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The Free Agent Hot 100

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1.  Ex-Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis. (Agreed to one-year deal with Patriots.)

2.  Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (franchise tag recipient).

3.  Ex-Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson. (Reached three-year deal with Redskins.)

4.  Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett. (Agreed to four-year deal with Seahawks.)

5.  Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (signed franchise tender).

6.  Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib. (Reached six-year deal with Broncos.)

7.  Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson. (Agreed to five-year deal with Buccaneers.)

8.  Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe. (Agreed to deal with Ravens.)

9.  Colts cornerback Vontae Davis. (Agreed to four-year deal with Colts.)

10.  Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker.  (Agreed to five-year deal with Jets.)

11.  Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston. (Agreed to five-year deal with the Bears.)

12.  Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner. (Reached four-year deal with Buccaneers.)

13.  Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. (Agreed to five-year deal with Giants.)

14.  Bills safety Jairus Byrd. (Agreed to six-year deal with Saints.)

15.  Raiders offensive tackle Jared Veldheer.(Reached five-year deal with Arizona.)

16.  Browns center Alex Mack (Browns matched Jaguars’ five-year offer sheet.).

17.  Packers cornerback Sam Shields. (Agreed to four-year contract with Packers.)

18.  Ex-Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (Agreed to three-year deal with Denver.)

19.  Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. (Signed four-year deal with Chicago.)

20.  Chiefs offensive tackle Branden Albert.(Agreed to five-year deal with Dolphins.)

21.  Giants defensive end Justin Tuck. (Reached two-year deal with Raiders.)

22.  Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen. (Agreed to five-year deal with Vikings.)

23.  Browns safety T.J. Ward. (Agreed to contract with Broncos.)

24.  Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. (Agreed to deal with Colts.)

25.  Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins. (Agreed to three-year deal with Eagles.)

26.  Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby. (Reached four-year contract with Browns.)

27.  Packers defensive end B.J. Raji. (Agreed to one-year deal with Packers.)

28.  Rams guard/offensive tackle Rodger Saffold. (Re-signed with Rams after five-year deal with Raiders was voided due to a failed physical.)

29.  Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate. (Reached five-year deal with Lions.)

30.  Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher. (Agreed to deal with Titans.)

31.  49ers safety Donte Whitner. (Agreed to four-year contract with Browns.)

32.  Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks. (Agreed to two-year deal with Dolphins.)

33.  Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones. (Agreed to deal with Colts.)

34.  Ex-Titans running back Chris Johnson. (Reached two-year deal with Jets.)

35.  Giants linebacker Jon Beason. (Re-signed with Giants.)

36.  Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton. (Reached deal with Cowboys.)

37.  Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman. (Re-signed with Patriots.)

38.  Packers outside linebacker Mike Neal. (Reached two-year deal with Packers.)

39.  Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph. (Reached deal with Vikings.)

40.  Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher. (Agreed to terms with Redskins.)

41.  Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. (Agreed to deal with Broncos.)

42.  Texans running back Ben Tate. (Reached deal with Browns.)

43.  Colts safety Antoine Bethea. (Agreed to four-year deal with 49ers.)

44.  Ex-Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith. (Reached three-year deal with Ravens.)

45.  Bears defensive end Corey Wootton. (Agreed to one-year deal with Vikings.)

46.  Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. (Agreed to deal with Vikings.)

47.  Packers wide receiver James Jones. (Reached three-year deal with Raiders.)

48.  Colts running back Donald Brown. (Reached three-year deal with Chargers.)

49.  Broncos offensive guard Zane Beadles. (Agreed to five-year deal with Jaguars.)

50.  Broncos outside linebacker Shaun Phillips. (Agreed to two-year contract with Titans.)

51.  Ex-Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie. (Reached one-year deal with Cardinals.)

52.  Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew. (Reached four-year deal with Lions.)

53.  Ex-Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant. (Signed four-year contract with Jaguars.)

54.  Ex-Bears defensive end Julius Peppers. (Agreed to three-year deal with Packers.)

55.  Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. (Reached one-year deal with Jets.)

56.  Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. (Agreed to one-year deal with Bears.)

57.  Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Collins. (Reached five-year deal with Buccaneers.)

58.  Texans defensive end Antonio Smith. (Agreed to deal with Raiders.)

59.  Dolphins defensive tackle Paul Soliai. (Reached deal with Falcons.)

60.  Bears quarterback Josh McCown. (Reached two-year deal with Buccaneers.)

61.  Ex-Browns inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. (Signed four-year deal with Colts.)

62.  Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith. (Agreed to four-year deal with Ravens.)

63.  Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond III. (Agreed to one-year deal with Giants.)

64.  Ex-Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley. (Agreed to two-year deal with Raiders.)

65.  Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner. (Agreed to deal with Patriots.)

66.  Ex-Lions safety Louis Delmas. (Signed one-year contract with Dolphins.)

67.  Cowboys defensive end Anthony Spencer. (Signed one-year deal with Cowboys.)

68.  Jets offensive tackle Austin Howard. (Agreed to contract with Raiders.)

69.  Chiefs offensive guard Jon Asamoah. (Reached deal with Falcons.)

70.  49ers cornerback Tarell Brown. (Reached deal with Raiders.)

71.  Chiefs offensive guard Geoff Schwartz. (Agreed to deal with Giants.)

72.  Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood. (Agreed to terms with Jaguars.)

73.  Chiefs defensive end Tyson Jackson. (Reached deal with Falcons.)

74.  Packers tight end Jermichael Finley.

75.  Raiders running back Darren McFadden. (Re-signed with Raiders.)

76.  Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel.  (Re-signed for two years.)

77.  Ravens cornerback Corey Graham. (Reached four-year deal with Bills.)

78.  Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno. (Agreed to one-year deal with Dolphins.)

79.  Cardinals wide receiver Andre Roberts. (Reached four-year deal with Redskins.)

80.  Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (RFA). (Signed RFA tender with Denver.)

81.  Seahawks outside linebacker O’Brien Schofield.

82.  Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (RFA).

83.  Patriots inside linebacker Brandon Spikes. (Agreed to deal with Bills.)

84.  Packers running back James Starks. (Reached deal with Packers.)

85.  Broncos defensive end Robert Ayers. (Agreed to two-year deal with Giants.)

86.  Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard. (Agreed to four-year deal with Titans.)

87.  Chiefs wide receiver/returner Dexter McCluster. (Agreed to three-year deal with Titans.)

88.  Seahawks defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. (Reached contract with Buccaneers.)

89.  Ex-Buccaneers offensive guard Davin Joseph.

90.  Ex-Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons. (Agreed to four-year deal with Jaguars.)

91.  Titans defensive end Ropati Pitoitua. (Reached three-year deal with Titans.)

92.  Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell. (Reached three-year deal with Patriots.)

93.  Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. (Agreed to two-year deal with Steelers.)

94.  Texans defensive tackle Earl Mitchell. (Reached four-year contract with Dolphins.)

95.  Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. (Signed three-year deal with Raiders.)

96.  Texans tight end Garrett Graham. (Reached three-year deal with Texans.)

97.  Ex-Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

98.  Saints center Brian De La Puente. (Reached one-year deal with Bears.)

99.  Lions defensive end Willie Young. (Agreed to three-year deal with Bears.)

100.  Redskins inside linebacker Perry Riley. (Re-signed with Redskins.)

OTHERS RANKED

101.  Seahawks offensive tackle Breno Giacomini. (Reached deal with Jets.)

102.  Panthers offensive guard Travelle Wharton.

103.  Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith. (Agreed to deal with Buccaneers.)

104.  Raiders defensive tackle Pat Sims. (Signed one-year deal with Raiders.)

105.  Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief. (Re-signed with Saints.)

106.  Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson.(Re-signed with Vikings.)

107.  Seahawks defensive tackle Tony McDaniel. (Agreed to two-year contract with Seahawks.)

108.  Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne. (Signed two-year deal with Jaguars.)

109. Chargers defensive tackle Cam Thomas. (Agreed to deal with Steelers.)

110.  Vikings running back Toby Gerhart. (Agreed to three-year deal with Jaguars.)

111.  Ex-Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. (Signed one-year deal with Eagles.)

112.  Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman. (Reached one-year deal with Giants.)

 

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Ras-I Dowling signed to Raiders’ practice squad

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A former Patriots second-round pick is among 10 players signed to the Raiders’ initial practice squad.

Cornerback Ras-I Dowling, whom New England took with the first pick of Round Two in 2011, is the most experienced of the 10 signees announced by Oakland on Monday.

Dowling (6-1, 210) appeared in nine games for New England from 2011 through 2012. He was most recently with the Jets, who released him on August 24.

Seven of the Raiders’ practice squad members are rookies: tailback George Atkinson III, defensive end Denico Autry, linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu, linebacker Spencer Hadley, offensive tackle Dan Kistler, wide receiver Seth Roberts and tight end Scott Simonson.

Second-year offensive guard Lamar Mady and first-year defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin round out Oakland’s practice squad.

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RG3: We fixed what we needed to fix on offense

Jay Gruden Robert Griffin III AP

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III served as a talking point last preseason because no one had seen him play since tearing his ACL and he was a talking point again this summer because he was playing.

Griffin took too many hits in a game against the Browns and played poorly against the Ravens, leading to concerns about how quickly he’s picking up the offense installed by new head coach Jay Gruden this offseason. Griffin played down those concerns by pooh-poohing “doubters” and saying people were overreacting to preseason performances, a theme he stuck with on Monday when he said that all the work the team did in the offseason would now “come to fruition.”

“We fixed what we had to fix in practice,” Griffin said, via CSNWashington.com. “That’s for us to know and you guys to find out.”

We’ll all find out Sunday when the Redskins square off against the Texans. Any struggles in that game will lead to even more doubters for Griffin and Washington and they won’t have the preseason caveat to use as an explanation.

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Ryan Succop signs one-year deal with Titans

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The word on Monday morning was that the Titans were interested in signing kicker Ryan Succop.

The deal is done on Monday afternoon. Succop visited with the team and Terry McCormick of 247Sports.com reports that he reached agreement on a one-yet deal.

Travis Coons, who outlasted Maikon Bonani in preseason, will be dropped from the roster with Succop coming aboard. Succop was cut by the Chiefs over the weekend in favor of the younger Cairo Santos, who flashed good leg strength to go with his cheaper salary during the preseason.

Succop has made 81 percent of his field goals and all of his extra points since taking over as Kansas City’s kicker in 2009. He’ll get a chance to kick against his former team in the regular season opener.

Succop wore No. 6 in Tennessee, a number that is currently taken by punter Brett Kern. No word on whether Succop will try to persuade Kern to give it up with a monetary offer or fictional arm wrestling match.

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Lions coach doubts orientation’s reason Michael Sam’s unemployed

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Most of the practice squad jobs around the league are filled, or will be by the end of the day.

So it stands out that Michael Sam still doesn’t have a job on one of them.

But while some teams might fear the attention that comes with employing the league’s first openly gay player, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he doesn’t think Sam’s sexual orientation is the reason he’s not signed yet.

I doubt that seriously,” Caldwell said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

The Rams figured to be his best chance, but they haven’t made a move to bring him back. Some teams will cross him off the list because he’s legitimately a bad scheme fit. The Lions weren’t interested in him initially because they like their defensive ends taller, and Sam lacks the speed to play in a 3-4 as an outside linebacker.

“He wasn’t here on our squad, we didn’t play against [the Rams) to have an opportunity to look at them,” Caldwell said. “But what I would assume is the case is the fact that he doesn’t fit in with whomever’s system, or anybody’s system right now in terms of being able to come in and play for them at this point in time. If he could, if it benefits someone, and he still may. A lot of things happen here in the next three or four days, anyway. But he still may, he may still get that opportunity.”

Sam was in familiar surroundings in St. Louis, but he also landed with one of the deepest and most talented lines in the league. Other teams lack their depth, and Sam played well enough in the preseason that a football-simple answer seems unlikely.

That only leaves our worst suspicions, which appear more true by the minute.

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Chargers sign Ricardo Mathews

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Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco reached into his past to find some help on the defensive line.

Telesco was in the Colts organization when they drafted defensive tackle Ricardo Mathews in the seventh round of the 2010 draft and he saw enough to like about Mathews to sign him to a contract with the Chargers for the 2014 season.

Mathews had 51 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 52 games, six of them starts, for the Colts. He signed with Houston in April and spent the summer with the Texans before being released as they dropped to 53 players. Mathews should settle into a reserve role behind Sean Lissemore in San Diego.

San Diego waived running back Marion Grice to open up a roster spot for Mathews.

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Rolando McClain to start in the middle for the Cowboys

Rolando McClain AP

Maybe it’s just the state of the Cowboys’ defense, or maybe Rolando McClain can really play.

Either way, the twice-retired No. 8-overall pick is a starter again, after not playing since 2012.

According to Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bruce Carter said he was starting on the strong side, McClain in the middle and Justin Durant on the weak side.

Durant spent most of the preseason practicing in the middle, though he has the versatility McClain doesn’t. But team owner Jerry Jones declared McClain “very impressive” this preseason, and that endorsement means a lot.

But they were clearly hoping McClain could win the job, based mostly on the lack of impact players on their defense.

If McClain is engaged and motivated, he could be a solid player for them. Remaining that way has always been the challenge, however.

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Five questions: Baltimore Ravens

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The Ravens followed a five-year run of playoff berths and a Super Bowl win by missing the postseason completely.  With a new offense and a defense that remains stout even amid plenty of changes, the Ravens could be closer to what they were in 2012 than what they were in 2013.  Whether they get back to the playoffs and succeed there hinges on several questions.

Five, to be exact.

That’s convenient.

1.  Will new offense work?

A year after winning the Super Bowl, Baltimore’s offense struggled under coordinator Jim Caldwell.  Though he wasn’t in danger of being fired (as far as anyone knows), his elevation to head coach in Detroit opened the door for a new approach.

Enter former Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, and his zone-blocking, one-cut, rollout pass, West Coast-influenced attack.

It requires an adjustment for everyone on the offense, and it could result in players unable to make the adjustment landing on the bench, or worse.

2.  Did they pay Joe Flacco too much money?

The starting quarterback won’t be landing on the bench or worse, not with his $120.6 million contract.  More than a year after Flacco had the team over a barrel and took full advantage of the situation, the team awaits full return on the investment.

Sure, they won a Super Bowl.  But that trophy was already in the case before they committed to depositing so many millions into Flacco’s vault.  Last year, he didn’t perform like a short-list franchise quarterback.  This year, he needs to; otherwise, the Ravens will have to start considering their options as the cap numbers begin to grow in the latter years of the deal.

Specifically, the cap number shoots from $14 million and change in 2014 and 2015 to $28 million and change in 2016, setting the stage for another potential showdown in 18 months.

3.  Is Ray Rice declining?

Big dollars in the out years of Ray Rice’s contract won’t be an issue.  His new deal, signed in July 2012, gave him $25 million in the first two seasons.

That makes is easier to keep him around now, even if Rice has begun the inevitable running-back backslide as the 30th anniversary of his birth approaches.  Also, Bernard Pierce may be a better fit for the new offense.  And he’ll get two weeks to prove that he is, thanks to Rice’s suspension.

Yes, the suspension.  No matter how much the Ravens dig in publicly regarding their support for Rice, surely some in the organization are sufficiently troubled by the events leading to the suspension to result in Rice getting no benefit of the doubt when the time comes to make an objective, detached football decision about his future with the franchise.

Beyond 2014, he possibly won’t have one.

4.  How much does Steve Smith have left?

Steve Smith had no future in Carolina beyond 2013, and it made plenty of sense for him to come to Baltimore.  Good as he is, Torrey Smith may never develop into a guy who effectively runs every route.  Steve Smith can, even if it means stepping on a few sporks.

It’s presumed that Smith, at age 35 and with a possibly nagging knee problem, can still play like he did in Carolina.  The folks in Carolina decided that he didn’t merit another $4 million beyond the guaranteed $3 million he’ll earn from the Panthers for 2014.  Even though the team reportedly hoped that removing Smith’s big personality would allow younger ones to blossom, the Panthers would have gladly paid the money if they thought Smith’s performance would merit it.

A need for more talent and a lot of toughness at the receiver position, the Ravens didn’t hesitate.  Even if Smith can’t play like he used to, the fire remains — and the Ravens are banking on it being contagious.

5.  How good is the defense?

Smith’s influence won’t be needed on the defensive side of the ball.  Even with the likes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed long gone, the defense continues to be the soul and the strength of the team.

Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata still anchors the line, with Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Courtney Upshaw providing the pressure from the outside.  And while no one expects C.J. Mosley to become the next Ray Lewis, Mosley and 2013 rookie Arthur Brown could push each other to become, in combination, almost as effective.

With a great front seven, the secondary doesn’t need to be.  But veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb and second-year safety Matt Elam move the needle in that direction.

Coach John Harbaugh has said that defense aims for a top-five finish every year.  This year, the Ravens have a better chance of getting there than most realize.

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Patriots add McLeod Bethel-Thompson, long snapper to practice squad

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After the Patriots set their initial 53-man roster over the weekend, head coach Bill Belichick said that there were still moves to be made when asked about the lack of a long snapper.

There still isn’t one on the active roster, but the Patriots have added a snapper to the practice squad. It’s Charley Hughlett, who spent part of the offseason with the Patriots before getting cut in May and spending the summer with the Jaguars.

The Patriots filled out eight of the other nine spots on the practice squad with players that spent camp with them in 2014. The lone exception is quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who was with the 49ers this summer and spent time as the third quarterback for the Vikings earlier in his career. With Ryan Mallett traded to Houston, he becomes the third quarterback in the organization.

Wide receiver Josh Boyce cleared waivers and the 2013 fourth-round pick returned to the fold along with defensive end Jake Bequette, linebacker Ja’Gared Davis, safety Kanorris Davis, running back Jonas Gray, offensive lineman Chris Martin, defensive lineman Deonate Skinner and defensive back Daxton Swanson.

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Polamalu a Steelers captain for the first time

Troy AP

The Steelers have announced their 2014 team captains, and one of the most tenured and respected members of the team has become a captain for the first time in his career.

Safety Troy Polamalu, embarking on his 12th season with the team, will serve as the defensive captain.

Polamalu succeeds safety Ryan Clark, who left for Washington, and defensive end Brett Keisel, who re-signed only recently.  Keisel had been the lone defensive captain in Pittsburgh in 2012.

Offensively, Ben Roethlisberger serves as the captain for the fourth straight year.  Last year, he shared the duties with center Maurkice Pouncey.  This year, it’s only Roethlisberger.

The special-teams captains are safety Robert Golden and kicker Shaun Suisham.  The Steelers didn’t have a special-teams captain in 2013 or 2012.

Polamalu wears the “C” in what could be his last year with the team.  In the offseason, he invited a teammate to work out with him in the offseason — his potential successor, safety Shamarko Thomas.

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Sammy Watkins practices on Monday

Sammy Watkins AP

The Bills saw wide receiver Sammy Watkins leave two preseason games and miss a third because of a rib injury this summer, raising questions about whether or not the fourth overall pick will be healthy enough to help the team in the first week of the regular season.

Watkins took a step toward being on the field against the Bears on Sunday by taking part in Buffalo’s practice on Monday. Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reports that Watkins ran routes against air during the portion of the practice open to the media. Rodak adds that Watkins dropped the first pass his way and then did push-ups as penance for his gaffe.

It hasn’t been Bills coach Doug Marrone’s style to give much information about when injured players will return to the lineup, so Watkins’s status will likely continue to be a question throughout the week. If he does play, he’s unlikely to be 100 percent.

Given the way the Bills offense looks as a whole, that might not be a major negative.

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Giants bring Michael Cox back to practice squad

Michael Cox AP

The arrival of Andre Williams in the 2014 draft helped squeeze 2013 seventh-round pick Michael Cox off of the Giants’ 53-man roster, but Cox won’t be far away should the Giants decide they want him back on Sundays this fall.

Cox was one of seven players added to the team’s practice squad. Cox played in 14 games last season, running 22 times for 43 yards while also averaging 21.8 yards on 20 kickoff returns.

Cox won’t be the only member of the practice squad with regular season experience. The Giants also signed tackle Nick Becton, who played one game with the Chargers and was waived by them over the weekend.

2014 sixth-round cornerback Bennett Jackson, linebacker Dan Fox, defensive end Jordan Stanton, cornerback Chandler Fenner and wide receiver Julian Talley all return after being part of the cut to 53 players.

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Report: Panthers have ex-Jets WR Stephen Hill in for a workout

Stephen Hill AP

A logical potential suitor has reportedly emerged for ex-Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill.

According to Adam Caplan of ESPN, the Panthers are putting Hill through a workout on Monday.

If nothing else, the 23-year-old Hill would add a little more experience to the Panthers’ receiving corps. He made 20 starts in two seasons with the Jets, catching 45 passes for 594 yards and four touchdowns. Just two of the Panthers’ five wide receivers (Jason Avant, Jerricho Cotchery) have NFL regular season catches to their credit. Rookies Kelvin Benjamin and Philly Brown and first-year pro Brenton Bersin round out Carolina’s receiving ranks.

Any team looking at Hill has to hope he has upside to develop after an up-and-down tenure with the Jets. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Hill — timed at 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine — is two months younger than Benjamin, the Panthers’ first-round pick in May.

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Saints sign sixth-round pick Tavon Rooks, nine others to practice squad

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The last of the Saints’ six 2014 draft picks has been added to the club’s practice squad.

Rookie offensive tackle Tavon Rooks, a sixth-round selection from Kansas State, was among 10 players signed to the Saints’ practice roster on Monday, the club said.

Rooks (6-5, 300) appeared in all four of the Saints’ preseason games as a reserve. He was waived on Saturday. His re-signing means the club’s entire draft class has a spot with the team entering the regular season.

The other players signed to the Saints’ practice squad were wide receiver Brandon Coleman, inside linebacker Todd Davis, cornerback Terrence Frederick, tight end Nic Jacobs, wide receiver Seantavius Jones, offensive guard Antoine McClain, nose tackle Lawrence Virgil, cornerback Trevin Wade and safety Pierre Warren.

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Rob Gronkowski says he’s a go for Week One

Rob Gronkowski AP

The Patriots started last season without tight end Rob Gronkowski on the field.

It doesn’t look like they’ll find themselves in the same predicament this time around. Gronkowski said Monday that he’s been given the green light to play against the Dolphins in the opening weekend of the regular season.

“Super excited. Super pumped,” Gronkowski said, via Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com. “I feel mentally and physically ready, for sure.”

Gronkowski added that he won’t be playing every snap, saying that he hopes to get his “feet wet” against Miami before taking on a bigger role in the coming weeks.

Gronkowski’s injury history is extensive enough that there will be concerns that he’s putting himself at risk by trying to come back too soon. Those risks are always going to exist for a player who plays the way Gronkowski does, though, and the benefits to the Patriots offense when he’s in the lineup are massive enough that the team is willing to make the gamble.

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Jeff Tuel headlines Bills practice squad

Jeff Tuel AP

The Bills’s decision to shake up their quarterback depth chart with the acquisition of Kyle Orton means that there was no room for Jeff Tuel on the team’s 53-man roster.

There’s still a place for him in the organization, however. Tuel is back with the Bills as a member of the practice squad and would likely be in line for a trip back to the active roster should anything happen to EJ Manuel or Orton over the course of the season.

Tuel isn’t the only player recently cut by Buffalo to make his way back to the team. Defensive back Deon Broomfield, linebacker Jimmy Gaines, wide receiver Caleb Holley, defensive end Ike Igbinosun, defensive end Bryan Johnson and defensive back Kenny Ladler were all with the team through training camp. Guard D.J. Morrell and running back Lonnie Pryor, who failed to make the Rams and Buccaneers respectively, were also added to the practice squad.

The Bills also announced that they have released tight end Tony Moeaki from injured reserve.

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