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Around the NFL: 10 Nuggets Heading into Free Agency

1. How about Roger Goodell pouring a big cup of antifreeze on everyone’s fun this past weekend? Due to a rule change that allowed teams to gauge the interest of prospective free agents, football fans hovered around Adam Schefter’s Twitter page thinking that free agency was essentially going to start at Midnight on Saturday morning. But Goodell’s memo to teams earlier that day killed everyone’s buzz. Here’s part of the memo, tweeted by Schefter that night: “Clubs are advised that prior to the beginning of the new League Year it is impermissible for a club to enter into an agreement of any kind, express or implied, oral or written, or promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent or understandings of any kind concerning the terms or conditions of employment offered to, or to be offered to, any prospective Unrestricted Free Agent for inclusion in a Player Contract after the start of the new League Year.” Deathly afraid of tampering, can you imagine how those conversations went on Friday night between teams and free agents? “Hi Mike Wallace, this is Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland. I just wanted to call and see if you liked the color teal in combination with white and a splash of orange. Yeah, no, I’m not asking you if you want to be a member of the Dolphins. That would be tampering. I’m specifically asking you about color scheme. You do like that color scheme? How about Joe Philbin? Do you like Joe Philbin’s face? Maybe you’d like to see more of Philbin, say, on a daily basis in the fall? Grrrrrrrrreat. Do you also hate purple and the entire state of Minnesota like most reasonable human beings do? Excellent. I’ll see you and your agent at 4:00PM ET on Tuesday then…”

2. People are getting caught up in whether or not the Chiefs should draft Luke Joeckel with the first overall pick when they just placed their franchise tag on Branden Albert. While it would be unprecedented for a team to draft a right tackle with the first overall pick, it doesn’t mean that Kansas City will shy away from arguably the safest prospect in this year’s class. Albert was one of the best pass-blocking offensive tackles in the league last year, but he also missed three games due to a back injury and who knows if the Chiefs will be able to lock him up long term. They could draft Joeckel, play him at right tackle and then re-asses the situation a year from now. If Albert’s back once again becomes an issue or the two sides can’t agree on a long-term deal, then the Chiefs have their left tackle of the future in Joeckel. If they lock Albert up long-term, then at worst they have two book-end tackles for the next six-plus years. Considering defensive coordinators constantly move pass rushers around in effort to create mismatches, that’s not exactly a worst-case scenario. And with no true No. 1 overall talent in this year’s draft, there’s no reason to bypass Joeckel with the top pick just because he could wind up playing right tackle.

3. The best thing for both the Jets and Darrelle Revis is if the cornerback drops off the map and shows up to OTAs healthy and in shape. Owner Woody Johnson isn’t being cheap – he just can’t pay Revis what he wants long-term because his former GM put the team in cap hell by handing out ridiculous contracts to players like Mark Sanchez. And since the Jets can’t afford him, Revis could help himself by not destroying his own trade value. This includes avoiding telling the media that it would be “awesome” to play for the 49ers and reiterating how you want to be the highest paid defensive player in the league. Potential trade partners are already leery about Revis’ knee, parting with premium draft picks, and clearing the necessary cap space to sign him long term. He doesn’t need to provide teams with more reasons to tell the Jets ‘thanks but no thanks.’

4. Percy Harvin’s situation in Minnesota seems combustible, but GM Rick Spielman has wisely suggested that the disgruntled wide receiver isn’t going anywhere. Some fans have opined that Spielman should trade Harvin and then sign a free agent receiver like Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings. But the Vikings are on the rise and thus, parting ways with a playmaker makes little sense. He’s already under contract and the team could potentially line up next year with Harvin, Jennings, Jarius Wright, Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph, as opposed to some combination of Peterson, Rudolph, Jennings, Wright and an unproven rookie. And maybe a veteran like Jennings could have a profound impact on Harvin, who has seemingly alienating himself from coaches and teammates. While the defense and offensive line proved to be underrated, the Vikings made the playoffs last year almost solely riding Peterson’s coattails. Unless the situation is so bad that the team needs to wash its hands completely of Harvin as soon as possible, addition is key – not subtraction.

5. Without Anquan Boldin’s production in the postseason, the Ravens wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl. That might sound extreme but he was easily the best player on the field in the Ravens’ victory over the Colts in the wild card round, and combined to catch 11 passes for 164 yards with three touchdowns in the AFC title game and the Super Bowl. But Boldin’s superhuman-like effort in the postseason doesn’t change the fact that Ozzie Newsome still has to make a business decision. With holes at all three levels on defense, Newsome could create more cap space by releasing Boldin, who is owed $6 million in 2013. His effort in the playoffs notwithstanding, the veteran’s days of 1,000-yard seasons are well behind him. Boldin beats defenses with physicality, precision route running and experience, not with explosiveness and speed. Ironically, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Boldin would be a cap casualty long before his heroics in the playoffs. So while releasing Boldin would sting both the organization and the fan base, these are the difficult decisions that Newsome has handled gracefully over the past two decades. Whether Baltimore retains Boldin or not, Newsome has earned the benefit of the doubt.

6. After the career he’s had, it’s going to be a bitter pill for Rams fans to swallow when Steven Jackson ultimately signs with another team in free agency. But when you take a step back, this is probably best for both parities. Simply put, the Rams and Jackson both want different things. St. Louis was never going to pay Jackson the $7 million he was set to earn in 2013. Not after drafting Isaiah Pead in the second round last year and Jeff Fisher’s desire to go with a running back-by-committee approach next season. And with Jackson’s desire to play for a Super Bowl contender and remain the bell cow back for his respective team, it makes sense that the two sides part now. So with his 10,135 career rushing yards and 56 touchdowns, Jackson will rumble into free agency. He’s going to make a team like Atlanta, Green Bay or Denver even more dangerous than they already are, and St. Louis will prepare for life after “SJ39.” It would have been nice if Jackson finished his career in the same place that it started. But the reality is the next time he signs a contract with the Rams it’ll also be the same day he hangs ‘em up for good.

7. There’s really no excuse for Bears GM Phil Emery not to land at least one free agent offensive linemen this offseason. Whether that’s a left tackle like Jake Long to replace JaMarcus Webb, a right tackle like Eric Winston to replace the disastrous tandem of Jonathan Scott and Gabe Carimi, or a guard like Brandon Moore to upgrade the interior of the O-line, Emery needs to be active. It was downright criminal what former GM Jerry Angelo did to Chicago’s line before he was fired in 2012 and while Emery can’t undo every mistake that the previous regime made, he has an opportunity to right some wrongs this offseason. If he wisely spends money in free agency and then invests one of the Bears’ first two draft picks on an O-lineman, he could go a long way in improving the team’s current situation up front. (Provided that the free agent and rookie play well, of course.) And considering Chicago’s defense isn’t getting younger as a whole, Emery needs to focus on upgrading the offense now.

8. The Falcons were smart not to allow William Moore to hit free agency by signing him to a five-year, $30 million contract ($14 million guaranteed) on Saturday. The draft is deep at safety but Moore was a vital piece in Mike Nolan’s scheme last season. He’s a sideline-to-sideline playmaker that can line up in the box or in deep zone, and he’s an effective blitzer as well. If the Falcons weren’t aggressive in retaining his services, surely the Rams would have shown interest considering he’s a Missouri product. And considering the Titans handed Michael Griffin $35 million over five years ($15 million guaranteed) and the Raiders gave Tyvon Branch a four-year, $26.6 million contract ($17.6 million guaranteed) last offseason, the price was right for the Falcons, too.

9. While the Chiefs are certainly off to a hot start, the Browns might wind up being the most active team in free agency this offseason. Their switch to a 3-4 opens the door for potential free agent signings like Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, and/or James Harrison, who is familiar with new defensive coordinator Ray Horton from their time together in Pittsburgh. Too bad the quarterback market is a flaming pile of hot garbage because that’s the position Cleveland most needs to address.

10. Predictions that are sure to be wrong: Wes Welker: Patriots…Steven Jackson: Falcons…Jake Long: Bears…Jared Cook: Bears…Gosder Cherilus: Rams…Ahmad Bradshaw: Bengals…Paul Kruger: Browns…Dannell Ellerbe: Ravens…Danny Amendola: Broncos…Louis Delmas: Cowboys…Dashon Goldson: Eagles…Reggie Bush: Lions…Greg Jennings: Vikings…Mike Wallace: Dolphins…Eric Winston: Texans…Dustin Keller: Dolphins…Kenny Phillips: Saints…Chris Gamble: Giants.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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