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The Cardinals turn back to Ryan Lindley

Ryan Lindley AP

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt turned his back to the dartboard and let a dart fly over his shoulder at Cardinals headquarters Wednesday and the dart landed in the part of the board reading Ryan Lindley.

At least that’s how we imagine Whisenhunt is making his quarterback choice from week to week. John Skelton started last week’s debacle in Seattle with Lindley coming on in relief while Lindley started the Week 13 debacle against the Jets, so it’s not like there’s some clearly right answer to the question starting Whisenhunt in the face. The darts make as sense as anything else Whisenhunt did to wind up naming Lindley the starter for Sunday’s game against the Lions.

The Cardinals placed Kevin Kolb on injured reserve Wednesday, ending any hope that he’d return to retake the job he was doing before breaking his ribs. That leaves Whisenhunt to continue choosing between Skelton and Lindley week after week in some kind of absurd sequel to Groundhog Day.

Perhaps he’ll break the cycle by turning to Brian Hoyer, although the recent arrival in the desert is probably still getting up to speed on the playbook. Given what the guys who know the offense have done this year, that might not be a prerequisite for the job.

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Bears “exploring trade options” for wide receiver Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall AP

‘Tis the season for moving on from bad contracts, and the Bears are no exception.

According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears are “exploring trade options” for veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Whether they’re merely answering the phone, or putting out word in hopes of making it ring remains to be seen, but it’s clear there’s some disconnect between the new regime of General Manager Ryan Pace/coach John Fox and the guy who got an extension from the previous administration last offseason.

If Marshall is still on the Bears roster on March 12, his $7.5 million in base salary is guaranteed.

The Bears got Marshall for a pair of third-round picks in 2012, and would certainly be looking for less than that now, to get out from under the contract.

It’s not that Marshall’s not been productive when well, but his media schedule and a few outbursts with teammates have made him the kind of guy new coaches are wary of.

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Vikings not saying much about Peterson meeting

Peterson AP

After Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and G.M. Rick Spielman spent roughly four hours visiting with running back Adrian Peterson on Wednesday, Peterson initially said the meeting went well.  He later offered a more detailed — and cryptic — explanation that fueled speculation he still wants out of Minnesota.

Upon getting back to Minnesota, Zimmer and Spielman didn’t have much to add.

“I’d just characterize it as a very good meeting and leave it at that,” Spielman told Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on returning to the Twin Cities.

Said Zimmer, “Adrian’s a good guy.”

The absence of a statement that Peterson will definitely return to the Vikings in 2015 means there’s still a chance he won’t.  Peterson reportedly has concerns about the manner in which his criminal charges of child abuse were handled last year by the team.  If, as it appeared at the time, the strings were being pulled by 345 Park Avenue, the Vikings at some point need to explain that to Peterson — and they need to hope he believes it.

Ultimately, money will be the major factor.  Unless someone else is willing to give Peterson $12.75 million for 2015, the Vikings will be his best choice.  Maybe, in the end, Peterson can use the uncertainty regarding his status (and the team’s apparent desire to bring him back) to squeeze out even more cash from the team’s coffers.

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Report: Chiefs expected to cut Dwayne Bowe if they can’t trade

Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Given the fact the Chiefs went through an entire season without a touchdown from their wide receivers, the idea they want to mix it up there seems reasonable.

But given their recent investments, it’s still going to be a tough pill to swallow.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Chiefs are expected to cut wide receiver Dwayne Bowe unless they can trade him.

Bowe just finished the second year of a five-year, $56 million deal, and is scheduled to make $10.75 million this year.

Because he forfeited his guarantees with his one-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, it’s easier for the Chiefs to move on if they want to.

If they designate him as a post-June 1 cut, they’d take a $3 million cap hit this year and $6 million next year, unless they want to swallow the whole $9 million this season.

And it sounds like they definitely want to move on, unless they’re able to squeeze him into a last-minute pay cut.

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Devonta Freeman sees himself as “the man” in Atlanta

devontafreeman AP

Last season, veteran Steven Jackson was the Falcons’ primary ball carrier, while rookie Devonta Freeman was the No. 2. This season, Freeman thinks the starting job is his.

Freeman told ESPN that he expects to be the Falcons’ starting running back this year now that Jackson has been jettisoned.

“Personally, I want to be the man. I want to be the guy,” Freeman said. “I want to make my own name with the Atlanta Falcons. I want to go really, really far. I want to set the bar high. I just want to win a Super Bowl and maybe be the MVP one day. You just never know. I feel like I’m hungrier right now. I don’t know what’s gotten into me this offseason. I just feel like a whole new monster. And I ain’t just talking.”

Freeman may be getting a little ahead of himself when he talks about being an MVP. Last year he showed some promise, but he had just 65 carries for 248 yards and one touchdown. He has a long way to go before he’s a star.

But he probably will be the man who gets the bulk of the carries in Atlanta this season. If Freeman takes a big step forward in his second season, that will go a long way toward helping the Falcons turn things around.

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Hartline heads to Houston for a visit

Hartline Getty Images

Twenty-four hours ago, free-agent receiver Brian Hartline hoped to be 24 hours away from picking a new team, with a visit to the Browns followed by a visit to the Bears.  Apparently, neither team has made Hartline an offer he couldn’t refuse.

So Hartline is heading to Houston for a visit, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.  A deal with the Texans is a possibility.

Cut last week by the Dolphins, Hartline was due to make $5.9 million in 2015.  The Texans will likely soon by cutting receiver Andre Johnson, who has asked to be released in the wake of being informed he’ll have a reduced role.  Johnson is on the books for $11.5 million in compensation this year.

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A year after Dansby, Dockett chases the money, too

darnell-dockett-arizona-cardinals Getty Images

Last year, when Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby opted to sign a richer deal in Cleveland, Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett lamented the fact that Danbsy opted for cash over a championship.

Now, Dockett may be looking for dollars over diamonds, too.

He chased the money,” Dockett said of Dansby last April.  “I’ve got a lot of respect for our guy that left, I love him like a brother.  But we were one or two pieces away from really making a lot of noise. . . .

“I personally feel like he chased the money versus chasing a ring.  No knock towards Cleveland — I don’t want people to try to think I’m saying Cleveland doesn’t have a chance; everybody has a chance — but I just felt like it was made for him to be here.”

Of course, Dockett may feel like the 49ers have a better chance than the Cardinals to chase a ring.  But last year’s performance coupled with a Trading Places-style experiment in constructing a coaching staff tends to cut against the notion that the 49ers are closer to getting to the Super Bowl than the Cardinals.

Or maybe Dockett now simply understands the dilemma Dansby faced.  Too many factors go into winning the Super Bowl, with unexpected injuries (like those repeatedly suffered by the Cardinals last year) threatening to throw a season off track.  Chasing money is a simpler concept.

The Cardinals offered a base deal of $2.5 million for 2015.  The 49ers offered a base deal of $4 million.  Dockett wisely decided not to give up $1.5 million for the vague promise and inherently difficult challenge of emerging from 31 other franchises as the NFL champions.

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Rob Ford’s crack-smoking NFL tie brings $16,100 in auction

robford AP

When we mentioned former Toronto mayor Rob Ford was selling his crack-smoking NFL tie on eBay, the current bid was $81.

So obviously, we should get a cut of the deal.

According to Don Peat of the Toronto Sun, Ford’s tie was sold for $16,100 in the online auction.

The mid-1990s era NFL logo tie became famous when Ford wore it to the press conference in which he admitted smoking crack, which he said happened “probably in one of my drunken stupors.”

“I’m surprised someone would pay that much for a tie,” Ford said last week, before the auction ended.

Ford said he was donating 10 percent of the proceeds to the hospitals where he’s undergoing cancer treatments.

He also said he was going to be auctioning off more stuff, saying “we have some stuff coming down the pipe, pardon the pun.”

Maybe the next item will the chicken wing bones he was chowing down on at a Bills game.

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James Acho gets added to the NFLPA ballot

PhoneBooth Getty Images

Eventually, there may be enough candidates for NFLPA executive director to field their own football team.

Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that James Acho has received the three nominations needed to be added to the official ballot.  Acho becomes the sixth official challenger to DeMaurice Smith, bringing the size of the ballot to seven.

With Acho joining Sean Gilbert, Andrew Smith, John Stufflebeam, Arthur McAfee, and Robert Griffith, Sean Morey becomes the only declared candidate who has not yet had nominations submitted by three player representatives.

The window for submitting nominations closes at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday.  There’s no limit on the number of nominations a player representative can make; it’s possible that some of the reps have nominated multiple candidates.

As previously explained, all official candidates will make presentations at the NFLPA annual meeting.  The 32 player representatives will then vote.  If none of the candidates obtain 17 or more votes, the top two will meet in a runoff.

If the two top tie at 16, the 16 votes representing the most total dues-paying members will determine the outcome.

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Dockett chooses the 49ers

Dockett AP

As intrigue goes, the NFC West isn’t far behind the AFC East.

Veteran defensive tackle Darnell Dockett has signed a two-year deal with the 49ers, according to agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Dockett, who was drafted by the Cardinals in 2004 and spent 11 years there, was cut last week when the two sides couldn’t agree on the value of a veteran defensive lineman recovering from ACL repair.  The Cardinals, who reportedly offered a deal with a base value of $2.5 million and a maximum of $4 million, had hoped to be able to bring him back after he tested the market.

According to Rosenhaus, Dockett’s contract in San Francisco has a value of $7.5 million over two years.  He’s due to make $4 million in 2015, with half of that guaranteed.

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Titans taking a look at former Falcons wideout Harry Douglas

Harry Douglas AP

The Titans might need more personnel help than any team in the NFL, and they’re extremely active in the pre-free agency free agency period.

The latest visitor will be former Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Douglas has a tie with Titans tight ends coach Mike Mularkey, from his days as the Falcons offensive coordinator.

The Titans have also kicked the tires on other wideouts who were cut recently, including Ted Ginn Jr. and Jacoby Jones, so they’re obviously in the market for some help there.

Douglas has been productive as a complementary receiver, but stood out on his own in 2013, with 85 catches for 1,067 yards when Julio Jones was hurt.

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Wilfork says Pats aren’t picking up his option

Wilfork Getty Images

With so much current focus on whether the Patriots will find a way to keep cornerback Darrelle Revis, they’ve decided not to keep defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

Wilfork has announced that the team told him Tuesday the his option for 2015 won’t be picked up.

I’m in a good place,” Wilfork said in a message posted on Twitter, one that he calls his “only” statement on the matter.  “I have a great relationship with the Patriots organization.”

Wilfork makes it clear that, after 11 NFL seasons, he won’t be retiring.

“Can I still play football?” Wilfork wrote.  “Hell yea!  Do I still love football?  Hell yea!”

He adds that New England will always be his home, noting that he won a Super Bowl ring as a rookie and in his last season with the franchise.

“One major injury lots of gas still left in the tank,” Wilfork said.  (What kind of gas is he talking about?)

“I will take my time think things through take into consideration many things by mainly my family and see where life goes from there,” Wilfork said.

Surely, a demand will exist for his services.  There aren’t enough competent defensive tackles to go around for 32 franchises.

Wilfork didn’t mention a possible return to the Patriots, but didn’t expressly rule it out.  If an aggressive market for his services doesn’t emerge, maybe the Pats will swoop back in and extend the relationship to a 12th year.

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Colts don’t plan to tender A.Q. Shipley as restricted free agent

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Colts were in serious need of a center before the start of last season because of injuries to Khaled Holmes and Jonotthan Harrison, so they turned to A.Q. Shipley for help.

Shipley, who played for the Colts in 2012 before being traded to the Ravens, was claimed off waivers after his run in Baltimore came to an end. Shipley quickly got himself back up to speed on the Indy offense and started for the first four weeks of the regular season.

It looks like the Colts will need to be in similarly dire straits this year for Shipley to get into the lineup. Mike Wells of reports that the team won’t tender Shipley a contract as a restricted free agent, which means Shipley will be able to sign anywhere as an unrestricted free agent on March 10.

Shipley was benched in favor of Harrison after four games and only started again at guard in Week 1 when the Colts had nothing to play for with their playoff seed secured. Holmes eventually worked his way back into the starting lineup for the end of the regular season and playoffs, which may give him the leg up on the job for 2015.

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Reports: Cary Williams to visit Seahawks

Cary Williams AP

Two days after being released, ex-Eagles cornerback Cary Williams has a free agent visit already lined up.

Williams will meet with the Seahawks on Thursday, reported. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun also reported news of Williams’s visit.

At 6-foot-1, Williams has the length the Seahawks like in their cornerbacks. He ranks 81st among PFT’s top free agents in the Class of 2015.

The 30-year-old Williams started every game in the last two seasons for Philadelphia, defending 21 passes and notching five interceptions.

The Seahawks’ interest in Williams comes with cornerback Byron Maxwell set to test free agency next week. Maxwell is expected to have a strong market.

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Saints rework Jairus Byrd’s contract to create cap space

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Wednesday brought word that the Saints are releasing running back Pierre Thomas and shopping linebacker Curtis Lofton in a trade and their cap-related maneuvering will continue with a restructured deal for safety Jairus Byrd.

Field Yates of reports that the team will convert Byrd’s $6 million roster bonus into a signing bonus in order to drop his 2015 cap number from $10.3 million to $5.5 million. The money will be pushed into the remaining four years of the six-year, $54 million deal that the safety signed with the team last year.

Byrd’s first year with the Saints was a rough one as preseason back surgery and an in-season knee injury made for very little immediate return on the team’s investment. They’ll be looking for better results this time around since Byrd’s restructure will make cutting him in the near future will come with financial penalties on a cap that’s been doing annual gymnastics to get themselves in compliance with the salary cap.

Things are off to a decent start on that front as Byrd announced Wednesday that he’s been cleared for a full return to action. He should be on the field for offseason workouts as he and the team try for better defensive results.

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Former Eagle Trent Cole to visit Buccaneers first

Trent Cole AP

Eagles coach Chip Kelly alluded to the possibility of Trent Cole returning, but he’s not waiting around to hear back.

According to Adam Caplan of ESPN, Cole is taking his first free agent visit to Tampa Bay (and that implies more visits are possible).

The Buccaneers have cap room, and a glaring need for pass rush, so the fit is obvious.

The 32-year-old Cole had 6.5 sacks in 15 games last year, but has 85.5 for his career, and has been a consistent producer, hitting at least 8.0 sacks in seven of his previous eight seasons.

His leadership is also something the Bucs could use, and might be willing to pay for before the full free agent market cranks up next week.

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