NFL teams keep the dollars flowing to free agents
On the second day of spending before the first real day of free agency, the dollars kept flowing.
The money flowed out of New Jersey, with the Jets agreeing Tuesday to contracts with three players: wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Josh Bellamy, and linebacker C.J. Mosley. The team also will re-sign cornerback Darryl Roberts.
It streamed out of Green Bay, with the Packers getting deals with edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, linebacker Preston Smith, safety Adrian Amos and offensive lineman Billy Turner. The Packers also cut veteran linebacker Nick Perry.
And it poured out of Oakland once more when the Raiders kept their vault open and agreed to a four-year contract with safety Lamarcus Joyner. The Raiders previously made big moves on offense by trading for receiver Antonio Brown and agreeing to a deal with tackle Trent Brown.
The NFL’s official start to the 2019 business year is Wednesday. Yes, there will be free agents remaining to be grabbed, perhaps even the biggest star in this crop, running back Le’Veon Bell.
But given the “legal tampering” freedom the league now allows for two days, well, let Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta describe the mayhem.
“Unfortunately for us, the market is irrational at times and we can’t be held responsible for what other teams want to pay,” DeCosta said. “All we can do is try to negotiate in good faith with agents and the players.”
All of the deals Monday and Tuesday were confirmed by people familiar with them, but who spoke anonymously because they are not official.
The Jets had more than $82.5 million to spend in free agency, and they are spending it. Indeed, they thought they also had an agreement with Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, but he opted instead to return to Minnesota.
Not that the Jets fell short in adding talent. The 26-year-old Mosley is a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker who will get a reported five years and $85 million, including a whopping $51 million guaranteed. Mosley has had at least 100 tackles in every season but 2016, when he missed two games with an injury and finished with 92. He will be a centerpiece of new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ unit.
In dire need of receivers for second-year quarterback Sam Darnold, New York is adding Crowder, 26, as a playmaking slot receiver. Crowder, whose deal reportedly is for three years and $28.5 million, had 221 catches for 2,628 yards and 14 touchdowns in four seasons with Washington. He was limited to nine games last season because of an ankle injury.
Bellamy has 76 career catches for 999 yards and five touchdowns, and is also a special teams contributor. He spent the last five years with Chicago.
The defensive signings should improve a unit that ranked 18th in the NFL in 2018. Za’Darius Smith is getting the biggest deal: $66 million over four years with $34.5 million in the first two years, according to his agency, SportsTrust Advisors. Smith, 26, led the Baltimore Ravens with 8½ sacks last season — including three in one game against Tennessee — and has 18½ in his 58-game career.
Preston Smith agreed to a $52 million, four-year contract with $16 million guaranteed. For Amos, it is a $37 million, four-year contract. Amos, 25, started all 16 games for the NFC North-rival Chicago Bears last season and had two interceptions.
Turner gets a $28 million, four-year contract.
Joyner becomes the first major addition on defense in Oakland. He played last season on a franchise tag for the Rams, earning $11.3 million. But Los Angeles signed Eric Weddle last week to be Joyner’s replacement.
The 28-year-old Joyner was originally a second-round pick by the Rams in 2014 and played 67 games over five seasons with the franchise. He has four interceptions and 25 passes defensed in his career.
It’s been a difficult two days for the Ravens. Za’Darius Smith, Mosley, Weddle and long-time star Terrell Suggs (Cardinals) all departed from their top-ranked defense.
“We see good young players leave us every year,” DeCosta said. “We’ve tried to adjust over time, but I think now is a great opportunity for us to become financially responsible, to get control over the salary cap to understand the concept of right player, right price.”
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