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Crazy as it sounds, Rodgers took less

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers waits to be announced before the start of the NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Green Bay Reuters

With the Packers sliding the announcement of the Aaron Rodgers contract extension into the late Friday afternoon pre-round two news dump, the transaction escaped full real-time scrutiny.

So here’s a little belated scrutiny.

While the deal indeed sounds impressive on the surface — five years, $110 million — the reality says more Rodgers’ selflessness than Tom Brady’s much-hyped “he took less!” deal said about his.

The $22 million annual average applies over the five years of the extension.  That’s the new-money average.  Tacking on the two years at $20 million that Rodgers was due to earn under his existing deal, it’s a seven-year, $130 million contract.

That’s an average of $18.5 million — well short of the $20.1 million high-water mark set by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco last month.

Rodgers’ decision to expose himself to the petty “whose is bigger?” comparisons reflects a pragmatism that will help the Packers remain competitive, if of course they’re willing to spend their cap money.  Per a source with knowledge of the deal, Rodgers’ cap number never exceeds $21 million in any year of the contract.  In contrast, Flacco’s deal has cap numbers of $28.55 million in 2016, $31.15 million in 2017, and $24.75 million in 2018.

And while Brady’s deal includes much lower base salaries as of 2015, the goal in extending his deal was to reduce his cap numbers in 2013 and 2014.  The two sides will deal with 2015 when 2015 arrives.

Besides, Brady occupies a different phase of his career.  Rodgers, who still has not turned 30, will ride this contract through the decade.  And he’ll quite possibly earn and receive every penny of it.

Whether that’s $18.5 million per year or $20.1 million per year or $22 million per year or $50 million per year, Rodgers knows it’s enough, it’s fair, and it helps his team put enough players around him to keep the franchise competitive on a consistent basis.

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Alex Boone predicts Blaine Gabbert will start over Colin Kaepernick

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As the 2016 regular season approaches, a move that would have seemed highly irregular a year ago now seems inevitable. When the 49ers open things up in Week One against the Rams, the quarterback will be Blaine Gabbert not Colin Kaepernick.

A guy who spent six seasons with the 49ers, including a 2015 campaign that resulted in Kaepernick being benched for Gabbert, believes Gabbert will win the job in the first year with Chip Kelly as the head coach.

“To be honest I think that Blaine did a great job last year,” new Vikings guard Alex Boone told me from the field at U.S. Bank Stadium on Thursday, “and from what I know of Blaine, I think he’s probably gonna take the reins. I mean I think he’s a good guy, he knows what he’s doing out there, and he just has the support of the group so I think that’s one of the things to look forward to.”

If/when (when) Gabbert starts against the Rams, he won’t have Boone around to protect the quarterback against a chippy L.A. Rams defense that last year infuriated Vikings coach Mike Zimmer with lows hits on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Although Boone declined to call the Rams defense dirty, he vowed to ensure that neither the Rams nor anyone else will be taking cheap shots at his quarterback.

That’s part of the mindset Zimmer wants in his offensive linemen, and the hope is that Boone’s attitude will spread to the rest of the offensive linemen. If it works, the Vikings’ biggest weakness in 2015 will become a strength with Boone, a giant of a guard at 6-8, imposing his will on opponents and his colorful personality on teammates.

Raw and honest but with a positive attitude and a genuine love of the game and an excited anticipation for training camp, Boone could be the difference maker the Vikings need on the field and in the locker room. The new stadium could be a difference maker, too.

“Levi’s [Stadium] was great but I think this place blows it away,” Boone said, who played for the 49ers when their new venue opened two years ago. “I just think the structure alone and the atmosphere it’s gonna bring, it’s gonna be outrageous.”

Outrageous is likely a good word to describe Boone. And if he makes his position group more outrageous and less cerebral, he’ll be worth every penny the Vikings are paying him and a lot more.

To hear everything Boone had to say, dial up the PFT Live podcast from Friday at iTunes or audioBoom.

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Todd Bowles: It’s not just about the quarterback

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 27:  Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets looks on before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on September 27, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets closed one of their long-running offseason subplots when they signed defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to a five-year contract on July 15, which left only the Ryan Fitzpatrick saga unresolved heading into training camp.

The impasse between the team and last year’s starting quarterback has been well documented to this point and coach Todd Bowles didn’t offer any updates during an interview with Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. He did say that he’s willing to move on with Geno Smith should things play out that way and offered a reminder that other positions will play a role in determining the Jets’ fate this season.

“I think Geno can be a good starter, but he’s got to prove it in training camp like everybody else,” Bowles said. “It’s not just about the quarterback position. You got to have a team around that position to play ball, but he’s been in the system a year. He has a better grasp of it going into training camp and we’ll see what he does.”

The rest of the Jets team and Fitzpatrick were able to navigate their way to 10 wins under Bowles last season, although that wasn’t enough for the team to make it to the playoffs. With players like Wilkerson, Darrelle Revis, Sheldon Richardson, Nick Mangold and Brandon Marshall on hand, the cast around the quarterback has star power again this season and Bowles knows that it is “win-now every year” for the team. Re-signing Fitzpatrick doesn’t assure the Jets will improve on last year’s finish, but it isn’t hard to see fingers pointing in that direction should the Jets stumble without him running the offense.

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John Kuhn expects to get a call during training camp

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Fullback John Kuhn #30 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates his 5-yard touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in the first quarter on December 20, 2015 at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Packers won 30-20. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Will there be a need to tell a confused colleague that they’re saying “Kuuuuuuuuuhn” and not booing this season?

John Kuhn believes there will be. The longtime Packers fullback has not landed a job for 2016 as camps get set to open around the league, but says he’s staying in shape and ready to roll because he expects to hear a call from a team before the summer is out.

“I’ve had 11 years in the NFL so far, so that’s good, but I’m not done,” Kuhn said on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan. “I work out four or five times a week and I’m putting in what I have to on the front end for expecting somebody to make my phone ring here at some point in time. If not this week, if not next week, sometime in August, somebody’s going to have a need for somebody who’s willing to come in, work hard, do some of the dirty work that not everybody does anymore.”

Kuhn said a return to the Packers or a job with a contender would be ideal, but knows that he can’t control which team might look in his direction. He also can’t control the overall trends of the NFL, although Kuhn said he thinks the variety of sub packages used by defenses has kept “a place in this game for running a two-back offense.”

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Sunday morning one-liners

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 30: Everson Griffen #97 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates his sack of Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers in the fourth quarter on November 30, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

Who will be the No. 3 wide receiver for the Bills?

Assessing whether the Dolphins offensive line has improved.

S Patrick Chung isn’t worried about the Patriots offense with QB Jimmy Garoppolo.

The Jets are set to have a punting battle this summer.

Five things to know about Ravens TE Benjamin Watson.

Bengals LB Vincent Rey has been eating like a caveman.

Rookie receivers are among the things to watch at Browns camp.

Said Steelers LB Arthur Moats, “We felt like we should have won it last year. With that being the mentality, and with everyone coming back, we know for a fact what we’re capable of. If we don’t win it this year it’s because we didn’t do it. It’s on us.”

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins looks to Cecil Shorts for advice.

DL Arthur Jones‘ suspension weakens a Colts defense that already had question marks.

Jaguars wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan has been at it a long time.

Titans TE Delanie Walker helped hand out 50 free dental exams to kids.

The Broncos need more from their young offensive linemen.

Said Chiefs QB Alex Smith, “We have a good opportunity, but camp hasn’t even started and there are so many things that are going to happen throughout training camp and over the course of the season.”

What will Raiders WR Amari Cooper do in his second season?

Remembering the day K Rolf Benirschke returned to the Chargers.

Did the Cowboys improve their backup quarterback situation.

We’re getting closer to finding out if Giants WR Victor Cruz is back to form.

A preview of the Eagles receiving corps.

Setting expectations for Redskins TE Jordan Reed.

Coach John Fox’s reputation is among the things to like most about the Bears.

The Lions have plenty of receiver jobs up for grabs.

Questions about RB Eddie Lacy and others surround the Packers with camp about to start.

Vikings DE Everson Griffen says last year’s playoff loss is motivation for this year.

Breaking down the Falcons linebackers.

The Panthers are packed and ready for training camp.

Saints CB Keenan Lewis says he’ll be ready for Week One.

The competition at cornerback will be something to watch at Buccaneers camp.

The speed of S Tyrann Mathieu’s return to form is one of the questions to answer at Cardinals camp.

Musing about when the Rams will hand the starting job to QB Jared Goff.

Jerry Rice likes 49ers QB Blaine Gabbert’s confidence.

The Seahawks would love an encore performance from WR Doug Baldwin.

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Tom Brady can’t play catch with teammates while suspended

Detroit Lions Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Getty Images

We may see a rusty Tom Brady in Week Five.

Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season over Deflategate, so he’s scheduled to make his regular season debut in Week Five against the Browns. Quarterbacks regularly miss time with injuries and then return to the field without any problems, but those quarterbacks have usually been working with their teammates at practice and participating in team meetings. Brady’s case will be different.

Not only is Brady not allowed to go to practices or team meetings during the four weeks when he’s suspended, but he’s not even allowed to have contact with coaches, or have a teammate over to his house to play catch.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Boston Herald that if Brady wanted Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski or any other Patriot to come over to his house and help him stay sharp, the NFL would prohibit it. Brady can’t “engage in any team football-related activities or discussions with teammates, even if away from the club facility.”

Would the NFL really be able to enforce a prohibition of “any team football-related activities or discussion?” Maybe not, but at this point Brady would be wise not to do anything that would result in a lengthy investigation. The last one didn’t go well for Brady.

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DeAndre Hopkins wants to be “treated for what I’m worth”

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 27: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans celebrates a touchdown pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first quarter on September 27, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans gave defensive end J.J. Watt a big-money deal after only three seasons. They’ve yet to do the same for receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who’ll soon begin his fourth NFL campaign.

The first-round pick has a five-year rookie deal, so the first question is when will the Texans make a meaningful effort to extend his contract? The second — and far more important — question is how much will they offer?

“I’m not looking for a certain range,” Hopkins said Saturday, via Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com. “I just want to be treated for what I’m worth. That’s fair to say, right?”

It’s fair to say, but harder to do. A player is “worth” whatever someone will pay him. But the Texans have ways to keep someone else from paying him more than the Texans would pay, starting with two more years of Hopkins being under contract and then the franchise tag.

The earlier the Texans pay Hopkins, the sooner he’ll be shifting the injury risk to the team. Thus, the longer they wait, the more Hopkins should want.

For now, the team and Hopkins’ agents are talking. Are they making any progress? Per Ganguli, the wideout paused before offering this assessment.

“You know, that’s between my agents and the Texans,” Hopkins said. “I love this city. I don’t want to play anywhere else but here. So the rest will work itself out, hopefully.”

Hopkins had 111 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. The year before that, he 76 passes for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns. Making both performances even more impressive is the reality that the Texans haven’t exactly had franchise-level quarterback play. If they get it from Brock Osweiler in 2016, Hopkins’ numbers could go even higher.

And so will what he’s worth. Whatever that may be.

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Bucs claim WR Krause

Tampa Bay Bucaneers v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Buccaneers claimed wide receiver Jonathan Krause off waivers from the Eagles Saturday.

Krause has bounced around the league the last two seasons, spending time with the Browns, Patriots and Eagles. He broke into the NFL as an undrafted rookie with the Browns in 2014 and played his first two regular-season games with the Eagles last season, catching two passes for 11 yards.

The Bucs made room on the roster for Krause by designating offensive lineman Dominique Robertson as waived with a non-football injury. Robertson is an undrafted rookie out of West Georgia.

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McCoy says he’s not bothered by “opinions” or perceptions

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 20: Running back LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills in action against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 20, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills running back LeSean McCoy wasn’t charged for his role in a February nightclub incident involving McCoy and some off-duty police officers, but the story made headlines.

If McCoy’s reputation took a hit from the alleged fight, he doesn’t seem to mind.

I know what type of person I am and what I do for my community, what type of father I am,” McCoy said Saturday during a hometown charity event. “People always have their own opinions. You can’t change them. And I’m fine with that.”

The NFL has decided not to discipline McCoy for his role in the alleged February incident. He hasn’t given many — if any — interviews in the meantime, so his deciding to talk to Harrisburg area reporters Saturday counts as a big deal.

The Eagles traded McCoy to the Bills before the 2015 season. He’s been involved in his share of controversies over the last several seasons, but he’s said he’s not bothered by “what the media gives” people.

“If the media only paints a picture of a player as this or whatever that may be, then that’s what the people see,” McCoy said. “So I don’t really go back and forth about that.”

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Bengals cut Taylor Mays

Carolina Panthers v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Bengals released veteran safety Taylor Mays Saturday, just a few months after bringing him back on a one-year deal.

Mays played for the Bengals from 2011-14. He played 14 games and started five last season for the Raiders after being cut by the Vikings and Lions. A second-round pick of the 49ers in 2010, Mays has played in 80 career games and started 15.

In March, Mays was suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

The Bengals had added Mays in April but released him just before the start of training camp.

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Still unsigned, Ryan Fitzpatrick is golfing as camp approaches

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 03:   Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets watches the game against the Buffalo Bills from the sidelines during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo Bills beat the New York Jets 22-17 (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

Free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick remains unsigned as NFL training camps begin to open, and when last we heard about him he was declining to talk about his contract status.

But Fitzpatrick will talk about golf, telling NBC he found teeing off at the American Century Championship “nerve wracking.”

“It’s easier to play in front of a crowd when you’re good at something and comfortable doing it,” he said. “Football is easy to play in front of a crowd. Golf, you have to think about.”

Fitzpatrick doesn’t sound like he’s ready to start thinking about Jets camp just yet.

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Ravens place six on PUP; Flacco not among them

Divisional Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Ravens placed six players, many of them regulars and notable names, on the active-physically unable to perform list Saturday, meaning those players won’t be ready to participate in the start of training camp.

The six players the Ravens placed on PUP Saturday were wide receivers Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman, linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, running back Trent Richardson and cornerback Jumal Rolle.

The Ravens placing those players on PUP means quarterback Joe Flacco, cornerback Jimmy Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta are among the players who have received clearance to participate in the start of camp. Flacco suffered a torn ACL last November, so his availability for the start of camp — even if the team limits his work — is a positive sign both for his rehab and for his potential ability to play in the season opener.

The active-PUP designation for the start of camp is fairly common and means the players can be activated if and when they’re cleared to practice. The PUP designation protects the team in case the players aren’t cleared, keeping them eligible for the reserve-PUP list when the regular season begins.

None of the PUP designations come as a surprise. Suggs and Smith are both trying to come back from torn Achilles tendons, while Perriman has battled multiple injuries. Dumervil had offseason foot surgery, Richardson has had a lingering hamstring issue and Rolle is expected to miss all of 2016 with a torn Achilles.

Injured players reported to Ravens camp on Friday. The full team reports July 27, and full camp opens July 28.

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Offensive tackle Nate Chandler retires

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 14:  Jonathan Stewart #28 and Nate Chandler #78 of the Carolina Panthers celebrate a 4th quarter touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the game at Bank of America Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears announced Saturday that offensive lineman Nate Chandler has been placed on the reserve-retired list.

Chandler signed with the Bears last month. He had played 37 games, starting 19, with the Panthers from 2012-14. Chandler, 27, spent last season on the Panthers’ injured-reserve list after he re-injured knee he had surgically repaired in 2014.

The Panthers released Chandler in March. He started 11 games at right tackle in 2014 and eight games in 2013 while playing both guard and tackle. The Bears had signed Chandler over Jake Long after both worked out for the team, so it’s possible that the team will revisit the possibility of signing Long.

The announcement of Chandler’s retirement came at the same time the team announced that cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman had also been placed on reserve-retired. Tillman had used social media to announce his retirement early last week, then signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Bears on Friday.

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Ezekiel Elliott says “evil never prevails” in wake of domestic violence allegations

during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. Getty Images

In the aftermath of Friday’s claim that Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had assaulted a former girlfriend, multiple people had denied the allegations on Elliott’s behalf, including Michael Irvin and Elliott’s father. Eventually, Elliott provided a three-word assessment of the situation on Twitter: “Evil NEVER prevails.”

He followed that message a few hours later by thanking everyone for the birthday wishes on what was his 21st birthday.

Elliott’s aggressive message in response to the allegation will surely do little to weaken the resolve of the person alleging that he committed violence against her. The question now becomes whether the claims are proven or debunked when the authorities and the NFL conduct separate investigations — applying very different standards of proof.

Elliott faces criminal sanctions only if a jury finds proof beyond a reasonable doubt. He could be punished by the league if an investigation shows the claim is more likely than not to have occurred.

Elliott seems confident that the evidence will vindicate him.

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Drew Brees: I haven’t heard from the Saints on a contract in 3 months

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 03:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints signals to his teammates at the line of scrimmage during the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Early in the offseason, there was widespread talk that the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees would come to an agreement on a long-term contract extension that would make Brees the franchise quarterback for the remainder of his career. That hasn’t happened.

Instead, Brees says he has heard nothing from the Saints since an exchange of proposals three months ago.

Not sure why things have not progressed,” Brees told ESPN. “They made an offer in March, we made an offer shortly thereafter. And besides the Josh Norman deal [when the Saints and Brees talked about a deal to clear cap space], there has been no talk about a contract since.”

Brees, who is heading into the final year of his contract, said he views the start of the regular season as the deadline to get a deal done. Without a long-term deal, the Saints really don’t have a realistic option of using the franchise tag on Brees next year: Because Brees has already been franchised twice in his career, the Saints would have to guarantee him a 44 percent raise to franchise him next year, which would mean a franchise tag of $43.2 million. It’s just not realistic to think the Saints would devote that kind of cap space to Brees next year.

If nothing does get done, Brees becomes a free agent in March.

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Farewell, Minnesota

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Before Wednesday, I’d never been to Minnesota. I kind of don’t want to leave.

But leave I must, back home to West Virginia to get ready for the looming launch of training camps. Over the next couple of days, I’ll post quotes from some of the interviews we did during two days of PFT Live at U.S. Bank Stadium, where guests included Vikings owner Mark Wilf, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman, Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, and brand-new Vikings guard Alex Boone.

The trip was capped by a visit to the legendary Mancini’s Char House in St. Paul, where the Mancini brothers took good care of us — and filled me with enough fat and calories that I won’t need to eat until Thanksgiving. I’ll eat before then anyway.

For now, you feast on all episodes (fat and calorie-free) of PFT Live from the week that was at iTunes or audioBoom.

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