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Russell Shepard says he “signed” with Eagles during draft

Shepard Getty Images

Every year, at least one player admits that a team engaged in shenanigans near the end of the draft, striking a deal with the player as a free agent before the draft was over.

Last year, it was quarterback Chandler Harnish, who said he had a deal with the Chargers before the Colts took him with the last pick in the process.

This year, it’s LSU receiver Russell Shepard, who claims that he agreed to terms with the Eagles before the draft ended.

I actually took myself off the draft board during the draft,” Shepard told WNXX radio, via LouisianaDaily.com.  “Teams started calling me probably in the middle of the sixth round asking me ‘Is it true that you’ve signed with a team already?’ and I actually got it out of the way before the draft was over, because that was the perfect fit for me.”

The host asked for clarification, and Shepard gave it.

“I signed with them before the draft was over,” Shepard said, explaining that after he fell through round five he decided to focus on the Eagles.  Shepard believes he’ll play receiver, running back, and Wildcat quarterback in Philly’s offense, and that he’ll return kicks and punts and play gunner on the punt team.

Shepard also said that Eagles coach Chip Kelly personally called Shepard at the beginning of the sixth round to explain that the Eagles couldn’t draft him because the team had lost some picks via the trade up to get quarterback Matt Barkley at the top of round four.

If this is all true, Kelly and the Eagles could be losing some more draft picks.

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Gostkowski more likely to be tagged than McCourty

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It figures that a guy who’d have no problem with the franchise tag may not get it.

Patriots safety Devin McCourty said last week he’d welcome the player-friendly $9.6-million-or-so one-year contract that goes with being tagged.  Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski could end up being the guy sporting the franchise tag.

According to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, a greater likelihood exists that the Patriots will tag their kicker over their top safety.  Casual fans routinely scoff at the notion that a kicker is a “franchise player,” but kickers who get the franchise tag see a much lower one-year contract offer.  For Gostkowski, Reiss estimates that the cash and cap number will be in the range of $4.5 million.

By not tagging McCourty, the Patriots would perhaps set the stage either to pay cornerback Darrelle Revis $20 million to keep him for 2015 (at a cap number of $25 million) or to give Revis a big-money extension.  It’s hard to imagine the Patriots letting McCourty hit the market if they also plan to release Revis before his compensation for 2015 becomes fully guaranteed.

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Report: Chiefs give Justin Houston the franchise tag

Houston AP

The NFL’s reigning sack leader has received the franchise tag.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Chiefs have designated outside linebacker Justin Houston their franchise free agent.

The 26-year-old Houston has recorded 48.5 sacks in his first four NFL seasons. If Houston has received the non-exclusive tag, he will be tendered a one-year salary offer of the average of the top five linebacker salaries of 2014.

The Chiefs will have until July 15 to work out a contract extension with Houston, the second-rated player in PFT’s Free Agent Hot 100.

Houston paced the NFL with 22 sacks in 2014.

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Lions will not franchise Ndamukong Suh

Ndamukong Suh AP

The Lions have decided that as good as Ndamukong Suh is, he’s not good enough to be worth a $27 million salary this year.

As a result, the Lions aren’t putting the franchise tag on Suh, according to Tim Twentyman of the team’s website.

Suh’s franchise tag would have been enormous because the Lions have previously restructured his rookie deal, resulting in his cap number last year being more than $22 million. Under NFL rules, a player’s franchise tag offer must be at least 120 percent of his cap number for the previous year.

Now Suh will test free agency and see what other teams are willing to offer. There’s a good chance that some team with more cap space than the Lions will offer Suh more money, which means there’s a good chance that Suh is done in Detroit.

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Report: Eagles haven’t asked LeSean McCoy to restructure

LeSean McCoy AP

‘Tis the season for the will-he-or-won’t-he (take a pay cut) stories, and they’ve come full circle in Philadelphia.

According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Eagles have not approached running back LeSean McCoy about restructuring his contract.

While there has been a lot of speculation about whether they would ask him for a pay cut (or a restructuring that pays him the same amount but in a different way), the reality seems to be that they haven’t yet.

That might not mean anything, as they could at any time, but the dot-connecting is reasonable, considering he’s scheduled to count $11.9 million against the salary cap. That’s especially true following a year in which he gained nearly 300 fewer yards on the same amount of carries (1,607 to 1,319), and had just over half as many catches as the year before.

He’s said he’s willing to shuffle some paperwork around to create cap room, but isn’t interested in a pay cut.

And it appears the Eagles haven’t approached him about it yet, if they intend to.

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NFL still waits for the Wells report

Panthers Getty Images

Five weeks ago today, lawyer Ted Wells said that the #DeflateGate investigation, which launched six weeks ago today, will require “at least several more weeks.”

Currently, there’s no indication how many more days, weeks, or months will be required.

The topic was sparked by an image that has been floating around of what has been made to look like the cover page and a portion of the table of contents of the Ted Wells report.  But the headline “Executive Summary and Loss of Draft Pick Compensation” gives it away as a hoax, because Ted Wells won’t be determining any penalties to be imposed on the Patriots.

Looking at the situation more broadly, the notion that any penalties will be imposed seems to be a little far-fetched, absent a confession or smoking-gun proof.  It’s become more and more clear that the NFL doesn’t properly secure and handle footballs during games, as evidenced by the Combine week clusterfudge from ESPN, with competing reports from Kelly Naqi and Adam Schefter that required a psychic, a cartographer, and/or a Sherpa to harmonize.

Then there’s the possibility/reality that other teams may be tinkering with footballs.  As one source explained it to PFT last month, however, the Wells investigation won’t be considering whether and to what extent other teams have tampered with footballs.

No investigation is needed to determine that one or two teams have done it.  Recently.

Specifically, ball boys used sideline heaters to warm footballs during a late-November, 12-degree game between the Vikings and Panthers at the open-air stadium Minnesota is using until its new indoor facility opens.  Apparently, footballs used by both teams were being heated that way.

“Somebody told me [Carolina’s] ball boys were doing it,” coach Mike Zimmer said, via ESPN.com.

So did NFL V.P. of game operations Mike Kensil swoop down on the sidelines with a meat thermometer as the first step in an extended inquisition?  Well, no.  Instead, the NFL acknowledged the situation, explained that it’s not permitted, and indicated an intent to remind other teams to not do this during the winter months.

“You can’t do anything with the footballs in terms of any artificial, whether you’re heating them up, whether it’s a regular game ball or kicking ball, you can’t do anything to the football,” NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino said at the time.  “So that was noticed during the game, both teams were made aware of it during the game and we will certainly remind the clubs as we get into more cold weather games that you can’t do anything with the football in terms of heating them up with those sideline heaters.”

That seems like a fair and reasonable approach.  But shouldn’t teams already have known that?  And isn’t ignorance no excuse, anyway?

If the question of whether the Patriots tampered with footballs caused the Colts to complain to the league office and the league office to launch a full-blown investigation with the possibility of suspensions and lost draft picks, shouldn’t the Vikings and/or Panthers have faced swift and sudden justice from 345 Park Avenue for being caught literally red handed tampering with footballs by making them warmer?

While some Mona Lisa Vitos out there will say that heating the balls actually guards against natural deflation, the ball boys surely weren’t doing it to ensure that the footballs remained within the accepted range 12.5 to 13.5 PSI.  They were doing it because someone thought the balls would be easier to handle if they were warmer than the 12-degree ambient air.

Regardless, the league’s relative nonchalance when it comes to the warming of footballs in violation of the rules becomes the latest puddle of mud in a minefield that the NFL created — and that Commissioner Roger Goodell eventually will have to find a path out of.

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Jarrett Bush arrested for public intoxication in California

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush has run into some trouble with the law in California.

Solano County jail logs show that Bush was booked early on Sunday morning by the Vacaville Police Department on a charge of disorderly conduct while under the influence. There aren’t any specifics about what Bush did to land in hot water.

The booking log shows that Bush was held on the misdemeanor charge with a bail charge of $1,600. WBAY reports, via KTVU in San Francisco, that Bush, who is from Vacaville, was detained and eventually released.

Bush has been a member of the Packers since 2006 and has been a core member of their special teams, but is a little more than a week away from becoming a free agent. We’ll see if this arrest impacts how things play out on that front.

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Key deadline looms for NFLPA executive director election

NFLPA

For the first time in decades, a sitting NFL Players Association executive director faces a challenge to his position.  And while at least five challengers have emerged for the job, only two of them currently have the ability to challenge DeMaurice Smith.

The NFLPA Constitution requires candidates for executive director to secure written nominations from three voting (not alternate) player representatives.  A voting player representative can nominate as many candidates as he wants.

Currently, only Sean Gilbert and Andrew Smith have received the sufficient number of nominations.  The other candidates who have come forward — James Acho, John Stufflebeam, and Sean Morey — have three days to comply with the three-nomination requirement.  Any other candidates who haven’t come forward likewise can get on the ballot with three nominations submitted by player representatives.

The nomination deadline is 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 5.  It’s a simple process; the player representatives need to send an email to NFLPA president Eric Winston nominating the candidate.

On March 15, DeMaurice Smith will face Gilbert, Andrew Smith, and any other challengers who have been properly nominated by March 5.  A simple majority of the 32 player representatives secures the election on the first ballot.  If anyone has fewer than 17 votes, the top two square off.

Then, the NFLPA will continue with DeMaurice Smith for three more years or start fresh with a new executive director.

With so many candidates interested in the job, it becomes more amazing that Gene Upshaw held the position for so many years without a challenge.  DeMaurice Smith won the position over three other candidates in 2009, and DeMaurice Smith was unopposed in 2012.

On one hand, the identity of the executive director doesn’t really matter because the current labor deal lasts through the end of the decade and beyond.  On the other hand, the day-to-day work consists of pushing back against efforts by the NFL to infringe on player rights, as the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases have shown over the past few months.

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Monday morning one-liners

New England Patriots v New York Jets Getty Images

Bills DL Corbin Bryant is spending three weeks working for Under Armour this offseason.

DT Jared Odrick ran into Dolphins exec Mike Tannenbaum at the airport, which may have given them a chance to talk contract.

The time for the Patriots to make a call on using the franchise tag on S Devin McCourty has arrived.

Will the Jets bring back LB David Harris?

The Ravens are aiming for better results in the AFC North race in coming seasons.

A look at the Bengals wide receivers with free agency a little more than a week away.

John Hughes thinks better days are ahead on the Browns defensive line.

Previewing the activity on the Steelers defensive line this offseason.

Cornerback is a popular choice for the Texans in mock drafts.

Colts WR Reggie Wayne got a mention in one of the final episodes of Parks & Recreation.

The Jaguars won’t be shopping in the quarterback aisle this offseason.

The Titans’ plans for the No. 2 pick remain under wraps.

Some potential free agent targets for the Broncos.

C Eric Kush may wind up in a bigger role for the Chiefs in 2015.

John Clayton of ESPN writes that the Raiders need to spend in free agency.

Trying to figure out the best stadium plan for San Diego.

How long a deal makes sense for Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray?

Giants WR Odell Beckham thinks he could have gone pro in soccer as well.

Will the Eagles use their franchise tag to ensure WR Jeremy Maclin doesn’t leave?

Should the Redskins want to add a center, here’s a look at who’s available.

Will the Bears target coach John Fox’s former Broncos charges in free agency?

Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press predicts the Lions will do the wrong thing and use their franchise tag on DT Ndamukong Suh.

What’s the best route for the Packers to take at backup quarterback?

Some of the best second-round picks in Vikings history.

The Falcons have started shaping the 2015 roster.

The Panthers website puts the spotlight on Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson.

How will a deep running back market affect Mark Ingram and the Saints?

Three offensive players who could fit for the Buccaneers in the draft.

The best free agent signings in Cardinals history.

Relocation talk has taken some attention away from the Rams’ personnel needs.

The pros and cons of the 49ers re-signing RB Frank Gore.

Can the Seahawks make a luxury pick in the first round?

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Odell Beckham thinks he could have been a pro soccer player

Odell Beckham, Darrell Stuckey AP

For a guy who can do such amazing things with his hands, Odell Beckham Jr. thinks he could have made a living with his feet as well.

The Giants wide receiver said during appearance on the English talk show “Soccer AM” (via NJ.com) that he had to make a tough decision as a teenager.

“I started when I was three years old and played until I was about 14,” Beckham said. “My coach was pushing to try and get me on the national team and tryout. At that age, you’re 13, 14 years old you know that to make it big in soccer you are probably going to have to go overseas. Obviously that would be a goal and that would be the dream. At that age it would have been hard for me to leave my family and just go.

“I played every other sport, soccer, basketball, baseball, football. And I just said, ‘I don’t think I can leave my family.’ So that’s when I kind of put the soccer dreams aside and stuck close to home with the other sports.”

Beckham described himself as a “Neymar, Messi type of guy” as a soccer player, which would be like some South American teenager declaring that he had “hands like Odell Beckham” while playing a sport that doesn’t require them.

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Vikings want to keep Chad Greenway, but maybe not at $7 million

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Chad Greenway was the Vikings’ first-round draft pick in 2006 and has played his entire career in Minnesota, and the Vikings want to keep him in town this year. But maybe not at his current contract.

Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman told the Star Tribune that there’s no doubt on the team’s side that Greenway is still a valuable part of the franchise.

“We have a lot of things that we’ll be working through between now and before March 10 [when free agents can be signed], but we’d love to have Chad Greenway back and finish [his career] as a Minnesota Viking,” Spielman said.

The catch is that Greenway is due to make $7 million this season, and at age 32, coming off a season in which he missed time because of a broken hand and broken ribs, he may not be worth that kind of money anymore. When Spielman references “things that we’ll be working through,” he’s presumably talking about asking Greenway to take less than $7 million.

Greenway may be willing to do that, as he’s always been happy in Minnesota. But if he’s not willing to do that, he may have to finish his career elsewhere.

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Report: Eagles working to lower Trent Cole’s cap hit

Tennessee Titans v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Eagles parted ways with guard Todd Herremans last week after deciding his $5.2 million cap hit was too high a price to pay for an older player who missed half of last season with an injury.

They’d like to create some more cap room by addressing linebacker Trent Cole’s contract, but they’d like to do it without having him follow Herremans out the door. Elliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com reports that the two sides have been discussing a reworked contract that would slash Cole’s current cap figure of $11.6 million.

It’s something that Cole, who has had 14.5 sacks over the last two seasons, said he was open to doing earlier this offseason.

“I want to do whatever we can to make things work,” Cole said. “Hopefully that results in me being here … I want to be here. I’ve been here ten years, going on my 11th year and want my next stop to be here with the Eagles next year. Time will tell. Things will get done and everyone will be happy.”

Releasing Cole would save the team $8.4 million, but some portion of that would likely be earmarked for another pass rusher off the edge to go with Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry. Keeping Cole at a lower number would make that a less acute need while avoiding dead money under the cap that can’t be used to help the team at all.

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NFL to do market research in San Diego, Oakland, St. Louis

Magnifying-Glass-Latest-Version

We noted a week ago that the NFL had sent out surveys to 185,000 fans in St. Louis.

As it turns out, that’s just the tip of their market research iceberg.

NFL senior vice president Eric Grubman told Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King that the league is commissioning detailed market studies in San Diego and Oakland as well, as they prepare the game of musical chairs involving the Los Angeles market.

The studies are important as they give the league a chance to take the temperature of the locals on a number of topics — primarily how much money they’re willing to fork over in exchange for football. There’s obviously more to it than that — such as the viability of PSLs, ticket price points, luxury suite demand — but giving the tree a shake and seeing how much money falls out seems the central issue.

The studies should be wrapped up in May, giving the league plenty of information as they try to gerrymander someone or several someones into L.A. while still proclaiming the viability of current markets.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the Super Bowl that the goal was to keep all 32 teams in their current spots, but it’s more clear than ever someone’s finally grabbing the brass ring that is L.A.

Asked how many teams would be playing there by 2020, Grubman made the league’s intentions clear.

“I don’t know the number,” Grubman said. “But the least probable of those numbers is zero. I would say we’ve gone above the 50 percent probability that we’ll have at least one team there. . . .

“You have to have some stomach to let the thing play out. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Right now, I don’t think anyone does. I do know this: Los Angeles has real momentum for the first time in 20 years.”

And with the league checking out the other markets, it seems the primary goal is to see who the better bridesmaid will be for anyone who isn’t able to get to L.A.

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Wintry weather causes Hernandez trial to start a little later on Monday

Aaron Hernandez AP

Yet another wave of wintry weather in Massachusetts has reportedly caused Aaron Hernandez’s trial to reconvene a little later than planned on Monday morning.

According to the Associated Press, court will not restart until 10:15 a.m. Eastern on Monday.

The 25-year-old Hernandez, a former Patriots tight end, faces a first-degree murder charge in the June 2013 death of Odin Lloyd.

According to the AP, weather issues have led to more than five days of delays for the trial, which is being held in Fall River, Mass. The trial is entering its fifth full week.

The National Weather Service forecasts up to seven inches of snow overnight in the area.

Updates on the trial, as well as a recap of past developments in the case, can be found by bookmarking our link to Hernandez court coverage.

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Richard Dent among 2015 Black College Football Hall of Fame inductees

Richard Dent AP

A Super Bowl MVP who went on to gain enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is among seven members of the Black College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015.

Former Bears, 49ers, Colts and Eagles defensive end Richard Dent, a Tennessee State product who captured game MVP honors as Chicago rolled to victory in Super Bowl XX, was one of six former NFL players in the Hall’s sixth class of inductees.

Also inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame were former Rams and Lions defensive tackle Roger Brown (Maryland Eastern Shore), former Steelers defensive end L.C. Greenwood (Arkansas at Pine Bluff), former Chargers, Oilers and Chiefs defensive tackle Ernie “Big Cat” Ladd (Grambling), former Bengals defensive back Ken Riley (Florida A&M), former Steelers safety Donnie Shell (South Carolina State) and former Jackson State head coach W.C. Gorden.

The inductees were recognized in a ceremony Saturday night in Atlanta.

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Marshawn Lynch seems to think someone didn’t want him to be the “face of the nation”

Lynch AP

One month to the day since the Seahawks opted not to give the football to running back Marshawn Lynch on the doorstep of the New England end zone in Super Bowl XLIX, a video has surfaced showing Lynch explaining his position on the most scrutinized play call in league history.  Under a frustratingly loud translation of his comments into Turkish.

The video mentioned earlier by MDS includes Lynch’s reaction to the decision to throw the ball and to not let him run it with the NFL title on the line.

“To be honest with you, I would be a liar if I didn’t tell you that I was expecting the ball,” Lynch said.  “I think it was more of a — how do I say this?  When you look at me, and you let me run that ball in, I’m the face of the nation.  You know, the MVP of the Super Bowl, that’s pretty much the face of the nation at that point in time.  I don’t know what went into that call.  Maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t get the ball.  I mean, you know, it cost us the Super Bowl.”

Not too far between the lines of Lynch’s response lurks the notion that he buys in to the popular conspiracy theory (misguided as it may be) that the team wanted quarterback Russell Wilson and not Lynch to be the Super Bowl MVP and, in turn, the “face of the nation.”

But here’s the thing about conspiracy theories.  It doesn’t matter if they’re true; if only matters if people believe them to be true.  If Lynch and other Seahawks players believe that the team chose to throw and not to run in order to prevent Lynch from becoming the MVP of the Super Bowl and in turn the “face of the nation,” coach Pete Carroll will have plenty of additional work to do to get the players to turn the page on the 2014 season and to try to climb back out of the valley of 0-0 in 2015 for a shot at a third straight Super Bowl appearance.

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