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What should the Raiders do with their 2nd-round pick (No. 36 overall)?

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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders have the fourth selection Friday (No. 36 overall) to begin the second round of the NFL draft and many see them striking with Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.

It would make sense in that he could use a year or two to learn at the knee of starter Matt Schaub, but with the Raiders liking their current QB room of Schaub, Matt McGloin and Trent Edwards, it might even be more sensible to draft for immediate need. Or, to simply trade back for more picks since the Raiders are barren in the fifth and sixth rounds.

The Raiders seemingly nailed it with an impact player in drafting linebacker Khalil Mack in the first round at No. 5 overall. Might there be another such immediate impact player to be unearthed at No. 36?

Since Oakland did take a defensive player first, we’ve constructed a fan poll with solely offensive positions/players for you to vote on. But there are also some potential difference-makers on the defensive side of the ball the Raiders could eye early today, such as defensive tackles Louis Nix III, Ra’Shede Hageman and Timmy Jernigan, and cornerbacks Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Keith McGill and Phillip Gaines.

Vote for which position group you think the Raiders should target with their second-round pick.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Minutes after selecting Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack with the fifth pick of the 2014 NFL draft, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was asked if he thought his quarterback of the future might still be available.

Mind you, this was when Blake Bortles had been the only quarterback taken.

“Yes,” McKenzie said softly, “there’s an opportunity for that. Yes.”

[+] EnlargeDerek Carr
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesDerek Carr passed for 5,082 yards with 50 TDs and eight interceptions in 13 starts last season.
So by the time the dust cleared on the first round Thursday night, Bortles, who was taken third overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, was joined by Johnny Manziel, who fell to 22nd and the Cleveland Browns, and Teddy Bridgewater, who went 32nd in the final pick of the night to the Minnesota Vikings, who traded up to get him.

Might Fresno State’s Derek Carr, who has long been linked to the Raiders, still be on the docket when Oakland is scheduled to make the fourth pick of the night, No. 36 overall, or will the Houston Texans, who badly need a quarterback and lead off the second round, make it a family affair by drafting the younger brother of the man they made the first overall pick in 2002, David Carr?

From the Raiders’ perspective, it’s no secret they believe they are set with Matt Schaub for at least the next two years, and they even feel comfortable with backups Matt McGloin and Trent Edwards. But the feeling is also they would like to draft a project in the middle rounds, someone like Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage. Currently, the Raiders’ fourth-round pick is at No. 107 overall.

One plausible scenario has the Raiders, who do not have picks in the fifth or sixth rounds but hold three in the seventh, trading back in the second round to acquire more selections, especially if they are not truly in love with a player at No. 4 in the second round today.

McKenzie, though, said “no deal was presented, only interest” for the No. 5 overall pick on Thursday. With it not clear if there will be a market today for the Raiders’ second-rounder, they have options.

Mack certainly addressed a need and was the best player available as well.

So, besides Carr, who passed for 5,082 yards with 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions and completed 68.7 percent of his passes in 13 starts last season, who is a potential target for the Raiders in the second round?

Here is a look at five possible prospects:

USC receiver Marqise Lee was the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner as a sophomore, but had a down junior year. At just under 6-foot and 192 pounds, there are questions about his durability, but he is a playmaker after the catch.

Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is massive at 6-7, 321 pounds, but there are concerns about his surgically repaied knee. He is considered an ideal fit to work in a power-blocking scheme.

Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman is a disruptive if inconsistent force at a tick under 6-6 and 310 pounds. His athleticism might force a move to defensive end.

Utah cornerback Keith McGill is big at 6-3, 213 pounds, and his long arms make him an ideal fit for press coverage. Still, he only had one interception in two seasons for the Utes.

Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste is also big for the position at 6-3, 218 pounds and had seven interceptions in 19 starts for the Cornhuskers.
Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen was asked Thursday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis if his 2014 starting quarterback was already on Oakland’s roster.

Manziel
Keep in mind, the Raiders currently have Terrelle Pryor, who started nine games last season, Matt McGloin, who started six, and veteran Trent Edwards, who last started an NFL game in 2010, under contract.

Allen’s response? “I don’t know the answer to that yet, you know what I mean? I think that’s obviously a position we’re going to look at to try to improve as well as any other position. But that’s obviously a position we have to [evaluate].

“The quarterback position is the backbone of your football team, and so we have to make sure that when we go out there this year that we’ve put ourselves in the best position to have success with the quarterback position.”

Then after reading between the lines and going over the silver and black tea leaves, the answer would be … no.

Which of course, brings us to this year’s crop of quarterbacks. You’ve got the big guns in Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, the intriguing guys in Fresno State’s Derek Carr and Alabama’s AJ McCarron and, of course, the biggest and most intriguing figure of all in the polarizing Johnny Manziel, by way of Texas A&M.

Now, the fact that Allen is a Texas A&M alum should give the Raiders a leg up in scouting Manziel to see if he’s worth the hype, let alone the No. 5 overall pick, right?

Yes, Allen was asked about his fellow Aggie.

“Obviously, he’s accomplished a lot at the collegiate level and has been a very good football player, being the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy,” Allen said. “I think that speaks in and of itself about how good a football player he is, so I think he’s a very talented football player. I think he is a multi-dimensional football player. I think he’s able to throw the ball. I think he’s able to throw the ball from the pocket, but he’s also able to create things with his feet.

“As we get more into the evaluation process, I think he’ll be a fun guy to really evaluate.”
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders traded away Carson Palmer after a 4,018-yard passing season in 2012 ... and he threw for a career-high 4,274 yards with the Arizona Cardinals in 2013.

The Raiders traded for Matt Flynn in hopes he would become a franchise quarterback ... and he washed out and was cut in October, after one start.

Oakland used a fourth-round draft pick to select Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson ... only to waive him twice, sign him to the practice squad twice and watch him leave when the Tennessee Titans picked him up.

[+] EnlargeOakland's Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Tony AvelarNeither Oakland coach Dennis Allen nor GM Reggie McKenzie is sure if the Raiders' QB of the future is on the roster.
With so much QB carnage in such a short amount of time, is general manager Reggie McKenzie confident in his staff's ability to identify and properly scout a quarterback?

"Yes I am," McKenzie said Thursday in a 45-minute sit down with six reporters who cover the team regularly.

The differing skill sets of Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin essentially split the season, and in his final media conference of the season coach Dennis Allen said he was not sure if the quarterback of the future was in the building.

I asked McKenzie if he shared Allen's view and, if so, how he attacks that shortcoming.

McKenzie nodded.

"I'm not sure either," he said. "We've got two young players who played this year (and) from an experience standpoint there wasn't any, so neither one of them stepped up and said, ‘I'm the franchise quarterback.' So absolutely, we're going to always continue to upgrade and find that guy. Now how we find them, we'll figure that out in the next few months, to what's available to us."

McKenzie allowed that with so much youth and inexperience under center last season, the Raiders need a veteran presence. And, perhaps, that is why they recently signed Trent Edwards to a reserve/future contract.

"He's a senior guy that's been there, done that," McKenzie said. "You're talking about what we have in place now, even around the building here in the next month or so, you've got a guy that our young guys can bounce stuff off of. And starting that process ASAP, I think, is important for the young guys."

That does not mean, however, that the Raiders are done tinkering with the position. Far from it. Not when the Raiders still have the No. 5 overall pick in May's draft.

Yes, McKenzie was asked about Texas A&M's polarizing Johnny Manziel.

"He's a playmaker," McKenzie said with a smile. "Whether it's him or whether it's any one of these other guys, when you can add a playmaker to your team that's what you're shooting for. Be it the draft, be it (a) free agent. It doesn't matter. And Johnny is a playmaker."

Still, McKenzie said he'd be reluctant to start a rookie quarterback again and would rather build the team up around one until he was ready to play.

"You have to make sure you surround those young players like that with good football players, whether it's weapons, protection from an offensive line standpoint, run game," McKenzie said. "If you're going to talk about playing a rookie, I think the fair way to do it is surround him (with talent), not just ride his shoulders. It's hard. I don't care how good the rookie is.

"To make him do everything his first year is not an easy task. You'd rather not. You'd rather have a guy in place who can get you through the season, especially the early part of the season."

Hence the addition of someone like an Edwards. And McKenzie said he has no true preference for a style of quarterback, be it a runner like Pryor, who rushed for a franchise single-season record 527 yards, including a 93-yard TD run that set an NFL record, or a pocket passer like McGloin, who had a QB rating of 76.1.

Still, neither Pryor, who started nine games and threw for 1,7,98 yards on 57.4 percent passing with 7 TDs and 11 INTs, nor McGloin, who was 1-5 as the starter, truly commandeering the job last season left room for introspection.

"With Terrelle I thought he started out pretty good," McKenzie said. "But it was the inconsistency and making the decisions, whether to throw, whether to run, avoid (the pass rush) and get rid of the ball. Whatever it is, that needs to continue to improve and he was too inconsistent there.

"Terrelle's got a ways to go with the decision making and the timing of throwing (to) guys (who are) open in that regard."

And McGloin, who completed 55.9 percent of his passes for 1,547 yards with 8 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in seven games?

"I thought he came in and I thought he did a pretty good job for what he was asked to do," McKenzie said. "He was confident in where he could throw the ball, his timing, his decision-making. Kind of sputtered a little bit, trying to throw the football when he shouldn't have.

"I thought McGloin showed some positive things that looked like a real quarterback from a standpoint of getting the ball out of his hands and, not being the greatest of mobile, moving, running guys, he didn't take a lot of sacks. So ... to be looked at as one of the non-athletic quarterbacks, per se, he did a good job of getting the ball out of his hand and not putting us in a negative yard-situation. So, you like some of the things there. If you can build on it and get better with the throws and the timing and all that, he should be solid."

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders need a quarterback, a certifiable quarterback of the future, as they say.

No disrespect to the Terrelle Pryor disciples or the Matt McGloin acolytes, but even coach Dennis Allen said he was not sure if said franchise QB was “in the building right now.”

And with Allen now assured of returning to Oakland for his third season, might he look to his alma mater for salvation in the form of a polarizing figure known simply as Johnny Football?

Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, as maddening as he is talented, has officially declared for the NFL draft, and the Raiders hold the No. 5 overall pick. And with Allen’s connections to College Station running deep, the Raiders probably have an upper hand in scouting the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner. Which means the Raiders either making a run at Manziel or steering clear of him will say all you need to know about an Oakland background check.

Look, the 2014 win-now season in Oakland promises to be a fascinating study in survival. The Raiders have $60-plus million in salary-cap room to chase free agents, a full complement of draft choices to re-stock the roster, the assistants on Allen’s staff possibly on one-year contracts, with Allen most likely on a very short leash, and the pressure on general manager Reggie McKenzie to deliver a solid roster.

So what would Manziel, who had his share of off-the-field issues in college, add to the Raiders’ potentially volatile mix, besides his own brand of drama?

In two years at Texas A&M, he threw for a combined 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns and rushed for 2,169 yards and 30 TDs and was the first freshman to win the Heisman, when he set the Southeastern Conference total offense record with 5,116 yards.

And this past season, he established a new Aggies single-season mark with 4,114 passing yards, falling just 11 yards short of becoming the first sophomore on any college campus to have 10,000 career yards.

Still, generously listed at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, he’s a bit small to play the brand of reckless abandon football in the NFL he excelled at in college.

“He possesses unique improvisational skills (his closest resemblance in that regard, at least in my lifetime, is to Doug Flutie) and has the quickness, speed and instincts as a runner/scrambler that make him a nightmare to bring down, both in the pocket and in the open field when he takes off,” wrote ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, who had Manziel going to the Cleveland Browns at No. 4 in a recent mock draft.

McShay also had Manziel as his third-rated college QB, behind Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles.

“Manziel has also shown significant improvement as a passer this season, displaying more of a comfort level when throwing from the pocket, improved arm strength as a result of better mechanics and more consistency with his ball placement and accuracy,” McShay added. “Also, it's worth noting that despite all the comments about his character and leadership ability ... it really does seem as though his teammates feed off the passion and energy with which he plays.”

Should the Raiders, then, go all in with Manziel, if he’s still on the board at No. 5, or should they sign a veteran quarterback, other than recently inked Trent Edwards, and build the rest of the team first?

Raiders sign QB Trent Edwards

January, 2, 2014
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ALAMEDA, Calif. – Back when the Oakland Raiders held the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007, one of then-coach Lane Kiffin’s plans was to use it on some receiver coming out of Georgia Tech, kid by the name of Calvin Johnson, and then use a second- or third-round pick on a quarterback from down the road in Stanford’s Trent Edwards.

Kiffin was also intrigued by Brady Quinn, but that’s another story.

Instead, the Raiders went with the consensus No. 1 pick in LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, and the franchise has been trying to recover ever since. In fact, current coach Dennis Allen said himself this week that the Raiders’ QB of the future was probably not in the building, and you could hear the moans emanating from Terrelle Pryor fans and Matt McGloin supporters.

So it is with some intrigue, then, that Edwards was signed by the Raiders Thursday to a Reserve/Future contract, especially since one perceived plan for Oakland, which holds the No. 5 pick for May’s draft, is to acquire a veteran QB and build around him as a bridge to said QB of the Future.

Edwards, who was a third-round pick (No. 92 overall) of the Buffalo Bills in 2007 and also played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, was in camp with the Raiders in 2011, but then-coach Hue Jackson went with Kyle Boller as Jason Campbell’s backup at the time. Edwards resurfaced with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012.

He also had a workout with the Raiders this season, along with Pat White and David Carr.

Edwards has appeared in 38 NFL games in his career, starting 33, and has passed for 6,033 yards on 60.6 percent passing (563-of-929) with 26 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.

In 2008, he had a 2,699-yard passing season, with 11 TDs and a QB rating of 85.4.

Edwards was one of three to sign such contracts Thursday, along with defensive tackles David Carter and Torell Troup. Earlier in the week, the Raiders announced six Reserve/Future signings, all of whom finished the 2013 season on the Raiders’ practice squad: cornerback Johnny Adams, offensive lineman Jack Cornell, receiver Jared Green, linebacker Eric Harper, tight end Brian Leonhardt and defensive end Chris McCoy.

New York Jets cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
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Most significant move: It wasn't a surprise, but the New York Jets waived Greg McElroy, their only quarterback not named Mark Sanchez who has started a game in the NFL. Granted, McElroy has only one career start, but the move is significant because it underscores the lack of experience at the position. If Sanchez (shoulder) doesn't dress for the season opener, it leaves the position to Geno Smith, Matt Simms and Graham Harrell, who have a combined total of four career pass attempts -- all by Harrell. The former Packers backup made the final cut despite having spent only three days with the Jets. McElroy was waived with an injury, so he wouldn't have been ready for Week 1 anyway. Still, this is a precarious situation to say the least.

Not much depth on offense: Aside from quarterback, the Jets are perilously thin at a few spots. They have only five receivers, one of whom (Santonio Holmes) is a question mark because of his surgically repaired foot. The group includes a rookie free agent, Ryan Spadola. They also don't have an experienced backup at tackle. Jason Smith was supposed to be that guy, but he was atrocious in the final preseason game. Vladimir Ducasse can play some tackle, but that's not his best spot. Rookie OT Oday Aboushi (fifth-round pick) isn't ready to play. They have low numbers in the backfield -- only four backs, although Mike Goodson will be eligible to return from his suspension in Week 5.

What's ahead: The Jets need help on offense. You can't go into a season with Aboushi as your No. 3 tackle, so look for them to address this over the next 24 hours. Anybody up for a Wayne Hunter reunion? The wide receiver situation is interesting. Right now, the Jets have only three healthy and experienced receivers. They're either confident Holmes will return for the opener or they have plans to add a veteran. The quarterback situation bears watching, too. If Sanchez is sidelined a few weeks, it might behoove New York to import an experienced backup. A couple of former Marty Mornhinweg-ites are available -- Vince Young and Trent Edwards.

Jets cuts: QB Greg McElroy (injured), RB Mossis Madu (injured), WR Michael Campbell, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, WR Ben Obomanu, WR Zach Rogers, TE Chris Pantale, C Erik Cook, OT J.B. Shugarts, OT Jason Smith, DL Junior Aumavae, DL Lanier Coleman, DL Tevita Finau, DL Antonio Garay, LB Troy Davis, LB JoJo Dickson, LB Jacquies Smith, DB Royce Adams, DB Mike Edwards, DB Rontez Miles, PK Dan Carpenter.

Placed on reserve/suspended: RB Mike Goodson.
Most significant move: Despite J'Marcus Webb making 44 starts in 46 career games, including 32 consecutive starts at left tackle over the last two years, the Bears made the decision to part ways with him, even after reducing his salary to the league minimum for a veteran with three years of tenure.

Webb entered the offseason as the starter at right tackle, and stayed in that spot through the early part of training camp. Then, after the preseason opener at Carolina, the club demoted Webb to the second team behind rookie fifth-round pick Jordan Mills.

The demotion put Webb in competition for a backup role with veterans Jonathan Scott and Eben Britton. A five-year veteran, Britton has 30 games of starting experience on his résumé, but also possesses more versatility than Webb because of his ability to kick inside to guard and center. Scott hasn’t played all preseason, and recently underwent a procedure on his knee. But the team is confident that even a dinged-up Scott is more reliable than a fully healthy Webb.

Webb possesses the physical skillset to be a starter in the NFL for several years, but lacks motivation and passion, which is a no-no for general manager Phil Emery and the new coaching regime. The new staff worked diligently to coax out the best in Webb, but couldn’t do it consistently enough for the team to feel confident in the three-year veteran, even as a backup.

Good outing, bad result: Quarterback Jordan Palmer performed well in the preseason finale against Cleveland despite little preparation after signing as an injury replacement for Matt Blanchard. But a 64.7 completion percent and a passer rating of 102.8 with a touchdown pass in his preseason debut wasn’t good enough to keep the Bears from cutting Palmer.

A big part of that was the team’s reported desire to sign a third quarterback with practice-squad eligibility. Palmer doesn’t have any practice-squad eligibility remaining.

What’s next: With the 53-man roster finalized, the Bears will start to build their practice squad. If the club wants to bring back some of the players it cut, it will have to wait until they clear waivers. The Bears will likely be looking to add a few players cut from other teams to their practice squad, too.

Bears cuts: QB: Trent Edwards, Jordan Palmer. RB: Armando Allen. OG: Dennis Temple, Edwin Williams. LB:Jerry Franklin, J.T. Thomas. WR: Brittan Golden, Terrence Toliver, Josh Lenz. OT:J'Marcus Webb, Cory Brandon. DT:Corvey Irvin, Christian Tupou. S:Tom Nelson, Brandon Hardin. LS: Brandon Hartson. CB: Demontre Hurst. TE:Fendi Onobun. FB: Harvey Unga. DE: Aston Whiteside, Josh Williams.

Note: Brandon and Irvin received injury settlements. Hardin was waived/injured, which means if he clears waivers, he’ll revert to Chicago’s injured reserve.

Bears release QB Jordan Palmer

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears have informed veteran quarterback Jordan Palmer that he will be released prior to the deadline for NFL teams to establish their 53-man roster, Palmer announced Friday morning on his official Twitter account (@JwPalms).

“I really appreciate all the kind words from the #Bears fans but I'm headed home today,” Palmer wrote. “Crazy biz but appreciative.”

Palmer had a strong first-half performance Thursday against Cleveland when he completed 11-of-17 passes for 111 yards and one touchdown, for a passer rating of 102.8. Chicago receivers also dropped at least three throws that would have otherwise resulted in completions.

Bears head coach Marc Trestman praised Palmer following the game. The Bears signed both Palmer and fellow quarterback Trent Edwards after second-year QB Matt Blanchard fractured his left hand in the club’s second preseason game. The Bears and Blanchard later reached an injury settlement.

“It says a lot about his preparation,” Trestman said. “He came in here; he dug in; he has learned a lot of the offense and spent a lot of time, on his own, trying to assimilate all of it. I’m happy for him that he came out and played very efficiently for us.”

It’s possible the Bears could turn to Palmer later in the regular season if the team suffers an injury to either starting quarterback Jay Cutler or No. 2 Josh McCown.

Edwards replaced Palmer in the second half and went 10-of-17 for 135 yards and tossed an interception that went through the hands of tight end Fendi Onobun and returned for a touchdown by the Cleveland defense.

The Bears could be leaning toward keeping just two quarterbacks on the Week 1 active roster and signing a quarterback to its practice squad.

In other news, the Bears also informed wide receivers Britton Golden and Josh Lenz of their release Friday.

NFL teams have until 3 p.m. CT on Saturday to trim the roster to 53, but the Bears are expected to make the majority of their roster moves on Friday.
Here are three positional battles to monitor heading into the Chicago Bears’ preseason finale versus the Cleveland Browns:

1. Running back: Undrafted rookie Michael Ford is making a strong push to grab one of the final spots on the 53-man roster after returning a kickoff 100 yards in the second preseason game against San Diego, then following up that performance with 58 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries last week in Oakland. If the Bears decide to keep just three tailbacks, it means either Ford or veteran Armando Allen has to go. Allen played well last season for the Bears, appearing in 15 games and recording seven special-teams tackles. But Allen has been working his way back from an injury the past couple weeks, which has opened the door for the less expensive rookie out of LSU to showcase himself in these preseason games. Both figure to receive ample playing time tonight at Soldier Field.

2. Quarterback: The Bears’ offense is entirely in the hands of veteran quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards after Bears head coach Marc Trestman announced last week that starter Jay Cutler and No. 2 Josh McCown would not see the field in the final preseason contest. If the Bears open the season with three quarterbacks, and that is still an if, the final spot could be determined by which of the two reserves has a better game against the Browns, plus what each accomplished on the practice field the past two weeks. The Bears got a brief look at just Palmer last week in the fourth quarter (1-for-1, five yards), but both quarterbacks will get an extended look tonight. Even if the Bears decide to go with just two quarterbacks to start the year, the team might still find themselves in need of another QB later in the season -- that’s why this is still an important game for Palmer and Edwards, regardless.

3. Offensive line: If the Bears retain eight offensive linemen, as offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer hinted earlier in training camp, then two spots might still be available. That means Jonathan Scott, Eben Britton, J’Marcus Webb and Taylor Boggs are probably the guys still alive to make the team, although sometimes these calls are already made before the final preseason game. Scott has actually pulled off the rare feat of improving his position on the team despite missing the past several weeks with a knee injury that required a procedure to clean it out. That’s because Webb has continued to struggle ever since being demoted to second-team left tackle. Webb is a mystery. He has all the physical gifts, but his inconsistency coupled with his strange behavior and apparent lack of passion toward the game, makes him a strong candidate to get cut. If Scott’s knee is OK for Week 1, then it might make sense to just keep him and Britton, try and sneak Boggs on the practice squad, and send Webb on his merry way. But if Webb wants to make one final stand, he better make the most his opportunities tonight.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears whittled to the 75-man roster limit Tuesday by finalizing an injury settlement with quarterback Matt Blanchard.

A second-year veteran, Blanchard fractured a knuckle on his left hand during the team’s win over the San Diego Chargers. Prior to the injury, it appeared likely the Bears would try to keep Blanchard on the 53-man roster or waive him in final cuts with the expectation of adding him to the practice squad.

The problem is there’s no way a team can release an injured player without reaching a settlement.

“I’m just disappointed he was injured. I really liked his progress. I think we resonated that through the times we’ve talked here,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “I think everybody has an idea how we felt about Matt while he was here.”

Blanchard’s settlement makes him ineligible to return to the Bears until after Week 10. After the timeframe for the settlement expires, Blanchard can sign with another team. So it’s likely the quarterback would sign with another club after the length of the settlement -- which is commensurate with the time a player is expected to be out due to the injury -- has expired because he can’t rejoin the Bears until 2 1/2 months into the season.

In making the decision, Trestman said he hasn’t “even thought about” the timeframe for Blanchard’s recovery, adding that “we’ll just see how it goes as we move forward.”

When the team hit the practice field for the portion of Monday’s workout that the media is allowed to view, Blanchard wasn’t out on the field with the rest of his teammates. With the team going into the final exhibition game Thursday not expecting to play any of its starters, it’s likely the team would have played Blanchard for a significant amount of repetitions.

Instead, the Bears will divvy up the snaps to recently-signed quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards, with the former set to start.

“They’re both really smart guys and knowledgeable. They’ve practiced well,” Trestman said. “I expect that they’re gonna do well.”

Blanchard spent the majority of the 2012 season on the practice squad.
The sophomore slump concept baffles me.

Sure, we see it at times. But it’s as if just because there is a sing-songy and alliterative name for a second-year dip, it’s a fact that any good rookie endures a sophomore slump.

I just had a pretty good view of J.J. Watt’s second year. It was no slump.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
AP Photo/Michael ConroyColts quarterback Andrew Luck seems an unlikely candidate for a sophomore slump.
Coaches regularly say the biggest jump for players is between Year 1 and Year 2.

When it comes to Andrew Luck, I’m not predicting anything close to a sophomore slump.

Lee Singer of ESPN Stats & Information was kind enough to sort though numbers on quarterbacks over the past 10 years who played substantially in their first and second years.

There are 15 quarterback in the past 10 seasons who have qualified for the passer rating title in each of their first two seasons. That requires 14 pass attempts per game.

Here’s the list of those 15:

Cam Newton, CAR
Sam Bradford, STL
Matt Ryan, ATL
Andy Dalton, CIN
Joe Flacco, BAL
Byron Leftwich, JAC
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
Mark Sanchez, NYJ
Blaine Gabbert, JAC
Vince Young, TEN
Josh Freeman, TB
Christian Ponder, MIN
Trent Edwards, BUF
Colt McCoy, CLE
Kyle Boller, BAL

Nuggets from Singer on those 15 regarding the idea of a sophomore slump:

  • Ten of them increased their completion percentage in their second year. Young had the biggest increase (51.5 to 62.3) while Bradford had the biggest drop (60.0 to 53.5).
  • Nine of the 15 increased or saw their yards per attempt remain consistent. Edwards had the biggest increase (6.1 to 7.2) while Ryan had the biggest drop (7.9 to 6.5).
  • Thirteen of the 15 saw their touchdown-to-interception ratio increase. Freeman had by far the biggest increase (.56 to 4.2, going from 10 TDs and 18 INTs to 25 TDs and six INTs) while Young had the biggest drop (.92 to .53, 12 TDs and 13 INTs to nine TDs and 17 INTs).
  • Thirteen of the 15 saw their NFL passer rating remain steady or improve. Freeman had the biggest increase (59.8 to 95.9) while Matt Ryan had the biggest drop (87.7 to 80.9).
  • There are 10 quarterbacks in the QBR era (since 2008) who have qualified for the passer rating title in each of their first two seasons. Seven of those QBs saw their QBR remain steady or increase. Freeman had the biggest increase (25.9 to 64.6) while Ryan had the biggest drop (74.1 to 56.6).

Improvement or decline in Year 2 hardly establishes a permanent arrow -- Freeman is much less of a sure thing now than he seemed after his second season; Ryan has become a much more known and desirable commodity since his second season.

But let’s get past this default setting that a rookie quarterback who has a decent, good or very good first year is automatically going to suffer a second-year dip.

I’d bet on Luck being far better in completion percentage (where he was at 54.1 percent in 2012 and is in a system featuring shorter passing now). I also expect he will throw fewer than 18 interceptions, throw more than 23 touchdowns, absorb fewer than 41 sacks and post a rating higher than 76.5.

The trade off for improvements in those areas is likely to come in air yards. Luck’s 10.1 air yards per pass last season, per NFL Stats & Information, was the highest number in the NFL.

Bears unlikely to sign QB JaMarcus Russell

June, 7, 2013
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Quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the top pick in the 2007 draft who's been out of the league for three years, showed up at the expected weight and displayed a "big arm" and "good, positive demeanor" during a Friday workout for the Chicago Bears, sources told ESPNChicago.com, but the team is unlikely to offer him a contract.

Russell looked a bit rusty but was solid overall, the source said, but with three quarterbacks already on the roster -- Jay Cutler, Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard -- it appears Chicago won't be moving on Russell or the other two signal-callers who participated in the session at team headquarters -- Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards -- anytime soon.

For Michael C. Wright's full report, click here.
E.J. Manuel Al Bello/Getty ImagesBuffalo's selection of quarterback EJ Manuel could be as defining as it was surprising.

Rookie head coach Doug Marrone has yet to coach in his first game with the Buffalo Bills. But just a few months into his regime, it’s easy to pinpoint how to gauge his overall success or failure in the NFL.

The Marrone era in Buffalo will be defined by Thursday's shocking selection of former Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel -- no more, no less.

The Bills, led by general manager Buddy Nix, jumped out on a limb Thursday by making Manuel the first quarterback taken in the NFL draft with the No. 16 overall pick. It was perhaps the most surprising move of the first round, even after the Bills traded down eight picks with the St. Louis to get the player they believe is the long-term solution at the position. Buffalo also gained a second- and a seventh-round pick and swapped third-rounders with St. Louis.

It is no secret that the job security of head coaches is closely tied to their quarterbacks. Look no further than the AFC East.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick struck gold by drafting Tom Brady 13 years ago in the sixth round. As a result, Belichick and the Patriots have dominated the AFC East ever since and been to five Super Bowls, winning three. Belichick and Brady also are the all-time winningest coach and quarterback combination in NFL history.

On the other end of the AFC East spectrum, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is on the hot seat after 2009 first-round pick Mark Sanchez flamed out. Sanchez was the first pick of the Ryan regime, and both are on the hot seat in New York. Former Bills head coach Chan Gailey also was fired after last season, in part, because veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was a bust after signing a $59 million contract.

The Marrone-Manuel tandem could turn out either way for Buffalo. But if I had to take an educated guess before Manuel throws his first pass and Marrone coaches his first game, this decision has the potential to blow up in Buffalo’s face in three or four years.

The Bills have the NFL’s longest playoff drought at 14 years and counting. They have a history of drafting the wrong quarterbacks (J.P. Losman, Trent Edwards) and signing the wrong veterans (Fitzpatrick). That makes it extremely hard to trust that the Bills went against conventional wisdom and got this one correct.

Manuel comes with good physical tools. He's athletic, mobile and has solid accuracy. But there is tons of pressure facing Manuel as the first quarterback taken for various reasons.

By association, it's expected that Manuel will be the best quarterback from this 2013 NFL draft. Adding to this dilemma is Buffalo passed over Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who played for Marrone in college. It could only add salt to the wound for Buffalo if Manuel struggles and Nassib turns out to be a good quarterback when the Bills had the most intel with Nassib’s former head coach in the building.

West Virginia’s Geno Smith and USC’s Matt Barkley also were rated higher than Manuel by most experts. Manuel will be compared to those quarterbacks at the next level, too.

But the controversial decision has been made by the Bills and the time for second-guessing is over. It’s time for Manuel to get to work and live up to his billing as the top quarterback taken in this draft. Manuel will compete in training camp with veteran quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson. Maybe the Bills will get a one-year stopgap from Kolb or Jackson -- at best -- but Manuel will have to be ready to play sooner than later. The Bills say they are not rebuilding and are strong in several areas. One of the biggest things holding Buffalo back is its quarterback situation.

The Patriots, with Brady, remain the gold standard at quarterback in the AFC East. The Miami Dolphins appear to be heading in the right direction with second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But New York and Buffalo have a lot of quarterback questions that were not answered in the first round.

The Bills have been looking for a franchise quarterback since the retirement of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. Manuel must develop into a franchise starter or it will set the Bills back for another three or four years.
Along with Patrick Willis, Adrian Wilson and Steven Jackson defined toughness and physical play in the NFC West when the division was known for neither.

It's only fitting Wilson and Jackson are leaving together.

While it's possible one or both could return to the division in some capacity, Wilson's release Friday and Jackson's decision to void his contract signal significant changes.

[+] EnlargeMatt Hasselbeck and Adrian Wilson
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenArizona safety Adrian Wilson terrorized NFC West foes like Matt Hasselbeck for 12 seasons.
The timing feels right in both cases even though it's tough to wave goodbye. Wilson is 33 years old, lost playing time last season and was scheduled to earn a $1 million roster bonus this offseason. The Cardinals have a new coaching staff and a plan to rely more heavily on younger players. Now is the time to move on from Wilson.

"Decisions like this are never easy, but it’s especially tough with someone like Adrian because he’s been such a special player and important part of this organization for the last 12 years," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said in a news release.

Wilson and Keim played at North Carolina State at different times. Keim was with the Cardinals when the team drafted Wilson in 2001. If anyone would push for the Cardinals to keep Wilson, Keim would be the one. But he had to realize the move was coming sooner, not later, and this was the right time to make a break.

"He and I have a long history, as many know," Keim said in the statement. "I had the privilege of meeting Adrian at North Carolina State when he was a 17-year old freshman. It was obvious even then that his infectious smile and imposing stature could make him a star. His disruptive style meant opponents always had to know where No. 24 lined up, and the statistics illustrate all that he accomplished through his play on the field. Just as impressive, though, has been the leadership, discipline and determination he brought day in and day out, year in and year out."

I'll remember Wilson for putting huge, message-sending hits on Vernon Davis, Todd Heap, Trent Edwards and others. I'll remember him for delivering punishing hits to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck during a 2008 game in Seattle. Hasselbeck appeared especially drained after the game. He accused Wilson of dirty tactics, then later apologized.

Five Pro Bowls and four All-Pro honors define Wilson as one of the most accomplished safeties of his era. Wilson played 181 games, fifth-most in franchise history. He leaves the Cardinals having picked off 27 passes and registered 25.5 sacks. The latter total is the fourth-most by a defensive back since sacks became a stat in 1982.

We can debate how effective Wilson was playing the run vs. playing the pass, but to me that misses what Wilson represented in his essence. He was a 6-foot-3, 230-pound strong safety and a threat to injure anyone in his path. The hit he put on Edwards drew a $25,000 fine and would have been more appropriate in a 1976 game between Pittsburgh and Oakland. That was the point. Cardinals opponents had to fear Wilson. No more.

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