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Continuing our draft preview series with a look at the Falcons

Mike Smith AP

The Falcons had methodically turned themselves into one of the NFC’s most consistent teams of the last half-decade, and even won a playoff game.

But it all came crashing down last year, when injuries exposed them as a bit of a house-of-cards team.

This offseason, they’re determined to become more physical on both lines, and the early free agent acquisitions of Jon Asamoah, Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson are evidence of that.

There’s still more work to be done, as they have a number of missing parts to fill in on both sides of the ball, and they’re not afraid to make aggressive moves to fill them. How should they best go about it?

You can click here for the full preview, and vote below on what you think they need to do with the pick.

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Jets add Jimmy Garoppolo, two tight ends to visit list

Jimmy Garoppolo AP

The Jets have set up a quarterback competition between Michael Vick and Geno Smith for this summer, but they’re still doing some due diligence on the position before the draft.

Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com reports that Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is visiting with the Jets on Wednesday. Garoppolo has been a busy man the last few weeks as he’s made the rounds of teams wondering if he might be the answer to their need at quarterback now or somewhere in the near future.

Whether or not the Jets are one of those teams has a lot to do with what Smith does in his second season, which may preclude another early pick on a quarterback. Vick’s arrival gives them another option for 2014 if Smith fails to progress and there are plenty of other needs they can address in May.

One of them is a pass-catching tight end to go with Jeff Cumberland and the Jets have met with two players who fit the bill. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro is also visiting on Wednesday while NJ.com reports that North Carolina’s Eric Ebron was in on Tuesday. Ebron probably won’t be around for the 18th pick, but Amaro could be a second round possibility for the Jets.

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Report: NFL to expand flex scheduling by two games

Jairus Byrd AP

Earlier this afternoon, NFL PR executive Brian McCarthy teased the coming schedule announcement by promising: “Some interesting twists.”

One of them is apparently two more flex games.

Somehow or another, the NFL’s own website obtained one of the juicy little details, that flex scheduling is being expanded, giving them a chance to change a pair of NBC’s Sunday Night Football matchups.

According to the report, the league now has the option to flex two games during the period from Weeks 5-10, adding some more drama (“Will they flex this week? We’ll reveal, after the break.”) to a process that has plenty already.

The Week 11 and beyond flex scheduling is wide open, as before.

But this gives the league a chance to avoid a clunker, as well as a chance to remind you that you’re a slave to its powers.

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Cowboys could pounce on Manziel

Manziel Getty Images

From the moment the Joneses who own the Cowboys started gushing about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, we began to pay attention to the possibility that the Cowboys would be inclined to add the potential franchise quarterback a year after giving Tony Romo a franchise quarterback contract.

Ed Werder of ESPN fuels that notion, explaining on SportsCenter that, if Manziel falls to No. 16, the Cowboys could take him.

Let’s take a step farther.  We think that, if Manziel slides past the Vikings at No. 8, the Cowboys could be inclined to trade up to get Manziel.  In 20 of 25 drafts, Jerry Jones has made a move with a first-round pick.  This year, moving up for Manziel could give the Cowboys the kind of offseason shakeup they surely covet.

Said Werder on the air, “Jerry Jones was raving about [Manziel] this weekend . . . in front of Romo.”

It would be a circus, a distraction, a potential mess to have Romo and Manziel on the roster.  Cap considerations would make a trade of Romo difficult if not impossible this year.  The cap hit would be stiff next year but not insurmountable, if the Cowboys were to move Manziel to the starting lineup and move Romo out of the building.

With an extended lull resulting from the league’s insistence on delaying the draft by two weeks, it’s fun to consider what may happen.  It would be even more fun to cover the efforts of Romo and Manziel to coexist as the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart of America’s Team.

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Mike Adams stabbing trial features two sharply different theories

MikeAdams Getty Images

Back when I was practicing law for a living and doing this as a hobby that went from paying nothing to paying a little to paying enough to stick my law license in the cushions of a couch and burn it, I’d explain at the start of the trial that the opening statement is the picture on the cover of a puzzle box, and that the jury eventually will piece the puzzle together to make that very picture.

For the trial of three men accused of stabbing Steelers tackle Mike Adams, the pictures on the puzzle box couldn’t be much different.

As explained by Paula Reed Ward of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the prosecution claims that three men stabbed Adams last year during an attempted carjacking.  The defense claims that Adams was drunk and obnoxious, that he bumped into one of the men, who dropped his cell phone and shish kebab, and that a fight ensued.

The lawyers representing the defendants continue to insist that Adams is lying to protect himself at work.

“Mike Adams has a huge, multimillion-dollar motive to lie,” attorney Fred Rabner said.  “Being out at 3 o’clock in the morning, drunk, is not the Steelers’ way.”

Strengthening the defense is the fact that Adams had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.185 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Adams still ended up being stabbed, but it will be difficult to eliminate reasonable doubt on the pending charges of attempted murder, conspiracy, and attempted robbery, especially in light of Adams’ inebriation.  Not only does his alcohol content make the defendants’ theory of the case more likely but it also makes it hard to rely on Adams’ recollection of the events in question.

The defendants also claim that Adams’ story has changed along the way, which again makes it hard to eliminate reasonable doubt.

It’s still early, but the prosecution in this case is facing an uphill climb.  The best chance of a conviction could arise if one or more of the three defendants opt to take the stand, and if they can be caught in one or more lies while testifying.

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Khalil Mack, Buccaneers reportedly met this week

Trayion Durham, Khalil Mack AP

The Buccaneers signed defensive end Michael Johnson as a free agent last month, a move that filled the pressing need for a pass rusher they had entering the offseason.

It may not have taken them out of the market for one of the draft’s top pass rushing prospects, however. Bucs defensive end Steven Means went to the University of Buffalo with linebacker Khalil Mack and told JoeBucsFan.com that his former college teammate was in Tampa to visit with the Bucs on Tuesday.

It’s the second up-close look that the Bucs have had at Mack this offseason. Defensive line coach Joe Cullen led Mack through drills at Buffalo’s pro day in March and would presumably coach Mack if he wound up as a defensive end in Tampa.

Given the high regard that NFL teams have for Mack, that seems an unlikely outcome unless the Bucs decide to trade up from the seventh spot in the first round.

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Robert Griffin III to drive pace car at NASCAR event

Robert Griffin III AP

Robert Griffin III couldn’t steer his team out of a skid last year. Hopefully, Saturday night goes more smoothly.

According to Bob Pockrass of the Sporting News, the Redskins quarterback will serve as an honorary pace-car driver for Saturday’s NASCAR race in Richmond.

The Redskins-NASCAR link is strong, with former coach Joe Gibbs one of the top team owners in stock car racing.

But it was a new-school tie that got RG3 a seat behind the wheel of the pace car.

NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr., a Redskins fan, invited him to the track via Twitter, and the two made the connection.

Now, all the racing fans waving their 3 flags might have a new favorite quarterback.

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Jeff Demps focusing only on football

Arizona Cardinals v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Last month, Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said he was excited to coach the fastest guy in the NFL.

Smith was referring to running back Jeff Demps and his previous coaches never got much of a chance to actually coach him because Demps was splitting his time between football and track. Demps’ choice paid off with a silver medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics, but his track focus didn’t leave much time for football. Demps played two games for the Bucs last year and didn’t play for the Patriots in the 2012 regular season, which makes him largely an unknown on the gridiron at the professional level.

Smith and the Bucs will get Demps’ full attention this year, though. Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune reports that Demps said that he is putting his track career on hold for the foreseeable future and concentrate only on his football career.

Kick returns are one obvious spot to look for Demps to make a contribution to the Bucs in what will be his first real shot at turning his speed into a regular role at the professional level.

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Mayock: Clowney can be the best player in the NFL, if he wants it

Jadeveon Clowney

Jadeveon Clowney has been the most scrutinized prospect in this year’s NFL draft for a full year now, as soon as we turned the page on the 2013 draft and started looking ahead at the 2014 draft. Much scrutiny has come from Mike Mayock, the NFL Network draft analyst who said he’d take Khalil Mack over Clowney if he had the first overall pick.

But Mayock isn’t saying Clowney lacks talent. In fact, Mayock thinks Clowney is among the most talented football players he’s ever seen.

“He’s the most talented player in the draft,” Mayock told the Philadelphia Daily News. “A physical freak. The only downside to him is whether or not he’s motivated to be the best every week.”

Mayock said he doesn’t think Clowney is a bad person, but he does think Clowney sometimes looks on tape like he lacks effort.

“Every time he’s been motivated, he had a great game. I just think he has to get in a good defensive line room at the next level. Get mentored by the right people. If he wants to be the best player on the planet, he will be,” Mayock said.

The biggest question facing the Texans with the first overall pick is how badly Clowney wants it.

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Broncos have every intention of picking up Von Miller option

Von Miller AP

As more and more teams pick up the fifth-year option on 2011 first-round picks, the Broncos have yet to pick up the option on linebacker Von Miller.

Eventually, they will.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Broncos have every intention to exercise the option.  Since they have until May 3 to do it, there’s no reason to do it prematurely.

Because the option makes the 2015 base salary guaranteed for injury, any team that exercises the option before May 3 assumes the risk — small as it may be — that the player will suffer a two-season injury during the offseason program.  So why not wait until the last minute to accept that risk?

Speaking of injury, Miller continues to rehab from a torn ACL.  If something goes wrong in his rehab on the team’s facility and that something spills beyond 2014 and into 2015, the team would be on the hook for his 2015 salary.

With Miller, there’s yet another level of risk to consider.  He’s in Stage Three of the substance-abuse program, subject to multiple unannounced tests per month.  One false move, and he’s suspended for a year.  While they Broncos wouldn’t have to pay him if he’s suspended, his status surely would impact whether the team wants to make a major financial commitment for 2015, which then becomes the starting point for a long-term contract.

So it’s smart for the Broncos to wait until the last minute.  It would be smart for every team to wait until the last minute.  By the end of next week, the waiting will be over for everyone.

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Daryl Washington sentenced to probation

Patrick Peterson,  Daryl Washington, Jeff Sadorus AP

Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington won’t be going to jail, but that doesn’t mean his chances of punishment are over.

According to Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ official website (how progressive of them), Washington was sentenced to one year of supervised probation from an aggravated assault charge. That will reduce the felony to a misdemeanor if he complies with the terms of his probation.

As we pointed out earlier today, now Washington has to wait for NFL justice, to see if he’ll face a fine and/or a suspension under the league’s personal conduct policy.

Even the team website acknowledges that a suspension is likely, so the Cardinals will have to expect being without one of their defensive leaders for some time this season, and they don’t have Karlos Dansby to lean back on this time.

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Jets announce they’re going back to camp this summer

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While the trend league-wide has been to stay closer to home, the Jets are going camping again this summer.

The Jets announced they were returning to SUNY Cortland for training camp this summer, the fifth time in six years they’ve gone to the central New York school to get away from it all.

“I love the fact that we are going back to Cortland,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said in a release from the team. “Everyone knows how I feel about going away. I think it is a big part of building our team camaraderie. The community, the school and the people of Cortland have been outstanding and we are all excited to be going back this summer.“

Many teams elect the familiarity of their own facilities for training camp, along with not having to pack up and move.

But there’s something to be said for eliminating the distractions that go along with being at home, although the Jets never really seem to avoid them wherever they go.

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Josh Freeman: I still see myself as a starting-caliber quarterback

Josh Freeman

Josh Freeman rapidly declined from a franchise quarterback in Tampa Bay to a disappointment in Minnesota to a backup where he is now, with the Giants. But Freeman thinks he can be a franchise quarterback again.

Although Freeman knows he has no chance of beating out Eli Manning this season, he believes that a good year as a backup for the Giants can put him back into position to start somewhere else a year from now.

I still view myself as a starting-caliber quarterback,” Freeman said, via NJ.com. “I love the situation because I have the opportunity to be around a guy that really had a lot of success, year after year and continues to win and get his team to the playoffs consistently. It’s a really, really cool opportunity.”

Freeman admits that he played “an awful game” the last time he was in New Jersey, his lone start for the Vikings against the Giants. But Freeman says he didn’t have as much time to prepare for that game as he would have liked, and he thinks he’ll be better when he gets time to settle in to a place where he’s comfortable.

“Looking back, maybe not as prepared as I’d like to have been for the situation, or as much as I thought going into the situation,” Freeman said. “But like anything in your past, it’s an experience to learn from.”

At just 26 years old, Freeman still has time to gain more experience, and to become a starter again. It just won’t happen this year, as long as Manning is healthy.

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PFT Live: Bob Glauber, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Eli Manning,  Tom Coughlin AP

The Jets and Giants both opened up their offseason workouts this week after a couple of months spent trying to build themselves into teams capable of making it back to the playoffs.

The Jets added wide receiver Eric Decker, running back Chris Johnson and quarterback Michael Vick to a roster short on offensive playmakers while the Giants made major changes on offense and in the secondary after missing the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Bob Glauber of Newsday will join Mike Florio on Wednesday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss those changes and what the teams might do during the draft.

If you’ve got questions about either MetLife Stadium resident, we’d love to hear them as we again throw the door open to questions from PFT Planet. Send them in on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or give a call to 888-237-5269 during the show to ask about those teams or any of the 30 others.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Bills hosting Sammy Watkins for visit, would need to deal

Sammy Watkins AP

The Lions might not be the only team thinking about making a move up for one of the top offensive players in the upcoming NFL Draft.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins is visiting the Bills today.

The Bills pick ninth, which won’t be high enough to take the playmaking receiver. Like his recent trip to see the Lions, the visit will create some intrigue about the possibility of deals with teams in the top four or five spots.

Watkins said he grew up a Bills fan, and would make a nice pair of deep threats in Buffalo with former Clemson running back C.J. Spiller.

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