Ras-I Dowling continues routine of improvement

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Ras-I Dowling continues routine of improvement

FOXBORO -- Cornerback Ras-I Dowling was ready to go on Thursday. It was Day 3 of Patriots mini-camp and he had that left ankle taped as he took the practice field.
He, along with the rest of the team, walked back into the stadium 15 minutes later.
"We were just kind of shocked," Dowling drawled with a smile. "Everybody was ready to practice. A lot of guys were in the training room getting taped and then we got that news: 'You can go home a day early.'"
Whether or not the Patriots have cut mini-camp short in the past is still being debated -- sides taken depending on memory only. Deion Branch said it happened "back in the old days," but others insist Belichick's never done it in New England.
Either way, the players are now left to train on their own until July.
Dowling, who injured his hip during Week 2 of his rookie year and was relegated to IR, is still rehabbing. He had a successful surgery and has participated fully in OTAs and mini-camp (the ankle tape is for a college injury).
An update he gave reporters on the stadium field was breezy. It doesn't sound like any reason he won't be back and healthy in 2012.
"Dealing with the trainers. It's a great group we've got there with the training staff. Just getting in there with them -- they're giving me stuff to do. And just continuing to work hard.
"I think, conditioning-wise, I'll be working on my back-pedaling and different stuff. Doing it all."
Despite missing so much time, Dowling doesn't feel disadvantaged. He said it was good for him being around the team, watching film, learning the playbook.
Could he get back into a starting role by August?
Too early to tell.
"I can't tell you right now," he said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to help the team. I try to come out every year and just train as hard as I can in the offseason and try to have a better year every year."

Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

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Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

PHOENIX - The Arizona Cardinals, in an anticipated move, 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.

It's unlikely that any team would express interest in Jones, however, given what it would cost.

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.

The Cardinals' move came two days before the NFL deadline for making franchise designations.

It also came on Jones' 27th birthday, prompting teammate David Johnson to tweet "Happy BDay to `The Man,' `Mr. Franchise' himself.....The one and only."

The franchise tag move came as no surprise.

Club President Michael Bidwill has stated all along that Jones would not be going anywhere, that the team didn't make the trade - sending guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round draft pick to New England - to keep him just for one season.

"We're not going to mess around with that," Bidwill said in a recent interview on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "He's a great pass rusher, but if we can't agree to terms that work for us, we're just going to franchise him, and his people know that."

Jones immediately upgraded what had been an average Cardinals pass rush at best. His fellow outside linebacker Markus Golden had 12 1-2 sacks and seven tackles for loss. Together they form one of the better outside pass rush combinations in the NFL.

By all accounts, the contract talks with Jones have been cordial and Jones has said he wants to stay in Arizona.

"I love it here," he said near the end of last season. "I love the vibe that the people give off and I can see myself being here for a long time."

Chandler heads a long list of free agents that the Cardinals must either re-sign or let go. That group includes starters defensive tackle Calais Campbell, safety Tony Jefferson and inside linebacker Kevin Minter.

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock quarterbacked a marathon conference call with reporters from around the country on Monday in order to shed some light on the prospects who will compete at the combine later this week. One thing that stood out? He's not ready to crown anyone in this year's crop of draftable signal-callers.

As a result of the dearth of pro-ready talent at quarterback, Mayock recognized Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo as perhaps the top target for any quarterback-needy team. Garoppolo might interest the Cleveland Browns in particular, Mayock noted, because of the number of picks they have near the top of the draft.

"In my opinion," Mayock said, "if I'm the Cleveland Browns and I've got No. 1 and No. 12, if I came away with either [defensive end Myles] Garrett or [defensive tackle] Jonathan Allen at No. 1, and gave up the 12th pick in the draft to get Garoppolo? I would be stoked.

"I would feel like I had a difference-maker on defense and we had a quarterback on offense. Now let's get to work. We got five in the first 65 picks. Let's get to work. From my perspective, especially looking at the quarterbacks this year, if they gave up No. 12 and could get Garoppolo, I'd be all over that."