Sunday, March 25, 2012

NFL Wolverines: Manningham, Hutchinson, Henne Find New Teams

Mario Manningham is a 49er

NFL free agency kicked off at 4:00 p.m. on March 13 and that lead to some shuffling of former Michigan athletes. We'll find out where all of them land when I get around to updating the list of Wolverines in the NFL, but for now, here's the rundown of the high-profile movers.

Mario Manningham is headed to San Francisco after signing a two-year contract worth up to 7.3 million dollars - a good chunk of coin but significantly less than top-flight wide receiver money. Manningham fought a knee injury for much of last year and had the least productive regular season of his career, finishing with 39 catches for 523 yards. However, his playoff performances and Super Bowl heroics contributed to a healthy market for his services, which the Giants could not afford with two solid wide receivers, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, already on their roster. Manningham joins a 49ers receiving unit that includes former Buckeye and first-round draft pick Ted Ginn Jr., former first-rounder Michael Crabtree, and all-time receiving great Randy "straight cash, homie" Moss.

Steve Hutchinson isn't the dominant All-Pro left guard that he used to be, but the 34-year-old is still good enough to command a three-year contract from the Tennessee Titans. Hutchinson - who has pancake blocked the way to 1,000 yard rushing seasons for Adrian Peterson, Shaun Alexander and Chester Taylor - will now be paving the way for speedster Chris Johnson, one of the league's most exciting running backs.

Chad Henne separated his non-throwing shoulder in early October of last year, which caused him to miss the remainder of the 2011 season. Actually, the injury was "more severe than a separated shoulder," according to Henne. But he still drew attention when he hit the open market, first from the Seattle Seahawks and then from the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he signed a two-year deal worth $6.75 million. Henne will compete with the 2011 NFL Draft's 10th overall selection Blaine Gabbert for Jacksonville's starting spot. Through four years in the NFL, Henne has more interceptions (37) than touchdowns (31) and an unimpressive 75.7 passer rating, but it doesn't sound like he's ready to concede anything yet. "I'm a fierce competitor. I will do everything I can to get that job."

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