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PFT Live 03/19: Joique Bell, Eric Ebron

Mike Florio talks with Lions running back, Joique Bell about the his role alongside Reggie Bush and the Lions new head coach, Jim Caldwell. Then, Florio talks with UNC tight end, Eric Ebron about his journey to the NFL draft.

 

 

 

 

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Jets hire Dennard Wilson as defensive backs coach

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Jets dispatched three defensive coaches after the end of the regular season and they’ve announced a new hire to replace one of them.

The team announced on Wednesday that Dennard Wilson will be the team’s new defensive backs coach. Joe Danna served as the defensive backs coach during Todd Bowles’ first two seasons as head coach.

Wilson spent the last five years with the Rams and was the team’s defensive backs coach for the last two seasons. He was the defensive quality control coach in his first three years with the club and served as a scout for the Bears for four years.

The Jets are still looking for a new defensive line coach and outside linebackers coach. There was a report that former Bears assistant Clint Hurtt would fill the linebackers role, but there’s been no official announcement and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com reported this week that there’s “no indication” that he’ll be joining Bowles’ staff.

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NCAA needs to do more to protect college football players

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 12: Head coach Willie Taggart of the South Florida Bulls looks on in the first half against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Browns tackle Joe Thomas wisely wanted to see someone fired for the Oregon offseason workout debacle. It’s not happening, unfortunately.

Instead, the adult responsible for an exercise regimen that put three players in the hospital will be suspended for one month. And that’s that.

The punishment of Irele Oderinde has been announced by the school, and head coach Willie Taggart has said all the right things (even if he didn’t do the right thing) in response to the development.

“As the head football coach, I hold myself responsible for all of our football-related activities and the safety of our students must come first,” Taggart said in a statement that perhaps should have been followed by an explanation of the manner in which he’s being held responsible for the incident. “I have addressed the issue with our strength and conditioning staff, and I fully support the actions taken today by the university.”

It’s easy for Taggart to support the actions taken by the university when the actions weren’t taken against him. But why shouldn’t they be? While it may not be grounds for immediate termination or resignation, Taggart surely hopes to improve the performance of the team. In order to do that in September, the players need to be in great physical shape. He directly benefits from those efforts.

Mentally, the players also need to know that there’s a new sheriff in town, a new way of doing things. A break from the means and methods of the past. And there’s no better way to get their attention than to mimic Kurt-Russell-in-Miracle and go again and again and again and again until they realize they’re working (without pay) for a different boss.

The NCAA needs to intervene, providing real punishment when player health and safety is undermined and providing a reliable mechanism for players to register complaints about practice and workout abuses. The players have no protection; the NCAA needs to provide it.

If the NCAA can’t or won’t, someone else needs to step up and provide assistance and support for college football players who know misconduct is occurring but who have no way to efficiently have their concerns addressed without getting on the wrong side of the head coach.

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Browns, Jaguars, 49ers carrying over most money into 2017 cap

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: Head coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns looks on prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on September 11, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Browns 29-10. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

When teams don’t spend the maximum amount allowed under the salary cap, NFL rules allow them to carry over unspent money and apply it to the next year’s cap.

The NFLPA announced the amounts of money each team will be carrying over into the 2017 season on Wednesday. The Browns rank at the top of the list.

Cleveland tore down their roster in 2016 and that left them with $50,123,269 in money to bring with them into the 2017 offseason. They also have two first-round picks, including the first overall pick, to use as they continue their long-lasting attempt to build a winning team.

Two other teams that finished near the bottom of the pack are next on the list. The Jaguars, owners of the No. 4 pick in the first round, will have over $39.3 million to add to their cap space while the 49ers, who have the second overall pick, have $38.7 million at their disposal.

The Chargers carry over the least money at just over $113,000 and the Rams, Jets, Vikings and Falcons are the other teams bringing less than $1 million with them into next year’s cap. The NFL told teams that the cap will rise $8-10 million from this year’s $155 million total, although official numbers won’t be set until closer to the start of the next league year.

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Report: Bears to hire Curtis Modkins as running backs coach

ROCHESTER, NY - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL,  Curtis Modkins of the Buffalo Bills poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Rochester, New York.  (Photo by NFL via Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears need a new running backs coach with Stan Drayton taking a job at the University of Texas and they’ve reportedly found their man.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that the team is expected to hire Curtis Modkins to fill the position on John Fox’s staff.

Modkins spent the 2016 season as the offensive coordinator for the 49ers, but Chip Kelly’s dismissal after one year as the team’s head coach left him without a role in that organization. Modkins also spent three years as the offensive coordinator in Buffalo when Chan Gailey was the Bills’ head coach. He was also in charge of the running backs in Buffalo and has also spent time as a position coach with the Lions, Cardinals and Chiefs.

Modkins will get a chance to work with Jordan Howard, who finished second in the league in rushing yards as a rookie in 2016. Howard figures to play a prominent role in the offense again next season, although it’s less certain who will be handing the ball off in Chicago.

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Texans won’t hire an offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien to call plays

Bill O'Brien AP

In the coaching shuffle the Texans are going through, it appears one spot is going unfilled.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans aren’t going to hire an offensive coordinator to replace the fired George Godsey, and head coach Bill O’Brien will call the plays next year.

They’re also shifting wide receivers coach Sean Ryan to quarterbacks coach, giving them a different voice for a group of passers who have underwhelmed. They’re sort of stuck with Brock Osweiler for another year, even though O’Brien has held off on ordaining the expensive free agent the starter for 2017.

The Texans have previously shifted defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to an assistant head coach role so they can hang onto Mike Vrabel by making him the coordinator.

But this moves puts a lot more pressure on O’Brien to change what has become a perennial 9-7 team which is held back by mediocre-to-poor quarterback play — more than was already there.

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Ronald Leary prepared to move on from Cowboys

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13:  Ronald Leary #65 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ronald Leary wanted to leave the Cowboys before the start of the 2016 season as his run in the starting lineup came to an end with the arrival of La’El Collins in 2015, but the Cowboys held onto him as insurance against an injury.

That proved wise as Collins suffered a toe injury early in the season and Leary stepped in at left guard for an offensive line that didn’t miss a beat with the change in personnel. Leary is set to be a free agent this offseason, and the combination of Collins’ return and the heavy investment the Cowboys have already made on the offensive line leave him pretty sure about how things will play out.

“I thought about it a lot after the game,” Leary said, via ESPN.com. “I kind of stayed on the field a little bit because I’ve been here the last five years of my life. That’s just as long as you’re in college, so I’ve grown close to a lot of players here, a lot of staff. It’s tough to think about, because you don’t know the future when you hit the market like that. It’s tough, but it’s part of the game.”

The Jets signed guard Brian Winters to a four-year deal with $15 million in guaranteed money earlier this week and Leary has started six more games over the last four years. That may be a sign of what Leary can expect on the market and an offer in that neighborhood will likely result in him moving on from Dallas.

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How much credit should Paul Tagliabue get for the Rooney Rule?

3100746-commissioner-paul-tagliabue-at-the-press-gettyimages Getty Images

As the annual Hall of Fame vote approaches, it’s time for plenty of the media members who will or, in my case for example, won’t be casting ballots to begin to push their agendas, either directly or more subtly.

A new item from Alex Marvez of SportingNews.com does little to hide the point of view in its self-explanatory headline: “Paul Tagliabue’s Hall of Fame case much stronger with Rooney Rule getting results.”

The article, the product of a radio interview Marvez and Bill Polian conducted with Tagliabue, contends that the “positive results” from the rule that requires at least one minority candidate to be interviewed for every head-coaching vacancy “will be a cornerstone of Tagliabue’s case for the Hall of Fame.” But are the results really all that positive?

Consider this observation, from December 2016: “I don’t think the Rooney Rule has done as much as anyone hoped it would.”

Who said that? Paul Tagliabue, of course.

All that’s changed since then is the addition of two minority head coaches out of five who have been hired in the current cycle. (Six, assuming the 49ers hire Kyle Shanahan.)

While Tagliabue deserves credit for putting the rule in place, it happened not as an act of altruism but in response to a clear warning from Cyrus Mehri and the late Johnnie Cochran regarding the very real potential for litigation if things didn’t improve. Tagliabue, a lawyer before becoming Commissioner, opted not to hunker down and gird for a fight but to offer a half-measure that would force teams to tap the brakes before ultimately hiring whoever they wanted to hire.

That process has indeed helped minority candidates enter the pipeline of candidates who get attention when owners are figuring out who they want to hire before deciding to fire the guy they currently have (e.g., the current posture of the Colts). Coaches like Mike Tomlin and Vance Joseph may have never gotten serious consideration to become head coaches without the rule mandating their interviews.

Still, it’s not clear how much of that becomes a feather in Tagliabue’s Hall of Fame cap, given that only little more than a month ago Tagliabue expressed concern that the rule hasn’t worked as hoped.

Then there’s the fact that, for the first 13 years of Tagliabue’s tenure, the NFL didn’t have a Rooney Rule and did have a grossly disproportionate underrepresentation of minority coaches. Also, when considered against other issues like the formation on Tagliabue’s watch of the controversial Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, which worked actively (and shamefully) to deny and downplay the risks of head trauma, a 2017 uptick in minority coaching hires may not be enough to get Tagliabue the votes he needs.

Ultimately, he needs 80 percent (not 51 percent) of the voters to say yes. Having 33 percent of this year’s coaching class filled by minority hires is only one piece of a much larger puzzle that may or may not result in Tagliabue receiving the highest honor the sport can bestow. There’s a good chance that, regardless of any other considerations, at least one out of every five voters will find Tagliabue’s role in the concussion crisis to be a disqualifying factor.

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Deshaun Watson won’t go to Senior Bowl

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers reacts after a touchdown by running back Wayne Gallman #9 (not pictured) during the fourth quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns coaching staff will be in Mobile, Alabama to work with the South team, something that will give them extended time with prospects headed into the draft this year.

They won’t get to spend any of that extended time with Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, however. Watson was invited to participate in the event despite leaving school with eligibility remaining because he graduated in December, but his agent and Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage both confirmed on Wednesday that Watson will not take part in the event.

Watson led Clemson to the national title this year and is generally viewed as one of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft along with Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kizer, neither of whom will be at the Senior Bowl as they are early entrants who have yet to graduate.

Where that places him in the overall draft order isn’t as clear at the moment, which will make Watson’s meetings and/or workouts with individual teams significant as the draft draws closer.

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49ers to have G.M. candidates meet with Kyle Shanahan

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers coaching search appears to have ended with Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as the team’s choice to be their next head coach.

No hiring can be finalized until the Falcons are done playing, something that will happen on Sunday at the earliest. If the Falcons win, the 49ers can still have a second interview with Shanahan next week and it looks like they’ll use that opportunity to have Shanahan speak to some of their General Manager candidates as well to see how everyone gets along.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that Packers director of operations Eliot Wolf will meet with Shanahan and Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Packers director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst and Vikings assistant General Manager George Paton will also be in for another round of interviews.

The 49ers have interviewed several other candidates for General Manager. Seahawks exec Trent Kirchner pulled his name from consideration and it’s not known if any of the others will be included in this round of talks.

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Ben Roethlisberger to Julian Edelman: Our Lombardi Trophies show how we’re run

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks offsides the field after winning the game against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots receiver Julian Edelman derided the Steelers after Antonio Brown turned Pittsburgh’s postgame locker room into a Facebook Live session, saying, “That’s how that team is run.” Ben Roethlisberger disagreed.

Asked today about Edelman’s comments, Roethlisberger said the Steelers’ six Vince Lombardi Trophies show how their franchise is run.

“I don’t think I need to speak much,” Roethlisberger answered when asked what he’d say to Edelman. “We’ve got our trophies out there. I’ve got owners that I think are the best in the business. They’re family to us, and I’m sure if he talked to his owner, he would say the same thing about the Rooneys. Anybody in here in the football world or the regular world that owns the Rooneys knows what they stand for. It’s a blessing to call them a family.”

Although Brown’s postgame antics were foolish, Roethlisberger is right that in general the Steelers are considered one of the league’s better-run organizations. Which made it all the more surprising that a normally buttoned-up team had such a foolish mistake in the locker room.

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Jon Robinson: Draft currency is a powerful thing

Recently hired Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson, right, and head coach Mike Mularkey, left, answer questions at a news conference, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Mularkey was previously the team's interim head coach and Robinson was the director of player personnel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) AP

When Jon Robinson was hired as the Titans’ General Manager last year, he had the first overall pick in the draft in his pocket but opted to trade it to the Rams for a bounty of picks in both 2016 and 2017.

Robinson made another trade to move back up in the first round to take Jack Conklin, a move that brought them this season’s choice for the All-Pro first-team at right tackle. He has two first round picks at his disposal this year — No. 5 from the Rams and their own No. 18 — to use for further enhancements to the team.

Robinson obviously isn’t locking himself into staying put and using both picks at this point in the calendar, saying they’ll “evaluate all options” and noting that he’d like to add a second-round pick to the team’s arsenal. Whatever they wind up doing, Robinson knows that the more options you have in the draft the better.

“Draft currency is a powerful thing in this league because it gives you a chance to acquire young talent,'” Robinson said, via the team’s website. “They are less expensive players than guys who have played in the league six, seven or eight, nine or 10 years. So to be able to get two of those guys, or one of those guys if we trade, or three of those guys if we trade. … Whatever it is, draft picks are valuable currency as it relates to team building.”

Robinson notes that the most important thing is to get the picks right whenever you do use them. Conklin, running back Derrick Henry, safety Kevin Byard, cornerback LeShaun Sims and wide receiver Tajae Sharpe all paid dividends as rookies in 2016 and a similar haul should help position the Titans to improve on this year’s 9-7 mark.

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Happy #DeflateGate Day

image Getty Images

Two years ago today, the Colts and Patriots squared off for the AFC’s berth in Super Bowl XLIX. The game would come to be known for much more than that.

The purpose of this post isn’t to relitigate a case that I’ve already declared to be a sham, born of a failure to understand how air pressure works in the cold and a desire to assume the worst about the Patriots and to nail them again. The purpose is to commemorate the fact that it’s been two years exactly since the scandal emerged — and that the Patriots are only two wins away from securing the ultimate revenge.

Yes, Commissioner Roger Goodell once again will avoid Gillette Stadium this weekend. He can’t, however, avoid the Patriots. If they win on Sunday and then win in Houston two Sundays later, Goodell will be handing the Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots.

And while the tradition is for the Commissioner to hand the trophy to the owner of the team, wouldn’t it be something if owner Robert Kraft (who still gets some flak locally for not fighting the league tooth and nail at every turn) declares in the moment that he’s going to defer the honor to Tom Brady? Goodell’s face would instantly turn 50 shades of ginger, and Patriots fans would have an image that would be forever emblazoned on T-shirts, hats, posters, mugs, and body parts.

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Report: Texans making Mike Vrabel DC and keeping Romeo Crennel

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03:  Assistant coach, Mike Vrabel of the Houston Texans during a preseason game on September 3, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel seems to be a rising star in the coaching ranks, but the Texans already a strong defensive coordinator.

They seem to have found a way to keep both sides happy.

According to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, the Texans are promoting the 41-year-old Vrabel to defensive coordinator, while keeping 69-year-old coordinator Romeo Crennel on staff.

That likely means kicking Crennel upstairs to an assistant head-coach position, which might help head coach Bill O’Brien spend more time on the offense after firing coordinator George Godsey.

Vrabel turned down a chance to be defensive coordinator for the 49ers last offseason, and interviewed for the Rams head coaching job this year. With a rising profile, the Texans probably had to offer him something nice to keep him around.

But Crennel has done such good work for so long that keeping him around is also wise, as the defense is the one thing the Texans can count on over the last three seasons. His contract expired this year, and O’Brien made it clear he wanted Crennel back.

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Vance Joseph: I knew I’d take Denver job over other opportunities

ENGLEWOOD, CO - JANUARY 12:  Vance Josepf addresses the media after being introduced as the Denver Broncos new head coach during  a press conference at the Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre on January 12, 2017 in Englewood, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Getty Images

New Broncos head coach Vance Joseph was a candidate for four of the six head-coaching vacancies in the NFL this offseason, but the job he got was always his top choice.

Joseph said this morning on PFT Live that after interviewing with the Broncos, he had planned to interview with the Chargers, Rams and 49ers for their head-coaching vacancies. But John Elway offered Joseph the Broncos job, and with that, Joseph ended his search.

“I was close,” Joseph said of potentially leaving Denver to go to another job interview. “I wasn’t offered the job here in Denver so Wednesday morning when I got dressed to go to the airport, John stopped me, brought me back in the office and offered me the job. I was heading to the airport, heading to San Diego and then after that heading to L.A. and San Fran. So I had some things rolling, but I knew that if John offered me the job I would take it, because in my opinion it was the job that was most ready to win now.”

Once Joseph got the job, he immediately went to work on hiring Mike McCoy as his offensive coordinator.

“The first thing I did was call Mike McCoy, that was the first thing I did,” Joseph said. “I called Mike McCoy because I knew that as a first-time head coach and defensive guy, my offensive coordinator was going to be a big hire. And I wanted Mike. I didn’t want to lose Mike.”

So Joseph got the job he wanted, got the top assistant he wanted, and now gets to work in a place where he thinks he can win and win big right away.

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Panthers kick the tires on quarterback Aaron Murray

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 01:  Quarterback Aaron Murray #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs is sacked by Kyler Fackrell #51 of the Green Bay Packers during the preseason game at Arrowhead Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Quarterback Aaron Murray was on three teams during an 11-day stretch of September, and is continuing his efforts to turn up with as many teams as possible.

Via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, the former fifth-round pick from Georgia is working out for the Panthers today.

They don’t particularly need anything other than a fourth arm for the offseason, as Cam Newton, Derek Anderson and Joe Webb are all under contract. But quarterbacks are a scarce commodity thus tend to get plenty of chances to prove whether they can or cannot play.

Murray spent most of last year on the Eagles’ practice squad, but was the only one of their practice squaders who didn’t sign a future contract with them.

He started last season with the Chiefs, was offered in trade and no one bit. So he signed with the Cardinals practice squad and lasted eight days there before he was released, when the Eagles offered a soft place to land.

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