Seventeen first- and second-rounders still unsigned


Seventeen first- and second-rounders still unsigned

Monday's NFL franchise tag deadline has come and gone. So what's up next on the league's calendar of expiration dates?

Circle August 7: Players under contract must report by this date to earn an accrued season. Also, teams have until this day to trade rights for unsigned drafted rookies.

If you're now wondering who's included in that latter group, you're following me brilliantly.

There are 17 first and second round draft picks without contracts.

Holdups could hinge on details like getting the fourth contract year guaranteed, getting the fifth year option included, and signing bonuses.

Here the players are, in order of when they were drafted.

First round
No. 1 - QB Andrew Luck - Colts
No. 2 - QB RGIII - Redskins
No. 3 - RB Trent Richardson - Browns
No. 4 - T Matt Kalil - Vikings
No. 5 - WR Justin Blackmon - Jaguars
No. 6 - CB Morris Claiborne - Cowboys
No. 7 - S Mark Barron - Buccaneers
No. 8 - QB Ryan Tannehill - Dolphins

No. 11 - DT Dontari Poe - Chiefs

No. 20 - WR Kendall Wright - Titans

No. 22 - QB Brandon Weeden - Browns
No. 23 - T Riley Reiff - Lions
No. 24 - OL David DeCastro - Steelers
No. 25 - LB Dont'a Hightower - Patriots
Second round
No. 34 - TE Coby Fleener - Colts

No. 39 - CB Janoris Jenkins - Rams

No. 57 - QB Brock Osweiler

(If you're interested in seeing unsigned picks from every round check out ProFootballTalk's post from July 5. Nothing has changed since then.)

Report: Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension


Report: Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard. 

As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban. 

Word of Branch's punishment stemming from a positive marijuana test became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week. 

Good news came quickly, apparently. 

Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played. 

The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster behind Branch if Branch had been suspended. 

By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.

A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. And he stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here

Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.