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Chargers aren’t considering a tarp to cover seats

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The decision by the Raiders to take 11,000 seats out of commission led one San Diego writer to wonder if the Chargers would consider the same thing to reduce their seating capacity and cut down on blackouts.

Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune raised the question with the team because they have dealt with the same problems as the Raiders and also play their home games at an outmoded multipurpose stadium. Krasovic got a quick response from the team and the answer is that Qualcomm Stadium will remain tarp-free.

“We just lowered the price of 10,000 season seats in an effort to help fill the stadium and enhance our homefield advantage,” Chargers spokesman Bill Johnston wrote in an email. “Combine the lower price with one of the most attractive and competitive home schedules in memory and we’re optimistic about our chances.”

Four of the Chargers’ eight home games were blacked out on local television in 2012 because the team wasn’t able to sell enough non-premium seats to meet the league’s requirements. The Chargers will host the Giants, Cowboys, Colts, Texans and Bengals in addition to their AFC West rivals in 2013.

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Derek Carr pushes bar $271,000 higher

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Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is now the highest paid quarterback in league history. Sort of.

Under the so-called “new money” analysis, Carr’s five-year, $125 million extension has a value of $25 million, via Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. That trumps the $24.769 million new-money average received a year ago by Colts quarterback Andrew Luck by a mere $271,000.

Based on total value at signing, Luck’s deal is technically better. He inked a six-year, $140 million deal. Carr will make $126.127 million over six years. That happened because Luck did his deal after playing four years, trading in the fifth-year option of $16.155 million for his new contract. Carr, a second-round pick, received his new deal a year earlier, with only $1.127 million still due in what would have been the fourth and final year of his deal.

The basic numbers of the deal represent the starting point, not the ending point, of the analysis. Three years ago, the agents leaked (and the info robots lapped up) a load of crap regarding the Colin Kaepernick contract. Be wary of any further information about the value of the deal until the real numbers are filed with the league and the union.

The most important questions as to this specific contract will be the signing bonus, the fully guaranteed money at signing, and (since true franchise quarterbacks tend to not get cut or squeezed to take less) the cash flow on the back end of the deal. Since the contract was reported as a lump sum, it appears Carr did not come the first player to receive protection against ongoing cap spikes in the form of a set percentage of the salary cap in future years.

Also relevant to Carr will be the payments pushed to 2019, when he likely will be moving from a state with obscenely high personal income tax to Nevada, which has none.

There’s no question that Carr has received an extremely significant financial reward. The full significance as to Carr, and as to other quarterbacks who will be trying to push the $25-million-per-year-in-new-money bar even higher, remains to be seen.

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Tom Brady tries some sumo training in Japan

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Tom Brady is known for constantly seeking new offseason training methods and this week he looked in an unusual place: A sumo stable.

Brady, who is on a promotional tour in Asia, worked out with the 355-pound sumo wrestler Goeido and asked the trainers questions about their sport, which requires a great deal of balance and power.

For them to welcome me means very much to me. It’s hard to describe in words how special that was,” Brady told the Kyodo News.

When it comes to offseason workouts, a lineman could probably benefit more from sumo training than a quarterback could, but Brady will leave no stone unturned in his quest to keep playing at a high level into his mid-40s.

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Raiders and Derek Carr deal is done, per Carr himself

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Derek Carr said we’d hear it from him first.

And now we have.

The Raiders quarterback confirmed that his contract is finished, after promising us the news upon reports it was “close.”

The deal has been pegged at $25 million per year, which would make him the highest-paid player in the league.

And when the details are known, it will surely be of interest to players such as Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins, as well as the underpaid such as Aaron Rodgers.

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Dirk Koetter won’t necessarily be saving a seat for Doug Martin

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At a time when Buccaneers running back Doug Martin has received plenty of praise for his work during the offseason, his coach has opted for pragmatism regarding the things that will, or won’t, happen when Martin returns from the final three games of his PED suspension.

Asked during an appearance on the Ira Kaufman Podcast, via JoeBucsFan.com, how Martin’s return will be handled if the Buccaneers are moving the ball well at that time.

“Well, you answered your own question,” Koetter said. “That is all hypothetical, all right? Everything — how do I know if everything is going to go that way? Hopefully, at the end of the three games Doug is still in good health. But we have no idea what is going to happen to our other tailbacks by then. So, I don’t spend too much time worrying about that kind of stuff. . . .

“How can you have too many good players? I sort of look at it as we will cross that bridge when we get to it, because, why worry about it until you have to? We have a lot of other stuff that we need to be concerned with. You know, if everything was 100 percent perfect — I don’t have experience with a guy taking three weeks off and then coming back. So, you will have practices in there and we would have to see how we are doing as an offense, how we are doing with our running game. We will just have to see.”

That’s hardly an unequivocal endorsement, and it’s hard not to wonder whether the Buccaneers, who owe Martin no guaranteed money due both to the suspension and the fact that (despite being a vested veteran) he won’t be on the Week One active roster, will consider dumping Martin if the other tailbacks on the roster are getting it done. It’s likewise impossible to rule out a trade, given that other teams may have needs at the position by the end of September, due to the inevitability of the injury bug.

Regardless, there’s a good chance that the running game will be thriving without Martin, given the extra attention defenses will be devoting to stopping one of the best collections of pass catchers in the game. Rarely if ever will the Bucs be facing eight men in the box, while will make it easier to establish the run with players who are younger and cheaper than Martin.

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Alterraun Verner thinks he’ll find a team this summer

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When last we heard about free agent cornerback Alterraun Verner, he was working out for the Jaguars in hopes of finding a home for the 2017 season.

That workout did not result in a contract and a report from Jacksonville said that Verner, who was released by the Buccaneers early in the offseason, was not in good shape when he got on the field for the Jags. That may explain why Verner is one of the few members of PFT’s Hot 100 free agents still without a team, but he said on Sirius XM NFL Radio this week that he expects that to change soon.

“I’ve worked out for a few teams including the Jaguars. I feel very confident something will happen come late summer,” Verner said.

Verner didn’t play very well in Tampa, but would give a team some experienced depth in camp this summer. That wouldn’t come with a guarantee beyond the chance to compete for a roster spot, although that’s not insignificant for a player who remains unsigned with June drawing to a close.

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Roger Goodell shows his face in New England

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may be the most hated man in New England, but he was able to make it through the Boston airport unscathed.

Goodell was able to walk through Logan International Airport without anyone bothering him after returning home from a trip to Israel organized by Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

The commish hasn’t attended a Patriots home game since cracking down on the team over Deflategate, and Rob Gronkowski has said that Patriots fans wouldn’t let Goodell get from the airport to Gillette Stadium.

But Goodell is expected to attend the season opener at Gillette Stadium in September, and he now knows that he can get into and out of the airport without any fanfare.

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Do the Falcons have a Devonta Freeman problem?

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When we had the opportunity last month to have a 70-minute conversation with Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff (the video is embedded in this item), one of the areas of inquiry focused on the presence of players on the roster who may have a hard time getting over the devastating manner in which Super Bowl LI ended. Dimitroff expressed confidence that they’ll have no issues in this regard.

He may want to now revisit that.

The recent appearance by running back Devonta Freeman on SiriusXM NFL Radio, some of which was chronicled a day ago in this spot, contains clear traces of Marshawn Lynch, post-Super Bowl XLIX.

Said Lynch on (where else?) Turkish TV in the aftermath of the Seattle loss to New England fueled by a fateful decision to throw a pass at the goal line: “To be honest with you, I would be a liar if I didn’t tell you that I was expecting the ball. I think it was more of a — how do I say this?  When you look at me, and you let me run that ball in, I’m the face of the nation.  You know, the MVP of the Super Bowl, that’s pretty much the face of the nation at that point in time.  I don’t know what went into that call.  Maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t get the ball.  I mean, you know, it cost us the Super Bowl.”

Said Freeman on SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this week regarding not only the decisions to pass and not run while in field goal range and leading by eight points late but also his curious second-half disappearance from the running game, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I hate to go there but I was supposed to be the MVP this year of the Super Bowl, but it’s all good, we got another shot. . . . I don’t want to make this no competition thing with me and my quarterback. I’m just talking about from based off that game. Let’s [say] it like this: if I would have kept getting the ball, if I would have stayed in the game, I don’t know why I got out of the game actually. But if I would have stayed in the game, I would have got MVP. I’m looking at my stats and I see my numbers didn’t lie. Look at my numbers.”

Freeman had six carries for 71 yards in the first half of Super Bowl LI. In the second half, he had five carries for four yards.

Making Freeman’s remarks even more stunning was that they came in the wake of quarterback Matt Ryan declaring that the team has put Super Bowl LI behind it.

“When we started as a team in April, we got together before that as players down in Miami,” Ryan said. “It was time to move on. It was time to look forward. Anytime that we kind of dwell on that is wasted time. We have to focus on trying to become the best football team that this group can be.”

Freeman clearly hasn’t moved on. At a time when Freeman is clamoring for a new contract, it’s hard not to wonder whether the Falcons will move on from him.

If nothing else, Freeman’s comments are a sign that, despite the proclamations of Ryan and others in the organization about everything being OK, someone needs to have a candid conversation with Freeman regarding his current attitudes and beliefs, and whether those attitudes and beliefs will impact the team in a negative way in 2017 or beyond.

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Falcons expect experience to pay off in tougher defense

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The Falcons defense didn’t wind up with impressive rankings compared to the rest of the league last season, although any hand-wringing about that was rendered fairly moot by the fact that the Falcons won the NFC.

Their chances of doing so again would be helped by a thornier unit this time around and safety Ricardo Allen points to the passage of time as a reason to expect that growth. Six of the defense’s Super Bowl starters were in their first or second season in the NFL, which Allen said left them “learning on the run” over the course of the season.

He expects that learning experience to pay off this season.

“This year, it’s more of we know what we are going to see,” Allen said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We know that we’ve seen it all. We were blessed enough to play later than a lot of people, so we’ve got a couple more games than a lot of people. It’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be really good.”

The offense, which provides a tough practice test for the defense, was really good last season and has the pieces in place for more of the same in 2017. If the defense takes the jump Allen is expecting, the Falcons’ chances will look really good as well.

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Thursday morning one-liners

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Bills CB Kevon Seymour is making a good first impression.

Dolphins G Jermon Bushrod has the support of his coaches.

The Patriots now have plenty of options at LB after signing David Harris.

Perhaps Jets fans shouldn’t worry about losing Harris to their hated rivals.

The Ravens finalized their training camp schedule.

The Bengals aren’t going to be burdened by high expectations.

Looking back at the Browns 1999 expansion draft (and wondering how different it was than last year).

Steelers T Jerald Hawkins is making up for lost time.

Taking a look at the Texans’ WR situation.

The Colts are encouraged by their WR depth.

The Jaguars are hoping to create more turnovers this year.

The Titans have become a trendy pick.

The Broncos want WR Demaryius Thomas to be more of a leader.

The Chiefs left Jeremy Maclin a voice mail telling him he was cut.

The Chargers are going to be honored at Del Mar.

Raiders OLB Khalil Mack was floored by meeting Dick Butkus.

The Cowboys’ locker room chemistry was crucial to their success last year.

Taking a look at some underdogs heading into Giants camp.

The Eagles think LB Jordan Hicks can get even better.

There will be big expectations for Washington rookie Jonathan Allen.

The Bears are putting more emphasis on creating turnovers this year.

The Lions made varying investments in their replacement OTs.

Packers LG Lane Taylor isn’t changing his preparation now.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s more involved with his rebuilt offensive line.

Former Falcons QB Michael Vick’s father was indicted on federal drug distribution charges.

The Panthers have a generation gap in line drills.

Voice of the Saints Jim Henderson is going into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston’s accuracy may not be as big a deal as some think.

Are Cardinals fans getting worse?

Rams G.M. Les Snead is building a quick rapport with new coach Sean McVay.

49ers SS Eric Reid is excited about his new role in coordinator Robert Saleh’s defense.

The Seahawks will have some division of labor issues at RB.

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Which teams have faced ridiculously high expectations?

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In the same way that the abrupt decision of the Jets to cut linebacker David Harris created the impression that the Jets are taking a nosedive in 2017, the abrupt decision of Harris to join the Patriots becomes a layer of icing on top of the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake in New England.

The Patriots have firmly entered “crown their ass” territory, with the coming season seemingly an exercise in watching and waiting for whether enough injuries will derail the inevitable.

So with the Patriots facing ridiculously high expectations, here’s your PFT Live question of the day: Which teams from the past have had ridiculously high expectations?

I’ve got a few ideas, but I’ll be happy to take a few of yours off your hands. Chime in below.

We’ll ponder the issue during Thursday’s show, which launches at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio and continues on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET.

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At 83, Sonny Jurgensen will slow down but not stop

Sonny Jurgensen was a Hall of Fame quarterback whose NFL career spanned 18 seasons, and now his career calling football on the radio in Washington has doubled that length. But at age 83, Jurgensen is not ready to call it quits.

Jurgensen told the Washington Post he’ll still be calling games in Washington this season, after initially thinking he was going to retire from broadcasting.

“I had thought about hanging it up because I’d been doing it 35 years,” Jurgensen said. “I came to Florida, and I thought about it. I said, ‘I’ve got to have something to do. I was somewhat bored. So I went back to ‘em and said, ‘You know, I’m a little bored.’”

So Jurgensen, who turns 83 in August, agreed with the team that he’ll work the eight home games in Washington but not travel to any road games. Team President Bruce Allen told Jurgensen the team would let him work whatever schedule he liked.

“It’s very nice of them,” Jurgensen said. “I’m looking forward to it, I really am.”

Jurgensen was drafted by the Eagles in 1957 and was a first-team All-Pro for them in 1961. He was traded to Washington in 1964 and played there until 1974. He is in both teams’ halls of fame as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Tramon Williams says he wanted out of unstable Cleveland environment

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Cornerback Tramon Williams was released by the Cleveland Browns in February after spending the last two seasons with the club.

Williams started 22 out of a total 27 games played for the Browns over that span, recording 105 total tackles with two interceptions.

However, Williams said he was as ready to move on from the Browns as the team was from him at the end of last season. In an interview with John Clayton and Pat Kirwin on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Williams felt the situation in Cleveland wasn’t exactly ideal.

“At the end of the day, those guys were just going in a different direction,” Williams said. “From the start of training camp to the beginning of the season, they were going in a different direction. And it came a point during the season to where I wanted to be released. That’s why we got released because it wasn’t a stable spot. It’s not a stable spot. You don’t know who’s going to be the coaches from year to year, and I didn’t know that so I didn’t want to be one of those veterans who is stuck in a spot and at the end of the day, I’m not going to be able to get a job because I was on a bad team. That’s why I wanted to get out of there.”

Williams had two different head coaches – Mike Pettine and Hue Jackson – and two different defensive coordinators – Jim O’Neil and Ray Horton – in his two years in Cleveland. Williams would have had to adjust to a third defensive coordinator in Gregg Williams should he have remained with the Browns in 2018. Considering Williams came from a nine-year run with the Green Bay Packers that featured little flux in the coaching staff over that span, it’s hardly surprising he would view the Browns environment as chaotic.

Williams thanked the Browns for allowing him to move on and seek a different opportunity. He added that he’s been in contact with several teams about playing for the upcoming season.

“I’m ready to get to one of these teams and help out,” Williams said. “And the team that I’m look for is going to be a team, obviously, that is stable and wants to win, so that’s kind of what I’m looking for at this point.”

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Seahawks expecting fierce competition at running back in training camp

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The Seahawks are still searching for an answer in their backfield in the post-Marshawn Lynch era. Seattle struggled to find consistent success on the ground last season as injuries to Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise and Russell Wilson sapped much of the team’s rushing potential.

Now with the addition of Eddie Lacy this offseason, the Seahawks are expecting a strong battle to ensue in the fight for roster spots.

“I think it’s an exciting group,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ve never been this strong with this many guys who can compete and do things. We have a variety of different guys that have different strengths that they bring.”

In addition to Lacy, Rawls and Prosise, the Seahawks added Chris Carson in the draft and return last year’s fifth-round pick Alex Collins as well. Mike Davis and receiver-convert J.D. McKissic will also be fighting for spots.

Rawls had a hairline fracture in his tibia that forced him to miss seven games. Prosise broke a bone in his wrist and fractured his scapula during the season, which caused him to sit out all but six games as a rookie. Collins was too heavy last year and is much better positioned to contribute this year as well.

“Once we’re able to go past those first two days (of training camp) and get the pads on and start to be able to get to the combative part of the game, then we’ll learn more,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. We like how they’re running, we like how they’re moving around. We have a good feel for how they hit holes and the vision that they have, but there’s still another step to come.”

Lacy has been limited so far as he continues to recover from ankle surgery last season. It won’t be until training camp when the Seahawks can get a true feel for how he fits into the mix.

“Obviously we don’t get to see the part that we think is going to be the best about him, that bruising nature that he has,” Bevell said. “He has caught the ball really well, that’s something that’s kind of jumped out at me. We’re really excited to have him.”

Along with wide receiver and Seattle’s secondary, running back figures to be one of the biggest points of contention of the roster in training camp.

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Eric Ebron feels Lions’ additions at tight end will help him maximize production

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With the additions of Darren Fells in free agency and the selection of Michael Roberts in the NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions have added some heft to their tight end position behind starter Eric Ebron.

Ebron, who posted career-highs in receptions and yards last year for Detroit, feels that bringing Fells and Roberts into the group should help him be used in a matter that better suits his skill set.

I think it’s going to play a significant role for me to allow me to do the things that I’m best at,” Ebron said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

Ebron had 61 catches for 711 yards last year for the Lions. However, he was also usually the only tight end on the field as Detroit frequently employed personnel groupings with three wide receivers and one running back. A revolving door of reserve options did little to contribute to the group either.

Detroit’s roster is better situated to allow Jim Bob Cooter to be a bit more diverse with his formations and personnel groupings this year. If it allows Ebron to become more productive, it will be a plus for the Lions.

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Byron Jones provides steady hand in Cowboys secondary

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The Cowboys lost Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency. Those four contributed 39 starts, 254 tackles, five interceptions and 28 pass breakups last season. The Cowboys had Orlando Scandrick on the trade block on draft day. He started 10 games last season and made 46 tackles, an interception and nine pass breakups.

That leaves free safety Byron Jones as the one constant in the Cowboys secondary.

“Like all things in life, when you’re having a good time it goes by fast,” Jones said, via the team website.

Jones has started 27 of a possible 32 games since the Cowboys drafted him in the first round in 2015. He played in the other five games. That gives him a leg up on most of the other defensive backs on the roster.

The Cowboys drafted four defensive backs and are counting on second-year cornerback Anthony Brown. Safety Jeff Heath, the projected starter opposite Jones, has started only 10 games in four seasons. That leaves Jones, Scandrick and free agent addition Nolan Carroll as the most veteran players in the team’s secondary.

“It’s nuts,” Jones said. “I remember when I came in I was looking at a guy who was in his third year, thinking, ‘Wow, he’s played a lot of football.’ Within an instant, I’m that guy.”

Jones plans on becoming a leader, filling a role Church had in the secondary as a team captain.

“It’s an opportunity to step up,” Jones said. “You’ve got older guys that are gone. What am I going to do to respond? For me, it’s stepping up and leading the young guys and steering them in the right direction so we can win some games.”

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