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Old 03-29-2009, 06:31 PM   #1
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Default Pro Football Weekly Whispers March 29, 2009

Pro Football Weekly
Whispers — league wrap-up
March 29, 2009



NFC Whispers

Redskins head coach Jim Zorn might say that the team is not interested in trading for the Broncos’ Jay Cutler and that it supports Jason Campbell as a starter, but it’s clear the team is doing its due diligence on USC QB Mark Sanchez, whom the Redskins worked out. Although quarterback would appear far down the immediate-needs list, don’t be surprised if the Redskins have legitimate interest in Sanchez.


The Eagles will get their first long look at CB Jack Ikegwuonu, a fourth-round pick last season who spent the season on injured reserve but who carries intriguing potential, at the club’s upcoming veteran minicamp. Some teams had a first- or second-round grade on Ikegwuonu before he suffered a torn ACL, and with the loss of Lito Sheppard, he could step in as the team’s fourth cornerback if he shows he is fully recovered.

Word is the Packers are keeping their fingers crossed that DE Cullen Jenkins, who suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle late last September and is also coming off arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle, will be fully recovered from both injuries in time for training camp. We hear his pectoral injury is a bigger concern than the ankle.

We hear second-year Bears WR Earl Bennett, a third-round disappointment who admitted that he struggled last season to learn the Bears’ playbook, looked a lot more sure of himself running routes at the Bears’ first minicamp this offseason. Heading into the draft, Bennett appears to have a tenuous hold on the No. 2 WR spot behind Devin Hester and ahead of Rashied Davis.

Some were surprised by the Vikings giving CB Cedric Griffin a contract extension, given his unsteady play, but further investigation shows that Griffin played rather well down the stretch and might be on the verge of breaking out entering his fourth pro season and has a starting job all but assured. He’s a good tackler and showed he has an improved nose for the ball down the stretch.

The Falcons are hoping that one of the top edge rushers in the DE-OLB category falls their way in the draft’s first round, but if one does not, sources say Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff would feel very comfortable trading down from their current position with the 24th overall pick. Word is the Falcons are very high on Western Michigan S Louis Delmas, but they don’t believe he’s a first-round-caliber player. Trading down into the early part of the second round could allow them to nab Delmas and an OLB-DE hybrid with the second-rounder they already have, fulfilling two needs early in the draft.

Sources say the Falcons are not planning on using a high draft choice on a cornerback to replace ex-starter Domonique Foxworth, who joined the Ravens in free agency. We hear there will be a competition to fill the void between Von Hutchins, who missed all of last season after suffering a preseason foot injury, and second-year player Chevis Jackson, a third-round pick in 2008. Brent Grimes also will get a shot to compete for the job, but he’s considered more of a long shot.

Perhaps CB Ken Lucas’ career as a Panther isn’t quite done. Although Carolina released him earlier this offseason, coach John Fox, speaking at the league’s annual meeting, did not rule out re-signing Lucas, who is still a free agent. But he would have to come at a significantly reduced price. The Panthers are strapped for cap space after re-signing OLT Jordan Gross and using the franchise tag on DE Julius Peppers.

We hear the widely anticipated release of disgruntled Cardinals RB Edgerrin James might not be such a slam-dunk after all. “I still think he’ll be gone, but it does appear (head coach Ken) Whisenhunt is at least leaving open the possibility of bringing ‘Edge’ back,” a team insider told PFW. “I think the team is a bit leery of Tim Hightower as the No. 1 back probably splitting time with a rookie. They’ve paid James $25 million of the $30 million in his contract, and they think that gives them the right to cover themselves at running back.”

With a need for inside help on the defensive line, we hear the Rams probably would jump at the opportunity to select DT Ziggy Hood from the nearby University of Missouri with the 35th pick overall. Hood earned high marks this year at both the Senior Bowl and the Combine.

Sources present at the 49ers’ first minicamp were surprised by the lack of effort put forth by featured back Frank Gore. “It was a little strange,” one observer told PFW. “It didn’t look like he was going all out at all. He is kind of moody at times, and sometimes he struggles with his weight, but I’ll be shocked if he isn’t fully motivated by the time training camp rolls around.”

With free-agent FB Leonard Weaver having signed with the Eagles, we hear the Seahawks might consider adding free-agent FB Justin Griffith, who played under new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Oakland.

AFC Whispers

The way we hear it, the Texans’ major free-agent shopping appears over after the signing of DT Shaun Cody. If that’s the case, the success of this free-agent class will be judged on how former Cardinals DE Antonio Smith fits in on the left side of the line. The sense from some around league is that Smith has the potential to get even better and started to take a step forward during his final two seasons in Arizona. Smith had only 3.5 sacks in 16 regular-season games last season, but he added two in Arizona’s postseason run.

It went somewhat lost in the shuffle, but the Texans’ decision to match the Broncos’ offer sheet to WR David Anderson in March underscores how high the club is on the fourth-year receiver. Anderson caught only 19 passes last season but saw increased playing time as the ’08 campaign progressed.

The expected return of Bengals QB Carson Palmer should be music to the ears of WR Chad Ocho Cinco, the way we hear it. One evaluator who took close note of the Bengals last season told PFW that QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, now with Buffalo, repeatedly could not get the ball to the open Ocho Cinco, who finished the season with 53 catches for 540 yards and four touchdowns in 2008.

Word from Pittsburgh is that Steelers P Daniel Sepulveda has recovered nicely from a knee injury suffered last summer. Sepulveda punted 68 times in 2007 for an average of 42.4 yards (37.9 net).

The Chiefs thus far have avoided signing any big-name free agents, but they’ve made it a point to bring in experienced veterans who can mentor their many young players. That was one of the main reasons they recently signed 36-year-old WR Bobby Engram, who’s expected to take WR Dwayne Bowe under his wing in addition to providing a decent option in the slot. By opting for older, low-key guys instead of the marquee stars, new GM Scott Pioli is sending the message that K.C. isn’t looking for players who might think they’re bigger than the team.

For the second straight season, Chargers OT Jeromey Clary was awarded more incentive-based pay than anyone in the NFL. Making well below $1 million annually, Clary has proven to be yet another bargain find by GM A.J. Smith.
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