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NFL free agency news: Greg Olsen signs extension, Jerome Simpson joins 49ers and more

Greg Olsen will remain with the Carolina Panthers through 2018, the 49ers signed Jerome Simpson to a two-year deal and other roster moves from Thursday.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen signed a three-year contract extension on Thursday, the team announced. Olsen was set to enter the final year of his contract next season, but this extension will keep him with the Panthers through the 2018 season. The extension is worth $22.5 million, including a $12 million signing bonus, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Olsen was actually tied with rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin for receiving yardage last season -- both led the Panthers with 1,008 yards. Olsen caught six touchdowns in 2014 and was a favorite target of quarterback Cam Newton. It was a career year for Olsen, who hasn't quite lived up to his draft status over the course of his eight years in the NFL

A first-round pick by the Chicago Bears in 2007, he put up four middling years with them before signing with the Panthers in 2011. He managed just 540 yards in 2011 before eclipsing 800 in each of the next two seasons. Given the lack of other receiving options on the team, locking up Olsen is a big deal for a Panthers team looking for consistency on the offensive side of the ball.

Here's some other big roster moves from Thursday in the NFL:

Simpson signs with 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers have signed wide receiver Jerome Simpson to a two-year contract, the team announced on Thursday. Simpson sat out 2014 following a three-game suspension for DUI and marijuana possession. That wasn't his first suspension, so Simpson definitely comes with some baggage. That said, he's also a very talented receiver capable of making some big plays.

He caught 48 passes for 726 yards and a touchdown with the Minnesota Vikings in 2013, a year in which he played in all 16 games. He's only done that twice in his career. Simpson could be quite significant for the 49ers, given that Michael Crabtree and Brandon Lloyd could be gone in free agency, while Stevie Johnson could still be released if the 49ers cannot restructure his contract.

Maualuga signs extension

The Cincinnati Bengals announced that they re-signed linebacker Rey Maualuga to a three-year contract on Thursday. Maualuga was set to hit free agency at the start of the new league year, but the veteran will remain with the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

Maualuga hasn't always been a game-changer, but he's consistently done his job very well over the years. Injuries have forced him out of 11 games in six seasons, but he's totaled 482 tackles, four sacks, six forced fumbles, five interceptions and two fumble recoveries in that time. He's a rock in the middle of Cincinnati's defense and keeping him with the team means the Bengals don't have to worry about the position.

Woodley released

The Oakland Raiders made the release of defensive end LaMarr Woodley official on Thursday. Woodley signed with Oakland on a two-year contract before last season, but played in just six games before going on injured reserve with a biceps injury. Woodley started all six games he played in, but he wasn't much of a factor rushing the passer or anywhere really, putting up just five total tackles.

Oakland wasn't exactly hurting for cap space heading into 2015, but Woodley's salary of $5.2 million certainly didn't look good on the books either way. Although Woodley could still provide some value to another team, he'll likely have to take a deal somewhere near the veteran's minimum. Oakland is still in the process of a rebuilding, though the Raiders could be looking at a big offseason as they try to build around second-year quarterback Derek Carr.

Chiefs cut Mays after one year

The Kansas City Chiefs released linebacker Joe Mays on Thursday, one season into the two-year deal signed this past offseason. Mays' release saves the Chiefs about $2.7 million against the salary cap for 2015. That's not a huge number, but the Chiefs need the space and Mays didn't exactly fix Kansas City's issues at the position. The Chiefs have more cuts to make to get under 2015's salary cap.

Mays sustained a wrist injury during the preseason and played in just eight games in 2014. His release leaves three inside linebackers in Kansas City: Derrick Johnson, James-Michael Johnson and JoJo Dickson. Derrick Johnson is coming off an Achilles injury, but is an above-average starter when healthy. Kansas City will likely need to address the inside linebacker spot in the NFL Draft.