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PFT’s Week 17 picks

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Well, it’s officially over.

With an eight-game gap and one week of games left, MDS and yours truly disagree on only five games.  Which means that, even if MDS sweeps, I’ll still be three games ahead.  (Math continues to be my strong suit.)

Of course, if I sweep I’ll finish with a 13-game lead.  And based on the five disagreements, I think I will.

Read on to see our picks and our takes for the final week of the regular season.  It all re-sets to 0-0 for the playoffs, at which time MDS will have a chance to exact revenge.  Or to fail again.

Last week, I was 11-5 and MDS went 10-6.  For the year, I’m now at 157-82-1, good for 65.4 percent.  MDS is 149-90-1, which keeps him at 62.0 percent.

Buccaneers at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Falcons wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but they say they’re playing to win in Week 17. They shouldn’t have much trouble winning against the Bucs, who have collapsed at the end of the season.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 34, Buccaneers 13.

Florio’s take:  The Bucs haven’t been the same team since they nearly beat the Falcons in Tampa.  The Falcons are still trying to prove that they’re one of the best teams in the league.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 27, Buccaneers 17.

Jets at Bills

MDS’s take: Football fans, the Greg McElroyRyan Fitzpatrick quarterback matchup you’ve all been waiting for is finally here. Fitzpatrick will throw a couple of touchdown passes in what may be his final start in Buffalo.

MDS’s pick: Bills 20, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  The Jets have folded the tents, even though the circus is still in town.  Buffalo celebrates the news of a new lease with a home win to end the season, just in time for plenty of changes.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 27, Jets 14.

Ravens at Bengals

MDS’s take: At first glance this might look like a big game, matching up two playoff teams. But with the Bengals locked into the No. 6 seed and the Ravens highly likely to end up with the No. 4 seed, neither of these teams has a lot to play for. I think the Ravens, however, will be a little more motivated to build on the momentum from last week’s win over the Giants and will take this one.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 21, Bengals 14.

Florio’s take:  This meaningless game has plenty of meaning for the Bengals, who need to convince themselves that they can beat the Ravens, in order to obtain the confidence that they can do something else they haven’t done in an even longer time — win in the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 27, Ravens 20.

Bears at Lions

MDS’s take: In 2000, the Lions were 9-6 heading into Week 17 and needed only to beat the 4-11 Bears to make the playoffs. Instead, the Bears pulled the upset and Lions owner William Clay Ford cleaned house and began the disastrous Matt Millen era. This year it’s the 9-6 Bears who need to beat the 4-11 Lions to have a shot at the playoffs. I’ll take the Lions to get their revenge in an upset.

MDS’s pick: Lions 28, Bears 24.

Florio’s take:  Rodney Harrison declared while watching the Lions lose to the Falcons that Detroit’s body language suggests the Lions have quit.  The Bears haven’t.  Sometimes, it’s that easy.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 24, Lions 10.

Texans at Colts

MDS’s take: The Texans are playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, while the Colts are already locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Houston has more to play for and is a better team and will win this one going away.

MDS’s pick: Texans 36, Colts 17.

Florio’s take:  The Texans have never won in Indianapolis.  They need it this time more than ever.  But the Colts will have coach Chuck Pagano back, and even if the Colts leave so much on the field that it will make it harder to win in the playoffs, they’ll leave it all on the field to beat the Texans.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 27, Texans 23.

Packers at Vikings

MDS’s take: This is the biggest game played in Minnesota since Brett Favre led the Vikings to a divisional playoff win over the Cowboys three years ago. Unfortunately for Vikings fans, they’re hosting a Packers team that’s peaking at the right time. I like Aaron Rodgers to lead the Packers to a high-scoring win.

MDS’s pick: Packers 35, Vikings 27.

Florio’s take:  The Vikings are playing for a postseason berth.  The Packers are playing for a bye.  The Packers remain the better team, and they have every reason to demonstrate that on Sunday.  To the delight of the Bears.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Vikings 21.

Dolphins at Patriots

MDS’s take: A win probably won’t be enough to earn New England a first-round playoff bye, but the Patriots will be motivated to try — and to wash out the bad taste of back-to-back disappointing performances, in a loss to the 49ers and a close win over the Jaguars.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 41, Dolphins 14.

Florio’s take:  The Pats still have a crack at a bye.  That’s all the incentive they need to take out the Dolphins for the second time this month.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 34, Dolphins 17.

Panthers at Saints

MDS’s take: It’s a meaningless game for both teams, but that doesn’t make it a bad game: Both of these teams have been playing good football in recent weeks, despite falling short of the playoffs. I like the Panthers to keep their winning streak going and make a statement that they’re a team to keep an eye on in 2013.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 24, Saints 21.

Florio’s take:  New Orleans is trying to finish on a high note.  And they are succeeding.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, Panthers 10.

Eagles at Giants

MDS’s take: The Eagles quit on Andy Reid months ago. The Giants have looked in the last couple weeks like they quit on Tom Coughlin. Both of these teams are slouching toward the end of the season, but the Giants have more to play for.

MDS’s pick: Giants 14, Eagles 10.

Florio’s take:  The Giants are playing for pride, along with a sliver of hope that they could make it to the playoffs if enough other teams lose.  If the Giants find a way in, there’s a pretty good chance they won’t lose again.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 27, Eagles 20.

Browns at Steelers

MDS’s take: This game is meaningless, and I’m tempted to pick the Browns on the theory that the Steelers will be feeling a hangover from their disappointing Week 16 loss. But the Browns have gone in the tank over the last couple of weeks, and at this point I’m not sure I’d pick them to win on the road against anyone.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 17, Browns 9.

Florio’s take:  The Browns haven’t swept the Steelers since 1988, 11 years before the current edition of the Browns was born.  With rampant changes looming in Cleveland, the Steelers still have enough gas in the tank to avoid getting punked by the franchise they’ve owned since 1999 (even though the Browns are now technically owned by a guy who still owns a chunk of the Steelers).

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Browns 10.

Jaguars at Titans

MDS’s take: Last time the Titans suffered a humiliating blowout loss and were called out by their owner, they responded by winning the next game. I think they’ll do it again.

MDS’s pick: Titans 24, Jaguars 14.

Florio’s take:  Bud Adams isn’t happy with his coaching staff.  He’ll be slightly less unhappy after Sunday, but still unhappy enough to clean house.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 27, Jaguars 16.

Chiefs at Broncos

MDS’s take: Knowing they need to win in order to earn a first-round playoff bye, the Broncos will pound the Chiefs, who have nothing to play for other than the first pick in next year’s draft — which Kansas City will earn by losing.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 27, Chiefs 10.

Florio’s take:  With 10 straight wins each by at least seven points, the Broncos could be the best team in the playoff field.  They’re definitely good enough to continue chasing a bye week.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 34, Chiefs 10.

Raiders at Chargers

MDS’s take: With Norv Turner virtually assured of being fired after the game, his team will send him out a winner in an AFC West contest that doesn’t really matter for much of anything.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 24, Raiders 10.

Florio’s take:  Norv Turner has one last chance to change the owner’s mind.  It won’t matter.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 24, Raiders 10.

Cardinals at 49ers

MDS’s take: San Francisco will shake off Sunday night’s thrashing in Seattle to clinch the NFC West.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Cardinals 3.

Florio’s take:  The Niners are on the brink of squandering the NFC West title that we were ready to hand them back in September.  If they can’t beat the Cardinals and Brian Hoyer at home, San Fran doesn’t even deserve to be in the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 31, Cardinals 13.

Rams at Seahawks

MDS’s take: No one wants to play the Seahawks right now. They’re destroying everything in their paths. The Rams will be no different.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 45, Rams 7.

Florio’s take:  The Seahawks, who lost their first round of NFC West games, have been exacting revenge in a big way.  They finish the job on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 41, Rams 17.

Cowboys at Redskins

MDS’s take: In the biggest game of the day, the Cowboys will ride Tony Romo and Dez Bryant to a high-scoring win. I suspect that Robert Griffin III is hurting more than he’s letting on and won’t be able to move as effectively as he did in the Redskins’ Thanksgiving win over the Cowboys. Dallas will take the NFC East crown.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 31, Redskins 28.

Florio’s take:  For the second straight year, the NFC East title game returns to prime time in Week 17.  For the second straight year, the home team advances.  For the second straight year, the Cowboys come up short.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 24, Cowboys 21.

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Bucs are keeping door open for a trade down

Winston Getty Images

The Buccaneers opened their offseason program on Monday.  General Manager Jason Licht met with the media in conjunction with the launch of the offseason program.  And he understandably was asked plenty of questions about the team’s plans for the first overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Licht’s comments continue to point to Jameis Winston being the first overall pick.

“Going back all the way to [the Scouting Combine], we said we had a leader in the clubhouse, we still do,” Licht said, via a transcript prepared by the team.   “If we had to pick today, we would feel very comfortable making the pick.  With that said, we’ll wait.  We’ll use the majority of our allotted time.  There is always something that could pop up that you wish you would’ve waited, talking about a scenario where somebody offers you something you can’t refuse.  We’ll use the allotted time, but everyone in the organization feels very comfortable right now with where we are at.”

What would it take to get the top pick?

“It’s fair to assume someone is going to have to make a really good offer, yeah,” Licht said. “And this time of year you get a lot of calls every day.  Not making offers, but just throwing, gauging your interest of if you would be open to it or not.  And that will continue.  But it would have to be an offer that makes this franchise, that sets this franchise even further ahead than what you thought you were going to with the decision you made.”

So the Buccaneers are keeping the door open for a possible trade down, and if no one makes them an offer they can’t refuse, they’ll take the guy they’ve been planning to take all along.  And the widespread belief continues to be that Winston will be the pick.

Not surprisingly, Licht also was asked about the research the team has done regarding Winston’s off-field issued, specifically relating to the sexual-assault lawsuit filed against him last week by Erica Kinsman.

“It didn’t surprise us,” Licht said regarding the civil complaint.  “The information that came out with it was not a surprise to us.  We’re very confident in the amount of work we have done.  Maybe 25 years from now I’ll write a book, but we feel very confident in the amount of work we’ve done internally.  We have had work done externally, third parties, on and on and on.  So there have been no surprises.”

Licht sidestepped the question of whether he has spoken to prosecutors or to Kinsman’s lawyers.

“Well, I’ll answer that this way:  We’ve talked to a lot of people,” Licht said. “‘A lot’ is probably not a big enough word.  But, we’re not going to publicly talk about who we talked to.  That’s just what we decided internally.  We are not going to talk about the process.  All I’ll tell you is that the Glazer family, the head coach, the General Manager, our staffs, we all couldn’t feel more confident about the process we have gone through so far.”

There’s no reason to think the Buccaneers haven’t done everything they need to do, given the stakes of the decision they’ll be making.  It’s the fifth time in franchise history that they’ve been in this spot, and the goal will be to get another Lee Roy Selmon, who made it to the Hall of Fame — and not another Bo Jackson, who never played for the team.

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Mychal Kendricks absent from start of Eagles offseason program

Mychal Kendricks Getty Images

Offensive lineman Evan Mathis wasn’t the only player absent from the start of the Philadelphia Eagles offseason program on Monday.

According to CSNPhilly.com, linebacker Mychal Kendricks was also a no-show at the Eagles facility.

Per Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, Kendricks had a scheduled trip planned and will join the offseason program soon. Kendricks’ instagram account appears to show him on vacation in Costa Rica.

The offseason workouts are voluntary and there is no penalty for missing the start of conditioning season.

With the addition of Kiko Alonso this offseason, just how the Eagles will work their linebackers onto the field remains to be seen. Alonso, Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans all are capable inside linebackers. Kendricks appeared in 12 games with 11 starts last year for Philadelphia. He recorded 83 tackles with four sacks and three forced fumbles.

 

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Tomlinson thinks Rivers wants out of San Diego

Rivers Getty Images

The star running back who once had to leave San Diego believes the star quarterback that used to be his teammate wants to move on, too.

Via Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego, former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson said on NFL Network that he thinks current Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers won’t be back with the team in 2015.

I personally don’t think so,” Tomlinson said.  “I really think this is a situation where Philip Rivers wants to move on.  The reason why I think that and the reason why I feel like that is the Chargers have already approached Philip about doing another contract and he declined it.  He doesn’t want anything to do with it; he didn’t even want to talk about another contract with the San Diego Chargers.  That tells me that he’s thinking about moving on.”

Tomlinson didn’t say that Rivers actually told Tomlinson that; instead, Tomlinson surmises Rivers is thinking about moving on because he rebuffed the team’s desire to extend his deal.

So should the Chargers trade Rivers, if he doesn’t want to be there?

“You never want to trade your franchise quarterback,” Tomlinson said, “that’s never the case.  However, in this situation they might have no choice but to do so because I don’t know if Philip [Rivers] wants to be there anymore.  I think he’s lost confidence in the organization.   He’s seeing a lot of changes going on and the L.A. thing is valid; him not wanting to go to L.A., that is very valid, I can see that.  So no, it doesn’t make sense to move on from Philip because he’s a franchise quarterback and he still has three to four very good years left.”

Why he has lost confidence in the team?

“The receiving corps keeps on changing; Eddie Royal is now gone,” Tomlinson said.  “We talked about this before with Vincent Jackson leaving years ago.  There are so many parts that are leaving where Philip is looking around that locker room and he doesn’t see anyone he’s familiar with other than Antonio Gates.  Now to that point, Antonio Gates next year is a free agent.  Eric Weddle is going to be up.  Next year the Chargers have a lot of decisions to make with a lot of key guys, so Philip could be looking at the situation and thinking we’re not close to winning a championship anytime soon.”

Rivers hasn’t addressed his situation since going on the record about his reluctance to extend a contract that runs through the coming season, comments which coincidentally emerged only four days after the Steelers gave quarterback Roethlisberger a gigantic new deal.

As Krasovic notes, Rivers and coach Mike McCoy were shielded from the media on Monday, the first day of offseason workouts.  At some point Rivers needs to say whether he wants to stay or whether he wants to go.  Unless and until he does, the perception will linger that he wants to move on.

Tennessee continues to be the most likely destination, primarily because only the Titans are in position to give the Chargers a potential franchise quarterback to replace Rivers, via the second overall pick in the draft.  If it’s going to happen, it’ll happen in less than 10 days or not at all.

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Lions WR Jeremy Ross, six other ERFAs re-sign on Monday

Jaiquawn Jarrett, Jeremy Ross AP

Lions returner Jeremy Ross was among seven exclusive rights free agents re-signing with clubs on Monday.

The 27-year-old Ross returned 23 kickoffs for 584 yards (25.4 yards per attempt) and 32 punts for 284 yards (8.9 yards per attempt) in 2014. A wide receiver, Ross also added 24 catches for 314 yards and a touchdown, with four catches of 20 yards or more.

Other exclusive-rights free agents re-signing Monday were Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken, Giants defensive back Chandler Fenner, Chiefs wide receivers Frankie Hammond and Junior Hemingway, Ravens defensive back Tramain Jacobs and Rams offensive guard Brandon Washington. Hammond (four catches, 45 yards) started three games for the Chiefs a season ago, while Hemingway (12-108) made one start.

All re-signings were disclosed in the NFL’s Monday personnel notice.

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Seahawks re-sign center Lemuel Jeanpierre

Lemuel Jeanpierre AP

In need of additional depth along the offensive line, the Seattle Seahawks re-signed center Lemuel Jeanpierre on Monday.

Jeanpierre has spent each of the last four seasons as a backup to Max Unger for Seattle. He’s appeared in 53 games for the Seahawks and made 11 starts split between center and guard over that span.

Jeanpierre was placed on injured reserve at the end of training camp last year and released with an injury settlement. With Stephen Schilling going on injured reserve mid-season, Seattle re-signed Jeanpierre and he appeared in six games with three starts.

The Seahawks may have elected to move on from Jeanpierre this offseason but Schilling elected to retire rather than accept an offer from Seattle. With Unger in New Orleans, former left guard James Carpenter now with the New York Jets and Patrick Lewis as the only veteran center on the roster, a reunion with Jeanpierre once again became a viable option.

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Six RFAs re-sign with clubs on Monday

Austin Davis AP

The restricted free agent market continues to thin.

Six restricted free agents re-signed with their clubs on Monday, per the NFL’s personnel notice, which announces transactions.

Three Rams RFAs signed their tenders: safety Rodney McLeod, quarterback Austin Davis and tight end Cory Harkey. McLeod has been a two-season starter in the secondary, while Davis started eight games in place of the injured Shaun Hill and Sam Bradford a season ago.

Other RFAs signing their tenders were Browns linebacker Craig Robertson, Browns defensive back Johnson Bademosi and Steelers fullback Will Johnson. Robertson started 11-of-16 games for Cleveland in 2014, notching 99 tackles.

Teams have until Friday to sign other clubs’ restricted free agents to offer sheets. Thirty-four players were tendered as RFAs earlier in the offseason, with the majority already re-signing with their clubs.

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Hall of Famer Bob St. Clair dies at 84

St. Clair AP

Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bob St. Clair, who spent 11 seasons with the 49ers from 1953 through 1963, has died after a brief illness.  He was 84.

A third-round draft pick (32nd overall) from Tulsa, St. Clair served for three years as a team captain and made it to five Pro Bowls.

He blocked for the team’s “Million Dollar Backfield.”  In 1956, St. Clair used his height to block a whopping 10 field goals.  Those efforts helped qualify him for the All-Decade team of the 1950s.

St. Clair also was once kicked in the face while trying to block a punt by Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin.  St. Clair made the play, but he lost five teeth.

“I went over to the sideline and they shoved cotton in my mouth and until it got so bad I had to take Novocain in my mouth, but I kept playing,” St. Clair said in 2010.

Via his biography at the Hall of Fame website, St. Clair was an unusual character, with habits that included eating raw meat.  Late in his playing career, St. Clair served as the mayor of Daly City, California.

The San Francisco native entered Canton in 1990, as part of the class that included Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Tom Landry, Ted Hendricks, Bob Griese, and Buck Buchanan.

The last line of St. Clair’s enshrinement speech often pops up in NFL Films productions with this simple message:  “I want to thank you very much for making my day in the sun so memorable.”

Condolences to the family and friends of Bob St. Clair, whose contributions to football at the dawn of the TV era helped make the game what it has become.

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Vikings remain intent on keeping Peterson, unless blown away by an offer

Peterson Getty Images

When it comes to running back Adrian Peterson, the Vikings have three options:  (1) keep him and try to make him happy; (2) keep him regardless of whether he’s happy; or (3) trade him.

The Vikings have adopted the position that they’ll keep Peterson regardless of whether he’s happy, and it doesn’t appear to be a ruse aimed at coaxing a greater offer via trade.  The Vikings want Peterson, and they’re confident that the passage of time will smooth over any ruffled feathers.

That said, it’s possible that someone will make them a trade offer that gets Minnesota’s attention — under the same theory pursuant to which any player on any team is, in theory, available via trade. If another team puts enough picks and/or players on the pile, even an untouchable player will be asked to pack his bags.

In this case, that’s not expected to happen.  A source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that a recent report that they’d want a first-round pick and a starting cornerback isn’t accurate, which suggests it would take even more than that to even begin to get the Vikings to consider making the deal.

And for good reason.  Absent a package that will have the same impact on the Vikings that Peterson could have in 2015, given an improving defense and a young franchise quarterback distributing the ball to a respectable complement of receivers, the Vikings have no reason to make a deal.

Look for plenty of noise and agitation about a possible trade over the next 10 days, with the possibility that someone will decide to put together a modern-day Herschel Walker-type package.  Absent that, the Vikings likely will keep Peterson’s rights and hope that he eventually realizes that his best move will be to honor his contract, accept $13 million, and resume his chase for the all-time rushing record, which remains 8,165 yards away.

Which requires five seasons of, on average, 1,633 yards per year.  That’s a total Peterson has surpassed only twice in his career.

Based on how he performed in 2012 after tearing an ACL on Christmas Eve of 2011, it wouldn’t be wise to ever bet against Peterson.  But if he plans to prove the doubters wrong and if the Vikings plan to keep him for the next three seasons, Peterson’s best bet will be to stay put and to play hard.

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Former Bears LB Doug Buffone passes away at age 70

Doug Buffone, Walter Payton, AP

Doug Buffone, a Bears linebacker for 14 seasons, died Monday at age 70, the club said.

Buffone passed away due to natural causes, police said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Buffone played 186 games from 1966 through 1979, intercepting 24 passes. Early in his career, he was a part of a Chicago linebacking corps that included Dick Butkus.

After retirement, Buffone worked in media, perhaps most notably for Chicago sports radio station WSCR, for which he handled postgame coverage with fellow former Bear Ed O’ Bradovich.

“He will always be celebrated as one of the Bears greats for his contributions to his team and the fans who loved him,” Bears chairman George H. McCaskey said of Buffone in a statement on the club’s website. “There was no one tougher on Sundays than Doug Buffone.”

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DeAndre Hopkins has no interest in talking about Andre Johnson

Johnson Getty Images

For the first time since 2003, receiver Andre Johnson plays for a team other than the Texans.  And the receiver who arrived in Houston via round one a decade after Johnson isn’t inclined to talk about his one-time mentor.

Asked by reporters on the first day of the offseason program to discuss what it’s like not having Johnson on the team, DeAndre Hopkins said, “No comment.”

Asked later about being the No. 1 receiver with Johnson now gone, Hopkins said, “No comment.”

When the question didn’t include Johnson’s name, Hopkins said plenty.  For example, when asked to explain how it feels to be a leader of the receivers this year, Hopkins said, “It feels great.  My motto is I’m going to go out and work every day no matter who is here.  It’s a mentality that I always play with since I’ve been playing football.”

Later, when asked about helping new receivers learn the ropes, Hopkins managed to avoid saying Johnson’s name, referring to him only by number.

“I told those guys they could come to me,” Hopkins said.  “Coaches are going to help them transition into this offense, but a lot of wide receivers in there look up to me because we don’t have 80 here anymore.  I like that chip on my shoulder.”

The phrase “chip on my shoulder” doesn’t really apply in this specific context, but given Hopkins’ reluctance to answer questions mentioning Johnson and Hopkins’ decision to not even refer to Johnson by name hints at some possible tension between the former face of the franchise and the first-round pick who eventually supplanted him.

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Pierre-Paul to skip offseason program

Pierre-Paul Getty Images

With all 32 offseason programs now open, the players most likely to make news are the players who aren’t there.  For players who have received the franchise tag and who have not yet accepted it, their absence isn’t surprising.  But it’s still worth mentioning.

In New York, Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul hasn’t signed the franchise tag, so he’s not under contract and won’t be participating in the offseason program, as noted by Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com.

Pierre-Paul, per Ranaan, will continue to work out on his own.  Which entails some risk; if he suffers a serious injury while doing his own thing, the Giants would immediately rescind the tag, and JPP would be SOL.  If he signs the tender and shows up for offseason workouts, that same fluke injury would result in his full salary of $14.8 million being paid.

There’s a middle ground that a player can utilize.  An unsigned player subject to the franchise tag may attend the offseason program, subject to the understanding that he’d receive his full pay if he suffers a season-ending injury.  Most franchise players, however, choose to withhold services by staying away.

That typically results in the franchise-tagged player missing the entire offseason program and then signing (or not signing) a long-term deal just before the July 15 deadline for inking a multi-year contract.  At the latest, the franchise-tagged player shows up for Week One, since no one wants to miss those gigantic game checks, which for Pierre-Paul will be $870,588.

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Eric Weddle not present for first day of voluntary workouts

Eric Weddle AP

The Chargers’ top defensive back was a no-show for the first day of the team’s voluntary workouts Monday.

Safety Eric Weddle, a three-time Pro Bowler, is seeking a new contract, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported.

In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune‘s Kevin Acee, Weddle expressed unhappiness with the Chargers’ unwillingness, at least at this point, to come to the table with a new deal. Weddle is the final year of his contract and set to make $7.5 million in 2015.

“I feel highly, highly disrespected,” Weddle told the Union-Tribune in a story published Monday.

Weddle, 30, told the Union-Tribune he wanted to stay in San Diego for the remainder of his career, but he also felt a need to show the Chargers that he was “not very happy” regarding the lack of progress in negotiations.

The matter of how to pay Weddle in the next deal could be tricky for San Diego. By the 2016 postseason, he will be 32 years old. However, he has not missed a game since 2009.

Weddle notched 119 tackles and intercepted one pass a season ago for San Diego, for which he’s been a starter the last seven seasons.

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Greg Hardy asks for expungement of his criminal case

Greg Hardy AP

In February, criminal charges against Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy were dismissed on the first day of trial, after his accuser failed to show up in court — which happened after Hardy reportedly reached a settlement with her.  Hardy now wants the State of North Carolina to pretend that none of it ever happened.

Per multiple reports, Hardy has filed a request that all records regarding the case be expunged.

“He’s been found guilty of absolutely nothing and he’s entitled to have a record of that charge eliminated,” attorney Tony Scheer said, via WSOC-TV.

If granted, everything related to the case would be removed from the Mecklenburg County court system — from Hardy’s mugshot to the conviction issued by a judge at the conclusion of a bench trial last year.  Given the intense coverage of the case and the long memory of the Internet, it’s a meaningless gesture; the accusations against Hardy will live a much longer and more noticeable life beyond the walls of the Mecklenburg County courthouse.

Most importantly, they’ll live long enough at 345 Park Avenue to result in a potential suspension of Hardy for the outset of the 2015 regular season.

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Dion Jordan does not attend first day of Dolphins’ workouts

Dion Jordan AP

Dion Jordan wasn’t there when the Dolphins reported to offseason workouts today.

Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reports that Jordan wasn’t there, although it wasn’t immediately clear why.

It could simply be that Jordan chose not to attend the voluntary workouts. That’s his right, although it would be a disappointment to the Dolphins, who are considering giving him more work at linebacker this offseason in the hopes that he can be a better contributor there once the season starts. Jordan has played primarily at defensive end in his first two NFL seasons, and has been a disappointment.

The Dolphins packaged both their first-round pick and their second-round pick in 2013 to move up and draft Jordan third overall, and in his first two seasons Jordan has only started one game and recorded three sacks. They’re counting on getting more from him this year, but this year is not off to a good start.

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Chris Harris says new defense will put corners on an island more

Harris Getty Images

Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. has the kind of confidence that only comes from making it in the NFL despite being an undrafted, five-foot, ten-inch defensive back.  That confidence will serve him well in the team’s new defense under coordinator Wade Phillips.

“We’re going to be out there on an island a lot, so there is a lot of responsibility on us to be able to shut our guys down,” Harris told reporters on Monday.  “Jack [Del Rio] put us on an island too, so it’s something that if you play corner you’re going to have to be on an island. In this defense, we’re just so aggressive that we’re going to be on an island even more.”

Harris still wishes he’d been on an island against T.Y. Hilton when the Broncos lost to the Colts in the playoffs.

“You always want to cover a guy like him,” Harris said.  “He’s small and shifty.  That’s what God put me on this earth for — for guys like him.  I was definitely irritated, but it’s a new year.  We’re going to play them again.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be on him this year.”

If Harris and Talib can both stay healthy and perform at a high level and cover their men with little or no help, the other nine members of the defense will be able to do other things aimed at keeping opposing offenses from scoring points.  Which will take pressure off the offense, and make it easier for the Broncos to make good on what multiple members of the team insist is a “Super Bowl or bust” season.

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