Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan got the proverbial monkey off their backs by finally winning a playoff game in 2012. Of course, the Falcons blew a 20-point halftime lead to the Seattle Seahawks, who scored a go-ahead touchdown with just over 30 seconds remaining in the game. Two great passes from Ryan to Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez covered 41 yards and put the Falcons in field goal position, Matt Bryant delivered from 49 yards out, and Julio Jones intercepted a Russell Wilson heave at the goal-line on the final play to send the Falcons into the NFC championship game. The following week, the Falcons would again start hot, storming out to a 17-0 lead over the San Francisco 49ers and would again have a double-digit lead at halftime. That lead was squandered, however, as Frank Gore scored two rushing touchdowns in the second half to give the 49ers a 28-24 lead with over eight minutes to play. Unlike the previous, there would be no rally from the Falcons as their seven-minute drive would end with two incomplete passes from Ryan to Roddy White. Still, a 13-3 season and a playoff win made 2012 a successful for the Falcons. As a result, the rest of the league showed interest in key members of the organization. David Caldwell, the team's director of player personnel, was the only defection, turning down the New York Jets to accept the Jacksonville Jaguars' general manager position. All three of the Falcons' coordinators — Dirk Koetter, Mike Nolan and Keith Armstrong — were sought after to interview for head coaching vacancies throughout the league, but all will return in 2013. The Falcons will need that continuity on the coaching staff as their schedule is arguably the toughest in the league and a lot of their wins last season were not of a convincing manner. Seven of the Falcons' wins last season were by a touchdown or less, including narrow wins over non-playoff teams like the Carolina Panthers, Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals (who intercepted Ryan five times and still lost), Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
RENTON, Wash. -- When the Seattle Seahawks traded their 2013 first-round pick and two other picks to the Minnesota Vikings for the services of receiver Percy Harvin, and then signed Harvin to a six-year, $67 million contract with $25 million guaranteed in March, it was thought that the Florida alum would add a matchup nightmare from multiple positions that few defenses could deal with. Given Seattle's stocked status in the running game, at the quarterback position, and in their receiver corps, the move didn't make sense unless you understood that Harvin can line up all over the formation, presenting pass coverages with options that would always be wrong. Harvin was playing at an MVP level early in the 2012 season for the Vikings, but he suffered a ligament tear in his ankle, and missed the second half of Minnesota's campaign. Harvin has played all 16 games in a regular season just once since the Vikings selected him with the 22nd overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, and that issue may have come home to roost for Harvin's new team. On the first day of training camp, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll had to explain that Harvin may have a labrum tear in his hip, and the team is still determining whether Harvin would require surgery. Carroll said that Harvin suffered the injury recently, which would jibe with his performances during the Seahawks' OTAs, when Harvin looked faster than anyone else on the field. On Thursday, Harvin was once again on the field, but not the way the coaches would like to see him -- he was limited to talking with teammates instead of impressing them with his agility and ability. In Harvin's place, the guy who managed to do that was third-year receiver Golden Tate, who's in his contract year with Seattle, and would seem to benefit greatly from any Harvin absence. Carroll and general manager John Schneider took Tate out of Notre Dame in the second round of the 2010 draft, they saw him as a bit of a Harvin clone -- a guy who could attack a defense in multiple ways. Carroll had loved Harvin's athletic potential since he tried to recruit him to USC, and Tate was potentially the answer to Carroll's "Well, Percy Harvin's already in the NFL" problem. Tate struggled through his first two seasons, but the light came on in 2012. He proved to be a very valuable receiver outside, but a pure dynamo in the slot. So much so that when I asked Carroll on Thursday about Tate's true value to the team (Harvin's injury or not), the coach didn't hesitate to talk Tate up. "He's a tremendous football player. It did take him a while to catch on to the expectations of what's going on around here, but it wasn't ever because he wasn't talented or a good athlete. A year ago, he started fitting in when we made a decision to make him make the plays, give him the ball, and make him be a factor. It really made him a difference. Now, we have no hesitation about featuring him and doing all kinds of things with him. He's a very, very good player, and it's all ahead of him. He's just now getting started in that sense." So, the obvious follow-up question was, if the need arises, is Tate ready to take Harvin's place as that multi-position weapon?
RENTON, Wash. (AP) -- The Seattle Seahawks have added depth at a position of need by signing former Atlanta tight end Michael Palmer just two days before the start of training camp.
The NFL season is approaching and Shutdown Corner is previewing all 32 teams, counting down our power rankings with one team a day until No. 1 is unveiled on Aug. 4, when the preseason kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton. Go to our Facebook page after you read the preview for all airing of grievances; we’ll have a daily discussion there to go with each preview. On the day after the Jacksonville Jaguars finished the 2012 regular season at 2-14, the worst regular season record in franchise history, owner Shad Khan began to make significant changes to the organization. Khan fired general manager Gene Smith and the process of finding a replacement ended with Atlanta Falcons director of player personnel David Caldwell, a highly-sought after talent evaluator who turned down a lucrative offer from the New York Jets to take the Jaguars' job. Caldwell fired head coach Mike Mularkey and bucked the trend when he hired Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley for the head coaching vacancy. Of the eight head coaches hired in 2013, Bradley is the only coach with a background on the defensive side of the ball. Hiring Bradley was a solid move — he had a major impact on the rebuilding of the Seahawks into one of the most physical defenses in the league — but came as a surprise as he and Caldwell had no previous relationship and the Jaguars have had one of the worst offenses in the league over the past two seasons. Caldwell does not appear to be under any delusions about the Jaguars' prospects for the 2013 season. The team was quiet in free agency and is looking to rebuild through the draft. That's the smart path, but it will require a bit of patience from the fan base.
Linebacker Aaron Curry, who has had a motley career since the Seattle Seahawks made him the fourth overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, tweeted Friday that he signed with the New York Giants.
As part of a rebuild that starts from the studs and will eventually work its way up to the roof, the Jacksonville Jaguars are in great (some would say desperate) need of help in their pass defense. Last year's team ranked 29th in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics against the pass, and the Jags lost their two primary cornerbacks -- Aaron Ross and Derek Cox -- to the New York Giants and San Diego Chargers, respectively. To shore up the gaps, the Jags selected no fewer than five defensive backs in the draft -- two safeties and three cornerbacks. Now, new head coach Gus Bradley has taken a page from his days as the Seattle Seahawks' defensive coordinator and brought 10-year veteran Marcus Trufant on board. At this point in his career, Trufant is most likely more attuned to a slot cornerback role (he played all but eight of his 2012 snaps there), though if Bradley wants to play more off-zone coverage than there was in Seattle, Trufant might play a bit outside. Most likely, Trufant will be in charge of helping Bradley teach the kids his system. “I just finished my 10th year, so I’m able to bring some wisdom to the table,” Marcus told the team's official website . “At the same time, I’m here to compete, to try to help the team wherever I can. "It’s a great fit. A lot of the language, a lot of the scheme, a lot of the stuff that I dealt with with Gus for four years, there’s a lot of carryover. I should be able to guide some of the younger players along, but at the same time, I’m trying to get better myself." More interestingly, if Trufant makes the roster, it keeps the family dream alive for three Trufant siblings to play in the NFL at the same time. There's Marcus, who was with the Seahawks from his first-round selection in the 2003 draft. There's Isaiah, who's been with the New York Jets since 2010 as an undrafted free agent. And there's Desmond, the former Washington standout who was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 22th overall pick. Desmond should start pretty quickly, while Isaiah and Marcus have more nebulous futures. There have been five sibling trios to play in the NFL at the same time throughout the league's history, but the Trufants would be the first trio of cornerbacks.
New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has received permission to visit and undergo a physical with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. The Buccaneers being able to meet with Revis and check out his surgically-repaired left knee could expedite a long-anticipated trade between the two clubs. The Jets likely would not allow Revis to meet with the Buccaneers, or any other team, if a deal were not within reach. Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reports a trade between the Jets and the Buccaneers has been agreed to , and the Buccaneers and Revis have agreed to a basic contract. According to Cole, a deal could be finalized tonight or on Monday. [Also: Deadline passes with no offers for Giants WR Victor Cruz ] Any deal this year involving Revis was likely happen before the first-round of the 2013 NFL draft begins on Thursday. Recent reports have the Jets looking for a 2013 first-round pick out of the deal with the Buccaneers, who would then look to sign Revis to a long-term contract that could average in the $14-16 million per season range. The Buccaneers ranked 32nd in pass defense last season and adding Revis, who is arguably the league's top cornerback, figures to dramatically improve their secondary. Meanwhile, the Jets would have two picks in the Top 15 (No. 9 and No. 13) in the 2013 draft, which would allow first-year GM John Idzik to begin re-tooling the Jets into a playoff-caliber team, much in the same way that Idzik's former team, the Seattle Seahawks, did with two first-round picks (No. 6 and No. 14, used on Russell Okung and Earl Thomas) in 2010 NFL draft, the first draft under the John Schneider and Pete Carroll.
Monday is April 15, which is Tax Day in the United States, Patriot's Day in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the day that 21 of the 32 teams in the National Football League begin their offseason workout programs. Along with the eight teams that hired a new head coach this offseason, who began their programs on April 1 or April 2, offseason programs are officially underway in 29 NFL training facilities. The three teams who have to begin their offseason program — the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans — are scheduled to do so on April 22. Teams gathering on Monday for the first time this offseason are the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Washington Redskins. These 21 teams are entering "Phase One" of the program, a two-week period that is limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only. The only coaches allowed on-field contact with the players are full- and part-time strength and conditioning coaches, and head coaches and position coaches are not even allowed to observe the workouts, which are limited to "dead ball" activities. Quarterbacks can throw to uncovered receivers and no helmets are allowed to be worn. Participation is voluntary, but attendance is usually very high as there are workout bonuses at stake. Denver Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady is not expected to report to the team's Dove Valley headquarters, reports Mike Klis of the Denver Post. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Newtork, Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd is also not expected to show . Neither absence is considered a surprise as Clady and Byrd are the two remaining unsigned franchise players. According to salary data obtained by Shutdown Corner, active NFL contracts contain over $46 million in workout bonuses, including 192 players scheduled to earn at least $100,000 by satisfactorily participating in a high percentage of his team's offseason program.
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's path towards an All-Pro nod in 2012 was nearly derailed by a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs. Sherman fought the suspension and won, as his claims that there were irregularities in the testing process overturned his ban and kept him in the Seahawks' lineup. Sherman's positive test result was reportedly linked to Adderall, a stimulant that contains amphetamine. At the time of his suspension, Sherman denied reports that he claimed to have accidentally drank from a cup containing a crushed Adderall pill. Following a day working with elementary school students in Surrey, British Columbia on Tuesday, Sherman told the Vancouver Sun that Adderall use is so prevalent in the NFL, the league should remove it from the list of banned substances. “About half the league takes it and the league has to allow it," Sherman said of Adderall use in the NFL. "The league made a mistake in my case. Obviously, I didn’t do anything, but you have to go through a process to prove you didn’t do anything. There are still naysayers out there who don’t believe me. But I accept it. If everybody loves you, it probably means you’re not much of a player." If Adderall use is as widespread as Sherman says it is, there would certainly be a larger number of performance-enhancing drug suspensions. All we can really say with any level of certitude is that half of the starting cornerbacks on the 2012 Seattle Seahawks took Adderall, either knowingly or unknowingly, at some point during 2012 as Brandon Browner, a 2011 Pro Bowler, chose not to fight the NFL over his four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. [ Jason Cole: Still no smoking gun in ex-player's concussion lawsuits ]
Last week, a report surfaced that had the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers nearing a long-term extension that would make the Super Bowl XLV Most Valuable Player the highest-paid player in NFL history . On Monday, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that the two sides are approaching a resolution on a new deal and currently are $2 million per season apart . According to Rapoport, the Packers' current offer averages more than $21 million per season, which would be a nice increase over the $20.1 million average per year (APY) that Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco received from the Baltimore Ravens in a contract signed on March 4, 2013. A $2 million gap suggests that Rodgers, who has passed for 21,332 yards with 170 touchdowns and just 46 interceptions in his first five seasons as a full-time starter in the NFL, is seeking a deal in the $23 million per year range, which would make his contract a bit harder for upcoming quarterback extensions to leap-frog in the APY rankings. Quarterbacks who are expected to receive long-term extensions in the near future include Eli Manning of the New York Giants, Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions, whose willingness to restructure their contracts have resulted in exorbitant cap charges in upcoming seasons. Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons and Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears are entering the final years of their current contracts and will likely receive long-term deals this offseason. Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers and Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers will be eligible for extensions following the 2013 season, while the Seattle Seahawks can start to pay Russell Wilson what he's worth following the 2014 season. Rodgers is represented by David Dunn of Athletes First, who does not represent any of the other eight quarterbacks listed above and may be inclined to play hardball. That group is represented by Tom Condon (Manning, Stafford and Ryan), James "Bus" Cook (Cutler, Newton and Wilson), Ryan and Bruce Tollner (Roethlisberger) and Scott Smith (Kaepernick).

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