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PFT Live: Patriots talk with Tom Curran, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Bill Belichick AP

We’re inching ever closer to the draft, which kicks off three weeks from today with the first round from New York City.

The Patriots won’t be selecting until late in the first round, assuming, of course, that they don’t trade out of the 29th spot. Tom Curran of CSN New England will join Mike Florio on Thursday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss the possibility of Bill Belichick doing that and what the Patriots might do if they wind up staying put in the spot they earned with their latest AFC East title.

Florio will ask the questions during that segment, but he’ll also be answering questions about the Patriots, the draft or anything else on your mind right now. PFT Planet can send their questions in via Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or by giving a call to 888-237-5269 during the show. 

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Stephen Ross likely to be once again shutout by Florida legislature

Ross Getty Images

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has been having a hard time in the Florida legislature.

Last year, his effort to procure legislation that would allow Miami-Dade County residents to vote on a potential tax increase for stadium renovations died in the Sunshine State’s lawmaking body.  This year, Ross submitted an anti-bullying bill.  As explained by Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, it’s headed for the same fate.

The Dolphins don’t seem to be as upset about this year’s developments as they were last year, when the team claimed that Speaker of the House Will Weatherford reneged on a promise to bring the stadium proposal to the floor for a vote.

“There were some concerns that were raised to us about some aspects of the implementation,” Dolphins lobbyist Ron Book said.  “By the time we reworked it, time had just really run out.  With all the meaningful changes in law, it sometimes takes more than one year to get there. In this case, it was exactly that situation.”

The bill incorporated suggestions from researchers at NYU aimed at stopping bullying.  Ross championed the cause in the wake of the 2013 bullying scandal that rocked the franchise and the rest of the NFL.

As to the stadium situation, Ross has decided to proceed on his own.  As to the bullying proposal, there’s no viable alternative to patience.

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Falcons bringing Anthony Barr in for a visit

Anthony Barr AP

Depending on who drafts him, Anthony Barr figures to play multiple roles.

So it makes sense that a defense that won’t commit to any one style is looking closely at the UCLA linebacker.

According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Barr will visit the Falcons next Tuesday.

Barr’s most natural fit is as a 3-4 outside linebacker, and he’s shown enough in his two-year conversion from running back (23.5 sacks) to suggest he’ll be good at it as a pro. But on a recent trip to Dallas, he said they viewed him as a 4-3 defensive end.

Either way, the moves the Falcons have made this offseason suggest a lean toward more 3-4 looks under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, with the early additions of Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson the strongest hints. But they insist they aren’t necessarily a 3-4 defense, for whatever reason.

Barr’s ability to rush the passer will suit him wherever he lands, and the Falcons clearly need someone who can do that from any angle.

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T.J. Ward: We’re trying to be one of the best defenses in the world

T.J. Ward AP

On Wednesday, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said that the team needed to reestablish its identity for the 2014 season after shuffling their roster in the wake of their Super Bowl loss against the Seahawks.

One of those new arrivals has a suggestion of what that new identity should look like. Safety T.J. Ward said that everybody on the defensive side of the ball is looking to “make a statement from point go, from the first preseason game” so that opponents no longer go into games against Denver worried only about the Manning-led offense.

“As good as the Broncos offense was last year, you see what happens when you get put up against a stout defense and an offense that can pretty much manage and make some plays here and there,” Ward said, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today. “We’re sending a message right now that we’re coming in not only trying to be one of the top offenses in the league, but one of the top defenses in the world and get that Super Bowl ring.”

The additions of Ward, defensive end DeMarcus Ware and cornerback Aqib Talib were designed to make the Broncos defense a more formidable unit in the coming season and a healthy return for linebacker Von Miller is another reason to think that better days are ahead on that side of the ball. Whether that changes the identity of the team from the offense-centric one of 2013 remains to be seen, but it should make the Broncos a more balanced team when they next take the field.

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Jairus Byrd looks forward to getting inside Rob Ryan’s head

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Getty Images

Jairus Byrd joined the Saints for several reasons, including the fact they paid him a lot of money.

But the former Bills safety said he was looking forward to bringing his ability to create turnovers to the creative defenses of coordinator Rob Ryan.

“To have that ability with an offense that’s gonna put up points and a stingy defense like that and exotic in the way Coach Ryan calls things, it’s unorthodox, it’s gonna keep people guessing,” Byrd said, via Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. “That combination right there was enough.”

His conversations with Ryan have been limited about his role so far, but Byrd said he could tell it’s going to be exciting.

“Yeah, definitely,” Byrd said. “Look, he has some stuff in his head that he’s gonna get out one way or the other.”

Putting Byrd next to last year’s first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro should allow Ryan to get even more creative, as he has two established playmakers in the back of his defense.

Along with a unit that outperformed every expectation a year ago, that gives Byrd plenty to look forward to.

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Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham scheduled for visits with Jets

Odell Beckham Jr. AP

The Jets have added running back Chris Johnson and wide receiver Eric Decker to the team this offseason, but few expect that they’re done addressing the offensive skill positions.

The Jets will add some fuel to that school of thought next week when they host wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Odell Beckham for pre-draft visits. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that both players will spend time with the team.

Cooks has been on the Jets’ radar for some time as offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg checked out his pro day at Oregon State last month. The Jets were thought to be very interested in wide receiver Tavon Austin last season and Cooks, the fastest wideout at the combine, would offer them some of the same skills.

The same is true of Beckham, who is a bit bigger than Cooks but still under six feet. Beckham was also a standout returner at LSU, which would broaden his potential contributions to the team beyond playing opposite Decker in the team’s offense. Throw in USC’s Marqise Lee and there are three receivers cut from a similar cloth that the Jets will be considering for the next few weeks.

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Chris Cooley, Santana Moss rave about a healthy RG3

Robert Griffin III AP

Last year, Robert Griffin III never looked like he was 100 percent back from reconstructive knee surgery. This year, people who have seen Griffin working out say he looks as good as ever.

Washington receiver Santana Moss told ESPN that now that Griffin is running without a brace on his knee, he’s running like his old self.

“He looks more comfortable, because he don’t have to worry about that brace,” Moss said, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. “I think the brace was the big discomfort last year. You know, he’s a young guy with those fiery legs that want to do so much, and that brace probably gave him a little pinch in the behind, because he couldn’t do the things that he was normally accustomed to doing. You can already see, when we’re out there in conditioning and stuff, he’s running around, looking like the old Robert Griffin.”

Chris Cooley, who played with Griffin in 2012 and now works as one of the team’s radio commentators, said on ESPN 980 that he worked out with Griffin recently and was amazed by what he saw.

“It’s unbelievable,” Cooley said. “He’s another person right now. I was like, ‘you’re running unbelievably well.’ It was silly to watch. . . . When you watch him run, you’re like ‘You’re a freak. You’re seriously a freak.’”

For all the talk last year of Griffin being ready for Week One, the reality is that just because Griffin was healthy enough to play at the start of the 2013 season, that doesn’t mean he was healthy enough to do everything he had done as a rookie. This year, from all indications, he will be.

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Lions may want Rams to make the first move

Clowney Getty Images

It’s no secret that the Lions have interest in receiver Sammy Watkins.  Either they’ve been sloppy in concealing their desire to draft Watkins or they’re setting up a smokescreen.

Or maybe they want their interest to be known so that a team with a top-five pick will make the first move in possible trade talks.

The latter possibility gained some momentum on Wednesday, when the Lions brought defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to town for a visit.  The chances of Clowney still being on the board at No. 10 are even slimmer than the possibility of Watkins still lingering after nine picks are made.

Maybe the Lions aren’t being discreet about their desire to move up because they want the Rams to pick up the phone and make the first move.  Two years after the Rams finagled the No. 6 overall pick, two more first-round selections, and a second-round pick for the No. 2 spot in the draft, the Lions likely are leery about giving up as much, or maybe more.

The Rams seem to realize that the RGIII haul was based more on the player and less on the slot.  The Lions, if they would be happy with either Clowney or Watkins, may simply want to move to the No. 2 slot, regardless of which player is after the No. 1 selection has been made.

Speaking of the No. 1 selection, there’s a chance the Texans could try to trade down and draft a quarterback lower than No. 1.  Unless another team emerges as a clear contender to move up, the Lions could play the Texans against the Rams to get a better deal for the No. 1 or No. 2 pick.

Regardless, it’s clear the Lions want to move up.  The question becomes how much it will cost.  The cost could be less if the Lions aren’t the ones to make the first move.  It’ll cost even less if the Lions can get two teams to bid against each other.

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Could linebacker issues nudge Niners to a 4-3?

Willis Getty Images

As the 49ers continue to explore their options for linebacker Aldon Smith, the possibility that he won’t be available for part or all of 2014 coupled with the likelihood linebacker NaVorro Bowman won’t be available for roughly half the season raises an interesting question.

Should the 49ers switch from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3?

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee delves into the question.  He points out that, with Bowman and Smith out of action, the defensive line becomes more of a strength.  Which in turn suggests that more of them should be on the field more often.

Patrick Willis would move to the middle, and Ahmad Brooks would play on the outside.  The 49ers then would have to find another starting outside linebacker.

As Barrows points out, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio always has used the 3-4 defense.  So it would be a dramatic shift for Fangio.

But good coaching entails taking the players a guy has and coming up with the best possible schemes.  If, given the torn ACL suffered in January by Bowman and the ongoing off-field struggles of Smith, the linebackers are worse and the defensive line is better, the better scheme could be a 4-3.

The draft could change that, of course.  For now, it’s a question worth at least exploring.

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Jadeveon Clowney to visit Falcons next week

Jadeveon Clowney AP

Back in February, Jadeveon Clowney said that he would love it if the Falcons traded up from the sixth pick to select him in May’s draft.

He’ll have the chance to make the case in person next week. Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports that Clowney will visit with the Falcons as Atlanta tries to find defensive players who can help jolt their unit back to life after a subpar 2013 season.

The Falcons are meeting with several other players who could help on that front, which is probably a good thing because their chances of landing Clowney may not be great. Plenty of people think he’ll be off the board when the Texans hand in their top selection and neither they nor the Rams, who pick second, may be willing to pass up a chance at landing a player widely regarded as the most talented player in this year’s draft.

That leaves Atlanta to try to pay the heavy price it will take to get those teams to change their mind or move in a different direction come May 8. With tackles Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews on the radar as well as their defensive needs, the Falcons should be able to fill a hole even if Clowney’s desire to wind up in Atlanta winds up unfulfilled.

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Falcons going to Auburn to see Greg Robinson

2014 NFL Combine Getty Images

As it stands, the Falcons have the sixth pick in the draft, though at this point, everyone is conditioned to expect them to move up.

Their need for impact is such on both lines, that they’re making sure they know the top players on the board, just in case.

According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, they’re going to Auburn today to meet with tackle Greg Robinson.

Since it’s on-campus. they can work him out, instead of the meet-and-greet that happens at a team facility.

Robinson’s athleticism would make the Falcons offense instantly better, as protecting Matt Ryan has been a challenge at times for them in the past. That would allow them to move Sam Baker either to right tackle or guard, upgrading another spot that needs it.

But it would also be a mild surprise if Robinson lasted until the time the Falcons pick, hence the constant speculation about them moving up.

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Bills stadium sessions could be subject to open meetings law

Bills Getty Images

As the powers-that-be in Western New York begin the process of potentially identifying a solution to the Buffalo Bills’ stadium needs, one politician insists that the public deserves a seat at the table.  Or at least a spot in the room.

Per the Buffalo News, New York Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns believes the state’s Open Meetings Law applies to the sessions.

Those opposed to open meetings cite the importance of discretion and strategy.

“We’ll be dealing with potential sites for a stadium, and don’t want to forecast that because it could lead to land speculation and possibly hike prices,” Deputy County Executive Richard M. Tobe told the Buffalo News.

Kearns nevertheless plans to introduce legislation aimed at ensuring the meetings are open.  If he’s right that the law already contemplates that the meetings will be open, he wouldn’t need new legislation; he’d merely need a lawyer.

Regardless, it’s another twist for a process that could go a long way toward determining whether the Bills wind up in a new city.  The local urgency could be enough to ensure that, one way or another, the meetings will proceed in secrecy so that a plan can be formed and executed in the most efficient and effective way possible.

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Brian Orakpo still hoping for long-term deal

Brian Orakpo AP

Linebacker Brian Orakpo stands to make $11.45 million for the 2014 season after signing the franchise tag the Redskins used on him this offseason, but he’s still hoping that he’ll wind up signing another deal with the team before July 15.

That’s the deadline to sign a multi-year deal and Orakpo said Wednesday that remains his goal for the offseason. While speaking to Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com, Orakpo indicated that talks General Manager Bruce Allen on such a deal are moving slowly while reiterating his desire.

“We’ll see. I can’t speak for Bruce and whoever’s in charge from that standpoint,” Orakpo said. “Absolutely I want something done long term, but everything will come into play eventually. I’m here right now, I don’t want to be a distraction.”

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said earlier this offseason that the team wouldn’t mind letting Orakpo play out the tag and then revisit his future after the season, so there may not be much for Orakpo to do to convince the Redskins to change course before the middle of July. If that’s the case, 2014 will be a second straight 16-game audition for the linebacker.

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Troy Aikman remains concerned about Tony Romo’s back

aikmanromo AP

When Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo suffered a back injury at the end of the 2013 season, former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said Romo’s bad back should concern the Cowboys. From all indications, Romo has made good progress in recovery. But Aikman remains concerned anyway.

Aikman told the Cowboys’ website that he doesn’t think a quarterback really knows if his back is strong enough to withstand the pounding of playing in the NFL until the season starts. Aikman knows that first hand, having had back surgery in his own NFL career.

“I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he’s at least afforded more time to get ready,” Aikman said. “But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned. I’m hopeful that he’s able to come back – everybody is. This team won’t be the same if he’s not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, ‘Hey, he’s ahead of schedule and everything’s going fine,’ I’m not sure how you can really measure that here in April.”

Aikman retired when he was 34, and Romo will turn 34 on Monday. Aikman has said his back injury played a significant role in forcing him to retire. The Cowboys still hope Romo has several good years left in him. But it’s easy to see why Aikman wonders just how healthy a 34-year-old quarterback coming off two back surgeries will be.

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Taylor Mays working way back from shoulder dislocation and labrum tear

Joique Bell, Taylor Mays AP

The Cincinnati Bengals lost safety Taylor Mays for the season when he suffered a torn labrum and dislocated shoulder last October.

Mays dislocated his shoulder when attempting to tackle Bilal Powell in a game against the New York Jets. According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, the shoulder dislocation tore Mays’ labrum in two places and it took 90 minutes to get put the shoulder back into its socket.

Mays had begun to find a role in the Cincinnati defense as a linebacker in the Bengals’ nickel package before the injury. Instead, his season ended and set forth a lengthy rehabilitation process.

“The hardest part was I tore it where the biceps tendon attaches, so in my rehab process, they were like, ‘No, you can’t do bicep curls,’” Mays said. “As a guy with meathead tendencies, not being able to do bicep curls – that was rough.”

The Bengals re-signed Mays to a one-year deal in March. Mays says he expects to participate in the team’s offseason program which kicks off next week. He estimates the shoulder is close to 90 percent healed, which should put on pace to be back to full strength by the start of training camp in July.

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