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Darren McFadden might suit up Sunday, Terrelle Pryor probably will

Darren McFadden AP

The Raiders could get Darren McFadden back this week.

The running back has missed the last three games with a high ankle sprain, but he’s been able to practice this week and earned a questionable designation for Sunday’s game against the Browns. Coach Dennis Allen didn’t go any further than saying that McFadden would be a game-time decision and McFadden also stopped short of declaring himself ready to go for this week’s game.

“I’m just working hard,” McFadden said, via Paul Gutierrez of CSNBayArea.com. “Whatever happens when Sunday gets here, I’m going to roll with it.”

If McFadden does play, he could share a backfield with Terrelle Pryor. Allen said that the team anticipates putting the second-year quarterback on the 46-man roster for Sunday’s game.

There were reports earlier this week that the Raiders were talking about how to use the 2011 supplemental draft choice as the season winds down, although it isn’t clear how much or in what role they’ll use him. He’ll be the third quarterback this weekend, which means Matt Leinart will also be active, and the Raiders could try some packages designed to make use of Pryor’s speed.

Defensive tackle Richard Seymour is out again for the Raiders while running back Mike Goodson joins McFadden as a game-time call.

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Rick Spielman: Open dialogue with Adrian Peterson has been beneficial

Adrian Peterson, Chris Conte AP

Running back Adrian Peterson wasn’t fully reinstated as a result of Judge David Doty’s decision that the NFL is not permitted to punish Peterson under the conditions of the league’s new personal conduct policy, but he was cleared to have contact with the Vikings while he’s on the commissioner’s exempt list pending the NFL’s appeal of Doty’s ruling.

General Manager Rick Spielman said Monday that the team has been in contact with Peterson since the ruling, but didn’t offer any details about what discussions have gone on. Spielman did say the ability to have “open dialogue” has been “beneficial” and reiterated that the team wants Peterson back for the 2015 season.

“We are able to have communication now with Adrian,” Spielman said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “We’ll keep all those communications internal. I don’t want to sit here and give you guys a blow-by-blow every day. I think it’s very clearly stated that we want Adrian Peterson back. There’s no question about the talent and he’s a unique talent and he’s under contract with us.”

Peterson didn’t mention anything about his desire to return to the Vikings in the statement he released after Doty’s decision last week, but said in February that he was “still uneasy” about returning to the Vikings after the way they handled his situation during the 2014 season.

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No charges filed against Jarrett Bush after “Big Italian” incident

Packers' Bush reacts after breaking up a pass in their NFL football game against the Vikings in Green Bay Reuters

A week before he’ll become a free agent, Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush got a “get out of jail free” card.

While Bush was booked into the Solano County (Calif.) Jail last night on a charge of disorderly conduct while under the influence, the police have let him go.

Via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, police said this morning that Bush would not be charged with anything, following an incident at a place called Evelyn’s Big Italian Restaurant (some of this stuff you can’t make up).

When police arrived to break up an incident at the bar, they told everyone to leave. Bush didn’t, which led to his being hauled downtown (I don’t know Vacaville well enough to know if it’s actually downtown, but that’s just a cool cop thing to say).

The cops said the 30-year-old Bush was cooperative with police after he was detained, which is usually the best way to avoid more jail time, for what seems to have been a misunderstanding.

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Dwight Freeney says he’ll play this season

freeney AP

Toward the end of last season, Chargers outside linebacker Dwight Freeney started musing about retirement and said he wasn’t sure if he’d be back in 2015. Now it’s 2015, and Freeney says he’s sure he’ll be back.

“I could retire tomorrow and still be happy with what I’ve done in this league,” Freeney told Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego. “But I think I have a lot in the tank as well. It’s one of those things where I’m going to wait for the right situation to come across the table. Hopefully it’s with the Chargers. If they are not interested, obviously, you have to [test] the free agent market and see what team is interested.”

The question, then, is not whether Freeney wants to play. He does. The question is whether any team wants to pay Freeney this year.

The answer to that question is not clear. Freeney is 35 years old and had just 3.5 sacks last season, and at this point in his career he’s only a part-time player. If he’s going to play, Freeney is going to have to sign a low-paying contract and prove himself in training camp.

After 13 seasons and 111.5 sacks, Freeney is near the end of the line. But he doesn’t think he’s finished just yet.

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Justin Houston situation is about to get very interesting

Kansas City Chiefs v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

The Chiefs finally did what has been expected for months — they’ve applied the franchise tag to linebacker Justin Houston. And as explained over the weekend (when most of you weren’t devoting non-work time to non-work reading of the Internet), it’s much closer to the start of the process than the end of it.

The Chiefs opted for the non-exclusive version of the tag. On one hand, it’s cheaper than the exclusive level of the tag. On the other hand, it allows another team to sign Houston to an offer sheet that, if not matched by the Chiefs, would result in Houston changing hands for a pair of first-round picks.

Per a league source, Houston intends to aggressively pursue an offer sheet from another team, targeting teams that would be giving up a low first-round pick in 2015 and, most likely, a low first-round pick in 2016. Houston also intends to continue to pursue an offer sheet after the draft, when the compensation necessarily will become a first-round pick in 2016 and 2017.

Houston, we’re told, is seriously considering staying away from the Chiefs until the Week 10 deadline for signing the franchise tender. If nothing materializes by then, Houston would sign the tender, finish the season, and hit the market in 2016 — unless the Chiefs plan to tender him again, at a 20-percent raise over the 2015 franchise tender.

That’s a stark change from Houston’s in-season plan to sign the tender right away, gladly accepting the life-transforming $13 million or so for one year of play. That 22-sack season may have been a factor in Houston’s change of plans.

Finally, Houston will consult with the NFLPA to explore the possibility of filing a grievance seeking the defensive end franchise tender, which will be higher than the linebacker tender. Seven years ago, Ravens and Terrell Suggs engaged in a similar fight, with the two sides agreeing to essentially split the difference. For Houston, it could be a bit more challenging because he actually does play a considerable amount of linebacker, dropping into coverage in some passing situations.

Which makes him more versatile, makes his 22 sacks more impressive, and potentially makes him a lot more attractive to a team with a desperate coach and/or G.M. who may not be around to use the future draft picks that would be sacrificed to get Houston now.

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Jacoby Jones slated for visits with Bengals, Titans

Wild Card Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Neither the Bengals nor Titans are expected to use their franchise tag on Monday, leaving them free to work on other matters before the start of the new league year next week.

One thing that’s on tap is a visit with wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Jones. Jones was released by the Ravens last week, leaving him free to sign with Cincinnati, Tennessee or any other team that’s interested in bringing him on board.

Geoff Hobson of the team’s website reports that Jones is scheduled for a visit with the team. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports the same as well as the visit with the Titans.

Jones had just nine catches for the Ravens last season, but did average 30 yards per kickoff return. That would represent an improvement for each team, although neither team would seem to have a pressing need for Jones’s services on offense given the overall makeup of their receiving groups.

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PFT Live: Panthers/Ravens offseason to-do lists

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Any team that wants to use the franchise tag has until Monday afternoon’s deadline to do so and we’ll take a look at where everything stands during Monday’s edition of PFT Live.

Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston has received the tag and the Lions won’t be using it on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, but there’s still decisions to be made on Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and others. Mike Florio will break them all down during the show.

Florio will also continue our series of offseason to-do lists by looking at the Panthers and Ravens. Neither of those teams are expected to use the tag, although there’s plenty of other things to discuss about both teams.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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Rosenhaus: Eagles haven’t asked McCoy to alter contract

Tennessee Titans v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

With total compensation of $10.25 million and a cap number of $11.95 million for running back LeSean McCoy, many have believed the Eagles eventually will ask McCoy to reduce his cap number, either by restructuring the contract or by taking less money.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus tells PFT that the team has not yet approached him with a request to do either thing.

The fact that it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t happen.  The new league year doesn’t begin for eight days, and pro football is a deadline-driven business.

For the Eagles, the start of the new league year isn’t really a deadline, because the Eagles aren’t pressed against the cap.  They can carry McCoy on the books until the start of the regular season before his $9.75 million salary becomes fully guaranteed and his $250,000 roster bonus begins being earned one game at a time.

For McCoy and any player, it’s better to be on the market sooner than later.  The earlier the player is on the market, he’ll have more options — and likely more money.

As practical matter, if the Eagles are considering giving McCoy an ultimatum, they’ll likely do it before the offseason program begins, since a fluke season-ending injury while working out at the team facility or engaging in OTA sessions will result in the Eagles owing McCoy his full base salary.  That’s what the Eagles did with receiver DeSean Jackson a year ago, cutting him in April after a failed effort to trade him.

So, basically, no news is no news.  For McCoy, it may eventually be good news.  If it’s going to be bad news, the bad news would be a lot better if it came before March 10.

Meanwhile, here’s McCoy’s entertaining visit to PFT Live at the Super Bowl.  Assuming the boss is otherwise not in position to hear the speakers on your computer.

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Gostkowski more likely to be tagged than McCourty

Gostk Getty Images

It figures that a guy who’d have no problem with the franchise tag may not get it.

Patriots safety Devin McCourty said last week he’d welcome the player-friendly $9.6-million-or-so one-year contract that goes with being tagged.  Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski could end up being the guy sporting the franchise tag.

According to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, a greater likelihood exists that the Patriots will tag their kicker over their top safety.  Casual fans routinely scoff at the notion that a kicker is a “franchise player,” but kickers who get the franchise tag see a much lower one-year contract offer.  For Gostkowski, Reiss estimates that the cash and cap number will be in the range of $4.5 million.

By not tagging McCourty, the Patriots would perhaps set the stage either to pay cornerback Darrelle Revis $20 million to keep him for 2015 (at a cap number of $25 million) or to give Revis a big-money extension.  It’s hard to imagine the Patriots letting McCourty hit the market if they also plan to release Revis before his compensation for 2015 becomes fully guaranteed.

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Report: Chiefs give Justin Houston the franchise tag

Houston AP

The NFL’s reigning sack leader has received the franchise tag.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Chiefs have designated outside linebacker Justin Houston their franchise free agent.

The 26-year-old Houston has recorded 48.5 sacks in his first four NFL seasons. If Houston has received the non-exclusive tag, he will be tendered a one-year salary offer of the average of the top five linebacker salaries of 2014.

The Chiefs will have until July 15 to work out a contract extension with Houston, the second-rated player in PFT’s Free Agent Hot 100.

Houston paced the NFL with 22 sacks in 2014.

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Lions will not franchise Ndamukong Suh

Ndamukong Suh AP

The Lions have decided that as good as Ndamukong Suh is, he’s not good enough to be worth a $27 million salary this year.

As a result, the Lions aren’t putting the franchise tag on Suh, according to Tim Twentyman of the team’s website.

Suh’s franchise tag would have been enormous because the Lions have previously restructured his rookie deal, resulting in his cap number last year being more than $22 million. Under NFL rules, a player’s franchise tag offer must be at least 120 percent of his cap number for the previous year.

Now Suh will test free agency and see what other teams are willing to offer. There’s a good chance that some team with more cap space than the Lions will offer Suh more money, which means there’s a good chance that Suh is done in Detroit.

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Report: Eagles haven’t asked LeSean McCoy to restructure

LeSean McCoy AP

‘Tis the season for the will-he-or-won’t-he (take a pay cut) stories, and they’ve come full circle in Philadelphia.

According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Eagles have not approached running back LeSean McCoy about restructuring his contract.

While there has been a lot of speculation about whether they would ask him for a pay cut (or a restructuring that pays him the same amount but in a different way), the reality seems to be that they haven’t yet.

That might not mean anything, as they could at any time, but the dot-connecting is reasonable, considering he’s scheduled to count $11.9 million against the salary cap. That’s especially true following a year in which he gained nearly 300 fewer yards on the same amount of carries (1,607 to 1,319), and had just over half as many catches as the year before.

He’s said he’s willing to shuffle some paperwork around to create cap room, but isn’t interested in a pay cut.

And it appears the Eagles haven’t approached him about it yet, if they intend to.

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NFL still waits for the Wells report

Panthers Getty Images

Five weeks ago today, lawyer Ted Wells said that the #DeflateGate investigation, which launched six weeks ago today, will require “at least several more weeks.”

Currently, there’s no indication how many more days, weeks, or months will be required.

The topic was sparked by an image that has been floating around of what has been made to look like the cover page and a portion of the table of contents of the Ted Wells report.  But the headline “Executive Summary and Loss of Draft Pick Compensation” gives it away as a hoax, because Ted Wells won’t be determining any penalties to be imposed on the Patriots.

Looking at the situation more broadly, the notion that any penalties will be imposed seems to be a little far-fetched, absent a confession or smoking-gun proof.  It’s become more and more clear that the NFL doesn’t properly secure and handle footballs during games, as evidenced by the Combine week clusterfudge from ESPN, with competing reports from Kelly Naqi and Adam Schefter that required a psychic, a cartographer, and/or a Sherpa to harmonize.

Then there’s the possibility/reality that other teams may be tinkering with footballs.  As one source explained it to PFT last month, however, the Wells investigation won’t be considering whether and to what extent other teams have tampered with footballs.

No investigation is needed to determine that one or two teams have done it.  Recently.

Specifically, ball boys used sideline heaters to warm footballs during a late-November, 12-degree game between the Vikings and Panthers at the open-air stadium Minnesota is using until its new indoor facility opens.  Apparently, footballs used by both teams were being heated that way.

“Somebody told me [Carolina’s] ball boys were doing it,” coach Mike Zimmer said, via ESPN.com.

So did NFL V.P. of game operations Mike Kensil swoop down on the sidelines with a meat thermometer as the first step in an extended inquisition?  Well, no.  Instead, the NFL acknowledged the situation, explained that it’s not permitted, and indicated an intent to remind other teams to not do this during the winter months.

“You can’t do anything with the footballs in terms of any artificial, whether you’re heating them up, whether it’s a regular game ball or kicking ball, you can’t do anything to the football,” NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino said at the time.  “So that was noticed during the game, both teams were made aware of it during the game and we will certainly remind the clubs as we get into more cold weather games that you can’t do anything with the football in terms of heating them up with those sideline heaters.”

That seems like a fair and reasonable approach.  But shouldn’t teams already have known that?  And isn’t ignorance no excuse, anyway?

If the question of whether the Patriots tampered with footballs caused the Colts to complain to the league office and the league office to launch a full-blown investigation with the possibility of suspensions and lost draft picks, shouldn’t the Vikings and/or Panthers have faced swift and sudden justice from 345 Park Avenue for being caught literally red handed tampering with footballs by making them warmer?

While some Mona Lisa Vitos out there will say that heating the balls actually guards against natural deflation, the ball boys surely weren’t doing it to ensure that the footballs remained within the accepted range 12.5 to 13.5 PSI.  They were doing it because someone thought the balls would be easier to handle if they were warmer than the 12-degree ambient air.

Regardless, the league’s relative nonchalance when it comes to the warming of footballs in violation of the rules becomes the latest puddle of mud in a minefield that the NFL created — and that Commissioner Roger Goodell eventually will have to find a path out of.

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Jarrett Bush arrested for public intoxication in California

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush has run into some trouble with the law in California.

Solano County jail logs show that Bush was booked early on Sunday morning by the Vacaville Police Department on a charge of disorderly conduct while under the influence. There aren’t any specifics about what Bush did to land in hot water.

The booking log shows that Bush was held on the misdemeanor charge with a bail charge of $1,600. WBAY reports, via KTVU in San Francisco, that Bush, who is from Vacaville, was detained and eventually released.

Bush has been a member of the Packers since 2006 and has been a core member of their special teams, but is a little more than a week away from becoming a free agent. We’ll see if this arrest impacts how things play out on that front.

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Key deadline looms for NFLPA executive director election

NFLPA

For the first time in decades, a sitting NFL Players Association executive director faces a challenge to his position.  And while at least five challengers have emerged for the job, only two of them currently have the ability to challenge DeMaurice Smith.

The NFLPA Constitution requires candidates for executive director to secure written nominations from three voting (not alternate) player representatives.  A voting player representative can nominate as many candidates as he wants.

Currently, only Sean Gilbert and Andrew Smith have received the sufficient number of nominations.  The other candidates who have come forward — James Acho, John Stufflebeam, and Sean Morey — have three days to comply with the three-nomination requirement.  Any other candidates who haven’t come forward likewise can get on the ballot with three nominations submitted by player representatives.

The nomination deadline is 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 5.  It’s a simple process; the player representatives need to send an email to NFLPA president Eric Winston nominating the candidate.

On March 15, DeMaurice Smith will face Gilbert, Andrew Smith, and any other challengers who have been properly nominated by March 5.  A simple majority of the 32 player representatives secures the election on the first ballot.  If anyone has fewer than 17 votes, the top two square off.

Then, the NFLPA will continue with DeMaurice Smith for three more years or start fresh with a new executive director.

With so many candidates interested in the job, it becomes more amazing that Gene Upshaw held the position for so many years without a challenge.  DeMaurice Smith won the position over three other candidates in 2009, and DeMaurice Smith was unopposed in 2012.

On one hand, the identity of the executive director doesn’t really matter because the current labor deal lasts through the end of the decade and beyond.  On the other hand, the day-to-day work consists of pushing back against efforts by the NFL to infringe on player rights, as the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases have shown over the past few months.

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Monday morning one-liners

New England Patriots v New York Jets Getty Images

Bills DL Corbin Bryant is spending three weeks working for Under Armour this offseason.

DT Jared Odrick ran into Dolphins exec Mike Tannenbaum at the airport, which may have given them a chance to talk contract.

The time for the Patriots to make a call on using the franchise tag on S Devin McCourty has arrived.

Will the Jets bring back LB David Harris?

The Ravens are aiming for better results in the AFC North race in coming seasons.

A look at the Bengals wide receivers with free agency a little more than a week away.

John Hughes thinks better days are ahead on the Browns defensive line.

Previewing the activity on the Steelers defensive line this offseason.

Cornerback is a popular choice for the Texans in mock drafts.

Colts WR Reggie Wayne got a mention in one of the final episodes of Parks & Recreation.

The Jaguars won’t be shopping in the quarterback aisle this offseason.

The Titans’ plans for the No. 2 pick remain under wraps.

Some potential free agent targets for the Broncos.

C Eric Kush may wind up in a bigger role for the Chiefs in 2015.

John Clayton of ESPN writes that the Raiders need to spend in free agency.

Trying to figure out the best stadium plan for San Diego.

How long a deal makes sense for Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray?

Giants WR Odell Beckham thinks he could have gone pro in soccer as well.

Will the Eagles use their franchise tag to ensure WR Jeremy Maclin doesn’t leave?

Should the Redskins want to add a center, here’s a look at who’s available.

Will the Bears target coach John Fox’s former Broncos charges in free agency?

Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press predicts the Lions will do the wrong thing and use their franchise tag on DT Ndamukong Suh.

What’s the best route for the Packers to take at backup quarterback?

Some of the best second-round picks in Vikings history.

The Falcons have started shaping the 2015 roster.

The Panthers website puts the spotlight on Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson.

How will a deep running back market affect Mark Ingram and the Saints?

Three offensive players who could fit for the Buccaneers in the draft.

The best free agent signings in Cardinals history.

Relocation talk has taken some attention away from the Rams’ personnel needs.

The pros and cons of the 49ers re-signing RB Frank Gore.

Can the Seahawks make a luxury pick in the first round?

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