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Biggest moves of NFL free agency

Tom Brady
Jan 4, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts after the game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

NFL free agency is here. The league decided against pushing back the start of the new league year with the ongoing issues in the United State and around the world.

This is great news for those who want to get their sports fix. We’re also here to make sure people are updated as free agency takes hold around the league.

From Tom Brady’s free-agent decision to other top-end stars hitting the market, we will give you updates on the biggest news around the NFL below.

Update: March 17, 6:40 PM ET

Philip Rivers lands with the Colts

In what can’t be considered too much of a surprise, the Indianapolis Colts have signed this eight-time Pro Bowler away from the Los Angeles Chargers. Rivers, 38, agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $25 million on Tuesday.

It’s pretty clear that head coach Frank Reich and Co. are looking to contend over the short term. That means the team will likely move on from Jacoby Brissett after he struggled replacing the recently-retired Andrew Luck last season.

Teddy Bridgewater gets the cash

The same day that saw Carolina grant Cam Newton permission to seek a trade also included the team finding his replacement. The Panthers reportedly signed former Pro Bowl quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal worth about $60 million.

Bridgewater, 27, heads to Carolina after starting a combined six games since the end of the 2015 season. He dealt with a severe leg injury during the summer of 2016, only to respond to post a perfect 5-0 record in Drew Brees’ stead with the Saints last season.

Raiders sign three Cowboys, including future Hall of Famer

The Las Vegas Raiders have remained active on the free-agent front during the legal tampering period. That included the team inking 11-time Pro Bowl performer and future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys.

Las Vegas also opened up the checking account for fellow former Cowboys players, defensive tackle Maliek Collins and safety Jeff Heath. In addition to this, Jon Gruden and Co. signed former Los Angeles Rams Pro Bowl linebacker Corey Littleton. Productive day for the team in the desert metropolis.

Titans pick up Vic Beasley

Mike Vrabel and Co. are not done attempting to upgrade a defense that led the team to a surprise AFC Championship Game appearance last season. Tennessee signed former Atlanta Falcons All-Pro performer Vic Beasley to a one-year contract on Tuesday.

A first-round pick of the Falcons back in 2015, the 27-year-old Beasley led the NFL with 15.5 sacks the following year. While he struggled through two consecutive down seasons, Beasley responded by recording eight sacks in 2019. He’ll team up with Harold Landry to form a solid edge rush duo in Nashville.

Dolphins pick up Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard

Miami has not been afraid to spend during the early stages of free agency. That included making Byron Jones the highest-paid corner in the NFL on Monday. One day later, and the Fins have upgraded on the offensive side of the ball.

The Dolphins inked former Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard to a two-year, $10 million contract on Tuesday. Howard, 25, rushing for 585 yards in Philadelphia last season. He put up a combined near 2,500 yards with the Bears in 2016 and 2017.

Update: March 17, 12:15 PM ET

Tom Brady moving on

In absolutely shocking news Tuesday morning, this six-time Super Bowl champion announced that he will not re-sign with the New England Patriots. It came via social media and included a note to the Patriots’ organization and fans in the Boston area.

Now that Brady is officially going to play for another team for the first time in his 20-year career, the Los Angeles Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have emerged as his likeliest landing spots. As for the Patriots, they must now hit the veteran market for a replacement. Momentous day for Patriots nation.

Cam Newton free to seek a trade

It’s all about quarterback news on the second day of the NFL’s legal free-agent tampering period. The Carolina Panthers announced on Tuesday that they have given Newton and his reps permission to seek a trade. The former NFL MVP pushed back against that announcement, indicating that he did not request a trade.

Either way, a quarterback who has seen his career derailed to injury is now free to talk to other teams about a trade. Newton started just two games last season before suffering a Lisfranc injury. He lost each of his last eight starts as a member of the Panthers.

Panthers in on Teddy Bridgewater

Now that Carolina has decided it is moving on from the above-mentioned Newton, there’s a need at quarterback for first-year head coach Matt Rhule. It’s in this that the team is reportedly interested in former Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater, 27, won all five of his starts in Drew Brees’ stead with the Saints last season. He’s apparently looking at about $30 million annually despite having only started six games since the end of the 2015 season.

Drew Brees takes hometown discount

As other NFL quarterback news was flying around at a ridiculous clip Tuesday morning, Brees’ decision to take a mere two-year, $50 million contract to re-sign with the Saints should not be taken for granted. He’s now the 12th highest-paid quarterback in the NFL in terms of average annual salary.

It’s just a continuation of the NFL’s all-time passing leader taking team-friendly deals to help his Saints compete as the future Hall of Famer enters the twilight of his career.

49ers re-sign Jimmie Ward

Yet another move that flew under the radar early Tuesday morning, San Francisco brought back one of the NFL’s top safeties on a mere three-year, $28.5 million contract. Ward responded big time this past season after an injury-plagued start to his career for the former first-round pick.

Pro Football Focus graded the 28-year-old old safety out as the sixth-best player at his position last season. He can play both safety sports as well as slot and outside corner. This was a big move for the 49ers.

Update: March 16, 11:56 PM ET

Bills land Stefon Diggs in blockbuster trade

The Buffalo Bills got another weapon for young quarterback Josh Allen Monday evening, reportedly acquiring star receiver Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings in a blockbuster. Buffalo gave up its first-round pick as well as a fifth and sixth-round selection in 2020 and a fourth-round pick in 2021 for Diggs and a seventh-round pick next month.

Diggs, 26, has put up north of 1,000 receiving yards in each of the past two seasons. His 2019 campaign with the Vikings included a major rift with quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Cowboys lock up Amari Cooper

With Dak Prescott being given the exclusive franchise tag, Dallas had to get something done with the Pro Bowl receiver soon. It didn’t look like this would happen. Then, something changed Monday night. The Washington Redskins attempted to lure Cooper away from their division rivals. Dallas responded by handing Cooper a five-year, $100 million contract with a cool $60 million guaranteed.

Cooper, 25, becomes the second highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL behind Falcons star Julio Jones. This comes after he put up nearly 1,200 receiving yards and eight touchdowns for Dallas in 2019.

Texans replace DeAndre Hopkins

Houston’s decision to trade Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals for pennies on the dollar earlier on Monday caught the entire NFL world be surprise. Why move on from one of the game’s best receivers and not get anywhere near market value?

Well, general manager Bill O’Brien doubled down on this belief by signing veteran receiver Randall Cobb to a three-year, $27 million contract. Cobb, 29, recorded 55 receptions for 828 yards with the Cowboys last season.

Raiders ink Marcus Mariota

We will have to find out the details of Mariota’s contract with Las Vegas before coming to a conclusion about Derek Carr’s future in the desert metropolis. What we do know is that Jon Gruden and Co. added this former No. 2 pick to the quarterback room Monday evening.

Signing Mariota could either create competition with Carr or force Las Vegas’ current starter off the roster in a trade. The 26-year-old Mariota put up 1,203 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions last season before being benched for Ryan Tannehill.

Update: March 16, 3:35 PM ET

Stefon Diggs wants out?

We already know that this 1,000-yard receiver is unhappy about the Vikings and quarterback Kirk Cousins. His frustration showed big time last season. Diggs has now taken to social media to throw fuel on that fire.

The star receiver posted on Twitter Monday indicating that he wants a new beginning. Diggs also doubled down by indicating something could happen on the trade front. This promises to be a major story in the following days.

Ravens trade tight end

The Atlanta Falcons were in need of a new starting tight end with reports surfacing that Pro Bowler Austin Hooper is signing with the Cleveland Browns. They made good on that Monday, acquiring 2018 first-round pick Hayden Hurst from the Baltimore Ravens.

The deal includes Atlanta sending a 2020 second-round pick to Baltimore with the two teams exchanging mid-round picks. Hurst, 26, recorded 30 receptions for 349 yards in Baltimore last season.

Buccaneers retain Jason Pierre-Paul

After recording 20-plus sacks in his first two seasons with Tampa Bay, JPP is going to be paid like the elite talent he is. The Buccaneers reportedly re-signed the impending free agent to a two-year, $27 million contract on Monday.

Pierre-Paul will continue to team up with fellow star edge rusher Shaq Barrett, who had the franchise tag placed on him earlier on Monday.

Blockbuster trade

The Houston Texans are being dragged by the NFL world for moving star receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in a blockbuster trade on Monday. The deal includes David Johnson and a 2020 second-round pick heading to Houston as well as an exchange of mid-round picks.

Hopkins is in the prime of his career and has been among the two or three most productive receivers over the past few seasons. Johnson? Well, he’s coming off a sub 400-yard rushing season. We have no idea what to make of this from Houston’s perspective. As it relates to the Cardinals, they get a go-to guy for young quarterback Kyler Murray.

49ers lock up defensive lineman

The San Francisco 49ers used what little cap room they have to re-sign star defensive lineman Arik Armstead on Monday. San Francisco inked the former first-round pick to a five-year, $85 million contract. Armstead is coming off a 10-sack performance for the reigning NFC champs.

What this means about the future of Pro Bowler DeForest Buckner remains to be seen. San Francisco is paying Dee Ford a ton of cash and will soon have to dole out a huge contract to reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa.

Update: March 16 (1:02 PM ET)

Chargers and Buccaneers in on Tom Brady

It’s looking more and more like Tom Brady is going to leave the New England Patriots in free agency. There seems to be a major rift between the two sides after the future Hall of Fame quarterback led the team to six Super Bowl titles over the past two decades.

According to this note, the Los Angeles Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are making a move for Mr. Brady. Both teams are in need of a quarterback. Los Angeles announced earlier this year that it will not bring back Philip Rivers. Meanwhile, it looks like Jameis Winston’s days in Tampa Bay are numbered.

Franchise tag

In somewhat surprising decisions, the Minnesota Vikings decided to place the franchise tag on safety Anthony Harris with the above-mentioned New England Patriots doing the same thing with guard Joe Thuney. This takes two top-end free agents off the market.

Harris will earn $12.62 million under the tag while Thuney will cost the Patriots $15.96 million. That’s a surprising number for New England given that it is already taking on a $13 million dead cap hit with the Brady situation currently not known.

One day after locking up Ryan Tannehill on a long-term contract, the Tennessee Titans placed the tag on reigning NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry. Said tag is expected to pay him about $10 million in 2020. The Pittsburgh Steelers did the same thing with star edge rusher Bud Dupree after he recorded 11.5 sacks last season.

Falcons make two big moves

Following yet another disappointing season in Atlanta, the Falcons have decided to move on from two big-name veterans. Atlanta released former Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman on Monday. That move was to be expected after he’s dealt with multiple injury-plagued seasons recently.

The Falcons also plan on releasing former Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant. Atlanta saves just $5 million against the cap with a $10 million dead cap hit. This is interesting in that the team likely could have found a trade partner for the 29-year-old veteran.

Cowboys to pay Dak Prescott $31 million

As expected, the Dallas Cowboys placed the franchise tag on star quarterback Dak Prescott on Monday. They did so with the exclusive franchise tag provision, meaning that the Pro Bowler can’t negotiate with other teams. Prescott will earn roughly $31 million in 2020 should he sign the tender.

This means fellow Pro Bowler, wide receiver Amari Cooper is free to talk to other teams during the free-agent tampering period. Could he move on from the Cowboys after just one full season? It’s more than possible.

Vikings extend Kirk Cousins

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was set to hit free agency next March. That’s no longer going to be the case. On Monday, Minnesota extended the enigmatic quarterback on a two-year, $66 million contract.

Cousins, 31, completed 69% of his passes for 3,603 yards with 26 touchdowns and six interceptions last season. His average annual salary of $33 million ranks fifth among NFL quarterbacks.