First-year eligible candidates Tony Gonzalez, Champ Bailey and Ed Reed led the way among 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the group was announced Thursday.
All three players, who combined for 35 Pro Bowls and 14 first-team All-Pro nods during their careers, last played in 2013, making this their first year of eligibility for induction. All three of last year’s first-ballot finalists — Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Urlacher — were ultimately chosen when the 2018 class was announced in February.
Joining the trio as 2019 finalists are safety Steve Atwater, offensive tackle Tony Boselli, wide receiver Isaac Bruce, coach Don Coryell, guard Alan Faneca, coach Tom Flores, guard Steve Hutchinson, running back Edgerrin James, cornerback Ty Law, safety John Lynch, center Kevin Mawae and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.
Flores and Seymour are the other first-time finalists from the group. All but two others (Atwater and Hutchinson) have been finalists at least three times.
—State prosecutors in Florida dropped a misdemeanor domestic battery charge against Washington Redskins linebacker Reuben Foster, according to multiple reports citing court records.
The state attorney’s office filed a notice of termination Wednesday, the day before Foster was to be arraigned on a single misdemeanor count of domestic battery stemming from an incident in Tampa on Nov. 24 when Foster was a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
Foster’s former girlfriend, Elissa Ennis, said Foster “pushed her in the chest area, and slapped her with an open hand on the left side of her face” at a Tampa hotel on the eve of the 49ers’ game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Foster was arrested after the incident. The NFL placed Foster on the commissioner’s exempt list, and he did not play the rest of the season, though Washington claimed him after San Francisco waived him.
—New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels reportedly declined an interview request from the Cincinnati Bengals, who are conducting interviews for the vacant position of head coach this week.
Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reported McDaniels told the Bengals he didn’t want to be considered as a candidate to replace Marvin Lewis.
McDaniels, 42, who was 11-17 as the head coach of the Denver Broncos from 2009-10, is set to interview with the Green Bay Packers on Friday.
—The Cleveland Browns are blocking requests from other teams to interview offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens for their own vacancies, according to multiple reports.
Per NFL Network, Kitchens has a fair shot at being the Browns’ next head coach — a job he’ll interview for early next week — and if he doesn’t get the job, Cleveland wants to give its next coach a chance to keep Kitchens as coordinator.
—The Atlanta Falcons’ search for a new defensive coordinator ended before it began, as coach Dan Quinn has decided to handle those duties himself in 2019.
The Falcons fired Marquand Manuel on Monday after a 7-9 season in which the team finished 25th in the league in scoring defense and 28th in total defense.
—Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff says hammering out a new deal for defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is “our priority” this offseason.
In the fourth and final season of his rookie contract, Jarrett led Atlanta with eight tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits in 14 games in 2018. He had 52 tackles and was second on the team with six sacks.
—Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins pledged on Twitter to donate his playoff paycheck to the family of Jazmine Barnes.
The 7-year-old girl was shot and killed when someone fired at her mother’s car Sunday morning as they were driving to a Houston grocery store. No arrests have been made.
—The NFL announced that it has reached a deal with Caesars Entertainment to be its first-ever official casino sponsor, a move that inches the league toward betting deals.
The union, worth $30 million per year according to Bloomberg, is a multi-year sponsorship and coincides with the NFL playoffs, which begin this weekend. The NFL made it clear the partnership does not include sports betting at this time.
—Seattle Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin (sprained ankle) is expected to play in this weekend’s NFC wild-card game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Left guard J.R. Sweezy (foot) is questionable, and fullback Tre Madden (hamstring) is doubtful.
—The Buffalo Bills have fired special-teams coordinator Danny Crossman, according to multiple reports.
Crossman, 51, has held the position since 2013.
—The San Francisco 49ers are interested in former Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson for a front-office role, according to a report from CBS Sports.
—Carolina Panthers quarter Taylor Heinicke underwent surgery to repair a partially torn triceps, according to a report from The Athletic.
Heinicke appeared to injure his left elbow while making his first NFL start against Atlanta in Week 16. It had been previously reported that the injury was a hyperextended left elbow and wouldn’t require surgery.
—Field Level Media