Jaguars don’t see any glaring needs with draft approaching

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The Jaguars hold the 29th overall pick in this year’s draft and it might take them a moment or too to get used to those surroundings.

It’s the first time that the team has been drafting outside of the Top 10 since the 2007 season, which represents the major change in circumstances that took place in 2017. The Jaguars went 10-6, won the AFC South and advanced to the conference title game to break a long run as one of the league’s worst teams.

General Manager Dave Caldwell said at a Friday press conference that the team’s “process stays the same” despite their new neighborhood, but he did identify one big difference from past years when rookies were expected to step right into the lineup.

“[The media has] been around us where we didn’t have guys to line up with at this point of the year,” Caldwell said, via the Florida Times-Union. “Our first year here, we had to draft rookies and start them. Now we can take the best player available. We have needs, don’t get me wrong, but we don’t have a glaring need.”

The lack of a glaring need creates several paths that the Jaguars could take next week in terms of both positions to target and trades to entertain while they’re on the board. Making the right decisions about which ones to take should help the Jaguars improve their chances of staying at the bottom end of the first round a while longer.

Panthers tight end Kent Taylor suspended for PED test

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It’s Friday afternoon, which means it’s suspension time.

The latest is Panthers reserve tight end Kent Taylor, who will be ineligible for the first four regular season games because of a violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Of course, that would require Taylor making the regular season roster, which doesn’t seem particularly likely.

He spent a few weeks on their practice squad in December and was signed to a futures deal in January. He can still participate in all the offseason activities and preseason games.

Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis was recently suspended four games as well. People have heard of him.

Oakland City Council to vote on possible lawsuit against Raiders on May 1

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The Raiders will begin later this year what could be there last year in Oakland. The powers-that-be in Oakland could be doing something about it.

Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Daily reports that the Oakland City Council will conduct a May 1 vote on whether to sue the Raiders and the NFL.

The litigation, which likely would be pursued under a contingency-fee agreement, is expected to arise under the antitrust laws, with a likely argument that the league ignored its own relocation bylaws.

Given the propensity of the late Al Davis to sue anyone and everyone who impeded his business interests, it’s fitting that the team’s second exit from Oakland could happen in a cloud of litigation. If a lawsuit is filed, that could make it more likely that the team will leave after the 2018 season in lieu of signing a new short-term lease to play there until its new Las Vegas stadium is ready in 2020.

Vikings LB Kentrell Brothers suspended four games for PED violation

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The Vikings won’t have linebacker Kentrell Brothers in the lineup for the first four games of the 2018 season.

The NFL announced on Friday that Brothers has been suspended four games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He will be able to practice with the team and play in the preseason before starting his suspension the week before the season opener.

Brothers was a fifth-round pick in 2016. He’s played in 26 games over the last two seasons and picked up 22 tackles while serving as a staple of the special teams units.

Brothers will be eligible to return to the Vikings after they play the Rams on Thursday, September 27.

Jason Witten understands if Cowboys use an early pick on TE

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The Cowboys lost James Hanna to retirement Friday. Rico Gathers missed last season with a concussion. Geoff Swaim missed seven games in 2016 with a torn pectoral muscle.

Not to mention Jason Witten turns 36 next month.

So, yes, there’s a chance the Cowboys draft a tight end next week despite not using any of their 30 national visits on one.

Witten insists he’s on board with whatever the Cowboys decide to do in the draft, including taking a player at his position.

“I mean, I understand it,” Witten said of the Cowboys potentially drafting a tight end early, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “It’s happened a few times, three to be exact. That’s part of the business. They’re always going to bring in competition. That’s what this program, that’s what this franchise is all about and what this coaching staff tries to create.

“I’ll help them and embrace them and moving them along as quickly as I can. That doesn’t really affect what I’m trying to do as a whole.”

The Cowboys have not had much success using second-round picks on tight ends to pair with Witten. They drafted Anthony Fasano in the second round in 2006, Martellus Bennett in the second round in 2008 and Gavin Escobar in the second round in 2013.

Witten’s eventual replacement already could be on the roster. Gathers has provided some evidence that he could become the latest basketball convert. The former Baylor basketball player starred in the preseason before a head injury sent him to injured reserve for the year. After two seasons spent learning and watching, Gathers will get a chance to prove he’s ready.

Tyler Gaffney returns to baseball after injury-filled NFL run

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Tyler Gaffney tried his hand at making several NFL teams after being drafted by the Panthers in the sixth round of the 2014 draft, but injuries stopped him from getting any regular season action.

Gaffney was placed on injured reserve by the Panthers in 2014, the Patriots the next two years and the Jaguars last year. He won’t be trying to make a team this year, but will be continuing to pursue a career as a professional athlete.

Gaffney was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012 and played a summer of minor league ball with them before returning to Stanford and the football field. He’s now back in the Pirates organization and playing for the Bradenton Pirates of the Florida State League.

“My dream has been the big leagues my whole life,” Gaffney said, via MLB.com. “I think I’ve been tasting that every time I was hurt. You have time to think about things like that. So now I’m here, putting in my work. Now I’m here, five years later. I think the last couple years took their toll on my body. The heart wanted it. The body didn’t. I’m finally able to come back to baseball, the sport I love.”

Gaffney said he was considering a move back to the diamond when the Jaguars offered him a contract last year. One last injury sealed the deal and Gaffney’s athletic pursuits will now take place far away from the gridiron.

Texans “optimistic” about signing Jadeveon Clowney to extension

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There was a report in late March that the Texans and linebacker Jadeveon Clowney were making progress on talks about a contract extension, but they haven’t reached the finish line yet.

General Manager Brian Gaine was asked about the status of those discussions during a Friday press conference.

“I won’t discuss our negotiations publicly, but I’m optimistic that something can be done. …The guy’s a disruptive player. He plays the run well. So we’re doing our best to fortify our nucleus of players, and we’d like him to be a part of it.” Gaine said, via ESPN.com.

Clowney is set to make just over $12.3 million in the option year of his rookie contract. His next deal figures to be a sizable one and Gaine said that he’d prefer not to conduct negotiations on a deal with anyone once the regular season gets underway.

Anthony Chickillo signs restricted tender to remain with Steelers

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Steelers linebacker Anthony Chickillo signed his restricted tender Friday, a source tells PFT.

The Steelers tendered Chickillo with an original round tender worth $1.907 million for the 2018 season. He was a sixth-round pick in 2015.

Chickillo played all 16 games with two starts last season, making 14 tackles and three sacks.

As a rookie in 2015, he initially made the team out of training camp only to have the Steelers waive him a few days later. They signed him back to the practice squad before promoting him to the active roster three weeks later.

He appeared in seven games as a rookie and 15 in 2016. For his career, Chickillo has 54 tackles, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

Broncos center Matt Paradis signs RFA tender

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Today’s the deadline for restricted free agents to sign an offer sheet with another team.

But the ones who weren’t going to now have no reason not to sign with their existing team.

That’s what’s happening in Denver, as center Matt Paradis is signing his $2.9 million tender today, according to Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic.

Of course, it was unlikely another team was going to give up a second-round pick in exchange for Paradis, so it’s the inevitable outcome. But someone might have if the Broncos decided to go cheap with the low tender of $1.9 million, since it would have cost a sixth-rounder.

Paradis has been a solid pickup for a Broncos line that otherwise needs some work, and now they have him for another year.

Luke McCown announces retirement

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The NFL is down to one McCown brother.

In a letter posted to agent Mike McCartney’s Twitter account on Friday, Luke McCown announced his retirement as an active player. McCown thanked family, friends, coaches and teammates and called it “bittersweet” to step away from a sport he’s played since the second grade.

McCown was out of the NFL last year after being released by the Cowboys in September, but spent time with five other clubs during a career that dates back to 2004. He was a fourth-round pick by the Browns that year and made four starts as a rookie before being traded to the Buccaneers the next year. He spent four years in Tampa, three in Jacksonville, a year in Atlanta and four years in New Orleans.

McCown only made 10 starts over that extended run and ends his career 216-of-356 for 2,370 passing yards, nine touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He also became the rare backup quarterback to appear in a commercial when Verizon tabbed him for an ad campaign.

His older brother Josh is currently with the Jets and also made starts for the Browns and Buccaneers during his own long run as an NFL journeyman.

Browns release Corey White, Reggie Porter

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The Browns will be adding rookies to their roster in next week’s draft and they made some room for new arrivals on Friday.

The team announced that they have released defensive back Corey White and waived defensive back Reggie Porter. Porter’s departure comes with a failed physical designation.

White signed with the Browns in January and has spent time with six other teams since entering the league as a 2012 fifth-round pick of the Saints. He’s played in 66 games over the course of his career — none since 2016 with the Bills — and has compiled 161 tackles and six interceptions.

The Browns signed Porter off of the Ravens practice squad last year and he appeared in three games before going on injured reserve in November.

Browns want Josh Allen, or they want everyone to think it

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As the Browns keep their cards close to the vest regarding plans for the first overall pick in the draft, the Browns may have accidentally given everyone a peak at their hand. And it relates to the hand. Specifically, the size of it.

“You all laugh at me when I say it, but I think hand size is important,” G.M. John Dorsey said during a pre-draft press conference on Thursday, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “With that being said, hand size in November and December, when it’s snowing, raining, it’s getting muddy. We all know the elements in Cleveland are going to play a role.”

If hand size is important, the finger points to quarterback Josh Allen, who has the hand size to hold onto the ball. It also points away from quarterback Sam Darnold, who had 21 fumbles in 24 starts at USC.

Of course, Dorsey’s comments about hand size may have simply been aimed at getting everyone to think that Allen is the guy, when in reality he isn’t.

Regardless of which quarterback it is, most believe the Browns will indeed pick a quarterback with the first overall pick. Allen, Darnold, Baker Mayfield, who knows? But Dorsey may have inadvertently dropped a significant clue on Thursday.

Cowboys put James Hanna on reserve/retired list

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Jason Witten will be back with the Cowboys in 2018, but another one of the team’s tight ends is retiring.

The Cowboys confirmed that they are placing James Hanna on the reserve/retired list shortly after Todd Archer of ESPN reported that Hanna, who dealt with knee problems for the last two years, was walking away from the game.

“The dream was to play for the Cowboys,” Hanna said. “I don’t know how many people actually do what they say they’re going to do as like a 13-year-old, but I consider myself to be extremely lucky in that sense. Also the college I went to [Oklahoma], I feel like I met my goals. It would’ve been nice to have more stats and obviously I could’ve done more things, but I’m proud of what I accomplished.”

Hanna joined the Cowboys as a sixth-round pick in 2012 and played in 78 games for the team. He missed the entire 2016 season before returning to play every game last season and ends his career with 37 catches for 374 yards and a touchdown.

Witten is now joined by Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers and Blake Jarwin on the depth chart at tight end.

Texans prefer trading down to trading up

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The Texans traded up in the first round of the draft last year in order to select quarterback Deshaun Watson, but General Manager Brian Gaine said he was more open to moving the other way this year.

Gaine held a press conference on Friday and fielded the evergreen pre-draft question about the possibility of making trades over the three-day event next week. Gaine said the team isn’t ruling out a move up the draft board, but that he’d prefer getting “more at-bats” by moving down the board.

It might be easier to make plans to do that if they still owned the fourth overall pick. They sent the rights to their first-round selection to Cleveland to Watson last year and sent their second-round pick to the Browns along with Brock Osweiler in a different deal, which means they don’t have a selection until No. 68 this year. They have two other third-round picks and a fourth-rounder, which Gaine believes will still give them a chance to add good players to the roster.

“It’s a challenge, but we’re positive we can get contributing players in the first 103,” Gaine said, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Some of those picks could turn into trade bait as teams identify players they really want come the second day of the draft, but a lot will play out before the Texans get an idea about how much other teams want any of those third- and fourth-round picks.

Philip Rivers: We have to embrace six-week stretch without L.A. game

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The Chargers are not considered one of the handful of teams who will play three straight road games during the 2018 season, but only because of a technicality.

They play at home against the Raiders in Week Five and won’t be back at StubHub Center until a Week 11 game against the Broncos, but they are listed as the home team for a London game against the Titans in Week Seven. They will play in Cleveland in Week Six, have a bye in Week Eight and road dates in Seattle and Oakland in between their Los Angeles dates.

Quarterback Philip Rivers noted that stretch when he looked at the 2018 schedule and said that there’s “no denying the challenge” while adding it is one the Chargers have to meet head on.

“I think we have to embrace that,” Rivers said, via the team’s website. “It’s, ‘Hey, shoot, we’re going on the road for a month. Let’s go!’ I think it’s OK this time of year to acknowledge that, golly, we have this many road games in this stretch and all the east coast games are at 10:00am. All right, let’s go play. When they kick it off we’ve got to be prepared and up for the challenge.”

Given the lack of home field advantage that the Chargers had in their first season in their new home, playing away from their stadium for four straight games might not be as daunting as it would be under other circumstances. Given the role their 0-4 start to last season played in missing the playoffs, it’s also clear that it isn’t the only significant stretch in their schedule.