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Volume 6, Issue 89 (Saturday, July 16th)

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Hi Folks,

Thanks to our Aaron Rudnicki for rounding up these stories tonight. I hope you have a great rest of the weekend. Let's get to it.

Joe Bryant


INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1. TEN - RB Travis Henry Would Be Happy With Trade To The Titans
2. BUF - Bills Have High Hopes For WR Lee Evans
3. NE - Patriots Sign Scott VP Pioli To Contract Extension
4. MIA - RB Ricky Williams Contract Issues; RB Lamar Gordon Could Be Opening Day Starter?
5. SEA - Negotiations With RB Shaun Alexander Resume
6. WAS - Redskins Still Hoping To Get Something For WR Rod Gardner
7. IND - Colts Maintain Revolving Door At OG Position
8. IND - Colts Sign Free Agent WR Roscoe Crosby
9. IDP: TEN - Titans Concerned About Off-Field Issues With CB Adam Jones
10. IDP: Bills Plan To Discuss Contract Extension With CB Terrence McGee
11. IDP: DAL - DE Greg Ellis Concerned With New Role In 3-4 Defense

1. TEN - RB Travis Henry Would Be Happy With Trade To The Titans

Clipped from: AP article posted by SI.com, 7/16/05

Running back Travis Henry will be very happy if the Buffalo Bills complete a trade sending him to the Tennessee Titans, his agent said Saturday.

Agent Hadley Engelhard said he had not been notified that a deal had been reached, but ESPN's Web site reported Saturday that a deal had been worked out in principal to send Henry to the Titans.

If the trade Henry demanded finally has gone through, his agent said Henry is excited about the prospect of going back to Tennessee. "Tennessee is a great place. Obviously, the reasons are Travis went there for college, the fan base, and he won a national championship there," Engelhard said.

Tennessee hasn't been the only team bidding for Henry's services.

Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio told the team's Web site that a deal for Henry could be completed within the next week. The Jaguars are looking for a running back as insurance for Fred Taylor who has been sidelined since tearing two knee ligaments Dec. 19.

The move would fill Tennessee's need for a capable alternative to two-year veteran Chris Brown who hasn't played an entire season because of injuries.

Henry was a starter since his rookie season and was coming off consecutive 1,300-yard rushing seasons before being relegated to a backup last October. But he has only one year left on his original contract and wants a contract extension wherever he lands.

Engelhard said he last spoke with Reese on Friday afternoon but that no contract extension had been reached with either Tennessee or Jacksonville -- both AFC South rivals.

Henry left the University of Tennessee as the Volunteers' all-time leading rusher, a record that still stands with 3,078 yards with an average of 5.5 yards. He could help the Titans counteract the bad publicity of an offseason filled with five players arrested or cited for incidents by police.

Buffalo had been looking to unload Henry since he demanded a trade after losing his starting job to Willis McGahee. Henry, a second-round pick in 2001, rushed for 3,849 yards on 963 carries for a 4-yard average per rush with the Bills.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

We sent out a report of this story earlier today in a separate email. ESPN's Len Pasquarelli is reporting that a deal has been reached in principle and should be announced early next week. If this deal goes through as reported, it remains unclear whether or not the Titans plan to give Henry a contract extension. They have salary cap problems and already have a talented young RB in place, so they might be willing to let him play out the last year of his contract before making a final decision. Henry has to be happy to be out of Buffalo, but it remains to be seen whether he will get a fair shot to compete for the Titans starting job in the preseason. He was a star at the University of Tennessee and he was successful as a starter for the Buffalo Bills until he fell out of favor last season.

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2. BUF - Bills Have High Hopes For WR Lee Evans

Clipped from: BuffaloBills.com article by Mark Ludwiczak, 7/15/05

The players begin to walk off of the field adjacent to the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse after another day of Organized Team Activities. Practice is over - at least for most people. Tucked away at one end are two players that look as if practice just started for them. There stands Buffalo's two first-round picks from a year ago, Lee Evans and J.P. Losman.

Such was the case at the end of nearly every practice this offseason. The two would work for 10-15 minutes on various routes and patterns, hoping to perfect their timing by the time the season comes around. They know that they will be forever linked because of where they were drafted. But they're also hoping that they can be seen together in NFL history for the impact they have on the field with the Bills. So far, so good, according to Evans.

While opponents may not know what to expect from Losman, who played sparingly in his rookie season, they know what to expect from Evans. The former Badger exploded in his first year in the league, catching 48 passes for 843 yards and nine touchdowns. His average of 17.6 yards per catch was best in the league among rookies, as was his touchdown total as well. That's not too shabby considering some of the other high-profile names drafted in a particularly deep receiver class (Larry Fitzgerald, No. 2 overall to Arizona; Roy Williams, No. 7 overall to Detroit; Reggie Williams, No. 9 overall to Jacksonville; and Michael Clayton, No. 15 to Tampa Bay).

In fact, Evans 17.6 yards per catch average was the best the league has seen from a rookie since 2001 (when Miami's Chris Chambers had an average of 18.4 yards per catch) and the second highest in Bills history (to Elbert Dubenion's 1960 average of 17.9 yards per catch).

Because of his stellar rookie campaign, defenses are now aware of what Evans can do. For that reason, veteran wideout Eric Moulds has told the young receiver to be prepared because opposing teams will be trying that much harder to stop him. "I told him [recently], 'The second year is your hardest year, because you proved that you can play,' " Moulds said. "Now they're going to start game-planning for him. I think that he's approaching it like, 'I want to get better and be a 1,000-yard receiver,' and I just hope that he'll come out, play well and work hard."

It's difficult to compare Evans to other young receivers early in their careers, simply because it generally takes three years for receivers to get adjusted to the NFL. Most don't have success as early as Evans did. But two other former first-round picks had similar stats to Evans (48-843-9) in their rookie seasons. The first caught 64 passes in his rookie campaign for 836 yards and 8 TDs, and followed it up with a slight improvement in his second season with 73 catches for 866 yards and 6 TDs.

The second receiver hauled in 52 catches in his rookie season for 788 yards and 6 scores, and exploded in his second year with 82 catches for 1,635 yards and 6 TDs. And the names of those players? Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt. Guess those wouldn't be bad footsteps to follow.

Evans has already felt more at ease as he approaches his second year in the league. "I'm so much further ahead than where I was last year," he said. "I feel that gives me a little bit extra incentive to keep it going. Just knowing the success I had last year and the way I felt, this year I should be a lot more comfortable and just kind of know the ropes a little more. I have great expectations of myself. And as long as I go out there and play the way I know how to play, I think I'll be fine. As long as it fits within the team concept, making the plays that need to be made to help us win games - that's the bottom line."

And he isn't the only one who has high expectations. "Barring an injury, I think he'll be a 1,300-yard receiver," Moulds said.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Clearly, Evans is on everybody's radar after scoring 9 TDs and averaging nearly 18 yards per reception as a rookie. The transition from Bledsoe to Losman is a legitimate issue, but it is good to hear that Evans has been working closely with Losman after practice. All that extra work should improve the chemistry and timing between the two, and could result in Losman looking towards Evans early and often this season. Defenses will undoubtedly pay more attention to Evans this year, but having Moulds line up across from him and McGahee in the backfield will make it very difficult for them to double team him.

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3. NE - Patriots Sign Scott VP Pioli To Contract Extension

Clipped from: AP article posted by Washington Times, 7/15/05

Scott Pioli, who helped build the New England Patriots teams that have won three of the last four Super Bowls, has agreed to a contract extension as the team's vice president of player personnel.

Terms of the extension that will keep Pioli with the Patriots were not disclosed.

Robert Kraft, the Patriots' chairman and chief executive, said Pioli "has done a tremendous job managing our personnel department and overseeing the draft for us."

Pioli, 40, joined the Patriots in 2000 along with coach Bill Belichick. The team won a Super Bowl title in Pioli's and Belichick's second season in New England. Since that victory, the team has repeated as Super Bowl champs two more times, including this year's 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

This year's win marked the first time in NFL history that a head coach and a personnel director had celebrated three Super Bowl titles in four years together, the Patriots said.

After the 2003 season, Pioli became the youngest person ever to earn the NFL Executive of the Year honors when he won at the age of 39. He won the award again in 2004.

His success has made him one of the most desirable candidates for vacant executive jobs around the NFL and several teams looking for new general managers have approached him. Pioli had always said he would not consider another job until his contract with the Patriots had expired.

Before the extension, it was due to run out after the 2006 season.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Pioli has probably been almost as important to the recent success of the Patriots as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. He has done an excellent job of evaluating talent in the draft and free agency while successfully managing the NFL salary cap at the same time. He's been in high demand by many teams with GM vacancies around the league, but it now looks like he'll be staying in New England for the foreseeable future, and that should be a big relief for Pats fans.

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4. MIA - RB Ricky Williams Contract Issues; RB Lamar Gordon Could Be Opening Day Starter?

Clipped from: NFL.com article by Adam Schefter

Before the Dolphins report to training camp next Sunday, July 24, there still is some significant bookkeeping to be done. Running back Ricky Williams is scheduled to earn $3.7 million in base salary, yet there is language in his contract that, based on his prior behavior, could reduce his salary figure to $540,000. But if his four-game suspension is tacked on, that would lower Williams' salary to $405,000 -- and somewhere around $275,000 after taxes. Under no circumstances does Williams plan to spend the coming season playing for $405,000, that is a certainty.

Then there is the matter of the $8.6 million that an arbitrator ruled Williams owes the Dolphins for walking out on them. But that money was actually incentives and rollovers built into Williams' contract, not signing bonuses. Still, however it is figured, the Dolphins and Williams must figure out how they want to handle it and, as of Thursday, Williams' agent Leigh Steinberg insisted that the two sides hadn't even addressed the issue. Nor had they addressed Williams' salary. So before or during training camp, there are plenty of money matters to work out.

The Dolphins drafted Ronnie Brown with the second overall pick, are getting back Ricky Williams, and their starting running back on opening day might be none other than Lamar Gordon.

Brown is not expected to sign his contract before the Dolphins report to training camp on July 24, which could make his road to the starting lineup all the more challenging. Williams is facing a four-game suspension to open the season. And Gordon is completely recovered from the season-ending shoulder injury he suffered last season against Pittsburgh. After undergoing shoulder surgery, Gordon feels as if he is in the best shape of his life. And it is an important year for him. He is headed into the last year of his contract, so he is running for dollars, just the way Lamont Jordan did last season in New York as a backup to Curtis Martin. It's possible that Gordon -- whom Miami dealt a third-round draft pick for one year ago -- could wind up with the bulk of Miami's carries early in the season, until Brown learns the offense and Williams is reinstated.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

With the beginning of training camp only one week away, there remain some major issues to be resolved with Ricky Williams and he will certainly be a big story throughout the preseason. If, as many suspect, he is only coming back for the money, it would be hard to imagine him suiting up for little more than the veteran's minimum. But, he also may not have much leverage after abandoning the team a year ago and watching them draft a RB with the #2 pick in the draft. The tidbit about Lamar Gordon is also interesting to consider as he appears to be off the radar of most fantasy owners these days. Grabbing Gordon with a late round draft pick could pay off with a couple early season starts, and should definitely be considered a handcuff by anyone who drafts Ronnie Brown. And of course it's a challenge to predict what Williams will do. If you've followed football for any amount of time, you know that's no easy task.

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5. SEA - Negotiations With RB Shaun Alexander Resume

Clipped from: Seattle Times article by Jose Miguel Romero, 7/16/05

The Seahawks can now re-open contract negotiations with their franchise player, running back Shaun Alexander. And yesterday they were on the phone.

Mike Reinfeldt, the Seahawks' vice president of administration, spoke with one of Alexander's agents, Jim Steiner. The conversation was characterized as the Seahawks letting Alexander know they still want to talk about re-signing him to a long-term contract.

From mid-March until yesterday, the team could not negotiate with Alexander, as per NFL rules governing teams' use of the franchise tag.

With training camp less than two weeks away, Alexander is almost certain not to be there. He is seeking an agreement to a long-term contract and told The Seattle Times earlier this month that he does not intend to sign the team's one-year franchise tender.

The tender would set his salary at $6.32 million. The Seahawks would like Alexander to sign the tender and report to the team. Then the team could presumably begin more serious negotiations with his agents.

The Seahawks explored trade possibilities involving Alexander before April's draft but could not find a team with a suitable offer.

Alexander said he hopes something can get worked out between now and the start of camp, but also indicated he could go so far as to miss regular-season games.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

This is a situation that could drag on into the preseason, but hopefully not. It is good to see that the Seahawks are active in these negotiations and the chances are reasonably good that Alexander will not miss any regular season games. We'll keep you updated on any changes here that might warrant a change in Alexander's value.

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6. WAS - Redskins Still Hoping To Get Something For WR Rod Gardner

Clipped from: ESPN.com article by Len Pasquarelli, 7/15/05

He was supposed to be a free man by now, but less than two weeks before the team reports to camp, wide receiver Rod Gardner remains on the Washington Redskins' roster. And he might be there a little longer, it seems.

For virtually the entire offseason, the Redskins made no pretense of their plans to dump Gardner, their first-round choice in the 2001 draft. First they afforded Gardner and agent Joel Segal the right to seek out possible trade scenarios with other teams. When no market developed for Gardner -- most suitors figured he would eventually be released, so none were inclined to surrender even a late-round draft choice for him, since he might be had for free -- the Redskins excused the four-year veteran from all their workouts. The inference was that, barring a trade, he would be cut. And the team did not want to risk an injury, one that would force it to retain Gardner and put him on injured reserve.

But with camp openings looming around the league, Gardner remains Redskins property, and the team still has his base salary of $2.097 million (the highest on the 2005 payroll) on its books. Chances are good Gardner, who has averaged 56.8 catches, 749.3 yards and 5.5 touchdowns in his career -- and might make a solid No. 2 receiver for some club despite his inconsistent hands -- will be jettisoned. The consensus is the Redskins will need the cap room he is currently eating up to sign their two choices in the first round.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Gardner's status remains in limbo, but it seems pretty clear that he won't be a Redskin this year. He's still a pretty good young player that could help some teams out there, and might have some value in 2005 depending on where he winds up.

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7. IND - Colts Maintain Revolving Door At OG Position

Clipped from: ESPN.com article by Len Pasquarelli, 7/15/05

It's no surprise the Indianapolis Colts figure to have another changing of the guard(s) this season. The Colts, after all, have begun the regular season with a different guard tandem in each of the past four years and that unusual streak is guaranteed to be extended in the Sept. 11 opener at Baltimore. It's also no surprise one of the starters in that prime-time matchup is likely to be rookie Dylan Gandy, a fourth-round choice from Texas Tech. The other probably will be Jake Scott, a second-year veteran, and a fifth-round pick in the '04 lottery. The 129th player selected overall, Dylan was only the 24th offensive lineman and the ninth guard to go off the board. But he was impressive in offseason workouts, demonstrated the combination of toughness and mental acumen the Colts want at the position, and will go to camp penciled in as a starter.

Because the Colts are able to consistently unearth solid guard prospects -- Indianapolis has used 11 different starters at the position since 2001 -- they can commit major finances to retaining starting tackles Tarik Glenn and Ryan Diem (one of the former starting guards), even while shuffling the interior deck. It's also a testament to several convergent elements. Among them: a personnel department that knows precisely what kind of profile the coaches want at the position and keeps replenishing the roster with viable candidates; the ability of Howard Mudd, one of the NFL's top assistants, to prepare youngsters to play quickly and competently; and a quarterback, Peyton Manning, who gets rid of the ball and does not take sacks.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Interesting tidbit on how well the Colts have managed the OG position over the years. The loss of a player like DeMulling is reason for some concern, but Howard Mudd has generally done a great job of preparing the young players and getting them ready to step in when called upon.

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8. IND - Colts Sign Free Agent WR Roscoe Crosby

Clipped from: ESPN.com article by Len Pasquarelli, 7/15/05

Speaking of the Colts, kudos to the team's personnel department for moving quickly to sign former Clemson wide receiver Roscoe Crosby Thursday, after he went undrafted in the supplemental lottery. Maybe the Colts think lightning will strike twice for them in signing another talented wide receiver who slipped through the supplemental lottery. In 2003, Indianapolis added wideout Brad Pyatt of Northern Colorado after no one took him in the special-cases draft. When healthy, Pyatt is a productive return man, especially on kickoffs, where he has averaged a robust 26.7 yards per return. The problem is, Pyatt has missed a season's worth of games in two years, sitting out 16 contests in 2003-04 with a variety of ailments.

Crosby certainly possesses more raw talent than Pyatt, and in rebuffing the overtures of at least three other franchises to sign with the Colts, he gives Indianapolis a young and gifted player who doesn't have to be forced onto the field as a rookie. The Colts already have the game's most potent wide receiver trio and some solid young receivers like Troy Walters and Aaron Moorehead playing behind Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley. So Crosby can essentially "redshirt" for a year or so, learn the ropes, and hone the receiving skills that have essentially been dormant for the last three years.

And there's this factor, too: The "Big Three" could be reduced by one next spring. Harrison is under contract through 2011 and Stokley through 2009, but Wayne is entering the final year of the contract he signed as a first-round choice in 2001 and is eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring. He has a great situation in Indianapolis, where Harrison still draws most of the double coverage, even at age 33. And there aren't many places Wayne could go and still figure to put up the kind of numbers he did in 2004. But like a lot of No. 2 wide receivers before him, Wayne could decide he wants to be the top banana, and head elsewhere. So getting Crosby signed to a multi-year contract Thursday is excellent foresight on the part of the Colts and maybe a bit of a hedge on the future.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Seems strange that Crosby would pick a team like Indy who is loaded at WR over a team like the Chiefs, who seem to be loaded with question marks at the position. Although the flip side of that is it's nice to have Manning throwing you the ball. The fact that Reggie Wayne is entering the final year of his rookie deal is worth pointing out though. With the money the team has already invested in Manning and Harrison and the status of James up in the air for the future, they might have a hard time finding the money to keep Wayne.

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9. IDP: TEN - Titans Concerned About Off-Field Issues With CB Adam Jones

Clipped from: ESPN.com article by Len Pasquarelli, 7/15/05

Given his off-field track record of the last few months, Jones is likely to get the kind of contract that (Lawrence) Phillips received after the Rams' brass swallowed hard and invested the sixth overall pick (coincidentally, the same slot in which Jones was chosen) on the troubled Cornhusker. Phillips essentially received no real signing bonus. The Rams fashioned a kind of pay-as-you-play (and stay out of trouble) that protected them and owner Georgia Frontiere's bank account.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Quite a few red flags have come up around "Pac-Man" already this offseason. While certainly not anything for the Titans to be happy about after spending such a high pick on him, at least these things happened before he signed his contract. This should improve their leverage in the contract negotiations and allow them to include some language that will protect them from any future transgressions.

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10. IDP: Bills Plan To Discuss Contract Extension With CB Terrence McGee

Clipped from: ESPN.com article by Len Pasquarelli, 7/15/05

The Buffalo Bills told Terry Bolar, the agent for third-year cornerback Terrence McGee, they want to sit down and discuss a contract extension once training camp starts. McGee became a Pro Bowl return man in 2004, averaging 26.3 yards and scoring three times on kickoffs. Under the tutelage of Bobby April, the league's best special teams coach, McGee made great strides. But perhaps even more important was McGee's emergence at cornerback, where he made a quantum leap after being forced into the starting lineup by an injury to Troy Vincent.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Now that the Henry deal appears to be agreed to in principle, the priority for the Bills front office should be signing their draft picks as well as signing some of their veterans to contract extensions. Topping that list should be CB Nate Clements, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent next year, and Terence McGee, who will come at a much lower price. McGee was a fantasy stud last year in IDP leagues and should remain productive as long as he plays opposite Clements.

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11. IDP: DAL - DE Greg Ellis Concerned With New Role In 3-4 Defense

Clipped from: Dallas Morning News article by Jean-Jacques Taylor, 6/16/05

Greg Ellis, the former No. 1 draft pick who has led the Cowboys in sacks each of the last four seasons, knows he isn't the player Bill Parcells is looking for to execute the new 3-4 defense.

At 270 pounds, Ellis understands he'll be at a size disadvantage. It's a reality that has him worried about keeping his starting job. "I think I won't be in Dallas as many years as the organization or Jerry [Jones] expected me to be there," Ellis said by phone Friday. "Do I want to be? Yes. I want to be in Dallas, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did something with me at the end of the season because I don't think Bill liked the way I came to him."

Ellis and Parcells discussed the position change in late May, when the club had a three-day veteran minicamp. Ellis, who did not talk about the switch publicly then, said the meeting became heated. "There was some screaming," he said, "but I didn't scream."

Ellis said he's concerned that moving from left defensive end in the 4-3 to right defensive end in the 3-4 will compromise his ability to be productive and pave the way for Parcells to release him next March, when he's scheduled to receive a $500,000 roster bonus.

Ellis is entering the third year of a six-year, $24 million contract extension that included a $4.2 million signing bonus. The deal came less than a month into Parcells' first season. "We ended up pretty good, but I really don't foresee me being here," Ellis said. "I want to be here, but I don't think I will. That's the truth."

The 3-4 would require Ellis to play heads-up against offensive tackles, who routinely outweigh him by 50-60 pounds. In the 4-3, he has the freedom to line up on the outside shoulder of the tackle, giving him a better angle to use his speed and technique to defeat offensive tackles by forcing them to move.

"I'm not comfortable because it's a new position and the odds are stacked against me because I'm the smallest guy in the NFL trying to play this position," he said. "For me to be successful, it's going to be extremely hard - harder than it has ever been before - because I'm undersized to play that position."

Parcells has told Ellis that he wants him to play between 55 and 65 plays a game this season, which would be about a 20 percent reduction in his playing time. Williams said he told Ellis that could be a positive. "That's the kind of wear and tear that kills you in Weeks 13, 14, 15 and 16," Williams said. "There's a method to Parcells' madness. We just have to see how it's going to play out."

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Although we've known for some time that the Cowboys were planning to use more 3-4 fronts this season, it was hard to know exactly how pervasive the shift would be. Ellis' reaction in this article suggests they will be using a 3-4 almost exclusively, and that could have some very negative consequences for his value and that of DT La'roi Glover, who are not an ideal fit for that type of scheme. The position switch and the talk of limiting his snaps are probably enough reason to bump down Ellis in DL rankings.

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That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great day and we'll see you tomorrow with the update.

J

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