Here's a look at some of the top rumors for Thursday, Feb. 11:
We're still more than two months from draft day, but the whispers are heating up with the combine just two weeks away. The intrigue begins at the top, where the Tennessee Titans hold the No. 1 pick but don't need to draft a quarterback. So who will they take? Tony Pauline of TFY Draft Insider heard during the Senior Bowl that it could be Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil, despite many believing that Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa is the top prospect available. Tunsil is an extremely gifted athlete who can make pass protection look easy, and he would allow Tennessee to move 2014 first-rounder Taylor Lewan back to the right side. Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay each had the Titans selecting Bosa in their most recent mocks, but plenty of evaluation remains. Bosa falling past the first pick could potentially throw things for a spin, especially if the Cleveland Browns aren't sold on a quarterback at No. 2.
Another note from Pauline's post: He hears that the top prospect on the Dallas Cowboys' board is Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, who Kiper and McShay both consider the best prospect at cornerback or safety in the entire draft. Ramsey fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 5 in each of their most recent mocks, and defensive backs rarely get taken so close to the top, but it sounds like the Cowboys would be happy to pull the trigger at No. 4. However, with the Titans and San Diego Chargers not in need of a QB, it's certainly possible that Ramsey will be gone by the fourth pick. Considering the trio of top talents (Bosa, Tunsil and Ramsey) available and the possibility that the Browns or Cowboys take a quarterback, this draft's top five could prove to be one of the more intriguing in recent memory.
Speaking of the Browns, it sounds like they may try to fill their hole at QB through another avenue, which would open up the No. 2 pick to be used on the best player available. Buried in his Monday column, The MMQB's Peter King relayed whispers that the Denver Broncos "won’t be surprised if Browns coach Hue Jackson does more than just sniff around Brock Osweiler."
King touched on this idea again on Tuesday, making it clear that GM John Elway sees Cleveland as a likely competitor for Osweiler's services, which could increase the pending free-agent's asking price. As ESPN's Mike Sando wrote earlier this week, Osweiler has plenty of incentives to remain in Denver, not the least of which is the tremendous defense that's proven itself capable of carrying the team to a title. At the same time, it's unclear what sort of offers Osweiler might receive if he hits the market, and the Broncos will probably have to use their franchise tag elsewhere, with Super Bowl MVP Von Miller's contract expiring. A short-term deal with Denver seems reasonable for the 25-year-old Osweiler -- giving him leverage to cash in big if he proves himself a worthy starter -- but it might be hard to pass up a hefty offer elsewhere if the Browns or another team comes calling. From Cleveland's perspective, grabbing Osweiler makes sense if Jackson prefers him to any of the prospects in April's draft, especially because it would allow the Browns to take one of the aforementioned top prospects at No. 2 overall.
Another matter complicating the Broncos' plans is the expiring contract of defensive end Malik Jackson. Also in his Monday column, King noted that the Broncos "tried to get [Jackson] signed late in the season but couldn’t come to terms." Elway turned his attention to defensive end Derek Wolfe -- a 2012 draft classmate of Jackson's -- and signed him to a four-year, $36.7 million extension, but Jackson is the more dynamic pass-rusher of the two and will likely draw more money. Appearing on PFT Live on Wednesday, Jackson said, "I would love to stay here ... but you know it is a business and I gotta feed my family, so we'll see what happens." The 26-year-old's tone is a familiar one this time of year, almost always coming from players who wind up hitting the open market seeking a big payday. If the team couldn't come to terms with Jackson late in the season, it's hard to imagine a deal being struck before free agency now that his value is sky-high. Perhaps the Broncos -- with Peyton Manning's $19 million salary likely coming off the books -- will find a way to pony up for Jackson, but it looks unlikely at this point.
Another free-agent defensive lineman set to cash in is New York Jets nose tackle Damon Harrison (nicknamed "Snacks"), who has been a huge part of Gang Green's dominant D-line. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writes that "it will be tough" for the team to bring Harrison back, despite coach Todd Bowles' interest in doing so. Mehta expects Harrison to command at least $4-5 million per year and suggests it will be virtually impossible to re-sign the nose tackle if he hits the open market.
That price tag doesn't sound exorbitant, but GM Mike Maccagnan spent much of the team's cap space last offseason, and teams often prefer to find a cheaper option at the position. Last year, Terrance Knighton found his market depressed because teams didn't trust him to keep his weight down, but Dan Williams received a four-year, $25 million deal from the Oakland Raiders. "Snacks" has proven himself to be better than both of those players, racking up a whopping 72 tackles and finishing sixth among all DTs in Pro Football Focus' grades in 2015. That could have him asking for a deal in the $6-7 million range, which he might get if he hits the open market.
As for a D-lineman who just got paid, Philadelphia Eagles end Vinny Curry appears to be ticketed for a big role in new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's 4-3 defense. "I think we can cut the handcuffs off of him, so to speak, and cut him loose along with the other guys up front," Schwartz said of Curry on 97.5 The Fanatic on Wednesday, noting that Curry wasn't an ideal fit in Billy Davis' 3-4 scheme. Curry's new deal wasn't cheap -- five years, $47.25 million with $23 million guaranteed -- but his success in limited snaps bodes well for the future, especially with the switch to Schwartz's scheme. A potential model for Curry's development could be that of Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had 17.5 sacks in four years as a reserve before signing a new deal and posting 22.5 sacks in the last two seasons. That's a high level of production to reach, but the size of Curry's deal suggests the Eagles believe he's capable. Schwartz's plan to turn the 27-year-old loose can only help.
Another coach looking to get the most out of a talented player would be Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who will try to unleash 2015 first-round pick Melvin Gordon. Appearing on 1360 AM San Diego on Tuesday, Whisenhunt had plenty of praise for Gordon, especially as a pass-catcher: "I think one of the things that really impressed me the most -- which you don't really get a sense for, of him playing college football -- is how good of a receiver he is coming out of the backfield. He made some really good plays in that area."
Despite ceding most third-down duties to Danny Woodhead, Gordon caught 33 of 37 targets as a rookie, albeit for a paltry average of 5.8 yards per catch. Still, his catch rate shows reliable hands, which could encourage Whisenhunt to draw up more opportunities for Gordon as a receiver. Given Woodhead's ability to split out wide or in the slot, Whisenhunt could even design a number of formations with both backs on the field. Health permitting, Gordon should be much more productive in Year 2, though his success will still hinge primarily on the effectiveness of his blocking in the run game and his own ball security.
The Oakland Raiders secondary has a few holes that must be filled this offseason, with the departures of Charles Woodson (retired) and Nate Allen (released). It seems one player who could help fill those spots is cornerback TJ Carrie, who spent time at safety when Allen was hurt in 2015. Per Scott Bair of CSN Bay Area, the team hasn't yet told Carrie to focus on a particular position moving forward, and the 2014 seventh-round pick says the team's decisions in free agency and the draft "will be clues for me as we go through the offseason." Perhaps the team envisions Carrie as a hybrid player who moves between nickel cornerback and safety, much like Woodson was at times in his career. Pro Football Focus graded Carrie as the league's 45th best cornerback in 2014 (out of 108 qualifiers), but he finished 107th out of 115 this season. It certainly helps the Raiders that midseason pickup David Amerson played at a high level at cornerback, giving them more flexibility with Carrie, but this unit still needs upgrading.