Convinced that E.J. Henderson has dropped his financial expectations now that camps are ready to open, a few teams are taking a late look at the veteran former Minnesota middle linebacker, one of the higher profile defenders still left in the unrestricted free agent market.
An eight-year veteran, Henderson, who will turn 32 next month, banked nearly $7 million from the Vikings in 2011, and he apparently realizes now he's not going to get anything close to that.
There are concerns about Henderson's age, his durability, and the fact he's a liability in coverage and pretty much limited to being a two-down run-stuffer.
But at the right price, Henderson, who has bounced back from a toe injury in 2008 and a broken leg in ‘09, and started 30 games over the past two seasons, might not be a bad insurance policy at middle ‘backer, a few personnel guys conceded this week.
The Vikings, who are expected to turn the starting job over to three-year veteran Jasper Brinkley, never made a move in the offseason to re-sign Henderson, and that spooked off a few clubs.
The feeling was that, if the team that knew Henderson best didn't want him back, why should anyone else? Yet if Henderson checks out physically, there could be some teams that might be interested, now that his financial situation is more realistic.
Flacco contract upcoming?
There's still a decent shot that the news leaked by Baltimore officials this week, that there is a 75-percent chance the Ravens will have a new deal in place for quarterback Joe Flacco by the time training camp opens next Friday, could come to fruition.
But the odds seem a little high even to someone who might know: agent Joe Linta, who has represented Flacco since he entered the league as Baltimore's first-round pick in 2008, and who has carried on an amicable dialogue with Ravens' vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty regarding an extension for months now.
"It could get done (Friday). It could get done on Halloween. It could get done three years from now," Linta said Thursday evening. "But I will say this: They're serious. … I think Pat and I have a very good relationship and mutual respect. We're working at it. But (Flacco) knows what he wants. He isn't a guy who's (hounding) me to get it done. If anything, I'm more often the one calling him. He's willing to play for his current salary ($6.76 million), if that's what it's going to be. He's more worried about football than the contract."
With the extension for "franchised" tailback Ray Rice this week, a five-year contract many pundits felt would not be completed before the Monday deadline for multi-year deals, the Ravens are on a bit of a roll, and probably want to keep the momentum rolling with a Flacco agreement.
"But there's still some ground to cover," Linta said.
WR Gordon gets paid
Being chosen in the second round of the supplemental draft, instead of the third go-round, as some had speculated, paid off handsomely for former Baylor/Utah wide receiver Josh Gordon.
The Cleveland Browns paid Gordon $5.342 million of his four-year contract, according to salary documents obtained by The Sports Xchange, a number commensurate to being chosen with the second pick in the "regular phase" draft in April.
That's a substantial bump over what Gordon would have gotten had he been selected in the third round.
There was plenty of scuttlebutt that the Browns snatched Gordon in Round 2 because they feared that Buffalo, the only club with a higher pick in the weighted lottery which determined the supplemental order, would take him in the third round.
Gordon got a signing bonus of $2.324 million, not bad for a guy who didn't play a down in 2011. His base salaries are $390,000 (2012), $632,802 (2013), $825,604 (2014) and $1.068 million (2015), with offseason workout bonuses of $50,000 each for the final two years of the contract.
The 2012-2013 salaries are fully guaranteed, as is $380,000 of the 2014 base salary. Had he been chosen in the third round, Gordon would probably have gotten a deal worth $3 million-$3.3 total. His guarantees alone in the second-round contract are worth more than $3.7 million.
Castillo still recovering
If seven-year veteran defensive lineman Luis Castillo decides to try to continue his career – and that might be a big "if," after he was released by San Diego this week, for the second time this offseason – it might be a few weeks into camps before any interested teams even grant him a workout.
Castillo, who turns 29 next month, still isn't fully recovered from the broken leg that sidelined him for all but one game in 2011. Officials from Kansas City and New England, clubs with whom Castillo visited in the offseason, seemed to know that.
Which is why it was surprising that the Chargers gave him a one-year deal for $1 million ($175,000 signing bonus) to re-sign. When he is healthy, the former first-rounder is a solid 3-4 end.
But he's had three seasons of his seven in the league in which injuries limited him to nine appearances or fewer. Teams are curious about Castillo, but will give him time to heal and to make up his mind about playing in 2012.
Rookies ready in Pittsburgh
The plan in Pittsburgh is for two rookie blockers, guard David DeCastro (first round) and tackle Mike Adams (second), to start right away. But if they do, they'll have to overcome long odds and, to some extent, history as well.
In the last 45 years, just three rookie offensive linemen have started for the Steelers in season openers: guard Tom Ricketts (1989), tackle Marvel Smith (2000) and center Maurkice Pouncey (2010).
DeCastro and Adams missed considerable time in the spring because of the outdated rule that precludes players from practicing, with the exception of a rookie orientation weekend, until their school term is completed.
The Steelers added some insurance this week, signing left tackle Max Starks, who was allowed to go into unrestricted free agency while he rehabilitated from surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee.
The 30-year-old Starks, an eight-year veteran, rescued the Pittsburgh line last season, starting 12 games at left tackle, and has 80 career starts.
Notebook: Teams contemplating E.J. Henderson
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