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Mike Pettine: “Ideal situation” is drafting a quarterback later than fourth pick

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There’s little question that the Browns will be addressing the quarterback position in next week’s draft, but no one knows when they’ll be selecting a player to join Brian Hoyer on the depth chart.

Coach Mike Pettine will be one of the men involved in making the decision about when the Browns move for a quarterback and Pettine said Tuesday that he prefers to have a quarterback sit as a rookie before taking over as a starter. Pettine has experience coaching on teams quarterbacked by Kyle Boller, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez and E.J. Manuel as rookies from day one, which has left him with the feeling that it is “a rare guy that can handle that and he has to have a great supporting cast in order to do it.” 

That’s left Pettine feeling that the best course of action for the Browns would be to use the fourth overall pick elsewhere.

“That’s been a big part of the discussion in the draft room. That’s a position that we know we’re going to need to address, and you talk about where you’re going to do it and the impact that it’s going to have on the rest of the team,” Pettine said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Certainly it’s an ideal situation if you can get that quarterback later in the draft and that way you’re drafting a position player at four. But we’re in the business of staying true to our sequence, that if our fourth-best player or somebody rated above that is there at the fourth pick that we’ll feel comfortable turning the card in regardless of what the position is.”

Ideal situations rarely come to fruition in the NFL draft or anywhere else, but Pettine’s hopes of sitting a rookie quarterback are going to be a lot easier if Cleveland makes another pick at No. 4 because fourth picks are usually called on to play right away regardless of the position they play.

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Cowboys bring back Justin Durant

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Former Cardinal Daryl Washington has spent some time lobbying for a job with the Cowboys since being reinstated from suspension and released by Arizona, but the team has opted to go in a different direction at linebacker.

The team has brought back veteran Justin Durant. Cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon has been dropped from the 90-man roster in a corresponding move.

Durant spent three of the last four years with the Cowboys — he played for the Falcons in 2015 — and appeared in 13 games as a reserve for Dallas last season. He had 37 tackles and a sack in those appearances.

The Cowboys may have to play without Damien Wilson for some part of the upcoming season if he’s suspended as a result of his recent arrest and, despite optimism from the team, it remains to be seen how much Jaylon Smith will be able to offer after missing his entire rookie season with a serious knee injury and resulting nerve problems. Durant’s signing gives them an insurance option with experience in their defense should they need to look elsewhere.

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Unexpected Chiefs tie becomes most amazing aspect of O.J. Simpson parole hearing

Many stunning things happened during the O.J. Simpson parole hearing. But the most stunning thing happened this morning, when one of the members of the parole board decided to wear his Kansas City Chiefs tie to the proceedings.

Yes, for whatever reason, a grown man with a job that carries real significance and responsibility opted to wear a novelty necktie with the colors and logos of a football team.

Maybe he’s lashing out at the looming arrival of the Raiders in Nevada. Maybe he wanted to make a roundabout reference to Marcus Allen. Maybe the guy is just a really big Chiefs fan.

Regardless, it was definitely unusual. Unusual enough that the Chiefs are trending on Twitter, and striking enough to get the Chiefs official Twitter account to chime in.

Meanwhile, a decision on O.J.’s parole could come any minute now. If he gets out, he’ll probably buy a Chiefs tie.

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Trai Turner announces an extension with Panthers

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Panthers interim General Manager Marty Hurney said at a Wednesday press conference that he would be making decisions with both short- and long-term impact on the franchise.

He didn’t waste much time proving it. Right guard Trai Turner took to Twitter on Thursday to announce that he has signed a four-year extension with the team. Turner did not provide any of the other terms of the deal.

Turner was a 2014 third-round pick and was headed into the final year of his rookie pact with the team. Turner started the final six regular season games of his rookie season and both of the team’s playoff games before going on to start every game the team has played over the last two seasons.

Left guard Andrew Norwell is also entering the final year of his deal in Carolina while linebacker Thomas Davis and tight end Greg Olsen both shared their desire for new deals before Dave Gettleman was relieved of G.M. duties early this week.

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O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing doesn’t seem to be going well

AP

I don’t know much about parole hearings and I don’t know anything about the rules that apply for granting or denying parole in Nevada. But the O.J. Simpson parole hearing doesn’t seem to be going well.

Simpson rambled throughout the first 30 minutes of the hearing, quibbling over details and generally creating the impression that he still doesn’t fully accept responsibility for the things he was convicted of doing. It’s a far cry from the sullen and somber “yes” and “no” demeanor that would be ideal for convincing the members of the parole board to set him free.

At one point, for example, Simpson spent time trying to explain that the California courts have determined that the property he was convicted of trying to retrieve through illegal means was indeed his property.

He either has had no competent preparation for his remarks, or he has ignored the advice he has received. While this doesn’t mean he won’t get out, this process doesn’t seem to be going as smoothly as it would to create the general impression that he has said what he needs to say in order to secure his freedom.

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Teams can now be disciplined for uniform violations

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When it comes to the periodic issue of players committing uniform violations, the NFL previously has punished only the players. Starting this year, that could change.

The 2017 NFL rule book has added three words (“and the club”) that now permit the Commissioner to impose discipline on both the player and the team for uniform violations, beyond any in-game penalties that could be called.

And that’s significant. All too often, it’s obvious that the team’s equipment staff had a role, directly or indirectly, in facilitating or allowing the violation to occur. With no potential punishment for the team, however, there was no reason for the team to refuse to participate.

Now, there is. And now it’s safe to say that teams will be taking affirmative steps to keep players from wearing non-conforming shoes or other non-conforming gear in order to avoid being required to make an involuntary contribution to the charity of the NFL’s choice.

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Doug Pederson not ready to give up offensive play calling

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Before Doug Pederson became the head coach of the Eagles, he spent many years as an assistant under Andy Reid and got an up-close look at a head coach who also handled offensive play calling.

Given that, it wasn’t a great surprise that Pederson chose to handle things the same way during his first season in Philadelphia or that he’s planning to keep things working the same way in Year Two. Pederson admitted that there were times in 2016 when he was too focused on offense, but says he learned from that experience and wants to hold onto the extra duty.

“I can tell you this, after going through a year of calling a full season, it’s hard to give that up,” Pederson said, via CSNPhilly.com. “Personally, selfishly, it’s hard to give that up. It’s fun. It’s fun and you’re in control of the game. Being a quarterback and former quarterback, you’re kind of in charge. You are. You’re calling the plays, you’re touching the ball every time. You’re a part of the game, part of the fabric of the game. It’s just hard to give that up.”

Pederson added that he will be delegating more things to offensive coordinator Frank Reich “as far as the planning” so that he can do more to manage the big picture for an Eagles team trying to improve on last year’s 7-9 record.

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Devonta Freeman contract situation lingers

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All signs have been pointing to a long-term contract for Falcons running back Devonta Freeman. But with no deal happening, maybe it’s time to re-read the signs.

Maybe Freeman, who is a year away from the open market or the franchise tag (which currently outpaces market value), has decided to roll the dice. Maybe he’s willing to go year to year, like other star players facing the tag may be doing.

Whatever the case, if it were an easy negotiation it would be done by now.

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests that the team “own[s] most of the chips.” We disagree (as, apparently, does Luther Campbell, the husband of Freeman’s agent).

Freeman has leverage, because he’s one year from finishing his rookie deal Sure, he’ll make only $1.8 million in 2017 without an extension. After that, though, the Falcons face a dilemma — let him become a free agent or use the tag, which was $12.1 million this year for running backs and surely will be higher next year.

The question becomes what it will take to get Freeman to trade in his 2017 pay plus the chance to hit the market or make at least $12.1 million in 2018. Whatever the Falcons have been offering, it’s apparently not enough to get him to give up the power that he has over the situation.

In the end, what Freeman wants may be enough to get the Falcons to regret offering such cheap food at their new stadium.

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Michael Vick “truly sorry for what I said” about Colin Kaepernick

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After saying this week that Colin Kaepernick’s continued unemployment is his own fault, Michael Vick has reconsidered.

Vick said on the Dan Patrick Show that that he’s sorry he said Kaepernick’s play and not his national anthem protest is the reason he’s been unable to find an NFL team this offseason.

“What I said, I should have never said,” Vick said. “I think it was taken out of context in regards to what I was trying to convey, but I only want to help Colin Kaepernick. I’m not a general manager, I’m not the guy who makes the decisions on getting him signed, and I’m truly sorry for what I said. I think I should have used a better choice of words.”

Vick specifically said he’s sorry he urged Kaepernick to get a haircut, saying he doesn’t think that has any bearing on Kaepernick’s situation.

“His afro has nothing to do with him being signed and I wasn’t trying to relay that message. It was more about helping him at the end of the day,” Vick said.

That’s quite a change of heart, coming after Vick received quite a bit of criticism for his comments.

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Ron Rivera: Last year a humbling experience we’ve learned from

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One of the first things that Marty Hurney did after being named the interim General Manager of the Panthers was hold a meeting with coach Ron Rivera to get up to speed on the roster.

Rivera told Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com that “it was a great exercise” to dig into the players and hear the opinions of an “observer from the outside looking in” on the makeup of the team. It also fit with the overall theme of the offseason, which Rivera said is to evaluate what went wrong last season and not waste the opportunity to use it to make sure that this year is more successful.

“I have a friend who recently had a heart attack, and I called him and said, ‘I’m so sad that this happened to you,'” Rivera said. “And he said, ‘Ron, it’s not really what happened to me, it happened for me,’ basically telling me that he had to change, there are things he had to alter. Well, it’s the same thing for us. The way he put it to me made me realize 2016 didn’t happen to us, it happened for us. It was a humbling experience, and an experience to learn and grow from. And I feel really good that we’ve grown and learned from it.”

One thing that definitely won’t be the same as last season is the start. The Panthers opened in Denver last season in a rematch of Super Bowl 50 that wound up with the same unhappy result for the Panthers. Rivera wasn’t happy about that at the time and told Breer the loss “took a lot of the wind out of our sails.”

Rivera noted that the team could have gotten back on track from there and making sure that any setbacks don’t snowball this time around will be crucial to avoiding the same outcome this time around.

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Josh McCown says the future is bright for the Jets

AP

Jets quarterback Josh McCown is getting a little tired of hearing about how bad his team is.

McCown says the Jets, contrary to what many believe, have a competitive mix of veterans and young players who are going to play hard to win this year.

“There’s still some guys there that are pros,” McCown said on ESPN. “When you watch how a guy like Matt Forte comes in and does his job every day, Mo Wilkerson had a great spring, came in and worked hard, and our rookies coming along, Jamal Adams so impressive coming in as a rookie out of LSU, a high draft pick. So I think the future is bright for our team. We’ve got a good mix of the right guys who are willing to help the young guys learn but also committed to moving forward this year.”

McCown said he had several opportunities to be a backup this season, but the Jets were the only team willing to give him the chance to start, so that’s why he went to New York.

“I’m a competitor, but I want to go down playing, go down competing, so when somebody says ‘You’ve got a chance to compete’ where ever it is, I’m like, ‘Sign me up for that,'” McCown said. “I’m going to go out and play the best ball I’ve ever played in my career and as a team we’re going to come together and maybe buck a lot of people’s expectations.”

The good news for the Jets is that expectations are low enough they only need to win four or five games to buck a lot of people’s expectations.

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Year-to-year approach may become a trend for star players

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Before NFL players would ever  miss game checks during a work stoppage, they need to show a willingness to drive a hard bargain in other ways. Here’s one way they now can, thanks to the examples set by (of all people) Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins and Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson.

Star players who attract the franchise tag may now be inclined to refuse to sign long-term deals and to play on a year-to-year basis. One source with extensive experience negotiating player contracts firmly believes that this will become the trend.

If it happens, here are a few names to watch in the near term: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, Raiders pass rusher Khalil Mack, and Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Consider Stafford’s situation. With a cap number of $22 million in 2017, Stafford would be eligible for a franchise tag of $26.4 million in 2018. By rule, that would move to $31.68 million in 2019 and then to $45.6 million in 2020.

That’s a three-year haul of $103.68 million.

And what’s the risk for Stafford to go one year at a time? He’ll get $16.5 million this year in salary, pushing his eight-year haul to $125 million. Unlike Cousins and Johnson, Stafford has the money to let it ride; if he suffers a career-ending injury or suddenly loses his ability to play at a high level, he’s already set, multiple lifetimes over.

Though Mack and Donald have far less in the bank (and a far greater risk of injury), a year-to-year arrangement makes sense for them, too.

For Mack, who isn’t getting a new deal this year and thus will make less than $3 million, he can pocket $13.846 million under his fifth-year option and then do the year-to-year tag dance in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Ditto for Donald, who would make $1.8 million this year and $6.892 million next year before going year-to-year under the tag.

For all three guys, the question becomes whether they’d trade the year-to-year haul for a long-term deal that has two years of fully guaranteed money before becoming a one-way street that the team exclusively controls.

Consider the record-setting (not really) contract signed by Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. He traded roughly $1 million in salary this year and the franchise tag next year for $25 million in cash flow in 2017, another $22.25 million in 2018 and then, essentially, a year-to-year option held by the team.

Consider what Carr gave up. If he’d been willing to keep his salary at $1 million in 2017, he would have been eligible for $22 million (maybe more) in 2018 under the tag, a 20-percent bump (at least $26 million) in 2019, and a 44-percent increase over that ($38 million, minimum) in 2020.

That’s at least $86 million over three years, estimated conservatively. Under his current deal, Carr will make $86.5 million over the next four years, with no fully-guaranteed money at signing beyond the first $40 million.

It’s hard to call the richest contract ever (not really) a bad deal, but it’s actually kind of a bad deal in light of the alternative. If Carr had gone year to year, he’d have more money over the next four years than he’ll have — and he wouldn’t have been tied to the team for two more years at an average of $19.7 million, which will come at a time when the market for franchise quarterbacks could be well north of $30 million per year.

Maybe Carr crunched the numbers and consciously chose to take a long-term deal that is less advantageous than going year to year. Maybe the injury guarantee for 2019 influenced him, given the broken leg he suffered last last year. Regardless, it’s reasonable to say he would have been better off going year to year.

And it’s definitely reasonable to assume that more star players will seriously consider it — and that some of them will do it.

All of them, frankly, should.

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Roy Miller worked out for Dolphins

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The Dolphins took a look at some veteran help for the defensive line ahead of the start of training camp.

Mike Kaye of First Coast News reports that former Jaguars defensive tackle Roy Miller worked out for the team this week. Miller was released by the Jaguars in March.

Miller missed the final 10 games of last season after tearing his Achilles, but Miller said recently that he feels healthy and ready to start talking to teams about a job for the 2017 season. He was a starter throughout his four years in Jacksonville and spent four seasons with the Buccaneers to start his career, so signing with Miami would give him the full set of Florida-based teams.

It would also give the Dolphins some experience alongside Ndamukong Suh on the interior of the defensive line. 2015 second-round pick Jordan Phillips, a pair of 2017 selections and converted discus thrower Lawrence Okoye currently round out the group, but, for now, Miller and the Dolphins have not struck a deal.

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Cowboys rookie Jourdan Lewis headed to trial next week

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Cowboys rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis will be in court next week instead of on the practice field.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Lewis will be expected in court Monday and Tuesday for a trial, after a hearing Thursday ended without a settlement.

The domestic violence charges against him (and a second complaint by the same woman which didn’t lead to charges) didn’t deter the Cowboys from taking the Michigan cornerback in the third round. Lewis was accused of dragging his girlfriend across the floor and grabbing her by the neck at their apartment.

Lewis has said throughout he’s innocent of the charges, and the Cowboys have defended their process of research before picking him.

Owner Jerry Jones said they “thoroughly looked at his situation” and that “We feel real good about the pick.”

“Outstanding off-the-field character throughout his life, great strength of character,” Jones said of Lewis. “We were satisfied we would be OK there.”

Of course, they’ve made a number of similar statements about other players in recent years, so the backing isn’t out of character.

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16 different players have the best-selling jersey in at least one state

AP

You know Aaron Rodgers has the best-selling NFL jersey in Wisconsin and Marcus Mariota has it in Tennessee. But can you guess the best-selling jersey in all 50 states?

NFL Shop has released the best selling jerseys by state, and they provide an interesting glimpse into which players’ names fans are putting on their backs right now.

Tom Brady leads the way with 17 different states favoring his jersey. That includes every state in New England as well as some surprises, like Louisiana and Florida. That doesn’t mean Brady is the most popular player in all those states, just that he’s the player whose jerseys have sold the most so far this year. Drew Brees is surely more popular in Louisiana, but the fans who want his jersey already have it, while more fans are buying Brady jerseys after his latest Super Bowl MVP performance.

Up next is Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, who has the best-selling jersey in 14 states. The whole West Coast is going for Lynch, as are some surprising states like Indiana and Iowa. Lynch’s return to the NFL has made his jersey a must-have for many fans.

Dak Prescott has the best-selling jersey in Texas and Oklahoma, with plenty of Cowboys fans, as well as Mississippi, where he played his college football. College football also led Clemson-turned-Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson to take the jersey lead in South Carolina and North Carolina. Also owning the jersey sales lead in two states are Von Miller and Odell Beckham.

Players whose jersey sales lead in one state are Rodgers, Mariota, Adrian Peterson, Matthew Stafford, Greg Olsen, James Conner, Carson Wentz, Julio Jones and Ezekiel Elliott.

And in the biggest surprise on the map, Vikings receiver Adam Thielen has the best-selling jersey in North Dakota.

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Browns stadium may be a fire hazard

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The stadium where the Cleveland Browns play may be a fire hazard.

That’s not any sort of Factory of Sadness-style wisecrack, or a gratuitous rehashing of the Cuyahoga conflagration. According to the Associated Press, First Energy Stadium in Cleveland may have the same aluminum panels that were present on a London apartment building that became quickly engulfed in flames. Although authorities are still investigating the role of the Reynobond panels in the spread of the fire that killed 80 people, the AP item notes that the panels “are not recommended for use in buildings above 40 feet because they are combustible.”

Arconic Inc., which manufactures the Reynobond panels, identifies First Energy Stadium as a facility that utilizes the product in promotional materials.

“If the materials used on a building appear similar to a known hazard, people need to know that,” fire protection engingeer Douglas Evans told the AP. “Anybody who is inside of these buildings has a right to know.”

A spokesman for Cleveland’s mayor wouldn’t (or maybe couldn’t) say whether First Energy Stadium was built with Reynobond panels, deferring all questions “until after the investigators finish their report on the fire in London.”

For now, then, it’s unclear whether the structure poses any type of enhanced fire risk. But it’s clear that getting an answer should be a major priority for Cleveland, the Browns, and the NFL.

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