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Former Notre Dame nose tackle Ian Williams will sign with 49ers

Ian Williams Pic

Former Notre Dame defensive lineman Ian Williams was SI.com draft analyst Tony Pauline’s No. 1-rated undrafted prospect entering the rookie free agent signing period Monday night.

On Monday evening, Williams informed PFT that he will sign with the San Francisco 49ers.

A 6-foot-1, 319-pound nose tackle, Williams was not selected in April’s draft due to medical concerns. Williams missed four games with a knee injury as a senior, although he returned to play in the Sun Bowl against the Miami Hurricanes. He was also a full participant at February’s Scouting Combine.

Williams enters a good situation in San Francisco, which is likely to lose starting nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin in free agency. Isaac Sopoaga, a far less effective player than Franklin, is currently penciled in as the Niners’ new starter.

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Patriots long snapper unsure if Navy will let him join team

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If there was a perfectly Bill Belichick pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, it was when he used a fifth-rounder on Navy long snapper Joe Cardona.

Now, they just have to see when he’s able to join them.

Picking a specialist with ties to his father’s old school (who also plays lacrosse) checks off a lot of Belichick boxes, but Cardona said he’s not sure when he’ll be cleared to join the team because of the service commitment that comes with his degree.

The decision is out of my hands,” Cardona said, via Adam Kurkjian of the Boston Herald. “Right now I’m prepared to be the best football player I can be for the New England Patriots and the best naval officer I can be. Whatever duty I’m doing at the time, I’m doing it. I’m just prepared to do my best.”

Cardona’s the first Navy graduate to be drafted since the Packers took Bob Kuberski in the seventh round of the 1993 draft. Two others,  tight end Kevin Hickman (Detroit Lions, sixth round, 1995) and offensive lineman Mike Wahle (Packers, second round of supplemental draft, 1998) did not graduate from the Academy.

Kuberski served two years in the Navy before joining the Packers. The Patriots also signed former Navy running back Eric Kettani as an undrafted rookie in 2009. He made their practice squad in 2011, but was recalled by the Navy, before bouncing through stops in Washington, Kansas City and Jacksonville.

Of course, Roger Staubach served a five-year commitment after being chosen by the Cowboys in the 1964 draft, eventually joining the team in 1969.

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Bruce Irvin vents over non-exercise of fifth-year option

Bruce Irvin AP

The Seahawks “expect” to have linebacker Bruce Irvin on the team for a long time, but they won’t be ensuring a fifth year at this point via the exercise of the automatic option that would extend his rookie deal.  And while coach Pete Carroll said over the weekend that he met with Irvin to explain the situation and it “went very well,” it didn’t go as well last night on Twitter.

“Faced way tougher adversity getting outta them streets coming up!” Irvin said on Twitter, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.  “That’s sh-t is nothing!  F–K THAT OPTION!”

He also declared, “I am a Seahawk!”  And he expressed a desire to prove his worth.

“Worked for everything I got in my life this sh-t will b no different!” Irvin said.  “I earns my keeps!”

Irvin later apologized, sort of.

“I’m a very blunt person and that won’t ever change sorry if u dislike it,” he said.

Players prefer (or at least should prefer) not to have their fifth-year option exercised, since it means they’ll have a shot at free agency a year sooner — and a chance to gauge their value on the open market.  The Seahawks apparently believe that, come 2016, Irvin won’t be worth the $7.8 million he was due to earn under the option.

On the other hand, the decision not to pick up a player’s option represents a commentary on the player’s perceived worth, which will tend to create some ruffled feathers in the short term.

The Seahawks have not formally announced that Irvin’s option won’t be exercised.  Based on Irvin’s tweets following his meeting with Carroll, it apparently hasn’t been.

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Garrett on Hardy: Distinguish yourself with play, not what you say

Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

When someone on Twitter referred to Panthers receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess as the Twin Towers, Cowboys defensive end and former Panther Greg Hardy angered some people when he responded by saying “didn’t the twin towers get blown up lol.”

Hardy apologized the next day for mentioning “an event where no reference 2humor is ever ok” and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett also weighed in over the weekend when asked about Hardy’s comment. Garrett said that social media use is something that the team talks to players about and that they try to illustrate how to use it the right way.

“We try to emphasize that to our guys. ‘Distinguish yourself with your play, not with what you say,’ is something we talk about all the time,” Garrett said, via ESPN.com. “That’s just another medium that we have to address. Some guys just need reinforcement one way or the other when they reach out and do some of those things. It’s all a learning process. None of us are perfect so we’re just trying to address it as these things come up. I think in general we have a policy of just use good restraint when you’re involved in all that kind of stuff. Think about the implication of your words.”

It looks like the Cowboys may not need to worry about Hardy on Twitter any longer as he tweeted an apparent farewell to his followers on Sunday night.

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Brandon Carr: I’m here until I’m told otherwise

Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v Green Bay Packers AP

The Cowboys took cornerback Byron Jones with their first round pick last Thursday, a move that came after several weeks of speculation about whether the team would try to get veteran corner Brandon Carr to take a pay cut from his scheduled $8 million salary.

Carr’s agent has said that his client won’t take a pay cut to remain in Dallas, but the cornerback himself was less forthcoming over the weekend. Carr said that his contract falls into the category of things he won’t discuss in public, adding that he is looking forward to working with Jones and that he doesn’t relate the rookie’s arrival to his contract situation.

“I say we’ve got a young guy, drafted a guy, a defensive back and they thought highly of him,” Carr said, via the Dallas Morning News. “I’m looking forward to having him in the room with us and grooming him to get ready to play. I’m still here. I’m here until told otherwise. That’s my philosophy. At the end of the day, if I’m playing football then I’m going to give my all for whoever I’m playing for.”

Ultimately, any decision about a pay cut is going to come down to whether Carr and his camp believe that they can sign elsewhere for more money than the Cowboys are offering him for the coming season. At this point in the offseason, there aren’t a lot of teams looking to splash cash on veteran free agents and that may wind up playing into Dallas’s hands if things come to a head in the coming days or weeks.

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Browns to DeVante Parker’s mom: Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah

DeVante Parker AP

New Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker was relieved that the Browns decided to pass on him at No. 12.

Or at least his mother was.

We didn’t want him going to Cleveland,” Raneca Parker told Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, after the Dolphins took him with the 14th pick. “They don’t have a team, really, or a quarterback. I knew I didn’t want the Cleveland Browns.

“I know the teams the teams he could go to and the teams he couldn’t go to. We were happy with the Miami Dolphins. He was very ecstatic. We’re happy, we love the weather.”

As much as that might sting, the Browns replied, albeit indirectly, that they didn’t like Parker either.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns passed on him because “they felt he wasn’t tough enough and didn’t love the game enough.”

At least DeVante knows his mother loves him and — since he’s a receiver who might need a quarterback some day — has his best interests at heart.

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Raiders will release James Jones

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The Raiders took a late dip into free agency to sign Michael Crabtree and then they added Amari Cooper with the fourth overall pick of the draft, a pair of moves that appear to have convinced the team to move on from James Jones.

Jones told Fallon Smith of CSN Bay Area that Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie informed him that the Raiders were going to release him after one year with the team.

That one year was the first year of a three-year deal and Jones caught 73 passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns during his season in Oakland. That paltry average yards per catch speaks to Jones’s difficulty creating separation from opposing defenses last season and the two new arrivals plus the expected return of Rod Streater didn’t promise much playing time in 2015.

Jones was due to make $3.4 million in 2015 and his departure leaves no dead money on the cap. He’s the latest 2014 acquisition to leave the team after one season, joining Antonio Smith, Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Schaub and LaMarr Woodley as short-term members of the organization.

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Jameis Winston’s contract precludes him playing baseball

Jameis AP

The Buccaneers went ahead and took one potential distraction out of the way, signing top pick Jameis Winston to his rookie contract before the rest of the draft was over.

And in doing so, they eliminated another potential distraction.

According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, the contract contains a clause prohibiting Winston from playing professional baseball during the length of the deal.

While that should be an easy call, Winston created some concern in Bucs officials by expressing his desire to at least consider playing baseball at some point, saying “It has always been my dream, but I’m just playing football right now.”

That could easily be read as a lack of focus, and it was a concern to Bucs officials. They texted Winston and spoke to him after the comments became public, telling him that wasn’t OK with them if they were making him the top pick in the draft. Winston told them he understood, but was just speaking honestly and loved baseball.

But as with so many other things, the Buccaneers worked to eliminate distractions, so their No. 1 overall pick can do what he does best.

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Browns confident Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will get healthy

ifoekpreolomu AP

Heading into his senior season at Oregon, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was viewed as a likely first-round draft pick. But Ekpre-Olomu suffered a torn ACL in December, and his draft stock plummeted.

The Browns selected Ekpre-Olomu in the seventh round, and they think they got a steal. General Manager Ray Farmer said the Browns’ medical staff believes Ekpre-Olomu’s injury, while severe, is one that he can fully recover from.

“We felt like we were getting the right kind of guy that we knew had talent,” Farmer said. “He suffered an unfortunate injury. We are confident he will get healthy.”

The Browns will take it slow with Ekpre-Olomu, and it’s possible that he won’t play at all as a rookie. But if things go well, the Browns may add a first-round talent to their defense in 2016, at the minor cost of a seventh-round pick in 2015.

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Irsay increases the pressure on his employees

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Colts owner Jim Irsay recently said that it’s not “Super Bowl or bust” for coach Chuck Pagano.

More recent remarks from Irsay suggest that it eventually will be, for Pagano and everyone else.

“In the Andrew Luck era, we would like to win at least two World Championships,” Irsay said Saturday.

He’d also like to win two titles consecutively.

“When you look at that, we look at how do we build this roster over the next three years to really be able to go on a run where you can win two Super Bowls in a row, when you can really be dominant,” Irsay said.  “Again, that’s working on all phases of the ball.”

It’s hard enough to win one Super Bowl; it’s significantly harder to win two in a row.  But it’s no surprise that Irsay is reminding his employees of the high bar that has been set for the franchise.  Irsay declared in 2013 that, in parting ways with Peyton Manning, Irsay chose championships over stats.

At some point the championships need to show up.  If they don’t, pretty much everyone on the payroll but Andrew Luck will be at risk.

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Carroll says ball currently is in Wilson’s court

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Here’s an item that was largely overlooked in the aftermath of the 2015 NFL draft — the player selected with the 75th pick in the 2012 NFL draft is no closer to a new deal.

In an interview with ESPN, Carroll said that talks with quarterback Russell Wilson are “going a little slow,” but that the process is “ongoing,” via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

As it relates to the formal exchange of offers and counteroffers, it won’t be going anywhere until Wilson’s camp responds to whatever Seattle most recently put on the table.  Carroll specifically said that the team is “waiting to hear from their side.”

Condotta notes that, shortly after Carroll’s interview, Wilson responded with this message on Twitter:  “I’d rather patiently wait & see what God has in store than do something that isn’t best for my life.”

That sounds like Wilson may not be responding any time soon, if at all.  It possibly means Wilson will decide to play out his contract, forcing the Seahawks to decide whether to apply the exclusive or non-exclusive version of the franchise tag.  The exclusive version would cost upwards of $25 million for 2016 (and nearly $100 million on a year-to-year basis over three years).  The non-exclusive version would allow another team to swoop in with a major offer that, if not matched by the Seahawks, would result in Wilson changing teams — and in Seattle receiving a pair of first-round draft picks.

For now, it appears that Wilson plans to drive a hard bargain, as passively as possible.  And he has every right to drive a hard bargain, passively or aggressively.  At some point, however, it will become difficult to reconcile posturing for top dollar with the ubiquitous cry of “Go ‘Hawks!

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Bears reach deals with QB Shane Carden, 14 other undrafted rookies

Shane Carden AP

If you can’t beat him, sign his doppleganger.

East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden, who has been said to look like former Packers star Brett Favre, is one of 15 undrafted rookie free agents to agree to deals with the Bears, the club said on its website on Sunday evening.

Carden (6-2, 218) threw for more than 4,000 yards in each of his final two seasons with the Pirates. In this span, he threw 66 TDs and just 20 picks in 1,166 passes. Carden will vie to stick on a depth chart that includes Jay Cutler, Jimmy Clausen and David Fales.

The Bears also reached deals with these undrafted rookies: TCU LB Jonathan Anderson, Rice CB Bryce Callahan, East Central CB Qumain Black, Toledo PK Jeremiah Detmer, Central Florida CB Jacoby Glenn, Coastal Carolina OG Chad Hamilton, UCLA S Anthony Jefferson, Arkansas OT Cameron Jefferson, Old Dominion LS Rick Lovato, Illinois State WR Cameron Meredith, Baylor WR Levi Norwood, Miami (Fla.) DE Olsen Pierre, Washington LB John Timu, Alabama TE Brian Vogler.

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Jason Garrett: Cowboys have the right support for Randy Gregory

randygregory AP

Randy Gregory was a top 10 talent who slipped to the Cowboys at No. 60 in the draft primarily because of off-field concerns. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says those concerns are alleviated by the support system the team will have in place for Gregory.

“We believe we have the right kind of environment here with the Cowboys,” Garrett said on NFL Network. “We have an excellent coaching staff who believes in coaching the man first, and we also have an excellent support staff who can help our players in every way possible. . . . Some of the off-the-field concerns that we have with Randy, we feel like we can help address.”

The details of Gregory’s off-field concerns remain unclear, although he reportedly has mental health issues. Football locker rooms haven’t always been the most supportive places for people who need to work out such issues, but Garrett is vowing that the Cowboys will take good care of Gregory.

And, of course, on the field the Cowboys think they got themselves a great player.

“Randy Gregory is a very natural pass rusher,” Garrett said. “He seems to have a knack for getting to the quarterback.”

Gregory’s job in Dallas is simple: Get to the quarterback. The Cowboys’ job of supporting Gregory will be more complex, and may determine just how successful he is in the NFL.

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49ers pick up a pair of 2016 draft picks

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The 49ers will have a little added picking power in the 2016 NFL Draft.

In trades this week, San Francisco snagged a pair of extra selections in next year’s draft, getting a fifth-round pick from San Diego when trading down on Thursday and a sixth-round pick from Dallas for a 2015 seventh-round pick on Saturday.

The Eagles came away with the highest future pick, snagging a 2016 third-rounder from Detroit for a 2015 fourth-round pick. However, the Lions are likely to get a 2016 third-rounder as a compensatory pick after losing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in free agency.

Here is the full list of future selections acquired during the 2015 NFL Draft:

Philadelphia: 2016 third-round selection (from Detroit).

San Francisco: 2016 fifth-round selection (from San Diego), 2016 sixth-round selection (from Dallas).

Detroit: 2016 fifth-round selection (from Denver).

Washington: 2016 sixth-round selection (from New Orleans).

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Maccagnan: Zac Stacy trade not related to concerns about Stevan Ridley’s knee

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Instead of taking a shot on a rookie running back with a seventh-round pick on Saturday, the Jets opted to trade it to the Rams in exchange for Zac Stacy.

Stacy, a 2013 fifth-round pick, became an odd man out in St. Louis when the team drafted Todd Gurley in the first round on Thursday. Reports that he wanted a trade came a short time later and the Jets decided to take the plunge.

Stacy joins a depth chart that also features Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and Stevan Ridley, who the Jets signed as a free agent this offseason as he recovers from a torn ACL. Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan said Saturday that concerns about Ridley’s return weren’t the reason why the team made the deal for Stacy.

“We thought the idea of bringing Zac in for that kind of investment would be very beneficial and increase the competition at that position,” Maccagnan said, via ESPN.com. “He’s had success in the league. Two years ago, he was close to a 1,000-yard back. This past season, his production wasn’t quite as high, but we do think he’s a good-caliber running back.”

It may not be the knee that made Maccagnan pull the trigger on the trade, but the Jets would seem to have some concern about Ivory and/or Ridley being right for the job to add another back with a similar style to the mix.

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24 early entries went undrafted

georgefarmer AP

The first two days of the NFL draft were big for underclassmen, with 43 of them selected. But the third day of the NFL draft wasn’t as kind to players who turned pro early.

Only 17 underclassmen were selected in Rounds 4-7, which brought the total of underclassmen drafted to 60. With 84 underclassmen declaring for this year’s draft, that means there were 24 players who gave up their remaining NCAA eligibility and weren’t chosen at all.

That doesn’t mean those players made the wrong call — some of them will make NFL rosters as undrafted free agents — but it does serve as a reminder that players need to think long and hard about whether they’re doing the right thing if they decide to give up their college scholarships for a shot at the pros.

Some of those players who turned pro early in January now may be coming to the realization that they’re unlikely ever to make money playing football. Here’s hoping they learned something while they were in college.

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