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The Peyton sweepstakes power rankings

Peyton Manning AP

It seems like everyone is playing “pin the team on the Peyton” in the wake of his release by the Colts.  So I’ve applied my blindfold.  (Pardon me if the typing reads like a string of Jim Irsay tweets.)  And I’m ready to discuss Peyton’s next possible destination, in slightly more detail that I did on Wednesday’s edition of NBC SportsTalk.

Supposedly, a dozen teams have expressed interest in Peyton Manning.  Frankly, a lot more should.

So here’s a team-by-team ranking, from those that should be most interested to those that should be least interested in putting Peyton on the roster, if the mutual goal for team and Manning is to win a Super Bowl.

This is simply our (my) opinion, not an attempt to gauge actual level of interest or to predict Peyton’s destination.  In the end, that will depend on a variety of factors.

1.  Texans:  Instantly, the Texans would become the pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, which will be played in Peyton’s hometown of New Orleans.  The offense would require some tweaking and there could be danger of a Favre-style “schism” via the handling of Matt Schaub, but a mostly healthy Peyton would make the Texans a legitimate championship contender.

2.  Chiefs:  Last year, despite the torn ACLs and fractured relationship between coach and G.M., the Chiefs nearly won the AFC West.  With Peyton, they’d win it going away.  And they possibly would pump up their record to the point where the road to New Orleans would wind through Kansas City.

3.  49ers:  The NFC equivalent of the Texans, the Niners nearly made it to the Super Bowl with Alex Smith.  Add Peyton Manning, and they could win the next two or three.  Unfortunately, coach Jim Harbaugh already has declared his commitment to Smith.  Though plenty of coaches have said one thing and done another, Harbaugh has created the impression that he’s not like the rest of them.  If he wants to win some Super Bowls, maybe he needs to be.

4.  Seahawks:  They’re closer than anyone realizes to becoming a great team, and Peyton would get them to that level.  The biggest concern is the quality of the offensive line.  And the goal of keeping Peyton from taking a lot of hits will now take on a greater level of importance, given the four neck procedures.

5.  Cardinals:  With Larry Fitzgerald, a better-than-advertised defense, and one of the best return men in the game in Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals would get a major boost toward the top of the mountain from Manning.  But will ownership spend enough to put the pieces in place around him?  More importantly, will ownership spend enough to even get him?

6.  Cowboys:  They need a vocal leader, and Peyton would give them just that.  More importantly, Peyton could provide someone who likely won’t make a big mistake in a clutch moment of a key game.

7.  Ravens:  The ultimate revenge on Indianapolis would come from picking up Peyton in a Mayflower van and then winning a Super Bowl with him.  The only problem is that, to pull it off, the Ravens would have to be prepared to forever lose Joe Flacco, who is in the last year of his rookie deal.

8.  Broncos:  They’ll make a run at Peyton, and for good reason.  First, they have the defense and running game to contend; throw in a high-level passing game and they become very dangerous.  But the Tebow factor will make this one awkward, to say the least.  If Manning struggles at all, the Tebowmaniacs will revolt.

9.  Jets:  Four years after the failed Brett Favre experiment, the Jets have rebuilt the lab — and they’re apparently ready to test out the exact same formula.  Though it makes sense for the Jets to upgrade over Mark Sanchez, Peyton Manning and Rex Ryan appear at first blush to be the ultimate oil-water combination.  On a regular basis, Rex would say or do something that would prompt Peyton to break out the ol’ “bitter beer face.”

10.  Titans:  Yeah, the Titans have Matthew Hasselbeck and Jake Locker.  But they could swap out Manning for Hasselbeck, park Locker on the bench for another two years, and swing for the fences with Manning, who played college football in Tennessee.

11.  Dolphins:  They have the pieces to compete.  But the rest of the roster — and the rest of the organization — doesn’t seem to be at the level necessary for Peyton to push them over the top.

12.  Redskins:  See Dolphins.

13.  Jaguars:  If new owner Shad Khan wants to shake things up in the AFC South, it would make more sense to trade up to No. 2 in the draft and take RGIII.  But the Jaguars have enough pieces to make things interesting if they had Manning.

14.  Raiders:  Though on the surface it doesn’t make a lot of sense, the fact that the Raiders are in a weak division puts them in the discussion.  Carson Palmer has a large salary that could be swapped out for Manning’s, and it wouldn’t cost a first-round and second-round pick to get him.

15.  Bears:  The new G.M. possibly doesn’t think much of Jay Cutler, and with the defense still having enough in the tank, Manning could have a similar impact on the Bears as Brett Favre did in Minnesota three years ago.

16.  Vikings:  Speaking of Favre and Minnesota, coach Leslie Frazier worked in Indy with Peyton.  To the extent Peyton craves familiarity, this is one of his few options.  The only problem is that Frazier played his “bring in a veteran quarterback” card last year with Donovan McNabb.  New G.M. Rick Spielman is a Christian Ponder guy.

17.  Falcons:  Peyton could take this team farther than Matt Ryan, but the Falcons would be even less likely to pull the plug on Ryan than the Ravens would be to throw in the towel on Flacco.

18.  Browns:  They could use Manning, but he wouldn’t make enough of a difference to overcome the likes of the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals.  Besides, Brett Favre could surely share a few “Chilly” stories that would send Peyton’s interest level to absolute zero.

19.  Bills:  Chan Gailey seems to be tying his fate to Ryan Fitzpatrick, and if Peyton is going to go to the AFC East, he’ll have a better shot at winning the division with the Jets or the Dolphins.

20.  Buccaneers:  In a tough NFC South, the Bucs have a long way to go to get back into contention.  Josh Freeman is one of the rare bright spots on the roster, and the young talent on the team would revolt if he’s benched or dumped for Manning.

21.  Chargers:  Between the presence of Philip Rivers and, for now, not a lot else, swapping out Rivers for Manning would make little sense.

22.  Rams:  If they wanted a new quarterback, they’d sit tight at No. 2 and draft Robert Griffin III.

23.  Bengals:  “Old and expensive” doesn’t fit with Mike Browns “young and/or cheap” strategy for building a roster.

24.  Saints:  If Drew Brees has a bug up his butt about the exclusive franchise tag, one way to solve the problem would be to trade him and bring Peyton home to Louisiana.  To make that happen, Brees would first have to start saying things that turn off the locals, something that’s highly unlikely to happen.

25.  Eagles:  Coach Andy Reid knows it’s win-big-or-bust in 2012.  Too much money and cap space is tied up in Mike Vick.  Acquiring Peyton would make it too hard to put a competitive team in place around him.

26.  Panthers:  Cam Newton had the best rookie season of any quarterback in NFL history.  Including Peyton.

27.  Steelers:  The organization seems to be souring a little on Ben Roethlisberger, in part because he has grown too accustomed to running the show.  The answer definitely isn’t a guy who would expect to run the show.

28.  Patriots:  Yes, this one should maybe be lower.  But Bill Belichick has done some outside-the-box things.  Of all the teams that clearly don’t need Manning, the Pats would be the one most likely to at least pause for a half-second and ponder the possibilities.

29.  Lions:  With Matthew Stafford throwing for 5,000-plus yards last season, the sky is the limit for the guy who may do for Detroit what Peyton did for Indy.

30. Packers:  Super Bowl XLV MVP Aaron Rodgers.

31.  Giants:  Super Bowl XLVI MVP Eli Manning.

32.  Colts:  Duh.  With or without Peyton, this team is several years away from competing for a Super Bowl berth.  Besides, if the Colts wanted him and he wanted the Colts, he’d still be there.

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Blake Bortles in Houston for meeting with Texans

Blake Bortles AP

Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles has long been connected as a possibly fit for the Houston Texans with the No.1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

The Texans need a quarterback. Bortles is a quarterback. It kind of makes sense, right?

After meeting with the Oakland Raiders on Monday, Bortles arrived in Houston Tuesday night for a meeting with the Texans on Wednesday.

Bortles met with Texans’ brass at the combine and general manager Rick Smith and head coach Bill O’Brien were both on hand for Bortles’ pro day workout as well.

They’ve been great,” Bortles said from the William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, via James Palmer of CSNHouston.com “He’s a great guy and a great coach. I’m just excited to get here, meet everybody and sit down and talk with everybody again. So I’m really looking forward to it.”

Bortles, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater are the three likely selections the Texans have to choose between if they want to take a quarterback with their top selection in the draft. Houston also has scheduled a pre-draft visit with Manziel set for next week.

The Texans know they are taking a quarterback at some point in the draft. If it will be at No. 1, Bortles and Manziel seem to have become the two options Houston is focusing on the most.

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Report: Pair of South Carolina prospects wanted for police questioning

Coastal Carolina v South Carolina Getty Images

A pair of prospects from the University of South Carolina is apparently wanted for questioning by police in relation to an incident at a New York City nightclub last week.

According to TMZ, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and cornerback Victor Hampton are “wanted for questioning at the very least” stemming from an alleged attack at Greenhouse nightclub.

A club promoter allegedly suffered “extensive facial injuries” after being allegedly attacked by three men. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

With less than four weeks to go until the NFL Draft, college prospects are still directly under the spotlight of teams as they continue to adjust and tweak their draft boards. While the investigation is still in its preliminary stages, it likely won’t benefit Quarles and Hampton to have their names tied to a police investigation.

Both players are expected to be drafted based on projections. However, if they are found to be involved in this incident it could affect just when teams decided to take a chance on the,.

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Chris Johnson says Jets visit went well but no decision yet

Cory Redding, Chris Johnson AP

Free agent running back Chris Johnson visited with the New York Jets on Tuesday. It was his first visit since being released by the Tennessee Titans earlier this month.

After visiting with the Jets, Johnson decided to take in Tuesday night’s game between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. While at the game, he spoke with multiple reporters regarding his visit.

Per Josina Anderson of ESPN, Johnson said “I had a great visit with the Jets. I’m just taking it one day at a time.”

Johnson reiterated those thoughts to Peter Botte of the New York Daily News but added he’s “not ready to make my decision.

Johnson had a down year in 2013 for Tennessee but still posted his sixth straight 1,000-yard season. However, the 3.9 yards per carry were the lowest mark of his career.

The Jets ranked sixth in the league in rushing last season with Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory as the primary options out of the backfield. Johnson would likely work in as part of a rotation alongside Powell and Ivory should he elect to sign with the Jets. But, Johnson is also a home run threat whose speed could be a real addition to the lineup.

For now, Johnson isn’t ready to make a decision as he’s possibly holding out for a better offer from the Jets or another team. However, if he doesn’t make a decision soon, teams may elect to wait until after the draft to re-evaluate their needs and Johnson may have to wait to find a new home.

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Lions intend to split the running back role between Bush and Bell

BushBell Getty Images

The Lions have a pair of potent tailbacks.  And they plan to use both of them.  Perhaps equally.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said Tuesday that Reggie Bush and Joique Bell will share the load.

“[T]his game is a violent game anymore and it’s hard for one running back to get all the carries,” Lombardi said.  “So much like they did last year, I see these guys kind of having a split role and both being very productive.”

Last year, Bush and Bell became the first teammates in league history to rack up both 500 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in the same season.

Based on salaries, Bush likely is in line to be the starter.  But Bell will get plenty of opportunities, and the shared role will help both guys stay healthy deeper into the season — and to play deeper into the decade.

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Derek Carr isn’t lacking in confidence

DerekCarr Getty Images

When it comes to the 2014 crop of rookie quarterbacks, most consider three of them to be at the top of the heap:  Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, and Johnny Manziel.

There’s a fourth guy who believes he’s better than all of them.

Appearing on NFL Network on Tuesday, Fresno State’s Derek Carr was asked whether he’s the best quarterback in the draft.

Absolutely,” Carr said.  “And I say that with respect to all of the other guys because they are great competitors and all of those good things.  Of course it’s not easy for me to answer a question like that but I absolutely think so.  There is no doubt in my mind and we can turn the film on, sit down and watch it, and we’ll talk about it and I’ll convince you.”

Plenty of franchises are interested in having that conversation with a potential franchise quarterback.  In a separate appearance on the league-owned broadcast channel, Carr rattled off a list of teams with which he has met.

“Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Tampa, Minnesota – just the first that come off the top of my head,” Carr said.  “Tennessee.  I’ve been with them, working out with them, visiting with them, talking to them, the whole process.  Those have been the initial ones so far.”

Carr’s brother, David, was the first pick in the 2002 draft.  After five years as the starter in Houston, Carr has served as a backup with the Panthers, Giants, 49ers, and Giants again.

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Trump has realistic shot of being approved

Trump AP

Despite the bluster, the bravado, and the convenient revisions to the history of his antagonism of the NFL, billionaire Donald Trump would have a good chance of being approved as owner of the Bills, if the family of Ralph Wilson decides to sell the team to him.

“I don’t see why not,” a source with direct knowledge of the dynamics of team ownership told PFT on Tuesday.  “He’s the only one saying it will stay in Buffalo.”

But what of Trump’s thirst for attention, his potential inability to put the greater good above his own interests, his tendency to be belligerent and combative with real or imagined enemies?

“I don’t think there are nine people to stop him,” the source said, in reference to the fact that nine “no” votes from other owners can block the sale.

Of course, a vote of the owners won’t matter unless the Wilson family chooses to sell the team to Trump.  It’s one thing for Trump to talk publicly about buying the franchise.  It’s quite another to put the cash and financing together to make the purchase.

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Anthony Barr intrigued by playing in Dallas

Barr AP

The Cowboys need defensive linemen.  And multiple defensive linemen in the draft pool would like to play for the Cowboys.  The question is whether they’ll be there when the Cowboys are on the clock.

And whether the Cowboys will move up the board to get them.

A day after Pitt’s Aaron Donald visited Big D, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr arrived.  And he talked about his interest in the Cowboys.

“There’s pros and cons to every team and everywhere you go, but if I were a Cowboy, that would be really a blessing, truly a dream come true – a team I watched growing up,” Barr said, via the team’s official website.  “It would just be surreal.  I would be really appreciative to be here.”

During his visit, Barr spent time with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

“He showed me a lot of tape of [Julius] Peppers and Simeon Rice and [Warren] Sapp, so I think he wants me playing that defensive right end position to go after the quarterback, and that’s something I’m all for,” Barr said.

Barr also was a little star struck by the folks from the team with the blue star.

“I met Jerry Jones last night, and I couldn’t believe it,” Barr said.  “I couldn’t even talk at first, like, ‘This is Jerry Jones.’  It was a pretty cool experience, so these guys get my respect right off the bat.”

He’ll get their respect if he becomes a Cowboy, and if he helps lead the team back to the days of glory.

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Report: 49ers “very unlikely” to pick up option on Aldon Smith

AldonSmith AP

The 49ers have until May 3 to decide whether to extend the contract of linebacker Aldon Smith from four years to five.  In the wake of his latest off-field incident, we reported that the 49ers haven’t made a decision on whether to pick up the option.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the team is “very unlikely” to extend the deal.

Kawakami also believes that Smith “probably” won’t play for the 49ers in 2014.  The mechanism for Smith’s unavailability is unclear.  He could be suspended by the league under multiple policies and/or he could be placed on the non-football injury/illness list by the team if he has had a relapse of his alcohol issues.

The decision not to exercise the option reinforces the notion that the 49ers may indeed be done with Smith, at least for now.  Exercising the option would guarantee his 2015 salary of $9.75 million for injury only.  As of next March, it would be fully guaranteed.

For now, Smith’s 2014 salary also is guaranteed.  A suspension would wipe out the guarantee, however.  Likewise, if the 49ers were to place Smith on the NFI list, they wouldn’t have to pay him.

The risk of owing him $9.75 million in 2015 remains small.  Which would make a decision not to pick up the option confusing.  If the 49ers are done with Smith, why not trade him?  He’d be more attractive in trade if his new team would control his rights for two years.

Regardless of how the situation plays out, the 49ers clearly are exploring their options.  And those options include Smith never suiting up for the 49ers again.

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Report: Rolando McClain’s workout with Ravens “not a roaring success”

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

In a recent interview with the Carroll County Times, linebacker Rolando McClain indicated he wanted to restart his NFL career with the Ravens, who hold his rights after his retirement last spring.

Well, McClain reportedly had a workout with the Ravens, and the first accounts of that meeting are not flattering for the 2010 first-round pick.

According to Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network, McClain’s workout, from what she was told, “was NOT [her emphasis] a roaring success,” with the linebacker not completing the conditioning part of the exercise.

According to Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times, the workout was conducted Tuesday, and it “did not go well.”

Speaking at the NFL meetings in March, Ravens coach John Harbaugh made it clear the club would welcome back McClain, but only if he were diligent about his craft.

“If he’s working his rear end off, then I’m kind of excited about him,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN.com. “If he’s not, then I’ve got no interest in him being on our team.”

The 24-year-old McClain last appeared in an NFL game in 2012 with Oakland.

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Falcons waive Saeed Lee, Adam Nissley

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Falcons waived defensive back Saeed Lee and tight end Adam Nissley on Tuesday, the club said.

Lee and Nissley spent the 2013 season on injured reserve.

The 23-year-old Lee signed with the Falcons last May after going undrafted out of Alabama State. He reportedly suffered a leg injury in training camp.

Nissley, 25, also spent the 2012 season on injured reserve. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nissley suffered two ACL tears in his time with the Falcons. A UCF product, Nissley signed with Atlanta in April 2012.

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Source: Schedule release planned for April 22

NFL Getty Images

When it comes to the 2014 schedule, the NFL has said that the target for the release is mid-April, but that the schedule won’t be released this week.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL currently plans to release the schedule on Tuesday, April 22.

The unveiling of the schedule could be shifted to Wednesday, April 23 or Thursday, April 24.  For now, though, the plan is to pull the sheet off the 256-game slate on Tuesday.

Look for the schedule to be announced in prime-time, with a multi-hour event on NFL Network and something similar to that on ESPN, complete with (if last year’s trend holds) an effort to make preliminary picks for games to be played in December.

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NCAA begins circling the wagons, starting with food

Burger Getty Images

The NCAA has done plenty of huffing and puffing in the wake of the effort of Northwestern’s football team to unionize.  The NCAA will now try to blow their house down.

With food.

On Tuesday, the NCAA’s Legislative Council determined that student-athletes “can receive unlimited meals and snacks in conjunction with their athletics participation.”

So now college football coaches can punctuate meetings by saying, “Let’s go eat a goddamn snack.”

The move won’t become official until April 24, if/when the NCAA Board of Directors approves the move.  It would be a shock if they nix it, since preventing something that many assumed already was available to student-athletes could be the moment that the push to secure significantly better treatment for them fully crystallizes.

Then again, that may have already happened.

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NFL could discipline Aldon Smith without resolution of pending charges

Smith Getty Images

The NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy gives a player the benefit of the doubt when he finds himself in one wrong-place/wrong-time situation.  The policy isn’t as forgiving when it happens two or more times.

With 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith now involved in a second incident that falls under the Personal Conduct Policy, he could be disciplined before either or both situations are resolved in court.

“With respect to repeat offenders, the Commissioner may impose discipline on an enhanced and/or expedited basis,” the league’s Personal Conduct Policy states.  “In such cases, the timing and nature of the discipline will be determined by the Commissioner based on several factors including, but not limited to:  the severity of the initial charge and the later charge, the facts underlying the later charge; the length of time between the initial offense and later charge; and the player or employee’s compliance with counseling and other programs.”

Last year, Smith was charged with multiple felony counts arising from the alleged possession of illegal weapons.  He now faces an eventual felony charge arising from the allegation that he made a false claim of having a bomb while in an airport security line.

With a pair of pending felony incidents, that could be enough to prompt the NFL to move against Smith sooner rather than later.

Multiple players have been suspended by the NFL while charges were still pending.  Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended six games (reduced to four) without ever being even arrested or charged.

Smith’s multiple alcohol-related arrests fall under the substance-abuse policy.  The NFL could be influenced by those incidents when deciding whether to discipline Smith before either of the two non-alcohol charges has been resolved.

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Jaworski ranks Mettenberger over Manziel, Bridgewater

Zach Mettenberger

Ron Jaworski, the former NFL quarterback turned ESPN commentator, is well regarded for his ability to break down film and analyze it in a way that fans can understand. But in breaking down the quarterbacks in this year’s NFL draft, Jaworski has been all over the map.

The latest example: Jaworski said today on NFL Live that he views former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger as a better prospect than either of the two highest-profile quarterbacks in this year’s draft, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M or Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville.

“This is the guy that can change the draft, Zach Mettenberger,” Jaworski said. “He has the big, strong arm, the prototypical NFL quarterback, at 6-foot-5, 228 pounds, coached by Cam Cameron down there at LSU, pro-style offense.”

Jaworski ranks former Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles as the best of this year’s class, Mettenberger second, Manziel third, Bridgewater fourth and Derek Carr of Fresno State fifth. Jaworski seems to put a lot of stock in pro days, moving Manziel up on the risk after ripping Manziel before his impressive showing at Texas A&M’s Pro Day, and moving Bridgewater way down after his disappointing showing at Louisville’s Pro Day.

“After my tape evaluation, I had Teddy Bridgewater No. 1. But I went to his Pro Day. He really struggled throwing the football — accuracy, velocity and it came out with a wobble,” Jaworski said.

It’s highly unlikely that the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class will be selected in Jaworski’s preferred order. But all it takes is one team to love Mettenberger as much as Jaworski does, and Mettenberger will be a first-round pick.

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Vikings claim Terrell Manning off waivers

San Diego Chargers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

It won’t make the kind of splash that signing Brett Favre did, but the Vikings have added another former member of the Packers to their roster after he spent a season playing in the AFC.

The Vikings have been awarded linebacker Terrell Manning off of waivers one day after he was let go by the Chargers. Manning was a fifth-round pick of the Packers in 2012 and played five games for the team before being waived last summer.

Manning was limited to just one game for the Chargers last season because of injuries, so he’s got very little NFL experience under his belt after two years in the league. Manning has spent most of his time as an inside linebacker and he’ll be competing for snaps with Michael Mauti, Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole if the Vikings put him into the mix at middle linebacker.

The Vikings also signed tight end Allen Reisner on Tuesday as they continue shaping their roster ahead of the 2014 season.

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