NFL free agency: Steve Smith joins Ravens
Bears sign Charles Tillman, Lions re-sign Brandon Pettigrew, Giants bring back Jon Beason
Free agent wide receiver Steve Smith has signed a three-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens announced the signing of the 34-year-old Smith on Friday.
Smith was released by the Carolina Panters on Thursday after 13 seasons and headed to Baltimore to talk to the Ravens, who were eager to add provide quarterback Joe Flacco another target.
Smith ranks 19th in the NFL in career receptions. He caught 64 passes for 746 yards and four touchdowns in 2013.
Baltimore has had a void at wide receiver since trading Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers after winning the Super Bowl in February 2013. The Ravens went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Smith is Carolina's all-time leader in receptions (836), yards receiving (12,197) and touchdowns (67).
Bears bring back Charles Tillman
The Chicago Bears have agreed to a one-year contract with two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman.
Tillman's status was one of the biggest questions hovering over the team this off-season after the Bears went 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons. But they answered that on Friday, announcing he will be back for a 12th season.
The Bears have been overhauling a defence that struggled last season, releasing eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers.
They decided to bring Tillman back even though he is 33 and is coming off a season in which he was limited to eight games because of a torn right triceps.
Lions re-sign TE Brandon Pettigrew
The Lions have re-signed tight end Brandon Pettigrew, keeping one of Matthew Stafford's top targets and a player who can potentially make defences regret focusing too much on Calvin Johnson.
Pettigrew will get a $16 million US, four-year contract with half of the money guaranteed, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke Friday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.
The Lions drafted Pettigrew with the 20th overall pick in 2009, the same year they selected Stafford first overall in the NFL draft. The native of Tyler, Texas, has 284 receptions for 2,828 yards and 16 touchdowns in five NFL seasons.
Pettigrew said part of the reason he wanted to stay was because he's in "a groove," with teammates such as Stafford.
"We got drafted together," he said. "We've already got that going, and I think that's important. I love the city. I'm grateful for being able to be here. The city is going through change, as is the organization. It's just an honour to be a part of that."
He tested the market as a free agent before deciding to stay in Detroit.
"Of course, the pursuits were real because that's just part of the business," Pettigrew said.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Pettigrew is yet another weapon for Stafford, who already has Johnson and will now have receiver Golden Tate next season. Detroit should be able to strike a balance in the running game with Reggie Bush in his second season paired with Joique Bell, who was re-signed with a $9.3 million, three-year deal earlier this week.
Giants bring Jon Beason back
Jon Beason is going be back in the middle of the New York Giants' defence.
The Giants on Friday confirmed that they re-signed Beason. The team did not disclose details of the contract but reports say it was worth $19 million over three years.
The Giants also announced they re-signed fullback Henry Hynoski.
Beason came to the Giants in a mid-season trade with the Carolina Panthers and stabilized the defence. The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker had 98 tackles after joining the team in the sixth game of the season. New York's defence finished eighth in the league overall after being near the bottom.
Ravens ink LB Daryl Smith
The Ravens and linebacker Daryl Smith have agreed on a four-year deal that solidifies the middle of Baltimore's defence.
The sides reached agreement on Friday, the same day Smith celebrated his 32nd birthday.
Smith started all 16 games for the Ravens in 2013 and led the team with 123 tackles. He also had a career-high 19 passes defenced, setting a Ravens record by a linebacker.
Signing the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Smith was a priority for the team during the off-season.
General manager Ozzie Newsome says, "There are a lot of smiles around the building today after we got a commitment from Daryl Smith to stay a Raven. He fills a need for us at a high level."
Newsome adds of Smith: "He's tough, he's consistent, he's intelligent."
Vikings re-sign Jerome Simpson
The Minnesota Vikings have re-signed receiver Jerome Simpson.
The team announced the move on Friday. Simpson bounced back from an injury plagued first season in Minnesota in 2012 with a solid season last year. He caught 48 passes for a career-high 726 yards in 2013.
At season's end, Simpson expressed a desire to return to the Vikings, who see him as a legitimate deep threat alongside Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson in the passing game. The Vikings also brought quarterback Matt Cassel back in free agency, which will ensure continuity from a personnel standpoint going into next season under new offensive co-ordinator Norv Turner.
Terms were not disclosed.
Cortland Finnegan seals deal with Dolphins
Veteran cornerback and rookie negotiator Cortland Finnegan sealed a deal Friday with the Miami Dolphins.
Representing himself in contract talks because he has no agent, the eight-year veteran found a new home after an injury-plagued 2013 with the St. Louis Rams. Finnegan said he spoke with a lot of general managers and head coaches around the NFL, but his only free-agent visit was to Miami.
"It was a great experience," he said. "If I was like four years in the league, it would be cool to have an agent. The older you, you can understand where your market value is."
Free agent guard Shelley Smith also visited the Dolphins on Friday. Last year he appeared in 14 games with the Rams, starting two.
Finnegan, who was an All-Pro in 2008, started only five games last year, when he was sidelined by a hamstring injury and then an eye injury that required surgery. The Rams signed him to a $50 million, five-year contract in 2012 but recently released him, his career in apparent in decline.