NFL free agency opens with Aaron Rodgers, other QBs on move
After a flurry of moves in the two days ahead of the official start of the NFL free agency period, Aaron Rodgers made the biggest news Wednesday by announcing his intention to play for the New York Jets.
Several more players switched teams, others are staying put and a few stars, including Ezekiel Elliott, will be looking for new homes in 2023.
But Rodgers is the dominant story of the offseason, and the four-time AP NFL MVP cleared things up during an appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” on YouTube and Sirius XM a few hours before the league year started at 4 p.m. EDT.
Rodgers said the Packers assured him after the season they wanted him to return, but things changed after he emerged from a five-day darkness retreat. He said he was told by people, mostly players on other teams, that the Packers shopped him around because they want to move on and make 2020 first-round draft pick Jordan Love their starting quarterback.
Rodgers said he entered the retreat “90% retiring, 10% playing” but he has since made a decision to play this season.
“At this point, as I sit here, I think since Friday, I’ve made it clear that my intention was to play and my intention was to play for the New York Jets,” Rodgers said. “I haven’t been holding anything up at this point. It’s been compensation the Packers are trying to get for me, kind of digging their heels in.”
Rodgers, who replaced Brett Favre as the starter in Green Bay after the Hall of Famer was traded to the Jets, spent 18 seasons with the Packers and led them to a Super Bowl title following the 2010 season.
Once the teams figure out trade details, Rodgers will be following in Favre’s footsteps by going to New York and trying to lead the Jets to their first championship since another No. 12 — Broadway Joe Namath — delivered a victory that he guaranteed against the Baltimore Colts on Jan. 12, 1969.
Former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield was among other players on the move Wednesday, agreeing to an $8.5 million, one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. The person, along with all other unnamed sources cited in this story, spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the agreement they confirmed hadn’t been announced.
Mayfield, the top pick by Cleveland in 2018, joins his third team since last July. He gets an opportunity to compete with Kyle Trask to replace Tom Brady, who retired after three seasons with the Buccaneers.
Mayfield was 2-8 in 10 starts last season with the Panthers and Rams.
Jacoby Brissett, who replaced Mayfield in Cleveland while Deshaun Watson served a suspension, agreed to terms with the Washington Commanders on a one-year contract worth $10 million with $8 million guaranteed, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.
Brissett will compete with projected starter Sam Howell, a second-year pro. Brissett threw for 2,608 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions last season for the Browns in 11 starts.
Two 1,000-yard rushers are off the market.
Running back Jamaal Williams and the Saints agreed on a $12 million, three-year contract, a person familiar with the deal told the AP. Williams led the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns while running for a career-best 1,066 yards with the Detroit Lions last season.
Running back Miles Sanders, coming off his best season with the NFC champion Eagles in which he ran for a career-high 1,269 yards with 11 touchdowns, is heading to Carolina.
Carolina also added former Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst on a three-year contract. Hurst caught 52 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns last season with another 13 receptions for 141 yards and a TD in the playoffs.
Late Wednesday night, four-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr. agreed on a $64.09 million, four-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Brown’s agent, Michael Portner, confirmed the deal to the AP. He said it includes a $31 million signing bonus. Brown goes from protecting Patrick Mahomes for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs to blocking for Joe Burrow and the AFC runnerup Bengals.
The New England Patriots made their first big pickup of free agency, adding wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. A person with knowledge of the deal said it is for three years and could be worth as much as $33 million.
Smith-Schuster confirmed the move in a post on Twitter saying he was “Excited for my next chapter in New England!”
Smith-Schuster had 78 receptions for 933 yards and three touchdowns last season for Kansas City. He was held by Eagles cornerback James Bradberry on a play that led to a go-ahead field goal late in the fourth quarter of the Chiefs’ 38-35 win in the Super Bowl.
The Browns agreed with safety Juan Thornhill on a three-year contract worth $21 million — $14 million guaranteed — a person familiar with the negotiations told the AP.
Thornhill leaves the Super Bowl champion Chiefs after four seasons. He’s the third defensive player to join the Browns in free agency along with run stopper Dalvin Tomlinson and end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo.
Six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is returning to the Philadelphia Eagles on a $10 million, one-year deal, according to a person familiar with that deal.
Veteran safety Jordan Poyer, a two-time second-team All-Pro, is staying in Buffalo on a two-year deal.
AP Pro Football Writers Schuyler Dixon and Dennis Waszak, AP Sports Writers Tom Withers, John Wawrow, Kyle Hightower, Steve Reed, Steve Megargee, Stephen Whyno contributed.
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