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Antonio Brown restructures contract

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The Steelers are looking under every rock to create cap space.

The latest candidate for a restructured deal was receiver Antonio Brown.

Per a source with knowledge of the transaction, Brown reduced his $4.5 million base salary to a minimum salary of $650,000.

The remaining $3.85 million was converted to a signing bonus, which will be spread over the five remaining years of Brown’s contract.

It results in a cap savings of $3.08 million to the Steelers.

While not a massive reduction, every dollar helps for a team that used to have cap problems only when the wind was whipping off the Monongahela.

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Stephen Jones: Lack of pass rush cost us chance at title last year

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The question of whether Dez Bryant caught the ball or not has been debated quite often since the Packers outlasted the Cowboys in the playoffs last season, but one prominent member of the Cowboys organization doesn’t think the ruling of no catch was the reason why Dallas didn’t advance to face the Seahawks.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones points to the other side of the ball as the reason why the Cowboys fell short in the postseason. The pass rush is what Jones feels was missing and says it is something the team is focused on improving this summer.

“At the end of the day, it’s probably what cost us a chance to win a championship last year, we just didn’t quite have the pass rush we needed to stop an Aaron Rodgers when we needed to stop him or make the play that needed to be made when you’re trying to win a Super Bowl, so these guys are getting a lot of good teaching,” Jones said on KRLD, via the Dallas Morning News. “Rod Marinelli is one of the best in the business, you’ve got Leon Lett, who’s certainly a Cowboys legend in his own right. It’s just a great group of guys out there helping these young guys hopefully get better at rushing the passer.”

There were plenty of teams staying away from both Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory this offseason because of off-field red flags, but you need not look too far beyond Jones’s comments to understand why the Cowboys rolled the dice on both players. If they perform as hoped, Demarcus Lawrence makes strides in his second season and Tyrone Crawford keeps providing pressure on the interior, the Cowboys should be providing more pressure on quarterbacks and a weakness will turn into a strength.

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Six months later, Mortensen deletes inaccurate Deflategate tweet

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On January 20, Chris Mortensen of ESPN tweeted that 11 of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game were under-inflated by two pounds of pressure per square inch. That report was incorrect.

So Mortensen deleted the tweet. Unfortunately, he waited more than six months to do so.

As of early this morning, we noted that Mortensen’s incorrect tweet was still live. And then we noticed later this morning that the tweet is gone. Presumably, Mortensen decided at some point in the last few hours to delete his tweet, although he hasn’t explained it publicly.

To his credit, Mortensen has admitted that the tweet was a mistake. But as many people have learned when they tweeted something and then wished they could take it back, just deleting a mistake doesn’t make it go away. Mortensen’s tweet (“NFL has found that 11 of the Patriots footballs used in Sunday’s AFC title game were under-inflated by 2 lbs each, per league sources”) still lives in the many news stories that quoted it. And Mortensen’s tweet was used for months to shape the Deflategate story. Even though PFT and others cast doubt on the report almost immediately, and even though the Patriots pleaded with the league office to correct the record, official confirmation that the balls were not as under-inflated as Mortensen’s source claimed didn’t come until the Wells Report was released months later.

That’s been one of the maddening things about the whole Deflategate mess: Accurate information has been hard to come by, and the gaps have been filled with inaccurate information.

Mortensen’s “2 lbs each” tweet was one of the big pieces of inaccurate information. It’s now off Mortensen’s Twitter timeline, long after the damage was done.

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PFT Live: Patriots talk with Ben Volin, Raiders talk with Vic Tafur

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We’ll be spanning the country on Tueday’s PFT Live to bring you everything you need to know about the NFL.

On one coast, Mike Florio will be talking to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe about that latest developments in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s push to have his four-game suspension wiped out in federal court. We’ll also ask Volin for some early thoughts about what the team’s been doing at training camp.

From the other coast, Florio will welcome Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle with a look at the Raiders. Some topics that may come up for discussion include the positive reviews for wide receiver Michael Crabtree, Derek Carr’s play at quarterback and the team’s stadium situation. And smack dab in the middle is John Glennon of the Tennessean with the latest on the Titans.

Author Monte Burke will also be on the show to discuss his new biography of Alabama coach Nick Saban with a particular focus on Saban’s years in the NFL.

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.

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Jameis Winston having some growing pains, but Bucs are OK with that

Jameis Winston, Mike Glennon, Seth Lobato AP

Long before the Buccaneers picked Jameis Winston first and the Titans took Marcus Mariota second, we knew that Mariota was the careful one with the ball.

And while the Titans rookie hasn’t thrown an interception yet in camp, Winston is having a bumpier ride.

According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Winston threw three interceptions during his first five passes of a live blitz period.

As you might imagine, Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith was quick to praise his defense for making three plays, while tempering expectations for the No. 1 overall pick.

“Our goal is to get Jameis ready,” Smith said. “We’re doing a lot of things that we normally don’t do this early, too, to try and give him as many looks as we possibly can. And it was the one blitz period is where he had his most trouble and that’s how it should be for a young quarterback.

“We’re not inventing defense or anything like that with what we’re doing on the other side. Jameis will tell you on some of those plays he just can’t make, but it’s part of the process of becoming a good quarterback in the league to go through some days like this. Keep in mind there are some scholarship players on the other side that we feel pretty good about. With my glass being half full, I’m pretty fired up about those takeaways we got on the defensive side.”

The reviews on Winston have been generally positive through camp, and the Bucs have already named him their starter (such that that was a mystery).

But his willingness to take chances for the shot at making a play downfield is something that was evident from his days at Florida State — he had 18 interceptions last year, whereas Mariota had four playing in a different offense.

But unless the Buccaneers are going to be able to create turnovers at that kind of rate against every opponent, Winston is going to have to learn and learn quickly.

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Pats reward Gronk with reworked deal

gronk1 AP

The New England Patriots drafted tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the same year. One worked out really well. One, for reasons unrelated to football, didn’t.

The one who did has now gotten another reward from the team. Three years after signing a long-term deal (when teams could sign draft picks to new contracts after only two seasons), the Patriots have reworked Gronkowski’s contract to accelerate a significant payment that wasn’t due until after the 2015 season.

PFT has confirmed that the Patriots have shifted Gronkowski’s $10 million option bonus into 2015, with Gronkowski getting $4 million as a signing bonus. The other $6 million will be paid out before the $10 million decision otherwise was due to be made.

The move, per a source with knowledge of the deal, came at Gronkowski’s request.

The restructuring was first reported by Field Yates of ESPN.com.

While his performance in 2014 made the team’s decision to pick up the $10 million option bonus more likely, his long-term status was a little tenuous after multiple arm surgeries (the injury initially happened on an extra-point try) and a December 2013 torn ACL. Since he doesn’t need the money (in his new book, Gronkowski makes it clear that he has spent none of his football money, using his endorsement revenue instead), Gronkowski apparently wanted to secure his future with the team.

And now he has, with a contract that runs through 2019. Which means he’ll definitely be spiking footballs (and possibly pushing some of the air out of them) for the duration of Tom Brady’s career, and beyond.

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RGIII: If they want me to be ordinary, that’s what I’ll be

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Jay Gruden didn’t always have the most positive things to say about Robert Griffin III last season, but the Redskins coach said last week that the quarterback is “starting to realize” the work he has to do in order to be successful in the NFL.

One of the things that Gruden stressed was that Griffin has to play quarterback from the pocket rather than running the heavy amounts of read-option that he ran during his rookie season in 2012. Griffin didn’t look good playing that style last season and doesn’t sound like it’s his dream system to run as a quarterback, but says he’ll whatever Gruden asks him to do on offense.

“They are not asking me to be Superman,” Griffin said, via TheMMQB.com. “They are asking me to be basic and take the plays that are there. If that’s what Jay wants me to do, that’s what I am going to do. It doesn’t mean you take everything out of your game. When those opportunities come up to make plays out of the pocket I will do it and not think twice about it. But if they are asking me to do the ordinary, that’s what I am going to have to do.” 

Mastering the ordinary sounds a lot more ordinary than it has proved to be for plenty of pro quarterbacks. That group includes Griffin to this point in his career, but he thinks a second year in the offense “is really going to help” his execution. If it doesn’t, there’s a good chance he’ll be somewhere else next season. It’s a possibility that Griffin says he isn’t worried about right now, but it’s sure to be on many minds in Washington once the regular season gets going.

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Dolphins VP Mike Tannenbaum won’t say no to Evan Mathis pursuit

Evan Mathis AP

Because of their glaring need at the position, and their willingness to write the big checks for name players, the Dolphins are going to be linked with veteran guard Evan Mathis until he signs somewhere.

And Dolphins vice president Mike Tannenbaum did little to quiet that talk Tuesday, saying on WQAM that it was still a possibility.

Asked about making a run at the former Eagles Pro Bowler, Tannenbaum replied: “We’ll have to continue to get better, we’ll see where our guard situation goes.

I’ll never rule out getting this team better,” he said, via the Palm Beach Post.

Tannenbaum said nice things about other players, specifically Dallas Thomas, but the Dolphins could clearly use an upgrade.

The Jets have also inquired, but don’t seem to like the price. But that also doesn’t hurt any potential bargaining position with an AFC East rival, either.

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Hard Knocks is coming, but does it really benefit a team?

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Many (including me) think the Jets broke the Hard Knocks mold in 2010, and that every year since then the show has been trying to live up to something that won’t be recaptured until another Rex Ryan-coached team enters the spotlight again.

Before the Texans were selected as this year’s Hard Knocks guinea pig, Ryan danced around the possibility for doing in his first year with the Bills what he did in his second year with the Jets. Maybe he was being uncharacteristically coy. Or maybe he now realizes that his team didn’t really benefit from the assignment.

As the Texans prepare for the first episode of their turn under the Hard Knocks microscope, that’s the biggest question: Does it really help?

The Dolphins thought it would help. And it didn’t.

“When I see Bill Belichick allowing the Hard Knocks cameras into his organization, then I’ll believe the experience might be a good thing for the team,” Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald tells Richard Deitsch of SI.com. “I do not think it serves the teams and I do not think it helped the Dolphins. Indeed, it made multiple players upset with coaches when they heard how some coaches spoke about them in private. It created some embarrassment for the players and fostered some distrust of the coaches. This from what players told me.”

It also didn’t help the Dolphins from a strategic standpoint, given that one opponent said he picked up the Miami snap count from watching the show. That opponent’s name is J.J. Watt, whose Texans will risk having their snap count picked up by opponents who watch this year’s show.

The late Steve Sabol, who like his father, Ed, should be in the Hall of Fame, routinely defended the Hard Knocks approach by pointing out that former Packers coach Vince Lombardi loved it when cameras were at practice, because it made his guys go at it harder. Steve Sabol said on many occasions that Lombardi would direct the NFL Films crews to pretend they were shooting practice even when the cameras didn’t have film in them.

But it’s one thing for a snippet or a sound bite to be edited into a broader package that would show up weeks if not months after the fact through a rabbit-eared TV set that had no way to record the information. Today, every frame and every can be captured and dissected.

From the perspective of fans, the scenes that get dissected the most involve the termination of a player’s employment. During the otherwise forgettable 2012 version of the show, the only memorable moments involved coach Joe Philbin cutting receiver Chad Ochocinco and G.M. Jeff Ireland telling cornerback Vontae Davis he’d been traded to the Colts.

The following May, Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league wants to make the process of cutting players more “humane.” The best place to start would be to not put those moments on HBO every year.

That’s why some teams will never do it, at least not willingly. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said in 2013 that he’d fight a Hard Knocks assignment “tooth and nail.”

I think it’s a total distraction, and I think it’s an embarrassment to players,” Arians said at the time.  “I think when players are released, some of the things that are said between coaches and players are too personal, and nobody else’s business.”

There’s another potential drawback that I hadn’t previously considered. The special access given to Hard Knocks potentially undermines the important relationship between the team and the non-league-or-team-owned media that covers it.

“I’ve watched every Hard Knocks for the exact reason I didn’t want the series showing the team I cover: They get access I don’t, so they get storylines I don’t get,” John McClain of the Houston Chronicle tells Deitsch. “They get information I don’t have a chance to get before they do. As a reporter, I don’t like it when anybody gets something I don’t have, but Hard Knocks gets access that isn’t fair to media who cover a team. . . . The Hard Knocks impact is behind the scenes, when the cameras shoot injuries and players being released. That’s where Hard Knocks will impact my job, and I won’t know it until I watch the series, which I would never miss, anyway. Watching in the past, I’ve always felt bad for the media who regularly cover the team.”

I’ve always felt bad for the players who have no say at all in the assignment, but who are the ones most directly affected by it. They’re trying to work, to compete, to earn a job or to keep a job. And they all have to deal with the presence of cameras and microphones that capture everything they do and say — and that capture everything said about them or done to them.

And even though the team has final say over what gets aired, there’s always a chance the team will make things even worse for a player by not removing an embarrassing exchange — like when former (and now current again) Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie had trouble rattling off the names of his children.

So, no, it’s not a benefit for teams. But with the NFL making a long-term commitment to the project, it doesn’t matter whether the teams like it. If the arrangement lasts long enough, they’ll all eventually have to do it.

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Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy will apparently try anything once

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With the contract he’s eventually going to get (but isn’t worried about), Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy can buy just about anything he wants to eat.

But because he travels the world extensively during the offseason, he has the chance to make some interesting choices. This offseason, he went to Chile and the Easter Islands, and went sledding down an active volcano and walked on the wings of a moving airplane. And that might be the safe part.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, previous adventures led him to eat rats and frogs, but this year was more subtle.

“Nah,” Levy said if he went that route again. “Chile’s pretty chill. I ate a llama, but that’s not really like [anything]. . . .

“[It’s] actually healthy. It’s lean. It’s like a dry steak. It’s like a lean, dry steak. It’s really lean.”

And if you eat it on your death bed —which you end up on from eating too many rats and frogs — you’ll receive total consciousness.

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Hakeem Nicks: “My style of play” didn’t fit with Colts

Hakeem Nicks AP

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks looked like he was on the cusp of stardom after catching 155 passes for 2,244 yards during the 2010 and 2011 seasons with the Giants, but things haven’t played out that way.

Nicks pouted about his contract and hurt his foot and ankle during his final two years with the Giants and saw his numbers drop to the point that he signed a one-year deal with the Colts in 2014 in hopes of restoring his value. Andrew Luck’s presence seemed to make that a wise choice, but 2014 saw Nicks catch just 38 passes for 405 yards and signed another one-year deal with the Titans this offseason that guarantees him just $100,000.

While Nicks thinks returning from injury too soon hampered him in New Jersey, he pins last year’s struggles on the Colts’ offensive scheme.

“I wanted to win a Super Bowl, and I felt like that was giving me the best opportunity, going to the Colts,” Nicks said, via John Glennon of the Tennessean. “But it wasn’t really my style of play.”

Nicks says the Titans’ style is a better fit for him and Glennon reports Nicks has made a “string of impressive plays” early in training camp as he has played alongside Kendall Wright with the first team. If Nicks can keep it up through the summer, he should get chances to show he can still thrive in the NFL. If not, it may be three strikes and out for a player who is running out of excuses for his drop in productivity.

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DeMarco Murray doesn’t know why he didn’t practice on first day of camp

Murray AP

The rivalry Cowboys and Eagles reached new heights this year when Philadelphia pilfered the 2014 NFL rushing champion from Dallas. Which puts plenty of pressure on tailback DeMarco Murray to do the things for his new team that he did last year for his old one.

So, on the first day of training camp, Murray . . . didn’t practice at all.

He addressed the situation on Monday (when he did indeed practice), but Murray had no explanation for his absence from the prior day.

Via Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Murray said he wasn’t injured, and that the absence was the coach’s decision.

“You’re always upset when you don’t get the chance to go out there and compete and take the pressure off the other guys,” Murray said. “Obviously, as a competitor I want to be out there, but it didn’t happen.”

While there surely is a reason, Murray doesn’t know, because he didn’t ask coach Chip Kelly or running backs coach Duce Staley.

“I just do what I’m told,” Murray said.

It’s possible Murray was a little banged up from offseason workouts or working out on his own, and that the Eagles wanted to go easy with him out of the gates without inviting critics to say, “That’s what you get for signing a guy who couldn’t stay healthy until he was in a contract year.”

Practice or no practice on Sunday, that continues to be the biggest question for Murray: Can he stay healthy when not chasing a contract?

The Eagles were willing to bet that he can; the Cowboys weren’t.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

Gio Bernard AP

Bills WR Sammy Watkins showed off his explosiveness in Monday night’s practice.

S Michael Thomas continues to “scratch and claw” in an effort to play a role in the Dolphins secondary.

The Patriots continued shuffling their roster on Monday.

S Calvin Pryor is looking for better results in his second Jets season.

WR Steve Smith and CB Kyle Arrington exchanged words during Ravens practice.

RB Gio Bernard is ready to play whatever role the Bengals have in mind.

The Browns added two running backs with injuries limiting their numbers at the position.

Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey is back on the practice field.

The Texans are experimenting with camera glasses to see what their quarterbacks are seeing on the field.

The Colts hope that some of the same players from last year can provide better run defense.

DE Andre Branch is doing what he can to seize an opportunity on the Jaguars defensive line.

Titans S Michael Griffin says he’s healthy after offseason knee surgery.

DT Sylvester Williams drew praise from Broncos coaches.

An ESPN film about late Chiefs RB Joe Delaney screened for fans.

Said Raiders G.M. Reggie McKenzie, “I’m anxiously waiting for preseason games now. I want to see how they jell and come together. I feel pretty good about this team. Really good.”

Chargers CB Brandon Flowers is rooting for former Chiefs teammate Eric Berry.

RB Darren McFadden’s hamstring injury doesn’t worry Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

The Giants say S Landon Collins isn’t guaranteed a starting job.

Eagles LB DeMeco Ryans is working himself back into football shape after a torn Achilles.

CB David Amerson left Redskins practice with a shoulder injury.

The Bears defense has gotten more aggressive.

Lions LB DeAndre Levy dined on llama meat this offseason.

DL Datone Jones apologized to the Packers for his one-game suspension.

Brandon Fusco is settling in at left guard for the Vikings.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan wants to get the ball into WR Devin Hester’s hands.

LB Thomas Davis got a day off at Panthers practice.

Rookie LB Stephone Anthony’s maturity has caught the eye of Saints coaches.

Buccaneers TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins needs to cut down on mistakes.

The Cardinals are happy with their depth on the defensive line.

LB Daren Bates has become a core special teamer for the Rams.

Quinton Dial is trying to step up at defensive end with Justin Smith’s 49ers career over.

Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable indicated the team would make a decision at center soon.

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Eagles, Bradford discussing short-term contract extension

Sam Bradford AP

The Eagles and quarterback Sam Bradford are discussing a contract extension that would keep him in Philadelphia at least through 2016.

Ed Werder of ESPN reports that the two sides are talking about a short-term deal that would keep him in Philadelphia beyond just this season.

Bradford’s current contract, the $78 million rookie deal that he signed as the first overall pick of the Rams in the 2010 draft, expires after this season. That means the Eagles would be faced with the choice in March of either signing Bradford to an extension, letting him walk, or putting the franchise tag on him. The franchise tag next year will likely be in the $25 million range.

Bradford has said he’s willing to play for the $13 million he’s owed this year and hit free agency next year, betting on himself that he can get a more lucrative deal after a good season in Philadelphia. The risk to Bradford of that approach is that if he gets injured again, he’s not going to command much money on the free market in 2016.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly has said he believes in Bradford as the team’s franchise quarterback, so it makes sense that Kelly would try to get Bradford locked up beyond this season. Of course, Kelly has also said that Mark Sanchez will get every opportunity to win the starting job, so it seems a little premature to give Bradford an extension now, if he might be the backup in Week One.

That may be why both sides are talking about the short term. An extension through 2016 would give both Bradford and the Eagles more time to see if they’re a good fit, and more time to work out a long-term deal if he does prove to be the Eagles’ long-term answer.

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Anthony Castonzo talking extension with Colts

Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Quarterback Andrew Luck’s going to need a new contract soon and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton hasn’t been shy about discussing his desire for a bigger deal with the Colts, but Indianapolis’s contract concerns on offense go beyond those two players.

Tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener are entering the final year of their pacts and so is left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who joined the team as a first-round pick a year before the other four players from the class of 2012 came on board. Castonzo said Monday that his representatives have been talking with the team about a long-term extension that would keep Castonzo on Luck’s blind side for years to come.

“If you play well, you get taken care of, that’s sort of the way I see it,” Castonzo said, via the Indianapolis Star. “If I was playing like garbage, I wouldn’t be here.”

The Colts haven’t built the strongest of lines in front of Luck over the last three years, but Castonzo has given them one player that they don’t need to think about replacing. While Luck’s next salary will eat up some of the cap space the team has had on hand, a chunk of what’s left should be devoted to making sure they don’t have to think about finding a new left tackle in the near future.

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Reggie McKenzie: “There’s a chance” Raiders sign Tony McDaniel

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Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel lost his job with the Seahawks in a move that was fueled by the need to rebalance the books in Seattle after handing out extensions to quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Coach Pete Carroll said the decision to release McDaniel “sucks” and held out hope that there would be a way to bring him back to the team, but a former member of Seattle’s staff may get a chance to coach McDaniel instead. Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie said, via Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group, that “there’s a chance” that the team signs McDaniel and reunites him with former Seahawks assistant and current Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

Norton sounded like that would suit him fine, although he acknowledged he’s not the man making those decisions.

“I’ve had some good battles and good times with Tony,” Norton said. “Those decisions are made in another group but if they can do anything to help improve us, if there’s someone out there that can help us get better, let’s bring him in and give him a shot.”

McDaniel will likely have interest from other teams as well after a strong 2014 for the Seahawks, but the familiarity with Norton shouldn’t hurt the Raiders if a bidding war for his services should materialize. Their dismal record in recent years could have a less positive effect if McDaniel developed a taste for deep playoff runs the last couple of years.

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