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Report: Matt Flynn “solidifying” hold on quarterback job

Matt Flynn AP

Last year, Matt Flynn entered training camp with expectations that he’d be the winner of the Seahawks’ quarterback job only to become the first victim of Russell Wilson’s rookie year assault on the NFL.

Flynn’s in Oakland now and he again came into camp as the presumptive favorite for the starting job and the first week hasn’t done anything to change that. The Associated Press reports that Flynn is “solidifying” his hold on the starting job and continues to hold a clear edge over Terrelle Pryor and rookie Tyler Wilson.

“I took away a lot of things from Seattle last year,” Flynn said. “But the thing that I took away the most was that I want this even more now, even more this year. I’m blessed to have another opportunity at this, and I’ll try to take advantage of it and do as much as I can to not let it get away from me.”

While he isn’t naming Flynn the starter right now, coach Dennis Allen said that the quarterback competition is playing out “about like I expected.” With Pryor still working on nailing down proper throwing mechanics and Wilson no longer getting the raves he received during spring work, the signs continue to point to Flynn’s second shot at a starting job being the charm.

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Former Eagle Trent Cole to visit Buccaneers first

Trent Cole AP

Eagles coach Chip Kelly alluded to the possibility of Trent Cole returning, but he’s not waiting around to hear back.

According to Adam Caplan of ESPN, Cole is taking his first free agent visit to Tampa Bay (and that implies more visits are possible).

The Buccaneers have cap room, and a glaring need for pass rush, so the fit is obvious.

The 32-year-old Cole had 6.5 sacks in 15 games last year, but has 85.5 for his career, and has been a consistent producer, hitting at least 8.0 sacks in seven of his previous eight seasons.

His leadership is also something the Bucs could use, and might be willing to pay for before the full free agent market cranks up next week.

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Antrel Rolle says no talks with Giants yet

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On Wednesday, a report from Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reported that talks between the Giants and impending free agent safety Antrell Rolle’s talks about a new contract haven’t been “very productive” because Rolle “may not be looking for much less than” the $7 million he made in each of the last two seasons.

Rolle took issue with that report on Twitter on Wednesday night. Rolle denied that talks with the Giants have gone badly because there haven’t been any talks at all.

“All of these allegations regarding my contract negotiations are entirely false. I haven’t had discussions with any teams including NYG,” Rolle wrote. “This is a business and I will approach it just as that. I plan to let everything run its course. So once again the allegations are false!!! No numbers have been discussed at all and neither have I put a price on myself. … Like I said no talks have happened with any team.”

There will be more to talk about once Rolle is able to get an idea of what kind of numbers other teams have in mind on Saturday when a three-day negotiating window opens before Tuesday’s start of free agency. Until then, the Giants are negotiating against themselves and that’s rarely a scenario that results in the best deal for a team.

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Report: Packers haven’t closed the door on A.J. Hawk return

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The Packers appeared set on moving on at inside linebacker, after cutting A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones.

Jones has found a new home in Philadelphia already, but Hawk may not go far.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Packers have “left the door open” for the  31-year-old Hawk to return after cutting him in February.

Of course, that could change depending on what they do in free agency and the draft, but the fact they’re at least considering it says something.

Hawk wants to play another year after having surgery this offseason for bone spurs in his ankle, and while he’s not the player he once was, he could still be a solid part for them, assuming he comes back closer to the minimum.

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Thursday morning one-liners

nfl_ap_gblanda1_300 AP

With a new owner and a new attitude, it’s clear the Bills aren’t messing around.

Dolphins WR Mike Wallace thinks he’ll stay in Miami, or that’s what his dad says.

The Patriots might have to get creative to keep their secondary intact.

The free agent QB market isn’t nearly deep enough to give the Jets what they need.

New Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman doesn’t think he has a type.

The Bengals are working to keep some of their own free agents off the market.

Not everyone agrees that QB Johnny Manziel was fooling people with his Eddie Haskell act.

Steelers OT Mike Adams is suing the three men acquitted of attacking him last year.

When a player the level of Texans WR Andre Johnson is shown the door, even the mayor has to respond.

Colts QB Andrew Luck and coach Chuck Pagano are heading out on a USO tour.

The Jaguars need to find some chemistry on their offensive line.

The Titans have a few of their own free agents they need to try to keep.

The Broncos have in-house options if LG Orlando Franklin leaves.

The Chiefs have questions about how to fix the WR position.

The Raiders put out a list of their best free agent signings ever, but it included George Blanda and Jim Plunkett, which tells you what you need to know.

Chargers C Chris Watt is ready to be a building block.

As good as it is, the Cowboys still have some questions about their offensive line.

The Giants have some options if S Antrell Rolle leaves in free agency.

Their recent moves give the Eagles plenty of financial flexibility.

Washington re-signed S Duke Ihenacho.

The Bears need a major overhaul on special teams.

If DT Ndamukong Suh leaves, there’s more pressure on Lions DE Ziggy Ansah.

A long-time Green Bay bar closed last weekend, after the Packers bought the nearby parcel of land.

The Vikings aren’t expecting any compensatory picks.

The Falcons aren’t going to keep OL Gabe Carimi from testing the market.

The Panthers should benefit from a deep free agent WR class.

Former Saints RB Pierre Thomas was grateful and graceful on his way out the door.

The Buccaneers have some issues at LB that need to be addressed.

The Cardinals are still waiting to hear what DT Darnell Dockett decides.

The Rams are still short on talent at too many positions.

Some think the 49ers are trying to get rid of reminders of the Jim Harbaugh era.

The Seahawks are eyeing a pair of free agent CBs.

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Albert Haynesworth to Ndamukong Suh: Do your research on suitors

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Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is set to be the top player to hit free agency next week, which is a position that Albert Haynesworth found himself in six years ago.

Haynesworth left the Titans and signed a seven-year, $100 million contract with the Redskins that will live in infamy. Haynesworth didn’t play well and clashed with coaches about the scheme and his weight, leading to a suspension and an eventual trade to the Patriots in 2011 that ended his stint in D.C. after two seasons.

On Wednesday, Haynesworth gave Suh some advice during a visit to the Greg Pogue and Big Joe show on ESPN Nashville. Haynesworth said that his time in Washington “took my love away from the game” and advised Suh to do research about potential suitors beyond what they offer financially.

“He needs to really study, like, who he’s thinking about going to,” Haynesworth said. “Also, you need to kind of look at the track record of the coach, see if he’s going to stay, talk to some former players, just to get the inside scoop about it, and make sure that they’re playing the exact same defense as Detroit.”

Haynesworth’s story of what went wrong, including claims of dishonesty about his role in the defense, is one-sided and we’ve certainly heard enough from the other side to know that Haynesworth made mistakes well beyond limited research into the Redskins. That said, it’s hard to argue with the idea that Suh should be thinking long and hard on many fronts about where he decides to spend his future because Haynesworth’s tale is as cautionary as one gets.

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Judge won’t allow evidence of other shooting in Hernandez trial

Garsh AP

The judge presiding over the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial has slammed the door on the prosecution’s argument that the defense has opened the door.

Via the Boston Globe, Judge E. Susan Garsh decided Wednesday to confirm her prior ruling that evidence regarding the alleged shooting of Hernandez “friend” Alexander Bradley would not be admitted in the case regarding the alleged shooting (and murder) of supposed Hernandez “friend” Odin Lloyd.

In a hearing held with the jury out of the courtroom, prosecutor William McAuley said the defense had referred to Lloyd on 32 occasions during the trial’s opening statements Hernandez’s “friend.”  The prosecution argued that Hernandez’s lawyers had invited evidence regarding the other shooting via the suggestion that Hernandez couldn’t have shot Lloyd because Lloyd is Hernandez’s friend and Hernandez doesn’t shoot his friends.

Judge Garsh nevertheless acknowledged that Hernandez could still open the door to evidence regarding Alexander Bradley’s claim if Hernandez testifies, for example, that he has never fired a gun.  This presumes Hernandez will testify; there’s a good chance he won’t.  Criminal defendants often stay away from the witness stand, since cross-examination of the defendant often makes it easier for the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Tom Brady to play Augusta National with Rory McIlroy

Tom Brady AP

If Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wasn’t just so handsome and charming and good at life, you’d think #HashtagTommy had a sadistic streak, and lives to stick it to Peyton Manning.

Because the day Manning has to take his first career pay-cut, Brady gets hooked up to play a round of golf at Augusta National with Rory McIlroy.

According to Todd Lewis of the Golf Channel, the four-time Super Bowl champ will walk the hallowed fairways alongside the four-time major winner next week.

Granted, the azaleas won’t be in full bloom (though that might keep Roger Goodell from hanging around pestering him about air pressure), but it’s still a cool moment for the older quarterback and the bright young star of golf.

Brady’s no stranger to the celebrity circuit, as he traditionally hits the Kentucky Derby and other events wearing a collection of ridiculous hats. Manning’s played Augusta before, and shot a 77. Which means Brady will probably shoot a 76 next week.

The simple juxtaposition of news involving the two best quarterbacks of this generation underscores the difference between them.

Four rings, one. An 11-5 edge in regular season games. Play Augusta, take a pay cut.

At least Manning can take comfort in the fact spring is coming, which should drive the legal pot-smokers out of their Colorado homes to work up an appetite for some delicious pizza.

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Troy Polamalu unsure if he wants to play in 2015

Troy Polamalu AP

The Steelers have already started thinking about Troy Polamalu’s retirement, but Polamalu himself hasn’t quite gotten there.

According to his agent, the veteran safety is up in the air about his future.

Troy is still determining whether he wants to retire or try and play in 2015,” agent Marvin Demoff told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We will make a decision fairly soon, but [it is] not imminent.”

The Steelers might prefer a decision sooner, rather than later, and have been not-so-subtly nudging him in that direction.

He’s set to count $8.25 million against the salary cap this year, and they could save $6 million off the cap by designating him a post-June 1 release. They could also pursue part of his signing bonus if he retired, though a shameless money grab from one of their best players of the last generation would be, well, shameless.

If Polamalu does want to play, or create the appearance he wants to play, the Titans could be an option, as defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau could offer a landing spot for any number of wayward Steelers, and the Titans could use all the help they can get.

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No immediate resolution after Greg Hardy meets with NFL

Greg Hardy AP

Greg Hardy’s effort to come off the commissioner’s exempt list before free agency starts next week took him to New York on Wednesday for a meeting with league officials.

Hardy has been on the list since the second week of the 2014 season as a result of domestic violence charges that led to a bench trial last summer. Hardy was found guilty in that trial, but appealed for a jury trial and the charges were dismissed when his accuser failed to appear for those proceedings.

There was no immediate resolution to that meeting, which Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports included Hardy providing the league with documents from his case. The league had sought transcripts and other files from the bench trial, but their request was denied because it had already been returned to the district attorney and Hardy’s attorney.

Getting word on any suspension sooner rather than later would allow Hardy and potential suitors to discuss a deal with a clear idea of how much time he’d miss in the 2015 season. It’s not clear when the league will make a ruling.

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Eagles to tender running back Chris Polk at $1.6 million

Chris Polk AP

After agreeing to trade away an expensive running back in LeSean McCoy, the Eagles are now devoting a relatively low salary to a running back who had been one of McCoy’s backups.

The Eagles will give the low tender offer to restricted free agent running back Chris Polk, NJ.com reports. That means they’re offering him a one-year, $1.6 million contract for 2015. It also means that if another team signs Polk to an offer sheet — and if the Eagles don’t match that offer — the Eagles won’t get any compensation.

If the Eagles viewed retaining Polk as a high priority, they could have offered him the higher $2 million tender, which would have meant a team that signed him away would have had to give the Eagles a second-round draft pick. But the Eagles are apparently not worried about another team signing Polk away.

The $1.6 million tender, combined with the $4.1 million Darren Sproles will cost against this year’s cap, means that the top two running backs on the depth chart will cost a total of $5.7 million. It remains to be seen whether Philadelphia — which has cleared a huge amount of cap space this week — will add another free agent running back. At the moment, Sproles and Polk are the 1-2 punch.

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Report: Seahawks expected to pursue Tramon Williams

Tramon Williams AP

If Byron Maxwell leaves Seattle in free agency, the Seattle Seahawks will be in need of help at cornerback this offseason.

According to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Seahawks are expected to pursue Green Bay Packers free agent cornerback Tramon Williams to replace Maxwell opposite of Richard Sherman.

Per McGinn, the Seahawks have made their intentions to pursue Williams clear to him and his agent.

Maxwell is the top free agent cornerback on the market and will likely be too expensive for Seattle to retain. The Seahawks have committed large contracts to the three other starters in their secondary – Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor – and are still looking to extend Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson and potentially Bobby Wagner this offseason.

Jeremy Lane will also likely miss a significant portion of the season after tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl, leaving Seattle with just Sherman, Tharold Simon and Marcus Burley available at the position. Deshawn Shead and Steven Terrell can also play the position in a pinch, but have been more often used as safeties.

Williams was signed by the Packers when Seattle general manager John Schneider was still a member of Green Bay’s front office in 2006. He could be a cheaper veteran option to replace Maxwell.

This is all assuming Williams doesn’t agree to extension from the Packers prior to the start of free agency next week. The Journal-Sentinel reports Williams turned down a two-year, $8 million offer from the Packers.

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Report: Saints looking to trade linebacker Curtis Lofton

Curtis Lofton Getty Images

In a continued effort to purge excess salary cap commitments, the New Orleans Saints are looking to trade linebacker Curtis Lofton, per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

The Saints were close to $28 million over the salary cap prior to the release of running back Pierre Thomas on Wednesday. New Orleans will have much more to do in order to get under the cap by the start of the league year next week.

Lofton appeared in all 48 games over the last three seasons in New Orleans. He racked up 144 tackles and a forced fumble last season for the Saints.

However, Lofton is owed a $4.5 million roster bonus next week and is scheduled to count $9.5 million against the salary cap, according to Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Trading Lofton would get the Saints off the hook for the roster bonus and save the team $5.25 million.

More trimming would still be required to get in compliance with the salary cap but dealing Lofton would put a sizable dent in the Saints’ cap overage.

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Former Packers No. 1 pick Tom Bettis passes away at 81

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Former Packers linebacker Tom Bettis, the No. 5 overall pick in the 1955 NFL Draft, died Saturday at age 81. His passing was announced in a Legacy.com obituary.

Bettis played nine NFL seasons (1955-1963), the first seven of which were with Green Bay. He finished his career with one-season stints with Pittsburgh and Chicago. A Chicago native, Bettis played collegiately at Purdue and played on NFL-champion clubs with the Packers (1959) and Bears (1963).

Bettis would go on to have a long career as a defensive position coach and defensive coordinator for multiple NFL clubs, with coordinating stints with the Chiefs, Cardinals and Browns. He served as an assistant on the Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV-winning team.

Bettis was the Chiefs’ interim head coach for the final seven games of 1977, leading Kansas City to a 1-6 record. He retired from coaching in 1995.

In his final years, Bettis lived in Katy, Texas. He is survived by three daughters, a brother and a sister.

DairylandExpress.com and the Green Bay Press-Gazette earlier reported the passing of Bettis.

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NFLPA vote gets complicated if there’s a 16-16 tie

NFLPA

As more and more (and more) candidates emerge for the position of NFLPA executive director, the chance of no candidate getting a majority of the 32 player representative votes on the first ballot increases.

If that happens, the top two candidates will square off.  And if the top two candidates finish in a 16-16 tie, things get a little more complicated.

According to the NFLPA, the tie would be broken based on the total number of dues-paying members of the 16 teams whose reps voted for one candidate versus the total number of dues-paying members of the 16 teams whose reps voted for the other candidate.

The full roster of candidates will be finalized at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, when the window closes for the submission of nominations.  For now, five challengers to DeMaurice Smith have obtained the minimum of three nominations:  Sean Gilbert, Andrew Smith, John Stufflebeam, Arthur McAfee, and Robert Griffith.

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Eagles can trade picks into 2018 draft, once the 2015 draft opens

Mariota Getty Images

With Eagles coach Chip Kelly further putting his imprint upon the Eagles while also subtly twisting the team’s beak into a duckbill, the notion that he’ll try to trade up from No. 20 in the draft to secure the player he see as the surest of sure things becomes stronger.  But there’s an important thing to remember regarding the potential all-in-and-then-some effort to slide up into the top five, the top two, or all the way to No. 1.

There’s a limit to how many picks the Eagles can trade.

According the the league office, trades conducted before the draft begins can include draft picks in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Once the draft starts (i.e., the moment the Commissioner declares the draft to be open and places the team with the first pick on the clock), trades can include picks from 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

With the Eagles having a long way to go to get in position to select quarterback Marcus Mariota, the message is clear:  Waiting until the draft commences provides even more flexibility.

It’s unclear what it would take to get the Eagles from No. 20 to wherever they’d need to go to reunite Kelly with Mariota.  Three years ago, Washington gave up the sixth pick, a 2013 first-rounder, a 2014 first-rounder, and a 2012 second-rounder to move up only four spots for quarterback Robert Griffin III.  If a fourth first-round pick is necessary to get the Eagles where they need to be, they can throw the 2018 selection onto the pile, if they wait until the draft begins.

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