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Jerry Jones calls Jason Garrett a young coach who’s still evolving

Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones AP

Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones says coach Jason Garrett has learned on the job and changed his approach to offense.

According to Jones, Garrett is still young enough and flexible enough that he can make significant changes to the way he game plans. Jones said on his radio show on KRLD 105.3 FM that Garrett is fundamentally different from a coach like Ernie Zampese, the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator from 1994 to 1997 and offensive consultant in 2000 and 2001, who installed his own offense everywhere he went. Jones says Garrett can change on the fly.

“He’s a young coach, and one of the things you’ve got to remember, that you should remember, is that, as a young coach, your system should be evolving,” Jones said, via the Star-Telegram. “There shouldn’t be a system that you’ve hung on for years and years and years. Ernie Zampese, for instance. Jason’s fresh in his evolving, as far as scheme is concerned.”

For the record, Garrett isn’t all that young: He’s been around the NFL as a player or a coach for a quarter of a century, and at age 47 he’s older than Rob Chudzinski, Jim Schwartz, Gus Bradley, Dennis Allen, Mike Tomlin, Mike McCoy and Greg Schiano. But Jones praised Garrett for his willingness to adjust to new offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, and to the increased game-planning role for quarterback Tony Romo.

“Plus we’ve added a Romo emphasis in it. That’s changed, too. We’ve had some dramatic change with the Cowboys since last year,” Jones said.

So far, Jones likes the results of those dramatic changes.

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Titans taking a look at former Falcons wideout Harry Douglas

Harry Douglas AP

The Titans might need more personnel help than any team in the NFL, and they’re extremely active in the pre-free agency free agency period.

The latest visitor will be former Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Douglas has a tie with Titans tight ends coach Mike Mularkey, from his days as the Falcons offensive coordinator.

The Titans have also kicked the tires on other wideouts who were cut recently, including Ted Ginn Jr. and Jacoby Jones, so they’re obviously in the market for some help there.

Douglas has been productive as a complementary receiver, but stood out on his own in 2013, with 85 catches for 1,067 yards when Julio Jones was hurt.

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Wilfork says Pats aren’t picking up his option

Wilfork Getty Images

With so much current focus on whether the Patriots will find a way to keep cornerback Darrelle Revis, they’ve decided not to keep defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

Wilfork has announced that the team told him Tuesday the his option for 2015 won’t be picked up.

I’m in a good place,” Wilfork said in a message posted on Twitter, one that he calls his “only” statement on the matter.  “I have a great relationship with the Patriots organization.”

Wilfork makes it clear that, after 11 NFL seasons, he won’t be retiring.

“Can I still play football?” Wilfork wrote.  “Hell yea!  Do I still love football?  Hell yea!”

He adds that New England will always be his home, noting that he won a Super Bowl ring as a rookie and in his last season with the franchise.

“One major injury lots of gas still left in the tank,” Wilfork said.  (What kind of gas is he talking about?)

“I will take my time think things through take into consideration many things by mainly my family and see where life goes from there,” Wilfork said.

Surely, a demand will exist for his services.  There aren’t enough competent defensive tackles to go around for 32 franchises.

Wilfork didn’t mention a possible return to the Patriots, but didn’t expressly rule it out.  If an aggressive market for his services doesn’t emerge, maybe the Pats will swoop back in and extend the relationship to a 12th year.

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Colts don’t plan to tender A.Q. Shipley as restricted free agent

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Colts were in serious need of a center before the start of last season because of injuries to Khaled Holmes and Jonotthan Harrison, so they turned to A.Q. Shipley for help.

Shipley, who played for the Colts in 2012 before being traded to the Ravens, was claimed off waivers after his run in Baltimore came to an end. Shipley quickly got himself back up to speed on the Indy offense and started for the first four weeks of the regular season.

It looks like the Colts will need to be in similarly dire straits this year for Shipley to get into the lineup. Mike Wells of ESPN.com reports that the team won’t tender Shipley a contract as a restricted free agent, which means Shipley will be able to sign anywhere as an unrestricted free agent on March 10.

Shipley was benched in favor of Harrison after four games and only started again at guard in Week 1 when the Colts had nothing to play for with their playoff seed secured. Holmes eventually worked his way back into the starting lineup for the end of the regular season and playoffs, which may give him the leg up on the job for 2015.

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Reports: Cary Williams to visit Seahawks

Cary Williams AP

Two days after being released, ex-Eagles cornerback Cary Williams has a free agent visit already lined up.

Williams will meet with the Seahawks on Thursday, NFLDraftDiamonds.com reported. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun also reported news of Williams’s visit.

At 6-foot-1, Williams has the length the Seahawks like in their cornerbacks. He ranks 81st among PFT’s top free agents in the Class of 2015.

The 30-year-old Williams started every game in the last two seasons for Philadelphia, defending 21 passes and notching five interceptions.

The Seahawks’ interest in Williams comes with cornerback Byron Maxwell set to test free agency next week. Maxwell is expected to have a strong market.

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Saints rework Jairus Byrd’s contract to create cap space

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Wednesday brought word that the Saints are releasing running back Pierre Thomas and shopping linebacker Curtis Lofton in a trade and their cap-related maneuvering will continue with a restructured deal for safety Jairus Byrd.

Field Yates of ESPN.com reports that the team will convert Byrd’s $6 million roster bonus into a signing bonus in order to drop his 2015 cap number from $10.3 million to $5.5 million. The money will be pushed into the remaining four years of the six-year, $54 million deal that the safety signed with the team last year.

Byrd’s first year with the Saints was a rough one as preseason back surgery and an in-season knee injury made for very little immediate return on the team’s investment. They’ll be looking for better results this time around since Byrd’s restructure will make cutting him in the near future will come with financial penalties on a cap that’s been doing annual gymnastics to get themselves in compliance with the salary cap.

Things are off to a decent start on that front as Byrd announced Wednesday that he’s been cleared for a full return to action. He should be on the field for offseason workouts as he and the team try for better defensive results.

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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

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

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

Super Bowl XLV Getty Images

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

Washington Redskins v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

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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