Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the NFL:
• We hear the Chiefs remain interested in re-signing free agent Branden Albert but that they at least have kicked around the idea of making him a guard. Albert has made it clear he believes himself to be a left tackle, period. Although internal discussions are in the early stages, this will be an interesting situation to monitor over the coming weeks.
• In the Cowboys’ new 4-3 scheme under Monte Kiffin, there are a few leftover, ill-fitting pieces. The switch could lead to Anthony Spencer seeking work elsewhere from a 3-4 team whose scheme fits his skills best. But it also might affect some younger players such as LB Kyle Wilber, who appears to be a tweener in the 4-3. Could he play linebacker? Hard to say because he missed much of his rookie season with injury. But the early guess is that it’s not his best fit.
• The Redskins are said to be pleased with the rehabs of their injured players, including LB Brian Orakpo, DE Adam Carriker, TE Fred Davis and S Brandon Meriweather. Of those, Meriweather is the most likely to miss the majority of offseason workouts, as he is the most recent of the four to get injured. But we hear the team is confident it should have all of them ready to go at some point during training camp.
• Wes Welker and Aqib Talib will steal most of the attention from Patriots observers in the coming months as they enter free agency, but we hear it’s ORT Sebastian Vollmer who could attract a nice deal to return, assuming the club is confident that his back injuries will not be a recurring concern. The Patriots value Vollmer and the tackle position highly, and observers would be surprised if he walked.
• Word is the 2013 season will very likely be Titans WR Kenny Britt’s last in Nashville. Although he was not involved in the stabbing that occurred in the early hours of January 13th, it’s just the most recent in a long line of examples of Britt putting himself in precarious situations with the wrong people. The Titans still think Britt has the makeup of a game-changing wide receiver — and they are likely to continue making excuses for him to keep him on the roster for the final year of his rookie contract — but his constant brushes with the law and injuries make it far too risky to depend on him long term.
• Did a strong second half perhaps save Packers TE Jermichael Finley from being released this offseason? We hear that is a real possibility. Finley, 25, signed a two-year deal last offseason, but a report from PFW correspondent and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Bob McGinn in December indicated Finley, “barring a shocking turn of events in the next month or so,” was playing his final season with the Packers. Finley’s increased dedication and team-first approach down the stretch might end up qualifying as a shocking turn of events, we hear.
• The Saints were already set up for some personnel changes in the front seven because of free agents (Sedrick Ellis) and contract situations (Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma). Now with the news of Steve Spagnulo’s firing and the Saints moving to a 3-4 defense, we’ll certainly see a facelift. Two young names to watch are Martez Wilson and Akiem Hicks. Wilson was a D-end in Spagnuolo’s 4-3, but could have some value as a pass-rushing linebacker, his college position. Hicks played defensive tackle as a rookie, and came out of college with the tools to be a five-technique in the pros.
• Prior to their divisional-round loss to the Ravens, we heard that the cornerback position would be a potential focal point this offseason. When Champ Bailey got burned on several occasions, it magnified the need. Chris Harris came into his own as a very good corner this year, and Tony Carter showed flashes, but Bailey is clearly nearing the end of his career. Tracy Porter’s health remains a question, making a return to Denver in doubt. Omar Bolden was only a special-teams contributor as a rookie. After emphasizing the secondary last offseason in free agency, look for the Broncos to target it again, and likely look for a corner or two in the draft.