All-Pro Nicks joins Bucs; Megatron collects
AP Pro Football Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – Calvin Johnson got the biggest contract in NFL history Wednesday, and he wasn’t even a free agent.
The All-Pro wide receiver’s eight-year deal through the 2019 season is worth $132 million, with $60 million guaranteed, surpassing the $120 million with $50 million guaranteed being paid to Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald.
“They were happy to get this thing done with, and I was happy as well,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t a lot of confrontation. We weren’t butting heads or anything. It was just something that we knew needed to get done.”
Another All-Pro, guard Carl Nicks, left New Orleans for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a five-year contract. Considered one of the NFL’s best pass blockers, Nicks is a two-time Pro Bowl player and was a key on the Saints’ record-setting offense.
Johnson lived up to his “Megatron” nickname with his spectacular receptions in 2011, catching 96 passes for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns in leading the Lions back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Jerry Rice, Randy Moss and Johnson are the only players in NFL history with at least 95 receptions, 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns in a season.
“Calvin’s one of those guys – we’ve said this about a few guys that we have in our building – whatever they pay him is not enough,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “He’s truly a special player.”
Tampa has been among the busiest teams in free agency, hardly surprising after the Bucs slumped from 10-6 to 4-12 last year. Nicks joined cornerback Eric Wright, who also signed Wednesday. Wright got a five-year deal, too.
On Tuesday, the Buccaneers added star receiver Vincent Jackson for five years and $55.55 million.
“We’ve made our mark for what we wanted to accomplish,” Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said.
Indianapolis made receiver Reggie Wayne’s return official Wednesday and also signed defense end Cory Redding to a contract.
Wayne will get three years and $17.5 million in what likely is the last deal of his career. He’s likely to be the No. 1 target for Andrew Luck, who the Colts are expected to take with the top pick in the draft.
Redding enters his 10th NFL season with a fourth team. He also has played for Detroit, Seattle and Baltimore.
“Cory is a big and aggressive interior … player who is an ideal fit in this defense,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “This type of player is hard to come by because of the traits required to play over large offensive linemen while still being a force to stop the run.”
Philadelphia agreed on a five-year contract with wideout and kick returner DeSean Jackson, who was given a franchise tag and would have cost any team signing him two first-round draft picks. Jackson held out last training camp because he wanted an extension and then had a mediocre season. He even was inactive for a game for being late for a team meeting.
But he’s a game-breaker that coach Andy Reid wanted back.
“He has the speed and ability to score from anywhere on the field, and he has proven himself to be a big threat for our offense,” Reid said.
Eagles defensive end Trent Cole, who had 11 sacks last season, agreed to a four-year extension with Philadelphia.
Chicago agreed to a three-year deal with wide receiver Eric Weems, also a standout on special teams who could ease the kick returns burden on Devin Hester. The previous day, the Bears traded with Miami for wideout Brandon Marshall and signed quarterback Jason Campbell.
Yet the Bears also brought back Josh McCown on a one-year deal. McCown joined Chicago late last season and appeared in three games, making two starts after Caleb Hanie struggled filling in for Jay Cutler.
New St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher brought in one of his regulars when he was with the Titans, agreeing with cornerback Cortland Finnegan on a five-year contract. Finnegan was an All-Pro in 2008 and is known for his physical style. He got into a punching match with Texans star receiver Andre Johnson during a game in 2010 and both were fined $25,000.
“Obviously, I’ve had a relationship with him, know him very well and I know he’s going to fit in and be a very fine player for us. We’re very, very excited about that,” Fisher said. “He’s a complete corner in that he’s got great cover skills, he’s a run support corner. He’s got flexibility to move inside. There’s always potential to match him up with a top receiver on a game-to-game basis.”
Finnegan will get $50 million, $27 million guaranteed and $33 million in the first three years. He also can earn and additional $1 million with incentives.
Another Tennessee player, defensive end Jason Jones, was visiting Rams Park on Wednesday
Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rogers will get $31.3 million over four years to remain with the 49ers, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press. Rogers had six interceptions last season and his return would mean all 11 starters from San Francisco’s strong defense will be back for the upcoming season.
The Peyton Manning courtship continued, with the Titans taking their turn at wooing the four-time MVP quarterback who was released earlier this month by Indianapolis. Coach Mike Munchak, general manager Ruston Webster and owner Bud Adams’ top executive in Tennessee took off in the team’s private plane to Raleigh-Durham, N.C., picked up Manning and returned to meet in Nashville.
The quarterback’s suitors already include Denver, Arizona and Miami.
Dallas landed its backup to Tony Romo when it agreed on a three-year deal with Kyle Orton, who has been a starter in Chicago, Denver and Kansas City. Jon Kitna, Romo’s backup the last two years, retired after last season.
Derek Anderson said he has agreed to remain in Carolina as Cam Newton’s backup. He did not throw a pass last season.
Two other quarterbacks on the market, Green Bay’s Matt Flynn – considered the top available QB behind Manning – and Chad Henne have scheduled visits to Seattle.
The Cowboys bolstered their secondary with Brandon Carr, who was a starting cornerback for Kansas City and will replace Terence Newman, released this week by Dallas. Carr got a five-year deal.
The Chargers re-signed left tackle Jared Gaither to a four-year contract and signed former Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson to a four-year deal. Gaither helped solidify the Chargers’ line during the last five games after he was waived by Kansas City. He replaces Marcus McNeill, who was released Tuesday.
Johnson was one of the more active players on Baltimore’s staunch defense for nine seasons. He played in a franchise-record 129 consecutive regular-season games and has started 89 in a row, including playoffs. He had 56 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks last year.
San Diego also agreed to a one-year deal with tight end Kory Sperry, whose contract had expired.
The Super Bowl champion Giants signed tight end Martellus Bennett to a deal. They lost starter Jake Ballard and backup Travis Beckum to major knee injuries in the Super Bowl win over the Patriots. Bennett has played behind Jason Witten in Dallas.
The Jets re-signed kicker Nick Folk, who spent the last two years with the team.
Oakland cut two more players as part of an offseason overhaul: right guard Cooper Carlisle and defensive tackle John Henderson. The Raiders are now about $10 million under the salary cap.
AP Sports Writers Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tenn.; Noah Trister in Detroit; R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis; and Josh Dubow and Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.