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PFT’s Week Seven picks

Dallas Cowboys v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

Last week was one of those crazy Costanza weeks, when in hindsight it made sense to make our picks and then do the opposite.  Both MDS and yours truly were 6-8 for the week.  Six up, eight down.  Denver’s stunning comeback knocked me under .500 and allowed MDS to salvage a tie for the Week Six contest, since we disagreed on two games.  (The Redskins came through for me . . . finally.)

This week, there won’t be a tie unless there’s a tie in one of the three games on which we disagree.  Scroll down to see where we stand on the various comments.

And as to whether this week we made our picks and then did the opposite, our official comment is, “No comment.”

For the year, I’m at 55-36, and MDS is 53-38.

Seahawks at 49ers

MDS’s take: The NFC West is far more competitive than anyone expected, and the winner of this game has to be viewed as the favorite to win the division. I like the 49ers to come in focused after Sunday’s dismal loss to the Giants and easily handle the Seahawks.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 23, Seahawks 6.

Florio’s take:  The Niners got a rude awakening from the Giants.  And so the Niners will be wide awake when the Seahawks blow in to town for a better-than-expected primetime showdown.  Home team gets the edge, especially since the home team was embarrassed on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 20, Seahawks 10.

Titans at Bills

MDS’s take: Both of these teams are coming off their best wins of the season, but the Bills were the team whose win looked like something they can build on, because their defense finally stopped somebody. They’ll stop Matt Hasselbeck and Chris Johnson on Sunday, too.

MDS’s pick: Bills 20, Titans 13.

Florio’s take:  The rematch of the Music City Miracle game won’t be played in the Music City, and a miracle likely won’t be happening.  Last week, the Titans stole one from a diminished Steelers team, and the Bills showed resilience.  Playing at home with a share of first (and fourth) place in the division, Buffalo should be able to stay on the right track.  At least for now.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 27, Titans 17.

Cowboys at Panthers

MDS’s take: I’ve been on the Panthers’ bandwagon all year, and although I should probably know better by now, I still believe Carolina is better than its record suggests.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 21, Cowboys 20.

Florio’s take:  The consistently inconsistent Cowboys played well and lost on Sunday in Baltimore.  They’re due to play poorly and win in Carolina against a Panthers team that has figured out how to consistently play poorly and lose.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Panthers 20.

Ravens at Texans

MDS’s take: The only two teams with winning records in the AFC face off in a game that we might look back on in January as the game that decided home-field advantage in the playoffs. I think the team with home-field advantage takes this one, bouncing back from last week’s ugly loss to the Packers.

MDS’s pick: Texans 24, Ravens 14.

Florio’s take:  The Texans’ pride is wounded.  The Ravens are simply wounded.  If Houston doesn’t get things back on track quickly, a tailspin could be coming.  They’ve got the rushing attack to get there — and the Ravens don’t have the defense to stop them.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Ravens 20.

Browns at Colts

MDS’s take: Andrew Luck has the brighter future, but right now I’m not sure he’s a better quarterback than Brandon Weeden, who’s playing better as a rookie than he gets credit for. As inspiring as their win over the Packers two weeks ago was, the Colts’ loss to the Jets exposed a lot of holes, and I like the Browns to make it two wins in a row.

MDS’s pick: Browns 21, Colts 20.

Florio’s take:  Potent at home and sluggish on the road, Indy matches its win total from Peyton Manning’s rookie season against a Brown team that is still basking in the afterglow of that elusive first win of the season.  And Jimmy could be getting upset.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 30, Browns 24.

Cardinals at Vikings

MDS’s take: The Cardinals’ defense and special teams are good enough to keep them in any game, but the Cardinals’ offense is bad enough to lose any game. Jared Allen will make life miserable for John Skelton and the Vikings will win.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 17, Cardinals 7.

Florio’s take:  Former Vikings ballboy Larry Fitzgerald has never won in Minnesota.  That’s not likely to change on Sunday as he makes what likely will be his final trip to the soon-to-be-imploded Metrodome.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 23, Cardinals 14.

Redskins at Giants

MDS’s take: The Redskins beat the Giants twice last year, and they have an enormous opportunity on Sunday to show they can really hang with the big boys.  But while Robert Griffin III has been a sensational rookie quarterback, the Redskins are still a ways off from being a complete and elite team.

MDS’s pick: Giants 31, Redskins 14.

Florio’s take:  If the Redskins hadn’t swept the Giants last year, this is precisely the kind of game that the Giants would have lost.  Instead, one of the best teams in the NFC will continue its climb back toward the postseason.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 31, Redskins 20.

Packers at Rams

MDS’s take: How many people predicted before the season that both of these teams would be 3-3 when they met in Week Seven? Certainly not me. The Rams could make a huge statement that they’re real contenders by winning this one, but the Packers already made their statement last week in Houston, and now it’s time for Green Bay to start separating itself from the NFC pack.

MDS’s pick: Packers 24, Rams 10.

Florio’s take:  It was only a matter of time before the Packers found the gas pedal.  If they can dismantle the Texans in their own building, the Packers can outscore the Rams in theirs.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 31, Rams 17.

Saints at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: There may still be time for the Saints to turn their season around, but I just don’t see it happening. The bottom line for the Saints is that their defense is a mess, and Drew Brees can’t win a game all by himself. The Bucs will win and get to .500.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Saints 20.

Florio’s take:  Last year, when the Saints were great and the Bucs were anything but, New Orleans couldn’t win in Tampa.  And so it makes sense for the Saints, who genuinely believe they can turn this thing around, to roll into Raymond James Stadium and rack up plenty of points.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 31, Buccaneers 25.

Jets at Patriots

MDS’s take: Rex Ryan wants the Patriots to know that he thinks the Jets will win, but I don’t think too many people agree with Rex. The AFC East standings say the division is wide open, but the reality is that the Patriots are heavy favorites, and they’ll take a big step toward proving that on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 34, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  The Jets have their swagger back.  But it’s a week-to-week thing.  And this week the swagger takes a break as the Pats once again work to put a game they should have won behind them.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 30, Jets 23.

Jaguars at Raiders

MDS’s take: This looks to me like Sunday’s worst game, a matchup of two teams going nowhere. But the Raiders are closer to getting somewhere than the Jaguars.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 23, Jaguars 13.

Florio’s take:  If no one watches this game, will it actually be played?  Unfortunately, yes.

Florio’s pick:  Raiders 17, Jaguars 9.

Steelers at Bengals

MDS’s take: A.J. Green can make a lot of big plays against that old and slow Steelers defense, but the Steelers will put a lot of points up on the weak Bengals defense, too. There’s a part of me that feels like this is the game when the Bengals establish themselves as up-and-comers in the AFC North, but a bigger part of me thinks the Steelers find a way to hold the Bengals off.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 35, Bengals 34.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals couldn’t beat the Steelers or Ravens last year when the Bengals were good.  This year, the Bengals aren’t as good.  But neither are the Steelers.  Where’s my Magic 8-Ball when I need it?

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 24, Bengals 21.

Lions at Bears

MDS’s take: The Lions saved their season with a come-from-behind overtime win over the Eagles, but back-to-back road wins will be too much for Detroit fans to ask for. The Bears will remain in the NFC North lead and the Lions will remain in the basement.

MDS’s pick: Bears 20, Lions 17.

Florio’s take:  The Lions think they have their edge back.  The reality is the Eagles gave them a gift.  The Bears won’t be quite so charitable.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 30, Lions 17.

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Another day, another fight at Eagles training camp

Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp AP

After a fight involving running back LeSean McCoy and defensive end Trent Cole on Sunday, another fight broke out in training camp for the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday.

According to Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com, a scuffle took place between receiver Jeremy Maclin and cornerback Bradley Fletcher during the team’s first full-padded practice of camp. The two players hooked up and exchanged blows after a physical play toward the end of practice.

One thing led to another,” Fletcher said. “It’s football. Emotions get going and things happen, but we’re all just working to get better.”

Head coach Chip Kelly didn’t seem to be overly concerned about the fight between McCoy and Cole on Sunday either.

“Yeah, their emotions got the better part of them. Those things happen. It’s no different than sometimes little kids don’t get along very well and throw Tonka trucks at each other,” Kelly said. “…That two kids push each other in practice somewhere. It’s not a real big deal.”

The Eagles had just two fights in all of training camp a season ago. Now they’ve had two fights in as many days.

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Andre Johnson strains right hamstring on Monday

Andre Johnson AP

Some would say that a player missing the offseason program exposes him to a greater injury risk when training camp opens.  Those who would say that would point to Texans receiver Andre Johnson.

Johnson, who skipped all of the 2014 offseason workout program due to concerns regarding the direction of the team and his future role in it, tweaked his right hamstring muscle in practice on Monday.

After practice, both Johnson and coach Bill O’Brien downplayed the situation.

“I just got a little tight, it was just a precaution,” Johnson said.  “We’re going to go in and see what’s what. Just from the feeling of it, it’s not anything bad.”

O’Brien called the injury “minor.”

Still, it makes sense to pay attention to Johnson’s health or lack thereof as he tries to make up for lost time.  While having him back is better than not having him, an injury that knocks him out of action for an extended stretch will put the team in the same position as if he’d never shown up.

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Jim Harbaugh denies desire to be paid like Super Bowl-winning coach

Harbaugh AP

It’s a given in league circles that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has yet to sign a new contract because he wants more money than the 49ers are willing to pay.  Per multiple reports (which are accurate), Harbaugh wants to be paid like a Super Bowl-winning coach, and the 49ers aren’t ready to do that until he, you know, wins a Super Bowl.

Earlier this year, Harbaugh denied wanting to be the highest-paid coach in football, without specifically addressing whether he wants to be paid like a coach who has won a Super Bowl.  More recently, Harbaugh has gone the rest of the way.

“For the record, I have never asked to be the highest-paid coach in football,” Harbaugh tells Jason Cole of Bleacher Report.  “I have never asked to be paid like a Super Bowl-winning coach.  I have never asked for more power.  Nor has anybody asked for those things on my behalf, which anybody in this organization can attest to, and all the focus will be on the 2014 season and achieving our goals of the team.”

Harbaugh also denies betting that his value will go up, not down, over time by not doing a new deal with two years left on his current contract.

“I don’t bet,” Harbaugh said.  “If I bet on anything, it’s for a chocolate milkshake. That’s the extent of the stakes I bet on.”

Here’s the flaw in Harbaugh’s denials.  If he didn’t want to be the highest-paid coach or to be paid like a Super Bowl-winning coach or to bet on himself in the hopes of getting more money later, he’d already have a new contract.

Last year, an effort to extend his contract occurred.  And failed.  This year, more talks occurred.  As of June 5, the 49ers had made Harbaugh an offer.  And Harbaugh had not responded.

Downplay it or deny it, there’s an impasse because Harbaugh wants more than the team has offered.  If he didn’t, he’d already have financial security beyond 2015.

For even more obtuse remarks from Harbaugh that could trigger a sudden desire to bang your head against the wall, read the whole interview.  But put on a helmet first.

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49ers agree to terms with Alfonso Smith

Arizona Cardinals v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

With Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James each suffering injuries this week, the San Francisco 49ers had to hit the free agent market to bolster some running back depth for training camp.

According to Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group, the 49ers have agreed to terms with former Arizona Cardinals running back Alfonso Smith.

Smith appeared in 43 games for the Arizona Cardinals over the last four seasons. He’s carried 48 times for 156 yards and two touchdowns in his career.

Hunter suffered a torn ACL and will miss the entire 2014 season. James suffered a dislocated elbow that should keep him sidelined for the next month.

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Cardinals OLB John Abraham charged with DUI in June

John Abraham AP

Cardinals outside linebacker John Abraham, a key part of a strong Arizona defense, was arrested in late June in DeKalb County, Georgia on a DUI charge, the Arizona Republic reported Monday night.

The 36-year-old Abraham has been excused from the club to attend to personal business since the beginning of training camp.

According to the Republic, the Cardinals know of Abraham’s arrest but declined comment on the matter.

On Monday, Cardinals G.M. Steve Keim told the club’s website that he was “not concerned at all” about Abraham’s time away from camp, noting that coach Bruce Arians had excused the linebacker.

DeKalb County public records show that a John Antonio Abraham was cited for DUI and parking, stopping or standing in a prohibited place on June 29. A booking photo of Abraham was included in the online records.

Abraham recorded 11.5 sacks for the Cardinals last season. He joined Arizona last July.

Abraham was also reportedly arrested on a DWI charge as a member of the Jets in 2003. According to published reports, Abraham pleaded guilty to driving while impaired and was benched for one game as punishment by Jets coach Herm Edwards.

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Sanchez, DeSean have different opinions on Philly fans

Sanchez AP

One is a new arrival in Philly after spending five seasons in New York.  The other landed in Washington after being cut by the Eagles.  And they both have different views about the fans in the City of Brotherly Love.

Said former Jets and current Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez, via Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post:  “The fans are a lot nicer here.”

Former Philly receiver DeSean Jackson’s perspective varies from Sanchez’s.

“In Philly sometimes things got a little negative,” Jackson told Chick Hernandez of CSNWashington.com.  “And they booed their own players.”

Of course, it’s possible that Philadelphia are both nicer than New York fans while also booing their own.  Regardless, it’s safe to say Jackson will be booed by Eagles fans; that’s expected.  If/when Sanchez is ever booed by Philly fans, that’s a problem.

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Broncos DT Kevin Vickerson has strong words for Seattle

Washington Redskins v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Well, the Seahawks-Broncos preseason opener on August 7 in Denver just became a little more intriguing, to say the least.

In an interview Monday with the Colorado Springs Gazette, Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson voiced his dislike for the Super Bowl-champion Seahawks in memorable terms.

“(Bleep) Seattle,” Vickerson said, according to the Gazette‘s Paul Klee, a columnist for the paper. “Write it down. Take a picture.”

Vickerson, it should be noted, was released by Seattle in September 2010 — Pete Carroll’s first season with the Seahawks. The Broncos picked him up the next day, and he’s been with Denver ever since. Also, Vickerson didn’t play in Super Bowl XLVIII after suffering a dislocated hip in the November loss at New England.

“It was a very personal game for me,” Vickerson said of Super Bowl XLVIII, according to the Gazette.

In the Gazette story, Vickerson also indicated he doesn’t like off-field trash talk. And some Seahawks personnel have taken the opportunity to needle the Broncos at various points after their Super Bowl win, as the Denver Post‘s Mike Klis pointed out in a feature published earlier Monday.

“Some guys, that’s what they do to get ramped up. But when you step in between the lines, pads talk. Let your pads talk,” Vickerson told the Gazette. “That’s my mindset, that’s my demeanor when I go out on the field. Some guys are media guys. Some guys are cut different. But when you go to really looking at football and playing football, it’s between the lines. Buckle your chinstrap and let your pads talk, man.”

The pads figure to be howling when these teams meet in Seattle in September. And the preseason matchup in August just got a dash of hot sauce, too.

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Victims’ lawyer fires back against Pounceys

Pouncey AP

On Friday, three people filed a lawsuit against Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, alleging that they committed an assault during their birthday party at the Cameo nightclub.  On Saturday, the lawyer representing the Pounceys called the case a “complete sham.”

On Monday, the lawyer representing the three alleged victims fired back.

Appearing on WINZ with Andy Slater, attorney Marwan Porter predicted that criminal charges will be filed.

“We’ve been in contact with the Miami Beach Police Department and the investigators on this particular case,” Porter said.  “My clients have been very cooperative with them.  And more importantly that have independent witnesses who are corroborating the allegations made by my clients.  So when you have independent witnesses who are swearing under oath to certain allegations, I think it’s gonna be tough for them not to make a charge in this particular case.”

Porter added that surveillance video exists, but that he has not yet seen it.  He added that letters have been sent to Cameo nightclub instructing them to preserve the evidence harvested via the cameras in the facility.

Porter also said the comments from the Pounceys’ lawyers displayed a lack of professionalism.

“These people were beat up, bad,” Porter said.  “So I really think that shows a lack of taste. . . .  These people had physical injuries.  The injuries were visible, and obviously something happened to these people.  And you have witnesses that said it was the Pouncey brothers who were responsible for inflicting these injuries. . . .

“The fact will come out.  The facts will come out, and the truth will come out.  And justice will be served, and they will have to be accountable for their actions.”

Ultimately, the surveillance video will help tell a lot of the story.  But if independent, neutral witnesses have submitted sworn statements claiming that a Pouncey pounded one or more of the plaintiffs, the only viable defense for each Pouncey could be to blame it all on his identical twin.

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Browns sign wide receiver Marlon Moore

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Browns have filled one of their open roster spots with a free agent wide receiver.

The club announced the signing of Marlon Moore, who has had stints with Miami (2010-2012, 2013) and San Francisco (2013). Moore, 26, has appeared in 43 regular season games, catching 19 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns.

Moore will miss the first game of the 2014 regular season serving an NFL suspension, Howard Balzer of The Sports Xchange reported in May.

Moore’s addition will give the Browns 13 wide receivers on the roster. However, the WR count includes Josh Gordon, who could be facing a lengthy NFL suspension.

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Larry Donnell bubbles to top of Giants tight end depth chart

Donnell AP

Since the Giants will be playing the Bills on Sunday night (on NBC), the Giants are required to release a depth chart, too.  It doesn’t contain many surprises, but it begins to answer the fairly important question of who will start at the undermanned tight end position.

The official chart gives the gig to Larry Donnell (pictured).  He’s followed by Daniel Fells on the second team and Dickensian antagonist Xavier Grimble as the third-string option.  Falling in the ominous “other” category are Kellen Davis and Adrien Robinson.

Donnell appeared in 16 games with one start in 2013, catching three passes.

Elsewhere on the depth chart, injured rookie receiver Odell Beckham appears as a second-stringer behind Rueben Randle, and Ryan Nassib is listed as the No. 2 quarterback, ahead of Curtis PainterRashad Jennings is the starting running back, followed by David Wilson and then Peyton Hillis.

Newcomer Trindon Holliday, who’ll play receiver only if the rest of the wideouts eat a bad batch of clams casino on Saturday night, is listed at the top punt returner and the No. 2 kickoff return specialist, behind Quintin Demps.

Again, none of this is binding.  But it’s more informative than a 90-man roster listed in alphabetical order.

 

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Bills release first depth chart (spoiler alert: Watkins is a starter)

Watkins AP

Nothing says football season like the non-binding depth charts teams are required to release when preseason games approach.  Up first in six days against the Giants for the Hall of Fame game, the Bills have issued the first depth chart of 2014.

To no surprise whatsoever, receiver Sammy Watkins is listed as a starter, across from Robert Woods.  Mike Williams, who reportedly struggled in the offseason, appears as the understudy to Woods.  Watkins also shows up as the No. 3 kickoff returner, behind Marquise Goodwin and T.J. Graham.

With left tackle Cordy Glenn still unavailable due to a still-undisclosed illness, rookie Seantrel Henderson is the de facto starter at the fairly important position.  Henderson, who fell to round seven due in part to off-field issues, could end up being a steal, if he can stay on the right path.

In a bit of a surprise, newcomer Bryce Brown appears as the fourth-string tailback, behind C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, and Anthony Dixon.

On defense, Nigel Bradham appears as the starter in Kiko Alonso’s spot at weakside linebacker.  Alonso will miss the entire season with a torn ACL suffered during offseason workouts.

With five preseason games, the depth chart could change a lot before Week One.  But it’s the only tangible hierarchy of any NFL team at this point of the season.

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Giants awarded Mark Asper on waivers

Buffalo Bills v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The Giants added a veteran offensive guard Tuesday, claiming Mark Asper on waivers from Buffalo, according to the league’s transaction wire.

The 28-year-old Asper was active for six regular season games for the Bills in 2013. He has also had stints with Jacksonville (2012-2013) and Minnesota (2012). Asper (6-7, 325) was a sixth-round pick of the Bills in 2012.

To open a roster spot for Asper, the Giants waived offensive tackle DeMarcus Love with an injury waiver. The 26-year-old Love is a second-year pro from Arkansas.

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Browns waive OT Chris Faulk, PK Jake Rogers

Cleveland Browns v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Browns waived offensive tackle Chris Faulk and kicker/punter Jake Rogers on Monday, according to the NFL’s transactions.

The move leaves the Browns with 88 players, two short of the 90-player limit.

The 24-year-old Faulk spent the 2013 season on injured reserve with Cleveland after knee surgery. Faulk suffered a torn ACL and MCL at LSU in 2012.

Rogers, 27, signed with the Browns in June. He was waived with an injury.

By waiving Rogers, the Browns have just one punter (Spencer Lanning) and one kicker (Billy Cundiff).

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Jeromey Clary takes pay cut of nearly $3 million

San Diego Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Chargers guard Jeromey Clary is coming off a rocky 2013 season and started camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list while he recovers from hip surgery.

Waiting for him to get healthy wasn’t a sure thing for the Chargers because Clary was set to make $4.55 million and the team drafted guard Chris Watt in the third round in May, but Clary went a long way toward guaranteeing himself a job for the entire year on Monday.

Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that Clary has agreed to take a big pay cut in exchange for the Chargers guaranteeing his entire salary for the season. Clary will now make $1.6 million with Gehlken reporting that the savings are earmarked for any needs that may arise over the course of the regular season.

If Clary recovers in time to play in the preseason, he could still wind up in the starting lineup come September. If not, his new salary makes Clary, who can also play tackle, a more viable reserve option.

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Report: Terrell Thomas signs with Seattle

Victor Cruz, Terrell Thomas AP

The Seahawks lost cornerback Walter Thurmond to the Giants as a free agent, costing them a bit of depth that they may fill with a player who used to play for the Giants.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that the Seahawks have agreed to terms on a contract that will bring Terrell Thomas to Seattle. The move reunites Thomas with Pete Carroll, who was the head coach at USC while Thomas was playing for the Trojans.

Thomas returned from two seasons lost to a pair of torn ACLs in the same knee to play in all 16 games for the Giants in 2013, starting seven times and recording one sack, one interception and one forced fumble over the course of the season. It was a fairly remarkable comeback given Thomas’ injuries, which followed another torn ACL in the same knee earlier in his career.

He worked out for a few teams over the course of the offseason, but no one bit until Seattle took the plunge on Monday. The Seahawks have Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane back from last season, and there’s been positive reviews of 2013 fifth-rounder Tharold Simon after he missed his rookie season with an injury.

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