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Ravens planned to re-sign Heap

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Posted Aug. 07, 2011 @ 12:51 p.m. ET
By PFW staff

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

• We hear the Ravens would have liked to have re-signed TE Todd Heap, but he signed with Arizona after his release from Baltimore. We're told the Ravens are likely to go with the young trio of Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta and Davon Drew as their top three tight ends. Adding a more experienced veteran probably isn't in the cards, given that Baltimore has other areas it likely would prioritize were it to go shopping in free agency.

• No player has been more impressive in Broncos camp than rookie TE Julius Thomas. The fourth-round pick has great athleticism and has impressed coaches with his ability to make plays all over the field. Thomas has lined up on the line, in the slot and outside, and has been effective in all three spots. He still needs to improve his blocking, a reason the team added veteran TEs Daniel Fells and Dante Rosario in free agency.

• Raiders coaches are excited to see WR Chaz Schilens healthy in camp. He made only five receptions last season because of a knee injury that knocked him out of 11 games, but the team still believes he can be a solid contributor in the passing game. With TE Zach Miller having departed in free agency, QB Jason Campbell will be looking for a new top target, and Schilens might be one to watch.

• The Bengals made adding a guard a priority in free agency. A deal with the Cardinals' Deuce Lutui fell through when he failed his physical with Cincinnati. However, the Bengals were able to add an experienced replacement in former Eagles OG Max Jean-Gilles. We're told the team believes that Jean-Gilles' technique needs work but that he has some upside. 

• Cardinals camp observers report that Brandon Keith, who has a shaky hold on the starting ORT job, has been limping frequently early in camp and could get overtaken by veteran Jeremy Bridges sooner than later if he doesn't start looking a lot healthier.

• Cardinals second-year OLB O'Brien Schofield, whom team insiders consider the front-runner to replace Joey Porter as the starting right outside linebacker, has gained 14 pounds and is up to 252.

• The word out of St. Louis is that Brandon Gibson has been an early standout among the Rams' wideouts. But head coach Steve Spagnuolo also likes what he has seen so far of rookie WRs Greg Salas and Austin Pettis. "I'll tell you what, they as much as any of the vets, have picked up the system pretty well," Spagnuolo said of the two rookies. "They don't look like normal rookies to me. By that I mean, normally they'd be tired, they'd be making a lot of mental mistakes. I don't really see that."

• New 49ers WR Braylon Edwards, whose off-the-field baggage has been well-documented, agrees with head coach Jim Harbaugh's belief that Edwards needs to re-establish the training habits he had in college at Michigan. "I think he's hitting the nail on the head," Edwards said of Harbaugh, a fellow Michigan product. "I think I've put myself in some situations that I'm to blame for and coming out here is a good, fresh start to get a clean, fresh slate with people that I trust."

• Our Seahawks sources tell us two rookie free-agent receivers in particular appear to have caught head coach Pete Carroll's eye early in camp — Ricardo Lockette and Doug Baldwin. The 6-foot-2 Lockette — who has been given the nickname "Lockette The Rocket" — has raised eyebrows with the speed that made him an NCAA Division II 200-meter sprint champion at Fort Valley State. The 5-foot-10 Baldwin, a Stanford product, made a half-dozen catches in one early practice that we hear resulted in a special pat on the back from Carroll.

• On the other side of the ball out in Seattle, we hear physical CFL product Brandon Browner could be a sleeper worth keeping an eye on at cornerback.

• We hear Packers rookie TEs D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor could give second-year TE Andrew Quarless, whose performance as a rookie was uneven, a real run for a final roster spot.

Tony Sparano has made no secret of the fact that the Dolphins want to be a faster team in 2011. Fourth-round rookie WR Clyde Gates is one of the keys to making that happen. "Obviously with (Clyde), the reason that we drafted him, this guy catches the football well, but it's the top-end speed," Sparano told reporters on Aug. 4. Brian Hartline was the team's speed receiver in 2010, and we hear that it's not out of the question for someone to challenge him for the No. 3 spot in training camp. It's a long shot, especially for Gates, an Abilene Christian product, but he is a candidate to make some noise with his rare speed. Marlon Moore is another reserve receiver to watch. He had a 57-yard touchdown catch last year as a rookie.

• Most of the Patriots' starting spots are set in stone, but there are some battles to watch for backup roles. One daily team observer singled out the backup quarterback competition. Brian Hoyer looked impressive in the 2010 season finale, but third-round QB Ryan Mallett comes with first-round-QB talent. While it will take Mallett time to learn the system and get acclimated to life in the NFL, his skill set cannot be ignored. Hoyer most likely will exit training camp as the No. 2, but it's still a competition to watch, especially if Mallett is to be groomed as Tom Brady's heir apparent.

• Usually you hear about players wanting more than anything to play for the Jets and Rex Ryan. Veteran Jerricho Cotchery didn't see it that way. The team cut Cotchery, and he reportedly had asked for a trade previously. With Cotchery gone, along with Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith, Mark Sanchez has only one starting receiver returning, Santonio Holmes. A veteran could still be brought in, but fifth-round rookie Jeremy Kerley might be thrown into the fire early on. "I think you guys have seen, as well as I do, that (Jeremy) Kerley's got a chance, I think, to be something special," Ryan said on Aug. 5. Joining Kerley is Patrick Turner, a former third-round pick of the Dolphins, rookie Scotty McKnight and Logan Payne, who hasn't caught a ball since 2008.

• The Bills already are taking a risk putting their pass-rushing hopes on Shawne Merriman. There also isn't much behind Merriman and Chris Kelsay at outside linebacker, especially with Arthur Moats moving to the inside. Aaron Maybin remains on the roster, but head coach Chan Gailey didn't seem very optimistic about Maybin having any kind of resurgence. "The key for him is being productive on the field. He has to become a consistent player against the run and a consistent pass rusher. He has work to do, he's not there yet. So we will see how he continues to develop, but he has a long way to go."

• Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, who has taken over play-calling responsibilities from head coach Jack Del Rio, has been preaching takeaways thus far in training camp. The Jaguars' defense, which tied for the fewest takeaways in the league (18) last season, has been instructed by Tucker to pick up any ball that hits the ground and start running.
 
• Colts new OLB Ernie Sims, who thought he might be drafted by the club coming out of Florida State in 2006, is a very similar player to former starter Clint Session. One daily team observer actually said that Sims, who is wearing Session's old No. 55, easily could be mistaken for Session. Sims and second-year WLB Kavell Conner will be waging one of the fiercest position battles during camp, the way we hear it.

• The Panthers were expecting free-agent acquisition Ron Edwards to help stuff the run as the starting nose tackle this season, but he's likely out for the year after suffering a torn triceps. While Carolina wanted a proven, veteran presence on the interior, 2011 third-round picks Sione Fua and Terrell McClain could be the best options to start at D-tackle, with Fua playing over the nose and McClain lining up at the three-technique. The free-agent options at the position have narrowed considerably. The Panthers are exploring the market, but good help is going to be hard to find.

• We hear Garrett Reynolds has the early lead over Mike Johnson in the battle to become the Falcons' starting right guard, but the competition to fill the vacancy left by Harvey Dahl's departure is far from settled.

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