NFL Nation: Preston Parker

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

December, 21, 2014
12/21/14
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ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 37-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at the Edwards Jones Dome:

What it means: If the Giants are looking for reasons to feel good about their team going into next season, this game was loaded with them. The Rams had not allowed a touchdown since Week 12, but the Giants scored four of them and rolled up 514 yards in the process. Quarterback Eli Manning was 25-for-32 for a season-high 391 yards and three touchdowns. Odell Beckham Jr. was incredible again, with eight catches for 148 yards and a pair of touchdown catches, including an 80-yarder in the third quarter. Rueben Randle went for more than 100 receiving yards and caught a touchdown. Andre Williams had 100 rushing yards. Orleans Darkwa scored a rushing touchdown. I mean, everybody was into the act here. It was as complete an offensive performance as the Giants have delivered all season, especially when you consider they were facing one of the league's toughest defenses.

Stock watch: Randle -- Up. Few Giants needed a big game more than Randle did. The third-year wideout has been clearly surpassed by his former LSU teammate, Beckham, all season, and he's been benched twice in the past month by Tom Coughlin for being late to team meetings. But he started Sunday's game and played very well in catching six passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. In doing so, he likely helped his own confidence and the team's faith in him moving into next season.

Ugliness: The Rams clearly wanted to be physical and deliver messages to Beckham, and things got out of hand in the second quarter. Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree delivered a completely unnecessary late hit out of bounds on Beckham, then the two of them shoved each other in the face on the ground, which touched off an ugly brawl that saw Giants receiver Preston Parker, Giants defensive end Damontre Moore and Rams defensive end William Hayes ejected for fighting. It appeared Moore also was called for a foul on an official, which could result in a suspension for him.

Game ball: Manning. The Giants' QB was on the money all night, in full command of the offense and pinpoint with decisions and throws. He was 25-for-32 for a season-high 391 yards and three touchdowns and completed passes to six different receivers. He checked into a run call on a play that resulted in a 45-yard Williams run. It was the most comfortable and in command he's been all season.

What's next: The Giants will wrap up their 2014 season with a 1 p.m. ET home game Sunday against the 9-6 Philadelphia Eagles, who were eliminated from playoff contention with the Cowboys' victory Sunday. It will be the fifth game in a row in which the Giants and their opponent have both been eliminated from playoff contention. The Eagles beat the Giants 27-0 in Week 6 in Philadelphia, in the game in which Victor Cruz suffered his season-ending knee injury.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants right tackle Justin Pugh exited the team's 16-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the first half due to injury, and did not return.

The Giants labeled Pugh's injury as a strained quad, and coach Tom Coughlin revealed after the game that Pugh actually first suffered the injury in last week's defeat in Seattle. But he practiced all week and did not appear on the Giants' official injury report.

"That was the shocker. The kid worked his tail off in practice, I don't think he ever missed a snap," coach Tom Coughlin said.

Charles Brown replaced Pugh, and struggled. Coughlin had no update on Pugh's status after the game.

Speaking of the injury report, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also did not appear on it this week, for the first time in several weeks.

But he was shuffled in and out of the lineup again Sunday, didn't look 100 percent when he was on the field (he was beaten on Michael Crabtree's 48-yard touchdown) and finished the game on the sideline with his right leg heavily wrapped.

Rodgers-Cromartie said he's dealing with the same injury that has hampered him in the past few games.

"It limits your movement, the things you need to be able to do as a defensive back," he said.

Chykie Brown, whom the Giants picked up off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens earlier this month, served as Rodgers-Cromartie's replacement.

Giants wide receivers Rueben Randle and Preston Parker both got dinged up Sunday but returned to the game.

Parker suffered a sprained ankle. Randle was dealing with cramps and also took a couple of hard shots, but said he was OK afterward. He finished with seven catches for a career-high 112 yards.

Running back Rashad Jennings returned to action after missing four games with a sprained MCL. But he gained just 59 yards on 18 carries (3.3 yards per carry), and was stuffed on a critical 4th-and-1 play late in the third quarter.

"I didn't make enough plays," Jennings said. "The ball is in my hands and I have to make the play."

Odell Beckham Jr. could play Sunday

October, 2, 2014
10/02/14
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Of the 32 players selected in the first round of this year's NFL draft, the only one who has yet to appear in an NFL game is New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. He injured his hamstring on the first day of training camp, July 22, and didn't really return to practice until last week.

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Beckham
But after practicing two days in a row this week -- albeit on an officially "limited" basis -- Beckham has a chance to make his NFL debut Sunday in the Giants' home game against the Atlanta Falcons.

"We'll take it slow with him, but he would be a nice guy to add to the mix," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said Thursday of Beckham. "He has a unique skill set. We like the way he can get in and out of his routes. We like to cross-train as many different guys doing as many different things as we can. He's certainly mentally capable of handling things, and physically, he's a first-round pick. He's a talented man."

The Giants have been in three-wide receiver sets for nearly 80 percent of their offensive plays this year, which means that Beckham doesn't have to pass Victor Cruz or Rueben Randle on the depth chart to play a significant role. Once he's fully healthy (and again, that time has not yet come -- he's not even a 100 percent sure thing to play Sunday), he'll most likely slide into the outside receiver spot that's been handled by Jerrel Jernigan and Preston Parker so far this year.

Beckham also is someone who can return punts, though Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the other day that he doesn't have to be a punt returner in order to get on the field. The Giants have been happy with Parker in that role and can ease Beckham in as a receiver before throwing him back there on punts. McAdoo's not the only coordinator who's eager to see him, however.

"He's a dynamic player, and we've all kind of been anxious to see him," special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said. "When he was coming out of college, I thought he had running back-like run skills in a receiver's body. He's able to get vertical, has good elusiveness. That kind of stood out, in addition to the speed and the playmaking ability."

Giants coaches, players and fans have been eager to see Beckham in action since the team picked him No. 12 overall in May. That day could finally be on the horizon.

Observation Deck: New York Giants

August, 28, 2014
8/28/14
10:30
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Five preseason games weren't enough for Eli Manning and the New York Giants' passing game to show anything, and they will go into the regular season still wondering about the state of their offense.

Manning was 1-for-4 in two series in Thursday's 16-13 victory over the Patriots. The Giants finished the preseason 5-0, but Manning finished the preseason 20-for-41 for 188 yards and one touchdown across the five games. The Giants have looked all right at times running the ball this summer, but overall the passing game has looked well out of sync and the new Ben McAdoo offense continues to look like a work in progress.

Here are some other thoughts on the Giants' final preseason game of the year:
  • This game was wide receiver Mario Manningham's last chance to show he belonged on the roster after a disappointing preseason. Unfortunately for Manningham, he played only four plays before injuring his calf muscle. It's hard to imagine him and his creaky legs on the final roster.
  • Henry Hynoski, however, was looking like a good bet to win the fullback job. But he had to leave Thursday's game with a shoulder injury. It's unclear how serious it is at this point, but Hynoski missed the bulk of the 2013 season with a shoulder injury, so it's a legitimate concern. John Conner would be his replacement.
  • Preston Parker looks to be in line for one of those wide receiver spots with Manningham likely out of the picture and Marcus Harris already on injured reserve. Parker is helped by his ability as a return man, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. and Trindon Holliday out with hamstring injuries. Parker was the primary punt returner Thursday and even lined up to return a couple of kickoffs. It didn't help him, though, that he muffed a punt in the fourth quarter.
  • Weston Richburg and John Jerry started at left guard and right guard, respectively, in place of the injured Geoff Schwartz and Brandon Mosley. Both played deep into the second half, long after the starting tackles and center J.D. Walton left the game. It's possible both will have to start the regular-season opener Sept. 8 in Detroit.
  • Early-game defensive standouts included Jason Pierre-Paul, who batted down Jimmy Garoppolo's pass intended for new tight end Tim Wright on the game's first play, Stevie Brown, who tackled running back James White behind the line of scrimmage, and Zack Bowman, who would have had two interceptions if the first hadn't been called back for an illegal contact penalty.
  • Tight end Adrien Robinson fumbled a ball away after a 17-yard reception at the end of the third quarter, underlining the troubling fact that neither he nor anyone else has separated himself from the uninspiring pack at tight end. Kellen Davis started the game Thursday, and Daniel Fells and Larry Donnell each had his moments, but the Giants are going to have to rotate these guys.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mario Manningham was not one of the 15 players on the cut-down list Tuesday when the New York Giants reduced their roster from 90 to 75 players, but that doesn't mean he's making the team. The Giants still have a lot of sorting out to do at the wide receiver position before final cuts are made Saturday, and Manningham and his balky knee still have to show they belong.

Manningham
"He's had some spurts the last couple of weeks where he's done some things on the practice field, but it hasn't carried over into games," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after Tuesday's practice. "He'll get another chance."

The Giants used Manningham a fair bit with their first-team offense in Friday night's preseason game against the Jets, and they're likely to give him a good look in Thursday's preseason finale against the Patriots. First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury and is unlikely to be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener, camp star Marcus Harris was placed on injured reserve Tuesday and there remain some open spots on the roster at wide receiver.

"Any of the guys who are left know it goes from 75 to 53," Coughlin said. "You're ending up in a numbers game, and it is competitive."

Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Beckham are sure things to make the roster at wide receiver. Jerrel Jernigan, who's been running with the first team in Beckham's place all summer, looks like a strong bet as well, especially since he's Cruz's primary backup at the slot receiver position. Undrafted rookie Corey Washington has caught a touchdown pass in each of the Giants' first four preseason games and has obviously helped his cause. Preston Parker, who caught 40 passes for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011 but was out of football last season, appears to be the primary punt returner right now with Beckham and Trindon Holliday hurt, and that could help him earn a spot as a wide receiver as well. Julian Talley also survived Tuesday's cuts and therefore remains a candidate to be kept.

The Giants are likely to keep four tight ends when they cut the roster to 53 on Saturday, which might make it tough to keep six wide receivers, but if they need Parker for punt returns (or as a reserve wideout) while Beckham gets healthy, they may not have a choice.

Regardless, the numbers game doesn't seem to favor Manningham unless he blows the Giants away with a strong showing Thursday night. Maybe the fact the opponent is the Patriots, the team against which Manningham's career highlight came, will inspire him before it's too late.
Most significant move: The fact the Saints didn’t release or put Jonathan Vilma on injured reserve or the physically unable to perform list is a very strong sign that the veteran linebacker is expected to be healthy early in the season. That’s very significant. Vilma may be nearing the end of his career, but he still is the emotional leader of this defense and his mere presence makes this unit stronger.

Going in a different direction: Courtney Roby had been a fixture on special teams since his arrival in 2008. But the Saints have some younger, more athletic guys, like Rafael Bush, they want to get involved on special teams. Roby’s value also was hurt by the fact he brought little as a wide receiver. The team elected to keep Andy Tanner over Roby because Tanner has some upside as a receiver.

What’s next: After losing outside linebackers Will Smith and Victor Butler to injuries, the Saints could look at the waiver wire to add some more help for the pass rush.

Saints moves: Released WR Courtney Roby, DE Jay Richardson, CB Chris Carr, S Jim Leonhard. Waived QB Ryan Griffin, WR Preston Parker, FB Austin Johnson, WR, Saalim Hakim, G Elliott Mealer, TE Keavon Milton, TE Michael Higgins, G Andrew Tiller, C Jeremiah Warren, LB Ray Shipman, LB Rufus Johnson, DT Isaako Aaitui, S Jerico Nelson, LB Baraka Atkins, T Marcel Jones, CB Korey Lindsey and CB Jumal Rolle. Placed C Eric Olsen on injured reserve.

Observation deck: Saints-Chiefs

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
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For those of you who thought coordinator Rob Ryan could come in and turn around the New Orleans Saints' defense overnight, think again.

This chore is going to take some time. That was apparent in Friday night’s 17-13 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Kansas City first-team offense, which wasn’t very good last year, had no problem marching 80 yards on 14 plays for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game. The Chiefs also got a field goal on the second drive, when the starters still were on the field. I did see some good moments by the defense, particularly the pass rush, later in the game when the starters were out.

But Ryan needs to use the next few weeks to get this defense ready for the regular season.

Some other observations on the Saints:

With Marques Colston sitting, rookie receiver Kenny Stills got the start. He didn’t have a great night. He dropped a deep pass from Drew Brees and also was called for offensive pass interference.

The Saints handed the ball to Mark Ingram on the first two plays of the game. I think that’s a sign of things to come. The Saints have said they want to run the ball more often and they want Ingram more involved in the offense.

Rookie defensive tackle John Jenkins, who has had a nice camp, recorded a sack of Chase Daniel. Jenkins has had a nice camp and could end up with a spot in the rotation.

Charles Brown got the start at left tackle and didn’t seem to have any major problems. But rookie Terron Armstead got a lot of playing time and still could have a chance to start.

Wide receiver Preston Parker probably enhanced his chances of making the roster by catching two touchdown passes.

Luke McCown may have solidified his lead over Seneca Wallace in the competition to be the backup quarterback. McCown completed 18 of 28 passes for 216 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Wallace, who has been dealing with a groin injury, did not play.
METAIRIE, La. -- I’m getting ready to head out and watch the first session of the New Orleans Saints’ minicamp.

I’ll be back with more on the Saints later. But here are five things I’ll be keeping a close eye on.

The defensive vibe: Throughout the OTAs (organized team activities), there has been a lot of positive talk about new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. I want to see him in action. More importantly, I want to see his defense in action. New Orleans had the worst defense in the league last season, and something dramatic had to be done. I remember the stir Gregg Williams caused when he arrived as defensive coordinator in 2009. The defense was jumping after every loose ball in minicamp and training camp, and that created a swagger. I’m curious to see if Ryan is duplicating that.

Payton’s return: Coach Sean Payton has been back from his suspension for several months. But the mandatory minicamp will be his first formal time back with his players. I didn’t realize Payton’s true value to his team until he was out. Things were quieter with assistant head coach Joe Vitt running the team in minicamp and training camp last year. I’m guessing Payton’s presence will make things a bit more spirited.

The backfield rotation: In his third season, running back Mark Ingram is entering a critical time. The former first-round pick has been part of a logjam in the backfield. I think Ingram can be a solid player if he gets on the field more often. He needs to use the offseason to show the coaching staff he deserves to be on the field more than Pierre Thomas.

The third-receiver battle: The Saints used to have one of the league’s deepest receiving corps. But it’s looking a little thin after starters Marques Colston and Lance Moore right now. That said, the Saints have plenty of candidates to emerge as big parts of the offense. I want to see if Nick Toon, Joe Morgan, Preston Parker or rookie Kenny Stills steps up.

The competition at left tackle: Jermon Bushrod's departure as a free agent left a big void. The Saints don’t have a clear answer. They’re letting rookie Terron Armstead compete with Charles Brown and Jason Smith for the starting job. The minicamp should give us an indication of who’s leading the competition.
Click here for the complete list of Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster moves.

Most significant move: The Bucs released defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who at one time appeared to be headed for significant playing time in the rotation or maybe even a spot in the starting lineup. Okoye is healthy enough that he reportedly is ready to turn around and sign with the Chicago Bears. But I think this move is another example of what coach Greg Schiano is all about. Okoye missed a lot of time in training camp and the preseason with a knee injury. He might have been one of those guys that could have gotten through the season by taking a lot of days off practice and showing up on Sundays. I don’t think that system is going to fly with Schiano (see Kellen Winslow). Although they might not be former first-round picks like Okoye, I think Schiano would rather have Gary Gibson and Wallace Gilberry, who show up for practice each day, as the starters behind Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller.

Onward and upward: Receiver Tiquan Underwood played for Schiano at Rutgers. Underwood seemed to have a good shot at making the roster with a strong showing in training camp and the preseason. But Underwood was released Friday night as the Bucs decided to keep Preston Parker and Sammie Stroughter for the final roster spots at wide receiver. Underwood likely would be a guy the Bucs would bring back if they have any injuries at receiver. But that will only happen if another team doesn’t scoop Underwood up first.

What’s next: The guys that made the latter parts of the roster shouldn’t get too comfortable. General manager Mark Dominik has a history of bringing in guys that are cut by other teams and I think that trend will only continue this year as he and Schiano try to fine tune a roster that still could use more depth in several areas. I think there still could be movement on the defensive line, at guard and at tight end.

Observation deck: Bucs-Dolphins

August, 10, 2012
8/10/12
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For the first time since October, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won a football game, defeating the Miami Dolphins on Friday night, 20-7.

So what if it doesn’t count in the standings because it’s just a preseason game? We might look back on it in the future and remember it fondly as the start of a successful Greg Schiano era. Heck, even if Schiano’s overall tenure doesn’t go well, what happened in Miami sure was a lot better than what happened in the final 10 games that Raheem Morris coached this team.

Although the starters played only briefly, it’s obvious Schiano has brought some order to a team that desperately needed it. The first-team offense opened with a long scoring drive, the second team followed with an even longer one and the defense got the Dolphins off the field.

Let’s take a look at some observations on the Bucs:
  • Running back LeGarrette Blount, who is trying to hold onto his starting job, got off to a good start. Blount got the start and played well. Blount carried seven times for 30 yards and even caught a pass. Blount also scored the game’s first touchdown, hurdling over a pile at the goal line, but you could make the case Blount should have gotten in on third down if he had followed Carl Nicks with more authority.
  • Doug Martin, the rookie Blount is trying to hold off, also fared well. Martin scored the game’s second touchdown on a short run and did it behind a second-team offensive line that’s not nearly as good as the first unit. Martin’s highlight play came on a run in which it looked like he was tackled. He then spun free and never hit the ground. Martin also did a nice job blocking Cameron Wake on a key pass play to Luke Stocker on the offense’s first drive.
  • Speaking of rookie running backs, Michael Smith, a seventh-round draft pick, had a 74-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.
  • Quarterback Josh Freeman completed 4 of 5 passes for 41 yards while playing only one series. Freeman didn’t do anything spectacular, but he looked calmer than last year. Maybe that was because he had some help from the running game as the Bucs drove 59 yards on 13 plays in seven minutes and 17 seconds.
  • Top draft pick Mark Barron was held out due to a slight injury. Cody Grimm, who had been working with the third team early in camp, ran with the first team.
  • Wide receiver Preston Parker has had a nice camp. But he probably had a few points deducted by Schiano after drawing a 15-yard penalty for slapping Miami’s Richard Marshall after a play ended. Things got worse for Parker in the second quarter when he fumbled a punt return. Yeah, it was raining and the ball was wet, but those same conditions can be present in the regular season.
  • Second-year linebacker Mason Foster and second-year defensive end Adrian Clayborn both put big hits on a Miami back on a running play near the end of the first quarter.
  • Rookie linebacker Lavonte David was drafted in the second round because the Bucs believe he can make big plays. He did. David intercepted a tipped pass in the second quarter.
  • Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky completed all eight of his passes for 91 yards, but it wasn’t as spectacular as it sounds. Receiver Tiquan Underwood bailed Orlovsky out with a catch on a 44-yard pass that a Miami safety had the angle on but failed to reach out for the ball.
It was a tough day first day of camp practice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It already has been widely reported that wide receiver Arrelious Benn suffered a knee injury that will sideline him for about a month. But, on top of that, cornerback E.J. Biggers also is going to miss some practice time.

A league source told ESPN.com that Biggers suffered a broken bone in his foot Friday.

Both injuries have the potential to cause problems. Biggers seemed likely to be the No. 3 cornerback behind starters Aqib Talib and Eric Wright. There’s not much depth beyond Biggers, and that opens some possibilities in the nickel package if the injury causes him to miss any regular-season time.

The Bucs have moved veteran cornerback Ronde Barber to free safety. There’s been talk that Barber could slide to nickelback and line up with slot receivers on passing downs and Cody Grimm could take his place at free safety in those situations. If Biggers is healthy for the regular season, he gives the Bucs options. If he’s not ready, the Bucs may have to shuffle Barber and Grimm.

Benn’s injury also is significant, even though the Bucs have some depth at wide receiver. Benn was considered to be in the mix to start opposite Vincent Jackson. But the Bucs have several other options with young wide receivers like Mike Williams, Preston Parker and Sammie Stroughter.
TAMPA, Fla. -- You could suggest the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stepped out of character when they signed free-agent tight end Dallas Clark late Monday night.

Before adding Clark, the Bucs had only two players on the roster who were 30 or older. One was 37-year-old cornerback Ronde Barber, but he literally is grandfathered in because he has spent his entire career with the team and is a Tampa Bay icon. The other is defensive tackle Gary Gibson (30). He’s also an exception. Gibson, a career backup, played for coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers, is here for depth and there’s no guarantee of him making the regular-season roster.

Other than them, every other player on the roster has an age that starts with a 2. This is a team that's made it clear it will build primarily through the draft.

Clark spent nine seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, and as recently as the 2009 season was one of the league’s most productive tight ends -- when he had 100 receptions. But Clark suffered a season-ending wrist injury in the middle of the 2010 season. Last season, Clark had an assortment of injuries and was limited to 11 games, in which he produced 34 catches. That led to speculation that Clark’s career might be over.

“I’m not done playing,’’ Clark said Tuesday after his first workout with his new team. “You’re an NFL player. Every day you are proving yourself. The second you stop, you are out the door.’’

Clark said he’s over last season’s injuries and isn’t hampered by anything.

“I believe whole heartedly that he is going to return to his form and play the way he is capable,’’ Schiano said. "That’s what we need. I think he can do everything we are going to ask him to do. And it is really good to have strong veteran presence in that tight end room as well.”

But the thing is, Clark really isn’t all that much different than Barber or Gibson. The Bucs are hoping he’ll be their main pass-catcher at tight end, but they also plan to play Luke Stocker in a lot of situations. Their investment in Clark isn’t all that huge. They signed him to a very simple contract.

It’s a one-year deal. He’s scheduled to make $2.7 million in base salary and only $1 million of that is guaranteed. There was no signing bonus or any incentives. That comes after the Bucs freed up $4.8 million in cap room by trading tight end Kellen Winslow to Seattle.

If Clark bounces back and produces anything similar, the Bucs got a bargain and they’ll be thrilled. If the injuries linger or Clark isn’t the same player he was before, it’s not like the Bucs have made a huge long-term investment in him.

In short, the Bucs entered into a low-risk deal that at least has the potential to bring a lot of rewards. If it doesn’t, there’s really no harm.

In other financial news, the Bucs have given wide receiver Preston Parker a one-year contract extension. Parker still will make the same $540,000 in base salary this year that previously was scheduled. But he received a $50,000 signing bonus and his 2013 salary will rise to $1 million.
Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff hasn’t had a lot of salary-cap room to work with this offseason, but that hasn’t stopped him from using creative ways to maximize every penny.

While recently re-signing veteran center Todd McClure and veteran long-snapper Joe Zelenka, Dimitroff took advantage of the veteran minimum salary benefit. That’s a rule that basically was put in so that veterans aren’t priced out of the league. Zelenka’s a 12-year veteran and McClure has been in the NFL for 13 seasons. At that level of experience, the minimum salary is $925,000.

That’s the salary Zelenka and McClure will receive this season, but the benefit allows their base salary to count only $540,000 against the salary cap. McClure got a $65,000 signing bonus, so his cap figure is $605,000, even though the total cash value of his one-year contract is $990,000. Zelenka didn’t get a signing bonus so his cap figure is $540,000.

The Falcons currently have $1.66 million in cap space.

Dimitroff isn’t the only NFC South general manager taking advantage of the benefit. The Carolina Panthers' Marty Hurney used it when he recently re-signed defensive end Antwan Applewhite. As a four-year veteran, Applewhite’s minimum salary is $700,000. That’s what he’ll get, but only $540,000 of his base salary counts toward the cap. Applewhite also has a $65,000 workout bonus, which bring his cap figure up to $605,000.

In other contract and cap news, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Preston Parker has signed his exclusive-free-agent tender. He’s scheduled to make $540,000 this year. Running back LeGarrette Blount also is an exclusive-rights free agent, but has yet to sign his tender.
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.

Benn, Trueblood out for Bucs

January, 1, 2012
1/01/12
3:11
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ATLANTA -- As expected, the Buccaneers will be without injured receiver Arrelious Benn and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood in Sunday’s game with the Falcons.

Both players have been declared inactive. Preston Parker and Dezmon Briscoe will get more playing time with Benn out. James Lee is expected to start in Trueblood’s place.

Also inactive for the Bucs are quarterback Rudy Carpenter, receiver Sammie Stroughter, cornerback Anthony Gaitor, defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and offensive tackle Derek Hardman.

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