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Some personnel adjustments after minicamp


By Pat Kirwan

NFL.com Senior Analyst


(May 8, 2006) -- The draft is over and the 300-plus wave of undrafted rookie free agents have been secured by the 32 teams around the league. Now the GMs, personnel directors and coaches will sit down after the post-draft minicamp and decide if they still need veteran help heading into the 2006 season.


With teams averaging $9 million in salary-cap space and only needing $4-5 million of that space for their rookie pool, this is a year that the teams can actually go out and sign a veteran on the street if they so desire. In years past, the annual meeting that followed the post-draft minicamps were usually squashed by the people who manage the salary cap for teams. It really became a chorus of "we can't afford anymore players." The new CBA means teams can afford to pick up a player or two, but are there any decent players left to sign?


I went through all the veterans still out on the street with an eye on team needs, and it appears there still are a few guys who could make a difference if they understand that even though the market might be there for their services, teams appear ready to control their spending. A key difference in this spring from any spring in recent history is the June 1 cut rules.


In every year since the CBA was first agreed upon, a fairly decent number of veteran players were cut after June 1 for salary-cap management reasons. For example, the Chargers once released safety Rodney Harrison after June 1 and he quickly became a New England Patriot. I don't believe there will be many players released after June 1 this season. In fact, there's a good chance there will not be any notable names on the street. There are two reasons why this may be the leanest year for June talent. One, because the league got a late start with the new CBA, the teams were given the opportunity to release players prior to June 1 and get the cap management benefit by declaring them June 1 cuts. Second, the added cap space has not pressured clubs' need to release players. An indication that this is true is just how few veterans have been asked to stay away from minicamp sessions.


In years past, if a team was intending to release a player after June 1, they simply asked him not to attend minicamp so not to incur an injury and become a liability to the team's salary cap. As one GM said to me this week when we discussed the differences in 2006 business with years past, he said, "What's left out on the street is probably all that's going to be available, so if you need someone, go get him next week."


With those words in mind, I found the following numbers of decent veterans per position still available. Some might need to be persuaded out of retirement, others can't pass a physical, some are simply just not good enough anymore -- but all were on an active rosters at some point last season. After the numerical breakdown, I'll get into the top 20 still out there looking for work.


QB: 13

RB: 10

FB: 5

WR: 11

TE: 6

K: 3

P: 3

DT: 14

DE: 10

OLB: 13

ILB: 10

S: 11

CB: 10


If your team needs a starting quarterback, the only place to turn is Kerry Collins. He threw 3,759 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2006 whether you like him or not. He threw more TD passes than Jake Plummer, Ben Roethlisberger, Trent Green, Byron Leftwich, Michael Vick and Aaron Brooks. After Collins come backups like Jay Fiedler, Tommy Maddox and Tony Banks. Of course, New England would like to see Doug Flutie come back, but Fiedler is going to look pretty good to a few teams by next week.


Running backs are even harder to find, and there's no telling if Stephen Davis can ever go again. But if a team is looking for a guy who did some things on game tape last year, then they will bring in Jonathan Wells (90 carries, 325 yards, four TDs), Antowain Smith (166 carries, 659 yards, three TDs) or Lamar Gordon (54 carries, 182 yards, one TD) at least to check out their health and fitness level. If a team needs a fullback, good luck. Try calling Paul Smith who had a couple of starts for Detroit last year.


There are a few wide receivers out there that could come in and handle the forth or fifth spot on a roster and actually contribute. A team with a young starting QB and young wide receivers might conclude it needs some veteran influence in the huddle and on the practice field. Ricky Proehl (25 catches, 441 yards, ,four TDs), Johnnie Morton (21 catches, 288 yards), Kevin Johnson (17 catches, 133 yards) and Randy Hymes (11 catches, 132 yards, two TDs) are your choices at this point. If a tight end is the need after minicamp, then see if Chad Lewis wants to play, or work out Marcellus Rivers ,Shad Meier, Cam Cleeland or Zeron Flemister.


If the offensive line coach comes off the practice field and says his line can't protect the quarterback, then Ross Verba is my first call to see how serious he is about "un-retiring." After that, the list falls off to Victor Riley, Kurt Vollers and Ethan Brooks at tackle, and Matt Stinchcomb, Tupe Peko and Ron Stone at guard, which might lead most GMs to say go back out and keep working with the younger guys. On the other hand, if center is an issue, then bringing in Cory Raymer, Kendyl Jacox or even Jeff Mitchell is an idea.


The defense isn't a much brighter picture. Need to clog up the middle and help the run defense? Better hurry up and ink Grady Jackson or Brentson Buckner. If a backup "wave defensive end" is a necessity, then maybe Brady Smith, Eric Ogbogu or Kemp Rasmussen could have some gas left in the tank.


There were a lot of linebackers drafted this year and the demand may be off a bit but, Tommy Polley had 15 starts, 72 tackles and four sacks last year, which makes him really stand out. Barrett Green is in Miami for a tryout as I write this article, and Peter Boulware and Chad Brown are stop-gap guys at this point in their careers.


The most action might occur at cornerback this week with Ty Law and Ahmed Plummer still out of work. Law had a career-high 10 interceptions last season and things will heat up for him very shortly. If a team is looking for a less expensive veteran, then Dexter McCleon and Kevin Thomas will be in for a workout. The safety list has a lot of recognizable names, but how much range they have left and how healthy they are still questions to be answered. Lance Schulters, Keion Carpenter and Brent Alexander are guys to talk about in the personnel meeting. If they don't get any interest from the staff, then maybe Ronnie Heard, Jerry Wilson or Antuan Edwards needs to be brought in for a look see.


As for kickers and punters, I would recommend getting an extra one signed for camp just in case the preseason doesn't go well for the incumbent. Paul Edinger is the best kicker on the street, and Bryan Barker (50 punts, 42.7 average) and Kyle Richardson (78 punts, 40.8 average) are the punters to call.


As one personnel director said about the talent available, "Not a lot to write home about, but a few guys who can make a difference for the short term." By the time you read this pro personnel report, a few of the above-mentioned players may have signed with a team, but at least you have a starting point to think about a few players who might help your favorite team.

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  • 2 weeks later...

i still want a DT



i can't beleive EA is relying on Joseph (injury prone) Robbins (underachiever) a rookie, and 2 guys that have never played before... i don't care how much potential Cofield has, and i do love the pick, we need a more reliable "backup" or even someone to challenge Joseph and Robbins for the starting job...


can probably get Brentson Buckner for Vet minimum. perfect fit. he's play the nose in carolina

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