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AFC Whispers

Jaguars will pursue top WR

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By PFW staff

Following are a number of whispers we've been hearing from around the AFC:

• Jaguars GM Gene Smith is determined to fix the WR corps this offseason — both via the draft and free agency. Once Smith ranks the available free agents, expect the Jaguars to land whomever they view as the top guy. Jacksonville proved last offseason that it is willing to overspend — and has plenty of cash to burn — so it is unlikely to be outbid, we hear. An interesting caveat to watch for will be whether Smith is willing to brush aside character concerns to acquire a talented receiver who may come with baggage (think Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, etc.).

• Titans DT-turned-DE Jason Jones was a good soldier when Tennessee informed him he was being moved outside before the season, even if Jones might have felt he was a better fit inside. Now, he is an unrestricted free agent whose value likely diminished after he struggled to learn a new position. With the Titans unlikely to offer more than a one-year deal, it will be interesting to see if Jones receives more desirable offers elsewhere, perhaps from teams willing to slide him back inside.

• While rookies J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and T.J. Yates were making big contributions for the Texans this past season, second-round CB Brandon Harris, whom the club moved up to draft, was pretty much a forgotten man. Word is Harris' lack of speed made it hard for him to get on the field, even on special teams. With the improvement of nickel CB Brice McCain, it remains to be seen if Harris can carve out a bigger role next season.

• One thing the Jets may have to do this offseason is draft or sign a quarterback to provide legitimate competition to Mark Sanchez. Backup Mark Brunell will be 42, and Greg McElroy, who spent the season on injured reserve, was a seventh-round pick. One daily team observer pointed out that the Jets also have Kevin O'Connell, a former third-rounder who has yet to live up to his potential. Veteran RB LaDainian Tomlinson agreed with the sentiment that Sanchez needs someone to put pressure on him. "Yes, he is, I would say, a bit pampered because he has no competition," Tomlinson said on Showtime's "Inside the NFL." "He has no real threat to say this guy may take my job."

• One of Bills GM Buddy Nix's recent statements that confused some observers was in reference to the tackle position. The team re-signed ORT Erik Pears, and Nix confirmed it is set on the right side. He then discussed OLTs Demetrius Bell and Chris Hairston. Nix said the team is going to try to re-sign Bell, who is set to be a free agent. Despite possibly having two left tackles for the 2012 season, Nix said, "We're going to draft a tackle if we can. ... You can never have too many tackles." It's possible the team is simply keeping open the option of drafting a franchise left tackle, especially if they cannot come to terms with Bell.

• The Browns could look to add more youth on the edges of their lines, the way we hear it. Keep an eye on how they proceed at right tackle and at right defensive end. ORT Tony Pashos is entering the final year of his contract, and DRE Jayme Mitchell had just 1½ sacks in 2011. The Browns found two immediate D-line starters in the 2011 draft (DT Phil Taylor, DE Jabaal Sheard) and got 16 starts from rookie Jason Pinkston at left guard in place of the injured Eric Steinbach.

• In Ben Roethlisberger's rookie season of 2004, the Steelers attempted passing plays on 38.9 percent of their offensive snaps. In 2011, they attempted passes on 57.2 percent of their snaps. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who oversaw some decidedly pass-happy attacks in Pittsburgh, has "retired," but a pass-first philosophy is likely to remain no matter who replaces Arians as coordinator. The personnel lends itself to such a strategy; Roethlisberger is a very gifted passer, and WRs Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown need to get the ball. One story line to watch, however, is whether Roethlisberger will start to change his game, or whether there will be any scheme changes to protect him a little more. Steelers president Art Rooney II recently told Pittsburgh reporters that taking fewer sacks could help Roethlisberger, who's nearing his 30th birthday. Roethlisberger has been sacked 314 times in the regular season, plus another 36 times in the playoffs, in nine NFL seasons. 

• A source told PFW that the Chiefs are staying tight-lipped about the search for an offensive coordinator, maybe indicating they want to interview a coach whose team is still alive in the playoffs. Hiring a coach who can be a good tutor to the quarterbacks would benefit the team, as it seems to excel when Matt Cassel is playing his best. Jim Zorn, who was the team's QB coach last season, did some good things in 2011, but the source said he is "a bit of an oddball" and not likely to be promoted to coordinator.

• Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno is healing well from the knee surgery he underwent in November after suffering a torn ACL. According to a team insider, Moreno is likely to return in 2012, though not with a very big role. His salary-cap number is fairly low next season, so there is little risk in keeping the former first-round pick on the roster to see how he recovers from the injury.

• Chargers CB Shareece Wright caused a bit of an uproar in Southern California when he tweeted, "Downtown LA looking nice. Wait till that football stadium gets built. #LosAngelesChargers." Wright later apologized, saying he misspoke and that he wants the team to remain in San Diego, before deleting his Twitter account.

• One name to watch in the Raiders' coaching search is Al Saunders, the team's offensive coordinator. Though we hear he is not likely to be a candidate for the Oakland head-coaching job, he may remain with the team if a defensive-minded head coach is hired. However, if the Raiders go with a coach who has an offensive background, Saunders may go elsewhere, perhaps back to Kansas City, where he coached for several years in the 1990s and early 2000s.

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