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Young’s release raises stakes in Amendola negotiations

Amendola Getty Images

Though they have different specialties, with Titus Young being a field-stretcher and Amendola a slot guy, the presence of Young on the roster gave the Rams a little extra leverage in their negotiations with Amendola, who’ll be a free agent on March 12.

With the Rams saying, “Ta-ta, Titus,” the pendulum swings back to pint-sized paisano.  (It’s OK; I’m Italian.)

But that doesn’t mean a long-term deal is on the horizon between Amendola and the Rams.  In the same article in which Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Rams’ personnel decided Young was not “quite there” mentally, Thomas explains that the team and Amendola are not quite there financially.  In fact, Thomas says they are “far apart.”

Both Amendola and Brandon Gibson are headed for the open market, leaving the Rams with only three wideouts under contract:  Austin Pettis, Chris Givens, Brian Quick.

Predictably, coach Jeff Fisher says he’s not worried.  “Not a concern whatsoever,” Fisher said. “There’s options out there.  The free-agent market, there’s options out there, and it’s a great draft for a receiver this year.”

That’s fine.  But when the Rams already have a great receiver in Amendola, it’s hard to let him walk away.

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Former Dallas County D.A. claims no knowledge of Wal-Mart incident

Watkins AP

The man who would have been ultimately responsible for prosecuting any crimes that may have been committed in the early morning hours at a Lancaster, Texas Wal-Mart on July 11, 2011 says he no knowledge of the incident.

Via Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, former Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said that he “had no knowledge of there being an incident, let alone a video tape.”

“Because there was no arrest and no complainant, the incident never comes to the District Attorney’s office,” Watkins said. “I never saw a video tape and I have serious doubts that one exists.”

The current Dallas County District Attorney has not addressed the issue, from the potential existence of any video to the preservation in 2011 of any video that Wal-Mart surveillance cameras would have created to the possible existence of video created by a bystander with a cellphone to the question of whether, based on the police report published Thursday by NFL Media, the police officer who responded to the scene should have inspected the Wal-Mart surveillance system to determine whether the alleged victim’s claim that she was not assaulted “in any way” meshes with whatever prompted someone to call police at 6:08 a.m. local time on a Monday morning and say a woman was being pulled from a car registered to Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant and dragged to another car.

Wal-Mart, which would have created and could have preserved the video, has not addressed the situation.

Likewise, the various witnesses named in the police report have not yet addressed the situation beyond the things they told the responding officer, including Carl King, Christopher Mitchell, Alex Penson, and the alleged victim.

While the situation may be news to the former Dallas County District Attorney, reports continue to emerge that the Cowboys have known about it. The report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media indicated that the Cowboys know about the situation. Per Fisher’s sources, the Cowboys have known about the incident since it happened.

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Earnest Byner’s fumble recovery is by far his most impressive play

457497873-e1389740031550 Getty Images

Former Packers tight end Brandon Bostick became a historical footnote (and a former Packer) by mishandling an onside kick in the NFC Championship Game.

And the now-Vikings tight end said yesterday that another player with a famous mistake, Earnest Byner, had helped him through the last few weeks of guilt.

For Byner, the decision to reach out was an easy one, after the years he’s lived with “The Fumble.”

I felt like I had to speak to him,” Byner said, via Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The legendary Browns running back got in touch with his old friend Sam Gash, the Packers running backs coach, to exchange numbers with Bostick. A week after the game, the two spoke by phone, with Byner pointing out all the many factors that led to the loss that weren’t Bostick’s fault.

The empathy was appreciated, even if Bostick had no recollection of why Byner was being empathetic.

“He was like ‘I wasn’t even born yet,'” Byner said with a laugh of the Jan. 17, 1988 AFC Championship Game, which was just over 16 months before Bostick came into the world.

Byner too changed teams, being traded to Washington, which he said was necessary.

“I needed the change at that time,” Byner said. “[The Fumble] grew and it was weakening me emotionally and spiritually. . . .

“When we talk he listens very intently. But I need to meet him to feel his spirit. We’re going to go about making this connection. We might do some training. I want to get into his mind a bit so I can help him best.”

Byner has certainly already done that, and his willingness to help others through his experiences shows that while some Cleveland fans might define him by a fumble, his recovery has been far more impressive.

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Friday morning one-liners

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Bills RB Fred Jackson said he spoke to impending free agent C.J. Spiller about remaining with the team.

Defensive tackle will be a spot to watch in free agency for the Dolphins.

WR Aaron Dobson is working to put himself in better position to help the Patriots.

What should the Jets do in the first round if they don’t take a quarterback?

Checking out the Ravens’ offseason plan at tight end.

The Bengals should feature the same two running backs that they did last season.

The Browns are one of the teams waiting to see what QB Josh McCown wants to do.

LB Arthur Moats would like to remain with the Steelers.

The home of the Texans needs some sprucing up before Super Bowl LI.

The Colts need defensive line help in free agency and/or the draft.

Jaguars VP Tony Khan purchased a sports analytics company that counts the team among its clients.

Waiting for the Titans’ makeover to stop looking like the same old thing.

A call for Broncos G.M. John Elway to stop “haggling over nickels” with Peyton Manning.

The departure of Anthony Fasano should open up more playing time for Chiefs TE Travis Kelce.

The Raiders have money to spend and a mandate to use it.

If the Chargers want a running back in the draft, they may not need to go after one early.

Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon suggested the Cowboys hold onto RB DeMarco Murray.

Shaq Thompson’s NFL position is unclear, but should the Giants draft him anyway?

Jeremy Maclin and the rest of the Eagles’ offseason decisions at wide receiver.

Richmond has come up with the money needed to keep Redskins training camp in town.

Jon Gruden thinks it is time for a new quarterback with the Bears.

The deadline for the Lions to use the franchise tag on DT Ndamukong Suh is fast approaching.

Is WR Randall Cobb going to be too expensive for the Packers?

There’s still much to determine about RB Adrian Peterson’s future with the Vikings.

TE Bear Pascoe is unlikely to re-sign with the Falcons before free agency.

Breaking down the Panthers’ cap situation ahead of free agency.

Do the Saints need to change the look of their helmet?

Buccaneers CB Alterraun Verner likes the sound of Jameis Winston as the first overall pick.

The Cardinals need better red zone running options.

Rams RB Benny Cunningham had a memorable career at Middle Tennessee State.

Defensive backs coach Tim Lewis talks up his plans with the 49ers.

The Seahawks are hosting a team-themed cruise to Alaska.

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Rex Ryan will be rolling Rex Ryan style in his new truck

B-yCRVTXEAAHoML

I’m not sure if you all are aware of this, but Bills coach Rex Ryan isn’t averse to attention.

And he’s going to get plenty of it, driving the streets of Buffalo.

Ryan will be rolling in a customized pickup truck bearing the Bills’ logo and colors, a splashy move from a guy prone to them.

Photos of the big Ford truck started making the internet rounds the last day or so, and Tim Graham of the Buffalo News said he had spoken with Ryan about them, confirming this was a real thing.

Ryan has immersed himself in Bills culture since taking the job, which is good, since many coaches and players seem like temps there.

From walking the Scouting Combine halls in a Thurman Thomas jersey to driving around in a rolling billboard to saying he wanted to move to the neighborhood with the most snow, Ryan is all in.

And anyone on the streets of Western New York is going to know it.

Photo credit: Brandon Baker on Twitter

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Lions expected to sign Phillip Hunt

Phillip Hunt, Julian Edelman AP

The Lions signed defensive end George Johnson as a free agent last year after Johnson missed the entire 2013 season and were rewarded with six sacks off the bench on the way to the playoffs.

Johnson is a restricted free agent this offseason, so he should be back in Detroit for another year coming off the edge. That’s not stopping the team from hoping to find another contributor from the fringes.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that the Lions will sign former Eagles defensive end Phillip Hunt. Hunt is coming off an even longer layoff than Johnson as he last played in the NFL in 2012 thanks to an injury in 2013 and failing to make the Colts last summer. Hunt does have three NFL sacks in 22 games to his credit, which is three more than Johnson had in his career before last season.

Hunt also had 16 sacks for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2010 and perhaps moving closer to Canada will help spark his productivity in the pass rush.

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New Rams QB coach Chris Weinke talks up Sam Bradford

Sam Bradford AP

Despite reports that the Rams might trade or release quarterback Sam Bradford, everyone in St. Louis insists that the team is fully committed to its franchise quarterback.

That includes new Rams quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke, who says he accepted the job in large part because he’s enthusiastic about coaching Bradford.

Love him. Love him,” Weinke told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when asked about Bradford. “Historically, I look back at every guy that I’ve evaluated coming out of college. A few years ago when Andrew Luck came out they said who would you compare him to? And I said the closest I would see is Sam Bradford. And I say that without knowing Sam. I’d never met Sam until this process. Looking at his physical skill set. And then obviously talking to people and understanding his mental capacity and his football IQ, and all those different things. Sam by far has had the best pro day out of any guy I’ve ever evaluated from a physical standpoint. And he was coming off an injury at that point in time. So when you look at a guy who’s a pure passer of the football from a physical standpoint, he’s as good as anybody I’ve ever evaluated.”

Bradford’s $13 million salary in 2015 is awfully expensive, but the Rams’ coaches and executives are talking like they’re willing to pay that money. Bradford is their guy.

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Report: Kyle Wilson not expected back with Jets

Kyle Wilson AP

Kyle Wilson has largely been a disappointment for the New York Jets since being selected in the first round out of Boise State in the 2010 NFL Draft.

The Jets seem to be ready to move on from Wilson this offseason.

According to Kimberley A. Martin of Newsday, Wilson isn’t expected to return to the Jets next season.

Despite his draft status, Wilson only spent one season as full-time starter in New York. In five seasons with the Jets, Wilson managed just three interceptions and never developed into a replacement option for the departed Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie.

Wilson appeared in every game over the last five years for New York with 28 starts. He recorded 162 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

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Texans stadium needs $50 million in upgrades for Super Bowl LI

NRG Stadium Getty Images

Houston will host its third Super Bowl in February 2017 when Super Bowl LI is played at NRG Stadium.

However, the stadium itself requires some significant upgrades over the next two years before the AFC and NFC Champions line up for kickoff.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the upgrades required for NRG Stadium could cost upwards of $50 million. The money would go toward installing Wi-Fi in the stadium and upgraded the club and suite areas of the building.

The improvements to the stadium were promised as a part of Houston’s Super Bowl bid.

“There are investments that need to be made to have that special Super Bowl experience – those commitments that were made within the bid when Houston was awarded the Super Bowl,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s senior vice president of events.

The majority – if not all – of the money for those upgrades are expected to come from Harris County.

“Some of those (expenses) may be the responsibility of the county, and some may not be,” said Edgar Colon, chairman of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. “We’re analyzing all that and going through the contracts and the documents and having conversations with our major tenants to resolve all of these contractual obligations. I’m sure all are going to be resolved in time.”

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Reports: Browns still in the mix for Josh McCown

Josh McCown AP

If it’s not the Josh McCown Derby, it’s at least a match race.

The Browns, like the Bills, are vying to sign McCown, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Thursday night.

Furthermore, John Wawrow of the Associated Press reported McCown has engaged in “contract discussions” with Buffalo and Cleveland.

Both reports, it should be noted, said the Bills and Browns were “at least” the teams interested in McCown at the moment. What that means in terms of McCown’s market is unclear.

Now, we wait to see with whom McCown signs and what he garners. The signing team will likely be out of the mix for a veteran quarterback, which could winnow the options for soon-to-be free agents like Brian Hoyer (Cleveland) and Mark Sanchez (Philadelphia).

For McCown, the motivation to get a deal done now is clear. Released by the Buccaneers earlier this month, he’s the only veteran passer currently getting any interest before free agency begins on Tuesday, March 10.

The Bills and Browns have reason to get a contract done, too. Their shopping at the position would be finished, and the cost would be on the books. They could turn their attention to other options when the market opens next month.

And the needs of both clubs go beyond quarterback.

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Steven Jackson has no plans to retire

Bradley McDougald, Steven Jackson AP

Yes, he’s played 11 years in the NFL. Sure, he’s 31. Yep, he was cut by the Falcons on Thursday. But none of that means running back Steven Jackson is calling it quits.

“A lot has been written lately about my future,” Jackson wrote on his official website. “There are questions about my age, and what I have left in the tank. Of that, I will simply say this. For the first nine years of my career, I was used like a battering ram, punishing opposing defense over four quarters of a game. Maybe you stopped me the first five times I got the ball, but by the 15th or 20th time I got it, late in a game — let’s just say you were really feeling me at that point.

“Make no mistake: I can still punish a defense. I still have a warrior’s heart. There are 1,000-yard seasons left in these legs. I know what I am still capable of, and I have every intention of proving it.”

Jackson enters the market at a time when tailbacks like Reggie Bush, Chris Johnson, and DeAngelo Williams, and Jackson is older and has more wear and tear than each of them. At a time when teams are opting for multiple tailbacks who are on the young and cheap side, Jackson could have a hard time getting an acceptable offer. He could have an even harder time getting the reps necessary to churn out more 1,000-yard seasons.

But we wish him the best as he embarks on finding a new home. He’s been a great leader by example on a lot of bad teams. He deserves to get a chance to play for a good team.

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Nelson Peterson mentions three teams as potential destinations for Adrian

Minnesota Vikings v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Officially, the Vikings can now speak to running back Adrian Peterson. Unofficially, it sounds like multiple teams have been talking to someone.

On Thursday, Adrian’s father, Nelson Peterson, told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the elder Peterson has heard “rumors” of three potential destinations for Adrian.

“I’ve heard rumors, Arizona,” Nelson Peterson told Tomasson. “I’ve also heard the rumors of Indianapolis and the Colts, going there with a quarterback the caliber of [Andrew] Luck. I’ve also heard the Cowboys, coming back home with the Cowboys, behind that offensive line that they have.”

Nelson Peterson didn’t say who he heard the rumors from. All three teams make sense, and they mesh with rumors that have been making the rounds in league circles for the past few months.

Regardless of whether Adrian ends up in Arizona now, Nelson has strong feelings about where the Cardinals currently would be if they’d taken Adrian eight years ago.

“Arizona had the opportunity to draft him and they didn’t,” Nelson Peterson said. “They had an opportunity to take him in 2007 with the No. 4 pick and they went and picked Levi Brown. If they would have taken Adrian Peterson, then [quarterback] Kurt Warner would probably still be playing and they probably would have numerous Super Bowls.

“Can you imagine [Adrian] with Kurt Warner and with Larry Fitzgerald in his prime? Oh, man, Arizona would probably have a couple of Super Bowls by now.”

With Adrian turning 30 next month, the window toward being a key piece of a Super Bowl contender is closing. Before he leaves Minnesota in search of a team that may be on the doorstep, he needs to ask himself whether the Vikings may be laying the foundation to get there, sooner than later.

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Report: Raiders releasing safety Tyvon Branch

Oakland Raiders v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Raiders are reportedly parting ways with one of their starters in the secondary.

Oakland will release strong safety Tyvon Branch, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reported Thursday night.

When healthy, Branch has been a productive starter, notching more than 100 tackles in every season in which he’s played all 16 games (2009, 2010, 2011). However, injuries have limited the 28-year-old Branch to a combined five games in the last two seasons. He missed 13 games with a broken foot in 2014, and the previous season, he sat out 14 games with a broken leg.

Branch was slated to make $5.5 million in salary in 2015, per NFL Players Association data.

With Branch departing, the Raiders could turn to Brandian Ross at strong safety. Ross notched 55 tackles and intercepted two passes in 2014. He is slated to be a restricted free agent.

The Raiders re-signed starting free safety Charles Woodson last month.

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Report: Buster Skrine could get up to $7 million per season

Buster Skrine AP

If the Browns are to bring back free agent cornerback Buster Skrine, it could cost them quite a bit.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Skrine is anticipated to garner between $5.5 million and $7 million per season in his next contract. Skrine is expected to be in demand in free agency, the newspaper reported, citing several unnamed sources.

The 25-year-old Skrine intercepted a career-high four passes in 2014 for Cleveland. He has defended 18 passes in each of the last two seasons.

Skrine (5-9, 185) is No. 46 on PFT’s Free Agent Hot 100.

If the Browns were to re-sign Skrine, it would likely keep second-year cornerback Justin Gilbert in a reserve role. The No. 8 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Gilbert had a disappointing rookie season.

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Colts hang onto Matt Hasselbeck for another year

Matt Hasselbeck AP

Having Andrew Luck as their starting quarterback minimizes the need for a Plan B for the Colts.

But they’re hanging onto theirs, just in case.

The Colts announced they had signed pending free agent quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to a one-year deal, keeping their trusted backup in house.

Hasselbeck, 39, hasn’t started a game since he was in Tennessee in 2012. And frankly, the Colts hope he doesn’t change that anytime soon.

But the former Seahawks starter has added some gravity to the locker room, and been a good sounding board for Luck during his development, so keeping him made sense for both sides.

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Falcons release Steven Jackson

steven-jackson Getty Images

The man who currently sits at 16 on the all-time rushing list will have to continue his climb through the record book with a new team.

The Falcons have announced that running back Steven Jackson has been released.

After nine seasons with the Rams, Jackson joined the Falcons two years ago. Jackson gained 1,250 yards on 347 carries, scoring 12 touchdowns.

For his career, Jackson has 11,388 yards, more than Hall of Famers John Riggins and O.J. Simpson.

The Falcons won only 10 of 32 games with Jackson on the team, a slump that came after five straight winning seasons.

For Jackson, the sub-.500 seasons continue a career trend. He has never played on a team that finished the year with a winning record. As a rookie in 2004, the Rams qualified for a wild-card berth with an 8-8 record.

The move creates $3.75 million in cap space. Jackson will still count for $1.1 million based on previously-paid bonus money. He immediately becomes a free agent, able to sign with any other team.

For Jackson’s sake, here’s hoping he lands with a team that finally finishes the year with a winning record.

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