Around the NFL: OTA Edition

Rob Gronkowski could be looking at a long road to recovery.With just over three months before the start of the 2013 NFL season, HighPhive.com takes a look around the NFL to survey the competition.

Starting in New England, TE Rob Gronkowski will have his fourth surgery of this offseason to repair a broken forearm, and may face an additional surgery to replace a possible herniated disc in his spinal column. Gronkowski is New England’s best offensive weapon not named Tom Brady. While Gronk is expected to recover in time for camp, his recent medical history indicates that nothing is set in stone for the fourth year tight end.

Staying in the AFC East, recent reports more bad news from the New York Jets as recently signed RB Mike Goodson was arrested on drug and weapon charges on May 17th. Goodson was charged with possession of marijuana in the amount of less than 50 grams, a paraphernalia charge, carrying an unlicensed fire arm, and possession of illegal hollow point bullets. Goodson was able to avoid jail time by posting bail, but if proven guilty, will surely face a suspension from the NFL. Goodson was expected to be the Jets’ third down option at RB, and play a role in the return game as well.

Surprisingly, there is good news coming out of Jet camp as well. The team’s second round pick, and apparent new face of the franchise, Geno Smith has reportedly impressed the Jets’ front office. So much so,  that he is expected to compete for the starting QB job come training camp. This news is surely shocking to those who followed the draft closely, as Geno had numerous question marks surrounding his ability to play at the NFL level. Furthermore, the rise of Smith’s stock does little to help Mark Sanchez who could find himself as the odd man out on the Jets’ roster.

Shifting to the AFC West we have an old face moving to a new place. Former Colts’ DE Dwight Freeney has agreed to terms with the San Diego Chargers. With 107.5 career sacks, Freeney will fill a pass rushing void for the Chargers, though questions remain as to how he will fit into the Chargers scheme. Regardless, we can expect to see Dwight Freeney with his hand in the dirt for 30-40 snaps per game come fall. Freeney will be used primarily as a pass rusher which is his strong suit. As a Charger, Freeney will make an $8.75 million dollar base salary over the next two seasons.

The Minnesota Vikings announced they are shifting former QB, and playoff starter from four months ago, Joe Webb to the WR position. Webb will fill a void left by the departures of Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins who found new homes in Seattle and New England respectively. Webb’s career as a passer is likely over before it began, and only time will tell how the Viking’s speedster will fit into Minnesota’s new-look offense in 2013.

Panthers QB Cam Newton is looking ahead to 2013 as a make or break season after leading the Panthers to a sub-par 7-9 finish in 2012. The 2011 rookie of the year must find his stride in the passing game, and allow the over-priced and underperforming  RB trio of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and TD vulture Mike Tolbert to handle the majority of the rushing duties. Former QB Mike Shula is taking the reins of the Carolina offense for the upcoming season, and will look to utilize his 3rd year QB who threw for over 7,900 yards in two seasons, and added 700 yards on the ground each year to boot. The Panthers must better utilize their receiving corps; Steve Smith, Greg Olson, and Brandon LaFell are more than capable receivers, and will flourish in the right system.

Staying in the NFC South, there has been talk in Atlanta about a new contract for franchise QB Matt Ryan. Ryan is reportedly seeking money comparable to the deals received by Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers this past offseason. While Ryan is the face and future of the Falcons, he does not have a super bowl ring to lean on during negotiations, a factor that certainly helped Joe Flacco achieve his then-record deal. Regardless, consider Ryan’s future as a Falcon to be a virtual certainty, it’s just the financial details that remain unclear at this point.

The Seattle Seahawks were one of last season’s big surprises in their quest for a playoff berth, but their miraculous run from a season ago did not come without some asterisks. The Seahawks’ starting CB duo was suspended four games each for breaking the NFL’s policy on drug use; Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner were each suspended four games by the league, though Sherman was later absolved of all blame or punishment. Unfortunately for the North West’s 12th man, the suspension trend has continued into 2013 as DE Bruce Irvin has been suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Irvin is the fifth player suspended for drug use in Seattle since 2011, joining the likes of John Moffitt, Allen Barbre, Winston Guy, and the aforementioned Browner. This type of negative publicity is something Pete Carroll should look to avoid if he hopes to continue making the Seahawks a super bowl contender.

June first will mark the end of the unrestricted free agent signing period, but many notable names are still on the market including former Falcons DE Jonathan Abraham, former Bears’ MLB Brian Urlacher, ex-Steelers’ NT Casey Hampton, former Bills’ OLB Nick Barnett, and former Panthers’ and Chargers’ CB’s respectively Chris Gamble, and Quentin Jammer. This crop of talent is nothing to bat an eye at, and while these players are certainly old in terms of the NFL, many could still contribute to a contending team. Gamble and Jammer will certainly find landing spots as teams begin to realize their need for depth in the secondary, but players like Barnett or former Jaguars LB Daryl Smith will find jobs harder to find as their decrease in speed has led to a lack of interest in the former playmakers. The longer Brian Urlacher stays unemployed, the likelier he accepts the $2 million offered to him by the Bears’ to stay in Chicago. Abraham could get luck y like Dwight Freeney, and find a home due to an injury like the one sustained to Chargers’ LB Melvin Ingram. Wherever these aging free agents end up, expect some of them to make a big impact on a roster in the 2013 season.

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Benjamin Haley

Ben Haley is the Sports Director for 91.3 FM WVUD. Ben also serves as a sports broadcaster for the University of Delaware. . He is the main Philadelphia Eagles contributor for HighPhive.com! You can follow him on Twitter @BenHaley11.