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Winners, losers from the NFL lockout

Fans wait outside the NFL Players Association headquarters in Washington AP

We have broken down the deal.  Now let’s look at who escaped this lockout slog looking good, and who didn’t.

The Winners

Veteran NFL players: They missed an offseason of minicamps and practices, which should make it easier to fend off young players in camp this year.  More importantly, they will get a bigger slice of the salary cap pie.

Top rookies will make far less in this new CBA, and that money will go to veterans.  Getting NFL teams to agree to a very aggressive “salary cap floor” also guarantees NFL revenue will be spent back on the players.

For example, teams have to spend to 99% of the salary cap as a league this year.  The lowest any team can spend is 89% of the cap.  These are huge increases from previous floors that will guarantee small market teams spend aggressively.

Players you’ve never heard of: Minimum salaries of players will go up $50,000, which is a substantial increase.  Almost half the league has minimum salary contracts.  The players did right by their right by the rank and file.

Bank accounts of NFL owners: The NFLPA* was playing defense all along.  We essentially knew ahead of time the owners would leave this lockout with a larger share of total revenue, and that is the case.

The players made advances in other issues like safety and a salary cap floor, but ultimately the owners will now get a greater share of a rapidly growing revenue pool.  This can be a “win-win” deal, but there’s no debate the owners will get more money in this CBA than the one that came before it.

That was the entire idea behind the lockout.

Small market teams: Yes, they have to spend more to get to the salary cap floor.  They also will get more revenue sharing help from the top-earning teams in the league.

Jeff Saturday and Domonique Foxworth: These two leaders from the NFLPA* earned a lot of respect.

Mediator Arthur Boylan: Sure, the biggest breakthrough happened when he was on vacation.  Boylan still kept the union and NFL moving forward during choppy waters.  He helped to finish the job mediator George Cohen could not.

A special thanks to …

Patriots owner Robert Kraft: No owner did more to bring the two sides together and compromise than Patriots owner Robert Kraft. That he did it against the backdrop of his wife’s battle with cancer makes his contributions all the more remarkable.

Colts center Jeff Saturday’s remarks after the agreement said it all.

Gets his own category

DeMaurice Smith: Fans may disagree, but we suspect history will show Smith did well by his players.  Let’s face it: The NFLPA* is always going to be an underdog in labor talks.  They have fewer resources and they were playing defense.

Smith took over a difficult situation and slowly earned the respect of his players and adversaries in ownership.  He didn’t give up that much and got plenty in return for financial concessions.  Most importantly, he helped get to the finish line without missing significant time in training camp or the preseason.

The lockout was caused by owner unhappiness at a time of unprecedented prosperity in the league. They locked the players out, which has to count for something.  Both sides were at fault for taking fans for granted throughout the process, and dragging this out longer than necessary.  That’s why Smith isn’t a “winner” but someone that earned respect.

Losers

The 18-game concept: It will eventually be a matter of debate again, but not for at least two years.  This was a big issue for the players, and they didn’t budge.

Roger Goodell: We think Goodell is a very good commissioner with the best interests of the game at heart. But there’s no denying he’s been beaten up over the last few months.  Player anger towards him became significant.  A perception grew that he couldn’t control his owners. (We’re not sure anyone could.)

Goodell’s efforts to end the lockout cannot be underestimated.  But this is a results business: Goodell presided over the longest work stoppage in league history.  In the long run, people will view the 2011 lockout as a speed bump for a wildly successful league.  In the short run, the NFL can’t have it both ways.

They have sold the concept to fans on NFL Network that the “season never ends.” It ended for five months this year, running the league’s biggest fans through an emotional ringer.

This lockout came primarily as a money grab at a time of unprecedented success for the league. Considering the economic climate the lockout took place in, Goodell takes a short-term hit.

Hardcore coaches: Practice contact will be reduced dramatically in the regular season. Offseason practices will also be cut down, with big fines for coaches who break the rules.

“The only thing the players didn’t get is someone else to play for them,” one source told PFT.

Highly-drafted rookies: This especially applies to top ten picks.  No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton is slated to get roughly $22 million over the next four years.  For comparison’s sake, last year’s top pick Sam Bradford got $50 million guaranteed and $72 million over his first six years.

First-round picks outside the top-16 picks will take a hit, but it’s not as dramatic.  Players taken in rounds two-through-seven may actually benefit because of the minimum salary increase.

All 2011 rookies: It will be harder for quarterbacks like Newton or Minnesota’s Christian Ponder to win starting gigs and succeed in camp after missing the entire offseason.  This will especially hurt late-round picks and undrafted players that now seem more likely to be cut.

Undrafted players:  With the per-team signing bonus expenditure limited to $75,000 per team for undrafted players, these rookies will no longer be able to tell prospective teams to put their money where their mouths are.

Agents: They are taking a hair cut on fees for rookie contracts, which are already headed South.  Anti-holdout measures for rookies will also be taken, which takes away a leverage point for agents.

Carson Palmer and Donovan McNabb: Perhaps the Bengals could have traded Palmer before the 2011 draft. Now it appears he may spend the 2011 season at home because he refuses to play for Cincinnati.  The Bengals probably won’t entertain trading him until 2012.

McNabb would not still be a member of the Redskins if not for the lockout. With five highly drafted rookies getting taken, the market for him has been significantly diminished. His exorbitant bonus isn’t due until September, which means the Redskins may fruitlessly try to trade him for a while.  More jobs will be filled in the meantime.

Vincent Jackson: Fans won’t forget that Jackson was the last Brady antitrust plaintiff to give up on squeezing the NFL for more cash in exchange for his signature.  We don’t think it’s fair to call the players “greedy” throughout much of the process, but Jackson, Logan Mankins, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning took a P.R. hit by seeking extra benefits for attaching their name to the antitrust case.

NFL fans: The players and owners take us for granted because they can.  We just want football, and we support the league completely. It was an insane act of hubris for the NFL to threaten to take the game away when it was at its very peak. The league isn’t likely to pay for it.

Rich Eisen from NFL Network put it well: “Love all these fans saying now we missed nothing when my twitter feed has been filled for 4 months MFing everyone involved in this process.”

The more you love the game, the more these last five months have been difficult to swallow.

The lucky part: We won’t have to go through this again for at least another decade.

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Mike Smith: Steven Jackson “will be ready” for Week One after hamstring injury

Steven Jackson AP

We may have to wait until the regular season to see whether Steven Jackson has returned to top form.

Jackson, the Falcons’ starting tailback, sustained a left hamstring injury on Monday, coach Mike Smith told reporters today.

The good news? Smith anticipates Jackson will be available for the September 7 regular season opener against New Orleans.

“I don’t think it’s going to be anything that’s going to be real significant. He will be ready for the first game,” Smith said.

Jackson dealt with hamstring and toe injuries and missed four games in 2013, his first season with Atlanta. However, Smith said Jackson injured the opposite hamstring on Monday.

The 31-year-old Jackson rushed for a career-low 543 yards on 157 carries last season, gaining just 3.5 yards per carry.

Fourth-year pro Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Devonta Freeman are among the top reserve options behind Jackson, who’s entering his 11th NFL season.

Jackson probably didn’t figure to get too much work in the exhibition games; he had a combined 25 carries in three preseason games in 2013, and he didn’t play at all in the finale. The play of Rodgers and Freeman now becomes something to watch all the more closely during the summer. Freeman, a fourth-rounder from Florida State, is the key new addition to a running game that struggled a season ago.

 

 

 

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Urban Meyer doesn’t get why the NFL doesn’t want a 47.9% passer

Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow AP

Tim Tebow remains out of the NFL, as he has for 11 months since the Patriots cut him at the end of last preseason. And Tebow’s coach at Florida, Urban Meyer, remains baffled that no NFL team will sign Tebow.

Meyer, now the coach at Ohio State, said at Big Ten Media Day that he can’t figure out why Tebow isn’t in a training camp.

I still don’t get that part of it,” Meyer said. “He’s the second-most efficient passer ever to play college football. . . . He’ll be successful in whatever he does, but he’s such a good player. I just wish it would work out for him.”

Since Meyer can’t figure it out, let me explain it to him: Tebow can’t get an NFL job because the essence of playing quarterback in the NFL is throwing a football accurately, and Tebow is not an accurate passer. Tebow has a career completion rate of 47.9 percent. That is, frankly, awful. Name a terrible NFL quarterback, and you can just about guarantee that he has a better career completion percentage than Tebow. Brandon Weeden? 55.9 percent. Blaine Gabbert? 53.3 percent. JaMarcus Russell? 52.1 percent.

It’s easy to see why Meyer loves Tebow, given the success the two had together at Florida. And in a world where Weeden and Gabbert still have jobs, it’s not unfair to ask why Tebow can’t get one. Tebow did, after all, provide the Broncos with a spark in 2011, leading them to a playoff victory. But even in that 2011 season, Tebow’s inaccurate passing was a huge problem. Tebow completed just 126 of 271 passes that season, a completion rate of 46.5 percent. Tebow remains the only NFL quarterback this century to throw more than 270 passes in a season while completing less than 47 percent of them. The last time an NFL quarterback threw that many passes with a completion percentage that low, it was San Diego’s Craig Whelihan in 1998. Whelihan never played in the NFL again.

And Tebow will never play in the NFL again. He will be remembered for that crazy season in Denver in 2011, when it seemed like every week the most exciting game in the NFL was a game featuring the Broncos, a game that came down to Tebow doing something in the closing moments. But Tebow will also be remembered as a quarterback who simply did not pass the ball well enough to last in the NFL.

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Winston saw a great opportunity in Seattle

Winston AP

Veteran right tackle Eric Winston, who has started 16 games every year since 2007, will try to extend that streak in Seattle.  His decision to sign there comes after an extended stretch of free agency.  His patience apparently paid off.

“I think the opportunity, not only at my position but the opportunity with the team,” Winston told reporters on Tuesday regarding the reasons for choosing the Seahawks.  “I wanted to go somewhere and win.  I think this had everything, so I looked at the situation – obviously I wanted to be a part of something special and I think these guys have a chance to do something special again this year.”

Winston can do something special in the zone-blocking scheme employed by offensive line coach Tom Cable.

“I think some of my best years have been in that zone scheme, obviously with Alex Gibbs, way back in Houston and that whole scheme after that and so I’ve had some of my best years and some of the best teams I’ve played on have used it,” Winston said.  “I think it’s a perfect fit for me and it definitely helps me with the learning process.  Obviously you got to learn how they call things, some of it is the same and some of it is different, but I think it will definitely help me learn quicker, just knowing the techniques and not having to learn everything completely new.”

For rookie second-round draft pick Justin Britt, it’s all new.  But Winston’s desire to play won’t keep him from helping the youngster, if he wants help.

“I think anytime you become a vet in this league, you’ve got an obligation to the young guys that come after you – to help them, teach them and obviously to compete against them,” Winston said.  “I had the same when I was coming up in Houston. I had older guys that I was competing against but at the same time, took me under their wing.  If Britt wants me to do that, then I’ll do that, and if he doesn’t want to hear it, then I won’t.  But I’ll be here for him and always be here to help him, that’s for sure.”

Whether he plays or not, Winston is the kind of guy the Seahawks need to avoid the complacency that comes from climbing the mountain and then having to go to the bottom and try to climb it again.  Winston, who has had only one taste of the postseason three years ago in Houston before spending a year with the Chiefs and then with the Cardinals, has every reason to push himself and his teammates back up the mountain.

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49ers waive QB Kory Faulkner, add OL Michael Philipp

Jim Harbaugh, Kori Faulkner AP

The only NFL club with five quarterbacks on the active roster parted ways with one of their passers on Tuesday.

According to the NFL’s Tuesday transactions, the 49ers waived rookie quarterback Kory Faulkner, an undrafted free agent from Southern Illinois. This leaves Blaine Gabbert, McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Josh Johnson as the three passers vying to back up starter Colin Kaepernick.

To replace Faulkner on the roster, the 49ers added undrafted free agent rookie offensive tackle Michael Philipp on waivers from Miami. The 22-year-old Philipp started 48 games at left tackle for Oregon State.

The 49ers have all 90 roster spots filled. However, eight spots belong to players on active-reserve lists, meaning they must pass physicals to return to the practice field. In short, the 49ers are a little shorter on depth than the 90-player limit would indicate.

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Report: Raiders could move to San Antonio

Daniel Snyder, Mark Davis AP

Raiders owner Mark Davis doesn’t make threats.  He makes plans.

With the Raiders on a one-year lease at O.co Coliseum and with the A’s possibly getting a 10-year lease that would complicate efforts to tear the Cow (Pie) Palace down and build a new venue on the same site, Davis is exploring options in a state that already has a pair of NFL teams.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, Davis and a pair of “top lieutenants” recently met with San Antonio officials to talk about a move of the Raiders.

Per the report, the meeting began on July 18, with Davis and company touring the Alamodome and other locations during a two-to-three day visit.

If a move happens, the Alamodome likely would be the temporary home until a new stadium is built.

Davis reportedly wants “a small, intimate” stadium in front of which he can place a statue of his father, the late Al Davis.

“We don’t have any information about it, so there is no reason for us to comment,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Express-News on Tuesday. “We have received no applications from any of our teams to relocate at this point, so there is nothing for us to respond to.”

The window for filing an application to relocate opens after the season, and it’s possible that Davis will make an application to move somewhere/anywhere absent a tangible plan to build a new home for the Raiders in the Bay Area.

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Peterson, Cardinals talking, deal may or may not happen soon

Patrick Peterson AP

The Cardinals and cornerback Patrick Peterson are close to a new contract.  Unless they aren’t.

Informed of the report from Yahoo Sports that a deal is close, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told PFT, “What does close mean?”

Per the source, the two sides have been talking about a new contract on and off for months.  Talks eventually broke down.  Within the past 48 hours, those talks have resumed.

Multiple sticking points still remain, including at least one that falls into the “deal breaker” category.  If that and the other issues can be resolved, the deal will be done.  If not, no deal happens, and Peterson will continue to be under contract for the next two years.

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Lack of HGH testing could contribute to Gordon suspension

marijuana-justi-sullivan-getty Getty Images

A difference of reporting exists as to whether an agreement on HGH testing would or wouldn’t result in a relaxed marijuana testing threshold for NFL players.  While no tentative agreement to use a higher limit for marijuana metabolites has been reached, it’s clear that the NFL would listen, if the NFLPA makes a request along those lines in an effort to break the lingering logjam arising from the authority of the Commissioner in PED/HGH appeals.

Regardless, the NFL’s current limit of 15 ng/ml needs to change, especially since (as pointed out by ESPN’s Bomani Jones) the World Anti-Doping Agency raised its limit by an order or magnitude in 2013, from 15 to 150 ng/ml.

A low limit of 15 ng/ml can be reached via second-hand smoke.  As pointed out by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Gordon’s appeal also will advance that argument.

No matter how or why or when the NFL adopts a higher limit, it will be grossly overdue and any positive tests or suspensions based on anything lower than the WADA limits will be grossly unfair — especially since the NFL has been consistently pointing to WADA to support its proposed HGH testing protocol.

Under the current policy as previously negotiated by the NFL and the NFLPA, arguments based on the disparity between Gordon’s “A” bottle and “B” bottle and whether the average concentration (based on the split sample) of 14.8 ng/ml in the two bottles came from second-hand smoke won’t matter.  A strict, literal application of the policy will result in Gordon being suspended for a full year, during which time he’ll be completely banished from his team and required to continue to pass up to 10 tests per months, or he won’t be reinstated.

If any notion of fairness and common sense is applied to the appeal process, Gordon won’t be suspended at all.  Especially since the NFL apparently hasn’t and won’t subject Colts owner Jim Irsay to the same kind of rigorous testing for an admitted addiction that, if it’s not cured, eventually would result in Irsay being kicked out of the league for at least a year, too.

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Report: Cardinals, Patrick Peterson close to extension

Patrick Peterson AP

Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson has gone a few rounds with Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman this offseason about which of them is the best cornerback in the NFL and Peterson may soon have a new contract to use as further ammunition for his case.

Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports reports that the Cardinals and Peterson are close to an agreement on a contract extension that would keep Peterson in Arizona for the near future. Per Getlin, there are still some hurdles to cross but there’s a “good chance” something gets done shortly.

It’s unclear if one of the hurdles is structuring the deal so that it puts him above Sherman and Browns cornerback Joe Haden in the league’s pecking order. Sherman signed a four-year deal this year that includes $40 million in guaranteed money while Haden signed his name on a five-year deal that has $45 million in guarantees, although some of those guarantees are against injury only.

Peterson is entering the fourth year of his rookie deal, which is set to pay him more than $2.8 million, and the Cardinals exercised their fifth-year option on the 2011 first-round pick’s pact earlier this offseason.

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David Wilson sent to hospital for battery of tests

David Wilson AP

After suffering a “burner” in practice Tuesday, the Giants are going to take no chances with running back David Wilson.

The team announced that Wilson was being taken to the Hospital for Special Surgery for a battery of tests and a complete workup. Wilson had neck surgery this offseason, so it’s an obvious concern.

They don’t know much at this point, but any injury anywhere near his neck is worrisome for the Giants.

We were all praying that it would be not an issue,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said, via Tom Rock of Newsday

Rock also points out, the other name for a burner is “transient neurapraxia,” which doesn’t fit as neatly into the world of fantasy football.

Given what Wilson has gone through already, lending some gravity to the situation isn’t the worst idea.

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Steelers seize on Ben saying, “I want to be here”

Ben AP

The not-so-subtle media tug-of-war continues between the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger regarding his future with the team, which will depend in large part on the size of the dollars the Steelers plan to pay him on his next contract.  If Ben leaves, his legacy in Pittsburgh will be adversely affected — especially if he leaves after repeatedly saying he never wants to leave.

And so it’s no surprise that Roethlisberger saying he doesn’t want to leave Pittsburgh became a headline on the team’s official website.

I want to be here,” Roethlisberger said Monday, after G.M. Kevin Colbert declared that he doesn’t envision a set of circumstances in which Roethlisberger plays for another team.  And Steelers.com pounced.

“That’s always been what I’ve said, too,” Roethlisberger said. “I said it last year when the erroneous NFL Network reports came out.”

The “erroneous” reports from NFL Network, partially owned by the Steelers, were attributed to unnamed Steelers sources.  And those leaks may have been calculated to provoke Ben to declare that he doesn’t want to leave Pittsburgh, making it easier for the Steelers to low ball Big Ben and persuade him to accept whatever their best offer is — even if it doesn’t come close to reflecting his market value or making up for the hometown discount he believes he’s already giving the team.

If it all falls apart, the team will blame the player and the player will be the team and more leaks undoubtedly will flow to NFLN and others aimed at ensuring the fans agree with the organization’s position that Ben abandoned Pittsburgh.

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Rueben Randle skips practice with sore hamstring

Rueben Randle AP

The Giants trainers have been busier than they might like in the early part of training camp.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham has been out since last week with a hamstring problem, running back David Wilson’s return from neck surgery was hampered by a burner on Tuesday and wide receiver Rueben Randle didn’t take part in Tuesday’s practice because of a hamstring issue of his own.

“He was sore in the hamstring, so we held him,” Coughlin said, via Dan Graziano of ESPN.com.

Graziano reports that it didn’t sound like something the Giants think is a serious problem, but they need only look to Beckham for an example of how a seemingly minor hamstring injury can turn into something more if it doesn’t get the proper time to heal.

The team is off on Wednesday before getting back to work ahead of Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game against the Bills. There’s no word now on Randle’s status for that contest, but the larger goal of having Randle on the field come the regular season could lead the team to hold off on Randle’s preseason debut a little while longer.

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Cowboys giving Tony Romo a day off, say no setbacks

Tony Romo AP

It’s been so far, so good as Tony Romo comes back from back surgery.

So the Cowboys don’t feel compelled to push it.

According to Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Romo won’t practice today, as the team installs its two-minute offense.

He hasn’t had any setback but the biggest thing that we talked to Tony about and really all of our players about, is honest feedback,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We recognize that you’re a tough player, I saw what you did against the Redskins last year. You just got to tell us how you’re doing, how it’s going and make sure we handle it the right way each and every day.

“There’s an old adage in football, a day off can be really valuable. Two days off can be life changing, so when you get in this kind of a situation, we had yesterday off, got some good work this morning in the walk-through, some mental work of some of the different situations we’re working on. Off this afternoon and hopefully back as it tomorrow.”

Romo didn’t practice last Friday either, as the team handles him with the utmost care. It also gives them a chance to give new backup Brandon Weeden more reps, in case he’s ever needed.

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Seahawks fear another torn Achilles for Anthony McCoy

Anthony+Mccoy+Arizona+Cardinals+v+Seattle+CvKeg9kADkhl Getty Images

Seahawks tight end Anthony McCoy spent all of last season on injured reserve after suffering a torn left Achilles in the offseason. Now the Seahawks fear McCoy has torn his right Achilles.

PFT’s Curtis Crabtree is at Seahawks camp and reports that McCoy collapsed to the ground during full team drills and laid face down on the turf for a few minutes before he was carted off the field. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll confirmed afterward that it appears serious.

“Early indications are he hurt his other Achilles,” Carroll said. “If it is what they think it is, it’s just a real heartbreaker. He worked so hard to get back and all. If it was the same Achilles you might understand it but we think it’s the other one. So we’ll see what happens.”

McCoy played for Carroll at USC and was a sixth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2010. After not seeing much playing time early in his career, McCoy started to come on in 2012, when he caught 18 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns. But now it appears that he’s about to miss his second season in a row.

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Browns happy to see scuffles at practice

Mike Pettine AP

Practice scuffles are a training camp inevitability and we’ve seen them break out at several camps already this summer.

It was the Browns’ turn on Tuesday and their practice featured a big blowup. NFL.com has video of the incident, which seemed to involve a good number of players from both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. After things cooled down, Browns coach Mike Pettine opted against the tried and true coach response of saying that he wants to see his charges show more control over themselves when working among teammates.

“When we talk about the kind of team we want to be, you have to practice that way and that is hard, that’s difficult,” Pettine said. “I can’t tell that lie that we can be a certain way on a practice field and carry it over on the game field. There are going to be times when it does boil over. And you don’t want one side of the ball to get bullied by the other. There has to be some push back….You look at that and it’s the price of doing business.”

Safety Donte Whitner echoed the coach, saying that you want “nasty guys” on both defense and the offensive line as a way of explaining how things boiled over on the field on Tuesday. It’s hard to argue with that assessment or the explanation that players getting ready to play a rough game will sometimes wind up crossing the line during a practice session, but it’s a fine line given the possibility of injuries when things go off the way they did on Tuesday.

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Colts sign a pair, including running back Phillip Tanner

Minnesota Vikings v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

The Colts added a pair of free agents today, as they continue to look for depth in the wake of losing running back Vick Ballard to a torn Achilles.

The team announced they had signed linebacker Jonathon Sharpe and running back Phillip Tanner.

Tanner spent the last three years with the Cowboys, mostly as a special teamer. He has 56 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns in his career.

Sharpe is an undrafted rookie who came through the super regional combine setup after two years at North Greenville University. He also played Wofford College before transferring.

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