Ravens sign Saints restricted free agent Willie Snead to offer sheet

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The Ravens aren’t finished trying to rebuild their receiving corps.

According to multiple reports, which PFT has confirmed, the Ravens have signed Saints restricted free agent Willie Snead to a two-year offer sheet worth up to $10.4 million.

The Saints have five days to match it, though it seems unlikely they would.

The Saints signed Bears RFA Cameron Meredith to join a group including Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn, which wouldn’t seem to leave much room for Snead at any price. They also brought back Brandon Coleman.

The Ravens have churned the position, getting rid of Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, and Michael Campanaro, and bringing in free agents Michael Crabtree and John Brown.

Snead caught just eight passes last year, but was productive his first two years with the Saints, catching 69 and 72 passes. A three-game suspension last year left him out of the game plan early, but the Ravens obviously think he can return to form.

Saturday flex could be a strong hint for the next MNF deal

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The 2018 schedule includes the inevitable flexing of two late-season Sunday games to Saturday. This is not, in my own personal view uninfluenced by anything I’ve heard or not heard from anyone at NBC, an insignificant development.

For the first time ever (except in the event of inclement weather and/or collapsing domes and/or inclement weather leading to collapsing domes) the NFL will flex a game from one day to another. When the flexing concept first debuted in 2006 as one of the key features of the then-new Sunday Night Football on NBC, fans clamored for similar flexibility as to the oft-substandard (especially in November and December, when teams that were expected to be very good had become very bad) Monday night slate. Consistently, the league has said that for logistical reasons games can’t be flexed from Sunday to Monday and, in turn, from Monday to Sunday.

Perhaps now they can. If it can be done from Sunday to Saturday, it can be done from Sunday to Monday.

It’s a powerful signal for the league to send to all networks as the Monday Night Football contract creeps toward expiration. Raising the stakes in this regard is the reality that the Monday contract expires after the 2021 season, a year before all of the other broadcast deals terminate. So Monday night will be in play sooner, and a network that currently has one NFL package could try to land MNF, too. Having a flex component makes the property even more attractive.

With ESPN currently paying $1.9 billion per year and quite possibly unwilling/unable to re-up at the same price or greater, it becomes easier to justify the money if there’s a way to ensure that a crappy game can be replaced late in the year with a less crappy game. And the uncertainty regarding the possibility of a Sunday game suddenly becoming a Monday game could be managed by flagging in advance the Plan B (and maybe Plan C) games that would, if necessary, replace a given Monday night game.

That’s what makes the NFL’s decision to pick four Sunday games from which two will be flexed to Saturday in Week 16 even more intriguing. In future years, the NFL could pigeonhole a game for Monday Night Football and designate one or two others that could take its place. Better yet, the NFL could identify two or three possibilities for the last-season Monday night assignment in April without parking one in the spot tentatively. This would allow as much certainty and advance as possible for the teams involved and the fans who eventually would find themselves at a given stadium in a given city a day later than planned.

Bottom line: If the NFL’s Saturday flex was aimed at sending a message about future Mondays, that’s brilliant. If it was inadvertent, that’s the equivalent of discovering plutonium by accident.

Texans don’t plan to negotiate in regular season under new G.M.

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The Texans don’t really have much excitement to talk about next week, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have business to do.

And their new General Manager’s sending out word that there’s a deadline by which to do that business.

Via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Texans G.M. Brian Gaine said he intends to stick to the team’s policy of not negotiating with his own free agents during the regular season.

“I would much prefer contracts be done before the season starts,” Gaine said. “When the season starts, we want our players and coaches to be focused on football performance and not the business part of it.

“The preparation you go through Monday through Saturday to get ready to play on Sunday, there’s a large emphasis on focus, intensity and dedication to get ready to play [so] we would much prefer those deals to be done before we start the season. Our intent is exclusively on winning games and not the business side. We try to do our contracts consistently so there’s a standardized format of how we do contracts, how we pay players and how we structure those contracts. As it relates to executing deals with players and their representatives, I think it’s the best business practice to do it before we get to the regular season.”

The Texans were said to be making progress on a deal for former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, and want to extend linebacker Benardrick McKinney as well.

The Texans don’t have a first- or second-round pick next week, after using them to acquire Deshaun Watson and get rid of Brock Osweiler. They won’t join the draft party until the 68th overall pick in the third round.

Add Colts G.M. to the list of people who will trade down

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Colts General Manager Chris Ballard has already traded down once, and is willing to do it again.

Via Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Ballard said he’s amenable to the idea of moving down from the sixth overall pick.

We will be open to moving back if we think it is the right thing for us to do and there’s enough players on the board, depending on how far we have to move back, that we feel comfortable taking,” Ballard said.

Ballard already moved down from No. 3, trading that pick to the Jets and gaining three second-rounders in the process.

The Jets did that to guarantee themselves a quarterback, and if one of top group falls past the Broncos at No. 5, Ballard could be in business again.

But Ballard said at the time he made the first deal the goal was to stay in range of a premium player, since he (ostensibly) doesn’t need a quarterback. That brings up the question of whether 11 or 12 is too far to fall, since the Dolphins and Bills seem eager to draft a franchise-changing quarterback. The Bills have also moved up once to get closer to that goal.

If Ballard is content moving down that far, he might have an opportunity to stockpile even more picks as he begins a rebuild of his own.

Leighton Vander Esch had a busy pre-draft travel schedule

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Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is a man in demand as the draft approaches.

Vander Esch made 11 pre-draft visits in 14 days, a fact that he confirmed during a Friday visit to PFT Live.

He didn’t remember all of them off the top of his head. Here are the ones he was able to quickly recall: Eagles, Saints, Steelers, Ravens, Lions, Bills, Cardinals.

Vander Esch will be making one more trip: To Texas for the draft. The notorious Vander Esch bus won’t be making the trek from Riggins, Idaho to Arlington, Texas, however.

Mitchell Trubisky getting coached more than ever this offseason

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Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said that he felt like the team’s new offensive scheme was built for him even before the team started doing on-field work and the move to the field during this week’s minicamp left him feeling just as good.

Trubisky said it has been “exciting” to get to work on an offense that has “so many layers” to it and he’s getting plenty of help peeling back those layers so that everything becomes old hat by the regular season. Head coach Matt Nagy is playing a leading role, but offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone and backup quarterbacks Tyler Bray and Chase Daniel are also there to help the second-year player digest the offense.

“I feel like these last three days, I’ve been coached more than I ever have because I have Coach Helfrich, Coach Ragone — who was here last year with me — Coach Nagy and then I come off when it’s not my reps and I talk to Tyler and I talk to Chase,” Trubisky said, via ESPN.com. “Just having a bunch of brilliant offensive minds around me, I’m just getting a lot of information. I’m trying to be a sponge, and it’s been a lot of fun working with those guys and learning as much as I can these last three days.”

When Trubisky was coming into the league last year, much was made of the fact that he only made 13 starts during his time at the University of North Carolina. He had less offseason time with the Bears last year and wasn’t asked to do much in a stripped-down offense, so an offseason with an overdose of coaching might have be just the thing for the quarterback even without a whole new scheme in place.

ESPN picks NFL teams to win 289 of a possible 256 games

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Now that the NFL schedule is out, people are going through and making game-by-game predictions for each team. That is an impossible task: No one can tell you with any degree of certainty today who’s going to win a game six months from now.

But if you’re going to try it at all, you ought to at least start from the premise that every game that one team wins, another team has to lose. Which means that, assuming there are no ties, NFL teams will go a combined 256-256 this season.

So when ESPN’s team of NFL writers compiled their predictions, it was amusing to see that they picked a total of 289 wins and only 223 losses. Yes, league-wide the Worldwide Leader thinks NFL teams are going to go 289-223, a .564 winning percentage in a world where the only certainty is a .500 winning percentage.

The problem isn’t that ESPN’s staffers went overboard with the best teams. In fact, the best record assigned to any team was 12-4, for the Rams. If anything the folks at ESPN might have understated the number of teams that will have particularly strong records.

No, the problem is that none of ESPN’s writers want to admit that the teams they cover stink. The worst record assigned to any team was 5-11 for the Browns. The next-worst was 6-10 for the Cardinals. And four teams are projected by ESPN to go 7-9. Other than that, every team is predicted by ESPN to go 8-8 or better. That is obviously way too rosy an outlook. Last year there was an 0-16 team, a 3-13 team, two 4-12 teams, four 5-11 teams and three 6-10 teams.

Overall, ESPN’s writers predict that the NFL standings will finish with one 12-4 team, seven 11-5 teams, six 10-6 teams, five 9-7 teams, seven 8-8 teams, four 7-9 teams, one 6-10 team and one 5-11 team. That’s not just overly optimistic, it’s mathematically impossible.

Titans met with Lamar Jackson

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The list of teams showing interest in Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is an interesting mix of those without a quarterback and those looking for a replacement for an old guy.

And, apparently, at least one team you might not expect.

According to Albert Breer of SI.com, the Titans had a private meeting with Jackson after his pro day.

The Titans could use a qualified backup behind Marcus Mariota, since he has some tendency to put himself in harm’s way. They got rid of backup Matt Cassel and signed Blaine Gabbert, which speaks to the scarcity at the position rather than the Titans’ situation in particular.

But unless they’re prepared to use the 25th pick on Jackson (if he’s even available then), it’s hard to know why they’d go to that extent. They just picked up the fifth-year option on Mariota’s rookie deal, and there’s no indication they’re anything other than satisfied with him.

Jackson has talked to a number of other teams, including the Chargers, Saints, and Ravens, along with the teams with less-established options.

Pete Carroll: Colin Kaepernick discussion is still open

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The Seahawks were set to meet with free agent Colin Kaepernick last week, but the meeting never wound up happening.

Depending on which reports you read, that was because Kaepernick wouldn’t pledge to stand during the national anthem or because the Seahawks wanted to know more about Kaepernick’s overall plans including his pursuit of a collusion grievance against the NFL. The Seahawks subsquently signed two quarterbacks, but coach Pete Carroll said Thursday that adding Stephen Morris and Austin Davis didn’t shut the door.

“The discussion and the opportunity is still open,” Carroll said on KJR, via Gregg Bell of the Tacoma News Tribune.

Carroll added that he hasn’t spoken to Kaepernick and that he’s “not going there” when asked how Kaepernick’s plans for the national anthem figure into the team’s thoughts. General Manager John Schneider has spoken to Kaepernick’s camp, but said “that’s what I can’t get into” when asked if the meeting was cancelled because Kaepernick refused to assure the team he wouldn’t take a knee during the anthem.

NFL adds “rest disparity” as a formal factor to scheduling process

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For years, teams and fans have grumbled about games against opposing teams that have had extra rest, whether from a bye week or a Thursday night. This year, the grumbling has been reduced, possibly because for the first time the NFL officially considered that issue when crafting the slate of 256 games.

Via Peter King of SI.com, Charlotte Carey (a member of the four-person scheduling team) added “rest disparity” to the equation. The NFL came up with a number for every team based on combined days of rest for the team and for its opponents.

Last year, the Giants’ opponents had 22 more days of rest than the Giants. This year, the biggest negative rest disparity is minus-11. The Giants this year are at minus-eight.

King doesn’t mention the team that has a minus-11, and the item doesn’t mention which team(s) have the highest positive rest disparity. If any ambitious member of the #PFTPMPosse wants to figure these out and let us take credit for your work (as long as it’s accurate), feel free.

Fringe draft prospect arrested for rape

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It’s possible if not likely that Jeryl Brazil was going to go undrafted anyway.

But any hopes he’d be selected next week went away quicker than his 40 time when he was arrested for rape last weekend.

According to Tim Buckley of the Lafayette Daily Advertiser, the Louisiana track star and defensive back was charged with third-degree rape.

Brazil also played at LSU before transferring. He was suspended and dismissed from the team at LSU in 2013, after three arrests. He went through a junior college before transferring to Lafayette, where he also ran track.

At the recent pro day there, he ran a 4.35-second 40, which was enough to earn some notice and possibly draw the attention of teams as an undrafted signing in only for his kick-return ability (he had a 100-yard touchdown in 2015).

But unless he’s cleared quickly, no team’s going to touch a player with that kind of background.

Friday morning one-liners

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The Bills are only scheduled for one prime-time game.

The Dolphins unveiled slight changes to their uniforms.

Patriots TE Troy Niklas had to race home after a free agent meeting with the team so that he could be at the birth of his daughter.

The Jets open the season on a big stage.

The Ravens have a lot of road games early in the year.

What’s the draft strategy at tackle for the Bengals?

Browns G.M. John Dorsey left all options on the table for the first overall pick.

Drafting safeties hasn’t gone so well for the Steelers since they selected Troy Polamalu.

The Texans open with two straight road games.

With former Colts DE Dwight Freeney retiring, it’s time to look at his Hall of Fame case.

Sifting through the Jaguars schedule.

Said Titans coach Mike Vrabel of his relationship with QB Marcus Mariota, “It takes time. You don’t want to rush anything. We don’t have to jerk the wheel to try to get to where we want to get to just today.”

Spitballing some potential draft trades that would impact the Broncos.

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes remains a favorite of Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury.

The Chargers seem likely to draft a running back at some point next week.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden will be on the road for four of the team’s first six games.

The Cowboys open the season on the road for the first time since 2012.

Victor Cruz surfaced after the Giants released WR Brandon Marshall.

The Eagles gave Sylvester Stallone his chance to pose with the Lombardi Trophy.

It’s two Thanksgiving games in a row for the Redskins.

LB Leonard Floyd wasn’t on the field at Bears minicamp.

Lions G T.J. Lang is feeling healthier than he did last year.

What offensive linemen in the draft might fit with the Packers?

The Vikings have been scheduled for four nationally televised games.

Analyzing the Falcons schedule.

Will the Panthers move to add Wake Forest S Jessie Bates in the draft?

The Saints will be making frequent national TV appearances in 2018.

Buccaneers LB Kwon Alexander said he’s been opening his mouth more in the locker room.

The Cardinals continue to chart a cautious path with QB Sam Bradford.

Will the Rams add a backup to RB Todd Gurley in the draft?

The 49ers will spend most of the second half in California.

The Seahawks missed with DT Malik McDowell, but their 2017 draft can still be a success.

Falcons open to trading up (as usual) for the right guy

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Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff wouldn’t mind moving up in the draft. But at this point, that’s kind of #asexpected.

The Falcons have moved up four times in his 10 years in charge, including the blockbuster Julio Jones deal in 2011, so it’s no surprise Dimitroff has declared himself open for business.

And with a need at defensive tackle (after Dontari Poe left in free agency for Carolina), the Falcons would have to have a specific target in mind to make a move up.

The player that we are going to acquire has driven that most of the time,” Dimitroff said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Of course, we are always thinking about cost. Where our team is. Where our team’s roster is.

“What we did in ‘11 [for Jones], was not only the player, but where we were as an organization. Even last year, moving up for Takk [McKinley], we had a lot of discussions about where we were with our pass rush.”

Dimitroff said there were six to eight defensive tackles with round one or two grades this year, and if they wanted a player such as Vita Vea or Da’Ron Payne, they’d likely have to move up from 26th.

“Of course, we have to look at the compensation and be realistic about it,” Dimitroff said. “We pretty well know when we are looking to move up five, six, eight, 10 or 21 [spots], what it is going to cost us. We get our heads around that a lot sooner than on draft day.”

But that’s what he’s been doing since he got there, so it makes sense to be prepared to do it again.

Lions G.M. ready to trade down, add more picks

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At pre-draft press conferences across the league, every General Manager is considering all his options, plans to take the best player available, and is open for business.

Lions G.M. Bob Quinn, in particular, is ready to sell.

As a result of having a league-low six picks, Quinn said he was interested in trading down somewhere in the process in hopes of acquiring more picks.

“I think we’re going to kind of take it as it comes in the first round and see what’s there in the teens and evaluate what our options are,” Quinn said, via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. “I’m always in the business of getting more draft picks, if I can. … I think that’s just good for business. The more you get, the more you hit on.

“So if we can acquire more picks, that would be something I look forward to. If there’s a player I really like at [No. 20 overall], I’m going to have to go ahead and take the pick.”

In his first two drafts with the Lions, Quinn has only traded down once. That was last year in a deal with his old employer the Patriots, in which he picked up a fourth-rounder by moving down 11 spots in the third round.

In addition to the 20th overall pick, the Lions have a pick in each round besides the sixth. They threw that one away in a deal with the Rams for left tackle Greg Robinson, who couldn’t win a job and finished the year on IR.

“No, there’s no desperation,” Quinn said. “Would I like to have a sixth-round pick? Absolutely. But we don’t, so we deal with what we have. If we acquire more, great. If not, what we’ll do is get ourselves organized for the seventh round and post-draft.”

The end of this week and the first half of next is when teams actively go through possible trade scenarios, so putting out word that he’s willing to move, Quinn may speed up the process of doing a deal.

John Elway “open to trading” fifth overall pick

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Broncos General Manager John Elway wouldn’t mind picking up more draft picks.

Elway, whose team drafts fifth overall, said that he is interested in hearing from teams that want to move up.

“I’m open to trading,” Elway said of the fifth pick.

This year’s draft has four top quarterbacks in USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and UCLA’s Josh Rosen. So the Broncos will either have a shot at one of those quarterbacks, or will have their choice of the best non-quarterback in the draft, with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and North Carolina State pass rusher Bradley Chubb atop most draft boards after the quarterback.

So that fifth pick will be valuable. Either for the Broncos or for someone else.