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Report: Rolando McClain nearing deal with Ravens

AP

The Bengals flirted with making a bid for linebacker Rolando McClain, but it looks like one of their divisional rivals will be the ones to give McClain his second chance at NFL success.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Ravens are nearing a deal to sign McClain and will talk Wednesday in hopes of ironing out unresolved issues with the deal. The former first-round pick washed out in Oakland after three years filled with off-field messiness and underwhelming on-field performances, but that isn’t stopping the defending Super Bowl champs from taking a shot on the 23-year-old.

It helps that the Ravens lost both of their starting inside linebackers this offseason. With Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe gone, there’s a need for bodies at inside linebacker in Baltimore’s 3-4 set. That’s led them to move Bryan Hall from defensive tackle to the position and it explains why you’d take a shot on a change of scenery helping turn things around for a player that was very highly regarded coming out of Alabama.

That’s the alma mater of Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome as well, although it may just be a coincidence since the Ravens might be doing the same thing if McClain went to Auburn given their desire to add talent at inside linebacker. Whatever the equation that led McClain to Baltimore, he’s getting a golden opportunity to get his career back on track with the Ravens.

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Austin Howard says a goodbye to the Raiders

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Austin Howard’s tenure as right tackle of the Oakland Raiders appears to be coming to an end.

Howard said a goodbye to Oakland in an instagram post delivered in the early morning hours on Friday.

“OAKLAND!!! A lifetime of memories have been made these past three years, and I am grateful for every single one of them. Unfortunately my time with the #Raiders has come to an end,” Howard wrote in a lengthy post.

Howard had started 39 of 40 games played with the Raiders over the last three seasons. He had two years remaining on the five-year, $30 million contract he signed with the team in March, 2014. He was scheduled to earn $4.9 million in base salary this season and $5.4 million in 2018.

Howard was coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum following the conclusion of last season. He had suffered the injury in training camp and played the 2016 with the issue before having it addressed after the year.

He signed with Oakland after starting all 16 games in consecutive seasons for the New York Jets in 2012-13.

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Saints place Damian Swann, John Phillips on non-football injury/illness lists

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The New Orleans Saints placed cornerback Damian Swann on the non-football injury list and tight end John Phillips on the non-football illness list as veterans reported for the start of training camp on Thursday.

According to Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Swann landed on the injury list after failing to pass a conditioning test on Thursday.

Phillips went on the illness list due to continued recovery from appendicitis.

The non-football injury lists is for injuries sustained away from the NFL working environment. The illness list works exactly the same way, but for sicknesses that impair the ability to perform.

The players still count against the 90-man roster limit in preseason and can be activated any time before the start of the regular season upon completion of a physical. Players must be on the NFI or PUP lists from the start of training camp in order to be eligible for the in-season versions of the lists, which would require the players to miss the first six weeks of the regular season before being eligible to return.

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Reports: Ravens sign quarterback David Olson

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The Baltimore Ravens have added a quarterback.

No, it’s not Colin Kaepernick.

According to multiple reports, the Ravens are signing former Clemons and Stanford quarterback David Olson, who most recently placed with the Kansas City Phantoms of the Champions Indoor Football League. It was first reported by Damond Talbot of DraftDiamonds.com.

The Ravens found themselves in need of another quarterback with Joe Flacco expected to miss time with a disc issue in his back.

There is obviously a connection to Olson as he played for Ravens head coach John Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, at Stanford. However, Olson did not see any playing time at Stanford behind Andrew Luck, Josh Nunes and Kevin Hogan, and he threw just three passes with one completion for a one-yard loss after transferring to Clemson as Deshaun Watson was the starter.

If Flacco’s issue is short-term – PFT’s Mike Florio reported that Flacco is only going to miss a week or so – the Ravens will need little more than a camp arm to get through a handful of practices in the interim. Nevertheless, Olson will have one of the least impressive backgrounds, statistically, of any quarterback on a roster in the league.

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Rams place five on non-football injury/physically unable to perform lists

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As players begin to report for training camp with the Los Angeles Rams, the team placed five players on injury lists to open camp.

Defensive tackle Omarius Bryant, defensive backs Dominique Hatfield and Aarion Penton, and guard Alex Kozan were placed on the non-football injury list on Thursday. Tight end Johnny Mundt was placed on the physically unable to perform list.

The NFI list works similarly to the PUP list in which players still count against the 90-man roster limit in preseason and can be activated any time before the start of the regular season upon completion of a physical. Players must be on the NFI or PUP lists from the start of training camp in order to be eligible for the in-season versions of the lists, which would require the players to miss the first six weeks of the regular season before being eligible to return.

The non-football injury lists is for ailments sustained away from the NFL working environment while the PUP list serves injuries suffered while doing football activities in team facilities – practices, games, training, etc.

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Jerry Jones: Decision on Ezekiel Elliott imminent

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Jerry Jones expects a decision from the league soon on Ezekiel Elliott. Though Jones said he doesn’t know what the NFL will rule, the Cowboys owner reiterated his belief that Elliott did nothing that deserves a suspension.

“I think we’ll have a decision imminently,” Jones told Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt on SiriusXM. “Of course, I don’t know what that will be and wouldn’t want to have conjecture in any way involving that.

“What I have seen, though, is the presentation of Zeke and his people, and I’ve seen the league’s presentation. There’s no domestic violence involved here.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter recently reported that Elliott is bracing for a suspension to start the season. With Jones entering the Hall of Fame Aug. 5, it’s unlikely the NFL would announce a suspension next week. But it’s obvious Jones doesn’t expect a suspension for Elliott.

Jones has stood by the running back even as the NFL’s investigation has extended more than a year.

The Cowboys drafted Elliott fourth overall in 2016, and he led the league in rushing as a rookie.

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Ryan Switzer injures hamstring, though it doesn’t appear serious

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The only way Lucky Whitehead was going to make the Cowboys’ roster was if Ryan Switzer was injured. Two days after the Cowboys parted ways with Whitehead, Switzer was injured.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, it doesn’t appear the receiver’s hamstring injury is serious.

I know my body well,” Switzer said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Hopefully it is day to day.”

Switzer was injured after making a reception during practice.

“I just kind of got jerked in the wrong direction when I was trying to accelerate,” Switzer said. “That’s all. Nothing big.”

The Cowboys’ other slot receiver, Cole Beasley, who led the team in receiving last season, has battled hamstring tendinitis since Week 10 of last season. The team was cautious with him during the offseason program, but he has been a full participant in training camp.

Switzer said he never previously had a hamstring injury.

The Cowboys have an off day Friday.

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Sammy Watkins tired of hearing about foot

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Bills receiver Sammy Watkins pronounced his surgically repaired left foot fully healed. Thanks for asking.

“My job is really to get back in shape and be out there with the guys,” Watkins said, via Mike Rodak of ESPN. “I don’t want to hear no more about the foot. The foot is fine. I’m healed.”

Watkins, who has undergone two surgeries on his foot in 15 months, was limited in the team’s first practice Thursday. The Bills have him on a “rep count” during training camp.

Watkins, the fourth overall pick in 2014, has only one 1,000-yard season as injuries have limited him. He had broken ribs as a rookie, hip surgery in the 2015 offseason and missed three games that season with shin and ankle injuries. Watkins’ foot injury kept him out of eight games last season.

The Bills declined Watkins’ $13.3 million fifth-year contract option for the 2018 season. Thus, he is scheduled for unrestricted free agency in the offseason.

“I’m not concerned about that,” Watkins said. “That’s the coaches and the owner. My job is go out there and earn it, and play, and stay healthy. That’s my goal this year.”

In 37 games, he has 153 receptions for 2,459 yards and 17 touchdowns.

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Giants’ best move could be to give OBJ what he wants, right now

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The aspirations of Odell Beckham Jr. to be the highest-paid player in the NFL will trigger this reaction: That’s nice, but it’s not realistic.

But after considering how Beckham could, on a year-to-year basis, become the highest paid player in the league, maybe the best move would be to make him the league’s highest paid player now.

Currently signed for two more years under his rookie deal, Beckham is on the books for $1.839 million in 2017 and $8.459 million in 2018. Come 2019, he’d be eligible for the franchise tag. For receivers, the 2017 tag landed at $15.682 million. Assuming eight-percent increases for the next two years, the receiver franchise would be $18.28 million in 2019.

By rule (20 percent raise), the amount would move to $21.93 million in 2020. Come 2021, Beckham would get a 44-percent raise ($31.58 million) or the quarterback franchise tag, whichever is greater.

Depending on where the market at the quarterback position goes over the next four years (and whether other stars opt to go year-to-year under the franchise tag), $31.58 million could make Beckham the highest paid player in football. His better chance would come in 2022, when he’d either hit the open market unfettered or, if a fourth franchise tag is even available, receiver $45.48 million for 2022.

Let’s assume the Giants decide come 2022 not to invest that much money in a non-quarterback. If he’s on the open market, does a 29-year-old Beckham get the biggest deal any player ever has?

Maybe. While some owners will evaluate Beckham based only on football abilities, there surely will be some who throw money at Beckham for the value he brings, both in dollars and cents and by instantly making the team name and logo into national brands.

Given how expensive it could become for the Giants on a year-to-year basis over the next six seasons, the best move for the Giants could be to give Beckham a four-year extension right now, with a new-money average of $25.1 million. That would allow him to call himself the highest-paid player in the league, and it would require a total payout of only (only?) $110.698 million over six years.

On a year-to-year basis, the Giants would pay Beckham at least $127.568 million over the next six years. So they could save $17 million, give the player significant security, and buy the peace that comes from having a key player be happy and satisfied by moving quickly, before the high-water mark in new money moves above $25 million per year.

They also could structure the long-term offer to be guaranteed for three years, with the team having the option to cut him or squeeze him to take less on the back end. If his motivation is to be the highest-paid player in football, maybe he’d agree to terms of that type — like most other players routinely do — since he would still be able to say he’s the highest paid player in football.

Until, of course, someone else is making more than $25.1 million per year. Which will happen, sooner than later.

Which is why the Giants should maybe move now to give Beckham what he wants in a way that gives the team what it needs, especially in light of the pitfalls of letting Beckham play on a year-to-year basis.

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Calais Campbell almost as confident as Malik Jackson in Jaguars’ prospects

AP

Laugh all you want, but you can’t deny the Jaguars’ confidence. Calais Campbell repeated Malik Jackson’s declaration that the Jaguars will win Super Bowl LII.

Never mind the odds, which, by the way, are 80-1.

It’s a tough task,” Campbell said, via Michael DiRocco of ESPN. “You have to have a lot of pieces to the puzzle in place. I feel like we have those pieces. Now it comes down to execution. It’s a long road.

“This is the start and we have a lot to prove, and it comes down to just getting better every day, executing and winning the day, and that’s all we can control right now. So we go through camp the best way we can and try to put ourselves in position.”

The Jaguars have won a combined 11 games the past three seasons and have not made the playoffs since 2007 despite several high draft picks and high-profile free agent signings in recent seasons.

Campbell was another of those high-profile signings, leaving Arizona after nine seasons for the Jaguars four-year, $60 million offer this offseason.

“I know history doesn’t say a lot of good things, but from what I see, all the pieces are in place, and I’m going to go out there and do everything that I can to make sure I put myself and motivate my teammates to put themselves in position to get the job done,” said Campbell, who played in Super Bowl XLIII with the Cardinals. “The biggest thing is just winning the division so you can get your opportunity. Like Malik knows — he’s won a Super Bowl, I’ve played in one — it’s really just getting to the playoffs, winning your division and getting that home game and then from there, anything is possible.

“We have some division games early, so the whole training camp is about focusing so we can start fast. If we can start fast, anything is possible.”

As DiRocco pointed out, the Jaguars are only 5-24 in the month of September since the 2007 season.

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Les Snead on Aaron Donald’s contract: We’re working to find resolution

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Sean McVay and Les Snead wouldn’t speculate on whether Aaron Donald will report to training camp with his teammates Friday. But it’s a safe bet the Rams don’t expect their All-Pro defensive tackle to show up.

These are delicate situations,” Snead, the team’s General Manager, said, via Myles Simmons of the team website. “I think you have to respect Aaron and his side in that business move. And it’s really, at that point, all about respect. And yes, we would love for him to be here, hope he’s here; [he] would help if he’s here. But if he decides not to, it’s a thing you have to respect from their group.”

Donald skipped the voluntary OTAs because of his contract situation. He has outplayed a contract scheduled to pay him $1.8 million in salary and $1.4 million in bonuses this season. The Rams exercised their fifth-year option, putting Donald in line for $6.9 million in 2018. But he wants a long-term deal that will pay him as the best player at his position.

Forty defensive tackles have higher averages than Donald, including the highest-paid, Ndamukong Suh, at $19.1 million per season.

Snead characterized the dialogue with Donald and his representatives as open.

“I think we’re working to find the resolution,” Snead said. “I don’t want to get into optimistic or pessimistic, because it’s a complicated situation, and [we] respect Aaron and his group. We’re working to try to find a win-win.”

New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has changed the defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4, but it won’t affect Donald much. As long as Donald is in the lineup for the start of the season, the Rams feel good. In the meantime, training camp will go on without him.

“I think, certainly, Aaron’s a great player,” McVay said. “He’s one of the best players in this league, especially at his position. But it’s one of those deals with the NFL — whether it’s guys not reporting or injuries for whatever matter — guys have to be able to step up. And we feel very confident in our defensive depth.”

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Jon Gruden says he’s preparing to coach again, but will he ever?

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The folks at PewterReport.com are characterizing former Buccaneers and Raiders coach Jon Gruden as saying he wants to return to coaching. The quote they’re supplying, however, doesn’t quite have that degree of clarity.

“I’ve met with several people — I won’t deny that,” Gruden said in a 40-minute interview with PewterReport.com. “Just about every year I talk about coming back to coach. I’m not in here every day at 4:30 or 4:00 in the morning watching pinball, you know? I’m preparing myself to come back. I am. Every day. I’m preparing to come back.”

Preparing to come back and wanting to come back are two different things. It could be that Gruden has the mindset of preparing to come back in order to help him be as good as he can be in the job he has.

“It helps me in my broadcasting and I think if you lose that edge . . . you can’t come back unless you are totally wired with college football, personnel, schemes, the CBA, how people are practicing, trends, you know?” Gruden said. “You’ve got stay on top of this stuff.”

Gruden has never shown a serious desire to coach in the eight years and counting since he became the founding member of the Fired Football Coaches Association. And, frankly, teams haven’t been banging down Gruden’s door in recent years. While all it takes is one to change that, in recent years the number has been zero.

Of course, this interview could be Gruden’s first step in getting the word out that 2018 will be the year of his return. If it is, he’ll be giving up a spot on Monday Night Football that likely won’t be kept warm for him by ESPN.

Then again, by the time Gruden is out of coaching again, there’s a good chance ESPN will no longer have Monday Night Football. So maybe he’s thinking about getting out before he potentially becomes the founding member of the Fired Football Broadcasters Association.

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Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett like seeing three practice fights from Cowboys

AP

Three fights happened at Cowboys practice on Thursday. But no one will be held (hard gulp) accountable for it.

What I saw was competitiveness,” Jones said regarding the trio of brouhahas, via Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It didn’t undermine our team concepts. I liked it.”

“It was a little spirited, particularly over there in the pass-rush drill, and you like that,” Garrett added. “You’d rather have to dial it back than constantly having to light a fire under these guys. Your guys are very passionate about football. They love to play and they love to work at it. Sometimes you get across the line, though. You’ve got to make sure they dial it back and focus on what they need to focus on, which is the next play.”

The card consisted of defensive tackle Lewis Neal vs. center Joe Looney, defensive end Damontre Moore vs. guard Ruben Carter, and defensive end Tyrone Crawford vs. guard Zack Martin.

“We’ve been going at each other since OTAs, so when you go against the same guy for months at a time, stuff builds up,” Martin said. “We’ve got some great competition between the offensive and defensive line and we’re making each other better.”

The stuff blew up on Thursday, and it sounds like there will be more of it to come. In Oxnard and elsewhere.

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49ers hope deadline drives a deal with Solomon Thomas

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Only three draft picks aren’t signed, and one of them is the third overall pick in the draft.

With the 49ers starting training-camp practice on Friday, the new brain trust in Santa Clara hopes that the deadline drives a decision.

“Yeah, we’re still working on that,” G.M. John Lynch told reporters on Thursday. “There’s been a lot of productive conversations here in the last couple of days. Just left some of those, and we’re hopeful that we can get this done in the necessary time. I think, I’m aware from experience as a player, and we all are in the business of football, that deadlines typically get these things done and we’re drawing close to that. And, like I said, hopeful that we can continue to make progress and tie this thing up so Solomon can be here with his teammates.”

There’s clearly a sense of urgency to get it done, as demonstrated by coach Kyle Shanahan.

“You want him there right away,” Shanahan said. “I’m pretty confident that we will get it done, but it’s part of the business. It’s something that you’ve got to deal with a little bit every year. That doesn’t always happen, but I think everyone who’s been in the business has been through it. You totally understand it and I think Solomon wants to be here as bad as anyone. I know we want him here as bad as anyone and I’m confident we will get it done, but can’t worry about it too much. I think it will end up being alright.”

It’s unclear why a deal hasn’t been done for Thomas, who’s in the same draft spot — and represented by the same firm — as Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa a year ago. For Bosa, the issues were guarantee offsets and signing-bonus cash flow. Which are basically the only two issues that can be negotiated under the rookie wage scale.

So it’s safe to assume that the 49ers and Thomas are squabbling about guarantee offsets, signing-bonus cash flow, or both.

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Jourdan Lewis expresses relief after not guilty verdict

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Rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis practiced for the first time Thursday, relieved to be back at work instead of in a Michigan court room. An Ann Arbor jury found the Cowboys cornerback not guilty of misdemeanor domestic violence and assault and battery counts charges stemming from a March incident.

I’m just elated to be out here and glad it’s over with,” Lewis said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Just excited that long, grueling process, that long period of time, is over. Get it behind me and come out here and play football.”

Lewis, 21, saw his draft stock fall with the trial looming. The Cowboys selected him in the third round and expect him to compete for a starting job.

“It definitely hurt on a national scale, a lot of people not knowing who I am and not knowing who I am as a person,” Lewis said. “It definitely hurt my feelings a little bit. I just forgive all parties for whatever happened. It’s just behind me, and I’m excited to get out here and play football.”

Lewis always maintained his innocence, declining to plead to a lesser charge.

“The alleged defendant is always the underdog,” Lewis said. “But just believing in myself and believing in the truth and believing in God is definitely some of the things that helped me go through this process.”

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Bucs sign defensive end Justin Trattou

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On the eve of training camp, the Buccaneers made a roster move. They signed veteran defensive end Justin Trattou.

The Bucs waived rookie Evan Panfil with an injury designation to make room.

Trattou played in 37 games, with no starts, in six seasons. He spent 21/2 seasons with the Giants before moving on to the Vikings. Trattou played in all 16 games with the Vikings last season.

The 28-year-old has 13 career tackles and two interceptions.

Trattou started on Florida’s 2008 national championship team, making 27 tackles and four tackles for loss.

He gives the Bucs more short-term depth as several defensive ends recover from injury.

Panfil signed with the Bucs as an undrafted rookie out of Purdue. He worked with the team in OTAs and minicamp.

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