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Cowboys asking Doug Free to take a paycut

Doug Free AP

The Dallas Cowboys have asked right tackle Doug Free to take a pay cut and are apparently more than willing to wait it out to get what they want.

According to Ian Rapaport of the NFL Network, the Cowboys are asking Free to take a “sizable” pay cut in excess of $2 million. The Cowboys are willing to wait it out knowing the longer the process drags out, fewer teams will be suitors for Free should he ultimately be released.

It’s still a bit of a gamble for the Cowboys but one they are apparently willing to make. If they wait and Free refuses to take the reduction in pay, the Cowboys will be forced to either pay him his full salary or release him without a proven option to turn to. Jermey Parnell would likely be next in line but has limited experience in four seasons.

Dallas could try to hedge their options by signing another free agent such as Eric Winston or Winston Justice in case Free won’t submit to the pay cut. However, a lack of cap space could complicate that option for the Cowboys. It still seems to make sense for both sides to find a scenario both can live with. It may just take a while for the parties to finally agree upon what exactly that is.

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Report: Broncos initially sought a bigger pay cut for Manning

Peyton Manning AP

Peyton Manning didn’t want to say much about his pay cut, which could have been even bigger than $4 million he gave back.

According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, the Broncos actually asked for more of a concession than the $4 million, before settling on the figure with Manning today.

It’s the first pay cut of Manning’s career, so you can imagine it wasn’t anything he wanted to discuss at length.

“I don’t talk about my contract. I never have in 18 years and I’m not going to start now,”Manning said. “I’ve been working real hard and I’m excited to be back with the Denver Broncos. Can’t wait for April 13 to get here when the team can finally come together. I’m excited to get to work and get to know the new coaches and looking forward to trying to make 2015 a special year.”

Manning will have a chance to earn the money back, but the next order of business will be his physical tomorrow at Broncos headquarters, of which he said: “I see that as being pretty routine.”

Once that’s taken care of, he’ll sign the new deal, and then split until team conditioning begins on April 13.

And having just gone through this process, you can imagine how he responded when asked about finishing out his contract in 2016.

“I’m tired of talking about the past and the future,” Manning said. “I’m excited to talk about now.”

Now, the question is whether the savings will help the Broncos keep any of their free agent targets, or whether this was just a pay cut they forced on Manning because they could.

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Report: 49ers offering LB Michael Wilhoite in trade

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers are reportedly open to dealing one of their reserve inside linebackers.

According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, the club has placed fourth-year pro Michael Wilhoite on the trading block.

With Navorro Bowman (knee) missing the entire season and Patrick Willis (toe) sitting out the final 10 games, the 28-year-old Wilhoite was a 16-game starter for San Francisco in 2014, notching 87 tackles, six passes defended and two picks.

However, Wilhoite figures as a backup this season, and the 49ers are willing to move the exclusive-rights free agent, the Bee reports. The club seeks a sixth- or seventh-round pick, the newspaper said.

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Peyton can earn back his $4 million

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The Broncos taketh away, and the Broncos potentially giveth back.

Per multiple reports, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning can earn as incentives the money he agreed to sacrifice in 2015 base salary.  In other words, his $19 million base salary has become a $15 million base salary plus up to $4 million in incentives.

The triggers aren’t yet known.  It’s also not known whether Manning took a portion of his 2015 base salary as a signing bonus, creating even more 2015 cap room (but pushing extra cap room into 2016).

The type of incentives also becomes important.  So-called “likely to be earned” incentives count as 2015 cap dollars, with a credit in 2016 if not earned.  “Not likely to be earned” incentives count as 2016 cap dollars, if earned.

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Chris Canty expected to visit Jets Friday and Saturday

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Defensive end Chris Canty played his home games in MetLife Stadium before moving to the Ravens in 2013 and he could be headed back there, although he’d be headed for a different locker room.

Canty played for the Giants in his previous New Jersey stint, but the Jets are reportedly showing interest in him after his release from Baltimore. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that Canty is scheduled to visit the Jets on Friday and Saturday.

The Jets don’t have a need for a starter at defensive end as Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are two of the best players at their position in the league, but Canty has experience playing inside in some fronts and would be a useful part of a rotation up front for the Jets in 2015.

Canty isn’t the only place the Jets are looking for help on the defensive line. Kendall Langford is slated to visit and the team announced Wednesday that they have signed defensive end Ronald Talley as a free agent. Talley last played in the regular season in 2013 when he saw action in six games for Arizona. Jets coach Todd Bowles was the Cardinals defensive coordinator at the time, which probably didn’t hurt Talley’s efforts to get back into the league.

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Chip Kelly: We wanted Cole back, but couldn’t agree on pay cut

Chip Kelly AP

The Eagles formally announced the release of linebacker Trent Cole on Wednesday afternoon and confirmed that a failure to agree on a reworked contract preceded their decision.

Cole was set to count $11.6 million against the cap and said earlier in the offseason that he was open to doing something to pare that number down, but coach Chip Kelly said in a statement announcing Cole’s departure that the Eagles wanted him to pare it down further than Cole was willing to go.

“We spoke with Trent and his agent and expressed a desire to have him back,” Kelly said. “We have been talking for a couple of weeks. However, at this point, we think it’s best to let him explore other options around the NFL.”

The phrasing suggests that the Eagles would still be open to a return if Cole’s exploration of those options gives him a different view on their offer. With free agency close to opening, that might not mean much if the Eagles find something more to their liking.

Cole would also have something to do with that possibility and his apparent response to being released after 10 years in Philly — a tweet reading “no respect” — may be a sign that he’s ready to fly the coop for good.

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Report: Saints releasing Pierre Thomas

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Saints are parting ways with one of the key contributors to their win in Super Bowl XLIV five years ago.

The club will release running back Pierre Thomas, Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate reported Wednesday.

Known for his pass-catching prowess, Thomas hauled in 45 passes for 378 yards and one TD and rushed 45 times for 222 yards and two TDs in 2014. The Illinois product has spent his entire eight-season career with the Saints, with whom he signed as an undrafted free agent in 2007.

Overall, Thomas racked up 3,745 yards rushing and 28 TDs on 817 carries and caught 327 passes for 2,608 yards and 12 TDs in regular season play for New Orleans. In the win over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, Thomas caught six passes for 55 yards and a touchdown and added 30 yards rushing on nine carries.

The move will result in some salary-cap relief for the financially strapped Saints. Thomas, 30, was set to make $2.1 million in salary in 2015 and $2.2 million in 2016, according to NFLPA records.

With Thomas reportedly departing, Travaris Cadet could have a bigger role on passing downs next season for New Orleans. Cadet is set to be a restricted free agent.

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NFLPA annual meeting in Hawaii prompts baseless accusations

NFLPA

When it comes to the looming NFLPA executive director election, PFT has tried to assume a neutral and objective posture.  But that doesn’t mean we’ll ignore baseless accusations made by members of the media who may have a bias against current union leadership or a desire to see some other candidate prevail in the voting.

On Wednesday, reports emerged that the NFLPA’s annual meeting, which will include the executive director election, will be held in Hawaii, with player representatives, alternatives, and candidates for the job held by DeMaurice Smith flown first class and lodged at the Ritz-Carlton.  That has prompted some to suggest that the costs are unnecessary, that they will be covered by union dues, and/or that the decision to splurge on a trip to Hawaii for the first time since 2010 represents an effort by Smith to “buy off” at least 17 of the 32 men who’ll be voting on whether to keep Smith or to replace him.

There’s nothing wrong with having suspicions.  But to hurl uncorroborated accusations when a quick phone call or text message to the NFLPA would lead to a much different truth is irresponsible.  (Some would say it’s even despicable or reprehensible.)

NFLPA president Eric Winston tells PFT that the Executive Committee, not Smith or his staff, determined via vote the location for the annual meeting.  Also, Winston said all union operations are funded not by player dues but by revenues from Players, Inc., the for-profit arm of the NFLPA that raises money via licensing, merchandising, and revenue streams unrelated to the money paid by each player for the membership in the union.

Likewise, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that player representatives and alternates always are flown via first-class fare to the annual meeting.

When owners travel in expensive fashion and stay in swanky hotels, some say that’s because the owners crushed the NFLPA in the last CBA.  When the NFLPA does, those inclined to say the NFLPA was crushed in the last CBA accuse the union of waste, incompetence, and/or corruption.

Whatever the motivation, it’s wrong to suggest a false narrative when the truth is so easy to discover.

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Oddsmaker moves Eagles from 15-1 to 20-1 to win Super Bowl post-trade

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Believe the Eagles will win Super Bowl 50 and just so happen to be staying at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas?

Well, the price on the Eagles is more favorable than it was Tuesday, and it has everything to do with a certain running back appearing to be on his way out of Philadelphia.

According to Micah Roberts of “The Linemakers” of Sporting News, Wynn Las Vegas oddsmaker John Avello moved the Eagles’ Super Bowl odds from 15-1 to 20-1 after news emerged of the club having a deal in place to trade tailback LeSean McCoy to Buffalo.

“Who will run the ball for them?” Avello said of the Eagles, per “The Linemakers.”

For the record, the Wynn lists the Bills at 50-1, the same as before the reports of McCoy’s acquisition, Roberts reported.

Multiple other Nevada sports books didn’t react at all to the McCoy news, with the MGM resorts among those not adjusting their odds on Buffalo or Philadelphia, Roberts reported.

Nevertheless, it’s always interesting to see what makes the odds move. In the case of the Wynn, it was word of a most surprising potential trade.

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Jaworski on Jameis: A lot of on-field flaws, I wouldn’t take him No. 1

jameis AP

Ron Jaworski has some advice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they consider picking Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in the NFL draft: Don’t do it.

Jaworski said on Mike & Mike that he simply doesn’t think Winston is a good enough passer to make him worth going No. 1 overall.

“I’ve studied a lot of him, I think Jameis Winston has a big upside in the NFL, but there are some real flaws to his game,” Jaworski said. “Quite honestly, I would not take him at that No. 1 pick.”

Winston has had off-field troubles as serious as a rape accusation, as trivial as shoplifting and as stupid as getting suspended for screaming obscenities on the Florida State campus. But Jaworski made clear that his problems with Winston are about the way he plays the quarterback position.

“I’m not talking about the off-the-field stuff. I have no comment on that because I’m not privy to that kind of information. But there are certainly mechanical flaws in his game that are troubling to me,” Jaworski said.

From all indications, the Buccaneers are leaning toward taking Winston first overall, but their evaluations aren’t over. Jaworski thinks that the more they look at Winston’s film, the more flaws they’ll find.

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Kiko Alonso trade makes Buffalo run at David Harris more likely

New England Patriots v New York Jets Getty Images

With the Bills tentatively shipping linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Eagles for an Oregon reunion with Chip Kelly, a Jets reunion between Rex Ryan and linebacker David Harris becomes more likely.

When the Jets opted not to apply the franchise tag to Harris, the notion that the Bills will try to bring Harris to Buffalo to teach Ryan’s defense to other players became stronger.  Harris played for Ryan for six years, and it’s now likely that relationship will continue.

Look for Ryan to move quickly, if he’s going to move at all.  In 2009, he showed up at former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott’s house at midnight on the first day of free agency, prompting Scott to think his dogs were chasing deer.  Ryan got Scott, and Ryan likely will get Harris if Ryan wants him.

Even though the Buffalo defense was run in 2013 by Ryan pupil Mike Pettine, Ryan will want someone who can get the other players lined up the way Ryan has been lining them up since 2009.  If Harris isn’t that guy, it would be a major surprise.

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Victor Cruz: Training camp is definitely the timetable

Atlanta Falcons v New York Giants Getty Images

It took a little time and the arrival of wide receiver Odell Beckham in the lineup for the Giants to find themselves offensively last season, but things looked pretty good by the time their first season under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo came to a close.

Things might have looked even better if wide receiver Victor Cruz had been healthy for the entire season. Cruz tore his right patellar tendon in October and missed the rest of the year, leading to a long rehab that Cruz thinks will have him in position to return to the field for training camp.

“Obviously the next couple of months are very, very important in terms of building the strength and continuing to mold my body back into running shape and things like that,” Cruz said on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Bob Papa and Ravens wideout Steve Smith. “And I just want to take these next couple of months to do that and really focus on that. Training camp is definitely the timetable. More importantly, even before training camp, I’ll be feeling almost 100 percent around May-ish, June-ish and I can really start rehabbing and strengthening it and start running routes and things like that, hopefully.”

General Manager Jerry Reese has said this offseason that the team isn’t relying on Cruz making it back to his former level of play, something that’s much easier to do thanks to Beckham’s emergence during his rookie season. There would be even less pressure on Cruz if Rueben Randle and tight end Larry Donnell, who Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports was tendered as an exclusive rights free agent on Wednesday, remain consistent targets as the Giants would be able to stretch defenses thin with four reliable options through the air.

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Jerry Jones may have to testify in Super Bowl ticket case

jerryjones AP

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has created some memorable sound bites over the years, sometimes when he knew a microphone was present and sometimes when he didn’t.  In a Dallas courtroom, Jones could soon be making a new wave of sound bites.

The judge presiding over the lawsuit arising from the Super Bowl XLV tickets that didn’t have corresponding seats has told the lawyers handling the case that she is leaning toward requiring Jones to testify in the case, according to Jeff Mosier of the Dallas Morning News.

That’s a potential coup for the plaintiffs, and possibly very bad news for the defendants.  Loquacious billionaires often don’t do well when testifying.  For starters, they loathe having to submit to any authority other than their own.  Second, they typically regard themselves as the smartest people in the room.  Third, they usually don’t realize that the lawyers grilling them have experienced similar evasive and/or obstructive and/or non-responsive tactics dozens if not hundreds of times.  Fourth, it becomes very delicate (to say the least) for the lawyers representing loquacious billionaires to properly prepare them for cross-examination, because that requires telling the loquacious billionaires things they don’t want to hear.  (For example, there’s a good chance you may not be the smartest person in the room.)

So things could get very, very interesting if/when Jones testifies — especially if/when (when) he decides to abandon the script and to try to charm his way out of whatever traps the questioning lawyer sets for him regarding what Jones knew and when he knew it about the inability of his stadium to accommodate hundreds of people who thought they would be attending the Super Bowl.

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Broncos, Peyton Manning in “final stages” of a $4 million pay cut

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The Broncos wanted Peyton Manning back, and he wanted to be back.

But the Broncos have $4 million reasons to be happier today.

According to Chris Mortensen and Jeff Legwold of ESPN, the Broncos and Manning are in the “final stages” of a deal to cut his pay from $19 million to $15 million.

This kind of news was anticipated, as both sides wanted each other.

But giving back $4 million (especially when Tom Brady ends up with more money to create cap space) is a win for the Broncos, as they attempt to keep tight end Julius Thomas after franchising wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.

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Texans will release Chris Myers

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Wide receiver Andre Johnson isn’t the only veteran on the way out of Houston.

PFT has learned, via a league source, that the team has informed center Chris Myers that he will be released. Myers was set to make $6 million in 2015, which was the final year of a four-year deal he signed with the team in March 2012. There will be $2 million of his cap hit left as dead money after Myers is released.

Myers has started every game for the Texans for the last seven years after they acquired him in a trade with the Broncos. He was selected to the Pro Bowl twice during his time in Houston and his play has remained good enough that he should get a chance to continue his career — perhaps with former Texans coach Gary Kubiak in a return to Denver — even with his 34th birthday coming this September.

Ben Jones was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 draft as a center, but spent last season as a starter at left guard. He could shift back to center with 2014 draft pick Xavier Su’a-Filo moving into the starting lineup.

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A whole lot of Jay Cutler’s ex-coaches are ripping him, anonymously

Jay Cutler AP

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has rubbed a lot of his coaches the wrong way during his time in Chicago, and now they’re ripping him in the media — but not putting their names behind their criticism.

ESPN cites “at least 10 former Chicago Bears staffers from the Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman regimes” who say they don’t think the Bears can contend for a title with Cutler as the quarterback. None of those “at least 10″ are mentioned by name.

In addition, two teammates, also speaking anonymously, say they’d rather not keep playing with Cutler.

The reasons for all the animosity toward Cutler seem to stem from his personality, as those who have worked with him say he lacks leadership qualities and is not a positive presence in the Bears’ locker room. There’s also talk that he didn’t run the offense the way the coaches wanted, and that in hindsight some people within the organization think Cutler should have lost his starting job to Josh McCown in 2013.

Of course, that hindsight is diametrically opposed to what everyone was saying at the time: The Bears’ coaches and executives said in 2013 that Cutler was clearly the right man for the job, which was why they gave him a huge contract extension. Now that huge contract is a millstone around the Bears’ necks. It won’t be easy for the Bears to move on from Cutler any time soon, as his $15.5 million 2015 base salary is fully guaranteed, and $10 million of his $16 million 2016 base salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the Bears’ roster a week from now.

New Bears General Manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox haven’t committed to Cutler as their starting quarterback, but realistically, if he’s still on the team in a week, the Bears are probably stuck with him not just for this year, but for next year as well. Even if those who know Cutler best don’t think highly of him, he’s probably not going anywhere.

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