NFL news roundup: Willis McGahee released, rookies sign

Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

The Broncos made a surprise move by dropping veteran running back Willis McGahee on Thursday. Meanwhile, big-name rookies are being signed left and right. Those stories and more in Thursday's NFL news roundup.

Willis McGahee is no longer a member of the Denver Broncos. The veteran running back was released Thursday after leading the team in rushing the last two seasons. McGahee's 2012 season ended in November due to a knee injury, but there were reports that he would have rejoined the team during the playoffs if the Broncos had advanced farther. His release likely had more to do with the young stable of running backs that the Broncos cultivated behind the 31-year-old.

Rookie Montee Ball, a second-round pick in 2013, and Ronnie Hillman, a third-round pick in 2012, were the Broncos' primary ball carriers while McGahee sat out offseason training activities. McGahee's release could also signal that the Broncos still have faith in oft-injured former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno. How carries will shake out remains to be seen, but considering how productive McGahee was in Denver, the Broncos must think highly of their young players.

More news from around the league Thursday:

Big-name rookies sign

Several rookies inked their first NFL contracts Thursday. For the St. Louis Rams, first-round picks Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree locked in five-year deals. Meanwhile, Matt Barkley and Landry Jones, two quarterbacks taken in the fourth round in April, both signed four-year contracts with the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittburgh Steelers, respectively.

Austin may have been the only player to avoid offset language in his contract. The No. 8 overall pick apparently has the benefit of the doubt from the Rams for his fully guaranteed contract. Players selected later in the first round or beyond carry much less weight in negotiations.

Mike Kafka has good chance to win starting job, per Jags GM

Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said that recently acquired quarterback Mike Kafka has just as good a chance to win the team's starting job as incumbents Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, or rookies Matt Scott and Jordan Rodgers. Kafka was released by the New England Patriots this week in their move to sign Tim Tebow.

Kafka is a former fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. His career passing stats stand at 11-for-16 for 107 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions while filling in for an injured Michael Vick in 2011. Few expect Kafka to suddenly embark on a Hall of Fame career, but given how bad the Jags' passing game was last season, there shouldn't be any surprise if he does see extensive playing time in 2013.

Ryan Mathews says he's been an 'average back' in his career

Ryan Mathews was candid when discussing his career recently, calling himself an "average back" through three seasons in the NFL. He is coming off a season during which he missed four games due to injury and averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry. Unfortunately for Mathews (and humanity), fans have not been kind.

Via the San Diego Union-Tribune:

"I've had people say they hope me and my mom get AIDS and die," Mathews said, offering an example of the multitude of hateful messages he has received via Twitter.

Mathews will hopefully have some help from a rebuilt offensive line this season. He has flashed tremendous potential in the past, and if he can stay healthy and count on his teammates, Mathews' best days should be ahead of him.

Sebastian Janikowski wants to play 7-8 more years

Sebastian Janikowski is 35 years old heading into a contract year with the Oakland Raiders. He isn't close to being ready to stop kicking, however. Janikowski told the San Francisco Chronicle that he wants to play at least another seven or eight years, ideally with the Raiders.

"I would love to stay here and finish my career. This is where I started and where I would like to finish. ... I can go seven or eight years. If I stay healthy, I can keep going. I want to play as long as I can and win the Super Bowl. That's the ultimate goal."

Janikowski, even at his relatively advanced age, is still one of the best kickers in the NFL. Last season, he connected on 31 of 34 field goal attempts, and made six kicks from beyond 50 yards.

More from SB Nation:

Broncos release Willis McGahee

What's next for NFL's at-risk coaches?

Jason Peters arrested for drag racing

DeSean Jackson wants QB question answered

3 reasons why signing Tebow was a smart move

Police release 911 call from Adam "Pacman" Jones arrest

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