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Patriots officially downgrade Gronkowski, Amendola to out

Amendola AP

It’s official.  When Walter White and Jesse Pinkman are wrapping up their five seasons of meth-making antics, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski will be able to watch.

Amendola and Gronkowski, who reportedly didn’t make the trip from New England to Atlanta, officially have been downgraded from questionable to out.

It’s a common outcome for players who are designated on Friday as having a 50-50 chance of playing.  Come Saturday, the 50 goes to zero when the player ends up not making the trip to the site of the game.

The fact that home-team players rarely get downgraded from questionable to out reconfirms that team’s play games with the injury reports.  (I know, you’re shocked.)  The Patriots, who proclaimed that both players have an equal chance of playing and not playing just a day ago, were forced to concede that the players aren’t playing when they left them home.

The fact that the Patriots knew more than 24 hours before kickoff that the players couldn’t play suggests that the actual likelihood of the players playing was far closer to doubtful than questionable on Friday.

But all’s fair in love, war, and football, which coaches all too often love to compare to war when justifying methods that don’t necessarily comply with the letter or spirit of the rules.

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NFL makes another major P.R. hire

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Big Shield needs a lot of polish. And thus another key employee has been hired to help keep the tarnish away. Or at least to distract us from it.

In addition to Joe Lockhart, the relatively new in-house P.R. czar, the NFL has now hired Natalie Ravitz to serve as senior V.P. of communications, via Politico.com.

Ravitz spent three years, from 2012 through 2015, as Rupert Murdoch’s Chief of Staff at News Corp. She will report to Lockhart.

The move brings more political experience to the league office, which suggests that the NFL has decided based on a variety of P.R. problems in recent years to rely on the expertise crafted by folks who operate in an industry that entails constant P.R. challenges.

The new approach recently was demonstrated in very aggressive detail as Lockhart engineered a free-for-all against the New York Times based on a report citing flawed concussion research and specious links to Big Tobacco.

Big Shield isn’t Big Tobacco. Still, with some of the best P.R. talent in America now on the payroll, the Shield will be getting even Bigger.

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Caldwell envisions Joeckel staying with the Jaguars

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The Jaguars didn’t pick up the fifth-year option on 2013 No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel’s contract. But that doesn’t mean Joeckel is a short-timer in Jacksonville.

On Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Jaguars G.M. Dave Caldwell suggested that Joeckel remains in the team’s long-term plans.

“[It] really nothing to do with Luke but more so . . . our cap situation,” Caldwell said. “We have plenty of cap space going into next year. We’ll have more next year than we will this year and we just didn’t need to do it. Luke, we expect him to be here for a long period of time. I talked to him. Luke did play good football this year for the most part. He had a couple games that he struggled with and he knows that but for the most part he’s a good football player and we’d like him to be part of this moving forward. But we just didn’t feel like we needed to pick up the option. If he plays great we’ll pay him like a great player and we have the capability to do that.”

Picking up the option would have given Joeckel an $11.9 million salary for 2017, guaranteed for injury only until March 2017, at which time it would have been guaranteed fully. Apart from avoiding the risk that Joeckel will suffer an injury that carries into next year, the Jaguars can keep him with a deal based on his market value, if the market value is less than $11.9 million for 2017.

The only risk that the Jaguars assume is that Joeckel will have a year so strong that they’d have to consider using the franchise tag to keep him around. Next year, that number will be north of $14 million, making it a gamble of roughly $3 million.

But here’s the thing. If the Jaguars are forced to pay the extra $3 million, it means that Joeckel has finally lived up to the potential that made him a player they envisioned eventually giving an enormous contract. So that would be a good problem to have.

Actually, it wouldn’t be a good problem. It would simply be a good development, since they have the cash and cap space to keep him under the franchise tag if he becomes a player who merits that kind of pay.

If Joeckel doesn’t, the Jaguars will be able to either keep him with a much lower investment or let him walk away, leaving millions available to address the offensive line with free agents from other teams.

For more from Caldwell, download the podcast at iTunes or audioBoom.

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Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona could miss year due to Navy service

U.S. Navy Ensign Joe Cardona, a long snapper with the New England Patriots, speaks with reporters in the locker room at Gillette Stadium following an NFL football practice, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots are to play the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J., Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) AP

Earlier on Thursday, we shared Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus’ comments about his confidence that Ravens wide receiver Keenan Reynolds will be able to both play football and fulfill his commitment to the Navy in the coming year.

It’s something that Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona was able to do during his rookie season in 2015. During the same interview on The Dan Patrick Show, Mabus said that he wasn’t sure if things would work out the same way for Cardona during the 2016 season.

“We’ve got Joe Cardona, long snapper for the Patriots,” Mabus said. “He played last year for the Patriots. While he was on active duty because he was able to work them both out. He’s been assigned to a ship and he’s going to report to that ship. So he may have to leave the Patriots for the year to go fulfill that role.”

Cardona’s duties have kept him from taking part in the team’s offseason activities. The Patriots recently signed former Browns long snapper Christian Yount, a move which may have been predicated by Cardona’s possible absence.

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Patriots start getting draft picks under contract

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 31:  Cyrus Jones #5 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after returning a punt for a 57 yard touchdown in the third quarter against the Michigan State Spartans during the Goodyear Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium on December 31, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots had to wait a while before making their first pick in the 2016 draft, but there’s no reason to delay signing those picks so the team’s gotten several of their new additions under contract.

According to multiple reports, second-round cornerback Cyrus Jones, third-round guard Joe Thuney, fourth-round wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, sixth-round linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill and seventh-round wide receiver Devin Lucien have all agreed to their four-year deals with the team.

Jones was the 60th overall pick and the first the Patriots made after sitting out the first round after their pick was taken away by the league as a Deflategate penalty. He could play early as a slot corner and was a dynamic punt returner at Alabama. Mitchell will join a receiving corps that added Chris Hogan and Nate Washington as free agents. He’ll also join a book club run by Reese Witherspoon after writing his own children’s book while he was at Georgia.

Thuney blocked for third-round pick Jacoby Brissett at N.C. State and the quarterback, who is serving as his own agent, will likely join him under contract soon.

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Ziggy Ansah on possible extension: You’ve got to see how this season goes

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 13:  Wide receiver Steve Johnson #11 of the San Diego Chargers is pursued by defensive end Ezekiel Ansah #94 of the Detroit Lions at Qualcomm Stadium on September 13, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) Getty Images

Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah’s option for the 2017 season was exercised this week, leaving him set to make $12.7 million in the final year of the deal he signed as a first-round pick in 2013.

The Lions could use the franchise tag in 2018 to ensure Ansah sticks around, which might explain why Ansah says he’s “not really paying attention” to things like the $85 million deal that Olivier Vernon signed with the Giants as a free agent at the moment. Ansah, who has 30 sacks in his first three seasons, said there will be time for that down the road.

“As of right now, I think you’ve got to take it step by step,” Ansah said, via the Detroit Free Press. “You’ve got to see how this season goes, and I’m just looking forward as far as having a great season for the team.”

Pass rushers aren’t going to stop getting paid at a high level in the next two years, so Ansah will be in line for a major payday from the Lions or someone else as long as he remains healthy and productive.

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Jordan Reed: I’m going to be a good investment

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Tight end Jordan Reed signed an extension that vaults him to the top of the pay scale at his position, a deal that came a few months after the end of a season that saw him play like one of the best at the position.

Reed had 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Redskins in the regular season before posting a big game in their playoff loss to the Packers. Production like that will be well worth the $46.5 million that he’s scheduled to make over the life of the five-year deal.

Reed’s injury history — he’s missed 14 games in three seasons — didn’t get in the way of the team’s desire to make the deal and Reed said it wouldn’t stop him from making it pay off.

“It means a lot that the Redskins invested that kind of money in me,” Reed said, via John Keim of ESPN.com. “I’ll show them that they made a good investment and I’ll prove them right in making me one of the highest paid [tight ends] in the league.”

With Reed signed for the long-term and wide receiver Josh Doctson arriving as a first-round pick, the Redskins have figured out two pieces of their passing game for the future. The 2016 season will sort out Kirk Cousins‘ place in that future and having Reed should help his bid for a long-term contract as well.

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Browns announce 11 UDFA signings

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 19:  Linebacker Dominique Alexander #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners waves to fans after the game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane September 19, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Tulsa 52-38.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns announced 11 undrafted rookie signings on Thursday.

The list is headlined by former Oklahoma linebacker Dominique Alexander, an All-Big 12 pick who went undrafted after giving up his senior season, and former Texas A&M center Mike Matthews, the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. It was previously reported that the Browns gave Matthews a partial guarantee in 2016 as part of a three-year deal.

The Browns also signed former Maryland kicker Brad Craddock, who won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best kicker in 2014.

The other signings announced by the Browns were former Missouri defensive back Kenya Dennis, former Georgia Tech fullback Patrick Skov, former Pitt tight end J.P. Holtz, former Miami (Fla.) defensive back Tracy Howard, former Sam Houston State defensive back Mikell Everette, former Florida State defensive lineman Nile Lawrence-Stample, former West Virginia defensive lineman Kyle Rose and former Kentucky defensive back A.J. Stamps.

With 11 undrafted free agent signings and 14 draft picks, the Browns will have a crowded rookie minicamp next weekend.

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Patriots third-rounder Jacoby Brissett to skip agent for rookie deal

RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 31:  Jacoby Brissett #12 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack warms up before their game against the Clemson Tigers at Carter-Finley Stadium on October 31, 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the new rookie salary scale, negotiating contracts has become easier than ever.

And at least one draft pick is choosing to save the 3 percent commission by doing it himself.

According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, Patriots third-rounder Jacoby Brissett has chosen to not hire an agent.

Unlike Broncos tackle Russell Okung, Brissett doesn’t have to worry about marketing himself to multiple suitors.

And while contracts have become increasingly boilerplate, the third round falls in the strange middle ground where it’s not always just league minimum base salaries and a signing bonus like late-rounders, or the slotted maximums like first-rounders, so there’s some wiggle room.

But Brissett has navigated changing colleges, so figuring out his own worth shouldn’t be that difficult. And the structure in place should prevent him from selling himself short, as Okung did when he decided to represent himself this spring.

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Seahawks finish contract with third-round pick

FORT COLLINS, CO - OCTOBER 10:  Rees Odhiambo #71 of the Boise State Broncos defends the line of scrimmage against the Colorado State Rams at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Fort Collins, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Rams 41-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks have agreed to terms with third-round pick Rees Odhiambo, Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reported Thursday.

A tackle at Boise State, the Seahawks believe Odhiambo will compete for a starting job at left guard this season.

A native Kenyan, Odhiambo didn’t start playing football until he was a sophomore in high school. He was a first-team All-Mountain West pick last fall despite missing time with a broken ankle.

The Seahawks are one of a few teams moving quickly to get their draft picks under contract.

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Falcons sign 22 undrafted rookies

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 10: Linebacker Ivan McLennan #3 of the Washington State Cougars celebrates after the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Eugene, Oregon. The Cougars won the game 45-38 in overtime.(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons became the first team to sign a first-round pick this week when they agreed to terms with safety Keanu Neal.

Barring something out of left field, Neal will definitely make the move from the 90-man offseason roster to the 53-man roster for the regular season. The same can’t be said of the team’s group of undrafted free agent signings.

The Falcons announced those signings Thursday and most of the 22 players they signed will be hitting the waiver wire at some point in the coming months.

The players vying for jobs in Atlanta will be Georgia defensive end Josh Dawson, South Carolina defensive tackle Gerald Dixon Jr., Lamar offensive lineman Cody Elenz, Fresno State offensive lineman Alex Fifita, Utah State linebacker Torrey Green, Kentucky defensive tackle Cory Johnson, Texas wide receiver Daje Johnson, Weber State cornerback Devonte Johnson, Appalachian State wide receiver Malachi Jones, Georgia nose tackle Chris Mayes, Arkansas State wide receiver J.D. McKissic, Washington State linebacker Ivan McLennan (pictured), Texas State cornerback David Mims II, Florida Atlantic defensive back Sharrod Neasman, Washington tight end Joshua Perkins, Florida defensive back Brian Poole, North Dakota fullback Will Ratelle, Indiana offensive lineman Jake Reed, Arizona wide receiver David Richards, Texas kicker Nick Rose, St. Cloud State cornerback Jordan Sefon, and South Carolina running back Brandon Wilds.

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Chiefs get Chris Jones under contract

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The Chiefs traded out of round one last Thursday night, landing instead at the sixth spot in round two. And with that pick, the Chiefs selected Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones.

Six days later, Jones has a contract.

Per a league source, Jones has agreed to terms. He becomes the highest non-first-round pick to date to agree to terms, and he steps into a situation where defensive tackle Dontari Poe is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

The development provides even more proof that all rookies can be (and should be) quickly signed, before they are expected to show up for offseason workouts.

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T.O. takes issue with Sam Bradford’s trade demand

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A decade ago, receiver Terrell Owens wanted out of Philly. He eventually got his way, after an acrimonious year of shirtless driveway situps, “next question” press conferences, and a full-blown arbitration challenging both a four-game suspension without pay and a rest-of-season suspension with pay.

Now, quarterback Sam Bradford wants out of Philadelphia. To date, Bradford has only demanded a trade. And Owens has chimed in regarding Bradford’s view that he doesn’t want to play for a team that doesn’t view him as “the guy.” Owens views Bradford a far different way.

“I think it was not a great move for Sam to want to request a trade being that they were getting [quarterback Carson Wentz],” Owens told TMZ. “That’s kind of a sign of a coward, to be honest.”

Owens claims that Bradford should have more confidence regarding his ability to hold off any other challengers for the starting job.

“It shouldn’t matter who they’re drafting or who’s coming in,” Owens said.

Obviously, it does. And with the Eagles trading up from No. 13 to No. 8 to No. 2, they have plenty invested in Wentz being successful. Which likely will give Wentz the edge, if it’s a close call between Bradford and the rookie.

That doesn’t mean Bradford has many/any viable alternatives to showing up for work, playing as well as he can, cashing his paychecks, and waiting for his next NFL alternative. With no one else clamoring for his contract, making the most of a bad situation is better than having no situation.

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Maccagnan mum on whether he talked to O’Brien about Hackenberg

Jets Maccagnan Football AP

The Jets surprised many by making quarterback Christian Hackenberg a second-round draft pick and, in turn, the presumptive eventual starter. Hackenberg became attractive to NFL teams from the moment he showed as a true freshman at Penn State that he could run coach Bill O’Brien’s complex, pro-style offense.

Of course, regression during 2014 and 2015 made Hackenberg less attractive in the draft. But he still did enough in one year with O’Brien to become a second-round draft pick.

Making New York’s decision to draft Hackenberg more intriguing is the connection between O’Brien and Jets G.M. Mike Maccagnan. The two men spent a season together in Houston. So how much did Maccagnan rely on O’Brien in formulating an opinion on Hackenberg?

During a Thursday visit to PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Maccagnan declined to delve into those details regarding the homework performed on Hackenberg. (And, perhaps, all that that implies.)

As one league insider said regarding the Maccagnan-Hackenberg connection, “A good scout like Maccagnan would have talked with O’Brien a lot [about Hackenberg] when they actually worked together, not after leaving Houston.”

It’s a great point. And if that’s what Maccagnan did, he already knew what O’Brien thought of Hackenberg long before the player landed on the Jets’ radar screen.

Of course, if O’Brien regarded Hackenberg as a potential franchise quarterback, the Texans could have drafted him instead of paying $18 million per year to Brock Osweiler. That assumes, however, that it was O’Brien’s decision to pay Osweiler instead of hoping to land Hackenberg.

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Jarran Reed agrees to contract with Seahawks

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11:  Jarran Reed #90 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates a play against the Clemson Tigers during the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks have started signing members of their 2016 draft class.

Defensive tackle Jarran Reed’s agents announced that their client has agreed to his four-year rookie deal with Seattle. Reed was the 49th overall pick in this year’s draft.

Reed excelled as a run stopper at Alabama in his two seasons at the school after spending time in junior college. He was less effective as a pass rusher, but the Seahawks are looking for someone to help fill in for the departed Brandon Mebane and Reed’s skills against the ground game should help his chances of being part of that solution.

The Seahawks drafted nine other players, some or all of whom will likely join Reed under contract before this week’s rookie minicamp comes to a conclusion.

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Stephen Jones on Greg Hardy: We gave it a year, it didn’t work

05-greg-hardy.w529.h352 Getty Images

There was some initial hedging on their part, and they still haven’t filled the vacancy, but enough time has apparently passed that they’re comfortable saying it out loud.

The Cowboys are done with Greg Hardy, and have been since the end of the regular season. Owner Jerry Jones said as much after the draft, but his son said the decision was made long ago.

“I think one of the most important things is when you take a chance with a player, if you see it’s not working, it’s time to move on,” vice president Stephen Jones said, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We gave it its due in terms of a year here, and we just felt like at the end of the day, it wasn’t the right fit.”

The Cowboys paid Hardy nearly $9 million to be an impact pass-rusher, he wasn’t one, and created more distractions for them than he was worth. So when coach Jason Garrett mic-dropped a question about Hardy at the Scouting Combine by saying “he’s a free agent,” you could tell there was little interest in extending the experiment.

“Greg had a great start here and then he went through a lot, I do know that,” Stephen Jones said. “He’s been through a lot and you just never know how that is going to affect somebody. We wish him nothing but the best, getting his hands around everything in his life and hopefully getting in a place where he can be successful in whatever he chooses to do.”

Hardy’s “exclusive” interview with ESPN a month ago failed to create any interest in the 27-year-old defensive end, and now that teams have filled out their rosters with draft picks and undrafted rookies, it’s hard to imagine who might be interested in taking on the headache.

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