Source: Former Baylor WR to Enter Supplemental Draft

Former Baylor WR Josh Gordon will enter the NFL Supplemental Draft, an NFL source confirmed.

Gordon (6-4, 225), who did not play last season after transferring to Utah, is known in scouting circles for his prototype size and athletic ability. Gordon had to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. He was suspended by Baylor for the 2011 season due to violation of team rules.

In his last season at Baylor, Gordon posted 42 receptions for 714 yards (17.0 average) with 7 touchdowns. He’s also capable of returning kicks.

Gordon, who has been clocked in the 40-yard dash at Baylor as low as the 4.3’s, could go as high as the first half of the Supplemental Draft based on his upside and play making ability.

The Supplemental Draft is scheduled to take place on July 12, but the NFL has yet to confirm the date or whether there will actually be a Supplemental Draft. However, some player agents and NFL executives have been told the draft will take place on July 12, according to multiple sources.

Source: Raiders Sign Veteran CB

Former Philadelphia Eagles CB Joselio Hanson signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Raiders, an NFL source confirmed.

Hanson, who was surprisingly released by the Eagles last Friday, visited the Raiders on Sunday. The veteran defensive back has been one of the better slot defenders in the NFL over the past four to five seasons.

Hanson was only going to earn $825,000 in base salary with the Eagles, so the decision to release him doesn’t appear to be a cost-cutting move. And Hanson was paid a $125,000 roster bonus in March.  He was on the final season of a two-year deal.

The Eagles targeted fourth-round pick CB Brandon Boykin to take over as the long-term nickel back, so his addition earlier this year clearly played a part in the decision to release Hanson. The Eagles are down to five cornerbacks on the 53-man roster after releasing Hanson and waiving Trevard Lindley over the past weekend.

Hanson was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Francisco 49ers in 2003. He signed with the Eagles prior to the 2006 season.

The Raiders, before signing Hanson, had six cornerbacks on their 53-man roster, but didn’t appear to have a true slot defender.

It’s not known what Hanson’s base salary will be with the Raiders, but since he’ll be on the opening week roster his salary will be guaranteed because he’s a vested veteran. Veteran base salaries become guaranteed on Saturday.

The Raiders open up the 2012 season next Monday evening at home against the San Diego Chargers.

2013 NFL Combine Blog

Sunday

Quick thoughts on the NFL Combine Quarterbacks

After being able to sit in for both quarterback throwing sessions on Sunday, here are my quick thoughts on most of them:

Geno Smith/West Virginia: He was very solid during the second throwing session. He’s clearly the #1 QB for this draft. If any of the teams in the top-10 are going to take a quarterback in the first round, it’s going to be Smith. His 4.59 40-yard dash time was also impressive, but Smith his not known for his running. He’s really a pocket quarterback.

Ryan Nassib/Syracuse: If you’ve been reading anything from me since the year started, then you probably know how I feel about him. While I thought he was just average during today’s first throwing session, nothing has changed. He should go off the board late in the first round/early second round area. All you need to do is watch his Senior Bowl practice tape or 4-5 of his game tapes to see that he’s a very talented signal caller.

Tyler Bray/Tennessee: He was very impressive during Sunday’s first throwing session. Bray, who threw with really good power, certainly looked the part. You could make the argument that Bray had one of the best performances from either session based on accuracy and power. However, his game tape does not match up to what I saw today. So it will be interesting to see how much teams take into account from the throwing session without defenders on the field. That’s always a dilemma for personnel evaluators.

E.J. Manuel/Florida St: He’s really fun to watch. The ball comes out of his right hand with tremendous velocity and power. However, as I saw up close during Senior Bowl week practices, he has random accuracy issues. What his means is he’ll make a few really good throws, but the next one goes way off the mark. It comes down to mechanics with Manuel. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re taking him off the board before the third round, you’re doing is based on upside, not consistency. Much about Manuel’s game will be discussed inside personnel meetings going forward–that much you can count on. He’s the most interesting quarterback available for this year’s draft.

Mike Glennon/North Carolina St: Typically of Glennon, he had mixed results during the first session. When he had his feet set correctly, the ball came out with power and velocity. When his footwork was off, the passes were off the mark—and some of them actually came up short. Can’t rule it out, but I can’t see him going off the board in the first round. His game tape, Senior Bowl practice week performances, and NFL Combine performances show a big inconsistency. He still remains very intriguing based on his arm strength, but Glennon needs work on the mechanics of his game.

Matt Scott/Arizona: After having a solid set of practices during East-West Shrine game week, Scott followed that up with a really solid performance during Sunday’s second throwing session. While he clearly needs to put on weight, Scott actually threw with good velocity and power. I’ve been told repeatedly this week that Scott will go off the board much higher than most “draftniks” think. We shall see, but he’s off to a really good start this year. If his game tape matches up with his 2013 post-season, Scott could go off the board early on the third day of April’s NFL Draft.

Landry Jones/Oklahoma: Just like his Senior Bowl practice week performances, Jones was up and down during Sunday’s first throwing session. I thought he was going to be a third-round pick before today, so nothing has changed.

Tyler Wilson/Arkansas: After having a solid set of practices during January’s Senior Bowl week, Wilson was a bit inconsistent with his accuracy during Sunday’s second session. I gave Wilson a third-round grade before Sunday, and nothing really has changed in that regard.

Marqueis Gray/Minnesota: I’ve never seen him play, so I had no expectations during Sunday’s first session. From what I understand, he projects to be a late-round pick—if he gets drafted at all. However, Gray was poised, under control, and accurate. At the very least, he’ll force teams to go back and re-watch his game tape.

Brad Sorensen/Southern Utah: The right-handed passer had a better than average performance during Sunday’s second throwing session. He had decent touch on his deeper passes. Having seen Sorensen play for the past two seasons, he came into the Combine likely as a late-round pick, but he should have at least opened up some eyes.

James Vandenberg/Iowa: He was added as a “thrower” for the practice session, but Vandenberg was given a chance to get in extra throws—much like T.J. Yates did here two years ago – and was impressive for the most part. He threw with good power and distance on plenty of his passes. While Vandenberg was projected to go off the board late (if he gets drafted at all), he should at least have personnel evaluators go back and re-watch his tape.

Collin Klein/Kansas St: He has a very funky release, which I’ve now seen up close during East-West Shrine Game week practices and at the Combine. And he simply is unable to drive the ball with power down field. The reality is if he gets drafted, it would be based on his high character and intelligence, not his talent level.

Projected First-Round Pick Has Plenty of Meetings at Combine

Former University of Oklahoma OLT Lane Johnson caused a big stir after his outstanding set of practices during last month’s Senior Bowl week practices. And that wasn’t lost on NFL teams.

Johnson, who benched 28 reps at 225 lbs. during Thursday’s workout session, has meetings with at least 20 teams over the next few days.

He has met with or will meet with the Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers and others.

Teams are allowed to meet with up to 60 players during the NFL Combine. Each meeting is limited to 15 minutes.

Johnson, who played quarterback in high school, played the position for one season in community college (Kilgore). He redshirted his first season at Oklahoma.

After that, Johnson moved all over the place on both sides of the ball.

In 2010, Johnson began the season at tight end, but eventually moved to the other side of the ball to defensive end.

After that, it was back to the offensive side of the ball for the 2011 season, where he started 12 games at right tackle.

For his final season, Johnson moved to left tackle, which is where he lined up during Senior Bowl week.

49ers: Jean-Francois could be in store for a Nice Payday
I asked three high-ranking NFL executives this week for a quick list of players some under-the-radar players for free agency.
While their opinions differed quite a bit, one name that showed up on all three lists was San Francisco 49ers DL Ricky Jean-Francois.
Jean-Francois has only started five games in his career and hasn’t played in more than 27 percent of the defensive snaps in any season, but one of the executives noted that the fifth-year pro brings outstanding interior pass rush in nickel situations. And his versatility is a big reason why he could receive a lot of attention at the start of the new league year on March 12. The 49ers want him back, sources confirmed, but should he make it to free agency, his ability to move around the defensive line could be the big reason why he garners attention next month.
Jean-Francois has lined up at NT and DE in the 49ers’ 3-4 defensive scheme, but NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell said that Jean-Francois could certainly play in a 4-3 scheme, since he played in it in college at LSU.

Eagles: Dixon Contract Details
While the team has made it clear that restructuring veteran QB Michael Vick’s contract isn’t a sign that he’ll be on the roster this season, new Philadelphia Eagles QB Dennis Dixon’s two-year deal shouldn’t be a sign be an indication that he’ll be on the roster, either.
Dixon’s two-year deal is worth just under $1.6 million, a source confirmed, with $25,000 guaranteed. The deal also includes playing time and performance escalators, which would max out the deal at just over $2.6 million if the 28-year old signal caller hits on all of them.

Bengals: Maualuga Likely Gone?
While speculation continues in regard to the future of Cincinnati Bengals MLB Rey Maualuga, it’s likely that the team will pass on re-signing the fifth-year pro, a source with the knowledge of the situation said.
Maualuga played in a career-high 1025 snaps during the 2012 season, but struggled with game-to-game consistency. The former second-round pick out of the 2009 NFL Draft started all 16 regular season games for the first time in his career.
With Maualuga likely gone, the team is expected to move second-year LB Vontaze Burfict to the middle. Burfict not only made the 53-man roster coming out of the preseason, he won the starting WLB job as a rookie. Burifct, who was not drafted, wound up starting 14 games and participated in 886 snaps last season.

If Maualuga is not re-signed, then the team could make a stronger push to re-sign LB Dan Shuta, who would likely compete for the starting job at SLB.

Best Available NFL Free Agents – Defense

Defensive Tackle
Aubrayo Franklin
Albert Haynesworth
John Henderson
Rocky Bernard
Remi Ayodele
Fred Robbins
Tony Brown
Marcus Thomas
Anthony Adams
Kelly Gregg
Howard Green
Ryan McBean
Eric Foster
Tommie Harris
Jimmy Kennedy
Desmond Bryant
Myron Pryor
Nate Collins
DeMario Pressley

Defensive End
Andre Carter (OLB in 3-4)
James Hall
Aaron Smith
Shaun Ellis
Matt Roth (OLB in 3-4)
Raheem Brock (DT)
Tyler Brayton (DT)
Jarvis Moss (OLB in 3-4)
Wallace Gilberry (OLB in 3-4)
Jimmy Wilkerson
Phillip Merling
Jayme Mitchell
Tim Crowder
Tim Bulman
Ikaika Alama-Francis
Vonnie Holliday (DT in 4-3)
Jeff Charleston
Victor Abiamiri
Nick Reed

Inside Linebacker
Gary Brackett
E.J. Henderson
Stephen Cooper
James Farrior
Rocky McIntosh
Andra Davis
Mike Peterson
Keith Brooking
Keyaron Fox
Niko Koutouvides

Outside Linebacker
Reggie Torbor/BUF (OLB/ILB in 3-4)
Clark Haggans/ARI (OLB in 3-4)
Ernie Sims (WLB in 4-3)
Joey Porter (OLB in 3-4)
Brady Poppinga (SLB in 4-3/OLB in 3-4)
Mario Haggan (SLB/MLB in 4-3)
Omar Gaither (MLB)
Quentin Groves (SLB/WLB in 4-3/OLB in 3-4)
Brandon Johnson (WLB in 4-3)
David Vobora (SLB in 3-4)
Na’il Diggs (SLB in 4-3)
Xavier Adibi (WLB/SLB in 4-3)
Darryl Blackstock (SLB/MLB)
Isaiah Ekejiuba (SLB in 4-3)
Ramon Humber
Edgar Jones (DE in 4-3)

Safety
Nick Collins
Chris Hope
O.J. Atogwe
Chris Crocker
Abram Elam
James Ihedgibo
James Butler
Yeremiah Bell
Melvin Bullitt
Jim Leonhard
Bob Sanders
Sean Jones
Jon McGraw
Chris Harris
Husain Abdullah
Hiram Eugene
Paul Oliver
Deon Grant
Gibril Wilson
Hamza Abdullah
Corey Lynch
Sabby Piscitelli
Gerald Alexander
Anthony Smith
Dominique Barber
Derrick Martin
Bret Lockett

Cornerback
Domonique Foxworth
Chris Johnson
Bryant McFadden
Kelly Jennings
Lito Sheppard
Elbert Mack
Byron Westbrook
Nathan Jones
Benny Sapp
Phillip Buchanon
Donald Strickland
Justin King
Alan Ball
David Jones
Reggie Corner
Rod Hood
Frank Walker
Brandon McDonald
Kennard Cox
Will Blackmon
Cletis Gordon
Dante Hughes

Going Inside Minicamp-Philadelphia Eagles (Offense)

Recently, I took an overview of what I saw from the defensive side of the Philadelphia Eagles during their OTAs and mandatory minicamp.

In this piece, I’ll take an inside look at the offense.

Quarterbacks

Developing Situations…

I spent most of my time watching the quarterbacks during the OTAs and mandatory minicamp, which shouldn’t surprise anyone if you know my work. But in reality, I really did this because of the importance of the position—especially to this team. The Eagles’ roster is probably the strongest it has been in many seasons, but I think the quarterback position is one that needs to be closely examined because of the inconsistent results over the past few seasons.

– The one thing that really stood out with veteran Michael Vick is how he got the ball out faster from his left hand and to his intended receiving target in a timely manner. I want to see how well he does with this when everything is faster during training camp, but this has been a problem for him in the past—being decisive with reads. There’s no question that last year’s lockout hand a profound impact on Vick last season. Not being able to work with the coaches in the offseason really set him back. And I also noticed he was throwing his targets open—something that he has rarely done in the past. Again, let’s see if he can continue this in late July and through the entire month of August.

– I’ve been hard on third-year QB Mike Kafka over his first two seasons. If you’ve heard me speak about him or read what I’ve written, you probably know this already. And my criticism mainly stems from a lack of consistent arm strength. It never was about athleticism or work ethic. Kafka’s problems have stemmed from inconsistencies with footwork, mechanics and power. And believe it or not, all three issues are tied together. The quarterback position is rhythmic—meaning everything is tied together. If you have watched him closely during his first two seasons, he had a real problem getting his body into throws. Over the time I watched him throw during this offseason, it’s clear that his arm strength has noticeably improved. I noticed on several occasions that the right-handed passer had no problem throwing the ball 50 yards down field with plenty of room to spare—this was never the case at any point over the previous two seasons. It’s also clear that getting a chance to work out at the practice facility, unlike last year in the offseason due to the lockout, has clearly benefitted Kafka. And you can see how the coaches have adjusted his footwork and his release is tighter. Previously, Kafka threw with a widened stance and was all arm with little power. Arm throwers are easy to spot—they don’t get enough power from their lower body. That clearly is changing. Let’s put it this way: I didn’t think he had a prayer to succeed when watching him over his first two seasons. Now, he’s on his way to solidifying the No. 2 job—something that was not even remotely possible if you watched him last year. However, let’s see how he does when the speed of the game ramps up during training camp and the preseason. That’s the true barometer to measure where he’s at in his progression as a signal caller.

– Third-round pick Nick Foles is just as I remembered him from Senior Bowl back in late January. When he lines up his feet and squares his hips up correctly, he can really fire the ball. Arm strength is not an issue for him. Performing with consistent mechanics is what it’s all about with him. I made some really outstanding throws during OTAs and the mandatory minicamp, but only when he was squared up correctly. When he gets lazy with his mechanics, the passes went awry. And some of them came up short, which is a reflection of not always stepping into his throws.

– Veteran Trent Edwards had a rough go of it, but there are reasons for this. Edwards, as he discussed, had his mechanics adjusted to the style that the other quarterbacks use with the Eagles. And that had an impact on his timing and rhythm, which seemed to be off. Because he clearly wasn’t comfortable, Edwards had trouble even hitting open receivers at times. But he still clearly has enough arm strength. That was apparent on some deep comebacks where he fired the ball to his intended target right on time. Edwards will work with former NFL assistant coach Ted Tollner until training camp starts later this month.

Running Backs/Fullbacks

LeSean McCoy enters fourth season as one of the top backs in the NFL. It’s been interesting to watch his ascension to the top of the position. And you can sense his leadership role his growing. It’s remarkable that he turns just 24 next week. He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, but the Eagles need to develop the backup position. It wasn’t too long ago that Eagles’ fans were clamoring for the team to draft Knowshon Moreno in 2009—and look how that’s turned out.

– Second-year RB Dion Lewis, to me, has yet to show that he’s capable of handling the No. 2 role full time. He’s an interesting back, no question. He has shown the ability to run inside and get to the second level. But he’s a bit small (5-6 ½, 195) and I don’t think we’ve seen enough from him yet to warrant being handed the job. He only saw 42 snaps last season. My sense is if McCoy couldn’t play in a given week, we could see a two-man backfield with Lewis and another back.

– Rookie RBs Bryce Brown and Chris Polk will their chance to show the coaches that they belong on the roster in training camp and the preseason. However, I don’t see the team keeping more than three backs. Brown has a nice combination of size and speed (you can see this up close), but he’ll need to show he can block and handle the play book. Polk, I thought, was very smooth coming out of the backfield as a receiver—more so than Brown. And, as I saw during Senior Bowl week, he’s a tough inside runner. His medical red flags kept him from being drafted, so even if he wins the No. 3 job, the coaching staff will have to feel comfortable that he’ll be able to last physically.

– Had a chance to watch UDFA FB Emil Igwenagu a bit. He has really good athleticism for the position, but whether he can block well enough won’t be determined until several days go by in training camp. And his competition, 2011 seventh-rounder Stanley Havili, spent all of his rookie season on the practice squad.

Wide Receivers

– Fourth-year pro Jeremy Maclin looked to be all the way back from the injuries which caused him to miss three games. He looked very smooth and considering he had a health scare last offseason, everything seems to be trending up for him. What I want to see in training camp is if he’s asked to run deeper routes. He’s fully capable of increasing his yards per catch from 13.7 for his career to over 15.0 this season. Maclin’s second gear, which we rarely get to see, is as about as good as I’ve seen from any young receiver. It’s just that he hasn’t been involved in many “shot plays” in his previous three seasons.

– I really didn’t keep an eye on him, but check out this interesting piece on UDFA WR Elvis Akpla. He could be a practice squad candidate if he has a strong camp.

– Not much to say when it comes to fifth-year WR DeSean Jackson. He looked as far as ever—no surprise there. And with his contractual issues finally behind him, you can expect his mind to be in the right place this season. He seemed to be off his game in just about every phase last season.

– Third-year WR Riley Cooper looks to have the #4 job locked up—even this early. He practiced with a lot of confidence and seems to really know where he’s going with route running, etc. I will be interested, however, to see rookie WR Marvin McNutt in training camp. He didn’t get much of a chance in minicamp to show what he’s capable of doing since he was in the learning phase. McNutt was impressive during Senior Bowl week, but he would have to put together a great training camp and preseason to beat out Cooper.

– The biggest surprise had to be second-year WR Ron Johnson. He definitely caught my eye in two areas—route running and hands. The Eagles might only keep as few as four receivers, so the chances of him making the roster are slim to none. But if he can do as well in pads during training camp as he did in the relaxed offseason setting, things could get interesting for him.

Tight Ends

Quick Hits…

– He might disagree, but I thought starting TE Brent Celek looks to be all the way back from both of his surgeries (hip, groin). Celek looked more fluid getting off the line. Going back to last season, Celek didn’t look as smooth getting in and out of his breaks. Again, there is no contact in minicamp, so you can only see so much, but he did look good.

Brett Brackett spent all of his rookie season on the practice squad of three teams, but when he was with the Eagles practice squad, you could clearly see he could run. And it makes sense since he was a wide receiver in college. What Brackett will need to do is bulk up and show that he block. Same goes for UDFA Chase Ford. Ford, like Brackett, can run, but he needs to get stronger. You can really see that even in a minicamp setting. With so many teams going with two-TE sets with guys who can run, you can see why one of those two players might stick around on the 53-man roster if the Eagles choose to keep three TEs.

– I’ll be interested to see if third-year TE Clay Harbor will get a chance to stretch the field vertically a bit this season. He only caught 13 passes last season, but Harbor moves well. The one thing the Eagles have been missing the position has been the ability to move the ball down field in the air.

Offensive Line

Some Thoughts….

It’s hard to get a read on how the offensive linemen performed since there wasn’t any real contact and there’s a lot of teaching going on. What you can evaluate, however, is overall depth at various positions and other small factors.

– Considering the team had four offensive line changes last season, which were completed literally right before the regular season started, it’s remarkable at how well the group held up. But without starter Jason Peters for 2012, the left side has a huge hole. I talked to one NFC personnel executive who watched Demetress Bell’s tape from last season. Bell, according to the executive, has really good feet and is very athletic. The issues for him are being consistent with mechanics and staying injury free. Fourth-year OT King Dunlap looks to be the top backup OT for another season.

– Getting second-year RG Danny Watkins more reps should go a long way toward getting him totally comfortable with playing inside. He had to learn how to play guard last year without having the benefit of an offseason due to the lockout.

– I’ve been asked about Jason Kelce when it comes to putting on weight. That’s hard to judge, but he did look noticeably stronger in the upper body. Keep in mind that he weighed just 280 during last year’s NFL Scouting Combine.

– The early guess is that veteran OL Steve Vallos is the leading candidate to be the backup center this season. I don’t see any other backup on the current roster capable of handling the job. Mike Gibson figures to have the best chance of landing the backup guard job. He has eight starts at guard.

Special Teams

After last year’s disastrous return game results (20.9 per net kickoff return-ranked 31st/7.1 per net punt return-ranked 27th), the Eagles look to have addressed the issue.

How so?

– UDFAS CB Cliff Harris and WR/KR/PR Damaris Johnson, Lewis, WR Mardy Gilyard and possibly others will get a chance to return kicks. The Eagles simply didn’t have good enough competition for kickoff returns last season, but they certainly have it now.

– Johnson is the leader in NCAA history in all-purpose yardage and in kickoff return yardage (25.5 yards per return). He’s also a solid punt returner (12.1 yards per return—anything over 10.0 yards per return is considered excellent).  And just getting to see the guy up close for a few weeks — albeit without pads on — he has remarkable quickness in and out of his breaks as a receiver.  I think his competition in training camp for a roster spot will come vs. Chad Hall.

– Harris only returned 27 kicks and finished with just a 21.3 average in college, but he was outstanding as a punt returner (16.2 yards per return).

– Gilyard is known as a physical kickoff returner (22.3 per return as a rookie/29.2 per return in college), so we’ll get a better idea of his talent in this area once the pads go on. His only realistic shot to make the 53-man roster is going to be as a kickoff returner.

– Lewis, who averaged just 21.3 per kickoff return as a rookie last season, will benefit from a full offseason of film work—something he didn’t get as a rookie due to the lockout.

And finally…

– Second-year K Alex Henery picked up where he left off last season. He continues to kick with power and height. When he struggled early last season, his kicks were low line drives. And talk about a guy who is performing with a lot of confidence. You can see that every time he steps out on the field.

Source: Raiders Cut Another Player From 2011 Draft Class

The Oakland Raiders waived 2011 third-round pick OT Joe Barksdale today, an NFL source confirmed.

Barksdale was listed as an inactive for each of the team’s three games this season. He did appear in all 16 games as a rookie.

Barksdale (6-5, 330) is the third player out of eight selections from the 2011 NFL Draft class to be waived by general manager Reggie McKenzie, who took over earlier this year.

So far, McKenzie has waived Barksdale and CBs DeMarcus VanDyke (third round) and Chimdi Chekwa (fourth round). Those players were three out of the four highest players selected by the Raiders in last year’s draft. Chekwa signed with the Raiders practice squad earlier this month.

Barksdale will be eligible to be claimed off waivers by another team on Thursday.

Source: Saints and Daniel Agree to one-year Deal

The New Orleans Saints and backup QB Chase Daniel have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, an NFL source confirmed. The deal includes a $300,000 signing bonus.

Daniel, who was scheduled to become a restricted free agent on Tuesday at 4:00 pm ET, was not going to be tendered by the Saints. Restricted free agent tenders do not include any guaranteed money. Had he been tendered, no signing bonus would be included, only a non-guaranteed salary of $1.26 million for the low tender. And teams are able to withdraw a tender before it’s signed, so Daniels will earn at least $300,000 this season even if he doesn’t make the roster coming out of the preseason.

Daniel, who held the No. 2 quarterback job last season, earned $525,000 in 2011.

Bengals and Fullback Agree to Extension

The Cincinnati Bengals and starting FB Chris Pressley have agreed to a two-year extension, his agent, Blake Baratz, confirmed.

“Chris is one of the best people in the National Football League, and everything that he gets is well deserved. It’s people like Chris that remind me that everything I do is worth it,” Baratz told thesidelineview.com.

Pressley, who was signed by the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2009, was scheduled to become a restricted free agent on Mar. 13.

After spending time on the Bengals practice squad as a rookie, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wound up signing him to their active roster during the 2009 season. Pressley started three games for the team before being waived in October of 2010. Pressley was signed to the Bengals practice squad again later that season and stayed there until the team signed him in December to the active roster to close the season.

Pressley, 25, won the starting fullback job coming out of training camp last season and started 10 out of the 15 games that he appeared in.

The Eye in the Sky doesn’t Lie – Kendall Wright

When I noted via Twitter last fall that I was starting to do some research on Baylor University QB Robert Griffin III, some of my followers told me to make sure I got a good look at his top passing target, Kendall Wright. Some of them said he could wind up being the one of the first wide receivers selected off the board in April’s NFL Draft.

So, heeding their advice, I watched several games, and one thing became very evident—Wright was a playmaker. In fact, as one veteran personnel evaluator told me recently, Wright is the most explosive wide receiver available for this draft. But what surprised me is his willingness, despite his size (5-10, 196), to go over the middle. And watching his performance last season, his play reminded me of Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith, as others have noticed as well.

Wright’s senior season game tape, according to several personnel sources I’ve talked to, is arguably the best of any wide receiver for this draft. But despite that, a recent story from Pro Football Weekly stated that he’s “parked in the third round on a number of draft boards.” So, this being the season of smoke screens and misinformation put out by NFL teams leading up to the draft, I decided to cut through all the smoke by getting answers straight from the soft spoken wide receiver myself.

“Sometimes I’m open and sometimes I’m not. But when you’re my size, you have to try to play big. I try not to let my size dictate anything,” Wright told Thesidelineview.com.

Wright, during his time at Baylor, played inside and outside.

“One team that I had a visit with said they saw me as a “Z” receiver (flanker/outside), but I can pretty much play both (inside and outside). In fact, most of the teams I visited had me as a “Z.”

The “Z” receiver, in the West Coast scheme, is the No. 1 receiver—the same position Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice played. However, in other schemes, the “Z” receiver plays in the slot. So which side of the field he plays and where he lines up will depend on which team winds up drafting him.

Wright is a rarity these days—he finished his career at Baylor as a four-year player. And he’s coming off a monster season (108 receptions, 1663 yards, 14 touchdowns), which could explain why he’s so highly thought of by many personnel evaluators.

However, he posted less than blazing 40-yard dash times (anywhere from 4.49 to 4.57 hand timed/4.61 electronic) during February’s NFL Scouting Combine. Wright erased doubts about his 40-speed at the Baylor pro day when he was hand timed at 4.41 and 4.46 by NFL teams in attendance. But luckily for him, wide receivers in the NFL don’t start out of a track stance and they do wear football pads when they play. No one has questioned Wright’s game speed on film, and some personnel evaluators have suggested that Wright’s ability to play that fast in pads comes from the strength and explosiveness in his lower body.

Profootballweekly also stated that Wright’s body fat percentage was at 16 (presumably at the Combine), so I asked the wide receiver about that late last week.

“One of the teams that I visited this week (the Jets) and gave me a physical, tested my body fat and said I had 8.4 percent,” Wright said.

Regardless of which number is accurate, Wright’s weight has remained about the same over the last year (scouts weighed him at 194 pounds last spring before his senior year, and he weighed 196 at the Combine and 197 at the Baylor pro day), and it hasn’t affected his playing speed.

Wright has seven visits (Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, New York Jets and an undisclosed team) and three private workouts – the Titans earlier this month and two teams that called him this week for last minute workouts. He had a private workout with the Rams, and he had a workout and two hour chalkboard session on Monday with an AFC team’s offensive coordinator that also requested confidentiality. Rams GM Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher attended Wright’s workout last week. QB Tom Brandstater threw to Wright, according to a source.

According to several NFL executives Thesidelineview.com spoke to in recent weeks, Wright is widely expected to go off the board somewhere within the first round. Regardless of the smoke screens that NFL teams are putting out this week, the bottom line is that teams go back to the film before they make their draft decisions. This time of year NFL evaluators frequently say “the eye in the sky doesn’t lie” when asked if a college player will make a good pro, and most NFL personnel executives that I’ve talked to say Kendall Wright’s film is as good if not better than any receiver in this draft.

Handicapping the Josh Gordon Sweepstakes

Ahh, it’s that time of the season. No, I wasn’t talking about the running with the bulls at Pamplona. That took place last week.

It’s time to handicap the interest in level in former Baylor WR Josh Gordon from all 32 NFL teams for Thursday’s Supplemental Draft.

With the likelihood that that he’ll be the only player out of the group of eight selected, there’s no reason to guess on the other seven players.

So, with that being the case, let’s take a look at where he might end up:

Teams With Probable Interest

1) Cleveland Browns – The Browns have spent perhaps as much time, if not more on Gordon, than any of the 32 teams. They have spent time with him in person, broken down his game tape, attended his pro day workout on Tuesday—you name it, they’ve done it. And as any fan of the team already knows, the Browns have a weak group of receivers. And keep in mind they admitted after this year’s NFL Draft that they were going to spend their first-round pick on his former teammate at Baylor, Kendall Wright, had he been there. But Wright was selected two spots before they picked in the first round. The Browns clearly want speed at wide receiver, which is I have them as the top team for Gordon’s services. Is it all a smoke screen? I discussed that subject and more locally this week.

UPDATE 7/12: The Browns appear to have done more work on Gordon than any other team. And they were also the first team to meet with him. What does this all mean? Again, is their interest a smoke screen? Stay tuned.

2) Miami Dolphins – If you thought the Browns group of receivers was weak, the Dolphins probably have the worst group in the NFL. They have been quiet about their interest in Gordon, but they did show up to his workout on Tuesday. With the trade of veteran WR Brandon Marshall earlier this year, the Dolphins need size and speed on the outside—both traits that Gordon possesses. And he plays faster than his 4.52 40-yard dash time.

3) Washington Redskins – Obviously, Gordon played with new Redskins QB Robert Griffin III at Baylor, so it would make sense, at least on a moderate level, why the team would do more work on the receiver. But while they attended his workout on Tuesday, the Redskins have decent depth at the position. However, they don’t have anyone on the outside as fast or as big as Gordon.

UPDATE 7/12: The Redskins have amped up their work on Gordon’s background over the past 24 hours.

4) Indianapolis Colts – New general manager Ryan Grigson knows he needs to help QB Andrew Luck out as much as possible when it comes to passing options. And being that the Colts badly need help on the outside at wide receiver, it wouldn’t be surprising if they considered using as early as a third-round pick on Gordon.

UPDATE 7/12: With WRs Donnie Avery and Austin Collie leading the way currently to start on the outside opposite veteran Reggie Wayne, there’s a belief that the Colts see Gordon as a potential starter down the road. It should be noted that Collie is best used on the inside. And Avery is finally 100 percent after suffering a serious knee injury in August on 2010.

5) Buffalo Bills – After veteran WR Stevie Johnson, the Bills don’t have much depth on the outside at the position. So, it makes sense why they would attend Gordon’s workout. With the team essentially using spreads looks most of the time, depth is really important—something they don’t have much of at wide receiver.

6) Dallas Cowboys – After starters Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, the Cowboys don’t have any real depth at wide receiver. And they don’t have a legitimate backup for either player. While second-year WR Dwayne Harris is intriguing, he played only one snap on offense as a rookie. I’d call the Cowboys the sleeper team for Gordon’s services on Thursday.

Teams With Moderate Interest

7) New York Jets – The Jets clearly have a less-than-stellar group of wide receivers, so you can understand why they wanted to get a closer look at Gordon by attending Tuesday’s workout. And they are clearly willing to invest in players with off-the-field issues. But when looking at Gordon’s skill set, is he better than second-round pick Stephen Hill? I know former NFL scout Russ Lande believes that’s the case.

8) Houston Texans – With veteran WR Andre Johnson’s injury history and with little proven depth behind him, the Texans need to add a few players to the position going forward. But how much different is Gordon from DeVier Posey and Lestar Jean? Gordon, at least potentially, could be significantly better, but he only had one year of starting experience at Baylor.

9) Minnesota Vikings – There’s no question that the Vikings have one of the worst groups of receivers on paper, but they did spend two fourth-round picks on the position in this year’s NFL Draft. They were at Gordon’s workout, but I don’t see their interest being particularly high—just that they figure to be intrigued by him. And as various NFL executives have told me over the years about Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, he’s big on players with a favorable size and speed ratio—and Gordon has that.

10) Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks have a below average group of wide receivers. That much is obvious. And with the team having so much uncertainty at the position, you can see why they were at Gordon’s workout. And the team is clearly willing to take risks (see Bruce Irvin in this year’s draft), so it wouldn’t be surprising for them to seriously consider selecting him early.

11) Denver Broncos – After WRs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, the Broncos have next to nothing at the position. They certainly need to do something, but I found it curious that they weren’t represented at Gordon’s workout. Based on his off-the-field history, you would think a team that had a lot of interest in him would want to spend time in person.

12) St. Louis Rams – The new front office is clearly willing to invest draft picks in players with character issues (see Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson), so there’s no reason to think the Rams wouldn’t be interested in Gordon. But in reality, it’s experience at the position that they need, not youth.

13) Carolina Panthers – Gordon plays faster than young receivers such as Brandon LaFell and David Gettis, so I could see why they wanted to attend his workout. And after those two and veteran Steve Smith, depth becomes an issue.

14) Oakland Raiders – The Raiders have a fairly deep group of young receivers, but the team lacks experience at the position. Considering Gordon only had one year of starting experience in college, he doesn’t fit what they really need.

15) Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles have done their homework on Gordon, including spending time with him the night before his pro day workout. But the Eagles are set, at least for this season, with the first four spots on the depth chart. And going forward, Jeremy Maclin should sign a contract extension prior to the 2013 season, so I don’t see the Eagles submitting an early pick on him.

Teams With Little or No Interest

16) Baltimore Ravens – I’ve been harping on the Ravens for the past few years to give QB Joe Flacco help at wide receiver. However, the team wasn’t at Gordon’s workout. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t make a big deal out of that, but I find it hard to believe they would select him without meeting with him in person or seeing him workout live. We’ll see if I’m correct or not come Thursday afternoon.

17) Atlanta Falcons – The first three spots on the depth chart at wide receiver are set, but after that it’s up in the air. However, Gordon plays on the outside where the Falcons are set for at least the next few seasons with Roddy White and Julio Jones. They’ll pass.

18) New York Giants – After selecting Rueben Randle in the second round this year and with the rapid development of Victor Cruz, the Giants have a nice group of young receivers. While they attended Gordon’s workout, they’ll pass on him.

19) New England Patriots – The Patriots were represented at Gordon’s workout, but they are deep enough at wide receiver. While they could use a developmental outside receiver, don’t look for them to show much interest in him.

20) Chicago Bears – While the Bears were at his workout, the first four spots on the depth chart are set, so I don’t see the Bears having much interest in Gordon.

21) Cincinnati Bengals – After spending early-round picks on A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu in the past two drafts, youth at the position isn’t an issue. What the Bengals lack is experience at wide receiver.

22) Pittsburgh Steelers – At least for this season, the Steelers will be at least four-deep at wide receiver. After this season, jobs could be open at the position. However, I don’t see them interested in bringing along another developmental wide receiver at this point.

23) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – After adding veteran WR Vincent Jackson in free agency, the Buccaneers are at least four-deep at the position.

24) Arizona Cardinals – They spent a first-round pick on WR Michael Floyd and are at least four-deep at the position. While they were at Gordon’s workout, they don’t need him.

25) Jacksonville Jaguars – What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, the Jaguars had perhaps the worst group of receivers in the NFL. Now, they actually are fairly deep.

26) Kansas City Chiefs – They were at Gordon’s workout, but the team is pretty deep at wide receiver. They’ll pass.

27) Detroit Lions – The Lions could use another wide receiver for depth purposes, but with all of the off-the-field problems their players have been dealing with in recent months, it’s unlikely they would take a risk on Gordon.

28) San Diego Chargers – The Chargers really went for it in free agency, which suggests they are trying to win now—not later. They’ll pass on Gordon.

29) San Francisco 49ers – While the 49ers were at Gordon’s workout, at least for this season, they appear to actually be deep at wide receiver. I don’t’ see them carrying a player on the 53-man roster who likely wouldn’t contribute much this season.

30) Tennessee Titans – The Titans surprisingly selected his former teammate at Baylor, Kendall Wright, and are now really deep at wide receiver. They also weren’t at the Gordon’s workout. They’ll pass.

31) New Orleans Saints – The first five spots on the depth chart seem pretty secure, so it’s unlikely the Saints would select Gordon.

32) Green Bay Packers – The Packers were at Gordon’s workout, but they are really deep at wide  receiver, so I don’t see them really being interested.