Jones extends deal
Dallas punter Chris Jones has signed a four-year contract extension through 2021, securing the Cowboys’ special teams combo with kicker Dan Bailey for at least the next four seasons. Jones, who had one year remaining on his deal, had a career-best average of 45.9 yards last season, including a 66-yarder that rolled out of bounds at the 1-yard line at Philadelphia in the regular-season finale. Bailey, who has made nearly 90 percent of his field goals through six seasons, is signed through 2020.
Rookie QB to start
Coach Mike Tomlin said Wednesday quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown will not play in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ preseason opener Friday night against the New York Giants, but all other healthy players will appear in some capacity. With backup quarterback Landry Jones (abdominal) out for a week, rookie Josh Dobbs will start at quarterback. A number of Steelers starters have been nagged by injuries and held out of practice, including center Maurkice Pouncey (leg), tackle Alejandro Villanueva (concussion symptoms), linebackers Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree, cornerback Artie Burns and safety Mike Mitchell. It is unlikely any of them will play against the Giants.
Freeman’s record deal
The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms on a five-year, $41.25 million contract extension with running back Devonta Freeman. It includes a $15 million signing bonus and $22 million in guaranteed money. The deal was announced Wednesday, on the eve of the team’s preseason opener at Miami, and makes Freeman the NFL’s highest-paid running back. During his three seasons with the Falcons, the Miami native has racked up 2,383 rushing yards, including back-toback 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2015 and 2016. His 3,175 total yards over the past two seasons ranks second in the NFL, behind teammate Julio Jones. Freeman’s agent first raised the prospect of a lucrative extension before the Falcons played in the Super Bowl. While
negotiations carried on, the running back said he had no intention of holding out because he didn’t want to be a distraction.
The NFL will hire up to 24 fulltime game officials. The league will begin hiring between 21 and 24 full-time officials from among the current roster of 124 officials for this season. The decision was announced Wednesday. “We believe this is a great development for NFL officiating overall and ultimately the quality of our game,” said NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent. “We share a common goal, which is to make
our game as great as it can possibly be, and look forward to working together on this new effort.” Full-time officials will be hired at each of the seven officiating positions and may serve on each of the 17 officiating crews. They will work collaboratively with their assigned crews, the league officiating staff and the NFL’s football-related committees during the offseason.