Free Agent Tracker (cont.)
Unhappy Dawkins may exit stage right at Philly
Could one of the great Philadelphia Eagles of all-time be on the verge of jumping ship? Brian Dawkins, the Pro Bowl safety of the Eagles who has played more games with the team than any other player in franchise history, will be visiting the Denver Broncos Saturday, and I hear he is unhappy with the offer on the table from his longtime team.
In other words, this might not just be a trip to try to force the Eagles into upping their offer. It could be a trip to get a better contract, and if he does, don't be surprised if Dawkins, 35, accepts the offer from the Broncos or another team he may visit in the next few days.
Denver coach Josh McDaniels may be looking for the kind of locker-room tone-setter new coaches often try to find when they take a job. And this could be the right fit.
In the last three years, when Dawkins has played some of his best football, the Eagles have paid him a total of $7.2 million -- far less than many of his teammates. He reportedly isn't happy about it -- or about the roughly $3-million-a-year offer he has on the table from the Eagles.
So don't be surprised if Dawkins has a new home by the end of the weekend.
Rams open checkbook wide to entice Ravens OL Brown
If Ravens center-guard Jason Brown ends up signing with the Rams, and a deal is reportedly imminent according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it's because Brown really didn't have any other big-money option.
I was told by an NFL source Friday that Brown doesn't really want to sign with the Rams -- he loves playing on the East Coast -- but they're offering him a contract worth $7 million a year, which is millions more annually than anyone else is willing to spend. Baltimore and Oakland both made Brown offers, but they were significantly lower than the Rams.
The Ravens didn't feel like Brown was worth getting to the pay level of guards such as Alan Faneca, Steve Hutchinson and Leonard Davis, who have all cashed in during free agency in recent years. I don't know exactly what Brown was offered by Baltimore, but suffice to say the Ravens took note of the four-year, $10 million contract that Jacksonville center Brad Meester agreed to Friday.
Chiefs look to acquire more of that Patriots magic
Reports that have the Patriots trading outside linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs today for an undisclosed draft choice (and with Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick orchestrating this deal, the particulars of that draft pick could stay undisclosed between now and kingdom come), are a bit surprising.
Vrabel will be 34 before the 2009 season starts, and his production started to slip last year. Four sacks, one interception and one fumble isn't the usual sum total of Vrabel's on-field contributions. While Vrabel struggled pretty glaringly at times in the middle season, he did finish strong for New England, making Vrabel-like big plays down the stretch in December.
Still, that the Patriots would send Vrabel packing is eyebrow-raising because Vrabel was always such a favorite of Belichick's, and he was virtually a coach on the field for New England's defense. Everyone knows the Patriots will be trying to draft Tedy Bruschi's eventual replacement this year, and now they've got an outside linebacker slot to fill as well (USC's Clay Matthews Jr. in red, white and blue?).
Part of the story, too, is that New England just re-signed outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, who was released by San Francisco, and tendered the promising Pierre Woods, a restricted free agent, at a second-round compensation level. Banta-Cain has some pass rush skills, but struggles in pass coverage, and Woods looked good last season before breaking his jaw.
Said one longtime league observer:"It's a little surprising because of what he meant to that team, but it's a business. I haven't heard what they got for him, but for the right price Belichick would trade his mother. When he was struggling last year, you heard Patriots fans saying Vrabel should retire."
For the rebuilding Chiefs, it's probably a low-cost pickup that has more to do with setting a certain tone in the locker room. Vrabel was one of the New England team leaders who showed other players how to do things the Patriots Way. There's no doubt that Pioli, the former Patriots vice president of player personnel, wants Vrabel around for a year or two for the example he sets. He'll show guys how to work, and help develop a Patriots-like culture in Kansas City.
"It's probably one of those deals where when you go to another team after being in one place for a long time, you always look at your old players through rose-colored glasses," an NFL source told me."Pioli's doing that now. A lot of guys do that when they make that kind of move."
The runaway linebacker
For my money, this Bart Scott saga is turning into the melodrama of the day. According to a Ravens official I just talked to, Scott's agent, Harold Lewis, indeed re-contacted Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome about Scott right before Newsome was heading off to attend the Domonique Foxworth news conference at Ravens headquarters.
The word is that Scott feels that Jets general manager Mike Tannebaum has "reneged'' on some part of the contract that Scott thought he had already agreed to, and now Scott is re-thinking his decision. It could be the guaranteed dollars in the first two years of the deal, or some other less important detail; my source doesn't know for sure. The bottom line is that Scott feels some promises that were made have not come to fruition in the fine print of the final contract.
The Ravens, for their part, are monitoring the situation and asking to be kept updated, but Newsome has not taken Lewis' bait and raised Baltimore's offer, which is firm at five years at $37.5 million, with $24 million in the first three years of the deal.
But here's the craziest part of this story: This has happened with Scott before, where he got a case of cold feet right before being faced with leaving Baltimore. In 2006, Scott, then a reserve linebacker for the Ravens, was making a free agent visit to Cleveland, where the general manager was then Phil Savage, the former Ravens personnel man. The Browns thought they had a deal done with Scott, but at the last minute he asked to use the bathroom and called Newsome from a men's room stall. He told Newsome he wanted to remain a Raven and asked for his best offer, and accepted it on the spot.
"You've heard of the runaway bride?'' the Ravens source said. "Bart's the runaway linebacker. He's done this before.''
So there you have it, up to the minute. Scott may be a Jet by the time you read this, or he may be speed-dialing Newsome back and returning to Baltimore. Maybe from the men's room of the Jets new team complex.
You can't make this stuff up.
Scott having change of heart?
Crazy stuff can happen on the first day of free agency. As we wrote earlier, Ravens linebacker Bart Scott has been on the verge of signing with the Jets most of the day, having agreed to terms. But agreed to terms is not signed, and sometimes that can make for a big difference.
According to a New York Daily News item this afternoon, Scott is making the Jets sweat out the contract agreement, having called Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome to give his old team a chance to match the Jets deal. Scott has been offered about $40 million over five years from New York, while the Ravens are said to have topped out at $37.5 million over five, but with $24 million in the first three years (for an average of $8 million over that span). The bizarre thing is that Scott, per the Daily News, is believed to be doing his last-minute negotiating with the Ravens from within the Jets facility, which if true, is kind of gutsy of him.
I just got off the phone with a Ravens official who had just come back from the Domonique Foxworth introductory news conference and wasn't buying the late Scott flip-flop story.
"I honestly don't think there's any truth to that,'' he said. "If it happened, it happened while the press conference was going on.''
Foxworth offers Ravens silver lining to tough offseason
The Ravens lost Bart Scott to the Jets and their former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan on Friday, but Baltimore is pretty happy about landing ex-Falcons cornerback Domonique Foxworth on the first day of free agency. Baltimore reportedly gave the fourth-year NFL veteran a four-year, $28 million deal that includes $16.5 million guaranteed. He effectively replaces veteran cornerback Chris McAlister, who was a cap cut last week.
The Ravens identified Foxworth as a player they were intent on making a big push for early in free agency, and they were helped considerably by the fact that he's a University of Maryland product who played high school ball in Catonsville, Md., and whose grandmother lives just down the road from the Ravens' team complex. I'm told that both Miami and Atlanta were negotiating to stay in the hunt for Foxworth, but that the ex-Terp took less money for the chance to play in Baltimore.
"The guy really wanted to play here,'' said one Ravens source. "That's the great thing we had going for us.'' In the 2005 draft, Foxworth and fellow cornerback Fabian Washington posted two of the fastest 40 times at the scouting combine that year. Now both of them are Ravens, and along with Samari Rolle and Frank Walker, comprise Baltimore's contingent of cornerbacks.
Bart Scott is a goner; will Ray Lewis follow?
While the Jets and Baltimore linebacker Bart Scott are on the verge of sealing a five-year deal worth about $8 million per year, the real mystery is where that leaves Ray Lewis's market?
Here's what I know: Lewis' agent, David Dunn, hasn't been in contact with Baltimore since last night, when he called to see if the Ravens had their most recent contract offer still on the table? Baltimore said yes, and that offer is believed to be in the range of $24 million over three years, with $17 million guaranteed. Lewis is thought to be seeking about $20 million guaranteed.
Scott getting $40 million from the Jets doesn't preclude New York and head coach Rex Ryan coming after Lewis too, but some league observers say there's no way Lewis's ego will allow him to accept less than Scott in New York, and the Jets may not be willing to satisfy him on that front.
And there's this piece of background to consider as well: I'm told by one source close to the situation that Scott probably wouldn't be too happy to see the Jets jumping on Lewis, and probably wouldn't have signed there if he thought Lewis was headed to New York too. The two are said to be not as close as some might believe. As other Ravens linebackers have desired in the past, such as Jamie Sharper and Adalius Thomas, Scott is looking to get out of Lewis's considerable shadow in Baltimore, and make a name for himself. In Baltimore's defense, which is now run by the Jets thanks to the Rex Ryan hire, Scott had to play a role in which he took on a lot of blockers, which in part helped Lewis flow to the ballcarrier. Scott wants a chance now to play the coveted "mike'' position that Lewis held in Baltimore.
There are reports that Lewis is adamant he won't return to Baltimore, and feels he has burned the bridges in that relationship. But it's also clear that the Jets' top priority was Scott and not Lewis, and thus Lewis might be suffering from bruised feelings on that front too.
So who will land Lewis? Sources in the league believe Dallas will not be a player in that competition, as owner Jerry Jones has indicated since last weekend. Washington can't afford him now that Albert Haynesworth has been added, and Baltimore isn't likely to up its offer significantly, leaving Lewis backed into something of a corner if his pride demands he make more than Scott.
Here's one darkhorse candidate to consider, not that I think it's a likely scenario: Cincinnati. True, at this stage in his career, Lewis wants to play for a winner and the Bengals don't qualify on that front. But a reunion with ex-Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis would make some sense on a couple fronts. It would give Ray Lewis the chance for revenge against Baltimore in the AFC North twice a year, and both Marvin Lewis and Bengals owner Mike Brown are said to be desperate to add some leadership to their rudderless team.
It would be very un-Cincy-like for Brown to agree to the size of the contract Lewis is seeking. But if the Bengals were to ever spend like that, Ray Lewis would be a player they might deem worth it in terms of changing the atmosphere in Cincinnati.
Browns bulk up 2009 draft options with Winslow deal
Cleveland's new regime of head coach Eric Mangini and general manager George Kokinis wanted to both increase Cleveland's draft firepower this year, and to weed out a potential problem player who was both angling for a new contract and hasn't always been on the same page as Browns management. And yes, that's an understatement.
Browns owner Randy Lerner is believed to have been in favor of retaining Winslow, but he went along with the wishes of his new front office team. The Browns now have five draft picks this year: a first, two seconds, a fourth and a sixth.
Said a front office member of one AFC North rival:"We're thrilled he's out of the division."
Patriots, Taylor deal still pending
Not so fast, Patriot Nation. Fred Taylor's not in the fold just yet.
The 33-year-old running back cut by Jacksonville a week ago, told SI.com today he has not yet signed with the New England Patriots but hopes to do so "later today or tomorrow."
Taylor, back home in south Florida after visits with the Bills and Pats this week, said: "Everyone's saying I signed. Whoa. I think I've gotten more texts than when I passed 10,000 yards rushing. We're talking and I definitely hope it happens, but I haven't signed anything yet. The Patriots are the best move for me. I really want to get to the Super Bowl, and they are a no-brainer."
Taylor's per-carry average fell to 3.9 yards per rush in Jacksonville last year. But the Patriots obviously feel that in a stable of backs with Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris, Taylor's workload could be managed to maximize his effectiveness.
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