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PFT’s Week 11 picks

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

That five-game lead over MDS has grown to seven, with seven weeks left.

If anyone is capable of blowing this lead, I am.

This week, we disagree on three games.  Last week, we were 10-3-1 and 8-5-1, respectively.  (I would have predicted the Rams-49ers would end in a tie, if I’d known games could end in ties.)

For the year, I’m now 93-52-1.  MDS is 86-59-1.

Dolphins at Bills

MDS’s take: NFL Network gets the week started with a pretty lousy game, with the Dolphins reeling and falling out of AFC wild-card contention, and the Bills even further behind in the AFC East. I’m expecting the difference in this one to be Bills running back C.J. Spiller, who will do to the Dolphins’ defense the same thing that Titans running back Chris Johnson did to the Dolphins’ defense last week. Spiller will have a big game and lead the way as the Bills win.

MDS’s pick: Bills 28, Dolphins 20.

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins have cooled off.  The Bills were never hot.  It’ll be cold on Thursday night in Buffalo.  More importantly, it’s hard to imagine the Dolphins recovering  from Sunday’s debacle against the Titans in only four days.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 28, Dolphins 20.

Cardinals at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Falcons are no longer undefeated and no longer viewed by many people as the best team in the league, but a home game against the Cardinals should be a nice way for Atlanta to get back in the W column. The Cardinals’ defense might be able to keep this game close, but Arizona’s offense won’t be able to do anything.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 16, Cardinals 9.

Florio’s take:  This is precisely the kind of game the Cardinals could steal.  The Falcons, fresh from their first loss, view Arizona as a show-up-and-win opponent — the puff-pastry appetizer to a two-pack of tough steaks in the form of the Bucs and Saints on a short week.  And the Cardinals have had two weeks to get ready for this one.  If I didn’t have a seven-game lead over MDS entering the week, I’d consider calling for the upset.  Instead, I’ll play a little prevent defense.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 35, Cardinals 21.

Buccaneers at Panthers

MDS’s take: Both of these teams have talented young quarterbacks, but it’s Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman who has taken a big step forward recently, while Carolina’s Cam Newton is looking shaky. The Bucs are entering the NFC playoff conversation with a win in Carolina.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 28, Panthers 14.

Florio’s take:  When the Bucs beat the Panthers 10 weeks ago, it was regarded as a surprise.  When the Bucs beat the Panthers this time, it won’t be.  Tampa has gradually improved, and Greg Schiano could soon be getting some coach of the year buzz.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 24, Panthers 16.

Browns at Cowboys

MDS’s take: This is the first of three straight home games, all against teams with losing records, for the Cowboys. So their schedule is setting up for them to go on a nice little run. After saving their season against the Eagles, the Cowboys won’t blow their season against the Browns.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 23, Browns 16.

Florio’s take:  The Cowboys get ready for their Thanksgiving date with the Redskins by feasting on the team that is the color of sweet potatoes, both fresh and digested.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 27, Browns 17.

Packers at Lions

MDS’s take: When the Lions get their passing game going, they’re as dangerous an offense as there is in the NFL.  The Vikings were doing all they could to stop Calvin Johnson on Sunday, and he still went over 200 receiving yards. Unfortunately for Detroit, the Lions usually don’t get their passing game going until their defense and special teams have already given up an early lead. And the Packers are not the kind of team the Lions want to be playing catchup against.

MDS’s pick: Packers 23, Lions 20.

Florio’s take:  The Packers are ready to make their move to the top of the division.  The Lions already have made their move to the bottom.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 27, Lions 14.

Jaguars at Texans

MDS’s take: Given that Florio is way ahead of me in our season picks contest, I’m tempted to take the Jaguars here because I’m going to need to hit on some big upsets if I’m going to have any chance of catching up. But even though I think the Texans might be due for a letdown after their big win in Chicago, the Jaguars are so bad that the Texans should beat them even if they turn in their worst effort of the season.

MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Jaguars 13.

Florio’s take:  Didn’t this used to be an actual rivalry?  It’s not anymore, thanks to the fact that one team has an 8-1 record, and the other is 1-8.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 41, Jaguars 17.

Bengals at Chiefs

MDS’s take: Cincinnati’s big win over the Giants could be the first step toward a surprise late-season run back to the playoffs, and there’s no way the Bengals will stumble against a terrible Chiefs team.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 34, Chiefs 10.

Florio’s take:  Logic tells us that the winless-at-home Chiefs should fall to a Bengals team that found a way to knock off the defending NFL champions.  But the Chiefs are due to finally get that second pickle.  It won’t do much to make things better in Kansas City, but things won’t get worse — at least not this week.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 23, Bengals 20.

Colts at Patriots

MDS’s take: I’m a believer in the Colts, in the sense that I believe they are going to make the playoffs this season. But that’s largely because the Colts have an easy schedule the rest of the way, with four games remaining against teams that currently have losing records. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, this is one of the toughest games the Colts still have to play, and I just don’t think the Colts’ defense is good enough to keep Tom Brady and company in check. This game may be a first-round playoff preview, but it’s not a close game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 28, Colts 10.

Florio’s take:  A year after the annual Colts-Patriots game lost its luster with the absence of Peyton Manning, the arrival of Andrew Luck could help restore the sizzle.  With the Colts better than folks realize and the Pats not quite as good as believed, the Colts could steal this one.  They likely won’t, but they could.

Florio’s pick:    Patriots 28, Colts 24.

Jets at Rams

MDS’s take: Neither one of these teams is very good, but the Rams have a lot of young guys who look like they’re hungry and playing as hard as they can in every game, while the Jets have a bunch of veterans who look like they give up when they fall behind and anonymously snipe at each other in the media. Advantage Rams.

MDS’s pick: Rams 21, Jets 17.

Florio’s take:  Last week, Pete Carroll got a little revenge against the team that once fired him as its head coach.  This week, Brian Schottenheimer gets a shot at revenge against the team that fired him without really firing him as its offensive coordinator.  The fact that the Rams currently are good and the Jets aren’t will make it easier.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 20, Jets 10.

Eagles at Redskins

MDS’s take: Stick a fork in the Eagles. They’re already on the first five-game losing streak of Andy Reid’s career, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that losing streak extend all the way to the end of the season.

MDS’s pick: Redskins 28, Eagles 13.

Florio’s take:  The struggling Philly offense finally finds an equally struggling defense.  And the struggling Philly defense finally finds digs deep and finds a way to avoid getting torched.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 24, Redskins 21.

Saints at Raiders

MDS’s take: There’s not much doubt after the Saints beat the Falcons that New Orleans has turned this thing around. It should be easy to keep things going against a Raiders team that looks like it has given up on the season.

MDS’s pick: Saints 38, Raiders 17.

Florio’s take:  Dennis Allen knows the Saints offense well, given the time he spent there as a defensive backs coach.  Unfortunately, he lacks the personnel to slow it down.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, Raider 20.

Chargers at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Broncos may be playing the best football in the league right now. Peyton Manning has the offense humming, of course, but Von Miller is a defensive player of the year candidate, and Trindon Holliday is one of the most dynamic special-teams players in the NFL — at least as long as he remembers that you’re supposed to cross the goal line before you start celebrating your touchdown. This is a complete football team, and the Broncos will all but wrap up the AFC West with an easy win over the Chargers.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Chargers 13.

Florio’s take:  This one will look a lot more like the second half of their last meeting, not the first half.  And it could be the final two halves of football for Norv Turner in San Diego.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 31, Chargers 17.

Ravens at Steelers

MDS’s take: Ben Roethlisberger’s injury came at the worst possible time for the Steelers.  Before Big Ben got hurt, I was expecting the Steelers to beat the Ravens both this week in Pittsburgh and two weeks from now in Baltimore, and to take the lead in the AFC North. But with Byron Leftwich in for Roethlisberger, I like the Ravens.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 17, Steelers 13.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers have played the Ravens close without Ben Roethlisberger.  And that’s when the Ravens actually had a great defense.  If the Steelers can run the ball effectively and if Byron Leftwich can start his elongated throwing motion quickly enough to get the ball out before Terrell Suggs plants him into the ground, the Steelers can hold serve at home.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 17, Ravens 13.

Bears at 49ers

MDS’s take: In a battle of teams that may be playing without their concussed starting quarterbacks, I have more faith in the 49ers’ ability to win by running the ball and playing good defense.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Bears 16.

Florio’s take:  Though the Bears likely won’t have another five-game free fall like they did last season, the losing streak will extend at least to two — regardless of who ends up playing quarterback for either team.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 20, Bears 13.

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K’Waun Williams has four contract offers, including Jets

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 11:  Defensive back K'Waun Williams #36 of the Cleveland Browns looks on against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 11, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

There have been visits, and some other suggestions of interest in former Browns cornerback K’Waun Williams. But some teams have finally made tangible expressions of their desire.

According to Darryl Slater of NJ.com, the Jets have offered the free agent corner a contract, one of four teams to do so.

He also visited the Lions, and the Vikings, Dolphins and 49ers were reported to have some degree of interest. That leaves the door open for Mystery Team, the most active of free agent shoppers every season.

The slot corner is expected to make a decision later this week.

Williams didn’t play last season because of an ankle injury, and a disagreement over the treatment of it led to an end of his time with the Browns.

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Report: Reuniting with Adam Gase drew Julius Thomas to Miami

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 23:   Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars scores a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during the game at EverBank Field on October 23, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Raides won 33-16.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tight end Julius Thomas is set for a physical in Miami on Tuesday, a day after the Jaguars and Dolphins agreed to a trade that would send Thomas to South Florida when trades are officially allowed to be processed on March 9.

Thomas agreed to rework his contract as part of the deal, something that could have turned into a sticking point if Thomas preferred to force the Jaguars to cut him so he could pick his own destination. Miami offered something no other team could offer, however.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that Thomas’ desire to reunite with Dolphins coach Adam Gase, who ran the offense for the Broncos in 2013 and 2014, was the impetus to agreeing to a new deal with a new team. Thomas’ 108 catches for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns during those two seasons landed him the big free agent contract with the Jaguars that he’s now reworking and his failure to replicate that production has him on the move, so it’s not hard to see the appeal.

Thomas was catching passes from Peyton Manning in those two seasons, something that won’t be the case in Miami. Ryan Tannehill turned in a strong first season under Gase, however, and adding Thomas to Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and company sets him up with weapons to do the same in 2017.

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Cedric Benson busted for drunk driving again, says doesn’t know ABCs

Cleveland Browns v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Cedric Benson played nearly a decade in the NFL, and now says it has impaired his ability to drive. Or spell. Or something.

The longtime Bears and Bengals running back was charged with driving while intoxicated in Texas Saturday morning, and had a novel excuse for not undergoing a field sobriety test.

According to Rachel Rice of the Austin American-Statesman,  police affidavit said that when the Austin police officer asked him to recite the alphabet, Benson “stated he couldn’t do that because he played 8 years in the NFL.” He also claimed he was unable to count higher than 3, and refused a balance test.

Of course, this happened at 2:47 a.m., so there are many possible explanations for his sudden weakness in math and written skills. Police said his eyes were glassy, he was swaying and mumbling, and that he smelled of alcohol and was: “talkative, uncooperative [and] cocky.”

Benson has a long history of trouble with the law in Texas, and with alcohol-related problems. He was cut by the Bears in 2008 after being busted for both drinking and boating under the influence in a short amount of time. He was charged with public intoxication in 2014 after an argument with a woman in a cab. In 2010 he was charged with assault for punching a bar employee and was sentenced to 20 days in jail.

Any of those alone might have been enough to signal a problem that needed to be addressed, but apparently it hasn’t for Benson.

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Report: Jared Odrick’s non-football interests caused “minor friction”

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 19:  Jared Odrick #75 of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates after a sack during the fourth quarter of a game against the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field on November 19, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars cut defensive lineman Jared Odrick this week, just two years into what was billed as a five-year, $42.5 million deal. An injury that limited him to just six games last year was one reason, but Odrick’s off-field interests may have been another.

Odrick is his own man, as detailed last offseason by TheMMQB.com. He says he’s not “blinded by the religion of football.” He spends his time off in Canada, which he says he prefers because America is a “gun culture” that was “built on the backs of slaves.” He has his own methods of training and nutrition, and they aren’t like those of most NFL players. He hopes to go into acting and writing after his football career is over.

According to ESPN.com, all those off-field interests sometimes caused some minor friction in the building.

There are some organizations that would be fine with all of that. But the Jaguars are now an organization run by Tom Coughlin who is very much an old-school football guy. And he wants to surround himself with old-school football guys.

If Odrick had played 16 games and recorded 10 sacks last season, the Jaguars would probably not have much of a problem with his off-field interests. But Odrick played six games and had one sack. That’s not the kind of production that can withstand “minor friction.”

For his part, Odrick doesn’t seem too broken up about it. He posted on Instagram a picture of himself at what he says was the moment he found out the Jaguars cut him. He’s at the beach, with a grin on his face.

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Pat Shurmur focusing on new approach for Vikings offense

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 7: Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur of the Philadelphia Eagles watches his team warm up prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 7, 2014 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings offense floundered in 2016 for a myriad of reasons. Adrian Peterson missed most of the season to injury, Norv Turner resigned as offensive coordinator midseason, Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the year in the preseason and an offensive line that only resembled blockers far too often were among the biggest issues the Vikings had to deal with it.

Now with Pat Shurmur able to rebuild the team’s offense over the course of an entire offseason, the Vikings are hopeful they’ll be in a better position to move the football and score points next season.

There will be things we do where we’ll be able to operate differently. Some of the plays will look different maybe in special situations,” Shurmur said of the team’s offense, via the Vikings official website. “But the key thing is that we have to do a better job of running the football in all situations, and I think that will be a focal point.

“From an offensive standpoint, you have to be able to score points so we need to be more efficient running the ball, hopefully more explosive, and then when we get in there close we have to score points.”

The Vikings finished last season ranked 28th in the league in total offense, averaging just 315.1 yards per game. They ranked 23rd in points per game with 20.4 points per game as well. Shurmur has some new coaches on the offensive staff as well. Kevin Stefanski is the new quarterbacks coach and Darrell Hazell has taken over as receivers coach. Now the Vikings will look to retool their approach this offseason and get their offense moving forward.

“I was excited about being able to be here,” Shurmur said. “I enjoyed my (first) year, and it’s just a matter now of getting to work and trying to put together an offense and a staff that we feel good about for next season.

“It’s more than just plays, it’s a mindset and how you operate. I think as we move forward, we’ve added some new coaches that have some new ideas, so what you try to do is incorporate the best of everyone that’s in the room and then move forward so it becomes the 2017 Vikings offense.”

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Real Sports profiles Robert Kraft

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05:  New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft walks on the sideline before Super Bowl 51 between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Patriots bask in the afterglow of a fifth Super Bowl win, their owner will step into the spotlight of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

A profile of Robert Kraft will be included in Tuesday’s episode of the show (10:00 p.m. ET/PT), with Andrea Kremer having exclusive access to him. Coincidentally (or not), Kremer will join Tuesday’s PFT Live to discuss the project.

It’s part of an offseason priorities series that focuses coincidentally (or not) on the AFC East on Tuesday. Other guests include Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald and Tom Curran of CSN New England.

Tune in at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio. The show then slides to NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET for the final two hours.

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Kirk Cousins won’t sign new deal before application of franchise tag

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 24:  Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins looks to pass the football in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Washington has nine days to apply the franchise tag to quarterback Kirk Cousins. One way to avoid using it would be to sign Cousins to a long-term deal before then.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Cousins won’t be doing that.

As explained last week in reference to all players facing the tag, there’s no reason to do it before the player is tagged. The formula for doing a long-term deal doesn’t change after the tag is applied, and the deadline for turning the tag into a long-term contract continues to be July 15.

Absent a significant premium, Cousins has every reason to sit tight and draw a second franchise tag. By rule, he’d be essentially insulated from ever being franchise-tagged again, since he’d be entitled to a 44-percent raise over his franchise tag or a similar markup upon application of the franchise tag for the third time in his career.

And so the flow chart for Washington is simple through March 1: Tag him or don’t tag him. If he’s tagged, Cousins will rush to sign it, adding $23.94 million to the $19.95 million he earned last year. Then, talks on a long-term deal likely will consist of Cousins receiving $23.94 million fully guaranteed in 2017, plus a 20-percent raise (reflecting the increase arising from use of the transition tag) fully guaranteed for 2018. It’s a total of $52.67 million over two years; for anything less than that, Cousins should again take it year to year.

Before anyone accuses Cousins of being greedy, unreasonable, or not “worth” a contract that would make him the highest paid player in the NFL history, he’s simply playing the cards he has been dealt under the CBA and the salary cap. Washington could have signed him to a very reasonable long-term deal after his third season or during his fourth season. One he completed his rookie contract healthy and effective, the leverage swung to Cousins — and he has taken full advantage of it.

If fans are inclined to blame Cousins for that, the blame is better directed at the team, for not giving Cousins a reasonable degree of financial security until he was in position to finagle nearly $44 million over two years.

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Scott Turner will join Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Michigan

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 3: View of a Michigan Wolverines football helmet before their game against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium on September 3, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

After being fired by the Vikings last month, Scott Turner will land on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at the University of Michigan, TheMMQB.com reported Monday.

Turner was the Vikings’ quarterbacks coach the last three seasons. Per the report, he’ll be an offensive analyst at Michigan under Harbaugh and Pep Hamilton, who left his job as quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach with the Browns last month to join Harbaugh’s staff as quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator.

Turner is the son of former Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who resigned during the 2016 season. Prior to that, Turner was the wide receivers coach with the Browns in 2013 when his father was the offensive coordinator. He had coached in high school and in the college ranks before getting his first NFL job as quality control coach with the Panthers in 2011.

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Running back franchise tender won’t drop if Adrian Peterson is released

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers hands off to Le'Veon Bell #26 during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field on January 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the franchise tag deadline approaches, the Steelers haven’t ruled out using it on running back Le’Veon Bell. If they do, the price of it will have nothing to do with the future of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

Under the 2011 CBA, the non-exclusive franchise tenders are determined based not on what any one player made in 2016 or will make in 2017, but on the five-year average of the percentage that the tenders for each position consume under the total cap. For running backs, the 2017 franchise tender will equate to 7.257 percent of the overall cap. At a salary cap of $165 million, that’s a tender of $11.9 million.

NFL Network has suggested that a decision by the Vikings to cut Adrian Peterson will cause that number to drop to $8 million. It won’t. Peterson’s $18 million cap number for 2017 is relevant only to the exclusive tag, which is based on the average of the five highest cap numbers at the position the coming year.

Via Spotrac.com, the five highest running back cap numbers for 2017 belong to Peterson, Bills running back LeSean McCoy ($8.875 million), Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart ($8.25 million), Texans running back Lamar Miller ($6.5 million), and Titans running back DeMarco Murray ($6.25 million). Even with Peterson’s $18 million, the next four drag the average down to $9.5 million If Peterson is cut, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles replaced Peterson at No. 5, with a cap number of $6.187 million. That reduces the average to $7.2 million.

As it relates to the exclusive version of the tag, none of that matters; under the CBA, the exclusive tender can be no less than the non-exclusive tender. (The same dynamic applied a year ago to Broncos linebacker Von Miller.)

The broader lesson from this quick excursion is that the Steelers should consider applying the exclusive version of the tender to Le’Veon Bell, sealing off his opportunity to negotiate with other teams and potentially signing an offer sheet elsewhere. Then again, if the Steelers could get two first-round picks for Bell, they should consider pouncing on the opportunity, since a pair of first-rounders (theirs and someone else’s) could be needed to trade up to get their next franchise quarterback, in 2017 or 2018.

Either way, it will cost them 7.257 percent of the salary cap to squat on Bell’s rights for one more year. No specific player’s cap number for 2016 or 2017 will make it any less than that.

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Victor Cruz says Panthers visit “went well,” but nothing is imminent

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 18:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants celebrates a catch against the Detroit Lions  during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 18, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former Giants receiver Victor Cruz is looking for a job, and his first stop happened with former Giants executive Dave Gettleman.

Cruz told Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com that the visit to the Panthers “went well.” Stapleton adds that no deal is imminent, even though interest is mutual. Other visits could occur; currently, none are scheduled.

The Panthers need a slot receiver, and Cruz could fit the bill. With a head start on the open market, however, it makes sense for him to consider his options.

Undrafted out of the University of Massachusetts in 2010, Cruz became a star in 2011 with 1,536 receiving yards and nine touchdowns during the team’s most recent Super Bowl season. In 2012, he generated 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. The following year, Cruz got within two yards of 1,000 despite missing two games.

Injuries wiped out most of the next two seasons. Last year, Cruz managed only 586 yards as the third fiddle behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard.

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Texas governor retreats from law that would force NFL players to stand for anthem

DALLAS, TX - JULY 08: Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at Dallas's City Hall near the area that is still an active crime scene in downtown Dallas following the deaths of five police officers last night on July 8, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. Five police officers were killed and seven others were injured in the evening ambush during a march against recent police involved shootings. Investigators are saying the suspect is 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson of Mesquite, Texas. This is the deadliest incident for U.S. law enforcement since September 11. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Getty Images

The governor of Texas recently attacked the NFL for trying to squeeze the Lone Star State into not passing a bathroom bill. Part of the response included a threat to push for a law that would apply to a certain kind of stand-or-sit decision that some NFL players have begun to make.

“The NFL has coddled its players who refused to stand for the national anthem,” Greg Abbott said on FOX News, via CBSSports.com. “Imagine this, if the NFL decides to come down on the state of Texas, I might just pass a bill here in the state of Texas mandating that all NFL players have to stand and put their hand on the heart when the national anthem is played.”

After some pointed out that such a law would be grossly unconstitutional, a spokesman said that Abbott was engaging in “intentional hyperbole” aimed at “demonstrating the NFL’s own shortcoming of how they are disconnecting with their fan base by allowing players to disrespect the U.S. flag.”

So, basically, Abbott can’t pass a law forcing players to stand for the anthem, but he apparently would if he could, since the NFL’s fan base apparently believes players should be forced to stand for the anthem. Constitution notwithstanding.

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Julius Thomas has meeting, physical set in Miami Tuesday

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The expected trades of tight end Julius Thomas from the Jaguars to the Dolphins and offensive tackle Branden Albert from the Dolphins to the Jaguars are awaiting final details, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday evening.

Thomas will be in Miami Tuesday for a physical, one of the final steps to the trade being finalized. Rapoport tweeted that Thomas has agreed to re-do his contract.

Per the report, the Jaguars will give up a 2018 late-round pick for Albert, who spent Monday in Jacksonville and is expected to discuss his contract with team officials Tuesday. Though it was originally reported that a player-for-player swap could happen, these trades are expected to be processed separately.

The Dolphins will give up a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft for Thomas, who had his best seasons in 2013-14 with the Broncos when Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was the offensive coordinator in Denver.

No trades can be made official until the new league year opens March 9.

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Joe Williams briefly quit football at Utah, wants NFL to know why

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 28: Joe Williams #28 of the Utah Utes runs with the ball against the Indiana Hoosiers during the Foster Farms Bowl game at Levi's Stadium on December 28, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

One of the odder stories of the 2016 college football season came when Utah running back Joe Williams announced that he was quitting the team and quitting the sport of football — only to come back a month later and become one of the best players in the country, rushing for 1,300 yards in seven games.

Williams will be at the Scouting Combine next week, and he’s eager to explain to NFL teams that his brief departure doesn’t mean he doesn’t love the sport.

Instead, Williams told Tom Pelissero of USA Today, quitting football was necessary because grief and guilt he felt over the death of his sister a decade earlier had finally reached the point where he simply had to step away to focus on his mental health.

“People make it a big deal that I quit on the team. To me, it was necessary,” Williams said. “I was learning to come to grips with the fact that it wasn’t my fault. I’m 23 years old now, and I can’t blame myself for something that occurred 10 years ago, no matter how painful or traumatic it was. It would be bigger to honor her in a much more meaningful way.”

Williams’ 7-year-old sister died in her bed in the middle of the night of what her family later learned was a disease that caused inflammation of her heart. Williams says he spent years thinking of himself as responsible — not because that’s a rational thought, but because as a boy grieving his sister, he couldn’t think about her death rationally.

“That’s where the guilt comes in,” Williams said. “Because maybe if I had got out of my bed and maybe I’d held her or she knew I was there, maybe she would’ve woken up. That was the biggest reason of why I blame myself.”

Williams says he is in a better place mentally now, and is eager to keep playing the way he did after returning to his team last year. He wants NFL teams to know that he’s now more focused on football than ever.

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Trades negotiated now are non-binding

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 18:  Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates a touchdown following an interception during the game against the Houston Texans at EverBank Field on October 18, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

So how are the Dolphins and Jaguars working out trades more than two weeks before trades are allowed? They’re not, officially.

Unofficially, they’ve agreed to agree to a trade that will send tight end Julius Thomas to the Dolphins as of March 9 at 4:00 p.m. ET. Unofficially, they eventually may agree to a trade that will send tackle Branden Albert to Jacksonville at the same time.

Officially, they’ve agreed to nothing — and either side can back out without consequence. To the extent that Thomas and/or Albert will agree to new contracts contingent on trades being finalized, the players can back out, too, potentially derailing the broader deals.

While such an outcome would be viewed as a breach of the wink-nod etiquette that allows trades to be negotiated before they can officially be consummated, the teams and players have an out, if they choose to use it.

The same thing happened four years ago, when the 49ers and Chiefs worked out a trade for quarterback Alex Smith before the new league year began. Until both teams independently communicated the trade to the league office after the opening of the trading period, either team could have backed out.

Six year ago, the Bears failed to finalize a draft-day trade they had agreed to conduct with the Ravens, prompting sharp criticism from coach John Harbaugh. Still, the league won’t treat a trade as a binding agreement until both teams communicate the transaction to league headquarters.

And so, at any point in the next 17 days, either team can walk away without anything other than hard feelings or an aggressive sound bite that will fall on deaf ears at 345 Park Avenue.

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The Revis tampering from 2015 was pretty much what everyone thought it was

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 18:  Darrelle Revis #24 of the New England Patriots celebrates after an interception in the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts of the 2015 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

A new column that spends plenty of time wagging a finger at Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis for “embarrassing” the team’s owner with “late-night shenanigans” that may or may not ever result in a conviction, guilty plea, suspension, or fine contains new details about the events that resulted in Revis becoming a Jet in 2015.

Basically, it unfolded exactly the way everyone thought it did. Which is pretty much the way it always does.

“Team officials in stealth mode communicated with Revis, Inc., through private cell phones and face-to-face covert meetings at the 2015 Scouting Combine rather than make calls from the team’s landlines at their Florham Park facility,” writes Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “No paper trails were a must. [Owner Woody] Johnson, the driving force behind bringing back Revis to right a wrong in his mind, endorsed all of it.”

That’s how tampering works, every year with most if not all teams. Paper trails never exist, and face-to-face meetings occur at the Scouting Combine, with no effort by the league to ensure that agents and teams are talking only about clients currently on the roster and not about clients currently on another roster.

In 2015, even after Johnson committed a clear tampering violation by declaring the team’s interest in a Revis reunion (the Jets eventually were fined $100,000), Johnson was pushing the team to bring back Revis, before the Patriots decided whether to pick up a $20 million option for the coming season.

Mehta separately points out that the courtship of Revis ended up being a “colossal mistake.” Based on the way Revis performed in the second year of the contract, that’s a given. The recent arrest doesn’t make his return any more or less of a blunder; indeed, if Revis were still playing at a high level, the Jets would be circling the wagons and defending their star player.

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