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Report: O’Brien wants to reduce his NFL buyout

OBrien AP

It’s old news that Bill O’Brien’s contract at Penn State has a two-tiered buyout.  It’s new news that O’Brien wants yet another buyout.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, discussions have occurred to reduce the buyout even further than its current levels.

Prior reports indicated that O’Brien’s contract has a $7.73 million buyout for an NFL team, with a price tag of $13 million if he were to leave for another college job.  Schefter pegs the numbers at $6.48 million and $11.08 million, respectively.

Regardless of the specifics, it would be far cheaper for an NFL team to secure O’Brien’s services.  It could still be more than any NFL owner would want to spend, especially since the NFL owner would also have to pay O’Brien — and possibly buy out an existing head coach.

As a result, it makes sense that O’Brien would want to drive the number down.  But what would be in it for Penn State?  If the number was going to be lower, it should have been lower in the first place.  Absent some consideration flowing to the Nittany Lions, there’s no reason to make it cheaper for O’Brien to leave the program in a lurch.

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Report: Terrell Thomas signs with Seattle

Victor Cruz, Terrell Thomas AP

The Seahawks lost cornerback Walter Thurmond to the Giants as a free agent, costing them a bit of depth that they may fill with a player who used to play for the Giants.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that the Seahawks have agreed to terms on a contract that will bring Terrell Thomas to Seattle. The move reunites Thomas with Pete Carroll, who was the head coach at USC while Thomas was playing for the Trojans.

Thomas returned from two seasons lost to a pair of torn ACLs in the same knee to play in all 16 games for the Giants in 2013, starting seven times and recording one sack, one interception and one forced fumble over the course of the season. It was a fairly remarkable comeback given Thomas’ injuries, which followed another torn ACL in the same knee earlier in his career.

He worked out for a few teams over the course of the offseason, but no one bit until Seattle took the plunge on Monday. The Seahawks have Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane back from last season, and there’s been positive reviews of 2013 fifth-rounder Tharold Simon after he missed his rookie season with an injury.

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Patriots snag Tyler Gaffney off waivers from Panthers

Belichick AP

The Panthers didn’t really need sixth-round running back Tyler Gaffney this year anyway, so when he was injured recently, stashing him on IR made sense.

But the Patriots had other ideas.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Patriots claimed Gaffney off waivers, even though he needs season-ending knee surgery.

It’s similar to their 2012 claim of injured Giants tight end Jake Ballard, meaning one of these days those unwritten rules are going to have to be written down.

It also means the Panthers are out the draft pick and the $96,600 signing bonus they gave him, since the Patriots only pick up his base salaries.

And the fact that Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman was with the Giants during the Ballard claim makes it more egregious, that they lost a guy they drafted because they had to have Fozzy Whittaker the next three weeks.

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Report: No timetable for Cordy Glenn’s return, but expected in time for season opener

Justin Houston, Cordy Glenn AP

The Bills have not provided much information about the illness that has forced tackle Cordy Glenn to miss all of training camp thus far, but whatever’s troubling him does not look like it will keep him out of the lineup into the season.

Tim Graham of the Buffalo News reports via a team source that the Bills expect to have Glenn back in time for the start of the regular season. The source added that the team would be “shocked” if Glenn wasn’t able to play in at least one preseason game, but resisted sharing any information about what’s wrong with the left tackle.

Graham points to the team not adding any help at left tackle as a sign that they feel confident that Glenn will be back in action in time for the season. He also reports that seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson, whose draft stock was hurt by character questions, has “held down the fort quite well” in Glenn’s absence.

Glenn, a 2012 second-round pick, has started all 29 games he’s played for the Bills in his two-year career.

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Colbert can’t envision scenario where Roethlisberger would leave Pittsburgh

Ben AP

Probably because franchise quarterbacks without serious injury questions (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees) rarely if ever change teams, few have taken notice of the situation in Pittsburgh, where Ben Roethlisberger is grossly underpaid and the team won’t do anything about it until 2015 at the earliest.

The situation has prompted speculation that the two sides may not be able to work out a new contract next year, which would compel the team to pay more than $22 million to keep him under the franchise tag in 2016 and more than $26 million in 2017.  Which eventually could prompt the Steelers and Roethlisberger to go their separate ways.

G.M. Kevin Colbert doesn’t see that happening.  In fact, he’s gone all in, telling reporters, “I don’t see any circumstances where Ben does not finish his career here,” via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

While it remains probable if not highly likely that Roethlisberger will remain in Pittsburgh, circumstances definitely exist where Ben moves on.  What if he gets injured this year or next year and the Steelers aren’t willing to make a huge financial commitment to keep him, a la the Colts and Manning?  What if Ben won’t accept the team’s best offer on a new deal for 2015, forcing the team to use the franchise tag until the price gets so high that they can’t afford to do it?  While $22 million for 2016 could be stomached, $26 million for 2017 gets a little pricey.  By 2018, when Ben would be the same age Manning was when he left the Colts (36), and the price tag for one more year will shoot to $38.1 million for one season.

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger would have made more than $70 million on a year-to-year arrangement.  If he’s willing to continue to bear the injury risk, why not let it play out that way?

So, yes, there’s a way that dominoes fall that will lead to Roethlisberger walking away.  Given the zeal with which Steelers fans follow the team, both sides need to tread lightly for fear of catching the blame for an eventual divorce.  And, ideally, to ensure that as few Steelers fans as possible realize that a divorce, while still far from likely, could indeed happen.

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Dolphins sign two new linemen, cut Gerald Ford

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The Dolphins offensive line is one big construction zone, so why not shuffle the deck a little more the first few days into camp.

The team announced they had signed veteran Tony Hills and Steven Baker, who apparently are an upgrade over the camp bodies they have.

Hills has kicked around a bit, spending time with the Steelers, Broncos, Colts, Bills and Raiders, playing in 10 games with one start.

To make room for the new blockers, the Dolphins released tackle Michael Phillip and wide receiver Gerald Ford, who was signed in June.

With the bounty scandal in their recent past, there was no way they could avoid the bad publicity that came with pardoning Richard Nixon.

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Emmanuel Sanders: Peyton is a far better leader than Ben

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Emmanuel Sanders arrived in Denver this offseason after four years in Pittsburgh. He immediately noticed a big difference between Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.

Sanders said on 104.3 The Fan in Denver that Manning’s leadership and determination to win goes far beyond that of Roethlisberger or any other teammate Sanders has ever had.

“I feel like Peyton is a far better leader, in terms of staying after practice, catching balls, wanting guys to get on the same page with him, things of that sort,” Sanders said. “This is the first time that I’ve had a quarterback that every single day after practice — no matter what his accolades, NFL MVP, Super Bowl ring — he keeps guys like me and [rookie receiver Cody] Latimer after practice. . . . He’s not one of those guys you’ve got to chase down. He’s going to be right in the same spot, ready to work, every single day. I just feel like that’s a difference from a mental standpoint.”

Sanders said he views Roethlisberger as a winner, too, and he enjoyed their time as teammates. But he’s enjoying his time with Manning even more.

“I’ve got so much love for Ben,” Sanders said. “At the same time, I’m not going to lie. I’m happy to be part of this organization and happy that Peyton is my quarterback.”

Those comments will surely be received better in Denver than in Pittsburgh.

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PFT on NBCSN covers lots of ground in first show back

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The riders in that Tour de France thing covered plenty of ground in Europe during the last three weeks, knocking Pro Football Talk on NBCSN off the air in the process.  In our first show back after the annual cycling hiatus, we’ll climb back on the tricycle and pedal like hell for 60 minutes.

With co-host Dave Briggs, Ross Tucker (I didn’t mention him in an earlier post about the show returning, and he undoubtedly noticed and was miffed about it), Kevin Gilbride, and Brian Westbrook in studio and yours truly firing up the remote location in West Virginia, we’ll get you caught up on the biggest news of the day, and we’ll take a close look at the Seahawks and Texans as the best and worst teams from a year ago launch training camp.

Briggs and I also will do the fast-moving daily whiparound, which he’s never done and I haven’t done in 25 days so it’s destined to go flawlessly.  Speaking of things that won’t go without a hitch, the poll question focuses on the future of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who rightfully wants his new franchise-quarterback contract now and who won’t be getting it.

Answer the question then tune in at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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49ers say they’ll try to extend both Michael Crabtree and Mike Iupati

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers appear willing to do business with those who will do business with them.

According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said the team wanted to try to extend both guard Mike Iupati and wide receiver Michael Crabtree before they become unrestricted free agents next spring.

We’re going to try,” Baalke said. “We’re going to work at it, certainly. But at some point, you got to stop negotiating deals and let these guys concentrate on playing football. I don’t know what point that is. We’ll make that determination as a club.

“But we’re certainly going to work toward that goal. Those are two very good football players, and guys we’d love to have in this organization for the long term.”

They can tag one or the other next offseason if they choose, buying time. Then again, Maiocco points out they’re not particularly close to deals for either Crabtree or Iupati, so at this point it’s just talk.

But talking about extending good players is also a way of extending a finger, perhaps the one in the middle, toward holdout guard Alex Boone.

 

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MRI reveals bone bruise for Kelvin Benjamin

Kelvin Benjamin AP

The Panthers were optimistic that wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin would avoid bad news from the MRI on his left knee that was scheduled after Benjamin banged knees with another player during Sunday’s practice.

Benjamin didn’t get a totally clear bill of health after his trip into the tube, but the diagnosis fell well short of the worst case scenario.

Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that coach Ron Rivera said that the tests showed a bone bruise and that the timetable for his return to the field would be measured in terms of days rather than weeks. Rivera added that there is still some swelling around the knee, but that it is structurally stable.

The news is good for the Panthers offense, which looks like it will be relying heavily on the first-round pick to make plays for Cam Newton this season. Benjamin will need all the practice time he can get in order to make a quick enough transition to the professional ranks for that to happen, so the news will be even better if it is just a couple of days before he’s back in action.

 

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Lions table Suh contract talks until end of season

Ndamukong Suh AP

Lions coach Jim Caldwell thinks that the team will be able to get a deal done that keeps defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in Detroit, but it won’t happen before the start of the regular season.

It won’t come during the regular season, either. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that Lions president Tom Lewand said on Monday that the team was putting contract talks with Suh on hold until after the end of the regular season.

Lewand and General Manager Martin Mayhew both said they thought a deal could still get done, although the timing has obviously changed and the decision to call off talks for now suggests the two sides weren’t particularly close to reaching an agreement. The window to get an extension done at the end of the season will be short. One deadline they will face is the one governing the use of the franchise tag, something that neither man ruled out despite Suh’s price under the tag standing at a massive $26.9 million for the 2015 season.

That won’t be a factor if Suh doesn’t have a good season or if he gets hurt, but another strong year will make for some tough calls in Detroit come next winter. And those calls could lead Suh to another uniform for the 2015 season.

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Mario Manningham still lacking confidence in knee

Mario Manningham AP

Wide receiver Mario Manningham tore his ACL late in the 2012 season with the 49ers and finished last season on injured reserve because of continued knee troubles that still haven’t resolved themselves.

Manningham returned to the Giants this offseason as a free agent and said Monday that he’s not feeling as confident in the condition of his knee as he’d like to feel. He had the knee scoped in January and is “just trying to get back to where I was” while testing it out during camp.

“I know my knee [is] fixed,” Manningham said, via the New York Daily News. “It’s just confidence. It’s just me sticking the foot in the ground and going. So that’s like I say: every day it gets better and better.”

With Odell Beckham struggling to get past a hamstring injury, the Giants are short on healthy depth behind Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle right now. Should both injury issues linger deeper into the summer, the Giants may need to think about looking at outside options to provide them with a bit more certainty in the receiving corps as they try to form a group that will help Eli Manning complete 70 percent of his passes.

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Ware out with bruised leg bone

Ware AP

Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware suffered a lower leg injury during practice on Sunday.  He was held out of practice on Monday, with coach John Fox calling it a bruised leg.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Ware actually has a bruised bone in his leg.  The source says that Ware nevertheless should be fine, and that the injury is not serious.

Ware has played through many injuries during his NFL career, which until this season had unfolded entirely with the Cowboys.  If healthy, Ware can make a big difference in the Denver defense.

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Raiders sign safety Jeremy Deering

Rutgers Scarlet Knights v Arkansas Razorbacks Getty Images

The Raiders added an extra safety on Monday, announcing the signing of rookie Jeremy Deering, an undrafted free agent from Rutgers.

Deering (6-1, 209) played 48 games (18 starts) for the Scarlet Knights, playing multiple positions. In 2013, he transitioned to free safety from wide receiver and started 10 games on defense. The 23-year-old Deering also has experience returning kickoffs.

Deering had a brief stint with the Patriots in May before being waived.

Deering is one of six available safeties on the Raiders’ roster. A seventh player at the position, Usama Young, is on the active/physically unable to perform list. Young has a quad injury.

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Jets’ Calvin Pace: We’re the best defense in the NFL

New York Jets v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Jets linebacker Calvin Pace says he’s part of the best defense in football.

“[Compared to] the rest of the defenses in the NFL? S—, man, we’re the best,” Pace told the New York Daily News. “You ask anybody around the league, we’re not the team you want to see coming in, even in a down year.”

A lot of people in Seattle (among several NFL locales) would disagree with that statement, but Pace believes opposing offenses fear coach Rex Ryan’s defense more than any other.

“There’s a certain type of aggression when we come . . . you know we’re going to come with a lot of stuff and teams don’t want to see that,” Pace said. “They want to see a vanilla defense, that just lines up and you know where they’re going to be. . . . I’ll take these guys and Rex and this system any day.”

If you’re keeping track of the Jets’ bold statements in training camp, Pace joins Dee Milliner proclaiming himself the best cornerback in the NFL, Ryan calling David Harris the most underrated linebacker in the NFL and Ryan describing himself as “a great coach.” (Ryan did modestly acknowledge that he may not be the best coach of all time.)

If the Jets are half as good as they think they are, they’ll be a playoff team.

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NFL paying attention to influence of high-stakes fantasy football leagues

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Risking money, whatever the amount, on the outcome of NFL games constitutes gambling.  Risking money, whatever the amount, on the outcome of the performance of specific players in NFL games does not constitute gambling.

Playing fantasy football for money isn’t gambling because Congress has decided that “an outcome that reflects the relative knowledge of the participants, or their skill at physical reaction or physical manipulation [but not chance], and, in the case of a fantasy or simulation sports game, has an outcome that is determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of sporting events” isn’t gambling.

Obviously, the same kind of skill needed to predict the winners of NFL games applies when projecting the performances of individual players.  In many ways, a fantasy football team resembles a convoluted parlay card, where the non-gambling gambler tries to compile a roster of players who will “win” more yards and points than the team put together by an opposing non-gambling gambler.

The hair-splitting and nonsensical distinction from Congress has made gambling on fantasy football as legal as gambling on stocks, which has spawned an industry that includes some very high-stakes fantasy leagues, some of which undoubtedly include NFL players.  But while it’s only a matter of time before word emerges of the involvement of NFL players in six-figure fantasy leagues, another potential complication could emerge when it comes to the non-gambling gambling of large amounts of money on fantasy football.

Peter King of TheMMQB.com explains that, during his training-camp tour, he has caught wind of “undue pressure some players and coaches feel from big-money fantasy-football players.”  Writes King, “I had one coach tell me there’s so much money in some of these fantasy-football playoff pools that people who used to gamble with bookies illegally are now gambling in high-stakes fantasy-football leagues, which is not illegal.” King adds that the “NFL has its antennae up over this, and it’ll be interesting to see if the pressure escalates to more serious threats on players or coaches.”

Interesting, and incredibly alarming.  Although physical threats against those responsible for poor player performances are possible, it seems more likely that those who would consider breaking the law to express displeasure in losing large amounts of money would be far more inclined to break the law in order to win large amounts of money.

In what would be a bizarre twist on point shaving, coaches and players could in theory be bribed to ensure that certain players will generate significant production, or that certain players will be shut down.  Getting to coaches and assistant coaches who control the offensive game plan would be the most efficient approach.  It also would help to grease defenders who would be inclined to slip on an invisible banana peel, springing a specific player for a touchdown or two.  Or four.

The league, which generates significant profit and attention both directly and indirectly from fantasy football, should be concerned about the potential for corruption.  Even if playing fantasy football for significant amounts of money isn’t illegal, at a certain point the money in the balance will open the door for all sorts of illegal activity.

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