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DeMarcus Ware gets elbow fixed, contract still an issue

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Medically at least, we now know what to expect from Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware.

According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, Ware had surgery on his right elbow, and is expected to be back at full strength before the start of the offseason program.

The elbow had bothered him the past two seasons, but every expectation is he’ll be fine moving forward. It was one of several problems he had last year, along with a quadriceps strain that cost him three games and parts of others, as he was held to a career-low 6.0 sacks.

The remaining question is what the Cowboys do with his contract.

He’s scheduled to count $16 million against the salary cap, and make $12.25 million this year. With Terrell Suggs re-working his deal with the Ravens this week, it would be reasonable for the Cowboys to try to adjust Ware’s numbers downward as well. But as of this week, there had been no such talks.

The 31-year-old struggled with the adjustment to a 4-3 defense as well as the injuries last year, and the Cowboys are nearing the time when they might have to make a hard decision with Ware.

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Bills fire General Manager Doug Whaley

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Doug Whaley is done.

Whaley, the Bills G.M. who had reportedly been on thin ice all offseason, was officially fired early Sunday morning.

“After a thorough review of our football operations over the past several months, Kim and I informed Doug this morning that we will be moving in a new direction,” Bills owner Terry Pegula said in a statement. “We have enjoyed working with Doug. He is a good person and we want to thank him for his work and commitment to our football team. This was my decision. It was not an easy decision but I believe it’s the right one for the future of the Buffalo Bills. Our search for a new general manager will begin immediately.”

Almost immediately after the Bills hired head coach Sean McDermott, there was talk coming out of Buffalo that McDermott and Whaley didn’t see eye to eye, and that Pegula sided with McDermott when the two disagreed. Pegula reportedly gave McDermott control of the draft, and now that the draft is over, Whaley is out.

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Ty Montgomery “absolutely” the starting running back in Green Bay

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The Packers went into the third day of the draft with three running backs on the 90-man roster.

They ended it with twice as many after drafting three running backs in the final four rounds. They took BYU’s Jamaal Williams in the fourth round, Texas-El Paso’s Aaron Jones in the fifth and Utah State’s Devante Mays in the seventh to increase their backfield options for the 2017 season.

For now, though, those players are only options for the No. 2 job on the depth chart. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Saturday that Ty Montgomery remains the starter after making the permanent move from wide receiver last season.

“Absolutely, [Montgomery] is our starting running back,” McCarthy said, via the Wisconsin State Journal. “The goal is to have the most competitive 90-man roster as you possibly can and you want that competition as high as it possibly can be in each position room. We obviously had some positions where numbers were not very high, and now after these three days, I think we have a competitive roster — a very competitive roster.”

Montgomery only carried the ball more than 10 times in a game three times last season and while that will likely change now that he’s working exclusively out of the backfield, he’s unlikely to turn into a one-man band in the backfield. That will leave room for the newcomers to contribute if they prove to be more intriguing options than Christine Michael or Don Jackson.

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Bears won’t pick up the option on Kyle Fuller’s contract

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The Bears started the draft weekend with a major surprise, but wrapped up business Sunday with something that was clearly #asexpected.

Via John Mullin of CSNChicago.com, the Bears said they were not picking up the fifth-year option on 2014 first-rounder Kyle Fuller.

Fuller didn’t play last year because of knee problems, and the Bears signed free agents Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper this offseason.

The Bears didn’t seem thrilled with Fuller’s efforts to come back last year, when the window was open for him to be activated from IR. Now, it’s reasonable to wonder how long he hangs around at all.

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More and more signs of changes in the air in Buffalo

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With the draft now over and Bills General Manager Doug Whaley nowhere to be seen, the speculation about his future in Buffalo is only ramping up.

Coach Sean McDermott was the lone voice throughout the draft process this weekend for the Bills, and when he came out last night, he was asked if he was prepared to give Whaley and the scouting staff a vote of confidence.

“Right now, I’m focused on this draft,” McDermott said, via Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News. “Honestly, I’m going to focus on this draft and what we have in front of us going on right now with this priority free agent market.”

He then added: “I will say, Doug and his staff did a phenomenal job.”

For a first-time head coach to even be commenting on the status of the G.M. probably tells you everything you need to know about the direction things are pointing in Buffalo.

But according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, Bills scouts and personnel men are being called in for a meeting this morning, with some anticipating major changes.

If Whaley or any degree of the staff is flushed out, the speculation will turn to Carolina, where McDermott spent his last six years. Panthers assistant G.M. Brandon Beane has been mentioned as a possibility, but he’s well thought-of there and they’d like to keep him if they could. He’s risen through the ranks there, and stayed on during the transition to G.M. Dave Gettleman, adding authority as time has passed.

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Ron Rivera again concerned about Kelvin Benjamin’s weight

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Weight problems are again affecting Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who said two years ago that Benjamin had shown up heavy to offseason workouts, said on Saturday that Benjamin is overweight again.

“He is a little heavy. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. We talked about what he has to do, and he’s done a great job,” Rivera said, via the Charlotte Observer. “Am I concerned? Yes, because he is heavy. I’m going to admit that right now. But is he working hard? Absolutely. He’s been there everyday and done the things we’ve asked him to do, and it’s all strictly on a voluntary basis.”

Benjamin has had weight problems going back to his freshman year at Florida State, and there has been talk that poor conditioning has led to hamstring injuries. Showing up overweight to offseason workouts again this year is not a good look for Carolina’s No. 1 receiver.

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Air Force players were led to believe they could head to the NFL

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On Saturday, it became publicly known that the Air Force has changed its policy regarding football players from the Air Force Academy with NFL opportunities, requiring them to spend two years on active duty before playing professional football. It was news to the Air Force players, too.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the players had been led to believe throughout the pre-draft process that they could join the NFL. As a result, they spent time and money training for the selection process. Air Force receiver Jalen Robinette even participated in the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine under the clear impression that he would be permitted to play in the NFL. Several other Air Force players went through the pre-draft process, including a Pro Day workout held at the Air Force Academy on March 21.

The players believed NFL opportunities could be pursued, and as recently as Thursday they continued to be under that impression. Most if not all became aware of the change through the Denver Post article communicating the sudden shift in Air Force policy.

Coaches aren’t happy. Apart from negatively impacting future recruiting efforts, the change comes after a new class of recruits signed up under the impression that they’d have a path to pro football, too, if they play well enough in college.

The situation could make for a somewhat awkward visit by Air Force players to Washington on Tuesday, where they will receive The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy from the Commander-in-Chief.

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Jerry Jones “very skeptical” of report Randy Gregory failed drug test

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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones indicated on Saturday evening that he didn’t believe the report that came out Saturday morning saying Randy Gregory has failed another drug test.

I would be very skeptical,” Jones said of the TMZ report, via the Star-Telegram.

Drug testing is handled at the league level, not at the team level, and it’s unclear how much information Jones has been given on Gregory’s situation. But Jones said the report’s claim that Gregory blew off NFL officials is incorrect, and that Gregory is working within the league’s substance abuse program.

“That’s just not right,” Jones said. “He is getting a lot of support. He is not void in any way. He’s got in my mind a better method of support than he had most of last year. I’m very comfortable with his support and we are trying to stay in communication with him.”

Gregory is suspended for the entire 2017 season, but Jones said the Cowboys remain supportive of Gregory and still hope he’ll play for them in the future.

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Jourdan Lewis: I’m completely innocent of domestic violence charge

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The Cowboys picked up three cornerbacks during the draft, including Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis with the 92nd overall pick.

Lewis is facing a July trial on a domestic violence charge stemming from a March incident in Ann Arbor. Lewis is accused of dragging his girlfriend across a room by the neck and holding her down on the floor during an argument and has been charged with a misdemeanor.

Lewis plead not guilty and said he was confident that the matter will be resolved in his favor.

“I completely think that all charges will be dropped and I think I will be exonerated from everything,” Lewis said, via ESPN.com. “I’m completely innocent. I believe that wholeheartedly. And I’m just going to have to see what happens in my next trial date.”

Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team had their general counsel Jason Counts involved in the investigation into Lewis’ case and they had an in-house reference on Lewis in safeties coach Greg Jackson, who was Michigan’s defensive backs coach in 2015.

Lewis will not face league discipline as the Personal Conduct Policy does not apply to players before they are drafted.

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Broncos make Chad Kelly Mr. Irrelevant

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Chad Kelly was far from irrelevant, as a guy who made plenty of plays, plenty of headlines and had a Hall of Fame uncle.

But now, he’s Mr. Irrelevant.

The Broncos took the injured Ole Miss quarterback with the 253rd and final pick of the 2017 NFL Draft.

He’s not going to be able to throw for at least two more months after undergoing wrist surgery earlier this month. And he was coming off a torn ACL suffered last season anyway, so it’s hard to tell how much he’ll be able to do anytime soon.

Kelly, the nephew of former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, was an accomplished passer but had issues off the field as well.

Now, he goes to a place where they have an established quarterback competition, with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch at the top of the depth chart.

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Jets’ Devin Smith out for season with torn ACL

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Jets receiver Devin Smith’s season is over before it started.

The Jets announced today that Smith suffered a torn ACL at the team’s first offseason workout and will miss the entire 2017 season.

It’s the same ACL that Smith tore in 2015, bringing his rookie season to an end. That injury lingered into 2016 and continued to affect him during his second season. And now his third season is over.

The Jets selected Smith with the 37th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Through three seasons, he has managed just 10 catches.

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Lions tab Brad Kaaya late in sixth round

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The Lions have taken a quarterback in the sixth round for the second straight year.

They selected University of Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya with the 215th overall pick. Jake Rudock was the 191st pick last year and was the only quarterback on the roster other than Matthew Stafford before the Kaaya pick.

That would suggest there’s a good chance that one of the two of them will be serving as Stafford’s backup for the 2017 season, although disappointing offseason work could give the team cause to look at a more experienced option.

Kaaya got a good review from current Miami head coach Mark Richt in the days before the draft and likely got one from Richt’s predecessor as well. Al Golden is now the Lions’ tight ends coach and one would imagine that Kaaya wouldn’t be in Detroit if Golden didn’t think he has something to offer the team.

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Jake Butt has no regrets

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Michigan tight end Jake Butt slid to round five round in the draft, due in large part to a torn ACL suffered during the Orange Bowl, his final college game. He has no second thoughts about the decision to play one more game.

“I’ll never regret playing in a football game in my life,” Butt told reporters on Saturday after being drafted by Denver. “I don’t play football because of the money or the fame or the hype or anything. I play football because it’s what I love to do. I was dedicated to my team at Michigan. I’m going to be a dedicated Denver Bronco, and it’s never going to cross my mind to sit out of a game because of money or any other possibility. I’m out there and I’m going to give it my all every time I step on that field. I still have absolutely no regrets, and again, I’m just happy it worked out like this because I’m a Denver Bronco.”

As to his much-publicized loss-of-value insurance policy, that according to ESPN will pay him $543,000, Butt says it’s not quite that simple.

“I’ve been following that insurance policy, and it’s really not completely accurate,” Butt said. “There’s a lot more that’s going into that than what’s being tweeted today. I really don’t know. It could be ‘X’ amount of dollars. It could be ‘Y’ amount of dollars. There’s so much more that will go into it than I’m able to understand right now, and that’s going to be something that I have to speak to with my agent and my dad and some lawyers about.”

He ultimately may need to hire some lawyers and direct those lawyers to file some lawsuits, because rarely if ever does an insurance company spit out huge money without red tape, delay, and/or multiple threshold efforts to deny or limit payment.

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Browns may eventually rescind the Caleb Brantley pick

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Leave it to the Browns to find new ways to do things in the NFL, while still mastering the time-honored trend of losing many more games than they win.

After using a sixth-round draft pick on defensive lineman Caleb Brantley, who currently faces criminal assault charges, executive V.P. of football operations Sashi Brown said that the team is still investigating the situation, and that the Browns could release him based upon what they eventually learn.

It’s hard not to wonder whether the P.R. reaction from the selection will influence the final decision, regardless of what the team learns through its investigation. Even if the Browns conclude the kid is clean, he still could face prosecution, conviction, and incarceration.

Brantley allegedly punched a woman last week, rendering her unconscious and knocking out a tooth. Before the incident, the player was regarded as a potential first-round pick.

In 1996, the Patriots rescinded their rights to fifth-round defensive lineman Christian Peter after ownership became aware of his criminal history. There, the team knew everything it needed to know before making the pick.

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Despite battery charge, Browns draft Caleb Brantley

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If you’re willing to overlook off-field red flags, you can get first-round talent in the sixth round.

That’s what happened today when the Browns took Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley with the 185th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft.

As recently as a week ago, some projections had Brantley going in the first round. But then came word that Brantley had been arrested for allegedly punching a woman, knocking her unconscious and knocking her tooth out. Brantley is facing a misdemeanor battery charge, and many teams took him off their draft boards because of it.

The Browns, however, still think Brantley is worth the risk. They just added a talented football player, but it remains to be seen whether he’s a player who’s going to be a bigger problem off the field than he is an asset on the field.

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Bucs happy with Doug Martin’s trajectory, add back in fifth round

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The Buccaneers used two of their first three draft picks on offensive players, but they veered away from predictions that they would add a running back in the first two days of the draft.

Doug Martin is suspended for the first three games of next season and has no guaranteed money left on his deal as a result of the suspension, leading some to think they’d prepare to move on from him during the draft. General Manager Jason Licht had positive things to say about Martin on Friday night when he was asked about not picking a back, however.

“We’ve been happy with the trajectory that he’s on. I’ve said that before but it’s true,’’ Licht said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “He’s had the right mindset and we still have some time there. But just two years ago, he was the second-leading rusher in the NFL. You know, we like Jacquizz [Rodgers] and Charles [Sims] and Peyton [Barber]. Sometimes people seem to think that’s a [need]. In the building, we feel comfortable with our guys and that includes Doug.”

That group of running backs got a little bigger in the fifth round when the Bucs drafted Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols. McNichols ran for 3,046 yards and 43 touchdowns over the last two seasons and added 88 receptions, something that lumps him in with tight end O.J. Howard and wide receiver Chris Godwin as draft picks who could aid Jameis Winston.

Whether that will be enough to push Martin, who also went to Boise State, or another of the backs off the roster remains to be seen, but Tampa has given itself another option out of the backfield.

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