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Seahawks pass on Carpenter option

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The Seahawks have made plenty of great draft picks under G.M. John Schneider.  Guard James Carpenter wasn’t one of them.

The team has announced that the fifth-year option on Carpenter’s 2011 rookie contract won’t be exercised.

The 25th overall pick four years ago, Carpenter started 10 games in the 2013 regular season.  He also started Super Bowl XLVIII.

Carpenter remains under contract for 2014.  He’ll be eligible for free agency next season, and it’s possible the Seahawks will keep him around.

For now, the team simply has decided that it would be too expensive to keep him around in 2015 under the fifth-year option salary of more than $7 million.

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Bears part ways with Aaron Kromer

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In addition to looking for a new head coach and General Manager, the Bears will need a new offensive coordinator, too.

According to ESPN’s Field Yates, and via ESPNChicago.com’s Jeff Dickerson, the Bears have parted ways with Aaron Kromer.

Kromer’s job security had been speculated upon after he was revealed to have been a source for an NFL Media report critical of quarterback Jay Cutler. He apologized for his actions and kept his job for the final three games of the season.

However, with head coach Marc Trestman departing after a disastrous 5-11 season, it’s very likely the Bears will have a majority of new assistant coaches in 2015.

Kromer was an offensive assistant for five seasons with New Orleans before joining Chicago in 2013.

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Harbaugh to Michigan all but official

Harbaugh AP

He wanted to stay in the NFL, but with no viable options paying him at or near $8 million and Michigan ready to give him the keys to the financial kingdom, it appears that Jim Harbaugh will indeed become the next coach of the Wolverines.

“Michigan has told its biggest boosters a deal for Jim Harbaugh is done and a press conference is scheduled for Tuesday,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter (a Michigan man) reported Monday morning.

There’s still a sense of “it’s not done until it’s done” when it comes to Harbaugh and Michigan, in part because it has appeared for the past few weeks that Harbaugh is using the Michigan offer as leverage for a comparable NFL package.

Unlike Nick Saban, who seemed to be permanently leaving the NFL in the rear-view mirror when he bolted the Dolphins for Alabama after the 2006 season, many believe Harbaugh will eventually return to the NFL.  His Michigan contract surely will allow him to leave for the NFL whenever he wants, and his four-year maximum shelf life with other positions will create lingering speculation that Harbaugh eventually will come back to the pro game and chase the championship he came tantalizingly close to winning.

But he’ll be welcomed as a hero in Ann Arbor, and his history suggests he’ll turn things around quickly.  At some point, though, the lure of a Lombardi Trophy likely will bring him back to the NFL.

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Kyle Orton announces his retirement

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The Bills brought Kyle Orton on board just before the start of the season and the quarterback wound up playing a major role for the team as they put up their first winning record since 2004.

Orton replaced EJ Manuel as the starter after four games and piloted the Bills to seven wins that kept them in the playoff race for most of the season. That effort wound up falling short, but Orton’s 18 touchdowns and 64.2 completion percentage were a big part of the reason why they lasted as long as they did.

It was hardly everything you want in a quarterback, but he stabilized the position when Manuel seemed unable to do it. Orton won’t be around to help them out again in 2015, though. Orton announced his retirement from the NFL via the Bills on Monday morning.

“I just have been going at it for 10 years and it’s just a family decision and I’ve decided to get home and be a dad and call it a day,” Orton said.

Quarterback should have been on any Buffalo offseason shopping list before Orton’s announcement and it might get bumped to higher priority now that the team is left with Manuel as the only quarterback on their active roster. Before they get to that, though, the team has to sort out what kind of organizational changes will be made as new owner Terry Pegula embarks on his first offseason since buying the team.

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Cardinals G.M. “hopeful” Drew Stanton can play this week

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Meanwhile in Arizona, there’s a playoff team hoping to get its first backup quarterback back for a playoff game.

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim made his usual appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday morning, and had a positive tome when asked about the possibility of Drew Stanton making Saturday’s playoff game with the Panthers.

At this point it’s day-to-day, but we’re hopeful,” Keim said.

Getting Stanton back would be a huge boost to the Cardinals, who have floundered badly under third-choice Ryan Lindley.

Stanton was recovering well from his previous knee injury when he had to be treated for an infection last week, an infection the team believes was picked up outside its auspices.

The Cardinals would still likely be underdogs on the road Saturday, but would have a more compelling chance against a suddenly hot Panthers Defense.

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Report: Thomas Dimitroff safe, but changes coming to staff

Dimitroff AP

With head coach Mike Smith fired this morning, the only unanswered question was whether he’d be alone.

But according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, General Manager Thomas Dimitroff is safe, with conditions.

Owner Arthur Blank “plans on shaking up the organizational structure, which would naturaly erode some of the stability Dimitroff has built.

Blank wasn’t bringing former Eagles and Browns executive Joe Banner in just to pick out curtains for the new stadium, so some restructuring seemed inevitable.

How that applies to Dimitroff and his staff — or to team president Rich McKay — remains to be seen.

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Bears fire Marc Trestman, too

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Moments after the first shoe dropped, the second shoe has dropped as well.

Just minutes after news first broke that the Bears have fired General Manager Phil Emery, news also broke that head coach Marc Trestman was fired. Jay Glazer of FOX Sports first broke the Trestman news.

Trestman was a surprising, outside-the-box choice as the Bears’ head coach, coming as he did from the Canadian Football League. But in his first season as the head coach of the Bears, he showed a lot of promise as an offensive innovator.

Unfortunately, Trestman’s second season was a disaster, as the Bears appeared to quit on the season. Few teams played worse down the stretch than Chicago.

Now the Bears will attempt to pick up the pieces, with a new coach and a new general manager inheriting the mess that Emery and Trestman have left behind.

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Bears move on from Phil Emery

Emery AP

As the Bears stumbled through the 2014 season, more and more fingers were pointed at the man who decided to hire a CFL head coach and to give a market-value franchise quarterback to a guy who has yet to prove he’s a true franchise quarterback.

Per a league source, the Bears have held G.M. Phil Emery responsible for those decisions with his job.

Emery was fired after three years on the job and only one head-coaching hire.  (At least he got one; former Jets G.M. John Idzik never got to hire a coach at all.)

It seems to be only a matter of time before coach Marc Trestman gets fired.  The real question is whether Jay Cutler remains after a contract that paid him $38 million fully guaranteed on signing, with another $10 million becoming fully guaranteed in March.

Whether Cutler remains depends on who the next coach will be.  If the Bears hire Illinois native Mike Shanahan, who drafted Cutler nearly nine years ago, maybe Cutler sticks around.

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Falcons fire Mike Smith

Smith AP

And then there were four.

With the Raiders, 49ers, and Jets jobs open, add Atlanta to the mix.  The Falcons have announced that coach Mike Smith has been released from his contract.

“Smitty’s contributions to our club, team and city over the last seven years are numerous,” owner Arthur Blank said in a release.  “His accomplishments on the field made him the most successful coach in the 49-year history of the Falcons, and we are grateful for the foundation he has laid for us for the future.”

Before Smith arrived, the Falcons had never had consecutive winning seasons.  Under Smith, they had five in a row.

But postseason failures, including a blowout loss at home while the No. 1 seed in 2010 and an inability to hold leads as the No. 1 seed in 2012, surely made it hard for Blank to remain supportive after two straight losing seasons.

Also working against Smith is a history of bad decisions, especially when it comes to clock management.  This year alone, losses to Detroit and Cleveland were fueled in large part by mismanagement of the clock.  With those two losses converted to wins, the Falcons easily would have won the NFC South.

The next question becomes whether Blank will keep G.M. Thomas Dimitroff.  The hiring of a search firm to help identify a new coach suggests that Dimitroff has been undermined.  But Dimitroff’s ability to find talented players is well documented.  With former Patriots V.P. of player personnel and former Chiefs G.M. Scott Pioli also in the building, the foundation is in place to build around players like quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones.

If Dimitroff is fired, look for other teams to line up to hire him.  Which could be the best argument in favor of keeping him.

As to Smith, his five-year run also merits consideration elsewhere.  At a minimum, teams should be clamoring to hire him as a defensive coordinator.

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Woody Johnson should consider firing himself

Woody AP

One of the best things about owning a business is that the owner can’t be fired.  Sometimes, however, he should be.

When it comes to the Jets, owner Woody Johnson deserves much of the blame for the mess that culminated in Monday’s house cleaning.  By firing G.M. Mike Tannenbaum two years ago but insisting on keeping coach Rex Ryan two weeks ago, Johnson created a mess that was destined to lead to what should have happened two years ago.

The statement from Johnson announcing the termination of G.M. John Idzik and coach Rex Ryan confirms that Johnson will obtain “guidance and support” from Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf.

“We will consider all options to improve the Jets,” Johnson said.   “Getting the Jets back on track is my top priority, and today’s decisions are important steps towards achieving our goals.”

The way for the Jets to achieve their goals includes the owner getting out of the way.  While he’ll never fire himself, he needs to resist the urge to tinker or to make changes.  Find people who know what they are doing and let them do it.

Go to the games.  Have fun.  Sign the checks.  And keep away from the team.

It’s a smart approach for most NFL owners.  For Johnson, it’ll be one of the key ingredients to getting the Jets to where Johnson wants them to be.

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Ravens confident Haloti Ngata will be ready to help them this week

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

When the Ravens were trailing the Browns in the second half on Sunday, it looked like their season might end before defensive tackle Haloti Ngata could return from a four-game suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy.

The Ravens rallied, though, and beat the Browns 20-10 to secure the final playoff spot in the AFC. That means they’ll be in Pittsburgh on Saturday and that Ngata will be in the fold to help them try to defeat their AFC North rivals.

The question now becomes how much Ngata will be able to help them after four weeks away from the team. His physical condition will be of particular interest, but coach John Harbaugh didn’t show much concern about Ngata being ready for action.

“I’m confident Haloti will be ready to go. That’s his job, to be ready to go,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN.com. “I’m confident he’ll do it. He has done it before. He has been there, he knows what’s at stake.”

The Ravens run defense held up well while Ngata was out of the lineup, but a return at full speed would still be a major boost to their defensive efforts against Pittsburgh. Ngata had two sacks and two interceptions in 12 games this season and that work may be in high demand if the Steelers are forced to the air more often as a result of Le’Veon Bell’s knee injury.

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Falcons call press conference for 11 a.m. to fire people

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We know when Falcons owner Arthur Blank is talking, we just have to wait to see how many firings he’s talking about.

According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Falcons have called a press conference at 11 a.m., at the Blank Family Foundation offices, as opposed to Falcons HQ.

It’s expected that coach Mike Smith will officially get the ax at that moment, but the interesting part in Atlanta will be whether General Manager Thomas Dimitroff is able to — or should — hang on.

The two had a remarkable five-year run of winning seasons, after the Falcons had gone nearly 40 years without back-to-back winning seasons. They even pushed through their glass ceiling of a playoff win before falling through the floor the last two years.

The Falcons have impressive skill-position talent and a top quarterback under control. But their lack of playmakers on both lines doomed them, and the guy who built a top-heavy roster might be held accountable as well.

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Jets clean house, fire John Idzik along with Ryan

John Idzik AP

The Jets are tearing everything down after a 4-12 season.

Shortly after word broke that the team fired coach Rex Ryan, the Jets made an official announcement that Ryan would not return to the team for a seventh season. That announcement also included the news that General Manager John Idzik has been relieved of his duties after two years with the team.

Neither move is a surprise. It’s the fourth straight year that Ryan has missed the playoffs and he had little chance to do anything other than disappoint this season thanks to the undermanned roster he was provided by Idzik. Idzik did a fine job cleaning up the salary cap mess he inherited from former G.M. Mike Tannenbaum, but he failed to address major needs at cornerback and wide receiver while sitting on ample cap space. Coming up empty on immediate contributors despite adding 12 players to the roster in the 2014 draft didn’t help Idzik nor did fan protests that led to billboard and banners in the sky urging owner Woody Johnson to pull the plug.

And, of course, the Jets never found the quarterback that any NFL team needs to contend in this era. How much Geno Smith’s struggles were exacerbated by playing early with a weak supporting cast is a question worth debating, but neither Smith’s play nor the potentially mitigating circumstances reflects well on the job that Idzik’s done over the last two years.

The Jets have retained the services of former NFL exec Charley Casserly and former Packers G.M. Ron Wolf to advise Johnson as they try to find a coach/G.M. combination that can return them to the right side of .500 in 2015 and beyond.

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Jets tell Rex Ryan to hit the road

Rex AP

As expected, the Jets have made a coaching change.

After six seasons and a pair of AFC title-game appearances, Rex Ryan officially has become the former coach of the Jets.  The team announced the move on Monday morning.

Four straight failures to qualify for the playoffs doomed Ryan, the son of former Eagles and Cardinals coach Buddy and twin brother of Saints defensive coordinator Rob.

Rex reportedly has no inclination to become an assistant coach again.  He’ll either take a job in TV or land elsewhere as a head coach.

It’s unclear whether Rex will be a viable candidate for other jobs.  However, he could get consideration for Raiders, Bears, and/or Falcons job.

Anyone who hires Rex will have to consider the negatives and the positives.  He knows how to make a defense aggressive and effective.  But he needs a viable quarterback and a competent offensive coaching staff.

Rex also has a habit of creating distractions, due in part to his habit of drawing fines for firing off a middle finger and dropping “F” bombs.  Just last month, Ryan was fined $100,000 for his latest on-field use of profanity.

Still, players love playing for him, and he has shown that he’s capable of winning big games.  Teams like Oakland, Chicago, and Atlanta could do a lot worse than Ryan, who’ll have even greater motivation in his second job to prove that he can compete at the highest levels of the NFL.

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Mike Tomlin: We’re thankful Le’Veon Bell injury isn’t major

Le'Veon Bell AP

The Steelers won the AFC North on Sunday night by beating the Bengals, but the victory didn’t come without a dark cloud.

Running back Le’Veon Bell was forced out of the game in the second half with a knee injury. The team said that Bell hyperextended his right knee when he took a shot from Bengals safety Reggie Nelson and Bell didn’t need crutches to get around after the game, which fits with coach Mike Tomlin’s description of the severity of the injury.

“We’ll gather more significant information as we proceed through the week,” Tomlin said, via ESPN.com. “We’re thankful that it’s not anything major.”

The definition of major can vary from person to person and the fact that the team is waiting for “significant information” makes it far too early to know if Bell will be available when the Steelers open the playoffs with a renewal of their rivalry with the Ravens.

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Welcome to the offseason

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It’s Black Monday, which means a handful of NFL teams will be making big moves.  For 20 total franchises, it’s over.  No playoffs means football season has come to an end.  Which means planning for 2015 starts now.

The offseason has arrived for all teams not in the postseason, which means that plenty of things will be happening.  And we’ll be following all of it right here, every hour of every day until the season begins again in September.

The goal for the 20 teams who didn’t make it to the Super Bowl tournament will be to begin building hope for 2015.  For the 12 teams still left, the goal will be to try to translate the hope built last year into a championship.

In the end, only one team will be satisfied.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to satisfy your thirst for information and analysis throughout the coming offseason, and beyond.

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