Week In Review

5 Key NFL Stories: 4/28/19 – 5/5/19

Fifth-year option week unfolds: While some teams made their 2020 options known prior to the draft, many waited. Several franchises — the 49ers (Joshua Garnett), Bills (Shaq Lawson), Cardinals (Robert Nkemdiche), Jets (Darron Lee), Panthers (Vernon Butler), Raiders (Karl Joseph), Redskins (Josh Doctson), Saints (Eli Apple), Seahawks (Germain Ifedi), Steelers (Artie Burns), Titans (Jack Conklin) and Vikings (Laquon Treadwell) — opted this week not to extend their 2016 first-round picks’ contracts into 2020. Most of these were fairly straightforward decisions due to picks not panning out, but the Seahawks and Titans put their starting right tackles into contract years. The Eagles, as you may have expected, picked up Carson Wentz‘s option; the Bears and Lions pushed Leonard Floyd‘s and Taylor Decker‘s respective rookie contracts into 2020.

More developments in Tyreek Hill saga: The embattled Chiefs wide receiver went on the offensive this week (via a leaked letter from his defense attorney). The strategy appeared to be to shift blame for his 3-year-old son’s broken arm onto his fiancee, Crystal Espinal. Another report pointed to Hill, living in a hotel due to a non-contact order with the couple’s son, calling 911 because Espinal was passed out in the couple’s home. The Chiefs have banned Hill from their offseason program thus far, but instead of a quick release, it now looks like this could be a lengthy, messy process for just about everyone involved.

Raiders lose running back: Isaiah Crowell‘s Raiders tenure may never involve him wearing a game uniform. The veteran running back suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon while working out, and the Raiders placed the recently signed back on IR. While Marshawn Lynch was reportedly interested in coming back for a third season in Oakland, the Silver and Black opted to re-sign Doug Martin.

Post-draft roster bolstering commences: A year after finally receiving the long-term deal he coveted, Zach Brown had to again settle for a one-year agreement. After the Redskins released him, Brown caught on with the Eagles for $3MM. He will be a threat to join Nigel Bradham as a three-down linebacker. The Texans lost Tyrann Mathieu in free agency and Andre Hal to retirement; they added longtime Charger starter Jahleel Addae to their safety mix. The Colts did not opt to use their war chest of cap space on a running back before the draft, but Chris Ballard added Spencer Ware post-draft. Ballard was with the Chiefs when they initially acquired Ware.

Cowboys’ priorities coming into focus: The Cowboys appear to view new deals for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper as front-burner tasks. Both are in contract years. Stephen Jones said the team would like to have its quarterback and top wide receiver re-signed by the time the season starts. As for Ezekiel Elliott? He appears to be behind his aforementioned teammates in this extension queue. Jones said no timetable exists for an Elliott re-up but reiterated any talks for a new deal will probably have to start at Todd Gurley‘s price.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 4/21/19 – 4/28/19

2019 NFL Draft in the books. After three days and 254 selections, the 2019 NFL draft is complete. Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray came off the board to the Cardinals at No. 1 overall, while Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa (49ers), Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (Jets), Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell (Raiders), and LSU linebacker Devin White (Buccaneers) rounded out the top-five. PFR tracked all the results, both by round and by team.

Tyreek Hill investigation re-opened. After prosecutors declined to press charges against Hill following allegations of child abuse, audio emerged in which Hill admits to abusing his three-year-old son (who now has a broken arm) and misleading detectives. Hill, who also threatens his fiancée on tape, has been indefinitely banned by the Chiefs but remains on the club’s roster. Meanwhile, authorities have since re-opened the criminal investigation against Hill.

Cardinals trade Josh Rosen to Dolphins. After taking Murray first overall, Arizona found a trade partner for Rosen in the Dolphins, who sacrificed the No. 62 pick and a 2020 fifth-rounder in exchange for the UCLA product. Miami initially balked at surrendering its own 48th overall pick for Rosen, but subsequently turned that selection into No. 62, No. 200, and a 2020 second-rounder. Because the Cardinals already paid Rosen his signing bonus, the Dolphins will owe the 2018 No. 10 pick less than $7MM over the next three seasons.

Chiefs acquire Frank Clark. Kansas City had already traded its own franchise-tagged edge rusher this offseason, shipping Dee Ford to the 49ers for a 2020 second-round pick. Now, they’ve picked up Clark, who was on his own franchise tender with the Seahawks. Kansas City sent a first-round pick (No. 29), a third-round pick (No. 92) and the lower of their 2020 second-round picks to Seattle in exchange for Clark and a third-round choice (No. 84). The Chiefs have since extended Clark on a five-year, $104MM deal that contains $43.8MM guaranteed.

Marshawn Lynch retires, and Doug Baldwin may be forced to follow suit. Lynch has again retired, hanging up his cleats after spending the past two seasons with the Raiders. He originally announced the end of his career after the 2016 campaign, but came back to play for his hometown team. Baldwin, another member of the Seahawks’ championship run, may be forced to end his career after dealing with knee, shoulder, and hernia injuries.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 4/14/19 – 4/21/19

Seahawks extend Russell Wilson. As former NFL executive Andrew Brandt likes to say, deadlines spur action. Wilson laid out an April 15 deadline for extension negotiations, and may have indicated he wouldn’t sign any new deal — not in 2019, not next year, never — with the Seahawks had that date passed. The tactic worked, as Wilson and Seattle agreed to a four-year, $140MM extension that makes the veteran signal-caller the highest-paid player in NFL history. Wilson received a full no-trade clause and an NFL-record $65MM signing bonus.

Latest on Frank Clark. Wilson will be in Seattle for the foreseeable future, but the same might not be able to said for Clark, whom the Seahawks assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Trade rumors have swirled around Clark for weeks, but they’ve recently become more pronounced. Several teams are reportedly interested in Clark, and while Seattle may consider trading him, general manager John Schneider & Co. want a first-round pick in exchange. Clark’s fate is expected to be resolved by or during the draft.

Patriots add Demaryius Thomas. Lacking in offensive weapons given the departures of Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and Cordarrelle Patterson, plus the uncertain status of Josh Gordon, New England added the veteran Thomas on a one-year deal. It’s an exceptionally risk-averse contract, as most of Thomas’ potential earnings are tied up in per-game roster bonuses and incentives. The Patriots reportedly pursued Thomas at the trade deadline, but he was instead shipped from the Broncos to the Texans. The 31-year-old Thomas is recovering from an Achilles tear but is hoping to be available for training camp.

Draft rumors heat up. We’ve made it! The draft gets underway on Thursday night, and news/speculation is coming in rapidly. The Giants may be zeroing in on Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, while the Bengals could also consider taking a signal-caller in the first round. Meanwhile, the Raiders might be in line to take Kyler Murray if the Cardinals pass. And Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat is now off some NFL teams’ draft boards following the revelation of a heart condition.

Zach Miller announces retirement. Miller, of course, suffered a devastating knee injury during the 2017 season, and doctors at one point told him he was at risk for losing his leg after he severely dislocated his left knee and tore his popliteal artery. The 34-year-old has undergone nine surgeries and, as of earlier this year, hadn’t ruled out an NFL return. But he’s now decided to hang up his cleats, and PFR wishes Miller the best in retirement.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 4/7/19 – 4/14/19

Vikings sign Adam Thielen to extension. Thielen has been one of the best stories in the NFL the past few seasons, and he cashed in with a major extension that’ll pay him $64MM over four years. It can be worth up to $73MM and includes $35MM in guaranteed money. An undrafted free agent back in 2013, Thielen barely played his first few seasons in the league. He’s since become one of the best receivers in the league, with back to back seasons with at least 1,276 receiving yards. Thielen still had two years remaining on his previous deal, so he’ll be under Minnesota’s control for the next six seasons.

No suspension for Reuben FosterThe Redskins finally caught a break, as the league announced there would be no suspension for linebacker Reuben Foster. Foster was cut by the 49ers after being arrested for his latest domestic violence incident, and claimed by Washington. Charges were ultimately dropped, and the league’s investigation concluded he didn’t do anything wrong. If Foster can stay healthy and stay out of trouble, the former first round pick will provide a big boost for the Redskins’ defense next season.

Giants extend Sterling ShepardThielen wasn’t the only receiver to get a new deal this week. The Giants locked up Shepard with a four-year extension worth $41MM. Shepard is coming off a career year where he had 66 receptions for 872 yards and four touchdowns, but the sum he got was still a bit larger than most people were expecting. There was some talk that the Giants considered trading Shepard, but they ultimately decided to make him the focal point of their passing game with Odell Beckham Jr. no longer in the picture. New York will be counting on Shepard to do a lot more next season.

Patriots re-sign Stephen GostkowskiGostkowski and the Patriots had a bit of a stalemate, as the longtime New England kicker was a free agent for a lot longer than most expected. But the two sides finally got on the same page, agreeing to a new two-year deal. Soon after, word came out that Gostkowski was getting $8.5MM over the two years. Gostkowski has been one of the league’s more reliable kickers for a while now, but the Pats played hardball with him. He apparently drew some interest from the 49ers, but ultimately ended up back home.

Panthers sign Chris HoganHogan didn’t land the deal he likely imagined he would’ve a year or two ago. He ended up signing with Carolina, getting just $2MM for a one-year pact. The former Patriots standout has struggled with injuries and inconsistency the past couple of seasons, but is still very talented. He could prove to be a nice pickup for a Panthers team that had a very young receiving corp. In 2016, Hogan led the league with 17.9 yards per reception, and he has plenty of big game experience. Free agency had mostly died down by this point, and Hogan was one of the biggest names left available.

 

5 Key NFL Stories: 3/31/19 – 4/7/19

Cowboys sign DeMarcus Lawrence to extension. Roughly a week after reports surfaced that Lawrence had increased his asking price, the franchise-tagged defensive end agreed to a five-year, $105MM deal to stay in Dallas. Lawrence had been set to earn $20.572MM on his second consecutive franchise tender, but he’ll now average $21MM for the next five seasons, an AAV that places him second among all defensive players (behind only Khalil Mack). The former second-round pick received a $25MM signing bonus, $48MM fully guaranteed, and $65MM in practical guarantees.

Russell Wilson gives Seahawks contract deadline. Wilson is entering the final season of his current deal, and he’s set an April 15 deadline for extension talks. While it’s not entirely clear what will happen if that date comes and goes with no new pact in place, Wilson could choose to shut down negotiations until after the 2019 season. Seattle wasn’t blindsided by the deadline, as Wilson conveyed his intentions to the club in January. As of earlier today, the Seahawks reportedly aren’t close to an extension with their star quarterback.

Trade alert! The Chiefs and Browns last week consummated the 13th trade of the NFL offseason, with Cleveland sending defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah to Kansas City in exchange for safety Eric Murray. Ogbah had been on the trade block ever since the Browns acquired fellow edge rusher Olivier Vernon, and he’ll now head to the Chiefs to complete his rookie contract. Murray has a chance at starting in Cleveland, but he’ll likely have to compete with recent free agent addition Morgan Burnett.

AAF shuts down operations. The Alliance of American Football last week closed up shop midway through its inaugural campaign, with majority league owner Tom Dundon shutting down the organization against the wishes of founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian. AAF alums are now free to sign contracts with NFL teams, and ex-Orlando Apollos cornerback became the first AAF veteran to land an NFL contract by signing with the Chiefs.

Josh Sitton hangs up his cleats. Sitton, who is most known for his time with the Packers but also played for the Bears and Dolphins, announced his retirement after 11 NFL seasons. The 32-year-old earned one first-team All-Pro berth and four Pro Bowl nods at guard, and will end his career with more than $50MM in earnings. Sitton is the fourth former Packers Pro Bowler to retire this offseason, joining fellow guard T.J. Lang, receiver Jordy Nelson and fullback John Kuhn.

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5 Key Stories: 3/24/19 – 3/31/19

Gronk will retire (or maybe not?): This era’s tight end kingpin will leave the game shy of his 30s. Rob Gronkowski informed the Patriots he will retire at just 29. This would make him a candidate to join Jim Brown and Gale Sayers as Hall of Famers by their mid-30s, in the event Gronk stays retired. However, the Pats icon might not be 100 percent committed to this venture just yet. At least, his agent doesn’t think so. Drew Rosenhaus’ gut feeling is his client will come back at some point, though Gronkowski informed Rosenhaus he is “done, done, done.” The Patriots placed Gronk on their reserve/retired list, ensuring they would hold his rights if he reconsiders.

Patriots DC backs out: Greg Schiano reversed course on his commitment to become the Pats’ defensive coordinator. The former Buccaneers head coach decided this week to vacate his new role, barely a month after accepting it. Schiano spent the past three seasons as an Ohio State assistant head coach. His decision has Bill Belichick rumored to be taking on more responsibilities next season. The Pats lost longtime DC Matt Patricia during last year’s hiring period and de facto DC Brian Flores is now the Dolphins’ head coach, putting the defending Super Bowl champs in a bit of a bind.

Eagles, Cowboys add veterans via trade: In an offseason that seen the Eagles bring back DeSean Jackson and Vinny Curry and sign Malik Jackson, Philadelphia made another move to bolster its 2019 roster. Jordan Howard is now an Eagle, with the Bears set to receive merely a 2020 sixth-round pick for their three-year starting running back. This adds a big name to Philly’s backfield. The Cowboys, conversely, have been quiet. But they made a deal to acquire Robert Quinn late this week. The rebuilding Dolphins shed another veteran and will pay some of his salary. The Cowboys and Quinn also agreed to a pay reduction, with the eighth-year edge defender now set to make $8MM in 2019.

Nelson, Lechler, Lang say goodbye: More Pro bowlers are leaving the game. Jordy Nelson, Shane Lechler and T.J. Lang announced their respective retirements this week. All three players were free agents. Nelson will call it quits after 11 seasons — 10 of which in Green Bay. Although Nelson was only a one-time Pro Bowler, he was one of this era’s premier scorers at the receiver position. He finished as a top-five Packer in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown grabs. Lechler did not play last season but logged 18 years as a punter, one of the best the NFL has ever seen. The former Raiders and Texans specialist finished with six first-team All-Pro nods — the most ever for a punter. A two-time Pro Bowler, Lang spent two seasons with the Lions after an eight-year Packers run. The veteran guard ran into injury trouble in Detroit, most notably dealing with concussion issues in recent years.

Trouble on the DeMarcus Lawrence front? The franchise-tagged contingent had not produced much news this offseason … until this week. It no longer appears the Cowboys’ negotiations with Lawrence are going smoothly. While that is not uncommon for players attached to a tag, Lawrence’s asking price may be an issue. Once thought to not view Lawrence as a $20MM-AAV player, the Cowboys have now seen their standout defensive end ask for more than $22MM on average. Dallas had increased its offer to Lawrence and has addressed the fact that the gulf between Khalil Mack and Von Miller ($23.5MM per year to $19MM AAV) is an issue. Now, the sides are at an impasse, with Lawrence’s shoulder surgery (which calls for around a four-month recovery) still yet to be scheduled.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 2/24/19 – 3/3/19

Jason Witten returns to Cowboys. After only one — admittedly much-maligned — season as an analyst on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, Witten ended his retirement in order to re-sign with Dallas on a one-year, $3.5MM contract. Witten, who can earn up to $5MM via incentives, drew lackluster reviews for his commentary alongside Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland, but could end up moving into a coaching career down the line. In the near term, he’ll give the Cowboys another option at tight end, a position that didn’t offer much production for the club in 2018. In Witten’s most recent NFL campaign (2017), he posted 62 receptions for 560 yards and five touchdowns.

Eagles won’t franchise Nick Foles. The Foles saga has finally reached its conclusion, at least from the Philadelphia perspective. The Eagles exercised their option 2019 option on Foles earlier this year, but he bought back his free agency by returning $2MM to the club. After that maneuver, Philadelphia was thought to be ready to franchise Foles, but it has since decided not to do so, either because the economics didn’t work or because the team couldn’t find a trade partner. Early chatter has linked Foles to Jacksonville, where ex-Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo is now the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator, while the Giants could also be in play.

Latest on Antonio Brown. Now that the Steelers have agreed that a Brown trade is best for all parties, rival clubs have begun to express to interest. Thus far, the Raiders, Redskins, and Titans have shown the most interest in Brown, while the Jets have also placed a call to Pittsburgh. The Steelers will incur a hefty amount of dead money no mater when they deal Brown, but they could avoid having to pay him a $2.5MM roster bonus by trading him before March 17.

Edge rusher market taking shape. Plenty of outstanding pass rushers are scheduled to hit the open market later this month, but how many will actually become available? The Eagles took Brandon Graham off the board by re-signing him to a three-year, $40MM contract last week. The Seahawks are progressing on a deal with Frank Clark, but DeMarcus Lawrence and Dee Ford figured to be franchise tagged by the Cowboys and Chiefs, respectively. Kansas City, notably, could take trade offers for Ford once he signs his tender.

NFL bans David Irving, Randy Gregory. While Lawrence figures to return to Dallas in 2019, two of his fellow defensive ends are facing uncertain futures. The league handed both Irving and Gregory indefinite suspensions for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Irving was banned for the first four games of the 2018 campaign, and only suited up for two games all year. Gregory played in 14 games a season ago, but this latest ban marks his fourth NFL suspension.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 2/17/19 – 2/24/19

Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution. The Patriots owner was caught as part of a sting operation at a massage parlor in Jupiter, Florida last week. While he’s only expected to be charged with a misdemeanor, Kraft could face more severe consequences from the NFL — a six-game suspension and a heavy fine could both be on the table. Meanwhile, Kraft’s legacy will almost certainly be tarnished, and his eventual Hall of Fame enshrinement is likely to be delayed.

Steelers won’t tag Le’Veon Bell. Although speculation had arisen that Pittsburgh could deploy the transition tag on Bell with the intention of trading him, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert announced that no tender — not the franchise nor transition tag — would be used on Bell. The veteran back would have had to sign the transition tender before the Steelers could have dealt him, and given that Bell sat out the entire 2018 campaign rather than ink his franchise tag, such a scenario never seemed all that likely.

Antonio Brown trade talks begin. Brown with met Steelers owner Art Rooney II last week, and the two sides have agreed that a trade would be the best outcome for all parties. While Colbert said Pittsburgh won’t simply give Brown away, rival executives reportedly believe the Steelers may only be able to get a third-round pick in exchange for the star pass-catcher. So far, three unknown clubs have contacted Pittsburgh regarding Brown’s availability.

Bengals find a DC. Nearly three weeks after Cincinnati hired Zac Taylor as its new head coach, the team finally has a defensive coordinator in place. Taylor selected Giants defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo — who coached alongside Taylor with the Dolphins from 2013-15. Before hiring Anarumo, the Bengals were linked to 11 other candidates, including Jack Del Rio, Dom Capers, and Dennis Allen.

Raiders likely to spend 2019 in Oakland. The Raiders appear set to announce an agreement with the city of Oakland that would keep the club in the Oakland Coliseum for at least one more season. The deal will reportedly come with an option for the 2020 campaign, insurance in case the Raiders’ Vegas stadium isn’t ready on time.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 2/10/19 – 2/17/19

NFL settles with Kaepernick, Reid. Both Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid had accused the NFL of colluding to keep them off the field, and the league succumbed last week, agreeing to a settlement with both players. While official financial details of the deal weren’t (and won’t be) announced, figures ranging from $40-80MM have been tossed out, at least for Kaepernick. Reid, for his part, had already re-signed with the Panthers before the settlement was disclosed. Meanwhile, Kaepernick’s lawyer believes the veteran quarterback with land with a club in the near future.

Broncos to acquire Joe Flacco. The Case Keenum era is over in Denver after the Broncos shipped a fourth-round pick to Baltimore in exchange for Flacco. The Ravens had already handed over the reins to 2018 first-rounder Lamar Jackson, so they had no use for Flacco, who still has three years left on his contract. The Broncos will assume Flacco’s remaining base salaries and install him under center, meaning Keenum will either accept a pay cut, be traded, or be released.

Kareem Hunt returns to the NFL. The Browns opted to give Hunt a chance despite the optics of such a move, signing the veteran back to a one-year, $1MM deal with no guarantees. Hunt, of course, is under investigation for three separate 2018 incidents, with the most notable being an assault of a woman that was caught on video. Now that he’s been signed, Hunt is back on the commissioner’s exempt list until further notice. He’ll be suspended for a unknown amount of time during the 2019 campaign, but will presumably be given a chance to compete with incumbent Cleveland running back Nick Chubb.

Kyler Murray commits to football. The Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman winner formally declared his intentions to become a NFL quarterback, spurning the Oakland Athletics and his No. 9 overall draft status in Major League Baseball. Murray will return most of the $4.66MM signing bonus he received from Oakland, but given that he’s expected to become a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft, he’ll be quickly able to recoup that money. He’s already hired a football agent, and will attend the scouting combine later this month.

Antonio Brown formally submits trade request. Although he’s asked to be dealt away from the Steelers, Brown will now meet with team owner Art Rooney II. Brown was initially hesitant to sit down with Rooney, but the meeting is expected to occur next week. The veteran wideout took to Twitter on Saturday, discussing Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin, and other Steelers issues.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 2/3/19 – 2/10/19

Gronk to make a retirement decision soon. Fresh off winning Super Bowl LIII, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski won’t make everyone wait on his NFL fate. The four-time All-Pro says he’ll make a decision on his possible retirement within the next “week or two.” Gronkowski, of course, reportedly mulled retirement at various points during the 2018 offseason, and reportedly threatened to hang up his cleats after nearly being traded to the Lions last year. He didn’t pass the eye test this past year, appearing slow while posting his worst full-season production since his rookie campaign. Gronk is scheduled to earn a $10MM base salary in 2019, the final year of his contract.

Official hires made in Miami…The Dolphins formally announced their hiring of former Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores as head coach, bringing to South Beach the man who helped craft New England’s Super Bowl game plan. He’s bringing in ex-Patriots coach Chad O’Shea as offensive coordinator, while former Packers linebackers coach Patrick Graham is his DC. Longtime NFL coach Jim Caldwell will come aboard as assistant head coach/QBs coach, while former Packers DC Dom Capers is reportedly in contention to join the staff, as well.

…and in Cincinnati. Zac Taylor is officially the Bengals’ new head coach after spending the previous two seasons as an assistant for the Rams. While Taylor has made some notable hires on the offensive side of the ball, including former Raiders quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan as offensive coordinator, he’s had trouble landing a defensive play-caller. Experienced options such as Capers, Jack Del Rio, and Dennis Allen have rebuffed overtures, and the only coach with an interview lined up to this point is Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant. Cincinnati is casting a wide net, however, and is seeking to arrange meetings with several collegiate DCs.

Eagles, Nick Foles begin free agent process. Nothing is official yet, but the Eagles have reportedly made the decision to exercise Foles’ $20MM option for 2019. Foles, in turn, has reportedly decided to opt out of that contract by paying Philadelphia $2MM. The Eagles, though, plan to franchise tag Foles with the intention of trading him elsewhere. Although some reports have indicated Philadelphia could be violating the collective bargaining agreement by tagging Foles without the purpose of negotiating in good faith, that rule is unlikely to be enforced.

Falcons began making cuts. Atlanta has historically been gracious to its cut candidates, releasing veteran players well in advance of the free agent period in order to give them the best opportunity to land elsewhere. This year has been no different, as Atlanta parted ways with kicker Matt Bryant, cornerback Robert Alford, and edge defender Brooks Reed during the first week of February. Alford and Reed have already landed new deals (both with the Cardinals), while Bryant should find a new home in short order.

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