Following are whispers we've been hearing from around the AFC:
• It sounds more and more like the Broncos are backing off a trade of QB Kyle Orton. We hear the team prefers to have a veteran quarterback on the roster, especially if a lockout causes a long layoff. The original rumor was that the organization was looking for a second-round pick for the signalcaller, something that could not happen with an expired Collective Bargaining Agreement.
• There's no guarantee OLB Jason Taylor will return to the Jets in 2011 after being released in March. Taylor discussed retirement at the end of the ’10 season and did not have the production in the playoffs the team was hoping for. If he does return, the Jets would welcome him back, but he likely would take a reduced role as a specialized, third-down pass rusher.
• Although S Bob Sanders has played a total of nine games over the past three seasons because of injuries, we hear the Chargers saw too much potential in him to not offer him a contract. Sanders, who was cut by the Colts in February, reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with San Diego, where he could step in as the starting strong safety. Of course, much of that will depend on the 30-year-old's ability to stay healthy, which he hasn't been able to do since 2007. But if the two-time Pro Bowler can shake the injury bug, he would further solidify an already formidable secondary.
• The Patriots decided to offer a tender to S Jarrad Page, reportedly at a second-round compensation level. While we don't know what weight these tenders will hold, the offer in itself tells us that the Pats see Page in their safety rotation. Acquired from the Chiefs for a seventh-round pick before the season, Page was limited with injuries but did have two interceptions. On the other side of this decision is S Brandon McGowan, who was slated to be the team's No. 3 safety before missing all of 2010 with a chest injury. McGowan is set to be a free agent and the tender to Page likely means the team will part ways with McGowan, and that Page will rotate with James Sanders as the team's top backup safeties.
• The Browns did not tender WR Chansi Stuckey as a restricted free agent, agent Terry Watson confirmed on March 4. Watson told PFW he was told the Browns "wanted to go in a different direction," recounting a conversation with an unnamed club executive. Stuckey, 27, caught 40 passes for 346 yards and two TDs in 2010 primarily playing as a slot receiver. Stuckey, who has four years of NFL experience, will be a free agent once player transactions resume. Watson said Stuckey is "open to any and all options" in free agency.
• Not only does a potential lockout adversely affect the Jaguars ability to sell tickets — fans will be reluctant to purchase season tickets without the guarantee of football in 2011 — but it also could have a negative impact on the club's ability to strengthen the roster for next season. While every team would potentially miss out on the opportunity to sign free agents, some teams have more needs than others. GM Gene Smith already has conceded that the Jaguars have too many holes to fill on defense through the draft, so he is dependent on free agency to address some of those weaknesses.
• The Raiders have focused on keeping some key pieces on their defense this offseason, locking up DTs John Henderson and Richard Seymour and CB Stanford Routt while also putting the franchise tag on OLB Kamerion Wimbley. They have yet to name a defensive coordinator, though. Some have speculated that Chuck Bresnahan — who is listed as a defensive coach — will serve as the coordinator, but head coach Hue Jackson said the team was still going through the process of finding a D-coordinator at the NFL Scouting Combine late last month. "When I decide that the process needs to be over, it'll be over, but right now that's not the No. 1 thing that's on my mind," Jackson said.
• The Bills re-signed SS George Wilson on March 1, and the veteran defender could see an increased role in 2011. Wilson was the team's No. 3 safety last season, playing in some nickel situations and on special teams. But if Donte Whitner eventually leaves in free agency, Wilson is the most likely candidate to step into the starting lineup alongside FS Jairus Byrd.