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The Latest: Cowboys keep Austin, add Covington

March 14, 2019

The Latest on NFL free agency Thursday (all times EDT):

1:30 p.m.

The Dallas Cowboys have reached agreements on one-year deals to keep receiver Tavon Austin and add defensive tackle Christian Covington.

Austin missed nine games last season with a groin injury after being acquired from the Los Angeles Rams in a trade during the NFL draft last spring. He was a first-round pick by the Rams in the 2013 draft.

The speedy Austin had eight catches for 140 yards and split punt returns with Cole Beasley, who left Dallas in free agency this week for a four-year deal with the Buffalo Bills.

Covington spent his first four seasons with the Houston Texans. He had 15 tackles in 12 games last year.

—Reporting by Stephen Hawkins.

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12:50 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have added depth at wide receiver, signing former Jacksonville Jaguar Donte Moncrief to a two-year deal. The team also re-signed veteran backup Eli Rogers to a two-year contract.

Pittsburgh is in search of fresh blood at the position after trading star Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders.

Moncrief has 200 receptions for 2,543 yards in five seasons, four with Indianapolis and one with Jacksonville. He caught 48 passes for 668 yards and three scores last season with the Jaguars.

Rogers, who made the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2016, missed most of last season while recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee in Pittsburgh’s playoff loss to Jacksonville in January 2018. Rogers, who works mainly out of the slot, has 78 career receptions for 822 yards and four touchdowns.

—Reporting by Will Graves.

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12:20 p.m.

The Detroit Lions have signed a trio of free agents to address pressing needs: defensive end Trey Flowers, cornerback Justin Coleman and tight end Jesse James.

The Lions planned to introduce each player at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Detroit desperately needed an edge rusher to replace Ziggy Ansah, who it likely will not re-sign after the oft-injured player was given the franchise tag last season.

Like a lot of Lions, Flowers and Coleman have ties to the New England Patriots. Flowers had a career-high 7 ½ sacks last season for the Super Bowl champions and 21 over the last three years in New England. The Patriots drafted him in the fourth round out of Arkansas in 2015.

Coleman started his career in New England in 2015, when Lions general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia worked for the Patriots. He became a standout nickel cornerback over the last two seasons in Seattle. Coleman has three career interceptions, returning two for scores. Nevin Lawson, who was cut by Detroit on Monday, did not have an interception in 54 starts and 62 games over five seasons with the Lions.

James had 120 receptions for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns in four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Lions were looking to upgrade their options at tight end a year after releasing Eric Ebron.

—Reporting by Larry Lage.

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12:20 p.m.

The Patriots have completed a trade with the Eagles for defensive end Michael Bennett.

New England is sending a fifth-round draft pick in 2020 in exchange for the 33-year-old veteran edge rusher. In addition to Bennett, Philadelphia is also sending the Patriots its seventh-round pick in 2020.

In Bennett, who will be joining his fourth NFL team, the Patriots will try to fill the void created after Trey Flowers signed with the Lions.

Flowers has led the Patriots in sacks for each of the past three seasons. Bennett is coming off nine sacks in 2018 with Philadelphia and has had at least five sacks each of the past seven seasons. He has 22 ½ sacks over his last three seasons.

His younger brother, tight end Martellus Bennett, won a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots during the 2016 season.

Flowers’ deal is for five years and could be worth as much as $90 million. Bennett is set to make about $7.2 million in 2019, the second season of the three-year, $30 million extension he signed with the Seahawks in 2018.

The Patriots also will have some depth behind Bennett. John Simon’s agency, Element Sports Group, announced via Twitter that the 28-year-old lineman has re-signed with New England. His new deal is for two years.

Simon was originally signed by the Patriots last September and appeared in 11 games (two starts), totaling 17 tackles and two sacks. He also played in all three playoffs games last season and had a half-sack in the AFC championship game.

—Reporting by Kyle Hightower

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12 p.m.

The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with former Tampa Bay and Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker.

Stocker, a fourth-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2011, started 56 games in seven seasons with the Buccaneers. He was signed by the Titans late in the 2017 season and had 15 catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns in 2018.

Stocker (6-5, 253) started in 11 of 16 games with the Titans last season.

Austin Hooper returns as Atlanta’s starting tight end.

Larry Lage (12:05 PM)

@bwilner The Detroit Lions have signed a trio of free agents to address pressing needs: defensive end Trey Flowers, cornerback Justin Coleman and tight end Jesse James.

The Lions planned to introduce each player at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Detroit desperately needed an edge rusher to replace Ziggy Ansah, who it likely will not re-sign after the oft-injured player was on franchise tag last season.

Like a lot of Lions, Flowers and Coleman have ties to the New England Patriots. Flowers had a career-high 7 ½ sacks last season for the Super Bowl champions and 21 over the last three years in New England. The Patriots drafted him in the fourth round out of Arkansas in 2015.

Coleman started his career in New England in 2015, when Lions general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia worked for the Patriots. He became a standout nickel cornerback over the last two seasons in Seattle. Coleman has three career interceptions, returning two for scores. Nevin Lawson, who was cut by Detroit on Monday, did not have an interception in 54 starts and 62 games over five seasons with the Lions.

James had 120 receptions for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns in four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Lions were looking to upgrade their options at tight end, a year after releasing Eric Ebron.

__ Larry Lage, reporting from Detroit.

Kyle Hightower (12:06 PM)

@bwilner

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12:05 p.m.

The Patriots have completed a trade with the Eagles for defensive end Michael Bennett.

New England is sending a fifth-round draft pick in 2020 in exchange for the 33-year-old veteran edge rusher. In addition to Bennett, Philadelphia is also sending the Patriots its seventh-round pick in 2020.

In Bennett, who will be joining his fourth NFL team, the Patriots will try to fill the void created after Trey Flowers signed a new contract with the Detroit Lions.

Flowers has led the Patriots in sacks for each of the past three seasons, totaling 21 during that span. Bennett is coming off nine sacks in 2018 with Philadelphia and has had at least five sacks each of the past seven seasons. He has 22 ½ sacks over his last three seasons.

His younger brother, tight end Martellus Bennett, won a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots during the 2016 season.

Multiple outlets reported that Flowers’ new deal is for five years and could be worth as much as $90 million.

Bennett is set to make about $7.2 million in 2019, the second season of the three-year, $30 million extension he signed with the Seahawks in 2018.

The Patriots also will have some depth behind Bennett. John Simon’s agency, Element Sports Group, announced via Twitter that the 28-year-old has re-signed with New England. His new deal is for two years.

Simon was originally signed by the Patriots last September and appeared in 11 games (two starts), totaling 17 tackles and two sacks. He also played in all three playoffs games last season and had a half-sack in the AFC championship game.

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Reporting by Kyle Hightower

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12:10 p.m.

The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with former Tampa Bay and Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker.

Stocker, a fourth-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2011, started 56 games in seven seasons with the Buccaneers. He was signed by the Titans late in the 2017 season and had 15 catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns in 2018.

Stocker (6-foot-5, 253) started in 11 of 16 games with the Titans last season.

Austin Hooper returns as Atlanta’s starting tight end.

—Reporting by Charles Odum

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11 a.m.

A person familiar with the discussions confirms to The Associated Press that the Buffalo Bills have agreed to sign return specialist and receiver Andre Roberts.

The person spoke to the AP on Thursday on the condition of anonymity because the contract has not yet been signed. ESPN.com first reported the agreement.

Roberts has eight seasons of NFL experience and earned his first All-Pro honors last season after leading the NFL with 1,174 kickoff return yards with the New York Jets. He also led the NFL in averaging 14.1 yards per punt return.

Roberts had 176 yards on five kickoff returns alone in the Jets’ 27-23 win at Buffalo in December.

The Bills had numerous struggles on special teams and lacked a proven return specialist.

—Reporting by John Wawrow.

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10:30 a.m.

The New York Jets have released running back Isaiah Crowell, an expected move after the team agreed to terms early Wednesday morning with Le’Veon Bell.

Crowell spent one season with the Jets after playing his first four in Cleveland. He broke the franchise record with 219 yards rushing on just 15 carries in New York’s win over Denver in Week 5. He also set the team mark with 231 yards from scrimmage.

The Jets had until Friday before $2 million of Crowell’s $4 million salary became guaranteed. By releasing him now, New York gains $3 million on the salary cap, but is stuck with $2 million in dead money.

The addition of Bell, a move not yet officially announced by the Jets, made Crowell expendable. The former Pittsburgh Steelers star agreed to a four-year deal worth $52.5 million, including $35 million in guarantees.

The 26-year-old Crowell finished with 685 yards rushing and six touchdowns last year before a toe injury ended his season in December.

Crowell made headlines in New York’s Week 3 loss at Cleveland last season when he scored a touchdown in the second quarter against his former team and wiped the football against his rear end. The crude celebration resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and, later, a $13,369 fine from the NFL. It wasn’t all bad for Crowell, who received an endorsement deal with DUDE Wipes, a company that sells a toilet paper substitute for men.

New York also announced it has re-signed starting nose tackle Steve McLendon, who has spent the last three years with the team, as well as offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison and defensive back Darryl Roberts.

—Reporting by Dennis Waszak Jr.

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