The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

Rivers for Mariota is still a thing

It's been suggested several times over the past couple of months that Philip Rivers might be headed to Tennessee in return for the #2 pick in the upcoming draft, which San Diego would then use to select Marcus Mariota out of Oregon (provided that Tampa Bay goes with Jameis Winston at #1).

Each time, it would have been perfectly reasonable to dismiss the notion as offseason BS or excessive rosterbation. But the rumors haven't died yet, and now the draft is but two weeks away. Here's what's being written about Rivers' future in San Diego:

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AFCW update: Everyone else has been pretty busy

Let's get caught up on what's been going on with the rest of the AFCW teams, which is to say, quite a bit.

Much of this is stale news, but my OCD nature won't allow me to entirely skip mention of all of it. Apologies for the recent sporadic nature of posts.

Here's what's new (and old):

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Reactions to Chris Borland’s retirement

On Monday evening, 49ers linebacker Chris Borland announced his retirement after just one (stellar) season. The 2014 third-rounder out of Wisconsin says concerns over concussions and their longterm effects drove him to the decision.

Borland is the latest, but youngest, in a string of prominent players who recently decided to retire at 30 years old or younger, including Patrick Willis, Jake Locker, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Jason Worilds.

Here's some of what's been said/written/tweeted since Borland's announcement:

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Olsen, David Harris, Prater, Maualuga are staying put

Good Afternoon, Broncos fans! The NFL transaction wire remains busy ahead of Saturday's opening of the legal tampering period and Tuesday's calendar flip to the 2015 league year.

Kansas City continues to work toward getting under the salary cap, cutting defensive tackle Vance Walker but re-signing linebacker Josh Mauga. They may even find a way to hang onto Tamba Hali, who says he's working on a restructure of the contract that calls for him to count for nearly $12M against the cap.

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Vince Wilfork hits the market, to be followed by Dwayne Bowe, Troy Polamalu

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's already been a busy morning in the world of prominent veteran defensive linemen.

While not a surprising development, the biggest news is that the Patriots informed Vince Wilfork they won't be picking up his option after 11 seasons with the team. He'll become a free agent on Tuesday, when the new league year begins.

Meanwhile, longtime former Cards lineman Darnell Dockett has already found a new home within the NFCW, signing a two-year deal with San Francisco.

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Texans reportedly give Andre Johnson permission to seek trade

Good Evening, Broncos fans! Two more players were tendered at the franchise level on Monday ahead of the afternoon deadline - New England placekicker Stephen Gostkowski and Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

That brings the number of tendered players to six - five at the franchise level (Demaryius Thomas, Justin Houston, Dez Bryant), and one at the transition level (Charles Clay).

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If another team signs Demaryius Thomas to offer sheet, Broncos shouldn’t match

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Denver is fully expected to use a non-exclusive franchise tag on pending free agent Demaryius Thomas by today's 4pm ET deadline.

According to Mike Klis, there's a good chance Thomas delays signing the tender until the July 15 deadline, preserving the only (tiny) bit of leverage he holds. That would mean missing OTAs and minicamps, but from a player's perspective, there's very little reason to rush to sign a franchise tender.

Klis adds that last summer, the Broncos ($13M/year) and Thomas ($15M/year) were pretty far apart in their negotiation toward a long-term deal.

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Klis: Denver likely to sign top free agent center

Good Afternoon, Broncos fans! We're just nine days away from the new league year and the start of free agency, and speculation is starting to ramp up.

Once past a terrible analogy between John Elway's Broncos and George Steinbrenner's Yankees (and Klis covered baseball...WTF?), Mike Klis says Denver is "almost certain" to sign a top free agent centers, perhaps one of KC's Rodney Hudson or Oakland's Stefen Wisniewski.

FWIW, Hudson graded out at plus-13.0 in 2014, while the son nephew of Steve posted a minus-2.5 grade. In 2013, Wisniewski was at plus-11.4, while Hudson was at plus-4.4.

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Jerry Butler joins John Fox in Chicago

Good Afternoon, Broncos fans! Although he wasn't part of the coaching staff, another important assistant has followed John Fox to Chicago - player development director Jerry Butler.

Much of what a player development director does isn't measurable, but it might be fair to grade someone like Butler on player arrests. And since Butler came to Denver in 2011, the Broncos had fewer arrests for domestic violence and other serious issues.

They still had too many DUI incidents, and John Elway deserves some of the credit for his construction of the roster, but it at least seems like Denver has lost a solid employee in Butler.

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Dez Bryant appears to be getting smeared ahead of free agency

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Teams have until 4pm ET on Monday to apply their franchise or transition tags to pending unrestricted free agents like Demaryius Thomas.

Dez Bryant, Thomas's fellow 2011 first-rounder, is also likely to be tagged, as the Cowboys have been hesitant to give their star wideout a chunk of guaranteed money. This reluctance has apparently stemmed from his off-field issues, and there's one incident that's caused quite a stir this week.

It's apparently long been rumored within NFL circles that Bryant was involved in a disturbance at a Walmart parking lot in 2011. Local police found no cause to make any arrests, but there are rumors of a video of the incident.

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