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RB Jones takes leadership role with Chiefs

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By PFW staff

Following are whispers we've been hearing from around the league:

• One of the undisputed locker-room leaders of the Chiefs is RB Thomas Jones, and that has been apparent this summer, even as the team is locked out of their locker room. According to a report, Jones called some of his teammates "fat and out of shape" when the team met for some players-only workouts this summer. While the unconditioned players are a concern, having veterans like Jones step up as a de facto coach during the labor dispute is a positive for the team.

• Expect the Raiders to be one of the teams in the Plaxico Burress derby. The team needs a veteran wide receiver, especially one with size. There are questions about how much the club can offer the former Giants star who was in jail the past two years, but if they can fit him under the cap, Oakland could make Burress one of their top free-agent targets.

• Three of the Chargers' top inside linebackers could potentially be free agents, meaning general manager A.J. Smith has some decisions to make. We hear that Kevin Burnett is the clear-cut top choice for the team, and though there will be competition for Burnett, Smith is willing to pay big bucks to ensure the Bolts' leading tackler from 2010 returns. Re-signing Stephen Cooper and Brandon Siler are secondary options.

• With many holes to fill after winning four games a season ago, we hear the Broncos will target both a productive running back and depth on the defensive line when free agency begins. A source close to the team said that the Broncos have had several plans in place for months, and are ready to make free-agency decisions once the free-agency class is determined.

• The Patriots are known for taking other team's trash and making it their treasure. Well, the Buccaneers and GM Mark Dominik plucked a couple players off the Patriots' cutting room floor who have provided a nice impact in Tampa Bay. Recently, QB Josh Freeman talked to the Tampa Tribune about LB Tyrone McKenzie's emergence as a leader during player-organized workouts. The Patriots drafted McKenzie in the third round of the 2009 draft and released him from the practice squad last November. New England's sixth-round pick in 2010, C Ted Larsen, did not make the team's 53-man roster. The Bucs picked him up and the rookie went on to start 11 games for Tampa Bay.

• We hear 49ers rookie QB Colin Kaepernick has wasted no time raising eyebrows in players-only workouts with his strong arm. Sources on the scene cited one Kaepernick bullet that literally knocked free-agent WR Lance Long off his feet on one slant route. "He's got a gun," one close observer said of Kaepernick. "He's got a much stronger arm than Alex Smith. As a sophomore pitcher in high school, he was throwing a baseball 93 mph."

• Keep a close eye on 49ers free-agent WR Kevin Jurovich, who we hear might provide a surprise impact in the slot. Acquired by the Niners last season after the Eagles released him during training camp — word is the Niners had a very hard time choosing between 2010 sixth-round rookie Kyle Williams and Jurovich — Jurovich has made an impression with his understanding of the Niners' new offense in players-only workouts overseen by QB Alex Smith. "He's a very intriguing prospect," one team insider said of Jurovich. "He gives them that small, shifty slot they haven't had, and he has some return ability. And he can get deep, too." 

• Even though the Cardinals' defensive line could be dangerously thin with so many free agents possibly splitting the scene, we hear it would be a mistake to assume sixth-round rookie DL David Carter will be force-fed the system at an accelerated pace. "He's a project. I don't see them counting on him too much right away," one team insider said of Carter, who started for only one season at UCLA and is being switched from tackle to end at the pro level. "It would be too much to expect him to participate much in the rotation."

• In recent years, the Cardinals have normally kept five safeties and four cornerbacks on the final roster. But after drafting CB Patrick Peterson in the first round in April, we hear the secondary breakdown could be reversed, with five cornerbacks and four safeties surviving the final cut.

Neil Cornrich, agent for former Browns P Dave Zastudil, said his client is "100 percent" healthy after missing last season as he tried to recover from surgery on his right knee. Cornrich believes the time off helped Zastudil, who was waived off injured reserve last November. Zastudil, 32, posted a 39.1-yard net average in eight games in '09 before suffering the injury.

• Cornrich, who represents Browns PK Phil Dawson, whom Cleveland gave the franchise tag before the lockout, declined comment on if Dawson would sign the one-year franchise tender or if he preferred a multiyear contract. "We'll just have to wait and see what happens on that," Cornrich said.

• We're told that Lions general manager Martin Mayhew's emphasis in acquiring players with good character is a factor that could guide them in free agency. The feeling is Detroit will not take character risks.

• The Eagles have spent much of the offseason coming up with ways to improve their red-zone production and pass protection — the two things they identified as the biggest problems coming out of last season. They believe with improvements in these departments, the offense could be the league's best this season.

• From what we hear, nothing has changed in Mike Shanahan's mind about his QB situation: He still plans to go with John Beck as his starter. That could change whenever free agency starts, but it appears to be the direction the Redskins firmly are headed.

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