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Football News: DeMeco Ryans, Hines Ward, and Alex Smith

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Hines Ward retired, the Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans, Alex Smith is back in San Fran, and more non-Peyton news.

Football News: DeMeco Ryans, Hines Ward, and Alex Smith

Peyton Manning is dominating the NFL news landscape, and I guess rightfully so.  It's not often that a player like Manning changes teams and goes to one that adds so many more narratives to the story. 

Now, even more news just dropped to throw these stories under the rug.  Tim Tebow has been traded to the New York Jets.  Sean Payton has been suspended a year and the Saints as a franchise were punished for all that bounty business.  Wednesday just turned into "Crazy NFL News Day".

But there the sun doesn't revolve solely around Peyton Manning's large cranium or Tebow's heavenly aura.  Some other stuff has been happening in the NFL since then that has been somewhat overshadowed.

Hines Ward Retires

After Ward was waived by the Pittsburgh Steelers, I wondered what would become of him in the NFL.  After 14 NFL seasons (including his last, least-productive season since his rookie year), I didn't know if another team was going to take a flier on him.  

Turns out, Ward doesn't want to play for anyone but Pittsburgh, and because they have a stable of young, productive receivers, Ward will call it quits.  Via SI.com:

So rather than play for a 15th season - and his first outside the Steel City - a tearful Ward opted to retire on Tuesday and secure a legacy unmatched in the franchise's long history.

"I can say I'm a Steeler for life and that's the bottom line, that's all I've really ever wanted," Ward said.

Ward holds every significant franchise receiving record, including receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. His 1,000 career catches rank eighth all time and he is one of two players with at least 1,000 receptions and two Super Bowl rings.

It would be weird to see him in another uniform, just like it was weird seeing Peyton Manning hold up that Broncos uniform (everything comes back to Manning).  Everyone is arguing now about whether Ward is worthy of the Hall of Fame, and he has certainly put up the numbers to merit consideration.  Nothing about Hines Ward's play never screamed "Hall of Fame" to me, but maybe I didn't watch him enough.

Eagles Trade for DeMeco Ryans

In a low-key move, the Philadelphia Eagles practically stole linebacker DeMeco Ryans from the Houston Texans for a fourth round pick and a swap of the teams' third round picks.  Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio had this to say in his article "Eagles get the better of DeMeco Ryans trade":

While it may have been a good outcome for the Texans, given that they cleared $5.9 million this year and $6.6 million next year in base salary off the books, it has the potential to be a great outcome for the Eagles. In 2011, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo could never find a linebacker alignment that consistently worked, in large part because no one could successfully handle the responsibilities of being the “mike.”

DeMeco will be that “mike” for the Eagles, and there’s no reason to think he won’t perform like he did in past years.

While both teams can declare victory on this one, the Eagles likely will see the move directly translate to more victories comes September.

The middle linebacker was really the only flaw in Philadelphia's defense last year.  Defenses could attack the middle of the defense as a result, which rendered their aggressive outside pass rush slightly less effective.  With a Pro Bowl-caliber middle linebacker in the fold, Philly should see a vastly improved defense.  It seems foolish for Houston to have given up on Ryans (or to have given him up for so little), but their trash is the Eagles' treasure.  Apparently running back LeSean McCoy is so confident now, he guaranteed a Super Bowl next year.

Alex Smith Agrees with San Francisco

After some serious flirtation with Peyton Manning, it is easy to understand why Alex Smith would want to come back to the 49ers.  But, it looks like everything has been resolved.  This dropped from Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Source: Alex Smith has agreed to 3-yr deal but has yet to sign. Could happen very soon. AP: Guaranteed $16.5M (doubt it's fully guaranteed).</p>&mdash; Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) <a href="https://twitter.com/MaioccoCSN/status/182512335632609282" data-datetime="2012-03-21T17:01:46+00:00">March 21, 2012</a></blockquote>

<script src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

While Manning would have made the 49ers immediate Super Bowl contenders, they were just inches away from a Super Bowl appearance last year with Smith at the helm.  You can also argue that Smith, now equipped with receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, will be even better this year.  He looked like a number one pick for a lot of last season, and with another year to work with Harbaugh, there will definitely be improvement.

During the whole Manning time period, Smith received heavy interest from the Miami Dolphins.  Miami jumped the gun though and signed former Jags quarterback David Garrard.  With few other gigs available, Smith came back to the 49ers.  It's a good fit for both.

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