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Whitner no sure thing to leave Buffalo

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Posted May 22, 2011 @ 10:53 a.m. ET
By PFW staff

Following are whispers we've been hearing from around the league:

Donte Whitner's future continues to be up in the air, as he maintained early this month that he wants to be a Buffalo Bill, even after GM Buddy Nix said he doesn't think Whitner wanted to stay with the Bills. The selections of CB Aaron Williams and SS Da'Norris Searcy in the draft give the Bills insurance should Whitner leave. But, if the NFL plays under 2010 rules, Whitner might not even have that option as a fifth-year player. He was offered a restricted free-agent tender, and he told The Associated Press that he "wouldn't have any problem with that" when asked about playing one more season in Buffalo for the tender. If Whitner sticks around, it would only bolster the team's deepest unit.

• One Buccaneers player who did make it into the team facility during the brief lifting of the lockout was DT Brian Price, who is rehabbing from a pelvic fracture that landed him on injured reserve after playing in five games last season. The Bucs are expecting him to be ready for training camp and he could become the starting nose tackle if he's healthy. Price, a second-round pick in 2010, reportedly just recently began light running.

• The Dolphins used a seventh-round pick on DT Frank Kearse. Judging by the team's success in finding talent at the nose tackle position — Paul Soliai, a 2007 fourth-round pick by the team, had a breakout year in '10 and earned the franchise tag — it has faith that Kearse can help down the line. It will take a couple years for the massive-bodied Alabama A&M product to develop, though, but he could earn a roster spot in 2011 as a reserve.

• One Vikings veteran to watch this offseason will be TE Jim Kleinsasser. The mainstay might not have a roster spot locked up with the addition of second-round pick Kyle Rudolph and with the team needing to make a decision on Visanthe Shiancoe, whose deal has one more year left. Kleinsasser could be on the outs because Jeff Dugan is capable of playing tight end and fullback.

• We would not be surprised if the Giants don't make a big play for a free-agent middle linebacker. Recent reports have them going after a front-line free agent such as Barrett Ruud, but it wouldn't shock us if they opt not to spend big money at that position and instead lean heavily on the 4-2-5, three-safety package they broke out last season.

• Chargers RB Darren Sproles remains the most frequently mentioned free-agent possibility in St. Louis as a change-of-pace backup to Rams RB Steven Jackson. But another attractive option generating some behind-the-scenes buzz at Rams Park is Cadillac Williams, who took on a new role this past season in Tampa Bay as an effective backup behind LeGarrette Blount. "Cadillac would be a perfect fit behind Jackson," one team insider said. "I hear he had no problem accepting a part-time role in Tampa. The one thing you have to wonder about, though, is whether the Bucs would really be willing to let a guy like that leave."

• While the Rams appear genuinely excited about the potential of second-round TE Lance Kendricks, we hear there is some concern about his durability, as nagging injuries tended to limit his practice time at Wisconsin.

• While Alex Smith all but admitted shortly after the birth of his first child that he likely will remain the 49ers' starting quarterback, we hear second-round rookie QB Colin Kaepernick also has been keeping busy on a couple of fronts. In addition to picking the brain of Stanford QB Andrew Luck about head coach Jim Harbaugh, Kaepernick also recently underwent lower leg surgery, which he indicated might have scared off some other suitors during the draft. Kaepernick said he expects to be fully recovered from the surgery before the Niners' offseason work begins.

• The Seahawks were determined to add offensive linemen with a real nasty, physical presence in the draft, and we hear the team definitely believes both first-round draft pick James Carpenter, who is projected as the starting right tackle, and third-round draft pick John Moffitt, who is projected as the starting right guard, fill the bill. It appears that is especially the case with Moffitt, who was scouted extensively by Seahawks GM John Schneider. "He (Schneider) has really been gushing about Moffitt," one team insider said. "He loves the way Moffitt took charge on the field when the going got tough for Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl."

• Even though Seahawks free-agent LB Matt McCoy was the leading tackler on special teams last season, we hear he might not be a top re-signing priority with the team having spent a pair of draft picks on OLBs K.J. Wright (fourth round) and Malcolm Smith (seventh round), both of whom are expected to log substantial duty on special teams.

• While holding court recently in his old Ann Arbor stomping grounds during an annual charity event, Packers 14-year veteran CB Charles Woodson revealed that the left collarbone he broke in the Super Bowl should be fully healed in time for the 2011 season. When asked by Ann how many more years he thought he might play, Woodson answered, " I don't know. As many as they'll have me in Green Bay."

• The Broncos have not had a chance to add defensive line depth since the draft and are continuing to explore multiple options they could act on once the lockout concludes. One daily team observer said that Denver is expected to add the best player or players available, and not necessarily a player with a long future with the team. "It's possible they go for a stop-gap player," according to the source.

• Titans rookie QB Jake Locker is in good hands with offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains. Palmer has a strong track record of improving the accuracy of young quarterbacks and Loggains is highly regarded within the organization for being a smart guy who teaches sound technique.

• A big part of the problem with Houston's defense last season was a lack of discipline, which often can be attributed to poor coaching. In addition to changing coordinators and replacing three assistant coaches, the club selected smart, hardworking players in the draft who should bring more discipline and accountability to the unit from Day One.

• Falcons WR Michael Jenkins has handled the addition of sixth overall pick WR Julio Jones, who is expected to replace Jenkins as a starter opposite Roddy White, like a professional, sources say. He's not on the roster bubble, we hear, as the Falcons are trying to build a deep receiver corps and envision him playing a role in it. Jenkins has good size and he and Harry Douglas could share time in the slot in three-receiver sets.

• It will be interesting to see how the Bengals fill out the depth chart spots at tight end behind Jermaine Gresham. Veteran Reggie Kelly, who has made his name as a blocker, is slated to be an unrestricted free agent. Should he not re-sign, the Bengals might need to add a blocking tight end. Third-year pro Chase Coffman, a third-round pick in 2009, is best as a pass receiver. Garrett Mills, whom the Bengals claimed off waivers in December, also could be in the mix to make the club.

• The Browns did not draft a running back and currently have three running backs on the roster for 2011. It's reasonable to think they will look to add another runner, with the ability to contribute on third downs an attribute they could be seeking, suggests a daily team observer. Mike Bell, the Browns' primary backup for much of last season, will be a free agent. Second-year RB Montario Hardesty looks to be the favorite to be the top reserve behind Peyton Hillis in 2011.

• Chargers first-round pick Corey Liuget might not start from Day One, but he will see the field plenty. Head coach Norv Turner told PFW he expects Liuget to take at least 50 percent of the defensive snaps, with his greatest initial contribution coming as a third-down nickel pass rusher.

• Whenever free agency begins, expect the Chiefs to target more depth at offensive tackle and inside linebacker. Neither position was addressed by GM Scott Pioli in the draft, but the team could use an upgrade at both spots.

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