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Report: Greg Hardy to meet with league on Wednesday

Greg Hardy AP

Last week, the NFL said that defensive end Greg Hardy can’t be reinstated to active duty because he hasn’t been disciplined under the league’s personal conduct policy and therefore can’t be reinstated from a suspension.

That’s true, but it’s not quite the entire story. Hardy remains on the commissioner’s exempt list while the league looks into last year’s arrest on domestic violence charges, however, and would like to have that rectified with free agency starting on March 10.

Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that Hardy will have a meeting with the league in New York on Wednesday in an effort to do that. While the Panthers have reportedly made the decision to move on without Hardy, there will surely be other teams interested in his services and a clear idea of his availability will just as surely impact the offers they make to secure his services.

A judge found Hardy guilty last July, but Hardy appealed and the case against him was dismissed when his accuser failed to appear for a jury trial last month. The NFL requested court files from the bench trial as part of their own investigation, but were rebuffed and they would need to get the transcript of the trial directly from Hardy’s attorney.

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Tom Johnson looking for 3 or 4 years after 6.5 sacks for Vikings

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In defensive tackle Tom Johnson’s first three NFL seasons, he picked up five sacks while playing a rotational role on the Saints defensive line.

Johnson signed with the Vikings last offseason and Minnesota was rewarded with a more productive effort in the pass rush. Johnson had 6.5 sacks in 444 defensive snaps for the Vikings and now he’s looking to get rewarded with a long-term deal. Johnson’s agent Bardia Ghahremani told Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press what the impending free agent is looking for in his next contract.

“Tom knows what he is and the value he brings to the table,” Ghahremani said. “We’re not looking for another, ‘Come in for another one-year deal.’ We want to find him a home for the rest of his career, a three- or four-year deal in the right situation and right system … If the Vikings make a fair offer, absolutely I would say the Vikings are his first choice.”

Johnson saw time in the Arena League and CFL before making the Saints and he turns 31 in August, which may make it hard for him to find a contract of the desired length. He was also arrested on disorderly conduct charges last fall and rejected a plea deal in December, which may be a factor for teams considering signing him. There’s a court date scheduled for March 30 on that matter.

Even with those caveats, Johnson’s strong season as a pass rusher should position him for a bump from last year’s $645,000 base salary whether he’s in Minnesota or elsewhere.

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Report: Ravens ask Lardarius Webb to take pay cut

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There’s been talk about the Ravens approaching defensive tackle Haloti Ngata about a pay cut and it appears he’s not the only member of the defense finding himself in that position.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team has asked cornerback Lardarius Webb to slash his salary before the start of the 2015 season. Webb is set to make $8 million in the fourth year of a six-year contract he signed with the team in 2012 and carries a $12 million cap charge.

Per Rapoport, it’s unclear what the Ravens will do if Webb doesn’t agree. These cases tend to be pay cut or get cut, but it may not be the case this time.

Complicating things for the Ravens a bit is that they don’t get a great deal of relief from cutting Webb. Doing it outright would save them $2 million while designating him as a post-June 1 cut would mean waiting for the additional cap room until the top replacement options in free agency are off the board.

Webb missed three of the first four games last season with a back injury, but was healthy the rest of the way. That was unusual for a Ravens corner in 2014, although Webb’s play wasn’t at a high enough level that a pay cut request comes as a great surprise.

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Jets keeping season ticket prices level in 2015

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The Jets took a nosedive in 2014, but their season ticket prices are holding level.

The team announced that they won’t be changing the cost of attending a Jets game for the 2015 season after raising prices last year. The team will expand the use of variable pricing, but tickets for non-club seats to the game will still cost between $50 and $162.50.

“After considering many factors, we determined to keep season ticket prices unchanged for the 2015 season,” team president Neil Glat said, via the Associated Press.

In an email to season ticket holders, owner Woody Johnson said he wants MetLife Stadium “to be a fearsome place to play.” The Jets’ home slate for 2015 consists of their AFC East rivals, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Washington. If the 2015 season plays out anything like last year for the Jets and most of their opponents, fearsome might not prove to be the right word for the slate.

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Ryan Tannehill on Mike Wallace: I’m excited to see what this year holds for us

Mike Wallace, Ryan Tannehill AP

The Dolphins held onto tight end Charles Clay via the transition tag, but they’ve been taking the scalpel to other members of the receiving corps.

Wide receivers Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson are both gone and the team hasn’t said what they plan to do about Mike Wallace, who will count $12.1 million against the cap after a year that ended with him on the bench after a spat with the coaching staff. That unhappiness with role or prominence in the offense has been a persistent storyline through Wallace’s two years in Miami with talk often roaming to his relationship with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Tannehill said Tuesday that he has no idea what the Dolphins will do with Wallace, but said he had a “great” conversation with the receiver recently that left him looking forward to a third year with the wideout.

“We’ve done it in the past, and the more time we spend together the more the relationship will grow. I’m excited to see what this year holds for us,” Tannehill said, via the Palm Beach Post. “Mike’s a talented player. We’ve all seen what he can do and the element he adds to our offense. Like I said, if he comes back, we’re going to make it work with him, and let him be the playmaker he is.”

Reports out of Miami last week were that Wallace wasn’t willing to take a pay cut, although there’s been no action or comment from the team in any direction.

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Cole Beasley signs four-year deal with Cowboys

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The Cowboys have reached agreement on a multi-year deal with one of their wide receivers.

No, not that one.

It’s Cole Beasley who has signed his name to a new contract with the team. Beasley was set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, but the team has gone further than that to secure his services.

According to multiple reports, Beasley has agreed to a four-year, $13.6 million deal with $7 million guaranteed. Incentives can push the total money in the deal up another $1.5 million and Beasley will reportedly get a $4 million signing bonus.

Beasley had 37 catches for 420 yards and four touchdowns this season with 21 catches and all the scores coming as Dallas went 5-1 down the stretch. He had seven more catches in the playoffs and should continue to be a frequent presence in the slot alongside Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams next season.

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PFT Live: Josh McCown, Broncos/Cowboys offseason to-do lists

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Things didn’t work out for Josh McCown in Tampa in 2014, but he didn’t have to wait long after being released to find a new home.

The Browns snapped up the veteran quarterback as an option along with Johnny Manziel for the 2015 season and we’ll talk to McCown about what led him to Cleveland when he joins Mike Florio on Tuesday’s edition of PFT Live. Al Michaels and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith are also set to join the program.

Florio will also keep the offseason to-do lists rolling with a look at what’s ahead for the Broncos and Cowboys in the next few months. Peyton Manning, DeMarco Murray and much more will be up for discussion for a pair of teams trying to get back to the playoffs in 2015.

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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C.J. Spiller: EJ Manuel was too “buddy buddy” with other players

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Running back C.J. Spiller is headed for free agency and doesn’t know if he’ll be playing with quarterback EJ Manuel again in 2015, but he does think the Bills quarterback learned a valuable lesson after being benched for Kyle Orton last season.

When Orton took over the offense, some Bills players remarked about the difference that came with having a veteran like Orton in the lineup. They talked about the way he told players what he needed them to do, something that Spiller says Manuel didn’t do when he was the starter in his first two seasons.

“He learned that you can’t be buddy buddy with everybody,” Spiller said during an appearance on NFL Network. “You’re the face of the franchise, you’re the quarterback so you have to demand everything…I think early on he didn’t really didn’t understand how to step on guys’ toes. Once Kyle took over, he saw what Kyle did and it helped him.”

Spiller said Manuel is a “tremendous worker” and that he thinks he can be a successful quarterback in the NFL if he works things out on the leadership side of the board. Spiller said that the ball is in Buffalo’s court as to whether he’ll be sharing a backfield with Manuel when and if that happens, but the chances of Manuel getting another shot will keep looking better the longer the Bills are without a viable alternative.

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Ray Ventrone joins Patriots coaching staff

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The Patriots were the only team in the league without a former NFL player on their coaching staff in 2014, something that didn’t stand in their way of winning the Super Bowl.

They may have just been waiting for the right player to end his playing career. The Patriots have announced the addition of Ray Ventrone to their coaching staff as an assistant special teams coach a little more than two weeks after he was playing for the 49ers.

The move allows Ventrone to start his post-playing career in the same place he started his playing career. Ventrone was signed by the Patriots in 2005 as an undrafted safety out of Villanova and made his first regular season appearance for the team in 2007.

Ventrone bounced on and off the 49ers roster multiple times last season before ending the year on injured reserve with a groin injury. Ventrone saw a lot more time on special teams than in the secondary when he was in the lineup, which was the case for the majority of his playing career. All told, Ventrone played 97 games over nine seasons with New England, Cleveland and San Francisco and recorded 57 tackles.

 

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Bernard Pollard: I want another ring

Tennessee Titans v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Safety Bernard Pollard got what he wanted on Monday when the Titans told him that they’d release him after Pollard requested his walking papers in the wake of a torn Achilles during a 2-14 season.

Pollard told Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean that he feels like he was no longer a fit with the Titans because the team wanted to go young and that “a lot of mistakes have been made and they need to be fixed to put a defense together.” Pollard said he’d like to go somewhere that puts him in position to win as he sees his career having two or three years left.

“They are going to try and get some pieces, and they know they have work to do. But it was time for me to exit and go elsewhere,” Pollard said. “This was a business move for me. I don’t see fans argue when teams cut players under contract. This is a business. I am my own agent, and I have to do what is right for me and my family. I want more hardware, I want another ring.”

Pollard says he’s running after his Achilles injury and feels he could pass a physical, although he knows that some people will have their doubts about his ability to make a positive impact. Pollard promises to “bring heart and passion” and “a physical nature” to his next team, although it’s unclear who might be looking for such an addition to their secondary.

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Brian Hartline to visit Browns on Tuesday

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Last week, Browns safety Donte Whitner banged the drum for the return of wide receiver Ted Ginn to the state he called home through the end of his college career at Ohio State.

The Browns were said to be considering that option, but that’s not the only homecoming possibility for the receiving corps. PFT has learned, via a league source, that Brian Hartline will visit the Browns on Tuesday.

Hartline was born in Canton and spent some time in Columbus with Ginn before heading to the NFL as a 2009 fourth-round pick of the Dolphins. Hartline had 150 catches over the 2012 and 2013 seasons while topping 1,000 yards in each season, but dropped to 39 catches for 474 yards with the Dolphins last year.

The Dolphins cut Hartline as part of their cap tightening last week, but there’s still interest in Miami about a possible return for the right price. Hartline has also garnered interest from other teams in addition to the Browns, though, so the chances of coming back to South Florida may not be great.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

A preview of the free agent running backs, including Bills RB C.J. Spiller.

Will the Dolphins be bidders for Ndamukong Suh?

A look at the decisions the Patriots have to make in the secondary.

The Jets are likely to be in the market for a wide receiver again.

Will Ravens WR Torrey Smith’s market be affected by the use of franchise tags on two wide receivers?

A preview of offseason machinations on the Bengals defensive line.

Former Browns FB Ed Modzelewski died at the age of 86.

The Steelers passed on the chance to tag LB Jason Worilds a second time.

Texans teammates past and present started saying farewell to WR Andre Johnson.

Any Colts moves in free agency have to start with players already on the roster.

The Jaguars are happy to have John Idzik in their front office.

An unenthused take on the Titans signing WR/KR Jacoby Jones.

A look at secondary concerns for the Broncos.

Not signing LB Justin Houston last year could prove costly to the Chiefs.

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. brings experience and intensity with him to the job.

The Chargers are trying to do a stronger job of player development.

Tight end isn’t a major offseason priority for the Cowboys.

Giants WR Odell Beckham took a negative view of the “respect and morals” on social media via social media.

What’s ahead on the defensive line for the Eagles?

Questioning the Redskins’ ability to build through the draft.

The Bears are in good shape under the cap heading into free agency.

The Lions should look for special teams help this offseason.

T Bryan Bulaga and WR Randall Cobb could be on their way out for the Packers.

The Vikings were well represented at the University of Minnesota pro day.

Forecasting Falcons S Dwight Lowery’s free agency prospects.

Will OL Fernando Velasco remain with the Panthers?

Cuts are likely coming for the Buccaneers.

The Cardinals don’t have much work to do at wide receiver.

Tracing Chris Weinke’s path to his job as the Rams quarterbacks coach.

RB Frank Gore may be getting closer to his departure from the 49ers.

The Seahawks signed LB Mister Alexander to their 90-man roster.

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Jairus Byrd expected to be 100 percent in a few weeks

Terrance West, Jairus Byrd AP

It’s almost time for free agency to get underway, which means we’re closing in on the one-year anniversary of safety Jairus Byrd’s arrival in New Orleans.

Byrd signed a six-year, $54 million deal with the Saints early in free agency, a move that the team hoped would boost their defense to a level that would help them make a playoff run. Things didn’t quite work out that way. Byrd missed time in the offseason after back surgery, struggled along with the rest of the defense in the first month of the season and then was done for the season after four games because of a torn meniscus.

They’d like a better showing the second time around and it would start with Byrd being fully healthy. That’s expected shortly, according to coach Sean Payton.

“He’s doing well,” Payton said, via Jen Hale of FOXSports New Orleans. “His rehab is on schedule. He’ll be cleared for minicamp. We’re looking at about 2 or 3 weeks from him being 100 percent.”

The Saints have some work to do to get their cap in shape for the start of the new league year and it’s unclear how much they can add to the roster even after they make those moves, a situation that makes a full return from last year’s big-ticket addition all the more important.

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Devin McCourty: It would be bittersweet to leave the Patriots

Baltimore Ravens Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Getty Images

Safety Devin McCourty had no argument with getting what he called a “player-friendly” franchise tag from the Patriots, but things played out a different way on Monday.

The Patriots opted to use the tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski instead, a move that McCourty said he didn’t know was coming until the Patriots made it. McCourty said there was “no real information” from the team ahead of time about where they’d go with the tag and correctly surmised that the chances he winds up playing elsewhere are greater in light of the move.

As for that, McCourty said he wants to remain with the Patriots but he knows that the best deal may be coming from somewhere else.

“It would definitely be bittersweet,” McCourty said, via Josina Anderson of ESPN. “You stay somewhere for five years and really make a name for yourself in that place. I’ve gotten a lot of help. I know a lot of people in the area, built great relationships, so it will definitely be bittersweet. But my mom always reminds me that comes with the territory. That’s part of being in the NFL, that change is always coming.”

With the Patriots still working out cornerback Darrelle Revis’s situation for the 2015 season, it seems likely that McCourty is going to be talking to other teams come the weekend. As the top safety hitting the market, there’s a good chance that one of them will make him an offer that leads to bittersweet feelings.

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Bills opt against tagging Jerry Hughes

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Jerry Hughes broke out after coming to the Bills in a trade before the 2013 season, but back-to-back 10-sack seasons weren’t enough to convince the Bills to use a franchise or transition tag on the edge rusher Monday.

While the Giants and Chiefs chose to use the franchise tag to hold onto Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Houston, respectively, Buffalo will move toward the start of free agency next week with no claim on Hughes’s services. A franchise tag would have entitled Hughes to a salary of $14.8 million if and when he signed the tender.

They still have exclusive negotiating rights with Hughes through next Saturday, when a three-day window opens for teams to talk to the agents of impending free agents.

A deal could be struck between now and then and reports from Buffalo are that the Bills are working hard to strike a deal. With the start of free agency so close, though, it makes sense for Hughes, who is No. 9 on PFT’s list of the top 100 free agents, to hear what other teams are willing to offer him with two of the top pass rushers all but off the market.

Greg Hardy, Jason Worilds, Pernell McPhee, Brandon Graham and Brian Orakpo are some of the other pass-rushing options still ticketed for free agency next week.

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