If the pundits are to be believed, the NFL Lockout may come to an end within the next few weeks. Then it will be back to business as usual for NFL teams as free-agents will be able to sign freely, and coaches can hold Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mini-camps. There were four Mountaineers drafted and several others, including Noel Devine, who are hopeful of being signed once the Lockout ends.
Several former Mountaineers are free-agents (e.g.-Marc Bulger), and some don't have a firm position on their team (e.g.-Steve Slaton). There are others working their way up the depth charts, and some will be locked in position battles this upcoming season. If you're someone like me who wants to keep up with former 'Eers, then it can be a little overwhelming and time-consuming to do that. With that in mind, I've done all of the hard work for you. Below, I list all of the Mountaineers that are currently active in the NFL, who they play for, and where they stand with their respective teams. That way, when NFL business resumes, you will know where to find your favorite Mountaineers. There are eighteen players listed below, but that number should grow when the lockout ends and players like Devine find a home.
Ryan Mundy- Mundy has gotten a good amount of playing time for the Steelers over the past few seasons filling in due to injuries and playing on passing situations. Unless the Steelers go out and sign a free-agent safety, look for Mundy to fill the same role next season.
Mortty Ivy- On 1/11/2011, the Steelers signed Ivy to a reserve/future contract for the 2011 season after serving time on the Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams, and Miami Dolphins' practice squads. Although the contract doesn't assure Ivy of a place on the 55-man roster, he should at least find his way to the Steelers' practice squad. Ivy has shown himself well in preseasons with other teams, and should he do the same, there is a chance he'll make the team as a special team player.
Wes Lyons- Lyons went undrafted, but was signed to a 2-year contract by the Steelers on 2/11/2011, a month after signing Ivy. One area in which the Steelers lack depth, and size, is at WR. With Lyons being 6'8", he could serve as a very big target for Ben Roethlisberger if he learns the offense and manages to hang on to the ball.
Corey McIntyre- After reportedly getting cut by the Bills during the last round of roster cuts last season, McIntyre came away instead with a two-year contract with the team. McIntyre served as the starting fullback for the Bills last season due to the fact that he was the only fullback on the roster. He made a name for himself for big hits on blockers and on special teams. During off-season workouts, he has kept up that reputation. Look for McIntyre to fill the same role next season as he did in the video below.
Ellis Lankster- The Jets signed Lankster to a futures contract on 1/5/2011 after playing CB for the Bills the previous season.
Adam Jones- After serving a one-year suspension from the NFL, Jones signed with the Bengals prior to last season. Jones served as a reserve CB and as a kick returner. He suffered a season-ending neck injury versus the Atlanta Falcons and was put on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. Jones' neck has healed, and he is participating in the Bengals' defensive player workouts. He should be fully healed by the time the regular season begins.
Robert Sands- The 5th-round draft pick looks to garner a lot of playing time in the defensive backfield and on special teams. If Sands performs well enough, there is a chance he could start before the end of his rookie season with the safety position being a weakness of the Bengals. Sands was drafted to address that need.
According to Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Brown, who was signed by the Browns back in January, could make the team as the third-string quarterback. When the lockout ends, the Browns are expected to release Jake Delhomme. The Browns made a splash by drafting Colt McCoy from Texas to be their "quarterback of the future," and have Seneca Wallace as a competent backup. Grossi believes that the third quarterback slot will be held by a developmental player, namely, Jarrett Brown.
Steve Slaton- After having a breakout rookie season where he was the NFL's leadiing rookie rusher, and also broke the Texans' team record for rushing yardage, Slaton has found his way to the bottom of a crowded depth chart that includes last years' NFL leading rusher, Arian Foster, due to injuries and a case of fumbleitis. Really, the Texans have three choices on what to do with Slaton: release him, trade him, or let him languish at the bottom of the depth chart. You can read more about Slaton's situation in the 2nd article I wrote for Smoking Musket back in March. But long story short, I hope that the Texans trade Slaton to Washington. They released Clinton Portis before the lockout and have no true starting RB. They employ the same zone-blocking scheme in which Slaton has shown success under Mike Shanahan. Another potential suitor for Slaton is Shanahan's old team, the Denver Broncos.
Pat McAfee- The Colts' fun-loving kicker is locked into his position, and barring any late night, drunken swims in Indy canals, should be the Colts' kicker for years to come. His contract expires at the end of the 2012 season. (Hint: @PatMcAfeeShow for the best Twitter feed in the NFL.)
Darius Reynaud- Reynaud came to the Giants in the Sage Rosenfels trade last season from the Minnesota Vikings. He mainly returned kicks and played little WR. He has taken part in Eli Manning's off-season workouts in an effort to get more chemistry with his QB. Reynaud didn't impress the Giants well enough at returning kicks to assure himself the position going into next season. He hopes that by being more in sync with Manning, he'll find a bigger role on the Giants next season.
Owen Schmitt- Schmitt was signed as a free-agent by the Eagles after their starting FB, Leonard Weaver, suffered a season, and perhaps, career-ending injury. Andy Reid's West-Coast offense isn't one that gives many carries to the FB. Schmitt blocked well, and found himself as a valuable target out of the backfield. Over 50% of his catches resulted in a 1st down. The Eagles drafted Stanley Havili out of USC in late in April's NFL Draft to provide Schmitt with some competition.
Selvish Capers- Capers was the only Mountaineer drafted 2010's NFL Draft. He spent the season on the practice squad, but has been getting a lot of good time in with the Redskins off-season practices, lining up as a 1st string tackle. Note that these are player run and not coach run practices. However, Capers has received valuable time during the practices and hopes to work his way up the depth chart in his second season.
"Everything helps. It's good to be out there, getting reps, especially against Orakpo and Rob Jackson and Kerrigan. I'm starting to get a feel. Everything's rolling," Capers said. "It's very important. It's like a refresher course. Just being out there helps my memory of the plays coming together, so it's very beneficial."
Chris Neild- Neild was one pick away from Mr. Irrelevant in the Draft, but could start before the end of the season. He fills one of the Redskins largest holes on defense, which was stopping the run. To work his way into the starting lineup, he'll need to work on his foot speed and lateral quickness.
J.T. Thomas- The Bears newest linebacker has made waves off the field since joining the team, but it looks like he has landed in a great situation. He will be a reserve linebacker and special teams player, but as Lester Wiltfong of Windy City Gridiron told me, Thomas could challenge for a starting OLB spot this season.
Brandon Hogan- The Panther's first pick of the 4th round finds himself in a good situation to get playing time right away. He is already projected as the starting kick returner and should see time as a nickel CB, backup CB, and possibly see time at safety. Due to his behavioral issues, the Panthers view Hogan as a high-risk/ high-reward type player. If he keeps his act together, and his knee fully heals, then he could be a starter for the Panthers for the foreseeable future.
Marc Bulger- As I've enumerated in my Where Are They Now? column the many possible landing places for the free-agent-to-be QB, the latest reports have him returning to the Ravens as Joe Flacco's backup. He has been linked to the Cardinals, Dolphins, Vikings, and Titans.
Keilen Dykes- Dykes suffered a triceps injury during training camp last season with the Arizona Cardinals. They released him 8/12/2010 to make room for their roster. I spoke on the phone with Dykes about his status with the Cardinals (he is still listed on the roster). He told me that he was put on IR, but when the lockout ends, he will technically be a free-agent. Although he would like to remain with Arizona, he has been contacted by three different AFC teams. Any of the three teams he told me about, and the Cardinals for that matter, would be a good landing spot for Dykes. (I'll have full details of our conversation in a later article.)