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Panthers sign Roman Harper

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Veteran safety Roman Harper has left New Orleans but is staying in the NFC South.

The Panthers have signed Harper to a two-year, $4.5 million deal with a $1.5 million signing bonus, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

The 31-year-old Harper has played his entire career for the Saints, who selected him in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft. He was a two-time Pro Bowler in New Orleans, but last year age and injuries appeared to be catching up with him as he played in just nine games and started only five.

Carolina, however, has seen Harper plenty of times and still views him as a player with something left. He’ll be a veteran presence on a good Panthers defense.

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“Egregious” hits more likely to result in suspensions than ejections

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Introduced as a measure that will result in more ejections or suspensions, the reality is that the NFL’s new emphasis on eliminating certain “egregious” hits from the game will lead to enhanced suspensions.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the point of emphasis will apply to suspending the player who commits an egregious hit, even if it’s only a first offense. Game officials retain the ability to eject players for flagrant hits, but the Competition Committee prefers that suspensions be used instead, since mistakes will be less likely if the decision is made after a given game. A split-second decision by an official during a game is more likely to be wrong.

Also, the source said replay review will not be available to determine whether a hit was or wasn’t egregious. This will make officials even less likely to throw a player out for a hit that can be addressed by the league office after the game.

It’s a smart approach, given that officials already prefer not to eject players, for fear of impacting the outcome of the game. Focusing on suspensions permits for a more deliberate approach by everyone involved — and it also gives the player who is suspended a fair chance to appeal the process.

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Bruce Arians: David Johnson is “too young to overuse”

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Cardinals coach Bruce Arians confirmed on Wednesday that the recently re-signed Andre Ellington will be used as a wide receiver this season, which means that the team is still without a clear No. 2 running back behind David Johnson.

That doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for Arians. Johnson had 293 carries and 80 catches last season, which added up to the most touches of any offensive player in the league at an average of 23.3 per game. Arians said Wednesday that he’d like to see that number go up during the 2017 season because Johnson is “too young to overuse.”

“I want to have 30 touches out of him, if possible, because that’s going to be a lot of offense,” Arians said, via ESPN.com. “When he has his hand on the ball, either as a wide receiver, coming out of the backfield, in the slot, and running, that’s a lot of potential offense for us.”

Johnson’s age doesn’t preclude the kind of injury that would knock him out of the Cardinals’ lineup completely, although there’s just as much risk of that happening in the first week of the season as any other so it probably won’t dissuade the Cardinals from building on his role as the centerpiece of the offense. If he can stay healthy and Arians is able to get him the ball that often, Johnson may realize his goal of 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.

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Pete Carroll “anxious” to see Richard Sherman bounce back in 2017

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A day after General Manager John Schneider said the team listens to everything in response to questions about outside interest in trading for cornerback Richard Sherman, coach Pete Carroll did the same before adding that he doesn’t “see anything happening at all.”

While Carroll expects to have Sherman back in his familiar spot in the Seattle secondary, he also made it clear that he doesn’t want to see a replay of what happened during the 2016 season. Sherman had multiple sideline blowups at assistants during games, criticized offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and sparred with the media in what Carroll called “self-inflicted” issues that he hopes won’t stretch into next season.

“I’m anxious to see him come back,” Carroll said, via the Seattle Times. “I know there have been some issues and stuff. I’m anxious to see him handle everything and do really well and represent himself and his teammates in great fashion. … He’s a fantastic battler. The only thing that happened is that he didn’t come back, he didn’t re-set as he has. He always found his way to reset [in the past] and he kind of stayed on the edge throughout the season, which was very challenging for him. … So I’m hoping that things balance out moreso for him so that he doesn’t have to carry an additional burden of just trying to be one of the best players in the NFL that he is. So I’m expecting him to do a really good job. He always has. Sometimes the turnaround time just takes a little bit longer than others.”

A trade looks unlikely right now, but Sherman has two years left on the deal he signed before the 2015 season. That means there will be a decision coming about his future in Seattle before too much more time passes and the issues Carroll discussed on Wednesday will likely play a big role in it.

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Scott Crichton fails physical with Bills

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Scott Crichton will not wake up with the rising sun in Buffalo after a disclosure on his physical nixed his contract with the Bills.

The Bills announced today that Crichton, a defensive end who was claimed this week, will go back on waivers because he failed his physical.

A 2014 third-round pick of the Vikings, Crichton spent last season on injured reserve in Minnesota.

Crichton would have been no lock to make the Bills’ roster, and it’s unclear what his future holds. But for now he’s free for any team to claim, if there’s a team that thinks he can get healthy enough to make use of the talent that made him a third-round pick.

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Raiders expect Derek Carr extension talks to ramp up after draft

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The Raiders gained approval to move to Las Vegas in time for the 2020 season this week and they expect to step up efforts to make sure key members of the lineup are there for the move later this offseason.

It’s been no secret that the team is looking to extend the contracts of quarterback Derek Carr and defensive end Khalil Mack as they head into their fourth NFL seasons. General Manager Reggie McKenzie added fellow 2014 draft pick and starting right guard Gabe Jackson to the group while discussing why the team allotted less money to free agency this year and said talks with Carr should get more serious once the draft is out of the way.

“He knows what we’re trying to do in free agency, and he’s never saying, ‘I need to know now. It’s not like that,” McKenzie said, via CSNBayArea.com. “More likely, the serious talks will happen after the draft. The communication has been ongoing, just talking about the philosophy of a contract and the thought process around it. Hopefully when the serious talks start going, then it’s going to be easier.”

The Raiders have more time to work things out with Mack as the 2014 first-round pick’s contract contains a team option for the 2018 season that they don’t have with either Carr or Jackson. Keeping all three for the long term should be well within the team’s reach, however, and there’s little reason to think they won’t be in the lineup the first time the Raiders play a home game in Nevada.

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Report: Harrison Smith had ankle surgery

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Vikings safety Harrison Smith missed some time at the tail end of the 2016 season with a high ankle sprain, but was able to return to play in the final two games of the season.

That return to the field apparently didn’t mean that everything was hunky dory with the ankle, however. Adam Caplan and Ben Goessling of ESPN report that Smith underwent surgery on the ankle this offseason.

According to the reports, the procedure was designed to “clean up” the ankle and make sure that Smith didn’t experience any lingering issues with it heading into the 2017 season.

Recently signed running back Latavius Murray also had ankle surgery recently and both players are expected to be ready to go in time to take part in training camp this summer.

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Marvin Lewis on Adam Jones: Other than his language, what did he do?

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When Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin addressed cornerback Adam Jones‘ January arrest earlier this month, he said the team was “very disappointed” with Jones’ actions but that they weren’t going to make any “rash, harsh, fast decisions” about his future with the team.

A felony charge against Jones has since been dropped, leaving him with misdemeanor charges of assault, disorderly conduct and obstructing official business as a result of his altercation with a security guard at a Cincinnati hotel. The Bengals didn’t immediately revisit Tobin’s comments in light of that development, but coach Marvin Lewis did discuss Jones at the league meetings in Arizona this week.

Lewis didn’t shed any definitive light on Jones’ status with the team, but he doesn’t sound like the plan is to part ways with the veteran corner.

“As time has come out, other than his language what did he do?” Lewis said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer.  “But that’s up to whatever happens. The case is still under review, we’ll see how it plays out.”

A video of the arrest showed Jones using profane language toward police officers and telling them he wished they would die. His lawyers released a statement saying Jones apologized for what he said and seeking counseling on anger management as a result of the incident.

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Pete Carroll unsure if Marshawn Lynch wants to play or not

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Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he talked to Marshawn Lynch when reports about the enigmatic running back returning came up.

But he’s no more clear now on Lynch’s intentions than he was before they spoke.

“I know that he is somewhat entertaining the thought of it,’’ Carroll said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “I can’t tell you how strong it is.’’

Carroll said Lynch did not ask to be taken off the reserve/retired list when they met 10 days ago, and didn’t know what he’d do if he did.

At one point Carroll said “there’s not much to it,” and when asked if Lynch might ever play for the Seahawks again, Carroll replied: “He’s retired.”

Of course, the fact Lynch would count $9 million against their salary cap and they’re not going to absorb that after signing Eddie Lacy means they’d move him along if he did.  And when asked if he thought the 30-year-old Lynch could still help a team, Carroll said he wasn’t sure.

“I don’t know,’’ Carroll said. “Depends on how he has approached this off-season. He looked OK. The mentality that it takes to play this game the way he plays the game, he has to really be invested and ready because he goes deep when he plays. And whether or not that is still in him and the burn is still there, I couldn’t tell that from talking to him.’’

So now we wait to see how Marshawn turns, and whether the interest in coming back to play is serious.

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Sashi Brown says door isn’t shut on Josh Gordon in Cleveland

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When wide receiver Josh Gordon checked into rehab last September, Browns coach Hue Jackson said that the team was moving on after waiting a long time for Gordon to be reinstated by the league after multiple suspensions for violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

That was many months ago, however, and Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown suggested that the team may circle back on a receiver who has played five games since the end of the 2013 season.

“Listen, assuming he would play at the level we started to see glimpses of last preseason and certainly in the league before, [Gordon] would be a talent I think no team in the NFL would turn down if he got back in,” Brown said, via Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland. “Our decision with Josh is just understanding where he is in this process and being able to have him. We’re not in position at wide receiver to turn down a guy like Josh if we feel he’s settled himself. Josh is going to have an opportunity to reapply to the NFL and at that time we’ll make a decision when we know what’s going on.”

Gordon has been working out with former Olympic track athlete Tim Montgomery and pictures on his Instagram account show him in what appears to be good physical condition, which has fueled some speculation about his possible reinstatement in time for the 2017 season. That’s a road the Browns have been down plenty of times before, however, and Brown’s comments may be at least partially directed to other teams who might trade for the talented and troubled wideout instead of hoping that the Browns release his rights upon a possible return to active status.

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Chris Ballard expresses full confidence in Chuck Pagano

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If new Colts G.M. Chris Ballard would prefer to have his own guy coaching the team, he’s not letting on.

Ballard said on PFT Live that he’s confident in head coach Chuck Pagano, who is heading into his sixth year in Indianapolis as Ballard heads into his first.

“Chuck has won a lot of games. I think we lose perspective because of two 8-8 seasons, but chuck had three 11-win seasons, they were in the AFC Championship Game, Chuck has done a lot of good things,” Ballard said. “I would disagree with that statement that we’re planning on doing anything else.”

Pagano has been on the hot seat in each of the last two seasons, and there was widespread talk in both 2015 and 2016 that he could be on the way out. In the end, he saved his own job, even as former G.M. Ryan Grigson got the boot. Pagano may have to go better than 8-8 in 2017 if he wants to return in 2018, but for now, Ballard says he’s hoping they work together for years to come.

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Report: San Antonio could emerge as temporary home for Raiders

Immediately upon being approved to move to Las Vegas, Raiders owner Mark Davis said his team could still stay in Oakland for up to three seasons.

But if things get weird next year in Oakland, they figure to have options.

According to Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News, the possibility of the Raiders playing a year or so in San Antonio before their new stadium in Las Vegas is built in 2020 shouldn’t be ruled out.

San Antonio has been perfectly willing to be a host (or a stalking horse) in the past, and their flirtations with the Raiders have been overt. They have a ready made stadium in the Alamodome which  has hosted the Saints after Hurricane Katrina and Cowboys training camp often.

The Raiders have team options to play in Oakland’s existing coliseum in 2017 and 2018, and 2019 is to be determined. But if the reaction is bad this season — and there’s at least some early political grandstanding to suggest it might — Davis might not want to hang around for another year of being ignored or worse.

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John Fox confident in Kevin White’s resiliency

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The Bears said farewell to quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery this offseason, which means they’re set to have a very different looking passing game than they have had for the last few seasons.

Mike Glennon is in at quarterback and the team signed free agent wideouts Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton to catch his passes, but they remain hopeful that a holdover in the receiving corps can finally break out. Kevin White is that receiver and the 2015 first-round pick remains an unknown commodity after missing 28 of 32 games with leg injuries during his first two seasons.

White will be back for another try in 2017 and coach John Fox said on Tuesday that he remains confident that White will be able to bounce back.

“Obviously it’s not a great start to his career,” Fox said, via the Chicago Tribune. “I think he understands that greater than anybody. Because he’s been the one who’s had to deal with it. … I’m sure it has been frustrating. Anytime somebody is injured it’s frustrating for everybody — whether it’s fans, coaches, the player himself. But I think he’s a very resilient guy. That’s one of the biggest reasons why we drafted him. I think his makeup will prevail.”

Wright, Wheaton and Cameron Meredith (a team-high 66 catches last year) give the Bears some cover in the event that things go wrong for White again this year, but it would certainly be a positive development for Chicago if they started to get some return on a former first-round pick.

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John Harbaugh interested in Anquan Boldin return

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Wide receiver Anquan Boldin is unsigned, but reportedly has designs on playing during the 2017 season and one of his former employers could offer him a chance to make that happen.

Boldin spent three seasons with the Ravens from 2010-12 and capped his time in Baltimore with a Super Bowl ring, which are memories that seem to have made a strong impression on Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Harbaugh said on Wednesday that he’s “interested” in Boldin returning to Baltimore for a second tour of duty.

Harbaugh said he believes Boldin can play “at the highest level” while noting that his interest doesn’t mean Boldin will be back in Charm City for the 2017 season.

“I’ve got to be careful in how I answer that because, of course, we are. Of course, I am. I’m thinking about it every day. Just like I’m thinking about [other open spots on the roster],” Harbaugh said, via the team’s website. “But that’s up to Ozzie. It’s up to all of us, but in the final accounting, I think we need to see what all the options are. And I don’t even know if Anquan wants to come back. That would be another thing that we have to look into.”

There’s not much experience behind Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman on the Ravens’ depth chart at receiver, although that would be quickly remedied by signing a player with 1,076 catches under his belt. It remains to be seen how things will progress from here, but Harbaugh’s comments would make a return engagement an unsurprising turn of events.

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Bill O’Brien: We’ve discussed Colin Kaepernick, he’s a good football player

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Texans coach Bill O’Brien said this week that he’s excited to work with quarterback Tom Savage this season, although owner Bob McNair admitted what many assumed when he said that the team would be looking to add a quarterback to the roster following the trade of Brock Osweiler.

Many believe the quarterback they’d like to add is Tony Romo, but the veteran is in a holding pattern with the Cowboys and their owner Jerry Jones suggested that it isn’t one that will resolve itself in the near future. That may force the Texans to look elsewhere.

The draft is one option, obviously, and there’s also the free agent market. Colin Kaepernick is the biggest name there and coach Bill O’Brien said on a visit to PFT Live that his name has been knocked around in Houston.

“We’ve watched him,” O’Brien said. “Like I’ve said, we feel good about where we’re at right now with Tom and Brandon Weeden, but we’ve watched him and discussed him. I think that’s a fluid situation as far as free agency goes, not just for Colin Kaepernick but for the teams. As you know, your roster’s not totally set until right before you open that season. He’s a good football player, he can run, he’s been coached well by [Jim] Harbaugh and Chip Kelly. Those guys are excellent coaches, so you know the background that he has. We’ll continue to discuss all the positions on our team, but we’ve definitely watched him.”

O’Brien’s answer is different than the one we heard from Browns coach Hue Jackson, who said that the team hasn’t talked about Kaepernick at all this offseason. Discussions don’t necessarily move Kaepernick any closer to a job for the 2017 season, of course, and nothing O’Brien said suggests that the Texans are going to be the team that changes his status to employed.

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Dolphins think Laremy Tunsil is a “special player” at left tackle

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The Dolphins were able to trade Branden Albert to the Jaguars after reports surfaced that they were going to release the veteran left tackle, but their willingness to move on without compensation was a pretty clear sign about how motivated they were to slice Albert from the roster.

The presence of 2016 first-round pick Laremy Tunsil was the biggest part of that motivation. Coach Adam Gase gushed about Tunsil while speaking to the media at the league meetings in Arizona on Wednesday.

“We drafted him in the first round because we felt like he’s an elite left tackle,” Gase said, via the Miami Herald. “We felt like we have a special player there. When we watch him practice at left tackle, it looks different. You watch him: A guy his size, he moves so smooth. His confidence when he goes to left tackle, it changes. You can tell he knows that’s where he belongs. BA did a great job for us was a great leader for us. But it was time for us to get Laremy out to that left tackle spot.”

Tunsil played left guard last season, something Gase said will help him as a tackle because “it makes him understand the whole picture” of the offensive line rather than just one position. All of that adds up to high expectations for a player the Dolphins hope will be anchoring their line well into the next decade.

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