Quarterback Blaine Gabbert was traded to the San Francisco 49ers by the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Pro Bowl pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers were released on the opening day of the National Football League’s free-agent period.
Gabbert, 24, will probably be a backup to 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick after being acquired for an undisclosed draft pick. 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said the team thought highly of Gabbert before the Jaguars took him with the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft.
“He is a high-character individual that will be given every opportunity to develop within our system,” Baalke said.
The 49ers also added offensive lineman Jonathan Martin in a trade with the Miami Dolphins. Martin left the Dolphins in late October after being harassed by three fellow offensive linemen, according to a report commissioned by the NFL.
Ware, 31, was released by the Dallas Cowboys after being selected to seven Pro Bowls and totaling a franchise-record 117 sacks during his nine-year tenure with the team. Peppers, 34, was cut after starting all 64 games over the past four seasons with the Chicago Bears and totaling 38 sacks. He ranks 17th in NFL history with 119 career sacks, one spot ahead of Ware.
“His accomplishments over his NFL career place him among the best defensive ends over the past 20 years,” Bears General Manager Phil Emery said on the team’s website.
The Bears cleared about $14 million in salary cap space by releasing Peppers and signed free-agent defensive end Lamarr Houston to a five-year contract worth $35 million, ESPN said. The Cowboys saved $7.4 million by cutting Ware, who Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said was a “cornerstone player” in the franchise’s history.
The Denver Broncos bolstered their secondary with the addition of Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib and Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward. Talib, who was with the New England Patriots last season, agreed to a six-year, $57 million contract that includes $26 million in guaranteed money, ESPN reported.
The Dolphins and former Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert agreed to a five-year, $47 million contract, NFL.com reported. Two other starting left tackles received five-year deals for $37.5 million, with Jared Veldheer joining the Arizona Cardinals after spending the past four seasons with the Oakland Raiders and Eugene Monroe re-signing with the Baltimore Ravens. The Raiders gave offensive guard Rodger Saffold a five-year, $42.5 million deal.
The Indianapolis Colts re-signed free-agent cornerback Vontae Davis to a four-year contract ESPN said is worth $39 million and gave former Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones a five-year, $30 million deal, NFL.com said.
Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd agreed to a six-year contract with the New Orleans Saints after five seasons with the Buffalo Bills, saying in a statement that it’s a “great opportunity to join a championship organization.” Other free-agent safeties changing teams yesterday included Malcolm Jenkins to the Philadelphia Eagles, Antoine Bethea to the 49ers, Donte Whitner to the Cleveland Browns and Mike Mitchell to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The New York Jets re-signed kicker Nick Folk to a multiyear contract, while the New York Giants lost free-agent defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who NFL.com said agreed to a five-year, $31.5 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers landed NFL.com’s top-ranked free-agent defensive end, agreeing to terms with Michael Johnson, who spent the past five years with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Buccaneers also agreed to terms on a four-year, $26.5 million contract with former Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner, NFL.com said. The move probably signals the end of cornerback Darrelle Revis’s stay in Tampa Bay after one year, as he’s set to make $16 million in 2014.
The Raiders retained running back Darren McFadden, giving him a one-year deal NFL.com said is worth $4 million.
Former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is among those free agents still available, along with receivers Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks and Santonio Holmes, and defensive ends Justin Tuck, Jared Allen and B.J. Raji.