|Monday, June 09, 2014 8:00 PM|
Browns sign OL Alex Parsons, K Jake Rogers
CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns have signed free agent offensive lineman Alex Parsons and kicker/punter Jake Rogers.
Parsons spent two seasons on Oakland's practice squad after the Raiders signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He appeared in all 16 games in 2012, opening the season as the team's starting center. The 6-4, 301-pounder was waived during final roster cuts last year.
Parsons started 21 consecutive games at right guard as a junior and senior at Southern California.
Rogers, who kicked in college at Cincinnati, originally signed with New Orleans as an undrafted free agent in 2011. He spent time with the Saints, Tampa Bay, Dallas, the Giants and Washington but has not appeared in an NFL regular-season game.
He appeared in four preseason games with Tampa Bay in 2011.
The Browns open a 3-day mandatory minicamp today.
Patriots QB Brady trying to improve on last season
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — In packed stadiums, Tom Brady had one of his worst statistical seasons.
Behind the scenes, he's working hard to have a better one.
And, more importantly, carry the New England Patriots further — to the Super Bowl — than they went last season.
Brady has heard coach Bill Belichick stress throughout their 14 full seasons together "that whatever matters to you as an individual, it's far distant from what the team goals are," the quarterback said Monday.
Achieving those goals is a year-round pursuit with intense offseason preparation setting the stage for the regular season.
"What you're trying to establish this time of year is what kind of team you're going to be," Brady said during the Patriots third week of organized team activities. "Who's willing to put it all on the line when there's really no glory in this. There's no glory in an OTA practice. There's no glory in the weight room or out there on the conditioning field but it'll show up at some point.
"It's a long season, so, at some point, the mental toughness, the discipline of the team always shows up and those are the things that we're trying to work on."
Last season, Brady was 17th in the NFL in passer rating, 21st in completion percentage, 22nd in average gain per pass attempt and 11th in touchdown passes.
Of course, Wes Welker left before the season for the Denver Broncos, Aaron Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder last summer and Rob Gronkowski was limited by injury to seven games.
The Patriots' leading returning receiver was Julian Edelman and he had just 21 catches in 2012. He followed that with 105 receptions in a breakout season but the rest of the receiving group suffered from injuries and inexperience.
The only significant addition to the group is Brandon LaFell, who had a career-high 49 catches in his fourth NFL season last year with Carolina.
Receivers Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins are entering their second season with the Patriots. Brady is starting his 15th and wants to play as long as possible.
The Patriots won their fifth straight AFC East title last season and 10th in the past 11.
But Brady was outplayed by Peyton Manning in the AFC championship game.
Denver won 26-16 as the Patriots made it nine straight seasons without a Super Bowl title.
The offseason intensity increases next week with a 3-day minicamp followed by training camp next month.
For Brady, there's no time to waste.
Steelers sign rookie WR Bryant to 4-year deal
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers and fourth-round draft pick Martavis Bryant have agreed to terms on a 4-year contract.
Financial details were not disclosed. The Steelers selected the 6-4 wide receiver out of Clemson with the 118th overall pick in the draft. Bryant caught 61 passes for 1,354 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Tigers. His career average of 22.2 yards per reception is a Football Bowl Subdivision record.
The Steelers expect Bryant to compete with second-year wideout Markus Wheaton and veteran Lance Moore for playing time alongside Pro Bowler Antonio Brown.
Pittsburgh has signed seven of its nine draft picks. Second-round pick Stephon Tuitt and third-round choice Dri Archer have yet to agree to terms.
Cardinals re-sign C Estes, release G Johnson
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals have re-signed center John Estes and released guard Christian Johnson.
The Cardinals had signed Estes on March 4, then released him on May 12. He has appeared in two games for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Hawaii in 2010. He sat out the 2010 and 2012 seasons due to injury.
Titans going young to replace Pro Bowl cornerback
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee had one Pro Bowl player last season — Alterraun Verner — and lost the cornerback to Tampa Bay in free agency. The Titans are looking to replace him with someone from inside their locker room.
With Verner's departure, Coty Sensabaugh is rotating with Blidi Wreh-Wilson between the cornerback spot opposite Jason McCourty and as the fifth defensive back in passing situations. Tommie Campbell also is working in as well as he returns from a season-ending shoulder injury, so new coach Ken Whisenhunt and his assistants can get a feel for what all they all can do.
To McCourty, it's just part of the cycle of life in the NFL. He said he and Verner seized their opportunities when Cortland Finnegan left via free agency and now it's happening with the competition to replace Verner.
McCourty joked that there won't be any pressure replacing the 5-10 Verner who wasn't "that fast." But Verner not only earned his first Pro Bowl nod, he led the Titans with a career-best five interceptions in 2013, tying him for fifth in the NFL. Verner also defended 26 passes, the most by a defender since this team became the Titans in 1999.
But this time last year, Verner was competing to keep his starting job. He alternated with Campbell during the offseason and into training camp before being told he would remain the starter. Both Sensabaugh and Wreh-Wilson, then a rookie, watched how Verner handled the competition and are trying to take the same mentality themselves this year.
A third-round draft pick out of Connecticut last year, Wreh-Wilson is taller and heavier at 6-1 and 198 pounds. He played 13 games as a rookie and got some playing time as the extra defensive back. In addition to size and range, Wreh-Wilson can play a variety of techniques whether pressing a receiver or giving him some space.
Sensabaugh has the edge in experience in this battle, which likely will go into August before any final decisions.
A fourth-round pick out of Clemson in 2012, the native of Kingsport, Tennessee is 5-11 and 187 pounds. Sensabaugh has six career starts and played 14 games last season as the nickel cornerback, or fifth defensive back, with three starts and two recovered fumbles before a season-ending foot injury. He got onto the field with McCourty and Verner as a rookie.
Healthy Branch trying to fit into revamped defense
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Tyvon Branch has gone from being one of the most experienced members of the Oakland Raiders defense to one of the unproven ones after missing almost an entire season with an injury.
An injection of tested veterans with Super Bowl experience led to the change a year after Branch was one of just two returning defensive starters.
Branch went down with a broken leg in the second game of the season in 2013 and never returned, leaving a big void on a thin defense that was exposed throughout the year.
Branch is once again healthy this offseason and trying to fit into a revamped defense that was overhauled in free agency.
Branch's absence forced Brandian Ross to take a starting role last season and contributed to Oakland allowing the second-most points per game (28.3) in franchise history while staggering to a second straight 4-win season.
Branch hoped to return late last season but was not fully recovered, so the team didn't rush him back.
Now Branch gets a chance to show he can be an impact player. He showed flashes of that since entering the NFL in 2008 but has yet to generate the game-changing plays the Raiders believe he is capable of from his strong safety spot.
Despite having the size and speed that could make him a top safety, Branch has struggled to make big plays in the NFL. He has just four interceptions, seven sacks, 24 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in 72 career games.
But he was usually a sure tackler and his presence will allow free safety Charles Woodson to roam the field more than he did a year ago when he spent most of his time in the deep middle of the field to cover any mistakes made in front of him.
Branch is one of the few players drafted by late owner Al Davis who is being counted on as a foundation piece in the rebuilding effort by Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie.
McKenzie signed defensive linemen Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith and cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers, giving the defense five potential new starters who all have played in the Super Bowl.
Te'o back practicing with Chargers teammates
SAN DIEGO — Manti Te'o is back practicing with the San Diego Chargers instead of working on a side field.
"It's way better than running gassers, that's for sure," the inside linebacker said Monday, when the Chargers started their third and final week of organized team activities, which are practices in shorts, jerseys and helmets.
Until Monday, Te'o had been working on a side field with other players recovering from injuries. He had surgery on his right foot in late January.
His rookie season got off to a slow start after he injured his foot in the exhibition opener. At the time, the team announced it was a sprain but after the season, Te'o reported it was a stress fracture.
Asked to what extent the injury bothered him last year, he replied: "Every NFL player, you are never fully healthy. You just make sure you are able to do what you got to do on Sundays and I was able to do what I was able to do and now I'm looking forward to this year with a year under my belt and it will be good."
After missing the first three regular-season games, Te'o started the final 14 games, plus the two playoff games. He was credited with 93 tackles in the regular season.
Tight end Antonio Gates hasn't been at the practices that have been open to the media.
McCoy wouldn't say if the absence was medical related.
Jaguars G Linder signs 4-year rookie contract
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Rookie guard Brandon Linder, a third-round draft pick from Miami, has signed a 4-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Linder signed the deal Monday. It's worth a little more than $2.7 million and includes a signing bonus around $530,000.
With Linder under contract, the Jaguars have three remaining rookies unsigned: quarterback Blake Bortles (first-round pick) and second-round receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson.
Linder was a 4-year starter for the Hurricanes. The Jaguars drafted him to compete for a starting job at right guard along with Jacques McClendon and Drew Nowak.
Linder is part of the team's offensive line overhaul, which included signing left guard Zane Beadles in free agency and finding a replacement for retired center Brad Meester.
The Jaguars also signed rookie receiver Brandon Wimberly and waived offensive tackle DeMarcus Love.
The move came Monday, four days after the team was awarded receiver Kevin Smith off waivers from Arizona.
Jacksonville needed depth at the position since seven receivers are sidelined with injuries during organized team activities. Cecil Shorts III (calf), Ace Sanders (thigh), Tandon Doss (calf), Mike Brown (groin), Marqise Lee (ankle), Allen Robinson (hamstring) and Lamaar Thomas (knee) are out, leaving the team with four healthy receivers last week.
Developmental league has support, no launch plan
NEW YORK — When Troy Vincent mentioned in April the NFL's interest in establishing a developmental league, he couldn't have imagined the response it would get.
"I got more than 100 proposals," he said with a laugh. "I think that shows it is worth a look."
And that is what it will get, although the NFL has no timetable for establishing such a league.
Why is it likely to get off the ground? Vincent, who recently became the NFL's head of football operations, cites a bunch of reasons, from training coaches and officials to finding players to testing rules.
"It would be an opportunity to enhance our game on many levels, to develop the future, preserve and innovate the game," he said.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin would like to see it happen.
"I'm in favor of anything that increases opportunities for guys to grow and develop," Tomlin said, "and ultimately improve the product of our game for our fans, particularly at some positions."
Notably, quarterback. Tomlin is well aware of how former Super Bowl QBs Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme were helped by their time in the minors.
Tomlin is right that the NFL relies on the college game for developing the skills of potential pro players. That won't change but, as the number of undrafted free agents who populate NFL rosters shows — 31.4 percent in 2014 — there are hundreds of players who would benefit from having a place to showcase themselves if the NFL doesn't come calling.
Not since NFL Europe disappeared in 2007 has there been an NFL-affiliated place where players could go to prove themselves worthy of a look by one of the league's 32 teams. Same thing for officials and coaches.
"That's what NFL Europe was intended to be, a developmental league," said Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, a former head coach in the NFL. "I thought it was great for coaches, I thought it was great for players, I thought it was great for officials. It wasn't my money they were spending on it but I always thought the time was worth it. "
There are dozens of questions accompanying any project: When and where would the league play games? How many teams would be in a developmental league? Who would play and coach? Would television be interested?
Marc Ganis, president of SportsCorp, a Chicago-based consulting firm, has a strong relationship with many team owners. He envisions a league being established for spring play, with all of the teams supplying players they want to see more from.
"After the NFL season and before the training camps, say March to July," Ganis added. "It's an open time in the sports schedule. The colleges are done and the NBA and NHL playoffs wind down.
"A league in the fall is really tough. It is not like baseball, where teams can be calling up players every day from the minors. There would be lots of restrictions on player movement then."
This won't be an international venture, either. In fact, it probably would be done regionally, cutting down on travel costs.
Ganis says not to worry about TV interest.
"The networks have open time in the spring and it's an NFL product. There would be room on the networks for games on the weekend and on the cable outlets for weeknights," he explained. "There's really a dearth of major sports on the weekends then.
"I think you would see all the networks with cable channels — CBS, Fox, NBC and, of course, NFL Network — to be interested. And ESPN would likely want in on the mix, although they need it the least."
One major caveat would be the status of the players. Would they be NFL Players Association members? What sort of medical coverage would they have? What would their salaries be?
Former NFL general manager Phil Savage, who now is the executive director of the Senior Bowl, believes the league, the union and the American Football Coaches Association — the organization for college coaches — could work out a strategy that would lead to a developmental league by the end of the decade, perhaps much sooner.
Vincent, naturally, is in a position to help bring a league and an academy into existence.
"If it is something sustainable and it is good for the sport and we can make it work," Vincent added, "it's worth pursuing."