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Week Four Friday 10-pack

It’s Friday morning.  And since the news flow often slows down on Friday morning, we need to fill space.

So we fill space with 10 story lines emanating from the upcoming slate of games.

It’s harder with two or three storyline-worthy teams on a bye, but we eventually found a way to milk the cow this week.


1.  Jets could soon be soaring.

After a disappointing Monday night loss to break in their half of the
New Meadowlands Stadium (it’s sort of like Fred and Barney sharing a
swimming pool
), the Jets have won two in a row against their primary
division rivals.  And they’ve done it with cornerback Darrelle Revis and
linebacker Calvin Pace injured, and with receiver Santonio Holmes on
suspension.

So what happens when those guys come back?

The Vikings could find out on Monday, October 11, when Holmes definitely
be back — and when Revis and/or Pace could be dressed and playing, too.

Considering the level of play that the Jets have achieved without them,
the Jets could be poised to run away with the division.  Until then,
they won’t even have to switch to missiles to shoot down the Bills.

2.  Last chance for Mangini?

The Browns have been competitive in each of their first three games.  But they’ve lost each one.

After this weekend’s visit from the Bengals, the Browns play the Falcons, Steelers, and Saints.  Then comes the bye week.

As a result, a loss to Cincinnati on Sunday would make an 0-7 start
likely, and team president Mike Holmgren could decide to part ways with
coach Eric Mangini.  And so Sunday’s game could be Mangini’s last and
best chance to preserve his job beyond October 31.

If the Browns don’t win in Week Four, and in turn don’t pull off an
unlikely upset of the Falcons, Steelers, or Saints, there’s a chance
that, when the Jets come to Cleveland on November 14, coach Rex Ryan
could be looking across the sideline at his identical twin, Browns
defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

3.  Running back injuries confirm 18-game season concerns.

With Colts president Bill Polian sparking a belated debate regarding the
wisdom of an 18-game season, one of the primary concerns is (or at
least should be) the impact of two additional games on the short-term
and long-term health of the players.

Indeed, with seven running backs (Steven Jackson of the Rams, Pierre
Thomas of the Saints, Jahvid Best of the Lions, Ray Rice of the Ravens,
Cedric Benson of the Bengals, Fred Taylor of the Patriots, and Knowshon
Moreno of the Broncos) already dinged up after only three games and
Reggie Bush of the Saints out with a broken leg, the league and
the union need to be very concerned about the potential consequences of
additional games on the players who take the brunt of the punishment in
the 16 games that already are played.

Though the move from 14 to 16 games in the ’70s occurred without much public discussion or debate, the three-channels television universe and the absence of talk radio and the Internet fueled that outcome.  Besides, players continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger.  When they hit each other, the bones and ligaments we all possess are at more risk than ever before.

4.  Team of destiny wanted.

Last year, it was obvious after three weeks that the Saints and Colts
were headed for big things.  New Orleans hung 45 on the Lions, winning
by 18, and 48 on the Eagles, winning by 26.  Held under 30 by the Bills,
the Saints still won by 20.

The Colts started more slowly, beating the Jags by two and the Dolphins
by four.  By Week Three, however, the Colts had taken down the defending
NFC champions (the Cardinals) by 21.

This year, none of the three remaining undefeated teams have rolled over
their opponents consistently.  The Steelers and the Chiefs won close
games in Week One and Week Two before notching 20-plus point victories in
Week Three.  The Bears have won by five points, seven points, and three
points.

The absence of a team that clearly and definitively is taking care of
its business has reinforced the sense of parity that could be laying the
foundation for a playoff run with plenty of teams still alive, and a
postseason in which anything can happen.

For now, the Steelers are the team most likely to emerge as the team to
beat, but first they have to beat the Ravens on Sunday.  If the Steelers
can’t — and if the Bears lose on the road against the Giants — the
off-this-Sunday Chiefs could be the only undefeated team left after four
weeks of action.

Somewhere, Pete Rozelle will be smiling broadly.

5.  Time for Texans to prove themselves.

When the Texans toppled the Colts to open the season, the team that has
played eight years without a playoff berth seemed to be destined to
finally bust through to the postseason.  But then the Texans struggled
to beat a Redskins team that suddenly has inherited the stink of the
Rams, and the Texans lost fairly convincingly to in-state rivals who
were on the ropes, in danger of being punched through.

So are the Texans a contender, or did they merely give the first game of the season the Daytona 500 treatment?

Beating the Raiders won’t mean conclusively that the Texans are legit,
but losing will mean that Houston isn’t ready to hang with the likes of
the Colts and the Titans in arguably the best division in the
conference, if not the league.

6.  Desperation shifts from Dallas to New York.

Last week, a strong sense of desperation emerged in Dallas, where the
Cowboys had lost their first two games — and faced falling to 0-3 at
the hands of an upstart team from Houston that had started the year 2-0.

The Cowboys found a way to push the dark cloud away last week, and it
now has settled in New York, over the Rubble half of the Fred-and-Barney
pool.  (That’s the third Flintstones reference of the day.  And it’s not even 1966.)

The Giants, after beating the Panthers (who have turned out to be
toothless, de-clawed, malnourished house cats), have been spanked by the Colts and
Titans in successive weeks.  Only 14 days after losing decisively in
Indy, the Giants cannot afford to be embarrassed again before a national
audience.  (On NBC.)

With their backs firmly pressed against the wall and the Bears
overachieving their way through two of their three wins, look for the
Giants to get their act together, if only for a night.

And who knows?  Three years ago, the Giants lost their first two games
and gave up 80 points in the process.  More than four months later, they
only won the Super Bowl.

7.  Fins, Pats face “must” wins.

Yeah, it’s only Week Four.  But with the Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots
getting an early start on their round-robin routine, neither the
Patriots nor the Dolphins can afford to drop to 0-2.

The Dolphins need it even more; they play the Jets in New York on
December 12 and the Pats in New England on January 2.  Already in danger
of being swept by the Jets, the Dolphins can’t afford to lose at home
to New England, if the Dolphins have genuine designs on winning the
division.

The Patriots need this one, too.  But they still get the Jets and the
Dolphins at home.  For the Dolphins, the season could potentially be over less than a
month after it began.

8.  Loss to Browns could help the Bengals in the long run.

The Bengals, despite their 2-1 record, don’t project the same vibe as
they did a year ago.  With a good defense (Week One at New England
notwithstanding) and a capable running back, the Bengals have relied too
heavily on the passing game.

Though T.O. has thrown the offensive line under the bus without overtly
throwing the offensive line under the bus, questions persist regarding
quarterback Carson Palmer.  Whether he has lingering elbow issues or he
simply has lost his zip on the ball, the Bengals seem to be in the same
style of denial that plagued the Panthers in 2009, when they refused to
face reality regarding quarterback Jake Delhomme.

And so a loss to the Browns could help jar the Bengals into facing
reality.   Eventually, they need to ask themselves whether Palmer
truly represents the future of the franchise at the quarterback
position.

With a base salary of $11.5 million due to Palmer in 2011, we’ve got a
feeling that, win or lose on Sunday, the notoriously frugal Bengals will
think long and hard about paying that much money to a guy who has no
career playoff wins, and whose best days may be fading far behind him.

9.  Snyder’s biggest test could be coming.

For more than 11 years, Daniel Snyder has owned the Redskins.  And for
most of that time, Snyder has been impatient when it comes to the men
who are coaching the team.

After two years, Norv Turner was dumped.  (A playoff appearance likely
saved him in 1999.)  Marty Schottenheimer lasted a season.  Steve
Spurrier made it for two.  But for his resume and Hall of Fame bust, Joe
Gibbs may not have made it four years.  Jim Zorn lasted only two.

And throughout most if not all of Zorn’s final year, Snyder was wooing
(or at least planning to woo) Mike Shanahan, the presumed savior of the
franchise.

In Week One, it appeared to be a brilliant move, thanks to an unexpected
win over the Cowboys.  But after blowing a 17-point lead against the
Texans and somehow losing by 14 against the Rams, the Redskins face what
could be a very long day at Lincoln Financial Field.

It gets no easier with the Packers and Colts coming to town, followed by trips to Chicago and Detroit.

Yes, Detroit, where the Lions managed to beat the Redskins in 2009, for
their first win in 22 games.  After a bye, the Redskins have the Eagles
again, the Titans, the Vikings, the Giants twice, and the Cowboys
again.

It all easily could add up to a losing season.  Though the outcome may
be better than 4-12, it easily could be yet another two-digit collection
of losses.  And then Snyder will have to find a way to resist the urge
to act, and to instead commit to staying the course.

Given the open and obvious salivating for Shanahan, there’s no way
Snyder can make a change after only one year.  Based on his history,
however, Snyder surely will approach 2011 with questions swirling in his
mind as to whether there might be another guy out there whose name
Snyder should pencil onto the top of the latest version of his wish
list.

10.  Rams have a chance to make some noise.

Based on their pattern of three wins in 2007, two in 2008, and one in 2009, the Rams were on track to go 0-16 in 2010.

Already, they’ve blown that trend out of the water by climbing to 1-2.

This weekend, the Rams have a chance to break a 10-game losing streak to
the Seahawks, a string that dates back to 2004, when St. Louis took
three games from their division rivals, include two in the usually
impenetrable Qwest Field.

If they can — and if the Cardinals lose in San Diego — the Rams will
find themselves in a  three-way tie atop the division after four weeks.

With three of the next four games against the Lions, Bucs, and Panthers,
the Rams could be on the right side of .500 at the bye.  And that could
give them the confidence they need to make a serious run at the
division crown and the postseason home game that goes along with it.

Sure, they likely won’t win the division.  But the fact that they won’t
be dead in the water with 25 percent of the season in the books is
nothing short of stunning.

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Report: C.J. Spiller turned down $4.5 million per year from Bills

C.J. Spiller AP

In the days before the Bills traded for LeSean McCoy, C.J. Spiller said that a return to the Bills was a possibility and that the ball was in the team’s court to keep him off the open market.

The Bills’ move for McCoy closed the door on that possibility, but it appears the Bills were interested in bringing Spiller back before deciding to pull the trigger on the deal. Dianna Marie Russini of NBC Washington reports that Spiller turned down an offer from the Bills that would have paid him $4.5 million per year before they opted to make the deal with the Eagles.

There are no further details about the length of the contract or guaranteed money so we don’t have the fullest picture of how the offer might stack up with what other teams are willing to give Spiller. Running backs haven’t struck it particularly rich in free agency of late, but Spiller’s probably not unrealistic to think he can do a bit better than $4.5 million a year in a league where Toby Gerhart and Donald Brown each got deals with an average of $3.5 million a year as free agents before last season.

Spiller will be a guest on PFT Live at 2:35 p.m. ET on Wednesday, so you can see what he has to say about his future when he joins Mike Florio by clicking right here.

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Jon Beason realistic as he talks to Giants about a pay cut

New York Giants v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Giants linebacker Jon Beason knows all too well that getting hurt is a good way to ruin your earning potential.

So that’s why he’s willing to work with the Giants on a pay cut, if it means hanging around.

Via Tom Rock of Newsday, Beason said during an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio that he feels good about his chances of remaining with the Giants next year.

I want to be a Giant,” Beason said. “They took a chance on me when other people may have thought that I was done. You want to go out and hold up your end of the bargain. When healthy I still feel I’m the best in the business and no one can keep up with me.”

Of course, that’s a big condition.

Beason signed a three-year, $17 million deal with the Giants last offseason, but only played four games because of a foot injury. So the $3.6 million ($1 million guaranteed) that he’s due to make this year might be a little steep, and since Beason acts as his own agent, it’s a streamlined process.

“We’ve been back and forth trying to come to terms,” Beason said. “They’re doing the best they can to try to be fair under the situation and as a so-called agent I’m doing the best I can to make sure I get the opportunity to earn some of that money back. . . .

“I’ve had the benefit of doing my own contract and you see how the business works. Unfortunately when you are making more than the league minimum you are susceptible to taking a pay cut due to injury. A lot of that has to do with the leverage that the teams have. What I’ve learned is that you can’t take it personally when the team is going to come after you to get money back based on an injury because the other 31 teams seem like they’re on the same page. ‘Hey, we’ll low-ball you worse if you decide not to take the pay cut.’ . . . It’s an unfortunate part of the business, but at the same time staying in the game and continuing to play is ultimately what you want. And they know that.”

Beason’s 30 now, and was run out of Carolina after a series of injuries and the drafting of Luke Kuechly, so he knows the realities of the business well.

Which means he knows that his familiarity with the Giants might mean more for him there than elsewhere.

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Report: Letroy Guion agrees to deferred prosecution agreement

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Impending free agent defensive tackle Letroy Guion has reportedly agreed to a deal with prosecutors in Florida that will allow him to avoid jail time after last month’s arrest on marijuana and weapons possession charges.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports that Guion has agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement that is expected to be signed in the next few weeks. The deal would result in probation for Guion and should allow Guion to be available for the 2015 season.

Or some portion of it anyway. The agreement would not eliminate the possibility of league discipline after police found 357 grams of marijuana and an unloaded gun, which was licensed in Minnesota, in his car during a traffic stop. Guion also had $190,028.21 with him, which was seized along with his truck by Florida authorities. Guion said that the money came from cashing his paychecks and the possible return of his property is a separate matter that will be heard in a civil case.

Guion had 41 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 16 appearances with the Packers last season. The team has said since the arrest that they are still open to bringing Guion back.

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Tyvon Branch will head to D.C. tomorrow after Colts visit

Tyvon+Branch+Detroit+Lions+v+Oakland+Raiders+ONCwAF1ewUVl Getty Images

For a guy who has played five games the last two years, there’s suddenly a market for Tyvon Branch.

Of course, it’s worth noting it’s two teams who haven’t exactly gotten the hang of the whole “free agency” thing.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, Branch will head to Washington after today’s scheduled trip to see the Colts.

He should totally just visit the Jets while he’s on the East Coast, just to take care of the “I can replace LaRon Landry” trifecta.

While Washington’s had more high-profile free agent busts the last decade or so, the Colts have made some dubious transactions of their own, stacking up some bad contracts around the really good one they have for quarterback Andrew Luck.

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Bills acquire Matt Cassel in trade with Vikings

Cassel Getty Images

Buffalo needed to add a veteran quarterback this offseason, and now the Bills have their man: Matt Cassel.

The Bills and Vikings announced today that they have agreed to a trade that will send Cassel to Buffalo. Technically the trade can’t be completed until the league year starts on Tuesday, but both teams have agreed to it.

The Vikings will get draft pick compensation for Cassel. According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, the Bills will trade the Buccaneers’ 2015 fifth-round pick (which the Bills acquired in a previous trade) for the Vikings’ 2015 sixth-round pick, and Buffalo will also give Minnesota a 2016 seventh-round pick.

Cassel opened last season as the Vikings’ starter but suffered a season-ending injury in Week Three, and with the emergence of Teddy Bridgewater last year, there was little reason for the Vikings to bring Cassel back.

In Buffalo, Cassel will compete with EJ Manuel to be the starter. The winner of that competition will hand off to LeSean McCoy, whom the Bills traded for on Tuesday. The Bills are off to an active start this offseason, even before the opening of free agency.

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$omebody in Detroit is $ort of up$et about Ndamukong $uh

Suh Getty Images

The Lions decided not to hang onto Ndamukong Suh for one year, mostly since it would have cost them $26.9 million to use the franchise tag.

And it appears someone in Detroit is pi$$ed off about it.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, several digital billboards have popped up alongside area highways in recent days, with a simple, yet ambiguous message.

The billboards read only: “$UH?”

Now, the simplest explanation might be that  fans are simply upset at what they perceive to be the latest greedy athlete.

And that would be easy enough to buy, except one of their baseball players in town is grinding away on an eight-year, $248-million (fully guaranteed) deal, which would buy the Lions at least a couple of Suhs.

Or maybe it’s a shot at management, for constantly restructuring his contract and not getting a long-term deal soon enough that it made his exit inevitable.

The guy who runs the billboard company said they were paid for by the same group of fans who had “Detroit Lyin'” billboards which featured a photo of a referee after their controversial playoff loss to the Cowboys in January.

Either way, some Detroit sports fan has enough di$po$able income to make his feelings known, whatever those feelings are.

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Eagles may have interest in Mark Ingram

Mark Ingram AP

So who will the Eagles turn to at running back after they’ve traded away LeSean McCoy? One option could be soon-to-be free agent Mark Ingram.

Ingram, who becomes a free agent when his rookie contract with the Saints expires on Tuesday, appears to be on the Eagles’ radar. Lyons Yellin of WWL-TV has heard rumblings about the Eagles being interested in Ingram, whose straight-ahead running style may be more to Chip Kelly’s liking.

If the Eagles were to sign Ingram, it would be the second straight season that they took a running back from New Orleans. Last year they acquired Darren Sproles in a trade with the Saints.

The Saints, however, don’t want Ingram to go, and coach Sean Payton has identified Ingram as a player he’d like to keep. That’s easier said than done because the Saints simply don’t have much cap space, and the Eagles have a lot of cap space. If it’s a matter of money, the Eagles can pay Ingram a lot more than the Saints can.

Ingram is the No. 3 running back and No. 38 player overall in our list of the Top 100 free agents.

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PFT Live: Eagles talk with Geoff Mosher, Colts/Packers offseason to-do lists

LeSean McCoy AP

The Eagles had a very busy day on Tuesday culminating in the decision to trade running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

The move can’t become official until the start of the league year next Tuesday, but we’ll be talking about what it means for the team’s offseason plans on Wednesday’s edition of PFT Live. Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly will join Mike Florio to talk about what the Eagles will do at running back now, their plans for Alonso on defense and more about what the releases of Trent Cole and Cary Williams will lead to in the near future.

Florio will also continue the series of offseason to-do lists by checking in with the Colts and Packers a few days before free agency gets underway. The Colts are expected to be active in free agency as they try to surround Andrew Luck with as much talent as possible while the Packers may be working to replace wide receiver Randall Cobb and/or tackle Bryan Bulaga.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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Andre Johnson asks Texans to release him

Buffalo Bills v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Texans recently gave receiver Andre Johnson permission to seek a trade.  Johnson won’t be doing that.

Johnson’s agent, Kennard McGuire, tells PFT that he has asked the Texans to release Johnson.

The impasse arose when the Texans recently informed Johnson he’d have a reduced role in 2015.  Johnson responded by saying that he won’t be happy with a reduced role, so it would be better for him to be elsewhere.

The Texans responded by granting him permission to seek a trade.  McGuire believes deliberately leaked to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle the notion that Johnson asked for a trade in an effort to minimize local criticism of the franchise for its treatment of a player who has been with the Texans for all but one year of the team’s existence.

“After 12 years of being a model citizen, an ambassador, and the face of this franchise, he deserves more than a mishandled P.R. campaign that showcases only one side of the story,” McGuire told PFT on Wednesday morning.  “After 12 years, he deserves to be sent off in a better way.”

Indeed he does.  The Texans know that no one will pay $11.5 million to a receiver who’ll turn 34 in July.  At most, a trade would have happened with Johnson doing a new deal.  So instead of doing a new deal elsewhere as part of a trade, he should have been cut and given the chance to do that new deal elsewhere.

The ball is now back in the team’s court.  The only right thing to do at this point is to thank Johnson for his 12 years of loyal service and release him, giving him a six-day head start on the unrestricted free agency market.

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Another challenger joins the NFLPA executive director hunt

NFLPA

And then there were five.  And there still could be more.

With more than 36 hours remaining before the window closes on the ability of candidates for the NFLPA executive director position to be nominated by three player representatives, multiple reports indicate that former NFLPA counsel Arthur McAfee has obtained the requisite nominations and has been added to the ballot.

PFT first reported McAfee’s candidacy on Monday.  He joins Sean Gilbert, Andrew Smith, and John Stufflebeam as the official challengers to DeMaurice Smith.

Two other known candidates, James Acho and Sean Morey, have not yet received the three nominations.

The election is scheduled for March 15.

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Tyvon Branch beginning his free agent tour with Colts

Chicago Bears v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

It’s almost like the Colts want to do the Bob Sanders thing again.

According to Conor Orr of NFL.com, the Colts are bringing former Raiders safety Tyvon Branch in for a free agent visit.

When he’s well, Branch is a very good safety, the kind of guy who would represent an upgrade over their last free agent safety by (the just-cut LaRon Landry).

Only, it’s hard to count on Branch being well, after he’s played just five games the last two seasons. A broken leg and a broken foot might not be connected, and might not be a sign of future events.

But still, it’s hard to gauge what his market will be, and how any team is willing to invest in a guy with so little tape the last two years.

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Report: Randall Cobb expecting more than Packers offer of $8-9 million a year

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Packers opted not to use the franchise or transition tag on wide receiver Randall Cobb earlier this week, a decision that pushed Cobb closer to the open market.

It also appears to have pushed him closer to the exit. Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the Packers have told Cobb’s agent Jimmy Sexton that they are willing to give Cobb a five-year contract worth between $8 and $9 million a season, which is less than Sexton believes Cobb will receive on the open market.

Cobb had exactly the year you’d want to have with free agency in the future as he played in every game for the first time in his career while setting personal bests for catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. McGinn believes that Cobb could top the $9.763 million per year that Jordy Nelson is set to make under the terms of the extension he signed last year and the presence of teams like the Raiders and Jaguars with big money to spend makes that seem like a real possibility.

The Packers drafted three wide receivers last year and they’ve replaced key offensive contributors without missing too many beats in the past, so there’s not much reason to think that they’re going to get into a bidding war for Cobb’s services. Right now, that gives the strong impression that Cobb will be in a different uniform pretty soon.

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Arians: Cardinals knew McCoy was available, but he’s not the right fit

Bruce Arians AP

The Bills weren’t the only team that knew the Eagles were looking to trade running back LeSean McCoy.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said on NFL Network that his team knew that McCoy was available in a trade, but decided not to make an offer.

“No, it wasn’t a good fit for us,” Arians said.

Still, Arians thinks highly of McCoy and thinks the Bills improved their team by trading Kiko Alonso to Philadelphia to acquire McCoy.

“Great move for Buffalo,” Arians said. “Not that Alonso is not a great player — I think he’s going to be, coming off surgery — but when you have LeSean’s resume, that kind of speaks for itself.”

So why did the Eagles make the trade? Arians said he sees Chip Kelly as a coach who wants to bring in his guys, who will play his way.

“Chip is building his culture there, and he’s doing one heck of a job,” Arians said.

Having said that, Arians added that he was glad to see McCoy traded out of the conference. Arians may not have thought McCoy was a good fit in Arizona, but he’d prefer not to have to face him.

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McCoy reportedly isn’t happy about being traded to Buffalo

McCoy Getty Images

In our first of umpteen-and-counting items about the Shady-for-Kiko trade, it was noted that it’s unclear whether running back LeSean McCoy will welcome a trade from Philadelphia to Buffalo.

He possibly won’t.

Josina Anderson of ESPN, citing an unnamed source close to LeSean McCoy, reports that McCoy is “frustrated” by the news that he’ll be sent to the Bills.

“He’s a Pennsylvania kid,” the source told Anderson.  “He’s never played football outside of Pennsylvania — high school, college, pro.  So of course he’s not happy.  Sounds like it’s pretty final to me unless LeSean is refusing to go to Buffalo.”

Of course, refusing to go to Buffalo would mean not earning $10.25 million in 2015, ultimately being cut by the Eagles, and then being forced to find $10.25 million on the open market.

“It’ll be interesting to see how this process plays itself out because he’s an interesting individual,” the source said.  “In your mind, when you think of Buffalo you think of cold and losing games.  It’s not like it’s the Philadelphia market where you’re always on [TV] and you’re playing for like the division title or that type of thing.”

Bills coach Rex Ryan likely believes that he’ll be able to persuade McCoy to give it a try, and Rex definitely has the ability to do that.  But McCoy may still balk, which means that the Bills then will have to decide whether to go through with the deal.

The deal can’t be finalized until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 10.  Before then, either side can decline to proceed.  And if McCoy makes it clear that he has no desire to play in Buffalo, that could be enough for the Bills to walk away, minimizing any style points they’d lose by reneging on the tentative swap.

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Steelers may want Polamalu to retire so they don’t have to cut him

Polamalu Getty Images

Troy Polamalu was a great player for the Steelers for years, but he turns 34 next month, and he isn’t great anymore. Which puts the Steelers in an awkward position.

No one in Pittsburgh wants to see Polamalu get cut and try to finish his career in another uniform, but the Steelers don’t want to pay a lot of money for an aging, slowing veteran this season, and they’d save $3.6 million on their 2015 salary cap if Polamalu is not on the roster. The best option, from the Steelers’ perspective, may be for Polamalu to decide on his own to walk away.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the Steelers would prefer for Polamalu to retire, so they don’t have to go through the awkward situation of cutting a loyal veteran and fan favorite. The Steelers are in good enough cap shape that they don’t have to cut Polamalu, but according to Bouchette it’s “90 percent he’s not gonna be back.”

Three years ago the Steelers were in a similar situation with Hines Ward: Pittsburgh didn’t think Ward had much left, but Ward wasn’t ready to call it a career right away. So the Steelers cut Ward, only to have Ward look around for a few weeks, find that there weren’t any great offers for his services, and then announce his retirement.

Ideally, a player like Polamalu should retire as a Steeler without getting cut first. But if Polamalu doesn’t retire, the Steelers may decide that they have no choice but to tell him his time in Pittsburgh is over.

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