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UFL slashes transfer fee to $25,000

AP

With no NFL team biting on the $150,000 transfer fee charged by the UFL to sign UFL players directly to active rosters, the UFL has dramatically dropped its price.

Robert Karpeles of FanHouse.com reports that the UFL has made the $125,000 reduction, citing an unnamed source and then quoting Commissioner Michael Huyghue.

“It is surprising to me that 15 NFL clubs would bring players in for tryouts with full knowledge that a transfer fee was required to sign them and then refuse to pay the fee,” Huyghue said.

“Notwithstanding, we recognize the value in sending players to the NFL and have accordingly reduced the fee to $25,000 which can be paid by the club or directly by the player.”

We’re told that the move was made in response to repeated pleas by UFL players, who believed it was fair for half of their standard salary of $50,000 to be returned to purchase their freedom.

It remains to be seen whether NFL teams or UFL players will pay the money.

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Richard Sherman imagined playing for Cowboys, Patriots

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The excellent article from Seth Wickersham of ESPN The Magazine detailing the dysfunction in Seattle includes some news regarding the Richard Sherman trade possibilities. Per Wickersham, Sherman had told friends that he imagined playing for two other teams: The Cowboys and the Patriots.

Sherman hoped that running back Marshawn Lynch would join him in New England. This meshes with the report from former ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder, a Sherman confidant who reported that Lynch’s options for unretirement consisted of playing for the Raiders or the team to which Sherman was traded.

Wickersham explains that both team and player had grown weary of the drama by the time the draft arrived, and that Sherman the the Seahawks have mended fences. For now.

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Superdome renovations could be coming

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With more and more NFL teams getting bigger and better and fancier stadiums, the Saints could end up renovating their current home of 42 years.

Via Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a $422,000 study has been commissioned to determine potential upgrades to the Superdome. The six-month project will result in a master plan/wish list for ways to make the venue better.

“The whole idea of this was not to wait until the last minute,” Saints president Dennis Lauscha told Duncan. “If we’re going to do this, let’s start now. This project is about trying to get the stadium to the next generation of fans and make it fun for them, as well.”

Possible changes include a “re-imagined front door,” removal of parking garages on the east side of the stadium, installation of field-level boxes, improved terrace seating, incorporation of virtual-reality technology, expansion of the visiting team’s locker room, and renovation of the press box.

The overriding goal will be to extend the useful life of the structure for 15 to 20 years at roughly $1 billion less than it would cost to replace the Superdome. It’s also believed that the changes will help the Superdome get another Super Bowl after swinging and missing in the last two tries to bring the game to New Orleans for the 11th time.

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Brandon Marshall believes there will be no problems with the Giants

AP

Giants receiver Brandon Marshall recently took the high road in response to withering criticism from former Jets teammate Sheldon Richardson. Meeting with reporters to conclude Marshall’s first week of OTAs with his latest team, Marshall admitted to past problems, but he predicted there will be none with the other New York team.

“[T]he first couple years of my career, more than the first couple years, really the first five years, I wasn’t responsible with the platform that we have,” Marshall said, via Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. “I’m not a perfect guy, but I worked extremely hard to get in the position I am today. The first couple years of my career was rough, and a lot of it I did myself. I hurt myself. And since that point, once I figured things out, I’ve worked extremely hard to be a better person and work extremely hard to be a better teammate, a better father, a better husband, and I’m proud of where I’m at today.”

Specifically as to his beef with Richardson — or more accurately Richardson’s lingering beef with Marshall, Marshall had nothing to add.

“You know what? That is the third or fourth time we’re going down that path,” Marshall said. “Like I said, it was a tough year for us. In the National Football League, it’s not unique. . . . We had high hopes coming off that first year we were all together in 2015. It kind of blew up in our face. So we all were disappointed.”

Bob Glauber of Newsday recently joined PFT Live to discuss the various dynamics regarding Richardson and Marshall and Marshall and the Giants and plenty of others issues regarding the two New York teams.

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Jets hire Collette Smith as coaching intern

The Jets plan to hire Collette Smith as an intern working with defensive backs during training camp, making her just the third woman to work in a coaching capacity for an NFL team.

“I’m over the top. I’m humbled and I’m proud,” Smith, a lifelong Jets fan, told the New York Daily News. “This could have happened with any NFL team. But it just so happened that it was with my beloved New York Jets. This is bigger because of that. God forbid it would have been with the Patriots. But I still would have done it.”

The 44-year-old Smith played three seasons for the New York Sharks of the Independent Women’s Football League. She spent some time last year observing Jets practices and speaking with head coach Todd Bowles, who was impressed enough from their discussions to offer her a role with the team during camp.

Smith joins Jen Welter, a coaching intern with the Cardinals in 2015, and Kathryn Smith, a quality control coach with the Bills in 2016, as the only women to work on NFL coaching staffs.

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Chiefs announce front office additions

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After a few defections this offseason, the Chiefs have announced some additions to their personnel staff.

The team announced a number of moves, including hiring Chris Shea as the club’s salary cap and legal executive and Tim Terry as director of pro personnel.

Shea was most recently with the Eagles, while Terry joins from the Packers (with General Manager John Dorsey dipping into his background there.

The Chiefs have also promoted Brandt Tilis to director of football administration, named Ryan Poles director of college scouting, Ryne Nutt assistant director of college scouting, Dan Zegers college scouting coordinator, and Jim Noel pro scout. Daniel Ricci has been added as a player personnel assistant.

The Chiefs lost Chris Ballard to the Colts, among other changes.

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Philip Rivers happy with left side of his line

AP

If the Chargers plan to contend in 2017, they need better blocking. They may be on the verge of getting it on the left side of their line.

“[Russell Okung] and [Matt] Slauson there together on that left side have been fun to watch in practice,” River’s told the team’s official website. “I think those two can cause some problems for a defense.  They both really seem to already work well together.  You’ve heard me say I think more than quarterback [and] receiver getting on the same page, it’s those linemen [that’s more important].  So, in the short time that Slauson has been back at left guard and Russell’s been here [it’s been awesome].  They communicate all the time.  They enjoy that part of it. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Rivers is particularly pleased with the arrival of Okung, who joined the Chargers after a year with the Broncos.

“Russell’s been awesome,” Rivers said.  “He’s been what you expect.  I didn’t know him, but I’ve known of him [from] his time in Seattle and last year in Denver. He’s a true pro.”

Slauson slides to left guard after spending his first year with the Chargers at center. If they can stay healthy (which has been an across-the-board problem for the Chargers in recent years), the Chargers could improve enough not only to climb out of the basement of the AFC West but also to get themselves in contention for the postseason.

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Report: Saints give Zach Strief a raise

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The Saints took a tackle in the first round of this year’s draft and Ryan Ramczyk will be a starter up front at some point if all goes according to plan, but Zach Strief is still the top guy at right tackle and the Saints have reportedly funneled a little more money his way.

Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate reports that the team has bumped Strief’s base salary by $700,000 to $1.7 million for the 2017 season. He’s also reportedly getting another $300,000 in roster bonuses, which makes him eligible to make another $1.7 million if he’s on the active roster every week this season.

Strief’s cap hit goes from $5.1 million to $6.1 million as a result. He has a $5.1 million cap charge for the 2018 season as well.

Strief, a 2006 seventh-round pick in New Orleans, has started every game he’s played since the start of the 2011 season and has only missed two games over the last four seasons.

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Cris Carter mentors OBJ

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Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has opted to skip voluntary offseason workouts with the team. Arguably, he’s getting even better preparation for what he’ll be facing in the fall from Josh Norman and others.

As explained by Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, Beckham spent Thursday not at OTAs but working out with Hall of Famer Cris Carter, who is using tough love in an effort to help Beckham better deal with the verbal abuse he gets from opponents.

“I told him, ‘It’s the first time you’re the second best wide receiver in the building. I know you don’t like that, but get used to it. I’m the one with the [gold] jacket,” Carter told Myers. “His mind is in a great place. He knows what’s at stake. He wants to work out to get better. Sometimes a personal trainer is better than the strength coach for the team.”

Carter realizes that Beckham faces extra agitation because of who he is and how he has reacted in the past.

“With Odell, they go to extremes because it is him,” Carter said. “In 108 days, he will be ready to play against the Dallas Cowboys. Is he with the Giants at OTAs? I don’t care. It’s not my job. My job as a former player is to help young players understand about the business. I’m committed to helping Odell get better. So as far as OTAs, that’s somebody else’s responsibility.”

Still, with Beckham’s effort to work with people like Johnny Manziel (“Odell needed someone to throw him the ball,” Carter explained) and Carter coming one some of the same 10 days when the Giants have full-squad offseason practices aimed at preparing for the season, some are wondering whether he still doesn’t get it, whether he still hasn’t matured the way the team wants.

“Odell is going to grow up,” Carter said. “That why’s he is bringing other people in his life so he can grow up. If he wasn’t trying to grow up, he wouldn’t be calling Cris Carter. He’s getting people to tell him all the right stuff. He wants to be better. Not only as a player, but emotionally, as a son, friend and teammate. He’s in the process of doing that.”

Some would say Carter also has some growing up to do as a mentor, given that past stints have included a too-outlandish-to-be-true effort to advise incoming rookies to avoid criminal scrutiny by pre-arranging for a designated-driver-style “fall guy.”

“Being a mentor, that was one of the worst moments I’ve had,” Carter said. “You never want it to affect your ability to get access to young kids. I deeply regret the word choice. What I was trying to get across was these guys have crews. Stop driving the car. Stop having drugs in the car. Smart people realized what I was trying to say. The choice of words was bad and I would never, never give anyone advice about breaking the law.”

The “smart people” who realized what Carter was trying to say apparently didn’t include Carter himself, given that he seemed to realize what he said and what it meant when he profusely apologized for the remarks after they came to light.

“It’s really hard to go through my thought process,” Carter said in August 2015. “I can’t make an excuse for what my mindset was. My heart was in the right place. I didn’t use words that I was very proud of. It’s not the kind of advice I would offer young people. I would never tell young people to break the law or avoid prosecution. It was bad advice. I really, really regret my words when I heard them come back to me. And more importantly it hurt young people and it hurt them in their approach to the National Football League. So I take it very, very seriously. I do regret that day. I hope moving forward that the NFL still has enough trust in me and has me connected to their young people.”

Here are the comments that caused the kerfuffle: “If you all got a crew, you got to have a fall guy in the crew. If you all have a crew, one of those fools got to know, he’s the one going to jail. We’ll get him out.”

So while Carter likely won’t urge Beckham to get a “fall guy,” he’s also not urging Beckham to show up for OTAs.”

“I recommend he should do what he wants to do,” Carter said.

Beckham doing what he wants to do is one of the reasons he’s in a position where everyone watches what he chooses to do, because he’s done too many things that have caused problems for the team and for him. His latest choice — to work out away from team property — could become problematic more for him than the team, because a serious injury suffered while working out with Manziel or Carter or anyone else would jeopardize both Beckham’s $1.839 million salary for 2017 and his injury-guaranteed fifth-year option of $8.459 million.

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Raiders start signing draft picks

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The Raiders are finally joining the majority of the NFL in signing draft picks.

According to Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Raiders are signing three seventh-round picks today.

Safety Shalom Luani, tackle Jylan Ware, and defensive lineman Treyvon Hester are putting their names on contracts. The team also announced the signing of fourth-round tackle David Sharpe, fifth-round linebacker Marquel Lee, and seventh-round running back Elijah Hood, leaving three unsigned picks.

That leaves just the Saints and Rams as the only two teams who haven’t signed picks yet (the Vikings started this week). The Rams have held back on the process in the past to allow players to go through some financial orientation before they put bonus money in their hands.

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Broncos sign Carlos Henderson to wrap up draft class

AP

The Broncos have signed all of their draft picks.

Mike Klis of KUSA reports that third-round wide receiver Carlos Henderson has agreed to terms on his four-year rookie deal with the team, which leaves all eight members of their draft class with contracts.

Henderson was one of two wide receivers (fifth-rounder Isaiah McKenzie was the other) and one of two Hendersons (along with sixth-round running back De’Angelo) to join the Broncos in the draft. He caught 82 passes for 1,535 yards and 19 touchdowns at Louisiana Tech last season and also finished second in the nation in kickoff return average.

Special teams work is often the surest way for rookies to get on the field and Henderson figures to get a long look as a returner. With no sure third receiver behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the rookie could also land a nice role on offense if he impresses during the preseason.

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The full, 70-minute Thomas Dimitroff interview

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Earlier this week, Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff visited 30 Rock in New York City for an extended, no-time-limit interview on PFT Live. Ultimately, we talked for 70 minutes.

Pieces of that discussion have been posted here, and broadcast on Friday’s show. Now, you can see and hear the entire interview.

All 70 minutes, start to finish. Uninterrupted, unedited (as far as I know), unabridged.

Thanks to Thomas for taking the time to create it, and thanks to you for taking the time to listen to it. You’ll know a lot more about football, Dimitroff, and the Falcons if you do.

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Mike Zimmer: Bridgewater progressing as well as could be expected

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Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t at the team’s Organized Team Activities this week, but quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was in attendance and, as seen in a video posted on the Vikings website, working on the field.

General Manager Rick Spielman noted that Bridgewater has not been fully cleared after last year’s knee injury and that there are plenty on unknowns about how things will play out from here, but the video provided some optimism about Bridgewater’s ability to return to action. Zimmer, whose plans to return to the team after eye surgery were announced on Friday, counted himself among those pleased by what they saw when asked about Bridgewater in a conference call.

“I saw that tape, too,” Zimmer said, via ESPN.com. “He’s throwing the ball well. He’s got good velocity, accurate. He’s working his rear end off. It just makes you proud for him. He’s still got a long ways to go. But he’s progressing as well as anybody could expect, I would think.”

The Vikings have been guarded about discussing any kind of timeline for Bridgewater’s recovery and they’ll likely remain that way until there’s enough evidence that talking a return to action has moved from an optimistic thought to a realistic one. This week felt like a step toward that point and the quarterback will be watched closely the rest of the offseason for others.

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Others told Seth Wickersham he “nailed it” on Seahawks

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Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman took issue with Seth Wickersham’s ESPN The Magazine article regarding the dysfunction in Seattle. Others didn’t.

“I don’t blame him for having that reaction,” Wickersham said during a Friday visit to PFT Live regarding Bennett. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. I mean, he knows what’s going on. I got so many texts from players and people in the Seahawks building yesterday telling me how I nailed it.”

If anything, Wickersham is surprised by the idea that anyone would dispute the idea that there have been problems with the Seahawks.

“I was not being some sort of expert detective here,” Wickersham said. “I mean, this stuff is an open secret in the NFL,  and I just spent a couple weeks trying to show it as best I could and talk to as many people as I could in the building; I took two trips out to Seattle.”

The deeper problem is that the offense hasn’t been taking enough trips to the end zone.

“You see [Russell] Wilson after games, he’s relentlessly positive and on message, and he’ll say, ‘You know we made a lot of great plays in this game, we just came up short.’ He said that after they played the Rams, and they scored three points. And here’s a defense, in an era of offense, keeping them in these games, thinking that they’re going to make everybody forget the Steel Curtain, and the offense is putting three points up on the board and he’s being treated in the building like he’s their Aaron Rodgers. That to me I think is the biggest deal. Those defensive players are smart, they’ve played against the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and they know the difference between very, very good and future Hall of Fame.”

The ability of some of those defensive players to make the Hall of Fame may hinge on winning more championships. If the offense isn’t pulling its weight, if the defense knows it, and if the coaching staff won’t do anything about it, it will be hard to keep everyone on the same page.

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Dolphins may cut Leonte Carroo a year after trading up for him

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Last year, the Dolphins traded a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick to the Vikings to acquire Minnesota’s third-round draft pick, which Miami used on receiver Leonte Carroo. Obviously, the Dolphins thought highly of Carroo’s talents to make a trade like that.

A year later, Carroo has been so disappointing that he may not even make the 53-player roster.

That’s the word from Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, who reports that it is far from certain that Carroo will make the team at the end of the preseason.

The Dolphins gave Carroo every opportunity to contribute as a rookie, putting him in the starting lineup in Week One. But after catching two passes in that game, he caught just one more pass for the rest of the season and was inactive for the last two games of the regular season, and for the playoffs.

That was a disappointing first season in Miami, and if he doesn’t turn things around in a hurry, he won’t even have a second season in Miami.

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With another “bad cop” period looming, NFL is currently playing “good cop”

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A narrative has emerged from the relaxation of the celebration rules, and it should cause the league’s players to keep one hand on their wallets.

As explained by Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, the effort to change the “No Fun League” to the “Now, Fun League” comes from a desire by Commissioner Roger Goodell to mend fences with players.

“The Commissioner has made an effort to do it,” Giants co-owner John Mara told Breer. “Going around and meeting with them on the celebration rule, I think, is just one example. That’s important. We try to engage with them on the Competition Committee with the rules changes every year. We get good feedback and put a lot of that into effect.

“So I think that’s always important to do that, and I know Roger has made that a priority, and hopefully that’ll pay off for both sides in the end.”

“Pay off” is the key word, because it doesn’t take an excessive dose of cynicism to realize that the NFL realizes that the labor deal expires in less than four years. And so before Goodell and his partners can once again be the “bad cop” at the bargaining table, Goodell needs to spend some time playing the role of “good cop.” Especially since the fumes are still lingering from Goodell’s Judge Dredd approach to the bounty scandal and #DeflateGate — not to mention a fairly blatant instance of the NFL playing fast and loose with the accounting.

“The players’ perspective is important — we truly are partners in the business,” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt told Breer. “And that’s something certainly from an ownership standpoint that we’ve never lost sight of. I think the Commissioner’s initiative here in recent years to try and include them more in the decision-making process is a positive. That should serve us both well going forward.”

It will definitely serve the owners well if the players can be persuaded to believe that take-and-take has become give-and-take until the time comes to take and take and take some more. And that time comes in fewer than four years.

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