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Falcons place franchise tag on cornerback Grimes

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons on Friday placed the franchise tag on cornerback Brent Grimes, assuring he will receive more than $10 million if he signs the tender.

Grimes, who led the team with 17 passes defensed in 2011, is one of the most important names in an unusually large class of 17 unrestricted free agents. He had a combined 11 interceptions in 2009 and 2010 and was an alternate Pro Bowl pick in 2010.

Grimes' agent, Ben Dogra, said the decision by Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was expected.

"We anticipated receiving the franchise tag," Dogra told The Associated Press. "Brent Grimes is certainly viewed as one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL, and getting franchised is not a surprise to any of us. We look forward to continuing to speak with Thomas Dimitroff over the next few days."

Dimitroff announced the move on the team's radio partner, Atlanta's WQXI AM-790. He said he plans to continue talks on a long-term deal with Grimes.

"Our feeling is, Brent Grimes is an excellent athlete with the ability to move, cover, break on the ball with some of the top corners in this league," Dimitroff said. "We feel comfortable with his abilities, the way that he's picked up our system and settled in nicely in the few years since we have been here."

"We feel like, as we all know, you're always looking for corners that can settle into your system and cover and stay in phase, as what we call it often, and make big plays on the ball. I think Brent Grimes does that, obviously, against big, small, fast or slow receivers in this league. We're encouraged about having him back."NFL: Saints violated 'Bounty Rule'NEW YORK -- New Orleans Saints players and at least one assistant coach maintained a bounty program the last three seasons for inflicting game-ending injuries on opposing players, including Brett Favre and Kurt Warner -- a pool that reached as much as $50,000 and paid specific amounts for "cart-offs" and "knockouts," the NFL said Friday.

The report said the pool amounts reached their height in 2009, the year the Saints won the Super Bowl.

The league said between 22 and 27 defensive players were involved in the program and that it was administered by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, with the knowledge of coach Sean Payton.Ray Rice gets franchise tag from RavensBALTIMORE -- Ray Rice has been designated the franchise player of the Baltimore Ravens, who hope to buy some time while negotiating a lengthy deal for the two-time Pro Bowl running back.

Rice's contract expired after a season in which he amassed an NFL-best 2,068 yards from scrimmage and helped the Ravens advance to the AFC championship game.

As a franchise running back, Rice will earn $7.7 million in 2012. Baltimore, however, intends to have him around a lot longer.Steelers cut LB James Farrior, DE Aaron SmithPITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers continued their offseason roster purge Friday, announcing veteran linebacker James Farrior and defensive end Aaron Smith will be released before the next league year begins March 13.

Farrior and Smith served as the backbone of a defense that led the franchise to two Super Bowl titles and three AFC championships over the last decade, a period in which the Steelers defense finished ranked in the top 10 in the league every season.

The duo join wide receiver Hines Ward and guard Chris Kemoeatu, who were told earlier this week they also will be cut as the team addresses salary cap concerns and an aging roster, particularly on defense. Nose tackle Chris Hoke retired in January due to lingering neck problems.