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NFL NOTES

Patriots' Revis tops wave of releases, retirements, re-signings

John Kryk

By John Kryk, Toronto Sun

New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis speaks to reporters during the New England Patriots press conference at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass on Jan. 29, 2015. (Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports)

New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis speaks to reporters during the New England Patriots press conference at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass on Jan. 29, 2015. (Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports)

Teams didn’t just jump the gun in free agency this year. They took off before the starter loaded blanks into his pistol.

But after a weekend of brazen rule-ignoring that saw many such sprinting offenders reach the finish line with a slew of top free-agents-to-be, the biggest news Monday came in releases, retirements and re-signings.

The biggest releases: Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis, Texans wideout Andre Johnson, Rams offensive tackle Jake Long and Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton.

All cut.

The biggest re-signings: Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes, Eagles outside linebacker Brandon Graham, Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez, Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett, Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers and Bengals kicker Mike Nugent.

The retirements are shocking: a pair of integral 49ers defenders, linebacker Patrick Willis and -- barring a change of heart -- tackle Justin Smith.

The day’s news-topper: New England won’t pick up the 2015 option on Revis, their superstar cornerback, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The Pats had signed Revis 52 weeks ago to what amounted to a two-year deal, with a $20-million team option for Year 2.

So in less than a week, the Patriots have said goodbye to their best interior defensive lineman in NT Vince Wilfork, and best cornerback. And apparently they might be trade-shopping their other starting cornerback, Brandon Browner. Wow.

Revis becomes a free agent when the new league year begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. EDT -- which is when free agency is supposed to begin, when trades can officially be made, and when teams have to be under the salary cap.

TEMPERED TAMPERING: Expect the NFL either to trash or overhaul the stupid, vague rule permitting what has been snickeringly called “legal tampering” -- when, starting on the Saturday before the new league year begins, agents of players about to hit the open market can negotiate with teams, but not conclude terms.

Right, sure. Hundreds of millions of dollars already have been committed to star free-agents-to-be, including DT Ndamukong Suh with the Dolphins, CB Byron Maxwell with the Eagles, G Orlando Franklin with the Chargers and WR Jeremy Maclin with the Chiefs.

Long-time RB Frank Gore apparently agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Eagles before word began leaking Monday night that he might play with the Indianapolis Colts instead. If so, the Eagles can’t do a damn thing about it.

The NFL sent a reminder to all teams Monday about the rule and, once the laughter died down, teams took the admonition seriously. No more deal terms were leaked. Indeed, soon-to-be-former 49ers guard Mike Iupati probably has a deal in place with the Cardinals, but Monday night the news was limited to the fact that he’s likely to sign with Arizona.

Ditto ex-Broncos TE Julius Thomas with the Jaguars.

THE CAP CASUALTIES: Andre Johnson leaves the Texans after being the face of that franchise for 12 of its 13 years in existence. When the team informed him last week it planned a lesser role for him in Year 2 of head coach Bill O’Brien’s regime, he asked for a trade.

But because he was set to earn $10.5 million this year and $11 million in 2016 -- in the final two years in a back-loaded, six-year, $67.8-million deal -- of course there were no takers for the 33-year-old.

The Rams dumping Long is a surprise. Two years ago, they signed him as a free agent to a four-year, $34-million contract. But he tore an ACL last year and missed nine games.

Long won’t get $18 million of that back-loaded deal. But he’ll get by. He pocketed $57.75 million from the Dolphins from 2008-12.

Lofton has played seven years with the Falcons and Saints. He led New Orleans in tackles last year, but the franchise has been making a series of desperate reach-moves to claw under the salary cap by Tuesday’s deadline.

Lofton was to have earned $7.25 million in salary and bonuses.

NINERS IN TATTERS: All this has actually happened on Monday:

- GM Trent Baalke denied reports the team is shopping QB Colin Kaepernick

- Perennial pro Bowl LB Patrick Willis shockingly announced his retirement; and some reports said DT Justin Smith is about to do likewise

- Among the Niners’ free agents, top RB Frank Gore will sign with either the Eagles or Colts (this, right after 49ers CEO Jed York said he wants Gore back) and top OG Mike Iaputi will sign with the Cards; also, top CB Chris Culliver is not expected to re-sign, and neither is No. 2 WR Michael Crabtree

- Finally, FB Bruce Miller was arrested for spousal battery

This franchise is descending faster than a sheared cliff onto Wile E. Coyote.

OTHER DEALS IN PLACE: Among deals in place we aren’t supposed to know about but do, thanks to loose lips and good reporting, which can’t be signed until Tuesday after 4:

- OLB Pernell McPhee, previously with the Ravens, now with the Bears for $40 million over five years, with $16 guaranteed; the Bears reportedly outbid the Cardinals

- C Rodney Hudson, previously with the Chiefs, now with the Raiders for $44.5 million over five years

- LB Sean Weatherspoon, previously with the Falcons, now with the Cardinals for just under $4 million for one year

- OT Jeremy Parnell, previously a backup swing tackle with the Cowboys, now presumably a starter with the Jaguars for $32 million over five years

EXTRA POINTS: The Dolphins reportedly tried hard to sign Packers WR Randall Cobb, who re-signed with Green Bay on Sunday for $40 million over four years … Sports Business Journal reports that league revenues will increase to $12 billion in 2015, up $1 billion from last year … There actually were a couple legal signings. WR Brian Hartline, dumped last week by the Dolphins, signed with a home-state team, the Browns, for a reported $6 million over two years. And Ted Ginn Jr., dumped by the Cardinals, is back in Carolina. Cut players could sign with other teams before Tuesday at 4.


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