NFL Nation: NFL draft 2010

INDIANAPOLIS -- Seven NFL figures with ties to current NFC West franchises head toward Saturday as finalists for the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.

Cortez Kennedy, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Kevin Greene, Charles Haley and Aeneas Williams spent all or much of their careers with franchises currently in the division. Jerome Bettis and Chris Doleman spent shorter stretches with current NFC West franchises.

I'll be among the 44 selectors trying to single out the five best candidates for enshrinement with the class of 2012.

710ESPN Seattle hosts Dave Grosby and Bob Stelton inquired about Kennedy's chances during our latest conversation Tuesday. That audio is here. In my view, more than five candidates deserve enshrinement in a typical year. That means worthy candidates must wait. Predicting how the voting will go becomes a futile pursuit.

2010 NFL Draft: NFC West player updates

October, 8, 2010
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St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is commanding most of the attention among NFC West rookies.

A quick look at Bradford and the division's other 2010 draft choices through Week 4:

Arizona Cardinals: First-round nose tackle Dan Williams was named inactive Sunday after failing to make weight requirements. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Williams got the message. Arizona has drafted its share of disappointing nose tackles. It's too early to know whether Williams will break the trend.


St. Louis Rams: The Rams' offensive line struggled in its only road game this season. Let's see whether rookie left tackle Rodger Saffold fares better at Detroit in Week 5. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui practiced some this week for the first time since suffering a high-ankle sprain. He could become a factor if the ankle allows.


San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers' top six picks are already making positive contributions. Coaches trusted Anthony Dixon on a third-and-1 carry against Atlanta in Week 4. Dixon picked up the first down. He scored a touchdown against New Orleans on his first carry this season.


Seattle Seahawks: Left tackle Russell Okung started but did not finish the St. Louis game. He's still working his way back from a high-ankle sprain. Walter Thurmond did not play even in a nickel or dime role when Marcus Trufant was cleared following an ankle injury, a bit of a surprise. Thurmond had worked as the starter in practice, so he might have faced a difficult adjustment to a more specialized role on game day.

2010 NFL Draft: NFC West player updates

September, 11, 2010
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NFC West teams are relying on 2010 draft choices to varying degrees.

I'll update their statuses here before heading to the airport for a longer-than-usual travel day (no direct flights to St. Louis).

Will check back on the blog as time permits.

Enjoy your Saturday.

Let's start with the Cardinals. They've got one starter from their rookie class. Seventh-rounder Jim Dray earned a spot in part because he factors on special teams, making him a better value than Anthony Becht in the team's eyes, particularly with Stephen Spach contributing. Andre Roberts struggled, as rookie receivers often do, and it's unclear how much Arizona will get from him as a return specialist. Williams should play right away.


The Rams are counting on their first two 2010 picks to man the two most important positions on offense. No pressure, Sam Bradford or Rodger Saffold. I'm interested in seeing how much the rookie tight ends transform that position this season. The team needs life at tight end, no question.


The 49ers have moved both first-round offensive linemen into the starting lineup. Neither has disappointed. There will be growing pains, most likely, but the 49ers upgraded the talent level of their line from Week 1.


Losing Okung indefinitely to an ankle injury was a downer for Seattle, but the team will likely get him back early in the season. Okung was looking good and should stabilize the position. Thurmond outperformed expectations, making Josh Wilson expendable in the Seahawks' eyes. This rookie class should play more extensively than most.


Experience teaches restraint when deciding how much energy to spend worrying about when NFL draft choices will sign.

Most sign before training camps open. Some sign shortly after training camps open. A few sign later.

Sam Bradford's signing status is the one that matters most in the NFC West -- and in the NFL -- this season. But as Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says in the video, it's an upset if he's not in camp soon.

Bills' draft pick Wang made for this moment

May, 6, 2010
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Ed WangSean Meyers/Icon SMIFifth-round pick Ed Wang could become the first full-blooded Chinese player to make an NFL roster.
Robert and Nancy Wang were determined to produce an athlete.

Even before their firstborn was conceived, they had plans. They were members of the Chinese track and field team but emigrated because they knew training methods and opportunities were superior in the U.S. The Wangs had a son, and when he was 6 they started him on speed work. He lifted weights when he was 10.

The NBA was their dream, but that was dashed before he entered high school. They traveled back to the motherland for bone scans to predict his height. The results were disappointing, but not derailing.

If they couldn't manufacture a basketball player, then they would concentrate on football.

And if football didn't work out, then they would've switched to track and field or to hockey or to powerlifting or to the Iditarod.

"They've had my back 100 percent ever since I was a little kid," Ed Wang said of his parents. "I could have moved to Alaska and they would have followed me there and trained me."

Thankfully, the Wangs' vision quest didn't come to that. The switch from hoops to football sufficed.

Two weeks ago, the Buffalo Bills drafted Ed Wang, an offensive tackle from Virginia Tech, in the fifth round. If he makes the roster as expected he will become the first full-blooded Chinese player in NFL history.

It is very important to him and to us to change the history of the NFL.

-- Robert Wang, father of Buffalo Bills' fifth-round pick Ed Wang
"We're really proud of this kid," Robert Wang said. "He's been working hard since he was very little, setting his goal with us. He always keep it in his mind what needs to be done. It is very important to him and to us to change the history of the NFL."

Ed Wang will strap on his Bills helmet for the first time Friday, when new head coach Chan Gailey conducts the first rookie camp.

For the Wang family it will be a milestone in validating the master plan they set forth two decades ago and continue with Ed's little brother, David Wang, a redshirt freshman guard at Virginia Tech.

"Ed understands how important this was for his parents." Robert Wang said. "We came from China to the States with our goal that our kids were going to be athletes.

"We educated them since a very early age. We always told them 'You have potential to be athletes, whether it's football or basketball or shot put. You're going to be athletes. To be among the top athletes, it's going to take a lot of effort.' So we've been teaching them since they were very young: 'If you want to get a better life, better results for your future, you better work hard at an early age.' They understand this."

As obsessed as Robert and Nancy Wang might seem to ordinary folks, they probably shouldn't be confused with overbearing parents such as Marv Marinovich or Mike Agassi, men who drove their sons to greatness and then to the brink with obsessive methods applied in the cradle.

Todd Marinovich is the ultimate cautionary tale of a father pushing his son too hard to be a great athlete. Marv Marinovich had a great career at USC but flamed out in the NFL. So he bred his son to be an NFL star for him.

That doesn't seem to be the case with the Wangs, even though Robert and Nancy left China without being able to compete in the Olympics.

"I'm grateful that they did it because what I went through as a child, a lot of the stuff that I did was harder than anything I've done even at college or high school," Ed Wang said.

"This is what we've been working for ever since I was a little kid. I can say 'we' because they have been a part of this journey since Day 1. My parents remind me to keep striving and keep working."

Robert Wang was a high jumper with a personal best of 7 feet, 2 inches, but he claimed Nancy was the star. He called her a "dominant" 100-meter hurdler, China's greatest. She should've appeared in two Olympics, but didn't. She was denied that opportunity in the 1980 Moscow Games because of the international boycott protesting the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. She suffered an injury before the 1984 Los Angeles Games and couldn't participate.

Ed Wang insisted he has no knowledge of his parents' track exploits. They've never been discussed, and he never has been compelled to ask.

While some might be alarmed by the Wangs' training philosophies for children, there are cultural reasons for them.

Dr. George T. Haley, author of "The Chinese Tao of Business" and professor at the University of New Haven (Conn.), explained competition is paramount in Asian cultures. Haley mentioned, for example, the gratitude speedskater Apolo Ohno shows for his Japanese father's rigid training demands at an early age.

"Winning is tremendously important to Asian cultures in general," Haley said. "If an individual is successful, then the way you got there was acceptable. It proves their moral worth to be successful."

Also to consider: Ed Wang's parents were products of a national sports program that identifies star athletes at an early age and isolates them for training purposes.

"They're surrounded by nothing but other kids being trained to be Olympic athletes," Haley said. "It's all they know, people training for world competition."

[+] EnlargeEd Wang
Chris Keane/Icon SMIEd Wang says he won't be content just making the Bills' roster. "If I don't play, it's not going to matter if I was the first Chinese-American player in the NFL because I didn't do anything."
Ed Wang's parents haven't steered him wrong yet.

Those bone scans performed for the Chinese junior national basketball program before Wang's freshman year of high school proved correct. Wang did grow to be 6-foot-5, inadequate for a center, the position he'd played almost since he learned to dribble. It was too late in his development to learn a new position. There aren't many 300-pound point guards anyway.

With the concentration shifted to football, Ed Wang's opponents went from delivering racial insults to respecting him -- even fearing him. He became a star tight end and defensive lineman at Stone Bridge High in Virginia and earned several scholarship offers. Parents started asking Robert Wang to train their kids.

"I can tell in high school, the first year, lots of other kids saw him and me working a lot," Robert Wang said. "I noticed coaches had different feelings, so I left them alone. I didn't push them. Sophomore year, Ed got a scholarship offer, and everybody understands what I did for Ed was worth the work.

"Ever since then I've been working with high school kids left and right. They recognized. I don't see any criticism from parents. A lot of parents don't know the sport or know what needs to be done. They don't understand what we're doing until they see the results."

The Bills might turn out to be most indebted to Robert Wang's tutelage. They've needed help at tackle for three years and surrendered 46 sacks last year.

Ed Wang was the first offensive tackle the Bills drafted since 2008, and the earliest they've drafted one since they took Mike Williams fourth overall in 2002.

Ed Wang said he thinks he'll remain at left tackle. If so, then he will compete with incumbent starter Demetrius Bell, who is coming off a knee injury.

Breaking into the starting lineup in many ways is more important to Ed Wang than making NFL history. While his Chinese heritage is tremendously important to him, he knows if he doesn't establish himself as a football player, his notable entry will be rendered a football footnote.

Yao Ming, the NBA's first Chinese star, wouldn't be a national hero if he were riding the pine in Houston.

"I wouldn't mind people knowing me as the first Chinese-American football player," Ed Wang said, "but when it comes down to it I have to perform for the Buffalo Bills.

"My objective is to be a football player in the NFL. If I don't play, it's not going to matter if I was the first Chinese-American player in the NFL because I didn't do anything. My perspective is I have to accomplish something first."

NFL interview coach: No question off-limits

April, 29, 2010
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Dez BryantAP Photo/Tom PenningtonJeff Ireland's question to Dez Bryant (above) has stirred debate over NFL interview techniques, but former personnel director Ken Herock thinks teams should be able to ask players whatever they want.
Ken Herock's business is preparing prospects for NFL interviews.

He's not interested in 40-yard dash times or bench press repetitions. His mission is training college kids to make an impression when it's time to shake hands with general managers, scouts and head coaches before the draft.

The former NFL personnel director grooms them to be ready for anything because no subject is off the table -- not even questions about whether your mother is a hooker.

"I don't feel there are any topics off-limits," Herock said Thursday afternoon. "If anybody thinks they're off-limits, put yourself in the eyes of an employer that's going to hire a 21-year-old and pay him $15 million or $20 million."

Herock finds nary a problem with the controversial question Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland posed to Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant in a pre-draft interview.

Ireland asked if Bryant's mother was a prostitute. She has served 18 months in prison for selling crack and had admitted to abusing PCP, cocaine and marijuana.

"If somebody just comes out and says 'We hear your mom's a prostitute. Can you explain that situation to me?' I don't think there's anything offensive asking that question," Herock said.

Herock has serious credentials on the matter. He played as an AFL tight end for six seasons and has been a personnel executive for the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers.

What's this big issue about? Big deal. I would want to know those things, and how do you find out unless you ask?

-- Former personnel director Ken Herock
For the past nine years Herock has trained players to make a golden first impression on NFL personnel evaluators in pre-draft interviews. Herock has worked with more than 600 players. A dozen, including University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson and Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, were selected in the first round last week.

"I deal with this constantly," Herock said. "I have players whose parents are on drugs, are in jail, abandoned them, kicked them out of the house. I have to make sure my player is prepared to handle that in the right way when they're asked.

"I'm addressing these issues beforehand so they know how to answer every issue that's brought up to them."

Ireland's question to Bryant was revealed in a Yahoo! Sports column Tuesday. Ireland called Bryant to apologize after the story was published, and the Dolphins released a statement on Ireland's behalf.

On Wednesday, the NFL Players Association issued a statement critical of Ireland, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross issued a statement to say the club would conduct an internal review and the NFL admonished Ireland's question as crude.

"What's this big issue about? Big deal," Herock said. "I would want to know those things, and how do you find out unless you ask?

"But it sounded offensive, asking that question the way it was asked. Maybe he came on real strong, but before I would ask that question, I would know for sure that she was. I wouldn't go on any hearsay. I don't think it's offensive to ask that if there was truth to it, but before I asked, I would make sure there was validity."

Another former NFL executive doesn't wonder why the question is such a big story. What puzzles him is why pre-draft interviews have gotten to be so consequential in the first place.

"I can never remember us or anybody else turning down a player based on a good interview," said Larry Lacewell, the Dallas Cowboys scouting director for 13 years.

Lacewell's tenure spanned from Jimmy Johnson to Bill Parcells. Ireland worked as a national scout under Lacewell for four seasons.

"We didn't take a player just because he had a good interview, and we sure as hell didn't turn one down because of a bad interview," Lacewell said. "These kids either come in there nervous and scared or like trained dogs.

"If you had depended on [11-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman] Larry Allen for an interview, you might not have hired him as a janitor. I'd love to hear from a team that didn't draft Larry Allen because he couldn't talk."

Bryant was considered the best receiver in this year's draft, but some believed he slid because he interviewed poorly.

As it would turn out, the Dolphins filled their need at receiver by acquiring Brandon Marshall from the Denver Broncos and traded out of their original draft position at No. 12. The Cowboys drafted Bryant with the 24th overall pick.

"There's a certain way to ask questions, and I think [Ireland] asked with the wrong approach," Herock said. "But I would have prepared my player to answer that question to where it wouldn't be offensive to him.

"They already know about his family. They just want to see how he reacts and how he's going to explain it and how he's going to handle it.

"I don't think that question was out of line."

How I See It: NFC East Stock Watch

April, 29, 2010
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

The New York Giants' veteran defensive linemen: No matter how Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese choose to spin it, this draft was an indictment of some of the players on the Giants' defensive line. Reese signed defensive tackles Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty to lucrative free-agent contracts last offseason and neither player had any production. They were banged up for much of the season, but the Giants didn't want to wait around and see if they healed in 2010. And we all know the story of defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who saw his star fade significantly last season. His late-season benching has led to an offseason of unrest. The Giants have said Umenyiora won't be traded, but it's not like they're in a hurry to return him to the starting lineup.

The Giants had a huge need at middle linebacker, but they didn't let that dictate the first couple of rounds of the draft. Once the Raiders selected Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, the Giants focused on landing a pass-rusher. South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is raw, but he has immense potential. There's not a more athletic pass-rusher in this rookie class. In the second round, the Giants selected East Carolina defensive tackle Linval Joseph. He's not a polished player, but he's enormous (328 pounds) and he should contribute immediately. The Giants are attempting to regain their identity as a dominant defensive line through this draft. And that's why players such as Bernard might not be around to see the results.

Rising

Doug Free, Cowboys left tackle: Jerry Jones told anyone who would listen that he's comfortable with Doug Free as his starting left tackle. I guess we should have believed him. The Cowboys didn't attempt to land a potential starter at that position in the draft. They may have briefly thought about moving up the board when Bryan Bulaga began to slip, but they were mostly focused on Dez Bryant.

Cowboys players were surprised by Flozell Adams' release. DeMarcus Ware, Bradie James and Tony Romo have all expressed some level of surprise by the announcement. The release of Adams was a financial decision. It was a chance for Jones to trim a significant salary without any penalty because of the uncapped seasoHow I See It: NFC East Stock Watch n. But the move would not have been made if the Cowboys didn't feel like Free was ready. Scouts have always told me that Free's a good "foot athlete," which means he's good in space. And against Brian Orakpo and Trent Cole, he better be really good in space. Free did a superb job filling in for Marc Colombo at right tackle last season. But protecting Tony Romo's blindside is a completely different assignment. The Cowboys have displayed a lot of faith in Free. Now we'll see if they're rewarded.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

April, 29, 2010
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

Paul Soliai, Dolphins nose tackle: Next on the depth chart at nose tackle, Soliai was in position to be the starter until Jason Ferguson returned from his eight-game suspension. But the Dolphins made moves that will make it much more difficult for Soliai, a fourth-year pro, to assume the gig. The Dolphins drafted defensive lineman Jared Odrick with the 28th pick and announced afterward they would move defensive end Randy Starks to the nose. In fact, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland didn't even mention Soliai's name when breaking down what their plans were at nose tackle after drafting Odrick.

Rising

Trent Edwards, Bills quarterback: Edwards enters his fourth pro season on shaky ground. He was Buffalo's opening-day starter the past two seasons but lost his job last year to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now Edwards is in an open competition, but at least he knows the Bills haven't added an immediate threat. Edwards over the weekend learned a lot about what lies ahead when the Bills declined to draft Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy but selected Levi Brown in the seventh round. Bills GM Buddy Nix called Brown a "developmental" quarterback, and head coach Chan Gailey all but confirmed the Bills wouldn't sign a veteran free agent. That gives Edwards the greatest odds possible of winning his job back.

Ireland controversy heating up for Dolphins

April, 28, 2010
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Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland's private conversation with Dez Bryant is turning into a public-relations nightmare.

For the second straight day, the Dolphins issued a statement regarding a controversial question Ireland asked the Oklahoma State receiver in a pre-draft interview. Ireland asked Bryant if his mother was a prostitute.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has issued a statement Wednesday afternoon:
"As an owner of many companies and organizations, including the Miami Dolphins, I have always strived to comply with the highest standards in all aspects of my businesses including recruiting.
"In interviewing employees we always look to obtain relevant and appropriate information in adherence with the best industry practices.
"Jeff Ireland has already apologized for questions asked of former Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant.

"I will be looking into this matter personally and will take appropriate actions if necessary."

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith issued a statement critical of Ireland on behalf of the union Wednesday.

Mike Ditka was a guest on Miami sports-radio station 790 The Ticket and blasted Ireland. When Ditka was coach of the Chicago Bears in the 1980s, Ireland was a ball boy. Ireland's grandfather, Jim Parmer, was the Bears' college scouting director at the time.

"Somebody ought to whack him in the head," Ditka said of Ireland, according to a blog by Palm Beach Post reporter Edgar Thompson. "You don't ask that question. If you think you know it, you know.

"What are you going to confront a young man with that situation for? He probably loves his mother no matter what she is or who she is. Why would somebody do that? I don't understand things like that. Maybe I'm naive or I'm old. I don't understand that.

"What do you get from asking that question? What's it all about? Every bit of information has to be spread out on the table now? Is that it? Everybody's dirty linen has to be out? I disagree with that. I'm sorry."

Former Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad defended Ireland with an e-mail distributed to South Florida reporters.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Ethan J. Skolnick posted Konrad's e-mail in full. Here are some highlights:
"Jeff is one of the true good guys in the industry, to see his name being tarnished in the media as the result of single question during a team interview seems to me entirely unjust. ...

"It's important to keep in mind the context of these interviews, the prospect of guaranteeing a 22-year-old stranger millions of dollars to enter one of the most competitive, intolerant and insensitive professional work environments around. I'm not attempting to defend the question asked, but rather the person and the process. Having been through those interviews, in the locker room and on the field, I can tell you that he work environment in the NFL is unique, one that would be unacceptable in virtually any other industry. The questions asked by teams in pre-draft interviews usually have the dual purpose of getting to know the player and testing their mind-set. ...

"When I was coming out of Syracuse University, I remember being asked if I thought I could succeed as a white running back in the NFL and why I thought a kid who attended a suburban Massachusetts private high school was tough enough to play in the NFL. If one were interviewing a prospective executive for private industry, this line of questioning likely wouldn't be acceptable. ...

"Jeff may be demanding and thorough, and maybe a question was asked in poor judgment, but he's one of the good guys in the NFL. He's been a great asset to the Dolphins and a good friend to South Florida."

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Tannenbaum's tradewinds send Jets sailing

April, 28, 2010
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Mike Tannenbaum and Rex RyanWilliam Perlman/US PresswireMike Tannenbaum, right, has gained a reputation as a wheeler and dealer and is constantly working to improve New York's roster.
Why do I get the feeling that if Mrs. Tannenbaum sent her little Mike off to school with his packed lunch, he rarely ate whatever she made?

By the time the lunch bell rang, he would've traded his bologna for a PB&J, his pretzel sticks for a fruit cup and offered recess services for a pudding to be named later.

"Our needs don't call for tapioca at this time, but we can revisit when chocolate becomes available and keep Jell-O as a contingency," I can imagine him saying during those formative years in Needham, Mass.

Mike Tannenbaum seems born to make his trades. As general manager of the New York Jets, he has gained a reputation as the consummate wheeler-dealer, unafraid to pull the trigger on any move that might improve his roster.

"I applaud him," former Green Bay Packers vice president Ron Wolf said, "because he's at least willing to put his nuts on the line."

Wolf knows Tannenbaum through mutual friend Bill Parcells. Tannenbaum considers both mentors and has invited Wolf to visit with the Jets' scouting department at the team facility in Florham Park, N.J.

"Everybody there's got to be proud of what he's doing," Wolf said. "They're a viable team."

A substantial reason for the Jets' outlook is Tannenbaum's maverick approach to building the team.

Any time is a fine time to make a trade in Tannenbaum's world.

He'll do it at the draft, trading up to snag cornerback Darrelle Revis, linebacker David Harris, tight end Dustin Keller quarterback Mark Sanchez and running back Shonn Greene.

He'll do it after training camp starts, bringing Brett Favre aboard in August. He'll do it during the season, adding Braylon Edwards in October. He'll do it as a component of free agency, taking gambles on cornerback Antonio Cromartie and receiver Santonio Holmes in the spring.

Makes no difference to Tannenbaum.

"Opportunities come, and you just don't know when they're going to come along," Tannenbaum said. "We just take our sheet and say, 'Here are our needs. Here's the trade possibilities here, the restricted free agents here, the guys that got cut, and here are the UFAs that we can't touch. What's best for the Jets?

"That's our charge. That's our obligation. I love it. I draw everything from it and, hopefully, we take those opportunities."

Tannenbaum carries on like he's running a fantasy football team, and by the looks of the Jets' roster, that might not be too far removed from reality. He also has added highly decorated running back LaDainian Tomlinson and pass-rusher Jason Taylor through free agency in a bid to win the Super Bowl this season.

"Anything worth fighting for is going to require some risk," said Jets senior personnel executive Terry Bradway, who preceded Tannenbaum as GM. "Expectations are high.

"We feel like we've done a good job putting this team together. But it won't stop. Nobody's going to be fooled by getting to the AFC Championship game and think that we're OK."

The Jets were supposed to be handcuffed by the "final eight" plan, a mechanism put in place for the uncapped season to prevent teams that went deep into the playoffs from loading up rosters. Teams that reached the second round of the playoffs essentially had to lose an unrestricted free agent before they could sign one.

Taylor was the only acquisition that fell under that category. He joined the Jets after they lost kicker Jay Feely. The Jets collected the other players by working the phones and hammering out deals the old-fashioned way.

As the Jets did with Edwards last year, they found more risk-reward players who were available for less than market value. As a result, Cromartie and Holmes were added to the roster for a fifth-round pick this year and a third-round pick in 2011.

"You can play it right down the middle and swing nice and easy, or you can take a shot and swing hard," Bradway said. "But all the risks are calculated. In some cases, there's a risk-reward that we're aware of before we make a decision.

"People might look at it as fantasy football, but what really happens is a tremendous amount of research that goes into all these decisions. Mike is really good at gathering all that information, getting all the people pulled in the right direction and making the decision."

Tannenbaum surprised many last week by not making a splashy maneuver through the first three rounds of the draft.

But he made headlines Saturday, when the Jets cut perennial Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca and dealt running back Leon Washington, a Pro Bowl kick returner two seasons ago, to the Seattle Seahawks.

"There's a lot of ways to improve your football team," Bradway said, "and I think what he has done, with his vision, is to work at every day and see if something makes sense. There's a lot of scenarios we talk about that never come about, but it's very stimulating conversation."

One prominent opposing team official contacted for this story declined to be interviewed, but before hanging up the phone stressed Tannenbaum shouldn't be lauded as some sort of mastermind visionary behind the Jets' success.

The official, while expressing deep respect for Tannenbaum as an organizational manager, claimed more credit should be given to head coaches Eric Mangini (now with the Cleveland Browns) and Rex Ryan and chief college scout Joey Clinkscales. The official salutes them for pushing Tannenbaum to pursue the players that make up the team's core.

"Mike is willing to be aggressive, and he deserves credit for that," the official said, "but somebody has to point him. He's not a talent evaluator."

Even so, Tannenbaum's intrepidness and faith in the support staff with which he has surrounded himself allows the Jets to make moves other teams seem to shy away from.

It's not like the Jets had exclusive negotiating rights on Favre, Edwards, Holmes or Cromartie. Other front offices had the opportunity to make similar -- or even better -- deals, but chose not to.

"If you like the player, go get the player," Wolf said. "It seems pretty simple between the two of us talking about it, but a lot of people don't do that.

"Why not take a shot? If you think the guy is good, why not take a shot? What's the risk here? The only risk is the guy's not good. If you go out and get four guys and only two of them play, shoot, that's two more than another team has. Even one out of four isn't bad."

NFLPA criticizes Ireland's lack of tact

April, 28, 2010
4/28/10
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NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith has released a statement about Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland's suddenly infamous pre-draft meeting with Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant.

Ireland apologized Tuesday for asking Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. Bryant's mother had served time in prison for selling crack cocaine.

Smith's statement at NFLPlayers.com reads:
We need to make sure the men of this league are treated as businessmen. During interviews, our players and prospective players should never be subjected to discrimination or degradation stemming from the biases or misconceptions held by team personnel. NFL teams cannot have the free reign to ask questions during the interview process which can be categorized as stereotyping or which may bring a personal insult to any player as a man. For the past year, active, former and incoming players have heard me speak about the expectations we have of them as members of this union, their teams, communities and families. It is equally true that the same kind of respect is demanded of their employers.

Hernandez responds to marijuana report

April, 27, 2010
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In response to Boston Globe reporter Albert Breer's story that New England Patriots draft pick Aaron Hernandez tested positive for marijuana multiple times at the University of Florida, the Patriots released a statement from Hernandez.
"Leading up to the draft, I provided every interested NFL team with all the information asked of me about football and my personal life. I was as candid as I could possibly be about everything, including my one single violation of the team's substance testing policy over the course of three years at the University of Florida. That is why I was very surprised and disappointed by the recent inaccurate report of additional violations. I regret what happened, I learned from it and will make better decisions going forward. I couldn’t be more excited about beginning my NFL career and representing the New England Patriots well."

Hernandez was considered the best receiving tight end in the draft, but the Patriots picked him up in the fourth round. Breer reported three teams told him Hernandez failed multiple tests at Florida, causing him to tumble in the draft.
NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Will the Cleveland Browns go with a rookie starting safety this season?

Rarely is an NFL coach stumped by a football question.

But after the Browns took cornerback Joe Haden in the first round of the NFL draft, coach Eric Mangini was quizzed on his starting safeties, which caused some hesitation.

[+] EnlargeT.J. Ward
Chris Williams/Icon SMIThe Browns hope T.J. Ward can step in and be a starter at safety.
"It's a ways away," Mangini said. "So I can't really say that definitively right now."

Over the next two days, the Browns drafted a pair of safeties -- T.J. Ward of Oregon and Larry Asante of Nebraska. The Browns are hoping one of these players matures quickly and earns a starting role this season alongside veteran Abram Elam.

Safety was arguably Cleveland's biggest need entering the draft. It was a major reason many projected Eric Berry or Earl Thomas to land with the Browns in the first round.

Berry was a target for Cleveland at No. 7. But when he went off the board at No. 5 to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Browns turned their attention to Haden. It also forced Cleveland to look very hard at safeties in the second round.

Some draft experts felt the team reached for Ward at No. 38. But Ward was a player the Browns really liked.

"When I looked at him and spent time with him he reminded me a lot of Lawyer Milloy," Mangini said. "I think he's got outstanding instincts in the running game. He’s one of these guys that can navigate through traffic and it's almost like the blockers don't exist. Very rarely does he miss tackles."

The Browns selected Asante in the fifth round. He has similar skills to Ward in terms of being an aggressive hitter at safety. Right now, Ward is the favorite to be the Week 1 starter. But both rookies will have plenty of opportunities to impress Cleveland's coaching staff in training camp.

"Just like with the other guys, he will battle at safety for playing time," Browns general manager Tom Heckert said of Asante. "We do think he is a good player. He played at a big-time level of competition, which is always a nice thing to have."

With opposing quarterbacks on the schedule such as Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer, the Browns need at least one of these rookie safeties to be fast learners.

The Big Question: Eagles whiff at CB?

April, 27, 2010
4/27/10
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NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Did the Philadelphia Eagles wheel and deal themselves out of a quality cornerback?

[+] EnlargeGraham
Eric Bronson/Icon SMIThe Eagles filled a void by drafting Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham, but they still have questions at cornerback.
If nothing else, new Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was entertaining while running his first draft alongside coach Andy Reid. Even the stoic Reid admitted to being impressed with the way Roseman moved up and down the draft board.

I've talked to some scouts who thought the Eagles "reached" a bit in moving up 11 spots to land Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham. But Roseman and Reid obviously decided that Graham was the best fit scheme-wise as a pass-rusher and they didn't want to take the chance of losing him. The fact they gave up two third-rounders to move from No. 24 to No. 13 was almost forgotten as Roseman basically tried to commandeer the fourth round. The Eagles once again extended a helping hand to a division foe in flipping picks with the Cowboys in the second round. The Cowboys took Penn State linebacker Sean Lee, who's expected to eventually take over for Keith Brooking at inside linebacker.

I think Graham and South Florida safety Nate Allen were both solid choices for the Eagles, but it concerns me they couldn't find a potential starter at cornerback. Veteran Marlin Jackson, signed in free agency, has experience at cornerback, but he's probably more comfortable at safety after tearing the ACL in each knee the past two years. Asante Samuel's a perennial Pro Bowler, but he's one of the least willing tacklers in the league.

The projected starter on the other side, Ellis Hobbs, is returning from a neck injury. I thought the Eagles needed more depth at cornerback in this draft, but they only came up with fourth-rounder Trevard Lindley out of Kentucky. Had Lindley come out after the '08 season, he probably would have gone in the second round. But the cornerback suffered a high ankle sprain last year and had a challenging senior season.

"He got banged-up this year,'' Reid said Saturday. "He had a high ankle sprain and that can kind of put a damper on a college season, and that's what happened. It happened early and he never really got over it, but he didn't want to stop playing, which showed me something."

Good to know, but it doesn't really address the issue that Miles Austin and Jason Witten ran roughshod over this secondary at the end of the '09 season. Even Roy Williams stumbled into daylight a couple times against this unit. Reid seems to think that players such as Macho Harris and Joselio Hanson can help patch together a decent group of cornerbacks. But that's a scary proposition when you know that the Giants and Cowboys both have big-time weapons on the outside. And the Redskins happened to acquire a quarterback who has been successful with inferior talent at wide receiver before. (I'd give Santana Moss the edge over Freddie Mitchell.)

I think the Eagles certainly improved their roster this past weekend, but cornerback is still a position of need. If you want to poke holes in Roseman's first draft, I'd start with that position.

Who are the best undrafted free agents?

April, 26, 2010
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The good people at Scouts Inc. released their list of the top-10 undrafted players Sunday. You have to spend a dime or two to read the whole thing, but I'll tell you that new Cowboys quarterback Matt Nichols of Eastern Washington showed up at No. 10.

"He has the tools and mental aptitude to become a serviceable reserve with proper coaching and development," said Scouts Inc. of Nichols.

I've spent a portion of the day asking scouts about some of the undrafted players. It looks like the Chargers landed a couple of the top undrafted players with Troy defensive end Brandon Lang and Fresno State wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu. I also had two different AFC scouts tell me that Fresno State running back Lonyae Miller was an excellent pickup by the Dallas Cowboys.

Miller backed up Ryan Mathews (12th overall to Chargers) last season but he impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl with nine carries for 44 yards. I'm told that Miller has a good chance of making the practice squad and that he has the potential to be a contributor down the road.

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