Mike Wallace to Join Dolphins as NFL’s Free-Agent Period Begins

Photographer: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills, a 30-year-old Harvard University graduate, started all but four games for the Bills over the past three seasons, throwing for 71 touchdowns and 54 interceptions. Close

Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills, a 30-year-old Harvard University graduate,... Read More

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Photographer: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills, a 30-year-old Harvard University graduate, started all but four games for the Bills over the past three seasons, throwing for 71 touchdowns and 54 interceptions.

Mike Wallace joined the Miami Dolphins as the National Football League’s free agent signing period began, while the Philadelphia Eagles released Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and the Buffalo Bills cut starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Wallace, 26, was among the top free agents available when the NFL’s new league year began at 4 p.m. New York time yesterday and agreed to a five-year contract worth $60 million to $65 million, the Miami Herald said.

“He has a unique skill set which we believe will be a welcomed addition to our offense,” said Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland who also announced the re-signing of safety Chris Clemons.

For the past three days, teams were permitted to negotiate with agents of the more than 500 players who became unrestricted free agents when their 2012 contracts expired at the deadline.

Wallace scored 32 touchdowns over his first four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and joins a Dolphins team whose receivers totaled an NFL-low three touchdowns last year.

Asomugha and Fitzpatrick joined a group of free agents that includes wide receivers Greg Jennings and Wes Welker; running backs Steven Jackson, Michael Turner and Reggie Bush; and pass- rushers Dwight Freeney, Osi Umenyiora and James Harrison.

‘Difficult Decision’

Asomugha, 31, was part of the Eagles’ free-agent signing spree in 2011 that made them a preseason Super Bowl co-favorite of oddsmakers. They’ve struggled to a 12-20 record since, leading to the firing of coach Andy Reid and the release of starters such as Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson.

Fitzpatrick, a 30-year-old Harvard University graduate, started all but four games for the Bills over the past three seasons, throwing for 71 touchdowns and 54 interceptions. He had signed a six-year, $59 million contract extension in 2011 and was due a $3 million bonus tomorrow.

“We kept every possible option open right down to the wire when we had to make a decision on whether to keep Ryan,” General Manager Buddy Nix said in a statement. “In the end, we had to do what we feel is best for our football team and it was a very difficult decision.”

The start of the league year also allows teams to officially complete trades. The Seattle Seahawks confirmed the acquisition of Pro Bowl receiver Percy Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings, while the San Francisco 49ers added wideout Anquan Boldin from the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens and sent quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Ravens’ Losses

In addition to Wallace, the Dolphins reached a five-year, $35 million agreement with former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, the NFL Network said. The Ravens also lost linebacker Paul Kruger to the Cleveland Browns, further stripping a position depleted by Ray Lewis’s retirement.

The Steelers lost Wallace and reached an agreement with receiver Plaxico Burress, according to Pro Football Talk.

The Minnesota Vikings re-signed Jerome Simpson to a one- year contract and the Houston Texans waived Kevin Walter in other transactions involving receivers. The Vikings also re- signed offensive tackle Phil Loadholt and released 15-year cornerback Antoine Winfield.

Delayed Retirement

Tony Gonzalez, who has more receptions than any tight end in NFL history, said on Twitter that he’s decided to put off retirement for one more year and return to the Atlanta Falcons.

Gonzalez, 37, has 1,242 career catches -- second all-time to Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice -- over 16 seasons with the Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs. He had 93 receptions for 930 yards and eight touchdowns last year, his best season since 2008, and also got his first career playoff win.

Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson said he’s retiring after 12 seasons because his recovery from knee surgery isn’t progressing as he hoped. Hutchinson, 35, went to seven Pro Bowls with the Seattle Seahawks and Vikings before signing a three-year, $16 million contract with the Tennessee Titans last year. He played 12 games in 2012 before a knee injury ended his season.

The Indianapolis Colts signed left tackle Gosder Cherilus, a former first-round pick who started the past five seasons for the Detroit Lions, to provide protection on the offensive line for quarterback Andrew Luck.

Steelers’ Signing

The Steelers reached a multiyear agreement with linebacker Larry Foote, while kick returner Leon Washington said he’s been released by the Seahawks following the acquisition of Harvin.

Former New York Giants tight end Martellus Bennett agreed to a four-year contract and former New Orleans Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod agreed to a five-year deal with the Chicago Bears and ESPN reported that the Tennessee Titans signed former 49ers tight end Delanie Walker to a four-year, $17.5 million deal. The Cincinnati Bengals retained their longest-tenured player by re- signing 10th-year defensive end Robert Geathers.

As teams reshape their rosters, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have emerged as the most probable destination for New York Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, Pro Football Talk reported.

The rebuilding Jets have been looking to acquire draft picks for Revis, who played in two games last season before tearing a knee ligament and is seeking a contract worth as much as $16 million annually, Pro Football Talk said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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