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Report: Aaron Hernandez likely to be arrested

Aaron Hernandez AP

Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is now considered likely to be arrested in the investigation of the death of a man described as his associate, according to a Sports Illustrated report.

It is not clear what the charge against Hernandez is expected to be, but the Sports Illustrated report says that law enforcement authorities believe Hernandez’s involvement in the death of Odin Lloyd is significant enough that an arrest is likely.

Shortly after the Sports Illustrated report was published, Boston Globe reporter Wesley Lowery wrote on Twitter that no arrest is imminent. Lowery added, however, that that does not mean Hernandez won’t be arrested.

Massachusetts State Police searched Hernandez’s home on Wednesday, and a car that was rented under Hernandez’s name has been referred to as a key piece of evidence into the death of Lloyd.

In a separate matter, Hernandez has been sued by a man who says Hernandez shot him in the face. And Sports Illustrated reports that Hernandez has been connected to two other incidents involving guns and police, although he was not charged in either of those incidents.

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Ray Ventrone joins Patriots coaching staff

St. Louis Rams v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The Patriots were the only team in the league without a former NFL player on their coaching staff in 2014, something that didn’t stand in their way of winning the Super Bowl.

They may have just been waiting for the right player to end his playing career. The Patriots have announced the addition of Ray Ventrone to their coaching staff as an assistant special teams coach a little more than two weeks after he was playing for the 49ers.

The move allows Ventrone to start his post-playing career in the same place he started his playing career. Ventrone was signed by the Patriots in 2005 as an undrafted safety out of Villanova and made his first regular season appearance for the team in 2007.

Ventrone bounced on and off the 49ers roster multiple times last season before ending the year on injured reserve with a groin injury. Ventrone saw a lot more time on special teams than in the secondary when he was in the lineup, which was the case for the majority of his playing career. All told, Ventrone played 97 games over nine seasons with New England, Cleveland and San Francisco and recorded 57 tackles.


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Gus Malzahn: Nick Marshall can play QB in the NFL

Nick Marshall AP

Former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall is being encouraged by NFL teams to learn to play defensive back if he wants to make it in the pros. But Marshall’s coach doesn’t think that’s necessary.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said on NFL Network that Marshall could play quarterback in the NFL, if a team puts him in an offense that fits his talents.

“I know he can be a quarterback at the next level,” Malzahn said. “It needs to be in the right system. You’re talking about a guy that’s probably one of the best zone-read quarterbacks in the history of college football. He’s got a unique skill set. He broke the school record against the most talented defense we faced last year [passing for 456 yards against Alabama]. So he’s got the ability, he’s got the knack to win games, when the game’s on the line, that very few quarterbacks have. So I believe he can play quarterback in the right system.”

The key words in that quote are “in the right system.” No one is saying Marshall can transform himself into the classic NFL pocket passer. That’s just not where his talents lie. But the NFL is increasingly finding room for quarterbacks who aren’t classic NFL pocket passers. A coach like Chip Kelly might decide to take a shot on Marshall in the later rounds of the draft and see what he can do in an innovative system.

Of course, Marshall does have some limitations as a passer, which is why there’s even a question about the position he’ll play in the NFL. But another reason there’s a question about it is that Marshall is a good enough athlete that he could play elsewhere. Malzahn sees that as a legitimate option.

“He’s a great athlete. He can play defensive back, he can play receiver, he’s got a great attitude, he’s a team player, and he just wants to help someone win,” Malzahn said.

More likely than not, Marshall will help someone win in the NFL by playing defense and special teams. But if a team is willing to put Marshall in the right system, and be patient while Marshall develops, there’s a chance that he may be an NFL quarterback.

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Bernard Pollard: I want another ring

Tennessee Titans v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Safety Bernard Pollard got what he wanted on Monday when the Titans told him that they’d release him after Pollard requested his walking papers in the wake of a torn Achilles during a 2-14 season.

Pollard told Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean that he feels like he was no longer a fit with the Titans because the team wanted to go young and that “a lot of mistakes have been made and they need to be fixed to put a defense together.” Pollard said he’d like to go somewhere that puts him in position to win as he sees his career having two or three years left.

“They are going to try and get some pieces, and they know they have work to do. But it was time for me to exit and go elsewhere,” Pollard said. “This was a business move for me. I don’t see fans argue when teams cut players under contract. This is a business. I am my own agent, and I have to do what is right for me and my family. I want more hardware, I want another ring.”

Pollard says he’s running after his Achilles injury and feels he could pass a physical, although he knows that some people will have their doubts about his ability to make a positive impact. Pollard promises to “bring heart and passion” and “a physical nature” to his next team, although it’s unclear who might be looking for such an addition to their secondary.

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Cardinals offered Darnell Dockett deal worth up to $4 million

Dockett AP

With former Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett visiting the 49ers, the floor has been set in his negotiations.

According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, the Cardinals had previously offered Dockett a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, with a chance to earn up to $4 million with playing time and performance incentives.

Since he was scheduled to make $6.8 million with the Cardinals, the difference shows why they didn’t agree and he was allowed to see what was out there.

Dockett’s apparently drawn significant interest from other teams, but there’s no word about any other visits at this point.

He could still return to the Cardinals if he doesn’t find a better offer, but he at least had the benefit of a head start on the free agent market to find one.

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Brian Hartline to visit Browns on Tuesday

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Getty Images

Last week, Browns safety Donte Whitner banged the drum for the return of wide receiver Ted Ginn to the state he called home through the end of his college career at Ohio State.

The Browns were said to be considering that option, but that’s not the only homecoming possibility for the receiving corps. PFT has learned, via a league source, that Brian Hartline will visit the Browns on Tuesday.

Hartline was born in Canton and spent some time in Columbus with Ginn before heading to the NFL as a 2009 fourth-round pick of the Dolphins. Hartline had 150 catches over the 2012 and 2013 seasons while topping 1,000 yards in each season, but dropped to 39 catches for 474 yards with the Dolphins last year.

The Dolphins cut Hartline as part of their cap tightening last week, but there’s still interest in Miami about a possible return for the right price. Hartline has also garnered interest from other teams in addition to the Browns, though, so the chances of coming back to South Florida may not be great.

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What’s a top running back worth in today’s NFL? Murray will find out

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The NFL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year is 27 years old, in his prime, and about to hit unrestricted free agency. If any running back can make a fortune in today’s NFL, it’s DeMarco Murray.

But Murray may discover that no running back can make a fortune in today’s NFL. At least, not “a fortune” compared to what the top free agents at other positions will make.

Murray, the soon-to-be free agent Cowboy who led the NFL with 1,845 rushing yards last season, will give us a good benchmark for how much a running back can command in today’s NFL. Unfortunately for Murray, the answer will be, “Nowhere near as much as a running back could command in yesterday’s NFL.”

There is almost no chance that Murray will get as much as the seven-year, $96 million contract (with $36 million guaranteed) that Adrian Peterson got from the Vikings in 2011, the biggest contract ever for a running back. That’s despite the fact that Peterson wasn’t a free agent at the time and could therefore negotiate only with the Vikings, and despite the fact that the NFL salary cap has risen from $120 million in 2011 to $143 million this year.

Murray may do quite well for himself, perhaps getting the second-biggest contract for a running back in NFL history. But there’s no way he’ll get as much as this year’s top free agent, Ndamukong Suh, and he may not do as well as the next group of free agents, like Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, Patriots safety Devin McCourty, Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes and Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds.

Running backs just don’t make the kind of money that players at other positions can make. In the NFL, running backs are viewed as lower-priced commodities. Even a running back who just won Offensive Player of the Year.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

A preview of the free agent running backs, including Bills RB C.J. Spiller.

Will the Dolphins be bidders for Ndamukong Suh?

A look at the decisions the Patriots have to make in the secondary.

The Jets are likely to be in the market for a wide receiver again.

Will Ravens WR Torrey Smith’s market be affected by the use of franchise tags on two wide receivers?

A preview of offseason machinations on the Bengals defensive line.

Former Browns FB Ed Modzelewski died at the age of 86.

The Steelers passed on the chance to tag LB Jason Worilds a second time.

Texans teammates past and present started saying farewell to WR Andre Johnson.

Any Colts moves in free agency have to start with players already on the roster.

The Jaguars are happy to have John Idzik in their front office.

An unenthused take on the Titans signing WR/KR Jacoby Jones.

A look at secondary concerns for the Broncos.

Not signing LB Justin Houston last year could prove costly to the Chiefs.

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. brings experience and intensity with him to the job.

The Chargers are trying to do a stronger job of player development.

Tight end isn’t a major offseason priority for the Cowboys.

Giants WR Odell Beckham took a negative view of the “respect and morals” on social media via social media.

What’s ahead on the defensive line for the Eagles?

Questioning the Redskins’ ability to build through the draft.

The Bears are in good shape under the cap heading into free agency.

The Lions should look for special teams help this offseason.

T Bryan Bulaga and WR Randall Cobb could be on their way out for the Packers.

The Vikings were well represented at the University of Minnesota pro day.

Forecasting Falcons S Dwight Lowery’s free agency prospects.

Will OL Fernando Velasco remain with the Panthers?

Cuts are likely coming for the Buccaneers.

The Cardinals don’t have much work to do at wide receiver.

Tracing Chris Weinke’s path to his job as the Rams quarterbacks coach.

RB Frank Gore may be getting closer to his departure from the 49ers.

The Seahawks signed LB Mister Alexander to their 90-man roster.

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Jaguars glad to have John Idzik aboard, as they prepare to spend

New York Giants v New York Jets Getty Images

Among other things, Jets fans grew tired of former General Manager John Idzik not spending money.

That won’t be a problem for Idzik now, as he’s on with a team looking to make a splash in free agency.

Via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, Jaguars G.M. Dave Caldwell said he was eager to get Idzik on board as a consultant.

We’ve got a big undertaking here with our situation,” Caldwell said.

The Jaguars have $64.2 million in cap space, and are looking to spend a big chunk of it this year, the kind of splurge Idzik never took part in while running the Jets. But he started his new gig in Jacksonville Monday, working alongside Jags salary cap guy Tim Walsh.

“He spent the last two years in a very similar situation that we’re in and probably spent the last year or so forecasting having a similar type of cap space that we have,” Caldwell said of Idzik. “He made a great career in Tampa and Seattle of negotiating contracts and working the cap and that’s one area I need help in. . . .

“Tim Walsh is great, but with the amount of cap room we have moving forward and if we do some deals in free agency, I thought we needed the extra help because Tim’s the only guy in our [cap] department right now.”

After taking the medicine in New York to try to fix a bloated cap and get them in competitive shape, Idzik should enjoy being with a team that’s ready to see the other side of it.

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Hernandez’s lawyer may have opened the door for evidence of another shooting

Trial AP

When fashioning arguments, tactics, and strategies for trial, it’s critical that a lawyer carefully consider the ramifications of every word that may come out of his or her mouth.

In the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial, the former Patriots tight end’s lawyers may have failed to be as careful as they should have been.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports explains the latest fascinating turn in the case arising from the death of Odin Lloyd.  By consistently referring to Lloyd as Hernandez’s friend, Hernandez’s high-priced lawyer may have inadvertently allowed evidence of another time Hernandez shot a supposed friend to be introduced.

The prosecution, per Wetzel, has filed paperwork asking Judge E. Susan Garsh to reconsider the question of whether evidence of the alleged February 13, 2013 shooting of Alexander Bradley will be utilized in the Lloyd case.  The prosecution contends that Bradley was Hernandez’s “friend and confidante” but that Hernandez allegedly shot Bradley in the face “in an isolated industrial area,” dumped Bradley’s body on the ground, and fled the scene.

Bradley survived, suing Hernandez in civil court for the shooting not long before Odin Lloyd’s murder.

Despite Judge Garsh’s prior decision to prevent such evidence, the prosecution contends that Hernandez’s lawyers have “opened the door” by consistently referring to Lloyd as Hernandez’s friend, with the clear message being that Hernadnez wouldn’t shoot a friend.

Ordinarily, evidence of other conduct by a criminal defendant can’t be used to make the defendant look generally like a bad guy.  Rule 404(b) of the Massachusetts Rules of Evidence (like the Rules of Evidence in most if not all states) provides that evidence may be admissible to prove motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident.  In Hernandez’s case, the goal would be to show motive — specifically, that Hernandez would shoot a friend over the flimsiest of actual or perceived indignities.  Bradley claims he was shot after a dispute over a bar bill that led to Hernandez refusing to take Bradley back to the bar to get the phone he’d left there that led to Bradley making “disrespectful remarks” about Hernandez.

The problem with Rule 404(b) evidence is that it can create a trial within a trial, with the trial of the main case being placed on hold while a mini-trial emerges on the question of whether the defendant did the other thing he’s accused of doing.  The bigger challenge comes from the requirement that the relevance of the evidence to the current case must substantially outweigh any unfair prejudice arising from it.

There will be plenty of prejudice to Hernandez flowing from proof that he shot another “friend” under circumstances similar to the shooting of Odin Lloyd.  The question becomes whether the prejudice is unfair to Hernandez — and whether the notion of Hernandez having a hair trigger with so-called friends supplies sufficient proof that Hernandez had a similar overreaction to something Lloyd said or did.Judge Garsh will be tempted to reiterate her prior exclusion of the evidence because it’s the kind of ruling that could result in a conviction of Hernandez being overturned by a higher court.  The judges on the higher court, however, would have to be able to set aside the overall evidence suggesting that Hernandez truly is a bad guy, and that society may be much better off with him permanently kept out of it.

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Jairus Byrd expected to be 100 percent in a few weeks

Terrance West, Jairus Byrd AP

It’s almost time for free agency to get underway, which means we’re closing in on the one-year anniversary of safety Jairus Byrd’s arrival in New Orleans.

Byrd signed a six-year, $54 million deal with the Saints early in free agency, a move that the team hoped would boost their defense to a level that would help them make a playoff run. Things didn’t quite work out that way. Byrd missed time in the offseason after back surgery, struggled along with the rest of the defense in the first month of the season and then was done for the season after four games because of a torn meniscus.

They’d like a better showing the second time around and it would start with Byrd being fully healthy. That’s expected shortly, according to coach Sean Payton.

“He’s doing well,” Payton said, via Jen Hale of FOXSports New Orleans. “His rehab is on schedule. He’ll be cleared for minicamp. We’re looking at about 2 or 3 weeks from him being 100 percent.”

The Saints have some work to do to get their cap in shape for the start of the new league year and it’s unclear how much they can add to the roster even after they make those moves, a situation that makes a full return from last year’s big-ticket addition all the more important.

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Over half the NFL owners represented on Forbes billionaire list

paulallen AP

Apparently, the NFL is a good place to get rich, or at least to play once you’re already rich.

A look at the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires shows plenty of familiar football names.

The list is topped by Seahawks owner Paul Allen (who was Microsoft rich with $17.5 billion, 51st in the world, before he decided to dabble in sports).

But he’s not alone, as more than half the NFL is owned by billionaires, with 16 other owners making the chart.

Forbes lists 1,826 people with a net worth of $1 billion or more (though they obviously left out Florio).

The other NFL names to make the list, with their net worth and rank: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross ($6.5 billion, 216th), Rams owner Stan Kroenke ($6.3 billion, 225th) Jaguars owner Shad Khan ($4.5 billion, 360th), Patriots owner Robert Kraft ($4.3 billion,381st), Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ($4.2 billion, 393rd), Bills owner Terry Pegula ($3.8 billion, 452nd), Browns owner Jimmy Haslam ($2.8 billion, 663rd) Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti ($2.7 billion, 690th), Falcons owner Arthur Blank ($2.5 billion, 737th), Texans owner Bob McNair ($2.4 billion, 782nd), Saints owner Tom Benson ($1.9 billion, 1,006th), Colts owner Jim Irsay ($1.75 billion, 1,105th), Washington owner Daniel Snyder ($1.7 billion, 1,118th), Lions owner Martha Ford ($1.5 billion, 1,250th) Chargers owner Alex Spanos ($1.25 billion, 1,500th) and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie ($1.1 billion, 1,638th).

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Devin McCourty: It would be bittersweet to leave the Patriots

Baltimore Ravens Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Getty Images

Safety Devin McCourty had no argument with getting what he called a “player-friendly” franchise tag from the Patriots, but things played out a different way on Monday.

The Patriots opted to use the tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski instead, a move that McCourty said he didn’t know was coming until the Patriots made it. McCourty said there was “no real information” from the team ahead of time about where they’d go with the tag and correctly surmised that the chances he winds up playing elsewhere are greater in light of the move.

As for that, McCourty said he wants to remain with the Patriots but he knows that the best deal may be coming from somewhere else.

“It would definitely be bittersweet,” McCourty said, via Josina Anderson of ESPN. “You stay somewhere for five years and really make a name for yourself in that place. I’ve gotten a lot of help. I know a lot of people in the area, built great relationships, so it will definitely be bittersweet. But my mom always reminds me that comes with the territory. That’s part of being in the NFL, that change is always coming.”

With the Patriots still working out cornerback Darrelle Revis’s situation for the 2015 season, it seems likely that McCourty is going to be talking to other teams come the weekend. As the top safety hitting the market, there’s a good chance that one of them will make him an offer that leads to bittersweet feelings.

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Woody Johnson leaning on his G.M. to bring Darrelle Revis back

Woody Johnson, Mike Maccagnan AP

Woody Johnson was quick to say he “misspoke” last year when he blatantly “tampered” with Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Apparently, he’s still talking about Revis, but keeping it within his building.

According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News,  Johnson “has been involved in serious internal discussions” with General Manager Mike Maccagnan to make a push for Revis if and when he becomes available.

The Patriots would have to pick up a $20 million option bonus by March 9, part of the “placeholder” deal that helped Revis win his first Super Bowl. They’re working on a long-term deal to keep Revis there, and if nothing else, reports of Jets interest will at least make it more expensive.

But the Jets need Revis perhaps more than ever, since new coach Todd Bowles depends on his corners playing press-man so he can blitz more.

So it’s one thing for Johnson to say he’d “love to have Darrelle back,” but it’s easier to put that plan into motion now. The Jets have $51 million in cap room, and the means to bring him back.

Now they just have to get him away from the Patriots, and every other team in the AFC with a link to him and a need (Rex Ryan in Buffalo and Mike Tannenbaum in Miami).

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Andre Johnson not happy with idea of reduced role in Houston, still feels he’s a starter

Andre Johnson edit AP

One way or another, Andre Johnson’s time in Houston will soon come to an end.

The Texans granted the franchise’s all-time leading receiver the ability to seek a trade. If no deal can be struck, the Texans will release Johnson and allow him to move on.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Johnson said he was told he would be given a significantly reduced role in 2015 if he remained on the roster.

“I don’t know how you tell a guy who catches 85 balls that he’ll only probably catch 40,” Johnson said. “I feel like the role they were trying to put me in I’d be held back from maximizing my talents. I feel like that was the best thing for both sides.”

Johnson caught 85 passes for 936 yards and three touchdowns last season for Houston. For his career, Johnson averaged 96 catches and 1,297 yards for every 16 games he played. Johnson feels like that production doesn’t warrant a reduced role.

“I don’t see why I wouldn’t be a starter in this league,” Johnson said. “It didn’t make sense to me. I’m pretty sure it won’t make sense to a lot of other people.”

That reduced role almost certainly would have come with a reduced paycheck as well. Johnson is scheduled to make $10.5 million next season on his current contract. That contract will also make it difficult for Johnson to find any teams willing to deal for him this offseason.

However, if (when) Johnson is released, he will surely get interest on the open market.

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Sean Payton: Saints “want to keep” Mark Ingram

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Saints have been in contact with tailback Mark Ingram as free agency nears and would reportedly like to work out a deal.

During an interview at the Pelicans-Mavericks game Monday night in Dallas, Saints head coach Sean Payton indicated the club wanted to re-sign Ingram.

“Obviously he’s someone that we want to keep,” Payton told Fox Sports’s Jennifer Hale, according to Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate. “Hopefully we can do that.”

According to the Advocate, Payton told Hale he had spoken with Ingram on Monday and that the club had a good working relationship with the tailback’s agent, Joel Segal.

The 25-year-old Ingram rushed for a career-best 964 yards and nine touchdowns in 2014. He ranks 38th among PFT’s prospective free agents in the Class of 2015.

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