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Artis Hicks agrees to three-year deal with Redskins

The Washington Redskins and free agent guard Artis Hicks have reached a contract agreement.

PFT’s Mike Florio reports that the Redskins and Hicks, who played the last four years for the Vikings, have agreed on a three-year deal.

For the Vikings, it’s the second straight day that they’ve lost an unrestricted free agent, following the departure of running back Chester Taylor on Friday. As one of the final four teams (along with the Saints, Colts and Jets), the Vikings can only sign as many unrestricted free agents as they lose, so Minnesota could now add two unrestricted free agents.

For the Redskins, the signing of Hicks is the latest reminder that — contrary to the expectations of some — they’re not going hog wild spending Daniel Snyder’s money on big-name free agents in an uncapped year. Coach Mike Shanahan would rather build for the long run by adding solid veterans like Hicks, rather than try to put together an all-star team of high-priced free agents.

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Bengals activate Geno Atkins from PUP list

Tom Brady, Geno Atkins AP

The Bengals’ wait for defensive tackle Geno Atkins to be ready to return to practice for the first time since tearing his ACL last season has come to an end.

The team announced Wednesday that they have activated Atkins from the Physically Unable to Perform list, signaling that his recovery from last year’s injury has progressed well enough for Atkins to start taking practice reps with his teammates this week.

While the Bengals’ website says “don’t look for [Atkins] to get right into the heat of the action,” any work he’s doing now will get him closer to full strength for the start of the regular season. Given Atkins’ importance to the Cincinnati defense, that qualifies as a major step in the right direction even if team drills and full contact remain things for future practices.

The Bengals also activated sixth-round pick Marquis Flowers from the PUP list. The linebacker has been bothered by a hamstring injury. Tackle Andrew Whitworth, wide receiver Marvin Jones and tight end Jermaine Gresham are a few of the Bengals still waiting for clearance to practice with the team this summer.

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Texans owner keeping an eye on Raiders’ eyes on Texas

Jerry Jones, Bob McNair AP

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he didn’t “make a lot” of the Raiders’ nosing around the other corner of Texas, but Texans owner Bob McNair is certainly paying attention.

It’s not surprising they would look there cause they’re looking around,” McNair said, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “We have a growing fan base there.

“I’m not concerned bout it. We’ll see what the options are. If that’s the best option we’ll see how it plays out.”

Of course, McNair is just one vote of the 32, and the Raiders would need 23 others to get approval to move. But McNair sounded like a guy reminding people about his turf, while trying to sound open-minded.

“The finance committee would have to approve it and I’m chairman of finance committee,” he said. “You’d have to do market research.”

“They need a new stadium. If San Antonio turns out to be the best option I wouldn’t oppose it just cause it’s San Antonio.”

Considering the still vacant hole in the country’s second-largest market, all this talk about the 36th-largest market seems unusual.

But then again, these are the Raiders we’re talking about.

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Seahawks G.M. on Lynch holdout: “Next man up”

Lynch AP

The Marshawn Lynch holdout continues.  And the team continues to create the impression that it’s not worried by his absence.

Even if it is.

Asked on Tuesday by ESPN’s John Clayton whether the team is concerned about the situation, G.M. John Schneider reiterated the team’s philosophy when answering whether the team is concerned.

You know, no,” Schneider said, via the Seattle Times.  “Everybody loves Beast Mode.  We love him and respect the guy. I think what he’s done in this community, for this franchise, is outstanding.  It’s one of those deals where you can never get inside somebody’s head.  We’re just going with our plan, and I know it’s cliché-ish but next man up.  We’ve had a plan in place here for a number of years, and we can’t veer from that plan for one person because it’s the ultimate team sport.”

The plan, as Schneider explained it, is premised on making “tough decisions.”

“You make models two and three years out, and you have to stick to that and know that there’s going to be tough decisions along the way,” Schneider told Clayton.  “We had to let guys like Red Bryant go, Chris Clemons, we weren’t able to sign Breno [Giacomini], Golden Tate.  You have to be able to make those decisions along the way knowing you’ll be able to re-sign Michael Bennett and maybe there’s a free agent that comes in and fits in your bracket. It’s just one of those deals where you have to keep going about your business, and you can’t veer off of that.

“Around here we talk about what’s next, and the next person is up. That being said, last year we went through this with Brandon Browner. He had his [injury], and [Byron Maxwell] got his opportunity. Hey, Marshawn Lynch is phenomenal. Phenomenal player and just a unique part of what we’ve had going on here.  Two years ago we were able to redo his deal, and he was a big part of that foundation that we started here.”

Schneider’s explanation hints at the point of Lynch’s holdout.  A year from now, he may be one of those “tough decisions” the team has to make, when he’s closing in on 30 and he’s due to count $9 million against the cap and Christine Michael or Robert Turbin are ready to take over.  Currently, Lynch continues to be the bell cow.  Which means it’s his last, best chance to extract more money from the franchise.

None of it really matters for now.  Sure, Lynch is racking up $30,000 per day in fines, and his $1.5 million signing bonus allocation is now partially at risk.  But the Seahawks would surely waive all fines and penalties immediately if it gets Lynch back before Week One, especially since he otherwise would be used sparingly in practice and in preseason games before Week One.

That’s why the holdout really isn’t a holdout yet, because Lynch isn’t missing much.  Last year, he had five carries in the entire preseason.  The year before, also five.  In 2011, a whopping six.

This one won’t really register until Labor Day, when the Seahawks are roughly 72 hours away from raising their first-ever championship banner and launching the effort to win a second one.  If Lynch isn’t in the fold come Tuesday morning September 2, it could take more than a bad call on a last-play Hail Mary to emerge from Opening Night with a 1-0 record.

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David Wilson out this week, will see his surgeon on Monday

David Wilson AP

Giants running back David Wilson went to the hospital for a battery of tests after suffering a burner during Tuesday’s practice, but that won’t be the end of the medical evaluations for a player who had spinal fusion surgery last year.

The Giants said Wednesday, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, that Wilson will visit Dr. Frank Cammisa on Monday. Cammisa performed the surgery on Wilson and will presumably checking to make sure that Tuesday’s injury didn’t adversely impact the structural repairs made during the operation.

Wilson will be out of action until at least that appointment, which means he won’t be practicing this week or facing the Bills in the Hall of Fame game on Sunday. That game is one of five that the Giants will play this preseason, so there will still be a lot of time for Wilson to shake off any rust during the preseason as long as the doctors feel that playing won’t create further problems.

It also gives the Giants time to be cautious in bringing Wilson back, something that will almost certainly be their preferred course of action given the nature of Wilson’s injury in 2013 and his quick return to the medical report this year.

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Arian Foster back at practice, Andre Johnson still out

Arian Foster AP

The Texans have had two of their veteran offensive stars on the sideline this week because of hamstring issues, but one of them made it back to the field on Wednesday.

Running back Arian Foster missed a pair of practices because of his hamstring, but Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle reports that Foster has returned to work. There’s no word on whether Foster will be a full participant in this session, although the quick return is a good sign that the tweak was as minor as Texans coach Bill O’Brien said it was.

While the Texans have also downplayed the seriousness of wide receiver Andre Johnson’s hamstring injury, Johnson was not able to join Foster and the rest of the team on the practice field Wednesday. That makes two missed practices in a row for Johnson as he tries to catch up for time missed when he was staying away from offseason workouts because of dissatisfaction with the overall direction of the franchise.

If the team’s assessment of Johnson’s hamstring was as on point as their assessment of Foster’s, the receiver shouldn’t be out too much longer.

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Chip Kelly: DeSean Jackson didn’t open things up for others last year

Chip Kelly AP

When the Eagles released wide receiver DeSean Jackson, there was a school of thought that believed their offense would suffer in 2014 because Jackson wasn’t there.

The two main reasons cited were that Jackson’s speed is difficult to replace and that his presence opened things up for other members of the offense. The Eagles didn’t have such worries and coach Chip Kelly explained why the team is confident that everything can continue to run smoothly with Jackson in Washington.

“I think most people played us in single high [safety] coverage and they played man across the board on anybody and no one was getting any help,” Kelly said, via ESPN.com. “Riley [Cooper] was getting man [coverage] on his side. DeSean was getting man on his side. Jason Avant was getting man in the slot. Zach Ertz, whoever our tight end was, was getting manned. Running back was getting manned. No one is going to play us in two [safeties] deep because if you play us in two deep, we can run the heck out of the ball. We had everybody as close to the line of scrimmage as possible and nobody was helping anybody. They were trying to stop the run game.”

With LeSean McCoy still in the offense, that figures to be the case again this season. As a result, finding receivers that can beat the press coverage that comes with defenses playing close to the line of scrimmage will be the biggest thing for the Eagles this offseason. Rookie Jordan Matthews has the build to be that kind of receiver and has been getting rave reviews, perhaps to Kelly’s consternation, for his ability to make an impact this fall.

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Report: Initial Bills bid tops $1 billion

Pegula Getty Images

On Tuesday, the deadline came and went for making a non-binding indication of interest in buying the Bills.  And one of the potential buyers who expressed interest reportedly is willing to pay a lot of money for the privilege of doing so.

According to Josh Kosman and Lois Weiss of the New York Post, Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula already has offered more than $1 billion for the franchise.  If that’s the opener from just one of the interested buyers, the sale is destined to eclipse the record $1.1 billion paid by Stephen Ross to purchase the Dolphins.

In June, Pegula raised $1.75 billion in cash via the sale of 75,000 acres of natural gas leases in West Virginia and Ohio.

Via WGRZ-TV, other initial bids were submitted by Donald Trump and Jon Bon Jovi’s Toronto-based group.  Via the Buffalo News, Business First reporter James Fink said on WBEN radio that former Sabres owner Tom Golisano reportedly did not make an offer.

Trump, who has talked about buying the Bills in the same way he has talked about running for President, recently told FOX News that he doesn’t expect to actually win the bidding.

“I would say the chances are very, very unlikely,” Trump said.  “Because I’m not going to do something totally stupid — maybe just a little bit stupid, but not totally stupid.”

The making of a 10-figure bid by Pegula should help ensure that the team will go to someone who would keep the franchise in Buffalo.  Unless, of course, Bon Jovi and company make a Steve Ballmer-style bid, putting $2 billion or more on the table for the team.

If that’s the case, Andre Reed’s “F–k Bon Jovi!” message could be revised by the folks selling the team to say, “F–k!  Bon Jovi!”

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Tom Coughlin, Odell Beckham clear the air about hamstring

Tom Coughlin AP

It wasn’t hard to read the frustration in coach Tom Coughlin’s tone, regarding Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham’s hamstring problems.

So the rookie sat down with his old-school coach to make sure they were on the same page.

“We had that talk today and it was just kind of like, ‘I know I’m new and we don’t know each other that well,’ ” Beckham said, via Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News. “So over time you get to know people, and the bad part about it is your first impression is the kind that lasts forever, so you don’t ever want to leave a bad impression.

“But at the same time I’m just trying to reassure him that he knows how hard it is for me to not be practicing.”

Beckham missed OTA time with the hamstring problem as well, giving Coughlin a limited scope to see the 12th overall pick in the draft.

“We just had a discussion, that’s all, player [and] coach, trying to get to know each other better,” Coughlin said. “I see his frustration and he sees our frustration — but don’t make anything more of it than it is. It’s a coach wanting a player on the field and the player wanting the player on the field.”

Beckham had tests which showed no structural damage, so it’s a matter of day-to-day recovery. He said he hopes to play in some preseason games, which would certainly help Coughlin get to know him even better.

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Kelvin Benjamin feels like “a new man” after knee scare

Kelvin Benjamin AP

Panthers rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin was able to smile after his first NFL injury scare, saying he felt like “a new man” after a precautionary MRI revealed only a bone bruise.

(If that new man was Calvin Johnson, the Panthers’ passing game should be OK.)

Benjamin’s MRI revealed no structural damage, and the indication that his absence will be measured in days rather than weeks.

I’m coming back even harder, 10 times harder,” Benjamin said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “I’m getting a lot of treatment, just get better.”

Benjamin didn’t practice yesterday, and the team has today off, so there’s no rush.

“I think they just want to take their time on it,” he said. “I woke up [Tuesday] morning like a new man. I was telling them it feels way better. But they were still telling me still take your time with it.”

In his absence, the Panthers rotated Marvin McNutt into the starting mix with Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery.

And that should tell you all you need to know about the importance of Benjamin’s return.

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Kyle Rudolph visits PFT Live on Wednesday

Rudolph AP

On Sunday, he signed a long-term, big-money deal with the Vikings.  On Wednesday, he’ll give PFT Live a little of his time for free.

We think.

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph inked a five-year, $36.5 million contract that can be worth up to $40 million.  I’ll ask him about that and other stuff related to the 2014 edition of the team, his fourth NFL season, and the first year with coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner during the show that streams right here at 12:00 p.m. ET.

If you have questions for Rudolph or questions for our daily (mostly) PFT Planet segment, ask them via Twitter.

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Dr. Jerry Jones declares Tony Romo “100 percent”

Jerry Jones AP

If you had any lingering concerns about Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo taking the day off yesterday rather than install the two-minute offense, let Dr. Jerry Jones set your mind at ease.

He is 100 percent. He’s 100 percent,” Jones said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “He’s just being real smart and sensitive about having come off the back surgery. He’s certainly not losing any ground from the standpoint of opening up against San Francisco [in the regular-season opener].”

The good doctor’s son Stephen had said earlier Tuesday that Romo was practicing, but then coach Jason Garrett said he was giving Romo the day off since they were working on the faster-paced part of the program.

“I just had a brief visit with him on the way out to practice,” Doctor Jerry said. “We feel real good. We’re really pleased with the way he’s practicing and the work he’s getting done and what he’s doing both on and off the field, but nothing in any way would concern you certainly about his back.”

A healthy Romo is a key for the Cowboys trying to get off their perpetual 8-8 slide, so giving him days off in July is probably a prudent use of Owner Jerry’s money.

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Jerry Jones doesn’t “make a lot” of Raiders meeting with San Antonio

Jerry Jones

Tuesday night brought news of the Raiders talking to officials from San Antonio as part of what the city manager called “preliminary due diligence” about a possible move to the city for the stadium seeking team from Oakland.

There’s no sign that any move is imminent, not least because any relocation would need the approval of 23 other owners. One of those owners has had his team hold parts of training camp in San Antonio in the past and Jerry Jones called the town “very important” to the Cowboys franchise while discussing word of Raiders owner Mark Davis’ conversations.

Jones didn’t say whether that importance would make the Raiders moving to San Antonio problematic, but he didn’t sound overly worried about having to protect the Alamo from outside invaders.

“I don’t make a lot of this. At all,” Jones said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s not … something I necessarily would be familiar with. Again, my interest in San Antonio is because how important it is to the Cowboys, and our history of having our training camp there and the fact that we’ve got such a tremendous fan base in San Antonio.”

Jones and Texans owner Bob McNair will surely have more to say if things move forward in San Antonio. For now, though, they can focus on getting their own teams back into the playoffs.

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Oakland mayor says “continued progress” being made with the Raiders

raiders1 Getty Images

If Raiders owner Mark Davis flirted with San Antonio to get the attention of Oakland, it worked.

After news broke of Davis visiting Texas recently for a tour of potential stadium sites (and after Davis acknowledged it via messages posted on the team’s Twitter feed), Oakland mayor Jean Quan took to Twitter to address the effort to placate — and keep — both the Raiders and A’s over the long haul.

“Oakland is working to help build new ballparks for both the Raiders and the A’s, and we’re seeing progress on both fronts,” Quan said.  “We are making continued progress at the table with the Raider and the world’s third-largest real estate firm talking about Coliseum City.  The 10-year lease extension for the A’s includes a commitment from the teams’ owners to sit down to talk building a new Oakland ballpark.”

In June, Davis said that talks on a new stadium had occurred, but he bemoaned the lack of progress.  It’s unclear whether he’d agree with Quan’s assessment that progress actually has been made.

The real question becomes whether progress toward a new stadium in Oakland will be made now that Davis has shown the powers-that-be in Oakland that he has some power, and that he’s willing to consider using it.  Especially with a lease that last for only 10 more games.

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Report: No structural problems with Lardarius Webb’s back

Lardarius Webb AP

The Ravens got more worried about cornerback Lardarius Webb’s back after his Friday injury had not resolved itself in time for Monday’s practice, which led them to send him for more tests in hopes of finding out when he’d be able to get back to work.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that doctors found no structural damage to Webb’s back during their examination. It is thought to be a muscular problem that will be treated with rest and rehabilitation.

In other words, it is going to take some time for Webb’s back to get well enough for football action. The Ravens don’t think that his availability for the season opener is at risk at this point and a cautious approach from here will be designed to keep Webb on track for early September.

Webb had 74 tackles and two interceptions last season, making a successful move from a torn ACL back to the top of the depth chart at cornerback in Baltimore.

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Man faces charges for urinating on Art Modell’s grave

MODELL AP

A Browns fan that made a video of himself urinating on Art Modell’s grave may find himself in jail as a result of his decision to vent his anger in that manner and share it with the world.

Authorities in Maryland said Tuesday that they will charge the man, whose identity has not been revealed beyond being a Browns fan with disorderly conduct in a cemetery. The charge carries a possible penalty of two years in jail and a $500 fine.

“Everyone who has buried a loved one has the right to believe that their final resting place will be treated with respect,” Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said in a statement, via the Associated Press. “Bringing charges against this individual should act as a deterrent to others and assure the rest of us that no matter who you are, indecencies will not be committed against your final resting place.”

Modell’s son David thanked the police and prosecutors for their work on the case, adding that being angry at his father for moving the Browns to Baltimore doesn’t give people the right to break the law.

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