Texans’ Brian Cushing signs extension for $56 million

HOUSTON — Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing has signed a six-year contract extension.

A person familiar with negotiations confirmed the deal Tuesday night. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team has not made an announcement.

The deal is worth $55.6 million, with $21 million guaranteed.

Cushing was in the last year of the deal he signed as a rookie in 2009. The 26-year-old linebacker returned to the field this summer after sustaining a season-ending knee injury in Week 5 of last season.

Cushing, the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2009, has had more than 110 tackles in the two seasons when he played each game. The Texans are hoping he is as effected as he was before the injury, when he finished with 114 tackles and four sacks in 2011.

He saw limited action in preseason while easing his way back after surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, but the Texans expect him to start in the opener Monday at San Diego.

Houston started 5-0 last season behind a defense that was dominant with both Cushing and eventual Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt leading the way. Though Houston finished 12-4 and win its second straight AFC South title, some thought the unit never played as well without Cushing.

His other abbreviated season came when he was suspended for the first four games of 2010 for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances and finished with 76 tackles.

Falcons sign OT Truebood

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons have signed offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who started 84 games in seven seasons with Tampa Bay.

The Falcons signed the 30-year-old Trueblood to add experience behind second-year right tackle Lamar Holmes, who has moved up as the starter after playing in only one game in his 2012 rookie season. The Falcons lost projected starter Mike Johnson for the season when he dislocated his left ankle and broke his left leg in training camp.

The Falcons also waived offensive tackle Terren Jones on Tuesday and reached an injury settlement with offensive guard Phillipkeith Manley.

Trueblood, cut by the Washington Redskins on Aug. 27, played in 101 games with the Buccaneers.

He played in nine games with one start in 2012 after making 15 starts in 2011.

Browns, Cundiff agree

CLEVELAND — The Browns have reached agreement on a contract with former Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff, who has just a few days to prepare for the season opener.

Cundiff, who previously kicked for Cleveland, auditioned Tuesday for the Browns. The team needed a kicker just four days before playing Miami after terminating veteran Shayne Graham’s contract and releasing rookie Brandon Bogotay. Cundiff made all six field-goal tries for the Browns in 2009, when he filled in for an injured Phil Dawson. Cundiff was cut last month by the New York Jets.

Watkins signs with Dolphins

DAVIE, Fla. — Former first-round draft pick Danny Watkins says he’s grateful for a fresh start with the Miami Dolphins after being cut by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Watkins signed a $555,000, one-year contract with Miami and joined the team Tuesday.

“It’s the most exciting time in my life again,” he said after practice.

“I’ve had a grin on my face since this morning. It’s been great.”

Cowboys acquire DE Rayford

IRVING, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys have acquired defensive end Caesar Rayford from the Indianapolis Colts.

In the deal announced Tuesday, the Cowboys sent an undisclosed draft pick to Indianapolis.

The 27-year-old Rayford, a veteran of the Arena and Canadian leagues, signed with the Colts in May. He had five sacks and 11 tackles in the preseason.

Rayford was undrafted out of Washington. After six sacks in 31 games for the Huskies from 2005-07, Rayford played in the CFL for two seasons after that and then had 22½ sacks in three AFL seasons.

Patriots sign TE Mulligan

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots have signed tight end Matthew Mulligan.

Mulligan was released on Saturday by the Green Bay Packers after signing as a free agent in April. He spent the 2008 season on Miami’s practice squad after joining the Dolphins as a rookie free agent out of Maine. He played the next three seasons with the New York Jets and last season with the St. Louis Rams.

Primarily a blocker, Mulligan had eight catches in 16 games last season. In his career, he has 14 catches for 144 yards and one touchdown in 50 games.

The Patriots also signed rookie tackles Jordan Devey and R.J. Dill to the practice squad. Both were released last Friday, Devey by the Baltimore Ravens and Dill by the Jacksonville Jaguars.