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Blandino explains use of chips in 2016

PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 29:  NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino attends the Super Bowl XLIX Football Operations Press Conference on January 29, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL will begin to more fully embrace technology this year, placing computer chips in footballs. On Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino explained how the chips will, and won’t, be used.

“This is something that the Competition Committee went through, and we’re going to use chips during the preseason in all of the footballs and then the Committee will review the data and then make a recommendation for using the footballs on Thursday nights [during the regular season] with chips in them,” Blandino said. “So that’s not set yet but based on the information we receive in the preseason they will make a recommendation one way or the other, and this is a part of our ‘Next Gen Stats’ platform. We’ll look at some things, if we can glean some information based on the distance of the football from the upright and as we study the distance between the uprights and potentially shortening that distance going forward.”

Apart from studying kick clearance with an eye toward possibly narrowing the goalposts, Blandino said the chips will have other uses.

“I think right now the focus is on statistics and miles per hour and location of the football,” Blandino said. “Obviously, if we know the location of the football then you start thinking about, well, the location in relation to the goal line.”

Could chip technology be used to determine whether, for example, a touchdown has been scored?

“That gets a little more complicated because you have a runner who part of his body is down and you have to know when the body part was down, the knee, the elbow, whatever it is,” Blandino said. “So I think that’s down the line but it’s an interesting concept and something that we’ll continue to explore.”

To hear the entire interview, check out the podcast at iTunes or audioBoom. And go ahead and subscribe to it, so you won’t have to go get each show when you want it.

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Santana Moss: Mark Brunell was my best QB in a decade in Washington

Washington Redskins v New York Giants Getty Images

Here’s how bad the quarterback situation in Washington was during Santana Moss’s 10 seasons with the team: He says a past-his-prime Mark Brunell was the best quarterback he played with.

Moss, a wide receiver who played in Washington from 2005 to 2014, said on CSN Mid Atlantic that Brunell was his best quarterback.

It may not be surprising that Moss feels that way, seeing as he had his best season in 2005, when Brunell was Washington’s quarterback. But it doesn’t speak well for the quality of the quarterbacks the franchise had that the top quarterback over the course of a decade was Brunell, who arrived in Washington at age 33 after the Jaguars sent him packing.

Moss ranked his Top 5 quarterbacks in Washington as follows:

1. Brunell

2. Donovan McNabb

3. Rex Grossman

4. Jason Campbell

5. Robert Griffin III

It would have been unthinkable a few years ago that RGIII would leave Washington with a legacy of “not as good as Rex Grossman and Jason Campbell,” but that’s what Moss thinks now.

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Bridgewater, Rudolph looking to build on strong ’15 finish

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 25: Kyle Rudolph #82 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates a second quarter touchdown with Teddy Bridgewater #5 while playing the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 25, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater helped with Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph’s annual youth camp this week, and Bridgewater and Rudolph planned to get in a workout of their own after at least one of the sessions.

The duo showed improved chemistry late last season, and with high expectations surrounding the Vikings in 2016, they’re focused on being even better.

Per ESPN’s Ben Goessling, 26 of Rudolph’s 49 receptions last season came over the season’s final seven games. Those 26 completions totaled 313 yards and two touchdowns.

Though Goessling wrote that a piece of advice from Vikings coach Mike Zimmer to Bridgewater to “just trust Kyle more” may have sparked their strong finish, Bridgewater said their improved rapport was about more than just looking Rudolph’s way more often.

“Kyle is a big target,” Bridgewater said. “He’s like a quarterback out there; he sees things the same way I see it. When we’re installing, he doesn’t just want to know his job. He wants to know [the job of] all 10 other players on the field. He wants to know the quarterback’s progression, things like that. It’s pretty cool to have a guy like that on the field on my side of the ball.”

Earlier this summer, Rudolph said he considers himself one of the NFL’s best tight ends even though his numbers don’t match those put up by the league’s top pass catchers at the position. This week, he said the extra work is part of making sure he’s ready if more passes keep coming his way.

“Obviously, I’d love to run around and catch balls like I did the second half of the year,” Rudolph said. “But if we’re not winning football games and I’m catching a ton of balls, it doesn’t do us any good. That being said, I do everything I can to make sure when that is my role, I can do it to the best of my ability.

“That’s why Teddy and I spend so much time together outside of practice, because the receivers, that’s what they do. They run around and catch balls, and do it all the time. For us, we have so much other stuff that we have to do, I kind of take that responsibility upon myself to make sure that we put the extra time in, so when that comes up in the game, we can take advantage of it.”

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Ezekiel Elliott has the top-selling jersey since April

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott during the team's rookie camp at Happy Valley in Irving, Texas, on Saturday, May 7, 2016. (Brandon Wade/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS) Getty Images

In late April, Ezekiel Elliott showed up for the draft wearing half of a dress shirt. Since then, the full-length version of his football shirt has sold better than any other through the NFL’s online shopping portal.

Via Randall Liu, the NFL’s director of NFC Football Communications, Elliott has the No. 1 jersey at NFLShop.com since April.

Elliott, the fourth overall pick in the draft, is expected to hit the ground running, hard and repeatedly. With the rushing attack diminished in 2015 following the departure of DeMarco Murray, Elliott creates an expectation that he’ll quickly become a star.

If he does, the jerseys will keep on selling.

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Nakumura suing insurer after suffering career-ending concussion

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Former Panthers and Ravens safety Haruki Nakamura has filed a lawsuit against Lloyd’s of London seeking $3 million in damages after a concussion suffered in a 2013 preseason game ended his NFL career.

The suit says that Nakamura can no longer play football and has also been unable to return to any kind of employment. Nakamura took out a $1 million insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London before the 2012 season and is seeking that plus damages and fees.

The suit was filed on Monday in North Carolina and was first reported by the New York Times.

Nakamura was placed on injured-reserve by the Panthers after suffering the concussion, then released with an injury settlement. The NFL retirement board ruled Nakamura “totally and permanently” disabled in 2015, according to the lawsuit, which also states that underwriters for Lloyd’s of London have denied Nakamura’s claim because he’s failed to show that the concussion “solely and independently” led to his permanent disability.

Nakamura played five NFL seasons, four with the Ravens and one with the Panthers before the injury.

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Sammy Watkins on Rex Ryan possibly being fired: “Sad”

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 06:  Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills makes a touchdown catch as Kevin Johnson #30 of the Houston Texans defends during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

At a time when many observers believe Bills coach Rex Ryan will lose his job if the team doesn’t make it to the playoffs in Rex’s second season, one of the players who will be central to the effort has an opinion regarding whether Ryan should pay for failure with his job.

“Honestly, I love Rex,” receiver Sammy Watkins said at his football camp on Tuesday, via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. “I love our whole coaching staff and organization. If anything would change, I would definitely be sad. I know what type of guys they are. They’re for the players; they’re for the team. They’re for winning. Nothing can just change like that. We have to change it as a whole, as a group, as an organization. It will be sad if somebody just got fired off of losses. And I know it’s a business, but that’s how things work.”

He knows how things work, but Watkins doesn’t seem to be willing to accept that it. Regardless the NFL is the ultimate zero-sum game. For every winner, there’s a loser. For every good team, there’s a bad team. (If I’m repeating terminology I’ve used before, do I need to credit myself?) And the bad teams try to become good teams by making changes within the organization.

“It’s really up to us,” Watkins said. “We can’t put anything on the coaches. The coaches do their job. They call the plays; they put us in the best situation. Now it’s time for the team and the leaders to take leadership. Practice hard, get off the field, take care of each other. Nutrition, sleep, film — all that stuff starts with the players and I think if we do the right things, if we handle our business like we should, we should be in a great situation.”

Still, it’s for the coaches to ensure that the players do that. If the coaches are doing it well, it will work. If they don’t, it won’t.

Then there’s the reality that the players are only as good as they are, and that if they’re just not good enough, whoever picked them becomes potentially accountable, too. That’s why both Ryan and G.M. Doug Whaley are regarded as being on the hot seat for 2016.

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Travis Kelce: If everyone’s on same page, offense will be at its peak

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 27:  Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after a touchdown with teammate Charcandrick West at Arrowhead Stadium during the second quarter of the game against the Cleveland Browns on December 27, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs won their final 10 regular season games in 2015 and then beat the Texans in the playoffs to run their winning streak to 11 games before their season ended with a loss to the Patriots.

During an appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn, tight end Travis Kelce said that the offense started firing on all cylinders during that turnaround from a 1-5 start came because they “really found out who our team was.”

“And as long as everybody’s on the same page — like when I see things on the field that [quarterback Alex Smith] sees, when [Jeremy] Maclin sees things on the field that he sees — that’s when we’re going to be at our peak, when everybody’s on the same page,” Kelce said. “It’s one of those things where you’ve just got to be able to feel out how the team responds to certain adversity and just come together when you need to.”

Running back Jamaal Charles wasn’t on the page at all for the Chiefs in the final 11 games of the season and his return to form could raise the Chiefs’ offensive peak even higher than it was last season. Should they reach it earlier than they did last year, their return to the postseason as AFC West champs wouldn’t be a major shock.

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Falcons waive James Stone with injury settlement

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Falcons dropped a player from their roster on Tuesday, leaving them at 88 players heading into training camp.

The team announced that they have waived center James Stone with an injury settlement. Stone tore his ACL last December and the timing of the move suggests the Falcons think he may not be ready to play by the start of the season.

Stone, who signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2014, started one game last season. He started nine games during his rookie season, but Atlanta hopes it won’t have to go with anyone other than Alex Mack in the middle of the offensive line after signing Mack as a free agent this offseason.

Mack is one of 15 offensive linemen left on the Falcons roster and that number could grow if the team decides to use their open roster spots to add one.

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Royce West calls Dez Bryant’s lawsuit “lies and frivolous”

Dez Bryant AP

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant filed a lawsuit against Texas state senator Royce West accusing West of working to “improperly line his own pockets and those of his business associates” by using Bryant’s name.

Bryant alleges that he’s owed more than $300,000 from West and his law firm and that David Wells, another former advisor, took more than $200,000 owed to the wideout. West responded to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram with a statement that suggests there’s more to come on the legal front.

“These allegation are lies and frivolous,” West said. “Mr. Bryant needs to take responsibility for the damage done to my house and not attempt to avert focus away from his actions by making incredulous accusations against me. I intend to file a defamation suit against Mr. Bryant and his attorney for these accusations.”

Bryant’s suit came after West, who was an advisor and attorney for Bryant in the past, filed a suit seeking at least $200,000 because of damage to a house he rented to Bryant. Bryant’s legal team asked for that lawsuit to be dismissed, citing the money they allege he took from Bryant as part of the reason why West is not entitled to damages.

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Scot McCloughan balances paying Kirk Cousins with having a winning team

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 10:  Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins embraces general manager Scot McCloughan after the Green Bay Packers defeated the Washington Redskins 35-18 during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at FedExField on January 10, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

In Washington, where the local NFL team is willing to pay quarterback Kirk Cousins $20 million for 2016 only but only $24 million on a long-term deal, the coming season will entail deciding whether Cousins deserves $24 million for 2017 (or a long-term deal with a lot more than $24 million guaranteed) or whether the team can find someone nearly as good but a lot cheaper.

Recently, G.M. Scot McCloughan addressed the predicament in an interview with Ty Schalter and Jason Cole of SiriusXM Bleacher Report Radio.

I want Kirk in a long-term deal, no doubt about it, but also I’m not gonna put our franchise in a situation where we’re gonna lose three or four younger guys that I think are gonna be good football players for one guy,” McCloughan said, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. “I won’t do it. You know, that’s just how it is.”

This explanation overlooks the reality that the team could have said plenty of 2016 cap space by extending Cousins’ deal. Currently, he counts for $19.95 million. A multi-year contract would have driven the cap number a lot lower. So the team could have had more flexibility this year, if Cousins had signed a long-term deal.

The broader issue isn’t the starting quarterback’s cap number now, but his cap number over the next several years.

“The quarterback position’s very, very important, but you know what, so is every other position,” McCloughan said. “We need football players. We need multiple football players, not one. . . . The thing about it is, the cap goes up every year, and the market’s the market. And especially the position Kirk plays, it’s pricey, but you pay for production. You get paid to win. I told Kirk, I told his agent, I tell all of our players: it’s not about the individual. It’s the sum of the parts. We have 53 guys on this roster.  We’re gonna have 46 playing on Sundays. It’s not about the one individual. Now, like I said, if you produce, as the Washington Redskins, we’ve got no problem paying you — depending on what the market is. But you’ve got to also realize it’s a team sport, it’s not an individual sport.”

That’s the goal for McCloughan; to balance out the cap dollars in a way that allows the overall team to be as effective as it can be. And if he’s confident (as he is) that he can find a comparable quarterback on a slotted four-year rookie deal that doesn’t chew up more than $20 million in cap space per year for the next five or six years, it makes good sense from the team’s perspective to keep that option, and to fully explore it.

For now, McCloughan had no choice. He didn’t want to risk exposing Cousins to the market, and no other quarterbacks were readily available. So he opted to pay a premium for one year of quarterback play — and to preserve the option to pay another one-year premium in 2017 or to make a major, long-term investment based on the quarterback market.

Clearly, McCloughan doesn’t want to do that. And his first objective is to persuade Cousins to not insist on it.

“When his career’s over, it’s gonna be, ‘OK did you win any division championships, did you win any Super Bowls, what’s your win-loss record,” McCloughan said. “No one’s gonna think 10 years from now. ‘OK, well he made $50 million, he made $60 million.’ They’re gonna be like. ‘Ok, did he win or not win?’ And that’s the thing that’s so important from my standpoint as the General Manager is putting the pieces around him to make sure he’s successful. And [if] we do that, then we’re fine going forward.”

McCloughan is, basically, trying to persuade Cousins to become the next Tom Brady, at least from the standpoint of his contractual expectations. McCloughan wants Cousins to intentionally take less than he could get by way of money in an effort to get more by way of team achievements.

Using the tag on Cousins gives McCloughan another year to sell that approach. If it doesn’t work, McCloughan remains confident he can find someone else.

He’s never going to say to a reporter or during a radio interview or a press conference that finding another quarterback is the fallback. But it’s the only logical next step if McCloughan can’t convince Cousins to ignore the market and the leverage that comes from the franchise tag and take a deal aimed at giving McCloughan maximum cap space to surround Cousins with talent on both sides of the ball.

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Roger Goodell makes rare Twitter appearance to pander to Annie Apple again

SUN VALLEY, ID - JULY 7: (L to R) Michael Ovitz, businessman and co-founder of Creative Arts Agency, and Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), attend the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 7, 2016 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Every July, some of the world's most wealthy and powerful businesspeople from the media, finance, technology and political spheres converge at the Sun Valley Resort for the exclusive weeklong conference. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) Getty Images

It appears commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL have found a potential face for Operation Mom.

And it wouldn’t be a stretch to think they’re trying to make sure they stay on her good side.

Goodell, who is not what you’d call an active Twitter user, just stepped out to pander to Annie Apple — the mother of Giants first-rounder Eli Apple, who is on the verge of becoming a star in her own right by virtue of her new job as an ESPN contributor.

The timing is practically impossible to miss. At a time when those within the sport feel like they’re under attack, using a movie premiere about one of the sport’s inspirational figures is no accident. It’s worth noting that one of Goodell’s other four tweets from the last 25 days was directed at Gleason’s wife Michel, and if you go past those four, the previous one was congratulating a female staffer for winning an award. It’s as if there’s a carefully planned strategy.

It’s also amusing to see Apple describe Goodell as “personable and hilarious,” two words rarely associated with him in his current post.

But Apple is also a potentially valuable ally for Goodell and the league, as her plain-spoken and protective charm were evident in the days leading up to the draft. She defended her son when he was criticized for not being able to cook, gently scolded him about the excess of expensive jewelry and warned about the danger of “thirsty girls.”

Having a strong mama-bear figure with enough media savvy to sell the message is invaluable to a league that is scrambling to make sure the mothers of their potential labor pool aren’t scared of the game.

It’s not the first time Goodell has reached out to her, sending her brownies after she tweeted about the lack of dessert in the green room.

But she’s already finding out what being attached to Goodell means, as the replies to his tweet seem to have alarmed her.

It will be interesting to watch the progress of her son’s career. Because at the moment, everything is good. But if the business of football ends up chewing him up and spitting him out — as it does many of its participants — she might not be so much of an advocate.

So reaching out now to give her an electronic hug — and thereby keeping her close — is probably a good idea for the NFL, and probably not an accident.

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Kamar Aiken caught passes from Joe Flacco, says he looks “the exact same”

Divisional Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots Getty Images

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said earlier this week that he expects to be on the field for the team’s first workouts in training camp after tearing his ACL last November.

That’s been the direction things have been pointing for some time, so it won’t be long before we have an idea about what effect the injury and time off have had on Flacco’s game. Wide receiver Kamar Aiken got a sneak preview recently when he caught some passes from the quarterback and says that there’s no sign that anything will be different upon Flacco’s return to work.

“He looks like regular Joe to me,” Aiken said, via the team’s website. “He came back in and looks the same — the exact same. … He definitely recovered mighty fast for anybody coming off an ACL, as far as not having any limp or lags. He did surprise me that he looked like his regular self. I didn’t expect it, but I wouldn’t put it past him at the same time.”

The Ravens are coming off their first losing season since 2007 and a lackluster passing game was among the reasons why things fizzled out for them last year. Getting Flacco and wide receiver Steve Smith back to full strength would be at the top of the list of reasons to believe things can be better this time around.

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Inside the David Amerson deal

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Wide receiver James Jones #89 of the Green Bay Packers bobbles and catches an eight yard pass against cornerback David Amerson #29 of the Oakland Raiders to set up his own 30-yard  touchdown in the third quarter on December 20, 2015 at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Packers won 30-20. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cut by Washington last year before landing in Oakland and thriving, cornerback David Amerson’s story became even more impressive when he signed a new five-year deal last week with the Raiders. As usual, the initial accounts of the numbers received by Amerson made the story seem a little better than it really is.

Described as a deal worth “as much as $38 million” with “nearly $18 million in guarantees,” here are the actual details, per a source with knowledge of the contract.

1. 2016 base salary of $1 million, fully guaranteed at signing.

2. $3 million roster bonus for 2016, fully guaranteed.

3. 2017 base salary of $6.5 million, guaranteed for injury at signing and the fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2017 league year.

4. $1.5 million roster bonus for 2017, fully guaranteed.

5. 2018 base salary of $5.5 million, guaranteed for injury at signing and the fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2018 league year.

6. 2019 base salary of $7 million, not guaranteed.

7. 2020 base salary of $7.38 million, not guaranteed.

8. $500,000 per year in workout bonuses, from 2017 through 2020. (Total available payout of $2 million.)

9. $500,000 per year in original-roster Pro Bowl escalators, 2017 through 2020. (Total available payout of $2 million.)

10. $500,000 per year in original-roster Pro Bowl incentives, 2016 through 2020. (Total available payout of $2.5 million.)

So here’s what it means. Amerson is guaranteed to receive $5.5 million at signing, with rolling injury-only guarantees of $12 million. That’s a total of $17.5 million in generally (not actually) guaranteed money at signing.

The deal itself has a maximum value of $38.38 million. But $4.5 million is tied directly to Amerson making it to the Pro Bowl on the original ballot in each of the next five years.

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Sammy Watkins on foot: “Right where I need to be” in rehab

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13:  Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates scoring a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins progressed to running recently in a step forward in his recovery from a stress fracture in his foot that required surgery earlier this offseason.

Watkins didn’t offer any update on when he expected to be cleared for football activities when he shared that video and his past updates didn’t create much certainty about his availability for training camp. Watkins held a football camp Tuesday and didn’t offer up any more specifics when he spoke to reporters about the timeline, but did say he was comfortable with the rate of progress in his rehab.

“I don’t know how much I’m gonna be doing or when I’m gonna be on the field, but I’m definitely going to be active and engaged,” Watkins said, via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. “I don’t know what the schedule is like with me being on the field competing-wise, but I’m right where I need to be at — feeling good, healthy. Nothing is bothering me. Just really prepare for whatever they do. I don’t know what the situation is, but if they throw me out there, I just want to be prepared if they do. That’s all I can do is prepare for it.”

Injuries have been Watkins’ biggest obstacle in his NFL career and the current one stands as an obstacle to time on the field with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, although the wideout says he and Taylor have something planned to make sure “we’re on the right page” when the season starts. Watkins also said that he’s prioritized working with the training staff in an effort to do whatever he can to stay healthy in the future, something that would be worth a great deal to the Bills if he can hit on the right formula.

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Cardinals kicking the tires on another corner, Chris Culliver

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 15: Cornerback Chris Culliver #29 of the Washington Redskins breaks up a pass intended for wide receiver Brandin Cooks #10 of the New Orleans Saints in the first half at FedExField on November 15, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Redskins won, 47-14. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals didn’t spend much time this offseason shoring up their secondary, but they’re looking at multiple additions there just before the start of training camp.

Shortly after signing former first-rounder Mike Jenkins, news emerged the Cardinals are bringing in Chris Culliver for a visit next week, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Jenkins spent the last two seasons with the Buccaneers, starting five games. The former Cowboys first-rounder figures to be a decent depth signing, but might not a challenge for a front-line spot.

Culliver, on the other hand, might.

He was cut this offseason after Washington signed Josh Norman and drafted Kendall Fuller, but it wasn’t that long ago he was a prime free agent. He was signed to a four-year, $32 million deal in 2015, and they were probably only willing to cut him a year into the deal because his guarantees voided with his one-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy.

Culliver’s also coming off his second torn ACL in three years, but when he’s well, he’s a solid cover player. The Cardinals let former starter Jerraud Powers walk in free agency, and he signed with the Ravens.

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