Here are some Whispers we've been hearing from our sources around the NFL:
• The Jaguars officially ended the Aaron Kampman experiment, cutting ties with the veteran defensive end who appeared in just 11 games in two seasons after signing a four-year contract that included a $10 million signing bonus. Although Jaguars GM Gene Smith has taken a lot of heat in recent years, we hear Kampman’s failure to make a significant impact shouldn’t be hung on Smith. Kampman, who was coming off a torn ACL when he joined the Jaguars in 2010, was clearly the team’s best defender in the first half of that season before tearing the ACL in his other knee. Despite making a minimal impact on the field, Kampman was a major leader on “D” and a player who taught younger players a great deal about how to practice and prepare.
• How did Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs suffer an Achilles tendon injury that figures to keep him out for at least part of the 2012 season? An ESPN report suggests the injury occurred playing basketball, while Suggs has claimed otherwise. In any case, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti isn’t sweating the fact the injury occurred away from the team. “I would be more upset if he hurt himself sleeping on his couch all offseason,” Bisciotti said this week, according to the club. “To me, if your players are engaged in activities that get them in shape, then I’m proud of them for doing it. I don’t know if I would be working out in April. The way these guys do what they do … I’m proud of Terrell. He got criticized for being out of shape a couple years ago, and he said it would never happen again. He made the Pro Bowl last year, and then he made Defensive Player of the Year this year.” Also, Bisciotti doesn’t look likely to try and reduce Suggs’ compensation. “I think it’d send a really bad (message),” he said.
• Jets head coach Rex Ryan loves his corners, and the team will sometimes put six on the field in certain formations. Donald Strickland, who often played in the No. 4 corner role, remains a free agent. Normally, going that deep on a depth chart at corner is not important, but for Gang Green, those corners can see some crucial playing time. Two of the Jets‚ undrafted free agents, Ryan Steed and Donnie Fletcher, had decent grades early in the draft process, but Steed ran a 4.70 40-yard dash at the Combine and Fletcher, per his PFW scouting report, played mainly zone coverage. We hear one player to keep an eye on who has showed well in practice is Ellis Lankster, a former Bills draft pick who had six special-teams tackles last season.
• All indications this offseason point to Chargers RB Ryan Mathews carrying a heavy load in his third season. Mathews struggled as a rookie but put up big numbers last season, even with Mike Tolbert in the backfield. Tolbert is now in Carolina, but the Chargers wanted to add a veteran back, and they did so by signing Ronnie Brown, who played for the Eagles last season. The former first-rounder is versatile and has plenty of goal-line experience. Mathews is expected to be a bellcow, but Brown brings experience and can also help with youngsters Curtis Brinkley and Edwin Baker.
• The way we hear it, second-year Ravens WR LaQuan Williams has caught the eye in OTAs. Williams, who made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2011, caught four passes in 12 games in 2011 and also contributed on special teams.
• The Texans decided to cut ORT Eric Winston and let ORG Mike Brisiel walk in free agency because, in part, they believe they have capable in-house replacements in OT Rashad Butler and OG Antoine Caldwell. The vacancies on the right side of the line are theirs to lose, but we hear the chances of Caldwell finally staying healthy enough to start 16 games are remote. Enter 6-5, 343 pound fourth-round rookie OG Brandon Brooks, a gargantuan blocker by Texans standards. The Texans feel Brooks is more than mobile enough for their zone-blocking scheme and talented enough that, if Caldwell gets nicked, the rookie might take the job and never look back.
• DT Howard Green and S Chris Harris, two of the better unrestricted free agents still available, could sign with clubs before training camp, agent Albert Elias told PFW last week. Green started five games for Green Bay a season ago, while Harris started a combined eight games for Detroit and Chicago.
• The way we hear it, the No. 4 (and likely last) RB job in Cincinnati looks likely to come down to rookie Dan Herron and veteran Cedric Peerman. Special-teams ability figures to be a key part of the competition.
• The Dolphins traded up for RB Lamar Miller, who projected as a potential top 50 pick, but his durability was a big question mark. We hear that the Dolphins’ aggressive move to get him shows the belief the team needs three good running backs. Miller, who left Miami (Fla.) after his junior season, will battle with Steve Slaton to be the No. 3 back but still has a lot to work on this summer. Daniel Thomas, a 2011 second-rounder, was hampered by injuries last season and didn’t live up to lofty expectations. “I know I’ve gotten better. The injuries affected me a lot last year,” Thomas told The Miami Herald. “They messed my mind up. I lost the confidence I had. I didn’t have the same burst I had earlier.” Thomas said he can’t worry about who Miami drafts, but the Dolphins figure to have a competitive backfield behind Reggie Bush with Thomas, Miller and Steve Slaton.
• Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley told reporters at the club’s most recent OTA that David Johnson’s transition from tight end to fullback has gone well. Said Haley: “David is doing a very good job. The thought process there is that he knows tight end and is comfortable with tight end. Fullback is something that we hadn’t had that body type here and he had done most of it. That’s also a position that if you’re going to be playing you’ve got to be back there on a full-time basis, at least in the learning stages. We know David can move both directions and that will give him great value, especially as a game day roster-type guy. When you’ve got a guy that can do a couple different things that’s a bonus and he’s just jumped headfirst in, knowing that he’s in the learning stage and trying to get as much as he can. It doesn’t mean he won’t be lining up at tight end either.”