Ware, Peppers released as NFL free agency opens
By HOWARD FENDRICH
A couple of accomplished NFL pass rushers suddenly became available
when DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers were released to create room
under the salary cap in two of the biggest moves at Tuesday's start of
the free-agency signing period.
The Bears cut ties with Peppers, who has 118½ sacks in 12 seasons, as
part of a series of moves aimed at improving their defense, including a
five-year contract with former Raiders end Lamarr Houston.
The Cowboys let Ware and his 117 sacks go.
Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be
With the cap rising $10 million to a record $133 million, a crop of
players quickly found new homes as soon as the market officially opened
Tuesday afternoon — and safeties and offensive linemen were popular
About 5½ hours after free agency began, one of the top players
available, three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd, agreed to terms with
the Saints, part of a merry-go-round of moves at his position. Other
safeties swapping clubs: Michael Jenkins, from Saints to Eagles; Donte
Whitner from 49ers to Browns; Antoine Bethea from Colts to 49ers; T.J.
Ward from Browns to Broncos; Mike Mitchell from Panthers to Steelers;
Ryan Mundy from Giants to Bears.
In addition to jettisoning Peppers and adding Houston and Mundy,
Chicago agreed to one-year deals with linebackers Jordan Senn and D.J.
Two of the most sought-after cornerbacks also were on the move.
Alterraun Verner, who had five interceptions for Tennessee last season,
agreed to a four-year contract with Tampa Bay and Aqib Talib left New
England for a six-year deal with Denver.
Verner, 25, could wind up being a replacement for Darrelle Revis, who
might be traded or cut to create more salary-cap room for the
Deals for offensive linemen were highlighted by Pro Bowl left tackle
Branden Albert's five-year contract with the Dolphins. Albert left
Kansas City to take over the position played at the start of last
season by Jonathan Martin, whose exit from Miami in October led to an
NFL inquiry into bullying on the team.
Late Tuesday, Martin was traded by the Dolphins to the 49ers.
Left tackle Jared Veldheer and the Cardinals agreed to a five-year
contract worth up to $35 million. Veldheer left the Raiders, who
replaced him by giving former Rams lineman Rodger Saffold a five-year
deal. Another left tackle, Eugene Monroe, agreed to a five-year
contract to stay with the Ravens.
Former Jets right tackle Austin Howard agreed to a five-year, $30
million contract, with $15 million guaranteed after starting every game
the last two seasons in New York.
Guards switching teams: Zane Beadles was joining the Jaguars from the
Broncos, pending a physical; the Falcons agreed to terms with Jon
Asamoah, who left the Chiefs; the Redskins struck a deal with Shawn
Lauvao, who left the Browns. The Redskins also agreed to terms with
Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts and special teams standout Adam
Hayward and scheduled a visit with cornerback Corey Graham.
The Jaguars also were busy, including a trade that sent quarterback
Blaine Gabbert to the 49ers for a sixth-round draft pick, an agreement
with former Vikings running back Toby Gerhart, and re-signing
cornerback Will Blackmon to a two-year deal.
Kick returner and receiver Dexter McCluster went to the Titans from the
Chiefs; defensive end Arthur Jones joined the Colts from the Ravens;
defensive end Tyson Jackson and defensive tackle Paul Soliai joined the
Falcons; and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell left the Texans for the
Amid it all, the Ware and Peppers departures might have been the most
The 31-year-old Ware, who went to seven Pro Bowls while in Dallas, was
set to count $16 million against the salary cap. By releasing him now,
the Cowboys, who were right up against the cap, saved more than $7
million. Ware had a career-low six sacks last season, his ninth in
Dallas. He missed time with a thigh injury, then had offseason elbow
Others released included Bills quarterback Kevin Kolb (who failed a
physical), Falcons safety Thomas Decoud, Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley, 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers, Eagles safety Patrick Chung,
and Bengals center Kyle Cook.
Among players staying put:
—RB Darren McFadden was given a $4 million, one-year contract by the
—KR-WR Brandon Tate re-signed with the Bengals.
—PK Adam Vinatieri, the 41-year-old with four Super Bowl rings, agreed
to a two-year contract with the Colts. Other PKs getting new contracts:
Nick Folk (Jets), Phil Dawson (49ers), Dan Carpenter (Bills).
—CB Vontae Davis re-signed with the Colts.
—RB Joique Bell is now signed with the Lions for $9.3 million over
three years, with $4.3 million guaranteed.
—LB Perry Riley and WR Santana Moss re-signed with the Redskins.
—DT Jonathan Babineaux got a three-year contract from the Falcons.
—TE Anthony McCoy got a one-year deal from the Super Bowl champion
Seahawks after he missed all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon.
—WR Andre Caldwell got a two-year contract from the Broncos.
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