Bears sign linebacker DeDe Lattimore to two-year, $1.1 million extension

The Chicago Bears signed linebacker DeDe Lattimore to a two-year, $1.1 million contract extension that runs through the 2016 season.

Lattimore got no guaranteed money, but has base salaries of $510,000 and $600,000.

A former undrafted free agent from South Florida, Lattimore played 10 games with the Bears as a rookie last season and had five special-teams tackles.

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Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun

NFP Prospect Focus: Jay Ajayi

The 2015 NFL Draft may prove to be the best running back class we have had in a few years. With players like Melvin Gordon, T.J. Yeldon, Tevin Coleman and Todd Gurley we have more talented backs than we have seen in a while. One back who doesn’t get the notoriety of the others, but on tape, is in the same class as the others is Boise State’s Jay Ajayi. Ajayi is a productive, physical running back who has had outstanding production the last two years. Another thing that stands out about Ajayi is that he was born in London, England and didn’t come to the United States until he was in the fourth grade. When his family came over from England he originally lived in Maryland but eventually settled in Frisco, Texas, just outside the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Coming out of high school, he was rated as a 3-star prospect and was not highly recruited. His offer list was frthe likes of Wyoming, Minnesota, Tulane and Boise State. As a senior in high school he was listed as being 175 pounds and as productive as he was, a back that size isn’t going to get a lot of offers.

Ajayi enrolled at Boise in 2011 and red-shirted for developmental reasons. He played as a backup in 2012 and has been a starter the last two seasons. In those two years, he has run for over 3200 yards and caught 72 passes. The 175 pound recruit is now listed at 6000 – 216. Ajayi is a good athlete. He is quick footed with a very good burst while under way. I wouldn’t call him a burner, but he should easily run in the mid 4.5’s. He has very good change of direction and balance and plays with strength and power.

Boise State plays mainly from a spread formation with some pro-style formations as well. Ajayi has a slight false step, but is still very quick to the hole. As quick as he is, he shows patience and does a good job both following and setting up blocks. One thing I found interesting is that Ajayi is predominantly a left-handed runner. While he is productive going either to his left or right, he is best when going to his left. He can carry the ball in either hand, but prefers to carry the ball in his left hand. He shows good ball security and is not a fumbler.

Ajayi is equally proficient as an inside or outside runner. He has very good instinct/vision and seldom makes a poor decision. He runs with good lean, and for an averaged sized back, he has a lot of power. With his great balance, he is hard to knock off his feet and he consistently gets yards after contact. While I wouldn’t say he can “move the pile”, he gets yards on his own. He is a good jump cutter and cutback runner who finds a seam.

Outside, he does a good job waiting for blocks and has a very good burst to turn the corner. As I said above, he isn’t a burner, but he gets a lot of long runs because of his burst and run instincts. He has a good feel for where opponents are and has some elusiveness in the open field. He is a very good receiver, who is used often on screens, check downs and flares. After the catch, he gets upfield quickly. He is willing as a blocker but will need technique to be effective at the next level.

Overall, Ajayi has the traits to be a starter early in his career. While he has average size, he is a physical runner with power, vision, and instincts. Like many skill position players, his verified speed will dictate just where he gets drafted, but right now, I see him as a second to third round type of player.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

Predicting the 2015 Hall of Fame class

The 46-member Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee will decide the fate of the 15 modern era finalists, two Contributor candidates and one Seniors' Committee nominee in Phoenix, Arizona on January 31. The election process begins with a discussion on each of the 18 candidates before a vote is taken on the Seniors nominee and the Contributor candidates. Next, the 15 modern era finalist are reduced to 10. Another cut is made to the final five candidates. Each of the final five are voted on individually.

A minimum of 80% of the vote is required in order to be enshrined. A Hall of Fame class must consist of at least four members with a maximum of eight inductees. The 2015 class will be announced later that evening during the NFL Honors show.

Five modern era candidates will likely be a part of this year’s class. 2007 was the last time one of the final five (Paul Tagliabue) was not elected. Here’s my prediction of the 2015 Hall of Fame class.

First Year Eligible Candidates

Orlando Pace (OT)-Chicago Bears/St. Louis Rams
Pace was named first team All-NFL five times and a seven-time Pro Bowler in 13 NFL seasons. Pace compares favorably to Jonathan Ogden and Walter Jones, who were selected to the Hall of Fame in 2013 and 2014 respectively during their first year of eligibility. He is a second team tackle behind them on the All-Decade team for the 2000s. Recent selection trends favor offensive lineman. An offensive lineman has been elected to the Hall of Fame in eight of the last nine years. Pace’s stiffest offensive line competition comes from three-time finalist Will Shields.

SeauiconSeau was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection

Junior Seau (LB)-Miami Dolphins/New England Patriots/San Diego Chargers
Seau received All-NFL honors ten times and was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection (all consecutively) in 20 NFL seasons. His 268 games played are second in NFL history among linebackers. Seau doesn’t have eye-popping raw numbers with 56.5 sacks and 18 interceptions but was the pre-eminent sideline-to-sideline linebacker of his generation. The 1990s All-Decade selection was the driving force behind the San Diego Chargers’ Super Bowl XXIX appearance, the only one in franchise history.

Kurt Warner (QB)-Arizona Cardinals/New York Giants/St. Louis Rams
Warner wouldn’t get my vote this year if I were on the selection committee. It would probably go twelve-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Will Shields instead. There hasn’t been a quarterback enshrined since 2006 when Troy Aikman and Warren Moon were inducted. Warner was a two-time first team All-Pro and a four-time Pro Bowler in 12 NFL seasons. He came out obscurity in 1999 after Trent Green tore his ACL in the pre-season to guide the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl XXXIV victory and earn Super Bowl MVP honors with a record 414 passing yards to cap off his MVP season. Warner was also regular season MVP in 2001. As the leader of the Greatest Show on Turf, the Rams topped the 500 point mark in three straight seasons (1999 through 2001), which is the only time the feat has been accomplished by a franchise in the NFL, and set a record for total offense with 7,075 yards in 2000. Warner doesn’t have the sustained excellence of other Hall of Fame quarterbacks because of a mid-career slump from 2002 to 2006 where he threw more interceptions (30) than touchdowns passes (27) and had an 8-22 record as a starter. He rebounded by leading the Arizona Cardinals to the franchise’s only Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl XLIII during the latter stages of his career. History is on Warner’s side because every multiple MVP winner has been a first ballot Hall of Famer. If Warner doesn’t make it on the first try, he may have to wait until 2017 at the earliest because Brett Favre is eligible for induction in 2016.

Returning Finalists

Marvin Harrison (WR)-Indianapolis Colts
It was surprising Harrison wasn’t the sixth wide receiver to become a first ballot Hall of Famer. The selection committee isn’t supposed to consider off the field issues, which may have been a factor in Harrison’s candidacy stalling after the reduction to 10. He was a person of interest in a 2008 Philadelphia shooting involving a gun owned by him. Harrison was named first team All-NFL six times and elected to eight Pro Bowls during his 13 year NFL career. He was a first team wide receiver with Randy Moss on the 2000s All-Decade team. Harrison ranks third in NFL history with 1,102 receptions, seventh with 14,580 receiving yards and fifth with 128 receiving touchdowns. He set the NFL single season record for receptions in 2002 with 143. The next closest single season total is Antonio Brown’s 129 receptions in 2014. Harrison was the first NFL player to have three consecutive 1,500 receiving yard seasons. Although there isn’t a limit each year on the number of inductees at a position, Harrison faces competition from Tim Brown, a five-time finalist. Unlike Harrison, Brown wasn’t named first team All-Decade. If Brown gets the nod instead of him, it could be a case of the committee deciding it is Brown’s time considering he wasn’t among the final 10 last year like Harrison was.

Charles Haley (DE/LB)-Dallas Cowboys/San Francisco 49ers
Haley is a finalist for the sixth straight year. He made the first cut of finalists in each of the last three years (2012-2014) without advancing to the final five. Haley was named All-Pro twice and to five Pro Bowls in his 13 year NFL career. He was the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1990 and 1994. Haley has 100.5 total sacks, with a season best 16 in 1990. His trade to the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 swung the balance of power in the NFL. He added three Super Bowl rings after the trade to go along with the two rings he had already earned with the San Francisco 49ers. Haley is the only player in NFL history to win five Super Bowls. His 4.5 sacks in Super Bowls are the most of any player. Haley was a difficult teammate and antagonized the media, which could be factors with the selection committee.

Seniors Committee Nominee/Contributor Candidates

Bill Polian (GM)-Buffalo Bills/Carolina Panthers/Indianapolis Colts
Polian was the architect of three successful franchises during his 32 year NFL career. He was named NFL Executive of the Year five times by the Pro Football Writers of America. Polian built the Buffalo Bills into a four-time Super Bowl participant (XXV-XXVIII). The expansion Carolina Panthers quickly found success by going to the NFC Championship in the 1996 season during the franchise’s second year of existence with him at the helm. He turned the Indianapolis Colts into the winningest team of the 2000s decade with a 115-45 regular season record. The Colts appeared in two Super Bowls under his direction. The Super Bowl XLI victory is the franchise’s only NFL championship since the 1970 season. Polian’s best personnel decision was taking Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf with the first overall pick of the 1998 NFL Draft. It’s hard to be now but there was a debate at the time over which player was the better NFL prospect. Polian’s recent flirtation with a return to the Bills as team president may jeopardize his Hall of Fame bid because of the perception that he may not be permanently retired.

Ron Wolf (Executive)-Green Bay Packers/Los Angeles & Oakland Raiders/Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Wolf spent 41 years in the NFL. Most notably, Wolf revived the Green Bay Packers. The franchise went to two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XXXI, during his tenure as general ma
nager. He found his franchise quarterback by giving the Atlanta Falcons a 1992 first round pick for Brett Favre after his less than impressive rookie campaign as a seldom used backup. He proved the skeptics wrong by demonstrating that the small market Packers could be a viable destination for free agents when he landed Reggie White in 1993. Under Wolf’s guidance, the Packers had a 92-52 record in his nine seasons (1992-2000) with the club. Prior to his success in Green Bay, Wolf was a personnel executive with the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders for 25 seasons in three separate tenures. While Wolf was owner Al Davis’ right hand man, the Raiders won two Super Bowls (XV and XVIII). The only blip on Wolf’s radar screen was his three-year stint as general manager of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The franchise had an inauspicious start with 26 straight losses. However, 16 starters on Tampa Bay’s 1979 team that advanced to NFC Championship game after Wolf left were drafted by him. Wolf still has influence on the fates of NFL franchises. Five current general managers (John Dorsey-Kansas City Chiefs, Scot McCloughan-Washington Redskins, Reggie McKenzie-Raiders, John Schneider-Seattle Seahawks and Ted Thompson-Packers) are former Wolf employees.

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No change: Marshawn Lynch has little to say

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch hasn't changed his stance about talking with the media.

He did make a brief statement where he made it clear his dislike for answering questions.

“Hey look, I mean, all week I told y'all what's up,” Lynch said. “And for some reason y'all continue to come back and do the same thing that y'all did. I don't know what story y'all trying to get out of me. I don't know what image y'all trying to portray of me. But it don't matter what y'all think, what y'all say about me. When I go home at night, the same people that I look in the face — my family that I love. That's all that really matter to me. So y'all can go make up whatever y'all want to make up because I don't say enough for y'all to go and put anything out on me. “I'll come to y'all event. Y'all shove cameras and microphones down my throat. But when I'm at home in my environment, I don't see y'all, but y'all mad at me.

“And if you ain't mad at me, then what y'all here for? I ain't got nothing for y'all, though. I told y'all that. Y'all should know that. But y'all will sit here like right now and continue to do the same thing. I'm here preparing for a game. And y'all want to ask me these questions, which is understandable. I could get down with that. But I told y'all. I'm not about to say nothing. So for the reminder of my, what's that, 3 minutes? Because I'm here I'm available for y'all. I'm here, I'm available for y'all. I talked. All of my requirements are fulfilled. For the next 3 minutes, I'll just be looking at y'all the way that y'all looking at me. Thank you.”

Lynch then offered several “shoutouts” to his hometown, Oakland, teammates and charitable foundation.

Lynch said he just didn't want to be fined, otherwise he wouldn't show up at all. He could have faced a $500,000 fine.

Katy Perry, the halftime act for the Super Bowl, was asked which player she was watcing and borrowed Lynch's catchphrase: “I'm just here so I don't get fined.”

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Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun

Josh Gordon answers critics, says he's not an addict, admits drinking

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon lashed out at critics in a letter posted on Medium, taking shots at Charles Barkley, Stephen A. Smith and Cris Carter.

They've all expressed serious concern about Gordon.

Gordon is facing a year-long suspension after admittedly testing positive for alcohol. He has a history of failed drug tests and has shown he can't be counted on.

The defiance from Gordon doesn't make sense, but neither do his decisions.

“I am not a drug addict,” Gordon said. “I am not an alcoholic.”

Gordon appeared to be making excuses for his misbehavior by blaming it on his rough upbringing. Gordon said he

“If you see me someday, Chuck, Stephen A., Cris, or any other well-intentioned person to whom this letter is directed, please come on over, shake my hand, and say hello,” Gordon wrote. “I won't be holding a grudge, but I will expect you to admit you were wrong about me.”

Gordon detailed the drinking episode on a flight to Las Vegas.

“On Jan. 2 of this year, just days after our season ended earlier than we all had hoped — ?and yes, my actions during the prior offseason definitely contributed to our failure to make the playoffs; it killed me seeing our guys fight so hard when I wasn't out there with them? –?I boarded a private flight to Las Vegas with several teammates,” Gordon wrote. “During the flight, I had two beers and two drinks. It was the first time I had consumed so much as a drop of alcohol since July 4, 2014, the day of (his DWI arrest in North Carolina).”

Gordon said he didn't think he should have to stop drinking.

“Did I think that was excessive given I had never had any issue whatsoever with alcohol?” Gordon wrote. “Yes. Did I think it was hypocritical that a professional league making hundreds of millions of dollars off beer sponsorships was telling me not to drink? Yes. Did I so much as blink at the condition? No.”

“I failed the test, obviously, and the rest is history … colored by media speculation and faux outrage. In the end, of course, I failed myself. It doesn't matter if I thought that the league-imposed restriction on drinking had expired at the end of the regular season; what matters is that I didn't confirm whether or not that was the case. Now, that oversight has further jeopardized my relationship with my team and our fans, my reputation, and maybe even my career.”

Gordon did say he was sorry.

“Words cannot express the remorse and regret I feel over this latest incident,” he wrote. “I acknowledge that the repeated transgressions that have led up to this point have damaged my credibility, and for that, the only person to blame is me. I have let down many in Cleveland? — ?my Browns teammates, our hard-working coaching staff, the team's ownership, and the loyal fan base that wants nothing more than to win.

“Playing there is different than in many other cities. We feel the fans' pain. We know how important this is to them. Also, I have disappointed the family and close friends who have always stood by me? — ?no matter how tough things have been at certain points in my life. Believe me, there have been more dark days than I care to remember. Most importantly, I have failed myself. Again.”

Gordon said he grew up using marijuana and didn't have a father around, raised by his mother

“I make no excuses for my past,” Gordon said. “That culture didn't make me do anything I didn't want to do, but when you judge me without actually knowing me, you deny the existence of the world I come from. I've come a long way from those mean Fondren streets, but it's clear that I can be a better me? — one who kids coming up to me for selfies and autographs can be proud of. I want that future for myself. And I truly believe that what I am going through right now will only make me stronger. I believe that my future is bright.”

How did he get in this position?

“That's easy,” he wrote. “I messed up.”

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Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun

Browns hire Joker Phillips as receivers coach

The Cleveland Browns hired Joker Phillips as receivers coach.

He replaces Mike McDaniel after one season.

“I think the first thing when you meet Joker, you just get a sense for his passion for the game and specifically wide receiver play,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said. “That's his specialty and he loves it. Everybody I've talked to that's the first thing that comes out, just his mentality and how much he truly cares about that position.”

Phllips worked at Kentucky with new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

Phillips played receiver in the NFL and CFL. He's a former head coach at Kentucky who excelled at receiver for the Wildcats. Phillips has coached for 26 years.

“We always stayed in contact,” Phillips said. “I wanted to come up here and help him and be with him again because he's such a young knowledgeable coach. I've seen him work his magic with the different quarterbacks he's worked with. I just felt like it was a good opportunity for me to get with the person I want to help and help be successful.”

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Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun

Alabama heading toward another No. 1 class

Alabama is poised to win another offseason national championship in college football.

With National Signing Day less than a week away, Nick Saban and his coaching staff have once again put together a star-studded class of high school seniors, making it very likely that the school will bring in its fifth straight No. 1 class when all of the major recruiting sites put out their Top 25 rankings at the end of signing day.

Nick SabanICONNick Saban and his staff are bringing in a load of new talent to Tuscaloosa.

The Crimson Tide arguably wrapped up the No. 1 spot months ago. That's just how great things have been on the recruiting trail for Saban and his staff in recent years, as the team is able to get verbal pledges from more blue-chip recruits more often and earlier than any other program.

'Bama currently occupies the top spot nationally in the 247Sports Composite team rankings for 2015, and that's even after the program lost three pledges from its incoming class on Thursday: offensive lineman Isaiah Prince as well as cornerbacks Rico McGraw and Montrell Custis. Three decommitments in a single day would usually send shockwaves through a program's fanbase. But it's different in Tuscaloosa.

Despite losing pledges to the aforementioned high school seniors, Saban and Co. have 23 commitments and what is still considered an elite haul even if the group doesn't add another one or two top-tier talents by next Wednesday. Among the 23 commitments, six are five-star and 13 are four-star players based on the 247Sports Composite rating scale. That's, quite simply, incredible.

Even though Prince decommitted, the team still has five O-Line pledges, including Richie Petitbon. And though the team needs to improve its secondary play and depth, the losses of McGraw and Custis are negated a bit by the fact that Kendall Sheffield and Minkah Fitzpatrick are two of the better corners in the nation. The Tide will also bring back Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey at corner from last year's class.

And do not be shocked at all if Saban and his staff get a signing day commitment as big as last year, when linebacker Rashaan Evans chose the Crimson Tide over Auburn. Keep in mind that stud defensive end CeCe Jefferson remains in the mix as next Wednesday approaches. The staff is also trying to get Ole Miss commit Drew Richmond to flip. As one of the better offensive tackles in the country, the Memphis native would make up for the loss of Prince and make the rich even richer.

Overall, this is a very balanced class, with high-star players at several key positions. The Tide snagged a quarterback from California in Blake Barnett, went to Texas to get Sheffield, added a few running backs and have plenty of beef across both the offensive and defensive lines.

Just another year at the office for Saban and his staff, and just another offseason title for the Tide.

Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

49ers hire Tom Gamble as senior personnel executive

The San Francisco 49ers hired former Philadelphia Eagles executive Tom Gamble as senior personnel executive.

Gamble was fired earlier this year in a power struggle between coach Chip Kelly and former general manager Howie Roseman.

“Tom is one of the most experienced, knowledgeable, and respected personnel men in the business,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. “He played an instrumental role in our personnel department from 2005-2012, and is well versed in our system having played a role in its development. This familiarity, along with his many strengths, will be tremendous assets as we prepare for free agency and the draft. It is great to have Tom back with the 49ers.”

Gamble returns to the 49ers after spending the last two seasons as the Eagles' vice president of player personnel.

Gamble oversaw both the college and pro personnel efforts of the 49ers.

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Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun