Jets sign fourth-rounder Chris Herndon

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Quarterback Sam Darnold was the first of six Jets draft picks this year and he’s now the last one without a contract.

The Jets announced that tight end Chris Herndon has agreed to a four-year deal with the team. Herndon was selected in the fourth round with the 107th overall pick.

Herndon had 40 catches for 477 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games at the University of Miami last season. He hurt his MCL in the final game of the season and the team said after the draft that they expected him to be limited in offseason work, but he was able to do some drills at rookie minicamp.

The Jets did not re-sign Austin Seferian-Jenkins after he hit free agency, leaving them without their top tight end from last season. Herndon, Jordan Leggett, Clive Walford, Eric Tomlinson and Neal Sterling make up the contenders for playing time this year.

Eli Apple embarrassed about 2017, happy for fresh start

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As the 2017 season wound down, there were plenty of people who thought that the team might move on without cornerback Eli Apple after a year marked by poor play on the field and a series of incidents off of it.

General Manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur each said that Apple would get a clean slate, however, and he’s set for a prominent spot in the secondary in his third NFL season. On Monday, Apple spoke to the media at Giants OTAs and said “of course” he is embarrassed about how things went last year while discussing his attempt to make the most of his chance this year.

“It’s about just putting things behind me, trying to continue to move forward, and go out here and have great energy on the field,” Apple said, via NJ.com. “I definitely feel it. The coaches have told me. I’m trying to be a better person, better player, and better teammate this year. Obviously, with the stuff that happened last year, I want to continue to work on myself. I want to communicate better, and not let certain stuff get to me. I want to continue to strive to be better every day.”

Apple said he thought he “got a little too confident” last year and said he’ll be more patient as he works to “fine-tune everything” over the next few months. If that goes well, the Giants’ own patience with their 2016 first-round pick could pay dividends as they try to recover from their own miserable season.

A closer look at the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick P.R. play

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If it was intentional, it was brilliant. If it was inadvertent, it was the equivalent of discovering plutonium by accident.

Regardless, the NFL’s multi-step P.R. play regarding free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick supplied those who don’t like him and/or his anthem protests with an endless stream of talking points that continue to provide a useful basis for quickly shifting the goalposts whenever anyone begins to make progress while arguing the objective unfairness of Kaepernick’s lingering unemployment.

By now, everyone knows the truth: Kaepernick isn’t employed not because of his skills, but because of his politics. More specifically, because he decided to bring attention to police brutality directed at African-Americans and people of color by not standing during the national anthem, the NFL regards him as “bad for business,” regardless of whether the NFL’s current business outlook currently is bad. (Earlier this month, Falcons owner Arthur Blank justified the Matt Ryan contract in part by explaining that “[l]eague revenues are up, club revenues are up.”

But the process didn’t start with the truth. The process began with unnamed sources pushing false narratives to the media aimed at justifying his unemployment for football reasons. And the anti-Kaepernick crowd still continues to indiscriminately rattle off one of more of these long-debunked reasons even now, months after the NFL finally conceded that the all-about-football decision was only about non-football considerations.

It started with the attack against Kaepernick for “opting out” of his contract, a red herring that was quickly debunked by 49ers G.M. John Lynch, who said on PFT Live that Kaepernick would have been cut if he hadn’t chosen to rip up his deal and become a free agent in March 2017. It continued with someone pushing to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com the notion that Kaepernick wanted a salary in the range of $9 million to $10 million per year and a chance to compete for a starting job. But no one actually knew what Kaepernick wanted at the time, because the conversation hadn’t progressed to the point where anyone had asked Kaepernick or his agents what he wanted at the time.

And there they were, the first two football-related knocks on Kaepernick — he “opted out” of a sure thing with the 49ers, and he wants too much from everyone else.

Then came concerns about his diet. “He’s not eating meat!” the pearl-clutching personnel execs privately said, while also admiring Tom Brady‘s avocado ice cream habit.

Next, it was the notion that some within the 49ers organization believe Kaepernick is more committed to social justice work than playing football. That was quickly refuted, but that didn’t matter. The anti-Kaepernick crowd had another talking point that would endure.

Eventually, as more and more quarterbacks were getting jobs — and as more and more fans and media members were saying, “Yo, what the f–k?” — media members started pushing overt baloney regarding the actual football evaluations of Kaepernick’s abilities.

“The No. 1 reason Colin Kaepernick is unsigned: He’s not considered a starting-caliber player by any NFL evaluator anymore. Work from there,” Albert Breer of SI.com tweeted on May 9, 2017.

It was a specious claim from the get go. How does anyone know what every NFL evaluator thinks?

But truth doesn’t matter. What matters is loading up those who oppose Kaepernick with ammunition for countering arguments rooted in facts. Facts like Monday morning’s PFT item regarding the evidence being harvested in Kaepernick’s collusion grievance. Evidence which shows that multiple teams viewed Kaepernick as a starter in 2017 and still regard him that way today.

By late July, when the Ravens needed a quarterback and considered (for a moment) the possibility of signing Kaepernick, the truth finally surfaced. It’s not all about football. In fact, it’s about anything but football.

That’s what the story should have been from the start. The decision to shell-game the truth, however, has resonated for more than 14 months, allowing fans and media who simply don’t like Kaepernick for what he did and/or what he believes to continue to cite the various football reasons that have uniformly and consistently been exposed as false.

None of this means that the NFL colluded when keeping Kaepernick unemployed. But what better way to throw dirt on the collusion trail than to try to twist and distort the real reasons for the universal (and potentially coordinated) decision to distance the league from a player whom multiple evaluators did indeed regard as a starting-caliber player?

Regardless of whether collusion is proven, and despite the reality that Kaepernick would be employed right now but for his protests, alternative facts have become a very real and viable basis for shouting down anyone who looks at the situation, considers the facts, and says, “Yeah, he’s getting screwed.” However that strategy came to be, the NFL should bottle it and sell it to Washington, D.C.

Bobby Wagner “wishing for the best” in Earl Thomas situation

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Linebacker Bobby Wagner has remained on the Seattle roster during an offseason of changes to the Seahawks defense.

So has safety Earl Thomas, although you wouldn’t know it by dropping by the team’s offseason practices. Thomas has stayed away amid talks about possible trades and/or a new contract that haven’t materialized into anything and Wagner said on 710 ESPN that he’s hopeful that things can work themselves out in a way that keeps Thomas on the team.

“I think he’s an amazing player, he’s an amazing person, he’s a Hall of Famer,” Wagner said. “And just let him know that we’re over here and we’re wishing for the best in that situation and we’re thinking about him. And I just want him to know that. Just because he needs to know. He needs to know that we appreciate him over here. Because he’s a talent that — you’re not going to ever see another person like him ever again play the football field.”

Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that there have been no negotiations about a new contract with OTAs starting this week. Thomas is in the final year of his current contract and has a base salary of $8.5 million.

No punishment for Lions or Matt Patricia

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As far as the NFL is concerned, the matter of Matt Patricia’s past is closed.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the league will not discipline either the Lions or Patricia, after a 1996 incident in which the head coach was accused of sexual assault.

Patricia denied any wrongdoing — at the time and recently when a public records search yielded the paperwork. And since the incident was well before he was involved in any NFL business, the league can’t punish him under the personal conduct policy.

Patricia didn’t reveal the information to the Lions (and he shouldn’t have), though there is a troubling aspect to a newspaper finding more things out with a public records search than a team does when hiring one of its highest-profile employees.

The league met with the Lions and Patricia last week to discuss the matter.

The case never went to trial, as the woman who made the accusation didn’t cooperate with prosecutors and testify against him.

Bengals sign Billy Price

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The Bengals have signed their first-round pick from this year’s draft.

Center Billy Price came off the board with the 21st overall pick and the Bengals announced his signing on Monday. Price signed a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth season, which is the standard contract for first-round picks under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Price was projected to be an early selection during the 2017 season, but the Ohio State product’s stock was shaken a bit when he injured his pectoral at the Scouting Combine. Initial fears were assuaged when doctors said Price should be ready for camp and he wound up as the Bengals’ choice last month.

With Price under contract, the Bengals have now signed nine of their 11 picks. Third-round defensive end Sam Hubbard, a college teammate of Price’s, and third-round linebacker Malik Jefferson remain unsigned.

Saints sign Tre’Quan Smith, wrap up draft class

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Add the Saints to the list of teams with all their draft picks under contract.

Via Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Saints have signed third-rounder Tre'Quan Smith, wrapping up their entire draft class.

Smith, a wide receiver from Central Florida, impressed in early workouts.

He’s a speed receiver in an offense that is built for them, though the presence of a stocked depth chart including Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr. and restricted free agent pickup Cameron Meredith means there won’t be pressure on him immediately.

Who are the greatest Eagles of all time?

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In many ways, the 2017 Eagles are the greatest installment of the franchise, at least since its latest NFL-title team 1960. But who are the greatest players of all time?

That was the subject of a PFT Live draft on Monday, with an expansion to four rounds.

Check out the picks in the attached video, and before chiming in on the wisdom (or lack thereof) of the picks, we suggest a Google search or two on Chuck Bednarik and/or Steve Van Buren.

[Spoiler: Van Buren has no relation to what arguably was the worst Seinfeld episode ever. (Hey, one of them had to be.)]

Rams sign Chunky Clements

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The Rams won’t have Aaron Donald with the team as OTAs get underway on Monday and they’ve added another defensive tackle to the mix in his absence.

The team announced the signing of defensive tackle Chunky Clements ahead of the first OTA on Monday afternoon.

Clements was undrafted out of Illinois last year and landed with the Texans after spending the summer with the Vikings. Clements bounced between the active roster and practice squad over the course of the regular season and wound up playing in the final two games of the season. He had two tackles and a half-sack, but still got waived in March.

The Rams also added Ndamukong Suh to their defensive tackle group this offseason and Clements will be trying to earn a spot behind him and Donald over the coming months.

Cowboys sign third-rounder Michael Gallup

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The Cowboys now have all of their 2018 draft picks under contract.

Wide receiver Michael Gallup was the only one without a deal to start the week and the team announced on Monday that the third-round pick has agreed to a four-year deal. The Cowboys picked nine players overall during last month’s draft.

Gallup caught 176 passes for 2,685 yards and 21 touchdowns at Colorado State over the last two seasons. He joins a Cowboys receiver group that’s going to look much different than recent seasons thanks to Dez Bryant‘s departure and the addition of several new faces. That turnover should make a big role available to Gallup right away if he makes a smooth transition to the professional game.

The Cowboys also waived offensive lineman Jarron Jones and signed guard Damien Mama in other Monday moves.

Peter King pens his farewell MMQB column

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Our friend and future full-time colleague Peter King has compiled his last, and arguably his best, column for SI.com’s MMQB. We highly recommend stopping everything you’re doing and taking 30 minutes or so to soak it in.

This edition of King’s weekly cornucopia has extra corn and even more ucopia, with plenty of anecdotes from decades of devotion to the greatest sport on earth. Read it. Savor it. It’s a masterwork and a football history course all in one, something from which his passion and appreciation readily flows.

Here’s one highlight (but, again, read it all): “Thank you, Michael Irvin. ‘We’re playing in a Sports Illustrated game!’ he shouted when I showed up in Texas during the week of a big game in 1991, when the Cowboys started to get good. That Friday afternoon, Irvin said he’d sit for an interview with me, but not at Valley Ranch. We got in his car, and he took me to a strip club, where we talked for an hour. Great interview. Interesting scenery.”

And another: “Thank you, Jimmy Johnson. For a lot of things. He’s as transparent a coach as I’ve covered in my 29 SI years. The first time we talked extensively, at a seafood place in San Diego in training camp in 1990, Johnson spoke about the pain of his 1-15 rookie season, and he was so candid about how much it sucked that at the end of the evening, perhaps emboldened by four or six Heinekens, he looked me square in the eye and said, ‘Peter, if you f— me with this story, I’ll squash you like a squirrel in the road.'”

And one more, from 2007: “On my Continental puddle-jumper from Newark to Providence last week to do a Patriots story for HBO, the man in front of me passed gas uncontrollably, constantly, and without any shame throughout the flight. After about 15 minutes of this, the man across the aisle looked at the Wall Street Journal-reading farter and said: ‘Do you think you might be able to control that?’

“‘Control what?’ Mr. Fart said.
’The farting,’ Mr. Across-the-Aisle-But-Speaking-for-Everyone said. 
’Jesus,’ Mr. Fart said, sounding apologetic. “I’m sorry.” 
But he couldn’t stop, and we suffered with the acrid fumes for most of the 47-minute flight.”

The sweet fumes of King’s column at SI.com will linger for a while, but then he’ll arrive at NBC in July, where he’ll pick up where he’s leaving off. We can’t wait for that to happen, and we suspect you feel the same way.

Goodell: Congress should enact uniform gambling standards for states

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Last week’s Supreme Court decision opening the door for states to sanction sports betting has been met with much speculation about how it will impact all sports in the United States.

The NFL’s initial response was to ask Congress for “a core regulatory framework” that would govern legalized betting on sports. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expanded on that in a statement on Monday that asks Congress to act and outlines four areas that the league believes need to be addressed in any legislation.

“As it was for my predecessors, there is no greater priority for me as the Commissioner of the National Football League than protecting the integrity of our sport.  Our fans, our players and our coaches deserve to know that we are doing everything possible to ensure no improper influences affect how the game is played on the field. This week’s ruling by the Supreme Court has no effect on that unwavering commitment.

We have spent considerable time planning for the potential of broadly legalized sports gambling and are prepared to address these changes in a thoughtful and comprehensive way, including substantial education and compliance trainings for our clubs, players, employees and partners. These efforts include supporting commonsense legislation that protects our players, coaches and fans and maintains public confidence in our games. We are asking Congress to enact uniform standards for states that choose to legalize sports betting that include, at a minimum, four core principles:

  1. There must be substantial consumer protections;
  2. Sports leagues can protect our content and intellectual property from those who attempt to steal or misuse it;
  3. Fans will have access to official, reliable league data; and
  4. Law enforcement will have the resources, monitoring and enforcement tools necessary to protect our fans and penalize bad actors here at home and abroad.”

It’s easy to understand why the NFL and other leagues would want to have one framework for gambling rather than as many as 50 different sets of rules in place. It’s also easy to understand why the league wants to find a way to take in money for their “intellectual property” and “reliable league data” in the form of integrity fees or some other avenue.

Whether Congress will act to give them what they want after a court ruling that placed gambling decisions squarely into the hands of states remains to be seen, however.

Chris Simms makes a belated confession

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Monday’s PFT Live focused on the challenges facing the Eagles, as they try to parlay their first-ever Super Bowl championship into a second one. Looming over the effort is the question of whether Carson Wentz or Nick Foles will be the starting quarterback.

While not a full-blown controversy (yet), things could get awkward for the Eagles. And the Giants went through this 27 years ago, when Phil Simms was the incumbent and Jeff Hostetler had just led the team to a win in Super Bowl XXV.

PFT Live co-host Chris Simms knows a thing or two about that one, because he was an 11-year-old boy who was hoping his dad would fend off the former West Virginia quarterback who had become an unlikely hero after Father Phil suffered a broken leg during the 1990 season. On Monday, Chris confessed to a locker-room crime committed against Hostetler’s cleats.

We didn’t plan this one (I didn’t even know about it), which makes it even better. To hear the whole story, check out the video.

Jets QB competition will move forward during OTAs

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Jets left tackle Kelvin Beachum said recently that the team won’t know what it has in quarterback Sam Darnold until the third overall pick in this year’s draft takes a big hit and that hit won’t come during the team’s organized team activities this month.

With or without full contact, the practices will give the Jets an extended chance to see Darnold on the practice field with veteran players for the first time since drafting him. That will provide information about how Darnold is running the huddle and grasping the offensive playbook as well as how he fares against experienced defensive backs trying to stop him from completing passes.

As recounted by Albert Breer of SI.com in a lengthy look at the Darnold pursuit, the Jets didn’t expect to have Darnold fall to them — “You have a horseshoe up your a–,” Jets vice president of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger said to General Manager Mike Maccagnan — and CEO Christopher Johnson has made it clear that the expectations are high now that he did.

Whether that leads to a quick rise up the depth chart remains to be seen. The Jets don’t have big questions about Josh McCown after he spent 2017 as their starter, so the focus in OTAs is likely to be on figuring out the plan for Darnold as his rookie season unfolds.

Arizona, New Orleans will host the next two Super Bowls

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The next four Super Bowls will be played in Atlanta, Miami, Tampa Bay, and Los Angeles, respectively. The next two hosts will be announced this week.

Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal reports that Arizona and New Orleans will be awarded Super Bowls LVII and LVIII during this week’s ownership meetings.

It’s the culmination of a process first reported during the 2017 season on NBC’s Football Night in America, with the NFL ditching the traditional bidding process and giving selected cities dibs. If the city that gets the opportunity to host the game declines, a traditional bidding process will ensue.

As explained in October, the NFL realizes that cities expend time and money in an effort to win the bidding process, and that they become disappointed when their bid isn’t selected. When Minnesota received Super Bowl LII, for example, cities like New Orleans resolved (we were told at the time) never to waste the time, effort, money, and emotion to bid on the game when competing with a new stadium.

This time around, New Orleans didn’t have to do that. The NFL offered New Orleans the chance to host the game again, and New Orleans accepted.