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What should the other tagged players do?

Worilds Getty Images

Now that Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy has put pen to paper and accepted an offer to make $13.116 million guaranteed in 2014 under the franchise tag, the other tagged players (three franchise, two transition) need to decide what to do about their own situations.

So let’s give some free advice (money-back guarantee) to the remaining five guys who have decisions to make.

The options are simple — sign it now, sign it later, sign it in September.

Browns center Alex Mack:  Sign it now.

The little-used transition tag allows Mack to negotiate with other teams and to sign an offer sheet elsewhere.  If the Browns don’t match, Mack joins the new team.  If the Browns match, he gets that same contract in Cleveland.

But no one will be offering Mack a contract that averages $10 million per year.  So why not take the $10 million guaranteed for 2014 and hit the open market in 2015?

The Browns would have to pay Mack $12 million to use either the franchise or transition tag in 2015.  If they use either tag, Mack should immediately sign it then, too.

He’s a great center, but he’s a center.  The position doesn’t pay eight figures per year.

Once Mack signs his transition tender, it will.

Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds:  Sign it later.

Yes, $9.754 million represents solid one-year compensation for a guy who has made a total of $3.7 million during his four-year career.  But Worilds has a chance to fish for a long-term contract, possibly from a team that can front load a contract in a way the Steelers can’t match.

While the poison pill is dead, a new team with plenty of cap space can use a huge base salary or a gigantic roster bonus for 2014 to put the Steelers in a box.

Worilds should aggressively pursue an offer from another team early in the free-agency period.  If nothing acceptable comes within a week or so, he should take the $9.754 million before the Steelers rescind the tag, which would instantly create $9.754 million in cap space and thrust Worilds onto the market after the big money has been spent.

Jets kicker Nick Folk:  Sign it now.

The franchise player designation seems a little goofy for kickers and punters.  It becomes even goofier when considering the possibility of another team signing a franchise-tagged kicker or punter to an offer sheet and giving up two first-round picks.

Folk should take a page out of the Greg Hardy playbook and sign the franchise tender right now, taking the $3.55 million for 2014 and continuing to negotiate a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline.

For kickers, going year-to-year is easier to justify because the position entails a much lower injury risk.  Next year, Folk can hit the open market or get $4.26 million for another season with the Jets.

Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo:  Sign it later.

Tagged officially as a linebacker, Brian Orakpo may argue he’s actually a defensive end, dusting off the position taken by Terrell Suggs in 2008.  (The Ravens and Suggs eventually worked out a compromise on the value of the tag, and then agreed to a long-term deal the following year.)

Once Orakpo’s status is resolved, he should immediately sign the tender.  Washington’s hesitation to use the tag could later become a decision to rescind it.  If they decide to rescind it in April or May, Orakpo will have a hard time making $11.455 million as a linebacker or $13.116 million as a defensive end for 2014 on the open market.

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham:  Sign it in September.

Graham definitely should wait for the threshold question of whether he’s a tight end or a receiver to be resolved before even considering signing the tender.

Even then, he shouldn’t sign it — because someone else could decide to try to make a run at him.  Although few non-quarterbacks would justify a trade of two first-round draft picks, Graham’s availability could persuade a team with a late first-round pick (and likely to have a late first-rounder in 2015) to give it a go.

A coach and/or a G.M. who currently are feeling the heat to win may also consider trying to sign Graham after the 2014 draft, at which time the surrendered picks would come in 2015 and 2016.

The Saints are likely to give Graham the long-term contract he wants before the July 15 deadline for doing a multi-year deal.  If an acceptable agreement isn’t reached, Graham should still wait to sign, skipping training camp and the preseason and showing up as close to the start of the regular season as possible before inking the tender and getting the full amount of the contract with no penalties for holding out, since a guy can’t be fined for holding out if he’s not under contract.

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Panthers left tackle Michael Oher out with concussion

SAN JOSE, CA - FEBRUARY 02:  Tackle Michael Oher #73 of the Carolina Panther addresses the media prior to Super Bowl 50 at the San Jose Convention Center/ San Jose Marriott on February 2, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers have had some protection issues in losses to the Broncos and Vikings.

And in trying to buck that trend against a team far less able to pressure Cam Newton, they’re going to have to do it without left tackle Michael Oher.

The Panthers announced that Oher was out this week against the Falcons, with a concussion, which was presumably suffered in practice.

The Panthers will also be without running back Jonathan Stewart and defensive tackle Vernon Butler, but they knew that already. Defensive end Charles Johnson is questionable after a quad strain in practice.

But Oher’s absence will cause a big adjustment, as they’ll likely shift right tackle Mike Remmers to the left side and plug Daryl Williams in at right tackle. The alternative is using journeyman Donald Hawkins at left tackle and leaving Remmers in place, and coach Ron Rivera told reporters they’re still making a decision on how to progress.

The Falcons don’t have the same kind of pass-rush assets as other teams the Panthers have faced, but going in short-handed won’t help a team trying to even its record after a 1-2 start.

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Decker “week to week” with partially torn rotator cuff

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 15:  Eric Decker #87 of the New York Jets makes a catch against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at New Era Field on September 15, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker has a partially torn rotator cuff, Jets coach Todd Bowles told reporters Friday, and Decker will miss Sunday’s game vs. the Seahawks.

Bowles said Decker will be “week to week” going forward. The team plans to try rest and treatment now, but Bowles wouldn’t rule out Decker needing surgery later.

Decker has nine catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns this season.

Bowles also said rookie wide receiver/return man Jalin Marshall will be out at least few weeks with a torn labrum.

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TSA: No Josh Gordon incident at Cleveland airport on Thursday

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 30:   Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns is tackled by Aaron Williams #23 of the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 30, 2014 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The circumstances surrounding the sudden decision of Browns receiver Josh Gordon to enter rehab has sparked understandable speculation regarding the trigger for the move. Surely, something happened both to cause Gordon to abandon his imminent return to the Browns and to prompt coach Hue Jackson to slam the door on Gordon ever coming back.

Here’s what didn’t happen: Gordon wasn’t arrested, detained, or otherwise involved in an incident at the Cleveland airport.

Via Vince Grzegorek of ClevelandScene.com, a TSA spokesman says that Gordon went through airport security on Thursday without incident.

This directly contradicts — and has prompted the expungement of — a wildly inaccurate and illogical rumor/report that Gordon was caught with a pound (yes, a pound) of marijuana at the airport.

The story has popped up in plenty of places; Scout.com gave it real credence, but it has since deleted the story without acknowledgement or explanation.

The biggest problem with the story was that, if it were true, a public record would have been created. There was no public record or any incident involving Josh Gordon, which is the best confirmation that nothing happened.

That and, of course, the unambiguous statement from the TSA.

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Browns will list Haden as questionable

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 11: Wide receiver #10 Jeremy Ross carries the ball while cornerback Joe Haden #23 of the Cleveland Browns defends in the first quarter of a game at M&T Bank Stadium on October 11, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns will list starting defensive backs Joe Haden (groin) and Ibraheim Campbell (hamstring) as questionable for Sunday’s game at Washington.

Both missed last week’s game in Miami.

Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams will be listed as doubtful with a shoulder injury. Rookie defensive end Carl Nassib (hand), rookie wide receiver Corey Coleman (hand), center Cameron Erving (bruised lung), linebacker Nate Orchard (ankle) and rookie tight end Seth DeValve (knee) are out.

Browns Coach Hue Jackson wouldn’t say who he plans to start on the offensive line. He hinted earlier this week that he may move John Greco from center back to guard after guard Alvin Bailey was arrested for OVI earlier in the week. Austin Reiter, who was signed earlier this month from the Washington practice squad, would start at center if Greco moves back to guard.

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“Major concern” about Sammy Watkins’ availability moving forward

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13:  Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills carries the ball for a touchdown as Ed Reynolds #30 of the Philadelphia Eagles attempts to tackle him during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

Early last week, Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins said missing games because of his surgically repaired foot was “out the window.”

At some point after that, Watkins’ foot was stepped on in practice and now worry is mounting that Watkins’ season may be out the window.

Watkins didn’t play in last Sunday’s 33-18 win over the Cardinals and he has been ruled out again this week after failing to get on the practice field at all. Beyond that, Bills coach Rex Ryan said in his Friday press conference that there is “major concern” about Watkins’ availability as the season moves forward.

There were reports to that effect coming out of the first game of the season, although Watkins shrugged them off by saying that his foot was merely “tired.” He went on to play against the Jets in Week Two, but didn’t look like the same kind of downfield threat that he was in his first two seasons.

The Bills were able to adapt well enough to win without him last week, but the loss of Watkins would be a hard thing for them to overcome on a weekly basis while still winning enough to make a push for a long-awaited playoff bid.

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Marvin Jones practicing Friday and looks fine

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 11: Marvin Jones #11 of the Detroit Lions runs past Mike Adams #29 of the Indianapolis Colts during the second quarter of the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Detroit Lions at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL’s leader in receiving yards through the first three weeks of the season popped up on Thursday’s injury report with a hamstring injury, but it looks like Marvin Jones will be good to go against the Bears this weekend.

Jones returned to practice on Friday and multiple members of the media attending the session report that he looks fine on the field. Jones was not on the Wednesday injury report, suggesting he tweaked the hamstring at some point during Thursday’s practice, which created some cause for worry given the relative lack of time before Sunday’s game.

As long as there’s no other flareup later on Friday, it would seem that Jones will be in the lineup without any limitations. Jones has 18 catches for 408 yards and two touchdowns in his first three outings as a member of the team.

While Jones’ presence is good news for the offense, it looks like Detroit will be playing without defensive end Ziggy Ansah and linebacker DeAndre Levy again this week. Neither player is practicing on Friday, which will leave stopping the Bears’ low-octane offense to others on the Lions roster.

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Hue Jackson on Josh Gordon: “We need to close that chapter right now”

Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson, center, works the sideline during the first half of the team's NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) AP

The Browns were close to having an eligible Josh Gordon.

But now that he’s entered a rehab facility on the eve of being reinstated from his latest substance abuse policy suspension, the Browns seem to be over the entire situation.

“We’re moving on,” coach Hue Jackson said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “We need to close that chapter right now. . . .

‘I’m not going to answer any more questions about Josh Gordon. I’m done with it.”

While understandable, it’s also a stark approach considering how close Gordon seemed to be. Team ambassador Jim Brown has said this offseason he thought Gordon was on the right track. The Browns had tried to insulate Gordon as best they could, but are apparently tired of the effort involved.

For their troubles and a supplemental second-round pick, the Browns got 35 games, 161 catches, 2,754 yards and 14 touchdowns from Gordon. But he hasn’t played for them since December 2014, and it appears he may not again.

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Jerry Jones: Dez Bryant’s availability based on his ability to withstand pain

Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant smiles as he jogs back to the sideline after catching a pass for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) AP

Cowboys owner/noted orthopedist Jerry Jones has weighed in, and he’s not ready to rule out his star receiver.

Jones said during an interview on 105.3 The Fan, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, that he wasn’t sure if Dez Bryant was going to be able to play this week against the 49ers or not.

Jones called the situation “a pain thing,” which is the same way he described guard La’El Collins‘ toe injury. For what it’s worth, a source close to Collins denied that earlier this week.

Jones said he wasn’t surprised that an MRI of Bryant’s knee showed a hairline fracture, but wasn’t concerned about the prospect of doing more damage if he played.

It’s the ability to perform with pain,” Jones said.

While Jones’ medical credentials are unquestioned, his players might not appreciate the implication that they could just rub some dirt on it and suit up, since that seems to be his default response to injury questions this week.

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Emmanuel Sanders: If you think I’m a diva, I don’t mind

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 25:  Emmanuel Sanders #10 of the Denver Broncos carries the ball during the fourth quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Denver defeated Cincinnati 29-17. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

Heading into last Sunday’s game against the Bengals, Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said there was “some frustration” with the amount of balls being thrown to him and Demaryius Thomas in the first two weeks of the season.

The Broncos won both of those games, something Sanders noted as a factor keeping the frustration at a low level and something that others might have felt showed diva-like tendencies from the wideout. That’s label isn’t something that bothers Sanders.

“Hey, one thing, I don’t mind being a diva,” Sanders said, via ESPN.com. “I am a diva. I am a diva. I like winning ballgames, I like catching passes. Every wide receiver in the world likes to catch passes; every wide receiver in the world likes to put up points. After that game when the defense scored two touchdowns and you’re looking and [cornerback Aqib] Talib has more touchdowns and the defense is holding us down, we’re looking at ourselves and saying offensively that we have to step it up.”

Whether it was a case of a squeaky wheel getting some grease or the way the game played out, both Sanders and Thomas had big games in the 29-17 road win. They combined for 15 catches, 217 yards and three touchdowns in a performance that Sanders says shows what the offense is capable of doing this season.

“We can be dangerous,” Sanders said. “I think that’s the reason our articles last week said that Demaryius and me were frustrated, obviously because we know the potential of this offense. We know that we can have a balanced attack and we can go out and throw 300 yards and four touchdowns and we can also run the ball, too. We can rush for 150 yards. Obviously all of that comes with preparation out on the field and executing at a high level and maximizing our potential.”

The Buccaneers defense ranks around the middle of the pack in terms of both passing and rushing yards allowed, which should give the Broncos opportunities to make gains in both phases of the offense as they try for a 4-0 start to the season.

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Ditching marijuana ban would be good business for NFL

BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 13:  Activists demanding the legalization of marijuana prepare to march in the annual Hemp Parade (Hanfparade) on August 13, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. German proponents of cannabis legalization are hoping that the legalization in several states in the USA in recent years will increase the likelihood of legalization in Germany.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images) Getty Images

Pigs get fat, hogs got slaughtered, and employers who unreasonably try to run the private lives of their employees eventually pay for it.

Amid efforts to understand why the NFL’s TV audience is shrinking, there’s one reason that unnecessarily is keeping some of the best young players off the field: The Big Brotherish ban on marijuana use.

Whether it’s Josh Gordon, Justin Blackmon, Martavis Bryant, Randy Gregory, or any other player who has been or will be suspended for smoking marijuana or using other recreational drugs on their own time, the NFL’s effort to supplement the criminal justice system by punishing players who haven’t been arrested or charged with any crime deprives the game of talented players who could be making the game more exciting and compelling and competitive.

It’s one of several issues the league needs to consider when engaging in much-needed navel gazing regarding the reasons for the dip in ratings and the ways to change it. Apart from the reality that it’s the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do for the business of the NFL.

Don’t count on the NFL changing course spontaneously. Because the issue of marijuana use has become part of the broader menu of collective-bargaining topics, the league will want a concession from the NFL Players Association before ever walking away from the marijuana ban, even if it’s clearly in the best interests of the game to defer any concerns regarding the use of marijuana and other street drugs to the relevant legal authorities and/or the inherent meritocracy of the sport.

Put simply, if a guy doesn’t get arrested and can continue to perform at a satisfactory level regardless of whether he uses marijuana, he should be allowed to keep playing — and the league should want to do all it can to help him keep playing.

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Jaguars list Julius Thomas as questionable for Sunday

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks to elude Morgan Burnett #42 of the Green Bay Packers during their game at EverBank Field on September 11, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars are set to get a couple of players back in the lineup after they missed last Sunday’s loss to the Ravens, but it won’t be until Sunday morning that we know if tight end Julius Thomas will be ready to go against the Colts.

Thomas, who has 11 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown, was listed as questionable on the team’s injury report for Sunday’s game. He was a limited participant in Friday’s practice after missing the first two days due to an elbow injury.

Linebacker Dan Skuta is also questionable due to a hip injury. Defensive end Jared Odrick will miss another week with a tricep injury and tight end Ben Koyack has been ruled out with a knee issue.

Cornerback Prince Amukamara is set to play for the first time since the season opener as his hamstring injury cleared up enough for two full practices to close out the week. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum is also good to go after missing last week with a concussion suffered against the Chargers in Week Two.

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Bill O’Brien takes over playcalling in Houston

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 14:  Head Coach Bill O'Brien of the Houston Texans looks on during pregame warm ups prior to playing the San Francisco 49ers in a preseason game at Levi's Stadium on August 14, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The J.J. Watt injury diminishes the Houston defense, which puts more pressure on the offense. In response to that pressure, coach Bill O’Brien is rolling up his sleeves even farther.

Via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, O’Brien will assume responsibility for playcalling, from offensive coordinator George Godsey.

O’Brien called plays in 2014. Last year, however, O’Brien delegated the responsibility to Godsey. A slow start to the 2016 season, punctuated by a shutout last Thursday night against the Patriots, has prompted O’Brien to add the task to his existing responsibilities.

The move may be regarded by some as desperation. Regardless, O’Brien is doing what he believes he needs to do to turn around a team that has high expectations for 2016 — and that will be expected to perform well even without Watt.

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Colts rule Donte Moncrief and Darius Butler out for Jaguars game

Roy Helu, Donte Moncrief AP

The Colts are gradually getting healthier, but considering where they started from, it’s going to take some time.

Via Mike Chappell of FOX 59, Colts coach Chuck Pagano said that cornerback Darius Butler (hamstring) and wide receiver Donte Moncrief (shoulder) were out for this week’s game against the Jaguars in London, along with center Jonotthan Harrison (illness).

He wasn’t ready to make a declaration about offensive linemen Joe Reitz and Denzelle Good, saying there was still time to decide whether they’d be able to play.

The Colts have been playing with a patchwork secondary and offensive line all season, and could be in a position to activate four rookie offensive linemen this week.

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Sean Payton suggests Terron Armstead injury not a long-term one

Terron Armstead, Brett Ingalls AP

Saints coach Sean Payton doesn’t say much about injured players, but what he said about a healthy one gives some indication of how long a key absence might be.

Via Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Payton was asked if playing Andrus Peat at left tackle was related to a long-term injury for Armstead, and the coach “quickly said no multiple times.”

Asked for a timeline on Armstead’s return, Payton said: “I’ll keep you posted.”

Armstead missed the Week Three game against the Falcons with a knee injury, and hasn’t practiced this week. He’s been dealing with quad and knee problems since before training camp.

But Payton made it clear the long-term plan was to play Peat next to Armstead when he returns.

“When Terron comes back, he’s back at left guard,” Payton said of Peat during a conference call.

The 2015 first-round pick started the first two games at left guard, after they experimented with him at right guard during OTAs. But he’s more comfortable on the left so they moved him back to the left during the preseason.

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Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Robert Kraft buy a part of the UFC

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 02:  New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (L) and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Kraft Group and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft sits ringside at "Mayweather VS Pacquiao" presented by SHOWTIME PPV And HBO PPV at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 2, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for SHOWTIME) Getty Images

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Patriots owner Robert Kraft are now minority owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The talent agency WME-IMG recently purchased the UFC for $4 billion, and today the UFC announced that as part of that purchase, a number of athletes, entertainers and businessmen have bought small stakes in the mixed martial arts promotion.

“Our new investors bring an incredible depth of knowledge and experience to help us continue to elevate this brand and capitalize on its entertainment and sports crossover appeal,” UFC President Dana White said in a statement.

In addition to Newton, Brady and Kraft, minority owners of the UFC include actors Sylvester Stallone, Ben Affleck and Mark Wahlberg, late-night hosts Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel and tennis players Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Venus Williams.

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