Ray Lewis may not be the only player potentially playing their final game this weekend. Erik Kuselias, Mike Florio and Amani Toomer give their insight and more leading up to the AFC Championship game.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: AFC Championship storylines
Because the day Manning has to take his first career pay-cut, Brady gets hooked up to play a round of golf at Augusta National with Rory McIlroy.
According to Todd Lewis of the Golf Channel, the four-time Super Bowl champ will walk the hallowed fairways alongside the four-time major winner next week.
Granted, the azaleas won’t be in full bloom (though that might keep Roger Goodell from hanging around pestering him about air pressure), but it’s still a cool moment for the older quarterback and the bright young star of golf.
Brady’s no stranger to the celebrity circuit, as he traditionally hits the Kentucky Derby and other events wearing a collection of ridiculous hats. Manning’s played Augusta before, and shot a 77. Which means Brady will probably shoot a 76 next week.
The simple juxtaposition of news involving the two best quarterbacks of this generation underscores the difference between them.
Four rings, one. An 11-5 edge in regular season games. Play Augusta, take a pay cut.
At least Manning can take comfort in the fact spring is coming, which should drive the legal pot-smokers out of their Colorado homes to work up an appetite for some delicious pizza.
The Steelers have already started thinking about Troy Polamalu’s retirement, but Polamalu himself hasn’t quite gotten there.
According to his agent, the veteran safety is up in the air about his future.
“Troy is still determining whether he wants to retire or try and play in 2015,” agent Marvin Demoff told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We will make a decision fairly soon, but [it is] not imminent.”
The Steelers might prefer a decision sooner, rather than later, and have been not-so-subtly nudging him in that direction.
He’s set to count $8.25 million against the salary cap this year, and they could save $6 million off the cap by designating him a post-June 1 release. They could also pursue part of his signing bonus if he retired, though a shameless money grab from one of their best players of the last generation would be, well, shameless.
If Polamalu does want to play, or create the appearance he wants to play, the Titans could be an option, as defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau could offer a landing spot for any number of wayward Steelers, and the Titans could use all the help they can get.
Greg Hardy’s effort to come off the commissioner’s exempt list before free agency starts next week took him to New York on Wednesday for a meeting with league officials.
Hardy has been on the list since the second week of the 2014 season as a result of domestic violence charges that led to a bench trial last summer. Hardy was found guilty in that trial, but appealed for a jury trial and the charges were dismissed when his accuser failed to appear for those proceedings.
There was no immediate resolution to that meeting, which Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports included Hardy providing the league with documents from his case. The league had sought transcripts and other files from the bench trial, but their request was denied because it had already been returned to the district attorney and Hardy’s attorney.
Getting word on any suspension sooner rather than later would allow Hardy and potential suitors to discuss a deal with a clear idea of how much time he’d miss in the 2015 season. It’s not clear when the league will make a ruling.
After agreeing to trade away an expensive running back in LeSean McCoy, the Eagles are now devoting a relatively low salary to a running back who had been one of McCoy’s backups.
The Eagles will give the low tender offer to restricted free agent running back Chris Polk, NJ.com reports. That means they’re offering him a one-year, $1.6 million contract for 2015. It also means that if another team signs Polk to an offer sheet — and if the Eagles don’t match that offer — the Eagles won’t get any compensation.
If the Eagles viewed retaining Polk as a high priority, they could have offered him the higher $2 million tender, which would have meant a team that signed him away would have had to give the Eagles a second-round draft pick. But the Eagles are apparently not worried about another team signing Polk away.
The $1.6 million tender, combined with the $4.1 million Darren Sproles will cost against this year’s cap, means that the top two running backs on the depth chart will cost a total of $5.7 million. It remains to be seen whether Philadelphia — which has cleared a huge amount of cap space this week — will add another free agent running back. At the moment, Sproles and Polk are the 1-2 punch.
If Byron Maxwell leaves Seattle in free agency, the Seattle Seahawks will be in need of help at cornerback this offseason.
Per McGinn, the Seahawks have made their intentions to pursue Williams clear to him and his agent.
Maxwell is the top free agent cornerback on the market and will likely be too expensive for Seattle to retain. The Seahawks have committed large contracts to the three other starters in their secondary – Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor – and are still looking to extend Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson and potentially Bobby Wagner this offseason.
Jeremy Lane will also likely miss a significant portion of the season after tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl, leaving Seattle with just Sherman, Tharold Simon and Marcus Burley available at the position. Deshawn Shead and Steven Terrell can also play the position in a pinch, but have been more often used as safeties.
Williams was signed by the Packers when Seattle general manager John Schneider was still a member of Green Bay’s front office in 2006. He could be a cheaper veteran option to replace Maxwell.
This is all assuming Williams doesn’t agree to extension from the Packers prior to the start of free agency next week. The Journal-Sentinel reports Williams turned down a two-year, $8 million offer from the Packers.
The Saints were close to $28 million over the salary cap prior to the release of running back Pierre Thomas on Wednesday. New Orleans will have much more to do in order to get under the cap by the start of the league year next week.
Lofton appeared in all 48 games over the last three seasons in New Orleans. He racked up 144 tackles and a forced fumble last season for the Saints.
However, Lofton is owed a $4.5 million roster bonus next week and is scheduled to count $9.5 million against the salary cap, according to Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Trading Lofton would get the Saints off the hook for the roster bonus and save the team $5.25 million.
More trimming would still be required to get in compliance with the salary cap but dealing Lofton would put a sizable dent in the Saints’ cap overage.
Former Packers linebacker Tom Bettis, the No. 5 overall pick in the 1955 NFL Draft, died Saturday at age 81. His passing was announced in a Legacy.com obituary.
Bettis played nine NFL seasons (1955-1963), the first seven of which were with Green Bay. He finished his career with one-season stints with Pittsburgh and Chicago. A Chicago native, Bettis played collegiately at Purdue and played on NFL-champion clubs with the Packers (1959) and Bears (1963).
Bettis would go on to have a long career as a defensive position coach and defensive coordinator for multiple NFL clubs, with coordinating stints with the Chiefs, Cardinals and Browns. He served as an assistant on the Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV-winning team.
Bettis was the Chiefs’ interim head coach for the final seven games of 1977, leading Kansas City to a 1-6 record. He retired from coaching in 1995.
In his final years, Bettis lived in Katy, Texas. He is survived by three daughters, a brother and a sister.
As more and more (and more) candidates emerge for the position of NFLPA executive director, the chance of no candidate getting a majority of the 32 player representative votes on the first ballot increases.
If that happens, the top two candidates will square off. And if the top two candidates finish in a 16-16 tie, things get a little more complicated.
According to the NFLPA, the tie would be broken based on the total number of dues-paying members of the 16 teams whose reps voted for one candidate versus the total number of dues-paying members of the 16 teams whose reps voted for the other candidate.
The full roster of candidates will be finalized at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, when the window closes for the submission of nominations. For now, five challengers to DeMaurice Smith have obtained the minimum of three nominations: Sean Gilbert, Andrew Smith, John Stufflebeam, Arthur McAfee, and Robert Griffith.
With Eagles coach Chip Kelly further putting his imprint upon the Eagles while also subtly twisting the team’s beak into a duckbill, the notion that he’ll try to trade up from No. 20 in the draft to secure the player he see as the surest of sure things becomes stronger. But there’s an important thing to remember regarding the potential all-in-and-then-some effort to slide up into the top five, the top two, or all the way to No. 1.
There’s a limit to how many picks the Eagles can trade.
According the the league office, trades conducted before the draft begins can include draft picks in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Once the draft starts (i.e., the moment the Commissioner declares the draft to be open and places the team with the first pick on the clock), trades can include picks from 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
With the Eagles having a long way to go to get in position to select quarterback Marcus Mariota, the message is clear: Waiting until the draft commences provides even more flexibility.
It’s unclear what it would take to get the Eagles from No. 20 to wherever they’d need to go to reunite Kelly with Mariota. Three years ago, Washington gave up the sixth pick, a 2013 first-rounder, a 2014 first-rounder, and a 2012 second-rounder to move up only four spots for quarterback Robert Griffin III. If a fourth first-round pick is necessary to get the Eagles where they need to be, they can throw the 2018 selection onto the pile, if they wait until the draft begins.
In the wake of his four-hour meeting with Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and G.M. Rick Spielman, running back Adrian Peterson has issued a statement that suggests his concerns were not resolved during the get-together.
“I appreciate Rick [Spielman] and Coach [Mike] Zimmer coming down to see me today,” Peterson said in a statement issued to Josina Anderson of ESPN. “We had a great dialogue and they were able to understand where I was coming from and concerns my family and I still have. We respect each other and hopefully the situation can pan out so that everyone involved is content.”
By using the phrase “still have,” Peterson’s statement suggests that Wednesday’s meeting failed to resolve them.
Zimmer has twice told PFT Live that, if Peterson is dead set on leaving the Vikings, Zimmer would accommodate the player.
Peterson’s father, Nelson, has confirmed that Adrian believes Vikings COO Kevin Warren worked with the NFL to keep Adrian off the field for the balance of the 2014 season. The truth may be that the NFL was determined to keep Peterson from playing, with or without the team’s consent. If so, the team’s best play would have been to cooperate with the league office. Resistance wouldn’t have changed the outcome, and may have simply angered the powers-that-be.
With one day remaining for securing the three player representative nominations necessary for placement on the ballot for the NFLPA executive director position, another candidate has emerged.
Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that former NFL safety Robert Griffith has obtained the requisite nominations from player representatives holding votes in the upcoming election.
Griffith played for the Vikings, Browns, and Cardinals in a career that began in 1994 and ended in 2006.
Griffith joins Sean Gilbert, Andrew Smith, John Stufflebeam, and Arthur McAfee as the five challengers to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. The deadline for submitting three nominations is Thursday, March 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is betting on himself while in return giving the Broncos cap relief.
Chris Mortensen and Jeff Legwold of ESPN reports that the $4 million in incentives that Manning can earn in lieu of $4 million in salary are tied to getting to the Super Bowl and winning it. Specifically, Manning gets $2 million if the Broncos get to the Super Bowl, and another $2 million if the Broncos win it.
The move means that Manning’s cap number will drop by $4 million this year. Any money earned under the incentive package will count against the 2016 salary cap.
The report mentions no specific playing-time minimum to qualify for the money. If there is none, it means that Manning could earn the money even if he gets injured and unproven fourth-year backup Brock Osweiler leads the team to the Super Bowl.
Sandler, Eli — you can stop laughing now.
On Wednesday, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer traveled to Houston to meet with running back Adrian Peterson. After the four-hour sit-down between the three men, Peterson said the session went well, according to ESPN.com.
How well or why it went well isn’t known; Peterson opted not to share any of the details.
By agreeing to meet face-to-face with his head coach and by not cutting it off before four hours passed, that’s a very good sign for the continuation of Peterson’s career in Minnesota. Coupled with the Vikings’ apparently willingness to pay Peterson the full $12.75 million he’s due to earn in 2015, it could be that Peterson will let bygones be bygones and return to the franchise with which he has spent his entire career.
One source with knowledge of the team’s thinking believes that’s exactly what will happen. While it’s too early to call it a done deal, there’s suddenly some reason for optimism that Peterson will be wearing purple come Week One.
With three key linebackers slated to be unrestricted free agents, the Cowboys have added some depth at the position.
The 28-year-old Rivers has been an outside linebacker in 4-3 schemes throughout his pro career. He recorded 16 tackles in 12 games (three starts) for Buffalo in 2014.
The No. 9 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Rivers (6-2, 235) played his first four seasons with the Bengals, then had a two-season stint with the Giants (2012-2013) before joining Buffalo, which released him in February.
Peyton Manning didn’t want to say much about his pay cut, which could have been even bigger than $4 million he gave back.
According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, the Broncos actually asked for more of a concession than the $4 million, before settling on the figure with Manning today.
It’s the first pay cut of Manning’s career, so you can imagine it wasn’t anything he wanted to discuss at length.
“I don’t talk about my contract. I never have in 18 years and I’m not going to start now,”Manning said. “I’ve been working real hard and I’m excited to be back with the Denver Broncos. Can’t wait for April 13 to get here when the team can finally come together. I’m excited to get to work and get to know the new coaches and looking forward to trying to make 2015 a special year.”
Manning will have a chance to earn the money back, but the next order of business will be his physical tomorrow at Broncos headquarters, of which he said: “I see that as being pretty routine.”
Once that’s taken care of, he’ll sign the new deal, and then split until team conditioning begins on April 13.
And having just gone through this process, you can imagine how he responded when asked about finishing out his contract in 2016.
“I’m tired of talking about the past and the future,” Manning said. “I’m excited to talk about now.”
Now, the question is whether the savings will help the Broncos keep any of their free agent targets, or whether this was just a pay cut they forced on Manning because they could.