In a surprising turn of events, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed free agent tight end Dallas Clark and announced they have traded Kellen Winslow to the Seahawks for an undisclosed draft pick.
Clark had been with the Indianapolis Colts for nine years, having been taken 24th overall in 2003. The productive tight end was a favourite target of future hall-of-fame quarterback Peyton Manning, and developed a reputation as an elite receiving threat, but is not given much credit as a blocker.
With the Colts, Clark caught 427 balls for 4,887 yards and 46 touchdowns, so it was a surprise when not many teams were showing interest when he hit free agency.
Even when Manning eventually signed with the Denver Broncos after his high-profile release by the Colts, there was no spot on the tight end needy Broncos for the 33-year-old Clark.
Tampa’s signing of Clark is in many ways a downgrade, as Kellen Winslow is still one of the most complete tight ends in the league, having a tremendous ability to block and be a danger in the passing game. He’s been slowed by injuries the last couple of seasons, but is still more of a complete package than Clark.
Last season Winslow was often seen screaming at Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, and there was reportedly bad blood between the tight end and Tampa. With new coach Greg Schiano in town, and being a noted high-character guy, the decision to move the problematic Winslow was made easier by Clark being still on the street.
Winslow was originally acquired from the Cleveland Browns in a trade in 2009, for a second and fifth-round draft pick. He had several productive seasons for Tampa, having caught 218 passes for 2,377 yards and 12 touchdowns in his three years there.
Oakland Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain has been found guilty of assault, reckless endangerment, menacing and wrongful discharge of a firearm. He has been sentenced to 180 days in prison.
The sentence relates to an altercation McClain had with Rishard Tapscott. The two are apparently friends, and had a falling out during a basketball game, where McClain made threats that he would be “coming after him” according to a Rotoworld report.
Later on, the Raiders linebacker pointed a gun at his head, threatened to kill him, and fired a shot past his ear, according to the Washington Post.
When he does get out, it’s almost a certainty that the NFL will suspend him for violating the player conduct code. Given the serious nature of the crime, it’s likely to be a severe suspension of at least 6 games, possibly more.
McClain was taken eighth overall in the 2010 draft, and was considered at the time as being the first ‘normal’ first-round pick by Oakland in many years, as they had harboured a reputation for questionable draft strategies under the late Al Davis.
Coming into the NFL, McClain was a highly-touted linebacker prospect, having had a standout career at the University of Alabama. He inked a 5-year deal worth $40 million with the Black and Silver.
The next man up would be Travis Goethel to play middle linebacker for the Raiders, who was also taken in the 2010 NFL draft – only in the sixth round.
It would not be surprising for the Raiders to sign more linebacking help before training camp as they evaluate the situation, especially as McClain could be suspended for a large chunk of the season.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew skipped the first day of the team’s organized team activites (OTAs), and has informed the front office that he wants a new contract.
MJD is slated to make $4.45 million this year, which seems like a decent amount, but he’s easily one of the top three running backs in the league and isn’t anywhere near that pay grade.
Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey has confirmed that MJD has asked for a contract extension, according to an SI.com report.
The undersized running back known as pocket Hercules lead the league in rushing last year, with 1,606 yards. He signed a five-year deal worth $31 million back in 2009, and still has two years left on it, but MJD has largely outplayed that contract.
While it’s hard to feel sorry for someone earning that kind of cash, the guy has definitely earnt the right to be one of the highest paid backs in the NFL and he is nowhere near that at present.
Meanwhile, New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker has ended his contract holdout threat by signing his franchise tender. The one-year deal will pay him $9.5 million, at the end of which Welker will once again be an unrestricted free agent, with the Patriots able to franchise tag him again.
Welker’s signing was expected given he gave a radio interview over the weekend saying he would definitely play this year, as he had “9.5 million reasons to.”
Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Jason Peters has ruptured his Achilles’ tendon again, while he was in the recovery process for his initial knee injury.
According to an NFL.com report. Peters was using a device called a Roll-A-Bout, (which a quick Google image search shows is pretty much a padded cart for your knee) to move about his home when it allegedly malfunctioned.
If it turns out that the device was at fault, the manufacturer could be faced with a lawsuit running into the tens of millions, if not more, as a second Archilles injury could be a career-ender.
The Eagles had already taken steps to replace Peters by signing former Buffalo Bill Demetress Bell, but there was an outside chance the all-pro tackle would recover from injury and make it back late in the season. There is no longer any chance of that.
Peters was an undrafted free agent in 2004, signing with the Bills originally as a special teams guy that would then be converted to an offensive lineman – after playing both defensive tackle and tight end in college.
In his first few years in the league, Peters proved himself a standout left tackle, and would go on to make the Pro Bowl five times and be voted by the Associated Press <as an All-Pro four times.
The Bills traded Peters to the Eagles in 2009 for a first round pick, and he continued his career as a stalwart blindside protector until March of this year when he suffered his first Achilles tear in offseason workouts. The second tear all but ends his career at this point, unless a miraculous recovery can be made.
There is almost nobody in the league without an opinion on Vince Young. His detractors will tell you that he isn’t an accurate enough passer, and that running quarterbacks have no business in the league – then they’ll start talking about his mindset. Lots of those are out in force now that the Buffalo Bills have signed him.
His supporters will tell you that Young ‘just wins games’ in reference to his ability to come up with a victory despite the team being outgunned and outclassed. More than a few of these are coming out of the woodwork now that he’s a Bill.
Number 10 is more polarising than Tim Tebow in a lot of ways, because there’s a lot of people that are still undecided on Tebow, but most people have their minds made up about Young.
He took the route to the NFL that everyone advises you don’t take – coming out of college too early because your stock is high after a bowl game. It was at the end of a stellar season as the signal caller of the University of Texas that Young took his team to the 2006 Rose Bowl. That year the Rose Bowl was the BCS National Championship (before they changed the system to make the title game a separate thing), and Texas was playing the defending champion University of Southern California (USC).
Those were the heady days of USC under Pete Carroll, where he had all-world talents like running back Reggie Bush and quarterback Matt Leinart, while Texas had Young and running back Jamaal Charles.
The hype leading into that game was unbelievable, and USC were the favourites by a longshot – they were the defending champions and they had Bush. Texas were considered an underdog, but would take the fight to USC, and the game was one of the most talked about matchups in NCAA history.
The Baltimore Ravens may have just lost one of their greatest players for the season, as Terrell Suggs reportedly tore his Achilles while preparing for the annual conditioning test.
Suggs recorded 14 sacks and 52 tackles last year, earning him the NFL Defensive Player of the year title, as well as first team All-Pro (as voted by the Associated Press) honors.
The nine-year veteran was quick to post a message to fans on Twitter, claiming that he will do everything he can to get back into a Ravens uniform this year.
Suggs was drafted in the first round (10th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Ravens, where he has played his entire career. In that time he has notched five Pro Bowl appearances while recording 82 sacks, 412 tackles, and 44 pass deflections.
Bringing the messy ‘bounty-gate’ saga to a close, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has handed down major suspensions to four members of the 2009 New Orleans Saints.
Back in the 2009-2010 season (when the Saints won the Superbowl), the team was operating a slush fund to pay defensive players cash rewards for ‘big hits’ on players.
The rewards increased in scale with the severity of the hit, with the largest bonuses being paid for knocking a player out of the game.
Goodell initiated an investigation into the Saints when the allegations first came to light in 2009, but nothing came of it. It wasn’t until this year, when fresh evidence came to light, supposedly from an informant.
Hall-of-fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp (also an analyst for the NFL Network), publicly accused tight end Jeremy Shockey as being the whistleblower. Shockey was a member of the 2009 Saints, and is currently a free agent, having been released by New Orleans at the end of the 2010 season and playing for the Carolina Panthers last year. Sapp lost his job with the network over the incident, and has since declared bankruptcy.
The NFL handed down heavy sanctions to the coaches and officials involved in the scandal. Defensive coordinator Greg Williams was suspended from coaching with the NFL indefinitely, which interrupted things for the St. Louis Rams, as they had signed Williams to run their defence.
General manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for six games and is facing fresh allegations of wiretapping. Head coach Sean Payton had been locked out for an entire season, with assistant head coach Joe Vitt joining Loomis with a six game suspension. While no direct penalty was levied on owner Tom Benson, the team was docked $500,000 and lost their second round picks in the 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts.
When those sanctions were handed out, there was no fines or suspensions handed out to the players involved. The delay was largely due to the involvement of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), which is the player’s main outlet for defence against NFL disciplinary action.
Ending weeks of speculation as to when the penalties would be handed down (and no doubt timed to be after the NFL draft hype), Goodell has suspended four players over their involvement in the bounty scandal.
Linebacker Jonathan Vilma (still with the Saints) was suspended without pay for the entire season, which was expected given he was personally offering $10,000 to anyone who could knock quarterbacks Brett Favre (then with the Vikings) or Kurt Warner (then with the Cardinals) out of the game during the Saints’ playoff run.
Defensive end Anthony Hargrove (now with the Green Bay Packers) was sidelined for eight games. Fellow defensive lineman Will Smith (still a Saint) was suspended for four games, while linebacker Scott Fujita (now with the Cleveland Browns) was sent home for 3 games – all without pay.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added defensive end Eric LeGrand from the University of Rutgers to its 90-man offseason roster – only he isn’t expect to play a snap because he’s paralyzed.
LeGrand was rushing down the field in a game against Army in 2010, when he attempted to tackle Malcolm Brown who had the ball. There was a nasty collision that broke two vertebrae in his spine, paralysing him from the waist down.
The hit was so devastating that then-Rutgers coach Greg Schiano made a controversial call for kickoffs to be banned completely, saying that students were now too big and too fast, and that it’s going to cause more injuries.
His alternate suggestion was to have teams punt from the 30-yard line to empty fields, or if they want a chance at keeping possession (like they would during an on-side kick), they can choose for a fourth-and-15 player from their own 30 yard line.
Despite his suggestion being largely ridiculed, and fans reacting by claiming that dangerous kickoff-returns are just ‘part of the game’, Schiano went on to move up to the NFL ranks as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Now that he’s at the helm of the Buccs, Schiano has speahearded Tampa Bay into making the symbolic signing of LeGrand to their active roster.
This report from Newsday sums it up pretty well:
“LeGrand became an inspiration to teammates at Rutgers, eventually being able to stand upright with the help of a metal frame. He resumed his studies via video conferences for the 2011 spring semester, and on Oct. 29, 2011, led the Scarlet Knights onto the field before a game.”
Linebacking great Junior Seau has been found dead in his Californian home, according to a TMZ report. Police claim it is from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.
After a standout career as a tackling-machine at USC, Seau was taken in the first round (fifth overall) of the 1990 NFL Draft.
He went on to play a staggering 20 years in the league, 13 of those being with the San Diego Chargers, followed by three in Miami, and finally four with the New England Patriots.
During that time he amassed 1,524 tackles, 18 interceptions, and 56 sacks.
Seau first retired in 2006, after tearing his archilles tendon with the Dolphins the year before. San Diego signed him to a one-day contract so that he could forever retire a Charger.
Four days later, Seau signed with the New England Patriots, where he would play until retiring again in 2010.
Over the two decades he was in the NFL, Seau amassed 12 Pro Bowl selections, and 10 All-Pro (as voted by the Associated Press) listings.
He never notched a Superbowl victory, but he did play in two of them, first with the Chargers going down to the San Francisco 49ers in 1994, and then with the unbeaten 18-0 Patriots in 2007, which lost a thriller to the Giants.
One of the various promotions that the NFL uses to hype up the draft is to give away the chance to announce a team’s pick.
For 10 year old Brandon Morabito, it was the chance of a lifetime after he attended the Patriots Draft Preview event for season ticket holders, where everyone went in a raffle for the right to call out New England’s sixth round selection.
As luck would have it, Brandon was there with his father and managed to win the prized ticket, and the family was soon off to Radio City Music Hall in New York City to call the selection.
Unfortunately, one of the more menacing draft traditions is raucous fans boo’ing when a division rival is on the clock. The predominantly New York-based fans camp out many hours in advance to snap up a ticket to the draft, which is on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The end result is usually a number of boozed up fans, hollering with disapproval when a rival picks (or even their own team if they don’t like the pick).
This tradition had terrible results when Brandon was called up to the podium to announce the sixth round pick for New England. Despite the fact it was clearly a 10 year old kid calling the selection, the hooligans in the audience still jeered at him.
Here is an email Brandon’s father Mark sent to Peter King from Sports Illustrated:
“My 10-year-old son, Brandon Morabito, is the boy who made the Patriots sixth-round pick at Radio City on Saturday.
I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to read your point about the New York fans who lustily booed him.
We knew he’d be booed and I prepped him for it. I was taken aback that it grew louder even after Brandon was shown on the giant screens.
That said, I can’t tell you how proud I am of how he handled it. As he continued to announce the pick and the noise grew, he smiled and began almost yelling to get the words out.
I can honestly see that it took nothing from the amazing moment he was given.
My wife had to be consoled; Brandon did that too!! We both met Commissioner Goodell, Brandon was able to walk the green room to podium, get the draft hat, and have his picture taken with Mr. Goodell.
All in all, it was an amazing experience for my family.Thank you Mr. King for your kind words.”