|Free agent updates on Wes Welker, Michael Hoomanawanui||03.12.13 at 5:02 pm ET|
Five Patriots-related notes as free agency starts to kick into high gear:
• According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, wide receiver Wes Welker is expected to test the market, and Schefter said Tuesday afternoon that it “may take a little time” for a deal to come together for the slot receiver. Earlier on Tuesday, the NFL Network reported that Welker was waiting on a first offer from the Patriots.
• The Patriots have tendered restricted free agent tight end Michael Hoomanawanui at $1.323 million, according to Field Yates of ESPN Boston.
• Defensive lineman Paul Kruger has signed a five-year deal with the Browns for roughly $40 million, according to various reports. The 27-year-old Kruger broke through in a big way for the Ravens this past season with nine sacks and six passes defensed for the eventual Super Bowl champions. The 6-foot-4, 270-pounder will fit nicely with the Browns — it’s not believed that the Patriots were ever seriously interested in acquiring the Utah product.
• Buffalo has cut quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Harvard product — you guys know he went to Harvard, right? — signed a big deal with the Bills in 2011, but it never happened for him in Buffalo. The 30-year-old Fitzpatrick finished the 2012 season with a 61 percent completion rate, to go along with 24 touchdowns, 16 picks and 3,400 passing yards, but now becomes the best free agent quarterback available, which could potentially affect the trade market for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett.
• Wide receiver Mike Wallace has reportedly agreed to a five-year deal with the Dolphins. The 26-year-old Wallace, who spent the last four seasons with the Steelers, has 235 career catches for 4,042 yards (an impressive 17.2 yards per catch average) and 32 touchdowns. Now, he’ll face the Patriots twice a year, and in two career games against New England, he has 18 catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
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.
|Peter King on M&M: Joe Flacco ‘fearless about throwing the ball deep’||01.18.13 at 2:00 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni on Friday morning to preview the NFL’s conference championship weekend.
King, who predicts a 31-26 Patriots victory over the Ravens, is leaving open the possibility of an upset.
“The Patriots have been so good in these championship games, so consistent,” King said. “It’s not going to be their mistake that’s going to beat them, if history is a judge. It’s going to be the Ravens playing well if they win.”
Joe Flacco‘s ability to test the Patriots secondary with the long ball is one of the keys to this game.
“I just think he’s a very good deep-ball thrower,” King said. “Throwing the deep ball twice to Torrey Smith and once to Jacoby Jones six days ago is why the Ravens won that game. If he doesn’t take chances downfield, they’re sitting home right now and it’s New England going to play at Denver on Sunday.
“We talk about players, who’s elite, who’s not elite — I don’t know who’s elite and who isn’t. All I know is that in this game — I don’t think Joe Flacco’s ever going to have the kind of great completion percentage or anything like that that’s going to make him one of the top-rated quarterbacks, but I believe that his team is always going to have a chance for a very simple reason: He’s fearless about throwing the ball deep and he’s the best deep-ball thrower both on percentage and in yardage in the NFL this year.
“I think the Patriots secondary is really going to have a lot to do with whether they move on.”
On the other side of the ball, the aging Baltimore defense will attempt to contain New England’s uptempo offense.
“They better have a lot left in their tank,” King said of the Ravens. “After having a much tougher road in the playoffs, obviously, than New England has had, they better have a pass rush on [Tom] Brady left, particularly when it comes to Paul Kruger. I think he’s the guy that — because right now Terrell Suggs just really isn’t himself, and I don’t know that he is going to be himself in this postseason at all — I think they have to rely on Paul Kruger to get to Tom Brady and do some damage. … In my opinion, that’s going to have a lot to do with who wins and loses this game — how much the Ravens have left in their tank.”
|Ravens roundup: Defense could face major rebuilding in offseason||01.16.13 at 1:39 pm ET|
The retiring Ray Lewis has grabbed the headlines, but the Ravens couldn’t have made it this far without the contributions of the rest of their defense. However, this postseason could be the last time linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Cary Williams suit up for Baltimore, as all three are unrestricted free agents this offseason. Depending on how contract negotiations go with quarterback Joe Flacco, whose rookie contract expires after this season, it could be hard for the Ravens to retain even one of that trio.
Kruger had a career-high nine sacks in the regular season and has 2½ more in the playoffs. His skill set could land him an offer in the $35 million to $40 million range that the Ravens likely can’t match.
“Paul’s setting himself up for the future,” Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard said. “I think he has a good shot at breaking the bank because this league, this team, we want pass rushers. We want guys who can rush the quarterback and Paul is a heck of a guy to do that.”
Ellerbe had 89 tackles and 4½ sacks this season, setting himself up to step into Lewis’ place as the latter retires.
Williams rejected a three-year, $15 million contract extension offer from the Ravens before the season, and he looks ready to test the free agent market after 75 tackles, four interceptions and 17 pass deflections.
FLACCO’S AGENT CONSIDERS QB ‘ELITE’
In the wake of two dominant performances against the Broncos and Colts, Flacco has established himself — at least in the mind of his agent, Joe Linta – as one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
“I’ve been the one putting him on a pedestal saying Joe’s a top-five, elite quarterback, and he’s proving it,” Linta told The Baltimore Sun. “He’s in the rarified air of having already won seven playoff games in his short career. He’s really demonstrating that he’s one of the top guys out there.”
|Ravens Friday injury report||10.15.10 at 4:36 pm ET|
The 4-1 Baltimore Ravens will be without three players for Sunday’s game against the 3-1 Patriots at Gillette Stadium and could be without a key fourth player.
Linebacker Paul Kruger was against limited at practice on Friday and is listed as doubtful for the game.
Running back and Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is questionable with a knee injury while running back Ray Rice is probable and should be a go for the game with a knee issue.
Ravens Injury Report for Friday:
T Jared Gaither (back)
LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder)
WR Donte Stallworth (foot)
LB Paul Kruger (knee) Doubtful
CB Josh Wilson (thigh) Questionable
DT Haloti Ngata (knee) Questionable
S Ken Hamlin (ankle) Probable
TE Edgar Jones (thigh) Probable
RB Le’Ron McClain (shoulder/knee) Probable
RB Ray Rice (knee) Probable
LB Jameel McClain (knee) Probable
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