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Around the League: Chiefs find bargains late in free agency

The SportsXchange

This is the time of the offseason when teams get some bargains in veterans left in the unrestricted pool, and the Kansas City Chiefs seem to have done just that with their recent signing of safety Abram Elam.

The seven-year pro, who started all 16 games in Dallas last season and has 47 starts the past three years with Cleveland (2009-2010) and the Cowboys, offers some insurance for emerging star Eric Berry, who is rehabbing from an ACL injury sustained in the '11 opener.

But Elam could push third-year veteran Kendrick Lewis for a starting job, provides the Chiefs an excellent No. 3 safety option at worst, and has looked very good in workouts, Kansas City coaches say.

--In case anyone's interested, and most teams don't appear to be, there are still 23 former first-round draft picks still unemployed.

--As noted earlier this week by The Sports Xchange, the 121 officials from the 2011 NFL season averaged 11.4 seasons of NFL tenure. The average for the league's 17 referees was 14.9 years. There were only four officials with fewer than 10 seasons of NFL experience, but a like number with 20 or more years in the league. That's a lot of tenure to attempt to replace in a short period.

--Atlanta tailback Michael Turner conceded some skepticism about the club's plan to reduce his attempts in 2012 -- after all, the Falcons insist that every year, it seems, and Turner has averaged 337.0 carries in the three seasons he's been healthy with the team and played all 16 games -- but new offensive coordinator Dick Koetter does seem intent on cutting back the workload.

--Dallas is seeking a No. 3 receiver, but for now at least, neither Terrell Owens nor Chad Ochocinco seems to be the answer. A Cowboys scout said on Thursday night that the club's personnel people had previously looked at tape of Owens, and then broke out video of Ochocinco after he was released by New England earlier in the day, and were "fairly unimpressed."

--Third-round draft choice Mohamed Sanu of Cincinnati continues to look like a mid-round heist. The former Rutgers standout could end up starting opposite 2011 rookie standout A.J. Green in a passing attack that hopes to have slot receiver Jordan Shipley back healthy after an ACL injury last season.

--For much of his lengthy time as an agent, Tony Agnone has fudged a bit when reporting contract values to the media. That's why there's some irony in the fact Agnone was dismissed, albeit temporarily, for leveling with defensive end Osi Umenyiora about his reworked contract with the Giants. Agnone counseled Umenyiora that the proposal wasn't a particularly good one and, as it turns out, it wasn't.

Umenyiora signed a deal that will raise his 2012 salary, but to only $6 million, a bargain for a proven pass-rusher. And it appears the contract does not preclude the Giants from using the franchise tag on Umenyiora next spring when the deal expires.

--This could be a very good season for rookie return men in the league. In addition to Brandon Boykin in Philadelphia, Joe Adams (Carolina, fourth round), Ryan Broyles (Detroit, second round) and Josh Robinson (Minnesota, third round) are among the first-year specialists expected to improve the return games of their respective clubs as rookies.

--The league, one New Orleans official insisted this week, is apt to unearth no evidence of OTA violations against the club when it reviews video from recent practices. Feeling burned and perhaps picked upon already by the NFL this offseason, coaches have been particularly careful in practice to heed the non-contact provisions outlined in the CBA, the official said. Maybe it's a self-serving assessment, and probably biased, but the official dismissed the incident this week involving middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and quarterback Chase Daniel as "nothing really."

--Fourth-year veteran Keenan Lewis suggested earlier in the spring that he might have a Pro Bowl season in 2012 if he wins the left cornerback spot in Pittsburgh that was vacated when William Gay signed as a free agent with Arizona. But it's actually been a pair of 2011 draft picks, Cortez Allen (No. 4) and Curtis Brown (No. 5), who have been more impressive in the Steelers' OTA sessions.

--Staying with the Steelers, the organization has no plans, at least for now, of reducing its one-year restricted tender to unsigned wide receiver Mike Wallace. The three-year veteran, who has boycotted offseason workouts but does have a playbook, was tendered at $2.7 million. Pittsburgh has the right to lower that to $577,500 if Wallace hasn't signed by June 15 (which he almost certainly won't), but will not take the reduction option. The Steelers still want to work out a long-term contract with Wallace and don't want to create any more acrimony.

--Former Carolina wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, a second-round pick in 2007, has washed out in his attempt to resurrect his career in the CFL. Jarrett, one of the biggest mistakes in Carolina draft history, has opted to retire at age 25. In four NFL seasons, the former Southern California star registered only 35 receptions for 428 yards and one touchdown.

--According to reports, Detroit veteran left offensive tackle Jeff Backus has been an impressive mentor for Lions' first-round choice Riley Reiff, who make someday take his job. Detroit officials noted to The Sports Xchange the efforts of some veterans to counsel 2011 first-round defensive tackle Nick Fairley on his off-field behavior.

--Jets coaches have begun to work in first-round defensive end Quinton Coples as a stand-up rush linebacker in some of their defensive fronts.

--There are some reports that arena league players may strike, maybe as early as Friday, and league officials are closely monitoring the perceived unrest among its rank-and-file.

--Wide receiver Santonio Holmes has been a model citizen of sorts off the field for the New York Jets. But the veteran wideout continues to be a bit of a pain on the field, as exemplified by his actions at an OTA this week, when he felt he was overworked by coaches, and that could be an issue. The Steelers, who dealt Holmes to New York for a bargain basement fifth-round pick in 2010, privately contend it was more than the wide receiver's marijuana problems that prompted the trade of the former Super Bowl most valuable player. The Jets might be dealing with some of those "other" problems, it seems.

--For much of his previous four seasons in Miami, Kendall Langford played end in a 3-4 defense. But Langford has been playing mostly inside in offseason workouts with St. Louis, which signed him as a free agent this spring, coaches seem to like what they've seen of him there, and he could be an important part of the Rams' revamped line.

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