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RB-needy teams left to focus on the draft

Carlos Hyde

There has been much said about running backs having a tough go of it in free agency, and in case we had forgotten, we were reminded with Chris Johnson taking more than a week to find a new team.

Johnson, who was PFT’s No. 34-ranked free agent, signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Jets on Wednesday. And this was a good deal, given the market this offseason, as colleague Mike Florio pointed out.

In all, it took Johnson nine days from his official release from Tennessee to land a new gig. Contrast this with DeSean Jackson, who had a deal with Washington in three days. And Darrelle Revis had an agreement with New England in but a few hours after his departure from Tampa Bay.

With Johnson signed, there are no starter-caliber tailbacks left in free agency. There are some decent complementary players available, with Michael Bush (ex-Bears) and Ronnie Brown (Chargers) two of the better options left, per Rotoworld’s rankings. According to Pro Football Focus, Brown earned a positive grade as a pass blocker in 2013, but he played just 157 snaps, and he had a negative grade as a rusher, as did Bush, who’s gained less than four yards per carry in each of the last three seasons.

In short, teams needing a running back are probably left to add one in the draft. The Titans, Browns, Jaguars, Bears and Vikings are among the clubs who could use at least one more tailback. However, of these teams, only the Titans may need a starter. The Browns (Ben Tate) and Jaguars (Toby Gerhart) signed young, starter-caliber veterans in free agency, while the Bears (Matt Forte) and Vikings (Adrian Peterson) just need understudies for their established lead backs.

The Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Falcons, Giants, Patriots, Rams, Ravens, Redskins, Steelers and Texans are other teams who seem logical contenders to bring in another back.

The question is, who takes the first tailback in May, and in which round? In his most recent mock draft, Rotoworld’s Josh Norris has no backs going in Round One. Also, NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki has just one back – Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde — listed as a potential first-round selection.

In an offseason that won’t be remembered as an especially glorious one for the running backs of the world, the draft looms as the final act. Not getting any stage time on the draft’s first night would be another low point.

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Busy day for Jets, with Sidney Rice visiting

Sidney Rice Pic Getty Images

On the same day the Jets added a home-run threat to their running game, they’re looking for more help for their passing attack.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, former Seahawks wideout Sidney Rice is visiting with the Jets today.

The Jets will want a look at his surgically repaired knee, as he was just cleared by Dr. James Andrews following his October ACL tear.

When well, Rice has been a good downfield threat (averaging better than 15.0 yards per catch each of the last five seasons).

But staying well has been an issue, as he’s played 16 games in a season twice in seven NFL seasons.

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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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Reports: Victor Hampton arrested after altercation with his sister

victorhampton

Former South Carolina cornerback Victor Hampton, a prospect in next month’s NFL draft, was in the news this week when it was reported that he was wanted for questioning in connection with an attack on a man in a New York City nightclub. But that’s not the only incident that has Hampton in the news.

Media outlets in South Carolina are reporting that Hampton has also been arrested and is facing a charge of disorderly conduct after an altercation with his sister.

Local TV station WLTX is reporting that the incident happened at a home in Columbia, South Carolina, on April 6. According to the report, Hampton and his sister, Victoria, got into an argument, police were called, and the two continued to fight even as police tried to separate them. Eventually, both Victor and Victoria were arrested.

Local TV station WIS obtained the police report, in which the arresting officer says the brother and sister wouldn’t stop fighting as both police and their mother attempted to break them up.

“I asked both subjects to stop yelling and they would stop for a second then start right back yelling, threatening each other, calling each other obscene names, using fighting words and stances,” reads the report.

Although he had a year of NCAA eligibility remaining, Hampton left school early to enter the NFL draft. He was viewed as a mid-round pick, but off-field issues will likely have a negative impact on his draft stock.

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Saints bring former center Jonathan Goodwin in for visit

Divisional Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The Saints lost center Brian de la Puente in free agency, so they need to find a replacement.

They might be turning to the guy de la Puente replaced.

According to Mike Triplett of ESPN.com, the Saints brought veteran center Jonathan Goodwin in for a visit today, making a reunion possible.

Goodwin was made expendable when the 49ers chose to extend Daniel Kilgore this offseason, and let the 35-year-old hit the market after three years as the starter.

They have some other internal options, but the team might want some experience in the middle given the all-in approach they’ve taken this offseason.

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Santonio Holmes, Anthony Spencer among top unsigned players

Santonio Holmes AP

With Chris Johnson (Jets) and Josh Freeman (Giants) reaching contract agreements Wednesday, only six unrestricted/released free agents ranked in PFT’s Free Agent Hot 100 remain without a team for 2014.

Two other free agents can be signed away for draft-pick compensation: Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (franchise tag) and Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (restricted free agent). Both have been tendered contract offers by their current clubs and seem likely to stay put.

Here are the remaining unsigned players in PFT’s free agent rankings:

UNRESTRICTED/RELEASED FREE AGENTS

67.  Cowboys defensive end/outside linebacker Anthony Spencer.

74.  Packers tight end Jermichael Finley.

81.  Seahawks outside linebacker O’Brien Schofield.

89.  Ex-Buccaneers offensive guard Davin Joseph.

97.  Ex-Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

102.  Panthers offensive guard Travelle Wharton. ***

*** — Has reportedly indicated he could retire.

FRANCHISE TAG RECIPIENT

2.  Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENT

82.  Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin.

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Cowboys kick the tires on Davin Joseph

Josh Johnson,  Davin Joseph,  Greg Hardy AP

The Cowboys haven’t been doing much buying in free agency, but they’re doing a little looking before the draft.

According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, the Cowboys had veteran guard Davin Joseph in for a visit recently, and will take a look at former Cardinals wide receiver LaRon Byrd in later this week.

Joseph was cut by the Buccaneers prior to free agency. The two-time Pro Bowler missed 2012 with a knee injury and wasn’t as effective last season, making it easy for the Bucs to take the $6 million cap savings.

If he’s well, the 30-year-old Joseph could push for a starting job with the Cowboys, or at least be good depth behind Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary.

Byrd spent last year on IR because of a concussion, and worked out for the Giants recently.

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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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So how many quarterbacks will be taken in round one?

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Today’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN continues to roll through round one.  Today’s focus?  The team that had the first pick last year, and that due to an unexpectedly strong 2013 has fallen to No. 23.

The 30-minute edition (we’re back to an hour on Thursday) also sprints through the latest NFL news, and it concludes with today’s poll question:  How many quarterbacks will be taken in round one?

Cast a ballot below.  And then tune in at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN for the show.  And stick around for NASCAR America and the launch of the 2014 NHL playoffs.

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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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Gordon once again says Browns will take quarterback in round one

Gordon Getty Images

With a pair of first-round picks, the Browns have the ability to take a quarterback either at No. 4 or at No. 26.

Receiver Josh Gordon has tried to spoil the drama.  Or maybe he’s part of an elaborate smokescreen.

Previously, Gordon said that he believes the Browns will select a receiver with the fourth overall pick in the draft.  More recently, he opted to be more vague about whether the quarterback’s name is placed on card No. 4 or No. 26.

“From talking with [G.M.] Ray Farmer, I’m still pretty sure we’re going to take a quarterback,” Gordon recently told FOX Sports Ohio.

But while previously casting a ballot for Teddy Bridgewater when put on the spot, Gordon was more vague this time around.

“I like a lot of those guys,” Gordon said.  “I think whoever we get will be the best option for us.  It’s such a deep draft class of quarterbacks and they’ve all had really great years.  I feel that anybody we get will be able to make something happen.”

By “make something happen,” Gordon likely doesn’t mean disclose the team’s future draft strategies.  With Gordon around, that’s one need the Browns currently don’t have.

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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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Jadeveon Clowney’s visiting the Lions, for some reason

2014 NFL Combine Getty Images

Jadeveon Clowney won’t be doing a lot of extra workouts for teams, because frankly, he doesn’t need to.

But that’s not stopping him from seeing more of America than he needs to.

According to Tim Twentyman of the Lions official website, Clowney was visiting Detroit today.

That’s interesting on a few fronts: A) Because Michigan ain’t exactly Aruba this time of year and B) the Lions pick 10th in the upcoming draft.

People can malign Clowney’s work ethic all they want, the guy’s not slipping to the 10th spot, so his decision to visit with the team picking 10th is curious.

Unless they’re not planning on picking 10th.

With big numbers at the top of their salary cap, and perhaps sensing some pressure to win now, the Lions may be considering a move. It would be a strong statement to pair a premier edge rusher with Ndamukong Suh, and allow the Lions to attack in multiple ways.

Or maybe Clowney’s just a big Tigers fan.

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Glazer returns to duty after serious health scare

Glazer Getty Images

Many of you have noticed that FOX’s Jay Glazer hasn’t been around much lately.  He has a very good reason for that.

On the first day of free agency, Glazer nearly died.

He appeared earlier today on The Dan Patrick Show to discuss the serious health scare that resulted from outpatient surgery.  Glazer separately explained the situation by phone to PFT.

“I went in for a routine back deal,” Glazer said.  “Nothing big.  Dissolving a piece of a disc that broke.  Something that was real easy took a turn.”

After being given anesthesia, Glazer vomited into the face cradle.  The stomach contents ended up in his lungs, and the acid burned the tissue.

Glazer started convulsing, and the doctors revived him.  He was rushed to a local hospital, where he spent four days recovering from aspiration double pneumonia.

He didn’t realize the gravity of the situation at the time.  Once Glazer was out of the woods, doctors explained that the outcome could have been much more dire.

“It could go one of two ways,” Glazer said, “and for a while I was going the wrong way.”

He has struggled for more than a month to get healthy.  The damage to his lungs has caused Glazer to have good days followed by setbacks.  He wanted to attend the league meetings in Orlando, but the flight would have required the use of an oxygen tank.  Doctors also feared that his oxygen levels could plummet at altitude, and that he could have a heart attack.

Even now, Glazer is far from 100 percent.  As his heart works harder to pump oxygenated blood from his lungs, his resting pulse rate has been 115.

Still, he’s going to attempt to work this weekend for FOX, returning to action for UFC coverage.  He has yet to be able to return to his MMA training business, to the disappointment of NFL players like Kyle Long, Chris Long, and Jared Allen — and draft hopefuls like UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr and UCLA defensive end Cassius Marsh.

Last week, Glazer was scheduled to work out with Barr, but Glazer decided he should wait.  Glazer instead tried nine minutes of shadow boxing instead.  His oxygen level dropped, his heart rate went up, and Glazer ended up in his doctor’s office once again.

Glazer hopes to return to his NFL duties soon, making calls and chasing scoops and attending next month’s draft in New York City.

I look forward to seeing him there, and to having him do one of his typical Glazer things, like stick a thumb into my throat or lift me off the ground or put me in a headlock.  Even during the worst days of his ordeal, Glazer was still doing Glazer things.

“I wanted candy,” he said of his hospital stay.  “I unhooked myself, and I told the nurse I was talking a walk.  I convinced the guys who were with me to take me downstairs to the gift shop.  I went in and bought $230 worth of chocolate.  In my gown with my ass hanging out.

“To this day I have no idea what happened with the $230 worth of chocolate.”

So if you were wondering where Glazer has been, now you know.  And the next time you’re trying to fight off a craving for chocolate, think of Glazer in his hospital gown, with his ass hanging out.

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Report: Ravens, Patriots and Jets among teams showing most interest in Michael Sam

Michael Sam AP

Michael Sam isn’t going to be a first-round pick next month, but his expected selection in the later rounds of the draft will be noteworthy all the same.

Sam’s public acknowledgement that he’s homosexual earlier this year leaves him poised to become the NFL’s first openly gay player, a milestone that isn’t likely to get him picked on the first two days of the draft. Sam had 11.5 sacks at Missouri in 2013, but there were questions about how well he’d transition to the NFL even before a poor showing at the combine in February.

Sam did better at his pro day and Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports several teams have maintained interest in Sam over the last few months. Wilson lists the Ravens, Patriots, Jets, Falcons, Colts and Browns as the clubs that have displayed the most interest in Sam.

It’s a wide range of teams and predicting how the late rounds of a draft will play out is something of a fool’s errand, so it’s hard to read much into what that means for Sam’s future beyond the fact that he still seems likely to be selected. As with every other player picked closer to the end of the draft than it’s beginning, what comes after that will be based on his ability to buck the negative predictions about his NFL future.

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