We've been hearing the following whispers around the NFL:
• Our Niners sources agree that it's a long shot that starting NT Aubrayo Franklin, who is looking for a long-term contract, will steer clear of training camp and not eventually sign his one-year franchise tender. "Nobody has heard a word from him, but I just don't see it (a holdout)," said one team insider. "Seven million (dollars), after all, is nothing to sneeze at."
• Also on the Niners' contract front, word is that TE Vernon Davis, who is signed through 2010, has his sights set on becoming the league's highest-paid tight end at around $8 million per season — a lofty figure that makes him a strong bet to receive a franchise tag in 2011. We also hear that up-and-coming SS Dashon Goldson, who like Davis is entering his contract year, is looking for the same kind of deal that Antrel Rolle received from the Giants (five years, $37 million, with $15 million guaranteed).
• There's no hiding the concern we hear the Cardinals have at inside linebacker in the wake of the recent disclosure that starting LILB Gerald Hayes underwent back surgery this summer and will not be ready for the start of training camp. Hayes missed most of the Cardinals' early offseason workouts, and even before his surgery was made public, some team insiders were suggesting that second-year pro Reggie Walker could make a serious run at Hayes' starting job. Another strong possibility is that free-agent addition Paris Lenon, the projected starter at the RILB position vacated by free-agent defector Karlos Dansby, will move to left inside linebacker at the start of camp, and Ali Highsmith and second-round rookie Daryl Washington will initially battle to replace Dansby.
• There have yet to be any sightings by our Seahawks sources of Scot McCloughan, the former Niners GM who was hired in June by old buddy and new Seahawks GM John Schneider as a senior personnel executive. "The first order of business with him is to get his personal life back in order," one source close to the scene told PFW regarding McCloughan.
• Considering their current lack of a clear-cut No. 1 split end, the rumors indicating that the Seahawks could be interested in name receivers such as Terrell Owens and Vincent Jackson probably will not go away. But the way we hear it, the team has decided to move forward with its current personnel at wide receiver, for better or worse. "It's mostly them not wanting to upset any chemistry that has developed," said one team source. "It's also true, though, in the case of T.O., that the team was not willing to pay what he was looking for."
• Giants WR Ramses Barden once again had a strong offseason, but now our team sources think he might actually get a chance to do likewise during the regular season after barely playing as a rookie. If Barden can build off another strong camp (he was one of the stars of Albany last year), he could have a great chance to enter the team's goal-line package and perform on offense this season.
• With the Lions expected to use more two-TE formations this season, there might not be a big need for a full-time fullback. So there's a chance the team could cut Jerome Felton, unless he can show he's capable of carrying the ball in certain situations and also being a big special-teams performer. TE Jake Nordin has received a lot more time at fullback than expected this offseason and could be kept as a two-position player to save a roster spot.
• Don't rule out the possibility of Lance Louis, a seventh-round draft pick last year, burrowing out of the Bears' woodwork to make a push for the starting ORG position, which would open up the possibility of longtime starting ORG Roberto Garza moving to left guard.
• In a perfect world, we hear Bears TE Greg Olsen would love the same kind of long-term contract extension that Brent Celek received from the Eagles (six years, with $10.5 million guaranteed).
• We hear Packers OL Daryn Colledge, who struggled through a rough 2009 campaign, has his weight down to 308 and is feeling in as good a shape as he's been since joining the team.
• Word is the odds are slim that the Packers will keep three fullbacks on the final roster as they did last year with John Kuhn, Korey Hall and Quinn Johnson.
• Some consider Brian Williams the front-runner in the Falcons' competition to start at right cornerback, but he may not be ready to fully participate in the battle when training camp starts Thursday. Williams underwent surgery after he tore his ACL in Week Six last season, and word is it could be the end of the training camp before he's playing at full speed. Brent Grimes, Chris Owens and Chevis Jackson are the other contenders to start opposite newcomer Dunta Robinson.
• Buccaneers DT Ryan Sims, who started every game last season, was spared from the team's slew of cuts after the draft, but his job security is still in doubt. Rookie DT Gerald McCoy is expected to start at the three-technique, and rookie DT Brian Price should see a good chunk of snaps at nose tackle. Second-year DT Roy Miller is also expected to be heavily involved in the rotation. Sims, 30, could end up as the fourth defensive tackle and will have to prove he can hang with the youngsters in training camp if he's to keep his job.
• Although quality veteran offensive linemen remain available, the Bills don't appear likely to add any free agents to their roster in the immediate future. That could obviously change if injuries befall the unit in training camp, but for now the club is reportedly content with what they have on the O-line, a group that many view as one of the league's weakest.
• Expect TE Joel Dreessen to be the Texans' long-snapper, a source close to the club tells PFW. Dreessen is not listed as a long-snapper on the Texans' roster — rookie Jon Weeks is the only player designated as such entering training camp — but Dreessen has handled the task before and will likely handle it again this season. The club also has just one punter on the roster — veteran Matt Turk, who posted a personal career-best and team single-season record 39.4-yard net average last season at age 41.
• The Texans signed FB Justin Griffith, who started 11 games for Seattle last season, in June, but incumbent Vonta Leach remains secure as the starter, the way we hear it.
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