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Dannell Ellerbe: I was brought to Miami to knock the Patriots off


The Dolphins have only finished ahead of the Patriots in the AFC East once in the last 12 years. New Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe sees it as his job to change that.

I was brought here to help knock them off,” Ellerbe told Mike Freeman of CBS. “That doesn’t mean we will, but we feel like we can. Like I said, we just have to prove it. You have to actually go do it.”

Talk is cheap, and Ellerbe made clear that he knows that: He is eager to make noise with his play and not with his words.

“I think they are but you have to prove it, you can’t just talk about it,” Ellerbe said.

Ellerbe also mentioned that he believes the Patriots’ offense will suffer from the loss of tight end Aaron Hernandez.

“Losing a starter always hurts and losing a starter as good as he was will really hurt,” he said. “I don’t think you can say the Patriots are the same as before after what happened to Hernandez.”

The Patriots’ passing game has also lost Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Danny Woodhead, and Rob Gronkowski’s status is uncertain after back surgery. So four of New England’s top five pass catchers from last year are gone, and the fifth is a question mark. It’s easy to see why the Dolphins might think now is the time to knock the Patriots off.

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Bill O’Brien “real excited” about working with Tom Savage

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The Texans were able to excise Brock Osweiler from their roster, leaving them with a pair of quarterbacks under contract and a spot on the depth chart that most believe they’d be happy to fill with Tony Romo.

Romo remains a member of the Cowboys, however, and there’s a chance his next stop might be in a broadcast booth, so the Texans may be moving forward with Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden. During an appearance on NFL Network, Texans coach Bill O’Brien didn’t talk about Romo, but did discuss Savage’s ability to be a capable starting quarterback.

Savage showed some of that late in the 2016 regular season before suffering a concussion led to Osweiler’s return to the lineup. That was the latest in a run of injuries for the 2014 fourth-round pick and his play last season didn’t set the world on fire outside of being a clear step up from Osweiler, but O’Brien remains a believer in what Savage brings to the table.

“Absolutely,” O’Brien said. “He came into some tough games, the Jacksonville game last year that we had to win. We were down in the game, he helped us come back. He helped us beat Cincinnati on Christmas Eve, which was a big game that we had to win to clinch the South. We knew we had to win because of what happened earlier in the day in our division. And he helped us win that game. He got injured, and that’s been kind of one of the things that’s happened to him. He’s been injured over the last three years of his career. But if you look at the history of the league, there’s a number of guys who have played that were injured early in their career. Tom is a smart guy, he can throw the ball really well, he knows our system and he’s a guy that we’re real excited about working with.”

Savage and Romo share a recent history of injuries, so the fourth-year player could still play a role for the Texans even if Romo shows up in the starting lineup. The draft could also bring another wrinkle to a quarterback room that’s been the biggest obstacle to major success during O’Brien’s run as Houston’s coach.

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Giants want to re-sign Johnathan Hankins, but won’t be “irresponsible”

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Linebacker Zach Brown and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins are the only two players left unsigned or untagged in the top 50 on PFT’s list of 2017’s top free agents, but it appears one of those players could end his stay on the list pretty quickly.

Kim Jones of NFL Media reports that Hankins has a multi-year offer on the table to return to the Giants that “stacks up well” with the market that has developed for his services. That market obviously hasn’t been what Hankins was hoping to find and Giants co-owner John Mara suggested on Sunday that the team isn’t going to move much in order to get Hankins on board.

“There’s still one more piece out there that we’d like to keep, but we wanted to try to do that if possible without being irresponsible,” Mara said, via the New York Post. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. We certainly want him back, but it’s got to make sense for us. He’s an important part of our team, he’s a great kid, he’s young and he fits in very well with us.”

A Hankins return would allow the Giants to bring back all 11 of their starters from last season. That would seem to bode well for further improvement for a defense that took a big leap in 2016, but Hankins has to agree to the deal to make it happen.

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Monday morning one-liners

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Seven questions regarding the Bills as the league meetings get underway.

Was the Dolphins’ playoff berth a result of smoke and mirrors?

The Patriots expect to be playing their game in Mexico City in mid-November.

Running through the pros and cons of the Jets drafting LSU RB Leonard Fournette.

S Eric Weddle has high hopes for the Ravens secondary.

A look at the Bengals’ decision to part ways with LB Rey Maualuga.

Comparing possible Browns No. 1 pick Myles Garrett with previous defensive ends who went at the top of the draft.

Should the Steelers draft a running back?

Ohio pass rusher Tarell Basham is expected to work out for the Texans.

New Colts P Jeff Locke is looking forward to working with K Adam Vinatieri.

The Jaguars have some possible contract extensions to think about in the coming months.

Struggling for the Titans didn’t stop cornerbacks Perrish Cox and Valentino Blake from finding new jobs.

Broncos T Michael Schofield is working to raise awareness of the dangers of opiod addiction.

Quarterback, cornerback and defensive line could be areas the Chiefs address in the draft.

Monday is shaping up to be a big day for the Raiders and Las Vegas.

LSU S Jamal Adams could be a fit with the Chargers.

T Byron Bell will be in the mix as the Cowboys look to replace Doug Free on the right side of their offensive line.

Miami TE David Njoku was born in New Jersey before being mentored by Jeremy Shockey and would love to play for the Giants.

Will C Jason Kelce and the Eagles part ways this offseason?

Quick notes on the projected members of the Redskins’ starting offense.

Sustainable success for the Bears is a myth until they find a quarterback.

Running through the Lions’ biggest cap numbers for 2017.

Kyle Murphy could be part of the Packers’ plans at guard.

Said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer of players leaving this offseason, “We’re going to miss those players. You get attached to all those guys. But I do think in order to improve at some point, you have to move on and try to kind of change things a little bit.”

Given the option, would the Falcons opt out of wearing “Color Rush” uniforms?

Musing about the possible Panthers selection with the eighth pick of the draft.

The Saints have to think about life after QB Drew Brees.

LB Lavonte David believes the Buccaneers are on the cusp of big things.

Cardinals president Michael Bidwill is helping out high school players in St. Louis.

This offseason’s free agent additions should help Rams QB Jared Goff in his second season.

The secondary is a vital part of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s plans on defense.

What areas might the Seahawks address in the late stages of free agency?

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“Zero percent chance” Dolphins are interested in Joe Mixon

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Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is making the pre-draft rounds, but those trips are more about convincing teams he can be trusted rather than whether he’s good at playing football.

And it sounds like he won’t be taking that road show to Miami.

According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins will not draft the running back who has provided plenty of electrifying game tape, but also video of him punching a woman in the face.

One person with knowledge of the team’s thinking described it as a “Zero percent chance.”

It only takes one team to overlook and forgive and hope for the football, the way the Chiefs did last year with Tyreek Hill. But whether the dictate is coming from owner Stephen Ross or within the football operation, it appears their decision has been made.




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No timeline on Le’Veon Bell return, contract negotiations

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Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell had surgery this month to repair the core muscle injury that knocked him out of the AFC title game and ginned up questions about why the team didn’t disclose the injury heading into the game after Bell said it had been an issue.

The injury didn’t stop the Steelers from using the franchise tag on Bell, which suggests they don’t think it will be an issue for him when the 2017 season gets underway. General Manager Kevin Colbert said on Sunday that it isn’t clear when Bell is going to be ready to resume football work, however.

“At what point does he return? The doctors, trainers and Le’Veon determine that,” Colbert said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Our goal is to have him 100 percent for the 2017 season. Whatever path the experts tell us to take with that, we will follow.”

Colbert had a similar answer when it came to the question of a long-term deal for Bell. Beyond saying the team was interested, Colbert gave no hint about when there might be an agreement.

“At what point it gets done, I can’t say,” Colbert said. “It will be a very complicated type of deal. But it always has been our goal.”

Bell is set to make $12.1 million under the terms of the franchise tag.

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Ron Rivera thinks time off will help Cam Newton

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The Panthers announced that quarterback Cam Newton is going to be out of action for a few months after making the decision to have shoulder surgery to address lingering pain from the 2016 season.

The timing of the decision has drawn some scrutiny as Newton played out the string last season despite the shoulder issue. General Manager Dave Gettleman said Newton wanted to play and the medical staff said he could to explain the team’s decision. Coach Ron Rivera noted that there’s a general aversion to having your quarterback undergo surgery unless it’s absolutely necessary while adding that he thinks the offseason sets up to be a positive for Newton.

“I think the rest will be good for him. I think it’ll help to clear his mind and refocus. I think part of it also is rebuilding that confidence,” Rivera said to Judy Battista of NFL Media. “I think his confidence was shook. I think there were a lot of things that went on last year that did create that situation for him to feel that way, starting with the offensive line.”

How much the 2017 offensive line will inspire confidence remains to be seen as its strength is somewhat contingent on new left tackle Matt Kalil, last year’s original left tackle Michael Oher and center Ryan Kalil returning to both health and form. If they don’t, peace and mind will be in short supply in Carolina’s pocket once again.

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More talk in Cleveland of the Browns trading for Jimmy Garoppolo

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Around the NFL, there’s a widespread belief that the Patriots have no plans to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and see him as not just the backup to Tom Brady in 2017 but the successor to Brady some day down the road. But in Cleveland, there’s a different view.

Talk of the Browns trading for Garoppolo continues, with two of the most clued-in Browns reporters, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland, both having new stories today indicating that the Browns will talk to the Patriots about trading for Garoppolo. Grossi even goes so far as to say Garoppolo is the top contender to start the season as the Browns’ starting quarterback, ahead of holdover Cody Kessler.

So is Garoppolo available in a trade? Sure he is, at the right price. Every player in the league is available for the right price. If the Browns offered the first overall pick, the 12th overall pick and the 33rd overall pick in this year’s draft, plus left tackle Joe Thomas, the rights to suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon and Kessler to take Garoppolo’s place on the Patriots’ roster, does anyone seriously think the Patriots would turn all of that down, just to keep a player who might not play for years if Brady stays healthy?

But the Browns aren’t going to make that offer. The question is whether there’s any realistic trade package that the Browns would be willing to give up, and the Patriots would be willing to accept. And most indications out of New England are that the Patriots aren’t willing to give up Garoppolo for anything but an over-the-top offer.

Still, in Cleveland, there’s a belief that Garoppolo could be coming to town. The Patriots may say no, but the Browns will ask.

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Halas grandchildren want to sell shares of team to McCaskeys

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As ownership families age, they naturally disperse the business to younger generations.

In Chicago, there appears to be some movement to consolidate some of the shares of ownership in the Bear to avoid potential future problems.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, owners are expected to vote this week on the potential sale of a small percentage of shares from one of George Halas’ grandchildren to the McCaskey family which controls the team, headed by chairman George McCaskey.

Issues of family succession and control might seem arcane, but the league has had numerous problems with the heirs of Bud Adams and how they’ve divided the team after his passing, since they want a clear managing partner.

While the report is short on specifics, it appears the Bears want to address them in advance.

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Cowboys declare “method to the madness” of defensive exodus

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The Cowboys weren’t what you’d call great on defense last year, but they were certainly good enough to not stop progress.

But losing so many starters on that side of the ball, including nearly the entire secondary, and five total players who started at least seven games for them last year could potentially be a big step back.

There is a little bit of method to the madness here,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said, via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. “Right now, going into the draft, we feel really good about our numbers. But at the same time we feel this is going to be a great opportunity for us to improve on the defensive side of the ball.

“It just so happens we feel the draft is inordinately strong on the defensive side of the ball.”

It better be. The Cowboys lost both starting cornerbacks in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, safety Barry Church and others in free agency. They did backfill a bit with signing cornerback Nolan Carroll, but their cap space has limited their ability to move. Jones said he’d have liked to kept some of the players they lost, up to a limit.

“Players we want to keep, we keep them,” Jones said. “Most of these players, I’m not going to single out guys, but most of them we were ready to let move on.

“Now, there were a few if they would have been for the right price, we would have done it. But we certainly didn’t want to get into overpaying for anybody.

“At the end of the day, we value our players. At certain numbers, it’s efficient for us to sign them. At other numbers, it’s not.”

The plan is that some existing young players will improve in larger roles, but the majority of the hope is staked to a draft that skews toward defensive talent, particularly a deep group of secondary and defensive line prospects.

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Hue Jackson says Brock Osweiler will compete for a job, for now

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The Browns traded for Brock Osweiler because they wanted a second-round draft pick and the Texans wanted to get out from under Osweiler’s contract. Osweiler’s potential contributions in Cleveland were an afterthought.

But as long as he’s on the team, Browns coach Hue Jackson says Osweiler will be given the same opportunities as other players, and Osweiler will be there when the offseason program starts.

“Obviously, he’s a player on our team and we’re going to treat him just like we do all of our other quarterbacks until he’s not,” Jackson told Steve Wyche of NFL Network. “He’s a guy that’s going to come in and compete. We haven’t had an opportunity to meet with him from a football standpoint because of the rules. But once we start our offseason program, Phase One, we’ll get a chance to know him and he’ll get to know us.”

The “until he’s not” part of the quote doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence that the Browns think Osweiler is their long-term answer, but for now anyway, the team is acting as if Osweiler has a chance to show he’s the best quarterback on the depth chart.

That depth chart currently consists of just Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan along with Osweiler, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Osweiler were to win a competition against those two. But the Browns can also acquire another quarterback before training camp starts. It seems like a long shot that the Browns will actually go into Week One with Osweiler under center.

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NFL says injury data shows protections for quarterbacks are working

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The NFL has changed several rules in recent years designed to keep quarterbacks healthier. The league thinks it now has the evidence to show those rules are working.

According to Peter King of, starting quarterbacks missed a total of just 35 games in 2016, a significant reduction from the 59 games missed in 2015, 77 in 2014 and 76 in 2013. The league thinks that shows defensive players are learning not to hit quarterbacks illegally, and referees are focusing more on the safety of quarterbacks.

On the other hand, it could just be a statistical fluke. Titans starting quarterback Marcus Mariota suffered a broken leg in Week 16 that caused him to miss one start, in Week 17. But if he had suffered that same injury in Week One, it could have ended his season and caused him to miss 15 starts. And Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr suffered a broken leg of his own in Week 16 that reportedly would have caused him to miss about eight games if it had come early in the season. Just change the timing of those two injuries, and the number of games missed by starting quarterbacks in 2016 could equal the number of games missed by starting quarterbacks in 2015.

So while it’s good news that fewer quarterbacks missed games, we’ll need a few more years of data before we can draw any real conclusions.

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Steelers planning for life after Roethlisberger

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No one is taking seriously the retirement musings of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The team nevertheless realizes that he’s much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and they’re beginning to plan accordingly.

“I think we’ve been in that mindset for the last several years, that’s what this business tells us to be in,” coach Mike Tomlin told NFL Network in an interview that will be televised on Wednesday. “We better start sharpening our sword in terms of evaluation of quarterbacks and what’s available to us or potentially available to us, that’s just due diligence. So yes, we have.”

It makes plenty of sense for the Steelers to be looking for their next quarterback, even if Roethlisberger ultimately objects to the use of a high draft pick on a quarterback when it otherwise could be used on getting him help as he pursues a third Super Bowl win. Still, it doesn’t seem to be a major priority, at least not for now.

“I think because of [Roethlisberger’s] durability and how he plays, I don’t know that we have that level of urgency, but we are taking ourselves mentally through the process,” Tomlin said. “Not an easy one, obviously, but it is what it is. It’s an element of the business. Guys can’t play forever and he acknowledges that and we acknowledge that.”

In the two decades between the retirement of Terry Bradshaw and the drafting of Roethlisberger, the Steelers lacked a true franchise quarterback. Not coincidentally, they also didn’t win a Super Bowl during that same gap.

It will nevertheless make for an awkward year (or two, or three) if the Steelers draft Roethlisberger’s replacement before he needs to be replaced. That should be a very real factor for the team as it decides whether to roll the dice on the next franchise quarterback before the current one walks away.

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John Elway, Jerry Jones haven’t talked about Tony Romo

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Although the annual meetings technically began Sunday in Arizona, plenty of league personnel already have been here working on plenty of things via plenty of meetings discussing plenty of topics.

During the time that Broncos G.M. John Elway and Cowboys owner/G.M. Jerry Jones spent together, however, one specific subject has not been broached.

“We’ve been here all week and [Tony Romo’s] name never came up,’’ Elway said Sunday, via Mike Klis of

Many have assumed that Jones, who is believed to have told Romo on March 8 that he’d be released before changing his mind, wanted to delay the move until at least the league meetings, given the possibility of a trade offer. The Broncos seemed to be poised to make a run at Romo when it appeared he’d be released; they’ve sent strong and consistent signals that they won’t trade for him.

The Texans have done the same, but the current thinking is that, if any team blinks and makes an offer to the Cowboys, it will be the Texans.

Then there’s the possibility that Jones doesn’t want Romo to play for the Texans. At this point, Jones may prefer to see Romo retire to broadcasting. That way, Romo would never do what Peyton Manning did after the Colts moved on from him — thrive elsewhere and win a Super Bowl.

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How often do teams draft QBs? Less than Jets

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It took some researching, but one positive can be drawn now as it relates to the Jets and their meager quarterback situation.

They’ve been trying.

By one measure, like no team has.

Pro Football Talk collected data over the past decade to analyze how each NFL franchise has approached the quarterback position in the draft. The Jets selected an NFL-high seven over that span, including one in each of the past four drafts. Two of those four, Geno Smith a New York Giant and Tajh Boyd out of the league, are no longer with the club.

It is, of course, tongue-in-cheek to characterize this activity as “positive”; inserting rookies into a huddle and seeing who sticks isn’t an ideal spring rite of passage. Jets GM Mike Maccagnan recently allowed the team may take another dive into the 2017 quarterback class. Josh McCown currently sits atop his depth chart.

Mark Sanchez in 2009 is the Jets’ lone first-round quarterback in the past decade.

The Broncos drafted the second-most quarterbacks with six. Two were first-rounders: Paxton Lynch in 2016 and Tim Tebow in 2010.

The Browns are one of six teams to have selected five since 2007. No organization, however, has invested more in rookie quarterbacks during this period. Each of Cleveland’s five QBs was taken during the draft’s first three rounds. Johnny Manziel, Brandon Weeden and Brady Quinn were all first-round picks.

New England seems to have a preference for when it goes quarterback.

Of the five Bill Belichick drafted in this 10-year span, four were taken in the second or third round.

No team recently has invested less in a rookie quarterback than the Chargers. Despite scouting the position heavily, they are one of five teams to have selected an NFL-few two quarterbacks the past 10 years. Brad Sorensen in 2013 and Jonathan Crompton in 2010 were seventh- and fifth-round picks, respectively. Neither remains on the roster.

Like the Chargers, the Steelers and Giants acquired a franchise quarterback during the 2004 draft. And like the Chargers, they’ve yet to make a sizable draft investment in his successor. The Steelers’ only quarterbacks taken in a decade are 2013 fourth-rounder Landry Jones and 2008 fifth-rounder Dennis Dixon. All three of the Giants’ quarterback picks came between rounds four and six.

The Texans and Bears, despite a current need, have drafted just three quarterbacks in 10 years. Tom Savage in 2014 is Houston’s only such pick the past five drafts. All three of the Bears’ selections came in the fifth and sixth rounds. San Francisco hasn’t drafted a quarterback before the sixth round in five straight years.

A franchise that drafts several quarterbacks but hits on none is not rewarded for its effort.

The Jets can attest to this.

They’ve invested in a rookie quarterback year after year, hoping at some point someone will come along to fill their vacancy for good. But when that doesn’t transpire, a year passes, and the franchise finds itself in the same situation as it did a year before.

So here they are, beside other teams, sifting through a market for what can seem a mythical good.

The search continues.

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Bruce Allen insists Kirk Cousins will be the Washington quarterback in 2017

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For a team in a town known for politicians who speak in absolutes that are often absolutely untrue, take this for whatever you will: Washington president Bruce Allen insists that Kirk Cousins will be the team’s quarterback in 2017.

That’s why we franchised him,” Allen told CSN Mid-Atlantic.

“I can’t keep up with the rumors,” Allen added. “Kirk and I have talked almost a dozen times this offseason, and we get to laugh when we hear these different rumors. We haven’t talked to anyone.”

The fact that they haven’t talked to anyone doesn’t mean they won’t, especially with the entire NFL gathered in Arizona for the annual league meetings.

“Our goal from the beginning has been long-term [contract],” Allen said. “I’m still hopeful and confident we’ll do it.”

Of course, that depends on what the definition of “the beginning” is. At the beginning of Cousins’ initial contract year, Washington didn’t want to talk. At the beginning of when they decided to engage Cousins, it was too little and too late to avoid the franchise tag launch sequence. At the beginning of the franchise tag period in 2016, Washington didn’t want to fully guarantee two years of the tag (i.e., $19.95 million plus $23.94 million) at signing. At the beginning of the dance this year, it likely will take the 2017 franchise tag ($23.94 million) and the 2018 transition tag (a 20-percent increase over this year’s pay, or $28.73 million), fully guaranteed at signing to get a long-term deal done.

Otherwise, Cousins can play out the season, pocketing two years of tag money and forcing Washington to decide whether to use the right-of-first-refusal-but-no-compensation transition tag in 2018 or the franchise tag for a third time, at a 44-percent increase (by rule) over this year’s amount. That approach would cost Washington $34.47 million next year, running Cousins’ three-year haul to $78.36 million.

Or they could entertain trading him now, getting 2017 draft-pick compensation and/or players in return and freeing up $23.94 million in cash and cap space and avoiding the likelihood that he walks away next year with only a 2019 compensatory draft pick in return.

But they insist they aren’t entertaining trading him now, which could be code for, “We don’t want to see desperate to trade him or we won’t get as much as we could.”

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