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

Clady 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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PFT Live: Rich Tandler, Vic Carucci, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Detroit Lions v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Robert Griffin III is out, Kirk Cousins is in as the quarterback carousel spins on furiously in Washington.

We’ll be talking about the Redskins’ decision during Monday’s PFT Live when Rich Tandler of CSN Mid-Atlantic joins Mike Florio to sort out everything that’s going on with the team. They’ll talk about why the team made this decision, whether there was any dissension in the organization about which player should start and whether Griffin will remain with the team in a backup role.

Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News will also be on the program to talk about running back Fred Jackson’s departure from the Bills after nine years with the franchise and word that Tyrod Taylor will be the team’s starting quarterback. They’ll discuss the reasons for making both of those moves and what else will happen as the Bills make their way to the start of Rex Ryan’s first season in Buffalo.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour by clicking right here.

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Bills going with Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback

Tyrod Taylor AP

The Bills have made their decision, and it’s one no one would have expected this offseason.

According to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, the Bills are going with Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback for the regular season opener.

They gave EJ Manuel a courtesy start in the preseason, and the prevailing sentiment early in the process was that veteran Matt Cassel might be the safe choice.

But the Bills are going with the guy who gives them a chance to make plays on the ground as well as in the air. It’s a bit of a surprise, but it also underscores how thin the line is there between the contestants.

Taylor has never started an NFL game and only appeared in 14 in four seasons as a backup in Baltimore, with just 35 pass attempts

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Will loser of Brady case appeal?

Roger Goodell AP

For weeks, I’ve been saying that the Tom Brady litigation will end in the near future only with a settlement. And even with Monday’s settlement conference resulting in yet another no-settlement declaration, a settlement remains possible until the moment Judge Richard M. Berman rules on the case.

If/when he rules, the losing party (or both parties, in a lose-lose outcome) will have the automatic right to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Eventually, a three-judge panel assigned from 22 total judges on the circuit would hear the case and decide it. The losing party at that point could petition for a rehearing before the entire 22-judge Second Circuit. Eventually, the losing party could try to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.

But an appeal will happen only if the losing party chooses to prolong the case. Either side could, in theory, decide to accept Judge Berman’s ruling and move on.

Brady probably would be more inclined to do that, but only because the NFL presumably has no willingness to do anything other than push its position as aggressively as humanly possible. If the league loses before Judge Berman, it will shrug at the predictable findings of a judge the lawyers will privately (or publicly) deride as liberal and activist, and they’ll hope for a more conservative panel at the next level.

There’s also a chance that a settlement could be reached on appeal. But with little or no progress made toward a resolution despite the earnest efforts of Judge Berman, it’s unlikely that the two sides will ever find a middle ground on this one — even if Judge Berman crafts a final outcome that they both dislike, such as a second appeal hearing with former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue presiding and Jeff Pash, John Jastremski, and Jim McNally testifying.

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No settlement in Brady case, Berman likely to rule Tuesday or Wednesday

Tom Brady AP

The settlement talks in the Tom Brady case haven’t led to a resolution, which means the decision on Brady’s four-game suspension will rest with Judge Richard Berman.

“We did not reach a settlement. The parties tried quite hard I think,” Berman said, via Stephen Brown of the New York Daily News. “In some case [a settlement] doesn’t happen. This is one of those cases.”

According to multiple reports from the Manhattan courthouse where the talks were being held, Berman said that his ruling is likely to come on Tuesday or Wednesday. The two sides had asked Berman to rule by September 4, less than a week before the Patriots will kick off their regular season against the Steelers.

Berman’s eventual ruling could uphold the suspension (while potentially allowing Brady to play pending appeal), wipe it out (which the NFL could appeal) or send the whole thing back for another appeal heard by someone other than NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

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Bills release 11 players in addition to Fred Jackson

Buffalo Bills Rookie Minicamp Getty Images

Running back Fred Jackson’s release is the headline for the Bills ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to cut rosters to 75 players, but there are plenty of other guys out of work in Buffalo as well.

The Bills have dropped 11 other players from the roster, leaving them with 77 players and two more moves to make to reach Tuesday’s limit.

Among the group is cornerback Ross Cockrell, who was a fourth-round pick by the team last year. He had one tackle in seven appearances with the team as a rookie.

The Bills also released defensive end Michael Buchanan, defensive tackle Justin Hamilton, linebacker Andrew Hudson, tackle Terren Jones, cornerback Ellis Lankster, safety Kenny Ladler, safety Wes Miller, guard D.J. Morrell, defensive end Cedric Reed and running back Ricky Seale.

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Broncos send Chris Clark to Texans for 2016 pick

Chris Clark AP

The two teams that have hired Gary Kubiak as a head coach have come together on a trade that will send tackle Chris Clark to Houston.

The Denver Post reports that the Broncos will get a 2016 seventh-round pick in return for Clark. The deal will not be official until Clark passes a physical with the Texans.

Clark has spent the last five years with the Broncos and started most of the 2013 season on the left side after Denver lost Ryan Clady to a foot injury. Clady is out again this year after tearing his ACL, but Ty Sambrailo and Ryan Harris have the starting jobs with 2014 third-rounder Michael Schofield set for swing tackle duties.

Clark gives the Texans some insurance in the event Duane Brown’s hand injury keeps him out into the regular season. The Texans started undrafted rookie Kendall Lamm at left tackle in Sunday’s game against the Saints. Clark also has played on the right side, so he’ll give Houston an experienced option behind Derek Newton as well.

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Kirk Cousins is indeed the Week One starter

Kirk Cousins AP

If the goal for the Washington football organization is to confuse anyone and everyone possible, mission accomplished.

There’s currently one less area of confusion. Per multiple sources, and confirming multiple reports, quarterback Kirk Cousins will start in Week One against Miami.

“He’s the head coach and it’s his call,” one source said. “All are on board with the process and support the coach.”

That’s consistent with our report from last night that there’s no schism between the coaching staff/front office and owner Daniel Snyder. The owner is letting the football people manage the football team, with G.M. Scot McCloughan deciding who is on the roster and coach Jay Gruden deciding who plays and who doesn’t.

Griffin remains cleared to practice but not play. The goal as of last night was to give Griffin until next week to re-take the concussion test, in the hopes that he’ll pass it. Gruden apparently wasn’t comfortable proceeding under the assumption that Griffin will be cleared in time for the game. That approach would have set the stage for another potential Griffin-is-cleared-no-he’s-not episode.

The fact that Cousins is getting the start may not be cause for celebrating and/or fantasy-football squatter’s rights. He showed promise against the Jaguars and Eagles last year before a Thursday night four-pick disaster against the Giants and an eventual benching for Colt McCoy.

Perhaps the goal this year is to throw Cousins to the wolves in Week One and Week Two (Dolphins and Rams) before putting Griffin on the field against the Giants, whose defense isn’t what it used to be.

Also, by then there’s a good chance fans will actually be clamoring for Griffin. Or maybe McCoy. Again.

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Broncos get roster down to 79, cut Zac Dysert and Reggie Walker

Denver Broncos v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

The Broncos cut quarterback Zac Dysert and veteran linebacker Reggie Walker among a flurry of cuts, as they pared their roster to 79 in advance of tomorrow’s deadline.

They also placed tight end Jeff Heuerman, this year’s third-round pick, on injured reserve.

The Broncos waived cornerback Tevrin Brandon, guard Andre Davis, tight end Joe Don Duncan, punter Spencer Lanning, safety Ross Madison, tight end Jake Murphy, running back Jeremy Stewart and linebacker Chase Vaughn.

Walker was signed in March in free agency, but fell behind some younger players. Lanning was claimed off waivers earlier this month but wasn’t going to unseat Britton Colquitt.

Dysert lost the third quarterback job (if the Broncos keep three) to rookie Trevor Siemian.

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Bills dump veteran RB Fred Jackson

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Bills have cut veteran running back Fred Jackson, making Jackson the most notable name of the early cuts leaguewide.

Jackson, 34, has amassed over 1,000 total yards in five of the last six seasons. He started nine games and played in 14 last season.

He was due to make $2.35 million this season.

The move indicates the Bills believe LeSean McCoy, who’s been out the last two weeks, will be ready for the team’s Sept. 13 season opener. It also gives Jackson, who’s played his entire career in Buffalo, the chance to catch on with another team as a free agent. With many teams across the league dealing with injuries at the running back or just looking to bolster their backfields, Jackson likely won’t be unemployed for long.

In a team statement, Bills general manager Doug Whaley said Jackson had “an incredible career” in Buffalo and thanked Jackson for his “hard work, dedication and leadership.”

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Jaguars trade kicker Josh Scobee to the Steelers

Josh Scobee AP

The Steelers quest to find a healthy kicker has le them to trade for one.

According to Jeff Prosser of 1010XL in Jacksonville, Scobee is already en route to the Steelers.

Scobee was the longest-tenured Jaguars player, having worked for them since 2004, when he was chosen in the fifth round. They’re now handing the job to rookie Jason Myers.

The Steelers lost Shaun Suisham to a torn ACL in the preseason opener, and replacement Garrett Hartley suffered a hamstring injury Saturday that looked like it was going to keep him out of the regular season opener.

Now the Steelers have a reliable veteran in the last year of his contract, giving them some stability at the position going into the season.

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Mara shows up for Brady hearing

John Mara AP

The NFL didn’t want him to do it. And he didn’t want to do it. But Giants co-owner John Mara has arrived at the federal courthouse in Manhattan for Monday’s latest hearing in the litigation arising from Tom Brady’s four-game suspension.

Via Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Judge Richard M. Berman requested Mara to be present, and so Mara is present.

“Requested” is probably putting it mildly. The case filed by the league in Judge Berman’s court listed only one party as the plaintiff: The National Football League Management Council. Mara, not Commissioner Roger Goodell, is the chairman of the NFL Management Council. So Judge Berman has every right to not request but to demand that Mara attend.

The real question is whether other owners will be involved, in person or by phone. The entire NFL Management Council Executive Committee routinely accompanied Goodell for labor negotiations in 2011; why not do the same now?

And spare me the “this is about the Commissioner’s powers” nonsense. Currently, the case is about whether the specific exercise of power by the Commissioner on behalf of the NFL will be upheld or overturned in court. It’s not longer a Commissioner issue. It’s an NFL issue.

Specifically, it’s an NFL Management Council issue. Which is why Mara has been “requested” to attend.

The only question remaining is whether Mara’s presence will soften the league’s position. If, as some believe, Mara is one of the owners pushing Goodell to stand firm, and if Judge Berman can successfully persuade Mara directly — not through messengers or emissaries — on the potential consequences of not settling, Mara may soften and, in turn, the NFL may soften.

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Jeris Pendleton among first round of Colts cuts

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The Colts have confirmed the release of guard Donald Thomas along with 13 other moves that leave the team with 76 players.

Among the most recognizable of the names that have been dropped from the roster is defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton. Pendleton spent the last two seasons with the team, although a knee injury left him on injured reserve for all of the 2014 season. The Colts brought him back on June 30, but his second stint in Indianapolis has come to an end.

The Colts also placed cornerback Tevin Mitchel on injured reserve. Mitchel was a sixth-round pick by the Redskins this year, but was waived after suffering a torn labrum in his shoulder. The Colts claimed him and will wait until next year to see if he can contribute to the defense.

Guard Harland Gunn, linebacker Nicklas Haag, linebacker Zack Hodges, tackle Tyler Hoover, wide receiver Ezell Ruffin, linebacker Justin Shirk, tight end Justin Sinz, running back Abou Toure, center Brandon Vitabile, wide receiver Ryan Lankford and cornerback Donald Celiscar rounded out the cuts for the Colts.

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Pettine: Thursday’s game isn’t “make or break” for Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor AP

Terrelle Pryor wasn’t in the lineup for the Browns on Saturday as the team held him out a few days after he returned to practice after healing from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the first two preseason contests.

Browns coach Mike Pettine said a little more than a week ago that the window for Pryor making the team “narrows every day that he’s not out there.” The message was a bit different late last week with Pettine saying that the Browns know Pryor’s move to wide receiver makes him a project that requires patience if it is going to work out. As a result, the coach won’t say Pryor has to play this week to make the team.

“I don’t want to say make or break,” Pettine said, via “I’m not going to deal with an absolute, saying he has to play, but we want to see him out there. I can’t say today that he definitely will, but he should be. He was close to being able to go, and give it another week, we’re hopeful he’ll be out there and we’ll be able to see him.”

Pryor would likely draw attention from other teams if the Browns cut him loose, although that alone isn’t reason enough to keep him on the roster. The best argument for that is the dearth of playmakers on the Browns offense and the glimpses of that potential that Pryor has shown in his too-brief appearances at practice for the Browns to this point in his tenure with the team. Things may not play out that way, but there doesn’t seem to be much reason to change course if the Browns were already prepared to be patient with Pryor’s development.

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Wide receiver Denarius Moore among Bengals early cuts

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Once upon a time, Denarius Moore was a good receiving prospect.

But not even reuniting him with the coach who led him to his best work helped him keep a job this year.

The Bengals just announced that Moore was among their cuts today in advance of tomorrow’s deadline to get to 75.

Moore averaged 18.7 yards per catch in 2011 as a rookie in Oakland under Hue Jackson, so there was a reasonable hope he might rekindle that magic under the Bengals offensive coordinator now. But he didn’t do nearly enough in the preseason (one catch in three games) to make it a worthwhile project for the Bengals to pursue.

The Bengals also waived defensive tackle Kwame Geathers, linebacker Nico Johnson, defensive end Sam Montgomery, offensive lineman Chris Jasperse, wide receiver Desmond Lawrence and tight end John Peters.

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Report: Martavis Bryant’s suspension didn’t surprise Steelers

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Martavis Bryant’s emergence last season helped the Steelers become the league’s most productive offense, and over the last month Bryant has looked like he’s going to be a star.

But last week’s news that Bryant will start the 2015 season by serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy was not a surprise to the Steelers. Per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsbugh Post-Gazette, the Steelers knew of Bryant’s failed drug tests as far back as last spring.

The four-game suspension for Bryant suggests he’s been caught breaking the league’s policy more than once. If he fails another test, he’ll be suspended for 10 games.

As a bit of Bryant insurance, the Steelers took a big receiver in the third round of last spring’s draft, Sammie Coates, and the plan was for Coates to be brought along slowly the way Bryant was last year. Per Dulac, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin believes Coates did not come to camp in peak condition.

Bryant was inactive for the first six games last year before catching eight touchdown passes and averaging 21.2 yards per reception. The four-game suspension will cost him games against the Patriots, 49ers, Rams and Ravens.

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