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 118 1/2 sacks in 12 seasons, as part of a series of moves aimed at improving their defense, including agreeing to a five-year contract with former Raiders end Lamarr Houston.
The Cowboys let Ware and his 117 sacks go.
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 – with offensive linemen a popular commodity.
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.
Martin was later traded by the Dolphins to the San Francisco 49ers, where he will be reunited with his former Stanford coach, Jim Harbaugh.
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.
The Jaguars also were busy, including a trade that sent quarterback Blaine Gabbert to the 49ers for a sixth-round draft pick, and re-signing cornerback Will Blackmon to a two-year deal.
In addition to jettisoning Peppers and adding Houston, Chicago agreed to a two-year contract with safety Ryan Mundy, along with one-year deals with linebackers Jordan Senn and D.J. Williams.
Other players changing teams: kick returner and receiver Dexter McCluster went to the Titans from the Chiefs; safety Donte Whitner said on Twitter that he left the 49ers to sign with the Browns; San Francisco replaced him by signing Antoine Bethea from the Colts; cornerback Aqib Talib reached agreement with Denver on a six-year deal; cornerback Alterraun Verner agreed to a four-year contract with Tampa Bay; defensive end Arthur Jones joined the Colts from the Ravens; and safety Malcolm Jenkins agreed to a three-year contract with the Eagles, leaving the Saints.
Amid it all, the Ware and Peppers departures were the most significant developments.
Among players staying put:
• RB Darren McFadden was given a $4 million, one-year contract by the Raiders.
• 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.