NFL teams and top free agent players will be playing what amounts to high-stakes poker games in the next two weeks before free agency begins on March 11.


The teams must decide how much they are willing to pay to keep their high-priced free agents off the market. And the players have to decide whether to turn down the offer and seek more on the free agent market, but risk getting less if the market isn’t as robust as anticipated.

Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril, a Green Cove Springs native, learned that lesson two years ago when he turned down Detroit’s three-year, $30 million offer.

The Lions put a non-exclusive $10.6 million tag on him in 2012. He hit the open market last year, but the best he could do was a two-year, $13 million offer from the Seahawks.

Avril has few regrets because the Seahawks won the Super Bowl and he will become a free agent again at the end of the 2014 season.

One of the most intriguing negotiations in the next two weeks could involve former Jaguars offensive tackle Eugene Monroe. The Ravens gambled last season, trading fourth- and fifth-round picks to the Jaguars without Monroe agreeing to a contract extension first. He started the last 11 games and is believed to be the Ravens’ long-term answer at left tackle.

Monroe said in a radio interview last week that he will not take a hometown discount to stay in Baltimore. He said he’s not into being a “Costco or Walmart.’’

He added, “There are absolutely no discounts. It’s interesting, wanting to be here but also knowing there could be possibilities everywhere and just waiting patiently to see how these opportunities unfold.’’

For the Jaguars, there’s not likely to be much drama with running back Maurice Jones-Drew and quarterback Chad Henne the team’s two top free agents. They’ve already said they will let Jones-Drew hit the market and hope to sign Henne, who has incentive to stay. If he signs, Henne will likely open the season as the starter because general manager Dave Caldwell believes most rookie quarterbacks aren’t ready to start the season.


Assuming that Henne remains the Jaguars’ starter, the AFC South will have three of the four starting quarterbacks back from last year.

Andrew Luck remains the incumbent in Indianapolis, and the Titans are committed to sticking with Jake Locker, though he has missed 14 games due to injuries the last two years.

The team with the unsettled quarterback situation is Houston.

Matt Schaub seems to have worn out his welcome, and Case Keenum showed last year that he’s not the answer. Odds are the Texans will draft a quarterback with the first pick and name him the opening day starter.


Former Jaguar Esera Tuaolo, who went public that he was gay in 2002 after he retired, said he couldn’t have gone public with his sexual orientation when he was playing the way Michael Sam has.

“We’re living in different times,’’ Sam told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “It was 20 years ago when I came into the league, and it was not an environment where I could come out. The homophobia and the words and language back then was absolutely ridiculous, and nobody would be held accountable for it.’’

He added, “In the last 10 years, it hasn’t been like that. Any time now, when a player lashes out, they are held accountable for their words. If there’s a time a player could/should come out, this is the time.’’

Tuaolo played nine years in the NFL, including 1997 with the Jaguars.


“If you ask me ‘Do I think we can win games with Mike Glennon?’ I’m going to say, ‘Yeah.’ If you ask me ‘Would you like to upgrade the position?’ That’s a ‘yes,’ too.’’ New Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith on the possibility of drafting a quarterback with the seventh pick.,

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