Big Moves Happening In the NFL
Wes Welker sure knows how to pick his quarterbacks.
The star receiver, Tom Brady’s favorite target, is leaving New England and heading to Denver, where he’ll join Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Also getting new deals were Reggie Bush in Detroit, Dashon Goldson in Tampa Bay, and even Ray Lewis – with ESPN.
Day 2 of the NFL’s free agency frenzy was highlighted by Welker grabbing a two-year deal with the Broncos, who had the AFC’s best regular-season record last year. He gives Manning one of the steadiest targets the four-time league MVP ever has had.
The best slot receiver in the league, Welker caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards and six TDs last season.
Denver added defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, too.
Bush agreed to a four-year deal and could fill a huge hole at running back. The Lions haven’t been able to count on 2010 first-round draft pick Jahvid Best, whose career is in doubt because of concussion issues.
Bush adds to a strong offense led by record-setting All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson. The second overall pick in 2006 by New Orleans, Bush rushed for 986 yards for Miami last season after gaining 1,086 yards in 2011, his first year with the Dolphins.
Cleveland remained active, agreeing to terms with linebacker Quentin Groves and tackle Desmond Bryant to further bolster a defense that added Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger hours after free agency began.
“With the additions of Paul and Desmond, we believe that we have significantly improved our defense overall, particularly our front seven,” Browns CEO Joe Banner said.
Kruger is one of many Super Bowl winners to leave the Ravens, including hard-hitting safety Bernard Pollard, who was released Wednesday. The biggest loss for Baltimore was an expected departure: Lewis announced in early January that he was ending his 17-year career. Then he led the Ravens to the championship.
On Wednesday, he joined ESPN as a studio analyst – an intense one, no doubt.
“I’m ready to bring the same level of passion to this next phase of my life as I brought to the field during my years as a player,” Lewis said.
Baltimore signed defensive lineman Chris Canty, offensive lineman Ramon Harewood and running back Damien Berry.
Kansas City, who has the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft after a 2-14 season, agreed to deals with tight end Anthony Fasano, defensive tackle Mike DeVito, and quarterback Chase Daniel on Tuesday, when they also finalized the trade with San Francisco for starting QB Alex Smith.
-Pittsburgh found its backup to QB Ben Roethlisberger in a Steel City native, Bruce Gradkowski. The 30-year-old Gradkowski is 6-14 as a starter with Oakland, Cleveland and Tampa Bay. He spent the 2011-12 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, appearing in five games.
Pittsburgh also released oft-injured offensive lineman Willie Colon.
-Arizona, in dire need of help in the backfield, agreed on a one-year contract with former Steelers starter Rashard Mendenhall. For three of his seasons, Mendenhall’s offensive coordinator was new Cardinals coach Bruce Arians.
-Buffalo addressed a need at linebacker by signing seven-year veteran Manny Lawson. The Bills are switching from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4 under new coordinator Mike Pettine.
-Miami already had signed linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and added to that unit Wednesday by giving Philip Wheeler a five-year contract, worth $26 million, half of that guaranteed. He spent his first four NFL seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and played last season for the Raiders, where he had career highs of 109 tackles and three sacks.