Jackson officially out in Minnesota
THU, MAR 3
1:24 PM CST
QB Tarvaris Jackson
The Vikings have officially closed the door on one of their quarterbacks from this past season, and this time I'm not talking about Brett Favre.
Tarvaris Jackson, who could have been a restricted or unrestricted free agent this offseason depending on what happens with all this CBA garbage, can begin packing his bags because Minnesota decided against so much as tendering him a one-year contract for the 2011 campaign. Originally a second-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Alabama State, the 6-2, 226-pounder departs with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 24-to-22 and a passer rating of 76.6 in 36 games, including 20 starts.
With the pressure taken off him thanks to Pro Bowler Adrian Peterson in the backfield, Jackson posted an 8-4 record as a starter in 2007 despite only completing 58.2 percent of his passes and firing more INTs than TDs. But former coach Brad Childress, who moved up in the draft to acquire him and lent support when many didn't, gave up on the strong-armed signal caller after a 26-14 loss at home to the Eagles in the first round of the 2008 playoffs, as Jackson completed just 15 of 35 throws and had an interception returned 44 yards for a touchdown by Asante Samuel. He would start but one more game in a Vikings uniform.
The next offseason, Childress made his deal with the devil (Favre), handing Jackson a baseball cap and a clipboard. It worked for a year, with Favre almost leading the Vikings to the Super Bowl in 2009 -- before yet another late-in-the-game interception snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against the eventual-champion Saints -- but deserving much of the blame for a 6-10 disaster in 2010.
Now Minnesota is left with Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar as the only QBs on its roster, and even if Webb flashed from time to time as a sixth-round rookie, he's not ready to take over under center.
If the Vikings decide to pursue a trade for a veteran passer, Kevin Kolb of the Eagles makes a lot of sense because the two teams have run a similar offense for quite some time. As far as free agency is concerned, the best they can probably hope for is a one-year solution like Marc Bulger, while Webb -- or a fresh draft choice next month -- is groomed for 2012.
In the draft, they currently own the No. 12 pick, and while Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Auburn's Cam Newton are the only quarterbacks worthy of coming off the board in Round 1 right now, both are likely to be gone by the time Minnesota is on the clock. Trading up is expensive for a team with many holes to fill, so perhaps a second-tier prospect in Round 2 -- Christian Ponder of Florida State and Colin Kaepernick of Nevada come to mind -- is the way to go.
With regard to Jackson, he's young enough to find another job, although he may have to settle for being a No. 3.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Vikings, visit VikingUpdate.com
Hawk set free, but signs new deal
WED, MAR 2
8:19 PM CST
LB A.J. Hawk
The Packers aren't wasting any time this offseason being sentimental, saying goodbye Wednesday to three players that helped them win Super Bowl XLV just a few weeks ago: linebacker A.J. Hawk, tight end Donald Lee and safety Derrick Martin.
Hawk is the headliner, as he was a first-round pick (No. 5 overall) for Green Bay in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Ohio State. The former Buckeye has been a good player during his five-year career but certainly not a great one, so the organization saw no reason to pay him the $10 million salary he was due in 2011.
Nevertheless, Packers fans need not throw away their No. 50 jerseys yet, as PackerReport.com's Bill Huber points out that the organization would like to retain Hawk but at a more reasonable price. As a matter of fact, a source told Huber that the front office would like to have a new contract in place with Hawk before the collective bargaining agreement expires Thursday night. This past season, the 6-1, 247-pounder was credited with 111 tackles, one sack, three INTs and 10 passes defensed.
If nothing else, Hawk has proven to be incredibe durable in the Badger State, playing a full 16-game schedule every season from 2006-10.
General manager Ted Thompson certainly did not appear to be closing the door on Hawk when commenting on the move in a press release.
“With A.J., the business side of the game is driving this decision,” Thompson said. “We’re hopeful that we can continue to work with A.J. to have him be a part of our team in the future.”
Lee has played 92 games in six seasons for the Packers with 49 starts, catching 178 passes for 1,655 yards and 17 touchdowns. He won't be missed, as Jermichael Finley will return from injury in 2011 and is one of the most talented players in the league at his position -- he'll be a star very soon.
Martin suited up only five times in 2010, registering nine tackles, one interception and one pass defensed as a reserve.
UPDATE: Hawk already agreed to a new five-year deal Thursday with Green Bay, and it should be finalized before the CBA expires.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Packers, visit PackerReport.com
Possible trade scenarios for Palmer
TUE, MAR 1
11:11 PM CST
QB Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer says he "will never set foot in Paul Brown Stadium again" as the quarterback of the Bengals, and I believe him.
So should the Cincinnati franchise, which has gone 60-67-1 and made the postseason just two times since selecting Palmer No. 1 overall in the 2003 NFL Draft out of USC. This past season, the Bengals were 4-12 and endured a 10-game losing streak that again made them one of the laughingstocks of the league -- a role fans in the Queen City have had to endure way too often under the "leadership" of owner Mike Brown.
According to a source close to Palmer, the former Trojan has "$80 million in the bank" and no longer has "to play football for money," so this doesn't figure to be some sort of negotiating ploy since he's one of the best paid QBs in the league and is signed through 2014 already. As a matter of fact, Palmer has said he's prepared to retire if he's not traded prior to the start of the 2011 campaign. While the Bengals are forbidden from dealing their signal caller before a new collective bargaining agreement is signed between players and owners, which may not happen for several months, perhaps Cincinnati needs to blink first in this staring match -- Brown originally said the one-time Heisman Trophy recipient would not be going anywhere -- and get maximum value in return when given the chance.
At least 10 other teams are in legitimate need at the game's most important position and have to at least consider going that direction in Round 1 of the NFL Draft, and that's a problem since only four QB prospects have first-round talent and only two, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Auburn's Cam Newton, are likely to hear their names called that early. The other two, Jake Locker of Washington and Ryan Mallett of Arkansas, have probably slid into the second round at this point for one reason or another -- accuracy issues for Locker, mobility concerns for Mallett.
And it's not like Gabbert and Newton are can't-miss, as Gabbert is yet another spread-option passer and Newton carries a hefty amount of baggage with him.
In other words, if the Bengals make it official that Palmer is indeed on the market, they'll receive a fair share of calls. The two franchises that would be wise to pick up the phone are the Cardinals and 49ers, as both struggled immensely under center in 2010 but may not want to roll the dice on Gabbert or Newton in Round 1 -- Arizona has the fifth pick, San Francisco the seventh.
A native of Rancho Santa Margarita, California, Palmer would be much closer to home at either destination and have a primary target in place, with Larry Fitzgerald a Card and Michael Crabtree a Niner.
Palmer may not be worth the fifth or seventh pick in the draft, but a second rounder from Arizona or San Francisco sounds about right for a two-time Pro Bowler with plenty left in the tank at 31 years old, plus either would still be able to address other pressing needs in Round 1. Additionally, the Bengals would then have three selections in the first round and a half or so to find a new quarterback of the future.
It almost makes too much sense not to happen.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Bengals, visit BengalsInsider.com
Harris gets one of Bears' pink slips
MON, FEB 28
2:46 PM CST
DT Tommie Harris
The Bears said their goodbyes Monday to three veteran contributors: defensive tackle Tommie Harris, linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer and offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer.
Hillenmeyer, originally a fifth-round selection of the rival Packers in the 2003 NFL Draft but was cut and signed with Chicago, was the starting strong-side linebacker for a good portion of his career, but he only played one game in 2010 and ended up on injured reserve due to post-concussion symptoms, even though he likely would have been cleared medically to play again in a week or two. Shaffer, who began as a seventh rounder in Atlanta and then went to Cleveland before arriving with the Bears as a free agent in 2009, was little more than a backup and emergency starter in two seasons.
But the headliner is Harris, as he was a first-round pick for the Monsters of the Midway in 2004 and quickly developed into one of the most dominant players in the league at his position -- he made three straight Pro Bowls from 2005-07. However, as the Bears were on their way to Super Bowl XLi in 2006, he suffered a devastating leg injury that both tore up his knee and ripped his hamstring right off the bone. The former Oklahoma Sooner was simply never the same again, and he was even deactivated by coach Lovie Smith for a game each of the last two seasons, the first time for skipping out on treatment and the second time for simply not being one of the best 45 players on the roster for a crucial matchup with Green Bay.
Needless to say, money had a lot to do with the organization's decision to jettison Harris, who won the Brian Piccolo Award as a rookie and was the team's Ed Block Courage Award honoree three seasons later. Not only was he scheduled to make a $1.3 million salary in 2011, but he also had a workout bonus of $500,000, a June roster bonus of $2.5 million and likely-to-be-earned incentives north of $4.5 million.
Because Smith likes to rotate his defensive tackles liberally, it made even less sense to keep Harris since his number of snaps were cut drastically following the injury.
"After three straight years of Pro Bowl production, which earned him a four-year, $40 million contract in 2008, Harris' career quickly tumbled downhill," said Jeremy Stoltz, the publisher of BearReport.com. "He was never able to recover from a series of knee injuries that began in 2006. The last two seasons, Harris compiled just 28 total tackles and four sacks. He was even benched last year in favor of unheralded Matt Toeaina."
While he did play much better in the playoffs for the Midway Monsters, Harris finished the 2010 regular-season campaign with only 13 tackle and 1.5 sacks.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Bears, visit BearReport.com
|John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.|