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Report: Browns want into top 3 for a pass-rusher

Joe Banner AP

Might as well go ahead and make all the mock drafts (more) fruitless early in the day.

According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, the “rumor out there” is that the Browns want to move up into the top three picks, from their current sixth slot.

The thinking is that they want to get in front of the Eagles (fourth) and Lions (fifth) to get the pass-rusher they covet. And since Browns CEO Joe Banner has insight into the Eagles front office from his days there, he has a clear sense of what they need and what general manager Howie Roseman values.

If they’re third, they’d miss out on no more than one of the top prospects there, as the Chiefs are expected to take an offensive lineman, and no one’s clear whether the Jaguars in the second spot go tackle or find a Leo for new coach Gus Bradley’s defense.

Such a move would put the Browns in position for perhaps Dion Jordan or Ziggy Ansah or Barkevious Mingo, as the annual run on guys who get to the quarterback begins.

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Don Shula hospitalized, released

Don Shula NFL Coach of the Year Award Press Conference Getty Images

Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula was released from a hospital Tuesday after receiving overnight treatment.

A statement released by the family said Shula, 86, was hospitalized due to fluid retention and sleep apnea and said the family “is looking for a speedy recovery.” NFL Network confirmed that Shula was treated and released.

Shula is the NFL’s winningest coach. He won two Super Bowls with the Dolphins and guided them to a perfect record in 1972.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997. His son, Mike, is the offensive coordinator of the Panthers.

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Report: Contaminated meat led to positive PED test for Duane Brown last year

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The NFLPA sent a memo to players this week warning them to be cautious about eating meat in Mexico and China because some of it is contaminated by Clenbuterol, which is a banned substance under the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

It appears that a trip to Mexico by Texans tackle Duane Brown last year uncovered the issue. Dan Graziano and Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com report that Brown, who was suspended four games for a PED violation in 2010, tested positive last November after returning from a bye-week vacation with his wife. He faced a 10-game suspension as a repeat offender.

Brown appealed with the help of the NFLPA and receipts from meals showing he ate 10 burgers and two steaks while in Mexico. He was cleared in April of this year and his experience is one that the union would like other players to avoid.

The Texans and Raiders will be playing a game in Mexico City during the 2016 season. One would imagine that Brown will be laying off the beef during that visit.

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Jaguars rookies won’t be doing much on the field at minicamp

Jacksonville Jaguars first-round draft pick Dante Fowler is tended to after being injured at the teams NFL football minicamp in Jacksonville, Fla., Friday, May 8, 2015. (Fran Ruchalski/The Florida Times-Union via AP) AP

The Dolphins won’t be the only NFL team approaching rookie minicamp differently this year.

They won’t even be the only NFL team in Florida approaching it differently this year. The Jaguars are joining them in altering the process to cut back on drills and other on-field work while devoting more time to meetings at what they’re calling a “rookie orientation.”

Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell says that he’d thought about different ways to handle rookie minicamp in the past and that the torn ACL that first-round pick Dante Fowler suffered on the first day of camp last year made it a more pressing issue.

“It’s never really made a lot of common sense to me,” Caldwell said, via the Associated Press. ”You always just crossed your fingers and hoped for the best. I think this gave us good reason to do it. Never did you think it would be something that would be season-ending, but even the little stuff. If a guy pulls a hamstring, then all of a sudden he spends the next six weeks rehabbing instead of getting better, stronger and in shape.”

The Broncos lost third-round tight end Jeff Heuerman to a torn ACL last year and coach Gary Kubiak recently called full-speed practices at minicamp for players who haven’t been on the field in some time “probably not the smartest thing to do.” Another serious injury or two in this year’s camps may have the Dolphins and Jaguars at the forefront of a trend around the league as it comes to handling the first NFL exposure for their rookie class.

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Lions cut Pierce, Cave

Detroit Lions v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Lions released center Braxston Cave and tight end Casey Pierce on Tuesday.

Cave broke into the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2013 with the Browns. He’s spent time on the practice squads of the Lions, Redskins, Patriots and Browns. He was promoted to the active roster by the Lions last December but didn’t play in a game.

Pierce signed with the Lions after last year’s draft and spent the 2015 season on the practice squad. He played in the Senior Bowl in 2015 after a standout career at Kent State.

Similar moves are being made around the league as teams clear roster spots for draft picks and new undrafted free agent signings.

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Chiefs release Jimmy Wilson, Cameron Gordon

Jimmy Wilson, Adrian Peterson AP

The Chiefs released safety Jimmy Wilson and linebacker Cameron Gordon on Tuesday.

Wilson and Gordon signed with the Chiefs earlier in the offseason but were released as the Chiefs cleared roster space for draft picks and post-draft rookie signings.

Wilson signed a two-year, $4.85 million deal with San Diego in 2015 but was cut last December after making six starts. He’s played in 73 games, starting 27, and has five career interceptions and three career sacks. Wilson, a seventh-round pick in 2011, spent four years with the Dolphins before departing via free agency.

Gordon broke into the league as an undrafted rookie with the Patriots in 2014 and signed a futures contract with the Chiefs in January.

The Chiefs drafted three defensive backs — KeiVarae Russell, Eric Murray and D.J. White — last weekend, and in the seventh round selected outside linebacker Dadi Nicolas.

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Condon’s concern on Bradford: “There’s not really a competition”

Sam Bradford, Mario Addison AP

The most common response to the effort by Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford to get out of Philly after signing a two-year, $35 million contract has been to say that Bradford should simple embrace the opportunity to compete. Indeed, former NFL quarterback Brady Quinn (who was represented during his playing days by Bradford’s agent, Tom Condon) explained last week on PFT Live that Bradford simply isn’t accustomed to having to compete.

Condon has addressed the notion that Bradford should simply compete and, if successful, keep Carson Wentz on the bench. Condon explained on The Business of Sports with Andrew Brandt that the circumstances suggest that the deck is stacked in favor of Wentz.

“There’s not really a competition,” Condon said. “You’re holding the card until you’re replaced, and as far as the club is concerned, and I would guess the fans, the sooner, the better.”

Condon has a point. The last time the Eagles took a quarterback in round one, current coach Doug Pederson was the starting quarterback. He started nine games before yielding to then-rookie Donovan McNabb.

Rookie quarterbacks routinely are installed at the bottom of the depth chart, giving them a chance to accomplish something by working their way up the ladder — regardless of whether they objectively deserve to be elevated from No. 3 to No. 2 to, eventually, No. 1. The bigger the investment, the sooner the player ends up on the field.

“I know people say, ‘Well, why doesn’t he just compete and win the job?'” Condon said. “There is no real competition. If you’ve given up the draft choices [to trade up] and he’s the second pick in the draft, he’s playing. That’s all there is to it.

Condon reiterated that Bradford will continue to stay away in the hopes of having a chance to get to a team that wants him. Will Bradford offer to pay back any of his $11 million signing bonus to make that happen?

“I think I better hold off on any questions with regard to the cash,” Condon said.

Buried in that non-answer could be a message to the Eagles that perhaps Bradford would be willing to, for example, sacrifice all or part of the second installment of $5.5 million. (The first half already has been paid.)

Still, it’s one thing for the Eagles to eventually decide to move on from Bradford. It’s another for a different team to want him. Barring a season-ending injury to an entrenched starter, Bradford may not find another NFL team that is willing to give him the keys for, at a minimum, all of the 2016 season.

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Bears’ Lamarr Houston says Aaron Rodgers’ championship belt gets on his nerves

rodgersbelt Getty Images

Bears linebacker Lamarr Houston is spicing up the offseason with a little trash talk aimed at Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Asked about Rodgers on ESPN today, Houston acknowledged he’s a good player but said he doesn’t like him as a person and especially doesn’t like his attitude, exemplified by his trademark celebration of pretending to put a championship belt around his waist.

He’s a little arrogant for me. He’s a little too arrogant,” Houston said. “He’s a cheesehead. I’m a Bear. He’s a cheesehead. But I have a lot of respect for his game, I will say that. He’s a great quarterback. As a player, I have a lot of respect for him but the whole championship belt thing kind of gets on my nerves.”

Houston might not be the best one to talk about the way other players celebrate, considering that he once suffered a season-ending knee injury while celebrating a sack late in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss. But Houston has taken shots at Rodgers before, most notably after the Bears beat the Packers on Thanksgiving, when Houston sacked Rodgers during the game and said afterward, “I really don’t like that guy.”

Rodgers may have just a little more motivation to unleash the championship belt when the Bears meet the Packers next, on October 20.

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Scot McCloughan reiterates desire to sign Kirk Cousins to long-term deal

Zz0yZWJmMTExMDgzYjg5M2ExNTk0MmI1ODYxNzVmZGQyZA== AP

Washington has applied the franchise tag to quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins has signed it. It means that he’s under contract for 2016, at nearly $20 million.

The two sides have only until July 15 to sign Cousins to a deal that goes beyond 2016. During a Tuesday morning visit to PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, G.M. Scot McCloughan was asked whether there’s any reason to think the contract will be done before the deadline, given that this is a deadline-driven business.

“I can’t answer that. I don’t know for sure, but we would love to get it done,” McCloughan said. “We would love to get it done but you’re well aware of how the business works. He’s our leader on offense, he’s our quarterback. He won the [NFC] East for us last year, a 16-game quarterback, took us to the playoffs.

“But it takes two sides to come together and it is a big contract and it’s gonna be a long-term contract. The years, the money and the incentives, all that stuff comes into play. But it’s ongoing. I really believe, talking with Kirk and of course myself and our organization, we want to get a long-term deal done. He wants to be here, he sees what’s going on, the positive energy, and it’s a business. It takes time these long term deals, big deals like this.”

The deadline is important in situations like this because nobody wants to move close to a bottom-line position with time left to negotiate. Whoever does that ends up potentially getting squeezed off the bottom-line position later. So both sides keep it in neutral until there’s limited time remaining, and then they try to figure out if their bottom-line positions intersect.

Regardless of what Cousins wants and what Washington is willing to offer, he has $19.95 million in the bank for 2016. After 2016, Washington will have to decide between letting the market set his value or paying him $23.94 million. So unless Washington is offering $43.89 million over the first two years, Cousins arguably should let the process play itself out.

His recent comments seem to suggest that he’s willing to do just that. By saying that he doesn’t deserve a long-term deal if he doesn’t play well in 2016, Cousins is saying that he’s willing to bet on himself for a second straight season.

Last year, Cousins parlayed a $660,000 salary into nearly $20 million for one year. That’s an increase of more than 3,000 percent. So he’s familiar with going all in and winning big. This time around, he’s got a much, much larger bird in the hand.

For Washington, there’s significant risk in letting Cousins hit the open market. As Washington proved two weeks ago when signing cornerback Josh Norman, sometimes another team is willing to pay a guy who is the property another team a lot more than the other team is willing to pay him.

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NFLPA warns players about contaminated meat in China and Mexico

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2010 file photo, steaks and other beef products are displayed for sale at a grocery store in McLean, Va. The meat industry is seeing red over the dietary guidelines. The World Health Organization’s cancer agency says Monday Oct.26, 2015  that processed meats such as ham and sausage can lead to colon and other cancers, and red meat is probably cancer-causing as well. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) AP

One of the tenets of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy is that players are responsible for everything that goes into their body and, as a result, that it does not matter if banned substances are ingested intentionally or not when determining punishment.

The NFLPA reminded players of that fact in a letter warning players who might be spending time in China or Mexico about meat in those countries. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith each shared the letter on social media Tuesday with Peterson noting that players might have to go vegan on vacation.

“There is some evidence that some meat produced in China and Mexico may be contaminated with clenbuterol, an anabolic agent which is banned by the NFL Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances,” the letter reads. “Consuming large quantities of meat while visiting those particular countries may result in a positive test for clenbuterol in violation of the Policy.”

“Players are warned to be aware of this issue when traveling to Mexico and China. Please take caution if you decide to consume meat, and understand that you do so at your own risk.”

There’s no mention of foods that are imported into the United States from either country, but it might not be a bad idea for players to make sure where those are coming from as well given the consequences for a positive test.

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Jets are willing to keep all four quarterbacks, as soon as they get a fourth

Geno Smith AP

There’s a reason the Jets re-signing Ryan Fitzpatrick feels so inevitable. Mostly, it’s because every plan the team makes seems to include him.

During today’s appearance on WFAN, Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan said he was willing to take all four quarterbacks into camp and the regular season. Which would be more interesting if they had more than three on the roster at the moment.

Via Darryl Slater of NJ.com, Maccagnan said he liked the idea of keeping Geno Smith around along with youngsters Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg.

“The simple answer to your question is yes,” Maccagnan said when asked if the Jets could keep four quarterbacks. “We even discussed that a little bit [internally]. At the end of the day, quarterbacks are important, obviously in the league in general. But in a perfect world, I think you’d like to take your time to develop [young] quarterbacks and have them almost in the pipeline, basically.

“So that’s kind of our approach to this whole thing. If it’s in the best interest of the team at the end of training camp that we carry four quarterbacks, then we carry four quarterbacks. It’s not unprecedented in the NFL. It’s been done before. To me, it’s a position where you have to take some time to really invest, grow, and develop players.”

With the widespread assumption that Fitzpatrick will eventually return, you know they’re keeping him and Hackenberg, who they just used a second-round pick on. But Maccagnan’s stance Tuesday was a bit of a vote of confidence in Smith as the veteran backup (Man, he has to get tired of being a backup to a guy who isn’t even on the roster) as well as in Petty as having more promise than previously displayed.

“This will be a big offseason for [Smith] going forward, and we’ll see how he develops,” Maccagnan said. “We like the idea of having Fitz, in a perfect world, back here in the organization with Geno and our young two quarterbacks.”

The Jets view both Hackenberg and Petty as developmental players, but the pace of that development would obviously hinge on when Fitzpatrick returns, since it doesn’t seem like if has ever been considered an option.

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Report: Terron Armstead signing five-year extension with Saints

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 15: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints passes while tackle Terron Armstead #72 of the New Orleans Saints blocks against the Washington Redskins in the third quarter at FedExField on November 15, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Saints and quarterback Drew Brees haven’t come to an agreement on a much-discussed contract extension this offseason, but it appears the team has had more luck with one of the players charged with keeping Brees upright.

Josina Anderson of ESPN reports that left tackle Terron Armstead is signing a five-year extension with the Saints on Tuesday. The deal would tie Armstead to the Saints through the 2021 season.

Armstead was a third-round pick in 2013 and has started 27 games over the last two seasons after taking over the job at left tackle late in his rookie season. He’s proven to be an asset to both the running and passing games and won’t turn 25 until July, which gives him a good chance to remain productive through the life of this new contract as long as he can avoid serious injuries.

With Armstead locked up, Brees and center Max Unger would be the biggest potential free agents for the Saints after the 2016 season.

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Thomas Dimitroff confident the Falcons pass rush will improve

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 07: Thomas Dimitroff, general manager of the Atlanta Falcons, stands on the field in the second half against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on September 7, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Falcons owner Arthur Blank expects the team to make the playoffs next season, something that will likely take a more robust effort from the pass rush than the defense was able to muster in 2015.

The Falcons had just 19 sacks as a team, but they didn’t address the position during the draft. In an interview with 92.9 The Game, General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said that a run on pass rushers early in the second round took potential targets for the team off the table and defended the pick of safety Keanu Neal in the first round because of Neal’s “cover skills and legit physical presence.” He wouldn’t say if the team was concerned about defensive end Shaq Lawson’s shoulder, but said they didn’t take the eventual Bills first-round pick off their board.

Beyond anything having to do with the draft, Dimitroff said that the team has full faith in coach Dan Quinn’s ability to get the defense where it needs to go.

“We feel this is one of those things that Dan has a very, very good grasp on and that’s something we said from the very beginning,” Dimitroff said. “He knows this defense, he knows how he wants to build it as far as the pass rush. I have all the faith in the world that we know what we’re doing and he knows what he’s doing in terms of building our pass rush.”

2015 first-rounder Vic Beasley, Derrick Shelby and Adrian Clayborn will be the forefront of that effort and Dimitroff talked up linebacker Brooks Reed as well while discussing the in-house players the team expects to make more noise this time around. If they can’t and the Falcons don’t return to the postseason, the noises from Blank may not be overly enjoyable for his employees.

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Jets G.M. admits they tried to move up to take Laremy Tunsil

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #13 overall by the Miami Dolphins during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Not every team was running away from Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil last Thursday night after video emerged of his gas mask bong hits.

One team was trying to run toward him.

Via Darryl Slater of NJ.com, Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan said during an appearance with WFAN’s Mike Francesa that the Jets did try to make a move to get to Tunsil, whose slide was stopped by the Dolphins at No. 13.

The Jets, picking 20th, settled for Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee.

The Jets lost left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson to retirement, and traded for Denver’s Ryan Clady to replace him to Tunsil would have been a longer-term fix to the problem.

Given the trades that happened to get to the eighth and ninth picks, the Jets would have ostensibly been calling the Saints (12th), Buccaneers (11th) and Giants (10th). All three stayed put with their picks, with the cross-town Giants taking some heat for taking cornerback Eli Apple. To run the risk of incurring the wrath of Giants G.M. Jerry Reese, it is interesting to consider whether Apple might have been there when the other Big Apple team picked at No. 20.

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Bills ready to resume extension talks with Cordy Glenn, Stephon Gilmore, Tyrod Taylor

Justin Houston, Cordy Glenn AP

The draft has a way of dominating the workload of a front office and leaving little time to pursue other business, which meant that the Bills haven’t been too focused on extending any contracts for current members of the team lately.

General Manager Doug Whaley said that is going to change now that the draft has come to a conclusion. Left tackle Cordy Glenn, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and quarterback Tyrod Taylor are all on the list and Whaley said the team is going to “regroup” this week to come up with a plan. Whaley says he’s “supremely confident” all three can fit under the 2017 cap and that the team isn’t prioritizing one over the others.

“They’re all the same,” Whaley said on WGR 550, via the team’s website. “We’re going to try to work as diligently as possible to get all three of those guys. This is where we want to get to. Have good players on our team and then keep them instead of going out into free agency. We’d like to use free agency for the value guys. So when you have potential stars that we’ve drafted or acquired and they’re on our roster now, why not throw the money at those guys?”

There’s a July 15 deadline to work out a multi-year deal with Glenn, who signed his franchise tender. There are no such issues involved with the other two players, although the last word on the Taylor front was that there was “some work to be done” on a deal for a player with one year of starting experience under his belt.

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Giants G.M. Jerry Reese: Critics “don’t know what they’re talking about”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Senior Vice President and General Manager Jerry Reese of the New York Giants celebrates after the Giants won 21-17 against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants General Manager Jerry Reese has caught some heat in recent years, partly because the Giants haven’t made the playoffs in four seasons and partly because with Tom Coughlin gone he’s the next logical target.

But Reese got a little defensive when asked about drafting Eli Apple with the 10th overall pick, since some considered him a bit of a reach and their previously identified targets Leonard Floyd and Jack Conklin were off the board thanks to teams trading in front of him.

Via James Kratch of NJ.com, Reese’s criticized his critics during an appearance on WFAN, saying they obviously weren’t qualified opinions.

When somebody doesn’t know what they’re talking about, it’s easy to depict it that way,” Reese said. “Because they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Reese has the luxury of declaring that only he could possibly know the contents of the Giants draft board, though there were numerous reports linking them with Floyd and the top three tackles leading up to the draft. But he said that Apple was the top player left on their board (keeping alive the streak of every G.M. ever saying that), at least among players that didn’t have “circumstances or issues.” That would seem to cover Laremy Tunsil and Myles Jack.

“We thought those [targeted] guys were good players. We went through a lot of different scenarios, and we clearly had went through this scenario, that Apple could be the player that we would pick,” Reese said. “We were very happy that he was available when we picked there at No. 10. We absolutely had gone over this scenario many times.

“Obviously, not the [specific] situation that came up during the draft, but we thought some of the players might have been gone anyway. He was right in our window, where we had him ranked on our board, and he was an easy pick for us.”

Reese insisted that Apple was good value, because at 20 years old he’s still growing as a player, and that the Giants needed more help at the position, even after dropping the cash bomb on Janoris Jenkins in free agency.

While it’s true that many corners of the Internet are full of people who claim expertise they do not have, Reese’s own record of late invites criticism, which even his boss has noticed in pointing out how important this draft was.

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