NFL Notes: Bills host free-agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin

NFL Notes: Bills host free-agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- With prompting from running back LeSean McCoy, free-agent receiver Jeremy Maclin is making the Buffalo Bills the first stop in his bid to land a new job.

The Bills announced they were hosting Maclin for a visit on Tuesday, four days after the seven-year veteran was released by the Kansas City Chiefs for salary-cap reasons. Maclin has twice topped 1,000 yards receiving, but is coming off a season in which he was slowed by injuries and had career lows with 44 catches, 536 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

McCoy revealed during his charitable softball tournament last weekend that he began lobbying for the Bills to sign Maclin. McCoy said it wouldn't be a surprise if the receiver signed with Buffalo.

The two spent five seasons playing together in Philadelphia, and McCoy was a member of Maclin's wedding party last month.

Maclin is also familiar with several members of Buffalo's coaching staff, including first-time head coach Sean McDermott, who was the Eagles defensive coordinator in 2009-10.

Buffalo lacks experienced depth at receiver behind starter Sammy Watkins.

Jets: Team planning to part with WR Decker
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets are planning to trade or cut wide receiver Eric Decker, the latest move in what has been an offseason purge of veterans with big contracts.

General manager Mike Maccagnan says Tuesday night that if the Jets can't deal Decker, they will move forward without him.

Decker's departure will save the Jets $7.25 million on the salary cap. The news came a few hours after New York cut linebacker David Harris after 10 seasons.

Decker, 30, had 163 catches for 2,183 yards and 19 touchdowns in three seasons with the Jets, although he was limited to just nine receptions for 194 yards and two TDs in three games last year because of a shoulder injury. He had his torn rotator cuff repaired last November -- just over a month after having surgery on his hip, which had also been ailing him.

Decker appeared to be recovering nicely this offseason while participating in organized team activities the past few weeks, although he sported a red no-contact jersey during team drills.

Patriots: Gronkowski ready for new season
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When healthy, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski can be one of the most devastating weapons in the NFL.

The 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end is one of quarterback Tom Brady's favorite targets. Seemingly able to run through opposing defenses at will, Gronkowski is the first tight end with three straight seasons of 10 or more touchdowns (2010-12), and with three seasons of 1,000 or more yards receiving and 10 or more touchdowns. A three-time All-Pro, he led the league with 17 touchdown receptions in 2011, his second pro season.

The problem for Gronkowski and the Patriots has been his ability to stay on the field. He appeared in eight games last season before undergoing December back surgery -- the third in his career -- missing the Patriots' stunning comeback win in the Super Bowl. The last time he appeared in all 16 regular-season games was 2011. Since his rookie year, he has appeared in 88 of 112 regular-season games.

Gronkowski is confident he's fully ready for the 2017 season.

"Definitely no doubts," he said Tuesday after the first of the Patriots' three-day mandatory minicamp at Gillette Stadium. "All the hard work you put in is what you're going to get out of it. So, I love to put in the work, love the challenge sometimes. So ... now I'm good to go.

"It's always important whenever I get a little setback like that that happened, just get back to where I need to be and I feel like I am, doing everything out here, and competing. It's fun" (see full story).

Raiders: Lynch decided on comeback after team announced move
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- For Marshawn Lynch, the decision to come out of retirement and resume his NFL career was made as soon as the league announced his hometown Raiders were leaving for Las Vegas.

Lynch wanted to give Oakland fans one last chance to cheer an Oakland native playing for an Oakland team.

"Maybe them staying probably wouldn't have been so big for me to want to come and play," he said Tuesday in his first news conference since joining the Raiders in April. "But knowing that they were leaving and a lot of the kids here probably won't have an opportunity to see most of their idols growing up being a hometown no more. With me being from here, continuing to be here, it gives them an opportunity to get to see somebody that's actually from where they're from and for the team that they probably idolize."

The NFL approved the Raiders' proposed move to Las Vegas starting in the 2020 season on March 27. The following week, Lynch visited the Raiders to talk about the possibility of coming out of retirement.

That happened three weeks later when Seattle agreed to trade Lynch's rights to Oakland in a deal that included a swap of late-round draft picks in 2018. Lynch agreed to a restructured $9 million, two-year deal that includes incentives that could increase the value even more.

There were billboards welcoming Lynch back home and palpable excitement for Oakland fans.

"It was heartfelt," Lynch said. "At the end of the day, I still walk outside. Besides the billboards and all of that, I really just get out with the people. The billboards are for the commercial people. When you get outside and you walk in the cracks you get to find out what's real" (see full story).

Packers: Fans give stranded House ride to Green Bay
GREEN BAY, Wisconsin -- Packers cornerback Davon House got a lift to Green Bay from a couple of fans.

House was stranded Monday night at the Minneapolis airport while trying to get to Tuesday's organized team activities session. House tweeted that he needed a ride, and two brothers obliged.

Mike Johnson of Hudson, Wisconsin, picked up House for the four-hour ride. His brother Chad Johnson, who lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, rushed off to meet the other two.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports the brothers took House to Green Bay's airport to get his car. House offered to pay for the ride, but the brothers refused.

House insisted they follow him to Lambeau Field, where the brothers got to go into the locker room.

NFL Notes: Victor Cruz inks 1-year deal with Bears

NFL Notes: Victor Cruz inks 1-year deal with Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears added some salsa, signing former New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz to a one-year contract Thursday.

The Bears were looking for help after Alshon Jeffery signed with Philadelphia.

A feared receiver with the Giants, he helped them win the Super Bowl before being slowed by injuries. He was released after seven seasons in February.

Cruz has 303 catches for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns, many of which he celebrated with a salsa dance. A knee injury and a calf problem caused him to miss most of the 2014 season and all of 2015. Last year, he had 39 catches and one touchdown reception.

Giants: Beckham, Vernon miss OTAs
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York ended their first week of voluntary organized team activities missing two of their biggest stars -- wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Olivier Vernon.

The workout Thursday was fourth of the week, and Beckham missed them all. The team did not say whether Vernon missed all four, but the veteran who signed an $85 million contract in the offseason last year wasn't there Thursday, the only day workouts were open to the media.

The only other player missing was third-year defensive end Owa Odighizuwa, who hinted since the end of last season that he may take time away from football.

While coach Ben McAdoo said he wanted all his players at the workouts, he said he would coach the ones there.

NFL: International players to join practice squads
NEW YORK -- Four NFL teams will carry an additional overseas player on their practice squads during the 2017 season. Three players are from Britain and one from Germany.

The announcement by the NFL on Thursday is part of a new International Player Pathway program.

The international players are: tight end Alex Gray with Atlanta, defensive end Efe Obada with Carolina, defensive end Alex Jenkins with New Orleans and linebacker Eric Nzeocha with Tampa Bay.

The players have been training alongside NFL players and draft hopefuls in Florida the past three months.

Gray is a former rugby player; Jenkins and Nzeocha were recent college players. Obada was originally signed by Dallas in 2015. Each team will get an exemption for an 11th practice player, who is ineligible to be activated during the season.

Bills: LB Hodges signs, CB Gaines released
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills have signed linebacker Gerald Hodges, who started 12 games for San Francisco last season.

Team officials also said Thursday that cornerback Charles Gaines had been released.

Hodges is going into his fifth season after being drafted in 2013 by the Minnesota Vikings. He played two-plus seasons with Minnesota before joining the 49ers. He had 83 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble last year.

Gaines did not play last season but started four games for Cleveland in 2015.

Jaguars: Jags to host Bucs for joint practices
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two joint training camp practices before their preseason game in August.

The teams will practice Monday and Tuesday before playing Thursday night, Aug. 17. The Jaguars also will have two joint practices at New England a week earlier, before their preseason opener.

New coach Doug Marrone and top executive Tom Coughlin want the Jaguars to be more physical. Holding joint practices in consecutive weeks will make that clear to the players.

Marrone says he's a fan of joint practices "as long as you can make sure that it is competitive and not combative."

The Jaguars and Bucs also practiced together in Jacksonville before their preseason game last year.

Bills sign 2nd-round pick, Temple product Dion Dawkins

Bills sign 2nd-round pick, Temple product Dion Dawkins

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Bills have signed offensive lineman Dion Dawkins, the second of Buffalo's two second-round draft picks.

The 23-year-old out of Temple is listed at 6-foot-4 and 314 pounds and was selected 63rd overall. Dawkins was a three-year starter mostly at left tackle, but has experience to play various positions.

He started 40 games in college and last season helped the Owls to a 10-4 finish and win the AAC title.

The Bills will give Dawkins a chance to compete for a starting job at right tackle on a line that helped Buffalo lead the NFL in yards rushing in each of the past two seasons.

Buffalo has now signed five of its six draft selections, leaving fifth-round pick, quarterback Nathan Peterman, not yet under contract.