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10 things to know about the franchise tag

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The franchise tag is old enough to vote, and nearly old enough to drink.  The tag made its annual return more than a week ago.  Unlike the Great Pumpkin, the tool for restricting a player’s ability to move from team to team will indeed make an appearance, in multiple NFL cities.

Eventually.  We think.  Perhaps starting as soon as today.

So here are 10 things to know about the tag.  You may have already known them.  You may have known and forgotten.  Or you may not have known at all.

Or perhaps that you didn’t want to know.

1.  The formula has changed.

Under prior labor deals, the non-exclusive franchise tag was determined by calculating the average of the five highest-paid players at each position from the prior year.  Under the 2011 CBA, the franchise tenders come from a more complex procedure.

Under Article 10, Section 2 of the CBA, the number is based on the five-year average cap percentage for the tag at each position.

So it’s no longer driven by what players at the same position made in the prior season, but by the average cap percentage consumed by the franchise tender over five years.  Then, that percentage will be applied to the 2013 salary cap to determine the franchise tender at each position.

Already confused?  We’ve got nine more.

2.  In some cases, the formula doesn’t matter.

A player getting the non-exclusive franchise tag is entitled to the greater of the formula clumsily explained above (and that was the fourth draft of it) or 120 percent of the player’s cap number from the prior year.

That’s why, for example, the franchise tender for Dolphins tackle Jake Long would be much higher than the franchise tender for an offensive lineman.  Long made enough in 2012 to result in a 20-percent raise, trumping the franchise tender.

This dynamic often applies to players who were taken high in the draft before the implementation of the rookie wage scale.  As rookie contracts expire under the new labor deal, franchise tenders for many of them will be lower.

3.  The transition tag has become meaningless.

Teams can use, in any given year, one franchise tag or one transition tag.  The transition tag gives a team the right to match an offer sheet, but no compensation if the team chooses not to match.

At one point, the transition player’s contract was not fully guaranteed once it was accepted by the player.  It now is.

The fact that the guaranteed pay on the one-year transition tender isn’t much less than the guaranteed pay for the one-year franchise tender, coupled with the lack of draft-pick compensation, has made the transition tag largely meaningless.

4.  Franchise tags can be withdrawn.

The amount of the franchise tender becomes fully guaranteed once the player signs it.  Since signing the franchise tender puts the player under contract, requiring him to show up to all mandatory offseason activities and training camp, some players choose to wait deep into the preseason before inking the offer.

The risk is that the franchise tag can be withdrawn, at any time, before it has been signed.

It doesn’t happen often, but it’s not unprecedented.  Especially in Philly.  In 2002, the Eagles pulled the franchise tag from linebacker Jeremiah Trotter in early April.  Three years later, the Eagles removed the franchise tag from defensive tackle Corey Simon in late August.

The move immediately converts the player to an unrestricted free agent.  But if it comes after the big money has been spent, the player will have a hard time getting the pay day he would have realized on the first day of free agency.

5.  Franchise tender is guaranteed, with one exception.

Once a player signs the franchise tag, the one-year salary becomes fully guaranteed.  But there’s a little-known exception.

Under Article 10, Section 2(c) of the CBA, the contract can be terminated if the player fails “to establish or maintain his excellent physical condition.”

Any effort to do so would result in a review of the situation by a neutral physician and, eventually and inevitably, arbitration.  Still, the franchise tender technically isn’t fully and completely guaranteed.

6.  No non-quarterback will be tagged more than twice.

Former Seahawks tackle Walter Jones once spent three straight years under the franchise tag, pocketing a total of $20 million and then signing a long-term deal that paid him $20 million more guaranteed, back when $20 million was a very big deal for NFL purposes.

Jones rolled the dice on bearing the injury risk for the three franchise years, and he won.  Most players prefer the certainty of a long-term deal.

That’s why the 2006 CBA changed the formula to pay a non-quarterback the quarterback franchise tender if he’s tagged a third time.

Quarterbacks are protected, too.  In the third year of the franchise tag, they get at least a 44-percent raise over their cap number in the prior year.

7.  Arguably, no player can be tagged more than three times.

Last year’s grievance filed by Saints quarterback Drew Brees established that, if a player is tagged once by two different teams, it counts as being tagged twice.  Which would have entitled him to a 44-percent raise in 2013, if he had played under the franchise tag last year for the Saints.  (He was tagged in 2005 by the Chargers.)

Based on the language of the CBA, there’s an argument to be made that no player may ever be tagged more than three times during the course of his career.

Of course, tagging a player a fourth time would entail paying out a second 44-percent raise one year after paying out an initial 44-percent raise.  Which would make it highly unlikely that any team would ever want to use the tag more than three times.

8.  It’s cheap to tag kickers and punters.

There’s a belief among some fans that the use of the franchise tag meant that the player was a “franchise player.”  And so, when a team uses the tag on a punter or a kicker, fans are confused and/or amused.

But the formula for calculating franchise tenders has made it cheaper to use the tag than to sign the player to a market-value deal.

At $2.9 million for 2013, more kickers and punters could find themselves being regarded as “franchise players.”

9.  Long-term deals can be negotiated, through July 15.

Previously, the window for a team signing its franchise player to a long-term deal closed not long after the free-agency period started and then opened again on July 15.  Now, the window remains open until July 15.

After July 15, the franchise player can sign only a one-year deal with his current team.  It can be for more than the franchise tender, and it can include other terms, like playing-time or performance triggers that would prevent the tag from being used again.

But the duration can be no more than one year.

10.  One offer sheet may be signed, through July 15.

For a player carrying the non-exclusive tag, he can negotiate with any other team.  Ultimately, one offer sheet can be signed.

Once it’s signed, the situation simplifies considerably.  The player’s current team will match the offer and keep him, or the player’s team will not match the offer and collect a pair of first-round picks from the new team.

The two first-round picks given as compensation must be the team’s original picks — not any picks obtained via trade or otherwise.

And there’s a loophole which, eventually, a desperate coach or G.M. may use.  The period for signing franchise players to offer sheets lingers beyond the current year’s draft.  Thus, for example, a team that wants to sign quarterback Joe Flacco (if the Ravens use the non-exclusive tag) could, in theory, wait until after the draft, sign Flacco to a front-loaded offer sheet that the Ravens can’t match, and then surrender not the 2013 and 2014 first-round picks, but the first-round picks for 2014 and 2015.

There’s nothing in the labor deal that prevents this from happening until July 15, after which date the player can sign only a one-year deal with his current team.

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Joseph Randle’s domestic violence investigation nearing end

Joseph Randle AP

The Cowboys were willing to put themselves out there this offseason, offering a chance to free agent defensive end Greg Hardy despite the domestic violence incident which led to a 10-game suspension.

They might get another chance, with a player not nearly as prone to get extra opportunities because he’s less talented.

According to Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Wichita police spokesman James Espinoza said the police investigation into a domestic violence incident involving Cowboys running back Joseph Randle is wrapping up this week, at which point local prosecutors will decide whether to pursue charges.

Randle was involved in an incident in February in Wichita, in which he was accused of brandishing a gun and threatening the mother of his child.

If he’s charged, he’s more likely to be suspended, though the league has made a point with the Hardy suspension that they were not going to be bound by the criminal justice system. Under the new personal conduct policy, first-offenders of domestic abuse could face a six-game ban, though the Hardy punishment shows Roger Goodell still considers himself having significant latitude.

The league has also beefed up its investigative efforts and is conducting its own review of these situations, lest another video of a guy punching his wife in the face ends up on TMZ.

Of course, Randle has been in trouble before, busted last October for stealing underwear and cologne, an incident he called “the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life.”

The Cowboys fined him for that one, but the next one will be out of their hands.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

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A negative review of the Bills’ decision to trade their 2015 first-round pick to move up for WR Sammy Watkins.

The Dolphins want to evaluate draft prospects in a variety of settings.

The interior of the offensive line is an area the Patriots could address in the draft.

The Jets open a voluntary minicamp on Tuesday.

Cornerbacks have caught the eye of the Ravens leading up to the draft.

Bengals LB A.J. Hawk is opting for the Kentucky Derby over paying attention to the NFL draft this weekend.

The Browns’ meetings with draft prospects are going down to the wire.

A call for the Steelers to go after cornerbacks in the draft.

Texans DE J.J. Watt tried to help one of his fans get excused from work to attend a charity event he’s hosting.

The Colts may make a trade during the draft.

Jaguars G.M. Dave Caldwell could use a string of good picks this year.

Looking back at some of the biggest hits and misses in Titans draft history.

The return of CB Tony Carter bolsters the Broncos’ depth in the secondary.

What does Chiefs P Dustin Colquitt look for in a long snapper?

The Raiders will have a chance to add to their defensive front with the fourth pick.

A Chargers move would add to San Diego’s sad sports history.

Nebraska DE/LB Randy Gregory could be a fit for the Cowboys.

The Giants cleared some room on the running back depth chart.

The Eagles may not find the safety help they want in the draft.

Redskins G.M. Scot McCloughan wouldn’t mind a few more draft picks.

Five things to watch during the Bears’ minicamp this week.

S Glover Quin thinks some younger Lions defensive backs are in line for strong seasons.

Which cornerbacks might interest the Packers in the first round?

Vikings CB Captain Munnerlyn is working to improve before his second year in Minnesota.

A review of Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff’s draft day trades.

The Panthers have generally done a good job with their first-round picks.

Will Shane Ray’s arrest change the Saints’ draft plans?

Assessing the Buccaneers’ need for wide receiver or tight end help.

Is a running back in the cards when the Cardinals pick in the first round?

A spin through Rams mock drafts.

Former 49ers pass rusher Charles Haley likes what he’s seen from current 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith.

There are plenty of wide receivers for the Seahawks to consider in the draft.

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Silence surrounding possible Peterson trade makes it less likely

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A potential trade of running back Adrian Peterson would have plenty of moving parts.  By all appearances, none of those parts have been moving, yet.  At this point, the fact that nothing is happening in connection with a potential trade makes it less likely that anything will.

Any team interested in trading for Peterson would have to work out a new contract with him.  Likewise, any team would want to give him a full physical in order to determine that the man who has played in one game since December 2013 remains fit and able to do so.

That process would require communications between the Vikings and a suitor for Peterson, communications between the Vikings and Peterson’s agent, and communications between a suitor for Peterson and his agent.  It would be difficult if not impossible to keep those communications away from the media.

So with absolutely nothing currently happening, it appears that a trade won’t be occurring before or during the 2015 NFL draft.  Which makes a trade of Peterson at any point this year less likely.

The Vikings are banking on Peterson eventually accepting the reality that the Vikings own his rights through 2017, and the Vikings hope that the passage of time will allow Peterson to embrace the fact that they are willing to pay him $13 million this season.  The question becomes whether Peterson will buy in — or whether he’ll engage in a T.O.-style effort to get the Vikings to throw up their hands and trade him during or after the 2015 season.

Ten years ago, the Eagles refused to give Terrell Owens more money, so he tried to make the team sufficiently miserable that it traded or cut him.  Peterson doesn’t seem to be wired to do the same thing, but if the determination that fueled his return from ACL surgery three years ago gets pointed toward getting out of Minnesota, it would be unwise to bet against him.

To date, Peterson has yet to say he definitely wants out.  Perhaps he realizes that, regardless of any frustration he may be feeling toward the Vikings for the perception that they failed to fight hard enough to get him back on the field in 2014, the entire ordeal flowed from his own actions.  The Vikings did nothing to cause or to contribute to a situation that left them without their best player for 15 games, and Peterson’s presence for even a handful of games could have boosted a team that finished 7-9 to the postseason.

This year, the playoffs become much more possible with Peterson than without him.  With no contending teams rushing to add Peterson, his chances of playing beyond Week 17 may be no better elsewhere than they are in Minnesota, which could make for an even more compelling story of redemption.

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Andrew Whitworth dares the Bengals to draft his replacement

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The Bengals have the oldest starting left tackle in the NFL, so it only makes sense that they might look for a replacement this week.

But Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth has a message for any tackle they might draft — bring it on.

The 33-year-old Whitworth said he’s playing his best football as he enters his 10th season, and doesn’t see that changing soon.

Mess up and draft somebody at my position because you are going to sit around and watch him sit the bench,” Whitworth said, via Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “That’s always been my mentality. I see it as a challenge.”

The former second-rounder has grown into one of the league’s top tackles, even after knee surgery two years ago, and has continued to play at a high level.

“Right now, this is the strongest I’ve been in my life, most conditioned I’ve been in my life,” Whitworth said. “I don’t see the door that’s closing. This is the strongest I’ve ever lifted in my career. I feel like I’m as fast or faster than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m in the best shape ever.

“I stop listening to what people thought about what year you are in or when they thought you should be done and started to just listen to what my body says. My body says I can still go get it. I’m still excited to take on anybody any day.”

It’s not that Whitworth would be a bad teammate if a young tackle came in, as he’s become the leader in their locker room. But the way he’s playing, the Bengals have to know any such pick is an investment in the future and not the present.

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Kevin Colbert: You want to find out entire story behind character concerns

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On Monday, Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert held his pre-draft press conference and spent some time talking about how much he liked this year’s group of outside linebacker prospects.

That meshes well with the team’s need to upgrade their defensive punch heading into next season, but the talent is only part of the package that teams have to evaluate. There’s also the issue of character, something that Colbert says the team takes seriously while evaluating prospects they’re considering adding to the roster.

It doesn’t eliminate a player from consideration by the team — the Steelers drafted tackle Mike Adams in the second round after a failed drug test at the combine — and it is something that will be of particular interest with edge rushers after Shane Ray’s arrest for marijuana possession and Randy Gregory’s positive drug test at the combine.

“You try to find out what the exact circumstance was,” Colbert said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Why a guy was suspended. Why a guy tested positive. Why a guy got thrown off a team. I think you always look into it. You just can’t take the public part of it and think this is it. There’s a story behind everything that goes on — right, wrong or indifferent. It’s our job to get to the root of the matter and figure out whether we want to take the chance or not.”

Ray and Gregory both visited the Steelers during the pre-draft process, although Ray’s arrest just happened on Monday so the Steelers wouldn’t have had a chance to dig into it at that time.

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Brooks will let time answer questions on Winston

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The questions regarding quarterback Jameis Winston aren’t going away.  And former Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks realizes there’s only one way they will:  Through the passage of time.

“It’s fair enough to have questions,” Brooks said Monday, via Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune.  “It’s fair enough to have doubt.  I wouldn’t expect anything different.  I have certain questions that are going to have to be answered, whether this young man comes to the Bucs or goes elsewhere.  But I’m still going to have a relationship with him.  There are questions that I will let time answer.”

On one hand, Brooks is right — whether the off-field concerns regarding Winston become actual problems at the next level depends on whether he has additional off-field problems in the NFL.  But the challenge is to project the future based on the past.  And the questions that have emerged in the past put all teams on notice that there could be problems in the future.

“History has allowed for certain opinions about him,” Brooks said of Winston.  “Now, again, he has had a lot of say in it.  But we can’t get away from the four-letter word:  Time.  As much as we want the answers about what he’s going to do, what he’s going to be, let’s for once give in to the proper but unpopular thing:  time.”

Again, Brooks is right.  But if time reveals problems in the future, whoever drafts Winston will have to answer tough questions about that, internally and externally.

That’s why the Buccaneers have done so much homework on Winston to explore the various off-field issues and to ascertain whether they provide actual hints of future issues.  As part of that analysis, however, the Bucs need to ask themselves whether there’s a limit to the number of questions they’re willing to tolerate before opting for a player with fewer (or no) off-field issues and relatively comparable talent.

In the end, that question could be answered by the magnitude of the offers, if any, that the Buccaneers receive for the privilege to slide into the No. 1 spot and take Winston.

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Giants personnel VP hoping more than one longshot comes in

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Giants senior vice president of player personnel Chris Mara will be on the clock Saturday, hoping to find a few longshots to come through.

And then he’s going to go to a horse race and hope for the same thing.

Mara, the second-oldest son of Giants patriarch Wellington Mara, said as soon as the NFL Draft wraps up, he’s going to watch his horse, Itsaknockout try to pull an upset at the Kentucky Derby.

“My dad’s two favorite days of the year, ironically, were draft day and Kentucky Derby day and think he’d be pretty happy right now with the Derby being on the same day of the draft?’’ Mara told Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. “I don’t think so.”

Chris Mara recalled trips to Belmont with his father, learning his love of racing as a young boy. But it wasn’t until after the Giants won the Super Bowl following the 2011 season that he poured his money into the project, buying into a Kentucky syndicate called Starlight Racing.

Another of Mara’s horses, Intense Holiday, finished 12th in the Derby last year, and he thinks Itsaknockout will go off at 25-1 or 30-1 Saturday.

Of course, Mara will he busy Saturday looking for some late-round help for his football team, forcing him to take a private plane to get to Churchill Downs for the start of the race.

“I’m working on it,’’ he said of his itinerary. “Everyone’s aware of the situation so we’re trying to figure it out. I plan right now on being [at the Giants facility] on Saturday, I just don’t know for how long. By the time I leave, the hay will be in the barn, okay?”

The Giants have five picks Saturday, including a pair of seventh-rounders. So if you’re a team who needs a few late choices, call the Giants, Mara might be looking to move them so he has time for a mint julep.

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Teddy Bridgewater expects to play with Adrian Peterson this year

Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson AP

Teddy Bridgewater didn’t take over as the Vikings’ quarterback until after running back Adrian Peterson landed on the commissioner’s exempt list last season, but their lack of playing time together didn’t get in the way of a little socializing this offseason.

Bridgewater went to Peterson’s 30th birthday, though he said Monday that he wasn’t one of the lucky guests to ride a camel during the festivities. If things go the way he expects, he should have a chance to be there for next year’s birthday party because Bridgewater thinks that he and Peterson will get a chance to continue their relationship this year.

“I stay away from talking about the guys’ contracts and everything, because that’s none of my personal business,” Bridgewater said, via the Associated Press. ”But like I said, ‘We expect him to be here this year.'”

Bridgewater’s not alone with that feeling. We have seen and heard a lot of discussion about a possible Peterson trade over the last few months, but nothing has materialized and the Vikings brass has consistently said they don’t want to trade him to another club.

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Michael Irvin chides Winston and Mariota for skipping draft

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Michael Irvin made some mistakes in his career, and had his share of look-at-me moments.

And now, the Hall of Fame wide receiver is chiding the top two picks in the 2015 NFL Draft for not becoming part of the spectacle.

Irvin’s going to meet with the 28 players who accepted invitations to Chicago to be part of the festivities, but he’s going to miss quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, whom he thinks should be there.

“I understand you want to be with your family, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but you’re a quarterback. Nobody profits more from this league than quarterbacks and I do have an issue with them not being there,” Irvin told Lindsay Jones of USA Today. “This is a family. You’re coming into something that is much bigger than you. Don’t big-time it, and that’s what I feel is being done.”

Mariota, he of the spotless record, has chosen to stay in Hawaii, with family and friends. Winston will be back in Alabama, because his grandmother has diabetes and can’t travel and he wanted to be by her side.

So while they’ll miss the chance to walk across stage and hug commissioner Roger Goodell (as will Alabama wideout Amari Cooper), they’re also skipping events such as the one that will have Irvin and Cris Carter talking to the group about life as a professional athlete.

While the whole group is missing, Irvin suggested Winston in particular needed it.

“I think Jameis would benefit especially from the opportunity to talk to guys like Cris and I, but also just being there and seeing it,” Irvin said. “He won’t get what he’s getting to be part of. You see [fans] wrapped around the building, sleeping there, to get there. You see what it means to them.

“I absolutely hate the fact that they’re not coming. Everyone will get on me, oh Michael they can make this decision. Yeah, they can. But I can make the decision to hate the fact that they made it.”

If the NFL wants the players to be part of the show so badly, perhaps instead of sending out guilt-mongers like Irvin to scold them, maybe they should provide a little financial incentive, the kind generated by the fans who sleep around the building.

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Option year makes RGIII more likely to get benched

Griffin AP

Washington’s decision to pick up the fifth-year option on Robert Griffin III isn’t necessarily a good thing for the quarterback’s long-term development. In fact, it makes it more likely that Griffin will be benched this year.

The option gives Griffin a $16.2 million salary for 2016, and that salary is guaranteed in the case of an injury — but not guaranteed if he’s healthy and the team decides to cut him. Which means that the worst-case scenario, from the team’s perspective, is that Griffin struggles and plays badly enough that they would like to cut him, but he suffers an injury that forces them to pay him anyway.

That means if Griffin struggles early in the season, coach Jay Gruden is going to have a quick hook. The team simply can’t afford to stick with Griffin and risk him blowing out his knee again, which would put them in a position where they’re both looking for a new quarterback next year and on the hook for Griffin’s $16.2 million salary.

Gruden has said that Griffin will enter training camp as the starter, but there’s no guarantee he won’t be benched for Colt McCoy or Kirk Cousins. If Griffin shows early in the season that he’s not up to the job, Washington will get him off the field to protect him from injury — and protect the team from having to pay him next year.

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Shane Ray issues apology, says “no excuses” for drug charge

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Missouri defensive end Shane Ray has issued an apology following a citation for marijuana possession on Monday morning.

According to Corporal Scott White of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Ray was pulled over for speeding on Monday morning in Cooper County, Missouri. Upon the traffic stop, a highway trooper smelled what was believed to be fresh, unsmoked marijuana. The vehicle was searched, and marijuana was found, White said. Ray was cited for possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana, a misdemeanor, and released on his recognizance, White said. He was also cited for a lane violation.

I’d like to apologize to my Mother, Fans and prospective NFL teams for my poor judgement Monday morning,” Ray said in a statement, via Adam Schefter of “I am embarrassed and realize there are consequences for my actions. I was not under the influence nor impaired, therefore I was not detained. Fortunately, Mondays incident only resulted in a citation.

“I will make better choices in the future. It is imperative that I continue to strive to better myself. My future NFL career has been something I have always dreamed about and is very important to me. I commit that my actions will represent that. There are no excuses here and I will take the necessary steps to ensure this will not happen again. I will not jeopardize my ability to have a positive impact on and off the field moving forward.”

Ray joins Nebraska’s Randy Gregory as possible first-round pass rushers to have issues with marijuana in the lead up to the draft. The timing is less than ideal with the draft just three days from getting underway.

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Broncos re-sign cornerback Tony Carter

Tony Carter AP

Broncos restricted free agent cornerback Tony Carter has re-signed with the club, according to the NFL’s Monday transactions.

A reserve in Denver’s secondary for the last several seasons, the 28-year-old Carter notched five tackles in eight regular season games in 2014. A seventh-year pro from Florida State, Carter has recorded 49 tackles, defended 20 passes and hauled in three interceptions in regular season play.

The Broncos are strong at cornerback, with Chris Harris and Aqib Talib a very good top tandem and 2014 first-round pick Bradley Roby a solid third option. Carter and 2013 third-round pick Kayvon Webster add to the depth.

Clubs had until last Friday to sign restricted agents to offer sheets. With the deadline having passed, the remaining RFAs figure to sign their one-year tender offers with their clubs as Carter did Monday.

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Licht says multiple teams called Sunday about the top pick


The Buccaneers have done their best to create the impression that they want quarterback Jameis Winston with the first pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

And now they’re possibly trying to create the impression that they may be willing to trade the pick.

Buccaneers G.M. Jason Licht told Steve Wyche of NFL Media that the team received calls from more than one team on Sunday regarding the No. 1 pick.  Licht declined to name the teams, and he said no offers were made or parameters discussed.  But the message is clear.

“Everything is for sale,” Licht said.

If the top pick isn’t sold, the Buccaneers know who the pick will be; Licht said he and Smith are in “complete alignment” on that.

The question remains whether they’ll be in complete alignment regarding whether to make the pick or trade it, based on any offers they ultimately receive.  Smith once took a team to the Super Bowl without a franchise quarterback, and the Buccaneers won the only Super Bowl in franchise history without one.  The coach could eventually decide to swap the prospect of putting all eggs in one basket with spreading them out into several.

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Report: Falcons have looked into moving up in round one

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A published report pegs the Falcons as a club that could have designs on moving up in the first round.

According to Albert Breer of NFL Media, Atlanta has explored trading up from the No. 8 overall pick, with other clubs suspecting the Falcons are looking for defensive help.

Earlier Monday, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggested the Falcons could be interested in Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., with a trade-up possible. According to the Journal-Constitution, Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff indicated Atlanta has had “a lot of discussions already about moving both ways” in the draft.

The Falcons have eight draft picks, one each in rounds one through six and two in round seven. All eight picks can be traded. And to move up from No. 8, the club might have to contemplate surrendering a second- or third-round selection, depending how far it wanted to leap.

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Possible first-rounder Shane Ray cited for marijuana possession

Shane Ray AP

An edge-rushing prospect thought to have a good shot at being selected in Round One has encountered an unwanted off-field issue three days before the draft.

Defensive end Shane Ray, a former University of Missouri standout, was cited Monday morning on a marijuana possession charge, Corporal Scott White of the Missouri State Highway Patrol confirmed to PFT on Monday night.

According to White, Ray was pulled over for speeding on Monday morning in Cooper County, Missouri. Upon the traffic stop, a highway trooper smelled what was believed to be fresh, unsmoked marijuana. The vehicle was searched, and marijuana was found, White said. Ray was cited for possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana, a misdemeanor, and released on his recognizance, White said. He was also cited for a lane violation.

Ray did not appear impaired and was cooperative, White said. He faces a June 30 court date.

As a potential late first-round pick, the pot citation is a less-than-desirable development for Ray, to say the least. Moreover, the health of Ray’s foot has also been a storyline in the lead-up to the draft, though NFL Media has reported Ray does not need surgery.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reports Ray flunked a drug test in college, citing information from five unnamed NFL teams.

Rotoworld draft expert Josh Norris has the Cardinals selecting Ray 24th overall in his latest mock draft.

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