Geno Smith joins the flat earth “debate”

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The ancient Greeks figured out that the earth was a sphere about 2,500 years ago, and Magellan proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt 500 years ago.

Geno Smith believes it’s still open to debate.

Smith said on Twitter that he is beginning to believe that NBA player and noted flat-earther Kyrie Irving has a point.

“I been studying this whole flat earth vs globe thing,” Smith wrote, “and I think I may be with Kyrie on this.”

Smith got more than 2,000 responses to that tweet, and he then engaged in a lengthy Twitter conversation with some who agreed with him and some who think he’s an idiot. In the end, however, he seemed persuaded by the evidence that the earth is, in fact, round.

“Hey guys I’m glad we had this talk today it was fun lol I know how you all love to debate on Twitter so this was good,” Smith wrote. “For the record Earth is a globe we know this. But why not listen to someone else’s beliefs or ‘truth.'”

Listening to others’ beliefs is never a bad idea. But if you’re listening to someone who believes the earth is flat, you’re not listening to “truth.”

Will Jaguars sign Blake Bortles to a long-term deal?

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The Jaguars, as explained on Friday, are currently exploring their quarterback options in free agency. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be jettisoning Blake Bortles, who is under contract for one more year at $19 million.

The Jaguars, in theory, could decide after exploring the various available veteran quarterbacks (and learning what it would cost to sign them) to try to parlay Bortles’ fifth-year option into a multi-year extension.

The question then becomes what the Jaguars would pay Bortles, and what Bortles would want. With the top of the market currently at $27.5 million and the bar destined to be nudged considerably higher than that soon, what if Bortles were to take something like $20 million per year on a five-year deal?

Even at $20 million per year, Bortles would trail Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Case Keenum (likely), and A.J. McCarron (possibly, but not likely). That puts Bortles in the bottom half of the league, above only Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Tom Brady (who averages a paltry $15 million per year), and the various young quarterbacks who have yet to get a second contract.

If the Jaguars were to go that route, it would represent a calculated effort to continue to entrust the job to Bortles while holding back enough money for the various other star players who will eventually be getting new contracts, like cornerback Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, and running back Leonard Fournette.

From Bortles’ perspective, the prospect of the Jaguars finding a new quarterback and cutting him before his $19 million salary for 2018 become fully guaranteed should be a sobering one. If he were to be dumped onto a open market that has more free agents than ever before (and a glut of quality rookies), what would another team offer him?

Probably not $20 million per year.

However it plays out, the Jaguars have a team that came within a whisker of getting to the Super Bowl. They could hold the team together and continue to ride with Bortles, who is still only 25.

Saturday one-liners

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The expansion of the Vontae Davis free-agency tour to include the Dolphins has brought back memories of the time he needed to call his grandma.

Here’s a look back at how some of the current Patriots did at the Scouting Combine.

The Bills got no compensatory draft picks, other than the second-rounder they picked up as part of the Sammy Watkins trade.

Will the Jets make a run at CB Trumaine Johnson?

The Ravens, who typically know how to work the compensatory draft-pick system to perfection, thought they’d get a third-round pick; they got a sixth.

Bengals WR John Ross doesn’t want to hear about running fast in a straight line.

The Browns have received only 13 compensatory draft picks since the system was implemented in 1994.

Should the Steelers bring back LB Lawrence Timmons if/when Miami cuts him?

The Texans have signed defensive line coach Anthony Weaver to a two-year extension, putting him under contract through 2020.

It’s the most important offseason for the Colts since 2012.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan approached Tom Coughlin, Dave Caldwell, and Doug Marrone about contract extensions shortly after the season ended.

Titans S Kevin Byard and Baltimore S Eric Weddle have become friends.

The Broncos have gotten 15 compensatory draft picks since 2015.

Chiefs fans aren’t happy about the decision to trade CB Marcus Peters.

Chargers FB Derek Watt got married.

The Raiders will have six sixth-round picks.

The Cowboys still don’t know whether Byron Jones will be playing cornerback or safety.

With a fifth-round compensatory pick, the Giants are back to seven picks for the 2018 draft.

Get ready for an Eagles-themed episode of The Goldbergs.

Washington TE Vernon Davis spent some time in Korea for the Olympics.

Bears RB Tarik Cohen welcomes comparisons to Tyreek Hill.

Two straight years, no compensatory draft picks for the Lions.

The Packers will have a dozen draft picks.

With two compensatory draft picks to offset the two that previously were traded, the Vikings are back to seven total draft picks.

LB Sean Weatherspoon hopes to remain with the Falcons.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera tried his hand at curling.

Here’s a blueprint for the Saints’ offseason.

Who will be the Buccaneers’ backup quarterback?

The departure of five defensive starters via free agency contributed directly to the Cardinals’ compensatory draft-pick haul.

Even with the acquisition of CB Marcus Peters, the Rams still have needs in their secondary.

The 49ers may have been interested in CB Marcus Peters, but they never made an offer for him.

Why weren’t the Seahawks interested in trading for CB Marcus Peters?

Patriots bring back Brandon Bolden

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Running back Brandon Bolden has spent his entire six-year career with the Patriots. He’s on track to spend at least one more in New England.

Field Yates of ESPN reports that the Patriots have signed Bolden to a one-year deal. The contract is worth $880,000, and it includes $170,000 in guarantees.

Bolden appeared in every game last season, contributing mainly on special teams. He had 27 rushing yards and his only touchdown of the season in a divisional-round win over the Titans.

His career high as a rusher came during his rookie season, with 274 yards. Bolden had 67 yards during the 2017 regular season.

Colts hire Tom Manning as tight ends coach

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The Colts will once again have a Manning as part of their offense this season.

Tom Manning has been hired as the Colts’ tight ends coach, the Des Moines Register reports. Manning had previously been the offensive coordinator at Iowa State.

Manning is not related to Colts great Peyton Manning.

Although he hasn’t coached in the NFL before, Manning has earned a reputation as a very good offensive coordinator at the college level. In his two years calling plays at Iowa State, the Cyclones had their two most productive passing offenses in program history.

Larry Fitzgerald visits ailing Senator John McCain

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Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has paid a visit to his state’s ailing senator, John McCain.

An Instagram post from Cindy McCain showed Fitzgerald and the McCains in the family’s cabin, where Senator McCain has been getting medical treatment for the last two months.

“Look who came for a visit today,” Cindy McCain wrote. “Our favorite Cardinal and a wonderful human being!”

McCain and Fitzgerald have become friends during Fitzgerald’s 14 seasons as a Cardinal. The 81-year-old McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer in July and had to be hospitalized in Maryland in December. Although he was able to return home after his hospitalization, he has not been able to return to Washington.

Teddy Bridgewater’s status remains murky, unresolved

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No one has been reporting anything about the free-agency status of Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Primarily because there’s nothing to report. Primarily because no one is saying anything about it.

Here’s the issue: The Collective Bargaining Agreement plainly states that, when a player in the final year of his contract is physically unable to perform as of the sixth game of the season, the contract tolls for a year. This language applies to Bridgewater, who tore an ACL in August 2016, missed all of that season on injured reserve, and then missed the first six games of 2017 while on the PUP list.

If tolling applies, Bridgewater will be under contract for 2018, at the same $1.3 million salary he received in 2017.

In the days prior to the Super Bowl, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman characterized the issue as a league matter, and for good reason. The Vikings don’t want to be perceived, by their fans or their players, as sticking it to Bridgewater, who remains universally beloved in and out of the locker room.

When asked recently a general question about the procedures and protocols that would be utilized to toll the contract and then to challenge it (which is what Bridgewater would do), NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said this: “Will let you know when we have something.”

From the union’s perspective, there’s also no real clarity, primarily because there’s no clear procedure for dealing with a situation that rarely arises. It’s possible that the NFL/Vikings could sit on the issue until the end of the league year, announce that the contract has tolled, and force Bridgewater to launch the process of fighting the issue as the market for his services otherwise opens.

Absent an effort by the NFL Players Association or Bridgewater to force the issue (which hasn’t started yet), the cloud will linger over Bridgewater’s looming free agency until the team or the league make a move.

The current thinking is that the team and the league likely won’t do it. Apart from a threshold argument that past precedent makes tolling applicable only if the player misses the entire season (despite what the CBA says), Bridgewater and the NFLPA probably would attempt to show that Bridgewater was healthy enough to be cleared to play as of Week One, making his placement on the PUP list at the opening of the season improper.

If that sounds familiar, it should. Last week, an arbitrator found that the Bengals improperly placed quarterback A.J. McCarron on the non-football injury list as of Week One of the 2014 season, clearing his path to unrestricted free agency. The league, which rarely loses legal matters, may not have the appetite to risk losing another one so quickly, especially if there’s any doubt regarding the manner in which an arbitrator would view the documents and testimony of the doctor who decided not to clear Bridgewater, allowing them to essentially stash him while carrying only Sam Bradford and Case Keenum on the 53-man roster to start the season.

Currently, Bradford and Keenum are due to become unrestricted free agents. Whether Bridgewater joins them may be determined not by any specific action, but by inaction that lingers for the next 18 days.

Get your free Madden codes, all 16 of them

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So I previously promise to systematically post codes for free copies of the Madden game (PS4 and Xbox One versions) at the bottom of various PFT stories. And I consistently have forgotten to do it, posting only eight of 24 codes in nearly two weeks.

With another weekend of no football, and with the Olympics coming to an end, I’ve decided to dump all 16 remaining codes right here, right now.

First come, first served. Pick a code for your system, redeem it, and see what happens. It’s also a double-points weekend for Madden Ultimate Team, which means you’ll be able to more quickly make the climb from Level One to Level 50.



Can Wade Phillips handle Marcus Peters?

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It’s still unclear why the Chiefs chose to trade cornerback Marcus Peters. From the things already known (last year’s team-imposed one-game suspension) to the things that eventually may be known to the things that may never be known, the Chiefs decided that they didn’t want to commit to Peters over the long haul, so they picked the ideal time to make a deal. (Some have suggested that his refusal to stand for the anthem in 2017 was a factor in the decision, a fact that the Chiefs will surely deny.)

Regardless of why the Chiefs did it, the deal will become official on March 14 (unless it unexpectedly craters), and the Rams will have to figure out how to get the most out of Peters. Under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, they undoubtedly will.

Phillips presided over a collection of strong personalities in Denver, keeping talkative and potentially disruptive players on the same page and pointed in the right direction, most of the time. Put simply, if Peters won’t submit to Phillips coaching, he’ll submit to no one’s.

As noted by Bucky Brooks of NFL Media, a veteran defensive backs coach explained when Peters entered the draft that a “strong-willed coach” will be needed to get the most out of Peters. “It takes a wolf to coach a wolf,” the defensive backs coach told Brooks at the time.

Phillips, a wolf in sheepdog’s clothing, has been around every shape, size, and type of player during a lifetime of coaching. He’s seen, and handled, plenty of guys like Marcus Peters, and Phillips will know exactly what to say and do to get Peters to perform the way that the Rams will need him to perform.

Dolphins can easily keep Suh, clear $10 million-plus in cap space

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Earlier this week, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald wrote that all options are on the table for dealing with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh‘s contract, given the team’s current need for cap space. The potential strategies include trading him (which would generate $3.9 million in cap room) and cutting him with a post-June 1 designation (which would generate more than $17 million, as of June 2).

There’s another option that Miami could consider, allowing them both to keep Suh and to reduce his cap number significantly. It’s the so-called simple restructuring, where the bulk of his 2018 salary becomes a signing bonus, pushing the majority of that money into future years.

As to Suh, who has a $16.985 million salary this year, the Dolphins could (for example) reduce his 2018 salary to $1 million and pay him $15.985 million now. With three years left on his contract, the bonus would be divided equally between 2018, 2019, and 2020. This would create $10.66 million in immediate cap space, reducing his cap number for 2018 from $26.1 million to less than $15.5 million.

The problem, of course is that it would add $5.33 million to Suh’s cap number for 2019, pushing it to nearly $33.5 million.

The high cap numbers in the later years of the Suh deal come from a simple restructuring of a bloated 2016 base salary, which converted $20 million to a bonus that was spread over five years. Coupled with his $25.5 million signing bonus, which applied to the first five years of a contract signed in 2015, Suh carries $9.1 million in cap charges every year from 2016 through 2019, beyond his base salary and workout bonus.

The Dolphins negotiated in his original contract the right to implement the simple restructuring in 2016, which raises an interesting point for 2018. Would Suh agree to give the Dolphins a get-out-of-cap-jail-free card? Players rarely balk, since they get the vast majority of their salary for the next season in a lump sum right now. If Suh wants to hit the open market, wants to get traded to a new team, or doesn’t want to push the day of reckoning to 2019, when he’s a year older and possibly less desirable elsewhere than he’d be now, Suh can refuse to cooperate.

Regardless, if the Dolphins are committed to keeping Suh while also creating current-year cap space, the restructuring approach is the best, and perhaps only, option.

With predictable play calling, Colts botched fourth-quarter leads like no other team

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The Colts were one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2017, but they were a particular kind of bad: They were actually a decent team for the first three quarters of games, but they self-destructed in the fourth quarter.

Indianapolis had the lead at the start of the fourth quarter in nine of its 16 games in 2017. To finish with a 4-12 record when you’re leading most of your games in the fourth quarter requires some lousy fourth-quarter decision making, and that’s exactly what the Colts had.

Warren Sharp has laid out a litany of trends that show just how dumb the Colts were in the fourth quarters of games.

The Colts became incredibly predictable in the fourth quarters, all but announcing to opposing defenses that they were going to run the ball to protect their leads. In fact, when the Colts lined up with fewer than three wide receivers on the field while leading in the fourth quarter, they ran the ball 100 percent of the time. Those runs averaged just 1.9 yards per carry. Those are the kinds of trends that opposing teams notice, and you can bet that opposing defenses realized that they could sell out against the run to stop the Colts in those situations.

On those runs, the Colts went to Frank Gore much more often than they went to Marlon Mack — even though Mack’s fourth-quarter runs were more successful than Gore’s. It’s not surprising that Mack, a younger player who got fewer carries than Gore over the course of the 2017 season, was more fresh in the fourth quarters of games. It is surprising that the Colts didn’t realize Mack was their fresher player, and kept going to Gore late in games even when Mack’s runs were more successful.

The result of that predictability is that the 2017 Colts are the only team in the last 27 years to lose at least seven games they led at halftime, and the only team in the last 20 years to hold a lead entering the fourth quarter at least nine times, but finish 4-12 or worse.

The good news for the Colts is that new head coach Frank Reich comes from the Eagles, a smart team when it comes to making key decisions late in games. If Reich follows an approach similar to his old boss Doug Pederson, it’s easy to envision the Colts being a lot better in the fourth quarters of games in 2018 than they were in 2017. With, they hope, a healthy Andrew Luck back on the field, and smarter decision making late in close games, they should be a lot better. When it comes to fourth-quarter decision making, they could hardly be worse.

Police questioned Jonathan Martin, do not believe his school is threatened

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Police questioned former Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin on Friday as he was seeking treatment at a hospital, and do not believe a chilling social media post from Martin represents a real threat to his high school.

Martin posted a picture of a gun, a message about getting revenge on bullies, and the names of his high school, the Miami Dolphins, two Dolphins teammates and two high school classmates. His high school closed for the day out of concern that it could be a threat about a school shooting.

“The individual believed to be responsible for the social media post is being detained, however he is not in police custody,” Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Tony Im told USA Today. “The investigation is continuing, but rest assured we believe there is no threat to any school in the LA area.”

Martin was reportedly at a Los Angeles-area hospital seeking treatment.

Andre Roberts expects to become free agent for third consecutive offseason

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Falcons returner Andre Roberts was a free agent in 2016. He was a free agent in 2017. He expects to become a free agent March 14.

“I believe I will be a free agent this year,” Roberts told D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Just like last year and the year before that. I’m understanding of it.”

Roberts, 30, played eight seasons with the Cardinals, two with Washington and one with Detroit before signing a one-year, $1.8 million deal with the Falcons in 2017.

Although Roberts played only 31 offensive snaps, he averaged 7.4 yards on 27 punt returns and 22.6 yards on 38 kickoff returns.

“I would definitely like to come back,” Roberts said. “The big thing here is the culture and the brotherhood. I loved everything that our coach [Dan Quinn] represents. I obviously love my teammates.

“It’s a winning organization, and I feel like we have a chance to do something special here in the near future. Who wouldn’t want to be back to play with a team like this?”

Dez Bryant: “Everybody that ain’t with Dez Bryant, they can kiss my ass”

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Receiver Dez Bryant hasn’t discussed a pay cut with the Cowboys and expects to wear a star on his helmet next season. He also plans to prove doubters wrong after three consecutive seasons without 1,000 yards.

“I’m still working. I’m still grinding,” Bryant said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “I feel like I’m grinding more than ever because of me, not because of nobody else. It’s something that I want to do. It’s something I feel like I have to do.

“I let a lot of things get in the way that should have never got in the way. I’m ready to make my mark. I don’t care what nobody is talking about, I couldn’t care less. Everybody that ain’t with Dez Bryant, they can kiss my ass.”

Bryant, who has not had a 100-yard game since November 13, 2016, going 23 games without one, has a $16.5 million salary cap figure for 2018. The Cowboys are expected to ask Bryant to take a pay cut, with executive vice president Stephen Jones saying of Bryant on Thursday, “We all know this is a business where everyone has to be accountable.”

“I haven’t heard a word from anybody,” Bryant said. “I have yet to talk to my agent about anything.”

Bryant answered, “Hell no” when asked if he could imagine playing for another team.

Signs still point to a potential Jarvis Landry trade

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Three days after the Dolphins surprised the football-following world and applied the franchise tag to receiver Jarvis Landry on the first day of the two-week window for doing so, momentum continues to build toward a potential trade.

Still, with Landry’s agent reportedly seeking a four-year, $58 million deal from the Dolphins (an average of $14.5 million per year), Landry now has at least $16.2 million in hand for 2018. Frankly, Landry should have already signed the franchise tender, pocketing the money and setting the stage for a shot at the open market in 2019.

The fact that he hasn’t signed the tender lends credence to the cockeyed theory that the Dolphins persuaded Landry to let them try to find a team that would pay him what he wants, with the Dolphins getting a little something in return — with a promise that, if the Dolphins can’t pull it off, they’ll rescind the tender. The only flaw in this logic is that Landry would likely get more on the open market than he’d receive if someone trades for him.

Regardless, the Dolphins didn’t accidentally tag Landry on the first day of the period for doing so. They knew what they were doing, and what they may have been doing was setting the stage for a trade-and-sign scenario, with the temporary blessing of Landry.

Trading or cutting Landry would immediately free up $16.2 million in much-needed cap space. Which serves only to make the theory more plausible.

Whether the theory has any merit will be determined within the next week, as all teams descend on Indianapolis and take care of all sorts of offseason business.