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Volume 6, Issue 96 (Saturday, July 23rd)

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Hi Folks,

Funny note that I thought I'd relay to you. I'm in Hilton Head, South Carolina tonight and supposedly on vacation. The house we're renting didn't have the promised internet connectability (long story, don't ask) so at 10:30 pm armed with my laptop and a sketchy list of wi-fi hot spots, I set out looking for a connection and here I am. "Here" is the very crowded and very hopping bar of the Mellow Mushroom Pizza Kitchen. If I ever needed confirmation that I'd taken this football geekiness to a questionably unhealthy level, sitting in the corner of this bar with 200 people partying while I hammer on the Email Update pretty much settled it. Oh well. They say facing reality is the first step…

Thanks to our Aaron Rudnicki for rounding up these stories tonight. I hope you have a great Sunday. Let's get to it.

Joe Bryant


INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1. PHI - WR Owens Will Report To Camp
2. GB - Still No Contract Agreement For TE Bubba Franks
3. CIN: OT Willie Anderson Had Microfracture Surgery
4. CLE - Position Review: Tight Ends
5. CHI - Bears Prepare To Open Training Camp
6. IDP: NO - Saints Release LB Derrick Rodgers
7. IDP: WAS - FS Sean Taylor Will Be In Camp
8. IDP: DAL - SS Roy Williams Expects More Big Plays
9. IDP: GB - Packers Position Review: Defensive Line

1. PHI - WR Owens Will Report To Camp

Clipped from: ESPN.com news services, 7/23/05

Terrell Owens apparently will be at Eagles camp after all.

A day after hinting that he would agree to a trade because of a contract dispute, Owens told the Philadelphia Inquirer he would report to training camp on Aug. 1 at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

The controversial wide receiver told the newspaper he remains unhappy with his seven-year, $49 million contract and that he wouldn't mind being traded.

"I'll be there," Owens told the Inquirer on Friday. "I mean, the bottom line is that I still believe I deserve a new contract. I still believe I deserve more than what they've given me. But I'm not stupid. I'm not about to miss training camp, get fined every day and give them even more reasons to keep from paying me.

"I'll be there but I won't be happy, I can tell you that much. Take from that whatever you want," he said.

However, Drew Rosenhaus, Owens' agent, said Friday in a taping for ESPN's NFL Live that the report in the Philadelphia Inquirer which quotes Owens as saying he would attend training camp "is not definitive."

Rosenhaus told The Associated Press that he hopes to work out a fair-market deal for his client. "We hope it's something we can work out with the Philadelphia Eagles," Rosenhaus told The Associated Press, adding he had talked recently with the Eagles. "If it's something we can work out with another team, that is not something we are opposed to."

He acknowledged that the Eagles have told him they aren't interested in trading the receiver. "We have not received permission to seek a trade," Rosenhaus said.

Rosenhaus said earlier this week that Owens was "50-50" about reporting to training camp and no decision would be made until the start of camp.

"If we were dealing with somebody who was looking at this logically and was going to come to a commonsense conclusion, you'd say [he would report]," Banner said. "But you're dealing with two people here who, frankly, don't think in common-sense terms. Anything can happen. They're not going to necessarily do what makes sense."

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

This continues to be a real life soap opera, but it has to be a good sign that Owens says he is willing to report to training camp, regardless of what his agent says. Things here seem to change from day to day so you can never be too sure, but as long as Owens is in camp on time he has to be considered one of the top-3 fantasy WRs. The chances of him getting traded seem to be pretty low at the moment.

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2. GB - Still No Contract Agreement For TE Bubba Franks

Clipped from: AP article posted by Ohio.com, 7/23/05

Tight end Bubba Franks and the Green Bay Packers haven't reached a contract agreement, making it unlikely he will be able to report for training camp Wednesday, his agent said Friday.

"I guess you can never tell until the 11th hour," agent Gene Mato said. "But unfortunately, it doesn't look like he's going to be there. However, he really wants to be there. To this point, I don't believe the team has stepped up."

The Packers designated Franks as a transition player to keep him off the unrestricted free-agent market in February. He had until Friday to negotiate with other teams, with the Packers retaining the right to match any offer.

Mato said several teams called in the course of the signing period, but nothing substantive developed.

Franks signed a five-year contract as a rookie for $6.45 million and it expired after last season. The Packers count the transition pay level of $2.095 million against their salary cap for him.

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

While things may not look great for Franks right now, these things often have a way of getting worked out soon after camp opens. He's a valuable piece of the Packers offense given his blocking ability and the losses experienced on the offensive line this offseason. Franks could also potentially play a bigger role in the passing game this year if the Javon Walker situation lingers, so it is in the team's best interest to get a deal worked out sooner rather than later.

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3. CIN: OT Willie Anderson Had Microfracture Surgery

Clipped from: ESPN.com article by Len Pasquarelli, 7/22/05

Now we know why Cincinnati Bengals officials have adopted such a wait-and-see attitude in regard to the fat contract extension being sought by right offensive tackle Willie Anderson, who has two years remaining on his current deal. Turns out Anderson, one of my favorite players, didn't just have your garden variety offseason arthroscopic knee surgery to repair torn cartilage. He had so-called "microfracture" surgery on his right knee.

So what's the big deal? Well, though the success rate of the "microfracture" procedure has increased substantially the past few years, results remain somewhat spotty. Anderson, 30, is entering his 10th season with the Bengals, did not work on the field at all in preseason, and there are suspicions he will not be cleared to practice at the outset of training camp.

A real warrior, and a guy who gutted it through much of last season on the knee when he really had a legitimate excuse to just shut things down early, Anderson has never quite garnered the recognition he deserves. That's, in part, because he played largely on bad Bengals teams. Now that Cincinnati seems poised for better things, here's hoping Anderson is around long enough to reap the rewards of his perseverance. Team officials feel that he will be, and that Anderson's streak of 80 consecutive regular-season starts will be extended, but they are going to remain wary until they see him back out on the field again.

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

This is an important piece of information that seems to have been kept pretty quiet this offseason. Anderson is the anchor of the Bengals offensive line and if he has any kind of setback from this, the Bengals offense could have some trouble living up to the high expectations many have for them this year. We'll continue to monitor this situation once training camp starts and keep you informed of any updates.

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4. CLE - Position Review: Tight Ends

Clipped from: ClevelandBrowns.com article by Jeff Walcoff, 7/23/05

For the second consecutive season, the Browns will find out if it's possible to miss what they didn't have in the first place.

Kellen Winslow had season-ending knee surgery in June after a May 1 motorcycle accident. With one of the league's most promising young talents on the sidelines for another year, the Browns once again must rely on backups to do the job at tight end.

Fortunately for the Browns, those backups did a great job of proving their capabilities last season - and being called backups probably doesn't please them after their performance.

Steve Heiden and Aaron Shea will anchor the Browns tight end corps in '05 after combining for 54 receptions, 539 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2004.

"I know (Kellen) would love to be here," Shea said. "But I'm looking forward to (our) challenge...the rest of the tight ends. Last year was a building block. We can build from last year. I'm expecting bigger things this year. This is a tight end-friendly offense and I'm hoping to catch a lot of balls.

"We have to show (offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon) we can do it. If you can go out there and catch the ball and run some good routes, Trent (Dilfer) likes throwing the ball to tight ends."

Heiden especially took advantage of Winslow's absence in 2004, marking career highs in receptions (28), receiving yards (287) and touchdowns (five), including three scores in one game at Cincinnati on Nov. 28. Shea's '04 season also was not worth dismissing. After three consecutive injury-ridden seasons, he posted a career-high four touchdowns with 26 receptions for 252 yards - his highest totals since his rookie season of 2000.

While their production and work ethic are unquestioned, doubts remain as to whether Heiden and Shea could attract the attention from a defense that a player like Winslow would. While 54 receptions is certainly productive for a group of NFL tight ends, Winslow's effect extends beyond the position into the secondary, where coverage schemes to slow Winslow could open up passing opportunities for wideouts. This prospect could take a big hit once again with the loss of Winslow.

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

The Browns TEs could represent solid value again this year as long as one of them emerges as the primary target. Last year, Heiden finished with 41 targets but wound up as the #16 ranked fantasy TE thanks to a 3 TD performance against the Bengals. Meanwhile, Shea finished with 45 targets but wound up as the #22 TE. Both have decent receiving ability, but given that they are likely to be used in a committee approach and we know very little about the new Browns offense, they should not be drafted too early.

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5. CHI - Bears Prepare To Open Training Camp Without Benson

Clipped from: Northwest Herald article by Nick Hut, 7/23/05

With players set to report to training camp today in advance of Sunday afternoon's season-opening practice, the Bears' backfield is the biggest question mark.

Rookie tailback Cedric Benson has not yet agreed to a contract amid reports the Bears have been preparing for a multi-day holdout.

Benson's agent, Eugene Parker, might not strike a deal until quarterback Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall pick, establishes a salary range by signing with San Francisco. Smith is not expected to come to terms before the 49ers open camp Thursday.

"We are expecting [Benson] to be in camp," general manager Jerry Angelo said. "We feel very good that our offer is one that should get it done."

With Benson out, the Bears still would have 2004 starter Thomas Jones to carry the ball. The situation at fullback is less settled.

Starter Bryan Johnson and top reserve Jason McKie are out with injuries. Johnson is on the physically unable-to-perform list with the broken right foot he suffered last December, and McKie is on the non-football-injury list after tearing a pectoral muscle in the weight room late last month.

The Bears hope Johnson will be back for one of the early exhibition games, but McKie will be out until October at the earliest and could miss the season.

Keith Belton is the top fullback until Johnson returns. The Bears on Friday signed seven-year veteran Marc Edwards, who played the last two seasons with Jacksonville, to provide depth.

Rookie wide receiver Airese Currie, a fifth-round pick, has a stress fracture in his left foot. He could end up sitting out the season, because the Bears already have a full complement of receivers with Muhsin Muhammad, Justin Gage, Bernard Berrian, Mark Bradley, Bobby Wade and Eddie Berlin.

Tight end Desmond Clark is out with the sprained right ankle that sidelined him for off-season practices. Clark also missed the majority of the preseason last year.

Second-year cornerback Alfonso Marshall continues his rehabilitation from the torn right knee ligament he suffered last season. The Bears hope Marshall will challenge to be the fourth cornerback after the release of R.W. McQuarters.

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

The Bears appear to have made little progress in their negotiations with 1st round pick Cedric Benson, which could help Thomas Jones get an edge in the battle for the starting job early on. Coach Lovie Smith even threw this out about Jones today: "Thomas Jones is our starting running back," Smith said. "We're moving ahead. The guys that we have here are the ones we'll start coaching right away. Cedric Benson will eventually be here, but right now, that is not one of my concerns. I know we have a good football team; I can't wait to see it all come together."

The signing of Marc Edwards helps their depth situation at fullback, and he can also be used as a decent dumpoff option in the passing game. Airese Currie seems unlikely to make any type of impact this year given the injury and the players currently ahead of him on the depth chart, but he could probably use a year on the practice squad anyway. The Bears TE situation is somewhat unsettled, and someone could emerge to overtake Desmond Clark as the starter.

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6. IDP: NO - Saints Release LB Derrick Rodgers

Clipped from: Times-Picayune article by Mike Triplett, 7/23/05

The Saints released linebacker Derrick Rodgers on Friday, ending his two-year relationship with the team.

Rodgers, who experienced a season-ending back injury last November, was waived injured, which entitles him to an injury benefit. An eight-year veteran, he had surgery in February to repair a bulging disc in his back, but he was not healthy enough to compete in offseason practice sessions.

The team did not think he would be ready for training camp, which begins Friday. It is unclear if Rodgers, 33, plans to sign with another team this season.

Rodgers came to the Saints in a 2003 trade with the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick. He had two years remaining on his contract, with a scheduled base salary of $1.1 million this season and $1.2 million in 2006.

Rodgers, 6 feet and 230 pounds, started all 23 games he played with the Saints, recording a career-high 97 tackles in 2003 and 71 tackles last season.

After Rodgers was hurt last season, rookie Colby Bockwoldt replaced him. Bockwoldt started the final seven games at weakside linebacker. Bockwoldt will line up this season alongside second-year middle linebacker Courtney Watson and fourth-year strongside linebacker James Allen. Together, the trio gave the Saints their most successful combination at the position for the final four games last season.

The Saints still have decent depth at linebacker, with Sedrick Hodge, rookie Alfred Fincher, Roger Knight and Cie Grant expected to be in the mix.

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

Derrick Rodgers has been a solid but unspectacular player throughout most of his career, but this move was inevitable given his age, salary, and injury. The Saints are going with a youth movement at LB, and feel pretty good about their depth. Bockwoldt was drafted in the 7th round last year but took over the starting WLB job late in the year and played well. He's bulked up this year and could be a nice sleeper in IDP leagues. Courtney Watson had an up and down rookie year in 2004, but he's expected to show some improvement in his 2nd year and could be pushed by rookie Alfred Fincher. James Allen has minimal fantasy value playing at the SLB spot.

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7. IDP: WAS - FS Sean Taylor Will Be In Camp

Clipped from: Washington Post article by Mark Maske and Jason La Canfora, 7/22/05

Redskins safety Sean Taylor will report on time for the start of training camp July 31, agent Drew Rosenhaus said. Taylor, who is facing felony assault charges in Florida, has not talked to the media in more than six months, and while the Redskins have expected him to attend camp, there had been no public assurances from him.

"Oh, yes, without a doubt," said Rosenhaus, when asked in a phone interview yesterday whether Taylor would report on time. Taylor, the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft, has switched agents several times and expressed concern with the contract he signed last summer, leading many to believe his desire for more money fueled his decision to boycott Washington's offseason program.

Taylor's legal problems -- he is charged with striking individuals in Miami and pulling a gun on them -- did not bode well for a renegotiation, and Rosenhaus said that a new contract is "not really an issue" at this point. Taylor showed signs of being a star player during his rookie season but also incurred numerous fines for his overly aggressive play and was suspended for one game after DUI charges. He later was acquitted.

His trial in Miami is set to start Sept. 12, but his lawyer plans to file motions to have the date moved until after the season.

Linebacker Mike Barrow, who was granted permission to pursue a trade, had not renegotiated his contract as of yesterday, league sources said. Barrow, battling serious knee problems and with an uncertain future, is to earn $1.74 million in base salary this season. A trade seems unlikely, and should Barrow not restructure his deal several NFL sources said they expect him to be released.

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

If Taylor's legal representation can get the trial postponed until after the season, then it looks like he may not miss any playing time this season. But, given the problems that have surrounded him since he entered the league, dynasty owners and Redskins fans have to be at least mildly concerned about his future. He's got undeniable talent, but will need to stay out of trouble and work within the Redskins system if he wants to reach his full potential.

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8. IDP: DAL - SS Roy Williams Expects More Big Plays

Star-Telegram article by Clarence E. Hill Jr., 7/23/05

Safety Roy Williams has been selected to two Pro Bowls in his three years in the league.

He is widely considered the Cowboys' best defensive player. And, he is easily the favorite among current Cowboys not named Larry Allen to eventually end up in the team's hallowed Ring of Honor.

So, why is Williams heading into the 2005 season believing he has something to prove?

Because he doesn't believe he played up to his capabilities last season. Williams finished second on the team in tackles behind linebacker Dat Nguyen, and added to his reputation as the league's most feared hitter by putting four players out with season-ending injuries.

The numbers Williams cares about are wins and losses and the number of impact plays that helped lead the Cowboys to victories. He fell short in both categories in 2004, with Dallas slumping to a 6-10 record and Williams recording no sacks, only two interceptions and one forced fumble.

"I expect myself to make plays to help us win. I didn't do enough last season. Everybody knows that."

Technically, Williams wasn't solely to blame for his so-called subpar campaign. The team's defensive alignment had him playing deep at safety in an effort to make up for deficiencies at cornerback and the other safety position, rather than close to the line of scrimmage where he is most effective.

A change in scheme from the 4-3 to the 3-4, upgrades at cornerback in the form of free-agent signees Anthony Henry and Aaron Glenn, and the addition of a true free safety (Izell Reese) should allow Williams to do what he does best in 2005.

"I can't wait," Williams said. "I will get to play close to the line of scrimmage, which will give me a chance to do what I need to do. And that's make plays."

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

Williams was an IDP superstar his rookie season when he had Darren Woodson holding down the free safety spot. He played like an 8th man in the box most of the time and wreaked havoc around and behind the line of scrimmage. His numbers took a big drop the past two seasons as he was given more coverage responsibilities due to the weakness of the corners and players around him. Now, he looks poised for a return to stud status with the upgrades made at CB and the signing Izell Reese. The change could also result in a significant upgrade for the Cowboys team defense.

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9. IDP: GB - Packers Position Review: Defensive Line

Clipped from: PackersNews.com article by Pete Dougherty, 7/23/05

Ted Thompson is banking on Jim Bates and the rest of the new defensive coaching staff to be the impact addition to the Green Bay Packers' defense.

Nowhere is that more evident than on the defensive line, where Thompson added no players of note this offseason. That means no new players for the undistinguished front line of the NFL's 25th-ranked defense from 2004.

Before being stripped of his GM duties this offseason, Sherman's drafts of 2003 and '04 included trading up for four defensive linemen who could go a long way toward deciding his future as Packers coach - Corey Williams, Donnell Washington, Kenny Peterson and James Lee.

Bates cited all four when he stunned observers at the NFL draft with his high praise of the depth of talent on the defensive line.

Defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt's talent also intrigued Bates, but Hunt's apathetic offseason has done nothing to suggest Bates will get anything more out of him. Hunt showed a stunning disdain for his profession and a chance for a fresh start with a new coaching staff when he skipped the Packers' voluntary June minicamp.

(Grady) Jackson is one of the most important players on the defense, and his absence would be a big blow to an already rocky unit. Since 2003, the Packers are 16-6, including playoffs, when he's in the lineup, and 5-9 when he's not.

Bates' system also looks to milk a sound pass rush out of the defensive line because he's not a big blitzer. He lines up his defensive ends extra wide on most downs to give them a better pass-rush angle, but he has only one pass rusher of note, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. He must find another outside rusher from an undistinguished group that includes R-Kal Truluck (2½ sacks in '04).

While fourth-year pro Aaron Kampman provides stable play at defensive end - he led the defensive line in tackles last year (77) - he had only 4½ sacks in a full-time role. Cullen Jenkins also will be part of the regular rotation, but he'll probably move inside on pass-rushing downs.

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

This article provides a thorough review of the Packers defensive linemen. They have a lot of unproven young players who could emerge, but the two key players are still DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and DT Grady Jackson. Both of those guys need to be healthy, for this defense to be successful. They also desperately need to find a complementary pass rusher to play opposite KGB to keep offenses from sliding their protection to one side of the field.

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That'll do it for today, Folks. If you're ever in Hilton Head, check out the Mellow Mushroom. I can highly recommend the "Hawaiian" with extra pineapple. Have a great day and we'll see you tomorrow with the update.

J

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