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.

Mike Mayock: Eagles should weigh Gareon Conley vs. offense at 14

Mike Mayock: Eagles should weigh Gareon Conley vs. offense at 14

The Eagles need cornerbacks. Plural. 

It's not a secret that the team's biggest weakness heading into next week's draft is at the cornerback position. So it would stand to reason that their best bet might be to simply take the best one off the board when they're on the clock at 14.

But NFL Network's Mike Mayock, on his annual pre-draft conference call marathon extravaganza Friday, said he thinks they should take a different approach. 

Looking at the top corners in the draft, Mayock is convinced Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore will be off the board well before the Eagles are on the clock at 14. His next rated corner is Gareon Conley. After that, Mayock has Marlon Humphrey but pointed out his major flaw of struggling to find the football in the air. 

So if Conley makes it to 14, the Eagles should pick him, right? 

Not so fast. 

"So I look at it this way, if Conley's on the board at 14, you have to compare him to the best playmaker on offense on your board," Mayock said. "Because I'm not convinced the Eagles should go defense, to be honest with you. 

"If Conley's not there, I think you want to go get your corner in the second or third round and I think they need two corners. But my perspective is, you drafted Carson Wentz. You better support him. You signed two wideouts in free agency (Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith) who are both effectively one-year contracts. Your slot receiver, (Jordan) Matthews is in the final year of his deal. (Brent) Celek, the tight end, is 32 years old. 

"So you might sit there and go, 'This year looks OK,' but get a running back. Get a (Christian) McCaffrey or a Dalvin Cook. Get a tight end, O.J. Howard. Get weapons. Get one of those wideouts you like. So I would be comparing Conley to the highest playmaker you have on the board offensively. And I might be leaning towards offense if it was me." 

Zach Ertz hopes he and Carson Wentz can be NFL's next great duo

Zach Ertz hopes he and Carson Wentz can be NFL's next great duo

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham. Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. 

When Zach Ertz looks at the recent history of great quarterback-tight end duos in the NFL, he can't help but notice one thing stands out. 

"Those guys have been together for a long time," Ertz said Thursday afternoon. 

Brady and Gronk have been together for seven seasons. Cam and Olsen have been together for six. And Brees and Graham were together for five. 

"And I think just having that, where you're on the same page regardless of the coverage," Ertz continued. "If they give you this coverage, you know exactly what you're going to do. If they give you that coverage, he knows exactly what I'm going to do. When to expect the ball vs. certain coverages, it might be a little earlier, it might be a little later. So it's just that constant camaraderie where we're able to know what the other person is thinking without thinking about it."

Ertz hopes that's the kind of relationship he can forge with Carson Wentz, who will enter his second NFL season in 2017. 

Ertz and Wentz spend a lot of time together in the facility and away from it. A group of Eagles went to Ertz's wedding earlier this offseason, and of course, Wentz was present. If it seems like Ertz is going to great lengths to build a rapport with his quarterback, he is. 

After going through Mike Vick and Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford, the Eagles' starting tight end finally has a quarterback that isn't going anywhere for a while.  

"It's going to be huge," Ertz said about playing with Wentz for a second straight year. "I think when Carson was drafted, from the receivers and tight ends, that was the one thing we were really excited about. That we knew for the next five, 10, 20 years, hopefully, in Philadelphia, we knew who our quarterback was going to be."

Since he was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft out of Stanford, Ertz has been an extremely productive player. But that has set up huge expectations as fans wait for a "breakout year." Zach Ertz might never be Rob Gronkowski, but the numbers are hard to argue. 

In the first four years of his career, Ertz has 247 catches for 2,840 yards and 13 touchdowns. Since 2013, here's the list of tight ends who have more catches and yards than Ertz: Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Delanie Walker, Antonio Gates. 

Ertz and Jeremy Maclin are the only two players in Eagles history to put up those numbers in their first four seasons. 

The argument often heard about Ertz's numbers is that they come in garbage time. Ertz has historically been an absolute beast in December. In the last few years, that hasn't meant much to a struggling Eagles franchise, but if they're in the playoff hunt in upcoming years, they'll probably want that trend to continue. 

The one statistic that doesn't seem to match the others: touchdowns. While Ertz has been among top tight ends in the league in receptions and yards, his 13 touchdowns rank 17th among tight ends since 2013. (It's not a stat, but for what it's worth, Ertz would likely be among the league leaders in touchdowns called back for penalties in the last few years.)

"I want to be the guy in the red zone, believe me," Ertz said. "For the first four years in my career, I think the most touchdowns I had in a year was four. So this year, we didn't have a lot of red zone touchdowns and that falls on us as players to get it down when we get down there, make plays when the ball's in the air. That's something I do pride myself on, making those tough and contested catches, whether it be in the red zone or third down. I want to be more of a go-to guy in the red zone, but I've got to earn that this spring and summer, earn that trust of the quarterback as well as Doug (Pederson). It's going to be a process, but when you look at the great tight ends in the league, the first thing that stands out is touchdowns."