Florence will play big role in Broncos' 'D'

PFW staff
Lions CB Florence breaks forearm

Following are some whispers we've been hearing from around the AFC:

• Expect new Broncos CB Drayton Florence to have an immediate role in the team's defense. At age 31, Florence still has terrific ball skills and should be strong playing either outside or in the slot. He will likely see time when opposing offenses go into three- or four-WR sets. Florence is also comfortable with coordinator Jack Del Rio's schemes, as he played for the coach in 2008 when both were with the Jaguars.

• As expected, there have been major changes in the Raiders’ front office since the hiring of GM Reggie McKenzie in January. The team announced last week that four longtime scouts were leaving the organization (either via retirement or not having their contracts renewed), and that there would be more changes to McKenzie’s staff in the future. That includes the addition of Joey Clinkscales, who had been the Jets’ VP of college scouting, to serve as Oakland’s director of personnel, in charge of both college and pro scouting. Clinkscales is highly regarded around the league, and we hear he will be McKenzie's right-hand man in nearly every roster decision made.

• The Chiefs’ signing of DE Ropati Pitoitua went under the radar, but the team is hopeful he can make a quality impact. Pitoitua had 19 tackles for the Jets last season in a reserve role, and he’s comfortable in a 3-4 defense. At 6-foot-8, he will be asked to clog up running lanes and try to knock down passes with his long arms.

• Last offseason, we heard that the Bills were considering QB Vince Young as Ryan Fitzpatrick’s backup. They went with Tyler Thigpen instead, as Young joined the Eagles. But when Young became a free agent again this offseason, Buffalo pounced, signing him to a one-year deal. The athletic quarterback fits Chan Gailey’s scheme well. He gives the Bills an upgrade at that position and offers Gailey flexibility to run certain packages with Young. One thing we heard last offseason, though, is that the Bills would not want a locker-room distraction with their No. 2 signalcaller. It appears that will only occur if Fitzpatrick struggles, which did happen in the second half of last season. It’s clear that Young is coming in to compete with Thigpen — not Fitzpatrick — to be the team’s No. 2 quarterback.
• The Dolphins surprised observers by not taking a wide receiver until the sixth round of last month’s draft. With the team having traded Brandon Marshall, the team’s only proven wide receiver, the returning wideouts are Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. Miami has loaded up on athletic tight ends, which could be a glimpse into where the team will find its extra pass catchers, but don’t sleep on undrafted free-agent WR Jeff Fuller. Fuller’s draft stock slid as his senior season went on. But at 6-foot-4, he is tied with fellow UDFA Derek Moye and third-year WR Roberto Wallace as the Dolphins’ tallest receivers. “Great size, good speed, able to use his body to block off DBs, and he has the hands to go make plays,” QB Ryan Tannehill told reporters about Fuller, his college teammate at Texas A&M, at rookie minicamp last week.

• Asked Friday if the Browns were interested in free-agent WR Plaxico Burress, head coach Pat Shurmur said: “We haven’t talked about Plax right now.” The Browns haven’t added a veteran wideout in free agency and drafted just one receiver — Travis Benjamin, a fourth-round pick from Miami (Fla.).
• The timing of CB Drew Coleman’s release from the Jaguars seems a bit curious, as there would have been no harm in keeping the six-year veteran around to compete in training camp as the club monitors the rehab process of Rashean Mathis. But our sources indicate GM Gene Smith and Co. wanted to give Coleman the best opportunity to catch on elsewhere, and the roster talent has improved to the point where he became expendable. Still, the move has to be considered a risk given Mathis, 31, is coming off a torn ACL in his left knee, and the club does not have a lot of proven commodities after Mathis, Derek Cox (who is also coming off a season-ending knee injury) and free-agent acquisition Aaron Ross.

• It didn’t take long for new Colts QB Andrew Luck to draw a comparison to the legend he is replacing. After the Colts’ rookie minicamp a week ago, our source on the scene said Luck handled his first Indianapolis media barrage extremely well, referring to him as “Peyton Jr.” Luck, who drew high marks following the workouts from head coach Chuck Pagano for his preparedness and leadership, won’t officially rejoin his teammates until after he graduates from Stanford in the middle of June. But that won’t stop Luck from working out with his receivers, namely second-round TE Coby Fleener, who will be back at school with Luck, and Austin Collie who makes his offseason home in nearby Sacramento, Calif.