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New England Patriots let go of Alan Branch, keep Kenny Britt

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots have informed veteran defensive tackle Alan Branch that they don’t intend to pick up his $1 million option for the 2018 season, a source confirmed.

Branch will become a free agent at the start of the 2018 league year on March 14.

The move was expected after Branch didn’t play down the homestretch and in Super Bowl LII, and it will give the Patriots a savings of about $3 million on the salary cap. Accounting for the savings, the Patriots have between $17 million and $18 million in salary-cap space.

Branch told sports radio WEEI in Boston last month that he’d like to play a 12th season in the NFL, but he seemed to know his time with the Patriots was coming to an end after slipping to No. 4 on the depth chart at the end of the 2017 season behind Lawrence Guy, Malcom Brown and Ricky Jean Francois.

The team also has 2016 third-round pick Vincent Valentine and 2017 undrafted free agent Adam Butler at defensive tackle. Valentine spent all of last season on injured reserve (knee), while Butler was mostly used as an interior sub rusher.

The 6-foot-6, 350-pound Branch could draw interest from teams looking for a big-bodied, long-armed presence in the middle of the line of scrimmage.

“I love playing football. As long as they keep paying me money, I’m going to try to do it,” Branch said on WEEI.

Branch played 25.7 percent of the defensive snaps in the 2017 regular season and finished with 12 tackles. He had been with the Patriots since signing on Oct. 24, 2014.

The Patriots did pick up wide receiver Kenny Britt‘s $150,000 option, a source confirms. There are no other financial obligations for Britt.

Picking up Britt’s option bonus was widely viewed as an obvious move for the Patriots due to the cheap cost and Britt’s upside. Britt is scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.05 million in 2018.

Patriots receivers currently under contract for 2018 include Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Britt, Bernard Reedy, Cody Hollister and Riley McCarron. Edelman is coming back from a torn ACL that sidelined him for all of 2017 and Mitchell also missed the 2017 season because of a knee injury.

Receiver Danny Amendola is scheduled for unrestricted free agency and has stated his preference to return in 2018.

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Green Bay Packers consider Davante Adams a game-time decision for Sunday night game

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The Green Bay Packers will give star wide receiver Davante Adams up until game time Sunday night to recover from his hamstring injury and prove that he can play against the New Orleans Saints, a team source tells ESPN.

Adams is officially listed as doubtful, and the source told ESPN that it’s “unlikely” he will play. But the source also said that if Adams can prove he can run full speed in pregame warm-ups on Sunday night, the Packers would allow him to play.

The Pro Bowl receiver did not practice Friday, marking the third straight day he worked with the rehab group. Adams tied a franchise record in Week 1 with 14 catches against the Minnesota Vikings and had three catches last Sunday against the Detroit Lions before suffering the injury.

Packers coach Matt LaFleur has stopped short of ruling out Adams completely, saying Friday that Green Bay “will give him the rest of the week to see where he’s at.”

It was during Adams’ absence last season that running back Aaron Jones emerged. In the first game without Adams, Jones had four touchdowns in a win at the Dallas Cowboys and totaled 182 total yards from scrimmage. Against the Lions last week, Jones set a personal best with 236 total yards.

ESPN’s Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.

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Las Vegas Raiders expect Darren Waller, Josh Jacobs to face New England Patriots

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While the Las Vegas Raiders have listed tight end Darren Waller (knee) and running back Josh Jacobs (hip) as questionable for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots, both are expected to play, a source tells ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Waller had 12 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints on Monday and drew praise from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Waller has 18 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown on the season.

In other injury news:

  • It doesn’t sound overly encouraging but Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, is not expected to have his final status decided until about 90 minutes before Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, a source tells Schefter. “It’s nip and tuck, up in the air,” one Falcons’ source said Saturday.

  • Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown is nursing a “pretty significant knee bruise” that hasn’t responded as well or as quickly as the team had hoped, a source tells Schefter. It is a painful injury, and Brown easily could wind up missing more time with the slow-healing nature of it.

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Source — New Orleans Saints’ Michael Thomas ‘moving really well’ in workouts, eyes Week 4 return

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New Orleans Saints star wide receiver Michael Thomas, who will miss his second straight game Sunday night with a high ankle sprain, was “moving really well” during Friday’s workout and wants to play in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions, a league source tells ESPN.

Thomas’ availability ultimately will hinge on whether he is cleared by doctors, but the record-setting receiver “looked good” this weekend, according to the source.

Thomas has not practiced since he suffered the ankle injury during the final minutes of New Orleans’ Week 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Saints chose not to place Thomas on injured reserve — which would have required him to miss at least three games.

New Orleans’ offense struggled without Thomas in this past Monday night’s 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, which led to scrutiny over Drew Brees‘ lack of downfield passes.

Thomas won the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year award last season after setting the NFL record with 149 catches in a season.

ESPN’s Mike Triplett contributed to this report.

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