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Team-by-team look at who would/could/should be tagged

AP

On Monday, the two-week window for using the franchise tag opens.  Every team can use the franchise tag (or the rarely-used transition tag) on one player.

Last year, 21 teams took advantage of the franchise tag, which no longer is based on the five highest-paid players at the position but on a far more convoluted (and club friendly) formula.

It’s not a coincidence.  The new formula makes it much cheaper to keep a player off the open market than it would to pay him a multi-year market contract.

Here’s a look at the team-by-team candidates for the 2013 tag, in alphabetical order.

Arizona Cardinals:  The Cardinals need to keep hard-nosed cover corner Greg Toler, but not at anything close to the eight-figure franchise number.  No other pending free agents have the talent or potential to justify franchise money.  Last year, the Cardinals used the tag on defensive end Calais Campbell; they eventually signed him to a long-term deal.

Atlanta Falcons:  Left tackle Sam Baker, drafted in round one the same year as the man whose blind side he protects, has had good years and bad years.  After starting 16 games in 2012, Baker hits the market on a high note.  Still, the glut of tackles in free agency and the draft will make it hard to justify tagging Baker; if he leaves, the Falcons can find a capable replacement after the market softens.  In 2012, the Falcons used the tag on cornerback Brent Grimes, who tore an Achilles tendon in Week One.  Tagging him would cost $12.48 million for 2013.  It would cost nearly half that amount to tag safety William Moore.

Baltimore Ravens:  It’s not a question of if the Ravens will tag quarterback Joe Flacco.  The only remaining unknown is the level of the tag.  And while a lazy look at the situation would lead to conclusively presuming that there’s no way Flacco leaves Baltimore, there’s a chance (slim, but a chance) that the player and the team could be destined for a game of chicken that would result in both cars flying off the cliff.  The Ravens could opt to go non-exclusive, daring Flacco to sign an offer sheet with another team — and assuming that he never would.  Another team with plenty of cap space could easily craft a front-loaded offer sheet that the Ravens wouldn’t be able to match.  It’s not likely, but anyone who thinks there’s no way Flacco leaves the Ravens hasn’t been paying close enough attention to the far crazier things the NFL has seen in recent years.

Buffalo BillsJairus Byrd has become one on the best free safeties in the league.  With George Wilson gone in a cap move, the Bills need to keep Byrd.  Absent a long-term deal, the tag is the only way to make it happen.  If a long-term deal can be negotiated, guard Andy Levitre becomes a candidate for the tag.  The only impediment would be the fact that interior offensive linemen get the same franchise tender as tackles.

Carolina Panthers:  Their list of potential free agents contains no names that cry out for use of the tag, especially since the Panthers are still dealing with the sins of salary caps past.

Chicago Bears:  The Bears need to keep defensive tackle Henry Melton, but they’ve already got plenty of cap space tied up with defensive players like sackmaster Julius Peppers, cornerback Charles Tillman, and linebacker Lance Briggs.  With Melton regarding himself as the best defensive tackle in the league, a long-term deal could be hard to come by.  Despite his name recognition, linebacker Brian Urlacher isn’t a serious candidate for the tag.

Cincinnati Bengals:  The Bengals are extremely careful with money.  On defense, lineman Michael Johnson is the most obvious candidate to be tagged.  It’s just as likely that the Bengals will be content to go bargain shopping (again) for defensive players to replace their bevy of free agents on that side of the ball, and then hope that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer can whip up another batch of chicken salad.  On offense, the tag could be used to keep Andre Smith, who quietly has overcome his notorious Jello run to develop into an elite right tackle.  Last year, the tag was used on kicker Mike Nugent; tagging him again would cost only $3.48 million.  Which could make him the most likely candidate.

Cleveland Browns:  Kicker Phil Dawson was tagged in 2011 and 2012.  Using it a third time would entitle him to quarterback money.  So if it’s used, it won’t be used on him.  Punter Reggie Hodges is hitting the market after three years with the team.  Though his performance doesn’t cry out “franchise tag,” it could be cheaper to squat on him for a year than to sign a replacement on the open market; that’s why so many punters and kickers have been tagged in recent years.

Dallas Cowboys:  Tagged last year at $10.5 million, linebacker Anthony Spencer still hasn’t had the kind of impact that he should, given that he plays across from DeMarcus Ware.  Spencer isn’t worth $12.4 million for one more year.

Denver Broncos:  V.P. of football operations John Elway has said that the tag will be used on left tackle Ryan Clady, and for good reason.  Last year, Clady turned down a five-year, $50 million deal.

Detroit Lions:  It’ll take $12.4 million to use the tag for a second straight year on defensive end Cliff Avril, and it won’t be easy for the Lions to round up the kind of cap space necessary to keep him around.  Safety Louis Delmas doesn’t like being labeled as injury prone, but he is.  And the Lions will have to decide whether they want to make a long-term or short-term (via the tag) investment in the guy who could be this decade’s Bob Sanders.  Tackle Gosder Cherilus also could be tagged, but in a buyer’s market for tackles it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to do it.

Green Bay Packers:  Receiver Greg Jennings turns 30 in September.  In other words, the Packers won’t be using the tag on Greg Jennings.  The Packers learned while he was injured in 2012 that they can live without him, and they won’t be inclined to invest $10 million in cap space to a guy who plays a position that, with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, is virtually interchangeable.  If the Packers wanted to keep Jennings, they’d be trying to sign him.  They’re not, which likely means he won’t be tagged.

Houston Texans:  Last year, the Texans passed on tagging linebacker Mario Williams because of the exorbitant tender that the final year of his first-overall rookie contract would have generated.  With linebacker Connor Barwin, much less cap space would be consumed.  After seeing former Texans receiver Jacoby Jones deliver an MVP-caliber performance in the Super Bowl, G.M. Rick Smith may be a little less willing to let quality players walk away in 2013.  Another possible (and cheaper) candidate for the tag is punter Donnie Jones.

Indianapolis Colts:  The man with the self-styled boomstick can be kept off the market for the low, low price of the punter/kicker franchise tag ($2.9 million).  Absent a long-term deal, it’s hard to envision the Colts moving forward without punter Pat McAfee.

Jacksonville Jaguars:  A roster thin on star power naturally doesn’t create many franchise-tag candidates, especially with a new G.M. and (another) new coaching staff.  If linebacker Daryl Smith didn’t miss most of the season, he’d be a potential candidate.  Fullback Greg Jones would be a candidate, if fullbacks weren’t lumped in with running backs for franchise tag purposes.

Kansas City Chiefs:  The Chiefs are trying to work out a long-term deal with receiver Dwayne Bowe; if they don’t, it would cost $11.4 million to keep him around for a second season via the tag.  But receivers are more plentiful than competent offensive linemen, and new Chiefs coach Andy Reid witnessed the hard way in 2012 the consequences of not having competent blockers.  This reality makes tackle Branden Albert a more likely candidate to be tagged.  Then there’s punter Dustin Colquitt, who like most punters and kickers could be cheaper to keep via the one-year franchise tag.

Miami Dolphins:  Tackle Jake Long’s rookie deal makes the cap number for tagging him way too high to justify, especially in light of the gradual decline in his play.  With cornerback Sean Smith looking for big money, the best move could be to tag him instead of Long.

Minnesota Vikings:  G.M. Rick Spielman wants to keep road-grading right tackle Phil Loadholt.  With left tackle Matt Kalil tied up via an affordable rookie deal, the Vikings can afford to pay Loadholt a large chunk of money for at least the next two seasons, before Kalil will be looking for his second contract.  Whether that large chunk of money equates to the franchise tag for Loadholt is a decision the Vikings have to make in light of the realities of the tackle market — and within the context of the impact of the use of the tag on the expectations of receiver Percy Harvin.  They’d also like to keep fullback Jerome Felton, but there’s no fullback franchise tag; they’d have to tender him at the running back level.

New England Patriots:  The Patriots have a trio of players who are potential candidates for the tag.  Whether it’s receiver Wes Welker, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, cornerback Aqib Talib, or no one, it won’t be an easy decision.  Welker would command $11.4 million, given that he was tagged in 2012.  It would be a shock if they tag him.  Vollmer has Marcus Cannon behind him on the depth chart, plus plenty of other tackles available in free agency.  The Pats could be inclined to let Vollmer leave if someone else is willing to overpay him.  Talib presents the biggest conundrum, given his positive impact on the team’s so-so defense.  They need him, but he present plenty of risk given his history of off-field incidents.

New Orleans Saints:  Left tackle Jermon Bushrod is the most obvious candidate for the tag.  But the Saints don’t have the cap space to spare.  They easily replaced guard Carl Nicks with Ben Grubbs last year, and the tackle market is far more plentiful in 2013 than the market was for guards last season.  Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis doesn’t project to nose tackle in the team’s new 3-4 defense, but he could be a candidate to play defensive end in Rob Ryan’s defense, if the Saints want to fork over the money necessary to keep him around.  Things would get interesting if the Saints tag Ellis as a tackle despite a desire to move him to end, since there’s a $2.6 million gap between the two tenders.

New York Giants:  But for the likely existence of collusion in the restricted free agency market, the Giants should be thinking about tagging receiver Victor Cruz.  Since teams have abandoned in recent years the pursuit of RFAs, there’s no reason for the Giants to double the compensation they’d get if someone else swipes Cruz.  Left tackle Will Beatty becomes a candidate for the tag, along with safety Kenny Phillips.  The cheapest of all would be tight end Martellus Bennett, who didn’t get the long-term deal he wanted a year ago in free agency, opting instead for a one-year stay in New York and another shot at the market.

New York Jets:  Safety LaRon Landry is the only guy who merits the tag, but his one-year deal from last year expressly prevents the team from using it.  No one else who is due to become a free agent deserves it.

Oakland Raiders:  There’s a major problem with using the franchise tag on punter Shane Lechler, apart from the fact that the Raiders have landed in a salary cap black hole.  While the franchise tag for punters and kickers will be an affordable $2.9 million in 2013, Lechler’s cap number last year was $4.9 million.  Under the CBA, he’s entitled to a 120 percent raise over that number, which translates to a cap number of $5.88 million.  It could be time for the much cheaper Marquette King, a converted receiver who has drawn comparisons to the monster-legged Reggie Roby.  Either way, it’s hard to imagine that the cap-strapped Raiders would pay a punter twice the amount of the base franchise tag for punters.

Philadelphia Eagles:  The Eagles don’t have many looming free agents, which means that they don’t have many candidates for the franchise tag.  Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would be one, if he was, you know, better.

Pittsburgh Steelers:  The Steelers have said they won’t use the franchise tag.  Which means that receiver Mike Wallace will hit the open market.  Which means that someone will overpay him on the first day of free agency.

San Diego ChargersLook at their free agents.  Though cornerback Quentin Jammer has been a mainstay in San Diego since 2002, he’s not worth what it would cost to keep him via the franchise tag.  No one else with an expiring contract justifies the tag, which is one of the reasons why there’s a new G.M. and head coach.

San Francisco 49ers:  Safety Dashon Goldson doesn’t want to be tagged again, but what he wants and what he gets could be two different things.  Absent a long-term deal, the Niners have to keep Goldson around — even if using the tag for a second time virtually guarantees he’ll hit the market in 2014.  If Goldson gets a new deal, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Niners would use the tag on their second-string but highly versatile tight end, Delanie Walker.

Seattle Seahawks:  The ultra-low kicker tag of $2.9 million could be used to keep the strong-legged Steven Hauschka.

St. Louis Rams:  Receiver Danny Amendola has become one of the best slot receivers in the NFL, but his injury history and the eight-figure franchise tender for wideouts likely will scare the Rams away.  Still, if Amendola hits the market, he won’t be there long.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  The Bucs plans to spend on keeping their own guys.  When it comes to using the tag, it’s a toss-up between tackle Jeremy Trueblood and defensive end Michael Bennett, or neither.

Tennessee Titans:  The Titans reportedly are expected to use the tag on tight end Jared Cook, absent a multi-year deal.  Kicker Rob Bironas also is a possibility, but he had a cap number of $3.675 million in 2012.  Which means that the tag would cost the Titans $4.41 million in 2013, $1.5 million more than the base tag for kickers and punters.

Washington Redskins:  With $18 million in missing cap space, the Redskins can’t afford to use the tag.  Especially since tagging tight end Fred Davis again would bump his 2012 tender by 20 percent — a year after he suffered a torn Achilles tendon.  Punter Sav Rocca is a slim possibility, but even the $2.9 million will be more than the Redskins can justify with their cap situation.

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Bills bring in former ESPN exec to work on public image

AP

After the Bills fired Rex Ryan and benched quarterback Tyrod Taylor late last season, General Manager Doug Whaley held a press conference that left many feeling the franchise was being run in a dysfunctional manner.

Owner Terry Pegula took issue with that characterization at the time and it appears that the team is taking further steps to make sure that future dealings with the public don’t leave that impression.

Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reports that the team has hired Gerry Matalon as a consultant to work with members of the organization. Matalon was a longtime talent executive at ESPN who worked on developing on-air personalities and will be meeting with Bills executives at the league meetings in Arizona this week.

He will work with coach Sean McDermott and his role “might also expand” to advising Whaley, although recent reports have pegged Whaley’s job security as tenuous. The team has also hired a new head of communications this offseason, so they seem equipped to put up a better front should those reports foreshadow Whaley’s departure in the near future.

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Texans will talk to Bill O’Brien about an extension next offseason

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Bill O’Brien has kept the Texans competitive without what you’d call a stable quarterback situation, or a quarterback, for the last three years.

But if he wants a new contract, he’s going to have to wait.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Texans owner Bob McNair said he’d talk to O’Brien about an extension after this season, which will be the fourth of the five-year deal he signed when he took over the team.

“We’ll talk to him about it at the end of this year,” McNair said. “That’s typically when we do that sort of thing. . . .

“We’ll sit down and see what he’s [O’Brien] happy with and if he wants to be extended and see how we feel.”

Whether he wants to is a reasonable question, after reports that he might have been on his way out last year. But O’Brien did the best he could to quell the speculation then.

The reality is, if he’s not in Houston, he’d be somewhere else soon. He’s 27-21, posted winning records each of his three seasons, and done so with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, and Brock Osweiler as his quarterbacks.

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John Mara on Odell Beckham: He’s the last guy I’m worried about

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In the aftermath of the final game of the Giants’ season, wide receiver Odell Beckham punched a hole in a Lambeau Field wall in an expression of the emotions he was feeling after his team was blown out by the Packers.

That led a variety of people from the team, including General Manager Jerry Reese, to say that it was time for Beckham to grow up after a couple of years filled with emotional outbursts that sometimes detracted from Beckham’s production on the field. On Monday, co-owner John Mara took a different track.

He joked that he offered the Packers $100 to fix the hole in the wall and said that Beckham is “the last guy on our team that I’m worried about.”

“He’s an emotional player,” Mara said, via NJ.com. “I think he’s going to mature over time, but I’m not losing any sleep worrying about him. He’s a prideful, motivated young man who competes at 100 percent all the time. I think he’ll mature over time.”

Beckham is entering the final year of his rookie contract, which means he’s eligible for both an extension and a fifth-year team option. Picking up the latter seems inevitable, but Mara said no talks have taken place about a longer deal.

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NFL stadiums have received an estimated $6.7 billion from taxpayers

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With Nevada kicking in $750 million to build the Raiders a new stadium, NFL teams have now received nearly $7 billion in tax money to build stadiums over the last two decades.

According to an analysis from ESPN, the total price tag to taxpayers for building new stadiums and renovating old ones has been $6.7 billion since 1997. That includes 19 new stadiums and three major renovation projects.

Not every team has received public money. The stadium the Jets and Giants share in New Jersey was financed privately, and the stadium the Rams and Chargers will share in Los Angeles is being financed privately as well.

The NFL still makes most of its money from its television contracts. But there may not be enough attention paid to how much money the NFL makes from state and local leaders who are eager to attract teams or keep teams in place, and willing to pay a lot of taxpayer money on stadiums.

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Lions G.M. on Matthew Stafford extension: We’re working on it

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Lions G.M. Bob Quinn says he has his franchise quarterback in place, and now wants to keep him in place for years to come.

Quinn said on PFT Live that Matthew Stafford, who has one year and a $16.5 million salary left on his current contract, is due for an extension.

“We’ve begun a few discussions with his representatives. These things take time. These things don’t usually happen early in April or May, but we’re working towards that,” Quinn said.

Quinn indicated that he has no doubts that Stafford is the right man to lead the Lions for years to come.

“I have a great deal of respect for Matt,” Quinn said. “I think he’s a very good quarterback that has all the leadership and off the field traits that we look for in the quarterback position, and his on-field ability I think is well-documented. His arm strength, his mobility, which he used more of this year. I think he has all those things and we need to do a better job and I need to do a better of putting more pieces around him so we have a better team around him so he doesn’t have to carry the entire load.”

The 29-year-old Stafford probably has several more good years left in him. Quinn wants those years to be in Detroit.

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Thomas Dimitroff would like both teams to get a chance in overtime

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Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff lost the Super Bowl in overtime last month, so it’s understandable if he’s a little sore about sudden death.

Dimitroff said on PFT Live that he’d like to see the NFL explore an overtime format that guarantees each team a possession, as opposed to the current format, which allows a team to win the coin toss, receive the opening kickoff and win the game with a touchdown without the other team ever possessing the ball.

“I would like to have a chance, of course, but that’s not where we are right now and I’m a big league guy so I’m supportive of where we are right now,” Dimitroff said. “Personally I’d like us to continue to discuss that. I understand coin flips. I understand when Tom Brady flipped the coin — when it flipped in his favor in the middle of the field, there’s a guy who’s incredibly special when the game’s on the line, so that’s a difficult situation. . . . We would like to have an opportunity.”

The only overtime proposal the NFL is considering at this week’s league meeting is one that would shorten overtime in the preseason and regular season to 10 minutes. But the league is constantly talking about ways to improve overtime, and it wouldn’t be surprising if another change comes at some point, one that would get rid of the sudden death format. Too late for the Falcons.

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Report: Kaepernick wants a chance to start, and $9-10 million

AP

Is Colin Kaepernick still unemployed because his asking price is too high?

That’s the suggestion in a report from Dan Graziano of ESPN, who cites multiple sources as saying that Kaepernick won’t settle for just any job.

According to the report, Kaepernick wants to go to a place that will give him a chance to start, and pay him a salary in the range of $9 million to $10 million a year. That would mean he expects a better deal than the ones free agent quarterbacks Josh McCown and Brian Hoyer got this month.

That would also mean some teams that could make sense for Kaepernick as a backup, like the Seahawks and Panthers, wouldn’t be attractive to Kaepernick because he wouldn’t have a chance to start.

Realistically, there aren’t many places where Kaepernick would get a chance to start. So if he’s limiting himself to those places, there are few options available to him.

One person we haven’t heard from is Kaepernick himself. Although he is active on social media, he rarely tweets about football and has not said anything about how much money he wants or what kind of opportunity he’s seeking. If he’s willing to be a backup and play for backup money, saying so publicly might help him get such an offer. If he’s not willing to be a backup and play for backup money, he may remain unemployed for a while.

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Dolphins, Dion Jordan seem overdue to split

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It remains likely a matter of when, not if, the Dolphins will part with former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan.

After Monday, a move seems that much more imminent.

According to Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post, Dolphins executive Mike Tannnebaum was asked three questions related to Jordan, including his likelihood of being on the roster when the team starts voluntary workouts in April. His responses read like writing on a wall.

Jordan, 27, has not played the past two seasons.

The defensive end’s career is marred mostly by suspensions for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Injuries and sub-par performance haven’t helped stymie buyer’s regret from an aggressive trade up to draft him in 2013.

“Obviously from where he was selected to today, it’s not a move that’s worked out,” said Tannenbaum, the Dolphins’ executive vice president of football operations. “It’s pretty obvious. We’ll keep evaluating our roster and make moves when we feel it’s appropriate.”

Per Schad, on the topic of Jordan participating in the team’s April workouts, Tannenbaum said “our roster is always up for discussion.”

Jordan has played 26 career games, starting one. He’s logged 32 tackles with three sacks. Miami traded Oakland a second-round pick to move up nine spots for Jordan.

The Raiders used the second-round pick to draft now-Broncos offensive tackle Menelik Watson.

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Jed York not expecting Raiders fans to jump ship to 49ers

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Just because the Raiders will be leaving Oakland in the next few years, San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York isn’t expecting a massive rush of Bay Area fans suddenly to shed their silver and black for 49ers’ red and gold.

The Raiders fans are a unique group,” York said,” via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. “I don’t know that they’ve necessarily been loyal to L.A. or to Oakland, I think they have always been loyal to the Raiders. I think you’ll see the Raiders following them wherever they may go, and going to Las Vegas in a few years, I think you’ll see that really take place.

“So for us, I don’t think it’s a big win for the 49ers, but I think it’s a good thing for the National Football League. The Raiders have tried to get a deal done in Oakland for a decade-plus, and they were unfortunately unable to do anything, and I think Las Vegas put together a good opportunity for the Raiders to continue to have a good experience for their overall fan base wherever their fans come from.”

York cited past experience of being the lone football entity in the Bay Area while the Raiders played in Los Angeles from 1982-94. He said the 49ers didn’t see any substantial change in revenue from the departure, or return, of the Raiders to Oakland.

“Raiders fans, they’re loyal to the Raiders,” York said. “They’re very different than 49ers fans, and there’s not a ton of overlap where you would see different teams kind of go from one to another. You just haven’t seen that, and I wouldn’t expect it going forward.”

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John Elway on quarterbacks: Same old thing

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At some point, there will be some kind of definitive end to musing about where Tony Romo will spend the 2017 football season and everyone will move on to other topics of conversation when Broncos General Manager John Elway steps in front of a microphone.

That point wasn’t Monday. Elway met the media in Arizona at the owners meetings and was asked about quarterbacks, which led him to say the “same old thing” he’s been saying all offseason. He won’t talk about Romo because Romo is under contract to the Cowboys and he will talk about how much confidence the team has in Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.

“Like we’ve said, we really feel good about the two young ones that we have,” Elway said, via ESPN.com. “Trevor did a good job for us last year. Paxton was young. So the plan is to stay the course there and see what’s available in the draft. So we’ll go from there. But we like both, and Paxton was a first-rounder last year for a reason. And then Trevor came in and played very well. So it’ll be a great competition between them in the spring.”

With neither the Broncos nor the Texans showing any sign that they’re willing to make a trade for Romo, networks reportedly interested in him unable to make such a trade and no financial upside to the Cowboys releasing him, there’s nothing to suggest a change to the status quo in the near future. That may mean Elway gets to play the hits a few more times before retiring the act for good.

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Reggie McKenzie says Derek Carr to be full-go for offseason work

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Raiders tackle Donald Penn said last month that quarterback Derek Carr was already closing in on being back to full strength after a broken leg ended his 2016 season in December.

General Manager Reggie McKenzie reaffirmed that notion on Monday at the NFL owner’s meetings in Phoenix. McKenzie said that Carr will be a full-go for the team’s offseason workout program, via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com.

The Raiders can begin their offseason programs on April 17. OTAs take place in May before a final veteran mini-camp in June.

Carr sustained the broken leg on Dec. 24 in a 33-25 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

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Robert Kraft would love Malcolm Butler and/or Darrelle Revis on Patriots

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When cornerback Darrelle Revis was last a member of the Patriots, comments from Jets owner Woody Johnson about bringing him back to his first NFL team led to a $100,000 fine from the league for tampering.

Revis wound up returning to the Jets ahead of the 2015 season, but he was released this offseason so Patriots owner Robert Kraft doesn’t have to worry about anyone pulling a Vladimir Putin to his bank account for commenting about the cornerback returning to New England. That may explain why Kraft was happy to do so at the league meetings in Arizona on Monday.

“I would love it,” Kraft said, via Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. “Speaking for myself, if he wanted to come back, he’s a great competitor, I’d welcome him if he wanted to come.”

There’s been other chatter about a possible reunion, but none of the people chattering nor Kraft are in control of making a deal that would bring Revis back to New England. That’s Bill Belichick’s department and it seems safe to say that he won’t be sharing any of his thoughts on that front.

The same is true of the team’s plans regarding cornerback Malcolm Butler, who has not signed his restricted free agent tender or an offer sheet with the Saints after a visit with New Orleans. There’s been plenty of discussion about how things will play out with Butler. Kraft said he has “great affection” for the corner and that his wish would be for another year in New England.

“I hope he’s with us and signs his [tender] and plays for us. … I don’t want to, in any way, take away from his rights, I want to be clear. I hope he’s with us,” Kraft said, via the Boston Globe.

The possibility of a Revis encore may be linked to how things play out with Butler as the Patriots already have Stephon Gilmore under contract. The deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets with other teams is April 21.

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Colts plan to go slow with Andrew Luck’s shoulder

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Third- or fourth-string quarterbacks usually get lost in the shuffle during an NFL off-season, their low number of practice reps dwindling as the regular season nears.

This year’s backups in Indianapolis will be busier than most.

Colts owner Jim Irsay said Monday the team plans to go slow with quarterback Andrew Luck, who is recovering from January right shoulder surgery. Luck is expected to begin throwing in the spring, but it is clear the club won’t ask of him too much, too soon.

Luck remains on schedule for a full recovery before the season begins, Irsay said.

“We are not going to be rushing him,” Irsay told his team’s website. “We are going to make sure, obviously, that the shoulder has to be ready and the doctors are going to give full approval before he starts putting real reps on it and that sort of thing.

“This is going to be a huge benefit in the long run. We really feel that he’s going to be completely healed for the season and he’s going to have a great season. Chris (Ballard) and Chuck (Pagano) have talked and we are going to make sure, if we need an extra arm in camp, as we start doing our work, we will be prepared for that.”

In 2016, Luck threw for 4,240 yards with 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 15 games. He also set career highs with a 63.5 completion percentage and 7.8 average yards per attempt.

That is despite some apparent teeth-gritting behind the scenes.

“I don’t think people realized how much he had to work to get ready to play each week,” Irsay said to Colts.com. “He really had to work hard last year, and it was very mentally draining to get ready.”

 

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Relocation profitable for owners, but it cheapens their fans

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On the evening it was reported the Chargers were relocating to Los Angeles, a San Diego police officer and his partner were dispatched to the team facility. There had been an act of vandalism; a man streamed live video on social media as he pelted the city-owned building’s doors with eggs while cursing the team.

It was quiet now.

The officer stood outside a patrol car, there to deter further disruption. He is a San Diego native, he said. Some of his family members have Chargers tattoos. He grew up attending games with his dad. Now, while working his beat, the father of two toddlers absorbed the evening’s personal consequence.

He can never attend a San Diego Chargers game with his kids.

Franchise relocation, in many respects, is good for business in the NFL. Certainly, its 32 owners profit. But the real gamble Monday wasn’t the Raiders moving to Las Vegas. It was that, with a third relocation in 15 months, the league continued to cheapen the very foundation of its business: fans.

When the Rams and Chargers moved, the other 31 owners pocketed nearly $21 million in relocation fees off each franchise. On Monday, Raiders owner Mark Davis became indebted about $11 million to each owner to swap Oakland for Las Vegas. Local revenue projections from new stadiums make such payments worthwhile.

These numbers are tangible.

In exchange, the cost of weakening the facade of fandom is far more difficult to quantify.

Teams cut players. Teams trade players. That’s part of business in the NFL. But the relationship between a club and city is packaged as something beyond that. It’s portrayed, at times, as a fabric resembling family. Home markets aren’t supposed to be cut or traded. It should be a rare last resort.

Having three relocations in 15 months doesn’t merely send the wrong message.

It screams it.

It screams that NFL owners run their franchise as a business. It screams they operate in their own interests. It screams the long-term viability of a club comes first and foremost, far more valuable than how the franchise is ingrained in its followers’ lives and traditions of their families.

This is the way it always has been in many NFL cities.

In a 15-month span, the league’s gamble was being so brazen about it.

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Jimmy Haslam: “We could trade” Brock Osweiler

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Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s the guy who had to sign off on buying a second-round pick for $16 million, so he knows what’s going on.

But like everyone else, he’s not sure if that means the throw-in to that deal — quarterback Brock Osweiler — is going to be hanging around the Browns for very long.

“We picked up a second-round pick” Haslam said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Brock could be on our team or we could trade him. There’s lots of options out there and like I said you guys should cover it with [executive] Sashi [Brown] tomorrow.”

While that might seem a startling slap in the face to the former Texans starter, the Browns have never created any illusion about their interest in acquiring Osweiler (along with a second-round pick and a sixth-round pick in exchange for a fourth-round pick), from the moment he was barely mentioned in the press release announce the trade.

But as long as he’s there, I guess they’ll be nice to him and talk like he’s actually a player and not just the guy carrying the luggage (the pick) to the room.

“We’re excited about getting the second-round pick and we’re excited to add a guy to our roster who has won games in the NFL,” Haslam said. “We now have eight first- or second-round picks in the next two years. We’re excited about that.”

What that means is so far no one’s really offered anything for Osweiler, or they’d have almost certainly taken it, even though he’s done more on the field than any of their quarterbacks of recent vintage and certainly the ones on the roster at the moment.

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