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Panthers cut Justin Medlock, sign Graham Gano

Justin Medlock AP

Justin Medlock has missed his last three field goal attempts, which is a big part of the reason why any future tries will take place as a member of a team other than the Panthers.

Carolina made a change at kicker on Tuesday, dropping Medlock and signing former Redskins K Graham Gano. Medlock made all seven of his tries through Week Eight, including a 5-for-5 day in a 23-22 loss to the Bears, but he’s missed a field goal in each of the team’s last three games. Medlock’s miss against Tampa in Week 11 came just before halftime and loomed large when the Buccaneers came back to tie the game at the end of regulation before winning it in overtime.

“You’ve got to make kicks. I’m not here to make excuses. They were good snaps, good holds,” Medlock said, via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. “You miss two kicks in the NFL, you can be unemployed.”

Medlock was a fifth-round pick of the Chiefs in 2007, but got cut by them after he went 1-for-2 on field goals in his first game. He spent time with several CFL teams before signing with the Panthers before the season and beating out Olindo Mare this summer.

Gano, who worked out for the Panthers on Tuesday before signing, lost a training camp battle to Billy Cundiff in Washington, didn’t get the call when the Redskins reversed course and cut Cundiff during the season. Gano made 31-of-41 field goals with the Redskins in 2011 and 59-of-80 during his three years with the team. According to Person, Nate Kaeding also worked out for the team Tuesday before they signed Gano.

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Pettine confirms McCown is the favorite to start over Manziel

Mike Pettine, Johnny Manziel AP

Browns coach Mike Pettine says Josh McCown looks like he’ll open training camp as the starting quarterback, ahead of Johnny Manziel.

Asked on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland if McCown is the favorite to be the starting quarterback going into training camp, Pettine said, “I think it’s fair to say that.”

According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, a Browns spokesman said Pettine’s answer referred to McCown being the favorite to begin camp as the starter, but not necessarily to begin the season as the starter. Still, the quarterback who enters training camp as the starter is usually the quarterback who enters the season as the starter.

And in Cleveland, that’s McCown. Manziel did nothing as a rookie to make Pettine think he deserves to be the starting quarterback, and will have to do something in training camp to unseat McCown for the job.

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NFL explains “Los Angeles Rams” web page

St. Louis Rams v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

As a trio of NFL franchises slowly circle Los Angeles, a now-removed quirk in the league’s official website suggested that at least one of them will eventually land there. The NFL claims there’s nothing to it.

Via Joe Holleman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the NFL says that a “Los Angeles Rams” page arises from a glitch in the website that assigns teams to cities that used to have teams.

“It’s a bug in the system that, when you manipulate the URL, will pull up a legacy team from that city if no current one exists,” NFL spokesman Alex Riethmiller told Holleman.

So by putting in “LA” as the search term, a page emerged for the Los Angeles Rams. That page has since been removed.

“The same error occurs if you change the URL to ‘BOS.’ In that case, a Boston Patriots page will show up with New England Patriots content,” Riethmiller said.

The St. Louis task force charged with solving the team’s stadium problem locally accepts the NFL’s version of the events.

‘We’re perfectly satisfied with the explanation and appreciate that they reached out to us,” said a statement from the task force.

The explanation appears to be legitimate. Using the code “PHO” returns a page for the Phoenix Cardinals.

But the glitch has its limits. Inserting “POT” unfortunately does not return a page for the Pottsville Maroons.

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Texans give Whitney Mercilus four-year, $26 million extension

Nick Foles, Whitney Mercilus AP

The Texans didn’t pick up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of 2012 first-round pick Whitney Mercilus, but now that’s moot. Mercilus and the Texans have agreed on a four-year contract extension.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that Mercilus will get a $5.25 million signing bonus, $10.8 million guaranteed and $26 million over the life of the contract, which keeps him tied to Houston through the 2019 season.

In three seasons with the Texans, Mercilus has played in every game but one and recorded 18 sacks. He’s part of a front sevent that Houston has spent a lot of resources building, with players including J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork, Jadeveon Clowney, Brian Cushing and this year’s second-round pick, Benardrick McKinney.

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Mariota: Goodell called to apologize for mispronouncing name

Mariota AP

Quarterback Marcus Mariota’s name routinely is mispronounced, with the first syllable of his last name being spoken like the “A” in Mary and not the “A” in, well, Marcus. On Thursday night, Commissioner Roger Goodell got the first syllable right — but he got the last one wrong.

“Marioto” is what Goodell said. Not long after that, Goodell called Mariota to say, “Sorry.”

Via Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com, Mariota told 104.5 The Zone in Nashville on Monday that Goodell phoned the No. 2 overall pick later that night to acknowledge the error.

“Everyone was cheering so loud that I wasn’t able to actually hear it,” Mariota said. “He gave me a call probably half an hour later. He apologized, and I’m like, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’ But he was really apologetic and I truly respect that for sure.”

It’s good that Goodell apologized. It would have been better if he hadn’t gotten it wrong. While we all make mistakes when speaking (and I make plenty of them during three hours of extemporaneous radio every day), the practice of delivering one name at a time roughly 10 minutes apart should entail a success rate much closer to 100 percent — especially when any tricky pronunciations are pre-printed on the cards containing the players’ names.

Which leads to another point.  Now that the first round of the NFL draft has become a prime-time TV spectacle, why is the Commissioner still the one who announces the picks?  Whether they hire James Earl Jones or Michael Buffer or Jeremy Irons or Sam Elliott or Morgan Freeman, the draft has become big enough that the NFL should consider getting a professional speaker with a memorable voice to call out the names — especially if the Commissioner isn’t going to nail each and every name, each and every year.

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Buccaneers claim Reid Fragel off waivers, sign 13 rookie free agents

Cleveland Browns v Washington Redskins 8-18-2014 Getty Images

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter moved from the Falcons to the Buccaneers to the offseason and now one of his former charges in Atlanta will be making the same trip.

The Buccaneers announced that they have claimed tackle Reid Fragel off of waivers. Fragel was one of five Falcons players cut loose during the draft as they cleared roster space for new arrivals.

Fragel was a seventh-round pick of the Bengals in 2013 and spent time with the Browns later in his rookie season, so he’s already done quite a bit of traveling in his short NFL career. He should have some familiarity with what Koetter wants to do on offense after spending time with Atlanta last year, which could help him compete for a roster spot in the coming months.

Tampa signed 13 other players that will be competing for roster spots along with Fragel after going undrafted. They are Iowa linebacker Quinton Alston, Louisville running back Dominique Brown, Idaho defensive tackle Quayshawne Buckley, Brown long snapper Courtland Clavette, Towson defensive end Ryan Delaire, Texas A&M cornerback Deshazor Everett, TCU safety Chris Hackett, UCF wide receiver Rannell Hall, Boston College linebacker Josh Keyes, Tusculum defensive tackle Caushaud Lyons, UCF wide receiver Josh Reese, Kansas linebacker Michael Reynolds and Jones County Junior College defensive end Jamal Young

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Fifth-year options picked up for 20 of 32 first-round picks

Trent Richardson AP

Of the 32 players chosen in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft, 20 got their fifth-year options picked up.

Today was the deadline for NFL teams to decide whether to pick up those fifth-year options, and for the second consecutive year most teams decided to pick the option up. Last year (the first time teams were faced with fifth-year options under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement) 21 fifth-year options were picked up.

Seven players had their fifth-year options declined: Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, Rams safety Mark Barron, Seahawks pass rusher Bruce Irvin, Bears linebacker Shea McClellin, Texans pass rusher Whitney Mercilus, Packers linebacker Nick Perry and Buccaneers running back Doug Martin.

Three first-round draft picks from 2012 have no fifth-year options to pick up because they’ve already been cut: Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden and A.J. Jenkins.

And two other first-round draft picks from 2012 have no fifth-year options: Giants running back David Wilson retired after suffering a neck injury, while Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon’s contract has been placed on hold while he’s suspended for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

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Snead explains Rams’ attraction to, hopes for Todd Gurley

Gurley

The Rams provided arguably the biggest surprise of a relatively surprise-free draft by pouncing on running back Todd Gurley with the 10th overall pick.  On Monday, G.M. Les Snead appeared on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio to discuss the decision to take Gurley.

Snead explained that Gurley had a high degree of success running the ball in the SEC.  Snead said that, in recent years, tailbacks who have thrived in that conference have done well at the next level.  The Rams believe that’s precisely what will happen with Gurley.

Snead also said that the Rams feel good about Gurley’s surgically-repaired ACL and the various tissues around it.  Asked if the Rams may be trying to copy Seattle’s formula of great defense, great running back, and competent passing game, Snead acknowledged that wouldn’t be a bad approach.

It also wouldn’t be a bad approach for you to give a listen to the interview with Snead.

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Raiders parting ways with veteran blocker Kevin Boothe

Oakland Raiders v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Raiders drafted a pair of offensive lineman on the draft’s third day, and that was apparently enough to convince them to let a veteran backup go.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, the Raiders are cutting veteran offensive lineman Kevin Boothe.

Boothe appeared in just nine games last year, with no starts. Prior to that, he was a viable part for the Giants, starting 16 games for them in each of the previous two seasons. He could still find work, as he’s not that far removed from playing good football.

The Raiders took Miami guard Jon Feliciano in the fourth round, and Tennessee State’s Anthony Morris in the seventh.

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Saints release three while adding 13 undrafted rookies

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The days after the draft are spent signing undrafted rookies with dreams of playing in the NFL.

That optimism is often accompanied by the news that few members of the roster have seen their own dreams take a shot. That’s the case in New Orleans, where three players have been released to make room for the incoming signees.

The Saints announced Monday that they have released safety Marcus Ball, safety Ty Zimmerman and linebacker Kyle Knox. Ball and Knox each played 12 games for the Saints last season with most of the action coming on special teams.

Among the 13 players signed is New Hampshire wide receiver R.J. Harris, who drew visits from a few NFL teams before the draft after catching 100 passes and making the FCS All-American team. The team also signed tight end Harold Spears, who played with Harris in college.

Clemson defensive lineman Tavaris Barnes, Syracust tackle Sean Hickey, Texas A&M wide receiver Malcome Kennedy, Mississippi State defensive lineman Kaleb Eulls, Indiana defensive lineman Bobby Richardson, Notre Dame College guard Doniel Gambrell, Texas-San Antonio defensive lineman Ashaad Mabry, North Texas guard Cyril Lemon, West Texas A&M linebacker Marcus Pierce-Brewster, SMU linebacker Stephon Sanders and North Carolina tight end Jack Tabb round out the group.

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Bills add 13 undrafted free agents

BYU v Texas Getty Images

The Bills didn’t draft any defensive linemen this year, but they added five players to the group on Monday.

Defensive end Alex Carrington returned to the team as a free agent after spending last season with the Rams and the team added five other defensive linemen as undrafted free agents.

Defensive end Cedric Reed played for the biggest program, but never really established himself at Texas before turning in a good final season that was followed by knee surgery. He’ll need to build on that to earn a spot with the Bills. They also signed Louisiana-Lafayette defensive tackle Justin Hamilton, Utah State defensive end B.J. Larsen and Bethune Cookman defensive end Erik Williams.

The rest of the undrafted aspirants are South Florida wide receiver Andre Davis, Washington linebacker Andrew Hudson, Florida tight end Clay Burton, Illinois State tackle Jermaine Barton, N.C. State tackle Tyson Chandler, Western Kentucky cornerback Cam Thomas, Wake Forest cornerback Merrill Noel, Baylor punter Spencer Roth and Stanford A.J. Tarpley.

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Justin Smith: You’ll know in three weeks or so if I’m playing in 2015

Justin Smith AP

After making defensive lineman Arik Armstead their first-round pick on Thursday, 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said that the selection wasn’t made because of the uncertainty about Justin Smith’s status for 2015.

It was made because the 49ers know they are going to need to replace Smith’s production in the near future whatever he decides about this season. They should have an idea just how soon that need will arise in about a month.

Smith told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee that “you’ll know in about three weeks or so” whether he’s going to return for a 15th and likely final NFL season. Barrows reports that Smith is working out regularly and looks good, although Smith cautioned not to read into that because he’d work out regularly even if he wasn’t returning.

Smith also said that he feels good physically, but added that “everybody feels good at this time of the year” so there’s probably not much to read into that as a hint either.

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Tyler Eifert expects to be ready for camp

Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Bengals drafted a pair of tight ends over the weekend, but it doesn’t look like concerns about Tyler Eifert’s recovery from shoulder and elbow surgeries was the impetus to double down on the position.

Eifert said Monday that he’s waiting to get full clearance to return from his shoulder injury, a torn labrum that he had repaired after dislocating his elbow in the first game of last season. He expects to get that clearance before the start of training camp and is working to rebuild his strength until then.

“It’s just hard when you’re starting over physically,” Eifert said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I lost a lot of weight, a lot of muscle. I couldn’t really do anything there for three or four months. So just getting that back, getting back in the groove of lifting and getting strong, that’s probably been the hardest part. As far as the plays and being in here with the guys, it feels like I never missed a beat. Being out here on the field today, it’s kind of like riding a bike. Once you get back out there its all the same.”

With Eifert on the way back, third-round pick Tyler Kroft and fifth-rounder C.J. Uzomah will likely be part of the competition for the snaps left behind by Jermaine Gresham’s departure. If that approach pans out, the Bengals should be well stocked at tight end in 2015.

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Florida State line coach wishes all his guys would become Patriots

Jackson Getty Images

Florida State has had 29 players drafted in the last three years, a record in the era of the seven-round selection process. Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett wishes more of his unit’s players would be Patriots.

“I wish they would take all my guys, because they’re about the only damn team that knows what the hell to do with them,” Trickett told Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.

Last year, the Patriots got former Florida State center Bryan Stork in round four. This year, they got former FSU guard Tre’ Jackson in round four.

Stork became a starter as a rookie. Jackson now has a chance to do the same thing.

“He’ll do whatever he’s got to do to help them win, and that’s the main thing,” Trickett said of Jackson.  “That’s why New England wins. Guys do what the team needs. That’s what I try to raise them on. Don’t worry about the vertical jump, the broad jump, all that stuff.

“It’s more about finding a damn football player. Tre’ is a football player.”

And he’s more than that.

“He is a great guy,” Trickett said of Jackson. “He is a Patriots kind of kid. He is everything they want. He has never missed a meeting, a practice or a game here in four years. He is that kind of guy. He is a great person, has got a great family, and he’ll be a great football player. He’s got an edge on him now. He’s wanting to show people who slipped him down to the fourth round. I think they got a second-round player in the fourth round.”

Based on what Stork did last year, there’s no reason to doubt Trickett when it comes to Jackson.

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Baton Rouge police: La’el Collins is still not a suspect

2015 NFL Scouting Combine Getty Images

LSU offensive lineman La’El Collins would have been a first-round pick last week, but for his connection to a double-murder investigation.

But his current status goes far beyond anything involving his freefall through the entire 2015 NFL Draft.

Collins met with investigators this morning, and apparently it went well.

According to Jerit Roser of the New Orleans Times Picayune, the Baton Rouge Police Department said Collins “fully cooperated with investigators and is still not considered a suspect.”

While that’s not exactly the same as “cleared,” his attorney has expressed confidence that would be the case.

While an NFL team could sign him at any point, it’s reasonable to expect that they’ll wait until there’s a clearer reading of the situation, before anyone proceeds.

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Bills sign Alex Carrington

Carolina Panthers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Bills are back in the Alex Carrington business.

The defensive tackle was a third-round pick of the team in 2010 and spent four years on their defensive line before making the move to the Rams as a free agent last year. The Bills changed coaching staffs during the offseason and Carrington came in for a visit with Rex Ryan’s crew that led to the reunion.

Carrington played defensive end in a three-man front during his last stint with the Bills and could be in the mix for a similar role given Ryan’s past preference for that front. With Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes all back in Buffalo, there are a lot of ways for Buffalo to go on the defensive line. Carrington will also figure into special teams with six blocked kicks highlighting his first tour with the Bills.

Signing Carrington, who was an unrestricted free agent after playing out his contract in St. Louis, before May 12 will work against the Bills in the compensatory pick formula for next year’s draft.

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