A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts were two-win team. This year, they’re a wild card team with Super Bowl hopes. Mike Florio also wonders if any playoff contenders are motivated to claim a lower seed and easier road to the Super Bowl.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Indy’s road goes through Houston
Of all the moves made on Tuesday, the least expected comes from Atlanta.
The Falcons have released tight end Tony Gonzalez.
“This was a decision we had to make with the start of the new League year as we begin retooling our roster for 2014,” G.M. Thomas Dimitroff said in a release. “On behalf of the entire Falcons organization, we wish Tony all the best in his television career and thank him for everything he did for this franchise.”
Sure, he’s retired. For that reason, the Falcons could have continued to hold his rights, at no cost or cap charge. So they didn’t really have to make the move. They chose to.
In cutting him loose, Gonzalez is now available to join any team that gets off to a great start in 2014 and believes that Gonzalez would be a key component for a stretch run.
Gonzalez has said that, given his decision to go to work for CBS, he won’t be coming back. Either way, he now has 31 other options, if he chooses to yield to the temptation to unretire.
There can be an early run on something other than pass-rushers and pass-protectors.
The Bears sign a standout special teamer early in free agency, announcing a one-year deal with Panthers linebacker Jordan Senn.
The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Senn — who is bald and looks like a miniature Brian Urlacher — has spent six seasons in the league with the Colts and Panthers, with seven stray starts on defense.
But his primary gift is for the kicking game, as he excels in coverage.
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams left the door open for a return to the Vikings while discussing his outlook for free agency, but the team may have slammed it shut on Tuesday afternoon.
Alex Marvez of FOX Sports reports that the Vikings have signed former Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph. He should plug in next to Sharrif Floyd to form a young and potentially very good combo on the interior of Minnesota’s defensive line.
Joseph has started 46-of-48 games for the Giants in the last three seasons and won’t turn 26 until October, giving the Vikings a player with a lot of starting experience in what should be the prime years of his career. His loss is a big one for a Giants defense short on younger talent, but the amount of holes that need filling on the Giants roster likely precluded an offer that would have kept Joseph in town.
Joseph has nine sacks over the last three years, a sign of his ability to provide pass rush from the middle of the line while also doing a strong job against the run. His presence should help the Vikings allow fewer than a league-worst 30 points per game next season.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Myers received a two-year, $4 million deal.
The 28-year-old Myers caught 47 passes for 522 yards and four touchdowns in his lone season with the Giants in 2013. He’s hauled in 158 passes for 1,578 yards and eight TDs in five NFL seasons, the first four of which were with Oakland.
Lawrence Tynes is now a free man.
According to the league’s official transaction wire, the Buccaneers released Tynes Tuesday.
That’s a quiet end for a guy whose season ended because of a MRSA infection, and whose status was under review by the league and the NFLPA.
That doesn’t lend any clarity to his dispute over whether he should have been placed on injured reserve or the non-football injury list last year, however.
Players on NFI don’t have to be paid (though the Bucs gave him the $840,000 specified in his contract), and their rights toll over into the following year. Players whose years end on IR become free agents.
As of Monday at this time, it appeared that cornerback Vontae Davis would be signing on Tuesday with a team other than the Colts.
In the end, the Colts stepped up and got the deal done.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Indy made a late push to keep Davis, who was acquired in 2012 for a second-round pick in 2013. As another source explained it, the two sides went from Thursday until at least Monday without negotiating on Davis.
In the end, the contract signed by cornerback Sam Shields in Green Bay provided the template, at four years and $39 million.
So Vontae can call up his grandmother, and he can continue to work really hard to prepare for Tom Brady.
A neck injury makes it hard for the Giants to count on running back David Wilson and Andre Brown is a free agent, which meant the Giants were a good bet to go after running backs once free agency opened.
They appear to have landed one already. Rashad Jennings tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that he’s flying to New York on Tuesday night and that he’s looking forward to signing on the dotted line with the Giants. The Giants haven’t announced anything, but their offer to Jennings was reported earlier on Tuesday by Fallon Smith of CSN Bay Area.
Jennings spent the first four years of his career with the Jaguars before signing with the Raiders last year. He wound up playing a lot thanks to Darren McFadden’s annual spate of injuries and performed well, running for 733 yards and six touchdowns on 163 carries and catching 36 passes for 292 yards. The Raiders were reportedly interested in bringing him back, but they re-signed McFadden on Tuesday and Jennings will be moving on to the NFC East.
The Eagles signed Patrick Chung as a free agent last year in hopes of solidifying their safety spot, but things didn’t work out as planned and the Eagles were back in the market for safeties this offseason.
They landed one on the first day of free agency. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Eagles signed former Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins to a three-year, $16.25 million deal. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that $8.5 million of that total is guaranteed.
New Orleans made Jenkins the 14th overall pick of the 2010 draft, although he was a cornerback at that point in his career. He moved to safety the next season and has started all but seven games over the last four seasons. He’s been a solid player for the Saints, if a bit below the upper echelon of the league’s safeties, and should be a huge upgrade over the collection of players that the Eagles used at safety last season.
The Eagles cleared some room on the roster by announcing that they have released Chung after one subpar year with the team. Given the struggles of the rest of the safety unit last season, Jenkins may not be the only new face added at the position this offseason.
UPDATE 5:20 p.m. ET: The Eagles have announced the deal with Jenkins as well.
Packers tight end Jermichael Finley won’t have to wait long to find out if he’s ready to be cleared.
The free agent is headed to Seattle tonight, and will take a physical for the Seahawks tomorrow, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.
Finley’s condition has been a question since he had surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his neck, but all the recent reports have been optimistic.
If he’s well and signs there, he gives quarterback Russell Wilson another dynamic weapon in the passing game, on a team that barely needed last year’s big addition (Percy Harvin) to win a Super Bowl title.
Finley hinted at this move in January, saying he wouldn’t hesitate to hop on a plane.
And he didn’t.
The team with the NFL’s best offense is making a big push to improve its defense.
The Denver Broncos have signed free agent safety T.J. Ward, Adam Schefter of ESPN first reported and the Broncos have announced.
“Excited to announce we’ve agreed to terms with strong safety T.J. Ward,” Broncos G.M. John Elway wrote on Twitter. “He’ll bring energy and toughness to our secondary.”
Ward started all 16 games for the Browns last year and should provide an instant upgrade to the Broncos’ secondary. Ward was the No. 20 player in our Free Agent Hot 100.
If Blaine Gabbert is to jump-start his career, it will not be in Jacksonville.
PFT has confirmed that the Jaguars have dealt Gabbert to the 49ers. Adam Schefter of ESPN, who first reported the news, says the compensation will be a sixth-round pick.
The Jaguars’ No. 1 pick in 2011, has Gabbert struggled with his play and with injuries in his NFL career. He was benched last season, his third in Jacksonville.
With the Jaguars re-signing Chad Henne and looking like a candidate to draft a passer, Gabbert’s future in Jacksonville seemed tenuous.
Now, he will get a fresh start in San Francisco with head coach Jim Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback. Gabbert, who has a manageable base salary of $2 million, figures to compete for a reserve role behind Colin Kaepernick, also a 2011 draft pick.
UPDATE 5:23 p.m. ET: The Jaguars have confirmed that Gabbert has been dealt.
The Jets made sure that kicker Nick Folk wouldn’t leave the team by slapping a franchise tag on him last week.
On Tuesday, they made sure that they wouldn’t have to make the same decision again next season. The team announced that Folk has signed a multiyear agreement with the team.
No financial terms were announced, but Folk would have made $3.55 million in 2014 if he played out the year under the tag.
Folk is heading into his fifth season as a member of the Jets and had another strong year in 2013. He made 33-of-36 field goals, including three game-winning kicks to end Jets victories. His accuracy was the best in his career and upped his career mark to 80.3 percent over seven overall seasons in the NFL.
Folk is the first of this year’s franchise tag recipients to agree to a long-term deal with his team. Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo are the other three players to get tagged.
Vontae Davis will stay in Indianapolis.
Davis, a free agent cornerback who was expected to be sought after by several teams, has decided to stick with the Colts. It was Colts owner Jim Irsay who announced the deal on Twitter.
“Glad to welcome back Vontae Davis to the team!” Irsay wrote, in a rare tweet from Irsay with no spelling or grammatical errors.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, it’s a four-year, $39 million contract with $20 million guaranteed. That’s comparable to the contract Sam Shields got from the Packers, and it raises the question: If Davis and Shields are worth $10 million a year, what kind of money will Darrelle Revis make if he hits the open market tomorrow?
The Redskins have bolstered their linebacking corps and special teams coverage units.
An eighth-year pro, the 29-year-old Hayward has started 13 regular season games in his NFL career. Hayward (6-1, 240) projects to inside linebacker in Washington’s 3-4 scheme and would also figure to be a core special teams player.
The Giants had to have some fresh faces for their offensive line, and moved quickly to add a versatile blocker.
Schwartz can also play tackle, and has overcome hip problems which ended his stint with the Panthers to play out one-year deals with the Vikings and the Chiefs. He tweeted earlier today he anticipated some more stability this time through.
With the retirement of David Diehl and the release of David Baas, the Giants needed to add some toughness up front, and they did so.