Wes Welker sure knows how to pick his quarterbacks.
The star receiver, Tom Brady’s favorite target, is leaving New England and heading to Denver, where he’ll join Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Also getting new deals were Reggie Bush in Detroit, Dashon Goldson in Tampa Bay, and even Ray Lewis — with ESPN.
Day 2 of the NFL’s free agency frenzy was highlighted by Welker grabbing a two-year deal with the Broncos, who had the AFC’s best regular-season record last year. He gives Manning one of the steadiest targets the four-time league MVP ever has had.
Broncos boss John Elway said on Twitter: “Excited to have Wes join the Broncos. His production & toughness will be a great asset!”
The best slot receiver in the league, Welker caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards and six TDs last season.
Denver added defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, too.
Bush agreed to a four-year deal and could fill a huge hole at running back. The Lions haven’t been able to count on 2010 first-round draft pick Jahvid Best, whose career is in doubt because of concussion issues.
“It’s a running back’s dream,” Bush said. “One of the reasons I wanted to come here is to be able to bring a balanced attack.”
Bush adds to a strong offense led by record-setting All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson. The second overall pick in 2006 by New Orleans, Bush rushed for 986 yards for Miami last season after gaining 1,086 yards in 2011, his first year with the Dolphins.
“The thing that was important to us was not just the talent of Reggie Bush, but also the way those talents complemented the other players we have on offense,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “That was really the basis of our interest in Reggie.”
The Lions also landed safety Glover Quin and defensive end Jason Jones and retained cornerback Chris Houston.
All-Pro safety Goldson gets a five-year contract worth $41.25 million. He receives $8.25 million per year and $22 million in guaranteed money. He spent the past two seasons on one-year contracts with the 49ers, including last year with the franchise tag for $6.2 million.
“Hard work really pays off. I remember signing up to play football, hiding it from my mom,” as a youngster growing up in Harbor City, Calif., Goldson said. “My journey, I wouldn’t say it was rough, but it was a little rocky.”
Cleveland remained active, agreeing to terms with linebacker Quentin Groves and tackle Desmond Bryant to further bolster a defense that added Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger hours after free agency began.
“With the additions of Paul and Desmond, we believe that we have significantly improved our defense overall, particularly our front seven,” Browns CEO Joe Banner said.
Kruger is one of many Super Bowl winners to leave the Ravens, including hard-hitting safety Bernard Pollard, who was released Wednesday. The biggest loss for Baltimore was an expected departure: Lewis announced in early January that he was ending his 17-year career. Then he led the Ravens to the championship.
On Wednesday, he joined ESPN as a studio analyst — an intense one, no doubt.
“I’m ready to bring the same level of passion to this next phase of my life as I brought to the field during my years as a player,” Lewis said.
Baltimore signed defensive lineman Chris Canty, offensive lineman Ramon Harewood and running back Damien Berry.
Kansas City added cornerback Dunta Robinson, receiver Donnie Avery and offensive lineman Bryan Mattison to the three free agents it signed the previous day when the marketplace opened.
The Chiefs, who have the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft after a 2-14 season, agreed to deals with tight end Anthony Fasano, defensive tackle Mike DeVito, and quarterback Chase Daniel on Tuesday, when they also finalized the trade with San Francisco for starting QB Alex Smith.
After hiring Andy Reid as coach and John Dorsey as general manager, the Chiefs signed wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and punter Dustin Colquitt to long-term deals and franchised left tackle Branden Albert.
—Chicago released tight end Kellen Davis after signing Martellus Bennett away from the Giants on Tuesday to replace him.
—The Giants signed 11-year veteran place kicker Josh Brown, who joins former Cowboys kicker David Buehler on the roster and apparently indicating free agent Lawrence Tynes won’t be back. Tynes has made winning field goals in two NFC championship games in overtime and the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl in those seasons.
—Pittsburgh found its backup to QB Ben Roethlisberger in a Steel City native, Bruce Gradkowski. The 30-year-old Gradkowski is 6-14 as a starter with Oakland, Cleveland and Tampa Bay. He spent the 2011-12 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, appearing in five games.
Pittsburgh also released oft-injured offensive lineman Willie Colon.
—Arizona, in dire need of help in the backfield, agreed on a one-year contract with former Steelers starter Rashard Mendenhall. For three of his seasons, Mendenhall’s offensive coordinator was new Cardinals coach Bruce Arians.
—The Cardinals also cut free safety Kerry Rhodes, a move that cleared $6 million in salary cap space, and added cornerback Jerraud Powers, safety Yeremiah Bell, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and quarterback Drew Stanton.
—Jacksonville released receiver Laurent Robinson, the latest high-priced player let go as part of the team’s rebuilding project. Robinson signed a five-year, $32.5 million free agent-contract last season before missing considerable time with concussions.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of the business,” Robinson said. “Got to keep your head up and keep moving. Can’t ever be surprised in this league.” — In Seattle, a person with knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that free agent defensive end Cliff Avril and the Seattle Seahawks have reached agreement on a deal that addresses one of Seattle’s big offseason concerns.
The agreement was reached on Wednesday and is still pending a physical. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the deal. NFL.com first reported the deal.
Avril immediately helps Seattle’s most glaring offseason need in adding depth along the defensive line. Seattle is unsure of the status of defensive end Chris Clemons due to a knee injury suffered against Washington in the playoffs. Coach Pete Carroll has said improving the pass rush was at the top of the priority list.
Avril had 9½ sacks last season for Detroit and 11 in 2011.
—Tennessee agreed to terms on a multi-year deal with fullback Quinn Johnson, who has been one of Chris Johnson’s lead blockers with the Titans.
—Buffalo addressed a need at linebacker by signing seven-year veteran Manny Lawson. The Bills are switching from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4 under new coordinator Mike Pettine.
—Miami already had signed linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and added to that unit Wednesday by giving Philip Wheeler a five-year contract, worth $26 million, half of that guaranteed. He spent his first four NFL seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and played last season for the Raiders, where he had career highs of 109 tackles and three sacks.
The Dolphins released linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett.
—Minnesota re-signed LB Erin Henderson and WR Jerome Simpson, while Washington did the same with DE Kedric Golston.
—New Orleans re-signed long snapper Justin Drescher to a four-year contract.