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Anquan Boldin fined, but not for block on fourth-and-29

Ray Rice, Eric Weddle, Anquan Boldin AP

Some players and coaches on the Chargers thought that the Ravens’ fourth-and-29 conversion on Sunday should have been called back because of an illegal block on Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin. The league office disagreed.

The NFL told PFT that Boldin’s block on Chargers safety Eric Weddle, which sprung Ray Rice for the last few yards on his incredible 29-yard catch-and-run, was reviewed and found to be legal. Boldin was not fined for the hit.

However, Boldin was fined $7,875 for unnecessary roughness for striking an opponent late on another play.

Ravens safety Bernard Pollard was not fined for a hit on Chargers receiver Danario Alexander, even though the officials on the field flagged Pollard for a hit to the head of a defenseless receiver. The NFL reviewed the tape and concluded that the officials were wrong to flag Pollard.

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Jets to release center Nick Mangold soon

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23:  Nick Mangold #74 of the New York Jets takes the field against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Nick Mangold, a fixture for the Jets since arriving in the first round of the 2006 draft, will be release in the near future, per multiple sources.

At this point, the only question is the timing of the move. It could happen as now as today, or it could happen later in the week.

The Jets appear to be willing to let Mangold announce the move before they do.

He has one year left on his contract at a salary of $6.075 million. The Jets will carry $3 million in dead money under his name for 2017.

The move, when it happens, will give Mangold a brief head start on the open market, which arrives on March 9.

UPDATE 2:44 p.m. ET: And Mangold has announced the move. Next, the Jets will.

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49ers announce deal with Earl Mitchell

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 28:  Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell #90 of the Miami Dolphins and running back Damien Williams #34  walk with teammates to the field before the Dolphins met the New York Jets in a game at Sun Life Stadium on December 28, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Maybe the Dolphins could have traded Earl Mitchell, too.

Miami stopped short of cutting tackle Branden Albert when it became clear that someone would trade for him. The 49ers, given the zeal with which they pursued Mitchell, possibly would have done the same.

The 49ers have announced the acquisition of Mitchell on a four-year deal.

“As soon as Earl hit the open market, he became a priority for us to sign,” 49ers G.M. John Lynch said in a release. “A man of high character, he represents everything we want to be as a football team. Earl is a tone-setter who plays the game with a tremendous passion and the effort necessary to win in this league. We believe those qualities are contagious and will help to make our team stronger. We look forward to the impact Earl will have on the field, in the locker room, and in our community.”

That’s a far different assessment than the one the Dolphins had of Mitchell. As Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald noted last night on Twitter, the Dolphins weren’t impressed with Mitchell in 2016 and expected a decline in 2017.

And so the performance of Mitchell in 2017 will help the football-following world decide whether the Dolphins or the 49ers are better at evaluating veteran defensive linemen.

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2017 salary cap currently pegged at $166-169 million

Printing US dollar banknotes Getty Images

On the surface, the salary cap seems to be an objective, unambiguous formula. In reality, the specific team-by-team spending limit is finalized via back-and-forth negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

For 2017, the final number will be announced soon, since each team must be in compliance with it by March 9. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the cap currently is expected to be in the range of $166 million to $169 million.

Last year, the cap was $155.27 million. In 2015, the cap was $143.28 million. The year before, $133 million. In 2013, it was $123 million.

Prior to that, the cap was going up much more slowly; in 2012, the cap was $120.6 million per team.

The end result, assuming the low end of the currently projected range for 2017, is a total increase of 37.6 percent in only five years. Which means a lot more money for teams to spend — and a lot more money for players to make.

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Georgia sophomore star Trenton Thompson leaves school

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 19: Anthony Jennings #11 of the Lousiana-Lafayette Rajin' Cajuns is pursued by Trenton Thompson #78 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Trenton Thompson, a sophomore defensive tackle at Georgia who is viewed as a future high NFL draft pick, has left school because of health problems.

Thompson ended his sophomore season in December by being named MVP of the Liberty Bowl, but his college coach told the Athens Banner-Herald that Thompson has had “several shoulder surgeries” in the last two months and is continuing to deal with medical problems.

University police at Georgia said Thompson was discovered “wandering on the roadway,” and “unsteady on his feet,”with “very bloodshot eyes” on Thursday. Thompson told police he took “two oxies,” but the school later said he was tested at the hospital and was negative for OxyContin.

Georgia says Thompson will need “an extended hospital stay,” although his high school coach said he remains optimistic that Thompson will play football again in the fall. Thompson will be eligible for the 2018 NFL draft.

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Baker Mayfield may have blown his invitation to the 2018 Scouting Combine


With the 2017 Scouting Combine approaching and the issue of players being excluded for off-field misconduct front and center in the radar screen, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield may have blown his shot at attending next year’s annual why-am-I-watching?-because-it’s-on-TV non-football football gathering.

Mayfield currently is in jail on multiple charges, including disorderly conduct, fleeing, resisting arrest, and public intoxication.

Deadspin reports that a full report on the incident will be available on Monday. Based on the allegations, the charges eventually pursued, and the facts as determined by the NFL, Mayfield — the early favorite for the 2017 Heisman Trophy — may be forced to navigate the pre-draft process in 2018 without a chance to attend the ultimate pre-draft meat market.

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Saturday one-liners

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 15:  Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on December 15, 2013 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images) Getty Images

Should the Jets try to get QB Alex Smith? One former Jets QB thinks so.

What will the Bills do with DE Leger Douzable?

Former Dolphins coach Joe Philbin hasn’t been able to sell his house in South Florida.

Reaction is mixed regarding the planned movie about Patriots QB Tom Brady.

The Steelers will be looking for fast guys at the Scouting Combine.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis on how long he’ll coach: “I’m going to stop when I stop.”

Browns LT Joe Thomas reflects on his 2007 Scouting Combine.

Here’s a look back at the draft profiles of some key Ravens players.

Get to know Colts receivers coach Sanjay Lal.

Based on their photos on the front page of the team’s website, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone and executive V.P. of football operations Tom Coughlin are in a competition as to who can look the most miserable. And they’re both winning.

Texans LT Duane Brown predicts that C Nick Martin will “be a great player.”

Would the Titans use a late-round draft pick on RB Joe Mixon?

The Broncos added DL Bobby Richardson on Friday.

Does the arrival of RB C.J. Spiller mean the Chiefs will move on from RB Jamaal Charles and create $6.87 million in cap space?

Here’s a new mailbag from the Raiders’ official website, which is code for “they really don’t have anything else going on right now.”

Get to know Chargers G.M. Tom Telesco, in the event you haven’t gotten to know him in the last four years he had the job.

Here’s a collection of the best quotes of the year from Cowboys WR Dez Bryant.

Will the Giants make another run at LT Russell Okung?

Are the Eagles making a mistake by keeping LT Jason Peters at his current salary?

Washington QB Kirk Cousins may have picked the wrong year to be in the draft, but he picked the right two years to have his team over a franchise-tag barrel.

A decision to tag WR Alshon Jeffery for a second year could be evidence that it’s up-or-out for Bears coach John Fox in 2017.

Could Lucas Patrick become a contributor at guard for the Packers?

The Lions, who lost only one free agent last year but added two, got zero compensatory draft picks.

Ditto for the Vikings.

And the Falcons.

And the Saints.

Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has developed a friendship with Bryant Graeber, a special-needs adult who serves as the greeter at the local YMCA.

Could the Buccaneers be the best choice for Hard Knocks in 2017?

Rams owner Stan Kroenke is trying to lure the Clippers to Inglewood.

The draft will give the 49ers 10 total chances to add to a team that lost 14 games.

Former Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch found himself in a Beast Mode vs. Beastmaster Twitter battle.

The Cardinals may need a tight end or two, given that Jermaine Gresham and Darren Fells are due to hit the market.

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NFL has no comment on Revis tampering investigation

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 15: Darrelle Revis #24 of the New England Patriots watches the action from the sideline during a pre-season game with the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium on August 15, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

The biggest headline from one of the last semi-slow weekends of the offseason came from a report regarding the extent to which the Jets tampered with cornerback Darelle Revis in 2015, while he was still under contract with the Patriots. The news from Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, a far cry from the dismissive tone he initially struck on the matter, indicated that the Jets used “private cell phones and face-to-face covert meetings at the 2015 Scouting Combine” to negotiate with Revis at a time when Revis was still a Patriot.

On one hand, it’s an example of what constantly happens at the Scouting Combine. As one team president told PFT several years ago, his team had resisted doing it until realizing that his team was at a competitive disadvantage because every other team was doing it.

Rarely, however, does a team do it while currently under investigation for tampering with the player with whom the team is currently tampering. As to the Jets in 2015, the NFL already was poking around in the aftermath of owner Woody Johnson’s il-advised declaration that he would “love for Darrelle to come back.” Although the NFL typically enforces the tampering rules only when it happens to notice that a team has both hands and its whole mouth in the cookie jar, Johnson’s comments amounted to a declaration that his team is coming for the cookies.

So what did the NFL do to investigate whether the Jets used burner phones to talk to Revis’ agents or met with them at the Combine to negotiate the deal he quickly would sign after becoming a free agent? The league had no comment when asked that question by PFT earlier in the week.

Consider the broader context. At the same time, the NFL was chasing wisps of air pressure to eventually prove (even though it failed to do so) that the Patriots tampered with footballs during an AFC championship game played after Johnson announced that a cookie raid was coming. So what was done to grill Jets front-office employees, to demand the surrender of cell phones (sounds familiar for some reason), and to otherwise get to the bottom of a rabbit hole that, as expected, contained a big, nasty, stinky, smelly rat? From the league’s perspective, we’ll never know.

A couple of other circumstances make this one even more intriguing. First, in July of 2015, Rod Graves took a job at the league office after spending two years with the Jets. What kind of interrogation, if any, did he face regarding the Revis tampering case before or after getting a job at 345 Park Avenue? Second, if/when the Jets cut Revis, will Revis spill the beans on how his then-terminated contract came to be?

So while this one ended two years ago amid a $100,000 fine and a cartoonish tit-for-tat tampering allegation after Patriots owner Robert Kraft said “[w]e wanted to keep” Revis and “we’re sorry he didn’t stay with us,” there’s still plenty more there. If the Jets decide to cut Revis in lieu of paying him a $2 million roster bonus next month, maybe Revis will have something to say about it.

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Emmanuel Sanders drank 2 gallons of water before Combine weigh-in

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 27:  Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders #10 of the Denver Broncos celebrates catching a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 27, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

Emmanuel Sanders didn’t want to be written off as too small at the 2010 Scouting Combine, and so he got a bright idea: Add a lot of water weight.

Sanders said he was worried NFL teams wouldn’t think he was big enough to hold up to the grind at the professional level, so he drank a huge amount of water just before the weigh-in.

“I’m a small guy, so prior to weighing in I ended up drinking like two gallons of water so I was so bloated and full of water, I got up to like 185 pounds, just to show teams that I’m not a small guy,” Sanders said.

Two gallons of water is 17 pounds, meaning Sanders added about 10 percent to his bodyweight just by drinking water. The Steelers apparently thought he was big enough, as they drafted him in the third round.

If anyone else wants to follow in Sanders’ footsteps, they’d better be sure they do so only after submitting to their Combine drug test: A diluted urine sample is considered an attempt to cheat the drug test, which may hurt an NFL player’s draft stock more than an extra 17 pounds will help.

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Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams may get cut

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 24:  Kyle Williams #95 of the Buffalo Bills sacks quarterback Michael Vick #1 of the New York Jets in the third quarter at Ford Field on November 24, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. Buffalo defeated New York 38-3.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams made his fifth Pro Bowl this year, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be back in Buffalo for the season ahead.

Williams has an $8.3 million cap hit in 2017, and Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News describes Williams as very vulnerable to getting cut.

It’s also possible that the soon-to-be 34-year-old Williams will decide to walk away: He said after Week 17 that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to keep playing, especially if the Bills decide to blow up the roster and rebuild.

Last year Williams agreed to take a pay cut to stay in Buffalo. If he’d agree to do that again, the Bills would presumably like to keep him. But it might be time, after 11 seasons, for the two sides to part ways.

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Trailblazing quarterback Bernie Custis dies at 88


Decades before the NFL embraced African-American quarterbacks, Bernie Custis became the first in pro football in 1951 as the starter for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL. On Thursday, Custis died at the age of 88.

“Trailblazers are rightly remembered for being the first,” CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said, via the Associated Press. “Bernie Custis, the first black professional quarterback in the modern era starting with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1951, should be revered as well for being one of our best. A world-class athlete, he excelled both as a quarterback and a running back. A tremendous leader, he was a successful coach who had a positive impact on countless young lives. A true gentleman, he brought honor to our game and our league, and provided us with a role model to emulate.”

The Browns made Custis the sixth overall pick of the 1951 draft. But Cleveland wanted to make him a safety, and Custis wanted to play quarterback. So he went to Canada.

Custis, who played college football at Syracuse and roomed with Al Davis, became a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

After his playing career ended, Custis spent 31 years in coaching at various levels.

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Earl Mitchell signs with 49ers

New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

The 49ers have signed defensive tackle Earl Mitchell to a four-year deal, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported.

Per the report, Mitchell will sign a contract worth $16 million over the four years and will get $5.5 million in 2017.

Mitchell was released last week by the Dolphins, who cut him instead of paying him $4 million next season. He had taken visits with the Falcons, Broncos, Seahawks and 49ers before deciding to sign with the 49ers.

Mitchell, 29, spent the last three seasons with the Dolphins. He played in nine games and started five last season. Mitchell has 5.5 career sacks and two fumble recoveries.

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Will the Steelers use the transition tag on Le’Veon Bell?

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 30:  Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates his touchdown during the third quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Heinz Field on November 30, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Although the question of whether the Vikings cut running back Adrian Peterson won’t affect the amount of the franchise tag applicable to Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, there’s another development that will: Not using the franchise tag at all.

The Steelers could opt to use the transition tag instead of the franchise tag on Bell. The transition tag would give the Steelers a right to match any offer sheet that Bell signs elsewhere; the franchise tag would provide a right to match and two first-round picks as compensation if he leaves (breaking: no one will be giving up two first-round picks for Bell).

If no one is willing to give Bell the kind of contract he wants even without losing draft picks, he’d be eligible to stay in Pittsburgh on a one-year deal that equates to, per a league source, 5.892 percent of the 2017 salary cap. That’s considerably less than the 7.257-percent rate that applies under the franchise tag for running backs.

Based on a $165 million salary cap, those percentages equate to a franchise tender of $11.97 million and a transition tender of $9.72 million. For the Steelers, the question becomes whether it’s worth the extra $2.25 million to prevent another team from trying to pilfer Bell.

If the Steelers believe that no other team would break the bank for a guy who a significant injury history, a groin injury that was bad enough to at least make surgery an option, and a pair of substance-abuse policy violations, it makes plenty of sense to save the money and retain the rights to a running back who has been great when healthy and available, but who isn’t healthy and available often enough (he has missed 20 total games in four seasons) to justify that kind of investment.

In an era when the transition tag isn’t used on a regular basis, the Steelers have applied it twice in the last decade. In 2014, linebacker Jason Worilds received the transition tag. Ditto for tackle Max Starks six years earlier.

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Tom Coughlin tiptoes around commitment to Blake Bortles

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 12:  Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars calls a play during the first quarter of a game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on October 12, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

For the most part, the Friday Tom Coughlin process was quintessential Tom Coughlin. Direct. Candid but guarded, and candid about being guarded. On one of the first questions, however, Coughlin was asked a direct question and evaded it.

Asked whether he is committed to Blake Bortles as the team’s starting quarterback, Coughlin opted not to say “yes” or “no.” The end result was a convoluted way of saying, “Maybe.”

“There’s plenty of work for everybody to do, Blake included,” Coughlin told reporters. “To raise the game to a higher level, it takes all components as well. That’s why I mentioned the protection first of all. Being at the right place at the right time, the timing, taking care of the football, which is paramount to that position. There can be no way the ball is turned over to that extent. I think he’d be the first one to say that he has a lot of work to do, but we all have a lot of work to do; I’m going to put it that way.”

That’s a way of saying that if Bortles doesn’t do the work, Coughlin and company will find someone who will. Long before the Jaguars know whether Bortles can do the work, they’ll have to decide whether to exercise the option for the fifth year of his rookie deal, which will equate to the transition tag for quarterbacks in 2017 (i.e., 11.409 percent of the 2017 salary cap).

At a 2017 cap of $165 million, that’s $18.82 million guaranteed for injury for a fifth season with Bortles. Based on Coughlin’s convoluted answer to a straightforward question, it’s hardly a slam dunk that they’ll pick up the option on or before May 3.

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Browns have 11 picks, will be busy again in April

Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson, right, laughs as he answers questions during a news conference, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in Berea, Ohio. Jackson has experience as a head coach, knows the AFC North and has fixed quarterbacks. Jackson, who waited four years for his second crack at leading an NFL team, has been hired as Cleveland's next coach, the struggling franchise's eighth since 1999 and sixth since 2008. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is on the left. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) AP

Friday’s official announcement of compensatory picks for the 2017 NFL Draft allowed the Browns and other teams around the league to close the books on some previous business, specifically in finalizing trades and in knowing the exact spot in the order of certain picks they hold in this year’s draft.

As previously outlined, the Browns had agreed to send a third-round compensatory pick to the Patriots, if they got one, before last year’s trade deadline to acquire linebacker Jamie Collins. They did receive a compensatory third-round pick, No. 103 overall, so that goes to the Patriots.

The Browns also got a pair of fourth-round picks and one fifth-round compensatory pick. One of those fourth-round picks, No. 139 overall, will go to the Eagles as part of last year’s pre-draft trade that allowed the Eagles to move up and select Carson Wentz.

So, the Browns currently hold 11 picks in this year’s draft, including Nos. 1 and 12 in the first round and five of the first 65 picks. They tied a record by drafting 14 players last season.

This is the third consecutive year and fourth time since 2012 that the Browns have held 10 or more picks, and it goes without saying that the franchise is a bit overdue in using those picks to spark a turnaround.

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Compensatory picks are a reward for smart teams

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 3: Baltimore Ravens General Manager/Executive Vice President and Hall of Fame tight end, Ozzie Newsome (L), presents former offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden of the Baltimore Ravens with his Hall of Fame bust during the NFL Class of 2013 Enshrinement Ceremony at Fawcett Stadium on Aug. 3, 2013 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the NFL implemented compensatory draft picks in 1994, the idea was that the extra picks would lend a hand to the teams that got out-spent in free agency, which was then new in the league: Compensatory picks go to teams that lose more in free agency than they gain, and so the picks were envisioned as a safeguard against the rich raiding the rosters of the poor.

It hasn’t worked out that way, however. In a league with revenue sharing and a salary cap, there’s not much of a distinction between the rich and the poor.

Instead, compensatory picks have turned out to reward smart teams. The teams that have been wise about not over-spending in free agency and keeping themselves in good salary cap shape are the ones that keep getting lots of compensatory picks, while the teams that overspend in free agency are the ones that don’t receive compensatory picks.

As a result, the consistently good teams tend to be the teams that consistently get a lot of compensatory picks. And the teams that consistently try to spend themselves out of last place are the ones that don’t get a lot of compensatory picks.

The list of teams that have received the most compensatory picks since 1994 is pretty similar to the list of the best teams in football since 1994: The Ravens have received the most compensatory picks, and they’ve won two Super Bowls. The Packers have received the second-most, and they’ve also won two Super Bowls. The Patriots are fourth, and they’ve won five Super Bowls. The 10 teams that have had the most compensatory picks have won most of the Super Bowls since 1994, with a total of 14 titles for those 10 teams.

At the other end of the spectrum, the teams that don’t receive a lot of compensatory picks tend to be bad teams: There are 14 teams that have received fewer than 20 compensatory picks since the system started in 1994, and those 14 teams have won a combined two Super Bowls.

Compensatory picks help teams stock their roster with low-cost depth, which is helpful, but the real reason teams with a lot of compensatory picks do well is that teams with a lot of compensatory picks are good at managing their salary caps. A system that was supposed to reward the poor at the expense of the rich has actually rewarded the smart at the expense of the dumb.

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