Minicamp Insider Notes 3.0-NFC

While many of the post-June 1 releases were actually made in advance of that date because of changes in the new CBA, there are still some players who could hit the street before the start of training camps. We have more analysis on potential veterans who could be released and more analysis on other players.

Arizona Cardinals

With the recent signing of FB Terrelle Smith, another veteran player who plays that position for the team could be released for salary cap reasons.

FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo is more athletic than Smith but Smith is clearly the better blocker. And with the team going to more of power rushing offense under new head coach Ken Whisenhunt, Smith is probably a better fit which could make Ayanbadejo's job expendable.


Atlanta Falcons

In a move that shouldn't come to a surprise, last year's second-round pick, DB Jimmy Williams, will move to safety this season. Williams has a body built for safety and he'll challenge veteran FS Chris Crocker for the starting job.

The move also opens up an opportunity for this year's second-round pick CB Chris Houston to see serious playing time.

The former University of Arkansas defensive back will challenge journeyman CB Lewis Sanders for the other starting job opposite CB DeAngelo Hall. But it's also possible the team will sign a veteran free agent to challenge for the job.


Chicago Bears

While the coaches are preparing second-year LB Jamar Williams to possibly replace starting WLB Lance Briggs, keep an eye on third-round pick Michael Okwo.

The former Stanford University standout linebacker is seen by some NFL personnel evaluations as a prototype cover-2 linebacker with very good side to side speed and he might actually be faster than Williams who only appeared in three games last season.

Okwo is built in the mold of most cover-2 weak-side linebackers and was projected by many to play that position after playing in the middle in college. In fact, an NFL source who pointed Okwo out to Scout.com before this year's NFL draft, said he could easily start as a rookie in this scheme.


Green Bay Packers

Much has been made of the team possibly releasing veteran TE Bubba Franks soon. But Franks is set to make $1.4 million this season and the team has very little experience besides him and Donald Lee at the position. Plus the team is in good shape cap wise.

Speaking of Lee, the team is high on his potential and new offensive coordinator Joe Philbin coached the tight ends in Lee's first year with the team, so he knows him well. That's a key reason why the team is giving him a chance to challenge Franks for the starting job.

The biggest problem for Franks salary wise isn't for this season. It's for 2008 and beyond.

Franks is on the books for $3 million next season, $5 million in 2009-2010, and $5.5 million in 2011. So Franks, if he's still in their plans for 2008, will be subject to a hefty pay cut.

While there seems to be very little buzz about the Packers possibly releasing WR Robert Ferguson, he's set to make $1.8 million this season and $2.2 million in 2008. That's a high price to pay to an underachieving backup.


Minnesota Vikings

While he's still a long-shot to make their final roster, undrafted free agent WR Todd Lowber has opened some eyes during the club's OTAs.

Lowber, who signed a three-year deal before April's draft, hadn't ever played organized football in his life before the Vikings signed him. He ran track and played football in college at Division III Ramapo.

But what gives Lowber a shot to make the team is his tremendous athleticism, speed, and ball skills.

Practice observers note that Lowber has often used his 6'3" frame to shield off smaller defensive backs during practices. And it doesn't hurt that he ran around 4.1 40-yard dash in his pro day for NFL scouts so he's able to beat coverage at times with his raw speed..

But the key for Lowber will learn to play in pads where players then can knock him around. He'll have to learn to get off press coverage which is one of the key issues for rookies receivers.

The biggest issue, however, will be route running for the 25-year old rookie. He'll certainly get his chance as the team badly needs a talent infusion at the position.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Free agent signee LB Cato June is slated to play on the strong-side this season where the coaches can take advantage of his coverage skills. However, as Scout.com noted several weeks ago, veteran WLB Derrick Brooks also played some at that position in 2006. So don't be surprised to see the undersized June switch sides at times with Brooks this season.

Brooks, according to some NFL personnel evaluators, might have been a step slow which caused the coaches to move him to the strong-side. That's a common move when linebackers start to lose a step or two near end of their career.


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