Free-agent addition Ricky Jean Francois surprised to hear from Packers

Getty Images

The Packers traditionally stand pat in free agency, so defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois never expected to hear from them much less end up there. Jean Francois picked Green Bay over Seattle, signing a one-year deal worth up to $3 million.

“To get that phone call that the Green Bay Packers want you is rare,” Jean Francois said, via Stu Courtney of USA Today Wisconsin. “It’s rare that you see them go outside and pick guys up and if they do, it’s for a reason.

“On the first day of meetings when all the new guys stand up, I’m used to seeing like five or six guys stand up and there were only three guys to stand up. I’m blessed to get picked up.’”

The Packers expect Jean Francois, who is entering his ninth season, not only to shore up the middle but also to tutor 2016 draft picks Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry.

“When I came in, all I wanted to do was just smarten ‘em up,” Jean Francois, 30, said. “Learn how to use your speed, learn how to use your agility, look at formations. Look at different things that can make the game a lot [easier].”

Tuesday morning one-liners

Getty Images

Will uncertainty about his future affect Bills QB Tyrod Taylor this season?

Dolphins rookie WR Isaiah Ford got some advice from Steve Smith.

LB David Harris will wear No. 51 with the Patriots.

QB Christian Hackenberg remains a big unknown for the Jets.

The Ravens want to get the run game going.

A look back at the early days of the Bengals franchise.

Cameron Erving feels he’s in a better place on the Browns offensive line.

Steelers C Mike Matthews’ offensive line coach is his father Bruce’s former teammate Mike Munchak.

WR Braxton Miller’s size and speed hold appeal for the Texans.

The Colts have employed several good receivers over the years.

Jaguars CB Aaron Colvin graded well in pass coverage last year.

The Titans hope OL Corey Levin can play as well as he can spell.

Broncos LB Von Miller was the highest-rated defensive player in the NFL’s player poll.

The Chiefs maintain an optimistic view about their young receivers.

Raiders P Marquette King had an issue with Southwest Airlines.

Breaking down the Chargers defensive backs with their position coach.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ visit with the Pope inspired a song.

Former Giants RB Brandon Jacobs thinks his old team can win the Super Bowl.

An attempt to name the top Eagles offensive players of the last 17 years.

Things appear to be trending down for LB Will Compton with the Redskins.

The Bears may be taking on a different look at tight end.

Running through the Lions’ left tackle options with Taylor Decker injured.

Packers DL Dean Lowry hopes to build on a good finish to last season.

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook threw out the first pitch at a Marlins game.

Falcons LB Vic Beasley has a Clemson-themed Camaro.

Dwight Howard now plays basketball in Charlotte and hopes to connect with QB Cam Newton.

Assessing LB Alex Okafor’s fit in the Saints defense.

Will former Buccaneers CB Ronde Barber make the Hall of Fame?

Undrafted rookie CB Sojourn Shelton got a feel for the Cardinals by watching their Amazon show from last year.

The Rams want a better experience for fans at home games this year.

Do the Falcons provide a hint about how the 49ers’ defensive line will look this year?

A guide to checking out Seahawks training camp this summer.

Packers claim Ego Ferguson off waivers

Getty Images

The Bears waived 2014 second-round pick Ego Ferguson last week and Ferguson may have a couple of chances to show the team they made a mistake during the 2017 season.

Field Yates of reports that Ferguson has been claimed off of waivers by the Packers and will have an opportunity to make the team as a defensive lineman over the next few months.

Ferguson’s three years with the Bears were marred by injuries as he missed all of last season with a shoulder injury and 12 games of the 2015 season with a knee injury. The team also shifted defenses from a 4-3 when Ferguson was drafted to a 3-4 under coordinator Vic Fangio and the limited time on the field couldn’t have helped his chances of showing he was worth keeping around for a fourth season.

The Packers also play a 3-4 base defense and Ferguson will compete for a spot in the rotation with the likes of Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Ricky Jean Francois and Dean Lowry with Letroy Guion set to serve a four-game suspension to open next season.

Leading defensive end in sacks isn’t on Pro Bowl ballot


The NFL’s Pro Bowl ballot lists 54 defensive ends, of whom fans can vote for six. But it doesn’t list the player who leads all defensive ends in sacks.

That player, Detroit’s Kerry Hyder, has burst onto the scene this season and recorded five sacks, an NFL high for defensive ends so far this year. But he said he’s OK with not being listed on the Pro Bowl ballot because he doesn’t think fans would vote for him.

“I’m sure people don’t know who I am, anyway,” Hyder said, via the Detroit Free Press.

The defensive ends on the ballot include plenty who are obviously much less deserving than Hyder. That list starts with his injured teammate, Ezekiel Ansah, who has played in just two games and recorded just one tackle this season. Others on the ballot include Texans defensive end Antonio Smith, a backup who also has just one tackle in two games. And there’s Packers rookie Dean Lowry, a backup who has played just 32 snaps so far this season.

To include those players on the ballot but not include Hyder is a foolish oversight by the NFL. Hyder is right that fans probably wouldn’t vote for him anyway, but smart fans who know how good Hyder is should at least have the opportunity.

With long summer ahead, Packers excuse 15 vets from minicamp


The Packers have a longer than usual training camp and preseason upcoming due to playing in the annual Hall of Fame Game.

So, Packers coach Mike McCarthy won a lot of popularity points by starting summer vacation early for many of the team’s veterans. McCarthy excused 15 veterans from the team’s mandatory minicamp that began Tuesday.

“The quality of work and the workload has been very high, so I’ve been pleased with that,” McCarthy said of the team’s nine-week offseason program, per the team’s official website. “The message today was about let’s have a really good finish. We want to make sure these [young] guys are ready for when they get back.”

The 15 players excused all entered the league prior to 2012.

With quarterback Aaron Rodgers among the veterans excused, second-year man Brett Hundley will get the No. 1 reps. The Packers had three draft picks — Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Kyle Murphy — miss all or most of the offseason program due to the NFL’s antiquated rules involving schools still in session, so keeping many of the team’s starters out will allow more opportunities for backups and rookies to catch up.

McCarthy said the minicamp will be “obviously tailored to our younger players.”

Friday morning one-liners

Getty Images

The Bills may not have done enough at wide receiver this offseason.

Winning games and winning trust from the fanbase go hand in hand for the Dolphins.

Patriots DE Rob Ninkovich feels younger than the calendar says he is.

How does this year’s quarterback drama measure up to others in Jets history?

A look at the nutrition program the Ravens have implemented.

The Bengals running game is working to rebound in 2016.

WR Terrelle Pryor is earning good reviews at Browns practices.

Getting picked in the sixth round was worth the wait for Steelers LB Travis Feeney.

RB Lamar Miller shares how he’s adusting to life with the Texans.

Jonotthan Harrison is seeing time at guard during Colts practices.

Another year, another injured first-round pick for the Jaguars.

CB Brice McCain has seen plenty of changes around the Titans in his two-plus months with the team.

Jake Plummer thinks the Broncos should give QB Paxton Lynch a lot of time to develop.

Chiefs linebackers joined high schoolers at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum and Library this week.

Some support for Raiders LB Khalil Mack’s confidence in the team’s defense.

Breaking down the numbers on Chargers C Matt Slauson’s contract.

Cowboys WR Terrance Williams is heading into a crucial year.

Is Bobby Hart a solution to the needs on the Giants offensive line?

Developing QB Carson Wentz will be a big part of Eagles coach Doug Pederson’s job.

The Redskins’ receiving corps has gone from weakness to strength.

Assessing the chances of LB Willie Young signing an extension with the Bears.

The Lions are having a tension-free long snapping competition.

Packers DE Dean Lowry has to say goodbye to his days as a Bears fan.

Forecasting the competition for linebacker spots with the Vikings.

LB Sean Weatherspoon wants to make the most of his second stint with the Falcons.

The Panthers gave rookie RB Devon Johnson a nice bonus for signing with them as a free agent.

WR Jake Lampman is trying to extend his dream opportunity with the Saints as long as possible.

A “just average” assessment of the Buccaneers offensive line’s work in 2015.

Looking at what Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher needs to do this season.

The Rams are getting bigger on offense.

The 49ers are exploring different ways to use Jimmie Ward in the secondary.

Skittles is working to keep a foothold in the Seahawks locker room.