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Colts big-fish DE Mathis off board

The Indianapolis Colts have taken pass-rushing star Robert Mathis off the free-agent table. The Colts have reached an agreement on a new contract with Mathis, it was announced today. They had placed the franchise tag on Mathis just before 4 p.m. because the deal was not quite finalized.

Mathis was a big free-agent talent who would have looked great in a Bills uniform. He's 31 years old and has 41 sacks over the past four seasons. He has 83.5 sacks in nine seasons. He would have been very expensive in free agency - perhaps $10 million a year. The Bills never have paid a player that kind of money. However, they do like Mathis a lot. If they were going after a big-ticket guy, they would have thought about it with Mathis. It's not an issue now.

UPDATE: Reports say Mathis got $36 million over four years, or $9 million a year. It's a sign of how hard it is to find good pass rushers that a guy 31 would command such a deal. It helps that Mathis has shown no signs of slowing down. His production has been remarkably steady.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Billick on Manning & Miami

INDIANAPOLIS -- There has been a lot of speculation about landing spots for Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, and that includes concern among Bills fans about whether he could wind up with the Miami Dolphins.

NFL Network analyst Brian Billick, the former Ravens head coach, thinks it would not be simple for the Dolphins to committ to Manning, given the fact they are starting fresh with new coach Joe Philbin. Philbin worked with Green Bay backup Matt Flynn, and there is plenty of speculation as well that Miami will pursue Flynn in free agency. Here's Billick assessing the pros and cons of a Manning move to Miami.

Said Billick: "For coach Philbin, obviously, he’s coming in with a very specific mindset in terms of the offense he’s going to want to run. You know when you bring in Peyton Manning, it’s 'OK, Peyton bring me your playbook because that’s what we’re going to put in.' Why would you not put Peyton Manning in an environment that he's most comfortable? So you’re going to wrap your entire offense around what he wants to do. And then for whatever time you’ve rented him – whether it's two years or three years, hopefully very productive – you then have to go back and start over. Because believe me, what Peyton Manning does is unique to Peyton Manning. I’m not talking about what he does on the field. If anybody’s watched Peyton Manning practice, he runs that entire practice. He’ll be in the offensive line drills, telling Jeff Saturday and the line coach. Now if you make that call, then I’m going to do this. No I’m going to verbalize it that way. He’s in the running backs drills saying, no you’ve got to take this approach. No, be sitting down here. Once I’ve gone into my check over here, I'm going to come back there. So you’ve got to buy into that hook line and sinker. And if he’s physically OK, great, you’ve got a great upside. But it would be hard for me to imagine for coach Philbin, who has a very specific idea of what he wants to begin with and how he wants to progress in his offense, to kind of put that on the back burner. Can’t say it won’t happen and obviously you do what your players do best. It would be interesting to hear what those conversations are like."

So you think there would be some downside because it’s whose team at that point, Philbin’s or Manning’s?

"Exactly right. And there’s nothing wrong with that, believe me. Who makes more? OK. At the end of the day that’s whos in charge. And when you bring in a Peyton Manning, why would you bring him in and not do what he does best? That’s what a good coach will do. But that has to be an organizational decision. It’s not just Miami. It's all the other teams considering him. That has to be part of the process. And where Miami is particularly with a new head coach, yeah, there’s a huge upside, but there’s got to be a part of you that says you’re anxious to get on with what it is you want to do and the structure you want to put together."

Continued Billick: "First off, when you bring him in, if it doesn't work, it’s not Peyton’s fault. There’s going to be somebody’s butt in somebody’s brief case at the end of the day, and it’s not going to be Peyton’s, OK? Because that guy’s got a Super Bowl, he’s walking into the Hall of Fame. So yeah, there is a little bit of pressure that it's not going to be Peyton’s fault if it doesn’t work. So how do I orchestrate that? But still you’re talking about one of the great players of all time. So let’s just say; it’s silly to say, but let’s put the physical aspects aside. Let’s say he is OK. Keep in mind when Joe Montana -- that seems to be the bell cow now when we go to for the analogy -- he took his own coordinator (from San Francisco to Kansas City). He ran what he ran in San Francisco in Kansas City and it was successful. A litltle different. And I give (ex-Chiefs coach) Marty Schottenheimer a great deal of credit. That wasn’t Martyball now. OK? That was Joe Montana’s offense and they had some success. Ultimately it wasn’t the ultimate success, but they made the playoffs. They did a nice job. But then they had to transition. And then what did they transition to when you look at Marty’s progression in Kanssas City? What happened after Joe Montana left? It set back the progression that I imagine Marty – and you’d have to ask Marty – but I can’t imagine that wasn’t a bit of a detour as to what Marty wanted to put together. And then ultimately he ended up leaving Kansas City. So I think there are some analogies to draw from there."

---Mark Gaughan

Mularkey on 2nd shot

INDIANAPOLIS -- New Jacksonville Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey talked at the NFL Scouting Combine about how his second shot as a head coach is different from his first, which came in Buffalo in 2004 and 2005. Mularkey is the last Bills head coach to have a winning record (9-7 in '04).

"There’s some things that I did that were right and that worked, and there were some things that I probably started even in the interview process that I probably did a better job of this time," Mularkey said. "Some of the things that needed to get done. It was really a great process with Gene [Smith, GM] and Shad [Khan, owner], actually, in the discussion because a lot of things that occurred in Buffalo came
up and they appreciated my honesty with it. I think any job you’re at, whatever it is, position or coordinator or head coaching job, you’re always going to find things you could have done better based on what you’ve done or based on what you’ve seen others do, right or wrong. I’m not going to get into specifics, but it’s been much more of an easy transition going into this one in Jacksonville.”

“I’m more familiar with the whole process," Mularkey said. "The hiring process. I think the staff that I’ve been able to put together, I’m very happy with the staff."

Mularkey inherited some of Gregg Williams' staff when he took over in Buffalo, and it didn't work out well. In Jacksonville, he decided to retain defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, linebackers coach Mark Duffner and offensive line coach Andy Heck.

"You really want guys that want to be there," Mularkey said. "I made that a point when I interviewed these guys. Some of them, including Mel Tucker, Mark Duffner, Andy Heck, previous guys that were on the staff that had opportunities to go other places and maybe even advance in their position. I asked them to go. I thought, first of all, this is very rewarding that you’re being recognized and wanted so much around the league by multiple teams that I think you should go. I’m not going to drive you to the interview. But I want you to go because I know if you are committed to coming back here then I know you are here as a Jaguar and there will be no what ifs. … I really have a good feeling about these guys.”

---Mark Gaughan
 

Audio: Bills GM Nix at NFL Combine

INDIANAPOLIS -- Here are a few brief audio clips from Bills General Manager Buddy Nix.

--Mark Gaughan

On positions of strength in the draft:

Download audio

On the receiver position:

Download audio

Attitude toward free agency this offseason:

Download audio

'Mouse' McNally hired as Bengals consultant

Jim "Mouse" McNally is back in the NFL as a consultant. The Cincinnati Bengals on Wednesday announced that McNally, who began his 28-year NFL coaching career with Cincinnati, will consult with offensive line coach Paul Alexander.

The team's website said McNally will break down film of the Bengals and their opponents while making periodic visits to Cincinnati during the offseason, OTAs, minicamp and training camp.

McNally is a graduate of the University at Buffalo and Kenmore West. In 2008 he was inducted to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. His last NFL job was as Buffalo Bills' offensive line coach from 2004-2007.

---Greg Connors

Bills not expected to tag Stevie

NFL teams can begin using franchise tags on their prospective free agents today but don’t expect the Buffalo Bills to use that option on wide receiver Stevie Johnson.

A league source told The Buffalo News that Johnson isn’t expecting to receive the franchise tag from the Bills, and despite swapping contract proposals recently the two sides are far apart on negotiations. The franchise tag option hasn’t been discussed during negotiations with Johnson, the source told The News.

Johnson’s agent, C.J. LaBoy, was unavailable for comment.

The Associated Press first reported the development citing a person familiar with discussions. Johnson’s representatives countered a Bills offer last week and the two sides agreed to meet at this week’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis.  

The Bills haven’t applied the franchise tag since 2006, when they designated cornerback Nate Clements, the team’s first-round pick and 21st pick overall in 2001. Clements signed the $7.2 million offer, under the condition the team would allow him to become a free agent the following season. Clements exercised that option and became, at the time, the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history after signing an eight-year, $80 million  deal, with $22 million guaranteed, with the San Francisco 49ers.

--Rodney McKissic

(twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Source: Bills, Johnson exchange proposals

---The Buffalo Bills and representatives for Stevie Johnson have exchanged proposals and are expected to meet at next week’s NFL Combine, a league source told The Buffalo News.

The Bills submitted a proposal over a week ago and Johnson’s agent, C.J. LaBoy, countered the team’s offer on Monday, according to the source. There have been no further talks although the two sides are scheduled to meet next week in Indianapolis.

The 25-year-old Johnson started all 16 games in 2011 and finished with 76 receptions for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Report: Manning had a fourth surgery

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---A day after Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay made it clear that the decision whether to play for the team rests with Peyton Manning, pictured above, and his willingness to take a pay cut, Sports Illustrated reports new details about the quarterback’s physical condition. According to SI, Manning underwent four, not three, neck procedures over a 19-month span, has bone spurs just above the spot of fusion surgery in September, and may require further fusion.

---Here's John McClain's take on Mario Williams, who McClain says several teams may be in a position to offer the free agent defensive end $50 million as a signing bonus. Think Ralph Wilson would really like to hand over that kind of cash?

---Detroit is on the rise and Lions president Tom Lewand says his team will be smart with its money this off-season.

--- Sporting News ranks its top 50 draft prospects. Penn State DT Devon Still ranks No. 10.

---Retired NFL players are still hoping for improved benefits. Bills Hall of Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure told the AP that "I'm going to fight `em to the end."

---Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times reports preliminary contract talks between the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco are expected to launch next week at the NFL scouting combine, according to Flacco's agent, Joe Linta.

---Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been in Los Angeles working on his throwing mechanics with new UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone according to Peter Yoon of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Draft pick for Lynch jumps to fifth-rounder

The Bills will receive the Seattle Seahawks' fifth-round draft pick in April's draft as part of their compensation for the trade of running back Marshawn Lynch, according to a report on the team's official website, buffalobills.com.

The original trade of Lynch called for Buffalo to receive a fourth-round pick in 2011 (which it used on offensive tackle Chris Hairston) and a conditional sixth-round pick that could be improved based on Lynch's playing time. That pick will jump up to the fifth round, according to the report, after Lynch rushed 285 times for 1,204 yards and 12 TDs in 2011 for Seattle.

The Bills now have nine picks in April's draft, seven of their own along with the fourth-round pick of Baltimore they received in exchange for Lee Evans.

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

 

Time to play tag

---Teams can begin franchising players on Monday and here's a quick rundown on candidates from CBS Sports. According to NFL.com, the tag figure for wide recievers this season, you know guys like Stevie Johnson, is $9.4 million.

---Colts owner Jim Irsay, the Colts’ owner, told ESPN that quarterback Peyton Manning was more than welcome to stay in Indianapolis, as long as he reworked his contract: “We want this to be his decision. We want him back if he wants to come back. We can work out the contract if he wants to work it out. It’s going to be Peyton’s call.” Yeah, ok.

---The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have rolled over all available resources into the 2012 salary cap in anticipation of being more active in free agency.

---Randy Moss to the Cowboys? Don't think so.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

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