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Ten ways to improve the Hall of Fame selection process

Every year, on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, 44 men and women gather in the host city and determine the members of the next class of Hall of Famers.

Typically, the panel considers 15 modern-era candidates, which systemically is whittled down to five finalists for an up-or-down vote.  The voters also consider two previously-determined finalists determined by the Seniors Committee, which comes up with two players who, for whatever reason, were passed over during past sessions.

In the end, as few as four and as many as seven secure admission to Canton.

Every year, complaints inevitably arise regarding the persons who make it and those who don’t.  At times, those complaints are aimed at the process.  Usually, the debate fizzles by the next day, when the Super Bowl starts.

This year, largely through the efforts of Jason Whitlock of FOXSports.com, the criticism has lingered.  The fact that Whitlock’s opinions have sparked a pointed response from two of the voters has served only to give the discussion ongoing life.

Though some of the voters who perhaps feel a threat to their fiefdom may not like it, any effort to consider whether the process can be improved represents a valuable expenditure of time and effort.  In this vein, we now offer 10 specific ideas for improving the procedure for determining who gets in, and who’s left out of, the Hall of Fame.

1.  Expand the panel.

The panel currently consists only of media members, some of whom are unemployed, underemployed, self-employed, and/or semi-retired.  One voter is assigned for each team, even if the voter has no specific jurisdiction over that team.  For example, Len Pasquarelli of The Sports Xchange holds the vote that corresponds to the Falcons, even though he hasn’t focused his efforts on that team for years.  Ditto for David Elfin, the Redskins’ representative who no longer works for a Washington-focused publication.  Others, like Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, had limited experience covering the NFL but was the only guy at the only paper in the town in which the team is headquartered.

That’s not a knock on Joe, whom we know and like.  But, surely, he’ll acknowledge that he had limited experience covering the NFL when he got the assignment.  Before inheriting the Bengals beat from Mark Curnutte in 2009, Reedy previously covered the Jets for two years (1997 and 1998) at the Post-Star in Glen Falls, New York and the Jaguars for one year (1999) at the Gainesville Sun.  Many would contend that three relatively distant years at non-first-tier publications shouldn’t be enough to secure 2.27 percent of the say as to who makes it to Canton.

The panel also includes one representative of the Professional Football Writers Association and 11 at-large media members.  That’s 44 total voters.

The panel, put simply, is too small.  (And, trust me, I’m not saying that because I’m angling for a seat at the table.  I don’t want one, I don’t expect to ever be offered one — especially after writing this article — and I wouldn’t have the time to do the assignment justice unless and until I become unemployed, underemployed, self-employed, and/or semi-retired.)  Because the human beings who comprise the panel are subject to the same human factors that influence us consciously or otherwise, one way to neutralize those realities is to involve more voters.

As explained below, that doesn’t mean more media members.  To enjoy the full faith and confidence of football fans, the process needs more voices, more perspectives, and less power in the hands of any one voter.

Many of the persons who hold these votes take great pride in the assignment.  As a result, they naturally will be inclined to resist any changes that will make the achievement less significant, such as adding significantly more people to the process.

Regardless, significantly more people need to be added to the process.

2.  Overhaul the Board of Trustees.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is governed by a Board of Trustees.  Some of the names are instantly recognizable, like Commissioner Roger Goodell, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.  (One name is recognizable but curiously out of place. ESPN’s Todd Blackledge, whose bailiwick is college football, has a seat on the Board of Trustees.)

There is also a cluster of persons with no connection to the NFL, but who hold positions of prominence in and around Canton, Ohio, the geographic location of the Hall of Fame.

With all due respect to those Canton-area businesspeople, it makes no sense for the policies and procedures of the Hall of Fame to be set by folks whose biggest contribution to the process is the ability to show up for meetings without incurring travel expenses.  Though it makes sense for the Pro Football Hall of Fame to seek the support and involvement of the Canton business community, the Board of Trustees should be composed of folks who have a direct role in the game and who have the best interests of the game at all times in mind.

To the extent that there are some Canton-area businesspeople who have a direct role in the game, such as Packers great and successful Akron businessman Dave Robinson, they should have a seat at the table.  We also realize that some members of the Board of Trustees are instrumental in organizing the events that surround each year’s enshrinement ceremony.  But most of the persons who are setting policy for the Hall of Fame should have names that ardent fans and followers of the sport instantly recognize.

Currently, it’s roughly a 50-50 split.  That needs to change.

3.  Change the bylaws.

The Board of Trustees ultimately determine the contents of the Hall of Fame’s bylaws.  All too often, members of the panel who are faced with criticism of the selection process instantly explain that their hands are tied by the bylaws.

So change the bylaws.

Every year, the NFL changes multiple rules in the hopes of making the game better.  In the past half-decade, the only meaningful change to the bylaws occurred when the modern-era finalists were increased from 13 to 15.

The bylaws shouldn’t be used as a shield for avoiding change, but as a sword for implementing it.  All too often, the bylaws become an excuse for the status quo, not the impetus for improvement.  For that reason alone, the powers-that-be need to be willing and able on an annual basis (or more often) to look for ways to improve the rules that govern the selection process.

4.  Include Hall of Famers.

Every year, the winner of the Heisman Trophy acquires the ability to vote on all future winners of the award.  The logic is simple, and undeniable.  Winning the Heisman represents membership in an exclusive club, and the men who have won it should have a say in who gets it.

The argument applies even more strongly to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame coach John Madden believes that the busts talk to each other at night.  If they do, the first comment when a new crop joins them shouldn’t be, “Who in the hell let that guy in?”

They say it takes one to know one, and a Hall of Famer is in the best position to know another Hall of Famer.  Though giving Hall of Famers votes would introduce the possibility of biases and prejudices, those factors surely apply from time to time (or, as the case may be, every year) to the 44 men and women who currently have the keys to Canton, especially when players who earn a reputation for being hard on the media seem to have a hard time getting into the Hall of Fame.

The only requirement?  To vote, the Hall of Famer must attend the meeting.  No proxies or absentee ballots.  If they show up, they get a say in the process.

5.  Include coaches and other established football minds.

In responding to Jason Whitlock’s column calling for change, Bob Gretz argued that “Rick Gosselin has forgotten more football in a week than Whitlock has known in his life.”  That same observation likely applies to many of the folks currently on the selection committee.

And that observation probably would apply to all of them if, say, guys like Joe Gibbs or Ron Wolf or Bill Parcells or Chuck Noll were in the room.

So why not give people who have devoted their careers to coaching football and/or running football teams a direct say in who should and shouldn’t land in the Hall of Fame?  For those not already in the Hall of Fame, they’d have to forfeit their own eligibility for the Hall until two years after leaving the committee.

Frankly, those folks are far better suited to picking the new members of the Hall of Fame than pretty much everyone on the selection committee as its currently constituted.

6.  Categorize the candidates.

Every year, the finalists are thrown into a vat regardless of the position they played, with the new members of the Hall emerging from a stew that can’t distinguish between pancake blocks and pick-sixes.  It would make more sense to allow one new member per year from each of the various positions on the field:  quarterback, running back, receiver/tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, defensive back, and coach/G.M./contributor.

The finalists would be determined by position, with the list of candidates trimmed to three-to-five before the selection meeting, and with no requirement that a person be admitted from each position group.

This would expand the potential maximum size of the class from seven to eight, but the high-water mark of seven per year has been in place since 1964, the year after the charter class was inducted.  At the time, the NFL and AFL had only 22 teams.

Today, the NFL has 32 franchises, as a result of the addition of two in 1966, one in 1967, one in 1968, two in 1976, two in 1995, one in 1999, and one in 2002.  Moving the maximum annual class from seven to eight in light of the growth of the league isn’t simply justified, it’s overdue.

7.  Scuttle the Senior Committee.

The Senior Committee serves the purpose of allowing the selection committee to revisit two players from past seasons who fell through the cracks.  In other words, it gives the selection committee to right past wrongs.  By improving the selection process, there would be no reason to clean up past messes by devoting two of seven annual spots to guys who failed to get in when competing directly with their peers.

In his response to Jason Whitlock’s criticisms, Bob Gretz unwittingly proved our point.

Gretz explained that, ever year, a pair of Hall of Famers join the Seniors Committee to assist in the process of whittling down the previously overlooked players to two finalists, who seem to almost always get in.  For the 2011 class, Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham and Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders worked with the Seniors Committee.

Ham, per Gretz, made a strong case for linebacker Chris Hanburger.

“Ham told the group that when he went to the Steelers in the 1971 NFL Draft out of Penn State, the Pittsburgh coaches gave him film of Hanburger to study,” Gretz writes.  “There was no doubt in Ham’s mind that Hanburger was a legitimate candidate.  Whose word are your going to take on this subject:  Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham, or Jason Whitlock?”

Gretz essentially is admitting that the selection committee screwed up by not putting Hanburger in the Hall years earlier.  With the involvement on the selection committee of guys like Hall of Famer Jack Ham convinced that Hanburger should get in, that wouldn’t have happened.

In other words, if Ham and the other Hall of Famers had a seat at the table, perhaps Hanburger wouldn’t have been erroneously passed over.

After all, whose word should the Hall of Fame been taking on this subject:  Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham, or any member of the media?

8.  Embrace transparency.

Though many voters seek refuge in the bylaws and regard them as if they’d been etched onto stone tablets by the hand of God, many also will acknowledge the validity of Whitlock’s complaint that the process unfolds in secrecy.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC, who has nothing but the best interests of the process in mind (and I say that not because he’s a friend and a colleague but because I’ve spent enough time around him to know that’s who he is and how he operates), would welcome transparency.

I’d be fine with our votes being made public, which the Hall currently doesn’t want us to do,” King wrote in his February 7 Monday Morning Quarterback column.  “The feeling from Hall officials is if our votes are published, then some voters might vote differently; if a voter from Buffalo, for instance, didn’t vote for Andre Reed (and this is only an example, not the truth), he might face a backlash when he goes back to cover his team. Or in some small way it might affect his vote if he or she knew everyone would know exactly how the vote went. I believe it’s incumbent on us to not hide behind the privacy of the room. The Hall is a huge deal, obviously, with burgeoning interest every year. If we’re going to sit on the committee and sit in judgment of these men for enshrinement, I think you ought to know how we vote.”

If one of the most respected members of the NFL media believes that the process should be more transparent, then it’s fair to say that the process should be more transparent.  With an expanded panel of voters, anyone who covers the team on which a player played most or all of his career could abstain from voting, thereby addressing the biggest concern that King raised.

9.  Involve the NFL.

As mentioned above, the Commissioner and various owners occupy seats on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees.  But the NFL should be even more involved than that.

Though it’s called the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s essentially the NFL Hall of Fame, and the NFL should be in position to propose changes to bylaws and initiate procedural enhancements aimed at improving the process of determining each class of enshrinees.

One change the NFL would likely make relates to the consideration of off-field conduct.  Currently forbidden by the bylaws, the reality is that plenty of voters consider the things a candidate did when not playing football, especially in close cases.  The bylaws, then, should change to reflect the reality of the process.

If the NFL is the perpetual custodian of the highest levels of the sport, the NFL should have much greater involvement in and dominion over the museum that celebrates those who made the biggest impact on the game.

10.  Commit to continuous improvement and change.

Most of the criticisms of the current selection process arise from a perception that the system is stale and stagnant, in large part because change doesn’t happen often and doesn’t seem welcome.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly explains that the league constantly must look for ways to enhance and improve the game.  That same attitude must infect, and overtake, the Hall of Fame.

So many things about the selection process need to be changed because so little change has happened in the 48 years since the Hall of Fame opened.  Egos and agendas and pride and any other factor that stands in the way of change needs to be set aside, and folks need to look for ways to make the process better, and ultimately more fair.

We’re not advocating change for the sake of change.  But in this case there has been little or no change.  Changes need to be made, and then the Hall of Fame needs to be willing to consider future change without external calls for it.

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Mark Richt talks David Njoku, Brad Kaaya, more

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As the draft approaches, we’ve talked to more than a few NCAA coaches. Friday’s PFT Live include a visit from Miami coach Mark Richt, who has a couple of intriguing prospects in the 2017 draft.

I asked specifically about tight end David Njoku and quarterback Brad Kaaya.

“The big thing for him is he does have a rare athleticism at that tight end position,” Richt said of Njoku. “The length, the speed, and the quickness. Sometimes when guys are longer and they weigh 245, 250 [pounds] they don’t have the quicks. But he’s got great quick twitch. He’s got great body control. He can catch a ball in kind of any position you can ask for. He’s a much tougher online blocker than people want to give him credit for.”

The guy who threw the ball to Njoku isn’t rated as highly, but he has potential at the next level.

“I think Brad’s going to be be a guy that’s going to come into a program and they’re going to say, ‘This guy can function in this league,'” Richt said of Kaaya. “He’s going to know what to do. He loves the game of football, he’ll study, he’ll learn, he’ll know what to do and how to do it. He’ll be a guy that I think everybody would feel very comfortable in a backup role, and then I think one day he’s going to get his moment, he’s going to get his shot. And I’m sure he’ll be ready for it when the time comes. . . . If developed properly, he could have a great and long NFL career.”

Richt also provided a candid, and sensible, answer regarding how he determines what to tell scouts about his players as the draft approaches. Ultimately, it’s a report card on their football ability and effort, and Richt tells his players in advance that if they want him to say good things to the NFL scouts and coaches, the players need to do good things while playing college football.

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All top quarterback prospect scored more than 20 on Wonderlic

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The relevance of the Wonderlic test to a player’s football ability remains uncertain at best, and the inability of the NFL to secure the results justifies the refusal by players to take the test. (None have, yet.) Ideally, the league would get rid of the Wonderlic entirely, given the extent to which low scores often result in the shaming of players who take the 12-minute, 50-question test as part of a high-stress, little-sleep excursion to Indianapolis. (I’ve been guilty of that in the past, but I’ve since sworn off the practice of either trying to get the numbers or making light of those who didn’t ace it.)

Until the league scraps the test, someone will be reporting on the numbers, and certain aspects of the scores will be newsworthy.

Each year, Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel obtains and discloses the scores. This year, each of the 12 incoming quarterbacks ranked by McGinn secured at least a 20 on the test.

Leading the way was Pitt quarterback Brad Kaaya (pictured) with a 34. Here are the rest: Nathan Peterman, 33; Trevor Knight, 30; Josh Dobbs, 29; DeShone Kizer, 28; C.J. Beathard, 26; Mitchell Trubisky, 25; Davis Webb, 25; Patrick Mahomes, 24; Chad Kelly, 22; Jerod Evans, 21; Deshaun Watson, 20.

So what does it mean? No one really knows, which is all the more reason to get rid of the test. In past years, Hall of Famers like Terry Bradshaw (16) and Dan Marino (15) struggled. Jeff George had a 10.

On the other end of the spectrum, Blaine Gabbert racked up a 42, Alex Smith scored a 40, Eli Manning got a 39, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck and Tony Romo managed 37s, Aaron Rodgers scored a 35, Tom Brady scored a 33, and Johnny Football arguably was, at least for a day, Johnny Wonderlic, with 32 correct answers.

Again, it’s impossible to make any sense of the scores as it relates to eventual football skill. So if the league is looking for ways to better “respect” the incoming players, a gesture that would be easy, clear, and strong would be to eliminate the Wonderlic test from the Scouting Combine — and to instruct all teams not to conduct their own versions of it.

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Worker falls 30 feet at draft stage in Philadelphia

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As the final touches were being placed on the outdoor stage to be used during the draft in Philadelphia, a worker accidentally fell while working on the roof of the structure.

Via NBC 10 in Philadelphia, a 27-year-old man plunged 30 feet on Saturday. He was in stable condition.

The man, who fell from scaffolding, is expected to fully recover.

The draft starts Thursday night in Philadelphia, the location for the event after two years in Chicago and, before that, decades in New York.

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Buccaneers ambivalent at best about Hard Knocks

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The Buccaneers aren’t nearly as zealous about their turn on Hard Knocks as other teams have been in the past. In addition to coach Dirk Koetter’s candor about his wish that the Bucs hadn’t drawn the short straw, G.M. Jason Licht has made it clear that, if Tampa had its druthers, the league would have picked another for the assignment.

“We definitely don’t feel like we won some sort of a prize,’’ Licht said on an ESPN podcast, via Roy Cummings of FloridaFootballInsiders.com. “We got to the point where we were all on the same page and we were . . . OK with it,’’ Licht said. “I mean, we know that they have a very professional outfit. And it may not look like it from the perception of the fans, but at some point, early on the process, I was told that it’s not as intrusive as it looks.”

It’s still incredibly intrusive. And potentially disruptive. Only two good arguments support opening the team to the constant cameras and microphones: (1) players may try harder when being filmed by outsiders (Vince Lombardi apparently used to instruct NFL Films cameramen to pretend to shoot practice even when they had no film); and (2) the extra exposure prepares players and coaches for the enhanced attention that comes from a successful season.

Plenty of other arguments can be made against it, from the potential for having secrets disclosed to competitors to players overdoing it for the cameras (especially during joint practices) to players being embarrassed (like when Antonio Cromartie couldn’t remember the names of his children) to making public the various terminations of players than happen as rosters are trimmed.

Few teams really want to do it. As long as the league at large chooses to do it, the NFL will have to find someone every year to volunteer or, ultimately, to relent.

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Report: Packers’ coaches “incensed” Ted Thompson let T.J. Lang walk

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When the Packers decided not to out-bid the Lions for veteran guard T.J. Lang last month, it was business as usual: The Packers don’t overspend in free agency, and when a soon-to-be 30-year-old guard with a hip injury hits free agency, that’s the type of player you’d expect to leave in Green Bay.

Nonetheless, it apparently didn’t sit well with Green Bay’s coaching staff.

According to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Packers’ coaches were incensed that G.M. Ted Thompson let Lang get away in free agency. McGinn suggests that longtime Packers offensive line coach James Campen was working hard to keep Lang and was particularly upset when the Packers didn’t keep him.

If that’s true, it’s not unusual: Coaches are loyal to the guys who have worked hard for them. Lang has worked hard for Campen for eight years. They had a good relationship. No coach wants to see a favorite player leave.

McGinn, however, drops that nugget into a larger piece suggesting the Packers are cheap, and Thompson’s frugal approach is hurting the team on the field. McGinn notes that the Packers carried over nearly $8 million in cap space from 2016 to 2017 as apparent evidence of Thompson’s excessive frugality, but in reality that’s nothing out of the ordinary. According to NFLPA records, the Packers carried over $7.98 million in cap space, while the average NFL team carried over $9.18 million in cap space. In other words, not only was Thompson overly frugal in his handling of the salary cap last year, but he was actually less frugal than average.

McGinn also notes that over the last six years, the Packers have always ranked somewhere between seventh and 18th in the NFL in the amount of cap space they carried over from one year to the next. So the Packers are actually closer to the middle of the league in terms of carrying over cap space than they are extremely frugal.

And, of course, the Packers have made the playoffs eight years in a row. Thompson’s cautious approach to cap management is designed to keep the team in contention year after year, rather than having some boom years when they spend big on free agency, followed by some bust years when they have to cut key players just to get under the cap. It’s hard to deny that it’s working as planned.

It’s possible that Lang will play great for the Lions, that the Packers’ offensive line will decline without him, and that a year from now we’ll all be saying that Thompson made a mistake not spending the money it would have taken to keep Lang. But even if it turns out that the coaches are right to be incensed about Lang, that doesn’t mean Thompson’s thinking was flawed.

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Teenager’s wish will come true by announcing Ravens first draft pick

In recent years, the NFL has deployed a variety of ways to announce later-round picks in the NFL draft while NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has continued to hold court in the first round.

That won’t be the case if the Ravens make a first-round pick on Thursday. Assuming the Ravens don’t trade out of the first round, 14-year-old TJ Onwuanibe will be doing the honors.

Onwuanibe made the news early last week by organizing a drive to donate pajamas to terminally ill children and then made it again when Ravens coach John Harbaugh told him by video at a school assembly that he’d be announcing the Ravens’ top pick. Onwuanibe was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2015 — he is now in remission — and asked, via the Make-a-Wish Foundation, if he could announce the Ravens pick.

The Ravens are scheduled to pick 16th overall when the draft gets going in Philadelphia on Thursday night.

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Jerry Hughes: Defensive change lets us “play to our strength”

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When the Bills hired Sean McDermott as their new head coach earlier this year, it meant that their defense would be undergoing a schematic change.

Rex Ryan’s 3-4 base defense was out and McDermott, with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s help, would be installing a 4-3 look. For many Bills veterans, the shift is a familiar one as they went from a 4-3 under coordinator Jim Schwartz in 2014 to playing in Ryan’s system.

Ryan’s system generated more than a few complaints from Bills defenders over the last two years with communication issues and the complexity of the former coach’s scheme at the top of the list. Jerry Hughes, who will move from outside linebacker back to defensive end, is happy about the new look in Buffalo.

“It allows us to kind of play to our strength,” Hughes said, via the Buffalo News. “Four guys coming off the ball, creating that havoc, closing in on that pocket, putting a lot more pressure on QBs than just allowing him to stand back there and just pick us apart. … He wants us to out there and play fast and play physical. That’s the two main focal points that they’re bringing.”

Hughes had 20 sacks in his first two seasons with the Bills, but recorded just 11 over two years playing for Ryan. If he can return to form along with the rest of the defense, it will give McDermott an early edge over his predecessor when it comes to the chances of finally ending Buffalo’s playoff drought.

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Rams waive Tre’ Jackson after failed physical

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Guard Tre’ Jackson’s stay on the Rams roster turned out to be a short one.

Jackson was claimed off of waivers last week after the 2015 third-round pick’s time with the Patriots came to an end. He was back on the market a day later, however.

Jackson failed his physical with the team and was dropped from the roster as a result. Jackson missed all of the 2016 season because of a knee injury that appears to still be an issue standing between him and the football field. Jackson may get a chance to show he’s healthy down the road, but it may be a little while before he lands on another roster.

Even without Jackson, the Rams have done a lot of work on the offensive line this offseason. They’ve signed left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan as free agents and moved Rob Havenstein and Greg Robinson to new positions as they try to build a more effective unit in Sean McVay’s first season as head coach.

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Sunday morning one-liners

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Family ties top this list of reasons why the Bills should draft Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly.

Dolphins TE Julius Thomas feels like he’s “in a good comfort zone.”

Will the Patriots make any big moves this week?

Said North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky of visiting the Jets, “They seemed like they were interested, but it’s hard to tell with all these coaches and teams.”

The Ravens would like to boost their pass rush.

Will the Bengals draft a cornerback?

Discussing the possibility of the Browns drafting Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer.

A look at cornerbacks that may appeal to the Steelers.

The Texans are expected to pick a quarterback.

Ranking past Colts drafts from best to worst.

Running through the risks and rewards of the Jaguars drafting LSU RB Leonard Fournette.

Is another offensive lineman on tap for the Titans in the first round?

Broncos LB Von Miller hit up Coachella this weekend.

Will the Chiefs court more controversy in this year’s draft?

DE Khalil Mack makes this list of the best Raiders draft picks.

Chargers players share thoughts  on the team’s schedule.

Virginia Tech QB Jerod Evans would like to follow Cowboys QB Dak Prescott’s blueprint.

The Giants could look to replace DT Johnathan Hankins in the draft.

Cornerback options exist for the Eagles in the draft.

Day two draft picks will be big for the Redskins.

The Bears could take a defensive back with the third pick.

There are defensive end options for the Lions to consider in the draft.

Letting G T.J. Lang leave as a free agent was business as usual for the Packers.

The Vikings could use some new receiving options.

The Falcons are comfortable with DT Dontari Poe’s weight.

The Panthers didn’t do well in a poll of Mexican NFL fans.

If the Saints are going to make a trade for CB Malcolm Butler, it will probably be coming soon.

Will the Buccaneers use Noah Spence at outside linebacker?

Some cautionary advice about overworking Cardinals RB David Johnson.

Rams WR Mike Thomas explains the significance of his jersey number.

Scouting potential partners for Navorro Bowman at linebacker for the 49ers.

Is Washington S Budda Baker a fit for the Seahawks defense?

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Bruce Allen says he met privately with Chris Cooley, Scot McCloughan

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One of the odd things that happened as Washington fired G.M. Scot McCloughan this offseason was that Chris Cooley, a former Washington tight end who now works for the team and for a Dan Snyder-owned radio station, speculated on the air that McCloughan was drinking, and it was affecting his job. Even odder was that the team never responded to that allegation, and never acknowledged that it was inappropriate for Cooley to speculate like that.

But team president Bruce Allen tells the Washington Post that he told Cooley privately, with McCloughan present, that the comments were inappropriate.

So why didn’t Allen say so publicly? He says he just doesn’t have the time to shoot down everything said on the radio that isn’t correct.

“There was someone who said on the radio that there was jealousy. Then, there was somebody who said we were trading Kirk Cousins for Tony Romo and giving the Cowboys draft picks. Then Chris said what he said. Then somebody said ‘X, Y and Z.’ I can’t keep up with sports-talk radio; I don’t ever want to keep up with sports-talk radio. If I had Twitter, maybe I would say, ‘This is false! This is false! This is false!’ . . . Every time somebody throws something against the wall to speculate, we’re not going to respond to all that. That’s what the media does. It’s impossible to answer all of the foolishness that’s out there,” Allen said.

Of course Allen can’t be expected to respond to every single thing that’s said on sports talk radio. But this wasn’t just any old thing. This was a guy who works for the team speculating that alcoholism was affecting the team’s G.M. That would have been a time for the team president to speak up. Allen didn’t.

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Bill Parcells is glad Tony Romo retired

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Hall of Fame head coach Bill Parcells declined all media requests in the aftermath of the decision of former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to walk away from football. Parcells has now broken his silence.

I was glad he retired,” Parcells told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. “Enough is enough. You got to know, this is hazardous to your health.”

Parcells, who added that he wishes tight end Jason Witten had retired, discovered Romo in 2003 as an undrafted player for whom former Cowboys assistant and current Saints coach Sean Payton stood on the table.

But it was more than finding Romo. Parcells also developed the former Eastern Illinois quarterback.

“I really believe I handled him the right way when he was young,” Parcells said. “If I had thrown him in there, it would have been tough. He was indiscriminant. It took a while. When we got [Vinny] Testaverde down there [in 2004], it was a big help to Tony. Vinny was very meticulous, very studious, very professional in his training and his weight lifting. Tony got to see that.”

In 2006, Romo supplanted Drew Bledsoe as the starter, a job Romo held until a back injury last August opened the door for Romo to be supplanted by Dak Prescott.

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Cowboys corner Anthony Brown truly has a chip on his shoulder

Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown is using his draft status as motivation.

But it appears a bunch of internet commenters have left him a little ruffled.

Via the Dallas Morning News and their intrepid band of screenshotters, Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown briefly shared on social media a picture of his new tattoo, a potato chip with a 189 underneath it.

That’s in honor of his overall draft position last year (the sixth round), but it’s hard to imagine what he expected people were going to do with that.

He eventually deleted it, and joked that the response was overwhelming.

Whether the former Purdue cornerback makes an impression in the NFL or not, he guaranteed himself a lifetime of salty trash-talk.

And the first time he gets beaten long early in a game, some wide receiver is going to say “Bet I can’t beat just one.”

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Millions still in dispute between Patriots, Aaron Hernandez

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The death of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez concludes all criminal cases against him. The various cases arising from his NFL contract eventually will resume.

Per multiple sources, the NFL and NFL Players Association previously agreed to put any grievances on hold until all criminal prosecution of Hernandez ends.

The issues to eventually be resolved include: (1) Hernandez’s demand for the remaining $3.25 million from his 2012 signing bonus; (2) the grievance filed by the NFL and Patriots seeking repayment of all money given to Hernandez until the 2012 contract; and (3) a grievance filed by Hernandez and the NFLPA for his guaranteed salary in 2013 and 2014 and a 2014 guaranteed workout bonus. (The third grievance was dismissed without prejudice but can be re-filed.)

The Patriots pin their case primarily on the notion that Hernandez allegedly committed two murders before signing the 2012 contract. Hernandez’s argument arises from the notion that he earned the payments, and that the Patriots cut him immediately after he was arrested for killing Odin Lloyd, instead of waiting for the league to suspend him.

Any money ultimately paid to Hernandez’s estate may not remain there for very long. Wrongful death cases have been filed by the estates of Odin Lloyd, Daniel de Abreu, and Safiro Furtado. Even though Hernandez was acquitted of killing de Abreu and Furtado, a lower standard of proof could result in a finding of civil liability.

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Taylor Gabriel signs one-year tender offer with Falcons

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Falcons receiver Taylor Gabriel won’t be going anywhere.

As he was expected to do, Gabriel has signed his one-year, $2.81 million tender offer to stay with the Falcons. Gabriel was a restricted free agent, meaning any team could have signed him, but the Falcons could have matched any offer, and that team would have given the Falcons a second-round draft pick.

The Browns made the Browns-like decision to cut Gabriel last year and the Falcons picked him up and immediately benefited, getting 35 catches for 579 yards and six touchdowns out of Gabriel.

In 2018 Gabriel will become an unrestricted free agent if he doesn’t first sign an extension with the Falcons.

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Chiefs cut Jaye Howard

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Last year, the Chiefs signed defensive lineman Jaye Howard to a two-year, $10 million contract, with $8.3 million guaranteed. This year, Howard is out.

The Chiefs released Howard today, while still owing him a guaranteed $2.5 million of that contract. If another team signs Howard, the offset in his contract allows the Chiefs to deduct his 2017 salary from the amount they still owe him.

Howard played in eight games last year, starting four, before going on injured reserve with a hip injury. There’s been no recent word on the status of his hip, but the Chiefs may doubt he’ll be able to return to the form they got from him in 2015, when he played in all 16 games with 13 starts and 5.5 sacks.

The 28-year-old Howard entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2012. He played in Seattle as a rookie and then was waived before his second season and picked up by the Chiefs.

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