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Report: Raiders, Derek Carr close to deal worth $25 million per year

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The Raiders are close to finalizing a deal with Derek Carr that will pay the quarterback $25 million per year, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Per Schefter, the sides still are finalizing language, but the record deal could be announced by the end of the week.

Reports earlier this month indicated Carr was on his way to becoming the first quarterback to make $25 million annually, and it appears that day is closer than ever. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has an average annual paycheck of $24.594 million per season, currently the highest. Carson Palmer and Drew Brees also make more than $24 million per season.

Carr, who is scheduled to make $977,519 in base salary in 2017, has insisted he wanted to complete a deal before training camp to avoid distractions.

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Pope Francis: Teamwork and fair play needed off the field as well as on


Pope Francis welcomed a contingent from the Pro Football Hall of Fame to the Vatican on Wednesday for what the Hall calls the first such meeting for an American sports organization.

The group, which included Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Hall of Famers Curtis Martin, Chris Doleman, Ronnie Lott, Jim Taylor, Franco Harris and Floyd Little, presented Pope Francis with a Hall of Fame jersey and a gold helmet. The pontiff opened his remarks with thanks to the group and a joke about being a lifelong fan of what much of the rest of the world calls football before moving on to share what he thinks society can learn from football.

“Teamwork, fair play and the pursuit of personal excellence are the values — in the religious sense, we can say virtues — that have guided your own commitment on the field,” Pope Francis said. “Yet these same values are urgently needed off the field, on all levels of our life as a community. They are the values that help build a culture of encounter, in which we anticipate and meet the needs of our brothers and sisters, and combat the exaggerated individualism, indifference and injustice that hold us back from living as one human family. How greatly our world needs this culture of encounter!”

Doleman called meeting Pope Francis “one of those life-changing moments” and Jones called it “magnificent” to have the pontiff “recognize pro football.”

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Dak Prescott ranked higher than Tony Romo ever was in top 100

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Tony Romo’s supporters have even more ammunition in arguing the former Cowboys quarterback was underrated and underappreciated during his 14-year career.

It took Dak Prescott exactly one season to rate higher in NFL Network’s top 100 than Romo ever did. The poll of 902 NFL players ranked Prescott 14th. Among quarterbacks, only Derek Carr, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan ranked higher.

Romo, according to Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News, never ranked among even the top-20 players. Romo’s highest finish ever was 34th after the 2014 season when he led the league with a 69.9 completion percentage and 113.2 passer rating in going 12-3 with 3,705 passing yards, 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions. NFL Network has conducted the poll since 2011.

Romo retired holding most of the team’s passing records.

In his rookie season, Prescott went 13-3, completing 67.8 percent of his passes for 3,667 yards with 23 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 104.9 passer rating.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott is the highest-rated Cowboy in the poll, ranking in the top 10. NFLN will reveal the order of the top 10 on Monday.

The poll, of course, has created controversy among both players and fans, so let this debate commence.

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Jeremy Maclin says torn groin hampered him last year

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If Jeremy Maclin looked like he was a step slow last year, there may have been a reason.

The Ravens wide receiver said during Adam Schefter of ESPN’s podcast that he played last season with a torn groin. Maclin missed four games because of the problem, and his production was obviously down from the year before.

Well, I tore my groin last year,” Maclin said. “So, if I’m supposed to be just as fast with a torn groin, then more power to them. Man, I guess they just have to wait and see. I don’t really have anything else to say about that. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I’ll still be able to get open. I’ll still be able to make big plays, that’s for sure.”

He came back to play the final five games for the Chiefs, though he had just 16 catches for 188 yards and no scores. That made it easier for them to justify his release, even if the timing was odd.

“I came back and I was able to play but I can’t sit up here and tell you I was 100 percent,” Maclin said. “I’m also not going to sit up here and make excuses. At the end of the day, I didn’t play as well as I could have last year and that’s ultimately what happened.”

Maclin didn’t have surgery to repair the damage, so he’s ostensibly ready to go full-speed for the Ravens now.

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Minor League G.M. apologizes for trolling Tim Tebow


If you haven’t heard, former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has been playing minor league baseball. Tebow, who still plays for the Class A Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies recently traveled to Charleston for three games against the RiverDogs.

The RiverDogs opted to poke some good-natured fun at the superstar’s presence, playing the chorus of “Hallelujah” when he came to bat, putting eye strips with “John 3:16” on the team’s mascot, and introducing every other Firefly who went to the plate as “not Tim Tebow,” with a picture of Tebow crying at the 2009 SEC title game in the background. It was all pretty funny, a little creative, and part of the wacky ways of baseball’s minor leagues.

Apparently, one or more Tebowmaniacs disagreed, objecting to the antics on social media. Which prompted the team’s General Manager to issue an apology.

“While we believe that our promotions were poking fun at Mr. Tebow’s celebrity status rather than his religion or baseball career, our intent was not to offend anyone, and for the fact that we did offend, we are sorry,” Dave Echols wrote in a statement issued to the Charleston Post & Courier. “Of the many promotional pieces that we executed, there were a handful on Friday’s game that some construed as in poor taste, and we made it a focus to remove those elements and celebrate Mr. Tebow the remainder of his time in Charleston.”

Echols has not been attacked by a swarm of locusts or frogs since issuing his apology.

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Ryan O’Callaghan: NFL teams would accept a gay player

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Former Patriots and Chiefs offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan didn’t come out when he was an active player. But he’s sure that if a player does, he’ll be accepted.

O’Callaghan, who revealed this week that he’s gay, said on the Dan Patrick Show that he has no doubt that in this day and age, gay players would be welcome.

“I’m pretty positive now that teams would accept a gay player. There’s enough guys in every locker room who truly understand and know that it’s not a choice. In society as a whole, it’s OK. I think there’s enough guys that would rally around, I think some would even go out of their way just to make someone feel accepted,” O’Callaghan said.

There’s already been an openly gay player in two NFL locker rooms, as Michael Sam spent time with the Rams and Cowboys and there were no reports of any issues inside either team. Sam never played in a regular-season game, but some day some openly gay player will, and it will be a step forward, not a distraction.

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Eric Decker’s incentives may not be difficult to reach

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Eric Decker’s one-year deal with the Titans keeps looking better than expected.

After more than two days of silence regarding the value of the contract (which caused many to believe it wasn’t a very good one), the full details are now available.

Per a source with knowledge of the terms, the base value actually is $4 million, given that Decker can earn $150,000 in per-game roster bonuses. Typically, those bonuses (while tied to the player being available for 16 games) are regarded as part of the base value of the deal.

As to the incentives, Decker will receive $250,000 if he scores four touchdowns. He also will get $125,000 for every 10 receptions starting at 30, maxing out at $625,000 if he catches 70 passes. Ditto for yards, with $125,000 for 450, 550, 650, 750, and 850 — another max of $625,000.

Thus, if Decker catches 70 passes, gains 850 yards, and scores four touchdowns, he’ll get the full incentive package of $1.5 million, pushing his total payout to $5.5 million. Given the circumstances of his release and the lack of money available within budgets and/or under salary caps, and in light of the fact that Decker played only three games last season, it’s a good deal — especially since he hit all three of his 2017 maximum incentive triggers in each of the four seasons prior to 2016.

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David Harris deal with Patriots has base value of $5 million

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We learned that linebacker David Harris has agreed to a two-year deal with the Patriots after visiting with them on Wednesday and that New England’s offer for Harris was worth more than the Jets offered Harris on a reduced deal before cutting him earlier this month.

More details about Harris’ deal with the Patriots have come to light. According to multiple reports, Harris’ deal has a base value of $5 million with incentives that could push the total value to $6.75 million. Harris was set to make $6.5 million in 2017 under the terms of his original contract with the Jets.

The Patriots’ offer also includes $1.25 million in guaranteed money. While other veterans have signed with the Patriots in past seasons only to ultimately fail to make the team, that would seem to make him a very good bet to remain on the roster through at least the 2017 season.

Given the Patriots’ makeup at linebacker and Harris’ play the last couple of years, it seems likely that the Patriots will task the new arrival with run-stopping duties alongside Donta’ Hightower although more will become clear on that front once he’s actually on the field.

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Darren Sproles quietly has had a special career

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The video of Darren Sproles running rings around opponents on a youth football field confirms he’s been performing at a high level for a very long time. It’s nevertheless easy to overlook the very high level at which Sproles has performed through his lengthy NFL career, in part because he’s the classic jack-of-all-football-trades.

How lengthy of a career has it been? Sproles entered the NFL in 2005, a year before Reggie Bush. And Sproles has been far closer to the all-around performer that Bush was supposed to be.

Consider this: Sproles currently ranks No. 8 on the all-time list of all-purpose yards, with 19,011. With only 572 this year, he’ll be in the top five, behind only Jerry Rice (23,546), Brian Mitchell (23,330), Walter Payton (21,803), and Emmitt Smith (21,564).

While it’s a lot easier to pile up yardage returning punts and kickoffs than it is to accumulate statistics from scrimmage, Sproles nevertheless has put his name above and among some of the all-time greats. That may never be enough to get him to Canton, but he’s got plenty of current and future Hall of Famers in his wake.

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Todd Gurley, Rams offensive line communicating better than in 2016

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Among the many things that went wrong for the Rams last season was running back Todd Gurley’s failure to build on his rookie season.

Gurley ran for 1,106 yards on 229 carries as a rookie, but dropped to 885 yards on 278 carries last year as the Rams went 4-12 in coach Jeff Fisher’s swan song. Gurley summed the year up as a “nightmare” and has spent the offseason working with his offensive linemen in hopes of producing better results in 2017.

Left guard Rodger Saffold said that the result of that work has been improved communication between Gurley and his blockers about what they are trying to do on each play.

“It’s more just kind of figuring out the speed out of the backfield that he needs,” Saffold said, via “Once you get that down, then you kind of see the mesh of what we’re trying to get done. He knows what we’re trying to do on the offensive line as far as front side and back side. So, he knows where the play is going. Inside, with our wide zones and our inside zones, I think he’s attacking where we want the ball to go a lot better. And I think he’s letting things develop, too. Letting things develop on the inside, but on the outside he’s really pushing that edge, and it’s opening up some things for him.”

Communication wasn’t the only issue up front, something the Rams made clear by signing left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan to fill starting roles on the line this season. If they can give Gurley more space to operate and Gurley can do more with that space, it would be a big help to Sean McVay’s hopes of improving the Rams’ fortunes in his first season as head coach.

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Theft and battery charges against Matt Elam dropped


Matt Elam’s in less trouble than he was previously, but he still doesn’t have a job.

According to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, grand theft and domestic battery charges against the former Ravens safety have been dropped. Court papers showed that there was a lack of evidence and an uncooperative victim, which kept prosecutors from pursuing the case.

Elam was arrested in May, and also faces charges of marijuana possession with the intent to sell or deliver and possession of hydrocodone from February. Those charges still stand.

That’s part of the reason the Ravens didn’t move to keep the former first-rounder. If any team did show interest, they’d do so knowing he’s still subject to punishment under the league’s personal conduct policy, even without a criminal conviction.

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Eric Decker gets $3.85 million for one year, plus possible incentives

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The fact that the initial reports of receiver Eric Decker’s deal with the Titans included no financial details created the distinct impression that it wasn’t a very good deal. Judged against those reduced expectations, it’s really not a horrible contract.

Via Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Decker received a signing bonus of $2.5 million and a base salary of $1.35 million. That’s a base deal of $3.85 million. Decker also can earn up to $1.5 million in incentives.

The structure makes the base value deal essentially guaranteed. With $2.5 million already paid to Decker, the Titans will be more likely to keep him for the full year at $1.35 million. (Without the signing bonus, the Titans could have decided at the end of the preseason to save the $3.85 million and to give the roster spot to someone else.)

The triggers for the incentives haven’t been disclosed, making it impossible to know how easy or hard it will be for Decker to get all or some of the extra money. It’s also not known whether and to what extent other teams offered Decker a contract.

Beyond the $1.5 million in incentives, Decker has clear motivation to have a big year and hit the market in March, when the available money is always better than it is in June.

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Patriots offered David Harris more than the Jets did

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The specific details of the contract to be signed by linebacker David Harris with the Patriots inevitably will come out. For now, they’re not.

But here’s what we know, per a source with knowledge of the situation: The Patriots offered Harris more than the Jets did on a reduced deal, before the Jets cut him.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was one of six coaches who spoke with Harris last week. Ultimately, he chose to visit the Patriots today. And he signed with them today. The contract already has been negotiated; this was simply a matter of confirming that Harris and the Patriots are a fit.

And they are. He’ll be their first true middle linebacker since Jerod Mayo, and he decided that he was only going to continue his career if he had a chance to win a Super Bowl.

Harris, we’re told, doesn’t need the money. He’s playing at this point for love of game and legacy. He’ll have a chance to add to it with the Patriots, and he’ll have two shots at the Jets along the way.

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David Harris signing with Patriots

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The Jets cut linebacker David Harris as part of their offseason purge of veterans from the roster, but it looks like they’ll still be seeing him twice during the 2017 season.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports and PFT has confirmed that Harris will sign a two-year contract with the Patriots after visiting with the team.

Harris turned 33 in January and isn’t playing at the same level he was when he helped the Jets to a playoff win in New England after the 2010 season, but he’s remained an effective player over the intervening years. He’ll join a linebacking corps that had room for some added depth before training camp and a team that has spent this offseason loading up on veteran additions as they try to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

That’s unlikely to elicit many smiles among Jets fans who are girding themselves for what looks like a long season in New Jersey, but such is life in the shadow of the Patriots these days.

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Spencer Ware emerging as a leader for the Chiefs

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Jamaal Charles is gone. So is Jeremy Maclin. Alex Smith may be, sooner than later.

So where will the leadership come from in Kansas City? One person ready to take the reins will be running back Spencer Ware.

“There’s a lot of responsibility as far as showing leadership out here on the field and off the field,” Ware recently said, via the team’s official website. “No pressure though. I go out there every day and work how I was when I was behind Marshawn [Lynch] in Seattle and how I did when I was behind Jamaal [Charles] when I came here. It’s the same mindset and the same work ethic, I’m just a little bit older and a little more mature.”

In Ware’s second season, he gained 921 yards in 14 regular-season games. The 25-year-old Cincinnati native enters his third season as the No. 1 option on the depth chart. Whether and to what extent Ware builds on his 2016 performance depends on the skills and abilities of Charcandrick West and rookie Kareem Hunt.

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