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PFT’s Week Seven picks

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Down three games with three disagreements last week, I envisioned forging a tie with MDS in the PFT picks contest.

And of course he swept me.

Now down six — six! — through six weeks, I’ve got a chance to cut the margin to four (or see it grow to eight) based on two disagreements this week.

MDS went 11-4 for the week; I was a mere 8-7.  He’s now 63-29 for the year, and I’m 57-35.

Read on for this week’s prognostications.

Seahawks at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Seahawks on the road are always a precarious pick, and I’m tempted to choose Arizona in an upset. But Carson Palmer is just throwing too many bad passes for an opportunistic Seattle secondary not to give him trouble. The Seahawks’ defense will lead the way in this one.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 14.

Florio’s take:  Somebody in the league office hates the Cardinals.  In a four-day span, they will have played both the 49ers and the Seahawks.  Arizona held its own against the Niners, and Arizona will do the same against the Seahawks.  But two moral victories in less than a week won’t do much to propel a team toward the postseason.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 20, Cardinals 14.

Buccaneers at Falcons

MDS’s take: A year after earning home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, Atlanta is all but out of the playoff race already this season. But a bad Tampa Bay team coming to town should be just the thing to get the Falcons their second win of a disappointing season.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 20, Buccaneers 10.

Florio’s take:  The game that many thought would help determine first place (for now) in the NFC South will determine last place in the division (for now, and possibly for longer).  The Falcons had an extra week to get ready, the Buccaneers continue to be in disarray, and the home team still has enough talent to pull out the win.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 27, Buccaneers 17.

Rams at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Rams are coming off a dominant win over the Texans and are, at 3-3, a lot better than most people thought they’d be. But Carolina is playing excellent defense, and St. Louis is playing mediocre offense, and so I like the Panthers to win a low-scoring game at home.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 17, Rams 9.

Florio’s take:  Here’s a game that likely will be underrated but could produce a potential wild-card contender in the NFC.  Both teams have been inconsistent, and both teams won in Week Six over franchises currently in a funk.  Edge goes to the home team, as long as the Panthers can get the upper hand early.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Rams 21.

Bengals at Lions

MDS’s take: Overall the Bengals are a more talented team than the Lions, and a good Cincinnati secondary is going to make things tough for Detroit’s offense. But the Lions have played well at home and the Bengals have been shaky on the road, and so I’m going to take the Lions.

MDS’s pick: Lions 20, Bengals 17.

Florio’s take:  Usually, the Bengals play up and down to the level of the competition.  This week, the competition level is roughly equivalent.  And the Lions won in Cleveland, where the Bengals lost handily.  Oh, and Calvin Johnson appears to be getting healthy.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Bengals 20.

Chargers at Jaguars

MDS’s take: Despite major injury issues, San Diego is a better team than just about anyone expected. Playing in the same division as the only two undefeated teams in the NFL makes it unlikely that the Chargers will make the playoffs, but they will get over .500 with an easy win in Jacksonville.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 28, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take:  Yes, I’m tempted to pick the upset here.  The Chargers have beaten three teams that are supposedly better than San Diego, and they’ve lost to three teams that are supposedly worse.  Plus, they’re traveling across the country on a short week to play a team that gave the Broncos more of a game than anyone would have imagined.  Then I’m reminded of the overall quality of the Jacksonville roster.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 28, Jaguars 10.

Texans at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Texans totally melted down on Sunday, and now they’re traveling to play a Kansas City team that’s playing defense as well as anyone in the league. This could get ugly.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 31, Texans 7.

Florio’s take:  The Chiefs are what the Texans were supposed to be.   Swarming defense, competent offense, and undefeated through six weeks.  This could be Correction Sunday for the Chiefs, but not at the place that cranked up 137.5 decibels last weekend — and not against a team that could be dialing up Case Keenum at quarterback.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 27, Texans 17.

Bills at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Bills’ pass rush could provide real problems for Ryan Tannehill, and if EJ Manuel were healthy I’d like the Bills to go to Miami and pull an upset. But with Thad Lewis as the starting quarterback, I don’t think the Bills will put many points on the board in Miami.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 20, Bills 13.

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins have had two weeks to prepare for Thad Lewis and company.  While Lewis looked good against the Bengals, he’s and several teammates are a little banged up.  Maybe Miami coach Joe Philbin ultimately will get a shot at his former pupil in Green Bay — you know, the one-hit wonder in whom Philbin had zero interest.  Which should have told Seattle and Oakland everything they needed to know.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 27, Bills 20.

Patriots at Jets

MDS’s take: The Patriots have been dealing with injuries all year, and Jerod Mayo is their most significant injury yet. New England is ripe for an upset. Unfortunately, the Jets looked absolutely terrible on Sunday against the Steelers, and they just don’t look like they have the weapons on offense to pull the upset.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 17, Jets 7.

Florio’s take:  The Jets almost beat the Patriots in Foxborough in Week Two.  Since then, New England has lost Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo for the season.  Aqib Talib could miss the game, and even if Rob Gronkowski plays how much can be expected after a nine-month layoff.  Some will call this an upset.  Under these precise circumstances, it really isn’t.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 20, Patriots 17.

Cowboys at Eagles

MDS’s take: In the battle for first place in the NFC East, I like Nick Foles to keep the Eagles’ offense running smoothly and create a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia. The suspect Dallas defense is going to have a tough time keeping up with Philadelphia’s big-play offense.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 35, Cowboys 28.

Florio’s take:  Whether Nick Foles or Mike Vick or Matt Barkley, Chip Kelly’s offense is poised to run rings around a more-porous-than-expected Dallas defense.  And Philly’s defense quietly has improved to the point where it can keep the Cowboys in check, especially with DeMarco Murray missing this one.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 31, Cowboys 21.

Bears at Redskins

MDS’s take: Chicago has been beating bad teams all season, with wins over the Vikings, Steelers and Giants. That trend will continue for another week in Washington.

MDS’s pick: Bears 21, Redskins 20.

Florio’s takeRobert Griffin III is getting better, but he’s still not close to the guy he was last year.  Ditto for the team.  In 2012, Washington dug out of a 3-6 hole.  This year’s start could be even worse.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 26, Redskins 17.

49ers at Titans

MDS’s take: With Jake Locker out and Ryan Fitzpatrick in, the Titans are just not going to beat a good team like the 49ers. San Francisco is over its early-season hiccup and is now beginning its long march toward challenging Seattle for NFC West supremacy.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 34, Titans 17.

Florio’s take:  The Titans perform well at home against teams from the NFC, and they played well on the road last Sunday in one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.  But the 49ers have hit their stride in recent weeks, with a balanced offense and a defense that still has punch, even without Aldon Smith.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 24, Titans 17.

Browns at Packers

MDS’s take: I don’t think Brandon Weeden is as terrible as some people make him out to be, and I don’t think Brian Hoyer was ever going to be Cleveland’s long-term answer at quarterback. Still, the Browns have looked like a team that finds ways to win with Hoyer at quarterback, and a team that finds ways to lose with Weeden at quarterback. That will continue on Sunday, when an injury-riddled Packers team will capitalize on some Cleveland mistakes.

MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Browns 24.

Florio’s take:  That three-game winning streak will quickly be forgotten when the losing streak reaches two.  Despite the injuries, the Packers continue to deliver on both sides of the ball.  The turnaround from a 1-2 start continues.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Browns 24.

Ravens at Steelers

MDS’s take: I’ve gone back and forth on this one a few times, but in the end I think Baltimore’s defensive front is too much for the injury-depleted Steelers offensive line. The Ravens win a close, hard-fought, defensive struggle.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 17, Steelers 16.

Florio’s take:  The defending champs visit Pittsburgh for the first time since hoisting the latest Lombardi.  If the Steelers can run like the Packers did against Baltimore and throw the ball smartly and quickly, the home team in this tarnished (for now) rivalry can hold serve.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 13, Ravens 10.

Broncos at Colts

MDS’s take: In one of the marquee games of the season, Peyton Manning will remind the Colts that they cut one of the best players in NFL history a year and a half ago. Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offense will score plenty of points against a mediocre Denver defense, but Manning and Co. will score even more.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 48, Colts 38.

Florio’s take:  Peyton Manning’s homecoming acquired some extra levels of intrigue this week, thanks to Colts owner Jim Irsay.  While some think Irsay took a shot at Peyton to get inside his head and other thinks Irsay was simply being Irsay, the man some call the best regular-season quarterback in NFL history will further cement his legacy.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 49, Colts 24.

Vikings at Giants

MDS’s take: One of the worst Monday night games in recent years will be memorable for Josh Freeman’s first start with the Vikings, and for the Giants’ first win of the season.

MDS’s pick: Giants 21, Vikings 13.

Florio’s take:  Eleven days to get ready.  Home game.  National audience.  Bad defense.  Quarterback rushed to the field for his first start with the team.  If the Giants can’t win this one, they may not win any.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 35, Vikings 27.

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Daryl Washington thanks Commissioner for reinstatement

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Suspended three years ago, linebacker Daryl Washington has been conditionally reinstated to the NFL generally, and to the Cardinals specifically.

“I’m honored and humbled to be back in the National Football League,” Washington said in a statement provided to PFT. “These last three years have been the most difficult of my life without the game I love so much. That said, I’ve used this time to make tremendous strides as a man and have grown into a proud husband, father, and contributing member of my community.”

Washington returns at the game at the age of 30. He has played only four seasons, two of which resulted in Pro Bowl and All-Pro recognition. So he has less wear and tear, and more tear on the tires.

“Physically I’m in the best shape of my life and have maintained a strenuous six-day per week workout plan for over a year in anticipation of this day and next season,” Washington said. “I understand the physical and mental demands that it takes to be an All-Pro linebacker in this League, and I fully intend to play at that level this season.

“I’d like to thank Commissioner Goodell and his staff who I’ve met with multiple times, my attorney Daniel Moskowitz for all of his work on my journey back, my amazing teammates who I’ve stayed in contact with, and most importantly, my family for all of their unconditional support. As I told Mr. Goodell, I will use this opportunity to help lead and mentor younger guys in the locker room and in my community to learn from my mistakes and understand it’s an honor to be in the NFL.”

The Cardinals have been circumspect so far regarding whether they want Washington. That’s the next question that needs to be answered before Washington suits up for the team again. It’s expected he’ll get the chance to show the Cardinals what he can still do; few franchises are in the business of sending away quality contributors who can make the team better.

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49ers to induct Tom Rathman into Hall of Fame

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Tom Rathman’s 23-year run with the 49ers ended earlier this year. He’ll now permanently be part of the organization.

The 49ers will induct Rathman into the franchise’s Hall of Fame.

“Tom Rathman embodies everything this organization wants in its players, coaches and staff,” 49ers CEO Jed York said in a statement. “Throughout his more than two decades with our team, Tom set a tone for the 49ers both on and off the field. As a player, he was selfless, hard-working and dedicated to bringing his best every single day. Tom coached very much the same way. It was his mission to help every man he coached realize his full potential, as both a player and a man. Tom is family and we are so thrilled to induct him into the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame, where he will take his place among the all-time greats in our team’s history.”

The move comes roughly two months after Rathman decided not to remain with the team as part of Kyle Shanahan’s staff.

I’m not going to be back,” Rathman, a former fullback and running backs coach, said at the time. “I feel like it’s the best for everybody if I just parted and let those guys do their thing and take me out of the equation so that nobody’s uncomfortable. I’m looking to coach running backs and that’s what I want to do. I’m just going to wait for the next opportunity and go for it when it happens.”

 “I spent 23 years with the 49ers,” Rathman said in Tuesday’s press release. “I’ve always considered myself a 49er and I always will consider myself a 49er. I’ll take that brand with me wherever I go because that’s who I am. It feels great to be with the guys who are already in the 49ers Hall of Fame. Dating back to Joe Perry, it’s an honor to be associated with the likes of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig and Dwight Clark. That’s a lot of history right there. To be able to say that you’re in a fraternity with those guys so to speak, the 49ers Hall of Fame fraternity, says volumes. It’s pretty special.”

Rathman’s 23 years puts him behind only 49ers Hall of Famer in terms of tenure with the team. Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr., the man for whom the Hall of Fame is named, had 24 years with the franchise.

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Deshaun Watson likes how he looks in a Cardinals uniform in Madden

For free agents and incoming draft picks, the Madden game provides a way to get a look at how the player will look in a variety of NFL uniforms. For quarterback Deshaun Watson, he particularly liked how he looked in one specific uniform.

Appearing on PFT Live, Watson said he likes how he looks in Cardinals attire, specifically with the black jerseys. (The photo accompanying this post is an image of virtual Larry Fitzgerald wearing the 2016 Color Rush uniforms.)

The Cardinals are in the market for a successor to Carson Palmer, and Palmer has embraced the possibility of mentoring a youngster. Watson likewise said he’d welcome the chance to learn from a veteran, even if it means sitting for a year or two. He’s also fine with being drafted later than earlier, if it means landing in the right spot.

Watson visited thr Cardinals, Browns, Jaguars, 49ers, Texans, and Chiefs in the weeks preceding the draft. The 2017 PFT Worst Mock Draft Ever has Watson going to the Cardinals at No. 13.

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Titans’ 2016 second-round pick Kevin Dodd still dealing with foot injury

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The Titans took linebacker Kevin Dodd with the 33rd overall pick of last year’s draft, only to see him suffer a foot injury in his first rookie minicamp. A year later, that injury is still an issue.

Although Dodd did manage to play in nine games last season, the foot remained a problem and eventually landed him on injured reserve. Today coach Mike Mularkey confirmed that the foot is still bothering him now.

Via Paul Kuharsky of ESPN Mularkey described Dodd as not completely healthy, with pain still lingering in the foot. Mularkey described it as a delicate injury.

Eventually, the Titans hope to see Dodd get healthy and become the type of player they thought he was when they drafted him. But they certainly didn’t think at this time a year ago that an injury would be the dominant theme of his first year in the NFL.

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Aqib Talib: “Definitely a relief” to avoid suspension for self-inflicted gunshot

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Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib’s offseason in 2016 was interrupted when he inadvertently shot himself in the leg in June, but he learned recently that the incident won’t lead to an interruption of his 2017 season.

The league looked into the incident, which didn’t lead to any charges in Dallas, as a possible violation of the league’s personal conduct policy, but opted not to suspend or fine the veteran corner. Talib discussed the league’s decision for the first time on Tuesday.

“Definitely a relief, man,” Talib said, via ESPN.com. “Just glad I could put it behind me and move on to the season and worry about what I really need to be worrying about.”

Talib said that he was worried last year about how he would hold up physically after wounding himself, but he only missed time because of a back injury and didn’t report any trouble with the leg over the course of the season. He returned from that back injury to close out the season on the field and is expected to join Chris Harris as the team’s starting corners again this year.

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Daryl Washington gets a conditional reinstatement too

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As we close in on 50 hours until the start of the 2017 NFL Draft, the league is conducting what could become a new tradition — the Tuesday afternoon reinstatement dump.

Hours after Pittsburgh wide receiver Martavis Bryant was allowed back in, the league went even deeper into the vault.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the league has conditionally reinstated Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington, who hopes to play in 2017.

Washington hasn’t played in over three years, after substance abuse violations and a guilty plea to an aggravated assault charge.

And the Cardinals have never seemed all that interested in allowing him back through the door, with coach Bruce Arians saying it would be a waste of breath to talk about it.

“Considering we have been prohibited from having contact with him over the last three years,” the team said in a statement Tuesday, “It would be premature today to discuss a potential return to the team.”

Washington was a Pro Bowl-level talent when he played, but that was a long time ago, and it could be tougher for him to find another chance.

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Aaron Hernandez lawyer: Claims of suicide note to prison lover are false

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Last week, after the family of Aaron Hernandez began to ask questions about the circumstances surrounding his death in prison, unnamed law enforcement sources began to leak that Hernandez was bisexual. The specific information reported by Newsweek was that one of the three notes Hernandez left in his cell was addressed to his prison lover. (Newsweek also reported that the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd may have been motivated by a desire to conceal that Hernandez was secretly dating a man.)

The family of Aaron Hernandez has received the notes left by Hernandez in his cell. Attorney Jose Baez has issued a statement on the matter.

“Rumors of letters to a gay lover, in or out of prison, are false,” Baez said. “These are malicious leaks used to tarnish someone who is dead. . . . Notwithstanding my unambiguous statement that there were no such letters, representatives, on behalf of an individual named Kyle Kennedy, continues to advise the media such a gay love letter exists. Accordingly, on behalf of the family of Aaron Hernandez, I am reaffirming, unequivocally, no such letter to Mr. Kennedy, or any other individual, in or out of prison, exists. l urge anyone continuing to spread these malicious untruths to cease immediately.”

This isn’t about the Baez or the Hernandez family expressing a judgment that homosexuality or bisexuality is wrong, and this isn’t about sympathy for a convicted murderer. This is about what appears to be an effort to create emotional turmoil for Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, the mother of his child and the person to whom he was engaged to be married.

It may not be a coincidence that the leaks emerged in the wake of pointed questions and concerns being raised about whether Hernandez actually committed suicide and whether the authorities followed proper procedures to protect him from himself. It may be a sign of things to come, if the tough questions continue to be asked. That’s what Baez is trying to put a stop to.

Complicating the situation is the fact that Kyle Kennedy’s lawyer has said that a letter was left for his client. Again, the Hernandez family has received all notes that were left by Hernandez, and Baez insists that it’s false.

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Scouting Combine incident kept Reuben Foster from being invited to draft

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The Ultimate Reality Show’s ultimate reality show relies in large part on players choosing to show up and serve as live props for the boos-and-bear-hugs bonanza. And with plenty of players passing on attending the draft, it makes sense for the league to not make a habit of excluding prospects from the proceedings.

According to Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com, Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster won’t be attending the draft not because he declined the invitation but the league declined to invite him. The decision arose from the Scouting Combine incident that resulted in Foster being sent home following an altercation with a hospital worker.

In hindsight, it’s probably good that Foster won’t be there. Given the news that he provided a dilute sample at the Scouting Combine, triggering a positive substance-abuse test, it’s unclear how long he would have been in the green room.

PFT’s 2017 Worst Mock Draft Ever has Foster’s slide ending at No. 9, with the Bengals.

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Martavis Bryant’s conditional reinstatement is essentially a full reinstatement

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The NFL has granted a conditional reinstatement to Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant. Based on the terms of the conditional reinstatement, it’s no different as a practical matter than a full reinstatement.

Unlike Josh Gordon’s conditional reinstatement of a year ago, which featured a return for training camp and the preseason followed by a four-game suspension to start the regular season, Bryant is back with the team. He can participate in “meetings, conditioning work and similar activities.” He’ll receive full permission to engage in “all preseason activities” as soon as he has made arrangements for ongoing treatment in Pittsburgh, a step that has a perfunctory feel to it.

Ultimately, Bryant will be cleared for the start of the regular season “[b]ased on his compliance and engagement with his program and resources.” Even without that limitation, Bryant would have been required to comply with his treatment and with testing following reinstatement after a banishment of at least one year. Calling the reinstatement conditional simply means that it will be easier for the NFL to pull the plug on his return than it would have been to suspend him again under the procedures of the substance-abuse policy if he had violated any of the terms of his treatment plan.

The best news for Bryant and the Steelers is that the NFL has opted not to drag its feet on his application for reinstatement simply because it can. The league has full power and discretion when it comes to reinstatement a year after banishment, and in multiple past situations there has been a sense that the league has moved to slowly to bring a player back. With Bryant, it seems he has gotten a fair shake. Whether that fair shake extends to Week One depends on his activities going forward — just as it would have if he’d been fully reinstated with no restrictions or limitation or conditions.

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2017 Ryan Leaf knows 1998 Ryan Leaf wouldn’t have listened to him

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Nineteen years ago, Ryan Leaf became one of the all-time biggest draft busts as the second overall pick of the Chargers. On Tuesday, Leaf talked about what why it went wrong and whether anything could have changed the outcome.

Appearing on PFT Live, Leaf explained that the problem ultimately was him, and that a different team or a different coaching staff or different circumstances wouldn’t have mattered. He added that an unexpected slide on draft day would have made things worse, instead of humbling him.

The situation with Leaf was so bad that he realizes young Ryan Leaf wouldn’t have listened even to the Ryan Leaf of today, despite the sage advice 40-year-old Leaf could impart to his 21-year-old self.

Leaf imparted advice to and shared his experiences with the incoming crop of quarterbacks at the Scouting Combine. I didn’t ask him to tell me which of the prospect reminded 40-year-old Leaf the most of 21-year-old Leaf, but I did ask him to identify which of the quarterbacks impressed him the most.

His answer was Deshaun Watson. To hear him explain that and more, check out the video from his appearance on the show.

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Report: Browns have spoken to teams about moving up from No. 12

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In a column for TheMMQB.com on Monday, Peter King reported that seven teams in the top eight of the draft have interest in talking about a trade that would move them down in the draft order.

The only top-eight team not included in that group is the Browns, who have the first overall pick. They also have the No. 12 pick and could be a partner for one of those other teams.

Mike Silver of NFL Media reports that the Browns have had conversations with three teams in the top eight about a trade that would move them further up in the order. Assuming they take Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the No. 1 pick, they would presumably be moving back up to get their choice of the draft’s top quarterbacks.

Of that group, North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky has been mentioned most often as the player the Browns would like to add to their offense.

Silver adds that the completion of any trade is likely to happen once a team is on the clock Thursday night as plans may change based on which players have come off the board.

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Martavis Bryant conditionally reinstated after drug suspension

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Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant has been conditionally reinstated to the NFL after he spent the entire 2016 season suspended for violation’s of the league’s substance abuse policy.

The NFL informed the Steelers today that Bryant may re-join the team, according to General Manager Kevin Colbert.

“We appreciate that he has taken the necessary steps in an effort to get his personal life in order. We also understand this is just the beginning as he works to return to the team and meet all of the conditions of his reinstatement,” Colbert said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Martavis to ensure that he is mentally and physically prepared to contribute to our efforts on the field, while also maintaining the proper balance to keep his life in order off the field.”

Bryant can participate in team meetings and offseason workouts effective immediately. He will be allowed to participate in training camp practices and preseason games provided that he demonstrates before camp that he has made arrangements to continue drug treatment in Pittsburgh.

Before the regular season the NFL will review his progress, and if he has complied with drug treatment he will be fully reinstated for Week One.

Bryant is a big-play wide receiver who showed great promise before failed drug tests cost him the 2016 season. If he’s fully committed to football, he could be a big part of the Steelers’ offense in 2017.

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Beyond 2017, status of Bradford and Bridgewater is up in the air

AP

For the 2017 season, Sam Bradford is poised to start at quarterback for the Vikings, while Teddy Bridgewater will be on the roster but may not be medically cleared to play. Beyond 2017, it’s unclear whether either of them is in the Vikings’ plans.

That came out today when both Bradford and Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman talked to the local media as the team conducted offseason workouts.

Bradford said he doesn’t think his agent has had any discussions with the team about a contract. Bradford’s current deal, the two-year, $36 million contract he signed with the Eagles last year before they traded him to Minnesota, expires after the season, so he’s set to be a free agent in 2018.

And Spielman said the team has no timeline on the return of Bridgewater from the devastating knee injury he suffered last year in training camp. Bridgewater’s rookie contract is up after this year as well, if the Vikings don’t pick up his fifth-year option.

So it’s possible that both Bradford and Bridgewater will be free agents in 2018, and the Vikings will be looking for a new quarterback. Perhaps they’ll draft a quarterback this week with the idea that he’ll spend a season sitting and be ready to start next year.

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Report: Gareon Conley won’t attend draft

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Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley was among the players the NFL announced as draft attendees this year, but a report that he’s named in a police report regarding an allegation of sexual assault appears to have changed his plans.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Conley will not be in Philadelphia for this week’s event.

Conley has been widely projected to be a first-round pick over the last couple of months, but the allegation reported by TMZ is likely to have an impact on where he winds up going. Conley’s lawyer has called the allegations “ludicrous and ridiculous” and Conley has not been charged with any crime, but there’s a recent example that doesn’t bode well for Conley.

Offensive lineman La’El Collins was expected to be a high pick a couple of years ago, but went undrafted after he was not cleared of involvement in the murder of an ex-girlfriend. Collins signed with the Cowboys after eventually being cleared.

Conley could be cleared of any wrongdoing between now and Thursday, but anything short of that could lead to a drop that Conley apparently wants to avoid reacting to in front of cameras.

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Titans pick up Taylor Lewan’s 2018 option

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The list of teams picking up their options for a fifth-year on the contract of their 2014 first-round picks continues to grow.

Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan is the latest addition. Field Yates of ESPN.com reported the move was made on Tuesday afternoon.

Lewan was the 11th overall pick in 2014 and started six games as a rookie before moving into a full-time role on the first team the next year. He’s started 31-of-32 games over the last two seasons and joins 2016 first-round pick Jack Conklin as anchors on either side of an offensive line that helped the team vault from 25th to 3rd in rushing yards last year.

A long-term extension for Lewan would set the Titans up for more of the same for several years to come and would also clear the way for the team to focus on a new deal for quarterback Marcus Mariota after he completes his third NFL season.

UPDATE 2:36 p.m. ET: Titans General Manager Jon Robinson made the option decision official at a Tuesday press conference.

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