The Broncos have exercised their 2014 option on Wes Welker's contract.
Welker collected a $3 million roster bonus last week, part of his $8 million in total possible compensation for 2014. He's locked and loaded as Peyton Manning's slot receiver once again, with a touch more upside thanks to Eric Decker's departure. Welker will be a 33-year-old unrestricted free agent in March of 2015, at which point we'd expect newly acquired Emmanuel Sanders to kick inside.
SI's Peter King says it's "more likely than not" that the NFL will expand to 14 playoff teams for the 2015 season.
At this point, it's merely a matter of when the expansion will take place, not if it will happen. Under the new format, only one team in each conference would get a bye and there would be six games on Wild Card Weekend (two seed vs. seven seed, three vs. six, four vs. five). At least one of those games would be on Monday night. The one seed would host the lowest remaining seed in the Divisional Round, just like they do now.
Nate Irving currently tops the Broncos depth chart at middle linebacker.
The Broncos have spent wildly to upgrade their defense, but they didn't get in on three-down middle linebackers like D'Qwell Jackson, Karlos Dansby, Jon Beason or Daryl Smith. So they're left with Irving, who has performed better as a strong-side linebacker than a "Mike" in his career. For now, he only has to beat out Steven Johnson and likely a draft pick to win the gig.
ESPN Cleveland says the Browns' concerns about Ben Tate's durability led to a team-friendly two-year deal.
Tate has missed 24 games in his four-year career, battling ankle, hamstring, foot and rib issues. So he had to watch as far less talented backs such as Donald Brown and Toby Gerhart inked deals worth $10.5 million over three years. Tate got two years and "up to" $7 million. If healthy, he'll be a strong bet to outperform that contract as an ideal one-cut, downhill fit for the Shanny & Son zone-blocking scheme.
ESPN Boston expects newly acquired Brandon LaFell a possibility to start at the "X" position with the Patriots.
Despite going 6'2/210, LaFell operated out of the slot a lot in Carolina. But with Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola the clear-cut top-two at that position in New England, LaFell will focus on the perimeter. There, he'll battle Aaron Dobson (who is coming off foot surgery) and Kenbrell Thompkins. As long as Dobson is healthy, we'd expect him to beat out LaFell.
Free agent RT Zach Strief is still expected to re-sign with the Saints.
Strief's deal was put on the back burner, but he's likely had a handshake deal with the Saints for a while now. The 30-year-old pass protection specialist already declined a visit from an interested Dolphins team. CBS' Jason La Canfora says the sides are now "getting close."
Newly acquired WR Steve Smith said he's fine with being a "complementary dude" with the Ravens.
Smith, who turns 35 years old in May, has no illusions about the current state of his game. "I don't see myself in coach Kubiak's system like Andre Johnson," Smith said. "I see the complementary dude of Kevin Walter. I see how he contributed and how he was instrumental in getting Andre the ball but also getting his own opportunities." Walter's best season with the Texans was 60-899-8. That's the high end of Smith projections for 2014.
Colts owners Jim Irsay has been arrested on DUI and drug possession charges.
Irsay was booked around 3am Monday morning in Carmel, a suburb of Indianapolis, and his bond has been set at $22,500. Other than that, details are still emerging. The colorful and outspoken Irsay inherited the Colts over from his father in 1997. He has a reported net worth of $1.6 billion. The NFL's personal conduct policy does apply to owners. In October of 2013, Irsay tweeted that he hadn't had a drink in more than 15 years.