The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

Happy Franchise Tag Day Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The two-week period during which teams may apply their franchise tags commences today and ends at 4pm ET on Monday, March 4.

Of course, we laid out all of the rules of using the tender last week, and John Elway openly acknowledged the team will be employing it to keep Ryan Clady from hitting the open market.

We're still not entirely convinced that Denver should be going the route of the exclusive tag, as the worst-case scenario of choosing the non-exclusive tender means getting another team's next two first-round draft choices.

Even if this wouldn't result in any cap savings, the team could theoritically go after another top young tackle like Branden Albert or Sebastian Vollmer for money similar to what they're willing to give Clady, and pocket the two top picks as an extraordinary bonus. If no team is willing to pay such a hefty price, then Denver hasn't lost a thing - not Clady, nor anything relative to the cap.

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A plan for Denver at kicker Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Who wants to talk kickers?

Continuing an offseason series for PFF, Nathan Jahnke lists the top available free agent kickers, including former Bronco Steven Hauschka, whom we had unrealistically hoped the Broncos might pursue a year ago.

Hauschka was 23 for 23 inside 50 last season, while Matt Prater was just 23 of 28. Prater was better from 50 and out (3/4 versus 1/4 for Hauschka), but he was also paid three times as much as Hauschka. On kickoffs, Hauschka allowed a higher percentage of returns, but Seattle's opponents actually started with a worse starting field position than Prater's kicks produced for Denver.

No, this is not a call for the Broncos to consider swapping out Prater for Hauschka, who will likely command a raise from the $1.26M he was paid last season.

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The lockout really hit the Ginger Hammer in the wallet Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Via the mailbag, a question from Brian:

I've always been curious as to why you don't see NFL players trying to play for the team that they grew up fans of.

Why didn't Brett Favre ever try to become a Cowboy? Why hasn't Aaron Rodgers tried to force a trade to the 49ers?

Now I understand the NFL is BIG business, or maybe the situation won't allow it (there is already an established or marquee player at that position), but as a fan fantasizing, I think I would accept a significant pay cut for the opportunity to play QB for the Broncos.

I've seen/heard/read players being asked this question in the past. Of course, some of them do get to play for the team they rooted for, ie. Terrell Davis fan Mike Bell, and CO native Mitch Unrein.

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Chiefs have long to-do list, will have plenty of space to complete it Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! For the last two years or so, it's been a foregone conclusion that the Chiefs career of wide receiver Dwayne Bowe would end sooner than later.

Bowe's lengthy holdout last summer had figured to be his last contract-related episode in KC, but with Scott Pioli gone, and Andy Reid now running the show, there's apparently a real possibility that Bowe's stint with the team will continue on.

To that end, the Chiefs have reportedly been discussing a long-term deal with Bowe's representatives, and are expected to continue their talks in the coming weeks.

NFL.com's Ian Rapoport also reports that the team is interested in retaining left tackle Branden Albert, and has been negotiating with his agents. The Chiefs are thought to currently have $14M in cap space, most or all of which is from a 2012 carryover.

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Clowney should force his way into NFL Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! 20-year-old Gamecocks defensive phenom Jadeveon Clowney (Happy Birthday) is faced with quite the dilemma, as he'd likely be among the NFL's top picks if not for the collusive rule that keeps him from entering the draft this year.

He can sit out a year and be among the top picks in 2014, or play for South Carolina and risk a severe career-threatening injury like that suffered by his teammate Marcus Lattimore (or by Kentucky hoopster Nerlens Noel on Tuesday).

If he chooses the latter, the best he can do is take out an insurance policy (like Noel did) that wouldn't come close to covering the guaranteed money he'd surely get this year from the NFL. Also, why should he be paying tens of thousands of dollars to insure himself, and where is he supposed to get that money from?

Mike Silver thinks Clowney should lawyer up and challenge the NFL's inane rule, and obviously, we agree. The only problem for us, of course, is that if Clowney were to succeed, there's a great chance he'd end up with the Chiefs or Raiders...

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Richard Seymour and the Raiders’ stint in cap hell Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Last week, we discussed the perils of kicking the salary cap can down the road via contract renegotiations in the name of more cap space today.

Happily for us, a perfect example of such mismanagement has presented itself, and with a healthy serving of Raiders schadenfreude to top it off.

It's the NFL's version of Popeye's "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today," only with the late Al Davis and defensive tackle Richard Seymour reprising the roles of Wimpy and the burger.

Trading away Seymour in 2009 was the ultimate Bill Belichick move, as he got back a 2011 first-round pick (Nate Solder) for a player entering the final year of his contract.

Oakland used its franchise tag on Seymour in 2010, to the tune of almost $13M, and then signed him to a six-year deal in 2011 that voided to two years.

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Fare thee well, Keith Burns Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's unfortunately time to bid adieu to a longtime friend - Keith Burns, who's spent 18 of his 20 NFL seasons with the Broncos.

At least he's reconvening with an old friend, as he's heading to Washington to coordinate Mike Shanahan's special teams.

Burnsy first joined the Broncos as a seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State in 1994, and he anchored their special teams unit for 11 of the next 13 seasons, with one-year stints with Chicago (1999) and Tampa Bay (2004) sprinkled in between.

The 40-year-old South Carolina native was a part of both of Denver's SB-winning teams, and upon his retirement, he jumped right into coaching, as a ST assistant on Shanny's 2007 squad.

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Forget Welker - what about Harvin? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! With the contracts for wideouts Brandon Stokley and Matthew Wilis up, several fans have suggested Denver should pursue New England's Wes Welker in free agency.

But given the contract Welker figures to command ($8M-$10M/year?), and with the team facing much bigger needs (interior offensive/defensive lines, middle linebacker), the receiver would appear to be beyond the team's budgetary restraints.

If the Broncos are interested in adding a dynamic slot receiver (and we have no idea whether they are), then what about pursuing a younger, more explosive version of Welker?

To that end, it's being reported that the Vikings are looking to trade Percy Harvin.

The electric receiver/runner/return man is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and his $2.9M salary would also be his cap number for any team that acquires him via trade. Minnesota would be left with just $1,128,800 of dead money, so that's not a factor.

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Is a wider field a safer one? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! From former CFL, Bills, and Colts exec Bill Polian, via Dan Pompei, comes an intriguing idea for potentially improving the safety of the NFL game.

In the opinion of Polian and Warren Moon, who of course began his pro career up north (because he's black), the CFL's wider field lends itself to smaller, faster players, and fewer big collisions, especially in the middle of the field:

“The farther a player has to run in terms of contact, the less ferocious the contact is going to be,” Polian said. “We know the most ferocious hits come from guys who are ten yards apart and lay each other out. You have fewer higher power collisions in the Canadian League than here.”

A wider field almost certainly would lead to more scoring, and a shift in the offensive-defensive balance of the NFL. Schemes would be affected. This might not be a bad thing for the NFL. But it would be a radical thing, to use Polian’s word.

This would indeed be a drastic change, and one that demands tireless research to determine its value, before instating. But if it helps preserve the game and the quality of life of the men who play it, then we're all for the idea.

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NFL greats speak out against illegal guns Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! If you read but one football article today in its entirety (you know, aside from this one), we cannot recommend the following one highly enough.

Former longtime AJC reporter Drew Jubera published a book last year about the storied Valdosta High football program, and in a column for the Times, he explains why his long-held resentment toward football coaches was turned completely around by his experience at Valdosta:

The team’s all-American tight end is the son of a former N.F.L. player whose career was cut short by drug addiction. The father later was shot in the head while he was trying to rip off a street dealer for $5 worth of crack. He survived, put his life back together, and showed up to watch practice every day, cane in one hand, determined that his son would not repeat his mistakes.

Those kinds of stories have become a regular part of the human interest features churned out during the buildup to national championship games and Super Bowls.

But for high school coaches in places like Valdosta, where it all begins, those stories are called Monday.

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