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NFL morning after: Jerry Rice or Calvin Johnson?

Calvin Johnson AP

Ask me who the best receiver in NFL history is, and my answer is Jerry Rice, and no active receiver is close. So please understand that I’m not suggesting that Calvin Johnson has had a better career than Jerry Rice.

But I want to ask a different question: Has anyone — even the immortal Jerry Rice– ever played the wide receiver position better than Calvin Johnson is playing it right now?

With all due respect to Rice, I believe the answer to that question is no. The level of play Megatron has achieved over the last few years exceeds that of any wide receiver in the history of the game, even including Jerry Rice at his best.

From the start of the 2011 season through yesterday’s insane 14-catch, 329-yard game against the Cowboys, Johnson has 4,466 receiving yards. Over the best 2.5-season stretch of Rice’s career (the second half of 1993 and all of 1994 and 1995), he had 4,102 receiving yards. Johnson had 1,964 receiving yards last year, breaking Rice’s NFL single-season record. Johnson now has topped 200 yards six times in his last 27 games, counting the playoffs. Rice topped 200 yards five times in 332 career games, counting the playoffs.

But I don’t want to go too far down the statistical comparisons because there are a lot of respects in which the stats don’t tell the story. Johnson’s numbers are inflated by the fact that he’s playing in a better passing era than Rice was, and also by the fact that the Lions are a worse team than Rice’s 49ers were, which means they’re throwing late in games a lot more than Rice’s 49ers were. The flip side of that is, Rice was catching passes from Hall of Famers (Joe Montana early in his career, Steve Young starting in 1991) and had excellent teammates like John Taylor, Ricky Watters and Brent Jones preventing the defense from putting everything into stopping him. Johnson is catching passes from Matthew Stafford, who’s a promising young quarterback but nowhere near the type of passer that Montana and Young were, and this year’s arrival of Reggie Bush marks the first time Johnson has ever had a top-flight talent playing with him on the Lions’ offense.

So aside from stats, what makes me say Johnson is playing better football now than Rice ever did? It mostly comes down to their physical differences. The 6-foot-5, 236-pound Johnson makes plays that the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Rice did not. Rice was a genius for running perfect routes and getting open, but Johnson is so physically imposing that he makes plays even when he’s not open. The catches like Johnson’s 50-yard touchdown last week against the Bengals, when Stafford launched the ball deep into the end zone and Johnson went up and grabbed it despite being surrounded by three Bengals, are the plays that no one else at the wide receiver position has made.

And games like Johnson’s performance on Sunday are the games that no one else at the wide receiver position has had. How can Johnson, the guy every defensive coordinator in the NFL knows he has to stop, catch 87.5 percent of the passes thrown to him for 20.6 yards per attempt, as he did on Sunday? The answer is that he’s playing the wide receiver position right now better than anyone has ever played it.

Johnson was my favorite player in any of Sunday’s games. Here are some other thoughts:

Hard-luck player of the week: Reed Doughty. Doughty, a Washington safety, grew up in the Denver suburbs, and so he bought 40 tickets for friends and family to Sunday’s game against the Broncos. It should have been a great “local boy makes good” moment for him, except that he suffered a concussion last week and ended up not playing against the Broncos and not even making the trip to Denver. I hope his friends and family enjoyed the game anyway.

The Jaguars aren’t just bad, they’re historically bad. After Sunday’s 42-10 loss to the 49ers, the Jaguars are 0-8, and they’re getting blown out, week in and week out, like no team since the 1944 franchise that merged the Cardinals and Steelers because players were scarce during World War II. I thought before the season that the Jaguars were the worst team in the league, but they’re even worse than I thought they’d be. I figured they’d be your run-of-the-mill lousy 3-13 team. In reality, your run-of-the-mill lousy 3-13 team would be a double-digit favorite over these Jaguars.

Best block of the day belonged to Larry Warford. A rookie guard for the Lions, Warford got out in front of running back Joique Bell on a screen pass and planted Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee into the turf. It was a textbook example of the right way for an offensive lineman to play a screen pass.

It’s amazing that the Patriots keep winning. There comes a point when no team can withstand the loss of too many good players, and the Patriots seem like they should have reached that point. They lost Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez before the season. They’ve lost Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork to season-ending injuries. Aqib Talib was out Sunday. Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola have missed most of the year. You just can’t lose that many good players. And yet New England is 6-2 after Sunday’s win over the Dolphins. Bill Belichick is a coaching genius.

What happened to Chip Kelly, offensive genius? I know the Eagles have had injuries to both first-string quarterback Michael Vick and second-string quarterback Nick Foles, but shouldn’t an offensive innovator like Kelly be able to manufacture some points anyway? Here’s how every single Eagles offensive drive has ended in the last two weeks: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, missed field goal, punt, punt, field goal, interception, interception, interception, interception, interception, punt, punt, punt, fumble, downs, punt, punt, punt, downs, interception. Yes, in the last two weeks the Eagles have had 15 punts, five interceptions (on five consecutive drives), one lost fumble, one missed field goal and one made field goal. And the one made field goal came on a drive that started in field goal range. If you were flipping back and forth between the Lions and the Eagles on Sunday, you got to see Megatron playing the receiver position at its best, and the Eagles playing offense at its worst.

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What should Kyle Shanahan do?

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2016, file photo, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan walks on the turf before the first half of an NFL football game between the Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers, in Atlanta. Broncos general manager John Elway began his third coaching search in six seasons with a visit to Kansas City on Friday to interview Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub. Elway and his committee, which includes team president Joe Ellis and player personnel director Matt Russell, will then travel to Atlanta to meet with Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan over the weekend. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File) AP

The 49ers are down to one option for their head-coaching job. So what should Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan do when he’s offered the job?

That’s the PFT Live question of the day for Wednesday.

The options are simple: Should Shanahan take the 49ers job when it’s offered or pass, waiting at least a year to become a head coach?

Answer below, drop a comment, and then tune in for the show at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio and then at 7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN. Guests include Broncos coach Vance Joseph and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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Antonio Brown apologizes for Facebook video

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 25:  Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on December 25, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown tweeted an apology late Tuesday night for using Facebook Live to broadcast the Steelers’ locker room celebration after last Sunday’s win over the Chiefs.

The video violated league rules in addition to angering many of Brown’s teammates and showing viewers Steelers coach Mike Tomlin using obscenities in regard to the Patriots. Tomlin made clear Tuesday that the team was angry with Brown and that Brown will be punished.

“I let my emotions and genuine excitement get the best of me,” Brown wrote. “And I wanted to share that moment with our fans.

It was wrong of me to do, against team and NFL policy, and I have apologized to Coach Tomlin and my teammates for my actions. I’m sorry to them for letting it become a distraction and something that they’ve had to answer questions about while we’re preparing for a big game on Sunday.”

The Steelers play at New England Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.

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Philip Rivers reiterates that he’s fine with L.A.

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 13:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers looks on during a game against the Miami Dolphins  at Qualcomm Stadium on November 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

A strange, nonsensical rumor has emerged in recent days that L.A. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers doesn’t want to play in the team’s new hometown, and that the 49ers are interested in acquiring his rights.

You know, the 49ers. The only team currently without a head coach or a General Manager.

The notion defies logic, common sense, the things Rivers said last week, and most recently something he has said on Tuesday.

Via Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Rivers said he’s fine with L.A. Acee also points out that Rivers’ current contract contains a no-trade clause.

And remember this — the contract was signed after it became apparent that the Chargers could be moving. Indeed, the four-year, $83.25 million contract deal was signed following the emergence of plenty of rumors and speculation regarding the notion that Rivers didn’t want to go to L.A. If he truly didn’t want to go, he could have refused to extend the deal. He also could have added provisions to the contract aimed at giving him extra compensation or voiding of the contract if/when relocation occurred.

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Rex Ryan ditches Bills truck wrap for Clemson magnets

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After Rex Ryan became coach of the Bills, he bought a truck and wrapped it in Bills colors and logos. Now that he has been fired, the Bills wrap is long gone.

Via ESPN.com, Ryan was spotted driving a white truck with a couple of Clemson magnets slapped to the passenger-side doors. Ryan’s son, Seth, plays at Clemson.

Ryan hasn’t been publicly seen or heard from since getting fired and driving off in the Bills-themed truck. Many believe he’ll take a job in TV; his brother, Rob, reportedly is under consideration to become the defensive coordinator in Washington.

While it’s currently believed to be unlikely that Rex would get a third chance to coach an NFL team, he could be a successful college coach — primarily since he would likely be a very effective recruiter. He became coach of the Jets in 2009, taking them to a pair of AFC title games in his first two seasons and serving in that role through 2014. He coached the Bills for two years.

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San Diego moving companies vowing not to actually move the Chargers

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 01:  A fan of the San Diego Chargers holds a sign en route to the Charger's 37-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs during their NFL game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 1, 2017 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the help of loyal Chargers fans and a website campaign, San Diego moving companies have banded together in an effort to refuse to help the Chargers physically move from San Diego to their new home in Los Angeles.

The move will go on, but the founder of the effort told USA Today that even some involved who aren’t Chargers fans view the protest as a way to stand up for their community.

“This campaign has sort of kept my hopes afloat,” Ryan Charles of HireAHelper.com said. “I’m so caught up in this right now and trying to do this for San Diegans and Chargers fans as sort of one last stand.

“I feel like I’ll only know [it’s real] when I see them take the field as the Los Angeles Chargers.”

Charles said that more than 25 San Diego-based companies and 10 from the L.A. area have united via the wewontmoveyouchargers.com website to pledge not to participate in what Charles admitted would be a very lucrative series of jobs.

“We’re continuing to add more companies every hour,” Charles said. “We’re still actively calling companies, and companies are signing themselves up through the link on that site. So yeah, I think it’s definitely had an impact.”

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Chris Hogan “feeling good” after injuring thigh

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14: Chris Hogan #15 of the New England Patriots reacts in the first half against the Houston Texans  during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan had four catches for 95 yards in two-plus quarters against the Texans last Saturday night, but didn’t get a chance to build on those numbers after he hurt his thigh.

Hogan went back to the locker room and didn’t return to the 34-16 win. It doesn’t sound like he has much concern about the injury keeping him from playing against the Steelers, however.

Hogan said that he felt he could have returned to the game had the Patriots needed his services and that he’s feeling even healthier now.

“Feeling good, just had a little minor setback in the game, but I’m working back every single day and feeling better every day,” Hogan said in comments distributed by the team.

The Patriots played without Malcolm Mitchell for the second straight game as he continues to deal with a knee injury. Hogan and Julian Edelman, who had eight catches for 139 yards, were the leading receivers in the divisional round win.

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Report: Brock Olivo also a candidate for Denver special teams job

Broncos practice at Dove Valley Getty Images

The Broncos plan to interview Brock Olivo for their vacant special teams coach position, Mike Klis of News9 in Denver reported Tuesday.

A special teams standout during his four-year playing career with the Lions from 1998-2001, Olivo has spent the last three seasons as assistant special teams coach with the Chiefs and has worked under Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub, who’s considered one of the league’s best special teams coaches and was a candidate for multiple head coaching jobs.

Per a previous Klis report, the Broncos interviewed Bears assistant special teams coach Richard Hightower for the job on Monday and interviewed Greg McMahon, the former Saints special teams coach, on Tuesday.

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More undrafted players make it at running back than any other position

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:   Rob Kelley #32 of the Washington Redskins carries the ball during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The big season by Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott has led some to conclude that spending a high first-round draft pick on a running back is a good idea. But that’s not necessarily the right conclusion.

In fact, undrafted free agents make it at running back more than at any other position. According to data posted by Jaguars Senior V.P. Tony Khan, undrafted players get on the field at running back far more than at any other position.

About 24 percent of all snaps taken by running backs since 2006 have been taken by undrafted players. That’s far more than any other position; at no other position do undrafted players play more than 17 percent of snaps.

In the NFL this year, undrafted rookies like Rob Kelley in Washington and Jalen Richard in Oakland played very well, and veteran running backs who weren’t drafted including LeGarrette Blount in New England, Isaiah Crowell in Cleveland, Chris Ivory in Jacksonville and C.J. Anderson in Denver had plenty of production as well. Good running backs are still available after the draft ends.

The one position where good players are hard to find after the draft ends is quarterback: Only 10 percent of all snaps taken by quarterbacks since 2006 were taken by undrafted quarterbacks. This season the only undrafted quarterback who started a game for any reason other than an injury to the quarterback ahead of him on the depth chart was Case Keenum, who was benched by the Rams in the middle of the year.

So if your team needs a running back and doesn’t draft one, don’t despair. But if your team needs a quarterback, that’s the highest priority in the draft.

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Will 49ers be in play for Kirk Cousins?

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 01: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins passes the ball against the New York Giants in the third quarter at FedExField on January 1, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the 49ers planning to hire Kyle Shanahan to coach the team and currently having a quarterback depth chart that consists of Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder, the next question becomes whether the 49ers will make a play for Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins.

In 2012, Washington made Kirk Cousins a fourth-round draft pick. Then-coach Mike Shanahan has repeatedly raved about Cousins, and Kyle Shanahan ran the offense in Washington for the first two years of Cousins’ career.

Cousins, who was subject to the franchise tag in 2016, would be entitled to $23.94 million in 2017 if Washington tags him again. Washington could, in theory, apply the exclusive version of the tag (which would potentially drive that number much higher) in order to block the 49ers or anyone else from trying to pilfer Cousins.

However, the non-exclusive tag would give Washington a pair of first-round picks as compensation for Cousins, and San Francisco holds the second overall selection in round one. Washington arguably would be thrilled to flip Cousins for the No. 2 pick in 2017 plus wherever the 49ers land in the first round next year.

Washington also could tag Cousins and trade him for less than two first-round picks.

The situation quickly becomes a high-stakes game of chess, checkers, and chicken for Washington, the 49ers, and Cousins. To preserve the ability to trade Cousins, Washington will have to be prepared to commit $23.94 million in cash and cap space to him. If Cousins promptly signs the tender (like he did in 2016) and they can’t trade Cousins, Washington will be stuck, with Cousins getting $23.94 million for one year, being entitled to $34.47 million under the tag in 2018, and wanting a long-term deal based on those figures.

The situation makes it imperative for the 49ers and Washington to quickly flesh out a non-binding plan for making a deal happen when the new league year opens in March, if the 49ers want Cousins, if Cousins wants the 49ers, and if the 49ers are willing to give both Washington and Cousins what they want in order to get it done. The fact that Washington G.M. Scot McCloughan previously served in that same role with the 49ers could expedite things, if Shanahan’s plan for fixing the 49ers offense consists of bringing to the Bay Area that quarterback with whom Shanahan worked in 2012 and 2013.

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Tom Cable thanks 49ers for consideration in head coaching search

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Offensive line coach Tom Cable of the Seattle Seahawks during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the Seahawks 23-20 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Word on Tuesday evening is that the 49ers are planning a second interview with Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan with the intention of making him their next head coach.

If that doesn’t work out, it looks like they’ll be back at square one in their search. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said that he’s no longer pursuing the job and now Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable, the only other candidate they’ve interviewed that hasn’t landed a job elsewhere, has announced he’ll be staying in Seattle.

Cable’s agent Doug Hendrickson made the announcement on Twitter shortly after word about the 49ers’ plans regarding Shanahan broke and said Cable thanked the team for considering him in their search. That only serves to strengthen the reports about Shanahan being the choice for the team that once employed his father as their offensive coordinator.

Cable will have his hands full trying to get the Seahawks offensive line up to speed after a rough season that ended with the unit playing poorly against the Falcons in the divisional round. Coach Pete Carroll indicated Monday that the team does not plan to spend a lot in free agency to upgrade the unit and that they believe their young group can get better next season.

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Packers sign Bene Benwikere to practice squad

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 02:   Bene' Benwikere #25 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 2, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cornerback Bene Benwikere opened the season as a starter for the Panthers and it looks like he’ll end it as a member of the Packers.

The Packers announced that they signed Benwikere to their practice squad on Tuesday. Benwikere spent some time with the Dolphins after getting released by the Panthers, but did not see action in any games for Miami.

Benwikere was a fifth-round pick in 2014 and started 10 regular season games in his first two years with the club. He also made two postseason starts as a rookie, but missed the playoffs last year with a broken leg. That made him one of the more experienced members of the cornerback group in Carolina when the season got underway, although that didn’t help him last more than four games with the team in 2016.

The Packers could conceivably use Benwikere before their season is over. This week might not be the best time for that as Benwikere’s last game with the Panthers before being released saw Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throw for 503 yards and wide receiver Julio Jones catch 12 passes for 300 yards.

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Report: 49ers will offer head coaching job to Kyle Shanahan

FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) speaks with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan before the start of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, in Atlanta. Might be hard to believe, but it wasn't all that long ago that the shotgun formation was something of a curiosity in the NFL, used less than once every five plays in 2006.(AP Photo/John Bazemore) AP

The 49ers will offer Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan their head coaching job as soon as they’re allowed to, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported

The Falcons host the Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. Shanahan interviewed with the 49ers earlier this month in the window such interviews with coaches from playoff teams are allowed.

Schefter’s report said the 49ers are “willing to wait” for Shanahan. Theirs is the only head coaching job that remains unfilled, and when Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels removed his name from consideration for the job Monday, Shanahan became the presumptive favorite

By rule, the 49ers can meet with Shanahan next week even if the Falcons win Sunday and advance to the Super Bowl. Both Albert Breer of MMQB.com and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that the 49ers will have Shanahan meet with potential general manager candidates at that time. The 49ers fired both GM Trent Baalke and head coach Chip Kelly at the end of the 2016 season.

Shanahan is in his second year as offensive coordinator with the Falcons. He previously held the same role in Washington, Houston and Cleveland.

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Jimmy Graham, K.J. Wright join Pro Bowl roster

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 15:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks greets K.J. Wright #50 of the Seattle Seahawks prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field on November 15, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks won’t be playing this weekend. Two more of them will be playing the following weekend. Unless they finagle a way out of it.

The Seahawks have announced that tight end Jimmy Graham and linebacker K.J. Wright have been added to the NFC Pro Bowl roster.

Graham replaces Washington tight end Jordan Reed, and Wright replaces Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.

It’s the sixth straight year the Seahawks have at least five Pro Bowlers; Graham and Wright join defensive end Cliff Avril, defensive end Michael Bennett, linebacker Bobby Wagner, and cornerback Richard Sherman.

“It feels really good,” Wright said Tuesday, via the team’s official website. “I got the news from Coach Carroll, he called and broke the news to me. It felt great, man. I called my family, they were all excited. This is something I was hoping would happen this year and I’m glad that it happened.”

Plenty of players hope to avoid the Pro Bowl. For Wright, who had never previously made it to the all-star game, the honor is a welcome one — even if it means risking injury in a meaningless game.

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Bills hire Rob Boras as tight ends coach

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 13: St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Rob Boras talks with Jared Cook #89 prior to a game against the Detroit Lions at the Edward Jones Dome on December 13, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills on Tuesday announced the hiring of Rob Boras as their new tight ends coach.

Boras spent the last two seasons as the Rams’ offensive coordinator. He’s been coaching in the NFL since 2004 and has previously coached with the Bears and Jaguars.

New Bills coach Sean McDermott has thus far only made official the hires of Boras and defensive line coach Mike Waufle, who also comes to Buffalo from the Rams.

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Falcons place Adrian Clayborn on IR

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The Falcons have officially placed defensive end Adrian Clayborn on their injured-reserve list.

Clayborn suffered a torn bicep in last Saturday’s divisional playoff win over the Seahawks. He had five sacks in 2016 and was a key player on the Falcons’ improved defensive front.

A first-round pick of the Buccaneers in 2011, Clayborn, 28, has eight sacks and has started 12 games in two seasons with the Falcons.

To address the roster with Clayborn out, the Falcons promoted defensive tackle Joe Vellano from the practice squad and signed defensive tackle Jimmy Staten to the practice squad. Vellano has nine games of NFL experience from a previous stint with the Patriots.

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