NFL Nation: Melvin Fowler
Fowler didn't last. The Cardinals cut him. Detroit signed him. Fowler still hasn't played in an NFL game since 2008.
That context should help Rams fans from getting too excited about the team's addition of former Bills tight end Derek Fine, recently claimed off waivers. Fine's addition is still a move worth monitoring, based on the potential he has shown when healthy. Unlike Fowler, an older player with 60 regular-season starts, Fine has played in only 18 games over two NFL seasons.
Before a knee injury ended Fine's 2009 season, Allen Wilson of the Buffalo News had this to say about him:
"Fine gives the Bills a bigger and more physical body at tight end than (Derek) Schouman or (Shawn) Nelson offers. A 6-foot-3, 250-pounder, Fine should be an asset in the running game because he is a tenacious run blocker who plays with good strength, leverage and technique at the point of attack. He's also an underrated receiver. He doesn't have the same burst to separate from defenders like Schouman or the speed and raw athleticism that Nelson possesses. But Fine has very reliable hands, runs good routes and has shown the ability to make himself an available target by finding soft spots in coverage."
The Rams were happy with backup tight end Billy Bajema, late of the 49ers, last season. They probably need to replace Randy McMichael, who is scheduled to become a free agent. Fine, a fourth-round pick in 2008, helps their numbers at the position while giving them another prospect to develop.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Biggest surprise: There weren't any big ones. Undrafted rookie linebacker Reggie Walker did beat out veteran Victor Hobson. The team kept seven receivers for now, including Lance Long, after injuries affected Early Doucet, Anquan Boldin and (previously) Steve Breaston. I would not expect the Cardinals to keep seven receivers all season, a reminder that this is the team's initial 53-man roster, not the final one.
Arizona sought to upgrade its secondary through the draft and free agency. That spelled the end for veteran safety Aaron Francisco. I thought the team might keep veteran center Melvin Fowler as insurance. Rookie returner LaRod Stephens-Howling stuck around, costing fullback Tim Castille a chance to continue with the team. Tight end Leonard Pope's demise had been on the horizon for a while and it was a bad sign when he was playing deep into the second half of the fourth exhibition game.
No-brainers: The team also released quarterback Tyler Palko, receiver Steve Sanders, receiver Ed Gant, cornerback Wilrey Fontenot, running back Chris Vincent, cornerback Jameel Dowling, fullback Reagan Maui'a, guard Trevor Canfield guard Carlton Medder, defensive end Alex Field, defensive tackle Keilen Dykes, tackle Oliver Ross, receiver Onrea Jones, defensive tackle Rodney Leisle, linebacker Chase Bullock and linebacker David Holloway. Canfield, chosen in the seventh-round, was the only 2009 draft choice released.
What's next: The heirarchy at tight end will continue to shake out, with Dominique Byrd essentially getting an extended tryout while Ben Patrick serves a four-game suspension. The team still could use a backup center with some experience.
The Bills knocked on Wood with the No. 28 pick they received from the Philadelphia Eagles in the Jason Peters trade. Wood was considered the second-best center in the draft behind California's Alex Mack, who went No. 21 to the Cleveland Browns.
Bills coach Dick Jauron said the Bills will keep free-agent acquisition Geoff Hangartner, who also can play both positions, at center. The Bills allowed both of last year's centers Duke Preston and Melvin Fowler to walk via free agency.
"We see Hangartner as our center," Jauron said. "Eric will come in, we'll plug him in at guard and see how that goes.
"We're very optimistic about that. We really like his play, like his demeanor, like his toughness, like his intelligence. He gives us depth at two positions at the very least.
"We were kind of holding our breath when it came close to that pick and ultimately he got there."
Wood measured 6-foot-4 and 304 pounds at the combine. He started 49 straight games at center for Louisville, but he played guard in the Senior Bowl and said he has no qualms about switching for the Bills.
Many thought the Bills had to replace Peters, but they needed to rebuild the left side of their line. Not only did they trade their two-time Pro Bowl left tackle, but they also cut their high-priced left guard, Derrick Dockery.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The team has signed former Denver tackle Erik Pears and is visiting with Buffalo center Melvin Fowler. The Raiders are also reportedly visiting with quarterback Charlie Frye and tackle Ray Willis, who both played for Seattle last season.
Oakland is clearly trying to upgrade its offensive line and create some competition at several positions. Frye could be a potential backup option behind JaMarcus Russell in Oakland.
Meanwhile, free agent guard Cooper Carlisle is talking to several teams including Oakland. A deal could come this week.
INDIANAPOLIS -- With center a focal point for the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills, I had the opportunity Sunday to ask NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock what he thought of the position after seeing them work out at the scouting combine.
Mayock notes the best of this year's center class are Oregon's Max Unger, Louisville's Eric Wood, California's Alex Mack, Penn State's A.Q. Shipley, Alabama's Antoine Caldwell and TCU's Blake Schlueter.
"We didn't get to see Mack, who I really wanted to see a little bit. Wood from Louisville, he's not a fast guy. I didn't expect him to be a fast guy. I think I know what he is. I think Wood and Unger, to me, are the two top centers in the draft.
"But it's a really deep position. I can keep going down that list. I've got A.Q. Shipley from Penn State, who a lot of teams don't like because he has the shortest arms at the combine. Every time I put the tap on, A.Q. Shipley's a good football player. Antoine Caldwell from Alabama, are you kidding me? He had a great Senior Bowl, a better player than I thought. A kid that wasn't even invited here, Blake Schlueter from TCU. I think he can play in the NFL.
"I think the tight end/H-back group, the center group and the outside linebacker group are three of the strongest groups in this draft."
I followed up by asking if any center was worth a first round pick this year:
"At the end of the first round, if you're a playoff team and your guy is not there, you wanted so-and-so and so-and-so's not there. You've got to have a guy in your back pocket that's probably more of a second-round guy that you know can be a starter, that won't give you any problems and he's going to be good value for the money.
"A lot of times those centers and guards that are the top guys at their position, a high second-round pick, they end up getting [drafted late in the first round]. An Unger or a Mack or a Wood wouldn't surprise me. I got them all in the second round, but if one of those guys jumped up it wouldn't surprise me."
Bills coach Dick Jauron already has ruled out starting cornerback Terrence McGee, who suffered a knee injury in Week 4. Another cornerback, Ashton Youbouty, is listed as questionable with a sore foot.
"He is very limited in team [drills] and very limited in the look-squad stuff," Jauron said of Youboty. "So we're just trying to get him through it. Again, we'll just have to see how that thing feels at game time."
That should be troubling for Bills fans. The Chargers have the No. 8 ranked passing offense and are coming off a game in which Philip Rivers targeted the New England Patriots corners for several long gains. Rivers threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns. He did so without Chris Chambers, who's listed as doubtful for Sunday.
Asked if the Bills will need to get creative in how they line up in the secondary, Jauron simply replied "Absolutely."Listed as questionable on the Bills' injury report are Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Schobel (foot) and starting center Melvin Fowler (elbow). Duke Preston would start if Fowler can't go.
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