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If it seemed like there was a lot of action on the first day of free agency . . . well, there was.
Per our count, 33 of our top 100 free agents had struck deals as of midnight Wednesday.
Overall, 39 members of the PFT Free Agent Hot 100 had reached contract agreements through Day One, including six re-signings before Tuesday.
Five other top 100 free agents can be signed away from their current clubs, but interested teams must surrender draft pick compensation, whether in restricted free agency or because of the franchise or transition tag in unrestricted free agency.
Add it up, and 44-of-100 players on the Hot 100 either have deals or have received contract tenders.
By coincidence, Decker and Rodgers-Cromartie played for the Broncos last season. Moreover, they played quite well.
So yes, the free agent ranks haven’t completely been thinned just yet.
But some of the biggest deals are already done, and all of that cash is gone.
Just like that.
In the game of musical chairs that is NFL free agency, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been left standing without a seat.
According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, the Broncos have taken their offer to Rodgers-Cromartie off the table with Talib now in the fold.
Rodgers-Cromartie appeared in 18 games this season (including playoffs) and made 16 starts in helping Denver reach the Super Bowl. He recorded 31 tackles on the year with three interceptions, including a 75-yard pick for a touchdown.
With Chris Harris likely back with the team after being tendered at a second-round level, the Broncos have their starting cornerbacks in place. Rodgers-Cromartie will now have to look for a new team, which will be his third different team in the past three seasons.
The Raiders let left tackle Jared Veldheer leave for Arizona in part because they thought he was better suited to playing right tackle.
And so the Raiders have signed both a left tackle and a right tackle to replace him.
Joining Rodger Saffold as the Raiders’ new left tackle will be former Jets right tackle Austin Howard. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that the Raiders have a deal in place for Howard, who started every game in 2012 and 2013 at right tackle for the Jets.
The moves will consume just a small piece of millions in cap dollars held by the Raiders, who still have plenty of needs — but also plenty of cap space to address them.
On February 2, the Broncos learned the hard way the importance of having a top-flight secondary. To repeat a Groundhog Day-style repeat of what happened on Groundhog Day, they spent the first day of free agency spending on help for the last line of defense.
Not long after the market opened, the Broncos added safety T.J. Ward. Then came the stunner: Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, knocked out of the AFC title game by a supposed cheap shot from Denver receiver Wes Welker, has joined the three-time defending AFC West champs.
The bogarting by the Broncos of Talib becomes one of the most fascinating developments of the day, for plenty of reasons beyond the fact that Talib, who tested positive for marijuana multiple times in college at Kansas, will now live in a state where the substance is legal for recreational use.
First, the money paid to Talib — reportedly $57 million over six years with $26 million guaranteed — takes the Broncos out of the running for Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis, who’ll be cut Wednesday if not traded before then.
Second, the move puts even more pressure on the Patriots to make a play for Revis.
Third, perhaps the decision of New England coach Bill Belichick to publicly cry foul about Welker’s hit on Talib was aimed at souring Talib on the possibility of signing with the Broncos.
Fourth, the Patriots never could have given Talib the contract he has received in Denver, not in the wake of the decision to give millions to tight end Aaron Hernandez months before he landed in jail while awaiting murder charges. While Talib has been a model citizen since being traded from Tampa to New England in 2012, concerns linger regarding his temper and demeanor in the locker room and on the practice field. Then there’s the lingering concern that Talib doesn’t show up in big games.
For the Broncos, it doesn’t matter. They needed to go all in if they want to win a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning still on the team, and the only real chance to begin closing that 35-point gap with the Seahawks comes via the available free agents. While Ward and Talib may not be Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman, Ward and Talib were the best that Denver could currently do.
And if they can land DeMarcus Ware, the Broncos will be closer to simulating the devastating Seattle front seven.
And if the Broncos sign Vince Young, he can call it a Dream Team.
Actually, this team is less about fulfilling a dream and more about avoiding another February nightmare.
The Cincinnati Bengals have mostly been quiet on the first day of free agency. The team hasn’t dipped its toes into the free agency waters as of yet outside of keeping their own free agents with the team.
Mays has appeared in 34 games for the Bengals over the last three seasons since being traded to Cincinnati from San Francisco in 2011. Mays appeared in just eight games and started one game for the Bengals this season before landing on injured reserve due to a dislocated shoulder suffered in October.
Mays has been a mostly inconsistent player since coming out of USC in 2010. After being selected in the second round of the draft by the 49ers, Mays has never been able to take hold of a starting job in the league. He has been a contributor for Cincinnati as a situational defender and special teams player.
The deal with the Bengals could give Mays an opportunity to recoup some value before taking another shot in free agency in the future.
As Richardson struggled for the Colts, Brown thrived. And with the Colts now forced to justify giving up a first-round pick for Richardson, Brown has exited.
Brown has joined the Chargers, as initially reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. A source with knowledge of the deal tells PFT that Brown’s agreed to the three-year contract, with a base value of $10.5 million. Of that amount, $4 million in guaranteed.
It’s roughly the same deal that former Vikings running back Toby Gerhart signed with the Jaguars. And it proves that the market for veteran running backs continues to reside in the same range as the top of the market for kickers.
Early on the first day of free agency, the Broncos added one of the top safeties available in Cleveland’s T.J. Ward.
Now, they have added perhaps the best cornerback in the class.
PFT has confirmed that Talib has a deal in place with Denver.
The 28-year-old Talib was the top cornerback and the No. 4 overall player on PFT’s Free Agent Hot 100.
Talib (6-1, 205) has intercepted 23 passes in six NFL seasons. His size and playmaking ability make him especially valuable in a time where bigger cornerbacks are desired to match up against tall and skilled wide receivers.
The Broncos’ agreement with Talib would seem to leave Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s future with Denver in major doubt. Earlier on Tuesday, the Denver Post reported that the club was “closing in on” bringing back Rodgers-Cromartie. However, Talib’s addition would, at the very least, seem to complicate a potential return for Rodgers-Cromartie, an unrestricted free agent who would figure to have other options.
The Broncos get the first in-person crack at former Cowboys defensive end/linebacker DeMarcus Ware. But if the Broncos don’t sign him, there are plenty of other takers.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, more than a dozen teams contacted Ware after the Cowboys cut him on Tuesday. Of those teams, six or seven made the playoffs in 2013.
For now, Ware has committed only to visiting the Broncos.
It’s no coincidence that Jared Allen has expanded his horizons given Denver’s interest in Ware. As one league insider correctly pegged the situation, Allen should have cut a wink-nod deal with the Broncos on Tuesday, before Ware was cut.
With Jared Allen’s asking price seemingly too high for the Denver Broncos, the former Minnesota Vikings defensive end has turned his attentions elsewhere.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Allen is now speaking with the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks.
Both Chicago and Seattle have addressed pass rush needs over the last two days with the Seahawks re-signing Michael Bennett and the Bears adding Lamarr Houston. But Chicago also had to part ways with Julius Peppers and Chris Clemons remains a possibly cap casualty in Seattle as well.
Depending on the price, the Seahawks would likely have to free up additional space – potentially by releasing Clemons – if they elect to sign Allen.
While neither Seattle or Chicago are overflowing with cap space, they clearly still view addressing their pass rush as a priority this offseason.
The door seems to be shut with Allen in Denver as the Broncos have shifted their focus to former Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Despite being 31 years old, Allen is coming off his sixth-straight season with double-digit sacks. Allen posted 11.5 sacks last year for Minnesota.
Tackle Jonathan Martin is indeed returning to the Bay Area. And he’ll play for one of his head coaches at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh.
The 49ers and Dolphins have issued separate statements announcing the trade. The Dolphins describe the compensation as an undisclosed draft pick.
The trade itself hinges on Martin passing a physical, as the 49ers pointed out in their statement announcing the trade.
“We feel that this move is in the best interests of all parties involved,” Dolphins General Manager Dennis Hickey said. “We wish Jonathan well.”
Owner Stephen Ross, we’re told, was fully on board with the decision to cut the cord on the team’s second-round pick in 2012.
The Dolphins deserve credit for not drawing the process out any longer than it’s already lingered. As the franchise moves forward with a new left tackle and new hope — both for the team and for renovations at Sun Life Stadium — it made sense to make a fresh start quickly. The Dolphins could have traded Martin no sooner than today.
UPDATE 11:12 p.m. ET: Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Dolphins will receive a conditional seventh-round pick in 2015, if Martin is on the 49ers’ opening-day roster.
The Jaguars have retained of their most experienced players.
The club said Tuesday it had re-signed cornerback Will Blackmon to a two-year deal. The 29-year-old Blackmon is one of the older players on Jacksonville’s roster, which has been retooled since head coach Gus Bradley and G.M. David Caldwell were installed in 2013.
Blackmon played in 15 games for the Jaguars in 2013, starting nine. He helped seal the Jaguars’ first regular season when he stripped Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick of the ball on a blitz and took it in for a touchdown.
Blackmon joined the Jaguars on August 28. He did not play in the NFL in 2012 after stints with the Giants (2010-2011) and Packers (2006-2009). However he has rekindled his NFL career with Jacksonville.
He could find a new home in New York.
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that the Jets are showing serious interest in Jones-Drew.
The Jets desperate need skill position players. Their leading ball carriers in 2013 were Chris Ivory (833 yards) and Bilal Powell (697). Jones-Drew presumably would become a viable candidate for the starting job.
Jones-Drew has the personality to enhance his football salary with off-field media opportunities in New York; he could lay the foundation to launch a media career by ending his career in the nation’s top media capital.
Tuesday didn’t just mark the start of free agency but the start of trading season in the NFL as well. For the second time today, the San Francisco 49ers have made a trade with a team in the state of Florida.
A source confirmed to PFT that the 49ers have acquired tackle Jonathan Martin from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a conditional draft pick. The trade was first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.
Martin started seven games for the Dolphins this season before electing to walk away from the team after what he felt to be repeated bullying at the hands of Richie Incognito and other players on Miami’s roster. The fall out from the accusations has been immense as Incognito was suspended, coaches and staff of the Dolphins were let go and Martin never returned to the team.
Now Martin is reunited with Jim Harbaugh, his former head coach at Stanford University. Harbaugh vouched for Martin in the Wells Report and said he believes Martin can still succeed in the league. Therefore it’s not surprising there would be interest from the 49ers to bring Martin to give him a chance at a fresh start.
While Indianapolis also seemed like a possible fit with Andrew Luck and former Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, General Manager Ryan Grigson values toughness in his players, which is a massive mark against Martin at the moment.
The Broncos were denied their veteran pass-rusher of choice because of a faulty fax machine last year.
Now, they have their choice of veterans, but may have a preference.
Ware would fit an immediate need for someone to provide pressure opposite Von Miller, but there are a number of alternatives that make sense.
Other reports suggested Vikings free agent Jared Allen earlier in the day, and then Julius Peppers got released by the Bears. Given his background with John Fox and Jack Del Rio, you could have connected those dots.
But Ware’s the most versatile of the three, and would give the Broncos some flexibility on defense.
Former Bills safety Jairus Byrd wanted $9 million per year. And he got it. Exactly.
According to multiple reports, the Saints have given Byrd a six-year deal with a total value of $54 million. Of the amount, $28 million is guaranteed.
Unknown (for now) is the amount that’s fully guaranteed at the time of signing, and the amount that is guaranteed for injury only.
The structure also will say much about the expected duration of the deal. High salaries and cap numbers in future years make it less likely that all six years of the deal will be completed.
Given the Saints’ current cap crunch, it’s likely that the contract has been loaded up with bigger dollars later in the deal.
Byrd has no connection to any member of the New Orleans coaching staff. However, it’s possible that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan knows what former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine thinks of Byrd, via Jets coach (and Rob’s twin brother) Rex Ryan, who employed Pettine before he went to Buffalo.