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ProFootballTalk: Pats, Gronk may have dodged bullet

After cutting two tight ends, Tom Curran of CSN New England believes these moves are a precursor to the Patriots not placing Rob Gronkowski on the PUP list, making him available for the team’s Week 1 matchup.

 

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Eagles exercise option on fifth year of Fletcher Cox’s contract

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

When the Chiefs took Dontari Pow with the 11th pick of the 2012 draft, they kicked off a run that saw two more defensive linemen come off the board in the next three picks.

Now it looks like all three of those players will have their options for the 2016 season exercised. We’ve heard previous reports that the Chiefs will exercise Poe’s option, that the Rams will do the same with 14th pick Michael Brockers and now the Eagles have announced that they will do the same with 12th overall pick Fletcher Cox.

None of the moves comes as a surprise. All three have become starters and key players on their respective defensive lines with Poe and Cox ranking among the top players to come out of that draft at any position.

Cox’s name has popped up in some of the trade rumors that have surfaced around the Eagles this offseason and it’s probably best not to rule out anything given the moves Chip Kelly has already pulled off with players who arrived in Philly before he got there in 2013. It would be a blow to their defensive line, although dealing Cox should bring back a handsome return given how well he’s played in his first three seasons.

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NFL tweaks the rules to speed up the draft

2012 NFL Draft - First Round Getty Images

This year’s NFL draft should wrap up a little faster.

The NFL has quietly tweaked the rules to reduce the amount of time between picks, allowing only four minutes between selections in the seventh round, as well as four minutes between selections for all compensatory picks. The league informed PFT today that the speeding up of the draft was discussed at the competition committee meetings and communicated to the teams at the league meeting in March. The change was made at the league office level and did not necessitate a vote of the 32 teams.

The new rule makes a lot of sense: The seventh round is when the draft begins to feel like it has dragged on interminably, and even Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock are running out of things to say. And compensatory picks can’t be traded, so teams need less time to make those picks.

The time between picks will remain the same for other rounds: Ten minutes between picks for the first round, seven minutes for the second round and five minutes for the third through sixth rounds, other than compensatory picks.

For the NFL, the draft is the signature event of the offseason, and it has become increasingly important to the league to make it a made-for-TV extravaganza. Sometimes the late rounds of the draft go from “extravaganza” to “excruciatingly dull,” so it’s no surprise that the league has decided to speed things up.

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Rivers trade looks to be dead, assuming it ever was alive

philiprivers AP

With three days to go until the 2015 NFL draft commences, it’s probably time to end speculation about the Chargers trading Philip Rivers.

Peter King of TheMMQB.com explains that he doesn’t believe a trade will happen, calling it a “gut feeling” based on spending “lots of time calling around” the league.  King nevertheless believes the Titans and Chargers will talk, but he doesn’t see a match.

King thinks the Titans would want more than Rivers in exchange for the second overall pick in the draft.  And that’s likely enough to kill the deal on its own, given that the Chargers should want more than the second overall pick in the draft for a proven franchise quarterback — especially if that proven franchise quarterback will also be extending his contract as part of the trade.

So the possibility of a trade seems to be dead, assuming it was ever alive in the first place.  It’s possible, if not likely, that the issue arose from the looming expiration of the quarterback’s contract.  Indeed, Rivers first addressed the situation only four days after fellow 2004 first-round pick Ben Roethlisberger signed a gigantic new contract.  And Rivers has never said he won’t do a new deal with the Chargers; he has said only that he’s not inclined to until after the season.

Which makes sense, since the Chargers will need him more than ever if/when (when) they head to Los Angeles.  If they don’t have Rivers, they need another franchise quarterback.  And the only one they have a shot at getting is Marucs Mariota via a trade with the Titans.

If a trade is going to happen, the wheels need to be put in motion quickly, given that the Titans surely will want to conduct a physical and negotiate a new contract.  As to the latter, discretion will be easier to achieve because Jimmy Sexton represents Rivers, Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt, and Titans G.M. Ruston Webster.

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Report: Rams to exercise Michael Brockers’s 2016 contract option

New York Giants v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

It looks like the Rams will join the group of teams exercising their fifth-year options on members of the 2012 draft class.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the team will pick up the option on defensive tackle Michael Brockers before the May 3 deadline to do so. The move will cost them just over $6.1 million and is guaranteed against injury only, so the Rams could rescind the option before the start of the next league year.

Brockers was the 14th pick of the draft and moved right into St. Louis’s starting lineup during his rookie season. He missed three games that year, but has started every game in the last two seasons and has recorded 11.5 career sacks.

Brockers is part of a talented defensive line in St. Louis that also features Robert Quinn and Chris Long flanking Brockers, Aaron Donald and Nick Fairley at defensive tackle. Fairley is only signed for 2015, however, and Long’s future in St. Louis is already the subject of speculation thanks to his plus-sized cap hits.

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Bills waive Jonte Green

Cleveland Browns v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The Bills signed former Lions cornerback Jonte Green in January, but they’ve apparently already seen enough to know that he wasn’t going to be part of the team come September.

The team announced that they have waived Green, a 2012 sixth-round pick, on Monday. With Green’s departure, Buffalo’s roster stands at 70 players with the draft starting on Thursday.

Green last played in a regular season game in 2013 and appeared in 24 games for the Lions during his first two NFL seasons. He had 38 tackles and an interception in those appearances.

Green’s departure opens up a spot on the depth chart at corner for a rookie, but it’s probably not a top priority for the Bills heading into the draft. With Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Corey Graham, Nickell Robey, Ron Brooks and 2014 fourth-round pick Ross Cockrell on the roster, the Bills have depth at the position and more immediate needs elsewhere on the roster.

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Giants waive RB Michael Cox

Michael Cox AP

The Giants have parted ways with one of their reserve running backs.

New York has waived third-year pro Michael Cox, the club said Monday.

A seventh-round pick of the Giants in 2013, the 26-year-old Cox appeared in 18 games for the Giants over the last two seasons, rushing for 76 yards on 26 carries. His 2014 campaign ended after he suffered a broken leg in a loss to Seattle in November.

Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen and Andre Williams are the Giants’ top three backs. The club has five tailbacks on the roster.

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Washington hasn’t received any trade proposals for Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins AP

At various points in his three-year NFL career, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins’s name has come up in trade chatter.

However, to hear it from Washington General Manager Scot McCloughan, it’s all quiet on that front for the time being.

At a pre-draft press conference Monday, McCloughan indicated Washington had not been approached with offers for Cousins, who has started nine regular season games for the club, including five in 2014.

Cousins is in the final year of his contract, and Washington would certainly have to listen on offers involving draft compensation for the former Michigan State quarterback. However, starting quarterback Robert Griffin III and backup passer Colt McCoy both dealt with injuries a season ago, so Cousins’ value might be greatest to Washington as it is.

Finally, Cousins has been up-and-down as a starter, especially a season ago, when third-stringer McCoy eventually relieved him as Washington waited for Griffin to return to the lineup.

In short, it’s not a real surprise Cousins hasn’t apparently generated significant interest this offseason.

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Packers confirm Brett Favre will be honored on Thanksgiving

File photo of Brett Favre in New Orleans Reuters

Just before the NFL schedule was unveiled last week, reports out of Green Bay indicated that the Packers would host the Bears on Thanksgiving and that they would retire former quarterback Brett Favre’s jersey at a ceremony during that contest.

The release of the schedule confirmed that the Packers and Bears would be spending the holiday together and the team confirmed the rest of the news on Monday. Favre, who faced the Bears 32 times during his playing career, will be the sixth player in Packers history to be honored in that fashion.

“It will be an incredible honor to be in Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night with Packers fans and have my name and number placed among the greatest players in Packers history,” Favre said in a release from the team. “With the great history and tradition of the Packers-Bears rivalry, and remembering the great matchups we had during my career, it seems only fitting to have Chicago as the opponent.”

The Packers also announced that they’ll be honoring the man who brought Favre to Green Bay. Wolf will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer and will be presented with his Hall of Fame ring at the team’s November 15 game against the Lions.

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Authorities won’t pursue DUI charges against P.J. Williams

University of Florida v Florida State Getty Images

Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams said recently that the teams he’s visited with have told him that his April 3 DUI arrest shouldn’t affect his draft status all that much.

On Monday, teams considering adding Williams to their roster later this week learned that there won’t be any charges for him to deal with during his rookie season. Williams’s attorney Jonathan Simon passed along word that authorities have decided not to pursue charges against Williams.

Williams admitted to having a few drinks at some point in the evening before he was arrested early on the morning of April 3, but he and his attorney disputed the version of events originally presented by police. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, paperwork filed in Florida about the decision not pursue charges indicated that video evidence in the case didn’t corroborate the charge.

Before the arrest, Williams was expected to be drafted late in the first round or early on the second day. Having the charges against him dropped probably won’t raise his draft stock, but the dismissal could keep him from sliding out of that expected range once the draft gets underway.

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ESPN, NFLN simply giving audience what it wants

Kid AP

Every year at this time, a debate has emerged regarding whether ESPN and NFL Network would tip draft picks before Commissioner Roger Goodell walks to the podium and announces the pick.

As explained by Richard Deitsch of SI.com, ESPN and NFL Network have agreed once again that they won’t report on draft picks before the picks are officially disclosed.

We want to keep the suspense of the draft,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman tells Deitsch.  “This is purely listening to the viewers and what they want.  It was overwhelming that our consumers, our viewers, our fans do not want us to spoil the draft experience.  I know some of our competitors will tweet picks, but they are not telecasting the draft.  I am sure there is a segment of the population that wants it as soon as possible, but our responsibility is to our viewers.  It’s not some big journalism discussion in my mind.  It’s ‘I don’t like angering our viewers.'”

Markman is right.  It’s not, as Deadspin has suggested, an effort by ESPN to shill for the NFL.  It’s an effort to give the audience what it wants.  And the audience, many of whom will be following the draft on Twitter, don’t want the suspense — real or fabricated — to be spoiled.

In 2013, the first year ESPN and NFL Network decided not to tip picks, a whopping 85.37 percent of those responding said they don’t want to know the picks in advance.

So we’ll put up another poll, and you can chime in again with what you want.  And if/when the needle moves the other way the NFL and ESPN can reassess their position in 2016.

Until then, the audience gets what it wants — including an oversized face mask on which to gnaw regardless of all of the filthy hands that have touched it.  Even when the audience isn’t being smart, smart media companies give the audience what it wants.

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Steelers like outside linebacker group in this year’s draft

Vic Beasley AP

The Steelers head into the draft with no shortage of needs on the defensive side of the ball with outside linebacker among the places they could attempt to address in the early rounds.

If they do go that way, it sounds like General Manager Kevin Colbert likes their chances of getting a good player. During a pre-draft meeting with the media on Monday, Colbert said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that this year’s crop of players at the position is as deep as he’s seen in the last 10-15 years.

Colbert called them “real impact-type players” and coach Mike Tomlin added that he thought an increase in the number of players playing the position in college schemes similar to the one the Steelers run is a positive for the team.

The issue for the Steelers in the first round may be the number of other teams looking at edge rushers. Dante Fowler, Vic Beasley, Bud Dupree, Shane Ray and Randy Gregory are all potential picks in the first half of the first round, which could leave the Steelers short on options at the spot with the 22nd pick.

Given Colbert’s feelings about the overall quality of the group and the team’s need for help at corner and elsewhere, that may not be a major problem for Pittsburgh as they try to improve their roster this week.

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Draft may have a dozen receivers good enough to go in the first round

amari-cooper-denzel-nkemdiche-c45874a4ca78fc7e AP

As college football becomes more and more of a pass-first game, more and more wide receivers are entering the NFL ready to contribute immediately. We saw that in the 2014 draft, which produced five first-round picks in Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin. And we may see that to an even greater extent in this year’s draft.

In fact, NBC’s Cris Collinsworth said on PFT Live that the wide receiver class this year features “up to 11 or 12, quality wise, who in any other year you would say, ‘That’s a first-round talent’.”

Collinsworth isn’t saying there will actually be 11 or 12 first-round wide receivers. There may not even be half of that. But Collinsworth thinks this year’s receiver class is so good that several first-round talents will be available on the second day.

“There will still be quality left in the second round,” Collinsworth said. “I think you’ll see some teams that really want one of these receivers, say, ‘I’m going to wait until the second round.’ But second-round receivers will be first-round players in this draft.”

Collinsworth has been scouting the draft in conjunction with Pro Football Focus and will give more of his thoughts on a PFF NFL Draft special today at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. PFF graded the top receivers from 2014 as Alabama’s Amari Cooper, Louisville’s DeVante Parker, West Virginia’s Kevin White, USC’s Nelson Agholoran and Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong. PFF also sees promise in Washington State’s Vince Mayle, Miami’s Philip Dorsett, Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, Michigan State’s Tony Lippett and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. (Dorial Green-Beckham wasn’t graded because PFF evaluated tape from the 2014 season only, and Green-Beckham didn’t play in 2014.)

A wealth of talent at wide receiver is heading to the NFL this year. Just like last year.

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McCloughan thinks a trade could happen if Leonard Williams falls to 5

leonardwilliams AP

We noted this morning that USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams is viewed by many as the best player in this year’s draft, but might still be available when Washington is on the clock at No. 5. If that happens, Washington General Manager Scot McCloughan will feel like he’s in the catbird seat.

McCloughan said at his pre-draft press conference today that if Williams is available at No. 5, he expects his phone to be ringing from teams that would like to trade up and get him. After signing a couple of big defensive linemen in free agency in Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea, McCloughan doesn’t necessarily think he needs to draft another big defensive lineman at No. 5.

“It might bring a trade more into play,” he said. “We do feel good about our defensive front.”

McCloughan indicated that an edge pass rusher may be a more important priority for Washington than a 300-pounder like Williams.

“A pass rusher, that’s the most important thing,” he said. “They’re hard to find. We’re very lucky to have Ryan [Kerrigan] on the team, he’s one of those players, and hopefully not just in the first but throughout this draft we’ll add more pass rushers.”

The best-case scenario for Washington could be to trade the fifth overall pick to a team that wants to get Williams, then to pick up a pass rusher later in the first round. Then again, if Williams is as good as the draft experts think he is, maybe the best-case scenario for Washington would be to stay put and draft him.

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PFT Draft Prop No. 3: Marcus Mariota’s draft position: 2.5

Marcus Mariota AP

Leading up to Thursday’s NFL draft, we’ll put on our oddsmaking hats, Ace Rothstein glasses and Terry Benedict suits and set one proposition “bet” per day for PFT Planet to ponder. At the conclusion of the draft, we’ll see how PFT Planet did on the wagers, which are for entertainment purposes only.

PFT Draft Prop No. 3: Over-Under on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota’s draft position: 2.5.

As our draft props go, this is the most straight-forward of them all. It’s this simple: Do you see Mariota being taken No. 1 or No. 2 overall, or do you see him sliding beyond those first two picks?

The uncertainty of how the Titans will proceed with the second overall selection adds to the intrigue regarding Mariota. If the Titans want to move the pick to a club seeking a quarterback, they can surely trade down for an attractive package of picks and/or players.

So let’s get right to it. Let us know when you believe Mariota hears his name called via the poll and in the comments.

Previous draft props

PFT Draft Prop No. 1: Over-Under on first-round RBs: 2.5.

PFT Draft Prop No. 2: Amari Cooper’s draft position: 4.5.

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Washington picks up 2016 option on Robert Griffin III’s contract

Argentina Training Session Getty Images

Word on Monday morning was that the Redskins were likely to pick up the 2016 option on quarterback Robert Griffin III’s option and it moved to a done deal in the middle of the day.

Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan announced that the team is exercising their option on Griffin’s pick ahead of the May 3 deadline to do so. The move puts Griffin in position to earn just over $16 million in 2016, which the Redskins can rescind if Griffin is healthy but the option is guaranteed against injury.

That’s not a small concern for a player who has dealt with serious injuries in his three-year NFL career, although Griffin insisted this month that the option question wasn’t a big concern for him. Instead, Griffin said that he’s focused on improving his performance after two rough seasons.

“It’s not about talking about it; It’s about being about it,” Griffin said. “That’s what my goal is this entire offseason. You got to talk small, play big, take care of the little things for the big things and everything will fall into place.”

Given the price they paid to acquire Griffin and their willingness to exercise the option, the team surely hopes that everything does fall into place. Despite that, McCloughan said Monday that the decision doesn’t change the team’s draft strategy and that they’d still pick a quarterback with the fifth pick if that’s the best available player.

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