The NFL-NFLPA labor settlement extended the collective bargaining agreement with players through the 2012 season; it kept the salary cap system in place through the 2011 season. But it also contained a reopener clause that enables either side to terminate the deal early. The first of the two early termination deadlines is Nov. 8, and Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFLPA, said he expects the owners to notify the union by then that they're ending the labor deal early. Such notification would make the 2009 season the final one in the deal with a salary cap and would leave the agreement expiring after the 2010 season. It could set the stage for a labor showdown and even a possible work stoppage in 2011.
Chad Johnson's offseason of discontent could be headed for its first showdown with the Bengals. The Bengals wide receiver, in a series of Los Angeles-based television appearances, said he would not participate in the team's offseason strength and conditioning program beginning Monday. "I will not be there," he said during a late afternoon stop at Current TV and Current.com. "There are a lot of issues that need to be dealt with. Nothing has changed."
Jets pay visit to McFadden
The Jets, who have the sixth pick overall in next month's NFL draft, flew a contingent of team representatives to Fayetteville, Ark., yesterday to meet with former Razorbacks running back Darren McFadden, according to someone with knowledge of the visit. McFadden, who rushed for 1,830 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, is considered the top player in the draft by many draft experts and there's a chance he won't be there when the Jets pick. He was clocked at a blazing 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. Nonetheless, the Jets are doing their homework just in case.
Matt Ryan's scripted workout included 52 throws in which his targets were former teammates Andre Callender, Kevin Challenger, Tony Gonzalez, Jon Loyte, and L.V. Whitworth. As media members scribbled down details of every throw, NFL officials watched from the sideline as Ryan - in black shorts and a maroon T-shirt with the number "12" and "Ryan" on the back - worked at a pace that was probably a bit too deliberate for scouts. A layman would note that Ryan completed 48 of his deliveries, with three drops and one overthrow, but that probably isn't the most accurate barometer to judge the performance, since there was no pass rush or defenders. "I thought he pressed a couple times, trying to throw the ball a little too hard," Kansas City coach Herm Edwards said. "That's generally what happens with quarterbacks when you get the media there. "I didn't think I pressed," Ryan said. "I thought I showed that I could make every throw you need to make in the NFL."
Dolphins check out Ryan, Long
Dolphins officials got a look Tuesday at two candidates for the No. 1 draft pick -- Virginia's Chris Long and Boston College's Matt Ryan, at their schools' Pro Days. But more contact with Miami awaits. The Dolphins have scheduled private meetings with Long, Ryan and Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long in their college cities, according to officials who work with each player. (They have not requested similar sessions with Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston and LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, agents said.)
Vikings may let McKinnie go
Vikings coach Brad Childress said left tackle Bryant McKinnie is "entitled to his due process" as he faces charges stemming from his involvement in a brawl outside of a Miami nightclub in February. But Childress also made an ominous comment when asked if McKinnie is still considered a "core guy" on the team. "I know you don't want to hear, 'Until I get all the facts,' " Childress said Tuesday afternoon. "But we could face some difficult decisions down the road."
Player behavior was the NFL's hot topic a year ago as Commissioner Roger Goodell pieced together a strengthened personal conduct policy and big suspensions for Pacman Jones, Chris Henry and Tank Johnson were on the horizon. A year later, the league says the crackdown has had the desired effect of serving as a deterrent, plus there's been a trickledown to college football. The NFL said the 20 percent figure is based on the league's comparison of two comparable time periods -- April 10 to Dec. 31, 2006, and April 10 to Dec. 31, 2007.
If proximity counts, Jason Elam is closer to becoming a Falcon than he is a Bronco. Way closer. Elam, the Broncos' kicker the past 15 seasons, is in Atlanta visiting with the Falcons. "We'll see what transpires," said Jack Reale, Elam's agent. The Broncos are standing firm on the three-year offer they believe is comparable to, if not better than, the current deals of other aging kickers. Elam may be 38, but there is evidence he is not a typical aging kicker. His four walk-off, game-winning kicks last year were the most by an NFL kicker since 1990, and he finished the season by making his last 15 field-goal attempts. Should Elam sign with his hometown Falcons, Matt Prater would get the first chance to become the Broncos' new kicker.
Packers, Vikings talk to Frerotte
As Vikings officials spent Tuesday watching Matt Ryan work out at Boston College's Pro Day, the team was making plans to talk to a veteran quarterback today. Gus Frerotte, who spent the past two seasons with St. Louis, is scheduled to be at Winter Park after visiting the Packers on Tuesday.
Troy Brown, the Patriots' all-time leading receiver, is considering catching on with the team's most despised rival, the Jets. Brown visited with the Jets yesterday and worked out for them, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. It was initially thought the 36-year-old Brown, who has not stated whether he plans to return or retire, would not entertain teams that would play the Patriots this season. However, visiting the Jets signaled that he plans to explore all his options before making a decision. Brown also might not have a choice, as the Browns and Lions, teams initially thought to be interested in Brown, have cooled their pursuit, according to the source.
The move to fire their general manager less than a month into free agency and six weeks before the NFL draft has cast the Broncos in some circles as a club in disarray. But things are just the opposite, owner Pat Bowlen said Monday. It's now Bowlen's fervent hope a sense of calm can prevail and move the Broncos forward into a productive future. "I didn't think it was a healthy situation," Bowlen said, explaining a communication breakdown between Mike Shanahan, the coach and head of football operations, and Sundquist was addressed as far back as the end of the 2006 season but didn't improve. "It's a misconception," Bowlen said of the perception Shanahan has an autocratic role with the Broncos. "I'm 10 steps from Mike's office, so Mike doesn't have the ultimate power. I'm not off somewhere else. I'm here every day. I have a job. Mike and I discuss a lot of things, just like Joe Ellis and I discuss a lot of things on the business side." So, he insisted, Shanahan does not have unchecked power.
The trade of Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall to Oakland is nearly final as Hall and the Raiders moved closer to a new contract Monday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The trade for the Pro Bowler could be consummated in a day or two after gaps in contract talks moved very close to being bridged. As far as the teams are concerned, a deal is already in place. The Raiders will send a second-round selection (34th overall) and sixth-round pick to Atlanta in exchange for Hall.
Redskins waiting on Caldwell
Free agent wide receiver D.J. Hackett, who held a contract offer from Washington, reportedly accepted a two-year, $3.5 million contract from the Panthers. Now the Redskins are waiting for wide receiver Reche Caldwell to decide on their offer.
Lions coach Rod Marinelli reiterated that the Lions were not trading wide receiver Roy Williams, waving his hands, asking a reporter to look into his eyes. "Roy is here," he said. Told teams might call anyway, he said: "I guess probably when you're a beautiful girl, everybody keeps knocking on your door for a date. Then the old dad keeps coming out and says, 'Nope.' "
Cardinals WR won't hold out
Anquan Boldin prefers to look at the positive side of Larry Fitzgerald's new contract. It created additional cap space that gives the club some breathing room. And it's another example, Boldin said, of the team's commitment to keeping "guys we really value, guys who have been productive the past couple years." Sometimes, players in his situation stay away in the off-season, calling upon the only leverage they have in pursuing a new contract. Boldin tried that in spring 2005, skipping a mandatory minicamp and nearly driving himself crazy in the process. He returned to voluntary drills the next week and received a new contract as training camp started that summer. "It's not me," Boldin said of staying away. "I'm here to play football and play football only. It's not my job to sit here and worry about negotiations, and if they are going to get me done, or when, or things like that. That's just not me. I love to play football. I love to be around the guys."
Jets WR Laveranues Coles, embroiled in a contract dispute, may not show at the team's offseason program. Last month, he said he wasn't going to participate unless the team tears up the final two years of his deal and gives him a long-term extension.
Wide receiver Tab Perry has agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Miami Dolphins, according to a story at enquirer.com. The Packers were reported to be in the running for Perry, who spent the last three seasons with the Bengals. Perry also returned kicks and averaged 23.7-yards on 75 returns over three years in Cincinnati. He was a sixth-round pick out of UCLA in 2005.
Chiefs to meet with Hartwig
The Chiefs may look locally to fill a void on the offensive line. They were expecting to meet with free-agent center Justin Hartwig, who played at the University of Kansas. Hartwig has played six seasons in the NFL. Four years were with Tennessee and two with Carolina. Drafted by the Titans in the sixth round in 2002, Hartwig was a starter in four seasons. He was a reserve as a rookie in 2002 and missed most of the 2006 season because of a groin injury.
Steelers guess right with free agent
So why is Max Starks still without a new contract? And why does it seem like the Steelers know something that the rest of us don't? Starks appeared to be in line for a significant pay increase when the Steelers made him a transition free agent at a cost of $6.9 million in 2008. If Starks finds a buyer, it forces the Steelers to ante up nearly $7 million if they want to keep him, or lose him without compensation. The Steelers, who have legitimate offensive line concerns, gambled teams wouldn't be beating down Starks' door. Turns out, the Steelers were right.
ESPN reporter Sal Paolantonio has received a record number of e-mails in response to his controversial column about retired quarterback Brett Favre, with the majority coming from angry Packers fans. In response to a column by Press-Gazette sports editor Mike Vandermause that appeared online and in print today, Paolantonio sent this letter to the editor via e-mail: "Thank you for Mike Vandermause's smackdown of my espn.com column on Brett Favre. But I take issue with one major point: I was not trying to criticize Brett Favre, only offer some healthy perspective, provide an alternative take. Favre, as I pointed out, is a bonafide first ballot Hall of Famer. But I just wanted to hit the pause button on the over-the-top deification of No. 4. In my view, he is not even the greatest Packers quarterback of all time. That would be Bart Starr. Bart Starr has always been treated like Ringo Starr -- underappreciated and, these days, overlooked. I was trying to provide some historical context that my brethren in the media often ignores. By the way, I do use a hairblower, but I never bring it to the press box with me."
Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, the subject of offseason trade rumors, said he wants to remain with the Dolphins and expects that to happen. Taylor told Sirius Satellite Radio and NFL Network in recent days that he has no intention of retiring and denied a previous yahoo.com report that he and the Dolphins have agreed to part ways by April's draft. Taylor told NFL Network he never has spoken with Dolphins executive vice president Bill Parcells. He also said the team might not like his plan to appear on ABC's Dancing With The Stars. ''I've never talked to him,'' Taylor said of Parcells. ``. . . I'm sure he's not thrilled about the show.'' Parcells said this month that Taylor will play for the Dolphins next season unless he retires.
Jon Kitna is at it again. The Lions' quarterback once again set the standard for their 2008 season as 10 wins or bust. Kitna didn't make a prediction, referring to it rather as a statement of fact. He would be disappointed if the Lions don't win 10 games with the -- ahem -- improvements they've made in coaching and player personnel.
Cowboys cooling on Pacman?
There have been no "hell, no's" leaking from Valley Ranch, rather quiet admissions that Pacman Jones has been discussed. Is still being discussed. As one Cowboys type noted, Pacman's name will go away for a while, then spring back up later in a different conversation, by a different person. The word is intrigued, not necessarily interested.
The Seahawks reportedly are mulling the release of running back Shaun Alexander, who is barely two seasons removed from rushing for more than 1,880 yards, 27 touchdowns and leading the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl berth. Alexander, 30, stopped by team headquarters last week and met with General Manager Tim Ruskell and Coach Mike Holmgren. "It's all good," Alexander told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. If Alexander does move on, he'll get another chance. Probably another few million, too.
The Dolphins are looking more like the South Beach Cowboys. The Cowboys lost another free agent Friday when cornerback Nate Jones signed a two-year contract with Miami. There are five former Cowboys assistant coaches in Miami, including head coach Tony Sparano and assistant head coach Todd Bowles. Bowles, who was Dallas' secondary coach, helped in signing Jones. Former Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells is the Dolphins' executive vice president of football operations. Jeff Ireland, who was the Cowboys' vice president of college and pro scouting, is the Dolphins' general manager. On Feb. 29, the Cowboys traded nose tackle Jason Ferguson to the Dolphins. Also, former Cowboys strong safety and special teams captain Keith Davis agreed to a two-year, $3.5 million deal with the Dolphins on Tuesday.