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Ravens visited with C.J. Mosley, Jimmie Ward recently

CJ Mosley AP

Rolando McClain wasn’t the only former Alabama linebacker to pay the Ravens a visit this week.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Ravens had C.J. Mosley in for a pre-draft visit. For Mosley’s sake, let’s hope it went better than McClain’s attempt to restart his NFL career.

Mosley is considered the top inside linebacker prospect in this year’s draft and is expected to be a first-round pick next month. Mosley suffered a handful of injuries during his time with the Crimson Tide, but said recently that he got a clean bill of health at the combine.

The Ravens re-signed Daryl Smith this offseason and also bring back Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan and Josh Bynes at inside linebacker, but saw Jameel McClain sign with the Giants. That doesn’t make it the most pressing of needs, especially with a hole at safety next to Matt Elam.

On that front, Wilson reports that the Ravens have also met with Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward recently. Ward is coming off a foot injury, but has been able to work out this spring and is projected to be selected in the first two rounds.

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Khalil Mack to visit with Falcons next week as well

Khalil Mack AP

The Falcons went into this offseason hoping to put together a defense that makes more impactful plays than the 2013 version and they’re devoting a good chunk of next week to meetings with players that might help them do that.

We’ve already seen reports that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr are headed for visits with Atlanta next week and Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports that the Falcons are also expected to meet with Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. That gives them a clean sweep of the top three defensive edge players in this year’s class.

The Falcons aren’t locked into going that route, however. They’ve also shown interest in the top two offensive tackles — Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews — and they can use the help in either area.

Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff made a big trade up to get wide receiver Julio Jones a few years ago and the Falcons could make another move this year if they don’t think the player they want will make it to the sixth pick. Next week’s meetings will likely help inform that decision.

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Joe Reitz signs RFA tender with Colts

Joe Reitz AP

The Colts start their offseason workouts on Monday, which may explain why guard Joe Reitz decided to bring his time as a restricted free agent to an end on Thursday.

The team announced that Reitz has signed the tender offer extended to him earlier this offseason. Reitz will make $1.431 million as a result.

Reitz was claimed off waivers from the Dolphins in 2010 and has played in 34 games over the last three seasons. He’s started 20 of those games, including three in 2013, but is slated for a reserve role next season with Donald Thomas expected back to full strength after last year’s injury-marred season.

With Reitz back in the fold, the Colts return most of last year’s offensive line. Center Samson Satele was cut and sometime-starter Jeff Linkenbach signed with Kansas City while Phil Costa and Lance Louis were signed to join Reitz in the mix for depth roles.

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49ers meet with another running back

Jim Harbaugh AP

The 49ers are reportedly shopping running back LaMichael James for a trade, which seems fine with James while also opening up a spot on the roster that could possibly be filled by another back selected in the draft.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports that the 49ers met with a prospect for that spot this week when University of the Cumberlands running back Terrance Cobb was in for a visit. Cobb joins Towson’s Terrance West and Central Florida’s Storm Johnson as backs that have popped up on the 49ers’ radar recently.

Cobb struggled with injuries during his senior season at the NAIA school, but the 49ers should be able to get some extra insight into his abilities. His older brother Reggie, an ex-NFL running back, is a regional scout for the team and should have some, perhaps biased, thoughts on what his little brother will be able to do at the next level.

Frank Gore is heading into the final year of his contract, so the 49ers may be looking for another back to add to Kendall Hunter, Marcus Lattimore and Jewel Hampton as they try to figure out what their backfield will look like in 2015 and beyond.

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Aaron Hernandez investigation leads to an arrest in Florida

Aaron Hernandez AP

Two of Aaron Hernandez’s alleged accomplices have been indicted in connection to Odin Lloyd’s murder in Massachusetts last year and now an arrest connected to the case has been made in Florida as well.

Oscar Hernandez Jr., who is not related to Aaron Hernandez, has been arrested on federal charges of lying to a grand jury, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering. The U.S. attorney’s office in Boston released a statement saying that the arrest was related to gun trafficking between Florida and Massachusetts and that the case is “related” to a June 17, 2013 murder in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. 

The Boston Globe reports that a source briefed on the investigation confirms that Lloyd was the victim of that murder and that the case against Hernandez Jr. is part of the ongoing effort to find the murder weapon. Hernandez Jr. is accused of lying to a grand jury and obstructing justice when he said he didn’t have anything to do with purchasing and shipping a Toyota Camry to Hernandez’s North Attleboro home. A gun was found inside the Camry, which was parked in Hernandez’s garage, when police searched the former Patriots tight end’s home.

Hernandez Jr. is also accused of trying to influence the testimony of the person he allegedly bought the Camry from in Florida and will be brought to Massachusetts to face the charges at a later date.

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PFT Live: Patriots talk with Tom Curran, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Bill Belichick AP

We’re inching ever closer to the draft, which kicks off three weeks from today with the first round from New York City.

The Patriots won’t be selecting until late in the first round, assuming, of course, that they don’t trade out of the 29th spot. Tom Curran of CSN New England will join Mike Florio on Thursday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss the possibility of Bill Belichick doing that and what the Patriots might do if they wind up staying put in the spot they earned with their latest AFC East title.

Florio will ask the questions during that segment, but he’ll also be answering questions about the Patriots, the draft or anything else on your mind right now. PFT Planet can send their questions in via Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or by giving a call to 888-237-5269 during the show. 

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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T.J. Ward: We’re trying to be one of the best defenses in the world

T.J. Ward AP

On Wednesday, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said that the team needed to reestablish its identity for the 2014 season after shuffling their roster in the wake of their Super Bowl loss against the Seahawks.

One of those new arrivals has a suggestion of what that new identity should look like. Safety T.J. Ward said that everybody on the defensive side of the ball is looking to “make a statement from point go, from the first preseason game” so that opponents no longer go into games against Denver worried only about the Manning-led offense.

“As good as the Broncos offense was last year, you see what happens when you get put up against a stout defense and an offense that can pretty much manage and make some plays here and there,” Ward said, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today. “We’re sending a message right now that we’re coming in not only trying to be one of the top offenses in the league, but one of the top defenses in the world and get that Super Bowl ring.”

The additions of Ward, defensive end DeMarcus Ware and cornerback Aqib Talib were designed to make the Broncos defense a more formidable unit in the coming season and a healthy return for linebacker Von Miller is another reason to think that better days are ahead on that side of the ball. Whether that changes the identity of the team from the offense-centric one of 2013 remains to be seen, but it should make the Broncos a more balanced team when they next take the field.

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Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham scheduled for visits with Jets

Odell Beckham Jr. AP

The Jets have added running back Chris Johnson and wide receiver Eric Decker to the team this offseason, but few expect that they’re done addressing the offensive skill positions.

The Jets will add some fuel to that school of thought next week when they host wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Odell Beckham for pre-draft visits. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that both players will spend time with the team.

Cooks has been on the Jets’ radar for some time as offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg checked out his pro day at Oregon State last month. The Jets were thought to be very interested in wide receiver Tavon Austin last season and Cooks, the fastest wideout at the combine, would offer them some of the same skills.

The same is true of Beckham, who is a bit bigger than Cooks but still under six feet. Beckham was also a standout returner at LSU, which would broaden his potential contributions to the team beyond playing opposite Decker in the team’s offense. Throw in USC’s Marqise Lee and there are three receivers cut from a similar cloth that the Jets will be considering for the next few weeks.

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Jadeveon Clowney to visit Falcons next week

Jadeveon Clowney AP

Back in February, Jadeveon Clowney said that he would love it if the Falcons traded up from the sixth pick to select him in May’s draft.

He’ll have the chance to make the case in person next week. Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports that Clowney will visit with the Falcons as Atlanta tries to find defensive players who can help jolt their unit back to life after a subpar 2013 season.

The Falcons are meeting with several other players who could help on that front, which is probably a good thing because their chances of landing Clowney may not be great. Plenty of people think he’ll be off the board when the Texans hand in their top selection and neither they nor the Rams, who pick second, may be willing to pass up a chance at landing a player widely regarded as the most talented player in this year’s draft.

That leaves Atlanta to try to pay the heavy price it will take to get those teams to change their mind or move in a different direction come May 8. With tackles Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews on the radar as well as their defensive needs, the Falcons should be able to fill a hole even if Clowney’s desire to wind up in Atlanta winds up unfulfilled.

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Brian Orakpo still hoping for long-term deal

Brian Orakpo AP

Linebacker Brian Orakpo stands to make $11.45 million for the 2014 season after signing the franchise tag the Redskins used on him this offseason, but he’s still hoping that he’ll wind up signing another deal with the team before July 15.

That’s the deadline to sign a multi-year deal and Orakpo said Wednesday that remains his goal for the offseason. While speaking to Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com, Orakpo indicated that talks General Manager Bruce Allen on such a deal are moving slowly while reiterating his desire.

“We’ll see. I can’t speak for Bruce and whoever’s in charge from that standpoint,” Orakpo said. “Absolutely I want something done long term, but everything will come into play eventually. I’m here right now, I don’t want to be a distraction.”

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said earlier this offseason that the team wouldn’t mind letting Orakpo play out the tag and then revisit his future after the season, so there may not be much for Orakpo to do to convince the Redskins to change course before the middle of July. If that’s the case, 2014 will be a second straight 16-game audition for the linebacker.

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Police say Sharper’s DNA was found on clothing of one of his accusers

Darren Sharper, Blair Berk, Leonard Levine AP

A Tempe, Arizona police department testified Wednesday that ex-NFL safety Darren Sharper’s DNA was found on the clothing of one of the two women accusing him of drugging and sexually assaulting them.

The Associated Press reports that the testimony came at a hearing in Tempe on Wednesday that saw Sharper’s lawyers challenge the evidence authorities are using as a basis to keep Sharper in jail without bail. Sharper is accused of drugging three women and sexually assaulting two of them last November.

Detective Kevin Mace testified that Sharper’s DNA was found on the clothing of one of the women he’s accused of assaulting, but none was found on the other woman. Mace also testified that Sharper had a prescription for the sedative zolpidem and that a police search of the apartment of one of the women turned up a shot glass with zolpidem residue. 

Sharper also faces charges along similar lines in California and Louisiana with the possibility of more to follow in other states. He was granted bail in California, but will remain in jail in Arizona pending a decision on his bail. The hearing will continue on Thursday.

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Chris Johnson: I want to prove the doubters wrong

New York Jets v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Jets landed running back Chris Johnson on Wednesday, ending a brief free agent stint that didn’t feature overwhelming interest around the league in Johnson’s services.

Johnson spoke to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean after signing his contract and he had some of those teams on his mind when discussing his plans for the upcoming season. Johnson said he’s going to draw motivation from those who think he doesn’t have the same spark he had when he was running for more than 2,000 yards for the Titans.

“I have a fresh start. Now I am going to go out there with a chip on my shoulder,” Johnson said. “I know a lot of people are doubting me. I want to prove everybody wrong who has doubts in me. I am very excited about [joining the Jets]. It’s a team on the rise and I want to make them better. … I still have it.”

Johnson joins Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and Mike Goodson in the Jets backfield at the moment, although there’s a good chance they’ll part ways with Goodson now that Johnson is in the fold. How things will shake out in terms of playing time remains to be seen, but he new Jet said he’s already spoken to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg about the different ways he’ll be used in 2014.

“I think I’m going to fit in pretty well,” Johnson said, via the team’s website. “Just talking to him and to Rex, who’s a guy that likes to run the ball, I think I’m going to fit in very well. We talked about all those things, catching out of the backfield, getting the ball to me in space.”

Johnson had 42 catches last season, one fewer than Jets team leader Jeremy Kerley, and his four receiving touchdowns were as many as Jets leader Jeff Cumberland, which underscores the need for more offensive talent on the roster. The Jets have added that in Johnson and wide receiver Eric Decker. With more likely to come in the draft, the Jets will look a lot different offensively than they did last season and that’s a step in the right direction.

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Bengals sign T.J. Conley

New York Jets v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Bengals had to scramble for a punter near the end of last season because of Kevin Huber’s broken jaw, but they won’t have to scramble for one if Huber isn’t able to kick this offseason.

The team announced Wednesday that they have signed free agent punter T.J. Conley. Conley punted for the Jets in 2011, but the team moved in a different direction before the 2012 season and Conley hasn’t played in the last two regular seasons. He was with the Browns last summer.

Conley averaged 42.7 yards a punt for the Jets and had a net of 38.8 yards.

Huber is expected to be fine for next season, so Conley is likely just going to be an extra leg for OTAs, minicamps and training camp. That could change, but Huber has turned in two straight strong seasons so any competition will be slanted in his favor.

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Aaron Murray scheduled for visit with Browns

Aaron Murray AP

The Browns promised to look at a lot of quarterbacks during the period before the draft and they are proving to be true to their word.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray will visit with the team next week, which adds another name to the long list of quarterbacks the Browns have spent time with this offseason. Those players include potential selections with the fourth overall pick, like Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles, as well as options for the later rounds.

Murray falls into the latter category and probably would have been there even if he didn’t tear his ACL last season. Murray was able to recover enough to participate in drills at Wednesday’s pro day, however, and he started 52 games at Georgia that teams can pick over for an idea of what he brings to the table.

The Browns have Brian Hoyer, who is also coming off a torn ACL, and Alex Tanney at quarterback, which is why their research into players at the position would go down as one of the more elaborate smokescreens of all time if they don’t wind up picking a quarterback next month.

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Clay Matthews: Julius Peppers is going to create a lot of opportunities for me

Clay Matthews AP

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews is feeling good on a couple of fronts these days.

Matthews’ thumb is feeling better after a pair of injuries led to season-ending surgery in December and the opposite side of the Packers defense is looking more imposing after they signed Julius Peppers following Peppers’ departure from the Bears. Matthews thinks Peppers’ arrival is going to lead to more chances to get to the quarterback.

“This guy’s [6-7], 290. I’m 6-4 on a good day and 255,” Matthews said, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today. “They’re going to double the big guy, and that leaves plenty of opportunities for me. I haven’t had too many one-on-one opportunities, and when you do, you’re expected to win — at least in our locker room — the majority of the time, because that’s supposed to be a mismatch.”

A healthy Matthews should win a fair amount of those battles and he said that he doesn’t expect to do much at OTAs to limit the risk of a third injury to his thumb. He expects to be all systems go for training camp and a pairing with the best pass rusher he’s had across from him in Green Bay.

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