NFL Nation: Stock Watch 40110

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Falling

Oakland's quarterbacks: Two weeks ago, we had Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski pegged as a riser because he regained his health and was doing all the right things to put himself in position to beat out JaMarcus Russell as the starter. Despite his progress, it appears the Raiders are looking at alternative options. The team is reportedly in hot pursuit of Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. The team’s interest in McNabb -- who will turn 34 during the season, has a huge bonus coming and is a free agent at the end of the season -- shows the team is not comfortable with Gradkowski or Russell.

Rising

Oakland’s brass: The Raiders aren't just one player away from winning the AFC West and the McNabb deal is a major risk. But it shows Oakland’s management (meaning owner Al Davis) realizes it needs a new quarterback. The team will never be a contender with its current group. Gradkowski is a feisty gamer, but in reality, he is a journeyman who is best suited to be a backup. Russell is so far away from being a capable player, it’s scary. Oakland needs a quarterback. It’s good that the Raiders are trying to upgrade even though McNabb may not be the perfect fit.

How I See It: NFC West Stock Watch

April, 1, 2010
4/01/10
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Falling

David Carr, 49ers QB. NFL teams are not rushing out to hire reporters for personnel jobs, but if you can find a positive media review from Carr's debut at the 49ers' organized team activities, be sure to pass it along. "If there's a training camp competition -- if it’s CLOSE AT ALL between presumed No. 1 Alex Smith and Carr -- then the 49ers are in some trouble," Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News wrote, "because Carr’s not the answer." The Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows used the word "frazzled" to describe what he saw from the 49ers' new backup passer, softening the description by noting that any quarterback might appear that way in his first practice with a new team. "The thing that immediately caught the eye," Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat wrote, "was his throwing motion, which appears unorthodox -- similar to a dart thrower." Hey, 49ers quarterbacks haven't thrown enough darts over the years, and it is early. So far, though, not so good.

Rising

Joey Porter, Cardinals OLB. I was saving a spot for Porter in the "falling" section until authorities in Bakersfield, Calif., decided against filing charges against him following a DUI-related arrest. Porter's stock did take an initial hit and the incident isn't something he'll display proudly on his résumé, but the quick about-face from authorities was a welcome development for Porter and the Cardinals. The team recently agreed to pay a $4 million signing bonus to Porter as part of a three-year deal. The NFL processed the contract Monday, just as it was appearing Porter might be in line for league discipline. That would have been bad. But Porter can now participate in the Cardinals' offseason program without directing any of his energies toward the legal process. The story should be a non-issue when the team reports for training camp, which is another bonus.
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Falling

Muhsin Muhammad, wide receiver, free agent. A lot of Carolina fans think one of the best players in franchise history will re-sign with the team. It’s a nice thought, but it’s probably not going to happen at a time when loyalty, which the Panthers have preached about so much, has disappeared. They cut Jake Delhomme, Brad Hoover and others because they were old.

Muhammad’s going to be 37 in May. He was somewhat productive last season and the Panthers have no other proven receivers on their roster beyond Steve Smith. Muhammad’s a good locker room guy, wants to stay in Carolina and probably would sign there for a very reasonable rate. But I wouldn’t anticipate any offer from the Panthers. That would be a complete reversal of all they’ve done this offseason. They’re intent on getting younger, and will be looking for wide receivers in the draft and maybe a young and cheap receiver in what’s left of free agency.

Muhammad probably will get signed by someone after the draft because he still wants to play and probably still has the skills to contribute somewhere. But it won’t be in Carolina.

Rising

Tampa Bay’s chances of getting one of the top-two defensive tackles in the draft. By all accounts, quarterback Sam Bradford had a great workout this week. That improves the chances of the St. Louis Rams taking him with the No. 1 overall pick. If that happens, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy won’t go No. 1 and at least one of them will be available at No. 3.

You can argue all you want about which defensive tackle would be a better fit for the Bucs, and there are strong cases for each of them. But if one of them is available at No. 3, the Bucs are in a no-lose situation. Either way, they’ll get a quality defensive tackle, which would be a major upgrade over what they currently have.

How I See It: NFC East Stock Watch

April, 1, 2010
4/01/10
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Falling

Ken Hamlin, Dallas Cowboys safety: The veteran safety reportedly (he tweeted it) spent some time at the Playboy Mansion this past weekend and didn't make it back in time for the first official day of "voluntary" workouts. The Cowboys offer make-up sessions, so this in itself isn't a big deal. But Hamlin's future is already hanging in the balance because he hasn't lived up to his lucrative contract extension.

There's a decent chance the Cowboys draft his replacement in the first round. And if you see someone such as South Florida's Nate Allen come off the board at No. 27, it might be a good sign that Hamlin's on his way out. Hamlin is known as a fierce hitter, but he continues to get victimized in coverage. With the Eagles and Giants both making moves to upgrade at safety, the Cowboys can't afford to go with status quo. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Hamlin's released this offseason. I don't think anyone wants to trade for his contract.

Update: The Cowboys cut Hamlin and offensive tackle Flozell Adams on Friday.

Rising

Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback

He's just biding his time while the Eagles try to find an exit strategy for Donovan McNabb. But with each day, fans become more and more excited about the Kolb Era. He needs to enjoy it while it lasts. Kolb's a laidback Texan off the field, but his young teammates have come to respect his presence in the huddle.

Outside of Brian Westbrook (released) and fullback Leonard Weaver, you haven't heard anyone rush to McNabb's defense. I think young players such as Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek are ready to play with Kolb. I also think Kolb has a lot more respect from scouts around the league than some folks think. Do you think the Eagles would trade Kolb if someone offered them a late first-round pick? I don't.
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Falling

Nick Harper, former Titans cornerback: His name’s not surfaced in any sort of free-agent talks around the league. No one thought he’d resurface with the Titans, and that’s been guaranteed with the addition of free agents Rod Hood and Tye Hill. Harper, underrated in his first two seasons with the Titans, slipped in his third and will be 36 in September. Will he find a team that wants experienced depth?

Rising

Jacques Reeves, Texans cornerback: Consistency has been the question. But with the offseason conditioning program under way, he’s got a chance with Dunta Robinson gone to make a play for a big role. Odds are a rookie corner from high in the draft will be part of things at the end of the month. But good work from Reeves now and through the summer can potentially keep him at the head of the line opposite second-year man Glover Quin.
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Falling

Pittsburgh Steelers' public image: No team is getting more negative press right now for off-the-field issues than the Steelers. What is making it even more stressful for Pittsburgh is this franchise is widely considered one of the most professional organizations in sports. But recent incidents involving a sexual assault allegation against quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Santonio Holmes' alleged confrontation with a woman in Florida have put the Steelers in a bad light. In fairness, no charges have been filed to date against Roethlisberger, and it appears Holmes' situation is being resolved quickly. But just having two star players place themselves in precarious situations hurts the public image of the team.

Rising

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco: While Roethlisberger is not attending offseason workouts in Pittsburgh, Flacco is working hard this offseason to take his game to the next level. He's developing chemistry in the offseason program with new receivers Anquan Boldin and Donte' Stallworth. Flacco also took part in baseball training this offseason to strengthen his throwing arm and shoulders. The third-year quarterback, who already has won three career playoff games, hopes to make the jump from a good player to a great one in 2010. If work ethic has anything to do with it, Flacco should be well on his way.
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Falling

Greener pastures. Chicago released cornerback Nathan Vasher after three consecutive sub-par seasons. No team wanted to see him rebound more than the Bears, who gave him a $28 million contract extension before the first of those three seasons. But Vasher never regained his 2006 form and the Bears finally gave up on him. It didn’t take long, however, for another team to grow convinced things would be different with them. That team was San Diego, which boasts two of Vasher’s former coaches on its staff. Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and secondary coach Steve Wilks each held similar positions with the Bears. The Chargers have minimal risk in the investment, but you wonder if they actually watched the film of Vasher’s play over the past three years. Rivera and Wilks are good coaches, but as they say, the eye in the sky doesn’t lie.

Rising

Jim Schwartz, Detroit head coach: As he enters his second year with the Lions, Schwartz knows the healthy thing to do would be to lower his blood pressure a bit during games. The Lions have a long way to go and are going to present him plenty of temper-inducing moments in the short term. But to his credit, Schwartz realizes that’s easier said than done. The worst thing he could do is begin accepting below-standard play. Schwartz said he will calm down once the team gets “the way we need [it] to be.” That should be a good thing for the Lions and their fans.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

April, 1, 2010
4/01/10
1:00
PM ET
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Falling

Marshawn Lynch, Bills running back: A week ago, I asked Bills general manager Buddy Nix if Lynch still had a place on the team. Lynch has a poor reputation when it comes to character, and a new GM and head coach might not be as tolerant as the previous leadership. Nix replied, "That's up to him. He's like everybody else. We expect him to be [in the backfield]. We need two backs. We think that he's a really good player, and we want him to be there. We're all starting new, all starting fresh." Then Lynch, who lost his job as the feature back to Fred Jackson last year, was among the no-shows when the Bills opened their offseason workout program Tuesday. Attendance is voluntary, but that's not the best way to make a first impression on head coach Chan Gailey.

Rising

Tim Tebow, University of Florida quarterback: On consecutive nights, Tebow reportedly dined with Buffalo icon Jim Kelly and New England head coach Bill Belichick. That'll make a guy feel wanted. Tebow offers the most fascinating storyline of the draft -- whether he gets drafted in the first round or not. There is so much intrigue surrounding the collegiate legend and whether his unique talents translate to the NFL game. The Bills and Patriots seem like good fits. The Bills need a quarterback badly and own the ninth and 41st picks. The Patriots own four selections between Nos. 22 and 53. They have the ability to bring Tebow aboard and groom him under Tom Brady.

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