Flexed: NFL’s nice move had Bengals-Chiefs in prime time

It’s been a while since the NFL flexed a game to Sunday night. The Bengals vs. Chiefs is a worthy choice.

No games were moved from day to night last season, except for the final weekend, when all games are scheduled for the afternoon until the league and NBC figure out what is most attractive for prime time. Back in 2016, there were three flexed games, including Week 17. Not counting that, the last flex was Bucs at Cowboys on Dec. 18, 2016.

So switching a pair of first-place teams made sense: Cincinnati (4-2) is at Kansas City (5-1).

Some of the juicy plot lines involve offense, hardly a surprise in this year of points, points and more points. Kansas City has the league’s lowest-ranked defense and the Bengals rank 29th. Even worse, both are dealing with a slew of injuries on that side of the ball.

So Patrick Mahomes throwing to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt could fill the screen. So might Andy Dalton connecting with A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd.

“Any time you want to be one of the great ones on the defense or you want your defense to have a statement-type game, you have to do it against the best offenses in the league,” Cincinnati defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. “And right now, they’re putting up those points like they’re one of the best offenses in the league. So you’ve got to go out there and put it on ’em.”

There are some caveats to this matchup, however.

Although the Bengals have won four straight in the series dating to Oct. 14, 2007, they are 3-15 on Sunday nights, losing eight straight. The Chiefs are 7-3 in games on Sunday nights.

The weekend began with Denver’s 45-10 victory at Arizona on Thursday night

Emmanuel Sanders threw and caught touchdown passes, Denver returned two interceptions for first-quarter touchdowns and the Broncos snapped a four-game losing streak.

Todd Davis returned rookie Josh Rosen’s deflected pass for a touchdown on the second play of the game and Chris Harris Jr. took another back 53 yards for a score with 2:02 left in the quarter as the Broncos (3-4) opened a 21-3 lead. Rosen threw three interceptions and fumbled the ball away twice on a rough night that began badly for him and never got better. The Cardinals (1-6), down 35-3 at the half, fell to 0-4 at home for the first time since 1979.

Off this week are Seattle (3-3), Green Bay (3-2-1), Oakland (1-5) and Pittsburgh (3-2-1).

New England (4-2) at Chicago (3-2)

Seems like every week, the Patriots’ opponent is battered by injuries to key players. No one is more key in Chicago than edge rusher Khalil Mack, who is battling an ankle problem.

Just what Tom Brady needs against one of the five teams he’s never lost to. Brady is 4-0 against the Bears; the others are Atlanta (5-0), Dallas (4-0), Minnesota (4-0) and Tampa Bay (4-0).

While the Bears should be able to move the ball on New England, they’ll likely need lots of points for a chance in this one.

New Orleans (4-1) at Baltimore (4-2)

Just like Patriots-Bears, this is one terrific offense against defense matchup. New Orleans ranks third in total offense and Baltimore is first on defense.

Led by Drew Brees, who set the yards passing career mark in a rout of the Redskins before their bye the Saints have won four in a row. Nobody is more balanced with the ball now that RB Mark Ingram is back from suspension to team with dynamic Alvin Kamara. Brees, who is 0-4 vs. the Ravens, this year has a 78 percent completion rate for 1,658 yards with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Ravens had 11 sacks last week against Tennessee and a league-most 26 overall. They are allowing an NFL-low 12.8 points per game and the fewest yards per game (270.8). Baltimore has four of the NFL’s past 14 shutouts since the start of the 2017 season.

Carolina (3-2) at Philadelphia (3-3)

An intriguing matchup of a solid running team in Carolina, led by Christian McCaffrey and QB Cam Newton, facing the second-stingiest rushing defense in a place where the Eagles are 17-4 under Doug Pederson.

As for the air game, which seemingly everyone needs to succeed these days, Carolina is far too inconsistent.

Meanwhile, Carson Wentz has thrown at least one TD in his past 19 games played, the longest streak in franchise history and second-longest active streak behind Andrew Luck (28). Wentz has thrown 133 consecutive passes without a pick. His longest streak is 135 passes.

Tennessee (3-3) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (4-2) at London

The Titans were humiliated at home by Baltimore and should welcome the long trip overseas. Then again, they have lost 10 of the past 11 to the Chargers and bring a sputtering offense into Wembley.

Although Tennessee has a solid D, it faces an in-synch offense. The Chargers are 13-5 since starting last season 0-4 and QB Philip Rivers leads the AFC and ranks second in the NFL with a 115.1 passer rating. He has 13 TD passes and four interceptions in seven games vs. the Titans.

Houston (3-3) at Jacksonville (3-3)

The other AFC South leaders.

After beginning the season with three defeats, the Texans have turned it around, albeit all their wins have been tight affairs, two in overtime.

Defensive end J.J. Watt , perhaps the NFL’s best player when healthy, is back in form after missing most of the 2016 and ’17 seasons with injuries. Watt has seven sacks and three forced fumbles in the past four games.

The Jaguars have a solid defense, too, particularly against the pass, where they ranked first in yards surrendered. But Jacksonville was outscored 70-21 in consecutive road losses, forcing coach Doug Marrone to return to training camp practices this week to emphasize fundamental football.

Dallas (3-3) at Washington (3-2)

Among pro sports’ most intense rivalries, this will be a physical and possibly low-scoring affair given the strength of both defenses and imbalance of the offenses.

Dallas, winless on the road, will try to run with Ezekiel Elliott, second in rushing yards with 586 and third in yards from scrimmage with 752. Washington will counter with Adrian Peterson, who averaged 108.5 yards rushing in the past two home games.

Minnesota (3-2-1) at New York Jets (3-3)

The Vikings have never won at the Jets, going 0-5. To break that slump, the main weapon could be WR Adam Thielen. He had 11 catches for 123 yards last week, joining Houston’s Charley Hennigan (1961) as the only players in NFL history with 100 or more yards in each of his team’s first six games to begin a season. Thielen leads the NFL with 58 catches, the most by a player in the first six games in league history, and 712 yards receiving.

Guess what: New York’s secondary is banged-up and porous.

The Jets are seeking their first three-game winning streak since Weeks 3-5 of 2017.

Los Angeles Rams (6-0) at San Francisco (1-5)

Keeping the NFL’s only perfect record shouldn’t be too challenging for LA, which has the most dangerous offense around. RB Todd Gurley ran for a career-high 208 yards and two TDs last week. The Rams are averaging 32.7 points per game despite scoring TDs on only 56.7 percent of red-zone trips. Los Angeles also leads the NFL with 7.64 yards per play on first down.

San Francisco blew a game at Green Bay last week and Niners QB C.J. Beathard is tied for the NFL worst with seven turnovers in the past three weeks since Jimmy Garoppolo tore up his knee. The Niners have an NFL-worst minus-11 turnover margin.

New York Giants (1-5) at Atlanta (2-4), Monday night

More injuries plagued the Falcons, who placed top running back Devonta Freeman on IR. No team has been more damaged by injuries in 2018, most of them coming on defense.

That means Atlanta needs shootouts to have a chance most weeks, and QB Matt Ryan leads the NFL with 1,432 yards passing and a 128.2 rating since Week 3. He is tied for first with 12 TD passes in that span.

New York’s D is vulnerable and the offense is enigmatic despite the presence of sensational rookie RB Saquon Barkley, and firebrand wideout Odell Beckham Jr. The O-line should be dubbed the “Awful-Line.”

Detroit (2-3) at Miami (4-2)

The Lions are feeling upbeat following a victory over Green Bay and a week off, but that special feeling could turn sour because of their special teams.

Lions coverage units rank last on punts and sixth worst on kickoffs. The Dolphins rank second in kickoff return average and third in punt return average.

Miami is no powerhouse, though. The Dolphins are tied for the AFC East lead even though they’ve been outgained by 398 yards.

Cleveland (2-3-1) at Tampa Bay (2-3)

The Dawg Pound was silenced in Cleveland when the Chargers pounded the Browns last week. Tampa will be hitting the airwaves, trying to find mismatches for WRs DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans. It won’t hurt the Bucs that Browns Pro Bowl MLB Joe Schobert is out with a hamstring injury. This will be his first game missed — at any level — due to injury.

The Browns do lead the NFL with 16 takeaways, three more than all last season. Tampa has 11 giveaways.

Buffalo (2-4) at Indianapolis (1-5)

Remember Derek Anderson, most lately the backup to Newton in Carolina. He has surfaced as the new starter in Buffalo with rookie Josh Allen hurting and Nathan Peterman an interception machine.

On the positive side, the Bills’ defense is tied for the league lead with seven fumble recoveries.

The Colts will try for the fifth time to win game No. 300 since moving to Indy in 1984. And placekicker Adam Vinatieri needs 10 points to break Morten Andersen’s scoring record (2,544 points).

___

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Reports: Cardinals to sign OL Garcia, WR White

Reports: Cardinals to sign OL Garcia, WR White

The

Reports: Cardinals to sign OL Garcia, WR White

The Arizona Cardinals continue to revamp their offensive line, coming to terms with free agent offensive lineman Max Garcia, according to multiple media reports.

Arizona is also expected to sign former Chicago Bears first-round wideout Kevin White, according to NFL Network.

Garcia was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the fourth round of the 2015 draft and played in 57 games for the team, starting 41. Garcia is primarily a left guard but has played some on the right side. He is coming off an ACL tear suffered in mid-November.

The Cardinals, beset with injuries and poor play in the trenches last year, have already traded for former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert and come to terms with former Seattle Seahawks guard J.R. Sweezy.

White, 26, was drafted seventh overall in 2015 but has played in just 14 games (five starts) through four seasons due to a variety of injuries. After surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left leg wiped out his rookie season, he broke the fibula in the same leg in 2016 and then fractured his left shoulder blade in 2017, finishing all three years on injured reserve.

Last year, White had four catches for 92 yards in nine games (no starts), including a 54-yarder on a Hail Mary attempt that came up just short of the goal line. He was a healthy scratch in several games during the final few weeks of the season.

–Field Level Media

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Saints re-sign Bridgewater, add DT Brown

Saints re-sign Bridgewater, add DT Brown

Quarterback

Saints re-sign Bridgewater, add DT Brown

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has agreed to re-sign with the New Orleans Saints rather than join the Miami Dolphins, according to multiple reports on Thursday.

Bridgewater acknowledged the decision on Twitter, posting a photo of himself in his Saints uniform with the caption, “Run it back Turbo.”

According to multiple reports, Bridgewater will sign a one-year deal worth $7.25 million, with incentives that can push the value as high as $12.5 million.

Bridgewater, 26, visited with the Dolphins on Wednesday evening but did not come away with a contract.

NFL Network reported after Monday’s free agent negotiating window opened that Bridgewater would return to New Orleans, but multiple reports on Wednesday said the decision was not final, and that the Miami native could opt for his hometown Dolphins if they offered more money. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Wednesday that speculation linking Saints head coach Sean Payton to the Dallas Cowboys’ job in 2020 was factoring into Bridgewater’s decision.

After flirting with Miami, Bridgewater will remain the Saints’ backup and potential heir apparent to 40-year-old Drew Brees, whose contract was restructured Thursday to create more cap room. Brees is under contract through 2019, though he has said he would like to play further into his 40s.

Bridgewater went 14 for 23 for 118 yards, a touchdown and an interception in limited action last season, but he impressed in the preseason for the New York Jets, prompting the Saints to trade a third-round pick for him in August. The former first-round pick has started just one game since suffering a devastating knee injury just before the 2016 season opener.

The Saints also signed former New England Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown to a three-year contract on Thursday.

According to multiple reports, the deal is worth $5 million annually.

Brown, 25, was the Patriots’ first-round pick in 2015 and started 51 of 60 games over four seasons while shining in run defense, but his fifth-year option was declined. He had no sacks and just one QB hit last year while making a career-low 39 tackles, but he has 8.5 sacks, 16 QB hits and 186 tackles in his career.

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs agree to deal with DE Okafor

Chiefs agree to deal with DE Okafor

Chiefs agree to deal with DE Okafor

The Kansas City Chiefs continued to rework their defense as they signed defensive end Alex Okafor, the team announced on Thursday.

Contract terms were not disclosed, but multiple reports said the deal was for three years and $24 million.

A six-year veteran who played the last two seasons in New Orleans, Okafor arrives on the heels of the Chiefs also adding safety Tyrann Mathieu, whose deal was officially signed Thursday.

Kansas City opened up cap space recently with the release of linebacker Justin Houston and defensive back Eric Berry. The Chiefs also traded franchise-tagged pass rusher Dee Ford to the San Francisco 49ers, citing a poor fit in new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 defense.

Okafor, 28, had four sacks, nine QB hits and 36 tackles last season for the Saints, who advanced to the NFC championship game. He started all 16 games in 2018, the first time in his career he has played a full season.

In 68 career NFL games with the Arizona Cardinals and Saints, the former 2013 fourth-round pick out of Texas has 22 sacks, 48 QB hits, 156 tackles and nine passes defensed. He had career highs of eight sacks and 13 QB hits in 2014 with the Arizona Cardinals.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Giants add WR Tate, DE Golden

Reports: Giants add WR Tate, DE Golden

Reports: Giants add WR Tate, DE Golden

The New York Giants found some wide receiver help Thursday when they agreed to a four-year, $37.5 million deal with Golden Tate, $23 million of which is fully guaranteed, according to multiple reports.

Tate acknowledged the signing on Twitter, tweeting an image of the “I love New York” logo and making it his new profile picture.

Tate will pick up at least some of the slack after wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was traded to the Cleveland Browns this week. A nine-year veteran, Tate, 30, caught 74 passes for 795 yards and four touchdowns for the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles last season.

Tate was traded from Detroit to Philadelphia before the trade deadline in October for a third-round pick in the upcoming draft.

The former second-round pick in 2010 by the Seattle Seahawks has caught 611 passes for 7,214 yards and 38 touchdowns for the Seahawks, Lions and Eagles. He was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 2014 season, his first with the Lions, when he caught a career-best 99 passes for 1,331 yards and four TDs.

Tate told reporters after the season that if he didn’t stay with Philadelphia, he hoped to latch on with a contender.

“My years are limited,” Tate said at the time. “I don’t have time to go someone who’s trying to rebuild. I need to go somewhere where they believe they can win now.”

Meanwhile, the Giants also added outside linebacker Markus Golden on a one-year deal, according to multiple reports.

Golden’s agent, Joseph Clayborne, told ESPN’s Josina Anderson his client wanted a one-year deal in a good situation to prove his value.

“We are going to reunite with his former D Coordinator and get back to where we should be as one of the top pass rushers in the league,” Clayborne told Anderson.

Golden, who turned 28 on Wednesday, played three seasons under Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who held the same position with the Arizona Cardinals from 2015-17.

A second-round pick in 2015, Golden had just 2.5 sacks and six quarterback hits last season in 11 games while returning from a torn ACL, but he racked up 12.5 sacks and 22 QB hits in 16 games in 2016.

The Giants are also expected to re-sign defensive backs Tony Lippett and Antonio Hamilton, according to multiple reports on Thursday.

Both players were primarily special team performers in 2018.

-Field Level Media

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Cowboys bring back WR Austin, sign DL Covington

Cowboys bring back WR Austin, sign DL Covington

The Cowboys and

Cowboys bring back WR Austin, sign DL Covington

The Cowboys and Tavon Austin agreed on a one-year deal to keep the speedy wide receiver in Dallas, the team announced Thursday.

Austin played in just seven games due to injury last season, catching eight passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He could be in line for more targets now that Cole Beasley left the Cowboys for Buffalo.

Austin also ran the ball six times for 55 yards.

Austin has 14 career touchdowns in six NFL seasons, the first five of which came with the Rams.

The Cowboys also signed free agent defensive lineman Christian Covington to a one-year deal to bolster a line that will be without Randy Gregory and David Irving next season. Covington posted 7.5 sacks in 50 games with the Houston Texans over the past four seasons.

–Field Level Media

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Fleetwood, Bradley grab early lead at Players Championship

Fleetwood, Bradley grab early lead at Players Championship

Fleetwood, Bradley grab early lead at Players Championship

Keegan Bradley and England’s Tommy Fleetwood shot 7-under-par 65s on Thursday to share the lead after the first round of The Players Championship in Ponte Verde Beach, Fla.

While the scores were uncommonly low at TPC Sawgrass as the winds stayed fairly calm, Fleetwood turned in one of only six bogey-free rounds on the day. The majority of the low scores came during the morning wave.

“Very happy, I’ll take that and move on and go have my lunch,” Fleetwood said after the round. “I played really, really well. It was nice to just hit a lot of good golf shots. I was really good off the tee, and I put myself in good positions all throughout the day.”

Brian Harman and South Korea’s Byeong Hun An are tied for second at 6 under with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy another shot back at 5 under along with Vaughn Taylor and Ryan Moore.

There are 10 players within three shots of the lead, with Slovakia’s Rory Sabbatini part of a group at 4 under that also includes Brendan Steele, J.T. Poston, Kyle Stanley and Kevin Kisner.

Fleetwood and Bradley both began their rounds on the back nine.

While Fleetwood did most of his damage with a 6-under 30 over his final nine holes on the front nine, Bradley shot out of the gates with birdies on two of his first three holes. He traded a bogey and a birdie before knocking his second shot on the par-5 16th hole to within 10 feet and converting the eagle putt.

Bradley birdied the 18th hole and then added two more birdies over his final nine holes. Perhaps the biggest shot of the day was his third on the par-5 second after shanking his approach into the trees. Bradley overcame a gnarly lie to punch his ball onto the green and went on to save par.

“It’s one of those rounds that just felt easy,” Bradley told the Golf Channel. “I rarely ever have rounds like that. It was just a fun day that everything went right.”

Fleetwood reeled off three consecutive birdies to close out his opening round, and said the putts simply started to fall in on his back nine.

“If you would have asked me this morning a 65, I would have quite happily sat in the locker room and not moved,” said Fleetwood.

Tiger Woods is five shots off the lead after battling his way to a 2-under 70. Woods struggled with misses both left and right off the tee throughout the round, but also rolled in six birdies against four bogeys.

Woods birdied the 16th and 17th holes to put himself in position for just his second opening round in the 60s at TPC Sawgrass, but pulled his 4-foot par put on the 18th hole left of the cup.

Woods played in the afternoon round, when players had to deal with bumpier greens and stronger winds.

“It was tricky out there today,” he told the Golf Channel. “I was hoping that we would get the brunt of the wind early and then it would die down. It died down a little bit, it wasn’t so bad, but the greens got a little bit on the bumpier side towards the end. Became a little more challenging to make the putts.”

Other notable names include top-ranked Dustin Johnson (3 under), No. 2 in the world Justin Rose (2 over), Nos. 3 and 4 Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas (1 under) and Phil Mickelson (2 over.)

Woods said he came out of the round feeling good after skipping last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational due to a neck injury.

“Neck’s fine … yeah, neck’s good,” he said. “Just wish that putt would have gone in on the last hole.”

Notes: Moore hit only the ninth hole-in-one on the famed par-3 17th hole in the history of The Players. It came just minutes after Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo hit the flagstick with his tee shot and nearly rolled back into the water before going on to make par. Moore’s ace came from 121 yards. None of the previous players to hit a hole-in-one on the 17th hole have gone on to win The Players. … Harris English made just the second albatross in the history of the event on the par-5 11th when he holed out from 236 yards. … Wyndham Clark was the last player in the field after Pat Perez withdrew due to an Achilles injury.

–Field Level Media

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Patriots sign five players, including WR Ellington

Patriots sign five players, including WR Ellington

Patriots sign five players, including WR Ellington

The New England Patriots added pieces to their roster on Thursday, signing five players.

Defensive tackle Mike Pennel signed a two-year deal, his agent confirmed. Tight end Matt LaCosse, who visited the Patriots on Thursday, also signed a two-year contract, this one worth as much as $4.8 million, ESPN’s Mike Reiss said.

Wide receivers Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris also are joining the team, according to multiple outlets. Ellington’s deal is for one year, and no terms were reported or announced for either receiver.

Safety Terrence Brooks, also a special teams standout, is moving to New England from the New York Jets on a two-year deal, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

Pennel, 27, is a five-year NFL veteran who spent the past two seasons with the Jets, before they declined his 2019 option in February. In 32 games (10 starts) in that span, he made 62 tackles and had three quarterback hits. He can help to fill the vacancy created when Malcom Brown departed for New Orleans.

The 26-year-old LaCosse is entering his fourth season. With Denver last year, he played in 15 games, making 24 catches for 250 yards and a touchdown. The Broncos declined to tender LaCosse, who was a restricted free agent, earlier this week.

Ellington split time last season between the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions. In seven games (three starts), the 27-year-old had 31 receptions for 224 yards and a touchdown.

Harris, 26, played for the Washington Redskins for three seasons before they declined his restricted free agent tender this week. In that time, he appeared in 28 games (seven starts), catching 40 passes for 432 yards and a touchdown. He also filled in as a punt returner in 2018.

Brooks, 27, has played for the Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles and the Jets during his five-year career. In 65 total games, he has 43 tackles, three interceptions, eight pass breakups and two forced fumbles.

–Field Level Media

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NFL transactions: Bridgewater re-signs with Saints

NFL transactions: Bridgewater re-signs with Saints

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater

NFL transactions: Bridgewater re-signs with Saints

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater agreed to re-sign with the New Orleans Saints rather than join the Miami Dolphins, according to multiple reports on Thursday.

Bridgewater, who acknowledged the decision on Twitter, reportedly will receive a one-year deal worth $7.25 million, with incentives that can push the value as high as $12.5 million. He visited the Dolphins on Wednesday.

The Saints also restructured Drew Brees’ contract to free up $10.8 million in cap space and signed former New England Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown. According to multiple reports, Brown’s deal is worth $5 million annually.

–The New York Giants agreed to a four-year, $37.5 million deal, $23 million of which is fully guaranteed, with wideout Golden Tate, according to multiple reports.

Tate, who acknowledged the signing on Twitter, will pick up at least some of the slack after wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was traded to the Cleveland Browns this week. Tate, 30, caught 74 passes for 795 yards and four touchdowns for the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles last season.

The Giants also added outside linebacker Markus Golden on a one-year deal, according to multiple reports, reuniting him with former coordinator James Bettcher. Golden had 12.5 sacks under Bettcher with the Arizona Cardinals in 2016.

–Trey Flowers put pen to paper to join the Detroit Lions on a $90 million contract, officially becoming the fifth-highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.

The former Patriots defensive end, who aligned at six different positions for at least 15 snaps last season in New England, was a coveted chess piece for Matt Patricia’s defense in Detroit. Patricia used to coach Flowers in New England. Flowers racked up 21 sacks and 59 QB hits over the past three seasons. He received a $28 million signing bonus.

The Lions also signed safety Andrew Adams to a one-year deal after the Bucs declined to tender a contract to the restricted free agent.

–The Seattle Seahawks re-signed linebacker K.J. Wright and guard D.J. Fluker while adding guard Mike Iupati.

Wright’s deal is for two years and $15.5 million, according to NFL Network. Fluker’s deal is for two years and $9 million per NFL.com, while Iupati’s deal is for one year.

–The Oakland Raiders released wide receiver Jordy Nelson and quarterback AJ McCarron.

The Raiders gave Nelson a $3.6 million bonus on Dec. 28, which was earlier than required, for cap purposes. Head coach Jon Gruden said at the time regarding Nelson, “Yeah, he’ll be back.”

Nelson earned just under $11 million for one year, with the team saving $3.5 million with his release. The Raiders will save $5 million by releasing McCarron, who was acquired for a fifth-round pick from Buffalo in September.

–The Minnesota Vikings agreed to a restructured contract with defensive end Everson Griffen, general manager Rick Spielman confirmed, hours before his $10.9 million salary for 2019 would have become guaranteed.

According to NFL Network, Griffen instead will make $8 million in 2019, with the potential to opt out of his deal if he hits certain performance marks.

–The Kansas City Chiefs signed former Saints defensive end Alex Okafor.

Contract terms were not disclosed, but multiple reports said the deal was for three years and $24 million.

–Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix signed a one-year deal worth a reported $3.5 million with the Chicago Bears.

NFL Network reported Clinton-Dix turned down more money to play in Chicago with fellow Alabama safety Eddie Jackson.

–The Carolina Panthers released left tackle Matt Kalil with a post-June 1 designation.

The Charlotte Observer first reported the move. Using the delayed designation saves the Panthers more than $7 million under the salary cap this year.

–The San Francisco 49ers signed former Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett to a one-year contract. Multiple outlets report the deal is worth $3.6 million.

Verrett, 27, has played in just five games over the past three seasons and just 25 through five years, but he reached the Pro Bowl in 2015 with the then-San Diego Chargers.

The 49ers also signed former Eagles wideout Jordan Matthews (one-year deal) and former Panthers linebacker David Mayo (two years) and released linebacker Brock Coyle, who announced his retirement due to a compression fracture in his back sustained last season. The team will also re-sign safety Antone Exum on a one-year deal worth $895,000, per multiple reports.

–The Jets officially signed and introduced running back Le’Veon Bell, a few hours after releasing incumbent starter Isaiah Crowell. They also re-signed nose tackle Steve McLendon and officially confirmed the re-signings of offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison and cornerback Darryl Roberts.

The New York Daily News reported McLendon’s deal is for one year and $2.5 million, with an additional $1 million in incentives.

The Jets also signed cornerback Brian Poole to a one-year, $3.5 million deal, per multiple reports. The Atlanta Falcons surprisingly did not tender the restricted free agent after he broke up 20 passes in 47 games (21 starts) over the past three seasons.

–The Patriots signed defensive tackle Mike Pennel (two-year deal), tight end Matt LaCosse (two years, $4.8 million), wide receivers Bruce Ellington (one year) and Maurice Harris (not reported) and safety Terrence Brooks (two years), according to several reports.

Pennel and Brooks are former Jets.

–The Cincinnati Bengals signed former Giants cornerback B.W. Webb to a three-year contract. The deal reportedly is worth $13 million.

–The Pittsburgh Steelers signed former Jaguars wide receiver Donte Moncrief to a two-year deal and re-signed wideout Eli Rogers and defensive tackle Dan McCullers.

–The Dallas Cowboys re-signed wideout Tavon Austin and added former Texans defensive lineman Christian Covington, both on one-year deals.

–The Falcons signed tight end Luke Stocker on a two-year contract and running back Kenjon Barner on a one-year deal.

–The Arizona Cardinals are expected to sign former Bears first-round wideout Kevin White, per NFL Network, and former Denver Broncos guard Max Garcia, per his agent.

–The Cleveland Browns signed former Bears offensive lineman Eric Kush, who started seven games last season.

–The Philadelphia Eagles signed former Steelers linebacker L.J. Fort to a three-year deal worth a reported, $5.6 million.

–Field Level Media

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Mickelson: Family not part of college admissions scheme

Mickelson: Family not part of college admissions scheme

Golfer

Mickelson: Family not part of college admissions scheme

Golfer Phil Mickelson said he paid the ringleader of a college admissions bribery scheme for college preparation for his children but nothing more.

Speaking Thursday after the opening round of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, Fla., Mickelson said he and his wife, Amy, hired William Singer’s for-profit tutoring company. But, he added, he never made a financial donation to Singer’s nonprofit group, Key World Foundation, in expectation of Singer’s help of getting his children into a college they weren’t qualified to attend.

Singer admitted to using the foundation to illegally funnel bribes received from parents.

“We, along with thousands of other families, hired he and his company to help guide us through the college application process,” Mickelson told reporters. “We’re as shocked as everyone the last few days.”

The Mickelsons have three children. Their 19-year-old daughter, Amanda, attends Brown University. Their younger daughter and son are in high school.

On Tuesday, Singer pleaded guilty to numerous charges that had to do with his work in helping the children of well-to-do parents gain admission to top universities either by arranging to fix their scores on tests such as the SAT, or by building a profile of the students as recruited athletes and connecting them with coaches. Members of athletic staffs at several Division I universities, recruited by Singer, have been indicted in connection with the case.

Singer published a testimonial letter from the Mickelsons on his company’s website, which the golfer said his wife wrote as a thank you for assistance in the college-prep efforts for the children.

“We’re not a part of this,” Mickelson said of the scheme. “Most every family that hired his company was not a part of it. I think that’s why we’re all so surprised.”

He said his children have both the academic and athletic prowess to be considered by leading colleges on their own.

Amanda Mickelson was the captain of the lacrosse and tennis teams at Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad, Calif. She also was on the basketball team.

“Our kids, schools are like fighting to get them,” Mickelson said. “I say that as a proud dad. Their grades and outside activities and worldly beliefs are things that have colleges recruiting them. [Singer and his company] helped us through the whole process because it can be confusing.”

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Raiders release WR Nelson

Reports: Raiders release WR Nelson

The Oakland Raiders released wide

Reports: Raiders release WR Nelson

The Oakland Raiders released wide receiver Jordy Nelson on Thursday, according to multiple reports, less than three months after paying him a $3.6 million roster bonus for 2019.

The Raiders gave Nelson — who joined the team on a two-year, $14.2 million deal last spring — his bonus on Dec. 28, which was earlier than required, for cap purposes. Head coach Jon Gruden said at the time regarding Nelson, “Yeah, he’ll be back.”

Instead, Nelson has been released, after earning just under $11 million for one year. The team will save just over $3.5 million against the cap in 2019, with $1.8 million in dead money.

Oakland traded for star wideout Antonio Brown over the weekend, then signed former Los Angeles Chargers deep threat Tyrell Williams in free agency.

Nelson, who turns 34 in May, has now been released in consecutive offseasons, after the Green Bay Packers let him go last spring. He had 63 catches for 739 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games (14 starts) last season.

Nelson had 97 grabs for 1,257 yards and a league-high 14 scores in 2016 while coming off a torn ACL, but he posted just 53 catches for 482 yards in 2017, marking a career-low 9.1 yards per catch. In 10 career seasons, he has 613 catches for 8,587 yards and 72 touchdowns.

The Raiders also officially announced the re-signing of defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and the addition of former Los Angeles Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner. Both deals were reported earlier this week.

–Field Level Media

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Raiders release WR Nelson, QB McCarron

Raiders release WR Nelson, QB McCarron

The Oakland Raiders released

Raiders release WR Nelson, QB McCarron

The Oakland Raiders released wide receiver Jordy Nelson on Thursday, less than three months after paying him a $3.6 million roster bonus for 2019.

The Raiders gave Nelson — who joined the team on a two-year, $14.2 million deal last spring — his bonus on Dec. 28, which was earlier than required, for cap purposes. Head coach Jon Gruden said at the time regarding Nelson, “Yeah, he’ll be back.”

Instead, Nelson has been released, after earning just under $11 million for one year. The team will save just over $3.5 million against the cap in 2019, with $1.8 million in dead money.

Oakland traded for star wideout Antonio Brown over the weekend, then signed former Los Angeles Chargers deep threat Tyrell Williams in free agency.

Nelson, who turns 34 in May, has now been released in consecutive offseasons, after the Green Bay Packers let him go last spring. He had 63 catches for 739 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games (14 starts) last season.

Nelson had 97 grabs for 1,257 yards and a league-high 14 scores in 2016 while coming off a torn ACL, but he posted just 53 catches for 482 yards in 2017, marking a career-low 9.1 yards per catch. In 10 career seasons, he has 613 catches for 8,587 yards and 72 touchdowns.

The Raiders also announced the release of quarterback AJ McCarron, six months after acquiring him from the Buffalo Bills for a fifth-round pick.

McCarron, 28, was set to count $5 million against the cap in 2019, all of which Oakland will save with his release.

A former fourth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals who went 2-1 as a fill-in starter in 2015, McCarron attempted three passes in two games last year, completing one for 8 yards. He is 87 of 136 for 928 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions in his career.

Oakland also officially announced the re-signing of defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and the addition of former Los Angeles Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner. Both deals were reported earlier this week.

–Field Level Media

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Giants add Tate for reported four years, $37.5M

Giants add Tate for reported four years, $37.5M

Giants add Tate for reported four years, $37.5M

The New York Giants found some wide receiver help Thursday when they agreed to a four-year, $37.5 million deal with Golden Tate, $23 million of which is fully guaranteed, according to multiple reports.

Tate acknowledged the signing on Twitter, tweeting an image of the “I love New York” logo and making it his new profile picture.

Tate will pick up at least some of the slack after wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was traded to the Cleveland Browns this week. A nine-year veteran, Tate, 30, caught 74 passes for 795 yards and four touchdowns for the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles last season.

Tate was traded from Detroit to Philadelphia before the trade deadline in October for a third-round draft pick in the upcoming draft.

The former second-round pick in 2010 by the Seattle Seahawks has caught 611 passes for 7,214 yards and 38 touchdowns for the Seahawks, Lions and Eagles. He was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 2014 season, his first with the Lions, when he caught a career-best 99 passes for 1,331 yards and four TDs.

Tate told reporters after the season that if he didn’t stay with Philadelphia, he hoped to latch on with a contender.

“My years are limited,” Tate said at the time. “I don’t have time to go someone who’s trying to rebuild. I need to go somewhere where they believe they can win now.”

-Field Level Media

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Panthers cut OT Kalil

Panthers cut OT Kalil

The Carolina Panthers released left tackle Matt Kalil on Thursday with

Panthers cut OT Kalil

The Carolina Panthers released left tackle Matt Kalil on Thursday with a post-June 1 designation.

The Charlotte Observer first reported the move. Using the delayed designation saves the Panthers more than $7 million under the salary cap this year.

Taylor Moton is expected to start at left tackle in 2019.

Kalil had three years remaining on his contract.

Kalil missed the entire 2018 season with a right knee injury, landing on injured reserve before the season opener.

The 29-year-old was a first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings (2012) before joining the Panthers, with since-retired brother Ryan Kalil at center, in 2017.

–Field Level Media

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Bears sign SS Clinton-Dix to one-year deal

Bears sign SS Clinton-Dix to one-year deal

Strong safety Ha Ha

Bears sign SS Clinton-Dix to one-year deal

Strong safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix signed a one-year deal worth a reported $3.5 million with the Chicago Bears.

NFL Network reported Clinton-Dix turned down more money to play in Chicago with fellow Alabama safety Eddie Jackson, who made the Pro Bowl last season at free safety.

Clinton-Dix was traded to the Washington Redskins in October and spent his previous four-plus NFL seasons with the Bears’ archrival, the Green Bay Packers. Bears safety Adrian Amos signed with the Packers on Wednesday and was introduced at Lambeau Field on Thursday.

Clinton-Dix didn’t miss a game while with the Packers, posting 390 tackles, 14 interceptions and 25 passes defensed.

The Redskins signed safety Landon Collins to a six-year, $84 million deal at the outset of free agency this week.

Clinton-Dix was a first-round pick of the Packers in 2014.

–Field Level Media

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Vikings retain DE Griffen after restructure

Vikings retain DE Griffen after restructure

The Minnesota Vikings agreed to

Vikings retain DE Griffen after restructure

The Minnesota Vikings agreed to a restructured contract with defensive end Everson Griffen, general manager Rick Spielman confirmed Thursday, hours before his $10.9 million salary for 2019 would have become guaranteed

According to NFL Network, Griffen will instead make $8 million in 2019, with the potential to opt out of his deal if he hits certain performance marks.

Griffen had signed a four-year, $58 million extension in July of 2017 that ran through 2022. The Vikings could have released him outright before his salary became guaranteed on Thursday, which would have saved $10.5 million off the cap with just $1.2 million in dead money.

The 31-year-old finished with 5.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits last season in 11 games (10 starts), missing five games due to mental health issues. Griffen was involved in a series of incidents in September that concerned teammates, team personnel and family members, and he left the team for a month before returning in late October.

Griffen totaled 43.5 sacks and 101 QB hits from 2014-2017 while missing just two games, earning three Pro Bowl nods from 2015-17. A fourth-round pick in 2010, he has 66.5 sacks and 152 QB hits in 132 career games (73 starts) across nine seasons with the Vikings.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Chiefs agree to deal with DE Okafor

Reports: Chiefs agree to deal with DE Okafor

Reports: Chiefs agree to deal with DE Okafor

The Kansas City Chiefs continued to rework their defense as they agreed Thursday to a three-year, $24 million deal with defensive end Alex Okafor, according to multiple reports.

A six-year veteran who played the last two seasons in New Orleans, Okafor arrives on the heels of the Chiefs also adding safety Tyrann Mathieu, whose deal was officially signed Thursday.

Kansas City opened up cap space recently with the release of linebacker Justin Houston and defensive back Eric Berry. The Chiefs also traded franchise-tagged pass rusher Dee Ford to the San Francisco 49ers, citing a poor fit in new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 defense.

Okafor, 28, had four sacks, nine QB hits and 36 tackles last season for the Saints, who advanced to the NFC Championship Game. He started all 16 games in 2018, the first time in his career he has played a full season.

In 68 career NFL games with the Arizona Cardinals and Saints, the former 2013 fourth-round pick out of Texas has 22 sacks, 48 QB hits, 156 tackles and nine passes defensed. He had career highs of eight sacks and 13 QB hits in 2014 with the Arizona Cardinals.

–Field Level Media

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Ravens C Skura tops list of NFL’s performance bonuses

Ravens C Skura tops list of NFL's performance bonuses

Baltimore

Ravens C Skura tops list of NFL’s performance bonuses

Baltimore Ravens center Matt Skura earned the highest distribution from the NFL’s performance-based pay for the 2018 season, the league announced Thursday.

NFL players will receive $140.88 million from the performance-based pool, which is a benefit in the collective bargaining agreement that compensates players based upon playing time and salary levels.

The NFL Players Association also dedicated $48 million in benefits for a veteran performance-based compensation pool for players with one or more accrued seasons. A total of $188.88 million will be disbursed under the combined pools.

Skura, a second-year pro in 2018 after being an undrafted free agent, earned $533,558 in performance-based pay after playing in every offensive snap and 17 percent of Baltimore’s special teams plays. That bonus money nearly doubled his 2018 salary of $555,000.

The rest of the top five were: Los Angeles Rams guard Austin Blythe ($513,616), Rams linebacker Cory Littleton ($502,243), Miami Dolphins guard Jesse Davis ($495,824) and Tennessee Titans linebacker Jayon Brown ($489,664).

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Steelers re-sign DL McCullers

Reports: Steelers re-sign DL McCullers

Reports: Steelers re-sign DL McCullers

The Pittsburgh Steelers have re-signed reserve defensive tackle Daniel McCullers to a two-year deal, according to multiple reports.

The deal is worth $2.75 million, NFL Network reported Thursday.

McCullers played in 15 games last season, starting one, and registered a sack and five tackles. He has played in 57 games — starting three — in his five years in Pittsburgh.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Seahawks re-sign LB Wright, add OL Iupati

Reports: Seahawks re-sign LB Wright, add OL Iupati

The

Reports: Seahawks re-sign LB Wright, add OL Iupati

The Seattle Seahawks have re-signed linebacker K.J. Wright and added offensive lineman Mike Iupati, according to reports.

Wright’s deal is for two years and $15.5 million, according to NFL Network. The move keeps the Seahawks’ linebacking corps intact for the 2019 season.

Iupati’s deal is for one year.

Wright, 29, has spent all eight years with Seattle after the team selected him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. He missed 11 games last season with a knee injury. Wright had four consecutive seasons with 100-plus tackles before that, and he has career totals of 11.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles.

Iupati played the past four seasons in Arizona after spending the first five seasons of his career with the San Francisco 49ers. The 31-year-old tackle is a four-time Pro Bowler and made All-Pro in 2012. He has started all 114 games in his career.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Cowboys bring back WR Austin, sign DL Covington

Reports: Cowboys bring back WR Austin, sign DL Covington

The Cowboys

Reports: Cowboys bring back WR Austin, sign DL Covington

The Cowboys and Tavon Austin have agreed on a one-year deal to keep the speedy wide receiver in Dallas, according to reports.

Austin played in just seven games due to injury last season, catching eight passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He could be in line for more targets now that Cole Beasley left the Cowboys for Buffalo.

Austin also ran the ball six times for 55 yards.

Austin has 14 career touchdowns in six NFL seasons, the first five of which came with the Rams.

The Cowboys also signed free agent defensive lineman Christian Covington to a one-year deal to bolster a line that will be without Randy Gregory and David Irving next season. Covington posted 7.5 sacks in 50 games with the Houston Texans over the past four seasons.

–Field Level Media

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