NFL News and Rumors from Combine: Colts noncommittal on Wentz, star RB on trade market

Here's the latest NFL news and rumors from the Combine, including information on Giants RB Saquon Barkley possibly being traded this offseason.

With NFL free agency right around the corner and the NFL Combine kicking off with media interviews today, here are the latest news and rumors around the league. Make sure to continue to check back here as we update you with the most recent NFL news and rumors on March 1, 2022.

NFL News and Rumors: Chiefs want to re-sign Orlando Brown Jr.

Orlando Brown Jr., offensive tackle and three-time Pro Bowl left tackle, is a high priority to retain for the Chiefs and general manager Brett Veach.

“With Orlando, we’re going to work hard to get a deal done,” Veach said Tuesday at the NFL scouting combine.

Ever since posting a rough day at the NFL Scouting Combine and being drafted in the third round by the Baltimore Ravens, Brown has done nothing to disprove the truism that the performance in actual football situations and games matters so much more than physical testing results. The Oklahoma product is a huge, strong blocker who should command big offers if he hits free agency.

Brown’s rookie deal is expiring, and Kansas City will likely use the franchise tag if they can’t work out a long-term deal. The way he played last season was encouraging enough to warrant one of those two outcomes.

One estimate for a long-term deal had Brown at five years, $116.6 million. That would be a massive payday for the son of the late Orlando Brown, a former Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns offensive tackle. Brown Jr. is the Chiefs’ long-term answer at left tackle.

NFL Combine News: Bengals to place the franchise tag on Jessie Bates III?

Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates III is among the notable defensive backs set to become a free agent this month. The Bengals would like to retain the star defender but a deal has to make sense for both sides. The franchise tag could give the player and the team more time to talk without distraction.

Bengals GM Duke Tobin was asked about the potential of the Bengals using the franchise tag, valued at $13.5 million for safeties, on Bates. The Bengals GM said he wouldn’t break any news on the situation but didn’t rule out the possibility of locking Bates up with the one-year deal. The franchise tag deadline is on March 8 at 4 PM ET.

“He’s an important part of our team,” Tobin said at the NFL Combine on Tuesday. “We drafted him. He’s a guy that’s developed and that has played well, that has a real role on our team in a lot of different areas, particularly leadership and playmaking skill. He’s a guy we want going forward, we want as a part of our group, and so we’ll see what we can do to get that done.”

NFL News and Rumors: Bengals re-sign Jalen Davis to extension

The Cincinnati Bengals signed cornerback Jalen Davis to a one-year contract extension. Davis is a former Miami Dolphins free agent who signed with the Bengals’ practice squad two years ago after playing for the Arizona Cardinals.

He played in 15 games last season for the Bengals last season and had 5 tackles on defense, 2 tackles on special teams, 1 forced fumble. He was a pending exclusive rights free agent.

NFL Combine News and Rumors: Colts GM Chris Ballard noncommittal on QB Carson Wentz

One year after a hefty trade for the former Philadephia Eagles starter, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz is not expected to return due to his disappointing finish to the season as the Colts failed to qualify for the playoffs.

The Colts haven’t ruled out the possibility of retaining Wentz, but their public debate about whether he’s the answer opens the door to healthy doubt and intense scrutiny.

“I don’t know, we’re still working through it,” Colts GM Chris Ballard said at the NFL Combine when asked if there’s an update on Wentz. “I know I’m going to get a lot of questions about Carson right now and I don’t have a direct answer for you. We’re working through it. We’ll sit down over the next 10 days and figure out where it’s going. Ultimately, we’ll do what’s in the best interest of the team in the short term and the long term.”

Ballard said that the Colts will factor in everything in making the decision on Wentz, but he didn’t reference the available free agent quarterbacks or the draft as being an overriding element.

It comes down to trust. “Ultimately, you’ve got to have a guy that you believe in and can win with,” Ballard said.

NFL News and Rumors: Packers expected to talk contract numbers with Preston Smith’s reps at Combine

Last week, PFN Insider Tony Pauline mentioned that Za’Darius Smith is expected to be a cap casualty for the Green Bay Packers and talked about where he may end up once he’s cut loose. But what about the other pass-rushing Smith on the Green Bay roster, Preston Smith?

The seven-year veteran, who posted 9 sacks last season, is in the final year of the four-year deal he signed in 2019, with a cap number of $19.7 million this season. Pauline is told that the Packers want to keep Smith and will attempt to sign him to an extension with the hopes of getting this year’s number down. Both sides are expected to talk about a contract
extension during the NFL Combine.

NFL News and Rumors: Giants RB Saquon Barkley might be traded this offseason

New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen made some significant news during his first career NFL Scouting Combine news conference: running back Saquon Barkley could be traded this offseason. Schoen told reporters during his 15-minute Q&A Tuesday: “I’m open to everything. … I’m not going to say yes to every deal, but I’m going to listen.”

Dealing Barkley would be a quick and massive repudiation of the person who had Schoen’s job previously. Former Giants general manager Dave Gettleman took Barkley second overall in 2018, drafting him over quarterback Josh Allen. He doubled and tripled down on the decision in word and deed in the years that followed.

Barkley has never lived up to that billing. Injuries surely played a role. And his career stats — roughly 4,400 yards from scrimmage and 27 touchdowns — aren’t terrible. But nonetheless, the Giants are no closer to winning a championship now than when he was drafted.

NFL Combine News: Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy reveals that Dak Prescott had shoulder surgery

At the NFL Combine, Dallas Cowboys’ HC Mike McCarthy said that Dak Prescott had “clean-up” surgery after the 2021 season on his non-throwing shoulder. The injury bothered Prescott at least toward the end of the season, although not enough to keep him out of action.

While McCarthy wouldn’t discuss the exact nature of the injury or the procedure Prescott needed to fix it, the Cowboys coach did say that Dallas’ QB1 should be ready for the start of the offseason conditioning program next month.

“It’s not a concern,” McCarthy said. “We have no concern. He’s doing well.”

Prescott set career-highs in completion rate (68.8%) and touchdowns (37) in 2021 but wasn’t good in Dallas’ first-round playoff loss to the 49ers.

NFL Combine News and Rumors: Broncos met with several QB prospects at NFL Combine, including Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett

In an AFC West division headlined by Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Los Angeles Chargers strong-armed Pro Bowl passer Justin Herbert, the Broncos are trailing badly at the all-important quarterback position.

Broncos GM George Paton could make an improvement via trade, even though a move for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is regarded by league sources not authorized to speak publicly as extremely unlikely, if not totally improbable based on the belief that Rodgers will remain in Green Bay.

Or he could turn to the NFL Draft. Paton met with Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, and Liberty quarterback Malik Willis for formal interviews Monday night. Paton knows he needs to upgrade the play under center. Drew Lock is under contract, but he’s been underwhelming, and Teddy Bridgewater is a free agent.

“I think it’s always a priority,” Paton said at the NFL Combine. “It’s the most important position in sports, so we’re always looking. We’re always looking. No stone unturned to find that guy. We know we need better play out of the quarterback position, so we’re going to be aggressive.

“We don’t care if it’s a trade. We’re just going to exhaust all options to try to get the best guy for the Broncos.”

NFL News: Broncos HC Nathaniel Hackett talks about quarterbacks at NFL Combine

Hackett has worked with a plethora of quarterbacks during his coaching career, so he’s been able to evaluate the pros and cons of the position. While former first-round picks such as EJ Manuel and Blake Bortles possessed impressive physical tools as prospects, they weren’t able to put things together at a sustainable level under Hackett.

With Rodgers, Hackett inherited a generational talent who could do it all. Hackett knows that finding the second coming of Rodgers isn’t a realistic outlook. Nonetheless, he knows what he wants in his next QB as he looks to build a program and call plays in Denver.

“I think for a quarterback, the most important thing is that they have to be tough,” Hackett said Tuesday at the NFL Combine. “They have to be tough with the mental and the physical, the stresses they go through, just being able to stand in front of so many different people.

“Then you look at the physical aspect of it, to be able to take hits. Because even when it’s perfect, you’re going to be hit and it’s a long season. That form of toughness, and then intelligence. The ability to be able to call a play. We have long play calls, and to be able to understand the different defenses to get you in a perfect play. And then, accuracy. Those are the three ones. And if you’re lucky you get an athletic guy, too.”

Hackett should have the opportunity to land a top-tier quarterback in April, as the Broncos sit with the ninth overall pick in the NFL Draft. Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, Liberty’s Malik Willis, or Ole Miss’ Matt Corral could be Hackett’s next prized pupil.

Hackett was asked about the class and the head coach said he thinks the group looks good “so far,” but that the Combine will help the Broncos figure out the right fit for them from a personality standpoint.

NFL News and Rumors: Trent Baalke says Travis Etienne ahead of recovery schedule after Lisfranc injury, talks No. 1 pick in NFL Draft

During his press conference at the NFL Combine, Jacksonville Jaguars GM Trent Baalke said running back Travis Etienne, who missed all of his rookie year with a Lisfranc injury, is ahead of his recovery schedule this offseason. Baalke said Etienne took his time on the sideline to improve his physique and understanding of the game.

Baalke has been pleased with Etienne’s progress and the first-round pick is likely to be a notable weapon within Pederson’s offense this season.

In other news, Baalke said he knows the importance of protecting his young franchise quarterback, Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars are picking first overall for the second consecutive offseason — at least partially — because Baalke didn’t do enough work on the offensive line to protect Lawrence throughout the season.

The Jaguars could land a stellar prospect to protect Lawrence with the first overall pick, but Baalke doesn’t want to pass up the opportunity on landing a defensive difference-maker, either. Baalke said the top offensive tackles and edge rushers in the class will create a dialogue within the Jaguars’ facility leading to the draft.

NFL News: Sean McDermott speaks on NFL’s overtime rules at the NFL Combine

The Bills’ excellent season ended with a Divisional Round loss to the Chiefs in which Kansas City won the toss, marched down the field against a gassed Buffalo defense, and scored a game-ending touchdown on the first possession. Josh Allen, the Bills’ quarterback and best player, didn’t even get to touch the ball.

“I think experiencing what we experienced, I think there’s a better way,” Bills HC Sean McDermott said at the NFL Combine. “You want to evolve the game.”

McDermott declined to say what exactly the Bills have in mind, but presumably, we will find out soon enough. The annual league meeting is later this month, and potential overtime rule changes will be on ownerships’ agenda. Based on McDermott’s comments, it’s fair to expect the Bills to be among the teams to propose changes to the system.

“We’ve got some ideas that will move the game forward,” McDermott said. “We’ll see where that goes.”

McDermott acknowledged Tuesday that he still hasn’t fully accepted that loss to Kansas City.

NFL News and Rumors: Vikings finalize coaching staff

The Minnesota Vikings finalized their coaching staff, announcing veteran assistant Greg Manusky as their new inside linebackers coach.

Manusky has been a defensive coordinator for four NFL teams and has coached for 19 seasons. He played linebacker in the NFL for 12 years, including with Washington, the Kansas City Chiefs, and Vikings, earning All-Madden team honors in 1991 for his gritty style of play in Minnesota. Manusky played in 113 straight games during one stretch before retiring in 1999.

Manusky spent last season on the University of Kentucky’s defensive staff. He has been a linebackers coach in the NFL for Washington and the Los Angeles Chargers. Additionally, he was a defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, and Washington. He has worked for Marty Schottenheimer in Washington, Mike Singletary in San Francisco, Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis, and Jay Gruden in Washington.

Manusky played collegiately at Colgate University and was named a Division I-AA consensus All-American and won the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year. Furthermore, he played in the Blue-Gray Football Classic and was the first two-time winner of the school’s Hal W. Lahar Trophy, given annually to the Most Valuable Defensive Player. A year after retiring from the sport, Manusky made the Patriot League All-Anniversary Team in 2000.

The Vikings also announced Tony Sorrentino as assistant receivers coach/quality control offense, A’Lique Terry as assistant defensive line coach, Steve Donatell (Ed Donatell’s son) as quality control defense, Derron Montgomery as quality control offense, and Ryan Cordell as pass game specialist/game management coordinator.

Cordell previously worked for the 49ers, which ties him to coach Kevin O’Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. This is a new position for the Vikings.

Stay up to date with the latest in NFL free agency

As the league transitions into free agency, there will be plenty of news and rumors from around the NFL regarding your favorite team. That includes chatter about players who will be on the move (or not) in free agency. Stay updated and keep track of Pro Football Network’s Top 75 Free Agent Rankings to better understand the free agent market.

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