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Texans re-sign inside linebacker Akeem Dent to two-year deal

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans

The Texans acquired inside linebacker Akeem Dent from the Falcons in exchange for backup quarterback T.J. Yates last summer and ended up starting six games and playing 227 snaps on defense for Houston.

On Tuesday, the Texans re-signed Dent to a new two-year contract, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN.

Houston has long been trying to find a second inside linebacker to pair with Brian Cushing. Dent is unlikely to be that guy. He’s a decent run stopper, but can’t cover a lick. He’ll continue to fill a reserve and special teams role for the Texans, while General Manager Rick Smith should be looking for linebacker help in the draft after losing Brooks Reed to the Falcons via free agency.

Dent, a former third-round pick, is entering his age-28 season.

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Report: Dolphins were runner-up for Jimmy Graham

The Jimmy Graham trade from the Saints to the Seahawks shook the NFL world on opening day of the new league year. Apparently, the Seahawks weren’t the only team the Saints talked to about Graham.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dolphins “finished second” to Seattle as the runner-up in the Graham derby and were “aggressive” in trying to upgrade the tight end spot.

Being that the Saints were looking for line help, there’s a chance talks with the Dolphins revolved around contract-year center Mike Pouncey and Miami’s No. 14 overall pick in the upcoming draft. It would have been a steep price to pay, but both Graham and the Dolphins likely would have really enjoyed each other. Graham played football and basketball at the University of Miami, and new football czar Mike Tannenbaum was dead-set on overhauling Ryan Tannehill’s weaponry. Graham would have provided that needed intermediate and red-zone presence for Tannehill.

In the end, the Saints took the Seahawks’ deal of center Max Unger and the No. 31 overall pick in April’s draft. The Dolphins then replaced Charles Clay, whom Miami never really seemed too inclined to retain after slapping him with the transition tag, with former basketball-playing tight end Jordan Cameron on a two-year, $15 million contract.

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Tom Benson brings wife to meetings to get her ready to take over

Tom Benson, Gayle Benson AP

Saints owner Tom Benson created quite a stir when he took control of his teams away from his kids and gave them to his wife.

And now, he’s using the NFL owners meetings as a chance to Gayle Benson to get caught up to speed if she needs to run the family business.

The Saints owner said Gayle sat in with him and coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis this week.

“This makes me feel great just to get out. The weather is so perfect here and we’ve had some good meetings this morning too,” he said, via Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate. “I was glad they let Gayle sit in on it. It was only supposed to be three per club, that was the coach, Mickey Loomis and I. But they let her sit in on the meeting too.

We have to get her prepared so she can take my place one day. Not too soon.”

The 87-year-old Benson is currently in the middle of a nasty fight over his estate, of which he gave control to Gayle. But he said he’s confident the team would be in good hands when that time comes.

“It’s great. We got married about 10 years ago,” he said. “Before that she was in business. It’s nothing new to her. Not like somebody that was never in business. She knows the difference, you have to make profit against a loss.”

That part won’t be a problem for an NFL owner, whatever their name is.

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NFL passes five player safety rules

Titans Texans Football AP

The NFL continues to add rules designed to make the game safer.

At today’s league meeting, the owners approved five rules proposals, all of which had been suggested to make the game safer. The five new rules are:

1. Bans defensive players from pushing teammates at the line of scrimmage when the offense is in punt formation. (This rule already exists for situations when the offense is in field goal or extra point formation.)

2. Prohibits all offensive players from engaging in peel back blocks.

3. Gives receivers defenseless player protection when a pass is intercepted.

4. Makes it illegal for a running back to chop a defensive player engaged above the waist by another offensive player outside the tackle box.

5. Allows an injury spotter to stop the game if a player appears to have suffered a brain injury.

None of those rules will make a major difference to the game on the field. Fans might not even notice them. But if they make the game safer, approving them was an easy call.

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Replay proposals voted down, NFL to study fixed cameras

instant-replay-story Getty Images

The NFL isn’t ready to buy the cameras yet, but they’re apparently ready to have the bake sale to pay for them.

League spokesman Greg Aiello announced via Twitter that owners authorized the league to research the use of fixed cameras and stadium video in replay system.

Otherwise, all proposals involving instant replay were voted down, as there was clearly not much support for anything that might extend the game.

Teams did approve the ability to review the game clock at the end of halves, games and overtime if there’s more than one second remaining, which seems utterly sensible.

During a competition committee press conference yesterday, Rams coach Jeff Fisher seemed hesitant about the prospects of the 13 measures (of 18 total) which surrounded expanding the use of replay.

But the fact they’re willing to look at the idea of fixed cameras to help with goal line and sideline calls is encouraging.

Bill Belichick isn’t the only one “disappointed” that the league would cite cost as a prohibitive factor, for something that would so obviously help officials get things right.

But if they’re willing to look at the topic more closely, maybe they’ll be able to dig down beneath the couch cushions and find enough change to make it happen in the near future.

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Bears take flier on controversial defensive lineman Ray McDonald

Ray McDonald

The Bears are so intent on improving their dreadful defense that they’re willing to turn over every rock in their search for linemen that can help.

According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, the Bears have signed former 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald. McDonald played for new Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in San Francisco.

But McDonald got into plenty of hot water with the law last year. He was arrested in a felony domestic violence case in August, but prosecutors said in November that he would not be charged. McDonald was later accused of rape in December. The 49ers released him that same day, and he’s been without a team since. Earlier this month, McDonald sued the woman that accused him of rape because he was never charged in the incident and it cost him his job.

Ending up back in the league so quickly just goes to show that teams will give you a second chance as long as you still have talent and can contribute. Unlike Ray Rice, who showed serious signs of decline before his domestic violence incident, McDonald was playing at a high level at the time of his. At 30 years old, McDonald was one of the league’s better 3-4 defensive ends last season.

In Chicago, he’ll join veterans Jeremiah Ratliff and Jarvis Jenkins, as well as second-year pros Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton on the defensive line. Providing McDonald stays off the police blotter, he’ll have a good chance to start in 2015.

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Injury timeout proposal unanimously approved by NFL owners

edelman AP

While it may not be a big week for rules changes, the NFL has taken at least one smart step which should make players safer.

Via Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the league unanimously approved the proposal to grant a medical timeout.

The rule will allow the injury spotter upstairs to communicate directly with the on-field officials, to stop the clock if a player appears to be shaken up to the point a further check is warranted.

Competition committee chairman Rich McKay said yesterday the proposal was sparked in part by Julian Edelman taking a hard shot in the Super Bowl, appearing woozy but staying in the game.

As you might imagine, Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t shed any light on what the team did or didn’t do in that situation, and Edelamn himself has refused to say if he was checked for a concussion.

You’d have to talk to the medical people about that. I was coaching the game,” Belichick said, via Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.

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Belichick “disappointed” that owners don’t want to pay for cameras

Belichick AP

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has long advocated putting fixed cameras on the sidelines, goal lines and end lines in every NFL stadium, to give referees better replay angles when reviewing close calls. And Belichick isn’t happy that some owners say they don’t want to spend the money to pay for those cameras.

Asked about Giants owner John Mara’s statement that those cameras would be too expensive, Belichick sounded dismissive of such a claim.

“I was disappointed to hear that we can’t afford that, as a league,” Belichick said. “It was kind of surprising to hear that.”

There’s still a chance that Belichick’s proposal will pass, but Mara’s statement indicated that it’s unlikely. The NFL is a multibillion-dollar business, but the owners apparently don’t think adding some cameras is worth the cost.

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Browns don’t want to do Hard Knocks

Ray Farmer, Jimmy Haslam

A recent report had the Browns pegged as the front-runner to be the team featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks this summer. Apparently, it was just too good to be true.

At the AFC coaches’ breakfast Tuesday morning in Arizona, coach Mike Pettine said the team met with NFL Films this week and made it known the Browns will not volunteer to be on the show.

“You just weigh everything in,” said Pettine. “Because being a part of Hard Knocks, having been there, knowing they’re going to look to cover the team’s biggest current storylines, it’s obvious that [Johnny Manziel] would be a point of attention.”

But, that’s what would have made it fun, Coach. Johnny Football. The top-to-bottom dysfunction that runs rampant through the organization. Controversial owner Jimmy Haslam. The worst offensive skill position depth chart in the league. It would have been a complete, fun mess.

Oh well. The NFL can still force the Browns to allow the HBO cameras into their facility, but that’s extremely unlikely to happen. After all, people with the Browns are trying to do their jobs, and the NFL isn’t a playground.

The Texans and Redskins, among other teams, would make for interesting teams to fill the Hard Knocks void.

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Texans restructure J.J. Watt’s deal for some salary cap room

Watt AP

The Texans just signed star defensive end J.J. Watt to a gigantic contract extension a year ago, and they’re already fiddling with it.

Via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Watt has restructured his contract to create another $8 million in cap space this year.

The move simply parlayed a $10 million roster bonus into a signing bonus to prorate the hit over remaining years, likely the way they intended to do it the day he signed the deal.

While it clears current room, it tacks on an extra $2 million worth of cap charges in each year moving forward. As long as the cap keeps going up at its current rate, it shouldn’t be a problem. But teams have been bitten by kicking the can down the road before, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

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Michael Crabtree willing to wait for the right deal in free agency

San Francisco 49ers v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Michael Crabtree has held out waiting for the right deal before. But this time, he has the  benefit of choices.

According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea, the 49ers free agent wide receiver is “willing to wait however long it takes” to find the right deal for the coming season.

While that obviously means he hasn’t found the money he’s looking for, there also seems to be a schematic concern. He’d like to get the ball more, and with the 49ers still leaning run and bringing in free agent wideout Torrey Smith, targets might be hard to come by.

The 49ers would like to bring him back, and he visited the Dolphins last week but left without a deal.

At this stage in the market, it’s unlikely he’s going to find anything to match the $5.3 million per year he was making on his rookie deal.

And barring an injury in another camp when OTAs start, it’s hard to imagine the offers are going to get much bigger. But having held out the first month of his rookie season, he’s shown he’s willing to take a stand for what he thinks he’s worth.

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Andy Reid impressed by Derek Carr

Derek Carr AP

The Raiders have lost double-digit games in 10 of the last 12 seasons, and they have not made the postseason since 2002.

However, Chiefs coach Andy Reid believes new Raiders coach Jack Del Rio has landed in a favorable spot, and it has something to do with the presence of second-year quarterback Derek Carr.

“That kid can play. Like, really play,” Reid said of Carr on Tuesday, according to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star.

The Raiders were 1-1 in Carr’s starts vs. the Chiefs a season ago, with Oakland’s November upset of Kansas City the rookie passer’s first-ever regular season win. Overall, Carr connected on 58.1 percent of his passes in 2014 (348-of-599), racking up 3,270 yards through the air with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Cynics might say that all coaches praise the opposition; after all, compliments don’t cause any waves. On the other hand, Reid has a knack for developing quarterbacks, so a compliment from the Chiefs’ head coach to an opposing passer carries a little extra significance.

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Saints hosting edge rusher Anthony Spencer on free-agent visit

Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys

Free agent pass rusher Anthony Spencer had two of his best seasons under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in Dallas from 2011-2012, registering 17 sacks and making his lone Pro Bowl appearance.

Spencer hasn’t been the same since, but that’s not because Ryan left town. Spencer wrecked his knee in 2013 and required microfracture surgery. He’s recorded just half of a sack across 14 games the past two seasons.

Now 31 years old, Spencer is looking for a potential new home with the Cowboys showing little interest in re-signing him. Spencer is visiting Ryan and the Saints on Tuesday, according to Saints sideline reporter Kristian Garic.

Spencer can no longer be counted on to start, but he’d provide a veteran edge presence behind starters Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan. New Orleans finished 25th in the NFL with just 34 sacks last season.

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Bill Belichick on Darrelle Revis: “That’s not a big story”

Bill Belichick AP

One of these days, Patriots coach Bill Belichick is going to walk into an interview session, relax and crack witty, urbane jokes for 90 minutes, and we’re all going to look back and realize Grumpy Bill was all one big Andy Kaufman routine.

Tuesday, however, was not that day.

Belichick, who can be articulate and enlightening when he chooses to be, chose not to during the AFC coaches breakfast at the owners meetings.

There were plenty of things for him to talk about, but he didn’t offer much on any of them.

Questions about #DeflateGate were met with a “talk to the league,” and even the departures of a key free agent and a franchise legend weren’t enough to get him to expound.

When asked about losing cornerback Darrelle Revis to the Jets, Belichick shrugged.

“It’s NFL free agency,” he deadpanned. “Players leave teams and go to teams in free agency every year.

“That’s not a big story.”

To some it is, considering the size of the contract he signed with the Jets, and the impact Revis had in New England, while helping the Patriots to the Super Bowl.

Asked how losing the game’s best press-man corner would change the way they play this year, he replied: “I don’t know.”

He even let a chance to praise longtime nose tackle Vince Wilfork slide, saying: “I released a pretty comprehensive statement on him. I think that covered that.”

Again, if he ever chooses to share, the conversation is going to be one you want to hear. But he decided Tuesday morning upon sizing up the room that it wasn’t going to happen today.

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Ken Whisenhunt likes Marcus Mariota, but not ready to commit

Marcus Mariota AP

Yes, Ken Whisenhunt likes Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

But the Titans coach didn’t declare his intentions to draft him, at least not yet.

During this morning’s AFC coaches breakfast at the owners meetings, the owner of the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft spent a lot of his time talking about the quarterback position.

And it created a bit of a ripple when he said early in the proceedings that Mariota appeared to be ready to go from the first week

“If he comes to us at No. 2, he’s definitely going to be the Day 1 starter,” Whisenhunt said, via Jim Corbett of USA Today. “I’m very impressed by Marcus.”

That would have been big, except for the clarification that came later.

Upon follow-up, Whisenhunt said that if the Titans used the second pick on a passer, the expectation would be that he’s a starter, considering the investment made. So that was more of a philosophical stance than a declaration of intent.

Of course, drafting a quarterback makes sense, since the Titans currently have Zach Mettenberger and Charlie Whitehurst on the roster.

Whisenhunt also spoke highly of Mettenberger, but it’s not going to hurt their position to let everyone in the league know they’re thinking about Mariota, if only to make the phone ring.

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