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NFL notebook

Cowboys meet with free agent DE Greg Hardy

Free agent DE is on exempt list

The Cowboys met with controversial free agent DE Greg Hardy as they explore ways to improve a shaky pass rush.
The Cowboys met with controversial free agent DE Greg Hardy as they explore ways to improve a shaky pass rush.Chuck Burton/Associated Press

The Dallas Cowboys met with free agent defensive end Greg Hardy Tuesday as they explore ways to improve a shaky pass rush from last season.

Hardy’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said the former Pro Bowl player for Carolina was visiting Cowboys headquarters.

The 26-year-old Hardy could be suspended to start the season because of a conviction on two counts of domestic violence in North Carolina. The conviction was dismissed in February when his accuser couldn’t be found.

Hardy remains on the commissioner’s exempt list as he seeks reinstatement by the NFL. He played in the opener last year before he was suspended. Hardy tied a Carolina franchise record with 15 sacks in 2013.

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The NFL has said the 6-foot-4-inch, 275-pound Hardy is free to sign with another team while it investigates his case. League spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday there was no change in Hardy’s status.

The Cowboys were 28th in the NFL in sacks with 28 last season, according to STATS. Jeremy Mincey, a low-cost defensive end added in free agency last year, led Dallas with six sacks, and defensive tackle Henry Melton had five despite battling injuries. Melton has signed with Tampa Bay.

Dallas moved up in the second round of last year’s draft to grab DeMarcus Lawrence after cutting franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware in a salary cap move. But Lawrence missed the first half of the season after breaking his foot in training camp.

Hardy made $13.1 million last season as Carolina’s franchise player despite playing just one game.

A judge convicted Hardy last year after a woman testified that Hardy threw her in the bathroom and later onto a futon filled with guns, placed his hands on her throat and threatened to kill her. Hardy denied those allegations, saying the woman became angry when he wouldn’t have sex with her.

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Mecklenburg County prosecutors tried to get the accuser to testify at Hardy’s appeal. But they couldn’t find her despite extensive searching after she earlier said she didn’t want to testify again.

The NFL’s new personal conduct policy, approved by owners after Hardy’s conviction, calls for a six-game suspension for first-time violations involving assault, sexual assault, and domestic violence. Previously, first-time offenders typically received two-game suspensions.

The league unsuccessfully petitioned courts to have evidence from Hardy’s first trial unsealed. Without that evidence, it may be difficult for the league to suspend him.

Richardson a Raider

After going from the third overall draft pick to dropped by two teams in three years, running back Trent Richardson knows he is running out of chances to make it in the NFL.

Richardson signed a two-year deal with the Oakland Raiders with hopes that a new team can resurrect what once was a promising career.

‘‘That’s a taste that you never want to get in your mouth again,’’ said Richardson. ‘‘Hopefully, this is my last stop, and I’m going to do whatever I can to make this my last stop. Until I’m ready to walk away from the game, I don’t want to leave here.’’

Richardson entered the NFL out of Alabama as one of the more heralded running backs in years.

Richardson is one of three backs since 1996 to go in the top three picks in the draft, joining No. 2 overall picks Reggie Bush in 2006 and Ronnie Brown in 2005.

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But after a promising rookie year in Cleveland when he rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 51 passes and another score while playing much of the season with broken ribs, Richardson has been sent away by teams in his next two seasons.

Cleveland traded Richardson to Indianapolis after just two games in the 2013 season for a first-round pick. Thought to be the final piece needed to solidify an offense led by star quarterback Andrew Luck, Richardson never fit in.

‘‘The very first humbling experience I had was getting traded,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘I spent the whole year, just wondering, why in the world and how in the world did I get traded. Looking back at it, even if they said it was a business move, in my head, it’s still some type of, ‘OK, you still got traded.’ ’’

He averaged just 2.9 yards per carry with Indianapolis in the final 14 games of the 2013 season and was not much better last season when he ran for 519 yards, averaging 3.3 yards per carry.

Richardson played just one snap in three playoff games last season and never touched the ball. He was inactive for a divisional game against Denver and was suspended for the AFC Championship game against New England because he didn’t contact the team when his girlfriend had pregnancy complications, and he missed mandatory functions.

That suspension voided his contract, the Colts argued. Richardson filed a grievance to recover $3 million in salary.

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Clay signs offer

A person familiar with the situation said Dolphins tight end Charles Clay has signed a five-year, $38 million contract offer from the Bills. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Bills and Clay have not publicly discussed their negotiations. The Dolphins have five days to match the offer or lose Clay to Buffalo without compensation. Miami retained the right to match after awarding Clay a transition tag two weeks ago. The move ensured that Clay will make at least $7 million this season. Clay has been a four-year starter in Miami since being selected in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. He has 161 catches for 1,809 yards and 14 touchdowns in 58 games . . . The Chargers agreed to terms of a three-year contract with free agent wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who’s looking to bounce back after two down years. Johnson, who had visited with the Patriots, became the first player in Bills history to have three straight 1,000-yard seasons, from 2010-12. His best season was 2010, when he had 82 catches for 1,073 yards and 10 TDs. His production fell off the last two seasons. In 2013, his last with Buffalo, he had 52 catches in 12 games, for 597 yards and three scores. Last year with San Francisco, he caught 35 passes for 435 yards and three TDs . . . The 49ers signed free agent offensive lineman Erik Pears to a two-year contract. Pears spent the past five seasons in Buffalo and started all 16 games the past two years. Pears played right guard in 2014 and right tackle the previous year and will provide some needed versatility for a San Francisco line that lost starting left guard Mike Iupati in free agency.

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. . . Free agent cornerback Terence Newman, who reportedly has visited with the Patriots, also has visited with Minnesota, considering the possibility of reuniting with Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. The 36-year-old played the last three seasons with Cincinnati, two with Zimmer as defensive coordinator. Zimmer previously held that role in Dallas, covering Newman’s first four years in the NFL.