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Lingering questions in need of some serious answers

Are the Jets really better with 33-year-old Plaxico Burress (soon to be 34), who has a chronic ankle injury and 37-year-old Derrick Mason, instead of Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards? Cotchery and Edwards combined for 94 catches last season, averaged 14.2 yards per catch and scored nine touchdowns. Can Burress and Mason reach these numbers? I'm not sold they can.

49ers training camp report
Find out Bucky Brooks' observations from Niners camp in Santa Clara, Calif., including if Frank Gore is primed for a big year and Alex Smith's status as starting QB. More...

» Harbaugh's approach a welcomed sight

Have the 49ers improved their defense this offseason? Losing nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin is a significant loss, not because Franklin is the best of the best but rather because there is no one on the roster who can handle his role. The 49ers were the second-best team in the NFL last year in limiting teams' running on first down, which can be directly linked to Franklin's run-stuffing ways. Even with the additions of Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner and Madieu Williams, I am not sure the Niners will be better this year on defense.

Can Marion Barber really help the Bears' short-yardage offense and passing game? Based on the way Barber played last year, he did not appear to be the same back from years ago. He was much slower, lacking a burst and explosion. Maybe the offseason has allowed Barber to regain the explosion in his lower body, which he will need playing on an extremely slow grass field in Chicago. If not, this won't work.

What are the Buccaneers and Browns doing? Both teams have the cap room to add players, both need more talent on their teams, but both have been dead quiet. The Browns traded for backup guard John Greco from the Rams for a conditional seventh-round pick. Hardly a bold move, so what is their plan? The Bucs were never in the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes or the Doug Free market, so what are they going to do with all their coin?

Have the Colts changed what type of players they acquire? Normally the Colts never sign older veterans who haven't played well in other places, but things have changed this year as they have added former Falcons first-round bust defensive end Jamaal Anderson, Lions first-round bust linebacker Ernie Sims, and Bears first-rounder Tommie Harris. All have not played well lately, which makes these moves a little strange for the Colts. Are the Colts acting desperate, or are they being courageous?

Cowboys feel Free

The Cowboys knew once the lockout ended they would need to re-sign Free, but I am sure they never anticipated the Eagles would be their chief rival in securing Free's services. It was a hard-fought battle to get Free back, as the Eagles wanted him badly to play him at their right tackle spot. The Cowboys' offensive line would have taken a huge step backwards had they not secured Free.

Holding out hope

I understand the holdouts for Titans running back Chris Johnson and Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, as both men have significantly outplayed their contracts, but Titans defensive back Cortland Finnegan leaving camp to get a new deal is ridiculous. Did Finnegan watch himself play last year? The Titans could not stop the run or the pass, and they had no one in their secondary who could make a play -- including Finnegan. I hope Johnson and Jackson get new deals, but I really hope Finnegan comes to his senses.

Things I hear

» I hear the Bills would love to have someone take first-round bust defensive end Aaron Maybin off their hands and are offering him up for trade to any team -- but so far no takers.

» I hear the 49ers would love to trade safety Taylor Mays, in part, because no one wanted to draft him last year -- except then-head coach Mike Singletary. With Singletary gone, Mays will be next.

» I hear Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones looks great, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been impressive and Patriots third-round quarterback Ryan Mallett has been the real deal.

Tribute to Myra Kraft

It has been a while since my last column, therefore I have not had the right opportunity to express to Robert Kraft and the entire Kraft family my deepest condolences for the death of Myra Kraft. Mrs. Kraft was an exceptional woman, who believed life was never measured by what you received, but rather what you gave. And she gave her all.

In her honor, the Patriots will wear an MK patch on their jerseys as a fitting tribute to a great lady.

Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi

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