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Cowboys covet free-agent-to-be Nicks

Pro Football Weekly
Buccaneers sign OG Nicks to big deal
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Buccaneers sign OG Nicks to big deal

Here are some of the whispers we've been hearing from our sources around the NFC:

• Already, Cowboys fans are salivating at the idea of signing free-agent OG Carl Nicks, who might be too tough for the Saints to keep. Why Nicks and not, say, Ben Grubbs? Well, now-OL coach Bill Callahan has ties to Nicks from Nebraska, and owner Jerry Jones is said to be a fan of the Saints' power blocker to solidify the middle of his line. If the Cowboys move Doug Free to right tackle, they don't want to saddle him with a weak-link right guard.

• The Eagles' recent tryout with free-agent QB Trent Edwards — they didn't sign him — was little more than a tire-kicking effort, we hear. The Eagles are open to look at players such as Edwards, one-time starters in need of another chance, all the time, so it doesn't indicate that the team is desperate to sign a veteran QB to back up Michael Vick. But what we hear is that Vince Young isn't likely to return and that you could see the Eagles draft a quarterback, as they do every few years, to push Mike Kafka.

• Although finding a quarterback remains the Redskins' highest priority this offseason, and that decision very well could involve the team's first-round draft pick (No. 6 overall), we also hear that a defensive back can't be ruled out at that spot. Although cornerback isn't a top priority, there are a few players at that position, such as LSU's Morris Claiborne, who could be too talented to pass up.

• Even though he will not play in the Pro Bowl, we hear the MCL injury that Packers FB John Kuhn suffered in the divisional playoff loss to the Giants does not appear to be serious enough to require surgery.

• Our sources on the scene in Green Bay believe veteran OLT Chad Clifton, who did not make himself available during the team's final media availability session Jan. 16, is looking more and more like a long shot to be back next season.

• It's hard to imagine the Vikings spending big on a free-agent wide receiver, considering they could have done so with Sidney Rice prior to last season, but they will go get at least one veteran at the position. The big needs: size and explosiveness. In order to give Christian Ponder some help in the passing game, they must find someone to fill the Rice role, which was sorely missing last season.

• Lions PK Jason Hanson had to hold off Dave Rayner to retain his job last summer. Hanson won the competition and then proceeded to hit 24-of-29 field goals in his 20th NFL season. The way we hear it, Hanson, who turns 42 in June, likely will have the inside track to keep the job a 21st season.

• The Saints signed veteran DTs Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin to one-year deals last offseason and didn't get what they wanted out of either player. They played alongside DT Sedrick Ellis, who also didn't perform up to expectations. There is the potential for a shake-up at the position this offseason as the team looks to get quicker and more explosive up the middle, but sources wouldn't rule out the Saints trying to re-sign Rogers or Franklin, and both could be back.

• Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers, a fifth-round pick in 2011, averaged only 3.6 yards per carry and didn't have a run longer than 13 yards on 57 rushing attempts, but the team clearly saw things it really liked from him in his debut season. All signs point to him being more involved on offense in new coordinator Dirk Koetter's game plans.

• The Saints are interested in re-signing CB Tracy Porter, who is due to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but they do have other homegrown talent at the position that they are confident in if Porter moves on. The Saints have drafted Patrick Robinson, who has 11 career starts under his belt, and Johnny Patrick in recent years.

Antwan Applewhite is a DE-OLB hybrid who may not be an ideal fit at either position, but Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is a fan of his, and it would be no surprise if the Panthers re-sign him this offseason. Applewhite, who was coached by Rivera when both men were with the Chargers, is due to become an unrestricted free agent after making two sacks in 12 games with Carolina last season. He can play defensive end when the Panthers line up in a 4-3 and also can play the "Sam" LB position in a 3-4 alignment.

• Don't forget about Seahawks DE Jimmy Wilkerson, a free-agent addition from the Saints who was a nonfactor this season after blowing out a knee in training camp. "They loved his versatility," one daily team observer said of Wilkerson, a nine-year veteran who logged time with the Chiefs and Buccaneers in addition to the Saints. "They are looking for another inside pass rusher, and he could be that guy, in addition to spelling Red Bryant outside. Of all the players who went on I.R., he was the one guy who kept showing up at all the team meetings."

• After previously leading our sources in St. Louis to believe that he was intent on following Josh McDaniels to whichever destination the Rams' former offensive coordinator was headed (which turned out to be New England), free-agent WR Brandon Lloyd is now apparently saying he would love to stay put and play under new head coach Jeff Fisher. Said one Rams source: "I don't know for sure if Fisher wants him, but considering the team's dearth of receivers, I could see him coming back. It also could depend on who the new coordinator ends up being." 

• Could Cardinals free-agent OG Deuce Lutui, whose struggles keeping his weight down made him a nonfactor this season, re-enter the mix in 2012? "It will be an interesting situation," said one team insider. "He finally kept the weight off, but it was late November or December before he kept it off consistently. They are so thin at those (OG) spots that they might want to bring him back, but I don't see them spending much money on him. Given his history of weight gain, it's hard to see any team shelling out huge amounts for him."

• A strong case can be made for Niners veteran LS Brian Jennings — the only current player who was on the last Niners playoff team — as the team's most unsung player. "He is just so consistent," Niners Pro Bowl P and PFW Golden Toe Award co-winner Andy Lee told PFW about Jennings. "I have total faith that he will always put the ball in the right place, even in windy Candlestick. I can't express enough gratitude to him."

• On a Niners team widely considered to be the best in the league when it comes to tackling, who's the best tackler? "It still has to be Patrick Willis," one daily team observer told PFW. "But NaVorro Bowman has become a very close second."

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