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PFT’s Week Three Picks

Ben Getty Images

Last week, I had my chance to pull even with MDS.  Thanks to a Panthers defense that was playing not to lose and a blown coverage at the goal line that guaranteed it, I had prevailed in the only disagreement of the day.

But then came the night game.  And I was one of the “ignorant idiots” who thought the 49ers could beat the Seahawks in Seattle.

The result was a push for the week, with both of us getting 12 right and four wrong.  For the year, I’m 23-9, and MDS is 24-8.

This week, all hell will break loose, Breaking Bad style.  We disagree on SIX of the games.  For all the picks from Week Three, scroll baby, scroll.

Chiefs at Eagles

MDS’s take: Can Andy Reid return to Philadelphia and get his team to 3-0? It would be a great story, but I don’t see it happening: Chip Kelly’s offense will put too many points on the board for Reid’s more conservative offense to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 31, Chiefs 27.

Florio’s take:  Week Two helped everyone make better sense of Week One.  And it appears through both games that the Chiefs doing what coach Andy Reid wants them to do, and that the Eagles are still a work in progress under Chip Kelly.  This may be Big Red’s only chance to win another game in Philly.  It’s unlikely he’ll squander it.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 27, Eagles 20.

Texans at Ravens

MDS’s take: The defending Super Bowl champions just haven’t looked particularly good on either side of the ball this season, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. J.J. Watt is going to make life miserable for Joe Flacco as Houston wins a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Texans 17, Ravens 9.

Florio’s take:  Both teams are banged up a bit, and each has struggled.  Give the home team the edge — even though Ed Reed could end up making the difference for Houston.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 24, Texans 21.

Packers at Bengals

MDS’s take: I like the way the Bengals’ defense is playing, but I like the way Aaron Rodgers is playing more. Expect Rodgers to have a big game as the Packers improve to 2-1.

MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Bengals 20.

Florio’s take:  Green Bay’s defense is better, and its offense at times is unstoppable.  The Packers offensive line has been holding up well enough to let 2011 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers play like a serious contender for 2013 NFL MVP.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 31, Bengals 27.

Giants at Panthers

MDS’s take: I viewed both of these teams as playoff contenders heading into the season, but the loser will be 0-3, and it’s awfully tough for any team to dig itself out of a hole that deep. Both teams have offensive problems that need to be corrected, and I have more confidence in Tom Coughlin and his staff to figure out a way to cut down on the turnovers than I have in Ron Rivera and his staff to find a way to get Cam Newton making big plays again. So I’m leaning toward the Giants in a close one.

MDS’s pick: Giants 21, Panthers 20.

Florio’s take:  Last year in Week Three, the Giants blew out the Panthers in their own building.  And the Giants still didn’t make the playoffs.  This year, it won’t be as ugly against a Panthers team that has been playing not to lose — and that has no one to cover Victor Cruz.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 27, Panthers 17.

Rams at Cowboys

MDS’s take: I’m not really sold on either of these teams as NFC playoff contenders, although the NFC East looks so weak that the Cowboys just need to hang around .500 all season to stay in the race. I see the Cowboys getting above .500 with a close home win over the Rams.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 21, Rams 17.

Florio’s take:  The all-time series is tied at 11-11 in the regular season, and 4-4 in the postseason.  The easy pick is the Cowboys, who held serve (finally) against the Giants in Week One to start the season.  But the right pick could be the Rams, who held off a Cardinals team that beat the Lions — and who rebounded from a deep deficit against the Falcons to make a game of it on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 24, Cowboys 23.

Browns at Vikings

MDS’s take: I was tempted to pick the upset before the Browns traded Trent Richardson because I thought Richardson could move the ball effectively against the suspect Vikings run defense. But I just can’t pick a team to win on the road with Brian Hoyer as its starting quarterback and no running backs who have carried the ball a single time all season.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 20, Browns 13.

Florio’s take:  Brian Hoyer, Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, Bernie Kosar.  It doesn’t matter.  The Trent Richardson trade puts extra pressure on the passing game against a Vikings team playing the first game of its final season in the Metrodome.  Adrian Peterson will show the Browns what they hoped they were getting when they traded up with Minnesota to take Richardson.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 27, Browns 14.

Buccaneers at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Bucs have played better than their 0-2 record suggests. The Patriots have played worse than their 2-0 record suggests. This is a close game, but in the end the Patriots will pull it out at home.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Buccaneers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Pats are 2-0 and could be 0-2.  The Bucs are 0-2 and could be 2-0.  But New England is the team with the franchise quarterback and the coach with enough pelts on the wall to justify antisocial behavior.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 20, Buccaneers 10.

Cardinals at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints have started 2-0 without their offense really breaking out yet. Week Three will be when we see Sean Payton’s offense shine.

MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Cardinals 10.

Florio’s take:  The Cardinals are better than anyone thought they’d be.  And that will serve them very well.  But not in New Orleans against the Saints, who also are better than anyone thought they’d be.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 31, Cardinals 24.

Chargers at Titans

MDS’s take: The Titans’ defense is a lot better than it was last year, and I think Gregg Williams deserves a lot of the credit. Before he was known for Bountygate, Williams was known for devising aggressive schemes that gave opposing quarterbacks fits, and that’s what he’s doing in Tennessee this season. His defense will give Philip Rivers fits on Sunday as the Titans improve to 2-1.

MDS’s pick: Titans 20, Chargers 10.

Florio’s take:  The franchises that squared off in the first two AFL title games get together, with both so far looking like potential playoff teams.  Flip a coin, throw a dart, light a match.  What the Chargers did in Philly was more impressive than what the Titans did in Pittsburgh.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 28, Titans 25.

Lions at Redskins

MDS’s take: I’ve gone back and forth on this one: When Washington has the ball, I could see Robert Griffin III having his best game of the season against a suspect Lions secondary, but I could also see a talented Lions line making life miserable for Griffin. When Detroit has the ball, I could see Matthew Stafford putting up huge numbers against a defense that has looked terrible this year, but I could also see the Lions struggling if Reggie Bush is at less than 100 percent. Ultimately, I think the story of the game will be that Washington still doesn’t have its defensive problems fixed.

MDS’s pick: Lions 31, Redskins 30.

Florio’s take:  The Lions have never ever ever never ever never won in D.C.  The Redskins have never ever ever never ever never won in 2013, dating back to January.  Though we don’t know whether No. 21 will be available, it’s time for Detroit to end an 0-21 road streak that dates back well before the commencement of the Curse of Bobby Layne.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Redskins 20.

Falcons at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Dolphins’ defense is good against the pass and bad against the run. Unfortunately for the Falcons, with Steven Jackson out they can’t take advantage of Miami’s biggest weakness. The Dolphins will improve to 3-0 with a low-scoring win.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 17, Falcons 13.

Florio’s take:  Could the 13-3 Falcons plunge to 1-2?  Yes they could, thanks to an improving Dolphins team that has started the season with a pair of road wins.  Injuries aren’t helping matters for the defending NFC South champions, who’ll need to help their offensive lineman in order to ensure Matt Ryan doesn’t join the list of the limping.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 24, Falcons 20.

Bills at Jets

MDS’s take: It’s billed as the battle of AFC East rookie quarterbacks, but neither Buffalo’s EJ Manuel nor New York’s Geno Smith will be able to do much in a game that will be dominated by defense. I’m picking the Jets to win by a field goal.

MDS’s pick: Jets 9, Bills 6.

Florio’s take:  This battle of rookie quarterbacks will overshadow a far more intriguing subtext relating to the return of former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to face his former boss, Rex Ryan.  The road team simply has the better overall talent.  Which means that, at least for now, the servant becomes the master — and the Bills become the third-best team in the division.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 20, Jets 17.

Colts at 49ers

MDS’s take: Last year the Colts got a lot of good breaks on the way to a surprising playoff run. This year the Colts are getting all kinds of bad breaks, and they’re crashing back to earth. The 49ers will rebound from Sunday’s loss in Seattle and beat the Colts easily.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Colts 10.

Florio’s take:  It’s a Stanford reunion, with Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh and Coby Fleener and Pep Hamiltion reminiscing about their mutual dislike of Pete Carroll and Cal.  After, of course, the 49ers take care of business against a team that saw five of its six total losses in 2012 come when playing away from home.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 35, Colts 20.

Jaguars at Seahawks

MDS’s take: In one of the most lopsided games in recent NFL history, the question isn’t so much who will win as by how much. I think it’s the Seahawks by a lot.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 38, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take:  The CBS affiliate in Orlando will be apologizing again.  If the Seahawks can beat one of the best teams in the league by 26 in Seattle, this one could be historic.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 45, Jaguars 6.

Bears at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers’ offense has been dismal this season, and the Bears’ defense isn’t going to make things any easier. The Bears improve to 3-0 and the Steelers drop to 0-3.

MDS’s pick: Bears 24, Steelers 10.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers rarely are on the mat.  When it happens, they find a way to get up.  Eight years ago, they were left for dead after a loss to the Bengals, and the Steelers sparked a run that resulted in a Super Bowl win by beating the Bears at Heinz Field.  Though it’s way too early to even think about playoffs in Pittsburgh (except for the baseball team), it’s not too early to envision a proud franchise mustering enough punch to bring the 2-0 Bears back down to earth a bit.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Bears  16.

Raiders at Broncos

MDS’s take: This is going to be a more competitive game than most people think. The Raiders aren’t quite the doormats that people were expecting them to be. Still, with Tyvon Branch injured, I don’t see any way the Raiders keep Peyton Manning in check, and it’s going to be tough for Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders’ offense to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Raiders 23.

Florio’s takeRyan Clady or not, the better-than-expected Raiders still aren’t good enough to hang with the Broncos in their own building.  Look for another big night from Peyton Manning, who knows his supply of prime-time opportunities is dwindling.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 45, Raiders 20.

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Giants awarded Mark Asper on waivers

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The Giants added a veteran offensive guard Tuesday, claiming Mark Asper on waivers from Buffalo, according to the league’s transaction wire.

The 28-year-old Asper was active for six regular season games for the Bills in 2013. He has also had stints with Jacksonville (2012-2013) and Minnesota (2012). Asper (6-7, 325) was a sixth-round pick of the Bills in 2012.

To open a roster spot for Asper, the Giants waived offensive tackle DeMarcus Love with an injury waiver. The 26-year-old Love is a second-year pro from Arkansas.

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Browns waive OT Chris Faulk, PK Jake Rogers

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The Browns waived offensive tackle Chris Faulk and kicker/punter Jake Rogers on Monday, according to the NFL’s transactions.

The move leaves the Browns with 88 players, two short of the 90-player limit.

The 24-year-old Faulk spent the 2013 season on injured reserve with Cleveland after knee surgery. Faulk suffered a torn ACL and MCL at LSU in 2012.

Rogers, 27, signed with the Browns in June. He was waived with an injury.

By waiving Rogers, the Browns have just one punter (Spencer Lanning) and one kicker (Billy Cundiff).

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Jeromey Clary takes pay cut of nearly $3 million

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Chargers guard Jeromey Clary is coming off a rocky 2013 season and started camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list while he recovers from hip surgery.

Waiting for him to get healthy wasn’t a sure thing for the Chargers because Clary was set to make $4.55 million and the team drafted guard Chris Watt in the third round in May, but Clary went a long way toward guaranteeing himself a job for the entire year on Monday.

Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that Clary has agreed to take a big pay cut in exchange for the Chargers guaranteeing his entire salary for the season. Clary will now make $1.6 million with Gehlken reporting that the savings are earmarked for any needs that may arise over the course of the regular season.

If Clary recovers in time to play in the preseason, he could still wind up in the starting lineup come September. If not, his new salary makes Clary, who can also play tackle, a more viable reserve option.

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Report: Terrell Thomas signs with Seattle

Victor Cruz, Terrell Thomas AP

The Seahawks lost cornerback Walter Thurmond to the Giants as a free agent, costing them a bit of depth that they may fill with a player who used to play for the Giants.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that the Seahawks have agreed to terms on a contract that will bring Terrell Thomas to Seattle. The move reunites Thomas with Pete Carroll, who was the head coach at USC while Thomas was playing for the Trojans.

Thomas returned from two seasons lost to a pair of torn ACLs in the same knee to play in all 16 games for the Giants in 2013, starting seven times and recording one sack, one interception and one forced fumble over the course of the season. It was a fairly remarkable comeback given Thomas’ injuries, which followed another torn ACL in the same knee earlier in his career.

He worked out for a few teams over the course of the offseason, but no one bit until Seattle took the plunge on Monday. The Seahawks have Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane back from last season, and there’s been positive reviews of 2013 fifth-rounder Tharold Simon after he missed his rookie season with an injury.

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Patriots snag Tyler Gaffney off waivers from Panthers

Belichick AP

The Panthers didn’t really need sixth-round running back Tyler Gaffney this year anyway, so when he was injured recently, stashing him on IR made sense.

But the Patriots had other ideas.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Patriots claimed Gaffney off waivers, even though he needs season-ending knee surgery.

It’s similar to their 2012 claim of injured Giants tight end Jake Ballard, meaning one of these days those unwritten rules are going to have to be written down.

It also means the Panthers are out the draft pick and the $96,600 signing bonus they gave him, since the Patriots only pick up his base salaries.

And the fact that Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman was with the Giants during the Ballard claim makes it more egregious, that they lost a guy they drafted because they had to have Fozzy Whittaker the next three weeks.

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Report: No timetable for Cordy Glenn’s return, but expected in time for season opener

Justin Houston, Cordy Glenn AP

The Bills have not provided much information about the illness that has forced tackle Cordy Glenn to miss all of training camp thus far, but whatever’s troubling him does not look like it will keep him out of the lineup into the season.

Tim Graham of the Buffalo News reports via a team source that the Bills expect to have Glenn back in time for the start of the regular season. The source added that the team would be “shocked” if Glenn wasn’t able to play in at least one preseason game, but resisted sharing any information about what’s wrong with the left tackle.

Graham points to the team not adding any help at left tackle as a sign that they feel confident that Glenn will be back in action in time for the season. He also reports that seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson, whose draft stock was hurt by character questions, has “held down the fort quite well” in Glenn’s absence.

Glenn, a 2012 second-round pick, has started all 29 games he’s played for the Bills in his two-year career.

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Colbert can’t envision scenario where Roethlisberger would leave Pittsburgh

Ben AP

Probably because franchise quarterbacks without serious injury questions (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees) rarely if ever change teams, few have taken notice of the situation in Pittsburgh, where Ben Roethlisberger is grossly underpaid and the team won’t do anything about it until 2015 at the earliest.

The situation has prompted speculation that the two sides may not be able to work out a new contract next year, which would compel the team to pay more than $22 million to keep him under the franchise tag in 2016 and more than $26 million in 2017.  Which eventually could prompt the Steelers and Roethlisberger to go their separate ways.

G.M. Kevin Colbert doesn’t see that happening.  In fact, he’s gone all in, telling reporters, “I don’t see any circumstances where Ben does not finish his career here,” via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

While it remains probable if not highly likely that Roethlisberger will remain in Pittsburgh, circumstances definitely exist where Ben moves on.  What if he gets injured this year or next year and the Steelers aren’t willing to make a huge financial commitment to keep him, a la the Colts and Manning?  What if Ben won’t accept the team’s best offer on a new deal for 2015, forcing the team to use the franchise tag until the price gets so high that they can’t afford to do it?  While $22 million for 2016 could be stomached, $26 million for 2017 gets a little pricey.  By 2018, when Ben would be the same age Manning was when he left the Colts (36), and the price tag for one more year will shoot to $38.1 million for one season.

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger would have made more than $70 million on a year-to-year arrangement.  If he’s willing to continue to bear the injury risk, why not let it play out that way?

So, yes, there’s a way that dominoes fall that will lead to Roethlisberger walking away.  Given the zeal with which Steelers fans follow the team, both sides need to tread lightly for fear of catching the blame for an eventual divorce.  And, ideally, to ensure that as few Steelers fans as possible realize that a divorce, while still far from likely, could indeed happen.

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Dolphins sign two new linemen, cut Gerald Ford

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The Dolphins offensive line is one big construction zone, so why not shuffle the deck a little more the first few days into camp.

The team announced they had signed veteran Tony Hills and Steven Baker, who apparently are an upgrade over the camp bodies they have.

Hills has kicked around a bit, spending time with the Steelers, Broncos, Colts, Bills and Raiders, playing in 10 games with one start.

To make room for the new blockers, the Dolphins released tackle Michael Phillip and wide receiver Gerald Ford, who was signed in June.

With the bounty scandal in their recent past, there was no way they could avoid the bad publicity that came with pardoning Richard Nixon.

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Emmanuel Sanders: Peyton is a far better leader than Ben

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Emmanuel Sanders arrived in Denver this offseason after four years in Pittsburgh. He immediately noticed a big difference between Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.

Sanders said on 104.3 The Fan in Denver that Manning’s leadership and determination to win goes far beyond that of Roethlisberger or any other teammate Sanders has ever had.

“I feel like Peyton is a far better leader, in terms of staying after practice, catching balls, wanting guys to get on the same page with him, things of that sort,” Sanders said. “This is the first time that I’ve had a quarterback that every single day after practice — no matter what his accolades, NFL MVP, Super Bowl ring — he keeps guys like me and [rookie receiver Cody] Latimer after practice. . . . He’s not one of those guys you’ve got to chase down. He’s going to be right in the same spot, ready to work, every single day. I just feel like that’s a difference from a mental standpoint.”

Sanders said he views Roethlisberger as a winner, too, and he enjoyed their time as teammates. But he’s enjoying his time with Manning even more.

“I’ve got so much love for Ben,” Sanders said. “At the same time, I’m not going to lie. I’m happy to be part of this organization and happy that Peyton is my quarterback.”

Those comments will surely be received better in Denver than in Pittsburgh.

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PFT on NBCSN covers lots of ground in first show back

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The riders in that Tour de France thing covered plenty of ground in Europe during the last three weeks, knocking Pro Football Talk on NBCSN off the air in the process.  In our first show back after the annual cycling hiatus, we’ll climb back on the tricycle and pedal like hell for 60 minutes.

With co-host Dave Briggs, Ross Tucker (I didn’t mention him in an earlier post about the show returning, and he undoubtedly noticed and was miffed about it), Kevin Gilbride, and Brian Westbrook in studio and yours truly firing up the remote location in West Virginia, we’ll get you caught up on the biggest news of the day, and we’ll take a close look at the Seahawks and Texans as the best and worst teams from a year ago launch training camp.

Briggs and I also will do the fast-moving daily whiparound, which he’s never done and I haven’t done in 25 days so it’s destined to go flawlessly.  Speaking of things that won’t go without a hitch, the poll question focuses on the future of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who rightfully wants his new franchise-quarterback contract now and who won’t be getting it.

Answer the question then tune in at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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49ers say they’ll try to extend both Michael Crabtree and Mike Iupati

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The 49ers appear willing to do business with those who will do business with them.

According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said the team wanted to try to extend both guard Mike Iupati and wide receiver Michael Crabtree before they become unrestricted free agents next spring.

We’re going to try,” Baalke said. “We’re going to work at it, certainly. But at some point, you got to stop negotiating deals and let these guys concentrate on playing football. I don’t know what point that is. We’ll make that determination as a club.

“But we’re certainly going to work toward that goal. Those are two very good football players, and guys we’d love to have in this organization for the long term.”

They can tag one or the other next offseason if they choose, buying time. Then again, Maiocco points out they’re not particularly close to deals for either Crabtree or Iupati, so at this point it’s just talk.

But talking about extending good players is also a way of extending a finger, perhaps the one in the middle, toward holdout guard Alex Boone.

 

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MRI reveals bone bruise for Kelvin Benjamin

Kelvin Benjamin AP

The Panthers were optimistic that wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin would avoid bad news from the MRI on his left knee that was scheduled after Benjamin banged knees with another player during Sunday’s practice.

Benjamin didn’t get a totally clear bill of health after his trip into the tube, but the diagnosis fell well short of the worst case scenario.

Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that coach Ron Rivera said that the tests showed a bone bruise and that the timetable for his return to the field would be measured in terms of days rather than weeks. Rivera added that there is still some swelling around the knee, but that it is structurally stable.

The news is good for the Panthers offense, which looks like it will be relying heavily on the first-round pick to make plays for Cam Newton this season. Benjamin will need all the practice time he can get in order to make a quick enough transition to the professional ranks for that to happen, so the news will be even better if it is just a couple of days before he’s back in action.

 

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Lions table Suh contract talks until end of season

Ndamukong Suh AP

Lions coach Jim Caldwell thinks that the team will be able to get a deal done that keeps defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in Detroit, but it won’t happen before the start of the regular season.

It won’t come during the regular season, either. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that Lions president Tom Lewand said on Monday that the team was putting contract talks with Suh on hold until after the end of the regular season.

Lewand and General Manager Martin Mayhew both said they thought a deal could still get done, although the timing has obviously changed and the decision to call off talks for now suggests the two sides weren’t particularly close to reaching an agreement. The window to get an extension done at the end of the season will be short. One deadline they will face is the one governing the use of the franchise tag, something that neither man ruled out despite Suh’s price under the tag standing at a massive $26.9 million for the 2015 season.

That won’t be a factor if Suh doesn’t have a good season or if he gets hurt, but another strong year will make for some tough calls in Detroit come next winter. And those calls could lead Suh to another uniform for the 2015 season.

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Mario Manningham still lacking confidence in knee

Mario Manningham AP

Wide receiver Mario Manningham tore his ACL late in the 2012 season with the 49ers and finished last season on injured reserve because of continued knee troubles that still haven’t resolved themselves.

Manningham returned to the Giants this offseason as a free agent and said Monday that he’s not feeling as confident in the condition of his knee as he’d like to feel. He had the knee scoped in January and is “just trying to get back to where I was” while testing it out during camp.

“I know my knee [is] fixed,” Manningham said, via the New York Daily News. “It’s just confidence. It’s just me sticking the foot in the ground and going. So that’s like I say: every day it gets better and better.”

With Odell Beckham struggling to get past a hamstring injury, the Giants are short on healthy depth behind Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle right now. Should both injury issues linger deeper into the summer, the Giants may need to think about looking at outside options to provide them with a bit more certainty in the receiving corps as they try to form a group that will help Eli Manning complete 70 percent of his passes.

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Ware out with bruised leg bone

Ware AP

Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware suffered a lower leg injury during practice on Sunday.  He was held out of practice on Monday, with coach John Fox calling it a bruised leg.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Ware actually has a bruised bone in his leg.  The source says that Ware nevertheless should be fine, and that the injury is not serious.

Ware has played through many injuries during his NFL career, which until this season had unfolded entirely with the Cowboys.  If healthy, Ware can make a big difference in the Denver defense.

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