Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Extra Points: Giants, Davis, Bucs, Clabo

Giants linebackers coach Jim Herrmann believes the team may have stumbled on a true gem with fifth-round pick Devon Kennard, writes Howie Kussay of the New York Post. “I liked him on film, obviously our college scouting liked him on film,” Herrmann said. “He played at USC and he played under four different coordinators, and played four different positions, so I think he kind of got lost in the college shuffle a little bit there.” More from around the NFL..

  • Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters, including Charean Williams of the Star-Telegram (on Twitter), that a lot of the team’s “dramatic” offseason decisions freed up money that the club can use to hammer out extensions with Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant. It’s likely that Jones is referring to the situation with Kyle Orton that ended with his release earlier this month
  • According to a report from WUSA 9, former Redskins tight end Fred Davis is wanted by D.C. police for a domestic violence incident. It’s just the latest in a string of troubles for the former NFL notable who was suspended indefinitely for substance abuse and charged with a DUI over the winter.
  • Bucs GM Jason Licht says he will keep five running backs on the roster if they can help win games, tweets Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. Licht added that the team is excited about Bobby Rainey. There has been speculation that the 26-year-old, who was picked up off waivers in October of last year, was on the bubble heading into the season.
  • After Tyson Clabo was signed by the Texans, the best available right tackles in the NFL are David Stewart, Eric Winston, Tony Pashos, Jonathan Scott, Dennis Roland, and Jeremy Trueblood, opines Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • Bears GM Phil Emery was highly complimentary of new backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen, according to Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter). “That’s as good of a quarterback workout we’ve seen since I’ve been here,” the GM said of the former Notre Dame QB’s June tryout.
  • The Bears put veteran tight end Travis Beckum and journeyman offensive lineman Thomas Austin through tryouts Wednesday, a source told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Beckum, 27, has been looking to find a home in the league after suffering a torn ACL in the Giants in their Super Bowl XLVI victory following the 2011 season. Austin has played eight games in the NFL with one start, spending time with the Colts last season. Unfortunately for both men, Biggs gets the sense that it’s unlikely either will get contract offers from Chicago.
  • Scott Brown of ESPN.com (on Twitter) is glad to see center Fernando Velasco catch on with the Panthers after the way he stepped up for the Steelers last season in the absence of Maurkice Pouncey. The 29-year-old was graded as Pittsburgh’s fourth-best lineman by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) in 2013.
  • The deal for new Lions wide receiver Reese Wiggins is a minimum salary deal for three years with nothing guaranteed and no bonuses, according to Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Minor Moves: Saints, Rams, Browns, Bills

The NFL’s transactions wire is picking up as we approach the end of July, with notable players like Joel Dreessen and Larry English involved in roster moves today. Several teams have finalized a series of more under-the-radar moves as well, which we’ll round up right here:

  • The Buccaneers have signed linebacker Jeremy Grable and offensive tackle J.B. Shugarts, according to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune (on Twitter). To help make room for the duo, the Bucs released cornerback D.J. Moore.
  • Former Ravens linebacker Adrian Hamilton has signed with the Chargers, according to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego (on Twitter).
  • The Saints have signed nose tackle Tyrone Ezell and linebacker Marcus Thompson, clearing roster spots for the new additions by cutting nose tackle Moses McCray and waiving outside linebacker Cheta Ozougwu with a failed physical designation. The team has the details on its newest signees in a press release.
  • The Rams completed a series of roster moves today, signing four players – linebacker Pat Schiller, linebacker Lawrence Wilson, offensive tackle D.J. Morrell, and offensive tackle R.J. Dill – and cutting four others — offensive lineman Abasi Salimu, wideout Dionte Spencer, linebacker Caleb McSurdy, and linebacker Tavarius Wilson (Twitter links via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com).
  • A day after being cut by the Chargers, center Nick McDonald has been claimed off waivers by the Browns, tweets Brian McIntyre. Cleveland had an opening on its 90-man roster, so no corresponding move is necessary to make room for the offensive lineman.
  • One linebacker has been swapped for another in Buffalo, where the Bills signed Western Kentucky product Xavius Boyd to a contract after having waived-injured Darrin Kitchens, who is dealing with a lower body injury (Twitter links via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com).
  • The Texans have waived fullback Brad Smelley and defensive end Tim Jackson, and also signed tight end Chris Coyle, according to Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter links). As ESPN.com’s Adam Caplan tweets, Jackson received the “failure to disclose physical condition” designation when he was cut.
  • That “failure to disclose physical condition” designation is rarely used, but linebacker Billy Boyko also received it when he was waived by the Panthers, according to Caplan (Twitter link).
  • Caplan also tweets that former Broncos safety Eric Hagg has officially been placed on the team’s reserve/retired list. We heard yesterday that Hagg had decided to retire.

NFC Links: Giants, Bucs, Eagles, Mathieu

After rounding up a few odds and ends from out of the AFC earlier today, let’s shift our focus to the league’s other conference, and check out the latest from around the NFC….

NFC Notes: Austin, Wilson, Conte

Tavon Austin did not provide the degree of immediate impact the Rams were hoping for when they chose him eighth overall last year. In an AP story, Austin was bluntly honest about why he didn’t play as fast as he’s capable: he struggled with the complexities of his first NFL playbook. “I didn’t really know what was going on,” Austin said. “Everything looked like Spanish and sounded like Spanish to me.”

Here’s some NFC links:

Extra Points: Dunbar, Bengals, McKnight, Bucs

Two central ideas are evident in the NFL as teams enter training camp, John Clayton of ESPN.com writes. First, offensive units are trying to run more plays per game than ever before. Perhaps due to the influence of Chip Kelly, Clayton can envision at least a half-dozen teams running over 70 plays per game next season. On defense, teams will have to react to the news that the league plans to call more pass defense penalties. Clubs like the Seahawks and the Patriots, who emphasize physicality in the secondary, might have to tone it down in order to avoid the ire of officials.

  • Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar was arrested and charged with battery and disorderly conduct after an incident at a Miami nightclub on Sunday, reports CBS Miami. Dunbar, an undrafted free agent in 2008, missed the first four games of the 2013 season after being suspended for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
  • LakKendrick Ross, an undrafted free agent out Virginia-Lynchburg, will work out for the Bengals on Monday, according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post (Twitter link). Ross was eligible for the supplemental draft, but was not selected.
  • Chiefs running back Joe McKnight had an offseason knee scope and is still recovering, tweets Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star.
  • The Buccaneers are pinning their hopes on a veteran, journeyman quarterback in Josh McCown, writes Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, and history shows that isn’t the best decision. An ideal scenario entails McCown continuing his late-career revival à la Rich Gannon, continues Stroud.
  • Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times runs through the Seahawks’ 2013 draft class, and examines what each player drafted last year can contribute in 2014.
  • There are 10 players who will be crucial to the Bears’ success in 2014, opines Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times, who lists Lance Briggs, Jared Allen, and Jordan Mills in that camp.

Sunday Roundup: Mauga, Peppers, AFC North

More and more beat writers are providing season previews, roster breakdowns, position battles, etc. as training opens (for one team, at least) in just a few hours. So let’s have a look at some links from around the league:

NFC Notes: Finley, Graham, Giants, Bucs

Free agent tight end Jermichael Finley met with Packers team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie today to go over his most recent MRI scans and to talk about where he stands medically as he continues his effort to resume his NFL career, writes ESPNWisconsin.com’s Jason Wilde. A source told Wilde that there was nothing imminent between Finley and the Packers, but the team continues to monitor his health situation. Another source said that the Packers will have interest in signing Finley if Dr. McKenzie gives it the green light. More from the NFC..

  • Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk has the full contract details on Jimmy Graham‘s new pact with the Saints. While many NFL contracts have inflated numbers, Graham really will earn $10MM per year over four years if he plays out the full deal. Graham’s signing bonus is $12 million and his total guarantee is $20.9MM. Graham would get $21MM if he only plays two years of the deal and $30MM if he plays three years of the deal.
  • The Giants doled out more than $100MM in player contracts this offseason. Owner John Mara says we shouldn’t get used to it. “It’s not going to happen every year,” Mara said, according to Ebenezer Samuel of the Daily News. “We’re not going to have that kind of cap room every year. And listen: If you’re that aggressive every year, there’s something wrong with your organization. But you have to do it every once in awhile.”
  • Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com plays fact or fiction with the Buccaneers‘ offense. First up: Is Josh McCown a good enough quarterback to take the Bucs to the playoffs? Yasinskas says yes, but not necessarily out of confidence in the veteran. The former Bears QB doesn’t have to be spectacular for the Bucs to get to the playoffs, he argues, but merely steady.

NFC Notes: Revis, 49ers, Graham, Cowboys

Cutting Darrelle Revis wasn’t easy for Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith, as Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com writes. “It was not an easy decision because Darrelle’s a great player. But he’s not the only great player in the league. We just felt like we needed, instead of having one great player we thought we could get three. Instead of having one real good player, we felt like we could get three real good players,” Smith said. More out of the NFC..

  • A source tells Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com (on Twitter) that former UNC linebacker Darius Lipford had a good workout for the 49ers today but he was not signed. Lipford was one of four players in this year’s supplemental draft.
  • Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap gives his thoughts on the impact of Jimmy Graham‘s contract with the Saints. While the four-year, $40MM is the largest ever given to a tight end, the three-year cash flows indicate that this deal won’t necessarily be a game changer. With a backloaded deal, Graham’s contract isn’t as far ahead of the contracts given to Rob Gronkowski or Vernon Davis.
  • Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com wonders if Graham’s new deal will set the baseline for Cowboys star receiver Dez Bryant. Even though Bryant and Graham (officially, now) play different positions, their numbers have been rather similar over the last three years, so a comp would make some sense. There are currently seven wide receivers earning an average annual value of at least $10MM: Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, and Vincent Jackson.

Poll: Impact Free Agents

279 free agents changed teams this past offseason, but some will have more of an impact than others, writes Nathan Janke of ESPN.com. Jahnke has highlighted five players who have a chance to come in and immediately transform their team.

His top five are Branden Albert (Dolphins), Jairus Byrd (Saints), Eric Decker (Jets), Michael Johnson (Buccaneers), and Karlos Dansby (Browns).

The list seems to be missing key contributors at first glance, as big name players such as Darrelle Revis (Patriots), DeMarcus Ware (Broncos), Aqib Talib (Broncos), and Julius Peppers (Packers) fail to garner even a mention. When looking at impactful free agent pickups, even Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Giants) and Hakeem Nicks (Colts) could have been considered, as both have a chance to come in and prove their worth immediately.

However Jahnke justifies his selections by pointing out how each of the five teams he highlighted struggled in 2013, and how these five free agents were brought in specifically to turn that particular need around quickly. His reasoning pairs a statistic the team was at the bottom of the league in, with a free agent was near the top:

  • The Dolphins, for example, had a mess at left tackle with Jonathan Martin and Bryant McKinnie on the field, creating a revolving door for pass rushers to fly through. Albert ranks third in the NFL in pressures allowed per game since 2011.
  • Byrd was brought in to turn around a Saints defense that led the league in passing yards allowed by the safeties. Byrd’s specialty is eliminating plays of more than ten yards over the middle of the field, and turning the mistakes in that area into interceptions.
  • Decker was the fifth-best receiver in the NFL in terms of yards accumulated on passes 20 yards or deeper down the field. The Jets quarterbacks were last in the league in passer rating when targeting receivers in 2013.
  • Johnson is fourth in the league in pressures as a right defensive end since the beginning of the 2012 season. The Buccaneers defensive ends have missed more than twice as many tackles than the NFL average for the position.
  • The Browns were third worst in the NFL in passer rating allowed by inside linebackers in 2013, and dead last in yards after catch allowed. Dansby led the league in passes defended at the position the past two season.

Jahnke ranks them in that order, but there are other free agents to consider as well. Every team hopes the players they sign in the offseason will be able to close up the biggest weaknesses on their roster, and not all of them can live up to expectations.

Extra Points: Graham, Jones, Cowboys

Earlier today, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk got his hands on testimony from the Jimmy Graham franchise-tag grievance hearing. One of the more interesting highlights: former Buccaneers special assistant to the head coach Butch Davis said that the team’s draft strategy in 2012 was fueled directly by a desire to stop Graham. “We took [safety] Mark Barron in the first round simply because of Jimmy Graham,” Davis said of the team’s decision with the eighth overall pick that year. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, the Saints have gone 4-0 against the Bucs since then. Here’s more from around the league..

  • In former Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones, it’s clear that the Colts got the type of player and personality that they’ve been looking for, writes Kevin Bowen of Colts.com. Indianapolis pried Jones away from Baltimore this offseason with a five-year, $33MM deal that includes $10MM in guaranteed money.
  • Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com looks back to see what could have been for the Cowboys had they gambled on certain players. For example, if they put in a higher bid in the 2012 supplemental draft, they could have won top prize Josh Gordon, who is suspended for the 2014 season. The Cowboys would also look rather different if they went with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in this year’s draft. While both athletes are talented, right now it seems like the Cowboys were better off steering clear of both of them.
  • Brandon George of the Dallas News writes that the Cowboys have depth but very little experience at the left defensive end spot.