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John Harbaugh: We need to run the ball better

Ray Rice AP

Installing Jim Caldwell as the offensive coordinator didn’t have the desired effect for the Ravens last weekend.

They were shut out in the first half of their 34-17 loss to the Broncos and things took a turn for the worse in the running game. There’s some dark irony there for the Ravens since one of the chief complaints about Cam Cameron’s offense was that he didn’t make enough use of running back Ray Rice.

The Ravens tried running the ball on first down often in the first half of the game, but found little success. They finished the half with 41 yards on 14 carries, a sharp downturn from their output against the Redskins in Week 14 and a sign that Cameron wasn’t the only problem with the team’s offense this season.

“We need to run the ball better,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun. “We need to be able to run the ball against the front, any front, and that’s something that we have to do a better job with.”

They’ll need better play from the offensive line to get it. Injuries and age have left the Ravens lacking up front and that shortcoming has hurt them in all phases of the offense. Regardless of who is calling the plays and how the Ravens finish the season, they need to upgrade the line to realize the kind of offensive success they’ve been looking for all this season.

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Report: Colts defensive tackle David Parry arrested

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 29: David Parry #54 of the Indianapolis Colts blocks against the St. Louis Rams in the second quarter during a preseason game at the Edward Jones Dome on August 29, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle David Parry was arrested early Saturday morning in Scottsdale, Ariz. on suspicion of robbery, auto theft, criminal damage, resisting arrest and driving under the influence, via a report from Holly V. Hays of the Indianapolis Star.

Parry, a fifth-round pick of the Colts in 2015, allegedly hit a man on the head before stealing his street-legal golf cart. Police found Parry on the sidewalk, apparently intoxicated, after he crashed the cart into a gate. The alleged victim was using his cart as a taxi to take people home from a bar when Parry allegedly hit him and stole the vehicle. He was arrested around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Parry has started every game for the Colts over the last two seasons. He’s amassed 78 tackles and four sacks over that span.

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Inside the Antonio Brown deal

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15:  Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

Business is booming indeed.

After patiently waiting until he entered the final year of his contract, which is when the Steelers will extend non-quarterback deals with one year left, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown cashed in on Monday, in a big way.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, here’s the breakdown:

1. Signing bonus: $19 million.

2. 2017 salary: $910,000.

3. 2018 roster bonus: $6 million due on the fifth day of the league year.

4. 2018 salary: $7.875 million.

5. 2019 roster bonus: $2.5 million due on the fifth day of the league year.

6. 2019 salary: $12.625 million.

7. 2020 salary: $11.3 million.

8. 2021 salary: $12.5 million.

The Steelers and Brown had been working diligently to get the deal done, with three different trips to Pittsburgh over the past three weeks by agents Drew and Jason Rosenhaus, along with negotiations during Senior Bowl week.

Despite the Facebook Live fiasco and leaks to the media that seemed to trace directly to the team, the Steelers have rewarded Brown for his past services and provided him with the ability to make plenty of money over the next five seasons, with a $68 million average over the four new years, good for a new-money average of $17 million. (Counting the $4.71 million he was due to earn in 2017, the five-year average at signing is $14.54 million. Reasonable minds differ on whether new money or total value is the proper metric; the fact remains that it’s the biggest new-money average for a receiver in league history.)

Brown will have $29 million in new money through 2018, $44.2 million through 2019, and $55.5 million through 2020. The practical guarantee at signing is $19.910 million, along with either $13.875 million more in 2018 (total of $33.875 through two years) or a quick path to the open market if they choose not to pick up his roster bonus next year. He’ll add another $15.125 in 2019 — or he’ll get an early trip to the market if the Steelers opt not to pay the $2.5 million roster bonus.

The cap numbers generated by the new deal are $4.710 million in 2017, $17.675 million in 2018, $18.925 million in 2019, $15.1 million in 2020, and $15.8 million in 2021. Coupled with prior prorations, Brown’s total cap number for 2017 remains at $13.618 million.

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Mayock: QBs in this draft not ready to play right away

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 10:  Mitch Trubisky #10 of the North Carolina Tar Heels thows a pass against the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Wallace Wade Stadium on November 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock did his annual pre-NFL Scouting Combine marathon conference call with reporters on Monday, and Mayock was asked lots of questions about the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class.

Mayock isn’t much of a fan, at least not of their NFL readiness.

“If you’re asking me whether the Jets should take a quarterback at No. 6, I would emphatically tell you no,” Mayock told one reporter, per the NFL Network’s official transcript. “As a matter of fact I don’t have a top 10 grade on any quarterback in this year’s draft, so I would not be in that conversation.”

Earlier in the call, Mayock said he is “not bullish” on any of this year’s draftable quarterbacks because he doesn’t believe any of them are ready to play right away.

“I’d love to have one of those kids in the second round,” he said. “Take my time, develop them. For different reasons, they’re not ready.”

He said he still believes at least one quarterback — and maybe as many as three — will be drafted in the top 10 picks, but was adamant that he doesn’t rank them there.

“I don’t have any quarterbacks anywhere near the top 10,” Mayock said. “That doesn’t mean I think there’s no talent there, because I think there are four quarterbacks that have first-round talent. In my order I had for my initial top five it was [DeShone] Kizer, [Deshaun] Watson, [Mitch] Trubisky, [Patrick] Mahomes. All four of them have holes in their games. I don’t think any of them are ready to start Week One.”

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Chargers place franchise tag on Melvin Ingram

San Diego Chargers v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Chargers have placed the franchise tag on outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, per multiple reports.

With the deadline for franchise tags coming Wednesday, the Chargers moving to keep Ingram off the market comes as no surprise. He would have been one of the top players and pass rushers on the free agent market had he made it that far, and the Chargers hope to keep him and Joey Bosa as building blocks of their defense going forward.

Ingram, 27, had eight sacks last season and has 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons.

Ingram joins pass-rushers Chandler Jones of the Cardinals and Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants in getting the franchise tag, which buys their teams time to work on a long-term deal with the new league year set to open March 9.

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Richard Sherman takes a page out of the “fake news” playbook

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 14:  Richard Sherman #25 and Thomas Rawls #34 of the Seattle Seahawks run out on the field prior the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 14, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

I personally like Richard Sherman, and I greatly respect his football abilities. But, man, from time to time he says some questionable things.

Our own night-shift supervisor Curtis Crabtree, while performing his day-job duties for KJR radio in Seattle, has put together an article picking apart Sherman’s effort to suggest that his controversial threat to “ruin the career” of a Seattle reporter is the latest example of the “fake news” phenomenon.

Nobody ever knew what I said,” Sherman said in an interview with ESPN, via Crabtree. “Once again, ‘sources say.’ Who was there? Did anybody see it? Who was there? Who said it?”

Asked directly by Cari Champion of ESPN whether the quote was not correct, Sherman said, “Nobody knows. Nobody knows what was correct. All you hear is, ‘He said, she said.'”

In this case, there was no misunderstanding. Sherman said what he said, and people heard it. But, possibly taking his cue from the current political climate at the highest reaches of American government, Sherman has opted to dismiss anything that casts him in a negative light as not real.

“It gets to the point where nobody needs the truth anymore,” Sherman said. “Nobody cares to know what the truth is. You can just fabricate a story and go with it and then I got to defend a fabricated story. After a while you just get irritated of defending stories that don’t exist. So it’s like, why would I talk to you when I can write my own story?”

The man who plays football in Washington state had gone to the next level in his homage to certain recent residents of Washington, D.C. Sherman isn’t simply saying that other people are saying false things about him; he’s saying that words he actually uttered weren’t said.

And so a bizarre story that everyone presumed to be over has now sprouted a new chapter that somehow is even more bizarre than any of those already written. Maybe Sherman’s next move will be to claim that the reporter actually threatened to ruin Sherman’s career.

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Report: Chiefs “working” to make Eric Berry the NFL’s highest-paid safety

Seattle Seahawks v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

The Chiefs are trying to finalize a deal with safety Eric Berry that would make Berry the NFL’s highest-paid safety, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday.

Getting that deal done soon would not only keep Berry off the market but would give the Chiefs the chance to use their franchise tag on nose tackle Dontari Poe instead of using it on Berry for a second straight year. The deadline to place the franchise tag on players in Wednesday, March 1.

With that deadline looming and the Chiefs wanting to keep both players, the report said the sides are “working hard” at nailing down the details on a new contract for Berry.

Both Berry and Poe have played their entire careers with the Chiefs and both rank in the top 25 of PFT’s Hot 100 Free Agents list. The league year and free agent period open next week, on March 9.

Berry, 28, is a five-time Pro Bowler who beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma after being diagnosed in 2014 and has played some of his best football over the last two seasons. Poe, 26, could be headed for free agency for the first time. He was a first-round pick in 2012, is a two-time Pro Bowler and has only missed two games in his five-year career.

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Big contracts shouldn’t be a surprise

162749552 Getty Images

Media and fans will marvel at some of the contracts signed by NFL players in the coming days and weeks, and inevitably there will be complaints that the players aren’t “worth” the money they’ll be getting.

First, anyone is “worth” whatever someone else will pay them.

Second, with the salary cap spiking for four straight years, individual contracts should be spiking, too.

Last year, one of the common offseason refrains at PFT was that the market for franchise quarterbacks hadn’t increased at the same rate as the salary cap. With total growth in the salary cap of at least 37.6 percent since 2013, the top of the quarterback market should have increased by that much, too.

In 2013, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers held the top spot with $22 million per year. If the quarterback market had grown as much as the cap has grown, someone already would be making more than $30 million per year. Instead, no one is even at $25 million.

The same dynamic applies at other positions. Retired Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, whose big-money deal was signed in 2012, hadn’t had his contract eclipsed until today, when Steelers receiver Antonio Brown signed an extension.

Although the total dollars are (mostly) being spent, the top of the market hasn’t been growing. The correction could be coming this year. When it happens, don’t wag a finger and call the players undeserving. Instead, point that finger at the owners and say, “It’s about time.”

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Antonio Brown, Steelers agree on new deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 25:  Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on December 25, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) Getty Images

Word early on Monday was that the Steelers and wide receiver Antonio Brown were making good progress toward an agreement on a new contract.

They’ve found that agreement. Brown has shared a picture on Twitter captioned “Steelers for life” with what looks like a contract in agent Drew Rosenhaus’ hand. The Steelers announced that it is a five-year deal.

PFT has learned, via a league source, that it is a four-year extension to Brown’s current deal that is worth up to $68 million. He’ll make $17 million a year over those four years and $18.5 million a year over the first three years, which is more than Calvin Johnson received in his last deal with the Lions and more than any other wideout in the league is making on their current deals.

Brown’s spot at the top of the list of best-paid receivers isn’t surprising given how much he has produced for the Steelers. He’s caught at least 106 passes for 1,284 yards in each of the last four seasons while catching 43 touchdowns.

The Steelers have other irons in the fire — they used the franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell Monday — but that didn’t stop them from locking up their best receiver well ahead of the end of his current contract.

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Exclusive tag for Le’Veon Bell will cost the same as non-exclusive tag

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Running back Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tackled by inside linebacker Ramik Wilson #53 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the second quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The official announcement doesn’t specify whether the franchise tag that the Steelers placed on running back Le’Veon Bell is exclusive or non-exclusive. PFT has confirmed that it’s the exclusive tag.

As explained last week, the exclusive version of the tag will cost no more than the non-exclusive version, given the formula used for determining the amounts. The non-exclusive tag is derived from a five-year average salary-cap percentage consumed by the non-exclusive tag at the position; the exclusive tag will be driven by the average of the five highest cap numbers at the position for 2017.

Even with Adrian Peterson’s $18 million cap number for 2017, the average of the five top running back salary cap number falls far below the 7.257-percent chunk of the total cap (between $166 million to $169 million) that applies to the running back position.

So if it’s going to cost more than $12 million with or without exclusivity, why not remove from the equation the possibility of Bell meeting with other teams? As it stands, he remains bound to the Steelers, either at a one-year contract in excess of $12 million or a long-term deal, if one can be negotiated by July 15.

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Giants tag JPP, two years after tagging him the first time

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 20:  Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants celebrates after a sack against the Chicago Bears during the second half at MetLife Stadium on November 20, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Getty Images

Two years ago, the Giants applied the franchise tag to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. They’ve done it again.

Per a league source, the Giants have slapped the franchise tag onto a player who recovered from a fireworks mishaps that disfigured his right hand to have a very strong 2016 season.

It’s the non-exclusive tag, and it entitles Pierre-Paul to a one-year tender worth 10.14 percent of the total salary cap. At $166 million (the number isn’t finalized yet), that would be $16.83 million.

Last year, Pierre-Paul signed a one-year deal to stay with the Giants. He has said he now wants a multi-year deal. He’ll have until July 15 to negotiate one with the Giants. In theory, he also could negotiate one with another team — if that team is willing to give up two first-round picks, in the event the Giants choose not to match it.

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Chiefs, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif finalizing five-year extension

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 15:  Tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif #76 of the Kansas City Chiefs before the pre-season NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 15, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Chiefs defeated the Cardinals 34-19.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has gone from a little-known sixth-round pick out of Montreal’s McGill University in 2014 to a starter in Kansas City the last two years. And now he’s about to get paid like not just a starter, but one of the best in the league.

Duvernay-Tardif and the Chiefs are finalizing a five-year contract, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports. The value of the extension is reportedly $41.25 million, but there’s no word on the structure of the contract or how much of that is guaranteed.

The 26-year-old Duvernay-Tardif is currently slated to make a $690,000 base salary in 2017.

Duvernay-Tardif studies medicine in the offseasons and plans to become a doctor when he retires. This deal should ensure that he won’t be hurting for money when it’s time for him to go into medicine.

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49ers tender a pair of exclusive rights free agents

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 04:   Mike Purcell #64 and  Joe Staley #74 of the San Francisco 49ers walks toward the locker room at the conclusion of the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Bears defeat the San Francisco 49ers 26-6.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 49ers signed a pair of outside free agents in recent days with cornerback K’Waun Williams and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell representing a bigger dip into the market than they took all of last season.

We’ll see if new General Manager John Lynch keeps that up when the new league year opens on March 9, but the 49ers have taken a brief break from bringing in new faces to make sure they hold onto a couple of players from the 2016 roster. The 49ers announced on Monday that they have extended exclusive rights free agent tenders to linebacker Carl Bradford and nose tackle Mike Purcell.

Exclusive rights free agents are ineligible to jump to another team once their current team extends a tender, so Bradford and Purcell will both be in the mix for roster spots unless they opt to stop playing altogether.

Bradford was a fourth-round pick by the Packers in 2014 and played two games with the Niners after being claimed on waivers last year. Purcell first signed with the 49ers as an undrafted rookie in 2013 and made his regular season debut the next year. He had 26 tackles and a forced fumble in 15 games last season.

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Le’Veon Bell gets franchise tag from Steelers

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Running back Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks off of the field after the game against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Steelers weren’t expected to let running back Le’Veon Bell hit the open market when the new league year gets underway next month so it comes as no surprise that he’s the latest player to receive a franchise tag.

The Steelers have placed a franchise tag on Bell and, per multiple reports, it is the exclusive variety. That gives them until July 15 to work out a long-term contract before Bell would be left with the choice of playing out the year on the franchise tender, working out a different one-year deal or sitting out.

The franchise tender for Bell should come in at somewhere over $12.3 million. Because the Steelers went the exclusive route, Bell cannot be signed by another team even if they were willing to pony up the required two first-round picks as compensation.

Bell’s always been productive when he’s been on the field for the Steelers since they made him the 48th pick of the 2013 draft. Injuries and suspensions have kept him off the field at times over that span and those absences could create some concern on the team’s end about an extended deal.

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Report: Dwight Freeney wants to play in 2017

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 02:  Dwight Freeney #93 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts to a question during the Super Bowl LI press conference on February 2, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) Getty Images

Before Super Bowl LI, defensive end Dwight Freeney said that he would take some time after the Falcons played the Patriots before deciding if he wanted to play another NFL season.

Freeney said he wanted “to take all that emotion out and make that decision when it comes” rather than doing something fueled by the result of the game. It’s been a few weeks since that game ended with the Patriots storming back for the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history and it seems that’s been enough time for Freeney to make up his mind.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that Freeney has decided that he wants to play a 16th season. His contract with the Falcons came to an end after the Super Bowl, so Freeney is set to become a free agent on March 9.

Freeney had three sacks in 15 games for the Falcons in the regular season and had another one in the Super Bowl.

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Chiefs owner backs Alex Smith as his starting quarterback

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 09:  Head Coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 9, 2014 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs have come up as a possible destination for quarterback Tony Romo, once he’s a former Cowboy.

But Chiefs owner Clark Hunt seems to be just fine sticking with Alex Smith under center.

According to Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, Hunt said he was on board with coach Andy Reid, and that they were comfortable moving forward with Smith.

“I would just reiterate what Andy has said several times throughout the offseason, which is he’s very happy with Alex and Alex is going to be our starter going into 2017,” Hunt said.

There’s a growing perception that the Chiefs have gone as far as Smith can take them, much in the way the 49ers had when they replaced him with Colin Kaepernick (which seems like forever ago).

At the same time, plenty can go wrong with any plan at quarterback if it centers on Romo, as the Cowboys found out two years ago before Dak Prescott bailed them out last season.

Smith has some clear faults, but he’s also efficient and smart and the Chiefs have gone 41-20 with him as the starter the last four years. While it’s tempting to dream of an upgrade, someone who is more of a threat downfield, the Chiefs apparently aren’t prepared to do anything rash to replace him.

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