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What we learned Wednesday at NFL Annual Meeting

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  • By Marc Sessler and Conor Orr
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PHOENIX -- A gaggle of NFC teams used Wednesday to shoot down a month's worth of rampant trade speculation.

Saints coach Sean Payton came out strong against whispers that Drew Brees might be shopped, saying "there's not one iota" of truth to the gossip. Across the room at the NFC coaches breakfast, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer announced that Minnesota has "no plans" to trade running back Adrian Peterson.

Pete Carroll capped off the hat trick by neutralizing reports that pass rusher Michael Bennett wants out of Seattle to join former Seahawks defensive coordinator and new Falcons coach Dan Quinn in Atlanta.

"Michael and I, we communicate regularly," Carroll told Around The NFL. "I'm in touch with where Mike is and what's going on and he hasn't mentioned a thing about any of that. It's never been part of the conversation."

Said Carroll: "Like so many things that happen, those things come out of somewhere, but it isn't coming out of the conversations that we've been having."

It sure sounds like everyone's staying put.

Here's what else we learned Wednesday at the NFL Annual Meeting:

2. Carroll also confirmed that the Seahawks are "well aware" of pass rusher Bruce Irvin's looming fifth-year option, saying the front office will deal with that "when the time comes."

3. It was fascinating to hear Carroll opine about the different style of play along his defensive line, noting that Bennett, Irvin, Tony McDaniel, Brandon Mebane and Cliff Avril all offer unique gifts. Instead of trying to find a series of identical robots for Seattle's four-man front, Carroll preached about acquiring and drafting the best players available -- "all types of guys and styles" -- and "fitting them in." Too many teams struggle to make this work.

4. Niners coach Jim Tomsula gushed about Reggie Bush as an "every-down back," but we aren't buying it. Carlos Hyde remains the favorite to see the bulk of the carries next season, with Bush assuming his natural role as a third-down weapon in space.

5. When Around The NFL asked Tomsula why Michael Crabtree is still teamless, he had no answer for us. After saying at the combine that he wanted the wideout back with the team next season, Tomsula and 49ers have clearly moved on.

6. Asked about Jameis Winston, Bucs coach Lovie Smith sounded more than prepared to draft the Florida State passer, saying: "We feel comfortable with who Jameis Winston is, what he's done and what he'll do. He's definitely on our board."

7. Roger Goodell met with the media and shared where the league stands on football in Los Angeles, the Greg Hardy case, Cleveland's texting scandal, deflated footballs and much, much more. You can read our roundup here, but, honestly, not much was accomplished. Goodell and the league remain "in process" on every one of those issues.

8. Back to Payton: In the wake of trading away Jimmy Graham, the Saints coach raved about Josh Hill, repeatedly saying that he "loves" the third-year tight end. The coach also praised a pair of practice squad wideouts -- presumably Brandon Coleman and Jalen Saunders -- as emerging players.

9. Payton also called the trade for former Seahawks center Max Unger a move that was "absolutely" made to help keep Brees upright on passing downs.

10. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had the line of the day, playfully dressing down a reporter who asked about Arizona's interest in trading for Adrian Peterson by saying: "You're trying to get me fined? That's tampering, dude!"

10. Tom Coughlin is not retiring any time soon. That's the feel we continue to get from the 68-year-old head coach, who will turn 69 before the beginning of the 2015 season. Coughlin has always personally felt like he got a late start in the business, and that's why he wants to get the most out of his experience now. A reporter began a question Wednesday with: "When you retire in 10 years," to which Coughlin replied: "I'm glad you asked it that way." He laughed off questions about a possible succession plan within the building.

11. Coughlin revealed that part of the reasoning in switching to Ben McAdoo's system -- he had the option to hire Mike Sullivan in 2013, who ran almost the exact same offense as Kevin Gilbride -- was that he wanted to challenge Eli Manning. It doesn't sound like Manning was lackadaisical toward football, but Coughlin felt like a challenge would reinvigorate the veteran quarterback. On one hand, that could lend itself to thinking that Manning will eventually get that extension and not play out a series of one-year deals.

12. Mike Zimmer was intriguing on Cordarrelle Patterson. While many fans think he's being under-used, the Vikings head coach has a different take: "Development wise, he's very young. There's obviously things that the fans see and say 'Wow.' But the overall part of the game, he's got so much work to do beyond the flash plays you see. I think the big thing there is being in the same system again. Understanding where he's going to be at. And us understanding him a bit better, too."

13. Jim Caldwell is high on Eric Ebron for the 2015 season after watching his 10th overall pick -- two spots ahead of Odell Beckham -- struggle initially. "I want to see him get better with familiarity in our system, running routes the way we'd like to see him run them consistently. So those are the key things. He improved his blocking from the line of scrimmage, there's no question. But don't get me wrong, it's not like he's all of a sudden going to be Charlie Sanders, but he's going to be better than he was. But he's working, believe me, he's working hard."

14. Caldwell had no interest in going there with Ebron and Beckham, by the way: "You know, here's the thing. If you take a look at a number of guys, most of the guys who excel, you didn't think they'd excel. You have the benefit of hindsight, we all have that benefit. So before it all started, you wouldn't have said that other than Sammy Watkins. So let's not play that game. The fact of the matter is, I feel good about what we did. We got in the playoffs our first year. That was good, not great ... but I think the decisions we made, they benefited us." Unless we were all Chip Kelly, who said today that Beckham was the No. 1 rated player on his board, Caldwell is probably right.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps the inaugural Veteran Combine and discusses which star players were helped (and hurt) by free agency. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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