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Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Lot of interest in Law, prospect Brooks

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

The NFL never seems to rest.

Just when coaches were heading out for vacations and NFL rookie draft choices were in the midst of a league symposium, the Ravens locked up playmaker Ed Reed to a $40 million contract extension, making him the highest-paid safety in the league. That is one of Baltimore's most important re-signings in the past two years.

It's an interesting time around the league. Most teams have rosters between 92 and 100 players as they prepare for the upcoming season. Because these rosters haven't changed much since the NFL draft, teams have time to do a lot of thinking. That's why you're seeing some backups who are heading into the final year of their contracts getting released or traded if teams find a more intriguing prospect available. Often, these moves lead to player-for-player trades.

Despite the advanced stage for team planning, plenty of things are left undone. Here are the top 10 things left on teams' agendas.

Cornerback
New York Jets

Profile
2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
62 45 17 0 0 10
1. Find a home for Ty Law
Give Law credit for consistency. He hasn't backed off his $7 million a year, $10 million signing bonus demands. The Patriots and Chiefs are believed to be the most interested, while the Seahawks, Cardinals and Titans also appear to be in the mix. However, Law's financial demands will likely delay any signing until at least the start of training camp. Remember a year ago, when his demands didn't seem to have a leg to stand on? He was slow coming off foot surgery and his rigid offseason training didn't start until May. He ended up signing with the Jets, made $6 million, intercepted 10 passes and went to the Pro Bowl. Conventional thinking is that he may do a more financially friendly deal with the Patriots because of his friendships with Richard Seymour and others, but he's not going to lower his overall demands until the start of camp. The Patriots have more than $15 million of cap room, the most in the league. Law wouldn't mind returning. Maybe something can get done.

2. What becomes of Kerry Collins and others?
The list of players on the street is the thinnest ever. Collins is waiting for a quarterback injury to open up a high-paying starting job. With teams continuing to cut back on contact and two-a-days for fear of injury, what are the chances of a major quarterback injury in the first four weeks of camp? Free agent Jay Fiedler is probably the answer to the depth problems at quarterback for the Bucs, who indefinitely lost backup Luke McCown to an ACL injury. Of course, Fiedler is coming off surgery himself and may not be ready to throw until the second week of training camp, so the Bucs are in no rush to sign him. Grady Jackson is the best defensive tackle available. He's scheduled to visit the Raiders, but they signed Donnell Washington, another former Packer. Former Browns second-rounder Kevin Johnson and former Falcon Dez White are the best receivers available. Good luck on the other positions.

3. The July 13 supplemental draft
Virginia linebacker Ahmad Brooks is the one generating the most excitement. Or the most caution. He's made an incredible comeback in 10 weeks. Depressed about his departure from Virginia and slow recovery from a knee injury, he ballooned to 292 pounds. He went to Atlanta, worked out, got on a diet and lost 32 pounds. His 4.6 times in the 40-yard dash at last week's workout may not have been great by most teams' standards, but it opened some eyes. The 49ers would appear to be the best fit. They've lost Julian Peterson and most of their experienced outside linebackers in the past couple of years. Brooks and Manny Lawson, the second of San Francisco's first-round picks, would form a good tandem in Mike Nolan's 3-4 defense. The question is, in what round would the 49ers take him? Had he stayed in school and not had drug issues, Brooks might have been a top-10 pick in 2007. He could go as high as the second round, but if teams are cautious, he would go in the fourth or fifth round. Athletically, Brooks is a steal, which is why the Dolphins' Nick Saban is interested.

4. Quarterback healing
We are seeing miraculous recoveries by the league's injured quarterbacks. Ben Roethlisberger lifted weights and worked out at the Steelers' facility on Monday. Though his face is still puffy from his motorcycle accident, he is driving a car without assistance, throwing passes and lifting weights. He wants to be ready for the first day of practice. Daunte Culpepper and Carson Palmer are coming off knee reconstructions and are on pace to be there for the start of camp. Culpepper, despite triple ligament surgery, ran the 14 organized training practices and the five minicamp practices at a trim 261 pounds. Palmer is two months ahead of schedule. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Palmer will not be placed on the physically unable to perform list when camp starts July 28. That means he is eligible for the first practice. It will be up to Lewis to hold back Palmer from trying to run the first team on the first practice.

5. Trades
Wide Receiver
Denver Broncos

Profile
2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Rec Yds TD Avg Long YAC
42 770 1 18.3 56 203
Will anyone rescue Ashley Lelie? He wants out of Denver, and Mike Shanahan has already replaced him with Javon Walker. The problem is the cost. No one is willing to give the Broncos a No. 1 pick and the teams interested in acquiring him don't have a top-level running back available to appease the Broncos. That's why Lelie's agent studied three-way deals. Lelie will be moved before camp, but it might require Shanahan's lowering his demands to get this done. Lelie wants to be a No. 1 receiver and he's in the last year of his contract. But he's also the name being talked about most in trade talks, even though he's doing most of the talking. The second-most mentioned name is Saints reserve Michael Bennett. Bennett signed with the Saints to be a backup, but they ended up with Reggie Bush in the draft, so Bennett needs to move on. The Texans, Dolphins and several other teams are interested, but the talks have been slow.

6. Signing the draft choices
Fewer than 20 draft choices have signed and the only first-day pick under contract is Mario Williams of the Texans. With minimum salaries for rookies going up $40,000, the slots for signing the draft choices are tight in the rookie pool. That's why some lower draft choices are signing for only 1 or 2 percent increases. It's going to be tight to get the first-rounders done in time. Bush isn't making things easy, either. He wants No. 1 money, even though he was the No. 2 pick. The Saints are willing to be creative, but they aren't paying him No. 1 money. A holdout could be looming.

7. The Marshall Faulk decision
Faulk had procedures on both of his knees in the winter, and one is slow to recover. He probably won't be ready for the start of training camp, but no matter what you are hearing, Faulk is willing to play another season. His salary is $2 million. If the Rams are patient, he will try to fight through the pain to play this season. If they are comfortable letting him have another operation, Faulk isn't going to turn down $2 million to be one of the league's most valuable backups. However, the determining factor will be how Faulk's knee holds up at the end of the month.

8. Re-signing starters whose contracts are expiring
Next season is shaping up as the worst free agent year ever. Why? There are fewer than 90 projected starters available now and most teams have $10 million or more in cap room. There is no reason not to get top starters re-signed. Among the most important negotiations coming up are Tony Gonzalez of the Chiefs, Nate Clements of the Bills, Chris Simms of the Bucs, safety Roy Williams of the Cowboys, Dwight Freeney of the Colts, Deion Branch of the Patriots and Lance Briggs of the Bears.

9. Preventing holdouts
Cornerback
Green Bay Packers

Profile
2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
53 46 7 1 3 3
Most of the potential holdouts talked a good game. Cornerback Al Harris of the Packers made the team think he was holding out, but now he says he's going to be in camp. Briggs and Thomas Jones of the Bears could hold out. They missed most of the offseason program and were demoted to second team. Jones probably lost his starting job to Cedric Benson. They face $5,000-a-day fines by holding out, and that probably won't help them in their quests to get more money. Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher backed out of his potential holdout stance. The most interesting situation could be Branch, who isn't happy making $1.405 million in the fifth year of his rookie contract.

10. Adjusting to new head coaches
With 10 new head coaches, training camps could be tough. Expect tough camps in Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis and Kansas City as new coaches will try to use training camp to determine the resolve of their players. With so many first-time coaches on the field, camps could have extra hitting. It's expected -- as always -- to be extra hot this summer. The new coaches will make players sweat hard to impress them in practices.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.