TSX: Around the League (Part II)

The Sports Xchange discusses the future for Cullen Jenkins, whether or not Ike Taylor will stay in Pittsburgh, Brett Favre possibly mentoring Panthers rookie QB Cam Newton, Julio Jones' injury and more.

The "other" Jenkins

Most projections concerning free agency, provided there is a signing period at some point, have assessed this year's crop as a thin one. But one pending unrestricted player getting plenty of attention, at least on the rumor mill, is Green Bay defensive end Cullen Jenkins.

The seven-year veteran has been linked in reports with Washington and Dallas, and there figure to be others 3-4 suitors as well when the NFL opens for business. Jenkins is only 30 years old and, even coming off a 2010 season when hand and calf injuries limited him to eight starts, appears to be a guy in demand. Ironically, Jenkins originally balked when coordinator Dom Capers introduced the 3-4 front to the Packers in 2009. But the scheme is apt to make Jenkins, who failed in Capers' experiments to make him a stand-up edge defender, a very rich man.

At 305 pounds, Jenkins can anchor versus the run, yet is mobile enough to provide some pass rush. He registered seven sacks in 2010 and, among 3-4 ends, only Justin Smith of San Francisco (8.5) had more. The Redskins had 6.5 sacks combined from their ends in 2010; Dallas had just four.

They like Ike

CB Ike Taylor
George Gojkovich/Getty

Getting tired of all the Ike Taylor updates in this space? Can't blame you a bit. But The Tip Sheet noted here last week that the conspicuous confidence of Pittsburgh officials that they will be able to re-sign the pending restricted free agent might be a little misplaced, since the eight-year veteran figures to have a healthy group of suitors if the market ever opens.

Since last week, though, it was pointed out that Taylor enjoys a close relationship with the Rooney family, doesn't necessarily take well to change, likes the comfort level in Pittsburgh, and feels that the $11 million-per-year contract awarded lesser-talented cornerback Stanford Routt by the Oakland Raiders is a bit of an aberration. That's not suggesting Taylor will come cheap, or give the Steelers a so-called "hometown discount," but he could end up providing the team to match any outside offers.

As noted here in the past, Taylor has some obvious deficiencies, but he knows the Dick LeBeau system well, and clearly is the Steelers' top player at the position.


It isn't all that surprising that only three of the bottom 10 teams in yards-after-catch (YAC) in 2010 qualified for the playoffs. The stunning thing is that the top four teams in YAC, and five of the top six, didn't advance to postseason play. The statistic is viewed as a key one by many league observers, but a number of coaches feel it is overrated -- not as critical as, say, yards per attempt, although one would think YAC is a component of that -- and the numbers may support that.


--There is no viable defense, no excuse whatsoever, for the derogatory remarks that boxer Bernard Hopkins made this week about quarterback Donovan McNabb. But it's also true that there are people who shared a locker room with McNabb in Philadelphia who felt the quarterback was a little too cozy with Eagles' management.
--In the wake of reports that some teams are not conducting on-field workouts of their own during the lockout for fear of injury -- New York Giants' defensive end Justin Tuck suggested his unit isn't practicing for that reason -- at least three player agents forwarded reminders to their clients this week about making sure their insurance is paid.
--Speaking of the workouts, it can't be good news to the NFLPTA that several of the "practices" this week attracted more reporters than players.
--Atlanta first-round wide receiver Julio Jones, for whom the Falcons traded five choices to Cleveland to move up 21 slots in the initial stanza, continues to recover from foot surgery, and is likely a couple weeks away from being able to join workouts organized by quarterback Matt Ryan.
--It's been a few weeks now since the report that a group of about 70 mid-level NFL players was seeking out a law firm to represent its interests in the lockout. No word yet. Since Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal, who originated the story, is a terrific reporter, there's no reason to doubt it, although some at the league level definitely do. But one has to be concerned with the players and their degree of resolve.
--Anyone surprised that former NFL safety Rodney Harrison, now an NBC analyst, acknowledged this week that he would likely circumvent the lockout rules and somehow find a way to communicate with an assistant coach during the no-contact work stoppage? Harrison was among the most heavily-fined players in the league during his 15-year career and, while a passionate defender, never really paid much attention to rules.
--Deion Sanders plans to have agent Eugene Parker, who represented him for his entire career and continues to play a role in his decisions, present him at his Hall of Fame induction this summer.
--Much was made this week about the potential that Brett Favre, who appears undecided about how to spend his retirement, might mentor Cam Newton. But as noted by The Tip Sheet last week, Favre's agent, Bus Cook, is only the co-representative for the Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick in the draft. The agent listed first on the standard representation agreement that Newton signed is Tony Paige, and he apparently wants some input about Favre's possible role.

WR Jonathan Baldwin
Brian Spurlock/US Presswire

--Kansas City officials took some heat for the first-round choice of Pitt wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, who has a reputation as a bit of a diva. But the Chiefs scouts say they couldn't overlook Baldwin's enormous raw talent in seeking a complement to Dwayne Bowe. Last season, Bowe played 85 percent of the team's offensive snaps, and no other wideout on the roster logged more than 44 percent.
--It's hardly a secret, but even though they are considered management, a lot of assistant coaches, and perhaps even some head coaches, too, are quietly pulling for the players to at least win some sort of victory that allows them to get back to work. Said one assistant this week: "What's that old Jim Finks line about owners own, players play, and coaches coach? I'm about to go a little stir-crazy here, man."
--Condolences to former Atlanta trainer Jerry Rhea on the death of his wife of 54 years, Beverly, this week. One of the pioneers of training and treatment in the NFL, Rhea was the Falcons' head athletic trainer 1969-94, and is a true gentleman.
--Condolences, too, to the family of former NFL running back Ron Springs, who died Thursday at age 54, after spending the last four years in a coma. Springs lapsed into a coma in Oct. 2007 after surgery to remove a cyst. A diabetic, he had eight months earlier undergone a kidney transplant, with former Dallas cornerback Everson Walls the donor.
--Buffalo coach Chan Gailey and general manager Buddy Nix said this week they plan sign a veteran quarterback in free agency to bolster the depth chart behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. There may be no quarterback in the league in recent years who has thrown for 3,000 yards in a season yet garners less respect from the public than Fitzpatrick. There was plenty of speculation before the draft that the Bills would expend a high-round pick on a quarterback, but the team didn't choose one at all.

The last word

"There is not one player who hasn't enjoyed the lockout. I'm just being straight-up honest." -- Buffalo Bills three-year veteran wide receiver Stevie Johnson, per NFL.com, on the current work stoppage and players taking advantage of their time away from the field.

Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

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