Dansby’s two prior tags make it impossible, as practical matter, to tag him again

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Even if Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby were playing at a level that would merit consideration for the one-year franchise tag (and given the magnitude of the standard franchise tender for linebackers, he’s not — and he knows it), the Cardinals wouldn’t be able to tag him.

Unless they want to pay him quarterback money.

Thanks to the 2012 Drew Brees grievance, which determined that franchise tags stack even when not used consecutively or by the same team, Dansby would be treated as a third-time tag recipient.

Coincidentally, Dansby was tagged two prior times by the Cardinals, before joining the Dolphins as a free agent.  In 2013, the Dolphins cut Dansby, and he returned to the Cardinals on a one-year deal.

Before the Brees grievance, it was assumed that a player’s franchise-tag clock reset to zero after signing a non-franchise-tender deal.  It doesn’t.  So, like 49ers kicker Phil Dawson (who was tagged twice by the Browns), a tag for Danbsy would require him to be paid at the quarterback level of the tag, with the number calculated based on the average of the five highest-paid quarterbacks in 2013.

Which means there’s no way the Cardinals would even give passing consideration to tagging Dansby.

Report: 49ers, Boldin negotiating a new deal

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That long list of potential free-agent receivers may eventually have at least one less name on it.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports that the 49ers are negotiating with receiver Anquan Boldin regarding the possible extension of a contract due to expire on March 11.

Boldin, 33, arrived last year in an unexpected trade with the Ravens, after he balked at dropping his salary for 2013 from $6 million to $4 million.  The veteran wideout had 85 catches for 1,179 yards last year, his highest yardage total since 2006.

Boldin has hinted that he wants to return to the 49ers.

Other priorities for the 49ers include signing quarterback Colin Kaepernick to a contract extension; he’s due to become a free agent in 2015.  Also, the 49ers are determined to extend the contract of coach Jim Harbaugh.

Redskins, Hall making progress toward a new deal

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When cornerback DeAngelo Hall said that the Redskins “probably” should change their name, it appeared that the impending free agent probably should look for a new team.

Hall has since put the toothpaste back in the tube, and the team could end up putting some new money in his pocket.

Per a league source, talks are intensifying between the Redskins and Hall toward a new contract.  While not close to an agreement, progress is being made.

A first-round pick of the Falcons 10 years ago who turned 30 in November 2013, Hall joined the Redskins in 2008, after being cut in the middle of the season by the Raiders and receiving $8 million for eight games.

Hall hasn’t been making quite as much lately.  In 2013, Hall earned $1.25 million on a one-year deal.  He has started every game since 2010; last year, Hall had four interceptions, three forced fumbles, and a pair of touchdowns.

Franchise tag window opens tomorrow


Starting Monday, the two-week window opens for application of the franchise tag.  The device, launched two decades ago with the commencement of true free agency, gives each team the ability to apply some restriction to one otherwise unrestricted free agent each year.

Any player who receives the nonexclusive version of the tag may still negotiate with other teams.  An offer sheet may be signed.  The franchise player’s current team has seven days to match.  If the current team doesn’t match, the contract becomes effective and the new team gives two first-round draft picks to the player’s former team.

Before 2011, the nonexclusive franchise tag was determined by calculating the average cap number of the five highest-paid players at the same position in the prior year.  The current labor deal determines the tender by calculating the average salary-cap percentage of the franchise tag in five prior years, a device that keeps the growth of the tag from outpacing the growth of the cap — and likewise from not fully reflecting any growth of the market for the position that surpasses the growth of the cap.

In English (or close to it), this means that, for some positions, the franchise tag may not track the top of the market.  As to quarterbacks, for example, the tag will remain in the mid-teens for the next few years, even as the top of the market pushes higher and higher above $20 million annually.

Teams also may use the exclusive franchise tag, which prevents the player from talking to another team and from signing an offer sheet.  This heightened restriction carries an additional cost; the player receives an amount equal to the five highest-paid players at the position in the current year, as of late April.  The exclusive franchise tender typically is much higher than the non-exclusive tender.

Regardless of the franchise-tag calculation, a player is entitled to a 120-percent raise over his most recent cap number, if that’s greater than the base tender amount.  A player tagged a third time gets a 144-percent raise, or the average of the five highest-paid quarterbacks in the prior season.

The franchise salary becomes guaranteed the moment the offer is accepted by the player.  Until the player signs the tender, it may be withdrawn.

Players often choose not to sign the franchise tender because, if not under contract, they can withhold services without consequences.  On multiple occasions, a franchise player has shown up days before the start of the regular season, signed the franchise tender, and earned the full amount of the franchise salary.

Still, some franchise players have the tender withdrawn, making them free agents well after the big money from other teams has stopped flowing.

Even though the window opens Monday, it’s unlikely that teams will rush to use the tag.  Most teams will use the period to attempt to negotiate a long-term contract, which will allow the franchise tag to be used on another player.  Or not at all.

Last weekend, we took a team-by-team look at the players who could be tagged.  In 2012, a record 21 players were tagged.  In 2013, the number plummeted to eight.  The reduced tags became obvious once the free-agency market opened, and spending was much lower than expected.

This year, tag use could hinge on the extent to which teams believe other teams will be poised to spend money to sign away their free agents.  If a spending spree is anticipated, more tags will be used.

The biggest name to watch over the next two weeks will be Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.  He’s arguably the best player eligible for free agency, and Graham and the Saints seem destined for a fight over whether he should be tendered as a receiver, which would result in more than $4.5 million in additional salary for 2014 alone.

Terrell Suggs, Ravens agree to terms


The Baltimore Ravens have announced that a press conference will be held on Monday.  The attendees will be G.M. Ozzie Newsome and linebacker Terrell Suggs.

And all that that implies.

Despite some reports that it’s a done deal, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that it’s not actually done yet.  However, the two sides have agreed to terms, and at this point it’s expected that a deal will be done.

The deal is sufficiently close that Suggs currently is in the air from Arizona to Baltimore.  While it’s possible that a fight will develop over an obscure term, it’s highly unlikely that the situation will blow up at this point.

Suggs, the NFL defensive player of the year in 2011, was entering the final year of long-term deal signed in 2009, at a cap number of $12.4 million.  Undoubtedly, the cap number for 2014 will drop, probably significantly.

It’ll be interesting to see the terms of the agreement, given the dips experienced in the market for over-30 pass rushers in recent years.

Report: Ray Rice arrested after alleged “very minor physical altercation” in Atlantic City


According to a published report, Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested this weekend after an alleged dispute at an Atlantic City casino.

The Baltimore Sun reported Sunday evening that an attorney for Rice, Andrew Alperstein, said that Rice and his fiancee were both arrested and released after the alleged incident at Revel Casino. Alperstein told the Sun that Rice’s arrest stemmed from an alleged “very minor physical altercation.” The Sun reported, citing Rice’s attorneys, that the alleged altercation was with a woman.

Another attorney representing Rice, Michael Diamondstein, told the Sun that the incident “should wind up to be little more than a misunderstanding,” though he noted that he had yet to view the evidence against Rice.

The 27-year-old Rice rushed for 660 yards and four touchdowns in 2014 for Baltimore.

UPDATE 8:19 p.m. ET: The Ravens issued a statement Sunday night regarding Rice: “We are aware of the Friday night situation with Ray Rice and his fiancé. We have spoken with Ray, and know that they returned home together after being detained.”

UPDATE 10:29 p.m. ET: Via the Sun, Atlantic City police have said Rice and 26-year-old Janay A. Palmer were charged with simple assault after allegedly “(striking) each other with their hands.” Both received a court summons and were released, according to the police press release obtained by the Sun. The alleged incident occurred Saturday morning, and police determined there “appeared” to be a “physical altercation” after looking at surveillance footage, according to the police press release posted by the Sun.

Super Bowl MVP explains his “bigotry” tweet

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Last Sunday night, after former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam came out as gay, Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith made this observation, via Twitter:  “There is no room for bigotry in American sports. It takes courage to change the culture.”

Most assumed Smith was referring to Sam.  Via Todd Dybas of the Tacoma News Tribune, Sam was making a broader observation.

“It was about the fact the Redskins’ name is what it is, the fact that Jonathan Martin doesn’t feel comfortable, the fact that Marcus Smart is being called names on the sideline,” Smith said.  “It was more about all those things than just [Sam].  I think that’s just another example, Michael Sam coming out.  We need to face things head-on and be a little bit more responsible about the way we see things.”

If you liked the sound of that, consider Smith’s assessment of sliding to round seven of the 2011 draft.  Unlike so many other guys who are overlooked, Smith doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder; he understands why it happened.

“[Teams] will draft guys in the first round who will be busts and never have the careers they expect to have because of human nature or weaknesses they might have,” Smith said.  “Learning, dedication, passion.  Those are things that can’t be measured, so you don’t really blame those people.”

Most never even noticed Smith until he caught the ball that had been tipped away from 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman in the end zone during crunch time of the NFC title game.  Smith doesn’t seem like the type of guy who attempts to get attention.  But when the attention comes Smith’s way, he’s got some intriguing things to say.

Pitta, Ravens could be headed for franchise tag fight


The question of whether Jimmy Graham will be viewed as a tight end or a wide receiver if the Saints apply the franchise tag to him has received a lot of attention in recent weeks. Less attention has been paid to the fact that Dennis Pitta and the Ravens could be headed toward a fight on the same front.

We noted last week when looking at all of the potential franchise players in the NFL that the Ravens risk an argument that Pitta is actually a receiver, driving his tender up by about $4.8 million. And now the Baltimore Sun is reporting that the uncertainty over whether Pitta will be considered a tight end or a wide receiver is complicating the Ravens’ evaluation of whether to use the franchise tag on him.

Pitta is listed as a tight end, but he often lines up as a slot receiver. If the Ravens franchise him as a tight end, they will only have to guarantee him a salary of $6.8 million in 2014. But if they franchise him as a wide receiver, they will have to guarantee him a salary of $11.6 million. Ultimately, if the Ravens try to franchise Pitta as a tight end and Pitta fights it, an arbitrator would have to watch every snap Pitta played in 2013 and decide whether he lined up as a tight end or a wide receiver more often.

An arbitrator will only get involved however, if Pitta and the Ravens fight over it. It’s also possible that they’ll agree on a long-term contract before the Ravens have to use the franchise tag. Or the Ravens could decide not to franchise Pitta. Or the Ravens and Pitta could agree to split the difference, which is what happened in 2008, when the Ravens argued that Terrell Suggs was a linebacker while Suggs argued that he was a defensive end. In that case the two sides eventually agreed — with the league office and the players’ union going along — to use the average of the two franchise tender amounts.

Often in cases like this, a compromise is the best option for both sides. But eventually it’s likely that a player and a team won’t be able to agree, and an arbitrator will have to decide. If that doesn’t happen with Graham and the Saints, it may happen with Pitta and the Ravens.

Ken Whisenhunt wants any concerns voiced “in-house”


During Super Bowl week, Titans tight end Delanie Walker made headlines when he told Nashville radio station 104.5 FM “The Zone” that there were six to seven players who were “cancer” on the club in 2013.

In an interview with Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean published Sunday, Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said that he’s talked to Walker about his comments.

“The thing about Delanie, I understand him being frustrated, but those kinds of things we don’t want voiced in the public,” Whisenhunt told the Tennessean. “We want to keep those in-house and we want to address those things. We discussed that — [Delanie] and I did — and I am certainly comfortable with how that discussion went, and I don’t think there will be any issues going forward.”

Whisenhunt also told the Tennessean that the players on the roster have a clean slate with him and that he believes the roster is in good shape from a character standpoint.

“I believe we have a lot of the right guys here,” Whisenhunt said, according to the Tennessean.

If the Titans indeed have the right players in the locker room and on the field in 2014, the result could be more wins, which would likely end much discussion of internal concerns in external settings. That’s how it usually works, at least.

Join us Monday on The Dan Patrick Show

The Olympics continue, and so Dan Patrick continues to be in Russia covering them for NBC.  And so Dan needs coverage for his weekday radio/TV show.

Monday and Tuesday, I’ll be handling the duties on the radio side, sitting in for Dan from the PFT studios, located just down the hall from my kitchen.

Joining the program will be Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Mike Mayock of NFL Network and NBC Sports, Eddie Olczyk of NBC Sports, and Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

The three-hour excursion gets rolling at 9:00 a.m. ET.  You can listen online, at SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio (channel 88) or through one of the many nationwide affiliates.

That’s a lot of stations.  I wasn’t all that nervous about screwing something up until I saw all those stations.

Then again, I’ve screwed something up pretty much every time I’ve guest hosted for Dan.  So why change now?

So tune in, if for no reason other than to see what I screw up next.

UPDATE 8:48 a.m. ET:  I’ll also have a chance to screw up an interview with T.J. Oshie, the unexpectedly sudden star of the U.S. Olympic hockey team.  He’s been added to the guest list.

Incognito pulls plug on his Twitter account

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It appeared for a while on Friday night that Dolphins guard Richie Incognito had pulled the plug on his Twitter account.  He hadn’t.

At some point since Friday night, he did.

Yes, the account otherwise known as @68INCOGNITO is no more.  While it may have been a rash reaction to the abuse he was taking on Twitter after the Wells report was released — a blow back that surely was enhanced by his prior boasts and proclamations that he’d be exonerated — the move may have resulted from the advice of Incognito’s agents and lawyers.  Even if Incognito had managed to make it through 23 hours and 59 minutes of a given day without saying something that could work against his effort to avoid further punishment from the NFL or find a new team as of March 11, in that one remaining minute his alter ego known as The Tornado could have wrecked everything.

It was a smart move, given that Richie’s alternative to continuing his NFL career is finding a real job in a real workplace that wouldn’t tolerate two percent of the stuff he routinely said and did in Miami.

So the next we’ll hear from Richie likely will come from his agents or lawyers, especially since attorney Mark Schamel declared on Friday that the Wells report is “replete with errors.”

In more than two days since then, neither Schamel nor Incognito have identified a single erroneous fact, inference, or conclusion contained in the 144-page report.  Schamel, however, has promised a thorough analysis of the report.

Jordan Lynch: Scouts say I can be an NFL quarterback


Jordan Lynch had an excellent college career as the quarterback at Northern Illinois, leading his team to a surprise Orange Bowl appearance in his junior year, and coming in third place in Heisman Trophy voting as a senior. But Lynch wasn’t playing in a pro-style offense, and few people who saw him play in college envisioned him playing quarterback in the NFL.

At least, that’s been the conventional wisdom on Lynch. But Lynch himself says that at the East-West Shrine Game, NFL scouts told him that they believe he can play quarterback in the NFL.

“There were still a lot of questions about whether I should be a quarterback or running back or whatever going into the East-West, and the first two days of practice, all of those questions were kind of eliminated. [Scouts there] believed I could be a quarterback with what I showed them, and there are a lot of teams interested in me as a quarterback,” Lynch told the Chicago Tribune.

Lynch does understand that an NFL team could ask him to change positions, but he doesn’t expect that to happen.

“About half of the teams came up to me [at the East-West game] talking about a different position or special teams,” Lynch said. “Whatever gets my foot in the door, I am willing to do. I believe I am a quarterback first and I will prove everyone wrong and I will keep doing that. If it depends on getting a check or not getting a check, I will do whatever it takes to get that check. A position change really isn’t in the back of my head because I know quarterback is going to work out. If it came down to where I had to make a switch, I would stay on offense. I feel like I am a playmaker with the ball in my hands.”

Lynch was definitely a playmaker with the ball in his hands in college: As a junior he ran for 1,815 yards and 19 touchdowns, and as a senior he ran for 1,920 yards and 23 touchdowns. Despite Lynch’s preference to stay at quarterback, if he’s going to be a playmaker in the NFL, he will most likely be making plays with his feet, rather than his arm.

Bills stadium committee could be advance political cover for inevitable move

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Let’s summarize the recent developments regarding the Bills’ stadium situation.  First, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed five members of a committee that will explore building a new football stadium in Buffalo.  Second, the Bills don’t want a new stadium; they want to modernize the one they currently play in.

It’s a stunning disconnect for a team with a lease buyout that plummets in six years from $400 million to $28 million.  After reading a full analysis of the situation from the Buffalo News, we have a theory.  Or a hypothesis.  Or at least a spitball.

That looming dip in the obligation to permit a relocation could be driving the political effort to explore the construction of a new stadium.  Given that Ralph Wilson’s family will sell the franchise once its 95-year-old founder passes and in light of the possibility that the highest bidder will want to move the team to L.A. or London or elsewhere, the politicians need to be able to say they tried their best to keep the team in Buffalo.

What better way to commence the process of covering keisters than to form a committee that will spend the next few years spinning its wheels on the potential but fiscally impractical construction of a new stadium the franchise doesn’t want?

If the powers-that-be were serious about finding a way to keep the Bills in Buffalo, they’d be working to come up with the kind of solution the team prefers, instead of plotting to build a stadium the team doesn’t want.  The failure of the two sides to be on the same page on such a key point suggests that the elected officials understand how this is going to play out, and that they want to position themselves as being able to say they tried to do everything they could to keep the team in Buffalo.

The fact that the politicians aren’t talking about finding a way to upgrade the stadium also suggests that they aren’t truly interested in actually doing what needs to be done to keep the team in town — but that they simply don’t want to be the ones blamed for the Bills’ eventual departure.

And if a new stadium is viable and the Bills are resisting simply because they realize a new owner will want to move the team when the buyout drops by $372 million, the Bills don’t want to be blamed for the eventual departure, either.

Broyles: Knees “healthy right now” as he rehabs Achilles injury

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In the span of about 23 months, Lions wide receiver Ryan Broyles suffered three serious leg injuries: a left ACL tear in November 2011 at Oklahoma, a right ACL tear in December 2012 and a left Achilles tendon tear in 2013.

The Lions’ second-round pick in 2012, Broyles told Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com that he feels pressure to perform but also wants to be prudent in his rehabilitation from the Achilles injury.

“I know the deal with the Lions right now and you feel like you have a deadline because there’s guys counting on you, especially coming in from the second round. I feel like I have to go in there and prove something and maybe I did that a little bit before my body was ready (last year),” Broyles told the club’s website for a story published Sunday. “This time around I have to just focus on my future. I’m 25 years old right [now]. I just have to be smart from this point on.”

Broyles told DetroitLions.com that his knees are now healed, but his left calf needs to be strengthened.

“Last year I didn’t hit the ground running like I wanted to, but I wasn’t as strong as I needed to be last year. This year my knees are healthy right now,” Broyles told the club’s website. “I feel my glutes, back, hamstrings and quads are back. Now I just have to work on my left calf.

“I’m excited for that day to go out there and just be able to cut where I want to cut and jump when I want to cut. I’m going to work as hard as I can and it’s going to fall in my favor sometime soon.”

The Lions seem one of the more likely teams to add at wide receiver either in free agency and/or the draft. The club’s recent attempts to bring in capable wideouts opposite of Calvin Johnson have mostly fallen short, though in the case of Broyles, terrible luck is as much to blame as anything else. Nevertheless, the Lions are going to have to try again to find targets who attract attention opposite of Johnson, who draws no shortage of focus from opposing defenses.

Will Smith prefers to return to defensive end

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As former Saints linebacker Will Smith gets a head start on free agency, via the recent release by the team that made him a first-round draft pick a decade ago, he has a preference for his next NFL gig.

He would like to move back to the position he played before 2013.

“I think I’m at heart a 4-3 defensive end,” Smith told NFL Network, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  “That’s something I would like to play.  But if I go to a team that requires me to play outside linebacker, I’m cool with that too.”

It’s smart for Smith to be flexible, since it’s possible that the highest bidder will want him to stay at the position he didn’t get to play very much at all until tearing an ACL in August.  Last year, former Colts linebacker Dwight Freeney preferred to return to defensive end in a 4-3 front — and then Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram tore an ACL and the Chargers closed the deal for Freeney.

Smith’s flexibility extends to former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who’s now running the defense in St. Louis.

“I never really had a problem with Gregg with the whole situation, so I wouldn’t really mind playing with him. I always thought he was a great coach and a great person,” Smith said.

That’s a far cry from the perception that Williams “snitched” on Jonathan Vilma by signing a sworn document confirming Vilma had offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the January 2010 NFC title game.

But Smith knows there are only 31 potential suitors for his services.  That’s far too few doors to justify slamming any of them shut.

Even for Vilma, who’d likely be inclined to bury the hatchet with Williams if there’s no other locker room in which Vilma can hang his cleats.