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Broncos open roster spot with release of Duke Ihenacho

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The Denver Broncos opened a roster spot Tuesday for the possible return of recently reinstated linebacker D.J. Williams.

The Broncos waived rookie safety Duke Ihenacho on Tuesday leaving an opening on the 53-man roster.

Williams was reinstated by the league Monday after missing the first nine games of the season serving two separate suspensions. He was initially suspended six games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Williams then picked up another three game suspension for an August conviction for driving while impaired.

Ihenacho has appeared in two games while recording just one special teams tackle for the Broncos. He has split time between the Broncos active roster and practice squad this season.

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Jerry Jones may have to testify in Super Bowl ticket case

jerryjones AP

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has created some memorable sound bites over the years, sometimes when he knew a microphone was present and sometimes when he didn’t.  In a Dallas courtroom, Jones could soon be making a new wave of sound bites.

The judge presiding over the lawsuit arising from the Super Bowl XLV tickets that didn’t have corresponding seats has told the lawyers handling the case that she is leaning toward requiring Jones to testify in the case, according to Jeff Mosier of the Dallas Morning News.

That’s a potential coup for the plaintiffs, and possibly very bad news for the defendants.  Loquacious billionaires often don’t do well when testifying.  For starters, they loathe having to submit to any authority other than their own.  Second, they typically regard themselves as the smartest people in the room.  Third, they usually don’t realize that the lawyers grilling them have experienced similar evasive and/or obstructive and/or non-responsive tactics dozens if not hundreds of times.  Fourth, it becomes very delicate (to say the least) for the lawyers representing loquacious billionaires to properly prepare them for cross-examination, because that requires telling the loquacious billionaires things they don’t want to hear.  (For example, there’s a good chance you may not be the smartest person in the room.)

So things could get very, very interesting if/when Jones testifies — especially if/when (when) he decides to abandon the script and to try to charm his way out of whatever traps the questioning lawyer sets for him regarding what Jones knew and when he knew it about the inability of his stadium to accommodate hundreds of people who thought they would be attending the Super Bowl.

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Broncos, Peyton Manning in “final stages” of a $4 million pay cut

Peyton Getty Images

The Broncos wanted Peyton Manning back, and he wanted to be back.

But the Broncos have $4 million reasons to be happier today.

According to Chris Mortensen and Jeff Legwold of ESPN, the Broncos and Manning are in the “final stages” of a deal to cut his pay from $19 million to $15 million.

This kind of news was anticipated, as both sides wanted each other.

But giving back $4 million (especially when Tom Brady ends up with more money to create cap space) is a win for the Broncos, as they attempt to keep tight end Julius Thomas after franchising wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.

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Texans will release Chris Myers

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Wide receiver Andre Johnson isn’t the only veteran on the way out of Houston.

PFT has learned, via a league source, that the team has informed center Chris Myers that he will be released. Myers was set to make $6 million in 2015, which was the final year of a four-year deal he signed with the team in March 2012. There will be $2 million of his cap hit left as dead money after Myers is released.

Myers has started every game for the Texans for the last seven years after they acquired him in a trade with the Broncos. He was selected to the Pro Bowl twice during his time in Houston and his play has remained good enough that he should get a chance to continue his career — perhaps with former Texans coach Gary Kubiak in a return to Denver — even with his 34th birthday coming this September.

Ben Jones was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 draft as a center, but spent last season as a starter at left guard. He could shift back to center with 2014 draft pick Xavier Su’a-Filo moving into the starting lineup.

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A whole lot of Jay Cutler’s ex-coaches are ripping him, anonymously

Jay Cutler AP

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has rubbed a lot of his coaches the wrong way during his time in Chicago, and now they’re ripping him in the media — but not putting their names behind their criticism.

ESPN cites “at least 10 former Chicago Bears staffers from the Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman regimes” who say they don’t think the Bears can contend for a title with Cutler as the quarterback. None of those “at least 10″ are mentioned by name.

In addition, two teammates, also speaking anonymously, say they’d rather not keep playing with Cutler.

The reasons for all the animosity toward Cutler seem to stem from his personality, as those who have worked with him say he lacks leadership qualities and is not a positive presence in the Bears’ locker room. There’s also talk that he didn’t run the offense the way the coaches wanted, and that in hindsight some people within the organization think Cutler should have lost his starting job to Josh McCown in 2013.

Of course, that hindsight is diametrically opposed to what everyone was saying at the time: The Bears’ coaches and executives said in 2013 that Cutler was clearly the right man for the job, which was why they gave him a huge contract extension. Now that huge contract is a millstone around the Bears’ necks. It won’t be easy for the Bears to move on from Cutler any time soon, as his $15.5 million 2015 base salary is fully guaranteed, and $10 million of his $16 million 2016 base salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the Bears’ roster a week from now.

New Bears General Manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox haven’t committed to Cutler as their starting quarterback, but realistically, if he’s still on the team in a week, the Bears are probably stuck with him not just for this year, but for next year as well. Even if those who know Cutler best don’t think highly of him, he’s probably not going anywhere.

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Report: C.J. Spiller turned down $4.5 million per year from Bills

C.J. Spiller AP

In the days before the Bills traded for LeSean McCoy, C.J. Spiller said that a return to the Bills was a possibility and that the ball was in the team’s court to keep him off the open market.

The Bills’ move for McCoy closed the door on that possibility, but it appears the Bills were interested in bringing Spiller back before deciding to pull the trigger on the deal. Dianna Marie Russini of NBC Washington reports that Spiller turned down an offer from the Bills that would have paid him $4.5 million per year before they opted to make the deal with the Eagles.

There are no further details about the length of the contract or guaranteed money so we don’t have the fullest picture of how the offer might stack up with what other teams are willing to give Spiller. Running backs haven’t struck it particularly rich in free agency of late, but Spiller’s probably not unrealistic to think he can do a bit better than $4.5 million a year in a league where Toby Gerhart and Donald Brown each got deals with an average of $3.5 million a year as free agents before last season.

Spiller will be a guest on PFT Live at 2:35 p.m. ET on Wednesday, so you can see what he has to say about his future when he joins Mike Florio by clicking right here.

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Jon Beason realistic as he talks to Giants about a pay cut

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Giants linebacker Jon Beason knows all too well that getting hurt is a good way to ruin your earning potential.

So that’s why he’s willing to work with the Giants on a pay cut, if it means hanging around.

Via Tom Rock of Newsday, Beason said during an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio that he feels good about his chances of remaining with the Giants next year.

I want to be a Giant,” Beason said. “They took a chance on me when other people may have thought that I was done. You want to go out and hold up your end of the bargain. When healthy I still feel I’m the best in the business and no one can keep up with me.”

Of course, that’s a big condition.

Beason signed a three-year, $17 million deal with the Giants last offseason, but only played four games because of a foot injury. So the $3.6 million ($1 million guaranteed) that he’s due to make this year might be a little steep, and since Beason acts as his own agent, it’s a streamlined process.

“We’ve been back and forth trying to come to terms,” Beason said. “They’re doing the best they can to try to be fair under the situation and as a so-called agent I’m doing the best I can to make sure I get the opportunity to earn some of that money back. . . .

“I’ve had the benefit of doing my own contract and you see how the business works. Unfortunately when you are making more than the league minimum you are susceptible to taking a pay cut due to injury. A lot of that has to do with the leverage that the teams have. What I’ve learned is that you can’t take it personally when the team is going to come after you to get money back based on an injury because the other 31 teams seem like they’re on the same page. ‘Hey, we’ll low-ball you worse if you decide not to take the pay cut.’ . . . It’s an unfortunate part of the business, but at the same time staying in the game and continuing to play is ultimately what you want. And they know that.”

Beason’s 30 now, and was run out of Carolina after a series of injuries and the drafting of Luke Kuechly, so he knows the realities of the business well.

Which means he knows that his familiarity with the Giants might mean more for him there than elsewhere.

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Report: Letroy Guion agrees to deferred prosecution agreement

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Impending free agent defensive tackle Letroy Guion has reportedly agreed to a deal with prosecutors in Florida that will allow him to avoid jail time after last month’s arrest on marijuana and weapons possession charges.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports that Guion has agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement that is expected to be signed in the next few weeks. The deal would result in probation for Guion and should allow Guion to be available for the 2015 season.

Or some portion of it anyway. The agreement would not eliminate the possibility of league discipline after police found 357 grams of marijuana and an unloaded gun, which was licensed in Minnesota, in his car during a traffic stop. Guion also had $190,028.21 with him, which was seized along with his truck by Florida authorities. Guion said that the money came from cashing his paychecks and the possible return of his property is a separate matter that will be heard in a civil case.

Guion had 41 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 16 appearances with the Packers last season. The team has said since the arrest that they are still open to bringing Guion back.

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Tyvon Branch will head to D.C. tomorrow after Colts visit

Tyvon+Branch+Detroit+Lions+v+Oakland+Raiders+ONCwAF1ewUVl Getty Images

For a guy who has played five games the last two years, there’s suddenly a market for Tyvon Branch.

Of course, it’s worth noting it’s two teams who haven’t exactly gotten the hang of the whole “free agency” thing.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, Branch will head to Washington after today’s scheduled trip to see the Colts.

He should totally just visit the Jets while he’s on the East Coast, just to take care of the “I can replace LaRon Landry” trifecta.

While Washington’s had more high-profile free agent busts the last decade or so, the Colts have made some dubious transactions of their own, stacking up some bad contracts around the really good one they have for quarterback Andrew Luck.

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Bills acquire Matt Cassel in trade with Vikings

Cassel Getty Images

Buffalo needed to add a veteran quarterback this offseason, and now the Bills have their man: Matt Cassel.

The Bills and Vikings announced today that they have agreed to a trade that will send Cassel to Buffalo. Technically the trade can’t be completed until the league year starts on Tuesday, but both teams have agreed to it.

The Vikings will get draft pick compensation for Cassel. According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, the Bills will trade the Buccaneers’ 2015 fifth-round pick (which the Bills acquired in a previous trade) for the Vikings’ 2015 sixth-round pick, and Buffalo will also give Minnesota a 2016 seventh-round pick.

Cassel opened last season as the Vikings’ starter but suffered a season-ending injury in Week Three, and with the emergence of Teddy Bridgewater last year, there was little reason for the Vikings to bring Cassel back.

In Buffalo, Cassel will compete with EJ Manuel to be the starter. The winner of that competition will hand off to LeSean McCoy, whom the Bills traded for on Tuesday. The Bills are off to an active start this offseason, even before the opening of free agency.

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$omebody in Detroit is $ort of up$et about Ndamukong $uh

Suh Getty Images

The Lions decided not to hang onto Ndamukong Suh for one year, mostly since it would have cost them $26.9 million to use the franchise tag.

And it appears someone in Detroit is pi$$ed off about it.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, several digital billboards have popped up alongside area highways in recent days, with a simple, yet ambiguous message.

The billboards read only: “$UH?”

Now, the simplest explanation might be that  fans are simply upset at what they perceive to be the latest greedy athlete.

And that would be easy enough to buy, except one of their baseball players in town is grinding away on an eight-year, $248-million (fully guaranteed) deal, which would buy the Lions at least a couple of Suhs.

Or maybe it’s a shot at management, for constantly restructuring his contract and not getting a long-term deal soon enough that it made his exit inevitable.

The guy who runs the billboard company said they were paid for by the same group of fans who had “Detroit Lyin'” billboards which featured a photo of a referee after their controversial playoff loss to the Cowboys in January.

Either way, some Detroit sports fan has enough di$po$able income to make his feelings known, whatever those feelings are.

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Eagles may have interest in Mark Ingram

Mark Ingram AP

So who will the Eagles turn to at running back after they’ve traded away LeSean McCoy? One option could be soon-to-be free agent Mark Ingram.

Ingram, who becomes a free agent when his rookie contract with the Saints expires on Tuesday, appears to be on the Eagles’ radar. Lyons Yellin of WWL-TV has heard rumblings about the Eagles being interested in Ingram, whose straight-ahead running style may be more to Chip Kelly’s liking.

If the Eagles were to sign Ingram, it would be the second straight season that they took a running back from New Orleans. Last year they acquired Darren Sproles in a trade with the Saints.

The Saints, however, don’t want Ingram to go, and coach Sean Payton has identified Ingram as a player he’d like to keep. That’s easier said than done because the Saints simply don’t have much cap space, and the Eagles have a lot of cap space. If it’s a matter of money, the Eagles can pay Ingram a lot more than the Saints can.

Ingram is the No. 3 running back and No. 38 player overall in our list of the Top 100 free agents.

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PFT Live: Eagles talk with Geoff Mosher, Colts/Packers offseason to-do lists

LeSean McCoy AP

The Eagles had a very busy day on Tuesday culminating in the decision to trade running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

The move can’t become official until the start of the league year next Tuesday, but we’ll be talking about what it means for the team’s offseason plans on Wednesday’s edition of PFT Live. Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly will join Mike Florio to talk about what the Eagles will do at running back now, their plans for Alonso on defense and more about what the releases of Trent Cole and Cary Williams will lead to in the near future.

Florio will also continue the series of offseason to-do lists by checking in with the Colts and Packers a few days before free agency gets underway. The Colts are expected to be active in free agency as they try to surround Andrew Luck with as much talent as possible while the Packers may be working to replace wide receiver Randall Cobb and/or tackle Bryan Bulaga.

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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Andre Johnson asks Texans to release him

Buffalo Bills v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Texans recently gave receiver Andre Johnson permission to seek a trade.  Johnson won’t be doing that.

Johnson’s agent, Kennard McGuire, tells PFT that he has asked the Texans to release Johnson.

The impasse arose when the Texans recently informed Johnson he’d have a reduced role in 2015.  Johnson responded by saying that he won’t be happy with a reduced role, so it would be better for him to be elsewhere.

The Texans responded by granting him permission to seek a trade.  McGuire believes deliberately leaked to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle the notion that Johnson asked for a trade in an effort to minimize local criticism of the franchise for its treatment of a player who has been with the Texans for all but one year of the team’s existence.

“After 12 years of being a model citizen, an ambassador, and the face of this franchise, he deserves more than a mishandled P.R. campaign that showcases only one side of the story,” McGuire told PFT on Wednesday morning.  “After 12 years, he deserves to be sent off in a better way.”

Indeed he does.  The Texans know that no one will pay $11.5 million to a receiver who’ll turn 34 in July.  At most, a trade would have happened with Johnson doing a new deal.  So instead of doing a new deal elsewhere as part of a trade, he should have been cut and given the chance to do that new deal elsewhere.

The ball is now back in the team’s court.  The only right thing to do at this point is to thank Johnson for his 12 years of loyal service and release him, giving him a six-day head start on the unrestricted free agency market.

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Another challenger joins the NFLPA executive director hunt

NFLPA

And then there were five.  And there still could be more.

With more than 36 hours remaining before the window closes on the ability of candidates for the NFLPA executive director position to be nominated by three player representatives, multiple reports indicate that former NFLPA counsel Arthur McAfee has obtained the requisite nominations and has been added to the ballot.

PFT first reported McAfee’s candidacy on Monday.  He joins Sean Gilbert, Andrew Smith, and John Stufflebeam as the official challengers to DeMaurice Smith.

Two other known candidates, James Acho and Sean Morey, have not yet received the three nominations.

The election is scheduled for March 15.

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Tyvon Branch beginning his free agent tour with Colts

Chicago Bears v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

It’s almost like the Colts want to do the Bob Sanders thing again.

According to Conor Orr of NFL.com, the Colts are bringing former Raiders safety Tyvon Branch in for a free agent visit.

When he’s well, Branch is a very good safety, the kind of guy who would represent an upgrade over their last free agent safety by (the just-cut LaRon Landry).

Only, it’s hard to count on Branch being well, after he’s played just five games the last two seasons. A broken leg and a broken foot might not be connected, and might not be a sign of future events.

But still, it’s hard to gauge what his market will be, and how any team is willing to invest in a guy with so little tape the last two years.

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