Dan Quinn says conversations have begun on a new contract for Julio Jones

Star Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is not in Atlanta Falcons minicamp. Jones has three years left on the five-year, $71 million contract extension he signed a few years ago, but his base salaries of $10.5 million, $12.5 million, and $11.4 million over those three years are not exactly commensurate with his talent level given how receiver contracts have exploded over the last few years.

Jones is headed into his age-29 season and still appears to be at or near the top of his game. He’s struggled a bit with injuries over the last couple years, but he’s also shown the ability to play through them and still be effective. If Jones were to wait until his current deal expires to get paid again, he would likely be looking at a significantly diminished contract value.

I care about record-breaking Super Bowl wins and things like that—that’s more important to me, he added.

After the Steelers went 13-3 last season with one of the most talented rosters in the league, the squad remains a top contender to win a Super Bowl in 2018. According to OddsShark, the team has 10-1 odds to win it all, trailing only the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

Roethlisberger has been a Pro Bowler in each of the last four years, but he noted other players’ needs above his own in regard to money.

I think there are a lot more, maybe a lot more important people who need to get their deals done now, he said. For me to do it two years out, if it doesn’t make sense for the team, I’m not going to sit here and worry about it.

Perhaps the most notable contract situation is with running back Le’Veon Bell, who is expected to hold out deep into training camp as he did last year. He was placed under the franchise tag but hopes to sign a long-term deal.

Shane Ray dealing with more wrist trouble

Broncos linebacker Shane Ray missed half of last season with a wrist injury and his offseason work is being interrupted by issues with the same wrist.

Ray did not take part in the team’s OTA practice on Monday and coach Vance Joseph said, via James Palmer of NFL Media, that the team is going to be smart with Ray during what’s left of the offseason program. The Broncos wrap that up with a three-day minicamp next week, so Ray may not work on the field again until the team is at training camp this summer.

Wilson, who played collegiately at Houston, had not been practicing with the team during OTAs.

The team also said punter Britton Colquitt and rookie defensive end Chad Thomas are sidelined after undergoing surgeries, but both should be back for training camp next month.

The Bears signed Miller to a one-year contract on Monday that will pay him $458,000 while he’s on the PUP list. Miller said he plans to help the other tight ends while continuing his rehab and it’s hard to imagine his upbeat attitude in the face of injury won’t be of some help to his teammates as things unfold in the coming months.

It’s a common belief, despite the struggles of the franchise since the mutual parting with Jim Harbaugh.

So what does 49ers quarterback Jim Garoppolo think of the chatter about a playoff berth for the new edition of the franchise?

I think we’ve got to have a strong finish to these OTAs first, Garoppolo told reporters on Tuesday. People always like to talk about the predictions with the season. Even when the season just ends, they start talking about it. It’s all noise on the outside, but I think we have a good group that is locked in right now. We’re focused on OTAs. We’ll go in to training camp, hopefully have a good training camp and take it day by day.

Eagles’ Chris Long is tired of discussing the White House

Eagles defensive end Chris Long came out as one of the league’s harshest critics of the new policy. His didn’t attempt any subtlety in his criticism of the league and its owners for their decision. Wednesday, he was a little more subtle in his criticism of Goodell.

I mean, Tom Brady has been working out with Julian Edelman in their practice bubble almost on a routine basis. And yet, refusing to go into the locker room and work out with his teammates. This is very clear, there is a rift in the relationship between Brady and Bill Belichick.

In another time, place and sport, Patterson might have been tight with Yogi Berra. But for now, it’s a matter of connecting with other legends, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, which could determine whether this immensely talented player emerges as a key X-factor for New England, his third home in three years.

Patterson, 27, is well established as one of the NFL’s most lethal kickoff-return threats, evidenced by the two first-team all-pro selections. He owns the longest kick-return touchdown in the NFL record book (109 yards). And with a radical rule change for kickoffs looming — players covering kicks can no longer begin with a running start, and space will conceivably open up as eight players must be aligned within a zone 15 yards from the kickoff — Belichick may have pulled off a coup in landing Patterson.

To have a guy like Cordarrelle, there’s nobody like that in the league, Matthew Slater, the Patriots’ special teams captain and a perennial Pro Bowler, told USA TODAY Sports.

It’s exciting to think about the possibilities, but there are no guarantees. We have to lay the foundation, each and every day in practice. It’s not just going to happen.

NFL Census: Finding the league’s biggest outliers

Nearly 1,700 players come together to form the big picture of the NFL — a collection of 32 53-man rosters that fluidly change throughout the season. Each roster can be sliced in myriad ways to show the makeup of the league through a variety of lenses, providing a look at the smaller strokes that are unique to each club.

Teams begin each offseason with a 90-man roster that gets trimmed to the final 53 active players before Week 1. Those opening week rosters were the ones we analyzed to determine a variety of findings, ranging from the vital metrics of each player, such as height and weight, to how much cash was paid to that player during the 2017 season.

Using our data set of nearly 1,700 players that made opening week rosters in 2017, here’s a look at how each position stacks up in terms of the averages:

Mejia, a catcher/outfielder, was ranked as the No. 7 overall prospect in baseball by ESPN’s Keith Law in January. He has been hot of late, batting .350 with three doubles, a triple, a home run and 10 RBIs in his past 11 games.

The Indians optioned right-hander Evan Marshall to Triple-A Columbus in a corresponding move. Marshall has a 6.75 ERA in 6 2/3 innings over nine appearances this season.

Mejia, 22, struggled in the majors when he was called up last year, hitting .154 in 14 plate appearances.

Despite his recent success in the minors, he has struggled overall in Triple-A, batting .214 with four home runs and 25 RBIs in 214 plate appearances this season. He hit .304 with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs in Double-A last season.

When the Chiefs are doing a specialty jersey, eagles_036, the team’s director of business operations and merchandise, contacts her sales rep at OT Sports. I tell her, ‘This is what we’re thinking, this is what we have in mind,’ and one of their designers will send us a few concepts, says Berger. Sometimes they nail it on the first shot, and sometimes we have to go back and forth a few times to get it right.

Earl Thomas won’t attend Seahawks minicamp

eagles_037Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said last week that he was expecting safety Earl Thomas to be at the team’s mandatory minicamp when it starts on Tuesday, but Thomas has other plans.

In a post to Twitter on Sunday, Thomas announced that he will not attend the team’s minicamp. Thomas suggested he won’t be at training camp either unless the team gives him a new contract.

I will not be attending the upcoming minicamp or any team activities until my contract situation is resolved. I want everyone especially the 12s to know that I want to remain a Seahawk for the rest of my career but I also believe that based on my production over the last 8 years that I’ve earned the right to have this taken care of as soon as possible.

Jose Miguel Fernandez (L), Los Angeles Angels at Minnesota Twins (RHP Fernando Romero): Note to those in ESPN leagues, Fernandez isn’t yet available for pick up, but he’s worth tracking for when he is listed. He’s in line to see the at-bats Shohei Ohtani was getting, plus a few more. Granted, at 30 years old in the great hitting environment of Salt Lake, his Triple-A numbers shouldn’t be taken at face value, but he was slashing an impressive .345/.412/.562 for the Bees when summoned to the majors.

A bronzed version of receiver Terrell Owens will debut in August, joining a room that includes the permanent sculptured likeness of receiver Michael Irvin. And Owens and Irvin have entered the early stages of a full-blown feud.

Irvin was among the many who called out Owens for choosing not to attend the induction ceremony. Said Irvin on Thursday’s edition of NFL Network’s Total Access: It’s not about the voters. Don’t give the voters the pleasure of knowing that they meant that much to you that when you finally got in, you’re not even showing up. And the whole while you campaigned about being in. When he did not get in, he and I were shooting a commercial together one time and he came to the commercial with a Hall of Fame gold jacket with all of his records on it. So you went and made a made-up gold jacket , but you won’t show up to get the real gold jacket? It’s something beyond my capabilities of understanding up here.

On Saturday, Owens injected Irvin’s name into a back-and-forth with FS1’s Jason Whitlock, who also has lambasted Owens for his decision to skip the enshrinement ceremony. After taking gratuitous shots at Whitlock’s weight, Owens agreed to meet Whitlock for donuts after Whitlock loses 100 pounds. And then Owens added this: Bring ur boy @michaelirvin88 too. I got some ‘powdered’ donuts for him. U 2 Uncle Tommers!

Falcons excited about Vic Beasley’s move back to DE

The Atlanta Falcons again tinkered with Vic Beasley ‘s position this offseason, moveagles_038ing the pass rusher back to defensive end full time after using him as a linebacker. Both the coaches and Beasley are excited about the position reversal.

Young dismissed the notion Beasley’s move back to defensive end could weaken the Falcons ‘ run defense.

He’s about 240 and 245, Young said. He plays with good strength. He plays with good power. People don’t realize how strong that Vic is. So, I think he’ll be OK holding his own.

The Packers struggled to get after the quarterback consistently in 2017, ranking 17th in the NFL with 37 sacks. Green Bay is counting on Matthews, who has compiled fewer than eight sacks each of the past three seasons, having a career renaissance under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

At the same time, it does show their confidence in Nick and myself, as well as the guys we have, Matthews added. At some time, I’m sure it will be addressed, but for the time being, the guys we have here are the guys who have to hold up their end of the bargain.

Everybody on the outside trying to look in and trying to destroy what we built there. I’m not going nowhere. I’ll be there. I love the team. I love the organization. I love everybody there. I’m good.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank didn’t sound concerned last week about Jones’ absence from OTAs, saying he hopes the wideout is a Falcon for life. It’s a sentiment the playmaker reciprocated.

I am [going to be a Falcon for life], Jones replied bluntly when asked about Blank’s comments.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he’s spoken to Jones this offseason and expects the wideout to participate in mandatory minicamp next month.

At 38 years old, eight years removed from his last NFL game, Lewis is already living with the post-traumatic effects of concussions. He knows he did irreparable damage to his brain and that there’s a chance he’s currently living with CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).

Clean-cut Rob Kelley not stressed over Redskins’ running back competition

Rob Kelley felt the need for a transformation this offseason. The Washington Redskins running back was plagued by injuries in 2017 and watched the team search for his replacement in the months that followed. So Kelley headed to the barber for a fresh start. Thirty minutes later, the nine years of dreadlock growth that flowed over his shoulder pads was chopped down to a tightly cropped coif.

The external change triggered a bit of an internal adjustment as well, and the New Orleans native arrived at the team’s offseason workouts saying this summer is a new beginning.

I didn’t take it no type of way, Kelley said. At the end of the day, it’s a business. What do you expect? I hate to say it, but if I’m playing Madden and my running back is hurt, I’m going to get another running back. You’ve got to keep the train going. You can’t let one man stop the show. It’s our job to create our own value on this team. So, that’s what I’m doing.

Matthews fell to the ground after he was hit by the ball off Lucas Patrick’s bat and then walked quickly off the field holding his face in his glove. The game was delayed, but the announcer at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis., initially said the linebacker was doing fine shortly after he went to the clubhouse.

He’s a smart football player, he picks things up very fast, Stewart said. He’s explosive and he’s really good in his route running. That’s one of the things that he’s really focused on, is his ability to run routes.

Just as this is all new for Barkley, Stewart, too, has an adjustment to make as he heads into NFL season No. 11 in something of a caretaker role.

I know they drafted Saquon in the first round, so you know he’s got a lot of expectations and stuff like that, Stewart said. But as far as my preparation for this game, it’s never going to change. It’s always prepare to be the starter because you never know when your name’s going to get called.

Every NFL Team’s Biggest Reason to Look Forward to 2018 Season

Now that everybody has been drafted and almost everybody has been signed (sorry, Dez), we can start to look forward to the 2018 NFL season with a good feel for how each team will look. 

And it’s May, so none of those draft picks or free-agent signings have had the chance to become busts. That makes this a great time to take a look at 32 half-full glasses. 

Here are the biggest reasons for every team to look forward to early September.

But that running game finally received a boost courtesy of surprise breakout back Alex Collins. The 2016 fifth-round pick was waived by the Seattle Seahawks just prior to the start of the 2017 season, the Ravens signed him to their practice squad a few days later, they promoted him to the active roster a couple weeks after that, and he was starting and shining by the middle of October. 

Despite the slow start, Collins rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and finished the season ranked ninth among qualified backs with a 4.6 yards-per-attempt average. 

With Morris in the fold, the Texans now have four quarterbacks on their roster. Brandon Weeden and Joe Webb both signed with the team as free agents this offseason and will be in the mix for the No. 2 job behind Deshaun Watson.

Can Good Magic upset Justify?

Baffert is 4-0 in the Preakness with the Derby winner and doesn’t see any reason Justify doesn’t have another big run in him.

I like being the favorite, Baffert said Wednesday. “I don’t want to be 50-1. I like knowing that I have a chance to win. When you come in and you’re like, ‘Well, I don’t know, we’re going to need the Stanford marching band to interfere a little bit,’ then you don’t feel that well. I just feel that when you know that there’s a chance you can pull this off and when you can win on the big arena, that’s what it’s all about.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the decision.

Browns general manager John Dorsey released a statement after the announcement, expressing his thoughts on the added exposure the show will bring, via Mike Garafolo of NFL Network:

It’s a reversal for Dorsey, who said on May 2 that he didn’t think “anything good” comes from being involved with Hard Knocks, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.

The Browns were active in free agency and on the trade market as well, adding the likes of wide receiver Jarvis Landry, quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back Carlos Hyde, among others.

After missing nearly all of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 campaigns due to drug-related suspensions, wide receiver Josh Gordon returned to play in five games last season. His preparation for his first full season since 2013 likely will be a major angle on the show, too.

Having not reached the playoffs since 2002, the Browns are looking to end the NFL’s longest active postseason drought. 

He’s ahead of the game, Matt Nagy told reporters, via the Bears ‘ official website. “He’s looking good. We’re feeling really good about his prognosis as far as getting started, and we don’t need to rush it.”

The Bears signed Robinson to a three-year contract during free agency despite last year’s knee injury but are clearly confident in the recovery process.

A healthy Robinson, who joined the Bears after four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, would energize Chicago’s passing game, which didn’t produce a 700-yard receiver in 2017.

On his career, the 24-year-old Robinson has 2,848 yards receiving and 22 touchdowns on 202 catches. His best season came in 2015, when he totaled 80 catches for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Given that production, it is easy to see why the Bears are excited about getting him involved in the offense once he receives medical clearance.

In the meantime, Robinson will continue to recover and do his part away from the field. cowboys_055

Cowboys’ Michael Gallup: Replacing Dez Bryant ‘not my role yet’

Michael Gallup is eager to make a good impression with his new team, but knows he has big shoes to fill.

As the wide receiver continues to settle in at rookie minicamp, Gallup said he’s aware the departure of Dez Bryant has left a large void to fill and understands it will take some time to fill.

“Dez is a great player,” Gallup said, via the Dallas Morning News. “It’s hard for a rookie to come in and just replace all of the stuff that he’s done here. We’re out here trying to practice to be like him, obviously. But I’m not coming in here just to replace him. That’s not my role yet.”

“We had one real epic 3-on-3 game where one brother lost a tooth, and it got real intense,” Klayton Korver, Kyle’s brother, said. “But we had a good time.”

Their father would step out onto the porch and watch. His instruction often was “higher, shoot it higher.” And shoot they did. The four brothers — Kyle, Klayton, Kaleb and Kirk — all rank in the top 10 in Pella High’s all-time scoring and rebounding lists. Kyle and Kaleb went on to play at Creighton, Klayton at Drake and Kirk at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“We all shot so many baskets on that hoop. My parents didn’t pay for college because we all got scholarships,” Kyle said. “It was a good investment, and it’s a good lesson.”

“You say stay in school, but a kid wants to better himself and his future,” Jefferson said. “So you can be making money for the university, struggling, trying to eat dining hall food, waking up early, having to go through extreme pressures and not getting paid for none of that. Or you can not go to school, just play football all day, study film and get better and work out all day and max yourself out.”

LeBron drove hard to his right, drew Monroe further off of Nance than Monroe wanted, and lofted that bad boy. (By the way: Look at Brown in Korver’s jersey in the left corner. Brown is technically the emergency weakside helper. He is not leaving Korver.)

Even when those off-ball picks don’t connect, they throw defenses off-kilter. Big men fall so far behind, it is hard for them to call out the ball screen in time; LeBron’s defenders looked unaware and jittery when they felt a pick.ravens_014