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Cardinals squeak past Dolphins on Jay Feely field goal in OT

Jay Feely AP

Overtime was unkind again to the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins lost in the fifth quarter by three points for the second straight win when Jay Feely’s 46-yard field goal sailed through the uprights. It was the second Arizona possession of overtime as the Dolphins forced them to go three-and-out after receiving the kickoff and then moved the ball near midfield. But Ryan Tannehill threw an interception to Kerry Rhodes and Kevin Kolb hit Andre Roberts with a key third-down conversion to get the Cardinals to 4-0 on the season.

Tannehill also fumbled the ball to set up Kolb and Roberts for the game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter, a double dose of bad news that will make it hard to celebrate his 431 passing yards over the course of the afternoon. Tannehill’s blunders will sting, but there were definitely signs of the quarterback that the Dolphins hope that Tannehill will become in Arizona on Sunday.

There were also signs that Brian Hartline will put an end to the worry about the quality of the receiving corps. Hartline set a franchise record with 253 receiving yards, gaudy numbers that follow a strong start to the year for the 2009 fourth-round pick. Cameron Wake also had 4.5 sacks for the Dolphins to continue the trend of strong individual performances rendered less meaningful by the final score.

Kolb didn’t fare too badly on the individual glory side of things either. He wound up with 324 passing yards on the day and threw three touchdowns to help overcome two interceptions and some slow decisions and poor blocking that helped Wake and his mates rack up eight sacks over the course of the game. Roberts finished the day with 118 yards and two scores and the Cardinals showed an ability to come from behind twice in a game that could have easily gotten away from them.

It didn’t, though, and they remain all by themselves in first place in the NFC West.

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Bucs haven’t asked Vincent Jackson to take a pay cut

Jackson Getty Images

With so many veteran receivers in line for potential pay cuts, a myth has emerged that the Buccaneers have asked veteran receiver Vincent Jackson to take a pay cut.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, they haven’t.

While that technically doesn’t preclude the Buccaneers from doing so in the not-so-distant future, consider this:  They really like Jackson, they consider him to be part of the team, they believe they need him in order to be successful this year, and they consider his $9.77-million salary to reflect current market value.

Things could get interesting if/when the veteran receiver market goes the way of the veteran running back market, with teams realizing young, cheap wideouts can now be expected to do more than ever before, making them reluctant to pay enormous amounts to players like Jeremy Maclin, Randall Cobb, and/or Michael Crabtree.

Some of the speculation regarding a looming request to take less surely comes from the trade chatter that emerged last season regarding Jackson.  But the Buccaneers, we’re told, never actually shopped him.  Instead, they listened to all offers for any players.  If a team like the Eagles made an offer for Jackson and the Bucs didn’t trade him, that says plenty about their desire to keep him around in 2015.

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Ridge had no problem with Eagles stadium in Philly flight path

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One of the companies trying to build a stadium in L.A. has paid former Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge to prepare a report that finds a competing project to present an unacceptable risk of terrorism due to its presence in the LAX flight path.

Former Director of Homeland Security and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge once arranged for the use of public money to help build a stadium in Philadelphia that, you guessed it, sits in the local airport’s flight path.

A source with knowledge of Ridge’s efforts — and apparent lack of concern — regarding the placement of the Eagles stadium has pointed out the inconsistency.  In fairness to Ridge, Lincoln Financial Field opened in 2003, which means that the wheels were in motion well before the events of September 11, 2001 significantly heightened concerns regarding the potential use of airplanes as weapons.

NFL executive V.P. Eric Grubman has said of the issue “the best approach is to look at these things with an independent eye.”  Ridge’s opinion was purchased by the non-independent and clearly biased AEG, which has been trying unsuccessfully to build a stadium in downtown L.A. for the past several years.  The NFL eventually will purchase (if it hasn’t already purchased) one or more opinions from truly independent experts.

And then the NFL will keep those opinions under wraps for as long as possible (if they’re not favorable), in order to not disrupt the momentum that flows from the current race to build a stadium in Los Angeles.

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Reggie Wayne unsure if he’ll play in 2015

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Longtime Colts receiver Reggie Wayne doesn’t know yet if his NFL career has reached its conclusion.

Wayne said after the Colts lost the AFC Championship Game that he didn’t have a plan for 2015, and he still doesn’t. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Wayne had triceps surgery and is still mulling whether to play in 2015.

If Wayne does want to play, it’s unclear whether it will be in Indianapolis. Wayne becomes a free agent on March 10 and there has been no talk of any contract discussions with the Colts.

Wayne started 15 games last year, but he was limited to 64 catches for 779 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers are his worst across the board for any full season of his 15-year career. So if the 36-year-old Wayne wants to play, it’s unclear whether any team will want him.

In other words, Wayne’s great career may have come to an end. Even if he doesn’t know that yet.

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AEG says Inglewood stadium presents terrorism threat

LAX Getty Images

In the Gumball Rally that has emerged as Inglewood and Carson race to build stadiums in the L.A. area, the company that has been trying to build a downtown venue for the past several years has thrown a fistful of nails into the path of the project proposed for the now-defunct Hollywood Park.

Via Sam Farmer and Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times, a study commissioned by AEG concludes that the Inglewood site presents an unacceptable risk of terrorism.

The study, performed by former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, warns that terrorists may try to hijack or shoot down a plane landing at LAX, with the goal of crashing it into the stadium.  Ridge calls the possibility a “a terrorist event ‘twofer.’”

The NFL is aware of the report, but it doesn’t seem to be ready to endorse it.

“We feel that the best approach is to look at these things with an independent eye,” NFL executive V.P. Eric Grubman told the Times.  “You should assume the NFL has its own experts hired and at work to assess any potential NFL site, in any city, regarding these matters.  And it is that advice that we will rely on.”

AEG has a clear bias; it wants to build the stadium in which one or two NFL teams will play.  But the concerns shouldn’t be dismissed.  The Inglewood site is in the LAX landing path.  If/when a Super Bowl is played there, any and every plane that passed by becomes the potential weapon for mayhem and destruction that would rival — and possibly surpass — the events of September 11, 2001.

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Browns sign Josh McCown

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Josh McCown is a Cleveland Brown.

The veteran quarterback and the Browns have agreed on a contract today, the team and McCown’s agent Mike McCartney both confirmed on Twitter.

McCown was released this month after a rough first year in Tampa Bay. He previously had a very promising showing during the 2013 season while filling in for Jay Cutler in Chicago. Cleveland has to hope it’s getting the Chicago version of McCown, and not the Tampa Bay version of McCown.

Cleveland also has to hope that McCown can work well with Johnny Manziel, teaching Manziel what it takes to become an NFL quarterback but also starting for the Browns this season if Manziel isn’t ready.

The arrival of McCown in Cleveland will almost certainly mean that free agent Brian Hoyer, Cleveland’s starter for most of last season, is going to sign elsewhere.

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Sean Payton envisions virtual reality training for quarterbacks

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During multiple coach and G.M. interviews at the Scouting Combine, I spitballed about the possibility of the NFL eventually developing a flight simulator-style approach to preparing quarterbacks for game reps.  For a change, the spitball stuck to the wall.

Appearing on a panel at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Saints coach Sean Payton suggested that a tool like that could be in the offing.

“The challenge we have all the time is that it’s the one position where there’s only one of them in the game the entire time,” Payton said, via Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com.  “The game ends, and how do you get those guys snaps, real-time snaps?  Much like we develop pilots — they do a lot of simulator work — I think the opportunity exists [in football].  Especially when you’re able to accurately show movement with chips, exactly how it unfolds with the defense.”

If anything, it seems overdue that these billion-dollar businesses have yet to develop a way to expose young quarterbacks (especially incoming rookies who have been running spread and/or one-read offenses in college) to the blender of choices that must be made before and during a play at the next level.

From making the right pre-snap read to adjusting the offensive line as needed to keeping an eye on whether the blocking scheme works to keeping an eye on the strong safety to making the progression through the primary, secondary, and tertiary (nerd!) receiving options to hoping the running back picked up any blitzing linebackers to sensing whether the blind side defensive end is about to flatten him, finding a way to simulate that process without exposing the quarterback to any physical risk makes a lot of sense.

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Report: Ravens reach two-year deal with Christo Bilukidi

Christo Bilukidi AP

The Ravens have reportedly reached a deal with a player who could have been eligible for restricted free agency.

The club has agreed to a two-year contract with defensive lineman Christo Bilukidi, Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reported Friday.

Bilukidi (6-5, 320) appeared in four games as a reserve for Baltimore in 2014. The 25-year-old Georgia State product has also seen regular-season action with Oakland (2012-2013) and Cincinnati (2013). He was a sixth-round pick of the Raiders in the 2012 NFL Draft. According to Wilson, an ankle injury ended Bilukidi’s 2014 campaign.

Bilukidi figures to vie for playing time in the Ravens’ defensive line rotation in 2015.

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Falcons waive Jonathan Massaquoi

Chicago Bears v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

The Falcons have followed up three deletions on the offensive side of the ball by dropping a member of their defense.

Defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi has been waived after three years with the team. Massaquoi was the 164th pick of the 2012 draft out of Troy and had a year left on his rookie deal.

The Falcons were starved for pass rush help last year, but usually looked elsewhere in hopes of finding it. Massaquoi saw 333 snaps on defense last season and had two sacks, which leaves him with six for his three-year career. The new coaching staff obviously didn’t think that was a mistake on the part of the previous regime and Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports that Massaquoi upset people last year for skipping treatments on his foot.

There’s minimal cap savings with Massaquoi out of the way, but the above suggests this wasn’t a financially motivated move. Massaquoi can be claimed on waivers by any team and will become a free agent if no one avails themselves of that option.

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Lions hang onto the “Nolan Ryan of long snapping”

Nolan Ryan, Robin Ventura AP

Friday afternoon’s when you’re supposed to dump your bad news, like the Cardinals did today.

The Lions, however, did something awesome.

Via Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website, the Lions re-signed long snapper Don Muhlbach to a new one-year contract.

That’s not the awesome part, though. The awesome part is his nickname, as they refer to him as the “Nolan Ryan of long snappers.”

Former Lions General Manager Matt Millen gave Muhlbach that moniker to honor the velocity with which he flings a football upside down and between his legs. And, Muhlbach is from Texas, so there’s that, too.

We do not know, however, if Muhlbach has ever given a beatdown to Robin Ventura.

Long snapping is also the kind of job you could ostensibly do into your 40s, so maybe Muhlbach will have the same kind of longevity as the baseball Hall of Famer.

Then again, if you’re a long snapper, the only thing better than a cool nickname is total anonymity — since it means you didn’t screw up.

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Adrian Peterson issues statement

Peterson Getty Images

On Thursday, Judge David Doty overturned the arbitration decision upholding the suspension of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  While Peterson is not yet reinstated (and who knows when he will be?), he has been returned to the Commissioner-Exempt list, which allows him to speak to the Vikings.

On Friday, he spoke publicly, via press release.  Here’s the full content of it:

“I was pleased to learn about Judge Doty’s decision.  It is a positive step in protecting players’ rights and preserving due process for all players.  It also brings me one step closer to getting back on the football field and playing the sport I love.  As I prepare for my return to football, I am still focused on my family and continue to work to become a better father every day.  I want to express my gratitude for all of the support I have received from the fans, NFLPA, Jeffrey Kessler, and my agents Ben Dogra, Tracy Lartigue, and Mark Heligman from Relativity Sports.”

Peterson says nothing about whether he does or doesn’t want to return to the Vikings.  Last week, he confirmed that he has some misgivings about returning to Minnesota, which holds his rights for the next three seasons.

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Dockett could indeed return to Cardinals

Dockett AP

The Cardinals released defensive tackle Darnell Dockett on Friday.  That doesn’t mean he won’t be back in Arizona.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the impasse arose because the team and the player couldn’t agree on fair market value for a defensive tackle recovering from a torn ACL.  He was due to make $6.8 million in 2015; the Cardinals thought that was too much, and Dockett thought their best offer wasn’t enough.

So how much is enough?  Dockett will find out on the open market.  And if someone else offers him more than the Cardinals were willing to pay, Dockett can join that team.  If someone else doesn’t, he can take whatever the Cardinals were willing to pay.

Arizona’s offer won’t decrease now that he’s been cut.  Because Dockett was in the final year of his deal, the team assumed no additional cap acceleration by releasing him.

While Dockett is getting a chance to test the market before free agency starts, he may not want to make any final decisions until the process gets rolling.  Ndamukong Suh and other defensive linemen could take whatever market currently exists and spike it even higher.  Likewise, teams that miss out on Suh and other defensive tackles may be willing to pay Dockett more later than they’re willing to pay him now.

 

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With three days left, no tags yet

Suh Getty Images

The window for using the franchise or transition tags opened 11 days ago.  It closes in three.  So far, not a single player has been tagged.

With time still left to try to negotiate long-term deals before application of the tag, it makes sense to wait those three additional days.  After that, however, time could be on the side of the players who are tagged.

With no further injury risk (other than the day-to-day risk of off-field trauma), players who are tagged can wait until after the market opens to see how much money is spent on other players.  If, for example, the Lions don’t (and they shouldn’t) tag defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, why wouldn’t the other elite, game-changing players who merit application of the tag wait to see what Suh gets before negotiating a long-term deal?

There’s another reason to wait.  Two words:  Sammy Watkins.

Last year, the Bills gave up the ninth pick in the 2014 draft, a first-round pick in 2015, and a fourth-round pick in 2015 to get an unproven receiver.  There’s already talk that one or more teams will at least consider signing a franchise-tagged player to an offer sheet and giving up a pair of first-round picks, especially if this year’s first-round pick falls at the bottom of the round.

Alternatively, a team can wait until after the 2015 draft to sign a franchise-tagged player to an offer sheet.  Then, the compensation if the offer isn’t matched would be first-round picks in 2016 and 2017.

Sure, it would cost a lot more to sign the franchise-tagged player than it costs to sign a first-round pick.  But for teams hoping to win now, the combination of draft picks and cash could merit taking rolling the dice and rolling out the green carpet.

 

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Cardinals release Darnell Dockett

Houston Texans v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals were able to reach agreement with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald on a new contract that lowered his cap hit for the 2015 season significantly and they hoped to do the same with defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, but those efforts have been unsuccessful.

Arizona announced Friday that they have released Dockett, who missed the entire 2014 season because of a torn ACL. Dockett had $6.8 million coming his way from the Cardinals before the move and he was set to count $9.8 million against the cap.

Dockett joined the Cardinals as a third-round pick out of Florida State in 2004 and has been a fixture in the starting lineup since his arrival. He made one All-Pro team and was selected to three Pro Bowls while helping to spearhead the Cardinals Defense during his decade in the desert.

Dockett turns 34 in May, but the inability to work out a new deal suggests Dockett likes his chances of landing a better contract than the Cards were offering once on the open market. If he can’t, Darren Urban of the team’s website reports that the Cardinals remain interested in a Dockett return at a lower price tag.

Should Dockett not land a job at all for some reason, he can occupy his time advising the youth of America about the dangers of hanging out in strip clubs.

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Dolphins drop Brandon Gibson

Denver Broncos vs. Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Mike Wallace is running out of veteran company in the Dolphins wide receiver corps.

Brian Hartline was sent packing on Friday morning and the Dolphins said farewell to another receiver in the afternoon when they announced the release of Brandon Gibson. Gibson was due to make $3.26 million with a cap hit of $4.3 million and the difference will go as dead money on Miami’s 2015 cap.

Gibson signed a three-year deal with Miami before the 2013 season and caught 30 passes in his first seven games with the team before a knee injury knocked him out for the remainder of the year. He had 29 catches for 295 yards and a touchdown in 14 games last year as rookie Jarvis Landry passed him in the team’s pecking order.

The team’s been noncommittal about their plans with Wallace, but word out of Miami is that they’d like to either trade him or convince him to take a pay cut. If he does wind up leaving, Landry will be joined by Matt Hazel and Rishard Matthews in a receiving group that will surely be a focus for the Dolphins this offseason.

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Cruz, Newton, Kaepernick part of fruit/vegetable endorsement

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If this is a real thing, it’s certainly better for us than another beer or soda commercial.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz are part of Team FNV, which appears to be a campaign designed to push healthy food choices.

From looking at their website, what we know now is that it’s the product of some slick marketing minds, who know how to package an ad.

Their website has shots of Cruz catching a big apple (I see what they did there), Kaepernick playing with a pineapple, and Newton pushing carrots.

There appear to be numerous other celebrity and athlete endorsers involved as well.

Their website is new and their Twitter feed (@TeamFNV) launched yesterday, so it seems to be in the early stages.

But if they can make my kids eat the colorful stuff on their plates without calling me the worst parent ever, how bad can it be?

Photo credit: Team FNV, via Black and Blue Review.

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