Aaron Rodgers buys stake in Milwaukee Bucks

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When the inevitable comparisons happen in July between no-name NBA players who make millions more as free agents than star players in the NFL, one star player in the NFL will have a unique perspective on the issue.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has become one of the owners of one of the teams that will be giving those huge contracts to mid-level pro basketball players. Specifically, Rodgers has become a minority owner of the Milwaukee Bucks.

“I have proudly called Wisconsin my home for the past 13 years, and I am thankful for the friendships and the opportunities I have been given to live and play here,” Rodgers in a statement released by the Bucks, via ESPN.com. “I am excited and honored to deepen my connection to the region by joining Wes Edens, Marc Lasry, Jamie Dinan, Mike Fascitelli and the ownership group of the Milwaukee Bucks. As a huge fan of the NBA and the sport of basketball, this is a dream come true for me, and I look forward to furthering my affinity for Wisconsin sports as a minority owner in a team I love and support.”

At a time when friction reportedly has emerged between Rodgers and Wisconsin’s only NFL team, his decision to buy a piece of Wisconsin’s only NBA team coupled with a statement in which he reconfirms his commitment to Wisconsin makes it clear that, if he ever leaves the Packers, it won’t be his decision.

The comments also could get more Packers fans behind Rodgers in the slowly-simmering back-and-forth that ultimately flows from the team’s failure to address a contract that has Rodgers woefully underpaid in comparison to other quarterbacks — specifically in his own division, where Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins makes $28 million per year and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford earns $27 million annually. Rodgers, at $22 million per year, has accomplished more than both of them, combined.

Indeed, Cousins and Stafford have combined for zero career postseason wins.

While this transaction likely won’t be the catalyst for Rodgers getting the $30 million per year that he deserves, it’s definitely a factor to consider at a time when player and team occupy an awkward posture as he enters the final years of his career. If he ends up finishing that career elsewhere, he’s doing what he can to make it very difficult for any Packers fans to blame him for it.

Report: Chuck Pagano will serve as NFL consultant

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Chuck Pagano will return to the NFL this season, but he won’t be on the sideline.

Pagano will take the fall off from coaching, instead working for the league as a consultant during the 2018 season, Troy Renck of Denver7 reports.

Pagano’s father, Sam, was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame earlier this week. Peyton Manning also earned induction in the Class of 2018.

The Colts fired Chuck Pagano as head coach after six seasons. Thirteen other Colts’ coaches found jobs in the NFL or a collegiate program, according to Andrew Walker of the team website.

Report: Giants not “currently” interested in Dez Bryant

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Dez Bryant has worked out with Odell Beckham this week and has expressed a desire to play for the Giants. But it takes two to do a deal, and the Giants don’t seem interested.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Giants “are not at this point in time vying for his services.”

The only report of a team interested in Bryant has been the Ravens.

Bryant has not had a 1,000-yard season since 2014 and his last 100-yard game came November 13, 2016, giving him a 23-game streak without one.

Report: Giants trade Riley Dixon for conditional seventh-round pick

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The Broncos have found a trade partner for Riley Dixon after all.

Denver began shopping Dixon after signing Marquette King in free agency. The Broncos found a taker in the Giants, who traded a conditional seventh-round pick for the punter, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports.

The Giants have searched for a veteran punter since releasing Brad Wing in March.

Dixon has stayed away from the team’s offseason workouts as the Broncos tried to find him a new home. Denver made him a seventh-round pick in 2016.

Dixon, 24, averaged 45.6 yards per punt last season with a 40.2-yard net. He had 23 punts downed inside the 20, three touchbacks and allowed one touchdown return.

In his rookie season of 2016, Dixon averaged 45.7 yards per punt with a 41.3-yard net. He had 28 punts downed inside the 20 and six touchbacks.

Chiefs expect to improve their defense in the draft

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The Chiefs aren’t making a big secret of what they want to do in next week’s draft.

“I don’t think as an evaluator, as a personnel member, you’re ever happy with your team unless you win a Super Bowl,” Veach said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, “so we’re going to look to improve the defense. We’re going to look to make changes.”

The Chiefs traded cornerback Marcus Peters but got Kendall Fuller in the Alex Smith trade. They signed inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens and nose tackle Xavier Williams in free agency.

But Kansas City remains in need of depth at cornerback and in the defensive line.

The Chiefs don’t draft until the 54th overall pick, but since taking over for John Dorsey last summer, Veach has proved aggressive in his approach. He has made several deals, including sending Smith to Washington and Peters to the Rams.

Veach said his aggressive approach is “just kind of who I am.”

Thus, the Chiefs will have their eyes and ears open during the three-day draft, ready and willing to deal.

“I think all cards are on the table,” Veach said. “If there’s that guy who we thought was a top-10 pick, and he’s there at 28, we have to be a least prepared and we have to have dialogue throughout this process. That’s why we have to start calling teams now and letting them know that we’re always open for business.”

Ahman Green avoids jail time in plea agreement

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Former NFL running back Ahman Green avoided jail time with a plea agreement that dismissed a felony child-abuse charge, the Associated Press reports.

Green, 41, pleaded no contest to criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct. He received 18 months probation, per the AP.

The Brown County (Wisconsin) Sheriff’s Office arrested Green last June after he was accused of striking his daughter in the head. In a statement, Green said he entered the plea to spare his daughter the emotional trauma of trial.

Green played 12 NFL seasons, including eight with the Packers. He remains Green Bay’s career rushing leader with 8,322 yards. Green also played with Houston and Seattle.

Bears cut Mekale McKay, sign Nicholas Williams

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The Bears waived receiver Mekale McKay and signed defensive end Nicholas Williams on Friday.

Williams, 28, has not played in the NFL since 2016 when he played in five games with the Chiefs and five games with the Dolphins. In three seasons, he has appeared in 21 games.

McKay, 24, spent the last two weeks of the 2017 season on the Bears’ practice squad. He has never played in an NFL game.

He originally signed with the Colts as undrafted free agent in 2016. Indianapolis waived him out of the preseason, and he spent a few weeks on the Jaguars’ practice squad. McKay also has spent time with the Broncos and Titans.

Baker Mayfield in his documentary: I want to go No. 1 overall

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Baker Mayfield has had a camera crew documenting his journey since the Rose Bowl loss to Georgia. He began working out with hopes of being the top choice in the 2018 draft.

That’s how the first 8-minute installment of “Behind Baker,” an online documentary series chronicling his life, ends.

“You’ve got to have fun with it, but I’ve got to keep my head on straight at the same time, addressing the people who say I have off-the-field issues,” Mayfield said. “This is a moment I’ve been dreaming of for so long. I’m finally here. I want to go No. 1 overall.”

Most of the first installment is spent at various Super Bowl events, with Mayfield running into Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and being interviewed by Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.

“I’m a 22-year-old kid from Austin, Texas, that walked on to two places and I’m meeting some of the most influential people in the world right now. What is going on?” Mayfield said.

The Heisman Trophy winner also bumps into Kirk Cousins, who had not yet decided to sign with the Vikings.

“I wanted to look at Kirk Cousins and say, ‘You know, I have a few places that I don’t want you to go so you don’t take my spot,'” Mayfield says to the camera.

David Johnson, Josh Allen, and more on Friday’s PFT PM

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A week after seriously considering pulling the plug on the PFT PM podcast, the show has completed the goal of five episodes in five days. We saved the best for last.

Joining the show Friday are Cardinals running back David Johnson and former Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, who is destined to be one of the top picks in the draft.

There’s plenty more content, including answers to the always-excellent questions from the ever-growing #PFTPMPosse.

Check it out below, or wherever podcasts can be found. Subscribe, rate, review, lather, rinse, repeat.

Eagles strike new deal with Nick Foles

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One of the questions heading into the offseason was whether the Eagles would consider trading quarterback Nick Foles, but no one hit the “high price tag” the team said it would take to move the reigning Super Bowl MVP.

While a trade didn’t materialize, a revised contract with the Eagles has come to fruition. Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports that the team has reached a new deal with Foles that includes a mutual option for the 2019 season.

Garafolo’s colleague Ian Rapoport reports that the revised contract includes a $2 million signing bonus and millions more in incentives that Foles could reach if he finds himself back in the starting job this year. Garafolo adds that the Eagles don’t foresee that happening and believe Carson Wentz will be good to go for the regular season, but Foles now gets more money off of last year’s work and a better chance to cash in come 2019 as a starter somewhere in the league.

Foles’ original contract with the Eagles called for him to make $11 million over two years with three voidable years tacked on for salary cap purposes. Those years were set to void as long as Foles was on the roster in February 2019.

Raiders have had talks with Amari Cooper’s agent

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Raiders G.M. Reggie McKenzie didn’t want to talk about anything other than the draft when he met the media today, but he did allow that he’s had some contact with wide receiver Amari Cooper.

McKenzie was asked whether he will pick up the fifth-year option on Cooper’s contract, and although McKenzie didn’t directly answer, he did indicate that there have been early talks about a new contract.

“We’ve been in contact with his agent,” McKenzie said. “I don’t want to put anything out there, don’t want to put the cart before the horse so to speak, but we like Amari.”

It should go without saying that the Raiders will pick up Cooper’s fifth-year option for 2019, but they’d surely like to get an extension done before then. Cooper already has 2,903 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns in three seasons with the Raiders, and he’s still only 23 years old. He’s a building block for the Raiders, one they’ll want around for a long time.

Report: Shaq Barrett will sign restricted tender with Broncos on Monday

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Outside linebacker Shaq Barrett will sign his restricted free agent tender Monday, Troy Renck of Denver7 reports.

The Broncos placed a second-round tender worth $2.19 million on Barrett.

Only Barrett, Falcons cornerback Ricardo Allen, Chargers receiver Tyrell Williams and Chiefs defensive end Rakeem Nunez-Roches have yet to sign their restricted tenders, via NFLTradeRumors. Broncos center Matt Paradis signed his restricted tender Friday.

Barrett, 25, originally joined the Broncos as an undrafted free agent out of Colorado State in 2014. He bounced between the team’s practice squad and active roster his first season but did not play in a regular-season game.

He has played in all 16 games over the past three seasons, making 109 tackles and 11 sacks.

Jaguars don’t see any glaring needs with draft approaching

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The Jaguars hold the 29th overall pick in this year’s draft and it might take them a moment or too to get used to those surroundings.

It’s the first time that the team has been drafting outside of the Top 10 since the 2007 season, which represents the major change in circumstances that took place in 2017. The Jaguars went 10-6, won the AFC South and advanced to the conference title game to break a long run as one of the league’s worst teams.

General Manager Dave Caldwell said at a Friday press conference that the team’s “process stays the same” despite their new neighborhood, but he did identify one big difference from past years when rookies were expected to step right into the lineup.

“[The media has] been around us where we didn’t have guys to line up with at this point of the year,” Caldwell said, via the Florida Times-Union. “Our first year here, we had to draft rookies and start them. Now we can take the best player available. We have needs, don’t get me wrong, but we don’t have a glaring need.”

The lack of a glaring need creates several paths that the Jaguars could take next week in terms of both positions to target and trades to entertain while they’re on the board. Making the right decisions about which ones to take should help the Jaguars improve their chances of staying at the bottom end of the first round a while longer.

Mike Mayock doesn’t see an Andrew Luck or Carson Wentz among this QB class

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This quarterback class has gotten much attention with at least five expected to go in the first round, including four in the top 10 and possibly even the top five. But NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock is among those not completely sold on any of them.

“It’s really interesting because I think people were so anticipating this class that it surprises people when we start to kind of pick our way through them and really grind the tape,” Mayock said on a conference call, via quotes distributed by NFL Media. “To put it in perspective, the two easiest quarterback evaluations I’ve had in the last eight or 10 years are Andrew Luck and Carson Wentz, and that’s because everything checked off both on the film and all the intangibles. Those two guys walked and talked like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, et cetera. I don’t see anybody in this class that I get the same gut feel for as those two.”

Mayock has USC’s Sam Darnold as his top quarterback; he calls UCLA’s Josh Rosen the “most natural thrower” among this year’s prospects; and he rates Lamar Jackson as “the most exciting athlete in the draft.”

“I think somebody in the first round is going to make a philosophical and schematic commitment to this kid [Jackson] and change what they do offensively,” Mayock said. “And it might not be this year where he makes a significant move, but I think long term, I can’t wait to see what Lamar Jackson becomes.”

Can teams win without a “franchise” quarterback?

No one would consider three of the four quarterbacks in the championship round last season “franchise quarterbacks.” But one of them, Nick Foles, won Super Bowl MVP honors over Tom Brady.

“So the ‘franchise’ quarterback situation is riveting, especially when you kind of look at Case Keenum goes to an NFC Championship game. Blake Bortles, although he was a top-10 pick, was not considered a high-level franchise quarterback, and he goes to the AFC Championship game, and Nick Foles wins a Super Bowl with the Eagles,” Mayock said. “Is that an aberration or a trend?

“Those quarterback conversations I’ve had with most of the league over the last month, and trust me, it’s really been fascinating.”

Panthers tight end Kent Taylor suspended for PED test

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It’s Friday afternoon, which means it’s suspension time.

The latest is Panthers reserve tight end Kent Taylor, who will be ineligible for the first four regular season games because of a violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Of course, that would require Taylor making the regular season roster, which doesn’t seem particularly likely.

He spent a few weeks on their practice squad in December and was signed to a futures deal in January. He can still participate in all the offseason activities and preseason games.

Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis was recently suspended four games as well. People have heard of him.