Restricted Free Agency Fizzles

Rules changes haven't changed restricted free agency, which is something to keep in mind for Green Bay for next offseason. Plus a bunch of quick-hitting items in this national notebook,

XXXXXX (XXX XXXX/Getty) There was a time when some observers felt that the market for restricted free agents, even with the entanglements of the offer sheet process, could flourish into one that was at least modest.

But that has not been the case in recent years, and likely won't be this spring, either, for players with expired contracts and three years of experience.

That doesn't have a lot of relevance this year for the Green Bay Packers, who don't have any restricted free agents this year, but it's worth noting for next year, when the Packers have to deal with cornerback Sam Shields and punter Tim Masthay.

When the new CBA eliminated the first- and third-round tenders, and limited the high-level restricted tender to a first-rounder only, there was considerable speculation that players like Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace and Baltimore cornerback Ladarius Webb might elicit offer sheets. But that doesn't appear to be the case.

Teams have until April 20 to sign restricted free agents to offer sheets, and then their exclusive negotiating rights revert to their incumbent franchise.

It's been two years since a restricted free agent changed teams via an offer sheet, and the draught could continue. A dozen of the 41 restricted free agents were granted tender levels higher than the round in which they were drafted.

"For all intents and purposes, the (restricted) market, which was never all that big to begin with, has been eliminated," said veteran agent Frank Bauer at the league meetings.

Given the lack of interest for Wallace and Webb, general manager Ted Thompson needn't fret over Shields, even if he enjoys a major bounce-back season.

Quick hitters

— Pittsburgh officials say 11-year veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton is making good progress from the anterior cruciate ligament injury he sustained in a playoff loss at Denver, and the subsequent surgery to his left knee. But they suggested that the five-time Pro Bowl defender is a candidate to open the season on the physically unable to perform list, which would sideline him for at least six games.

— As detailed last week by, the NFLPA definitely made some financial concessions for the future to bump up the salary cap spending limit for the 2012 season.

— One area in which teams seem to be cooperating with agents in free agency, to make player representatives look better, is in guaranteed salaries. More clubs are fully guaranteeing the first- and second-year base salaries of contracts to make the deals appear better. Tacitly, unless a team strikes a really bad deal, those seasons are essentially "guaranteed" anyway. But the practice tends to reduce the signing bonus outlay and keeps agents happy.

— The odd-man out in the Carolina tailback collection could be Mike Goodson, who appeared in only four games in 2011 because of a hamstring injury. Goodson notched 103 rushes for 452 yards in 2010, and might be another nice insurance policy down the road, if Jonathan Stewart exits in 2013.

— A few scouts who attended the Thursday workout of Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw came away with some concerns about his quickness, and whether he can play on the edge in the NFL. Upshaw struggled in the 40 and in some lateral drills, and clubs will schedule individual workouts to better gauge his status.

— There were a few talent evaluators at the much-anticipated Thursday session of Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill who felt his accuracy and arm strength were good, but who still want to see him drive the deep ball a little better. Tannehill is reportedly a bright guy who does well "at the blackboard" for scouts, but who might need some developmental time. That factor, along with his lack of experience at the position, could be a caveat for the teams allegedly considering him as a top 10 pick next month.

— Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier insisted the Vikings haven't yet decided on USC tackle Matt Kalil with the third overall choice in the draft. Neither Frazier nor club officials would comment on a report by The Sports Xchange a few weeks ago that the Vikings are seriously considering LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the pick.

— A source close to unrestricted free agent tight end Dallas Clark termed "ridiculous" the report that the former Indianapolis standout will never play again. Said the source: "If it's true, it's new to Dallas." The one-time Pro Bowl performer has been limited to just 17 appearances over the past two seasons because of wrist and leg injuries, but plans to play in 2012, even if the market is a little soft.

— Stat stuff: Over the course of his career, Manning has averaged 26.1 points per game. In his career as a head coach, Fox is 38-3 in games in which his team scored 26 or more points.

— The not-so-subtle hints about improved ball security that first-year Tampa Bay coach Greg Schano directed at LeGarrette Blount merited plenty of attention. And, given that Blount has fumbled nine times in two seasons (six lost), deservedly so. But two other big factors that have caused some concern about Blount with the new coaching staff, and which could prompt the Bucs to take a long look at Alabama tailback Trent Richardson with the fifth overall pick in the draft, are his dubious pass protection skills and the perception he hasn't grasped some elements of the offense.

— Even though Cincinnati invested a three-year, $9 million contract to pry BenJarvus Green-Ellis from New England, the back known as "The Law Firm" is expected to share time with three-year veteran Bernard Scott. And the Bengals likely will add another tailback in the first three or four rounds of the draft. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden favors a tailback slot more by committee, and, thus, the decision to not try to keep Cedric Benson around.

— The Dolphins have begun negotiations with the representatives for left offensive tackle Jake Long about a contract extension. Long, who will make $11.2 million in 2011, is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

— Arizona was wise to re-sign unrestricted free agent wide receiver Early Doucet to a two-year deal (terms undisclosed), given that the four-year veteran is coming off a career-best 54 catches. But some Cardinals' people think that third-year wide receiver Andre Roberts, who started all 16 games in 2011 and registered 51 catches, is the real up-and-comer at the position. The club also feels that third-year veteran Stephen Williams, a onetime undrafted college free agent who played in only two games last season and didn't have a catch, will improve dramatically and bolster a position where Larry Fitzgerald is, of course, the stud performer.

— The Eagles, both coach Andy Reid and club officials, are ecstatic over the trade acquisition of middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, whom they feel is a much more natural 4-3 "Mike" linebacker. "It's still hard to believe we got him," Reid said.

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