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ProFootballTalk: PFT’s Sunday picks

Can the Cowboys roll into Cincinnati and take down the red-hot Bengals? Can Christian Ponder win five of six in Minnesota? Will the Saints pick up some momentum when they head to New York this Sunday?

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Giants center says some teammates “are just happy to be there”

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13:  Weston Richburg #70 of the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s great for teams when players work hard in the offseason to improve.

It may be less great for teams when certain players imply they’re the only ones doing so.

Giants center Weston Richburg didn’t name any names, but suggested that he was the only one spending extra time on his job. During a roundtable with Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com and a number of NFL linemen at the facility in Arizona where they train together, Richburg made some comments which are going to require some explaining back at Giants camp.

“The percentage of guys who are just OK to be there [in the league] is pretty high,” Richburg said. “This is pretty rare. The majority of my offensive line is not doing anything right now. . . .

“I know a lot of guys are just happy to be there. That’s the difference between them and the guys who are here.”

Richburg’s working at the facility run by former NFL lineman LeCharles Bentley, and was training with Bears blockers Kyle Long and Bobby Massie and Titans guard Chance Warmack (who also made some headlines with his opinions).

Of course, it’s called the offseason for a reason, and his teammates have the right to spend their time off however they choose. Considering the offseason rules were collectively bargained to restrict the amount of time players had to spend on the job during the time between games, it’s reasonable to assume that many players value the ability to get away.

While it’s admirable for Richburg to want to put in extra time to improve his craft, there’s a fine line between patting yourself on the back and sticking a knife in someone else’s.

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Stan Kroenke compares Jared Goff to Kurt Warner, who he endorsed

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 8: Head coach Jeff Fisher of the St. Louis Rams talks with team owner Stan Kroenke prior to a game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome on September 8, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rams had a big decision to make this offseason, so they trusted the guy who nailed it the last time they weren’t sure which quarterback to go with.

The fact he signs the checks helps too.

According to Jarrett Bell of USA Today, Rams owner Stan Kroenke thought back to the team keeping Kurt Warner when it was time to make the call to trade up and select Jared Goff with this year’s first pick.

He said then-coach Dick Vermeil asked him his opinion on what seemed like a smaller decision, asking him how he came down on the Will Furrer-Warner battle for the third-string job.

“Dick Vermeil asked me my opinion on who the third quarterback should be,” Kroenke said. “I had a great relationship with Dick. Dick loved Will Furrer, the type of guy we’d all want to marry our daughter. He worked his tail off. Came out of Virginia Tech. I liked Will. Nobody knew anything about Kurt, but I watched the scrimmage, and this is the similarity with Goff: I told Dick, ‘OK, I’ve never played football, but you want my opinion? The kid from Northern Iowa can see. He’s got vision. It’s like a really good point guard. Some guys have it, some guys don’t. Whether it’s Arena Football that gave it to him or whatever, but he can see.’

“And Jared has that. It’s the vision thing.”

No one has questioned Kroenke’s business acumen, as he’s one of the wealthiest of the wealthy club of NFL owners. And he’s kept a very low profile when it comes to football decisions, preferring to stay in the shadows and rarely giving interviews.

But he insisted the move for Goff wasn’t about making a splash in his new Los Angeles home, but making the best football decision.

“I said it had to be about football. It can’t be about headlines,” Kroenke said. “Headlines don’t win football games. Maybe that makes you feel good in the spring, but it doesn’t win you anything. But the cool part is that [coach Jeff] Fisher said, ‘If I were still in Tennessee, I’d do it.’ And then we ran analytics and felt the compensation that we gave up was right in the ballpark, that we weren’t super over-paying. So we felt it was thought-out well and done for the right reasons. Fine with me.”

If Goff works out as well as Warner did for the Rams, Kroenke will have no problem with the investment. And he’ll also probably be asked more often about football decisions.

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Jets tried to make trade with Giants, couldn’t get it done

Brandon Marshall AP

The Giants were happy to steal the Jets’ Snacks this offseason, but they didn’t want to go back for seconds.

The Jets admitted they were trying to trade up in last week’s draft to get to Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil, but according to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, they failed to get a deal done with their co-tenants in MetLife Stadium.

The Jets offered the Giants their second-round pick to move up from 20th overall to the 10th spot.

The Giants hesitated, having already lost out on targets Jack Conklin and Leonard Floyd the two spots ahead of them. And they were afraid if they went back too far, they’d have missed on cornerback Eli Apple, who they took at No. 10.

If Tunsil had been off the board, the Dolphins might have gone with Apple at 13 given their need at cornerback. That would have left the Giants to pick from the next tier or corners, as the next one taken was Houston’s William Jackson, who went 24th to the Bengals.

There has been some cross-pollenation between the two franchises. This offseason, the Giants signed defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison in free agency. Others have worked for both franchises, from Don Maynard to Bill Parcells, but the two have never traded with each other.

There has also been the normal intramural squabbling between the two, going back to the design of their shared stadium, so perhaps it’s not a surprise they could get a deal done.

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Jaguars sign Brandon Allen, Tyrone Holmes

OXFORD, MS - NOVEMBER 07:  Brandon Allen #10 of the Arkansas Razorbacks celebrates a touchdown during the first quarter of a game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Oxford, Mississippi.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars took two players in the sixth round and they’ve signed them both to four-year contracts.

Quarterback Brandon Allen and defensive end Tyrone Holmes became the first two members of the Jaguars’ draft class to agree to deals with the team. There are five other picks to sign before the Jaguars will have everyone under contract.

Allen was the only offensive player that the Jaguars selected with their seven picks after making 34 starts during his time at Arkansas. With Blake Bortles and Chad Henne locked into the top two spots of the depth chart, Allen will try to show enough promise to warrant a spot as the team’s No. 3 option.

Holmes led the FCS in sacks with 18 at Montana last season, which was enough for the Jaguars to use a pick to find out if his ability to get to the quarterback came with him to the NFL.

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Adrian Peterson feels like “getting out there” during preseason

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 03:  Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on January 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

The last time that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson carried the ball during a preseason game came in 2011 and the last time he stepped on the field at all in the summer came in 2013, but both could change this year.

Peterson didn’t have a good game in the season opener last year, rushing 15 times for 31 yards, and said that he thinks things may have gone better if he’d gotten his feet wet during the preseason. Peterson was on a more extended break in 2015 after missing the final 15 weeks of the 2014 season while on the exempt list, but it left him feeling like he might want to get a little work in before August is out.

“I feel like getting out there and playing a little bit,” Peterson said, via the Pioneer Press. “It’s something that once that time comes around, I’ll have a better feel for, like, ‘Hey, I need to get out there just to kind of get the legs moving and get the pads [on] a little bit.’ I can tell you, though, I’m definitely more itching towards playing a little more in the preseason than I have the past seven, eight years.”

Preseason carries haven’t been part of Peterson’s life since his 2011 torn ACL, but the desire to get off to a fast start in the regular season could outweigh the concern about an injury in an exhibition game this time around.

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Ravens sign the first of their 11 draft picks

Ravens Helmet Getty Images

Last year, the Ravens had their entire nine-man draft class signed a week and a half after the draft.

They’ve got a little more work to do this year, but they’re at least off to a start.

Via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, the Ravens signed fifth-rounder Matt Judon to his four-year deal, worth $2.595 million.

He’s the first of their 11 draft picks to sign this year, heading into today’s start of a rookie minicamp.

Judon, an outside linebacker from Grand Valley State, led the nation with 20 sacks last year. He’s among the three pass-rushers they drafted this year.

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Licht addresses decision to draft Noah Spence, Roberto Aguayo

Zz04YTkyNmIwY2ZjNWRlMDRlODA3OWIzM2VjZmNhNmY2ZQ== AP

The Buccaneers got the guy everyone thought they’d take in round one of the 2016 draft, after they were able to trade down two spots to acquire cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. It was in the second round that things got more interesting.

With their original second-round pick, the Bucs rolled the dice on pass rusher Noah Spence, who has first-round talent but who slid due to off-field issues. Then, the Bucs moved back into the second round to take a guy that most would say lacks second-round talent because of the position he plays: Kicker.

Appearing on Thursday’s PFT Live, Buccaneers G.M. Jason Licht addressed both of his round two decisions.

Asked how comfortable the Buccaneers were that Spence’s well-documented drug issues are behind him, Licht said this: “Well you can never guarantee anything in this league but we were as comfortable as we could get with him after meeting with him. Having my director of security . . . meet with him several times and also our area scout, national scouts, everybody involved in the process. Like you said, he owned up to his mistakes. We thought he made some immature decisions and we feel like we have a very strong locker room. Especially on defense with Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, some of those guys. We thought he was immature at one point and he’s owned up to them and now he’s looking to move forward. He loves football . . . . We think if a guy loves football and it’s taken away from him, he learned a lesson and he doesn’t want that to happen again.”

With Roberto Aguayo, it wasn’t a matter of how much Aguayo loves football but how much the Buccaneers love Aguayo.

“I was very excited along with my staff and coaches about Roberto for a very long time,” Licht said. “It’s not often that you go into draft meetings or into a school visit and you come back and in fact I remember coming back. I made a visit to Florida State along with several other schools this year, like we always do, but came back and my wife she always asks, ‘Who did you like?’ And I said, ‘I like this Aguayo guy.’ And she was shocked. Because I had never talked about a kicker before. . . .

“He’s the best kicker I’ve ever seen coming out of college. So we got the extra fourth-round pick [in the trade down from No. 9 to No. 11] with plans of moving up, because I just wanted to ensure we got him. With the importance of special teams in this league is paramount and we talk about that all the time. So why not take who you think is the best kicker you’ve ever seen just to sure that up?”

Licht said that the permanent conversion of the extra point to a 33-yard field goal “had something to do” with the decision, but that the move primarily was driven by the team’s belief that Aguayo is “a weapon as a field goal kicker, a weapon as a kickoff specialist, and a weapon just all the way around.”

“He’s super consistent,” Licht said. “He’s never missed inside the 40 in his career, which is rare. And he’s the best and most accurate kicker in college history.”

The move nevertheless is a gutsy one, because the reality is that multiple players taken after Aguayo will become extremely valuable, productive members of the NFL. And unless Aguayo quickly becomes the best kicker in the NFL, the Buccaneers will be reminded at some point of all the great players they left on the board.

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Friday morning one-liners

BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 13:  Quarterback Cody Kessler #6 of the USC Trojans drops back to pass during the first quarter against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field on November 13, 2015 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

G Matt Slauson had his visit with the Bills on Thursday.

RB Daniel Thomas says it’s “crazy” that he’s in his third tour of duty with the Dolphins.

A look at what LB Kamu Grugier-Hill brings to the Patriots.

The Jets will have 22 tryout players at rookie minicamp.

It didn’t take the Ravens long to know they wanted to draft LB Kamalei Correa.

Bengals rookie WR Cody Core liked watching RB Rudi Johnson in his younger days.

USC coach Clay Helton thinks QB Cody Kessler will do well with the Browns.

Looking for undrafted rookies who will stand out at Steelers minicamp.

Which colleges have the Texans drafted from most often?

Several Colts veterans could be impacted by new arrivals in the draft.

It may not have been too tough for the Jaguars to make their decision on T Luke Joeckel’s option.

Alabama coach Nick Saban had good things to say about Titans RB Derrick Henry.

Where does Trevor Pryce rank among the best Broncos defensive linemen of all time?

Cornerbacks will be a focus during Chiefs rookie minicamp.

The Raiders hope rookie S Karl Joseph proves to be the missing piece for their secondary.

The odds in Vegas don’t favor the Chargers.

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott’s jersey has been the hottest seller among 2016 draft picks.

C Weston Richburg thinks he’s working harder than some of his teammates on the Giants offensive line.

The Eagles are calling rookie T Halapoulivaati Vaitai “Big V” for the time being.

TE Jordan Reed’s fears that the Redskins wouldn’t have enough money for his extension after signing CB Josh Norman went unrealized.

A look at why the Bears didn’t draft a quarterback this year.

Lions DE Ziggy Ansah’s dad is pushing him to be better in 2016.

An argument that the Packers should have drafted Myles Jack.

G Alex Boone has made a strong first impression on the Vikings.

A breakdown of the undrafted free agents trying to make the Falcons.

Panthers LB Luke Kuechly served as a caddy for TE Greg Olsen at a Charlotte golf tournament.

WR Willie Snead used his time off from the Saints to complete his college degree.

Buccaneers RB Peyton Barber is motivated by the chance to help his mother.

Moving to the defensive side of the ball paid off for Cardinals CB Brandon Williams.

It’s time for the Rams’ first rookie minicamp since moving back in Los Angeles.

49ers G.M. Trent Baalke cited WR A.J. Jenkins while discussing why the team waited to draft a wideout.

A few intriguing players taking part in the Seahawks rookie minicamp.

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Jets get three picks signed

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 17:  Juston Burris #11 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack intercepts a pass intended for Sammy Watkins #2 of the Clemson Tigers during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 17, 2012 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets will hold their first rookie minicamp practice on Friday and it’s pretty good bet that most of the focus during and after that session is going to be on how quarterback Christian Hackenberg fares in his first workout since being selected in the second round.

There was time to focus on other members of the draft class on Thursday, however, and the Jets used it to sign three other players to their first NFL contracts. The team announced that they have signed fourth-round cornerback Juston Burris, fifth-round tackle Brandon Shell and seventh-round punter Lachlan Edwards.

Burris was a three-year starter at N.C. State and adds good size to a Jets cornerback group that said goodbye to 2015 starter Antonio Cromartie as the offseason got underway. The Jets traded up to get Shell, who is the great nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Art Shell and who started at both right and left tackle during his time at South Carolina.

The Jets moved on from Ryan Quigley at punter, leaving Edwards and undrafted signee Tom Hackett as the only punters currently on the roster.

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Patriots price Seahawks tickets as this year’s “elite” home game

Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Patriots have one “elite” opponent on this year’s home schedule, and that honor goes to the Seahawks.

New England is one of the many NFL teams that uses variable ticket pricing, charging more money to attend the more expensive games. On this year’s schedule, the Week 10 home game against the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football is labeled as “elite” and costs the most, with tickets ranging in price from $111 for the cheap seats to $275 for lower level tickets near the 50-yard line.

The Patriots also label two games as “marquee.” Those two games, against the Dolphins and Bengals, range in price from $90 to $245.

The other five regular-season games range in price from $77 to $199, while the two preseason games range from $37 to $95.

The Ravens are on this year’s home schedule for the Patriots, but that is one of the five regularly priced games, an argument perhaps that Joe Flacco is not elite.

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Will Smith’s widow attends ceremony to receive his graduate degree

raquelsmith

Wiping away tears and sitting in a wheelchair, the widow of former Saints defensive end Will Smith accepted his graduate degree from the University of Miami on Thursday.

Will Smith was shot and killed in New Orleans on April 9. His wife Raquel was shot in both legs in the incident and is still recuperating, but she was able to attend the graduation ceremony for the University of Miami’s Executive MBA program for artists and athletes.

The Saints tweeted a video of the graduation ceremony, showing Raquel being pushed across the stage in her wheelchair as the crowd applauded the announcement that she was accepting the degree, which was being awarded to Will posthumously.

Smith played his college football at Ohio State and received his undergraduate degree in criminology in 2005.

Photo via New Orleans Saints.

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PFT Live finishes the week with a flourish

PFTLive

If you’re up early and looking for something to do (other than the thing that got you to get up early), listen to PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio for three hours of football talk and analysis and debate and maybe a few off-topic discussions depending on where the caffeine from the coffee takes me.

Today’s show takes us (by phone) to Arizona for a chat with Cardinals G.M. Steve Keim, to Oakland for a visit with Hall of Famer Rod Woodson, to Miami for a conversation with Dolphins executive V.P. of football operations Mike Tannenbaum, and then to Charlotte for a sit-down (I’ll be sitting; the guest technically could be standing) with Panthers G.M. Dave Gettleman.

So dial up Sirius 213, XM 202, NBCSportsRadio.com, the NBC Sports Radio app, or any of the various terrestrial stations that carry the show.

You can also subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or audioBoom.

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Texans sign three draft picks

San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin (7) runs with the football while playing against Hawaii in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner) AP

The Houston Texans managed to get half of their draft class signed to contracts on Thursday.

According to Aaron Wilson and John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans signed fourth-round running back Tyler Ervin, and fifth-round picks, safety K.J. Dillon and defensive tackle D.J. Reader, to their four-year rookie contracts.

The trio were the final three picks of the draft for Houston. Wide receiver Will Fuller, center Nick Martin and receiver Braxton Miller remain unsigned.

Per the reports, Ervin’s contract is worth $2.877 million with a $547,568 signing bonus, Dillon’s deal is worth $2.574 million with a $234,936 signing bonus and Reader’s contract is worth $2.55 million contract with a $215,380 signing bonus.

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Two-Time Division II player of the year among Jets’ 13 undrafted free agents

In a Sept. 13, 2014, photo provided by Ferris State University, Ferris State quarterback Jason Vander Laan, a Harlon Hill Trophy finalist, looks to pass during an NCAA college football game against Northwood in Midland, Mich. Vander Laan is one of the top players in The Associated Press Little All-America team, honoring the top players in Divisions II and III and NAIA. Vander Laan is responsible for 50 touchdowns (30 TD passes and 20 touchdowns rushing) and led Ferris State to the Great Lakes Athletic Conference championship. The Harlon Hill Trophy, which goes to the top player in Division II, will be presented Friday, Dec. 19. (AP Photo/Ferris State University) AP

Jason Vander Laan, a two-time winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy (Division II Heisman), as a quarterback at Ferris State was signed to play tight end by the New York Jets.

Vander Laan (pictured) became the first player in NCAA history to pass and run for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons. His 5,953 career rush yards are the most for a quarterback in NCAA history. The Jets are attempting to convert the 6-foot-4, 244 pound athlete to tight end for his jump to the pros.

Vander Laan is among 13 undrafted free agents signed by the Jets.

The Jets have also added Temple wide receiver Robby Anderson, Penn State nose tackle Tarow Barney, Iowa State wide receiver Quenton Bundrage, Temple center Kyle Friend, Utah punter Tom Hackett, Ohio State wide receiver Jalin Marshall, Duke kicker Ross Martin, Western Carolina defensive end Helva Matungulu, Appalachian State safety Doug Middleton, Texas A&M defensive end Julien Obioha, USC defensive end Claude Pelon and Michigan State defensive end Lawrence Thomas.

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Colts sign four more draft picks

IOWA CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 14: Offensive lineman Austin Blythe #63 of the Iowa Hawkeyes waits to take the field before the match-up against the Minnesota Gophers on November 14, 2015 at Kinnick Stadium, in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

The Colts announced Thursday that they’ve agreed to terms with four more members of their 2016 draft class. They signed first-round pick Ryan Kelly on Wednesday.

Thursday, the team finished deals with fourth-round defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, fifth-round offensive tackle Joe Haeg, seventh-round linebacker Trevor Bates and seventh-round center Austin Blythe.

Ridgeway had 3.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries last season at Texas. He was the only defensive line pick in a Colts draft class heavy on offensive linemen. Haeg was a two-time All-American at FCS national champion North Dakota State, while Blythe was a finalist for the Rimington Award and a key member of one of college football’s best offensive lines at Iowa.

Bates had 7.5 sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown last season at Maine.

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