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Anquan Boldin: Steve Smith brings completely different things to Ravens

Steve Smith AP

When Steve Smith signed with the Ravens after being released by the Panthers, plenty of people pointed out that it looked like the Ravens found a player who could give them what they were missing after trading Anquan Boldin before the 2013 season.

Smith avoided making any direct comparisons to Boldin when he met the media after signing, saying that he respects the 49ers wideout while stressing that they bring different things to the table. Boldin used the same language when asked about Smith’s arrival in Baltimore at a charity basketball game hosted by Ravens receiver Torrey Smith on Saturday.

“We’re two different players,” Boldin said, via the Ravens’ website. “I think he’ll tell you that as well. We bring two completely differently things to the table. I think the thing that both of us do have is we want to win, bottom line, and we’ll do whatever it takes to do that.”

Boldin praised the move, noting the positive impact that Smith’s “tough mentality” should have on the Ravens offense. That mentality is probably the easiest comparison to make between the two players and if Smith can use it to be a reliable target for Joe Flacco, the fact that he provides that target in different ways than Boldin won’t wind up being all that significant.

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Washington hasn’t received any trade proposals for Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins AP

At various points in his three-year NFL career, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins’s name has come up in trade chatter.

However, to hear it from Washington General Manager Scot McCloughan, it’s all quiet on that front for the time being.

At a pre-draft press conference Monday, McCloughan indicated Washington had not been approached with offers for Cousins, who has started nine regular season games for the club, including five in 2014.

Cousins is in the final year of his contract, and Washington would certainly have to listen on offers involving draft compensation for the former Michigan State quarterback. However, starting quarterback Robert Griffin III and backup passer Colt McCoy both dealt with injuries a season ago, so Cousins’ value might be greatest to Washington as it is.

Finally, Cousins has been up-and-down as a starter, especially a season ago, when third-stringer McCoy eventually relieved him as Washington waited for Griffin to return to the lineup.

In short, it’s not a real surprise Cousins hasn’t apparently generated significant interest this offseason.

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Packers confirm Brett Favre will be honored on Thanksgiving

File photo of Brett Favre in New Orleans Reuters

Just before the NFL schedule was unveiled last week, reports out of Green Bay indicated that the Packers would host the Bears on Thanksgiving and that they would retire former quarterback Brett Favre’s jersey at a ceremony during that contest.

The release of the schedule confirmed that the Packers and Bears would be spending the holiday together and the team confirmed the rest of the news on Monday. Favre, who faced the Bears 32 times during his playing career, will be the sixth player in Packers history to be honored in that fashion.

“It will be an incredible honor to be in Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night with Packers fans and have my name and number placed among the greatest players in Packers history,” Favre said in a release from the team. “With the great history and tradition of the Packers-Bears rivalry, and remembering the great matchups we had during my career, it seems only fitting to have Chicago as the opponent.”

The Packers also announced that they’ll be honoring the man who brought Favre to Green Bay. Wolf will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer and will be presented with his Hall of Fame ring at the team’s November 15 game against the Lions.

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Authorities won’t pursue DUI charges against P.J. Williams

University of Florida v Florida State Getty Images

Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams said recently that the teams he’s visited with have told him that his April 3 DUI arrest shouldn’t affect his draft status all that much.

On Monday, teams considering adding Williams to their roster later this week learned that there won’t be any charges for him to deal with during his rookie season. Williams’s attorney Jonathan Simon passed along word that authorities have decided not to pursue charges against Williams.

Williams admitted to having a few drinks at some point in the evening before he was arrested early on the morning of April 3, but he and his attorney disputed the version of events originally presented by police. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, paperwork filed in Florida about the decision not pursue charges indicated that video evidence in the case didn’t corroborate the charge.

Before the arrest, Williams was expected to be drafted late in the first round or early on the second day. Having the charges against him dropped probably won’t raise his draft stock, but the dismissal could keep him from sliding out of that expected range once the draft gets underway.

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ESPN, NFLN simply giving audience what it wants

Kid AP

Every year at this time, a debate has emerged regarding whether ESPN and NFL Network would tip draft picks before Commissioner Roger Goodell walks to the podium and announces the pick.

As explained by Richard Deitsch of, ESPN and NFL Network have agreed once again that they won’t report on draft picks before the picks are officially disclosed.

We want to keep the suspense of the draft,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman tells Deitsch.  “This is purely listening to the viewers and what they want.  It was overwhelming that our consumers, our viewers, our fans do not want us to spoil the draft experience.  I know some of our competitors will tweet picks, but they are not telecasting the draft.  I am sure there is a segment of the population that wants it as soon as possible, but our responsibility is to our viewers.  It’s not some big journalism discussion in my mind.  It’s ‘I don’t like angering our viewers.'”

Markman is right.  It’s not, as Deadspin has suggested, an effort by ESPN to shill for the NFL.  It’s an effort to give the audience what it wants.  And the audience, many of whom will be following the draft on Twitter, don’t want the suspense — real or fabricated — to be spoiled.

In 2013, the first year ESPN and NFL Network decided not to tip picks, a whopping 85.37 percent of those responding said they don’t want to know the picks in advance.

So we’ll put up another poll, and you can chime in again with what you want.  And if/when the needle moves the other way the NFL and ESPN can reassess their position in 2016.

Until then, the audience gets what it wants — including an oversized face mask on which to gnaw regardless of all of the filthy hands that have touched it.  Even when the audience isn’t being smart, smart media companies give the audience what it wants.

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Steelers like outside linebacker group in this year’s draft

Vic Beasley AP

The Steelers head into the draft with no shortage of needs on the defensive side of the ball with outside linebacker among the places they could attempt to address in the early rounds.

If they do go that way, it sounds like General Manager Kevin Colbert likes their chances of getting a good player. During a pre-draft meeting with the media on Monday, Colbert said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that this year’s crop of players at the position is as deep as he’s seen in the last 10-15 years.

Colbert called them “real impact-type players” and coach Mike Tomlin added that he thought an increase in the number of players playing the position in college schemes similar to the one the Steelers run is a positive for the team.

The issue for the Steelers in the first round may be the number of other teams looking at edge rushers. Dante Fowler, Vic Beasley, Bud Dupree, Shane Ray and Randy Gregory are all potential picks in the first half of the first round, which could leave the Steelers short on options at the spot with the 22nd pick.

Given Colbert’s feelings about the overall quality of the group and the team’s need for help at corner and elsewhere, that may not be a major problem for Pittsburgh as they try to improve their roster this week.

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Draft may have a dozen receivers good enough to go in the first round

amari-cooper-denzel-nkemdiche-c45874a4ca78fc7e AP

As college football becomes more and more of a pass-first game, more and more wide receivers are entering the NFL ready to contribute immediately. We saw that in the 2014 draft, which produced five first-round picks in Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin. And we may see that to an even greater extent in this year’s draft.

In fact, NBC’s Cris Collinsworth said on PFT Live that the wide receiver class this year features “up to 11 or 12, quality wise, who in any other year you would say, ‘That’s a first-round talent’.”

Collinsworth isn’t saying there will actually be 11 or 12 first-round wide receivers. There may not even be half of that. But Collinsworth thinks this year’s receiver class is so good that several first-round talents will be available on the second day.

“There will still be quality left in the second round,” Collinsworth said. “I think you’ll see some teams that really want one of these receivers, say, ‘I’m going to wait until the second round.’ But second-round receivers will be first-round players in this draft.”

Collinsworth has been scouting the draft in conjunction with Pro Football Focus and will give more of his thoughts on a PFF NFL Draft special today at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. PFF graded the top receivers from 2014 as Alabama’s Amari Cooper, Louisville’s DeVante Parker, West Virginia’s Kevin White, USC’s Nelson Agholoran and Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong. PFF also sees promise in Washington State’s Vince Mayle, Miami’s Philip Dorsett, Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, Michigan State’s Tony Lippett and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. (Dorial Green-Beckham wasn’t graded because PFF evaluated tape from the 2014 season only, and Green-Beckham didn’t play in 2014.)

A wealth of talent at wide receiver is heading to the NFL this year. Just like last year.

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McCloughan thinks a trade could happen if Leonard Williams falls to 5

leonardwilliams AP

We noted this morning that USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams is viewed by many as the best player in this year’s draft, but might still be available when Washington is on the clock at No. 5. If that happens, Washington General Manager Scot McCloughan will feel like he’s in the catbird seat.

McCloughan said at his pre-draft press conference today that if Williams is available at No. 5, he expects his phone to be ringing from teams that would like to trade up and get him. After signing a couple of big defensive linemen in free agency in Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea, McCloughan doesn’t necessarily think he needs to draft another big defensive lineman at No. 5.

“It might bring a trade more into play,” he said. “We do feel good about our defensive front.”

McCloughan indicated that an edge pass rusher may be a more important priority for Washington than a 300-pounder like Williams.

“A pass rusher, that’s the most important thing,” he said. “They’re hard to find. We’re very lucky to have Ryan [Kerrigan] on the team, he’s one of those players, and hopefully not just in the first but throughout this draft we’ll add more pass rushers.”

The best-case scenario for Washington could be to trade the fifth overall pick to a team that wants to get Williams, then to pick up a pass rusher later in the first round. Then again, if Williams is as good as the draft experts think he is, maybe the best-case scenario for Washington would be to stay put and draft him.

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PFT Draft Prop No. 3: Marcus Mariota’s draft position: 2.5

Marcus Mariota AP

Leading up to Thursday’s NFL draft, we’ll put on our oddsmaking hats, Ace Rothstein glasses and Terry Benedict suits and set one proposition “bet” per day for PFT Planet to ponder. At the conclusion of the draft, we’ll see how PFT Planet did on the wagers, which are for entertainment purposes only.

PFT Draft Prop No. 3: Over-Under on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota’s draft position: 2.5.

As our draft props go, this is the most straight-forward of them all. It’s this simple: Do you see Mariota being taken No. 1 or No. 2 overall, or do you see him sliding beyond those first two picks?

The uncertainty of how the Titans will proceed with the second overall selection adds to the intrigue regarding Mariota. If the Titans want to move the pick to a club seeking a quarterback, they can surely trade down for an attractive package of picks and/or players.

So let’s get right to it. Let us know when you believe Mariota hears his name called via the poll and in the comments.

Previous draft props

PFT Draft Prop No. 1: Over-Under on first-round RBs: 2.5.

PFT Draft Prop No. 2: Amari Cooper’s draft position: 4.5.

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Washington picks up 2016 option on Robert Griffin III’s contract

Argentina Training Session Getty Images

Word on Monday morning was that the Redskins were likely to pick up the 2016 option on quarterback Robert Griffin III’s option and it moved to a done deal in the middle of the day.

Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan announced that the team is exercising their option on Griffin’s pick ahead of the May 3 deadline to do so. The move puts Griffin in position to earn just over $16 million in 2016, which the Redskins can rescind if Griffin is healthy but the option is guaranteed against injury.

That’s not a small concern for a player who has dealt with serious injuries in his three-year NFL career, although Griffin insisted this month that the option question wasn’t a big concern for him. Instead, Griffin said that he’s focused on improving his performance after two rough seasons.

“It’s not about talking about it; It’s about being about it,” Griffin said. “That’s what my goal is this entire offseason. You got to talk small, play big, take care of the little things for the big things and everything will fall into place.”

Given the price they paid to acquire Griffin and their willingness to exercise the option, the team surely hopes that everything does fall into place. Despite that, McCloughan said Monday that the decision doesn’t change the team’s draft strategy and that they’d still pick a quarterback with the fifth pick if that’s the best available player.

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PFT Live: Cris Collinsworth, Peter King, Eagles talk with Tim McManus

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The draft is just three days away and PFT Live will be your daily spot for everything you need to know until the names start coming off the board.

On Monday’s show, Mike Florio will welcome Cris Collinsworth of Football Night in America to the show and find out what he thinks of this year’s draft class. We’ll do the same with Sunday night colleague Peter King. King will expand on some items from this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback column, including some talk about what the Titans will do with the second pick of the draft.

Tim McManus of and 97.5 The Fanatic will be on the show to give us an Eagles-centric look at how things might play out later this week while Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer will do the same from the Browns’ point of view. We’ll also welcome Bob Glauber of Newsday during a busy Monday.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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Antonio Brown at Steelers workouts

Antonio Brown AP

What a difference a week can make.

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown didn’t report to the start of the team’s offseason conditioning work along with his teammates and his absence was tied to a report that he was looking for a new contract and mulling an extended absence that could lead him to miss mandatory work at both minicamp and training camp. Brown chimed in later in the week to say that he was hanging out with his new child and was looking forward to getting back to work with the team.

The wait for his return to the team’s facility wasn’t a particularly long one. The Steelers posted some pictures from Monday’s workout session and Brown is among the featured players.

Brown’s an integral part of Pittsburgh’s offensive plans, but his chances of getting a new contract three years into the six-year deal he signed before the 2012 season were not good given the Steelers’ history of dealing with extensions for current players. We’ll see if his arrival leads to any discussions about reworking the existing deal to guarantee more money or otherwise adjust it to make Brown happier, but it would seem a holdout is unlikely at any point this offseason.

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Trent Baalke: No pressure to take a wide receiver

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers have reshuffled their receiving corps this offseason.

Torrey Smith and Jerome Simpson have come onboard while Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd have moved along (Lloyd is unsigned, but there’s no indication the 49ers are interested in another year) after catching 117 passes for the team last season. With Simpson a flier after missing all of last season and the non-Anquan Boldin returnees accounting for little production, there’s been speculation that the 49ers will be bolstering the position this week at the draft.

General Manager Trent Baalke is predictably evasive about the possibility, choosing to point out that you can only play so many wideouts. Baalke also pointed to Simpson’s pre-2014 production and said that the team wants to give young players Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton more of an opportunity while explaining why he doesn’t feel like picking a wideout is a must.

“Now, is that to say we’re not going to make a pick, look for another wide receiver?” Baalke said, via “I’m not saying that at all. But [I] don’t feel like we have to be pressured into making a decision like that.”

The 49ers have drafted at least one widout in every draft since 2003, so it’s a good bet that one of their nine picks will go in that direction. If they do opt for one in the first round, they’ll hope to do better than they did when they opened their 2012 draft by taking A.J. Jenkins.

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Washington “likely” to pick up option on Griffin

Robert Griffin III AP

For the first-round picks selected in 2012, the deadline for picking up the fifth-year option arrives on May 3.  In Washington, a decision on quarterback Robert Griffin III hasn’t officially been made.

According to Albert Breer of NFL Media, the team is “likely” to pick up Griffin’s option for 2016.

If the option is exercised, Griffin will have a $16.1 million base salary in what would become the fifth and final year of his rookie deal.  The payment is guaranteed for injury only until the start of the next league year, at which time it becomes fully guaranteed.

The risk for Washington comes from the possibility that Griffin would suffer an injury that extends from 2015 into 2016.  If that happens, they’ll be on the hook for the full amount of the money.

The real question is whether Washington has leaked word of their “likely” intentions to obscure their draft plans.  For example, by creating the impression that they’re planning to exercise the option on Griffin by May 3, Washington could be plotting to take Marcus Mariota — if he’s still on the board.   And with Washington creating the impression they’re not inclined to take Mariota, teams like the Browns and Eagles wouldn’t feel compelled to trade up to No. 2, No. 3, or No. 4 to get Mariota; instead, they can try to swing a deal with Washington at No. 5.

There’s also a chance that Washington has gone next level, hoping that other teams will interpret the leak of their desire to keep Griffin as a smokescreen for their interest in Mariota.

Either way, we’ll have an answer by Thursday night.  Which can’t come soon enough.

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The Falcons could be eye-balling a move for Dante Fowler

Birmingham Bowl - East Carolina v Florida Getty Images

The Falcons have made at least one trade in each of General Manager Thomas Dimitroff’s seven drafts in charge, some of them bigger than others.

And according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the next one might be to acquire the pass-rusher they’ve needed for a few years.

With the traditional “it shouldn’t be a surprise” qualifier, Ledbetter suggests the target is Florida defensive end Dante Fowler.

New Falcons coach Dan Quinn recruited Fowler when he was a Gators assistant and coached him two years, but the need goes beyond their familiarity. The Falcons badly need to find a pass-rusher to go along with their defensive makeover this offseason.

“There is a lot of discussions already about moving both ways with a lot of our peers in the league,” Dimitroff said. “A lot of it has to do with what goes down with the top three picks. That’s going to set the tone for how much movement there is into the top 10 and even in the top five.”

That third spot, currently owned by Jacksonville, could be the pivot for the Falcons, as the Jaguars could justify using it on Fowler, defensive tackle Leonard Williams or a receiver such as Amari Cooper. Then again, the Jaguars have sufficient needs that they could find a fit deeper in the draft, and the eighth spot would suffice.

Jacksonville general manager Dave Caldwell worked for Dimitroff, so there’s also a familiarity there that could help facilitate a deal.

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Jerrell Freeman signs RFA tender with Colts

AFC Championship - Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Colts opened up their offseason workout program without linebacker Jerrell Freeman last week with Freeman’s absence reportedly related to his desire for a longer commitment than the one-year restricted free agent tender offer the Colts extended before the start of free agency.

By not signing his tender, Freeman kept open the possibility that a team other than the Colts might want to sign him to such a deal but the need to hand over a second-round pick as compensation for signing the three-year vet may have kept suitors at bay. That possibility disappeared when the deadline to sign with other teams passed last Friday, which means that Freeman’s options pretty much dropped to signing the tender with the Colts or sitting out the season.

He chose door No. 1 and the Colts announced Monday that Freeman has signed his tender. He’ll make $2.35 million in 2016 as a result and will join D’Qwell Jackson and Nate Irving to form an experienced trio at inside linebacker for Indianapolis.

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