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PFT’s 2012 postseason awards

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The Associated Press now unveils its postseason awards the night before the Super Bowl, weeks after most people have stopped caring about the winner.

So we announce ours immediately after the regular season ends.

At a time when you still actually are interested in these matters and not, you know, you’ll win the Super Bowl, here are the men who, in our opinion, deserve special recognition for their accomplishments in the freshly-completed regular season.

Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Winner: Russell Wilson, Seahawks.

Runner-up: Robert Griffin, III, Redskins; Andrew Luck, Colts.

Honorable mention: Alfred Morris, Redskins; Doug Martin, Buccaneers.

The AP award likely will go to either of the top two picks in the draft, but it shouldn’t.  Wilson entered the league short on height and long on smarts and talent and determination.  Russell Wilson commanded the No. 1 spot on the depth chart in Seattle, beating out big-money free-agent Matt Flynn and incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson, and Wilson then began to prove week-in and week-out that he is as good as his more famous counterparts who were selected much higher.

Despite the 11-5 record for the Colts, Luck had too many turnovers (contributing to a mediocre passer rating of 76.5), and Griffin missed a game and crunch time in another due to an inability to avoid contact.  While Luck broke Cam Newton’s rookie passing yardage record, Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s record for touchdown passes by a rookie — and Wilson showed that he could run the ball effectively (489 yards, four touchdowns) without getting hit or, in turn, hurt.

The best news is that the three rookie quarterbacks all made it to the playoffs, and they’ll all make their postseason debuts on the same day.

Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Winner:  Luke Kuechly, Panthers.

Runner-up:  Janoris Jenkins, Rams.

Honorable mention:  Bobby Wagner, Seahawks; Lavonte David, Buccaneers; Casey Heyward, Packers; Harrison Smith, Vikings.

The ninth overall pick in the draft, Kuechly led the NFL with 164 tackles, finishing 10 short of the rookie record set in 2007 by Patrick Willis.  Kuechly also had 10 games with 10 or more tackles.  In Week Five, he slid from outside linebacker to the middle, where he participated in every snap on defense for the rest of the season.

Jenkins, a second-round steal, instantly became a dangerous cover man and return specialist.  He could soon be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.  Some may say he already is.

Coach of the Year.

Winner:  Bruce Arians/Chuck Pagano, Colts.

Runner-up:  Leslie Frazier, Vikings.

Honorable mention:  Mike Shanahan, Redskins; Pete Carroll, Seahawks; John Fox, Broncos; Mike Smith, Falcons.

The best coach routinely is determined based on a team’s actual performance relative to its expected performance.  This year, no team exceeded expectations more than the Colts, who won 11 games a season after winning only two.  Pagano and Arians combined to generate a wild-card berth despite Pagano’s three-month absence due to leukemia treatments, as part of a run that included seven come-from-behind wins.

Frazier and the Vikings improved their win total by seven, going from 3-13 to 10-6 and a playoff berth secured on the last day of the season against the Packers.  Shanahan and the Redskins reeled off seven straight to secure the NFC East after Shanahan seemingly threw in the towel on the 2012 season.  (And all future coaches whose teams are 3-6 after nine games will do the same.)

In all, three of the six worst teams from 2011 have vaulted to the playoffs only one year later, providing real hope to every other non-playoff team, in 2013 and beyond.

Comeback Player of the Year.

Winner:  Peyton Manning, Broncos; Adrian Peterson, Vikings.

The two greatest comebacks in NFL history came in the same year.  For Manning, the return from multiple neck surgeries was unprecedented.  For Peterson, his performance following a Christmas Eve 2011 ACL tear was equally stunning and unlikely.  Both deserve the recognition, and it’s only fair for them to share it.

It’s also only fair that there be no one else mentioned as the runner-up or otherwise.  Manning and Peterson are in their own class on this one, and no one else comes close.

Executive of the Year.

Winner: John Elway, Broncos.

Runner-up: John Schneider, Seahawks.

Honorable mention: Ryan Grigson, Colts; Rick Spielman, Vikings; Les Snead, Rams.

Elway wanted Peyton Manning in large part because it gave Elway cover to dump Tim Tebow.  The gamble (in light of Manning’s recent medical history) paid off in a major way, making other teams (like perhaps the Texans) wish they’d done more to land one of the greatest players in NFL history.  Though making the move for Manning is enough on its own, hiring coach John Fox in 2011 after a two-win season in Carolina, picking linebacker Von Miller in last year’s draft, and not giving up on Knowshon Moreno are icing on a cake that Elway has been masterfully baking for the past two season — even though Elway entered the job with fry-cook credentials.

Schneider found a quarterback who could become one of the best current signal-callers in the league in round three of the draft, five spots after the Jaguars picked a punter.  Schneider likewise rolled the dice in round one on Bruce Irvin, a controversial pick who panned out as a rookie.  Throw in linebacker Bobby Wagner in round two and the prudent decision to re-sign Marshawn Lynch, and Schneider had a lot to do with the team’s unexpected success in 2012.

Grigson quickly turned around a talent-challenged roster with a strong draft and the ability to make good decisions about who should stay and who should go, bringing back Reggie Wayne and keeping Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.  His success will make more owners opt for young, grinding scouts.

Offensive player of the year.

Winner:  Adrian Peterson, Vikings.

Runner-upCalvin Johnson, Lions.

Honorable mentionDrew Brees, Saints; Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks.

Peterson is the easy and obvious choice, given that he rushed for 2,097 yards, the second most in NFL history.

Johnson set the single-season record for receiving yardage with 1,964, and Brees threw for more than 5,000 yards for the third time in his career.  Lynch’s performance gets lost in Peterson, but the guy the Bills gave away has become one of the best running backs in the league.

Defensive Player of the Year.

WinnerJ.J. Watt, Texans.

Runner-up:  Von Miller, Broncos.

Honorable mention: Aldon Smith, 49ers; Charles Tillman, Bears.

Watt was a wire-to-wire disruptive force for the Texans.  Beyond his league-leading sack total (20.5), Watt has shattered the mold for 3-4 defensive ends.  Miller is becoming one of the best 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL, and Smith has emerged as the top 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker.

Amazingly, all three players are in only their second seasons in the NFL.

MVP.

Winner:  Adrian Peterson, Vikings.

Runner-up: Peyton Manning, Broncos.

Honorable mention: J.J. Watt, Texans; Aaron Rodgers, Packers; Tom Brady, Patriots; Matt Ryan, Falcons.

Many have wrestled with this one for weeks, determined to give it to Manning but keeping an open mind for Peterson.  It would have been easy to say Peterson gets it only if he sets the single-season rushing record.  It’s harder to accept that he missed it (by 27 feet) but still deserves it.

In the end, Peterson’s value to his team simply outweighs Manning’s — even though Peyton once again has had a season to remember, shrewdly picking a talented team with an easy schedule and pushing the franchise to the top seed in the AFC.  Last year, however, the Broncos made it to the final eight without Manning.  This year, the Vikings would have been nothing without Peterson, a man who overcame a serious knee injury to become better than he ever was.

Moreover, at a time when we are more sensitive than ever before to the damage inflicted on the bodies of NFL players, Peterson earned every yard, foot, and inch that he gained.  Even the long runs came after he ran through a potential tackler.  Or two.  Or five.

So that’s the full list.  Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.

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Jermaine Kearse signs restricted free agent tender with Seahawks

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Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse is back under contract with the Seattle Seahawks after signing his restricted free agent tender with the team.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Kearse signed the tender worth $2.356 million on Tuesday. The signing was confirmed by a team spokesman.

Kearse took over as the No.2 wide receiver in Seattle’s offense following the trade of Percy Harvin to the New York Jets last October. He started 14 of 15 games with 38 catches for 537 yards and one touchdown during the regular season.

However, Kearse has been most productive in the playoffs each of the last two years. He caught seven passes for 209 yards in the postseason, including the 35-yard game-winning touchdowns in overtime of the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers.

His 33-yard juggling reception in the Super Bowl helped Seattle to the doorstep of their second straight championship before the ill-fated Malcolm Butler interception at the goal line.

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Missouri Supreme Court invalidates Commissioner as arbitrator

Goodell AP

When it comes to employment disputes involving individuals teams, the NFL traditionally stacks the deck in its favor, forcing disgruntled employees to agree to arbitration — with the Commissioner of the league presiding. Last week, the Missouri Supreme Court delivered what could become a fatal blow to the league’s obsession with allowing a non-lawyer to make legal decisions that could be influenced by business interests unrelated to what the law requires.

In a lawsuit filed more than four years ago by former Rams equipment manager Todd Hewitt, the Missouri Supreme Court invalidated the requirement of submitting all claims to arbitration resolved by the Commissioner. The Missouri Supreme Court based its conclusion in part on a fairly simply analysis of three provisions of the league’s Constitution and Bylaws.

First, the Court pointed out that Section 8.3 gives the Commissioner “full, complete, and final jurisdiction and authority to arbitrate . . . [a]ny dispute between any player, coach, and/or other employee of any member of the League and any member club or clubs.” Next, the Court pointed out that Section 8.1 requires the NFL to “select and employ a person of unquestioned integrity to serve as Commissioner of the League and shall determine the period and fix the compensation of his employment.” Then, the Court pointed out that Section 8.2 states that the “Commissioner shall have no financial interest, direct or indirect, in any professional sport.”

The provisions are clearly inconsistent; it’s impossible for the Commissioner to have “no financial interest” in “any professional sport” when he is paid by the league — and when the bulk of his compensation often comes from bonuses tied to the financial success of the league. More importantly, the Missouri Supreme Court concluded that the conflicting provisions and obvious bias of the Commissioner when “required to arbitrate claims against his employers” makes the requirement that employees submit claims to arbitration resolved by the Commissioner unenforceable.

While narrow in application to the State of Missouri (which serves as the home of two NFL teams, the Rams and Chiefs), the ruling provides a blueprint for employees who hope to avoid Commissioner-resolved arbitration in the other 21 states in which the NFL does business. It also gives the NFL Players Association and the NFL Referees Association a potential hammer for challenging in court the ability of the Commissioner to continue to serve as the arbitrator over claims brought by players and game officials, respectively.

While those provisions likely will have greater teeth because they appear in Collective Bargaining Agreements, the three provisions quoted by the Missouri Supreme Court from the NFL’s Constitution and Bylaws lay the foundation for a case-by-case attack on arbitration submitted to the Commissioner based on the inherent bias of the Commissioner.

It’s an obvious problem that has been hiding in plain sight for decades. At some point, the unions, the courts, and/or the NFL itself need to acknowledge that the Commissioner necessarily is incapable of being objective when resolving disputes involving the very teams that hire and pay him, and to come up with a more fair and unbiased procedure for resolving disputes.

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Patriots waive LB Deontae Skinner

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The Patriots waived a defensive contributor from early in the 2014 regular season, parting ways with second-year inside linebacker Deontae Skinner on Tuesday.

The transaction was listed in the NFL’s personnel notice.

The 24-year-old Skinner appeared in seven games (one start) for New England last season, making 16 tackles. The Patriots waived him in late October, and he would finish the season on the practice squad. He was signed to the offseason roster after the Super Bowl.

The Patriots also waived long snapper Tyler Ott on Tuesday, leaving rookie Joe Cardona as the lone snapper on the roster.

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Dolphins waive CB Lowell Rose, two others

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The Dolphins waived a pair of second-year reserve cornerbacks who saw action for Miami last season on Tuesday, letting go of Lowell Rose and T.J. Heath, the club said. The Dolphins also waived second-year kicker Zach Hocker.

Rose, 25, played in five games in 2014, with the 27-year-old Heath appearing in two games. The Dolphins drafted a pair of cornerbacks in last week’s draft, selecting Bobby McCain (Memphis) and Tony Lippett (Michigan State) in Round Five. The club also added veteran corner Zack Bowman in April.

The 23-year-old Hocker was a seventh-round pick of Washington in 2014, but he was waived at the end of the preseason.

Including drafted rookies, the Dolphins have 74 players on the roster.

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Chargers awarded TE Kyle Miller on waivers

Tyrell Johnson, Tay Glover-Wright , Kyle Miller AP

The Chargers have added yet another tight end to their roster, successfully claiming Kyle Miller off waivers from Atlanta, the team said Tuesday.

In a corresponding roster move, the club waived second-year defensive lineman Damik Scafe, who was on San Diego’s injured reserve list last season.

The 27-year-old Miller spent the 2014 campaign on the Falcons’ practice squad. He has also had stints with the Jaguars, Colts and Dolphins. He has played in one regular season game in four NFL seasons, suiting up for Indianapolis in 2012 at New England.

The addition of Miller gives the Chargers eight tight ends, with Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green atop the depth chart.

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Seahawks waive five players

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The Seahawks waived five veteran backups on Tuesday, including fullback/linebacker Mike Zimmer, defensive end Julius Warmsley and offensive tackle Justin Renfrow, each of whom had stints on the Seattle practice squad last season.

The transactions were announced in the NFL personnel notice.

Zimmer (6-2, 239) has played offense and defense in his NFL career, with Seattle employing him as a practice squad fullback in the latter stages of the 2014 season. Zimmer is not related to Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.

Warmsley (6-2, 269) was on the Seahawks’ practice squad from September through November 11, when he was placed on practice squad injured reserve.

Renfrow (6-6, 310) was a defensive lineman at Miami (Fla.).

The Seahawks also waived linebacker Mike Taylor (failed physical) and center Jared Wheeler.

The Seahawks’ online roster currently lists 91 players, which could mean more transactions may have to occur.

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Bears sign RB Jeremy Langford

Langford Getty Images

And now they’re up to three.

Not long after announcing deals with fifth-round safety Adrian Amos and sixth-round tackle Tayo Fabuluje, the Bears announced a four-year contract with fourth-round running back Jeremy Langford.

It could be that the Bears already have struck deals with most of their draft picks, and that they’ll be bleeding out the announcements every 30 to 60 minutes, throughout the evening.

Langford was the 106th overall choice in the draft.  He scored 22 rushing touchdowns in 2014, and added 1,522 rushing yards.

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Second Hernandez murder case returns to court on May 21

Hernandez AP

Last month, a jury in Bristol County, Massachusetts convicted former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez of murdering Odin Lloyd.  Later this month, a court in Suffolk County, Massachusetts will move closer toward setting a trial date in connection with the allegation that Hernandez killed two men in Boston, 11 months earlier.

Per multiple reports, a status hearing will be held on May 21 for the murder case arising from the shooting deaths of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu.  Hernandez will not be present for the hearing.

Presumably, a trial date will be set at that time.  The trial at one point was scheduled to begin in late May.  An indefinite postponement occurred, in deference to the trial arising from the Lloyd murder.

Hernandez currently is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, subject to appeal of the verdict.  In multiple respects, the second case against him is even stronger.

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Bears start signing draft picks

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Even with a new coach and a new General Manger, the Chicago Bears continue to do one of the things that has become their signature in recent years:  Sign draft picks earlier than anyone.

The Bears have announced four-year contracts with a pair of rookies selected on Saturday.  Fifth-round safety Adrian Amos and sixth-round tackle Tayo Fabuluje are under contract.

The Buccaneers signed quarterback Jameis Winston, the first overall pick in the draft, on Friday.  The Bears presumably will continue to sign pick after pick until signing all of their class.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Rams typically wait until the end of the offseason program, signing all rookies in one fell swoop.

Regardless, the 2011 labor deal makes it easier than ever to get these deals negotiated quickly.

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Raiders waive TE Nick Kasa

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The Raiders have let go of a recent draft pick, waiving tight end Nick Kasa with a failed physical designation on Tuesday, per the NFL’s personnel notice.

A sixth-round pick in 2013, Kasa played all 16 games as a rookie, catching a nine-yard TD pass in the season finale. However, he missed the 2014 season with an ACL tear suffered in August.

In addition to parting ways with Kasa, the Raiders waived linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu, linebacker Justin Jackson, defensive tackle Kona Schwenke and defensive back Jansen Watson on Tuesday.

Also disclosed by the NFL were the previously reported departures of wide receiver James Jones, offensive guard Kevin Boothe and linebacker Miles Burris.

The transactions leave the Raiders with 76 players on the roster, including the team’s 2015 draft picks.

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Bears claim Paul Cornick off waivers

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Paul Cornick will continue playing for John Fox and Adam Gase.

Cornick, an offensive lineman who was waived by the Broncos yesterday, was claimed by the Bears today.

Last year Cornick played in 12 games for the Broncos, starting six. Fox coached the Broncos and Gase was their offensive coordinator last year, and now Fox and Gase have those roles in Chicago.

With the Bears, Cornick likely won’t start but provides depth at offensive tackle.

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Manziel moves from Downtown Cleveland to the suburbs

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As Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel tries to put a disastrous rookie season behind him, he’s putting Cleveland in his rear-view mirror. Sort of.

Via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, Manziel has moved from an apartment in Downtown Cleveland to a suburban community surrounding a golf course.

The lobby of Manziel’s building was the scene of one of the various Manziel-related incidents in 2014 — a scuffle involving a zealous fan and one of Manziel’s associates.

Per Fowler, Manziel has embraced golf as part of his recovery from issues that landed him in rehab for 10 weeks earlier this year. He continues to have a long way to go to become the starter in Cleveland, but it’s clear that he’s making the changes that could lay the foundation for success.

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Unlike Mariota, Dorsett didn’t get an apology

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On Thursday night, the Commissioner wasn’t 31 for 32.  He was 30 for 32.  Which is a great average when it comes to getting on base safely or putting a basketball through the hoop from a line painted 15 feet away.

It’s not a great average when it comes to properly pronouncing the names of the newest NFL employees.

In addition to pronouncing Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota’s name incorrectly (Marioto), Commissioner Roger Goodell said the name of Colts receiver Phillip Dorsett with the emphasis on the first syllable, a la Tony Dorsett before he made the move from Pitt to the Cowboys.

Mariota said Monday that he received a phone call from the Commissioner with an apology.  On Tuesday, Dorsett told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio that he didn’t.  Dorsett also said he didn’t mind the incorrect announcement of his name.  (Mariota didn’t know his name had been butchered until the apology came.)

Dorsett also said he hadn’t heard from the Colts since the Scouting Combine, making their decision to select him even more of a surprise.  To hear everything Dorsett had to say, click here and select the “Big Name Guests” tab.

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Chiefs cut Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor AP

Terrelle Pryor’s tenure with the Chiefs didn’t last long.

Pryor, the former Raiders starter, was cut by the Chiefs today. He’s been with the Chiefs since January.

The Raiders spent a third-round pick in the 2011 supplemental draft on Pryor after his controversial career at Ohio State was cut short. He showed flashes of talent as the Raiders’ top quarterback for most of the 2013 season, but the team ultimately decided he simply wasn’t a good enough passer to make it as an NFL quarterback. He was traded to the Seahawks last year and then cut by Seattle at the end of the preseason.

Now that Pryor has been cut again by the Chiefs, he may be nearing the end of the run. Although he’s a gifted athlete who can make things happen with the ball in his hands, his chance with the Chiefs could have been his last chance.

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Oddsmaker gives 49ers longest odds to win NFC West

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In the last three seasons, the 49ers have gone from first to second to third place in the four-team NFC West.

Perhaps, then, it is not a surprise to see San Francisco as the longest shot to win the West in 2015 at one notable Nevada sports book.

As of Tuesday, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists the 49ers as 9-to-1 to capture their division. The Cardinals and Rams are given 13-2 chances to win the NFC West behind Seattle, which is an overwhelming favorite at 2-to-7.

The 49ers’ odds seem to reflect the team’s sharp fade at the end of 2014. The club also took a perception hit after the departure of head coach Jim Harbaugh, who was 49-22-1 in four seasons in San Francisco.

While the 49ers are the biggest price to win the NFC West, they are the shortest-priced longest shots in any division, with the Browns (10-to-1), Bears (12-to-1), Jets (12-to-1), Buccaneers (12-to-1), Washington (15-to-1), Jaguars (20-to-1), Titans (25-to-1) and Raiders (25-to-1) all having higher odds.

Here are the SuperBook’s division-winning odds for all 32 teams:

AFC East: Patriots 4-to-9; Dolphins 4-to-1; Bills 5-to-1; Jets 12-to-1.

AFC North: Ravens 8-to-5; Steelers 2-to-1; Bengals 2-to-1; Browns 10-to-1.

AFC South: Colts 1-to-5; Texans 7-to-2; Jaguars 20-to-1; Titans 25-to-1.

AFC West: Broncos 5-to-12; Chiefs 7-to-2; Chargers 9-to-2; Raiders 25-to-1.

NFC East: Cowboys 13-to-10; Eagles 3-to-2; Giants 3-to-1; Washington 15-to-1.

NFC North: Packers 2-to-7; Lions 9-to-2; Vikings 8-to-1; Bears 12-to-1.

NFC South: Panthers 9-to-5; Saints 9-to-5; Falcons 9-to-5; Buccaneers 12-to-1.

NFC West: Seahawks 2-to-7; Cardinals 13-to-2; Rams 13-to-2; 49ers 9-to-1.

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