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PFT’s Week 15 picks

Dolphins AP

Last week was a good week.  But not as good as it could have been.

With a 14-1 mark through Sunday’s games and a 3-0 record in the disagreements with MDS, a Cowboys win would mean a 15-1 week, a four-game sweep of MDS, and a six-game deficit with three weeks to go.

But the team that once went 15-1 for a full season thumped the Cowboys, and the gap was only narrowed by two games.

Through 14 weeks, MDS now has an eight-game lead.

For the week, I was 14-2 and he was 12-4.  For the year, he’s 138-70.  I’m 130-78.

This week, we differ once again on four games.  All of our prognostications appear below.

Chargers at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Chargers can put a lot of points on the board, but Peyton Manning will carve up a weak San Diego defense, and the Chargers won’t be able to keep up. Denver takes another step toward home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 38, Chargers 28.

Florio’s take:  The sun won’t be shining on a night when critics will have another chance to stick the narrative that Peyton Manning struggles in the cold where the sun doesn’t shine.  A week after thrashing Eli Manning’s team, Philip Rivers and company will be reminded that Peyton’s squad currently is a lot better.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 42, Chargers 24.

Redskins at Falcons

MDS’s take: This terrible game is interesting to draft watchers and to friends and family of Kirk Cousins, but not to anyone else. Atlanta is bad, but they haven’t totally quit on their season like Washington has, so I’ll go with the Falcons.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 27, Redskins 17.

Florio’s take:  A pair of 2012 playoff teams currently are jockeying for the first pick in the draft.  The Rams, who hold Washington’s first-round selection, are rooting for their old NFC West rivals to wake up and take down Kirk Cousins and company.  If anyone actually shows up at the Georgia Dome, they may be pleased with the results.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 28, Redskins 13.

Bears at Browns

MDS’s take: Jason Campbell and Josh Gordon can put up some points against this Bears defense, but I expect Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery, and Brandon Marshall to put up more points against Cleveland’s defense.

MDS’s pick: Bears 24, Browns 21.

Florio’s take:  Two of the best young wideouts in the NFL meet in Cleveland.  Josh Gordon will once again have a big game in a loss.  Alshon Jeffery will once again have a big game in a win.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 24, Browns 20.

Texans at Colts

MDS’s take: Injuries are killing the Colts, and I think they’re going to be one-and-done in the playoffs. But they’re still better than the Texans, who are marching toward the first overall pick in the draft.

MDS’s pick: Colts 27, Texans 20.

Florio’s take:  If it wasn’t for teams that currently are in Houston or that used to be in Houston, the Colts would be winless since beating the quarterback who used to be in Indy.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 28, Texans 17.

Bills at Jaguars

MDS’s take: Credit the Jaguars for the way they’re continuing to play hard after a lot of teams would have quit, but I think it comes to an end on Sunday, when EJ Manuel will thrive on the scaled-back offense that the Bills’ coaches are giving him.

MDS’s pick: Bills 27, Jaguars 24.

Florio’s take:  For the second straight week, the Bills visit a team that started the season 0-8.  For the second straight week, the Bills will fall victim to that team’s stunning turnaround.

Florio’s pick:  Jaguars 24, Bills 10.

Patriots at Dolphins

MDS’s take: In one of this week’s few games matching up two teams with realistic playoff hopes, the Patriots will remind the Dolphins who owns the AFC East.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 31, Dolphins 20.

Florio’s take:  A couple of teams in the AFC East get together in a game that profoundly impacts a couple of teams in the AFC North.  The Dolphins will continue an unlikely run to January, which is bad news for the Ravens — but good news for the Bengals, who are trying to catch New England for the No. 2 seed in the conference.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 28, Patriots 27.

Eagles at Vikings

MDS’s take: The Eagles are rolling right now, and although the Vikings have been playing competitive football, they don’t have the personnel on defense to stop Philadelphia’s offense. This should be an easy win for the Eagles.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 27, Vikings 14.

Florio’s take:  The three-win Vikings have three opportunities to play spoiler.  Spoiling the next-to-last game at the Metrodome will be an Eagles team that has won five in a row and is 5-1 on the road.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Vikings 20.

Seahawks at Giants

MDS’s take: The Giants’ defense couldn’t stop the Chargers last week and they won’t be able to stop the Seahawks this week. Throw in a couple of Eli Manning interceptions against a great Seahawks defense, and this game won’t be close.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 35, Giants 14.

Florio’s take:  The Seahawks make their first of two visits to MetLife Stadium.  Next time, they’ll be playing an AFC team there.  And it won’t be the Jets.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 40, Giants 21.

Saints at Rams

MDS’s take: The Saints bounced back nicely from their blowout loss to the Seahawks by blowing out the Panthers. New Orleans will win another blowout on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Saints 34, Rams 16.

Florio’s take:  Taking the Saints out of the Superdome increases the chances of beating them.  Putting them in a different dome against a so-so team decreases the chances of beating them.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 30, Rams 20.

49ers at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: Give Greg Schiano a lot of credit for the way he got his team to turn things around late in the season, but Mike Glennon is going to struggle against a tough 49ers defense, and San Francisco will win.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Buccaneers 10.

Florio’s take:  What once appeared to be a cakewalk for the Niners becomes a tougher task.  Tough enough for the Niners to stumble.  If Jim Harbaugh thought last week’s win over the Seahawks was a three-and-a-half-hour root canal, he’ll think this week’s game is a three-and-a-half-hour encounter at the bottom of the pile with Steelers center Cody Wallace.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 17, 49ers 16.

Cardinals at Titans

MDS’s take: Arizona’s defense will miss injured cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, but the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Titans offense still won’t be able to do much of anything. The Cardinals will win and keep their playoff hopes alive, although they look like they’re going to be the best team to miss the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 20, Titans 10.

Florio’s take:  The Cardinals make only their second trip ever to Tennessee, where they lost in 2009.  This time, they get the job done.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 24, Titans 21.

Jets at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Jets’ offense had a surprisingly effective game last week against the Raiders, but the Panthers are not the Raiders. This will be a blowout.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 34, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  The advice given by Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to his twin brother Rex  regarding beating the Panthers consisted of this:  Get a time machine, go back to 2006, and sign Drew Brees.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 27, Jets 17.

Chiefs at Raiders

MDS’s take: Give Kansas City credit for consistency.  The Chiefs have been destroying bad teams all season long. They’ll do it again on on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 36, Raiders 17.

Florio’s take:  The Chiefs are locked in to the No. 5 seed.  The Raiders are locked in to irrelevance.  Advantage playoff team.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 27, Raiders 20.

Packers at Cowboys

MDS’s take: The Packers are pessimistic about Aaron Rodgers‘ chances, and that makes me pessimistic about the Packers’ chances. Although the Cowboys’ defense is bad enough that a Matt Flynn-led Packers offense can score some points on them, the Packers’ defense is every bit as bad, and a Tony Romo-led Cowboys offense will score more.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 31, Packers 28.

Florio’s take:  Jerry Jones said there’s no one he’d rather have running his defense than Monte Kiffin.  Maybe Jones meant to say he’d rather have no one running his defense than Kiffin.  Anyone could coordinate the Cowboys defense to hold down the Packers, if they again don’t have Aaron Rodgers.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 27, Packers 14.

Bengals at Steelers

MDS’s take: If Antonio Brown had kept his foot inbounds on the Steelers’ wild last play on Sunday, Pittsburgh would be right in the thick of the playoff race and this would be a very big game. Instead, the Steelers are all but eliminated, and the Bengals should cruise toward the AFC North title.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Steelers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals roll back into Pittsburgh with the better team and better prospects for the balance of the season and beyond.  The bigger question is whether Cincy can finally win in the postseason.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 17, Steelers 14.

Ravens at Lions

MDS’s take: The NFC North is wide open for the Lions, and yet the Lions aren’t playing like a team that wants to take it, with losses in three of their last four games even though they had fourth-quarter leads in all three. And yet I believe the Lions are going to show up on Monday night and make a statement against a Ravens team that is also fighting for a playoff spot.

MDS’s pick: Lions 24, Ravens 21.

Florio’s take:  The Ravens know how to get the playoffs.  The Lions know how to not get to the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 30, Lions 27.

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Marshawn Lynch visits Turkey, gives lengthy interview

Marshawn Lynch AP

Marshawn Lynch will gladly talk to the media. When he’s on a promotional tour of Turkey.

Lynch is in Turkey helping the organization American Football Without Barriers, and while he was there he sat down for a long interview with a Turkish sports network.

“I’m just here so I don’t get fined,” Lynch joked before getting serious about why he wanted to work at a Turkish youth football camp and help promote football in Turkey. Lynch said he sees the work he’s doing overseas as similar to his efforts to promote football in his hometown.

“With the camp, I do this back at home myself, in Oakland, California, and when I got the word they were doing something here, it gave me a chance to spread my wings. I hold a camp at home, like I said, with about 850 kids and it’s been growing. This is an opportunity for me to come out and spread my brand as well. I’m here, like I said, to spread football across the world and at the same time help people in need,” Lynch said.

Lynch joked that when someone at the football camp was working wanted to find out what it was like to get hit by an American football player, he decided to go “Beast Mode in Turkey” and run the guy over. But Lynch also said he was impressed with how quickly Turkish athletes were picking up the sport. And he shared some thoughts about how much football meant to him when he was a Pop Warner player and a high school player, adding that he’d like to give young people in his hometown and across the world the same opportunities.

The full interview (with Lynch, Browns tight end Gary Barnidge and Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams speaking English and a Turkish translator speaking over them) is below:

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Todd Herremans isn’t retiring

Herremans Getty Images

As noted in the Sunday one-liners, former Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans has said farewell to the fans of Philadelphia in the aftermath of his release.  But Herremans won’t be saying farewell to football.

Per a source with knowledge of Herreman’s plans, he fully intends to play elsewhere in 2015.  And he fully intends to be in another team’s starting lineup as a guard or right tackle on Week One.

A fourth-round pick in 2005 from Saginaw Valley State, Herremans has been a full-time starter since his second NFL season.  With the man who drafted Herremans a decade ago needing an upgrade at offensive line in Kansas City, it makes sense for Herremans to reunite with Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

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Rosters could expand to 55

Roster Getty Images

The Competition Committee’s annual pre-league meeting get-together includes, for 2015, examination of roster size.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Competition Committee is considering expanding rosters from 53 to 55.

Opposition to larger rosters previously came from the fact that more than a few teams were having trouble staying under a salary cap that was flat and/or “smoothing.”  In recent years, the salary cap has been increasing more quickly.  Coupled with the impact of the rookie wage scale on the market for veterans (many are paid less and less because quality rookies are cheaper than ever), there’s plenty of extra cash available under the cap to pay two more players per team.

The NFL Players Association would have a voice in roster expansion.  At one level, the union should welcome it; more roster spots means more jobs.  More jobs means more employees.  More employees means the union grows.

But more jobs under a hard cap means fewer available dollars per employees.  That said, expanding the pool of full-time workers from 1,696 to 1,760 shouldn’t have much of a total impact on employees sharing a maximum available annual payroll of more than $4.5 billion, and climbing.

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Stephen Tulloch “way ahead of schedule” in ACL rehab, hopes he stays with Lions

Stephen Tulloch AP

Linebacker Stephen Tulloch was lost for the season early in 2014 when he tore his ACL while celebrating a sack, but he said Sunday that he’s on track for a full return this year.

Tulloch told Alex Marvez and Zig Fracassi of Sirius XM NFL Radio that he’s “way ahead of schedule” in his return from the knee injury and that he feels like his knee may be stronger than it was before he got hurt. He also said he hopes that he’ll be back playing behind defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh next season.

That may be about more than just the Lions re-signing Suh. Tulloch, who has a cap hit of $5.8 million, was asked about the possibility that the team might look in his direction to provide more money to put toward signing Suh. He said neither he nor his agents had heard anything from the team to suggest he won’t be there for the start of offseason workouts.

“I hope I am [back with the Lions]. I hope my body of work speaks for itself,” Tulloch said. “I’ve put a lot of work in this team and I’ve been there through it all. It’s the first time in my career I’ve ever been on this side with the unknown, but I know the organization will do what’s best for them.”

The Lions would save $3.2 million by releasing Tulloch, something that seems like an option after they had one of the best defenses in the league with Tahir Whitehead starting in Tulloch’s place last season.

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Keeping secondary intact would cost the Pats a fortune

revismccourty AP

With free agency starting next week, the Patriots are in an interesting position: They can keep the three best players in their secondary but spend a fortune, or they could take the frugal route and risk losing Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty and Brandon Browner.

The good news for the Patriots is that they have the choice to keep both Revis, McCourty and Browner, if they want to. Revis is under contract for 2015, and the Patriots can pick up his deal by paying him a $12 million roster bonus on March 9. Browner is under contract for $5.5 million in 2015, of which $2 million comes in a roster bonus next week. McCourty becomes a free agent on March 10, but the Patriots can keep him by using the franchise tag. McCourty has indicated that if the Patriots franchise him, he’ll sign the one-year, $9.6 million franchise tender.

The bad news for the Patriots is that picking up the second year on Revis’s contract would give him a $25 million cap hit for 2015. No other cornerback even has a cap hit of $15 million for 2015. Revis is great, but is he so great that the Patriots want to spend $10 million more on him than the Cardinals are spending on Patrick Peterson, and $13 million more than the Seahawks are spending on Richard Sherman or the Browns are spending on Joe Haden?

Throw in the $9.6 million for McCourty and the $5.5 million for Browner, and the Patriots would be spending more than $40 million on three players in their secondary.
Last year the Packers paid more for defensive backs than any other team, at $26.6 million for the 11 players in their secondary. Do the Patriots really want to blow up their cap to such an extent that they’re paying $14 million more than that just for the top three players in their secondary?

Maybe they do. But if they do, it’s a departure from the Patriots’ longtime practice of emphasizing depth and spreading the wealth around their roster, rather than spending a lot of money on a few key players. The Patriots have some big, and potentially expensive, decisions to make by next week.

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A.J. Smith announces his retirement

A.J. Smith Pic Getty Images

When A.J. Smith announced that he wouldn’t be back for a third season as a consultant in the Redskins front office, he said he and his family were going to discuss what was next after three decades in the NFL.

Smith announced the result of those discussions is his retirement.

“We had a family discussion and an actual voting process. It was unanimous!” Smith wrote in an e-mail, via Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego. “… We have experienced incredible highs and lows in our 38-year ride. At the age of 66, it’s time for me to enjoy my family and friends more than ever before. I will now get going on my long-awaited bucket list.”

Smith joined the Redskins after his 10-year run as the General Manager of the Chargers came to an end. Smith’s teams went to the playoffs in five of his first seven years in the job, but only advanced as far as the conference title game once before three years out of the postseason brought his time in San Diego to an end. The Chargers won 95 regular season games and three times in the playoffs while Smith was in charge.

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Rex’s Bills need a quarterback, and Sanchez and Vick are available

sanchezvick AP

When Josh McCown became available as a free agent, the first team to be linked to him was Buffalo, where the Bills are in need of a veteran quarterback. When McCown spurned the Bills and signed with the Browns, that left a hole that the Bills will need to fill elsewhere.

Buffalo traded away this year’s first-round draft pick to move up and draft Sammy Watkins last year, so we can forget about the Bills finding a starting quarterback in the draft. Which means the Bills — whose only quarterback under contract is EJ Manuel — will have to sign a veteran free agent quarterback.

And that raises a question: Will coach Rex Ryan bring in one of his old quarterbacks with the Jets, Mark Sanchez or Michael Vick? Both Vick and Sanchez become free agents next week, and the Buffalo News names them among the quarterbacks the Bills could sign.

The problem with that line of thinking, of course, is that neither Sanchez nor Vick played very well for Ryan. Sanchez was sent packing by the Jets after failing to improve over four seasons as their starter, while Vick had a passer rating of 68.3, lowest since his rookie year, last season.

But there may not be any other options for the Bills. There simply isn’t a sure-thing starting quarterback available in free agency this year. The best the Bills can hope for is that there’s someone who might be able to beat out Manuel in a training camp competition. Sanchez or Vick could be that someone.

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Justin Forsett: I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder

Divisional Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots Getty Images

After six years of bouncing around the league as a backup running back, Justin Forsett made the most of his extended shot in the top job for the Ravens in 2014.

Forsett ran for 1,266 yards, caught 44 passes and scored eight touchdowns as Baltimore advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs. He did all that on a one-year, $730,000 contract that will leave him as a free agent in a little more than a week if he doesn’t re-sign with the Ravens.

Staying put is Forsett’s top choice and he’s “praying that everything works out” with the Ravens. Wherever Forsett winds up, though, he plans more of the same in 2015.

“I want to build upon it,” Forsett said, via the Baltimore Sun. “I want to be great. I didn’t come in this league to be a one-year wonder. Every time I got an opportunity I was able to seize it and I want to continue to do that.”

There’s a fairly deep group of free agent running backs that will be joined by a fairly deep group of backs in the draft, something that won’t help Forsett’s chances of getting out of the “friend zone” of short-term commitments from teams. The six years of toil before breaking out in a running back-friendly offense could also be a deterrent since Forsett won’t be able to prove he’s more than a one-year wonder until he’s already signed a deal.

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Jeremy Maclin on return to Eagles: If it’s supposed to happen, it will happen

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is coming up on the point when he’s going to have to make some big decisions about his future, but he didn’t sound like a man feeling too pressured by that predicament on Saturday.

Maclin said he felt “no rush” to get things settled because it is more important to get the right deal than to get something done quickly and he left no uncertainty about where he wants to sign that right deal. Maclin knows other teams will be looking for receivers, but is clear about his desire to remain with the Eagles and his no-stress approach to his impending free agency means that he’s not pushing too hard in the final days before free agency starts.

“I’ve always said I want to be here in Philadelphia, but I’ve also always said I understand it’s a business,” Maclin said, via the Philadelphia Daily News. “Both sides have made it known that we both want each other back, so the rest of it is in God’s hands. If it’s supposed to happen, it’ll happen. I want to be here.”

There’s not much sense out of Philly that the franchise tag is in play for Maclin, who signed a one-year deal with the Eagles around this time last year. Maclin was coming off an ACL tear then and proved he was healthy with a strong 2014 season that will leave him in demand around the league if things don’t work out in Philly. That may account for his unruffled exterior at this point in the process.

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Competition Committee considers dumping inactive lists for Thursday games

Thursday_Night_Football_logo

NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent said Saturday that the Competition Committee considered the proper handling of rosters for Thursday games.

Per a league source, the possible solution is the removal of the inactive list for Thursday Night Football.  If that happens, teams would dress all 53 players on Thursday night games, with no players on the inactive list.

It doesn’t mean that all 53 players would dress for every team in each Thursday night game; players too injured to play but not so injured to be on injured reserve won’t dress.

Presumably, this approach would apply to all Thursday games, including the trio of games played on the fourth Thursday in November.

It’s unclear whether the Competition Committee will recommend elimination of the inactive list for Thursday days.  Ultimately, the owners must vote on any changes to game-day rosters, with at least 24 of them agreeing.

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Jonas Gray determined to avoid inactive list in future

New England Patriots Vs. New York Jets At MetLife Stadium Getty Images

Patriots running back Jonas Gray experienced highs, lows and everything in between during the 2014 season.

Gray started the year on the practice squad, but was bumped to the active roster in October and became an overnight sensation by running for 201 yards and four touchdowns in a November victory over the Colts. Gray was late for practice one day the next week, which led to him being benched for the next game and the arrival of LeGarrette Blount meant he’d run the ball just 20 more times in the regular season.

Gray still led the Patriots in rushing yards for the year, but was inactive for both their playoff opener and the Super Bowl to make for a somewhat bittersweet ending to what had once looked like a breakout season. Gray told the Boston Herald that he’s determined to make sure that he doesn’t have to stand and watch from the sideline again in the future.

“The tough part for me was to watch it, and not participate in a matter I thought I should, and not be able to help change the outcome of the game; being helpful. But it’s motivation going into the offseason. I just know I need to work harder, so I’ll never get myself in that position again,” Gray said. “When people ask me about the offseason, I tell them, I’m going to have a Jerry Rice/Walter Payton mentality where whatever you do isn’t enough,” he said. “I’m going to have a work ethic where I know, in my heart of hearts, I’m going to outwork everybody. That’s what I hope to achieve.”

Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley are set to become unrestricted free agents, so there’s likely to be some changes to the makeup of the Patriots backfield. With Blount due back, though, Gray will have to prove he’s the better option for the weeks when the game plan calls for a lot of running.

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Dan Quinn: Hopefully Sean Weatherspoon will be “big part” of our defense

Sean Weatherspoon AP

Injuries have limited linebacker Sean Weatherspoon to seven games in the last two seasons, but that didn’t stop General Manager Thomas Dimitroff  from calling him “an important part” of the Falcons earlier this month.

Dimitroff’s comments came just after Dan Quinn had officially become the team’s head coach and the intervening weeks don’t seem to have created a difference of opinion in the organization about Weatherspoon’s future. The former first-round pick is set to become a free agent on March 10, but Quinn gave a similar answer to Dimitroff when it came to how he’d like to see things play out.

“With him, it’s that toughness and the speed that he can play with so, yes, definitely someone that we’re talking to,” Quinn said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “I know he’s got that kind of attitude. And you know me, just from watching our style of defense, it’s fast and physical. And that’s what Sean is. So, we’re certainly hoping that he can be a big part of it moving forward.”

Quinn admitted to some concern about Weatherspoon’s injury history, but called it a “string of bad luck” and said that the team is “excited to find out” if Weatherspoon is capable of playing at the same level he was at before his injuries. That uncertainty should keep Weatherspoon’s price on the reasonable side, which is good for a Falcons team with plenty of work to do to get their defense where it needs to be.

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Lions shouldn’t tag Suh

Suh Getty Images

With the list of franchise-tagged players due to be finalized on Monday, one name never should be on it:  Ndamukong Suh.

During Friday’s (maybe Thursday’s, probably Friday’s) PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, I harped repeatedly (to the undoubted delight of the audience) on the potential consequences of investing $26.8 million for one more year of service from Suh.

The biggest problem is that it would guarantee only one more year of service from Suh.  At $26.8 million for 2015, the only way to keep Suh off the market in 2016 would be to pay him 20 percent more than $26.8 million.  That’s $32.16 million.

Our friend Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press argues that the Lions nevertheless should tag Suh and then try to sign him to a long-term deal.  However, guaranteeing Suh $26.8 million for 2015 and setting him up for $32.16 million in 2016 makes the logical starting point for any negotiation on a long-term deal $58.96 million fully guaranteed for the first two years.

That’s the problem with using the tag; the amount of the tag in the current year and the expected amount of the tag in the next year becomes the starting point for a long-term deal.

So if the Lions are going to keep Suh, they need to rule out the franchise tag and put together an offer that will match or exceed the package that the Raiders or Jaguars or some other team looking to make a franchise-transforming cannonball into the free-agency pool will put together.  While it won’t be cheap to win the Suh sweepstakes on the open market, it won’t nearly be as costly as a long-term contract with $26.8 million as the starting point.

That’s why the Lions should have made it clear from the moment the two sides decided to table negotiations until after the season that there’s no way the franchise tag was ever being used.

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Competition Committee explores banning chop block

Blocking Getty Images

For years, pro football has allowed cut blocking.  One type of cut blocking is chop blocking.  And chop blocking now may be going the way of the dodo bird, Ray Rice, and the “how many fingers?” concussion test.

At their Saturday meeting in Naples, Florida, the NFL’s Competition Committee discussed getting rid of the chop block completely.

“The chop block has been banned from both the high school and college game,” NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent recently wrote.  “We have a generation of players coming to the NFL who never used the chop block, yet they may be expected to initiate this technique that could result in a career-ending injury.  We strongly need to consider removing this technique from the game.”

A chop block occurs when two offensive players attempt to impede a defensive player with a high-low technique.  One hits the defender above the waist, while the other strikes him in the thigh or lower.

The first reaction by some (like me) may be, “Wait, I thought the chop block already was banned?”  It most situations, it is. Rule 12, Section 2, Article 3 identifies three specific circumstances where the chop block is permitted, in running plays only.

First, two players initially aligned next to each other on the line of scrimmage may do it.  Second, two players not initially aligned next to each other may do it if the flow of the play is toward the block.  Third, two players may do it if one player was initially aligned in the backfield and hits the defender low while another player is blocking the defender high, as long as the action occurs outside the area initially occupied by the tight end on either side of the line.

Cut blocks (i.e., blocks at the thigh or below) have received plenty of criticism in recent years for the risk of knee and other leg injuries they create.  At a time when the NFL has obsessed over protecting certain offensive players from potential head injuries, defensive players rightfully have complained that the NFL has no regard for their below-the-waist safety.  Eliminating the chop block completely would confirm that the NFL has decided to take the issue seriously absent the same political pressure, liability, and/or threat to the future supply of football players that concussions present.

Some would say the cut block should be completely eliminated from the game.  That viewpoint overlooks the reason for its addition to football in the first place.  With football players coming in all shapes and sizes based on their vastly different roles and responsibilities, a small player typically can only impede a much larger player by taking him out at the legs.

If the NFL takes out that maneuver entirely, the league may see the current balance between offense and defense slide away from the current preference for the gaining of yards and the scoring of points.  To anyone who nevertheless wants to see that happen, maybe the fair tradeoff would be to eliminate the tackling of a ball carrier by diving at his knees.

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Sunday morning one-liners

Darrelle Revis AP

Perusing quarterback candidates for the Bills to add this offseason.

Wayne Diesel has been named sports performance director for the Dolphins and Dennis Lock was promoted to director of analytics.

What will the Patriots do regarding CB Darrelle Revis?

Don’t expect QB Michael Vick to be back with the Jets.

A couple of tight end possibilities for the Ravens to consider.

Are the Bengals planning more cuts for cap purposes?

The Browns’ winning bid for QB Josh McCown shows how shallow the pool of available quarterbacks is this offseason.

The Steelers have been able to consistently find receivers to plug into the offense.

Have we seen the best that Texans DE J.J. Watt has to offer or can he still improve?

Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star thinks it is unlikely that the Colts trade for RB Adrian Peterson.

The Jaguars believe they need to generate more pressure to generate more turnovers.

Nashville wants better communication with the Titans on issues having to do with LP Field.

On Demaryius Thomas and other wide receiver-related free agency topics for the Broncos.

Former Chiefs CB Gary Green will be enshrined in the team’s Hall of Fame this year.

The playbook that then-Raiders coach Jon Gruden used for a 1998 minicamp is available for viewing.

Forecasting Chargers WR Seyi Ajirotutu’s chances of re-signing with the team.

The Cowboys could shop for another backup quarterback.

Does the No. 9 pick give the Giants leverage in contract talks with DE Jason Pierre-Paul?

Todd Herremans said farewell to Eagles fans after his release from the team.

One of DL Ricky Jean Francois’s first tasks after signing with the Redskins was learning what “HTTR” means.

There are plenty of free agent prospects for the Bears to look at this month.

The Lions like the growth they saw from CB Darius Slay in 2014.

There’s not much reason for the Packers to let OL Don Barclay go as a restricted free agent.

What’s next at left guard for the Vikings?

QB T.J. Yates is likely to remain with the Falcons.

Will the Panthers have room for DT Colin Cole in 2015?

A position-by-position look at what the offseason could bring for the Saints.

QB Vinny Testaverde looks back at the last time the Buccaneers had the first overall pick.

UCLA QB Brett Hundley is from Arizona and would love to play for the Cardinals.

G Justin Blalock could be a player under consideration by the Rams.

A look at what WR Stevie Johnson’s exit would mean for the 49ers’ offseason plans.

Sorting through offensive line needs for the Seahawks.

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