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D.J. Williams isn’t expected back with Broncos

Darrius Heyward-Bey, D.J. Williams AP

Linebacker D.J. Williams has had a long run with the Broncos, but it appears to be coming to an end after nine seasons.

Mike Klis of the Denver Post expects that Williams will be a starting linebacker in 2013, but that there’s no chance that he’ll be filling that role on the Broncos defense. Williams is set to make $6 million (and count the same against the salary cap) in the 2013 season, a number Klis believes is too big for a Broncos team that moved on without Williams while missed nine games in 2012 serving two different suspensions.

It’s expected that the Broncos will try to trade Williams when the league opens for business on March 12, although the $6 million salary probably doesn’t look any better to other teams than it does to the Broncos. If they can’t swing a trade, the Broncos are expected to cut Williams loose before they start their offseason program in mid-April.

Von Miller, Wesley Woodyard and Nate Irving are the projected starters at linebacker for Denver in 2013.

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John Schneider: Finding offensive linemen is hard, just look at us

New York Jets defensive tackle Leonard Williams (92) sacks Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson (3) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) AP

Seahawks General Manager John Schneider admits he has struggled to find good offensive linemen, but he thinks that’s a problem throughout the game of football, not just in Seattle.

Schneider said today that he talks to coaches across all levels of football and they tell him it’s hard to find athletes who have both the size and strength to play offensive line, and the desire to play offensive line.

“We go to colleges and talk to a bunch of different coaches, they struggle to find offensive linemen,” Schneider said. “Everyone wants to play quarterback and running back and defensive line. It’s just kind of how football culture is now. A majority of guys aren’t like, ‘I want to be the best offensive lineman in high school football.’ They want to sack the quarterback.”

Schneider noted that last year in Seattle, George Fant went from an undrafted rookie who had been a basketball player in high school and college to a starter in the NFL.

“Look at us, with George Fant last year. God bless him, but holy cow. He was playing basketball and then he’s out there blocking Robert Quinn. I mean, good luck,” Schneider said.

Schneider said he wishes the NFL could develop more talent than it has.

“It’s tougher now. We don’t have NFL Europe. We don’t have a developmental league right now,” he said.

And so the Seahawks will keep looking for big guys who can block. Those guys aren’t easy to find.

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Chris Long says he won’t re-sign with Patriots

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05:  Chris Long #95 of the New England Patriots reacts during the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Defensive end Chris Long finally got a taste of the playoffs last season after spending the first eight years of his career with the Rams and it was a good taste as the Patriots ended their year with a Super Bowl title.

Long may get a second bite of the playoff apple, but he says it won’t be coming with the Patriots. Long took to Instagram on Wednesday to say thanks to Patriots fans and explain why he is planning to move on from New England.

“Thank you Pats Nation. As a player you’ve given so much support to, I owe you an explanation as to why I’ll be moving on in FA… even if it isn’t a big deal,” Long wrote. “This year and this opportunity gave me a ton. I made lifelong friends in a great locker room and became a champion. I’m so thankful that Coach B (the GOAT) took a chance on me and allowed me the opportunity to play a small part in this wonderful year. This has zero to do with money, etc. It’s the right move in my heart because I want to get back to being the player I was before. I’m thankful for my role this year, but as a competitor, I’m itching to do what I do best. It was important to say thank you personally. You may not remember me much, but I’ll always remember y’all!!”

Long saw a fair amount of playing time in the regular season, but moved into a situational role during the postseason and his note suggests that he’ll be looking for a place where he’ll be a more regular part of the defensive line mix.

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With Michael Oher not cleared, Panthers looking for tackle help

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 25:  Michael Oher #73 of the Carolina Panthers watches a replay against the Minnesota Vikings in the 3rd quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman isn’t one to tip his hand.

But sometimes, the dots are too easy to connect.

Gettleman said Wednesday at the Scouting Combine that left tackle Michael Oher still wasn’t cleared from the concussion protocol, after the injury early last season which cost him all but three games.

“You can’t deny what’s going on,” Gettleman said. “We’re in the unknown and we’re going to move forward. We’ve got a plan and we’ll just see where it goes. I can’t give you anything more than that.”

And if that sounds ominous for Oher, it probably should. Especially considering Gettleman shrugged when asked about the talent in this year’s draft class at tackle, but perked up when asked about the multitude of qualified tackles in free agency. With Russell Okung, Ryan Clady and Kelvin Beachum joining a pool of veteran tackles including Matt Kalil, Andrew Whitworth, and others, the Panthers ought to be able to find a qualified candidate in free agency.

And with right tackle Mike Remmers also a free agent, it’s perhaps their biggest need this offseason.

“It’s crazy. It’s unusual,” Gettleman said of the depth at the position. “You’ve got some guys coming off injuries. Denver made the decision they made. Jets made the decision they made. To answer your question, it’s unusual.”

Gettleman traced his thought process back to last year, when pulling the franchise tag from Josh Norman forced him to draft three cornerbacks, and he said he didn’t want to get in that spot again.

“I’m not going to lie, you’ve got to entertain it, of course,” Gettleman said. “Free agency is to set up the draft and I want to put us back in that spot.”

That probably means spending more in free agency than they have in past years, but Gettleman getting them back on solid fiscal footing makes that more of a possibility than it has been when he was forced to be a bargain shopper.

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Dan Quinn says Super Bowl loss was a lesson in game management

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Head coach Dan Quinn of the Atlanta Falcons  looks on against the Atlanta Falcons during the third quarter during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

For Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, the ending of Super Bowl LI was a bitter pill to swallow. But he hopes something positive comes out of it.

Quinn told PFT Live that losing a game after having a 28-3 lead has taught him some things about managing late-game situations better.

“For sure there’s lessons there in game management,” he said. “Those are lessons that are painful to go through but you have to learn from them.”

At the same time, Quinn says he still wants to coach aggressively. Although Quinn doesn’t call the offensive plays, he says he supported the decision to keep passing with a lead because he wanted to keep doing the things that helped the Falcons get to the Super Bowl.

“At that point we wanted to be aggressive to go win the game,” Quinn said.

It will be interesting to see next year how aggressive the Falcons are when they have a big second-half lead. Quinn hopes he’ll have plenty of opportunities to show he has learned from that game and will be better at protecting a lead.

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Dirk Koetter: We don’t have to make Doug Martin decision right now

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Doug Martin #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers  carries the ball while being pursued by Denzel Perryman #52 of the San Diego Chargers in the third quarter at Qualcomm Stadium on December 4, 2016 in San Diego, California. The Buccaneers defeated the Chargers 28-21.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Getty Images

Running back Doug Martin won’t be playing for the first three games of the 2017 regular season as he serves out what’s left of the four-game suspension he was given near the end of the 2016 season.

Whether he’ll be back with the Buccaneers when eligible to return in Week Four remains up in the air. Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said at a Wednesday press conference that he has spoken to Martin and that the running back looks and sounds good after spending time in a treatment facility.

The suspension voided guarantees in Martin’s contract, which calls for him to make $7 million in 2017, and he struggled last year while dealing with a hamstring injury. Both of those things would make it easier for the Bucs to move on, but Koetter said the team isn’t in any rush to make that call.

“We don’t have to make that decision right now,” Koetter said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “Doug did not have as good of a season as he had in 2015 and that’s mainly due to injury. Doug’s under contract right now and no decision has to be made on that right now. We don’t have to rush it. We can work through it as we go and that’s one of the things that’s high on our list. What’s going to happen with our running back situation? We don’t have to make a decision on that right now.”

The ability to move on without any cap penalty makes it easier for the Bucs to let things play out slowly with Martin. Should they feel there’s a better use for the $7 million in free agency, they can make the call then or they could wait through the draft to see how their backfield shapes up outside of the veteran.

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James Harrison re-signs with Steelers

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks off the field after the New England Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to win the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The agent for linebacker James Harrison said recently that his client wanted to sign a two-year deal this offseason and that he wanted to sign that deal so he could remain with the Steelers.

Harrison got what he wanted. In a post to Instagram on Wednesday afternoon, Harrison shared a shot of a contract signing that he captioned “Two more years Here We Go #steelersnation.”

Harrison played a game with the Steelers in 2002 and then returned to the team in 2004 to start a run in Pittsburgh that ran through the 2012 season. He spent one year with the Bengals before returning to the Steelers for the last three years. He’s picked up two Super Bowl rings, a defensive player of the year award and 81.5 sacks over that span.

Harrison had five of those sacks during the 2016 season and remained effective in the playoffs by recording sacks in each of the team’s postseason victories. The Steelers will hope for the same kind of impact as part of a defense that improved over the course of last season and has plenty of rising players to go with the well-seasoned Harrison.

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Doug Marrone says way he left Buffalo was a mistake

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 24: Interim head coach Doug Marrone of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks on after the game against the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field on December 24, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) Getty Images

Doug Marrone got his second chance at an NFL head coaching job this year when the Jaguars made him the permanent choice to replace Gus Bradley after Marrone took over on an interim basis following Bradley’s in-season firing.

Marrone’s first stint as a head coach ended after two years when he exercised a $4 million opt-out clause in his contract with the Bills and moved on to a job coaching the offensive line in Jacksonville when he didn’t land another top job. On Wednesday in Indianapolis, Marrone was asked about that departure and said “obviously I made mistakes” during the Bills stint and that there were things he “should have done differently.”

Marrone was asked if leaving was one of those things and he said that he regrets the way the ending played out in Buffalo.

“I’m not going to sit up here and say no it wasn’t,” Marrone said, via NewYorkUpstate.com. “Yeah, I mean, that’s definitely a big part of the learning process and wanting more time and things of that nature. Privately, I’ve talked to Terry [Pegula] about that. He knows how I feel about it. I’m going to obviously keep that conversation private. Yes, I would say absolutely, you learn from that. That’s one of the mistakes you wish you could go back and do over and you just wish you had more time. I think when I look at it and I look at myself, I wish I could have communicated things better at that time.”

Marrone received a lot of criticism around Buffalo in the wake of his departure and there are surely some that still have hurt feelings about the way things went down, but the ongoing needs for both the Bills and Jaguars to find their way back to the playoffs should be the focus for all involved as the teams move forward.

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Former Giants, Dolphins, Patriots DB Will Allen sentenced to six years for fraud

allen Getty Images

Former NFL defensive back Will Allen was hoping for a break from the judge, after pleading guilty to four counts of wire fraud.

He didn’t get it.

According to Law360.com, Allen was sentenced to six years in prison for his involvement in a $37 million Ponzi scheme.

And for the sake of clarification, this is the Will Allen who played for the Giants, Dolphins and Patriots, not the Will Allen who played for the Steelers, Buccaneers and Cowboys.

Allen’s attorney’s had sought a 2 1/2-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to four of the 23 counts against him.

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McAdoo steps in Adrian Peterson tampering pothole

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 03:  Running back Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on November 3, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

By announcing on Tuesday that they won’t pick up an option on running back Adrian Peterson’s contract, the Vikings gave every other team a chance to tamper with Peterson by negotiating with his agents in Indianapolis. With Peterson still under contract until March 9, no one technically can speak to Peterson’s agents until next Tuesday, when the annual legal tampering period opens.

But illegal tampering will indeed happen. It’s rampant in Indianapolis, with all teams and all agents present for the Scouting Combine. But it’s also important that tampering happen discreetly, subtly. And it’s critical that no coach or G.M. publicly declare an interest in Peterson prematurely.

Apparently, Giants coach Ben McAdoo did. While not a major violation of a rule that will be blatantly violated with no paper trail or other proof in the coming days in Indianapolis, it’s an unforced error from McAdoo no different than Jets owner Woody Johnson’s gratuitous comments from two years ago about Darrelle Revis. (The Jets were fined $100,000.)

With most cases of tampering hard to prove and with nearly every team (if not every team) doing it, the league only acts when a team allows itself to get caught. McAdoo has done just that, and now the league will have to strike the balance between enforcing a rule that most if not all teams are currently breaking and creating the impression that the league office is going easy on the Giants, again.

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Patriots may still get an offer they can’t refuse for Jimmy Garoppolo

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 01: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots looks downfield during the 4th quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots don’t plan to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. But how likely is it that their plans will change?

Shortly after Adam Schefter reported (echoing something Peter King had said) that the Patriots aren’t trading Garoppolo, Mike Reiss of ESPN noted that the Patriots may still change their minds.

Reiss, a longtime Boston reporter who is very plugged-in to the way the Patriots do business, suggests that the Patriots may get an offer they can’t refuse. Reiss speculates that if a team offered its 2017 first-round draft pick plus a conditional future first-round draft pick, that would be enough for Bill Belichick to decide to deal Garoppolo.

That would be a lot for some other team to give up. It would also be a lot more than the Patriots got the last time they traded Tom Brady’s backup: In 2009, the Patriots packaged Matt Cassel with Mike Vrabel and only got a second-round pick in return. Garoppolo for two first-round picks would be a whole lot better than that.

What it would take remains to be seen, but Reiss is surely correct that there has to be some offer that would at least get Belichick to listen. Garoppolo is, after all, just a backup, and if things go as planned he’ll never see the field in 2017. And after 2017 Garoppolo is a free agent. At that point the Patriots would either lose him for nothing more than a compensatory pick, or franchise him and devote more than $20 million in cap space to a backup, something no team has ever done.

That assumes Garoppolo will still be a backup in 2018. Does Belichick think Brady may only have one more year left in him? If so, it would make sense to hang on to Garoppolo and hope he can become the Aaron Rodgers to Brady’s Brett Favre, or the Steve Young to Brady’s Joe Montana.

But Brady insists he still has several more good years left in him. If the Patriots believe Brady, it would seem to make more sense to trade Garoppolo and acquire a player or players who can help them keep winning with Brady. As Reiss notes, the right offer would get the Patriots to make that move, even if their plan for now is to keep their backup quarterback in place.

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Sashi Brown: Browns won’t panic if Terrelle Pryor leaves

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 24:  Terrelle Pryor #11 of the Cleveland Browns runs after the catch against the San Diego Chargers at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

The franchise tag deadline will pass at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday and Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said that the team’s plans haven’t changed regarding wide receiver Terrelle Pryor.

Speaking from the Scouting Combine, Brown said, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, that the team is not going to use the tag on Pryor and that they know that “means he’s effectively a free agent” even if free agency doesn’t officially get underway until next week. It doesn’t mean that he won’t be with the Browns in 2017, however.

Brown said that he plans to speak to Pryor’s agent Drew Rosenhaus in Indianapolis and termed Pryor’s return a “priority” for Cleveland as the offseason gets underway. While that’s the case, Brown knows that Pryor’s status makes his departure a real possibility and added that “we won’t panic if he’s not on our roster.”

Pryor caught caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns in his first full year in Cleveland’s offense as a wide receiver and ranks among the top free agents at the position this offseason.

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Giants will look at Adrian Peterson

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 18: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball in the first quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts on December 18, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Well before he was released from the Vikings, running back Adrian Peterson mentioned the Giants as a team that he might like to play for in the event he left Minnesota.

That comment was revisited recently when Peterson tweeted about the Giants making “interesting moves” early in the offseason, which kept the New Jersey club on many minds as a possible destination for Peterson.

With the Vikings confirming this week that Peterson will be free to talk to other teams on March 7 and sign with them on March 9, the running back’s future was an obvious topic for Giants coach Ben McAdoo’s press conference on Wednesday.

McAdoo said, via Dan Duggan of NJ.com, that the Giants will look at Peterson and evaluate him in the same way that they would any free agent who might be on their radar. Outside observers have noted the Giants’ frequent use of shotgun alignments and infrequent use of fullbacks as reasons why Peterson might not be a great fit for the Giants, but the team’s view will obviously trump any of those opinions when it comes time for the team to decide on a course of action in the backfield.

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Sean McDermott says LeSean McCoy is a big part of his plans

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 27:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 27, 2016 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

New Bills head coach Sean McDermott says there’s no way he’s getting rid of running back LeSean McCoy.

McDermott told PFT Live that McCoy is a player he has long admired, going back to their time together with the Eagles, and that McCoy will continue to play in Buffalo.

“LeSean is going to be with the Buffalo Bills moving forward,” McDermott said. “He’s a great player. We worked together in Philadelphia and when you look at the skill set LeSean brings to the table, we’re excited to be working with him.”

McCoy has an $8.875 million cap hit this season, which may prove to be the highest of any running back in the NFL this year after Le’Veon Bell signs a long-term deal with the Steelers. That cap hit has led to some speculation that the Bills may want to get out from under his contract.

But McDermott’s comments pretty well end that speculation. McCoy is staying with the Bills.

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Rams again use franchise tag on Trumaine Johnson

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 27: Cornerback Trumaine Johnson #22 of the St. Louis Rams celebrates after intercepting a pass during the second quarter of the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rams have again placed the franchise tag on cornerback Trumaine Johnson ahead of Wednesday’s deadline for franchise tag decisions.

Johnson also played last season under the franchise tag. Last March, the Rams essentially faced the decision on whether to keep Johnson or to keep cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who hit free agency and signed with the Giants.

Getting another franchise tag means Johnson will make about $16 million and be the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback in 2017 unless he and the Rams work out a long-term deal at a different rate.

Johnson, 27, had one interception in 14 games last season. He had a career-best seven interceptions in 2015 and has 16 interceptions in his five-year career. The Rams drafted Johnson in the third round in 2012.

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Salary cap set at $167 million

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20:  Newly redesigned $100 notes lay in stacks at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on May 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. The one hundred dollar bills will be released this fall and has new security features, such as a duplicating portrait of Benjamin Franklin and microprinting added to make the bill more difficult to counterfeit.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The projected salary cap figure for 2017 that’s been bandied about in recent weeks of $168 million wasn’t exactly right, but it’s pretty close.

A league official told Judy Battista of NFL Media that the salary cap will actually be set at $167 million for the coming season. That’s a rise of about $12 million from last season and the cap has gone up about $47 million over the last five years.

Some of the biggest beneficiaries of the continued rise in the cap will be the players who hit the open market as free agents next week as they’ll see plenty of that money funneled toward their bank accounts. Given this year’s crop of free agents, that’s sure to lead to a few deals that leave people scratching their heads in the early days of free agency but the combination of being free to sign anywhere and the amount of money teams are required to spend makes it a good time to be out of contract.

The Browns, 49ers, Buccaneers and Jaguars are among the teams with the most cap space heading into free agency.

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