NFL Nation: NFL free agency

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Scratch defensive line off the list of immediate needs for the Green Bay Packers.

General manager Ted Thompson should be able to do that now defensive tackles Letroy Guion and B.J. Raji are coming back to the Packers on one-year deals that were finalized Monday.

[+] EnlargeEagles offense
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsGetting Letroy Guion (pictured) and B.J. Raji back allows the Packers to look at other positions besides defensive line early in the draft.

It's a short-term solution given that both signed one-year deals, but it could turn into a long-term answer if Guion shows the same form as he did last season -- when he set career highs in tackles and sacks -- and if Raji comes back motivated after getting snubbed on the open market last offseason and then missing all of 2014 because of the biceps tendon he tore in August.

How coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers decide to use Guion and Raji remains to be seen, but if both are healthy the Packers' 23rd-ranked run defense has a chance to improve.

Last season, the Packers had planned to move Raji from defensive end back to nose tackle, his original NFL position, and then signed Guion to back him up. But that plan had to be ditched after Raji's injury in the preseason. Guion went on to start every game, while Raji watched from the sideline.

It's possible the Packers could open with a run-stopping defensive front that includes Raji, Guion and Mike Daniels in their base 3-4 with the likes of former first-round pick Datone Jones, Josh Boyd and Khyri Thornton (a 2014 third-round pick who missed all of his rookie season because a hamstring injury) also in the mix in various defensive packages.

Now Thompson and McCarthy have to decide how they will proceed at two other key positions: Cornerback and inside linebacker. They have players on the roster to fill the first spot, and Casey Hayward most likely will get the first chance to replace veteran cornerback Tramon Williams, who signed earlier this month with the Cleveland Browns. Micah Hyde also could be in line for more playing time.

That wouldn't preclude Thompson from taking a cornerback with his first-round pick, No. 30 overall. In fact, ESPN's Todd McShay had the Packers going that direction in his latest mock draft.

There's better cornerback value at that spot than there is at inside linebacker, a position McShay believes will be ignored in the first round. Not only did McShay decide not to put an inside linebacker among the first 32 picks but you have to go all the way to No. 8 on his list of the next 10 prospects still available to find the first inside linebacker, UCLA’s Eric Kendricks.

As usual, Thompson decided to re-sign his own free agents. Re-signing receiver Randall Cobb, tackle Bryan Bulaga and now Raji and Guion, might limit the list of needs in the draft.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Letroy Guion isn't in the clear just yet, at least not with the NFL.

Despite the resolution of his criminal case on Tuesday, the free-agent defensive end could still face discipline from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell whether he returns to the Green Bay Packers or signs with another team.

"It will be reviewed for potential discipline," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday in an email.

Guion could face a fine and/or suspension under the league's personal conduct policy.

The last Packers' player to face a suspension from the league was linebacker Erik Walden. He could not play in the 2012 season opener after he reached a deferred judgment agreement to resolve a disorderly conduct-domestic abuse charge without pleading guilty.

Guion paid a $5,000 fine plus court costs but as a first-time offender, the charges of felony possession of marijuana and a firearm were dismissed without adjudication of guilt.

PHOENIX -- The Houston Texans re-signed inside linebacker Akeem Dent to a two-year deal Tuesday.

Dent came to the Texans in June from Atlanta in the T.J. Yates trade. He suffered a high-ankle sprain that limited him last season, when he had 38 tackles and a sack. Dent eventually became a starter next to Brian Cushing.

The deal is reportedly worth $4.5 million, with $2 million guaranteed.

The Texans' defensive starting group currently includes ends J.J. Watt and Jared Crick, nose tackle Vince Wilfork, inside linebackers Cushing and Dent, outside linebackers Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney, corners Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson and safeties Rahim Moore and D.J. Swearinger.

What's astounding about that group is it includes seven former first-round picks -- five of them in the front seven.

The Texans are still looking for an interior pass rusher, one who could pressure the quarterback on third downs, and some safety depth.

PHOENIX – While many observers may think Michael Crabtree was more trouble for the San Francisco 49ers than he was worth since they took him with the No. 10 overall pick of the 2009 draft, Trent Baalke apparently does not subscribe to that theory.

Not when the Niners general manager left open the possibility of the team re-signing Crabtree, who has found a dry market for his services as an unrestricted free agent.

“As long as Michael’s out there, he’s just like any other UFA; you never say never,” Baalke said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. “Michael did a heck of a job for us for six years.”

Crabtree has steered clear from the police blotter for a team that has become infamous for arrests the past three years. But his 49ers tenure began with a hiccup as he wanted money above his draft slot, held out the first four games of his NFL career, and was inactive for one game after signing his contract.

Foot and lower leg injuries have played a part in slowing him from becoming the game-changing receiver many thought he would be as a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner at Texas Tech.

Crabtree did have a career season in 2012, when he caught 85 passes for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. But he missed all but five games in 2013 after tearing an Achilles’ the following offseason. He had 69 catches for 698 yards (a career-low 10.3 yards per catch average) with four TDs in 16 games last season.

He lamented his fall from grace as Colin Kaepernick's top target by calling himself a “third-down receiver” and a “fourth option” in the Niners offense.

The only free-agent visit Crabtree has taken thus far was to the Miami Dolphins last week.

IRVING, Texas – After seeing four significant contributors to the 2014 defense leave via free agency, the Dallas Cowboys were able to retain one with Nick Hayden agreeing to a one-year deal.

Hayden has started the last 32 games at defensive tackle for the Cowboys. He led the defensive line with 52 tackles, according to the coaches’ breakdown. He also had four tackles for loss, eight quarterback pressures and two pass deflections.

The Cowboys had lost Justin Durant to the Atlanta Falcons and Bruce Carter, Henry Melton and Sterling Moore to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The coaching staff likes Hayden’s workmanlike approach, but they could look to upgrade in the draft or have Terrell McClain play a larger role in 2015.

The Buffalo Bills put in a five-year offer sheet for Miami Dolphins tight end Charles Clay, a source confirmed to ESPN.com Tuesday night. According to the Buffalo News, the contract is worth $38 million.

The Dolphins now have five days to match the contract or let Clay walk. So what should Miami do?

I asked Dolphins fans for their opinion via Twitter on Clay’s situation. Here is a sample of responses:

The general consensus from Dolphins fans is Buffalo overpaid for Clay. It makes sense, because the Bills, who lost their top two tight ends in free agency, need Clay more than the Dolphins, who signed 2013 Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron as insurance.

Either way, the Dolphins have the rest of the week to make a decision. My take is Miami should let Clay walk for various reasons that you can see here.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – On Monday, we detailed why a reunion between the Green Bay Packers and receiver Greg Jennings would seem unlikely.

However, Jennings isn't ruling it out -- not that his old team has shown any interest in the days since he was released by the Minnesota Vikings just two years into the five-year, $45 million contract he signed to leave Green Bay in 2013.

"I'm open to everything," Jennings said during an interview with Stephen A. Smith on Sirius XM/Mad Dog Sports Radio on Tuesday. "I would never tear down any one of those bridges, even the ones to Green Bay. If that was an opportunity and it was right, then it would definitely be pursued, but I don't know. We'll see what the future holds."

Some might argue those bridges already were torn down by comments Jennings made shortly after he joined the Vikings. He was critical of both the organization and of quarterback Aaron Rodgers' leadership style.

However, Jennings appeared humbled after two seasons in Minnesota, where he never totaled more than 804 receiving yards in either of his two seasons. He broke that mark in five of his seven seasons with the Packers, including three straight 1,100-plus yard seasons from 2008-10 with Rodgers as his quarterback. He never found the same success with Christian Ponder or Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota.

"I've had my struggles with the quarterbacks, so a quarterback would be nice," Jennings said when asked about what he's looking for in a new team.

At that point, Smith told Jennings he never should have left Rodgers and the Packers, who offered slightly less money than the Vikings to try to keep Jennings.

"In the stage of my career where I was at, I was thinking this was my last deal," Jennings said. "So I've got to max out, and I've got to do something that's benefiting myself and my family. When I look at a guy like Randall [Cobb, who re-signed with the Packers], this is not his last deal. He made a tremendous decision and a great one in my book to stay and then in a few years when he's back up, because he's still young, then he has to make that decision."

Free-agency review: Bears

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Most significant signing: The addition of outside linebacker Pernell McPhee should give the Chicago Bears the most long-term value of the team's three signings. But in the short term, the addition of safety Antrel Rolle should be Chicago's most significant signing to date in part because of the horrid play at the position in recent years. The Bears haven't fielded a defense with consistent playmakers at safety in more than five years. So although Rolle is 32 years old, he brings a playmaking element (nine interceptions and two forced fumbles over the past two seasons), but more importantly, he provides leadership on a defense that has lost its way over the past three years. Chicago ranked 30th against the pass in 2014, and was one of just three teams to give up an average opponent passer rating of 100 or better. The defense ranked No. 30 overall in each of the past two seasons and also ranked 30th and 31st in points allowed in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

[+] EnlargeAntrel Rolle
AP Photo/Bill KostrounAntrel Rolle should provide leadership to a defense that's been in transition the past few seasons.

Most significant loss: The Bears traded a seventh-round pick and receiver Brandon Marshall to New York in exchange for the Jets' fifth-round pick. The move sent away perhaps Chicago's most significant weapon on offense, and instead of working to replace Marshall's production with a top-flight receiver, the team added veteran Eddie Royal, signing him to a three-year contract worth $10 million guaranteed. Over the past two seasons, Chicago's quarterbacks put up a total QBR of 70.2 with Marshall on the field and just 3.33 when he wasn't in the lineup, according to ESPN Stats & Information. So there's no doubt Marshall helped to make Chicago's quarterbacks better. Can Royal do the same? Royal possesses the ability to play opposite Alshon Jeffery as a No. 2 receiver. But it's more likely the Bears ask Royal to operate out of the slot mostly in 2015. So Chicago will definitely be in the market, whether through free agency or the draft, for a No. 2 wideout.

Biggest surprise: Given all the needs on defense, especially in the secondary, it's somewhat surprising the Bears have moved so slowly in making acquisitions. In the first week of free agency, the Bears signed McPhee, Rolle and Royal. McPhee is an ascending talent, but the Bears need to bring in more players on defense who fit that description. Chicago did attempt to sign Kansas City safety Ron Parker to pair with Rolle, but he ultimately decided to re-sign with the Chiefs. The Bears have also been in discussions with Tampa Bay linebacker Mason Foster, but the sides remained far apart on terms.

What's next? Teams all around the league seemed to be making major moves through trades or big-money acquisitions, while the Bears remained mostly quiet during the first wave of free agency. But Chicago isn't done by a long shot, and it's expected most of the team's moves will come during the second wave of free agency, where the Bears might be able to scoop up some deep discounts. The Bears need to continue adding to the defense, and could be looking to bring in at least one more safety, another cornerback and inside linebackers. New general manager Ryan Pace seems to be taking a meticulous approach toward building the 2015 Bears. So don't expect the Bears to come out of free agency labeled as winners, which is fine by Pace and new coach John Fox, as games aren't won on paper.

Free-agency review: Bengals

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Most significant signing: After vowing in January that the Cincinnati Bengals would have a free-agency period that went against the franchise's "status quo," coach Marvin Lewis' words appear to be coming to fruition. It had long been the Bengals' habit in free agency to focus on building up their roster from within by attempting to sign their own unrestricted free agents, and then bidding adieu to the ones who were too expensive to bring back. This year, Cincinnati has signed all of its key targets and has even added players at important positions from the outside. The most significant signing was Sunday's four-year, $20 million deal that brought defensive end Michael Johnson back from Tampa Bay. It made sense because the organization still knows Johnson well, and expects him to be a solid locker room fit and instant contributor to the defense.

[+] EnlargeRey Maualuga
AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceThe biggest surprise of the Bengals' free-agency period thus far is the three-year contract Cincinnati gave to middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.

Most significant loss: Last year, the Bengals were reeling a bit during free agency after losing both Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins to the Buccaneers. Receiver Andrew Hawkins also left as the Bengals botched the handling of his restricted free agency. So far this March, the Bengals have had only one free-agency hit. Tackle Marshall Newhouse signed a first-week deal with the New York Giants. At one point, there was fear the Bengals would lose offensive guard Clint Boling, who fielded multiple outside offers before ultimately agreeing last Tuesday night to stay a Bengal. Technically there hasn't been a significant loss yet. Newhouse's departure arguably upgraded the offensive line.

Biggest surprise: The biggest Bengals surprise of this free-agency period had to be the $7.1 million cap charge the team agreed to letting linebacker Rey Maualuga take this season. Six days before the start of the new league year, Maualuga returned to the Bengals on a three-year, $15 million extension. While the back end of his contract was structured commensurate to his playing time the past two seasons, that first year was rather alarming. While he will be -- for the foreseeable future -- the Bengals' starting middle linebacker, Maualuga has primarily been a run-support specialist, and a frequent entrant in the team's training room. He missed three games in 2013 because of a knee injury, and was out four in 2014 due to a bad hamstring. So with pending priorities that include Boling's new deal and signing a starting defensive end, why did the Bengals feel Maualuga deserved so much money up front?

What's next? Chief on the Bengals' remaining free-agency list is determining what to do at tight end. There aren't many top targets available at the position. Jermaine Gresham is still among the best on the board. It's been stated before that many around the team were displeased with the way Gresham declined playing through injuries in two of the more important late-season games last year. As a result, many don't want him back. But the Bengals still have a need for a good blocking tight end and could welcome him back on a lower contract than he probably expected at the start of free agency. Aside from that concern, the Bengals likely will re-sign others who were under contract last season, such as quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Cedric Peerman. A couple of other low-tier free agents could be signed just ahead of the draft.

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Vince Wilfork's 11-year tenure with the New England Patriots officially closed on Monday when he announced that he plans to join the Houston Texans. His time with the franchise started with a Super Bowl title and ended with one. Not too many players can say that.

There are two aspects of this decision to dissect:

1. What Wilfork has meant to the Patriots. Wilfork's presence in the middle of the defense will be hard to duplicate, as will his standing as a respected locker-room leader. Wilfork played 73.4 percent of the defensive snaps last season, his role to help clog things up inside while attempting to push the pocket on passing plays. It shouldn't be long before the Patriots release statements from owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick on Wilfork's impact on the franchise and in the community. Not every player gets that treatment, but Wilfork deserves it.

2. Where the Patriots go from here. Four-year veteran Sealver Siliga (6-foot-2, 325) and nine-year veteran Alan Branch (6-foot-6, 325) are now the team's top two big-bodied defensive tackles. They were the Nos. 2 and 3 options behind Wilfork last season. The team could also look to the draft to add a player at that spot. The Patriots still wanted Wilfork back if the sides could agree on a contract, but the feeling from here was that the club probably would have attempted to scale back his workload in 2015 a bit if it worked out. So this is yet another void for them to fill.

The Patriots visit the Texans in 2015, setting up a scenario where Wilfork will play against the team for which he'll one day be inducted into its Hall of Fame.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are unlikely to pursue free-agent defensive end Greg Hardy, according to a league source.

Hardy, one of the NFL's premier pass-rushers, remains on the commissioner’s exempt list but he is seeking immediate reinstatement from the NFL, which is still deciding whether to suspend the former Carolina Panther under the league’s personal conduct policy. Hardy has been on the list, which still allowed him to get paid his $13.1 million salary in 2014, since Sept. 18 as a result of his July 15 guilty verdict for assaulting and threatening an ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder. That verdict was set aside when Hardy requested the jury trial that never occurred because the charges were dropped on Feb. 9.

Jaguars general manager David Caldwell said last week he and his staff have had minimal discussions about Hardy, who has 34 sacks in five seasons and 27 in his last 32 games.

"We’d have to do some research into it," Caldwell said. "We haven’t really been into a whole lot of discussion about it, but you know our philosophy here. We feel like if a player shows remorse, is trying to get better, it’s not our job to judge. We are going to try to help anybody, not only on the field, but off the field.

"If they can be productive in our culture, if they can be productive in our community ... like I said all of us have made mistakes, some probably a lot more than others. I am probably in that category, too. We just take it case by case and see where it’s at."

Hardy's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Hardy has entered negotiations with a team that does not wish to be identified. It isn't Oakland. GM Reggie McKenzie said over the weekend that the Raiders have no intentions of signing Hardy.

On July 15 Mecklenburg County (North Carolina) District Court Judge Rebecca Thorne Tin found Hardy guilty of assaulting and threatening Holder, who told police that Hardy threw her into a bathroom and onto a futon covered with guns. She also told police Hardy put his hands on her throat and threatened to kill her.

Hardy denied those charges and said Holder became angry when he refused to have sex with her.

North Carolina law sets aside a verdict upon an appeal.

When Holder failed to show up for Hardy's Feb. 9 appeal, prosecutors dismissed the charges. Prosecutors also said Holder did not make herself available to help with the case.

In a statement, prosecutors said they were unable to locate Holder and serve her with a subpoena, which would have compelled her to testify. They also said they had reliable information that Hardy and Holder reached a civil settlement and that Holder had intentionally made herself unavailable.

We are entrenched in phase two of NFL free agency, and the Oakland Raiders haven't made much of a splash.

They’ve tried. They were planning to court Ndamukong Suh and Randall Cobb but couldn’t get in on them before the pair was spoken for in the three days before free agency officially started.

Once free agency got going and his market was soft, the Raiders tried to swoop in on defending NFL rushing king DeMarco Murray by offering a chunk of their substantial room under the salary cap. But Murray opted for the Philadelphia Eagles, noting he had bigger offers elsewhere.

[+] EnlargeRodney Hudson
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsCenter Rodney Hudson was a solid free-agent signing by the Raiders, but he wasn't the big splash they were hoping for.
They dabbled with the idea of cornerback Darrelle Revis for the second straight year as well. The Raiders also were connected to former Carolina star pass-rusher Greg Hardy, but Oakland owner Mark Davis strongly shot that down. Hardy's market is different because of his domestic violence conviction, which was later dropped, and the potential discipline he is facing from the NFL.

The Raiders have spent money, committing about half of their nearly $70 million of cap room by signing several players. The list starts with center Rodney Hudson. He will account for $13 million of the cap this year, a large number for a center. Hudson, now the highest-paid center in the NFL, is a fine player. He will make Oakland’s offensive line better. But centers aren't usually free-agent prizes. No other team got close to Oakland's price, although the Kansas City Chiefs did try to keep him.

Oakland, which has signed a league-high nine players from other teams, also did nicely by getting a trio of likely defensive starters in tackle Dan Williams, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and safety Nate Allen. The Raiders are lengthening their roster and making it deeper. That’s a solid, smart approach, especially after they signed several older players last year. Many of those players failed to help as the Raiders went from 4-12 in 2013 to 3-13 in 2014. None of the eight players Oakland has signed this time around is older than 28, so this approach is better.

But Oakland has been unable to get a big fish to bite. Davis joked to the San Jose Mercury News just before the start of free agency that he was getting the “Brinks truck” ready. Last month, new Oakland coach Jack Del Rio made it clear he was excited for Oakland to be in on big players.

"Those are things I talked about in the interview process that were important, and they’ve been followed up with actual commitment of capital, which I’m excited about," Del Rio said. "So as you go into this phase of free agency and acquiring players, we have cap space and we have a new staff full of teachers. We have a young quarterback. We have a good, young man off the edge in Khalil Mack. We’ve got a good left tackle. We’ve got corners. The things that we need to get started, we have. So now we have to start adding good, quality people that are fired up to be part of the Raiders."

Oakland can still participate in the big-ticket market if a player gets unexpectedly cut later in free agency, which is possible. The Raiders could have a surplus of cap room while others are struggling to stay under the cap. That could be an advantage. It also could help them in the trade market if a team decides to unload a player. If the Vikings end up trading running back Adrian Peterson, the Raiders (whose offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave worked with Peterson in Minnesota) could emerge as a possibility.

So there are still opportunities for Oakland to spend. But for two straight offseasons, the Raiders have had chances to land big-time players. And they haven't come. It is an open secret in the player agent world that Oakland is a tough sell. A recent history of losing, poor facilities and an uncertain future for the franchise are all factors.

Several agents surveyed are not surprised Oakland hasn’t landed a highly-sought-after player. Agents believe it will take one star to dip into the Oakland pool to show others that it’s OK.

This could be an issue as the Raiders try to reach the league’s minimum spending floor of 89 percent of the cap in cash from 2013 to 2016. The Raiders will likely need to spend big in the next two years to get there.

Oakland likely will have a lot of cap room next year as well. Once again, their ability to get a big-money player to make the Raiders an option will be brought into the question. All the Raiders can do is continue to try to convince stars to come and hope the players they have start winning. That would make Oakland an attractive option for free agents in the near future.
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With Michael Johnson officially a member of the Cincinnati Bengals again, the big question surrounding the organization is this: Can the defensive line recapture the success it had the last time Johnson was part of it?

Not one to mince words, Johnson, in only the pointed way he knows how, said he unequivocally believes it will.

"We're going to get that and then some," Johnson said on a conference call with reporters Sunday afternoon.

Johnson's return to the Bengals comes as part of a four-year deal that will keep him in Cincinnati through the 2018 season along with fellow defensive linemen Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins.

"Everybody knows we play well together. I don't know why. We just do," Johnson said. "We've got that chemistry, that bond. We're texting each other in the group right now, making jokes and laughing. That's what makes this thing go. When you've got that relationship with somebody off the field where you care about them and they care about you, it's like brothers. You go to bat for each other.

"Unless you've been a part of something like that, it's really kind of hard to understand."

Johnson first arrived in Cincinnati in 2009 as a third-round draft pick. A year later, Dunlap and Atkins were added to the line. At the time, the Bengals believed they had the makings of a line unit that would stay together for years to come.

But then came the uncomfortable choice of deciding which of the linemen needed to be franchise tagged in order to clear enough multi-year cap space to re-sign the others to longer-term deals. Johnson became the odd man out, inked to the $13 million franchise tag in 2013, while Dunlap and Atkins were locked into deals that kept them in Cincinnati through 2018. Because of that franchise tag, Johnson became a free agent last offseason, and he came within about $1 million of re-signing.

The Bengals couldn't quite meet his contractual needs, and off he went to sign with Tampa Bay. Last week, one year after he signed his five-year, $43.8 million deal with the Bucs, Johnson was cut and back in play for Cincinnati.

Apparently, Johnson was sold on the dreams the Bengals saw flashes of back in 2012 when Johnson and Atkins both had double-digit sack performances.

"We're about to be a part of something special," Johnson said. "When you've got something special, you want to try to keep it going. We've got it up here. I'm excited to get back and get it going again and take it to a whole new level."

Part of that change includes upgrading his individual persona. That means the "MJ93" moniker Johnson earned from fans on social media will come to an end. Johnson confirmed he isn't going back to his old No. 93 now that he's back with the Bengals. Will Clarke, the young end who was given Johnson's No. 93 when he was drafted last May, will keep the number.

"I'm Agent 90," Johnson said, referring to the number he also had in Tampa Bay. "I'm not the guy that left. I'm coming back and I'm going to be better. I have new experiences. I'm more knowledgeable. What they're going to get from me is the upgraded version."

The Bengals certainly hope so. Johnson had only four sacks last season and 3.5 his previous season in Cincinnati. In his two seasons before that, though, he combined for 17.5. It's that production the Bengals need as they re-tool a defensive line that was largely ineffective last season.
SAN DIEGO -- In need of depth at defensive back, the San Diego Chargers announced Friday that they signed safety Jimmy Wilson to a two-year contract.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Wilson is a San Diego native who played at Point Loma High School. Selected in the seventh round of the 2011 draft by the Miami Dolphins out of Montana, Wilson spent the past four seasons in Miami.

Wilson started 21 of the 60 games for the Dolphins, recording 153 tackles, 16 pass breakups, four interceptions and two sacks while playing both strong safety and nickel cornerback.

At 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, Wilson will help replace some of the production the Chargers lost when starting strong safety Marcus Gilchrist signed with the New York Jets.

Along with Wilson, safeties currently on San Diego’s roster include Eric Weddle, Jahleel Addae, Darrell Stuckey and Adrian Phillips.
The Oakland Raiders are desperate to get better and attract game-changing talent.

While the Raiders have added eight free agents -- including four starters -- they have failed to land a headline player despite starting free agency with nearly $70 million in cap room. The Raiders tried to secure Ndamukong Suh, Randall Cobb, Darrelle Revis and DeMarco Murray among others to no avail.

There have been reports the Raiders are talking to embattled Carolina pass-rusher Greg Hardy. Drew Rosenhaus, Hardy’s agent, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter he is negotiating with an undisclosed team. Schefter reports six teams are interested. However, a NFL source said the Raiders have not discussed a contract with Hardy.

[+] EnlargeMark Davis
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsRaiders owner Mark Davis denied the team had any interest in adding free agent DE Greg Hardy.
And Oakland owner Mark Davis told the San Jose Mercury News Friday afternoon this, when asked about his team's reported interest: “False, falser and falsest. That is not true.”

Given those strong words, it would take a lot for Davis to give his blessing to signing Hardy.

Oakland's interest, from a football standpoint, would not be a surprise. Hardy had 26 sacks in the 2012-13 seasons combined and became one of the NFL's most feared defensive ends. He’d fill one of Oakland’s greatest needs. The Raiders had just seven sacks from their defensive ends last season, which was a league low, and the defense had a total of 22 sacks, which was tied for the second fewest in the NFL. Combining Hardy, 26, with standout linebacker Khalil Mack would give the new, defensive-minded Oakland coaching staff a good start. Combine the defense with promising quarterback Derek Carr, and it would be a great foundation to build on.

So, yes, football wise, it would make perfect sense. But, there are reasons for Davis' stance on Hardy.

Hardy was involved in a domestic violence incident last May. He was found guilty in July of assaulting a woman and communicating threats. He appealed the conviction and in February the charges against Hardy were dropped when his accuser refused to cooperate with the district attorney's office after reaching a financial settlement with Hardy.

The Panthers put Hardy on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's exempt list, with pay, on Sept. 17 while the case was pending. He is now a free agent and still faces NFL discipline under its personal conduct policy.

With the heightened NFL consciousness concerning domestic violence, there has been little public interest in the sublimely talented Hardy from teams.

If Oakland were to make a run at Hardy, it would be a change of direction and it would open the franchise -- so far removed from its renegade reputation of yesteryear -- to a lot of questions Davis is likely not willing to take on.

Davis has often spoken about the NFL’s need for strict domestic violence rules. Amid the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal last September, Davis spoke with the Oakland Tribune:

“The Raiders have been aware of domestic violence for more than 15 years,’’ Davis told the paper. “In 1999, Fred Biletnikoff’s daughter -- a member of our family -- was murdered by her boyfriend, who was abusing her … The important thing is that the focus is now on domestic violence. Let’s work to prevent it.’’

Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie is from the Green Bay front office tree and believes in high character players. While McKenzie’s Raiders are 11-37 in three seasons, the roster is filled with good citizens. And I’m sure veterans such as Charles Woodson and Justin Tuck would impart their positive influence on Hardy. McKenzie spoke of the importance of character last month.

“We put the emphasis on it. I learned that with Ted Thompson in Green Bay. You’ve got to be able to count on guys. You want them to be there every game and not get stuck in some suspension deal,” McKenzie said. "So, when I came here, that was one of the things that I want to make sure, our scouting department, our coaches knew. I want to treat this locker room as if I was in it. I want to be able to look left and right and say, these are the guys I want to play with. That don’t mean we’re not going to bring in guys with any issues. We’re going to bring in guys with an issue. We have the information, and if it says you probably don’t want to do this guy, we’re going to listen to it.

"You take into account all the information you get from the school, or the police, or psychologists. All the information that you can get, you go through it. But we do take in the background checks, the character of the guys and make a determination there.”

McKenzie did bring in former Green Bay defensive back Brandon Underwood for a short time early in his Oakland regime after Underwood had a highly publicized domestic violence arrest.

However, bringing in Hardy would take it to the next level. He is one of the players at the center of the NFL’s hottest button topic. If the Raiders were to pursue and add Hardy and then another Oakland player got arrested for a similar charge, what would Davis’ approach be? He is on the record for standing up against domestic violence, so he would risk having a double standard if Hardy is brought in.

Yes, the Raiders are desperate for a star, desperate to get better. The question is: Is it worth compromising values to do it? Clearly, Davis doesn't think so. And he deserves credit for resisting the temptation.

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