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Bill O’Brien refuses to say if he’ll consider NFL jobs

Bill O'Brien AP

Bill O’Brien, who quit his job as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator to become the head coach at Penn State this year, is a strong candidate for the national coach of the year award in college football. The Penn State team, which could have fallen apart in the wake of NCAA sanctions for the Jerry Sandusky scandal, has actually played impressive football and compiled a 7-4 record.

Unfortunately for Penn State fans, that impressive season has people talking about the possibility that NFL teams could offer head-coaching positions to O’Brien. And even more unfortunately for Penn State fans, O’Brien is refusing to rule that possibility out.

After Penn State beat Indiana today, the Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that O’Brien will not commit to being at Penn State in 2013. Instead, O’Brien is simply saying that all of his focus is on Penn State’s season-ending game against Wisconsin.

“That’s not something that I even think about,” O’Brien said when asked if he’ll return in 2013. “I think about that I’m the head football coach at Penn State. And I’m looking forward to getting this team ready for Wisconsin. I mean, we give legs to a story that’s not even there.”

When Jason La Canfora of CBS reported this week that O’Brien is expected to be pursued by NFL teams, what Penn State fans hoped to hear was a direct answer along the lines of, “I will remain at Penn State next year and will not consider any other job offers.” That’s not what he said, and that has people in Pennsylvania wondering if O’Brien wants to leave.

But the reality is that even if O’Brien had answered directly and clearly and said he will absolutely, positively coach Penn State next year, that still wouldn’t put to rest any speculation about his future. Everyone in the coaching business can thank Alabama coach Nick Saban, who famously said “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach” shortly before he took the job, for the fact that no one believes anything any coach says about his future anymore.

What we know for sure about O’Brien is that he’s been the offensive coordinator of an excellent offensive team that got to the Super Bowl, and he’s been a college head coach who pulled his team together and got them playing well under tough circumstances. That’s the kind of resume NFL owners will love. So no one should be surprised to see him back in the NFL.

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Drew Brees not concerned about Saints’ inexperienced receivers

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 04:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws a pass to  Brandin Cooks #10 during the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 4, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Saints’ wide receiver depth chart is so full of young players that the experienced veteran of the group, Brandin Cooks, is 22 years old. But Saints quarterback Drew Brees is not concerned about that.

Brees told the New Orleans Advocate that young receivers Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman and Michael Thomas are, along with Cooks, perfectly capable of picking up the Saints’ offense and playing the way the Saints need them to play.

I am not worried about the inexperience, if you are just talking about years and games played,” Brees said. “I feel like the time on task between all of us is pretty significant when you are talking about the practice reps and the time that we spend away from this facility together. I think they’re quick studies; they’re all hard-working guys that are very smart, intelligent and hungry.”

The Saints’ passing game was good last season with Cooks and Snead as the top two wide receivers, and the addition of Thomas in the second round of the draft should help. There are questions about whether the Saints’ defense will be good enough, but Brees thinks the offense will be as good as ever.

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Vikings promote scout Scott Kuhn to director of analytics

Minnesota Vikings v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

When the Vikings were at the Scouting Combine earlier this year, General Manager Rick Spielman said that the team was using analytics to derive data beyond 40 times and bench press totals.

Spielman called it “another tool” the team could use to evaluate players and it is something that the team appears set to do more of in the future. The Vikings announced Thursday that they have promoted pro scout Scott Kuhn to the role of director of analytics.

“Scott’s aptitude to analyze the tremendous amount of data that is available to us today will be a huge benefit for all of our football operations,” Spielman said in a statement. “Scott’s work ethic and knowledge that he has demonstrated made this an easy decision to promote him to this new position.”

The Vikings also named Anne Doepner their director of football administration in the shuffling of roles in their front office ahead of the 2016 season.

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Jim Kelly’s advice to Lionel Messi: “Go out and enjoy yourself”

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 26: Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina looks on against Chile during the Copa America Centenario Championship match at MetLife Stadium on June 26, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Chile defeated Argentina 4-2 in penalty kicks. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly was one of the most prolific scorers in his sport, even though he never won a title.

So perhaps as well as anyone, he understands how soccer star Lionel Messi feels, and wants him to know things could be much worse.

Messi couldn’t lead Argentina to a Copa America title last week, with his missed penalty kick serving as his personal Scott Norwood moment. It was his fourth loss in a championship game for his country, along with Copa America finals in 2007 and 2015 and the 2014 World Cup.

Kelly lost four Super Bowls with the Bills, so the agony of coming so close is something he knows.

“The bottom line is, you go out there, you play your heart out,” Kelly said he’d tell Messi, according to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. “You know you’re one person on the team of a lot. Yeah, when you’re the star, there’s the old cliche, ‘You get too much of the praise when you win, too much of the blame when you lose.’ The thing is, for me, I knew that I had teammates. We all played together. We won as a team; we lost as a team.

For me, I don’t cry about it. Yeah, of course, I would love to have won one, two [Super Bowls]. I would have loved to win them all. It just wasn’t in the good Lord’s plans. I tried, I busted my butt. It just didn’t happen. Go out and enjoy yourself.”

Messi hinted at retiring from international competition after Sunday’s loss, something Kelly didn’t do while he was playing.

And perhaps his own battle with cancer has given Kelly a different perspective, but he’s also far enough removed from his Hall of Fame career to understand that no matter how brilliant the player, one can’t win a championship alone.

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Jason Pierre-Paul doesn’t hide hand in new fireworks PSA

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 06:  Robert Ayers #91 and Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants celebrate after a play against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on December 6, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul does more than talk about fireworks safety in his new public service announcement — he shows what can happen.

The safety PSA he made with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which debuted this morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America” can be viewed in full here.

Pierre-Paul lost a large portion of his right hand including his entire index finger last July 4th when an explosive went off in his hand before he could get rid of it.

In a split second it blew off my whole hand,” Pierre-Paul said. “All I could do was think about my son and was I going to make it. Now I’m truly blessed to be alive. Now when I look at fireworks I think about safety.”

The image of what’s left of his hand ought to serve as a visceral reminder, especially as the nation’s amateur pyrotechnicians emerge for their biggest annual celebration.

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Colts didn’t use Luck’s bad year against him (and for good reason)

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 27:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

When negotiating quarterback Andrew Luck’s deal, the Colts surely said plenty of things. Here’s one thing they didn’t say: He stunk in 2015.

We never even suggested it as leverage,” owner Jim Irsay said Wednesday, via Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. “It wasn’t, ‘Well, what about the slow start? Or what happened against Buffalo [in Week One]?’ The injuries — we didn’t go there. We went along the lines of, and I think both us realizing that we’re very blessed to have us and he’s very excited to be a Colt.”

Of course, the Colts didn’t need to tell Luck that he didn’t play well last year, even when he was healthy. Luck has freely admitted it.

Apart from that, it would have been idiotic for the Colts to quibble over past performance. Luck’s six-year, $139.125 million contract arose from the fact that Luck could have made more than $110 million over the next four years by opting to play one year at a time under the franchise tag — and from the reality that if any other team ever had a chance to pilfer Luck for a pair of first-round picks under the non-exclusive tag, at least one other team surely would have tried to do it.

Telling Luck’s agent-uncle/uncle-agent that the team that once sucked for Luck has since decided that Luck sucks would have done nothing to help get a deal done. If anything, it could have inflamed the situation, prompting Luck to opt for a one-year-at-a-time approach until he forced his way to the open market.

Which would have required the Colts to find a new quarterback. To get the next Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck, the Colts would have had to once again bottom out in a year when a great quarterback was poised to emerge at the top of the draft.

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Datone Jones “loving” move to outside linebacker

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 3: Running back Joique Bell #35 of the Detroit Lions tries to avoid the tackle by defensive end Datone Jones #95 of the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter at Ford Field on December 3, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Packers declined to exercise their option for the 2017 season on 2013 first-round pick Datone Jones‘ contract, leaving Jones on track to become a free agent next offseason.

Jones’ bid for a new job will involve a new position. Jones went from playing exclusively defensive line to taking snaps standing up on the edge as a linebacker in the second half of last season and had two sacks against the Vikings in his first game in his new role. The team spent the offseason getting him more acclimated to the position, something teammate Mike Daniels calls a “natural” for Jones’ skills.

“I’m loving it,” Jones said, via the team’s website. “A situation happens like this, you can jump in there and boom — you could fill a role and play it. Now, I’m excited because I actually do get a full season to learn coverages, learn how to cover tight ends and running backs. Just rush from different angles.”

With Clay Matthews moving back outside to join Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Jayrone Elliott and third-round pick Kyler Fackrell, Jones will have some work to do to earn a steady diet of snaps this season. If he can get those snaps and do something with them, he’ll be able to sell his versatility in his bid for a new contract next year.

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Rex Ryan: “This season means a hell of a lot to us”

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Head Coach Rex Ryan of the Buffalo Bills talks to his father, former NFL Head Coach Buddy Ryan before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills coach Rex Ryan and his brother-assistant Rob already had made it clear that they plan to honor the family name with the team’s performance in 2016. Following the passing of their father, Buddy, the sense of urgency has increased.

This season means a hell of a lot to us,” Rex told Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com while driving to Kentucky for Buddy’s funeral. “Our name, our legacy, means a hell of a lot. Our dad is recognized as being one of the great defensive coaches, probably arguably the best, in the history of the game. You can’t say he’s not in the top five, certainly. And we’ve been pretty successful through the years ourselves, but nothing like we want to be. We have won five Super Bowls as a family, but we want to win our sixth at some point. And I want to win it as a head coach, because that has never been done in our family. Obviously, it’s not like these teams are going to roll down for us. We have to earn everything we get, and we’re a long-ass way away from it. It’s going to take a ton of work. But I really like my team.”

In 1985, Buddy Ryan designed and implemented a defense unlike anyone else ever has. Along the way, he did something no coach ever has done: He became a household name (at least for football fans) despite not being a head coach.

Back in the 1980s, little attention was paid on a national basis to assistant coaches. Ryan was the first one to gain widespread attention, possibly setting the stage for the media and fans to pay much closer attention to talented assistant coaches before they become head coaches.

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Mike Ditka passes on Donald Trump’s invitation to speak at Republican convention

Mike Ditka AP

There were reports earlier this week that presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump had lined up a trip of sports legends to speak for him at the Republican National Convention.

Perhaps he should have checked with legendary Bears coach Mike Ditka first, before reports that had the Hall of Famer alongside Mike Tyson and Bobby Knight.

“No one’s ever talked to me about it. I have no idea where it’s coming from,” Ditka told Kim Janssen of the Chicago Tribune. Later in the day, he said Trump called him, but he declined the offer to give a speech in Cleveland.

While he still supports Trump in the election, Ditka’s assessment of the party was rather, well, Ditka.

“The Republican Party has its head up its a–,” Ditka said. “If he’s the candidate, you’ve got to get behind him. It does the party no good. They’re a bunch of a–holes.”

And lest you think Ditka is just talking out of his, he said his endorsement of Trump stands.

If you want good things to happen you can vote for him, and if you don’t, you don’t,” Ditka said. “But don’t b—- about it after the fact. . . .

“America’s pretty resilient. We’ve survived the last seven years, haven’t we?”

With lines like that, it’s no wonder Trump wanted to bring Ditka on stage.

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Wade Phillips on Von Miller: Don’t know much, but I’ll coach who’s here

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 09:  Wade Phillips defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos celebrates on the stage as the Super Bowl 50 Champion Denver Broncos are honored at a rally on the steps of the Denver City and County Building on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips lost a couple of starters from last year’s defense in free agency when defensive lineman Malik Jackson and linebacker Danny Trevathan signed with other teams.

Phillips called both of those players “key guys for us,” but didn’t sound like he’s going to spend much time lamenting their absence. During an appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn, Phillips said that both players missed time here and there after getting dinged and “we did pretty well when they weren’t in there.”

Stepping in for a handful of plays or even a couple of games is different than doing it over the long haul, although Phillips could be forgiven if he’s more concerned about another potential absence. Linebacker Von Miller still has to sort out his contractual situation, a topic that the often chatty Phillips wasn’t saying much about on Wednesday.

“I coach whoever’s there, obviously,” Phillips said. “I don’t have any control over all of the other things and I really don’t know much about it. And they told me not to say anything about it anyway, so that’s my spiel.”

The Broncos have good depth at outside linebacker in Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett and Phillips has built enough effective defenses to be confident he can do it with those players. All things being equal, though, it’s hard to imagine that’s a route anyone in Denver wants to travel.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Houston Texans OTA's Getty Images

Bills LB Preston Brown is facing a pivotal season.

The Dolphins donated $5 million to a local cancer center.

An early projection at the Patriots 53-man roster.

His injury hasn’t shaken the Jets’ confidence in K Nick Folk.

Ravens LB Zachary Orr has a chance to start for the first time.

Bengals DE Margus Hunt should expect plenty of reps in the preseason.

The Browns are installing five new artificial turf fields for local schools.

A plea for Steelers WR Antonio Brown to get more money (which wasn’t written by Antonio Brown).

Texans NT Vince Wilfork is ready to make a big splash in the modeling world.

With contract in hand, expectations on Colts QB Andrew Luck have increased.

Jaguars OL Josh Wells is focusing on getting better now that he’s gotten better.

Titans G Quinton Spain is trying to hang onto a starting job.

New Broncos NT Phil Taylor could reboot his career in Denver.

The Chiefs’ perpetual search for a No. 2 WR may not be that big of a deal.

Raiders WR Amari Cooper is feeling more chatty this year.

A look at whether the Chargers can go from worst to first in the AFC West.

Having Cowboys WR Dez Bryant happy and healthy should make everyone breathe easier.

Offseason alert: Giants WR Odell Beckham’s haircuts are subject to review.

Eagles players remembered Buddy Ryan’s loyalty.

Taking a look at who might be the biggest threat to Washington in the NFC East this year.

A look at the Xs and Os of the Bears’ famed 46 defense.

Lions RB Zach Zenner has plenty to prove this year.

The Packers are going to get an early taste of the Florida heat and humidity.

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph considers himself a Minnesotan now.

The Falcons want to be more aggressive on defense (I’m still waiting for the defense which wants to be passive).

Panthers QB Cam Newton has officially checked off the “entertainer” box in his bio, starting his own production company.

Saints TE Coby Fleener doesn’t mind being called a nerd.

The Buccaneers are expecting production from some free agent signings this offseason.

Cardinals OLB Tristan Okpalaugo is hoping to build on his CFL success.

A look at the Rams potential playmakers on offense.

49ers FB Bruce Miller made it clear that Jim Harbaugh is his favorite former coach.

A look at which Seahawks players could be next to cash in after WR Doug Baldwin.

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Eagles G.M. says they made mistakes when signing “guys who aren’t our own”

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 10:  Howie Roseman, EVP of Football Operations for the Philadelphia Eagles speaks during the Sporting Directors Forum on day one of the Leaders Sport Performance Summit at the Emirates Stadium on November 10, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images) Getty Images

Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman believes you build an NFL team by drafting well and keeping your own players, not by signing players away from other teams.

Roseman said on 94 WIP that the Eagles’ problems last year stemmed from going too hard after free agents who didn’t produce.

“When you look at it, some of the mistakes we’ve made have been going out and spending a lot of money,” Roseman said, via USA Today. “A lot of those mistakes were on guys that aren’t our own. They were guys that we’ve brought from another organization, and we thought we knew.”

Roseman didn’t name names but was obviously referring to DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell, two players whom Chip Kelly signed to expensive contracts last year, only to see them turn in disappointing seasons. Roseman traded both Murray and Maxwell away quickly after Kelly was fired and Roseman re-gained control over the Eagles’ personnel.

Kelly as a G.M. was a disaster for the Eagles. Now it’s Roseman’s turn to prove he can build the Eagles his way.

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Judge throws out all remaining claims against NFL in fantasy football convention lawsuit

Tony Romo AP

The NFL used to be virtually unbeatable in court. In recent years, that has changed. This week, the league was back to its slam-dunking ways.

Via Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, a judge in Texas dismissed all remaining claims in the lawsuit filed by Tony Romo’s National Fantasy Football Convention against the NFL.

Kaplan explains that Judge Carl Ginsburg provided no reasoning for the decision to throw out 13 total claims made as a result of the 2015 cancellation of a convention that had been planned for Las Vegas, after the NFL allegedly threatened players scheduled to appear at the convention with suspension due to the fact that the event was scheduled to occur at a convention center owned by a casino.

The group recently scrapped plans to hold a convention in Pasadena, pointing to allegedly ongoing interference by the NFL. It’s unknown whether that will spark separate litigation against the league, whether the event will be rescheduled, or whether it ever actually will occur.

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NFLPA executive gets a good laugh about latest 17-game suggestion

George+Atallah+NFL+Players+Association+Press+9RP7DbM_vZSl Getty Images

Players have always been leery about the idea of lengthening the regular season, so it’s no surprise their union opposes any such plan.

But it’s also good to know people find us funny here at PFT.

In the wake of Packers president Mark Murphy’s suggestion that the future could include a 17th game (so each team could play one internationally without anyone giving up a home game), NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs George Atallah had a response that was new-age in terms of technology but old-school in theme.

Atallah went on to put it in more conventional terms, saying: “Nothing says ‘committed to player health and safety’ like wanting to add more contact to the offseason and a 17th regular season game abroad.”

Players would have to approve any extension to the regular season, and it’s clear that the NFL is going to have to offer them something really good in exchange for them to consider it. And with the league putting so much emphasis on adding international inventory, they better be serious when they open the discussions with the union.

But mostly, we’re glad Atallah didn’t use the smiling poop emoji while retweeting us.

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California Supreme Court decision causing problems for Chargers stadium push

Qualcomm Stadium AP

The Chargers push to secure a new stadium in San Diego may have a run into a sizeable problem due to the California Supreme Court.

According to David Garrick of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the court blocked an earlier appellate court ruling that the initiative to increase taxes to fund the stadium project needed a simple majority vote to pass instead of a two-thirds majority.

The state Supreme Court has elected to review the ruling of the lower court to determine the legality in regards to the vote threshold needed to pass a tax increase brought through public initiative.

The problem the ruling creates for the Chargers is two-fold. One, the two-thirds majority would obviously cause a much higher threshold of voter support to be required to pass the proposed funding package for the stadium project. Second, the review – even if upheld by the Supreme Court – could take significantly longer than necessary to impact the vote.

As the article states, even a hastened review process for the Supreme Court would still make it unlikely the matter would be decided in time for the scheduled November vote on the Chargers’ initiative.

For now, the two-thirds majority requirement is needed for the initiative to pass. The difference between 50 and 67 percent could ultimately determine whether the Chargers remain in San Diego or join the Rams in Los Angeles.

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Luck just the latest from QB class of 2012 to cash in

Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, AP

Andrew Luck became the NFL’s highest-paid player on Wednesday, but the No. 1 overall pick in 2012 wasn’t the first quarterback from his draft class to really cash in.

Luck’s mega-extension seemed a good occasion to revisit the 2012 draft’s quarterbacks, their contract situations and current places of employment. Though the on-field results have been mixed and at least a couple members of that class are basically starting over, many of them have done very well from a financial standpoint.

The full list…

Pick No. 2, Robert Griffin III: Griffin got off to a good start with the Redskins before he got hurt and things went south. Griffin is now on a short-term, prove-it deal with the Browns. He hasn’t played in a game since 2014.

Pick No. 8, Ryan Tannehill: The Dolphins gave Tannehill a big-money extension last year, but he’s yet to post a winning season. Tannehill got an $11.5 million signing bonus and his 2016 base salary is more than $9 million.

Pick No. 22, Brandon Weeden: Weeden started immediately for the Browns but was cut after two seasons. After a stint as a backup with the Cowboys, he’s now a backup with the Texans.

Pick No. 57, Brock Osweiler: Got his first real action subbing for Peyton Manning last year. Though Osweiler was eventually benched in the regular-season finale as the Broncos went on to win the Super Bowl, he cashed in with the Texans in March and has high expectations surrounding his first chance to be a true starter.

Pick No. 75, Russell Wilson: Immediately won the starting job in Seattle and hasn’t been bad for a third-round pick. He won a Super Bowl and got rewarded for it last year with a contract that’s in the neighborhood of Luck’s with a $31 million signing bonus. Wilson has thrown 106 career touchdown passes vs. 34 interceptions.

Pick No. 88, Nick Foles: Currently awaiting a trade or his release from the Rams, Foles went to the Pro Bowl with the Eagles in 2013 but got hurt the next year, then traded to the Rams. He struggled last season and will be a backup wherever he lands next.

Pick No. 102, Kirk Cousins: Started as Griffin’s backup and played in nine games over his first three seasons. Won the starting job last season and threw 29 touchdown passes, helping the Redskins to the playoffs. For now, he’s set to play 2016 under the franchise tag — and make almost $20 million doing it — and could play his way into a long-term deal from someone next March.

Pick No. 185, Ryan Lindley: After almost three seasons and some emergency duty with the Cardinals, Lindley was signed by the Colts late last season and played in one game. He’s made 10 career appearances and six starts with limited success.

Neither B.J. Coleman (pick No. 243) nor Chandler Harnish (pick No. 253) ever played in a game.

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