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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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Retiring ref recalls a gesture of sportsmanship from Peyton Manning

AP

Longtime NFL official Butch Hannah has announced his retirement, and in an interview with his hometown paper he’s recalled one player whose sportsmanship stood out: Peyton Manning.

Hannah told the Chattanooga Times-Free Press about an on-field run-in he had with Manning, which had an unusual conclusion.

“Peyton’s next-to-last year, the Broncos were facing the Dolphins in Denver and the whole game was a struggle for them,” Hannah said. “I called back two Denver touchdowns. But they pulled it out by two or three points (39-36). But late in the game, the clock about to run out, Peyton mistimed a snap and they had to run one more play. Peyton said something off-color to me, which was not at all like him.

“I told him, ‘Peyton, you’re better than that.'”

Weeks later, Hannah received a letter in the mail from Manning.

“He said he wanted to apologize for his reaction to me that day against the Dolphins,” Hannah said. “Would I please accept his apology? That’s the only time that’s happened to me in all my years of officiating.”

The next year, Hannah worked a Broncos preseason game and Manning approached him beforehand.

“He asks me, ‘Did you get my card?’ I said, ‘Peyton, you’ve got to let this go.’ He says, ‘You have no idea how upset I was with myself.’ That’s the kind of son Archie and Olivia raised. Pretty impressive.”

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Cowboys will hold training camp in Oxnard through at least 2018

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The Cowboys opened a lavish new practice facility and headquarters in Frisco, Texas last year, but they will still be heading out of state for training camp.

The City of Oxnard approved a two-year extension of their deal with the Cowboys to hold training camp in California. The extension covers this year and 2018 and the city has an option for 2019 and 2020, so the summer trips to the coast could continue for quite a while.

This will be the 12th time since 2001 and sixth straight year that the Cowboys will train in Oxnard. This year’s camp will be cheaper to visit than in past years.

Per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, parking has dropped from $20 a day to $10 on weekdays and $15 on weekends. The team is not expected to report to work in Oxnard until after they play in the Hall of Fame Game on August 4.

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Browns owner “highly confident” the turnaround starts now

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The Browns have been rebuilding since the moment they were rebuilt in Cleveland, but owner Jimmy Haslam thinks this time, for real, the winning is about to begin.

Via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, Haslam thinks things are going to be much better this season (and they can’t really get worse after going 1-15).

“The difference between this year and last year in terms of feeling in the building is noticeably different,” Haslam said. “We were able to obviously to bring in some top-flight talent during the offseason, have what we believe to be a very successful draft and I’m highly confident that this will be the year when the Browns begin to turn around and perform at the level they should.

“I’m highly, highly confident we got the right guy to lead the ship, and that’s head coach Hue Jackson.”

The Browns sticking by Jackson is admirable, since they stuck him with a roster largely devoid of professional players last season. But Haslam said he’s been impressed with the way his coach has kept things positive, and Jackson didn’t have any interest in dwelling in the past.

“I don’t even want to talk about last year, what [foundation] was set, because a lot of stuff wasn’t set,” Jackson said. “I do feel better about [this year]. Our draft shows that we’ve put more quality talent on our team. I think it showed last year that our guys understood our process, and they worked hard. We just couldn’t seem to win because of it.

“Now, hopefully we have enough talent to where we can finish games and finish games better and finishing hopefully leads to winning. But at the end of day, all of this is about winning. It’s not about anything else. We need to see tangible wins in order for this organization to be moving forward.”

At least they have the confidence of ownership, because it’s likely to be a process that extends beyond the coming season.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

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Former G.M. Doug Whaley’s reflections on his Bills tenure didn’t impress everyone.

The hype train for Dolphins WR DeVante Parker is chugging right along.

The Patriots Hall of Fame’s newest member will be Raymond Clayborn.

WR Quincy Enunwa is on track for a big role in the Jets offense.

A projection of the Ravens’ offensive depth chart.

The Bengals hope to find out more about QB Jeff Driskel this offseason.

Browns coach Hue Jackson said he isn’t ranking his quarterbacks outside of installing Cody Kessler as the No. 1 in the rotation.

Storylines to watch during the Steelers’ OTAs.

The Texans are looking for big jumps from wide receivers Will Fuller and Braxton Miller in their second seasons.

It’s a “wide open” competition for playing time in the Colts secondary.

The Jaguars placed WR Bryan Walters on injured reserve.

The Titans head into OTAs with five of their nine draft picks under contract.

Quarterback isn’t the only position to watch during Broncos OTAs.

Chiefs T Jah Reid is suing his alma mater Central Florida for improper use of his likeness.

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio is happy the Warriors are back in the NBA Finals.

LB Melvin Ingram is “doing his negotiating thing” with Chargers OTAs getting started.

Cowboys TE Jason Witten has seen major improvement from TE Rico Gathers.

The Giants are continuing their search for defensive depth.

Eagles RB Donnel Pumphrey feels he constantly has to overcome doubts about his size.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden expects a better defensive effort this year.

QB Mike Glennon has worked quickly to build bonds with his Bears teammates.

A supportive take on Calvin Johnson’s issues with the way things ended with the Lions.

The Packers’ draft class sets up some battles for roster spots.

A video breakdown of Vikings rookie C Pat Elflein.

Looking forward to the Falcons’ new stadium.

Is there more shuffling to come in the Panthers’ front office?

The Saints are keeping their options open at linebacker.

TE O.J. Howard was the first pick that the Buccaneers made this year and he’s also the first pick to sign with the team.

QB Blaine Gabbert likes the stability he sees with the Cardinals.

Said Rams QB Jared Goff of the new offense, “It’s way different. It’s a way different offense. Personally, from my brief experience with it. I’ve had a quicker time learning it, easier time learning it. I don’t know whether that’s scheme or the way it’s taught or whatnot, but I’ve enjoyed spending time with the coaches and picking it up pretty quickly.”

49ers DL Solomon Thomas and WR Trent Taylor look very different on the outside, but the team thinks they have the same passion for the game.

DE Cliff Avril says that the Seahawks veterans still have something left in the tank.

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Larry Fitzgerald will talk post-2017 plans at training camp

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Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald spent a lot of time last year fielding questions about whether or not he planned to continue playing in 2017 and then took a little time after the end of the season before announcing that he’d return to the team.

The 2017 season hasn’t started yet, but the way last year played out makes it pretty likely that there are already plenty of people wondering about Fitzgerald’s plans for 2018. On Monday night, Fitzgerald said that the frequency of the questions last year grew tiresome and he plans to handle those queries differently than he did last season.

Fitzgerald said that he’ll discuss his future at training camp and only at training camp.

“I’m going to answer it one time, and I’m not even going to address it anymore,” Fitzgerald said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com.

It seems unlikely that Fitzgerald will field his final question on the topic in July unless his answer is unequivocal that he’s going to play in 2018. An answer that involves making a decision after the season will invite follow-ups as the season unfolds and a plan to retire would lead to questions about second thoughts along with weekly reminders that the end is getting close.

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Washington “getting close” to a plan for replacing former G.M.

AP

Washington may be close to backfilling its personnel department, even if that doesn’t mean hiring a General Manager.

According to Liz Clarke of the Washington Post, team president Bruce Allen said they had met with more than a dozen candidates plus some internal scouts, and were nearing a decision.

We’re getting close to having a final plan,” Allen said. “It has been a good period. We’ve learned a lot about other strategies and structures around the league.”

They’ve been short-handed since firing G.M. Scot McCloughan in March, with Allen presiding over the franchise-tagging of Kirk Cousins and the draft.

So it’s reasonable to suggest they don’t feel a pressing need to have someone with the title McCloughan used to have.

Considering they’ve gone this far without one (and have two more years of contract to pay for McCloughan to not be G.M.) they could be looking for some alternatives which don’t suggest anyone having the power to nudge Allen out of the top spot.

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Kentucky basketball hopeful has some NFL potential

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Usually the Kentucky basketball players are all first-rounders, and usually after their first year.

But in the case of senior guard Dominique Hawkins, he might have a shot to go pro in another sport.

According to Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader, Hawkins might be a fringe NBA draft prospect whose basketball future lies overseas.

But the 6-foot- guard with a 44.5-inch vertical leap has also drawn some attention from NFL scouts, who are intrigued about his potential as a defensive back.

He was the state of Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball in 2013 and a favorite of fans there, and Wildcats coach John Calipari called him “Old Reliable” during their tournament run (as opposed to all the “Young Temps” he usually recruits).

“He is a fierce competitor,” Calipari said of Hawkins in February. “He’s tough as nails. He will come up with [loose balls]. Any 50/50 ball, he’s getting. And offensively, he’s gotten better each year.”

Usually when an NFL team is thinking about conversion projects, it’s power forwards turned into tight ends. But while Hawkins might not be NBA caliber, football teams are going to turn over every rock in search of guys who can play.

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David Diehl visits the PFT Live studio on Tuesday

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Tuesday’s PFT Live includes one of the new twists that debuted last week — a current or former player spending a full hour in studio.

Last week, it was Willie Colon on Tuesday and Brian Westbrook on Wednesday. This week, two-time Super Bowl champion David Diehl, who played 11 years with the Giants, will visit the PFT Live studio for the final hour of the show.

For clarity, he’ll be in the Connecticut studio. If you saw any of Monday’s show, you know that the West Virginia studio barely fit Barstool Big Cat and PFT Commenter. There’s no way it would fit both me and Diehl. Or Diehl on his own.

We’ll be discussing a wide variety of topics, including a back-and-forth draft aimed at compiling our ideal offensive line. Join us at 8:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN for Diehl’s visit.

Actually, join us at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio, and then on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET.

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Owners discussing timing change for coaching hires

AP

If some owners have their way, future Dan Quinns and Kyle Shanahans might not have to spend a Super Bowl week lying (or at least awkwardly hedging) about their plans for the following week.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, owners will discuss a change to the timing of head-coaching hires, which would allow teams to agree to terms with a new coach after a second interview but not announce the hiring.

It’s actually a box of leftovers from the March meeting, when the needed rules change was proposed by the competition committee but not voted on. Atlanta has also sponsored the rule, having been on both sides of it.

Ostensibly, that would give teams more of a chance to rebuild coaching staffs in the wake of late departures caused by their own success. In recent years, the Seahawks and Falcons have had to wait before replacing Dan Quinn (to Atlanta) and Kyle Shanahan (to San Francisco) until their teams were finished with the Super Bowl.

But if it’s as simple agree-don’t-announce, that doesn’t really seem to change much, since both hirings were the worst-kept secrets of the Super Bowl weeks in question, and both hirings were foregone conclusions.

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Jay Gruden thinks Chris Thompson is the NFL’s best third-down back

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Washington coach Jay Gruden thinks he has the NFL’s best third-down back on his roster.

Chris Thompson, who had 68 carries for 356 yards and three touchdowns last season and added 49 catches for 349 yards and two touchdowns, is as good as it gets in the third-down role, according to Gruden.

“I think Chris Thompson’s role is big,” Gruden said, via CSNMidAtlantic.com. “When you’re talking about third downs, that’s the most important down in football. There’s nobody better as a third-down back in my opinion than Chris. He’s got a huge role on this football team.”

With rookie Samaje Perine joining last year’s top two rushers, Rob Kelley and Matt Jones, it would be easy to envision Thompson’s role being reduced. But Gruden sees Thompson having a key role.

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CBS producer believes Tony Romo will be the next John Madden

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CBS is obviously quite excited about the addition of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to their broadcast booth.

The network is so happy to have him that Romo is going to get his first appearance in the booth during this weekend’s PGA Tour stop at the Dean and DeLuca Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, CBS producer Lance Barrow announced at a gala for the tournament Monday night that Romo would make his CBS debut this week in the booth at the 18th hole.

In addition to announcing Romo’s foray on the network’s golf broadcast this weekend, Barrow made a lofty comparison in likening Romo to an NFL broadcasting legend.

I think he is going to be great,” Barrow said. “I think we have the next John Madden on your hands.”

Romo has yet to work a single NFL game, but in comparing Romo to Madden he’s setting an incredibly high standard for the newest member of the network’s announcing team.

After his coaching career was complete, Madden became the most recognizable NFL analyst on TV. Madden paired with Pat Summerall to form the No. 1 crew in NFL broadcasting, first working for CBS before moving to FOX in the mid-1990’s. His popularity continued to grow with the introduction of the Madden NFL game franchise.

Whether Romo could potentially ever reach Madden territory as a broadcaster is yet to be seen, but clearly CBS is incredibly bullish on their addition to their staff.

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Michael Bennett, columnist, appear to bury hatchet after apology

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Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett threatened to boycott the Seattle Times after a column critical of Bennett appeared in the paper on Sunday.

While the column from writer Matt Calkins largely praised Bennett for his on-field performance, numerous charity endeavors and engaging personality, the piece primarily took issue with an incident that occurred in the locker room following Seattle’s playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons in January.

Bennett lashed out at a local TV reporter for asking a question about the team’s pass rush in the game and questioned what adversity had the reporter faced. What Bennett didn’t know at the time was that the reporter – Bill Wixey – had survived cancer. That incident, and Calkins’ belief that no apology had been given from Bennett to Wixey, was the prime point of contention for Calkins’ criticism.

But in a follow-up column on Monday, Calkins notes that he found out that Bennett had apologized to Wixey privately and he didn’t do the legwork on that before writing the story. Since the linchpin of the argument was incorrect, the rest of the premise the criticism was predicated upon wasn’t supported any longer. He apologized to Bennett for getting it wrong.

Part of my duty is to hold people accountable. That includes myself,” Calkins wrote.

Bennett appears to have accepted the apology from Calkins as well.

Although I was offended by your attacks on my character, I admire and respect your willingness to admit you were wrong about me,” Bennett wrote in a Twitter message directed at Calkins and the Times’ twitter accounts Monday night. “I care deeply for social causes, for our fans and I’m not afraid to make a stand even if it makes me unpopular at time I will continue to lead organically n staying true to what I feel is right I love this city n I love the people.”

While Bennett didn’t expressly say his plan to boycott the paper is off, it seems as though he’s willing to move beyond the issue.

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Turner considers trying to get back into the NFL business

The NFL television landscape could change in plenty of ways come 2023. At at time when the ability of ESPN to continue to pay more than $2 billion per year to keep Monday Night Football, one of the league’s former broadcast partners could be trying to get back in.

Via Michael McCarthy of SportingNews.com, Turner Sports currently is exploring the possibility of making a bid on a piece of the TV rights. Of course, there’s a big difference between thinking about it and scraping together the cash necessary to make it happen.

Turner’s status as a cable channel limits its options, as a practical matter. The NFL realizes the value of placing prime-time games on broadcast TV, given that the three-letter networks still draw the maximum audience. Even with the proliferation of cable and Internet, millions still rely on the free signals broadcast through the public airwaves by NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX.

The Monday Night Football package would make the most sense for Turner, and the NFL may need to find a deep-pocketed partner to bid on the games, if ESPN ultimately won’t have the cash to continue to pay such a premium for the premier American sporting content.

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OBJ is a no-show for Day One of OTAs

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Uh-oh, OBJ.

The Giants receiver, entering his fourth NFL season, skipped the first day of the team’s Organized Team Activities, according to Dan Duggan of NJ.com. Duggan says the reason for the absence isn’t known, and that it’s likewise unknown whether he’ll show up for any of the other nine OTA sessions.

The practices are voluntary, but as the on-field culmination of the offseason program they take on greater importance than other April-to-June workouts. With Beckham eligible for a new contract following the completion of his third season, it’s possible that he’s choosing to stay away in order to get paid.

The Giants have another OTA on Tuesday, and then again on Thursday. Thursday’s practice will be open to the media. Coach Ben McAdoo technically can’t say or do anything to suggest that presence is required; however, some coaches have a way of making their frustration known, private or publicly.

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O.J. Simpson will have July parole hearing

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The Juice could be loose, again.

Via Andrew Blankstein and Daniella Silva of NBC News, Hall of Fame running back O.J. Simpson will have a parole hearing in July. He has served nine years of a 33-year sentence on charges arising from a bungled effort to reclaim memorabilia that he believed was stolen from him.

Some contend the Nevada justice system threw the book at Simpson due to the perception that he got away with a double murder in California, with the alleged killing of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and Ronald Goldman.

The key question regarding Simpson’s potential freedom will be whether and to what extent discretion may be exercised by the parole board. That discretion will allow anyone who thinks he should be serving life without parole for the 1994 killings to justify keeping him behind bars for more of that 33-year term.

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