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Special Monday 10-pack: Winners and losers in free agency

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Only six days ago, the free-agent market opened.  One of the biggest classes of veteran players, with some of the biggest names, landed on the market.

Apart from the Peyton chase, much of the dust has settled.

And so now we’re required by the laws of football analysis to tell you who won and who lost, even though we won’t really know the answer until they start playing games.

Which, you know, will feature winners and losers.

1. Winner:  Eagles.

Last year, with a compressed offseason and a new defensive coordinator who had been an offensive line coach for 14 prior seasons, the Eagles foolishly embarked on a spending spree, bringing in a bunch of big-name players and setting the stage for a Wonderlic pick-sixer blurting out the dreaded “Dream Team” label.

Apart from the challenge of getting a bunch of new employees on the same page quickly, the move surely caused some of the men already under contract to wonder why they weren’t getting a share of the free-agency windfall.

This year, the Eagles have focused on taking care of their own, which is a much better way to ensure that a true spirit of team will take over the locker room.

Perhaps most importantly, the Eagles have set the stage for receiver DeSean Jackson to turn back the clock to 2009, when he wasn’t concerned about staying healthy and/or getting paid.  The Eagles have addressed those concerns via a long-term deal that, in comparison to some of the too-heavy contracts given to lesser receivers and in light of Jackson’s rocky recent history, looks like a win-win.

Maybe that means “win” will be a more common term in the term’s vocabulary this season.

2.  Winner:  Packers.

G.M. Ted Thompson rarely makes a big splash in free agency.  The biggest exception came in 2006, when at the very public urging of quarterback Brett Favre the team signed cornerback Charles Woodson.

Other than that, the Packers under Thompson take a very conservative approach, building through the draft and using free agency on a limited basis, with low-cost talent addressing specific needs.

It’s not sexy this time of year.  But this isn’t the time of year when championships are won.  Unlike downtrodden organizations (such as the Packers themselves in 1993, when Reggie White chose Green Bay from a long list of suitors), the Packers don’t need to do anything to fire up the fan base or breathe life into the franchise.

It’s the right approach for this specific team.  The Packers have won, once again, by doing nothing.

3.  Winner:  Bills.

Speaking of downtrodden organizations, no team needed a big-ticket free agent like Mario Williams more than the Bills.  And they went all in, pulling out all the stops and persuading Williams to spend two nights in town and eventually getting the job done.

It gives Buffalo and the Bills a major boost, igniting intense local interest and legitimate national attention.  It also makes good football sense; defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt now has a player around whom the team’s new 4-3 defense can be built.

It wasn’t cheap, and it may prove to be a mistake.  But it was a risk the Bills needed to make if they ever hope to become relevant again.

4.  Winner:  Patriots.

At first, it looked like the Pats would follow the Pack’s “closed for business” approach to the early days of free agency.  But with needs at receiver, they’ve added a player in Brandon Lloyd who’ll have a far bigger impact than Chad Ochocinco (then again, the bar is low), and they’ve given Wes Welker a little cause for concern by landing a candidate to play slot receiver in Anthony Gonzalez.

They’ve also addressed an area of need on defense, adding the once-promising Trevor Scott to the rotation of recently underachieving pass rushers.

The Pats could still use a true deep threat to clear out all the underneath traffic.  But even if Lloyd is the biggest addition, the team that nearly won the Super Bowl in 2011 will be contending again in 2012.

5.  Winner:  Chiefs.

Yes, they were denied admission to the Peyton chase.  But let’s not forget that, despite all the dysfunction and key injuries of 2011, the Chiefs weren’t far away from winning the weakest division in the NFL.

Unlike most teams, the Chiefs found bargains even before the market softened, adding running back Peyton Hillis to a one-year, fire-under-butt-lighting $2.6 million contract, tight end Kevin Boss for three years and $9 million, right tackle Eric Winston, and backup quarterback Brady Quinn.

Hillis and Quinn played for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll in Cleveland, adding some familiarity to the new Romeo Crennel regime.  Winston addresses a key area of need, and Boss gives the Chiefs a second pass-catching tight end, which apparently is now a mandatory requirement for any team that hopes to be highly successful in the passing game.

Next up, don’t be surprised if Crennel lures another former Brown to Kansas City, with linebacker Kamerion Wimbley on the market.

6.  Loser:  Dolphins.

Peter King of SI.com chronicles a decade of bizarre personnel moves by the Dolphins, but the organization is now developing another troubling reputation:  anyone with options won’t opt for Miami.

It began last year with owner Stephen Ross clumsily pursuing coach Jim Harbaugh, which painted a vivid picture of disloyalty to coach Tony Sparano.  It continued in 2012 when Ross tried, and failed, to lure coach Jeff Fisher to town.  And it spread to the ranks of players in 2012, with Peyton Manning showing tepid interest at best in joining the team (even though some believed it was a done deal that he’d be a Dolphin).  Then, Matt Flynn’s decision to play for the Seahawks instead of former Packers coordinator/Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin did more than raise eyebrows — especially when followed by Steelers safety Ryan Clark proclaiming that “no one” wants to play for the Dolphins.

It’s possible that Philbin simply wasn’t all that interested in Flynn, and that Philbin knows  Flynn’s pair of high-end performances (one in 2010 and one in 2011) won’t translate to being an effective week-in, week-out starter, once opposing defenses have a chance to study enough of his film and figure him out.  If that’s the case, the Dolphins shouldn’t have even brought him to town for a visit.  By doing so, it creates the impression that they wanted him — and that yet again they failed to get their man.

Correct or not, there’s now a perception that no one of significant consequence wants to work for the Dolphins.  And the harder Ross tries to turn the page by making a “big splash,” the more likely it is that he’ll continue to swing the bat and hit himself in the face with it.

7.  Loser:  Saints.

With Bountygate lingering, the Saints had even more reason to work out a new, long-term deal with Drew Brees.  And yet the Saints continue to fail to find a middle ground with their franchise quarterback.

There’s a chance Brees simply wants too much.  But here’s the problem:  He deserves it.  The best NFL quarterback of the last six years, if he wants to max out his contract, then he should.

And as to the idea that he needs to leave some money behind so that the Saints can field a competitive team given the salary cap, here’s one important point:  It never stopped the Colts from being competitive when Peyton got every last dollar he could.

And while it’s good that the Saints kept receiver Marques Colston, they lost Robert Meachem.  And while it’s good that they lured Ben Grubbs away from Baltimore, the lost Carl Nicks.

More importantly, they’ve yet to do anything to address needs on defense, which could become even more significant once the suspensions come down.

8.  Loser:  Vikings.

Good teams can afford to sit on the sidelines in the early days of free agency.  The Vikings are not a good team.

With plenty of cap room and a tenuous stadium situation and a fan base that may choose to do things other than attend or watch Vikings games this season, the franchise needed to make a splash.  Not a Mario Williams cannonball; but something more significant than a John Carlson dog paddle.

It’s doesn’t mean the Vikings should go hog wild.  But they should have made it a priority to land one big-name player, even if it meant overpaying a little.

The offseason is about selling hope.  Teams like the Packers, Patriots, Giants, and Steelers can afford to do nothing in March; the hope is implied.  For teams that have fallen, March is an opportunity to prove that they’re at least trying to get up.

9.  Loser:  Ravens.

The Ravens had four players in the PFT Hot 100 free-agency list.  Three already have bolted for greener pastures:  defensive end Cory Redding, linebacker Jarret Johnson, and guard Ben Grubbs.

To make matters worse, guard Evan Mathis opted to stay with the Dream Team in lieu of joining a team that, on paper, seems to have a better chance of making its dreams come true.

Then there’s the lingering possibility that someone will make restricted free agent cornerback Lardarius Webb an offer the Ravens can’t afford to match.

Though there’s a long way to go before September, it’s hard not to think that, at least for now, the Ravens have faded a bit closer to the pack in the AFC.

10.  Loser:  Bengals.

By capping 2011 with an unlikely playoff berth, it can’t be said that Paul Brown Stadium routinely was less than full due to the fact that the team was bad.  Instead, the fan base is fed up with owner Mike Brown.

Even though the team is laying a solid foundation of youthful players, Bengals fans think it’s not because of Brown but in spite of him.  And with a huge cap surplus for 2012, the Bengals haven’t done much to persuade anyone that they’re willing to spend.

The good news is that, after several days of inaction, the Bengals have gone bargain shopping, adding offensive lineman Travelle Wharton and defensive back Jason Allen.  They also managed to keep free-agent safety Reggie Nelson, who had attracted an offer from the Jets.

But this is the one playoff team that needed to at least chase a marquee free agent.  They didn’t have to land the guy.  Mike Brown simply needed to show that he’s willing to move from the nickel slot machines over to the no-limit poker table.

The Bengals may once again be competitive in 2012.  The fans won’t embrace the franchise they way they should, however, until they see large chunks of their money being reinvested in players who can help the team compete for a championship.

11.  Loser/Winner:  Redskins.

I know.  I said there would be only 10 winners and losers.  But I didn’t say anything about the team that lands in both categories.

The $36 million in unexpected cap charges for treated the uncapped year too literally makes the Redskins losers.  Their refusal to shrug their shoulders when they did nothing wrong makes them winners.

Their ability to still find a way to spend money makes them winners.  Their decision to give so much money to the likes of Pierre Garçon and Josh Morgan makes them losers.

Their willingness to move up to No. 2 and get the franchise’s first true franchise quarterback since Sammy Baugh possibly will make them winners.  Mortgaging the future by giving up three first-round draft picks and a second-round pick possibly will make them losers.

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Packers linebacker Clay Matthews gets day off with “knee soreness”

The Packers had a pretty noticeable absence from practice Monday, but coach Mike McCarthy downplayed any suggestion it was serious.

According to Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com, linebacker Clay Matthews was held out with “knee soreness,” though there were few other details.

McCarthy said Matthews felt something during Saturday’s practice. Players had Sunday off, and when they returned today, Matthews just jogged off the field after watching a bit of practice, before going back in to rehab with the other injured players.

While it may not be a big deal in August, his importance to the Packers defense can’t be overstated. He’s continuing to work both inside and outside, after being thrown into the middle on the fly last year. While that was a concern then because of the impact he can make as a pass-rusher, Matthews didn’t look out of place in the middle.

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Chip Kelly: I don’t hide my personal life, but it’s bizarre anyone cares

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Eagles coach Chip Kelly says that contrary to common belief, the recent revelation that he was once married wasn’t something that he’s been hiding. It’s just something he doesn’t care to discuss publicly.

Kelly says that if people are interested in his football team, that’s something he’ll discuss. His personal life? He doesn’t get why anyone would care.

I just think it’s bizarre,” Kelly told Albert Breer of NFL Network. “I just coach football. That’s what it’s all about. Why people want to know about that other part, I don’t know. I’m not a social media guy, I don’t tweet, I don’t Facebook, whatever all that stuff is. It’s no different than Darren Sproles [not liking to] talk to the media. It bothers me when people don’t respect that. Because you play a professional sport or you coach a professional sport, why does it have to be like that?”

Kelly’s comparison of himself to Sproles doesn’t really hold water. Sproles doesn’t like giving interviews because he stutters and often struggles with speaking when he feels rushed by reporters who are just looking for a quick sound bite. Sproles, who majored in speech pathology at Kansas State, has been open about his stuttering and does discuss it publicly, including working with the Stuttering Foundation. Kelly’s privacy, on the other hand, is just a personal preference.

“I have a very bland, quiet life,” Kelly said. “There’s not a lot there. And I’m not hiding anything, either. There’s no revelations. You wanna talk football? I’ll talk football. That’s my job.”

Kelly’s approach to football makes him one of the most intriguing coaches in the NFL, and that’s why fans are interested in knowing more about him. And, of course, the fact that so many fans are so interested in football is why Kelly is a multimillionaire. If he wants to maintain his privacy that’s his right, but it’s also fair for fans to want to know more about the coach who is turning the NFL on its ear.

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Jack Del Rio brings in a “mindset coach” to keep Raiders positive

Jack Del Rio AP

Once upon a time, Jack Del Rio tried to motivate his team with an ax, and he nearly ended up with a one-legged punter.

So it’s probably for the common good that he’s using something softer, like positive vibes this time.

Via Tom Pelissero of USA Today, the new Raiders coach is trying to change the atmosphere around a perennial losing team by not talking about all the losing that happened before he got there.

“I told them, ‘You guys can really help us by not referring anymore to negative things that have occurred here,’ ” Del Rio said of coaches and former players who are hanging around camp. “Let’s just talk about what we’re going to do going forward and the positives and bring us that great energy. That’ll help.”

Del Rio has also hired a “mindset coach” to work with the coaching staff, who is emphasizing nutrition, exercise, sleep and recovery to help keep the coaches positive, and create a better work environment.

While it sounds a little new-age for the NFL, players seem to enjoy the new approach so far, and it can’t hurt. Since Florio hasn’t hired a mindset coach for us yet, this is where we’re obligated to point out the Raiders haven’t made the playoffs since 2002, and are 56-136 with nine head coaches since then.

So no wonder they’re trying to get their zen on, and Del Rio has his new consultants working with all areas of the organization.

“We’re trying to hit the Raiders from all sides, really trying to build a sustainable, winning team,” said Scott Peltin, who co-founded the executive performance firm TIGNUM. “A big part is teaching coaches to be better problem-solvers, role-model a high-performance mindset and have more energy and resilience.”

Del Rio’s a high-energy guy anyway, so trying to shake things up fits with his personality. And it’s certainly better than chopping your foot off. So even if it sounds a little corny, it can’t possibly hurt, because they’ve been really bad for more than a decade.

Oh wait, we weren’t supposed to say that.

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Star Lotulelei carted off at Panthers practice

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The start of training camp is a good time in the football calendar because it draws us closer to meaningful games after months without the game, but the increased tempo and intensity of practices also creates an added risk of injuries that leads to players being carted off the field during workouts.

That’s what happened at Panthers practice on Monday. Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei needed the cart’s help to return to the locker room after going down during a drill.

Steve Reed of the Associated Press reports that Lotulelei limped off the field at the end of a play and received medical attention from trainers before riding off the field with his right foot wrapped in ice. Coach Ron Rivera said, via the team, only that Lotulelei’s foot is sore.

Lotulelei broke a bone in his foot in practice during the playoffs last year and any absence during the season would be a blow to a Panthers defense that relies on Lotulelei and fellow 2013 draft pick Kawann Short to control things in the middle of their defensive line.

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Saints add Morten Andersen to ring of honor

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Not many kickers get their names in the rafters at NFL stadiums, but not many kickers have careers like Morten Andersen.

Andersen, one of the greatest kickers in NFL history, has been announced as the next addition to the Saints’ ring of honor. In making the announcement today, Saints coach Sean Payton argued that Andersen also belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Payton makes a good case. Andersen was a Hall of Fame finalist last year, and he’s the NFL’s all-time record holder for games played (382), points scored (2,544) and field goals made (565).

The argument against Andersen basically boils down to an argument against putting any kicker in the Hall of Fame. There’s only one pure kicker in the Hall of Fame, Jan Stenerud, and voters may not be ready to put a second kicker in. (If Andersen doesn’t make it, the next kicker who would have a good shot of getting a bust in Canton would be Adam Vinatieri.)

There’s no argument, however, that Andersen is one of the greatest players in the history of the Saints. He’ll be recognized as such at a Superdome ceremony this season.

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PFT Live: Mark Rodgers, Chargers talk with Kevin Acee

Russell Wilson AP

The Seahawks and quarterback Russell Wilson beat a start of camp deadline to agree on a new extension and we’ll be looking at how they struck that agreement on Monday’s edition of PFT Live.

Wilson’s agent Mark Rodgers will join Mike Florio on the show to walk us through the steps that he took to secure Wilson’s four-year, $87.6 million extension. We’ll also find out how close Wilson came to playing out the 2015 season on his current deal during Rodgers’s visit.

Wilson isn’t the only quarterback whose contract has been a topic of conversation this offseason. Philip Rivers’s deal with the Chargers is up after this season and word out of San Diego that there’s a drop-dead date for talks looming. Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego will talk to Florio about where things stand on that front and fill us in on anything else of note from Chargers camp.

We also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app.

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NFL Constitution and Bylaws not yet relevant to #DeflateGate

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The decision of the Patriots to post a lengthy retort to the Ted Wells report triggered speculation that the Patriots possibly violated the NFL Constitution & Bylaws. Last week’s strong statements from owner Robert Kraft followed by the team’s decision to release email communications with the league office regarding leaks and the NFL’s failure to investigate them has raised once again the question of whether the Patriots will face separate discipline for criticizing the league.

Article 9.1(C)(4) of the Constitution & Bylaws states that no team may “[p]ublicly criticize any member club or its management, personnel, employees, or coaches and/or any football official employed by the league.” The provision then requires that “[a]ll complaints or criticism in respect to the foregoing shall be made to the Commissioner only and shall not be publicized directly or indirectly.”

As explained in May, Athis language doesn’t encompass a (supposedly) independent investigator. But does it apply to criticism of the NFL itself?

Maybe. While the language primarily focuses on public criticism of other teams, it also prohibits criticism of “any football official employed by the league.”

At first blush, that encompasses game officials, the folks in the black and white stripes. But the language is broad enough to cover front-office employees — football officials who don’t actually enter the field of play.

So far, the only specific target of the assault from the Patriots has been NFL general counsel Jeff Pash, who arguably is not a football official. But he hasn’t been criticized by the Patriots; instead, the team has merely released emails sent to and received from him.

The Patriots haven’t specifically criticized any football officials by name. But that won’t necessarily stop the I-do-what-I-want mindset from twisting the team’s generalized comments into a finding that they have violated the rule that requires criticism on football matters to be directed privately to the Commissioner and not publicly articulated.

The question is whether the NFL wants to further escalate the situation by pushing back against the Patriots, or whether the league is willing to let the team vent — to an extent. As PFT reported over the weekend, the Patriots have yet to hear from the league in response to the email disclosure, but the Patriots assume that, eventually, a message will arrive.

The league has not yet responded to a request for comment from PFT on the Patriots’ decision to release the emails. The NFL has spoken, however, on a separate provision of the NFL Constitution & Bylaws that many are citing as proof of a violation by the league office.

Here’s Article 9.3(B): “No owner or person holding any interest in a member club, nor any officer, stockholder, director, or partner thereof, nor any officer or employee of the League or a member club thereof, shall enter the dressing room of a game official.”

Under the plain language of this provision, no League employee may enter the dressing room of a league employee. Thus, Article 9.3(B) seems to clearly prevent what happened in this case; as explained at page 66 of the Ted Wells Report, league employees Alberto Riveron, Dan Grossi, Troy Vincent, and Mike Kensil entered the “dressing room of the game officials” for the purposes of testing 11 Patriots footballs and four Colts footballs at halftime of the AFC Championship.

On one level, it’s a technicality. The testing of the footballs needed to be done somewhere; the locker room assigned to the officials made the most sense.

At a deeper level, the message could be that there should be none of these ad hoc investigations or inquiries sparked by league employees while a game is being played. If there are concerns raised by a team during a game, it’s for the game officials — and no one else — to handle it. And if the NFL, via 95 years of never considering what happens inside the bladder of a football under varying temperatures and other weather conditions, suddenly becomes curious about that topic, the way to address it isn’t to have a posse of league employees barge into the locker room of the officials to launch an investigation at halftime but to take the appropriate measures apart from the fragile and finite confines of a given game.

From the league’s perspective, there’s no violation at all — based not on the plain language of the provision but based on the way it has been applied.

“The interpretation has always been that no one should enter the game officials locker room unless on official business,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT by email on Monday morning. “League, club, and security people enter the officials locker rooms at every game to assist them with various functions. It is standard procedure. If the officials have an issue with anyone entering their locker room inappropriately, they would report it to security people at the site or to the head of officiating.

“This isn’t anything new or different. Various people with official game day functions enter the room. For example, your SNF crew goes into officials’ locker room for the standard 90-minute meeting before the game. The meeting includes someone from the broadcasting crew, the officials, officiating observer, the home and away PR reps, green hat, orange sleeves. This happens at every NFL game.”

The explanation makes sense, but the first paragraph invites curiosity regarding how game officials felt about a sudden investigation being launched not by the game officials but by the NFL, during the limited period of time that the game officials have to relax and regroup for the next 30 minutes of game action. Besides, if any of the game officials had deemed the intrusion by league employees “inappropriate,” would any of them have felt comfortable saying so?

Regardless, the Constitution & Bylaws currently aren’t an issue for the Patriots or for the NFL in the #DeflateGate controversy. And, unless and until the Patriots begin criticizing specific football officials by name, they likely never will be.

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Chiefs waive Jerel Worthy

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Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey was in the Packers front office when the team drafted defensive lineman Jerel Worthy in the second round of the 2012 draft and that likely helped Worthy land a spot on the team’s roster this offseason.

That connection won’t help Worthy stick around into the second week of training camp, however. The Chiefs announced on Monday that they have waived Worthy.

Worthy played 14 games and made four starts for the Packers as a rookie, recording 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble before tearing his ACL in the final week of the regular season. He made it back for two games in 2013 and was traded to the Patriots last August, but didn’t make the team out of camp.

Worthy is just 25, but playing two games and passing through three teams since the start of the 2013 season doesn’t bode very well for his chances of a lasting NFL career.

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Buccaneers building a new indoor facility, need it now

Camp Rained Out AP

The Buccaneers were supposed to have a public workout yesterday, but heavy rains in Central Florida forced them to delay and eventually move it.

They might not have to for long, as the team is finally building an indoor facility at One Buc Place.

We actually are working on that right now,’’ co-chairman Bryan Glazer said, via Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune. “The architects are drawing that up. It’s a work in progress but that is going to happen. As soon as we get the drawings done we’ll give you further details.’’

In the past, the Bucs have had to use Tropicana Field or the University of South Florida’s building if weather forced them off their own practice fields, an inconvenience for the football staff.

“Our owners are always trying to make it easier for us to improve our ball club,’’ head coach Lovie Smith said “The weather won’t affect us at all [once the indoor field is built], so it will be big once we do get it.’’

Glazer said he hoped the facility would be in place by training camp next year, as part of a larger renovation of Raymond James Stadium.

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DeAndre Levy: I’m focused on myself, not other people’s contracts

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The Seahawks gave Bobby Wagner a four-year contract extension worth a total of $43 million over the weekend and that deal likely caught the eye of a few other linebackers who don’t make their biggest impact rushing the passer.

Players like Lavonte David of the Buccaneers, Luke Kuechly of the Panthers and DeAndre Levy of the Lions all fall into that category and all of them are in the market for new deals of their own. Not all of the deals will come in the same range, but Wagner’s contract could be used as a fencepost on the way to their own contracts.

On Sunday, however, Levy said that he’s not paying that much attention to what his peers get in their contracts.

“I try to focus on what I can do and not have what I do dictated on whether another guy gets paid,” Levy said, via the Detroit Free Press. “I mean, [he and Lavonte David] both deserve it. … I didn’t know what he got but I just saw on TV that he got a deal and they’re both more than deserving.”

Levy has turned in two excellent seasons in a row for the Lions and the two sides have started talking about a contract. Levy said it will be up to his agent if those talks continue into the season since he’ll be concentrating on on-field matters.

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Giants, Jason Pierre-Paul finally touch base

Jason Pierre-Paul AP

There’s still no word on when Jason Pierre-Paul will sign his one-year contract with the Giants, and no word on whether he’ll be healthy enough to play when he does. But the two sides are at least talking.

The Giants had no contact at all with Pierre-Paul from his Fourth of July fireworks injury into the beginning of August, but on Sunday Giants G.M. Jerry Reese finally talked to Pierre-Paul, Giants owner John Mara said today on 660 AM in New York.

Pierre-Paul is the Giants’ franchise player, which means he has few options: He can either sign a one-year contract to play with the Giants this year or not sign anywhere at all. So eventually he’s going to be with the Giants this year.

But if he’s not healthy enough to play, the Giants will put him on the non-football injury list, which means they won’t have to pay him. Pierre-Paul suffered serious hand injuries, including the loss of an index finger, in the fireworks accident. At this point, no one seems to know when or if he’ll be able to play this year.

Before Pierre-Paul can play, he needs to report to the Giants. Talking to Reese may be the first step toward that happening.

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Chuck Pagano to Robert Mathis: Slow down, it’s a long season

Robert Mathis AP

The Colts placed linebacker Robert Mathis on the physically unable to perform list at the start of camp because he’s continuing to work his way back from last year’s torn Achilles.

That’s hardly unexpected and you could say the same about Mathis’s push to be ready for the first week of the regular season, but coach Chuck Pagano said Sunday that the team isn’t operating under the same timeline. Given Mathis’s age and the severity of the injury, Pagano says that the Colts are taking the long view when it comes to Mathis’s availability.

“I think we would be foolish to not consider all those things … It would be stupid on our part to say, ‘Ok, you’re healthy, you’re good,'” Pagano said, via the Indianapolis Star. “We just have to stick to the process and be patient. Everybody’s champing at the bit. You guys are champing at the bit. He’s champing at the bit. We’re champing at the bit. The position coach is champing at the bit. Slow down. We’ve got a long way to go. It’s a long season.”

Linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald cited Jonathan Newsome and Trent Cole as two players that make it easier for the Colts to be patient with Mathis during the summer and into the season and the approach could pay off for the Colts if it means a fresher and more effective Mathis coming off the edge down the stretch this season.

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Terrelle Pryor making a good impression on Browns coaches

Terrelle Pryor AP

Browns wide receiver conversion project Terrelle Pryor is confident he’s going to make it, and the fact he spent part of the offseason working with a legendary veteran receiver like Randy Moss and some contemporaries was a good first step.

But after a short time watching the former quarterback ply his new trade, the Browns sound increasingly optimistic about his chances.

Via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns receivers coach Joker Phillips said Pryor has made a good first impression, and has the thing that makes hard work worthwhile.

“It’s hard to say right now,” Phillips said. “I’m not going to put that kind of pressure on him or myself. I can tell you this, he’s very, very — and I’ll say it two times — very, very talented. There’s no question about that. The guy’s talented, and talent wins ball games. Now, we’ve got to challenge that talent with the techniques that we have and give him a chance to be successful out wide.”

Phillips said he’s been impressed with the time Pryor is spending working on becoming a wideout, saying he was “all in” and “starving to be taught the techniques.”

If he can learn them, it gives him a good chance to stand out in a Browns receiving group that lacks weapons, or his kind of size.

“He doesn’t look out of place,” head coach Mike Pettine said. “It’s still very early, too early to tell, but he does not look out of place. He does some good things. He is just behind from the learning standpoint and the subtleties of playing receiver. If you had asked where he would be at this point, I would think we would all agree he is ahead of where we thought he would be.”

The preseason will be an important indicator of his progress, as his ability to get open isn’t the only thing he has to learn. There are also blocking and special teams responsibilities, and since he didn’t do much of that at Ohio State (or with the Raiders, Seahawks, Chiefs or Bengals) he lacks experience.

But at least the early indications are good, which is enough for the Browns at the moment.

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Michael Crabtree is the early “star” of Raiders camp

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree catches a pass during NFL football minicamp, Wednesday, June 10, 2015, in Alameda, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) AP

In crossing the bay (not really, anymore), Michael Crabtree has gone from “third option” to potential superstar.

Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that the former 49er has been the early “star” of camp for the Raiders.

There’s a long way to go until Crabtree becomes a star during games that count. Drops and limited opportunities punctuated his last season in San Francisco, which ended with 68 catches for 698 yards.

In six seasons with the 49ers, the 2009 top-10 pick had only one 1,000 yard receiving season, cracking the barrier with 1,105 in 2012. Once he became a free agent, Crabtree generated little interest, eventually signing a one-year, $3.2 million contract with the Raiders.

It could end up being the best money the Raiders have spent in free agency in a long, long time.

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Monday morning one-liners

Cleveland Browns v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Bills RB Fred Jackson wants to be the oldest player to carry the ball in an NFL game.

WR Kenny Stills was limited during Dolphins practice on Sunday.

The Patriots added G Harland Gunn off of waivers.

Jets WR Eric Decker is happy not to have the spotlight on him this summer.

DE Brent Urban has done well early in Ravens camp.

Rex Burkhead is lining up all over the offense for the Bengals.

Browns WR coach Joker Phillips likes what he’s seen from new WR Terrelle Pryor.

A look at how CB Brandon Boykin fits into the Steelers secondary.

Jeff Adams could be at left guard for the Texans.

RB Vick Ballard is back in action for the Colts.

The Jaguars are high on G Brandon Linder’s future.

Dropped passes in practice earned the ire of Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Clancy Barone has settled into his role as the Broncos offensive line coach.

The Chiefs will have their first full-contact practice on Monday.

Raiders QB Derek Carr called LB Khalil Mack “a freak” after a weekend practice.

Said Chargers T D.J. Fluker, “Having Danny Woodhead back on the field makes a difference. It makes me enjoy being out there.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wants his team to cut down on “sloppy” play.

The Giants closed a musical Sunday practice with a punt catching competition between their offensive and defensive linemen.

CB JaCorey Shepherd is trying to fill the role vacated by Brandon Boykin in the Eagles defense.

TE Jordan Reed hopes to remain healthy and in the Redskins lineup this season.

Bears LB Shea McClellin is trying to be more vocal.

S James Ihedigbo wanted a new deal from the Lions, but says not getting one won’t be a distraction.

Packers DT B.J. Raji is the lightest he’s been since college.

Vikings rookie WR Stefon Diggs knows he has a lot of work to do.

TE Jacob Tamme sees the potential for a dynamic Falcons offense.

RB Jonathan Stewart knows the Panthers need everything he can give them this year.

C Max Unger expects a smooth transition to life with the Saints.

The Buccaneers will build an indoor practice facility.

How long will it be before the Cardinals are healthy at tight end?

Rams camp will feature a battle for playing time at cornerback.

The 49ers were back on the Levi’s Stadium field Sunday after a rocky Saturday night on the grass.

LB Bobby Wagner got a new deal from a Seahawks team that he didn’t think would draft him.

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