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The NFC North has major offensive line issues

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) fumbles the ball as he is hit by Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields (37) and Green Bay Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop (55) during the first half of the NFL NFC Championship football game in Chicago, January 23, 2011. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Much of the focus in the NFC North this preseason is how the Bears’ offensive line could be in major trouble after allowing nine sacks in their preseason debut. But look around – the rest of the division isn’t much better.

Minnesota Vikings
Forget the Bears – the Vikings are the current owners of the worst offensive line in the division, if not the entire league. Once a major strength, Minnesota’s O-line has fallen on hard times over the last couple of seasons. It was major liability last season and somehow it got much worse. Things started off on a bad note when Bryant McKinnie gained so much unhealthy weight during the lockout that the Vikings actually decided to release him just days before camp. Now they have a left tackle in Charlie Johnson who has been manhandled thus far and would probably be better suited to play inside at guard. Speaking of guard, Steve Hutchinson is a shell of his former self and rookie Chris DeGeare will start on the right side because of Anthony Herrera’s injury issues. In the middle, John Sullivan lacks power and remains one of the least productive centers in the league. Good luck this year, Adrian Peterson.

Chicago Bears
Anyone who saw the Bills rack up nine sacks on the Bears last week is well aware of Chicago’s offensive line issues. The good news is that the Bears got Frank Omiyale out of the starting lineup. The bad news is that J’Marcus Webb will be counted on to protect Jay Cutler’s blindside after struggling as a rookie at right tackle last season. At the other tackle position, the Bears had to draft Gabe Carimi in the first round this year after moving Chris Williams (a 2008 first round selection) to left guard. If the team had better options, Williams would probably have been cut already. The most reliable member of Chicago’s O-line is Roberto Garza, but he’s now playing out of position at center after Olin Kreutz signed with the Saints. Mike Tice is a solid offensive line coach but he has his work cut out for him this season. The unit actually started to gel mid-way through the 2010 season but if Chicago’s first preseason game was any indication, it could be a long season for Cutler and Co. The Bears better hope Webb and Carimi develop fast.

Detroit Lions
GM Martin Mayhew deserves plenty of kudos for the way he has slowly rebuilt the Lions’ roster over the last few years. But it would have been more comforting to Detroit fans had he paid more attention to the O-line this offseason. The Lions return five starters from a year ago but they’re not in as good of shape as one would think. Left tackle Jeff Backus has a partially torn pectoral muscle and will likely miss plenty of practice time as he rehabs the injury. At the other tackle position, Gosder Cherilus is coming off microfracture surgery and while he is practicing, the Lions are taking it slow with the former first rounder. Inside, the Lions are actually in decent shape assuming Stephen Peterman’s foot has healed. Rob Sims was a huge pickup from the Seahawks last season and has solidified what has been a big problem area for the Lions over the years. At center, Dominic Railoa is aging and undersized, but the team could do worse. The biggest problem areas are at the tackle positions, which doesn’t bode well for quarterback Matthew Stafford’s health.

Green Bay Packers
This is the lone exception in the division. Once a major concern thanks in large part to injuries, the Packers’ O-line is now a top-5 unit. Losing Daryn Colledge (Cardinals) hurt, but GM Ted Thompson found a gem in Derek Sherrod, who fell into Green Bay’s laps at the bottom of the first round. Josh Sitton continues to be one of the most underrated right guards in the league and RT Bryan Bulaga looks like he could make major strides in his second year. Barring injuries to the starters, Aaron Rodgers won’t have to worry about eating turf like he did in 2009.

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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What exactly is Osi Umenyiora’s game plan?

Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman is hit by New York Giants Osi Umenyiora during second half of their NFL football game in Landover, Maryland January 2, 2011. The Giants failed to make the playoffs due to the Green Bay Packers victory over the Chicago Bears. REUTERS/Molly Riley (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Are Braylon Edwards and Osi Umenyiora in a competition to see which one could destroy his own value more? Because if so, there’s some major sister-kissing going on, although Umenyiora is threatening to take the lead.

Umenyiora, who is pissed at the Giants for not giving him a new contract or trading him to a team that will, is now claiming that he is sitting out of practice due to a sore knee. But the story gets better because according to the Wall Street Journal, the injury may require surgery.

Something tells me that if Umenyiora was traded to Seattle on Monday, his knee would be strong enough for him to do flips in training camp. But because he’s stuck in New York and those good-for-nothing Giants have the audacity to ask him to play out the remainder of his contract, all of a sudden his knee is bothering him.

Either way, what he or his representatives don’t realize is that they’re sinking his trade value. He thinks he’s hurting the Giants with this stunt, but he’s actually hurting his overall goal, which is to be traded so that he can land a long-term contract.

The Giants are cap-strapped right now. Whether they promised to pay Umenyiora like a top-5 defensive end or not is rather moot because they can’t pay him due to lack of cap room. Period, end of story.

If Umenyiora wants to hold out in order to force the Giants’ hand in hopes that they’ll reduce their asking price of a first round pick, so be it. But the bottom line is that a) the Giants aren’t going to pay him more money because they can‘t, b) no team wanted him at the price of a first round pick and c) no team is going to want him period if he has to have surgery. Thus, if the goal for Umenyiora is to receive a long-term contract, faking a knee injury isn’t helping. In fact, it’s rather detrimental to his overall cause.

If the Giants promised Umenyiora more money and they’re now reneging, then shame on them. But clearly no agreement was in writing and once again, the Giants can’t pay him because of they’re salary cap situation. So the smartest thing for Umenyiora to do is to avoid taking a shotgun to his own value. He has to remain attractive to other teams and the only way to do that is to stay healthy. Plus, the fact that the Giants don’t have any cap room is actually a bonus for Umenyiora because they may ultimately feel they need to trade him to free up money. (It’s not like they need the defensive end depth.)

Umenyiora would benefit from going back to the drawing board and coming up with a new game plan. Because as the situation currently stands, he’s working backwards from his main goal.

Braylon Edwards is single-handedly destroying is own value

New York Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards celebrates after he caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Mark Sanchez in the first half of their National Football League game against the Atlanta Falcons in East Rutherford, New Jersey, December 20, 2009. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Braylon Edwards is 6’3” and 214 pounds, he’s only 28 and has been to one Pro Bowl after racking up 80 receptions for 1,2890 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2007.

Given those factoids, the current free agent should be in camp right now after signing a multi-year contract with one of the many wide receiver-needy teams in the NFL. But because he continues to prove that a career in football isn’t among his top priorities, he remains in NFL purgatory. And given this latest incident, he may be there a while.

According to the Birmingham Eccentric, Edwards could end up facing legal trouble for his role in a fight that broke out at a bar in Michigan over the weekend. Apparently two members of his entourage assaulted bar employees with knives and forks and while Edwards wasn’t arrested, two of his cousins have been charged with felonious assault. The bar also claims that Edwards was involved and may have been an instigator.

That sound you just heard was the incineration of any multi-year deal that Edwards was hoping to land this offseason.

Now, let me cover my basis and be diplomatic for a second. Edwards wasn’t arrested, nor was he charged with committing a crime. And in this country, you’re thankfully innocent until proven guilty. Thus, Edwards is innocent at the moment.

But this is also the same man who is already on probation in Cleveland after he reportedly punched a local party promoter in the face outside of a nightclub in 2009. In September of last year, Edwards was also arrested on a drunken driving charge in New York, so there’s a history here. At this point, he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt from anyone.

Teams were already concerned about his stone hands and his questionable desire. If he winds up being suspended because of this latest incident, Edwards will be lucky to accept a one-year deal at the veteran minimum. In fact, even if he isn’t charged with anything, this incident may be enough for teams to avoid him completely.

I think it’s telling that the Jets were more willing to sign Plaxico Burress, who is five years older and is fresh out of prison, than Edwards this offseason.

Update: Edwards has signed a one-year deal with the 49ers, but the contract is only for $1 million. He will receive $3.5 million if he catches 90 passes and makes the Pro Bowl.

Again, considering he’s only 28 and has a Pro Bowl under his belt, $1 million is chump change. He done screwed up.

A-Rod in trouble for playing in illegal, underground poker games?

New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez (13) comes up to bat against the Los Angeles at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California on June 5, 2011. The Yankees won 5-3. UPI/Lori Shepler.

According to ESPNNewYork.com, Major League Baseball is looking into the allegations that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez took part in illegal, underground poker games.

“We’re talking to people involved in the investigation and we’re taking this very seriously,” said an MLB executive who spoke to ESPNNewYork.com on condition of anonymity. “Because he had been warned about this before, I would say a possible suspension would be very much in play.”

The allegations, first published by RadarOnline.com, are that the New York Yankees third baseman played in at least two of the games, one of which took place at the Beverly Hills mansion of a record executive at which “cocaine was openly used and a fight nearly broke out when one of the players refused to pay after losing “more than a half-million dollars.”

According to the story, details of which were reportedly provided by another player at the games, Rodriguez “tried to distance himself from the game,” once the violence broke out.

“He just shook his head, not knowing what the hell happened,” the whistle-blower revealed. “He didn’t want to deal with it at all. He was like, ‘OK, whatever. It’s your game.’ I would estimate A-Rod lost, like, a few thousand dollars that night. After everything that happened, he paid up and left.”

In 2005, Rodriguez had been warned about gambling in underground poker clubs by the Yankees and by baseball commissioner Bud Selig, both of whom were concerned that possible involvement with gamblers who might be betting on baseball games could result in a Pete Rose-type lifetime ban from baseball.

Let me get this straight, Major League Baseball turned a blind eye to steroid use for over a decade but a player participates in a poker game and the league is taking the situation “very seriously?” What, if the league can’t make money off the situation then it’s ready to jump into action? Come on.

Look, I don’t condone drug use and seeing as how A-Rod was warned by the Yankees and MLB not to participate in these games, he’s subject to punishment. But this situation seems rather hypocritical in my eyes. Players probably gamble all the time in the clubhouse or on road trips, but because A-Rod was gambling in someone’s house now it’s a problem? If the league is so worried about a Pete Rose effect, then why doesn’t it ban all forms of gambling? Go Big Brother on everyone. (And really, poker? They’re in a tizzy about a poker game? Get real.)

Again, Rodriguez had been warned so if he obeyed the people that sign his checks, then he should be punished. But it would be ridiculous if MLB made a huge deal out of this and suspended him for an inordinate amount of games. Besides, had the U.S. government not shut down all of the online poker sites a few months ago, A-Rod could have played in the comforts of his own home.

Just say’in.

Five potential landing spots for Giants DE Osi Umenyiora

New York Giants Osi Umenyiora reacts on the bench in the second half against the New York Jets in week 1 of the NFL Preseason at The New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on August 16, 2010. UPI /John Angelillo

At the start of the week, the Giants gave Osi Umenyiora permission to seek a trade but have since reneged on their decision. That has reportedly left the defensive end “fuming,” so it’s unclear what the next step is in this ongoing drama.

But if he is eventually traded, here are five potential landing spots for Umenyiora, and why they may or may not be a fit for the 29-year-old.

1. Seattle Seahawks
ESPN’s John Clayton has already reported that Umenyiora wants to go to Seattle, so maybe if the Giants came down from their asking price of a first-round pick then he’ll get his wish. Perhaps the biggest weakness on Seattle’s defense is its cornerbacks, so it would be wise for Pistol Pete to load up on pass-rushers. That said, linebacker is a potential weakness as well so much like the Rams, the Hawks may not want to part with a future pick in order to address a position that’s not a huge need.

2. Denver Broncos
The Broncos won’t, nor should, give up a first round pick to acquire Umenyiora. They’re a rebuilding team and rebuilding teams don’t need to part with first round picks in exchange for soon-to-be 30-year-old defensive ends (even when they’re as good as Umenyiora). That said, if the Broncos could acquire him for a third round selection (I’m not saying they could), he would certainly be worth the price. Denver doesn’t know how quickly Elvis Dumervil will make an impact after missing all of 2010 with a pectoral injury and former first round pick Robert Ayers may not develop like the Broncos hope. There’s no doubt that Denver’s defense could use Umenyiora (what defense couldn’t?), but at what price?

3. St. Louis Rams
The Rams are the most logical fit for Umenyiora because his former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is the head coach. Under Spagnuolo’s guidance in 2007, Umenyiora racked up 13 sacks and a career-high five forced fumbles as the Giants went on to ruin the Patriots’ undefeated season. The problem is that the Rams have already invested first round selections in Chris Long and Robert Quinn, and James Hall is coming off an 11-sack season. While teams can never have too many quality pass-rushers, the Rams might not be willing to sacrifice a second or third-round pick to acquire Umenyiora when they have more pressing needs to address (i.e. defensive tackle).

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