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Patriots, Danny Amendola agree to five-year, $31 million deal

Reuters

The loss of Wes Welker created a need at receiver for the Patriots, and they didn’t take long to fill it.

The Patriots have reached an agreement on a five-year, $31 million deal with receiver Danny Amendola, with $10 million guaranteed, a source tells PFT.

Amendola was widely thought to be a target for the Patriots, whose offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, had previously coached him in St. Louis. Amendola’s familiarity with McDaniels could make him a quick study in New England’s passing game.

Still, there are questions about Amendola’s durability — he has played in only 12 games in the last two seasons — and Amendola has never had the kind of production that Welker had. Amendola’s career best season was 85 catches for 689 yards in 2010; Welker has had five different seasons with more than 110 catches and more than 1,100 receiving yards.

But Welker is done in New England. And Tom Brady will have the next six months to develop a rapport with Amendola before the season starts.

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Report: Browns called the Patriots about Jimmy Garoppolo

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The Browns were quick to declare #fakenews last night when the network they own a portion of reported they were trying to trade for Kirk Cousins.

Now comes another report from another network saying they’re still beating the bushes.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Browns called the Patriots last night to inquire about the availability of Jimmy Garoppolo. The Patriots said no thanks.

They seem to realize they don’t have an answer at the position at the moment, but they continue to not make anything happen to fix it.

The Patriots have held firm on wanting to keep Tom Brady’s backup, and so the Browns are apparently left to continue the search.

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Browns invite even more quarterback questions in 2017

AP

Remember when the Browns were repeatedly grilled about their decision not to sit tight at No. 2 and take Carson Wentz last year? The Browns soon may be longing for those days.

Their first-round strategy in 2017 will invite questions regarding even more quarterbacks, depending on how many of the quarterbacks on whom the Browns passed thrive in the coming season. Especially since three other teams thought enough of the top quarterbacks to trade up to get them.

First, it was Mitchell Trubisky. By passing on him and taking Myles Garrett — and with the Bears moving from No. 3 to No. 2 to get Trubisky — the Browns have invited a comparison between players on opposite sides of the ball like the one the Texans walked into when taking Mario Williams instead of Reggie Bush. Neither became truly great, which helped the Texans avoid “I told you so” criticism. If Trubisky becomes a franchise quarterback before Myles Garrett becomes Von Miller or Khalil Mack, the Browns will be hearing it, loudly.

Next, it was Patrick Mahomes. Chiefs coach Andy Reid thought enough of Mahomes to move seventeen spots to get him, from No. 27 to No. 10. If the Browns wanted Mahomes, they could have easily moved to No. 9, with Hue Jackson working his relationship with Marvin Lewis in a way that would have allowed the Browns to get Mahomes at No. 9 and Lewis to likely still get John Ross at No. 12.

Then came Deshaun Watson. There he was, on a platter at No. 12. The Browns simply had to put his name on the card. Instead, they opted for pick No. 25, along with a first-round pick in 2018 from the Texans that likely won’t be a high one.

Finally, after swinging back into the bottom of round one, the Browns could have had DeShone Kizer or Davis Webb. They opted for a tight end, David Njoku.

So, basically, the Browns could have had Trubisky instead of Garrett, or they could have had Garrett plus Mahomes or Watson or Kizer or Webb. And if the story will be similar to last year’s leak that the Browns didn’t think Wentz will become a top-20 quarterback, the Browns are quickly running out of spots in the bottom 12.

Especially when at least one of those spots belongs to whoever their current starter would be.

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Chiefs think Patrick Mahomes can be “truly great”

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Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said he traded up to pick quarterback Patrick Mahomes with the 10th overall pick in the draft for a simple reason: He thinks Mahomes is a franchise-changing player.

He has got unbelievable talent,” Dorsey said. “He’s got the skill set to be one of those truly great players. When you make an aggressive move like that, that’s why you do it. Because players like that, they don’t come around too often.”

Dorsey gave up his first-round pick this year, his third-round pick this year and his first-round pick next year for Mahomes, but he said he doesn’t think that’s a lot to give up, compared to what Mahomes had to offer.

“I don’t think it was a lot because I think he’s going to be a really good player, he’s in a perfect situation, he can sit back, he can learn, he can develop, he’s got the tutelage of some really good coaches and I couldn’t be more excited,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey is confident he just changed the Chiefs’ fortunes. Given all they gave up, Dorsey better be right.

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T.J. Watt: Playing Texans on Christmas will be “really cool and a weird day”

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The Steelers made linebacker T.J. Watt a first-round pick on Thursday night and that means Christmas will be a family reunion for some members of the Watt family.

The Texans will be hosting the Steelers on Christmas Day, which will provide T.J. and his older brother J.J. a chance to play in the same game for the first time. J.J. Watt sent out a tweet saying he’s looking forward to a fun holiday shortly after the Steelers announced their pick and his younger brother used a couple of different adjectives to describe the prospect of facing his brother’s team.

“I played with him in the backyard a bunch, I’ve seen him play a bunch, we’ve never been on the same field in full uniforms competitively before,” T.J. said, via ESPN.com. “I think that will be really cool and a weird day for me.”

Both of the brothers play defense, so there won’t be an opportunity for them to actually match up unless the Texans decide to give J.J. one of his infrequent spins on the offensive side of the ball. The Watt brother who does play offense regularly is Chargers fullback Derek, but he’ll be on the field against the Jets on Christmas Eve and isn’t scheduled to face either of his brothers during the 2017 season.

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Final cost of Brock Osweiler mistake: two first-round picks, second-round pick, $21 million

AP

The Houston Texans made a huge mistake last year by signing quarterback Brock Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million contract. The final cost of that blunder can now be calculated.

In addition to the $21 million that was paid to Osweiler last year, the Texans previously gave up a second-round pick in 2018 (along with a sixth-round pick in 2017 in exchange for a 2017 fourth-round pick) to get Osweiler’s $16 million guaranteed salary for 2017 off the books. They’ve now secured Osweiler’s replacement in exchange for a pair of first-round draft picks.

And, yes, at a time when few teams will consider giving up two first-round draft picks for a veteran player, the Texans gave up two first-round picks — the 25th overall selection in 2017 and next year’s first-rounder — to get Deshaun Watson. That’s no different than trading two first-round picks for Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, or any other available (and proven) signal-caller.

It’s a huge price to pay, and a definite risk to take, for screwing the pooch on Osweiler, an outcome that possibly was cemented by the inability of the Texans to bring Osweiler in for an extended visit before signing him. And it’s a lesson to any team considering the addition of a quarterback on the first day of free agency; if you’re considering a proverbial pig in a poke, you’re possibly going to be spending a lot on the lipstick that eventually will be applied to a sweaty, nasty, stinky swine.

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Report: DeShone Kizer in play for Packers at No. 33

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Packers General Manager Ted Thompson traded out of the first round last night, landing the No. 33 pick in a deal with the Browns and then let the football world he was open to trading back again to kick off the second round.

According to a report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, that’s not the only option the Packers are considering. Rapoport reports that Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer is in play to be picked by Green Bay when the draft resumes on Friday night.

There would seem to be a link between that report and Thompson’s comments. If you were trying to build a trade market for a pick, there are worse ways to do it than trying to get people to believe that you’re going to take one of the highest-rated quarterbacks still available.

Getting teams to believe you’re serious is another issue and that’s one that might be tough for a Packers team that has more immediate concerns than developing a quarterback who may well be out of contract before Aaron Rodgers is thinking about moving on. It’s not unheard of — see Jimmy Garoppolo — but a team moving up to secure Kizer would likely be doing it to jump ahead of teams other than the Packers.

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Hue Jackson: We’ll find a role on offense for Jabrill Peppers

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In the final weeks before the draft, there was some speculation that Jabrill Peppers would fall out of the first round because of concerns about a diluted urine sample at the Scouting Combine and uncertainty about what position he’ll play in the NFL.

The Browns weren’t concerned enough to pass up Peppers at No. 25 and they made it clear that they see Peppers’ versatility as an asset when discussing the pick. While they plan to play him primarily at strong safety, coach Hue Jackson also said he sees Peppers playing a role in the return game and that they plan to figure out a way for him to contribute on offense as well.

“He is a football player, a very dynamic player,” Jackson said, via the Detroit Free Press. “Obviously, he’s going to play defense for us, but we’ll find a role for him over there on offense. No question. … Again, when you have guys that have ability to make plays, you do anything and everything you can to put them in an environment so they can showcase their talent and ability. We will do that, but first we are bringing him in here to play defense and play special teams.”

Peppers had 45 carries and 10 catches over the last two years at Michigan, but the vast majority of his work came on the defensive side of the ball. That should be the case in Cleveland and his play in the secondary will decide whether this pick goes down as a success or not.

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Sean McDermott tiptoes around question about scouting staff

AP

As the draft continues to unfold, a potentially bigger drama percolates in Buffalo: After the draft ends, who stays and who goes?

PFT reported recently that Bills scouts fear a mass termination next week. The team issued a statement to PFT that didn’t deny that notion. On Thursday night, coach Sean McDermott faced a similar question during a press conference. He likewise didn’t deny it.

Here’s the question: “Sean, as excited as you are about what you got today and what you got accomplished today, there seems to be a cloud hanging over part of this team with reports about your scouting staff, and possibly Doug Whaley’s job, being in jeopardy. Do you foresee changes happening next week, immediately after this draft?”

“I am absolutely, 110 percent focused on what is going on right now upstairs with the rest of the first round, and then the second and third round,” McDermott said. “That’s what’s in front of us right now. If we were focused on anything else, we’d be making a mistake. That’s where our focus is.”

For any team where sweeping changes definitely weren’t coming after the draft, the denials would be loud and sweeping. The absence of a denial in this case says all that anyone needs to know. More changes are coming for a team that hopes to make enough improvements to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

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Packers G.M. on tonight’s first pick: Come and get it

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Packers General Manager Ted Thompson bailed out of the first round last night, and he wants to make sure everyone knows the top pick of the second round is available.

Via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, Thompson made it clear tonight’s first choice (the 33rd overall) is very much for sale.

“Oh yeah, you can put that down,” Thompson said. “That will save us a couple of phone calls. We’re taking calls.”

The Packers bypassed the chance to pick 29th last night when the Browns had to have tight end David Njoku. For their troubles, they got the 33rd and 108th picks, giving Thompson the first picks tonight and tomorrow (when the fourth round begins).

What he’s hoping for is a bidding war to develop today. Whether quarterback DeShone Kizer, running back Dalvin Cook, left tackle Cam Robinson or others could trigger one remains to be seen.

“I think it’s very good strategy-wise,” Thompson said. “We know where we’re at and what we’re going to do. There’s a couple of different ways of looking at it in terms of being helpful to us. It could be that we highlight a player that we know we can get, and they can’t take him away from us, so we sit there and pick him. It could be that a team sees an opportunity to maybe trade up and get a player they didn’t think they could get and maybe it’s again a trade that works well for us. There’s a couple of different ways to look at it. . . .

“We wanted to add a little meat to shoring up the roster.”

If they don’t trade it, they could still address their need at cornerback, with Sidney Jones, Kevin King, Chidobe Awuzie, and others still available there.

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The Texans have sent the Browns a lot of stuff lately

AP

Houston has been a quarterback away from being a serious contender for about the last five years, since Matt Schaub lost his mojo. They’ve been able to maintain a level of success by having everything else in place.

Now they have their quarterback of the future by making a move for Deshaun Watson, but they don’t have much ability to add nice things for him to play with after all their deals with Cleveland.

Coupled with the salary dump of quarterback Brock Osweiler, the Texans have sent the Browns their 2017 first-rounder (25th overall) and their 2018 first- and second-rounders. They did get Cleveland’s fourth-round comp pick this year (142nd overall) as part of the Osweiler deal, but had to give up a sixth-rounder (188th) to balance the scales.

Getting out from under the awful Osweiler contract was the key, of course, and the financial flexibility in the future will help with some looming free agency purchases.

The next order of business will be doing an extension for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, so his fellow Clemson man Watson will have someone to throw to. That’s going to cost them, as will an eventual deal for defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, whose 2018 option they just picked up. Those are some big-ticket items on the horizon, and you’d ordinarily like to be able to balance the ledger with relatively cheap drafted players. But the Texans won’t pick until the third round next year, making it more difficult to reload with the kind of players who can make instant impacts.

If the Texans continue to be a playoff team this year (turning the Browns picks into late 20s and late 50s), and Watson develops into something more than the average-or-less guys they’ve been trotting out there, they will accept the risk.

But if they falter this year under the (presumed temporary) guidance of Tom Savage, they might have just gifted the Browns a pair of very high picks in 2018, which will make it harder for Watson to push them past their current good-not-great level.

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49ers kept Saints from getting Reuben Foster

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The 49ers sprang back into the first round to get a linebacker they regarded as one of the three best players in the draft. In so doing, the prevented the Saints from taking him.

Via Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, 49ers G.M. John Lynch told reporters that, when he called Reuben Foster to explain that the 49ers had traded up to select him, Foster said, “New Orleans is taking me.”

Said Lynch, “No, we’re taking you.”

Ed Werder, formerly of ESPN, tweeted Thursday that the Saints would have indeed taken Foster at No. 32. They instead told tackle Ryan Ramczyk.

Foster slid to 31 after being sent home from the Scouting Combine due to an altercation with a hospital worker. More recently, Foster disclosed that he failed a drug test at the Combine with a diluted sample.

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Bengals might have traded, if anyone had called

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There were deals made in the Bengals’ neighborhood, with two of the next three picks traded to teams eager to move up for a quarterback.

But Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis might have felt a little lonely, since no one called to ask about moving to the ninth overall.

Nobody was interested when we were on the clock,” Lewis said, via Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Kansas City and Houston traded into the 10th and 12th spots, respectively, for Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. But because the Chiefs and Texans were including the 27th and 25th picks as part of their packages (both included next year’s one, and the Chiefs threw in this year’s third), it’s not certain the Bengals would have been interested anyway.

Lewis said they were so intrigued by the big-play potential of wide receiver John Ross that they didn’t want to risk moving too far down the order anyway.

“There are wow plays,” Lewis said. “When you watch tape you feel the guy. But we felt good about the nine guys we had up there. I made the comment to [owner] Mike [Brown] on Monday morning that where we ended up settling up there when you watch those guys play on tape you felt them.

“Sometimes when you watch guys on tape you get bored and those guys fall down further a little bit in my mind. The way it shook out for us, the nine guys that we thought fit us best when you watched them play you really felt them.”

While there were defensive players they could have taken a little later (bypassing their annual first-round cornerback in Marshon Lattimore), the Bengals didn’t want to drop past the mid-teens, and no one called anyway.

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Roger Goodell: Marijuana is addictive and unhealthy

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is willing to explore the possibility of allowing NFL players to use marijuana for medical reasons, but he’s not on board with the idea of taking it off the list of banned substances for recreational use.

Goodell said on Mike & Mike that he continues to believe marijuana is bad for players.

“I think you still have to look at a lot of aspects of marijuana use,” Goodell said. “Is it something that can be negative to the health of our players? Listen, you’re ingesting smoke, so that’s not usually a very positive thing that people would say. It does have addictive nature. There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term. All of those things have to be considered. And it’s not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game. We really want to help our players in that circumstance but I want to make sure that the negative consequences aren’t something that is something that we’ll be held accountable for some years down the road.”

Goodell did acknowledge, however, the growing body of evidence that marijuana can be used for medical reasons.

“We look at it from a medical standpoint,” Goodell said. “So if people feel that it has a medical benefit, the medical advisers have to tell you that. We have joint advisers, we also have independent advisers, both the NFLPA and the NFL, and we’ll sit down and talk about that. But we’ve been studying that through our advisers. To date, they haven’t said this is a change we think you should make that’s in the best interests of the health and safety of our players. If they do, we’re certainly going to consider that. But to date, they haven’t really said that.”

So even as an increasing number of states legalize marijuana, the NFL appears to be some time away from allowing players to use it for medical reasons, and dead-set opposed to allowing players to use it just because they want to use it.

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Report: Matt Jones being shopped for trade

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We saw two running backs get drafted on Thursday night and there are sure to be plenty of others coming off the board over the next six rounds of the draft.

The Redskins are reportedly hoping that there’s a team that prefers to make a trade for a runner rather than picking one from this year’s crop of prospects. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team is shopping Matt Jones ahead of the start of the second round.

Jones was a third-round pick in 2015 and had some good moments over his first two seasons, but also fumbled eight times in 243 carries for Washington. The issues with holding onto the ball contributed to Jones getting sent to the bench midway through last season and he did not play the final nine games of the year as the Redskins went with Rob Kelley.

That doesn’t sound like the backstory of a player anyone will be clamoring to trade for in the next couple of days, which may mean Jones just gets cut if Washington adds a running back.

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Panthers compare McCaffrey to many backs, including a Hall of Famer

AP

Because Christian McCaffrey is a non-traditional running back (i.e. a white one, you might as well just say it), there is an irresistible compulsion to compare him to other backs when attempting to describe his versatility as a runner, receiver and return man.

Coach Ron Rivera threw a few names out there last night, mentioning Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles, and Brian Westbrook with a little LeSean McCoy mixed in.

But when it was General Manager Dave Gettleman’s turn, he put McCaffrey in the same answer with a Hall-of-Famer while vouching for McCaffrey’s abilities to be a bell-cow back.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” Gettleman said. “The best tackle-box runner I’ve ever seen is Curtis Martin out of Pitt. Christian is right there with him. Running in that tackle box takes unique vision and unique quickness, and he’s got it. Curtis Martin had it, and he had a great career – a Hall of Fame career – and this kid’s got those kind of skills.”

Martin ran for 14,101 yards in 11 seasons, fourth on the all-time list before heading to Canton.

That’s a high bar to set for a guy who doesn’t walk into an immediate starting job (the Panthers just gave veteran Jonathan Stewart a one-year contract extension this offseason). But they made it clear they see McCaffrey having an immediate impact for them this season.

“You saw him do everything – line up as the tailback, line up as the halfback, line up as the quarterback in the Wildcat, motion out and run a wheel route, return kicks,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “This is a guy who you can get the ball in his hands many different ways and quickly.”

Now how they’re able to do that is the next question. The Panthers would have preferred Leonard Fournette, primarily because he fits everything they already do as an offense. McCaffrey is, to put it simply, a finesse player dropped into the middle of a power and play-action offense. A Swiss-Army knife in a sledgehammer offense. Not only do they not have a similar player, they don’t have many of the plays with which to capitalize on McCaffrey’s skills.

Creating those plays, and installing them in an offense which won’t have its quarterback until training camp (while Cam Newton mends from shoulder surgery) is going to be a challenge for the coaching staff which has been talking about “evolving” all offseason.

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