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John Abraham likes his chances of reaching the Hall of Fame

John Abraham AP

Falcons defensive end John Abraham knows where he ranks on the NFL’s all-time career sack list, and he likes where his ranking puts him among the great pass rushers in NFL history.

In fact, Abraham told Mike Garafolo of USA Today that he believes as he keeps climbing up the sack charts, he’s going to earn a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I’m not saying I’m solidified as one, but I definitely have a chance to be if I continue to play the way I’m playing and get a couple of more years out of this raggedy body of mine and put some more numbers up,” Abraham said. “I’m 13th overall right now [in career sacks] and, if I can play well enough, I can get in the top 10 or top five. That would be nice.”

Abraham has 122 sacks in his career, and with five more he’ll pass Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas for No. 12 all time. The 34-year-old Abraham, who has 10 sacks through 13 games this season, could realistically record 38.5 more sacks in his career, which is what he needs to move ahead of Kevin Greene for No. 3 all time. But Greene has been voted down several times by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee, so there’s no guarantee that reaching No. 3 all time would put Abraham in Canton.

And Abraham doesn’t have any realistic chance of passing Bruce Smith and Reggie White, who at 200 and 198 sacks respectively are first and second in NFL history. So No. 3 all-time is as high as Abraham is going to get. (It’s also worth noting that sacks have only been an official statistic since 1982, so we’ll never know how many sacks some of the great players of the past, like Deacon Jones, recorded.)

So while Abraham has had a career he deserves to be proud of, he probably needs at least a few more good years before he gets to Canton. And even that may not be enough.

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Titans to cut Bernard Pollard

Travis Benjamin, Bernard Pollard AP

A month ago, Titans safety Bernard Pollard asked to be released. Now the Titans have told Pollard they’ll take him up on that.

The Titans let Pollard know today that he’s being cut, Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports. The move isn’t official yet, but it may just be a matter of making sure that Pollard, who ended last season on injured reserve with a torn Achilles, can pass a physical.

Pollard wasn’t a happy camper in Tennessee, complaining after the season that when the Titans fired executive Lake Dawson, they fired the wrong person. Now Pollard will be free to see if some other team is interested in his services.

The 30-year-old Pollard was scheduled to make $3.1 million this season.

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Falcons interested in Orakpo

Brian Orakpo AP

Washington, despite having a new G.M., would like to extend its relationship with pass-rusher Brian Orakpo.  Unlike last year, however, Scot McCloughan will have competition when it comes to keeping Orakpo around.

Per a league source, at least four teams are interested in Orakpo.  For now, the leaders are believed to be Washington and the Falcons.

The Falcons desperately need help on the edge of the defensive line, a year after former coach Mike Smith successfully lobbied for the investment of offseason funds on interior defensive linemen.  New coach Dan Quinn is emphasizing speed in all phases of the game.

Orakpo had 10 sacks in 2013.  Last year, had managed only 0.5 sacks in seven starts under the franchise tag in D.C.

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NFL’s 12-team playoff format was enacted 25 years ago this week

Super Bowl XL - Pittsburgh Steelers vs Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

As PFT’s Mike Florio reported last month, the NFL would like to expand the postseason field in 2016. Any addition of playoff entrants would be the first such change made by the league in at least a quarter-century, and it would undoubtedly lead to an increase in television money for the NFL and its clubs.

The NFL last moved to expand the postseason field 25 years ago this week. On March 1, 1990, the league added two teams to the playoff pool, increasing the number of entrants from 10 to 12 — six per conference. The expansion went hand-in-hand with the league striking a new broadcast rights deal with NBC, ABC, Turner, ESPN and CBS.

At the time, the NFL had three divisions per conference (West, Central, East), making the sixth postseason entrant a third wild-card club. Twelve years later, the NFL added one division per conference and reduced the wild-card entrants by one per conference, keeping the total field at 12 teams.

All things considered, the addition of the sixth postseason berth worked out well for the league and its teams. For one thing, the extra playoff games gave the NFL more content to sell to the networks.

Also, the expansion has allowed 25-of-32 NFL clubs to garner a playoff berth they otherwise would not have earned under the old system. The Vikings have used this final playoff spot to make the postseason on four different occasions since 1990, with the Jets, Falcons, Chiefs, Dolphins, Lions, Ravens and Washington all earning the sixth seed three times.

No. 6 seeds have been especially competitive in recent years. Since divisional realignment in 2002, the final wild-card teams are 21-24 in postseason play, with at least one No. 6 seed winning in 8-of-13 seasons (2002, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014).

Two No. 6 seeds have won Super Bowls — the 2005 Steelers and the 2010 Packers. Three other final wild-card entrants have won multiple games: the 2008 Ravens and Eagles and the 2010 Jets.

This is not to say No. 6 seeds have been smashing successes. Overall, they are 28-48 in postseason play. Indeed, most of the final wild-card entrants have gone tamely.

Still, without the sixth playoff spot, we wouldn’t have had Brett Favre heaving a cross-field bomb to Sterling Sharpe to beat the Lions in the Pontiac Silverdome in 1993, or Michael Vick leading a memorable upset in the snow in Lambeau Field in 2002, or the 2010 Jets knocking off the heavily favored Patriots in Foxborough.

Looking forward, the question is whether the seventh-seeded teams can provide these little bursts of drama, too. They will probably get their chance before long. We know this much: the playoff ranks aren’t getting any smaller, given the popularity of the NFL and the amount of money the league’s games can draw.

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Suh situation shows the complication of simple restructurings

Suh Getty Images

The slow growth of salary cap in the wake of the new labor deal resulted in plenty of teams having salary-cap issues in recent years.  Which resulted in plenty of teams conducting the so-called “simple restructuring” of contracts, pushing cap dollars in the current years into the future.

But simple restructurings of big-dollar contracts can lead to potential complications.  Eventually, those contracts expire.  And the bloated cap numbers in the final years of those deals make it considerably more expensive to use the franchise tag on that player.

That’s why the Lions ultimately couldn’t use the franchise tag on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.  His salary for 2014 was $12.5 million; his cap number was $22.4 million.  Since the franchise tag guarantees the player a 20-percent raise over Suh’s salary in the prior year, the Lions would have had to invest $26.9 million for one more year with Suh.

And that would have become $32.25 million for 2016 under the tag.  Which means it simply became too expensive to play the tag game with Suh — unless the Lions would have been content to keep him for only one more year at an exorbitant salary.

Next year, a string of simply restructurings could result in an unmanageable cap number for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.   Though he’ll make only (only?) $11.6 million in 2015, his restructurings-fueled cap number of $18.395 million will result in a franchise tag of $22.074 million in 2016.

So while fans tend to exhale when teams find a way to restructure contracts in order to create cap space in the current year, those efforts could result in some eventual puckering and, in the case of Suh, the possible end of his tenure with the team.

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Five players get the franchise tag, one player gets the transition tag

Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

All 32 teams have the ability to tag a player and keep him from hitting unrestricted free agency. But 26 teams declined to do so.

In the end, only five players got the franchise tag before today’s 4 p.m. deadline. One other player got the transition tag.

No one got the “exclusive” franchise player tag, which comes with a higher price tag but prevents the player from negotiating with any other team. All five franchised players got the non-exclusive tag, which means they can negotiate with other teams and sign elsewhere, but if they do sign with another team, the current team gets to choose between either matching the offer and keeping the player, or declining to match the offer and getting two first-round draft picks from the player’s new team.

Here are the five players who got the non-exclusive franchise tag, and the amount of the tender offer for each:
Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul ($14,813,000)
Chiefs OLB Justin Houston ($13,195,000)
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant ($12,823,000)
Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas ($12,823,000)
Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski ($4,126,000)

Additionally, one player got the transition tag, which comes with a lower price tag and allows the team to match any offer to the player — but does not result in any draft pick compensation if the player signs elsewhere and the team declines to match. That one player was Dolphins tight end Charles Clay, who gets a one-year, $7,071,000 tender offer.

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Bills opt against tagging Jerry Hughes

Buffalo Bills v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Jerry Hughes broke out after coming to the Bills in a trade before the 2013 season, but back-to-back 10-sack seasons weren’t enough to convince the Bills to use a franchise or transition tag on the edge rusher Monday.

While the Giants and Chiefs chose to use the franchise tag to hold onto Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Houston, respectively, Buffalo will move toward the start of free agency next week with no claim on Hughes’s services. A franchise tag would have entitled Hughes to a salary of $14.8 million if and when he signed the tender.

They still have exclusive negotiating rights with Hughes through next Saturday, when a three-day window opens for teams to talk to the agents of impending free agents.

A deal could be struck between now and then and reports from Buffalo are that the Bills are working hard to strike a deal. With the start of free agency so close, though, it makes sense for Hughes, who is No. 9 on PFT’s list of the top 100 free agents, to hear what other teams are willing to offer him with two of the top pass rushers all but off the market.

Greg Hardy, Jason Worilds, Pernell McPhee, Brandon Graham and Brian Orakpo are some of the other pass-rushing options still ticketed for free agency next week.

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No tags for Randall Cobb or Jeremy Maclin

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

There were four wide receivers ranked among the top 15 players on PFT‘s list of the top 100 players headed for free agency this year.

Two of those players — Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant and Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas — were given franchise tags on Monday that make it highly unlikely that they’ll be switching teams this offseason.The Packers chose not to go that route with Randall Cobb, however, and the Eagles passed on applying either the franchise or transition tag on Jeremy Maclin.

That doesn’t mean those players are certain to be on the open market come March 10. The Packers and Eagles are the only teams that can sign those players this week, although other teams can open up conversations with the representatives for both players on March 7.

Maclin said over the weekend that he wants to return to the Eagles after showing he was healthy while playing on a one-year deal after a torn ACL knocked him out for the entire 2013 season. Cobb is thought to be looking for a contract in the neighborhood of the four-year, $39 million extension that Jordy Nelson signed in Green Bay last year. The Raiders are reportedly interested in him should he hit the market, although they’ll likely have plenty of company in that pursuit.

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Goldman Sachs to finance Chargers possible move

Goldman Getty Images

It’s unclear whether the NFL will get behind the Chargers’ potential return to L.A.  One of the world’s biggest investment banks has decided to do so.

According to Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, Goldman Sachs will finance the move, “including covering any operating losses suffered by the team in the first few years in that city as well as costs for any renovations needed in a temporary venue.”

The involvement of Goldman Sachs demonstrates the financial viability of the stadium project in Carson.  It also provides the Chargers with some security if/when a move happens.

Most importantly, the development indicates that Goldman Sachs wants the move to happen.  Which means that Goldman Sachs will be working aggressively and diligently to push the project to completion — and the relocation to reality.

The Raiders and Chargers, if they can’t secure new stadiums in their current markets, hope to play in a privately-financed, $1.7-billion stadium in Carson.  Rams owner Stan Kroenke hopes to build a new stadium in Inglewood.  AEG, which has been involved for several years in a downtown L.A. project, could end up SOL along with Ed Roski and his shovel-ready project in the City of Industry.

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Dolphins release Nate Garner

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets Getty Images

The Dolphins were busy on Monday, using the transition tag on tight end Charles Clay and releasing a pair of veteran players.

As previously reported, cornerback Cortland Finnegan is out in Miami. On Monday afternoon, the team announced offensive lineman Nate Garner is out as well.

Garner had been with the Dolphins since 2008 and saw time at center, guard and tackle over the course of his time with the team. A head injury knocked Garner out for the second half of last season, however, and the Dolphins cleared $1.65 million under the 2015 cap by parting ways with him at this point in the offseason.

With guard Daryn Colledge and center Samson Satele headed for free agency (and Mike Pouncey likely moving back to the position), the Dolphins could be looking for two new starting guards in the coming months.

Finnegan and Garner join wide receivers Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson as veteran players discarded by the Dolphins recently.

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Eagles exec V.P. of football operations moves office out of football operations

Howie Roseman AP

It’s been a strange offseason for the Eagles.  And it just got a little stranger.

In January, owner Jeffrey Lurie resolved a power struggle between coach Chip Kelly and G.M. Howie Roseman by giving Kelly more power and Roseman a promotion (possibly after clunking their heads together like Moe Howard).  Roseman emerged not as the G.M. but as the executive V.P. of football operations.  Although Kelly now has final say over the roster and the draft, Roseman manages the team’s salary cap and contract negotiations.

It has the potential to be awkward, with new V.P. of player personnel Ed Marynowitz necessarily serving as the liaison between Kelly and Roseman.  At a minimum, it will involve more walking.

According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the office of the executive V.P. of football operations has moved out of football operations, to the business end of the NovaCare Complex.  Roseman previously was located only two doors down from the head coach; Kelly for the last two years and Andy Reid before that.

The move underscores the reality that the executive V.P. of football operations doesn’t really have much if any power over football operations.  Which makes his comments from last week regarding the folly of trading up even more conspicuous, especially if the guy who now has the power to do so in Philly chooses to do so.

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Giants cut center J.D. Walton to clear some salary cap space

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When you use the franchise tag to keep one player at a high number, something’s got to give.

So with the Giants using the $14.813 million franchise tag to hang onto defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, they had to make up the savings somewhere.

The team announced they had cut center J.D. Walton,

Cutting Walton saves them $3 million against the cap, and for a player considered fungible, that’s the kind of room that was worth making.

Of course, they wanted to upgrade there anyway, so this one wasn’t totally about the cap space.

Having him gone could clear the way for 2014 second-rounder Weston Richburg to slide back inside.

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Steelers cut Lance Moore

Lance Moore AP

After one disappointing season in Pittsburgh, Lance Moore is out.

Moore, a veteran wide receiver who signed with the Steelers last year, has been released. He caught just 14 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns last season.

The 31-year-old Moore had some good seasons with the Saints and was a 1,000-yard receiver as recently as 2012. But he never seemed to fit in Pittsburgh’s offense, and he had asked for his release.

Now Moore has gotten his wish and will be free to look for work somewhere else.

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Lions bring back Dan Orlovsky

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Dan Orlovsky didn’t play any offensive snaps as the backup to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in 2014.

The team liked what it saw because they announced Monday that Orlovsky has been re-signed to a one-year contract. Orlovsky said during the season that he felt he was playing an important role despite his lack of playing time.

“I don’t think you can underestimate the value of it,” Orlovsky said, via the team’s website. “There is an enormous value in being a good teammate. It’s important for me to understand my role. I talk to the younger guys. I talk to the defense and offer them a nugget here and there. Over 16 games, if one or two players can make a play here and there, that’s the difference between going on and going home.”

Orlovsky hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2012, when he threw seven of them for the Buccaneers. His last run as a starter came in 2011 with the Colts and he also started seven games during the Lions’ winless 2008 campaign. Orlovsky’s most memorable moment came that year when he ran out of the end zone for a safety in a two-point loss to the Vikings.

Third-stringer Kellen Moore isn’t expected to be tendered as a restricted free agent, so the Lions may still add some new blood to the quarterback depth chart.

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Eagles sign ex-Packers LB Brad Jones

Brad Jones AP

Less than two weeks after being released by the Packers, linebacker Brad Jones has a new home.

The Eagles have signed Jones to a two-year deal, the team said Monday.

The 28-year-old Jones played 13 games for Green Bay in 2014, recording 18 tackles. He’ll vie for playing time in Philadelphia’s inside linebacking corps. The Eagles, like the Packers, employ a 3-4 scheme, with two inside linebackers in the base defense.

Jones appeared in 76 games (36 starts) in six seasons with Green Bay, notching 258 tackles and 10 sacks.

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Darnell Dockett scheduled to meet with the 49ers tonight

Darnell Dockett AP

The Cardinals left the door open for defensive tackle Darnell Dockett to return when they cut him last week.

And he’s going to test their will to do so quickly.

Via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, Dockett is scheduled to meet with the 49ers tonight.

The 33-year-old Dockett missed all of last season with a torn ACL, which gave the Cardinals pause about paying him $6.8 million.

The 49ers aren’t sure if they’ll have veteran Justin Smith back next season, as they still want to sit down with him and discuss their plans.

But whether Dockett is a replacement or a complement, he’d represent a swing in the NFC West defensive arms race, assuming he’s recovered from the knee injury and can get back to his old form.

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