Patriots prepping for big challenge in versatile Mahomes

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — When Bill Belichick was asked Monday what he liked about Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, his answer sounded a lot like everyone else’s this season.

“Pretty much everything,” Belichick said of the second-year player as the Patriots began preparations for Sunday night’s matchup with Kansas City (5-0).

“He gets the ball to all of his receivers quick, quick release, sees things quickly, can extend plays, got a great arm, got a fabulous arm, can throw the ball out of the stadium.”

It was glowing praise from a coach that has a track record of finding ways to make things difficult for young quarterbacks.

Belichick will now turn his attention to the 23-year-old Mahomes, who has been the talk of the NFL, throwing for 1,513 yards, 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions through five games.

He appeared in just one game last season, leading the Chiefs to a three-point victory in their regular-season finale against the Broncos.

But it was enough for Kansas City to believe Mahomes could be their quarterback and played into its decision to trade Alex Smith to Washington in the offseason.

Mahomes has taken control of Andy Reid’s offense, using his legs and arm to lead a group that is averaging a league-best 35 points per game.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said during his weekly radio appearance on Boston’s WEEI that young quarterbacks such as Mahomes and rookies Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen are taking advantage of the early opportunities they’ve gotten.

“A lot of those guys are being thrown into the mix,” Brady said. “Some of those guys are playing really well. It’s pretty awesome. I was a fourth-string quarterback when I was a rookie, so I was sitting in the stands, eating nachos before games. I wasn’t playing. … Some other guys have had those chances. And when you’re thrown into the mix it’s really impressive.”

It will be a big challenge for New England’s defense, which is giving up 366 yards per game and had trouble defending the pass during a 1-2 start to the season.

Patriots cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer said one of the underrated parts of Mahomes’ game is his ability to use his legs to set up deep passes.

“With Mahomes in particular, one, he can make all the throws he needs to make, has a very strong arm. He also has a great ability to extend plays, whether he’s going to do that running or extending it and scramble to give his receivers time to get open,” Boyer said.

“So, we’ve got to do a great job being where we need to be, using our help in coverage if we have any, and making sure that we’re tight on receivers in competitive situations.”

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore said he expects Mahomes to be a handful to defend.

“He’s a great quarterback,” Gilmore said. “He’s playing really good right now. He’s making some big throws and he’s got a lot of good weapons around him. They’re 5-0 for a reason.”

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower

AAF roundup: Perez leads Iron to wild win over Fleet

AAF roundup: Perez leads Iron to wild win over Fleet

Playing just miles

AAF roundup: Perez leads Iron to wild win over Fleet

Playing just miles from his childhood home in Chula Vista, Calif., Luis Perez threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns and set up the game-winning field goal as the Birmingham Iron survived the San Diego Fleet on Sunday, 32-29.

Perez, a former professional bowler who began playing quarterback in college and spent the 2018 preseason with the Los Angeles Rams, threw touchdowns of 13, 83 and 23 yards before driving the Iron in range for a 44-yard field goal attempt, which former Chargers kicker Nick Novak hit to win on the final play. Perez also ran for 28 yards and threw two interceptions.

Former Cleveland Browns first-round pick Trent Richardson had 23 touches for 90 yards and two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, to extend his league lead to 10. No other AAF player has more than six scores. San Diego quarterback Mike Bercovici, who spent the 2018 preseason with the Chargers, finished 17 of 34 for 311 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Commanders 37, Legends 6

The San Antonio defense intercepted host Atlanta quarterback Aaron Murray three times, returning one for a score, in a dominating victory.

Derron Smith, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, capped the scoring with an 87-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter. Zack Sanchez, a 2016 fifth-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, and De’Vante Bausby, who played in six games for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, also had interceptions. The Commanders, who moved to 4-2, also scored on a 79-yard punt return by Greg Ward Jr.

Murray, a former Georgia star whom the Kansas City Chiefs drafted in the fifth round in 2014, finished 30 of 41 for 215 yards with the three picks and a touchdown as the Legends fell to 2-5. Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside, a 2017 seventh-round pick by the Bengals, went 17 of 23 for 164 yards and two scores.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Steelers add former Rams LB Barron

Report: Steelers add former Rams LB Barron

Report: Steelers add former Rams LB Barron

The Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with linebacker Mark Barron, ESPN reported Sunday.

Barron was recently released by the Los Angeles Rams after 4 1/2 seasons with the organization.

Barron had 60 tackles in 2018 while being limited to 12 games due to an ankle injury. He also had one sack and one forced fumble.

The 29-year-old Barron has nine career sacks, eight interceptions five forced fumbles in 104 games (93 starts) over seven NFL seasons.

Barron spent his first 2 1/2 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

–Field Level Media

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McIlroy hangs on to win The Players by one over Furyk

McIlroy hangs on to win The Players by one over Furyk

McIlroy hangs on to win The Players by one over Furyk

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy marshalled the luck of the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and clutch play down the stretch, to finish at 16-under par and capture a one-shot victory over American Jim Furyk on Sunday at The Players Championship on the demanding TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

McIlroy finished with an erratic 2-under 70 over the final 18 holes that featured six birdies, a bogey and a double bogey. But with the rest of the field also struggling, it was enough for the win.

McIlroy took the lead for good with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th. A nervy swing on the par-3 17th, with its famed island green led to a par; he then ripped a driver off the tee on the closing hole, found the middle of the fairway, hit the green in regulation and two-putted for the victory.

The 48-year-old Furyk put a charge through the chilled and wind-swept gallery with a 67 that included a 3-foot putt for birdie on the closing hole. That putt allowed Furyk the clubhouse lead for about an hour as he made a bid to become the oldest winner of the event.

Eddie Pepperell of England and Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela each fired 66s to finish in a tie for third at 14 under, with World No. 1 Dustin Johnson (69), Brandt Snedeker (69), and England’s Tommy Fleetwood (73) tied for fifth another stroke back.

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan (67), Justin Rose of England (68), Brian Harman (70), and Australia’s Jason Day (72) finished tied for eighth at 11-under par.

The win was McIlroy’s first since last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and the 15th of his PGA Tour career. Eight of McIroy’s PGA Tour victories have come when he trailed entering the final round and he has now posted top-10 finishes in six of seven starts this season.

McIlroy started the day at 14 under, tied with Fleetwood, a shot off the pace set after 54 holes by Spain’s Jon Rahm.

Rahm struggled early on with bogeys on three of his first four holes, righted the ship for a while but ended his chances with a double bogey on the watery 17th and finished tied for 12th at 11 under after a 76.

Defending champion Webb Simpson tied for 16th at 10 under after a 68 in the final round, while Tiger Woods finished in a tie for 30th at 6-under par upon carding a 69 on Sunday.

The PGA Tour moves back down the Florida coast to Palm Harbor next week for the Valspar Championship at the Innisbrook Resort.

–Field Level Media

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Commanders force three INTs, cruise past Legends

Commanders force three INTs, cruise past Legends

Commanders force three INTs, cruise past Legends

The San Antonio defense intercepted Atlanta quarterback Aaron Murray three times, returning one for a score, and the visiting Commanders dominated the Legends 37-6 on Sunday afternoon.

Derron Smith, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, capped the scoring with an 87-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter. Zack Sanchez, a 2016 fifth-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, and De’Vante Bausby, who played in six games for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, also had interceptions. The Commanders, who moved to 5-2, also scored on a 79-yard punt return by Greg Ward Jr.

Murray, a former Georgia star whom the Kansas City Chiefs drafted in the fifth round in 2014, finished 30 of 41 for 215 yards with the three picks and a touchdown as the Legends fell to 2-5. Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside, a 2017 seventh-round pick by the Bengals, went 17 of 23 for 164 yards and two scores.

–Field Level Media

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Tiger closes with 69 at The Players

Tiger closes with 69 at The Players

Finishing

Tiger closes with 69 at The Players

Finishing his round just as the leaders were teeing off, Tiger Woods closed with a 3-under-par 69 at The Players Championship on Sunday.

It was Woods’ only sub-70 round of the week, and he finished the tournament 6-under par following rounds of 70, 71 and 72 the first three days.

Woods got his final round started in the right direction with a birdie on the par-5 second hole. He added two more birdies on Nos. 4 and 7, making the turn in 3-under 33. He picked up one more on the par-5 11th hole, but gave the shot back with a bogey on No. 14.

He avoided another potential blowup on the famed 17th hole when his tee shot stopped on the front fringe of the island green. Woods, who put two balls in the water in posting a quadruple-bogey seven on the hole Friday, was able to get up and down to save par.

Woods also parred the final hole to close out his tournament.

Woods said this week that the neck injury that forced him to skip the Arnold Palmer Invitational is no longer an issue, but he has yet to commit to either of the lead-up tournaments to The Masters — next week’s Valspar Championship or the WGC-Match Play event the following week.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Dolphins sign QB Fitzpatrick to 2-year deal

Reports: Dolphins sign QB Fitzpatrick to 2-year deal

The Miami Dolphins

Reports: Dolphins sign QB Fitzpatrick to 2-year deal

The Miami Dolphins reportedly signed 36-year-old quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a two-year deal on Sunday, two days after trading Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans.

The journeyman Fitzpatrick joins his third AFC East organization and eighth team overall.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the deal was worth $11 million, with incentives that could boost the total to $17 to $20 million.

The Dolphins are hoping for some “Fitzmagic” in South Beach. Last season with Tampa Bay, Fitzpatrick made headlines by becoming the first player in NFL history to throw for 400-plus yards in three consecutive games.

While juggling the Buccaneers’ starting job with Jameis Winston, Fitzpatrick finished the season with a 2-5 record. He completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 2,366 yards, 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

He played previously in the AFC East as a starter with the Buffalo Bills (2009-12) and the New York Jets (2015-16). His best season was with New York in 2015 when he went 10-6 and set career highs in passing yards (3,905) and touchdowns (31).

Fitzpatrick began his career with the then-St. Louis Rams (2005-06) and has also played for the Cincinnati Bengals (2007-08), Tennessee Titans (2013) and Houston Texans (2014).

In 141 games (126 starts) he owns a 50-75-1 record with 29,357 passing yards, 190 touchdowns and 148 interceptions.

–Field Level Media

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Tiger feels ‘close’ after carding 69 in TPC final round

Tiger feels 'close' after carding 69 in TPC final round

Tiger feels ‘close’ after carding 69 in TPC final round

Finishing his round just as the leaders were teeing off, Tiger Woods closed with a 3-under-par 69 at The Players Championship on Sunday.

It was his only sub-70 round of the week. He finished the tournament at 6-under par after rounds of 70, 71 and 72 the first three days at TPC Sawgrass Stadium in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

“I felt like I was playing well,” Woods said after his round Sunday. “My score didn’t really indicate that going into the final day, but I was hitting the golf ball well and I’m frustrated at lipping more putts out than I think I have in a very long time. Just one of those weeks where just nothing really got rolling enough to get me going.”

Woods got his final round started in the right direction with a birdie on the par-5 second hole. He added two more birdies on Nos. 4 and 7, making the turn in 3-under 33. He picked up one more on the par-5 11th hole, but gave the shot back with a bogey on No. 14.

He avoided another potential blowup on the famed 17th hole when his tee shot stopped on the front fringe of the island green. Woods, who put two balls in the water in posting a quadruple-bogey seven on the hole Friday, was able to get up and down to save par.

“I was close to getting over the hurdle and getting things rolling, and unfortunately I made a seven over at 17 (on Friday),” Woods said. “I missed a few putts that I could have very easily got the momentum going that could have gotten me on a run.”

Woods also recorded a par on the final hole to close out his tournament.

Woods said this week that the neck injury that forced him to skip the Arnold Palmer Invitational is no longer an issue and he will next play in the WGC-Match Play at Austin, Texas, in two weeks as he takes aim at The Masters on April 11-14.

“I’m guaranteed to play three (rounds at the WGC-Match Play) instead of when I played it was only one guaranteed, so that’s kind of nice knowing that I’ll be able to get at least three good rounds in, possibly more if I play well, and that’s basically like a tournament,” Woods said.

–Field Level Media

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Mississippi State DE Sweat has minor heart condition

Mississippi State DE Sweat has minor heart condition

Highly regarded defensive end

Mississippi State DE Sweat has minor heart condition

Highly regarded defensive end Montez Sweat was discovered to have a pre-existing heart condition at the recent NFL Scouting Combine, NFL.com reported Sunday.

Sweat’s condition wasn’t publicly known prior to the combine. Doctors determined his condition to be low-risk, according to NFL.com, and allowed Sweat to participate.

Sweat ran a blazing 4.41-second, 40-yard dash at the combine, topping the previous mark for a defensive lineman shared by North Carolina State’s Manny Lawson (2006) and Isaac Hilton from Hampton (2004). The performance elevated him into contention to be a possible Top 10 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Sweat’s agents provided a statement to NFL.com on Sunday.

“Because of privacy issues we are not allowed to comment specifically,” the statement began, “but I will tell you that this is not news. Montez is the same person that was medically cleared to play and dominate the SEC, the Senior Bowl, and the NFL combine. No change in health and no change in domination!”

Sweat ranked among the SEC leaders in sacks and tackles for loss in each of his two seasons (2017-18) with the Bulldogs, tallying a combined 22.5 sacks and 30 tackles for loss in 2017-18.

The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Sweat posted a time that was faster than all but one of 23 running backs tested.

–Field Level Media

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Giants QB Manning receives $5M roster bonus

Giants QB Manning receives $5M roster bonus

Eli Manning has a lot

Giants QB Manning receives $5M roster bonus

Eli Manning has a lot more green in his pocket this St. Patrick’s Day.

The New York Giants paid their veteran quarterback a $5 million roster bonus that was due Saturday, virtually assuring he will remain with the Giants in 2019.

If the Giants were to change their mind and release the 38-year-old Manning, they would lose that money plus $6.2 million in dead salary cap space.

The Giants have the Nos. 6 and 17 overall picks in next month’s NFL draft, and after passing on selecting a quarterback last year in favor of running back Saquon Barkley, New York is expected to take a QB in the first round.

A rookie quarterback could learn from Manning for a year, just as Patrick Mahomes did behind Alex Smith in Kansas City. Mahomes, in his second season in 2018, was the league MVP.

Manning, the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, is entering the final year of a four-year, $84 million contract extension signed in 2015. His 55,981 career passing yards place him seventh on the all-time list.

–Field Level Media

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AAF: Woodrum, Stallions stomp Express

AAF: Woodrum, Stallions stomp Express

Josh Woodrum threw for two touchdowns

AAF: Woodrum, Stallions stomp Express

Josh Woodrum threw for two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions, leading the Salt Lake Stallions to a 22-9 win over the Memphis Express on Saturday in an Alliance of American Football game at Salt Lake City.

Woodrum’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Nick Truesdell and his 14-yard scoring toss to Anthony Denham, each followed by a successful two-point conversion, put the Stallions (2-4) on top 16-0 in the first quarter.

Memphis (1-5) got within 16-9 after a second-quarter field goal and an 11-yard Brandon Silvers-to-Zac Stacy touchdown pass. However, short field goals from Taylor Bertolet in the second quarter and fourth quarter helped Salt Lake put the game away.

Express quarterback Zach Mettenberger was knocked out of the game after sustaining a left ankle injury on his team’s first offensive play from scrimmage. Mettenberger, a former Tennessee Titans starter, was sacked by Stallions defensive end Karter Schult, who fell on the QB’s ankle. Silvers replaced Mettenberger and threw for 242 yards.

The Express, who are in last place in the East Division, fell to 0-4 on the road by losing to the last-place team in the West Division.

In Saturday night action, the Arizona Hotshots were set to visit the Orlando Apollos.

–Field Level Media

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AAF roundup: Hotshots hand Apollos first defeat

AAF roundup: Hotshots hand Apollos first defeat

Jhurell Pressley's 1-yard touchdown

AAF roundup: Hotshots hand Apollos first defeat

Jhurell Pressley’s 1-yard touchdown run with 5:21 left in the fourth quarter led the Arizona Hotshots to a 22-17 win over host Orlando, handing the Apollos their first loss in the Alliance of American Football.

John Wolford’s two-point conversion pass to Marquis Bundy followed Pressley’s touchdown and represented the game’s final points.

Wolford completed 16 of 27 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. Former Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Nick Folk made two of three field-goal attempts for Arizona (3-3), connecting from 55 yards in the first quarter.

Garrett Gilbert threw two touchdown passes and one interception for Orlando (5-1). The former Carolina Panthers backup finished 23 of 48 for 269 yards.

Stallions 22, Express 9

Josh Woodrum threw for two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions, leading Salt Lake to a win over Memphis at Salt Lake City.

Woodrum’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Nick Truesdell and his 14-yard scoring toss to Anthony Denham, each followed by a successful two-point conversion, put the Stallions (2-4) on top 16-0 in the first quarter.

Memphis (1-5) got within 16-9 after a second-quarter field goal and an 11-yard Brandon Silvers-to-Zac Stacy touchdown pass. However, short field goals from Taylor Bertolet in the second quarter and fourth quarter helped Salt Lake put the game away.

Express quarterback Zach Mettenberger was knocked out of the game after sustaining a left ankle injury on his team’s first offensive play from scrimmage. Mettenberger, a former Tennessee Titans starter, was sacked by Stallions defensive end Karter Schult, who fell on the QB’s ankle. Silvers replaced Mettenberger and threw for 242 yards.

The Express, who are in last place in the East Division, fell to 0-4 on the road by losing to the last-place team in the West Division.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: TE Eifert returns to Bengals

NFL notebook: TE Eifert returns to Bengals

NFL notebook: TE Eifert returns to Bengals

Injury-plagued tight end Tyler Eifert is re-signing with the Cincinnati Bengals, he announced on Twitter on Saturday. Eifert is signing a one-year contract, according to multiple reports.

Eifert, a product of Notre Dame, was the No. 21 overall selection by the Bengals in 2013 and played 15 games that season. Since then, he has only reached double-digit games in a season once.

That was 2015, when he scored 13 touchdowns in 13 games. He made the Pro Bowl that year, but an ankle injury in that game limited his action the following season.

Eifert, 28, has had season-ending surgery each of the past three seasons. In 2018, it was a broken ankle suffered in Week 4 that sent him to injured reserve.

–The Oakland Raiders released veteran left tackle Donald Penn in what was called a mutual decision.

Penn, who turns 36 next month, indicated that he wants to return for a 13th NFL season elsewhere in 2019.

Penn missed 12 games with a groin injury in 2018 and was slated to count $7.2 million against Oakland’s salary cap this season.

–New Orleans Saints center Max Unger retired in a surprising development, multiple outlets reported.

Unger, who turns 33 next month, completed his 10th NFL season and earned his third Pro Bowl selection in 2018. He had one year left on a three-year, $22 million contract and was set to earn $5.1 million in base salary in 2019.

Unger started 130 regular-season and 12 postseason games with the Seattle Seahawks (2009-14) and Saints (2015-18).

–When suspended Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving shared a post — in which he appeared to be smoking marijuana — on Instagram and announced his retirement last week, it was with coach Jason Garrett’s encouragement, he said.

“He told me I should just quit, smoke all the weed I want, the team didn’t need me,” Irving told USA Today in an interview. “I’m a distraction to the team.”

Irving said he suffers from mental illnesses that he attributes to football and that players should have the option to treat their ailments with cannabis.

“People need to understand I’m not doing this — I didn’t quit football to smoke weed,” Irving said. “That would be idiotic. I understand that. … It’s about wellness, about rights. People need to understand that.”

–The Jacksonville Jaguars stayed busy in free agency, announcing the signings of wide receiver Chris Conley and offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi. NFL Media also reported they were signing former Green Bay Packers linebacker Jake Ryan, 27, who missed last season with a torn ACL.

Conley, 26, played for the Kansas City Chiefs over his first four seasons, making 104 catches for 1,238 yards and six touchdowns. He emerged as a scoring target for Patrick Mahomes last season, catching 32 passes for 334 yards and five touchdowns.

Ogbuehi, 26, started 25 of 35 games over his first four seasons, all with the Cincinnati Bengals, but appeared in just two games last season.

–New head coach Bruce Arians is bringing a familiar face to Tampa Bay, with the Buccaneers signing offensive lineman Earl Watford to a one-year deal.

Watford, who spent last season with the Cleveland Browns, was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 and spent his first five seasons playing for Arians.

Watford, 28, has played both guard spots and right tackle over his NFL career, which spans 55 games and 22 starts. Financial terms of his deal were not disclosed.

–Field Level Media

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Jaguars sign WR Conley, OL Ogbuehi, LB Ryan

Jaguars sign WR Conley, OL Ogbuehi, LB Ryan

Jaguars sign WR Conley, OL Ogbuehi, LB Ryan

The Jacksonville Jaguars stayed busy in free agency, announcing the signings of wide receiver Chris Conley and offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi on Saturday.

NFL Media also reported that the Jaguars were signing linebacker Jake Ryan.

The moves follow the Jaguars’ big free-agent splash when they signed former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles on Wednesday.

Contract terms for the three players were not announced.

Conley, 26, played for the Kansas City Chiefs over his first four seasons, making 104 catches for 1,238 yards and six touchdowns. He emerged as a scoring target for Patrick Mahomes last season, catching 32 passes for 334 yards and five touchdowns.

Conley and Foles were teammates in Kansas City in 2016, and the wide receiver cited the signing of Foles as a big factor in his decision.

“There was opportunity here to begin with, but then the addition of him at quarterback … that sealed the deal for me,” Conley said.

Ogbuehi figures to replace offensive tackle Jermey Parnell, who was released as part of the Jaguars’ efforts to free up money for Foles.

Ogbuehi, 26, started 25 of 35 games over his first four seasons, all with the Cincinnati Bengals, but appeared in just two games last season. A Texas A&M product, he was the Bengals’ first-round draft pick in 2015.

Ryan, 27, had been with the Green Bay Packers since they made him a fourth-round pick in 2015.

Ryan ranked third on the team with 81 tackles in 2017, but spent last season on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in training camp. In 43 games (27 starts), he tallied 213 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.

–Field Level Media

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Troubled QB Manziel signs with AAF’s Memphis Express

Troubled QB Manziel signs with AAF's Memphis Express

Johnny Manziel

Troubled QB Manziel signs with AAF’s Memphis Express

Johnny Manziel has found a new home in the Alliance of American Football.

After failed stops in the NFL and the Canadian Football League, the 26-year-old quarterback signed a standard player contract with the upstart league on Saturday and was claimed off waivers by the Memphis Express.

“We are pleased to welcome Johnny Manziel to Alliance of American Football, which we’ve always described as a league of opportunity for talented players to launch or revitalize their pro football careers,” AAF co-founder and head of football Bill Polian said.

“We completed extensive background work to determine whether it would be appropriate for Johnny to play this season, and after consulting with many people familiar with his situation, we concluded that it would be good for him to resume his pro football career here at The Alliance.”

The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner at Texas A&M, Manziel entered the AAF waiver system because his college allocation rights previously had been released by the San Antonio Commanders.

The Express, coached by Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary, held the first claim because they have the league’s worst record at 1-5.

Manziel is expected to report to Memphis on Sunday. The Express lost quarterback Zach Mettenberger to an injury on Saturday.

AAF chairman Tom Dundon said his league had been in contact with Manziel’s camp since the quarterback was released last month from his contract with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes.

Manziel is no longer the property of the Montreal team, and he is not allowed to join any CFL club for violating terms of his contract. Neither the Alouettes or the CFL revealed the exact reason the contract was terminated, but that apparently was not enough to scare off the AAF.

Manziel threw for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns in two seasons at Texas A&M.

He was the No. 22 pick overall in the 2014 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns but was released at the end of the 2015 season. He played in 15 games (eight starts) with the Browns, throwing for 1,675 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Manziel had more interceptions (seven) than touchdown passes (five) in his eight games for Montreal last year. He threw for 1,290 yards.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Troubled QB Manziel signs with AAF

Reports: Troubled QB Manziel signs with AAF

Johnny Manziel may

Reports: Troubled QB Manziel signs with AAF

Johnny Manziel may have found a new home in the Alliance of American Football, according to multiple sources.

AAF chairman Tom Dundon said his league had been in contact with Manziel’s camp since the 26-year-old quarterback was released last month from his contract with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League and reports Saturday said he had agreed to the league’s standard player contract.

Manziel is no longer the property of the Montreal team, and he is not allowed to join any CFL club for violating terms of his contract. Neither the Alouettes or the CFL revealed the exact reason the contract was terminated. But that was apparently not enough to scare off the AAF.

Because Manziel is a product of Texas A&M, where he won the Heisman in 2012, his rights would belong to the AAF’s Texas team, the San Antonio Commanders, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the team had released his college allocation rights. That means he would go through the waiver system, with the team with the worst record in the league having first shot, and so on.

Manziel threw for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns in two seasons at Texas A&M.

He was the No. 22 pick overall in the 2014 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns but was released at the end of the 2015 season. He played in 15 games and made eight starts with the Browns, throwing for 1,675 yards with seven touchdowns.

Manziel had more interceptions (seven) than touchdown passes (five) in his eight games for Montreal last year. He threw for 1,290 yards.

–Field Level Media

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TE Eifert to re-sign with Bengals

TE Eifert to re-sign with Bengals

Injury-plagued tight end Tyler

TE Eifert to re-sign with Bengals

Injury-plagued tight end Tyler Eifert is re-signing with the Cincinnati Bengals, he announced on Twitter on Saturday.

Eifert, a product of Notre Dame, was the No. 21 overall selection by the Bengals in 2013 and played 15 games that season. Since then, he has only reached double-digit games in a season once.

That was 2015, when he scored 13 touchdowns in 13 games. He made the Pro Bowl that year, but an ankle injury in that game limited his action the following season.

He has had season-ending surgery each of the past three seasons. In 2018, it was a broken ankle suffered in Week 4 that sent him to injured reserve.

Eifert, 28, also has battled back problems through the years.

“Excited to be signing back with the @Bengals! Can’t thank the Brown family enough for giving me another opportunity. I look forward to a great season,” his tweet read, in part.

Eifert is signing a one-year contract, according to multiple reports.

He has 142 receptions for 1,716 yards and 21 touchdowns in 43 career games (32 starts).

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Saints C Unger retiring after 10 seasons

Reports: Saints C Unger retiring after 10 seasons

Reports: Saints C Unger retiring after 10 seasons

New Orleans Saints center Max Unger retired Saturday in a surprising development, multiple outlets reported.

Unger, who turns 33 next month, completed his 10th NFL season and earned his third Pro Bowl selection in 2018. He had one year left on a three-year, $22 million contract and was set to earn $5.1 million in base salary in 2019.

With his help, New Orleans ranked third in the league last year in scoring at 31.5 points per game and Drew Brees was only sacked 17 times, fewest of any quarterback in the NFL with at least 10 starts.

Unger started 130 regular season and 12 postseason games with the Seattle Seahawks (2009-14) and Saints (2015-18).

He missed only one of the Saints’ 64 games over the past four seasons. He led the team with 1,013 offensive snaps in 2018.

–Field Level Media

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Raiders part ways with veteran OT Penn

Raiders part ways with veteran OT Penn

The Oakland Raiders

Raiders part ways with veteran OT Penn

The Oakland Raiders released veteran left tackle Donald Penn in what was called a mutual decision Saturday.

Penn, who turns 36 next month, indicated that he wants to return for a 13th NFL season elsewhere in 2019.

“Looking forward to the next chapter of my career — I’ve got a lot of football left!” the three-time Pro Bowl selection posted on Twitter.

Penn missed 12 games with a groin injury in 2018 and was slated to count $7.2 million against Oakland’s salary cap this season.

He became expendable when the Raiders signed former New England Patriots tackle Trent Brown to a four-year, $66 million contract last week.

Undrafted out of Utah State in 2006, Penn played 178 games (174 starts) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2007-13) and Raiders (2014-18).

“Donald will always be a Raider and his presence will be missed by the entire Raiders family,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement. “I wish the absolute best for Donald in his family.”

–Field Level Media

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Rahm soars into third-round lead at Players Championship

Rahm soars into third-round lead at Players Championship

Rahm soars into third-round lead at Players Championship

Jon Rahm of Spain sped his way up the leaderboard with a round-best 64 on Saturday to forge a one-shot lead over Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and England’s Tommy Fleetwood after the third round of play at The Players Championship at the famed TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Rahm’s round Saturday featured seven birdies, one eagle (on the par 5 11th) and one bogey and allowed him finish 54 holes at 15-under-par 201 and to jump nine spots and sleep on the lead with 18 holes to play. Rahm hit nine of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in regulation and had a great day on the greens, with no misses on putts within 10 feet.

McIlroy and Fleetwood each posted up-and-down rounds of 70 on Saturday, with McIlroy missing a 13-foot birdie putt on the par 4 closing hole and hitting just four fairways in the round.

Rahm is in search of his third PGA Tour win and his seventh victory worldwide, most recently the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December.

After playing in near-perfect and warm conditions for the first two days of the tournament, the weather was a factor on Saturday, with temperatures dropping 20 degrees into the 60s and the wind whipping from the north. But the course played softer than expected — a situation that is not likely to be the case in the final round.

Eleven players are at least 10 strokes under par, tying The Players Championship record after 54 holes.

Jason Day of Australia was alone in fourth at 12 under after a third-round 68. Abraham Ancer of Mexico (who shot a 70 on Saturday) stands in fifth, four shots off Rahm’s lead.

Six Americans — Ollie Schniederjans and Brandt Snedeker, each of whom shot 65s — Keegan Bradley (68), Dustin Johnson (69), Brian Harman (71) and Jim Furyk (71) are in a logjam tied for sixth five shots off the pace.

McIlroy and Fleetwood started the third round at 12 under and three shots clear of Furyk, Ian Poulter of England, Harman, and Ancer. Rahm was five shots back.

Fleetwood started the day with a thud, double-bogeying the first hole, and was three over after seven holes. He turned around his day with a birdie on the par-3 eighth and added four more birdies on the back nine, including a near-kick-in three-foot putt on the treacherous par-3 island 17th.

McIlroy’s third round also began poorly, with bogey on the first two holes, but he bounced back with birdies on the third, seventh and eighth holes and shared the lead with Rahm, who finished about an hour in advance of the final pairing, after another birdie on the 11th.

McIlroy has posted Top-10 finishes in five of six starts this season, with a runner up at the WGC-Mexico Championship as his top result.

Defending champion Webb Simpson is tied for 24th at 6 under after his third straight 70, while Tiger Woods finished 54 holes in a tie for 43rd at 3 under after an even-par 72 on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

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Ex Cowboy Irving: Garrett ‘told me I should just quit’

Ex Cowboy Irving: Garrett 'told me I should just quit'

Ex Cowboy Irving: Garrett ‘told me I should just quit’

When suspended Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving shared a post – in which he appeared to be smoking marijuana – on Instagram and announced his retirement last week, it was with coach Jason Garrett’s encouragement, he said.

“He told me I should just quit, smoke all the weed I want, the team didn’t need me,” Irving told USA Today in an interview. “I’m a distraction to the team.

“He views marijuana as a drug, whereas I view it as a medicine. It’s not a good situation.”

Two weeks ago, the NFL suspended Irving indefinitely for a third violation of its policy regarding banned drugs.

“Basically, guys, I quit,” Irving said in his post. “I don’t want to talk about a suspension and all this other nonsense. I’m outta there. I’m not doing this (junk) no more. You know, it’s a lot of reasons.

Now, he said, rather than give up the drug, he will make his living through it. He already has an agreement to market two products — cannabidiol pre-rolls (joints) and cannabidiol vape pens.

Irving said he suffers from mental illnesses that he attributes to football and that players should have the option to treat their ailments with cannabis.

“People need to understand I’m not doing this – I didn’t quit football to smoke weed,” Irving said. “That would be idiotic. I understand that.

“It’s about wellness, about rights. People need to understand that.”

While the Cowboys didn’t respond to USA Today’s request for comment, Irving said owner Jerry Jones understands him.

“Basically, Jerry, he is supportive of me,” Irving said. “He understands my situation and what I was dealing with. Our hands were pretty much tied. His hands were tied.”

Irving, 25, spent the past four seasons with the Cowboys after entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa State. He appeared in 37 games (10 starts) and recorded 12.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and 56 tackles. Irving played in just two games in 2018, notching one sack.

–Field Level Media

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