On The Clock NFL Mock Draft from Fanspeak.com

You are browsing the archive for Minnesota Vikings Archives - Fanspeak NFL Blog.

The 2014 NFL Season Rewind

January 3, 2015 in 2014 NFL STATS AND FACTS, NFL Observations, NFL Playoffs, Super Bowl

As the NFL playoffs begin, I’m not quite ready to put to bed the fabulous 2014 regular season. One of the reasons the NFL has taken over as the most popular sport in this country is that the game appeals to nearly every sports fans biggest needs when watching pro sports.

Thanks in part to revenue sharing and a hard salary cap, the NFL offers parity which in turn offers nearly every fan the hope each summer that their team can be the Cinderella in the upcoming season. Fans love scoring, which is why, ‘the other futbol” has failed to catch on in this country–there simply isn't enough of it on the "pitch" and certainly the action on the gridiron, while it can be slow at times, moves at faster pace than it does on a soccer field. There is another reason futbol hasn’t quite caught on and football reigns supreme—the physical nature (or lack thereof) of the game. Fans love the big hits that go hand in hand with the NFL.manningnew

The 2014 NFL season offered it all—close games, dramatic endings, high scoring and of course big hits. Speaking of parity and competition, heading into the final week of the regular season, 16 teams were in contention for a trip to Super Bowl XLIX. Entering Week 17, 10 of the 16 games had playoff implications.

This is a two part series on the 2014 season as I, with the help of NFL Communications, take a look back at some of the better performances of the season. In part one we will look at 10 of the best overall stats and facts from the 2014 season and recap what some of the teams accomplished and in part two, we will look at some of the better individual efforts of the 2014 season.

With Wild Card Saturday here, here is one final look back at a great regular season.

The Beat Goes On:

Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs that were not in the postseason the year before. Five teams – Dallas (12-4), Arizona (11-5), Detroit (11-5), Pittsburgh (11-5) and Baltimore (10-6) – accomplished the feat this year. The normal amount of teams accomplishing this amazing feat is usually, five, six or seven teams. Since 1990, four teams has happened only three times while five teams making the playoffs after failing to the previous season has happened 10 times. On 11 occasions six or seven teams has accomplished this feat and in 2003, eight teams made the playoffs that did not make them in 2002.

It’s Not Over Until it’s Over:

Games continued to have a flare for the dramatic, as comebacks were a frequent theme. In 2014, there were five comeback victories of 21+ points, the most in a single season in NFL history. There were also 43 comeback wins of 10+ points, tied for the most in a season in NFL history (43 in 2013).

The most comeback wins of 21+ points in a single season in NFL history:






Plenty of Scoring in 2014:

Nine teams scored at least 400 points this season – Green Bay (486), Denver (482), Philadelphia (474), New England (468), Dallas (467), Indianapolis (458), Pittsburgh (436), Baltimore (409) and New Orleans (401) –tying the 2009 and 2012 seasons for the second-most all-time. Those nine teams combined for a .674 winning percentage, and seven qualified for the playoffs.

Year of the Quarterback:

NFL QBs put together a historically proficient and prolific year in 2014. The league-wide completion percentage (62.6), league-wide passer rating (88.9) and league-wide touchdown pass totals (807) were at historic levels, topping the previous records set in 2013 (61.2 completion percentage; 86.0 passer rating; 804 TD passes). The league-wide interception percentage of 2.52 percent was the lowest of any season in NFL history, surpassing the previous mark of 2.63 in 2012.

Mistake Free Performances:

There were 58 individual performances with three touchdown passes without an interception in 2014, the most of any season in NFL history (55 in 2013). There were nine individual games with five or more TD passes this season, the second-most in a single season in NFL history (11 in 2004). An NFL-record nine quarterbacks had 30+ touchdown passes – Luck (40), Peyton Manning (39), Aaron Rodgers (38), Tony Romo (34), Tom Brady (33), Drew Brees (33), Ben Roethlisberger (32), Philip Rivers (31) & Eli Manning (30) – surpassing the previous high of five (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013).

The More the Merrier:

Games averaged 696.2 total net yards per game, the second-best mark in NFL annals (697.0 in 2013). Explosive passing offenses fueled that trend, with an average of 473.6 net passing yards per game, an all-time high (471.2 in 2013).

Time is of the Essence:

The 2014 season featured an average game time of 3:05:53, the shortest average game time since 2010 (3:03:30). It is also the first time the average game time has declined from the previous season since 2008.

Return to Sender:

The league-wide kickoff return average of 23.8 yards was tied for the best in NFL history (23.8 in 2011).


With all that offense, defenses were heard from as well. The top three NFL teams in total defense all qualified for the playoffs and won at least 11 games each – Seattle (267.1), Detroit (300.9) and Denver (305.2). Those three clubs had a combined win percentage of .729.

Team Effort:

Many NFL teams accomplished amazing feats in 2014, here are some of the more noteworthy stats and facts from some of the leagues better performances throughout the season.

larryfitzgeraldARIZONA CARDINALS:

The Cards had 11 wins, tied for the most in a season in franchise history (1975, 1948, 1925). Arizona’s seven home wins are the most for the franchise in a single season since 1925, when the team won 11 of its 13 home games and became the first team since 1982 (Green Bay) to start 2-0 after trailing entering the fourth quarter in both games and not allowing a single fourth-quarter point.

Head coach Bruce Arians, who should win coach of the year honors, has 21 wins in his first two seasons, the most by a head coach in his first two seasons in franchise history.

Baltimore Ravens:

Set a single-season franchise record with 409 points scored and reached the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons under John Harbaugh.

Buffalo Bills:

One of the more surprising moves in the NFL this week was Bills head coach Doug Marrone opting out of his contract—however, his Bills defense led the NFL this season with 54 sacks.

Carolina Panthers:

The Panthers reached the playoffs despite posting a regular season record of 7-8-1. However they were one of only four teams to post a 4-0 mark in December and became the first team in NFC South history to win back-to-back division championships.

Dallas Cowboys:

The Dallas Cowboys finished the regular season 8-0 on the road and became the sixth team with a perfect 8-0 road record since the 16-game schedule was adopted in 1978. Four of the previous five teams to accomplish the feat advanced to the Super Bowl.

Denver Broncos:

The Broncos defeated Kansas City, Oakland and San Diego on the road this season, and have won 12 consecutive divisional road games (2011-14), tying San Francisco (12 from 1987-90) for the longest such streak in NFL history. The Broncos have not lost to an AFC West opponent on the road since December 19, 2010 (39-23 loss at Oakland).

Denver scored at least 20 points in 30 consecutive games, the longest streak in NFL history. The St. Louis Rams (1999-2000) previously held the record with 28 consecutive game with at least 20 points scored.

The Broncos spent $100 million to fix a leaky defense that many in Denver felt cost them an opportunity to win the Super Bowl—through 17 weeks of the NFL’s regular season it appears to have worked. Denver led the AFC in total defense, allowing 305.2 yards per game. The team’s offense ranked third in the AFC (402.9 yards per game).

Detroit Lions:

The Lions became the first team since the 1994 New York Giants to score the game-winning points inside of the two-minute mark of the fourth quarter in three consecutive weeks (Weeks 7, 8, 10, with a bye in Week 9).  In Weeks 7 and 8, became the fifth team in NFL history 8 to win back to-back games when trailing by at least 14 points one week and by 21+ points the following week.

Green Bay Packers:

The Pack became the second team in NFL history with 700 regular-season victories (710-541-37). The Packers joined the Chicago Bears (735-545-42) as the only teams ever to accomplish the feat. Became only the second team in NFL history to score 53+ points in back-to-back games (Los Angeles Rams, 1950)

Houston Texans:

Under new head coach Bill O’Brien, Houston became only the fifth team in NFL history to start 2-0 in at least five consecutive seasons: Dallas Cowboys (1965-73), Los Angeles Rams (1966-70), Dallas Cowboys (1975-79), Chicago Bears (1984-91) and Miami Dolphins (1994-99).

Indianapolis Colts:

With Andrew Luck under center the Colts scored six touchdowns of at least 30 yards in Week 13, becoming the first team to accomplish the feat since Washington (seven) did it on November 27, 1966 against the New York Giants.

Minnesota Vikings:

Rookie Head Coach Mike Zimmer had an impressive first year posting a 7-9 record with a rookie QB. However, the Vikings became the first team since the 1975 Detroit Lions (September 21, 1975 en route to a 30-16 win at Green Bay) to return two blocked punts for touchdowns in a half.

New England Patriots:

After starting 2-2 and getting blown on Monday Night Football by the KC Chiefs, the Patriots went onto to accomplish a lot in 2014—especially for a team that was washed up and finished on that cold October night in Kansas City.

New England won their sixth consecutive AFC East division title (2009-present), which is tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history. Only the Los Angeles Rams (seven, 1973-79) have posted a longer streak. The Patriots, who also won five consecutive division titles from 2003-07, are the first team in NFL history to win 11 division championships in a 12-year span.0ap2000000310994_video_cp


They finished the year 12-4 and earned a first-round bye for the fifth consecutive season, the longest streak of any NFL team since the current playoff format began in 1990, surpassing Dallas (1992-95) and San Francisco (1992-95).

Once the Pats recorded their ninth win over the Lions on November 23, they became the sixth team in NFL history to post at least 14 consecutive winning seasons and the first to do so since the San Francisco 49ers (1983-98, 16 seasons). Those 12 victories allowed New England to join the 49ers (1983-1998; 16) as the only teams in NFL history to record 12 consecutive 10-win seasons.

And if all of that isn’t enough to make you hate the Pats or love them even more—there is this. New England became the first team in NFL history (Weeks 9, 11 and 12, with a bye in Week 10) to win three consecutive games by 20 or more points, each against an opponent with a record of at least three games above .500.

New Orleans Saints:

The Saints missed the playoffs but it wasn’t because of their offense. With Drew Brees at QB, the Saints led the NFL in total offense, averaging 411.4 yards per game.

Philadelphia Eagles:

2014 was a tough luck year for Philly, as they became this year’s version of the Arizona Cardinals. The Eagles finished with a 10-6 record but did not make the playoffs. However, Philadelphia did accomplish some “special” things in 2014.

The Eagles scored 11 return touchdowns (three blocked punts, two kick returns, two punt returns, two interception returns and two fumble returns) this season, the third-highest total in NFL history. Ten different Eagles scored a return touchdown, the most in a single season all-time.

They also set single-season franchise records in points scored (474) and total touchdowns (54).

Coming from behind was a major theme for Philly in 2014. In a 34-17 Week 1 win against Jacksonville, became the first team in NFL history to win a game by at least 17 points after being shut out and trailing by 17+ points at halftime. They became the first team in NFL history to start 3-0 and overcome a 10 plus point deficit in all three games.

Seattle Seahawks:

The defending Super Bowl Champs became the first team to lead the league in scoring defense (15.9 points per game) in three consecutive seasons since the Purple People Eaters of the Minnesota Vikings defense did so from 1969-71.

When the Seahawks defeated Washington 27-17 in Week 5, it was their ninth-consecutive win on Monday Night Football. Their nine-game winning streak on MNF is tied for the second-longest such streak since 1970 (Oakland, 14).

In part 2 we will examine the the better individual performances from the year.

NFL Weekly Transaction Tracker

November 21, 2014 in 2014-free-agency, NFL Personnel

While there was no headline grabbing move this week, two notable transactions occurred. These two are discussed below and, as always, the rest of the moves are down below with some of the more significant ones highlighted in red.

Kansas City Chiefs re-sign DE Allen Bailey

It seems like there is a contract extension every week, and Bailey is the beneficiary this week.

Set to become a free agent at the end of the season, he signed a four-year contract extension to stay with the Chiefs through the 2018 season. Over the course of this new contract, he will make $25 million, of which $15 million is guaranteed. There is a signing bonus of $10 million. Averaging $6.25 million per season, he is now the seventh highest paid 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.

Drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Miami (FL), the 25-year old spent three seasons as a backup before earning a starting job this season.

In his first two seasons he flashed skill as a rotational defensive lineman, recording 15 tackles and one sack in 26 games (one start). Last season he earned three starts while playing in 15 games. He recorded 30 tackles and one sack.

Allen Bailey

Courtesy of Icon Sportswire

Due to free agent losses, Bailey was pushed into a starting role this season and he has embraced it. In 11 games this season––all starts––he has recorded 33 tackles and four sacks. Pro Football Focus has him graded as the 24th best 3-4 defensive end in the league. Two bad games are holding him back, as he would be number 13 if weeks two and five were taken out.

As the season has progressed, Bailey has looked better and better as he adjusts to being a full-time player.

He has become a key component in the Chiefs defense from his defensive end spot. Kansas City's defense has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season and he is one of their main run defenders.

At this point in time, $6.25 million is too much to pay for a player of Bailey's skill level. Kansas City is paying him with the expectation that he continues to improve his play. If this occurs––which Kansas City clearly believes––then this contract will look better. A first-year starter in his fourth season and only 25-years old, Bailey is sure to be a mainstay of the Chiefs defense for years to come.

Cleveland Browns release and Minnesota Vikings claim RB Ben Tate

In a surprising move, the Cleveland Browns released running back Ben Tate. The Minnesota Vikings aren't complaining though as they claimed him off waivers the following day.

This move comes after signing him to a two-year contract worth $6.2 million as a free agent before the season started. Due to the structure of his contract, Cleveland is not saving any money this season by releasing him. In fact, they add $93,750 to their cap due the acceleration of his signing bonus which comes when released.

For the season, he had 106 carries for 333 yards and four touchdowns and in the air he caught nine passes for 60 yards. In the first game of the season, he suffered a minor knee injury which kept him out for two games. In his first game back from the injury, he had his best game of the season, rushing for 124 yards on 24 carries.

Since that game, his snaps and touches––starting one week after his 124 yard game––have decreased every game. Rookies Terrance West (third round pick) and Isaiah Crowell (undrafted free agent) had passed him on the depth chart the last few weeks as they had been more effective.

Not only were the two rookies running well, Tate was struggling. In his last five games, he had 53 carries for 90 yards and two touchdowns. This works out to a putrid 1.7 yards per carry.

Both West and Crowell have more rushing yards and better yards per carry on the season than Tate.

With his snaps decreasing, Tate was becoming frustrated with his role on the team and had complained about his playing time. When he signed with Cleveland as a free agent, he was expected to come in and be the lead back in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's run heavy offense. Tate was long rumored to be signing with the Browns, even before free agency started as he had played in an offense that was very similar Shanahan's while in Houston. (Shanahan was the Houston offensive coordinator from 2008-2009 before joining his dad in Washington. Tate was drafted by Houston in 2011, but the offense was still the same.)

While it was obvious the writing was on the wall for Tate with his lack of production and decreasing role, it is still surprising to see the Browns get rid of him while in the midst of the playoff hunt. Behind the scenes, the team must have been frustrated with him.

Expected to be the workhorse running back for Cleveland this season, Tate never lived up to the expectations that were set when he was signed as a free agent this offseason. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell have both being playing better than Tate, making him expendable to Cleveland.

For Minnesota, it makes sense to claim him off waivers. He is still only 26-years old without much milage as he was a backup his whole career in Houston. The Vikings are dealing with their own running back problems as star Adrian Peterson has played in only one game this season as he deals with a child abuse case. The NFL has suspended him for the rest of the season after he reached a plea deal. He is in the midst of appealing this suspension right now.

Without Peterson, the Vikings have relied on third round pick Jerick McKinnon, a college quarterback, and Matt Asiata. Both have played well, but adding another running back was a good idea. After the season is over, Minnesota can move on from Peterson and save $13 million in cap space. With the addition of Tate––signed through 2015––the emergence of McKinnon and Peterson's criminal case, this has a very high probability of occurring. Adding Tate to their backfield is a smart move by the Minnesota Vikings.

Other Moves:

The Arizona Cardinals release LB Thomas Keiser.
The Arizona Cardinals sign TE Matthew Mulligan.
The Atlanta Falcons sign LB James Anderson.
The Buffalo Bills sign S Bacarri Rambo.
The Buffalo Bills cut RB Phillip Tanner.
The Buffalo Bills claim TE MarQueis Gray off waivers.
The Carolina Panthers waive WR Jason Avant.
The Chicago Bears sign WR/KR Marc Mariani.
The Chicago Bears waive S Ahmad Dixon.
The Cleveland Browns sign LB Keith Pough.
The Cleveland Browns cut LB Zac Diles.
The Green Bay Packers sign TE Justin Perillo.
The Green Bay Packers release OT Jamon Meredith.
The Houston Texans cut LB Ricky Sapp from injured reserve.
The Indianapolis Colts sign WR/KR Josh Cribbs.
The Indianapolis Colts sign TE Weslye Saunders.
The Indianapolis Colts cut LB Victor Butler.
The Miami Dolphins sign CB Jalil Brown.
The Minnesota Vikings waive TE MarQueis Gray.
The New England Patriots waive DL Casey Walker.
The New England Patriots sign RB LeGarrette Blount to a two-year contract.
The New Orleans Saints sign S Pierre Warren.
The New Orleans Saints sign CB Terrence Frederick.
The New Orleans Saints sign LB Moise Fokou.
The New Orleans Saints cut RB Edwin Baker.
The New Orleans Saints sign WR Jalen Saunders.
The New Orleans Saints cut RB Brian Leonard.
The New York Giants cut LB Justin Anderson.
The Oakland Raiders sign OL Khalif Barnes to a one-year contract extension.
The Oakland Raiders waive LB Kaluka Maiava from injured reserve.
The Philadelphia Eagles sign CB Roc Carmichael.
The Pittsburgh Steelers release RB LeGarrette Blount.
The Pittsburgh Steelers sign RB Josh Harris.
The San Diego Chargers sign S Adrian Phillips.
The San Diego Chargers cut LB Cordarro Law.
The Seattle Seahawks sign C Lemuel Jeanpierre.
The Seattle Seahawks sign DT Travian Robertson.
The Seattle Seahawks release OT Andrew McDonald.
The Seattle Seahawks release S Steven Terrell.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers waive WR/KR Trindon Holliday from injured reserve.
The Tennessee Titans cut LB James Anderson.
The Tennessee Titans sign LB Justin Staples.

NFL Readies for Stretch Drive

November 19, 2014 in NFL, NFL Game Preview, NFL Playoffs, NFL Predictions, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl, SUPER bOWL XLVIII, Superbowl 48

With Thanksgiving around the corner, the NFL is set to begin the all-important stretch drive. The weather is cooperating, if you think snow, cold and wind are a welcome part of the game once the holiday season arrives. They are currently measuring snow fall in Buffalo this week in feet—not inches. And an arctic blast has temperatures below freezing with driving winds in nearly every outdoor venue north of Texas.

Buckle your chin straps and hold on because what the NFL looks like this week is likely not what we will see once Week 17 is completed. The standings are close as NFL teams begin their playoff push. Through the first 11 weeks, there are 21 teams either in or within one game of a playoff spot.

Week 12 kicks off on Thursday night (8:25 PM ET, NFL Network) when the Kansas City Chiefs visit the Oakland Raiders in an AFC West contest. The Chiefs (7-3) are tied with Denver for the division lead. Kansas City, which knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks last week, is one of eight teams with a .700 or better winning percentage this season. The other seven are Arizona (9-1), New England (8-2), Dallas (7-3), Denver (7-3), Detroit (7-3), Green Bay (7-3) and Philadelphia (7-3).

The Song Remains the Same—-Sort of!


Manning, Rodgers & Brady oh my

Week 11 provided some surprising upsets and tight finishes and as usual, the likes of Manning, Brady & Rodgers helped make the headlines. However, while two of them cruised to victories, one of them did not.

Perhaps no bigger upset occurred than when the St. Louis Rams dealt Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos a 22-7 setback. It was the Rams' third victory this season against a team that reached the Conference finals last season. Nevertheless, St. Louis, which had previous wins over Seattle (28-26) and San Francisco (13-10), remains two games below .500 (4-6). Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only two teams finished with a losing record despite three wins over opponents who reached the previous season's "final four": the Raiders in 1992 and the 49ers in 2006. Both teams finished with a 7-9 record.

Peyton Manning was 34 for 54 for 389 yards—however, the Rams pass was relentless sacking No.18 and intercepting him two times each. He was held to a 42-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, ending a streak of 15 consecutive games with at least two touchdown passes. More on that in a bit.

If you were forced to make a Super Bowl prediction today, you’d be hard pressed to pick any other teams besides the NE Patriots & Green Bay Packers. The Pats marched into Lucas Oil Filed Sunday night and once again ran all over the Indianapolis Colts with a 42-20 victory. Patriots running back Jonas Grey, who was on the practice squad this time last month, rushed for 201-yards and four touchdowns. Counting last year’s 43-23 playoff win in Foxborough vs. Indy, the Patriots own the Colts defense. New England has rushed for 480 yards and seven touchdowns in the two contests and have defeated young Andrew Luck and company by a combined score of 85-43 in the process.

Gray entered the game with no touchdowns on the season. The last time a player rushed for 4 TD’s after entering the game with 0 career TD was Herb Henderson of the Evansville Crimson Giants against the Cincinnati Celts on November 27, 1921.

If you think the Patriots, who are 6-0 since starting the season 2-2, could slow down, think again—–Since 2010, the Patriots are 30-3 in the second half of the regular season (Game #9-16),  by far the best record in the NFL in those games.

Since telling the Green Bay faithful to relax, everything would be OK, back in Week 4, Aaron Rodgers has kept his word. Rodgers continues to show why he is the best QB in the league these days. The Green Bay signal caller completed 22 of 36 passes (61.1 percent) for 341yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 120.3 passer rating in the Packers’ 53-20 win over Philadelphia.

Rodgers has thrown 322 consecutive passes at home without an interception, the longest streak in NFL history. He has thrown 29 consecutive touchdowns at home without an interception, the longest streak in NFL history. The Packers, who scored 30 points in the first half, are the first team in NFL history to score at least 28 points in the first half of four consecutive home games.

The rest of the NFC not playing in Arizona is hoping that if they make the playoffs, Lambeau Field won’t be their destination this playoff season if the Packers are fortunate to host a playoff game. In the four home games that have followed since Rodgers comforting words, Green Bay has led by scores of 30-3, 45-0, 38-3 and 42-0. Green Bay has hit the half century mark in back to back for the first time in the 93 year history of the franchise and are only the second team in NFL history to score 53+ points in back-to-back games, joining the 1950 LA Rams.

Rodgers' touchdown-to-interception is 31:0 over his last 13 home games. The Pack's average score over the past seven games overall is 39 to 21.

How Bout them Cards:

Bruce Arians Coach of the Year?

Bruce Arians Coach of the Year?

With a playoff like gut check performance vs. the Detroit Lions on Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals own the league’s best record at 9-1. It is only the second time in franchise history the Cardinals have opened a season with nine wins in their first 10 games, joining the 1948 Chicago Cardinals. Through the first 11 weeks of the season, the Cardinals have built a two-game lead in the race for the NFC’s top seed and own a three-game lead in the division. Arizona is the only team in the league yet to lose a conference game (7-0).

The Cardinals are the only team in the NFL with a 6-0 home record and one of only five teams yet to lose at home this season. This marks the first time since 1970 in which the Cardinals have won their first six home games to begin a season.

On offense, backup QB and former Lions draft pick Drew Stanton came out on fire against his former team Sunday. Stanton threw a pair of touchdown passes to Michael Floyd in the game's first 10 minutes and the Cardinals held on for a 14-6 victory over the Lions. Only two other players in team history caught two TD passes in the first quarter of one game: Gus Tinsley against Washington in 1937, and Anquan Boldin against Miami in 2008. WR Larry Fitzgerald’s reemergence has been a big factor for the Cardinals offense. On Sunday, Fitzgerald drew a ton of double coverage and had two catches for 33 yards. Fitzgerald, who now has 12,025 career receiving yards, became the second-youngest player in NFL history to reach 12,000 receiving yards (31 years, 77 days old). Randy Moss reached the milestone at 30 years, 306 days old.

On defense, the Cards slowed the very formidable Lions attack. With Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson, the Lions were held to just two Matt Prater field goals and were shut out in the second half. Stafford was held to a season low 183 passing yards. Led by Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles, Arizona has forced 20 turnovers this season, including 15 interceptions, the second-most in the league. Arizona has also limited turnovers on the offensive side of the ball and is tied for second in the NFL with a +11 turnover differential.

Head Coach Bruce Arians deserves a ton of credit. In his second season as Arizona’s head coach, Arians has compiled a 19-7 (.731) record. His 19 wins are the most by any head coach in franchise history though his first 26 games. Including his 9-3 record as the interim head coach with Indianapolis in 2012, Arians has a 28-10 (.737) record as an NFL head coach.

Arizona is looking to become the first NFL team to play in a Super Bowl where its city is hosting the game in their very own facility.

The Texans handed the Cleveland Browns a crushing home defeat on Sunday as Ryan Mallet outplayed Brian Hoyer in the team’s 23-7 road victory. The former backup to Tom Brady, Mallett, was 20-of-30 for 211 yards, two touchdowns and an interception Sunday, his 1st-career start. His counterpart, Brian Hoyer, who has kept his rock star backup Johnny Manziel on the bench this season, wasn’t nearly as effective as he’s been lately. Hoyer completed only 20 of 50 passes in the Browns' loss, setting a team record for incomplete or intercepted passes in one game. Otto Graham held that record from the time the Browns entered the NFL in 1950 until last season (tied by Brian Sipe in 1981), when Jason Campbell went 27-for-56 at Cincinnati.

It’s time to admit that JJ Watt may just be the best overall player in the NFL—on offense and defense. Watt, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, caught his second touchdown pass of the season in Houston's win. Watt also scored on an interception return in September and with a fumble recovery in October. He is the first NFL player to score at least two TDs on both offense and defense since J.C. Caroline did it for the Bears in 1956 (2 rushing TDs, 2 on Ints).

Rookie Watch:

Last week in this column, I pointed out the play of some of the leagues rookies this season and questioned whether or not they were ready to hit the proverbial rookie wall. Based off the play of a few of them this past weekend, that doesn’t appear likely to happen.

In Washington, Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie WR, Mike Evans, caught seven passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns in his team’s 27-7 win over the Redskins. Over the last 30 years, only two other rookies gained at least 200 receiving yards and caught two TD passes in the same game: Eddie Kennison of the Rams in 2006 (vs. the Falcons) and Anquan Boldin of the Cardinals in 2003 (vs. the Lions).

Rookie WR Mike Evans

Rookie WR Mike Evans

Evans has caught seven passes in each of his last three games, totaling 124, 125, and 209 yards. The only other rookies to gain at least 120 receiving yards in each of three consecutive games were Billy Howton (1952 Packers), Jimmy Orr (1958 Steelers), and Marques Colston (2006 Saints).

Cincinnati rookie running back Jeremy Hill (Round 2, No. 55 overall) and Houston rookie running back Alfred Blue (Round 6, No. 181 overall) were teammates at Louisiana State University. Hill (152 rushing yards) and Blue (156) each rushed for 150+ yards on Sunday, becoming the first rookies from the same college to rush for at least 150 yards on the same day in NFL history. Hill, who rushed for 154 yards in Week 9 against Jacksonville, is the second rookie in franchise history with two 150-yard rushing games, joining Paul Robinson (1968).

Blue tied the franchise rookie record for rushing yards (Steve Slaton, 156 yards vs. Indianapolis on November 16, 2008), and set a single-game club record for carries (36), surpassing the previous mark set by teammate Arian Foster (33 attempts in two different games).

The San Francisco 49ers will most assuredly miss the leadership of linebacker Patrick Willis but it appears as if rookie linebacker Chris Borland is capable of picking up the slack in term of on the field production. The former Wisconsin Badger (Round 3, No. 77 overall) had 12 tackles and two interceptions in the 49ers’ 16-10 win at the New York Giants. Borland is the first rookie linebacker in franchise history with two interceptions in a game. He also joined Ken Norton, JR. (October 22, 1995) as the only 49ers linebackers with two interceptions in a game over the past 40 years.

The Battle for the North:

downloadWhile they are some solid divisional playoff races taking place, no race is as intriguing as the AFC North. With six weeks remaining in the regular season, all four teams are currently within a half game of first place in the division following the Steelers’ 27-24 win at Tennessee on Monday Night Football. Cincinnati (6-3-1) holds the slightest of edges over Pittsburgh (7-4), Baltimore (6-4) and Cleveland (6-4) for the top spot in the division.

The AFC North is the first division in which every team is at least two games above .500 at any point in the season since the 1935 NFL Western Division. The four AFC North clubs have combined for a 17-7-1 record (.700) against non-division opponents in 2014, the best of any division in the NFL. This also includes their record of 8-1-1 vs. the NFC South. Including this week’s games, the North will face the South six more times this season with Pittsburgh (vs Saints Nov 30, @ Falcons Dec. 14)  and Cleveland (@Falcons Nov.23 & @ Falcons Dec. 21)  playing the struggling division twice. The Ravens will travel to play New Orleans this Monday Night for their final matchup of the season vs. the division while the Bengals travel to Tampa on Nov. 30.

Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only seven divisions have finished with a combined winning percentage of .700 or better outside the division. Three of those divisions produced that season’s Super Bowl champions, including the 2013 NFC West. All seven of the divisions to accomplish the feat have featured at least two playoff teams, with four sending three teams to the postseason.

The Seattle Seahawks, who were one of three 10-win teams in the NFC West last year, finished with an NFC-best 13-3 record en route to the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history. The 2007 NFC East also produced the Super Bowl XLII-champion New York Giants (10-6), one of six Wild Card playoff teams to win a Super Bowl title. And the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-2) of the AFC Central went on to their second consecutive Super Bowl title. With six weeks remaining in the NFL regular season and 12 teams in the AFC sporting records of .500 or better, all four AFC North teams are in a strong position to challenge for playoff spots.

Speaking of the Seahawks:

Despite a strong ground attack, the Seattle Seahawks dropped a tough road loss on Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs. Seattle gained 204 yards on 37 carries at Kansas City, and assuming the Seahawks won by just looking at the box score wouldn’t have been too big of an assumption. Prior to Sunday, defending Super Bowl champions gained 200 or more rushing yards in a game 95 times. They lost only two of those games, both by the same team (the 1985 49ers), and had won their last 41 such games, including three by Seattle earlier this season.

However, with a pretty solid rushing attack their own, the Chiefs defeated the Seahawks, 24-20, (190 yards and three touchdowns). KC gained 190 yards and scored three rushing TD’s. The attack was led by RB Jamaal Charles, who gained 159 yards on 20 carries. Charles extended his rushing success vs. Seattle. Charles also had a 173-yard game versus Seattle four years ago. The only other players with two games of 150 or more rushing yards against the Seahawks are Terrell Davis (both in 1998) and Frank Gore (2006 and 2009).

Super Bowl Rematch looking less likely:

The Seahawks and Broncos both dropped games on the road this past weekend. If the playoffs started today, the Seahawks would become the latest victim of the Champions curse. Nearly half (seven) of the SB Champs from the past 15 years have failed to make the playoffs the following season, the Pittsburgh Steelers did it twice. In fact, all time, one third (16 of 48) of Super Bowl-winning teams don’t make it the postseason the next year. Seattle would be the third straight team to fail to qualify—following the Giants and Ravens. Even if they do make it, winning a game in the playoffs following a SB winning season is no easy task. The last defending Super Bowl champion to win a playoff game was the 2005 New England Patriots, who won a wild-card game before losing in the next round at Denver. Seattle does control their own destiny. Starting this week at home, the Seahawks still have five division games to play, including two against the hated 49ers and two vs. the division leading Cardinals.superbowl

Speaking of Denver, spending $100 million to revamp its defense may not be money well spent if they cannot stop a pass rush. Denver is also looking to breaking a curse when it comes to the Super Bowl. The last Super Bowl runner up to win the big game the following year was the Miami Dolphins, who won Super Bowl VII in January 1973 after losing Super Bowl VI the previous year. That’s a 41 year drought.

In fact, it's only happened twice in the Super Bowl's 46-year history. The numbers are a little more favorable for Denver to at least return to the Super Bowl. Seven Super Bowl runners-up have repeated as conference champions in 48 years—I said a little better.  Most recently, the Buffalo Bills bounced back from three Super Bowl losses to return to the Super Bowl in the 1990-93 seasons. No.18 will look to stop the streak at 18 years, as 18 straight SB runner ups have not returned to the big game.


Research and stats courtesy of NFL Communications, ESPN Stats & Information and The Elias Sports Bureau.











Week 3 In Review

September 24, 2014 in Baltimore Ravens, NFL, NFL Game Preview, NFL Personnel, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl

And then there were three. With three weeks in the book, only three teams remain unbeaten in the National Football League. The Cincinnati Bengals remain the lone AFC team without a loss while the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles sit atop their respective divisions in the NFC, with 3-0 marks. The chance to make the playoffs starting 3-0 are very good in the NFL. Since 1990, when the current playoff format was adopted, 75.2 percent of teams (91 of 121) to start 3-0 have qualified for the postseason.

Of the three current unbeaten and despite finishing 10-6 last season, only the Cardinals missed the playoffs in 2013. Excluding the postseason and going back to last season the hottest team is the Philadelphia Eagles. Head Coach Chip Kelly and his high flying birds have won 10 of their past 11 regular season games.

Bengals & Dalton are No.1

Bengals & Dalton are No.1 in some power polls

The other birds in the mix, the Cardinals aren’t far off their ornithological foes, in terms of carrying over success from last season. Arizona has won 10 of their past 12 regular season games and done so competing in the tough NFC West. It is only the third time in the past 41 seasons (1974, 2012); the Cardinals have started a season 3-0. And with a bye this week, Arizona will finish the first month of the season with a perfect record, marking the third time since the 1970 merger that the franchise posted an undefeated record in September (1974, 2012). Philadelphia is 3-0 for the first time since 2004 when the Eagles last appeared in the Super Bowl. That season, the club finished 13-3, claimed the NFC East division title, earned the top seed in the conference, won the NFC Championship Game, and advanced to Super Bowl XXXIX.

The Eagles have reached their undefeated mark in the most dramatic fashion of the three unbeaten. The Eagles have overcome deficits of at least 10 points in each of the team’s first three games and are the first team in NFL history to start 3-0 when trailing by at least 10 points in all three games. That includes wins in the club’s first two games when Philadelphia trailed by at least 14 points in the second half. The Eagles are the only team in league annals to start 2-0 after trailing by at least 14 points in the second half of each game. Philadelphia has scored 74 second-half points – the most in the league – and the club’s +50 point differential after halftime leads the NFL.

Philadelphia has scored 101 points (33.7 per game), the second-most in the league (Atlanta, 103), and is the only team in the NFL to score at least 30 points in all three games. They have the sixth best offense in the NFL and since Kelly took over as the head coach in 2013, the Eagles have scored at least 30 points in a game 11 times and are 9-2 (.818) in those contests.

While the Eagles are getting it done with offense, the Bengals and Cardinals are playing great on defense. Cincinnati (33) and Arizona (45 tied with Detroit) have allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season. For the third straight week, the Cardinals had a shutout in the fourth quarter. Arizona has now outscored its opponents 30-0 in the final 15 minutes.


Seven teams entered the week with an opportunity to remain winless. Three of the seven teams cashed in and enter week four 0-4. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Oakland Raiders remain the NFL’s only winless teams. Being winless after three weeks isn’t an enviable position if you entered the season with playoff aspirations. Coming back from an 0-3 start is a feat only five coaches in NFL history have managed to accomplish: Bobby Ross (Chargers, 1992), Walt Michaels (Jets, 1981), John McKay (Buccaneers, 1982), Wayne Fontes (Lions, 1995) and Wade Phillips (Bills, 1998). One of those seasons was a strike year, and obviously, no one has done it since 2000.


nfl-fan-map-floridaNotorious for its football talent, the state of Florida is currently home to the reigning national champions of college football and No.1 team in the country in the Florida State Seminoles. The Florida Gators have stumbled in the mighty SEC the past two seasons but not so long ago won two (2008 &2006) BCS National Championships. In fact, Florida college teams won five of the 16 BCS crystal footballs. Most of that talent was recruited from Florida High Schools.

However, the NFL in the state of Florida is another story altogether. The Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Jacksonville Jaguars are a combined 1-8 and have been outscored 147-297 (-150). Combined, they are averaging 16 points per contest while allowing 33 points.

Poor play and injuries on offense has led to change at the QB position in two of the three cities. In Tampa Bay, quarterback Josh McCown has a sprained right thumb and is expected to miss at least one game. With McCown expected to sit out Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh, second-year pro Mike Glennon is expected to get the start. In a strange way, that’s a good thing for new head coach Lovie Smith. For better or worse, the coach is going to find out what he has in Glennon. Smith previously has called Glennon the quarterback of the future. That time period might be coming faster than Smith wanted, but he has no choice.

In Jacksonville, head coach Gus Bradley stated that the No.3 overall pick in May’s NFL Draft would sit the bench and develop and then step onto the field as the team’s starting quarterback in 2015. Many considered the strategy a smart approach, especially with the struggles that emerged along the offensive line and the three rookie receivers that made double-digit mental mistakes. By the end of third quarter in Jacksonville’s Week 2 loss to the Redskins, QB Chad Henne had eight completions and had been sacked eight times. This past Sunday and after a lackluster first half in which the offense gained only 55 yards, generated two first downs, and scored zero points, Bradley benched Henne and handed the job to Bortles. The Jags QB of the future starting in 2015 took the field for good just 10 quarters into the 2014 season.

tannehillBortles completed 14 of 24 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He started 1-for-5 on his first drive and went 13-for-19 the rest of the half. He also threw a pair of interceptions, including one on a terrible throw across his body that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. But in the end, the standout at Central Florida, who passed for 7,598 yards and 56 touchdowns in his career there, breathed life into the Jags offense and that’s all it took. Following the game Bradley announced Bortles would start this week vs. San Diego.

In south Florida, the Ryan Tannehill era began at the start of the 2012 season and it appears to be in danger of ending sooner than later. The former Texas A&M Aggie is under fire in Miami. Following Sundays’ 34-15 loss at home to the Chiefs, many believe Tannehill has not made the proper strides thus far in an important third year, and fans in Miami are tired of waiting. Tannehill’s passer rating has gone down each week. He had an 80.0 rating in Week 1, a 73.6 rating in Week 2 and 70.4 rating in Week 3. At least statistically, Tannehill has regressed in Miami’s new offense under Bill Lazor. There is talk and “no talk” that a quarterback change could soon be in the works. During his Monday presser, Philbin, on four separate occasions, declined to answer whether Tannehill be the starter for this week.

In all fairness, Tannehill isn’t getting much support. According to Pro Football Focus research, the Dolphins are second in the NFL with 11 drops after three games. Only the Baltimore Ravens (12) have more dropped passes. Miami had three drops in Sunday's 34-15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He was sacked and NFL high 58 times last season and so far this season, has been sacked nine times, which is tied for third most through weeks and on pace for 48 total in 2014.


downloadFive quarterbacks, Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles (3), Cleveland’s Johnny Manziel (22), Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater (32), Oakland’s Derek Carr (36), and the Patriots Jimmy Garoppolo (62), were selected in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft in May. Only Carr has started for his team, as he beat out veteran Matt Schaub during the preseason. Carr has performed like a rookie on a bad team. His completion percentage is nearly 63 percent but he’s averaging less than 200 yards passing per game with three TD’s and three INT’s. Only Garoppolo has yet to see any game time—in one form or another.

The Browns are creating packages for Manziel where he shows up for a play or two and then exits the game. Manziel lost out to Brian Hoyer in Cleveland and is 0-1 passing this year. But he was involved in some illegal trickery Sunday vs. the Ravens. After replacing starter Brian Hoyer and handing off on a running play, Manziel appeared to be leaving the field when he ran toward the sideline. He stopped a little short of the sideline, and with his back to the action, pretended to have an animated conversation with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan when the ball was snapped. Shanahan, who was keeping an eye on what was going on behind Manziel, told him”, ‘Go”, and the former Heisman Trophy winner took off.

Manziel caught a short pass from Hoyer and sprinted down Cleveland's sideline before he was shoved out of bounds at the Baltimore 23. The play worked to perfection but Browns rookie running back Terrance West was called for an illegal shift, negating Manziel's 39-yard pickup. However, the play was illegal because the NFL ruled on Monday that a player who lines up less than five yards from the sidelines cannot do so between the 32 and the 32 yard line—this is the area the teams are allowed to stand on the sidelines.

Teddy Bridgewater debuted in Minnesota this past week after starter Matt Cassel left the game with a foot injury. Bridgewater hit 12 of his 20 passes for 150 yards and ran six times for 27 yards. He was impressive versus Rob Ryan’s blitz packages as well. When New Orleans brought extra pressure, though, Bridgewater was poised, which is what many NFL teams like about him last spring. He went 6-for-9 against the blitz, throwing for 70 yards, and scrambling once for another 15. Bridgewater also completed four of his five passes that traveled at least 10 yards in the air, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and gained 69 yards on those throws. He connected with Greg Jennings on a 30-yard corner route — on a play where Cordarrelle Patterson was also wide open in the vicinity of the throw.

Cassel is expected to miss significant time with broken bones in his left foot. Along with the Bortles era starting in Jacksonville this week, it’s likely so is Bridgewater’s. It’s worth pointing out the Patriots currently have the NFL’s 26th ranked offense and Tom Brady is struggling to get the offense moving—could Garoppolo see some snaps in his future—not likely!.

Other news & Notes from around the NFL Week 3

With a little Luck:

The Colts avoided a disastrous 0-3 start with a 370-yard, four-touchdown day from quarterback Andrew Luck (31-39-4-0). In doing so, Luck became the first Colts quarterback with 350+ yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 75+ completion percentage in a game since Johnny Unitas did so in 1967. Luck completed eight passes for 20 yards or more, one short of his personal high, and he became only the second player in Colts history to throw four TD passes of less than 10 yards in one game. The first was Jack Trudeau against the Dolphins in 1989

Those Browns:

In losing for the 12th time is their past 13 games against the Ravens, the Cleveland Browns once again figured out how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But losing may start to become a thing of the past as their young players continue to develop and find the end zone. Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West both scored in the Browns' 23-21 loss to Baltimore. That marked the first time since 1990 that a pair of rookie running backs both scored a rushing TD in the same game for the same team this early in a season. The last rookie RB teammates to do so in Week 3 or earlier were Johnny Johnson and Anthony Thompson of the Cardinals in 1990.

Staying with the Browns & Ravens—with a 101-yard receiving game Steve Smith now has 25 career 100-yard receiving games on the road. Only Jerry Rice (39) and Marvin Harrison (26) have more since 1960. Smith passed Randy Moss, Isaac Bruce, Michael Irvin, and Terrell Owens. The five catches for 101 yards pushed Smith to 290 yards for the season, the most by a player in the first three games with the franchise since Anquan Boldin's 287. Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk caught a nine yard TD pass from Joe Flacco and is the first player from Harvard with a receiving TD since Pat McInally on Dec. 21, 1980. McInally was the Bengals punter from 1976 to 1985, and also was a wide receiver during the first half of his career. In that game, the Harvard grad scored on a 59-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 24 against—you guessed it—the Cleveland Browns. The Browns actually won that game, 27-24, when Don Cockroft booted the 22 yard game winner. `

Americas Comeback:

The Dallas Cowboys erased a 21-0 deficit to defeat St. Louis 34-31. This marked the fourth time this season a team has overcome a deficit of at least 17 points to win, tied for the most through the first three weeks of a season since the 1970 merger (2011). This is the first time each of the first three weeks of a season has had at least one 17+ point comeback win since 1982.

Super Rematch:

download (6)The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos 26-20 in overtime. The game was the sixth Super Bowl rematch in the following regular season and the first since 1997 (Green Bay vs. New England). The defending Super Bowl champion has now won four of the six meetings in the rematch.

QB Russell Wilson was a big reason why legendary QB Peyton Manning didn’t complete his comeback. Wilson was at his best with his legs in overtime Sunday. Five of Wilson's six pass attempts during the game-winning drive came from outside the pocket, and he completed three of them for first downs. Wilson also rushed four times for 21 yards on the drive, earning two first downs via scrambles. Wilson is a now a combined 6-0 vs. Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.

Despite the game tying drive and subsequent two-point conversion to help his team force overtime, Peyton Manning threw a costly pick in the fourth quarter deep in Seahawks territory. Since the start of the 2013 season, six of Manning’s 11 interceptions have come in the 4th quarter.


Eight touchdown passes in three games for Cutler

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw two touchdown passes in Chicago's 27-19 win against the Jets on Monday night. Cutler has thrown eight TD passes in the Bears first three games this season, which breaks the old franchise record of seven in the team's first three games, set by Sid Luckman in 1946.

Foles and Cousins put on a show

Norm Snead vs. Sonny Jurgensen in 1967, Joe Theismann vs. Ron Jaworski in 1982, and yesterday, Nick Foles vs. Kirk Cousins. The Eagles and Redskins have faced each other in 158 regular-season games, but only those three quarterback matchups produced a pair of 300-yard passing performances. And among those three games, only yesterday's shootout, which resulted in the 37-34 Eagles, featured three or more TD passes by both QBs.

Murray sets all-time rushing mark vs. Rams

DeMarco Murray gained 100 yards on 24 carries in the Cowboys' 34-31 victory at St. Louis. Murray, who rushed for 253 and 175 yards in his two previous games against the Rams, set an all-time NFL record for rushing yards in a player's first three games against one team. Murray's total of 528 rushing yards versus St. Louis exceeded Eric Dickerson's three-game total against the St. Louis Cardinals by 3 yards.

Seattle's long OT drive denies Denver, ties record

The Seahawks drove 80 yards in 13 plays to deny the Broncos possession in overtime and win the rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII, 26-20. Seattle made a total of only five Touchdown drives of 13 or more plays over the past four seasons (2010-13), and added another in its opening-day win over Green Bay two weeks ago. But of greater historical importance, the Seahawks tied the NFL record for the longest overtime touchdown drive, as measured by the number of plays, in a regular-season game. Two other teams drove 13 plays to an OT TD: Denver at Kansas City in 1978, and the Giants at Philadelphia in 2006.

Sanu & Dalton reverse roles

Andy Dalton didn't throw a touchdown pass in the Bengals' 33-7 win over the Titans. But wide receiver Mohamed Sanu did, to Dalton himself. Sanu is now 4-for-4 as a passer in his three seasons in the NFL, and his 18-yarder to Dalton was the shortest of those four completions. He previously connected with A.J. Green (a 73-yard TD), Giovani Bernard (25 yards), and Brandon Tate (50 yards last week). Over the last 30 seasons, only one other player completed each of his first four passes in the NFL, each for more than 10 yards, and he wasn't a quarterback either. Frank Wycheck, a tight end, did it for the Titans (1999-2001).


AFC Sunday Recap

September 15, 2014 in NFL, NFL Preview

Week 2 still has the Monday night affair between the Colts and Eagles but 15 of the 16 contests have been completed. Ironically, seven teams remain unbeaten while seven teams remain winless. The 12 playoff teams from a season ago are a combined 12-10 (6-5 in each conference). The biggest stat that seemed to be most prevalent heading into the week pertained to teams that were in danger of falling to 0-2 on the short season. History has shown that teams that are victorious in their season openers are more than twice as likely to reach the playoffs than losers of an opening game. But that doesn’t mean an 0-1 start is impossible to overcome as nearly 25 percent of teams that lost the opener went to the playoffs.

Since 1978 when the NFL went to the 16-game schedule (and excluding the abbreviated season of 1982): Of the 523 teams which won opener, 274 went to the playoffs and 164 won division titles. Of the 524 teams which lost the opener, 124 went to the playoffs with 70 winning the division.

At the end of Week 2, no more than 13 teams will be able to claim a perfect 2-0 record, leaving at least 19 clubs at 1-1 or 0-2. Since realignment in 2002, 86 of the 144 playoff teams (59.7 percent) began the year at either 1-1 or 0-2, including five of the eight division champions in 2013 – Carolina (NFC South), Cincinnati (AFC North), Green Bay (NFC North), Indianapolis (AFC South) and Philadelphia (NFC East).  A look at how playoff clubs in 2012 and 2013 began their seasons:

Here are some key stats from today’s AFC winners:

Bills (2-0) 29 Dolphins (1-1) 10:

The Dolphins offense had no answer for the Bills defense in the first half. The unit had three sacks and didn't allow the Dolphins to cross the 50-yard line. Miami QB Ryan Tannehill was sacked four times and tossed one INT.  Bills starter, EJ Manuel, who missed both games against Miami last injury due to injury was an efficient 16 for 26 for 202 yards and one touchdown.

Last week Bills RB Fred Jackson made the big play with a 38-yard run in overtime to set up the winner, today it was CJ Spiller. Following a Caleb Sturgis field goal which cut the Bills lead to six points, Spiller returned the ensuing kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest of his career. His only other kickoff return touchdown came in Week 3 of his rookie season in 2010 against the New England Patriots.

Patriots (1-1) 30 Vikings (1-1) 7

The Vikings started strong without their deactivated star running back Adrian Peterson but the Patriots, who had been outscored 30-0 over the last two and a half quarters going back to last week woke up and scored 30 unanswered points to salvage a 1-1 start to the 2014 season. QB Tom Brady was average at best but his defense was outstanding. The Pats registered six sacks, four interceptions of Matt Cassel and a blocked field goal for a touchdown. The win was the 200th for HC Bill Belichick.

Bills sacked Tannehill 4 times on Sunday

Bills sacked Tannehill 4 times on Sunday

RB Matt Asiata had only 36 yards on 13 carries in place of Peterson, who was deactivated after being charged with child abuse Friday in Texas. The Patriots let Miami rush for 191 yards last week in a season-opening loss, but they held the Vikings to 54 yards on 19 attempts without Peterson.

The pass-run ratio last week for the Patriots was 60-20 in a shaky loss at Miami, but they established a much better balance here. Stevan Ridley carried 25 times for 101 yards, and Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes wasn't able to keep up with Julian Edelman, who finished six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots revamped secondary held the speed of the Vikings receivers in check. Matt Cassel was 0-for-8 with three interceptions on throws deeper than 10 yards downfield. Cassel only attempted three throws deeper than 10 yards downfield (1-3, 18 yards) in Week 1. Cassel is the first quarterback in ESPN Stats & Info's data set (since 2006) to start Week 1 and 2 without completing multiple attempts deeper than 10 yards downfield.

Browns (1-1) 26 Saints (0-2) 24:

The Browns (1-2) broke an eight-game losing streak in home openers, while the Saints (0-2) lost their first two game for the first time since the 2012 "bounty" season in which coach Sean Payton was suspended.

Drew Brees must not like playing against the Browns. The Browns upset the Saints 30-17 the last time the two teams met in Week 7 of 2010. In that game, Brees threw 4 interceptions, 2 of which were returned for TD. While he wasn’t that bad today, he wasn’t good enough to outduel Cleveland QB Brian Hoyer, who was very good today, especially at crunch time. The numbers won’t dazzle but he was marvelous in the clutch, moving the Browns from their own 4 to the New Orleans 11, allowing Billy Cundiff to hit the 29-yard game winner with .03 seconds to play. Hoyer completed several big passes on the final drive, including one on fourth down to tight end Gary Barnidge and a 28-yarder to Andrew Hawkins with 13 seconds to go. In all, he was 8 of 11 for 78 yards on the last drive and finished 24 of 40 for 204 yards and a TD. He came out for a few plays as Manziel, the hyped rookie, handed the ball off twice and had one incompletion.

With starting tight end Jordan Cameron and running back Ben Tate both inactive, Cleveland's backups at tight end and running back stepped up on Sunday. Terrence West had 90 yards from scrimmage Sunday, the first running back with at least 90 yards from scrimmage in his first two games since Chris Johnson and Matt Forte in 2008. Hoyer consistently got production from his backs and tight ends in the passing game as well.

Drew Brees finished 10-of-13 for 118 yards, two touchdowns and an interception targeting Jimmy Graham. Five other Saints had three catches in the game, but no one had more than that. Drew Brees' interception was returned 62 yards by Tashaun Gipson for a touchdown. It was his first pick-six since Week 2 of last season against the Buccaneers. Brees has had 10 interceptions returned for TDs in the last five seasons, three of which came in two games against the Browns.

Bengals (2-0) 24 Falcons (1-1) 10:

460xThe Cincinnati Bengals took care of business at home on Sunday, with a dominating presence on both sides of the ball. Cincinnati's 24-10 win over Atlanta marks the third-time (2005, 2006) that the Bengals have started the season 2-0 during the Marvin Lewis era.

A week after shredding the Saints, Matt Ryan, and the Falcons passing game was shut down by the Bengals secondary. Ryan finished 4-of-9 for 79 yards and two interceptions on throws at least 15 yards downfield, his first game with multiple interceptions on deep throws since Week 8 of last season. Ryan was 5-of-12 for 45 yards and an interception against at least five pass rushers Sunday (3.8 yards per attempt). Ryan averaged 7.2 yards per attempt last week against the Saints (7-of-12, 86 yds. TD).

A.J. Green left in the 1st quarter with a toe injury. Sunday marks the 1st time Green's been active and didn't record a catch. However, the Cincy rushing attack picked up the slack. Led by Giovani Bernard, who ran 27 times for 90 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown. He also caught a team-high five passes for a career-high 79 yards, including a 46-yard catch-and-run when Dalton flipped the ball to him as he was getting hit. The Bengals wound up with 472 yards and averaged 6.8 yards per play. Rookie Jeremy Hill ran for 74 yards and a touchdown, and the Bengals rushed for 170 overall. The inability to stop Cincy's running game should be particularly concerning for Atlanta, as its beefed up defensive line looked like the feeble group from 2013.

The Falcons were very excited about beating New Orleans last week at home. The Saints are now 0-2 while Atlanta has to have concerns about its defense. The Falcons have given up 450+ yards of total offense in back-to-back games for the first time since Weeks 6-7 of the 2010 season.

Chargers (1-1) 30 Seahawks (1-1)  21:

Check the calendar, the San Diego Chargers played perhaps their best game today under coach Mike McCoy, who was visibly excited following his teams nine point victory over the defending Super Bowl champs. Normally a performance the Chargers give with their season on the line in December, they were the better team for 60 minutes on Sunday—in September.

Not many offenses have been able to come up with an answer for the Seahawks tough hard hitting secondary known as the Legion of Boom but Chargers QB Philip River and Future Hall of tight end Antonio Gates sure did. The 34-year-old Gates scored TD’s on catches of eight—eight and 21 yards. Rivers, who passed for 284 yards and no INT’s, is the first QB with 3 TD passes against the Seahawks since Week 8 in 2012, when Matthew Stafford did it. Those are the only two players to throw 3 TD passes against Seattle with Richard Sherman on the field. The three touchdown receptions tied Gates' career high.

Seattle’s vaunted defense allowed 377 total yards to the Chargers but it was SD’s defense that played better on the day. They held the Russell Wilson and Seahawks to less than 300 total yards, including just 36 rushing yards to Marshawn Lynch. The six carries today tied for Lynch’s fewest since joining Seattle.

The Chargers (1-1) dominated time of possession and wore out the Seahawks' vaunted defense on a hot day in southern California. San Diego had the ball for 42:15 compared to 17:45 for Seattle, and gained 26 first downs to 14 for the Seahawks. The Seahawks loss was their first by more than 7 points since Week 9 of 2011 against the Cowboys

Texans (2-0) 30 Raiders (0-2) 14

The Texans have now starred 2-0 for five straight seasons. However, they are hoping that starting 2-0 this season yields much different results than when they did so last year. After starting unbeaten through two games in 2013, the Texans dropped 14 straight games to finish the season with the No.1 overall pick in May’s NFL Draft. Houston is the first team to start 2-0 in five straight seasons since 1994-1999 Dolphins.

J.J. Watt

Courtesy of Icon Sportswire

The Texans didn't have to range too far outside to beat the Raiders Sunday… – The Texans rushed 36 times for 151 yards and a touchdown in between the tackles Sunday. Arian Foster gained 123 of his 136 yards on those rushes. – Ryan Fitzpatrick was 11-of-13 for 111 yards and a touchdown when passing between the painted field numbers. He attempted only 6 passes outside the numbers. The march up the middle allowed the Texans to cruise to a 30-14 victory. The Texans last pass attempt came at 4:02 of the third quarter, and was followed by 17 rushes…

The 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the year, JJ Watt, didn’t have his usual day on defense, registering just a lone QB hit but he added to his athletic resume regardless. On second-and-goal at the one, the Texans first scoring drive of the game, Watt lined up at tight end and was wide open in the end zone when two Oakland defenders covered RB Arian Foster. Watt caught his first pass since his days as a tight end at Central Michigan in 2007 to give the Texans a 7-0 lead.

Rookie Derek Carr continued to play like a rookie. Playing against the team that drafted his big brother David first overall in 2002, Derek Carr went 27 for 42 for 263 yards with a late TD pass to James Jones and two interceptions. The Raiders committed four turnovers, all in scoring territory.

Broncos (2-0) 24 Chiefs (0-2) 17:

The Broncos did just enough to eke out a win over division rival Kansas City on Sunday. KC outgained the high octane offense of the Broncos and if you looked at the stats alone, may have figured the Chiefs won the game. The Chiefs (0-2), without All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles for much of the game due to an ankle injury, converted 11 of 16 third-down opportunities overall. They just couldn't capitalize in the biggest moments as the Broncos mustered two goal-line stands for the second straight week.manningnew

The Broncos (2-0) didn't think it would come down to another goal-line stand. But Aqib Talib's pick-6 earlier in the drive was negated by Quanterus Smith's offside penalty. Then, Nate Irving's fumble recovery following DeMarcus Ware's sack and strip was changed to an incomplete pass after a review. The Chiefs ninth life was expunged when Terrance Knighton deflected Alex Smith's fourth-and-goal pass from the two- to Dwayne Bowe with 15 seconds left. He was engaged with center Rodney Hudson when he reached up and felt the football smack into his right arm.

Manning was 21 of 26 for 242 yards and three TDs with no interceptions, but spent most of the game on the sideline. The Broncos had the ball for less than 10 minutes in the second half. Manning was also 6-of-6 for 122 yards and a touchdown on throws deeper than 10 yards downfield. Manning has a league-high 19 touchdowns on throws deeper than 10 yards downfield since the start of last season, but passed even his own standard in Sunday's win. – Manning is the only quarterback to open 2014 with three touchdowns and no interceptions in back-to-back weeks. This is the 47th game of Manning's career with at least three touchdowns and no interceptions. All three touchdowns came against standard pressure.

Emmanuel Sanders led the Broncos with eight catches for 108 yards, the first 100-yard game of his career. Demaryius Thomas had an 80-yard TD catch negated when right tackle Chris Clark was whistled for being downfield. Denver will head to Seattle next week in a rematch of Super Bowl XLXIII. The result may not be much different, as Seattle will be looking to get back on track after losing to the AFC West Chargers today.

NFL Weekly Transaction Tracker

September 12, 2014 in 2014-free-agency, NFL Personnel

The NFL season finally started and the week one games didn't disappoint. On top of that the week saw a bunch of moves including two contract extensions and one high profile release. These three moves are discussed below and, as always, the rest of the moves are down below with some of the more significant ones highlighted in red.

Baltimore Ravens release RB Ray Rice

Due to all the extensive coverage of Rice over the last few days, I won't cover him much here, but it does deserve notice.

Ray Rice

Courtesy of Icon Sportswire

A two-time All-Pro, the Baltimore Ravens decided to release him due his domestic abuse charge that happened this offseason. Originally he was only suspended two games by the NFL for the offense, but a new video of the event surfaced this week which changed everything.

Previously nobody had seen the actual video of the event, only the aftermath. With this new video out, there was a public outcry and the Ravens quickly released him. Soon after the NFL suspended him indefinitely.

Without Rice the Ravens running game is going to suffer as nobody on the roster has as much skill as Rice.

However, the Ravens made the right move here to release him. They just couldn't keep him on the roster and it is highly likely that his NFL career is over.

Minnesota Vikings re-sign G Brandon Fusco

One of two contract extensions that happened before the season, the Vikings locked up their 26-year old starting guard to a five-year contract extension.

Worth $24.25 million over the five years, the average value of $4.85 million per season doesn't pay him as one of the best guards in the league. There is only $6 million guaranteed including a $4 million signing bonus and $2 million of his 2015 base salary.

Drafted by the Vikings in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Slippery Rock, he played in only two games as a rookie, but became a starter in 2012.

In his first year as a starter, he was the ninth worst guard in the league according to Pro Football Focus.

Starting 15 games at right guard last year for Minnesota, Pro Football Focus graded him as the eighth best guard in the league. His run blocking grade was the fifth best of all guards in the NFL. In his 920 snaps last year, he gave up only two sacks.

After this outstanding season last year, it is a bit surprising to see him get only $4.85 million per season. This is a very team friendly contract especially with only $6 million guaranteed.

If he had waited for the season to end, he could have been payed much more if he had another season like last year. This makes it very surprising to see Fusco sign a contract like this when he could have earned even more money.

This is a great contract for the Vikings as they keep one of the better guards in the league for a contract that doesn't pay him as one. If for some reason he regresses, there is only $6 million in guaranteed money so they can easily get rid of him.

Pittsburgh Steelers re-sign CB Cortez Allen

Less than 24 hours before the Pittsburgh Steelers kicked off the regular season, they signed cornerback Cortez Allen to a new five-year contract extension.

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, the 25-year old Allen is set to earn $1.431 million this season as he reached a contract escalator. Instead of a four-year contract extension on top of the last year left on his old contract, the Steelers have torn up the old deal and given him a brand new five-year deal. This five-year deal is worth a total of $26 million, an average of $5.2 million.

Earning $6.5 million per season in new money, he is now the 21st highest paid cornerback in the NFL in terms of average value per season.

Drafted by Pittsburgh in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, he has started 11 games over three seasons and has appeared in 44 of a possible 48 games.

Last season he recorded 51 tackles, 13 passes defensed and two interceptions in eight starts. One of these interceptions was returned 40 yards for a touchdown against Green Bay.

Pro Football Focus graded him as the Steelers second best cornerback last season––behind William Gay. As a whole Allen was ranked as the 36th best in the NFL out of 110.

Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 88.1 when throwing to a receiver covered by Allen last season.

In 2012 Allen only started three games, but recorded 55 tackles, three forced fumbles, 10 passes defensed and two interceptions. Pro Football Focus graded him as the 17th best cornerback in the league. Quarterbacks had a quarterback rating of 68.5 when throwing against him.

In terms of monetary value, Allen isn't the 21st best cornerback in the NFL right now. He has shown the ability to be a good cornerback in the NFL, but he hasn't been on the field enough.

At the moment this contract pays him too much money. However, Pittsburgh is paying him for how they believe he will perform––which is at a high level. This is the third similar contract from the Steelers this offseason. The other two went to center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert.

Since Allen has only 11 career starts, it may seem strange for the Steelers to reward him with a contract that pays him $5.2 million per season. However, he has been a consistent performer in the secondary for Pittsburgh. Stability is needed at the cornerback position in Pittsburgh and Allen is clearly the best cornerback on the roster.

Other Moves:

The Arizona Cardinals release LB Desmond Bishop.
The Arizona Cardinals sign P Drew Butler.
The Arizona Cardinals sign LB Marcus Benard.
The Baltimore Ravens cut CB Derek Cox.
The Baltimore Ravens sign RB Fitzgerald Toussaint.
The Baltimore Ravens claim DT Christo Bilukidi off waivers.
The Baltimore Ravens cut RB Fitzgerald Toussaint.
The Buffalo Bills cut DE Jacquies Smith.
The Chicago Bears sign S Ahmad Dixon.
The Chicago Bears cut CB Demontre Hurst.
The Chicago Bears OL Eben Britton.
The Chicago Bears cut WR Michael Spurlock.
The Cincinnati Bengals waived DT Christo Bilukidi.
The Cincinnati Bengals sign CB Onterio McCalebb.
The Cincinnati Bengals waive CB Onterio McCalebb.
The Cincinnati Bengals sign DT Devon Still.
The Cleveland Browns cut OL Ryan Seymour.
The Cleveland Browns cut CB Aaron Berry.
The Cleveland Browns sign TE Gerell Robinson.
The Denver Broncos sign TE Dominique Jones.
The Denver Broncos waive WR Nathan Palmer.
The Detroit Lions sign G Garrett Reynolds.
Free agent CB Jabari Greer has announced his retirement from the NFL.
The Indianapolis Colts sign RB Dion Lewis.
The Indianapolis Colts sign LB Chris Carter.
The Indianapolis Colts waive RB Zurlon Tipton.
The Kansas City Chiefs sign DT Kevin Vickerson.
The Kansas City Chiefs sign LB Jerry Franklin.
The Kansas City Chiefs cut S Daniel Sorensen.
The Miami Dolphins sign LB Kelvin Sheppard.
The New York Jets waive CB Leon McFadden.
The Philadelphia Eagles sign G Wade Smith.
The San Diego Chargers sign OL Doug Legursky.
The San Francisco 49ers release WR Kassim Osgood.
The San Francisco 49ers cut RB LaMichael James.
The San Francisco 49ers sign WR Kassim Osgood.
The Seattle Seahawks cut WR Phil Bates.
The Seattle Seahawks sign OT Andrew McDonald.
The Seattle Seahawks sign CB Josh Thomas.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers release CB Quinton Pointer.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers release WR Louis Murphy.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign CB Brandon Dixon.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign WR Solomon Patton.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign DE Larry English.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers claim DE Jacquies Smith off waivers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut LB Scott Solomon.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign CB Crezdon Butler.
The Washington Redskins sign S Akeem Davis.

NFL Weekly Transaction Tracker

August 1, 2014 in 2014-free-agency, NFL Personnel

Last week saw two major contract extensions for offensive players, and this week there was even more action. Four contracts extensions are discussed in depth below and, as always, the rest of the moves are down below with some of the more significant ones highlighted in red.

Green Bay Packers re-sign WR Jordy Nelson

After wide receiver Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons received a contract extension last week, the Green Bay Packers have rewarded their number one receiver with a four-year contract extension.

Set to become a free agent at the end of the season––like White––the 29-year old Nelson will now be with the Packers through the 2018 season. Worth $39 million over the four years, he will average $9.75 million per year which makes him the eighth highest-paid wide receiver in the league. There is $14.2 million guaranteed in the contract, much of which comes from a signing bonus of $11.5 million.

Jordy Nelson

Courtesy of ICON SMI

One of the most underrated wide receivers in the league, he isn't a top-tier receiver, but he is solidly in the second tier––which is what he is being paid as.

Drafted by Packers with the 36th overall pick in the 2008 draft, he has played his entire career in Green Bay. When this contract expires, he will be 34-years old by the time the next season comes around, so it is likely this is his last big payday.

Last season he caught 85 passes for 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns on 126 targets, all while quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed seven games due to a broken collarbone. This was only Nelson's second 1,000-yard season, but now that he is the featured receiver in the Packers' offense, he should continue to put up similar numbers.

Pro Football Focus graded him as the second best wide receiver this past season. If it wasn't for Brandon Marshall's absurd run blocking grade, then Nelson would have been first. Nelson's receiving grade was the third best in the league.

It was recently reported that Nelson was looking for $10 million per year on a new contract. While he didn't hit this benchmark––only seven wide receivers earn $10 million or more per year––he came in just under at $9.75 million. Over the four years on the contract, he comes up only $1 million short of this benchmark so he didn't lose out much. It was obvious he wanted to stay in Green Bay throughout the process.

Some may say that he is a product of the Green Bay system which can makes receivers look better then they actually are, but Nelson is one of the better receivers in the league and has a rapport with Rodgers that allows him to produce well.

Overall this is a good move for both sides. Nelson gets his big payday after being severely underpaid and the Packers get to keep their number one receiver through the 2018 season.

Minnesota Vikings re-sign TE Kyle Rudolph

Staying in the NFC North, the Vikings signed their starting tight end to a five-year contract extension as he was set to hit free agency at the end of the season.

The 24-year old will receive $36.5 million over the five years of the contract, an average of $7.3 million per season. This makes him the fifth highest-paid tight end in the NFL. There is $19.4 million in guaranteed money and incentives can push the value of the contract all the way up to $40 million.

Drafted by the Vikings with the 43rd overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, his rookie contract was set to expire and Minnesota wanted to keep one of their offensive building blocks.

Playing in only eight games last season, he caught 30 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns. Over a full season this equates to 60 catches for 626 yards and six touchdowns. In 2012, he posted similar numbers to that, catching 53 passes for 493 yards and nine touchdowns.

For the 2012 season––I'm not looking at 2013 as he missed half the season––Pro Football Focus graded him as the 12th best tight end in the league. He graded positively in receiving, pass blocking and run blocking, making him a complete tight end. In fact, his highest grade was in run blocking.

After the 2012 season he was named to the Pro Bowl team and his five catches for 122 yards and one touchdown was good enough to earn him MVP honors.

Having the ability to block and go out for passes makes him a threat to have on offense. Balanced tight ends can really help an offense as the same personnel groups can be used for a higher variety of plays than if a tight end is only good at catching passes or only good at run blocking. At 6-foot-6, 259 pounds, he has the requisite size to be a dominate tight end and he showed in 2012 that he can be a threat in the red zone by scoring nine touchdowns.

This offseason the Vikings hired Mike Zimmer to be their new head coach and he brought in Norv Turner to run the offense. Turner is known to be one of the best––if not the best––in the league for optimizing tight ends and getting great performances out of them.

Last year he turned Jordan Cameron into a Pro Bowl player with 80 catches and almost 1,000 yards despite having only 26 career catches beforehand. Before that, Turner turned Antonio Gates into the league's best tight end after not playing a single snap of football in college. Instead, he was a power forward in basketball.

While Rudolph hasn't put up top-five tight end numbers yet, Turner is the man who can turn Rudolph into a top-five tight end. By paying him as such, the Vikings are putting a lot of faith into Turner's ability.

I believe that Rudolph will develop into a better tight end and be a big contributor for the Vikings over the coming seasons, but I don't think he warrants top-five tight end money.

Arizona Cardinals re-sign CB Patrick Peterson

In the only contract extension that went to a defensive player this week, the Cardinals continued the trend of signing top-tier cornerbacks to long-term deals by giving Peterson a five-year extension.

With two-years left on his contract, a new contract wasn't needed per say, but he wanted a new deal and Arizona is keeping their best player happy with this new deal. The five-year extension is worth $70 million with $48 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $15.3 million.

This contract makes him the highest paid cornerback in the league in terms of overall money and gives him the most guaranteed money at the cornerback position.

One of the two years left on his contract comes from a fifth-year option that the Cardinals exercised awhile ago. With these two years left and five new years, he is under contract through the 2020 season.

Last season he made 42 tackles while intercepting three passes and breaking up 13 passes. Pro Football Focus graded him as the 14th best cornerback in the league. He spent the entire season shadowing opponent's best receivers and held his own.

Peterson is one of the top three cornerbacks in the league right now along with Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman. Once the specifics of the top three are debated, then it will be tough to get a consensus.

Of the three, Peterson has the most potential left as he is still only 24-years old. If he can cut down on some of his mistakes and become more consistent (he allowed seven touchdowns last season), then he has the talent to become the consensus number one cornerback in the league.

On top of being a great cornerback, he is also an electric returner and has spent some time at wide receiver to try and help spark the Cardinals' offense. He is one of the best athletes in the game, though this massive new contract may have Arizona limit some of his other chances to touch the ball.

Arizona didn't need to make this move due to the time remaining on his contract, but it makes sense to lockup Peterson for the long term as he probably is the best player on their roster and is still improving his game. He may not be the best cornerback in the NFL right now, but he already is in the top three and he is only going to get better.

Dallas Cowboys re-sign OT Tyron Smith

Wrapping up this week's Transaction Tracker, the Cowboys gave their 23-year old franchise left tackle an eight-year contract extension.

Already signed for two seasons before this new contract, he will be with Dallas through the 2023 season. The new eight years are worth $98 million with $40 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $10 million. The average of $12.25 million per year in new money makes him the highest-paid left tackle in the entire NFL. When all 10 years are put together he will be earning around $110 million.

Like Peterson, Smith had two years left on his contract because Dallas had exercised their fifth-year option on him awhile ago. Peterson and Smith are the first two players from the 2011 draft class to sign long-term contract extensions with their teams. One of the reasons that it had taken so long for these contracts is the fifth-year options that the teams have. The first round picks who had their options exercised now all have two years left on their deal meaning that their team isn't in a rush to enter contract negotiations and sign the player long term.

An eight-year extension may seem long, especially with two years remaining on Smith's old deal, but remember that is his still only 23-years old and will turn 24 in December. This means that he will be in his early 30s when the contract expires. So, this is likely the only major contract that he receives during his playing career, but it is one major contract.

Last season he was named a Second-Team All-Pro and made his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Pro Football Focus graded him as the seventh-best offensive tackle in the league, earning high grades in both run blocking and pass protection. After an average first half of the season, he came into his own during the second half, showing that he is one of the best tackles in the league.

With the improvements he has shown each season in the league, he is likely to keep improving his game and come in even higher in Pro Football Focus' ratings next season. He is one of the top young tackles in the league and now he is paid as the best left tackle in the game. Jerry Jones and the Cowboys are obviously betting on him continuing his improvement.

While Smith is good, I don't think he is this good. He isn't the best offensive tackle in the league, and with the cap concerns that Dallas has had the last few seasons, they can't afford to be overpaying anybody right now. Keeping homegrown talent it great, but you can't overpay for it, especially with two years left on his contract.

Another negative effect from this deal is wide receiver Dez Bryant isn't happy that he wasn't the one to get a new deal meaning that a new deal for him is considered highly unlikely as he enters the final year of his contract. You would think the Cowboys would have made him the priority given that he had only one year left.

I like what Dallas did here keeping their young, franchise left tackle for years to come, but they overpaid and seem to have ended contract talks with Bryant by doing this. Neither of which are good things.

Other Moves:

The Arizona Cardinals sign WR Reggie Dunn.
The Atlanta Falcons waive WR Darius Johnson.
The Atlanta Falcons sign WR Jabin Sambrano.
Atlanta Falcons DT Peria Jerry has announced his retirement from the NFL.
The Baltimore Ravens sign S Will Hill.
The Baltimore Ravens sign CB Marrio Norman.
The Baltimore Ravens cut WR Gerrard Sheppard.
The Buffalo Bills sign CB Bobby Felder.
The Buffalo Bills release DT Colby Way.
The Buffalo Bills sign TE Dominique Jones.
The Buffalo Bills cut OL Mark Asper.
The Buffalo Bills sign RB Fred Jackson to a one-year contract extension.
The Carolina Panthers cut DT Shaq Rowell.
The Carolina Panthers cut CB DeQuan Menzie (who announced his retirement soon after).
The Carolina Panthers sign DT Micanor Regis.
The Carolina Panthers sign S Tom Nelson.
The Carolina Panthers sign RB Fozzy Whittaker.
The Carolina Panthers waive-injured RB Tyler Gaffney.
The Chicago Bears sign OL Dylan Gandy.
The Chicago Bears waive DE Jamil Merrell.
The Chicago Bears cut G James Dunbar.
The Chicago Bears sign WR Dale Moss.
The Chicago Bears waive WR Terrence Toliver.
The Chicago Bears sign OL Graham Pocic.
The Chicago Bears sign OT Dennis Roland.
The Chicago Bears waive OT Cody Booth.
The Cincinnati Bengals waive OT Curtis Feigt.
The Cleveland Browns waive OT Chris Faulk.
The Cleveland Browns sign WR Marlon Moore.
The Cleveland Browns sign OL Ryan Lee.
The Cleveland Browns sign S Jim Leonhard.
The Denver Broncos cut OT Aslam Sterling.
The Denver Broncos sign DL Cody Larsen.
The Denver Broncos sign DL Will Pericak.
The Detroit Lions sign P Drew Butler.
The Detroit Lions waive S Gabe Lynn.
The Detroit Lions waive-injured DE Kalonji Kashama.
The Detroit Lions claim WR Quintin Payton off waivers.
The Detroit Lions sign DE Kris Redding.
The Detroit Lions waive-injured WR Cody Wilson.
Free agent G Travelle Wharton has announced his retirement from the NFL.
The Green Bay Packers claim WR Gerrard Sheppard off waivers.
The Houston Texans sign LB Quentin Groves.
The Houston Texans sign LB Lawrence Sidbury.
The Houston Texans waive OT Anthony Dima.
The Houston Texans waive-injured WR Alan Bonner.
The Houston Texans waive-injured G Cody White.
The Houston Texans sign RB Tim Cornett.
The Houston Texans sign OT Mike Farrell.
The Houston Texans cut LB Ricky Sapp.
The Houston Texans sign RB Tim Cornett.
The Houston Texans sign OT Mike Farrell.
The Indianapolis Colts sign RB Davin Meggett.
The Indianapolis Colts waive OT Jack Breckner.
The Indianapolis Colts sign OT Matt Hall.
The Indianapolis Colts waive RB Chris Rainey.
The Indianapolis Colts waive WR Aaron Burks.
The Indianapolis Colts sign RB Phillip Tanner.
The Indianapolis Colts sign LB Jonathon Sharpe.
The Indianapolis Colts sign OT Eric Pike.
The Kansas City Chiefs waive G Rokevious Watkins.
The Kansas City Chiefs claim TE Adam Schiltz off waivers.
The Kansas City Chiefs sign CB Damond Smith.
The Kansas City Chiefs sign S Steve Gregory.
The Miami Dolphins sign OT Steven Baker.
The Miami Dolphins cut OL Michael Philipp.
The Miami Dolphins sign OT Tony Hills.
The Miami Dolphins waive WR Gerald Ford.
The Miami Dolphins sign TE Brett Brackett.
The Miami Dolphins sign QB Seth Lobato.
The Miami Dolphins sign DE D’Aundre Reed.
The Miami Dolphins cut QB Brock Jensen.
The Miami Dolphins cut LB Derrell Johnson.
The Miami Dolphins waive-injured G Davonte Wallace.
The Miami Dolphins sign TE Raymond Webber.
The Miami Dolphins cut TE Brett Brackett.
The Minnesota Vikings sign WR Ty Walker.
The Minnesota Vikings sign WR Andy Cruse.
The Minnesota Vikings waive OT Matt Hall.
The Minnesota Vikings waive WR Josh Cooper.
The New England Patriots cut TE Nate Byham.
The New England Patriots sign WR Brian Tyms.
The New England Patriots sign WR Cole Stanford.
The New England Patriots waive-injured WR Greg Orton.
The New England Patriots claim RB Tyler Gaffney off waivers.
The New England Patriots release LB Josh Hull.
The New York Giants claim OL Mark Asper off waivers.
The New York Giants waive-injured OT DeMarcus Love.
The Oakland Raiders sign S Jeremy Deering.
The Pittsburgh Steelers sign RB Josh Harris.
The Pittsburgh Steelers waive-injured C David Snow.
The Pittsburgh Steelers sign K Shuan Suisham to a four-year contract extension.
The St. Louis Rams sign DE Kourtnei Brown.
The St. Louis Rams waive-injured WR Jamaine Sherman.
The San Francisco 49ers sign LS Kyle Nelson.
The San Francisco 49ers sign RB Alfonso Smith.
The San Francisco 49ers cut QB Kory Faulkner.
The San Francisco 49ers waive-injured OT Fou Fonoti.
The San Francisco 49ers claim OT Michael Phillipp off waivers.
The Seattle Seahawks sign LB Brandon Denmark.
The Seattle Seahawks sign S Steven Terrell.
The Seattle Seahawks waive DT Dewayne Cherrington.
The Seattle Seahawks sign CB Terrell Thomas.
The Seattle Seahawks sign OT Eric Winston.
The Seattle Seahawks sign WR Randall Carroll.
The Seattle Seahawks waive CB Chandler Fenner.
The Seattle Seahawks waive G Bronson Irwin.
The Seattle Seahawks sign WR Ronald Johnson.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers release G Carl Nicks.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign CB Anthony Gaitor.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign DT Jibreel Black.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut RB Brendan Bigelow.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut WR Quintin Payton.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign CB Kip Edwards.
The Tennessee Titans sign G Kevin Danser.
The Tennessee Titans cut TE Adam Schiltz.
The Washington Redskins waive LB Brandon Jenkins.
The Washington Redskins sign DE Everette Brown.
The Washington Redskins waive-injured CB Courtney Bridget Jr.

NFL Weekly Transaction Tracker

February 14, 2014 in NFL Personnel

By Staff Writer Matt Pearce:

As the NFL offseason starts up, teams are starting to shape their rosters meaning some players are being re-signed while others are being released.

Detroit Lions re-sign C Dominic Raiola

First off this week is the 35-year old Raiola who re-signed with the Lions after being set to become a free agent in a few weeks.

Signing a one-year deal with a pay increase from last season, he stays with the only team that he has ever played for. Last year, he took a pay cut to say with the team and now the Lions are rewarding him for this by giving him a raise over the veteran minimum that he earned last year.

Dominic Raiola

Courtesy of ICON SMI

Drafted out of Nebraska in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft, he has started 188 games over his 13 seasons in Detroit. In his rookie year, he didn't start a single game, but he came back into his sophomore season strong and started all of the Lions games.

Ever since then, he has started every game that he has played in. From 2002-2008, he started 104-straight games before he missed four games in the middle of the 2008 season.

His current streak for consecutive starts is at 84-straight games and if he starts every game next season, his streak will reach 100. One streak of 100-consevative starts is impressive enough in the NFL, but two is almost unheard of.

Earlier this season, there was some controversy surrounding him due to an incident that occurred in Green Bay. In October at Lambeau Field he directed obscene and homophobic comments towards the University of Wisconsin marching band. A few days later, he apologized for his actions.

This was the only negative from his season as on the field, he played arguably his best season. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the second best center in the league this season ranking just behind Jason Kelce of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The number one offseason priority for the Lions this offseason was to re-sign Raiola. This signing is good for them as he is the leader of their offensive line and a key veteran who is still playing well.

Minnesota Vikings release LB Erin Henderson

Staying in the NFL North, the Vikings parted ways with their starting middle linebacker from last season in Henderson.

A solid player, his downfall came due to incidents off the field. In early January, he was arrested for a DUI. This alone likely wouldn't have cost him his job, but add that to another DUI that came just two months earlier (along with possession of a controlled substance) and you see why the Vikings got rid of him.

This move clears $2.1 million in cap space for the Vikings so there is one positive that comes from this move for them.

Signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent after the 2008 NFL Draft, he made the team but was a backup for three seasons before making his first NFL start in 2011.

This season, he moved to inside linebacker after playing weakside linebacker last year. Making 12 starts and playing in 14 games, he finished second on the team in tackles with 112 tackles and added four sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble.

His performance ranked him as the 18th best inside linebacker in the league this season according to Pro Football Focus. He was strong in run support finished in the top 10 there, but really struggled in pass coverage finishing in the bottom 10.

For the Vikings, this move makes sense as the Vikings have a new coaching staff and they are getting a point across by showing that the players will be held accountable for their actions off the field.

Expect him to draw interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency as their new defensive coordinator is Leslie Frasier, who was recently fired as the Vikings' head coach.

Other Moves:

The Detroit Lions cut S Louis Delmas.
The Detroit Lions release WR Nate Burleson.
The Green Bay Packers waive OL Greg Van Roten.
The Indianapolis Colts sign S David Sims.
The Indianapolis Colts cut G Justin Anderson.
The Kansas City Chiefs release CB Dunta Robinson.
The New Orleans Saints re-sign LB Keyunta Dawson.
The New Orleans Saints release S Roman Harper.
The New Orleans Saints release DE Will Smith.
The New Orleans Saints release CB Jabari Greer.
The Oakland Raiders re-sign G Lamar Mady.
The Philadelphia Eagles sign WR Joe Anderson.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign QB Mike Kafka.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut OL Gabe Carimi.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut DT Derek Landri.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut QB Jordan Rodgers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut RB Michael Hill.

NFL Weekly Transaction Tracker

October 11, 2013 in NFL Personnel

By Staff Writer Matt Pearce:

Despite entering week six of the NFL regular season this week, there were two big quarterback moves this week along with a contract extension.

Oakland Raiders release QB Matt Flynn

For the second time this season, the Raiders have admitted defeat at the quarterback position. The first time came when they cut fourth round pick Tyler Wilson right before the season started and placed on their practice squad.

After acquiring Flynn for a 2014 fifth round pick and a conditional 2015 draft pick, the Raiders planned on starting him at quarterback but six months later, he is a free agent. In training camp, Flynn battled with Terrelle Pryor for the starting job and lost.

With Pryor injured in week four with a concussion, Flynn came in and started, leading the Raiders to a 24-14 loss against the Washington Redskins. He went 21-of-32 for 227 yards with one touchdown and one interception (which was returned for a touchdown) and had a QBR of 2.7 according to ESPN.

After leading LSU to a National Championship in his only season as the starting quarterback, Flynn was drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. That season, he beat out second-round pick Brian Brohm for the backup job behind Aaron Rodgers.

In week 17 of the 2011 season, Flynn got to start for the Packers against the Detroit Lions as Rodgers was being rested for the playoffs. Flynn played an amazing game going 31-of-44 for 480 yards, six touchdowns, one interception, and a quarterback rating of 136.4 while leading the Packers to a 45-41 victory. He threw a touchdown pass with 1:15 left in the game to seal the victory.

The impending offseason, Flynn was a free agent and turned this performance against the Lions into a three-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks worth a maximum of $26 million with $10 million guaranteed. Expected to be the starter, Flynn was beat out in training camp by rookie Russell WIlson so Flynn spent the season as the backup and was traded to the Raiders in the offseason.

For a total of one start, the Seahawks and Raiders paid Flynn $14.5 million ($8 million from the Seahawks and $6.5 million from the Raiders).

Flynn might be able to find a job as a backup quarterback somewhere, though it could be tough to find a spot after getting demoted to  third-string with the Raiders before getting released.

Minnesota Vikings sign QB Josh Freeman

Last week, Freeman was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a strenuous few weeks. After a few days as a free agent, he decided to sign with the Vikings over the Oakland Raiders and the Buffalo Bills.

Josh Freeman

Courtesy of ICON SMI

Freeman opted to sign only a one-year contract so he can hit the open market again in March. This one-year contract is worth $3 million and when you combine that with the $6.2 million left on his contract from the Buccaneers, Freeman will make $9.2 million for the rest of the season.

Currently, the Vikings have Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel at quarterback so Freeman will be put right in the mix. Ponder has started three games so far this season but missed week four with a rib injury so Cassel got the start. Cassel led the Vikings to their only victory of the season and his performance was better than any of Ponder's so far this season. Last week, the Vikings had a bye keeping the uncertainty going as nobody has been named the starter yet for this week.

Freeman's best season came in 2010 where he threw for 3,451 yards with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 95.9. At this point in his career, it looked like he would be the quarterback for the Buccaneers for a long time but his play has regressed ever since.

Fitting into the Vikings' offense won't be a problem for him as it is a good fit. Freeman's best attribute is his strong arm and having all-world running back Adrien Peterson lining up behind him will allow for more single coverage deep.

Once you know how interested the Vikings were in Freeman in the 2009 NFL Draft, it comes as no surprise that they tried to sign him. The Vikings planned on taking Freeman with the 22nd overall pick, but the Buccaneers beat them to it at 17th overall. After losing out on Freeman, the Vikings settled for wide receiver Percy Harvin who has become one of the best playmakers in the league and was traded to the Seattle Seahawks last offseason.

Head coach Leslie Frazier has already said that Freeman won't start this week against the Carolina Panthers since he will need time to learn the playbook.

For the Vikings this is a good move as Ponder has shown nothing to prove that he is the long-term answer at quarterback and Cassel is nothing more than a good veteran backup at this point in his career. There is no long term financial commitment to Freeman so it is a one-year rental to see what he can do with them.

Minnesota Vikings re-sign DE Brian Robison

Finishing off an active week for the Vikings, they signed the 30-year old Robison to a contract extension.

The extension is for four years and will be worth a maximum of $28.3 million with $13.1 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $5 million. Each season, there is $550,000 available in incentives which are playing 80 percent of the defensive snaps, recording eight sacks, and recording 14 sacks.

Playing his college football at Texas, the Vikings drafted Robison in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. His first season as a full-time starter came in 2011 where recorded 44 tackles, eight sacks, and three forced fumbles. This was a breakout year for Robison as prior to this season, he had averaged just over three sacks a season and had only seven starts in four seasons.

He followed this season with another good year recording 37 tackles, 8.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles and batted down seven passes after batting down one in his previous five seasons.

So far this season, Robison has 10 tackles and one sack so he is on pace to finish the season with 40 tackles and four sacks.

By locking Robison up, the Vikings have signed one of their two starting defensive ends that are set to hit free agency this offseason. The other is Jared Allen and currently seems unlikely that he will re-sign. If this occurs, then Everson Griffen would be in line to start but he is also a free agent this offseason.

The Vikings clearly have some decisions to make at defensive end this year and signing Robison is the start of it all. I think they overpaid a little for him but they couldn't afford to lose both Allen and Robison the same year. Now that Robison is signed, it seems even more unlikely that Allen will stay with the Vikings.

Other Moves:

The Arizona Cardinals release WR Kerry Taylor.
The Arizona Cardinals sign WR Brittan Golden.
The Atlanta Falcons sign WR Brian Robiskie.
The Baltimore Ravens cut WR Brandon Stokley.
The Baltimore Ravens sign TE Billy Bajema.
The Baltimore Ravens sign WR Brandon Stokley.
The Baltimore Ravens cut TE Billy Bajema.
The Baltimore Ravens cut RB Shaun Draughn.
The Baltimore Ravens sign TE Billy Bajema.
The Buffalo Bills release P Shawn Powell.
The Buffalo Bills sign P Brian Moorman.
The Buffalo Bills sign QB Thaddeus Lewis.
The Buffalo Bills release OT Sam Young.
The Buffalo Bills sign CB Brandon Smith.
The Buffalo Bills sign LB Ty Powell.
The Buffalo Bills cut LB Marcus Dowtin.
The Buffalo Bills cut CB Johnny Adams.
The Carolina Panthers sign LB Ben Jacobs.
The Carolina Panthers waive LB Ben Jacobs.
The Carolina Panthers release WR Armanti Edwards.
The Carolina Panthers sign C Brian Folkerts.
The Carolina Panthers sign WR Marvin McNutt.
The Chicago Bears sign DT Christian Tupou.
The Dallas Cowboys cut S Will Allen.
The Green Bay Packers sign CB James Nixon.
The Houston Texans sign TE Jake Byrne.
The Indianapolis Colts cut DE Lawrence Guy.
The Indianapolis Colts sign LB Andy Studebaker.
The Indianapolis Colts sign RB Daniel Herron.
The Jacksonville Jaguars cut G Jacques McClendon.
The Jacksonville Jaguars cut WR Jeremy Ebert.
The Jacksonville Jaguars sign G Jacques McClendon.
The Jacksonville Jaguars sign OT DeMarcus Love.
The Miami Dolphins sign S Jordan Kovacs.
The Minnesota Vikings cut QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
The Minnesota Vikings cut DE George Johnson.
The Minnesota Vikings sign DE Justin Trattou.
The New England Patriots release CB Marquice Cole.
The New England Patriots sign LB Ja’Gared Davis.
The New England Patriots sign S Kanorris Davis.
The New England Patriots waive LB Ja'Gared Davis.
The New England Patriots waive S Kanorris Davis.
The New England Patriots sign CB Marquice Cole.
The New England Patriots sign DT Andre Neblett.
The New Orleans Saints cut LB Jay Richardson.
The New Orleans Saints sign DL Keyunta Dawson.
The New York Giants waive C Dallas Reynolds.
The New York Giants sign RB Da'Rel Scott.
The New York Jets release LB Scott Solomon.
The New York Jets sign WR Michael Campbell.
The New York Jets cut WR Ryan Spadola.
The New York Jets cut LB Ricky Sapp.
The New York Jets sign LB Ricky Sapp.
The Oakland Raiders sign OT Jack Cornell.
The Oakland Raiders waive G Antoine McClain.
The Oakland Raiders sign WR Andre Holmes.
The Oakland Raiders waive OT Jack Cornell.
The Oakland Raiders sign DT Daniel Muir.
The Pittsburgh Steelers sign LB Stevenson Sylvester.
The Pittsburgh Steelers cut LB Kion Wilson.
The Pittsburgh Steelers sign S Will Allen.
The San Diego Chargers cut DE Jarius Wynn.
The San Francisco 49ers cut QB John Skelton.
The Seattle Seahawks release WR Stephen Williams.
The Tennessee Titans sign QB Rusty Smith.
The Tennessee Titans waive DE Keyunta Dawson.

NFL Weekly Transaction Tracker

June 28, 2013 in NFL Personnel

By Staff Writer Matt Pearce:

This week has very few total moves, but includes two important moves and one major move.

Minnesota Vikings sign LB Desmond Bishop

Last week, the Green Bay Packers cut Bishop but now, he has found a new team, with one of the Packers biggest divisional rivals.

After considering offers from the Vikings, Giants, and Chiefs, Bishop decided to sign with the Vikings.  His contract is for one year and is worth $1.35 million.

Bishop missed all of last season with a torn hamstring.  The previous two year, 2010 and 2011, Bishop was one of the Packers starting inside linebackers in their 3-4 defense.

After his breakout performance in 2010, the Packers signed him to 4-year contract worth $19 million.  In 2010, Bishop became a starter in week four after an injury to Nick Barnett.  Bishop then recorded 103 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 interception.  That year, the Packers made it to Super Bowl XLV where Bishop had 8 tackles and recovered a key fumble.  The following season, 2011, Bishop had 115 tackles, 5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.

With the Vikings, Bishop is expected to be the starting middle linebacker in their 4-3 defense.  Bishop doesn't have much experience in a 4-3 defense but the transition from 3-4 middle linebacker to a 4-3 one isn't considered to be very difficult.  The rest of the Vikings linebacker corps will be Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson at outside linebacker.  This forms a very good linebacker corps for the Vikings as they try and return to the playoffs this season.

New England Patriots release TE Aaron Hernandez

In wake of being arrested, and eventually charged with murder, the Patriots cut their ties with the talented Hernandez.

Over the last week or so, Hernandez has been connected with the murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.  On Wednesday, he was arrested for the murder of Lloyd and for a couple of gun charges.  Shortly after, the Patriots decided that releasing Hernandez would be the best move.

"At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do," read part of the Patriots statement on the release of Hernandez.

Aaron Hernandez

Courtesy of ICON SMI

Last season, Hernandez was playing under a new 7-year contract worth $39.5 million with a signing bonus of $12.5 million.  As it stands right now, the Patriots will have a cap hit of $5.092 million this season and a cap hit of $7.5 million next season due to Hernandez's signing bonus and other guaranteed money they owe him.

However, because of the circumstances of the move, the Patriots are expected to try and recover some of this money and get some of it off of their salary cap.  In a normal release, this isn't allowed but because Hernandez is facing serious criminal charges the Patriots are expected to have a good case to get at least part of their money back.

In the 2010 NFL Draft, Hernandez fell to the 4th round due to off-the-field issues.  The Patriots eventually took him with the 113th overall pick.  Some teams probably had Hernandez off of their draft boards due to concerns over drugs and other things.

With the Patriots, Hernandez formed a dynamic tight end duo with fellow 2010 draft pick Rob Gronkowski. In his three seasons,  Hernandez had 175 catches for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns while missing 10 games in the regular season.

Him and Gronkowski were the two most important players in the Patriots offense, not counting quarterback Tom Brady.  The Patriots ran two tight ends sets all the time and had Hernandez and Gronkowski line up in the slot to create mismatches.  Now, Hernandez is no longer with the team and Gronkowski has had numerous arm and back surgeries this offseason and nobody knows when he will be able to play.

If convicted, Hernandez's playing career will be over as he will be in jail for a long time.  If he is proven innocent, he will have lost at least a year of training and he will have a stigma against him as he still will have been accused of murder.  At this point, it is a very complicated situation but, it doesn't look good for Hernandez.

Detroit Lions sign DE Israel Idonije

In another case of a player changing teams in the NFC North, Idonije has signed a one-year deal with the Lions after spending nine seasons with the Chicago Bears.  The terms of Idonije's contract are unknown at this time.

Born in Nigeria, Idonije moved to Canada when he was four and ended up playing college football at the University of Manitoba.  He went undrafted in the 2003 NFL Draft but was signed by the Cleveland Browns and made their practice squad.  However, they waived him halfway through the season.

The Chicago Bears then signed Idonije and kept him on their practice squad for the rest of the season.  In 2004, he made the Bears active roster and played in 15 games, mainly on special teams.  He finally cracked the starting lineup for good in 2010 and provided instant results recording 8 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.  The following two seasons, Idonije had 12.5 sacks and forced 2 more fumbles.

Known for his versatility, Idonije, 32-years old, can play either defensive end or defensive tackle.  However, end is his main position and he mainly plays tackle in passing situations.  Idonije is also a good run defender.

Like the Bears, the Lions play a 4-3 defense so the transition between the two won't be hard.  Since the Lions have two of the league's best defensive tackles in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, Idonije will play a lot more at defensive end than tackle.  At defensive end, the Lions now have Idonije, Willie Young, Jason Jones, and this year's first round pick Ezekiel Ansah.  They will rotate these players through at end keeping them fresh.  Jones, like Idonije can play defensive tackle, so the Lions could create some interesting line schemes.

Other Moves:

The Cleveland Browns cut LB Ausar Walcott.
The Dallas Cowboys sign DE Jerome Long.
The Detroit Lions sign S Chris Hope.
The Detroit Lions release WR Brian Robiskie.
The Detroit Lions release DE Freddie Bishop.
The Minnesota Vikings release LB Stanford Keglar.
The Oakland Raiders cut LB Mario Kurn.