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Bills have interviewed Ken Whisenhunt

Ken Whisenhunt AP

On Tuesday, we brought you a report that newly installed Bills president Russ Brandon is “fond” of former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and that the team was expected to interview him as soon as Wednesday for their head coaching job.

The Bills website reports that the interview has taken place in Arizona. Brandon, General Manager Buddy Nix, Assistant General Manager Doug Whaley and senior vice president of football administration Jim Overdorf were all on hand for the interview. Whaley, who worked with Whisenhunt when both men were with the Steelers, spoke to the website about Whisenhunt.

“We go way back. We won some Super Bowls together so I have high regard for his coaching acumen,” Whaley said. “Personally I know him and we’ll see what happens. I know he’s got a lot of opportunities. We haven’t decided. We still have to figure out what we’re going to do, but I can provide some insight on how he performed when I was with him.”

Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton told reporters that he would also be meeting with the Bills on Wednesday and the Associated Press is reporting that Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy will interview with the team this weekend.


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$omebody in Detroit is $ort of up$et about Ndamukong $uh

Suh Getty Images

The Lions decided not to hang onto Ndamukong Suh for one year, mostly since it would have cost them $26.9 million to use the franchise tag.

And it appears someone in Detroit is pi$$ed off about it.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, several digital billboards have popped up alongside area highways in recent days, with a simple, yet ambiguous message.

The billboards read only: “$UH?”

Now, the simplest explanation might be that  fans are simply upset at what they perceive to be the latest greedy athlete.

And that would be easy enough to buy, except one of their baseball players in town is grinding away on an eight-year, $248-million (fully guaranteed) deal, which would buy the Lions at least a couple of Suhs.

Or maybe it’s a shot at management, for constantly restructuring his contract and not getting a long-term deal soon enough that it made his exit inevitable.

The guy who runs the billboard company said they were paid for by the same group of fans who had “Detroit Lyin'” billboards which featured a photo of a referee after their controversial playoff loss to the Cowboys in January.

Either way, some Detroit sports fan has enough di$po$able income to make his feelings known, whatever those feelings are.

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Eagles may have interest in Mark Ingram

Mark Ingram AP

So who will the Eagles turn to at running back after they’ve traded away LeSean McCoy? One option could be soon-to-be free agent Mark Ingram.

Ingram, who becomes a free agent when his rookie contract with the Saints expires on Tuesday, appears to be on the Eagles’ radar. Lyons Yellin of WWL-TV has heard rumblings about the Eagles being interested in Ingram, whose straight-ahead running style may be more to Chip Kelly’s liking.

If the Eagles were to sign Ingram, it would be the second straight season that they took a running back from New Orleans. Last year they acquired Darren Sproles in a trade with the Saints.

The Saints, however, don’t want Ingram to go, and coach Sean Payton has identified Ingram as a player he’d like to keep. That’s easier said that done because the Saints simply don’t have much cap space, and the Eagles have a lot of cap space. If it’s a matter of money, the Eagles can pay Ingram a lot more than the Saints can.

Ingram is the No. 3 running back and No. 38 player overall in our list of the Top 100 free agents.

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PFT Live: Eagles talk with Geoff Mosher, Colts/Packers offseason to-do lists

LeSean McCoy AP

The Eagles had a very busy day on Tuesday culminating in the decision to trade running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

The move can’t become official until the start of the league year next Tuesday, but we’ll be talking about what it means for the team’s offseason plans on Wednesday’s edition of PFT Live. Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly will join Mike Florio to talk about what the Eagles will do at running back now, their plans for Alonso on defense and more about what the releases of Trent Cole and Cary Williams will lead to in the near future.

Florio will also continue the series of offseason to-do lists by checking in with the Colts and Packers a few days before free agency gets underway. The Colts are expected to be active in free agency as they try to surround Andrew Luck with as much talent as possible while the Packers may be working to replace wide receiver Randall Cobb and/or tackle Bryan Bulaga.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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Andre Johnson asks Texans to release him

Buffalo Bills v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Texans recently gave receiver Andre Johnson permission to seek a trade.  Johnson won’t be doing that.

Johnson’s agent, Kennard McGuire, tells PFT that he has asked the Texans to release Johnson.

The impasse arose when the Texans recently informed Johnson he’d have a reduced role in 2015.  Johnson responded by saying that he won’t be happy with a reduced role, so it would be better for him to be elsewhere.

The Texans responded by granting him permission to seek a trade.  McGuire believes deliberately leaked to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle the notion that Johnson asked for a trade in an effort to minimize local criticism of the franchise for its treatment of a player who has been with the Texans for all but one year of the team’s existence.

“After 12 years of being a model citizen, an ambassador, and the face of this franchise, he deserves more than a mishandled P.R. campaign that showcases only one side of the story,” McGuire told PFT on Wednesday morning.  “After 12 years, he deserves to be sent off in a better way.”

Indeed he does.  The Texans know that no one will pay $11.5 million to a receiver who’ll turn 34 in July.  At most, a trade would have happened with Johnson doing a new deal.  So instead of doing a new deal elsewhere as part of a trade, he should have been cut and given the chance to do that new deal elsewhere.

The ball is now back in the team’s court.  The only right thing to do at this point is to thank Johnson for his 12 years of loyal service and release him, giving him a six-day head start on the unrestricted free agency market.

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Another challenger joins the NFLPA executive director hunt


And then there were five.  And there still could be more.

With more than 36 hours remaining before the window closes on the ability of candidates for the NFLPA executive director position to be nominated by three player representatives, multiple reports indicate that former NFLPA counsel Arthur McAfee has obtained the requisite nominations and has been added to the ballot.

PFT first reported McAfee’s candidacy on Monday.  He joins Sean Gilbert, Andrew Smith, and John Stufflebeam as the official challengers to DeMaurice Smith.

Two other known candidates, James Acho and Sean Morey, have not yet received the three nominations.

The election is scheduled for March 15.

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Tyvon Branch beginning his free agent tour with Colts

Chicago Bears v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

It’s almost like the Colts want to do the Bob Sanders thing again.

According to Conor Orr of, the Colts are bringing former Raiders safety Tyvon Branch in for a free agent visit.

When he’s well, Branch is a very good safety, the kind of guy who would represent an upgrade over their last free agent safety by (the just-cut LaRon Landry).

Only, it’s hard to count on Branch being well, after he’s played just five games the last two seasons. A broken leg and a broken foot might not be connected, and might not be a sign of future events.

But still, it’s hard to gauge what his market will be, and how any team is willing to invest in a guy with so little tape the last two years.

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Report: Randall Cobb expecting more than Packers offer of $8-9 million a year

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Packers opted not to use the franchise or transition tag on wide receiver Randall Cobb earlier this week, a decision that pushed Cobb closer to the open market.

It also appears to have pushed him closer to the exit. Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the Packers have told Cobb’s agent Jimmy Sexton that they are willing to give Cobb a five-year contract worth between $8 and $9 million a season, which is less than Sexton believes Cobb will receive on the open market.

Cobb had exactly the year you’d want to have with free agency in the future as he played in every game for the first time in his career while setting personal bests for catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. McGinn believes that Cobb could top the $9.763 million per year that Jordy Nelson is set to make under the terms of the extension he signed last year and the presence of teams like the Raiders and Jaguars with big money to spend makes that seem like a real possibility.

The Packers drafted three wide receivers last year and they’ve replaced key offensive contributors without missing too many beats in the past, so there’s not much reason to think that they’re going to get into a bidding war for Cobb’s services. Right now, that gives the strong impression that Cobb will be in a different uniform pretty soon.

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Arians: Cardinals knew McCoy was available, but he’s not the right fit

Bruce Arians AP

The Bills weren’t the only team that knew the Eagles were looking to trade running back LeSean McCoy.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said on NFL Network that his team knew that McCoy was available in a trade, but decided not to make an offer.

“No, it wasn’t a good fit for us,” Arians said.

Still, Arians thinks highly of McCoy and thinks the Bills improved their team by trading Kiko Alonso to Philadelphia to acquire McCoy.

“Great move for Buffalo,” Arians said. “Not that Alonso is not a great player — I think he’s going to be, coming off surgery — but when you have LeSean’s resume, that kind of speaks for itself.”

So why did the Eagles make the trade? Arians said he sees Chip Kelly as a coach who wants to bring in his guys, who will play his way.

“Chip is building his culture there, and he’s doing one heck of a job,” Arians said.

Having said that, Arians added that he was glad to see McCoy traded out of the conference. Arians may not have thought McCoy was a good fit in Arizona, but he’d prefer not to have to face him.

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McCoy reportedly isn’t happy about being traded to Buffalo

McCoy Getty Images

In our first of umpteen-and-counting items about the Shady-for-Kiko trade, it was noted that it’s unclear whether running back LeSean McCoy will welcome a trade from Philadelphia to Buffalo.

He possibly won’t.

Josina Anderson of ESPN, citing an unnamed source close to LeSean McCoy, reports that McCoy is “frustrated” by the news that he’ll be sent to the Bills.

“He’s a Pennsylvania kid,” the source told Anderson.  “He’s never played football outside of Pennsylvania — high school, college, pro.  So of course he’s not happy.  Sounds like it’s pretty final to me unless LeSean is refusing to go to Buffalo.”

Of course, refusing to go to Buffalo would mean not earning $10.25 million in 2015, ultimately being cut by the Eagles, and then being forced to find $10.25 million on the open market.

“It’ll be interesting to see how this process plays itself out because he’s an interesting individual,” the source said.  “In your mind, when you think of Buffalo you think of cold and losing games.  It’s not like it’s the Philadelphia market where you’re always on [TV] and you’re playing for like the division title or that type of thing.”

Bills coach Rex Ryan likely believes that he’ll be able to persuade McCoy to give it a try, and Rex definitely has the ability to do that.  But McCoy may still balk, which means that the Bills then will have to decide whether to go through with the deal.

The deal can’t be finalized until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 10.  Before then, either side can decline to proceed.  And if McCoy makes it clear that he has no desire to play in Buffalo, that could be enough for the Bills to walk away, minimizing any style points they’d lose by reneging on the tentative swap.

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Steelers may want Polamalu to retire so they don’t have to cut him

Polamalu Getty Images

Troy Polamalu was a great player for the Steelers for years, but he turns 34 next month, and he isn’t great anymore. Which puts the Steelers in an awkward position.

No one in Pittsburgh wants to see Polamalu get cut and try to finish his career in another uniform, but the Steelers don’t want to pay a lot of money for an aging, slowing veteran this season, and they’d save $3.6 million on their 2015 salary cap if Polamalu is not on the roster. The best option, from the Steelers’ perspective, may be for Polamalu to decide on his own to walk away.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the Steelers would prefer for Polamalu to retire, so they don’t have to go through the awkward situation of cutting a loyal veteran and fan favorite. The Steelers are in good enough cap shape that they don’t have to cut Polamalu, but according to Bouchette it’s “90 percent he’s not gonna be back.”

Three years ago the Steelers were in a similar situation with Hines Ward: Pittsburgh didn’t think Ward had much left, but Ward wasn’t ready to call it a career right away. So the Steelers cut Ward, only to have Ward look around for a few weeks, find that there weren’t any great offers for his services, and then announce his retirement.

Ideally, a player like Polamalu should retire as a Steeler without getting cut first. But if Polamalu doesn’t retire, the Steelers may decide that they have no choice but to tell him his time in Pittsburgh is over.

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NFL, Greg Hardy could end up making a deal

Hardy Getty Images

As Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy heads to 345 Park Avenue for a meeting with the powers-that-be less than a week before becoming a free agent for the first time in his career, the tea leaves are suggesting that the two sides will try to strike a deal.

For example, Hardy could receive a free and clear path to free agency, with the ability to hit the market the moment the new league year begins next Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET.  In return, Hardy would agree to a suspension for the conduct that resulted in a judge finding him guilty last year of domestic violence.

It wouldn’t be the first time the NFL has resolved a player’s disciplinary proceedings by agreement.  Last year, the Aldon Smith suspension arose not through hearings and appeals but a compromise struck before any of the various proceedings began.

There’s reason to believe the NFL and Hardy have something unconventional going on.  For starters, Hardy’s camp has adopted a position of radio silence as the meeting at the league offices approaches.  Likewise, the NFL has failed to respond to repeated requests from PFT for clarification regarding Hardy’s ability to hit the free-agent market while on the Commissioner-Exempt list.  Which could mean the NFL wants his status to continue to be vague and unsettled in advance of their discussions with Hardy.

Taking Hardy off the Commissioner-Exempt list before the market opens and the biggest money flows becomes the league’s leverage to get Hardy to accept a suspension, which may or may not include the forfeiture of an extra game check or two, given that he was paid his full $13.1 million salary in 2014 despite playing in only one game.  And while last week’s ruling in the Adrian Peterson case stands for the proposition that the new personal-conduct policy can’t be applied retroactively (which may limit Hardy to a two-game suspension under the old personal-conduct policy), Hardy can agree to any punishment he wants, if the agreement allows him to hit the market next month.

If Hardy doesn’t strike a deal, it’s quite possible that the NFL find a way to keep Hardy from being eligible for a new contract until after the big money has been spent.

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Tommy Smith expects 2015 Titans to “be in the playoff race and to get there”

Tennessee Titans Introduce Ken Whisenhunt Getty Images

At the halfway point of the 2014 season, Titans president and CEO Tommy Smith said that he was “impatient” for better results than the 2-6 record the team compiled in its first eight games.

Going 0-8 to close out the season didn’t say much about the talent on hand in Tennessee, but it didn’t do anything to make Smith more patient either. During appearances on Nashville radio stations 102.5 The Game and 104.5 The Zone, Smith promised to be aggressive and active in free agency in order to fulfill his expectations for the team during the 2015 season.

“We need to get into the playoffs. We need to not just be competitive; we need to have the playoffs in mind and the playoffs should lead to the Super Bowl,” Smith said, via the Tennessean. “This year set us back, I have to admit. I really thought we were going to progress, but we didn’t get it done, terrible year. Next year I have high expectations, and I expect us to not just be competitive but to be in the playoff race and to get there.”

No team should go into a season with designs on finishing 2-14, but a playoff berth isn’t going to be easy for the Titans to come by in 2015. They have issues all over the team, including at quarterback, and correcting all of them is going to be beyond the grasp of even the most aggressive teams.

Smith also said that he still wants the team to establish the “smash-mouth identity” he’s been looking for since assuming responsibility for the team after Bud Adams’s death in 2013. Putting that in place may be a more attainable goal than that playoff spot, while missing on both may not bode well for coach Ken Whisenhunt or General Manager Ruston Webster.

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Entire NFC West in on Darnell Dockett, who will decide today

Dockett AP

The whole NFC West seems interested in Darnell Dockett, but we won’t have to wait long to see where his head is.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Dockett is expected to decide today where he’s going to play next year.

He visited the 49ers this week, and there’s reportedly some interest from the Rams and Seahawks as well.

The Cardinals have offered him a one-year deal worth up to $4 million if he hit all the incentives, so it will be curious to see if the 49ers are willing to match that.

While Dockett himself is a big story, any move he makes or doesn’t make could also be viewed as a sign about the future of 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith, whose own future is cloudy.

If the 49ers know they’re looking for a replacement for Smith, they might be inclined to top the Cards’ offer for a guy who’ll turn 34 in May and is coming off a torn ACL.

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Hartline visits the Bears on Wednesday

Hartline Getty Images

On Tuesday, free-agent receiver Brian Hartline visited the Browns.  On Wednesday, the Hartline heartland tour takes him to Chicago, for a visit with the Bears.

Per a league source, Hartline will visit Halas Hall later today.  His visit to the Browns went well, and other teams remain interested.  Hartline hopes to decide on his next team within the next 24 hours.

Interested teams include the Dolphins, who cut Hartline last week in lieu of paying him $5.9 million in 2015.

Hartline had the lowest yardage output of his career with 474 in 2014, despite starting all 16 regular-season games.  He generated more than 1,000 yards in 2013 and 2012.

Chicago’s interest in Hartline is intriguing.  Given the rumors and speculation that receiver Brandon Marshall could be gone, Hartline could step in and start across from Alshon Jeffery.

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Stephen Jones says Cowboys are looking for value, not splash

Dallas Cowboys v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Having committed $12.8 million with the franchise tag for wide receiver Dez Bryant, the Cowboys plan to proceed carefully in free agency.

During an interview with SiriusXM NFL radio, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team was more likely to slow-play the market, in hopes of finding some bargains after the first wave like they did last year in defensive end Jeremy Mincey.

I don’t know if active is a good word,” Jones said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “I think active can get you in trouble in free agency. I think you have to be efficient and look for your values, and you can do good things.

“We did it last year with a player like Mincey where we got a lot of great value out of him. But at the same time, we’ve been in situations where you have to pay too much for players. You got to be very careful there. We’re certainly going to be that way. We’re going to look to be efficient. If that proves to be productive then that would be good.”

That dovetails nicely with the idea that running back DeMarco Murray would offer some degree of discount to stay home, and the Cowboys would love to drive the price down as far as they can for the reigning offensive player of the year.

“It’s one of those situations where you get down to the wire like this and free agency is right around the corner, it’s tough for a player not to want to look and see what his options may be,” Jones said. “At the same time, he understands the business of football that we can only do so much at each position. We’ve got to, at the end of the day, decide how we want to divide up the pie. Of course, we certainly want to give a nice piece of it to DeMarco.

“But we’ll just see how that works out. We really feel like we have a great relationship with DeMarco and his agent Bill Johnson. Certainly no guarantees, no promises that he’s going to bring offers back to us. But at the end of the day, I do think he wants to stay in Dallas. I know he knows we want him here. Hopefully we’ll have good communication as we move forward.”

The might, but the biggest communication is pretty clear — the Cowboys don’t plan to break the bank for Murray, or anyone other than Bryant.

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