Panthers Cut CB Robert McClain

The Panthers are getting rid of yet another cornerback. The team has released Robert McClain, a source tells Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer (via Twitter).

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McClain started Super Bowl 50 for the Panthers, but his role decreased this year after the Panthers drafted three cornerbacks. Of course, the team hasn’t gotten the best results out of its secondary after dropping Josh Norman and kickstarting a youth movement. In fact, fifth-round pick Zack Sanchez didn’t even make the 53-man roster to start the year.

McClain’s individual performance has been pretty bad this season. Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the No. 115 cornerback in the NFL out of 123 qualified players. Interestingly, it has been a while since PFF was high on McClain. While with the Falcons in 2012, he earned an 84.0 overall mark, which positioned him as a starting-caliber CB. In 2013, he regressed to a 70.1 grade, which still put him on the fringes of a cornerback worthy of starting. Since then, he has basically been in the cellar in terms of advanced metrics.

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Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson Done For Season

Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson has suffered a ruptured Achilles, coach Andy Reid told reporters on Thursday night. The injury, of course, will end Johnson’s season and the team will place him on IR. Derrick Johnson

[RELATED: Chiefs Likely To Franchise Dontari Poe?]

This isn’t Johnson’s first experience with a torn Achilles. He suffered the same injury back in 2014 and missed the majority of the season as a result. The good news is that he rebounded well, starting all 16 games in 2015 and totaling 116 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. For his efforts, he was ranked as the No. 8 linebacker in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.

Johnson has been halted in the middle of another strong campaign – he is rated No. 21 amongst NFL linebackers by PFF with a top five grade for his coverage abilities. Now, the Chiefs will probably turn to 2015 fifth-round pick D.J. Alexander as a stand-in. Johnson will be sorely missed, but the good news is that the Chiefs’ D was able to hang on after losing him as they sealed a 21-13 win over the Raiders.

Johnson is tied with punter Dustin Colquitt as KC’s longest-tenured player. He signed a three-year, $21MM deal to stay with the Chiefs this offseason, so he should be under contract through the 2018 season.

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Jackson: Browns Not Making Thomas Trade

Joe Thomas trade rumors figure to surface again once the Browns’ season concludes, with the perennial All-Pro set to go into his age-32 season in 2017 on the heels of what could be a winless Cleveland campaign.

But Hue Jackson insisted an offseason Thomas trade is not going to occur, no matter how much sense it would make for a franchise that’s attempting one of the biggest grass-roots rebuilds in modern football history.

That is not happening, OK? — or I am going with him,” Jackson said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “OK? I guarantee you that. I am going with him.”

Jackson also said the organization did not discuss trading Thomas at the deadline as it did last season, when the Broncos nearly acquired the six-time All-Pro for a Shane Ray-fronted package. But the first-year Browns coach charged with orchestrating this re-emergence said he would have objected if management attempted to push a trade through. Talk was the Browns wanted a second-round pick for the now-32-year-old left tackle, and although teams were interested, the interest did not reach the level it did in 2015.

I would have [put my foot down]. There is no question,” Jackson said. “Joe Thomas means a lot to me personally and a lot to this organization and this team and this city. He has done too much, and we need to keep him here. Joe is an asset to this organization is so many different ways.

Thomas is signed through 2018, due to make a nonguaranteed $10MM in both ’17 and ’18, so interest should resurface — potentially around draft weekend. Cleveland’s longest-tenured player has repeatedly expressed desire to stay with the team despite the franchise’s present status, and that remains as the Wisconsin product finishes out his 10th season.

I’m a Clevelander,” Thomas said, via Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN.com. “I’ve spent the majority of my adult life here. Every day when I come to work, it’s ‘Let’s turn this team into a consistent winner.’ Because it would be such a special story. It would be like when the Cubs won the World Series. … It’s so important for me to be here for the turnaround. I don’t want to just get a Super Bowl ring [by] being traded to a dream team. It would feel unsatisfying.”

Merrill reports Jackson did talk to Thomas after he voiced what many took as an issue with the Browns letting so much talent depart in free agency, most notably offensive linemen Mitchell Schwartz and Alex Mack, with Thomas telling the first-year coach he did not mean the comments to be controversial.

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Latest On Chargers’ Future In San Diego

As signs continue to point to the Chargers moving to Los Angeles, San Diego is making an attempt to keep the only NFL team it’s housed.

Dean Spanos met with San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer on Wednesday as the sides attempt to exhaust all options to keep the team in the city after the Chargers’ Measure C — for a downtown stadium — fell well short of the threshold needed to secure public money. Faulconer and County Supervisor Ron Roberts appear to have put forth a compromise measure, however.

The local politicians have made an offer to the Chargers for a stadium near their current Mission Valley, Calif., site for $350MM in public money, Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. This is, of course, subject to a vote just as the downtown stadium initiative was in November. But with talk the Chargers will bolt for Los Angeles to share a stadium with the Rams continuing, this represents an effort from the city, one as Krasovic points out is $150MM higher in terms of public funding than Oakland’s recently offered for the last-ditch Raiders venture.

Aside from a meeting with Spanos this week, Faulconer met with another Chargers official and talks are expected to continue. The Bolts’ lease at Qualcomm Stadium runs through 2020, and the team turns a profit while playing there, per Krasovic. So, might they be willing to continue playing there while this plays out? Or would the resounding defeat at the ballot box induce Spanos to eschew this latest development and take the NFL’s relocation offer by January? Prospective contributions from the Chargers and the NFL for this latest stadium effort are not yet known.

The Chargers have until January 15 to decide on this current Los Angeles option — although, there could be an extension, especially with the Raiders connected to Las Vegas — and Spanos said no decision will be made until after the season. But just 43 percent of San Diegans voted for the current stadium, which centered around a hotel tax, when a two-thirds majority was required. Although the Chargers and the city would have more time to promote the next stadium proposal if it comes to that, there’s still a lot of ground to cover with voters who have come out on the other side of this issue.

Last week, Jim Trotter of ESPN.com reported it would “take a miracle” for the Chargers to stay in San Diego despite reports previously linking the team to continuing to play in San Diego in 2017. The Chargers and Rams continue to make progress on an agreement that would permit the Bolts to share the $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, so the Bolts are busy on multiple fronts as another season figures to end shy of playoff qualification.

 

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Minor NFL Transactions: 12/8/16

Here are today’s minor moves.

  • The Jets are promoting safety Doug Middleton from the practice squad. Gang Green signed Middleton, an Appalachian State product, as a UDFA this spring and signed him to their practice squad in September. The rookie safety has yet to play in an NFL game.
  • The Patriots waived defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, Doug Kyed of NESN reports (on Twitter). Kilgo’s cut opened the door for the Patriots to add wideout Griff Whalen earlier today. New England claimed Kilgo off waivers from the Broncos, who selected him in the sixth round in 2015. Kilgo became a superfluous commodity after Alan Branch won his suspension last week. Kilgo did not play in a game for the Patriots after suiting up for nine in each of the past two season for the Broncos.

Latest On Oakland’s Raiders-Retention Effort

As the Raiders play their biggest game in more than 13 years, their future remains uncertain. Both Las Vegas and now Oakland have made efforts to secure a stadium for the venue-seeking franchise, but the latter’s last-ditch attempt may not be a reliable commitment.

Multiple owners, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (Twitter link), believe Oakland does not have a strong desire to keep the Raiders and are “playing political games” in this effort that involves the Ronnie Lott group contributing a sizable amount of the stadium costs for this Bay Area site. This venture, which does not feature Mark Davis‘ blessing, calls for $600MM from the Lott-fronted Fortress Investment Group, $300MM from Davis, $200MM from the league and $200MM in public money. It’s obviously not as far along as Las Vegas’ effort, which already secured the $750MM in public money and approval from Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

While most NFL owners’ stances are not yet known on Vegas, it’s been widely reported the league prefers Oakland as the Raiders’ home, due largely to the disparity between the Bay Area and Vegas markets. However, the league has twice approached the city of Oakland about buying or leasing the Oakland Coliseum and acting as a developer for the Raiders — per Cole, on Twitter — but the city has not corresponded with the NFL on this specific inquiry. Cole notes the NFL being heavily involved in this process would make a Raiders stadium project in Oakland much easier (Twitter link), but the city and county have not responded to the league’s request to know what it would cost to get involved in the process, per Cole (via Twitter).

Roger Goodell‘s preference for Oakland hasn’t been much of a secret in league circles either, but the latest coming out of this saga now points to neither place being a good option in the minds of the owners. A relocation vote remains up in the air, but this Oakland venture still has unanswered questions as well, creating a similar uneasy feeling Vegas has for the parties who will likely end up voting on the matter, Cole tweets.

Meanwhile, Sheldon Adelson’s potential issues with this Vegas project in which he’s slated to be heavily involved may be dissipating, with the Raiders and Adelson expected to strike a deal soon, per Cole (on Twitter). In October, a snag between Adelson and the Raiders emerged despite the Vegas project being approved by the Southern Nevada Tourism and Infrastructure Committee, the state legislature and the governor. The franchise and the casino mogul coming together would put more pressure on Oakland to come up with a comparable solution.

Of course, with Davis not being on board with his current city’s latest effort only further complicates this matter for owners as a relocation vote nears.

Kelechi Osemele A Surprise Raiders Scratch

The Raiders will be without arguably their best offensive lineman tonight as they attempt to create distance from themselves and the Chiefs in the AFC West.

Kelechi Osemele will miss tonight’s Week 14 tilt due to an illness, making this the standout left guard’s first missed game as a Raider.

To ignite a spending spree this offseason, Oakland signed Osemele to a contract that dwarfs other guards’ deals, and the fifth-year pro has made good on that investment. Pro Football Focus ranks the mammoth blocker No. 1 overall among guards, being tied with former Ravens mate Marshal Yanda for that distinction through 12 games.

He’s been a part of a resurgent Raiders line that’s helped the team rank fifth in total offense and seventh in rushing. The latter figure is a noticeable jump from the team’s struggles in 2015, when they ranked 28th on the ground. In the passing game, Oakland ranks fourth and has allowed a league-low 13 sacks.

This will mark a fourth straight season Osemele’s missed at least one game. The former second-round pick missed two in each of the past two seasons and nine during Baltimore’s 2013 slate.

Rookie Vadal Alexander will be replacing Osemele in the starting lineup in Kansas City, Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (on Twitter). Alexander’s started three games this season for a Raiders team that’s deployed more six-offensive lineman sets than any other offense this season.

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AFC West Notes: Chiefs, Gates, Broncos

The Chiefs will probably put the franchise tag on defensive tackle Dontari Poe in 2017 while working to lock up Eric Berry on a long-term deal, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com opines. Berry, a cancer survivor, is in the midst of a tremendous season as he plays out his one-year franchise tender.

Over the summer, the odds of Berry staying in Kansas City didn’t seem strong. Now, one has to imagine that the Chiefs will do everything in their power to retain him. Using the franchise tag on Berry for a second straight year would be costly and they would be better off using it on Poe and delaying a long-term contract with him.

Berry would be owed $12.96MM if the Chiefs again place the franchise tag on him, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out should the Chiefs balk at meeting the soon-to-be 28-year-old safety’s asking price, he notes other teams would, mentioning Berry’s hometown Falcons as one who might. Kansas City stands to be one of the most cap-strapped teams in the league in 2017, so navigating the Poe/Berry situation will be difficult.

Here’s more from the AFC West as the division’s biggest game of the season approaches.

  • Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles is doing well, working hard, and hopeful to be back for the playoffs, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The ninth-year running back is eligible to come off IR in Week 17. The Chiefs can be in much better position to score a playoff bye — which would be their first since 2003 — if they can navigate past the Raiders tonight. That would give Charles an extra week in his quest to make a comeback and likely return as a change-of-pace back behind Spencer Ware.
  • Antonio Gates is signed through the 2017 season but hasn’t decided whether or not he’ll come back for a 14th campaign. The 36-year-old tight end said the Chargers being a viable AFC West contender will determine that but does expect that to happen, per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “My thing when I decide [whether to play another season] is, ‘Do we have a legitimate chance?’” Gates said. “I feel like we have a legitimate chance. I know the cliche. But I’m saying, legitimately, we should have a chance. Top to bottom, what we we’re going to be able to do, what we’re still able to do now even with the guys we’ve lost. I feel like in my heart we have a chance to win a Super Bowl next year. I feel like I deserve that. That’s what I want.” Currently 5-7 and en route to a second consecutive last-place West finish, San Diego’s lost numerous players to injuries for a second straight year, Gates missing multiple games earlier this season. Gates is in the decline phase of his career but has remained one of Philip Rivers‘ auxiliary targets, hauling in 34 passes for 327 yards and five touchdowns.
  • Brandon Marshall reinjured his left hamstring during the second half of the Broncos‘ win over the Jaguars, and Troy Renck of Denver7 notes growing signs are pointing to the team’s top non-rush linebacker missing Sunday’s game against the Titans. Recently signed to a four-year, $32MM extension, Marshall became the most notable investment in an inside linebacker in nearly a decade. He missed a game Denver lost earlier this season, against the Chargers in October. Former seventh-round pick Corey Nelson would be in line to start if Marshall sits.
  • Some players Broncos worked out three futures-contract candidates on Tuesday: center Michael Brewster and guards Reese Dismukes and Cyril Lemon (Twitter link via Renck).

Dallas Robinson contributed to this report

Patriots To Sign Griff Whalen

Griff Whalen‘s career has ventured to the journeyman stage in 2016, but it will now take him to one of the league’s highest-profile locales.

The Patriots plan to sign the fifth-year wide receiver, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). New England is down Danny Amendola due to a high-ankle sprain, and the organization believes Whalen could fill the veteran’s role until the playoffs, per Rapoport.

It’s a one-year deal for Whalen, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets.

Amendola’s role has varied in importance with the Patriots, but he’s played in all 12 games this season and has 23 receptions for 243 yards and four touchdowns in this his fourth year with the team. He suffered the ankle injury against the Rams on Sunday.

This will be Whalen’s third team in the past three months. He worked out for the Jets last week. Initially cut by the Dolphins after spending the offseason and preseason in Miami, Whalen moved to San Diego and played in eight games a Chargers backup for a team that’s again reeling at wide receiver. The Chargers cut him two weeks ago after claiming Ronnie Hillman off waivers.

New England has Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell shouldering the receiving reps, so Whalen figures to contribute mostly on special teams. For his career, the 26-year-old target has 47 receptions for 509 yards and three scores — all but two of those catches coming in four seasons with the Colts. His previous attachment to the Patriots came last season when in a Colts-Pats Sunday-night tilt he was the designated snapper on the strangest fake-punt attempt in memory.

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