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Banner says decision on Shurmur, Heckert will come quickly after season

Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner AP

There’s a new sheriff in Cleveland.  And his top deputy is getting ready to make some changes, possibly.

The good news (if there is any) for coach Pat Shurmur and G.M. Tom Heckert is that the suspense won’t last very long beyond the completion of the 2012 season.  CEO Joe Banner tells Tony Grossi of that a decision as to the retention of the head coach and G.M. could be announced quickly.

“I think we would hope to make that decision right around the end of the season,” Banner said.  “Maybe we’ll make it in the days leading up to the last game and then deal with it after that.  We’d like to get to the point where everybody here knows how we’re going forward as quickly as we can.”

That doesn’t sound good for Shurmur and Heckert.  Especially since Banner makes it clear that he’ll engage in a thorough process as he decides on the future course of the franchise.  Also, Banner told PFT Live last month that whoever ends up coaching the team will be around for a while.

“Listen, I don’t fly by the seat of my pants,” Banner told Grossi.  “So if there’s research to be done — for example, how many head coaches have come back and done well a second time vs. not? — I promise you I either have or will do that research before I make a decision.  How many guys were offensive or defensive coaches that ended up doing well?  How many weren’t coordinators like an Andy Reid?  We’ll know all the odds.  College coaches who’ve never been in the NFL. College coaches who have an NFL background that went to college.  We’ll have the stats.”

But they won’t have all necessary information regarding other possible coaches and General Managers unless interviews are done.  And interviews surely won’t be done until the current jobs are vacated.  Which suggests that Shurmur and Heckert will get the heave-ho in order to allow Banner to make a thorough and thoughtful decision as to the next coach and G.M. of the team.

We’ve believed all along that Shurmur and Heckert would stay only if the mob wants them so badly that firing them would be bad for business.  With a 2-7 record that likely will sink to 2-8 on Sunday in Dallas, the mob won’t be troubled by yet another wave of changes.

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No University of Tennessee players drafted for first time since 1963

Justin Coleman AP

The SEC might have had the most players picked from any collegiate conference for the ninth year in a row, but it wasn’t a banner day for all of the schools from that neck of the woods.

The University of Tennessee ranks among the most prolific producers of NFL talent, but none of the members of last year’s squad were able to get an NFL team to volunteer interest in a Volunteer. For the first time since 1963, no members of the Tennessee team were drafted into the NFL.

Tennessee was 7-6 under coach Butch Jones last season and had two players invited to the combine. Linebacker A.J. Johnson was one of them, but he’s facing rape charges that chilled his draft hopes. Cornerback Justin Coleman was the other invitee and the school announced that he’s heading to the Vikings as an undrafted free agent.

They also announced that punter Matt Darr is signing with the Dolphins while defensive lineman Jordan Williams will try to earn a job on the talented Jets front.

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Brett Hundley: Getting drafted by Packers “a blessing in disguise”

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It’s fair to say that remaining on the board until the fifth round and going after five other quarterbacks wasn’t the way that quarterback Brett Hundley saw his draft experience playing out, but he found a positive spin to put on his Day Three selection by the Packers.

Hundley said that he thought he’d be drafted in the second or third round and said your “expectations are hurt” when things don’t play out the way you have them in your mind. Now he’s going to Green Bay where he can learn from Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy while working to show the rest of the league that they were wrong to leave him hanging for so long.

“It’s a blessing in disguise and you know I have a chip on my shoulder, and I’m coming in to work, and that’s what I’ve come down to,” Hundley said, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “I’m just coming in, I’ve got my opportunity. That’s the way I look at it. It’s a blessing in disguise. You always have expectations of going No. 1 or high in the draft, but everything happens for a reason, and that’s how I look at it. If I’m supposed to be here, this is where I’m supposed to be, and I’m going to make the most of it.”

Packers director of player personnel Eliot Wolf said he was “shocked” Hundley was available with the 147th pick and that unexpected drop is why General Manager Ted Thompson sent a seventh-round pick to New England to move up for a quarterback he didn’t have designs on taking. Coach Mike McCarthy said Hundley had “a lot to work with” and he’ll try to use those skills to land the backup job this summer.

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Steelers planning reduced role for James Harrison

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The Steelers opened their draft by taking outside linebacker Bud Dupree and they added another one in Miami’s Anthony Chickillo in the sixth round, which fits with their plans for James Harrison for the coming season.

Harrison returned to the Steelers after last season began and was playing a full-time role in the defense by the time the year came to an end. Harrison is back with the team again this year, but linebackers coach Joey Porter said he’s already told Harrison not to expect the same kind of playing time in 2015.

“He knows where he is,” Porter said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I told him already, the James Harrison [of before] is over. … Harrison is going to be a better player for us if I keep his snap count down to 25. I’ll get the best James Harrison I can out of him instead of trying to make him play like he was — 25-60 snaps a game.”

Plans can change, though, and the Steelers know that well. When they drafted Jarvis Jones two years ago, they planned on playing him across from Jason Worilds and not having Harrison on the roster at all. Should Dupree take a while to transition to the pro game, the Steelers may find themselves with a different plan for Harrison come the regular season.

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Florida State sets new record for draft picks in three-year span

ACC Championship - Florida State v Georgia Tech Getty Images

As conferences go, the SEC might consider itself kings of the NFL Draft.

But as individual schools go, it’s an ACC member that has current bragging rights.

Via Safid Deen of the Tallahassee Democrat, Florida State broke the modern record for players drafted in a three-year span, pumping 29 draft picks into the league.

When five Seminoles were drafted Saturday, it pushed this year’s crop of picks to 11, matching last year after they sent seven into the draft in 2013.

That tops the record of 28 previously held by Miami (2002-2004) and USC (2008-2010), going back to 1994 when the draft was shortened to seven rounds.

“Days like [Saturday] are why you coach,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I’m really proud of all of these guys. . . .  For FSU to be able to get the modern three-year record, it’s a testament to our assistant coaches and our support staff, and our ability to develop players.

“But most importantly it’s a testament to the work these players have put in. We’ve had some terrific players come through the program the past three years, but they’re even better people.”

While there might be some debate about that final point in some quarters, there’s no question the Seminoles have been good at football, winning 39 of 42 games and a national championship game during that span.

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Mike Pettine: Browns “not going to over-prioritize the QB position”

Mike Pettine AP

There wasn’t a quarterback rumor during the 2015 NFL Draft that didn’t involve the Browns at some level.

Yet they got out of the weekend without one, and Browns coach Mike Pettine said that was fine with him.

That leaves them with Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw and Thad Lewis, a group which might not inspire fear in the rest of the AFC North.

“I don’t think we can emphasize it enough that we’re going to build a football team,” Pettine said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “We’re not going to over-prioritize the quarterback position.”

Pettine specifically denied the suggestion they were trying to move up in the fourth round to get Bryce Petty, though he admitted trying to trade up into Jacksonville’s spot.
“We had him slated at a certain spot and that wasn’t our place where we wanted to make that move,” General Manager Ray Farmer said of Petty. “The inference came because the team that actually ended up taking the player thought we were going to take their player.”

Likewise, they denied ever being very involved in the Marcus Mariota discussions with Tennessee, and they didn’t leave the weekend with Sam Bradford (because the Eagles couldn’t get to Mariota etiher).

Of course, there’s also a supply and demand issue as well, as only seven quarterbacks were drafted, not all of them very good. But the same could be said of their depth chart.

“We go 11 against 11, we’re not just trotting quarterbacks out on the 50-yard line and thumb wrestling,” Pettine said. “To me there are a lot of different ways to win football games. You just don’t force the situation. If we perceive our quarterback group is not the best in the division, what does that mean? Do we call the league and cancel games? You still gotta play.”

If they can win games that way, that’s a fine stance to take. But if they don’t, they also have to know that the lack of an answer (short-term or long) is going to be one of the reasons why.

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Chargers reach deals with 21 undrafted free agents

Cole Stoudt AP

The son of a former NFL quarterback is among 21 rookie free agents who have reached agreements with the Chargers, the team announced after the draft on its website.

Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt, who threw for 1,892 yards and completed 63.2 percent of his passes in 2014, is set to join San Diego. He is the son of Cliff Stoudt, who had a 13-season NFL career in stints with the Steelers, Cardinals, Dolphins and Cowboys.

In addition, the Chargers reached deals with the following undrafted rookies: Northwestern OLB Ikechi Ariguzo, Boston College CB Manuel Asprilla, Mississippi State OG Ben Beckwth, Minnesota DE Cameron Botticelli, Cincinnati OT Tyreek Burwell, Western Kentucky OT Cameron Clemmons, Central Michigan WR Titus Davis, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo LB Nick Dzubnar, Ball State RB Jahwan Edwards, Marshall TE Eric Frohnapel, Ohio State ILB Curtis Grant, Nevada OLB Brock Hekking, Sacred Heart DB Gordon Hill, Texas A&M PK Josh Lembo, Iowa S Johnny Lowdermilk, Kansas State LB-FB Ryan Mueller, Albany TE Brian Parker, West Virginia RB Dreamius Smith, Western Oregon Tyrell Williams, Arkansas WR Demetrious Wilson.

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For some veteran free agents, draft choices cast doubt on decisions

Hakeem Nicks AP

When the days before the draft grow shorter, it’s a scary time for veteran free agents.

They have to weigh whether to take offers available before the draft, or run the risk of having those offers go away when teams find younger, perhaps better and certainly cheaper alternatives. It’s an expensive game of chicken, and often players will blink at the last minute.

The saying around the league is “get in where you fit in,” but with the 2015 NFL Draft in the books, a pair of veteran wideouts might be re-thinking their decisions.

Of course, Greg Jennings got a pretty lucrative deal from Miami, but both he and Tennessee’s Hakeem Nicks were promptly covered up by the end of the weekend.

When Jennings signed with the Dolphins, it seemed like good business (in addition to the two years and $8 million). Though they acquired Kenny Stills in trade to go with emerging Jarvis Landry, there seemed to still be a chance for him to have more of a role in the offense.

But when they used their first-rounder on Louisville’s DeVante Parker, Jennings became a rather expensive stable pony, a guy whose job will be to mentor young players moreso than catch flying things.

When Nicks picked the Titans, it wasn’t for the same kind of money or fanfare, but it at least looked like he had a chance to contribute behind Kendall Wright and Harry Douglas and Justin Hunter.

But then the Titans used a second-rounder on boom-or-bust Dorial Green-Beckham and a seventh on intriguing project Tre McBride, the depth chart became really crowded.

Nicks didn’t have the same kind of interest in the market as Jennings (who also visited the Saints, Panthers and Jaguars), but it became a lot harder for him to resurrect his career this weekend.

Now he might have to wait for the next crack at free agency to find a team willing to throw the ball to him, a chance that may come as soon as August.

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NFL draft shows again that the best players are in the SEC

toddgurley AP

More than one in five players selected in this year’s NFL draft played their college football in the Southeastern Conference.

As usual, the SEC led all conferences in total draft picks. This year 54 players from the SEC were drafted, meaning that more than 21 percent of all the picks in this year’s draft came from the SEC. This is the ninth year in a row that the SEC has had the most draft picks of any conference.

Although the SEC’s stranglehold on the college football national championship has been broken by Ohio State this year and Florida State last year, there’s little doubt that top to bottom, the best college football is played in the SEC. NFL teams know that.

The SEC was followed by the ACC (47 draft picks), Pac-12 (39), Big Ten (35), Big 12 (25), American Athletic Conference (11) and
Mountain West Conference (10).

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Cowboys weren’t kidding about lack of urgent need for running back

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When Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said before the draft that running back wasn’t an urgent need for his team, it sounded like the kind of attempted smokescreen that teams are so fond of throwing up to cloud their intentions once the draft does get underway.

After all, the Cowboys didn’t re-sign DeMarco Murray and their top running back is the oft-injured Darren McFadden with Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams behind him. Even with a great offensive line, there was an opening for the team to upgrade the talent on hand in the backfield with even a late-round addition.

After the draft wrapped up, Jones said that the team didn’t avoid a running back simply to back up his assertion about the team’s current running backs. Both he and son Stephen said it was simply a case of the best player available to them never being a running back.

“We tried not to push for a particular need,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “We kind of let the draft come to us in a good way and were able to solve a lot of things, take care of a lot of things that we felt like we were short in. I think we really improved our football team. At the end of the day, maybe use the term we let the draft come to us. I think the right guys were there for us. Whenever we had a big question mark and started straying away a little bit, we always went back to who was the best player on the board.”

No one’s going to argue with using five of eight picks to stock the defensive side of the ball, but the Cowboys are going to have to be on the lookout for help at the position that may come as teams reset their rosters in the coming months. That way they won’t find themselves stuck without options should injuries or other calamities turn running back into an urgent need down the road.

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Sunday morning one-liners

Todd Gurley, Amarlo Herrera AP

The Bills said they were satisfied that drafting RB Karlos Williams and CB Ronald Darby isn’t an undue character risk.

RB Jay Ajayi is eager to impress his coaches with the Dolphins.

Versatility is a trait shared by the Patriots’ third day picks.

The Jets are talking about QB Bryce Petty as a long-range prospect.

Nick Boyle became the second tight end drafted by the Ravens this year when they nabbed him in the fifth round.

CB Josh Shaw’s twisty road to the NFL has led him to the Bengals.

The Browns took their first wide receiver since 2012 when they drafted Vince Mayle in the fourth round.

TE Jesse James gets to play for his hometown Steelers.

The Texans didn’t have to go far to find Rice DL Christian Covington in the sixth round.

Colts S Clayton Geathers has plenty of family members with NFL experience.

A rave review for what the Jaguars did over the three days of the draft.

David Climer of the Tennessean tackles what picking Marcus Mariota means for the Titans brain trust.

The Broncos added two new pieces to their offensive line.

Areas of need were addressed by the Chiefs over the last three days.

Trades increased the number of shots the Raiders got to take in the draft.

Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego thinks the Chargers had a “perfectly appropriate” draft.

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant isn’t taking part in workouts with the team, but stopped by the team’s headquarters to meet CB Byron Jones.

The Giants like the toughness displayed by members of their draft class.

Eric Rowe is the latest tall cornerback for the Eagles.

Said Redskins coach Jay Gruden of second-round LB Preston Smith, “He’s baby-faced but he’s got a big, long body. He’s what we thought. We got a chance to meet him also. Great kid, smart, picks up the game effortlessly, and he’s an exciting prospect.”

The Bears drafted players at several positions they also tried to address in 2014.

Riley Reiff will continue to play left tackle for the Lions.

Pete Prisco of wasn’t too fond of the Packers’ draft.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer got some defensive help in the draft.

The Falcons are trying to help new DT Grady Jarrett recover from a fire at his house.

Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman made moves to draft the players he wanted.

Wide receiver wasn’t an area the Saints addressed in the draft.

Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht added a fellow Cornhusker to the roster on Saturday when he drafted WR Kenny Bell.

The selection of TE Gerald Christian to end the draft meant the Cardinals wrapped up three days without adding an inside linebacker or cornerback.

Going back and forth over the Rams’ selection of RB Todd Gurley.

Offense was the main focus of Day Three for the 49ers.

A review of the Seahawks’ predictable unpredictability in the draft.

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Eagles sign 15 rookie free agents

CSU UTEP college football Getty Images

The Eagles moved quickly to announce a group of 15 undrafted rookies who will be joining the team as free agents.

Among the group is center Mike Coccia, who played his college ball at Chip Kelly’s old stomping grounds in New Hampshire, and UTEP tight end Eric Tomlinson. Tomlinson’s signing reunites him with second-round pick and high school teammate Eric Rowe, who will be working to carve out a role in the team’s secondary this season.

Coccia is one of several interior offensive linemen on the list. The Eagles also signed UNLV guard Brett Boyko, UCLA guard Malcom Bunche and Nebraska-Kearney guard Cole Manhart.

Delaware Valley wide receiver Rasheed Bailey, UNLV wide receiver Devante Davis, Duke linebacker Jordan Dewalt-Ondijo, Michigan State tight end Andrew Gleichert, Texas wide receiver John Harris, Purdue running back Raheem Mostert, San Jose State defensive end Travis Raciti, Coastal Carolina defensive back Denzel Rice, Oklahoma State punter Kip Smith and UCF tight end Justin Tukes round out the group.

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Seahawks “expect” to have Bruce Irvin for a long time

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The Seahawks may not be picking up the 2016 option on linebacker Bruce Irvin’s contract, but that doesn’t mean they are in a rush to have him off their team.

That was the message sent by coach Pete Carroll and General Manager John Schneider when they met the media after they wrapped up the draft on Saturday. Reports last week indicated that the team would pass on the $7.8 million option, something they wouldn’t confirm Saturday while saying that the plan is to hold onto him whether they use it or not.

“We met with Bruce yesterday before we got going, and it went very well,” Carroll said, via the Seattle Times. “We discussed what our plan is and what we are planning on doing, still knowing that maybe something could happen that could change the decision. It has nothing to do with the statement of how we feel about him in our program. We expect him to be here for a long time and we will work to get that done.”

Schneider compared the situation to the team’s decision not to exercise guard James Carpenter’s option last year, although those who would like to see Irvin remain in Seattle will likely note that the Seahawks failed to re-sign Carpenter before he left for the Jets.

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Steelers add 12 undrafted free agents

Tyler Murphy, Jeffrey Jay AP

The Steelers have reached contract agreements with 12 undrafted rookie free agents, the club said Saturday evening.

Among the 12 free agent additions is former Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy, who is listed as a wide receiver and ostensibly will be changing positions. Murphy (6-2, 213) passed for 1,623 yards for the Eagles in 2014, but he added 1,184 yards rushing, and his mobility will be his ticket if he’s able to successfully transition to receiver with Pittsburgh. Murphy began his collegiate career with Florida before joining Boston College for one year.

The Steelers also announced agreements with Texas A&M tight end Cameron Clear, Saint Augustine’s defensive tackle Nigel Crawford-Kinney, Liberty defensive end Dominique Davis, Penn State offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach, Auburn offensive guard Reese Dismukes, Kansas State center B.J. Finney, Illinois State defensive end Brandon Pate, Indiana offensive guard Colin Rahrig, Louisville wide receiver Eli Rogers, Lafayette running back Ross Scheuerman and Utah State offensive tackle Kevin Whimpey.

With eight draft picks also joining the Steelers, the Steelers could be adding 20 rookies to a roster that was at 72 veterans entering the draft, so a couple roster moves could be coming.

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Cardinals select Louisville TE Gerald Christian with “Mr. Irrelevant” pick

Gerald Christian, Ryan Janvion AP

All things considered, “Mr. Irrelevant” didn’t get a bad draw this year.

With the final selection in the 2015 NFL Draft — long dubbed the Mr. Irrelevant pick — the Cardinals took Louisville tight end Gerald Christian 256th overall.

The 6-foot-3, 244-pound Christian appears to have a puncher’s chance to make the Cardinals’ roster. Arizona doesn’t have exceptional depth at tight end, and Christian might have a shot at winning the third spot on the depth chart behind Troy Niklas and John Carlson.

A four-star recruit, Christian began his college career at Florida before transferring to Louisville. In two seasons with the Cardinals, Christian hauled in 60 passes for 710 yards and nine touchdowns.

The final pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, safety Lonnie Ballentine, is currently on the Texans’ roster. He spent the 2014 season on injured reserve with Houston.

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Steelers address defense in draft

Doran Grant AP

When a defense allows the third-most yards per play in the previous regular season, the subsequent draft would figure to bring to reinforcements.

Such was the case for the Steelers, who selected six defensive players in eight picks in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Half of the defensive selections were defensive backs: Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson (Round Two), Ohio State cornerback Doran Grant (Round Four) and Louisville safety Gerod Holliman (Round Seven). Golson and Grant have a chance to vie for roles right off the bat, while Holliman has a chance to make the roster, what with safety not one of the Steelers’ deeper positions.

The Steelers began the draft selecting an edge-rusher, Kentucky’s Bud Dupree, in Round One. Other front seven picks were Miami (Fla.) outside linebacker/defensive end Anthony Chickillo (Round Six) and Central Michigan defensive tackle Leterrius Walton (Round Six). Dupree, Walton and Chickillo all face a learning curve as they learn the Steelers’ defense, but if they can play, there are reps to be had.

Whether the Steelers’ defensive picks pan out remains to be seen. But leaning defense was the play in 2015, and it may have been the only one, given the depth chart.

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