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Record 73 underclassmen granted early entry into draft

Joeckel Getty Images

One of the arguments presented in favor of a rookie wage scale was that it would remove the incentive for underclassmen to leave school early and buy a ticket to the draft-day lottery.  One of the arguments presented against a rookie wage scale was that it would encourage more kids to come out early so that they could begin to establish years of service and performance in anticipation of a big-money second contract.

So far, the latter argument seems to be the better argument.

The NFL has announced that a 73 players, including possible first overall pick Luke Joeckel, have been granted “special eligibility” for the draft.  These players have satisfied the rule preventing entry into the draft until at least three years after the player’s high-school class has graduated.

The league office advises that this is a record number of early entries.

The number has increased in 2013 from 65 in 2012.  In 2011, 56 players left school early for the draft.

In 2010, the year in which plenty of players were believed to be attempting to beat the arrival of the rookie wage scale, only 53 entered the draft early.  The year before that, it was 46.

So in four years the number is up 58 percent.  Since the arrival of the rookie wage scale, the numbers are up by 37 percent.

Thus, it’s fair to wonder whether at least some of the players are choosing to leave not to get huge money now but to work toward getting huge money after logging three or four NFL seasons.

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McAdoo steps in Adrian Peterson tampering pothole

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 03:  Running back Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on November 3, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

By announcing on Tuesday that they won’t pick up an option on running back Adrian Peterson’s contract, the Vikings gave every other team a chance to tamper with Peterson by negotiating with his agents in Indianapolis. With Peterson still under contract until March 9, no one technically can speak to Peterson’s agents until next Tuesday, when the annual legal tampering period opens.

But illegal tampering will indeed happen. It’s rampant in Indianapolis, with all teams and all agents present for the Scouting Combine. But it’s also important that tampering happen discreetly, subtly. And it’s critical that no coach or G.M. publicly declare an interest in Peterson prematurely.

Apparently, Giants coach Ben McAdoo did. While not a major violation of a rule that will be blatantly violated with no paper trail or other proof in the coming days in Indianapolis, it’s an unforced error from McAdoo no different than Jets owner Woody Johnson’s gratuitous comments from two years ago about Darrelle Revis. (The Jets were fined $100,000.)

With most cases of tampering hard to prove and with nearly every team (if not every team) doing it, the league only acts when a team allows itself to get caught. McAdoo has done just that, and now the league will have to strike the balance between enforcing a rule that all teams are currently breaking and creating the impression that the league office is going easy on the Giants, again.

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Patriots may still get an offer they can’t refuse for Jimmy Garoppolo

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 01: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots looks downfield during the 4th quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots don’t plan to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. But how likely is it that their plans will change?

Shortly after Adam Schefter reported (echoing something Peter King had said) that the Patriots aren’t trading Garoppolo, Mike Reiss of ESPN noted that the Patriots may still change their minds.

Reiss, a longtime Boston reporter who is very plugged-in to the way the Patriots do business, suggests that the Patriots may get an offer they can’t refuse. Reiss speculates that if a team offered its 2017 first-round draft pick plus a conditional future first-round draft pick, that would be enough for Bill Belichick to decide to deal Garoppolo.

That would be a lot for some other team to give up. It would also be a lot more than the Patriots got the last time they traded Tom Brady’s backup: In 2009, the Patriots packaged Matt Cassel with Mike Vrabel and only got a second-round pick in return. Garoppolo for two first-round picks would be a whole lot better than that.

What it would take remains to be seen, but Reiss is surely correct that there has to be some offer that would at least get Belichick to listen. Garoppolo is, after all, just a backup, and if things go as planned he’ll never see the field in 2017. And after 2017 Garoppolo is a free agent. At that point the Patriots would either lose him for nothing more than a compensatory pick, or franchise him and devote more than $20 million in cap space to a backup, something no team has ever done.

That assumes Garoppolo will still be a backup in 2018. Does Belichick think Brady may only have one more year left in him? If so, it would make sense to hang on to Garoppolo and hope he can become the Aaron Rodgers to Brady’s Brett Favre, or the Steve Young to Brady’s Joe Montana.

But Brady insists he still has several more good years left in him. If the Patriots believe Brady, it would seem to make more sense to trade Garoppolo and acquire a player or players who can help them keep winning with Brady. As Reiss notes, the right offer would get the Patriots to make that move, even if their plan for now is to keep their backup quarterback in place.

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Sashi Brown: Browns won’t panic if Terrelle Pryor leaves

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 24:  Terrelle Pryor #11 of the Cleveland Browns runs after the catch against the San Diego Chargers at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

The franchise tag deadline will pass at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday and Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said that the team’s plans haven’t changed regarding wide receiver Terrelle Pryor.

Speaking from the Scouting Combine, Brown said, via Mary Kay Cabot of, that the team is not going to use the tag on Pryor and that they know that “means he’s effectively a free agent” even if free agency doesn’t officially get underway until next week. It doesn’t mean that he won’t be with the Browns in 2017, however.

Brown said that he plans to speak to Pryor’s agent Drew Rosenhaus in Indianapolis and termed Pryor’s return a “priority” for Cleveland as the offseason gets underway. While that’s the case, Brown knows that Pryor’s status makes his departure a real possibility and added that “we won’t panic if he’s not on our roster.”

Pryor caught caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns in his first full year in Cleveland’s offense as a wide receiver and ranks among the top free agents at the position this offseason.

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Giants will look at Adrian Peterson

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 18: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball in the first quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts on December 18, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Well before he was released from the Vikings, running back Adrian Peterson mentioned the Giants as a team that he might like to play for in the event he left Minnesota.

That comment was revisited recently when Peterson tweeted about the Giants making “interesting moves” early in the offseason, which kept the New Jersey club on many minds as a possible destination for Peterson.

With the Vikings confirming this week that Peterson will be free to talk to other teams on March 7 and sign with them on March 9, the running back’s future was an obvious topic for Giants coach Ben McAdoo’s press conference on Wednesday.

McAdoo said, via Dan Duggan of, that the Giants will look at Peterson and evaluate him in the same way that they would any free agent who might be on their radar. Outside observers have noted the Giants’ frequent use of shotgun alignments and infrequent use of fullbacks as reasons why Peterson might not be a great fit for the Giants, but the team’s view will obviously trump any of those opinions when it comes time for the team to decide on a course of action in the backfield.

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Sean McDermott says LeSean McCoy is a big part of his plans

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 27:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 27, 2016 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

New Bills head coach Sean McDermott says there’s no way he’s getting rid of running back LeSean McCoy.

McDermott told PFT Live that McCoy is a player he has long admired, going back to their time together with the Eagles, and that McCoy will continue to play in Buffalo.

“LeSean is going to be with the Buffalo Bills moving forward,” McDermott said. “He’s a great player. We worked together in Philadelphia and when you look at the skill set LeSean brings to the table, we’re excited to be working with him.”

McCoy has an $8.875 million cap hit this season, which may prove to be the highest of any running back in the NFL this year after Le’Veon Bell signs a long-term deal with the Steelers. That cap hit has led to some speculation that the Bills may want to get out from under his contract.

But McDermott’s comments pretty well end that speculation. McCoy is staying with the Bills.

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Rams again use franchise tag on Trumaine Johnson

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 27: Cornerback Trumaine Johnson #22 of the St. Louis Rams celebrates after intercepting a pass during the second quarter of the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rams have again placed the franchise tag on cornerback Trumaine Johnson ahead of Wednesday’s deadline for franchise tag decisions.

Johnson also played last season under the franchise tag. Last March, the Rams essentially faced the decision on whether to keep Johnson or to keep cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who hit free agency and signed with the Giants.

Getting another franchise tag means Johnson will make about $16 million and be the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback in 2017 unless he and the Rams work out a long-term deal at a different rate.

Johnson, 27, had one interception in 14 games last season. He had a career-best seven interceptions in 2015 and has 16 interceptions in his five-year career. The Rams drafted Johnson in the third round in 2012.

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Salary cap set at $167 million

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20:  Newly redesigned $100 notes lay in stacks at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on May 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. The one hundred dollar bills will be released this fall and has new security features, such as a duplicating portrait of Benjamin Franklin and microprinting added to make the bill more difficult to counterfeit.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The projected salary cap figure for 2017 that’s been bandied about in recent weeks of $168 million wasn’t exactly right, but it’s pretty close.

A league official told Judy Battista of NFL Media that the salary cap will actually be set at $167 million for the coming season. That’s a rise of about $12 million from last season and the cap has gone up about $47 million over the last five years.

Some of the biggest beneficiaries of the continued rise in the cap will be the players who hit the open market as free agents next week as they’ll see plenty of that money funneled toward their bank accounts. Given this year’s crop of free agents, that’s sure to lead to a few deals that leave people scratching their heads in the early days of free agency but the combination of being free to sign anywhere and the amount of money teams are required to spend makes it a good time to be out of contract.

The Browns, 49ers, Buccaneers and Jaguars are among the teams with the most cap space heading into free agency.

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Ravens won’t tag Brandon Williams, hope to bring him back

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 29: Defensive tackle Brandon Williams #98 of the Baltimore Ravens is introduced prior to the start of a preseason game against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium on August 29, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Matt Hazlett/ Getty Images) ***Local Caption*** Brandon Williams Getty Images

The Ravens won’t place the franchise tag on defensive tackle Brandon Williams, Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Harbaugh said the Ravens hope they can still bring Williams back on a new deal. Free agency and the new league year begin next week, March 9.

Harbaugh said the Ravens have been “negotiating” with Williams and two other potential priority free agents, right tackle Rick Wagner and fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Both Williams and Wagner rank in the top 25 on PFT’s Hot 100 Free Agents list.

Williams, who’s become one of the game’s best run-stuffing defensive tackles, figures to draw attention from multiple teams if the Ravens can’t keep him off the open market. Williams and Dontari Poe of the Chiefs, who also won’t be getting the franchise tag, figure to be the top options for teams looking for interior defensive help.

Williams said last month he was unsure about his future and understood that he might hit the open market.

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No franchise tag expected for Dontari Poe

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Dontari Poe #92 of the Kansas City Chiefs rushes Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 16, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs assured that safety Eric Berry would stay off the open market by signing him to a six-year extension on Tuesday that will make Berry the highest-paid safety in the league and allow them to avoid doing the franchise tag dance for the second year in a row.

It appears they will also avoid doing that dance with defensive tackle Dontari Poe. According to multiple reports, the team will not use their franchise tag on Poe before Wednesday afternoon’s deadline.

That will put Poe on the path to become an unrestricted free agent next week. He could still sign an extension with the Chiefs before the new league year starts on March 9, although it seems unlikely that he’d do that without at least hearing what other teams have to say during the “legal tampering” window that opens a couple of days before the new league year.

It may also be a difficult contract for the Chiefs to put together if they’re going to have much flexibility to make other moves after extending Berry and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif this week.

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Josh Gordon set to apply for reinstatement, again

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon stands on the field during practice at the NFL football team's training camp, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Richard) AP

Perhaps you’ve read this once or twice or seven times before, but suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon plans to apply for reinstatement, ESPN reported Wednesday.

Gordon was conditionally reinstated in time to participate in training camp with the Browns last season, and part of that deal was a suspension for the first four games of 2016. Before he could be activated, though, he entered a rehab facility and remained under indefinite suspension.

Gordon’s business manager, Michael Johnson, told ESPN that “Josh is living with me and is in the best place mentally that he has been in dating back years before entering the NFL. He has taken the proper steps to treat his issues and has followed a very strict protocol that the league and our team here has laid out for him.

“He’s also in the best shape of his life and feels even better than he did when he had his breakout year in 2013. This will be a special year for Josh and we are all very proud of the way he has taken the necessary steps to turn his life around.”

Gordon has been posting workout pictures and videos to his social media accounts. Those making the decision at the NFL, though, won’t be interested in that. Gordon is a multiple-time offender and would have to prove to the NFL that he can stay clean.

He’s served some sort of suspension in each of the last four seasons. A drug policy change made him eligible to play the final six games of 2014, and he was suspended for all of 2015. He led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards in 2013 despite missing the first two games due to a suspension that was cut down by appeal from four games. The Browns still hold the rights to Gordon, who turns 26 in April, but nothing thus far has changed regarding his indefinite suspension.

An NFL spokesman told Wednesday that the league had no comment on Gordon’s latest reinstatement bid.

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Report: Patriots not expected to trade Jimmy Garoppolo

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 03:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots and Jimmy Garoppolo #10 work out during a practice session ahead of Super Bowl LI  on February 3, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

One of the biggest questions heading into this offseason was whether the Patriots will trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo before he enters his fourth NFL season.

If that trade is going to happen, the next week is going to be a crucial negotiating period. At the moment, though, it looks like it is going to be a quiet one.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Patriots are not expected to trade Garoppolo. Schefter’s colleague Ed Werder issued a similar report in mid-February.

A trade may not be expected, but that doesn’t preclude teams from calling the Patriots in the coming days in an effort to get them to change their mind. There could be an offer that makes New England reconsider and the most effective way to chum the waters to see if one pops up is by letting it be known that a deal isn’t expected.

The Patriots may also be content to just hold onto Garoppolo through the final year of his rookie deal under any circumstances and then deal with whatever might come in the 2018 offseason when they have a full picture of where the team and quarterback Tom Brady stand at that point.

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Kyle Long won’t have shoulder surgery this offseason

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 11:  Kyle Long #75 of the Chicago Bearswatches from the sidelines as teammates take on the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field on August 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Broncos defeated the Bears 22-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bears guard Kyle Long was slated to have two surgeries after going on injured reserve last November, but one of those surgeries won’t happen so that Long can concentrate on ankle rehab.

Long went on injured reserve as a result of ligament damage in his right ankle and he’s had surgery to address that injury, but will not have an operation to repair the torn labrum in his left shoulder. Long played through the torn labrum last season and signed an extension with the Bears last September after suffering the injury.

Long’s father Howie told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune that his son “struggled with medication” related to the ankle surgery and that he has lost 40 pounds since the surgery. Some of that weight loss was prescribed to help with his ankle recovery, but Biggs says that will now be an “extended process” that will require more focus than Long could devote if he was also rehabbing from shoulder surgery.

There’s no word on just how extended that process is going to be and the change in plans suggests that Long will a limited participant at best through the offseason program.

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Report: Colin Kaepernick’s agents say he’s opting out

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 01: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers drops back to pass against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Colin Kaepernick hired new agents recently and it looks like their first order of business will be finding their client a new team for the 2017 season.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that agents Jeff Nalley and Sean Kiernan have informed NFL teams that Kaepernick will be opting out of his contract. A window for Kaepernick to do so opens on Thursday and the 49ers hold the same option to back out of a deal that called for Kaepernick to make a $14.5 million base salary in 2017.

That wasn’t a particularly realistic option, but there was a chance for the two sides to agree on a new number that would make more sense. That can still happen, of course, although Kaepernick’s decision suggests that he’ll be talking to other clubs before any deal is struck for next season.

Which clubs will be interested in Kaepernick’s services is the next question that needs to be answered, although he’ll need to wait until next week for formal discussions with anyone other than the 49ers to get going.

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Bills announce Kyle Williams will remain on the team in 2017

Johnny Manziel, Kyle Williams AP

Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams isn’t going anywhere.

Bills coach Sean McDermott announced at the Scouting Combine this morning that Williams will remain in Buffalo for 2017.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Kyle, what he’s done for the Bills’ organization, one of our leaders, and I can announce at this time that Kyle is coming back and we look forward to working with Kyle,” McDermott said.

There had previously been talk that the Bills might cut Williams to avoid an $8.3 million cap hit for a 34-year-old. McDermott did not say whether Williams had agreed to a pay cut to stay in Buffalo, but it’s now clear that one way or another, Williams will remain a Bill.

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Vance Joseph on Broncos’ QBs: We’re fine with Siemian and Lynch

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 25:  Quarterback Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos passes during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 25, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Reed Hoffmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Will the Broncos make a move for Tony Romo? Not from the sound of coach Vance Joseph’s comments today.

Joseph said he feels good about Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch and doesn’t see a need to add a quarterback.

“We’ve got two young guys that combined to win nine games last year as starters, probably should have won two more, so we’re fine there with those two kids,” Joseph said.

It’s true that the Broncos went 8-6 with Siemian as the starter and 1-1 with Lynch as the starter in 2016, but that was with the best defense in the NFL. When you have the best defense in the NFL, you’d like to be better than 9-7 and out of the playoffs.

So it may just be posturing from Joseph, and the Broncos may still look for a new starting quarterback. But publicly, anyway, the Broncos are insisting that their quarterback situation in 2017 will be the same as it was in 2016: Siemian and Lynch are the guys.

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