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Golden Richards, Super Bowl champion, dies at 73

Golden Richards, Super Bowl champion, dies at 73

Golden Richards, part of a trick play that helped the Dallas Cowboys win Super Bowl XII, died of congestive heart failure at his home in Murray, Utah. He was 73.

His nephew, Lance Richards, confirmed in a Facebook post that his uncle died Friday.

"I will forever remember going hunting and talking Dallas Cowboy football. He was a kind and sweet soul and I'm so happy he's not suffering anymore," the younger Richards wrote.

A speedy wide receiver, John "Golden" Richards was a multisport athlete at Granite High School in Salt Lake City before playing at BYU and then Hawaii as a college senior. The Cowboys selected him in the second round of the 1973 draft, and he played in Dallas for five-plus seasons before concluding his career with the Chicago Bears (1978-79).

The Richards play etched in Cowboys lore came in the Super Bowl in 1978 -- a 27-10 win over the Denver Broncos -- when Richards caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from running back Robert Newhouse on a trick play.

"People always think of that game as the highlight of my career but it wasn't," Richards told the Los Angeles Times in 1993.

"Every game I played was the highlight. Having my mates hold me up in the huddle when I had just gotten nailed and the wind knocked out of me, that was the highlight. The camaraderie of the game, every game, that was the highlight."

Post-retirement, however, Richards was plagued by addiction and illness. His brother, Doug Richards, told the Deseret News in Utah that the wide receiver had been sober for 10 years after struggling with alcoholism and a reliance on pills he started taking to relieve the pain from football injuries.

In 2011, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. And on Christmas Day in 2022, Richards broke his hip in a fall and had been in failing health since.

"Seven or eight years of wear and tear on the football field for a 175-pound wide receiver who was concussed several times, too," Doug Richards said. "That obviously took its toll."

Golden Richards finished his career with 122 catches, 2,136 yards and 17 touchdowns in 86 regular-season games (67 starts). He added 501 yards as a punt returner.

Reports: Bears legend Steve McMichael home from hospital

Reports: Bears legend Steve McMichael home from hospital

Former Chicago Bears star Steve McMichael returned home Friday after a rocky eight-day hospital stay, according to multiple media reports.

The 15-year defensive tackle, a stalwart in Chicago for 13 seasons who was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this month, announced three years ago that he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease. He is unable to talk or move on his own.

McMichael, 66, was taken to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, Ill., on Feb. 15 with what led to a urinary tract infection diagnosis, according to NBCSports.com. Antibiotics successfully treated the UTI, but before he was discharged, he contracted an antibiotic-resistant staph infection known as MRSA. That treatment extended his stay to eight days.

McMichael was a three-time All-Pro and twice a Pro Bowl honoree. In his first All-Pro season, 1985, he was among the famed Bears defense that led the franchise to its only Super Bowl title. He is second in Bears history in sacks (92.5) and third in tackles (814).

He was a third-round draft choice of the New England Patriots in 1980 and played sparingly for them before they released him prior to the 1981 season. The Bears signed him as a free agent. He played in 16 games for the Green Bay Packers in 1994, his final NFL season.

McMichael is returning to his around-the-clock care at his home in Homer Glen, Ill., according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

His wife, Misty McMichael, said the goal is for her husband to live "at least 'til Canton," site of the Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 3.

Rams, WR Demarcus Robinson agree on one-year contract

Rams, WR Demarcus Robinson agree on one-year contract

The Los Angeles Rams and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson agreed to terms Friday on a one-year contract.

The finances of the deal weren't announced, but NFL Network reported that Robinson would get $5 million.

Robinson, 29, played his first season with the Rams in 2023 after signing a free-agent contract valued at $1,165,000, according to Spotrac. He caught 26 passes for 371 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games (four starts).

He caught a touchdown pass in four consecutive games from Dec. 3 to Dec. 21, then had six receptions for a season-high 92 yards in a Dec. 31 win over the New York Giants.

Robinson helped Los Angeles go 7-1 in its last eight regular-season games and became the 10th team in NFL history to advance to the playoffs after a 3-6 or worse start. He would have become an unrestricted free agent next month.

The Kansas City Chiefs selected Robinson in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He has caught 219 passes for 2,508 yards and 20 touchdowns in his career playing for the Chiefs (2016-21), the Baltimore Ravens (2022) and the Rams.

In another move Friday, the Rams tendered a contract to exclusive rights free agent running back Ronnie Rivers.

Rivers, 25, rushed 32 times for 129 yards in nine games (one start) with Los Angeles last season, and he has totaled 150 yards on 41 attempts in 17 games (two starts) with Los Angeles since 2022. Rivers also has 10 career receptions for 51 yards.

49ers release CB Isaiah Oliver, save $2.4M

49ers release CB Isaiah Oliver, save $2.4M

The San Francisco 49ers announced Friday that they released veteran cornerback Isaiah Oliver.

Oliver, 27, was released after one season of the two-year, $6.75 million deal he signed last March. According to Spotrac, the 49ers cleared $2.4 million of cap space with the move.

San Francisco began Friday just $4.625 million under the salary cap.

Oliver played in 17 regular-season games (six starts) for the 49ers and had 67 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery. He didn't see any playing time on defense during San Francisco's three postseason games with all 35 snaps coming on special teams.

Oliver was a second-round draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2018 and spent five seasons with the franchise. He started 38 of 62 games played for Atlanta before leaving as a free agent following the 2022 season.

Overall, Oliver has 270 tackles, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and two sacks in 79 games (44 starts).

Justin Fields Next Team Odds: Heavy favorite emerges

Justin Fields Next Team Odds: Heavy favorite emerges

Justin Fields' future is one of the more intriguing plot lines early in the NFL offseason, and at least one sportsbook believes the former first-round pick won't be taking his first snap of the 2024 season for the Chicago Bears.

The Atlanta Falcons have emerged as the -120 favorite at DraftKings to be the team for whom Fields takes his next regular-season snap. That's well ahead of the team Fields is currently employed by, with the Bears offered at +185.

The Falcons have a new coach in Raheem Morris and an unsettled quarterback situation after toggling through Desmond Ridder and journeyman Taylor Heinicke last season. Atlanta is expected to be active in its search for a more stable solution at the position, and the Falcons are also among the favorites to land one of two veterans who could be changing addresses: Minnesota's Kirk Cousins (+300) and Denver's Russell Wilson (+600).

Fields, who turns 25 on March 5, is younger -- and cheaper -- than the others as he still has a year remaining on his rookie contract along with a potential fifth-year option.

The Bears hold the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft and are expected to use it on one of the top quarterbacks in this year's class, led by Southern California's Caleb Williams, LSU's Jayden Daniels and North Carolina's Drake Maye.

That has led to speculation that Chicago may look to part ways with Fields after three seasons.

The sportsbook is offering Fields odds on all 32 NFL teams.

That includes the Pittsburgh Steelers (+300), who were led to the playoffs by Mason Rudolph after second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett was injured. The Las Vegas Raiders (+700) have the fourth-shortest odds to be the team Fields takes his next snap for after finishing the year with Aidan O'Connell under center after veteran Jimmy Garoppolo was benched.

Wilson was another veteran signal-caller to finish the season on the sideline and is expected to part ways with Denver this offseason. The Broncos are being offered at +1300.

JUSTIN FIELDS NEXT SNAP ODDS*

Falcons (-120)

Bears (+185)

Steelers (+300)

Raiders (+700)

Broncos (+1300)

Patriots (+1300)

Commanders (+2000)

Buccaneers (+4000)

Seahawks (+4000)

Vikings (+6000)

Lions, Browns, Panthers, Titans, 49ers, Giants, Saints, Dolphins, Rams (+10000)

Jaguars, Colts, Texans, Packers, Cowboys, Bengals, Bills (+30000)

*DraftKings

Fields talked about his future and his past during Wednesday's appearance on the podcast hosted by Chicago Bears teammate Equanimeous St. Brown and his brother, Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.

"I can't see myself playing in another place," Fields said. "If it was up to me, I would want to stay in Chicago. I love the city. The city's lit. The fans there, they're great."

Fields, however, is aware that there are more factors in play.

"Whatever happens, happens," Fields said. "I feel like the biggest thing going on with this right now is I just want it to be over. Just let me know if I'm getting traded, let me know if I'm staying."

The Bears also own the No. 9 pick in the draft.

Fields missed four games last season due to injury and had a 5-8 record. Still, he set career highs for completion percentage (61.4) and passing yards (2,562) and added 16 touchdowns and a career-low nine interceptions.

He added 657 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 2023, a season after gaining 1,143 rushing yards and scoring eight times.

The draft is scheduled for April 25-27 in Detroit.

Steelers cut C Mason Cole, save $4.75M

Steelers cut C Mason Cole, save $4.75M

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Friday that they released center Mason Cole.

The cost-cutting move saves Pittsburgh $4.75 million -- Cole's $3.25 million salary for 2024 and a $1.5 million roster bonus. The Steelers began Friday just $8.47 million under the salary cap.

Cole, who turns 28 next month, started all 34 regular-season games plus one playoff game during his two seasons with the Steelers.

Cole joined Pittsburgh as an unrestricted free agent following the 2021 season and received a three-year, $15.75 million deal.

He was a 2018 third-round draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals and spent three seasons with the franchise. Cole played for the Minnesota Vikings in 2021 before becoming a free agent.

Cole has started 73 of 94 games played over his six NFL seasons.

Report: Dolphins to release DE Emmanuel Ogbah, clear $13.7M in cap space

Report: Dolphins to release DE Emmanuel Ogbah, clear $13.7M in cap space

Veteran defensive end Emmanual Ogbah is set to be released by the Miami Dolphins on Friday, according to multiple reports.

Releasing Ogbah before June 1 will save the Dolphins $13.7 million in cap space.

A second-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2016 NFL Draft, Ogbah originally signed a two-year deal with the Dolphins as an unrestricted free agent in the spring of 2020.

Ogbah, 30, collected nine sacks in each of his first two seasons, and the Dolphins rewarded him with a four-year, $65M extension in early 2022.

However, he was limited to nine games (three starts) in 2022, notching only one sack, and saw his season end early due to a triceps issue.

Last season, he played a rotational role under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. He played in 15 games (one start) and notched 5.5 sacks, one forced fumble and an interception.

Ogbah will not have to wait for the March 13 unrestricted free agent signing deadline and will be free to sign with any team.

Ogbah played in 107 games (71 starts) with the Cleveland Browns (2016-18), Kansas City Chiefs (2019) and Miami (2020-2023), recording 42.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles. During his stint with Kansas City, he earned a ring with the Chiefs' Super Bowl LIV victory.

Stetson Bennett, first-round pick both question marks for Rams

Stetson Bennett, first-round pick both question marks for Rams

As the Los Angeles Rams prepare to enter the new league year in March, one of their biggest question marks is at the quarterback position.

Matthew Stafford and then who?

The 36-year-old Stafford will be the only quarterback on the roster come March 14 as the Rams churned through backups last season.

Stetson Bennett, a two-time national champion at Georgia, was taken in the fourth round of the 2023 draft to back up Stafford and potentially learn under the veteran as the heir apparent. Bennett left the team in the preseason for a reason that remains undisclosed, and the Rams then turned to Brett Rypien and later Carson Wentz as the understudy.

Rypien was released in November and Wentz will become an unrestricted free agent.

Coach Sean McVay said Thursday that the Rams will reach out to Bennett, 26, "at the appropriate time."

McVay, in a video conference call with reporters, said it remains to be seen whether club and quarterback will be a good fit.

"And you figure out, ‘All right, where are you at? And is this something we feel like is best for him and our football team to bring him back into this ecosystem?'"

McVay continued: "Those will be conversations that we will have. And then I think once we have a better idea of what we'll do with that, then that will give clarity."

Bennett was placed on the non-football injury/illness list last September. At the time, McVay said the move was unrelated to a minor shoulder injury the quarterback experienced. McVay said he couldn't share specifics, but said the issue was "bigger than" football.

"Out of respect for him and the situation, I'm going to leave all the specifics and particulars in-house," McVay said then. "And I want to be able to do that out of respect for that situation, so I'm not going to really have any follow-up information or anything that I'll give in that regards.

"I really hope that you can please respect my wishes in regards to keeping that in-house. I understand you have a job to do, but there are certain things that I think are a little bigger and a little more important. And out of respect for the particulars and the specifics, we want to keep it in-house, and that's where I want to leave it please."

Bennett played well in the preseason but faced questions about his maturity and readiness for the NFL during the pre-draft process following an arrest for public intoxication, despite his advanced age for a rookie.

Stafford, the No. 1 pick out of Georgia in 2009 by the Detroit Lions, won the Super Bowl in his first season with the Rams after Los Angeles sent Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Lions for Stafford on March 18, 2021.

The Rams never have made a first-round pick in the Sean McVay era and have the No. 19 selection in April's draft. Will they use it on a quarterback?

McVay hinted Thursday the Rams could trade out of the first-round spot again.

"Oh, that's a big if," he said when asked about making a pick in the round.

NFL salary cap rises to record $255.4M

NFL salary cap rises to record $255.4M

The 2024 salary cap surged to a record $255.4 million per team, up more than $30 million from last season.

The NFL made the massive increase official on Friday and announced each club will have $74 million for player benefits, which includes both money for performance incentives and benefits for retirees to raise the total player personnel spending to $329.4 million per team.

Teams had a salary cap of $224.8 million in 2023 and projections of a cap limit around $240 million were off by more than 50 percent. The increase in spending is due to new media deals as well as a finalizing of the books to remove advances and deferrals necessitated by the pandemic from the league ledger.

With the new cap set, only six teams were over the salary cap for 2024 as of Friday. That includes the New Orleans Saints, who have a league-high $321 million on the books for player contracts in 2024.

The Washington Commanders have nearly $100 million and a league-high cash surplus factoring in the $30 million increase for the 2024 cap.

Teams had been operating under the estimation that they would see a salary cap increase of around $14 million.

Clubs have until the start of the new league year -- March 13 at 4 p.m. -- to get under the salary cap.

The cap has risen annually since 2011, except for 2021, as the league prioritized recovery from the pandemic, including loss of live attendance gate and concessions profits.

In 2011, the cap was $120.37 million. It crossed the $200 million barrier in 2022 at $208.2 million.

The NFL also released what clubs must pay players should the teams use the franchise tag or the transition tag, per position.

Franchise tag:

Quarterback: $38.3 million

Running back: $11.9 million

Wide receiver: $21.8 million

Tight end: $12.7 million

Offensive lineman: $21 million

Defensive end: $21.3 million

Defensive tackle: $22.1 million

Linebacker: $24 million

Cornerback: $19.8 million

Safety: $17.1 million

Kicker/punter: $6 million

Transition tag:

Quarterback: $34.4 million

Running back: $9.8 million

Wide receiver: $19.8 million

Tight end: $10.9 million

Offensive lineman: $19 million

Defensive end: $19.1 million

Defensive tackle: $18.5 million

Linebacker: $20 million

Cornerback: $17.2 million

Safety: $13.8 million

Kicker/punter: $5.4 million

All-32 view of salary cap: Commanders flush with cash, Bills bottom out

All-32 view of salary cap: Commanders flush with cash, Bills bottom out

Washington leads the NFL with $96.4 million of salary-cap space two weeks before the start of free agency, while the Buffalo Bills are bailing water in cap hell with painful personnel decisions looming.

The Bills and Saints are among teams spared by a massive increase of more than $30 million per team from the 2023 cap limit, which was confirmed at $255.4 million per team for 2024 by the NFL on Friday. The cap counts the top 51 player contracts on the 53-man roster.

Spotrac projects the Commanders to lead the NFL in cap space at $96,443,548 million, but Washington has only 44 players under contract for next season and will owe approximately $35 million guaranteed on a four-year deal to the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft.

The Patriots stand close behind at $86 million with 53 players under contract. New England also has a significant draft pick pool to set aside with the No. 3 pick in the 2024 draft.

Tennessee ($85.2 million), Chicago ($82.9 million), Indianapolis ($74.4 million) and Cincinnati ($74.3 million) are in the top six in available cap space of February 23. But the Bears are likely to commit a significant chunk of change to pending free agent cornerback Jaylon Johnson, and big-ticket free agents are priorities for the Colts (wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.) and Bengals (wide receiver Tee Higgins). All three players are candidates for the franchise tag.

The Saints were bringing up the rear with a whopping $321 million committed to the 2024 roster, an excess of $74.7 million, until the NFL released the new cap figures on Friday.

Their ledger updates officially at 4 p.m. ET on Friday when moves are tabulated for accounting purposes by NFL protocol. That includes the Saints converting quarterback Derek Carr's scheduled $30 million salary for next season to a bonus payment of more than $28.3 million.

Buffalo is $43.7 million over, and the Saints are now working to reduce their excess of $42 million.

The Dolphins are $24.6 million in the red. The Chargers are one spot ahead of Miami in available money but deep in negative because of an NFL-worst $24.5 million in "dead cap"

Here's a rundown of salary cap available -- spending committed to top 51 player contracts for 2024 minus $255.4 million limit -- as of February 23 according to Spotrac:

1 Wash. Commanders $96,443,548

2 NE Patriots $86,806,052

3 Tennessee Titans $85,215,424

4 Chicago Bears $82,943,701

5 Indianapolis Colts $79,250,395

6 Cincinnati Bengals $74,279,511

7 Houston Texans $73,950,247

8 Detroit Lions $65,727,906

9 Arizona Cardinals $57,539,440

10 Las Vegas Raiders $55,476,342

11 Los Angeles Rams $52,345,058

12 TB Buccaneers $48,162,193

13 Carolina Panthers $42,870,624

14 Atlanta Falcons $41,992,153

15 Minnesota Vikings $40,968,007

16 New York Giants $38,916,449

17 Philadelphia Eagles $32,473,778

18 Jacksonville Jaguars $30,147,209

19 Kansas City Chiefs $28,279,105

20 New York Jets $20,462,303

21 Seattle Seahawks $16,105,973

22 Green Bay Packers $12,454,745

23 Baltimore Ravens $12,078,444

24 Pittsburgh Steelers $8,474,099

25 San Francisco 49ers $4,625,837

26 Dallas Cowboys -$3,228,985)

27 Cleveland Browns -$7,721,189)

28 Denver Broncos -$13,022,601)

29 LA Chargers -$20,833,735)

30 Miami Dolphins -$24,636,557)

31 New Orleans Saints -$38,842,847)

32 Buffalo Bills -$41,316,834)

Saints begin annual cap-clearing with QB Derek Carr restructure

Saints begin annual cap-clearing with QB Derek Carr restructure

New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr agreed to restructure his contract to convert more than $28 million of his scheduled $30 million salary to a bonus, creating sorely needed salary cap relief.

The details of the accounting were confirmed by Spotrac, which projected the Saints to be over the $246 million adjusted salary cap by more than $74 million before the conversion.

The annual salary-gap gymnastics are a matter of course in New Orleans, where it has become typical to reach the required maximum expenditure threshold with extensions and conversions before the NFL league year begins every March.

Carr, 32, signed a four-year, $150 million contract in March 2023 after he was released by the Las Vegas Raiders. His scheduled cap hit for 2024 before the restructure becomes official was $36 million and included a portion of his deferred signing bonus.

Report: Seahawks restructure QB Geno Smith's contract

Report: Seahawks restructure QB Geno Smith's contract

The Seattle Seahawks created $4.8 million in salary cap space by restructuring quarterback Geno Smith's contract, ESPN reported Thursday.

The Seahawks on Feb. 16 guaranteed Smith's $12.7 million salary for next season but have since converted a $9.6 million roster bonus due in mid-March into a signing bonus to be spread out over the next two seasons.

His cap hit in 2024 went from $31.2 million to $26.4 million -- the 15th-highest in the league among quarterbacks -- and the 2025 cap hit increased to $38.5 million, ESPN reported.

Smith, 33, had signed a three-year contract extension in March 2023.

The NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2022, Smith has been steady at the position over the past two seasons for the Seahawks since replacing Russell Wilson as the starter. A Pro Bowl selection in both 2022 and 2023, he threw for 3,624 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season.

Lions bring back K Michael Badgley on one-year deal

Lions bring back K Michael Badgley on one-year deal

The Detroit Lions re-signed kicker Michael Badgley on Thursday.

The team didn't release terms, but Badgley's agent, Brian McLaughlin, told reporters that the agreement is for one season.

Badgley was slated to become an unrestricted free agent next month.

Badgley was Detroit's kicker for the final four regular-season games and the playoffs in 2023. He was 13 of 15 on extra points in the regular season and made all four field goals.

In the postseason, Badgley made all 11 extra points and three field goals he attempted in three games. In the NFC Championship Game, he was twice bypassed for field-goal attempts with the team going for it on fourth down in a game Detroit eventually lost 34-31 to the San Francisco 49ers.

Riley Patterson was the Lions' kicker most of the season before being released in mid-December.

Badgley also was Detroit's kicker for the final 12 games of 2022.

Overall, he is 98 of 119 on field goals and 168 of 175 on extra points in six NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers (2018-20), Indianapolis Colts (2021), Tennessee Titans (2021), Chicago Bears (2022) and Lions. He has 462 points in 64 career games.

Browns offseason primer: Cash-strapped at QB crossroads

Browns offseason primer: Cash-strapped at QB crossroads

Cleveland Browns

2023 record: 11-6

Projected salary cap space: Over the cap

Offseason storylines: Cleveland's salary-cap position can be summarized in one word: overextended. The Browns are without a first-round pick again and four of the team's seven picks are in Rounds 5 or 6. For reference, the team didn't list a single player as a starter at the end of the season that was drafted by the team in Rounds 4-7. The closest to a homegrown late-round hit for Cleveland are linebacker Sione Takitaki (80th overall, 2019) and cornerback Martin Emerson (68th overall, 2022). What feels like another crossroads season for Deshaun Watson brings a few other closely connected variables to that storyline such as, will this aging offensive line hold up, and can Nick Chubb's reconstructed knee last a full season of pounding?

Team Needs: DT, Edge, WR, QB, RB

Comfortable with the quarterback situation and confident in it are not the same mindset. Watson has played in 12 games since the 2020 season ended. He's never looked like the $45 million quarterback the Browns thought they were getting from Houston and is coming back from shoulder surgery. Joe Flacco proved an advanced game manager is sufficient with Cleveland's toothy defense, but he's also closer to AARP than All-Pro as a member of the 2008 draft class. Pass rushers opposite Myles Garrett and quality depth at tackle are defensive priorities. A running mate for Amari Cooper could be a key cog to unlocking vintage Watson.

Top free agent: Edge Za'Darius Smith - We understand he's soon to be 32 years old but the Browns should be able to use his birthdate to their advantage. Not many teams are keeping a spot warm for Smith - or any 32-year-old pass rusher - and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wants him back, knows how to use him and can offer Garrett as a double-team-attracting bookend. Smith had 5.5 sacks last season.

Unrestricted free agents (as of March 11):

LB Matthew Adams

TE Harrison Bryant

LT Geron Christian

G Michael Dunn

DT Jordan Elliott

QB Joe Flacco

QB PJ Walker

QB Jeff Driskel

CB Mike Ford Jr.

S Duron Harmon

S Rodney McLeod

WR James Proche

WR Jakeem Grant

WR Marquise Goodwin

FB Nick Harris

DT Shelby Harris

RB Kareem Hunt

DT Maurice Hurst

LB Jordan Kunaszyk

MLB Jacob Phillips

LDE Za'Darius Smith

SLB Sione Takitaki

MLB Anthony Walker

P Corey Bojorquez

'Punt God' Matt Araiza gets second chance from Chiefs

'Punt God' Matt Araiza gets second chance from Chiefs

Punter Matt Araiza is getting a second chance at an NFL career after the Kansas City Chiefs signed him to a contract on Thursday.

Araiza lost his gig with the Buffalo Bills shortly before the start of the 2022 season when the team released him two days after allegations emerged that he was involved in a sexual assault with a then-17-year-old girl at a party in San Diego in October 2021.

"I am proud and honored to sign a contract with the Chiefs," Ariaza said in a statement through JL Sports, his representation.

"I am thrilled to be able to continue my NFL career. I want to thank my family, who have been my rock and my many friends who have been unwavering in their support."

The district attorney's office in San Diego declined to press criminal charges in December 2022. Two months ago, Araiza was dropped from the girl's lawsuit.

Ariaza earned the nickname "Punt God" for his high, lengthy kicks at San Diego State and won the Ray Guy Award after setting an NCAA record with a 51.19 punting average.

He was a sixth-round pick by the Bills in the 2022 draft and greatly impressed with his booming boots during the preseason before the allegations came out.

Now the Chiefs, led by general manager Brett Veach and coach Andy Reid, are bringing him onboard shortly after winning their second straight Super Bowl.

"We are grateful to Brett Veach, coach Reid and the Chiefs organization for giving Matt this opportunity," Joe Linta of TL Sports wrote on social media.

Tommy Townsend, Kansas City's punter over the last four seasons, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next month. He was a Pro Bowl pick in 2022.

Bears OC Shane Waldron 'exchanging messages' with Justin Fields

Bears OC Shane Waldron 'exchanging messages' with Justin Fields

Bears offensive coordinator Shane Waldron plans to build his system around the players available when he arrives at organized team activities.

"Once we know each other, you do develop relationships with people, you get a chance to coach them harder and coach them better," Waldron said Thursday.

The Bears have the No. 1 pick and a decision to make about whether to commit to 2021 first-round pick Justin Fields or select one of the top-rated prospects in the first round in April.

Waldron said he's starting prep for the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday afternoon, including a more in-depth look at presumptive No. 1 pick Caleb Williams of USC.

"The tape is obviously their resume as a player. What I look forward to is understanding and getting to know -- what's their why?" Waldron said. "The combine is the first chance to see some people in-person and get to know those guys outside of just the great displays of what they've put together Saturday afternoon or night on the field.

Waldron said when he was hired that most of the conversation about the quarterback position was lumped into his ability as a coach to be adaptable and build a system around individual skill sets.

"A lot of the conversation on offense revolved around adaptability. What can you do with different pieces of the puzzle? It's our job first to be great teachers and put guys in the best position to have individual success and great team success," Waldron said. "What concepts do we want to have when we start our OTAs, that's the first part of it. You build it around the player's skill set. That's been a part of my core beliefs."

Waldron said he has "exchanged messages" with Fields and will have more contact with him in the coming days.

Fields has one year -- and a possible fifth-year option for 2025 -- remaining on his rookie contract. Waldron is likely to have a say in whether the former Ohio State standout is equipped to move the franchise forward as the QB1. Waldron said he hasn't done a detailed individual evaluation of Fields or any other offensive player on the roster yet.

"In the past experiences with different quarterbacks with different experience levels ... different quarterbacks have been able to step into the system, learn it quickly," Waldron said. "Without getting into specific personnel talk right now, it's an ever-changing scenario this time of year with free agency. Obviously at the quarterback position with the ability to be explosive, work off-schedule."

Report: Iowa DB Cooper DeJean's leg injury to limit combine participation

Report: Iowa DB Cooper DeJean's leg injury to limit combine participation

Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean will not participate in testing and position drills at the NFL Scouting Combine next week, The Athletic reported on Thursday.

A consensus All-American in 2023, DeJean started the first 10 games of the season for Iowa. He had three career interception returns for touchdowns. He did not allow a touchdown in coverage last season.

DeJean's individual workout could take place next month if he's deemed medically ready for testing. When he does run the 40 and conduct other on-field tests, DeJean is expected to show elite explosiveness and acceleration scouts have seen at previous testing days in Iowa City along with his on-field play.

Iowa's pro day is scheduled for March 20, just over one month before the 2024 draft.

DeJean turned 21 last month and is part of a strong cornerback class with the potential to be used as a hybrid defensive back similar to the role of Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton and Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon.

Chiefs DE Charles Omenihu undergoes surgery to repair ACL tear

Chiefs DE Charles Omenihu undergoes surgery to repair ACL tear

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Charles Omenihu underwent right knee surgery to repair the torn ACL he sustained in the AFC Championship Game victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Jan. 28.

Omenihu reportedly underwent the surgery on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

"(Surgery) was a success," Omenihu said on social media. "I appreciate all the well wishes and prayers. I've been through the dark before and God has always guided me to the light, this will be no different."

Omenihu had a strip-sack of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in the second quarter of the AFC title game before getting hurt on a non-contact play later in the period. The injury caused him to miss the Super Bowl.

Omenihu, 26, had a career-best seven sacks in 11 games in his first season with Kansas City. He missed the first six games due to a suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy following an alleged domestic-violence incident in January 2023 when he was a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

Overall, Omenihu has 18.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and 95 tackles in 72 career games (11 starts) with the Houston Texans (2019-21), 49ers (2021-22) and Chiefs. He was a fifth-round pick by the Texans out of Texas in the 2019 draft.

Panthers offseason primer: Rebuilding around Bryce Young

Panthers offseason primer: Rebuilding around Bryce Young

Carolina Panthers

2023 record: 2-15

Projected salary cap space: $30.2 million

Offseason storylines: New coach. No first-round pick. Worst record in the NFL. Where do the Panthers go from here? There's conceivably only one direction for Carolina under first-time head coach Dave Canales. To stoke greatness the franchise believes is within 2023 No. 1 pick Bryce Young, the Panthers are trying to make his life easier with explosive playmakers and a polished offensive line. How many of those boxes they can check this spring isn't clear, but new GM Dan Morgan vows to be bold.

Team Needs: WR, DE, LB, CB, OL

Hats off to Adam Thielen for his 103-catch season in his Carolina debut. The Panthers had only 13 TD passes in 17 games and averaged 13.9 points per game. It'll be a steep climb from here to becoming a potent offense. A lead receiver with big-play flair and improved offensive line play are necessary. Then there's the matter of fixing the defense. Problem areas are plentiful. The Panthers allowed 25 rushing touchdowns and totaled 27 sacks.

Top free agent: OLB/DE Brian Burns -- When talks crumbled around Burns' request for $30 million per season last summer, the notion the two sides could ever find middle ground on a contract appeared to be a pipedream. Burns still wants the bag. But he might be more realistic about the total value after notching 8.0 sacks and fighting injuries in 2023. Burns and S Jeremy Chinn, another priority free agent, aren't yet 26 years old.

Unrestricted free agents (as of March 11):

DE Henry Anderson

OLB Brian Burns

WR DJ Chark Jr.

S/LB Jeremy Chinn

S Sam Franklin Jr.

CB Shaquill Griffin

OLB Yetur Gross-Matos

ILB Kamu Grugler-Hill

OLB Marquis Haynes Sr.

CB C.J. Henderson

CB Troy Hill

RG Gabe Jackson

LS JJ Jansen

LB Deion Jones

ILB Frankie Luvu

G/C Justin McCray

K Eddy Pineiro

T David Sharpe

WR Laviska Shenault Jr.

LDE DeShawn Williams

DE Chris Wormley

Justin Fields on future: 'Whatever happens, happens'

Justin Fields on future: 'Whatever happens, happens'

Quarterback Justin Fields talked about his future and his past during Wednesday's appearance on the podcast hosted by Chicago Bears teammate Equanimeous St. Brown and his brother, Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.

First things first, Fields' future is in question with the Bears holding the coveted top overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams very well could be that choice, which could set the ball rolling for Fields' departure from the Windy City.

"I can't see myself playing in another place," Fields said. "If it was up to me, I would want to stay in Chicago. I love the city. The city's lit. The fans there, they're great."

Fields, however, is aware that there are more factors in play.

"Whatever happens, happens," Fields said. "I feel like the biggest thing going on with this right now is I just want it to be over. Just let me know if I'm getting traded, let me know if I'm staying."

So, let's examine Chicago's options.

Should the Bears keep the pick, they could choose a quarterback, just three years after using the No. 11 overall selection of the 2021 NFL Draft on Fields.

The Bears would have options at quarterback should they choose to trade Fields, who is 10-28 as a starter but showed improvement in 2023, and start fresh at the position. In addition to Williams, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, the Bears could take 2023 recipient Jayden Daniels of LSU or North Carolina's Drake Maye.

The Bears also own the No. 9 pick in the draft.

Fields, who turns 25 on March 5, missed four games last season due to injury and had a 5-8 record. Still, he set career highs for completion percentage (61.4) and passing yards (2,562) and added 16 touchdowns and a career-low nine interceptions. He engineered three game-winning drives.

He added 657 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 2023, a season after gaining 1,143 rushing yards and scoring eight times.

The draft is scheduled for April 25-27 in Detroit.


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