The Oakland Raiders are making a commitment to one of the NFL's best players by exercising the fifth-year contract options on menacing pass rusher Khalil Mack on Thursday, presumably keeping him with the team through the 2018 season.
The Associated Press’ defensive player of the year for 2016, Mack had sacks in eight straight games during one stretch last season and finished with 11 — the All-Pro edge rusher's presence such that opponents sent multiple blockers his way but still didn't stop one of the NFL's elite defenders. He was part of 73 tackles, had his first career interception and touchdown, and forced five fumbles while recovering three.
And he did it all for a defense ranked 26th overall.
The 26-year-old Mack won last year's AP award for top defender by beating out 2016 Super Bowl MVP Von Miller of Denver by one vote. A first-round draft pick, selected fifth overall out of Buffalo in 2014, Mack quickly emerged among the league's elite in his third NFL season.
The Raiders, whose move to Las Vegas was approved by owners last month, returned to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years and hope to build on a 12-4 season under coach Jack Del Rio as a projected AFC power again. Oakland hadn't been to the postseason since 2002. It lost in the wild-card round to Houston without injured quarterback Derek Carr after he broke his leg in a Week 16 loss to the Colts.
The team also announced Thursday that it will announce its third-day draft picks from the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign next week, according to Raiders president Marc Badain.
Badain made the announcement during a gathering of the public entity overseeing the proposed 65,000-seat stadium the team wants to occupy in Las Vegas. NFL league owners approved the Raiders relocation last month. Badain says the team has received thousands of $100 deposits for personal seat licenses.
Guests of hotels and other lodging facilities in the Las Vegas area covering $750 million of the $1.9 billion project through a room tax increase. The Raiders won't pay any rent at the new stadium, according to the most recent draft of a lease agreement.
Giants’ Pierre-Paul has surgery
New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul says the injury that sidelined him late last season was more serious than a sports hernia.
Speaking at a team availability Thursday, Pierre-Paul said surgeons fixed two spots in his abdomen and two in his groin in December.
The 28-year-old, who was signed to a four-year, $68-million contract in the offseason, said he is running and taking part in every activity at the team's OTAs, which started Tuesday. He isn't sure whether he will be ready for minicamp and training camp.
Pierre-Paul had his right hand mangled in a fireworks accident in July 2015. He missed half that season, but returned last year and had seven sacks in 12 games, prompting the team to designate him a franchise player.
Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio was taken to the hospital for observation after police found him without any pants on in suburban Buffalo field. It's unclear what Kouandjio was doing or how he got into the field, located about a 5-minute drive from Bills headquarters. The player's car was discovered abandoned on a nearby highway by New York State troopers later in the day. … Former VCU basketball player Mo Alie-Cox is getting a shot at the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts. His agent said the 6-foot-7, 250-pound Alie-Cox has agreed to terms with the Colts, who also signed inside linebacker Jon Bostic. The 6-foot, 245-pounder has played four season in the NFL, most recently with Detroit, starting 18 of 40 games with 140 tackles. ...
The Dallas Cowboys have signed veteran safety Robert Blanton for depth after losing five-year starter Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox in free agency. Blanton's addition Thursday puts him in a group that includes likely starters Byron Jones and Jeff Heath, although next week's draft could alter that outlook. Blanton is going into his sixth season as a fifth-round choice by Minnesota in 2012. … The Cleveland Browns released offensive lineman Alvin Bailey after one season and waived defensive backs Tracy Howard and Trae Elston. Bailey made five starts — two at right guard, three at left guard — and appeared in 14 games for Cleveland last season. He also served a two-game NFL suspension following his arrest and conviction for operating a motor vehicle impaired in September.