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Matthew Stafford’s contract could be redone this offseason

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Last year, the Lions needed to give wide receiver Calvin Johnson a new deal in order to free up cap room to fill out the rest of the roster.

Johnson wound up with a fat new contract as a result, something that may have quarterback Matthew Stafford licking his chops right now. The Lions are heading into the offseason over the cap with 23 current members of the roster slated for unrestricted free agency, a pairing that doesn’t bode well for the overall health of their roster. Chopping down Stafford’s $20.3 million cap number via a new deal is one of the easiest ways to remedy the situation. General Manager Martin Mayhew sounds like a man planning to do just that.

“It’ll be a challenge. It was a challenge last year. As we sat here last year we had $60 million in four players and half the cap was in four players. We didn’t have Cliff Avril signed, we didn’t have Jeff Backus signed, we didn’t have Stephen Tulloch signed, we didn’t have Shaun Hill signed. Guys that all were important guys to us, but they weren’t signed and we had half our cap in four guys,” Mayhew said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I thought (team president Tom Lewand) did a great job renegotiating some contracts. Obviously, getting Calvin done was a big accomplishment for us and we freed up a little bit of room. But it was just enough room really to operate and to get our own guys back. This year will be somewhat similar.”

Stafford won’t be the only player impacted by the Lions’ race to get under the cap, but he’ll likely wind up being the most meaningful one since his cap number is so large and the team isn’t going to be cutting him outright. The same might not be true of defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and other pricey Lions as the team comes off a 4-12 season.

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Arik Armstead limited at 49ers minicamp after shoulder surgery

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The 49ers are holding their first minicamp under coach Kyle Shanahan this week and one member of the defensive line isn’t able to be a full participant.

Arik Armstead ended last season on injured reserve due to a torn labrum in his shoulder that he’d been dealing with for some time. Armstead had the injury addressed surgically a short time later and he’s been held out of team drills this week as part of the rehab process.

“There comes a time when you’re trying to play through an injury, but your shoulder keeps popping out in the middle of a game,” Armstead said, via the Sacramento Bee. “It’s like, ‘What are you going to do?’ You’ve got to fix it.”

Armstead is able to take part in walkthroughs as the 49ers install a new defense under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. Armstead has been lining up most often as the “Leo” defensive end that is generally asked to rush the passer from the right side of the line. That would be a new role for Armstead, who some believe will be joined on the defensive front by Stanford’s Solomon Thomas when the 49ers make the second overall pick on Thursday night.

That would make three straight defensive linemen in the first round for the 49ers after taking DeForest Buckner in 2016 and Armstead in 2015, although there’s plenty of other ways for things to play out when the team is on the board.

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Mitchell Trubisky says he has more experience than 13 starts suggests

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North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was only a starter for one of his four years in college, but he doesn’t think that should be held against him.

Trubisky pointed out on PFT Live that he got a lot of playing time when he was a backup in 2014 and 2015, that he was in the quarterback meeting rooms for four years and that he’s a quick study.

“It’s pretty obvious I only started 13 games, but I played in 30,” Trubisky said. “I think there’s a lot of things you can look at besides playing experience. I do have a lot of experience around the game, being at North Carolina for four years. I guarantee I’ve watched as much tape if not more than all the other quarterbacks going through this process. I’ve seen a lot of ball. I’m a student of the game. I’m a quick learner. The experience thing does hold some weight but I’ve been around the game long enough, I know enough and I definitely know enough, and I’ve shown what I can do last year and I will be successful at the next level.”

With the notable exception of Cam Newton, who only started one year at Auburn, college quarterbacks who only spent one year as a starter have generally not had great NFL careers. Trubisky hopes to change that.

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Jamal Adams expects to go in the Top 5, pledges to be “outstanding”

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LSU safety Jamal Adams will be at the draft tonight, but he doesn’t expect to be in the green room for long.

Adams said on PFT Live that he expects to go somewhere between the second and fifth overall picks, although he hasn’t been given any assurances.

“I really don’t know what to expect. I’m just going to be outstanding wherever I land. I’m just going to wait on that call,” Adams said.

Adams said he visited two teams with Top 5 picks, the 49ers and Jaguars, as well as the Jets, Panthers and Bengals among teams not in the Top 5 that could hope he falls to them. Expect to hear his name called within the first hour of the draft tonight.

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Bridgewater “tolling” issue likely will be moot

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In response to the ESPN report that the Vikings likely won’t pick up quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s fifth-year option before the May 3 deadline, NFL Media reported that it won’t matter, if Bridgewater spends the full season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, that’s currently a very, very big if. Bridgewater is currently not expected to spend the entire season on the PUP list. Which means that his contract would definitely expire after the 2017 season, if the Vikings don’t pick up the option.

Even if Bridgewater doesn’t exit the PUP list in 2017, it’s still not entirely clear that Bridgewater’s four-year contract automatically would extend to five years. If it does, a disagreement could emerge between team and player as to whether Bridgewater should exit the PUP list during the midseason window that allows players first to practice and then, if healthy, to join the active roster.

Also, if the Vikings can indeed toll the contract by not activating Bridgewater from the PUP list in 2017, why not pick up the fifth-year option and extend the deal through 2019? If they think he’ll stay on PUP in 2017 and that he won’t be ready to play by 2019, that would be the most ominous news yet regarding his knee injury from nearly eight months ago.

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Thursday morning one-liners

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The Bills seem to be in the market for a QB. Again.

The Dolphins may have a chance to move back, if they want to.

Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo has no nerves today (though until it’s over, perhaps he should).

This could be an “all-in” draft for Jets G.M. Mike Maccagnan.

The Ravens haven’t drafted as well as we’re accustomed to lately.

Adding to the defensive line makes some sense for the Bengals.

Indians fans want the Browns to take DE Myles Garrett (which makes as much sense as asking the homeless guy).

The Steelers should be looking for CBs if the pass-rushers are gone.

The Texans will be watching Patrick Mahomes closely tonight.

The Colts should take the best player available, as long as he plays defense.

We’ll find out tonight how urgent new Jaguars boss Tom Coughlin is.

A look at five Titans options if they keep the fifth pick.

It’s time for former Broncos first-rounder Shane Ray to step up.

Chiefs WR Albert Wilson signed his RFA tender.

Are the Chargers prepared to surprise everyone again?

Yesterday’s acquisition of RB Marshawn Lynch was all about “town bizness” for the Raiders.

Tonight’s the night for the Cowboys to restock on defense.

If the Giants draft a QB, it comes with a risk.

Here’s something for Eagles fans to boo while they’re warming up tonight.

Washington’s Bruce Allen has been willing to look past red flags in the past.

The Bears could go either direction tonight.

The Lions can’t afford to just play it safe.

Washington CB Kevin King could be the answer for the Packers.

The Vikings history in years without a first-rounder hasn’t been good.

The Falcons could be looking to trade with some old friends.

The Panthers have some intriguing in-state options.

The Saints usually have 100-130 players on their draft board.

The Buccaneers have plenty of options at No. 19.

The Cardinals are staying quiet on reinstated LB Daryl Washington.

The Rams could stand to focus on fixing their offense.

49ers LB Navorro Bowman is back to full speed.

The Seahawks are shorter on picks than they’d like to be.

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Keenan Reynolds signs Ravens tender

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The Ravens couldn’t find a spot for Keenan Reynolds on their 53-man roster until the end of the 2016 season and didn’t find a spot for him in the lineup for the final game of the season, but he’ll get another shot at breaking through this year.

Reynolds signed his exclusive rights free agent tender with the team on Wednesday. Reynolds set a record for touchdowns while playing quarterback at Navy, but made the move to wide receiver upon moving up to the professional ranks with the Ravens.

He also got a look as a kick returner last year and special teams play will likely be an essential part of any formula that lands Reynolds in the lineup on Sundays this time around.

Tackle De’Ondre Wesley also signed his tender with the Ravens, who are set to add to their roster with the No. 16 pick on Thursday night.

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Bears have three players in mind for No. 3

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The Bears may not have to make much of a choice at all on Thursday night.

During a pre-draft press conference on Wednesday, Bears General Manager Ryan Pace said that the team has identified three players worthy of being picked with the third overall pick in this year’s draft. That means that they will have one of those players available when they are on the board regardless of what happens with the top two selections, assuming, of course, that the Bears don’t trade down.

If they do, Pace says they have “a cloud of names” that would fit for a lower spot in the first round but said that the team’s general approach to making the pick will remain the same at any spot.

“You get yourself into trouble if you’re not sticking with our philosophy of best player available,” Pace said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “When you start trying to manufacture things or create things, that’s when teams get into dangerous water. I think, if we just stay with the guys we have a consensus on and best player available, we’ll be in good shape.”

Pace didn’t offer any hints about which players would qualify for that description or about what positions they might play, but the wait to find out won’t extend too much longer.

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Titans G.M.: Chances of a trade are “50-50,” with QB market driving it

The reports that the Titans are willing if not eager to make a trade appear to be true. Unless they’re not.

Because even Titans General Manager Jon Robinson said the odds are even that they will make a move, saying there was a “50-50” chance.

“We’ve had a few calls,” Robinson said, via Jason Wolf of the Tennesseean. “I think there’s some that are just investigative, just trying to see if anything is going on around us. And we’ve had a couple a little more serious in nature about potentially moving.”

The Titans pick fifth and 18th in the first round, but lack a second rounder following last year’s flurry of deals.

And betting on the Titans to make a move seems safe, since Robinson has made three trades involving draft position in his one year in charge. That included trading out of the top spot last year to earn a bounty from the Rams, and trading back up to take tackle Jack Conklin.

If they make a move this year, it will likely be driven again by someone wanting a quarterback, and wanting to be one spot ahead of the Jets.

“Over the last week or so the quarterback market has maybe heated up a little bit,” Robinson said, “at least from what I can see on the internet. I don’t know how legit it is. But again I think we’re in a good position at five and 18 to get two good football players if we stay there.”

Jon, if it’s on the internet, it has to be true. Happy hunting.

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Broncos feel renewed energy this offseason

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There is sometimes talk of a “Super Bowl hangover” in the aftermath of a title win as teams find it harder to summon the same energy level in a shortened offseason that finds more demands on a player’s time because of their success in the previous season.

The Broncos aren’t using that exact phrase, but it sounds like they feel things weren’t as dialed in as they could have been in the wake of Super Bowl 50 last season. Chris Harris said Wednesday that the team was “a little bit lax” coming off the win, which is an observation that his fellow cornerback Aqib Talib agrees with while also agreeing that the team has found better footing this year.

“I feel our urgency is there,” Talib said, via ESPN.com. “I don’t think our urgency was there last year. We were kind of in recovering mode the whole offseason. Our urgency is there. That’s where it starts.”

Falling from the top of the mountain to out of the playoffs is humbling enough to create a sharper edge, but may not be the only reason for a new attitude in Denver. The change in head coaches from Gary Kubiak to Vance Joseph likely has some impact on the changed atmosphere as the unfamiliar leads players to react differently than they would under the same tutelage.

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NFL creating another officiating job, replacing Dean Blandino with two

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Almost-former NFL senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino is leaving just as the league was about to give final say on real-time replay from every game.

And after a moment of surprise, perhaps they’ve realized it might take more than one man to do the job.

According to Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com, the NFL has posted a new job which sounds like the guy who will be the eyes and face of replay, in addition to the vacancy Blandino’s creating by going to FOX.

The posting for the newly created vice president of replay and administration says that person will be responsible for “accuracy and consistency in all areas concerning in-game reviews and communication with [the] on-field officiating crew,” and said the job would require the “ability to make decisions in situations that are time sensitive and potentially public facing.”

That new title will report to the senior vice president of officiating, meaning they’re effectively splitting Blandino’s job in half.

Creating a new position does nothing to change the perception that centralizing replay was done with Blandino in particular in mind, and that his leaving left them in a state of pants somewhere other than up. And it also suggests that the lure of more money for less work was something Blandino was interested in, unless the league was offering to double his salary and we just haven’t heard about it.

It also sounds vaguely familiar, like a suggestion some wise person made recently. Who could that have been?

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How many quarterbacks will be drafted in round one?

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The first round of the 2017 draft has arrived, and one of the biggest questions is what it always is during the first round of the draft: How many quarterbacks will be drafted?

It’s the PFT Live question of the day, with the choices listed below.

The show starts at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio, with the simulcast on NBCSN beginning at 7:00 a.m. ET. Guests include two of the quarterbacks at the top of the draft: Mitchell Trubisky and DeShone Kizer. Also joining the show will be safety Jamal Adams and tight end O.J. Howard.

And the day culminates with everyone learning whether one, two, three, four, or five quarterbacks find out their first NFL destinations. With every team that doesn’t have a franchise quarterback looking for a franchise quarterback — and with several teams who have franchise quarterbacks looking to replace them — the quarterbacks could be overdrafted in 2017, just like they often are.

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Doubts about Ladarius Green may lead Steelers to draft a tight end

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A year ago, the Steelers signed Ladarius Green to a four-year, $20 million contract, thinking that meant they had found Heath Miller’s replacement at tight end. It hasn’t worked out that way.

Green missed 10 games in the regular season and all three games in the postseason, and now the Steelers aren’t sure he’ll ever be ready to go. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that the Steelers’ coaches may not have any hopes for Green, and the Steelers are likely to draft a tight end.

There were reports shortly after Green arrived in Pittsburgh that the Steelers found out only after he signed that a lingering ankle issue and a history of concussions were worse than the team thought. The Steelers, however, said that wasn’t the case.

If the Steelers spend their first-round pick on a tight end tonight, that’s a strong sign that they’re not as confident in Green now as they were a year ago.

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Cowboys add punter Sam Irwin-Hill

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The Dallas Cowboys have added some competition to their special teams unit.

The team signed former Arkansas punter Sam Irwin-Hill to battle Chris Jones during the offseason.

Irwin-Hill played two seasons for Arkansas after transferring from the City College of San Francisco junior college. Irwin-Hill averaged 44.3 yards per punt during his senior season in 2014. Irwin-Hill previously had a brief stint with the Indianapolis Colts as well after going undrafted.

Irwin-Hill will have a difficult time earning the job. Jones averaged a career-high 45.9 yards per punt average last season for Dallas. However, he is entering the final year of his contract with the Cowboys and is set to earn $1.5 million in base salary. Irwin-Hill would make $465,000 as a rookie, which could save Dallas close to $1 million if they end up needing to create cap space somewhere.

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Geronimo Allison settles marijuana possession charge

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Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison settled a marijuana charge stemming from an arrest last September.

According to the Associated Press, Allison reached a deal with prosecutors in Manitowoc County to a lesser ordinance violation charge which will require Allison to pay a $330.50 fine and complete community service.

Allison was stopped for speeding in September and was arrested after a search of his vehicle turned up cigars with marijuana.

The matter could still subject Allison to league discipline.

Allison caught 12 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns last year in his rookie season with the Packers.

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Joe Thomas sees the draft as a soap opera with unpaid actors

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Ten years ago, tackle Joe Thomas opted not to attend the draft. He recently explained that he didn’t want to be an unpaid actor in the NFL’s top offseason drama.

“The idea of going to New York for five days and kinda being paraded around by the NFL as they make money off your every step, and the whole purpose is just for publicity for me to stand there in a suit and go, ‘Look at me everybody!’… That sounds horrible,” Thomas tells Graham Bentsinger in a new interview that debuts this weekend.

It also sounded horrible to the NFL that Thomas didn’t want to go along with the thing that is constantly sold to players as some sort of an honor.

“It started turning into, ‘The teams are gonna think you’re a prima donna and they’re not gonna wanna draft you anymore because you’re shunning the draft’ . . . to try to coerce me into showing up to the draft,” Thomas said. “And I really thank my agent, Peter Schaffer, for just being real upfront about it and saying, ‘Look, these guys are just BS-ing you. They’re just doing what they can to try to get you there, because they need the actors for their TV show.’ . . . And they get all these players to show up for free and they become part of the soap opera of the NFL, which is great for some guys. . . . But then there’s the guy that just plummets in the draft and he’s there sweating it out. He’s got five cameras in his face.”

Joe gets it, as he usually does. The whole process is packaged and sold to the players as a privilege, with no one from the league’s perspective ever admitting that having the players participate makes a show about nothing possibly about something. The draft doesn’t need to have a stage; it doesn’t even need to have a gathering. Everything can happen electronically, with no boos or no bear hugs and no parade of young men in fancy suits who are providing free content for the Ultimate Reality Show’s ultimate reality show and ultimately getting no compensation for it.

That doesn’t mean I’m not excited for the draft. But it does mean that every player who will be marching out to greet the Commissioner should be getting paid to be there. The Commissioner, and everyone else attending the draft on behalf of the league or one of its teams, definitely is.

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