NFL Notes: Giants clear cap space by cutting Victor Cruz, Rashad Jennings

NFL Notes: Giants clear cap space by cutting Victor Cruz, Rashad Jennings

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants cleared roughly $10 million in salary cap space by releasing long-time fan favorite Victor Cruz and starting running back Rashad Jennings.

The team announced the moves on Monday after the two helped the Giants get back into the playoffs for the first time since playing in the Super Bowl in 2012.

The 30-year Cruz joined the Giants as a free agent in 2010 and his game-breaking ability as wide receiver helped them win their second Super Bowl under Tom Coughlin. A knee injury and a calf problem caused him to missed most of the 2014 season and all of the following season. He made a remarkable return this past season but was limited to 39 catches and one touchdown, which was the only time he got to celebrate with his traditional salsa.

Jennings joined the Giants as a free agent in 2014, after four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and one with the Oakland Raiders. In three years, he played in 40 games and rushed for 2,095 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had 94 receptions for 723 yards and two scores (see full story).

Chiefs: Reid makes minor moves to coaching staff
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Chiefs have promoted Brad Childress to assistant head coach and announced that Matt Nagy will take over as the sole offensive coordinator in a minor shake-up of Andy Reid's staff.

Childress and Nagy served as co-offensive coordinators last season. Their new roles were announced Monday.

Childress takes over from David Culley, who served as assistant head coach and wide receivers coach last season. Culley left in the offseason to be the quarterbacks coach in Buffalo.

The Chiefs already have hired Greg Lewis to work with wide receivers.

Nagy began his coaching career with Reid in Philadelphia, then followed him to Kansas City as the quarterbacks coach. Last year was his first as co-offensive coordinator.

49ers: Shanahan adds 3 more coaches to staff
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has added three new members of his coaching staff.

Shanahan announced Monday that Mike McDaniel will be the team's new run game specialist, Mike LaFleur will be wide receivers coach and Taylor Embree will be offensive quality control coach.

McDaniel and LaFleur both worked in Atlanta with Shanahan when he was offensive coordinator for the Falcons.

Embree is the son of 49ers assistant head coach and tight ends coach Jon Embree.

Packers: Allison pleads not guilty to marijuana charge
MANITOWOC, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers receiver Geronimo Allison has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge.

Allison's attorney, Brian Maloney, entered the plea on his client's behalf Monday. WLUK-TV reports Allison was not in court and was not required to be there.

The charge against Allison stems from a traffic stop in September in Manitowoc County. The next hearing is set for April 25.

Allison emerged in the last couple of weeks of the regular season with eight catches for 157 yards and a score while filling in when Randall Cobb was hurt. The undrafted rookie free agent out of Illinois played with a hamstring injury in the Packers' 44-21 loss to Atlanta in the NFC championship game.

With high expectations, Derek Barnett knows he still has plenty to learn

With high expectations, Derek Barnett knows he still has plenty to learn

Back near the far hedges of the NovaCare Complex's practice fields, a small group of defensive linemen in white jerseys and shorts participated in some drills. There were barely enough of them to even assemble a defensive line. More than half of the 90 men on the Eagles’ current roster were not at the team’s facilities. 

One of those few defensive linemen was Derek Barnett. On the first day of his first training camp, reporters later crowded around the first-round pick’s temporary locker as if he were the second-coming. Someone asked if he had any issues, considering his high-profile status, with the location of his locker, which is in the middle of the room and not one of the permanent stalls along the wall.

“I ain't made no plays yet,” Barnett said Monday, “so I'm cool with this locker until I make some plays.”

Good point. In terms of both Barnett’s career and this Eagles season, it is early. Very early. And to overhype the magnitude of Monday’s practice with rookies, quarterbacks and selected veterans would be silly. But Barnett knows where he stands, and he took the day as another opportunity to learn. He knows he must.

"Just keep on repping," Barnett said. "I come in and get better each day. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon."

Barnett has never lived anywhere outside of Tennessee. He hails from Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville. He attended the University of Tennessee, where his 33 sacks in three seasons broke Reggie White’s school record. Now the 21-year-old lives in Philadelphia, away from his family — especially his mother, whom he credits as his greatest influence — for the first time. They talk just about every day, and she’s been helpful in his move. Google Maps has been an aid, too. Barnett wants to know more about the city and its history.

He can absorb that knowledge over time, but the Eagles, of course, would prefer that he learns how to beat NFL offensive tackles as quickly as possible. Barnett joined a defensive end unit led by its only clear-cut starter in Brandon Graham. After that, Barnett, along with Chris Long and Vinny Curry, will get time. He might start, he might not. Any pressure that came along with going 14th overall, Barnett said, he doesn’t feel. But an internal force drives him.

“I have very high expectations for myself,” Barnett said. “And that's every year I go into a football season. I'm the biggest critic of myself.”

To get out on the field a few days early was good for Barnett, he said. After spending the time off over the last few weeks at home in Tennessee and working out with former All-Pro end Chuck Smith and Atlanta, he relished the opportunity. Given the limited numbers, Barnett lined up on both the right and left sides of the ball. He said he feels comfortable on either side. It was the not the game action he’s been anxious for, and it didn’t feel “real” without all the veterans, but it was a start.

The vets are on their way, though. The first full-team practice is Thursday, and with that will come the more polished Graham, Curry and Long. That’s three more sets of eyes to critique him, and three more sets of skills for him to watch; Barnett said observing their methods will help him get “mental reps.” The competition won’t hurt either.

The transition appears to be smooth so far. Barnett said he’s had to “unlearn” some of what he did in college, replacing it with a new set of muscle memory. The pace Monday was faster than during OTAs, but Barnett acknowledged that there are no days off in a league where everyone on the field is more capable. You can’t “slack mentally.”

"Coming in today, my coaches said, 'Just play, go, you can make mistakes, and if you do we'll correct them,'" Barnett said. "I didn't feel like there were many mistakes, but I still got some technique things … Things I need to do better."

All of it is new — the techniques, the coaches, the team and the city. Still, familiarity remains.

“It feels like I'm a freshman again, but I'm a rookie,” Barnett said. “I gotta come in and work hard and prove to my teammates that it's important to me and show the coaches they can trust me if they put me on the field.”

Eagles sign Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba to be tight end

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AP Images

Eagles sign Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba to be tight end

The Eagles didn't just look north of the border for their newest player. They looked to a completely different sport. 

On Monday afternoon, the Birds signed undrafted free agent and Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba to a three-year contract, although the length of the contract is standard. 

Zaruba, a 26-year-old Vancouver native, had a tryout before being signed, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson confirmed earlier on Monday. 

Listed at 6-5, 265 pounds, Zaruba is the Eagles' biggest tight end, even bigger than Brent Celek (6-4, 255). While the Eagles have three tight end spots locked up — Celek, Zach Ertz and Trey Burton — Zaruba will likely need to shine on offense and as a special teamer if he has any chance to make the team. 

While this isn't Zaruba's first time playing football, it is his first time playing football in a while. His last competitive football game came in high school, according to TheProvince

Zaruba redshirted as a football player in his freshman year at college and then never played after that, becoming a full-time member of the Canadian national rugby team by 2014. 

He's apparently made a name for himself in the rugby world. Here are some highlights, including an impressive one-handed grab: 

It likely won't be an easy transition from rugby to American football, but the Eagles were probably impressed by Zaruba's athleticism. On June 29, he posted a video to his Instagram account claiming he ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash while weighting 260 pounds. To put that into perspective, that time would have ranked second among all tight end competitors at this year's combine and would have been faster than the time put up by 19th overall pick O.J. Howard. 

Zaruba isn't the first rugby player to attempt the conversion to the NFL. The most famous example is Patriots' special teamer Nate Ebner. The U.S. rugby player has played for the Patriots since 2012 and was a second-team All-Pro in 2016. 

After signing Zaruba, the Eagles' roster is full at 90 men.