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Volume 6, Issue 71 (Tuesday, June 28th)

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Tonight's update brought to you by FANSTAR

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Hi Folks,

We're halfway through the week here. This is always a pretty slow time of the year for news but we're still working hard for you. Thanks to our Mark Wimer for rounding up these stories tonight. Let's get at it.

J


INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1. CIN: Rookie Signings Developing Slowly
2. JAX: QB Leftwich Facing Great Expectations This Season
3. NFC West: Key Issues on All 4 Teams (Commentary)
4. ARZ: RB Arrington to Share Time with Shipp? + TB, SD, CHI, WAS, NYG RB News
5. GB TE Bubba Franks: Holding Out of Training Camp? (Commentary)
6. CHI RB Benson Expected In Camp on Time by HC Smith
7. FA PK M. Gramatica Undergoes Abdominal Surgery
8. 6 NFLEL Players Who May "Make It" in the NFL
9. WAS/SF IDP: Shooting at LBs Arrington and Peterson's Party Under Investigation
10. IDP KC: CBs Ambrose, Law Still On Chief's Radar
11. IDP MIA: CB Law Probably Not Coming to Join Dolphins
12. Why University of Miami Grads Eschew Mini-Camps for South Florida

1. CIN: Rookie Signings Developing Slowly

Clipped from: Cincinnati Post article by Kevin Goheen, 6/28/05

The Bengals have been allotted a rookie salary cap pool of $3,461,880 for their seven draft choices. The rookie pool is the amount of money, in salary cap accounting dollars, teams can spend on their draft choices and is part of - not in addition to - the league's overall salary cap of $85.5 million per team for 2005.

The sooner a draft choice signs, the more of the rookie pool he can garner for himself. While first- and second-round picks will generally sign deals in length of greater than four years, those players taken in later rounds typically sign three-year contracts. Fanene was chosen with the 233rd overall selection this year and was the 19th player taken in the seventh round. New England gave defensive back Christian Morton a $22,000 signing bonus after taking Morton with the 233rd pick last year, while Minnesota tight end Jeff Dugan, the 19th pick in 2004's seventh round, agreed to a deal that included a signing bonus of $33,750.

Rookie contract negotiations, particularly for first- and second-rounders, will be affected this year due to the current status of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL players association. The league's collective bargaining agreement runs through the 2007 season but unless an extension is signed before February 2007, that final season will be an uncapped one for salaries. Simply put, without a new collective bargaining agreement owners will be able to spend whatever amount they want for players in 2007.

In past seasons, teams were able to pro-rate signing bonuses of contracts up to seven seasons but with the current collective bargaining agreement status those bonuses may only be pro-rated five seasons.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Contract negotiations are always a cumbersome process, so don't panic if one of your prized first-round rookies isn't signed by July 1. As this article points out, agreements could take as long as mid-late July to be finalized. Relax.

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2. JAX: QB Leftwich Facing Great Expectations This Season

Clipped from: Orlando Sentinel article by Shannon Shelton, 6/28/05

The hands on Byron Leftwich's NFL-quarterback growth clock are approaching the midnight hour.

When the alarm goes off, say, on Sept. 11 when the Jacksonville Jaguars open their 2005 season at home against Seattle, there will be little room for Leftwich to make the mistakes considered normal for a rookie or second-year quarterback. He will have crossed over to veteran territory, an area in which fans and coaching staffs expect near-flawless execution from their offensive leaders.

And with the team's new offense and a beefed-up receiving corps, Leftwich should have all the tools he needs for a breakout season this fall. Whether through media questions or directions from his coaches, Leftwich is reminded almost daily of this fact. A large portion of the team's success -- or failure -- for the upcoming season will rest on his shoulders.

No problem.

"My expectations for myself are higher than anything others put on me," said Leftwich, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft. "Nobody on this team allows outsiders to put pressure on us that we don't already put on ourselves."

Leftwich has been solid in his first two seasons. But overall offensive stagnation has been a problem. Under former coordinator Bill Musgrave's West Coast-style offense, the Jaguars never scored more than 28 points in a game in the past two seasons. The Jags were 21st in total offense and 29th in scoring offense last season.

Reviving the offense has been the Jaguars' main focus in the offseason. The Jaguars added a new offensive coordinator, former USC quarterbacks coach Carl Smith, who has installed a pass-heavy system that will rely heavily on Leftwich's arm. In the 2005 draft, the team added Matt Jones, a quarterback-turned receiver from Arkansas, to add to a corps of receivers that contains Jimmy Smith, Troy Edwards and second-year pros Reggie Williams and Ernest Wilford.

"That's going to make me look good," Leftwich said, smiling. "There's no such thing as too many wide receivers. You can never have enough."

His performances in the team's recent organized-team activities have showed promise. During a June 17 workout, Leftwich was 27 of 32 with two drops. Coaches say his mechanics improved, resulting in quicker and more decisive decisions.

"It's been great to have him embrace the offense the way he has," Jags Coach Jack Del Rio said. "On a personal level, his footwork and mechanics and the strength he's earned in the weight room has shown out here on the field."

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Leftwich is a maturing NFL prospect who has yet to "break out" - right now, he's languishing at 16th on Footballguys.com new constantly-updated QB rankings click here to view However, if he looks strong in this new offense once the pads come on and pre-season play begins, Leftwich could be poised to make a run up many draft boards. We'll see how Matt Jones and Reggie Williams develop during training camp - if the team has a viable #3 WR emerge from the youngsters, Leftwich could make some serious noise during 2005.

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3. NFC West: Key Issues on All 4 Teams (Commentary)

Clipped from: ProFootballWeekly.com article by Dan Arkush, 6/28/05

In Pro Football Weekly's continuing series of division-by-division pre-training-camp closeups - while the NFL remains closed down with June about to turn into July - it's my turn to take a look at the good and the bad issues that could have the biggest impact on each of the teams in the NFC West.

One could say there are a lot more "bads" than "goods" in what shapes up as the league's weakest division for the second straight year. But as we all know, a team's fortunes can change in a heartbeat in today's NFL, where the journey from the outhouse to the penthouse is often jet-propelled.

Without further ado, let's zoom in on the NFC West, for better or worse.

Arizona

Good: Cardinals receivers should enjoy greater flexibility in new coordinator Keith Rowen's offense.

Rowen, who most recently coached the tight ends in Kansas City's highly regarded offense, plans on moving Arizona's wideouts - the top three are Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Bryant Johnson - around much more than was done last season. Last year, opposing defenses could look at films of the Cardinals' offense and pretty much narrow it down to a couple of different plays on a regular basis. With a lot more formations and movement, a la the Colts, instilled this season, the hope is the Cardinals' receivers will be much more difficult to track down.

Arkush's take: This is definitely an upbeat situation for Fitzgerald and Boldin, both of whom were quite frustrated last year that they couldn't put up better numbers. It's an especially positive development for Boldin, who seemed miscast most of the time last season as a split end instead of playing the slot, where he excelled as a rookie. With Johnson providing a genuine deep threat and rookie J.J. Arrington looking like an intriguing target out of the backfield, Arizona's passing game just might end up passing for a legitimate NFL aerial attack - with Fitzgerald and Boldin becoming one of the league's most potent one-two punches, in no particular order.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Mr. Arkush presents an interesting encapsulation of each NFC West team's potential upsides and downsides. He's one of the best NFL writers in the land and the full article is definitely worth the read.

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4. ARZ: RB Arrington to Share Time with Shipp? + TB, SD, CHI, WAS, NYG RB News

Clipped from: NFL.com article by Adam Schefter, 6/27/05

With Arizona running back Marcel Shipp coming off a broken leg and Troy Hambrick skipping the team's "voluntary" minicamp, Cardinals rookie running back J.J. Arrington seized control of the starting running-back position. And even though Arrington is the heavy favorite to win the job, becoming the first Cardinals rookie to start at running back since Thomas Jones in 2000, he is not expected to be a workhorse.

The Cardinals envision their backfield looking like the one the Carolina Panthers fielded when Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster were healthy -- a one-two combination relying on Arrington's speed and Shipp's power. Arrington certainly has the speed.

In Indianapolis in February at the combine, Arrington turned in the fastest 40-yard dash time of any running back. Arrington outran Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams, and he has kept moving -- right into Arizona's starting lineup. Shipp still is limping from his broken leg, but once he's healthy, there are carries waiting for him.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Arrington may have to share some carries with Shipp, but we expect him to do very well in his chances as the starter. We currently project Arrington with 270/1080/8 rushing and 25/150/1 receiving, while Shipp figures to garner 75/300/2 rushing and 20/140/0 receiving in a part time role. Click here for all our projections click here

This article also includes material on Tampa's RB Cadillac Williams, San Diego's Darren Sproles; Chicago's Cedric Benson, Washington's Clinton Portis, and NYG's Tiki Barber.

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5. GB TE Bubba Franks: Holding Out of Training Camp? (Commentary)

Clipped from: Sporting News/Fox Sports article by Tom Silverstein, 6/27/05

Expect tight end Bubba Franks to play for the transition tag this year. The club refuses to meet his demands for a long-term contract and is more than willing to carry his $2 million base salary into the season. Franks might not report to training camp, but he'll find that G.M. Ted Thompson is not going to budge on his refusal to pay big money for Franks.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Franks has been very vocal about his desire for a long-term deal - the team doesn't seem interested in his asking price. See also the story at the end of tonight's update about University of Miami alumni and why they may prefer to train in South Florida (Franks is a University of Miami product).

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6. CHI RB Benson Expected In Camp on Time by HC Smith

Clipped from: Chicago Bears.com article by Larry Mayer, 6/28/05

"Cedric knows he's a big part of what we're going to do offensively and the way to get off to a good start is to be there at the start of training camp. He's been there for all of the minicamps. He hasn't missed a thing. He likes being a part of this team and I expect him to be on time."

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

This all sounds good. However, in the material that Adam Schefter reported on today (item 4 above), we read:

"It still will be a few weeks before the flurry of first-round pick signings commence, but one of the more difficult negotiations could be between running back Cedric Benson and the Chicago Bears. Benson was the No. 4 overall choice -- the same spot where San Diego drafted quarterback Philip Rivers the year before.

Quarterbacks always get more, and Benson and his representatives are going to want money comparable to Rivers. Plus, Benson's agent is Eugene Parker, who represented last year's No. 3 pick, Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald landed a blockbuster deal that averaged about $3 million per year.

Benson and the Bears haven't started talking yet, but they're going to have plenty to talk about before the Bears' Aug. 8 Hall of Fame game."

Contract negotiations for high picks are always a drawn-out process - hopefully Benson won't miss too much time (if any) from training camp. Rivers, of course, missed out on a lot of training camp and ended up buried on the San Diego bench behind a resurgent Drew Brees.

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7. FA PK M. Gramatica Undergoes Abdominal Surgery

Clipped from: ESPN.com News Services article, 6/28/05

Free agent kicker Martin Gramatica, still attempting to catch on with a team for 2005 and revive a once-promising career, has undergone surgery to repair two abdominal tears that apparently contributed to his poor performance over the past two seasons.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Gramatica was a shadow of his former kicking self the past couple of years - and now we know the rest of the story. We wish him good luck in his rehabilitation from this surgery.

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8. 6 NFLEL Players Who May "Make It" in the NFL

Clipped from: CBSSportsline.com article by Clark Judge, 6/27/05

The pros you failed to notice overseas earlier this month are the same guys making plays for your playoff-bound clubs in January. At last year's Super Bowl XXXIX, there were 15 alums, including New England kicker Adam Vinatieri, and before this spring there were 27 NFL Europe quarterbacks who started in the NFL, including Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme.

So the league is good for job placements. The only question is: Who are the best candidates? We're here with six of this year's most attractive, beginning with Berlin quarterback Dave Ragone.

1. Dave Ragone (Houston Texans), QB, Berlin. The league's offensive MVP, Ragone was accurate and productive -- completing a league-best 63 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions. But that's just the beginning: His streak of 174 attempts without an interception was an NFL-Europe record; he won seven of 10 starts; and he led the league with a 97.5 passer rating and 1,746 passing yards. Ragone never looked better than in the World Bowl where he completed 30 of 48 for 328 yards and came this close to completing a last-second comeback from a 24-7 deficit. He has an above-average arm and adequate mobility, but he doesn't have the slingshot of, say, his Texans' teammate David Carr. "He absolutely knows where he's going to go with the ball," said one AFC scout, "and he's going to beat you with timing." His poise in the pocket reminds you of another NFL Europe graduate, Jake Delhomme, and it may be as hard for Ragone to get a crack at starting in the NFL as it was for Delhomme, who sat for five years in New Orleans. "The flaw in this guy's game," said another scout, "is that he plays behind David Carr. He won't get a chance until he leaves Houston."

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

The other players that Judge discusses are WR Ruvell Martin (SD); RBs Joe Smith and Jarrett Payton (TEN); RB Jonathan Smith (KC); and LB Rich Scanlon (KC). Smith and Payton are especially likely candidates to stick with their club (TEN), given the lack of quality depth behind starter Chris Brown. The article is worth a read if you are working on a list of "deep sleepers" for early fantasy drafts.

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9. WAS/SF IDP: Shooting at LBs Arrington and Peterson's Party Under Investigation

Clipped from: AP article at SI.com, 6/18/05

Police are investigating the shooting of a security guard at a pool party hosted by NFL linebackers LaVar Arrington and Julian Peterson.

Investigators don't believe Arrington was near the spot where James Sidney was shot and injured, although the Washington Redskins player was present at the party, police spokesman Lt. Joseph Jordan said Tuesday. It was not clear whether Peterson was at the party Saturday night, Jordan said.

No one has been charged in the shooting and there are no suspects, Jordan said. "I had no involvement in the incident, and to my knowledge neither did any of the guests at the party," Arrington said in a statement. "I feel terrible about the injury to the guard, who was only doing his job, and pray he recovers quickly and fully."

James Sidney was shot when he intervened in a scuffle at the party, police said. He was flown to a hospital in Baltimore, where he was in serious but stable condition, Jordan said. A hospital spokeswoman said Sidney requested that no further information be released.

Arrington and Peterson, who plays for San Francisco, hosted the party along with a company called True Playaz Entertainment at a 18,000-square foot mansion they rented, according to Jordan.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

I'm sure there's a Sean Taylor / True Playaz line in there somewhere but it's not funny. These sorts of incidents are why coaching staffs cringe at the thought of the "summer break" between OTAs and training camp. Although at this point it looks like Arrington and Peterson are in the clear, we'll keep an eye out for you.

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10. IDP KC: CBs Ambrose, Law Still On Chief's Radar

Clipped from: Kansas City Star article by Elizabeth Merrill, 6/28/05

As week two of the Chiefs' search for a cornerback began Monday, Ashley Ambrose emerged as the realistic favorite, and Ty Law kept his spot somewhere high on the speed dial.

Coach Dick Vermeil said Monday night that the Chiefs are "very interested" in Ambrose, a 13-year veteran who worked out in Kansas City late last week. The holdup, at least in part, is Law, the Pro Bowl corner who visited the Chiefs in March and is still on the market.

The Chiefs want Law if he will sign for a dramatically reduced price. But Law, who just began making cuts on his surgically repaired foot, reportedly wants big money.

"The thought is to play the whole scenario out," Vermeil said, "and the scenario does include a final evaluation of Ty Law in terms of what is actually going to happen from a financial standpoint.

"First off, can he pass the physical? And then we have to find out how much money he's going to be offered on the open market. If he's going to be offered big money, then we're automatically out of it."

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

The Chiefs are notoriously tough negotiators when it comes to contracts, so they'll play a game of wait-and-see with Law, who is currently about 85% recovered from his surgery (as we reported in this space last night).

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11. IDP MIA: CB Law Probably Not Coming to Join Dolphins

Clipped from: Miami Herald article by Staff, 6/28/05

Former Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law indicated the Dolphins would like to have him visit a second time but made it sound as if the chances of him playing for Miami were remote, at best.

''Now Miami wants me to come back and visit,'' Law said during an interview with Peter King of Sports Illustrated. ``But if you can't afford Patrick Surtain, how can you afford me?''

Surtain was dealt to Kansas City in April for a second-round draft pick in what was largely a salary-cap-driven deal for the Dolphins. In the case of Law, the Dolphins are hoping he will settle for a lesser, short-term contract with the goal of him becoming a free agent next offseason.

But Law is intent on getting the big contract now rather than having to wait.

``The Jets are interested. Kansas City called again. Tampa Bay faxed an offer. Indianapolis is in it. I got an offer, sight unseen for $2.5 million for one year. If I wasn't ready, I'd just take it. But I'm going to be ready to play, and that's not the kind of contract I should get.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Ty Law has always believed that he is one of the best CBs in the game - but expecting huge money when you are coming off a season away from the game and still rehabbing an injury seems unrealistic. It'll be awhile before Law signs with somebody at this rate.

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12. Why University of Miami Grads Eschew Mini-Camps for South Florida

Clipped from: Clipped from: SportsIllustrated/CNN.com article by Jeffri Chadiha, 6/28/05

Talk to enough former Hurricanes and they'll tell you, to a man, Miami is the place to be. They aren't merely discussing the gorgeous weather, electric nightlife and all those hotties strolling around in thong bikinis, either. They're talking about the attitude around the school's practice facilities when they all come together to work. You'd be hard pressed to find a more impressive workout program involving NFL players.

The names include established Pro Bowlers, rising stars and an assortment of first-round picks: Johnson, Colts running back Edgerrin James, Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss, Packers tight end Bubba Franks and last year's Defensive Player of the Year, Ravens safety Ed Reed,. And that's just for starters. If I had more space, I'd run down the entire list, but there are more important things to talk about.

First, there's the environment. It's not like there's anything special about the place itself. The weight room houses the same machinery you'll find in any other training facility. The blocking sleds and the tackling dummies are no different and the practice fields still measure 100 yards. But mix in all those players who are hungry to leave their mark on the NFL and everything changes.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Every year, Edgerrin James takes some heat for skipping parts of the Indianapolis Colts' mini-camps/OTAs - this article gives the reader some insight into why he may be choosing to do what he does. Ditto regarding Jeremy Shockey's decision to skip parts of the Giants' OTAs this year.

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That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great Wednesday and we'll see you tomorrow with the update.

J

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