NFL news roundup: Roger Goodell terrified, Shawne Merriman retires and the latest on free agency

Christian Petersen

The start of NFL free agency is a week away and speculation continues to run wild. While players decide where they will play next season, commissioner Roger Goodell is reportedly terrified an on-field death will occur due to the current culture of the game.

Roger Goodell has focused on player safety during his tenure as NFL commissioner, but despite attempts to make the game safer, Goodell continues to fear the worst.

In an article written by Don Van Natta Jr. for ESPN the Magazine, friends of Goodell said the commissioner has told them he believes a player could die on the field if the current culture of the sport does not change. One Hall of Fame player who regularly speaks with Goodell said the commissioner is "terrified" it will happen.

While Goodell continues to focus on player safety, the focus around the NFL is on the upcoming free agent period. Free agency is still a week away, but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from churning. NFL free agent speculation has increased following Monday's deadline to designate franchise players. You may be shocked to hear this, but several players are reportedly close to contracts, while others appear set to test free agency.

Wes Welker is one of the players reportedly working toward to a deal with his current team as the two sides are "close" to a new deal. According to the report, Welker and the Patriots agreed they are better off together than apart and are now close to a three-year extension. Such a deal would make a lot of sense as Welker has proven to be a dynamic threat in New England's offense. He's caught at least 100 passes in five of his six seasons in New England, including 118 receptions last season. SB Nation's Patriots blog, Pats Pulpit has much more on the latest between Welker and the Patriots.

Another soon-to-be free agent wide receiver could also be close to a deal as Brian Hartline and the Dolphins are reportedly close to a contract which would average between $6 and $6.5 million per season. Reaction to the reported deal has been mixed as many feel that is too high of a price tag for a No. 2 receiver with Hartline's track record. NFL.com's Chris Wessling called the potential deal "absurd" while some Dolphins fans are happy to avoid a situation similar to Welker's departure from Miami.

The Phinsider: Dolphins fans react

While Hartline and Welker may be close to deals, a couple of top defensive free agents appear set to hit the market. All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson is expected to leave San Francisco, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. He will likely be joined on the open market by Baltimore pass rusher Paul Kruger, who is reportedly searching for a contract worth more than $10 million per season and is not expected to re-sign with the Ravens.

Shawne Merriman was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, but he will not hit the market after all as he announced his retirement from the NFL on Tuesday. Merriman spent nine seasons in the NFL with San Diego and Buffalo. He finishes his career with 45.5 career sacks.

Merriman is on his way out, but Vince Young is trying to work his way back into the NFL. Young, who did not play in the NFL in 2012, will work out at Texas' pro day in attempts to make a comeback. Young last played for the Eagles in 2011 and is currently on campus finishing his degree. Texas will hold its pro day on March 26.

More in the NFL:

NFL Mock Draft: New names rising in first round

Uffsides: Von Miller talks with SB Nation

Ranking the NFL's top offensive free agents

Joe Flacco and the history of $100 million contracts

The NFL's disappearing middle class

The speed conspiracy: Comparing NFL and high school 40-yard dash times

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