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Week 17 Monday 10-pack

Green Bay Packers quarterback Flynn hands off the ball against the Detroit Lions during the second half of their NFL football game in Green Bay Reuters

It’s the first Monday of the year, and it’s the last Monday 10-pack of the year.

I miss the days when football season ended before December 31.

As a setup goes, that’s all I got.  Let’s get on to the 10 takes from a 32-team season-ending Sunday.

1.  Packers should strongly consider franchising Flynn.

In 2008, after the first annual Brett Favre retirement, the Packers drafted two quarterbacks.  The gesture was interpreted by some (i.e., by us) as a bolting of the door behind Favre and the blocking of it with large pieces of furniture.

Brian Brohm, who entered the 2007 college football season as one of the top prospects, slid to the Packers in round two, pick 56.  LSU’s Matt Flynn was an afterthought, with pick number 209 in round seven.  Four seasons later, Brohm is long gone — and Flynn showed on Sunday that he’ll be the hottest commodity in the 2012 free-agent market.

If he gets there.

Like Matt Cassel of the Patriots in 2009, the Packers should think about slapping the franchise tag on Flynn, in order to trade him to a quarterback-needy team.  With Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III the best options in the draft, teams like the Redskins and Dolphins and Browns and maybe the Seahawks will be clamoring for a proven commodity like Flynn.

The risk, of course, is that Flynn would sign the franchise tag but no serious offers would come for his services, given that the starting point for a long-term deal would be the one-year guaranteed salary of $14.5 million or so in 2012.  If that would happen, the Packers would be stuck with a backup earning roughly $6.5 million more next year than starter Aaron Rodgers, who is due to earn a base salary of $8 million next season.

The other side of the coin is that Flynn will walk away with plenty of coins in his pockets — and zero compensation to the team that transformed him from a seventh-round pick into a guy who’ll be the most coveted quarterback not named Luck or Griffin.

2.  Rex should be on the hot seat.

Though it’s too early to fire Jets coach Rex Ryan, who has two appearances in the AFC title game in three seasons as a head coach, he deserves the pressure that goes along with the accountability for guaranteeing a Super Bowl win (and, even more importantly in New York, a win over the Giants) and failing to deliver.  Only so many times can a head coach protect his players and assistants by saying “put the blame on me” until someone decides to put the blame on him.

Yes, his players seem to still believe.  More importantly, the owner seems to still believe.  But the players and the owner may believe a little less in 2012 — especially if Rex emerges from a disappointing 2011 season (in light of the expectations fueled by Ryan) as brash and bold as ever.

Beyond the boundaries of his team, Rex has become a caricature.  (Some would say he already was one.)  If that sense ever makes its way into the locker room, and eventually it should, it’ll be time to move on.

Apart from all the words, it’s one specific action that could, as a practical matter, put Rex in a position to be coaching for his job in 2012.  The misguided decision to make receiver Santonio Holmes a captain, given that Holmes spent much of the year not acting like a captain, could come back to haunt Ryan.

Arguably, it already is.  And now Rex has a mess on his hands, especially since a guy who spent much of Sunday acting like he didn’t want to be with the Jets signed a long-term, big-money deal before the season.

3.  Steelers fleeced Jets on Holmes.

Speaking of Santonio, Steelers fans didn’t care much for the abrupt decision to trade Holmes to New York for a fifth-round pick in 2010.  With a four-game suspension for violation of the substance-abuse policy coming on the heels of Ben Roethlisberger’s misadventures in Milledgeville, it was perceived that the Steelers’ decision was driven less by football strategy and more by public relations sensitivities.

But the Steelers were looking ahead.  With Holmes due to miss the first four games of the 2010 season and one wake-n-bake away from a one-year suspension, the Steelers opted to unload a potential headache — especially since the Steelers knew they’d never tie their hands by giving Holmes a huge contract.

And so the Steelers didn’t simply get a fifth-round pick.  The Steelers also received the peace of mind that comes from dumping a wideout who would have been a major pain in the butt for the balance of 2010, and who simply no longer factored into their plans.

Meanwhile, the Steelers traded that fifth-round pick to the Cardinals for cornerback Bryant McFadden and a sixth-round pick.  And with that sixth-round pick the Steelers found their 2011 MVP in round six of the same draft.  Receiver Antonio Brown has become almost everything Holmes was as a player, without creating any of the headaches or other issues that go hand in hand with having Holmes on the team.

Advantage Steelers.

4.  Texans-Bengals game could be the key to the AFC playoffs.

I’ve been concerned throughout much of the 2011 season that, once the Texans get to the postseason, a lack of playoff experience would keep them from being successful.  But their first opponent is the Bengals, a team with young players having no playoff experience and, by all appearances, no players having any positive playoff experiences.

So the Texans, who beat the Bengals last month after trailing 16-3 at the half and 19-10 after three quarters, will have a very good shot at holding off the No. 6 seed.  Taking a broader look at the AFC field, the outcome of that game could have a huge bearing on the determination of the eventual conference champion.

If Houston holds serve at home, it will be time for a return to Baltimore, where the Ravens’ eight regular-season wins included a trouncing of the Texans.  The Steelers, after most likely beating Denver, will head to New England.

Though Baltimore would have to face one of those two potent teams (either Pittsburgh at home, where the Ravens won 35-7 in Week One or the Patriots in New England, where the Ravens won in the playoffs two years ago, 33-14), the Ravens wouldn’t have to play both of them.  Which, for the Ravens, is nice.

If, in contrast, the Bengals upset the Texans, Cincinnati would head to Foxboro — and Pittsburgh would return to Baltimore with a burst of momentum and a shot at becoming the latest wild-card winner to catch a division rival flat-footed after a bye week and knock them out of the playoffs.  If Baltimore manages to beat the Steelers for a third time this year, the reward would be a trip to New England.

The converse is true for the Pats.  A win by the Bengals keeps New England from having to play both Pittsburgh and Baltimore.  If Houston wins, the Patriots would have to face a Steelers team that gave New England one of its three 2011 losses before inviting the Ravens back to town.

One way or the other, the outcome of Saturday’s game will make the path to Indy considerably easier for New England or Baltimore, by sending the Steelers to one place or the other.

5.  Crossroads for Daniel Snyder.

The Redskins became the property of Daniel Snyder in 1999.  In the 13 seasons since then, Snyder has employed (excluding interim hires) six head coaches.  Other than Snyder’s boyhood hero, Joe Gibbs, no coach has made it more than two seasons on the job.

Mike Shanahan has just completed his second season on the job.  Recently, Shanahan has been subtly justifying his two losing seasons by explaining that much work needed to be done to improve the bad team he inherited.  And while there’s no indication that Shanahan will be fired, there likewise was no indication that the end was coming three years ago for Shanahan in Denver.

The bigger question for Snyder is whether he’s willing to stay the course not only now but after the 2012 season.  If Shanahan and G.M. Bruce Allen position themselves to land Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in the draft, it would be foolish to give Shanahan only one year to work with the new quarterback.

And so Snyder needs to realize that, by deciding to keep Shanahan now, Snyder essentially is deciding to keep Shanahan for 2013 — and possibly for 2014.

6.  Another Manning/Leaf dilemma coming?

Speaking (twice now) of Luck and Griffin, what once was a one-man show at the top of the draft quickly has become another Peyton Manning vs. Ryan Leaf conundrum.  On Sunday’s Football Night In America, former Colts coach Tony Dungy explained that Colts vice chairman Bill Polian has shown a willingness to go against conventional wisdom in the draft, taking Edgerrin James in 1999 over Ricky Williams and Dwight Freeney over Albert Haynesworth in 2002.

Dungy even said he’d personally lean toward Griffin, the Heisman winner and architect of a 67-point explosion in Baylor’s bowl win.

Luck still has one more chance to create some separation, when Stanford takes on Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.  Despite the obsession over measurables and the things a guy can do when not wearing pads, scouts seem to be influenced heavily by performances on the big stage.

What Luck does with it could ultimately determine whether Luck and Griffin will become another Manning and Leaf dilemma, which despite being a no-brainer in hindsight was a much closer call in 1998.

7.  Pay the Cruz.

Giants receiver Victor Cruz has made, in two seasons, the unlikely climb from undrafted free agent to superstar.  Nearly as shrewd as the Giants’ decision to give him a chance was their decision to sign him to a three-year contract.

And so Cruz remains contractually obligated to show up for mandatory offseason workouts and training camp in 2012, despite being slated to earn a paltry $490,000.

But the Giants need to send a message to the locker room that stellar play will be rewarded.  While they could force Cruz to continue to prove himself — and to bear the injury risk — for the final year of his rookie deal and a season as a restricted free agent, the best move would be to find a way to pay him a fair salary that reflects not only his skills and abilities but also the contributions he made during a season that seemed destined for failure again.

In each of the last two games, a long-yardage catch-and-run from Cruz gave the Giants the upper hand.  It’s only right to put a lot more money in the guy’s pockets.

8.  Broncos should get Quinn ready to play Sunday.

Tebowmania landed with a thud 15 days ago, with the Patriots providing the rest of the league with the blueprint for turning the page on the NFL’s flavor of the month.

As a result, Tim Tebow has played worse than poorly the last two weeks, with as many turnovers against the Bills and Chiefs (six) as Tebow had in his 10 prior games combined.

Enter the Steelers, who have made crafted their legacy over the past two decades by methodically building a lead and then gradually choking off the opposing offense.

As a result, if the Broncos want to have a realistic shot at advancing, it may be prudent to be ready to pull off a Rocky-style switch to southpaw, by switching from the southpaw to Brady Quinn.

This isn’t a long-term indictment of Tebow.  It’s a recognition of the fact that, at least for now, he has bumped up against his ceiling.  The goal on Sunday is to win one game, and it could be that the only way to do that will be to know when to flip the switch from the unconventional quarterback to the guy whose abilities would defy the Steelers’ preparation.

9.  MJD deserves high praise.

Every year, there’s a sense that Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew has reached the limit of his abilities, and that a regression is coming.  Every year, he simply continues to play at a high level.

This year, on a team with no passing offense to draw safeties away from the box, Jones-Drew piled up 1,606 rushing yards, more than 240 yards better than Ray Rice, who finished at No. 2.  Jones-Drew added 374 receiving yards, which gives him 1,980 yards from scrimmage.

At a time when former USC tailback Reggie Bush is still trying to become the best running back in the game, the former UCLA running back who entered the league in the same draft as an afterthought to Bush is what Bush has always wanted to be.  Unfortunately for Jones-Drew, the Jaguars may not be able to develop a decent passing game before the window closes on his prime.

10.  Packers defense is even worse than the Patriots.

All year, the media has harped on the Patriots’ porous defense, barely noticing the Swiss cheese sieve in Green Bay.

At the end of the season, the numbers don’t lie.  The Patriots gave up 411.1 yards per game, and the Packers gave up 411.6.

The Packers also finished with a worse pass defense, giving up 299.8 yards per game.  The Pats surrendered, on average, 293.9.  That’s 34.1 yards per game more than the third-worst pass defense, the Saints.

Fittingly, the three worst pass defenses are complemented by the three best pass offenses.

And so, if the top two seeds make it to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl (or if the Saints get there instead of the Packers), it could be time to reduce the field from 100 yards to 50, put up nets at either end, and just call the game what it will be — arena football.

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Report: Andre Johnson will be released if Texans can’t find trade partner

Philadelphia Eagles v Houston Texans Getty Images

One of the standout wide receivers of his generation is set to leave Houston.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans are allowing Andre Johnson to seek a trade. If Johnson is not dealt, he will be released, the Chronicle reported.

According to the Chronicle, the Texans told Johnson he would have a lesser role in 2015, which led him to ask for his departure from Houston.

Johnson is slated to make $10 million in salary in 2015, per NFLPA data.

The No. 3 overall pick in the 2003 draft, Johnson has played his entire 12-season career with Houston, catching 1,012 passes for 13,597 yards and 64 TDs. He has made seven Pro Bowls.

While Johnson turns 34 in July, he should nonetheless appeal to clubs looking to add a proven veteran presence to their receiving corps. He caught 85 passes for 936 yards and three TDs in 2014.

A Miami (Fla.) product, Johnson quietly starred on a string of mediocre-to-poor Texans teams early in his career. Houston finally made the playoffs in 2011, his ninth NFL campaign.

If Johnson’s Texans career is indeed at an end, he will leave having caught 10 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown in his final game with the club, a 23-17 victory over Jacksonville in December. Though the Texans took care of business in the season finale, they fell just short of the playoffs. In many ways, it was an apt end to Johnson’s run in Houston — the star wide receiver doing his job well while the team fell just short in the end.

With Johnson likely gone, third-year wideout DeAndre Hopkins will become the Texans’ go-to receiver, a role he’s probably ready to assume.

Nevertheless, it will be jarring to see Andre Johnson, one of the Texans’ all-time greats now and forever, playing for someone else.

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Specialist franchise-tag trend continues with Gostkowski

Gostkowski AP

When the Patriots gave placekicker Stephen Gostkowski the franchise tag Monday, it marked the third time the club had placed the tag on a kicker.

It also marked the seventh consecutive offseason in which an NFL team used the franchise tag on a kicker or punter.

Last season, the Jets gave kicker Nick Folk the franchise tag. The previous offseason, Colts punter Pat McAfee got the tag.

In 2012, four teams tagged kickers: Cincinnati (Mike Nugent), Cleveland (Phil Dawson), Denver (Matt Prater) and Jacksonville (Josh Scobee). Also, the Giants extended their franchise tag to punter Steve Weatherford.

In 2011, only the Browns (Dawson) tagged a kicker. This came after Pittsburgh (Jeff Reed) and Seattle (Olindo Mare) used the tag on placekickers in 2010. In 2009, Cincinnati tagged kicker Shayne Graham, with Atlanta tagging punter Michael Koenen.

Before tagging Gostkowski Monday, the Patriots had previously used the franchise tag on one other kicker: Adam Vinatieri, who received it in 2002 and 2005.

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Titans to cut Bernard Pollard

Travis Benjamin, Bernard Pollard AP

A month ago, Titans safety Bernard Pollard asked to be released. Now the Titans have told Pollard they’ll take him up on that.

The Titans let Pollard know today that he’s being cut, Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports. The move isn’t official yet, but it may just be a matter of making sure that Pollard, who ended last season on injured reserve with a torn Achilles, can pass a physical.

Pollard wasn’t a happy camper in Tennessee, complaining after the season that when the Titans fired executive Lake Dawson, they fired the wrong person. Now Pollard will be free to see if some other team is interested in his services.

The 30-year-old Pollard was scheduled to make $3.1 million this season.

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Falcons interested in Orakpo

Brian Orakpo AP

Washington, despite having a new G.M., would like to extend its relationship with pass-rusher Brian Orakpo.  Unlike last year, however, Scot McCloughan will have competition when it comes to keeping Orakpo around.

Per a league source, at least four teams are interested in Orakpo.  For now, the leaders are believed to be Washington and the Falcons.

The Falcons desperately need help on the edge of the defensive line, a year after former coach Mike Smith successfully lobbied for the investment of offseason funds on interior defensive linemen.  New coach Dan Quinn is emphasizing speed in all phases of the game.

Orakpo had 10 sacks in 2013.  Last year, had managed only 0.5 sacks in seven starts under the franchise tag in D.C.

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NFL’s 12-team playoff format was enacted 25 years ago this week

Super Bowl XL - Pittsburgh Steelers vs Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

As PFT’s Mike Florio reported last month, the NFL would like to expand the postseason field in 2016. Any addition of playoff entrants would be the first such change made by the league in at least a quarter-century, and it would undoubtedly lead to an increase in television money for the NFL and its clubs.

The NFL last moved to expand the postseason field 25 years ago this week. On March 1, 1990, the league added two teams to the playoff pool, increasing the number of entrants from 10 to 12 — six per conference. The expansion went hand-in-hand with the league striking a new broadcast rights deal with NBC, ABC, Turner, ESPN and CBS.

At the time, the NFL had three divisions per conference (West, Central, East), making the sixth postseason entrant a third wild-card club. Twelve years later, the NFL added one division per conference and reduced the wild-card entrants by one per conference, keeping the total field at 12 teams.

All things considered, the addition of the sixth postseason berth worked out well for the league and its teams. For one thing, the extra playoff games gave the NFL more content to sell to the networks.

Also, the expansion has allowed 25-of-32 NFL clubs to garner a playoff berth they otherwise would not have earned under the old system. The Vikings have used this final playoff spot to make the postseason on four different occasions since 1990, with the Jets, Falcons, Chiefs, Dolphins, Lions, Ravens and Washington all earning the sixth seed three times.

No. 6 seeds have been especially competitive in recent years. Since divisional realignment in 2002, the final wild-card teams are 21-24 in postseason play, with at least one No. 6 seed winning in 8-of-13 seasons (2002, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014).

Two No. 6 seeds have won Super Bowls — the 2005 Steelers and the 2010 Packers. Three other final wild-card entrants have won multiple games: the 2008 Ravens and Eagles and the 2010 Jets.

This is not to say No. 6 seeds have been smashing successes. Overall, they are 28-48 in postseason play. Indeed, most of the final wild-card entrants have gone tamely.

Still, without the sixth playoff spot, we wouldn’t have had Brett Favre heaving a cross-field bomb to Sterling Sharpe to beat the Lions in the Pontiac Silverdome in 1993, or Michael Vick leading a memorable upset in the snow in Lambeau Field in 2002, or the 2010 Jets knocking off the heavily favored Patriots in Foxborough.

Looking forward, the question is whether the seventh-seeded teams can provide these little bursts of drama, too. They will probably get their chance before long. We know this much: the playoff ranks aren’t getting any smaller, given the popularity of the NFL and the amount of money the league’s games can draw.

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Suh situation shows the complication of simple restructurings

Suh Getty Images

The slow growth of salary cap in the wake of the new labor deal resulted in plenty of teams having salary-cap issues in recent years.  Which resulted in plenty of teams conducting the so-called “simple restructuring” of contracts, pushing cap dollars in the current years into the future.

But simple restructurings of big-dollar contracts can lead to potential complications.  Eventually, those contracts expire.  And the bloated cap numbers in the final years of those deals make it considerably more expensive to use the franchise tag on that player.

That’s why the Lions ultimately couldn’t use the franchise tag on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.  His salary for 2014 was $12.5 million; his cap number was $22.4 million.  Since the franchise tag guarantees the player a 20-percent raise over Suh’s salary in the prior year, the Lions would have had to invest $26.9 million for one more year with Suh.

And that would have become $32.25 million for 2016 under the tag.  Which means it simply became too expensive to play the tag game with Suh — unless the Lions would have been content to keep him for only one more year at an exorbitant salary.

Next year, a string of simply restructurings could result in an unmanageable cap number for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.   Though he’ll make only (only?) $11.6 million in 2015, his restructurings-fueled cap number of $18.395 million will result in a franchise tag of $22.074 million in 2016.

So while fans tend to exhale when teams find a way to restructure contracts in order to create cap space in the current year, those efforts could result in some eventual puckering and, in the case of Suh, the possible end of his tenure with the team.

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Five players get the franchise tag, one player gets the transition tag

Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

All 32 teams have the ability to tag a player and keep him from hitting unrestricted free agency. But 26 teams declined to do so.

In the end, only five players got the franchise tag before today’s 4 p.m. deadline. One other player got the transition tag.

No one got the “exclusive” franchise player tag, which comes with a higher price tag but prevents the player from negotiating with any other team. All five franchised players got the non-exclusive tag, which means they can negotiate with other teams and sign elsewhere, but if they do sign with another team, the current team gets to choose between either matching the offer and keeping the player, or declining to match the offer and getting two first-round draft picks from the player’s new team.

Here are the five players who got the non-exclusive franchise tag, and the amount of the tender offer for each:
Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul ($14,813,000)
Chiefs OLB Justin Houston ($13,195,000)
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant ($12,823,000)
Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas ($12,823,000)
Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski ($4,126,000)

Additionally, one player got the transition tag, which comes with a lower price tag and allows the team to match any offer to the player — but does not result in any draft pick compensation if the player signs elsewhere and the team declines to match. That one player was Dolphins tight end Charles Clay, who gets a one-year, $7,071,000 tender offer.

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Bills opt against tagging Jerry Hughes

Buffalo Bills v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Jerry Hughes broke out after coming to the Bills in a trade before the 2013 season, but back-to-back 10-sack seasons weren’t enough to convince the Bills to use a franchise or transition tag on the edge rusher Monday.

While the Giants and Chiefs chose to use the franchise tag to hold onto Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Houston, respectively, Buffalo will move toward the start of free agency next week with no claim on Hughes’s services. A franchise tag would have entitled Hughes to a salary of $14.8 million if and when he signed the tender.

They still have exclusive negotiating rights with Hughes through next Saturday, when a three-day window opens for teams to talk to the agents of impending free agents.

A deal could be struck between now and then and reports from Buffalo are that the Bills are working hard to strike a deal. With the start of free agency so close, though, it makes sense for Hughes, who is No. 9 on PFT’s list of the top 100 free agents, to hear what other teams are willing to offer him with two of the top pass rushers all but off the market.

Greg Hardy, Jason Worilds, Pernell McPhee, Brandon Graham and Brian Orakpo are some of the other pass-rushing options still ticketed for free agency next week.

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No tags for Randall Cobb or Jeremy Maclin

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

There were four wide receivers ranked among the top 15 players on PFT‘s list of the top 100 players headed for free agency this year.

Two of those players — Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant and Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas — were given franchise tags on Monday that make it highly unlikely that they’ll be switching teams this offseason.The Packers chose not to go that route with Randall Cobb, however, and the Eagles passed on applying either the franchise or transition tag on Jeremy Maclin.

That doesn’t mean those players are certain to be on the open market come March 10. The Packers and Eagles are the only teams that can sign those players this week, although other teams can open up conversations with the representatives for both players on March 7.

Maclin said over the weekend that he wants to return to the Eagles after showing he was healthy while playing on a one-year deal after a torn ACL knocked him out for the entire 2013 season. Cobb is thought to be looking for a contract in the neighborhood of the four-year, $39 million extension that Jordy Nelson signed in Green Bay last year. The Raiders are reportedly interested in him should he hit the market, although they’ll likely have plenty of company in that pursuit.

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Goldman Sachs to finance Chargers possible move

Goldman Getty Images

It’s unclear whether the NFL will get behind the Chargers’ potential return to L.A.  One of the world’s biggest investment banks has decided to do so.

According to Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, Goldman Sachs will finance the move, “including covering any operating losses suffered by the team in the first few years in that city as well as costs for any renovations needed in a temporary venue.”

The involvement of Goldman Sachs demonstrates the financial viability of the stadium project in Carson.  It also provides the Chargers with some security if/when a move happens.

Most importantly, the development indicates that Goldman Sachs wants the move to happen.  Which means that Goldman Sachs will be working aggressively and diligently to push the project to completion — and the relocation to reality.

The Raiders and Chargers, if they can’t secure new stadiums in their current markets, hope to play in a privately-financed, $1.7-billion stadium in Carson.  Rams owner Stan Kroenke hopes to build a new stadium in Inglewood.  AEG, which has been involved for several years in a downtown L.A. project, could end up SOL along with Ed Roski and his shovel-ready project in the City of Industry.

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Dolphins release Nate Garner

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets Getty Images

The Dolphins were busy on Monday, using the transition tag on tight end Charles Clay and releasing a pair of veteran players.

As previously reported, cornerback Cortland Finnegan is out in Miami. On Monday afternoon, the team announced offensive lineman Nate Garner is out as well.

Garner had been with the Dolphins since 2008 and saw time at center, guard and tackle over the course of his time with the team. A head injury knocked Garner out for the second half of last season, however, and the Dolphins cleared $1.65 million under the 2015 cap by parting ways with him at this point in the offseason.

With guard Daryn Colledge and center Samson Satele headed for free agency (and Mike Pouncey likely moving back to the position), the Dolphins could be looking for two new starting guards in the coming months.

Finnegan and Garner join wide receivers Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson as veteran players discarded by the Dolphins recently.

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Eagles exec V.P. of football operations moves office out of football operations

Howie Roseman AP

It’s been a strange offseason for the Eagles.  And it just got a little stranger.

In January, owner Jeffrey Lurie resolved a power struggle between coach Chip Kelly and G.M. Howie Roseman by giving Kelly more power and Roseman a promotion (possibly after clunking their heads together like Moe Howard).  Roseman emerged not as the G.M. but as the executive V.P. of football operations.  Although Kelly now has final say over the roster and the draft, Roseman manages the team’s salary cap and contract negotiations.

It has the potential to be awkward, with new V.P. of player personnel Ed Marynowitz necessarily serving as the liaison between Kelly and Roseman.  At a minimum, it will involve more walking.

According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the office of the executive V.P. of football operations has moved out of football operations, to the business end of the NovaCare Complex.  Roseman previously was located only two doors down from the head coach; Kelly for the last two years and Andy Reid before that.

The move underscores the reality that the executive V.P. of football operations doesn’t really have much if any power over football operations.  Which makes his comments from last week regarding the folly of trading up even more conspicuous, especially if the guy who now has the power to do so in Philly chooses to do so.

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Giants cut center J.D. Walton to clear some salary cap space

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When you use the franchise tag to keep one player at a high number, something’s got to give.

So with the Giants using the $14.813 million franchise tag to hang onto defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, they had to make up the savings somewhere.

The team announced they had cut center J.D. Walton,

Cutting Walton saves them $3 million against the cap, and for a player considered fungible, that’s the kind of room that was worth making.

Of course, they wanted to upgrade there anyway, so this one wasn’t totally about the cap space.

Having him gone could clear the way for 2014 second-rounder Weston Richburg to slide back inside.

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Steelers cut Lance Moore

Lance Moore AP

After one disappointing season in Pittsburgh, Lance Moore is out.

Moore, a veteran wide receiver who signed with the Steelers last year, has been released. He caught just 14 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns last season.

The 31-year-old Moore had some good seasons with the Saints and was a 1,000-yard receiver as recently as 2012. But he never seemed to fit in Pittsburgh’s offense, and he had asked for his release.

Now Moore has gotten his wish and will be free to look for work somewhere else.

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Lions bring back Dan Orlovsky

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Dan Orlovsky didn’t play any offensive snaps as the backup to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in 2014.

The team liked what it saw because they announced Monday that Orlovsky has been re-signed to a one-year contract. Orlovsky said during the season that he felt he was playing an important role despite his lack of playing time.

“I don’t think you can underestimate the value of it,” Orlovsky said, via the team’s website. “There is an enormous value in being a good teammate. It’s important for me to understand my role. I talk to the younger guys. I talk to the defense and offer them a nugget here and there. Over 16 games, if one or two players can make a play here and there, that’s the difference between going on and going home.”

Orlovsky hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2012, when he threw seven of them for the Buccaneers. His last run as a starter came in 2011 with the Colts and he also started seven games during the Lions’ winless 2008 campaign. Orlovsky’s most memorable moment came that year when he ran out of the end zone for a safety in a two-point loss to the Vikings.

Third-stringer Kellen Moore isn’t expected to be tendered as a restricted free agent, so the Lions may still add some new blood to the quarterback depth chart.

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