Jaguars extend all their key leaders

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The Jaguars celebrated the end of a long playoff drought by popping the top on the tarps. And now they’ve covered their team leadership.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the team has extended the contracts of executive Tom Coughlin, General Manager Dave Caldwell, and coach Doug Marrone.

It’s a swift reward for the group that led the team to an 10-6 record and a trip to the AFC Championship Game.

The Jaguars hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2007, and the difference in the team this year was noticeable.

While playing to keep their quarterback from being involved, the Jaguars were able to parlay a strong young defense and a power running game into success, and the change in leadership was clearly a key component to that.

UPDATE 2:11 p.m. ET: The team announced the deals as two-year extensions which carry them through 2021.

“The decision to extend the contracts of Tom, Dave and Doug isn’t so much a reward for last season, which no doubt was impressive, as it is to recognize their importance to our football team this coming season and for years to follow,” owner Shad Khan said in a statement.  “We’re past celebrating the accomplishments of our division title and playoff run, and now it’s time to take the next step.  We need the right leadership firmly in place to make that happen, and it’s good to know we’ll have that with Tom, Dave and Doug secure in their roles with the Jacksonville Jaguars.”

Report: Chiefs asked for Robert Quinn, expected to get picks for Marcus Peters

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Friday’s big headline is that the Chiefs are expected to send cornerback Marcus Peters to the Rams in a trade that can’t become official until the new league year starts on March 14.

The exact compensation heading back to Kansas City isn’t known at this point, but Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team is expected to get draft picks in return. At some point in their talks with the Rams, however, the Chiefs reportedly asked for a player in return.

Per Rapoport, that player was outside linebacker Robert Quinn and the Chiefs were also looking for a draft pick. Quinn had 8.5 sacks for the Rams last season and 62.5 for his career and his acquisition might have set up other offseason moves for an active Chiefs team that has already agreed to trade quarterback Alex Smith.

It appears that won’t be happening as part of a deal for Peters and we’ll likely find out what picks the Chiefs are planning to add to their draft stock fairly soon.

Bills owner Kim Pegula looks for “compromise” on activism from players

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Bills owner Kim Pegula said that she wanted to listen to players who want to use their platform to draw attention to social causes, as long as they realized the effects it can have on her bottom line.

Via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, Pegula said during a panel at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference that it was important for labor and management to have a clear understanding of each other’s goals.

“My own experience, I think a lot of it is just communication,” she said. “I know that’s easy to say. But I know that several of our players, when I actually talked to them and actually gave them a different perspective — just like they were trying to give us a different perspective — on the impact of the business and what the impact is of what they do socially, off the game, at home and then how that affects the business side. They didn’t grow up in the sports business world. They came in on the players’ side.

“So a lot of [Bills players] just didn’t understand or know the impact that it had on the business, the organization and the community – good or bad. So I do think there’s definitely an impact. I wouldn’t shy away from it at all. I think there is a common ground. I think a lot of it is more about communicating and learning from each other on both sides and coming to some type of a compromise at some point. Sometimes you won’t be able to come to a compromise. But something usually gets done when that happens.”

When President Donald Trump drew the attention of players last fall with his remarks about Colin Kaepernick, a group of about a dozen Bills players knelt during the national anthem the following week.

The Bills released a statement calling the President’s remarks “divisive and disrespectful” and said the team hoped to use them to “further unify our team.”

In the following weeks, fewer players knelt, as the league did everything it could to take some of the heat away from the issue.

Chiefs expected to trade Marcus Peters to Rams

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For the second time this offseason, the Chiefs are making a major trade.

The Rams and Chiefs are in the final stages of agreeing on a trade that would send cornerback Marcus Peters to Los Angeles, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Like the Chiefs’ other major trade, sending Alex Smith to Washington, the Peters deal can’t become official until the start of the league year next month. Teams can agree to trades before then, but either side can back out before the trade is official.

Peters is a talented cornerback, but the team was getting sick of his antics. He was suspended for one game last year, and talk heated up this offseason that the Chiefs were done with him.

Peters was the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick in 2015. He’s set to make $1.7 million this season, and the Rams will presumably pick up his fifth-year option for 2019 as well. If his head is on straight, the Rams just acquired a significant addition to their secondary, one who will allow them to let free agent-to-be Trumaine Johnson walk.

Jaguars cut three others along with Chris Ivory

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Running back Chris Ivory‘s departure from the Jaguars roster was the big news out of Jacksonville on Friday, but he wasn’t the only player dropped by the team.

The Jaguars also announced that they are parting ways with running back I'Tavius Mathers, wide receiver Larry Pinkard and defensive back Jarrod Harper.

Mathers signed with the Jags as an undrafted free agent last year, but landed on injured reserve in August after a training camp injury that led him to take a trip to the hospital. Mike Kaye of First Coast News reports that Mathers has been cleared medically and hopes to continue playing.

Pinkard had one catch for five yards in four appearances with the Jaguars last season. Harper landed on injured reserve after suffering a concussion in a preseason game.

Vontae Davis continuing free agent tour in Miami

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Free agent cornerback Vontae Davis said earlier this week that he was “heading home to reflect” after visiting with four teams to discuss coming aboard for the 2018 season.

That reflection has apparently been put on pause for a moment because Davis isn’t done making visits. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Davis is meeting with the Dolphins on Friday.

Davis has history with the franchise. The Dolphins drafted Davis in the first round of the 2009 draft and he spent three seasons with Miami before being traded to the Colts in August 2012. That trade played out as one of the most memorable moments of the Dolphins’ run on Hard Knocks.

The Dolphins had Xavien Howard, Cordrea Tankersley and Bobby McCain as their top three cornerbacks in 2017 and all three are under contract for the 2018 season. They also have Tony Lippett returning from a torn Achilles.

Davis also visited with the Bills, Browns, Raiders and 49ers before announcing his intent to reflect on his conversations.

Jaguars cut Chris Ivory

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After two years in Jacksonville, Chris Ivory is out.

The Jaguars have released Ivory today.

Ivory showed a lot of promise early in his career with the Saints and became a 1,000-yard rusher in 2015 with the Jets, but after signing with the Jaguars in 2016 he never became their starter and averaged less than four yards a carry in both of his seasons with the team.

Now Ivory hits free agency. He turns 30 next month, and running backs on the wrong side of 30 rarely get big money, but he’ll probably land with some team seeking veteran depth in the backfield.

Trevor Siemian on teammates recruiting Kirk Cousins: Part of the deal

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The early days of the offseason have featured plenty of pitches by Broncos players to impending free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins about coming to play in Denver.

One Broncos player who has not been heard telling Cousins why he should join the squad is Trevor Siemian. That makes sense given Siemian’s two years as Denver’s starter and the fact that he remains under contract for the 2018 season, but Siemian told Mike Klis of KUSA that reaching out to Cousins also makes sense to him.

“It’s understandable,” Siemian said. “We won five games last year. In this league playing quarterback, you’re judged on wins and losses. I get it. It’s part of the deal. I just wish I would have done some things differently. It would have been nice to play a little better and get us a few more wins. But I’ll look back and I’ll learn from it and be better for it.”

There was a report this week that the Broncos are expected to shop Siemian in a trade and the quarterback didn’t have any comment on that possibility. A change of address might not result in an immediate crack at a starting job, but it might increase the chances of getting another one in the future with the Broncos clearly looking for someone else to lead their offense.

Cowboys finalize staff by hiring Giants strength coach

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The Cowboys brought someone in from a division rival to complete their coaching staff.

According to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, the Cowboys have hired Markus Paul as their strength and conditioning coach.

He’s been with the Giants since 2007, and previously worked for the Jets, Patriots, and Saints.

A former fourth-round pick from Syracuse, Paul played four years in the league with the Bears and Buccaneers.

Report: Martellus Bennett wants to keep playing

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In October, tight end Martellus Bennett said that he was “pretty sure” that the 2017 season would be his final one as an active player in the NFL.

Bennett is apparently less sure that’s the case now that the season has come to an end. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Bennett wants to continue playing in 2018.

Bennett was playing for the Packers when he mused about retiring, but his stay in Green Bay ended a short time later when the Packers cut him with a failure to disclose injury designation. Bennett had a shoulder injury and said that he needed surgery that the Packers didn’t want him to have, which made his departure from the team a contentious one. That didn’t stop the Patriots from bringing him back to New England, but he only played two games before landing on injured reserve.

Bennett is under contract for next season with a salary of $3.6 million and has a $2 million roster bonus due on March 14. The Patriots can recoup his entire $6.187 million cap hit if they release him, although any decision on that front will likely involve thoughts about both Bennett’s health and Rob Gronkowski‘s decision about continuing his career.

Report: Steelers listening to trade options for Martavis Bryant

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During the regular season, Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant indicated he wanted to be traded, but the team was adamant that he was going nowhere. That may no longer be the case.

The Steelers are now listening to potential deals for Bryant, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

Bryant has undeniable talent and burst onto the scene as one of the best big-play threats in the NFL in his first two seasons, in 2014 and 2015. But he was suspended for the entire 2016 season for multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy, and in 2017 he wasn’t as effective a player and got benched for a week when he griped about his role.

Bryant is under contract for 2018 at a base salary of just $705,000, so he’s a potential bargain if his head and his heart are in it. But if he’s an unhappy camper it’s also easy to see why the Steelers would be eager to get rid of him.

Raiders have to make a decision on Marshawn by March 18

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Unable to talk directly to his players due to the rules of the labor deal, Raiders coach Jon Gruden has been sending plenty of messages to them through the media. When it comes to tailback Marshawn Lynch, Gruden wants him to be all in, all the time.

Gruden also likely wants to see how Lynch reacts to aggressive coaching. Gruden, who had never met Lynch before getting the job because he had always declined to meet with Gruden prior to Monday Night Football games involving his teams, surely knows Lynch’s reputation for being somewhat difficult to handle. Gruden also knows that, unless a running back will be taking over an offense and winning games singlehandedly, it makes more sense to find one that can be a complementary player without being a headache.

That’s why it won’t be a surprise if the Raiders decide within the next three weeks to move on from Marshawn. His contract has a $1 million roster bonus that comes due on March 18.

Not cutting him before March 18 won’t mean that Lynch will definitely be on the Week One roster. The Raiders may decide that they’re willing to pay Lynch the $1 million in order to continue the evaluation.

If he’s on the roster hen the season starts, Lynch will get a base salary of $4 million, along with $46,875 for every game during which he’s a member of the active roster. He can also earn a $250,000 workout bonus.

That’s a total payout of $5.25 million. Unless Gruden believes he’ll be getting $5.25 million in value from Lynch, it makes sense to move on.

Last year, Lynch served an important purpose, smoothing local feathers that had been ruffled by the news of an eventual relocation to Las Vegas. This year, Gruden fills that role. The question now becomes whether the Raiders believe it makes more sense to have someone else fill the role of primary running back.

Raiders and 49ers coin flip will be next Friday

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In addition to the 40-yard dashes and the 225-pound bench presses, next week’s Scouting Combine will feature a far less physically demanding test that will still impact the 2018 NFL Draft.

Via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, the coin flip for the ninth and 10th draft positions will be held next Friday.

The Raiders and 49ers finished with identical 6-10 records and strength of schedule numbers (which is the tiebreaker for draft order), so a league official will toss a coin with their logos on either side. The winner picks first in the first round, but they’ll alternate in following rounds.

The full draft order can be seen here.

Vance Joseph on cutting veterans: If they’re best fit, they’ll be here

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The Broncos rank around the middle of the pack when it comes to cap space for the 2018 offseason and there’s been a lot of talk about moves they could make to create more space to help with their pursuit of quarterback Kirk Cousins or other free agents.

Running back C.J. Anderson, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, cornerback Aqib Talib, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and defensive end Derek Wolfe are some of the names that have been bandied about as potential cap casualties, but the Broncos haven’t tipped their hands to this point about which players will be leaving Denver.

That didn’t change when coach Vance Joseph addressed the potential departures on Thursday. Joseph didn’t talk about any players in particular, saying only that he had faith that General Manager John Elway will make the right calls.

“It’s our goal to keep all of our good players, but obviously it’s a business where every year you have to do a self-evaluation of what’s best for our football team,” Joseph said, via the Denver Post. “If those guys are the best fit for our football them, then they’ll be here. Doing what’s best for the Broncos, it’s John’s job and John is going to do a great job at that. We want every player that can help us win football games here. But it’s also a business side that we have to consider.”

One issue with any cuts the Broncos might make is how they would play into their ability to sell themselves as a top destination for free agents. Cousins would likely want to have Sanders and Thomas on hand to catch his passes, for example, taking a step back defensively could mitigate any gains Denver makes on the other side of the ball.

That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t happen, but it does underscore the difficulty of some decisions the Broncos have to make in the coming weeks.

Byron Leftwich is a coach without any players at the moment

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Depending on how you look at it, Byron Leftwich has one of the best or one of the worst jobs in the NFL at the moment.

The Cardinals quarterbacks coach has no quarterbacks on the roster, which means he’s helping look for a few.

Via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Leftwich admitted it was an unusual situation, saying: “I don’t how often that happens.”

The Cardinals are without retiring Carson Palmer and the rest of the depth chart (Blaine Gabbert, Drew Stanton, and Matt Barkley) is hitting unrestricted free agency.

“Is it a little different not knowing the four guys who are going to be in there? Yes,” Leftwich said. “But whatever four guys are in there, I know they’re going to come in ready to work and I’m going to come in ready to teach.”

Leftwich, a former NFL quarterback himself, was one of the assistants new boss Steve Wilks kept from the staff of Bruce Arians. Arians identified Leftwich (whom he coached in Pittsburgh) as a rising star in the coaching business, and he’ll have his work cut out for him this year.

The Cardinals are expected to investigate every avenue to find quarterbacks, plural, saying they’re open to trades, free agency and the draft.

“We’re going to get someone in that room, and Byron is going to do a great job of coaching and mentoring,” Wilks said.

But at the moment, he just has no idea who that will be.