The Dallas Cowboys are releasing veteran defensive tackle Marcus Spears.
The move was designated for June 1, when it will save the Cowboys $2 million against the salary cap.
Spears, who turned 30 last week, was the second of two first-round picks after DeMarcus Ware in 2005.
The move means the Cowboys are mostly considering younger options on their roster as they add an interior defensive lineman in a switch from the 3-4 to the 4-3.
Spears had 314 tackles in eight seasons, including a career-high 65 in 2008. He played in 88 straight games to start his career before a calf injury sidelined him in 2010. — AP
Patriots respond with Amendola — 7:38 p.m. ET
That didn’t last long. Hours after the Patriots decided to let franchise all-time reception leader Wes Welker sign with the Denver Broncos, New England agreed to terms with former St. Louis Rams slot receiver Danny Amendola. The similarities between Welker and Amendola are many—they’re both versatile slot receiver/punt return mavens who ironically enough, each attended Texas Tech University.
Adam Schefter reported the deal first, as Amendola will make $31 million over 5 years, including $10 million guaranteed.
Amendola, just 27-years-old, has missed twenty games due to injury over the past two seasons. As Welker joins the Broncos, Amendola is reunited with Josh McDaniels, his offensive coordinator during the 2011 season in St. Louis. The Patriots had been quiet during the first twenty-four hours of free agency, but the Amendola move marks a rather big splash. Read more — Peter Schrager
Seahawks make splash with Avril — 7:38 p.m. ET
Days after acquiring one of the NFL’s most explosive wide receivers in Percy Harvin, the Seattle Seahawks have struck again with another major roster move.
Free-agent defensive end Cliff Avril has agreed to contract terms with the Seahawks. Financial terms weren’t immediately available.
The news was first reported by NFL Network.
Considered the most attractive 4-3 pass rusher on the market, the 26-year-old Avril spent his first five NFL seasons in Detroit. Avril has notched 29 sacks over the past three years.
The Seahawks finalized the deal with Avril shortly after losing free-agent defensive lineman Jason Jones to Detroit earlier in the day. Avril now joins an impressive Seahawks pass-rushing duo in Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons, although the latter is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in last season’s first-round playoff victory over Washington. Read more — Alex Marvez
Reed to visit Texans — 7:25 p.m. ET
The Baltimore Ravens aren’t done losing veteran players just yet. Safety Ed Reed, a Raven since being drafted in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft, is set to visit the Houston Texans on Thursday. Houston lost one of its starting safeties, rising star Glover Quin, to the Detroit Lions in free agency on Wednesday.
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle first reported Reed’s scheduled visit with Houston.
The Ravens have already lost starting linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger in this week’s free agent signing spree. The team traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin on Monday and released popular safety Bernard Pollard on Wednesday. Veterans Ray Lewis and Matt Birk are both retiring. Reed would be another major loss to a close locker room. At 35, Reed stressed that he had no intention to retire throughout the 2012 season. Read more — Peter Schrager
Welker signs with Broncos
Wes Welker will be catching passes from Peyton Manning instead of Tom Brady.
The Denver Broncos and Welker have agreed to a two-year deal.
Broncos boss John Elway announced the move through his Twitter account on Wednesday. Said Elway: ”Excited to have Wes join the Broncos. His production & toughness will be a great asset!”
The move gives Manning another dangerous wide receiver paired with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. Welker has proven one of the NFL’s most productive pass-catchers since joining the Patriots following a 2007 trade with Miami. Welker is the all-time leading receiver in New England history with 662 receptions in the past six seasons, including five 100-catch campaigns in that span. He caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards and six TDs last season.
The Patriots, though, have long butted heads with Welker about a contract extension. Welker was designated New England’s franchise player last year when the Patriots were unable to reach agreement on a long-term deal. The Patriots didn’t designate him a franchise player this season and contract talks have apparently proven fruitless once again. Read more — Alex Marvez
Raiders sign three defenders 6:02 p.m. ET
The Oakland Raiders have signed linebacker Kaluka Maiava, defensive tackle Pat Sims and defensive end Jason Hunter to free agent contracts as they attempt to shore up a struggling defense.
A day after losing three of the team’s most productive defenders from last year when Oakland released defensive back Michael Huff and lost linebacker Philip Wheeler and defensive lineman Desmond Bryant in free agency, the Raiders started the rebuilding process.
Oakland has only four returning defensive starters under contract in safety Tyvon Branch, linebacker Miles Burris and defensive linemen Lamarr Houston and Tommy Kelly. But Kelly could still be released as a salary cap casualty this offseason. — AP
Anderson stays in Carolina — 6:29 p.m. ET
Quarterback Derek Anderson is remaining with the Carolina Panthers as Cam Newton’s backup.
Anderson told The Associated Press has agreed to a one-year deal and that he will sign the contract later Wednesday. Financial details were not disclosed.
"I’m excited to come back be a part of such a great locker room,” Anderson said. ”It’s a team that I feel is on the rise. We have some work to do but we feel like we ended on a high note last season."
Anderson hasn’t seen much action in his two previous seasons with Carolina – attempting only four passes – because Newton has been so durable. However, the eight-year pro gives the Panthers the veteran presence they want from a No. 2 quarterback.
In another deal, the Panthers announced they have also signed 10-year NFL veteran cornerback Drayton Florence, a free agent from the Detroit Lions. He also signed a one-year deal, although terms were not disclosed.– AP
Cardinals sign Alexander
The Arizona Cardinals have landed one of the NFL’s top special teams players and are on the verge of signing another.
As first reported by FOXSports.com, a source told the Washington Redskins that linebacker Lorenzo Alexander has agreed to contract terms with the Cardinals. ESPN reported that it was a three-year deal.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver and kick returner Josh Cribbs is “most likely” to sign with the Cardinals as well, the source said.
Alexander’s 19 special-teams tackles led the NFL in 2012. He also was a key backup linebacker for the Redskins, where he had played since 2006. Read more — Alex Marvez
Saints keep long snapper — 4:28 p.m. ET
The New Orleans Saints have announced signed restricted free agent long snapper Justin Drescher to a four-year contract.
The team made the announcement Wednesday but did not release financial terms of the deal.
Drescher arrived in New Orleans in November of 2010 as a rookie free agent and has played in all 41 games since then, handling snaps on field goals and punts.
Saints punter Thomas Morstead was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time last season and said the reliability of Drescher’s snaps was a significant factor. Morstead broke the team records for gross punting (50.1 yards) and net punting (43.2 yards). — AP
Chiefs reach deal with Avery — 3:45 p.m. ET
The Kansas City Chiefs remained active in free agency on Wednesday, announcing a deal with cornerback Dunta Robinson and agreeing to a contract with former Colts wide receiver Donnie Avery.
The Chiefs also scheduled a news conference to introduce quarterback Alex Smith, who was acquired in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers when the new league year began Tuesday.
Under new general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid, the Chiefs have been at work overhauling a team that went 2-14 last season, and will have the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft for the first time. They have already signed wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and punter Dustin Colquitt to long-term deals, franchised left tackle Branden Albert, and agreed to contracts with free-agent tight end Anthony Fasano, defensive tackle Mike DeVito and backup quarterback Chase Daniel.
Robinson, who was cut by the Falcons three years into a six-year, $54 million deal, should provide depth across the defensive backfield for the Chiefs. He not only could play cornerback opposite Brandon Flowers, but he has the ability to play nickel back or back up starting safeties Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis. — AP
Dorsey heads to Niners — 3:37 p.m. ET
San Francisco addressed its defensive front Wednesday by agreeing to contract terms with Glenn Dorsey.
Although he started all but three games between 2008 and 2011, Dorsey never lived up to the expectations that came with being the No. 5 overall pick in the 2008 draft. Dorsey only played in four games last season because of injury and the Chiefs have already signed free agent Mike DeVito away from the New York Jets to replace him.
The 49ers have lost one defensive lineman (nose guard Isaac Sopoaga/Philadelphia) in free agency and are expected to have another (Ricky Jean-Francois) depart as well. Jean-Francois met Thursday with Eagles brass in Philadelphia.
San Francisco did sign nose tackle Ian Williams to a two-year contract before the start of Tuesday’s free-agent signing period in anticipation of losing Sopoaga.
The Dorsey signing was first reported by ESPN. — Alex Marvez
Jaguars sign LB Hayes — 3:33 p.m. ET
The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed free-agent linebacker Geno Hayes, giving the team a potential replacement for veteran Daryl Smith.
It’s the franchise’s first free-agent signing in 2013.
Hayes, a sixth-round draft pick out of Florida State in 2008, spent four seasons with the Buccaneers before playing last year in Chicago. He played under current Jaguars coach Gus Bradley as a rookie.
Hayes has played in 71 career games with 45 starts. He has 291 tackles, seven sacks, four interceptions, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He started three games and played in 15 last season, totaling 24 tackles. — AP
Lions land Quin — 3:26 p.m. ET
A busy day of free-agent signings for the Detroit Lions continued Thursday with the addition of free safety Glover Quin.
The team announced that Quin will be leaving the Houston Texans for a five-year contract with the Lions.
Quin, 27, started every game for Houston the past three seasons. He finished with 84 tackles, 14 passes defensed and two interceptions for the Texans in 2012.
Quin is expected to take the starting spot of Louis Delmas, whose free-agent departure is considered imminent. — Alex Marvez
Goldson to Buccaneers — 3:23 p.m. ET
Tampa Bay now has a “Hawk” in its secondary.
The Buccaneers have reached agreement with San Francisco safety Dashon Goldson on a five-year contract. ESPN first reported the news.
Goldson earned his “Hawk” nickname from his penchant for creating turnovers and big defensive plays. Goldson registered 14 interceptions and forced five fumbles the past four seasons as a 49ers starter.
Goldson, 28, was designated San Francisco’s franchise player in 2012 but could never finalize a long-term contract with the 49ers. San Francisco opted against using the tag on Goldson for a second straight season, paving his way to the free-agent market. Read more — Alex Marvez
Giants sign kicker Brown — 2:37 p.m. ET
Lawrence Tynes’ tenure as placekicker of the New York Giants appears to be over.
The Giants on Wednesday announced that they had signed 11-year veteran Josh Brown, making it unlikely that Tynes will return after spending six seasons with the team and helping them win two Super Bowls.
The 34-year-old Brown played four games with Cincinnati last season after Mike Nugent was hurt. He also has played with Seattle and St. Louis, scoring more than 1,000 points. He joins former Dallas Cowboy David Buehler and first-year kicker Jake Rogers on the Giants’ roster.
Tynes, who is a free agent, did not immediately return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment. — AP
Dolphins give Wheeler five-year deal — 2:28 p.m. ET
Linebacker Philip Wheeler has signed a $26 million, five-year contract with the Miami Dolphins.
The deal includes a $7 million signing bonus and $13 million guaranteed.
Wheeler spent his first four NFL seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and played last year for the Oakland Raiders, where he had career highs of 109 tackles and three sacks.
Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe will give the Dolphins a new tandem at linebacker, making veterans Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett expendable. Ellerbe, who helped Baltimore win the Super Bowl, signed a $35 million, five-year deal Monday. Read more — AP
Mendenhall to Arizona — 2:13 p.m. ET
Cardinals sign Mendenhall A former Pittsburgh Steelers starting running back is expected to man that same position for the Arizona Cardinals.
Rashard Mendenhall has inked a one-year deal with the Cardinals. The news was reported Wednesday by his agent Mike McCarthy on Twitter (@MikeMcCartney7).
The signing came shortly after ex-Miami running back Reggie Bush signed a four-year contract with Detroit. The Cardinals reportedly had Bush on their free-agent wish list.
A 2008 first-round draft pick, Mendenhall rushed for 1,108 and 1,273 yards in 2009 and 2010 respectively. While he anchored Pittsburgh’s ground game, Mendenhall did lose a key fumble in Super Bowl XLV that helped spur Green Bay to victory. Read more — Alex Marvez
Titans add a fullback — 2:04 p.m. ET
The Tennessee Titans have agreed to terms on a multi-year deal with fullback Quinn Johnson, keeping one of their own free agents.
The Titans announced the deal Wednesday.
Johnson has been a lead blocker for Chris Johnson, and the fullback had four carries for 5 yards and caught five passes for 40 yards playing all 16 games last season.
The Titans also reportedly plan to visit with Jets running back Shonn Greene on Wednesday as they continue a free agency push that started Tuesday. — AP
Lions sign Reggie Bush — 1:29 p.m. ET
Free-agent running back Reggie Bush is heading to Detroit after agreeing to contract terms with the Lions, Profootballtalk.com first reported. The team’s web site announced that Bush is signing a four-year deal.
Bush, 28, averaged 1,036 rushing yards in his two seasons with the Dolphins. He also is a pass-catching threat out of the backfield who will likely supplant Mikel Leshoure as Detroit’s starting running back.
Bush wasn’t heavily courted to return by the Dolphins, which are prepared to start 2012 fourth-round draft pick Lamar Miller at running back with Daniel Thomas currently serving as his backup. Read more — Alex Marvez
Browns sign LB Groves — 1:05 p.m. ET
The Cleveland Browns continued a spending spree to upgrade their defense in free agency, signing former Arizona linebacker Quentin Groves to a two-year, $2.8 million contract on Wednesday.
Groves is the third defensive player signed already by the Browns, who agreed to terms with linebacker Paul Kruger and lineman Desmond Bryant on Tuesday. The Browns entered free agency $47.4 million under the salary cap and have so far been among the NFL’s most aggressive teams.
The team guaranteed $21 million to Kruger, Baltimore’s sacks leader last season, and dished out another $15 million in guaranteed money to Bryant, who had a career-high 48 tackles and four sacks for the Raiders in 2012.
The Browns made upgrading their pass rush a priority. They are switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 multi-front defensive scheme this season under new coordinator Ray Horton. — AP
Lions sign DL Jones — 12:26 p.m. ET
The Detroit Lions signed versatile veteran defensive lineman Jason Jones on Tuesday. The move, first announced by his agent Mike McCartney on Twitter, brings the former-second round pick back to his home city of Detroit.
A former second-round pick of the Tennessee Titans, Jones signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent last year. A pass-rushing defensive tackle, used prominently in third-down situations, he had three sacks in 12 games. He was placed on the Injured Reserve list after a knee injury.
Jones played for Lions head coach Jim Schwartz in Tennessee. The agreement in Detroit is a three-year deal. — Peter Schrager<
Jags ax Robinson after one season — 11:45 a.m. ET
Last March, the Jacksonville Jaguars raised a lot of eyebrows by inking former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Laurent Robinson to a lucrative 5-year, $32.5 million deal. On Wednesday, the Jaguars made news by releasing Robinson after just one season. He’d passed a physical earlier this off-season, so this move was not injury related.
Robinson’s release was first reported by Ryan O’Halloran of The Florida Times-Union.
Robinson played in just 7 games and caught 25 balls in 2012. With the emergence of young wide receivers Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts III down the stretch, he became expendable.
The Jaguars are under new leadership, with first-year General Manager David Caldwell and first-year head coach Gus Bradley taking over in January. Robinson, still just 27-years-old, caught 54 passes and scored 11 touchdowns with the Cowboys in 2011. Like last year at this time, he’s now a free agent on the market, again. — Peter Schrager
Lawson to Buffalo — 11:10 a.m. ET
A day after the Buffalo Bills released their starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and saw star offensive guard Andy Levitre ink a deal with the Tennessee Titans, the team signed former Bengals outside linebacker Manny Lawson to a 4-year deal.
Lawson, a former first round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, played in all 16 games in 2012, recording 39 tackles and 2 sacks. A teammate of Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams at North Carolina State, Lawson will play linebacker for a Bills team that’s already lost veteran Shawne Merriman this off-season. Lawson was expected to leave Cincinnati after signing two consecutive one-year deals. Lawson’s an 8-year veteran.
Lawson’s agents, Schwartz and Feinsod, announced Lawson’s signing on Twitter Wednesday morning. — Peter Schrager
Steelers sign Gradkowski — 11:05 a.m. ET
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a new backup.
Bruce Gradkowski is leaving Cincinnati for a three-year contract with the Steelers, ESPN reported.
A Pittsburgh native, the 30-year-old Gradkowski threw 18 passes the past two seasons as a reserve behind starter Andy Dalton. Gradkowski is believed to fit better in a Steelers offense that now emphasizes the short passing game than predecessor Byron Leftwich, who is an unrestricted free agent.
Gradkowski also has played with Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Oakland during his seven-year NFL career. While he hasn’t started a game since 2010, Gradkowski may very well get that shot this season based upon Roethlisberger’s injury history. Roethlisberger was sidelined for at least one start in seven of the past eight seasons.
The Bengals are likely in the market for a new backup quarterback. The only other passer on the roster is Zac Robinson, a third-year journeyman who has never appeared in an NFL game. — Alex Marvez
Super Bowl champs shed another veteran — 10:45 a.m. ET
Another member from the defending Super Bowl champions will be playing elsewhere in 2013.
Baltimore Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard announced on his Twitter account (@Crushboy31) that he is being released.
“Well Raven Nation it’s been fun,” Pollard wrote. “My time in Baltimore is done… Thank you!”
The hard-hitting Pollard started 26 of 32 games since joining the Ravens in 2011. Pollard, 28, was set to collect a $500,000 roster bonus Friday and earn a $2.5 million base salary this season.
Two other Ravens defenders – linebackers Dannell Ellerbe (Miami) and Paul Kruger (Cleveland) – signed lucrative free-agent contracts elsewhere on Tuesday when the NFL signing period opened. The Ravens also traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin to San Francisco for a sixth-round draft pick and had center Matt Birk retire.
Free safety Ed Reed, left tackle Bryant McKinnie and cornerback Cary Williams are three more prominent Ravens free agents who remain unsigned.
— Alex Marvez
Lions bringing Houston back — 10:37 a.m. ET
The Detroit Lions are re-signing one of their own top free agents while courting one of the top offensive talents available on the market.
Cornerback Chris Houston will be returning to the Lions with a new multiyear contract, his agents Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod announced on Twitter (@schwartzfeinsod). Financial terms of the contract weren’t immediately available.
The Lions also are courting Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush on a free-agent visit Thursday at team headquarters.
Houston, 28, had three disappointing seasons in Atlanta before being traded to Detroit in 2010. Houston showed marked improvement over the past three seasons and started 42 games.
Bush, 28, averaged 1,036 rushing yards in his two seasons with the Dolphins. He also is a pass-catching threat out of the backfield who would likely supplant Mikel Leshoure as Detroit’s starting running back if signed.
Bush isn’t being heavily courted to re-sign by the Dolphins, which are prepared to start 2012 fourth-round draft pick Lamar Miller at running back with Daniel Thomas currently serving as his backup.