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NFL to consider 15 new rules, 6 new bylaws, 3 new resolutions

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NFL owners will vote on a wide variety of potential new rules, new league bylaws and new resolutions, covering everything from whether a player can leap over the line of scrimmage on a field goal to whether a team can opt-out of the league’s “Color Rush” uniforms.

2017 rule proposals

1. By Philadelphia: Gives additional protections for long snappers on kick plays.

2. By Philadelphia: Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays.

3. By Philadelphia: Expands the “crown of helmet” foul to include “hairline” part of helmet.

4. By Philadelphia: Amends the challenge system by granting a third challenge if a club is successful on at least one of its initial two challenges, and expands reviewable plays outside of two minutes of each half.

5. By Washington: Eliminates the limit of three total challenges per team per game and eliminates the requirement that a team be successful on each of its first two challenges in order to be awarded a third challenge.

6. By Washington: Moves the line of scrimmage to the 20-yard line for any touchback where the free kick travels through the uprights.

7. By Buffalo and Seattle: Permits a coach to challenge any officials’ decision except scoring plays and turnovers.

8. By Competition Committee: Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.

9. By Competition Committee: Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only.

10. By Competition Committee: Reduces the length of preseason and regular season overtime periods to 10 minutes.

11. By Competition Committee: Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection.

12. By Competition Committee: Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped.

13. By Competition Committee: Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews.

14. By Competition Committee: Makes it Unsportsmanlike Conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock.

15. By Competition Committee: Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

2017 bylaw proposals

1. By Washington: Amends Article XVII, Section 17.1 to eliminate the mandatory cutdown to 75 Active List players.

2. By Washington: Amends Article XVII, Section 17.14 to place a player who has suffered a concussion, and who has not been cleared to play, on the club’s Exempt List, and be replaced by a player on the club’s Practice Squad on a game-by-game basis until the player is cleared to play.

3. By Washington: Amends Article XIX, Sections 19.8(B) and 19.9(B) to permit clubs to opt out of the “color rush” jerseys created for Thursday Night Football.

4. By Competition Committee: Liberalizes rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility for one year only.

5. By Competition Committee: Changes the procedures for returning a player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness to the Active List to be similar to those for returning a player that was Designated for Return.

6. By Competition Committee; The League office will transmit a Personnel Notice to clubs on Sundays during training camp and preseason.

2017 Resolution Proposals

1. By Philadelphia: Amends the NFL’s On-Field Policy to allow clubs to have an alternate helmet in a color to match their third uniform.

2. By Competition Committee: Permits a club to negotiate and reach an agreement with a head coach candidate during the postseason prior to the conclusion of the employer club’s season.

3. By Competition Committee: Permits a contract or non-contract non-football employee to interview with and be hired by another club during the playing season, provided the employer club has consented.

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NFL lays out several proposals to change playing rules in 2017

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NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino announced the following proposed rules changes for the 2017 season, which the league’s owners will vote on at next week’s league meeting:

— Outlaw jumping over the line to block an extra point or field goal.

— Keep in place the rule moving touchbacks to the 25-yard line, which was passed on a temporary basis last year.

— Make permanent the automatic ejection rule for two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls, which was passed on a temporary basis last year.

— Expand defenseless player protection to include receivers running routes, when they’re tracking the quarterback or looking back for the ball, even within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

— Give the league office final say over replay decisions, with input from the referee.

— Eliminate sideline replay monitoring, with a tablet being handed to the referee on the field to review replays in consultation with the league office.

— Standardize the starting of the clock when the runner goes out of bounds outside two minutes remaining in the first half and outside five minutes remaining in the second half.

— Allow the referee to make replay announcements during commercial breaks, rather than waiting for the TV broadcast.

— Institute a 40-second clock after extra points when going to a kickoff if there is not a commercial break.

— Standardize the halftime length to 13 minutes and 30 seconds, rather than allowing the referee to give teams additional time to get in and out of the locker rooms.

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Kirk Cousins could easily leverage a trade, if he wants to

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It has become increasingly clear in recent weeks that quarterback Kirk Cousins will play in 2017 for Washington or San Francisco. Earlier in the day, Mike Silver of NFL Network suggested that, as of right now, it’s more likely than not that Cousins will play for the 49ers.

So how would that happen? Unless Washington rescinds the franchise tender (more on that to come), a trade would be the only way. With Washington likely expecting a major return for Cousins — and with Cousins likely expecting a significant haul on a long-term deal — it could be too hard for San Francisco to put it all together.

That said, there’s a way for Cousins to force Washington to be reasonable as to its expectations. If Cousins, who has yet to sign his $23.94 million franchise tender, were to declare that he won’t be signing it until the week preceding the regular-season opener, Washington would have to decide whether to take whatever San Francisco is offering to get the deal done now or to launch a multi-month game of chicken, with the team embarking on the offseason program and then training camp and then the preseason without Cousins and Cousins risking that the $23.94 million tender will be yanked at any time.

But if the 49ers keep a roster spot, cash, and cap space on hold for Cousins, they could sign him promptly after the franchise tender is removed. They’d risk not having him for the offseason program, training camp, and the preseason, but if the tender is yanked that late they would get him for no compensation to Washington. (Also, Sam Bradford did pretty well in Minnesota last year, despite showing up on Labor Day weekend.)

If Washington doesn’t rescind the tender and doesn’t trade Cousins, he would earn $23.94 million for 16 games. After boycotting the entire offseason regime, however, Cousins surely would not be tagged again (franchise or transition) in 2018. At that point, the 49ers could sign him.

It’s unknown whether Cousins will implement this strategy. However, he still hasn’t signed the tender. Until it does, it’s possible that he uses the failure to sign it as a way to make a trade happen under terms with which the 49ers could live.

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PFT’s Free Agent Hot 100

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The following are PFT’s top 100 free agents for the start of the 2017 league year. The rankings include prospective unrestricted and restricted free agents, as well as released players. Players expected to be released won’t be added until the transaction is official, and the list will be updated as events warrant, with signings, tags and re-signings denoted when announced and/or reported.

1. Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (got the franchise tag from the Steelers on Feb. 27).

2. Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins (got the exclusive franchise tag).

3. Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (got the franchise tag from the Chargers on Feb. 27).

4. Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (got the franchise tag from the Panthers on Feb. 27).

5. Chiefs safety Eric Berry (signed a six-year deal to stay with Chiefs).

6. Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones (initially got the franchise tag, then later agreeed to an extension with the Cardinals).

7. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (got the franchise tag).

8. Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye (agreed to a rich contract with the Jaguars).

9. Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower (signed a new deal to stay with the Patriots).

10. Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (will reportedly sign a rich contract with the Jaguars).

11. Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler (reportedly agreed to a deal with the Browns to become the league’s highest-paid guard).

12. Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (agreed to terms with the Eagles).

13. Washington wide receiver DeSean Jackson (will reportedly sign a rich contract with the Buccaneers).

14. Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson (reportedly plans to sign with the Ravens).

15. Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams (signed a long-term deal to stay with the Ravens).

16. Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore (will reportedly sign a rich contract with the Patriots).

17. Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson (got the franchise tag).

18. Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (signed a one-year deal with Washington).

19. Packers guard T.J. Lang (signed with the Lions, his hometown team).

20. Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (signed with the Rams).

21. Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons (agreed to a two-year deal with the Dolphins).

22. Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe (signed a one-year deal with the Falcons).

23. Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry (signed a deal to stay with Green Bay).

24. Ravens offensive tackle Rick Wagner (reportedly has agreed to terms with the Lions).

25. Cowboys guard Ronald Leary (reportedly agreed to terms with the Broncos).

26. Lions guard Larry Warford (reportedly agreed to a deal with the Saints).

27. Patriots safety Duron Harmon (agreed to a deal to stay with the Patriots).

28. Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (restricted, got the first-round tender)

29. Washington defensive end Chris Baker (agreed to a deal with the Buccaneers).

30. Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett (signed with the Packers).

31. Jaguars cornerback Prince Amukamara (signed a one-year deal with the Bears).

32. Lions offensive tackle Riley Reiff (reportedly agreed to a deal with the Vikings).

33. Packers safety Micah Hyde (signed with the Bills).

34. Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (signed a new deal to stay with the Dolphins).

35. Patriots outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard (signed with the Colts).

36. Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan (signed with the Titans).

37. Packers offensive lineman JC Tretter (reportedly will sign with the Browns.

38. Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon (signed with the Bears).

39. Cardinals safety D.J. Swearinger (agreed to a three-year deal with Washington).

40. Cowboys safety Barry Church (signed with the Jaguars).

41. Broncos offensive tackle Russell Okung (signed with the Chargers).

42. Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (agreed to terms with the Jets).

43. Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (agreed to a deal to stay with the Bengals).

44. Cardinals linebacker Kevin Minter (signed with Bengals).

45. Texans outside linebacker John Simon (signed a three-year deal with the Colts).

46. Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan (signed with the Chiefs).

47. Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley (signed a long-term deal to stay with the Saints).

48. Bills linebacker Zach Brown.

49. Giants defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.

50. Washington wide receiver Pierre Garcon (signed with the 49ers).

51. Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso (restricted, got the first-round tender).

52. Jets offensive tackle Ryan Clady.

53. Broncos outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (announced his retirement).

54. Jaguars safety Jonathan Cyprien (signed with the Titans)

55. Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer (signed with the 49ers).

56. Bills outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (signed a new deal to stay with the Bills).

57. Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (signed a four-year deal with the Panthers).

58. Raiders running back Latavius Murray (signed a three-year deal with the Vikings).

59. Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson (signed a deal to stay with Carolina).

60. Ex-Bears quarterback Jay Cutler

61. 49ers linebacker Gerald Hodges.

62. Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch (agreed to a deal to stay with the Patriots).

63. Jaguars offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum (signed with the Jets).

64. Browns running back Isaiah Crowell (restricted, got the second-round tender from the Browns).

65. Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount.

66. Packers running back Eddie Lacy (signed with the Seahawks).

67. Rams safety T.J. McDonald.

68. Colts tight end Jack Doyle (reportedly agreed to a new deal with the Colts).

69. Eagles offensive lineman Stefen Wisnieswki (signed a new deal to stay with the Eagles).

70. Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison (signed a two-year deal to stay with the Steelers).

71. Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk (signed with the 49ers).

72. Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (signed with the Cardinals).

73. Ex-Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil.

74. Packers tight end Jared Cook (signed with the Raiders).

75. Buccaneers safety Bradley McDougald.

76. Falcons wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (restricted, got the second-round tender).

77. Ex-Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (agreed to a deal with the Giants).

78. Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt (agreed to a four-year deal with the Browns).

79. Ex-Buccaneers cornerback Alterraun Verner.

80. Rams defensive tackle Dominique Easley (restricted).

81. Cowboys defensive end Jack Crawford (agreed to a three-year deal with the Falcons).

82. Titans tight end Anthony Fasano (reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Dolphins).

83. Ex-Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

84. Ex-49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith (plans to sign with the Eagles)

85. Washington center John Sullivan.

86. Colts outside linebacker Erik Walden.

87. Ex-Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.

88. Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (plans to sign with the Raiders).

89. Dolphins tight end Dion Sims (reportedly agreed to a deal with the Giants).

90. Packers outside linebacker Julius Peppers (signed with the Panthers).

91. Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox (agreed to terms with the Buccaneers).

92. Texans tight end Ryan Griffin (agreed to a new deal to stay in Houston).

93. Bills wide receiver Robert Woods (signed with the Rams)

94. Seahawks linebacker Michael Morgan.

95. Ex-Jets center Nick Mangold.

96. Ex-Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy

97. Vikings offensive tackle Andre Smith (signed with the Bengals).

98. Browns offensive lineman Austin Pasztor.

99. Chargers safety Jahleel Addae (agreed to a deal to remain with the Chargers).

100. Ravens defensive end Lawrence Guy (signed with the Patriots).

101. Chargers running back Danny Woodhead (signed with the Ravens)

102. Raiders outside linebacker Perry Riley.

103. Ex-Jaguars defensive tackle Jared Odrick.

104. Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr (signed with the Ravens).

105. Buccaneers center Joe Hawley (signed a new to stay in Tampa Bay).

106. Packers outside linebacker Datone Jones (signed with the Vikings).

107. Seahawks tight end Luke Willson (signed a one-year deal to stay in Seattle).

108. Colts safety Mike Adams (signed a two-year deal with Carolina).

109. Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken

110. Ravens running back Terrance West (restricted).

111. Packers outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott (restricted, signed a one-year deal to stay in Green Bay).

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Team-by-team look at potential tag candidates

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With only a few days left and no tags applied, it’s time to take a look at where the franchise and transition tags could land between now and Wednesday, March 1.

So let’s take our annual team-by-team look at the tag candidates. Better never than late.

Dolphins: No tags are likely in Miami. Receiver Kenny Stills will likely get No. 1 money elsewhere, and the Dolphins can’t justify tagging him with Jarvis Landry on the roster and now eligible for a second contract.

Bills: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore wants big money on a long-term deal. He’ll get a chance to get it elsewhere; the franchise tag is unlikely for the man who has finished a five-year rookie contract in Buffalo.

Jets: A season after tagging Muhammad Wilkerson, they’ve got no impending free agents worthy of the tag this year.

Patriots: Linebacker Dont’a Hightower has surmised that the trade of Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins makes it more likely that Hightower remains in the long-term plans. Absent a long-term deal before March 9, only the franchise tag will ensure another year with the guy who made one of the key plays in Super Bowl LI. For now, whether it’s used remains up in the air.

Steelers: Running back Le’Veon Bell is the prime candidate, but the expected investment of $12 million could be too much for the Steelers. The transition tag is a possibility as well, if no other team would be willing to offer huge money for a guy with a history of injuries and suspensions.

Bengals: Tackle Andrew Whitworth and guard Kevin Zeitler are the two top candidates. Because all offensive lineman are lumped into the same bucket for the franchise tag, however, guards and centers rarely if ever get tagged. Given Whitworth’s age and the team’s frugality, a tag for him isn’t likely, either.

Browns: Has receiver Terrelle Pryor done enough to merit the tag? It would be an amazing development if it happens, but the Browns need to find a way to retain a player who has yet to reach his ceiling at his new position — and who has the kind of zeal and passion for his team and his city that more Browns players need.

Ravens: Defensive tackle Brandon Williams is the team’s top candidate, but the Ravens haven’t been bashful about letting big-money players go and reloading from below. If they believe in Michael Pierce, the Ravens could be willing to let Williams walk — and to reel in a third-round compensatory draft pick in 2018 in return for him.

Texans: They seem to be willing to let cornerback A.J. Bouye hit the market and walk away.

Colts: To use the franchise tag, it’s important to have quality players beyond a franchise quarterback.

Titans: The biggest name to hit free agency belongs to guard Chance Warmack. Since guards get lumped in with tackles, it will be too expensive to tag a guy who didn’t do enough to prompt the Titans to pick up the fifth-year option.

Jaguars: One of the benefits of having a roster with talent that skews young is that none of the impending free agents cry out “tag me.”

Broncos: A year after a protracted and at times nasty fight with linebacker Von Miller, the Broncos have no tag-worthy free agents.

Chiefs: They’ll have to decide between $12.96 million for safety Eric Berry or roughly the same for defensive tackle Dontari Poe, if neither signs a long-term deal by Wednesday. Berry has said he won’t play under the franchise tag, even though his one-year haul would exceed the top of the market at the safety position.

Chargers: Quarterbacks and men who hit quarterbacks are the two most valuable types of player in today’s NFL. With Joey Bosa on one side and Melvin Ingram on the other, the Chargers need to keep both around. With Bosa in the second-year of a wage-scale contract, they can afford to tag Ingram.

Raiders: They reportedly expect running back Latavius Murray to leave. Which means they don’t expect to tag him. Which makes sense, since few running backs are worth $12 million or more for one year.

Cowboys: The Cowboys have a few free agents (like cornerback Morris Claiborne) but none that deserve to be tagged.

Washington: Quarterback Kirk Cousins will, by all indications, be tagged. Even though it will cost the team $23.94 million for 2017. On top of the $19.95 million paid last year.

Giants: Two years ago, they tagged Jason Pierre-Paul. And then he had a serious fireworks injury. Last year, he signed a team-friendly one-year deal. This year, they may be tagging him again. They should, given the way he performed in 2016.

Eagles: The Eagles have plenty of needs to address, and their cap space won’t be strapped by tagging one of their looming free agents.

Vikings: Their best free agents (Matt Kalil, Cordarrelle Patterson) aren’t good enough to justify the tag.

Packers: Not long ago, it appeared running back Eddie Lacy wouldn’t be tagged in 2017 because he’d have a long-term deal. He won’t be tagged for very different reasons.

Lions: Next year, Matthew Stafford (absent a new deal). This year, no one.

Bears: It doesn’t make sense to devote more than $17 million to receiver Alshon Jeffery, who has now had two consecutive subpar contract years. However, if coach John Fox and G.M. Ryan Pace are truly on the hot seat, it could be money well spent if it saves their jobs.

Panthers: Defensive tackle Kawann Short likely will be tagged. The only open question is whether, and when, he’ll sign it. And, if he doesn’t, whether the team will yank it.

Buccaneers: The best news for a team on the rise is that none of the free agents merit a tag

Falcons: The best news for a team in its prime is that none of the free agents merit a tag.

Saints: The best news for a team still stuck in neutral is that none of the free agents merit a tag.

Seahawks:  The best news for a team potentially on the decline is that none of the free agents merit a tag.

49ers: The best news for a team with nowhere to go but up . . . you get the idea.

Cardinals: Owner Michael Bidwill has said that defensive end Chandler Jones will be franchise-tagged absent a new deal.

Rams: They’re considering applying the franchise tag for the second straight year to cornerback Trumaine Johnson.

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Looking at the teams that could be/should be interested in Jay Cutler

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If you watched or listened to Wednesday’s PFT Live, you saw or heard (or both) a discussion about the teams that could be or should be interested in Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. And while Cutler has the power to essentially scare away any potential suitor, it doesn’t get to that point unless and until potential suitors emerge.

So which teams could be or should be interested in adding Cutler via trade or, if he’s released, as a free agent? Here’s the list that Stats and I discussed on Wednesday’s show.

49ers: This one makes a lot of sense, for various reasons. First, the cupboard is largely bare. Second, new G.M. John Lynch called Cutler a “once-in-every-15-year-type talent” after the Broncos traded Cutler to the Bears eight years ago. Third, the father of new coach Kyle Shanahan drafted Cutler 11 years ago in Denver. And while Shanahan has said he’s not interested in a short-term fix at quarterback, Cutler at the age of 33 could, in theory, have five or more years left.

Jets: Last year, the Jets reluctantly paid Ryan Fitzpatrick $12 million to be the starter. This year, they could trade for Cutler at $12.5 million (plus up to $2.5 million in per-game roster bonuses). That comparison, along with the presence of Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg on the roster, makes Cutler a potential arrival in New York — even though ESPN.com reported in the aftermath of the hiring of Jeremy Bates, a twice-former Cutler tutor, as quarterbacks coach that the Jets won’t be pursuing Cutler.

Bills: If they decide not to guarantee $27.5 million to Tyrod Taylor, the Bills need a quarterback. Enter Cutler, who arguably would walk through the door as the best signal-caller since the days of the Doug Flutie/Rob Johnson rigmarole. But a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since Johnson and Flutie were on the roster should think twice about embracing a quarterback who hasn’t been there since 2010 — especially since Cutler may have no interest in spending his final years playing second fiddle in the AFC East to Tom Brady.

Chiefs: Adding Tony Romo makes sense because it can be argued that Alex Smith has taken the Chiefs as far as he can. That’s still farther than Cutler would possibly take them. Given Cutler’s personal playoff drought and his own durability questions, Cutler wouldn’t be the potential upgrade that Romo could be.

Texans: It makes no sense to add Jay Cutler at his current salary or anything close to it, especially with Brock Osweiler getting $16 million fully guaranteed in 2017. It makes plenty of sense to consider Cutler as a backup, at backup-quarterback pay, if it gets to the point where no one wants Cutler as a starter and the Texans want a viable break-glass-in-emergency option if/when Osweiler fails during his second season with the team.

Broncos: I love good stories (because clickety-click-click), and a Cutler homecoming to Colorado would be a great story. It also is plausible, given that the football regime has completely changed since he was run out of town by Josh McDaniels and in light of the current in-house options. Last year, an effort to trade for Colin Kaepernick cratered because Denver didn’t want to pay $12 million for one year. How much would John Elway and company be willing to pay Cutler? Ultimately, that could be the key to a potential reunion.

Washington: The case against tagging Kirk Cousins is a simple one. At $23.94 million for 2017 under the franchise tag, Washington could get someone nearly as good as Cousins for a lot less money, with the rest going to other players at other positions. Cutler, at roughly half the amount Cousins would cost, therefore makes sense to consider, if Washington is seriously considering not keeping Cousins.

Dolphins: I’m throwing this one in here primarily to troll Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Cutler had a strong season in 2015, when Dolphins coach Adam Gase ran the offense in Chicago. But as became clear during the 2016 season and the trade deadline approached, the Dolphins are all in with Ryan Tannehill, and they won’t be adding Cutler.

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Gary Myers explains the Terrell Owens snub

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[Editor’s note: Earlier this week, Gary Myers of the New York Daily News contacted me via email to explain his case against putting Terrell Owens in the Hall of Fame. We exchanged several messages on the topic, and I eventually asked Myers whether his views are “on the record.” He said that they were not, but he offered to summarize his position with an express invitation to use any, some, or all of it. In fairness to Gary, I have decided to post his entire approved message below. Subsequent PFT posts may use portions of his message.]

I’ve been reading your posts on the Hall of Fame and the controversy over Terrell Owens not getting elected again this year. Just want you to know I would have absolutely no problem revealing my ballot. I believe in full transparency. Nothing to hide. I usually publish my vote in the Daily News.

I know you don’t agree with the statement I made a year ago on Dan Patrick’s radio show (Ross Tucker was hosting that day) that teams could not wait to get rid of T.O. Once he became a problem or cancer in the locker room, I think it’s clear they could not wait to dump him. It just took longer in S.F. than Philly or Dallas.

I did vote for Owens in the cut from 15 to 10 two years in a row but honestly had not made up my mind if I would vote for him either year if he had made the cut to five. Unfortunately for him, he was eliminated each year in the cut to 10.

There are some very smart journalists in that meeting room. I can only speak for myself: I have opinions. I don’t have an agenda. I’ve been covering the NFL since 1978, longer than just about anybody in the room except maybe four or five people out of the 46 media members. This year, HOFers Dan Fouts and James Lofton were added, increasing the number of voters to 48.

I think I know what a Hall of Famer looks like. T.O. will be in the Hall of Fame. Just because he didn’t get into the HOF the first or second year doesn’t mean the process needs to be overhauled. Michael Irvin didn’t get in the HOF until his third year and I could easily make a case he was a better player than T.O. For sure, if I had a choice of having one of them on my team, I would take Irvin. Not even close in my mind.

Owens signed a seven-year deal with the Eagles after he was acquired from the 49ers. In his second training camp with the Eagles, he wanted a new contract and became a tremendous pain and blew up the defending NFC champs. He had played one year of a seven-year contract. I know contracts are one-way in the NFL,  but even for Owens, that was a bit much, complaining just 14% of the way through the deal for a team he wanted to play for and in a city that embraced him.

First, he was such a problem he got thrown out of camp by Andy Reid and later in the season, he was thrown off the team. The Eagles finished in last place with a 6-10 record. I know a lot is made of his courageous Super Bowl game and it was pretty amazing. But the Eagles won two playoff games without him to get to the Super Bowl that year and then lost the Super Bowl with him.

As far as the comparison to Irvin, just as far as their playing ability, Irvin played on three Super Bowl championship teams. He was a leader and a winner. He had much better hands. Owens dropped an awful lot of passes. Irvin imposed his will on games while Owens was carrying a Sharpie in his sock and eating popcorn with the cheerleaders.

I was not on the committee when Irvin was a candidate, but my guess is his off the field problems are why it took him three years to get in, although the mandate from the HOF is not to consider issues away from the field like arrests and drug use. In the case of Owens and others who were considered distractions, the locker room is considered an extension of the field.

All that being said, I think Owens is a HOFer. There’s some great players who had to exhibit patience before they were elected. In my opinion, the case for Owens being a first or second ballot HOFer would have been strengthened if he played on a Super Bowl championship team.

I know the voting process has become an issue you are passionate about. I would really suggest you contact Joe Horrigan at the HOF and ask to be added to the committee when there is an opening. You would be a valuable voice in the room.

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Terrell Owens dropped passes, as great receivers do

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We noted earlier that one Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ron Borges, has finally made an on-field case for why Owens should be excluded, that he dropped too many passes. We’ve now taken some time to examine that claim, and we find it to be weak.

Although drops are not an official NFL statistic, Borges appeared to be relying on Stats, LLC, which has tracked drops since the 1990s, for his claim that “Owens not only led the NFL in drops once, he finished in the top four in drops seven other seasons during his 15-year career.” That is true, but missing the important context that league leaders in drops are often among the NFL’s best wide receivers.

After going through all the Stats, LLC, drops data for Owens’ career, I’ve compiled these notes on Owens’ dropped passes in each of his 15 NFL seasons:

1996: Owens dropped just one pass while making 35 catches as a rookie.

1997: Owens dropped five passes and wasn’t even in the Top 50 in drops. Hall of Famer Michael Irvin was second in the NFL with 11 drops, while Hall of Famer Tim Brown was tied for fourth with nine drops.

1998: Owens dropped five passes and wasn’t even in the Top 50 in drops while catching 64.4 percent of the passes thrown to him. His teammate Jerry Rice dropped eight passes and was tied for 12th in drops while catching 54.3 percent of the passes thrown to him.

1999: Owens again dropped five passes, again wasn’t even in the Top 50 in drops, and again had better marks than Rice while playing in the same offense: Owens caught 61.2 percent of the passes thrown to him while Rice dropped nine passes and caught 54.0 percent of the passes thrown to him.

2000: Owens dropped 13 passes and was fourth in the NFL in drops. Leading the NFL in drops that year with 16 was Rod Smith, who has been discussed as a Hall of Fame candidate.

2001: Owens dropped 10 passes and was tied for fourth in the NFL. (Owens also led the league in touchdown catches.)

2002: Owens dropped 10 passes, tied for ninth in the NFL. Tied with, among others, Jerry Rice, who dropped the same number of passes while having fewer catches, fewer yards and fewer touchdowns than Owens. Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison led the NFL with 16 drops.

2003: Owens dropped 11 passes and was tied for third in the NFL. He also caught 80 passes for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns and went to the Pro Bowl.

2004: Owens dropped seven passes. There were 17 NFL players who dropped as many or more passes than Owens while catching fewer passes that season.

2005: Owens dropped five passes, tied for 36th in the NFL.

2006: Owens led the NFL with 17 drops. This is Owens’ first year in Dallas and the one and only year when it’s legitimate to argue that he dropped an inordinate amount of passes. It’s also worth noting that he led the NFL in touchdown catches.

2007: Owens dropped 10 passes, tied for third in the NFL. He also caught 81 passes for 1,355 yards and 15 touchdowns and was chosen as a first-team All-Pro.

2008: Owens dropped 10 passes, fourth in the NFL. He also caught 69 passes for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns.

2009: Owens dropped nine passes and was tied for fourth in the NFL. He also led an otherwise terrible Bills passing offense with 55 catches for 829 yards.

2010: Owens was tied with Brandon Marshall for third in drops. Wes Welker was first and Reggie Wayne was second.

So did Owens drop a lot of passes? Sure, especially as his career was winding down in Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati. But a lot of great receivers drop a lot of passes. Is Borges going to argue that Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Tim Brown and Marvin Harrison should be removed from the Hall of Fame because they were all on the drops leaderboards with Owens? Is Borges going to argue that Rod Smith, Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker and Reggie Wayne don’t have good career résumés because they were all on the drops leaderboards with Owens?

When you’re knocking a player because he did a lot of bad things — dropped a lot of passes or threw a lot of interceptions or fumbled a lot — it’s important to remember that you can only be in a position to do a lot of bad things if your team is relying on you a lot, and your team is only going to rely on you a lot if you’re a good player. Brett Favre is the NFL’s all-time leader in both interceptions and fumbles, but no one disputes that he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Owens dropped a lot of passes, which tells us that his quarterbacks threw to him a lot, and he got his hands on the ball a lot. A mediocre NFL receiver doesn’t get the opportunity to drop a lot of passes because he doesn’t get open often enough for his quarterback to throw to him, he doesn’t adjust to the ball well enough to get his hands on it, and he doesn’t last long enough to stay on the field if he keeps dropping the ball.

Great receivers like Owens, Rice, Irvin, Brown and Harrison dropped the ball a lot because they got the ball thrown to them a lot. And they got the ball thrown to them a lot because they’re Hall of Famers. At least, all of them but Owens are Hall of Famers. Owens’ absence from Canton says more about voters like Borges than it says about Owens himself.

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NFL sets cap percentages for franchise tags

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The franchise-tag crop report has arrived. Sort of.

Prior to 2011, the non-exclusive franchise tenders were determined by averaging the five highest cap numbers at each position from the prior year. Starting in 2011, the tenders are determined by the aggregate sum of the salary cap for the five prior years, divided by the aggregate sum of the franchise tags at each position over the same five-year period. The relative cap percentage is then applied to the base salary cap number for the new league year and, voila, the franchise tenders are known.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the 2017 percentages are as follows:

Quarterback: 12.735 percent.

Defensive end: 10.14 percent.

Receiver: 9.39 percent.

Linebacker: 8.712 percent.

Offensive line: 8.546 percent.

Cornerback: 8.51 percent.

Defensive tackle: 8.016 percent.

Running back: 7.257 percent.

Safety: 6.524 percent.

Tight end: 5.856 percent.

Kicker-punter: 2.895 percent.

The specific amounts of the franchise tenders won’t be known until the per-team salary cap has been finalized. If the cap is $165 million, here are the salary-cap numbers:

Quarterback: $21.01 million.

Defensive end: $16.73 million.

Receiver: $15.49 million.

Linebacker: $14.37 million.

Offensive line: $14.1 million.

Cornerback: $14.04 million.

Defensive tackle: $13.22 million.

Running back: $11.9 million.

Safety: $10.76 million.

Tight end: $9.66 million.

Kicker-punter: $4.77 million.

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The full Tom Brady interview

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You’ll see various clips and snippets of the extended Tom Brady interview throughout these pages over the next day or two (or week . . . or month . . . or year). If you want to hear the entire interview, you can do it right now.

The full video from Tuesday’s PFT Live is attached to this specific post. We covered plenty of topics, and Brady spoke at length on many issues that Patriots fans or fans of football will want to know about.

If you want to know more about the things Brady has going on beyond football, Brady’s website has plenty of information about the TB12 Sports Therapy Center and the TB12 Foundation, which helps young athletes achieve and sustain peak performance.

Thanks again to Brady for getting up at 6:00 a.m. Montana time to call the show. Thanks in advance to you for checking out what the four-time Super Bowl MVP had to say.

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Will T.O. snub keep Randy Moss out of HOF, too?

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The Hall of Fame voters have crafted as to receiver Terrell Owens justification for undermining his on-field performances with false narratives and anecdotal claims that haven’t been attributed to any specific teammates or coaches. So what happens in 2018, when receiver Randy Moss becomes eligible for consideration for the first time?

Both should get in. But will Moss be added to the same bench on which Owens indefinitely is sitting?

With Moss, the narratives aren’t false. He declared in 2001, “I play when I want to play.” For those who had been watching him closely, that declaration confirmed what the eyes had detected through his first three-plus NFL seasons. He’d lollygag to the line of scrimmage when the ball wasn’t coming to him, and if the ball didn’t come to him early and often, he’d often check out.

Indeed, the Moss tombstone mantra came less than a year after he checked out in one of the ugliest losses in Vikings history — a “41-to-donut” (as he called it) drubbing against the Giants in the NFC title game. Moss had two catches for 18 yards in a game that was over not long after it started.

Moss drew national criticism for leaving the field early in a 2004 game at Washington, which surely became a factor in the decision of the Vikings to unload Moss after that season. With the Raiders, Moss talked a good game on the way in (“I’m committed to excellence, and I just wanna win, baby”), but then he quickly quit on the team when the team wasn’t very good.

It got so bad that, after two years in Oakland the Raiders essentially gave him away to the Patriots, where Moss immediately proved the “I play when I want to play” adage by deciding he wanted to play each and every week — and Moss had one of the finest seasons for any player at any position in NFL history.

But he’d last fewer than three more years with the Patriots, who abruptly traded him after he publicly questioned his future with the team. The Vikings coughed up a third-round pick to bring Moss home during a 2010 season that still could have gone either way, one year after nearly getting to the Super Bowl. Once again, he said all the right things on the way in. Not long after that, he was on the way out.

Via Jeff Pearlman’s Brett Favre bio Gunslinger, Favre begged the Vikings to trade for Moss. But Favre changed his tune quickly after Moss notoriously complained loudly in the locker room about a catered meal that he wouldn’t “feed to his dog.”

The problems went deeper than canine cuisine. Moss quickly decided that he didn’t like coach Brad Childress (join the club), and Moss opted to do something about it. From Gunslinger: “One day, when Vikings owner Zygi Wilf walked through the locker room, Moss looked at him and hissed, ‘You need to get rid of the f–king coach.’ Wilf was horrified. . . . ‘Randy destroyed our team,’ said one Viking. ‘He just destroyed us.'”

The Vikings eventually dumped Moss one day after a loss to the Patriots that was capped by Moss openly praising his former teammates and coaches in New England. His return to Minnesota lasted four games.

The cabal of voters who have put T.O. on time out have been pushing the notion that “teams couldn’t wait to get rid” of Owens. That shoe, however, fits the foot of Randy Moss much better.

The Vikings traded Moss in his prime after seven years with the team; Owens left the 49ers as a free agent after eight. The Raiders bought Moss high and sold him low, unloading a player who had seemed to be fading after two year — primarily because he’d been loafing.

That Patriots sparked a Moss renaissance, until he became concerned in the final year of a three-year, $27 million contract that he wouldn’t be getting another one. So it was farewell to Moss in New England, and then after just a few weeks it was farewell again to Moss in Minnesota.

He finished that season as largely a bystander in Tennessee, catching six passes for 80 yards in eight games. Moss sort of retired in 2011 (no one seriously pursued him), and then he came back in 2012 for one last year, with the 49ers.

It was hardly vintage Moss — he caught 28 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns — but it helped soften some of the hard, awkward edges of the Moss misadventures from 2010.

With all those things being said, Moss deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame. But if Owens is going to be kept out for the things he did between the edge of the playing field and the parking lot, Moss should be, too.

As one voter told me several years ago, Owens is far more worthy than Moss because Owens never quit on any of his teams. Even during T.O.’s disastrous 2005 season in Philly, he generated 763 receiving yards and six touchdowns in only seven games. In 2006 with the Raiders, Moss played in 13 games but accounted for only 553 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

While these non-statistical factors shouldn’t be irrelevant to the consideration of a player’s candidacy for Canton, it should take a lot more than what either guy did away from the field to overcome the best two career receiving performances for anyone not named Jerry Rice. Both should get in the Hall of Fame. By slamming the brakes on Owens, however, the voters have now put themselves in an even tougher spot with Moss.

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Exploring the “teams couldn’t wait to get rid of” T.O. narrative

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Setting aside for now (but perhaps not for long) whether the not-so-subtle admonition from Hall of Fame quarterback and Hall of Fame voter Dan Fouts to Terrell Owens about criticizing the process proves that his omission from the Hall of Fame is less about whether he deserves a spot in Canton and more about whether the panel “likes” him, it’s time to unwrap an increasingly common theme. If the journalists on the selection committee who are opposed to Owens aren’t going to do it, then a sort-of journalist who will never be on the selection committee needs to.

Here’s a quick caveat: I’m not doing this because I “like” Terrell Owens. I’m ambivalent at best about him as a person. In 2013, he called me “Satan,” so depending on T.O.’s personal worship habits it’s safe to assume he doesn’t like me.

That said, I’d like to think after following the NFL for more than 40 years and working in this business for nearly 17, I know a Hall of Famer when I see one. Owens, in my opinion, is a Hall of Famer, and it’s not close.

I also have developed a very strong aversion over the years to BS. There seems plenty of it going around regarding Owens.

The biggest potential pile comes from the narrative that multiple “teams couldn’t wait to get rid” of Owens. First publicly articulated a year ago by Gary Myers of the New York Daily News when being properly grilled by Ross Tucker for specific proof that Owens was too disruptive to be enshrined, the presumption that the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills, and Bengals all lined up to dump Owens continues to emerge as a knee-jerk mantra for justifying keeping him out of Canton — and possibly as a pretext for the fact that the folks voting to snub him simply don’t like him.

This year, the “teams couldn’t wait to get rid” of Owens narrative is back. Fouts echoed it in explaining T.O.’s omission. So did Hall of Fame voter Ira Kaufman of JoeBucsFan.com.

“Teams couldn’t wait to get rid of him at his peak,” Kaufman said regarding Owens during a Wednesday appearance on Chris Russo’s SiriusXM radio show. “He was suspended twice, he was told, ‘We don’t want you around.’ The Eagles said, ‘Goodbye, we don’t want you. Get out of here.’ The 49ers said, ‘We don’t want to see you anymore. . . . This is about a guy who teams couldn’t wait to get rid of.”

That’s a gross oversimplification of the situation at best. It’s a flat-out misrepresentation at worst. (It’s not Ira’s fault; he’s simply passing along the things he’s being told by members of the committee who oppose Owens’ enshrinement.)

Lets’ start with the 49ers. Owens had the ability to void the final two years of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent in 2004. Based on some of the information gathered by PFT (i.e., sort-of journalism), it is believed that the 49ers would have gladly kept Owens beyond his eight years with the team if he hadn’t voided his contract. However, they weren’t interested in signing him as an unrestricted free agent, given that the team was young and rebuilding — and that it would have been very expensive to sign him in competition with the open market.

Ultimately, an error in the filing of the paperwork voiding his contract resulted in an effort by the 49ers to trade Owens to the Ravens, a grievance filed by the union, and a settlement that resulted in Owens being shipped to the Eagles under a seven-year, $42 million contract with a $10 million signing bonus. (The Ravens reportedly would have paid him $17 million to sign, but Owens reportedly wanted to play with Donovan McNabb, not Kyle Boller.)

Owens delivered immediately in Philadelphia, with 1,200 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in 14 regular-season games. He suffered a broken ankle during a December 19 win over the Cowboys, missed two regular-season games, missed two playoff games, and somehow returned for Super Bowl XXXIX, catching nine passes for 122 yards and arguably performing better than any other player on the field in a 24-21 loss to the Patriots.

Due to earn a base salary of $7.5 million in 2005 and looking for a more significant financial reward for his efforts in 2004, Owens asked for a raise. The Eagles, notorious at the time for putting their ability to manage the salary cap and to sign young players to long-term deals they would likely outperform over winning, refused. Repeatedly.

So Owens opted to utilize the leverage available to him. Instead of holding out, however, he chose be disruptive in the hopes of getting paid or getting traded to a team that would pay him. An ill-advised tactic to be sure, the reality is that the Eagles wanted to keep Owens under the terms of the contract he signed. Only after a season of squabbles and suspensions and grievances and exasperation did the Eagles give Owens his freedom.

If Owens hadn’t decided to take a stand and try to get the Eagles to adjust his contract based on what he did in 2004, the Eagles would have been happy to keep him around. Put simply, they “couldn’t wait to get rid” of Owens only after Owens made it clear that, without a new contract, he couldn’t wait to leave.

Beyond the 49ers and Eagles, it’s likewise a stretch to say teams “couldn’t wait to get rid of” Owens. In 2006, the Cowboys gladly embraced Owens, signing him to a three-year, $25 million deal. Two years later, the Cowboys didn’t cut him. They signed him to a new contract, worth $34 million over four years with a $12 million signing bonus.

Yes, the Cowboys cut Owens in 2009. But if they “couldn’t wait to get rid of” him, why did they sign him to a new deal following only two seasons with the team?

After leaving Dallas, Owens signed a one-year deal with the Bills, for $6.5 million. He wasn’t cut or suspended or otherwise gotten rid of before the contract ended and he became a free agent once again.

Ditto the following year, in Cincinnati. Owens signed a one-year deal, played one year for the Bengals, tore an ACL in the process, became a free agent again at the age of 37, and ultimately never played in another regular-season game.

To summarize, Owens spent eight years with the 49ers, and they would have kept him if he hadn’t had the ability to void the remaining years of his contract. He then spent two years with the Eagles, and they gladly would have extended the stay if he had gladly accepted the terms of a contract he quickly outperformed.

Owens then spent three years with the Cowboys, who ripped up the final year of a three-year deal and gave him a four-year contract one year before moving on. The Bills then signed him for a year, the Bengals signed him for a year, and that was that.

Was Owens a disruption at times? Yes. Should that be considered when assessing his Hall of Fame credentials? Yes, as long as the issues are being fully and properly fleshed out — and as long as the voters are considering the disruptions created by other players who made it to Canton in past years, including but not limited to the stabbing of a teammate in the neck with scissors on team property.

Absent an objective look at T.O.’s career and a comparison of his locker-room characteristics to other players who previously have made it to Canton, it appears that the narratives preventing Owens from enshrinement are nothing more than a lazy and convenient excuse for keeping Owens out, apparently because those who oppose him simply don’t care for him.

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2017 NFL Draft first-round order

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The 2016 season is over, and the order for the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft is set.

The entire draft order will be announced when compensatory picks are determined and awarded. The 2017 draft is April 27-29 in Philadelphia.

Three first-round picks have already been traded, two in trades involving the top of last year’s draft. The Browns will pick at No. 1 and also own the Eagles’ pick at No. 12. The Titans own the Rams’ pick at No. 5 and their own pick at No. 18, and the Eagles own the Vikings’ first-round pick at either No. 14 or No. 15 via the Sam Bradford trade last summer.

A coin flip will be held between the Colts and Eagles to determine pick Nos. 14 and 15 because the Colts and Vikings had the same record and their opponents had the same winning percentage. In the past, such coin flips have been held at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The full first-round draft order is below…

1. Cleveland
2. San Francisco
3. Chicago
4. Jacksonville
5. Tennessee (via the Rams)
6. New York Jets
7. Los Angeles Chargers
8. Carolina
9. Cincinnati
10. Buffalo
11. New Orleans
12. Cleveland (via the Eagles)
13. Arizona
14. OR 15. Indianapolis
14. OR 15. Philadelphia (via the Vikings)
16. Baltimore
17. Washington
18. Tennessee
19. Tampa Bay
20. Denver
21. Detroit
22. Miami
23. New York Giants
24. Oakland
25. Houston
26. Seattle
27. Kansas City
28. Dallas
29. Green Bay
30. Pittsburgh
31. Atlanta
32. New England

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Bill Belichick: Great champions get off the mat and win

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick used a boxing analogy he learned early in his coaching career to describe what his team did at Super Bowl LI.

Belichick paid tribute to his old boss, Bill Parcells, and said this morning that Parcells used to tell his teams that the greatest fighters are the ones who can win after they’ve been knocked down.

“One of the things coach Parcells said that always stuck with me is in boxing, the mark of a great champion is the one who can get up off the mat and win. It felt like that’s what we did last night,” Belichick said.

Belichick said he’s known his team was special since last offseason, when he saw their work ethic and their commitment.

“They earned it all the way, from OTAs to training camp, all through the regular season, 14 wins, three more in the playoffs, and we handled adversity all the way. I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” Belichick said. “They just compete and don’t stop competing, and we saw that last night. What everybody saw last night in the fourth quarter and overtime from the New England Patriots is what I’ve seen for the last seven months. I’m very proud to be the coach of this group.”

No one can dispute that these Patriots are great champions, and champions who can take a punch and hit back.

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Tom Brady filmed commercial with fifth ring before the Super Bowl

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Tom Brady does not worry about jinxes.

Brady, the Patriots’ quarterback who won his fifth Super Bowl ring on Sunday night, filmed a commercial showing him with his fifth ring before the game.

In the ad, for Shields MRI, Brady is asked to take off his jewelry before getting an MRI and takes off four Super Bowl rings. He’s then asked if that’s all and answers, “No, I forgot this one,” as he produces a fifth ring. “It’s kind of new,” he says.

When he’s told he’ll need a bigger locker for all his jewelry, Brady answers, “Roger that,” perhaps a tweak of Roger Goodell.

The commercial presumably would not have seen the light of day if the Patriots had lost Super Bowl LI. But some superstitious players wouldn’t have even filmed a commercial that presumed they would win the Super Bowl in advance. Brady was confident enough to do it.

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