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Teams grumbling over breadth of Bears’, Eagles’ coaching searches

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Two head-coaching jobs have been filled, and five (for now) remain vacant.  Two of the teams still looking have caused some grumbling in NFL circles over the width of their nets.

Per a league source, some teams believe the Bears and Eagles are employing the Al Davis approach to interviewing coaching candidates.  Davis was notorious for using a head-coaching vacancy as cover for bringing in assistant coaches from other teams and picking their brains, all under the guise of possibly hiring them.

In Chicago specifically, the feeling is that G.M. Phil Emery wants to get as much intelligence as possible regarding how the various candidates would fix quarterback Jay Cutler and/or a perennially porous offensive line.  At last count, the Bears’ list of candidates included Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Falcons special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, Cowboys special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements, and Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

There are no limits on the number of interviews a team can conduct.  And if an assistant coach believes that there’s no serious interest in hiring him, he has no duty to accept the invitation to interview.

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Victor Cruz says Panthers visit “went well,” but nothing is imminent

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 18:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants celebrates a catch against the Detroit Lions  during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 18, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former Giants receiver Victor Cruz is looking for a job, and his first stop happened with former Giants executive Dave Gettleman.

Cruz told Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com that the visit to the Panthers “went well.” Stapleton adds that no deal is imminent, even though interest is mutual. Other visits could occur; currently, none are scheduled.

The Panthers need a slot receiver, and Cruz could fit the bill. With a head start on the open market, however, it makes sense for him to consider his options.

Undrafted out of the University of Massachusetts in 2010, Cruz became a star in 2011 with 1,536 receiving yards and nine touchdowns during the team’s most recent Super Bowl season. In 2012, he generated 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. The following year, Cruz got within two yards of 1,000 despite missing two games.

Injuries wiped out most of the next two seasons. Last year, Cruz managed only 586 yards as the third fiddle behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard.

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Texas governor retreats from law that would force NFL players to stand for anthem

DALLAS, TX - JULY 08: Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at Dallas's City Hall near the area that is still an active crime scene in downtown Dallas following the deaths of five police officers last night on July 8, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. Five police officers were killed and seven others were injured in the evening ambush during a march against recent police involved shootings. Investigators are saying the suspect is 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson of Mesquite, Texas. This is the deadliest incident for U.S. law enforcement since September 11. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Getty Images

The governor of Texas recently attacked the NFL for trying to squeeze the Lone Star State into not passing a bathroom bill. Part of the response included a threat to push for a law that would apply to a certain kind of stand-or-sit decision that some NFL players have begun to make.

“The NFL has coddled its players who refused to stand for the national anthem,” Greg Abbott said on FOX News, via CBSSports.com. “Imagine this, if the NFL decides to come down on the state of Texas, I might just pass a bill here in the state of Texas mandating that all NFL players have to stand and put their hand on the heart when the national anthem is played.”

After some pointed out that such a law would be grossly unconstitutional, a spokesman said that Abbott was engaging in “intentional hyperbole” aimed at “demonstrating the NFL’s own shortcoming of how they are disconnecting with their fan base by allowing players to disrespect the U.S. flag.”

So, basically, Abbott can’t pass a law forcing players to stand for the anthem, but he apparently would if he could, since the NFL’s fan base apparently believes players should be forced to stand for the anthem. Constitution notwithstanding.

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Julius Thomas has meeting, physical set in Miami Tuesday

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The expected trades of tight end Julius Thomas from the Jaguars to the Dolphins and offensive tackle Branden Albert from the Dolphins to the Jaguars are awaiting final details, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday evening.

Thomas will be in Miami Tuesday for a physical, one of the final steps to the trade being finalized. Rapoport tweeted that Thomas has agreed to re-do his contract.

Per the report, the Jaguars will give up a 2018 late-round pick for Albert, who spent Monday in Jacksonville and is expected to discuss his contract with team officials Tuesday. Though it was originally reported that a player-for-player swap could happen, these trades are expected to be processed separately.

The Dolphins will give up a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft for Thomas, who had his best seasons in 2013-14 with the Broncos when Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was the offensive coordinator in Denver.

No trades can be made official until the new league year opens March 9.

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Joe Williams briefly quit football at Utah, wants NFL to know why

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 28: Joe Williams #28 of the Utah Utes runs with the ball against the Indiana Hoosiers during the Foster Farms Bowl game at Levi's Stadium on December 28, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

One of the odder stories of the 2016 college football season came when Utah running back Joe Williams announced that he was quitting the team and quitting the sport of football — only to come back a month later and become one of the best players in the country, rushing for 1,300 yards in seven games.

Williams will be at the Scouting Combine next week, and he’s eager to explain to NFL teams that his brief departure doesn’t mean he doesn’t love the sport.

Instead, Williams told Tom Pelissero of USA Today, quitting football was necessary because grief and guilt he felt over the death of his sister a decade earlier had finally reached the point where he simply had to step away to focus on his mental health.

“People make it a big deal that I quit on the team. To me, it was necessary,” Williams said. “I was learning to come to grips with the fact that it wasn’t my fault. I’m 23 years old now, and I can’t blame myself for something that occurred 10 years ago, no matter how painful or traumatic it was. It would be bigger to honor her in a much more meaningful way.”

Williams’ 7-year-old sister died in her bed in the middle of the night of what her family later learned was a disease that caused inflammation of her heart. Williams says he spent years thinking of himself as responsible — not because that’s a rational thought, but because as a boy grieving his sister, he couldn’t think about her death rationally.

“That’s where the guilt comes in,” Williams said. “Because maybe if I had got out of my bed and maybe I’d held her or she knew I was there, maybe she would’ve woken up. That was the biggest reason of why I blame myself.”

Williams says he is in a better place mentally now, and is eager to keep playing the way he did after returning to his team last year. He wants NFL teams to know that he’s now more focused on football than ever.

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Trades negotiated now are non-binding

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 18:  Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates a touchdown following an interception during the game against the Houston Texans at EverBank Field on October 18, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

So how are the Dolphins and Jaguars working out trades more than two weeks before trades are allowed? They’re not, officially.

Unofficially, they’ve agreed to agree to a trade that will send tight end Julius Thomas to the Dolphins as of March 9 at 4:00 p.m. ET. Unofficially, they eventually may agree to a trade that will send tackle Branden Albert to Jacksonville at the same time.

Officially, they’ve agreed to nothing — and either side can back out without consequence. To the extent that Thomas and/or Albert will agree to new contracts contingent on trades being finalized, the players can back out, too, potentially derailing the broader deals.

While such an outcome would be viewed as a breach of the wink-nod etiquette that allows trades to be negotiated before they can officially be consummated, the teams and players have an out, if they choose to use it.

The same thing happened four years ago, when the 49ers and Chiefs worked out a trade for quarterback Alex Smith before the new league year began. Until both teams independently communicated the trade to the league office after the opening of the trading period, either team could have backed out.

Six year ago, the Bears failed to finalize a draft-day trade they had agreed to conduct with the Ravens, prompting sharp criticism from coach John Harbaugh. Still, the league won’t treat a trade as a binding agreement until both teams communicate the transaction to league headquarters.

And so, at any point in the next 17 days, either team can walk away without anything other than hard feelings or an aggressive sound bite that will fall on deaf ears at 345 Park Avenue.

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The Revis tampering from 2015 was pretty much what everyone thought it was

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 18:  Darrelle Revis #24 of the New England Patriots celebrates after an interception in the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts of the 2015 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

A new column that spends plenty of time wagging a finger at Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis for “embarrassing” the team’s owner with “late-night shenanigans” that may or may not ever result in a conviction, guilty plea, suspension, or fine contains new details about the events that resulted in Revis becoming a Jet in 2015.

Basically, it unfolded exactly the way everyone thought it did. Which is pretty much the way it always does.

“Team officials in stealth mode communicated with Revis, Inc., through private cell phones and face-to-face covert meetings at the 2015 Scouting Combine rather than make calls from the team’s landlines at their Florham Park facility,” writes Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “No paper trails were a must. [Owner Woody] Johnson, the driving force behind bringing back Revis to right a wrong in his mind, endorsed all of it.”

That’s how tampering works, every year with most if not all teams. Paper trails never exist, and face-to-face meetings occur at the Scouting Combine, with no effort by the league to ensure that agents and teams are talking only about clients currently on the roster and not about clients currently on another roster.

In 2015, even after Johnson committed a clear tampering violation by declaring the team’s interest in a Revis reunion (the Jets eventually were fined $100,000), Johnson was pushing the team to bring back Revis, before the Patriots decided whether to pick up a $20 million option for the coming season.

Mehta separately points out that the courtship of Revis ended up being a “colossal mistake.” Based on the way Revis performed in the second year of the contract, that’s a given. The recent arrest doesn’t make his return any more or less of a blunder; indeed, if Revis were still playing at a high level, the Jets would be circling the wagons and defending their star player.

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Julius Thomas to Dolphins reportedly back on

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 13:  Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars crosses the goal line for a touchdown during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Field on December 13, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

Mark Twain is credited as saying, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes,” and the same may be said of reports about a trade involving the Dolphins and Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas.

On Sunday, word was that Thomas would be involved in a deal that sent tackle Branden Albert to Jacksonville. Monday brought word that the deal would involve Albert and not Thomas, who was reportedly being targeted by other clubs.

A little more time has passed and now Thomas again appears to be on his way to Miami. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Thomas will be traded to the Dolphins and Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that the Jaguars will get a late-round pick in the 2017 draft in return.

Salguero previously reported Albert will be traded to Jacksonville for a late-round pick in 2018 in what may go down as two separate moves rather than one big trade.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that Thomas has agreed to a revised deal, something that was reportedly a consideration when discussions about a deal began, but no terms are known. The deal can’t be formalized until the new league year starts on March 9, so there’s time for further details to get ironed out.

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Cowboys create cap room by restructuring contracts

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Getty Images

The Cowboys’ annual game of kick the can has begun in earnest.

According to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, the Cowboys have freed up $17.3 million in short-term cap space by restructuring the contracts of left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick.

Such moves are standard operating procedure in Dallas, where they’re always pushing money into future years for present relief. They do it by turning base salary into bonuses, allowing them to prorate the hit over future years.

The moves would have them under the suggested salary cap of $168 million.

Of course, they have a lot more accounting to do, as they try to figure how and when to allocate the coming hit for quarterback Tony Romo, when they eventually move on from him.

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Garςon’s social media post acknowledges the obvious

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:   Pierre Garcon #88 of the Washington Redskins is tackled by Anthony Brown #30 of the Dallas Cowboys after catching a pass in their game at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Much has been made — and inferred, or is it implied? — about Washington receiver Pierre Garςon’s seemingly  lighthearted Instagram post that generally asked, “#YALLHIRING?”

The message ultimately says nothing other than Garςon, a pending free agent, currently doesn’t have a deal to return to the team. With 17 days to go until free agency opens (and, perhaps more importantly, 15 days until his agent can talk to other teams), the team is apparently playing the waiting game.

The waiting game becomes the tampering game next week in Indianapolis, when teams and agents begin to meet and to discuss hypothetical (or actual) offers for looming free agents, setting the market and allowing the player’s current team to determine whether it will or won’t pay him what he can get elsewhere.

For Washington, it’s a complicated question. With both Garςon and Jackson becoming free agents, it’s unclear whether either or both will stay. That likely will depend on what it will cost to keep them.

Regardless, it’s too early to call the Instagram post anything more than it is — a recognition by the player that the team has yet to sign him. They may, they may not. Either way, time will tell.

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Report: Jags have heard non-Dolphins interest in Julius Thomas trade

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 13:   Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars catches a pass against the Houston Texans during the game at EverBank Field on November 13, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The most recent report regarding a potential trade between the Dolphins and Jaguars has tackle Branden Albert going to Jacksonville in exchange for a draft pick.

That’s an update from word over the weekend that the Jags were going to send tight end Julius Thomas to Miami in return, but Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported that won’t be the case in an Albert deal. Salguero did add that Thomas is a player the Dolphins “would be interested in.”

They apparently have company on that front. Mike Kaye of First Coast News reports that the Jaguars have heard interest from a team or teams other than the Dolphins when it comes for dealing for the tight end.

It’s possible that the Jags are putting that word out in hopes of getting the Dolphins to reconsider a deal involving Thomas or otherwise gin up interest in Thomas so that they can get something in return rather than just cutting him. There’s a good chance that would take Thomas revisiting his contract, which calls for him to make $7 million in 2017. Thomas might prefer getting cut and choosing his own landing spot, however.

Thomas signed with the Jaguars before the 2015 season and has caught 76 passes for 736 yards and nine touchdowns while missing 11 games over his two years in Jacksonville.

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Former Giants wideout Victor Cruz visits the Panthers

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) catches a pass before an NFL preseason football game against the New York Jets on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) AP

Sometimes the dots connect themselves.

Former Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz is looking for a job, and the Panthers are looking for a productive slot receiver to go along with their occasionally productive big ones on the outside.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Cruz visited the Panthers this weekend and met with General Manager Dave Gettleman (who used to work for the Giants).

Cruz left town without a contract and is believed to have at least one other visit scheduled.

The veteran wideout was released by the Giants since they didn’t want to pay him $7.5 million after he came back with a moderately productive year after knee and calf problems the previous two years. He said he thought he had “a lot of good football” left in him. The Panthers could certainly use someone like him, even if it doesn’t turn out to be him.

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Jaguars cutting defensive lineman Jared Odrick

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 11: Yannick Ngakoue #91 of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates his sack of Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets with Jared Odrick #75 during the first quarter of an NFL preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

This is the time of year when certain veterans get a head-start on the free agent market, but it takes becoming unemployed.

According to a tweet by his agent, veteran defensive lineman Jared Odrick has been released by the Jaguars.

The 29-year-old was two years into what was billed as a five-year, $42.5 million deal. He was due a $2 million roster bonus on March 13 and a $6.5 million base salary this year, of which $3.5 million would have been guaranteed.

He led the Jaguars in sacks in 2015 (which is relative), but played in just six games last year after an elbow injury.

He’s been a productive interior player in the past, and should find some interest before the rest of the veterans have a shot at the market.

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TV executive talked to Roger Goodell about speeding up NFL games

Tony Corrente AP

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t short on advice from TV executives about how to improve ratings.

In addition to a suggestion from FOX that the league has too many broadcast windows, CBS chairman Les Moonves said he talked to Goodell about speeding up games, potentially by reducing the number of commercial breaks.

“If there are ways of doing advertising in different ways that are equally beneficial, we’re looking at that, and we’re trying to make the game as good an experience as we could make it,” Moonves said, via Fortune.

The idea of “doing advertising in different ways” will not mean fewer commercials, but it may mean fitting the commercials into the game differently so that there are fewer delays, or shorter delays. Moonves also discussed with Goodell ways that the referees could see the replays more quickly so that replay reviews would be shorter.

Although the NFL remains the most popular programming on American television, last year’s ratings decline early in the season caused some consternation. The TV networks and the NFL don’t want to see another decline in 2017.

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Broncos decline comment on claim Emmanuel Sanders lied about missed practice

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 06:  Emmanuel Sanders #10 of the Denver Broncos stands on the field before their game against the Oakland Raiders on November 6, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

An ugly divorce for Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders is causing an awkward moment with his employer.

Via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post, the Broncos have no comment on the contention that Sanders lied about missing a November 6 practice for the birth of his child. Sanders allegedly used the excuse “so he could go out partying.”

The allegation comes from court documents obtained by TMZ arising from the divorce of Emmanuel and Gabriella Sanders. She claims widespread adultery, including the expenditure of “thousands upon thousands of dollars on girlfriend and wasting the community estate.”

It will be interesting to see whether the Broncos take any action against Sanders, if he indeed lied in order to miss practice. With $6.75 million fully-guaranteed for 2017, a team-imposed suspension could void the guarantee and set the stage for a parting of the ways, if the new coaching staff decides to move on.

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Andrew Whitworth talking to Bengals about return

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11:  Teammates Andy Dalton #14 and Andrew Whitworth #77 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrate after a 23-22 victory over the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bengals drafted two tackles in the first two rounds of the 2015 draft, which likely left many people with the feeling that Andrew Whitworth’s time as the team’s left tackle was close to its expiration date.

While there were flirtations with a move to guard, Whitworth stayed at left tackle through the 2016 season while Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher saw time on the right side of the line. This offseason offers a potential parting of the ways with Whitworth set for free agency next month, but the door hasn’t been closed.

Appearing on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Alex Marvez and Solomon Wilcots, Whitworth said that he’s talking to the Bengals and that he hopes it works out for him to stay in Cincinnati. He also said that the discussions have been about him remaining as the team’s left tackle.

Bengals right guard Kevin Zeitler is also set to become a free agent, so there may be multiple changes up front on offense as the team tries to get back to the playoffs after their five-year streak of postseason appearances came to an end in 2016.

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