Everyone expected a free agency flurry when the NFL’s year began on Thursday. Predicting what happened with Brock Osweiler was beyond anyone’s projections.
One year after signing a four-year deal with Houston, then losing the starting job to Tom Savage late in the season before returning and winning a playoff game, Osweiler is headed to Cleveland . The Texans basically took whatever deal they could get to rid themselves of a $16 million payout to the quarterback in 2017. The Browns and Texans are also swapping fourth- and sixth-round picks in 2017, and Cleveland gets a 2018 second-rounder.
Far more predictable was Chicago releasing Jay Cutler, who had no guaranteed money left on his contract. Cutler led the Bears to the 2010 NFC championship game, but otherwise struggled in Chicago.
“His ability, toughness, and intelligence were on daily display at Halas Hall and Soldier Field. He had an extraordinary impact off the field, doing things for people, especially kids, without expecting or wanting any recognition,” Chairman George McCaskey said. “I was and am a big fan of his.”
Yet another QB soon to be on the move, the Cowboys’ Tony Romo teasingly told fans in a tweeted video: “Hey everyone. I just wanted to come to tell you it’s been a crazy 48 hours here. Me and my family felt the outpouring of support and love from all of you. It’s been overwhelming and it doesn’t go unnoticed. I want to say thank you and we have a lot of think about going forward but we’ll see what happens. Until then I’m just going to keep listening to Bob Dylan.”
Romo could be headed to Houston to replace Osweiler now that the Texans have room to pay him. Whether Dallas releases its longtime quarterback or works out a trade will soon be known.
As for the Texans-Browns stunner, it’s possible Cleveland, which owns the top pick in April’s draft, will be moving Osweiler, too. But the Browns had plenty of cap room to absorb the financial hit and load up with more draft picks.
“We’re really excited to acquire a second-round draft choice in this trade,” said Sashi Brown, Cleveland’s executive vice president of football operations. “Draft picks are extremely important to our approach in building a championship caliber football team. We are intent on adding competition to every position on our roster and look forward to having Brock come in and compete.”
Cleveland added to the offensive line guard Kevin Zeitler, late of division rival Cincinnati, and center J.C. Tretter from Green Bay. Joel Bitonio got a five-year extension – so much for the Browns’ needs at guard.
Among the busiest teams were the Buccaneers and Eagles, each getting a dangerous receiver for its young passer.
Tampa Bay brought in DeSean Jackson to team with Mike Evans as targets for Jameis Winston.
Jackson is one of five players since the 1970 merger with 26 or more career touchdowns of 50-plus yards. Only Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (23) has more than Jackson’s 22 touchdowns of 60-plus yards.
“DeSean is exactly the type of dynamic playmaker we have been targeting for our offense,” said Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter. “DeSean brings a veteran presence and a big-play mentality that fits in perfectly with our offensive philosophy. He is a tough-minded competitor who has the game-breaking speed and pass-catching ability that stretches the defense and creates matchup problems.”
The Buccaneers also added defensive tackle Chris Baker, late of Washington.
Philadelphia got perhaps the most covered wideout available in Alshon Jeffery, who left Chicago, and also agreed to terms with Torrey Smith, who was cut by San Francisco. Carson Wentz now has two more downfield threats than he did in his rookie season.
Philly also grabbed guard Chance Warmack and released DE Connor Barwin.
–Baltimore agreed to terms with perhaps the best defensive tackle available, Brandon Williams, who returns after four solid seasons with the Ravens. A third-rounder in the 2013 draft, he has 158 tackles (97 solo), 4 1/2 sacks, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He’s started 36 straight games.
–Miami finalized a trade of guard Branden Albert to Jacksonville for tight end Julius Thomas, then added TE Anthony Fasano. The Dolphins kept outstanding safety Reshad Jones, who got a $60 million, five-year contract extension.
–Jacksonville bolstered its defense when it agreed to terms with Houston cornerback A.J. Bouye , Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell and Dallas safety Barry Church on deals totaling more than $150 million.
The 25-year-old Bouye agreed to a five-year deal worth $67.5 million, with $26 million guaranteed. Bouye was considered the top cornerback on the market and will start opposite budding star Jalen Ramsey.
The 30-year-old Campbell had 501 tackles, eight forced fumbles and three interceptions in nine seasons with the Cardinals. He also missed just six games.
Also, they re-signed WR Bryan Walters and released DT Sen’Derrick Marks.
–The Jets made cornerback Darrelle Revis’ release official. Revis, 31, had been scheduled to make $15 million, including a $2 million roster bonus, this season. The Jets still owe him $6 million as part of the $39 million in guarantees in the five-year, $70 million deal he signed in 2015.
He’s now free to sign elsewhere – but he’ll have to find a team willing to bring him in despite being a shell of his former shutdown self. Revis is also facing four felony counts, including aggravated assault and other charges alleging he was in a fight with two men on Feb. 12 in Pittsburgh. A pre-trial hearing will be held on March 15.
–Buffalo released veteran safety Aaron Williams, who’s plagued by neck problems, and agreed to terms with fullback Patrick DiMarco, kicker Stephen Hauschka, safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, and guard Vladimir Ducasse. Hyde can play anywhere in the secondary and also return punts. Hauschka was Seattle’s placekicker for two Super Bowls.
–San Francisco was as busy as anyone, agreeing to deals with receivers Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin, QB Brian Hoyer, TE Logan Paulsen, kicker Robbie Gould, linebacker Malcolm Smith – the MVP of the 2014 Super Bowl – and FB Kyle Juszczyk.
–The Panthers broke from their traditionally conservative free agency spending and gave left tackle Matt Kalil a five-year deal worth $55.5 million. It’s the largest ever given out by the Panthers to an incoming free agent, and he joins his older brother Ryan Kalil, Carolina’s two-time All-Pro center.
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