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NFL ROUNDUP: Rams won't get cap relief, replacement refs stay in NFL

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It turns out the Rams won't get any cap relief from the trade of tackle Jason Smith after all.

The agreement that was consummated between the Rams and Jets on the night of Aug. 27 that brought tackle Wayne Hunter to St. Louis wasn't official until late Tuesday and wasn't done by 3 p.m. Central in time to make it on the league personnel report.

That was party because both players had to travel to their new cities and take physicals. But it was also linked to an adjustment on Smith's contract and the paperwork had to be completed before the deal was finalized.

Smith was scheduled to be paid $4 million guaranteed this year and Hunter $2.45 million guaranteed. However, the Jets weren't willing to take on all of Smith's salary, so his contract was restructured with the Rams paying him a $1.55 million bonus and the Jets paying him $2.45 million in salary, the same total they would have paid Hunter.

The result is the Rams will still have a $4 million combined cap charge for Smith and Hunter.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher said, "We just felt like it was a good deal for both teams and probably a better deal for both players - just a fresh start."

Hunter should have a seamless transition to the Rams' offense because of the presence of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who was with the Jets with Hunter. Agent Kenny Zuckerman, who represents Hunter, told USA Today, "It happened to be the right place at the right time and also similar type of guys, who were struggling, who could flourish in new situations. Wayne's really excited to be reunited with Schotty. He feels this could be a boost for him."

As for Smith, when asked why it didn't work out with the Rams, Fisher said, "I just got here, but clearly, I think, Barry's (Richardson) won that job because of his experience. I wish Jason the best. He did the best he could. He actually really improved this year. I think coach Boo (offensive line coach Paul Boudreau) was a huge impact on him. He played pretty well the other day, but I think it's best that we just go a different direction."

Smith was the second overall pick in the 2009 draft and was never on the field long enough to have any chance of establishing himself. He started five games as a rookie and played in eight, missing the remainder of the games first with a knee injury and then a concussion.

He did start 15 games in 2010 when the Rams were 7-9. However, he suffered another concussion and a neck injury against Dallas on Oct. 23 last season and missed the remainder of the year.

In the offseason, Smith agreed to a salary cut from $10 million to $4 million guaranteed and the restructured deal also included a roster bonus of $11.25 million that was due on the first day of the 2013 league year.

Early in camp, he was replaced on the first unit by Barry Richardson and Richardson has started all three preseason games.

---Replacement referees will be used to start the NFL season, according to a league memo sent to all teams.

With the league and the officials still far apart in contract negotiations, particularly it the area of retirement benefits, the league is set to move forward with replacement, who have "undergone extensive training and evaluation, and have shown steady improvement during the preseason."

To help, the NFL will also employ veteran former officials as supervisors upstairs, with the goal being to contact alternate officials on the sidelines to correct certain wrong calls and help to get future calls right.

The memo also provided an update on the status of the negotiations, and said that the sides are far apart. The memo states that officials were offered a retirement contribution package that would average $20,000 a year, "while the officials' union has proposed a substantially higher amount."

In a recent interview with SI.com, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith blasted the league for its intended use of replacement refs, citing safety concerns.

"The NFL has chosen to prevent the very officials that they have trained, championed and cultivated for decades to be on the field to protect players and -- by their own admission -- further our goal of enhanced safety," he told the web site. "That is absurd on its face."

The NFL Referees Association was locked out in early June, and replacements have been used for the entire preseason.

Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, who sent the memo, said in addition to issues regarding salary and retirement benefits, there's a significant difference on operational issues.

"One of our key goals in this negotiation is to enhance our ability to recruit, train, and replace officials who are not performing adequately," Anderson told ESPN. "We believe that officials should be evaluated and performance issues addressed in the same way as players, coaches, club management and league staff. We have proposed several steps to accomplish this, including having a number of full-time officials and expanding the overall number of officials."

The NFL has proposed to add three full officiating crews, increasing the total number of officials to 140. In response, the NFLRA has said it isn't opposed to full-time officials "if they are fairly compensated."

The NFLPA issued a statement in response:

"We are not surprised based on Ray Anderson's statements yesterday that the NFL was not going to reach out to us. However, this is consistent with the NFL's negotiating strategy which has been "take it or leave it" and lock them out. It now appears the NFL is willing to forego any attempt to reach a deal in the last seven (7) days before opening night. It is unfortunate because the referees want to get back on the field. Our members have been engaged in extensive preparations and are ready to go. If the NFL is serious."

---NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith is angered by the league's lockout of officials.

In a recent interview with SI.com, Smith cited safety concerns, claiming that replacement refs have created a more dangerous playing field.

"In America it is the employer's obligation to provide as safe a working environment as possible," Smith told SI.com. "We believe that if the National Football League fails in that obligation, we reserve the right to seek any relief that we believe is appropriate. The NFL has chosen to prevent the very officials that they have trained, championed and cultivated for decades to be on the field to protect players and -- by their own admission -- further our goal of enhanced safety. That is absurd on its face."

Smith blamed the stalled talks with the officials on the league, saying that the NFL has placed money ahead of player safety.

"There are really three fundamental facts that are inescapable," Smith said. "One, the players and the league have made tremendous strides in trying to make the game safer over the last three years. The second fact is, at the players' urging, the National Football League last year gave the referees more power to spot and deal with a concussed or injured player. The third inescapable fact is, over the last 20 years the league has done everything to maintain an experienced referee corps."

---The Cincinnati Bengals signed veteran center Jeff Faine on Wednesday, moving quickly to replace injured center Kyle Cook.

Faine, 31, is entering his 10th season. He has been on the street since being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March. He had started with them for the previous four years after signing as a free agent in 2008.

He was a first-round pick by the Browns in 2003.

Cook was injured last Thursday against Green Bay, and tests revealed significant damage. The team isn't sure how long he'll be out. He could potentially miss the season.

---NFL Network Hires LaDainian Tomlinson For Sunday Morning Show

Former running back LaDainian Tomlinson has been hired by the NFL Network for its "First on the Field" Sunday morning show, scheduled to air at 7 a.m. ET on NFL Sundays. Tomlinson, who played with the San Diego Chargers and New York Jets, will join hosts Melissa Stark and Sterling Sharpe and NFL Insider Michael Lombardi on the two-hour program.

First on the Field will be produced by NFL Films from its Mt. Laurel, N.J., studio.

---The New York Jets spent Wednesday learning how to be better leaders.

Head coach Rex Ryan sent 19 players to a leadership training seminar as a way promoting a harmonious existence for the season, something they were accused of not having.

After attending the seminar in May with his coaching staff, Ryan thought it would also be good for his players.

"We just had a great experience as a coaching staff, and I'm hoping the players have the same kind of experience we had," Ryan told reporters. "It was great. It was something I felt all of us gained some things out of. You saw a lot about each other. I thought it was good."

Ryan said the players would participate in "different exercises" under the supervision of professional instructors.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes were the most notable of the strained relationships from last year's chaotic team, and their feud made headlines after the season. Ryan said his top offseason priority was to fix the locker room.

---Defensive back Coye Francies has been claimed on waivers Raiders by the Oakland Raiders, the team announced Wednesday.

Francies had been released Monday by the Seattle Seahawks.

His addition brings an experienced NFL kickoff returner. He has returned three kickoffs for 66 yards (22.0 avg.) this preseason. He also totaled seven tackles in two seasons with the Browns after coming into the league as a sixth-round pick in 2009.
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