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Linebacker Dan Connor, who spent his first four NFL seasons in Carolina, got a two-year deal from the Cowboys and is expected to compete with Bruce Carter for the inside linebacker spot next to Sean Lee, a former teammate of Connor’s at Penn State.

“Obviously we’ve taken a big step,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “Getting the cap hit, you have to deal with it and there’s ramifications of that, but it’s not going to stop us from being able to do the things we have to do to be a championship-caliber football team in 2012.”

The Redskins added another free agent by signing safety Brandon Meriweather to a two-year, $6 million deal. Meriweather agreed to the deal as Washington began the task of replacing last year’s safety tandem of LaRon Landry and Oshiomogho Atogwe.

But the Redskins will be taking a $36 million salary cap hit over the next two years, so any future spending is problematic.

Chicago re-signed defensive end Israel Idonije for one year. He had five sacks last season after contributing eight in 2010, his first year as a starter.

Defensive end Frostee Rucker left Cincinnati for Cleveland and a five-year, $21 million contract. Rucker had his best season in 2011 with a career-high four sacks in 11 starts.

The Browns also re-signed offensive lineman Oniel Cousins and tight end Alex Smith, both backups.

San Francisco released cornerback Shawntae Spencer, who became expendable after Carlos Rogers re-signed with the 49ers and Perrish Cox was added as a free agent. The team then added running back Rock Cartwright.

Denver agreed to terms with safety Mike Adams, who started a career-high 16 games for the Browns last season.

Browns President Mike Holmgren told season ticket holders his team’s trade proposal to St. Louis for the No. 2 overall draft pick, which the Rams turned down to deal with Washington, was “every bit the offer” as the Redskins made. Like Washington, Cleveland was interested in Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III of Baylor.

The Giants signed oft-injured safety Chris Horton, who did not play in the NFL last season. He spent his first three seasons with the Redskins, but missed half of each of his last two seasons with toe and ankle injuries.

New England has re-signed special teams captain Matthew Slater and signed defensive tackle Marcus Harrison. Slater made his first Pro Bowl last season, and has played wide receiver and safety in his four seasons with the Patriots.