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Mendenhall deletes his “truther” tweet

Super Bowl XLV Getty Images

We’ve been keeping a close eye on the Twitter page of Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall for any further messages addressing his eyebrow-raising comments from Monday regarding Osama bin Laden and 9/11.  Though no new messages have appeared, Mendenhall quietly has censored one of his tweets.

Gone into the Internet abyss is the following message, which expresses skepticism regarding the notion that hijacked planes took down the World Trade Center:  “We’ll never know what really happened.  I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”

As far as we can tell, Mendenhall has dumped no other messages (including the one in which Mendenhall says “[w]e’ve only heard one side“) and he has not posted any new ones yet.

We’ve got a feeling that football fans — particularly Steelers fans — will continue to seethe at least until Mendenhall provides a full and complete apology.

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Draft may have a dozen receivers good enough to go in the first round

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As college football becomes more and more of a pass-first game, more and more wide receivers are entering the NFL ready to contribute immediately. We saw that in the 2014 draft, which produced five first-round picks in Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin. And we may see that to an even greater extent in this year’s draft.

In fact, NBC’s Cris Collinsworth said on PFT Live that the wide receiver class this year features “up to 11 or 12, quality wise, who in any other year you would say, ‘That’s a first-round talent’.”

Collinsworth isn’t saying there will actually be 11 or 12 first-round wide receivers. There may not even be half of that. But Collinsworth thinks this year’s receiver class is so good that several first-round talents will be available on the second day.

“There will still be quality left in the second round,” Collinsworth said. “I think you’ll see some teams that really want one of these receivers, say, ‘I’m going to wait until the second round.’ But second-round receivers will be first-round players in this draft.”

Collinsworth has been scouting the draft in conjunction with Pro Football Focus and will give more of his thoughts on a PFF NFL Draft special today at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. PFF graded the top receivers from 2014 as Alabama’s Amari Cooper, Louisville’s DeVante Parker, West Virginia’s Kevin White, USC’s Nelson Agholoran and Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong. PFF also sees promise in Washington State’s Vince Mayle, Miami’s Philip Dorsett, Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, Michigan State’s Tony Lippett and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. (Dorial Green-Beckham wasn’t graded because PFF evaluated tape from the 2014 season only, and Green-Beckham didn’t play in 2014.)

A wealth of talent at wide receiver is heading to the NFL this year. Just like last year.

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McCloughan thinks a trade could happen if Leonard Williams falls to 5

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We noted this morning that USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams is viewed by many as the best player in this year’s draft, but might still be available when Washington is on the clock at No. 5. If that happens, Washington General Manager Scot McCloughan will feel like he’s in the catbird seat.

McCloughan said at his pre-draft press conference today that if Williams is available at No. 5, he expects his phone to be ringing from teams that would like to trade up and get him. After signing a couple of big defensive linemen in free agency in Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea, McCloughan doesn’t necessarily think he needs to draft another big defensive lineman at No. 5.

“It might bring a trade more into play,” he said. “We do feel good about our defensive front.”

McCloughan indicated that an edge pass rusher may be a more important priority for Washington than a 300-pounder like Williams.

“A pass rusher, that’s the most important thing,” he said. “They’re hard to find. We’re very lucky to have Ryan [Kerrigan] on the team, he’s one of those players, and hopefully not just in the first but throughout this draft we’ll add more pass rushers.”

The best-case scenario for Washington could be to trade the fifth overall pick to a team that wants to get Williams, then to pick up a pass rusher later in the first round. Then again, if Williams is as good as the draft experts think he is, maybe the best-case scenario for Washington would be to stay put and draft him.

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PFT Draft Prop No. 3: Marcus Mariota’s draft position: 2.5

Marcus Mariota AP

Leading up to Thursday’s NFL draft, we’ll put on our oddsmaking hats, Ace Rothstein glasses and Terry Benedict suits and set one proposition “bet” per day for PFT Planet to ponder. At the conclusion of the draft, we’ll see how PFT Planet did on the wagers, which are for entertainment purposes only.

PFT Draft Prop No. 3: Over-Under on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota’s draft position: 2.5.

As our draft props go, this is the most straight-forward of them all. It’s this simple: Do you see Mariota being taken No. 1 or No. 2 overall, or do you see him sliding beyond those first two picks?

The uncertainty of how the Titans will proceed with the second overall selection adds to the intrigue regarding Mariota. If the Titans want to move the pick to a club seeking a quarterback, they can surely trade down for an attractive package of picks and/or players.

So let’s get right to it. Let us know when you believe Mariota hears his name called via the poll and in the comments.

Previous draft props

PFT Draft Prop No. 1: Over-Under on first-round RBs: 2.5.

PFT Draft Prop No. 2: Amari Cooper’s draft position: 4.5.

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Washington picks up 2016 option on Robert Griffin III’s contract

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Word on Monday morning was that the Redskins were likely to pick up the 2016 option on quarterback Robert Griffin III’s option and it moved to a done deal in the middle of the day.

Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan announced that the team is exercising their option on Griffin’s pick ahead of the May 3 deadline to do so. The move puts Griffin in position to earn just over $16 million in 2016, which the Redskins can rescind if Griffin is healthy but the option is guaranteed against injury.

That’s not a small concern for a player who has dealt with serious injuries in his three-year NFL career, although Griffin insisted this month that the option question wasn’t a big concern for him. Instead, Griffin said that he’s focused on improving his performance after two rough seasons.

“It’s not about talking about it; It’s about being about it,” Griffin said. “That’s what my goal is this entire offseason. You got to talk small, play big, take care of the little things for the big things and everything will fall into place.”

Given the price they paid to acquire Griffin and their willingness to exercise the option, the team surely hopes that everything does fall into place. Despite that, McCloughan said Monday that the decision doesn’t change the team’s draft strategy and that they’d still pick a quarterback with the fifth pick if that’s the best available player.

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PFT Live: Cris Collinsworth, Peter King, Eagles talk with Tim McManus

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The draft is just three days away and PFT Live will be your daily spot for everything you need to know until the names start coming off the board.

On Monday’s show, Mike Florio will welcome Cris Collinsworth of Football Night in America to the show and find out what he thinks of this year’s draft class. We’ll do the same with Sunday night colleague Peter King. King will expand on some items from this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback column, including some talk about what the Titans will do with the second pick of the draft.

Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com and 97.5 The Fanatic will be on the show to give us an Eagles-centric look at how things might play out later this week while Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer will do the same from the Browns’ point of view. We’ll also welcome Bob Glauber of Newsday during a busy Monday.

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

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

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Antonio Brown at Steelers workouts

Antonio Brown AP

What a difference a week can make.

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown didn’t report to the start of the team’s offseason conditioning work along with his teammates and his absence was tied to a report that he was looking for a new contract and mulling an extended absence that could lead him to miss mandatory work at both minicamp and training camp. Brown chimed in later in the week to say that he was hanging out with his new child and was looking forward to getting back to work with the team.

The wait for his return to the team’s facility wasn’t a particularly long one. The Steelers posted some pictures from Monday’s workout session and Brown is among the featured players.

Brown’s an integral part of Pittsburgh’s offensive plans, but his chances of getting a new contract three years into the six-year deal he signed before the 2012 season were not good given the Steelers’ history of dealing with extensions for current players. We’ll see if his arrival leads to any discussions about reworking the existing deal to guarantee more money or otherwise adjust it to make Brown happier, but it would seem a holdout is unlikely at any point this offseason.

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Trent Baalke: No pressure to take a wide receiver

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The 49ers have reshuffled their receiving corps this offseason.

Torrey Smith and Jerome Simpson have come onboard while Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd have moved along (Lloyd is unsigned, but there’s no indication the 49ers are interested in another year) after catching 117 passes for the team last season. With Simpson a flier after missing all of last season and the non-Anquan Boldin returnees accounting for little production, there’s been speculation that the 49ers will be bolstering the position this week at the draft.

General Manager Trent Baalke is predictably evasive about the possibility, choosing to point out that you can only play so many wideouts. Baalke also pointed to Simpson’s pre-2014 production and said that the team wants to give young players Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton more of an opportunity while explaining why he doesn’t feel like picking a wideout is a must.

“Now, is that to say we’re not going to make a pick, look for another wide receiver?” Baalke said, via ESPN.com. “I’m not saying that at all. But [I] don’t feel like we have to be pressured into making a decision like that.”

The 49ers have drafted at least one widout in every draft since 2003, so it’s a good bet that one of their nine picks will go in that direction. If they do opt for one in the first round, they’ll hope to do better than they did when they opened their 2012 draft by taking A.J. Jenkins.

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Washington “likely” to pick up option on Griffin

Robert Griffin III AP

For the first-round picks selected in 2012, the deadline for picking up the fifth-year option arrives on May 3.  In Washington, a decision on quarterback Robert Griffin III hasn’t officially been made.

According to Albert Breer of NFL Media, the team is “likely” to pick up Griffin’s option for 2016.

If the option is exercised, Griffin will have a $16.1 million base salary in what would become the fifth and final year of his rookie deal.  The payment is guaranteed for injury only until the start of the next league year, at which time it becomes fully guaranteed.

The risk for Washington comes from the possibility that Griffin would suffer an injury that extends from 2015 into 2016.  If that happens, they’ll be on the hook for the full amount of the money.

The real question is whether Washington has leaked word of their “likely” intentions to obscure their draft plans.  For example, by creating the impression that they’re planning to exercise the option on Griffin by May 3, Washington could be plotting to take Marcus Mariota — if he’s still on the board.   And with Washington creating the impression they’re not inclined to take Mariota, teams like the Browns and Eagles wouldn’t feel compelled to trade up to No. 2, No. 3, or No. 4 to get Mariota; instead, they can try to swing a deal with Washington at No. 5.

There’s also a chance that Washington has gone next level, hoping that other teams will interpret the leak of their desire to keep Griffin as a smokescreen for their interest in Mariota.

Either way, we’ll have an answer by Thursday night.  Which can’t come soon enough.

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The Falcons could be eye-balling a move for Dante Fowler

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The Falcons have made at least one trade in each of General Manager Thomas Dimitroff’s seven drafts in charge, some of them bigger than others.

And according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the next one might be to acquire the pass-rusher they’ve needed for a few years.

With the traditional “it shouldn’t be a surprise” qualifier, Ledbetter suggests the target is Florida defensive end Dante Fowler.

New Falcons coach Dan Quinn recruited Fowler when he was a Gators assistant and coached him two years, but the need goes beyond their familiarity. The Falcons badly need to find a pass-rusher to go along with their defensive makeover this offseason.

“There is a lot of discussions already about moving both ways with a lot of our peers in the league,” Dimitroff said. “A lot of it has to do with what goes down with the top three picks. That’s going to set the tone for how much movement there is into the top 10 and even in the top five.”

That third spot, currently owned by Jacksonville, could be the pivot for the Falcons, as the Jaguars could justify using it on Fowler, defensive tackle Leonard Williams or a receiver such as Amari Cooper. Then again, the Jaguars have sufficient needs that they could find a fit deeper in the draft, and the eighth spot would suffice.

Jacksonville general manager Dave Caldwell worked for Dimitroff, so there’s also a familiarity there that could help facilitate a deal.

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Jerrell Freeman signs RFA tender with Colts

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The Colts opened up their offseason workout program without linebacker Jerrell Freeman last week with Freeman’s absence reportedly related to his desire for a longer commitment than the one-year restricted free agent tender offer the Colts extended before the start of free agency.

By not signing his tender, Freeman kept open the possibility that a team other than the Colts might want to sign him to such a deal but the need to hand over a second-round pick as compensation for signing the three-year vet may have kept suitors at bay. That possibility disappeared when the deadline to sign with other teams passed last Friday, which means that Freeman’s options pretty much dropped to signing the tender with the Colts or sitting out the season.

He chose door No. 1 and the Colts announced Monday that Freeman has signed his tender. He’ll make $2.35 million in 2016 as a result and will join D’Qwell Jackson and Nate Irving to form an experienced trio at inside linebacker for Indianapolis.

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Greg Hardy appeal was filed Friday

Greg Hardy AP

On Wednesday, the NFL suspended Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy 10 games.  On Friday, the NFLPA filed a formal appeal of the suspension.

Per a league source, the appeal officially was filed Friday night.  It’s believed that the appeal will focus on the application of the new Personal Conduct Policy standards and processes retroactively to conduct that occurred before the NFL dramatically altered its approach to domestic violence cases.

The league, learning from a lawsuit filed by Adrian Peterson that resulted in a ruling that the new standard can’t apply retroactively, claims that the suspension was imposed under the former policy.  However, it’s obvious that the post-Ray Rice realities of the NFL influenced dramatically a situation that has resulted in Hardy missing 15 games with pay in 2014 and 10 games in 2015 for a first offense that resulted in no criminal liability, due to a civil settlement reached with his accuser, Nicole Holder.  Indeed, Hardy played last year in Week One — and then the Ray Rice elevator video was released, and everything changed.

Under the former policy and procedure, a first-time offender typically received a two-game suspension without pay.  In this specific case, the NFL has separated the incident into four separate violations; in connection with the appeal, the NFLPA undoubtedly will explore whether the NFL took one general incident and broke it into subsets that were then disciplined individually.

According to the source, the appeal also asks the NFL to designate a neutral arbitrator.  The league agreed to use a neutral arbitrator in the appeal of Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension in 2014, but the league declined to appoint a neutral arbitrator in the appeal of Adrian Peterson’s suspension.  While the neutral arbitrator overturned the Rice suspension as a second punishment for the same conduct that had previously resulted in a two-game suspension, the neutral arbitrator also noted that the NFL could have imposed an indefinite suspension in the first place.

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Browns break bread with Breshad Perriman

Breshad Getty Images

Eventually, it will be easier to list the teams that haven’t shown interest in former Central Florida receiver Breshad Perriman.

Per a league source, Browns G.M. Ray Farmer and other team executives had dinner with Perriman on Sunday night in Orlando.

Perriman last week visited the Jets, Titans, and Dolphins, and he has drawn interest from the likes of the Panthers, Bears, Lions, Steelers, Eagles, and Ravens.

Mike Mayock of NFL Network previously pegged four receivers for the top 20:  Amari Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker, and Perriman.  Cooper is regarded as the clear favorite to go first.  After that, it could be any of the other three.

The Browns currently hold the No. 12 and No. 19 picks in round one.  The extra first-round selection resulted from the decision in 2014 not to take receiver Sammy Watkins but instead to trade down with the Bills.  The Browns ultimately selected no receivers in last year’s draft, even though they knew Josh Gordon was facing a one-year suspension.  (It later became a 10-game suspension, but he has since been suspended for another year.)

Regardless of the order in which they come off the board, look for another round one run on receivers — especially after the five taken in the first round last year (Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin) have shown that, as football becomes more and more of a passing game, more and more guys coming out of college are pretty good at catching the ball.

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Trading up for quarterbacks remains a risky proposition

J.P. Losmanwlynch AP

Perhaps there’s a reason the Titans haven’t found a taker for the second pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and a chance to grab Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

It might be because there are some students of history out there.

As noted by Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times, since 2000 there have been 14 instances of a team trading up to draft a quarterback in the first round, with most of them going horribly wrong.

While the Giants (Eli Manning, 2004) and Ravens (Joe Flacco, 2008) have won Super Bowls with those quarterbacks, most of the rest were busts.

A few such as Michael Vick (Falcons, 2001), Jay Cutler (Broncos, 2006) and Mark Sanchez (Jets, 2009) have had some degrees of success, but the rest of the list should give you chills: Kyle Boller (Ravens, 2003), J.P. Losman (Bills, 2004), Jason Campbell (Washington, 2005), Brady Quinn (Browns, 2007), Josh Freeman (Buccaneers, 2009), Tim Tebow (Broncos, 2010), Blaine Gabbert (Jaguars, 2011), Robert Griffin III (Washington, 2012) and Johnny Manziel (Browns, 2014).

What does that tell us? Mostly that quarterbacks have always been, and remain scarce. That leads to desperation. And desperation leads to bad moves. And when you see teams such as the Browns and Washington on that list twice, it points to the kind of organizational instability that leads to rash decision-making.

That’s not to say Mariota is going to be a bust, but it does show that when teams reach for a quarterback, they often pay too high a price for their hope, and it often costs coaches and G.M.s their jobs.

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Monday morning one-liners

Bloomberg & Vanity Fair Cocktail Reception Following The 2015 WHCA Dinner Getty Images

Which quarterbacks are potential draft additions for the Bills?

A call for the Dolphins to make character a bigger concern in personnel decisions.

Sorting through players who may be available to the Patriots with the 32nd overall pick.

The Jets remain in need of a pass rusher.

Is offensive firepower coming the Ravens’ way in the draft?

Looking back at the Bengals’ 2012 draft class.

Texas DT Malcom Brown could fill a need for the Browns.

Steeler fans shopped for L.C. Greenwood memorabilia over the weekend.

The Texans have done well finding value in the draft.

Breaking down what the Colts are looking for at safety.

Six players that the Jaguars should consider in the first round.

Someone finally asks about the Derek Hagan angle to the Titans signing Hakeem Nicks.

Defensive line could be the Broncos’ target early in the draft.

LB Dee Ford is confident going into his second season with the Chiefs.

Ted Hendricks and Ben Davidson are the most memorable No. 83’s in Raiders history.

A positive take on the Chargers waiting to deal with S Eric Weddle’s contract.

Cowboys QB Tony Romo was part of the football contingent at the White House Correspondents dinner.

QB Eli Manning’s lack of concern about a new deal with the Giants may be informed by his brother’s experiences.

Assessing the Eagles’ need for cornerback help.

The Redskins will have their pre-draft press conference on Monday.

What can the Bears learn from the recent history of seventh picks?

Lions QB Matthew Stafford isn’t sweating the team’s left guard situation.

Defensive tackle could be the route the Packers go early in the draft.

The Vikings have the 110th pick for the second time in their history.

A history of Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff’s first-round selections.

The Panthers react to their schedule for the 2015 season.

Defense has been the focus of the Saints’ pre-draft visits.

Weighing defensive line possibilities in the draft for the Buccaneers.

Said Cardinals coach Bruce Arians of draft week, “You tell the truth and everybody thinks you’re lying.”

It’s not their biggest need, but a pass rusher could be the best value for the Rams in the first round.

Several cornerbacks could be in play for the 49ers in the first round.

A look at the Seahawks linebackers heading into the draft.

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Jameis returns to Tampa for Derrick Brooks event

Winston AP

In three days, the Buccaneers officially will be on the clock with the first overall pick in the draft.  All signs continue to point to Jameis Winston’s name that will be written on the card.

Beyond the team making known the work that has been done to investigate Winston’s background and to obtain explanations for multiple off-field entanglements and to conclude that he’s not an off-field entanglement waiting to happen at the next level, Winston has made multiple visits to Tampa, presumably to get fans accustomed to him and comfortable with the apparently inevitability that he’ll be the pick.

On Sunday night, Winston returned to Tampa for a charity event held by Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks.  Via JoeBucsFan.com, Winston was photographed with Brooks and Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders, both of whom (like Winston) played college football at Florida State.

As noted by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith also attended the event — and Winston will be playing in the associated golf tournament on Monday, with current and former Buccaneers.

Brooks has made clear his hope that the Buccaneers will draft Winston, and men like Brooks and Sanders are expected to directly mentor him at the next level.

While none of this means the Buccaneers definitely will pick Winston, it’s just another piece of evidence that in a tapestry that strongly suggests Winston soon will be in Tampa on a more regular basis.

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