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Cowboys reach long-term deal with Tyron Smith

Tyron Smith AP

Now that the seal was broken by Patrick Peterson, maybe we’re about to see many more deals for 2011 first-rounders.

The Cowboys have announced they’ve reached a long-term extension with left tackle Tyron Smith.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is calling it an eight-year, $98 million deal, which qualifies it as a mega-deal. With what he had left on his rookie deal, he’ll make nearly $110 million through 2023, per Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com.

Of course, the details of this one will be telling, as always.

What’s clear is the Cowboys have made a priority in recent years of drafting to bolster their offensive line, and now that they have a quality one, they’re going to hang onto it.

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Bills’ linebacker Nigel Bradham suspended for opening game

Bradham Getty Images

With linebacker Kiko Alonso lost for the 2014 season due to a torn ACL, Nigel Bradham has elevated to the top of the depth chart.  But someone other than Bradham will be playing weakside linebacker for the Bills against the Bears on September 7.

The NFL has announced that Bradham has been suspended for the first game of the 2014 regular season for violating the substance-abuse policy.

The suspension most likely arises from Bradham’s August 2013 arrest for marijuana possession, since a one-game suspension is the standard punishment for that offense.

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Pete Carroll urges rugby-style tackling in instructional video

petecarroll AP

The NFL’s emphasis on tackling with the shoulders, instead of the head, isn’t just about player safety. According to the coach of the best defense in football, it’s also the most effective way to bring a ball carrier down.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has released an instructional video showing the way his coaching staff teaches tackling.

“Our tackling system features shoulder tackling and a renewed emphasis on taking the head out of tackling. We’ve found our style to be successful in the NFL and in college, and we believe it can be employed at all levels,” Carroll said.

Carroll pointed to rugby — in which players don’t wear helmets — as the sport with the best tackling techniques.

“We have found that we can practice and drill our tackling without pads or a helmet,” Carroll said. “This system of tackling was recently inspired by those who play rugby around the world. Rugby players have truly taken the head out of the game and truly exemplify shoulder tackling.”

If the techniques used in rugby are safer than the techniques in football, that raises a question: Did all of the additional equipment given to football players through the years, supposedly for player safety, actually make the American style of football less safe than it would be if, like rugby, it had eschewed protective equipment through the years?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell probably isn’t going to propose doing away with the helmet any time soon, but he does like what Carroll is preaching.

“Coach Carroll sent me the video and I thought it was terrific,” Goodell said. “It’s a great thing for our game to have the head coach of the Super Bowl champs teaching tackling techniques that protect the head and making it available to everyone. I hope players, coaches and parents at all levels of the game take the time to watch it.”

Carroll says in the video that “We are a shoulder-tackling team.” Goodell wants the NFL to have 32 shoulder-tackling teams.

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Commissioner will meet the media this weekend in Canton

Goodell AP

Much has been made about the apparent unwillingness of Commissioner Roger Goodell to answer questions about the controversial decision to suspend Ravens running back Ray Rice only two games for knocking out his then-fiancée (now wife) in an elevator in February.  Earlier this week, the league office dispatched Adolpho Birch to answer questions, and the consensus is that it didn’t go well.

But while Goodell has yet to address the situation with the press, that will end this weekend in Canton.

“The Commissioner meets with the media during the [Hall of Fame] weekend and will do so again this year,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy tells PFT.

It’s safe to say the first question from the assembled media members will relate to Ray Rice.  And perhaps the second.  And perhaps the third.

It’s also safe to say that it will be difficult for Goodell to say or do anything that will change the near-unanimous belief that a league known for getting it right in most situations has gotten this one incredibly wrong.

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Seahawks G.M. on Lynch holdout: “Next man up”

Lynch AP

The Marshawn Lynch holdout continues.  And the team continues to create the impression that it’s not worried by his absence.

Even if it is.

Asked on Tuesday by ESPN’s John Clayton whether the team is concerned about the situation, G.M. John Schneider reiterated the team’s philosophy when answering whether the team is concerned.

You know, no,” Schneider said, via the Seattle Times.  “Everybody loves Beast Mode.  We love him and respect the guy. I think what he’s done in this community, for this franchise, is outstanding.  It’s one of those deals where you can never get inside somebody’s head.  We’re just going with our plan, and I know it’s cliché-ish but next man up.  We’ve had a plan in place here for a number of years, and we can’t veer from that plan for one person because it’s the ultimate team sport.”

The plan, as Schneider explained it, is premised on making “tough decisions.”

“You make models two and three years out, and you have to stick to that and know that there’s going to be tough decisions along the way,” Schneider told Clayton.  “We had to let guys like Red Bryant go, Chris Clemons, we weren’t able to sign Breno [Giacomini], Golden Tate.  You have to be able to make those decisions along the way knowing you’ll be able to re-sign Michael Bennett and maybe there’s a free agent that comes in and fits in your bracket. It’s just one of those deals where you have to keep going about your business, and you can’t veer off of that.

“Around here we talk about what’s next, and the next person is up. That being said, last year we went through this with Brandon Browner. He had his [injury], and [Byron Maxwell] got his opportunity. Hey, Marshawn Lynch is phenomenal. Phenomenal player and just a unique part of what we’ve had going on here.  Two years ago we were able to redo his deal, and he was a big part of that foundation that we started here.”

Schneider’s explanation hints at the point of Lynch’s holdout.  A year from now, he may be one of those “tough decisions” the team has to make, when he’s closing in on 30 and he’s due to count $9 million against the cap and Christine Michael or Robert Turbin are ready to take over.  Currently, Lynch continues to be the bell cow.  Which means it’s his last, best chance to extract more money from the franchise.

None of it really matters for now.  Sure, Lynch is racking up $30,000 per day in fines, and his $1.5 million signing bonus allocation is now partially at risk.  But the Seahawks would surely waive all fines and penalties immediately if it gets Lynch back before Week One, especially since he otherwise would be used sparingly in practice and in preseason games before Week One.

That’s why the holdout really isn’t a holdout yet, because Lynch isn’t missing much.  Last year, he had five carries in the entire preseason.  The year before, also five.  In 2011, a whopping six.

This one won’t really register until Labor Day, when the Seahawks are roughly 72 hours away from raising their first-ever championship banner and launching the effort to win a second one.  If Lynch isn’t in the fold come Tuesday morning September 2, it could take more than a bad call on a last-play Hail Mary to emerge from Opening Night with a 1-0 record.

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Report: Initial Bills bid tops $1 billion

Pegula Getty Images

On Tuesday, the deadline came and went for making a non-binding indication of interest in buying the Bills.  And one of the potential buyers who expressed interest reportedly is willing to pay a lot of money for the privilege of doing so.

According to Josh Kosman and Lois Weiss of the New York Post, Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula already has offered more than $1 billion for the franchise.  If that’s the opener from just one of the interested buyers, the sale is destined to eclipse the record $1.1 billion paid by Stephen Ross to purchase the Dolphins.

In June, Pegula raised $1.75 billion in cash via the sale of 75,000 acres of natural gas leases in West Virginia and Ohio.

Via WGRZ-TV, other initial bids were submitted by Donald Trump and Jon Bon Jovi’s Toronto-based group.  Via the Buffalo News, Business First reporter James Fink said on WBEN radio that former Sabres owner Tom Golisano reportedly did not make an offer.

Trump, who has talked about buying the Bills in the same way he has talked about running for President, recently told FOX News that he doesn’t expect to actually win the bidding.

“I would say the chances are very, very unlikely,” Trump said.  “Because I’m not going to do something totally stupid — maybe just a little bit stupid, but not totally stupid.”

The making of a 10-figure bid by Pegula should help ensure that the team will go to someone who would keep the franchise in Buffalo.  Unless, of course, Bon Jovi and company make a Steve Ballmer-style bid, putting $2 billion or more on the table for the team.

If that’s the case, Andre Reed’s “F–k Bon Jovi!” message could be revised by the folks selling the team to say, “F–k!  Bon Jovi!”

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Oakland mayor says “continued progress” being made with the Raiders

raiders1 Getty Images

If Raiders owner Mark Davis flirted with San Antonio to get the attention of Oakland, it worked.

After news broke of Davis visiting Texas recently for a tour of potential stadium sites (and after Davis acknowledged it via messages posted on the team’s Twitter feed), Oakland mayor Jean Quan took to Twitter to address the effort to placate — and keep — both the Raiders and A’s over the long haul.

“Oakland is working to help build new ballparks for both the Raiders and the A’s, and we’re seeing progress on both fronts,” Quan said.  “We are making continued progress at the table with the Raider and the world’s third-largest real estate firm talking about Coliseum City.  The 10-year lease extension for the A’s includes a commitment from the teams’ owners to sit down to talk building a new Oakland ballpark.”

In June, Davis said that talks on a new stadium had occurred, but he bemoaned the lack of progress.  It’s unclear whether he’d agree with Quan’s assessment that progress actually has been made.

The real question becomes whether progress toward a new stadium in Oakland will be made now that Davis has shown the powers-that-be in Oakland that he has some power, and that he’s willing to consider using it.  Especially with a lease that last for only 10 more games.

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Dolphins’ line coach is concerned about his options at center

Mike Pouncey AP

Dolphins center Mike Pouncey is injured and may not return until late in the regular season, and the performances in training camp of Pouncey’s potential replacements have the team worried.

After a practice in which new center Shelley Smith (who has never played center before) had two bad snaps to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and in which backup center Sam Brenner was carted off with a leg injury, Dolphins offensive line coach John Benton acknowledged there are issues.

Obviously, I’m concerned,” Benton said, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “We’ve got to find a way to be good at that position.”

Benton said he doesn’t know how well Smith is going to play at center but hopes to see a good preseason performance out of him.

“It’s unclear in the sense there’s a lot unclear until you get to that first game,” he said. “We’ll know a lot after that first preseason game. I’m optimistic. To say confident is probably a little stretch.”

To say the Dolphins will have a good offensive line this year is probably a stretch.

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Peterson’s deal technically makes him the highest paid corner in new money

Peterson AP

Continuing a trend among highly-paid cornerbacks to announce their new contracts via Twitter with basic financial information, Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson has informed the tweet-watching world that he has signed a five-year, $70 million extension with $48 million guaranteed.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the deal is actually with $70.05 million over five years, a minor distinction that makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL based on a new-money analysis.  Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman signed in May four-year, $56 million extension, worth $14 million a year in new money.  Peterson’s average is $14.01 million.

While Peterson was a little low on the total amount, he’s also a little high on the guaranteed money.  We hope to have more details about the guaranteed money in the morning.

The key for Peterson comes from both shifting the injury risk to the team and getting a big-money extension with two years left on his rookie contract.  Sherman and Browns cornerback Joe Haden got their new deals with one year left on existing deals.  Peterson becomes the first 2011 first-round pick to get a long-term deal despite having two years remaining under contract.

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Patrick Peterson announces five-year extension with Cardinals

Cardinals Camp Football AP

Cornerback Patrick Peterson has reached an agreement with the Arizona Cardinals on a five-year contract extension.

Peterson had two more seasons left on his rookie deal with the Cardinals after Arizona picked up the fifth-year option on his contract earlier this offseason. Peterson announced his new deal via his Twitter account.

While we won’t know what the deal is truly worth until getting a closer look at the numbers, Peterson’s deal is right in line with the extensions given to Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks and Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns this offseason.

According to Peterson’s self-reported numbers, Peterson would bring in more total guaranteed money ($48 million) than Sherman ($40 million) or Haden ($45 million). However, not all of that money is likely fully guaranteed.

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Mark Davis acknowledges San Antonio visit

Davis AP

Yes, Raiders owner Mark Davis recently took a trip to San Antonio.

We know this because the Raiders posted a three-part message on the matter at the team’s Twitter page, in response to the report from the San Antonio Express-News that the team could move to Texas.

“I was in San Antonio to honor Cliff Branch on his induction into the [Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association Hall of Fame],” Davis said.  “Former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros is a friend, and Henry suggested I take the opportunity to meet with some of the city officials while we were in town.”

Meet about what?

“I have nothing further to discuss on the topic,” Davis said.

Despite Davis slamming the door, San Antonio has more to say, via a memo sent by City Manager Sheryl Sculley to City Council after the news of the visit broke on Tuesday.

“I was asked to meet two weeks ago with the owner of the Oakland Raiders, Mark Davis, and members of his staff,” Sculley wrote.  “Mr. Davis has expressed interest in a possible relocation of his NFL team to San Antonio and we are engaged in preliminary due diligence.  The agenda for this visit included a tour of the Alamodome and meetings with local business leaders.”

Davis has been careful not to talk too much about possibly moving the team, because he doesn’t want to be perceived as making threats.  By meeting with officials from other cities about a possible relocation, he’s nevertheless exploring options and/or exerting leverage and/or laying the foundation to leave.

With a one-year lease at the O.co Coliseum, Davis could in theory leave Oakland after the 2014 season.  But at least 23 other owners would have to support the move.  The two already in Texas may not be thrilled with the potential dilution of the overall marketplace.

The NBA team in San Antonio also may not be thrilled with the dilution of its own fan base.  Per the Express-News, the Spurs are concerned that the Raiders (who wear the same colors as the Spurs) could impact the financial success of the defending NBA champions.

While it’s easy to assume nothing will happen with the Raiders and San Antonio, something has to happen for the team in Oakland or something will happen for it in some other city.

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New Dolphins T-shirt carries lengthy credo written by the players

Dolphins

As the Dolphins try to put a challenging 2013 season behind them, they realize that they’re not that far away from becoming a true contender.  Their effort includes a T-shirt carrying a stream of slogans that were devised not by the coaching staff but by the players.

“It started in the offseason when [Coach Joe Philbin] came to a group of guys, veterans on the team, reiterating that this is our team,” defensive end Cameron Wake told PFT by phone on Tuesday night.  “If you go around any locker room, they’ll have all the mantras and the sayings.  From my experience, it’s been coach-driven, what they want the team statement to be.  He said it should come from you guys.  We sat down as a group of men, teammates, brothers and came up with a group of statements about what the Dolphins are and should be.”

Wake said that “everybody” was involved in coming up with slogans, which were collected and discussed.  The team then picked the best.

The end result, a “Miami Dolphins Credo,” has been placed onto a T-shirt.

“I am a Miami Dolphin,” the T-shirt reads.  “I am a warrior and a member of an unbeatable team.  I will always place the team first.  If I see something — I will say something — I commit to call it as it is.  I will develop undying trust with the man to my left and right.  I will never accept defeat.  I will never quit.  I am the change that I want to see in my team.  I live respect and truth telling.  I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, and proficient in my position tasks and drills.  I am a professional.  I am a Miami Dolphin.”

It’s no accident that the list begins and ends with “I am a Miami Dolphin.”

“Whatever you do, bad, good, great, terrible, it’s going to be attributed to the Miami Dolphins,” Wake said.  “Whatever you do, wherever you go, you are going to be representing this organization.”

The different sizes were used in large part to ensure that each sentence fit entirely on one line, and the large “I will never quit” sentence catches the eye.  And for good reason; last year’s scandal involving Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito was sparked by Martin essentially quitting on the team.  But Wake says that line is not about Martin.

“It never crossed my mind and never had anything to do with him whatsoever,” Wake said.  “I think about games like the Cincinnati game, like the Patriots game.  Where we have to fight until there’s no time left on the clock.”

The line “If I see something — I will say something — I commit to call it as it is” also invites speculation that it was influenced by the Martin/Incognito ordeal.  Wake says it’s actually about day-in and day-out efforts to hold teammates accountable in every way.  He explained that the new mindset resulted in 99-percent participation in the offseason program, and in a more vocal locker room and practice field when it comes to making sure everyone is doing everything he can to push the Dolphins to the next level.

“We’re not a zero-win team,” Wake said.  “We were a good football team that lost games we shouldn’t have.  To go in and tweak that small percentage to gain that extra yard, touchdown, gain hopefully comes from this whole effort.”

Whether intended or not, an effort to ensure accountability on and off the field will ensure that the 2014 Dolphins won’t be dealing with avoidable distractions like the one that may have ultimately affected the team’s ability to clinch a playoff berth after heading into the final two weeks at 8-6.  If the new attitude remains in place through the inevitable adversity that nearly every team encounters, maybe the Dolphins will end up being a lot better than expected this year.

 

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DeMarcus Lawrence carted off from Cowboys practice

Lawrence AP

An historically bad Cowboys defense won’t get any better in 2014 if its players can’t stay healthy.  While no injury this year can be as bad for the effort as the one suffered in the offseason by middle linebacker Sean Lee, each and every additional injury makes it harder for the Cowboys to turn things around.

The latest injury happened at practice on Tuesday night, with rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence exiting practice via cart ride, per multiple reports.  Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says it could be an ankle injury.

Whatever the specific injury, it’s not a good development for a team that had an embarrassingly bad defense in 2013.

Lawrence, the 34th overall pick in the 2014 draft, is expected to help fill the void created by the release of DeMarcus Ware, a rare bright spot who was dumped due to concerns that his salary is too high — and who then got more money this year from the Broncos.

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Urban Meyer doesn’t get why the NFL doesn’t want a 47.9% passer

Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow AP

Tim Tebow remains out of the NFL, as he has for 11 months since the Patriots cut him at the end of last preseason. And Tebow’s coach at Florida, Urban Meyer, remains baffled that no NFL team will sign Tebow.

Meyer, now the coach at Ohio State, said at Big Ten Media Day that he can’t figure out why Tebow isn’t in a training camp.

I still don’t get that part of it,” Meyer said. “He’s the second-most efficient passer ever to play college football. . . . He’ll be successful in whatever he does, but he’s such a good player. I just wish it would work out for him.”

Since Meyer can’t figure it out, let me explain it to him: Tebow can’t get an NFL job because the essence of playing quarterback in the NFL is throwing a football accurately, and Tebow is not an accurate passer. Tebow has a career completion rate of 47.9 percent. That is, frankly, awful. Name a terrible NFL quarterback, and you can just about guarantee that he has a better career completion percentage than Tebow. Brandon Weeden? 55.9 percent. Blaine Gabbert? 53.3 percent. JaMarcus Russell? 52.1 percent.

It’s easy to see why Meyer loves Tebow, given the success the two had together at Florida. And in a world where Weeden and Gabbert still have jobs, it’s not unfair to ask why Tebow can’t get one. Tebow did, after all, provide the Broncos with a spark in 2011, leading them to a playoff victory. But even in that 2011 season, Tebow’s inaccurate passing was a huge problem. Tebow completed just 126 of 271 passes that season, a completion rate of 46.5 percent. Tebow remains the only NFL quarterback this century to throw more than 270 passes in a season while completing less than 47 percent of them. The last time an NFL quarterback threw that many passes with a completion percentage that low, it was San Diego’s Craig Whelihan in 1998. Whelihan never played in the NFL again.

And Tebow will never play in the NFL again. He will be remembered for that crazy season in Denver in 2011, when it seemed like every week the most exciting game in the NFL was a game featuring the Broncos, a game that came down to Tebow doing something in the closing moments. But Tebow will also be remembered as a quarterback who simply did not pass the ball well enough to last in the NFL.

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Report: Raiders could move to San Antonio

Daniel Snyder, Mark Davis AP

Raiders owner Mark Davis doesn’t make threats.  He makes plans.

With the Raiders on a one-year lease at O.co Coliseum and with the A’s possibly getting a 10-year lease that would complicate efforts to tear the Cow (Pie) Palace down and build a new venue on the same site, Davis is exploring options in a state that already has a pair of NFL teams.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, Davis and a pair of “top lieutenants” recently met with San Antonio officials to talk about a move of the Raiders.

Per the report, the meeting began on July 18, with Davis and company touring the Alamodome and other locations during a two-to-three day visit.

If a move happens, the Alamodome likely would be the temporary home until a new stadium is built.

Davis reportedly wants “a small, intimate” stadium in front of which he can place a statue of his father, the late Al Davis.

“We don’t have any information about it, so there is no reason for us to comment,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Express-News on Tuesday. “We have received no applications from any of our teams to relocate at this point, so there is nothing for us to respond to.”

The window for filing an application to relocate opens after the season, and it’s possible that Davis will make an application to move somewhere/anywhere absent a tangible plan to build a new home for the Raiders in the Bay Area.

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