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NFL issues statement on Aaron Hernandez arrest

NFL logo and set are seen at New York's Radio City Music Hall before the start of the 2013 NFL Draft Reuters

The Patriots reacted swiftly this morning to Aaron Hernandez, and while the league is obviously monitoring the situation, there’s only so much for them to say at the moment.

The league issued a statement moments ago, trying to keep the arrest of the former Patriots tight end in the proper perspective.

“The involvement of an NFL player in a case of this nature is deeply troubling,” the statement read. “The Patriots have released Aaron Hernandez, who will have his day in court.

“At the same time, we should not forget the young man who was the victim in this case and take this opportunity to extend our deepest sympathy to Odin Lloyd’s family and friends.”

That last part is the one that will be overlooked by many in the coming hours and days.

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Brandon Carr: I’m here until I’m told otherwise

Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v Green Bay Packers AP

The Cowboys took cornerback Byron Jones with their first round pick last Thursday, a move that came after several weeks of speculation about whether the team would try to get veteran corner Brandon Carr to take a pay cut from his scheduled $8 million salary.

Carr’s agent has said that his client won’t take a pay cut to remain in Dallas, but the cornerback himself was less forthcoming over the weekend. Carr said that his contract falls into the category of things he won’t discuss in public, adding that he is looking forward to working with Jones and that he doesn’t relate the rookie’s arrival to his contract situation.

“I say we’ve got a young guy, drafted a guy, a defensive back and they thought highly of him,” Carr said, via the Dallas Morning News. “I’m looking forward to having him in the room with us and grooming him to get ready to play. I’m still here. I’m here until told otherwise. That’s my philosophy. At the end of the day, if I’m playing football then I’m going to give my all for whoever I’m playing for.”

Ultimately, any decision about a pay cut is going to come down to whether Carr and his camp believe that they can sign elsewhere for more money than the Cowboys are offering him for the coming season. At this point in the offseason, there aren’t a lot of teams looking to splash cash on veteran free agents and that may wind up playing into Dallas’s hands if things come to a head in the coming days or weeks.

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Browns to DeVante Parker’s mom: Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah

DeVante Parker AP

New Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker was relieved that the Browns decided to pass on him at No. 12.

Or at least his mother was.

We didn’t want him going to Cleveland,” Raneca Parker told Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, after the Dolphins took him with the 14th pick. “They don’t have a team, really, or a quarterback. I knew I didn’t want the Cleveland Browns.

“I know the teams the teams he could go to and the teams he couldn’t go to. We were happy with the Miami Dolphins. He was very ecstatic. We’re happy, we love the weather.”

As much as that might sting, the Browns replied, albeit indirectly, that they didn’t like Parker either.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns passed on him because “they felt he wasn’t tough enough and didn’t love the game enough.”

At least DeVante knows his mother loves him and — since he’s a receiver who might need a quarterback some day — has his best interests at heart.

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Raiders will release James Jones

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The Raiders took a late dip into free agency to sign Michael Crabtree and then they added Amari Cooper with the fourth overall pick of the draft, a pair of moves that appear to have convinced the team to move on from James Jones.

Jones told Fallon Smith of CSN Bay Area that Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie informed him that the Raiders were going to release him after one year with the team.

That one year was the first year of a three-year deal and Jones caught 73 passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns during his season in Oakland. That paltry average yards per catch speaks to Jones’s difficulty creating separation from opposing defenses last season and the two new arrivals plus the expected return of Rod Streater didn’t promise much playing time in 2015.

Jones was due to make $3.4 million in 2015 and his departure leaves no dead money on the cap. He’s the latest 2014 acquisition to leave the team after one season, joining Antonio Smith, Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Schaub and LaMarr Woodley as short-term members of the organization.

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Jameis Winston’s contract precludes him playing baseball

Jameis AP

The Buccaneers went ahead and took one potential distraction out of the way, signing top pick Jameis Winston to his rookie contract before the rest of the draft was over.

And in doing so, they eliminated another potential distraction.

According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, the contract contains a clause prohibiting Winston from playing professional baseball during the length of the deal.

While that should be an easy call, Winston created some concern in Bucs officials by expressing his desire to at least consider playing baseball at some point, saying “It has always been my dream, but I’m just playing football right now.”

That could easily be read as a lack of focus, and it was a concern to Bucs officials. They texted Winston and spoke to him after the comments became public, telling him that wasn’t OK with them if they were making him the top pick in the draft. Winston told them he understood, but was just speaking honestly and loved baseball.

But as with so many other things, the Buccaneers worked to eliminate distractions, so their No. 1 overall pick can do what he does best.

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Browns confident Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will get healthy

ifoekpreolomu AP

Heading into his senior season at Oregon, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was viewed as a likely first-round draft pick. But Ekpre-Olomu suffered a torn ACL in December, and his draft stock plummeted.

The Browns selected Ekpre-Olomu in the seventh round, and they think they got a steal. General Manager Ray Farmer said the Browns’ medical staff believes Ekpre-Olomu’s injury, while severe, is one that he can fully recover from.

“We felt like we were getting the right kind of guy that we knew had talent,” Farmer said. “He suffered an unfortunate injury. We are confident he will get healthy.”

The Browns will take it slow with Ekpre-Olomu, and it’s possible that he won’t play at all as a rookie. But if things go well, the Browns may add a first-round talent to their defense in 2016, at the minor cost of a seventh-round pick in 2015.

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Irsay increases the pressure on his employees

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Colts owner Jim Irsay recently said that it’s not “Super Bowl or bust” for coach Chuck Pagano.

More recent remarks from Irsay suggest that it eventually will be, for Pagano and everyone else.

“In the Andrew Luck era, we would like to win at least two World Championships,” Irsay said Saturday.

He’d also like to win two titles consecutively.

“When you look at that, we look at how do we build this roster over the next three years to really be able to go on a run where you can win two Super Bowls in a row, when you can really be dominant,” Irsay said.  “Again, that’s working on all phases of the ball.”

It’s hard enough to win one Super Bowl; it’s significantly harder to win two in a row.  But it’s no surprise that Irsay is reminding his employees of the high bar that has been set for the franchise.  Irsay declared in 2013 that, in parting ways with Peyton Manning, Irsay chose championships over stats.

At some point the championships need to show up.  If they don’t, pretty much everyone on the payroll but Andrew Luck will be at risk.

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Carroll says ball currently is in Wilson’s court

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Here’s an item that was largely overlooked in the aftermath of the 2015 NFL draft — the player selected with the 75th pick in the 2012 NFL draft is no closer to a new deal.

In an interview with ESPN, Carroll said that talks with quarterback Russell Wilson are “going a little slow,” but that the process is “ongoing,” via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

As it relates to the formal exchange of offers and counteroffers, it won’t be going anywhere until Wilson’s camp responds to whatever Seattle most recently put on the table.  Carroll specifically said that the team is “waiting to hear from their side.”

Condotta notes that, shortly after Carroll’s interview, Wilson responded with this message on Twitter:  “I’d rather patiently wait & see what God has in store than do something that isn’t best for my life.”

That sounds like Wilson may not be responding any time soon, if at all.  It possibly means Wilson will decide to play out his contract, forcing the Seahawks to decide whether to apply the exclusive or non-exclusive version of the franchise tag.  The exclusive version would cost upwards of $25 million for 2016 (and nearly $100 million on a year-to-year basis over three years).  The non-exclusive version would allow another team to swoop in with a major offer that, if not matched by the Seahawks, would result in Wilson changing teams — and in Seattle receiving a pair of first-round draft picks.

For now, it appears that Wilson plans to drive a hard bargain, as passively as possible.  And he has every right to drive a hard bargain, passively or aggressively.  At some point, however, it will become difficult to reconcile posturing for top dollar with the ubiquitous cry of “Go ‘Hawks!

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Bears reach deals with QB Shane Carden, 14 other undrafted rookies

Shane Carden AP

If you can’t beat him, sign his doppleganger.

East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden, who has been said to look like former Packers star Brett Favre, is one of 15 undrafted rookie free agents to agree to deals with the Bears, the club said on its website on Sunday evening.

Carden (6-2, 218) threw for more than 4,000 yards in each of his final two seasons with the Pirates. In this span, he threw 66 TDs and just 20 picks in 1,166 passes. Carden will vie to stick on a depth chart that includes Jay Cutler, Jimmy Clausen and David Fales.

The Bears also reached deals with these undrafted rookies: TCU LB Jonathan Anderson, Rice CB Bryce Callahan, East Central CB Qumain Black, Toledo PK Jeremiah Detmer, Central Florida CB Jacoby Glenn, Coastal Carolina OG Chad Hamilton, UCLA S Anthony Jefferson, Arkansas OT Cameron Jefferson, Old Dominion LS Rick Lovato, Illinois State WR Cameron Meredith, Baylor WR Levi Norwood, Miami (Fla.) DE Olsen Pierre, Washington LB John Timu, Alabama TE Brian Vogler.

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Jason Garrett: Cowboys have the right support for Randy Gregory

randygregory AP

Randy Gregory was a top 10 talent who slipped to the Cowboys at No. 60 in the draft primarily because of off-field concerns. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says those concerns are alleviated by the support system the team will have in place for Gregory.

“We believe we have the right kind of environment here with the Cowboys,” Garrett said on NFL Network. “We have an excellent coaching staff who believes in coaching the man first, and we also have an excellent support staff who can help our players in every way possible. . . . Some of the off-the-field concerns that we have with Randy, we feel like we can help address.”

The details of Gregory’s off-field concerns remain unclear, although he reportedly has mental health issues. Football locker rooms haven’t always been the most supportive places for people who need to work out such issues, but Garrett is vowing that the Cowboys will take good care of Gregory.

And, of course, on the field the Cowboys think they got themselves a great player.

“Randy Gregory is a very natural pass rusher,” Garrett said. “He seems to have a knack for getting to the quarterback.”

Gregory’s job in Dallas is simple: Get to the quarterback. The Cowboys’ job of supporting Gregory will be more complex, and may determine just how successful he is in the NFL.

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49ers pick up a pair of 2016 draft picks

San Diego Chargers v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers will have a little added picking power in the 2016 NFL Draft.

In trades this week, San Francisco snagged a pair of extra selections in next year’s draft, getting a fifth-round pick from San Diego when trading down on Thursday and a sixth-round pick from Dallas for a 2015 seventh-round pick on Saturday.

The Eagles came away with the highest future pick, snagging a 2016 third-rounder from Detroit for a 2015 fourth-round pick. However, the Lions are likely to get a 2016 third-rounder as a compensatory pick after losing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in free agency.

Here is the full list of future selections acquired during the 2015 NFL Draft:

Philadelphia: 2016 third-round selection (from Detroit).

San Francisco: 2016 fifth-round selection (from San Diego), 2016 sixth-round selection (from Dallas).

Detroit: 2016 fifth-round selection (from Denver).

Washington: 2016 sixth-round selection (from New Orleans).

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Maccagnan: Zac Stacy trade not related to concerns about Stevan Ridley’s knee

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Instead of taking a shot on a rookie running back with a seventh-round pick on Saturday, the Jets opted to trade it to the Rams in exchange for Zac Stacy.

Stacy, a 2013 fifth-round pick, became an odd man out in St. Louis when the team drafted Todd Gurley in the first round on Thursday. Reports that he wanted a trade came a short time later and the Jets decided to take the plunge.

Stacy joins a depth chart that also features Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and Stevan Ridley, who the Jets signed as a free agent this offseason as he recovers from a torn ACL. Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan said Saturday that concerns about Ridley’s return weren’t the reason why the team made the deal for Stacy.

“We thought the idea of bringing Zac in for that kind of investment would be very beneficial and increase the competition at that position,” Maccagnan said, via ESPN.com. “He’s had success in the league. Two years ago, he was close to a 1,000-yard back. This past season, his production wasn’t quite as high, but we do think he’s a good-caliber running back.”

It may not be the knee that made Maccagnan pull the trigger on the trade, but the Jets would seem to have some concern about Ivory and/or Ridley being right for the job to add another back with a similar style to the mix.

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24 early entries went undrafted

georgefarmer AP

The first two days of the NFL draft were big for underclassmen, with 43 of them selected. But the third day of the NFL draft wasn’t as kind to players who turned pro early.

Only 17 underclassmen were selected in Rounds 4-7, which brought the total of underclassmen drafted to 60. With 84 underclassmen declaring for this year’s draft, that means there were 24 players who gave up their remaining NCAA eligibility and weren’t chosen at all.

That doesn’t mean those players made the wrong call — some of them will make NFL rosters as undrafted free agents — but it does serve as a reminder that players need to think long and hard about whether they’re doing the right thing if they decide to give up their college scholarships for a shot at the pros.

Some of those players who turned pro early in January now may be coming to the realization that they’re unlikely ever to make money playing football. Here’s hoping they learned something while they were in college.

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Jaguars sign nine undrafteds, including Auburn’s Nick Marshall

Auburn Pro Day Football AP

One of perhaps the 10 best quarterbacks eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft has a new home.

Of course, there were only seven quarterbacks drafted, and this one is changing positions, which says as much about the class as him in particular.

The Jaguars announced the addition of nine undrafted rookies, including cornerback Nick Marshall.

Marshall was a quarterback at Auburn, and his college coach thinks he could play the position at the next level. He might be right, given the supply/demand issues the league is having there.

But for now, he’s a corner, where he participated during the Senior Bowl.

The Jaguars did sign another quarterback, Kansas State’s Jake Walters, along with linebacker Thurston Armbrister (Miami), defensive tackle Eric Crume (Syracuse), running back Corey Grant (Auburn) tight end Connor Hamlett (Oregon State), guard Chris Reed (Minnestoa-Mankato) and linebackers Matt Robinson (Maryland) and Todd Thomas (Pittsburgh).

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Chip Kelly: Tim Tebow isn’t here just to be a camp arm

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When Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez was asked last month about Tim Tebow’s role with the team last month, he effectively said Tebow was a spare arm to help them through practice until Sam Bradford was well.

Well, coach Chip Kelly disagrees with that assessment, saying Tebow had as much of a shot as anybody.

During an appearance on the NFL Network, Kelly dispelled that notion, such that such a notion can be dispelled before players set foot on the field.

“No. I think everybody here that we bring to our organization is here to compete for a job. That’s what Timmy is going to do,” Kelly said, via NJ.com. “He’s an unbelievable competitor. . . .

“If we were just going to have guys throw drills, we’d take [Mike] Mayock in the offseason and bring him down here and let him throw to them.”

While joking with the league-owned network’s talent might have gotten Kelly out of a potentially uncomfortable line of questioning, it doesn’t make the issue go away.

And while he clearly didn’t get the quarterback he was hoping for this weekend, Kelly’s going to spend plenty of time on the position moving forward, massaging egos and managing expectations.

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Lions “don’t know” if Travis Swanson will start at center

Jacksonville Jaguars v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Coming into the draft, the interior of the offensive line was often mentioned as an area the Lions needed to address and the evaluation was spot on based on what the team did over the last three days.

They drafted guard Laken Tomlinson in the first round after they acquired Manny Ramirez from the Broncos as part of a trade that moved them down to the 28th overall pick. Tomlinson appears ticketed for left guard while 2014 third-rounder Travis Swanson is in line to take over for Dominic Raiola at center, although offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn said he’s not ready to name him the starter at this point in the offseason.

“I don’t know,” Washburn said, via the Detroit Free Press. “And I’m not trying to be evasive, I just don’t know. What is it, May 2, 3rd? The depth kind of develops itself, which is a nice thing. Going through OTAs, mini-camp, training camp, it always takes care of itself.”

The best outcome for the Lions would be for Tomlinson and Swanson to establish themselves as the best options with the first team while Ramirez provides them with an experienced reserve at both guard and center. Should second-round running back Ameer Abdullah do the same, the Lions will likely be able to do a better job of moving the ball on the ground this season.

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