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Cap carryover makes late-season extensions irrelevant

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Changes to the rules regarding free agency and the salary cap often have unintended consequences.  The mere existence of a team-by-team spending limit, which was adopted 20 years ago as players finally achieved their long-coveted ability to move from team to team when their contracts expired, prompted some teams to part ways with a player who never wanted to leave.

More recently, the agreement to allow teams to instantly and easily carry excess cap space from one year to the next has removed a team’s incentive to use it or lose it by signing players to in-season contract extensions.

It’s a concept explained by Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette within the context of the Packers.  No new contracts were given to players after September 2011, and $5.28 million in remaining cap space was pushed to 2012.

This year, the Packers have $7 million left.  In seasons before 2011, the goal would have been to spend it — or at a minimum to use one of the handful of tactics that would nudge all or part it to the next season, by for example the use of a “likely to be earned” incentive that, as a practical matter, never would have been earned.  The money for the phony incentive hit the cap in the current year, and a refund was applied the next season.

The end result?  Cap space was pushed from one year to the next.

The union balked at restructured contracts aimed primarily at deferring cap space to future years, insisting that the money be spent sooner rather than later.  Now, with teams able to just push the cap space forward, there’s no reason to give raises in the latter days of a given season.

After all, a player signed to a new, long-term contract in December could tear an ACL or pop an Achilles tendon in the remaining weeks of the season.  By taking away the cap incentive to pay the players now, teams will be more inclined to simply wait until the player emerges from the current year unscathed.

Neutralizing, to an extent, the don’t-pay-it-forward mentality is the arrival in 2013 of a per-team spending minimum.  Starting next year, each franchise must actually spend at least 89 percent of the unadjusted cap, on a rolling three-year average.

Still, that allows 11 percent, on average, to not be spent and in turn to be carried over.  In theory, teams could stockpile unlimited millions on a year-to-year basis, creating a rainy-day fund that could be used to load up the roster for a Super Bowl run or, possibly, never used at all.

Some franchises may be inclined to stop carrying the excess 11 percent to future cap years.  Indeed, at some point, the accumulation of annual excesses of more than $13 million (based on the current cap level) will shift from conspicuous to embarrassing.

For now, the lack of in-season contract extensions will continue to be conspicuous, especially since players whose contracts are expiring are inclined to eschew the bird in the hand for a shot at two that may not be in the bush on the first day of free agency.  Meanwhile, with the pre-Bush tax rates set to return, players who may currently be turning up their noses at $10 million signing bonuses need to realize that the same number after January 1 results in another $460,000 landing in Uncle Sam’s piggy bank.

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Buccaneers, Lawrence Tynes reach settlement in MRSA lawsuit

Lawrence Tynes AP

After a nearly two-year legal battle, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former kicker Lawrence Tynes have reached a settlement in a lawsuit over Tynes’ contraction or MRSA in 2013.

Via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the settlement was reached on February 10 in Hillsborough County court agreeing to “jointly stipulate and agree to dismissal” of the suit.

Three members of the Buccaneers contracted the infection in 2013. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – otherwise known as MRSA – is a virulent staph infection resistant to antibiotics treatment. Tynes, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Johnthan Banks all dealt with the infection during the season. Tynes sued the Buccaneers seeking $20 million and claimed that the infection ended his career. Neither Tynes or Nicks played another game after their bouts with the infection.

Tynes has said that the issue has left him in daily pain. Details of the settlement were not disclosed.

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Tom Brady’s stolen jersey listed as worth $500,000 on police report

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots in action against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the hunt for Tom Brady’s Super Bowl LI jersey continues, the authorities have attached an official value to the item: $500,000.

That’s the number appearing on the police report posted on Twitter by James Palmer of NFL Media. And that matters for reasons beyond media coverage or hype; the value makes the crime a first degree felony under Texas law.

The number meshes with an estimate provided by Ken Goldin of Goldin Associates. As a practical matter, the item has limited value because anyone who buys it can’t display it without risk of the authorities seizing it.

Last week, Patriots owner Robert Kraft expressed confidence that the jersey would be found. During a PFT Live interview, Brady seemed surprised at that revelation.

The item remains missing, and the bigger issue could be that folks with access to NFL locker rooms have had sticky fingers for years when it comes to game-used memorabilia. Regardless of whether Brady’s jersey is found, the NFL needs to beef up its efforts to secure property that, as Brady’s jersey demonstrates, can be extremely valuable.

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Payton addresses speculation, expects Cooks back with Saints

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 16:  Brandin Cooks #10 of the New Orleans Saints catches the ball for a first down against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 16, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

Saints Coach Sean Payton told Sirius XM Radio Tuesday that he “absolutely” expects wide receiver Brandin Cooks to be back with the team in 2017.

“If you really want to cut down to the chase, he’s a magnificent kid,” Payton said, per the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “[He’s] a worker. He’s not a kid anymore. He’s a tremendous player. He practices 100 miles per hour. You have to slow him down some. He’s got a great rapport with Drew [Brees].”

There had been some speculation that the Saints could look to move Cooks in order to help fix their leaky defense. That seems to have stemmed from comments Cooks made after he went without a touch in a blowout win late last season over the Rams.

“It was unusual; sometimes that happens,” Payton said. “And generally those things are an agent-driven complaint. And he’s too sharp of a guy, and he understands it all. He and I have met several times, and I think what’s most important is these guys come in the start of the week and they see their name stamped on plays.

“We’re up till 2 in the morning thinking about ways to get him open, get him on the right matchup. And when the players know that, I think they know they’re getting a real good script. Now, whether it plays out that way on a given Sunday, sometimes it doesn’t. But, more often than not, a guy like him, you have to get the ball to, and he’s explosive.

“But, I see him playing here.”

A first-round pick in 2014, Cooks had eight touchdown catches last season and has 20 over his three-year career. The Saints have until May to decide whether they’ll pick up the fifth-year option on Cooks’ contract for 2018.

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Derius Swinton returns to Bears’ staff

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The Bears will hire Derius Swinton as their assistant special teams coach, Alex Marvez of The Sporting News reported.

Swinton was the 49ers’ special teams coach last season. He had been assistant special teams coach with the Bears in 2015 before joining the 49ers.

Prior to that, Swinton worked with the Broncos, Chiefs and Rams. He has eight previous seasons of NFL coaching experience.

New 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan hired Richard Hightower as his special teams coach after Hightower spent last season as assistant special teams coach with the Bears, allowing Swinton to return to that role after he wasn’t retained in San Francisco.

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Darrelle Revis hearing delay could be precursor to a plea deal

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 13:  Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets against the Baltimore Ravens during their home opener at the New Meadowlands Stadium on September 13, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) Getty Images

On the same day that Pittsburgh attorney Robert Del Greco Jr. finagled a glorified parking ticket for Steelers linebackers coach Joey Porter, Del Greco may have laid the foundation for getting a similar outcome for Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.

A postponement in a preliminary hearing set for February 23 to March 15 could be (key words: could be) a precursor to resolving the case with a citation or similar wrist-slap. Then again, it’s possible that it’s simply another example of the delays that routinely happen in the criminal justice system.

The action pushes the court appearance beyond the date on which the Jets have to decide whether to pay a $2 million roster bonus to Revis. In Pennsylvania, the preliminary hearing typically entails the presentation of evidence to support the pending charges. While the standard of proof to allow the case to continue is low, it’s an opportunity for the prosecution to disclose potentially embarrassing and troubling facts that otherwise aren’t yet publicly known. The information revealed could, in theory, have been a factor in the decision as to whether the Jets would pay the $2 million bonus.

As a practical matter, it shouldn’t matter. The Jets need to make a football decision as to Revis, given the ambiguity and (for now) the holes in the case that seem to give rise to reasonable doubt. While it could be argued that the Jets should pay Revis the $2 million because they already owe him $6 million fully guaranteed (the guarantee will void if he’s suspended before the season starts), a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT the $6 million is subject to offset language. If he’s cut now, the Jets would get credit for the first $6 million Revis earns elsewhere in 2017.

Even if he doesn’t earn $6 million, the Jets will get dollar-for-dollar credit based on the compensation in his next contract for 2017. Thus, with or without the pending charges, the smart move could be to move on from Revis and hope that someone else pays him $6 million or something close to it for 2017.

That’s a far better outcome than keeping him at a total compensation package of $17 million in 2017, which is what the Jets will owe him if he’s on the roster as of Week One.

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49ers to add K’Waun Williams

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 30:  Kamar Aiken #11 of the Baltimore Ravens gets tackled by K'Waun Williams #36 of the Cleveland Browns during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 30, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former Browns cornerback K’Waun Williams had four contract offers, and now he’s chosen his next team.

Williams is signing a one-year contract with the 49ers, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

The Jets, Lions, Vikings and Dolphins all showed interest in Williams as well.

Williams entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Browns in 2014. Last year the Browns released him after he clashed with the team about his treatment for an ankle injury, and he ended up not playing at all as that injury healed. But the 25-year-old Williams should be good to go this year, and the 49ers will hope they got a talented young player in their secondary.

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Report: Bears seeking trade partner for Cutler

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 20:  Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears warms up in the pregame against the Minnesota Vikings on December 20, 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears are “actively seeking” a trade partner for quarterback Jay Cutler, ESPN reported Tuesday.

With the NFL Scouting Combine next week and the new league year set to open March 9, the time has arrived for teams to start driving conversations and potential interest in players that no longer fit their plans.

Cutler’s 2016 season ended after just five games due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. Bears General Manager Ryan Pace met with Cutler in January and gave the usual answer about nothing being decided and the team taking its time to make the best decision about Cutler’s future.

Most of the guaranteed money on Cutler’s contract has already been paid, so the Bears could move him without sustaining a major salary cap hit if they can find a suitable deal. Cutler threw a career-high 28 touchdown passes in 2014 but also led the NFL with 18 interceptions that season. He had four touchdowns and five interceptions before the injury last season.

Cutler, 33, has already been linked via the rumor mill to the 49ers. New 49ers General Manager John Lynch is a former teammate of Cutler’s, while new 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s father, Mike, was the head coach of the Broncos when Cutler was drafted.

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Deshaun Watson’s draft expectations aren’t clear

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers reacts during the first half against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the same comments during which former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson said he will do “everything” at the Scouting Combine, Watson also gave a fairly broad assessment of where and when he thinks he’ll be drafted.

“First round, anywhere in that range, top 10, top five, just depends on what the teams say,” Watson said. “It’s something I can’t control. I just make sure I can control what I can control. Stay positive.”

The first round is a very broad range; top five or 10 becomes a far more specific estimate. It will be critical for his agent to properly gauge Watson’s expectations, so that Watson won’t be upset if he slides farther down the board than he thought he would.

Four years ago, and fueled by media that overvalued his stock, quarterback Geno Smith reportedly entered the process thinking he’d be the first overall pick. After he slid to round two, he fired his agents.

And so it’s critical that, between now and late April, all players expecting to be taken early in the draft have a firm, clear understanding as to where the floor and the ceiling reside, with the floor being the much more important factor. When players go lower than the lowest they believed they’d go, that’s when tough questions get asked.

It’s more than a point of pride. The projected draft range influences decisions made about the pre-draft process. Whether to attend the Senior Bowl (Watson didn’t), whether to work out at the Scouting Combine (Watson will), whether to accept offers to visit certain teams, whether to work out privately for certain teams. Each question needs to be resolved with a clear understanding of whether and to what extent a given activity could help or hurt or not matter at all.

Ultimately, the player needs to decide whether to attend the draft, if invited. It’s important for the player to know how long he’ll be sitting in the green room, if he chooses to attend.

Watson may already have a more specific idea as to where he’ll be drafted than his comments suggest. If he doesn’t, he has a couple of months to get there. Helping to boost his stock as high as possible and making sure he knows where that stock resides when the draft begins will be the two most important job of Watson’s agent during that period of time.

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Steelers add a punter and a long snapper

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11:  Long snapper Kameron Canaday #86 of the Arizona Cardinals warms up before the team's NFL game against the New England Patriots at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. New England won 23-21.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Steelers announced a pair of offseason special teams signings on Tuesday.

Long snapper Kameron Canaday and punter A.J. Hughes have been added to the roster. Canaday won the long-snapping job with the Cardinals last summer but was cut in September.

The Steelers had previously announced that longtime long snapper Greg Warren signed a new one-year deal to return in 2017. Warren is 35 and Canaday is just 23, so even if Canaday can’t take the job from Warren this summer he could be a future consideration.

Like Canaday, Hughes went undrafted last year and then spent some time with the Saints. He will work through the spring behind the Steelers punter Jordan Berry.

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Jags re-sign Tyler Shatley ahead of restricted free agency

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 14: David Bass #91 of the Chicago Bears rushes against Tyler Shatley #69 of the Jacksonville Jaguars as Stephen Moore throws a pass during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 14, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bears defeated the Jaguars 20-19. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars signed offensive lineman Josh Wells to a new contract last week and will avoid going through the restricted free agent process with him as a result.

They’ll do the same with another member of their offensive line as well. The team announced that Tyler Shatley has re-signed ahead of the start of the free agency season.

Shatley can play guard and center and made the first four starts of his NFL career during the 2016 season.

“It’s definitely a relief, and I’m just glad they’ll have me back,” Shatley said in the team’s release about the signing. “I’m ready to get back to work and get started on this 2017 season. I want to continue to my best, help out on special teams and step in offense whenever I’m needed — and if need be, I can start. … It’s a great opportunity to stay here and continue to try to prove myself and help out the team any way I can.”

Shatley joined Wells and wide receiver Allen Hurns as undrafted players to make the team in 2014 and all remain under contract for 2017 in Jacksonville.

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Robert Kraft on not holding grudges: “I remember everything, but I move on”

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft talks on the sideline before Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

When it comes to #DeflateGate, Patriots owner Robert Kraft isn’t holding a grudge. But he isn’t forgetting about it, either.

“I really don’t hold grudges,” Kraft tells Andrea Kremer in a Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel profile that premieres Tuesday night. “I mean, I remember everything, but I move on.”

Kraft and the Patriots have moved on from the scandal in the ultimate way, winning the Super Bowl to cap the year in which the four-game suspension was served — and which started with a first-round pick being stripped from the Patriots. But it’s important to remember what happened, given that it wasn’t the first time the league office presided over an investigative and disciplinary process that seemed to be less about getting to the truth and more about reaching a predetermined outcome. As other situations arise involving other teams, it’s fair for the Patriots and those who believe that #DeflateGate wasn’t handled or resolved properly to pay keen attention to whether other teams truly caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar face the appropriate consequences.

That’s not to say other teams should get railroaded, prejudged, or otherwise shafted. But the punishment of the Patriots becomes even more glaring if/when other teams commit actual violations and get a pass.

For Robert Kraft, the commit to remember what happened flows in part from his belief that quarterback Tom Brady did nothing wrong.

“He’s just not the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL,” Kraft said. “He’s an amazing human being. And is genuine. And as nice as everybody thinks he is, he’s nicer. And to see anyone attack him as an individual or his integrity. And that just wasn’t fair.”

For more from Robert Kraft, check out HBO at 10:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday night. (You can DVR whatever is on NBC at that time.) For more from the person who interviewed him, the video attached to this post has Andrea Kremer’s Tuesday appearance from PFT Live.

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49ers add DeMeco Ryans to coaching staff

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 19:  DeMeco Ryans #59 of the Philadelphia Eagles recovers a fumble during the second quarter against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on October 19, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 49ers announced seven more members of their coaching staff on Tuesday, including the previously reported addition of John Benton as their offensive line coach.

While Benton holds the most prominent role among Tuesday’s announcements, he probably isn’t the most recognizable name on the list. That honor would belong to longtime NFL linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who has moved into coaching and will be the defensive quality control coach for Kyle Shanahan this season.

Ryans last played with the Eagles in 2015, which was his fourth season in Philadelphia. The 2006 second-round pick was with the Texans before heading to Philly in 2012 and his time there overlapped with Shanahan’s four years on Houston’s offensive staff as well as defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s two years as the team’s assistant linebackers coach.

Former Lions safety Daniel Bullocks has been hired as the assistaant defensive backs coach while Vince Oghobaase will be the assistant defensive line coach. Assistant special teams coach Stan Kwan, assistant offensive line coach Adam Stenavich and strength and conditioning assistant Michael Clay round out Tuesday’s hires.

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Steelers interested in bringing James Harrison back

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 13:  James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a defensive stop in the second half during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Heinz Field on November 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

James Harrison insisted he wasn’t finished playing football. So it’s not a huge surprise where he’s likely to play it.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, there is “mutual interest” between the 38-year-old free agent and the Steelers for another year.

This one is nearly the definition of #asexpected, because other than a one-year dalliance with the Bengals, Harrison has spent his entire career in Pittsburgh.

He also showed last year he could still play, with 2.5 sacks in the playoffs after a moderately productive 5.0 in the regular season.

Harrison has continued to play consistently as the Steelers have added young pass-rushers around him, so it almost makes too much sense to keep him around.

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Sean Payton says Saints are “always” in the quarterback business

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 18:  Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints watches his team warm up prior to the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

Saints quarterback Drew Brees heads into the 2017 season without a contract for 2018, which means that there’s more than a passing chance that it is his final season in New Orleans.

Brees is also 38 and whether it is next year, 2019 or sometime else, the Saints are going to find themselves in need of a new starter. They made a nod in that direction in 2015 when they drafted Garrett Grayson in the third round and coach Sean Payton confirmed that the team will continue to consider possibilities at the position this offseason.

“I think that topic exists and has existed because of the nature of the position,” Payton said to Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn on the Sirius XM NFL Radio. “I think we’re in the quarterback business always because they’re so difficult to find. And there’s been a year or two we’re close to drafting maybe a player and he went a little before we were ready to pick. And certainly you pay attention to it when your quarterback’s older.”

Three straight 7-9 seasons have led some to wonder about how long the team will plow forward with Payton and Brees and a fourth year out of the running won’t do anything to keep people from jumping on that train. That might lead to someone else making a decision on who’s next at quarterback, but it doesn’t do much to lessen the organization’s need to consider their options.

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Darrelle Revis’ preliminary hearing pushed back to March 15

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 27:   Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets walks off the field after the Jets 24-17 loss against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on September 27, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was arraigned on five criminal charges last Friday and scheduled to be in the courtroom this Thursday for a preliminary hearing.

That hearing has been pushed back, however. According to multiple reports, Revis’ first hearing in the matter won’t take place until March 15. Revis was charged with four felonies after being involved in a physical altercation in Pittsburgh last week.

That’s about a week after the start of the new league year and four days after Revis is due to receive a $2 million roster bonus. He’s also due $6 million in guaranteed money that would be paid if he’s released, but would be voided in the event of a league suspension. That suspension wouldn’t come quickly, but Revis could be put on paid leave pending the resolution of the case.

That would give the Jets time to wait on making a decision about how to proceed with Revis, but the change in hearing date could also push back a ruling on that front.

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