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Peterson, Megatron aren’t the only ones closing in on NFL records

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Every NFL fan knows that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Lions receiver Calvin Johnson are closing in on single-season yardage records. But did you know that Jets punt returner Jeremy Kerley is closing in on the single-season record for most fair catches?

Probably not. And I didn’t either, until I wasted way too much time thumbing through the NFL Record and Fact Book, finding nine single-season records that might be broken in the next nine days. Here they are, in order of importance:

Most Rushing Yards: Peterson has 1,812 yards this season, putting him 294 away from breaking Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105, set in 1984. Gaining 294 yards in two games isn’t easy, but it’s definitely doable for Peterson.

Most Receiving Yards: Johnson has 1,667 yards this season, putting him 182 away from breaking Jerry Rice’s record of 1,848, set in 1995. Johnson may break the record on Saturday night against the Falcons, and if he falls short of that he’ll have an excellent chance of doing it in Week 17.

Most Sacks: Houston’s J.J. Watt and San Francisco’s Aldon Smith are both at 19.5, three away from Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see both of them break it.

Most 50-yard Field Goals: Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh has already tied the NFL record owned by Morten Andersen and Jason Hanson, with eight 50-yard field goals this season. If Walsh connects from 50 or beyond in either of the Vikings’ last two regular-season games, he’ll own the record all to himself. Two other kickers, Tampa Bay’s Connor Barth and Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski, have six 50-yard field goals so far this season and have a shot at breaking the record in the next two weeks.

Most 100-Yard Receiving Games: In addition to the single-season yardage record, Johnson is closing in on the single-season 100-yard game record. Johnson has 10 games of at least 100 receiving yards this season. Michael Irvin’s NFL record is 11.

Most Pass Attempts: Detroit’s Matthew Stafford has 629 attempts this season, putting him 63 passes away from Drew Bledsoe’s single-season record of 691. Barring injury, Stafford is likely to break it while trying to help Megatron get a more significant record.

Highest Net Punting Average: Saints punter Thomas Morstead is currently averaging 44.7 net yards per punt. He’s well on his way to breaking the all-time record, which the 49ers’ Andy Lee set last year when he averaged 43.99 yards per punt.

Most Punts Inside the 20: Chiefs punter Dustin Colquit has put 41 punts inside the 20 this season, putting him one away from tying and two away from breaking the record of 42. That record is shared by three punters, all of whom did it within the last five years: Andy Lee in 2007, Ben Graham of the Cardinals in 2009 and Steve Weatherford of the Jets in 2010.

Most Fair Catches: OK, so we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here. This isn’t quite up there with the most prestigious records in all of sports, but Jets punt returner Jeremy Kerley has fair caught 31 punt returns this season, putting him only two away from the all-time record of 33, set by Brian Mitchell of the Eagles in 2000. Most fair catches is just the kind of record this Jets team deserves.

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Five players get the franchise tag, one player gets the transition tag

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All 32 teams have the ability to tag a player and keep him from hitting unrestricted free agency. But 26 teams declined to do so.

In the end, only five players got the franchise tag before today’s 4 p.m. deadline. One other player got the transition tag.

No one got the “exclusive” franchise player tag, which comes with a higher price tag but prevents the player from negotiating with any other team. All five franchised players got the non-exclusive tag, which means they can negotiate with other teams and sign elsewhere, but if they do sign with another team, the current team gets to choose between either matching the offer and keeping the player, or declining to match the offer and getting two first-round draft picks from the player’s new team.

Here are the five players who got the non-exclusive franchise tag, and the amount of the tender offer for each:
Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul ($14,813,000)
Chiefs OLB Justin Houston ($13,195,000)
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant ($12,823,000)
Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas ($12,823,000)
Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski ($4,126,000)

Additionally, one player got the transition tag, which comes with a lower price tag and allows the team to match any offer to the player — but does not result in any draft pick compensation if the player signs elsewhere and the team declines to match. That one player was Dolphins tight end Charles Clay, who gets a one-year, $7,071,000 tender offer.

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Bills opt against tagging Jerry Hughes

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Jerry Hughes broke out after coming to the Bills in a trade before the 2013 season, but back-to-back 10-sack seasons weren’t enough to convince the Bills to use a franchise or transition tag on the edge rusher Monday.

While the Giants and Chiefs chose to use the franchise tag to hold onto Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Houston, respectively, Buffalo will move toward the start of free agency next week with no claim on Hughes’s services. A franchise tag would have entitled Hughes to a salary of $14.8 million if and when he signed the tender.

They still have exclusive negotiating rights with Hughes through next Saturday, when a three-day window opens for teams to talk to the agents of impending free agents.

A deal could be struck between now and then and reports from Buffalo are that the Bills are working hard to strike a deal. With the start of free agency so close, though, it makes sense for Hughes, who is No. 9 on PFT’s list of the top 100 free agents, to hear what other teams are willing to offer him with two of the top pass rushers all but off the market.

Greg Hardy, Jason Worilds, Pernell McPhee, Brandon Graham and Brian Orakpo are some of the other pass-rushing options still ticketed for free agency next week.

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No tags for Randall Cobb or Jeremy Maclin

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There were four wide receivers ranked among the top 15 players on PFT‘s list of the top 100 players headed for free agency this year.

Two of those players — Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant and Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas — were given franchise tags on Monday that make it highly unlikely that they’ll be switching teams this offseason.The Packers chose not to go that route with Randall Cobb, however, and the Eagles passed on applying either the franchise or transition tag on Jeremy Maclin.

That doesn’t mean those players are certain to be on the open market come March 10. The Packers and Eagles are the only teams that can sign those players this week, although other teams can open up conversations with the representatives for both players on March 7.

Maclin said over the weekend that he wants to return to the Eagles after showing he was healthy while playing on a one-year deal after a torn ACL knocked him out for the entire 2013 season. Cobb is thought to be looking for a contract in the neighborhood of the four-year, $39 million extension that Jordy Nelson signed in Green Bay last year. The Raiders are reportedly interested in him should he hit the market, although they’ll likely have plenty of company in that pursuit.

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Goldman Sachs to finance Chargers possible move

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It’s unclear whether the NFL will get behind the Chargers’ potential return to L.A.  One of the world’s biggest investment banks has decided to do so.

According to Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, Goldman Sachs will finance the move, “including covering any operating losses suffered by the team in the first few years in that city as well as costs for any renovations needed in a temporary venue.”

The involvement of Goldman Sachs demonstrates the financial viability of the stadium project in Carson.  It also provides the Chargers with some security if/when a move happens.

Most importantly, the development indicates that Goldman Sachs wants the move to happen.  Which means that Goldman Sachs will be working aggressively and diligently to push the project to completion — and the relocation to reality.

The Raiders and Chargers, if they can’t secure new stadiums in their current markets, hope to play in a privately-financed, $1.7-billion stadium in Carson.  Rams owner Stan Kroenke hopes to build a new stadium in Inglewood.  AEG, which has been involved for several years in a downtown L.A. project, could end up SOL along with Ed Roski and his shovel-ready project in the City of Industry.

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Dolphins release Nate Garner

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The Dolphins were busy on Monday, using the transition tag on tight end Charles Clay and releasing a pair of veteran players.

As previously reported, cornerback Cortland Finnegan is out in Miami. On Monday afternoon, the team announced offensive lineman Nate Garner is out as well.

Garner had been with the Dolphins since 2008 and saw time at center, guard and tackle over the course of his time with the team. A head injury knocked Garner out for the second half of last season, however, and the Dolphins cleared $1.65 million under the 2015 cap by parting ways with him at this point in the offseason.

With guard Daryn Colledge and center Samson Satele headed for free agency (and Mike Pouncey likely moving back to the position), the Dolphins could be looking for two new starting guards in the coming months.

Finnegan and Garner join wide receivers Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson as veteran players discarded by the Dolphins recently.

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Eagles exec V.P. of football operations moves office out of football operations

Howie Roseman AP

It’s been a strange offseason for the Eagles.  And it just got a little stranger.

In January, owner Jeffrey Lurie resolved a power struggle between coach Chip Kelly and G.M. Howie Roseman by giving Kelly more power and Roseman a promotion (possibly after clunking their heads together like Moe Howard).  Roseman emerged not as the G.M. but as the executive V.P. of football operations.  Although Kelly now has final say over the roster and the draft, Roseman manages the team’s salary cap and contract negotiations.

It has the potential to be awkward, with new V.P. of player personnel Ed Marynowitz necessarily serving as the liaison between Kelly and Roseman.  At a minimum, it will involve more walking.

According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the office of the executive V.P. of football operations has moved out of football operations, to the business end of the NovaCare Complex.  Roseman previously was located only two doors down from the head coach; Kelly for the last two years and Andy Reid before that.

The move underscores the reality that the executive V.P. of football operations doesn’t really have much if any power over football operations.  Which makes his comments from last week regarding the folly of trading up even more conspicuous, especially if the guy who now has the power to do so in Philly chooses to do so.

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Giants cut center J.D. Walton to clear some salary cap space

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When you use the franchise tag to keep one player at a high number, something’s got to give.

So with the Giants using the $14.813 million franchise tag to hang onto defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, they had to make up the savings somewhere.

The team announced they had cut center J.D. Walton,

Cutting Walton saves them $3 million against the cap, and for a player considered fungible, that’s the kind of room that was worth making.

Of course, they wanted to upgrade there anyway, so this one wasn’t totally about the cap space.

Having him gone could clear the way for 2014 second-rounder Weston Richburg to slide back inside.

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Steelers cut Lance Moore

Lance Moore AP

After one disappointing season in Pittsburgh, Lance Moore is out.

Moore, a veteran wide receiver who signed with the Steelers last year, has been released. He caught just 14 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns last season.

The 31-year-old Moore had some good seasons with the Saints and was a 1,000-yard receiver as recently as 2012. But he never seemed to fit in Pittsburgh’s offense, and he had asked for his release.

Now Moore has gotten his wish and will be free to look for work somewhere else.

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Lions bring back Dan Orlovsky

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Dan Orlovsky didn’t play any offensive snaps as the backup to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in 2014.

The team liked what it saw because they announced Monday that Orlovsky has been re-signed to a one-year contract. Orlovsky said during the season that he felt he was playing an important role despite his lack of playing time.

“I don’t think you can underestimate the value of it,” Orlovsky said, via the team’s website. “There is an enormous value in being a good teammate. It’s important for me to understand my role. I talk to the younger guys. I talk to the defense and offer them a nugget here and there. Over 16 games, if one or two players can make a play here and there, that’s the difference between going on and going home.”

Orlovsky hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2012, when he threw seven of them for the Buccaneers. His last run as a starter came in 2011 with the Colts and he also started seven games during the Lions’ winless 2008 campaign. Orlovsky’s most memorable moment came that year when he ran out of the end zone for a safety in a two-point loss to the Vikings.

Third-stringer Kellen Moore isn’t expected to be tendered as a restricted free agent, so the Lions may still add some new blood to the quarterback depth chart.

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Eagles sign ex-Packers LB Brad Jones

Brad Jones AP

Less than two weeks after being released by the Packers, linebacker Brad Jones has a new home.

The Eagles have signed Jones to a two-year deal, the team said Monday.

The 28-year-old Jones played 13 games for Green Bay in 2014, recording 18 tackles. He’ll vie for playing time in Philadelphia’s inside linebacking corps. The Eagles, like the Packers, employ a 3-4 scheme, with two inside linebackers in the base defense.

Jones appeared in 76 games (36 starts) in six seasons with Green Bay, notching 258 tackles and 10 sacks.

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Darnell Dockett scheduled to meet with the 49ers tonight

Darnell Dockett AP

The Cardinals left the door open for defensive tackle Darnell Dockett to return when they cut him last week.

And he’s going to test their will to do so quickly.

Via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, Dockett is scheduled to meet with the 49ers tonight.

The 33-year-old Dockett missed all of last season with a torn ACL, which gave the Cardinals pause about paying him $6.8 million.

The 49ers aren’t sure if they’ll have veteran Justin Smith back next season, as they still want to sit down with him and discuss their plans.

But whether Dockett is a replacement or a complement, he’d represent a swing in the NFC West defensive arms race, assuming he’s recovered from the knee injury and can get back to his old form.

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Bucs will owe Anthony Collins $3 million if he’s cut

Collins Getty Images

The Buccaneers typically don’t use signing bonuses for their free-agent contacts.  Instead, they rely on guaranteed salaries.  For tackle Anthony Collins, who was signed in free agency a year ago, the guaranteed money extended beyond the $6 million he received in 2014.

Per a source with knowledge of the contract, $3 million of the $6 million base salary due and owing to Collins already is fully guaranteed, with no offset language.  If he’s cut instead of traded, the Buccaneers will owe him the full $3 million — regardless of whether he signs with a new team.

The Buccaneers are trying to move on because the other $3 million becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the new league year.  So instead of paying him $6 million to play for the team in 2015, they’ll pay him $3 million to not play for the team in 2015, unless they can find someone to trade for him.

Collins started 10 games last season, his first in Tampa.  He previously spent six with the Bengals, never becoming a full-time starter.

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Dolphins use transition tag on Charles Clay

Charles Clay, Nickell Robey AP

Last year, the Steelers pulled a surprise move just before the deadline to use franchise and transition tags by dusting off the rarely-used transition tag for linebacker Jason Worilds.

The Dolphins are taking a page from that book. They announced that they have placed the transition tag on tight end Charles Clay, who was set to become a free agent next week.

The transition tag differs from the non-exclusive franchise tag in that it offers teams a chance to match other offers for the player without any compensation coming their way in the event they choose not to match the offer. The tag pays the average of the top 10 at the position as opposed to the franchise tag, which is generated by a certain percentage of the overall cap number that is designated to each position group for its franchise figure.

For Clay, that salary would be $7.071 million although he’d have to sign the tag to eliminate the possibility that the Dolphins rescind it and move in a different direction. Clay had 58 catches for 605 yards in 2014 and was expected to be one of the top tight ends on the open market. Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron now look like the best players at the position who will be set free on March 10.

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Report: Patriots use franchise tag on Stephen Gostkowski

Stephen Gostkowski

Safety Devin McCourty may be hitting the open market.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Patriots have placed their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, which means they’ll either have to sign McCourty to a new contract by the start of the new league year on March 10 or risk losing him to another team on the open market. Should McCourty get to that point, he’s expected to be pursued by several teams as he’ll be the top safety available.

If Gostkowski plays out the season under the tag, he’ll make $4.1 million. The tag for safeties is $9.6 million, which may have influenced the decision if the Patriots know that they have other things they want to do with that money.

Gostkowski made 35-of-37 field goals for the Super Bowl champions in 2015, his ninth season with the club. It’s the third time the Patriots have used the tag on a kicker with Adam Vinatieri getting it in 2002 and 2005.

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Lions hang onto veteran defensive end Darryl Tapp

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While it’s not the name they might have been hoping for, the Lions did keep a defensive lineman today.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions have re-signed veteran Darryl Tapp.

Tapp signed a minimum salary benefit deal, which pays him just over $1 million, while counting just $655,000 against the salary cap.

Of course, that’s a far cry from the guy and the amount of money heading out the door with their decision to not tag defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

The 30-year-old Tapp is versatile enough to play inside or outside, and pitched in at defensive tackle a bit last year.

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