Extra Points: Options, Bucs, Ravens, Panthers

The new CBA could hinder the availability of elite talent on the free agent market, writes John Clayton of ESPN.com. With long-term contract prices exceedingly high, teams will look to use the fifth-year option on many 2011 first-round-picks who would’ve been free agents after the upcoming season. Players like Cam Newton, Von Miller, and A.J. Green will likely have their options picked up by their respective teams, followed by progressive talks towards long-term deals. Compounding the situation is the fact that the top seven picks of the 2010 draft have contracts that do not expire until after the 2015 season. Because teams will have to conserve cap space to hammer out inevitable extensions for star-level players, mediocre free agents may have to be willing to sign for less money than might be expected.

More NFL notes to close out your weekend:

  • The Buccaneers plan to draft a quarterback, but in what round is still a question, says Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. Johnny Manziel remains a possibility if he slips to pick No. 7, as Bucs coach Lovie Smith noted: “I had time to watch quite a few games, and I had a chance to watch him — a lot. So you add all that up.”
  • Boise State offensive lineman Matt Paradis, who worked out for the Patriots on Wednesday, recently visited with the Broncos, according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post.
  • The Ravens have improved this offseason, but their offensive line (particularly left guard and right tackle) is still in flux, writes Greg Bedard of the MMQB.com.
  • The Panthers receiving corps and offensive line are both listed among Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness’ list of offensive units that took a step back this offseason (via ESPN insider – subscription required). Carolina lost pass-catchers Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Ted Ginn, while their offensive line suffered the retirement of Jordan Gross and is still awaiting the decision of Travelle Wharton.
  • On the Over the Cap podcast (audio link), Jason Fitzgerald stated that he believes the Chiefs will extend quarterback Alex Smith this summer. Signing Smith, whose contract expires after the upcoming season, would lower his cap figure and allow the team more cap space, enabling them to negotiate new deals for young players like Justin Houston.
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