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Saints hand Eagles fourth straight loss

Philadelphia Eagles v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The downward spiral continues for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Quarterback Michael Vick was sacked seven times and had an interception returned 99 yards for a touchdown as the Eagles lost their fourth straight game, 28-13, to the New Orleans Saints on Monday night.

The Eagles struggled to protect Vick against what had been one of the more ineffective pass rushing units in the league entering the game. Heading into Monday night’s game, the Saints had only managed 13 sacks for the season. New Orleans got six on Monday night alone. Cameron Jordan had three sacks, Will Smith added a pair and Martez Wilson and Broderick Bunkley each got to Vick once as well.

Meanwhile, quarterback Drew Brees was 21 of 27 for 239 yards and two touchdowns as the Saints continue to try and turn their season around. New Orleans has won three of their last four games after an 0-4 start to the season.

Vick was just 22 of 41 for 272 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Philadelphia had a chance to take the lead early. A 40-yard run by running back Bryce Brown moved the Eagles into the red zone with a chance to take the lead late in the first quarter. But two plays later, the turnover bug ailing Vick struck again. A pass to tight end Brent Celek was deflected into the air and intercepted by Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson, who returned it 99 yards to give the Saints a 7-0 lead.

Alex Henery got the Eagles on the board with a 22-yard field goal early in the second quarter when a drive stalled at the Saints 4-yard line.

Running back Chris Ivory scored on a 22-yard touchdown run and Brees connected with Marques Colston for a 1-yard score to give the Saints a 21-3 halftime lead.

Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham forced a key turnover when he stripped Brees on a sack early in the third quarter with the Saints threatening again inside the Philadelphia 10-yard line. Graham ducked past Saints right tackle Zach Streif, stripped Brees and recovered the fumble to keep the Saints from blowing the game wide open.

Vick then connected with a wide open DeSean Jackson for a 77-yard touchdown just two plays later. Saints kick returner Travaris Cadet was striped by Chris Polk on the ensuing kickoff and the Eagles recovered to set up another scoring opportunity. A Will Smith sack of Vick pushed the Eagles backward. Philadelphia had to settle for a 37-yard Henery field goal to pull with eight at 21-13.

Brees and the Saints calmly answered. Brees led New Orleans on a 10-play, 70-yard scoring drive culminating in a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham to extend the Saints lead to 28-13.

Philadelphia nearly answered right back when Brandon Boykin fielded the ensuing kickoff and threw a cross-field lateral to Riley Cooper that was returned for a 94-yard touchdown. However, Boykin’s lateral was deemed to be a forward pass nullifying the score.

Both teams saw their right tackles leave the game due to injury. Eagles tackle Todd Herremans landed awkwardly on his right foot last in the first quarter and left the game. He was taken to the locker room for X-rays and did not return. Saints tackle Zach Streif suffered a groin injury in the fourth quarter and also did not return.

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Cowboys restructure Tony Romo’s deal yet again for cap room

Tony Romo AP

Tony Romo didn’t take a pay cut to help keep DeMarco Murray.

But coincidentally, his latest restructuring creates enough cap room to make room for the guy who could be his next running back.

A league source confirms to PFT that the Cowboys have restructured Romo’s deal yet again, creating $12.8 million in cap space this year.

Granted, that just pushes (yet again) prorations into the future, and whenever the time comes for Romo to be an ex-Cowboy, he’ll be their biggest cap hit for at least a year beyond.

They’ll tack on another $3.2 million worth of cap charge to each of the remaining years of his extension.

And while they might not turn the short-term savings into an Adrian Peterson deal, it is a happy coincidence that the wantaway Vikings running back has a $12.75 million salary coming his way this year.

I’m sure the two aren’t connected.

Right?

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Saints extend Jahri Evans through 2017 season

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The Saints entered the offseason with two guards carrying big cap hits for the 2014 season, but they got rid of one when they traded Ben Grubbs to the Chiefs.

On Wednesday, they announced a contract extension for Jahri Evans that should alleviate much of his cap hit as well. The team added a year to Evans’s deal so that it now runs through the 2017 season.

Exact details of the deal are unknown, but the result is sure to be a lower cap number than the $11 million that Evans stood to count against the cap this year. That makes it easier to hold onto him for this season, something that wasn’t guaranteed at the higher cap number, and it should leave less dead money for them to deal with if they decide to part ways with the 31-year-old down the line.

With the extension in place, Evans will almost certainly be back at right guard where he will play next to new center Max Unger in the reworked interior of the Saints offensive line.

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NFL reaches deal with D.A. to see photos from first Greg Hardy trial

Greg Hardy AP

The NFL has yet to hand down any disciplinary ruling to Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy as a result of their investigation into his domestic violence case from last year and they’ll have a bit more information to consider before making any decision about a violation of the personal conduct policy.

The league has reached a deal with the Mecklenburg County (N.C.) District Attorney’s office to look at seven photos from Hardy’s bench trial last summer. Hardy was found guilty in that trial, but appealed to have a jury trial and then had the charges dismissed when accuser Nicole Holder failed to appear in court.

Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that the photos are of Holder’s injuries and were taken by “a medical advocate.” They will only be seen by the NFL, NFLPA and any experts involved in the investigation.

“We appreciate the District Attorney’s office agreeing to make the information available to us and we look forward to the opportunity to review the photographs,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement.

The ability to view these photos, along with ones previously obtained from Charlotte police, should move the league closer to making their call on Hardy’s availability for the coming season.

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Stevan Ridley visits the Jets

ridley AP

Free agent running back Stevan Ridley is continuing to make a tour of the AFC East.

Ridley is visiting the Jets today, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

After playing his entire career with the Patriots, Ridley hit free agency this offseason after suffering a torn ACL last year. He has already visited the Dolphins.

The 26-year-old Ridley had 94 carries for 340 yards and two touchdowns in the first six games before he was lost for the season in 2014.

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Saints sign Kyle Wilson

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In 2010, the Saints took cornerback Patrick Robinson with the 32nd pick in the first round of the draft.

Robinson landed in San Diego as a free agent this offseason and part of the team’s plan to replace him on the roster involves another first rounder from that class. The Saints announced Wednesday that they have signed cornerback Kyle Wilson, who went 29th to the Jets that year.

Wilson played in every game over five seasons in Jersey, but never made good on that lofty draft position with the Jets. Wilson played almost exclusively in the slot for the Jets and his performance was found lacking enough that his snaps diminished over the last two years even with the Jets desperate for help at cornerback.

With Brandon Browner and Keenan Lewis on the team in New Orleans, a sub package role will be Wilson’s path to playing time in New Orleans as well. How much of a role he winds up playing will likely be determined by any further additions New Orleans makes at the position as the offseason rolls along.

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Tribal official faces impeachment after taking gifts from Dan Snyder

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: An exchange of trinkets and a free cross-country trip for a promise of goodwill didn’t work out so hot for a Native American.

Well, at least it’s just one in particular this time.

Via longtime Washington writer Dave McKenna at Deadspin comes the very latest bit of red on the face of Dan Snyder’s football team, as a Utah tribe has moved to impeach its leader after she accepted gifts from the team, allegedly so she’d support their nickname efforts.

According to the filing, the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah Tribal Council has accused Gari Pikyavit Lafferty, their highest-ranking elected official, of accepting gifts from the team and the Original Americans Foundation (OAF), a non-profit formed by Snyder for his “outreach” efforts.

The Council accused Lafferty of accepting a Robert Griffin III-signed football, and allowing the team to pay for her trip to Washington to see the Sept. 25, 2014 game against the Giants without telling tribal leaders. Among the evidence presented was a photo with team president Bruce Allen.

The council wrote that the gifts “could be considered bribery,” and curiously enough, when she returned home, she supported a deal which allowed the OAF (they don’t even think their acronyms through particularly well) to buy the tribe “at least two vans.”

There are plenty of other damning nuggets in McKenna’s story, and it’s worth pointing out that he has been a thorn in Snyder’s side for years.

(Hey, interestingly enough, Snyder once tried to get McKenna fired. That’s weird, he’s never tried to get his critics promoted out of his hair or stifle a free and unencumbered discussion before.)

This time, however, a tribal official stands to lose her job too.

It’s going to be hard to blame this one on some gullible employees and a fake John Skipper, as the “winning off the field” continues unabated in the nation’s capital.

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Boom Herron signs tender, stays with Colts

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Free agent running back Daniel “Boom” Herron will remain in Indianapolis.

The Colts have announced that Herron signed his restricted free agent tender, keeping him with the team another year.

Herron emerged as the Colts’ top running back late last season, replacing Trent Richardson as the starter and playing well down the stretch. Herron ran 45 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns and also added 128 receiving yards in the Colts’ three playoff games.

This year Herron will likely back up Frank Gore in the Colts’ backfield.

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PFT Live: Bucs talk with Rick Stroud, Cowboys talk with Clarence Hill

Jameis Winston AP

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston had his pro day workout on Tuesday and there’s no sign that it has led the Buccaneers to reconsider drafting Winston with the first overall pick.

General Manager Jason Licht gave Winston a rave review and Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times will join Mike Florio on Wednesday’s PFT Live to discuss how things went for Winston. They’ll touch on other Tampa matters as well during Stroud’s visit before attention shifts to Dallas.

Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram will also be on the show. Hill and Florio will discuss Greg Hardy’s role with the Cowboys, the return of linebacker Rolando McClain and wide receiver Dez Bryant’s hopes for a long-term contract among other topics.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox 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. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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Malcolm Jenkins: LeSean McCoy trade wasn’t surprising

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There were plenty of people surprised when the Eagles traded running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, but Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins wasn’t one of them.

Jenkins said that “everybody who is in the locker room and really knows Chip [Kelly]” understood why Kelly decided to ship the team’s leading rusher to Buffalo. Jenkins said that people in that position thought the deal made sense from the standpoint of “looking to acquire more talent” as well as finding talent that fit what Kelly wants to do on offense.

“You look at the style of runner that Chip wants in his offense and even though Shady is one of the best backs in the league, he’s not necessarily what Chip is looking for all the time,” Jenkins said during an appearance on NFL Network. “Chip thinks he’s a great running back, he knows his talent is there, but our [system] is really predicated on downhill, somebody who is going to hit the hole every time. It’s about getting up in the defenders face as fast as you can and that’s not necessarily Shady’s running style.”

Jenkins did say that there was some surprise about the Eagles only getting Alonso in return for McCoy because he thought it would have been bigger than a player-for-player deal, but the fact that Kelly is shaping the team to his desires in his first year running the personnel shop isn’t raising any other eyebrows.

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Lions bring Breshad Perriman in for a pre-draft visit

Breshad Perriman AP

The Lions have perhaps the game’s best big target at wide receiver.

Now they’re taking a look at a guy who could knock the top out of any defense to make even more room for him.

According to Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website, the Lions have Central Florida wideout Breshad Perriman in for a pre-draft visit today.

Perriman would be intriguing to Lions fans anyway, since his father Brett played for them from 1991-96.

But the younger version caught everyone’s eye at his pro day, when he ran his 40-yard dashes in blazing times, with the slowest a 4.27.

“I kind of expected to run that fast,” Perriman said.

His speed is even more tantalizing considering he’s 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. And the Lions have bigger needs than another wideout with the 23rd pick in the draft.

But the idea of putting another big-time weapon alongside Calvin Johnson’s an intriguing notion, especially considering the raw ability Perriman has shown.

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Dez not saying how soon he expects to be with the Cowboys

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant is not saying if he will be with the Cowboys soon enough to participate in the team’s offseason program or not.

The NFL’s other franchised wide receiver, Denver’s Demaryius Thomas, has said he’s going to work out on his own until his contract situation is resolved. Bryant, however, is keeping a low profile. It’s possible that he’ll agree to sign the franchise tag in time to report to the team’s offseason program, possible that he’ll work out a long-term deal by then, or possible that he’ll remain unsigned into training camp and the preseason. (It’s even possible that Bryant will remain unsigned into the regular season, although it’s unlikely he’d pass up the weekly game checks of more than $750,000 each that he could get by signing the franchise tender.)

Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones has said he’s not worried about Bryant’s contract situation because he’s confident that Bryant, a consummate competitor, will want to be there with his teammates.

The only question is whether Bryant will be there with his teammates at Organized Team Activities, minicamp, training camp or the preseason.

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Colts unveil “all-white” uniforms for April Fool’s Day

Zoolander Getty Images

We have an early winner on April Fool’s Day.

Rather than teasing an announcement about nothing or joking that a key employee has been arrested for drunk driving, the Colts have come up with a creative concept for the annual April 1 non-holiday holiday.

They’ve produced a video introducing all-white uniforms.  As in everything is white.  Including the jerseys and the numbers and the trim.

The video features tight end Dwayne Allen in the fake uniform, explaining why the Colts have done it.

“From a strategic, football standpoint, how can they scout us?” Allen said.  “They can’t see our numbers.”

Bravo, Colts.  The bar is now set for every other team and player.

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Urban Meyer: Browns are “fantastic” at pre-draft due diligence

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Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has dealt with a lot of NFL scouts over the course of his career with the Buckeyes and other teams and he knows that they aren’t all created equal.

Meyer said Tuesday that some of the teams “do a phenomenal job” when it comes to asking questions and finding out everything there is to know about a prospect. He’s also had teams pick his players without ever speaking to him and says that those teams that don’t do the legwork also fail to “win a bunch of games.”

Based on 2014 experiences, you might think Meyer would put the Browns in the latter category. First-round picks Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert both struggled in their first NFL seasons with Manziel winding up in rehab and Gilbert dealing with a “very personal” issue that the Browns first became aware of once he was already on the team. Meyer says that’s not the case, however.

“Not good, fantastic,” Meyer said, via Cleveland.com. “I really like their head coach. He’s knee deep in it.”

The Browns did hit on later picks with guard Joel Bitonio, linebacker Christian Kirksey and running back Terrance West contributing to the team and Isaiah Crowell joined West in the backfield after signing as an undrafted free agent. As anyone familiar with recent Browns history will tell you though, missing on big pieces like quarterbacks often sets you back more than those kinds of hits spring you forward and the Browns need one of those big hits to become a team that wins a bunch of their future games.

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Teryl Austin predicts a better Lions defense, post-Suh

Austin AP

The Lions have lost defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, replacing them with Haloti Ngata.  Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin sees that as an upgrade.  And it wasn’t an April Fool’s Day gag.

We plan to be better this year,” Austin told a gathering of season-ticket holders at Ford Field on Tuesday, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

“We tell our guys all the time, you go in, the No. 1 thing you want to do is stop the run, and Haloti’s a premier run-stuffer,” Austin said.  “I don’t know if there’s any better in the league.  He’s that good.  And from the people that aren’t familiar with him, I had an opportunity to be in there with him for three years and just know the difference he makes up front.”

Colts coach Chuck Pagano was with Ngata, too.  Which makes Indy’s failure to pounce on Ngata even more confusing, especially given their struggles against the run.  Then again, the Colts may have tried to get Ngata, but the Lions struck too quickly.

“We literally finalized the trade with Baltimore, and Martin Mayhew and I are on the phone in my office, we hadn’t even told Jim [Caldwell] yet, and we’re on the phone to Bill Ford letting him know that the trade had finalized and it pops up on Twitter as we’re telling the owner that we had just finalized it,” team CEO Tom Lewand said, via Birkett.  “So Twitter was finding out before our head coach, and we had to go down the hall and I had the privilege of interrupting a staff meeting and stuck my head in and said, ‘Hey we got Haloti Ngata,’ and the looks on the face of these guys was like it was Christmas morning and Santa Claus had just come down the chimney.”

It’s a neat story, but let’s be realistic about this.  The Lions wanted to keep Suh.  The Lions tried to keep Suh.  The Lions reportedly hoped Suh would “come to his senses” after reports emerged of a looming deal with the Dolphins.

Austin now sees Ngata as an upgrade over Suh.  Less than two months ago, Austin said he planned on Suh returning, and that a possible departure hadn’t even crossed Austin’s mind.

The truth is that the Lions are seeing the glass as half full because they have no other choice, especially when talking up the upcoming season to a room full of season-ticket holders.  The offseason requires teams to sell hope to the fans, plausible or otherwise.  Which likewise requires teams to create the impression that any losses via free agency ultimately weren’t losses at all.

Besides, if Austin’s assessment eventually is proven to be wrong, it’s unlikely that anyone will throw his words back at him.  Even if they do, Austin will come up with a new reason for thinking that the glass is half full, no matter how empty is actually may be.

That’s not a knock on Austin.  It’s a recognition of the reality that only one team wins the Super Bowl every year.  For all 32, the challenge is to make the fans think they have a chance to be that one team.

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Joe Lombardi: Matthew Stafford will take more chances this year

Pro Bowl Getty Images

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw 12 interceptions in 16 games during the 2014 regular season, the lowest full-season total during his NFL career.

Stafford also set a new career low in net yards per pass attempt during Joe Lombardi’s first year as the offensive coordinator in Detroit. The team’s offense also saw sharp drops in points and yards, which may be why Lombardi suggested Stafford was too risk-averse during their first season working together.

“Our biggest thing is in order to win football games, you got to first not lose them,” Lombardi said, via MLive.com “And I thought he played smart football — almost to a fault. We’ll look for him to take a few more chances this year with the football. He’s got the arm to do it, and the receivers to throw it to.”

Having a healthy Calvin Johnson would offer Stafford more opportunities to show off the arm that once threw for 5,000 yards in a season and more shots down the field could return some of those missing points. That said, avoiding risk on offense paid off for the team last season and it would be surprising to see them alter things too dramatically after winning 11 games for the first time since 1991 and the third time since the franchise has been in Detroit.

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