Six-hour PFT Live coming on Friday

PFT Live

For only the second time ever, PFT Live will expand on Friday to a six-hour extravaganza. The daily re-air will be replaced with a fresh three-hour show, which will ensure that the folks who listen to WEEI in Boston (and who won’t be hearing WEEI content on Friday) will have fresh content for the entire morning window.

Guests include Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, Jets quarterback Josh McCown, Peter King of SI.com, and Chris Simms.

The show airs on terrestrial stations throughout the country, and it streams on NBCSportsRadio.com and through the NBC Sports Radio app. Also, the full show appears daily in the form of the PFT Live podcast.

So tune in at any point between 6:00 a.m. and noon ET. Or at every point. We’ll be here, hard at work. (Translation: Sitting on our butts and talking.)

To tide you over, here’s a code for a free copy of Madden 18 on PS4: KH2C-B9NE-P26P. And one for Xbox One: MG634-P2TFG-D2PMW-72K63-YHRKZ. First come, first served.

A.Q. Shipley: Larry Fitzgerald is Cardinals’ heart and soul

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Cardinals center A.Q. Shipley was all but certain Larry Fitzgerald was retiring after Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians did the same. But Shipley was thrilled he was wrong.

“I think all of Arizona Cardinals nation, as well as myself and the rest of the guys on the team are super excited,” Shipley said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “We can now take a deep breath and know that he’s coming back. He’s the heart and soul of our team.”

Fitzgerald, 34, told new Cardinals coach Steve Wilks on Wednesday night that he is returning for 2018.

Arbitrator finds Bengals improperly placed A.J. McCarron on NFI

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The ruling from arbitrator Shyam Das that Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron represents the end of the road when it comes to McCarron’s effort to become an unrestricted free agent. As to the Bengals, it could be the beginning of a separate set of problems.

PFT has obtained a copy of the seven-page ruling in the case, which grants McCarron his freedom based on a finding that the Bengals improperly placed McCarron on the non-football injury list at the outset of the 2014 season.

The decision to keep McCarron on the NFI list to start the 2014 season came from Dr. Marc Galloway, who ultimately admitted that he kept McCarron on the NFI list not because Dr. Galloway believed McCarron couldn’t play football as of September 2014, but because Dr. Galloway “did not think it was in [McCarron’s] best long-term interest to play football in September.” Dr. Galloway admitted that, if McCarron had said he wants to play in September 2014, Galloway would have allowed him to play.

The arbitrator ultimately concluded that McCarron did not receive a medical examination before being placed on the NFI list, and that the evidence does not firmly establish that McCarron would have failed the exam. Indeed, by Dr. Galloway’s admission, McCarron would have passed it.

To put it simply and candidly, the Bengals stashed McCarron, a fifth-round rookie, behind starter Andy Dalton and veteran backup Jason Campbell. The next question becomes whether the Bengals will face any scrutiny for improperly utilizing the NFI list.

The broader question is whether and to what extent other teams are doing the same thing. The simple answers likely are “yes” and “plenty.”

Tre Boston wants team he fits in well, can win a Super Bowl

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Safety Tre Boston visited the Chargers, Bills and Steelers last May after the Panthers cut him. He signed a one-year deal with Los Angeles.

That means he hits free agency again in March, and this time, he is seeking a long-term deal.

“Of course, L.A. is definitely somewhere I would love to be, but it’s a business,” Boston said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “Everybody knows how that goes. I want to find somewhere that I fit in well, somewhere that we have a chance of going to the Super Bowl.”

Boston, 25, played 1,039 of 1,047 snaps in 2017, the most snaps of any of the team’s defenders. He tied for fifth in the NFL with five interceptions.

What will Washington do with Kirk Cousins?

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One of the Super Bowl Sunday splash reports suggested that Washington will consider using the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins, as part of a plan to try to trade him. Although no plan premised on the franchise tag or the transition tag makes sense for Washington, nothing stops them from considering it.

As one source with knowledge of the manner in which Washington president Bruce Allen does business put it, Allen will try to conjure up something in an effort to salvage value for Cousins and, in turn, make it harder for him to hit the open market and finally get the long-term contract he deserves. As another source put it regarding Washington, “They are in the pettiness game.”

The pettiness game could blow up in their face.

If Washington applies the franchise tag, it will enter the 2018 league year with $34.47 million in cap space devoted to Cousins. Unless and until Washington rescinds the franchise tender, Cousins will continue to burden the books with a bloated cap number. That will make it harder to do business, especially when it comes to pursuing free agents from other teams.

If Cousins signs the tender, he’s guaranteed to receive $34.47 million in 2018. Washington could trade him once the tender is signed, but who would trade for a guy who is under contract for only one year, at that price? Cousins would have to be willing to cooperate with the effort to negotiate a more favorable long-term deal, but why should he? He can pocket $34.47 million for 2018, and then he would definitely hit the open market in 2019.

And so if Cousins is tagged and he signs it, there’s a good chance Washington would be stuck with him. Since the tag window closes a week before the new league year begins, a decision by Cousins to sign the franchise tender before March 14 could, in theory, cause Washington to back out of the Alex Smith trade.

There’s also a chance that Washington would tag Cousins and, if he doesn’t sign it, rescind the tag later, after teams in search of veteran quarterbacks have signed who they want — and after the free-agency market softens. But as Washington demonstrated two years ago, even a late-April decision to remove the franchise tag won’t keep a great player from getting big money; that’s precisely what happened after the Panthers removed the franchise tender from cornerback Josh Norman, who quickly signed for market value in Washington.

The transition tag also is a possibility, at a lower one-year rate of $28.7 million. But with no right to compensation and only a right to match, Cousins could simply sign a long-term offer sheet after Washington consummates the Alex Smith trade on March 14. At that point, there’s no way Washington would opt to keep Cousins based on the terms of a long-term deal.

So Washington basically is stuck. That won’t stop Allen from trying to come up with a way out of the box. It also doesn’t mean Allen won’t opt for doing something stupid over doing nothing. Still, in this case, the best move continues to be allowing Cousins to leave, counting his departure toward the net gains and losses that will determine Washington’s compensatory draft picks in 2019.

Andrew Luck excited about Frank Reich’s plans for Colts’ offense

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Andrew Luck did not address his rehab in a video chat with the team website Thursday, but he did express excitement about Frank Reich’s plans for a “multiple, attack, up-tempo offense” that’s “going to be aggressive.”

That sounds great,” Luck said, via Colts.com. “I know all the best offenses that I’ve been a part of in my career we’ve not been static and we’ve attacked. And I’m sure he’ll have a great flavor and we’ll involve as many people as we can, and attacking defenses is what it’s all about.”

The Colts’ new head coach has worked with Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Nick Foles, and Reich served as Jim Kelly’s backup with the Bills.

“Going back to his playing days, he’s incredibly successful, and he’s been around some awesome quarterbacks,” Luck said. “And I hope I can learn from him and ask him how Peyton or Carson or Philip did it, and find the best way for me or for whatever Colt quarterback way that is. I hope I can give him the most that I can give, and that he can help me get out of me the most that’s there.”

Luck missed all of last season while recovering from shoulder surgery. He has not started throwing yet, General Manager Chris Ballard said last week.

Could AJ McCarron end up with the Browns after all?

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The Browns didn’t get AJ McCarron the first time they tried, botching a trade at the trade deadline. With McCarron now set to become a free agent March 14, the Browns are expected to have interest again, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

The Bengals quarterback said he is “going to be open to everything.”

But McCarron might have interest in the Browns considering his ties to Cleveland’s coaches. With Hue Jackson as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator, McCarron went 2-1 as the starter in place of the injured Andy Dalton in 2015.

Ken Zampese, the Browns’ new quarterbacks coach, was McCarron’s quarterbacks coach for two seasons and then his offensive coordinator in Cincinnati.

Plus, the Browns have the most cap room of any team at $110 million.

Report: Wealthy South Carolina businessman interested in Panthers

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Wealthy South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro is “actively exploring” a bid to buy the Panthers, the Charlotte Observer reports. Navarro could have the financial wherewithal to buy the team outright, according to the paper.

Navarro, a former Citigroup executive, is CEO of Sherman Financial Group, a Charleston-based debt collection firm.

He is the son of former college football coach Frank Navarro, who was the head coach at Williams, Columbia, Wabash and Princeton.

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced in December he was selling the team after a Sports Illustrated report accused him of sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.

AJ McCarron on impending free agency: We’re open to everything

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AJ McCarron got what he wanted, learning he will become a free agent March 14 when his lawyer uttered the two words he hoped to hear: You won. An independent arbitrator ruled in the quarterback’s favor in his grievance against the Bengals regarding their decision to place him on the non-football injury (NFI) list at the start of 2014.

“It’s just a blessing,” McCarron said, via Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I was going to be blessed either way because you’re still in the league; you’re still being able to play the game for a living. But it’s just awesome just to be free now and to hopefully get that opportunity and be able to compete somewhere. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. I’m just super excited. Just really excited that I get that opportunity now, and I just can’t wait to just showcase what I can do and show a team that I can lead a team and win ball games.”

The Bengals could apply a transition or franchise tag, but that seems unlikely. It’s more likely he becomes one of the more coveted quarterbacks on the free agent market, able to pick where he wants to go and have a chance to start.

“We’re going to be open to everything,” McCarron said. “I’m not the one — the people that know me and truly know me, and my family knows — it’s not about the money for me. I just love playing football. Making the money is great, but I just want to play. That’s what I grew up on. That’s what you’re raised on. Like here in the South, you’re raised to love football. It’s not about money. I just want to play. Whoever gives me an opportunity. I’m not going to chase the huge contract and be put in a situation that I might not be 100 percent comfortable with just because it’s a lot more money or whatever. I want to go somewhere where I can win and help the team win and we have a bright future together. I’m just super excited for this next chapter.”

Thursday’s PFT PM is posted

PFTPM

If you don’t get enough PFT Live in the morning (or if you simply don’t listen to it because you don’t like Stats), we give you the PFT PM podcast. It’s the end-of-the-day look at the developments since PFT Live signs off, sometimes taped before all developments for the day have developed.

For example, Thursday’s PFT PM podcast was recorded before Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron won his freedom via a grievance ruling. (We’ll discuss that one on Friday’s special six-hour edition of PFT Live.)

But the Thursday episode contains plenty of other stuff that will get you through the commute home from work or the commute to work or whatever you’re trying to get through while listening to something other than whoever it is you’d otherwise have to listen to if you didn’t have your earbuds in.

Gruden need not look far for the “geniuses” who restricted offseason schedule

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When he appeared last month on PFT Live, Raiders coach Jon Gruden said he’d deal with the NFL’s restrictive offseason workout rules by complaining about them. And complain about them he is.

The complaints derisively refer to the people who made the rules as “geniuses,” but he need not look very far to find them. He works for one of them.

The “geniuses” are the league’s owners. More specifically, the “geniuses” are the owners who negotiated the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In July of that year, as management and labor began to face the loss of significant revenue with the disappearance of preseason games, the NFL Players Association showed willingness to accept the financial terms on which ownership had been insisting for months. The players wanted a variety of terms that resulted in no expense, and the owners agreed. One after another, piece by piece, the league surrendered items like padded practices and offseason workout time in order to get the monetary arrangement the NFL coveted.

The coaches and other football personnel weren’t involved. When they learned of the changes, they weren’t happy. As one source put it at the time, the players secured everything but the right to have someone else play for them.

The coaches who have coached from 2011 through 2017 have had no choice but to deal with it, and Gruden has followed the game closely enough to know about it. But it’s now affecting him for the first time as a coach, and he doesn’t like it.

Other coaches who have made the adjustment to the restrictions aren’t shedding tears for Gruden. Sure, they’d all like to have more of anything/everything when it comes to access to players, but they’ve had no choice for seven full seasons but to make it work.

Gruden will have to make it work at least until the next CBA negotiation. Even then, the owners may not be willing to give up money in exchange for enhanced work time.

So Gruden can complain all he wants (and we like it when he does), but real change is possibly several years away, if it ever comes at all.

Bubba Ventrone, Alan Williams joining Colts’ staff

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The Colts have hired two more coaches. Ray “Bubba” Ventrone and Alan Williams are joining Frank Reich’s staff, Alex Marvez of the Sporting News reports.

Ventrone will coach the special teams, while Williams will become the secondary coach.

Ventrone has spent the past three seasons as the assistant special teams coach in New England, joining the Patriots after his 10-year NFL playing career ended.

Williams, who has 17 years of experience coaching in the NFL, was the Lions’ defensive backs/safeties coach the past four seasons. He was the Vikings’ defensive coordinator in 2012-13.

He previously coached the defensive backs in Indianapolis from 2002-11.

AJ McCarron set to be an unrestricted free agent

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Make room for AJ McCarron in the pool of free agent quarterbacks.

McCarron won a grievance filed against the Bengals on Thursday that credits him with an accrued season for 2014, which means he now has the four seasons needed for unrestricted free agency under his belt. McCarron objected to the Bengals putting him on the non-football injury list with a shoulder issue during his rookie year because he argued the injury came from his work with the team.

Unless the Bengals re-sign him or use a franchise tag, McCarron will now be a free agent when the new league year opens at 4 p.m. ET on March 14. The former seems unlikely for a player who is looking to start and the latter wouldn’t make much sense unless the Bengals are planning to move on without Andy Dalton.

McCarron was nearly traded to the Browns before the trading deadline last year. Given the second- and third-round picks they were to send to Cincinnati, they’re probably happy the deal didn’t go through after Thursday’s ruling.

They could pursue him again now that acquiring him would not cost any compensation in return. Vic Lombardi of Altitude Sports Network also said on PFT Live this week that the Broncos may be interested in McCarron as a free agent.

There are other teams in the market for a quarterback and McCarron figures to get looks from them as well now that the word has come down about his contract status.

Kevin Colbert on Ryan Shazier: “Never once has he said, ‘Why me?'”

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Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier shows up every day, rehabbing from his spine injury at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Never once has Shazier thrown a pity party, according to General Manager Kevin Colbert.

“Never once has he said ‘Why me?’ ” Colbert said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I know that’s an uplifting gesture for us and those who deal with him. He shows us everybody has problems, but he’s going to work to overcome his as we should ours.”

Shazier was seriously injured December 4 while making a tackle in Cincinnati, requiring spine stabilization surgery.

“Ryan works extremely hard at his rehab, so from a physical standpoint he’s continuing to work to overcome this injury,” Colbert said. “But what we’ve enabled him to do is also be part of the football part of it, because we think it’s important for him to still have that in front of him.

“. . . But the great thing about it is, Ryan does as much for us as we do for him, because of the way he works at this and the attitude that he has shown in his rehabilitation is really uplifting.”

Shazier is guaranteed his salary of $8.5 million in 2018, whether he plays or not, after signing his fifth-year option.

Colts hire Dave Borgonzi as linebackers coach

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The Colts have hired Dave Borgonzi as their linebackers coach, Field Yates of ESPN reports.

Borgonzi spent the past four seasons as the Buccaneers’ defensive quality control coach, but he has a previous tie with new Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. They worked together in Dallas when Eberflus was the linebackers coach and Borgonzi a coaching assistant.

Borgonzi spent two seasons with the Cowboys, his first working with the secondary and his second assisting with the offensive line.

He previously coached in the college ranks at Harvard (2008-10) and Syracuse (2006-07).