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Khalif Barnes stays with Raiders

Khalif Barnes AP

The Raiders have held onto one of their own free agents.

The team announced Wednesday that they have re-signed right tackle Khalif Barnes. He’s the first Raiders unrestricted free agent to remain with the team after they watched players like Desmond Bryant, Matt Shaughnessy and Phillip Wheeler sign with other clubs.

Barnes missed seven games with a groin injury last season, but has started the other 25 games Oakland’s played in the last two years. He falls more into the category of serviceable than star, but the Raiders aren’t exactly swimming with the cap space to vault themselves into the latter category. He was less effective in the zone blocking scheme the Raiders used less season than he was in 2011, so the switch may produce better results this time around.

Barnes started his career with the Jaguars as a second-round pick in 2005.

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Fred Jackson: Rex Ryan the right guy to get us over the hump

Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Running back Fred Jackson has been with the Bills for the last nine years and he’s seen a lot of coaches come through the organization in that time.

The last of those coaches was Doug Marrone, who opted out of his contract after two years this month. Jackson, a Bills captain in 2014, said on PFT Live Wednesday that he received a mass text from Marrone about his decision and hasn’t heard anything else from the coach about his choice to leave the Bills.

Not that Jackson seems to mind the result of the change all that much. Mike Florio asked Jackson about Rex Ryan and the veteran running back said he thinks Ryan’s the man to get the Bills back into the playoffs.

“I’m extremely excited about it. Rex is Rex. Everybody knows who he is. He’s a boisterous coach that’s gonna come in and have things go his way,” Jackson said. “Teams usually take on the persona of their coaches. I think he’s gonna give us the push we need to get over this hump. We went 9-7, the best we finished in 10 years, and I think he’s going to be the guy that gets us over that hump.”

Given the histories of Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Jackson should be in line for plenty of work in 2015 whether or not C.J. Spiller re-signs with the team. The 2014 history for both coaches speaks to the need of strong quarterback play to balance out the work on even the strongest work on the ground, however.

Jackson also outlined an unlikely career path from Coe College and the Sioux City Bandits to NFL Europe and the Bills that includes cameos from Marv Levy and 49ers coach Jim Tomsula during his visit with Florio, which you can check out in its entirety below.

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Prop Challenge, Day VI — Over-Under on LeGarrette Blount’s rushing attempts: 13.5

LeGarrette Blount AP

Leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, we’ll take a closer look at one proposition bet per day, something we’ve dubbed PFT’s Prop Challenge.

Here’s the idea: we present a prop, do some light analysis, then let you decide which side to take — hypothetically, of course. (Previous examples are at the bottom of this post.)

When the Super Bowl wraps up, we’ll tally the votes and see how well PFT Planet did.

Now, let’s get to today’s prop, which is courtesy of oddsmaker William Hill U.S.:

Over-Under on Patriots tailback LeGarrette Blount’s Super Bowl carries: 13.5.

Over: -110. Under: -110.

When the Patriots and Seahawks met last back in 2012, the Patriots threw 58 passes and attempted 26 rushes. The Patriots played at a quick pace, stuffing 85 plays into 34 minutes. Overall, New England ran one play per 24 seconds.

The question is, will the Pats employ a similar approach this time around? If so, Shane Vereen, not Blount, could be New England’s key back.

On the other hand, if the Patriots have a more balanced attack, then the 6-foot, 250-pound Blount could be busy. He might not get, say, the 30 carries he had vs. Indianapolis in the AFC title game, but clearing 13.5 carries could well be within his reach. If the Patriots want to stick with the run, then Blount will be the back they lean upon.

Blount has only twice received more than 13.5 carries since returning to New England in November, but the oddsmaker’s total seems appropriate. After all, Blount has taken 78.6 percent of the Patriots’ tailback carries in the postseason (33-of-42).

In short, the prop probably comes down to how you see the game playing out. If New England gets ahead, Blount will be busy. If New England falls behind  . . . well, OVER 13.5 carries could be in trouble.

Furthermore, this is a prop that Seattle fans should have a feel for, too. They know their team’s defense well. Can New England establish the run? Will it even try?

Cast your votes and let us know in the comments.

Previous props studied:

Day I: Over-Under on Brandon LaFell’s receiving yards.

Day II: Over-Under on Doug Baldwin’s catches.

Day III: Will Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown?

Day IV: Will there be a one-yard TD in the Super Bowl?

Day V: Over-Under on Tim Wright’s receiving yards.

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Lynch is already among the all-time great postseason runners

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch runs for a first down against the Redskins during their NFL NFC wildcard playoff game in Landover Reuters

Everyone is talking about Marshawn Lynch not talking this week. Which means no one is talking about what Lynch does best, which is run with the ball in his hands, particularly in the playoffs.

That’s too bad, because Lynch has already put together one of the all-time great postseason resumes of any running back in NFL history.

Lynch’s record of postseason runs starts, of course, with the Beast Quake. On January 8, 2011, in Lynch’s first career postseason game, he destroyed the Saints’ defense on his way to a 67-yard touchdown run to seal the Seahawks’ win late in the fourth quarter. Some people consider that the best run in NFL history.

But that game, in which Lynch carried 19 times for 131 yards, was far from Lynch’s only big postseason game. From that postseason debut through his 157-yard day against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, Lynch has topped 100 yards in the playoffs five times, and topped 130 yards four times. Only former Broncos running back Terrell Davis, with five 130-yard playoff games, has reached 130 yards in the postseason more often than Lynch.

Players on the Patriots understand what they’re up against when they’re up against Beast Mode.

“I’ve said many times I think he’s the best back in the game,” Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said today. “With the ball in his hands, catching the ball, running the ball, blocking, yards after contact, you name it. All those areas he leads. He’s amazing when he gets the ball in his hands.”

Added Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, “Marshawn Lynch is a guy that could run through and run over your whole defense if you let him.”

If Lynch does run over the Patriots’ whole defense, he may add a Super Bowl MVP award to his already great postseason resume. Lynch may just go down as the best big-game running back ever.

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Raiders still don’t have a defensive coordinator

Todd Grantham AP

At this point in the offseason, teams without full coaching staffs are scrambling a bit.

Now the Raiders are looking for another defensive coordinator.

According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is staying in college.

He had been offered a two-year deal to take the same job with the Raiders, but apparently decided to stay put.

Whether that’s a bad thing for the Raiders is open to interpretation, but being turned down by a college coach is a bad look for an organization trying to overcome a tradition of bad football and bad decisions.

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Report: Nathaniel Hackett to be Jaguars quarterbacks coach

Blake Bortles, A.J. Bouye AP

The Rams interviewed Nathaniel Hackett in their search for a new offensive coordinator, but it looks like he’ll be coaching elsewhere in 2015.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Hackett has pulled his name from consideration in St. Louis and will be joining Gus Bradley’s staff in Jacksonville. Per Rapoport, Hackett is expected be the team’s quarterbacks coach.

Moving the Jacksonville would allow Hackett to continue working with Doug Marrone, who hired Hackett as his offensive coordinator at Syracuse and again with the Bills when Marrone was a head coach. Marrone will be working with the offensive line in Jacksonville while Greg Olson runs the offense.

The move will give Hackett another chance to work with a young quarterback after spending the last two years tutoring Bills 2013 first-round pick EJ Manuel. Manuel was benched after four games in 2014, a development that the Jaguars presumably don’t want to see happen with Blake Bortles in his second season.

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Benson’s former heirs want him to undergo psychological tests

Benson Getty Images

The bizarre family feud that has clouded the future of the Saints has taken another strange turn, which for this story is saying something.

According to Andy Grimm of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the daugher and grandchildren of Saints owner Tom Benson have asked a judge to order a psychological evaluation of the 87-year-old.

The court filing cites “a pattern of bizarre behavior,” by Benson, and they want to have him evaluated by a geriatric psychology specialist.

This is the latest in a string of filings from his daughter and grandchildren, after he took control of his sports teams and assets away from them and put them in the hands of his wife Gayle Benson.

Stay tuned, as this story only promises to get weirder and weirder.

 

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Washington hires Matt Cavanaugh as QBs coach

Chicago Bears v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Washington has added a former offensive coordinator for a Super Bowl winner to its coaching staff.

The club announced Wednesday it had hired Matt Cavanaugh as quarterbacks coach. Cavanaugh had served in the same position for Chicago the last two seasons.

The 58-year-old Cavanaugh also has NFL coaching experience with the Jets (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, 2009-2012), Ravens (offensive coordinator, 1999-2004), Bears (offensive coordinator, 1997-1998), 49ers (quarterbacks coach, 1996) and Cardinals (quarterbacks coach, 1994-1995).

Cavanaugh played quarterback for 14 NFL seasons (1978-1991), with stints with the Patriots, 49ers, Eagles and Giants, usually as a reserve. He played on two Super Bowl winning teams (1984 49ers, 1990 Giants), and he was on the Ravens’ staff when the club won its first Super Bowl in the 2000 season.

Washington’s quarterback play largely disappointed in 2014, with Robert Griffin III losing a good deal of the season to injury, then struggling upon his return. Backup Kirk Cousins flopped in his run in place of Griffin. Then, third-stringer Colt McCoy flashed promise only to have a neck injury end his season.

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Ike Taylor open to switching positions, changing teams

Buffalo Bills v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

When the Steelers season came to an end, cornerback Ike Taylor said he was “cool” if 2014 was his final season as a player and that he wanted to remain with the team whether he was in an on-field or off-field role.

It’s been a few weeks since the Ravens bounced them out of the playoffs and Taylor’s opinion has changed. During an interview with Mike Florio on PFT Live from the Super Bowl on Wednesday, Taylor said that he was training as if he’ll be playing again in 2015 and that he’d like to play two or three more years.

Taylor also said that he’d be open to playing elsewhere in 2015. One thing that would appeal to him would be following former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who Taylor praised during the interview, to another team.

“If Coach LeBeau’s there, yes. If the time and money is right, yes,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s play at corner when healthy in 2014 left something to be desired, which helps explain why Taylor’s also open to a move to safety if it allows him to continue his playing career. He’ll be a free agent when the new league year opens in March if he doesn’t re-sign with the Steelers before that point.

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Vince Wilfork: Bill Belichick has turned into a big softy

belichickwilfork AP

Apparently, it’s not just adorable children and monkey puppets which can bring out the softer side of Bill Belichick.

Veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said he’s seen the generally gruff Belichick change over the years.

“Yeah, I’ve seen the difference in Bill in the 11 years that I have been here, and I tell him he is getting soft,” Wilfork said, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. “But this is a different era of football now — with how the team has shaped up and how a lot of guys are younger guys.

“You don’t really have that veteran team that he used to have. When I first came in the league, he had a veteran team that didn’t take much to get those guys going. But if I have to say anything, I think over the years he got a soft heart. He’s more understanding now.”

That change in approach has been out of necessity, as this is a far younger team than he’s brought to the Super Bowl in the past. Wilfork and Tom Brady are the only players left from their last Super Bowl win, which means Belichick had to adjust.

“I think Bill had to do a good job of that ever since I’ve been in the league because we’ve changed so much,” Wilfork said. “We were a veteran team. [Then] it was a younger team — at one point we were the youngest team in the league. So I think he had to try to find the identity in what works for that team. And I think he’s done a great job over the years of doing that.

“But at the end of the day, he is still Bill. He coaches the same way. He demands everything the same way. But I think he’s got a little soft heart now. Over time, he got a little softer, though.”

That doesn’t always come through, however.

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Bortles and Jaguars’ receivers plan on an offseason of hard work

Bortles Getty Images

There have been questions raised recently about the work ethic of the second quarterback chosen in last year’s NFL draft, Cleveland’s Johnny Manziel. But the first quarterback chosen in last year’s draft says he has an offseason of hard work ahead of him.

Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles knows he and his teammates need to be a whole lot better in 2015 than they were in 2014, and Bortles said today on PFT Live that he and the Jaguars’ offensive skill position players have already agreed that they’ll be getting together in California next month, at a time when players aren’t allowed to work out at team facilities, for their own player-run minicamp.

“We’ve got to have a lot of improvements. We’ve got to get out and get better this offseason. We’re going to get together and work together. I’m excited for it, I’m excited for the opportunity for the guys we have in the locker room to come together and get after it. Offensively, it comes down to execution — that’s something we’ve lacked and I was obviously a big part of it.”

Bortles said he has arranged for training this offseason that will include “A lot of working out, stretching, trying to get the body right and better, and then obviously a ton of both mental and physical quarterbacking.”

The Browns can only hope that Manziel will be doing that kind of work this offseason.

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Steve Logan to be 49ers quarterbacks coach

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2010 Headshots Getty Images

Colin Kaepernick has a new quarterbacks coach to work with in 2015.

On Tuesday, there was a report that former East Carolina head coach and Boston College offensive coordinator Steve Logan would be taking a job on the 49ers offensive staff. The exact title that Logan would have was unknown, but he told WRAL in North Carolina Wednesday that he’ll be working with Kaepernick and the team’s other signal callers.

Logan last worked on a coaching staff with the Buccaneers from 2009-2011 as the running backs coach and has been working in television since then. He worked with 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula in NFL Europe and said Wednesday that their relationship pushed him back onto the sideline.

“Jim Tomsula is one guy who I would open this can of worms back up for,” Logan said. “The San Francisco 49ers’ roster is a roster that is Super Bowl competitive. [Kaepernick] is my kind of guy — mobile, accurate and smart.”

The 49ers are still looking for an offensive coordinator with Rob Chudzinski signing up for another year on the Colts staff. Geep Chryst, who was the team’s quarterbacks coach under Jim Harbaugh, is thought to be a candidate for that position.

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Will Hill has active warrant in New Jersey for failure to pay child support

Will Hill, Arian Foster, Rashaan Melvin AP

Ravens safety Will Hill has been no stranger to off-field issues during his NFL career and he has another one to work out in New Jersey.

Hudson County law enforcement officials say that there has been a warrant for Hill’s arrest issued due to his alleged failure to pay $16,588.18 in back child support. TMZ has the initial report on the warrant and adds that he is not actively being sought by police at this time, but that the he would be arrested if he’s otherwise stopped by police.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that Hill is aware of the child support issues, but was not aware of the warrant. The Ravens are also aware of the situation.

Hill joined the Ravens before the 2014 season and promptly served a six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. That suspension led to his release from the Giants, who had stuck with Hill through two other suspensions that totaled eight games and a 2013 arrest for non-payment of child support.

Hill started eight regular season games and both playoff contests for Baltimore. He’s set to be a restricted free agent this offseason.

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Raiders offer defensive coordinator job to Todd Grantham

Miami v Louisville Getty Images

The Raiders may be closer to filling a staff position, dipping into the college ranks for a defensive coordinator.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Raiders have offered a two-year contract to Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. That suggests it hasn’t necessarily been accepted yet, which leaves some room for haggling.

They met with him recently, and it apparently went well.

Grantham has been in college the last five years, working at Georgia and Louisville. He had previous stints with the Browns, Cowboys, Colts and Texans.

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Mike McCarthy: Clay Matthews is an outside linebacker, but we like flexibility

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

During the regular season, the Packers moved Clay Matthews from outside to inside linebacker at points to help bolster their run defense and change their look in ways that opposing offenses might not have anticipated.

It wasn’t a permanent arrangement, but it was a successful one that coach Mike McCarthy said could remain part of the team’s playbook in the future when he spoke to reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.

“It’s really coming off last year and moving him around,” McCarthy said, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “We were able to be more flexible in how we utilize Clay and Julius [Peppers] and the elephant position. I felt those changes were positive for our defense. Clay is an outside linebacker. I think we all recognize that. He was very productive when he went inside. I think there will be more answers and options.”

Having more possibilities to work with on defense heading into next season should only be a positive for the Packers as they look for pieces to fill in around Matthews and Peppers in the front seven. Based on what McCarthy said Wednesday, the team will be exploring those possibilities.

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Revis calls Brady “probably the best player to play the game”

bradyrevis AP

Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis has faced plenty of good quarterbacks, but he thinks the one he faces in practice is the best.

And when Revis says that, he doesn’t just mean Tom Brady is the best quarterback in the NFL right now. According to Revis, Brady will likely be remembered as the single greatest player in the history of the game of football.

“It’s pretty awesome to go up against Brady all the time,” Revis said today. “This guy is probably going to go down as probably the best player to play the game, the best quarterback to play the game. It’s great to get that competition when we practice against him in practice.”

That’s a bold statement. Whether Brady or Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of their era is a frequent topic of conversation in the NFL world, but Revis is going beyond just calling Brady the best of his day. Revis is saying Brady will likely be remembered as a greater player than Jim Brown or Jerry Rice or Sammy Baugh or Lawrence Taylor or Johnny Unitas or Joe Montana.

Revis may be going a little far in proclaiming Brady that great. But if Brady were to add another Super Bowl MVP to his resume on Sunday, perhaps it will be time to consider whether Revis is right, and Brady is the best ever.

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