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Wes Welker returns from concussion with new helmet

AP

For the most part, Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker looked like his old self in Sunday’s 24-17 victory over the Chargers.

He caught six passes for 38 yards and a touchdown while also drawing a pass interference penalty that helped the Broncos drive for another touchdown in the second half. It wasn’t a perfect game, Welker had a drop in the first half, but the only way you’d know something was different about Welker was by looking at his helmet.

Welker returned from his concussion with a bigger helmet worn in hopes of providing more protection against another head injury.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a concussion helmet,” Welker said, via the Denver Post. “It’s the next size up. A few players in here wear one. It’s something they had me wear for safety.”

The look is reminiscent of the one favored by the Great Gazoo, but looking a bit like a thorn in Fred Flintstone’s side is a small price to pay if it means avoiding a third concussion of the season and another absence from the lineup. With Welker emerging from the game unscathed, questions about his new helmet should give way to questions about facing his old teammates pretty quickly.

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Drew Pearson visits PFT Live on Monday

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Later this week, we’ll be lining up some of the biggest NFL newsmakers emerging from the 2017 draft. Before start talking to the folks who made the biggest picks, we’ll talk to the guy who made the biggest stir.

Cowboys legend Drew Pearson joins PFT Live on Monday morning, days after turning Philly on its ear with a defiant embrace of some of the loudest non-Commissioner boos ever heard at the draft.

Also joining the program will be former NFL head coach and long-time assistant coach Kevin Gilbride, and NBC Sports draft analyst Josh Norris.

The show gets rolling at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio, with the simulcast starting at 7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN. If you miss the show live, you can joins the hundreds of thousands who download the podcasts and who check out specific chunks of the show via video clips embedded at PFT and elsewhere.

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NFL needs to change its rules regarding undrafted free agents

AP

As the draft wraps up each year, one of the most underreported stories arises from the rampant negotiations conducted and wink-nod agreements reached between players who may not be drafted and teams that want to sign them as free agents. It’s a blatant violation of the rules that goes unenforced and essentially ignored by the league, with every team rushing to strike deals with undrafted free agents while they still may be drafted by another team.

One league source estimated that 90 percent of all UDFA deals were unofficially finalized before the 2017  draft ended. The frenzy puts extra pressure on players and agents to accept the terms or risk having teams move on to other candidates.

It’s similar to the process that unfolds during the early hours of the free-agency negotiation period, when teams insist on knowing whether a given player will agree to terms with a threat/promise that they’ll move on to the next guy on the list. It prevents players from making the best decisions possible, forcing them to either accept a job that may not be ideal at the risk of losing the chance completely.

The problem could easily be fixed, if the league office cares enough to make the process more orderly. By simply preventing any undrafted players from being signed for 48 or 72 hours after the draft, agents and players would have a chance to weigh options. Likewise, teams would have less incentive to launch an unseemly land rush while picks are still being made.

It remains to be seen whether the NFL will ever change the rule. Based on past circumstances involving different rules that were widely broken without consequence, maybe the league will wait to catch one team doing that while every team is doing, make an example out of that team with suspensions and forfeited draft picks, and then finally change the rule.

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NFL teams have revised the draft trade chart

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When Jimmy Johnson took over the Cowboys, he developed a draft trade chart that revolutionized the way draft-day trades worked in the NFL. Johnson had such success with trades involving draft picks that other teams quickly copied the Cowboys’ chart, and soon every team was using it.

But that was a long time ago, before the salary cap and long before the rookie wage scale in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. The old chart doesn’t really fit in a league where teams have a finite amount of cap space and have to consider how each rookie’s contract will fit under that cap. As a result, teams have developed a new trade chart.

Seahawks General Manager John Schneider said his team has a new chart, updated this year because this is the first year when compensatory picks can be traded. Schneider also indicated that the Seahawks know other teams around the league are valuing picks the same way.

“It’s based off of that, but now being able to trade compensatory picks, [Seahawks V.P. of Football Administration] Matt Thomas and a bunch of guys got together from different teams and put a new chart together so we’re following that now but it’s based off the same principle. It’s a scale,” Schneider said.

Teams don’t make their charts public, but Rich Hill of PatsPulpit.com tracked every pick-for-pick trade that has been made in the NFL since the adoption of the new rookie wage scale in 2012 and used those trades to put together a new chart that shows how teams value picks under the new system. The Seahawks made three trades during this year’s draft, and those trades closely aligned with Hill’s chart, suggesting that chart closely matches the new chart the Seahawks and other teams are using.

Trades don’t always perfectly align with the chart because teams are sometimes willing to overpay to move up for a player they love. But the new chart is usually a good indication of what teams can expect to get in a trade of picks. It’s Johnson’s innovation from three decades ago, updated for today’s NFL.

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Trubisky gets his welcome to Chicago

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Plenty of Chicago fans didn’t like the decision to move from No. 3 to No. 2 in round one to get quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. On Friday night, they got a chance to express their views during the Celtics-Bulls game.

Via ESPN.com, the crowd began to boo when the speakers at the United Center played the Bears’ fight song and images of Trubisky from the draft were shown on the video screens. Once, however, the crowd realized Trubisky was actually at the game, cheers emerged through the booing. The Chicago Sun-Times described it generally as a mixture of boos and cheers.

The fans have nothing against Trubisky personally; how could they at this point? Many hate the decision to draft him, which is odd given that the alternative is an unproven veteran who’s getting $15 million per year after two years of sitting behind a No. 1 overall pick that his performance helped the Buccaneers earn.

For now, Bears fans need to realize that the organization thought enough of Trubisky to make the move for him. Given that the team really hasn’t had a true franchise quarterback since Sid Luckman underscores the importance of trying to get one, and G.M. Ryan Pace was willing to stake his job on Trubisky becoming that which the Bears haven’t enjoyed in decades.

If Pace is willing to take that kind of risk for Trubisky, the fans should at least wait to see what he does on the field before directing dissatisfaction in his direction.

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Bills were wise to wait until after draft to clean out front office

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Many have criticized the Bills for waiting until after the draft to fire G.M. Doug Whaley and the entire scouting department. While the franchise has done plenty of things in recent years that merit criticism, this wasn’t one of them.

The end of the season is the best time to fire a coach, and the conclusion of the draft is the best time to move on from a G.M. Plenty of teams fire the G.M. at the end of the season due in part to an effort to appease the fans and quiet the media. This overlooks the fact that the G.M. has done plenty of work in preparation for free agency and the draft, and that a new G.M. would in some respects be starting from scratch.

Sure, if the team regards the G.M. as worthy of being fired, his work isn’t worthy of being trusted. But what’s the alternative, especially when the entire scouting department is going to be gutted?

The Bills could have done what the Colts did, hiring a new G.M. while keeping the scouts in place through the draft. But that could have made a dysfunctional situation even more dysfunctional in Buffalo, especially if the scouts realized that the hammer eventually would fall. (And, obviously, they knew it was coming as of last week.)

It seems that, ultimately, the Bills have decided to press the reset button on the front office not because of skill but to clean out the dysfunction. The team itself isn’t horrible, which is a testament to the people who built it. While Whaley indeed whiffed on big decisions like drafting EJ Manuel and giving up two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick for Sammy Watkins, the roster isn’t lacking for talent.

The circumstances suggest that something beyond substantive football decisions was going on. The refusal of owner Terry Pegula to discuss the reasons for the decision to fire Whaley bolsters that perception.

So if it’s not about the work, why not let Whaley keep working until the work related to free agency and the draft is done?

Compare that approach to what Washington did with G.M. Scot McCloughan, dumping him before free agency and allowing him to carry away his research and evaluations, which then were used to assist other teams as a consultant. By keeping Whaley around, the Bills kept Whaley and his scouts from assisting other teams.

Now that the draft has ended, the Bills can move on. The only problem is that the new G.M. may not have hired the fairly new head coach. Which could eventually set the stage for even more dysfunction, culminating in the new G.M. wanting his own coach — unless the new coach ends up being stronger than the usual G.M.

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Colts cleaning house in college scouting department

AP

With the draft over, Colts G.M. Chris Ballard is telling some of his college scouts their services will no longer be needed.

Colts director of college scouting T.J. McCreight and others in the scouting department have been fired, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Former Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson hired McCreight shortly after Grigson took over the front office in 2012, and it’s no surprise that Ballard doesn’t want to keep Grigson’s guys around.

The Colts are the second team to make significant change in their personnel department today, with the Bills firing G.M. Doug Whaley and others in their scouting department.

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Bills owner Terry Pegula not explaining why he fired Doug Whaley

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The Bills fired General Manager Doug Whaley today. Bills owner Terry Pegula doesn’t want to explain why.

“We have certain aspects we need to get a little better in,” Pegula said, in about as generic a comment as an owner could make about the decision to fire a G.M.

Via ESPN, when Pegula was asked what those “certain aspects” are, he declined to answer.

“I need to keep that private,” he said. “I don’t want to discuss that publicly.”

It’s been clear since shortly after new head coach Sean McDermott was hired in January that McDermott was making more decisions and Whaley was seeing his authority diminished. Pegula said in January that he thought it was insulting that people were describing the Bills as a dysfunctional front office, but that didn’t stop widespread discussions in March that Whaley was on the way out.

Now Whaley is officially out, but Pegula still doesn’t want to explain what, exactly, went wrong on this franchise that has seen so much turmoil this offseason.

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Clemson wideout Artavis Scott among Chargers undrafted additions

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The Chargers started their draft by selecting Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams and they ensured he’ll have a familiar face in the position group by agreeing to terms with one of his college teammates.

Wide receiver Artavis Scott is one of the 15 players who will be joining the Chargers as undrafted free agents. Scott had 76 catches for 614 yards and five touchdowns last season, but joins a deep group with Williams, Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin and Dontrelle Inman on the depth chart.

The Chargers were bandied about as a landing spot for a quarterback in the draft, but the only addition at that position came when they agreed to terms with Jacksonville State’s Eli Jenkins. Jenkins threw for 2,107 yards while completing just under half his passes and ran for 984 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.

Missouri tight end Sean Culkin, Florida Atlantic center Dillon Deboer, BYU cornerback Michael Davis, Western State running back Austin Ekeler, South Florida linebacker Nigel Harris, Georgia Southern kicker Younghoe Koo, Kansas State linebacker Mike Moore, Notre Dame linebacker James Onwualu, Rutgers wide receiver Andre Patton, Kansas cornerback Brandon Stewart, Wake Forest cornerback Brad Watson, Ohio State wide receiver Dontre Wilson and South Carolina tackle Mason Zandi are the other new additions.

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Rams agree to terms with 11 undrafted free agents

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The Rams drafted eight players during the 2017 draft and then agreed to terms with 11 more players who were not selected over the seven rounds in Philadelphia.

The Rams didn’t draft any offensive linemen, but two members of the undrafted group play up front. Washington guard Jake Eldrenkamp and New Mexico State center Anthony McMeans will join the competition on a line that added a pair of projected starters in free agency.

Four defensive backs were also part of the group. UCLA’s Ishmael Adams, Arkansas’ Jared Collins, Missouri’s Aarion Penton and N.C. State’s Dravious Wright will join third-round safety John Johnson as new members of the secondary.

Colorado State linebacker Kevin Davis, USC running back Justin Davis, Oregon tight end Johnny Mundt, Dartmouth linebacker Folarin Orimolade and Ohio defensive tackle Casey Sayles make up the rest of the group.

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John Lynch: “It’s looking like” we’ll pick up Jimmie Ward’s option

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When 49ers General Manager John Lynch was asked about safety Jimmie Ward’s 2018 option before the draft, he didn’t give an indication about which way the team was leaning but he had more to say about what they’ll do once the draft ended on Sunday.

The 49ers didn’t draft a safety until the seventh round and the one they did — Adrian Colbert — played corner at Miami last year. Whether that was what caused them to make a call on Ward or not, Lynch said the option will likely be exercised by Wednesday’s deadline.

“Yeah, it’s looking like that,” Lynch said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “[I] had no clue when you guys asked me that the other day. I had no idea. I had been focused on the draft. But, [the question] made me go check.”

Ward is moving to safety this season and coach Kyle Shanahan liked what he’s seen in their limited time on the field during the offseason program. Ward should start alongside Eric Reid, who had his fifth-year option for 2017 exercised at this time last year.

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Steelers sign nine undrafted free agents

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There were plenty of players left undrafted when the seventh round ended on Saturday night and nine of them are now on the Steelers roster.

The team announced the signings on Sunday. The group includes Pittsburgh tight end Scott Orndoff, who will stay in town along with college teammate James Conner after the running back was selected in the third round. The Steelers did not draft a tight end during the draft.

Two other members of their undrafted group also spent time at Pitt in college. Running back Rushel Shell, who went to high school in Hopewell, Pennsylvania, played at Pitt for a year before transferring and ending his college career at West Virginia. They also signed Pitt defensive back Terrish Webb.

Mississippi State defensive tackle Nelson Adams, West Virginia defensive tackle Christian Brown, Indiana-Pennsylvania guard Ethan Cooper, Georgia Tech defensive end Francis Kallon, Louisville linebacker Keith Kelsey and Clemson quarterback Nick Schuessler, who backed up Texans first-round pick Deshaun Watson, round out the group.

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Jets on Sheldon Richardson, Calvin Pryor: We’ll see how it unfolds

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There were reports that the Jets were trying to trade defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson and safety Calvin Pryor at points during the draft, but both players remain on the roster with all seven rounds in the books.

Richardson trade talks were no surprise as the Jets also discussed moving the 2013 first-round pick before the trade deadline last season. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that a deal is still possible this offseason, but that his $8.1 million salary is a “sticking point” in talks with other teams.

General Manager Mike Maccagnan didn’t rule anything out when discussing Richardson on Saturday.

“Sheldon’s under contract,” Maccagnan said. “He’s part of our organization going forward. And we’ll see how things develop over time. But again, he’s under contract. Going forward that’s where we are with Sheldon. … There’s a whole offseason ahead of us here. We’ll see how it unfolds going forward.”

Maccagnan gave a similar answer about Pryor, who saw the Jets draft safeties in each of the first two rounds. Maccagnan said the team “will let this thing play itself out,” but he doesn’t see any reason they couldn’t hold onto Pryor and coach Todd Bowles used three safeties together when he was with Arizona.

“We have a bunch of packages where we play three safeties at one time,” Bowles said, via NJ.com. “We like to do that. We didn’t have the luxury last year, but we have that in our packages.”

The Jets have until Wednesday to pick up the 2018 option on Pryor’s contract, but it seems likely they’ll pass given the way the draft played out.

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28 players who entered the draft early went undrafted

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For a sure thing high draft pick like Myles Garrett, the decision to turn pro after three years of college football is an easy choice. For others, there are no sure things.

Of the 103 players who decided to enter the draft even though they had some NCAA eligibility remaining, 28 of them were undrafted and will now hope to catch on somewhere as undrafted free agents.

Those include some fairly well-known names from the college football world including Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans, Florida State receiver Travis Rudolph, Ole Miss receiver Damore’ea Stringellow and Clemson receiver Artavis Scott.

Here’s the full list via the Associated Press:

KD Cannon, WR, Baylor

Devin Childress, WR, North Park

Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech

Jeremy Faulk, DT, Garden City CC

Tarean Folston, RB, Notre Dame

Isaiah Golden, DT, McNeese State

Jermaine Grace, LB, Miami

Derrick Griffin, WR, Texas Southern

Titus Howard, DB, Slippery Rock

Tim Kimbrough, LB, Georgia

Jerome Lane, WR, Akron

Keevan Lucas, WR, Tulsa

Damien Mama, OL, USC

Deon-Tay McManus, WR, Marshall

Speedy Noil, WR, Texas A&M

Marcus Oliver, LB, Indiana

Aaron Peak, DB, Butler County CC

Devine Redding, RB, Indiana

Travis Rudolph, WR, Florida State

Artavis Scott, WR, Clemson

Ricky Seals-Jones, WR, Texas A&M

Garrett Sickels, DE, Penn State

Damore’ea Stringfellow, WR, Ole Miss

Charles Walker, DL, Oklahoma

Khari Waithe-Alexander, DE, Southern Illinois

Stanley Williams, RB, Kentucky

Joe Yearby, RB, Miami

Ishmael Zamora, WR, Baylor

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Report: Packers came close to trading Brett Hundley on Friday

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As the Packers added new players during the draft, they also looked to unload one of their current players.

Green Bay was shopping backup quarterback Brett Hundley and came close to making a deal on the second day of the draft, ESPN reports. There’s no word on which teams the Packers talked to or what kinds of offers they got, but the report says the Packers still believe they can get “much more” than a fifth-round pick for the quarterback they drafted in the fifth round in 2015.

Hundley has talent but hasn’t been able to show it off much while sitting behind Aaron Rodgers. His career stat line is 2-for-10 for 17 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception. Given that he hasn’t shown much of anything, it’s unclear why the Packers think teams would be higher on him in the trade market now than they were in the draft two years ago.

Hundley has two more years remaining on his rookie contract. Joe Callahan is the only other quarterback under contract to the Packers, although they have reportedly agreed to terms with undrafted free agent Taysom Hill.

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Browns got nine players for Carson Wentz, and they’re not done yet

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The haul of players the Browns have acquired with picks they got from Philadelphia in last year’s Carson Wentz trade is extraordinary, and it hasn’t even ended yet.

Cleveland sent the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft (along with a 2017 fourth-round pick) to the Eagles in exchange for Philadelphia’s first-round, third-round, and fourth-round picks in last year’s draft, Philadelphia’s first-round pick in this year’s Draft and Philadelphia’s second-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

With Philadelphia’s 2016 first-round pick, Cleveland traded down again and got Tennessee’s first-round pick and third-round pick, as well as Tennessee’s 2017 second-round pick. With Tennessee’s first-round pick, Cleveland chose receiver Corey Coleman. With Tennessee’s third-round pick, Cleveland chose offensive tackle Shon Coleman. With Tennessee’s 2017 second-round pick, Cleveland chose quarterback DeShone Kizer.

Cleveland packaged Philadelphia’s 2016 third-round pick and a fifth-round pick and traded them to Carolina for the Panthers’ 2016 third-, fourth- and fifth-round picks. With the third-round pick, Cleveland chose quarterback Cody Kessler. With the fourth-round pick, Cleveland chose safety Derrick Kindred. With the fifth-round pick, Cleveland chose offensive tackle Spencer Drango.

Cleveland sent Philadelphia’s 2016 fourth-round pick to Oakland for the Raiders’ fourth- and fifth-round picks. With the fourth-round pick, the Browns chose receiver Ricardo Louis. With the fifth-round pick, the Browns chose receiver Jordan Payton.

Cleveland sent Philadelphia’s 2017 first-round pick to Houston for the Texans’ first-round picks this year and next year. With the Texans’ first-round pick, the Browns selected safety Jabrill Peppers.

So the Browns now have nine players — Corey Coleman, Shon Coleman, DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler, Derrick Kindred, Spencer Drango, Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton, Jabrill Peppers — as well as the Texans’ first-round pick next year and the Eagles’ second-round pick next year, all for trading the opportunity to choose Wentz.

That’s an incredible haul. Also incredible is the possibility that Wentz will turn into a franchise quarterback, the Browns won’t find one, and Cleveland fans will be left wishing the Browns hadn’t made that trade.

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