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Free agents can’t practice with teams until August 4th

Divisional Playoffs - Seattle Seahawks v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The opening of the free agency signing period on Friday promises to be one of the most frenzied atmospheres around the league that any of us can remember.

Once everyone is signed, we’ll all probably need a break. Good thing the CBA provides one.

Language in the CBA prohibits players who sign new contracts from practicing with their teams until the start of the new league year. That will not occur until Thursday, August 4th, almost a week after the start of the signing period and the start of all 32 training camps. The rule applies to players re-signing with their old teams as well since they will not be reporting under an existing contract. Teams like the Saints, with 26 free agents, would be affected heavily by this rule as they try to adapt to the condensed offseason timeline.

Mike Sando of ESPN.com points out that the rule could also wind up affecting players who get traded. He uses Kevin Kolb of the Eagles as an example, pointing out that the acquiring team would likely want to redo the contract and that would affect Kolb’s availability to practice with his new offense.

The rule only applies to veteran players, so rookies, drafted or undrafted, are able to start practicing as soon as they sign their contracts. If they sign with a team with a lot of free agent acquisitions or retentions, they’ll have a little extra opportunity to show their stuff before the vets arrive.

Teams bringing in new quarterbacks figure to be the most affected by this rule, although players who fall under its auspices are able to do classroom work and other non-physical activities with the team. That said, there’s not going to be much about this breakneck period that projects well for teams in serious flux and this rule serves to underline that fact.

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Jets safety Jaiquawn Jarrett signs RFA tender

Jaiquawn Jarrett AP

A former second-round pick of the Eagles who’s rebuilt his career with the Jets has officially re-signed with New York.

Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, a restricted free agent, inked his one-year tender with the Jets on Friday, the club said.

The 25-year-old Jarrett started 5-of-14 games for the Jets in 2014, recording 40 tackles and intercepting two passes. Overall, he’s played 30-of-32 games with New York over the last two seasons. Jarrett will vie for playing time in a safety corps that includes 2014 first-round pick Calvin Pryor and ex-Charger Marcus Gilchrist.

A Temple product, Jarrett was the No. 54 overall selection in 2011. However, he lasted just 13 games with Philadelphia, which waived him early in the 2012 campaign. Nevertheless, Jarrett overcame that setback and earned his way back into the NFL, and he will be able to test unrestricted free agency after this season.

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Buccaneers re-sign RB Bobby Rainey

Bobby Rainey, Will Sutton AP

Running back Bobby Rainey has signed his one-year contract offer from the Buccaneers, the club said Friday afternoon.

A restricted free agent, Rainey was tendered a one-year, $1.542 million contract.

The 27-year-old Rainey has been one of the Buccaneers’ reserve tailbacks over the last two seasons. He rushed for 406 yards and racked up 315 yards receiving for Tampa Bay in 2014, appearing in 15 games (five starts). Rainey previously had stints with Baltimore and Cleveland.

Doug Martin, Charles Sims, Mike James and Rainey are the top veteran options in the backfield for Tampa Bay. A three-year starter, Martin has struggled to regain top form after a promising rookie season.

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Eagles withdraw restricted free agent offer to Chris Polk

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

Friday is the final day for restricted free agents to solicit offers from other teams, but that won’t stop running back Chris Polk from talking to teams other than the Eagles.

Polk was tendered at the original round level by the Eagles, which gave them the right to match any outside bid for Polk’s services. Polk didn’t sign his tender and didn’t sign an offer sheet with anyone else, but the league’s daily transaction report for Friday shows that the Eagles have withdrawn their $1.54 million tender offer for Polk’s services.

That makes Polk, who ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns last season, an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any other team at any point. That should give him an opportunity to find a home with fewer players in front of him on the depth chart as playing time in Philly figured to be sparse with DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles on the depth chart.

Whether he’ll find that spot on a depth chart before the draft is unclear. The general consensus is that it is a deep draft for running backs and teams may opt for younger backs before considering adding Polk to the mix.

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St. Louis stadium leaders optimistic about their efforts

Dave Peacock, Bob Blitz AP

The group trying to build a new stadium in St. Louis had a chance to pitch their plan to the NFL this week, and they apparently think it went well.

Stadium task force leader David Peacock said he was encouraged by the feedback he got from the league, as they try to build something that will either keep the Rams or attract another team if Stan Kroenke takes his to California.

We’re going to continue down the path we’re on,” Peacock told the Associated Press. “There was nothing coming out of this meeting to make us change course.”

Peacock and Robert Blitz didn’t get into many of the specifics of their 40-minute presentation, saying they showed league officials revised stadium plans and a video presentation about the $1 billion project.

Of course, there’s also the small matter of coming up with that money, as Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon believes they can extend the bonds funding the Edward Jones Dome (i.e. public money) to pay up to $400 million, with seat licenses representing another $150 million. That leaves around $450 million for the league and Kroenke to come up with.

Of course, Kroenke seems intent on spending his money in Inglewood instead, so the civic effort in St. Louis might be pitching that plan to someone else.

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Report: Chiefs exercise 2016 option on Dontari Poe’s contract

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

When MDS ran through the pending fifth-year team options for 2012, he listed Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe as one of the players who would have their options exercised.

It seems the Chiefs agree with his assessment of the situation. Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that the Chiefs have picked up the option on the fifth year of Poe’s rookie deal, which will pay him a little more than $6 million.

Poe has been a starter since the moment the Chiefs picked him with the 11th overall pick of the draft and he’s been an impact player for just about the same period of time. He’s made the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons while racking up 10.5 sacks and providing Kansas City with a lot of push in the middle of the defensive line.

The Chiefs and Poe can work on a long-term contract between now and the expiration of the deal at the end of the 2016 season. That deal should be a lucrative one based on what Poe’s done in his first three years and doing so would allow the Chiefs to avoid the franchise tag headaches they’re experiencing with Justin Houston this offseason.

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Lions talking extension with DeAndre Levy, waiting to talk to Haloti Ngata

Haloti Ngata AP

Lions president Tom Lewand said early this month that and linebacker DeAndre Levy had yet to open up contract negotiations and, as a result, he couldn’t say whether the team’s talks with Levy would extend past the start of training camp.

Lewand should have a better idea of the timing the next time he addresses Levy’s contract situation. General Manager Martin Mayhew said Friday that the team has opened up talks with Levy. There wasn’t any characterization of the talks beyond “ongoing,” which means they’re further along than talks with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

Ngata is set to become a free agent after next season, but Mayhew said that the team wants to give Ngata time to settle after the March trade that brought him to Detroit.

“I think they know we have an interest in doing something,” Mayhew said, via ESPN.com. “And I think we know they have an interest in doing something, but he just got here for his offseason program. Letting him get comfortable, get situated, and at some point we’ll start that dialogue.”

Mayhew also touched on safety James Ihedigbo’s absence from voluntary workouts, saying he understood from his own playing career the veteran’s feeling that he’s underpaid and deserving of a new deal. There wasn’t much sign about whether the Lions were amenable to giving him one, which leaves that as another situation to monitor as the offseason continues to unfold in Detroit.

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Greg Hardy flap escalated when teammate “called him a woman beater”

Greg Hardy AP

It didn’t take much imagination to see the latest twist in the Greg Hardy story, after he was involved in a verbal altercation with a teammate during the first week of Cowboys conditioning workouts

According to Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports, the incident escalated when Davon Coleman referred to Hardy’s history of domestic violence.

He called him a woman beater,” a source told Getlin.

The first reports from FOX Sports said Hardy challenged Coleman’s effort during conditioning work.

Hardy is suspended for 10 games for last year’s domestic violence incident involving an ex-girlfriend. He has appealed that suspension, as you’d imagine.

But if Hardy can’t get through the first week of running and weightlifting without someone getting under his skin, imagine what’s going to be said when he takes the field against another team.

Coleman made the Cowboys last year as an undrafted rookie, and started the opener before injuries derailed his season.

But they obviously have less invested in him than Hardy, so it’ll be curious to see how this story develops. But a guy who got a harsher-than-he-expected punishment for a number of mitigating factors isn’t doing a good job of showing he can control his temper.

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Chiefs have spoken to Justin Houston’s representatives in “last three days”

Justin Houston AP

Mike Florio reported last week that the Chiefs had yet to start contract talks with linebacker Justin Houston about a long-term contract since using the franchise tag on their top pass rusher before the start of free agency.

Those talks have apparently gotten underway. Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said Friday that he’d spoken to Houston’s camp this week.

“If you’re going to ask me if I’ve had conversations with his representatives, I have,” Dorsey said, via the Kansas City Star. “I’ve had conversations with his representatives — or we have — in the last three days.”

There was nothing further about the content of the conversations, but the fact that the two sides are talking is an encouraging sign for their chances of agreeing to a multi-year deal before the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign them. Dorsey and the rest of the Chiefs brass have remained optimistic about their ability to get things done with Houston, so we’ll see in the coming weeks if this is the first step toward an agreement or if the talks lessen that optimism.

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Report: Greg Hardy has “verbal altercation” with teammate on Friday

Greg Hardy AP

The 10-game suspension that Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy received from the league this week doesn’t kick in until the start of the regular season, which means Hardy is free to take part in offseason workouts with his teammates.

One of those workouts was reportedly the setting for a contentious moment between Hardy and one of those teammates on Friday. Mike Garafolo and Alex Marvez of FOX Sports report that Hardy was involved in a “verbal altercation” with defensive end Davon Coleman during the team’s conditioning session and had to be separated by teammates.

Coleman’s agent Michael Loeffler confirmed that the two men exchanged words and that there was no physical fight between the two men. The incident was reportedly sparked by Hardy taking issue with Coleman’s effort during the conditioning work.

While it certainly isn’t ideal for two teammates to get into a scrap of any kind, these kinds of things happen often during practices and teams move past them without further incident. We’ll see if this falls into the same category and the Cowboys surely hope that it does so that this week’s negative headlines regarding Hardy are the last ones he’ll generate while a member of the team.

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T.J. Clemmings dealing with stress fracture in his foot

Notre Dame v Pittsburgh Getty Images

Pitt offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings ranks among the top players at the position in this year’s draft class, but teams may be reevaluating where he falls on their draft boards.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Clemmings has a stress fracture in his foot that was discovered during a recent visit with a team. He adds that Clemmings’s agent Mike McCartney said that Clemmings had no idea of any problem with his foot and that Clemmings has felt no pain as a result of the fracture.

It’s hard to know how much the discovery will impact Clemmings’s draft standing as different teams will surely have different opinions about how much of a red flag it is for a prospect whose landing spot has been projected anywhere from the middle of the first round to the top of the second.

There are several tackle prospects with similar projections, including LSU’s La’El Collins, Florida’s D.J. Humphries and Oregon’s Jake Fisher, which could make Clemmings’s injury fodder for some last-minute shuffling as teams figure out their plans for next week.

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Dolphins sidestep questions about Dion Jordan

Dion Jordan AP

Dolphins pass-rusher Dion Jordan is skipping the team’s offseason conditioning workouts.

Which is certainly his right, they’re voluntary.

But the tone Dolphins officials took today regarding the 2013 No. 3-overall pick was certainly interesting.

Via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Dolphins executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum was asked about Jordan’s missing the start of workouts and replied: “If someone choses not to be here, that’s their decision.”

Later in the press conference, General Manager Dennis Hickey was asked about Jordan’s love for football, before pausing and saying the press conference was about next week’s draft.

They later sidestepped questions as to whether Jordan would be on hand for mandatory minicamps.

Jordan has been a disappointment in every sense of the word for the Dolphins, who gave a first- and a second-round pick to move up to get him. He’s responded with 3.0 sacks in two seasons, and they haven’t been able to really figure out what position he plays, bouncing from defensive end to linebacker.

And judging by their tone, they might be open to the idea of bouncing him elsewhere.

With his Oregon pedigree, the Eagles would land on the list of usual suspects if they tried to trade him, despite the fact he hasn’t torn an ACL lately.

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Stephen Tulloch says he’s ready to play today

Stephen Tulloch AP

There was some uncertainty earlier this offseason about whether the Lions would hold onto linebacker Stephen Tulloch because he has a $5.8 million cap hit for the 2015 season.

The Lions opted to hold onto Tulloch, leaving the timing of his return from last year’s torn ACL as the biggest unknown concerning the veteran linebacker. According to Tulloch, everything has gone well enough in his rehab that he feels ready to play right now.

“To be honest with you, I feel great,” Tulloch said, via the team’s website. “If I had to play today I could definitely play — a little over six and a half months, seven months in May [since ACL surgery]. I feel good. I feel blessed to have Dr. [James] Andrews work on me and put me back together. I have a good team of people down in Miami that take care of me. They’ve gotten me back to a point I can train with the team. I can lift weights and run around. It feels good to be back out there again.”

The Lions Defense didn’t lose much with Tulloch out of the lineup as Tahir Whitehead stepped into the middle linebacker job and did a good job. That leaves the Lions with a deep group of linebackers that includes DeAndre Levy, Kyle Van Noy and Josh Bynes to deploy this season. Tulloch is expected to return to the middle with Whitehead kicking outside, but the potential for a variety of different looks means that Detroit will have plenty to explore before naming a starting lineup in Week One.

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Hakeem Nicks is heading to Tennessee for his next chance

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Titans have been selling the possibility that they might draft a wide receiver in the first round.

But they’re buying free agents, which would seem to suggest otherwise.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, teams which were interested in veteran Hakeem Nicks have been told he’s signing with the Titans.

While Nicks isn’t the kind of player which would reasonably preclude you from an Amari Cooper or a Kevin White (both of whom visited the Titans, along with a number of other top receivers) it does give them a pretty solid depth chart.

They picked up the 2016 option on Kendall Wright, and signed a solid veteran in Harry Douglas to go along with a talented group.

For Nicks, it’s another chance to re-establish himself, which didn’t go so well in Indianapolis last year for reasons he says he’s beyond.

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Bill Polian sees Shane Ray as the next Robert Mathis

shaneray AP

The man who drafted six-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Robert Mathis says there’s a player in this year’s draft who will be the same kind of player: Shane Ray.

Ray, the Missouri pass rusher who’s widely viewed as a Top 10 talent, reminds former Colts General Manager Bill Polian of Mathis more than any other player.

“When I see him I see Robert Mathis,” Polian said of Ray on ESPN. “Near a Hall of Fame player. People who don’t like him are going to say he’s narrow of build and therefore can’t stand on the line of scrimmage, and that’s fine. I don’t want him to stand on the line of scrimmage, I want him to go chase the quarterback, and he’s about the best in this draft at doing that.”

There have been conflicting reports this week about the foot injury Ray suffered in Missouri’s bowl game and whether Ray will need surgery. Polian said Ray’s injury is similar to turf toe, and that when Polian was running draft boards, he didn’t move players down for turf toe injuries.

“There is no long-term lingering issue with turf toe, not like a knee injury. You recover from it, you’re back, and you’re ready to go. I would not move him. I’d be praying that he’d come to me,” Polian said.

There are obvious differences between Ray and Mathis, namely that Mathis was a little-known player out of Alabama A&M whom Polian stole with a fifth-round pick. But Polian said Ray and Mathis are similar as athletes. If they’re similar as NFL players, Ray surely belongs near the top of the first round.

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Lions will pick up the option on left tackle Riley Reiff

Detroit Lions v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew told reporters today the team was picking up the fifth-year option on former first-round tackle Riley Reiff.

And they have some options on what to do with him as well.

I think Riley Reiff’s a heck of a left tackle,” Mayhew said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I feel very comfortable with him at left tackle or right tackle.”

If he’s their long-term left tackle, having him under contract for 2016 at $8.07 million is a reasonable rate.

But there has been some question as to whether he’s locked in on the left, as coach Jim Caldwell suggested this offseason that shifting him back to right tackle is a possibility as well.

If they can find an upgrade to replace him on the left side, that would be a good sign for Matthew Stafford. Because Reiff has been at least solid over there the last two years, starting 32 games at a pretty acceptable level.

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