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Saturday night wrap-up: Rodgers, Packers cruise

Wild Card Playoffs - Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

When the Packers played the 49ers in the opener, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was quiet for three quarters.

And because he didn’t wait that long Saturday night, Rodgers will have a chance to settle the score.

In a performance even Greg Jennings‘ sister would approve of, Rodgers led the Packers to a convincing 24-10 win over the Vikings in their Wild Card game. They travel to San Francisco for next Saturday night’s Divisional Round game.

Rodgers was immaculate in the first half, which was all of Saturday’s game that mattered, finishing with 274 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings. While it will be tougher against the 49ers on the road in the divisional round, he was surgical against a Vikings defense that can create pressure.

If he can be as good next week, it could be classic.

Here are five more things we learned during the Saturday night playoff edition of Sunday Night Football:

1. Credit to Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, and a side which was gashed for 217 rushing yards last week.

The fact the Vikings were incapable of the forward pass helped, but the Packers were able to keep Vikings running back Adrian Peterson from ever getting to the perimeter, as he did so often last week (34 carries for 199 yards then, 22 carries for 99 yards Saturday).

Without a dynamic playmaker on the outside, the Vikings offense had no balance, or much of a chance.

2. That said, the Packers are going to have to tighten things up next week, because the 49ers can pass sometimes.

But the 49ers are also more stout up front, particularly on the right side, and can open holes that don’t require a player of Peterson’s caliber.

Frank Gore hit them for 112 of the team’s 186 yards in the opener, and that was without the threat of quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking off.

3. While everyone’s beating up on Vikings quarterback Joe Webb, and rightfully so, the group of receivers they rolled out there tonight isn’t scaring anyone, regardless who is throwing the ball.

Jerome Simpson’s stat line would have looked better if Webb hadn’t airmailed one 15 yards over his head, but there’s not a lot of reason to think they’d have thrown for much if Christian Ponder was well. Michael Jenkins is just a guy. Jarius Wright is stuck in project status.

Injured wide receiver Percy Harvin might not have a future with the Vikings for reasons that transcend ability, but he made money tonight by not doing a thing.

4. If the Vikings haven’t started talking contract with coach Leslie Frazier, they should start yesterday.

The job Frazier has done stitching a team together with a starting quarterback who is inoffensive at best has been admirable.

The Vikings were not burdened with expectations, but they also did not freak out when people started paying attention to them this year. That level approach speaks to the direction they get from their head coach through the week.

To win without a solid quarterback takes great coaching, and the Vikings have that now.

5. The failed fullback dive by John Kuhn seemed regrettable early, forcing the Packers to settle for a field goal.

But his two touchdowns earned some redemption for a guy who’s as much of a cult hero as a weapon in the Packers offense.

He’s scored in four straight postseasons, matching his two-touchdown game in the rout of the Falcons two years ago.

And any reason for fans to chant a surname with a long U sound is a good one, in my book.

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Steelers sign their seventh-round picks

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 31: Tyler Matakevich #8 of the Temple Owls walks off the field after the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on October 31, 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Temple Owls 24-20. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

The check-listing of rookie contracts is in full effect, and has taken hold in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers announced they had signed seventh-rounders DeMarcus Ayers and Tyler Matakevich to their four-year rookie deals.

With draft picks descending on Pittsburgh for rookie minicamp this weekend, it was easy enough to get them signed.

Ayers, a wide receiver from Houston, could provide some help on returns this year. Matakevich is a linebacker from Temple, who was the school’s all-time leading tackler and won both the Chuck Bednarik Award and Bronko Nargurski Trophy.

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Seahawks place Marshawn Lynch on reserve/retired list

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 12:  NFL Running Back Seattle Seahawks Marshawn Lynch attends Bounce Sporting Club Presents The VIP Lounge At MAXIM's All Star Party on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Jag Gundu/Getty Images for Bounce Sporting Club) Getty Images

Earlier this week, Seahawks General Manager John Schneider said that the team wanted to place running back Marshawn Lynch on the reserve/retired list before June 1 in order to take the total cap hit remaining from his signing bonus this year rather than split it over the next two.

Schneider proved good to his word on Thursday. The Seahawks announced that they have placed Lynch on the list, which formally removes him from their roster and leaves them with 90 players.

When Schneider commented on the team’s plans, he said that Lynch still had not submitted retirement papers with the league and added that the lack of paperwork from Lynch didn’t preclude the team from making the roster move. Lynch was at CenturyLink Field to speak to participants at a job fair after traveling overseas for much of the last two months, so it’s possible the status of the paperwork has changed.

Coach Pete Carroll said after the draft that Lynch was “committed to retiring” and there hasn’t been any signal from Lynch to contradict that assessment. The Seahawks, who drafted three running backs last week, retain his rights in the event that proves otherwise at some point in the future.

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Chance Warmack bad-mouths the Titans’ former O-line coach

Chance Warmack AP

Coming out of Alabama, Chance Warmack was considered one of the best guard prospects in the history of the NFL draft. He’s been a bit of a disappointment in Tennessee, however, demonstrated by the team deciding this week not to pick up his fifth-year option.

But Warmack says he’s disappointed, too, in the quality of the coaching he has received.

Warmack didn’t mention him by name, but he was obviously referring to former Titans offensive line coach Bob Bostad in comments about an ex-coach whose teaching Warmack thinks didn’t provide him much help.

“I had one dude who played D-III football at linebacker. And he’s teaching me how to play offensive line? If there’s nothing wrong with that, you tell me,” Warmack told Pete Prisco of CBS. “I play offensive line. I don’t play linebacker. I definitely didn’t play D-III football. Not knocking D-III schools out there. We’re talking about the highest level of football in the world. And you have a guy who has never put his hand in the dirt teaching me how to block. You don’t think there’s anything wrong with that? I appreciate a coach who is open-minded to questions and comments. They don’t want to hear a question that questions their philosophy. When they are closed-minded, it stunts the growth of the offensive lineman.”

There may be some merit to Warmack’s complaints, and the fact that Bostad is now the tight ends and fullbacks coach at Northern Illinois suggests that he didn’t have any other teams interested in his services as an offensive line coach when the Titans fired him this year.

On the other hand, there are plenty of good NFL coaches who weren’t good enough players to make it to the NFL, and plenty of good position coaches who aren’t coaching the position they played. If Warmack is going to blame his position coach for any struggles he’s had in the past, he’d better have a big year this year. His position coach now is a Hall of Fame offensive lineman, Russ Grimm.

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NFL makes another major P.R. hire

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Big Shield needs a lot of polish. And thus another key employee has been hired to help keep the tarnish away. Or at least to distract us from it.

In addition to Joe Lockhart, the relatively new in-house P.R. czar, the NFL has now hired Natalie Ravitz to serve as senior V.P. of communications, via Politico.com.

Ravitz spent three years, from 2012 through 2015, as Rupert Murdoch’s Chief of Staff at News Corp. She will report to Lockhart.

The move brings more political experience to the league office, which suggests that the NFL has decided based on a variety of P.R. problems in recent years to rely on the expertise crafted by folks who operate in an industry that entails constant P.R. challenges.

The new approach recently was demonstrated in very aggressive detail as Lockhart engineered a free-for-all against the New York Times based on a report citing flawed concussion research and specious links to Big Tobacco.

Big Shield isn’t Big Tobacco. Still, with some of the best P.R. talent in America now on the payroll, Big Shield will be getting even bigger.

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Caldwell envisions Joeckel staying with the Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Jaguars didn’t pick up the fifth-year option on 2013 No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel’s contract. But that doesn’t mean Joeckel is a short-timer in Jacksonville.

On Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Jaguars G.M. Dave Caldwell suggested that Joeckel remains in the team’s long-term plans.

“[It] really nothing to do with Luke but more so . . . our cap situation,” Caldwell said. “We have plenty of cap space going into next year. We’ll have more next year than we will this year and we just didn’t need to do it. Luke, we expect him to be here for a long period of time. I talked to him. Luke did play good football this year for the most part. He had a couple games that he struggled with and he knows that but for the most part he’s a good football player and we’d like him to be part of this moving forward. But we just didn’t feel like we needed to pick up the option. If he plays great we’ll pay him like a great player and we have the capability to do that.”

Picking up the option would have given Joeckel an $11.9 million salary for 2017, guaranteed for injury only until March 2017, at which time it would have been guaranteed fully. Apart from avoiding the risk that Joeckel will suffer an injury that carries into next year, the Jaguars can keep him with a deal based on his market value, if the market value is less than $11.9 million for 2017.

The only risk that the Jaguars assume is that Joeckel will have a year so strong that they’d have to consider using the franchise tag to keep him around. Next year, that number will be north of $14 million, making it a gamble of roughly $3 million.

But here’s the thing. If the Jaguars are forced to pay the extra $3 million, it means that Joeckel has finally lived up to the potential that made him a player they envisioned eventually giving an enormous contract. So that would be a good problem to have.

Actually, it wouldn’t be a good problem. It would simply be a good development, since they have the cash and cap space to keep him under the franchise tag if he becomes a player who merits that kind of pay.

If Joeckel doesn’t, the Jaguars will be able to either keep him with a much lower investment or let him walk away, leaving millions available to address the offensive line with free agents from other teams.

For more from Caldwell, download the podcast at iTunes or audioBoom.

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Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona could miss year due to Navy service

U.S. Navy Ensign Joe Cardona, a long snapper with the New England Patriots, speaks with reporters in the locker room at Gillette Stadium following an NFL football practice, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots are to play the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J., Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) AP

Earlier on Thursday, we shared Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus’ comments about his confidence that Ravens wide receiver Keenan Reynolds will be able to both play football and fulfill his commitment to the Navy in the coming year.

It’s something that Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona was able to do during his rookie season in 2015. During the same interview on The Dan Patrick Show, Mabus said that he wasn’t sure if things would work out the same way for Cardona during the 2016 season.

“We’ve got Joe Cardona, long snapper for the Patriots,” Mabus said. “He played last year for the Patriots. While he was on active duty because he was able to work them both out. He’s been assigned to a ship and he’s going to report to that ship. So he may have to leave the Patriots for the year to go fulfill that role.”

Cardona’s duties have kept him from taking part in the team’s offseason activities. The Patriots recently signed former Browns long snapper Christian Yount, a move which may have been predicated by Cardona’s possible absence.

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Patriots start getting draft picks under contract

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 31:  Cyrus Jones #5 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after returning a punt for a 57 yard touchdown in the third quarter against the Michigan State Spartans during the Goodyear Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium on December 31, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots had to wait a while before making their first pick in the 2016 draft, but there’s no reason to delay signing those picks so the team’s gotten several of their new additions under contract.

According to multiple reports, second-round cornerback Cyrus Jones, third-round guard Joe Thuney, fourth-round wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, sixth-round linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill and seventh-round wide receiver Devin Lucien have all agreed to their four-year deals with the team.

Jones was the 60th overall pick and the first the Patriots made after sitting out the first round after their pick was taken away by the league as a Deflategate penalty. He could play early as a slot corner and was a dynamic punt returner at Alabama. Mitchell will join a receiving corps that added Chris Hogan and Nate Washington as free agents. He’ll also join a book club run by Reese Witherspoon after writing his own children’s book while he was at Georgia.

Thuney blocked for third-round pick Jacoby Brissett at N.C. State and the quarterback, who is serving as his own agent, will likely join him under contract soon.

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Ziggy Ansah on possible extension: You’ve got to see how this season goes

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 13:  Wide receiver Steve Johnson #11 of the San Diego Chargers is pursued by defensive end Ezekiel Ansah #94 of the Detroit Lions at Qualcomm Stadium on September 13, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) Getty Images

Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah’s option for the 2017 season was exercised this week, leaving him set to make $12.7 million in the final year of the deal he signed as a first-round pick in 2013.

The Lions could use the franchise tag in 2018 to ensure Ansah sticks around, which might explain why Ansah says he’s “not really paying attention” to things like the $85 million deal that Olivier Vernon signed with the Giants as a free agent at the moment. Ansah, who has 30 sacks in his first three seasons, said there will be time for that down the road.

“As of right now, I think you’ve got to take it step by step,” Ansah said, via the Detroit Free Press. “You’ve got to see how this season goes, and I’m just looking forward as far as having a great season for the team.”

Pass rushers aren’t going to stop getting paid at a high level in the next two years, so Ansah will be in line for a major payday from the Lions or someone else as long as he remains healthy and productive.

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Jordan Reed: I’m going to be a good investment

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Tight end Jordan Reed signed an extension that vaults him to the top of the pay scale at his position, a deal that came a few months after the end of a season that saw him play like one of the best at the position.

Reed had 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Redskins in the regular season before posting a big game in their playoff loss to the Packers. Production like that will be well worth the $46.5 million that he’s scheduled to make over the life of the five-year deal.

Reed’s injury history — he’s missed 14 games in three seasons — didn’t get in the way of the team’s desire to make the deal and Reed said it wouldn’t stop him from making it pay off.

“It means a lot that the Redskins invested that kind of money in me,” Reed said, via John Keim of ESPN.com. “I’ll show them that they made a good investment and I’ll prove them right in making me one of the highest paid [tight ends] in the league.”

With Reed signed for the long-term and wide receiver Josh Doctson arriving as a first-round pick, the Redskins have figured out two pieces of their passing game for the future. The 2016 season will sort out Kirk Cousins‘ place in that future and having Reed should help his bid for a long-term contract as well.

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Browns announce 11 UDFA signings

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 19:  Linebacker Dominique Alexander #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners waves to fans after the game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane September 19, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Tulsa 52-38.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns announced 11 undrafted rookie signings on Thursday.

The list is headlined by former Oklahoma linebacker Dominique Alexander, an All-Big 12 pick who went undrafted after giving up his senior season, and former Texas A&M center Mike Matthews, the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. It was previously reported that the Browns gave Matthews a partial guarantee in 2016 as part of a three-year deal.

The Browns also signed former Maryland kicker Brad Craddock, who won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best kicker in 2014.

The other signings announced by the Browns were former Missouri defensive back Kenya Dennis, former Georgia Tech fullback Patrick Skov, former Pitt tight end J.P. Holtz, former Miami (Fla.) defensive back Tracy Howard, former Sam Houston State defensive back Mikell Everette, former Florida State defensive lineman Nile Lawrence-Stample, former West Virginia defensive lineman Kyle Rose and former Kentucky defensive back A.J. Stamps.

With 11 undrafted free agent signings and 14 draft picks, the Browns will have a crowded rookie minicamp next weekend.

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Patriots third-rounder Jacoby Brissett to skip agent for rookie deal

RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 31:  Jacoby Brissett #12 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack warms up before their game against the Clemson Tigers at Carter-Finley Stadium on October 31, 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the new rookie salary scale, negotiating contracts has become easier than ever.

And at least one draft pick is choosing to save the 3 percent commission by doing it himself.

According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, Patriots third-rounder Jacoby Brissett has chosen to not hire an agent.

Unlike Broncos tackle Russell Okung, Brissett doesn’t have to worry about marketing himself to multiple suitors.

And while contracts have become increasingly boilerplate, the third round falls in the strange middle ground where it’s not always just league minimum base salaries and a signing bonus like late-rounders, or the slotted maximums like first-rounders, so there’s some wiggle room.

But Brissett has navigated changing colleges, so figuring out his own worth shouldn’t be that difficult. And the structure in place should prevent him from selling himself short, as Okung did when he decided to represent himself this spring.

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Seahawks finish contract with third-round pick

FORT COLLINS, CO - OCTOBER 10:  Rees Odhiambo #71 of the Boise State Broncos defends the line of scrimmage against the Colorado State Rams at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Fort Collins, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Rams 41-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks have agreed to terms with third-round pick Rees Odhiambo, Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reported Thursday.

A tackle at Boise State, the Seahawks believe Odhiambo will compete for a starting job at left guard this season.

A native Kenyan, Odhiambo didn’t start playing football until he was a sophomore in high school. He was a first-team All-Mountain West pick last fall despite missing time with a broken ankle.

The Seahawks are one of a few teams moving quickly to get their draft picks under contract.

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Falcons sign 22 undrafted rookies

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 10: Linebacker Ivan McLennan #3 of the Washington State Cougars celebrates after the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Eugene, Oregon. The Cougars won the game 45-38 in overtime.(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons became the first team to sign a first-round pick this week when they agreed to terms with safety Keanu Neal.

Barring something out of left field, Neal will definitely make the move from the 90-man offseason roster to the 53-man roster for the regular season. The same can’t be said of the team’s group of undrafted free agent signings.

The Falcons announced those signings Thursday and most of the 22 players they signed will be hitting the waiver wire at some point in the coming months.

The players vying for jobs in Atlanta will be Georgia defensive end Josh Dawson, South Carolina defensive tackle Gerald Dixon Jr., Lamar offensive lineman Cody Elenz, Fresno State offensive lineman Alex Fifita, Utah State linebacker Torrey Green, Kentucky defensive tackle Cory Johnson, Texas wide receiver Daje Johnson, Weber State cornerback Devonte Johnson, Appalachian State wide receiver Malachi Jones, Georgia nose tackle Chris Mayes, Arkansas State wide receiver J.D. McKissic, Washington State linebacker Ivan McLennan (pictured), Texas State cornerback David Mims II, Florida Atlantic defensive back Sharrod Neasman, Washington tight end Joshua Perkins, Florida defensive back Brian Poole, North Dakota fullback Will Ratelle, Indiana offensive lineman Jake Reed, Arizona wide receiver David Richards, Texas kicker Nick Rose, St. Cloud State cornerback Jordan Sefon, and South Carolina running back Brandon Wilds.

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Chiefs get Chris Jones under contract

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The Chiefs traded out of round one last Thursday night, landing instead at the sixth spot in round two. And with that pick, the Chiefs selected Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones.

Six days later, Jones has a contract.

Per a league source, Jones has agreed to terms. He becomes the highest non-first-round pick to date to agree to terms, and he steps into a situation where defensive tackle Dontari Poe is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

The development provides even more proof that all rookies can be (and should be) quickly signed, before they are expected to show up for offseason workouts.

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T.O. takes issue with Sam Bradford’s trade demand

56007930-1.0-600x400 Getty Images

A decade ago, receiver Terrell Owens wanted out of Philly. He eventually got his way, after an acrimonious year of shirtless driveway situps, “next question” press conferences, and a full-blown arbitration challenging both a four-game suspension without pay and a rest-of-season suspension with pay.

Now, quarterback Sam Bradford wants out of Philadelphia. To date, Bradford has only demanded a trade. And Owens has chimed in regarding Bradford’s view that he doesn’t want to play for a team that doesn’t view him as “the guy.” Owens views Bradford a far different way.

“I think it was not a great move for Sam to want to request a trade being that they were getting [quarterback Carson Wentz],” Owens told TMZ. “That’s kind of a sign of a coward, to be honest.”

Owens claims that Bradford should have more confidence regarding his ability to hold off any other challengers for the starting job.

“It shouldn’t matter who they’re drafting or who’s coming in,” Owens said.

Obviously, it does. And with the Eagles trading up from No. 13 to No. 8 to No. 2, they have plenty invested in Wentz being successful. Which likely will give Wentz the edge, if it’s a close call between Bradford and the rookie.

That doesn’t mean Bradford has many/any viable alternatives to showing up for work, playing as well as he can, cashing his paychecks, and waiting for his next NFL alternative. With no one else clamoring for his contract, making the most of a bad situation is better than having no situation.

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