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Report: Ravens “may balk” at Dennis Pitta’s 2017 salary

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 4: Tight end Dennis Pitta #88 of the Baltimore Ravens is tackled by cornerback Bobby McCain #28 of the Miami Dolphins in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta made it back to the field in 2016 after playing just seven games in the previous three seasons because of hip injuries and showed that the time off didn’t make him a less popular target for quarterback Joe Flacco.

Pitta led all tight ends with 86 catches during the 2016 season, although he wasn’t able to do that much with those catches. Pitta averaged 8.5 yards per catch and just over six yards per target, which limited the impact that all of those catches had on the team’s fortunes.

That explains why Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports that the Ravens “may balk” at the $5.5 million that Pitta is set to make during the 2017 season. Pitta took a pay cut of $4 million last year and earned $3 million back in incentives, although it is unclear if he will be open to adjusting his deal again. Cutting Pitta would create $4.4 million in dead money and $3.3 million in room under the cap.

Pitta’s future is one of several decisions the Ravens will have to make at tight end this offseason. They hope to have Benjamin Watson back from a torn Achilles to go with Pitta, Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams, Darren Waller and Crockett Gillmore. Keeping all six feels like too much, but all have missed time due to injuries or suspensions that complicate the team’s choices.

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Danny Shelton had wrist surgery

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 24:  Jamie Meder #98 and Danny Shelton #55 of the Cleveland Browns celebrate after defeating the San Diego Chargers 20-17 at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

Browns defensive tackle Danny Shelton was spotted with a cast on his left arm recently, which spurred questions on Twitter about what was bothering him.

Shelton revealed he had his wrist “cleaned up” since the end of the regular season and that he’ll be fine in time for next season. A Browns spokesman told Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal the same thing and Shelton’s agent said his client will be working out next week.

Shelton has started 31-of-32 games since the Browns drafted him in the first round in 2015. His second season was an improvement on his rookie campaign as he recorded 59 tackles and 1.5 sacks in Hue Jackson’s first year in Cleveland.

Jackson’s second year will see a new defensive scheme introduced by new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The move will include a shift to a 4-3, which will require a shift in Shelton’s role, but it doesn’t sound like his wrist should cost him much time on the field while it is being installed.

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Thursday morning one-liners

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 11: Terrance West #28 of the Baltimore Ravens gets a hug from teammate Ronnie Stanley #79 after a one-yard touchdown in the second quarter of a preseason NFL game against the Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills have a decision to make with RT Jordan Mills.

The Dolphins signed a pretty good class of free agents yesterday.

Patriots QB Tom Brady had some fun with the theft of his Super Bowl jersey.

Wait, not everyone thinks the Jets and QB Jay Cutler would be a good mix? Impossible.

Ravens LT Ronnie Stanley’s story of adopting an “unadoptable” dog is being featured on television.

The Bengals must decide what to do with WR Brandon LaFell.

QB Patrick Mahomes would love to play for the Browns.

The Steelers hope to provide a home-ice advantage for the Penguins this weekend.

Texans RT Derek Newton is in good spirits as he rehabs his double patellar tendon tear.

Colts C Ryan Kelly has been noted as a building block by new G.M. Chris Ballard.

Could the Jaguars be making a run at DE Jason Pierre-Paul?

The Titans could use some S depth and versatility.

Fixing the Broncos OL could be a complicated job.

A look at the Chiefs top needs in free agency.

New Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is fired up about his new gig.

Raiders LT Donald Penn said QB Derek Carr was “almost 100 percent.”

The Broncos are the betting favorite to land Cowboys QB Tony Romo.

Giants G.M. Jerry Reese needs to build on last year’s splash signings in free agency.

The Eagles could justify a less splashy approach at WR.

Taking a look at Washington’s free agency needs on offense.

Will the Jay Cutler Era push the Bears in a different direction in their next QB search?

Free agency could provide a significant lift to the Lions OL problems.

OL Don Barclay’s versatility gives the Packers some options.

A look at DE Brian Robison’s future with the Vikings.

The Falcons will get a boost to a need area when some guys get healthy.

The Panthers cleared over $4 million in cap space this week.

The Saints could use free agency to shore up their CB position.

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston wants to help the team as a recruiter.

Looking at the Cardinals’ draft options.

The Rams are offering a ridiculous prize to a practically unwinnable contest.

49ers executive Paraag Marathe said his job was to stay in his lane and assist the new coach and General Manager.

Our own Curtis Crabtree was the star of the Seahawks media combine, showing good hands.

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Retirement option floated for Jay Cutler

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 28: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears speaks to the media after the game against the Minnesota Vikings on December 28, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Bears 13-9. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Yes, Bears (for now) quarterback Jay Cutler has plenty of leverage when it comes to a possible trade. And he seems to be ready to use it. Or at least to threaten to.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network explained on (shocker) NFL Network that Cutler is “still considering” whether he wants to play, not play, walk away, etc.

For Cutler, the retirement option is a useful tool to scare away a team that may be inclined to trade for him, but that he may not be inclined to play for. It’s also a way to save face, in the event no one trades for him, the Bears cut him, and no one offers him the starting job without having to compete with a rookie and/or slappy.

That’s the difference between Cutler and guys like Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger. For them, the play/no play option has a viable location if the decision is to play. For Cutler, retirement may be the only way to avoid washing out of the bottom of the league by spending a year getting banged around on a bad team — or to escape the indignity of a quarterback-needy league collectively deciding it no longer wants him.

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Titans honor Tim Shaw for inspiration in fight against ALS

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 27:  Tim Shaw #59 of the Tennessee Titans reacts after making a tackle for a loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during play at LP Field on November 27, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Titans had a banquet downtown for their season-ticket holders and gave out some awards, but one will be remembered far beyond the usual collection of honors for football players.

Former Titans linebacker Tim Shaw, who has remained around the team following his diagnosis with ALS, walked to the stage with center Ben Jones when it was time to open the envelope and present Most Inspirational Titan.

“There must be some problem with this,” Shaw said, via Paul Kuharsky of ESPN. com. “It says Tim Shaw. . . .

To be called inspirational is actually the most humbling thing that’s ever happened to me,” Shaw continued. “To me, it’s inspirational when you face something that is not cool, something that scares you, something that can potentially bring you down, and you go right at it. To me that’s inspirational.

“So if that’s what I am doing, you can call me inspirational.”

Shaw, who played for the Titans from 2010-12, was diagnosed with the degenerative disease in 2014. He has been a fixture around the team since, offering motivational speeches and a presence for a team that made great improvements last year.

“You had a large part in what happened in 2016 for this Titans football team,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey told Shaw. “He came in training camp and had such an impactful message to this football team that he changed a lot of lives.”

Shaw’s approach to his fight has been something any team would want to embrace, and part of the reason they made him a “Titan for life” last summer, putting him on the roster for a day during training camp so he could retire with the team.

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NFL study says Texans-Raiders Mexico City game generated $45 million

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 21:   A general view of the field prior to the game between the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders at Estadio Azteca on November 21, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images) Getty Images

A study commissioned by the NFL on last year’s game between the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders played in Mexico City has determined the event generated $45 million.

In a story by the Associated Press on the study – produced by Ernst and Young – the activity around the game generated $43 million in tourist spending, of which $32 million was incremental to the Mexico City economy.

The 27-20 victory by the Raiders was attended by 76,473 at Estadio Azteca. It was the first NFL game to be played in Mexico since the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals played in the same stadium in 2005.

The Raiders will return to Mexico City next season and host the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Just like the NFL’s increasing schedule in London, if their games abroad continue to generate significant returns in profit the league will undoubtedly continue to expand its reach into new locales.

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Bill Belichick on witness list for second Aaron Hernandez murder trial

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on prior to Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriot owner Robert Kraft testified in the first Aaron Hernandez trial. Patriots coach Bill Belichick could testify in the second Aaron Hernandez trial.

Via the Associated Press, Hernandez’s lawyers have added Belichick to the list of possible witnesses. The head coach joins offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as persons who may take the oath and answer questions.

The potential purpose of Belichick’s testimony isn’t known. Typically, lawyers pump up the list with an overly broad list of names in order to conceal the actual case strategy that would arise if the lawyers listed only the witnesses who actually will testify.

Putting it another way, it’s like listing 20 players as “questionable” so that the other team won’t know who’s actually injured.

Already convicted and serving life without parole for the June 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd, Hernandez now stands trial for the July 2012 murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. Jury selection has begun, and opening statements are scheduled for March 1.

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Trubisky will do everything in Indy except the bench press

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 01: Mitch Trubisky #10 of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks to make a pass during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Gammons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky will participate in everything except the bench press at next week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Trubusky’s father told the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio.

Though that’s subject to change, it’s noteworthy because some top prospects skip their group’s workout session and instead choose only to throw or fully work out on their own campuses.

Earlier this week, former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson said he plans to fully participate in the NFL Scouting Combine. Trubisky, Watson and DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame — all early entries in the 2017 NFL Draft — are generally considered the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft, while some would put Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech among the top group.

There doesn’t seem to be a consensus No. 1 quarterback at this point of the process, so the hand-shaking, medical-checking and interview portions of next week’s event figure to be just as important as what goes on in the formal throwing session, which ends the three days the quarterbacks will spend in Indianapolis.

Workout groups in Indianapolis are generally divided alphabetically and by position, so Trubisky and Watson will likely be throwing together in the second group during the on-field quarterback workout.

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Personnel exec Tom Gamble leaving the 49ers


The 49ers announced Wednesday that longtime personnel executive Tom Gamble is leaving the team.

Gamble has spent 10 of his 29 NFL seasons with the 49ers. He returned to the team for the past two years after serving as vice president of player personnel with the Eagles in 2013-14.

“The 49ers organization has tremendous respect and appreciation for Tom Gamble and his many years of service,” new 49ers General Manager John Lynch said in the team’s release on Gamble’s departure. “He is a class act who has helped a great deal in this transition, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him.

“After working together over the last month, Tom and I agreed that it would be in both of our best interests for him to pursue other opportunities. Tom is a true professional and we wish him and his family great success in the future.”

Gamble was director of pro personnel with the 49ers from 2005-10 and director of player personnel in 2011-12 before going to Philadelphia. He was the team’s assistant G.M. last season, putting him in position to help Lynch transition into his first front office job.

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49ers’ evaluation of Colin Kaepernick is still fluid

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 27:  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers watches from the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Carindals defeated the 49ers 47-7.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick can bail on the balance of his contract between March 2 and March 7. The 49ers can do so at any time. For now, both sides are still weighing their options. The process included a recent meeting between the player and his new coach and G.M., Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, respectively.

“We had a great discussion and Colin left excited, we left excited and I think as Kyle and I really believe, the evaluation is still very much fluid,” Lynch told KNBR, via Chris Biderman of USA Today.

“And we’ve only been on the job a couple weeks. I can tell you, we both really very much [like] being around Colin and he seems like he’s in a real good place.”

Kaepernick is due to earn $14.5 million in 2017, and the 49ers surely won’t be paying him that kind of money for one more year. Given that Shanahan and Lynch are newcomers, Kaepernick is no different to them than any other free agent quarterback would be. Because he’s still under contract with the 49ers, however, the team has the ability to talk to him and to negotiate with him before he voids the contract and becomes a free agent.

There’s a chance that, in the end, both sides will decide that it’s in their mutual best interests to give it another try. The final decision will depend on the other options for the team and the other options for the player. Given that multiple other teams will not be inclined to alienate a large swath of the fan base by signing the player at the heart of the 2016 anthem protests, staying in San Francisco could be his best option.

In weighing his options, Kaepernick would benefit from some third-part advice. For now, though, he still doesn’t have an agent.

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James Harrison would like a two-year deal

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks off the field after the New England Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to win the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Linebacker James Harrison didn’t spend much time after the end of the Steelers’ season weighing whether he wanted to return for another NFL season.

Harrison, who turns 39 in May, said after the team’s playoff loss that he wasn’t done playing. It appears he’s already thinking about his plans for after his 40th birthday as well.

Harrison’s agent Bill Parise told Jeremy Fowler of that his client would like to sign a two-year contract this offseason. This week also brought word of “mutual interest” between Harrison and the Steelers in yet another year in Pittsburgh and Parise confirmed their side of it.

“Of course James wants to be in Pittsburgh,” Parise said.

It remains to be seen if the Steelers share that interest, but there are a lot of ways to structure a contract so that parting won’t be too onerous if the Steelers decide that Harrison has reached the end of the line by the end of the 2017 season.

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

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 31:  Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears gestures before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on October 31, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) Getty Images

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 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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Voice of the Crimson Tide thinks Saban is staying put, permanently

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 15:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on during pregame warmups prior to facing the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 15, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Wednesday’s PFT Live included a visit from Eli Gold, the long-time voice of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Gold addressed, among other things, the incoming NFL class of Alabama players and the hiring of former Alabama assistant Steve Sarkisian by the Falcons. Along the way, I asked Gold about the possibility that the man who once declared he won’t be the Alabama coach will be anything but the Alabama coach.

Eli Gold firmly believes that Saban is staying put — and specifically that he won’t return to the National Football League.

“He loves what he does and this is what he is,” Gold said. “He is a football coach. He is a teacher who is also a football coach. He teaches these young men how to be better players, how to be better people and that was the thing he didn’t like about the National Football League.

“Once he got the players in the NFL, they were who they were. You’re not gonna to be a coach and I just pick this name out of a hat so don’t take anything from it. But you’re not gonna be a coach in the NFL and change a Flozell Adams, he is who he is. Vince Wilfork, he is who he is. You’re not gonna come in and start changing guys, as wonderful a player as those two gentlemen are and were.

“But in college you can change people. You can make them into men. You can make them into better people and get them to the level of where a Flozell Adams was in his heyday and where Vince Wilfork is and that’s what Nick Saban missed in the pros. He didn’t have that molding-of-people element to the job, so he loves doing that.”

Gold added that Saban genuinely loves the recruiting element of the college coach’s job, and that he doesn’t view the travel demands and the uncertainty of landing the desire players as drudgery or a source of frustration.

“I don’t care who you are if you enjoy getting up in the morning and go to work you’re gonna do better than the guy who’s going because he has to and he’s just putting in his time,” Gold said. “Nick Saban loves recruiting, loves coaching, he thrives on this stuff he really does.”

For everything Gold had to say about Alabama players, Sarkisian, and one of the best football coaches college football ever has had, given the full video a listen.

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Former NFLPA executive director Ed Garvey dies at 76

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 30:  Lonnie Bunch, Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, speaks during an NFLPA press conference prior to Super Bowl XLVIII on January 30, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images) Getty Images

One of the leading figures of the National Football League Players Association in the 1970s has died.

Ed Garvey, who was the union’s first executive director, died on Wednesday morning in Verona, Wisconsin. His death was first reported by Dave Zweifel of the Capital Times.

Garvey was a labor lawyer for a Minneapolis firm representing the NFLPA in the late 1960s and was named the group’s first executive director in 1970 after working alongside union president John Mackey. Garvey remained in the role through 1982 when he was succeeded by Gene Upshaw.

There were a pair of strikes during Garvey’s tenure in 1974 and 1982, although only the latter strike cost the league any regular season games. His stint as executive director also saw the union win a lawsuit invalidating the Rozelle Rule, which limited players’ ability to move by giving then-commissioner Pete Rozelle the right to assign compensation to any team losing a free agent. The court ruling did not eliminate the compensatory element, but wrote the formula for determining it into the CBA rather than a ruling by the commissioner.

Garvey later worked in the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office and made a pair of unsuccessful runs for Senate twice.

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Eddie Lacy posts workout video with free agency approaching

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 25:  Eddie Lacy #27 of the Green Bay Packers runs against the Detroit Lions
at Lambeau Field on September 25, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 34-27.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Social media has played a role in the football world in a variety of ways in recent years with one of the most frequent being the posting of videos by players rehabbing from injuries.

Players who are headed toward free agency are often among those sharing such glimpses into what’s going on in their lives and Packers running back Eddie Lacy joined the fun this week. Lacy posted a video of himself working out in a pool as he continues his recovery from a season-ending ankle injury and surgery.

There’s not much to glean from the video about where Lacy stands in the rehab process nor is there much of a hint about what kind of shape he’s in outside of the ankle. Lacy’s weight has been an issue for the Packers over the last couple of years and will likely be one for any suitors in free agency next month as well.

Due to the injury and a lackluster 2015 campaign, Lacy may be looking at signing a one-year deal in hopes of proving he’s worthy of a bigger investment at this point in 2018. That opportunity could come with the Packers, who currently have only converted wideout Ty Montgomery under contract at running back for next season.

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