Lions sign Sylvester Williams

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The Lions are beefing up the middle of their defensive line.

Sylvester Williams, a free agent defensive tackle who played last season for the Titans, has signed with the Lions.

The 29-year-old Williams was the Broncos’ first-round draft pick in 2013 and spent four years in Denver before going to Tennessee last year. Williams signed a three-year, $16.5 million deal in 2017, but the Titans cut him after just one year of that contract had been completed.

The Lions have been in the market for a defensive tackle since losing Haloti Ngata to the Eagles.

Report: Ndamukong Suh won’t visit Raiders

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Ndamukong Suh‘s free agent tour reportedly won’t be making a stop in Oakland.

Word on Tuesday was that Suh would be meeting with the Raiders on Wednesday, but NFL Media reports that the visit will not happen. There’s no word on which side may have moved to cancel the get-together. Instead, Suh is expected to head home where he’ll presumably be weighing his options.

Suh has met with the Titans, Saints and Rams since being released by the Dolphins after the league year started on March 14. There have not been any specific reports about any offers made by those teams at this point, but the decision to pass on the Raiders meeting could be a sign that someone’s made one that Oakland wasn’t prepared to match.

Suh is the only one of PFT’s Top 20 free agents who has not signed a contract or received a franchise tag. Five other players in our Top 50 are in the same category.

Jerry Richardson to skip owners meeting again

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When NFL owners gather in Orlando next week, they’ll get an update on the pending sale of the Panthers.

They won’t be hearing from the for-now owner of the Panthers, however.

Per Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Jerry Richardson will skip the event again, sending COO Tina Becker to the meeting to speak in his place instead.

That’s firmly #asexpected, as Richardson has avoided league meetings for the last several years, other than an appearance at a spring meeting which happened to be in Charlotte.

He has taken a back seat in league matters anyway, stepping away from all the committees he previously served on. But the ongoing league investigation of his workplace misconduct (which sparked his quick decision to sell the team) didn’t do anything to encourage him to travel.

Owners are expected to get an update from someone involved with the team on the status of the sale talks. The latest name to emerge, according to a report from the Observer, is Canadian steel magnate Alan Kestenbaum. He joins Steelers minority partner David Tepper, South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro, and Philadelphia e-commerce investor Michael Rubin.

Martellus Bennett says he’s unsure about playing in 2018

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Shortly before the Patriots released tight end Martellus Bennett, there was a report that he planned to continue his playing career in 2018.

That was a change from when we last heard from Bennett on the topic. Bennett said last October that he was “pretty sure” that he would hang up his cleats at the end of the 2017 season. On Wednesday, Bennett provided an update on his thoughts during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show and said he hasn’t made up his mind in either direction.

“Right now I’m just living life and trying to figure out what I want to do next,” Bennett said. “Is it to continue to play? Is it to explore other options? What is it that I want to do? After 10 years, you take such a toll not only on your body but mentally. So it’s just like where am I in a mental capacity overall? Is it something I want to continue to do?”

Bennett said he’s working out and “preparing to play,” so it may be a case of not getting the kind of offer he’s looking for on the open market more than total uncertainty about what he’d like to do over the rest of the year. Bennett also indicated he wouldn’t mind missing offseason work and even the start of training camp, which may mean a definitive answer about his plans won’t be coming soon.

Terrell Owens picks former receivers coach as his presenter

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Terrell Owens has selected one of his former receivers coaches to present him at his induction in Canton this summer. George Stewart, Owens’ position coach in San Francisco, will have that honor, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Wednesday.

“He knew what to get out of me. He became a father figure to me,” Owens said, via quotes distributed by the Hall of Fame.

Stewart has coached in the NFL for more than 30 years. He currently serves as the special teams coordinator and assistant head coach for the Chargers.

With Stewart as his position coach, Owens earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in 2000. In fact, Owens received both honors all three seasons Stewart coached the 49ers receivers.

The biggest problems with Richard Sherman’s self-representation


On Tuesday, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman defended his decision to negotiate his own contract. Along the way, he called out one of the biggest critics of his self-negotiated deal. (And, yes, said critic is a certain Internet hack with whom you may be familiar.)

“The thing I’m most frustrated about is all the people that were so high on bashing this deal refuse to bash the agents that do awful deals every year,” Sherman told reporters at his introductory press conference. “There are agents out there that are doing $3 million fully guaranteed deals that look like $50 million deals. When the guy gets cut after two weeks or after a year, and the guy only makes $5 million of a $50 million contract, nobody sits there and bashes the agent. You don’t hear Florio writing any articles about it. The kid from Philly, Bradham or something, took one year, $6 million deal but to everybody else is a $40 million deal. There’s nobody to bash it, because nobody’s even paying attention to most of these agents and their deals. So I think this was just one of those things where the agents feel uncomfortable with a player taking the initiative to do his own deal. Obviously it puts a fire under them. It makes them more accountable for their actions, because more players will do this.”

Sherman apparently assumes, as do many, that I’ve criticized his skills as a negotiator because I’m trying to help the agents. And he’s right. I am trying to help the agents. I’m trying to help the agents because I’m trying to help the players.

The player-agent relationship isn’t a win-lose proposition. A good agent can get more money for a player than a player can get for himself. So every player should have a good agent who can and will do just that.

But Sherman already has boasted that no agent could have gotten a better deal than Sherman negotiated for himself. Of course Richard Sherman would say that; would we expect anything else from one of the most confident personalities the NFL has ever seen?

Regardless of his confidence in his skills, he’s just flat wrong. There’s one key term in his contract that no competent agent would have ever agreed to, and any agent that ever did agree to it should be immediately disciplined by the NFL Players Association.

The term relates to the guaranteed money beyond his $3 million signing bonus. If Sherman makes it to the Pro Bowl this year, his contract doesn’t void for 2019 (which is what a good agent would have sought). Instead, Sherman triggers upon making it to the Pro Bowl an $8 million injury guarantee that vests in March 2019. As of April 1, 2019, the injury guarantee becomes a full guarantee.

Let’s focus on that for a minute. The $8 million injury guarantee doesn’t vest the moment he makes it to the Pro Bowl. The $8 million injury guarantee vests on the third day of the next league year, in March.

Here’s what this means. If Sherman qualifies for the Pro Bowl before the end of the 2018 regular season, and if the 49ers make it to the postseason, he’ll play one or more playoff games (and engage in multiple practices) with no injury protection at all. So if he ruptures an Achilles tendon or tears an ACL in January or otherwise suffers a serious injury in January, the 49ers can do exactly what the Seahawks did to Sherman earlier this month: Cut Sherman without consequence.

Instead of vesting immediately, the injury guarantee vests in the middle of March, and the salary then becomes fully guaranteed on April 1. However, any injury guarantee vesting in the middle of March and converting to a full guarantee on April 1 is meaningless; from the middle of March until April 1, there’s no football game or practice or offseason workout session that could result in an injury to Sherman.

That’s where the 49ers hoodwinked Sherman. Instead of simply saying, “Your salary for 2019 will be fully guaranteed on April 1 if you make it to the Pro Bowl” (which may have prompted Sherman to ask for the injury guarantee to vest in December), they inserted a hollow injury guarantee that becomes triggered at a time when there’s no way to suffer a football-related injury, leaving him unprotected for the balance of the 2018 regular season and postseason.

Why should anyone care about this? (Peter King recently characterized the “outcry” over Sherman’s self-negotiated contract as “weird.”) If Sherman representing himself were an isolated occurrence, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But Sherman and Chargers left tackle Russell Okung, both of whom are members of the NFLPA Executive Committee, have embarked on a crusade to get more and more players to negotiate their own contracts, apparently because they believe that agents — officially dubbed Certified Contract Advisors by the NFLPA — should be providing a much wider array of services in exchange for the fee that they earn by (wait for it) advising players regarding their contracts, and by actively negotiating them.

Believe this: NFL owners cannot wait for the moment when agents are rendered irrelevant. Owners already have slick, charismatic, skillful negotiators, who justify their salaries in part by keeping players from getting as much as they can. With no agents, players negotiating their own deals will have the bad deals negotiated by other players crammed down their throats, with teams eventually having a full roster of players at bargain-basement price.

What about the salary cap,  you ask? Won’t that ensure players get theirs with or without agents? Far more important than the cap is the floor. With an 11-percent spread available, owners will have an easier time getting the players they want for 89 cents on the dollar, with the other 11 cents becoming raw profit.

Consider the current gap between the maximum and minimum spending levels. At a salary cap of $178 million per team, $19.58 million need not be spent, per team. With 32 teams in the league, that’s $626.56 million per year potentially robbed from the rich and given to the richer.

This doesn’t mean every team will spend the bare minimum if players represent themselves. But the total expenditures will be far closer to the minimum than the maximum if the players don’t have skilled agents getting each of them the most money possible, as part of the collective effort to force as many owners as possible to spend not to the floor, but to the cap.

Browns owner watching Sam Darnold’s pro day workout

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The Browns are clearly talking to all the quarterbacks at the top of the draft, so it’s normal that General Manager John Dorsey, coach Hue Jackson and others will be at the pro day workouts.

But it’s obvious this year’s different, so the guy in charge is taking it in.

Via Lindsay Rhodes of the NFL Network, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is sitting in the stands at Southern Cal today watching Sam Darnold work out.

His presence there would suggest that he might have been around for their private meeting with Darnold last night, but there has been no other mention of Haslam showing up at other pro days or workouts.

They worked out UCLA’s Josh Rosen yesterday, and have will have a private workout with Baker Mayfield Thursday and then attend Josh Allen‘s pro day Friday. Whether the boss makes the entire road trip remains to be seen, or whether he brought the homeless guy who told him to draft Johnny Manziel.

The Browns pick first and fourth overall, and seem likely to take the quarterback first to guarantee they get their pick.

Al Riveron unveils Competition Committee’s catch rule recommendation

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The NFL will be addressing the catch rule once again at the upcoming league meetings and head of officiating Al Riveron has revealed what the Competition Committee is recommending.

On Twitter, Riveron shared the committee’s recommendation that a player should be deemed to have caught a ball when they have control, two feet/another body part down and a football move. The football move is further defined as a third step, reaching or extending the ball for the line to-gain or “the ability to perform such an act.”

There’s nothing in there about going to the ground, which was a contentious part of the rule in recent years. The subjectiveness of the third part of the football move portion of the rule in particular seems ripe for similar contentiousness, however, and it remains to be seen how Riveron will be handling any replay challenges centered on that or determination of the first two parts.

NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said this week that the league will “go back to the old replay standard of reverse the call on the field only when it’s indisputable,” something many felt wasn’t the case on many Riveron-led reviews during the regular season.

The league meetings get underway on Sunday and any change to the rules requires votes from 24 of 32 teams.

Deonte Thompson set to visit Cowboys

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The Cowboys have started delving into the free agent wide receiver market this week and the list of players they’re interested in has expanded to include Deonte Thompson.

According to multiple reports, the Cowboys have set up a visit with Thompson.

Thompson opened last season with the Bears, but was released in October. He caught on with the Bills and wound up with a career-high 27 catches for 430 yards in 11 games for Buffalo.

Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reported last weekend that the Bills have talked about bringing Thompson back and that the Broncos have also shown interest.

In addition to Thompson, the Cowboys also set up a visit with Allen Hurns following his release by the Jaguars on Tuesday. Justin Hunter and Dontrelle Inman have also been reported as visitors to Dallas.

NFL Draft gets more coverage than ever with FOX, ABC broadcasts

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This year’s NFL Draft will draw more television coverage than ever before.

The NFL announced today that FOX will show the first three rounds of the draft and ABC will show Rounds 4-7, meaning the entire draft will air on broadcast television for the first time ever. That’s in addition to the traditional ESPN and NFL Network broadcasts, a new alternate broadcast on ESPN2, and a Spanish broadcast on ESPN Deportes.

FOX will simulcast NFL Network’s coverage, with FOX lead analyst Troy Aikman joining the broadcast for the first time. ESPN will have its usual broadcast in addition to a college-themed broadcast on ESPN2, and ABC will simulcast the ESPN draft show on the last day of the draft.

With all that TV coverage, this year’s NFL draft will almost certainly be the most-watched ever. It will also garner the highest attendance ever at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.

The NFL has strategically positioned the draft as the major event of its offseason and the primary reason that football is essentially a year-round sport. ESPN helped the NFL build up the draft, but when FOX agreed to join with NFL Network’s coverage, that put a dent in ESPN’s draft dominance. Now ESPN is pushing back by pouring additional resources into the event. With two broadcast networks and four cable networks airing the draft, it’s now bigger than ever.

Will fans care about spring football?

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The time arguably is right for more football, not during football season but during the seasons when football isn’t normally played. With The Spring League in place and the XFL returning in 2020 and the Alliance of American Football announced for 2019, there will be plenty of options, soon.

The question is this: Will there be plenty of fans?

The Alliance of American Football specifically will posture itself as a complement to the NFL. “We want the players to do well,” AAF co-founder Bill Polian said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “Every Alliance contract is going to carry with it an ‘out’ for any player who has an opportunity at any time to go to the NFL. We recognize we’re not in competition with the NFL. We hope what we do augments what the NFL is doing.”

That augmentation comes from giving players (and coaches, executives, and officials) an opportunity to develop at a lower level.

“We firmly believe the next Kurt Warner and Adam Vinatieri is out there,” Polian said. “We just have to find them and give them a chance.”

Polian, referring to players who parlayed stints in developmental leagues into rousing NFL success, is right. The challenge becomes giving them a chance to develop in a way that generates profit. If, after all, the NFL could implement a developmental league in a way that made sense (i.e., that made money), it would.

And as to the goal of finding the next Kurt Warner or Adam Vinatieri (or Brad Johnson, who’s taking the snap in the photo accompanying this item), it’s admirable but, from the NFL’s perspective, not necessary. NFL rosters are a zero-sum proposition; for every player who can’t make it in the NFL initially and who develops to the point where he can, he takes a job currently held by another NFL player. Thus, the NFL has no incentive to develop players not currently good enough to make it in the NFL, since there’s already an overabundance of willing participants.

The various spring leagues also will have more than enough interested players. The question becomes whether they’ll have more than enough interested fans. Or, more accurately, enough fans to make enough money to justify the ongoing investment.

That’s the key. Even with the buzz created by the return of the XFL, the core question is this: Would you invest your own money in the XFL or any other alternative football league? For most, the answer falls somewhere between “no” and “hell no.”

Baker Mayfield lines up a series of workouts this week

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It’s a little more than a month until the first round of the NFL Draft gets underway and one of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s class will be spending this week working out for potential employers.

Baker Mayfield already has volumes of game tape, a Scouting Combine workout and a Pro Day workout for teams to consider and four of them will be adding private workouts to their other research.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Mayfield worked out for the Bills on Monday to kick off his week. He’s scheduled to work out for the Dolphins on Wednesday, the Browns on Thursday and the Jets on Saturday. All four teams have picks in the Top 12 and the Bills could move further up the board with the No. 22 pick, two second-round picks and two third-round picks at their disposal.

The other top quarterback prospects will have similar schedules over the next month as they try to catch the eye of a team that will take them off the board in the opening minutes of the first round.

Colts re-sign Jack Mewhort

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There was surprisingly little attention paid to guard Jack Mewhort in free agency, and now he’s staying put.

The Colts re-signed Mewhort to a one-year deal today, his agent announced. Mewhort was a second-round pick of the Colts in 2014 and has played his entire career in Indianapolis. He played five games last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

When healthy, Mewhort has played well, but he has missed more games than he has played the last two seasons.

Mewhort was the No. 47 player on our Free Agent Top 100.

NFL still looking for new P.R. chief

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A sports league with extreme sensitivity to P.R. currently has no P.R. chief.

A memo sent by Commissioner Roger Goodell to all teams and league staff points out that former executive V.P. of communications Joe Lockhart officially exited on March 16, and that the position currently is vacant. New COO Maryann Turcke “is currently conducting a search for [Lockhart’s] replacement and we expect to announce his successor in the coming weeks,” Goodell writes.

Goodell also announced a restructuring at the top of the league office, where the leaders of football operations (Troy Vincent) and player health and safety (Jeff Miller) will now report directly to Goodell, not to Turcke.

“These changes reflect the League’s commitment to the game and player safety as important pillars to our future success,” Goodell writes.

Former NFL Chief Marketing Officer Mark Waller will temporarily replace Dawn Hudson as the league searches for a new CMO. Goodell explains in the memo that the league expects to have a new CMO in place before the start of the 2018 season.

The overriding goal of the restructuring, as one source with knowledge of the situation explained it to PFT, is to better define and develop the executive team, in order to assist Goodell and ownership move the league forward in the best way possible. For now, however, there’s no one person responsible for ensuring that the intended message is communicated in the best way possible.

Eagles give Chris Long a raise

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Chris Long won’t be playing for free this year, unless he decides to give even more money away.

Via Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Eagles bumped Long’s salary from $1 million to a guaranteed $2.5 million as part of a restructuring. He also received a $500,000 roster bonus last week.

Long’s initial contract with the Eagles was billed as a five-year deal, but the final three seasons have already voided.

The soon-to-be 33-year-old had a solid season for the Eagles last year, with five sacks and four forced fumbles.

More impressively, he gave his entire $1 million in salary last year to charities, beginning with a pledge to fund scholarships in his adopted hometown of Charlottesville.