Wisniewski’s “reward” may persuade other Eagles to want one, too

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The Eagles decision to give guard Stefen Wisniewski a $250,000 no-strings-attached signing bonus to make up for a $250,000 playing-time incentive he failed to earn impressed many as a fair and appropriate gesture. Some of the other players on the Philadelphia roster may have a different reaction.

“Where’s my reward?” they may wonder.

Indeed, any other player who played a significant role in the regular-season or postseason performances who narrowly missed an incentive or escalator would be justified in wondering whether he’ll get a money-for-nothing bump to his 2018 pay. Apart from that, one specific player who had the biggest hand in getting the team to Minneapolis and delivering Philadelphia its first Lombardi Trophy may be hoping for a chance to get more money, from the Eagles or from a different team.

Yes, if the Eagles are handing out Super Bowl cookies, Nick Foles should want the biggest one. As he makes the rounds with TV hosts would wouldn’t have been able to distinguish him from Jon Heder two months ago, Foles danced around the question of whether he wants a chance to get paid a lot more than $7 million in 2018, or to be a starter elsewhere. Considering the full scope of his answers, however, it’s clear that the issue eventually will come up.

“Are you gonna re-sign you’re saying with the Eagles?” Ellen Degeneres asked Foles. “What’s happening?”

Foles didn’t shut the question down by simply saying, “Actually, I’m already signed for next year. So it’s not an issue.” Instead, he gave an answer hinting that a request for something is coming.

“That’s a question that everyone wants to know,” Foles said. “My honest answer, not being politically correct, is all I want to do is just be with my wife, be with my daughter. All that stuff will take care of itself. I’ve been waiting. It’s a long season. We go through a lot. The family sacrificed a lot. Just literally the simple things of just like being there and being present, being at the home all day, being able to go on walks. We have a dog Henry. If I didn’t mention him he’d be sad because he’s gonna watch. Those little things that’s what I look forward to. We’ll see what happens with my career.”

That’s not a commitment to go along with whatever the Eagles want to do. It’s an effort to shift the focus on his career away from the present, with an acknowledgment that the details of his career for 2018 and beyond will be resolved in the not-too-distant future.

Later in the week, Foles was pressed more aggressively on the question of whether he can go back to being a backup quarterback.

“You have to be a starter,” Kimmel said. “You must, you have to be. You’re the Super Bowl MVP.”

Again, he didn’t say something like, “Well, I have a contract with Philadelphia for 2018, and Carson Wentz is the starter.” Instead, he said this: “Yeah, I mean, that’s a question that everyone wants to know. The thing I look forward to — the season’s a long season. The family, my wife. We have an eight-month-old daughter Lily. They sacrifice throughout the year because it’s a seven-day-a-week job, we’re in the facility, come back late. Right now, it’s just focusing on being a husband and father to the best of my ability. This is a time I really look forward to. And then with that part of football, we love Philly. That stuff’s out of my control. We have agents that handle all of that, but we love Philly. We love the situation and we’ll worry about it when that time comes. . . . Yeah, we love Philly. We came back to Philly and they had us. Just to be a part of the community to be a part of bringing the first Super Bowl there. That’s something that’s really special.”

Of course, if it were that simple, there would be nothing for agents to do. Foles would simply be staying put at $7 million for the final year of his deal and then next year would be the time when “stuff will take care of itself” and when “we’ll see what happens with my career.” The fact that he’s not making it clear that there’s no decision to make and nothing to talk about for 2018 strongly suggests that there is something to to talk about — and that it could be Foles’ desire either for a financial reward (much greater than $250,000) to stay with the Eagles or a chance to strike while the iron is glowing.

By pushing it all to his agents, Foles hopes to avoid losing any of the lifetime of goodwill he has earned among Eagles fans. But the agents work for Foles, and all he has to do is to tell them, “I don’t want more money, and I don’t want to be a starter with another team.” Unless and until he does, there’s a chance that the agents will try to squeeze the Eagles for something more than $7 million to continue to serve as the understudy to Wentz.

Sunday morning one-liners

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Making the case for another year of QB Tyrod Taylor for the Bills.

Safeties the Dolphins might consider in free agency.

DE Lawrence Guy just missed the playing time needed for a $500,000 bonus, but the Patriots gave it to him anyway.

The Jets could consider drafting UCF CB Mike Hughes to help the defense and the return game.

The Ravens have to keep durability in mind while making moves this offseason.

Will Jeff Driskel be the Bengals’ backup quarterback?

Is a WR Terrelle Pryor return a possibility for the Browns in free agency?

Steelers LB Arthur Moats does a lot of work for the Ronald McDonald House.

The Texans are looking forward to QB Deshaun Watson‘s return.

Reggie Bush thinks the Colts have a good partnership with QB Andrew Luck and coach Frank Reich.

The Jaguars are playing in London a bit later than they’d like.

Kordell Stewart thinks former Steelers teammate Mike Vrabel will succeed as the Titans’ head coach.

A push for former Broncos S Steve Atwater to make the Hall of Fame.

What free agent defensive linemen should the Chiefs consider?

A look at the Chargers’ tight end situation.

Raiders CB TJ Carrie shared his experience with heart surgery with young patients.

Will another team make a run at signing Cowboys DL David Irving as a restricted free agent?

Strengthening the offensive line is at the top of the list of offseason needs for the Giants.

Bachelor parties and basketball games are among the ways the Eagles are having fun after the Super Bowl.

Redskins CB Josh Norman ran into one of his fans on a trip to Israel.

Running down the Bears’ cornerback situation.

The Lions’ needs are clearer than how to fill them.

Eyes are on Packers QB Aaron Rodgerscontract situation.

Will the Vikings consider a run at QB AJ McCarron.

An underwhelming grade for the Falcons draft class.

The Carolina Panthers asked artists for pieces inspired by Black Panther.

The Saints could add to their linebacker group.

Moves by other teams will impact the Buccaneers’ plans this offseason.

Where does AJ McCarron rank among Cardinals quarterback options?

The Rams have a franchise tag decision to make with WR Sammy Watkins.

Pushing back against the growing hype about the 49ers.

The Seahawks will likely consider compensatory draft picks when making decisions about signing free agents.

Eagles give Wisniewski bonus to make up for missed incentive

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Eagles guard Stefen Wisniewski had a $250,000 playing-time incentive in his contract for 2017. He failed to earn it. But the Eagles decided to give it to him, anyway.

Via Mike Garafolo of NFL Media, the Eagles gave Wisniewski a $250,000 signing bonus for 2018.

No other terms of his contract apparently changed. Signed through 2019, the cap consequence of the payment will be $125,000 in 2018, and $125,000 next year.

Wisniewski has a base salary of $2.5 million for 2018. He originally signed with the Eagles in 2016 after spending four years with the Raiders and one with the Jaguars.

Steelers plan to keep using fifth-year options, as they should

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The Collective Bargaining Agreement solved the problem of unproven rookies taking millions out of the system while simultaneously creating an environment in which rookies who prove themselves have no real leverage for four or, in the case of first-round picks, five years. Thanks to the fifth-year option, a device that keeps a first-rounder from becoming a free agent after four seasons at compensation much lower than he’d get on the open market, teams have been able to delay giving great players the financial reward that they didn’t receive when drafted, for fear they’d never earn it.

For the player, the fifth-year option contains one very significant benefit: The salary for year five of his career is guaranteed for injury throughout year four. That’s the only thin silver lining in the dark cloud that has parked itself over the life of linebacker Ryan Shazier, who surely will never play again and who is struggling admirably and inspiringly to eventually lead a normal life. Under the fifth-year option exercised by the Steelers in 2017, the 2014 first-round pick will get $8.718 million for 2018, no matter what.

The fact that the Steelers will pay that much to someone who won’t play next season actually prompted a reporter to ask G.M. Kevin Colbert whether the Shazier injury will cause the Steelers to refrain from exercising fifth-year options.

That’s the risk you run when you put that option into effect,” Colbert said during his recent 20-minute chat with folks who cover the team, via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Any player can get injured on any play, and that is our game. We understand that, and we understand the risk involved, and we try to make those decisions knowing that those type of things can happen.”

It’s the only way to look at it. Truly career-ending injuries don’t happen often, and a blanket decision not to exercise the fifth-year option would mean that plenty of talented first-round picks will become free agents (or get franchise-tagged to keep them out of free agency), costing the team much more money than it would have cost to keep them under the fifth-year option.

It would be ludicrous to let one injury to one player alter any team’s approach to the fifth-year option. For every first-round pick who becomes a quality player, the fifth-year option is a no-brainer, since it gives the team one more year at a rate of pay considerably lower than what the player would have gotten if he’d gotten a chance to hit the open market.

Careless editorial decisions forced ESPN to make changes in order to placate a sponsor

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Wendy’s definitely knows where the beef is, and how to properly squeeze it.

Patrick Redford of Deadspin.com outlines the manner in which Wendy’s threatened to pull advertising dollars from ESPN after publication of a story in which Bills linebacker Preston Brown attributed his improved performance in 2017 to an improved diet. The diet improved when he stopped eating at Wendy’s.

“It wasn’t [healthy]. It’s not good,” Brown said told Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. “[Now] I’m eating salads and greens, all the fruit and vegetable stuff I should have been eating instead of stopping by a drive-thru.”

While the story itself, along with the reference to Wendy’s, still lives on the ESPN.com servers, the headline was changed from “How avoiding Wendy’s helped Preston Brown become NFL’s leading tackler” to “How a diet helped turn Preston Brown into NFL’s leading tackler.”

As noted by Redford, ESPN also deleted social-media posts promoting the article with this message: “The key to becoming the NFL’s leading tackler? Don’t eat Wendy’s.”

The changes came, per Redford, in response to pressure from Wendy’s. ESPN officially attributed the revisions to “simple editing,” explaining “Brown cites multiple reasons he lost weight in the article, and after it posted, an editor read it and thought singling out a single reason didn’t accurately represent the reporting.”

It would have been useful if the editor (or the writer) had come to the conclusion before publishing the story, eliminating the need for Wendy’s to complain and for ESPN.com to clumsily put the ketchup back in that thing that squirts it into those small white paper cups. Indeed, Brown mentioned Wendy’s only because Wendy’s was the fast-food restaurant close to the team’s practice facility that he happened to frequent. It could have been any of them — McDonald’s, Arby’s, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and crap now I’m hungry.

Fast food is what it is. Everyone knows it. It doesn’t stop millions of people from enjoying it, even when they know they shouldn’t. Everyone also knows that elite athletes have far greater incentive to avoid fast-food restaurants, casual-dining establishments, convenience-store burritos, and any of the many other things that non-elite athletes routinely consume, either because it’s easy, it’s cheap, it tastes good, or any combination of the three.

So, basically, this is less about Wendy’s and more about the folks at ESPN.com not having the sense to realize that: (1) Brown wasn’t making an anti-Wendy’s observation; and (2) setting it up as an anti-Wendy’s observation (at the exclusion of every other place that sells food pro athletes shouldn’t eat) probably wasn’t a great idea, given the company’s business relationship with Wendy’s.

Giants request two-month delay in fraud memorabilia lawsuit trial

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The Giants currently are scheduled to face allegations of memorabilia fraud at a trial due to begin on March 26. The Giants have asked to delay the trial by more than two months.

According to Jim Baumbach of Newsday, the Giants have requested a continuance of the trial until June 11.

In documents filed with the court on Friday, the Giants explain that the lawyer who will be designated as the new lead counsel in the case is undergoing treatment for an undisclosed illness and also has a trial in another case scheduled for March.

The question of whether a trial will be delayed always rests within the broad discretion of the trial judge. Some judges are lenient, some aren’t. Some will grant a continuance or two before insisting that the case proceed.

Another reason for the request could be that Giants co-owner John Mara, a named defendant in the lawsuit, will be in Orlando for the annual league meetings on the day the trial is due to begin. If, however, a continuance were requested on those grounds, the lawyers could soon find themselves stammering and stuttering their way through questions from the judge as to why they didn’t previously mention Mara’s conflict when the date for the trial was being picked.

The lawsuit alleges that Giants equipment managers gave helmets and jerseys to Steiner Sports that were supposedly game-used but actually weren’t.

Vikings to increase ticket prices by seven percent, on average

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The fruits of a good season include the ability to harvest more cabbage in the immediate future.

Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the Vikings notified season-ticket holders on Friday that prices will increase at U.S. Bank Stadium for 2018. On average, the prices will inflate by seven percent.

Some increases will be as low as four percent. In the lower bowl, the hikes could be north of 10 percent. Roughly three quarters of the seats will increase by $10 per game or less.

The fact that the Vikings had a special season, capped by a win for the ages against the Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs, undoubtedly will increase ticket demand for 2018. Ultimately, that’s what drives pricing; finite supply plus increased demand justifies charging more to get in.

The challenge, when it comes to venues funded in large part by public money, becomes not making it so expensive that the public never has access to the games. As long as members of the public are ponying up the cash necessary to purchase tickets, however, the people can’t claim they’re being frozen out of the building that was dubbed The People’s Stadium when the deal was struck to build it.

(Here’s something that’s free: Codes for a copy of the Madden 18 game. Use MEDH-RENR-KNTF for PS4, and HTCVJ-RHRX3-WFHYF-TYPHX-KTGQZ for Xbox One. First come, first served. I’ve still got plenty more to give away, and it will continue throughout the weekend.)

Another P.R. exec leaves NFL

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The person ultimately in charge of the P.R. function at 345 Park Avenue soon will be leaving. Joe Lockhart’s top lieutenant already is gone.

Brian Stelter of CNN reports that NFL senior Vice President of Communications Natalie Ravitz finished her time with the league on Friday. Ravitz apparently confirmed the report by retweeting another tweet that quoted the portion of the column that mentions her departure.

Unless the league was planning to promote her to succeed Lockhart, it makes sense to move on. The new P.R. chief will likely want his or her own senior staff.

The move is a reminder that the league currently is undergoing what could be a fundamental shift in its P.R. function. Lockhart, a White House press secretary in the Clinton administration, necessarily brought a different mindset to what P.R. is and how it should be managed.

In the political world, the knee-jerk response to an attack is to counterattack. With the league currently under attack from so many different angles, fighting back against everyone and everything becomes impossible.

Until he re-signs, Brees is the top free-agent quarterback

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Most regard Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins as the best available free-agent quarterback. And that probably will be the case, when March 14 rolls around. For now, however, there’s an even better quarterback set to hit the open market.

It’s Drew Brees. Signed to a six-year, $60 million deal by the Saints 12 years ago as an unrestricted free agent despite having more than 20 studs in his shoulder, Brees is now healthy. He’s also 39. But he has shown no signs of slippage in his play, and he could instantly make a bad team good (like the Browns), an average team very good (like the Jets or Broncos), a good team great (like the Cardinals), and a great team a Super Bowl champion (like the Vikings).

MDS pointed out that the Cleveland cap space could support an obscene offer, but Brees likely would regard the Browns as a rebuild that will take more years than he has left. If he’s going to leave a Saints team that already has all the signs of being a championship contender in 2018, he’d likely do it only for another championship contender.

Anyway, those are just some words I typed to tee up a video that presents our top five free-agent quarterbacks.

Greg Hardy knocks out an overmatched opponent in amateur MMA fight

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Former Panthers and Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy is continuing to beat up smaller, weaker opposition in the mixed martial arts cage.

Hardy won his amateur fight on Friday night to improve to 3-0. His opponent was a much smaller man who was totally overmatched in the cage. The whole thing was over in 14 seconds as Hardy knocked his opponent down easily with a punch to the jaw and jumped on him and landed a few more punches before the referee could jump in.

Now 3-0 as an amateur MMA fighter, Hardy hasn’t faced anyone remotely competitive and has won all three of his fights by first-round knockout. His three fights have lasted a total of less than three minutes. Hardy said he’s purposely taking his time in the amateur ranks before his trainers think he’s ready to turn professional.

“I”m trying to take my time,” Hardy said. “I’m going to leave it to my coaches . . . I’m going to leave it in their hands and let them make the decision.”

Hardy was arrested in a domestic violence case during the 2014 offseason. Although the Panthers initially stood by him, after the Ray Rice domestic violence video shined a spotlight on the issue, Carolina sidelined Hardy for the rest of the season. The Cowboys signed him the next year, but no team has shown interest in him since. So if he wants to be a professional athlete, MMA is probably his best chance — even if, eventually, he’s going to have to fight someone his own size.

Chiefs sign David Amerson

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The Chiefs have signed cornerback David Amerson, the team announced Friday night. The Raiders cut Amerson on February 5 in Jon Gruden’s first roster move.

He missed the final nine games of 2017 with a foot injury, and the Raiders parted ways before his $5.5 million base salary for 2018 became guaranteed.

Amerson, 26, has played in 68 games in five NFL seasons with Oakland (2015-17) and Washington (2013-15). His career numbers include 249 tackles, three tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He has eight interceptions for 73 yards, returning two for touchdowns, and 63 passes defensed.

Washington made him a second-round pick in 2013.

DeAngelo Hall: Su’a Cravens has a lot to prove if he’s serious about a return

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Safety Su'a Cravens must regain the trust of his teammates if he returns to the Washington locker room, teammate DeAngelo Hall said Friday.

“I definitely think there’s room for Su’a on this roster, but he has to prove to the guys in that locker room that he’s here for the right reasons, you know what I mean, and he wants to fight with them and he wants to go to battle,” Hall said in an interview with Washington’s 106.7 The Fan, via CBS DC. “Guys have to believe he’s gonna be able to be counted on, and I think this organization has to believe that, because there’s nothing worse than having a guy that you have bled with and fought with and trained with, and when it’s time to go to battle, they walk away. That’s a tough thing for a lot of guys in this locker room to just look past.”

The league granted Cravens his request for reinstatement earlier this week. Washington had placed him on the reserve/left squad list after he walked away from the team days before the start of the season.

Washington now has to decide what to do with him.

“There’s not a lot of things in this league I haven’t seen in the time I’ve been around the game,” Hall said. “But this is one thing that no one I’ve been around or I’ve been in the locker room with has ever experienced, and so it’s all kind of new. So how he’s gonna be received and accepted, I don’t know. I know myself personally, how I would receive him — with open arms, because I don’t know the full extent of the story, and until everyone gets the full extent of the story, it’s kind of hard to make an opinion. We all can voice our opinions, but to really be right, you’ve got to have all the information, and no one really has all the information but Su’a. I don’t even think the organization has all the information.”

Cravens was dealing with a knee injury when he left, and his agent recently revealed Cravens sought treatment for post-concussion syndrome while sitting out.

Dolphins donate $100,000 to victims’ fund

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The Dolphins donated $100,000 to the Stoneman Douglas victims’ fund set up by the Broward County Education Fund, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reports.

The team made two separate $50,000 donations, because that was the maximum donation. The Dolphins’ donations pushed the fund over $1 million.

“Our hope is to encourage people to make more donations,” the Dolphins said in a statement, via Beasley.

The fund’s goal is $2 million, and you can donate here.

Lions make a pair of coaching moves

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New Lions head coach Matt Patricia is continuing to build out his coaching staff in Detroit.

The team announced two members of the staff on Friday. Hank Fraley will be the team’s assistant offensive line coach and Evan Rothstein has been named head coach assistant/research and analysis.

Fraley spent last season as the offensive line coach at UCLA and worked as an assistant offensive line coach for three years in Minnesota before moving to the college ranks. Fraley played 11 years in the NFL for the Eagles, Browns and Rams.

Rothstein has been with the Lions for the last six seasons, although this will be his first year in his current position. He’s worked as a quality control, special teams and offensive assistant in the past.

Derek Carr on Raiders: “We have to hit a reset button”

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The Raiders made the splash hire of the offseason, bringing coach Jon Gruden out of retirement to coach again.

And while quarterback Derek Carr believes the team is close to being a contender, he suggested a new approach will be helpful.

During an interview on SiriusXM Friday, Carr said he thinks the Raiders are close.

“We know what we’re capable of,” Carr said, via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. “We have so much talent on our team, but talent only gets you so far. We have to come together as a team like we never have. We have to hit a reset button after the emotional highs and lows we’ve been through. If you think about it, the last 24 months have been a roller coaster for us. We were so high winning 12 games [in 2016], and then I break my ankle and everyone goes down. Then we come back and start 2-0 [in 2017], and then it turns into a weird season.

“We have to hit a reset button. We know what we’re capable of. We know what it takes to win now. We’ve changed the culture. Coach [Jack] Del Rio came in and helped us do that along with our leadership. Anyone we add will be welcomed to the team and told, ‘Hey, this is how we do things.’ I don’t think we need to completely change things.”

Of course, Gruden’s going to bring a different style from Del Rio, and a different perspective from his first stint on the sidelines. And while they have a stable base of personnel, the Raiders clearly underperformed last year and needed a fresh voice.