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Steelers can help ensure Ravens will carry huge cap number for Flacco

Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger AP

We’ve established over the last two weeks that the Ravens may have to use the exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Joe Flacco, and that to do so would require the Ravens to set aside, under current calculations, $20.464 million in cap space.

And while the Ravens will be required to shoulder only the non-exclusive number of $14.6 million (or thereabouts) through April 19 when the top five quarterback cap numbers for 2013 are officially determined, the numbers that apply as of April 19 become locked in the moment the Ravens use the tag.

Per a source with intimate knowledge of the rules that apply, the five highest 2013 cap numbers at the quarterback position become fixed, for Flacco’s purposes, as soon as the Ravens apply the franchise tag to Flacco.  And so, if the Ravens do it on Monday, when the window for applying the tag opens, they’ll eventually be strapped with the full $20.464 million.

That’s why it makes sense for the Ravens to wait until the last possible day to apply the franchise tag, if they plan to use the exclusive version.   This will ensure that any new quarterback contracts with lower cap numbers could drive the average down from $20.464 million.

And it also makes sense for one of quarterbacks with one of the five highest cap numbers in 2013 — Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — to wait until after the March 4 deadline for use of the tag to restructure or extend his contract in a way that drops his cap number below $19.6 million.  By waiting, the Steelers and Roethlisberger will be sticking the Ravens with a higher cap number.

The other top-five cap numbers for 2013 are:  $21.55 million for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, $20.82 million for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, $20.35 million for Giants quarterback Eli Manning, and $20 million for Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.  None of those teams or players have any obvious incentive to help the Ravens out by doing a deal before March 4.

But here’s where it gets interesting.  Three of the quarterbacks are represented by CAA, and CAA also represents Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin.  So if Stafford or either of the Mannings will be doing a new deal anyway, doing it before March 4 could result in more cap space that could be used to keep Boldin, who has a base salary of $6 million for 2013.

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Dolphins drop Brandon Gibson

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Getty Images

Mike Wallace is running out of veteran company in the Dolphins wide receiver corps.

Brian Hartline was sent packing on Friday morning and the Dolphins said farewell to another receiver in the afternoon when they announced the release of Brandon Gibson. Gibson was due to make $3.26 million with a cap hit of $4.3 million and the difference will go as dead money on Miami’s 2015 cap.

Gibson signed a three-year deal with Miami before the 2013 season and caught 30 passes in his first seven games with the team before a knee injury knocked him out for the remainder of the year. He had 29 catches for 295 yards and a touchdown in 14 games last year as rookie Jarvis Landry passed him in the team’s pecking order.

The team’s been noncommittal about their plans with Wallace, but word out of Miami is that they’d like to either trade him or convince him to take a pay cut. If he does wind up leaving, Landry will be joined by Matt Hazel and Rishard Matthews in a receiving group that will surely be a focus for the Dolphins this offseason.

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Cruz, Newton, Kaepernick part of fruit/vegetable endorsement


If this is a real thing, it’s certainly better for us than another beer or soda commercial.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz are part of Team FNV, which appears to be a campaign designed to push healthy food choices.

From looking at their website, what we know now is that it’s the product of some slick marketing minds, who know how to package an ad.

Their website has shots of Cruz catching a big apple (I see what they did there), Kaepernick playing with a pineapple, and Newton pushing carrots.

There appear to be numerous other celebrity and athlete endorsers involved as well.

Their website is new and their Twitter feed (@TeamFNV) launched yesterday, so it seems to be in the early stages.

But if they can make my kids eat the colorful stuff on their plates without calling me the worst parent ever, how bad can it be?

Photo credit: Team FNV, via Black and Blue Review.

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Stephen Bowen joins Barry Cofield on discard pile in Washington

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Getty Images

The Redskins signed defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois on Thursday, a move that seems to have made two members of their defensive line expendable.

On Friday, the team confirmed that defensive tackle Barry Cofield has been released and also announced that defensive end Stephen Bowen’s reached the end of his time with the team. Bowen was set to count $8 million against the cap in 2015 and the team gets his $5.5 million in salary and bonuses back to use for other purposes. When you add that to the savings for cutting Cofield, the Redskins gained almost $10 million in cap space.

Bowen signed a five-year deal with the Redskins before the 2011 season and started all 32 regular season games in his first two seasons with the club. Injuries limited him to just 18 games over the last two years, however, and the Jean Francois signing signaled the team’s intention to look elsewhere for help at end in 2015.

The Redskins also announced that they have signed right tackle Tom Compton to a one-year deal. Compton started nine games for Washington last season and was set to become a restricted free agent next month.

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Packers open up Lambeau Field for Favre jersey retirement

File photo of Brett Favre in New Orleans Reuters

The Lambeau Field Atrium is not big enough for all the Packers fans who want to cheer on Brett Favre when he has his number retired this summer.

After the 1,600 tickets for the ceremony at the Atrium quickly sold out, the Packers have announced that fans can also sit inside the bowl at the stadium and watch the Favre jersey retirement ceremony on the big screen. Those tickets will cost $4, with proceeds going to Favre’s foundation.

Favre said this month that he was hoping the ceremony would take place in the stadium so that as many fans as possible could see it. That won’t happen — the tickets for the more intimate Atrium event are already sold — but this ensures that tens of thousands of fans can be there at Lambeau for the event.

The ceremony, which takes place on Saturday, July 18, will also be shown on NFL Network and streamed at

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Chris Canty plans to play in 2015

Baltimore Ravens v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Ravens released defensive end Chris Canty on Friday, a move that came a bit more than a month after Canty said he wasn’t sure if he would continue his NFL career for an 11th season.

Canty has done some broadcasting work since the end of the season and looks forward to moving into that arena at some point, but he said Friday his plan for the immediate future is to continue his playing career.

“It’s the business of the NFL, and we move on,” Canty said, via the Baltimore Sun. “I loved it here. I thanked Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh for giving me an opportunity to be part of the great tradition of this franchise. I had a ball. I rediscovered my passion for football. I had a lot of fun. I’m grateful. I’m just looking forward to the next opportunity to continue my playing career.”

In a statement announcing the release, coach John Harbaugh credited Canty for adding maturity and leadership to the team “with intelligence and in a first-class manner.” Other teams looking for that kind of veteran influence may be giving Canty a call now that he’s confirmed he plans to keep playing.

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Vikings release guard Charlie Johnson

New York Jets v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The Vikings had a guard named Charlie Johnson and a wide receiver who goes by Charles Johnson on their roster in 2014, but only one will remain on the roster in 2015.

The team announced Friday that they have released Charlie Johnson after four years with the team. Johnson was due to make a non-guaranteed $2.5 million in salary and bonuses next season.

Johnson started all 61 games he played for the team in that run, mostly at left guard although he did play left tackle during his first year with the team in 2011. His performance left room for improvement, but the Vikings couldn’t find a player to bump him out of the starting lineup. Now they’ll be forced to find someone else to hold down the position.

2014 fifth-round pick David Yankey is on the roster as a possibility, although the Vikings will likely look for help across the line this offseason after allowing 51 sacks last year.

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Falcons release veteran guard Justin Blalock

Atlanta Falcons v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

The Falcons are in the midst of clearing cap space and re-tolling a roster, so the Steven Jackson cut was far from the last one.

The team just announced they had released veteran guard Justin Blalock.

Blalock, their 2007 second-rounder, had started 125 games for the Falcons.

But he was due $4.75 million this year, and might not have been a perfect fit as they transition to more of a zone blocking scheme under new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

The 6-foot-4, 326-pounder has been a durable player, missing just three games in eight seasons.

The Falcons have also cut Jackson and wide receiver Harry Douglas already, some significant changes for an offense that was the strength of the team the last few years.

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NFL considering changes to combine drills

Trae Waynes AP

The NFL scouting combine just wrapped up its frenzy of 40-yard dashes, shuttle runs and other drills, but it may be the last time that the event goes according to that familiar schedule.

While speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston on Friday, NFL director of player development Matt Birk and Saints coach Sean Payton said the league would look at the traditional drills this offseason to see if they can be made more useful to teams. For example, Birk said that the only reason anyone ever gives for running the 40 is that it is the way it’s always been done.

“That’s a project we’ll be working on this offseason,” Birk said, via Mike Rodak of “Once we look at the data that was gathered in-game this year, it may be important to know how fast a wide receiver or defensive back can go 60 yards. Maybe for an offensive lineman it’s only 20 yards. We can actually see that in-game: how far are these guys running? What are the real or improved measures of importance and value as it relates to evaluating players and whether or not they should be drafted in the first round or the sixth round?”

Payton also talked about position-specific changes to the drills in order to get the best gauge on how players will transition to the NFL as well as using data about body types to improve scouting for particular needs. Whatever changes the league undertakes as a whole when it comes to the scouting combine, it’s a good bet that teams will also be using their own proprietary methods — as mentioned in Friday’s one-liners, Jaguars vice president Tony Khan recently bought a sports analytics company — to get an edge on the competition.

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Washington cuts Barry Cofield after signing Ricky Jean Francois

Barry Cofield AP

The rolls of free agents are becoming swollen with released veterans, with teams purging before they binge.

According to agent Mike McCartney, Washington has informed defensive tackle Barry Cofield of his release.

Cutting the 30-year-old Cofield will save Washington more than $4 million worth of cap room this year, in addition to the $4.55 million in base salary he was due this year.

After signing Ricky Jean Francois last night, Cofield became expendable, but should find work elsewhere.

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Bengals release Robert Geathers, Greg Little

Wild Card Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

The Bengals are letting go of a defensive stalwart who had been with the club for almost the entire Marvin Lewis era.

Defensive end Robert Geathers, an 11-season veteran, was released on Friday, the club announced.

The 31-year-old Geathers recorded 325 tackles and 34 sacks for Cincinnati, which drafted him in Round Four in 2004. Though a starter for most of his Bengals career, Geathers was a reserve a season ago, notching 21 tackles and a sack. He was set to make $2.85 million in salary in 2015, according to the NFL Players Association.

According to the Bengals, only Tim Krumrie and Eddie Edwards have played more games as defensive linemen for Cincinnati than Geathers, who made 152 regular-season appearances.

The Bengals also released veteran wideout Greg Little, who played six games with club in 2014, catching six passes for 69 yards. Little, 25, has caught 161 passes for 1,890 yards and eight touchdowns since entering the NFL with Cleveland in 2011.

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Bears sign TE Zach Miller to one-year deal

Zach Miller, Jason Phillips AP

The Bears have struck a deal with tight end Zach Miller.

Chicago has signed Miller to a one-year contract, the team said Friday morning on Twitter. He was slated to become an unrestricted free agent. (The Bears have referred to Miller’s deal as an extension; however, per NFLPA records, Miller’s last listed year under contract was 2014.)

The 30-year-old Miller spent the 2014 regular season on injured reserve after suffering a foot injury in August. At the time of his injury, Miller was bidding to make the Bears, and he had just come off a six-catch, two-TD performance in Chicago’s preseason opener.

A Nebraska-Omaha product, Miller has caught 45 passes for 470 yards and four touchdowns in NFL regular-season play, all with Jacksonville (2009-2011).

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Vince Young scheduled to work out at new veteran combine

Vince Young AP

Michael Sam’s not going to be the only curiosity at the NFL’s first veteran combine on March 22.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, former first-round quarterback Vince Young will be there taking part as well.

Young had allegedly retired, and taken a job at the University of Texas, but he apparently has the itch to play again.

He’s been out of the league since being cut by the Browns last offseason (roll that around in your head for a moment), saying at the time his retirement was “definitely official, I think in my book.”

Young made a pair of Pro Bowls with the Titans, but also floundered through stints with the Eagles, Bills and Packers as well.

This veteran combine idea is good for the players who have come back from injuries or were otherwise marginalized and out of the league. It also provides some needed inventory for the league’s own television network during an otherwise slow time of the year.

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Oklahoma State hires ex-Bucs assistant Marcus Arroyo to coaching staff

West Virginia v Oklahoma State Getty Images

The former quarterbacks coach and interim offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers has landed a job in college.

Oklahoma State has hired Marcus Arroyo as an assistant, the school said Thursday.

Before joining the Buccaneers in 2014, Arroyo was an assistant at Southern Miss, California, Wyoming, San Jose State and Prairie View A&M.

Oklahoma State also announced the addition of former Bills tight ends coach Greg Adkins to its coaching staff. Adkins had served in his role with Buffalo the last two seasons. Adkins had previously coached in college with Syracuse, Tennessee, Troy, Georgia and Marshall.

Oklahoma State said it would announce the specific roles for Arroyo and Adkins at a later time.

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Ravens drop the axe on Chris Canty

Bengals at Ravens Getty Images

Add defensive end Chris Canty to the list of newly unemployed veterans around the league.

The Ravens announced Friday that they have released Canty, who joins wide receiver Jacoby Jones as newly minted members of the former Ravens club.

Canty missed time with wrist and ankle injuries in 2014 and finished the season with 33 tackles, a forced fumble and a half of a sack in 11 starts. It was Canty’s second year with the Ravens and the stop in Baltimore came after productive stints with the Giants and Cowboys in the first eight years of his NFL career.

Canty said at the end of the season that he wasn’t sure he’d return to the field for the 2015 season and coach John Harbaugh indicated earlier this week that the 32-year-old was still mulling over that decision. He was effective enough when he played last season that there’d likely be some interest in his services around the league, although it obviously takes two to tango.

The Ravens will save the $2.66 million in salary owed to Canty this season and they’re trying to save some more cash by getting Haloti Ngata to take a pay cut.

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Twenty-five years ago Friday, the NFL added a bye to the regular-season schedule

Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

In late-summer 1989, when fantasy football owners drafted their teams as “Batdance” played on a loop until the person closest to the boom box flipped over the cassette tape, there were no such things as regular-season bye weeks. Owners didn’t have to worry about whether John L. Williams and Neal Anderson were both getting the same week off. They could draft both, and happily so.

But on this day in 1990, the 16-games-in-16-weeks schedule was scrapped — and likely for good. Twenty-five years ago Friday, the NFL added one week to the 1990 and 1991 regular seasons and two weeks to the 1992 and 1993 slates.

The schedule change came as the NFL was putting together its next television contract, and the economic benefit of being able to offer more weeks of regular-season football content to networks “was an obvious factor” in the decision, commissioner Paul Tagliabue said, according to the Associated Press.

However, Tagliabue, per the AP, also noted that the byes afforded “greater schedule flexibility, ease the player injury factor, and reduce team travel burdens.”

Ever since, the NFL has had at least one scheduled bye per team per regular season. The league also gave a second bye to all clubs in the ’93 regular season but has not gone back to that system since. (The planned second bye in ’92 was cancelled.)

Like them or not, byes seem likely to be a part of the NFL’s framework for the foreseeable future. Given the rigors of the sport, at least one week off per club is prudent. (The 1990 Lions, pictured here, were about to get their bye after having to try and tackle Christian Okoye 23 times.)  And, of course, there is the financial upside to selling a 17-week, 16-game slate.

So happy anniversary, regular-season bye weeks. And happy anniversary, fantasy football owners having to keep track of those bye weeks. At least you don’t have to tally scores by hand and via newspaper box score anymore.

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