Morris Claiborne DB DAL 15 hours ago1 Comment

The Cowboys declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Claiborne's (knee) contract, David Helman of DallasCowboys.com reports.

The option would have been worth about $11 million, and given Claiborne's checkered injury and performance history the team deemed that to be too steep. As a result, he'll be an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season.

Josh McCown QB CLE 16 hours ago

McCown appears to be the favorite for the Browns' starting quarterback position heading into camp, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

McCown was one of the main topics of conversation during a Monday radio interview with head coach Mike Pettine, who stated that "it's fair to say" the veteran is the frontrunner for the job. He'll have to hold off Johnny Manziel if he wants to maintain that status, just as Brian Hoyer had to do prior to the 2014 season. McCown has seen recent success as a starter, throwing for 24 touchdowns (compared to 15 interceptions) in 19 games between the Bears and Buccaneers in 2013 and 2014, respectively. It is worth noting that the 35-year-old quarterback had significantly better weapons to work with at the receiver position than he currently has in Cleveland, however. Fresh off a three-year deal with the Browns, McCown will look to bring the organization stability at the position, but it's difficult to tout him as more than a backup fantasy quarterback at this point.

Ego Ferguson DL CHI 16 hours ago

Ferguson could see snaps at both nose tackle and defensive end for the Bears during the upcoming season, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports.

Drafted as a 4-3 defensive tackle out of LSU last spring, Ferguson had a respectable rookie year, contributing 22 tackles and two sacks. With the Bears moving to a 3-4 scheme during the coming season under new coordinator Vic Fangio, the 6-foot-3, 309-pound Ferguson offers the size and flexibility to play at both spots on the line, though it seems likely that defensive end could end up being his primary destination if the newly drafted Eddie Goldman thrives as a nose tackle in training camp. Regardless of Ferguson's position in the 3-4 alignment, his IDP upside seems to be limited, due to the lack of pass rush he'll be asked to provide. Those duties will fall primarily to the team's outside linebackers.

Eddie Goldman DL CHI 16 hours ago

Goldman is expected to slot in at nose tackle in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's 3-4 scheme, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports.

A year after the since-fired Phil Emery spent two high picks on defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton, new GM Ryan Pace elected to use the Bears' second-round choice on Goldman, who was viewed by many scouts as a first-round talent heading into the draft. At 6-foot-4 and 336 pounds, Goldman is a more ideal fit at nose tackle than Sutton, whose slighter frame might make it more difficult to clog lanes. Pace also said that Ferguson will have the flexibility to line up at defensive end, which could pave the way for Goldman to win a starting job for the Bears right out of training camp. Even if that materializes, it's doubtful that Goldman would provide much utility as an IDP, since he'll be primarily tasked with stuffing up the middle rather than rushing the passer.

Alfonzo Dennard DB NE 17 hours ago

Dennard (hamstring) is getting released by the Patriots, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe

New England can save approximately $1.5 million against the 2015 cap by releasing Dennard, who started 20 games in his first three seasons, after being selected in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He's never been much of an IDP commodity, failing to reach 40 tackles each year. New England's cornerback group has taken a step back from 2014, but the team does have quite a few options to compete for significant roles.

Whitney Mercilus LB HOU 20 hours ago

Mercilus signed a four-year extension with the Texans, the Houston Chronicle reports. The extension begins in 2016 and is worth $26 million, including $10.8 million guaranteed.

Mercilus appeared in 15 games (13 starts) last season, registering five sacks. He has a total of 18 sacks in three seasons since being selected in the first round of the 2012 draft. He was bound for a reserve role in 2014, but a knee injury to 2014 first-overall pick Jadeveon Clowney gave Mercilus an opportunity for more snaps.

Preston Brown LB BUF 1 day ago

With the Bills trading Kiko Alonso and not bringing in any big-name linebackers, Brown is expected to lead the linebacking corps in 2015 as the "mike" in new coach Rex Ryan's 4-3 defense, The Buffalo News reports.

Brown had a fantastic rookie season with 109 tackles and an interception, and there's little reason he can't take it one step higher in 2015 with more experience under his belt combined with the fact he's likely to be on the field for almost every defensive snap.

Dennis Pitta TE BAL 1 day ago

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Saturday that he is still not sure what will happen with Pitta (hip), the Baltimore Sun reports.

While Pitta has reportedly made progress in his rehab from a career-threatening hip injury, Baltimore's decision to select TE Maxx Williams in the second round indicates that the team isn't counting on Pitta's availability. The Ravens also selected TE Nick Boyle out of Delaware in the fifth round, and they used a third-round pick on TE Crockett Gillmore last year. Pitta's health situation probably won't be resolved anytime soon, and even if he ends up playing again, he'll be at added risk of reinjuring his problematic hip.

Justin Blackmon WR JAC 1 day ago6 Comments

It remains unclear whether Blackmon will return to the Jaguars at some point in the future, the Florida Times-Union reports.

When asked about Blackmon, Jags' GM Dave Caldwell reiterated that he is unaware of whether the former first-round pick will rejoin the team. "Our process hasn't changed," Caldwell said. "Plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges and he's going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we're able to get some news, but if not, we weren't planning on it, we're just going to go." Blackmon, who has had a number of run-ins with the law involving marijuana and alcohol, was effective in 2013, catching 29 passes for 415 yards and a touchdown, but a suspension limited him to only four games. If he returns to the team, he'll have to prove his way back onto the active roster, and at this point it seems as though the Jaguars are more than prepared to move forth without him.

Carson Palmer QB ARI 1 day ago

Palmer (knee) took snaps with the first-team offense during Phase II of the offseason program Monday, the Cardinals' official site reports.

After tearing the ACL in his left knee in November, Palmer's activity level is an encouraging sign for his ability to be ready for the start of training camp. However, there's no guarantee that he'll be cleared for contact once OTAs roll around around later this month, or for the start of mandatory minicamp in June. Note that Phase II workouts occur without a defense to work against and sans helmets, meaning the development is one of many hurdles for the quarterback to clear in his recovery.