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Colin Kaepernick takes NFC offensive player of the week

San Francisco 49ers v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

Plenty of people were surprised when 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh decided to change horses in the middle of the season and switch to Colin Kaepernick as his starting quarterback, but there’s less disbelief about his choice right now.

Kaepernick has been named the NFC offensive player of the week after becoming the third quarterback in history to throw four touchdown passes at Gilette Stadium in Sunday night’s 41-34 win against the Patriots. In doing so, he outdueled another member of that club in Tom Brady.

Kaepernick was 14-of-25 for 216 yards overall in the game, which saw the 49ers roar to a 31-3 lead before giving it all back to the Patriots. On the 49ers’ first offensive play after the Patriots tied the game, Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree with a pass that the receiver was able to turn into a 38-yard touchdown that put the 49ers back in front for good.

There were an impressive list of candidates in the NFC this week, including Tony Romo, Adrian Peterson and Russell Wilson. Kaepernick took home the honor by continuing to make Harbaugh’s move look like one of the smartest of the year.

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RB-needy teams left to focus on the draft

Carlos Hyde

There has been much said about running backs having a tough go of it in free agency, and in case we had forgotten, we were reminded with Chris Johnson taking more than a week to find a new team.

Johnson, who was PFT’s No. 34-ranked free agent, signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Jets on Wednesday. And this was a good deal, given the market this offseason, as colleague Mike Florio pointed out.

In all, it took Johnson nine days from his official release from Tennessee to land a new gig. Contrast this with DeSean Jackson, who had a deal with Washington in three days. And Darrelle Revis had an agreement with New England in but a few hours after his departure from Tampa Bay.

With Johnson signed, there are no starter-caliber tailbacks left in free agency. There are some decent complementary players available, with Michael Bush (ex-Bears) and Ronnie Brown (Chargers) two of the better options left, per Rotoworld’s rankings. According to Pro Football Focus, Brown earned a positive grade as a pass blocker in 2013, but he played just 157 snaps, and he had a negative grade as a rusher, as did Bush, who’s gained less than four yards per carry in each of the last three seasons.

In short, teams needing a running back are probably left to add one in the draft. The Titans, Browns, Jaguars, Bears and Vikings are among the clubs who could use at least one more tailback. However, of these teams, only the Titans may need a starter. The Browns (Ben Tate) and Jaguars (Toby Gerhart) signed young, starter-caliber veterans in free agency, while the Bears (Matt Forte) and Vikings (Adrian Peterson) just need understudies for their established lead backs.

The Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Falcons, Giants, Patriots, Rams, Ravens, Redskins, Steelers and Texans are other teams who seem logical contenders to bring in another back.

The question is, who takes the first tailback in May, and in which round? In his most recent mock draft, Rotoworld’s Josh Norris has no backs going in Round One. Also, NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki has just one back – Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde — listed as a potential first-round selection.

In an offseason that won’t be remembered as an especially glorious one for the running backs of the world, the draft looms as the final act. Not getting any stage time on the draft’s first night would be another low point.

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Busy day for Jets, with Sidney Rice visiting

Sidney Rice Pic Getty Images

On the same day the Jets added a home-run threat to their running game, they’re looking for more help for their passing attack.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, former Seahawks wideout Sidney Rice is visiting with the Jets today.

The Jets will want a look at his surgically repaired knee, as he was just cleared by Dr. James Andrews following his October ACL tear.

When well, Rice has been a good downfield threat (averaging better than 15.0 yards per catch each of the last five seasons).

But staying well has been an issue, as he’s played 16 games in a season twice in seven NFL seasons.

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Police say Sharper’s DNA was found on clothing of one of his accusers

Darren Sharper, Blair Berk, Leonard Levine AP

A Tempe, Arizona police department testified Wednesday that ex-NFL safety Darren Sharper’s DNA was found on the clothing of one of the two women accusing him of drugging and sexually assaulting them.

The Associated Press reports that the testimony came at a hearing in Tempe on Wednesday that saw Sharper’s lawyers challenge the evidence authorities are using as a basis to keep Sharper in jail without bail. Sharper is accused of drugging three women and sexually assaulting two of them last November.

Detective Kevin Mace testified that Sharper’s DNA was found on the clothing of one of the women he’s accused of assaulting, but none was found on the other woman. Mace also testified that Sharper had a prescription for the sedative zolpidem and that a police search of the apartment of one of the women turned up a shot glass with zolpidem residue. 

Sharper also faces charges along similar lines in California and Louisiana with the possibility of more to follow in other states. He was granted bail in California, but will remain in jail in Arizona pending a decision on his bail. The hearing will continue on Thursday.

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Reports: Victor Hampton arrested after altercation with his sister

victorhampton

Former South Carolina cornerback Victor Hampton, a prospect in next month’s NFL draft, was in the news this week when it was reported that he was wanted for questioning in connection with an attack on a man in a New York City nightclub. But that’s not the only incident that has Hampton in the news.

Media outlets in South Carolina are reporting that Hampton has also been arrested and is facing a charge of disorderly conduct after an altercation with his sister.

Local TV station WLTX is reporting that the incident happened at a home in Columbia, South Carolina, on April 6. According to the report, Hampton and his sister, Victoria, got into an argument, police were called, and the two continued to fight even as police tried to separate them. Eventually, both Victor and Victoria were arrested.

Local TV station WIS obtained the police report, in which the arresting officer says the brother and sister wouldn’t stop fighting as both police and their mother attempted to break them up.

“I asked both subjects to stop yelling and they would stop for a second then start right back yelling, threatening each other, calling each other obscene names, using fighting words and stances,” reads the report.

Although he had a year of NCAA eligibility remaining, Hampton left school early to enter the NFL draft. He was viewed as a mid-round pick, but off-field issues will likely have a negative impact on his draft stock.

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Chris Johnson: I want to prove the doubters wrong

New York Jets v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Jets landed running back Chris Johnson on Wednesday, ending a brief free agent stint that didn’t feature overwhelming interest around the league in Johnson’s services.

Johnson spoke to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean after signing his contract and he had some of those teams on his mind when discussing his plans for the upcoming season. Johnson said he’s going to draw motivation from those who think he doesn’t have the same spark he had when he was running for more than 2,000 yards for the Titans.

“I have a fresh start. Now I am going to go out there with a chip on my shoulder,” Johnson said. “I know a lot of people are doubting me. I want to prove everybody wrong who has doubts in me. I am very excited about [joining the Jets]. It’s a team on the rise and I want to make them better. … I still have it.”

Johnson joins Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and Mike Goodson in the Jets backfield at the moment, although there’s a good chance they’ll part ways with Goodson now that Johnson is in the fold. How things will shake out in terms of playing time remains to be seen, but he new Jet said he’s already spoken to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg about the different ways he’ll be used in 2014.

“I think I’m going to fit in pretty well,” Johnson said, via the team’s website. “Just talking to him and to Rex, who’s a guy that likes to run the ball, I think I’m going to fit in very well. We talked about all those things, catching out of the backfield, getting the ball to me in space.”

Johnson had 42 catches last season, one fewer than Jets team leader Jeremy Kerley, and his four receiving touchdowns were as many as Jets leader Jeff Cumberland, which underscores the need for more offensive talent on the roster. The Jets have added that in Johnson and wide receiver Eric Decker. With more likely to come in the draft, the Jets will look a lot different offensively than they did last season and that’s a step in the right direction.

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Saints bring former center Jonathan Goodwin in for visit

Divisional Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The Saints lost center Brian de la Puente in free agency, so they need to find a replacement.

They might be turning to the guy de la Puente replaced.

According to Mike Triplett of ESPN.com, the Saints brought veteran center Jonathan Goodwin in for a visit today, making a reunion possible.

Goodwin was made expendable when the 49ers chose to extend Daniel Kilgore this offseason, and let the 35-year-old hit the market after three years as the starter.

They have some other internal options, but the team might want some experience in the middle given the all-in approach they’ve taken this offseason.

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Chris Johnson’s two-year deal has base value of $8 million

chris-johnson Getty Images

At a time when the running back market had maxed out at $3.5 million per year, Chris Johnson has nudged the bar a little higher.

Per a league source, the two-year contract signed by the new Jets running back has a base value of $8 million.  Another $1 million is available in incentives based on yardage.

Given Johnson’s late entry to the market and the ongoing devaluation of the tailback position, it’s a very good deal for Johnson.  It’s also a good deal for the Jets.  Criticized for not closing the deal with Donald Brown early in free agency, they got a much better player for not much more money than Brown received in San Diego.

So now the Jets have Chris Johnson and Mike Vick on the roster.  A couple of years ago, that would have made them Super Bowl contenders.  For now, it’s enough to make a team that was 8-8 without those two players a serious threat to bump one of the 2013 wild-card teams to the curb.

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Santonio Holmes, Anthony Spencer among top unsigned players

Santonio Holmes AP

With Chris Johnson (Jets) and Josh Freeman (Giants) reaching contract agreements Wednesday, only six unrestricted/released free agents ranked in PFT’s Free Agent Hot 100 remain without a team for 2014.

Two other free agents can be signed away for draft-pick compensation: Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (franchise tag) and Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (restricted free agent). Both have been tendered contract offers by their current clubs and seem likely to stay put.

Here are the remaining unsigned players in PFT’s free agent rankings:

UNRESTRICTED/RELEASED FREE AGENTS

67.  Cowboys defensive end/outside linebacker Anthony Spencer.

74.  Packers tight end Jermichael Finley.

81.  Seahawks outside linebacker O’Brien Schofield.

89.  Ex-Buccaneers offensive guard Davin Joseph.

97.  Ex-Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

102.  Panthers offensive guard Travelle Wharton. ***

*** — Has reportedly indicated he could retire.

FRANCHISE TAG RECIPIENT

2.  Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENT

82.  Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin.

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Raiders make final push to move Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor AP

Before the Raiders’ offseason program launches next week, they have one fairly important bit of roster maintenance to address:  The future of quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Per a league source, the Raiders hope to move Pryor before the start of the offseason program.  It’s currently unclear whether he’ll be cut if he’s not traded.

The effort to deal the third-round pick in the 2011 supplemental draft (the last player chosen by Al Davis) commenced in January, even though news of it didn’t surface until the league meetings in March.  After playing sparingly in his first two years, he appeared in 11 games with nine starts in 2013.

But Pryor eventually was supplanted by Matt McGloin, an undrafted rookie from Penn State who shared an awkward history with Pryor during his search for a college team.

Pryor is now searching for a new NFL team.  It’s unclear which teams are interested and what they’d be willing to give up for Pryor, who has shown flashes of considerable ability but who has yet to show that he can master the quarterback position at the NFL level.

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Cowboys kick the tires on Davin Joseph

Josh Johnson,  Davin Joseph,  Greg Hardy AP

The Cowboys haven’t been doing much buying in free agency, but they’re doing a little looking before the draft.

According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, the Cowboys had veteran guard Davin Joseph in for a visit recently, and will take a look at former Cardinals wide receiver LaRon Byrd in later this week.

Joseph was cut by the Buccaneers prior to free agency. The two-time Pro Bowler missed 2012 with a knee injury and wasn’t as effective last season, making it easy for the Bucs to take the $6 million cap savings.

If he’s well, the 30-year-old Joseph could push for a starting job with the Cowboys, or at least be good depth behind Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary.

Byrd spent last year on IR because of a concussion, and worked out for the Giants recently.

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Bengals sign T.J. Conley

New York Jets v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Bengals had to scramble for a punter near the end of last season because of Kevin Huber’s broken jaw, but they won’t have to scramble for one if Huber isn’t able to kick this offseason.

The team announced Wednesday that they have signed free agent punter T.J. Conley. Conley punted for the Jets in 2011, but the team moved in a different direction before the 2012 season and Conley hasn’t played in the last two regular seasons. He was with the Browns last summer.

Conley averaged 42.7 yards a punt for the Jets and had a net of 38.8 yards.

Huber is expected to be fine for next season, so Conley is likely just going to be an extra leg for OTAs, minicamps and training camp. That could change, but Huber has turned in two straight strong seasons so any competition will be slanted in his favor.

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So how many quarterbacks will be taken in round one?

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Today’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN continues to roll through round one.  Today’s focus?  The team that had the first pick last year, and that due to an unexpectedly strong 2013 has fallen to No. 23.

The 30-minute edition (we’re back to an hour on Thursday) also sprints through the latest NFL news, and it concludes with today’s poll question:  How many quarterbacks will be taken in round one?

Cast a ballot below.  And then tune in at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN for the show.  And stick around for NASCAR America and the launch of the 2014 NHL playoffs.

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Aaron Murray scheduled for visit with Browns

Aaron Murray AP

The Browns promised to look at a lot of quarterbacks during the period before the draft and they are proving to be true to their word.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray will visit with the team next week, which adds another name to the long list of quarterbacks the Browns have spent time with this offseason. Those players include potential selections with the fourth overall pick, like Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles, as well as options for the later rounds.

Murray falls into the latter category and probably would have been there even if he didn’t tear his ACL last season. Murray was able to recover enough to participate in drills at Wednesday’s pro day, however, and he started 52 games at Georgia that teams can pick over for an idea of what he brings to the table.

The Browns have Brian Hoyer, who is also coming off a torn ACL, and Alex Tanney at quarterback, which is why their research into players at the position would go down as one of the more elaborate smokescreens of all time if they don’t wind up picking a quarterback next month.

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Gordon once again says Browns will take quarterback in round one

Gordon Getty Images

With a pair of first-round picks, the Browns have the ability to take a quarterback either at No. 4 or at No. 26.

Receiver Josh Gordon has tried to spoil the drama.  Or maybe he’s part of an elaborate smokescreen.

Previously, Gordon said that he believes the Browns will select a receiver with the fourth overall pick in the draft.  More recently, he opted to be more vague about whether the quarterback’s name is placed on card No. 4 or No. 26.

“From talking with [G.M.] Ray Farmer, I’m still pretty sure we’re going to take a quarterback,” Gordon recently told FOX Sports Ohio.

But while previously casting a ballot for Teddy Bridgewater when put on the spot, Gordon was more vague this time around.

“I like a lot of those guys,” Gordon said.  “I think whoever we get will be the best option for us.  It’s such a deep draft class of quarterbacks and they’ve all had really great years.  I feel that anybody we get will be able to make something happen.”

By “make something happen,” Gordon likely doesn’t mean disclose the team’s future draft strategies.  With Gordon around, that’s one need the Browns currently don’t have.

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Jets land Chris Johnson with two-year deal

chrisjohnson AP

The deal looked likely when he made his first trip, and spent the night.

And now Chris Johnson is a Jet.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Jets have agreed to terms with the former Titans running back on a two-year deal.

He adds an explosive element to the offense for a team that sorely needs them (though they still need them in the passing game).

The short deal gives the 28-year-old back a chance to re-establish himself, with perhaps a chance at another deal.

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