Cal McNair on Brian Cushing: He will always be part of the Texans family

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Releasing Brian Cushing wasn’t much of a decision for the Texans. The emergence of second-year linebackers Zach Cunningham and Dylan Cole made Cushing expendable, saving Houston $7.64 million against the salary cap.

But that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt the Texans to do what they did Tuesday.

The Texans think highly of Cushing, who they made a first-round pick in 2009 and who leaves as the franchise’s all-time leading tackler.

“Brian Cushing has meant a great deal to the McNair family and few players have meant more to the Texans franchise over the course of the last nine seasons,” Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Cal McNair said, via a team release. “His work ethic, toughness and leadership, not only as a member of the team, but in the Houston community, is to be commended, especially his dedication to the military and their families. Brian will always be part of the Texans family.”

Buccaneers are cutting Chris Baker

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The Buccaneers just hired a new defensive line coach, and they’ve already starting remaking the group he has to work with.

Via Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, the Buccaneers are cutting veteran defensive tackle Chris Baker.

He was scheduled to make $4.875 million this season, and $3 million of it would have been guaranteed if he was on the roster March 19.

They beat that deadline by almost month, moving on after a disappointing first year there. He signed a three-year, $15.75 million deal last March, but had just half a sack last season while playing next to Gerald McCoy.

The fact he was in the middle of more off-field drama than plays made it an easy call, after he incited a shouting match among teammates in December after he didn’t seem bothered by a costly penalty late in a loss to the Panthers.

Eagles sign Winston Craig

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The Eagles signed defensive tackle Winston Craig, the team announced Tuesday.

Craig, 22, originally signed with Philadelphia as an undrafted free agent out of Richmond last May. The Eagles waived him out of the preseason.

He signed to the team’s practice squad December 8 before the Eagles cut him again January 9.

Craig made 166 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks and two interceptions in 52 games in his college career.

Jaguars exercise options on Tyler Shatley and Josh Wells

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Tight end Marcedes Lewis wasn’t the only member of the Jaguars to get his contract option picked up on Tuesday.

In addition to confirming that Lewis’ deal was extended through the 2018 season, the team also announced that they have also exercised their options on the contracts of offensive linemen Josh Wells and Tyler Shatley.

Wells signed with the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and has played in 32 games since coming to Jacksonville. Wells made his first four NFL starts in 2017 while serving as the team’s swing tackle behind starters Cam Robinson and Jermey Parnell.

While Wells was the top backup tackle, Shatley, who also signed with the team in 2014, has been the team’s top interior reserve. He’s made nine starts over the last three seasons, including four at center during the 2017 season.

Ron Jaworski: Dak Prescott did not play as well as he can play but has the talent

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Dak Prescott vowed not to have a sophomore slump, but in the end, he did. The Cowboys quarterback still won nine games, but his numbers were down in every area except interceptions, which increased from four in 2016 to 13 in 2017.

Ron Jaworski said he believes it was a combination of things that affected Prescott’s play, including a loss of confidence. But the ESPN analyst also said Prescott has the “God-given talent” to rebound in his third season and become a “terrific quarterback.”

“The quarterback position is a dependent position,” Jaworski said, via Newy Scruggs of DFW’s NBC5. “You depend on other people to help do your job. It’s not always about the quarterback. He’s going to get too much credit or too much blame. As I look at the Cowboys last year, they were inadequate in a lot of phases offensively. The offensive line, despite all the talent, did not play as well as they’re capable of playing. They didn’t get the explosive plays out of their receiving corps that they had historically or at least two years ago with Dak. You could say Ezekiel [Elliott] was out. That hurt the team. They didn’t load the box as much. They played the safeties off the line. They played more two-deep. They played more quarters. I can give you all the excuses. At the end of the day, players have to make plays. I think Dak started to lose some confidence. When Dak loses his confidence, like all quarterbacks, you lose a little bit. You’re not willing to pull that trigger. Also year two, I’ve always felt — I’ve been around this game since 1973 — year two defenses now have studied you year one. They know everything that you do. They’ve got 30 guys in the corner watching the tape, and they’re going to make you play your weakness, and they forced Dak to do some things he was not comfortable doing. So now we’re going to see year three how he rebounds from what happened year two. It’s that chess game. You have to have counter moves all the time. He did not play as well as he can play, but I know the guy has God-given talent to be a terrific quarterback.”

Prescott won fewer games (9 in 2017, 13 in 2016), threw fewer touchdowns (22 in 2017, 23 in 2016), threw for fewer yards (3,324 in 2017, 3,667 in 2016), had a lower yards per attempt average (6.8 in 2017, 8.0 in 2016), had a lower completion percentage (62.9 in 2017, 67.8 in 2016) and a lower passer rating (86.6 in 2017, 104.9 in 2016).

Doug Martin: I believe best football is ahead of me

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The Buccaneers cut running back Doug Martin on Tuesday, ending a six-year run with the Buccaneers that featured two 1,400-yard seasons and two trips to the Pro Bowl.

Those seasons are well in the rear-view mirror at this point, however. Martin struggled over 19 appearances in 2016 and 2017 and served a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy that spanned across the two seasons. None of that inspires much hope for the future, but Martin closed a statement discussing his release on an optimistic note.

“Today is bittersweet,” Martin wrote on Instagram. “I hate to leave my teammates when there is still work to be done, but respect the organization’s decision. I am in the best shape of my life physically and mentally and my best football is ahead of me. I look forward to the next stage of my career, while wishing everyone in Tampa Bay the very best.”

Martin also thanked the Buccaneers organization, his teammates and Buccaneers fans in his farewell message to Tampa. He’s free to sign with any other team, although it remains to be seen if anyone shares his belief that better days are coming his way.

Eagles want trademark on “Philly Special”

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The Eagles used “Philly Special” to help them win the Super Bowl and they can’t claim ownership of the play’s design because they got the idea for it from watching others use it before Nick Foles‘ touchdown in Minneapolis.

They are moving to take some ownership of the name of the play, however. Darren Rovell of ESPN reports that the Eagles have filed for a trademark on the “Philly Special” name with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

They have company in that pursuit. Seven other groups, including Pennsylvania brewery Yuengling, have filed for a trademark on the phrase, although Rovell points out that, unlike the Eagles, those trademarks are for future use. The Eagles have already produced a t-shirt with the phrase since it became part of Super Bowl history.

A wait of about four months is expected before the different claims are sorted out and another four months beyond that to determine if a trademark is granted or if the phrase remains in the public domain.

If Chiefs are moving on from Marcus Peters, now is the time to do it

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Despite the shouts of FAKE NEWS! coming from Chiefs fans who disagree with the notion that cornerback Marcus Peters could be traded, the talk in league circles regarding the possibility that the Chiefs will entertain offers (if not initiate them) remains real. So why would they want to do it?

The Chiefs became sufficiently exasperated with Peters last year to suspend him for one game. Specific events, if any, preceding those that prompted the suspension aren’t known. Which is exactly what the Chiefs would want.

If the team has determined that Peters has reached the point at which he’s more trouble than he’s worth, it’s worth plenty for the team to keep the full extent of the trouble under wraps. After all, it’s impossible to get maximum compensation for Peters in trade if there’s reason for the prospective buyer to beware.

As to the balance between “trouble” and “worth,” the question for the Chiefs isn’t simply what he’s making this year or in 2019 under the fifth-year option. The question becomes whether it makes sense to make the kind of major financial investment that Peters will believe he deserves.

So it makes sense, when considering long-term options for Peters, to balance keeping him (and paying him handsomely) against trading him. Ultimately, the analysis hinges on what the Chiefs could get, and the topic has been discussed often enough in recent days to make it crystal that an interested suitor has reason to cobble together the terms of a possible offer.

Torrey Smith hopes to stay in Philly in 2018

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Wide receiver Torrey Smith won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, which means he earned his second title when the Eagles beat the Patriots earlier this month.

Smith believes the reason why there hasn’t been a repeat winner since 2004 is “because there’s a lot of change within the team” from one year to the next. Smith, who signed a three-year deal last offseason, is hopeful that he won’t be among the changes to the Eagles this offseason.

“It’s something that I’m probably anticipating, being back [in Philadelphia],” Smith said, via NFL.com. “I think both sides know that, but I also know it’s a business, as well. You understand that as a player, and you have to understand to protect yourself. I’d love to be back, and hopefully it works out that way. Anything else that happens, I’ll kind of deal with it.”

Smith’s three-year deal doesn’t offer much in the way of job security. He has a non-guaranteed salary of $5 million, which makes it simple for the Eagles to move on without him and use that money to alleviate the cap pressure that they’re feeling after building a Super Bowl winner in 2017.

With Nelson Agholor stepping up last season and Alshon Jeffery landing a rich extension, that may be the likelier outcome for Smith this offseason.

Saints bring back their long snapper

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The Saints took care of one of their own free agents at a key position Tuesday. No, not that one.

Via Herbie Teope of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Saints re-signed long snapper Zach Wood to a one-year deal.

Wood was about to be an exclusive-rights free agent (which means not really a free agent at all since he could only negotiate with them). He signed with the Saints last September after they traded for Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos only to find a heart condition during the team physical which ended his career. Woods played in all 16 games for the Saints last year.

Of course, the Saints have some other free agent business to do before March 14, as they’ve got this old guy named Drew Brees they want to keep.

Chiefs’ Laurent Duvernay-Tardif finishing medical school, wants “M.D.” on his jersey

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A handful of NFL players have suffixes like “Sr.” or “Jr.” or “III” after their last names on their jerseys. Now one player has an idea for a new one.

Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who is finishing up his medical degree this offseason, wants the back of his jersey to say, “Duvernay-Tardif M.D.”

“I want to put Duvernay-Tardif M.D. on my jersey,” he told the Kansas City Star. “I’ve already started a conversation with the league office and they say that anything is possible.”

Duvernay-Tardif has been talking about it for a while, writing in the Players Tribune last year that, “I’m hoping to become the first NFL player to step on the field with an M.D. in my back pocket — and maybe on the back of my jersey.”

Whether the NFL would let him do it remains to be seen, but they should. This is hardly “He Hate Me.” This is the kind of accomplishment from a player that the league should celebrate.

“Lamar Jackson should play WR” take sparks internal ESPN disagreement

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On Monday, ESPN analyst Bill Polian reiterated his belief that former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson should switch to receiver at the next level. Many disagreed, including another ESPN analyst.

Said Damien Woody, “[People] already want Lamar Jackson to switch positions?! We’ve seen plenty of bum QBs, that are still in the league . . . get chance after chance.”

Woody is right. There aren’t enough average quarterbacks to go around in the NFL, and a guy who took college football by storm in 2016 (and who performed just as effectively in 2017) shouldn’t even have to deal with this question — especially when the assessment is based in part on the belief that Jackson isn’t tall enough.

Jackson stands at six feet, three inches. Four years ago, Polian argued that the Browns should use the fourth overall pick in the draft on Johnny Manziel. Manziel was (and still is) three inches shorter than Jackson.

It’s OK for different analysts to have different opinions about whether or not a player will thrive at his position of choice, or the round in which he should be drafted based on his skills, or lack thereof. But there should be more respect given to any player’s position of choice, especially when the player has shown that he can play that position well in college.

Jackson chooses to play quarterback, and he’s done enough to earn the benefit of the doubt that quarterback is the position he should play in the NFL — especially given that ugly period of NFL history when scouts and coaches summarily moved quarterbacks to other positions based solely on the color of their skin.

Texans officially move on from Brian Cushing

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In a move first reported over the weekend by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans have parted way with veteran linebacker Brian Cushing.

PFT has confirmed that the release officially happened on Tuesday.

A first-round pick in 2009, Cushing became the first two-time NFL defensive rookie of the year after a PED suspension in 2010 prompted the Associated Press to strip the award and vote on it again — and he won it again.

Cushing missed 10 games in 2017 due to another PED suspension, giving the Texans a chance to experience life without him. Life without Cushing is now official; he instantly becomes a free agent, getting a three-week head start on the open market.

Bears cut Jerrell Freeman

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Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman spent all but one game of last season on injured reserve, was given a 10-game suspension and said he was suffering from memory loss. So it wouldn’t be surprising if Freeman is done playing in the NFL.

He’s definitely done with the Bears, who released him today, a league source tells PFT.

Freeman signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Bears in 2016 but was suspended four games that year, then placed on injured reserve after playing just one game in 2017.

The 31-year-old Freeman has had a long football journey that saw him named the Division III defensive player of the year at Mary Hardin-Baylor in 2007 but fail to make the Titans as an undrafted rookie in 2008. After three years with the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, Freeman signed with the Colts in 2012 before joining the Bears in 2016.

Now that long football journey may have reached its end.

Report: Eagles to name Mike Groh offensive coordinator

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The Eagles are filling their post-Super Bowl vacancies in-house, and have apparently settled on which way they’re going.

According to Tim McManus of ESPN.com, the team has decided to promote receivers coach Mike Groh to offensive coordinator.

Of course, it’s a largely ceremonial job, since head coach Doug Pederson calls the plays.

But after coordinator Frank Reich left to become the Plan B head coach of the Colts and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo was allowed to leave to become Minnesota’s offensive coordinator (who actually gets to call plays), there was some shuffling to be done.

The Eagles also interviewed running backs coach Duce Staley for the coordinator job, and they are expected to move Press Taylor to the quarterbacks coach post.