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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants offensive tackle Ereck Flowers admitted it was tough to get that phone call from coach Pat Shurmur earlier this offseason following the signing of Nate Solder to a record contract. Solder would be taking his position, and Flowers was being asked to move to right tackle, a position he only played sparingly early in his college career.

“Yeah, of course [it was tough],” Flowers said Wednesday in a rare interview session following Day 2 of mandatory minicamp. “But I love playing football so it’s whatever now.”

Flowers didn’t attend the early parts of the Giants’ offseason workout program. The team didn’t seem all that pleased with the decision. He eventually hired agent Drew Rosenhaus earlier this spring and showed for the start of OTAs last month after the Giants declined the fifth-year option on his rookie contract earlier this offseason.

Flowers was the Giants’ first round pick (No. 9 overall) in the 2015 NFL draft. He started and struggled at left tackle each of his first three professional seasons.

New general manager Dave Gettleman has made a concerted effort to upgrade the offensive line. He started by adding guard Patrick Omameh and Solder. He later drafted guard Will Hernandez in the second round. Flowers was later the subject of trade talks, especially around the draft. The Giants asked one team for a mid-round pick for Flowers, according to a source.

Flowers shrugged off the idea he was being dangled on the trading block this offseason.

“Any player can get traded,” he said. “I didn’t get traded. I’m still here. Haven’t even thought about that.”

The Giants threw Flowers right back into the first team upon his arrival. He has received positive reviews to date at right tackle.

“I see him improving and I see a guy that enjoys training and he has fit in well with the new players on the offensive line and he obviously has a relationship with the guys from a year ago,” coach Pat Shurmur said this week. “I know he’s a tough guy and he’s out there doing what we ask him to do and he’s improving.”

Flowers has experienced his troubles in the past. He had run-ins with offensive line coach Pat Flaherty his rookie season and hasn’t been a popular figure in the offensive line room since joining the Giants.

Flowers and Bobby Hart were considered outcasts. Some coaches and players believed Flowers and Hart gave up on last season early when they declared themselves unavailable for a Week 17 matchup with the Washington Redskins. Flowers was inactive for the contest and Hart was waived.

The Giants rebuilt their offensive line this offseason and concentrated on improving chemistry. They’re hoping it leads to better results.

“It’s very important to have chemistry on the field and off the field,” Flowers said. “I thought the line last year got along, unless you know something I don’t, you know what I mean. I didn’t see that as a problem.”

Flowers’ time and attention now is spent on transitioning to the right side. He believes the adjustment is going well as he learns how to kick set pushing off his left foot instead of his right.

The hardest part is getting used to the muscle memory. Flowers has started all 46 of his career games at left tackle. But he understands the need to make the switch given his current predicament.

“At the end of the day they have to do what is best for the organization. I don’t have any personal feelings about it,” Flowers said. “For me I want to prove myself every time I hit the field. I want to get better every year. Mainly I want to do it for myself. It’s not to prove it to anybody else. I want to prove to myself that I can play at a certain level.”

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Franchise Frank Clark? Why it makes sense for Seahawks – Seattle Seahawks Blog

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The Seattle Seahawks are one of three teams that haven’t used the franchise tag in the past eight years.

The streak may come to an end with defensive end Frank Clark reaching the end of his rookie contract after the best season of his career.

The window for applying the franchise tag opened on Tuesday, so here’s a look at why that’s the likely outcome for Clark, barring a last-minute extension, and what a tag would mean for the Seahawks and their top pass-rusher.

How they got here

It isn’t for a lack of trying that Clark remains without an extension. His agent, Erik Burkhardt, told ESPN.com in October he’s had “several very productive and positive talks with the Seahawks.” He said Clark loves Seattle and the team wants to keep him around. They’ve just differed on the price.

Burkhardt made it clear he considers Clark to be in the same class as Khalil Mack, DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney. Mack set the bar for pass-rushers with an extension that averages $23.5 million. Lawrence and Ansah are set for big paydays after playing on the $17.14 million franchise tag in 2018. So is Clowney, the first overall pick in 2014, who played last season on a fifth-year option.

While Burkhardt declined to discuss specifics of his talks with the Seahawks, one could read between the lines and assume the team looked to extend Clark last year while his value was more in the $14 million to $16 million range. Clark’s side, which took out a loss-of-value insurance policy, hasn’t been in any hurry to do a deal knowing that more money awaits.

“I don’t care if those guys were high first-round picks,” Burkhardt said of the aforementioned pass-rushers. “I don’t mind being quoted saying I absolutely put Frank in that echelon with those guys, so I’m not going to sit here and do a deal early and then watch in March when those guys get $X million a year and Frank not be in that range. Why would we do that? I feel like I have just as good of a player, and I want to be very clear, that is not a knock on anybody. Frank is on that level, and I believe everybody around the league will tell you that as well.”

Burkhardt pointed to Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins as an example of a player who bet on himself and won after playing on the tag.

“Frank and I are not scared of the franchise tag,” he said. “That’s going to come in at about $18 million next year for a D-end on a one-year, fully guaranteed deal. It’s what Ansah and Lawrence have done. They get that top-of-the-market value for one year, and 12 months later will get their long-term deal as well. That’s winning.”

Seahawks’ tag history

Kicker Olindo Mare remains the answer to an obscure Seahawks trivia question as the last player on whom they used the franchise tag. That was in 2010, the year coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider arrived.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Packers and Texans are the only other teams that have not used the tag since. But there’s a simple explanation: The Seahawks haven’t had a reason to.

The Seahawks who were good enough to command the franchise tag, and the top-of-the-market salary, all got early extensions. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Kam Chancellor were extended with a year remaining on each of their contracts, meaning it never got to the point of the Seahawks having to use the tag.

Golden Tate, Byron Maxwell, Bruce Irvin, Russell Okung, Sheldon Richardson and Jimmy Graham are some of the best players to leave the Seahawks as free agents under Carroll and Schneider. But among that group, only Graham signed a deal elsewhere that averaged anywhere close to what it would have cost the Seahawks to franchise him (and in Graham’s case, it seems that both parties were ready to move on). Tagging any of the others would have meant overpaying to keep them.

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Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark describes growing up in the violent neighborhood of Baldwin Villages of Los Angeles and the struggles his mom faced with drug addiction.

What a tag would mean

It’s effectively a guaranteed one-year deal that would keep Clark from reaching free agency this offseason, making him one of the highest-paid pass-rushers for 2019 and buying time for the two sides to work out a long-term deal.

The tag for defensive ends is projected to be around $18 million; the exact figures are typically released during the scouting combine later this month. That would be a significant raise from the $944,000 Clark made in 2018.

Of the two types of tags, the non-exclusive tag is more common than its exclusive counterpart. The non-exclusive tag allows another team to sign a franchised player to an offer sheet. If the original team declines to match the offer sheet, it receives two first-round picks as compensation from the other team. That scenario almost certainly wouldn’t come into play here, as no other team is going to part with two first-rounders to give Clark a top-of-the-market extension, especially with this year’s draft considered to be rich with pass-rushers.

The Seahawks could still negotiate a long-term deal with Clark if they tag him with a deadline of July 15. Otherwise, they’d have to wait until next offseason. If Clark plays the 2019 season on the tag, the two sides would be in the same position this time next year. One difference: By rule, a second tag would cost 120 percent of the first.

Why Clark is worth it

The simple answer: A top-tier pass-rusher is one of the most valuable assets in the NFL.

Clark, who turns 26 in June, had a career-best 13 last season. (Clark was initially credited with 14 sacks before the league’s official stats took one from Week 17, although he added another sack in Seattle’s playoff game.) His 33 sacks since 2016 rank ninth in the league, and his 2,045 defensive snaps in that span are fewer than the eight players ahead of him, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Of the 21 players with at least 25 sacks since 2016, Clark’s average of a sack every 63.9 snaps ranks seventh.

Interestingly, Clark’s past two seasons weren’t as spectacular in terms of ESPN’s pass-rush win rate (PRWR), a metric that measures how often a pass-rusher beat his block within 2.5 seconds. His PRWR was 31 percent in 2016 and 22 percent in both 2017 and ’18. That put Clark 36th among defensive ends and outside linebackers with at least 240 pass rushes last season.

One plausible explanation for the discrepancy, as posited by ESPN’s Seth Walder, is Clark is simply very good at converting pressure into sacks. He also played through injuries to each of his elbows, among other ailments, last season and for the first time in his career didn’t have Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril rushing off the other edge and taking some of the opponent’s focus away.

At any rate, Clark is one of the NFL’s most productive pass-rushers, and given that he’s still in his mid-20s, his best football could be ahead of him.

Carroll is of the mind a team can never have enough pass-rushers. It’s why the Seahawks drafted Clark in the second round in 2015 even though Bennett and Avril were still productive players who had recently been extended. It’s impossible to imagine the Seahawks letting Clark get away now that they have less in the pass-rushing cupboard.

Carroll has made more than one mention of Seahawks’ plan regarding Clark, indicating they would use the franchise tag if necessary.

“He had a great year,” Carroll said after the season. “I’ve said to you tons of times, not only did he have a great year on the field, he had a terrific year developing off the field and has become really a complete factor on this team and a leader and all that. So we’re hoping — we plan on Frank being with us. We don’t want to lose him, and so we’ve got to figure out how to do it.”

Is a long-term deal still in play?

Yes. Teams can extend their own free agents before the start of free agency in March. The Seahawks could, in theory, skip the franchise tag, let Clark hit the open market and then re-sign him, although it likely would get a lot more expensive with other teams bidding. And as mentioned, the Seahawks could still extend Clark after tagging him, provided they do so before the July 15 deadline.

This is where the 120 percent rule comes into play. If the tag for defensive ends winds up at $18 million for 2019, a second tag would cost $21.6 million in 2020.

An agent in Burkhardt’s situation would typically approach the possibility of an extension like this: If the alternative is playing out consecutive franchise tags worth a total of $39.6 million over two years, what sense would it make to accept an offer right now unless it has at least that much money guaranteed and an annual average of $19.8 million?

From the agent/player perspective, those figures become the benchmarks for a deal.

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Steelers GM says that team will not use tag on Le’Veon Bell

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PITTSBURGH — Le’Veon Bell is officially a free agent.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will not place a franchise or transition tag on the All-Pro running back, general manager Kevin Colbert told local reporters on Wednesday.

“Le’Veon is still a great player,” Colbert said. “We can’t afford to use any other type of tags. Le’Veon will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year.”

For losing Bell, the team will receive a 2020 compensatory pick that could be worth as high as a third-round selection. Colbert said the transition tag wasn’t viable because of the number ($14.5 million) and the fact that Pro Bowler James Conner and rookie Jaylen Samuels were productive without Bell last season.

Bell, who turns 27 later this month, declined to sign his franchise tender last year, leaving $14.5 million on the table and sitting out the entire season.

Leading up to Colbert’s announcement, there was a battle brewing between the NFL and and NFL Players Association over the value of a transition tag on Bell. Bell and the NFLPA would likely argue that the transition tag is close to $14.5 million based on the escalating value of tags, and the Steelers and the NFL would say it’s closer to $9.5 million because Bell sat out. That point is now moot.

Colbert also said that the Steelers will not offer a discount in a trade to get rid of disgruntled wide receiver Antonio Brown. The GM said that no relationship is irreparable, so if the team can’t find good value for him, keeping Brown might be an option.

“We’re all disappointed we’re at this point. How things transpired, we’re all disappointed,” Colbert said. “Respectfully, we did agree to look into a trade would probably be the best course of action for both sides. …. By no means are we going to make a trade or any type of move that will not be beneficial to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization. We will not be discounting you on the trade market and we will not release you.”

He added that the Steelers have not had any active trade talks about Brown with other teams to this point.

Information from ESPN’s Adam Schefter was used in this report.

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What Ravens believe will take Lamar Jackson to the next level – Baltimore Ravens Blog

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Last year at this time, Lamar Jackson was about to head to the NFL combine, putting all his energy into convincing teams that he was a viable quarterback prospect.

This year, all of Jackson’s time will be devoted to the work needed to take the next step as a passer in the NFL.

Calling this offseason the first real offseason for Jackson, new Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman declined to provide any details about Jackson’s offseason training plan but did reveal the emphasis: throwing mechanics and footwork.

“I think fundamentally is where he’s going need to put most of his work,” Roman said in his first news conference since being promoted to offensive coordinator. “I think where to throw the ball and seeing guys open, I think those are things that he naturally has. And I do think that those abilities have allowed him to get to where he’s been. Moving forward, consistent fundamentals are what’s really going to take him to the next level.”

Jackson proved he can lead a team to the playoffs. Taking over for an injured Joe Flacco, Jackson went 6-1 as a starter and guided Baltimore to its first AFC North title in six years.

Jackson showed he can be a playmaker. His 695 yards rushing and 11 runs of 15 yards or longer topped all quarterbacks last season.

The greatest unknown about Jackson is whether he’ll develop as a passer. In seven regular-season starts, he produced one game with over 200 yards passing and two games in which he completed more than 60 percent of his throws.

Jackson came to the Ravens raw in terms of fundamentals after being the No. 32 overall pick in last year’s draft, and he didn’t receive much time to develop as a quarterback in practice because Joe Flacco took a majority of the snaps. Quarterbacks coach James Urban worked with Jackson for about a half hour after practice to help him fine tune the skills needed at that position.

“As far as him throwing the football, we feel great about it,” Roman said. “And we saw a lot of improvement last year throughout the season, and really, he’s only going to get better from here. I think there’s some fundamental things that were exposed to him last year that he’s really grabbed hold of, and we saw him improve. Man, the sky is the limit there.”

What excites Roman about Jackson’s potential in the passing game is he brings intangibles that can’t be taught. Jackson has a great feel for the game and impressed the coaching staff almost immediately with his field vision, which reminded Roman of another Ravens quarterback.

“He’s not going to be the guy that, ‘Oh man, they dropped coverage on him, and he just didn’t see it,'” Roman said. “I think that is critical, and it’s hard to measure or see. Moving forward, what does that do? That takes the ceiling and moves it up. We know that ceiling is going to be higher. Steve McNair was like that, for example. Steve had an uncanny ability to see guys that might not have been part of the progression as having good leverage. I want to say the second week that he was here last year, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s something Steve would’ve done in practice.’ I feel great about that.”

Roman was an assistant on the Ravens’ staff in 2006 and 2007 when McNair was the starter in Baltimore. As an offensive coordinator, Roman had plenty of success with athletic quarterbacks such as Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor.

From 2011 to 2014, Kaepernick totaled the 12th-best passer rating over that span (90.6) under Roman. In 2015, Taylor went to his only Pro Bowl, throwing 20 touchdowns and six interceptions with Roman calling the playoffs.

As far as Roman’s impact on Jackson, that won’t start for another couple of months. Roman won’t get a chance to talk football to Jackson and see his progress until April 15, when Baltimore’s offseason workout program begins.

“He’s young, but he loves to win and I think he has a great perspective on the NFL and what it takes to be successful,” Roman said. “And I do think, like most great players I’ve been around, he’s probably his harshest critic, and that’s a beautiful thing. So, I do think that a great plan is there, and we’ll see him in April when he shows up, and I’m sure he’ll have another club in his bag.”

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