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La’el Collins scheduled for visit with Dolphins

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The Dolphins have visited with some of the top cornerback, running back and wide receiver prospects during the pre-draft process, but they haven’t been ignoring their need for offensive line help.

Several of the top blockers in this year’s draft class have spent time with the Dolphins and another one is slated to meet with the team next week. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, LSU tackle La’El Collins will visit with the team in the coming days.

Collins started at left tackle in Baton Rouge the last two years, but that’s not a spot where the Dolphins are in need of immediate help with Branden Albert back from last year’s knee injury. They’re also in good hands on the right side with 2014 first-rounder Ja’Wuan James, but they need help at guard and Collins opened his college career playing on the interior.

If the Dolphins do take an offensive lineman in the first round, it would be the fourth time in the last eight drafts that they’ve taken a blocker to open their draft.

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Sunday morning one-liners

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How have the Bills fared in past drafts without a first round pick?

The Dolphins have dates and times for their preseason schedule.

An argument in favor of the Patriots extending LB Dont’a Hightower now.

Will the Jets face the Bills and former coach Rex Ryan in Week One?

South Florida CB/KR Chris Dunkley will visit the Ravens.

Said Bengals CB Leon Hall of the start of offseason work, ““I think that will be good for everybody. It will be nice to see guys at some of the other positions. You can go for a while without seeing an offensive or defensive lineman.”

Akron WR Zach D’Orazio will work out for the Browns.

Assessing the likelihood that the Steelers pick a cornerback in the first round.

Texans TE Garrett Graham caught the team’s website up on his offseason activities.

Saturday was the anniversary of the Colts picking QB Peyton Manning first overall.

The Jaguars are in the market for a safety.

Would a trade for QB Philip Rivers cost the Titans too much?

WR Cody Latimer likes what the Broncos have in mind for him this season.

Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star has the Chiefs taking Texas DT Malcom Brown in the first round.

Raiders strength and conditioning coach Joe Gomes has done work with the United States military.

Todd McShay of ESPN believes Oregon QB Marcus Mariota would be a good fit with the Chargers.

Cowboys WR Cole Beasley didn’t know what to do with his signing bonus.

A look at how the Giants’ equipment staff prepares for the offseason program.

The Eagles could take an offensive lineman with the 20th pick.

Texas Southern cornerback Tray Walker and Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday have visited the Redskins recently.

S Antrel Rolle likes the Bears’ chemistry.

Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s first year in Detroit got a good review from his former boss/Saints coach Sean Payton.

DE Mike Daniels has been working out hard in advance of the Packers’ offseason workouts.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman shared his belief that long-term success comes through good drafting.

Alabama QB Blake Sims says that he’s met with the Falcons.

Should the Panthers take Georgia RB Todd Gurley or address the offensive line?

The Saints’ roster stands at 70 players.

Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy has stepped up his offseason workouts.

Cardinals WR Jaron Brown has healed from his late-season shoulder injury.

Will the Rams pull the trigger on adding a quarterback in the draft?

A few dispatches from the 49ers’ pro day for local draft prospects.

The Seahawks players who went to Hawaii together last week seemed to be having fun while working out.

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Anonymous ESPN employees reportedly want McHenry out

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The notorious tow-lot video featuring ESPN reporter Britt McHenry has sparked plenty of strong reactions among media and fans.  According to TMZ (via TheBigLead.com), strong reactions have occurred within ESPN, too.

Multiple employees of the four-letter network reportedly think McHenry should be and/or will be fired in the aftermath of her four-letter, mean-spirited, I’m-better-than-you rant caught on video — and on audio — at an undisclosed location at an unknown date and time.

Suspended for a week by ESPN, some unnamed co-workers think McHenry eventually will be suspended for good.  Regardless of how this plays out, let’s take an opportunity on a somewhat slow Sunday to take a closer look at some of the risks raised by taking employment action against someone for an incident occurring beyond the boundaries of his or her employment.

There’s a saying in the legal profession that bad facts make bad law.  In other words, when something happens that cries out for a specific outcome, the rules can get twisted to lead to that outcome without regard to the precedent it sets.  In this specific case, the precedent possibly becomes that anything an on-air employee at ESPN says or does while off the clock can be the basis for discipline or discharge, even without behavior that would result in an arrest.

Should that be the standard for any employee?  I’ve argued for years that the NFL shouldn’t reach into the urine of a player to determine whether he is or isn’t smoking marijuana or using other recreational drugs that don’t enhance performance.  Why should ESPN be able to impose discipline based whether an on-air employee treats another person rudely while not at work?

And what amounts to rude behavior?  Refusing to sign an autograph?  Not leaving enough of a tip at a restaurant?  Bumping into someone without saying, “Excuse me”?

Yes, McHenry played the “I’m in the news” card, but she never said she works for ESPN and there’s no reason to believe she was working for ESPN at the time she made those remarks.  Does every ESPN on-air employee now have to worry about anything and everything they say in any setting, even when they’re not working?

On one hand, if ESPN employees don’t treat other people the way McHenry treated the person behind the counter at the tow lot, it won’t be a problem.  On the other hand, why does any employer have the right to take action against someone for something they did on their own time when that behavior has no relevance to the person’s job performance?

There’s also the question of whether McHenry knew her words were being recorded.  While it doesn’t excuse the behavior, surveillance cameras typically capture only video and not audio because the recording of audio amounts to a potential wiretapping violation.  Even in a jurisdiction where only one party must consent to the conversation being record (in this case, the tow-lot employee), a private conversation between two people at the counter while the tow-lot employee was away from the window would potentially violate the law.  In McHenry’s case, the original video was presented in a way that suggests she saw the camera before saying some of the worst things she said; if she had no reason to believe the camera also had a microphone, her decision to continue with the tirade after spotting the camera becomes a bit less confusing.

Again, none of this makes her conduct acceptable.  The real question becomes whether the disclosure of the audio and the ensuing embarrassment is punishment enough, or whether ESPN has the ability to take action against her for something that happened away from work.  The audience can choose not to like or respect her; is that sufficient (absent evidence of widespread channel-changing when she appears on screen) to justify taking her off the air?

Then there are the notorious Chris Berman on-set but off-air videos.  From a profanity-laced rant against the crew for moving around while he was on the air to an extended explanation of how to smuggle codeine from Canada to creepy flirtations with a female colleague, Berman never faced any scrutiny or discipline when comments he made appeared online.  While he never singled out any one person for demeaning comments, Berman’s behavior happened while he was on the clock for ESPN.  McHenry’s didn’t.

There’s no easy answer to this one.  Regardless of whether McHenry deserves to be heavily criticized for her comments to the tow-lot employee (and the court of public opinion has concluded that she does), the question of whether she deserves to be suspended or eventually fired by ESPN becomes far more complicated when considering how the precedent will apply going forward — and when contemplating how this standard would have or should have applied in past cases of recorded comments made by other ESPN employees under circumstances far more closely connected to the employment relationship.

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Morris Claiborne aiming for training camp return

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Back in January, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones shared his view that cornerback Morris Claiborne has done enough in his oft-criticized and injury-riddled career for the team to exercise their fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

The Cowboys haven’t actually followed through on picking up that option, which they can do until May 3, and they aren’t going to have a chance to see Claiborne doing much in their offseason program before making that call. That program opens on Monday, but Claiborne has only recently started running after last year’s torn patellar tendon and doesn’t expect to be cleared for a full workload until training camp.

It’s the third time in four years that Claiborne will miss the team’s other offseason work because of injuries, something he intimated hasn’t been easy while discussing this return to action.

“I was at a point where people thought I wasn’t going to walk again,” Claiborne said, via FOX Sports Southwest. “I’m in a better place now in my life and in coping with my injuries and coming back from them.”

Claiborne’s $2.6 million salary for this year is guaranteed, so the Cowboys will hope that the better place leads to better play. Claiborne’s first three seasons haven’t offered much reason to hope that it will, but being the sixth overall pick of the draft gives you more rope than a lot of players.

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Stevie Brown drawing interest, expected to sign soon

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Safety Stevie Brown is one of the members of PFT’s All-Unemployed team, which is the rare team that players are happy to get released from in the spring.

Brown may be getting his walking papers sooner rather than later. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Brown is mulling a handful of offers and that he’s expected to select one of them in the near future.

Schefter reports the Giants are interested in re-signing Brown, who has spent the last three years with the team and would fill a need they’ve been unable to fill elsewhere in free agency. The Cowboys, Falcons, Raiders and Titans are the other teams that Schefter lists as being in the mix for Brown’s services.

Brown played in every game for the Giants last season and started eight games, but definitely looked like he was shaking off the rust that accumulated while he was missing the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL. He had eight interceptions in a more effective 2012 campaign, which is likely what any team picking him up will be looking for once he gets rolling in 2015.

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Texans RB Alfred Blue has a famous workout partner

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Texans running back Alfred Blue had a solid rookie season in 2014, racking up 528 yards as Arian Foster’s top backup.

As Blue tries to hold his spot and earn a bigger role in his second NFL campaign, he is working with a personal trainer, as the Houston Chronicle noted Saturday. That’s not uncommon, but this is: One of Blue’s workout partners happens to be Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. And as Blue sees it, Peterson is primed for a strong return to NFL play this season.

“You see it in his eyes: ‘I’m going to show the world. When I get back out there, I’m going to break it this time,’ ” Blue said, according to Brian T. Smith of the Chronicle.

For his part, Blue, who turns 24 the week of the 2015 NFL Draft, told the Chronicle he does not want the Texans to “overlook me.”

With that in mind, Blue is not taking anything for granted.

“They tell you every year that nobody’s set, nobody’s safe,” Blue told the Chronicle. “You’ve got to come in every year like you just got drafted or like you’re an undrafted free agent trying to make the team.”

That Blue knows he cannot rest on his laurels is a good sign. He flashed his readiness for a bigger workload as a rookie, when he racked up 156 yards on 36 carries in his first career start. His willingness to work on his own to stay sharp suggests he’ll be ready the next time his number is called.

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Mike Williams, Brad Smith added to PFT’s All-Unemployed Team

Mike Williams AP

Since published last week, PFT’s All-Unemployed Team has undergone a little turnover, with center Stefen Wisniewski (Jacksonville) and Michael Crabtree (Oakland) among those departing for the ranks of the job-holding.

With Crabtree gone, we had one spot open at wide receiver. However, we decided to add two receivers to the squad.

And both receivers, as it turns out, were one-time Bills.

However, Mike Williams and Brad Smith are different propositions for NFL clubs. The 27-year-old Williams has three 60-catch seasons to his credit. The 31-year-old Smith, on the other hand, has never caught more than 32 passes in a season.

Williams might have more upside. However, Smith can be used multiple ways. Smith has 134 career carries; Williams has one. Moreover, Smith is a former collegiate quarterback, and he has more special teams experience than Williams.

Williams might be a player who can still be developed. Smith, though, can do several things.

Whom do you prefer?

The answer probably depends on the club.

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Twenty years ago Saturday, Joe Montana called it a career

Joe Montana of the Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

As the 49ers’ Twitter feed points out, Saturday is the 20th anniversary of quarterback Joe Montana’s retirement from the NFL.

Montana’s departure came after two seasons with Kansas City, which traded a first-round pick for him in April 1993.

While Montana wasn’t able to finish his career with the franchise with whom he won four Super Bowls, the trade worked out well for him, the Niners and the Chiefs.

Let’s review.

The Chiefs made the postseason in both of Montana’s seasons as a starter. He led the club to a pair of playoff wins in ’93 — the franchise’s last two postseason victories to date. His Kansas City seasons were a bookend to a spectacular career that landed him in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

The 49ers, meanwhile, ended up trading the Chiefs’ first-round pick (No. 18, 1993) to Phoenix, as ProSportsTransactions.com notes. The 49ers then traded down again, landing at No. 26 in Round One, where they selected defensive Dana Stubblefield, who was a starter on their dominant Super Bowl XXIX-winning club of 1994.

But the 49ers’ draft haul from the Montana trade didn’t stop there.

In trading down for Stubblefield, the 49ers landed the No. 81 overall pick, a third-rounder. They packaged a second-round pick (No. 56) and the 81st pick to the Los Angeles Raiders for a second-round pick (No. 41).

It gets better. The 49ers then moved that 1993 second-round pick to the Chargers for San Diego’s first-round pick in the 1994 NFL Draft (No. 15 overall). The Chargers, for the record, took tailback Natrone Means, who helped that franchise get to Super Bowl XXIX.

So what did the 49ers do with the Chargers’ first-round pick? According to ProSportsTransactions.com, the 49ers traded it to the Los Angeles Rams for the No. 7 pick to take defensive tackle Bryant Young — who, like Stubblefield, was a starter at defensive tackle right off the bat. And when the Chargers and 49ers met in Super Bowl XXIX, Means rushed for just 33 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

To review: Joe Montana helped the 49ers win four Super Bowls, and when the franchise moved on from him, it picked up a couple of key pieces needed to win a fifth Super Bowl.

There’s a reason why the 49ers were as good as they were for as long as they were. Did they ever know talent, and did they ever know how to work the draft.

The words “Joe Montana, third-round pick” ought to ring a bell, too.

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Bryant, Wells dispute lingers

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The sending in February of a cease-and-desist letter to the former adviser of Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant hasn’t resolved the situation.

Per multiple sources, Wells still has not complied with specific requests made at the end of the February 20 letter, a copy of which PFT has obtained.

“You have until 5 p.m. EST, Monday, February 23, 2015 to provide us with the requested money and materials, as well as written confirmation of your compliance with the demands set forth in this letter,” the communication from Jordan W. Siev to Wells states.  “Absent your full and immediate compliance with these demands, we will take all appropriate actions to enforce our client’s rights, which may include commencing litigation against you to assert claims of conversion, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, among other claims, seeking a preliminary injunction, and seeking an award of compensatory and punitive damages, and reimbursement of all of our costs and attorneys’ fees resulting from your actions.”

The letter specifically refers to a payment received by Wells on Bryant’s behalf from BioSteel Sports Supplements.  Bryant’s representatives contend that Wells kept the money.

It’s unclear at this point whether any legal action will be taken by Bryant against Wells.  According to one source, the primary purpose of the letter was to terminate the power of attorney Wells previously held on behalf of Bryant.

Ultimately, Bryant has the right to change agents and advisers, whenever he wants and for whatever reason.  Bryant made a comment Friday indicating he realizes his agents and advisers work for him, not the other way around.

“I’m the one making the decisions on who to trust and who to be surrounded by,” Bryant said, via Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News.  “I’ve surrounded myself with people who I think deserve to be trusted.”

This implies that Bryant believes Wells and other former representatives/advisors didn’t deserve to be trusted.  Which could further alienate Wells, who had been Bryant’s closest confidant and adviser during the early days of his NFL career.

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Steelers’ doctors clear Jaelen Strong’s wrist

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We noted yesterday that former Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong would miss Saturday’s medical re-check in Indianapolis, and that he had a visit with the Steelers. As it turned out, Strong’s visit allowed the Steelers’ doctors to give Strong’s injured wrist a thorough check.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Strong went through a battery of tests on his wrist during his visit to Pittsburgh. According to Schefter, the Steelers’ doctors cleared Strong and are sending the results of his checkup to other teams.

It’s odd that Strong is getting the re-check from the Steelers’ doctors rather than going through the process that most players recovering from injuries go through in Indianapolis. It’s unclear whether every other team will be satisfied with getting a report from the Steelers’ staff.

Despite a report that Strong would need surgery to repair the broken bone in his wrist, Strong says he played five games through the injury and is fine.

Strong will attend the draft and is viewed as a late-first or early-second-round pick.

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Report: Nike reaches deals with Mariota, Winston, three other top prospects

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If it’s draft season, then it’s time for apparel companies to strike deals with some of the top incoming NFL prospects.

According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Nike has signed Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon to endorsement contracts.

News of the Nike deal with Winston comes as he faces a civil lawsuit regarding a sexual assault allegation levied by a Florida State student in 2012. Winston was never charged criminally in connection with the allegation.

“Jameis has stated his innocence regarding serious charges made against him. We’ll continue to monitor the situation,” a Nike spokesperson told ESPN.com.

Winston, Mariota, Gurley and Cooper played for schools that sported Nike-branded uniforms. Gordon, meanwhile, wore an Adidas-branded uniform at Wisconsin.

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Packers re-sign S Chris Banjo

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Packers reserve safety Chris Banjo has signed his exclusive rights contract offer from the club, according to the NFL’s Friday transactions.

Banjo, 25, was active for Green Bay’s final three regular season games and both of its postseason games in 2014. He spent most of the season on the practice squad. The previous season, Banjo appeared in every game for the Packers, earning a role on special teams.

Banjo is likely to compete for one of the backup safety spots behind Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in 2015.

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Raiders work out Vic Beasley in South Carolina

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The Raiders took linebacker Khalil Mack with the fifth pick in last year’s draft and it looks like they got a cornerstone for their defense to build around in the coming years.

That wasn’t enough to lift them past the fourth pick in this year’s draft, which they may use on a player to help Mack on that side of the ball. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and other Raiders coaches travelled to South Carolina on Friday to work out Clemson’s all-time sack leader Vic Beasley.

The team sent linebackers coach Sal Sunseri and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin to the workout as they try to sort out how Beasley would best fit into their 4-3 scheme. Wherever they might line him up, Beasley has the kind of speed off the edge that the Raiders Defense could use as they try to drop to a lower draft position in 2016.

Rapoport adds that the Jaguars have also sent defensive line coach Todd Wash for another look at Beasley, which could leave the Raiders looking in another direction come the end of the month.

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49ers working on new deal for Michael Wilhoite

Aldon Smith AP

In early March, there were reports that the 49ers were shopping inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite to other teams.

Patrick Willis and Chris Borland announced their retirements a short time later, which bumped Wilhoite into a more prominent position with the team. It looks like he’s on track to get a contract to match that new status.

General Manager Trent Baalke said Friday that the team is working on a new deal for Wilhoite, who is an exclusive rights free agent. He hasn’t signed that tender, which would pay him $660,000 a year after he started all 16 games while Navorro Bowman and Willis missed time with injuries.

“We’re working on something with him as we speak … He’s kind of in a unique situation. He was kind of caught in a numbers deal,” Baalke said, via the San Francisco Chronicle.

If Wilhoite played out the year on his ERFA tender, he’d be in line to become a restricted free agent next year. With the change in circumstances for the 49ers, Wilhoite may not be going down that path.

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Tony Boselli’s son commits to Florida State

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The son of Tony Boselli could be on his way to the NFL.

Via USA Today, Andrew Boselli has committed to Florida State.  A junior at Episcopal High School in Jacksonville, Boselli will be a member of the class of 2016.

“Coach [Rick] Trickett is just an offensive line coach — a technician — that knows how to teach,” Boselli said after visiting the school in February. “And they run a pro-style offense.  It’s a place that, if you want to go to the NFL, it a place you want to go.  They’ll teach you how to do it.”

Indeed they will.  With 18 players drafted in 2013 and 2014 combined, coach Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles are 10 draft picks in 2015 away from tying the three-year record for any school.

Elite high school football players play in college not because they want to but because they have to.  League rules, as validated by the NFLPA, prevent players from entering the draft until three years after the graduation of their high school class.  So the only choice is to play in college, and at college the players necessarily are majoring in football.

Why not select a school that is more likely to get the football player ready to play in the NFL? When the only compensation is the wholesale cost of an education (and snacks!), the least a college football program can do is prepare the player for the next level.

Tony Boselli played at USC, and he was the second overall pick in the 1995 draft.  A five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All Pro, Boselli was elected to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1990s.

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