NFL Nation: Ted Larsen

W2W4: Arizona Cardinals

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
The Arizona Cardinals (1-1) and Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) play their all-important third preseason game Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” Here are three things to keep an eye on:
  • How the defensive line will adapt in its first game without Darnell Dockett will be telling, especially since the starters will be playing about a half Sunday. If veteran Frostee Rucker can slide into Darnell’s spot seamlessly and keep the Cardinals’ run defense at the level it was at last year, a deep sigh of relief can be exhaled. If the Bengals run through the Cards’ line, then it’s time to possibly be concerned because the starters will likely have Thursday against San Diego off, meaning the next time the defensive line will have a chance to play against a live offense will be in Week 1 on “Monday Night Football” in front of a national audience.
  • While Jonathan Cooper continues to rest his turf toe injury, Ted Larsen will be next up to compete for the starting left guard job. He left a good impression with coaches after filling in for center Lyle Sendlein for the past three weeks, but the question becomes: Can he slide over one spot and continue to perform at that high level? With Larsen being the third starting left guard of the preseason, he’s in a position to solidify the starting offensive line with a productive outing. Cooper may not see any action Sunday, which means he’ll have Thursday’s preseason finale as the only other chance for him to play in order to be ready for the season opener.
  • Sunday may be the last game either Jay Feely or Chandler Catanzaro will play in a Cardinals uniform. After each kicked in one full game thus far, the two kickers will split Sunday with Feely kicking the first half and Catanzaro kicking the second. Earlier this week, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was noncommittal about the kicking competition going all four preseason games. How the two kick Sunday will decide if Arians needs a fourth game to decide. If he doesn’t, Arizona will be down to one kicker after Tuesday’s first cuts.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The NFL isn't a league where everyone gets a medal or a ribbon and a juicebox just for participating.

There are winners and losers, very definitive ones at that, and they're not just decided during the season. There are winners in the combine, in the draft and, of course, in free agency. But "winning" free agency is not always an objective.

Two of my colleagues, John Clayton and Field Yates, recently took on the unenviable task of evaluating the 32 NFL teams and deciding who's had the best free agency thus far and who hasn't.

Yates went first, deciding Wednesday, the second day of free agency, that the Cardinals were the early winners. On Friday, Clayton took his stab, not including Arizona in his five winners or five losers. Everyone evaluates free agency differently, there's no right or wrong away.

With all the moves that have taken place since 1 p.m. MST Tuesday, the race to be a winner has been neck-and-neck, but Arizona has staked a claim at having one of the best hauls this season.

As the sun sets on Week 1 of free agency, Arizona has signed left tackle Jared Veldheer, wide receiver Ted Ginn, running back Jonathan Dwyer and offensive lineman Ted Larsen, while re-signing tight end Jake Ballard, kicker Jay Feely, defensive end Frostee Rucker and linebacker Matt Shaughnessy.

As a whole, the Cardinals' moves have all been strategic, targeting specific areas of need and improving significantly with each one. The offense made major strides with the addition of Veldheer to anchor the left side of the line. Coupled with the addition of Jonathan Cooper, who missed his rookie season with a broken leg, the Cardinals should be better than having the worst line in the league -- Pro Football Focus graded them as such after last season. Ginn's signing strengthened the wide receiving corps and gave Arizona a legitimate threat at kick returner. Larsen has a reputation as a strong, hard-working swing offensive lineman while Dwyer can add more thump to the Cardinals' backfield.

After the kind of turnaround season Arizona had in 2013, the Cardinals were able to be picky in free agency. They didn't have to overhaul a roster, as they did when head coach Bruce Arians was hired and general manager Steve Keim was promoted. Going 10-6 and sitting on the verge of the playoffs showed the Cardinals' brain trust where it needed to improve. And they focused on those areas.

There's still work to be done, such as building depth on both lines and finding a safety while stocking up on cornerbacks.

But there's also still plenty of time left in free agency.

Through the first week, Arizona put itself in a better situation to compete for an NFC West title. And by doing so, the Cardinals had one of the best free agencies across football.

Bucs practice report: Change at guard?

December, 26, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. – The Buccaneers could have a lineup change at left guard in Sunday’s season finale.

Jamon Meredith had been starting at the position, but he was replaced by Ted Larsen during last week’s loss to St. Louis. That arrangement may continue against New Orleans.

“I wouldn’t say that for sure yet, but [there is a] good chance Ted will be the starter,’’ coach Greg Schiano said.

In injury news, linebacker Dekoda Watson (groin) did not practice Thursday. Safety Mark Barron (hamstring) was limited. Schiano also said that defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, who was placed on injured reserve Thursday morning, had surgery to clean out his knee.

In other news, Schiano said rookie defensive end William Gholston, whose playing time has been increasing steadily, will get his second career start Sunday.

Tampa Bay's injury update

December, 11, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- The interior of Tampa Bay’s offensive line could have a new look when the Buccaneers host the San Francisco 49ers.

Center Jeremy Zuttah and guard Davin Joseph both are dealing with shoulder injuries. Coach Greg Schiano said Zuttah and Joseph were limited in practice Wednesday. If Zuttah can’t play, the Bucs likely would turn to Ted Larsen. If Joseph is out, Larsen can play guard and Gabe Carimi also could be an option.

Schiano also said wide receiver Vincent Jackson (hamstring) and defensive end Da’Quan Bowers (knee) were limited in practice.

Rookie defensive end William Gholston still is going through the league’s protocol after suffering a concussion Sunday. But Gholston was able to participate in Wednesday’s practice.

Buccaneers exploring options at guard

September, 2, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- Although coach Greg Schiano said it’s too early to tell if guard Carl Nicks will be able to play in Sunday’s regular-season opener, it seems like a long shot.

Nicks is battling a staph infection and Schiano said his status is uncertain for the game with the New York Jets. But even before the staph infection, Nicks didn’t see any preseason action and was limited in camp as he recovered from a foot injury that cut his season short last year.

That means the Bucs need an alternative if Nicks isn’t ready.

“We have guys on our roster on the offensive line and we’ll just choose one of them,’’ Schiano said. “They all can play guard so one of them will be the starting guard if Carl can’t play.’’

The Bucs have several options. Gabe Carimi, who has spent most of his career at tackle, has gotten some practice time at guard recently. Another scenario would be moving center Jeremy Zuttah to Nicks’ spot and inserting Ted Larsen at center. That’s a move the Bucs have done in the past, but Schiano wouldn’t say if that’s the plan.

“It’s always an option because we’ve done it,’’ Schiano said. “But I wouldn’t say that’s the way we’re going to go or that’s not the way we’re going to go. Right now we just have to get the best five on the field. We’ll evaluate that when we know definitively about Carl.’’

Projecting the Buccaneers roster

August, 30, 2013
Roster cuts don’t have to be made until 6 p.m. Saturday. But let’s have a little fun in the meantime.

Let’s take a look at my best guess as to how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 53-man roster will shape up:

Quarterbacks (3): Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon and Dan Orlovsky

Analysis: A rough outing by Glennon in the preseason finale might have convinced the Bucs it’s best to keep Orlovsky around.

Running backs and fullbacks (5): Doug Martin, Brian Leonard, Mike James, Peyton Hillis and Erik Lorig

Analysis: Hillis is very much on the bubble. The fact he doesn't play special teams could hurt him. But he also could stick around because he has the size to be a backup for Lorig at fullback and could be a valuable short-yardage rusher.

Tight ends (3): Luke Stocker, Tom Crabtree and Nate Byham

Analysis: The Bucs may have to keep Danny Noble if Crabtree’s ankle injury is going to keep him out for an extended period.

Wide receivers (5): Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Kevin Ogletree, Tiquan Underwood and Eric Page

Analysis: Page has emerged as the return man and that should earn him the final roster spot.

Offensive line (9): Davin Joseph, Carl Nicks, Donald Penn, Demar Dotson, Jeremy Zuttah, Gabe Carimi, Ted Larsen, Jamon Meredith and Cody Wallace

Analysis: The Bucs could carry an extra lineman if it looks like Nicks will be out for an extended period.

Defensive line (10): Gerald McCoy, Akeem Spence, Adrian Clayborn, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Da’Quan Bowers, Gary Gibson, Trevor Scott, William Gholston, Steven Means and Derek Landri

Analysis: The last few spots are very competitive and the Bucs could look to bring in a defensive tackle from the waiver wire.

Linebackers (6): Lavonte David, Mason Foster, Dekoda Watson, Jonathan Casillas, Adam Hayward and Najee Goode

This position is pretty clear-cut unless the Bucs bring in someone off waivers.

Defensive backs (9): Darrelle Revis, Johnthan Banks, Dashon Goldson, Mark Barron, Leonard Johnson, Danny Gorrer, Michael Adams, Rashaan Melvin and Cody Grimm.

Analysis: Melvin and Grimm are very much on the bubble.

Specialists (3): Michael Koenen, Andrew Economos and Rian Lindell.

Analysis: Kicker Lawrence Tynes still is recovering from a staph infection and could end up on injured reserve.

Escalators and the NFC South

February, 19, 2013
One of the many reasons the New Orleans Saints are in a difficult salary-cap situation is that six of their players triggered escalators that will cost the team nearly $4 million in 2013.

Kicker Garrett Hartley earned a $1.432 million escalator and safety Malcolm Jenkins earned a $1.25 million raise. The other Saints to hit escalators were receiver Lance Moore ($100,000), tackle Zach Strief ($300,000), tight end Jimmy Graham ($700,000) and defensive tackle Tom Johnson ($195,000).

I’ve also got the numbers on escalators that were triggered elsewhere in the NFC South. In most cases, the escalators were based on players meeting specified playing-time levels in 2012. But, in some cases, the escalators were triggered by playing time in previous years.

Atlanta’s Michael Turner, who could end up being a salary-cap casualty, had his base salary escalate by $1.4 million. Defensive end John Abraham triggered a $1 million escalator. The other two Falcons to earn escalators for this season are defensive tackle Corey Peters ($600,000) and cornerback Asante Samuel ($200,000).

Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy had his team’s largest escalator ($775,000). Receiver Brandon LaFell earned a $700,000 escalator and offensive lineman Garry Williams will pick up an extra $125,000.

The Tampa Bay players to hit escalators were offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah ($250,000), tackle Demar Dotson ($500,000), receiver Mike Williams ($800,000), offensive lineman Ted Larsen ($700,000), safety Cody Grimm ($625,000, which was based on his 2010 playing time) and fullback Erik Lorig ($425,000).

Live from the Georgia Dome

October, 14, 2012
ATLANTA -- I’m settled into the Georgia Dome press box for Sunday’s game between the Falcons and Oakland Raiders.

I’ll be back with the inactives in about an hour and you know the rest of the drill. I’ll weigh in on anything of substance during the game and we’ll have a Rapid Reaction immediately after the game and a full column a bit later.

I’ll also be watching the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs and providing an update on that.

Speaking of the Bucs, we’ve got two items worth noting. First, congratulations to former offensive tackle Paul Gruber, who will be inducted into Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor on Sunday. I had the pleasure of covering Gruber in the 1990s and can honestly say he’s one of the most genuine professionals I’ve ever dealt with.

Second, it sounds like the Bucs are switching up their offensive line in a different way than many expected. There were hints during the week that Ted Larsen, who had been starting at right guard, would be out of the lineup and be replaced by Jeremy Trueblood. Apparently, that’s only half true. Larsen isn’t expected to be in the starting lineup. But reports that Jamon Meredith -- not Trueblood -- will start at right guard.

Gee, that should really throw off the Chiefs’ plans.

Observation deck: Bucs-Redskins

August, 29, 2012
Tampa Bay’s 30-3 loss to the Washington Redskins on Wednesday night didn’t make for great viewing.

Blame much of it on Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano. But, more importantly give Schiano lots of credit for making one of his best decisions since taking over the Buccaneers in January.

The Tampa Bay starters did not play. Instead, they stood on the sidelines after going through a full practice at Georgetown University earlier in the day.

It’s not unusual for an NFL coach to use his starters lightly or sit some of them in the final preseason game. But Schiano took this to an extreme. He even sat long-snapper Andrew Economos and a few guys that are likely to be key backups.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. After watching Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph go down with a season-ending knee injury last week, Schiano wasn’t taking any chances. He wants his starters healthy for the regular-season opener, which comes Sept. 9 against Carolina.

That game is going to be a lot more important -- and, hopefully more entertaining -- than the preseason finale.

Some quick observations from Wednesday night’s game:
  • The Bucs still are trying to figure out how they’re going to replace Joseph. Jamon Meredith started at right guard, but I don’t know if that means he’ll be there for the Carolina game. Meredith surrendered a sack and was called for two penalties in the first half. The Bucs are experimenting with their options at that spot. Ted Larsen, who got the start at center, and Derek Hardman, also are possibilities from the current roster. But the Bucs also could scan the waiver wire for help in the coming days. After watching all the backup offensive linemen, I’d suggest the waiver wire might be the way to go.
  • Defensive tackle Wallace Gilberry might have helped his chances of landing a roster spot. He batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage early in the game. The Bucs are expected to use Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller as their starters. Amobi Okoye is expected to be part of the backup rotation, but he’s missed a lot of time with an injury. Gilberry likely is in the mix with Gary Gibson and Frank Okam to be part of the rotation.
  • I remember a preseason or two back in the 1990s when third-stringer quarterback Scott Milanovich was the most popular quarterback in Tampa Bay. After watching Brett Ratliff get the start and play the entire game, I don’t think starter Josh Freeman or backup Dan Orlovsky have anything to worry about. In fact, I think there is at least a chance the Bucs could follow the path a lot of other teams have taken in recent years and go with only two quarterbacks on the regular-season roster. In fairness to Ratliff, he got no help from his offensive line.
  • Broadcaster and former Buc John Lynch might have stirred up some speculation when he said the Bucs should try to sign tight end Chris Cooley, who recently was released by the Redskins. Usually, I try to shoot down speculation about the Bucs signing guys in their 30s because that really doesn’t fit the profile of a team that’s doing most of its building through the draft. But I’m with Lynch on this one. I think the Bucs could use a little more depth to go with Dallas Clark and Luke Stocker. If Cooley’s healthy, he might be worth a shot. I think he’d be a better lockerroom fit than Jeremy Shockey, who still remains unsigned. General manager Mark Dominik said during a fourth-quarter interview with the broadcast team that there had been contact with Cooley's agent, but said the team is now aggressively pursuing the veteran tight end.
  • Rookie safety Sean Baker still might be a long shot to make the 53-man roster. But he intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble Wednesday night. That might help Baker land a spot on the practice squad.
  • Nice to see Bucs’ co-chairman Joel Glazer hugging Raheem Morris before the game. Morris coached the Bucs the last three seasons and is now Washington’s defensive backs coach. Morris had a good relationship with ownership, but it was obvious to all that a move had to be made as the Bucs lost their final 10 games of last season. I’m just guessing here, but I doubt any members of the Glazer family were exchanging hugs with Washington general manager Bruce Allen, who once held the same role in Tampa Bay.

Bucs will ponder options at guard

August, 25, 2012
As expected, Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano delivered some bad news when he met with the media Saturday afternoon.

Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph suffered a season-ending injury in Friday night’s preseason victory against New England, Schiano said. Joseph tore the patellar tendon in his right knee. Schiano said Joseph is scheduled for surgery Monday and will be placed on injured reserve.

This is a huge blow because the Bucs thought they had the potential to have one of the league’s better offensive lines. A big part of their logic was that they were pairing Joseph with free-agent pickup Carl Nicks, who had been an All-Pro with New Orleans. The thinking was that the Bucs could have the league’s best guard tandem.

Now, they have to look at other alternatives -- and it’s not likely any of them are on a par with Joseph.

“It’s part of what we do,’’ Schiano said. “You mourn and you move on.’’

Schiano said the Bucs will monitor guards that are available and come available as teams trim their rosters. But he also said it’s likely Joseph’s replacement in the starting lineup will come from within the existing roster.

Ted Larsen seems to be the leading candidate. He replaced Joseph on Friday night. But Derek Hardman, who has had a solid preseason, also could get a look.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The starting offense and defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played about as well as anyone could have hoped for in the first half of Friday night’s 30-28 preseason victory against the New England Patriots. But they also might have suffered a big loss.

With 1 minute, 5 seconds left in the second quarter and the Bucs leading 17-7, Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph went down with a right knee injury. Joseph was carted off the field.

Coach Greg Schiano said Joseph's injury "doesn't look good'' after the game. He said the team will get a full evaluation Saturday when more tests are performed.

If Joseph is lost for an extended period, it could have big consequences on a Tampa Bay offensive line that has the potential to be a big strength. The Bucs brought in All-Pro Carl Nicks and the hope is that he and Joseph could form the league’s best guard tandem. If the Bucs have to use Ted Larsen or Derek Hardman in Joseph’s place, there’s a big drop off.

Some other observations on the Bucs:
  • In what may have been a sign of things to come, the Bucs started rookie Doug Martin at running back. LeGarrette Blount had started the first two preseason games. Blount sustained a minor injury in the last preseason game, but didn’t miss any practice time. I think this was a case of the Bucs wanting to get an extended look at Martin with the first-team offense because that might be where he’s at in the regular season. Martin had 13 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three passes for 12 yards. Blount carried seven times for 22 yards and didn’t get his first carry until the second quarter.
  • Speaking of first-round picks, the Bucs had two of them score first-quarter touchdowns. Safety Mark Barron, the seventh overall pick in the draft, returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown near the end of the first quarter. Credit veteran defensive back Ronde Barber for deflecting the Tom Brady pass.
  • Quarterback Josh Freeman's overall stats (10-of-19 for 102 yards) weren’t that spectacular. But the first drive of the night was extremely encouraging. Freeman seemed in rhythm with Vincent Jackson, who the Bucs added as a free agent to be their No. 1 receiver. On the opening drive, the Bucs drove 68 yards on eight plays and 49 of those yards came on three completions from Freeman to Jackson.
  • Left tackle Donald Penn, who missed all of training camp with a calf injury, got the start and his first playing time of the preseason.
  • Tampa Bay’s defensive line got some decent pressure on Brady. Defensive end Michael Bennett had an early sack and George Johnson batted down a Brady pass.
  • Speaking of the pass rush, I think linebacker Adam Hayward is, at very least, earning himself some playing time as a situational pass-rusher. Hayward sacked Brady with a little more than six minutes left in the second quarter.
  • Tampa Bay’s kickers had an excellent night. Connor Barth made a 56-yard field goal. Kai Forbath connected on attempts from 55 and 51 yards. The job belongs to Barth, but Forbath might be helping his chances of landing with another team.

NFC South MVP: Josh Freeman

January, 21, 2011
Josh FreemanKim Klement/US PresswireJosh Freeman threw for 3,451 yards this season, with 25 touchdown passes and six interceptions.
Let's not even bother with the setup. Let's just open the envelope and read what's inside.

The NFC South Most Valuable Player for the 2010 season is ... Josh Freeman.

Go ahead, start yelling and screaming in New Orleans and Atlanta. Throw eggs or whatever, but just be aware that I've got the alarm system on and since Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks, Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock are worried about the possibility of a lockout, I've hired them as guards.

Yep, I picked Freeman over Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. I picked him over Michael Turner and Roddy White too.

Let's be real clear: I'm not saying Freeman is a better quarterback than Brees, who is going to the Hall of Fame someday. I'm not even saying Freeman's better than Ryan, who has had three very nice years. I'm not even saying Freeman had a better season than Brees and Ryan or even Turner and White.

Go back and read the second paragraph and circle the word valuable. That's really the crux of all this. There are lots of ways you can give out MVP awards. But if you put the emphasis solely on the value a player had to his team, Freeman wins in a landslide.

That thought hit me Sunday morning on a plane from Atlanta to Tampa. I'd given some thought to Turner and White, but was pretty much ready to flip a coin to decide between Brees and Ryan. They both had nice regular seasons and they both got bounced in their first playoff games.

In other words, Brees and Ryan did exactly what was expected of them in the regular season, and I don't mean to sell that short as an accomplishment because the bar was set sky high for both of them. But did either of them really do anything special? Anything that was beyond expectations?

When I thought about it in those terms, that's when Freeman's name hit me and this decision was made.

"I think the most important thing is, in just about every game this season, Josh at least had us in a position to win the game,'' Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said. "With a young team, that was hugely important, and he allowed us to accelerate our process. That made him incredibly valuable to us.''

I'll take it a little further than Dominik and say Freeman meant everything to the Buccaneers. He carried that team all season. For those who weren't paying attention, like the 30,000 who weren't showing up for games at Raymond James Stadium or the millions who couldn't watch Tampa Bay's games because they were blacked out on local television, the Bucs went from being 3-13 and a national embarrassment in 2009 to a 10-6 team that barely missed the playoffs.

Nobody expected anything close to that. And nobody expected anything like that from a quarterback who didn't celebrate his 23rd birthday until after the season was over, and who created an instant army of critics when Dominik made the then-ridiculous move of trading a sixth-round pick to move up and draft Freeman in 2009.

Everything Dominik and coach Raheem Morris did in 2009 seemed ridiculous. They signed Derrick Ward, fired both coordinators by midseason and lost a lot of games. But it turned out they did one thing right.

They drafted Freeman and, in his first season as a full-time starter, he made a lot of other things look right. He threw for 3,451 yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was one of the 10 best in history, and he also used his legs to win games.

More than anything, Freeman used his back to carry the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay had the league's lowest payroll and had the youngest roster in the league and, if you really look at that roster, it wasn't all that good. Yes, some bright spots (running back LeGarrette Blount and receiver Mike Williams) emerged, but part of the reason they emerged was because they were playing with Freeman.

The Bucs had so many injuries on the offensive line that, by the end of the season, they were starting Ted Larsen, Jeremy Zuttah and Derek Hardman at the three interior positions. If you're not a close relative and had heard of any of those three before they were starting, it might be time to develop some other hobbies.

With all the changes around him, Freeman was the one constant. Other than his six interceptions, his stats didn't compare favorably to the numbers Brees and Ryan put up.

But let's do a little exercise here. Picture the Saints without Brees for a season. Put Chase Daniel in with all those weapons and Sean Payton calling the plays and the Saints still win a fair amount of games. Picture the Falcons with Chris Redman in for Ryan. It's the same thing. The Saints and the Falcons would at least be competitive without Brees and Ryan.

Now, picture the 2010 Buccaneers without Freeman. I say they would have been 0-16. If you disagree, go out to training camp this summer and watch a few plays with backups Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter under center.

That's why Freeman did more for his team than any NFC South player in 2010.

"The thing is people forget that he was only 22 this season,'' Dominik said. "He took big steps this year and that helped our whole team take some big steps. He's only going to get better in the future, and that's only going to help everyone around him get better in the future.''

Remember, all I'm saying is Freeman was more valuable to his team this year than anyone else. If what Dominik said about the progression of Freeman and the Bucs comes true in the future, then I might be back here with an update. I might end up writing that Freeman is a better quarterback than Brees and Ryan.

Lockout could hit workout bonuses

January, 17, 2011
Now that all the NFC South teams are out of the playoffs, it’s time to start looking ahead. We’ll be talking a lot in the coming months about the 2011 draft, mainly because that’s the only thing we know for sure that will happen this offseason. We’ll also talk about free agency, although that could be delayed slightly or greatly by whatever happens with the league’s labor situation.

Speaking of that, I decided to take a look at some contract stuff to see what a potential protracted lockout would do to workout bonuses around the NFC South. In general terms, some players have contracts that call for bonuses to be paid for participating in a specified amount of offseason workouts.

The number of workouts varies from contract to contract. But, generally speaking, most contracts call for a player to participate in a majority of offseason workouts and many contracts require the player to participate in at least 75 percent of the workouts.

If there is a lockout, it would take hold March 3. Most teams have offseason programs that are scheduled to begin later in March. If the lockout is lengthy, like many expect, there will be no offseason programs. In most cases, that would mean players with workout bonuses would not be able to earn them and players collect their base salaries only during the regular season.

I talked to one agent this morning who represents an NFC South player who is scheduled to collect a significant workout bonus in 2011. This player came into the league recently, when the possibility of a lockout was already on the horizon. Due to that fact, this player’s contract includes some language where he could recoup the lost workout bonus down the road if a new labor agreement is reached after the window for this year's offseason programs. But the agent said this player is one of the few exceptions and most players would lose their workout bonuses if all or most of the offseason workouts are canceled.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the workout bonus situation for each NFC South team.

New Orleans. This is a much bigger deal for the Saints than any other NFC South team. They have a division-high 12 players with workout bonuses in their contracts and eleven of them are well into six figures. Malcolm Jenkins has a team-high $350,000 workout bonus and Sedrick Ellis has a $250,000 workout bonus. Drew Brees and Jahri Evans each are scheduled to receive $200,000 bonuses and Will Smith has one for $150,000, while Robert Meachem is scheduled for a $147,000 bonus. Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer, Jon Stinchcomb and Devery Henderson each have a $100,000 bonus and Marques Colston has a $75,000 bonus. Tracy Porter is scheduled for a $7,280 workout bonus.

Atlanta. All general managers are different in how they spread out money in contracts. Atlanta’s Thomas Dimitroff isn’t a big fan of workout bonuses. In the past, he’s included some very small ones. But the Falcons don’t have a single true workout bonus for any of their players in 2011. Receiver Roddy White can earn up to $5 million in escalators based on Pro Bowl selections and participation in offseason workouts that would kick in later in his contract.

Carolina. General manager Marty Hurney used to include some workout bonuses in contracts and that was especially prevalent when defensive linemen Julius Peppers and Kris Jenkins were in town because the Panthers felt they had to keep Peppers interested and Jenkins interested and in shape. But Hurney has steered clear of workout bonuses in recent years. There is not a single true workout bonus for any Carolina player this year. In fact, most of the contracts for the 2010 draft class include clauses where future salaries can de-escalate if players don’t participate in offseason workouts.

Tampa Bay. Donald Penn is scheduled to receive a division-high $400,000 workout bonus and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has a $300,000 bonus. The only other Tampa Bay player with a workout bonus in his contract is Ted Larsen and that’s for $7,280.

Final Word: NFC South

December, 17, 2010
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15.

[+] EnlargeSteve Smith
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesReceiver Steve Smith may not want to stick around for the ongoing rebuilding process in Carolina.
Another farewell? There has been all sorts of talk about John Fox coaching his last home game for the Panthers. But there also seems to be a lot of speculation from Carolina fans that this could be the last time wide receiver Steve Smith plays for the Panthers in Bank of America Stadium. It’s a legitimate question about one of the best players in franchise history. Smith remains under contract with the team through 2012. But it is fair to wonder whether Smith might want out or whether a new coach might want to start fresh with young receivers. Does Smith want out? I think it’s important to note that a guy who rarely hides his feelings has never even hinted about wanting out. However, I wouldn’t blame Smith if he did ask out. He’s a guy who has an outside shot at the Hall of Fame if he can put up some big numbers for a few more years. Common sense says it’s going to take the Panthers some time to build, and Smith doesn't have time for that. He’s also a highly competitive guy, and I seriously doubt he enjoys losing. If he goes and asks management to trade him, I think he’d get his wish pretty much out of respect. But unless or until he actually says he wants out, I don’t think everyone should assume Smith wants to leave Carolina.

The Domeless Saints. I’m looking at Sunday’s weather forecast for Baltimore and it doesn’t look as bad as it did a few days ago when snow was mentioned as a possibility. The latest forecast says there is only a 10-percent chance of precipitation and the temperature might be a little above freezing. This might be a good warm-up game for the Saints because they could have to go on the road to someplace like New York, Philadelphia or Chicago in the playoffs. They have that perception of being a “dome team." Might be a good time to start shedding that perception.

Turn down “The Burner." It sounds like there is a decent chance Atlanta running back Jason Snelling could return to play against Seattle after sitting out the last couple of games. If he does, that’s really good news for the Falcons. They’ve been riding starter Michael Turner very hard the last few weeks, and he has produced in outstanding fashion. The Falcons aren’t going to do anything to dramatically cut Turner’s carries because he’s such an important part of the offense. But they’d love nothing more than to give a few of those carries to Snelling, who is a quality backup. At the moment, Turner has 275 carries. He’s been getting around 25 carries a game recently. If you project it out at that rate, Turner’s on pace for 350 carries for the regular season. That number is a little higher than the Falcons would like, especially when you consider that more carries will be coming in the playoffs. I’m thinking the Falcons would like to chop Turner’s pace down to a point where he ends the regular season with somewhere around 330 carries.

Mix and match. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who seem to have been scrambling to compensate for injuries every week in recent memory, will have to do it again. This time, the big question is how they will replace rookie defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. There is no singular answer to that. The Bucs haven’t laid out their entire plan, but coach Raheem Morris has said the team will take a committee approach at defensive tackle. Defensive end Michael Bennett could slide over there and backups Al Woods and Frank Okam could get some time in what figures to be a heavy rotation. There even have been hints that nose tackle Roy Miller could slide over to McCoy’s old spot at times.

Suh Flu outbreak. I’m sort of glad I’m getting on a plane to Baltimore on Saturday because there could be an epidemic hitting Tampa Bay on Sunday. It’s called Suh Flu, and symptoms are offensive linemen breaking out in a cold sweat at the prospect of having to block Detroit’s rookie sensation Ndamukong Suh. He’s lived up to all the hype that came with being the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. The Bucs are expected to start rookie guards Ted Larsen and Derek Hardman. They certainly will get some attempts at help from center Jeremy Zuttah, but I’m not sure that will be enough to stop this outbreak.

Lineup changes for Panthers, Buccaneers

November, 14, 2010
TAMPA, Fla. – The Panthers and Buccaneers just announced a few lineup changes for today’s game.

Center Jeff Faine, who is returning from injury, will start for the Bucs. There had been some thought that Jeremy Zuttah, who had played center in Faine’s absence, would move to left guard. But that’s not happening. Ted Larsen will start at left guard and James Lee will start at right tackle in place of Jeremy Trueblood, who had been injured, but is active today. Erik Lorig will start at fullback in place of the injured Earnest Graham.

On defense, Tim Crowder will start at end in place of the injured Kyle Moore. DeKoda Watson will start at strongside linebacker in place of Quincy Black.

For Carolina, Mike Goodson will get the start at running back because DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton all are out with injuries. Nick Hayden will start at defensive tackle in place of Ed Johnson.


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