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Week Eight picks

The inability of referee Scott Green to properly apply the supposedly clear rule regarding going to the ground when making a catch not only cost the Vikings a win.  It also prevented me from extending to two my streak of victories over Rosenthal.

Yes, he beat me by one game in Week Seven, and the difference was the outcome of the Vikings-Packers game.

For the week, Rosenthal got 10 right and four wrong.  I was 9-5.

For the year, Rosenthal is 69-35.  I’m 65-39.

And though it pains me to type this (in part because I’ll never hear the end of it from him), Rosenthal currently has a better showing than all of the ESPN “experts,” including the Accuscore projections and the fan-based picks. 

Maybe he should apply for a job there.  They probably need someone with a sturdy shine box.


Broncos vs. 49ers in London

Florio’s take:  When the league picked this game to be the 2010 English export, it didn’t look like a bad choice.  The 49ers were viewed as the favorite to win the NFC West, and the Broncos were regarded as a middle-of-the-road team with the potential to improve.  Seven weeks into the season, the 49ers have only one win and the Broncos have two.  The decision to thrust quarterback Troy Smith into the starting lineup smacks of the desperation coach Mike Singletary surely is feeling, and even though Denver lost to one Bay Area team by 45 in Week Seven, Week Eight likely will bring a seventh loss for the Niners.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 30, 49ers 21.

Rosenthal’s take: The NFL should send teams to London earlier in the season, before they show how bad they really are.  The depleted Broncos defense gets worse every week, and the 49ers defense just made Matt Moore look like, well, Matt Moore from 2009.  This is a crossroads/gut check/insert cliché game for both coaches.  I trust Josh McDaniels and Kyle Orton far more than Mike Singletary and Troy Smith.

Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 31, 49ers 21.

Jaguars at Cowboys

Florio’s take:  Four prior games between these two teams have been decided by seven points or less.  Continuation of that trend would help Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio, even if the Jags lose.  One more 20-plus-point blowout (the Jaguars already have suffered four) could get Del Rio fired.  The return of David Garrard and the departure of Tony Romo could help, but probably not enough.  But at least the Jags will possibly lose by less than 20.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 27, Jaguars 17.

Rosenthal’s take:  Jon Kitna versus the Jaguars secondary.  The immobile quarterback versus the force that provides no resistance.  If I was a betting man, I’d stay far away from this one because both teams are about as trustworthy as Florio’s hairpiece.  At least the Jaguars seem like they care. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Jaguars 20, Cowboys 16.

Dolphins at Bengals

Florio’s take:  From 1978 through 2000, the Dolphins won nine straight games over the Bengals.  Cincinnati has won the last two, but they haven’t played since Bill Parcells put his thumbprint on the Dolphins.  More importantly, the game won’t be played in Miami, where the Fins are 0-3.  Though the Bengals found some punch on offense against the Falcons, the Dolphins are more talented, more desperate, and (after believing they got screwed against the Steelers) more feisty.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 24, Bengals 16.

Rosenthal’s take: Chad Henne has quietly improved all season, and he should do well against a Bengals secondary without Adam Jones and possibly Johnathan Joseph.  Carson Palmer is also playing better, but it seems to take a 21-point deficit to warm him up.  The Bengals defense is providing too many chances for failed comeback attempts.

Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 24, Bengals 21.

Bills at Chiefs

Florio’s take:  Some (I’m looking at you, Rosenthal) think that Bills coach Chan Gailey has something up his sleeve for his most recent former team.  Pointing to an unlikely strong showing by Buffalo’s offense against a complacent Ravens defense, Rosey thinks the Bills can give the Chiefs a run for their money.  Let’s see if Rosey puts his money where his mouth is.  Arrowhead Stadium has been a-rockin'; Gailey and his team would be wise to not go a-knockin’.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 31, Bills 14.

Rosenthal’s take:  I’m not sure people have really wrapped their mind around the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Bills racked up 514 yards on the Ravens.  514! The Harvard product is a joy to watch, with decisive, difficult throws often into tight windows.  He’s a great runner and seems to like contact.  And he has a red beard.  The Bills will keep losing most weeks because their defense is an embarrassment, but at least they’ll be fun to watch.

Rosenthal’s pick: Chiefs 34, Bills 31.

Redskins at Lions

Florio’s take:  For the third straight year, these two franchises meet in Detroit.  In 2008, the Redskins kept the Lions winless by only eight points.  In 2009, the Lions ended a 19-game losing streak with a win over the ‘Skins.  Assuming Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford, back after suffering a shoulder injury in Week One, won’t throw four passes to DeAngelo Hall, the rested, ready, and confident (perhaps delusional) Lions should be able to get it done.  Last week’s meltdown by the Chicago offense concealed the fact that the Washington offense isn’t dramatically better, and the Lions look to be in line for their second win of the year.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 20, Redskins 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Signs the Lions have come a long way:  (1) they are still talking playoffs after a 1-5 start and it doesn’t seem completely insane; (2) they’ve outscored their opponents this year (thanks Rams!); (3) they are favored against a 4-3 Redskins team and I’d still give the points.

Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 24, Redskins 17.

Panthers at Rams

Florio’s take:  Like the other team that will contend for the NFC West crown, the Rams are tough at home and soft on the road.  This week, a win at home would pull the Rams to 4-4, and it would end a four-game losing streak against Carolina, a slide that began in St. Louis nearly seven years ago with a double-overtime loss to the eventual NFC Super Bowl representatives.  This time around, the Rams simply have the better team — which given the state of the Panthers isn’t really saying much.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 24, Panthers 13.

Rosenthal’s take: The Rams are winless on the road, so it’s good the league loaded them up with home games before a three-game road trip after Thanksgiving.  The Panthers finally found a passing game, which could make them a dangerous spoiler the rest of the way.  Every game for the Rams is dangerous because they aren’t that talented, but they’ve responded very well to losses this year.

Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 22, Panthers 20.

Packers at Jets

Florio’s take:  The Jets remain the hottest team in the NFL, with a swarming defense and a sufficiently competent offense.  Receiver Santonio Holmes had two extra weeks to hone his timing with quarterback Mark Sanchez, which should result in an even more souped-up passing attack.  The Packers aren’t remotely close to being Super Bowl ready, and without again getting a couple of gift calls on touchdown plays they can’t expect to win this one.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 27, Packers 20.

Rosenthal’s take: The Packers lost another linebacker for the season, while the Jets are fully healthy after their bye.  Revis Island is ready to re-open with tougher immigration laws and there’s a sense New York hasn’t played their best despite being 5-1.  All logic points to the Jets. (I’m sure Florio is taking his beloved Jets.)  All the more reason to take the Packers, who are ready to go on a run.

Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 26, Jets 21.

Titans at Chargers

Florio’s take:  Vince Young likely will return for a Tennessee offense that did fairly well without him.  But the two Tennessee losses have come against teams that run a 3-4 defense, the preferred attack of the Chargers.  And the Charger

s have much more talent than their 2-5 record suggests.  Assuming that the late surge in Week Seven against the Patriots woke up the four-time defending AFC West champions, the Chargers will stay alive for at least another week.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 23, Titans 20.

Rosenthal’s take: The Titans have a knack for frustrating opponents and forcing them into mistakes.  The Chargers have a knack for frustrating their fans and making unforced errors.  The Titans lead the league in takeaways and have scored the most points off turnovers.  The Chargers have the most giveaways in the AFC.  Add it up, and Norv Turner’s head should explode sometime in the third quarter.

Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 26, Chargers 21.

Vikings at Patriots

Florio’s take:  Vikings coach Brad Childress has been talking lately.  A lot.  His words regarding the officiating in Sunday night’s loss to the Packers got him a $35,000 fine.  His barbs directed at the Patriots and Bill Belichick could get Chilly a butt-whipping on par with the 31-7 defeat his team absorbed from Belichick and company four years ago.  Brett Favre, who won’t play only if he can’t move, will be jumping on his “broke foot” when things go well, and he’ll be walking like John Wayne with hemorrhoids when things go poorly.  Count on plenty of Rooster Cogburn on Preparation H sightings.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 35, Vikings 13. 

Rosenthal’s take:  After the Patriots released Lawyer Milloy then lost to the Bills 31-0 to open the 2003 season, ESPN’s Tom Jackson said the “Patriots hate their coach.”   Three weeks after New England traded Randy Moss to Minnesota, it’s the Vikings that seem to hate their coach.  The rest of the country hates Brett Favre, who seems to know it and wear it on his face during every depressing press conference.  This is the week Moss begins to realize how good he had it in Foxborough.  

Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 24, Vikings 14.

Buccaneers at Cardinals

Florio’s take:  Bucs coach Raheem Morris thinks he has is the best team in the NFC.  Less than two years ago, the Cardinals actually were the best team in the NFC.  Though the Cardinals have looked horrible at times, the managed to take down at home a Saints team that thumped the Bucs in their own stadium.  And that’s good enough for me.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 24, Buccaneers 20.

Rosenthal’s take: The “best team in the NFC” isn’t favored in Arizona, where the Cardinals are 2-0 this season.  If the Bucs are to live up to Raheem Morris’ hype, this is a game they win going away.  Arizona’s passing game is a mess, while the running game isn’t much better.  It’s a miracle they are 3-3. Still, these teams are more similar than different.  And they’ll have the same record after this one.

Rosenthal’s pick: Cardinals 19, Bucs 14.

Seahawks at Raiders

Florio’s take:  Here’s the toughest call of the week.  Tony Dungy thinks the Seahawks are the best team in the NFC.  Raiders cornerback Chris Johnson thinks his team is the most talented in the entire NFL.  The Seahawks had been unable to win on the road before taking down the Bears two weeks ago.  Before a far=less-than-full stadium against a Raiders team buoyed by a 59-point uprising against the Broncos on Sunday, the Raiders likely will finish an unlikely ascension to .500 at the halfway point of the season.

Florio’s pick:  Raiders 27, Seahawks 17.

Rosenthal’s take: Every time the Raiders win a game, they say they turned the corner.  Even though they haven’t won back-to-back games since 2008, I’m just crazy enough to believe them this time.  The Seahawks whole offensive gameplan seems to be “don’t throw interceptions” but they need a little more than that on the road.

Rosenthal’s pick: Raiders 23, Seahawks 16.

Steelers at Saints

Florio’s take:  At one point in September, it looked like this game would feature a clash of the best two teams in the league.  It remains half right, with the Steelers among the best of the bunch and the Saints sliding toward irrelevance.  Though the defending champs’ backs are being pushed against the wall, that 13-point loss to the Browns means the days of dominance have ended, at least for now.  A one-dimensional offense is no match for a multi-faceted Steelers defense, and this one could turn into a rout, which would mean the ratings will only double those from Game Four of the World Series.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 34, Saints 21.

Rosenthal’s take:  A lot of tough games to pick this week. I’ve debated this one for days, but the tiebreaker goes to the Steelers.  Even though Pittsburgh’s pass defense has looked shakier the last two weeks, New Orleans has struggled against far worse groups.  At some point, it’s worth recognizing the 2009 Saints passing attack just may not come back.

Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 27, Saints 24.

Texans at Colts

Florio’s take:  The Texans obsessed over their Week One visit from the Colts, and it paid off.  Since then, the Texans have been roughly average.  They get another crack at the Colts on Monday night, at a time when plenty of Indy players are missing.  But as long as Peyton Manning remains healthy, the Colts will be tough to beat, especially at home.  Manning realizes the importance of not being swept by the Texans — and not falling to 0-3 in the division.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 33, Texans 27. 

Rosenthal’s take: Dallas Clark and Austin Collie will be missed, but I’m not really that worried about the Colts offense in this game. They have great depth and the Jeff George Colts could score 30 points on this awful Texans defense.  The bigger question is whether the Colts defense can snap out of their funk.  At home, in a huge division game, I’ll take my chances they make enough plays.

Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 38, Texans 31.

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Colts agree to terms on extension for long snapper Matt Overton

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The Indianapolis Colts announced Tuesday they have agreed to terms on a contract extension with long snapper Matt Overton.

While the team didn’t announce the length of the contract, Overton tweeted he’ll be with the Colts the next four years. Overton was going to be a restricted free agent upon the start of the new league year next week. His new contract should run through 2018.

Overton has played in all 48 games over the first three years of his career with 22 tackles on special teams.

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McCoy-for-Alonso swap would be a rare, fascinating NFL transaction

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

It feels like a baseball trade. That’s how the proposed swap of Eagles running back LeSean McCoy for Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso feels.

It feels distinctly un-NFL.

Such player-for-player, big-contract-for-little-contract deals just don’t happen in the NFL. They’re baseball things. You know the drill: Team A acquires a veteran for the stretch run and sends young, untested, cheaper players to Team B.

Yes, NFL teams are willing to give out big deals. However, because the vast bulk of the money in those deals is not guaranteed, few teams are willing to take them secondhand. They are tailored financial instruments that generally just fit one team and one team only.

Instead, most clubs act as vultures, waiting for highly paid players to be released before swooping in to show interest, usually offering less money than the player received previously. It is logical economic behavior, but the rhythm of the dance is tedious.

But here we have the Bills reportedly showing significant interest in McCoy, who’s due $9.75 million in salary in 2015, $6.9 million in salary in 2016 and $7.6 million in salary in 2017, per NFLPA records. That’s the epitome of a splash trade.

On the other hand, the Eagles could be set to get significant salary-cap relief. A third-year pro from Oregon, Alonso is due about $1.7 million in combined salary over the next two seasons.

Some will praise the Eagles for their fiscal responsibility. Others will cheer on the Bills for swinging for the fences for McCoy, who doesn’t turn 27 until July.

Some will compare this proposed deal to the 2004 swap that sent cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick to Denver and running back Clinton Portis to Washington. However, in that case, both players got new contracts from the trading clubs. That’s unlikely to happen here. The Eagles would have ample reason to let Alonso — who’s coming off an ACL tear — play out at least the next year of his deal. And McCoy surely doesn’t figure to get more money if he’s dealt. At best, he’ll keep what he has.

Nevertheless, the Bills are set to take on quite a bit of money — on paper, about $24 million in salary, per NFLPA data. That doesn’t happen often in pro football trades, and it’s unlikely to be a common occurrence. (On Twitter, veteran agent Mike McCartney expressed surprise the Eagles were able to potentially move McCoy, given his high 2015 salary-cap number.)

But the Bills’ outside-the-box deal-making intrigues. As the salary cap goes up, teams with an an abundance of cap space may have greater ability to take on big existing deals for the right player. Also, draft picks are more valuable than ever under the existing rookie wage scale, making them perhaps tougher with which for clubs to part. Perhaps a few more player-for-player deals could allow clubs to fill needs and create financial flexibility.

Hey, maybe the Bills and Eagles are on to something.

Whatever the case, this sure was something.

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Dallas County D.A. has Wal-Mart police report

WalMart Getty Images

Last week, former Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said he had “no knowledge” of any incident at a Lancaster, Texas Wal-Mart on July 11, 2011 involving Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant.  As it turns out, someone in his office does and/or did.

In response to a Texas Public Information Act request sent by PFT to the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, Assistant D.A. Laura Anne Coats forwarded on Tuesday a copy of the same incident report that the Lancaster Police Department previously sent to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

There’s one key difference in the version obtained by NFL Media and the version sent to PFT.  The version obtained by NFL Media, transmitted with a cover letter dated February 17, 2015, indicates that it was printed by the Lancaster Police Department that same day.  The version submitted to PFT by the Dallas County District Attorney reveals that it was printed on August 7, 2012 by the Lancaster Police Department, more than a year after the incident but still more than two years ago — while Watkins was still the District Attorney.

“Because there was no arrest and no complainant, the incident never comes to the District Attorney’s office,” Watkins told Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan last week.

But the incident did indeed come to the Dallas County District Attorney, on or about August 7, 2012.  If it hadn’t, the District Attorney’s office never would have had a copy of the incident report from the Lancaster Police Department printed on that date.  The question becomes whether the District Attorney has anything else relating to the incident; a second request under the Texas Public Information Act for additional, specific information regarding the incident and any investigation has been prepared and sent to the Dallas County District Attorney.

For now, it’s clear the incident that appeared to be a faint, open-and-shut blip on the Lancaster, Texas radar screen somehow made its way to the ultimate law enforcement authority in all of Dallas County, which at last count had a population of 2.48 million.

While no video of the incident has emerged, it remains difficult to believe no video existed, especially since Wal-Mart routinely secures its many retail properties with surveillance cameras.  It also remains difficult to understand the decision of the responding officer not to immediately enter the Wal-Mart security office after someone reported that a woman was pulled and dragged from a car registered to Bryant but the alleged victim then claimed that she wasn’t “injured or assaulted in any way.”

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Josh McCown discusses his decision to join the Browns

McCown Getty Images

After quarterback Josh McCown somewhat surprisingly was cut by the Buccaneers, he joined PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio to discuss the situation.  After McCown somewhat surprisingly decided to join the Browns, he returned to PFT Live to talk about the situation.

McCown address his decision, how close he came to joining the Bills, whether he has spoken to Johnny Manziel (McCown hasn’t), and whether McCown got an advance look at the team’s new uniforms before putting pen to paper (he didn’t).

To hear the whole thing, click the thing in the thing below.

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Reports: Ted Ginn visiting Titans, 49ers

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Free agent receiver Ted Ginn has two more visits lined up.

According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, Ginn visited the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday. Ginn will then head west for a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.

The Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns have also expressed interest in Ginn.

Ginn was released by the Arizona Cardinals on Feb. 23.

Ginn caught just 14 passes for 190 yards in his only season in Arizona while primarily contributing as a return specialist. He played for the 49ers from 2010-12 and the Panthers in 2013.

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Zimmer will make pitch to Peterson on Wednesday

Zimmer AP

Twelve days ago, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made during< em>PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio the pitch he’d present to running back Adrian Peterson, if Zimmer had the chance to do so.  On Wednesday, Zimmer finally gets that chance.

Via Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Zimmer and G.M. Rick Spielman will fly to Houston on Wednesday to meet with Peterson.  Last week’s ruling in Peterson’s federal-court challenge to his suspension, coupled with the league’s decision to return Peterson to the Commissioner-Exempt list, authorizes the face-to-face meeting.

On Monday, Spielman told reporters that the Vikings have been in contact with Peterson.

Peterson has expressed lingering concern about returning to Minnesota. His father, Nelson, recently confirmed reports that Peterson believes Vikings executive Kevin Warren worked with the NFL to keep Adrian away from the field in the 2014 season, even after Peterson resolved his criminal child-abuse case by pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges.

Ultimately, money will become a major factor, with the Vikings presumably willing and able to pay Peterson more than anyone else would — especially since a new team also would have to compensate the Vikings. The more Peterson is worth financially, the more he’s presumably worth in trade.

Zimmer’s PFT Live appearance from Indy, including the pitch he’d make to Peterson, appears below.

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C.J. Spiller says Bills informed him of LeSean McCoy deal

C.J. Spiller AP

As news broke that Buffalo had a deal in place to acquire Eagles running back LeSean McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso, Bills running back C.J. Spiller was at NFL Network studios. And as Spiller related on Tuesday’s “NFL Total Access,” NFLN analyst Willie McGinest was the first to tell him of the trade.

Soon enough, though, the Bills were on the phone with Spiller to tell him they had made the deal — a move that all but ends Spiller’s career with Buffalo.

“[McGinest] walked in and said, ‘Did ya’ll hear that Kiko’s getting traded to the Eagles for Shady?’ ” Spiller said. “And to me, I thought he was joking, like just trying to play a joke on me, because he’s a Patriot, and I was a former Bill.

“But then, he put it on TV, and I seen it, and then probably about five minutes later, management called me and told me that they (were) going in that direction, and pretty much giving me a ‘Thank you for your services.’ ”

Spiller was then asked how he felt about the prospect of going into free agency in search of a new team.

“My feeling is still the same. Nothing’s changed,” Spiller said. “The gameplan’s still the same. The only thing is that I won’t be returning to Buffalo.”

Spiller indicated he was open to returning to the Bills, but the sixth-year pro said he understood players often have to change teams.

“Very few guys get to play (their) whole career at one team, but you know, unfortunately, that don’t happen in this business, and I found out today that that don’t happen in this business,” the 27-year-old Spiller said, smiling as he finished his thought and handling the moment about as well as anyone possibly could, given the circumstances.

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Rosenhaus: Eagles say no LeSean trade yet

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In response to the report that the Eagles will ship running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, agent Drew Rosenhaus contends that the deal isn’t done yet.

“I just spoke with the Eagles organization and there is no trade for LeSean at this time,” Rosenhaus said on Twitter.  “There have been discussions but nothing finalized.”

Nothing can be finalized until Tuesday, March 10 at 4:00 p.m. ET.  So the information the Eagles provided to Rosenhaus is correct, even if the two teams have struck a deal in principle.

Even if an agreement has been reached between the two teams, either side can back out.  If McCoy makes it clear that he’s not on board with the deal, the Bills may not want him.  So, basically, stay tuned.

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Report: Eagles, Bills swapping LeSean McCoy, Kiko Alonso

Lesean+Mccoy+Philadelphia+Eagles+v+New+England+WiievfaEoSxl

As it turns out, the Eagles didn’t approach running back LeSean McCoy regarding a possible pay cut because the Eagles had other plans for McCoy.  Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Eagles will trade McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

The agreement can’t be finalized until the start of the new league year, next Tuesday.  In theory, either side can back out until the clock strikes 4:00 p.m. ET  on March 10 and the paperwork is submitted.

It’s unclear whether other compensation will be involved.  For now, it appears to be a straight-up deal, player for player.

McCoy is due to earn $10.25 million in 2015.  Alonso, a second-round pick in 2013 who missed all of 2014 due to an offseason ACL tear, is due to earn a base salary of only $745,000.

Despite a slow start last season, McCoy rushed for 1,319 yards.  It’s unclear whether the Bills will attempt to restructure or extend his contract.  It’s also unclear whether McCoy will welcome the change of scenery from Philly to Buffalo.

The move underscores the willingness of the Bills to spend big in an effort to parlay their 9-7 finish in 2014 into the team’s first playoff appearance since 1999.  From Philly’s perspective, the trade makes it abundantly clear that coach Chip Kelly runs the show — and that there are no sacred cows.  Last year, DeSean Jackson got the heave-ho; this year, LeSean McCoy gets a one-way ticket out of town.

It also reunites Alonso with the man who recruited him to Oregon.  Which will serve only to fuel speculation that Kelly plans to do whatever it takes to get the quarterback he recruited to Oregon.

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Titans awarded outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi on waivers

Jonathan Massaquoi AP

The Titans are taking a flyer on a pass rush prospect.

Tennessee has been awarded ex-Falcons defensive end/outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi on waivers, the team said Tuesday.

A fourth-year pro from Troy, Massaquoi recorded 70 tackles and six sacks in his first three seasons with Atlanta. He’s under contract for one more season at $660,000 in salary, per NFLPA records.

All things considered, the 26-year-old Massaquoi couldn’t have landed in a much better spot even if he had picked it. The Titans are not deep at outside linebacker, and starter Derrick Morgan is slated to test unrestricted free agency.

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Raiders cut Tyvon Branch

Tyvon Branch, Benson Mayowa AP

The Raiders have officially let go of one of their homegrown defensive starters.

The club announced the release of safety Tyvon Branch on Tuesday. His impending departure was first reported last week by Jason La Canfora of CBS.

Branch was due $5.5 million in salary in 2015, according to the NFLPA.

An eight-year pro from Connecticut, Branch has played his entire career with the Raiders, who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. His market could be tied to whether he can convince clubs that any durability concerns are a thing of the past. He does not turn 29 until December, which could play in his favor.

Branch started the 2014 season on a tear, notching 30 tackles in his first three games. However, a broken foot suffered in the Raiders’ Week Three loss at New England ended his season. The previous year, Branch had been limited to just two games with a broken leg.

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Eagles will cut Trent Cole

Trent Cole AP

Trent Cole is on the way out of Philadelphia.

The Eagles had been hoping to get Cole to take a pay cut, but that hasn’t happened. Now Cole is expected to be released within the next 24 hours, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.

Cole is a good pass rusher who has 14.5 sacks in the last two seasons, but with his cap number scheduled to be $11.6 million this season, it’s no surprise that the Eagles felt like that was more than they could justify spending.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who has been given full control of all personnel decisions, clearly wants to get rid of the aging and expensive veterans on the roster. Todd Herremans and Cary Williams have all been sent packing, and now Cole is on the way out as well.

Kelly is clearing plenty of cap space. He may have plans to make a splash when free agency begins next week.

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Report: Greg Hardy to meet with league on Wednesday

Greg Hardy AP

Last week, the NFL said that defensive end Greg Hardy can’t be reinstated to active duty because he hasn’t been disciplined under the league’s personal conduct policy and therefore can’t be reinstated from a suspension.

That’s true, but it’s not quite the entire story. Hardy remains on the commissioner’s exempt list while the league looks into last year’s arrest on domestic violence charges, however, and would like to have that rectified with free agency starting on March 10.

Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that Hardy will have a meeting with the league in New York on Wednesday in an effort to do that. While the Panthers have reportedly made the decision to move on without Hardy, there will surely be other teams interested in his services and a clear idea of his availability will just as surely impact the offers they make to secure his services.

A judge found Hardy guilty last July, but Hardy appealed and the case against him was dismissed when his accuser failed to appear for a jury trial last month. The NFL requested court files from the bench trial as part of their own investigation, but were rebuffed and they would need to get the transcript of the trial directly from Hardy’s attorney.

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Cam Newton was on stage moments before gunfire at private party

Cleveland Browns v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s no stranger to near-misses lately.

But after suffering two broken bones in his back in a car wreck in downtown Charlotte late last season, he was close to another potential tragedy over the weekend.

According to WSOC in Charlotte, Newton was on stage in a downtown nightclub moments before shots were fired Saturday night.

Newton was at the nightclub Label (and was photographed with Young Jeezy) moments before gunfire rang out during a party which coincided with the CIAA basketball tournament.

Newton was on stage during the private party, but quickly ducked for cover when the shots inside the club were heard.

Two people suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the shooting, and no arrests have been made.

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Toronto Argonauts sign ex-Bengals RB Bernard Scott

Houston Texans v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

A former Bengals and Ravens running back is headed to the Canadian Football League.

The Toronto Argonauts have signed Bernard Scott, a five-year NFL veteran. The club announced the move on Tuesday.

The 30-year-old Scott rushed for 1,059 yards and five touchdowns on 249 carries in his stints with the Bengals (2009-2012) and Ravens (2013).

Scott is one of four running backs currently listed on Toronto’s roster, with former Texans back Steve Slaton another notable name in the backfield.

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