Questions remain about NFL's big names

Questions remain about NFL's big names
Cleveland Coach Mike Pettine visited quarterback Johnny Manziel, seen here during a December game against the Panthers, in rehab, but says team needs to move forward. (Grant Halverson / Getty Images)

As they set off in search of their future building blocks — the college prospects who one day could form the backbone of their franchises — many NFL teams are dealing with the uncertainties of the present and locking down their current stars.

At the NFL combine Wednesday, when mostly kickers and other special teams players met with the media, uncertainty was the buzzword of the day.

When will we know for sure that Peyton Manning is headed back to the Denver Broncos?

Will Adrian Peterson resume his role as cornerstone of the Minnesota Vikings?

What does the future hold for Jay Cutler in Chicago?

Is Ndamukong Suh coming back to the Detroit Lions?

And this one is solved: All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald is coming back to the Arizona Cardinals. The team signed him to a two-year extension, clearing $13 million in salary-cap space in the process.

"We had quite a bit of dialogue over the past year, and once we decided to put the foot on the gas pedal the last week or so, we were able to get it done pretty quickly," Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said.


The Lions would love to step on the gas the same way with Suh, among football's most dominant defensive players. Suh, a three-time All-Pro, will become a free agent March 10 unless Detroit signs him to an extension or designates him the Lions' franchise player — a tag that would cost the team $26.9 million for next season.

Although Suh's camp has been mum on his future, Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew said he is "very optimistic" the club will re-sign him.

"I don't have a timetable on when it's going to happen," Mayhew said. "But I feel good about it."

The Broncos feel good about the prospects of getting Manning back for an 18th NFL season too, amid reports the five-time most valuable player has told team executive John Elway that physically he feels good about returning.

"I don't think there have been any assurances or anything," new Broncos Coach Gary Kubiak said. "It's been about a process that he and John have been working through the course of the last month."

Kubiak was asked if he expects Manning to be his starting quarterback next season.

"No doubt I want him to be," the coach said. "I think all indications are that [through] everything that he said and through his conversations with John he feels good. He's had his self-assessment or however you want to label that, and he feels good about moving forward. So, we'll just continue with the process."

More complicated is the return of Peterson, who was suspended for almost all of last season after pleading no contest to one count of misdemeanor reckless injury for striking his 4-year-old son with a switch. Under the terms of his league-imposed suspension, the former MVP running back is not eligible to return until at least April 15.

The Vikings want him back.

"Adrian Peterson is under contract with us," Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said. "He's a very unique football player. I'm sure Adrian is doing everything he can do off the field. He made a mistake, he admitted a mistake.... I don't think any team in the NFL wouldn't want an Adrian Peterson-caliber running back on their football team."

Bears Coach John Fox sounded less resolute on whether Cutler would remain the starting quarterback in Chicago.

"I don't think there's any question that there's ability and talent there," Fox said. "But there's a lot more that goes into it, and we're evaluating that as we speak."

Manziel update

Cleveland Coach Mike Pettine said he visited quarterback Johnny Manziel in rehab last week "to see how he's doing and let him know we're proud of him."

However, the coach told reporters, the Browns need to move forward in search of a starting quarterback because there are too many unknowns with Manziel at the moment.

Pettine was asked what the Manziel experience taught him. The team had the chance to put the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner under the microscope at last year's combine, and went on to make him a first-round pick.

"We had the information that everybody else in the league had," Pettine said. "It's easy to look back now and say, 'What did you miss?'" he said. "You can interpret something a little bit differently now and it turns out to be a deeper-rooted thing than you thought. But obviously we felt very comfortable with his background, certainly enough to draft him."

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer