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My Friday evening with some "insiders"...
I spent Friday night trying to pry as much info as possible from a trusted friend who is very well-connected. Several other people whose names you would recognize came by and shared a beer or two, including a mutual agent friend. Here's what I got:
-Adalius Thomas will be a 49er about 10 minutes after FA starts.
-Nate Clements is not enamored with SF and really wants to go home to Cleveland, but he will go wherever he gets paid the most.
-Baltimore is losing Tony Pashos, who will almost certainly wind up in Tennessee.
-Dre Bly is all but dealt to the Steelers, so long as he's convinced they're not dumping the 3-4. Detroit has allowed him to negotiate his own trade but also has given him veto power over deals too--class move by Matt Millen.
-Patrick Kerney to Seattle is very likely, he wants to stick with Mora.
-Charles Grant is ticked about being franchised and is probably going to not report for training camp in hopes of brokering a long-term deal and then a trade out of NO. The Lions were prepared to offer him $$ equal to the franchise tag, but for 4 years.
-Kevin Curtis will either be a Lion or a 49er, though it's believed he'll give the Rams the chance to match
-Tennessee is genuinely torn on what to do with Pacman. There's lots of pressure from around the league to cut him, but they are afraid to let him go for nothing. If he's found in violation of his probation, he's headed to prison for 6-9 months regardless of any additional charges, so their decision could be made for them. One popular rumor has them dealing Pacman for Randy Moss, but I'm assured that's just an off-the-cuff joke taken too seriously by some reporters.
-Cowboys are actively shopping Julius Jones but they want a player and not a pick in return, preferably a veteran S or CB. Cowboys are also looking to trade down in the draft and want players and not more picks.
-Carolina is going to cut Deshaun Foster for cap purposes, but they will not get rid of Lucas or Gamble or Mike Minter.
More on two teams in particular:
Charlie Frye will be their starting QB. They believe in his ability to lead and want to see what he can do behind a better OL and with a strong running game. That led to me questioning about Adrian Peterson, and I was told by both my friend and by a Browns beat writer that he's a lock pick unless Russell is somehow available. They will sign at least two OL in free agency and will take at least 2 OL in the draft (or one in the 2nd round). They really want both Kris Deilman and Derrick Dockery, because Joe Andruzzi's knee is shot, and they will "aggressively offer" them both big deals. They also will chase after Tully Banta Cain, but he's expected to wind up with the 49ers. I was told this is the Browns ideal draft board:
1st round--Adrian Peterson
2nd--Tony Ugoh or Levi Brown, in that order
3rd--Anthony Spencer or Victor Abiamiri
4th--Troy Smith (yes, it's pretty likely he'll still be there)
5th--Louis Leonard (DT, Fresno) or Jay Richardson (DT/DE, OSU)
6th--a CB with good size
7th--a OG/C from a small school like Andy Alleman or Aaron Danehuaer
The Browns interest in David Carr has waned, and they will not pay the asking price for either Jones brother, though none of the 3 people we talked with thought the Bears were going to deal Thomas Jones.
Ahman Green will be back, and the team is not nearly as high on Marshawn Lynch as all the draft pundits believe they are. They really like Lorenzo Booker or Antonio Pittman in the 2nd round. They are going to make every effort to sign Jerramy Stevens in FA. They will also chase Clements but don't expect to be able to afford him, though they also really like Nick Harper. Expect big things from Brady Poppinga, the Pack is real pleased with him and thinks he can break out as a coverage LB who alternates with Abdul Hodge.
I asked if they were going to load up for one last run with FaRVe next season, and I was surprised that a very prominent NFL insider (he's on ESPN) strongly believes FaRVe will play two more seasons. But yes, the Packers are indeed trying to tweak enough to challenge Chicago for the NFC North and make a playoff run. Expect their draft picks to all be NFL-ready guys from big programs and not workout warriors or late bloomers. I said that sounded like Leon Hall or Reggie Nelson in the 1st round, and I was told my thinking is very much in line with what they're trying to do.
Sat. morning update:
Levi Brown is shooting up draft boards. Very bright guy who wasn't afraid to demonstrate how he's capable of improving his game. The Dolphins and Falcons both spent a great deal of time and attention on him, and I think you're going to see most post-Combine mocks reflect that. He's running in about 20 minutes and says he'll run the top shuttle of any T. If he performs well today I can't see any way he's not a top 15 pick and could go as high as 5th.
Joe Staley to the Bears at #31 looks like a lock pick in the manner that everyone knew the Colts were taking Addai down there last year. Once Bears Gm Jerry Angelo finally got done talking about Lovie Smith (the Chicago press is relentless on that), he met personally with Staley and his agent for over 15 minutes.
No idea what they were talking about, but I saw Browns GM Phil Savage and Raiders owner Al Davis sharing a laugh and then talking intently for several minutes. I do know the Browns very much would like Jamarcus Russell, so maybe it's not a lock that Russell goes #1 to the Raiders, but perhaps the Browns.
Brady Quinn is not helping himself at all here. He's not working out and he was a pain in the keister to pretty much everyone who tried to interview him (including me). He appears to be crumbling under the scrutiny and all the attention to his drawbacks--which is precisely why so much negativity is directed at top prospects, to see how they handle it. He's trying to market himself as the most NFL-ready QB in the draft and a guy who can turn a loser into a winner, but he gets real whiny/defensive when his so-so performances in big games gets brought up.
I shook Ben Grubbs hand and I'm still waiting for my wrist to heal. Dude has some serious paw strength. He got a lot of attention from the Patriots and Falcons.
Calvin Johnson weighed in at 239 but looked real good. I've not heard one negative about this guy all weekend.
Michael Bush also looks real good. He's down to 242 but looks much more defined, esp. in his legs. He told me he weighed almost 270 after he got hurt, feeling sorry for himself. He played at about 255 but wants to stay under 245 in the NFL. Real nice guy, talked with me for about 10 minutes and actually remembered talking to me last fall. He believes he's going to be drafted in the 20s or possibly early 30s, and that his interviews with the Steelers, Browns, and Texans went very well.
Antonio Pittman has bulked up to 206, which is about 15 pounds higher than what he played at OSU. You can see the improved definition in his calfs and shoulders. He's touting his blocking and receiving abilities in interviews.
Anthony Gonzalez is another guy moving up draft boards. He claims he's going to run a 4.35 40 but to watch his 20 yard split, that he will be faster than everyone but JL Higgins on that. Gonzalez slighted Troy Smith's accuracy (unintentionally I think) when he talked about how he had to catch everything with hsi hands because the ball was never near his chest. When Browns beatie Jeff Schudel pulled him aside and pointed that out, Gonzalez immediately dispatched his agent staffer to find Smith and clear it up.
Higgins says he's probably not going to replicate his 4.18 40 time of last fall, but he'll be in the low 4.2s. He's touting his willingness to go across the middle and also his return abilities. His college Qb, Jordan Palmer, is quite tall but that's about all he's got going for him, that and his brother Carson.
I'll post more on free agent stuff and other scuttlebut I picked up last night sometime this evening. One tease: a very talented but oft-injured RB could be cut very soon...
Sat. evening update:
The linemen ran today, and Joe Thomas is the talk of the town. Ran a sub-5 40 and looked very agile in the 3-cone. There's no way he's not one of the first 2 picks.
Levi Brown on the other hand ran awful, 5.35 in the 40 with an awful 10-yard split. Really sapped his momentum he had been building. Now all those questions about the fire inside and translating it to the field become all the more legit.
Tony Ugoh ran a hair above a 5.0, but it looked like he was going to drop dead right afterwards. Justin Blalock ran a 5.1, which is real impressive for his build. Andy Alleman of Akron was a little faster; I believe he was the fastest G, though that's certainly not a guarantee of success at that position. Alleman had the bench reps record in hand until his hand slipped on the bar, I think he wound up at 38. Manuel Ramirez did 40 reps, and that guy is a physical monster.
One small-school guy who stood out was Alan Barber of MO Southern. Ran a 4.84, looked chiseled at 6'4", 301, did 29 reps, and has a definite chip on his shoulder about being a small-school guy (that's a good thing). Probably a OG in the NFL, but he's got the build to add 20-30 pounds with no problem. The Cowboys and Raiders both seemed real interested.
Everyone is also gaga over Greg Olsen's 40 time, but the 4.47 being widely reported is actually not his official time--it's 4.54. Still real good, though the knock on him is that he can't catch with his hands, so all the speed in the world won't help his status much. He's still no more than a mid-2nd rounder IMO.
Ryan Kalil weighed in almost 20 pounds heavier than at USC but it's all muscle. His previous best reps was 21, and he put up 34 today. He's not as physical or as quick laterally as Nick Mangold, but other than that they equate very well. Probably jumped into the top 40 picks.
Gaines Adams slimmed down some. He actually answered my question to him in his press conference, when I asked him if he'd be happy playing DE in a 3-4.