NFL

Free-agent deals can't be official even as NFL business season begins

Free-agent contracts and trades agreed upon in recent days or weeks won't become official even as the NFL's league year began on Wednesday. Teams were not allowed to complete the deals until the 4 p.m. ET start of the league's business year.

Players, team personnel barred from travelling as safeguard against coronavirus

The Panthers could be delayed in announcing the signing of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $63-million US deal. A league policy states free agents are not to travel and sign agreements due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Free-agent contracts and trades agreed upon in recent days or weeks won't become official even as the NFL's league year began on Wednesday.

That also means free agents involved won't be getting paid until those deals are signed and physicals are taken. The NFL has barred travel to team facilities by free agents and also has banned team personnel from travelling to meet with players as a safeguard against the new coronavirus.

Several people familiar with a memo the league sent to the 32 teams on Tuesday night tell The Associated Press that while teams can announce reaching agreements with free agents or concluding trades, nothing is official. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not been made public by the NFL or the teams.

Although information on dozens of contract agreements and a slew of trades has been leaked, teams were not allowed to complete the deals until the 4 p.m. ET start of the 2020 NFL business year. However, all of those transactions now come with the caveat that the signings and physicals need to occur.

Of course, if a club drafts a contract and sends it digitally to a player, he can sign it remotely and send it back to the team. Then teams must submit it to the league and that would constitute official signing. But few, if any, teams would be willing to do that without conducting a physical.

Those physicals can be gotten locally by players. Many teams have expressed being uncomfortable with such an arrangement.

On Tuesday, the unimaginable happened to Patriots fans: Tom Brady is moving on. His representatives were in serious contract talks with Tampa Bay.

Available to highest bidder

The predictable occurred for Saints fans: Drew Brees is staying put.

No matter what else happens in NFL free agency, decisions by those two iconic quarterbacks deserve headlines. And those decisions were as divergent as the regions they have played in.

Brady will be 43 when the next NFL season begins. He also brings with him six Super Bowl rings, four Super Bowl MVP trophies and three regular-season MVP awards. Simply put, he's the most successful quarterback in pro football history.

And he's available.

"I don't know what my football future holds, but it is time for me to open a new stage for my life and my career," he wrote. "Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM experiences."

Quarterback Tom Brady announced Tuesday that he will not re-sign with the New England Patriots. (Frank Victores/Associated Press)

Those experiences -- nine Super Bowl trips, six wins -- ended with a home loss to Tennessee in the wild-card round in January.

As a memento for Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who referred to Brady as being like a son, the team will take a $13.5 million US salary cap hit because of the signing bonus Brady got for his one-year deal for the 2019 season.

Gave hometown discount to Saints

No such issues in the Big Easy. Brees made things, well, easy for the Saints, making it clear he wasn't leaving New Orleans or Sean Payton's offence despite having his contract run out.

Brees, 41, agreed to a two-year, $50-million contract, a person familiar with the situation said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Tuesday because the deal has not been announced.

The 19-year veteran with one NFL title in New Orleans basically gave a hometown discount to the Saints. His deal will not put him in the top 10 quarterbacks for annual salary. But the career leader in completions with 6,867, yards passing with 77,416, and touchdowns with 547 believes New Orleans offers the best place for him to win another championship.

Brees missed five games with a throwing hand injury that required surgery last season, but still helped New Orleans to a third straight playoff appearance.

Another veteran QB found his landing spot when Philip Rivers agreed to join the Colts. Rivers spent the past 16 seasons with the Chargers, first in San Diego and then in Los Angeles.

Rivers agreed to a one-year contract with Indianapolis. The Colts get a 38-year-old quarterback coming off one of his worst seasons with 23, touchdown passes and 20 interceptions. But Rivers ranks sixth in league history in completions, yards passing and TD passes and seventh in attempts and is 123-101 as an NFL starter. He hasn't missed a start since 2005.

Rivers will reunite with coach Frank Reich and offensive co-ordinator Nick Sirianni. Reich was Chargers quarterbacks coach in 2013 and the offensive co-ordinator in 2014 and 2015. Sirianni spent five seasons in San Diego, two as quarterbacks coach.

Ugly parting of ways

Incumbent Jacoby Brissett now figures to be job hunting. The Colts acquired him in a 2017 trade with the Patriots, who have an opening behind centre.

And one more star passer, Cam Newton, will be departing Carolina. Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said Tuesday on Twitter that "every year difficult decisions are made and they are never easy." The team moved quickly to find a replacement, agreeing to a three-year, $63 million deal with free agent Teddy Bridgewater, a person familiar with the negotiations told the AP.

Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP, said on social media he didn't ask for the trade, telling the Panthers: "You forced me into this."

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is expected to seek a trade after the team reportedly signed pivot Teddy Bridgewater, who went 5-0 as a starter last season with the Saints while filling in for an injured Drew Brees. (Kathryn Riley/Getty Images/File)

Also Tuesday:

  • Bryan Bulaga agreed to a contract with the Chargers. He spent the past 10 seasons with Green Bay and will turn 31 on Saturday. He is likely to start at right tackle and will be reunited with James Campen, who was Bulaga's line coach at Green Bay and was recently hired by Los Angeles.
  • Linebacker Thomas Davis said he's reuniting with former coach Ron Rivera and signing with the Redskins. Davis, 36, played under Rivera with Carolina for eight seasons and had the best years of his career.
  • Jason Witten is headed to Las Vegas, where Jon Gruden is the coach. Coincidentally, Witten replaced Gruden as the analyst on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" in 2018, then went back to play again with the Cowboys. Witten turns 38 in May. He had 63 catches for 529 yards and four TDs last season, and has 1,215 catches for 12,977 yards and 72 TDs in 16 seasons with Dallas.
  • Philadelphia won't be keeping star safety Malcolm Jenkins, who led the Eagles' defence when it won the 2017 league title. Jenkins spent the past six of his 11 NFL seasons in Philly.
  • The Bears have released outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, chosen ninth in the 2016 draft. Floyd contributed against the run and in pass coverage, but did not develop as a pass rusher. He had 18 ½ sacks in four seasons, including a career-low three last year.
  • The Tennessee Titans added edge rusher Vic Beasley Jr. on a one-year deal. The No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 draft led the NFL with 15 1/2 sacks in 2016 for the Falcons. Atlanta declined to re-sign Beasley after he got only 18 sacks combined over the past three seasons.
  • The Rams declined their contract option on cornerback Nickell Robey Coleman, who has been the team's nickel cornerback and their top defender on slot receivers since 2017. Robey-Coleman was the defender who admittedly got away with pass interference against New Orleans receiver Tommylee Lewis in the NFC championship game in January 2019, leading to a change in NFL rules.
  • Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips has agreed to sign with the Cardinals. The six-foot-six, 341-pound Phillips just finished a breakout season for the Bills with a career-high 9 1/2 sacks. Phillips was claimed off waivers by Buffalo after he was released by the Dolphins shortly after getting into a sideline argument with an assistant coach. He fills a major need for Arizona's defence, which gave up the most total yards in the NFL last season.
  • The Jaguars have agreed to terms with free agent linebacker Joe Schobert, who spent the past four years in Cleveland, where he led the team in tackles twice and made a Pro Bowl. The deal is for $53.75 million over five years, and includes $22.5 million guaranteed.
  • The Ravens fortified their defensive front with Michael Brockers, who agreed to terms on a three-year contract after spending his first eight pro seasons with the Rams. Brockers, 29, had a career-high 63 tackles in 2019, along with three sacks. Baltimore already added veteran edge rusher Calais Campbell, obtained Sunday in a pending trade with Jacksonville.
  • Chicago agreed to a five-year, $70-million deal with defensive end Robert Quinn, who gets $30 million guaranteed. The Bears added a solid pass rusher to outside linebacker Khalil Mack. Quinn had 11 1/2 sacks last year following a trade to Dallas from Miami. He served a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancers.
  • Miami and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah agreed to a two-year contract worth $15 million. Ogbah had 5 1/2 sacks last year for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. He also spent three years with the Cleveland Browns and has 18 sacks in four seasons.
  • The Giants reached contract agreements with Packers middle linebacker Blake Martinez and Panthers cornerback James Bradberry. The Giants also agreed on a deal with veteran blocking tight end tight end Levine Toilolo. New York had one of the NFL's worst defences last season.
  • Buffalo grabbed Carolina defensive end Mario Addison and defensive tackle Vernon Butler, and New Orleans linebacker A.J. Klein. The 32-year-old Addison has had nine or more sacks in each of his past four seasons. Butler finished with 32 tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles in a breakout 2019 season. The 28-year-old Klein is projected to take for Lorenzo Alexander, who has retired.
  • Dallas will have linebacker Sean Lee returning for an 11th season. In 2019, Lee played all 16 games for the first time in his injury-plagued career. The two-time Pro Bowler finished second on the team to Jayson Smith in tackles.
  • Tampa Bay will be re-signing linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul to a two-year, $27-million contract. Pierre-Paul has 21 sacks since being acquired from the Giants two years ago. He had 8 1/2 in 10 games last season after recovering from a neck injury suffered in an off-season automobile accident. The two-time Pro Bowl selection has 79 1/2 sacks in 10 NFL seasons.
  • Seattle bolstered its offensive line by agreeing to a two-year deal with B.J. Finney. Finney was an undrafted free agent signed by Pittsburgh in 2015. He's played three different positions for the Steelers and started 13 games during his time in Pittsburgh with most of his snaps coming at left guard. But Finney started four games at centre last year and his versatility is notable for the Seahawks.

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