We've been hearing the following whispers around the NFL:
• New Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett recently said that OLB Brian Orakpo, who led all rookies last season with 11 sacks, could be even better in this year's defense. Haslett estimated that Orakpo rushed the passer around 200 plays last season but that he would be doing that "600 to 700" plays this season.
• Even with the Cowboys appearing willing to give Roy Williams another crack at reviving his career this season, the team's totem pole at wide receiver is far from set. Miles Austin is guaranteed a starting spot, but little is firm beyond that. After the Williams-Dez Bryant battle for another starting position, there's also the matter of Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd, who have requested trades. Crayton has let it be known he would like to play elsewhere, but releasing him might be a mistake, even with the emerging Kevin Ogletree inching up the depth chart.
• The Lions have spoken in very positive terms about the rehabilitations of RB Kevin Smith and TE Brandon Pettigrew, who are both coming off late-season ACL surgeries. Just in terms of sheer time, Pettigrew's injury happened a few weeks earlier than Smith got hurt, so it's likely Pettigrew could be ahead of Smith's pace in his return. But it's sounding more as if both players should be back on the field, ready to go, at some point during training camp.
• The Buccaneers' Jeremy Zuttah started all 16 games at left guard last season, but we hear the team wasn't overly excited by his performance and would ideally move him into a backup role after 2010 if no one steps up in training camp this year and takes his starting spot. While he was thrust into the lineup at left guard, sources say Zuttah fits best at right guard or center. Tampa Bay recently released Arron Sears, whom Zuttah replaced in the starting lineup last year after Sears encountered personal issues that kept him from joining the team.
• It's been a few weeks since LB Clint Ingram met with the Saints, and he still is an unrestricted free agent. We're told that doesn't mean the Saints are no longer interested in him, however. They still would like to add him to the group of players competing to fill the vacancy at strong-side linebacker, which was created by Scott Fujita's departure to Cleveland in free agency.
• The way we hear it, the Ravens seem likely to add at least one veteran cornerback before the start of the season. Free-agent CB Travis Fisher, who appeared in four games for Seattle last season and has 74 career starts to his credit, tried out for the club during Baltimore's latest minicamp and earned praise from head coach John Harbaugh. "That's a good name, kind of on top of the corner list," Harbaugh told reporters. "He played well. He really looked good. Very solid player — good feet, good technician, works really hard, understands the game, really picked the defense up quickly, and we threw a lot at him. Travis did a nice job."
• When ORT Jared Gaither missed practice time at the Ravens' latest minicamp with foot and toe injuries, third-year OT Oniel Cousins slid into Gaither's spot in the lineup, and Cousins would be the top in-house candidate to replace Gaither were he dealt. Of course, whether Gaither is traded is another issue altogether. According to The (Baltimore) Sun, general manager Ozzie Newsome said recently that the Ravens have "had no trade offer worthy of serious consideration for any of our players" since the draft.
• Don't be surprised if DE Derrick Harvey's playing time diminishes this season. Harvey does a solid job setting the edge but could be pushed by rookies Austen Lane and Larry Hart, who are greater threats to get to the quarterback, in obvious passing situations.
• OLB Elvis Dumervil is expected to return to Denver for the OTAs that begin May 17, but he most likely will not participate in on-field practices. He still has not signed his one-year, $3.168 million restricted free-agent tender and is hoping the Broncos offer him a long-term deal. Sources say Dumervil has been very professional throughout the contract talks, and some expect him to get that long-term deal at some point this summer.
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