The Latest: Browns start spending by extending guard Bitonio

March 9, 2017
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The Latest on NFL free agency (all times Eastern):

1:25 p.m.

Before throwing money around in free agency, the Browns tossed some big bucks at one of their own.

Cleveland signed left guard Joel Bitonio to a 5-year contract extension Thursday, locking up a player the Browns feel can help their climb from a new low point following a 1-15 season.

Although Bitonio’s past two seasons have been cut short by injuries, the Browns view him as one of the NFL’s best young interior linemen. With Bitonio and seven-time All Pro tackle Joe Thomas, the Browns are at least set on the left side of their offensive line.

Cleveland is nearly $102 million under the salary cap and the Browns have been aggressive over the past few days in lining up deals.

Wide receiver is a pressing need and the Browns have targeted veteran Kenny Britt of the Rams. Britt’s expected signing doesn’t mean the Browns have given up on re-signing Terrelle Pryor, the former quarterback who gained 1,007 yards in his first full season at receiver.

– Tom Withers reporting from Cleveland.

1:01 p.m.

The New York Jets have given second-round tenders to center Wesley Johnson and cornerback Marcus Williams, both restricted free agents.

The second-round tenders, which came a few hours before the NFL’s free agency period started Thursday, are each worth $2.7 million. The Jets would receive that amount for each in compensation if another team signs either Johnson or Williams before they sign their tenders.

Johnson is the likely replacement for Nick Mangold, who was recently released. Johnson, a fifth-rounder by Pittsburgh in 2014, started eight of the Jets’ final nine games when Mangold was injured.

Williams has eight interceptions in the last two seasons for New York, including two last year while starting four games. He could be in the mix to replace Darrelle Revis, who has been told he is being released Thursday.

– Dennis Waszak reporting from New York.

12:54 p.m.

The Miami Dolphins have placed a $3.9 million first-round tender on linebacker Kiko Alonso, making it likely he’ll remain with the team in 2017.

The Dolphins also placed original round tenders on safety Michael Thomas and running back Damien Williams for $1.8 million each, and restructured the contract of defensive end Nick Williams.

Alonso, Thomas and Damien Williams were tendered Thursday as restricted free agents. The Dolphins have the right to match another team’s offer to any of those three, and would get a compensatory first-round pick if Alonso leaves.

Alonso started 15 games in 2016 and led Miami with 115 tackles (69 solo). He had four fumble recoveries, which tied for the NFL lead, and two interceptions.

Thomas played in all 16 games in 2016 and made eight starts.

– Steve Wine reporting from Miami.

12:35 p.m.

The Chiefs are declining their option on backup quarterback Nick Foles.

The move was widely expected because Kansas City is hard against the salary cap, and letting Foles go saves $6.75 million. But it also means that Tyler Bray – who has never played a regular season game – becomes the backup to Alex Smith.

Foles won the only game he started for the Chiefs last season, when Smith had a concussion. Other teams will almost certainly show interest in Foles as a backup or even a starter.

The Chiefs could also bring him back on a less expensive deal.

– David Skretta reporting from Kansas City, Missouri.

12:19 p.m.

Aaron Williams’ bid to resume his career in Buffalo following a second serious neck injury is over after the Bills released the starting safety.

The Bills provided no reason for the move in a one-sentence statement. Williams and his family have indicated he would like to continue playing.

Williams had two seasons left on his contract and was scheduled to make a $3.6 million base salary this season.

The sixth-year player’s season ended last year when he was sidelined by a blindside hit to the head by Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry in October. In 2015, Williams’ season was cut short after being hurt attempting to make a diving headfirst tackle. Surgeons shaved two of his disks to alleviate nerve damage.

– John Wawrow reporting from Orchard Park, New York.

12:04 p.m.

The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to contract extensions with backup quarterback Matt Schaub and defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw.

The NFC champions have focused on retaining players in the offseason.

”Courtney proved to be versatile in our defensive scheme and he will continue to play several roles along our defensive line,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. ”We know the value of having an experienced backup at quarterback.”

Schaub spent his first three seasons in Atlanta, before being traded to the Houston Texans in the 2007 offseason. He returned to Atlanta last season as a backup to Matt Ryan.

Upshaw, a star at Alabama, was signed by Atlanta during the 2016 offseason and was converted to defensive tackle after playing outside linebacker during his time with Baltimore.

11:50 a.m.

The Philadelphia Eagles have signed wide receiver Torrey Smith to a three-year contract.

Smith was released by the San Francisco 49ers last week.

The 28-year-old Smith caught 53 passes for 930 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons with the 49ers. He never became the deep threat that he was with Baltimore, where he helped the Ravens beat San Francisco in the Super Bowl following the 2012 season.

Smith had just 20 catches for 267 yards last season before missing the final three games with a concussion.

In six seasons, Smith has 266 catches for 4,521 yards and 37 touchdowns.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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