• Aside from the occasional flash of brilliance, it's been a rough first two pro seasons for Raiders RB Darren McFadden. He's missed seven games because of injuries and has just 856 yards rushing in his first two years. While much of the focus in Oakland has been on JaMarcus Russell's struggles, McFadden has also been a disappointment after having been picked fourth overall in 2008. Head coach Tom Cable said staying healthy could be the key for the young back in 2010. "Every time he's gotten himself going and had pretty good production, something has happened to either take him out of that game or not let him be as big a part in the next one," Cable said at the Combine. "He's a fine player, and as he's able to stay healthy for longer periods of time, you'll see more (of) what we all hope (for).
• Chris Simms struggled mightily in limited playing time last season, but head coach Josh McDaniels said he still feels good about having him on the roster. "We wouldn't have Chris there if we didn't feel good about him having an opportunity to play and win games with us," McDaniels said at the Combine. "We're hoping that he can make big strides this year just like anybody else." The Broncos could bring in another quarterback in the draft or through free agency, and there's still a chance Simms could be cut before the season.
• After acquiring Antonio Cromartie in a trade just before the start of free agency, Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum could look to hammer out contract extensions with some players already on the roster. It won't be easy to do, though. Tannenbaum was asked about getting new deals done with core players like C Nick Mangold, CB Darrelle Revis and ILB David Harris, who figure to be expecting lucrative new contracts. "Those are all challenges," Tannenbaum said. "Those are guys we want here long term. There are a lot of challenges to sign guys to extensions the way the rules are. But we are looking at those things. Those are guys we need to have for sustainable success."
• The second-round tender given to Bengals RFA OLB Brandon Johnson signals how much Cincinnati values him. Johnson, who has started 12 games in two seasons with Cincinnati, is a very capable fourth linebacker who has exceeded the club's expectations since coming over from Arizona in 2008, the way we hear it.
• Look for Dan Orlovsky to be the Texans' top backup quarterback in 2010, the way we hear it. Rex Grossman, who beat out Orlovsky for the top backup role last season, will test free agency.
• Word is the Packers remain very hopeful of being able to work out a new long-term contract for newly franchised NT Ryan Pickett. "It was simply a matter of, we feel like Ryan's a good player," GM Ted Thompson said at this year's Scouting Combine of the decision to give Pickett the franchise tag. "We feel like he's a good teammate, a good leader. I personally like him quite a bit. This (franchise tag) gives us an opportunity to keep having some conversations and try to get something done. We'd like to do a multiyear deal with him, but there are differences where we are in the negotiations, and this was an avenue that we had to, at least, retain some right to be able to do that in the future."
• While Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was mostly satisfied with the team's running game this past year, he thinks there's still room for improvement. "We can get better at stretching the defensive ends," McCarthy said at this year's Scouting Combine. "That's something that came out of our offseason study. We can do a better job of breaking more second-level tackles. So those are the types of things that we'll continue to work on. I'm confident with the people we have. But we're always trying to improve, whether it's through the draft or a perimeter or in-line standpoint."
• Is it possible the Cardinals could be interested in Florida's Tim Tebow with Matt Leinart the only sure thing at quarterback at the moment? "He's an interesting guy," head coach Ken Whisenhunt said at the Combine. "I think the one thing you can't overlook is he has been very successful in college football. He's won a lot of games, and there's a lot to be said for that. So, I think the transition for any player moving to this level is going to be difficult to a degree. One thing I'll say about him: He's a very good athlete and he's done a lot of things for that (Florida) offense." Known for being creative on occasion, Whisenhunt was asked if he was particularly intrigued by Tebow as a special trick-play weapon. "Obviously. If you had him available, and you weren't scared of losing him because of how physical he plays, there are definitely some things you could do with him," Whisenhunt said. We've done things with (ex-Cardinals FS) Antrel (Rolle) and other players, so we're not opposed to that."
• With Bertrand Berry retiring and UFA Chike Okeafor not likely to return to Arizona, the Cardinals will be hoping for a lot more from converted OLBs Cody Brown and Will Davis in their second seasons. While Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt told PFW at the NFL Scouting Combine that it was "too early to know" about Brown, who sat out his rookie season after fracturing his right wrist in the Cardinals' second preseason game, he was very bullish on Davis, who displayed some impressive flashes last season. "We are very pleased with Will for being just a sixth-rounder," said Whisenhunt. "You always worry about a guy having to stand up and drop back for the first time, but he was coming on late last season and provided us with a real pass-rushing element."
• On the Niners' CB front, we hear UFA Dré Bly has less than a 50-50 shot at returning. As for fellow veteran Nate Clements, who didn't hide his hurt feelings after being demoted before fracturing his shoulder this past season, we hear he might ask for his release if the Niners ask him to reduce his salary, which appears to be a strong possibility. One last thing: We hear 14-year veteran Walt Harris, another former starter who sat out last year with a torn ACL suffered prior to the season, apparently still wants to play at least one more season.
• Niners GM Scot McCloughan couldn't say enough good things at the NFL Scouting Combine about TE Vernon Davis' eye-popping coming-out party in 2009: "He's always worked really hard. But I think he's come into his own now," McCloughan said. "He came out as a true junior. He knew physically he could do it, but now, mentally, he knows he can do it. I'm glad for him. The guy is a competitor, the guy's a warrior and it's important to him. To see how hard he works and the determination he has. And with him going to the Pro Bowl this year, it will only make him work harder. That's just his personality. You see a guy that works that hard, you pull for them. He's a guy that deserves where he got to."
• We hear Rams likely new owner Shahid Khan could consider adding a couple of quality local investors. At the Combine, Rams GM Billy Devaney talked briefly about the recent meeting the team's higher-ups had for the first time with Khan. "It was just a real quick get-together. He was in St. Louis, and it was one of those things, 'If you guys can come by, I'd just like to put a face to the names.' And that's all it was. We didn't get into any kind of business. Or personnel. Or any deep discussions about the Rams. But what came across is the guy seems like a helluva guy, and he cares. He really cares about the Rams and St. Louis. That came through loud and clear."
For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.