got to be better for quarterback Blaine Gabbert to be better. Gabbert has to be better for the Jaguars to be better.

General manager Gene Smith believes in foundation building, and his early high picks were left tackle Eugene Monroe and Britton in 2009, and defensive tackles Tyson Alualu and D'Anthony Smith in 2010.

He took Rackley in the third round last year, and Rackley quickly moved into the starting lineup.

But the Jaguars started out camp with Bradfield, Spitz, Estes, Daniel Baldridge and Guy Whimper as their primary backup linemen.

Spitz was originally a third-round pick in Green Bay in 2006, and Whimper originally a fourth-rounder by the Giants in 2006. The rest were undrafted.

Did Smith give the Jaguars enough depth and enough options to get better at protecting Gabbert if their first five aren’t all in place?

It’s an early second-guess, but it sure would have been nice if they’d found one more lineman to have in the mix back in the draft.
Outside of a guy who’s hurt or who gets in trouble, it’s hard to find anything that’s not thoroughly sugar-coated at this time of year.

As the NFL has turned itself into a year-round deal, I don’t think it calculated that OTA and minicamp season would be such a happy time. But the league and its teams certainly enjoy it.

How, then, can this cynic, find something to pick at?

Here’s how:

Our look at the most unreasonable causes for optimism around the division.

Houston: The young receivers

It’s great the Texans have replenished the unit, and it was time to move on from Jacoby Jones, who was released after the draft and is now in Baltimore.

But receiver might be the position that it’s easiest to look good at in June and be lost at in August. Lestar Jean was undrafted out of Florida Atlantic last year, then missed the season with a shoulder injury. He’s currently is drawing raves. Draft picks DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin will get a lot of opportunity now with Andre Johnson watching from the side rehabbing.

No matter how good any of those guys look now, I’m going to need to see them on the field with Matt Schaub (also out now) throwing to them before I become a believer on any level surpassing the usual for guys who have yet to play in real games.

Indianapolis: The offensive line

I was going to say the cornerbacks -- but I don’t know that there has been any great optimism about the group, which really says something at this time of year.

General manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano want to be bigger and more physical up front. Reshaping the line so far has meant the addition of right tackle Winston Justice, guard Mike McGlynn, center Samson Satele and, most recently, tackle George Foster.

As the Indianapolis Star recently wrote, there were reasons these guys were all available and affordable. Right now it seems holdovers Anthony Castonzo (left tackle) and Joe Reitz (left guard) will be joined on the starting line by Justice, McGlynn and Satele.

It’s a bit of a patchwork group, but for a team with financial restrictions and needs all over the place, it might not be bad. Grigson is leaning heavily on two guys he knew from his time with the Eagles in Justice and McGlynn. We’ll need to see if these guys are good enough and how they jell.

Jacksonville: The pass protection

I like right tackle Eben Britton a lot. And I understand why the team is optimistic about what his return from a back injury can mean for a group that run-blocked great, but didn’t fare nearly as well as pass protectors.

Still, is getting one guy back and changing scheme a guaranteed route for keeping Blaine Gabbert upright? I can be convinced, but I am not yet.

And they didn’t even add outside depth. Tackle Guy Whimper was very inconsistent last season and got a new deal. Cameron Bradfield, John Estes, Daniel Baldridge and Mike Brewster are an unproven lot as reserves.

Guard Uche Nwaneri said the running backs will be more involved in protecting the edges. When the top running back, Maurice Jones-Drew, is your best player, is that a good thing or a bad one?

Tennessee: The interior offensive line

It’s clear the Titans were not satisfied with the way center Eugene Amano played last season. They brought a parade of centers through Nashville during free agency, but failed to land any of them.

Now they appear content to go forward with Amano as the favorite to win the job over Kevin Matthews and, perhaps, Fernando Velasco. Amano is recovering from knee and ankle surgeries. He will be playing next to free agent addition Steve Hutchinson, who the team expects to have a very positive influence on him.

But Amano has never faced this kind of scrutiny and heat before, and I wonder if he will rise to meet it or melt. Leroy Harris, also out right now while he recovers from shoulder surgery, will move from left guard to right guard. Harris wasn’t great in 2011 either, and will have to hold off Velasco.

Spots that still need attention

April, 30, 2012
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The draft is over, the rosters are filled up.

But what areas weren’t sufficiently addressed and where can we expect to see the teams of the AFC South continue to seek help?

Some thoughts.

Houston Texans

Veteran corner Jason Allen left as a free agent. He helped the Texans cover for Kareem Jackson, who played just 55.73 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in 2011.

Brandon Harris was a second-round pick out of Miami last year, but didn’t show anything. The Texans look to be counting on him to contribute more. They like Brice McCain, but he's a situational guy.

But corner is a spot where the Texans need some additional depth at the very least.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts loaded their roster with offensive players -- eight of 10 draft picks went on that side of the ball.

The defensive picks were on the defensive line.

Which means the Colts still have a ton of work to do in the defensive backfield.

Jerraud Powers is a quality corner and a good leader. But after him, there are no proven corners on the roster. Is the second starter Chris Rucker? Kevin Thomas? Mike Holmes? Brandon King?

That’s not a great group to be choosing from. Look for team to give some undrafted rookies a chance and grab a veteran or two as guys come free during camp cuts.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars believe a healthy Eben Britton will help fortify their offensive line and he should.

But they don’t have sufficient depth on the offensive line and should create a situation where there is more real competition.

They re-signed Guy Whimper, who is a swing tackle at best and had some bad stretches last season. They like John Estes as a reserve center, but it would be nice to have someone to compete with him for the right to take over for Brad Meester.

Tennessee Titans

The team has sent major mixed signals about its offensive line.

Tennessee courted all the top centers in free agency but did not land one. And then they didn't draft an offensive lineman. Coach Mike Munchak said it wasn’t a dire need and the team can win with what it has.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reports that among the team’s undrafted rookies is William Vlachos. Perhaps the center from Alabama can scramble the mix. But the Titans should still be adding options on the interior.

On the radar: John Estes

June, 3, 2010
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NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

Jacksonville needs better play from the center position, and undrafted rookie John Estes from Hawaii has a shot to make an impact in the middle of the Jaguars’ offensive line.

[+] EnlargeMeester
Tom Cammett/Getty ImagesBrad Meester, above, may need to fight off undrafted free-agent center John Estes at center.
Brad Meester, 33, has battled a lot of injuries. But even when he was on the field last season, Meester’s run blocking was a problem. Replacing him makes a lot of sense, but at the minimum, Jacksonville needs to put pressure on its current starting center’s hold on the job.

If Meester is replaced, the most likely scenario would be for Uche Nwaneri to move from guard to the pivot. Considering the volatility of this offensive line last year, Nwaneri -- while far from spectacular -- should be considered rather dependable. Plus, Jacksonville did just trade for Justin Smiley, creating is a bit of a logjam at guard with Vince Manuwai and Kynan Forney. So moving Nwaneri seems like a logical move after the acquisition of Smiley.

But where does Estes fit in -- and, to a lesser extent, Cecil Newton, who is a year older than Estes? If Nwaneri can prove that he is the best option for the starting center spot, Meester could be shown the door, which would open up a possibility for one of these youngsters. Estes is the guy I would expect to take advantage of that opportunity.

Estes isn’t a particularly big offensive lineman and Jacksonville certainly does value size up front, but he moves well and is tough and durable while playing the game with a bit of a mean streak. He isn’t extremely powerful, but was a four-year starter, is very aware in protection and has a good feel for maximizing his leverage advantage. There are tons of examples of offensive linemen who enter the league and prove very difficult for their coaching staff to cut from the roster. Estes might just be next.

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