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NFL morning after: An amazing Sunday, except the refs

An Arizona Cardinals fan celebrates their 27-6 win over the Philadelphia Eagles after their NFL football game in Phoenix Reuters

On Sunday afternoons during the NFL season, I’m sitting in my house with three TVs showing games in one room, plus another game showing on my iPad, with my laptop at the ready to check scores and stats. I have the Sunday Ticket package and I watch the Red Zone channel and the Game Mix channel, and I’m the fastest draw in the West when I need to change the channel. My wife brings me snacks so I don’t have to get up for even a minute. If anyone should be able to keep up with every single thing that happens on an NFL Sunday, it’s me.

And as this Sunday’s nine early games came to the late fourth quarter, even I couldn’t keep up with it all. What an amazing Sunday afternoon.

Don’t you wish we could see Sunday’s highlights as edited by Steve Sabol? Sabol, the NFL Films president who died of brain cancer on Tuesday, would have told an amazing story with the material the NFL gave him on Sunday. The nine early games featured three overtimes, three other games decided by a touchdown or less, a shocking upset by the Vikings, a tremendous defensive effort by the Bears and a Bills-Browns game that was, well . . . let’s just say there were eight really good games.

My choice for the best game of the day was that insane finish in Tennessee, where the Lions came back from 14 points down with 18 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime, only to end up losing 44-41. But the Chiefs-Saints battle was also lots of fun, and every time I looked at the Bengals’ 38-31 win over the Redskins I saw one of the league’s bright young stars (either Cincinnati’s A.J. Green or Washington’s Robert Griffin III) making a big play. There was no shortage of greatness on display on Sunday.

These are the days when you sit there on your couch and just say, This is why I love football. What a great day.

Here are my other thoughts from Week Three in the NFL:

The replacement officials need to pick up the pace. Games are simply taking far too long. Heading into this week the average length of games was about five minutes longer this season than last season, and maybe that doesn’t sound like much. But those delays while the officials are sorting things out are making some games really drag. The Steelers-Raiders game, in particular, felt like it was taking forever. If Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski had missed his game-winning field goal and the game had gone into overtime, it’s entirely possible that it still would have been going on into the start of Sunday Night Football.

The NFL needs to fine Bill Belichick heavily. I don’t care how bad the officials are — and they were bad during Sunday night’s Patriots-Ravens game — you simply cannot put your hands on an official. Belichick put his hands on an official. A fine of $100,000 might be enough to send the message that that simply cannot happen.

Still, the Belichick story shouldn’t overshadow the larger issue. The quality of the officiating in the NFL right now simply isn’t acceptable. The NFL has to fix it.

How did Matt Schaub get cleared so quickly? NFL teams are supposed to have an excess of caution about players suffering concussions, taking the time to have the medical staff check anyone who takes a hard hit to the head, and only clearing players to return to the field if everything is OK. So something seemed suspicious about Texans quarterback Matt Schaub missing only one play after taking a brutal and illegal helmet-to-helmet hit, a hit that had him crumpling to the ground and grabbing his head. I hope I’m wrong to be skeptical, but it sure didn’t seem like Schaub was out long enough to get the kind of thorough examination that a hit like that would warrant.

Jason Hanson should be a Hall of Famer some day. Hanson, the Lions’ 21-year veteran kicker, is the oldest player in the NFL at age 42, and has played 314 games with the Lions, the most games any player has played with one team in NFL history. But Hanson doesn’t just have longevity on his side, he has one of the most impressive kicking legs the game has ever seen. On Sunday against the Titans he went 4-for-4 on field goals, making kicks from 47, 53, 33 and 26 yards. That 53-yard field goal was the 51st field goal of his career from 50 yards or farther, the most any kicker has made in NFL history. Oh, and when Lions punter Ben Graham went down, Hanson stepped in and punted flawlessly, averaging 39.3 hards a punt and landing one of them inside the 20-yard line. Hanson probably won’t make it to the Hall of Fame because kickers are remembered for big field goals in big games, and the Lions haven’t been in many big games in Hanson’s career. But the Hall of Fame is supposed to be about individual greatness, and there’s been no greater kicker in NFL history than Jason Hanson.

Jamaal Charles is in very good company. Charles, the Chiefs’ starting running back, had 233 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards in Sunday’s win over the Saints, joining Jim Brown as the only players in NFL history with at least 225 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards in the same game. Charles and Brown are also the only NFL players with more than 230 rushing yards in two different games. And if Charles keeps running at his career 6.0 yards-per-carry average and gets 196 more rushing attempts, he’ll break Brown’s record for the highest yards-per-carry average of any running back in NFL history with at least 750 carries. For half a century, Brown has been the gold standard for NFL running backs. It’s amazing that Charles is putting himself in Brown’s company.

Greg Schiano is right in the kneeldown controversy. Schiano, the Buccaneers coach who angered Giants coach Tom Coughlin last week by instructing his players to try to force a fumble while the Giants were kneeling down to run out the clock, did it again on Sunday against the Cowboys. Coughlin might not like it, but I do. Schiano coaches football the right way: Play hard until the game is over.

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Broncos cut safety Ryan Murphy, whom they sent home from Super Bowl

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Free safety Ryan Murphy #36 of the Seattle Seahawks in action against the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink Field on September 3, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Denver Broncos waived safety Ryan Murphy on Monday.

Murphy was sent back to Denver prior to Super Bowl 50 after police questioned him in regards to a prostitution sting in San Jose. A Bay Area native, Murphy was not cited by police in the investigation. However, head coach Gary Kubiak elected to send him back to limit any distractions in the lead up to the game.

Murphy was re-signed to a futures contract in February. He was a seventh-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks last year.

Denver also released punter Will Johnson after drafting Syracuse punter Riley Dixon in the seventh round of the NFL Draft on Saturday.

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Von Miller gets the boot from Dancing with the Stars

Zz1mYmE5NDUzZjQ5MDk1MGYyOTEwZGM0N2ViZmZlZGIyMg== AP

Broncos linebacker Von Miller won’t be expanding his trophy case before next February.

Miller, who chased his Super Bowl 50 MVP award with an appearance on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, has been eliminated from the contest, via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.

As a practical matter, Miller is now available to participate in the Broncos’ offseason program, which launched Phase Two on Monday. Though unsigned, he can participate by signing a letter of protection, which will guarantee his $14.1 million franchise tender if he suffers a season-ending injury on team property.

Miller presumably will continue to withhold services as leverage toward a long-term deal. But if he suffers a season-ending injury while working out on his own, Miller will get nothing from the Broncos this year.

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Maccagnan says Hackenberg could play this year

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The Jets possibly didn’t devote a second-round pick to quarterback Christian Hackenberg to have him hold a clipboard in 2016.

G.M. Mike Maccagnan told WEPN-FM in New York on Monday that Hackenberg could play as a rookie.

“I think, with any player coming into the league, there’s definitely a maturation process, and it doesn’t matter, again, what position you play,” Maccagnan said, via Dom Cosentino of NJ.com. “I think quarterbacks are probably one of the harder positions to transition into the NFL. I know there’s always a desire and feel to have them go out there and play right away. The reality of it is, though, it’s going to be determined by how he does. And I think my personal opinion is we’ll see where he’s at and how he is in terms of assimilating to our offense and our system. But like I said, I think it’s a natural maturation process.”

Maccagnan apparently hopes that Hackenberg, who played his best college football as a true freshman at Penn State, will have an extended maturation process.

“I think in a perfect world, especially with quarterbacks — some quarterbacks come in and play right away, and some do well, and some struggle, and they go through growing pains,” Maccagnan said. “But I think at the end of the day, in a perfect world, you like to give those guys a chance to sort of grow, develop before you have to throw them into the fire.”

Maccagnan also addresses a broader question that many Jets fans have asked since the Hackenberg pick was made: Why him?

“I can’t really have insight into how everybody views him and sees him,” Maccagnan said. “I just know that we liked him and we thought he was a good prospect. Again, there’s risk. We know that. But we also think that there’s also a lot of potential there to develop into a very good player, too.”

By rolling the dice on Hackenberg, Jets management now has a vested interest in him, which means at some point they’ll get him onto the field to see what he can do. If Ryan Fitzpatrick returns, that likely won’t happen at least until the Jets are eliminated from postseason contention in 2016.

If Fitzpatrick doesn’t re-sign, who knows? The Hackenberg Show could be debuting just down the road from Hackensack.

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Seahawks sign quarterback Jake Heaps

Jake Heaps AP

The Seattle Seahawks signed another free agent quarterback to add to their depth following the NFL Draft.

Seattle signed former New York Jets quarterback Jake Heaps on Monday after adding TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin as an undrafted free agent. Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams will also attend the team’s rookie mini-camp this weekend as a tryout player.

Heaps grew up outside Seattle in Issaquah and was the No. 1 prep quarterback in the country at Skyline High School. His college career didn’t live up to that lofty expectation as he bounced from BYU to Kansas to Miami during his career. He signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent last May. He spent training camp with the team before being released in August.

Heaps took part in Pro Day workouts at the University of Washington in March to get back in front of pro scouts.

The Seahawks said they have still been in discussions with Tarvaris Jackson about returning in a backup role. However, Heaps, Boykin and potentially Adams give Seattle some passers for offseason practices at the very least.

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Final count: 12 first-round picks from ’13 have fifth-year options declined

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The decisions are in, and 12 first-round picks from 2013 did not have their fifth-year contract options picked up by the teams that drafted them.

The deadline for such decisions was Monday. Some were of the last-minute variety, though it’s possible some teams just held off on announcements until Monday.

PFT tracked them all here.

There were slam-dunk option decisions — those for Tyler Eifert, Kyle Long and DeAndre Hopkins come to mind — and some close calls. We didn’t find out until Monday that the Chiefs picked up 2013 No. 1 pick Eric Fisher’s option, or that the Jaguars declined to pick up the option on the No. 2 pick from 2013, Luke Joeckel.

Those players whose options were picked up now have their 2017 salaries guaranteed. Those whose options weren’t exercised can be free agents following the 2016 season.

Among the decisions either not made until Monday or only released by various sources and reports, the Ravens declining the option on safety Matt Elam, the Raiders declining the option on cornerback D.J. Hayden and the Packers declining the option on outside linebacker Datone Jones were among the easiest.

Some of the players whose options were declined could still end up signing new deals with their current teams, as Doug Martin did in March following a big season with the Buccaneers. Among this group, Lane Johnson had previously signed a long-term deal with the Eagles, while a Dion Jordan decision is still a year away for the Dolphins due to his suspension.

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Steelers decline fifth-year option on Jarvis Jones

New York Giants v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Steelers have declined to pick up the fifth-year option on outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, per multiple reports.

The deadline for picking up the options on 2013 first-round picks is midnight Monday. If the Steelers were debating the option or potentially negotiating a long-term deal with Jones is unclear.

The option would have paid Jones $8.4 million in 2017, so the Steelers declining it makes financial sense.

The two sides can still negotiate a long-term deal. His rookie contract will now expire following the 2016 season.

Jones started 15 games in 2015 and had his best season, recording two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. He has started 26 of 36 career games and has just five sacks in three seasons.

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Vikings sign Moritz Boehringer

92632828 Getty Images

Moritz Boerhinger has another “first” to add to his list of accomplishments: He’s the first draft pick to sign a contract in 2016.

The Vikings have announced that the sixth-rounder from Germany who played no college football has agreed to terms on a four-year deal.

The man who made the pick, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman, appeared on Monday’s PFT Live. I asked, “How can you evaluate someone who never played college football?”

Spielman laughed and said coach Mike Zimmer asked Spielman the exact same question.

It won’t be easy for Boehringer, because he’s never faced competition of the quality he’s about to see. We’ll all see whether he can meet the challenge.

He has the physical skills to do it, but the game is a lot more than that. With Zimmer’s guidance, maybe Boehringer can gradually become a real contributor.

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Dana Stubblefield faces rape allegation

dana-stubblefield-2 Getty Images

Former NFL defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield faces rape charges in California.

According to Jason Green of Bay Area News Group, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office formally accused Stubblefield, 45, of raping a “developmentally delayed” female.

“This was a crime of violence against a vulnerable victim,” Deputy District Attorney Tim McInerny said in a statement. “She was looking for a job and she was unconscionably assaulted.”

Stubblefield allegedly contacted the woman through an online service under the guise of looking for a nanny. He allegedly interviewed her on April 9, 2015, she left, and she soon received a text message from Stubblefield indicating he wanted to pay her for her time.

At that point, she allegedly returned to the house, where Stubblefield allegedly picked her up, carried her to a room, and raped her. He then allegedly gave her $80 and let her leave.

The alleged victim went directly to a police station and said she’d been raped by a man named Dana. Stubblefield’s DNA allegedly matched DNA obtained from the victim.

Stubblefield is accused of five felony counts and faces, according to prosecutors, a substantial prison sentence if convicted.

He spent 11 years in the NFL, playing for the 49ers from 1993 through 1997, Washington from 1998 through 2000, the 49ers again in 2001 and 2002, and the Raiders in 2003. A three-time Pro Bowler, Stubblefield was the 1993 NFL defensive rookie of the year and the 1997 NFL defensive player of the year.

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Saints add 19 undrafted free agents

New Orleans Saints line up hemet-to-helmet for play  against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers January 1, 2006 in Tampa. The Bucs defeated the Saints 27 - 13 to win the NFL South Championship and a playoff spot. Getty Images

The Saints have supplemented their draft class by adding 19 undrafted free agents. The team announced the full slate of rookies who chose the Saints, and not vice-versa, on Monday.

The new Saints are Michigan State offensive lineman Jack Allen, Wisconsin defensive back Mike Caputo, Texas A&M offensive lineman Joseph Cheek, Colorado defensive back Ken Crawley, Western Kentucky wide receiver Jared Dangerfield, Mississippi defensive back Trae Elston, Texas A&M defensive back De’Vante Harris, Boise State offensive lineman Marcus Henry, Michigan running back Sione Houma, Alabama linebacker Dillon Lee, Northern Illinois receiver Tommylee Lewis, Arkansas defensive lineman Mitchell Loewen, BYU offensive lineman Ryker Mathews, Alabama defensive lineman D.J. Pettway, North Carolina linebacker Jeff Schoettmer, Louisiana-Lafayette linebacker Dominique Tovell, North Carolina offensive lineman Landon Turner, Ball State receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert, and Auburn offensive lineman Avery Young.

Coupled with the team’s five draft picks, that’s 24 new players and not a single new quarterback. So much for the chatter that they were considering Paxton Lynch.

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Bills decline fifth-year option on EJ Manuel

EJ Manuel AP

The Bills officially have two quarterbacks entering contract years.

Starter Tyrod Taylor, who signed a two-year deal in 2015, already was on the front end of the final season of his stay, pending an extension. Joining him is 2013 first-rounder EJ Manuel.

Per multiple reports, the Bills opted not to pick up the fifth-year option on Manuel.

It’s the latest confusing signal from the club regarding a quarterback who has moved up and down the depth chart, repeatedly, in three NFL seasons. And it’s the clearest sign yet that the Bills admit the decision to select him three years ago with the 15th overall pick was a mistake.

Manuel started 10 games at a rookie, four in 2014, and two last year. His 2015 starts came when Taylor was injured.

For his career, Manuel has a 59.1-percent completion percentage, 3,371 passing yards, 19 touchdown passes, and 15 interceptions. He also has lost four fumbles.

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Patriots won’t pick up Jonathan Cooper’s option

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 26:  Wide receiver Michael Floyd #15 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates with teammates John Brown #12 and Jonathan Cooper #61 after scoring a three-yard touchdown against linebacker Zach Orr #54 of the Baltimore Ravens in the second quarter of the NFL game at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 26, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Nils Nilsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots didn’t make a first-round pick in 2013, but they did have a decision to make about a 2017 option for a player who did go on the first day of the draft that year.

New England acquired guard Jonathan Cooper in a trade with the Cardinals this offseason that sent defensive end Chandler Jones to the desert, leaving them with the chance to secure the rights to Cooper beyond this season. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team is passing on that chance, which sets Cooper up for free agency after the 2016 campaign.

Cooper missed his entire rookie season with a broken leg and made 11 starts over the last two seasons for Arizona while playing in 24 games. That’s not the kind of track record that leads teams to pick up $11.9 million options that are guaranteed against injury only.

There were five offensive linemen selected in the first 10 picks of the 2013 draft. Cooper, Jaguars tackle Luke Joeckel and Titans guard Chance Warmack have all had their options declined while tackle Lane Johnson signed an extension with the Eagles, making Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher the only member of that group to have his option exercised.

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Sanchez sees decision to draft quarterback as vote of confidence

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In Philadelphia, the incumbent veteran quarterback reacted poorly to the team’s decision to use a first-round pick on a quarterback. In Denver, the opposite has occurred.

Veteran Mark Sanchez said Monday that he regards the decision to draft a quarterback instead of acquiring a more experience passer as a positive.

“Absolutely,” Sanchez told reporters as to whether he views the move as a vote of confidence. “That’s been the message that I’ve received. I’m thrilled about this opportunity.”

Then again, it sounds as if Sanchez was going to view the glass as half full regardless of how much of the milkshake another quarterback drank out of it.

“Whether it was a veteran that came in, any of the names that were out there, any of these guys in the draft that are becoming pros this year, my focus wouldn’t change,” Sanchez said. “The most important thing for me was getting involved with the players here, meeting these guys, develop a relationship, learn this playbook as fast as I can and then get involved in the community and establish myself as a leader on this team. That’s going to take time and that’s going to take reps, no matter who was here. It happens to be Paxton [Lynch]. We’re happy. He’s a great talent. He’s going to add to our quarterback room. That’s going to make it fun.”

Sanchez said he texted a note of congratulations to Lynch and all of the rookies.

“It’s a special day for all of those guys,” Sanchez said. “Drafted or undrafted, they’re realizing their NFL dreams. That was the first thing I said. ‘Congratulations on that, welcome to the team, holler if you need anything.’”

Sanchez also had no expectation that he’d heat from coach Gary Kubiak or G.M. John Elway before the team acquired a quarterback.

“They don’t owe me that,” Sanchez said. “They don’t owe me anything like that [or] any of the players. This is their team. They’re going to do exactly what they want to do. I think the message is clear. We’ll roll with that. I’m excited to be a part of it. We’re just getting rolling. It’s Phase Two [of the offseason program]. It was fun today, so it was nice to get on the field with these guys.”

Eventually, Sanchez and Lynch will be competing for the starting job. Trevor Siemian, a seventh-round pick in 2015, also will be in the mix. The former Northwestern quarterback told reporters on Monday that he “absolutely” believes he has a chance to win the starting job.

Siemian has a built-in advantage, because he knows the offense and learned last year from Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. With, as Siemian said, an expectation that reps will be divided evenly in the offseason, Siemian has a chance.

“I think I don’t try and do anything crazy,” Siemian said. “I think [if I] play my best football, I’ve got a chance. I’m going to take it one day at a time and go from there.”

One thing we know about the Broncos is that whoever is playing the best will get to play on Sundays. The team that pulled the plug on Tebowmania, benched Peyton Manning, and then benched Brock Osweiler has proven that, when it comes to the quarterback position, there’s no sacred cow or anointed one. The best player plays, and that attitude coaches all players to play their best.

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Jake Coker among 16 undrafted free agent signings by Cardinals

during the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. Getty Images

Heading into the draft, there was some thought that the Cardinals would take a young quarterback to develop behind Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.

The seven rounds of the draft came and went without Arizona taking a quarterback, but the team added an undrafted rookie with a winning pedigree to the mix on Monday. The Cardinals announced that they have signed former Alabama quarterback Jake Coker, who piloted the Crimson Tide offense on their way to a national title in his final college season.

Coker’s play wasn’t the biggest reason why Alabama did so well in 2015 and the fact that he was both not invited to the Combine and undrafted speaks to the general feeling that an NFL career is an iffy bet. If he shows promise, the Cardinals could keep him ahead of Matt Barkley as their No. 3, however.

The Cardinals also signed a pair of long snappers. Daniel Dillon, who went to Campbell, and Kameron Canaday, who went to Portland State, will be in the mix to replace the retired Mike Leach.

The rest of the Cardinals signings are Arizona running back Jared Baker, Appalachian State wide receiver Jeff Bethard, Calgary cornerback Eli Bouka, Notre Dame wide receiver Amir Carlisle, Eastern Washington tackle Clay DeBord, Notre Dame safety Matthias Farley, SW Oklahoma State cornerback Trevon Hartfield, Duquesne wide receiver Chris King, LSU linebacker Lamar Louis, Nebraska tackle Givens Price, Fresno State punter Garrett Swanson, Monmouth tight end Hakeem Valles and Western Michigan cornerback Ronald Zamort.

 

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Long snapper “very surprised” Lions drafted him

jimmylandes AP

If you were surprised when you saw the Lions draft Baylor long snapper Jimmy Landes on Saturday, you’re not alone. Landes was surprised too.

I was very surprised,” Landes said, via MLive.com. “I was expecting free agency, just because I know how rare long snappers get drafted. I wasn’t expecting anything in the draft.”

If you enjoy a good, old-fashioned long snapper training camp competition, you’ll want to keep an eye on the Lions’ camp. Landes will compete for a roster spot with Don Muhlbach, the team’s longest-tenured player. Muhlbach re-signed with the Lions this offseason and got $80,000 guaranteed, and Landes knows he’ll have to out-perform Muhlbach in camp to get the job.

“I’m getting ready to meet him and just compete,” Landes said. “That’s what I was expecting to do, just whatever team I went to I was expecting to compete, so that’s what I’m ready to come in and work hard.”

The Lions wouldn’t use a draft pick on Landes if they weren’t confident he could beat out Muhlbach. Landes was a surprise draft pick, but now it would be a surprise if he doesn’t make the roster.

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Report: Dre Kirkpatrick had shoulder surgery

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 28:  Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos looks for room to run against cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick #27 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the second quarter of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 28, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bengals took a cornerback in the first round of the draft for the third time in the last five years when they took William Jackson with the 24th overall pick, a move that gives them an option in place in the event Dre Kirkpatrick leaves as a free agent after this season.

It also gives them an option in the event Kirkpatrick’s health is a problem again during the 2016 season. Kirkpatrick dealt with a shoulder injury for much of last season — he was initially injured in Week Three — and Coley Harvey of ESPN.com reports that he had surgery earlier this offseason to repair the problem.

Kirkpatrick, who also appeared on the injury report with a variety of lower body injuries, is still rehabbing after the procedure and is expected to be healthy enough to participate in OTAs when they begin later this month. He didn’t miss any games last season, but his play — which featured 70 tackles and 16 passes defensed — came in for some criticism over the season.

The Bengals re-signed Adam Jones this offseason and have 2014 first-round pick Darqueze Dennard on the roster at cornerback as well.

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