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Source: Pats, Gronkowski do a new deal

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The Patriots apparently are giving tight end Rob Gronkowski a few million reasons to dance with his shirt off.

A league source tells PFT that the Patriots and Gronkowski have reached agreement on a contract that would replace the final two seasons of his rookie deal.  A second-round pick in 2010, Gronkowski is due to earn $540,000 in 2012 and $575,000 in 2013.

His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, denies that a deal has been reached.

Gronkowski, who slid to round two due to a back injury that wiped out his final season at Arizona, set single-season records for tight ends with 1,327 receiving yards and 17 receiving touchdowns. He added an 18th touchdown on a two-yard run.

As a rookie, Gronkowski scored 10 touchdowns and generated 546 receiving yards.

He continues to recover from a badly-sprained ankle suffered during the AFC title game.  Though Gronkowski was able to play in the Super Bowl, he has surgery within a week after the game.

Terms of the agreement aren’t known.  Under the pre-2011 CBA, rookie deals may be renegotiated after two years.  As of 2011, rookie contracts cannot be re-done until the player has three years of service.

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NFLPA launches pursuit of collusion case with information request

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The NFLPA believes that the league colluded in 2010, and now the players are trying to prove it.

The process of collecting evidence in the two-week-old collusion case began Thursday.  A source with knowledge of the litigation tells PFT that the NFLPA has submitted requests for information and documents to the NFL.

In a normal federal lawsuit, so-called discovery requests can’t be made until after the court conducts an initial status conference.  Since the present action arises from a petition to reopen the Reggie White antitrust lawsuit, the NFLPA presumably believes that the process of collecting information and documents may begin.

Look for the NFL to fight this one, refusing to provide information until Judge David Doty has ruled on the question of whether the collusion claim was waived as part of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement and the settlement of all pending litigation.

In a roundabout way, the union’s strategy could get the case moving at a time when it isn’t.  By trying to take the initiative and gather evidence even though Judge Doty has yet to even acknowledge the new filing, the NFL will file paperwork that forces Judge Doty to dust off the file and get to work.

The NFLPA contends that the NFL had a secret salary cap of $123 million per team during the uncapped year of 2010.  According to the union, evidence of the collusion arose in the aftermath of an agreement between the league and the NFLPA to strip $46 million in salary cap space from the Redskins and Cowboys due to alleged competitive advantages obtained in the uncapped year.

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Banner’s regrets include the handling of Brian Dawkins

Dan Leone may finally feel vindicated.

The game-day employee at Lincoln Financial Field lost his job after a profane Facebook rant regarding the team’s failure to re-sign safety Brian Dawkins in 2009.  On Thursday’s PFT Live, former Eagles president Joe Banner identified the handling of Dawkins’ situation as one of the biggest regrets of Banner’s 18-year tenure with the team.

“I think that there were times where the true appreciation we had for the contributions of some of our players, you know, Brian Dawkins comes to mind the most,” Banner said.  “That certain situations were handled in a way that maybe the true, sincere, deep caring we had for those people didn’t show the way it should have.  I think those players were close enough to us personally to know how we felt, but I also understand how perceptions are driven.  And those are people we care about deeply and cherish and value and were invaluable to what we were trying to do here, and there were times I wish that could have been handled a little cleaner, primarily from a public relations perspective.”

Dawkins signed with the Broncos as a free agent at a time when it appeared that the Eagles had low-balled him, and that the Eagles simply didn’t believe he could generate serious interest elsewhere.  Dawkins went on to have three solid seasons in Denver.

Banner then was asked whether he had any regrets about the Terrell Owens debacle of 2005, and he opted not to rehash a seven-year-old scar.

All in all, though, Banner has far more reasons for pride, given that he helped transform the Eagles into consistent contenders.  Though they never managed to kick in the door on a championship, they’ve been knocking more often than not, which is more than most teams can say.

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Saints made new offer to Brees last Friday

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If the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees currently are truly close to getting a deal done, they’ve been close for nearly a week.

As reported by multiple other outlets, the Saints have recently made Brees a new offer.  According to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, the team made the new offer on Friday.

If the goal of the Friday offer was to get Brees to show up for a three-day mandatory minicamp that opened Tuesday, it didn’t work.  The source also said that Brees’ camp has yet to respond.

In theory, agent Tom Condon could call G.M. Mickey Loomis on Friday (or, you know, right now) and say, “We accept.”  But that’s not how it usually works.  Deadlines drive the final positions.  With the offseason program winding down, there’s no reason for either side to move toward its actual bottom line because the other side will wait until the eleventh hour and then squeeze for more.

So with the deadline for doing a multi-year deal coming on July 16, that remains the date to watch.  Something also could happen after the late June hearing before Stephen Burbank on the question of whether Brees would be entitled to a 20-percent raise or a 40-percent raise under the franchise tag in 2013, if both sides sufficiently fear losing the $3.9 million that hangs in the balance by waiting for Burbank to issue a decision.

Either way, there’s currently every reason to believe that Brees and the Saints will have a long-term deal in place by the middle of July.

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Brian Banks: This is by far the second-best day of my life

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Brian Banks, the former high school football star whose promising career was cut short when he was falsely accused of rape and sent to prison, tried out for the Seahawks today and got an invitation to next week’s minicamp. After getting that invitation, Banks said he’s had only one better feeling.

This is by far the second-best day of my life,” Banks said. “May 24, my day of exoneration, and then today. To be out on this field, to work out with the Seahawks, to be given an opportunity to have a tryout, I really don’t have words for it. This is a dream come true.”

Banks was imprisoned after a high school classmate, apparently motivated by a plan to extract money from their school in a lawsuit, claimed he raped her on school grounds. He spent the first five years of his adult life in prison after that, but he said today that he isn’t bitter.

“Not at all — look where I am,” Banks said with a laugh. “The last thing I want is to be bitter. I had those days, when I first received a six-year sentence, I had those days when I just wanted to lay in my cell and be angry and be bitter, but I realized all that did was keep me in the cell, bitter and angry.”

Banks joked about his flight to Seattle for his tryout, saying an experience that most of us consider a headache is a pleasure for someone who was locked up for five years.

“I haven’t flown in a plane in over 15 years, and before that I’ve only flown one time,” Banks said. “Even walking through the whole check-in area, taking your shoes off — I know a lot of people complain about that, but I was thrilled about it.”

Seeing Banks on the field for the Seahawks would be the feel-good story of the NFL season, and Seattle coach Pete Carroll said that’s a possibility. But Carroll also acknowledged that Banks “looks like a guy who hasn’t been schooled and worked out in the kind of fashion that our guys have, at this level.”

It’s unlikely that Banks will still be with the Seahawks in three months. But he’s thrilled to be there now.

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Report: Santonio Holmes had “mini-meltdown” at Jets’ practice

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Last season Jets receiver Santonio Holmes was widely regarded as a divisive figure in the team’s locker room. A report out of today’s Organized Team Activity suggests that Holmes still needs an attitude adjustment.

Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com reports that Holmes was “disgusted” and “bothered” today when he felt that the Jets’ coaches were working him too hard, that Holmes “staged a mini-meltdown” and that he “exchanged words with receivers coach Sanjay Lal.”

After the practice session, Holmes confirmed that he thought the coaches were asking too much of him and that he wanted to ease back into things after missing much of the Jets’ voluntary offseason work while visiting an Air Force base in Germany.

“I was talking to the coach, letting him understand it was too many reps today,” Holmes said. “I’ve been gone for a while, so I can’t be at full tempo like the rest of the guys and where they want us to be at.”

Of course, there was nothing stopping Holmes from working out on his own while he was in Germany so that he could be in good enough shape to keep up with his teammates when he returned. But Jets coach Rex Ryan apparently wasn’t too bothered by Holmes wanting to do less work today.

“He’s a veteran guy, he knows his body,” Ryan said.

And Holmes knows his body isn’t ready to go all-out for a full practice right now, and he’s making sure his position coach knows that, too.

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Browns spokesman says franchise is not for sale

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Cleveland Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis stated Thursday that the franchise is not for sale.

The Browns are not for sale,” Gulkis told the Associated Press. Gulkis is the Browns’ vice president of media relations.

Gulkis’ statement was made in response to NBC 10 Philadelphia reporter Howard Eskin’s recent suggestion that former Eagles club president Joe Banner might try to purchase the Browns.

Eskin also mentioned the Bills and Rams as possible targets for Banner.

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Rams sign Michael Brockers

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Michael Brockers, the first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams, has signed his rookie contract.

The Rams announced the deal and posted a picture of Brockers putting pen to paper on Thursday afternoon.

St. Louis selected Brockers 14th overall after trading down from No. 2 to No. 6 in the blockbuster trade that sent Robert Griffin III to the Redskins, then trading down from No. 6 to No. 14 in the deal that landed Morris Claiborne in Dallas. In the process the Rams got two extra first-round picks and two extra second-round picks, and ended up with a player they liked a lot with the 14th pick.

A defensive lineman from LSU, Brockers was an All-SEC player in 2011, his first season as a college starter.

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Taking a look at Ochocinco’s potential suitors

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Earlier in the hour on NBC SportsTalk, host Erik Kuselias asked me whether receiver Chad Ochocinco will draw more interest than former Bengals teammate Terrell Owens.  Since any interest is necessarily more than none, Ochocinco likely will be in better position to continue his NFL career.

But where?  Here’s a look at the possible suitors.  In no particular order other than the order the names popped into my head.

Cincinnati Bengals:  Don’t laugh.  OK, go ahead and laugh.  Coach Marvin Lewis put up with plenty over the years, and he won’t want to bring the Ochocircus back to town.  But if assistant Hue Jackson, who referred last year to Chad as Jackson’s “son,” decides to lobby Lewis aggressively, Hue could wear Marvin down.

Miami Dolphins:  The question of whether a team should be interested in any player ultimately comes down to a comparison of the player to the current talent on the depth chart.  The Dolphins have Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, and Legedu Naanee.  Enough said.  Chad would help, and he also would drive interest for the looming Hard Knocks series.

Buffalo Bills:  The Bills tried to land Robert Meachem in free agency, and the possibility of turning the Pats’ trash into a late-career treasure could intrigue G.M. Buddy Nix.  Buffalo pounced on T.O. three years ago, and while they may be gun shy after dealing with Owens, Chad has a reputation for being far more playful than Owens, who is seen by some as simply malicious.

Washington Redskins:  Several years ago, owner Daniel Snyder was willing to give up a couple of first-round picks for Chad.  But that was before G.M. Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan took the keys.

Jacksonville Jaguars:  The good news for Chad is that former Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski is now the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville.  The bad news for Chad, possibly, is that former Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski is now the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville.  Bratkowski, like Lewis, has ridden the Ochocoaster, and Bratkowski may not want to get back on.  If he does, however, that could be the best fit, given that Chad knows the offense — and given that he struggled mightily to learn a new one last year and, as evidenced by the Pats’ decision to cut him, this year.

Baltimore Ravens:  With Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith leading the way, Ochocinco could play a Houshmandzadeh-style supporting role for one of the top teams in the AFC.

Houston Texans:  They have only two receivers who have ever played in an NFL regular-season game.  But the Texans seem to be very reluctant to throw the doors open for guys who crave attention.

Oakland Raiders:  Carson Palmer knows him better than any quarterback.  Again, that could be a good thing.  And that could be a bad thing.

Dallas Cowboys:  So desperate for a No. 3 receiver that even T.O.’s name has emerged in very soft whispers, Chad could be the best available complement to Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.

Minnesota Vikings:  Look at the depth chart.  He’d instantly be the second-best receiver on the roster, behind Percy Harvin.

Carolina Panthers:  In Charlotte, Chad would improve a suspect receiving corps, and he’d be reunited with his former junior college teammate, Steve Smith.

St. Louis Rams:  Sam Bradford still needs weapons, and Chad compares favorably to the receivers the team currently has.

Regardless of which team signs him, the challenge will be to let Chad be Chad.  The Patriots tried to clip his wings in 2011, and being different off the field made him different on the field.  He seemed so scared about screwing up his opportunity that he ultimately screwed up his opportunity.  The next team that employs him has to be willing to embrace who he is, and to encourage him to be himself and be willing to make mistakes and not fear losing playing time or, eventually, his job.

Though Batman a/k/a T.O. may be done, Robin still has some run left in him.  Regardless of where he lands, here’s hoping we all get one more glimpse of the old Chad.

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NFL remotely looking at Saints practices

Chase Daniel AP

As Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported, the NFL is indeed looking into the issue of whether the Saints crossed the “live contact” line during a practice that resulted in a Wednesday fight, sparked by a confrontation between quarterback Chase Daniel and linebacker David Lofton.

That said, the NFL isn’t actually in the building.  Multiple sources tell PFT that no one from the league office was or is present.

Still, all clubs are subject to spot-check monitoring of OTAs by the NFL and the NFLPA, either by video or in person, to ensure compliance with the rules.

As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll explained on Wednesday, his team lost two OTA days after reports of fights at practice surfaced in the media.  The report from Rapoport (trying saying that five times fast), technically a league employee, apparently has gotten the Saints back into a steaming pot of jambalaya.

Still, it’s unknown whether the Saints will suffer a similar fate.  Per a source with knowledge of the team’s offseason practice, the Saints generally have been “lethargic” during offseason practices, which could be worse news than if the Saints were on the wrong side of the line on Wednesday, or on any other day.

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Saints sign quarterback Luke McCown

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The Saints have come to terms with a quarterback, but it’s not Drew Brees. Instead, it’s Luke McCown, who signed a one-year contract with New Orleans today.

Amid reports that Chase Daniel hasn’t looked good running the first-string offense during offseason practices, it’s not surprising that the Saints would want to get another backup quarterback under contract, even as everyone in New Orleans hopes that Brees will get a deal done soon and that the Saints won’t need Daniel, McCown or any other quarterback at all in 2012.

McCown is entering his ninth NFL season and has played for the Browns, Buccaneers and Jaguars, with nine starts in his career. He has nine touchdown passes and 14 interceptions in his career and has never shown much promise, although it’s possible that he’d be a better option than Daniel.

The Saints also announced that they’ve signed rookie running back Joe Banyard to a three-year contract.

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Pats officially cut Ochocinco

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To cap an unpredictable afternoon that was fitting given his unpredictable nature, receiver Chad Ochocinco has been released by the Patriots.

The team has formally announced the move.

As Adam Schefter of ESPN reported, and as we separately have confirmed, the Patriots tried to trade Ochocinco before cutting him.  Earlier this year, he agreed to drop his base salary from $3 million to, per NFLPA records, $925,000.  Ochocinco was due to earn $3 million in base salary in 2013.

The Patriots acquired Ochocinco and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth last summer, after the lockout.  They were praised at the time for both moves, although neither panned out.

Ochocinco ended up being the far more costly mistake.  Via a contract restructuring, the Pats gave him a $6 million signing bonus.  He also earned a salary of $1 million in 2011.

In return, the Pats got 15 receptions for 276 yards and one touchdown.

Ochocinco instantly becomes an unrestricted free agent.  The fact that no team was willing to to trade for a contract that would have paid him $925,000 this year means that he’ll at best be getting a one-year deal for the veteran minimum, under the device that allows the contract to account for only $540,000 under the salary cap.

He may not even get that.  Which would mean that the duo that described themselves as Batman and Robin would be able to fight crime or do pretty much anything else in 2012, since neither Ochocinco nor Terrell Owens would be playing pro football.

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Report: Banner eyeballs the Buffalo Bills

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During a Thursday appearance on PFT Live, former Eagles president Joe Banner spoke about his decision to leave the post he’d held for years.  Banner said that he has a goal of being part of a group that purchases an NFL team.

The problem is, few if any teams are for sale.  One will be, in time.

The family of 93-year-old Bills owner Ralph Wilson are expected, following his passing, to sell the team.

According to Howard Eskin of NBC 10, that’s one of the teams Banner will target.  Eskin also mentions the Browns and Rams as possibilities.  Eskin says he hears both are for sale; that would frankly be bigger news than Banner’s interest in them.

“It’s really a replication of what I did with [Eagles owner] Jeff [Lurie],” Banner said of his plan for the future.  “I started working with Jeff about a year and a half before we actually walked into the Eagles the first time and we developed a relationship and a shared philosophy and worked together on the process of the acquisition, which we really had to do twice by the way because at one point we were going to buy the Patriots but then that fell through, and then had to go through the process all over again and then ended up here in Philadelphia.

“So that’s the dream that is most prevalent to me and that I intend to kind of focus my time and efforts on and see if I can’t put I together.  It will be a big challenge, nobody in my position has ever actually been able to do that, not sure how many people have even tried, but the depth of that challenge doesn’t scare me off and as I’ve been saying soon this decisions will either prove to be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done or one of the most courageous things I’ve ever done.  You know, we’ll see over some time.”

Mentioning no specific teams that would be targeted, Banner said he’s already talking to people with whom he possibly could partner.  He said that, ideally, the franchise purchased would require the kind of internal turnaround over which Lurie and Banner presided in Philly.

Still, the first challenge will be to find a team that is available to be purchased.  The Bills eventually will be.  Others could become available.  Unfortunately, there’s no showroom at which a would-be NFL owner can shop.

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PFT Live 6/7: Joe Banner, PFT Planet

Mike Florio talks to former Eagles president Joe Banner about his new role with the team as the Strategic Advis0r to the Owner, his best and worst memories from his career in Philadelphia, and future NFL plans which may include team ownership. Mike also answers viewer questions about Peyton Manning, Matt Forte, the QB situation in Miami, and more.

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Jaguars release Aaron Kampman

Aaron Kampman AP

Defensive end Aaron Kampman’s injury-ravaged stay in Jacksonville has come to an end.

The Jaguars announced that they released Kampman on Thursday. The move isn’t surprising. Kampman hasn’t been able to practice at all this offseason and wasn’t going to be able to get on the field until training camp was already underway, which doesn’t really work when you’re set to make $4.975 million in 2012.

Kampman was coming off a torn ACL when he signed a four-year deal with the Jags before the 2010 season and then tore the ACL in his other knee after eight games. He played three games last season before learning that he would miss the rest of the season because he needed another operation to clean out the knee. Overall, Kampman had four sacks in 11 games for the Jaguars which is far less than they hoped to get from a player who had 54 of them in eight generally healthy years with Green Bay.

The Jaguars will move forward with Jeremy Mincey, Terrance Knighton, Tyson Alualu and second-round pick Andre Branch on the defensive line this season. Kampman will need to get healthy to get a shot with another team.

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