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Richard Sherman thinks the Seahawks can be better this year

Sherman Getty Images

The Seahawks were the best team in the NFL last season, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have room to improve.

And the Seahawks’ best player, cornerback Richard Sherman, says he thinks they will improve. Asked on NFL Network if the 2014 season could be even better in Seattle than 2013, Sherman said he thinks that’s a strong possibility.

“I think it could,” he said. “We’re a lot more experienced. There are a bunch of young guys. Last year, you forget, Russell [Wilson] was a second-year quarterback — going into his third year there’s going to be a lot of growth for him. I’m going into my fourth, Earl [Thomas] and Kam [Chancellor] are going into their fifth, Bobby Wagner going into his third, we’ve got some young guys coming up on the D-line that are going to do some things, Mike Bennett and Cliff Avril, another year of experience. Jermaine Kearse, I think is going to have a big year. Guys are elevating their game to another level.”

Sherman didn’t mention that Percy Harvin is almost certain to have a much bigger impact than last year, when he barely played, or that the Seahawks have had a knack for finding value in the draft and added eight draft picks this year. Sherman is known for his boasting, but he’s also known for backing it up. And there’s every reason to believe that the Seahawks can be the best team in the league again this season. Maybe even better than last season.

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Steelers interested in bringing James Harrison back

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 13:  James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a defensive stop in the second half during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Heinz Field on November 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

James Harrison insisted he wasn’t finished playing football. So it’s not a huge surprise where he’s likely to play it.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, there is “mutual interest” between the 38-year-old free agent and the Steelers for another year.

This one is nearly the definition of #asexpected, because other than a one-year dalliance with the Bengals, Harrison has spent his entire career in Pittsburgh.

He also showed last year he could still play, with 2.5 sacks in the playoffs after a moderately productive 5.0 in the regular season.

Harrison has continued to play consistently as the Steelers have added young pass-rushers around him, so it almost makes too much sense to keep him around.

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Sean Payton says Saints are “always” in the quarterback business

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 18:  Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints watches his team warm up prior to the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

Saints quarterback Drew Brees heads into the 2017 season without a contract for 2018, which means that there’s more than a passing chance that it is his final season in New Orleans.

Brees is also 38 and whether it is next year, 2019 or sometime else, the Saints are going to find themselves in need of a new starter. They made a nod in that direction in 2015 when they drafted Garrett Grayson in the third round and coach Sean Payton confirmed that the team will continue to consider possibilities at the position this offseason.

“I think that topic exists and has existed because of the nature of the position,” Payton said to Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn on the Sirius XM NFL Radio. “I think we’re in the quarterback business always because they’re so difficult to find. And there’s been a year or two we’re close to drafting maybe a player and he went a little before we were ready to pick. And certainly you pay attention to it when your quarterback’s older.”

Three straight 7-9 seasons have led some to wonder about how long the team will plow forward with Payton and Brees and a fourth year out of the running won’t do anything to keep people from jumping on that train. That might lead to someone else making a decision on who’s next at quarterback, but it doesn’t do much to lessen the organization’s need to consider their options.

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Darrelle Revis’ preliminary hearing pushed back to March 15

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 27:   Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets walks off the field after the Jets 24-17 loss against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on September 27, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was arraigned on five criminal charges last Friday and scheduled to be in the courtroom this Thursday for a preliminary hearing.

That hearing has been pushed back, however. According to multiple reports, Revis’ first hearing in the matter won’t take place until March 15. Revis was charged with four felonies after being involved in a physical altercation in Pittsburgh last week.

That’s about a week after the start of the new league year and four days after Revis is due to receive a $2 million roster bonus. He’s also due $6 million in guaranteed money that would be paid if he’s released, but would be voided in the event of a league suspension. That suspension wouldn’t come quickly, but Revis could be put on paid leave pending the resolution of the case.

That would give the Jets time to wait on making a decision about how to proceed with Revis, but the change in hearing date could also push back a ruling on that front.

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Giants expect 2-3 more years from Eli Manning

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 8: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants runs for a first down against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on January 8, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a first-round pick in 2004 and two-time Super Bowl winner, has begun to muse about retirement. Giants quarterback Eli Manning, a first-round pick in 2004 and two-time Super Bowl winner, has not. The Giants nevertheless are thinking about life after Eli.

As Bob Glauber of Newsday said during a Monday visit to PFT Live, the Giants believe the 36-year-old Manning has two or three quality years left. Glauber also pointed out that the team already has begun to detect a decline in Eli’s performance.

His numbers were solid, with more than 4,000 passing yards (for the sixth time in his career), 26 touchdown passes, and a 63-percent completion percentage (second highest of his career). He nevertheless threw 16 interceptions and generated 6.7 yards per attempt — his lowest per-throw average since 2007.

Eli is signed through 2019, at salaries of $13 million, $10.5 million, and $11.5 million in each of the next three seasons. The contract includes a no-trade clause and $5 million roster bonuses due on the third day of the 2018 and 2019 league years. This will force the Giants to make early decisions about Eli, allowing him to move on if the team doesn’t want to continue the relationship.

For more from Glauber regarding the offseason priorities for a team that made it back to the playoffs after a four-season absence, check out the video.

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Panthers release Mike Tolbert

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 22:  Perry Riley #56 of the Washington Redskins wraps up Mike Tolbert #35 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers have released veteran fullback Mike Tolbert.

Tolbert, 31, was named to his third Pro Bowl last season. He spent the last five seasons with the Panthers.

“I feel very fortunate to have coached Mike for nearly his entire career,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in the team’s announcement of the move. “He was someone we targeted in 2012 because we felt he would be a good addition to our offense and he was very productive for us. He brought great energy and leadership to our locker room and I wish him the best.”

The Panthers signed Tolbert to a two-year deal last March, just before the start of free agency. In his five seasons with the Panthers he had 13 rushing touchdowns and six receiving touchdowns, but his role in the offense shrunk significantly last season as he had just 35 carries and caught 10 passes.

Tolbert played his first four seasons with the Chargers, where Rivera had been the defensive coordinator before becoming head coach of the Panthers in 2011. He’s scored 45 total touchdowns in his nine-year career.

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John Lynch: DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead will fit new defense well

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Arik Armstead #91 and DeForest Buckner #99 of the San Francisco 49ers react to a play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 49ers have settled on a new defensive coordinator and head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed that Saleh will be shifting the defense to a 4-3 base similar to the ones being run in Seattle and Atlanta.

A new scheme will ask for different things of players returning from the 2016 season, including two of the team’s three first-round picks in the last two years. DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead were both selected to be defensive ends in the team’s 3-4, but General Manager John Lynch thinks that his predecessor’s picks will be able to find a home in their new scheme as well.

“I think they fit very well,” Lynch said on 95.7 The Game, via CSNBayArea.com. “And that’s one thing I think I want to make sure [to say] because I really believe it, I think Trent Baalke did a great job of getting guys that, yes, they were picked for one system, but I think they transition very well to our system.”

Lynch said the two former Oregon Ducks were asked to read and react last season, but that will change to “taking the fight to them” with Saleh calling the shots. Given how much work he has to do with the 49ers personnel, Lynch would welcome being right about Armstead and Buckner thriving in their new roles.

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Julius Thomas physical more than a formality

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Julius Thomas #80 of the Denver Broncos celebrates a third-quarter touchdown against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on November 9, 2014 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Before the Dolphins officially welcome tight end Julius Thomas to Miami, they’ll need to welcome him to Miami for a physical. Via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, it’s happening on Tuesday.

And it’s more than an exercise in dotting i’s and crossing t’s. As Salguero notes, Thomas hasn’t played in 16 games at any point in his career. In 2016 alone, Thomas had a fractured tailbone, a back injury, an elbow injury, and an ankle injury.

Since becoming a full-time starter in 2013, Thomas has missed 16 total games — a full season of missed playing time in four NFL campaigns. His best year came in 2013, when he caught 65 passes for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He added 12 more (but with 299 fewer yards) in 2014. In two seasons with Jacksonville, Thomas has a total of nine touchdown receptions.

A reunion with former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase could get Thomas back into the end zone more often. Salguero pointed out on Tuesday’s PFT Live that Thomas would arrive with more experience in the Gase system than any other player on the roster.

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Panthers release veteran defensive tackle Paul Soliai

Soliai AP

The Panthers like to keep themselves deep on the defensive line, but carved into that depth Tuesday.

According to a tweet from his agent, the Panthers are releasing veteran defensive tackle Paul Soliai.

The Panthers gave Soliai a two-year, $7 million contract last year, and there were times last season when he wasn’t even active for games.

The 33-year-old has been a solid run-stopper, but the Panthers are particularly deep at defensive tackle, with Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short and 2016 first-rounder Vernon Butler.

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Pat Shurmur expects “great improvements” from Laquon Treadwell

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 11:   Laquon Treadwell #11 of the Minnesota Vikings during warm ups before taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 11, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

In 2015, fifth-round Vikings rookie receiver Stefon Diggs had a major impact in his first season. In 2016, first-round Vikings rookie receiver Laquon Treadwell did not.

With offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur going from “interim” to “permanent” (as permanent as the job ever is), Shurmur expects Treadwell to take a major step in 2017.

“[Treadwell] is going to be like any young player that’s going from year one to year two. This is going to be an offseason that is very critical,” Shurmur recently said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “He’s had a chance now to go through the process once. He’ll have a feel for what it’s going to feel like and we’re anticipating he’s going to come back and be raring to go and make great improvements.”

Treadwell, the fourth receiver taken in round one last April, had one catch for 15 yards in nine games with one start. A hamstring injury and an ankle injury marred the balance of his rookie year. Shurmur nevertheless sees the glass as half full.

“He came in and kind of had little nagging things that kind of kept him from full-time early,” Shurmur said. “But when he got in the games the things he did well when he got in the game, he didn’t get targeted often, but he blocked well and he competed. That’s really the starting point for any young player.”

Treadwell arrived with the size and strength to allow former offensive coordinator Norv Turner to bring back the “Bang 8.” Early in camp, Treadwell showed a willingness to mix things up. Ultimately, it was a major disappointment, in all respects.

And so at a time when plenty of rookie receivers make an immediate impact, Treadwell’s rookie year falls squarely into the “disappointment” category. Whether he clicks with Shurmur’s new-look offense will go a long way toward determining whether the Vikings get a return on their investment.

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Geoff Schwartz announces he’s retired

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - JANUARY 30:  Football player Geoff Schwartz attends day one of the Kia Luxury Lounge presented by ZIRH at Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts on January 30, 2015 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images for Kia) Getty Images

After offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz was released by the Lions before the start of the 2016 season, he thought he’d get a look from another team looking for experienced help on their offensive front.

That call never came, however. Schwartz chalked it up to the injuries that limited him to 13 games with the Giants over the previous two seasons and also credited those injuries with sapping him of his desire to continue playing. Schwartz has known he was done playing for a while and formally announced his retirement in an essay of SB Nation on Tuesday.

“I loved the process of getting myself ready to play a game. It started in late February and continued all through the season. The workouts, the diet (didn’t always love that, but it worked), the film study, and most of all, the locker room camaraderie,” Schwartz wrote. “The payoff of that process was Sundays. Some players dreaded game day, the pressure was too much. I enjoyed that pressure. I thought it always brought out the best of me. I always told myself I’d play as long as someone wanted me or until I didn’t love the process anymore. Well, both of those happened, almost at the same time.”

Schwartz entered the league as a seventh-round pick of the Panthers in 2008 and made his regular season debut the next year. He played 74 games for the Panthers, Vikings, Chiefs and Giants.

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49ers hire John Benton as offensive line coach

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

John Benton’s stay with the Broncos was a short one.

Benton was hired as the assistant offensive line coach in Denver after Vance Joseph was named the Broncos’ new head coach, but he won’t be on Joseph’s staff in 2017. Benton was granted permission to interview with the 49ers for their offensive line job and it apparently went well.

A day after Alex Marvez of Sporting News reported that Benton was finalizing a deal to join Kyle Shanahan’s staff, Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reports that the agreement is in place. The move reunites Shanahan and Benton, who coached the offensive line in Houston when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of the Texans for four seasons.

Benton spent seven years with the Texans overall and has also coached the offensive line for the Rams and 49ers over the course of his career.

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LeGarrette Blount “definitely” wants to stay in New England

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount celebrates during the Patriots victory parade on February 7, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime in Super Bowl 51. (Photo by Michael J. Ivins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Running back LeGarrette Blount left the Patriots as a free agent in 2014 to sign with the Steelers in a move that didn’t work out.

Blount got in trouble off the field before the start of the regular season and grew unhappy with his role on the field during the year, culminating in his decision to leave the sideline early during a game against the Titans. The Steelers released him and he went back to New England, where he gained more yards in five games than he did in 11 in Pittsburgh.

Blount’s success has continued in New England and he ran 299 times for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns during the 2016 season. He saw a bit less time in the postseason offense, but that hasn’t made him start pining for another employer.

“I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England,” Blount said on NFL Total Access on NFL Network. “I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I’ve become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is. We’ll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I’m in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to.”

Blount signed for $1 million last year and earned a bit more in incentives, which is probably the neighborhood the Patriots would like for another contract given their other options in the backfield and success plugging in a variety of backs over the years. Assuming that works for Blount, an extended stay in New England seems like a pretty good bet.

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Should Steelers use exclusive or non-exclusive tag on Le’Veon Bell?

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts prior to the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last night’s erroneous analysis of the running back franchise tag calculation from NFL Network, which pushed the idea that the release of Adrian Peterson will reduce the tender even though it won’t, provided one valuable service, albeit indirectly and unintentionally.

The #fakenews brought to light the fact that the exclusive franchise tender for running backs in 2017 will be dramatically lower than the non-exclusive tender. Which means that the Steelers can use either one on running back Le’Veon Bell, at the exact same cost. So which one would they/should they use?

The difference matters only if another team would be inclined to sign Bell to an offer sheet and surrender a pair of first-round draft picks if the Steelers don’t match. Given the position he plays, his injury history (three weeks ago, Bell said he still doesn’t know if he’ll need surgery to repair a groin muscle injured during the playoffs), and multiple substance-abuse policy suspensions, it’s highly unlikely that anyone (even one of the teams at the bottom of the first round) would cough up that kind of compensation for Bell.

Still, with the non-exclusive tag, Bell would be allowed to visit other teams and negotiate with them. With the exclusive tag, he’d be blocked from talking to anyone except the Steelers.

If the Steelers choose to use the non-exclusive tag, the message to other teams could be that Pittsburgh would be willing to trade Bell for something less than two first-round picks — and Bell would have the ability to shop himself via negotiation with interested parties. The decision that Pittsburgh makes in this regard therefore could say plenty about whether the Steelers are willing to move on from Bell, at the right price.

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John Lynch called Matt Millen to see what not to do

MattMillenGettyImages Getty Images

When the 49ers hired former NFL safety and broadcaster John Lynch to become their General Manager, the easy punch line was that it sounded a lot like the Lions hiring Matt Millen.

But Lynch touched base with Millen as he embarked on his new gig, to make sure his team didn’t turn into the same kind of joke.

Via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, Lynch said he had a conversation with Millen about what not to do.

“Matt Millen and I had a great conversation the other day,” Lynch said during an interview on 95.7 The Game. “I found it was very interesting to talk to him. He shared with me some of the things that he would’ve done differently. I think you can learn a little bit from everything and everyone, but ultimately you go to put your head down and go to work.

“We’ve put together a really, really quality team that I’m excited about. We’re in full stride and working every day to knock down things on our list. It’s a big list, and we’re ambitious on how aggressive we want to attack that. But it’s going very well.”

Among Lynch’s moves was hiring the guy who replaced Millen in Detroit as a senior personnel executive. And while Martin Mayhew’s 47-81 record as G.M. wasn’t sterling, it was better than Millen’s 31-61.

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Colin Kaepernick needs an agent fairly soon

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 24:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick recently parted ways with his agents. Per NFLPA records, he has yet to hire a replacement.

He’ll need to move fairly soon. As Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group recently pointed out, the window for opting out of his contract in San Francisco opens on March 2 and closes on March 7.

Apart from needing an agent to file the right paperwork to opt out on time (then again, former 49ers receiver Terrell Owens had an agent to file the proper paperwork and there still was a snafu), Kaepernick needs an agent to talk to other teams during the two-day window before free agency opens on March 9, because teams can’t talk directly to players during that window — even if the players are self-represented.

Of course, it may not matter for Kaepernick; there’s no indication that a land rush for his services will unfold when free agency opens, in part because some owners will view the potential fallout from embracing a player who engaged in a season-long National Anthem protest as making him radioactive, from a business standpoint.

Regardless of politics, the fact remains that NFL teams need to persuade fans to part ways with their money and time. With a certain percentage of the fan base automatically alienated by Kaepernick’s arrival, some teams will look elsewhere when the time comes to add a quarterback, regardless of his past accomplishments, his current/future potential, and the ongoing effort by plenty of teams to upgrade at the position.

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