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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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Kevin Greene’s Hall of Fame candidacy nearly got lost in the cracks

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Much has been said about one key omission from the new Hall of Fame class. Let’s take a moment to talk about one key inclusion.

Linebacker Kevin Greene finally has made it, passed over for more than a decade despite being third on the all-time sack list with 160. He has more sacks that Hall of Famers Chris Doleman, Michael Strahan, Richard Dent, John Randle, Lawrence Taylor, Rickey Jackson, Derrick Thomas, Charles Haley, Andre Tippett, Warren Sapp, and Howie Long.

Greene picked up those 160 sacks in 15 NFL seasons. But he got none as a rookie, which means that he averaged nearly 11.5 sacks every year for 14 seasons.

So how didn’t he make it sooner? Appearing on Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN, Greene suggested that, because he spent the bulk of his career with the Los Angeles Rams, he may have gotten lost in the cracks.

Greene, one of the first players to change teams via true free agency, spent three seasons with the Steelers after eight in L.A. Then came a year in Carolina, a year with the 49ers, and two more with the Panthers. (Greene called his time in San Francisco a “fart in the wind,” which also accurately describes Jim Tomsula’s lone year as head coach — in multiple ways.)

Ultimately, it was PFT’s Darin Gantt (who holds the Carolina vote for the Hall of Fame) task to make the case for Greene, and this year Greene got in.

So as many wring hands (rightfully so) for the omission of Terrell Owens, it’s time for a deep exhale on Greene — and not simply because of an effort to avoid inhaling the odors of a fart in the wind.

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Super Bowl big dog Kony Ealy sued for not producing big dog

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 21: Eileen Weatherbee stands next to Obilio, a South African Boerboel, following the announcement that the Westminster Dog Show would introduce seven new dog breeds into the annual competition at Madison Square Garden on January 21, 2016 in New York City. The seven new dogs breeds are the Bergamasco, Berger Picard, Boerboel, Cirneco dell'Etna, Lagotto Romagnolo, Miniature American Shepherd, and Spanish Water Dog. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy is having more problems with dogs in Charlotte than he was Broncos in Santa Clara last week.

According to Michael Gordon of the Charlotte Observer, Ealy was named in a lawsuit which claims he bilked sports bar owner Kris Johnson out of $3,000 when a dog-breeding plan fell through.

The lawsuit says Ealy and his brother Danny “Dogman” Jones lured him into a plan to breed African Boerboel puppies. The dogs can grow to more than 200 pounds, and the lawsuit said Ealy and his brother told Johnson they needed $6,000 for a breeding female, promising they could make $35,000 a litter and $1 million a year.

(It sounds like they might have neglected the sheer amount of chow it takes to feed a bunch of 200-pound dogs when formulating this business plan.)

(Also, Ealy has a brother named “Dogman.”)

(Proceed.)

Johnson wrote a check for $3,000, but then the operation never came together for whatever reason, so he’s suing to get his money back.

Ealy could not be reached for comment, but attorney Kenneth Raynor said Ealy and his brother: “dispute the allegations , . . . and I plan on vigorously defending the lawsuit.”

The second-year defensive end had three sacks and an interception in the Super Bowl, raising his profile a bit, and making him a more visible target.

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Super Bowl draws huge numbers in Canada, too

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers in action against the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The United States isn’t the only country where the Super Bowl is a huge television draw.

According to John Kryk of the Toronto Sun, 18 million Canadians watched at least part of Super Bowl 50. That represents 52 percent of the Canadian population — the same percentage of Americans who watched at least part of Super Bowl 50. Last year, Super Bowl XIL was actually watched by a slightly higher percentage of the Canadian population than of the American population.

Twice as many Canadians watched the Super Bowl as watched the Grey Cup, the championship game for the Canadian Football League.

The experiment with the Bills playing one game a season in Toronto failed, but that’s not a reflection of the level of interest in the NFL in Canada. Football is big north of the border, too.

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Looming prosecution, possible paid leave will put McCoy, Bills in a tough spot

LeSean McCoy AP

Before the Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and Adrian Peterson cases of 2014, NFL players who faced criminal charges typically continued to show up for work while prosecution was pending. Except in rare cases (like Mike Vick’s dogfighting and gambling indictment of 2007, which sparked an indefinite suspension without pay), the league took no action until the court proceedings had ended.

The notorious Ray Rice video, followed four days later by the child-abuse allegations against Peterson and amid the then-lingering domestic violence case against Hardy, prompted the NFL to find a way to get Peterson and Hardy off the field without suspending them. They both agreed to be placed on paid leave at a time when they otherwise were free men who were presumed innocent.

In December 2014, the NFL codified the availability of paid leave for any players facing criminal charges. It’s a vague, discretionary process that the league uses in some cases and not in others, with no clear rules or formulas for invoking it.

As to Bills running back LeSean McCoy, who is expected to be charged with aggravated assault in Philadelphia, the league won’t be using paid leave during the portion of the calendar in which all players are on unpaid leave. At some point, however, the players will return — and the wheels of justice often grind slowly. If McCoy chooses to fight the case through trial, he could miss all of the 2016 season, but with pay.

The alternative would be to resolve the charges with a plea deal. The prosecutors will know that McCoy needs to get the case behind him in order to play, which means they’d potentially drive a harder bargain.

If McCoy pleads guilty to anything before the start of the 2016 season, he’ll then face an unpaid suspension for a baseline of six games, which can be increased or decreased based on a variety of factors.

From the team’s perspective, there’s no good solution. Already, $2.5 million of McCoy’s base salary is fully guaranteed for 2016. The remaining $2.3 million becomes fully guaranteed on March 9. A suspension would void the guarantees, and it also would allow the Bills to recover a portion of his signing bonus. Paid leave would have no impact on the guaranteed money; even if they cut McCoy now or while he’s on paid leave, they’ll still owe him the money. (That said, cutting him now would avoid the extra $2.3 million guaranteed.)

For McCoy, the question becomes whether it’s more important to play in 2016 or to maximize his earnings. He could get all of his money for 2016 but then face an unpaid suspension in 2017, if he’s convicted in the next offseason. Or he could plead guilty sooner than later and lose a large chunk of his 2016 pay after being suspended by the league.

Few will shed tears for McCoy, based on videos that seem to show him participating in an assault. Regardless, the league’s post-Rice protocols will put McCoy in a much more delicate spot than he would have been before 2014, when players who were facing charges typically played while the charges were pending, no questions asked.

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All-Pro Colts receiver Willie Richardson dies at 76

willierichardson AP

Willie Richardson, a star receiver for the Colts in the 1960s and a member of one of the most athletic families in the history of football, has died at the age of 76.

After an All-American career at Jackson State, Richardson was drafted by both the Baltimore Colts of the NFL and the New York Jets of the AFL in 1963. He signed with the Colts and became a first-team All-Pro in 1967, when he was third in the league with 63 catches and added 860 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Richardson had five brothers who played at Jackson State, and three of them played in the NFL: Gloster Richardson played for the Chiefs, Cowboys and Browns, Tom Richardson played for the Patriots and Ernie Richardson played for the Browns.

In Super Bowl III, Richardson was the Colts’ leading receiver, catching six passes for 58 yards in a loss to the Jets.

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Dolphins add a coach, lose a personnel executive

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 13: A Miami Dolphins helmet sits on the grass before the start of their game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 13, 2015 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins added another coach to Adam Gase’s first staff on Friday afternoon.

The team announced that Daronte Jones has been named the team’s assistant defensive backs coach. He will work with Lou Anarumo, who moved back to the defensive backs role he occupied before being named the interim defensive coordinator when Kevin Coyle was dismissed during the regular season.

Jones spent the 2015 season as the defensive backs coach at the University of Wisconsin and served in the same role at the University of Hawaii from 2012 to 2014. He’s also coached in the CFL and at lower collegiate levels since entering coaching in 2001.

The Dolphins also announced that they have parted ways with Eric Stokes, who was the team’s senior personnel executive and assistant general manager for the last two years. Stokes accompanied Dennis Hickey from Tampa Bay to Miami when Hickey was named the General Manager in 2014, but Hickey was relieved of his duties with the team last month.

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Joe Webb fined $8,681 for Super Bowl unnecessary roughness

during their game at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Getty Images

The Panthers picked up 12 penalties on their way to their 24-10 loss in Super Bowl 50, including a personal foul on the final play of the game.

Wide receiver Joe Webb was flagged for unnecessary roughness at the end of a short pass completion to running back Fozzy Whittaker. PFT confirmed with the league on Friday that Webb has been fined $8,681 for the play, which is a sour cherry to put on top of an altogether unpleasant Sunday.

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end Malik Jackson were also fined for infractions during the game.

The league also confirmed that guard Trai Turner was not fined after being penalized for unnecessary roughness at the end of a 10-yard run by Whittaker in the third quarter. Safety Tre Boston also avoided a fine after being penalized for an illegal blindside block and unsportsmanlike conduct during the game. Those are both personal fouls, which may result in an ejection if the NFL adopts a rule proposed by commissioner Roger Goodell at his Super Bowl press conference.

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Dolphins cut Coples, McCain

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20:  Allen Robinson #15 of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes a catch over Brice McCain #24 of the Miami Dolphins during a game  at EverBank Field on September 20, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins released cornerback Brice McCain and defensive end Quinton Coples Friday.

McCain lasted one season in Miami after a big year with the Steelers in 2014 helped him land $3 million in guarantees from the Dolphins on the open market.

McCain, 29, was due to make $2.5 million in 2016. He finished 2015 with one interception, 10 pass breakups and 31 tackles in 11 starts.

Coples was claimed off waivers from the Jets last November. He played in six games for the Dolphins without recording any stats.

A first-round pick of the Jets in 2012, Coples has 16.5 career sacks but had none last season.

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Broncos’ Malik Jackson fined $8,681 for late hit

during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. Getty Images

Broncos defensive lineman Malik Jackson had a big game in the Super Bowl, but he’s not getting his full paycheck from the game.

The NFL has fined Jackson $8,681 for a late hit on Cam Newton in the second quarter.

Although Jackson got a 15-yard penalty for the hit, it turned out not to be costly for the Broncos. On the next play, the Panthers gave the ball to Mike Tolbert, who fumbled the ball back to the Broncos.

Jackson scored the game’s first touchdown when he recovered Newton’s fumble in the end zone. He also tipped a pass and was in on five tackles, all of which were tops for two or fewer yards. So other than the penalty, it was a strong game from Jackson.

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B.J. Raji hasn’t talked to Packers about contract yet

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 09: B.J. Raji #90 of the Green Bay Packers watches from the bench as his teammates take on the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field on August 9, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Cardinals defeated the Packers 17-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Packers re-signed an impending free agent defensive lineman on Friday when they agreed to terms on a deal with Letroy Guion, but another one hasn’t heard from the team yet.

B.J. Raji told Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette that Guion’s new deal was “well deserved” and that he hasn’t started any contract negotiations with the team at this point. The Packers also extended defensive end Mike Daniels before the end of the regular season.

Guion’s deal is reportedly worth up to $11.25 million and Raji said he was “uncertain” about how that contract might impact Raji’s future with the team. Given that both players see time on the interior of the defensive line and played out last season on similar one-year deals, it’s fair to assume that there’s going to be some impact on what the Packers are willing to do to keep Raji at this point.

Raji started 17 games for Green Bay across the regular season and playoffs, which was his sixth as a member of the Packers. He had 22 tackles and half a sack in the regular season and four more tackles in the postseason.

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Charles Woodson lands in Keyshawn’s seat at ESPN

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When word emerged that ESPN would part ways with Keyshawn Johnson after nine years with Sunday NFL Countdown, it was believed they already knew who would take his place. And Charles Woodson was believed to be on the short list.

He was. And he’s now on the even shorter list. Woodson has the job, according to Jason McIntyre of TheBigLead.com.

The 1997 Heisman winner (beating out the likes of Peyton Manning and Randy Moss), Woodson retired last month after 18 NFL seasons with the Raiders, Packers, and Raiders again.

Per McIntyre, Woodson will join the current cast of Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Mike Ditka, and Cris Carter. However, many in the industry expect the lineup to last only one year, with even more changes coming in 2017 as the network tries to unload bloated salaries and simultaneously skew younger.

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NFL fines Aqib Talib $26,044 for Super Bowl personal fouls

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Aqib Talib #21 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after defeating the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The Broncos defeated the Panthers 24-10.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib got two personal fouls in Super Bowl 50, and the NFL has fined him for both of them.

Talib was fined a total of $26,044 for facemasking and taunting against the Panthers.

The NFL suspended Talib during the regular season for an eye poke, and he’s lucky he wasn’t suspended again for his Super Bowl actions. The facemasking foul was especially egregious, and Talib admitted after the game that he did it on purpose, figuring that since the penalty was at the 3-yard line, the half the distance to the goal line penalty wouldn’t be a big deal.

When it comes to on-field misconduct, Talib is a repeat offender. The NFL will be watching him closely in 2016, and further offenses may result in another suspension.

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Von Miller, Anquan Boldin to appear at Grammys

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Super Bowl MVP   Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  The Broncos defeated the Panthers 24-10.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

A pair of NFL stars are heading to the Grammys, and believe it or not, it’s not going to be Adam Jones and Antonio Brown.

The league announced that Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and Walter Payton Man of the Year Anquan Boldin will appear during Monday night’s awards show for the music industry.

Miller and Boldin will introduce a performance by Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt, taking a victory lap for the honors they earned last week.

Of course, it would be a lot more interesting if Brown had actually been nominated for a Grammy, as Jones suggested he should have been for “faking” a concussion after a hard shot to the head from Vontaze Burfict.

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Mike Carey’s problems come more from form than substance

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In many jobs, the ability to perform successfully hinges on the ability to communicate effectively. For anyone who appears on TV (and speaks while doing so), the ability to communicate well becomes critical.

For oft-criticized CBS officiating expert Mike Carey, his actual or perceived struggles in the job have much more to do with his ability to communicate than his ability to accurately predict the outcome of replay reviews.

Two years ago, when I heard that CBS had hired Carey, my reaction was this, “Good move. He communicates very well as a referee.  He’ll be perfect for the job.”

During the 2014 season, Carey’s first on the job with CBS, the differences in communication requirements for the two jobs became obvious.

A referee communicates in narrow, short, tightly-constructed sound bites: “Holding. Offense. Number 65. 10 yard penalty. Still first down.”

It’s a small universe of possible messages that converts most referees (i.e., anyone not named Ed Hochuli) into the human equivalent of Woody from Toy Story. That’s why Hochuli’s verbosity gets noticed. He’s not a doll with a string who quickly declares “there’s a snake in my boots” and shuts up. He strays from the script, often extremely far from the script. (It’s also why Ben Dreith’s “he’s giving him the business” continues to be one of the most memorable officiating moments in history.)

For the job Carey currently has, there’s no menu of phrases that get slapped together to communicate a message without often even constructing an actual sentence. For anyone who has to speak on the air in extemporaneous fashion, it takes time and repetitions to master the task of producing a clear explanation that was formulated on the fly. Through two years, Carey hasn’t mastered that skill. The real question is whether CBS will give him enough time and opportunities to do so, before eliminating the position or hiring someone else for it.

It appears that, at least for now, CBS plans to circle the wagons and stand behind Carey, despite the obvious difference between his performance that the performance of FOX’s Mike Pereira. A new interview of Carey at TheMMQB.com feels almost like part of the effort to prop Carey up, with a headline declaring that Carey has a “tough job,” introductory paragraphs that defend Carey’s 0-for-1 performance in Super Bowl 50, and a Q&A that gives him plenty of opportunities to offer excuses for his struggles.

For example, Carey at one point explains that he has fewer replay angles as a commentator than he had as a referee.

“When I’m on the field, I go to the box and I tell them exactly what I want to see, and then I tell them to freeze it or roll it slowly. When I’m on TV, I’m subject to whatever they show, so I don’t have any control there,” Carey said.

But that’s where the skill of speaking extemporaneously in a frank, self-aware way becomes even more important. Even with limited time, Carey could say something like, “Maybe the referee has access to an angle that we don’t” in order to properly gauge the expectations of the audience — and to make an eventual mistake seem like less of a mistake.

Carey also tried to compare his effort to predict rulings with efforts by others in the media to predict the outcome of games.

“[N]ot unlike all the other experts who chose who was going to win the AFC Championship, I make errors,” Carey said. “Everybody makes errors.”

He’s right that everyone makes errors (and I know that as well as aynone), but it’s not right to compare errors in picking winners to errors in analyzing the outcome of a replay review. The latter isn’t even a prediction; it’s an assessment of what the ruling should be. And the best officiating experts will make it look like their assessments are more accurate than the official NFL assessment, in the event the two differ.

With Carey, his inability to communicate beyond saying “holding, offense, number 65, 10 yard penalty, still first down,” has contributed to the impression that he’s clumsily throwing a dart, not that he’s analyzing in a persuasive, authoritative fashion what he sees — and that even if the referee explains it a different way, Carey is right and the referee is wrong.

Yes, the job is tough. Yes, the communication requirements are fundamentally different. And, yes, the fact that Mike Pereira makes it look so easy makes the job even tougher for someone who, through two full seasons, has not yet shown he’s suited for it.

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Sean Payton: Jahri Evans was an integral part of our success

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 13:  Guard Jahri Evans #73 of the New Orleans Saints walks off the field following the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the Saints 31-19.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

We’ve known for a few days that guard Jahri Evans won’t be back with the Saints in 2016, but the team didn’t officially announce his departure until Friday.

The statement about the release is headed with a message of thanks on the Saints website along with a list of Evans’ accomplishments while he was a member of the team. It also includes praise from General Manager Mickey Loomis, who said Evans was “one of the best guards” in the league over his time with the team, and coach Sean Payton.

“Jahri has been a fantastic player for our team and an integral part of our success over the last 10 years,” Payton said in the statement. “He’s one of the toughest and smartest players I have ever been around in coaching and that coupled with his unselfishness and dependability made him one of the most respected players in our locker room. When we arrived in 2006, he was a part of our first draft class, which became the foundation for our 2009 championship team.”

Evans’ agent says his client wouldn’t take a pay cut to remain with the team and is “healthy and hungry” to move on to another team for the 2016 season.

In addition to formalizing the Evans move, the Saints announced the previously reported departures of linebacker David Hawthorne, linebacker Ramon Humber and wide receiver Seantavius Jones. They also announced that they have re-signed cornerback Tony Carter and fullback Austin Johnson. Both ended the season with the team, although Carter didn’t play after signing in December.

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