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Jim Harbaugh: Alex Smith’s feelings “absolutely” impact 49ers decision

Alex Smith, Jim Harbaugh AP

49ers CEO Jed York said on PFT Live Tuesday that the 49ers hope to keep both Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith for next season.

That’s a different approach than anyone’s been predicting and it is one that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh seemed to dismiss at the Super Bowl on Wednesday. Harbaugh responded to a question about Smith wanting to be released, which we reported over the weekend, by saying that Smith’s feelings “absolutely” will be part of the equation of how they handle things this offseason. And nothing he said suggested they won’t be handling things by letting Smith go one way or the other.

“We won’t get into talking about the speculation or the what-ifs,” Harbaugh said, via NFL.com. “I’m sure that will play out, but he is a starting quarterback. He’s got a desire to be a starting quarterback, and I’m sure that will play out.”

Smith’s made that desire clear this week while simultaneously talking about being ready to help the 49ers should circumstances force him into the game. It’s a fence he shouldn’t have to straddle after Sunday’s game since there seems to be agreement from both sides — even York said Smith deserves the chance to figure out what he wants to do — that his future isn’t in San Francisco.

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Andrew Billings: Falling to fourth round “actually a good thing for me”

WACO, TX - SEPTEMBER 26:  Driphus Jackson #6 of the Rice Owls carries the ball against Andrew Billings #75 of the Baylor Bears in the first quarter at McLane Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Every draft brings players who go earlier than expected and players who remain available far longer than expected, both of which are reminders that all of the mock drafts and prospect rankings in the world can’t tell you how the 32 NFL teams really feel about the players available to be picked.

Defensive tackle Andrew Billings was one of the players who went later than expected this year. Billings was generally projected to get drafted somewhere in the first couple of rounds, but lasted until the 122nd overall pick in the fourth round before the Bengals took him off the board.

It wasn’t the way Billings expected things to go, but the rookie says he likes the way he feels now that the process is over. Billings said he “can’t even explain how huge” the motivating chip on his shoulder is after falling in the draft.

“This is something I’m going to carry with me my whole life,” Billings said, via ESPN.com. “It’s actually a good thing for me.”

Billings, whose landing spot in the draft has been attributed to concerns that he’ll be limited to a run-stopping role, need only look at teammate Geno Atkins to see that going in the fourth round doesn’t close any doors once you get on the field.

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Rams wanted to give Jared Goff skill players to grow with

speaks during the Los Angeles Rams press conference to introduce 2016 NFL first round draft pick Jared Goff on April 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Getty Images

The Rams were short a few picks because of Jared Goff.

But when they finally used part of what was left, they wanted to give their No. 1 overall quarterback a chance to succeed.

After giving up their second and third as part of the package to trade for Goff, the Rams knew they had to focus their remaining efforts on offense. The Rams took wide receiver Pharoh Cooper in the fourth round, but seemed most encouraged by being able to get tight ends Tyler Higbee and South Carolina State’s Temarrick Hemingway in the fourth and six, to put them into an arsenal with running back Todd Gurley and receiver Tavon Austin.

“Higbee had fallen, and Hemingway was a guy we targeted, and we got both of them,” Rams general manager Les Snead said, via the Associated Press. “We were saying how nice it is when you do draft in clumps. We did it last year with (offensive linemen). They could grow together. . . .

“We came into this draft very thin at tight end in terms of depth, and we come out of it where we feel good about it.”

Of course, they got Higbee when they did because of his arrest for assault. But they didn’t have much of substance at the position with Jared Cook leaving, so it was an extreme need.

And now that they’ve invested so much in acquiring Goff, giving him a better chance to succeed is the only smart play.

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Alfred Morris excited about added competition with Ezekiel Elliott

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State holds up a jersey after being picked #4 overall by the Dallas Cowboys during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

When running back Alfred Morris signed with the Cowboys as a free agent, it looked like the move to Dallas would provide him with a good chance to bounce back from a down season in 2015.

He’d be running behind a strong offensive line and with a passing game that keeps defenses from loading up on the run, which seemed to bode well for him as long as he could earn more time than Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar. Morris’ quest for playing time got a bit more difficult last Thursday, however.

That’s when the Cowboys made Ezekiel Elliott the fourth overall pick and added a big new piece to their backfield. Morris said he has no regrets about signing with Dallas in light of Elliott’s arrival, although he does know that the rookie’s arrival will likely mean someone else will have to depart.

“I’m used to it,” Morris said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s a business at the end of the day. Competition only makes us better, so I get excited about it. It’s definitely going to be a big challenge, but I’m excited. Looking forward to it. The only sad part, the downside to it, is that one of us guys is going to be gone.”

Morris is guaranteed $800,000 after signing a two-year deal that included a $1 million signing bonus, so there’s some financial incentive to keep him on the roster to team with Elliott. That incentive might not be enough if Morris can’t outplay the other veterans in the coming months, of course, but that might have been the case even if the Cowboys had added a different rookie to the depth chart.

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Monday morning one-liners

Dallas Cowboys v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The Bills went after players from major conferences in the draft.

No linebackers for the Dolphins in the draft this year.

Running backs LeGarrette Blount and Donald Brown won’t be facing competition from a Patriots draft pick.

Jets CB Darrelle Revis will have a portrait of him unveiled this week.

Eleven things to know about the Ravens’ 11-man draft class.

If CB Josh Norman didn’t leave the Panthers, the Bengals’ draft might have played out differently.

The Browns added someone at every level of defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s defense.

The Steelers hope they scored with late-round linebackers.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien expressed confidence in the team’s tight ends.

The Colts will be trying to bolster their pass rush with undrafted free agents.

Said Jaguars LB Myles Jack, “My last name being Jack — jack of all trades. I think they see me in a role where I can cover tight ends, definitely defend against the run and passing situations. They just see me doing so many different things, kind of like a Swiss Army knife.”

CB Kalan Reed spent some of his early years in Nashville and will be back after the Titans made him the final pick of the 2016 draft.

The Broncos want DT Adam Gotsis to take his time recovering from a knee injury.

Assessing the needs that the Chiefs hit in the draft.

A look at what others are saying about the Raiders’ work in the draft.

An argument that the Chargers erred by passing on LB Myles Jack.

Joe Looney is ready for whatever the Cowboys need him to do on the offensive line.

Giants CB Eli Apple’s mom has gained a following on Twitter.

QB Carson Wentz’s development will be the key to the Eagles 2016 draft.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden likes that CB Kendall Fuller grew up in a football family.

The Bears didn’t find a quarterback they wanted in the draft.

The Lions have yet to pull the trigger on DE Ziggy Ansah’s 2017 option.

T Jason Spriggs gives the Packers some depth they were missing on the offensive line last season.

Former NFL WR Eric Moulds is a big fan of Vikings first-rounder Laquon Treadwell.

The Falcons didn’t go after pass rushers in the draft.

Panthers DT Vernon Butler is a big man from a small town.

Ties to college coaches brought information that Saints coach Sean Payton used to help the team prepare for the draft.

Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter explained why the team didn’t draft a wide receiver.

Said Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim, “This is not always the goal, because we said we were going to trust our board, but we filled needs with players we’re excited about. That’s not always the case when you walk away from the draft.”

A post-draft look at the Rams roster.

49ers coach Chip Kelly spoke with QB Jeff Driskel on the phone for 20 minutes just before the team drafted him.

Which Seahawks draft picks were puzzling?

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Mike Glennon was available, but Bucs glad to hang onto him

Mike Glennon AP

The Buccaneers were able to lend a layer of stability and security to their offense over the weekend, and they did it by not doing a thing.

Though he was clearly made available, they didn’t trade backup quarterback Mike Glennon, and that’s just fine with Bucs coach Dirk Koetter.

“If it would have been the best thing for the team, if the right situation was up for a trade that was in the best interest of the Bucs, then of course he would have had to go,” Koetter said, via Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune. “And we’ve been telling Mike that all along. But that opportunity wasn’t there, and as I’ve said multiple times, I believe Mike Glennon is an NFL starting quarterback. Unfortunately for him, he’s going to have to wait [to prove that]. Fortunately for us, we’re going to have him as our No. 2 [this year].

“And that’s a great position for us to be in. [Eventually] Mike’s going to move on and hopefully have a chance to start somewhere, but for now that’s what it is, and I can’t imagine there’s many teams that have a better 1-2 punch at quarterback that we do.”

Glennon might have fetched a pick or so, and the Bucs are resigned to losing him next spring when he hits free agency. But for now, they’ll retain Jameis Winston’s backup. General Manager Jason Licht wouldn’t say whether anyone called to ask about him, but made it clear his value was high.

“The value of that backup quarterback — we’re lucky to have him,” Licht said. “Hopefully he can be here for a while, but we know we have him this year. I mean, Mike is a Buc, and I’m glad he’s a Buc. And so is Dirk and everybody here.”

Glennon himself might not feel the same way, as the only way he’ll step on the field this year is if something bad happens, but at least he knows one team wants him around.

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Tunsil’s lawyer says stepdad had nothing to do with hacking

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss walks on stage after being picked #13 overall by the Miami Dolphins during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

As Laremy Tunsil dropped in the draft as a result of embarrassing information being put on his social media by a hacker, suspicion turned to his stepfather, who recently filed a lawsuit against Tunsil. But Tunsil’s lawyer says he and his client don’t think the stepdad had any involvement.

Tunsil’s attorney, Steve Farese, said on SiriusXM that initial assumptions about Tunsil’s stepdad being involved proved false.

“Initially, that would be the low-hanging fruit,” Farese said. “Now I’ve drifted away from those thoughts and don’t believe he had anything to do with it.”

Interviewing Tunsil on NFL Network immediately after the Dolphins drafted him, Deion Sanders flat-out accused Tunsil’s stepdad of being behind the hacking. Whatever has gone on with Tunsil and his stepdad to lead to the lawsuit, it’s unfortunate that his stepdad was accused of doing something he didn’t do.

Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post reported that the Dolphins believe Tunsil’s former financial advisor was behind the hacking. Farese said he has heard that but doesn’t know it to be true.

“There’s rumors out there about some financial agent, but that’s only something I read, and until we get to some facts of the situation, who can say?” he said.

Farese said Tunsil will consider a civil lawsuit against the hacker. Just as soon as he finds out who it was.

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Bidwill helped Cardinals feel comfortable about Nkemdiche

BS-meter

One of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the 2016 draft landed in Arizona, where he’ll beef up their pass rush if he doesn’t fall out of a window while trying to get away from a large house cat who has developed a taste for man meat.

To get to the point where the Cardinals felt comfortable scrawling “Nkemdiche” on a draft card, they relied on an in-house resource with a skill set that most of his ilk don’t have.

Michael [Bidwill] is a former federal prosecutor, and so his BS-meter is pretty good,” Cardinals G.M. Steve Keim told Peter King of TheMMQB.com regarding the team’s owner. “Sometimes, we’ll be at the combine and we’ll interview a guy who’s had some problems in college and the scouts will say, ‘Well, he sounds pretty good,’ and Michael will say, ‘Oh, he’s full of crap. Don’t trust him.’”

Bidwill spent 90 minutes last Monday with Nkemdiche, and Bidwill decided to trust Nkemdiche. Which means that, ultimately, Nkemdiche will either confirm the quality of Bidwill’s crap filter or show it may need further calibration.

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Dear agents, don’t let draft picks work without a contract

Zz1iMjY3ZTY1YzU1MGJjNzgxNGM3YzM1MDM5YTBjY2MwMg== AP

This year’s 250-plus draft picks have been officially welcomed to the family. And they’ll quickly be expected to do some chores. Without much of an allowance.

Now that they have teams, the draft picks will be absorbed into minicamps and offseason programs, regardless of whether they sign their first NFL contracts. In past years, few if any draft picks signed before July 4. Now, most will sign before Memorial Day weekend.

All should insist on being signed — and thus employed — before doing anything that would resemble work.

Yes, draft picks can (and will) sign letters of protection, ensuring that they’ll be paid in 2016 what they would have made if they end up suffering a serious injury. Regardless, there’s an overriding principle at work here. The draft picks are expected to show up, practice, participate in meetings, and begin getting to know their playbook. Why shouldn’t they have the same status as everyone else on the team?

Indeed, but for the draft picks, everyone else has a contract. Including the undrafted rookies (other than the ones who will show up for minicamp on a tryout basis). Why not sign all draft picks now, before they step foot into the weight room or onto the practice field?

Some teams (like the Bears) will quickly commence signing draft picks. Others (like the Rams) will wait until the offseason program has ended. Regardless, each draft pick should insist on having a contract before doing anything.

This isn’t something that will originate with the players. Their agents need to be the ones taking a stand. Quietly, some already are. Until enough do the same, players will continue to provide more of the same unpaid services that they provided for the last several years in college.

At least in college they got room, board, tuition, and snacks.

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Bruce Gradkowski returns to Steelers

Bruce Gradkowski, Dan Connor AP

At a time when some quarterbacks are grandstanding because they haven’t been handed a starting job with an open-ended guarantee that they’ll keep it, another guy keeps plugging away, embracing on a year-to-year basis the chance to compete for a job.

PFT has confirmed that veteran quarterback Bruce Gradkowski will sign a one-year contract on Monday with the Steelers.

The 33-year-old Pittsburgh native entered the league in 2006 as a sixth-round draft choice of the Buccaneers. He has played for the Bucs (starting 11 games as a rookie), the Browns, the Raiders, the Bengals ant the Steelers.

A finger injury suffered last August landed Gradkowski on injured reserve, opening the door for the signing of Mike Vick. Gradkowski will compete with fourth-year veteran Landry Jones for the No. 2 spot behind Ben Roethlisberger.

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Bears part ways with Matt Slauson, too

Zz1lMjAwNmY1OTVlNTJjMTNiMTk3ZGRhMzRjYTBkZWZjOA== AP

A pair of veteran players are now former members of the Bears. On Sunday evening, the Bears officially released offensive lineman Matt Slauson and safety Antrel Rolle.

“We thank Matt and Antrel for the dedication and leadership they brought to our organization,” Bears G.M. Ryan Pace said in a press release.  “Both men did everything we asked of them.  Part of growing as a team is making difficult decisions like the ones we made today.  We never take them lightly given the respect we have for everyone who has put on a Bears uniform.  We wish each of them the very best as they move forward.”

Slauson, 30, started all 16 games last year, his third with the Bears. He previously played for the Jets.

Due to make $2.887 million in 2016, Slauson will count $835,000 against the cap. If the Bears made him a post-June 1 cut, that amount will be split over the next two years.

Both Slauson and Rolle become immediate free agents. Still, it would have been far better for both to become free agents long before the draft, and definitely not after it ended.

Pace can say what he wants about respecting Rolle and Slauson, but if the team truly respected them they would have been cut at a time when they would have had a much better opportunity to find work elsewhere. Now that teams with needs at those positions have filled them through the draft, it becomes much harder.

But Welcome to the Family anyway, all you draft picks who eventually could be treated the same way by the Bears or one of the other 31 franchises.

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Giants draft no linemen, on either side of the ball

81347134-defensive-linemen-andy-robustelli-dick-gettyimages Getty Images

When the Giants won their last two Super Bowls, they had very strong line play, offensively and defensively. Currently, they don’t have a very strong offensive or defensive line. During the 2016 draft, the Giants drafted no offensive linemen and no defensive linemen.

As pointed out by Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, it’s the first time in franchise history that neither line was addressed in the draft.

“[W]e weren’t going to force anything,” Giants V.P. of player evaluation Marc Ross said after the draft ended, via Vacchiano. “You always want big bodies, but you want the right big bodies.”

Ross noted, per Vacchiano, that the Giants have a pair of former first-rounders (Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh) and a second-rounder (Weston Richburg). Tackle Jack Conklin was a possibility, but he was gone before the Giants selected. The Giants also spent millions on defensive linemen Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon.

“There were discussions here or there,” Ross said regarding the possibility of drafting a lineman. “But nobody at the time who was the highest-ranked player on our board, or close to that.”

The question now becomes, as Vacchiano points out, whether the Giants will end up with 49ers tackle Anthony Davis. Unretired for now, he wants to play in 2016 but not in San Francisco. G.M. Jerry Reese (wisely) declined to talk about Davis, but said that the team will “continue to upgrade our roster every day.”

The ceiling is high, so that shouldn’t be hard. At some point, the hay will be in the barn. As to the process of obtaining talent with the involuntary process of calling digs on incoming players, the hay (or lack of it) is already there.

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Derek Watt predicts a possible mutual knockout with J.J.

MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 31: Corey Clement #6 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates with Derek Watt #34 after scoring a touchdown during the second half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Camp Randall Stadium on October 31, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Corey Clement; Derek Watt Getty Images

J.J. Watt and Derek Watt could have a couple of reunions over Thanksgiving weekend. One at the dinner table on Thursday, and another on the football field on Sunday.

The Chargers and Texans are due to meet in Houston on November 27, and if pick No. 198 in the 2016 draft makes the team in San Diego and contributes, he’ll have a chance to say a different kind of hello to his brother.

We might just knock each other out,” Derek Watt said after being drafted, via the Associated Press.

Most would put their money on J.J., primary since Derek is an unknown commodity. He’s not unknown to one specific member of the Chargers — the running back for whom Derek Watt blocked at Wisconsin.

“He was hoping they could get me there,” Derek Watt said of 2015 first-rounder Melvin Gordon. “He was extremely happy and looking forward to me being back out there with him. . . . He’s definitely an extremely talented guy. He’s got a year under his belt now so I think that definitely helps him out. I’m going to go out there and try to help him do everything I can. We’re going to pick up right where we left off, I think.”

That would be great news for Gordon, who didn’t rush for 100 yards once in 2015 and who averaged 3.5 yards per carry.

“We already know how each other kind of thinks and what each other sees,” Derek Watt said. “We’ve been in the same meetings, we’ve been involved in the same plays and we communicate what we see on the field to each other. He’ll tell me if he thinks I should have done something differently or if he saw something other than what I saw, and I’ll do the same. I’ll tell him, ‘Hey, I thought you could have done this or that.'”

Coach Mike McCoy seems to think that having a true fullback will help, but that it’s won’t magically improve the quality of the team’s running game.

“You could very easily argue, ‘Eliminate that guy and he should be able to see better,'” McCoy said, via the AP. “It’s a matter of everybody doing their jobs better, and I’ll say, committing to the run more. Running the ball more.”

Whether the Chargers will be able to run the ball or otherwise move it against the Texans in Week 12 could depend on whether Derek Watt or anyone else on the field wearing lightning bolts on his helmet is able to neutralize Derek Watt’s big brother.

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DeMarco Murray tells Titans’ coaches he’ll mentor Derrick Henry

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 12:  DeMarco Murray attends Sports Illustrated's Fashionable 50 NYC Event at Vandal on April 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images) Getty Images

Titans running back DeMarco Murray isn’t worried about second-round draft pick Derrick Henry taking carries away from him.

Murray told the Titans’ coaches he’s looking forward to playing with Henry and helping the Heisman Trophy winner develop into an NFL player. Titans coach Mike Mularkey said he called Murray to make sure he understood that Henry wasn’t coming to take the starting job away from Murray, and Mularkey said he and Murray are on the same page.

“You don’t do it for everybody, but there’s certain circumstances that you feel like it is necessary to make sure you are clear on the motive and why you are doing things,’’ Mularkey said of calling Murray. “Out of respect [for DeMarco] I wanted to do that.”

Mularkey said he was pleased with how eager Murray sounded to work with Henry.

“First of all, he loved the pick,’’ Mularkey said of Murray. “And he said, ‘He’s going to make me better and I am going to do the same for him.’ He said, ‘I’m going to do whatever I can to make him a great player‘.”

According to Mularkey, Henry’s job will be to back Murray up.

“I told DeMarco, ‘Nothing has changed since we made the trade for you. You’re still going to be the guy who is going to carry the load for us and I know when you need to take a break and come off the field there will be no letdown when the next running back comes in, whoever that is’,’’ Mularkey said. “That is our mindset and I told him that directly not long after we made that pick, that he was clear with the direction we were going to go with it.”

With Henry joining Murray in the backfield, running behind a line featuring first-round offensive tackle Jack Conklin, Mularkey’s promised “exotic smash mouth” offense is coming together. And Murray is glad to be a part of it.

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Bears release Antrel Rolle

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 09:  Antrel Rolle #26 of the Chicago Bears warms up before a game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 9, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears took three defensive backs during the final day of the draft on Saturday and it appears those rookie additions to the roster were a precursor to a veteran deletion.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Bears have released Antrel Rolle and Rolle has tweeted a farewell to Chicago. Rolle signed a three-year contract with the team before last season and was set to make a base salary of $2.4 million in 2016.

None of that money is guaranteed, so the Bears wouldn’t be on the hook for any money if Rolle remained with the team into camp but his first year in Chicago was apparently enough to leave the Bears feeling confident about moving on. Rolle played in seven games and ended the year on injured reserve with a knee injury, neither of which is a good omen for a player turning 34 in December.

Rolle never missed a game in five previous seasons with the Giants, however, and played well enough when healthy that he could get a look elsewhere this offseason.

The Bears took Deon Bush and Deiondre’ Hall in the fourth round before adding DeAndre Houston-Carson in the sixth round. Bush and Houston-Carson are listed as safeties. Hall is listed as a corner, but some think his best shot at an NFL future will come with a position switch.

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Su’a Cravens listed as a safety

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 19:  Su'a Cravens #21 of the University of Southern California Trojans awaits the snap against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on October 19, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated USC 14-10.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

After Su’a Cravens was drafted by the Redskins in the second round of the draft, he said that the late Sean Taylor was his all-time favorite safety and hoped that he would “be half as good as” one of his predecessors in the organization.

Cravens’ link to Taylor will go beyond just sharing an employer. Cravens will wear No. 36 as a rookie, which was the same number that Taylor wore during his first season with the team. Taylor then switched to No. 21, which Cravens wore while at USC.

A player wearing the same number as Taylor might as well play the same position and the Redskins announced that they are listing Cravens as a safety. He was listed as a linebacker in college.

Whichever way the Redskins choose to list Cravens is fine as his role is expected to be a hybrid of the two spots that sees Cravens line up in a variety of positions and fulfilling a variety of responsibilities. It’s an approach that we’ve seen more and more of around the league and the Redskins hope it’s part of the plan for a better defense in 2016.

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