|2013 NFL Power Rankings: Pre-draft edition||04.24.13 at 10:34 am ET|
It’s that rare time of year when the 32 NFL teams are graded by what they’ve done off the field just as much as what they’ve done on it. The last time we watched football, the Ravens were crowned Super Bowl champs. Since then, the champs have lost six starters on defense and their best pass-catching weapon. The Ray Lewis-less Ravens are at No. 7.
Once the joke of the NFL, the NFC West looks to be the preeminent division in the league. The Niners take the cake at No. 1, and the upgraded Seahawks, third in our rankings, will be a formidable opponent for the defending NFC champs.
The Patriots enter the draft in need of another receiver and a pass-rusher. The departure of Wes Welker has Tom Brady and company down to No. 4.
1. 49ers (11-4-1) — I’d like to hear an argument against the Niners being ranked the No. 1 team. They have a ferocious defense and an offense improved by the reliable Anquan Boldin. Right now San Francisco looks like the team to beat in 2013. (Pick 31 in Round 1 of the draft)
2. Broncos (13-3) — Barring injury to Peyton Manning, the Broncos have the AFC West wrapped up. The addition of Welker will make Denver’s offense even more unstoppable. Is there a better receiving tandem in the league than Demaryius Thomas and Welker? (28)
3. Seahawks (11-5) — After the year Seattle had followed by the offseason improvement, I’d expect nothing less than an NFC championship bid. Like many of the top teams in the NFL, Seattle is strong at defense. The D got even stronger with the addition of Cliff Avril. The Seahawks also strengthened one of their biggest weaknesses by adding Percy Harvin at receiver.
4. Patriots (12-4) — Danny Amendola replacing Welker is not an upgrade. The former Rams receiver may be younger and faster, but Welker offered consistency. He stayed on the field and worked well with Brady and the offense. There will be an adjustment period. The Patriots will go into the season with three talented receiving weapons (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Amendola), but all three are injury-prone. (29)
5. Packers (11-5) — Injuries plagued the offensive line last season. More depth on the line is important, especially with the Packers in a division where they have to playing against pass-rushers like Ndamukong Suh, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers. (26)
|Agents: Wes Welker, slot receivers may be collusion victims||03.19.13 at 10:34 am ET|
Slot receivers have seen a disappointing free-agent market this offseason, and some agents suggest that collusion among NFL owners may be in play to suppress the salaries of that specific class of receivers.
Whereas outside receivers such as Mike Wallace landed a five-year, $60 million contract that includes $30 million in guarantees and Greg Jennings landed a five-year, $45 million contract with $17.8 million guaranteed, including a $10 million signing bonus, the slot guys have come up way short comparatively.
Wes Welker got $12 million guaranteed. His replacement with the Patriots, Danny Amendola, got $10 million guaranteed. And Anquan Boldin — who is set to make a base salary of $6 million in 2013 — got dealt to the Niners rather than accept a reduced contract less than two months after proving his worth as Baltimore’s best postseason receiver.
Some agents suggested to WEEI.com’s Christopher Price that the disparity is driven by more than supply and demand.
“In my opinion, it’s 100 percent collusion to reset the market and values,” said one high-profile agent. “Remember Carolina owner Jerry Richardson during the lockout saying the owners were going to take back the league? They used the worst collective bargaining agreement ever negotiated by the absolutely atrocious and corrupt NFLPA as an excuse, and decided to reset certain spots, including offensive tackle, cornerback, defensive end, defensive tackle and slot receiver.”
“The league has resolved itself to bring all salaries under control — the NFL would live to have more options in terms of markets, positions, franchise tenders and the like, but mainly they are just trying to lower all the bars to get salaries back to where they should be across the market,” added another agent. “The feeling around the league is ‘No more players who aren’t elite should be paid as elite just because they got to free agency,’ and all the teams know what everyone is willing to pay. They talk more than ever, and if you price your guy out of the market, you’re screwed.”
For more on the strange market for slot receivers this offseason, click here to read Price’s column.
|Updates on Josh Cribbs, Danny Amendola and how their situations might affect the Wes Welker sweepstakes||03.13.13 at 12:44 am ET|
Three more notes before the end of the night:
• The Josh Cribbs saga continues. After a report from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer at the start of the day that linked the return man to New England, a Fox Sports report later dismissed the idea, and said that Cribbs could be ticketed to the Cardinals. But late Tuesday evening, another report from Mary-Kay Cabot of the P-D indicates that Cribbs has narrowed it down to New England and Arizona. (She reports the Niners were in the mix for a bit, but have since dropped out.) Cabot is also reporting that there is interest in both sides in a trade that would send Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Browns. Cleveland’s new personnel chief Mike Lombardi is tight with Bill Belichick, and Lombardi has expressed his admiration for Mallett in the past on more than one occasion.
• Multiple outlets are now reporting that the market has started to narrow for slot receiver Danny Amendola, with the Ravens and Eagles in the market. Amendola, who has had a tough run of injuries as of late, caught 63 passes in 11 games in 2012, with 666 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the NFL in all purpose yards in 2010, with 689 reception yards (on 85 receptions), 452 punt return yards and 1,142 kickoff return yards. Amendola certainly makes sense from a Baltimore perspective, as the Ravens recently dealt slot receiver Anquan Boldin to the Niners for a draft pick.
• Both the Cribbs and Amendola situations would affect Welker, as New England could potentially view the younger slot receiver as a potential replacement for Welker — if Welker signs elsewhere soon (or, at least before Amendola and maybe Cribbs), the Patriots could enter into the bidding.
|NFL free agency update: Browns reportedly favorites to land DE Paul Kruger||03.12.13 at 12:00 pm ET|
The Browns are the front-runners to land Ravens free agent defensive end Paul Kruger, according to The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson.
Kruger, a 27-year-old who has played all four of his pro seasons with the Ravens, had nine sacks in 15 regular-season games last season.
Wilson also reports that another pass-rusher, Lions free agent Cliff Avril, has a “good chance” of landing with the Colts.
• Also from Wilson, the Ravens might no longer have Anquan Boldin (traded to the 49ers), but they did agree to retain a receiver Tuesday. David Reed, who missed 11 games last season while recovering from a torn ACL, has a two-year deal worth a maximum of nearly $2.5 million.
Reed, a 2010 fifth-round draft pick out of Utah, led the NFL with a 29.3-yard kickoff return average as a rookie.
• The Bears are said to have interest in Vikings offensive lineman Phil Loadholt. According to ESPN’s Tom Pelissero, the Vikings don’t want to go above $5 million per year, while the Bears are willing to make more of a commitment.
The Bears also are believed to be in the running for Dolphins free agent offensive lineman Jake Long, as are the Rams (via NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah).
• The Jets will release 34-year-old nose tackle Sione Pouha according to New York Daily News writer Manish Mehta. Pouha, who missed four games last season with back issues, signed a three-year deal last offseason. His $4.9 million salary would have become guaranteed on March 15. Instead, the Jets will pick up $3.8 million of cap space.
A third-round pick in the 2005 NFL draft out of Utah, Pouha has spent his entire pro career with the Jets.
• The Chargers reportedly have released tight end Randy McMichael, via ProFootballTalk.com. The 33-year-old was used mainly as a blocker last season, catching nine passes in 16 games.
|NFL free agency update: Ed Reed a possibility for 49ers||at 10:58 am ET|
Safety Ed Reed might join former Ravens teammate Anquan Boldin with the 49ers, according to ProFootballTalk.com (crediting a league source). Reed just hired David Dunn of Athletes First to be his new agent, and Dunn also represents 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke.
The 49ers could lose safety Dashon Goldson, leaving them a hole that Reed could fill.
Meanwhile, Boldin, speaking from Africa where he’s on a charity mission, told ESPN that he was surprised to be traded to the 49ers, reportedly for a sixth-round draft pick.
“It was an initial shock because I had no clue that I was going to be traded,” Boldin said, adding: “It is also a good thing. … When I look at the organization and what they’re about … and as a football team, the talent that they have … I think it’s good, a good place for me to be.”
|Report: WR Anquan Boldin dealt to Niners||03.11.13 at 4:28 pm ET|
In a move that peripherally affects the Patriots, the Ravens dealt wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the Niners on Monday afternoon for a sixth-round pick this year, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. Boldin, who was reportedly asked to take a pay cut or be released, played the last three seasons with the Ravens, catching 186 passes for 2,645 yards and 14 touchdowns in that time. However, he had a terrific 2012 postseason — he had 22 catches in the playoffs, including five receptions for 60 yards and two touchdowns in the AFC title game and six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
|Report: Mike Wallace linked to Patriots||03.09.13 at 3:34 pm ET|
Free agency doesn’t officially open until Tuesday afternoon, but there are plenty of rumors that have been attached to the Patriots through the early stages of the weekend. Here are a few of the latest updates:
•Wide receiver Mike Wallace has drawn the interest of the Patriots, according to a report from Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Wallace, 26, has emerged as one of the best deep threats in the league with 235 catches in the last four years, and has averaged 17.2 yards per catch in that period. With the New England wide receiving corps in a state of flux — the Patriots have only three receivers under contract for 2013 — and with New England with some additional money under the cap after Tom Brady’s renegotiated deal, he could be a candidate to be signed by the Patriots.
•In that same vein, New England could be interested in wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who will apparently be cut loose by the Ravens. The 32-year-old Boldin, who caught 65 passes this past year for Baltimore, is a big, physical receiver who could bring a new dynamic to the Patriots’ passing game. Boldin had a terrific postseason — he had 22 catches in the playoffs, including five receptions for 60 yards and two touchdowns in the AFC title game and six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl. He was a possibility for the Patriots as a free agent in 2010, but ended up signing with the Ravens. (We write extensively about Boldin and what he might bring to the Patriots here.)
•Among the notable players released were Steelers defensive end James Harrison. The former Defensive Player of the Year was cut loose when the two sides couldn’t agree on a cap-friendly contract. The 34-year-old, who is a five-time Pro Bowler, is expected to have several suitors, including the Ravens, Browns and Texans. (One interesting note regarding Harrison: He told Josina Anderson he’d welcome the chance to play for the Patriots.) In addition, multiple repots indicate that running back Reggie Bush will not be back in Miami, with sources telling the Miami Herald that the former Heisman Trophy winner will “categorically” not be back in South Florida. And the Bills have apparently reached an agreement on a four-year. $20 million deal with cornerback/return man Leodis McKelvin.
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