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NFC Whispers

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By PFW staff

Here are some whispers our sources have been hearing from around the NFC:

• All the talk prior to free agency is over which offensive lineman the Cowboys might sign. But another high-profile player at a different position could end up being the apple of their eyes. Sources have said the Cowboys would love for Chiefs CB Brandon Carr to hit the open market, so they can make a run at him. The expectation is that the Chiefs could franchise Carr and are said to be in fine cap shape, but they also have WR Dwayne Bowe to worry about. If Carr somehow makes it to March 13 unsigned, expect the Cowboys to go all in for him and worry about a high-profile guard (Carl Nicks or someone else) thereafter.

• The Redskins likely will address the receiver position in free agency first before they think about leaning on the draft for help. The goal would be to get an instant starter at wideout to complement Leonard Hankerson, who was moving toward a starting role before getting hurt a year ago, and slow WR Santana Moss.

• The Giants might not be able to grant Osi Umenyiora his wish and trade him. Jason Pierre-Paul could be double-teamed for the next five years, Justin Tuck battled through various ailments all season and there is little depth after that. Umenyiora, whether he likes it or not, remains a vital cog. That said, we still could see the Giants drafting a pass rusher in Round One. They love to develop pass rushers a year or two before they truly need one. It's smart business.

• The man who could take WR Mario Manningham's place if he leave via free agency? Jerrel Jernigan. He had a quiet rookie season in New York, but GM Jerry Reese was not shy about mentioning Jernigan as a candidate to step up if Manningham walks.

• It appeared that the Vikings and CB Cedric Griffin would part ways after a troublesome season, but head coach Leslie Frazier expressed some strong optimism that Griffin could return next season. The team still has a need at corner, and though Griffin's two troublesome knees are a concern, he has a chance to be a contributor if he can come in healthy, even with likely additions at the position.

• Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, speaking to reporters at the Scouting Combine, said the team could cope with WR Calvin Johnson's 2012 salary-cap number (reportedly around $22 million) remaining as is, though the club would prefer a lower figure. Johnson is entering the final year of his contract, and one of the advantages of a new deal for Johnson would be the opportunity to keep the star wideout beyond 2012 and lower his salary-cap figure. "We can handle Calvin's number if we have to," Mayhew said. "Obviously, we (prefer to) have more flexibility, more cap room, so we have a desire to get that done, but we have a way to handle his number. We'll see what makes sense for both of us."

• Reacting to Ted Thompson's typically guarded style in his annual Combine interviews with the national media, one writer asked the tight-lipped Packers GM to at least say something funny this year. Untrue to form, Thompson delivered one of the funniest quotes at this year's Combine. "In settings like this, I try to be informative, but I'm honest when I say I'm not going to tell any trade secrets up here while I'm here," Thompson said. "It's just not going to happen. I'm not going to lie. I guess you could go the route and be like 'Opposite George' on 'Seinfield.' You know, say whatever's the opposite. But I like to try to be honest with you."

• The Falcons traded to be in position to draft RB Jacquizz Rodgers as a change-of-pace back in the fifth round last year, but head coach Mike Smith said at the Scouting Combine that the team feels confident Rodgers can play all three downs. RB Michael Turner is still the team's featured back. However, the team plans on putting him on a "pitch count" next season. Rodgers' involvement is going to increase.

• With Mike Nolan on board as the Falcons' defensive coordinator, the team is expected to show some 3-4 alignments in addition to their base 4-3. The team could look to maximize the versatility of DT Corey Peters. They view him as an athlete who can play multiple positions in the defensive front, and he's capable of lining up as a nose tackle in odd and even fronts, as a three-technique in a 4-3 and a five-technique in the 3-4. He has quickly become one of the Falcons' more valuable defenders.

• QB Jimmy Clausen fell behind Derek Anderson on the Panthers' depth chart last season and was firmly entrenched as the third-stringer, but Anderson is due to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and Carolina is in the market for a backup for Cam Newton. Could Clausen be a fit in that role? "For what we did last year and what we asked of Jimmy, I thought he handled the situation very well," head coach Ron Rivera said at the Scouting Combine. "He's most certainly a guy that's in the mix in terms of coming back next year and competing."

• If the Seahawks don't re-sign MLB David Hawthorne, many team insiders believe K.J. Wright, who did a stellar job as a rookie this past season replacing Aaron Curry as the starting strong-side linebacker, might be a good replacement for Hawthorne in the middle. "Pete (head coach Pete Carroll) really thinks K.J could be a good 'Mike,' " Seahawks GM John Schneider told PFW at the Combine. "And he did a phenomenal job for us at the 'Sam.' He's a very smart player, and he's got that length. He could probably play all three spots, and three of the four spots in a 3-4."

• Entering last season, there was a widely held perception that Cardinals RB Beanie Wells' toughness left a lot to be desired. But Cardinals GM Rod Graves told PFW at the Combine that the team has no concerns whatsoever along those lines after the way Wells overcame issues with his knees this past season. "I saw from Beanie this year a toughness and a commitment to staying with it, no matter what happened," Graves said. "I was very impressed with how he fought every week to get back on the field when it would have been easy to say he couldn't go. I respect him for that."

• Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh couldn't be happier with the progress being made by backup QBs Colin Kaepernick and Scott Tolzein. "Both of those youngsters did as good a job or better than I've ever seen from young quarterbacks in their approach to the game," Harbaugh told PFW at the Combine. "Both of them are just sponges, in terms of picking up as much as they possibly can. I also liked the way they competed in practice, before practice, after practice. And the way they physically played. They belong, and I think an offseason is going to benefit both of those youngsters very much."

• New Rams head coach Jeff Fisher was surprisingly candid at the Combine on the topic of possibly adding former Titans Albert Haynesworth and Randy Moss to the team's roster via free agency this offseason. "There's some unrestricted free agents out there now that are not under contract that we've been talking about, and Albert is one of them," Fisher said. "And you guys know my familiarity with Randy. I thought he was great for our locker room."

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