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Post-free agency mock draft

Clowney AP

Before free agency, we posted a mock draft.  Because when in Rome.

Now that free agency is nearly four weeks old, which has resulted in needs being filled and new needs being created, we’ve put together a new mock draft.

Because when in Rome.

So here’s how we see things, 31 days before it’ll be time to say, “When in New York City.”

1. Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, defensive end, South Carolina.

Yeah, Bortles.  Yeah, Manziel.  But the Texans lucked into J.J. Watt when a pair of teams from their own division took Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert three years ago.  That lesson should not be lost on the Texans.  Especially with Jacksonville on the clock two picks later.

2. Rams: Sammy Watkins, receiver, Clemson.

If they’re going to stick with Sam Bradford at quarterback, they need to give him another weapon.  The fact that they seem to be downplaying it serves only to make it more likely.

3. Jaguars:  Johnny Manziel, quarterback, Texas A&M.

The flirtation with center Alex Mack suggests that the Jags are willing to take chances.  Manziel fits with Jedd Fisch’s creative offensive approach and, more importantly, Manziel will make the Jaguars into a marquee team.  If he’s successful.  If he’s not, they’ll get another crack at another quarterback soon enough.

4. Browns:  Derek Carr, quarterback, Fresno State.

Should Carr go that high?  No.  Should the Browns screw around if they think they’ve found the guy who can run Kyle Shanahan’s offense the way Shanahan wants?  Hell no.

5. Raiders: Greg Robinson, tackle, Auburn.

Yes, they signed Donald Penn to presumably play left tackle.  But they’ll find a spot for both guys as they try to open running lanes and keep Matt Schaub in one piece.

6. Falcons: Khalil Mack, linebacker, Buffalo.

The pass rush remains an area of need after free agency.  It would be a surprise if the Falcons use the No. 6 pick on any other position.

7. Buccaneers: Mike Evans, receiver Texas A&M.

Dumping Mike Williams makes receiver an obvious need.  Maybe too obvious; they could get leapfrogged for Evans.

8. Vikings: Blake Bortles, quarterback, Central Florida.

With Matt Cassel in place for two years, Bortles gets eased in to the job, possibly becoming offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s next star pupil.

9. Bills: Jake Matthews, tackle, Texas A&M.

Regarded a year ago to be better than Luke Joeckel, he’ll help beef up an offensive line that has underperformed in recent years.

10. Lions: Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Pitt.

Receiver becomes less of a need with Golden Tate in the fold.  With the Lions not exercising the fifth-year option on Nick Fairley as a motivational tool and with Ndamukong Suh still carrying a $22 million-plus cap number, they need a fresh face at the position.

11. Titans: Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback, Louisville.

The Titans have done a good job of keeping their cards close to the vest regarding the need for a quarterback.  As May approaches, it’s becoming more obvious that they need to take a chance on someone, three years after they took a chance on Jake Locker.

12. Giants: Timmy Jernigan, defensive tackle, Florida State.

Given the departures of Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph, the Giants need to restore some bite to a defensive line that didn’t necessarily carry them to a pair of Super Bowl appearances, but helped deliver victory once they got there.

13. Rams: Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, safety, Alabama.

Keeping Rodger Saffold allows the Rams to address the last line of defense.

14. Bears: Bears:  C.J. Mosley, linebacker, Alabama.

Veteran D.J. Williams got the first chance to assume the middle linebacker mantle in Chicago.  The Bears should now turn to a rookie.

15. Steelers: Marqise Lee, receiver, USC.

With Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jerricho Cotchery all gone, the Steelers provide Antonio Brown a young partner and Big Ben another target.

16. Cowboys: Dee Ford, defensive end, Auburn.

With Anthony Spencer likely gone and DeMarcus Ware definitely gone, it’s time to stock up on pass rushers.

17. Ravens: Taylor Lewan, tackle, Michigan.

Eugene Monroe stayed, Michael Oher didn’t. They need a right tackle, and Lewan could be the guy to take over there.

18. Jets: Eric Ebron, tight end, North Carolina.

And here’s why the Jets ultimately didn’t pursue DeSean Jackson.  Ebron could become a game-changer in the slot — and he has the charisma to take over the nation’s top media market.

19. Dolphins: Xavier Su’a-Filo, guard, UCLA.

Or they could re-sign Richie Incognito.

20. Cardinals: Anthony Barr, linebacker, UCLA.

If the Cards are going to keep up with the 49ers, Seahawks, and Rams, the Cards need pass rushers.

21. Packers: Jason Verrett, cornerback, TCU.

The cornerback slide stops in Green Bay, where the defense needs plenty of impact players.

22. Eagles: Justin Gilbert, cornerback, Oklahoma State.

And it’s suddenly a run on corners, with the Eagles beefing up a potential weak spot.

23. Chiefs: Bradley Roby, cornerback, Ohio State.

Let’s make it three corners in a row, with Roby joining a team that has to deal with Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.

24. Bengals: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State.

Shazier ran a blazing 4.36-second 40-yard dash with a bad hamstring. Adding him would require some shuffling of the linebackers, since Shazier is suited to the weak side. Given his talents and Vontaze Burfict’s versatility, that’s a good problem to have.

25. Chargers: Brandin Cooks, receiver, Oregon State.

He says he’s better than DeSean Jackson.  The weapons-challenged Philip Rivers will settle for just as good.

26. Browns (from Colts): Trai Turner, guard, LSU.

A surprisingly meat-and-potatoes offseason continues for a team that has lost guard Shawn Lauvao and could lose center Alex Mack, this year or maybe next year.

27. Saints: Odell Beckham, receiver, LSU.

The stable of weapons gets replenished, partially. Jimmy Graham still needs an explanation.  And a contract.

28. Panthers: Darqueze Dennard, cornerback, Michigan State.

They can get competent receivers later, in rounds where top-shelf corners aren’t likely lurking.

29. Patriots: Zack Martin, tackle, Notre Dame.

It’s not a glaring area of need but it’s good value for the slot.  Plus, it never hurts to have enough guys to keep Tom Brady healthy in the final years of his career.

30. 49ers: Kyle Fuller, cornerback, Virginia Tech.

The lone area of weakness on the team gets addressed.  As it should.

31. Broncos: Cyrus Kouandjio, tackle, Alabama.

All those additions on defense won’t help Peyton Manning score more than eight points if he faces the Seahawks again in the Super Bowl.

32. Seahawks: Kony Ealy, defensive end, Missouri.

With Chris Clemons and Red Bryant gone and Jared Allen picking the Bears, the Seahawks need to feed the unit that was critical to the team’s success in 2013.

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Buccaneers cut veteran corner D.J. Moore

D.J. Moore AP

 

Veteran cornerback D.J. Moore signed with the Buccaneers this offseason hoping to win their nickel job.

As it turns out, he won’t be winning any job.

The Bucs announced they cut Moore, and signed journeyman tackle J.B. Shugarts and undrafted linebacker Jeremy Grable.

Moore was a fourth-rounder by the Bears under coach Lovie Smith’s watch, and that was thought to give him an edge with Smith’s new team. But they also added free agents Alterraun Verner and Mike Jenkins to go with last year’s second-rounder Johnthan Banks, and think Leonard Johnson can play there as well.

This at least gives Moore a chance to catch on elsewhere. He had a cup of coffee with the Panthers last year, playing in two games.

 

 

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Henry Melton ready to go for Cowboys camp

Henry Melton AP

The Cowboys weren’t able to make wholesale changes to a bad defense, but they are getting one key piece back just in time.

According to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, Melton will be cleared to take part in the first practice of training camp.

Melton hasn’t done any of the on-field OTAs after last year’s torn ACL, but he hasn’t missed any of his rehab sessions or suffered any setbacks. He has to pass his physical first, but that appears to be a non-issue.

Melton should be a significant part of any rebounding the Cowboys do. The former Bears franchise player fills the hole left by Jason Hatcher, and his back, and will need to anchor a young group under new coordinator Rod Marinelli.

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Brian Orakpo: Throw contract talk out the window

Brian Orakpo AP

Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo did not reach agreement on a multiyear contract with the team before July 15, which means that he’ll be playing out the 2014 season under the terms of the franchise tag.

That will pay Orakpo $11.45 million and make him a free agent again at the end of the season, leaving him well-paid for now but without much security over the long term. Orakpo said that the uncertainty about the future won’t be an issue this season.

“You can talk about contracts and this and that. Throw all that out the window, man,” Orakpo said, via the Washington Times. “I’m signed for the 2014 season. I need to go out there and make plays. I need to go out there and be a force. That’s what I’ve been working extremely hard at because this defense relies on myself to go out there and make big plays so we can get off the field. I’m not really a pressure guy.”

Orakpo doesn’t have much choice other than getting out there and being a force for the Redskins on defense this season. If he turns in a strong season coming off the edge, someone will be willing to pay him well to do it again in 2015. It may or may not be the Redskins, but that’s not worth worrying about now since nothing that can happen in terms of a contract until after the year comes to an end anyway.

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Dareus returns to Bills with renewed focus, he claims

Dareus AP

He appeared in court on Monday and then was unable (due to the weather) to get back to the team on Tuesday. Now, Bills defensive lineman Marcell Dareus returned.  And he celebrated not by drag racing a teammate but issuing a statement.

“After dealing with a personal matter in Alabama, I am excited to return to training camp to rejoin my teammates in our preparations for the 2014 season,” Dareus said in a quote issued by the team. “Right now, my focus is on earning the trust of my teammates, coaches and the fans while continuing to improve as a football player. I have a passion for this game and I want to be here to help this organization achieve its goals. There are things I need to work on professionally and personally to make sure I can be accountable to myself, my family, this team and this community. My focus will remain on achieving that goal one day at a time. I want to thank the Bills organization, Coach Marrone and the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support.”

One of those one-days-at-a-time presumably will include Dareus passing the pre-camp conditioning test, which he failed when he initially arrived at camp, drawing deserved criticism for failing to keep himself in a basic level of fitness at a time when football players find a way to stay in excellent shape throughout the year.

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Mike Brown says Marvin Lewis, Katie Blackburn now run the team

Marvin Lewis AP

Bengals owner Mike Brown, the son of team founder Paul Brown, has been so heavily involved in running the team that Mike Brown paid himself a $1 million General Manager bonus from 1991 through at least 2009. In the future, any such bonus could be going to someone else.

Brown tells Joe Danneman of FOX 19 that Brown no longer runs the show.

“They’re doing it now,” Brown said of his daughter, Katie Blackburn, and coach Marvin Lewis. “The ball’s been essentially handed off.”

Lewis told Danneman that Brown remains heavily involved, with Brown at the team facility “seven days a week.”

Even if Brown has handed off the ball, he deserves some of the praise for the team’s three consecutive playoff appearances. On that point, Brown opted for humility and self-deprecation.

“Do I take credit for that?” Brown said of the team’s success. “I wasn’t out there taking credit when it wasn’t going well, so maybe I ought to shut up and not take credit when it’s gone a little better.”

Even though things have improved, the Bengals still haven’t won a playoff game since the week before the January 1991 loss to the Raiders in a game far better known for a career-ending hip injury to one of the best running backs the game briefly saw.  This year, the Bengals hope to finally shed what very well could be the curse of Bo Jackson.

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Report: Chiefs, Charles have had talks on new deal

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Linebacker Justin Houston didn’t join the Chiefs for offseason work as he tried to leverage himself into a contract extension and the question of whether or not he’d report to training camp on time has been a big one in Kansas City.

It now has to make room for the question of whether or not running back Jamaal Charles will be there. Reports on Tuesday indicated that Charles will not report to camp on time in a holdout for a new deal that will pay him more money. Not everyone is convinced that Charles will be a no-show, however.

Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star reports that the Chiefs have had discussions about a new contract for Charles, who is set to make $3.9 million this year and $6 million next year under the terms of his current deal. Paylor also reports that the Chiefs “believe” Charles will report to camp with the other veterans on Wednesday whether or not they have agreed on a revised deal.

Charles’ desire for a new deal is a fairly strong one, given his importance to the Chiefs and the fact that his compensation ranks him below less effective backs as well as other members of the Chiefs offense. He’ll also be 29 when his current deal expires and that’s not a great age for a running back to sell himself on the open market.

It’s a headache the Chiefs don’t need with contract decisions to make on Houston and quarterback Alex Smith before they become free agents after the 2014 season, but one they appear to be willing to deal with if it means ensuring Charles is leading the offense again this season.

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Michael Sam pragmatic about Dungy comments

Sam AP

Former Buccaneers and Colts coach Tony Dungy has said that he wouldn’t draft defensive end Michael Sam.  On Tuesday, Sam addressed the situation in a very pragmatic way.

“Thank God he wasn’t a St. Louis Rams coach,” Sam told reporters on Tuesday.  “But I have great respect for Tony Dungy. Like everyone in America, everyone is entitled to their own opinions,” Sam said.

Dungy will join The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday to discuss his remarks in further detail, supplementing Tuesday’s statement explaining his remarks to Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune.  Also on the show will be the St. Louis Rams coach who welcomed the distractions that go with having an openly-gay player on the roster bubble and who may eventually conclude Sam hasn’t earned a roster spot, Jeff Fisher.

Sam already has shown he’s serious about getting one of the 53 jobs, dropping 13 pounds since the end of the offseason program in an effort to increase his speed so that he’ll be able to contribute on special teams.

“My job is to make this team, that’s my number one priority,” Sam said. ”Everything is faster and you want to make sure you are at a good weight and at good speed to compete at this level. It’s not college anymore, that’s child’s play compared to this.”

And “this” includes a high level of intensity both on the field and off the field. Especially as he continues his journey as the first openly-gay NFL player.

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Chargers, Danny Woodhead agree to two-year extension

San Diego Chargers running back Woodhead catches a first half touchdown pass against Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Carter during their NFL football game in San Diego Reuters

Chargers running back Danny Woodhead plans to stay in San Diego for at least three more years.

Woodhead and the Chargers have agreed on a two-year contract extension, which keeps him under contract through the 2016 season.

“Danny is an integral part of our offense,” said General Manager Tom Telesco. “His work ethic and on-field production were key elements last year. We look forward to having him be a part of the Chargers organization into the future.”

Woodhead initially entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Chadron State, where he was twice named the best player in Division II football. He played for the Jets from 2008 to 2010 before he was released and signed with the Patriots. In 2013 he left the Patriots to sign a two-year, $3.5 million deal with the Chargers.

In his first year in San Diego last year, Woodhead caught 76 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns and carried 106 times for 429 yards and two touchdowns.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

Khan AP

Bills WR Sammy Watkins is drawing comparisons to Randy Moss.

The Dolphins face long odds of getting to the Super Bowl.

Here’s the Patriots’ website on what to watch for at training camp.

The Jets plan to reward good fan behavior.

Ravens rookie C.J. Mosley says he’s grown a lot during his first couple months of work as a pro.

Browns LB Paul Kruger thinks Cleveland could win 10 or 11 games this season.

The Bengals have honored a local high school football coach.

Said Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler of rookie LB Ryan Shazier, “I don’t like to play rookies because defensive football there’s two things that can get you beat. One of them is missed tackles. The other one is mental mistakes. Normally when you try to learn this defense it’s going to take you a little while to do it. He understands concepts and picks things up a little bit easier than most rookies. I think Lawrence Timmons will help him and some of the other guys will help him learn to run this defense. We don’t have a choice whether we can play him or not. We’ve got to play him and we’ve got to be faster and we’ve got to win.”

The Texans waived FB Brad Smelley on Tuesday, leaving Jay Prosch as the only fullback on the roster.

Here’s a look at some of the Colts’ top newcomers.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan is showing off what life is like for a billionaire.

The Titans signed several free agents, but coach Ken Whisenhunt is this offseason’s most important addition.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning has a 98 rating in the Madden game.

Chiefs OT Eric Fisher has gained five pounds of lower body muscle.

Raiders rookie QB Derek Carr has been named the Mountain West Conference Male Athlete of the Year.

The Chargers career of OLB Larry English ended with a torn biceps while sacking Peyton Manning.

Said Cowboys C Travis Frederick of players voluntarily taking a conditioning test, “When the coaches said we weren’t going to have a conditioning test this year, a couple of the older guys wanted to make sure we had everybody in the right shape. Sometimes if you don’t do it, you’re not in the right shape and you’re not ready to practice.”

With Chris Snee retired, the Giants’ offensive line is a work in progress.

One broadcaster describes Eagles coach Chip Kelly as “brilliant.”

Washington coach Jay Gruden still wonders if he could have made it as an NFL quarterback.

The competition to replace Devin Hester as the Bears’ return man is wide open.

There’s a lot of hype in Detroit about Lions RB Theo Riddick.

Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt says Aaron Rodgers runs the offense as well as any quarterback runs any offense.

Said Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner of QB Teddy Bridgewater, “I think he probably should’ve gone in the first 10 picks. He probably should’ve gone at least in the first half of the first round, and then we’re sitting there with an opportunity to get him when we did, it was a bonus to me.”

Falcons coach Mike Smith wants his team to be bigger and stronger this year.

Panthers QB Cam Newton is embracing his role as a leader.

The Saints have signed NT Tyrone Ezell and LB Marcus Thompson.

The career of Bucs DE Da’Quan Bowers is at a crossroads as he enters training camp.

Antoine Bethea may be the biggest addition to the 49ers’ roster.

The Cardinals know that protecting QB Carson Palmer is paramount if they’re going to make it to the playoffs this year.

Said Rams OL Demetrius Rhaney, who was taken the pick after Michael Sam, of whether his high-profile teammate is a distraction, “He’s a football player, he’s not a bother. He’s laid-back, funny, jokes a lot. Pretty good.”

The Seahawks are at the top of PFT’s preseason power rankings, as well as some less important power rankings.

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Pat Bowlen stepping down from Broncos due to Alzheimer’s

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is stepping away from the organization to deal with Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, the 70-year-old Bowlen is relinquishing control of the Broncos to team president Joe Ellis so he can focus on his health.

It’s a really, really sad day,” Ellis told the Denver Post. “It’s sad for his family, his wife and his seven children. It’s sad for everyone in the organization. And it’s sad for all the Bronco fans who know what Pat Bowlen meant to them as an owner. It’s a day nobody wanted to see happen.”

Bowlen took a step back from the daily aspects of running the franchise in 2011 with Ellis taking over much of the workload. Per Klis, Bowlen said he was having issues with short-term memory loss as early as May 2009. The issues progressed with Bowlen revealing it had developed into Alzheimer’s on Tuesday.

Bowlen has owned the Broncos for the past 30 years and guided the franchise to six Super Bowl appearances and two titles during his tenure. The team will not be for sale and control of the franchise now belongs to the Pat Bowlen Trust. Bowlen’s intention is to keep ownership in the family.

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Antrel Rolle says this year’s Giants may be “most talented team” he’s played for

Giants Camp Football AP

Safety Antrel Rolle won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants in 2011 and appeared in another Super Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals in 2008.

However, Rolle believes the current iteration of the Giants may be the most talented team he’s been a part of in his 10 seasons in the NFL.

According to Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Rolle is bullish on the team’s chances this season.

“Absolutely. I think this is one of the most talented teams I have ever been on, if not the most talented,’’ Rolle said.

“It’s almost to a point where you have to hold yourself back — it’s just the first day of training camp. All of the guys are excited, and we’re trying to get out there and see what we can put together. It’s going to be a very special group we have here.’’

The Giants missed the playoffs for the second straight year in 2013. But after an 0-6 start to the season, the Giants did rally to win seven of their final 10 games with their defense ranking eighth in the league at season’s end.

Rolle was excited by the additions the Giants made to the roster this offseason. Head coach Tom Coughlin hopes the changes on offense can help rejuvenate Eli Manning and spark a unit that flailed frequently last year.

Only time will tell if Rolle’s optimism about the Giants potential is well-founded.

 

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Reports: Former Cowboys RB Robert Newhouse passes away at 64

Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Robert Newhouse, a running back and fullback for the Cowboys from 1972 through 1983, died Tuesday after a bout with heart disease, multiple media outlets reported Tuesday.

A second-round pick out of Houston, Newhouse rushed for 4,784 yards and 29 touchdowns in his 12 seasons with Dallas. He started in three Super Bowls for the Cowboys, and he capped the club’s 27-10 victory vs. Denver in Super Bowl XII with a 29-yard fourth-quarter TD pass to Golden Richards.

“House was a great football player,” Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach said of Newhouse, according to Fox 4 in Dallas-Fort Worth. “Off the field, he was a great man, kind and caring, solid as a rock.”

According to published reports, Newhouse is survived by his wife and four children.

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Julio Jones cleared for practice, but will be limited

Matt Ryan, Julio Jones AP

Relegated to spectator duty throughout offseason workouts, Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones is getting closer to full strength.

According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, head coach Mike Smith said Jones has been cleared to practice ahead of the start of training camp on Friday.

However, Jones will be eased back into full duty.

“He will be limited in terms of his snaps,” Smith said. “Our number one goal is to make sure that we’ve got everybody as healthy as we possibly can be, but we know that we have to get these guys some work together and reps. Julio will be out there participating in practice right from the start.”

Jones appeared in just five games for Atlanta last year before a broken bone in his right foot ended his season. Jones had put together an explosive start to the seasons with 41 catches for 580 yards and two touchdowns before the injury. The 41 grabs were already more than halfway to his career-high of 79 catches in 2012.

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Texans sign rookie TE Chris Coyle

Chris Coyle AP

The Texans have re-signed rookie tight end Chris Coyle, the club announced Tuesday.

Coyle (6-4, 243) signed with Houston as an undrafted free agent on May 16, but the club waived the Arizona State product a little more than a month later. He garnered first-team All-Pac-12 honors as a senior in 2013, catching 29 passes for 423 yards and five touchdowns.

In other roster moves Tuesday, the Texans waived fullback Brad Smelley and defensive end Tim Jackson. According to the NFL’s transactions, Jackson was waived with the “failure to disclose physical condition” designation.

The Texans have 30 rookies on their roster. The club has two open roster spots.

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Report: Jamaal Charles will hold out from Chiefs camp

Jamaal Charles AP

In a surprise move, one of the NFL’s best players has reportedly decided not to report to training camp.

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles will not show up when the Chiefs report to camp on Thursday. Charles is holding out for more money, KCTV-5 reports.

Charles still has two more years left on his contract and is due $3.9 million this year. He’s correct if he thinks he’s a lot better than a lot of players who are making more money than him, but the Chiefs may feel that they have no reason to give more money to a player who is under contract through 2015.

If Charles is serious about making his holdout a long one, that would be very bad news for the Chiefs: Charles led the team last year not just in rushing with 259 carries for 1,287 yards, but also in receiving with 70 catches for 693 yards. There may not be any non-quarterback in the league who is more important to his team’s offense than Charles.

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