NFL News and Notes 2/23

NFL teams are making moves, and we have the latest rumors and transactions. Shaun Alexander, Plaxico Burress and Kevin Johnson head today's headlines, plus many more tidbits.

NFC East

Cowboys - Tuesday's Releases Not Surprising

When Dallas signed veteran defensive end Marcellus Wiley to a four-year, $16 million contract last March, they were hoping he would return to his form from the 2000 and 2001 seasons when he posted a total of 23.5 sacks.

It never happened.

What they got was much more of the underachieving player who looked like his career was on the edge of falling off of a cliff and looked disinterested at times, only posting a paltry total of three sacks. It makes you wonder what they were expecting, considering Wiley had just nine sacks total the two seasons before he signed with Dallas.

Center Gennaro DiNapoli was signed two years ago to compete for the starting job at the position with Dallas. He was coming off of his best season as a professional with Tennessee and started all 16 games for them in 2002. However, he was rarely healthy for Dallas and only played in seven games in his two-year stint with the club.

Eagles - Team Could Have Interest In Local Product

With less money under the salary cap than in previous seasons, the Eagles could turn their attention to free agent receiver Kevin Johnson.

Johnson, who had the final year of his contract voided by Baltimore, has really seen his career take a tumble over the last three seasons. After posting career highs in touchdowns (10), receptions (84), and yards (1084) during the 2001 season, Johnson has only scored a total of eight times since and has played on three teams in the last three seasons.

With wide receiver Jerry Porter re-signing with the Raiders and with pricey-type free agent receivers looking to be the norm in free agency or those who could provide the most help, the Eagles are looking for a moderately priced free agent to compete for playing time.

With reserve wide receiver Freddie Mitchell talking his way off of the roster, the team is looking for a receiver that can at least challenge starting receiver Todd Pinkston for playing time. While it's possible that the Eagles select a wide receiver on the first day of the draft, it's generally believed that it takes a while for a rookie or young receiver to learn their offense so that type of player would likely take a while to have an impact.

That brings us back to Johnson.

Johnson has told those close to him for years that he would relish a chance to play with quarterback Donovan McNabb again. The two played at University of Syracuse together. Johnson is also a local product from Trenton New Jersey.

NFC North

Vikings - Withrow Could Be In Demand

While the Vikings are expected to try to re-sign veteran center Cory Withrow, it's possible that he receives interest elsewhere.

Withrow, who in NFL circles is known as one of the better backup centers, should receive a decent amount of interest around the league.

It's no secret that Withrow has wanted to be a starter for a long time. In fact, just a few seasons ago Withrow requested to be moved to another team that would give him a chance to start but his request was rebuffed. The Vikings wanted at least a third- or fourth-round pick in return, but no other team came close to that.

The only negative for Withrow in trying to find a starting job is that this year's NFL draft is believed to be one of the best in years for the center position.

NFC West

Cardinals - Quarterback Not on the Agenda Again Early in the Draft?

Despite an up and down season in 2004, it appears that quarterback Josh McCown will get a chance to start again for the club.

NFL sources continue to say that the club will sign a veteran quarterback to compete with McCown and Shaun King (should he not be released before training camp).

The team, according to sources, is expected to select cornerback Antrel Rolle should he last until the No. 8 selection overall or turn their attention to running back.

With both of their safety positions locked up to extensions, the team is looking to upgrade the cornerback position. They also are looking to upgrade at running back.

Seahawks - Alexander Still Could Depart

The club's decision to place the non-exclusive franchise tag on running back Shaun Alexander shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

By doing so, they have several options. They retain the right to seek a long-term deal, match another offer from another club or not and receive two first-round picks as compensation, or trade him all together. Had they not placed the tag on Alexander, he would have walked away without the team receiving any compensation should another team sign him.

While the team has had exploratory talks with Alexander, nothing has been close to getting done. Keep in mind that the deadline for teams to sign franchise players to multi-year contracts or extensions without losing the franchise tag for the life of the player's contract is on March 16.

It has been believed for several weeks that the club will look to move Alexander in a trade before the draft. Those close to the situation continue to say that they would rather tie up their salary cap money in a more well-rounded back.

Keep in mind Alexander often is taken out in third-and-short situations, which is rare for a franchise type of back, and on film Alexander appears to often go down after first contact.

AFC East

Dolphins - Frerotte a Likely Option

With veteran quarterback Jay Fiedler expected to be released due to his high salary cap number, a likely candidate to replace him as the backup to starter A.J. Feeley is veteran signal caller Gus Frerotte.

New Dolphins' offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is said to be pushing the club to sign Frerotte. Frerotte worked under Linehan for two seasons when the two were in Minnesota together.

Barring a change of heart, look for Miami to pursue the signing of Frerotte at the beginning of free agency next week.

Jets-Priorities Set

The Jets, league sources say, will continue to look for help at cornerback, safety, and wide receiver in free agency and the draft.

Even with defensive end John Abraham designated with the franchise tag, the team is expected to have at least around $8 million in available cap space at the start of free agency.

NFC North

Ravens - Wide Receiver a Top Priority

With what is believed to be around $18 million in cap space after the voiding of veteran receiver Kevin Johnson's contract, the team is expected to sign at least one veteran free agent wide receiver and to select at least one on the first day of the NFL draft.

With veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason released this week and Steelers' wide receiver Plaxico Burress set to hit the free agent market next week, the Ravens have more than enough cap space to sign one of them to a very lucrative deal and still have enough room to sign more free agents and to retain most of their own key free agents.

Mason is said to want to sign with a team that has a good chance to get to the Super Bowl.

Burress, it's believed, wants to sign with a team that wants him to be their No. 1 receiver, and he also doesn't want to go to a running type of offense like the Steelers employ.

NFC South

Colts - Team Looking For Toughness on Defense; Bashir Likely Gone

After losing again to New England two straight times in the playoffs, the team is said to be looking for some toughness to their defense.

It's believed that the club is looking for more players like safety Bob Sanders to add to their defense, which is still more finesse than anything else.

Despite only playing in six regular season games and the playoffs, Sanders looked to bring a physical presence to their defense almost immediately. With Sanders penciled in as a starter next season, look for the club to pass on re-signing veteran safety Idrees Bashir.

AFC West

Chargers - Gates Next on the Agenda

With around $16 million in available cap space, the Chargers are turning their attention to re-signing tight end Antonio Gates to a long-team deal. Gates is an exclusive rights free agent.

The club wants to get him signed to a long deal now because they know the longer they wait to get one done the more it could cost him down the line because he should only get better.

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