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Alex Smith, Matt Flynn in similar situations

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Last year, both Alex Smith and Matt Flynn hit the open market as unrestricted free agents.  Last year, both Smith and Flynn accepted offers not as valuable as they had expected to receive.

Last year, both entered training camp as the presumptive starting quarterbacks in San Francisco and Seattle.  And while Flynn lost the job to Russell Wilson during training camp, Smith eventually joined Flynn as overpriced clipboard holders after Smith suffered a head injury and Colin Kaepernick left everyone else shaking theirs on a Monday night in November.

Now, both Smith and Flynn are clear-cut backups.  Now, both are scheduled to make dramatically more in 2013 than Kaepernick and Wilson.  Now, their respective teams are considering all options.

The options are simple.  Keep the higher-paid backups at their current salaries.  Keep them at lower rates of pay.  Trade them.  Or cut them.

Last week, 49ers CEO Jed York told PFT that he’d like to keep Kaepernick and Smith.  Seahawks owner Paul Allen can definitely afford to do the same.  And with mobile starters, it makes sense to have competent replacements.

The real questions are whether the lower-paid starters (Kaepernick has at least one more season in that category, and Wilson has at least two) will resent the notion that the guys who aren’t playing are earning millions more to do nothing, and likewise whether the guys earning millions more to do nothing would prefer to be doing more.

In both cases, the outcome could indeed turn on whether trades can be negotiated.  But given that the market for both players was lukewarm a year ago, it’s hard to imagine a land rush breaking out for Smith or Flynn.  Which means that, in the end, the 49ers and the Seahawks will have to decide whether to keep Smith and Flynn, respectively, at a high rate or pay and, possibly, a low willingness to stay.

And chances are that, if one or both teams part ways with their million-dollar understudies, they’ll eventually wish at some point that they still had them around.

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Brian Cushing lands on PUP list

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Texans linebacker Brian Cushing knows that he’ll be ready for Week One and now we all know that he won’t be ready for the first training camp practice.

Cushing has been cleared by doctors after rehabbing the knee and leg injuries that ended his 2013 season, but the team isn’t quite ready to let him be a full participant in practice just yet. Cushing has been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list ahead of the start of camp, which means he’s barred from doing more than working out on the side as the team goes through its paces.

Like all players on the list, Cushing counts against the 90-man roster and can be activated at any time. Once he is activated, however, Cushing will lose eligibility for the regular season PUP list.

The Texans also placed linebacker Trevardo Williams and rookie defensive tackle Louis Nix on the PUP list. Williams spent last season on injured reserve with a knee injury and Nix, a third-round pick in May, missed some time this spring with a knee ailment of his own.

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Quentin Groves worked out for Jets

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The Jets think they are good enough to make the playoffs, but that’s not stopping them from checking out ways to improve the roster before the start of the season.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the team worked out veteran linebacker Quentin Groves on Monday. Groves was cut by the Browns last month after contributing two sacks in five games with the team last year.

The Jets are set in the starting lineup at outside linebacker with Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples, but they are short on experienced depth at the position. Groves has played 84 games over the last six seasons, which certainly qualifies as the kind of seasoning that the Jets don’t currently have on the lower rungs of the depth chart. If he signed with the Jets, he’d also likely see time on special teams during the 2014 season.

Groves has also worked out for the Titans, Redskins and Patriots since parting ways with the Browns and it would seem likely that he’ll land somewhere in time to compete for a job in training camp.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

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WR Sammy Watkins was a hit on the second day of Bills camp.

Dolphins DE Cameron Wake checks out Wembley Stadium in London.

Injury issues to watch with the Patriots.

What will Jets DE Sheldon Richardson do in his second NFL season?

The Ravens have selected a new anthem singer for home games.

Said Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, “I know this. You can’t be complacent. There has to be a fire in you. Hopefully with our players it’s the right kind of fire, not one you have to put out. The past is the past. It’s about a different future. Not for myself but for this offensive football team.”

The Browns will need big things from TE Jordan Cameron this season.

Steelers WR Lance Moore is getting used to all the hills in Pittsburgh.

It’s not surprising that the Texans were 2-14 last year after watching them cut ties with a second 2013 third-round pick.

Colts LB Daniel Adongo’s unusual journey to the NFL is about to turn into a second season.

One last look at the Jaguars offseason before training camp begins.

What should we expect from the Titans defensive line this season.

S Eric Hagg has decided to retire from the Broncos.

TE Travis Kelce is eager to start contributing to the Chiefs offense.

Jim Plunkett and Marcus Allen have different opinions on where the Raiders should play.

Chargers president Dean Spanos is excited to start the season on Monday Night Football.

Has building a strong offensive line hurt the Cowboys?

Not every son-in-law gets to hear things as nice from their wife’s father as what former Giants G Chris Snee heard on Monday.

Looking for progress from the Eagles defense.

The Redskins added TE Mike Caussin to their roster.

S Chris Conte is confident he still has a future on the Bears defense.

The Lions unveiled the patch they’ll wear to honor the late William Clay Ford.

Keeping QB Aaron Rodgers upright makes everything else go for the Packers offense.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner shares some thoughts about how the Vikings will move the ball this season.

Julio Jones’s return from injury is one thing to watch at wide receiver with the Falcons.

Panthers S Roman Harper bought a new pad in New Orleans.

Saints DT John Jenkins is starting camp on the PUP list.

Five Buccaneers position battles to keep an eye on this summer.

Optimism and questions at linebacker accompany the Cardinals to training camp.

The Rams rookies kicked off their training camp on Monday.

Finding a stand-in for LB NaVorro Bowman will be a key part of 49ers camp.

Two Seahawks fans want to erect a statue of the final play of last season’s NFC Championship Game.

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Cowboys choose to run together in the heat

Justin Durant,  Bruce Carter AP

The Cowboys had the option of running in the oppressive heat of Texas, or waiting until they hit the milder temps of California for training camp.

Most of them chose Texas.

According to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, around 75 players performed their conditioning tests Monday at Valley Ranch, rather than waiting until they reported to Oxnard later this week.

The test — a series of 20 sprints with prescribed times by position group — were overseen by team captains, who relayed results to coaches. Linebacker Justin Durant tweeted out word that “everybody passed,” which is a good sign.

Of course, the high participation in a more demanding climate might also be read as a positive, for a team that has cruised to an 8-8 record each of the last three seasons.

 

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David Nelson actually believes the Jets are a playoff team

Brent Grimes, David Nelson AP

Rex Ryan’s confidence is apparently contagious.

Wide receiver David Nelson has caught it, saying that for the first time he’s convinced the Jets will make the playoffs.

“For the first time in my career, I can say it with conviction and say it with belief: this is a playoff team,” Nelson said, via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News.

“Going 8-8 with the team that we had last year, the youth that we had, the inexperience. The way we finished the season last year showed us that we had potential. The teams that we beat showed us we were capable.”

Asked if that meant they were a Super Bowl team (pushy New York media), Nelson replied: “That’s the beautiful thing about the playoffs: Anything can happen. So I’ll answer that again in [November]  when we hopefully clinch a playoff spot.”

Of course, that’s all easier to say than do. The Jets haven’t made the playoffs since 2010.

Then again, they’re the Jets, so the saying is part of the charm, even if it takes them a few years to actually believe the words flying out of their mouths.

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Lawyers want their conversations with Hernandez not broadcast

Hernandez AP

The arguments advanced by the Aaron Hernandez legal team now include an attempt to keep secret the in-court discussion of their arguments.

According to the Associated Press, Hernandez’s lawyers filed paperwork on Monday asking the Bristol Superior Court to rule that private conversations between Hernandez and the lawyers not be included in the online broadcast of hearings.  The lawyers contend that the images violate the rules established for the electronic recording of courtroom proceedings.

“[P]rompt action” is requested.  Which makes sense, given that Hernandez will be back in court on Tuesday for a status hearing in the Odin Lloyd murder case.  Hernandez’s lawyers recently asked that the trial in the case be delayed from early October to early January.

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Dareus appears in court, agrees to substance abuse treatment

Marcell Dareus AP

Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was absent from training camp on Monday while he appeared in an Alabama courtroom, where he told a judge he will agree to substance abuse treatment.

Dareus was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance in Alabama on May 5, and his lawyer told the Associated Press on Monday that Dareus agreeing to enter the NFL’s substance-abuse program may allow him to have those felony drug charges dismissed.

The drug possession charge was not Dareus’s only legal problem this offseason: He also was charged with reckless endangerment after an incident in which he crashed his car into a tree following an alleged drag race with teammate Jerry Hughes. Dareus has a September 9 court date in that case.

On the field, Dareus is missing practice until he can pass the team’s conditioning test, which he failed on his first attempt on Saturday.

Dareus could be facing league discipline, either under the substance-abuse policy for the drug possession arrest or the personal-conduct policy for the reckless endangerment arrest, but there has been no word from the league office about any fine or suspension.

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No 2011 draft picks expected to hold out from training camp

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When the rookie wage scale grossly restricted the money earned by players taken at the top of the 2011 draft, a theory emerged that once players became eligible for new contracts after their third NFL seasons, plenty of the men who became quality players would hold out until receiving the money they didn’t get upon entering the league in order to prevent busts from being unduly overpaid.

So far, that theory has busted.  No members of the 2011 draft class are poised to hold out, even though none of the first-round picks has received a second contract.

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, a fifth-round pick that year, has gotten a massive payday.  But he’s the rare exception.  First-rounders like Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Tyron Smith, and J.J. Watt (pictured) are waiting — and they’re waiting very patiently.

In fact, only one 2011 draft pick has taken a stand this offseason.  Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston boycotted the offseason program and a mandatory minicamp.  He’s still expected to report this week for Chiefs’ training camp, especially since he is only a season away from free agency, unlike the first-rounders whose hands are tied by the fifth-year option.

The situation will further bolster the idea that the NFL won big in the last CBA, even though the truth remains that the NFLPA got the best deal it could given a rank-and-file that didn’t want to miss a paycheck.  As a result, the paychecks will continue to smaller for for all rookies drafted from 2011 through the end of the decade, whether superstar or half-a-star.

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Pettine says Browns aren’t inclined to cut Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon AP

The Browns might not have wide receiver Josh Gordon for part or all of the 2014 season, but that doesn’t mean the club will be severing his employment.

Head coach Mike Pettine told the Akron Beacon Journal the club doesn’t intend to release Gordon, who was arrested on a DWI charge in early July. The 23-year-old Pro Bowl wide receiver, under contract for two more seasons, was already facing a potential suspension under the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

“Josh is a Cleveland Brown. We want to do what’s best for him,” Pettine told the Beacon Journal‘s Nate Ulrich in a story published Monday. “We have a player that potentially needs help. Whether it’s him or whether it’s anybody else that wears the uniform, if we can help, we’ll help. We want to make our decisions always, what’s best for the player, and you try to marry it with what’s best for the team.

“So that’s why I don’t think that cutting him, while it may have worked for some other people, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the best option here. It might be the worst option for both — for us and for him. We’re going to wait and see what happens and then act accordingly.”

Pettine told the Beacon Journal the club expects some clarity on Gordon’s disciplinary status in the next two weeks. The wide receiver reportedly could be in line for a yearlong ban.

“I’ve heard everything, all the possibilities, so it’s just gotten to the point where it is what it is. We’ve planned for everything, and we’re ready to go,” the Browns’ head coach told the newspaper.

In the short term, the Browns would count on Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin, Nate Burleson and Travis Benjamin, among others, to pick up the slack if Gordon were ruled out for an extended stretch.

In the longer term, though, an ideal Cleveland offense would have Gordon as the go-to target for a clear-cut starting quarterback. But those are just hopes for now.

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Pettine: Browns to name starting QB by third preseason game

Johnny Manziel AP

Johnny Manziel or Brian Hoyer?

According to coach Mike Pettine, we’ll have a winner of the Browns’ QB derby in about a month.

In a Q&A published Monday, Pettine told the Akron Beacon Journal the club will pick a starting quarterback by Cleveland’s August 23 preseason game vs. St. Louis.

“I don’t know if I’ll set a date and kind of paint ourselves into a date, but it will be sooner than the third preseason game,” Pettine told Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal.

Teams typically play their starters more in the third exhibition game than in any of the other preseason contests, so if the Browns stick to the plan, the No. 1 quarterback will get an extended stint with the first-team offense in an important dress rehearsal for Cleveland.

Hoyer, a sixth-year pro who attended high school in Cleveland, will try to hold off the rookie Manziel, a first-round pick and the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.

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Marvin Jones tweaked ankle working out with Andy Dalton

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The Bengals’ list of players on the non-football injury list surprisingly included receiver Marvin Jones, with an ankle injury.

Per a league source, Jones is day-to-day due to a tweaking of the ankle that happened at the post-OTA passing camp arranged by quarterback Andy Dalton.  Jones had an issue with the ankle in 2013.

It’s a minor injury, and Jones currently is expected to practice this week.  Which is great news for the Bengals, especially in light of the significant potential that Jones flashed at times in 2013 as a complement to A.J. Green.

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Sammy Watkins gives Bills a mild scare

Watkins AP

Teams that play in the Hall of Fame game get to open camp a week or so earlier than most other teams.  Which gives the teams that play in the Hall of Fame game extra practice time.

Which, when coming before other teams have opened camp, makes those teams the center of media attention.  Which, when one of their hottest young players gets injured, sets Twitter ablaze.

On Monday, Bills rookie receiver Sammy Watkins, based on simultaneous tweets from roughly a dozen or more media accounts, caught a ball in traffic and emerged with an injury.  Some said he was dazed.  Others said he appeared to have a cut on his forehead or eye.

After practice, coach Doug Marrone told reporters that Watkins had been poked in the eye.  It’s one of the risks of football practice, especially when a guy is willing to go over the middle.

“He shows that,” Marrone said regarding Watkins’ fearlessness.  “He’s made a very good career for himself, in college, being able to go over the middle. That’s always a big test when you get to this level to make sure you can come over the middle.  He’s a fearless player and, again, at the same time you have to be smart when you do that.”

Luck is also a factor.  On Monday, Watkins and the Bills got lucky.

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Seahawks have 99-percent season-ticket renewal rate

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It’s good to be the defending NFL champions.

The Seattle Seahawks have announced that all tickets for the 2014 regular season have been sold, thanks in large part to a franchise-record 99-percent renewal rate on season tickets.

The team capped season tickets at 63,000.  Another 12,000 members of the 12th man have joined the Blue Pride season-ticket waiting list.

It’s hardly a surprise, given the passion of the fan base, the performance of the team in 2013, and the potential for the Seahawks to become the first team in a decade to win back-to-back Super Bowl crowns.

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Giants sign guard John Sullen

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With stalwart guard Chris Snee electing to retire, the Giants added to their numbers at the position on Monday, signing John Sullen, a first-year pro from Auburn. The signing of Sullen was disclosed in the NFL’s daily personnel notice.

Sullen (6-6, 340) signed with the Bengals after the 2013 NFL Draft. He appeared in three preseason games with Cincinnati before being waived on August 31.

Sullen will take the roster spot of the 32-year-old Snee, who officially was released with a failed physical designation. The 11th-year guard has hip and elbow injuries.

In another roster move Monday, the Giants waived wide receiver Kris Adams from the reserve/physically unable to perform list after he failed a physical. Adams suffered a broken leg last year.

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Favre denies he’s worried about getting booed at Lambeau Field

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Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said recently that Brett Favre has not committed to a jersey retirement ceremony at Lambeau Field in part because “He wouldn’t want to come back to be booed.” But Favre says that’s not the case.

“I’ve heard that was a concern of mine, and I’m here to tell you I’m not,” Favre said on ESPN 1000. “I’m not worried about that. I’m well aware that you can’t please everyone. Not everyone’s going to like you regardless, and you know what, so be it. But I think the 16 years that I had in Green Bay speaks for itself.”

Favre was booed off the field the last time he played at Lambeau with the Vikings, but he thinks he’d be cheered if he returned to have his green and gold No. 4 jersey retired.

“I have played with other teams, but I will be remembered as a Packer,” Favre said. “I feel that. I think the true Packer backers, which there are tons out there, feel the same way. I’m not the first player to play for other teams or rivals. . . . As time goes by, that’s how I will be remembered, as a Packer, and that’s how I want to be remembered.”

Favre believes that most Packers fans remember him fondly, even if they didn’t much like the way he left.

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