This year's NFL offseason has so far been surprisingly not dull, with plenty of post-NFL Draft fallout to keep most fans at least semi-conscious through the long slog to September. On Wednesday afternoon, we saw two major pieces of news hit the wire: Ronde Barber finally calling it quits after 16 NFL seasons, and Rob Gronkowski suffering yet another setback in his recovery.
Ronde Barber is set to retire from the NFL after playing 16 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The former third-round pick went on to become one of the best players in franchise history. He was named to the Pro Bowl five times in his career, and is a member of the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team at cornerback.
Barber is also known as one of the toughtest players the league has ever seen. He has appeared in every one of the Bucs' 240 games played since 1998, and holds the NFL record for the most consecutive starts by a cornerback. Look for Barber to garner serious support for a place in the NFL Hall of Fame down the line.
For fantasy football owners, Rob Gronkowski was a frustrating weekly "will-he-won't-he" play during the latter stages of the Patriots' season last year. That same frustration could continue into the 2013 season, with the news that Gronkowski is set to undergo a fourth surgery on his left forearm, putting his status for Week 1 in jeopardy.
Gronkowski contracted an infection in his forearm after undergoing his second procedure to repair a fracture. The infection has been a major setback in the tight end's recovery. Gronkowski has reportedly looked "great" otherwise this offseason. Unfortunately, he just can't seem to gather any positive momentum in his recovery.
The Jaguars are reportedly very high on their fifth-round selection. According to reports, they'll be looking to give former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson 10-15 snaps at just about every other position on offense. Robinson will compete with Justin Forsett for backup running back touches behind Maurice Jones-Drew, and may also be split wide as a receiver.
Robinson may also be asked to step in as a return man on special teams. Don't expect him to line up at quarterback, however, barring some unfortunate circumstances for the Jaguars.
Cam Newton took some heat last season for not being quite as sensational as he was a rookie, especially relative to the tremendous first-year feats of Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck. Newton is looking to make a big leap in his third season, beginning by losing weight in the offseason, according to reports.
Presumably, the weight loss will help Newton stay lighter on his feet. Not that anyone would accuse Newton of being slow, but a little less weight should make him a little quicker when running the read-option or trying to avoid pass rushers in a beefed-up NFC South.
Chris Johnson thinks the Tennessee Titans will be running the ball much more in the 2013 than they did in 2012. The team unleashed Jake Locker at quarterback last season, but he struggled passing the ball, completing just 56.4 percent of his passes for 2,176 yards, and 10 touchdowns to 11 interceptions.
Not that Johnson was much better. He bounced back from a rough 2011 season, but still averaged a rather average 4.5 yards per carry. Johnson still had his moments, however, and the Titans made a big effort to beef up the offensive line during free agency and the 2013 NFL Draft.
The Dallas Cowboys are strapped for cash, with lots of money tied up into big contracts to Tony Romo and Miles Austin. They are asking left tackle Doug Free to take a big pay cut as a result. Free is set to make $8 million in 2013 as part of his four-year, $32 million contract. Considering how bad the Cowboys' offensive line performed last season, it's possible that the organization doesn't feel the Free is worth the money.
If Free doesn't agree to a reduced price tag, he could find himself looking for a new job prior to Week 1.
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