• How much do you pay for a one-year wonder? That's the dilemma facing the Packers when determining the long-term future of RB Ryan Grant.
The second-year pro who led the team in rushing with 956 yards has not signed his exclusive rights tender, and is currently sitting out mini-camp while hoping to secure a lucrative multi-year contract from the Packers. While Grant has a strong case for receiving a bump in pay, he has few options for securing an extension in his current situation. As an exclusive right free agent, he is only able to negotiate with the Packers. Without the ability to attract interest from other teams, his market value remains at the team's discretion. But given the way that Grant shored up the Packers' suspect running game, the team should seriously consider giving their young starter a multi-year extension.
Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn failed to distinguish themselves as feature backs during the early part of the season, and their struggles opened the door for Grant to assume the starting role.
"Their other guys are question marks," said an AFC scout. "If they show up during the early part of the season, he never gets a chance to be 'the guy.' "
The pressure is really on the Packers' running game to produce at a high level with new starter Aaron Rodgers stepping in under center. Jackson and Wynn have looked great during the offseason program, but Grant truly excelled when it counted -- during his nine-game stint as the starter. Grant averaged 5.1 yards per carry during the regular season, and his six 100-yard games included a 201-yard performance against the Seahawks in the playoffs. Therefore, don't expect the Packers to fully use the leverage of an exclusive rights tender to their advantage.
Forcing Grant to play under the exclusive rights tender ($355,000) would cause an acrimonious situation between the two sides. Look for the parties to eventually reach an agreement on a three- or four-year extension that solidifies the Packers' backfield while compensating Grant at a reasonable level.
• The Browns are expecting a big year from Kamerion Wimbley. The third year pro finished his rookie year with 11 sacks, but saw his production dip (five sacks) in his second season as teams' paid more attention to him. However, that should change with the additions of Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams.
"Last year, Wimbley would beat the guy around the corner, but the guard would help out," said a Browns' official. "With the inside push that we have now, he should easily top his production from his rookie season."
The optimism comes with good reason. Rogers and Williams combined for 14 sacks last season, and their ability to command double teams inside will create numerous one-on-one opportunities for Wimbley. As one of the Browns' best athletes, team officials are hoping that Wimbley continues to make big strides as a rusher and taps into some of the "rare athleticism" that he has exhibited during off-season workouts. If Rogers and Williams dominate the inside as expected, look for Wimbley to put up the kind of production that will garner Pro Bowl consideration.
• With Ronald Curry slowly recovering from offseason surgery and Javon Walker ailing from injuries suffered during a reported mugging in Las Vegas, the signing of Drew Carter may be one of the Raiders' best moves this offseason. Carter, who caught 38 passes for 517 yards with four touchdowns in his final season with the Panthers, was signed to be the team's third receiver, but his surprising performance during offseason workouts may lead to a bigger role.
"He has been really impressive," said a team observer. "He has looked like the best player at the position during workouts."
Carter flashed glimpses of developing into a top-flight playmaker during his four-year stint with the Panthers, but he never became the complementary receiver the team envisioned. However, Raiders' officials believe that they Carter may be on the verge of a breakout season.
"His game is coming around," said a Raiders' coach. "You could see him making strides last season, but now you see the finished product ... We've been impressed."
• The Eagles' decision to move Winston Justice to right guard during the final days of offseason workouts appears to be a last-ditch attempt to salvage the third-year pro's career in Philadelphia. Justice, the team's second round pick in 2006, has struggled at tackle during his brief career. His failures were never more evident than during his first career start against the Giants, when he surrendered six sacks to Osi Umenyiora. Although Justice is playing behind two former Pro Bowlers (Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan), his slow development at the position prompted the coaching staff to explore the possibility of moving him to guard. While the move inside is intended to protect Justice from facing explosive rushers off the edge, it forces him to deal with powerful interior defenders in the running game.
"He's not tough enough to play inside," said an AFC scout. "It takes a gritty player to be successful, and he has never exhibited that quality."
Regardless, it's not surprising to see the Eagles attempt to move Justice inside. Teams often give high draft picks every opportunity to reach their potential, and the move to guard grants Justice another chance to fulfill his promise.