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Corto stays in Bills' fold

Buffalo Bills special teamer and reserve safety Jon Corto, the Orchard Park native, signed a contract extension, the team announced today. Corto's contract was set to expire on March 4. Corto joined the Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2007. He serves on most of the Bills' kick units had five special teams tackles in 2010. It's a smart move by Corto to re-sign. Special-teamers need to guarantee a spot in training camp with NFL players facing the prospect of a lockout.

---Mark Gaughan

Cam Newton's media day

Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton conducted a workout strictly for media today in San Diego. The Auburn quarterback is working in Southern California with quarterbacks coach George Whitfield Jr. Former NFL QB Trent Dilfer was at the workout and called Newton "incredibly impressive."

No pro scouts were invited. Newton will speak with them at the NFL Scouting Combine next week in Indianapolis. Here's a full report from the Birmingham (Ala.) News, which was on the scene.

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2011/02/former_auburn_quarterback_cam.html

---Mark Gaughan

Franchise tag status

We're not expecting the Buffalo Bills to place a franchise tag on any player today - not that it matters. Today is the first day in which NFL teams can put a franchise tag on a player set to become a free agent. But with the bargaining agreement between the league and the players union set to expire on March 4, all player negotiations will be put on hold pending a new deal. 

Teams are expected to still use the tag over the next two weeks, likely just as a way of covering themselves for whenever a new agreement is reached. Whenever a deal is reached, teams might be given another window in which to place a tag. Or not. The Patriots are likely to place a tag on Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins. 

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said last week it's all a moot point without a new deal.

"Our position is that you can franchise anyone you want, by whatever date you want, but if there is no CBA, the franchise tags will be meaningless," Smith said. "The NFL has no valid basis for claiming the right to franchise players in 2011."

---Mark Gaughan

Bills votes on NFL fields

The NFL Players Association released its annual survey of playing surfaces last week. This has become less of a huge issue now that there are no old-fashioned artificial turf surfaces in the NFL. The new artificial turf is "infilled" with sand and rubber pebbles.  

The Bills' turf was rated second worst among artificial infilled fields behind only Minnesota's. Indianapolis and the Meadowlands were rated the two best artificial infilled fields. Twenty percent of players leaguewide said weather is the biggest factor in the quality of an artificial infilled field.

The Bills' players - 49 of them filled out the survey - generally gave their own turf a good review. Four Bills (8.2 percent) rated the turf at The Ralph excellent. There were 32 Bills (65.3 percent) who rated the RCW turf good. Ten (20.4 percent) rated it fair. Two (4.1 percent) rated it poor. The league averages for all teams were 23.2 percent of players rated their own turf excellent. Players rated their own turf good at 50.7 percent. Fair got 18.9 percent votes on average per team. Poor got 5.5 percent. So 73.5 percent of Bills rated their turf good or better. The leaguewide average was 73.9 percent at good or better. 

The turf at the Ralph is Astroplay. The predominant infilled artificial turf is sold by FieldTurf, which got the best reviews in the survey. Most players say they prefer playing on natural grass than artificial infilled turf.

The worst grass fields were in Pittsburgh and Oakland. The best grass fields were in Arizona, Tampa and San Diego.

---Mark Gaughan

Rookie wage scale

One area of common ground between the owners and players in the NFL's labor talks is the desire to throw rookies under the bus. It's an easy fix in the collective-bargaining agreement - from a big picture perspective. Veteran players are happy to get more money that goes to rookies. Owners are happy to pay rookies less. Just how to work out the specifics remains up in the air.

The NFLPA proposed last summer a Proven Performance Plan under which rookie contracts would be limited to just three years. That would save the owners about $200 million a year, the NFLPA projects. The union would take $150 million of that and put it into a pool, which would be distributed to veteran players who outperform their contracts. The perfect example is Titans running back Chris Johnson, who rushed for 2,000 yards on almost a minimum base salary. Funneling more money to a guy like him would likely prevent him from holding out of camp the next year. Then the union would take $50 million a year and distribute it to retired players. 

The owners proposed to take $100 million of the savings and give it to retired players. The owners also rejected the union's proposal that rookies would be unrestricted free agents at the end of their three-year deal. The solution depends on the big-picture split of the NFL's revenue pie. If the union gets a percentage it likes, it might not object to more money for retired players coming from the pool for current players. But the union isn't likely to agree to a give-back without knowing how much it's getting overall. Whenever it gets resolved, the rookies will be getting less to start their careers. They don't really have a seat at the bargaining table. 

---Mark Gaughan

AFC East contracts

Here's the list of players in the AFC East whose contracts are set to expire in March and who have at least four years experience in the NFL. Up until the uncapped season in 2010, a player with four years of experience became an unrestricted free agent. In 2010 a player needed six years to hit unrestricted free agency. Of course, without a new labor deal there will be no start to the free agency season in March. So fans and teams may well have a long time to mull over these lists. And it's possible that the rules will change under a new labor deal. If there's an 18-game season, the players union may demand that a player hit full free agency after three years. The Jets have the biggest list of players with conracts expiring. The list was released by the NFL Players Association on Thursday.

Bills: Akin Ayodele (LB), Keith Ellison (LB), Drayton Florence (CB), Quinton Ganther (RB), John McCargo (DT), Paul Posluszny (LB), Donte Whitner (S), George Wilson (S), Mansfield Wrotto (OT), Ashton Youboty (CB).

Dolphins: Ronnie Brown (RB), Richie Incognito (G), Tony McDaniel (DT), Paul McQuistan (OL), Quentin Moses (DE), Chad Pennington (QB), Cory Procter (OL), Paul Soliai (NT), Tyler Thigpen (QB), Ricky Williams (RB).

Patriots: Kevin Faulk (RB), Shayne Graham (K), Matt Light (OT), Logan Mankins (G), Brandon McGowan (S), Sammy Morris (RB), Quinn Ojinnaka (OL), Jarrad Page (S), Fred Taylor (RB), Gerard Warren (DL), Tracy White (LB).

Jets: Kellen Clemens (QB), Drew Coleman (CB), Antonio Cromartie (CB), Braylon Edwards (WR), Shaun Ellis (DL), Nick Folk (K), David Harris (LB), Santonio Holmes (WR), Wayne Hunter (OL), James Ihedigbo (S), Lance Laury (LB), Brodney Pool (S), Trevor Pryce (DL), Tony Richardson (FB), Brad Smith (WR-KR), Eric Smith (S), Steve Weatherford (P).

---Mark Gaughan

Looking ahead at HOF prospects

Here are some of the players who are going to be first-time eligible candidates for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the coming years. Next year's first-time class is not overwhemling, which creates an opportunity to get more of this year's finalists inducted. Here are the lists, in no particular order:

2012: Bill Parcells, Tiki Barber, Will Shields, Drew Bledsoe, Corey Dillon, Bill Cowher, Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Alstott.

2013: Larry Allen, Michael Strahan, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, Vinny Testaverde.

2014: Marvin Harrison, Derrick Brooks, Shaun Alexander, Rodney Harrison, Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren.

2015: Orlando Pace, Junior Seau, Isaac Bruce, Walter Jones, Torry Holt (maybe), Kurt Warner.

---Mark Gaughan

Kramer sports Bills logo in ad

Among the advertisements during the Super Bowl on Sunday night was an NFL American Family ad that included Cosmo Kramer with a Bills logo added to his jacket during an episode of Seinfeld:

Super Bowl Replay chat with Allen Wilson

Super Bowl MVP

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