We've been hearing the following whispers around the NFC:
• Our sources in Green Bay would not be shocked if the team released a sizable number of familiar veterans this offseason. Included on the list of potential casualties is eighth-year TE Donald Lee, who is now looking up at Jermichael Finley on the depth chart; sixth-year LB Brady Poppinga, whose pass-rush shortcomings could prove to be his undoing; fifth-year CB-S Jarrett Bush; and fourth-year OT Allen Barbre. We also hear it's almost a given that one of the team's three fullbacks (John Kuhn, Korey Hall or Quinn Johnson) will be sent packing.
• The Cowboys plan to use starting OLG Kyle Kosier as a backup center, even though he hadn't played the position previously. The re-signing of Montrae Holland gives the team enough solid depth up front, and the team feels confident that Kosier can pick up snapping and making line calls without an issue.
• Cowboys WR Patrick Crayton is planning on sitting out the team's OTAs while he waits for the trade he has requested amid a deep WR corps. But the Cowboys don't appear to be in a rush to deal him, perhaps because they know Crayton provides value as a slot receiver and punt returner (two TD returns last season). If they do trade him, it might be wise to wait for a needy team that has suffered an injury at the position to come calling, rather than selling him short of his value.
• Redskins NT Maake Kemoeatu says he's about 90 percent back from the ruptured right Achilles tendon he suffered last season with the Panthers and should be ready to perform in training camp. The biggest issue, he says, is getting his weight down to about 345 pounds, as he currently sits in the 360-pound range.
• The Lions have an interesting situation at weak-side linebacker, Ernie Sims' old spot. The favorite right now appears to be Zack Follett, who came on at the end of last season as a strong special-teams competitor and who has had a strong offseason, we hear. But don't rule out a veteran entering the mix. Free agent Keith Bulluck, who played for Jim Schwartz in Tennessee, is said to be close to 100 percent healthy following knee surgery and could be an option.
• Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell might not know for certain whether Brett Favre is returning, but he believes his offensive line will be intact this season. "Right now it looks that way," Bevell said of the prospect of his five starters returning. "I feel good about them. Right now, they are all as offensive linemen are: They are a little bit banged up. Some of them had offseason procedures to take care of things. They are all working in the weight room. They are all here. They are all lifting and getting stronger. I look forward to good things from them."
• We hear one undrafted Packers rookie who figures to have a good shot at making the final roster is CB Sam Shields, a University of Miami (Fla.) product with more speed than anybody currently on the roster. Shields, who ran two 40-yard dashes in 4.30 and 4.33 seconds on grass surfaces at his pro day in Coral Gables, Fla., excelled in kick-return coverage at "the U," an area in which the Packers could use a major boost.
• Observers at the Bears' late-May minicamp were somewhat surprised at how little Major Wright, the team's top draft pick this year, got on the field. Newly acquired Chris Harris and Danieal Manning saw most of the first-team action at free and strong safety, respectively, which is the opposite of what most expected. One noteworthy shortcoming displayed by Harris was his problem catching the football. Said one observer of Harris: "The guy's got skillets for hands."
• It would appear veteran Kevin Shaffer has the edge at left guard for the Bears at the moment. But the way we hear it, Bears GM Jerry Angelo would probably prefer for either 2009 seventh-rounder Lance Louis or undrafted '09 practice-squad member Johan Asiata to win the job.
• Saints RB Pierre Thomas did not attend the team's voluntary OTAs after having vowed to participate in all of the offseason practices when asked about his plans in March, and his absence has not yet been explained. The Saints and Thomas are said to be in talks regarding a long-term contract, and a deal could get done before next season. Thomas has yet to sign his restricted free-agent tender.
• The Buccaneers spent their top two draft picks on DTs Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, and both players are expected to get plenty of reps in 2010. While the arrival of the two rookies has overshadowed 2009 third-round pick Roy Miller's first season, he isn't expected to get lost in the shuffle come next season. The Bucs are optimistic about Miller's future, and he will factor heavily into the rotation at nose tackle.
• Our Cardinals insiders are thinking that maybe Pro Bowl DT Darnell Dockett is starting to realize he might be better off toning down his presence on the social-network scene. The avid Twitter user recently apologized for taking a shower on the Internet after being offered $1,000 to do so. "Darnell plays for a conservative organization, and this kind of stuff is not going to help him get a new contract," one veteran team insider said. "He'd be much better off acting like Adrian Wilson, who kept a low profile and did everything by the book and was ultimately taken care of."
• Daily observers of the 49ers tell us that both first-round OT Anthony Davis and OG Mike Iupati have made strong early impressions for the most part. Davis is reportedly in much better shape than he was shortly after the draft, when he couldn't finish a practice during a rookie camp. But word is he's far from a workout warrior. As for Iupati,"even Davis looks small next to him," one team observer said. "That guy is just huge."
• Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo believes WR Donnie Avery should benefit from the muscle he has added this offseason. "I think so," Spagnuolo said. "… I like the fact that he did that. You get whacked around pretty good when you catch the football."
• We hear the Seahawks absolutely love first-round FS Earl Thomas' all-around athletic ability. "They really like the fact in high school he was also the point guard on the basketball team and the center fielder on the baseball team," one daily team observer said.
Related link: AFC Whispers
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