NFL Nation: Keyshawn Johnson

Bucs need to keep Revis' star power

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28

Another thought just came to me as I continue to ponder the speculation that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will trade cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Any final decision on such a move would have to be approved by ownership. The Glazer brothers (Joel, Bryan and Ed) aren't like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder, but they’re more involved than many people realize. That’s why it’s important to think about how the Glazers would feel about trading Revis.

That’s where my thought plays in. In the most simple terms, the Glazers like star power. They previously have gone out and brought in Jon Gruden and Keyshawn Johnson. They also bought the Manchester United soccer team -- one of the most popular sports franchises in the world.

The Glazers leave football decisions up to football people and coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht will have a lot to say about what -- if anything -- the Bucs do with Revis. But the Glazers also have some say, and I have a hard time picturing them wanting to trade Revis.

As far as star power goes with the Buccaneers, it pretty much starts (and stops) with Revis. With apologies to rising stars Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David, Revis is the only household name on the Buccaneers.

This is a franchise that needs household names because it has struggled to fill Raymond James Stadium in recent years. The Glazers have dispelled the myth that they don’t spend enough money on players in the last couple of years and Revis, who is scheduled to make $16 million this year, is a big part of that.

If the Bucs trade Revis, the old complaints about the Glazers being cheap would resurface and the team would lose its most recognizable face.

The Glazers can’t afford to let either of those things happen.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t been a team known for trash talking since the days of Warren Sapp and Keyshawn Johnson.

That is not likely to change now that Lovie Smith has taken over as head coach. Smith’s philosophy on trash talking is best summarized by one incident that took place when he was coaching the Chicago Bears.

Chicago receiver Brandon Marshall made some noise about how the Green Bay Packers couldn’t cover him one-on-one. Smith’s reaction came in one concise sentence.

“Talking doesn’t get a lot done," Smith said at the time.

It shouldn’t be hard for Smith’s philosophy to be adapted by the Bucs. In recent years, they haven’t been big talkers. Guys like Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson play with a swagger. They also can be quite engaging with the media, but they usually stop well short of anything that would qualify as trash talk.
Darrelle RevisDoug Murray/Icon SMIDarrelle Revis brings star power and immense talent to the slumping Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Giving up a 2013 first-round draft pick (and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2014 that could become a third-round pick) and handing $16 million per year to one guy generally is the type of move reserved for a team that thinks it’s on the cusp of a Super Bowl.

Add just one more piece and you’re over the hump and on your way to winning it all, the thinking goes.

Despite the hefty price tag, Tampa Bay’s trade with the New York Jets for Darrelle Revis on Sunday doesn’t quite fit the profile of an “all-in" move. One player, even if he’s the best cornerback on the planet, doesn’t suddenly take a 7-9 team and put it in the Super Bowl.

Other things have to happen -- like quarterback Josh Freeman becoming more consistent, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and a young defensive line continuing to progress and running back Doug Martin avoiding a sophomore slump.

But Revis instantly makes the Bucs better, and he’s going to bring star power to a team that hasn’t been relevant on a national scale or won a playoff game in quite some time. The last two times the Bucs made national headlines were when they fired coach Jon Gruden and when they released Derrick Brooks.

This time, they’ll dominate the news cycle with an incoming player. That’s significant for a team that has struggled for several years to sell out Raymond James Stadium. Say what you want about Tampa Bay’s ownership, but I think the Glazer family had a heavy hand in this deal. Attendance issues are very much on their minds and they just brought star power to a fan base that needs something to get excited about.

But this move isn’t purely about selling tickets. It’s about football, and general manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano were as much on board as the Glazers.

Schiano needs a shutdown corner to improve a pass defense that was the worst in the league last season. When signing guys like safety Dashon Goldson, guard Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson over the past year, Dominik frequently has cited “rare’’ and “unique’’ opportunities to get Pro Bowl players in their prime.

The fact that Revis was even available makes him even more rare and unique than Goldson, Nicks and Jackson.

Assuming Revis is fully recovered from a knee injury, he, Goldson and safety Mark Barron, a first-round pick from last year, suddenly make the secondary look like a strength.

Yeah, the Bucs are gambling a bit on their future by giving up the draft picks, but they’re not mortgaging it. The Bucs had been sitting there with $33 million in cap room, just waiting for this deal to go down. They’ve got the cap room in future years to give Revis a lengthy extension, something no other team in the NFL was willing to do. Let's be honest: If the Bucs held onto the No. 13 overall pick in this year's draft, they weren't going to get a cornerback anywhere as good as Revis.

This trade doesn’t come with the long-term implications the trades the Bucs made for Gruden (two first-round picks and two second-round picks) and receiver Keyshawn Johnson (two first-round picks) carried.

Dominik and, to a lesser degree Schiano, are stepping out on a bit of a limb here. But even if they hadn’t made this deal, Dominik already was on a bit of a hot seat heading into his fifth year as general manager. Schiano is heading into his second season as the head coach, but patience no longer is a virtue in the modern NFL.

It’s a lost art. Teams need to win or else coaches and general managers will go quickly. Patience is especially thin in Tampa Bay because the Bucs haven’t made the playoffs since the 2007 season.

Adding Revis might not put the Bucs into the Super Bowl this season. But it might be enough to put them into the playoffs. Talk of a Super Bowl might come a year or two down the road.

Just making the playoffs would be a huge stride for this franchise. Just making the playoffs and selling out most of the home games would make the Revis deal worthwhile.

Darrelle RevisThearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesCornerback Darrelle Revis certainly has the star power that would get Bucs fans fired up.
With each day that passes without the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trading for Darrelle Revis, the more convinced I become they will trade for the cornerback.

New York Jets general manager John Idzik and Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik, the guys who used to brew the coffee and make copies when Rich McKay, Jerry Angelo and Tim Ruskell ran Tampa Bay’s personnel department, are holding a very public staring contest.

For more than a month, we’ve been hearing rumors about Tampa Bay dealing for Revis. You can throw out the ones that were floated to try to get Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez involved. But I think everything else -- such as the various compensation packages that have been discussed and the Jets hitting the “pause button" -- is based, at least somewhat, in truth.

The Jets almost have to get rid of Revis because he is headed into the final year of his contract and New York has no intention of giving him a massive long-term extension. That alone, I used to think, gave the Buccaneers the upper hand.

But now I’m not so sure. I’m thinking the closer it gets to next week’s NFL draft, the more the Jets have the upper hand.

Quite simply, the Buccaneers have set themselves up for (perceived) failure if they don’t trade for Revis.

They’re sitting there with more than $30 million in salary-cap room. They’re the only team in the NFL with the room to pay Revis, and it’s widely believed they’re the only team with interest in trading for a guy who might be the best cornerback on the planet but is coming off a major knee injury.

I get it that Dominik is playing the waiting game because he doesn’t want to give up too much of his team’s present or future as compensation. That’s smart and the prudent thing to do. But there’s going to have to come a point very soon where Dominik has to make the deal.

[+] EnlargeGreg Schiano
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsWith Darrelle Revis, Bucs coach Greg Schiano should see heavy improvement in a pass defense that was the NFL's worst in 2012.
Anything less than Revis in pewter is going to cause problems in Tampa Bay. There already is a large segment of the fan base that thinks the Glazer family, which owns the team, doesn’t spend enough money. Presumably, that thinking has played a role in the Buccaneers having trouble selling out Raymond James Stadium in recent years.

There are other reasons for the attendance issue. This franchise has been lacking in star power for a long time. There was sizzle when Jon Gruden was the coach, Derrick Brooks was tackling everything that moved and doing it with class, and the likes of Keyshawn Johnson, Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice were as entertaining off the field as on it.

These days, the Bucs are coached by Greg Schiano. He might be a good coach, but the flashiest thing you can say about Schiano is that he once held an office in the same building as former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice.

The Bucs have some nice young players (Doug Martin, Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy and Josh Freeman) and some talented veterans (Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks). Perhaps it’s because Schiano prefers his players to stay out of the spotlight, but Tampa Bay’s current roster is dull.

Revis would change all that. The guy would be the biggest star to walk into One Buccaneer Place since the day Brooks was shown the door. Heck, Revis could end up being bigger than Brooks.

First off, Revis would go a long way toward fixing a pass defense that was worst in the league last year. I know some fans out there think the Bucs would be better off not giving up several draft picks when no one is sure how healthy Revis’ knee is.

But let’s say the Bucs stay put at No. 13. They’ll have to draft either Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes or Washington’s Desmond Trufant if they want a cornerback. Or maybe they’ll get really daring and trade up into the top five to get Alabama’s Dee Milliner.

I’m not saying any of those three guys are bad players, but they’re not as good as a healthy Revis. And when it comes to flash, they would bring about as much excitement as last year’s first-round pick, safety Mark Barron, who is one of the quietest guys on the roster.

That’s why the Buccaneers need to go ahead and make the Revis trade. If they don’t, they’re going to look really bad to their fans, who have been waiting for this deal for weeks.

Even after spending big money on Nicks and Jackson in free agency last year and safety Dashon Goldson this year, ownership still needs to convince fans that it’s willing to pay whatever it takes to put a winning product on the field.

Revis would make the Buccaneers a better football team, bring some national attention and put people in the stands.

If the Buccaneers somehow don’t pull off a deal that has looked like a sure thing for a long time, they’re going to have a lot of explaining to do to a fan base that doesn’t want to hear anything but that Revis is coming to Tampa Bay.
They are three very different personalities. But put Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez together and they become one.

They form what might be the best receiving trio in the NFL.

“The big thing is that none of us are selfish,’’ Jones said in a telephone interview Thursday. “We all want to see each other go out and make big plays because the most important thing is that we want to win.’’

That might sound a little unusual coming from a wide receiver because history has shown that wide receivers often have diva personalities (think Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, Michael Irvin, Keyshawn Johnson and Steve Smith to name just a few). Those traits also can carry over to tight ends.

I remember days when I covered the Carolina Panthers and they’d win a game but tight end Wesley Walls would be unhappy because he didn’t think he had enough passes thrown his way.

But the amazing thing in Atlanta is that Jones, White and Gonzalez now have been together for three full seasons and there never has been a complaint about the distribution of the ball. White and Jones are the wide receivers and Gonzalez is the tight end. But, at various times, they all have been quarterback Matt Ryan's favorite target.

White and Jones combined for 2,549 receiving yards this season, the most by any wide receiver tandem in the league. Gonzalez had 93 catches for 930 yards and eight touchdowns.

When all three of them have been on the field at the same time, Ryan has averaged an interception once in every 52.2 passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information. When the entire trio hasn’t been on the field at the same time, Ryan has averaged an interception once in every 21.3 passes.

“We just take what a defense gives us,’’ Jones said. “If they’re doubling Roddy or me, it’s going to leave Tony open. If Tony’s doubled, Roddy and I will be open. We’ll just take what’s there.’’

Jones said the chemistry among the three has come naturally. Jones is the quiet one, White can be outspoken -- especially on Twitter -- and Gonzalez is the wise elder statesman. But their personalities have meshed nicely.

“I was very lucky to get drafted into the situation I came into,’’ Jones said. “I could have gone somewhere where other guys would resent me because they want the ball. But Roddy and Tony took me under their wings right from the start.’’

Jones entered the league under unusual circumstances. He was drafted during the 2011 lockout and he still was recovering from a college injury. But he showed up at players-only workouts and instantly formed a bond with White and Gonzalez.’’

“We’d go to the workouts, but we’d also go to the movies or just hang out to get to know each other,’’ Jones said. “It was that way in the beginning and it still is that way now.’’

Jones said he and Gonzalez hit the practice field early every day and caught 50 to 100 passes before practice even started. From White, Jones said he’s learned a lot about body control and movement.

“I think the biggest thing both of those guys have taught me is that you don’t have to try to be Superman,’’ Jones said. “You just go out and do your job and you’re going to get your share of passes.’’

That formula is working quite nicely. The Falcons don’t need a solitary Superman because they’ve got three super options in their passing game.

Merril Hoge, Chris Mortensen, Mark Schlereth, Seth Wickersham and Keyshawn Johnson are picking the Green Bay Packers to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in the teams' divisional playoff game Saturday.

K.C. Joyner is calling the 49ers' offense overrated Insider while pointing to diminished run blocking, the absence of a downfield passing threat and questions on special teams in explaining why San Francisco is vulnerable.

What kind of respect is this for the team that stood No. 1 in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings three weeks ago?

ESPN's Tedy Bruschi and Herm Edwards made their Packers-49ers picks in the video above. One of them did pick the 49ers. I'll make my guesses Friday, as usual.

Gruden: Brad Johnson deserves respect

December, 7, 2012
There has been a lot of reflection this week as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get ready to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their Super Bowl victory.

Many of the players and coaches will be back in town to be honored as the Bucs host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Much of the hype about the event has focused on guys like Ronde Barber, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Alstott and Jon Gruden, who coached that team.

Speaking of Gruden, click this link and then play the video of him talking about the championship season. The first thing Gruden talks about is how he thinks quarterback Brad Johnson didn’t get the respect he deserved.

That’s an excellent point. Johnson is kind of the forgotten man of that team. That’s understandable because he was surrounded by some big-time names and much of the focus was on the defense. But Johnson quietly had a nice season and gave the Bucs the kind of quarterback play that predecessors Shaun King and Trent Dilfer didn’t.

Johnson led the NFC with a 92.9 passer rating while completing 62.3 percent of his passes. He also set what was then a team record with 22 touchdown passes and, at one point, threw 187 consecutive passes without an interception.

It’s hard for a quarterback to get overshadowed, but that’s exactly what happened to Johnson. As the Bucs celebrate their big weekend, let’s think about what Johnson did that year and give him the respect he earned.
The St. Louis Rams found a player fitting the mold of a No. 1 wide receiver.

Appalachian State's Brian Quick, chosen 33rd overall as the 2012 NFL draft entered its second round, fits the profile. He's 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds -- more in line with wide receivers selected among the top few overall choices. Quick lasted until the 33rd pick because he's raw, from a smaller program and lacking elite speed.

"Former hoops standout and high-jumper has had to endure four positional coaches in four years and would be best with simplified assignments, but possesses a unique combination of body length, hand-eye coordinator, hand strength and leaping ability," Nolan Nawrocki wrote for Pro Football Weekly's draft preview.

The Rams watched Jacksonville select Justin Blackmon fifth overall, one spot ahead of where the Rams were picking. Then, after trading down, they watched Arizona select the next wide receiver, Michael Floyd.

Blackmon and Floyd were the highest-rated receivers in the draft, but there was no consensus either qualified as a clear No. 1 wideout. The Rams traded back, took defensive tackle Michael Brockers at No. 14 and then watched the San Francisco 49ers use the 27th overall choice for A.J. Jenkins, a player the Rams had rated not far behind Blackmon, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Blackmon, 6-1 and 207, did not fit the physical profile for wide receivers considered elite enough for teams to to draft among the top three overall choices (see chart). Quick fits that profile -- starts, but no guarantee he'll turn into that type of player.
The St. Louis Rams' need for a wide receiver has not diminished in recent days.

But would the team really trade up two spots in the 2012 NFL draft to select Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon with the fourth overall choice? I do not think that is likely, but a recent report caught my attention.

"Rams and Eagles among about four teams interested in trading up to No. 4 with Browns, sources say," a headline in the Cleveland Plain Dealer said Friday.

The story itself says nothing about the Rams expressing a specific interest in acquiring that choice to select Blackmon or anyone else. It refers to public comments from Rams coach Jeff Fisher suggesting Cleveland could be one potential trading partner.

"At the NFL owners meetings last month, Fisher said he'd consider trading up with the Browns depending on what they wanted in return," the story said. "He didn't specify which player he'd trade up for, but the Rams are believed to have interest in Blackmon. Fisher re-iterated Friday that he'll trade up, down or stay where he is."

If the Rams absolutely had to have Blackmon or any one player in this draft, they could have held onto the No. 2 overall choice. Instead, they traded that pick to Washington with an eye toward building for the long term. They are in position to choose from a group that could include Blackmon, tackle Matt Kalil, cornerback Morris Claiborne, running back Trent Richardson and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, among others.

We've discussed whether Blackmon would be worthy of such an early choice and, earlier, how the 6-foot-1, 207-pound prospect compares physically to wideouts drafted among the top three selections.

I've noticed a differentiation in physical attributes and career success among receivers based upon standing within the first round.

The first chart shows wide receivers drafted among the top three overall choices since 1990. All were at least 6-3. They averaged 220 pounds. Five of the six have been selected to a Pro Bowl as a wide receiver (as opposed to a returner).

The second chart shows receivers drafted fourth through sixth overall, also since 1990. Half were at least 6-3. They averaged 205 pounds. Two are just getting started, making it premature to evaluate their careers. One of the other four, Torry Holt, earned Pro Bowl honors as a wide receiver.

Just about everywhere you look or listen there is speculation the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be in hot pursuit of wide receiver Vincent Jackson.

It makes sense on many levels, starting with the facts that the Bucs need a true No. 1 receiver and Jackson probably is the best available in free agency. There’s likely to be competition from Chicago and Washington and perhaps some other teams. The San Diego Chargers are also holding out a bit of hope that they can re-sign Jackson.

[+] EnlargeChargers' Vincent Jackson
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIREVincent Jackson, a proven No. 1 receiver, could help the Bucs win more games in the NFC South.
But the Chargers will only do that if his price tag is somewhere around $11 million a season. If it gets higher than that, he likely will walk and Tampa Bay’s a very logical place for one of the top members of this free-agent class.

The Bucs have about $43 million in salary-cap space and it’s become increasingly clear the Bucs want to do everything possible to put quarterback Josh Freeman in position to succeed. Jackson certainly would help in that regard.

At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Jackson may not sound like the deep threat so many think the Bucs need. But Jackson is a bit of a freak of nature when it comes to his speed, plus he uses his strength to get separation.

Just look at his numbers when it comes to yards per catch. Last season, Jackson averaged 18.4 yards per catch. That’s the second-highest total of his career and the highest (19.7) came in his rookie season when he was used as a third receiver.

That shows Jackson isn’t losing a step, which is a concern for a receiver who just turned 29. It looks like Jackson has several good years left and the Bucs shouldn’t let their infamous history of bringing in receivers scare them off. Jackson’s not Alvin Harper or Bert Emanuel, guys that were No. 2 receivers elsewhere that the Bucs thought could emerge as No. 1 guys. Jackson also isn’t Keyshawn Johnson, Joey Galloway or Antonio Bryant, guys who produced in the short term, but, for various reasons, didn’t last in the long term.

Jackson is a proven No. 1 receiver. Although he had some off-field problems, those appear to be behind him and teammates and media members who have covered him say Jackson doesn’t have the “diva’’ personality so many receivers do. He’s described as very quiet and always has been liked by his coaches.

If the Bucs are going to get Jackson, it likely will cost them around $12-$13 million a year. That’s a lot, but the Bucs have indicated they’re ready to spend money after going lightly in free agency in recent years.

Jackson is the one guy out there that seems like a sure thing. Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace is a restricted free agent and I don’t think the Bucs are looking to give up draft picks. New Orleans Marques Colston isn’t a speed guy and he’s been banged up at times in the past.

If the Bucs don’t get Jackson, then they need to look in a different direction.

Robert Meachem (Saints), Mario Manningham (Giants) and Laurent Robinson (Cowboys) are guys that can stretch the field, but none of them is a true No. 1 receiver, although they'd come at a much lower price tag than Jackson. But even adding a speed guy could make it easier for Tampa Bay’s current group of receivers – Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, Dezmon Briscoe, Preston Parker and Sammie Stroughter — to get open.

Why Blackmon might not fit second overall

February, 25, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- Justin Blackmon's credentials make him a high first-round prospect in the 2012 NFL draft.

How high? Would the St. Louis Rams take him second overall?

History suggests Blackmon doesn't fit the physical profile for wide receivers selected among the top three overall choices. That feeds into the thinking St. Louis might trade back from the No. 2 overall selection before taking the talented wideout from Oklahoma State.

NFL scouting combine officials measured Blackmon at 6 feet and seven-eighths of an inch. Blackmon weighed 207 pounds. The height will round to 6-foot-1, plenty tall to play wide receiver in the NFL, but quite a bit shorter than the wideouts teams have selected among the top three overall choices since 1985: Calvin Johnson, Braylon Edwards, Larry Fitzgerald, Charles Rogers, Andre Johnson and Keyshawn Johnson.

Four additional receivers come under consideration when we expand the range to players drafted among the top five overall choices. A.J. Green (6-4), Peter Warrick (5-11), Michael Westbrook (6-3) and Desmond Howard (5-10) were selected fourth overall since 1985.

Height isn't everything in a wide receiver, but those drafted earliest have generally been taller and heavier than Blackmon. Will that apply to Blackmon as well? On a side note, he isn't running at the combine after suffering a hamstring injury last week.
ESPN's famous NFC West alumnus, Steve Young, calls the retiring Randy Moss one of the all-time greats ... but also someone who should have challenged Jerry Rice.

"Jerry got every ounce out of everything that he had, every day," Young said. "If we had gotten all of Randy Moss every year, all his whole career, I think he'd be knocking on the door of Jerry Rice."

Moss ranked second only to Rice in the 2008 piece we put together ranking the greatest receivers. Raymond Berry, Boyd Dowler, Mike Holmgren, Ken Houston, Warren Moon, Keyshawn Johnson and Ted Thompson were panelists.

Jon Baldwin is not Kansas City coach Todd Haley’s first rodeo when it comes to dealing with difficult receivers.

A lot has been made about the Kansas City Chiefs drafting the receiver with the No. 26 overall pick. The Pittsburgh receiver earned a reputation for being difficult in college.

Haley has dealt with several receivers who were known for being “divas.” Thus, because of Baldwin’s potential -- he’s 6-foot-5, 230 pounds and can make the spectacular catch -- and Haley’s history of working with these types of players, it could be a worthwhile risk.

Here is a look at Haley’s history of working with receivers:
  • In the late 1990s, Haley coached the Jets receivers. Under Haley’s guidance, Keyshawn Johnson thrived and made the Pro Bowl. Johnson went on to have some difficult relationships with coaches later in his career, but Johnson and Haley remain close.
  • As receiver coach in Dallas, from 2004-2006, Haley had to deal with two known difficult receivers, Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens. Both players succeed under Haley despite having their issues.
  • As Arizona’s offensive coordinator, Haley had a classic sideline blowup with receiver Anquan Boldin during the NFC championship game against Philadelphia. Haley and Boldin downplayed the incident and along with star Larry Fitzgerald, Boldin excelled in Haley’s system.
  • In 2009, in his first season in Kansas City, Haley clashed with Chiefs’ receiver Dwayne Bowe in training camp. Bowe spent much of the season in Haley’s doghouse. Yet, in 2010, Bowe responded to Haley’s tough love and become a Pro Bowl player.

Baldwin is entering a situation in which he will be challenged and if he revolts, it won’t be anything new for his head coach. He’ll be able to handle it.
Jeremy ShockeyMark J. Rebilas/US PresswireWill Jeremy Shockey stunt or nurture the Carolina Panthers' youth movement?
Tight end Jeremy Shockey has said he’s signing with the Carolina Panthers. This move has all sorts of implications for the Panthers and Shockey.

Let’s take a look at what it all means.

  1. Is this a sign that owner Jerry Richardson is abandoning years of making it a point to stay clear of guys with character issues? Probably not and I don’t think new coach Ron Rivera has much more influence than predecessor John Fox did in this department. Yeah, the Panthers might be pushing things a bit by signing a flamboyant tight end who has been followed by controversy throughout much of his career. But, if you really look at Shockey’s track record, it’s not like he’s had a slew of major legal issues. I don’t think this is going to suddenly open the gates for the Panthers to jump up and sign Plaxico Burress as soon as he gets out of jail. Shockey’s issues have been more about personality than legal problems. He can be outspoken, controversial and he’s always going to want the football. There’s no crime in any of that.
  2. [+] EnlargeJeremy Shockey
    AP Photo/Gerald HerbertJeremy Shockey should give the Carolina passing game an extra dimension.
    Can we interpret this move to mean anything about Carolina’s plans at quarterback? Yeah, I think you can read some things between the lines. My take is this is another sign the Panthers probably won’t draft Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert. Shockey used to bully a young Eli Manning when they were together with the Giants. Put him with Carolina receiver Steve Smith and their competitive desires and outspoken natures could make life real difficult for a young quarterback. I’m thinking trading for or signing a veteran like Donovan McNabb or Carson Palmer, who reportedly could be available, would make for a better situation. Shockey was relatively well behaved in New Orleans because the Saints have basically one rule: You don't mess with Drew Brees because it's his team. Shockey followed that rule.
  3. Can Smith and Shockey coexist? Flip a coin here and we may not know the answer until well into late next season. Like I said, both are strong personalities and both want the ball, so there is potential for them to clash. Smith clashed badly with Keyshawn Johnson in the one season they spent together and wasn’t exactly a warm influence with young receivers like Dwayne Jarrett and Keary Colbert in the past. But the bottom line is that these two guys really want to win and if each can see that side of the other, this thing could work. Besides, we’re not even sure if Smith will be with the Panthers next season. Rivera’s made it clear that situation is fluid and much of it will be up to Smith. But adding another threat in the passing game might help persuade Smith to stay.
  4. Will there be enough passes to go around? Rivera has been very vocal about wanting the tight end to be a big part of the passing game. The Panthers haven’t had anything remotely close to that since Wesley Walls, nearly a decade ago. This is a sign Rivera’s serious about that. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski was Shockey’s tight ends coach at the University of Miami a long time ago. Again, a lot will depend on what happens at quarterback, but I don’t think Shockey would be signing with the Panthers if he wasn’t sold that the tight end is going to be a big part of Carolina’s passing game.
  5. What does this say about Carolina’s youth movement? The Panthers went through most of last season with only four players who were 30 or older. I don’t think they’re suddenly abandoning the youth movement and I don’t think you’ll see them sign a bunch of veterans. I think this move is sort of like the character thing above. The Panthers might be bending some of their old rules just a bit to help speed the youth movement along. But, given Shockey’s age and durability issues, I wouldn’t look for him to suddenly be an 80-catch, 1,000-receiving yard tight end. I think he’ll be more of a role player. He’ll be a tight end who will be expected to go out and catch some passes and help add a little variety to the passing game.
Yep, I know I wrote Saturday in a mailbag that I don’t see veteran tight end Jeremy Shockey joining the Carolina Panthers. And, yes, I know it was reported late Saturday night that the Panthers are bringing Shockey in for a physical.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Shockey
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireTight end Jeremy Shockey had 41 catches and three touchdowns last season with New Orleans.
I could end up being wrong, but I’m sticking with my original statement. The Panthers will bring Shockey in for a physical, but I really don’t see it turning into a contract.

I’m basing this on what I know of Shockey, who spent the past few seasons in the NFC South with the New Orleans Saints. I’m also basing this largely on what I know about how the Panthers think.

Now, I know they’ve got a new coach in Ron Rivera and a new offensive coordinator in Rob Chudzinski. Rivera has been open about saying the Panthers need a pass-catching tight end, and Chuzdkinski was an assistant at the University of Miami when Shockey was there.

Situations like that often times are reason enough for courtesy visits, and this might be nothing more than that. It also could be an exploratory physical, just to find out where Shockey’s health stands (it has been a question much of his career), so the Panthers have an idea as they go through the process of looking at all the options for a pass-catching tight end.

Shockey reportedly passed a physical with the Dolphins, and I can see him in Miami a lot easier than I can see him in Carolina. Again, I think the new-age Panthers simply might be doing some homework on a guy who at least one of their coaches has some ties to. Besides, the Panthers would have to do something before the end of the day March 3, because a lockout is expected March 4. If there is a lockout, no players, can be signed until the labor situation is resolved.

But it’s the old-school Panthers that make it tough for me to see this developing into anything of substance. I’m talking about owner Jerry Richardson and general manager Marty Hurney. Unless they’ve undergone sudden personality changes or handed total control of the team to Rivera (and I don’t think that’s the case), signing Shockey simply doesn’t fit their style.

Hurney and Richardson started a youth movement last season, and Shockey, 30, doesn’t fit that profile. He has more wear and tear on his body than most 30-year-olds, and hasn’t been as productive as he was in recent seasons. I’d even make the argument that if you took current Carolina tight ends Jeff King and Dante Rosario and put them in a tight-end-friendly offense, they’d be more productive than Shockey.

I think the Panthers get their tight end somewhere else in free agency or the draft. There are a lot of other reasons why Shockey doesn’t fit the profile of Richardson and Hurney. First off, he’s flamboyant, and flamboyant generally doesn’t fly with Fox and Hurney. Second, although Shockey behaved (other than some hydration issues) in New Orleans, I think that was only because he knew better than to challenge quarterback Drew Brees.

In his days with the New York Giants, Shockey flat-out abused quarterback Eli Manning, who doesn’t have the locker-room control Brees does. Shockey was constantly calling for the ball and steamrolling Manning.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Panthers don’t have any quarterbacks right now who command respect. Maybe they bring in a Donovan McNabb or a Carson Palmer and that changes. Even those veterans have been pushed around in the past, McNabb by Terrell Owens and Palmer by Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson.

But, unless the Panthers trade receiver Steve Smith, they already have one very strong-willed pass catcher. Smith openly clashed with rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen last season. Smith also doesn’t have a history of being real generous when it comes to sharing the spotlight or the ball.

The season he and equally flamboyant Keyshawn Johnson were together was a disaster on and off the field. In the locker room, Smith shot dirty looks at reporters when they talked to Johnson, and it also worked in reverse. When Smith was paired with young receivers like Dwayne Jarrett and Keary Colbert, he walked all over them and was probably part of the reason they were busts.

Putting Smith and Shockey in the same locker room and on the same field has all sorts of downside potential. Even if Smith goes in a trade, I just don’t see this happening, knowing what I know about Richardson and Hurney. At best, Shockey would be nothing more than a short-term fix. At worst, he wouldn’t add much on the field, and could be a distraction off it. Besides, I think if Shockey has any real choice between the Dolphins and Panthers, the night life in Miami and Charlotte becomes a factor, and South Beach has a big edge there.

But maybe I’ll end up being wrong. Maybe Rivera and Chudzinski have more power than previous coach John Fox, and maybe they can convince the owner and the general manager to stop being conservative and take a chance. But I seriously doubt it.




Sunday, 2/2