Pryor commitment: Although there seems to be considerable doubt about where former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor will continue his football career, it appears he will be able to rely on the advice of some professional counselors.
No deal for representation had yet been struck by Friday morning, but The Sports Xchange has confirmed that at least one agent has spoken directly to Pryor since the player announced he will bypass his final season of eligibility and leave the Buckeyes. Furthermore, The Sports Xchange has learned that Pryor has reached out, via text messages, to at least two other prominent agents, both of whom are still deciding whether or not they want to become involved with him. At least one more well-known agent has texted or left messages for Pryor, seeking an audience with him.
The word in the agent community is that Pryor could settle on representation within a week or two, and that current attorney Larry James will play only a small role in the decision.
The signs remain that Pryor will strongly consider petitioning the NFL for the supplemental draft. James said this week that Pryor has ruled out the CFL, and the going contract rate in the UFL is $40,000-$50,000, considerably less than the rookie minimum in the NFL. In fact, despite a report that "the money will be about the same" if Pryor opted for the CFL or UFL, that's hardly the case. And it's doubtless any NFL franchise would forfeit its corresponding choice in the 2011 draft unless it planned to retain Pryor as a developmental project.
QB Terrelle Pryor
Even practice squad money in the NFL would be more than the UFL is paying. Some observers disagree, but the consensus seems to be that Pryor - even though he has more experience than Cam Newton, similar size and athleticism, and possesses some of the same skills-set -- would be a fourth- or fifth-round choice in a supplemental draft.
There has not, by the way, been a quarterback chosen in the supplemental draft since 1992, when the New York Giants tabbed Dave Brown in the first round. In fact, the past five quarterbacks chosen - Brown, Steve Walsh (1989), Timm Rosenbach ('89), Bernie Kosar ('85), and Dave Wilson ('81) - were all first-rounders.
Follow the leader
To this point, speculation about the five suspended OSU players has primarily focused on Pryor, and that's understandable, given his position and his prominence and name value. But a source close to the Buckeyes program said on Thursday night he anticipated "at least one more" of the suspended players to leave school for the pros. The four other players are: offensive tackle Mike Adams, tailback Dan Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, and defensive end Solomon Thomas. Of the group, Adams, who probably needs a little more size but projects to the prized left tackle spot, seems to be the highest regarded in discussions with NFL talent evaluators.
As indicated by The Sports Xchange in a column earlier this week, never underestimate agent Drew Rosenhaus and his ability to create a market for his clients, a lesson that has been learned in the past by teams. But there is growing suspicion that Rosenhaus won't have many more than 3-4 suitors serious about signing free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who was released Monday from jail after serving a 20-month sentence.
Teams are concerned by Burress' age (34 next month), his inactivity (it is likely to be 33 months between games), and by his reputation for never having been the hardest worker earlier in his career. The lockout isn't likely to work in Burress' favor, either, because teams may be forced to make quick decisions on players in a compressed environment.
Said one team official: "It's the ultimate 'buyer beware' scenario. I only hope the guy is starting his conditioning work right away, because when this (lockout) ends, it's going to be bang-bang on signings."
To reiterate some points made earlier this week about the Philadelphia Eagles, popularly rumored as a potential landing spot for Burress: Although third-year veteran receiver Jeremy Maclin is only 6-feet tall, he still scored seven of his 10 touchdowns in the red zone"in 2010. Some Eagles coaches this week, who said they have not had serious discussions yet about Burress, noted that Maclin is a far better red zone receiver than people think.
They also lauded the potential of second-year wideout Riley Cooper, who is 6-5, and who they feel can be a red -one factor. And they seized a theme espoused by The Sports Xchange, that quarterback Michael Vick, who rushed for nine touchdowns in the red zone last season, provides them an X-factor inside the 20-yard line.
In contrast to last spring, when he skipped minicamps and OTA sessions, Tennessee tailback Chris Johnson joined his Titans teammates for their voluntary workouts this week, and adopted a diplomatic approach to his desire for a new contract. The NFL's leading rusher over the past three seasons (4,598 yards), and one of only six men in league history to run for 2,000 yards in a campaign, the 2008 first-rounder suggested he is "not worried" about his contract status.
RB Chris Johnson
There is no denying the three-year veteran has displayed considerably more maturity this offseason than he did last year. There is also no doubt, league sources emphasized to The Sports Xchange this week that Johnson will not report to the Titans for camp - assuming, of course, there eventually is a camp - until he receives a lucrative, long-term contract. And not the band-aid approach the Titans took last year, when they advanced him most of the escalator money he had earned as part of his original five-year, $12 million contract.
That short-term fix bumped Johnson's base salary from $550,000 to about $2 million. But under the contract he signed in '08, he's still on the books for base salaries of $800,000 in 2011 and $900,000 in 2012. Johnson is playing nice for now, saying all the right things, doing what he needs to do to stay in shape and in touch with his teammates. But unless there's more than just a token bookkeeping maneuver to address is contract grievances in 2011, things could get pretty dicey between the Titans and the man some consider the NFL's best back.
To suggest that Tennessee officials, including first-year coach Mike Munchak, are upset with third-year wide receiver Kenny Britt after the former first-round pick's latest arrest on Wednesday would be understatement.
Said one Titans' official, who said he could not speak for attribution: "We're beyond pissed off with the situation. There will be consequences."
Arrested for the sixth time since joining the Titans in the 2009 draft - this time for alleged evidence tampering, obstruction of a government function and resisting arrest, after he is said to have smashed a cigar containing marijuana when he was stopped for a traffic violation - Britt is expected to face team-issued punishment even before commissioner Roger Goodell take action, the Titans official said.
Noted the team official of Britt, who was arrested in his hometown of Hoboken, N.J.: "It's the same old story. He can't pull himself away from his buddies. That's not to (absolve) him of any blame, but he's got to get away from some people."
Just last week, in fact, Britt's father noted the same thing, saying he hoped his son would get away from New Jersey and go train with his Tennessee teammates for a while. When the lockout ends, the Titans are likely to strong suggest, perhaps even demand, that Britt undergo some sort of counseling. They might even take a page from the Atlanta Falcons' handling of wide receiver Roddy White a few years ago. As noted in this space last week, the Falcons declined to sign White to a new deal until he distanced himself from certain friends who were living at his house.
Once White complied to the satisfaction of Atlanta officials in 2009, the club rewarded him with a new six-year, $50 million contract. Given that Britt is under contract for three more seasons, the Titans can't do exactly the same thing, but there might be some financial moves they consider.
Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.