Chicago Bears busy on first day of free agencyThe Chicago Bears were big spenders as NFL teams entered the free agency period unconstrained by a salary cap, signing top prize Julius Peppers.
NEW YORK (AP) — The Chicago Bears were big spenders as NFL teams entered the free agency period unconstrained by a salary cap, signing top prize Julius Peppers.
The rest of the league was more thrifty Friday, with lots of moves involving some big names but no other blockbuster deals.
The Bears also added running back Chester Taylor from Minnesota and blocking tight end Brandon Manumaleuna from San Diego.
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith know they’d better win now after missing the playoffs the past three years. Then again, a big move didn’t work out for them before last season, when they landed quarterback Jay Cutler yet went 7-9.
“It’s one thing to play football in this league and make a living, but it’s a totally different thing to come to a place with a rich tradition like the Bears,” Peppers said.
The five-time Pro Bowl defensive end agreed to a six-year deal worth potentially $91.5 million. Agent Carl Carey said a record $42 million is guaranteed, with Peppers earning $20 million in the first year.
Linebacker Gary Brackett, the leader of the Indianapolis defense, re-signed with the Colts. All-Pro fullback Leonard Weaver re-signed with Philadelphia for three years.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, a former All-Pro who struggled in coverage last season for San Diego, was traded to the New York Jets. Receiver Anquan Boldin was traded from the Arizona Cardinals to the Baltimore Ravens.
Detroit, coming off two wins in the past two seasons, upgraded its defense by trading with Cleveland for tackle Corey Williams and agreeing to a four-year deal with end Kyle Vanden Bosch.
The Cleveland Browns restructured the final three years of the six-year deal Pro Bowl return specialist Josh Cribbs signed in 2006.
Carolina waived longtime starting quarterback Jake Delhomme — in teary fashion.
A year after the Panthers gave Delhomme a lucrative contract extension, the only quarterback to lead them to the Super Bowl was released to make way for new starter Matt Moore. A career-high 18 interceptions in 2009 and 23 in his final 12 games did in Delhomme.
Coach John Fox twice welled up with tears in explaining the decision, which came despite the fact Carolina still owes Delhomme more than $12.5 million in guaranteed money.
“He’s done some great things for this team. Two (NFC) championship games, a Super Bowl, all those comeback victories,” Fox said. “I’m not sure I’ve had any more respect for an NFL football player than Jake Delhomme.”
Brackett wasn’t going anywhere, nor did he want to. The defensive captain signed a five-year deal hours after he officially became an unrestricted free agent. Brackett’s new deal is likely to keep the 29-year-old in a Colts uniform the rest of his career.
“Obviously, this is a great place to play and when you get a chance to stay a Colt for life, you usually jump at it,” Brackett said. “That’s why I wanted to do everything within my power to make this my home.”
Weaver certainly found a home in Philadelphia after playing four years for Seattle. Weaver had a career-high 323 yards rushing, 140 yards receiving and four touchdowns in his first season with the Eagles.
Vanden Bosch was made to feel right at home by Lions coach Jim Schwartz, who previously worked with the defensive end in Tennessee as the Titans’ coordinator. Schwartz waited outside Vanden Bosch’s Nashville house when free agency began at midnight, and in a few hours they had struck a deal.
A nine-year veteran, Vanden Bosch spent the past five seasons with the Titans, getting all of his 43½ career sacks.
Cromartie should become a starter opposite All-Pro Darrelle Revis in the Jets’ secondary. New York gave up a conditional draft pick for a former All-Pro who has had off-field issues.
But Jets coach Rex Ryan is known for getting production from such players.
The Cardinals received a thirdand fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft for the 29-year-old Boldin. He caught 84 passes for 1,024 yards and two touchdowns last season and gives quarterback Joe Flacco a much-needed deep threat.
Boldin received a new four-year, $28 million deal with Baltimore in which $10 million is guaranteed.
Cribbs has a new three-year contract after two seasons of threats, broken promises and back-and-forth negotiations. The agreement includes $7.5 million in guaranteed money. Cribbs is the NFL’s career leader with eight kickoff returns for touchdowns.
AP Football Writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report.