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Cowboys remain focused on Romo extension

Tony Romo AP

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo tabled contract extension talks early in the 2012 season so that they did not become a distraction, but it is the offseason now and the desire for an extension remains strong on the team’s side.

On Tuesday, executive vice president Stephen Jones reiterated much of what we’ve heard before from the Cowboys about their interest in extending Romo’s contract before it runs out after the 2013 season. They’ve made their case for sticking with Romo in football terms and, as Jones did Tuesday, in economic terms.

“Tony is a key piece of what we’re about going forward,” Jones said, via Calvin Watkins of “We’re certainly going to be looking at his situation [in] time. We’ve historically [extended contracts] with quarterbacks for the Dallas Cowboys ahead of time. We did it with Troy [Aikman] and we certainly want to look at that with Tony so we can all move forward in terms of how we want to play around our salary cap with our team. Tony is the key piece in terms of how your cap is represented.”

Romo is set to have a cap number of $16.8 million in 2013, which is the highest on a team that needs to cut about $20 million from their cap before the start of free agency. Extending Romo is one of the easier ways to make that happen. If it does, the length and guaranteed money will tell us how much longer their marriage with Romo will last.

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Cowboys think Anthony Barr can play defensive end

Anthony Barr AP

UCLA’s Anthony Barr’s only been playing defense for two years, but at least one team thinks he’s ready to make another switch.

After transitioning from running back to outside linebacker the last two seasons for the Bruins, Barr said during a visit with the Cowboys that defensive end Rod Marinelli think he’s a 4-3 defensive end.

“I spoke with him at length today,” Barr said of Marinelli, via the team’s official website. “He showed me a lot of tape of (Julius) Peppers and Simeon Rice and (Warren) Sapp, so I think he wants me playing that defensive right end position to go after the quarterback, and that’s something I’m all for.”

Never having played in a 4-3 doesn’t seem to bother them, as Barr has flashed plenty of pass-rush potential, with 23.5 sacks in two seasons.
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Barr might be a little leaner than some ends, but the recent comparison to DeMarcus Ware might not be off the mark.
The problem for the Cowboys will be being able to get to him, as he’s a possible top 10 pick, when they’re at 16 unless they make a move.
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Agent says Clowney may do one private workout

Clowney AP

Yes, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has opted not to assume any additional injury risk in advance of next month’s draft.  With one small caveat.

“He may do one more thing, for one team, maybe a five-minute workout,” agent Bus Cook told USA Today.  “It doesn’t make sense to do more than that, given the fact of what happened to the Clemson kid.  If they weren’t at the Pro Day or Combine, where are they?”

So what will Clowney do in those five minutes?

“Just say there will be no heavy lifting,” Cook told Jarrett Bell of USA Today.  “Nothing that will risk injury.”

If Clowney was concerned about injury, he shouldn’t have played at all in 2013.  Clowney quite possibly was perceived to be taking it easy last year because he was actually playing it safe.  Not wired to skip a season, Clowney nevertheless wanted to emerge from his final year of uncompensated football healthy enough to be one of the first players drafted in 2014.

Of course, Cook disputes the idea that Clowney experienced a dip in production last year.

“At the Senior Bowl, two NFL scouts who have been around for a long time came to me and said, ‘Bus, this business about this kid not going all-out is not the case,’” Cook said.  “One of them said, ‘Please, tell me what games are they referring to?’”

The notion that 2013 Clowney wasn’t the same guy as 2012 Clowney seems to be a given.  Fueling that perception/reality were the passive-aggressive comments from coach Steve Spurrier about Clowney’s work ethic.

Still, Clowney has shown what he can do.  And the Texans or the Rams or the Jaguars or the Browns (if he makes it past the first three) will be smart enough to realize that Clowney was in a no-win situation last year, forced to stay in school and understandably concerned about what could happen to his draft stock if suffered the same fate as former South Carolina teammate Marcus Lattimore.

At a time when none of the other players in the draft pool look to be sure-fire success stories at the next level, Clowney could be the best option at the top.  Which may be why some anonymous scouts are hoping to raise just enough concern about Clowney to prompt him to slide into the draft slots occupied by their teams.

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Calvin Pryor: I can bring physical play to the Bears defense

Rutgers v Louisville Getty Images

The Bears have added three safeties in free agency, but they aren’t believed to be done addressing needs at the position after getting poor play there throughout the 2013 season.

One possible addition is Louisville safety Calvin Pryor, who is expected to join Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as a first-round pick next May. Pryor visited with the Bears on Tuesday and said after it was over that he thought the team was missing “certain pieces” to be a playoff team in 2014. Pryor thinks his physical play in the secondary could be one of those pieces.

“I bring a certain type of physicalness to the defense,” Pryor said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “The Bears are already known to be physical. That playmaker ability, that’s what I can bring to the team. … If I get added to the team.”

The Bears signed M.D. Jennings, Danny McCray and Ryan Mundy this offseason while watching Major Wright leave for Tampa and Chris Conte undergo shoulder surgery that will keep him out for several months. It’s a spot the Bears are sure to bolster next month, although their needs on the defensive line may keep them from addressing it until Pryor is off the board.

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Kelcy Quarles denies report of involvement in bar fight

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Faced with the possibility of having his draft stock harmed by a report of a police investigation, one of the South Carolina players involved in a TMZ report said he’s innocent.

The initial report said that police wanted to find a group of South Carolina players “for questioning at the very least” after an incident outside a New York nightclub last week. South Carolina defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and cornerback Victor Hampton  were named in the report, which said a club promoter suffered facial injuries in an attack.

When reached by The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.,, Hampton hung up on a reporter, but Quarles said he never went to the bar mentioned in the report and wasn’t in a fight.

“I’m [mad] about it because it’s going to hurt my draft status,” Quarles said. “I’m about to do everything I possibly can to get my name cleared because it’s not fair. I had nothing to do with this.”

Quarles and Hampton, along with former teammates Connor Shaw, Bruce Ellington and Chaz Sutton, were in New York last week for an ESPN The Magazine photo shoot.

Quarles said he thought police wanted to talk to Sutton, but Sutton said he wasn’t there either.

“No, I actually hung out with my friends that night,” Sutton said. “I wasn’t even involved or there so I couldn’t really tell you. I don’t know what is going on.”

The police will sort this one out eventually, but at the moment, the one that looks worst is Hampton, who refused the first opportunity to proclaim his innocence.

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Carson Palmer will understand if the Cardinals draft a quarterback

Arizona Cardinals v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said early this offseason that he didn’t think the team could afford to take a quarterback early in the draft and General Manager Steve Keim said the team would have to be totally in love with a quarterback to take one with Carson Palmer still on the team, and when you take those comments together it seems unlikely that the Cardinals will be adding a quarterback in the first few rounds.

But it isn’t impossible, something that Palmer knows well after 10 years in the NFL. So while he’d love to see the team add skill position players that can add to the weapons at his disposal, Palmer says he understands if things fall in a way that leads to a new quarterback in Arizona.

“If you are in a position to draft the best player on your board, and that’s the best position to be in as an organization, and [a quarterback] is the best player on the board, you are not only making your team better by creating competition but you are helping out the future,” Palmer said, via the team’s website. “I know I’m not going to play forever. It’s hard for us players to admit that. The older you get the harder it is to admit it. You don’t see it happening. You still feel good, you still feel confident, you still feel healthy. But that’s the reality. That’s the business. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it, whether it irks you or you don’t care. That’s the game.”

It’s a healthy attitude for any player to have because teams are rarely shy about replacing them when they think that it’s best for the organization and that’s probably even more true for a player who has thrown 59 touchdowns and 52 interceptions over the last three seasons. The Cardinals have more pressing needs, which will likely leave any quarterback additions for the middle rounds and that would likely have more immediate impact on Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley than Palmer.

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Lloyd could have a chance to shine in San Francisco

Lloyd Getty Images

Eleven years ago, the 49ers drafted a receiver who would become one of the great NFL enigmas of the decade.

Underachieving for most of his career, difficult for some to deal with throughout it, receiver Brandon Lloyd nevertheless has talent.  But that talent has emerged only in flashes, and only when the right coach is pressing the buttons.

The right coach turned out to be Josh McDaniels.  In 2010, after generating a total of 2,370 receiving yards in seven seasons with four different teams, Lloyd racked up a league-high 1,448 yards receiving as a member of the Broncos.  His quarterbacks were Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow.

The next year, after McDaniels was fired, Lloyd landed in St. Louis, where McDaniels had arrived as offensive coordinator.  Lloyd accounted for 683 yards in 11 games.

The next year, McDaniels returned to New England.  The Patriots signed Lloyd, and Lloyd had the second best season of his career, with 911 yards.

And just like that it was over.  A free agent in 2013, teams were interested in signing Lloyd but Lloyd wasn’t interested in playing.  Then, out of the blue, Lloyd has been lured to the 49ers.

Coach Jim Harbaugh apparently has a knack for saying the right things to spark a dormant fire in a wideout.  Harbaugh did it in 2012, supplying Randy Moss with one final burst of “I play when I wanna play.”  Inevitably, Moss reverted to his old ways, moody and crabby and unhappy with his role.  The 49ers managed to delay the eruption until the days preceding Super Bowl XLVII, when the media obligations overwhelm even the most secretive organizations.

It remains to be seen whether Lloyd becomes a secret weapon in San Francisco.  With Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree serving as Colin Kaepernick’s primary targets, Lloyd will surely see plenty of single coverage.  The real question becomes whether Lloyd can find a way to click with Kaepernick, and vice-versa.

Either way, the move provides a low risk for the 49ers.  It’s our understanding that the deal pays the one-year veteran minimum to Lloyd, possibly with some incentives.  While he may not be the last piece of the puzzle, his willingness to join the effort prior to the launch of the offseason program suggests that he’s serious about playing and conscientious about learning the offense and becoming a contributor.

At a time when the 49ers have been dealing with a lot more bad news than good, Lloyd’s arrival provides a thin flash of silver on the underbelly of the dark cloud that popped up in the past week over a team that otherwise has plenty of great things to look forward to in 2014, as it prepares to christen a brand-new stadium and make a run for Super Bowl title No. 6.

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Kevin Williams leaves Giants visit without a contract

Kevin Williams AP

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams visited with the Giants on Monday night and Tuesday, but he’s still available for any other team that wants to talk to him about coming aboard for the 2014 season.

Williams flew out of New Jersey on Tuesday night after wrapping up the visit without agreeing to a deal to join a Giants defensive line that lost defensive tackle Linval Joseph to the Vikings in free agency. The Vikings were Williams’ former team, of course, but they have moved in other directions while Williams tries to find a new home. That’s not the Giants at the moment, but Williams wasn’t ruling anything out.

“Had a good visit and gonna see what happens,” Williams told Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Williams turns 34 in August and said he’d retire if he didn’t find the deal he was looking for this offseason, which suggests the Giants weren’t willing to meet his desired price. There hasn’t been much other buzz around the veteran, so it may take a change in fortune on the line for a team to pay up to that level.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

ray-lewis Getty Images

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle is bullish about the chances of keeping the Bills in Buffalo.

Said Dolphins G.M. Dennis Hickey of his draft philosophy, “The important part to us … is evaluating the player and assigning the value of the player. Then you work towards the best player available.”

Players on the Patriots joined other Boston athletes to commemorate the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.

With three 30-year-old starters, don’t be surprised if the Jets draft an offensive lineman.

Former Ravens LB Ray Lewis sold his oceanfront mansion in Florida for $4.77 million, $500,000 less than he paid for it in 2004.

Lots of people think the Bengals will draft Ohio State CB Bradley Roby.

It’s been a year since the feds raided the headquarters of Pilot Flying J, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s family business, and no one knows where the investigation will end.

The Steelers drafted nine players in 2009, and none of them are still in Pittsburgh.

The Texans have now signed six unrestricted free agents: DT Ricardo Mathews, DT Jerrell Powe, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, FS Kendrick Lewis, SS Chris Clemons and RB Andre Brown.

The Colts, who already used their first-round pick on RB Trent Richardson, might try to trade down in the second round to acquire more picks.

Jaguars coach Gus Braadley is talking up Jadeveon Clowney’s passion for the game.

Titans WR Nate Washington embraces the “old man” role in the locker room.

Broncos LB Von Miller is working hard at rehabbing his image.

A receiver or safety would make sense for the Chiefs in the first round.

The Raiders are showing interest in former Oregon S Terrance Mitchell.

The Chargers are working out local prospects today.

Does Cowboys coach Jason Garrett concentrate on the wrong things?

The Giants remain in the market for a backup quarterback after one of their targets, Matt Flynn, signed with the Packers.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly is accused by one writer of letting his ego get in the way of making the right personnel decisions.

Washington would like to draft a tall receiver, but that’s not the team’s top priority.

Notre Dame DT Louis Nix could be a draft target of the Bears.

Should the Lions trade up to draft Clemson WR Sammy Watkins?

Although he’s struggled elsewhere, Matt Flynn always seems to fit in Green Bay.

New Vikings strength coach Evan Marcus has the players working more with free weights and less with machines.

Auburn DE Dee Ford could make sense for the Falcons.

The Panthers need a receiver, and one mock draft has them getting USC WR Marqise Lee.

The Saints are looking at bolstering the secondary in the draft.

Buccaneers RB Mike James says he’s recovering from a broken ankle and, “I’ve got a good opportunity to do what I need to do to get back in the swing of things and get acclimated with everything.”

After just missing the playoffs last year, expectations are high in Arizona for the upcoming Cardinals season.

The 49ers’ signing of WR Brandon Lloyd represents his career coming full circle.

The Rams have honored a local middle school for its students’ commitment to physical activity.

The Seahawks are showing a lot of interest in wide receivers during the pre-draft process.

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Houston schools stop using “Redskins” and other insensitive names

Washington Redskins v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

As the NFL team in Washington continues to defend its use of the name Redskins, the franchise often points out that many high schools use the name. What the team doesn’t point out is that many schools are dropping the name, too.

Despite the team’s claim that “70 different high schools” use the name Redskins, several reports have indicated that the number is actually lower than that, and the Redskins are counting high schools that have already stopped using the name. The latest school to drop the name is Lamar High School in Houston, which announced this week that it will stop going by the name Redskins and start calling its teams the Texans.

That decision was part of a new policy announced by the Houston school district, preventing schools from using team names that are viewed as insensitive. Teams called the Indians, Warriors and Rebels are also changing their names.

The Washington Redskins, however, say they will never change.

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Blake Bortles in Houston for meeting with Texans

Blake Bortles AP

Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles has long been connected as a possibly fit for the Houston Texans with the No.1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

The Texans need a quarterback. Bortles is a quarterback. It kind of makes sense, right?

After meeting with the Oakland Raiders on Monday, Bortles arrived in Houston Tuesday night for a meeting with the Texans on Wednesday.

Bortles met with Texans’ brass at the combine and general manager Rick Smith and head coach Bill O’Brien were both on hand for Bortles’ pro day workout as well.

They’ve been great,” Bortles said from the William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, via James Palmer of “He’s a great guy and a great coach. I’m just excited to get here, meet everybody and sit down and talk with everybody again. So I’m really looking forward to it.”

Bortles, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater are the three likely selections the Texans have to choose between if they want to take a quarterback with their top selection in the draft. Houston also has scheduled a pre-draft visit with Manziel set for next week.

The Texans know they are taking a quarterback at some point in the draft. If it will be at No. 1, Bortles and Manziel seem to have become the two options Houston is focusing on the most.

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Report: Pair of South Carolina prospects wanted for police questioning

Coastal Carolina v South Carolina Getty Images

A pair of prospects from the University of South Carolina is apparently wanted for questioning by police in relation to an incident at a New York City nightclub last week.

According to TMZ, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and cornerback Victor Hampton are “wanted for questioning at the very least” stemming from an alleged attack at Greenhouse nightclub.

A club promoter allegedly suffered “extensive facial injuries” after being allegedly attacked by three men. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

With less than four weeks to go until the NFL Draft, college prospects are still directly under the spotlight of teams as they continue to adjust and tweak their draft boards. While the investigation is still in its preliminary stages, it likely won’t benefit Quarles and Hampton to have their names tied to a police investigation.

Both players are expected to be drafted based on projections. However, if they are found to be involved in this incident it could affect just when teams decided to take a chance on the,.

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Chris Johnson says Jets visit went well but no decision yet

Cory Redding, Chris Johnson AP

Free agent running back Chris Johnson visited with the New York Jets on Tuesday. It was his first visit since being released by the Tennessee Titans earlier this month.

After visiting with the Jets, Johnson decided to take in Tuesday night’s game between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. While at the game, he spoke with multiple reporters regarding his visit.

Per Josina Anderson of ESPN, Johnson said “I had a great visit with the Jets. I’m just taking it one day at a time.”

Johnson reiterated those thoughts to Peter Botte of the New York Daily News but added he’s “not ready to make my decision.

Johnson had a down year in 2013 for Tennessee but still posted his sixth straight 1,000-yard season. However, the 3.9 yards per carry were the lowest mark of his career.

The Jets ranked sixth in the league in rushing last season with Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory as the primary options out of the backfield. Johnson would likely work in as part of a rotation alongside Powell and Ivory should he elect to sign with the Jets. But, Johnson is also a home run threat whose speed could be a real addition to the lineup.

For now, Johnson isn’t ready to make a decision as he’s possibly holding out for a better offer from the Jets or another team. However, if he doesn’t make a decision soon, teams may elect to wait until after the draft to re-evaluate their needs and Johnson may have to wait to find a new home.

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Lions intend to split the running back role between Bush and Bell

BushBell Getty Images

The Lions have a pair of potent tailbacks.  And they plan to use both of them.  Perhaps equally.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said Tuesday that Reggie Bush and Joique Bell will share the load.

“[T]his game is a violent game anymore and it’s hard for one running back to get all the carries,” Lombardi said.  “So much like they did last year, I see these guys kind of having a split role and both being very productive.”

Last year, Bush and Bell became the first teammates in league history to rack up both 500 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in the same season.

Based on salaries, Bush likely is in line to be the starter.  But Bell will get plenty of opportunities, and the shared role will help both guys stay healthy deeper into the season — and to play deeper into the decade.

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Derek Carr isn’t lacking in confidence

DerekCarr Getty Images

When it comes to the 2014 crop of rookie quarterbacks, most consider three of them to be at the top of the heap:  Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, and Johnny Manziel.

There’s a fourth guy who believes he’s better than all of them.

Appearing on NFL Network on Tuesday, Fresno State’s Derek Carr was asked whether he’s the best quarterback in the draft.

Absolutely,” Carr said.  “And I say that with respect to all of the other guys because they are great competitors and all of those good things.  Of course it’s not easy for me to answer a question like that but I absolutely think so.  There is no doubt in my mind and we can turn the film on, sit down and watch it, and we’ll talk about it and I’ll convince you.”

Plenty of franchises are interested in having that conversation with a potential franchise quarterback.  In a separate appearance on the league-owned broadcast channel, Carr rattled off a list of teams with which he has met.

“Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Tampa, Minnesota – just the first that come off the top of my head,” Carr said.  “Tennessee.  I’ve been with them, working out with them, visiting with them, talking to them, the whole process.  Those have been the initial ones so far.”

Carr’s brother, David, was the first pick in the 2002 draft.  After five years as the starter in Houston, Carr has served as a backup with the Panthers, Giants, 49ers, and Giants again.

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Trump has realistic shot of being approved

Trump AP

Despite the bluster, the bravado, and the convenient revisions to the history of his antagonism of the NFL, billionaire Donald Trump would have a good chance of being approved as owner of the Bills, if the family of Ralph Wilson decides to sell the team to him.

“I don’t see why not,” a source with direct knowledge of the dynamics of team ownership told PFT on Tuesday.  “He’s the only one saying it will stay in Buffalo.”

But what of Trump’s thirst for attention, his potential inability to put the greater good above his own interests, his tendency to be belligerent and combative with real or imagined enemies?

“I don’t think there are nine people to stop him,” the source said, in reference to the fact that nine “no” votes from other owners can block the sale.

Of course, a vote of the owners won’t matter unless the Wilson family chooses to sell the team to Trump.  It’s one thing for Trump to talk publicly about buying the franchise.  It’s quite another to put the cash and financing together to make the purchase.

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