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March 5 (The Sports Xchange) - Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne "Lights Out" Merriman is retiring from football, according to a statement made on his personal website Tuesday night.
"After a lengthy discussion with my agent, family and team, I have officially decided to put my retirement papers in today," Merriman said in the statement.
"My retirement from the game I love so much and from the game that has brought me so many opportunities on and off the field has been decided with great thought for my future on and off the field.
"I retire today not because I don't feel I can still go out there and play the game at a very high level, I am retiring because I want to retire on my own terms and leave while I know I can still physically play the game."
Merriman, 28, played eight seasons in the NFL after being drafted by the San Diego Chargers with 12th overall selection of the 2005 NFL draft. He registered 10 sacks as a rookie, made the Pro Bowl and was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
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The Miami Dolphins and wide receiver Brian Hartline are close to a multiyear deal that would average between $6 million and $6.5 million per season, a source told FOXSports.com.
Hartline, 26, is coming off his best season. He had 74 catches for 1,083 yards and one touchdown.
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The Minnesota Vikings officially released veteran wide receiver Michael Jenkins on Tuesday, clearing $3.25 million of salary cap space but creating another opening at an already thin position.
Jenkins, 30, played two seasons of the three-year deal he signed in 2011. He was due a roster bonus of $2.43 million on March 16 and a base salary of $825,000 for 2013.
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Dwayne Bowe said his life changed while on vacation with his family on Monday, when the Kansas City Chiefs called to finalize a contract that makes him the third-highest paid wide receiver in the NFL.
Bowe's five-year, $56 million deal trumps the five-year, $55.5 million free agent contract Vincent Jackson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March 2012. Only Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald have higher overall and annual salaries than Bowe.
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The Atlanta Falcons running back Antone Smith signed a two-year contract extension, the team announced.
Smith played in 13 games last season, primarily on special teams. He totaled four special teams' tackles and helped the Falcons coverage units limit opponents to 9.3 yards per punt return and 22.2 yards per kickoff return.
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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers isn't likely to hold out until he receives a salary comparable to the game's best quarterbacks, sources close to Rodgers told CBSSports.com.
Those sources said the Packers' star "paid close attention" to the contract paid to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, "but there's no anger. He's not planning to hold out."
Rodgers has two years left on a six-year deal signed in 2008 that pays him $9.25 million in 2013 and $10.5 million in 2014. Flacco and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees both earn about $20 million per season.
(Editing by Julian Linden)