Eagles

NFL Notes: Steelers sign Antonio Brown, franchise tag Le'Veon Bell

NFL Notes: Steelers sign Antonio Brown, franchise tag Le'Veon Bell

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers have signed Antonio Brown to a five-year deal that will reportedly make him the highest paid wide receiver in the league.

The Steelers did not release terms of the contract, but multiple media outlets reported that it is technically a four-year extension worth $68 million.

The contract takes Brown, who earned first-team All-Pro honors for the third consecutive year in 2016, through the 2021 season.

Steelers place franchise tag on running back Le'Veon Bell
The Pittsburgh Steelers have placed an exclusive rights franchise tag on Pro Bowl running back Le'Veon Bell, ensuring he'll remain with the team in 2017.

The tag gives the Steelers time to work out a long-term deal with Bell, who could have become a free agent next month. The 25-year-old led the NFL in average yards from scrimmage last season and became the first player in NFL history to average at least 100 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving per game.

Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert said earlier this month the Steelers want to keep Bell with the organization "for life." The team has until July 15 to reach an agreement with Bell on a new contract. If not, he will make the average salary of the top five running backs in the league in 2017 (see full story).

Browns release veteran WR Andrew Hawkins
The Cleveland Browns have released wide receiver Andrew Hawkins after three seasons.

The team terminated Hawkins' contract on Monday, cutting ties with one of its most respected players.

Hawkins had 33 catches for 324 yards and three touchdowns last season for the 1-15 Browns. But his contributions went beyond the field, as Hawkins helped mentor Cleveland's young receiving corps. He was also heavily involved in community activities.

Browns coach Hue Jackson says it's "tough to say goodbye to men like Hawk, that have done everything you've asked of them and gone above and beyond when it comes to leadership." Jackson says Hawkins "was a rock for us last season."

Hawkins signed with the Browns as a free agent in 2014 after three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. The 30-year-old, who played college ball at Toledo, played in 39 games with Cleveland, recording 123 catches for 1,424 yards and five TDs.

Cardinals: Chandler Jones receives franchise tag
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals have placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on outside linebacker Chandler Jones after failing to reach a long-term deal with the player.

The "non-exclusive" tag allows the Cardinals to continue negotiating with Jones through July 15. If another team makes him an offer, Arizona can either match it or receive two first-round draft picks.

Under the franchise tag, Jones would receive about $15 million for the coming season.

Acquired in a trade with New England a year ago, Jones had 11 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 15 tackles for loss last season

Jones has 25 1-2 sacks over the past two seasons, third-most in the NFL over that span.

Panthers: Horton re-signed
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Panthers are trying their best to keep their defensive line intact, re-signing defensive end Wes Horton to a two-year contract.

Financial terms were not released Monday.

The move comes less than 24 hours after the Panthers re-signed defensive end Mario Addison to a three-year contract on Sunday night. Addison was set to become an unrestricted free agent, while Horton would have been a restricted free agent.

Carolina is likely to use the franchise tag to keep Kawann Short if they can't reach a long-term deal with the defensive tackle before Wednesday's deadline.

The 27-year-old Horton started 10 games last season and had 11 tackles with 2 sacks. Horton has started 27 games since joining the Panthers in 2013 as an undrafted rookie and has 8 career sacks.

Eagles QB Carson Wentz favorite to win NFL MVP

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Eagles QB Carson Wentz favorite to win NFL MVP

Carson Wentz is in his second NFL season, but he could already be on his way to his first MVP award. 

At least, he's now the favorite. 

The Eagles' starting quarterback is now the favorite to win this year's NFL MVP award, according to Bovada. Wentz is just ahead of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. 

Here's the top five: 

1. Carson Wentz: +175
2. Alex Smith: +200
3. Tom Brady: +400
4. DeShaun Watson: +1,000
5. Russell Wilson: +1,200

Basically, this means that a $100 futures bet would win $175. Since Wentz pays out the least, he's the favorite. 

It's no surprise Wentz and Smith are atop this list. They have both led their teams to 5-1 records (tops in the NFL) through six games. 

Wentz has completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 1,584 yards, 13 touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 99.6. He's well on his way to becoming the first Eagles quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season. 

The last (and only) Eagles player to win an MVP came during the 1960 championship season, when quarterback Norm Van Brocklin took the award. 

The last player to win the MVP award in his second NFL season was Kurt Warner in 1999. But Warner had a long road to get to the NFL and was 28 years old in 1999. Wentz is just 24. 

Vegas isn't alone with the Wentz hype. According to Dick's Sporting Goods, the Eagles' quarterback has the best-selling jersey of all NFL players. In another few months, those people might have the jersey of an MVP winner. 

Rob's Rants: Hey Philly, don't take the bait and feed the trolls

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Rob's Rants: Hey Philly, don't take the bait and feed the trolls

This week’s Rob’s Rants has a sole focus — or should I say a troll focus. It’s more of a public service announcement, if you will. I am imploring all Philadelphia sports fans: Don’t take the bait!

Trolling was around long before the advent of social media. Contrarians have been going against the grain and saying things they don’t even believe to invoke a reaction since the beginning of time. Or as far back as Jaromir Jagr’s rookie season. Same thing. 

Just six weeks into the NFL season, we’ve already heard from some of the usual suspects, who will go nameless in this post. I refuse to give them the attention and ratings they are so desperately begging for. You know who they are, I know who they are, don’t give them the satisfaction. Don’t continue to line their pockets. Don’t let yourself walk into their trap. A reply on Twitter or some other social platform, a tune in, a reaction, is a win for them.

So brace yourself for the inevitable national talking head contrarian with the hot take of, “Carson Wentz looks like a deer in headlights.” Or, “besides the Panthers, who have the Eagles played? Or, “they haven’t even won a playoff game since 2008 and the fans have them in the Super Bowl.”

The trolling won’t be reserved exclusively for Eagles fans either. Prepare yourselves, Sixers fans. As we embark on the start of the NBA season, the anti-process truthers are just lying in wait with pithy Joel Embiid barbs about minute restrictions or injuries or tanking. It’s only a matter of time before we get something like, “see what another year of tanking gets you? Markelle Fultz isn’t even good enough start.” It’s coming.

There’s a fine line between trolling and having a strong, thought-provoking, independent point of view. The goal of any good columnist, radio host, television host or analyst is to make you think or react. Whether you agree or disagree. But there is a cottage industry now of blowhards who don’t have an original, creative or sincere thought of their own. They are either told by a producer or boss or decide on their own to go after a city, player, or team ... one typically with a fan base that will be reactive. You don’t see a lot of shade thrown at the Atlanta Hawks. You know why? No one cares. Not even their fans. Say something about Carson Wentz or snowballs at Santa and loyal Philadelphia fans will go bonkers. Mission accomplished for the troll.

So revel in the Eagles' early season success. Be excited for the infusion of youth for the Flyers. And what could be if Embiid, Ben Simmons, Fultz and Dario Saric can actually stay on the court.

Soak it in. We appear to be exiting out of the dark days. Just be prepared for it and don’t allow yourself to be lured into the troll trap.