Dec 26, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon (28) prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs sign RB Jerick McKinnon

The Kansas City Chiefs signed free-agent running back Jerick McKinnon on Friday.

McKinnon played for the San Francisco 49ers last season and rushed for 319 yards and five touchdowns and caught 33 passes for 253 yards and one score in 16 games (four starts).

McKinnon tore the ACL in his right knee shortly before the 2018 season and missed that campaign as well as the 2019 season.

McKinnon, who turns 29 on Monday, spent his first four seasons (2014-17) with the Minnesota Vikings. He has rushed for 2,237 yards and 12 touchdowns and caught 175 passes for 1,237 yards and six scores in 74 career games (18 starts).

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) reacts against the Los Angeles Rams during the NFC Divisional Round at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Packers exercise fifth-year option on CB Jaire Alexander

The Green Bay Packers exercised the fifth-year option of standout cornerback Jaire Alexander, according to multiple reports on Friday.

Alexander will receive $13.294 million in 2022 in the final season of his rookie deal.

Alexander was a Pro Bowl selection last season when he had 51 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble.

The 18th overall pick in 2018, Alexander has 175 tackles, four interceptions, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and 1.5 sacks in 44 career contests (42 starts).

Alexander had seven college interceptions at Louisville (2015-17) before being tabbed in the first round by Green Bay.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Houston Texans quarterback AJ McCarron (2) passes in the second half against Chicago Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith (58) at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons agree to one-year deal with QB AJ McCarron

The Atlanta Falcons announced Friday that they agreed to a one-year deal with free-agent quarterback AJ McCarron.

Longtime starter Matt Ryan was the only quarterback on Atlanta’s roster prior to the deal with McCarron.

The 30-year-old McCarron has played in 17 NFL games (four starts) with the Cincinnati Bengals (2014-17), the then-Oakland Raiders (2018) and Houston Texans (2019-20).

McCarron, a fifth-round pick in 2014 by the Bengals, has passed for 1,173 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

McCarron was a college standout at Alabama and passed for 9,019 yards, 77 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He guided the Crimson Tide to two BCS national championships.

Atlanta figures to draft a quarterback at some point over the final six rounds of the three-day NFL draft. The first round was held Thursday and the next two rounds are Friday night.

–Field Level Media

Former Jets TE Pete Lammons dies in boating accident at 77

Former New York Jets tight end Pete Lammons died Thursday in a boating accident in Texas. He was 77.

The Jets said Lammons drowned at the start of a Major League Fishing tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, located two-plus hours northeast of Lammons’ Houston residence.

Lance Lammons, nephew of Pete, told the Jacksonville (Texas) Progress that his uncle tripped on the dock as he was about to board the boat. He said his uncle hit the boat and fell into the water and was unable to be saved.

The nephew said Pete Lammons recently had two stents put into his heart, according to the publication.

Pete Lammons was a member of the famous New York Jets team that upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III at the end of the 1968 season. He caught two passes for 13 yards in the game.

Lammons played six seasons with the Jets (1966-71) and finished his career with the Green Bay Packers in 1972. He caught 185 passes for 2,364 yards and 14 touchdowns in his 95-game NFL career.

He was a Pro Bowl selection in 1967 when he caught a career-best 45 passes. He also had 515 yards that season, second to the 565 he compiled a season earlier as a rookie.

Lammons played college football for Texas from 1963-65 and was a member of the school’s 1963 national championship team. He caught 47 passes for 706 yards and five touchdowns and was inducted into the Texas Athletics Hall of Honor in 2002.

–Field Level Media

Aug 14, 2019; Costa Mesa, CA, USA: Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James (33) during training camp at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers pick up fifth-year option on S Derwin James

The Los Angeles Chargers announced Friday that they exercised the fifth-year option on the contract of safety Derwin James.

James, 24, will receive $9.052 million in 2022 in the final season of his rookie deal.

James missed the entire 2020 season after right knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He also was limited to just five games in 2019 due to a broken right foot.

The Florida State product was splendid after being selected with the 17th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.

James recorded 105 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions in 16 games that season. He earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors and was the first rookie in franchise history to eclipse 100 tackles.

Overall, he has 139 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions in 21 games (all starts).

–Field Level Media

Feb 25, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead speaks to the media during the 2020 NFL Combine in the Indianapolis Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Rams GM Les Snead to draft from garage after positive test

Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead will contribute to the team’s draft plans from his garage on Friday after testing positive for COVID-19, he said.

In a news conference held late Thursday, Snead said he returned a positive test earlier in the day.

He and head coach Sean McVay both were determined to be close contacts of someone who had tested positive, but McVay tested negative.

Snead, 50, said he had his first COVID-19 vaccination and was awaiting the second. He said he was experiencing mild symptoms.

While Snead is holed up in his garage, the rest of the Rams entourage will be working out of a beach house in Malibu, Calif.

The Rams didn’t have a draft pick in Thursday’s first round after sending it to Jacksonville as part of the trade for cornerback Jalen Ramsey in October 2019. The Rams are slated to make their first selection in the No. 57 overall slot on Friday night.

The Rams also traded their first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, as well as a 2021 third-round pick (No. 101 overall), to the Detroit Lions as part of the trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford in January.

–Field Level Media

Sep 14, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; A Denver Broncos helmet on the ground before the game against the Tennessee Titans at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos’ Super Bowl odds shorten with Teddy Bridgewater, Patrick Surtain

Oddmakers took favorably to the Denver Broncos’ moves after the first day of the NFL draft, shortening the team’s odds to win Super Bowl LVI in February.

Draft Kings adjusted the Broncos’ odds to +1600 — they were +6000 on Tuesday — after Denver’s acquisition of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from the Carolina Panthers and selection of Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II with the No. 9 overall pick in the opening round of the draft on Thursday night.

The Broncos join the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers at +1600 — the seventh-shortest odds in the league.

The Chiefs (+500) remained the favorites with DraftKings, followed by the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who dropped to +700 from +750 in the latest odds, then the Baltimore Ravens (+1300), and the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers, all at +1400.

The 49ers opened the week at +1600 and saw their odds shortened after their selection of North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick.

Green Bay’s odds got longer on Friday, moving from +1100 on Tuesday, after reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers reportedly said he no longer wants to play for the Packers.

The odds also got longer for the Arizona Cardinals, who moved from +3300 to +4000, and Panthers (+6000 to +6600). Despite taking quarterback Zach Wilson of BYU with the No. 2 overall pick, the New York Jets saw their odds of winning the Super Bowl lengthen from +8000 to +10000 — the same as the Cincinnati Bengals.

The embattled Houston Texans and the Detroit Lions remained the longest shots in the field at +15000.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) and quarterback Jarrett Stidham (4) celebrate after a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots’ Bill Belichick: Cam Newton ‘still our quarterback’

There is no quarterback controversy in New England. At least not yet.

Bill Belichick said Friday that veteran Cam Newton remains his starter — despite the Patriots drafting Alabama’s Mac Jones in the first round on Thursday night and the continued presence of former Tom Brady heir apparent Jarrett Stidham on the depth chart.

“Cam’s our quarterback,” the head coach told reporters. “Whatever time Jarrett or Mac are ready to challenge him and compete, we’ll see how that goes. Right now, for Mac, he’s got a lot of learning in front of him, and I know he’s very anxious to get going with it and getting started.”

Newton, who turns 32 on May 11, re-signed with the club on a one-year deal in March after going 7-8 and passing for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his first season with New England in 2020.

Belichick was asked how long Newton would remain the starter.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Somebody will have to play better than he does.”

Jones, 22, had been projected to go as high as No. 3 in the draft after passing for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions while leading the Crimson Tide to a national championship last season. The Patriots landed him with the 15th pick.

Stidham, 24, was drafted in the fourth round out of Auburn in 2019. He has completed 24 of 48 passes for 270 yards with two touchdowns and four picks in eight games (zero starts) over the past two seasons.

–Field Level Media

Sep 7, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Buffalo Bulls head coach Lance Leipold looks on during a warm up prior to the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas names Lance Leipold to replace Les Miles

Kansas named Buffalo coach Lance Leipold to lead its beleaguered football program on Friday.

Leipold received a six-year contract. Financial terms were not announced.

“It is an exciting and humbling opportunity, and this is a day I will never forget,” Leipold, 56, said in a school news release. “We are going to build this program through developing players, discipline and determination. The philosophies engrained in our programs along the way will be key as we turn this around.”

He replaces Les Miles, who was ousted in March after an investigation showed inappropriate behavior with female students when he coached at LSU.

The task ahead of Leipold is a big one. The Jayhawks haven’t played in a bowl game since 2008. And since the departure of coach Mark Mangino after the 2009 season, Kansas is 20-108 under Miles, David Beaty, Charlie Weis, Clint Bowen and Turner Gill.

Leipold spent the past six seasons with the Bulls, compiling a 37-33 record. But in the past three seasons, the Bulls were 24-10 and received three bowl bids.

“He is a man of integrity, a developer of young men, a program builder and a winner,” athletic director Travis Goff said. “His track record of sustained excellence is exactly what we were looking for in our next leader, and is what the University of Kansas and our fans deserve. His commitment to maximizing our (players’) abilities and experience on the field, in the classroom, in the community, and in life after KU is inspiring. Those qualities will attract individuals and develop them into exceptional Jayhawks.”

Prior to moving to Buffalo, he coached Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater to six national championships.

Leipold, 56, has a career record of 147-39.

–Field Level Media

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) gets rid of the ball as he's hit by Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Jordan Elliott (90) in the second half. The Jets defeat the Browns, 23-16, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in East Rutherford.

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Panthers commit to QB Sam Darnold, WR DJ Moore through 2022

Quarterback Sam Darnold and wide receiver DJ Moore are guaranteed contracts with the Panthers through 2022 after Carolina picked up their fifth-year options on Friday.

Darnold, acquired from the New York Jets for two draft picks, also was validated as the undisputed starter in Carolina on Thursday. The Panthers passed on multiple prospects at the position to select cornerback Jaycee Horn eighth overall in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

“I’m not going to talk about other players; we brought Sam here for a reason,” Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said. “We’re excited to see what he can do. We’re excited to give him an opportunity. We traded for him because we believe in his potential.”

The option will pay Darnold just under $20 million for 2022. He’s scheduled to make $9.7 million in 2021.

Darnold was selected No. 3 overall in 2018. Jets general manager Joe Douglas and former head coach Adam Gase admitted multiple failures by the Jets impacted Darnold’s development.

The Panthers selected Moore with the No. 24 overall pick in 2018. He’s coming off of a career-best year with 1,193 receiving yards in 2020.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater started for the Panthers last season but was traded to the Denver Broncos earlier this week.

–Field Level Media