April 2015

The long NFL offseason seems a little more palatable when there's a Week 1 opponent to look forward to. Each NFL team found out who it will start the 2015 regular season against, and the rest of the schedule too. [For a full look at the entire 2015 NFL regular-season schedule, click here.] The opening game of the season will be the Pittsburgh Steelers taking on the defending champion New England Patriots on Thursday, Sept. 10 (a favorable break for the Patriots because the Steelers will be without All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell due to suspension). The first "Sunday Night Football" game of the season, on Sept. 13, will be the New York Giants traveling to face the Dallas Cowboys. As usual, the NFL has a doubleheader scheduled for "Monday Night Football" in Week 1. The Philadelphia Eagles, one of the most interesting teams this season after a flurry of offseason moves, play at the Atlanta Falcons in the first game. The San Francisco 49ers will host the late Monday night game against the Minnesota Vikings and running back Adrian Peterson ... if Peterson is still with the Vikings. The NFL decided to go with three NFC vs. NFC games on Thanksgiving for the second straight season. The Eagles kick it off at the Detroit Lions, the Carolina Panthers will play at the Dallas Cowboys, and the third Thanksgiving game will be the Chicago Bears at the Green Bay Packers . That will be the Packers' first home Thanksgiving game since playing the Hammond Pros in 1923. There will be rematches of each conference championship game from last season, and each rematch will be on "Sunday Night Football." On Sept. 20, the Green Bay Packers will host the Seattle Seahawks on NBC, which is one of the most interesting games on the entire regular-season schedule. The Patriots will play at the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 18 in a prime-time game. There was also a welcomed change for the Denver Broncos in this year's schedule. For years, a CBS conflict with the U.S. Open tennis tournament prevented the Broncos from opening the season at home in their usual late-afternoon slot. The U.S. Open is moving to ESPN this year. So the Broncos will open the regular season at home against the Baltimore Ravens in the late-afternoon time slot, in one of the best games of Week 1. The NFL's regular-season schedule release has become a big day on the sports calendar, in many ways overshadowing the NBA and NHL playoffs. The schedule release was covered with two hours of programming on ESPN's networks, and there was a three-hour schedule release show scheduled for NFL Network. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab
The Philadelphia Eagles signed quarterback Tim Tebow, more than two years removed from his last NFL action, to a one-year contract Monday. The Eagles made it official after news broke Sunday evening of the agreement. - - Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who rarely participated in offseason workouts while with the Detroit Lions, was present on the first day of the Miami Dolphins' offseason program. Suh signed a six-year $114 million contract -- $60 million guaranteed -- with the Dolphins last month, making him the highest-paid defender in NFL history.
Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning believes current work rules that force him to work out with his receivers away from the New York Giants' training facilities are absurd. Speaking Monday as the team started voluntary offseason workouts, Manning said the collective bargaining agreement makes it difficult for him to work out with teammates without violating league rules. Earlier this month, Manning went to Duke with NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle for three days of throwing, going over the offense with the receivers and getting a jump start on organized team activities.
There are a few ways to judge an NFL player's popularity, but the amount of merchandise he sells might be the best way. And if you believe that to be true, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is the NFL's most popular player. Again. For the second straight season, Wilson led the NFL Players Association's player sales list. That takes into account all officially licensed products, including jerseys, Fatheads, ugly sweaters and bobbleheads. Wilson led all players in jersey sales and ugly sweaters (I had no idea NFL ugly sweaters was actually a thing until this list was released ... and I'm glad I didn't). Wilson's rise to stardom is easy to track: He's an exciting player, some fans probably relate to him overcoming odds to be a top quarterback at 5-foot-11, the Seahawks have won a ton with him and they have a fan base that loves to buy merchandise. Seahawks players like cornerback Richard Sherman (No. 7), running back Marshawn Lynch (No. 9), safeties Earl Thomas (No. 29) and Kam Chancellor (No. 30) also made the NFLPA's list. No. 2 behind Wilson isn't a big surprise; it's Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (he led all players in bobblehead sales). Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant was the top non-quarterback, checking in at No. 6. Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who wasn't too impressive in two starts as a rookie last year, still finished No. 10 in sales. There are also a lot of people who bought LeSean McCoy's Philadelphia Eagles gear only to have it rendered obsolete when McCoy was traded to the Buffalo Bills this offseason. McCoy ranked 14th on the NFLPA's sales list. Here's the entire top 50 from NFLPA, based on sales from the 2015 fiscal year of March 1, 2014, through Feb. 28, 2015: 1. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks  2. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos 3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots  4. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers 5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers 6. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys 7. Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks 8. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans 9. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks 10. Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns 11. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys 12. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints 13. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots 14. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles 15. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts 16. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers 17. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys 18. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears 19. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions 20. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants 21. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers  22. Eli Manning, New York Giants 23. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys 24. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers 25. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins 26. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles  27. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings 28. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs 29. Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks  30. Kam Chancellor, Seattle Seahawks 31. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers 32. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins 33. Victor Cruz, New York Giants 34. Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers 35. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears 36. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens 37. Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers  38. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers 39. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers 40. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos 41. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots 42. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers 43. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers 44. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers 45. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals 46. Devon Still, Cincinnati Bengals  47. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers 48. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals 49. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings  50. Wes Welker, Denver Broncos - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab
In 2012, the Pittsburgh Steelers and receiver Antonio Brown agreed to what was a mutually beneficial contract extension. Brown got $42.5 million over five years after his second NFL season. The Steelers recognized his talent and locked him up at a reasonable price early on, and Brown got some financial stability. The problem is that Brown has outplayed that deal and wants a new one. Fox Sports 1's Mike Garafolo reported that Brown wasn't at the first day of voluntary Steelers workouts on Monday, and is considering skipping minicamps and maybe even training camp to get a new deal. His base salary is slated to be $6 million this season. That's not bad money, but just 11th among base salaries for receivers according to Spotrac . And Brown ranks much higher than the 11th best receiver in the NFL; he is arguably No. 1. Brown has an amazing 239 catches, 3,197 yards and 21 touchdowns the past two years, and has amassed those numbers with remarkable week-to-week consistency. You can say he signed a contract and should live up to it, but if Brown wasn't putting up good numbers, the Steelers would have no problem cutting him and not paying him the remainder of his non-guaranteed contract. Brown has leverage and it sounds like he plans to use it. Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant is also skipping workouts (so is cornerback Orlando Scandrick according to NFL.com ), although that's not uncommon for players like Bryant who get the franchise tag. Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Bryant and New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul might follow that path as well. None of them have signed their franchise tender yet. So there's some offseason contract angst for some star players and their teams. Brown will get paid, of course. The question is just how much time he might miss before it happens. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab
What has happened since our last NFL mock draft ? Not a ton outside of some wild rumors and baseless chatter — the fun stuff! — about Team X liking Player Y and the like. But we’ve been gathering information behind the scenes, double-checking our lists and circling back on prospects we missed the first time around. And with it comes another two-round mock draft, this one two weeks prior to liftoff on April 30: 1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  — Florida State QB Jameis Winston Although the team has gone out of its way to point out that it is examining all avenues, and wild rumors tend to catch wind this time of year,. we believe this pick has been solid since head coach Lovie Smith essentially signed off on Winston’s character at the NFL scouting combine, even if some higher-ups are a little skittish. 2. Tennessee Titans — Oregon QB Marcus Mariota We don’t believe the Titans will be making this pick themselves, but rather another team — the San Diego Chargers have been our wild-card pick here for weeks, and the St. Louis Rams should not be ignored — trading up to pick in this spot. If the Titans stand pat, we think they’d select USC’s Leonard Williams, for what it’s worth. 3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Clemson OLB Vic Beasley Dante Fowler Jr.  said he’d be stunned if he wasn’t the third pick. Well, Dante, prepare your best “stunned” face. Yes, the Jaguars threw a changeup with Blake Bortles in this same slot a year ago, and we would not be shocked if it’s happening again. It’s either Beasley or Williams in our eyes, and Beasley is the bigger need in the Jaguars’ “Leo” pass rusher role. 4. Oakland Raiders — USC DE Leonard Williams If you’ve been following our mocks, we’ve etched in a receiver here consistently. But that was on the premise that Williams was gone. Given that Williams is the rare player who openly has campaigned for the Raiders to take him — and that he’d fill a need, too — we feel like it must happen. The Raiders can get their wideout(s) later. 5. Washington Redskins — Florida DE Dante Fowler Jr. New Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan fills a major hole opposite Ryan Kerrigan now that Brian Orakpo is gone. Trent Murphy is a nice player, but don’t be fooled; he’s nowhere near the all-around force Fowler is. This also is a strong trade-down slot if the right deal materializes. Otherwise, we also could see a safe pick such as Iowa’s Brandon Scherff. 6. New York Jets — Alabama WR Amari Cooper There’s no glaring need at receiver with Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall and Jeremy Kerley currently manning the top three slots. But what better way to boost Geno Smith (or Ryan Fitzpatrick) than with a front-line playmaker such as Cooper? He’s silky smooth, polished and a nice complement to the size of Decker and Marshall and the underneath ability of Kerley. Plus, Marshall currently is a one-year investment, and the Jets could walk away from either Decker or Kerley after this season without getting crushed on the salary cap. We could see this very safe, very smart maiden pick by new GM Mike Maccagnan. 7. Chicago Bears — West Virginia WR Kevin White The Bears would be in a win-win position, able to pick between the draft’s top two receivers and its best nose tackle in Danny Shelton. With new GM Ryan Pace spending most of his time this offseason sprucing up the defense, he shifts gears and gives Alshon Jeffery a running mate who could be a perfect replacement for Marshall — without the headaches. White’s character checks with NFL teams have been off-the-charts good, a total departure from the wideout he'd be replacing.
Aaron Hernandez was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Hernandez, a former New England Patriots tight end, was found guilty of all five gun-related charges. - - The Detroit Lions traded restricted free agent George Johnson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the teams settled their differences on the defensive end's offer sheet. The Lions will receive a fifth-round pick (No. 168 overall from New England) in the upcoming draft and the Buccaneers will get a seventh-round pick (No. 231 overall from Baltimore).
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor is walking away from the NFL after 12 seasons with the franchise. Taylor's retirement became official Tuesday, five days after safety Troy Polamalu announced his playing career was coming to an end. Both defensive backs spent their entire professional career with the Steelers. - - Free agent offensive lineman Eben Britton was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season by the NFL.
Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey became emotional Monday while discussing the $52.2 million, five-year contract extension he received from the team. The new deal makes Pouncey the NFL's highest-paid center, and the $22 million of guaranteed money gives his family the security he has always wanted for them. The way I'm going to work and push myself and my teammates, there won't be a doubt that they made the right decision to keep me here.'' Pouncey, a two-time Pro Bowler with the Dolphins and their first-round draft pick in 2011, was one of three players named in the bullying scandal in the 2013 season. In addition to the bullying scandal, Pouncey and his brother, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, were criticized for showing support for Aaron Hernandez, their former college teammate at the University of Florida.

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