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Ex-Broncos OL Orlando Franklin retires after 7 seasons

Orlando Franklin is calling it quits.

The former Broncos and Chargers offensive lineman announced Saturday that he is retiring after seven seasons in the NFL.

It’s striking that of the No. 1 analyst jobs at the four networks that carry NFL games, three are held by former Cowboys — Aikman, Romo and Witten.

Some of it has been the moon and the stars aligning, Rich Dalrymple, the Cowboys’ senior vice president for communications, told USA TODAY Sports. They all had serendipitous stuff happen.

Aikman’s shot at a No. 1 role came when John Madden left Fox. Witten’s opportunity comes as Gruden went back to coaching. Romo landed after injuries wiped out the bulk of his final two seasons.

As Witten contemplated his move, Dalrymple told him, There are four of these jobs in the whole world as lead game analyst. They may not open up again in 10 years.

Sorry, Cowboys haters. Whenever that high-profile role opens up, well…

He wouldn’t beat Justify that day, but I’ll tell you what, he came out of that race really good. He cooled out in the testing barn after the race. He’s never trained better any time we’ve had him in the barn.

But Ruis had lost the race.

Then he lost his jockey.

For Ruis, it was not a day for California dreaming much less the aroma of Kentucky Derby roses. Javier Castellano, the jockey who had handled Bolt d’Oro so well, put the punctuation mark on Ruis’ doom and gloom. He telephoned the owner and told him:

I love your horse, but I never thought I would get this much pressure to ride Audible instead.

It was a jockey’s euphemism for I know how it feels to you, but a jockey can’t jeopardize his bread and butter.

Todd Pletcher has four horses in this Kentucky Derby and he wanted Castellano, who often rode for him, to be up on one of them.canucks_015

Hue: Haley will have total autonomy of Browns offense

When the Browns hired Hue Jackson away from the Bengals two years ago, it was his offensive scheming and play-calling that stood at the forefront.

After starting his Cleveland career with an unprecedented and ignominious 1-31 record, though, Jackson will relinquish those responsibilities to new coordinator Todd Haley.

As the Browns reported for rookie minicamp on Friday, Jackson acknowledged that Haley has been given total autonomy with the offense.

Those tweaks should lead to Green Bay allowing fewer points and generating more takeaways. The defense will be better positioned with its personnel to maximize the pressure Rodgers puts on the Packers’ opponents. In recent seasons, the defense has failed to give them the right brand of complementary football.

Pettine has operated some solid defenses with the Jets, Bills and even the Browns despite shaky quarterback play. He has never had a chance to play off a QB of Rodgers’ caliber. Likewise, Rodgers will not have to be called upon as team’s ultimate savior.

Front office and scouting personnel typically see turnover after the NFL Draft, so the timing of this move for Bazirgan is not surprising.

Last year, the Jets named Bazirgan their college scouting director, to replace Rex Hogan, who left for a better job with the Colts vice president of player personnel.

Bazirgan had worked for the Jets since 2004. He got a promotion, to pro personnel director, when the Jets hired Maccagnan as their general manager in 2015.

Before spending two years as pro personnel director (2015-16), Bazirgan was the Jets’ assistant director of pro personnel. His first job with the Jets was as a pro personnel intern and college scouting assistant in 2004. He was a college area scout for the Jets for eight years.

So for the second straight year first with Hogan’s departure and now with Bazirgan’s Maccagnan has to replace his college scouting director.

Maccagnan has an extensive background in scouting, though. He was the Texans’ college scouting director before the Jets gave him their general manager job. So Maccagnan is very hands-on with the Jets’ college scouting, in advance of the draft. giants_149

Bryce Petty Reportedly Claimed off Waivers by Dolphins After Release by Jets

The Miami Dolphins reportedly claimed quarterback Bryce Petty off waivers from the New York Jets.

Field Yates of ESPN first reported the update Friday.

In a move widely expected, the Jets waived Petty on Thursday. New York signed Teddy Bridgewater and re-signed Josh McCown earlier this offseason and then selected Sam Darnold with the No. 3 pick in the 2018 draft.

There’s a chance one of two defensive ends — LSU’s Arden Key or Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard — will have a Foster-like fall into the 49ers’ laps, but the team is also keyed into Florida State’s Josh Sweat in this same range. Auburn’s Josh Holland and Wake Forest’s Duke Ejiofor also fit the unique LEO role in San Francisco’s defense.

A slider the 49ers would jump on is UTEP guard Will Hernandez, but Auburn’s Braden Smith is bound to be around in this range as another option. At wide receiver, Oklahoma State’s Marcell Ateman has drawn interest from them as a big-bodied target.

In contrast, the defensive back spike early and the middle-tier prospects don’t carry the same value. Following the best-available theme should work well for the 49ers on Day 2.

Kanye West, who recently had a Twitter love-fest with Trump, has been invited, says Scott, along with former NFL star Colin Kaepernick and other athletes and musicians of multiple races and ethnicities.

It’s not going to be a black-only event, says Scott. It will be a melting pot.

Kaepernick, of course, is the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who famously initiated a wave of protests by professional athletes in 2016 when he knelt during the national anthem before NFL games as a protest against injustice against African-Americans, especially police shootings of unarmed black men and teens. Trump, as a presidential candidate, vilified Kaepernick, saying, Maybe he should find a country that works better for him. And later, as president, Trump said players who kneel for the anthem should be fired.nike_jets_1636

Sam Darnold, Josh Allen to visit Giants this week

The Giants will have two of the top quarterbacks in the upcoming draft at their complex for private visits this week, although the chances remain high that only one of them will be available when the team is on the clock at No. 2 next week.

But those who know Gettleman believe he would not use the second pick in a draft on a flawed player, particularly when he has a quarterback who is healthy and has won two Super Bowls—though Eli Manning has not played well in recent years—and a quarterback he never got to see last year (rookie Davis Webb)—because of stupid Giants’ decision-making in the last month of a lost season. Gettleman has to look at this draft and think about two players: — Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, the best back to come into the league in years.

Think of Philly defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, even with Star Wars weaponry all over his depth chart, trying to defend Barkley, wideouts Odell Beckham Jr., and Sterling Shepard and rising-star tight end Even Engram, with a solid left tackle (Nate Solder) suddenly making Manning less vulnerable to a great pass-rush. Beckham is 25, Shepard 24, Engram 23, Barkley 21.

Joel Embiid used some body english as he scampered down the baseline and tried to will Marco Belinelli’s off-balance 3-pointer through the net.

Belinelli buried it, because of course he would. Even the wild ones go in of late for the Sixers.

With their injured Embiid on the bench, the 76ers proved one more time in their biggest game in six years they can romp without their All-Star. Embiid wore a white mask as he rang a miniature Liberty Bell — then the Miami Heat got their bell rung in Game 1 of the first-round series.

The best thing reporters can do at T-minus 10 days to the NFL draft is listen to all the people they trust and know that much of what they’re saying might be a best guess because so few people inside an organization (one, perhaps) truly know what that team is about to do in the draft.dolphins_084

Giants host FIU WR Thomas Owens for pre-NFL Draft visit, source says

The Giants  continue to scout the wide receiver position ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft later this month, hosting Florida International wide receiver Thomas Owens on a top-30 pre-draft visit Monday, an individual with knowledge of the visit tells NJ Advance Media.

Owens, 6-foot-1 and 198 pounds, caught 59 passes for 887 yards and six touchdowns while averaging a career-high 15.0 yards per reception in nine games. A knee injury suffered during a Week 10 practice cut Owens’ season short.

Latest Giants 7-Round Mock Draft: Darnold, Barkley, or Chubb at No. 2?

The injury also cost Owens an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine last month in Indianapolis.

Does not impress going in to crack block on safeties (Marshall ’17). Allowed a skinny post to slip through his hands vs. Old Dominion in 2014. Covers just five yards in his first four steps. Displays limited energy setting up post-corners as an X-WR. Questionable long gear on nine routes. Sinking at the top of his routes has been an issue dating back to 2014.  Fails to consistently come back downhill for the ball (UCF ’16-PBU, Killings). Knee injury cut short his 2017 campaign.He’s made questionable decisions blocking back towards his GL (clip, UCF ’16). Will run the stutter-and-go outside the numbers (as an X-WR) but does not re-accelerate into the second portion of the pattern.

Bryant, 29, was released by the Cowboys on Friday and responded on Twitter:

He also hinted he might want to remain in the NFC East.

“I won’t say any teams, but being in the division, that’s a huge possibility,” he told Jane Slater on NFL Total Access, per Austin Knoblauch of NFL.com. “That’s a huge possibility. That’s something that I want. … It’s personal. Like I said, it’s very personal. I already had a plan of training and getting my mind right. I just want to do it that much more.”

If Bryant’s recent Instagram follows are any indication of his future plans, however, the wide receiver may instead choose to remain in Texas.

Toward that end, Wuerffel has assembled a 12-man roster that includes former UF standouts with NFL backgrounds like Doering, Taylor Jacobs, Brandon James, Frankie Hammond and Travis McGriff. Wuerffel’s club will need all the help it can get considering former NFL stars Michael Vick, Chad Ochocinco and Justin Forsett are fielding teams, as well.dolphins_115

Vikings schedule 2018: Minnesota’s division title defense won’t be easy

The Vikings’ 2018 schedule begins where last season’s ended, as Minnesota is slated to travel to Philadelphia for the season-opener and a rematch of last year’s NFC title game. It’s just one of several intriguing games on the Vikings’ regular-season schedule.

Biggest breaks: The Vikings are fortunate to get the Saints at home, avoiding the intimidation factor of the Superdome and welcoming New Orleans back to the site of the Minneapolis Miracle. With the exception of the Patriots game, the AFC East presents the Vikings multiple winnable games on their schedule.

Bottom line: There isn’t much reason to expect a big drop-off this season for the Vikings, so the focus turns to their opponents. If teams like the Bears, Lions, Rams and 49ers take the steps of improvement many expect them to take, the strength of Minnesota’s schedule will increase significantly. Some of those non-divisional NFC games on the schedule will have the Vikings thinking about the playoffs, but their first priority should be defending their NFC North title. Record prediction: 9-7

Shazier, 25, is still rehabbing from a serious spinal injury suffered in a Dec. 4 game against the Bengals that required spinal stabilization surgery and left him in a wheelchair. Still, the injury hasn’t stopped the two-time Pro Bowl player from attending various sporting events, including Wednesday’s Stanley Cup playoff game between the Penguins and Flyers at PPG Paints Arena.

Although he won’t play in 2018, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert confirmed there will be some sort of designation for Shazier so he can still remain a part of the team next season.

The Giants should be listening to all trade offers from teams that want to jump the Jets to get their preferred QB, but in the wake of the Jason Pierre-Paul trade, their pass rush becomes even more of a glaring weakness. Chubb would thrive in New York’s new defense as a sack artist with a variety of moves; the next Chandler Jones for coordinator James Bettcher.dolphins_015

Rob Gronkowski won’t be at start of Patriots offseason program, report says

The Patriots will kick off their offseason program without Rob Gronkowski.

According to ESPN, which cited an unidentified source, the veteran tight end doesn’t intend to participate in the team’s voluntary offseason conditioning program Monday.

The report noted that Gronkowski is still considering whether to play in 2018 but has had “good communication” with the Patriots.

The Bucs went to work on their defensive line via free agency and trades (JPP, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein), and they also got a much-needed rock for the middle of their offensive line (Ryan Jensen). But Tampa Bay’s secondary still needs to be addressed after the re-signing of Brent Grimes for one year. Ward has shutdown potential as the best pure cover man in the draft, and he would represent the best player available, too.

Based upon his three NFL seasons, Gurley would be justified if he started clamoring for a new deal considering the running back already has outplayed his 2015 rookie contract. Gurley led the NFL in touchdowns (19) and total yards (2,093) last season while being effectively utilized in the passing game by new head coach Sean McVay.

Gurley, though, says he and his teammates must accept that taking care of defensive tackle Aaron Donald is first and foremost the franchise’s top priority.

“Obviously, we know Aaron Donald is the guy to get paid,” Gurley told co-host Gil Brandt and me Monday night on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “That’s the last thing we want to worry about is trying to get ours done when we need our best player to get paid.”

Until that happens, there’s no telling when Donald will return to L.A. Rams brass continues to speak positively about getting Donald’s extension finalized, but that didn’t prompt Donald to report for Monday’s start of offseason workouts.seahawks_036

Eagles release Daryl Worley following arrest: 5 thoughts

Daryl Worley’s Philadelphia homecoming will be short-lived.

The  Eagles released Worley on Sunday following his morning arrest. Worley, a 23-year-old cornerback, was  arrested and tased after being combative with police, per an NFL Network report.

The arrest occurred at 6 a.m near the Eagles’ NovaCare Complex, where Worley was found passed out inside a vehicle blocking a highway and 911 was called. A gun was reportedly recovered on scene.

The Seahawks, even with all the changes to their defense, still need plenty of offensive line help as even more of the burden falls on Russell Wilson. McGlinchey dominated with Nelson in South Bend and would immediately become a rock of a right tackle in Seattle opposite Duane Brown. That would allow Germain Ifedi to slide back to guard, his better position.

The Cowboys cut Dez Bryant, and even while they had him, they were lacking a true outside No. 2 who can do everything as a good-hands possession receiver. Ridley would be an upgrade over Terrance Williams and give Dak Prescott a new go-to guy.

Blair Walsh had a disappointing stint as Seattle’s kicker last spring and wasn’t retained. Seattle signed former Jaguar Jason Myers earlier this offseason, so Janikowski will have competition to make the roster.

By the time the 2018 NFL season kicks off on Sept. 6 with the Philadelphia Eagles still celebrating their victory in Super Bowl 52, who knows how many players will have changed teams. Here’s a look at some of the veterans in need of a new home.

The Cowboys released the Pro Bowl receiver on April 13 following his meeting with owner Jerry Jones. “This was not an easy decision,” Jones said in a statement. “It was made based upon doing what we believe is in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys.”seahawks_091

Dez Bryant meeting: Cowboys WR ‘getting myself together’ before talk with Jerry Jones

The long-awaited sitdown between Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and team owner Jerry Jones will take place Friday at the team’s facility, The Star, in Frisco, Texas. The NFL world is anticipating/wishing for a final decision on Bryant’s status with the team.

— The 29-year-old Bryant is due to make $12.5 million in 2018, and his cap number is $16.5 million. He’s coming off a 2017 season in which he had 69 receptions and six touchdowns but also a career-low 12.1-yard average. Speculation about him needing to accept a pay cut or face being released before organized team activities begin Monday have been steady throughout the offseason. Dallas radio station KRLD-FM this week reported on a possible parting.

The NFL world is ready for the speculation to end with the meeting at The Star.

The good news for the Seahawks as they look over their schedule for 2018: Most of their toughest opponents have to travel to Seattle. And one of their “away” opponents in 2018, the Raiders, will meet them in London for an October showdown. Neither West Coast team will be happy about that haul.

Below is a breakdown of the Seahawks’ schedule in 2018. Seattle’s regular-season schedule, including dates and kickoff times, will be posted after it is made available by the NFL.

Toughest tests: The Cowboys, armed again with running back Ezekiel Elliott for a full season and a further developed QB in Dak Prescott, present the Seahawks a tough intraconference matchup, even though Dallas will have to travel to Seattle. The Seahawks also have to travel all the way to London for their October matchup against the Raiders.

Who those quarterbacks will be remains to be seen, but there are good odds Sam Darnold could see the field for the Browns, but if it is Josh Allen like many pundits keep suggesting, that would be must-watch TV as well.seahawks_125

Rams GM: Aaron Donald ‘on the verge’ of becoming top-paid defensive player

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is the reigning defensive player of the year, and as he’s heading into his final year of his rookie contract, it appears he could be headed for a big payday.

In an appearance on The MMQB Podcast with Peter King, Rams general manager Les Snead referred to Donald as “someone who is on the verge of becoming the highest-paid defensive player in football.”

Keenum is much richer today with his Denver deal than he was in 2016, but it hardly seems fair that he should have to ponder the possibility of once again being the stopgap starter until a hotshot rookie is ready to play. Especially after leading the Vikings to the NFC title game last season; he was 12-4 as the starter, not including a victory in relief of Sam Bradford in Chicago, and ranked seventh in the league in QB rating (98.3) with 3,547 passing yards, a 67.6 percent completion rate, 22 TD passes and just seven interceptions. He was the NFC Offensive Player of the Month in November.

Shazier stood to greet the PPG Paints Arena audience before leading a “let’s go Pens” chant, which got the building roaring with excitement.

Shazier, 25, continues to rehab from a serious spinal injury suffered in a Dec. 4 game against the Bengals that required spinal stabilization surgery and left him in a wheelchair. Still, the two-time Pro Bowl player has attended various sporting events and was captured on video doing pull-ups at the gym.

Although he won’t play in 2018, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert confirmed there will be some sort of designation for Shazier so he can still remain a part of the team next season.

This might lead some old-school Packers to groan about Terrell Buckley, but James should be available at No. 14. Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick or Ohio State’s Denzel Ward would be options if available, too.seahawks_015