NFL free agency: Steve Smith joins Ravens
Bears sign Charles Tillman, Lions re-sign Brandon Pettigrew, Giants bring back Jon Beason
Steve Smith is eager to continue his NFL career in Baltimore, where he's just a short flight from his permanent home in Charlotte.
The longtime Panthers standout wide receiver didn't waste time finding a new home, signing a three-year contract with the Ravens about 24 hours after being released by Carolina.
The Ravens announced the signing of the 34-year-old Smith on Friday.
Smith was released by the Panthers after 13 seasons. He should provide a solid weapon for quarterback Joe Flacco.
"This has been an organization with a history of giving veteran players a chance and meshing them with younger players," Smith said on a conference call Friday.
Smith arrived in Baltimore late Thursday night and negotiations and meetings continued into the early morning hours on Friday.
Smith said he had a contract offer from the San Diego Chargers and cancelled a visit with the New England Patriots scheduled for Monday. Smith added the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks also expressed interest.
One of the reasons he chose Baltimore, he noted, is because it's about a one-hour flight to Charlotte, where his family will continue to live. Smith's wife, Angie, is expecting their fourth child later this year.
Smith ranks 19th in the NFL in career receptions. He caught 64 passes for 746 yards and four touchdowns in 2013. 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.
Colts agree to deal with Hakeem Nicks
The Colts have agreed to terms with free-agent receiver Hakeem Nicks.
Team owner Jim Irsay confirmed the deal Friday on Twitter. Terms of the deal were not immediately available.
The injured Nicks caught 56 passes for 896 yards but did not score a touchdown last season with the New York Giants. His contract expired after the season.
Nicks had recently said he was willing to take a one-year deal to prove he was healthy.
With the Colts, he joins a receiving corps that includes perennial Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne and rising star T.Y. Hilton, and he'll play with one of the top young quarterbacks in Andrew Luck. Wayne will try to return this season from a torn ACL.
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.
Michael Oher finds new home with Titans
The Tennessee Titans have agreed to a multiyear deal with offensive tackle Michael Oher, a former first-round draft pick who spent his first five seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.
Titans general manager Ruston Webster called Oher "a big, strong, durable player" in a statement announcing the move Friday. Oher's contract reportedly is a four-year deal worth $20 million with $9.5 million guaranteed.
Oher tweeted that he's "extremely happy and excited to be a Titan (and) can't wait to do big things!!!" Oher also tweeted, "Wanna thank the Ravens organization and their great fans!" The 27-year-old Oher should fill Tennessee's vacancy at right tackle created by the Titans' decision to waive David Stewart on Wednesday. Stewart had been Tennessee's starting right tackle since 2006.
Packers, B.J. Raji rejoin forces
The Green Bay Packers have re-signed defensive tackle B.J. Raji.
General manager Ted Thompson announced the deal Friday. Terms were not disclosed but multiple reports said it was a one-year deal worth $4 million.
The 27-year-old Raji was the ninth overall pick in the 2009 draft. He has played in 76 games with 63 starts and has 227 tackles, 10 1/2 sacks and seven passes defenced during his five seasons with Green Bay.
He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2011. Raji saw his snap count and impact diminish last season, when he did not record a sack.
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.
Ryan Fitzpatrick says he's been released by Titans
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick says he's been released by the Tennessee Titans, who signed Charlie Whitehurst on Thursday to back up Jake Locker.
Fitzpatrick told The Associated Press on Friday, "You can say I've been released, yes."
Fitzpatrick signed a two-year contract with the Titans last March. He started nine games for the Titans last season and went 217 of 350 for 2,454 yards with 14 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions.
In another move Friday, the Titans announced they had agreed to terms with former Denver Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard on a multiyear deal.
The 31-year-old Fitzpatrick has thrown for 16,790 yards, 106 touchdowns and 93 interceptions in 85 career games.
Steelers add DL Cam Thomas
The Pittsburgh Steelers addressed some of their depth issues along the defensive line, signing Cam Thomas to a two-year deal.
The 27-year-old Thomas started a career-high 10 games for San Diego in 2013, finishing with 30 tackles and an interception. The 6-foot-3, 330-pound Thomas gives the Steelers some much-needed depth after backup nose tackle Al Woods and defensive lineman Ziggy Hood left via free agency earlier in the week.
Thomas will compete with incumbent Steve McLendon for playing time. Thomas was a 2010 fifth-round pick out of North Carolina who worked his way into a starting job for the Chargers.
Pittsburgh still needs help at defensive end, where Cam Heyward is the only lineman on the roster with extensive playing experience.