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.

Albert Wilson not sure if Chiefs want him back

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When Patrick Mahomes made his first and only start at quarterback for the Chiefs during the 2017 season, he showed a particular affinity for throwing the ball to wide receiver Albert Wilson.

Wilson set season-highs with 10 catches for 147 yards in the 27-24 win over the Broncos, but it remains to be seen if Mahomes and Wilson will get more chances to work together in the future. Wilson is set for free agency next month and he said during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he doesn’t know what the Chiefs are planning to do.

“Kansas City knows what I can do,” Wilson said. “We’ve built a good relationship over the years. Not sure if they want me back but I showed what I can do on the field.”

Wilson had the most productive of his four years with the Chiefs in 2017 and finished with 42 catches, 554 yards and three touchdowns while appearing in 13 games. Tyreek Hill, Demarcus Robinson and Chris Conley remain under contract at receiver for the Chiefs for 2018.

Jake Fisher cleared after surgery to deal with irregular heartbeat

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Bengals tackle Jake Fisher ended last season on the non-football illness list when he was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat that required him to have a corrective surgical procedure.

It’s been over three months since that procedure and Fisher has now been medically cleared to resume his football career. For now, that means stepping his offseason workouts back up to the regular level.

“I’ve been working with lighter ones, but now I’m back to off-season workouts,” Fisher said, via the team’s website. “You have to be conscious of it. You have to monitor it. But you still have to live life. You can’t let it cripple you in any way.”

Fisher started seven of the Bengals’ first eight games at right tackle last season and should be in the mix for that job again this year. The Bengals have already signed ex-Giant Bobby Hart and are expected to make other moves to shore up an offensive line that underperformed last season.

Former Giants personnel man: Eli Manning “can’t play forever”

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Davis Webb might be trying to convince the Giants they already have a quarterback of the future, but the guy who scouted Webb suggested it would be hard for his former team to ignore a quarterback with the second overall pick in this year’s draft.

Former Giants vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross — who was fired in December after the team brought back Dave Gettleman as General Manager — appeared on ESPN yesterday and pointed out something that’s fairly obvious, saying Eli Manning “can’t play forever.”

While he tried to avoid discussing last year’s awkward benching of Manning by former coach Ben McAdoo, that situation was part of McAdoo and G.M. Jerry Reese becoming former Giants employees, something he was swept up in.

“He’s a two-time Super Bowl MVP, his pictures are all throughout the building, everybody loves the guy. We saw what happened last year when it didn’t go his way,” Ross said of Manning’s emotional reaction to the move. “And it’s gonna at some point have to happen again. Now how will it be handled the next time? But he can’t play forever. So we’ll see what happens next time.”

He distanced himself from the Manning decision, and honestly he wasn’t in a position to have anything to do with it, but it’s clear they have a big decision to make soon.

“I was on the road scouting at the time, so I’m not talking about it. I’m gonna leave that one alone,” Ross said. “But I think it was something that had been talked about and discussed, and in hindsight it could have been handled differently; some people say it could have, some people said maybe not. It happened, Eli’s still a major presence there, . . . and they just have to decide going forward what to do with that situation.”

What they do with the second pick will reveal that plan, and set the timetable for Manning’s future.

Blake Bortles could be a bird in the hand for Jaguars

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The specific quirks of the NFL’s offseason schedule give the Jaguars a unique opportunity as the 2018 league year approaches.

The fifth-year option gives quarterback Blake Bortles a salary of $19 million for 2018. It becomes fully guaranteed on March 14, the first day of the league year. The two-day negotiating period that precedes the launch of free agency, which also begins on March 14, gives the Jaguars an opportunity to reach an agreement in principle with another quarterback while having Bortles on board as a fallback option.

Then, if/when an agreement in principle is reached with a very-soon-to-be free-agent quarterback, the Jaguars can cut Bortles, avoiding his $19 million salary.

This strategy has two potential glitches. First, Bortles’ salary currently is guaranteed for injury only. If Bortles (who had wrist surgery not long after the team’s playoff run ended) can’t pass a physical by March 14, he can’t be cut.

Second, the quarterback with whom they reach an agreement in principle can renege without consequence, refusing to sign the contract after the Jaguars have torn up Bortles’ deal.

Still, with a Bortles in the hand, the Jaguars have a chance to chase a Cousins or a McCarron or even a Brees in the bush. It’s a dynamic that the Jaguars can use to their advantage — or that can blow up in their faces.

Kamerion Wimbley’s restaurants seized for tax issue

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A former NFL player has lost his lunch, or at least the place where he sold lunches.

According to Denise Neil of the Wichita Eagle, former linebacker Kamerion Wimbley’s two Wings & Things restaurants were seized by the Kansas Department of Revenue for non-payment of taxes.

The stores were closed and padlocked after warrants were executed for nonpayment of state sales tax and withholding taxes in the amount of $82,329.50.

“We are currently looking into the matter and fully anticipate being back up and running in the near future,” Wimbley said.

The former Browns first-round pick owns several businesses in the Wichita area, where he grew up. He now lives in Florida.

Wimbley also played for the Titans and Raiders in his nine-year NFL career.

Report: Ex-Bear Charles Tillman is now an FBI agent

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Former Bears cornerback Charles Tillman isn’t taking it easy in retirement.

Tillman has become an FBI agent, Sporting News reports. The FBI would not confirm the report.

Although he surely doesn’t need the money — Tillman made tens of millions of dollars in his NFL career — he likely sees this as an opportunity to serve his country. Tillman’s father was in the Army, and during his playing career Tillman worked with organizations that support members of the military.

Tillman was the Bears’ second-round draft pick in 2003 and played for them for 12 years. He then played one final year for the Panthers in 2015. He was a two-time Pro Bowler, once a first-team All-Pro, three times was given the Brian Piccolo Award as the player who best exemplifies the values of the Bears organization, and in 2013 was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year.

Tillman began the intense training to become an FBI agent last year, and he qualified just in time: The FBI does not accept new agents after their 37th birthdays, and Tillman’s 37th birthday is today.

Report: Colts hiring Bobby Johnson as assistant offensive line coach

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The Indianapolis Colts are hiring Bobby Johnson to serve as their assistant offensive line coach, according to Alex Marvez of the Sporting News.

Johnson spent the last three seasons as tight ends coach for the Oakland Raiders on Jack Del Rio’s coaching staff. He was also interviewed for the Raiders’ head coaching job as the team attempted to satisfy the Rooney Rule. Johnson will assist Dave DeGuglielmo in coaching the Colts’ offensive line.

Johnson spent two seasons as tight ends coach and assistant offensive line coach with the Detroit Lions, a year as tight ends coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars and two seasons as an assistant offensive line coach with the Buffalo Bills. Prior to his time in the NFL, Johnson five years at Indiana, six years at Miami (Ohio) and four years at Akron.

Stephen Jones continues to express uncertainty regarding Dez Bryant’s future in Dallas

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Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said he expects wide receiver Dez Bryant to be back with the team next season. His son, Stephen, seems far less married to that idea.

Stephen Jones, the team’s executive V.P. and CEO, has been critical of Bryant in certain instances this offseason. He noted that Bryant needs to understand his demeanor can have a negative effect on his teammates and called some of his emotional outbursts a “distraction.” Stephen stayed on message when discussing Bryant on Thursday night.

No one wants to compete and get after it more than Dez,” Jones said, via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. “At the same time, we all know this is a business where everyone had to be accountable…We’re going to be grinding it out trying to understand what is in our best interests of our business.”

From a business standpoint, moving on from Bryant could easily be the prudent decision. His production in 2017 wouldn’t seem to justify a $12.5 million salary this fall, particularly when Dallas would save $8.5 million against the salary cap in releasing him. However, Jerry still gets to call the shots and if he wants Bryant on the team, he’ll be on the team.

Stephen hasn’t come close to be as certain as his father regarding Bryant’s future in Dallas. Maybe he’ll be able to sway Jerry’s thoughts like he did with Johnny Manziel several years ago in the draft. For now, it sees as though the Jones brain trust continued to have mixed ideas about Bryant’s future with the Cowboys.

Jameis Winston uninjured in car wreck

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Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston escaped uninjured after recently being involved in a car wreck, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Winston, 24, was driving in Tampa on February 13 when his Ford truck rear-ended a car, via the paper. The accident caused damage to both vehicles, including an estimated $4,000 to the car Winston hit.

But no one was injured in the wreck.

Winston faces a $153 fine after being cited for careless driving.

Bucs won’t tender Adarius Glanton, Jude Adjei-Barimah

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The Buccaneers have five restricted free agents. The Bucs have notified two of them, linebacker Adarius Glanton and defensive back Jude Adjei-Barimah, that they will not receive a tender, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Both will become unrestricted free agents next month.

Glanton broke a leg in the season finale. He should return to full health by April.

Adjei-Barimah missed all of last season recovering from knee surgery. He started seven games as a rookie in 2015 and one game in 2016, playing 23 in his first two seasons.