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Monte Kiffin “real excited” to get back into the NFL

John Gruden, Monte Kiffin AP

While many men his age are sipping a glass of prune juice and reading a newspaper this time of day, Monte Kiffin was out interviewing prospective football players in Mobile, Ala. this morning.

And that had him fired up.

The 72-year-old Kiffin told Calvin Watkins of that the prospect of working for the Cowboys had him excited to get back to work as a defensive coordinator, where he can implement his Tampa 2 defense.

“Just the fact it’s the Dallas Cowboys — you know, a unique situation,” Kiffin said. “I’m very fortunate. The coach [Jason Garrett] and the Joneses. The whole bit. Excited to be back here at the Senior Bowl, checking out the players and looking for good players. I’m real excited.”

Switching them from a 3-4 base to a 4-3 was no deterrent for Kiffin, citing the ability to adjust to what they had on hand.

“You just take the job because of the people you’re with and who you’re going to work for,” Kiffin said. “The head coach, Garrett, is an awesome guy and the whole bit.”

Kiffin will turn 73 next month, and clearly has the kind of passion you need to sustain a demanding job.

“You got to have great passion for coaching,” he said. “It starts with the energy and you expect the players to be the same way. I can’t wait to get to work every day. I just love it. [Former Tampa Bay coach Jon] Gruden used to say, ‘You like it or you love it.’ You got to love it.”

Of course, Jerry Jones giving him many, many reasons to love it probably helped.

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Giants franchise Jason Pierre-Paul

Houston Texans v New York Giants Getty Images

The Giants have officially placed the franchise tag on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

The move comes as no surprise, as it’s been reported for weeks that Pierre-Paul would get the tag if he and the Giants don’t first come to an agreement on a long-term contract extension.

If Pierre-Paul wants, he can sign the franchise tender and play the 2015 season on a one-year contract with a guaranteed salary of $14.8 million. He would then either hit free agency next year or get franchised again, which would give him a 2016 salary of $17.8 million.

Pierre-Paul may think he can do better than that if he bides his time and convinces the Giants to give him a long-term deal, but one way or the other, he will remain with the Giants in 2015.

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Super Bowl ticket lawsuit finally goes to trial

Super Bowl Football AP

More than four years ago, folks who had bought tickets for Super Bowl XLV showed up for the game only to learn that the seats corresponding to the tickets didn’t exist.

Finally, the case is going to trial.

Jury selection, opening statements, and testimony are expected Monday in federal court in Dallas. The lawyer representing the plaintiffs issued a statement over the weekend explaining that Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to be one of the first witnesses called.

Presumably, the lawyers will be playing Goodell’s videotaped testimony for the jury from August 2013. The lawyers also contend that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been subpoenaed to testify at the trial.

The NFL tried aggressively to resolve the claims of aggrieved customers in the aftermath of the Super Bowl ticket fiasco. But the question is whether the law entitles the customers to more than the NFL offered, especially when taking into consideration the full range of costs incurred to travel to Dallas to attend the Super Bowl but not being allowed to do so.

A jury will eventually decide whether and to what extent the customers should be compensated.

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Jaguars carry over the most money into 2015 cap

Shad Khan AP

The NFL has announced that the salary cap for the 2015 season will be $143.28 million per team, although that number doesn’t depict how much money each team actually has to spend.

Teams have the right to carry over unused cap space from last season, which means that there’s a wide range of adjusted cap totals. The NFLPA has released those figures and the Jaguars are bringing the most money with them into the new league year.

The Jags have elected to carry over $21,768,205 and other adjustments from the 2014 season bring their adjusted cap total for 2015 to $168,486,107. The Browns are next at $161,767,400 million and the Eagles are third at a shade under $160 million. The Jets and Titans joined those teams in carrying over more than $10 million and round out the top five.

The Rams are at the other end of the spectrum as they elected to carry over no money from last year, leaving them with an adjusted cap of $144,673,387 for this year. That’s not the lowest in the league as the Chargers have $142,972,612 after adjustments from last year’s cap ate away most of their carried over money.

A team-by-team list of adjusted cap figures can be found right here.

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Dolphins cut veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan

Finnegan Getty Images

If you’re an NFL veteran on the wrong side of 30 with a big cap number but without a clean bill of health, you might not want to answer your phone this week.

According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins have released cornerback Cortland Finnegan.

Finnegan played just 12 games last year because of injuries, and was due $5.475 million this season, making it an easy call for the Dolphins.

The 31-year-old Finnegan may not be quite ready for the wake, but his big-earning days are certainly behind him.

The Dolphins have cleared out a number of veteran contracts lately for cap purposes. Wide receivers Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson got it last week, and more moves could be on the way.

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Report: Washington working on Brian Orakpo return

NFL-New York Giants at Washington Redskins Getty Images

The Redskins used the franchise tag on linebacker Brian Orakpo last year to ensure he would remain in Washington for the 2014 season, but it doesn’t look like they’ll go down that road again this time around.

Dianna Marie Russini of NBC Washington reports that the team will not tag Orakpo for the second straight year. That’s not a big surprise with Orakpo recovering from a torn pectoral muscle for the third time in his career.

That injury limited Orakpo to seven games and a half-sack last season, although Russini reports that the team is still interested in bringing Orakpo back. They’re reportedly working on reaching agreement on a deal that Orakpo would sign before hitting the open market next week.

The top of the market for edge rushers will be impacted by franchise tags as Justin Houston has been tagged while Jason Pierre-Paul and Jerry Hughes could join him before Monday afternoon’s deadline. Greg Hardy is the biggest name expected to hit March 10 with the ability to sign anywhere he wants with Orakpo, Brandon Graham and Jason Worilds somewhere behind him on the list.

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Report: Brad Jones visited Titans, visiting Eagles on Monday

Matt Forte, Brad Jones AP

Players who have been released by their teams since the end of the season are free to sign with other teams ahead of the start of free agency next week and linebacker Brad Jones is trying to take advantage of that opportunity.

Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports that Jones recently visited with the Titans and is scheduled to meet with the Eagles on Monday. Wyatt adds that other teams have shown interest in Jones, who was released by the Packers in February.

Jones played in 76 games at inside linebacker for the Packers over the last six seasons.

The Eagles currently have Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans (recovering from a torn Achilles) and Emmanuel Acho at the position, so Jones could provide depth while taking on the big role on special teams he played with the Packers. The Titans, who have Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard among others on the depth chart, showed interest in Jones last year before he re-signed with Green Bay.

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Ravens cut Victor Hampton after DWI arrest

victorhampton AP

When a good player gets arrested, the player’s team usually releases a statement saying it is aware of the matter but will have no comment while it waits for due process to play out.

When a mediocre player gets arrested, the player’s team usually cuts him.

Victor Hampton has just found that out the hard way.

Hampton, who was arrested for driving while intoxicated over the weekend, has been released by the Ravens. The Ravens’ entire statement was as follows: “The Baltimore Ravens have waived CB Victor Hampton from their roster, general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome announced Monday afternoon.”

Although Hampton faces a potential two-game suspension from the NFL, that’s probably not going to be an issue. Hampton went undrafted in 2014 largely because of off-field concerns, and after failing to get on the field as a rookie, he’s now been arrested again. Hampton has blown enough second chances that it’s hard to see any team giving Hampton another second chance.

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2015 salary cap set at $143.28 million

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers

The 2015 NFL salary cap has been set at $143.28 million.

That won’t come as a surprise to either owners or players, but it wasn’t official until today. The final cap number was set today in conjunction with the deadline for teams to make their decisions on franchise player designations.

That doesn’t mean every team will spend $143.28 million. In fact, according to the NFL Players Association, 31 teams are carrying over some unused cap space from last year. The Rams are the only team that is not carrying over any cap space. Teams also have dead money counting against their 2015 caps from prorated signing bonuses of players who are no longer on the roster, and teams can use accounting tricks to spend more than $143.28 million this year by pushing some of the money they pay players to future years’ caps.

But the cap has been set, and the cap number for every team will be $143.28 million.

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Treasure to trash: Bucs trying to unload Anthony Collins

St. Louis Rams v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

When the free agent period opens next week, teams will throw big money at guys they believe to be the answers to all their problems.

And if they’re not, those guys will inevitably be thrown back.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Buccaneers are trying to trade left tackle Anthony Collins, and will cut him if they’re not able to.

That pretty much means they’re going to cut him, as Collins played so poorly last year there won’t be a line of teams eager to take on his contract.

The Bucs signed him to a five-year, $30 million a year ago, hoping he’d shore up a weak offensive line.

Collins was good-not-great for the Bengals, and the Buccaneers clearly overspent out of desperation.

Now, they’re looking elsewhere, and providing a cautionary tale to teams who want to win in March,

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Kendall Langford visiting the defensive tackle-less Lions today

St Louis Rams v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Lions have chosen to hold the door open to their free agent defensive tackles, and today, another is walking in.

According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, former Rams defensive tackle Kendall Langford is visiting the Lions today.

The Lions have chosen to not use the franchise tag on Ndamukong Suh (which would have hit them for $27 million for one season).

And a year ago, they elected not to pick up the option year on defensive tackle Nick Fairley, which makes him a free agent next week as well.

The Lions can continue to negotiate with both Suh and Fairley, but bringing in Langord’s also a tacit realization that they might be needing to backfill the position soon.

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Franchise and transition tag numbers are in

Money Getty Images

Teams should get final numbers soon on the 2015 salary cap, which is expected to come in around $143 million.

And based on that number, the teams that are playing tag by today’s deadline have a better idea of how much it is going to cost them.

Via Albert Breer of the NFL Network, the projections for the franchise tags are in:

Quarterbacks: $18.51 million

Running backs: $10.93 million

Wide receivers: $12.80 million

Tight ends: $8.33 million

Offensive linemen: $12.92 million

Defensive tackles: $11.17 million

Defensive ends: $14.78 million

Linebackers: $13.17 million

Cornerbacks: $13.05 million

Safeties: $9.60 million

Kickers/punters: $4.12 million.

The numbers are also in for the transition tag, which allows the teams to secure the right to match any deal a free agent finds, but offers no compensation if they don’t.

Quarterbacks: $16.12 million

Running backs: $9.02 million

Wide receivers: $10.95 million

Tight ends: $7.057 million

Offensive linemen: $11.08 million

Defensive tackles: $9.30 million

Defensive ends: $11.94 million

Linebackers: $11.04 million

Cornerbacks: $11.06 million

Safeties: $8.25 million

Kickers/punters: $3.71 million.

Those transition numbers also double as the fifth-year option numbers for the top 10 picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.

The numbers could still bump up a bit if the final cap calculation comes in above $143 million, but those are the numbers teams are working with at the moment.

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Rick Spielman: Open dialogue with Adrian Peterson has been beneficial

Adrian Peterson, Chris Conte AP

Running back Adrian Peterson wasn’t fully reinstated as a result of Judge David Doty’s decision that the NFL is not permitted to punish Peterson under the conditions of the league’s new personal conduct policy, but he was cleared to have contact with the Vikings while he’s on the commissioner’s exempt list pending the NFL’s appeal of Doty’s ruling.

General Manager Rick Spielman said Monday that the team has been in contact with Peterson since the ruling, but didn’t offer any details about what discussions have gone on. Spielman did say the ability to have “open dialogue” has been “beneficial” and reiterated that the team wants Peterson back for the 2015 season.

“We are able to have communication now with Adrian,” Spielman said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “We’ll keep all those communications internal. I don’t want to sit here and give you guys a blow-by-blow every day. I think it’s very clearly stated that we want Adrian Peterson back. There’s no question about the talent and he’s a unique talent and he’s under contract with us.”

Peterson didn’t mention anything about his desire to return to the Vikings in the statement he released after Doty’s decision last week, but said in February that he was “still uneasy” about returning to the Vikings after the way they handled his situation during the 2014 season.

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No charges filed against Jarrett Bush after “Big Italian” incident

Packers' Bush reacts after breaking up a pass in their NFL football game against the Vikings in Green Bay Reuters

A week before he’ll become a free agent, Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush got a “get out of jail free” card.

While Bush was booked into the Solano County (Calif.) Jail last night on a charge of disorderly conduct while under the influence, the police have let him go.

Via Rob Demovsky of, police said this morning that Bush would not be charged with anything, following an incident at a place called Evelyn’s Big Italian Restaurant (some of this stuff you can’t make up).

When police arrived to break up an incident at the bar, they told everyone to leave. Bush didn’t, which led to his being hauled downtown (I don’t know Vacaville well enough to know if it’s actually downtown, but that’s just a cool cop thing to say).

The cops said the 30-year-old Bush was cooperative with police after he was detained, which is usually the best way to avoid more jail time, for what seems to have been a misunderstanding.

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Dwight Freeney says he’ll play this season

freeney AP

Toward the end of last season, Chargers outside linebacker Dwight Freeney started musing about retirement and said he wasn’t sure if he’d be back in 2015. Now it’s 2015, and Freeney says he’s sure he’ll be back.

“I could retire tomorrow and still be happy with what I’ve done in this league,” Freeney told Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego. “But I think I have a lot in the tank as well. It’s one of those things where I’m going to wait for the right situation to come across the table. Hopefully it’s with the Chargers. If they are not interested, obviously, you have to [test] the free agent market and see what team is interested.”

The question, then, is not whether Freeney wants to play. He does. The question is whether any team wants to pay Freeney this year.

The answer to that question is not clear. Freeney is 35 years old and had just 3.5 sacks last season, and at this point in his career he’s only a part-time player. If he’s going to play, Freeney is going to have to sign a low-paying contract and prove himself in training camp.

After 13 seasons and 111.5 sacks, Freeney is near the end of the line. But he doesn’t think he’s finished just yet.

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Justin Houston situation is about to get very interesting

Kansas City Chiefs v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

The Chiefs finally did what has been expected for months — they’ve applied the franchise tag to linebacker Justin Houston. And as explained over the weekend (when most of you weren’t devoting non-work time to non-work reading of the Internet), it’s much closer to the start of the process than the end of it.

The Chiefs opted for the non-exclusive version of the tag. On one hand, it’s cheaper than the exclusive level of the tag. On the other hand, it allows another team to sign Houston to an offer sheet that, if not matched by the Chiefs, would result in Houston changing hands for a pair of first-round picks.

Per a league source, Houston intends to aggressively pursue an offer sheet from another team, targeting teams that would be giving up a low first-round pick in 2015 and, most likely, a low first-round pick in 2016. Houston also intends to continue to pursue an offer sheet after the draft, when the compensation necessarily will become a first-round pick in 2016 and 2017.

Houston, we’re told, is seriously considering staying away from the Chiefs until the Week 10 deadline for signing the franchise tender. If nothing materializes by then, Houston would sign the tender, finish the season, and hit the market in 2016 — unless the Chiefs plan to tender him again, at a 20-percent raise over the 2015 franchise tender.

That’s a stark change from Houston’s in-season plan to sign the tender right away, gladly accepting the life-transforming $13 million or so for one year of play. That 22-sack season may have been a factor in Houston’s change of plans.

Finally, Houston will consult with the NFLPA to explore the possibility of filing a grievance seeking the defensive end franchise tender, which will be higher than the linebacker tender. Seven years ago, Ravens and Terrell Suggs engaged in a similar fight, with the two sides agreeing to essentially split the difference. For Houston, it could be a bit more challenging because he actually does play a considerable amount of linebacker, dropping into coverage in some passing situations.

Which makes him more versatile, makes his 22 sacks more impressive, and potentially makes him a lot more attractive to a team with a desperate coach and/or G.M. who may not be around to use the future draft picks that would be sacrificed to get Houston now.

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