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Cardinals’ quarterback smokescreen continues

Bruce Arians AP

As Gantt pointed out earlier this week, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had a not-so-glowing assessment of this year’s crop of rookie quarterbacks at the league meetings.

“The guys that were in the Combine last year, all of them when they left the room, you went, ‘Wow,'” Bruce Arians said.  “No one in this draft made me go, ‘Wow.’

It’s an odd comment in light of the rampant stream of reports from four weeks ago, when the Cardinals supposedly had been blown away by USC quarterback Matt Barkley at the Scouting Combine.  Plenty of reporters gleefully swallowed the hook on that one, without even contemplating the possibility that the Cards were trying to make other teams think that they want Barkley when in reality they want another rookie quarterback — or perhaps none of them.

We won’t know how the Cardinals really feel about the likes of Barkley, Geno Smith, or anyone else unless and until those players are on the board when the Cardinals are on the clock.  Until then, the Cardinals will be trying to blow enough smoke to obscure their intentions.

No amount of smoke, however, can hide the team’s current depth chart at the position.  Which could mean that the Cardinals want Smith, and that they want everyone else to believe that they want Barkley or no one.

Or maybe the Cardinals want to continue to struggle at the position.

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Third-round negotiations become the NFL’s “wild, wild West”

Abner Mares Jose Ramirez during their super featherweight fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 13, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Getty Images

There’s a popular belief that rookie contracts under the 2011 CBA should take only five minutes. In one specific round, those talks are slightly more complicated.

As explained by Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, the third round has become what one agent calls the “wild, wild West.”

For reasons not entirely known, the current labor deal allows for more negotiation in round three than in the other rounds. Over time, this has created fluctuations in the various slots, giving both team and player ammunition for digging in and not budging.

As noted by Ben Volin of the Boston Globe,  206 of 253 draft picks have signed contracts as of Friday afternoon. The 81.4-percent completion rate is kept low by the fact that only 17 of 35 third-round picks have agreed to terms.

It’s odd that the current cookie-cutter approach doesn’t apply to every round of the draft, and it’s an inconsistency that should be addressed in the next labor negotiations. Of course, given all of the other issues pending between the NFL and NFL Players Association, this one likely will be very low on the list.

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Calvin Pryor thinks third year will be his best yet

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:   Calvin Pryor #25 of the New York Jets celebrates breaking up a pass against the Miami Dolphins during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 29, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Safety Calvin Pryor’s first two seasons with the Jets unfolded very differently.

The 2014 first-round pick struggled as a rookie while playing in a coverage role, but fared much better in 2015 after other changes to the Jets secondary allowed him to play closer to the line of scrimmage. Pryor had 69 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble while playing in 13 games, which he thinks is just the base for what he can do in his third season.

Pryor said last week that he hasn’t “even hit the ceiling fan yet” when it comes to his potential and that 2016 will find him continuing to rise.

“I know I’m one hell of a player when my mind is right and I’m focused and I’m locked in, and I have guys around me that believe in me,” Pryor said, via NJ.com. “I like to shine in the brightest moments. That’s something I’m not going to shy away from. I think with Year 3, I can only get better. I believe in my ability to do great things, as well as make the Pro Bowl and being an All-Pro. That’s some of the things I have on my list, but at the same time, I have to put in the work for it. And once the season rolls around, I’ve got to play like it.”

Pryor believes it is “too early to tell” how good the Jets will be on defense this season, but a strong group last year should benefit from both another year of experience in coach Todd Bowles’ system and Pryor’s continued growth at safety.

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Former Inglewood employee claims books were cooked to lure NFL team

butts-james-021215-usnews-getty-ftr_1uizmphscx13t1lcc3uaxcvzwc Getty Images

As the Rams return to L.A. and prepare to eventually move into a swanky new home in Inglewood, a new vehicle has emerged for potentially peeling back the curtain on exactly how the deal got done.

Regardless of its ultimate merit, a federal lawsuit filed by Inglewood’s former budget and accounting manager could result in the public disclosure of plenty of documents and information and testimony and other stuff that Inglewood, the Rams, and/or the NFL would prefer the public not see.

Via Angel Jennings of the Los Angeles Times, Barbara Ohno alleges that Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts (pictured) instructed employees to “create a faςade of financial responsibility and well-being” for Inglewood during the competition with Carson for the privilege of putting a football stadium within city limits. Ohio claim that Inglewood regularly used money from a federal Asset Forfeiture Fund to pay for expenses that could not be covered by the Inglewood General Fund.

Butts strongly denied the allegations, claiming that “[t]he city undergoes rigorous and thorough audits by an outside audit firm.” Butts also pointed out that Ohno was simply a probationary employee who was let go before her probationary period ended.

Of course, her status won’t matter, if Ohno can prove that her job ended because, for example, she complained internally about irregularities like the alleged use of the Asset Forfeiture Fund for unauthorized expenses. In most American jurisdictions, employees of public and private institutions are protected against retaliation for raising concerns that the employer would prefer to not be raised, by anyone at any time.

Ohno alleges that Butts labeled her a “troublemaker,” which is one of the ingredients for proving improper retaliation.

“I was told to stand down, look the other way and be a team player because when Inglewood got the Rams, there would be so much money coming in, no one would care how the city ran its finances,” Ohno said in a statement, via the Times.

The lawsuit primarily will focus on: (1) exploring the accounting details; and (2) developing evidence (such as email messages and texts) showing that Ohno complained about financial issues and/or that Butts raised concerns about her complaints.

Along the way, email or other communications between the city, the Rams, and the NFL could come to light. Thanks to the defect in human nature that routinely results in people reducing to writing things they’d never say while sitting in a witness box, it makes sense for every media outlet in Southern California to scour each and every document filed in court throughout the life of Ohno’s lawsuit.

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It’s your weekly PFT Live podcast reminder

PFTLive

More than five years ago, it started as a 30-minute Internet-only vehicle for hot takes and Chris Farley-style interviews. Now, PFT Live somehow has morphed into a three-hour national radio show, with two hours per day that will be simulcast on NBCSN starting later this year.

I’m not sure when or how or why it happened, but it happened. And since there’s a chance it can all disappear even more quickly than it arrived, you’d better listen while you still can. (That’s the best sales pitch I could muster at the moment.)

Apart from those who listen to the show live on Sirius 213, XM 202, NBCSportsRadio.com, the NBC Sports Radio app, and the various terrestrial stations that carry the program, the podcast is available of every hour, every day. And the best thing about a digital file is that the demand can never outpace the supply.

For PFT Live, the demand has increased to well over 100,000 per week. Which probably means I should spend more time preparing for the show and less time trying to get more people to listen to it.

The program returns Tuesday at 6:00 a.m. ET. See you then. Even though I can’t see you and, fortunately for you, you won’t be able to see me before I remove the hair from my face and/or attach the hair to my scalp.

For now, you should subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or audioBoom. Also, feel free to drop in a rating and/or a review. Especially if you conclude after careful consideration of all relevant circumstances and factors that it doesn’t blow.

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Landing Super Bowl lands a $4 million bonus for Dolphins

MIAMI - DECEMBER 19:  Stephen Ross owner of the Miami Dolphins poses for a photo before his team plays against the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Miami, Florida. The Bills defeated the Dolphins 17-14.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross joked last week about the $450 million of his own money he spent renovating his stadium, saying “I wish it was $450 million.”

But now that South Florida has secured another Super Bowl, the money is going to start flowing back into Ross’s pockets.

As part of the deal he signed with local government for renovations, the Dolphins will start cashing in on bonuses for landing big events.

The city will pay them $4 million for bringing the Super Bowl, and there are bonuses for other big events, which could pay the team up to $5 million a year.

For instance, they can also make $3 million for a World Cup semi-final or a national college-football championship, $2 million for a college playoff game, and $750,000 for international soccer matches or other events that draw 55,000 to the stadium.

The money comes from hotel taxes, which softens the burden on local residents who have felt burned by stadium deals before.

But coupled with the cost of Super Bowl bids themselves, it shows the lengths some cities will go to secure big events and keep owners happy.

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Bruce Irvin thinks Raiders are ready to take the next step

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01:   Bruce Irvin #51 of the Seattle Seahawks and  Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks walk off the field after beating the Dallas Cowboys 13-12 at AT&T Stadium on November 1, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Among the reasons why the Raiders have become a popular offseason choice to make a move up the standings and into the playoff hunt is the arrival of linebacker Bruce Irvin as a free agent.

Irvin is one of several players the Raiders brought to Oakland to join Khalil Mack in hopes building a defensive unit capable of taking Oakland to the right side of .500 for the first time since 2002. Irvin believes that he and Mack will prove to be a strong duo — “I really expect us to do a lot of great things this year” — and that the Raiders as a whole will prove worthy of the preseason optimism.

“You could definitely tell it’s a tight group,” Irvin said, via ESPN.com. “We’re on the way up. You have a lot of guys who are willing to listen to the older guys, so that’s the greatest thing about coming to a situation like this … I have to say, it’s a bunch of guys who are hungry. They are ready to take the next step. We know what we have to do. We’ve seen the blueprint to win a Super Bowl — it’s running the ball and playing great defense. I think we are ready to take that next step and really capture this AFC West.”

Irvin, cornerback Sean Smith and safety Reggie Nelson all come to the Raiders from teams that made the playoffs last year, giving the defense some players with the knowledge of what it takes to advance to the next level. Executing those things is a different story, although the talent on both sides of the ball makes it easy to see why people are bullish about the Raiders having a chance to do it.

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Patriots won’t say whether John Jastremski has been fired

2286022 Getty Images

Last September, on the heels of the initial court ruling that scrapped quarterback Tom Brady’s suspension, the Patriots separately secured the reinstatement of John Jastremski and Jim McNally, the equipment employees whose Beavis-and-Butthead text messages became the only real evidence of consequence in the #Deflategate investigation.

It’s possible that, not long after Jastremski returned, he left again.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe delves into the question of whether the Patriots fired Jastremski last season, starting with an offhand comment from (who else?) comedian Jim Breuer and ending with the team declining to respond to a pair of inquiries from Volin as to Jastremski’s status.

Breuer says he met Jastremski in Cancun during the 2015 season. The meeting apparently happened on November 9, one day after the Patriots hosted Washington. With no bye the following weekend, Jastremski whereabouts on an in-season Monday raise obvious questions as to whether he was indeed still employed.

By not answering the simple question of whether Jastremski still works for the team, the Patriots necessarily have fueled speculation about the status of the guy who was primarily responsible for preparing footballs — and who along with McNally was accused by the league of running the deflation racket. If Jastremski is gone, that in turn fuels speculation as to whether the Patriots privately have concluded that he was indeed guilty.

It makes sense for the Patriots to keep things quiet with Brady’s federal litigation still pending. Then again, it would have made sense to keep Jastremski employed until the lawsuit and all appeals conclude.

The answer could be (emphasis on could) that Jastremski technically hasn’t been let go but that the Patriots have put him on paid leave pending the outcome of Brady’s case. If Breuer hadn’t blown Jastemski’s cover, no one would have ever known the difference.

Does any of it matter to Brady’s suspension? Perhaps. Like the brief submitted by 21 professor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit harping on the Ideal Gas Law (a principle technically irrelevant to the case at this point in the process), it’s the kind of collateral fact that could get the attention of the black-robed individuals who will be making a nuanced application of convoluted legal principles to a hotly-contested factual pattern.

In English, it means that the Patriots probably wish Breuer had communicated in goat when asked about Jastremski.

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Saints expect Andrus Peat to start, but aren’t sure where

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 13:  Offensive tackle Andrus Peat #75 of the New Orleans Saints walks off the field following the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the Saints 31-19. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Saints have been remaking their offensive line over the last couple of years and one of the new arrivals came with the 13th pick of the 2015 draft when they selected Andrus Peat.

Peat didn’t move straight into the starting lineup as a rookie, but saw time at both guard and tackle over the course of the season. Saints coach Sean Payton said last week that he expects Peat to be a starter this time around. The team is still trying to figure out which position he’s going to play, however.

“Whether it’s at right guard or right tackle, we’ve got some time and some flexibility with regards to that,” Payton said, via ESPN.com. “I think he’s doing real well. He finished strong last season. Obviously he played at a few different spots a year ago. He’s in great shape, and I think that’s gonna serve him well as we’re in these practices and as we move into training camp. … I’m encouraged with how he’s been progressing.”

With right tackle Zach Strief back for an 11th season, guard might be the clearer path to the first team for Peat. Wherever he winds up, though, Peat is in line for a bigger role in his second year in New Orleans.

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Report: Wentz is ahead of Bradford in learning Eagles’ new offense

Quarterback Carson Wentz throws a pass during the Philadelphia Eagles' rookie minicamp at the team's NFL football training facility, Friday, May 13, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) AP

Eagles coach Doug Pederson has said repeatedly that Sam Bradford is his starting quarterback. But coaches change their minds about such things, and rookie Carson Wentz is giving Pederson plenty to think about.

According to Matt Lombardo of NJ.com, at the start of Eagles’ Organized Team Activities, Wentz appeared to be ahead of Bradford in learning Pederson’s offense. That’s surprising given that Wentz is a rookie and Bradford is a seven-year veteran, but neither Bradford nor Wentz has played for Pederson before.

The Eagles are in an unusual position: You don’t pay a quarterback $18 million to sit on the bench, but you don’t draft a quarterback second overall to sit on the bench, either. Bradford is officially the No. 1 quarterback right now, but if Wentz still looks like he has a better grasp of Pederson’s offense in three months, can Pederson justify keeping Wentz on the sideline?

The third quarterback on the roster, Chase Daniel, obviously knows the offense the best of the group, as Daniel previously played in Pederson’s offense with the Chiefs. That could give Daniel a boost in the quarterback competition.

The bottom line is that, for all the Eagles’ insistence that Bradford is their starter, it’s a three-way quarterback battle. And there’s no guarantee that Bradford will win it.

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Andrew Whitworth open to move to guard in future

Carolina Panthers v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

There were some moments of discord between the Bengals and tackle Andrew Whitworth last offseason, particularly when he suggested the Bengals not draft a tackle in an early round and then watched as the team drafted tackles in both the first and second round.

All wound up being fine once the season started, however. Whitworth continued to play at a high level and the Bengals signed him to a one-year extension through the 2016 season. While that leaves his future beyond this season up in the air, Whitworth is convinced “all that stuff is going to take care of itself” because “the offers are always going to be there” if one plays well and plays a leadership role.

It won’t hurt that Whitworth is also open to being flexible about where he plays. Whitworth kicked inside to guard in the past when the Bengals needed help on the interior and says he’s open to doing so again in the future if it means extending his time in the league.

“I still see myself as having value in that,” Whitworth said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I feel with my kind of strength that’s something that’s definitely a positive for me, so I think that you can move inside when you’re a big powerful guy. Not all tackles can do that, but I’m really comfortable in there, have played really well in there and know that I could still do that. Yeah, if the body is still feeling good, for sure. If I sat there and said hey, as a tackle, how much longer can I go? I feel like at tackle I still have some years and at guard I for sure have years. I feel like it’s one of those things that you have to stay open if you want to keep playing.”

If Whitworth remains healthy, he will likely remain an effective blocker and that’s going to lead to interest in his services at either position should he and the Bengals decide on a parting of the ways.

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Monday morning one-liners

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 22: Paul Posluszny #51 of the Jacksonville Jaguars leaves the field during the second half of the preseason game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on August 22, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. The Lions defeated the Jaguars 13-12.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) Getty Images

Defensive backs aren’t the only players listening to Ed Reed during Bills practices.

Video games are bringing the Dolphins linebackers together.

DT Malcom Brown is taking on more of a leadership role with the Patriots.

Is Jace Amaro the right man to get the Jets going at tight end?

Ravens rookie CB Tavon Young shares the worst parts of being 5’9″.

Rookie CB William Jackson is getting used to life as a member of the Bengals.

The Browns are helping to build new athletic fields for students in Cleveland.

This could be LB Lawrence Timmonsfinal year with the Steelers.

Michigan State has produced more current Texans than any other school.

When will the Colts leave for their game in London?

LB Paul Posluszny is optimistic about his role with the Jaguars.

RB David Cobb moved in the wrong direction on the Titans depth chart this offseason.

Who are the best tight ends in Broncos history?

Yoga has been part of the offseason plan for Chiefs DT Dontari Poe.

What did the Raiders learn in the first OTAs of the year?

The Chargers are already preparing for the sounds of Week One in Kansas City.

What areas does Cowboys G La’El Collins need to improve?

Remembering Jack Lummus, who played for the Giants before losing his life in World War II.

The Eagles want to do a better job of stopping opposing tight ends.

Trent Murphy is working to make the most of a move from linebacker to defensive end at Redskins practices.

WR Daniel Braverman is trying to make a positive impression on the Bears.

Depth doesn’t look like a problem at defensive tackle for the Lions.

DL Datone Jones faces an uncertain future with the Packers.

QB Joel Stave is trying to continue his football career as a member of the Vikings.

Raheem Morris has proven to be a hit with Falcons wide receivers.

The Panthers might miss CB Josh Norman, but know they need to move on without him.

CB P.J. Williams is eager to show what he can do in the Saints defense.

The Buccaneers look better at cornerback this season.

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer and the pressures of charity golf tournaments.

The Rams got around to holding a rookie orientation.

Five 49ers who could rise from under the radar this season.

Seahawks S Kam Chancellor had a gift for Allen Iverson at a charity basketball game.

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Ron Rivera going back to fundamentals to escape Super Bowl hangover

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 04:  Carolina Panthers head coach, Ron Rivera in the pro-am ahead of the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club on May 11, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Even when Ron Rivera gets misinterpreted, he’s using it as a teaching moment for his team.

And the lesson is the Panthers have to begin their work over again, rather than thinking they’re starting halfway down the path after losing Super Bowl 50.

Rivera told Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com that planning how to avoid the Super Bowl hangover has been his biggest challenge of the offseason, leading him to study how other coaches have handled the loss.

“It is really important we don’t lose sight of what we accomplished, but the truth of the matter is, we didn’t complete it,” Rivera says. “That will continue to be the emphasis: We want to get it done.”

Sometimes in teaching that lesson, things get a little sideways. After Rivera made reference recently to quarterback Cam Newton needing to improve, he then felt compelled to clarify that he wasn’t putting his quarterback “on blast.”

But he admitted that part of what he’s trying to teach his team this offseason is that all of them can get better at their craft.

“Someone said, ‘You put Cam on blast.’ I did that to everybody,” Rivera said. “I talked about Luke [Kuechly]; Luke knows he can become a much better pass-cover guy. It is a challenge to everybody that, hey, we were pretty good, but honestly, I think we can be better. I did it right after practice [last week], and I just wanted to make sure they understood that there is a sense of urgency, even though there are 107 days left.”

Knowing the number of days left until the start of the season is symbolic for Rivera, as he knows how difficult the task in front of him is. No Super Bowl loser has returned to the final game since the 1991-93 Bills, and even though the Panthers plowed through the NFC with a 15-1 record last year, he’s taking nothing for granted.

That’s why he’s working so much on fundamentals in OTA, trying to get his team working the way last year’s did, rather than trying to pick up where they left off.

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Broncos’ quarterback competition described as wide open

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 07:  Quarterback Mark Sanchez attends the 142nd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 07, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for Churchill Downs) Getty Images

Most people think Mark Sanchez has more or less won the Broncos’ quarterback competition before the competition even started, as neither of the other two quarterbacks on the roster — rookie Paxton Lynch and second-year player Trevor Siemian — is viewed as ready to play this season.

But that assumption may be wrong.

According to Andrew Mason of Broncos.com, the Broncos are having a “a wide-open competition.” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak says he hasn’t made a decision yet.

“When he says it’s going to be an open competition, he means it,” Mason said of Kubiak. “Don’t assume anything.”

Lynch and Siemian are getting some work with the first-string offense at Organized Team Activities, and although Sanchez is clearly the favorite, all three quarterbacks are going to get the opportunity to show who deserves to be the starter.

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Fitzpatrick offer: Three years, $24 million

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 18:  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets looks to throw a pass to Brandon Marshall (not shown) which resulted in a touchdown during the third quarter against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on October 18, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

The suddenly public (sort of) back-and-forth continues between the Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Two days after the Jets (and, yes, it was the Jets) leaked to anyone who was listening that their longstanding offer to Fitzpatrick pays out $12 million in the first year of a three-year deal, multiple reports (undoubtedly instigated by Camp Fitz) indicate that the deal has a total base value of $24 million over three years.

The $8 million annually average would put Fitzpatrick below all starting quarterbacks not named Tyrod Taylor or not otherwise operating under a wage-scale rookie deal.

The bigger takeaway is that the nothing-personal situation between team and player is quickly getting personal, starting with sympathy OTA absences by receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, continuing with the team’s obvious effort to make Fitzpatrick look greedy, and culminating in Fitzpatrick’s effort to expose the Jets as cheap.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue to say what we’ve been saying for most of the last week: These two sides need to go into a room, lock the door from the outside, and work this thing out. If they can’t, they should shake hands and go their separate ways.

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Phil Loadholt “moving pretty well” in return from torn Achilles

Phil Loadholt AP

Tackle Phil Loadholt took care of one obstacle in the way of his return to the Vikings when he took a pay cut earlier this offseason.

He’s working his way through another one during OTAs. Loadholt is back on the field after tearing his Achilles in the preseason last year and says his return to the field has gone smoothly.

“I feel like I’m moving pretty well,” Loadholt said, via the Pioneer Press. “I got some things I’ve got to get better at obviously, but I’m working hard to get better and those things and be ready to roll.”

Loadholt’s pay cut leaves him set to make a non-guaranteed salary of $2.25 million after agreeing to a reduction with another $1.25 million available in incentives. If he’s going to see all of that money, he’ll have to take care of a third obstacle in the form of Andre Smith. The former Bengal signed as a free agent this offseason and will be Loadholt’s competition for the right tackle job.

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