Offseason workout guidelines

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
2:00
PM ET
The Patriots open their offseason workout program, and there are several guidelines and restrictions related to these workouts, highlighted below:

General
" Workouts are strictly voluntary
" A maximum of four workouts per week (no weekends)
" One week is the mandatory minicamp (no weekends)
" Contact work is prohibited in all workouts
" Intensity and tempo of drills should be at level conducive to learning, with player safety as the highest priority

Phase one (four hours a day)
" Two weeks. Limited to strength and conditioning activities with only the strength and conditioning coaches allowed on the field
" 90-minute maximum on the field
" Clubs can only specify two hours for the players to be at the facility
" Players choose the other two hours for weights, etc.

Phase two (four hours a day)
" Three weeks with the same rules with a few exceptions:
" All coaches allowed on field
" Individual and “perfect play” drills allowed
" No offense vs. defense, no 1-on-1’s, no helmets

Phase three (six hours a day)
" Four weeks total
" Three weeks for 10 total OTA’s
" A maximum of three OTA’s each week for the first two weeks
" During Weeks one and two a fourth OTA is allowed but phase two rules apply
" A maximum of four OTA’s for the third or fourth week
" One week for mini camp
" No pads except protective knee and elbow pads
" Helmets are permitted
" No live contract drills between OL and DL or WR and DB
" 7 on 7, 9 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills will be permitted

Minicamp (10 hours a day)
" Physicals on Monday but no practice
" Practices Tuesday-Thursday with a day off on Friday
" Allowed two practices totaling three and a half hours on the field per day
" Second practice limited to walk through activities only

Offseason workout guidelines

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
2:00
PM ET
The Patriots open their offseason workout program, and there are several guidelines and restrictions related to these workouts, highlighted below:

General
" Workouts are strictly voluntary
" A maximum of four workouts per week (no weekends)
" One week is the mandatory minicamp (no weekends)
" Contact work is prohibited in all workouts
" Intensity and tempo of drills should be at level conducive to learning, with player safety as the highest priority

Phase one (four hours a day)
" Two weeks. Limited to strength and conditioning activities with only the strength and conditioning coaches allowed on the field
" 90-minute maximum on the field
" Clubs can only specify two hours for the players to be at the facility
" Players choose the other two hours for weights, etc.

Phase two (four hours a day)
" Three weeks with the same rules with a few exceptions:
" All coaches allowed on field
" Individual and “perfect play” drills allowed
" No offense vs. defense, no 1-on-1’s, no helmets

Phase three (six hours a day)
" Four weeks total
" Three weeks for 10 total OTA’s
" A maximum of three OTA’s each week for the first two weeks
" During Weeks one and two a fourth OTA is allowed but phase two rules apply
" A maximum of four OTA’s for the third or fourth week
" One week for mini camp
" No pads except protective knee and elbow pads
" Helmets are permitted
" No live contract drills between OL and DL or WR and DB
" 7 on 7, 9 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills will be permitted

Minicamp (10 hours a day)
" Physicals on Monday but no practice
" Practices Tuesday-Thursday with a day off on Friday
" Allowed two practices totaling three and a half hours on the field per day
" Second practice limited to walk through activities only

Foles: Jackson was 'great teammate to me'

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
8:00
AM ET
Philadelphia Eaglesquarterback Nick Foles served as an honorary captain for the Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul in their 54-41 victory over the Jacksonville Sharks on Saturday.

Foles
Foles was queried by Comcast SportsNet and wound up answering a number of questions about the Eagles.

Several questions pertained to the Eagles’ recent decision to release wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was ultimately signed by the Washington Redskins.

“You know, it's surprising,” Foles told Comcast SportsNet's Derrick Gunn on Jackson’s release. “But at the same time, you learn that it's a business. It's a tough business at times. We develop a lot of friendships on a team and I've had many of my close teammates let go. It's very tough, but at the same time you know it's part of the game, part of the business.”

Foles was asked again about his relationship with Jackson.

“He was a great teammate to me,” Foles said. “We had a great relationship on and off the field. Everybody has other things going on, but to me, personally, I really enjoyed playing with him and I'm excited that he landed on his feet. He's a heck of a player. … You wish them well. He landed on his feet and I know he's going to do well. He's a great player, he's been tremendous for me. But at the same time, we have to keep moving forward as an organization. But I do wish DeSean well. I had a blast playing with him.”

Foles also was asked about the direction of the Eagles, specifically at wide receiver.

“It will be interesting but I know that [the front office] is going to do a great job doing it,” Foles said. “Another teammate that I love dearly is [Jason] Avant, but he landed on his feet. I spoke to him the other day and I'm excited for his new journey. I know he's going to make a great impact there for [the Carolina Panthers] as he has for Philadelphia. And I'm excited for Philadelphia. I'm excited to see what happens because we've got a great group of guys and great coaches, so it'll be a good time.”
First, apologies to those who sent questions a week ago. Technical difficulties prevented the MailBag from appearing (read: I got busy and ran out of time). I tried to go back and find the questions, but evidently messed something else up. Clearly it was a tough technological week.

On to the Mailbag:
 
Nothing breaks up the monotony of training camp like a Harbaugh hoedown.

As expected, the Baltimore Ravens announced they will host the San Francisco 49ers for some scrimmages during training camp. The workouts between the former Super Bowl opponents appeared likely once the NFL announced earlier this month that the 49ers would open the preseason at Baltimore Aug. 7.

It is the first time the 49ers are playing on the East Coast in the preseason in nearly 20 years. The Harbaugh brothers -- John coaches the Ravens and Jim coaches the 49ers -- are going to take advantage of the long trip for the 49ers to get some extra competition time in.

NFL teams often do this in the offseason. This scenario is a bit different because the practices will be held after the game. John Harbaugh told reporters the two teams will practice at Baltimore’s M&T Stadium on Aug. 8. They will work at the Ravens’ practice facility for the next three days. The 49ers then host Denver the following weekend in their first game at Levi’s Stadium.

“We felt like the first two weeks, we needed to do our install process and all that kind of stuff and it would be better after the game,” John Harbaugh said. “It’s just going to be fantastic. I can’t wait to do it.”

In Harbaugh style, expect it to be a full family affair, including an appearance by the coaches' 74-year-old father, Jack.

“Dad is going to be out there,” John Harbaugh said. “He’s going to be the unofficial official. He’s going to be in charge of breaking up all fights. If we start rolling around on the field, Dad is going to have to jump in, I guess."

Just like old times.
This has always been a critical year in the relationship between Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller and the Denver Broncos.

With Miller still recovering from ACL surgery and slated to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2014 season, team officials face their first major decision about Miller's contract. The team has until May 3 to exercise an option year in Miller's rookie deal that would put him under contract for 2015. With 15 days before the deadline, the Broncos had not yet reached a decision as Friday's business day drew to a close.

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesDenver has two weeks to decide whether it will exercise an option on Von Miller's rookie contract.
In 2011, the first year of the current collective bargaining agreement, teams were given the option of a fifth year for first-round draft picks as part of the transition to the new rookie wage scale.

The "fifth-year option" must be engaged by May 3 and the option-year salary doesn't become guaranteed until March of 2015. So, it is possible for teams to engage the option year and potentially release the player at a later date before the base salary is guaranteed.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Friday that the San Francisco 49ers did not plan to engage the fifth-year option on defensive end Aldon Smith, who was the No. 7 pick of that draft, but several players have been informed their teams would pick up the option. This includes Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (the No. 11 pick), Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (No. 5) and San Diego Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget (No. 18).

The Broncos made Miller the No. 2 pick of that draft, behind Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. With 30 sacks over his first two seasons, including 18.5 in 2012, Miller looked to be on the fast track to elite status in the league.

Miller then opened the 2013 season with a six-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy -- a violation that now subjects him to testing up to 10 times a month for the rest of his career. Several off-the-field issues, including an arrest last summer on a failure-to-appear warrant and several traffic violations, also dogged him last year.

He then tore his ACL against the Texans' in December and again raised some eyebrows with the team when he tried to attend a Seattle Seahawks victory party following the Broncos' 35-point loss in Super Bowl XLVIII.

For the first 10 picks of the 2011 draft, the salary for the option is this year's transition tag salary in free agency at their respective positions. The figure is calculated as an average of the top 10 salaries at those spots. For Miller that would mean a $9.754 million salary if he's on the roster when the new league year begins next March.

If the Broncos decline the option and Miller returns from his injury and shows his former speed and explosiveness and more maturity off the field, the team could still use the franchise tag to keep him.

That scenario would cost slightly more since the franchise tag salary for linebackers was $11.455 million this year and could be higher next season. A franchise player's salary is guaranteed the moment the player signs the tender. Some players sign them as soon as they receive them to guarantee the money, and some wait until training camp, hoping a long-term deal is worked out instead.

The Broncos and Miller could, if both sides found some common ground, still negotiate a long-term extension.

Miller said at an appearance for his foundation Monday that he continues to work hard to return from his knee injury, and that he wants to return "a better player" than he was. The Broncos open their offseason conditioning program Monday, but Miller will not participate. He will continue with his knee rehab with the team's trainers and strength and conditioning staff.
This week, the St. Louis Rams announced that they're having a contest for fans to guess their 2014 schedule with the prize of $100,000 for anyone who can hit it with 100 percent accuracy. Soon after, I laid out just how ridiculously long the odds are for anyone to satisfy all of the requirements to actually win this contest.

I'm not going to offer an "official" entry for the contest, because when I'm going to be epically wrong about something, I prefer to have it be unofficial. So I'll use this space to take my best stab at guessing what the schedule is going to look like for next season based on what we've seen in recent years and what we know about how the league puts it together.

The Rams' contest ends early Monday evening, so if you're looking for some tips to help you narrow the odds, feel free to use the suggestions below or, if you really want help, do the opposite of the list below.

Without further ado, here's my guess for the Rams' 2014 schedule:

Week 1 -- vs. Oakland Raiders -- Sunday

Week 2 -- at Washington Redskins -- Sunday

Week 3 -- vs. Seattle Seahawks -- Sunday

Week 4 -- at Kansas City Chiefs -- Sunday

Week 5 -- vs. New York Giants -- Sunday

Week 6 -- at Arizona Cardinals -- Monday

Week 7 -- vs San Francisco 49ers -- Sunday

Week 8 -- vs. Dallas Cowboys -- Sunday

Week 9 -- BYE

Week 10 -- at Seattle Seahawks -- Thursday

Week 11 -- at Philadelphia Eagles -- Sunday

Week 12 -- vs. Denver Broncos -- Sunday

Week 13 -- at San Diego Chargers -- Sunday

Week 14 -- vs. Arizona Cardinals -- Sunday

Week 15 -- at Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Sunday

Week 16 -- vs. Minnesota Vikings -- Sunday

Week 17 -- at San Francisco 49ers -- Sunday
Bringing back veteran Robert Meachem makes a lot of sense for the New Orleans Saints. They were thin on veteran receivers. And Meachem is still a good fit in his specific role -- as a standout blocker and effective deep threat on play-action passes.

Meachem
Meachem
The Saints now have solid depth at the position, with Meachem, Nick Toon, Joe Morgan and Andy Tanner among the candidates for backup roles behind starters Marques Colston and Kenny Stills.

However, the Saints should absolutely still draft a receiver this year. And I think they will. Maybe even in Round 1 if the draft grades line up.

Draft analysts universally agree that this year’s rookie class is loaded with receiver talent. I’ve seen at least nine different receivers mentioned as possible first-round picks, including fast-rising Indiana prospect Cody Latimer, whom ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper paired with the Saints in his latest mock draft Insider.

More than a dozen intriguing receiver options will be available beyond the first round.

The Saints could use a dynamic receiving threat immediately to help them stretch the field. More important, they need to start developing a future No. 1 or No. 2 guy with Colston now in his 30s.
The Washington Redskins' defense is optimistic about where it's headed, thanks to the addition of Jason Hatcher and a tweaked philosophy regarding the pass rush. Whether their play matches that optimism always remains the biggest hurdle. What's not in doubt: They will have two players among the most expensive at their positions when it comes to the salary cap. The fact both are in their front seven isn't a coincidence as the Redskins' offseason goal has been to improve the pass rush. So, after breaking down where the Redskins' top cap hits at each position offensively stood in comparison to their NFL counterparts earlier this week, it's time to take a look at the defense.

Safety

NFL's top five cap hits
Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs $11,619,700
Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers, $10,100,000
Antrel Rolle, New York Giants, $9,250,000
Dashon Goldson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, $9,000,000
Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans, $8,000,000

Meriweather
Redskins' top cap hit
Brandon Meriweather (59th), $1,000,000

Summing it up: Notice who’s not in the top five? Jairus Byrd, after his new deal with New Orleans. But don’t worry: He’s set to take up the most cap room in 2015 at $10.3 million. I like Byrd, but not at that figure (I’d have paid Sean Taylor that sort of cash). But Byrd was never really a legitimate option for the Redskins. Mike Mitchell was and he’ll count $2.2 million this season and $4.95 million in 2015. But the overriding point is Washington views the best way to help this position is by bolstering the pass rush. Starters Meriweather and Ryan Clark both are on one-year contracts, so this position is still a question mark beyond this season (and still will be one entering the year).

Corner

NFL's top five cap hits
Brandon Carr, Dallas, $12,217,000
Johnathan Joseph, Houston, $11,250,000
Lardarius Webb, Baltimore, $10,500,000
Brandon Flowers, Kansas City, $10,500,000
Tramon Williams, Green Bay, $9,500,000

Porter
Redskins' top cap hit
Tracy Porter (43rd), $2,800,000

Summing it up: Next season, Darrelle Revis' cap hit jumps to $25 million. Which means he’s playing on a one-year deal. Is it a good thing the Redskins’ biggest cap hit here belongs to Porter, who has battled injury issues along with consistency during his career? Of course, it’s not like he occupies a lot of space. DeAngelo Hall's cap hit is $2,062,500 but that jumps to $4,812,500 in 2015. By then the Redskins need young corner David Amerson to have fully emerged -- can he become their best corner? If not, then they’ll have to start looking for a No. 1 corner. By the way, the top five on the list for 2014? They’ve combined for four Pro Bowl appearances and one All-Pro spot (Joseph). But Carr did do a good job vs. Washington last year (and in at least one game against then-Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson).

Linebacker

NFL's top five cap hits
Lawrence Timmons, $11,816,250
Tamba Hali, Kansas City, $11,464,706
Brian Orakpo, Washington, $11,455,000
Clay Matthews, Green Bay, $10,943,750
James Laurinaitis, St. Louis, $10,400,000

Orakpo
Redskins' top cap hit
Orakpo

Summing it up: That’s quite a list for Orakpo to be part of, but to stay on there after this season -- at least in Washington -- he’ll have to be a little more productive. But even if he has another season like last year, Orakpo will still be in the $10-million range. When Hali got paid, he responded with sack totals of 12, nine and 11 in the next three seasons (with nine forced fumbles and one interception). I don’t think anyone says Hali's overpaid (well, at least not many). In Orakpo’s last three full seasons, he has a combined 27.5 sacks, but only four forced fumbles. More game-changing plays and he’ll get the contract he desires. Another interesting part on this is that two of the five are inside linebackers, though Timmons plays in a 3-4 and Laurinaitis in a 4-3.

Defensive tackle

NFL's top five cap hits
Ndamukong Suh, Detroit, $22,412,000
Haloti Ngata, Baltimore, $16,000,000
Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay, $15,627,253
Geno Atkins, Cincinnati, $9,000,000
Barry Cofield, Washington, $7,667,500

Cofield
Redskins' top cap hit
Cofield

Summing it up: Cofield’s base salary jumped from $840,000 last season to $4.55 million (the lower figure was the result of a restructuring last spring in which $3.5 million in base salary was converted to a signing bonus). This is as high as Cofield’s cap number will be and in two years it falls to $6,877,500. I know the coaches felt he would become the NFL’s top nose tackle by this time. That’s not the case, but Cofield does have his strengths and has done a nice job with Washington. For a short stretch last season he was playing as well as anyone on the team defensively, and he always plays hard. He’ll be helped by having Hatcher in the pass rush, perhaps giving Cofield more one-on-one matchups. If that happens, then perhaps Cofield will have the sort of season in all phases that coaches have hoped for.

Defensive end

NFL's top five cap hits
Mario Williams, Buffalo, $18,800,000
Charles Johnson, Carolina, $16,420,000
Chris Long, St. Louis, $14,900,000
Greg Hardy, Carolina, $13,116,000
Calais Campbell , Arizona, $11,250,000

Bowen
Redskins' top cap hit
Stephen Bowen (15th), $7,020,000

Summing it up: All of the top five on this list play in a 4-3, where ends can excel as playmakers and, therefore, command big bucks. The 3-4 ends, typically, are not -- with some exceptions. Bowen has not been a playmaker, though for a while he was an effective player both against the run and as a rusher. However, he has just one sack since the 2011 season (26 games). And after microfracture surgery and being 30, I wonder about the level at which he’ll be able to play. Multiple Redskins sources said they still expect him to be in the Redskins' plans, but will it be at this cap figure? That's a big hit for someone in his situation. If Bowen returns healthy and plays well, the Redskins will greatly benefit. If not? That's a lot of cap room to occupy. One more note: Johnson and Hardy combine for approximately 23 percent of Carolina's cap.
The Chicago Bears' search to find a tall cornerback to eventually replace veteran Charles Tillman led the team’s Director of College Scouting Marty Barrett to attend the private Pro Day last month of Lindenwood’s Pierre Desir, according to a source present at the workout.

In his latest mock draft, ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projects the 6-foot-1, 198 pound Desir will be selected in the second round by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 54th overall pick. The Bears currently own the 51st overall selection.

A relative unknown after spending two years at Washburn, followed by the two seasons at Lindenwood, Desir finished his college career with 25 total interceptions and 52 pass breakups en route to being named a Division II All-American three times.

Desir participated in the East-West Shrine game, Senior Bowl, and was invited to the NFL combine in February.

With Tillman back on a one-year deal, the Bears are believed to be leaning towards drafting a cornerback with a larger frame in the event Tillman leaves the organization after 2014. Since the club already has money and years locked up in undersized 5-foot-8 cornerback Tim Jennings, the Bears need to find a young cornerback big enough to one day matchup with the taller wide receivers in the NFC North, especially Detroit’s Calvin Johnson.

In addition to Barrett and the Bears, four other NFL teams were present at Desir’s Pro Day on March 20.
Khalil Mack remains a very large mystery when it comes to the Cleveland Browns' draft plans.

Mack was the standout linebacker for the University at Buffalo whose draft stock in the eyes of NFL types has remained consistently high.

Merrill Hoge calls Mack the best football player -- not workout warrior or speed demon -- in the draft, and those projecting the picks consistently have him in the top 10, with some putting him top three or four.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesLinebacker Khalil Mack returned this interception for a touchdown against Ohio State.
Browns coach Mike Pettine described Mack this way at the NFL owner’s meetings: “Explosive athlete. He's a guy that tested extremely well, but he's not a tester. He's not a combine warrior. He's a guy that the tape backs it up. He can play on the ball, he can play off the ball, he plays violently and he's played some of his better games against better competition.”

Pettine said his nickname once was Blunt Force Trauma. Mack seems to fit that mold. He’s a 6-foot-2, 250-pound linebacker who can rush the passer and drop into coverage, a pretty rare combination of skills in this day of specialization.

Would the Browns take Mack?

Why not?

Before they do, they have to believe two things. The first is that the top quarterbacks are not good enough to take with the No. 4 overall pick. The second is that they can find a receiver lower in this receiver-deep draft to pair with Josh Gordon as opposed to using the No. 4 pick on Sammy Watkins (who remains the preferred choice in my draft corner, though Mack is a not-very-distant second).

Mack brings a lot to the table, but the main concern is he stood out in the MAC, which will never be confused with the SEC. Pettine even admitted the MAC is “perceived to be a lesser conference.”

“But then you see him play against Ohio State ...” Pettine said.

Mack dominated, with nine tackles, 2 sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown. That game is Mack’s argument to the “lesser conference” criticism.

Mack and Jadeveon Clowney in the same draft almost harkens back to 1999 when running backs Ricky Williams and Edgerrin James were eligible. Williams was considered the sure thing, but Bill Polian took James first, and he turned out to be the better player. Mack might in the long run be the better overall player.

Mack is touted as an outside linebacker, and with his pass-rush ability he could even line up at end. But Pettine said he would not limit him.

“I think when you have a special guy like that, I think his home base will be outside, but we'll look to move him all around to take advantage of his ability,” Pettine said.

ESPN.com Senior Editor Chris Sprow has worked with Mel Kiper Jr. for five years, helping Kiper with reports and scouting. He went to the Ohio State-Buffalo game and focused specifically on Mack. He points out that the balance with Mack is this: If he’s a great pass-rusher, he’s a top-five pick. But if he doesn’t develop into a great pass-rusher, a team then is using a pick on a very solid outside linebacker. Mack’s coverage skills and his ability to play in space are excellent, but the pass-rush skills are what put him over the top.

We don’t know what the Browns will do if Mack is available, but it almost seems like a Draft Day/Kevin Costner kind of scenario. Maybe the Browns would look at Mack as their Vontae Mack -- a guy simply too good to pass up.

The fact that their names are the same is pure coincidence.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Teddy Bridgewater's second visit with the Jacksonville Jaguars certainly indicates genuine interest on the part of general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley.

They spent time with him at the combine, had a private meeting at his pro day and already played host to him on a visit, so it's unlikely they'd waste any additional time and money on Bridgewater if he weren't a legitimate target. But where?

The Jaguars pick third, but it seems unlikely that they would take the former Louisville standout there. Based on recent reports and mock drafts, Bridgewater is dropping in the first round because of his shaky performances at his pro day and in private workouts. ESPN's Mel Kiper actually had him going to Houston with the top pick in the second round in his latest mock draft.

The Jaguars pick seventh in the second round (39th overall) and have 11 total draft picks. One theory has Caldwell putting a deal together to move back into the latter part of the first round -- likely the late teens or early 20s -- and selecting Bridgewater. Saturday's visit could be a final under-the-hood exam to make sure he's the right fit for offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch's system.

Caldwell hasn't said which of the big three quarterbacks he likes the best, but he has said it's harder to evaluate quarterbacks who played in spread offenses in college and project how their skills will translate at the NFL level. Bridgewater played in a West Coast pro-style offense at Louisville while Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles played in spread offenses. Draft analysts have said Bridgewater has the best pocket presence of the three and appears to be the most pro-ready of all the quarterbacks in the draft.

But his pro day performance was a bit unsettling -- Bridgewater said it was because he didn't wear a glove like he normally does -- and this latest visit may just be a chance for Caldwell and Bradley to get another look at him.

Regardless of which quarterback the Jaguars take, or when they take him, Caldwell is not budging on Chad Henne as the starter heading into 2014. He wants the rookie to sit back and learn. Maybe it's Bridgewater.
If Muhammad Wilkerson ever felt underappreciated, his accountant can now set him straight. Jets general manager John Idzik doesn't look like such a spendthrift after laying out $6,969,000 for a fifth-year option on the defensive end for 2015. Wilkerson, who has played three full seasons, is now under contract for two more years, decreasing the urgency to give him an expensive, long-term extension.

Wilkerson
It's quite a raise for Wilkerson, who will make $1,212,500 this season according to the NFLPA. Wilkerson was drafted by the Jets with the 30th overall pick in 2011 and has been impressing his coaches ever since.

As negotiations took place this month, Wilkerson was upfront about his desire to stay in New York.

"I told [the front office] at the end of the year last year that I want to be a Jet -- a Jet for life,” Wilkerson said to the New York Post. “I’m from [Linden, N.J.], I’m a local guy, so I would love to be here and finish my career here.”

It doesn’t always work in a player’s financial favor to say he wants to stay with his team, but in this case it appears to have worked. Wilkerson started with a base salary of $375,000 his rookie year, and went to $687,500 before landing at $1 million last season. His option is for nearly seven times that amount, a significant raise.

Last season, Wilkerson had 10.5 sacks. With recent rookie Sheldon Richardson also on the defensive line, the Jets could have a bright future with the group.
Another in an Inside Slant series that will appear regularly during the 2014 offseason.

You might be aware of an unusual coaching decision Thursday night at the Pepsi Center, where Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy pulled his goalie with three minutes, one second remaining in a playoff game the Avs trailed by one. They tied the game with 14 seconds remaining and won in overtime.

As a football writer and hockey novice, my reaction moved quickly to the gridiron. Namely: You would never see an NFL coach depart from conventional wisdom to that degree, especially in a playoff game.

We can get some context for Roy's decision from a study performed through Canada's Simon Fraser University. (H/T to Adam Gretz of SBNation.com for providing a path to finding it.)

The study found that when NHL goalies were pulled in the 2007-08 season, there was about one minute remaining in regulation. By examining the various possibilities, the study found NHL coaches were missing opportunities by not pulling their goalies -- and adding an extra potential scorer -- earlier in games they trailed in.

A strategy of pulling the goalie when trailing with three minutes or less remaining would account for an additional point over the course of a season, according to the study. A more aggressive approach could push that outcome to 1.5 additional points.

Yes, Roy's decision Thursday night would have failed if not for a spectacular empty-net save by a defenseman. But as we've discussed in this blog series, strategies must be evaluated over time and not by a singular outcome.

My hockey friends tell me that Roy pulls his goalies regularly, and thus what is out of the box for most isn't even unusual for him. I also don't know if his decision-making is based on the data or his own experience as a goalie. Regardless, it would be rare to find an NFL coach either confident or crazy enough to embrace such a counterculture strategy.

What would the NFL equivalent be? I asked Twitter followers to give me their best suggestions. A representative sample is in the module below.

To me, it's as if Roy went for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter of a tie game. Or maybe he called for a running play on a two-point conversion when trailing by one. (NFL teams pass more often than run in those situations, but the data shows running plays are more successful.)

With a Hall of Fame playing career on his resume, perhaps Roy enjoys a level of security that most NFL coaches do not. But I look forward to the day when an NFL coach has the guts to pull his goalie with three minutes left in regulation -- and survives to tell about it.

 
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will exercise the fifth-year option on Tyron Smith's contract, keeping the 2011 first-round pick with the team at least through 2015.

Smith
Smith’s agent, Joe Panos, told 105.3 The Fan on Friday that the option has not been picked up yet but “they told me it’s going to happen.” A source indicated Thursday that the Cowboys had already exercised the option, like teams had done earlier in the day with other first-round picks from the 2011 draft, like Houston’s J.J. Watt.

Once the Cowboys pick up the option, Smith will earn $10.039 million in 2015, but it would not preclude the team and Smith from working out a multi-year deal, which is the hope. The 2015 base salary is guaranteed for injury and would become fully guaranteed if Smith is on the roster the first day of the league year in 2015.

The Cowboys took Smith with the ninth pick in the 2011 draft, and he has missed just one game in three seasons. He played right tackle as a rookie before moving to left tackle in his second year. He earned his first Pro Bowl appearance last season.

Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the Cowboys have to pay Smith the transition tag money due to offensive linemen in 2014 ($10.039 million) because he was a top-10 pick. The Cowboys had to pick up the option by May 2 or Smith would have become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Smith, who does not turn 24 until December, is considered one of the best offensive linemen in the game. The Cowboys want to sign Smith to a long-term deal and have made him a priority, as well as wide receiver Dez Bryant, whose contract expires after the 2014 season.

Smith signed a four-year, $12.496 million deal in 2011 that was fully guaranteed and included a $7.588 million signing bonus.

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