The Pittsburgh Steelers have announced today that they will be releasing Long-Time WR Hines Ward before the beginning of the next league year (March 13th).
Steelers president Art Rooney II announced today “We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year.”
Ward was drafted by the franchise in 1998 and has been a big part of the Steelers success over the last decade, bringing in 1,000 receptions for 12,083 yards and 85 Touchdowns, as well as being named the MVP of Super Bowl XL. Ward saw a reduced role in the Steelers offense last year and vowed to “be the biggest cheerleader out there” in his role. He also said this off-season that he would take a pay-cut and play for the Veterans minimum. With the hire of Todd Haley and dismissal of Ward, this proves the Steelers plan on making changes the the style of offense we’ve seen from them in years past.
Hines Ward has since released a statement saying “This isn’t how I wanted this chapter of my career to end. I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago. I want to thank the organization, my teammates and coaches and everyone who made my run as a Steeler the best years of my life. To Mr. Rooney, thank you for allowing me to play for one of the greatest organizations in the world. To my fans and in particular, Steeler Nation, thank you for your support and all the great memories. I gave my heart and soul for you every down and I will always bleed black and gold. I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season.”
List of EVERY SINGLE Free Agent (By team) in the NFL for the 2012 off-season, Enjoy!
QB: RFA Richard Bartel, RFA Max Hall
RB: RFA Alfonso Smith, RFA LaRod Stephens-Howling, UFA Chester Taylor
WR: UFA Early Doucet, RFA Stephen Williams
PK: UFA Jay Feely
OT: UFA D’Anthony Batiste, UFA Brandon Keith
OG: UFA Deuce Lutui, UFA Fred Womack
DL: UFA Calais Campbell, UFA Vonnie Holliday, RFA Brandon Sharpe
LB: UFA Clark Haggans
CB: RFA Marshay Green, RFA AJ Jefferson, UFA Richard Marshall, RFA Greg Toler
SS: UFA Hamza Abdullah
FS: RFA Rashad Johnson
After a promising 10-6 finish in 2010, the 2011 Tampa BayBuccaneers were bitterly disappointing. Opening with a 4-2 record, including a surprising-in-hindsight win over the New Orleans Saints, the Buccaneers proceeded to lose their final ten games, and they ended 2011 with a 4-12 record. One immediately obvious reason for the decline in their record is their strength of schedule: in 2011, it was .551, while in 2010, it was .476. That is probably little comfort to Bucs’ fans that look at their team and wonder what moves can be made in the off-season to address such a monumental collapse. The Bucs’ ownership has cleaned house, firing head coach Raheem Morris and replacing him with Greg Schiano, former head coach of the Rutgers University football program. While it is unclear at this point what Schiano will bring to the Bucs, it is certain that both he and the Buccaneers general manager, Mark Dominik, will be busy this season adjusting the roster in an attempt to find the right mix to take the Buccaneers back into contention in a tough NFC South division.
It’s never too early to start thinking about next season, and the next young crop of rising stars who will be climbing the ladder on the heels of established greats at a certain position. A position I pay close attention to is defensive back, whether it be corner or safety, I believe they are both extremely difficult skill positions to play in the NFL (especially corner). The following list is composed of the guys I believe will be turning heads next season, and it omits the guys who are already currently established at the position.
10. Jairus Byrd (Safety – Buffalo Bills)
Experience: 3 years
Byrd has been the lone constant in a pretty abysmal Bills defense the last three years. After an electric 2009 rookie season that saw him snag nine interceptions, those totals have gone down the last couple seasons. However, he has shown ball-hawking skills and will continue to be a force, especially if the Bills defense makes the necessary improvements at other skill positions. Continue reading
Per a report from Yahoo Sports’ Jason Cole, Randy Moss is willing to forego any guaranteed money for a team that is willing to sign the 35-year old wide receiver. According to Cole’s source, Moss’ motivation to return to the NFL is not driven by the desire for a paycheck, but by the desire to play. This move will likely increase the number of teams who express interest in Moss, although at this point it is unclear which teams, if any, would like to bring him in for a workout. Indeed, most reports have teams publicly expressing the exact opposite sentiment, that they “have no interest in signing him.” In his 13-year career, Moss has amassed 954 receptions, 14,858 yards, and 153 touchdowns in 202 games. The seven-time Pro Bowler’s career took a nose-dive in 2010, in which he was traded by the New England Patriots to the Minnesota Vikings, and then was subsequently cut and picked up by the Tennessee Titans. He recorded just 28 receptions for 447 yards and five touchdowns combined for all three teams and was not re-signed by the Titans after the season’s end. He sat out the 2011 season in retirement before announcing his plans to return to the NFL this month.
Anyone who follows the NFL knows that injuries can completely derail a season. No two teams were more impacted by key injuries than the Chicago Bears and the Houston Texans. The Texans started off the season with Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster out, lost All-Pro linebacker Mario Williams in Week 5 to a torn pectoral muscle, and then proceeded to lose their starting quarterback Matt Schaub (Week 10 – Lisfranc foot injury ) and backup quarterback Matt Leinart (Week 11 – shoulder) in quick succession. The Texans overcame the injuries, won the AFC South, and beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the playoffs. Wade Phillips, who was hired as defensive coordinator, transformed 2010’s 30th ranked defense into 2011’s 2nd ranked. The offense continued to roll behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and the Texans still finished 13th in overall offense (2nd in rush, 18th pass). Provided they are able to make strategic salary cap moves, the Texans should be primed to re-arm themselves for the 2012 season.
In the wake of the report by Adam Schefter on Indianapolis Colts’ wide receiver Pierre Garçon rejecting a 5-year contract from the team, Sirius XM NFL Radio’s Jim Miller asked co-host Bill Polian on Moving the Chains to break down Garcon’s game. Polian was quite favorable in his assessment of the receiver he brought to the team:
“He’s exceptionally physical, he’s exceptionally fast…I’m guessing he’s now 6’2”, 220-225, (and runs) 4.46 or 4.45 (in the 40). He’s got explosive speed. He’s a little inconsistent in that in his senior year of college, he never played in the second half of any game because they were ahead by so many points they benched him. He’s an incredible deep threat, he’s got great ability to leap, and is a power player at that speed.”
When breaking down the weaknesses in the game, Polian alluded to Garçon’s route running and his hands:
“Where he needs improvement is consistent route running and consistent hand use. His hands are not as good as they should be for the athletic gifts he has.”
Polian further speculated that there would be continued negotiations between the Colts and Garçon since the rejection of the offer indicated the two were at least talking. Since being drafted by the Colts in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, he has played in 58 games and amassed 188 receptions for 2,500 yards, and 17 touchdowns. Garçon had five receptions for 66 yards and one touchdown in the Colts’ loss to the New Orleans Saints.
According to a report from Sports Illustrated, National League MVP Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension was overturned by an arbitrator. Shortly after the announcement, Braun received tweets of support for the reigning NFL MVP, Aaron Rodgers:
When asked by a fan if he really thought Braun never used performance enhancing drugs, Rodgers responded with even stronger support:
It is unclear what, if any, friendship exists between Rodgers and Braun, or if Rodgers was simply praising an innocent man’s exoneration. Braun had tested positive for elevated testosterone but the ensuing suspension was overturned today, 2-1, by the arbitration panel. It was the first time in MLB history a drug suspension had been overturned in a grievance. A spokesperson for the MLB stated the commissioner’s office “vehemently” disagreed with today’s decision.
The analogy that best fits the 2011 Buffalo Bills is the horse that started fast out of the gate but completely broke down before the end of the race. Leaping out to a 5-2 AFC East lead, the Bills crumbled the rest of the way, going 1-8 for the rest of the season and finishing 6-10 in the division cellar. In that skid, the Bills had just one loss that was closer than six points and their lone win was a crushing of the eventual AFC West champion, the Denver Broncos. In those losses, they averaged just 13.8 points on offense, but allowed opponents to score a whopping 35.4 points per game. Despite a collapse of Raheem Morris-like proportions, the Bills are not so far off from adding a few key pieces to their team to make them competitive in the tough AFC East.
Citing a league source, Pro Football Talk has announced the Green Bay Packers have signed tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year contract worth just under $15M. Specific terms were not immediately available. Finley, a third round pick in the 2008 NFL draft, looked poised to take his place among the elite tight ends in the league after a break out season in 2009, but suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 5 of the 2010 season. In his four seasons with the Packers, Finley has amassed 137 receptions, 1,818 yards, and 15 touchdowns. In the 2009 playoffs, Finley posted a 159-yard performance, the second highest yardage total by a tight end in post season history. Finley’s signing removes one of the top free agent targets at the top tight end position from a very limited free agency class.
The Finley signing could also impact the quarterback market, as now the Packers could weigh the options and value of franchising one of the top targets at that position in Matt Flynn.
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