Tuesday, May 08, 2007

NFL News and Notes

Receiver Steve Smith agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Carolina Panthers on Tuesday in a deal that will keep him with the team through the 2012 season.

Smith had been hoping to get a new deal for some time and the Panthers had made a long-term deal one of their priorities after releasing veteran receiver Keyshawn Johnson last week.

Smith, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, led the NFL with 103 catches for 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2005. Smith's numbers declined last season. He missed the first two games with a hamstring injury, and finished with 20 fewer catches, 400 fewer receiving yards and four fewer touchdowns as Carolina went 8-8.

Six-year veteran defensive right end Justin Smith, designated by the Cincinnati Bengals as a franchise player before the start of the free agency period, on Tuesday signed the one-year tender, guaranteeing him a base salary of $8.644 million for the 2007 season.

Smith is the third of the NFL's seven franchise players to sign a contract. New Orleans defensive end Charles Grant recently signed a seven-year contract with a maximum value of $63 million, including $20 million in guarantees. Last week, Seattle kicker Josh Brown signed a one-year tender for $2.078 million.

Smith, 27, is a steady if unspectacular player who was the team's first-round selection in the 2001 draft. While he may never play up to his status as the fourth overall prospect chosen that year, Smith is a solid and durable two-way player who has led Bengals' linemen in tackles for each of the past five seasons.

The former Missouri standout has appeared in 95 straight games, all starts, and missed just one contest, the season opener in his rookie year. His absence in the opening game that year was because of a protracted contract negotiation, with Smith not signing until the eve of the first game.

For his career, Smith has 388 tackles, 41½ sacks, seven forced fumbles, five recoveries, two interceptions and 15 passes defensed.

The rumor mill is running at full speed this week with news of Keyshawn Johnson, Corey Dillon and Kevan Barlow.

Depending on the offer Johnson most likely will land in either Tennessee or Green Bay for the 2007 season. A lot depends on whether Keyshawn thinks the Titans and Packers can be playoff teams. Both franchises were 8-8 last season.

Look for Johnson to end up in Tennessee. Vince Young needs an experienced receiver after Drew Bennett and David Patten left town and the organization failed to draft a big time receiver in the draft.

Barlow, released last week by the Jets, is in Pittsburgh looking for a deal. Both sides are considering a one-year deal that will enable Barlow, a former star running back at Pitt, to return to the facility he trained at while in college. The Steelers' headquarters is next to the Pitt practice field on the South Side of Pittsburgh.

Barlow had been a consideration for the Titans, Packers and a few other teams, but offers were slow coming. The Steelers have been looking for a big back to pair next to Willie Parker. If things work out, Barlow could be a Steeler by the end of the week.

Although it's a long shot, Pro Football Weekly is hearing Dillon could be considered by the Rams down the road if he became willing to be a backup to Steven Jackson. Dillon has close ties with Rams head coach Scott Linehan and new special-teams coach Al Roberts, both of whom coached him in college at Washington.

Dillon drew interest from Baltimore and Buffalo earlier in the offseason, but both teams chose other options at running back. Dillon, 32, rushed for 812 yards last season and led the Patriots with 13 touchdowns.

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