Shutdown Corner

  • Justin Durant (r.) will join the Cowboys...soon (USA Today Sports Images)

    The Dallas Cowboys have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with free agent linebacker Justin Durant, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.

    A minor hiccup to Durant joining the Cowboys is that the team is currently around $100,000 under the cap and will need to make a move or two to officially welcome him to the fold.

    Durant has spent the last two seasons with the Detroit Lions, where he started 26 of 29 games and posted 171 tackles with 1.5 sacks while earning $5.5 million on a two-year deal he signed as an unrestricted free agent after beginning his career as a 2007 second-round pick out of Hampton by the Jacksonville Jaguars. As the NFL gets set to begin its third week of free agency, Durant's deal is not expected to break the bank, but the deal cannot be signed until the Cowboys create a bit more cap room.

    [Also: NFL draft prospect dabbles in basketball before finding 'natural' fit]

    More appropriately, the Cowboys need to move a few more things around as they've already released defensive end Marcus Spears, linebacker Dan Connor and safety Gerald Sensabaugh and renegotiated the contracts of DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Carr, Miles Austin, Jay Ratliff, Jason Witten, Orlando Scandrick, Mackenzy Bernadeau and even backup center/guard Ryan Cook, who surrendered $500,000 in "likely to be earned" playing-time incentives that would have applied to Dallas' 2013 cap.

    Even with those moves, the Cowboys are still window-shoppers in free agency, meeting with Durant, cornerback Will Allen and safety Michael Huff, but lacking the financial ability to put pen to paper.

    Read More »from Cowboys will sign linebacker Justin Durant (when they have the cap room to do so)
  • On Tuesday, Manti Te'o got one step -- and second -- closer to the NFL. (AP)

    There are times in life when a single second makes all the difference. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o encountered such a moment during his school's pro day on Tuesday. After running a 4.82-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in late February -- a considerable disappointment for any player who needs to rely on his speed on the field -- Te'o rebounded well by running a 40 at Notre Dame's indoor facility that was timed unofficially between 4.71 and 4.75 by several sources on the scene.

    It's not the end-all and be-all for a player who still has some weak spots on tape, but the fact that Te'o was able to overcome all the distractions he's encountered in the last few months is a sure sign of encouragement.

    [Also: NFL draft prospect dabbles in basketball before finding 'natural' fit]

    "I think I did pretty good," he told ESPN's Josina Anderson and Todd McShay after his workout. "I felt good out there, and it's good to be back home with guys I spent the last four years with. Definitely a great comfort level there, and whenever you're comfortable and relaxed, good things are going to happen."

    Te'o's continued pre-draft workouts in Florida put him in good stead -- he looked far more fluid when running this time around, which could be a result of a better sleep cycle.

    "I just focused on things that needed to be corrected," he said. I obviously wanted to improve my 40 time, and spent a lot of time on that. I was pleased with the way I did my [agility drills] at the combine, so I didn't have to focus on that as much. All the attention was on my 40, and I'm very pleased with what I did today."

    Read More »from Manti Te’o runs in the 4.7s at his pro day, but questions still remain
  • Catching up to Denard Robinson has never been an easy task. (Getty Images)

    In four years as Michigan's quarterback, Denard Robinson created enough video game-style plays to apparently make such concepts a reality. Robinson, who was streaky as a passer but set an FBS record with 4,495 career rushing yards for a quarterback, won the vote to make the cover of EA Sports' NCAA Football '14 video game, just in time for his NFL transition.

    "It's an honor to be on the cover, and I want to thank all the fans who voted," Robinson told me on Monday, the same day that he was taking the cover pictures. "I think it will be one of the best games to come out, because they've added a lot of updates. I'm a gamer -- I'm not just biased because I'm on the cover. I always play as Michigan, and I'm pretty good at it."

    Of course, Robinson couldn't play as himself -- the NCAA game doesn't use the likenesses of actual players, because the age-old question of payment to players would be raised. The ongoing player likeness lawsuit, unquestionably related to this issue, has those remaining supporters of the wildly outdated "amateurism" concept more nervous than ever. EA Sports did not comment when asked if cover stars received income for the use of their image and name.

    Robinson beat out Texas A&M receiver Ryan Swope in the cover voting finals, which presents an interesting dichotomy between college success and professional prospects -- neither Robinson nor Swope will be selected on the first day of the draft. Robinson, in particular, is undergoing an interesting transition from college quarterback to potential NFL jack-of-all-trades. He hopes to develop a future as a do-it-all space player in the mold of Percy Harvin and Randall Cobb.

    [Also: NFL draft prospect dabbles in basketball before finding 'natural' fit]

    As Greg Cosell of NFL Films and ESPN's NFL Matchup wrote in a recent article for Shutdown Corner, the NFL and Robinson's style of play are on a collision course.

    One tactic that I repeatedly see in college with both the quarterback under center and in the shotgun is a player from outside the formation, usually from a wide receiver position, motioning into the backfield with speed. That places a tremendous pre-snap burden on the defense ... It’s a means of expanding the field, utilizing more space and forcing the defense to defend more area.

    There's no doubt that the NFL is more open and receptive to these types of players; Robinson's challenge is to become a receiver when he never was one before. His attempts to show out at that new position during Senior Bowl week were tentative at best -- while he showed the demon speed for which he is renowned, Robinson wasn't exact on routes and had issues catching the ball consistently. A lingering hand injury exacerbated the debits of inexperience, but it was hard to go away from Mobile thinking that this was a future star in that role.

    A month later, we saw the merits of directed effort when Robinson hit the field at Lucas Oil Stadium for combine drills, and looked like a completely different player -- or, to be more exact, an actual receiver. As Robinson told me, there's only one way to make that leap -- reps. In Robinson's case, he did so with the help of former Carolina Panthers receivers coach Richard Williamson.

    "I continue to work with him, and I think I'm getting better every time I step on the field," Robinson said. "And that's one of the things I'd always thought -- prior to the Senior Bowl, I'd never played receiver, and I just went out there and tried to play it. I did have a limiting injury, but when I got to Lucas Oil Stadium, it was better. I just kept putting the time in, and working with dedication, and that's why I had success. And when I went to my pro day, I had success because I knew I'd put the time in, and I knew what I was working for."

    Read More »from NCAA Football ’14 cover man Denard Robinson is ready for the NFL switch
  • Shaun Rogers lost a lot of jewelry in Miami last weekend (USA Today Sports Images)

    New York Giants defensive tackle Shaun Rogers had nearly half a million dollars in jewelry stolen from him during an apparent burglary in his room at the Fountainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida this weekend, CBSMiami reports.

    According to the report, Rogers and some friends left the hotel room to hit the clubs and before returning to the hotel with a woman at 7 a.m. Rogers placed the jewelry in the hotel safe but, when he awoke at 12:30 p.m., both the jewelry and the woman were gone.

    Among the missing items were diamond earrings worth $100,000; two wristwatches worth a combined $160,000; a gold necklace with gold pendant worth $50,000; gold bracelets worth $60,000; and a diamond Cuban necklace with a gold pendant worth $70,000.

    Rogers entered the NFL with the Detroit Lions, who selected the former Texas standout with the 61st overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft. Rogers went to three Pro Bowls earlier in his career and was among the league's highest-paid defensive tackles, earning over $27 million from the Cleveland Browns (2008-10) and New Orleans Saints (2011) before signing for the league minimum with the Giants in 2012.

    [Also: NFL draft prospect dabbles in basketball before finding 'natural' fit]

    Read More »from Giants defensive tackle Shaun Rogers has nearly $500K in jewelry stolen in Miami
  • Cosell’s Take: Geno Smith is still a work in progress

    Geno Smith is a quality player, but there's still work to be done. (Getty Images)

    The time is upon us. It is one month until the 2013 NFL draft. As is always the case, there is only one position that generates unbounded passion and emotion: quarterback. Perhaps that is even more indisputable this year given the lack of that one, or two special talents like Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. With the field more wide open, as it were, the debate only intensifies as to who is the best NFL prospect among a larger group. For some, only one or two quarterbacks are part of that conversation; for others, that discussion must include six or seven.

    Pro days only magnify the process, and amplify the fervor. Geno Smith completes 60 of 64 passes at his session, and you would have thought by the extensive coverage that he had just won the Super Bowl. Landry Jones completed 66 of 70 at his pro day (one day before Smith’s), and you wouldn’t even have known that it happened. It’s a fascinating dynamic. Somehow watching quarterbacks throw in T-shirts and shorts to receivers they know well in a controlled environment with carefully scripted passes is seen as a meaningful measurement of future NFL success. One value of a pro day, as far as I’m concerned, is to observe a quarterback throw live, to see how the ball naturally comes out of his hand. That’s significant, because in the NFL, contrary to what many might tell you, arm strength matters.

    Yet, there’s more to it than that. Snapping off throws with comfortable drops into the pocket and no pass rush pressure is not the same as delivering strikes in a muddied pocket with bodies around you in the cauldron of a collapsing pocket. If you are primarily a pocket passer, you must be able to do that in the NFL, or you will not be able to play at a high level consistently. Make no mistake, whatever offense you run in the NFL, even if it features a high percentage of shotgun and multiple receivers, you still will face critical game circumstances in which you must stand and deliver. That’s the reality.

    Therefore, it’s singularly important to evaluate college quarterbacks based on what they will have to accomplish on Sundays, not solely on what they achieved on Saturdays. I remember evaluating eight or nine games of Blaine Gabbert coming out of Missouri a few years ago. He had a strong arm, could make any throw. He ran a true shotgun spread, with a high percentage of 1 step drop passes that diminished the likelihood of any pressure. There was only a small sample of deeper drop throws in which the pass rush was a factor. I studied those very carefully. Those would be litmus test examples of what he’d have to do in the NFL. Gabbert was very poor in those situations; his footwork broke down, he fell away from his throws, he simply could not function effectively. That was an immediate red flag as I transitioned him to the NFL. Unfortunately, it’s only been exacerbated in Jacksonville, and it will likely prevent him from being a quality starter.

    Let’s advance the discussion to Geno Smith, now being talked about as a top 10 selection in the draft. There was much to like in the 500+ plays I scrutinized, and also some issues that need to be cleaned up. There’s no question Smith has an NFL arm; it’s not a gun but it’s strong enough to make every throw. Remember, though, he predominantly ran a shotgun spread offense at West Virginia. Why is that important to mention? Because spread passing offenses, in the college game with the wider hash marks, provide a large number of easy throws that inflate completion percentage. That’s not Smith’s fault -- it just means that any dialogue about Smith that begins with statistics is not relevant to any meaningful evaluation.

    Keeping in mind that no quarterback enters the NFL a finished product, I found Smith to be a work in progress.

    Read More »from Cosell’s Take: Geno Smith is still a work in progress
  • (AP)

    With the 2012 NFL season in the books, and the scouting combine in the rear-view, it's time to take a closer look at the 50 players we think will be the biggest difference-makers at the next level from this draft class. To that end, we're happy to continue this year's Shutdown 50 scouting reports (Hint: There may actually be more than 50). You can read last year's group here. The final 50 players were chosen and ranked based on game tape, combine and Pro Day results, overall positional value, and attributes and liabilities on and off the field.

    #39: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

    We continue this year's series with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o ... and we'll assume that no official introduction is necessary, since this young man has been in the news quite a bit of late. If you're not quite up to date on the "catfishing" scandal, feel free to head to your favorite search engine, and you're in for a treat.

    From a football perspective, Te'o was one of the country's big-time high school recruits coming out of the Punahou School in Hawaii -- the same high school Barack Obama attended. The former Eagle Scout, who always involved himself in charitable endeavors, was thought to be full of intangibles, which probably inflated his draft grade until things started crashing down a few months ago.

    However, he did start 10 games as a true freshman for Notre Dame in 2009, and he amassed well over 100 tackles in the 2010-2012 seasons. 2012 was a bit of a different story for Te'o -- though he improved as a pass defender, racking up seven interceptions after having none in his first three collegiate seasons, he was also exposed as an inside linebacker against more powerful offenses -- especially Stanford, and most definitely Alabama in the most recent BCS championship game.

    Even before the scandal broke, the narrative on Te'o changed from "sure high first-round pick" to "high-character guy with some ugly game tape." With nothing but the tape and a host of personal questions left to answer, NFL teams have to wonder what they're getting if they select Manti Te'o -- especially after a slow 40 at the scouting combine. That performance in Indianapolis also left people wondering how Te'o, who had reduced about 15 pounds from his formerly 6-foot-2, 255-pound frame, could effectively match up with the speed of the modern NFL.

    [Also: Giants DT has nearly $500K in jewelry stolen in Miami]

    The 40 time at home was one step in the right direction. In a month, give or take a day, "I think what I bring to the table is a lot of heart, a lot of energy and somebody that works hard," Te'o said at the combine, when one reporter screwed up and asked him an actual football question. "Somebody who hates to lose. I always say, ‘I hate losing more than I love to win.’ The reason why I love to win is because I don’t have to go through that feeling of losing. It’s those times where I lose that feeling that will stick with me. For teams, I tell them, ‘You’ll always get somebody who’s humble, works hard, doesn’t say much and will do everything it takes to win.'"

    Again, intangibles. What does the tape show? Though Te'o is one of the most decorated football players in NCAA history (Walter Camp, Bednarik, Lombardi, and Nagurski awards) and a near Heisman Trophy winner, graduation to the NFL is going to be tough.

    Pros: Key shot-caller in one of college football's best defenses. Te'o is a quality player in space when he gets a step-quick head start from his pre-snap reads. Runs well with in-line and flex tight ends up the seam, and defends slants in transition reasonably well. Reads gaps fairly well. Plays well as an underneath defender against four-and five-wide sets -- generally has a very good feel for bodies around him. Shows good lateral agility and ability to sift through trash when chasing backs on outside runs. Noted for his on-field awareness, and this shows up in a few ways -- he doesn't bite hard on play action (no, for all the jokes, he doesn't always bite on the fake, at least on the field), and his 2012 interception total, though inflated by deflections and missed picks by other Notre Dame defenders, does show a "right place/right time" sense that NFL teams will value.

    Read More »from The Shutdown 50: Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o
  • All right, this is great. Anthony Adams is a nine-year veteran of the league, a defensive tackle first for the 49ers and, most recently, for the Bears. He's decided to step away from the game, and after a slow pan of his achievements, we see him in his home office, making preparations for what will surely be a lavish retirement ceremony at the high-end "Whit Cassell" restaurant. What follows is ... well, you'll have to watch, but it's fun stuff.

    Good on ya, Anthony. Walking away from the game you've known your whole life has to be rough, but you found a way to do it with class (and paper

    Read More »from Anthony Adams announces his retirement in sad-yet-hysterical fashion
  • Baltimore Ravens agree to terms with Elvis Dumervil

    Elvis Dumervil has agreed to terms with the Ravens (USA Today Sports Images)

    Free-agent pass rusher Elvis Dumervil has agreed to terms on a multi-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens, reports Mike Klis of The Denver Post.

    According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Dumervil will receive a five-year contract worth up to $35 million from the Ravens. Dumervil will receive $8.5 million in the first year of the contract.

    Dumervil was scheduled to earn $12 million from the Denver Broncos this season before agreeing to take a $4 million pay cut to remain with the team. However, the three-time Pro Bowl unexpectedly hit the free-agent market after his former agent, Martin Magid, failed to fax the paperwork back to the Broncos in time for them to submit the restructured contract to the league office by a 4 p.m. ET deadline on March 15, at which time Dumervil's entire $12 million base salary would have become guaranteed.

    [ Related: Ed Reed takes out full-page ad to thank Ravens fans ]

    Dumervil has since parted ways with Magid and hired Tom Condon of CAA Sports. Condon has handled negotiations with the Broncos, who wanted Dumervil back at a reduced rate, and the Ravens, who were in need of an established pass rusher after Paul Kruger and his nine sacks signed with the Cleveland Browns this offseason.

    Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway released the following statement on Sunday:

    “As we have from the start of this process, we worked diligently over the last week to find a way for Elvis Dumervil to remain a Denver Bronco. Although we made multiple contract offers to Elvis after being forced to release him, we were unable to reach an agreement and are now moving forward without him," said Elway.

    "Elvis was a team captain and a talented player who made a great impact during his seven seasons in Denver. I appreciate all of his effort on the field and the work he did in the community.

    "I wish Elvis all the best as he continues his NFL career."

    Read More »from Baltimore Ravens agree to terms with Elvis Dumervil
  • Sebastian Vollmer is staying with the Patriots (USA Today Sports Images)

    One of the top right tackles in the National Football League is staying put, as Field Yates of ESPN Boston reports that Sebastian Vollmer has agreed to terms with the New England Patriots.

    Terms of the new contract were not disclosed.

    Vollmer has started 44 of 51 regular season games and all five game postseason games he's been active for the Patriots, who selected the Dusseldorf, Germany native in the second round (No. 58 overall) of the 2009 NFL draft out of the University of Houston.

    The 6-foot-8, 314-pound Vollmer started eight games as a rookie before earning second-team All-Pro honors as a 16-game starter in 2010. Vollmer was limited to just seven regular and posteason games in the 2011 regular season by a back injury, but did start 15 regular season games and both of New England's playoff games in 2012.

    Health may have been one factor in why Vollmer remained on the free agent market for nearly two weeks.

    Read More »from New England Patriots, Sebastian Vollmer agree to terms on new contract
  • Who's the big, fast kid? (@calbearsonline)We're sure the sight brought tears of fond remembrance to the eyes of Yahoo! Sports colleague Mike Silver, a proud (and VERY vocal) Cal alum. During the Golden Bears' spring practice on Saturday, one fast and powerful halfback impressed by hitting the edge and scoring a 22-yard touchdown.

    Turns out it was Marshawn Lynch, who racked up 3.230 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns for Cal from 2004 through 2006 before the Buffalo Bills took him in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft. Traded to the Seattle Seahawks in October 2010, Lynch is a three-time Pro Bowler who put up his best season in 2012. He amassed 1,590 rushing yards, ranking third in the NFL and defining Seattle's physical style.

    But on Saturday, Lynch was just one of the guys in the program.

    “It was a little mix," he told Mike Yam of the Pac-12 Network when asked if it was his idea to get back into his No. 10 Cal jersey. "My boy KP [longtime Cal assistant director of player personnel Kevin Parker] asked me if I would do it, and I got his back."

    "We told the guys if anybody tackled him, it was going to be a $25 million fine," new Cal head coach Dykes said of Lynch's play. "I didn't want to be getting a call from Pete."

    [Also: RG3 'superhuman' in recovery from knee surgery, surgeon says]

    "Pete," of course, is Pete Carroll, Lynch's head coach in Seattle. Carroll got quite enough of Lynch (the collegiate version) back in the day -- he was USC's head coach from 2001 through 2009.

    Read More »from Marshawn Lynch scores touchdown at Cal’s spring game