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Volume 6, Issue 90 (Sunday, July 17th)

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Tonight's update brought to you by:
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Hi Folks, can you feel it? It's Training Camp. And it's right around the corner. Things will start heating up here and we'll be right here for you. Thanks to our Mike Brown for rounding up these stories tonight - let's get to it.

Joe Bryant


INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1. IND - RB James Evades Camp Questions
2. CLE - WR Edwards' Status Uncertain As Preseason Camp Looms
3. CAR - WR Smith Ready To Re-emerge
4. CLE - Browns Have Depth, Talent In Backfield>
5. JAC - Jaguars Would Have Offered a 2 For Henry; Unlikely To Pursue Another RB
6. TEN - RB Henry Trade Likely Signals the End For RB George
7. CLE - Browns Working On TE Winslow Contract
8. CHI - Which Wideout Will Catch On As #2?
9. CIN - WR Johnson Happy With Contract…For Now
10. IDP: NE - CB Law Says Return To Patriots Is a Possibility

1. IND - RB James Evades Camp Questions

Clipped from: Indianapolis Star article by Mike Chappell 7/17/05

The burning question: Will the Indianapolis Colts' career rushing leader be in Terre Haute on July 27 when the team reports to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology for the start of training camp?

"I'm supposed to be," James said, deftly avoiding a definitive answer. "But really, I don't feel like talkin' right now.

"I'll talk to y'all when I come to camp."

On July 27?

James smiled, nodded his head and walked toward a locker room at the RCA Dome.

He has remained under the radar since the Colts named him their "franchise" player Feb. 22, a move that greatly limited his options on the league's veteran free-agent market. The team allowed his new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to seek trade offers, but none was secured and James signed the one-year, $8.1 million guaranteed contract in mid-March.

Displeased with the lack of a long-term contract offer from the Colts, James boycotted the team's mandatory three-day minicamp and did not participate in its voluntary four-week summer school. He has spent the summer working out at the University of Miami.

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

This situation needs to be monitored, obviously, because James is a top-5 pick at worst in just about every fantasy setup. James clearly isn't happy in Indianapolis at this point, and is making it known in no uncertain terms. Problem is, with no more open RB spots around the league, James doesn't have much leverage. If he held out, it would simply be a situation where he wants to let everyone know how unhappy he is. Outside of getting extra reps with the offense, it probably wouldn't make much difference to the team as a whole, and the distraction of not having him there would likely annoy the other players more than James. We still expect James to be there at some point during camp and the Colts to continue to feature one of the league's best offenses.

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2. CLE - WR Edwards' Status Uncertain As Preseason Camp Looms

Clipped from: Cleveland Plain Dealer article by Tony Grossi 7//17/05

Brace yourself for a Braylon Edwards holdout.

Maybe not a long one. But the agent for the Michigan receiver said the chances of Edwards getting signed in time for the start of Browns rookie orientation on July 24 "is not likely." Full team practices start on July 29. Agent Lamont Smith said he sent the Browns a contract proposal in early June and the team has not responded.

"We have not heard from them in probably about four weeks," Smith said. Smith said he began the negotiating process early to avoid Edwards missing any camp time. Trip MacCracken, Browns salary cap coordinator, had a few talks with Smith, but apparently he was not authorized to continue them while the bulk of the football operations department left for vacation. Everyone returns Monday. "Do I think it's helpful? No," Smith said of the interruption of negotiations. "I wanted to avoid this."

Contract negotiations for top drafted rookies will be a problem league wide this year because the league has not been able to negotiate an extension of the collective bargaining agreement. Without an extension, rookie contracts can only run through five years. That means signing bonuses can be prorated for only five years for salary cap purposes, as opposed to the normal six or seven.

"We did manage to give a proposal for five years," Smith said. "The only way you can get it done is by talking."

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

With Kellen Winslow out of the mix for 2005, one would think Cleveland would be doing all it can to get Braylon Edwards signed, sealed, and delivered in time for training camp. That doesn't appear to be the case, however, which hinders Edwards' development throughout the preseason. With rumors of a possible Andre Davis trade, the Browns need to get something done with Edwards fairly quickly if they wish to have any semblance of a passing game this year.

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3. CAR - WR Smith Ready To Re-emerge

Clipped from: Dallas Morning News article by Rick Gosselin 7/17/05

Steve Smith had a breakout season in 2003, leading the Panthers with 80 catches for 1,110 yards. He had an even greater impact in the playoffs, posting 100-yard games against Dallas and St. Louis and also catching a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl against the Patriots. But Smith was injured in the 2004 season opener against Green Bay on a horse-collar tackle by Hannibal Navies.

Muhsin Muhammad stepped up in his absence to win an NFL receiving title, but Muhammad left for Chicago in free agency this off-season. The Panthers expect Smith to give Jake Delhomme bigger plays down the field with his 4.3-second 40-yard speed - if he has indeed recovered from his knee injury. He looked healthy in the minicamps.

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

We see Smith making a solid return to game action this year, with upside potential for much more. He is, after all, stepping back into the role which saw him snare 88 receptions for 1,110 yards and 7 touchdowns just two seasons ago. The Panther running game may hold the key to the passing game, as they will be relied upon to open holes and take some pressure off of Jake Delhomme and company. If Smith can prove in the preseason that his explosiveness is back, and he's 100% recovered from his leg injury, there's no reason to expect him to drop off much from his 2003 season.

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4. CLE - Browns Have Depth, Talent In Backfield

Clipped from: ClevelandBrowns.com article by Jeff Walcoff 7/17/05

If there's one position to be excited about on the revamped Cleveland Browns, it's probably the offensive backfield.

While the other side of the ball tackles the trials of adjusting to a totally new scheme, the offense can rely on a stable of running backs - probably the deepest position group on the team.

"There might not be enough carries available for three guys to share," Lee Suggs said. Third-year back Suggs, who ended the '04 season with 744 yards and three-consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, joins Reuben Droughns and William Green as the three backs to which Suggs alludes.

Droughns, acquired in a trade with Denver on March 30, rushed for 1,240 yards last season, including six 100-yard performances in his first year as a running back. The six-year veteran spent the first five years of his career as a fullback itching to get the ball.

"When I signed a contract to play fullback, (I sometimes thought), 'Was I ever going to get a chance to (be a tailback),' Droughns said. "When the opportunity came up, I was like a kid in a candy store again.

"You never think you're going to get an opportunity after you've been in the league so many years playing a certain position. You don't think later in your career, you're going to change positions all the sudden."

With big years in '04 from Suggs and Droughns, Green has turned into the forgotten man on the unit. But the player that helped lead the Browns to the 2002 playoffs has not waned in his desire to help the franchise that has stuck with him through the rough moments in his career.

"William Green has been here every day. I mean, every day," head coach Romeo Crennel said. "He's worked extremely hard. He has improved himself physically. He's stronger and in better condition. I think he'll be competitive when we get to training camp. He'll be in the mix."

"I have something to prove," Droughns said. "I feel like I haven't done anything until I left the Denver system and do it for the Browns now. I want something to come out of this."

Suggs added, "There's going to be a lot of competition in camp. Every time you go out there - every practice - you're going to have to play well or you'll fall back."

Even if the balance of carries ends up greatly favoring one back, the Browns will have the luxury of insurance from injury - something many positions on the team have lacked during recent seasons.

Behind each proven back is another with the ability to garner yardage when given sufficient carries. The only questions will be if Suggs can stay healthy for an entire season, if Droughns can prove his performance in '04 wasn't a fluke and if Green can provide the consistency necessary to be successful in the NFL.

"I told Lee, 'We want [all] of you guys to contribute,'" Browns general manager Phil Savage said. "That is the beauty of what Romeo and our organization are trying to put together - a team-first mentality."

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

Sure, the Cleveland backfield has some talented runners. Then again, Droughns may very well have been a product of Denver, Suggs can't stay on the field, and Green is a wildcard. Add in that the Cleveland passing game is scaring no one, and you have the makings of a mediocre RBBC situation entering the season. While it's entirely possible that one guy grabs the job and runs with it, it's just as likely that all three players do just enough to make not a single one of them very valuable in a fantasy setup.

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5. JAC - Jaguars Would Have Offered a 2 For Henry; Unlikely To Pursue Another RB

Clipped from: Times-Union article by Bart Hubbuch 7/17/05

ESPN.com also reported that Buffalo would send Henry to the Titans for a third-round draft pick. The network said trade papers already have been forwarded to the NFL and that the deal is likely to be completed early next week.

That was news to the Jaguars, who already had worked out a long-term contract extension with Henry and -- like the Titans -- were offering the Bills a third-round pick. The Jaguars even were willing to up that offer to a second-round choice but could not do so because the Bills did not return their phone calls Saturday.

Bills president Tom Donahoe was unavailable for comment Saturday and Jaguars senior vice president Paul Vance declined comment.

The sudden turn of events convinced the Jaguars that they will not be able to acquire Henry and leaves them without a proven backup to starter Fred Taylor, whose availability for the start of the regular season is in question because of major knee surgery last January.

Now that Henry is out of the picture, the Jaguars are unlikely to pursue another veteran runner and now intend to proceed with backups LaBrandon Toefield, Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala and Alvin Pearman until Taylor returns to health.

Henry's agent, Hadley Engelhard, said Saturday that Henry was surprised by the sudden trade to Tennessee after weeks of speculation that the Jaguars -- who are close to Henry's hometown of Frostproof -- were the favorite to land his services.

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

The Bills have botched this trade negotiation from the very beginning, starting with the pre-draft trade talks with the Arizona Cardinals. Now comes word that they dealt Henry away for less than they could have gotten, and that can't sit well with the fans. The Titans situation, as we reported to you yesterday, is an interesting scenario heading into camp. Hopefully, the team will settle on one back at a time so that the two players (Henry and incumbent starter Chris Brown) don't take value away from one another. Best-case scenario has Brown opening as the starter, and then if (when?) he gets injured, Henry takes over full-time. No one wants to see a RBBC between two potential 1,000-yard rushers.

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6. TEN - RB Henry Trade Likely Signals the End For RB George

Travis Henry's arrival also probably closes the door on Eddie George, the all-time leading rusher for the Titans who had hoped to re-sign with his former team after playing last season for the Cowboys.

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

That's twice in three weeks that we've reported on the likely demise of Eddie George, and no stories to the contrary. Even if he does sign on with someone (not likely), he won't make a fantasy impact this year.

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7. CLE - Browns Working On TE Winslow Contract

Clipped from: Beacon Journal article by Terry Pluto 7/17/05

The Browns are beginning to work on dealing with Kellen Winslow Jr.'s contract. He was supposed to receive $2 million Friday, but they have declined to pay it.

The $2 million bonus was tied to Winslow being on the active roster.

Because of his motorcycle accident, Winslow is out for this season with reconstructive knee surgery.

The Browns already have paid him about $6 million, and he has played a grand total of two games. No one blames Winslow for breaking a leg trying to recover an onside kick in the second game of 2004.

But his motorcycle accident this spring was a violation of his contract, which clearly states that he's not to ride a motorcycle.

Some fans have wanted Winslow cut. Others have insisted that the Browns try to get back some of the money already paid Winslow as part of his signing bonus.

The Browns are formulating a plan to take the middle road. They are not going after old money. Some experts think that the Browns could ask Winslow to give back up to $5 million, but that would probably lead to a long legal dispute.

As one NFL executive told me: ``You only do that if you plan to get rid of the player. Otherwise, you work a compromise.''

That seems to be the Browns' approach. Let him keep his money, but there is no reason to reward Winslow with more bonus money for violating his contract -- and hurting the team.

Winslow also has some cash in salaries for each year through 2009.

The Browns have decided that they want to see how Winslow reacts. Will the young tight end be dedicated to his rehabilitation? Will he remain close to the team while he can't play? Will he buy into the new discipline brought by coach Romeo Crennel?

Finally, how will he come back from the knee surgery? Remember, this is the same right leg that he broke in 2004. Winslow is a speed player, so how will these injuries impact his performance?

It might seem the odds are against Winslow making a full recovery, but he won't turn 22 until July 21. He has been shaken by the accident, and the Browns say that early indications are Winslow has been showing up and working hard. They see no reason to cut ties so soon. Maybe he will learn something from this, as young athletes sometimes do.

At one point, Winslow was considered a terrific prospect. The Browns don't want to just cut him, watch him heal and then play well for another team. At this point, they wisely realize that they are heavily invested in Winslow, so why not be patient and see how it develops?

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

Giving credit where it's due - The Browns are being very smart with this situation. They know that Winslow, despite his injuries, has the opportunity to still become a dynamic playmaker in the NFL. While they certainly deserve to recoup a large portion of the money from Winslow, they are wisely not taking it all away from Winslow. Before people get up in arms about why it'd be a good idea to appease someone who has basically wrecked their season, keep in mind that the talent Winslow possesses is rare indeed. If they do intend to keep him (and it appears they do) this is the right course. The Browns knew what kind of player and person they were getting when they drafted him, so you can't blame them for wanting to eventually see a return on their investment. While he won't see the field in '05, this may be the perfect chance for dynasty guys to grab him for a fraction of what his value may be down the road.

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8. CHI - Which Wideout Will Catch On As #2?

Clipped from: BearReport.com article by Michael Nudo 7/16/05

The acquisition of Muhsin Muhammad provides Ron Turner's offense with a go-to receiver, and the kind of stability that will aid Rex Grossman in what Bear fans hope will be his first full season as a Bear. What happens at the other starting wide receiver position is still a mystery, clouded with question marks. Quite often, wide receivers start to emerge in their second and third seasons. The Bears are loaded with young players looking to break out.

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

This article mentions all of the possible candidates for the Bears' #2 job, specifically Justin Gage, Bobby Wade, Bernard Berrian, and Mark Bradley. Of the four, Gage is the favorite to win the job and actually has good physical tools to work with.

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9. CIN - WR Johnson Happy With Contract…For Now

Clipped from: Dayton Daily News article by Chick Ludwig 7/17/05

Chad Johnson, who became a client of high-profile agent Drew Rosenhaus in the off-season, tells the Bengals media that everything is cool with the $10 million signing bonus he received as part of a $25 million extension he signed in 2003 that will keep him in Cincinnati through 2009.

Then he turns around and tells Jeff Rickard of Sporting News Radio he can envision a situation that would cause him to hold out in the future.

"When you're outperforming what you're making, why not be able to go out and ask for more when they can let you go for not performing to their standards?", Johnson said.

Johnson will be in training camp when players report on July 28. But all bets are off for 2006.

Know this: Rosenhaus doesn't get paid his three percent commission from Johnson until a new contract gets done. It's doubtful that Drew and Chad can wait until 2010 for that to happen.

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

This isn't a concern for redraft owners, and is only a minor blip on the radar for the dynasty guys. It's not even a story at this point, because things can change from hour-to-hour in the NFL, let alone year-to-year. Hopefully, Johnson won't make noise about this during the season, because we like the Bengals' chances for offensive success in 2005. By the way, Johnson is absolutely correct about the way "the system" is run. A lot of fans complain about players who hold out or complain about contracts, yet those same fans don't blink when a longtime veteran with a long-term contract is cut and the team fails to honor the deal.

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10. IDP: NE - CB Law Says Return To Patriots Is Still a Possibility

Clipped from: Boston Herald article by Mike Reiss 7/16/05

In an ESPN radio interview yesterday, cornerback Ty Law hinted that a return to the Patriots is a possibility, and said he has spoken with Bill Belichick, who has called Law directly. He didn't address reports that he reached a deal with the Chiefs.

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

It could be that Law actually is contemplating a return to the Patriots. Here are the two possible scenarios: A) Law is using the Patriots as leverage, almost as a threat to those that want to sign him. If one of the teams in desperate need of a cornerback (especially an AFC team) sees that he may return to Foxboro, that may make them more likely to amp up discussions (and money). B) Law hasn't gotten any offers that are all that financially lucrative, so all things being equal, why not go back to New England? We expect someone to outbid New England for Law's services, and we'll be sure to let you know as soon as they do.

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

J

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