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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers on Wednesday lifted the interim tag off of Marty Hurney’s title, making him the full-time general manager of the organization for the second time.

Hurney initially was with the Panthers from 1998 to 2012. He served as the general manager from 2002 through six games in the 2012 season, when he reached a mutual decision with owner Jerry Richardson to part after a 1-5 start.

He was hired as the interim general manager the week before the 2017 training camp after Richardson fired Dave Gettleman. The Panthers went 11-5.

A committee, led by chief operating officer Tina Becker, also interviewed Houston Texans assistant GM Jimmy Raye III, Buffalo assistant director of college scouting Lake Dawson (who returned for a second interview), and former Detroit Lions general manager and current San Francisco personnel executive Martin Mayhew. All three fulfilled the league rule that teams must interview at least one minority candidate when hiring a general manager or head coach.

In a statement, Becker said: “We are very fortunate to have Marty as our general manager after he did an exceptional job in the interim role this past season. Marty’s guidance and vision helped build the foundation for this team, and his work this season was instrumental in returning the team to the playoffs. We believe he will continue to craft a roster that will win games and contend for a championship.”

The Panthers were preparing to make this announcement several weeks ago, but put the process on hold after Hurney’s ex-wife accused him of harassment when seeking a temporary restraining order in court. The order was not granted and the complaint was dropped, but the NFL still conducted a two-week investigation to assure there was no violation under the league’s personal conduct policy.

Hurney was on paid administrative leave during the investigation, which revealed no violations.

Hurney returned to work Friday and has been preparing since with coach Ron Rivera and the staff for next week’s NFL combine and free agency.

He was viewed as the best person to help in the transition to new ownership when the team is sold by Richardson.

Richardson put the team up for sale after the season. He made the decision to sell in December after Sports Illustrated reported he paid off at least four former employees to keep quiet alleged sexual harassment and the use of a racial slur with a former team scout.

“I have always felt a strong connection to this organization and viewed this job as one of the very best in the NFL because of the people here,” Hurney said in a statement. “Mr. Richardson and Tina have been open and honest with me from the beginning, and I am thankful for the trust they have placed in me.

“I gained a lot of perspective being away and then back in an interim role last season. I feel that I am the best person to help Ron and this team moving forward. We have a really special core of players in place, and I’m extremely excited about the direction we are headed.”

Hurney said when rehired in July that he learned a lot about mistakes he made the first time as a general manager. One of his biggest was making what he called emotional decisions and giving veteran players bigger contracts than they deserved.

He vowed not to do that again, saying he has to make sure the “analytical part of my brain takes over the emotional part of my brain.”

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Giants release WR Golden Tate in cost-cutting move

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Wide receiver Golden Tate has been released by the New York Giants in a cost-cutting move, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday.

The move creates $6 million in cap space for the Giants, $10 million if he is designated a post-June 1 cut. Tate was to make $8.5 million and count $11 million against the cap in 2021.

The Giants also cut veteran linebacker David Mayo on Wednesday, a source told ESPN. Mayo suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee last August and was placed on injured reserve for the entire season.

Tate, 32, caught 35 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns last season. It was the least productive season since his rookie year, in part because he missed four games and started just four, serving as the Giants’ third receiver behind Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton.

The lack of playing time and opportunities led to some frustration following a prime-time loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Nov. 2. Tate was caught on camera yelling “throw me the ball!” after his spectacular leaping touchdown grab late in the fourth quarter to put the Giants in position to tie the score.

His wife, Elise, ranted that night on Instagram about Tate’s lack of opportunities, and Tate later liked a tweet that suggested he should be cut and given an opportunity to sign elsewhere.

Tate did not travel with the team to the following week’s game against the Washington Football Team, but Giants coach Joe Judge was extremely complementary of Tate’s team-first approach the remainder of the season.

Tate also got into a fistfight on the field with Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey following an early-season matchup.

The Giants signed Tate to a four-year deal worth $36.3 million with $22.95 million guaranteed after trading Odell Beckham Jr. in 2019.

Tate has played 11 years with the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Giants, making a Pro Bowl and winning a Super Bowl as one of the league’s most productive receivers.

The former Notre Dame star has 695 career catches for 8,278 yards and 46 receiving touchdowns. He’s also tied for first in yards after the catch (4,248) with Antonio Brown since entering the league in 2010.

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Arizona Cardinals GM giving Larry Fitzgerald ‘space’ to make decision on 2021

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TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s early March, and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has yet to announce his intentions for the 2021 season.

But the Cardinals are letting the 17-year veteran take his time.

Arizona general manager Steve Keim said during a video conference call Wednesday that he didn’t have anything to report on Fitzgerald’s status for the upcoming season.

“I’ve said it a few times that you know he deserves that space,” Keim said. “At some point in time, I’m sure we’ll talk to him here in the near future.”

Fitzgerald, 37, has played the past five seasons on one-year contracts each worth $11 million, which has led the 11-time Pro Bowler to have to make a decision on his future each of those years. The latest he had decided to play since 2016 was Feb. 15 in 2018.

But Keim said he doesn’t need Fitzgerald make a decision by the start of the league year on March 17, despite the lowered league-wide salary cap.

Fitzgerald, who’ll turn 38 in August, has said in the past that when he decides to retire, he’ll just walk away quietly, not wanting the pomp and circumstance or farewell tour that sometimes accompanies players’ retirements.

Keim joked that Fitzgerald is waiting to announce his decision on purpose.

“Knowing him, he’s probably just trying to make me sweat,” Keim said. “But, no, I don’t know. it’s a private thing for a player, and we’ve always given Larry space and he’s taken his time, which, again, there’s nobody that deserves that more than him.”

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Minnesota Vikings GM says Kirk Cousins is ‘our quarterback going forward’

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MINNEAPOLIS — A month after Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer publicly backed Kirk Cousins, calling the quarterback “our guy” amid rumors and speculation over whether he could be traded this offseason, Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman doubled down his support for the QB on Wednesday.

“I think Coach [Zimmer] put that to bed when he spoke after the season,” Spielman told reporters. “Kirk Cousins is our quarterback. I know there’s a lot of rumors floating around out there, but Kirk Cousins is our quarterback. We felt that he played very well, probably the best that he’s ever played, down that stretch last year.

“Kirk is our quarterback going forward, and I look forward to him [having] another year in this system. I’m excited for him and what he’s going to bring to our team next year.”

With the potential for so much quarterback movement this offseason, Cousins’ name has been inserted into the conversation as a player who could wind up starting for a new team in 2021. Given that Cousins no longer has a no-trade clause in his contract, moving on from him this offseason is more feasible if Minnesota wants to exercise that option.

After signing a record three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed deal as a free agent in 2018, Cousins signed a two-year, $66 million extension last March that earns him a $21 million base salary in 2021. His $35 million base salary for 2022 becomes fully guaranteed if he is on the roster on the third day of the 2021 league year, which begins March 17.

Even with Spielman pouring water on any trade speculation, the Vikings could find themselves in a position to begin thinking about life after Cousins should the team opt to move on from the quarterback after his contract expires in 2022. With three picks inside the top 92 in April’s NFL draft, selecting a quarterback to eventually take over for Cousins might be part of Minnesota’s succession plan at the position.

But after Cousins threw a career-high 35 touchdowns in 2020, Spielman isn’t giving much public thought to moving on from the quarterback, given how many quality seasons he feels Cousins has left.

“I don’t want to ever force taking a quarterback when there’s not a quarterback there to take, because that’s when you make mistakes,” Spielman said. “I don’t know the best term to use without you guys putting it in quotes. … Regardless [of position], take the philosophy of the best player available where you’re picking. Or if there’s a guy you covet who’s still hanging around, being aggressive enough to go up and get that player, regardless of position.

“I still think Kirk right now is still in the prime of his career, at 32. And he’s got a lot of good football left in him. But we’ll always look at the different options and if there is anything in the draft as well.”

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