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INDIANAPOLIS — Brian Gutekunst doesn’t want to lose Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson or Clay Matthews — three high-priced Green Bay Packers veterans.

The first-year general manager sounded open to keeping all three on the roster, but it might not be under their current contracts — which combined would take up more than $36 million in salary-cap space and cost more than $31 million in actual cash.

“If you have really good players, you need to keep really good players,” Gutekunst said Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine. “And you don’t let them walk out the door just for that reason.”

Gutekunst said Nelson still qualified as such despite a sharp decline in production after quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ broken collarbone last season and his status as the oldest player (he will turn 33 in May) among that trio. Matthews will turn 32 in May, while Cobb will be 28 in August.

“He’s been a great player here,” Gutekunst said of Nelson. “He’s still a very strong contributor for us. You saw early in the year the impact he had in those games, yeah, he’s still a really good player in my eyes.”

Nelson has the second-highest salary-cap number ($12,518,750) and the second-highest salary ($10.25 million) among the three. Cobb ranks higher in cap number ($12,718,750) but lower in salary ($9.5 million), while Matthews ranks higher in salary ($11.4 million) but lower in cap number ($11,337,500).

The Packers expect to come in at around $16 million under the projected salary cap for 2018 as things currently stand. But with Rodgers’ contract extension expected to be completed this offseason and Gutekunst likely to pursue free agents more aggressively than predecessor Ted Thompson, the Packers could need some of the salary-cap space that cutting or restructuring those players would provide.

“It’s hard enough in this league to find them, so we certainly wouldn’t want to let them walk out the door,” Gutekunst said. “But there are restraints and there’s things that every decision kind of affects something else, so we kind of want to let all the information come in before we get to that point.”

The greatest debate could center on Nelson, who had six touchdowns in the first five games of the season but none after that. His receptions dropped to 53 from 97 and his yards to 482 from 1,257 in 2016, when he also caught 14 touchdowns and was the NFL’s comeback player of the year following his return from ACL reconstruction.

No one has better chemistry with Rodgers, although they weren’t able to rekindle it when Rodgers made a one-game return following his collarbone surgery. Nelson, however, has been in Green Bay most of the offseason and coach Mike McCarthy said he has even sat in on some meetings with the new offensive coaching staff as they have re-written the playbook.

When the Packers signed Davante Adams to a four-year, $58 million extension in December, it put them in the position to have three receivers near or over the $10 million mark in salary-cap charges for 2018 and created the possibility that either Nelson or Cobb — or perhaps even both — could be gone.

“Jordy and Randall can still play,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “But we need to improve. That’s a common conversation Brian and I have — how are we going to get better? Get better internally or externally.”

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Gardner Minshew’s mullet is no more

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Mondays are heavy days historically, but this one is particularly so because Gardner Minshew II‘s mullet is no more.

Yeah, Minshew may have gotten a hair cut yesterday, but this is the first I’m learning about it. So the pain is as fresh as if the stylist had just swept the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ backup quarterback’s fallen locks from the floor.

In what feels like the last remnant of a phenomenon once known as “Minshew Mania,” the former pride of Duval County chopped off his power source:

At the risk of sounding rash, it seems to me Trevor Lawrence came to town and basically told his new QB2 that there wasn’t enough room for both of their glorious heads of hair in that town and, well, we know who won that battle.

To be fair, I sort of knew this was going to happen as soon as Tim Tebow signed with the Jags.

Tebow, Lawrence’s mane AND one of the defining mullets of our generation? That’s just too much juice for one team.

Now, let us take one last look at Minshew’s former masterpiece for posterity:

In the haunting words of Michelle Branch: “Goodbye to you, goodbye to everything that I knew.”



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Minnesota Vikings expect DE Danielle Hunter at mandatory minicamp, source says

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings expect to have defensive end Danielle Hunter back in the fold this week during mandatory minicamp, a source told ESPN, after the Pro Bowl defensive end missed the team’s entire voluntary offseason program.

Hunter, 26, sat out the 2020 NFL season with a herniated disk that required surgery last October. At the time of his surgery, it was reported that the defensive end was unhappy with the state of his contract and wanted a reworked deal ahead of the 2021 season.

NFL Network, which first reported that Hunter planned to attend minicamp, is reporting that the Vikings and Hunter have agreed to terms on a reworked deal that will give the defensive end $5.6 million of the $12.75 million he is set to make in 2021 as a signing bonus. Hunter now has an $18 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2022 league year.

With $14.272 million in cap space, the Vikings moved up a significant amount of money to satisfy Hunter’s desire for more compensation in the short term while allowing both parties the time to work out a long-term extension following the 2021 season, NFL Network reported. The Vikings will need to make a decision on Hunter’s future by the fifth day of the 2022 league year.

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CB Stephon Gilmore doesn’t report for New England Patriots’ mandatory minicamp, source says

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, did not report to mandatory minicamp that began Monday, a source confirmed.

Gilmore could be making a statement about his contract, as he is scheduled to earn a base salary of $7 million in 2021.

The Patriots had advanced $4.5 million of Gilmore’s 2021 salary to him last year, leading to this year’s low figure.

Gilmore, who turns 31 in September, is in the final year of the five-year, $65 million pact he signed with the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in 2017. The deal included $40 million in injury guarantees and $31 million fully guaranteed at signing.

At the time, a contract with those guarantees and an average of $13 million per season was viewed as a strong deal. The cornerback market has since exploded, with Jalen Ramsey of the Los Angeles Rams topping it with a contract averaging $20 million per season.

Acknowledging they didn’t have specifics of the situation, teammates noted Gilmore’s absence in the locker room Monday, as well as on the practice field.

“I support my brother. I wish he was here, but I support him all the same,” veteran safety Adrian Phillips said. “What he has going, whenever he gets back here, he’ll let you know how it went.”

Longtime captain Matthew Slater added: “That’s a situation I don’t want to get too far into, because it’s frankly none of my business. Obviously you support all your teammates, whether they are here or not.”

Head coach Bill Belichick deflected questions on Gilmore earlier Monday and wouldn’t reveal whether he has given him (or any player) an excused absence. Players who don’t report for mandatory minicamp can be fined up to $93,085 — which breaks down to $15,515 for the first missed day, $31,030 for the second missed day and $46,540 for the third missed day.

Gilmore partially tore his quad in a Week 15 loss last season, landing on injured reserve.

The Boston Globe first reported Gilmore’s absence.

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