Sean Payton hopes NFL stops using “all-star” officiating crews in playoffs

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Saints head coach Sean Payton is continuing to bang the drum for improving officiating, and he has an idea that goes beyond expanding instant replay.

Payton wants the league to stop using “all-star” officiating crews in the postseason and instead use the same crews who worked together for 16 games during the regular season. Payton says that when his team was on the wrong end of a missed pass interference call in the NFC Championship Game, the two closest officials, who had never worked together before, failed to communicate properly.

“I don’t think we’re gonna see the all-star crews as much,” Payton said. “On that specific play, we watched a young official acquiesce to a veteran official. It’s the first time they were working together.”

Payton also said he thinks the postseason officiating assignments are based too much on seniority and not enough on an official’s grades.

“The referee has to be five years a ref before he can work the Super Bowl. What if he’s Patrick Mahomes the referee? What if he’s the best in Year 2?”

Payton also noted that the NFL won’t assign the same referee to two consecutive Super Bowls, and he said they should if a referee grades out the best in consecutive years.

“When’s the last time we had back-to-back referees work the Super Bowl? I know we’ve had back-to-back quarterbacks, we can’t get Brady out of this game, but if the best referee truly was the best, let’s just hypothetically say, last year, this year, let’s say he had a three-year run,” Payton said, then he should get to referee three straight Super Bowls.

Payton raises good points, points that we’ve raised before. The two best teams are on the field in the Super Bowl, and they ought to have their game officiated by the best crew.

Raiders add backup quarterback Landry Jones

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Jon Gruden loves collecting quarterbacks, and now he has another.

Landry Jones has signed with the Raiders, the team announced. Jones joins Mike Glennon and Nathan Peterman as potential backups to Derek Carr. The Raiders are also looking into drafting a quarterback in the first round, which could create a very crowded quarterback room.

Jones is best known for his five seasons as a backup quarterback to Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, where he was drafted in the fourth round in 2013 and stayed on the team through 2017, starting five games. Jones spent last year in Jacksonville but never got on the field.

It’s unlikely that more than one of Jones, Glennon and Peterman will make the Raiders’ 53-player roster, but Gruden will take his time evaluating all of them before deciding.

Ravens re-sign Stanley Jean-Baptiste

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A talented cornerback who hasn’t produced much in his NFL career will get another chance.

Stanley Jean-Baptiste has re-signed with the Ravens, agent Sunny Shah wrote on Twitter.

The 28-year-old Jean-Baptiste was the Saints’ second-round draft pick in 2014, but he played in only four games for New Orleans before he was released. He then spent time with the Lions, Seahawks, Chiefs and Jaguars without ever playing in a game. He finally got on the field again with the Ravens late in the 2017 season, but in 2018 he broke his arm in the preseason and the Ravens put him on injured reserve.

At 6-foot-3, Jean-Baptiste is one of the NFL’s tallest cornerbacks, and he has good natural athleticism. But so far he hasn’t been able to put it together on the field. He’ll get another chance in Baltimore this year. Possibly his last chance.

Earl Mitchell visiting Seahawks this week

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The Seahawks are taking a meeting with a possible veteran addition to their defensive line on Wednesday.

PFT has learned, via a league source, that defensive tackle Earl Mitchell will be visiting with the team.

Mitchell spent the last two seasons in the NFC West with the 49ers, so the Seahawks have some recent experience playing against him. He started 28 of the 30 games he played over that span and recorded 61 tackles and a sack.

Mitchell has also played for the Dolphins and Texans since Houston made him a third-round pick in 2010.

The Seahawks saw defensive tackle Shamar Stephen leave as a free agent this month. Jarran Reed, Poona Ford and Nazair Jones remain on hand from last season’s group.

Ravens dismiss notion of cutting Jimmy Smith

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After the Ravens re-signed Tavon Young and exercised Brandon Carr‘s option, there was some speculation about Jimmy Smith‘s future with the team.

With Young, Carr and Marlon Humphrey on hand at cornerback, many noted the $9.5 million in cap savings that the team would realize by parting ways with the veteran. On Monday, though, General Manager Eric DeCosta said that he favored having as many cornerbacks as possible heading into the season.

“One of the greatest strengths of our team right now is our secondary,” DeCosta said, via the team’s website. “I think it would be foolish for us to make a strength a weakness for no reason. It’s a very fluid process. We’re in good shape right now salary-cap wise. Jimmy’s a good player. We’ve got a really, really good secondary and it’s a passing league. I think that’s important.”

This is the final year of Smith’s current contract. He missed the first four games of last season while serving a suspension and returned to make 45 tackles and two interceptions over the final 12 games of the regular season.

Larry Fitzgerald: Trade to Cleveland removes “distractions” from Beckham

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There seemed to be a time when new Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. might not have felt sure about his new home, but he seems to have warmed up to it lately.

Because as much as it had to be a culture shock going from the center of the universe to northeastern Ohio, it might turn out to be a good thing for the former Giants wide receiver

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who has become the elder statesman for the position, said he hadn’t talked to Beckham since the trade but hopes it can quickly become a positive.

“I don’t think I saw it coming,’’ Fitzgerald said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “You heard the rumors swirling, but a player that’s that talented, I mean, he’s one of the best the game has seen what he’s done thus far in his career, and to think about him not wearing a Giants uniform is different.

“But I think it can be great for him, getting to a smaller city where there’s just not as many distractions, he can focus on ball and really let his talents do the speaking for him. He’s with that group with [Jarvis] Landry, again they went to college together, so that could be a great, great combination with a rising quarterback [in Baker Mayfield] as well.’’

When Beckham stole a line from Mayfield to say he “woke up feeling dangerous,” it looked like the first sign he was getting used to the idea of being a Brown, and all that entailed. Beckham has become an international celebrity, and while that’s easier to do in New York, being with the Browns might be a boost to his actual football-playing.

Chargers “full-on trying to find” spot for permanent L.A. headquarters

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The Chargers are heading into their third season as a Los Angeles-based team and they are moving closer to being able to play in the new stadium under construction in Inglewood rather than the StubHub Center.

While that will give them a permanent home field, the Chargers are still looking for a headquarters in Los Angeles. They are currently situated at the Hoag Performance Center in Costa Mesa and team owner Dean Spanos said the team feels a “sense of urgency” to find a facility to call their own.

“We’re full-go on trying to find our permanent facility,” Spanos said, via ESPN.com. “And we’re looking everywhere, all over L.A. and Orange County. We haven’t excluded anything. This is going to be our identity. And maybe it’s the third part in terms of importance to us being the Los Angeles Chargers — the product, the new stadium and our new facility.”

The Chargers toured the Cowboys’ vast facility in Frisco and something along the lines of The Star is one possibility. They could also opt for something on a less grand scale and the ultimate answer will result in roots being put down in their new home.

New Damon Harrison deal not a priority for Lions right now

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Defensive tackle Damon Harrison would like a new deal with the Lions, but the team is focused on other things right now.

Harrison, who was acquired in a trade with the Giants last season, is set to make $6.75 million this year and $9 million in 2020. He has $250,000 workout bonuses each year.

General Manager Bob Quinn was asked about Harrison’s contract on Monday and didn’t rule anything out. He did say that any talks about his deal would have to wait until after the draft.

“My priority right now is the draft,” Quinn said, via MLive.com. “We got another month or so before the draft is here, so that is something that we’ll probably talk about in May or June.”

The Lions saw their run defense improve a great deal once Harrison arrived in Detroit last year and he’s set to play a prominent role up front again this year. He does turn 31 in November, however, and that’s sure to play into the team’s thinking when they are ready to sit down and talk about his contract.

Chances of long-term deal between 49ers, Robbie Gould “not dead”

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The 49ers used their franchise tag on kicker Robbie Gould this year, but that doesn’t mean that he will definitely be playing out the year under its terms.

General Manager John Lynch said on Monday that the team spoke to Gould about a longer deal before deciding to use the tag and that it is still something they’d like to discuss with their kicker before the July 15 deadline to put such an agreement in place.

“We had a conversation with his representation at the Combine,” Lynch said, via the Sacramento Bee. “The franchise [tag] was something we have at our disposal that yeah, we’re gonna use because he’s a very good player and we don’t want to let him go but we worked really hard to try to get a deal done. And that didn’t happen, and so I think we understand that and we move forward accordingly. That’s not dead, either.”

Gould is set to make $4.97 million if he plays out the year under the tag.

Jets seem to be auctioning off Darron Lee

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If this football thing doesn’t work out for him, Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan may have a future in sales.

Not only is he making sure everyone in the NFL is aware he’s willing to trade the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft, he also seems to be polishing up former first-rounder Darron Lee for sale as well.

The 2016 first-rounder was rendered surplus to requirements when the team spent heavily on free agent C.J. Mosley, but Maccagnan was pointing out how young and cheap Lee was.

“I think that will work itself out over time,” Maccagnan said, via Brian Costello of the New York Post. “Right now, we feel very good about our inside-linebacker position between Darron, Avery [Williamson], C.J., we also signed Neville Hewitt. Quite frankly, Darron’s contract is not a big contract. I think it’s only about $1.7 or [1.8] million. It just gives us a lot of pieces there right now and we’ll figure it out as we go forward.”

Lee’s in the final year of his rookie deal, and they wouldn’t likely pick up the fifth-year option. But another team might be willing to throw something their way for a guy who is still young (24) and on that relatively inexpensive deal.

Who will show leadership on replay expansion?

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The storm clouds are hovering regarding the question of expanding replay in order to avoid a recurrence of the uncorrected bad call that marred the NFC Championship.

In one corner, the folks who realize that a failure to improve procedures can create all sort of problems for the league, in an age of legalized gambling and, come 2020 if not sooner, enhanced governmental regulation of private business. In the other corner, those who regard the incident as a freak event, a 100-year storm that won’t happen again during their lifetimes.

The right approach is to implement a fix. The question is whether the league will do the right thing on Tuesday.

And the biggest question within that question is whether someone will show leadership when the time comes to take up the subject among the league’s owners.

The Commissioner would be the obvious person to do it. But with his career moving toward a conclusion and with his political capital arguably better saved for negotiating a new labor deal and new TV contracts, there may not be a desire to roll up sleeves and clunk heads together on something that most likely won’t repeat itself during his remaining tenure, however long (or short) it may be. It’s a problem, as a practical matter, for the next Commissioner.

But it’s also a problem for the current 32 franchises. And if the Commissioner won’t be twisting arms to get there right thing done, a push from within ownership becomes critical. For Tuesday, that’s the question that lingers in the hot, dry (still hot even if dry) air of Arizona: Who will make the owners realize the business and political dangers of complacency and inaction on this critical issue?

As Saints coach Sean Payton said Monday, inaction means that “ownership is saying they’re comfortable with what happened.” Ownership shouldn’t be. When the owners get in the room on Tuesday, one or more of them will need to be willing to push back against those who scoff at the idea that recent history will repeat itself.

Jay Ajayi still talking to Eagles about a return

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Jay Ajayi visited the Colts last week but left without a deal, and it might be some time before he gets one.

Via Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, agent Drew Rosenhaus said he was still maintaining discussions with the Eagles about the veteran running back possibly returning.

Ajayi tore his ACL last October, and while Rosenhaus said he’d be ready for the start of the regular season, the recovery would likely push up near that time.

When well, Ajayi has proven to be a good part in a running game. The Eagles are particularly thin at running back at the moment, so an eventual reunion seems to make sense, even if there’s no rush to do it before the draft.

Marcus Mariota: I’m going to play my best, contract will take care of itself

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Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is heading into a pivotal year.

Nerve issues in his elbow kept him off the field for stretches last season and he’s entering the fifth and final year of his rookie deal without any assurances that he’ll be back in Tennessee in 2020. During an interview with Rob DeMello of KHON in Hawaii, Mariota said that he feels close to 100 percent physically and that he isn’t stressing the contract uncertainty as the offseason unfolds.

“My mentality as a competitor never changes. I’m going to do my best to be at my best when the season comes and do my best to win games. All that other stuff will take care of itself, Mariota said. Obviously I love Nashville, I love Tennessee. It’s a great organization to play for. With that being said, they got, it’s a business and you can’t take any of that stuff personal. You just got to go out there and do your thing. No matter what, my number one goal is to get healthy and from there just become a better football player and do my best to be my best when the season comes so we can win games.”

Since trading for Ryan Tannehill, Titans General Manager Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel have both said that he’s coming in to be the No. 2 behind Mariota. Robinson also said that Tannehill is in Tennessee to push and compete with Mariota and any more injury issues — Mariota has not played all 16 games in any of his four seasons — might force the Titans to consider other quarterback options in the future.

New Era becomes official apparel provider of Scouting Combine

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The Underwear Olympics will now be getting its underwear elsewhere.

Via WGR 550 in Buffalo, New Era has supplanted UnderArmour as the official apparel provider of the Scouting Combine.

The league announced on Monday that, starting next year, New Era will outfit all Combine participants with the full array of performance apparel and headwear.

New Era already is the official cap provider of the NFL, and it owns the naming rights to the stadium in which the Bills play. New Era will now be a significant part of the league’s pre-draft process, resulting in more money for the league . . . even if the participants in the Scouting Combine receive nothing for their role in one of the league’s biggest offseason reality shows other than consideration for employment and maybe some free clothes and hats.

Matt Patricia: Lions’ timeline for winning is now

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Matt Patricia is not asking for patience from Lions fans.

After the Lions went from 9-7 in Jim Caldwell’s last year as Detroit’s head coach to 6-10 in Patricia’s first year, he is expecting improvement this year, rather than a long rebuilding process.

“We’ve got to do it right away,” Patricia said on PFT Live. “Everyone’s timelines are now. We understand that. But realistically, I think, for us we’re just trying to build it the right way so that we have sustained success once we get it to where we want to go. Certainly for the fans we’re trying to do that as quick as possible.”

The Lions were one of the most aggressive teams at the start of free agency, quickly signing Trey Flowers, Justin Coleman and Jesse James, among other players. They’re operating this offseason like a team that expects significant improvement in 2019, and not like a team that expects a long rebuilding effort.