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Joe Staley: I cried my eyes out when Brian Kelly moved me to the line

Super Bowl XLVII Media Day Getty Images

San Francisco left tackle Joe Staley is glad to be a starting offensive lineman in the Super Bowl. But he was devastated when he first became an offensive lineman in college.

Staley said at Super Bowl Media Day that after playing wide receiver in high school and beginning his college career at Central Michigan as a tight end, he figured he’d be a skill position player forever. Then a new coach, Brian Kelly, came along and informed Staley that he was being moved to the offensive line. Staley didn’t take it well.

“I started out as a skinny 200 pound wide receiver coming out of high school,” Staley said. “I was a sprinter and all of that stuff. I was really fast. I ran a 21 in the 200. Then I got fat. I went to college. Brian Kelly came in my sophomore year. Played tight end my freshman year in college. Brian Kelly came in and said ‘We do not use tight ends in our offense but we want to keep you on the field in some way. We are going to move you to tackle.’ I cried my eyes out. I am not afraid to admit it. Almost transferred but then stayed, gained weight, busted my butt and got drafted.”

It worked out for Staley, who ended up being a first-round pick of the 49ers. And Kelly, who is now the head coach at Notre Dame, has shown that he knows what he’s doing. But when Kelly first moved Staley, that wasn’t a move that Staley appreciated.

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Panthers sign Greg Olsen to three-year contract extension

Greg Olsen AP

The Panthers entered the offseason needing to add offensive weapons.

But their first move was to hang onto their most explosive one.

The Panthers announced that tight end Greg Olsen had signed a three-year extension to keep him in place through the 2018 season.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus told PFT the deal was worth $22.5 million with $12 million to sign.

It’s really a dream come true,” Olsen said. “Since we’ve come to Charlotte, we very quickly realized that this is home. This community quickly embraced our family, so we put down roots here. We love it here. This is home for us.

“Now to have this contract that guarantees that I’ll play the rest of my career in Charlotte is a tremendous blessing. We’re just so thankful for the team believing in me and wanting me to still be a part of this. As a team, we have a lot of special times ahead of us.”

Originally acquired in a trade with the Bears, Olsen’s coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance after an 84-catch, 1,008-yard season.

He was Cam Newton’s most dependable receiver last season, as they’re developing wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

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Maurice Jones-Drew announces retirement

Maurice Jones-Drew AP

Maurice Jones-Drew is calling it a career.

Jones-Drew, a nine-year NFL veteran and a long-time Jaguars standout running back, announced his retirement Thursday on Twitter.

“Football has been a central part of my life for the past 24 years,” Jones-Drew wrote. “But, now I’m excited about and looking forward to the next chapter of my life.”

One of the most unique backs of any era, the 5-foot-7, 210-pound Jones-Drew amassed 11,111 rushing-receiving yards and 91 touchdowns. A second-round pick of Jacksonville in 2006, Jones-Drew burst on the scene as a rookie, scoring 15 touchdowns, which endeared him to Jaguars fans and fantasy-football enthusiasts alike.

And Jones-Drew’s tenacity made a mark, too. Look no further than his clean, de-cleating block of the Chargers’ Shawne Merriman early in his career.

After eight seasons with Jacksonville, Jones-Drew joined the Raiders for the 2014 season, but he mustered just 96 yards on 43 carries.

Now, the 29-year-old Jones-Drew’s career is at a close, by his choice, and there will forever be a place for him in the game’s lore as a back who, for many years, played bigger than his program weight and height.

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Jets, Titans slated for visits with Cary Williams

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

Cornerback Cary Williams isn’t lacking for interest in the wake of his release from the Eagles.

Williams is visiting with the Seahawks on Thursday and he’ll have two more visits lined up if he doesn’t strike a deal with the defending NFC champs. Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports that Williams is scheduled to meet with the Jets next, assuming no other actual jet mishaps or winter weather force further closures of airports in the area, and then go to see the Titans on Monday.

Should Williams land with the Jets, he’ll surely get plenty of opportunities to share his feelings about the Patriots. Last summer, Williams made headlines by calling New England “cheaters” and returned an interception for a touchdown in a preseason outing.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that the Ravens have shown some interest in a reunion with one of their former players and that the Steelers may also move into the mix for Williams’s services.

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Bills tender WR Chris Hogan, two other exclusive-rights free agents

Chris Hogan AP

The Bills have tendered one-year contracts to three exclusive-rights free agents: wide receiver Chris Hogan, defensive tackle Corbin Bryant and wide receiver Justin Brown. The club announced the contract offers Thursday.

The 26-year-old Hogan emerged as a regular member of the club’s WR corps in 2014, catching 41 passes for 426 yards and four touchdowns.

Bryant, 26, notched 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 16 games as a defensive line reserve.

A sixth-round pick of the Steelers in 2013, Brown caught 12 passes for 94 yards this season for Pittsburgh. The Bills added the 23-year-old Brown on waivers in February.

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Land for Carson stadium will be purchased this month

Land Getty Images

Regardless of whether the Chargers and Raiders move to a new stadium to be built in Carson, California, the Chargers will own a large piece of land there.

According to Nathan Fenno and Tim Logan of the Los Angeles Times, the Chargers already have agreed to purchase from Starwood Capital Group the property on which the stadium would be built.

“There are no contingencies, there is no option,” Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani told the Times.  “We have to buy it.  Starwood has to sell it.”

Meanwhile, an effort has been launched to secure 8,041 signatures, which would result in a ballot initiative landing in the lap of the Carson City Council.  If the members of the council approve the effort, the public would then vote on the plan.

The initiative would create a public authority that would own the team and lease it to the Chargers and Raiders.  Despite the public ownership of the venue, no tax money would be spent on the project.  Goldman Sachs and others have loaned $850 million to the effort, with the money being repaid from stadium revenues.

The Carson project currently is competing with a project in Inglewood for the privilege of building an NFL stadium.  AEG still hopes to build a stadium in downtown L.A.

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Bengals extend Rey Maualuga

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Veteran linebacker Rey Maualuga is staying in Cincinnati.

The Bengals have announced that Maualuga, who was slated to become a free agent next week, has signed a three-year contract to remain with the team.

Maualuga has had his share of injury issues but has always been a starter when healthy, since the Bengals chose him in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft. Last year Maualuga played 12 games in the regular season, and the Bengals’ playoff game.

The 28-year-old Maualuga would have drawn some interest elsewhere, but he’s been a mainstay in Marvin Lewis’s defense and can now return to his spot in the starting lineup in Cincinnati.

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Falcons hold onto Charles Godfrey

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Falcons picked up safety Charles Godfrey after he was released by the Panthers during the season and they saw enough they liked to bring Godfrey back for another year.

The team announced Thursday that they have re-signed Godfrey to a one-year deal that Albert Breer of NFL Media reports will pay him $1.5 million.

Godfrey appeared in five games after coming to the Falcons last season and played seven for the Panthers before getting released. He was seeing action in the slot in Carolina before his departure, a spot that didn’t seem to suit him a year after he missed 14 games because of a torn Achilles. Godfrey played seven years for the Panthers overall after they made him a third-round pick in 2008.

Dwight Lowery is a free agent after making 15 starts in Atlanta last year and his departure would leave Kemal Ishmael, Dez Southward and William Moore (assuming he’s over last year’s shoulder troubles) at safety along with Godfrey.

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Buccaneers re-sign Mike Jenkins

Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

A pectoral injury limited cornerback Mike Jenkins to one game during the 2014 season, but he’ll get another chance to play in his home state.

The Buccaneers announced Thursday that they have re-signed Jenkins to a one-year contract after his first season in Tampa was wiped out because of his injury. Financial terms weren’t announced, but Jenkins signed with the Bucs for $1.5 million last year.

Jenkins was a first-round pick in Dallas in 2008 and spent five years in the Cowboys secondary, much of it as a starter. He then moved on for 15 starts with the Raiders in 2013 before coming home to play for the Bucs last year. He may not be guaranteed more than a shot at making the 53-man roster, but the Bucs don’t have much experienced depth to go with Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks.

The Bucs also announced that they have tendered contracts to exclusive rights free agents Bradley McDougald and Danny Lansanah. McDougald started the last five games of the season at safety while Lansanah made 11 starts at linebacker and both will at least compete for starting spots again this year.

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Carson Palmer says he’ll be ready for the start of training camp

carsonpalmer AP

The Cardinals were rolling last year until they ran out of quarterbacks.

But they had some good news Thursday, as the best one of the lot said he planned on being ready for the start of the 2015 season.

I’ll be ready for training camp,” Carson Palmer said, via Darren Urban of the team’s official website.

Palmer said his recovery from last November’s torn ACL was going well, and he’s running and cutting now. As with many players in his spot, he wants to push things a bit, saying “you want to jump into everything and you have to slow yourself down.”

Palmer said he hopes to get some reps during OTAs, though he knows coach Bruce Arians will likely hold him back.

But a simple physical recovery isn’t all he’s doing to help them. Palmer said he restructured his contract this offseason to create some salary cap room, which the Cards can use to stock more parts around him.

That will be a benefit, and Palmer said he was confident the Cardinals would do something next week to make the team better.

“We know we have a shot. And there are a lot of teams that don’t,” Palmer said. 

While some free agent additions would help, a healthy Palmer is the biggest step toward that goal.

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Dolphins remain expected frontrunners for Suh

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Getty Images

There’s no reason to doubt Mike Silver’s report that the Raiders are “planning” to host defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for a visit next week.  (“That’s not the stench of raw sewage in the locker room . . . it’s just a bad batch of potpourri.”)  But there’s also no reason to believe the Dolphins aren’t the frontrunners for Suh’s services.

PFT continues to hear that the team with the best chance of landing Suh is the Dolphins.  And for good reason; owner Stephen Ross previously whiffed on coach Jim Harbaugh, quarterback Peyton Manning, and coach Jeff Fisher.  Ross wants to make a splash, as does new executive V.P. of football operations Mike Tannenbaum.

Ross won the rights to receiver Mike Wallace two years ago, but that hasn’t worked out very well.  Suh could end up working out even better.  Or maybe not.  Until we know whether Suh gives the Dolphins a realistic bump in their on-field fate, Suh will nevertheless create plenty of buzz and sell plenty of tickets and move plenty of merchandise in Miami.

When it comes to a contest between the Raiders and the Dolphins, Ross has ultimate ace in the hole — the absence of state income taxes in Florida.  In California, the rate for the really rich is 13.3 percent.

So if Suh signs a deal that pays him $15 million per year in California, the Golden State will withhold $1.995 million in taxes.  Per year.  In Florida, the Sunshine State will take the grand total of zero dollars and zero cents from Suh’s game checks.

Over the course of a seven-year deal (if Suh is there for all seven), the difference becomes $13.965 million.  In other words, he’d be working nearly one full year out of seven to pay for the privilege of living and working in Califoria.

The only way the Raiders can compete with the Dolphins and $15 million per year would be to enough to get Suh to the same net after federal and state taxes.  Which would be roughly $18 million per year.

The primary alternative for Suh will be staying put with the Lions.  In Michigan, the state income tax rate is only 4.25 percent, meaning that Suh would contribute $637,500 to the state budget every year on a deal worth $15 million annually.

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Age, contract, production, reputation make Marshall hard to move

Brandon Marshall AP

The Bears are trying to trade wide receiver Brandon Marshall. That won’t be easy.

Although Marshall is a five-time Pro Bowler, what he’s done in the past isn’t particularly relevant to what a team would be willing to give up for him now. What’s relevant is that Marshall’s production is declining with age, that he has an expensive contract, and that his reputation around the NFL is less than sterling.

Marshall will turn 31 this month, and last season he had his worst season since his rookie year. Marshall caught just 61 passes for 721 yards before suffering a season-ending injury in the 13th game of the season. That’s a sharp decline in production for a guy who had entered 2014 on a streak of seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Like most players, Marshall has slowed down after his 30th birthday.

Another issue is Marshall’s contract, with a $7.5 million guarantee that comes due on March 12. Any team trading for Marshall would be inheriting that contract, unless Marshall is willing to restructure his deal. Marshall’s cap hit for 2015 is $9,575,000, which is the 16th biggest cap hit for a wide receiver in the NFL. If you’re going to pay a guy Top 16 money, that means you think he’s an above-average No. 1 receiver. Marshall has been an above-average No. 1 receiver in the past, but he’s not anymore.

There are also off-field questions that any team mulling a trade for Marshall would have to consider. Those issues go beyond the legal trouble Marshall faced multiple times early in his career: Marshall has spoken openly about his battle with mental illness, and he deserves credit for seeking treatment. But even if Marshall is now avoiding legal problems, there have been more recent reports that Marshall was a negative presence in the Bears’ locker room last season. Marshall has a reputation as a malcontent, and that’s not the kind of locker room presence teams want to acquire.

Add it all up, and it’s hard to see any team trading for Marshall. If the Bears don’t want him, they may have to cut him.

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Report: Raiders “planning” to host Ndamukong Suh next week

Maurice Jones-Drew, Ndamukong Suh AP

The Raiders are said to have designs on huddling with the top free agent in the Class of 2015.

According to Mike Silver of NFL Media, the Raiders are “planning” to meet with Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh next week, the first of free agency.

Per NFL rules, teams cannot begin to negotiate and have contact with the agents of other clubs’ prospective free agents until 4 p.m. Eastern on Friday, so it’s unclear whether the Raiders are simply being hopeful about meeting with Suh.

Nevertheless, this is a signal that the Raiders, as expected, want to be players for Suh, PFT’s No. 1 free agent. Oakland certainly has the salary cap space to strike a deal. Per Spotrac.com. the Raiders are set to be $58.8 million under the cap in 2015.

Teams can start to host players on free agent visits starting Tuesday, when the new league year begins.

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Report: Patriots join teams showing interest in Brian Hartline

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets Getty Images

The Dolphins didn’t want to bring wide receiver Brian Hartline back for $5.9 million, but they are reportedly still interested in having Hartline return at a lower price tag.

They have plenty of company on that front. Hartline has already visited with the Browns and Bears and is slated to travel to Houston to meet with the Texans, but the list of teams doesn’t end there.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Patriots are also interested in the former Miami wideout. New England receivers Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are all under contract for 2015 and the team still has 2013 picks Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce on their roster.

Cabot adds that the Colts might also decide to get involved in the Hartline chase. Any further additions to the mix will obviously be contingent on whether Hartline strikes a deal with any of the teams he’s already had conversations with, but the fact that he hasn’t signed anywhere at this point is a pretty good sign that there’s still room to make him an offer he won’t refuse.

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Report: Jerome Simpson visited 49ers Wednesday

Jerome Simpson AP

Ted Ginn isn’t the only veteran wide receiver who paid a visit to the 49ers this week.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports that the team hosted Jerome Simpson in addition to Ginn on Wednesday.

Simpson didn’t play in the NFL at all in 2014 after the Vikings released him in September at the conclusion of a three-game suspension that Simpson earned for repeat violations of the league’s substance abuse policy. Simpson served another NFL suspension after a September 2011 marijuana arrest and was arrested again on DUI charges in 2013 before being cited last July on charges of marijuana possession, open container and violating the conditions of his limited drivers license.

Simpson had 48 catches for 726 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings in 2013 and flashed a lot of speed (and jumping ability) with both Minnesota  and Cincinnati when he wasn’t on the suspended list. That might earn him another look, although the off-field issues make it unlikely he’ll get more than an opportunity to earn a trip to training camp from any team that signs him in the offseason.

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Dolphins re-sign Jason Fox to two-year deal

Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller, Jason Fox AP

The Dolphins closed the year with Jason Fox as their starting right tackle and it seems they liked what Fox did in his two games with the first team.

The team announced Thursday that they have re-signed Fox to a two-year deal. Fox, who played for the veteran’s minimum last season, was set to become an unrestricted free agent next week, but gave up that option for what agent Drew Rosenhaus tells PFT is a $2.5 million deal.

Dallas Thomas got the first shot at right tackle after Ja’Wuan James switched sides in the wake of Branden Albert’s season-ending knee injury. Thomas got hurt, though, and Fox stepped in and gave them better pass blocking than they’d received with Thomas in the lineup.

If Albert is healthy, Fox will go back to a reserve role in 2015. Last year’s starting center Samson Satele and left guard Daryn Colledge are still set for free agency, so there will likely be more work on the offensive line to come in Miami.

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