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Seahawks out of chase for Finley

Washington Redskins v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

As we (and plenty of others) try to figure out where free-agent tight end Jermichael Finley took a visit on Friday, we’ve learned he has one fewer suitor, despite being medically cleared to play.

Per a league source, the Seahawks are out of the Finley sweepstakes.

Finley visited Seattle early in free agency, where his neck was checked out by doctors.  The Sehawks had ongoing interest, and they were regarded to be one of the leading candidates to sign Finley.

Even though he has received clearance from Dr. Joseph Maroon, the Pittsburgh neurologist who fused the C3-C4 vertebrates in Finley’s neck, the doctors employed by an interested team also must clear him.  For the Seahawks, it won’t get to that; they have decided to pull the plug on efforts to sign Finley.

Other interested teams are believed to be the Packers and Giants.  We’ve speculated that Finley visited the Patriots on Friday, given that the team that hosted him insisted on silence — which is something the Patriots typically do.

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Falcons lose a 2016 fifth-rounder, fined $350,000

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

A lot of the chatter around the Scouting Combine was that the Falcons were going to be hit hard for piping in artificial crowd noise.

Either the league successfully scared a bunch of people by their piping in of saber-rattling noises, or a lot of people define “hard” differently.

According to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, the Falcons will lose a fifth-round pick in 2016 and be fined $350,000 for their admitted infraction.

I mean, that’s a lot of money to you and me. (I wonder how many fixed cameras $350,000 will buy?)

And to be certain, no team likes losing a pick.

But that’s hardly harsh justice, and hardly commensurate with the kind of hand-wringing folks were doing about it previously.

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NFL suspends Ray Farmer four games for Textgate

Ray Farmer, Jimmy Haslam AP

Browns General Manager Ray Farmer will be suspended for the first four games of the 2015 regular season for texting coaches during games, in violation of NFL rules.

Farmer will be permitted to stay in his current capacity through the rest of the offseason, including working the NFL draft and being there when the Browns cut down to their 53-player roster. He will have to stay away from the team for Weeks 1-4 of the regular season.

Word first surfaced that Farmer had violated the texting ban early this offseason, amid a flurry of stories of discontent between the coaching staff and the front office. Farmer had reportedly used text messages to tell coaches which plays to call.

The Browns will also be fined $250,000, but the team will not lose a draft pick. The NFL noted in its statement about the discipline that no other team officials were involved in the illegal texting, and that the team was fully cooperative with the NFL’s investigation into the matter.

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Jenkins admits to disposing of box, at Hernandez’s request

Jenkins AP

Shayanna Jenkins, the fiancée of accused triple-murderer Aaron Hernandez, previously faced perjury charges for allegedly lying to a grand jury about having no knowledge of disposing of a box that may have contained a key piece of evidence in the Odin Lloyd murder case.  At the trial regarding the June 2013 shooting death of Lloyd, Jenkins has admitted to disposing of the box — although she claimed to have no knowledge of its contents.

“He told me to go downstairs in our storage room and remove a box from our house,” Jenkins testified Monday, via Greg Bedard of TheMMQB.com.

“I believe he said it was important, I’m not sure,” Jenkins added.  She later explained that she doesn’t remember whether he told her specifically why the box should be removed.

Jenkins admitted that she indeed disposed of the box, but that she doesn’t remember where she disposed of it.

Prosecutors have long believed that the box contained the murder weapon, a Glock used to repeatedly shoot Lloyd.  And the jury now has enough evidence to account for the absence of the murder weapon, since common sense suggests that innocent people rarely instruct a loved one to remove a box with unknown contents from the house during the early stages of an investigation arising from the murder of a friend whose body was found not far from the house from which the mystery box was removed and disposed.

On Friday, Jenkins admitted that she asked Hernandez if he killed Lloyd, and that Hernandez denied it.  The mere fact that she asked the question could become strong circumstantial evidence of guilty during jury deliberations.  While Hernandez’s denial is as useful as the standard response to the “do I look fat in these jeans?” question, the “hey, did you kill that guy?” question rarely gets floated in the households of the non-criminal.

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A week of PFT Live kicks off at noon ET

Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston AP

A new week of the offseason kicked off on Monday and it’s the last that will start in the month of March.

That means we are a month away from the first round of the draft, which marks the next important milestone in the offseason. PFT Live will be bringing you everything you need to know about what will go down as the league takes the draft to Chicago. Mike Florio will have the latest on the draft front and the latest from around the league in general during the program.

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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Report: McKay to be suspended from Competition Committee

RichMcKay AP

The Falcons publicly and privately have insisted that the use of artificial noise in 2013 and 2014 did not involve football operations, in any way.  And if, as previously noted here, the situation unfolded without the involvement or knowledge of G.M. Thomas Dimitroff or former coach Mike Smith, the buck stops on the desk of team president and CEO Rich McKay.

The NFL apparently agrees.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that McKay will be suspended from the Competition Committee as a result of the infraction.  McKay has ultimate responsibility for the stadium operations, and anything that happened in the venue falls under his jurisdiction, whether he knew about it or not.

Schefter reports that the Falcons also will lose a draft pick.  At the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the chatter suggested that a second- or third-round pick would be forfeited.

Despite the punishment from the league, which hardly could have allowed McKay to continue as chair of the Competition Committee without interruption in the wake of a fairly significant game-integrity infraction that spanned two seasons, it appears that Falcons owner Arthur Blank won’t be making a change at the president/CEO position.  That’s possibly because McKay has a reputation for being very smart, incredibly savvy, and very well connected; some, however, regard McKay as a master politician, skilled at claiming credit and sliding away from blame.

Regardless, McKay’s boss seems to be fully inclined to keep McKay around, even though McKay was deemed to be sufficiently responsible for the situation to lose at least temporarily his spot on the league’s most influential committee.

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Report: Panthers working out Randy Gregory

2015 NFL Scouting Combine Getty Images

Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory was frequently mentioned as a candidate to go in the top 10 of the draft next month, but a failed drug test for marijuana at the combine might give teams picking early a reason to pass on him.

The Panthers are doing some due diligence to prepare themselves in the event that Gregory keeps falling all the way to the 25th pick of the round. Josina Anderson of ESPN reports that the team is working out Gregory on Monday.

There’s a need for some pass rush help in Carolina with Greg Hardy off the roster, although one wonders how willing the Panthers would be to take on a player who will start his career in the league’s substance abuse program with the risk of a suspension looming over his head.

It doesn’t help that Gregory also had failed drug tests at Nebraska or that he’s had a hard time keeping weight on while going through the pre-draft process. He was a productive player for the Cornhuskers, though, and someone will roll the dice that he can continue to be one in the NFL. Should that not happen in the first 24 picks, Carolina be that someone.

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Textgate discipline may hit Ray Farmer harder than the Browns

Ray Farmer AP

Browns General Manager Ray Farmer is expected to be held personally accountable for texting coaches during games in violation of NFL rules. But the Browns may get off without significant punishment for the team.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Farmer is likely to be suspended, but the Browns are not likely to lose a draft pick. The report adds that the Browns could also get a hefty fine, but in reality, “hefty fines” for teams in the NFL don’t mean much. Usually when the NFL gives a team a “hefty fine,” it’s in the neighborhood of a few hundred thousand dollars, which is a rounding error to a big business like an NFL team.

It’s unclear what the nature of Farmer’s suspension will be. If the NFL were to suspend Farmer during the draft, that would be a huge hit for a G.M. and would call into question whether he can effectively keep his job at all. But if the suspension will just be a few games at the start of the season, that’s not a huge deal. Once the 53-player roster has been set for Week One, the most important part of the G.M.’s job is over for the year.

If the NFL’s suspension turns out to be a suspension for Farmer during the regular season along with a fine — but no loss of a draft pick — then the Browns will have dodged a bullet. It could have been worse.

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Report: Packers offer B.J. Raji one-year deal

Wild Card Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Packers have reportedly reached agreement on a one-year deal to bring defensive tackle Letroy Guion back to the team in 2015 and it appears they have designs on holding onto another veteran member of their defensive line as well.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports that the team has also offered defensive tackle B.J. Raji a one-year deal. Per Demovsky, the deal would pay Raji less than $2 million for the season.

Raji signed a one-year deal worth $4 million before the 2014 season, but missed the entire year after injuring his biceps in the preseason. That helped open the door for Guion to start every game for the Packers.

Raji started 62-of-64 games for the Packers before last year’s injury knocked him out of the lineup. That reportedly earned him an offer of a long-term deal during the 2013 season, but Raji opted to try his luck in free agency in a decision that he might like to have back given the way the last two years have played out.

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Eagles taking a look at wide receiver Miles Austin

Cleveland Browns v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

As they work to restock their receiving corps, the Eagles are looking to a team that helped refill their backfield.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Eagles are bringing in former Cowboys wideout Miles Austin for a visit this week.

Of course, Austin was a Brown last year, but for the purpose of sustaining a fully functional narrative, let’s stick with his NFC East roots, shall we?

Austin caught 47 passes for 568 yards and two touchdowns for the Browns last season, solid numbers for 12 games. But he finished the year on injured reserve after he was hospitalized with a kidney injury.

I mean hey, it’s not a torn ACL or anything, but Chip Kelly wants what Chip Kelly wants.

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Wrestlemania in Santa Clara serves as dry run for Super Bowl

WWE AP

So which event generated the highest attendance numbers in the first year of the new 49ers stadium?  The regular-season opener in prime time against the Bears?  The Thanksgiving night game against the Seahawks?

Actually, the high-water mark came Sunday night, when Levi’s Stadium hosted the annual Wrestlemania event.  It drew 76,976 fans, according to the San Jose Mercury News.  Via SportsBusiness Daily, the prior record was 70,799.

It served, per the San Francisco Chronicle, as a dry run for Super Bowl 50, testing the highways and rail system and buses and parking and everything else that will go along with getting a bunch of people to Santa Clara for the NFL championship game early next year.

“Operationally, I think we’ve had pretty positive reports so far,” 49ers spokesman Bob Lange told the Chronicle.

The highlight of the night apparently was UFC fighter Ronda Rousey judo flipping Triple H out of the ring.  The entire spectacle maybe should give the NFL ideas for Super Bowl halftime content other than live music from a shrinking universe of acts that are truly worthy of a stage that big.

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Packers reach a deal to keep defensive tackle Letroy Guion

letroyguion AP

The Packers wanted to sign Letroy Guion all along.

His weird arrest delayed things, but it was a trip to see another team that might have brought it into focus.

According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, the Packers have reached an agreement on a new one-year deal with the veteran defensive tackle.

Guion recently visited the Seahawks, which likely sparked the Packers to get something done.

Guion’s been a quality player for them, and this would have probably been done earlier if not for his February arrest on drug charges in Florida. The criminal case was thrown out as part of a plea deal for a first-offender, and he had to pay a $5,000 fine. Of course, the state of Florida is still holding $190,028.81 in cash he had on him at the time, a sum he’s trying to reclaim.

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Hakeem Nicks to visit 49ers

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos Getty Images

Most of the players included on PFT’s list of the top 100 free agents this offseason have found homes for 2015, leaving just a handful without jobs as March comes to an end.

One member of that list is wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who has been greeted by an indifferent reaction from the league coming off a 38-catch season with the Colts in 2014. Things may be looking up for Nicks, however.

He told Josina Anderson of ESPN that he is on his way to California on Monday for a visit with the 49ers. The 49ers have already added Torrey Smith and Jerome Simpson to their receiving corps while they have parted ways with Stevie Johnson. Michael Crabtree, who started every game for the Niners last year, remains unsigned and joins Nicks as one of the more prominent free agents still on the market.

With Smith and Anquan Boldin on hand, Nicks would be in line for a depth role with the 49ers similar to the one he played in Indy last year. Given the lack of other interest and Nicks’s diminishing on-field returns of the last three seasons, anything more than that appears to be an unlikely goal for Nicks’s 2015 job prospects.

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One month to first non-New York draft in 50 years

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One month from today, the NFL draft commences in Chicago.  It’ll be the first time since 1965 that the draft has occurred in a city other than New York.

When the draft begins in the 125-year-old Auditorium Theatre, not much is known about how it will play out.  The Buccaneers seem to be poised to pick quarterback Jameis Winston, who won’t be in the building for draft.  Although they could make it official with Winston at any time, there’s no reason not to wait, given the many things that can happen over the next 30 days — especially with his pro day workout set for Tuesday.

Not that a bad performance would scare the Bucs away, but a fluke injury while essentially playing catch with his former Florida State teammates could.  Likewise, anything can happen off the field in the next 31 days; there’s no reason for the Bucs to assume the risk of another embarrassing episode before they absolutely have to.

The next question becomes whether the Titans or someone else will select quarterback Marcus Mariota with the second pick.  While there’s a chance that Tennessee will opt to draft someone else, casting their lot at quarterback with 2014 sixth-rounder Zach Mettenberger, the most practical scenario at this point remains Winston to the Bucs and Mariota to someone.

Sure, many of the mock drafts have the Titans taking USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams at No. 2, but with so few franchise quarterbacks and so many NFL owners intent on getting one, the Titans or someone else will be sorely tempted to get that which typically only can be gotten at the top of the draft.

The rest of the names quickly become a blur after the quarterbacks, with the Kevin White/Amari Cooper showdown at receiver becoming the most intriguing one-or-the-other decision after Winston vs. Mariota.  Defensively, the biggest this-guy-or-that-guy centers on the Vic Beasley/Dante Fowler Jr. race at pass rusher.

Over the next 30 days, plenty of news and rumors and speculation will emerge, and we’ll be tracking everything right here, all day every day.

I didn’t start this blurb with the goal of it becoming a commercial for PFT.  If that makes it any better.  Which it probably doesn’t.

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Report: Chandler Jones recovering from surgery

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The Patriots aren’t any more forthcoming about injured players during the offseason than they are during the regular season, so they aren’t likely to offer any updates about why Chandler Jones is rehabbing at the team’s facility.

According to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, though, Jones is recovering from surgery that happened after the team won the Super Bowl. Per Reiss, Jones has been walking with the help of crutches recently.

There’s no specific reason given for Jones’s operation, although he did miss six games last season with a hip injury and the presence of crutches suggests that the two things could be related. The lack of information about Jones’s status extends to his outlook for offseason work, as is the case for defensive tackle Sealver Siliga, although Reiss reports that there’s no sense of long-term concerns about his availability.

Jones had six sacks and two forced fumbles in the regular season and added a sack in the Super Bowl as one of the team’s leading pass rushers.

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RG3 is the starter now, but Jay Gruden may not stick with him long

The Washington Redskins play the Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

Washington coach Jay Gruden has said Robert Griffin III is the team’s starter “right now.” But it’s hard to believe that Griffin will remain the team’s starter for the duration of the 2015 season.

Gruden showed last year that he’s willing to make a change at the quarterback position if he doesn’t see the results he’s looking for. And Gruden made many public comments indicating that Griffin doesn’t play the quarterback position the way Gruden wants.

There’s also the simple fact that both Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins were better than Griffin last year, the first year in Gruden’s offense for all three of them. Griffin takes so many sacks (33, more than McCoy and Cousins combined) and fumbles so often (nine times, again more than McCoy and Cousins combined) that he negates the advantage that his running ability provides. It’s great for a quarterback to be able to make plays with his feet, but not great for him to trust his feet to bail him out of so many situations that he doesn’t get rid of the ball when he’s under pressure and ends up taking sacks or fumbling.

And Griffin simply isn’t the same runner anymore that he was as a rookie. Griffin went from 120 carries for 815 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012 to 86 carries for 489 yards and no touchdowns in 2013 to 38 carries for 176 yards and one touchdown in 2014. Post-knee surgery, Griffin is a different runner.

Even Griffin’s longest run of the season in 2014 was hardly something to celebrate: On a 23-yard scramble against the Giants, Griffin did a great job of breaking into the clear and picking up a first down. But instead of stepping out of bounds as soon as he passed the stick, Griffin cut back inside to pick up extra yardage. That resulted in a tackle that had Griffin going down hard on his knees. Griffin needs to learn that to protect himself better than that.

If Griffin can’t protect himself better than that, the question of whether he’ll remain the starter will become moot because he’ll get hurt. But even if Griffin stays healthy, the simple fact is Gruden has never seemed to think much of Griffin as a quarterback, and unless Griffin can improve dramatically, it’s probably just a matter of time before Gruden benches him for McCoy or Cousins.

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