Report: Lions sign LB Brandon Copeland

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The Lions have reportedly signed one of the notable performers at last month’s NFL Veteran Combine.

Detroit has reached a one-year deal with former Ravens and Titans linebacker Brandon Copeland, Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reported Thursday night.

A University of Pennsylvania product, Copeland entered the NFL two seasons ago with Baltimore as an undrafted free agent. He also spent parts of the 2013 and 2014 seasons with Tennessee.

According to the Sun, Copeland was timed at 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine, and the Bengals, Chiefs, Jets and Vikings were other clubs the linebacker considered before joining Detroit, where he’ll compete for a reserve role.

Though the vast majority of the 105 combine invitees remain unsigned, the market for the participants has seemed to pick up of late. The Vikings signed a pair of combine players on Thursday, reaching deals with quarterback Mike Kafka and defensive end Caesar Rayford.

Saints re-sign receiver Joe Morgan


The New Orleans Saints released receiver Joe Morgan last December because Morgan had become just too much of a headache to deal with.

That makes it somewhat of a surprise that the Saints would be willing to revisit their relationship with Morgan this offseason. However, that’s exactly what the Saints have done.

According to Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate, the Saints have re-signed the troubled, but talented, receiver to a one-year deal.

Morgan has been with the Saints the last four years but ran into issues with the team last season. Morgan was suspended and was ultimately released late in the year.

Morgan appeared in five games for New Orleans last year with four catches for 92 yards and a 67-yard rush as well.

Reggie Wayne still plans to play in 2015

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Plenty of veteran receivers are still waiting for the phone to ring.  Among them is former Colts receiver Reggie Wayne.

Via Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, Wayne said Thursday that he still intends to play in 2015.

“I still feel like I got some juice left,” Wayne said at a college slam-dunk contest he judged.  “I’m just going to play the cards the way they’re dealt and go from there.”

Wayne had a subpar season in 2014.  He blamed it on injuries.

“I wasn’t healthy,” Wayne said.  “I was nowhere near healthy.  I played the whole year hurt.  Finally, playing hurt got to me.”

Wayne has no problem with the team’s decision to move on.

“That’s the way it goes,” Wayne said. “I’ve seen a lot of people come and go.  What makes me different? . . .  Ever since I was a young pup, they brought me in here and gave me an opportunity.”

Wayne, whose contract expired on March 10, may have to wait until May 12 to get an offer, since that’s the new deadline for players to be signed without the additions counting against the compensatory draft-pick formula.  Even after May 12, there’s no guarantee an opportunity will come.

One team that eventually could be interested is the Patriots.  As New England prepared to faced Indianapolis during the 2014 regular season, coach Bill Belichick praised Wayne for being one of the best route runners in the history of the game.

Wayne currently sits at seventh place on the all-time receptions list, with 1,070.  With 33 more catches, he’d vault over Terrell Owens (1,078), Tim Brown (1,094), Cris Carter (1,101), and Marvin Harrison (1,102) for third place on the list.

Steelers sign LB Shayon Green


The Steelers have added yet another linebacker to their roster, signing Miami (Fla.) product Shayon Green on Thursday, per the NFL’s personnel notice.

Green (6-1, 255) recorded 143 tackles and three sacks with the Hurricanes from 2010 through 2013, overcoming a pair of ACL tears in the same knee to become a 25-game starter. He went undrafted in 2014 and was not in the NFL. Green took part in Miami’s Pro Day on Wednesday, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Green played both middle linebacker and defensive end at Miami, which could allow him to get a look at inside and outside linebacker in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme. His signing gives the Steelers 13 linebackers.

Judge sets June 1 hearing in Benson family litigation


After Saints owner Tom Benson changed his will in January to dramatically alter plans for the transfer of his NFL and NBA franchises from a daughter and her two children to Mr. Benson’s current wife, the frozen-out family members sued, challenging his competence to make such decisions.  A judge has since required Mr. Benson to submit to a psychiatric evaluation, which has been conducted.

According to Brett Martel of the Associated Press, a hearing has been set for June 1 on the matter.

The report was produced by three psychiatrists — one hired at the recommendation of each side in the litigation and a third one who was jointly selected by the other two.  They examined Mr. Benson on March 13.

The report will not be released publicly, due to concerns for Mr. Benson’s privacy.  The outcome of the case, however, will say plenty about whether he was indeed fit to alter his will.

Falcons waive S Zeke Motta


The Falcons have parted ways with one of their recent draft picks, waiving safety Zeke Motta on Thursday.

Motta was waived with a failed physical designation, per the NFL’s daily personnel notice.

As a rookie in 2013, the 24-year-old Motta suffered a fractured C1 veterbra. He did not play last season. A seventh-round pick of the Falcons out of Notre Dame, Motta notched 16 tackles in 10 regular season games for Atlanta.

Should a team claim Motta, they will take on the final two years of his rookie contract. If he goes unclaimed, he will be free to sign with other clubs, but he would have to pass a physical.

Theismann explains Andre the Giant photo op

During the offseason donut hole between free agency and the draft, we’re always on the lookout for interesting stories.  Thanks to Joe Theismann, we have one.

Via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, former Washington quarterback Joe Theismann recently explained to Chad Dukes of 106.7 The Fan in D.C. an unusual 1975 photo op with the late Andre the Giant, an iconic wrestler who also had a memorable role in The Princess Bride.

“One of the forerunners of football 12 months a year was George Allen, our old coach with the Redskins,” Theismann told Dukes.  “George used to try and make some kind of a big deal,  usually in the first two weeks of May.  I remember one year he sent me to New York to Toots Shor’s, and I got a picture taken — and you can look it up online — with Andre the Giant.”

The publicity stunt went beyond a photograph in which Theismann looks like a ventriloquist’s dummy in comparison to the hulking Frenchman who was a fixture of what was known at the time as the World Wide Wrestling Federation.

“[Allen] had talked to Vince McMahon Sr.,” Theismann said.  “This was the type of progressive mind that he had; he talked to Vince McMahon Sr. and said ‘Look, I’m thinking about maybe bringing Andre the Giant in, signing him, so that he can come in and block field goals and extra points for us.’  Now, I don’t know whether it was true or not, but if you look up the picture, I look like an infant.  Is that unbelievable or what?  Look at his head!  And I’ll tell you something, I shook his hand and I lost my arm.  I mean, it went all the way up to my elbow.  I had no forearm or anything.”

Via Steinberg, conflicting reports still linger over whether Washington offered the wrestler, whose real name was André René Roussimoff, a contract.  Andre the Giant died in 1993 at the age of 46 of heart failure.

Offensive lineman Stephen Schilling retiring from NFL

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Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll had been optimistic at the league meetings last week about the potential for the team to re-sign veteran offensive lineman Stephen Schilling.

Instead, Schilling has decided he is done with football.

“I had high hopes for that happening,” Carroll said after observing pro day workouts at the University of Washington on Thursday. “I had high hopes that we could. We were excited about it.”

Carroll then deferred any further update to Schilling as to why he may not be back with Seattle next year. According to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, Schilling said he has elected to retire after four seasons in the league.

“Just a personal choice for me at this time in my life,” Schilling told the Times. “I wouldn’t say there was any one reason or not. Just more of a personal choice.”

He appeared in eight games for Seattle last season and started three games in place of an injured Max Unger. A knee injury ultimately landed Schilling on injured reserve in November.

Following the trade of Unger to New Orleans, Schilling could have re-signed and had a chance to compete for the starting job next season as Seattle searches for a replacement. Schilling spent the first three seasons of his career with the San Diego Chargers before signing with his hometown Seahawks last season. Schilling grew up in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue.

Report: Buccaneers host Lions DE George Johnson


One of the more well-regarded restricted free agents has taken a visit.

According to Jenna Laine of Sports Talk Florida, the Buccaneers hosted Lions defensive end George Johnson on Thursday.

The 27-year-old Johnson recorded a career-high six sacks in 2014 for Detroit, which could match any offer to the fourth-year defensive end from Rutgers. However, the Lions simply have the right of first refusal and would not be due any draft-pick compensation if Johnson were signed away.

The Buccaneers and Johnson have some history. The 6-foot-4, 263-pound defensive end began his career with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in 2010, spending multiple stints with the club before joining Minnesota in 2012. The Lions signed him last April, and he became a key contributor in their defensive-line rotation.

However, he could have an even bigger role with the Buccaneers, who are in need of defensive ends after releasing Michael Johnson and seeing Adrian Clayborn depart in free agency.

Ravens have a potential mess in 2016 with Flacco contract

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In early 2013, quarterback Joe Flacco bet on himself, won the lottery, took full advantage of his leverage, and secured a six-year, $120.6 million contract.

The Ravens loaded more than half of the cash into the first three years of the deal, but constructed very manageable cap numbers of $6.8 million in 2013, $14.8 million in 2014, and $14.55 million in 2015.

Next year, that changes.  Dramatically.

Flacco’s cap number shoots to $28.55 million in 2016, and then pushes to $31.15 million in 2017.  The cap number for the final year of the deal is $24.75 million.

During a Wednesday conference call with season-ticket holders, owner Steve Bisciotti expressed a high degree of confidence that Flacco will be “very amenable” to a contractual adjustment.  But a simple restructuring won’t be easy to do, since any salary converted to signing bonus would be spread over three years.  Also, with the cap number for 2017 due to be $31.15 million, kicking the can from 2016 would serve only to jack up the cap number even farther beyond $30 million the following year.

So the Ravens will need Flacco to agree to an extension.  Which means that Flacco will once again hold the cards.  If he says, “No, I’m fine with my contract,” will the Ravens increase their offer on a new deal — or will the Ravens cut him loose?

While the situation won’t reach full boil until next February or March, it will loom over the 2015 Ravens, with plenty of talk and rumors and speculation about what eventually will happen with Flacco as of 2016.

Dolphins sign Josh Freeman


Josh Freeman, the quarterback who rapidly went from one of the most promising young players in the NFL to a major disappointment, is getting another shot.

The Dolphins have agreed to a one-year contract with Freeman, according to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report.

Freeman was the Buccaneers’ first-round draft pick in 2009, and quickly made the Bucs’ decision to draft him look brilliant. In 2010, Freeman threw 25 touchdown passes and just six interceptions.

But his play declined after that, there was talk that he didn’t get along with new coach Greg Schiano and his staff, and the Bucs cut Freeman during the 2013 season. Freeman signed with the Vikings and quickly became the starter in Minnesota, but he was a disaster and was benched after his first game.

Last year Freeman was out of the NFL after the Giants cut him following a brief period on their offseason roster. Now the Dolphins will give him another chance to show he belongs. This may be his last chance.

Bears announce schedule-prediction contest

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Last year, the Rams offered a $100,000 prize to anyone who correctly predicted the team’s schedule, with each game in each week and each day and each location and the placement bye week.

To little surprise, no one won.

This year, the Bears have launched a similar effort, with the prize not being $100,000 but two tickets to all 16 home and away games, along with air fare and lodging for the road games and $500 per road game in walking-around money ($4,000) total.

The retail value of the grand prize is a mere $19,680.  A second prize will be awarded via lottery, with tickets to one home game, one road game, plane fare to the road game, hotel, and $500 in cash.  The total value for the second prize is $2,600.

Given the long odds of getting all 17 weeks right, the grand prize isn’t all that grand.  For Chicago, however, the contest doesn’t include the added variable of picking the specific day of each weekend when the game will be played.  So maybe someone will actually have a semi-plausible chance of winning — especially with five entries allowed per contestant.

Kurt Warner says a team asked him to consider a workout

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It sounded like an April Fools joke when Kurt Warner said it yesterday: At the age of 43, five years since he retired, an official with an NFL team approached him about coming in for a workout.

Warner, who analyzed Jameis Winston’s performance at Florida State’s Pro Day for NFL Network on Wednesday, wrote on Twitter afterward that someone — he didn’t say who — from an NFL team came up to him and asked whether he’d be interested in going through a private workout. Warner said that the idea intrigued him. (When he was asked if it was an April Fools joke, Warner replied that it was not.)


Warner announced his retirement after the 2009 season. He’ll turn 44 in June. Surely, no NFL team would seriously consider signing him?

Actually, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Warner is younger than Vinny Testaverde was when he last started in the NFL. And considering the state of the quarterback position in the NFL right now, there are teams that Warner could help. Most Cardinals fans would have taken Warner over Ryan Lindley late last year.

So it makes sense for some team to ask Warner to try out. There will be quarterbacks taking snaps in the NFL this year who aren’t as good as a 44-year-old Kurt Warner would be.