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Wes Welker will miss Sunday’s game

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The Broncos will go at least another week without wide receiver Wes Welker.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports that Welker will miss Sunday’s game at Houston. It will be the second consecutive game Welker has missed after suffering a concussion on December 8.

Denver’s offense missed Welker in last week’s loss to the Chargers, but the Broncos are wise to take it slowly with Welker’s recovery. The best course of action would seem to be to hold him out both this week and next, and hope to win both games without him. That would allow Welker to continue to recover through the wild card round of the playoffs, and he could then return for the divisional round on a month’s rest.

Welker, who has suffered two concussions this season, has 73 catches for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns.

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Mickey Loomis: No Malcolm Butler discussions “for quite some time”

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Earlier this week, Peter King of TheMMQB.com reported that the prospect of trading for Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler and giving him a new contract had become “less attractive” to the Saints than it had been at other points this offseason.

Saints coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis have both been asked about Butler during media sessions this week and neither one said anything to rule out the possibility of a trade. They didn’t say anything that made it seem likely to happen either.

Payton said that nothing is “imminent” on Tuesday and Loomis said Wednesday that the topic hasn’t been on the table for the team recently.

“We haven’t really had any discussion for quite some time,” Loomis said, via the New Orleans Advocate. “Look, he’s their player. So, we’ll see how that evolves.”

King reported that the Saints don’t want to part with any of their three picks in the first two rounds in a deal for Butler. That could possibly change if things unfold differently than they expect when the draft gets rolling on Thursday night, but it certainly seems like Butler’s chances of leaving New England for New Orleans are slim.

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Jets waive five players

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Rookies will be flooding NFL rosters over the next week as teams make their draft picks and sign players who aren’t selected over seven rounds of selections in Philadelphia.

For some teams, that means they will need to clear space on their 90-man roster to make room for new arrivals. The Jets did just that on Wednesday.

The team announced that they have waived five players. Running back Brandon Burks is the only one with any regular season experience with the team. Burks spent time on their practice squad last season before being promoted to the active roster for the season finale. He ran the ball twice and lost four yards in a 30-10 victory over the Bills.

Wide receiver Darius Jennings also spent time on the Jets’ practice squad last year while defensive lineman Julien Obioha spent the year on injured reserve. Linebacker Jeff Luc and long snapper Josh Latham both signed with the team this year.

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Report: Jahri Evans signing with Packers

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The Packers have said goodbye to a pair of guards in the last year with the release of Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang joining the Lions as a free agent, but they are reportedly bolstering their options at the position with the addition of another veteran.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the Packers are signing Jahri Evans.

Evans has played for the Saints for the last 11 seasons, although he did spend last offseason with the Seahawks before being released and returning to New Orleans. He started every game for the Saints after making that return to the roster and has 169 career starts in the NFL.

There was a recent report that members of the Packers coaching staff were unhappy about Lang’s departure, which left them with Don Barclay, Kyle Murphy and Lucas Patrick as options at right guard. With Lane Taylor coming off a year as the starter on the other side, Evans will presumably join that group and leaves the Packers with a less pressing need to add help at the position in this week’s draft.

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Browns say they’ve known the No. 1 pick for two weeks

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It’s the season of smokescreens and horsesh-t, so why not throw some more of it onto the pile?

Browns executive V.P. of football operations Sashi Brown tells Mike Silver of NFL Network that the Browns know who they’ll be taking with the No. 1 overall pick, and that they’ve known it for two weeks.

This contradicts recent reports that the Browns were still debating whether to take defensive end Myles Garrett or quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the first pick, and it makes the effort by ESPN to trumpet Warren Sapp’s opinion that Garrett shouldn’t be the pick a waste of time, in hindsight.

This all assumes that Brown is telling the truth at a time when few do. The reason for something other than the truth is obvious; if the Browns keep the pick, they need to create the impression that everyone was and is on the same page, even if they recently weren’t.

Look for the Browns to conceal the identity of the pick for as long as possible, in the event that they trade the selection. If they do, and if no one knows who they wanted at No. 1, they can claim with a semi-straight face that they got at a lower spot the guy they would have taken at No. 1.

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Gareon Conley calls allegations “untrue, wrongful, and malicious”

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Former Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, who faces a rape accusation only one day before the draft, has responded with a strongly-worded statement reiterating the denial previously articulated by his lawyer.

The six-paragraph statement comes under the headline “Statement of Gareon Conley Regarding Untrue, wrongful, and Malicious Allegations.” It reads as follows, in full:

“The allegations against me concerning the night of April 8/9 that have recently been reported in multiple media outlets are completely false. I did not commit a crime and have not been charged with a crime.

“I pride myself on doing things the right way on and off the field. The things being said about me and what happened that night are not true and don’t fit my character at all. I realize that I put himself in the situation and I could have used better judgment. However, I have worked tirelessly to put myself in position to have the honor of being an NFL draft pick and these untrue allegations are putting a huge cloud over my name and the NFL Draft.

“These allegations appear to be an attempt to ruin this once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and my family. There were several witnesses including another female, who were present the entire time and have given statements that give an accurate account of what took place. I am upset but realize that I am powerless when false accusations are made and people try to convict you in the court of public opinion. It’s sad that your neighbor can get dragged through the mud based upon untrue and malicious allegations alone.

“I am completely confident that as the facts actually come out my name will be cleared.

“I was excited about participating in Thursday’s draft but I have decided it would be selfish of me to stay and be a distraction to the NFL, the other players, and their families who have worked just as hard as me to enjoy the experience so I will not be in attendance.

“I hope and look forward to the honor of being an NFL player and working to be the best representative, player, person, and teammate I can be for the team and the community I will be in.

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Dan Skuta visits with Patriots

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The Patriots had offensive lineman Brandon Fusco in for a visit on Wednesday and he isn’t the only cap casualty from this offseason that stopped in for a meeting.

Field Yates of ESPN.com reports that former Jaguars linebacker Dan Skuta was also at the team’s facility.

Skuta signed a five-year deal with the Jaguars as a free agent before the 2015 season, but was dropped after two years in a move that gave the Jaguars $4.1 million in cap space. He appeared in 26 games for the team over his two years in Jacksonville and recorded 58 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble over that span.

Skuta showed a bit more pass rushing punch while recording five sacks for the 49ers in 2014 and would give the Patriots an experienced depth option for the coming season if he does land a deal in New England.

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Bills scouts bracing for a post-draft house cleaning

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Although plenty of teams react to a bad season by dumping front-office employees in January, the more sensible approach is to wait until after the draft. That’s when the bulk of the work has ended, and it also prevents the scout from taking to a new team the fruits of the labor performed on the prior employer’s nickel.

In Buffalo, there’s a belief that the Bills will be making extensive moves in the front office when the draft concludes. Per a league source, the team’s scouts are bracing for job changes after the draft. As one scout explained it, “We are all getting fired next week.”

In response to that claim, the Bills provided to PFT the following statement: “Right now, our focus is on the preparation for this week’s draft. Like every year, evaluations of our player personnel staff take place following the draft. And this year will be no different.”

The Bills fired coach Rex Ryan late in the regular season, replacing him with Sean McDermott. Various reports and rumors have indicated that G.M. Doug Whaley could be on the way out.

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John Ross shrugs off durability concerns

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Washington wide receiver John Ross was projected to be a first-round pick throughout his final college season and his record-setting 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis didn’t do anything to lessen those expectations.

Mike Mayock of NFL Network suggested recently that concerns about Ross’ health could lead to a longer-than-expected wait to hear his name called in Philadelphia, however. Ross has dealt with several knee injuries over the course of his career and Mayock reported that teams have dropped Ross down or completely off their draft boards as a result.

During an appearance on PFT Live, Ross said that he believes such concerns are overblown.

“Well there was a lot of reports saying a lot about my knees where I had a sprained MCL, I had two torn ACLs,” Ross said. “Well all that’s kinda true. I just tore my ACL and tore my right meniscus and I played a whole season without it bothering me, without me having to sit out or come out of a game because of my knees or anything. I think the biggest thing was just my shoulder which I previously got fixed and that’s kinda what I was worried about. My knees fell great, they feel better than before I tore them so I’m not worried about that and I think with the world we live in today there’s a lot of great doctors, there’s a lot of great trainers and a lot of good technology you know. So I think it’s much different than before where I can’t get treated for something or if I’m feeling a certain way I can’t get treated for it so I’m really not worried too much about that. You know it’s football everybody is gonna get wear and tear no matter if you tore your knees before or not so I don’t think durability will be that much of an issue if I stay on top of it and take care of my body.”

Even if 31 teams have downgraded Ross, it just takes one for him to wind up as a first-round pick. We’ll know in a little more than 24 hours if that’s the case.

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Report: Davis Webb could entice teams to trade into late first round

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With the annual desperation for quarterbacks about to manifest itself again, it’s time for he annual surprise at a guy getting drafted higher than anyone anticipated.

This time, it might be Cal’s Davis Webb.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, there’s some thought that a team might trade back into the first round to take Webb.

He cites one national scout who said Webb has “Dak-like intangibles,” and there are only a few problems with comparing him to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.

First, Prescott was a fourth-round pick who no one knew was anything other than an intriguing project before Tony Romo got hurt. Second, “intangibles” is a common misspelling of “Ezekiel Elliott and the best offensive line in football.”

Other than the inherent silliness of comparing players to guys they don’t share many traits with, there’s something to it. Webb has gained many fans throughout the process because of his work ethic and other coach-on-the-field qualities.

And with more teams looking for quarterbacks than quarterbacks available, he could stand to benefit.

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Trent Dilfer, Danny Kanell among ESPN layoffs

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As the bloodbath continues at ESPN, two former NFL quarterbacks have lost their jobs. Trent Dilfer and Danny Kanell both revealed that they were let go in today’s massive ESPN layoffs.

“Laid off by ESPN today. Although sad cause I loved my job, mostly filled with gratitude and appreciation for the nine years,” Dilfer wrote on Twitter.

Kanell also confirmed that he’s been let go.

“Poured my heart and soul into ESPN for last 8 years. Moved my wife and 3 kids to CT to go “all in” 5 years ago. Bummed it ended in 3 minutes,” Kanell wrote on Twitter. “But totally get it. All part of a business that is rapidly changing. Thankful for the opportunity I was given and people I got to work with!”

After spending 14 seasons as an NFL quarterback, Dilfer covered the NFL for ESPN for nine seasons. Kanell, who spent seven seasons in the NFL, has co-hosted a radio show with Ryen Russillo for the last two years. Russillo is reportedly not being laid off but is having his role at ESPN reduced.

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Marshawn Lynch confirms he’s heading to Oakland

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The last time there were reports that Marshawn Lynch was on his way to officially joining the Raiders, Lynch threw cold water on them and said that he’d let us know when “s–t gets REAL.”

Wednesday morning brought more reports that the deal was done and this round included trade terms between the Seahawks and Raiders. Lynch, who was in Haiti this week, didn’t offer any immediate updates as to the veracity of those reports, but that ended with a tweet later in the day.

Lynch wrote “It’s time” on a tweet that also included a screenshot of a message that thanked Seahawks fans and confirmed that he was going to play in his hometown in his inimitable style.

“Yes Lawd 12th man I’m thankful but s—t just got REAL I had hella fun in Seattle … But I’m really from Oakland doe like really really really from Oakland doe … town bizzness breath on me.”

The Seahawks and Raiders will exchange third-day draft picks in 2018 and Lynch will reportedly have a base salary of $3 million with the Raiders with incentives that can push the deal as high as $8.5 million. Omar Ruiz of NFL Media reports that Lynch is at the team’s facility and took a physical earlier on Wednesday so a team announcement, which is unlikely to include the phrase “town bizzness breath on me,” may be coming soon.

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Jason Witten on extension: I will always take things a year at a time

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Former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said recently that he was glad to hear that Tony Romo retired and added that he wished the quarterback’s longtime target Jason Witten had made the same decision.

Witten’s offseason has things moving in the other direction, however. Witten signed a four-year extension to his contract with the Cowboys that leaves him signed through the 2021 season and said Wednesday that he’s “confident that I can play and continue to play” when asked about Parcells’ comments.

Witten also said that he’ll reevaluate that feeling each year to make sure he continues to feel that way.

“I think you always take it a year at a time,” Witten said, via the Dallas Morning News. “You always take that approach. But certainly I feel like I’m a part of this group that’s continuing to build. I never looked at it from the standpoint that, ‘Hey, this is the end.’ I know my role within that and this group and I’m anxious to get started. I don’t know how many years that entails but I certainly feel a big part of it.”

The deal Witten signed added no new guaranteed money, so the Cowboys won’t be left on the hook salary cap-wise in the event Witten’s confidence about his ability to play should dissipate before his contract has run its course.

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Patriots bring former Vikings blocker Brandon Fusco in for a visit

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Since the Patriots don’t really have anything to do draft-wise until Friday, they’re working on some free agency today.

According to Adam Caplan of ESPN, the Patriots are hosting former Vikings offensive lineman Brandon Fusco today.

Fusco, who can play center or guard, was a salary cap cut in February. They signed him to a big extension in 2014, but he had a down year last season which made him expendable there.

The Patriots traded their first-round pick to the Saints for wide receiver Brandin Cooks and swapped out their second to the Panthers for defensive end Kony Ealy and a third, so they won’t be on the clock until the 72nd overall pick, which should be late Friday night.

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Cardinals pick up Deone Bucannon’s fifth-year option

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Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon has been a starter in all three of his NFL seasons, so it’s no surprise that Arizona wants to keep him around.

The Cardinals officially picked up Bucannon’s fifth-year option today. That means Bucannon gets an $8.7 million salary for 2018, and that salary is guaranteed for injury, although the Cardinals could still choose to release him if he’s healthy.

Bucannon’s 2016 season was cut short by an ankle injury, but he started the first 13 games. He started all 16 games in 2015.

The cardinals took Bucannon with the 27th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

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ESPN’s layoff timing is odd

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ESPN has launched it’s long-expected layoffs, with the biggest news so far being that long-time NFL reporter Ed Werder has been let go. While the moves will presumably affect all aspects of the network and the sports it covers, the timing is odd.

Roughly 100 employees are being laid off only one day before the draft, which is one of the biggest annual events for ESPN. The three-day affair will result in millions consuming ESPN television, radio, and online content. And it’s all happening one day after what will be the biggest one-day exodus of talent in the history of the network.

Regardless of the reasons for the departures (and in any business where revenue is dramatically shrinking, costs must be slashed), making the moves right now makes it a head-scratcher. Perhaps the thinking is that the moves will be noticed less than they would have been given the pendency of the draft, and that the intensity of the draft coverage will make the audience forget by Monday that the layoffs even happened.

The real question is whether the audience even cares. People in the media do because people in the media know many of the people who are being affected by these moves, and they can sympathize/empathize with the situation. At an operation like ESPN, however, people come and go all the time without the average consumer even noticing.

Despite the timing, it’s a sad day for many ESPN employees and their families. It’s also a reminder that every media entity is a for-profit operation. If not enough profit is being generated for those who hold the equity, reductions will have to be made.

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