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Big news yet to come from owners PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, March 27, 2014 8:18 PM

Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — NFL owners made plenty of news at their annual meetings, from shifting some video review oversight to the officiating headquarters to experimenting in the preseason with extra-point kicks from the 20-yard line.

They also vowed to clamp down on unsportsmanlike conduct and verbal abuse.

A significant item they didn’t vote on — but discussed at length — was expanding the playoffs.

Though the move wasn’t adopted in Orlando, it soon will be.

It could even be approved at the owners’ May gathering in Atlanta and be implemented for the 2014 season.

Commissioner Roger Goodell was hesitant to predict that. He also wasn’t exactly shooting down the idea of going from 12 to 14 postseason qualifiers, adding one in each conference, next season.

“It’s not out of the question,” Goodell said about two more wild-card games next January. “We have more work. I wouldn’t rule it out but I wouldn’t say that’s the direction we’re heading.”

The NFL definitely is heading toward bigger playoffs, even if the new setup occurs in 2015. Although the owners have struck out with the players union about stretching the regular season to 18 games — new NFL Players Association President Eric Winston has called the issue “dead in the water” — more teams in the postseason isn’t likely to be opposed by the union. For one, it means more money in the pockets of the players on the qualifying teams. For another, it really means more money in the pockets of every player.

When the league adds more playoff games, it also will add significant revenues in which the players share handily. The networks, which can’t get enough of pro football — witness CBS diving headfirst into Thursday night games for the first half of the 2014 schedule — will blitz each other for the rights to televise the two extra games.

That means not only the current network partners such as CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN, but perhaps Turner Sports or another outlet not currently involved with the NFL. Remember that ESPN, the self-proclaimed sports leader, currently has no postseason rights.

Also consider that one or both of the new games could be scheduled for prime time, perhaps even on Monday night, which is ESPN’s regular-season territory.

Did someone say “cha-ching?”

“I think there’s a tremendous amount of interest in this, possibly even to the point of support,” Goodell said. “But there also are things we still want to make sure we do right. We’ve been very incremental in trying to do this but we believe competitively it could make even the races toward the end of the season even more exciting, with more teams vying for playoff positions, which is great for our fans.

“We still want to do some additional work, including talking with the players association. We have a meeting scheduled for April 8 and this is one of the things we’ll probably discuss. And we’ll also have to talk to our broadcast partners.”

Proponents of the expanded playoffs insist it is the answer to not having 11-5 or 10-6 teams fail to make it; Arizona won 10 games last season and was on the outside.

Opponents question whether .500 (or worse) teams will benefit more than anyone.

Clubs that would not benefit would be two division winners in both the AFC and in the NFC who don’t have the best overall record in the conference. Only the top team in each conference would secure a bye, with the No. 2 finisher facing the seventh-ranked team one week after the regular season ends. The No. 3 team would play No. 6, while No. 4 meets No. 5.

“Personally, I think it would be a positive for our game,” said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy, whose Packers won the NFC North at 8-7-1 in 2013. “I think if you look at the history of the later seeds, they’ve been successful. If you look at the productivity in the NFL from the best team in the league to the last team in the league from a productivity standpoint, there’s only a 16-percent difference. Parity’s been evident in our game for a long time. I think giving another team an opportunity, I’m for it, I think it’s the right thing to do.”

So, almost certainly, do the owners. Count on it happening sooner rather than later.

Bengals give DT Peko 2-year extension

CINCINNATI — Defensive tackle Domata Peko has agreed to a 2-year contract extension that runs through the 2016 season.

Peko, a fourth-round pick in 2006, started all 16 games and a playoff loss to San Diego last season. He was second on the line with 72 tackles and had a career-high three sacks. He also was the lead blocker on short-yardage plays on offense.

Peko has started 67 consecutive games, including the playoffs, which is the longest current streak on the Bengals roster.

RB Knowshon Moreno signs 1-year deal with Dolphins

MIAMI — Running back Knowshon Moreno has agreed to terms on a 2-year contract with Miami Dolphins and they hope he’ll enliven a ground game that ranked 26th in the NFL last season.

Moreno, a 5-year veteran, had his best season in 2013 when he rushed for 1,038 yards, caught 60 passes and scored 13 touchdowns playing with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. He ranked fifth in the NFL with 1,586 yards from scrimmage and tied for fourth with 10 rushing touchdowns.

Montee Ball, a rookie last year, made Moreno expendable in Denver.

Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were the Dolphins’ primary ball carriers last season and both remain on the roster.

The Dolphins’ offensive line has been a big reason for their sputtering ground game. The unit also gave up a franchise-record 58 sacks and was rocked by the team’s bullying scandal last year.

Center Mike Pouncey is the lone holdover in the line; while the Dolphins added left tackle Branden Albert, they’re still shopping for upgrades at guard and right tackle.

Lions signed James Ihedigbo to $3.1M, 2-year deal

DETROIT — James Ihedigbo’s hard work has paid off.

The Detroit Lions signed Ihedigbo to a $3.1 million, 2-year contract, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The person, who said the deal included a $750,000 signing bonus, spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity because the terms had not been announced.

Ihedigbo earned a spot in the NFL after being an undrafted free agent and a walk-on in college.

The Lions plan to put him in the starting lineup next to safety Glover Quin to replace Louis Delmas, who they released last month.

Ihedigbo ranked second in tackles for Baltimore Ravens last season and had three interceptions after having one in his previous five years in the league. He will be reunited with first-year coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, both of whom were assistant coaches last year in Baltimore.

Detroit seems to have accomplished its major goals so far this offseason.

The Lions signed former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate and ex-New Orleans Saints fullback Jed Collins as free agents. They also re-signed running back Joique Bell, tight end Brandon Pettigrew and center Dominic Raiola.

Vikings sign OL Vladimir Ducasse

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings have signed free agent offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse to a 1-year deal.

The team announced the signing on Thursday. Ducasse spent the first four seasons of his career with the New York Jets. He was a second-round draft choice out of Massachusetts in 2010.

He will add depth to the Vikings offensive line, which will return all five starters from last year’s unit.

Redskins re-sign CB E.J. Biggers to a 1-year deal

ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Redskins have re-signed cornerback E.J. Biggers to a 1-year deal.

The team also announced Thursday that linebacker Brian Orakpo has signed his franchise player tender.

The 26-year-old Biggers returns for a second season with the Redskins and will likely again serve a versatile fourth cornerback. DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson are the projected starters and recently signed Tracy Porter is expected to be the nickel back.

Orakpo, who was designated as a franchise player earlier this month, signed a 1-year tender worth about $11.5 million. He can still negotiate a long-term deal with the Redskins but new coach Jay Gruden this week said he would be OK with Orakpo playing the season under the 1-year deal.

Titans agree to multiyear deal with LB Phillips

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans have agreed to a multi-year deal with linebacker Shaun Phillips.

The Titans announced the deal Thursday.

The 10-year veteran ranks ninth with 79 ½ sacks over the past decade in the NFL. He also has forced 22 forced fumbles in 152 career games with his first nine seasons in San Diego. The 6-3, 255-pound linebacker played all 16 games for Denver last season with 10 sacks, 36 tackles, an interception and two forced fumbles.

He becomes the second linebacker Tennessee has signed this month who played for Denver last season, joining Wesley Woodyard.

Wilfork: close to ensuring he’ll retire with Pats

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork says he’s closer to achieving his goal of finishing his career with New England.

The 10-year veteran who missed most of last season with a torn Achilles’ tendon has tweeted that he looks forward to returning to football and helping his team have a chance to win a Super Bowl.

Wilfork originally had balked at the Patriots attempt to restructure his contract to lessen the salary cap hit.

He tweeted amid reports that he had agreed to restructure his contract. The Patriots usually do not announce contract restructurings.

At the bottom of the tweet was a reproduction of the top of a standard NFL Player Contract with his name and that of the New England Patriots.

Seattle signs CB Phillip Adams

RENTON, Wash. — The Seattle Seahawks have signed free agent cornerback Phillip Adams adding depth to a secondary that has lost three players off last season’s Super Bowl championship team.

Seattle announced the signing of Adams on Thursday night.

Adams spent last season with the Oakland Raiders but he’s not unfamiliar with the Seahawks. Adams spent part of the 2011 season with Seattle and appeared in one game.

Seattle lost cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner and safety Chris Maragos during the early stages of free agency.

AP Source: Eagles, Sanchez agree to contract: A person with knowledge of the agreement says Mark Sanchez and the Eagles have agreed on a contract that brings the former Jets quarterback to Philadelphia to back up Nick Foles.

Sanchez was bounced out of New York after the Jets signed former Eagles starter Michael Vick last Friday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday night on condition of anonymity because the Eagles haven’t officially announced the move.

Sanchez spent last season on injured reserve after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder in a preseason game. He led the Jets to the AFC championship game his first two seasons in the NFL before struggling the next two. He had an NFL-leading 52 turnovers in 2012-13.

 

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