Around the NFL: Carr to Culpepper and Beyond

The free agent news has started to pick up in the last week. Some players have been given the franchise tag while the leash for others is getting awfully short.

  • QB David Carr is losing support from one of his biggest backers. Texans owner Bob McNair made it clear that if the team needed to replace Carr to get better, he would support the move.

    "David has been inconsistent, and we've said that," McNair said. "We've got to get better consistency there, either with David or some additional help."

    McNair has been one of Carr's biggest supporters since the Texans drafted him No. 1 overall before their expansion season in 2002. But after five consecutive losing seasons, including a 6-10 mark in 2006, that support is waning.

    GM Rick Smith said earlier this week that teams have started calling the Texans to ask if Carr is in fact available.

    Smith refused to say which teams called and exactly what was discussed. Smith has said throughout the offseason, however, that Carr — along with almost every other Texan player, is available. The Texans want to improve the team, and will listen to any requests that other teams have.

    "I want to keep any discussions I have with other general managers confidential," Smith said. "But my goal is to improve our team in any way possible.

    "I want to repeat what we said after the season: that David's our starting quarterback. But we're trying to improve the team, and I've fielded some calls about some of our players, including a couple of inquiries asking whether David might be available."

  • QB Matt Hasselbeck expects to be ready for some minicamps and all of training camp after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. He has something to prove in 2007 after not playing his best during an injury-plagued 2006 season.

    According to Hasselbeck, he wasn't on the same page as coach Mike Holmgren during key moments of the team's overtime loss to Chicago in the divisional playoffs. "I take the blame," Hasselbeck said.

    Holmgren was clearly steamed after the loss. He has come to expect consistency from Hasselbeck, but there were some questionable decisions against Chicago.

    "It's tough," Hasselbeck said. "He's emotional about losing the game. It's a tough loss. It hurts. But I'm right there with him. I feel really bad right there with him."

  • CB Asante Samuel was given the Patriots' franchise tag on Friday.

    Scheduled to be one of the biggest names on the free agent market, Samuel will receive a one-year, $7.79 million tender. If another team wants to sign Samuel now, it would have to send a pair of first-round picks New England's way.

    Samuel has made it known that he would not be happy with the franchise tag, but the Patriots obviously see him as too valuable to potentially lose for nothing in return.

    "Asante Samuel is an outstanding player who has been a consistent contributor for us for several years," coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. "We hope Asante remains a Patriot for many seasons to come."

    Since being selected with the 120th overall pick in 2003, Samuel has started 39 of 59 games and played in 11 playoff games. He's coming off a career-high 10 interceptions in 2006. He also led the league with 24 passes defensed.

  • LB Lance Briggs will not become an unrestricted free agent after the Bears placed their franchise tag on him Friday. If another team signed Briggs and the Bears declined to match the offer, Chicago would receive two first-round picks as compensation.

    Briggs was given a one-year, $7.206 million tender, and the two sides have until mid-March to work on a long-term deal.

  • CB Dre Bly has been told to seek a trade. He signed with the Lions as a free agent in 2003, and in his first three seasons, he made two Pro Bowls and was a first alternate for another. He was elected a captain before the 2006 season.

    But Bly's production dropped off last season. His three interceptions were his lowest total as a Lion. He is a cover corner and prefers playing man-to-man. The Tampa 2 defense Marinelli installed asked him to play zone and stuff the run.

    "I have a tremendous amount of respect for Matt (Millen) and Rod (Marinelli) allowing me the opportunity to find a home for Dre' Bly that is more conducive to his Pro Bowl skill set," said Bly's agent, Kennard McGuire.

  • QB Brett Favre will follow through with ankle surgery that he has repeatedly postponed the last several years. Favre has endured a build-up of calcium deposits, which has caused him discomfort on and off the field.

    The surgery was most recently scheduled for Jan. 1, the day after the season-ending win at Chicago, but Favre chose to delay it again before deciding whether he would return for next season. Favre informed Packers general manager Ted Thompson on Feb. 2 that he would keep playing for at least one more year.

    Favre subsequently gave in to having the surgery, which was reportedly slated to occur in the next few weeks in Green Bay. Team doctor Pat McKenzie will perform the procedure.

    The recovery time won't be long, which should allow Favre to participate in some of the full-squad minicamp May 18 to 20.

    "There'd be some normal downtime, but I haven't gone through that with our medical people yet," Thompson told the Press-Gazette.

  • MLB Dan Morgan will get one more chance to prove he can stay on the field.

    Morgan, who has suffered five career concussions since joining the NFL and missed 15 games last season after going down in the season opener, will likely return for another season with the team after agreeing to a restructured contract that includes playing for the NFL veteran minimum base salary this season. According to NFL Players Association, Morgan's base salary for this season was reduced to $750,000, the minimum salary for a player with six years of NFL experience.

    Morgan's agent Drew Rosenhaus refused to comment on the restructured contract, which actually adds a year to Morgan's current deal by a year to run through the 2010 season. That move is designed to spread out the salary cap hit from the signing bonus Morgan received in 2005. Carolina general manager Marty Hurney did not return phone calls, but the team's policy has always been to not comment on restructured contracts.

    It's unclear if Morgan will receive added playing time incentives this season.

    The new deal protects the Panthers financially in the event Morgan suffers a sixth career concussion.

  • LT Leonard Davis was informed on Thursday that he will not be tagged and will be allowed to become an unrestricted free agent.

    That leaves the door only barely open for the possibility that the team would make an attempt to sign him back at what it believes his market value to be.

    "When we evaluated Leonard, we certainly see ability and improvement, especially as last season went on," said Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. "But when you look at the situation on the whole and take everything into account, we don't feel that the investment that would be required to keep him is equal to the performance.

    "We have needs at multiple positions, as well as for depth, and we want to be in the best position for us to address those needs."

    It would have cost the Cardinals $11 million in salary in 2007 had they franchised Davis.

    "It's not about cap room or trying to make it fit, but it's about paying the right value for Leonard Davis," said Rod Graves, Cardinals Vice President of Operations.

  • LB Adalius Thomas is someone the Ravens definitely want to keep. But will GM Ozzie Newsome put the franchise tag on them?

    By using the tag, the Ravens can keep Thomas from becoming a free agent by paying him $7.2 million this season, which is the average of the five highest-paid linebackers.

    The deadline to use the tag is Feb. 22.

    "We have not made a decision yet," Newsome said.

    The bigger question could be whether the Ravens have enough cap room to use the tag.

    It's been estimated that the Ravens have less than $3 million in cap space.

    Asked if the Ravens' salary-cap situation would influence what the team does regarding Thomas, Newsome said, "Sure it does."

    The Ravens are expected to clear $8.3 million in cap room when they cut Jamal Lewis before the running back receives a $5 million roster bonus next month.

    But that might be the only cap savings for the Ravens because Newsome said he doesn't expect the team to cut anyone else before free agency begins in March.

    That still might not be enough cap room, considering the Ravens have to address their needs at running back, offensive tackle and in the draft.

    With not enough cap space, it could be difficult for the Ravens to keep Thomas, who is considered one of the top 10 free agents available this year.

  • QB Jake Plummer is expected to be out of Denver in the near future, but to where?

    That's the biggest unanswered question for the Jaguars as they enter the free agency season.

    The conventional wisdom is that Plummer is heading for Houston because head coach Gary Kubiak was his offensive coordinator in Denver and Kubiak and Shanahan are good friends.

    But the Jaguars have to decide if they want to try to outbid Houston for Plummer because they have limited options at the position. He's likely to be the best quarterback available.

    If they fail to get Plummer, they could go after David Carr of Houston, who'll be even more expendable if the Texans get Plummer.

  • LG Kris Dielman had a sensational season, as the team often ran his direction in directing LaDainian Tomlinson to an NFL record in touchdowns and points. But the negotiations have hit a roadblock and many feel the Chargers will let him walk as an unrestricted free agent.

  • OLB Shaun Phillips is a free agent. He started in place of the wounded Steve Foley and responded with 11.5 sacks, second on the team only to Shawne Merriman's NFL-high 17. No way the Chargers let Phillips slip away, especially with him being an exclusive free agent.

  • WR Kevin Curtis (unrestricted free agent) will test the market and see if there are teams willing to pay him at a No. 2 receiver level. There probably will be, which means the Rams will need a replacement.

  • DE Jared Allen, the Chiefs' leader in sacks over the past three seasons, pleaded guilty to a second charge of DUI and was sentenced to two days of jail "shock time."

    Allen's guilty plea in a Leawood, Kan., municipal court earned him two days in jail, two other days in a lockdown drug-treatment program and one day of house arrest. He also paid a $1,000 fine.

    His second conviction, which resulted from a Sept. 26 arrest, came while Allen was in a diversion program after an earlier arrest and conviction last May in Overland Park. He was determined to have violated the terms of his diversion program after sustaining a second conviction.

    Allen, who has publicly apologized for his action, could face a felony charge on a third arrest. He also likely faces some kind of league-mandated suspension.

  • DE Jared Allen (restricted free agent) should get a long-term deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2008. His pass rush from the right end spot is the best K.C. has seen since the days of Derrick Thomas.

  • QB Trent Green is likely to continue to guide the Chiefs in the second year of coach Herm Edwards' more conservative approach to offense.

    But, a lot may ride on whether Green is willing — as he has been in the past — to renegotiate a deal that has him receiving a $7.2 million base salary with a $9.148 cap number this year.

    Again, Green has shown a willingness in the past to renegotiate. This year, though, his negotiating position is not as strong given the dropoff in his performance after the 36-year-old quarterback came back from an eight-week absence due to a severe concussion in the season opener.

    Green's 74.1 passer rating was his worst since his 2001 initial season in Kansas City. He threw only seven touchdowns and was intercepted nine times.

    Much of that ineffectiveness might be attributed to the layoff, or the after effects of the concussion. But it's also true that Green struggled to adjust to the new role Edwards expects from his quarterback.

    Under Vermeil, Green was encouraged to throw downfield more. Risk-taking was acceptable as long as the rewards followed. In Edwards' system, though, turnovers are not judged on a risk-reward basis. Green's struggle to adjust to the new philosophy was a problem, one that led indirectly to the axing of quarterback coach Terry Shea.

  • DL James Hall's agent has been told to seek a trade. Hall was elected a captain before the 2006 season. He led the team in sacks with five before a shoulder injury sidelined him after seven games. There was friction between Hall and the organization.

  • DT Marcus Bell's agent has been told to seek a trade. Bell reportedly was the player — or among the players — who filed a grievance against the coaching staff during last year's off-season workouts. He repeatedly has denied that, however.

  • OL Ross Verba is expected to be released.

  • DL Cory Redding might get the Lions' franchise tag.

    They have been recruiting Redding hard. Marinelli has been calling him every week because he believes Redding and Shaun Rogers would make a devastating tandem at defensive tackle.

    "Believe me, if there's a band marching, I'm the band director on this one," Marinelli said. "I'm marching full straight ahead on this.

    "He's a guy I just ... I have to have back here."

    But Marinelli says he wants players who want to play for the Lions, and if he has to recruit Redding hard, what does that say? If the Lions can't convince him to sign a new contract, are they going to force him to stay?

    Redding did not seem enthusiastic about returning to Detroit at the end of the 2006 season, and players don't like being tagged because they want the freedom to explore their options when they have earned free-agent status.

    "I have had a discussion with Matt Millen and the front office, and the details of those talks we're going to keep between us," said McGuire, who represents Redding. "But as far as designating him, that has never been a tool throughout the league that has been universally accepted by players and agents and a vehicle that really creates harmony."

    Another wrinkle is that the Lions moved Redding from defensive end during the season, and there is almost a $2 million difference in the franchise figure between ends and tackles. It is $8,644,000 for ends. It is $6,775,000 for tackles.

  • CB Al Harris still isn't the Packers' highest-paid cornerback, but the guy who is arguably their top defensive player won't be squawking this off-season about being underpaid.

    Harris' ongoing demands for a more representative chunk of change were met in early February. Although the deal had yet to be finalized, Harris spread the word to some Wisconsin media outlets that he had agreed to terms of a two-year contract extension.

    The deal also increases the value of the remaining three years of the six-year, $18.6 million extension Harris received in 2004 by $4 million, which will be attained through roster and playing bonuses. The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported that Harris will earn $68,750 every week he's on the 45-man active roster on game day next season - the per-game figure will jump to $75,000 in 2008 and ‘09.

    Harris also stands to collect $1 million in roster bonuses this year, in addition to a base salary of $2.2 million. He'll have extra incentive, to the cha-ching of $200,000 each year, to earn a spot in the Pro Bowl, which has eluded the 10-year veteran.

    "Like I've said the whole time, I wasn't trying to break the bank. I just wanted to be compensated for the work that I do," Harris told the Wisconsin State Journal. "I'm satisfied. I'm extremely satisfied.

    "I just wanted to feel appreciated, and appreciation in this game is compensation. So, everything worked out for everybody."

  • WLB Scott Shanle, who could have become a UFA on March 2, became the team's first significant move of the off-season when he signed a four-year contract with the club.

    While complete terms of the deal were not immediately known, Shanle will receive base salaries of $700,000 this season and $1.5 million, $2.1 million and $1.8 million in the final three years of the contract, according to NFL Players Association figures.

    Shanle, a four-year veteran, became a starter immediately after he was obtained from the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a seventh-round draft choice on Aug. 23.

    The 27-year-old Shanle played in all 16 games last season and started 15 in helping the Saints rank 11th in the NFL in total defense. The only game he did not start was when the Saints opened in a dime package against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 1.

    General Manager Mickey Loomis said getting Shanle signed was one of the team's priorities going into the off-season. Shanle ranked second on the team with 117 total tackles, recording at least seven tackles in 12 games, and had four sacks. He added eight tackles and another sack in two playoff games.

    "We could have easily waited and went to free agency," Shanle told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "Maybe there could have been more money out there, maybe less. I don't know.

    "But from what I knew about the organization, if they offered a fair deal, it just made sense to do it," he said. "It was nice to get it done this early."

  • FB Mike Alstott may not be done with football. The question is whether football is done with him?

    For the second straight year, Alstott entered the off-season undecided about his future. The six-time Pro Bowl player is an unrestricted free agent.

    But Alstott harbors some hope of playing in the fall, according to his agent.

    "(Alstott) is giving serious consideration to playing in ‘07," said agent Jim Steiner.

    But an Alstott return is a long way from reality. He has long been open to playing if the Bucs expressed an interest and a willingness to pay him more than a nominal salary.

    Steiner said he has had no talks with the Bucs regarding Alstott's future. General manager Bruce Allen and coach Jon Gruden have been noncommittal.

    The topic was brought to the forefront when Alstott's wife, Nicole, made some comments indicating the 11-year vet would like to return for another season. However, Alstott has not publicly talked about his future since the end of the season.

    The Bucs gave Alstott a one-year contract that paid him $1.5 million for 2006. But that came after weeks of negotiation. Money would be a sticking point in any discussion of an Alstott return this year, too. Given his limited role last season — 171 yards in 60 attempts with three touchdowns, plus 21 receptions — the team may be less willing to commit that kind of money to a 33-year-old fullback in this critical rebuilding year.

  • QB Daunte Culpepper does appear as though he'll get a blind committment from new coach Cam Cameron as the team's projected 2007 starter.

    Addressing the media two days prior to Super Bowl XLI, Cameron essentially said he wanted to speak with his team's three quarterbacks about the situation before publicly sharing his thoughts.

    "We're all going to be in the same room — we're all going to look at each other in the eye — when we have that discussion," Cameron said. "(I'll say) here's the approach, now let's go to work. That will come eventually, probably closer to our minicamp."

  • DE Justin Smith got the Bengals' franchise tag.

    Smith, a six-year veteran, will be an unrestricted free agent March 2, but the Bengals have severely limited his possible movement by using the tag on him.

    The desire to retain Smith, one of their most consistent, albeit unspectacular defensive players, is evidence that the club wants to continue to keeps its own and limit activity on the free agency market.

    "What did Indy do? What did Pittsburgh do? Not much," head coach Marvin Lewis asked and answered when quizzed about what the Bengals will do. "Our focus is going to be to get a couple of our guys re-signed and go forward."

    Whether a player leaves by "attrition, (retirement) or injury," Lewis said, his goal continues to be to have backups ready to start as replacements.

  • DT Terdell Sands, who has started one game in the last three years, was signed to a four-year contract which could be worth as much as $17 million and has $4 million in signing bonus money.

    Sands, the closest the thing the Raiders have to an immovable run-stopper, was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. With the market not loaded at this position, Sands, who had never made more than $425,000 in a season, was guaranteed to become a rich man.

    The Raiders, who will rely heavily on their defense while new head coach Lane Kiffin brings their offense up to speed, opted to pay Sands now rather than pay for it in yards up the gut later.

    Sands, 6-foot-7, 335 pounds and with a long wingspan, has been with the Raiders since 2003. His only start came on Dec. 14 in that season against the Baltimore Ravens.

    However, Sands is a regular in a three-man defensive tackle rotation along with Warren Sapp and Tommy Kelly.

    Although Sands' strength is against the run, he can also push the pocket and he was not played predominantly on running downs. Sapp finished the 2006 season with 10 sacks, his most since getting 16.5 in 2000, and Sands' presence played a major role.

  • K Jay Feely is technically an unrestricted free agent, although he had a four-year contract and has played only two seasons with the Giants. He had the right to opt out after the second year, which he did, and the thought is that he wants to stay with the team but will insist on renegotiating his contract for the next two (or longer) seasons.

  • SS Gibril Wilson would be a tough loss. He hits hard, can go to the ball and when healthy is a quality safety. He'll get an offer that will keep him on the roster.

  • FS Ken Hamlin (unrestricted free agent) is a big hitter with very good range. He could flourish with the right system and coaching.

  • TE Jerramy Stevens (unrestricted free agent) will have to overcome a history of injuries and inconsistent play wrapped around long-ago off-field troubles. He does have lots of talent, however.

  • WR D.J. Hackett (restricted free agent) has starting potential and could draw a first-round tender from Seattle.

  • RB Stephen Davis (unrestricted free agent) helped the development of Steven Jackson and will return if the price is right.

  • WR Shaun McDonald (unrestricted free agent) had his share of big plays in three seasons, but not consistently enough. The only way he's back would be as a fourth receiver for moderate money.

  • LB Raonall Smith (unrestricted free agent) proved himself to be a versatile player in situational defenses and on special teams.

  • T/G Todd Steussie (unrestricted free agent) would like to re-sign with the Rams, but he will see if another team will offer a starting job.

  • LB Brandon Chillar (restricted free agent) was solid as the strong-side starter, and played better than has been given credit for. Could get the minimum tender.

  • LB Kawika Mitchell (unrestricted free agent) made tremendous progress in developing as a MLB in pass coverage and a team leader. Probably won't be as welcomed anywhere else in the league as he is here, but the price will have to be right.

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