Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the NFL:
• What was the reason behind Texans QB Matt Schaub’s struggles down the stretch in 2012? Is it possible that an undisclosed injury played a part? The Texans will say adamantly that wasn’t the case. Ditto for Schaub. But for a player as prickly about his injury-prone label as Schaub, coming off a fresh contract extension and with the biggest expectations of his career on his shoulders, it is possible, we hear, that Schaub didn’t want to reveal an injury that might have adversely affected his play, for fear that it would only increase his dubious reputation for always being nicked up. He never even appeared on the injury report last season, despite a number of big shots, including having part of his ear removed by Broncos LB Joe Mays. The one thing we know for sure is that Schaub’s accuracy and effectiveness waned in the final quarter of the season.
• As the assembling of Jaguars new head coach Gus Bradley’s staff nears its completion, we continue to hear rumblings about the lack of experience of the group. One source in Jacksonville wondered, what was the hurry to choose both of his coordinators 24 hours after being hired? Bob Babich was basically run out of Chicago, we hear, and Jedd Fisch has never called plays at the NFL level. For as much positive attention as the hiring of Bradley received, his staff has been met with a lot of lukewarm responses leaguewide. Yet, Bradley opted for close friends and a lot of college coaches, which we hear is a major gamble that could end up costing him.
• ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported prior to the Super Bowl that Ravens free-agent S Ed Reed could be on the way to Indianapolis, where he would be reunited with head coach Chuck Pagano. We hear that connection makes a ton of sense, as the Colts sorely lacked a playmaker on the back end of the defense a season ago, and Reed and Pagano have a strong relationship. However, the scuttlebutt could be Reed’s contract demands. If he is looking for a long-term deal, it isn’t likely to come from the Colts, who won’t be willing to invest heavily on an aging, albeit future Hall of Fame safety, like Reed, who has had injury issues creep up of late.
• The Cowboys reportedly want to re-sign Anthony Spencer, but at what cost? His price will be costly coming off arguably his best season to date, and he might not be an ideal fit in the new 4-3 scheme. The Saints, shifting to a 3-4 defense, might be a logical fit — especially with Rob Ryan being hired for the coordinator position.
• The Chiefs might not be willing to pay OLT Branden Albert what he wants — and they might view him more as a left guard with Texas A&M OLT Luke Joeckel in their sights as the possible No. 1 pick in the draft. Expect Albert to get paid, though, either way. He’s young, talented and some team likely will be willing to make him a respectable offer as a left tackle if the Chiefs do not.
• A fan favorite in Foxborough over the last three seasons, RB Danny Woodhead is no certainty to return to the Patriots. Woodhead is entering free agency for the first time in his career. While we hear the Patriots definitely value Woodhead and would bring him back at the right price, running back is a deep position, with Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden and Jeff Demps, who spent the 2012 season on injured reserve. The Pats generally won’t overpay for anyone, but especially running backs. They had no problem letting BenJarvus Green-Ellis walk last year — the “Law Firm” signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the Bengals. Woodhead had seven total TDs in 2012 and 747 yards from scrimmage, but if he is looking for No. 2 running back-type money, he may be hard pressed to find that with the Patriots.
• As the Dolphins spend the offseason working to put better weapons around QB Ryan Tannehill, we hear one thing the team wants its franchise signalcaller to improve upon is accuracy. Tannehill completed 58.3 percent of his passes as a rookie, though was markedly better in wins, completing 65.7 percent of his throws in the seven victories compared to only 54.3 in nine losses. “He can take a step better in accuracy, in ball placement, getting the ball out faster, tempo,” GM Jeff Ireland told reporters at the Senior Bowl.
• Jeff Fisher is no stranger to taking a chance on a player with character issues, as his latest risk was claiming WR Titus Young off waivers from the Lions. Receiver is certainly a position worth an upgrade in St. Louis — no wideout had more than 700 yards receiving, and Young had 607 as a rookie in 2011. Young’s divorce from Detroit was messy, and Fisher will try to get the most out of his talent and keep him in line. During his first season with the Rams, Fisher benched rookies Chris Givens and Janoris Jenkins from a division game against the Niners for missing curfew.
• Broncos CB Champ Bailey had a performance to forget in the playoff loss to the Ravens. A CBS Sports report listed Bailey as a potential cap casualty — the future Hall of Famer is owed $9.5 million next year, in addition to a $1 million roster bonus. Despite the money owed, we hear that the Broncos have no intention of releasing Bailey. He had a Pro Bowl season — not simply by name recognition, but by his play, and cornerback is already considered a position of need for the Broncos this offseason.