The Oakland Raiders have reportedly agreed a deal to sign ace kick returner Josh Cribbs. ProFootballTalk.com reports that the former Cleveland Browns special teams standout has decided to accept an offer to join the Silver and Black.
The move gives the Raiders a major boost on special teams and a versatile weapon for their sub-packages on offense. In particular, Cribbs should be able to help out on third downs.
However, his true value is likely to be in the return game. The 29-year-old has excelled returning kickoffs and punts, since entering the NFL in 2005. He was not quite at his best in 2012, but still produced 1,178 yards on kickoff returns. He also chipped in with 457 yards on punt returns.
The Raiders frankly need Cribbs to again dominate in the return game. He can help win the field position battle, for a team in complete rebuild mode on both sides of the ball. The offense is not expected to be lighting up scoreboards in 2013.
The San Diego Chargers have invited free agent pass-rusher Dwight Freeney to visit, after losing outside linebacker Melvin Ingram for the season. Freeney's visit was reported by U-T San Diego, after Chargers.com confirmed Ingram has torn his ACL.
Taking the first steps to signing Freeney is a smart move by the Chargers. Ingram's loss robs the defense of its only real pure pass-rusher.
The Chargers are well-stocked on the inside. Linebackers Donald Butler and rookie Manti Te'o will form a punishing duo.
San Diego also boast considerable talent along the interior of the defensive line. Young tackles Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes have the potential to dominate.
However, without Ingram, there is little threat from the edges. Even at 33, Freeney remains a dynamic outside pass-rusher.
The Tennessee Titans are close to signing veteran defensive end John Abraham. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reports the Titans hope to complete the signing this week. The Titans need the experienced and skilled pass-rusher to improve their ability to pressure quarterbacks.
The Titans have struggled getting to the passer during the last two seasons. Coordinator Jerry Gray has been forced to mix and match a variety of fronts and personnel combinations to try and scheme some pressure.
Gray has resorted to three-man lines and various defensive back blitzes with little success. The main problem has been the lack of a stud pass-rusher up front.
Ends Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan have led the way in the sacks department. However, both managed less than seven sacks apiece in 2012.
Signing Abraham would at last give Gray the premium rush end he needs to make his schemes work. He may be 34, but Abraham remains as dangerous off the edge as any pass-rusher in the NFL.
9th Overall – DE/LB Ezekiel Ansah, Brigham Young University
Reason: The Jets have needed to upgrade their lackluster pass rush for the past couple seasons now. With recent rumors of Bills possibly selecting a quarterback 8th overall, there is a strong possibility that Ansah might slide to the Jets if a combination of Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, or Matt Barkley are selected by two teams ahead of the Jets.
13th Overall – WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia University
Reason: The Jets have to get more offensive weapons capable of scoring touchdowns. Austin has a similar skillset as a former Marty Morhinweg wide receiver – DeSean Jackson. If Austin is able to contribute in the same capacity as Jackson in Morhinweg's system, the Jets should have an easier time scoring on offense next season. The Jets may also look to trade back in an effort to acquire more mid round selections during the draft.
James Harrison would give the Cincinnati Bengals the NFL's best pass rush. The Bengals have already held talks with the 34-year-old former Pittsburgh Steelers star.
Those are talks are ongoing, according to NFL.com's Marc Sessler. Acquiring the free agent rush linebacker would boost an already fearsome rotation of pass-rushers.
Cincinnati's defense was just one sack shy of leading the league in quarterback takedowns in 2012. The Bengals compiled 51 sacks and trailed only the Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams in applying pressure.
The lion's share of that pressure came from a deep and talented defensive line. Coordinator Mike Zimmer can rely on bookend edge-rushers Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap to collapse the pocket from the outside.
The pair combined for 17.5 sacks last season. Reserve ends Wallace Gilberry and Robert Geathers added a further 9.5.
Gilberry proved to be a very astute signing. He joined after being waived by the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.