Colston stays with Saints, Marshall to Bears
AP Pro Football Writer
Wide receivers grabbed the big money as NFL free agency began Tuesday.
Vincent Jackson is headed to Tampa Bay, Pierre Garcon to Washington and Marques Colston will stay in New Orleans, all getting huge deals.
Josh Morgan also caught a hefty contract from the Redskins, while Miami dealt its top receiver, Brandon Marshall, to Chicago for two third-round draft choices.
Jackson got a five-year, $55.55 million contract with the Buccaneers. He will be paid $13 million in each of his first two years, then $10 million for the third year. Jackson will provide a deep threat for Josh Freeman, whose other receivers, Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn, are more short-range targets.
Garcon gets $42.5 million over five years from the Redskins, with $20.5 million in guaranteed money, including an $11 million signing bonus.
Garcon had 188 catches for 16 touchdowns and a 13.4-yard average in four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Last year he had 70 receptions for 947 yards and six TDs as Indianapolis finished 2-14.
Washington, which is losing $36 million in salary cap space over the next two seasons for excessive spending in the uncapped 2010 season, also grabbed Morgan for $12 million over the first two years of a five-year deal, with $7.5 million guaranteed. And the Redskins re-signed defensive end Adam Carriker for four years and $20 million, with $7 million guaranteed.
Late Tuesday night, the Chargers agreed to a four-year deal with former New Orleans Saints wideout Robert Meachem.
Hours before free agency began, Colston agreed to a five-year contract worth about $40 million to remain in the Big Easy.
“This was important to me, to be back with this team in this situation,” Colston said in a statement released by the Saints. “I was not looking to chase free agency. It was more important for me to be back in our program, a program we have been building and a program I believe in.”
The top free agent, of course, is Peyton Manning, who was released a week ago by the Colts. He still is conducting his limited tour of teams, but the Dolphins’ trade of their No. 1 receiver could indicate Miami is out of the running for the four-time league MVP.
“Brandon Marshall out of Miami?” Dolphins center Mike Pouncey tweeted. “Tell me this ain’t true…”
At night, Chicago added Jason Campbell to be Jay Cutler’s backup quarterback.
Also re-upping with their teams were Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas, Eagles tackle Todd Herremans, Chargers center Nick Hardwick, Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas, Vikings backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels, Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant and linebacker Heath Farwell, Bears cornerback Tim Jennings, Falcons backup quarterback Chris Redman and receiver Harry Douglas, and 49ers linebacker Tavares Gooden, a valuable special teams player.
The Giants’ Thomas missed last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a preseason game against Chicago. The 27-year-old expects to be ready for training camp with the Super Bowl champions.
“I definitely wanted to come back here. This is home for me,” Thomas said. “Coming off an injury, it’s better to come back to the same team. You know the personnel and the staff, and they know you. You know the defense.”
Hardwick hoped to stay put in San Diego.
“I know how hard these guys work up here and how hard the coaches work and how much time they put in and how detailed and very specific everything is, and I couldn’t imagine going somewhere,” he said.
San Francisco, which signed enigmatic receiver Randy Moss on Monday, added cornerback Perrish Cox on Tuesday. Neither was in the league last year.
Cox is getting a fresh start with San Francisco, signing a two-year contract after being acquitted on sexual assault charges in Colorado earlier this month. Moss sat out 2011 when no team signed him.
Players released Tuesday include Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman, Texans tackle Eric Winston and backup quarterback Matt Leinart, Cardinals tackle Levi Brown and San Diego tackle Marcus McNeill. Look for teams to have strong interest in Winston and Brown.
Star linebacker-defensive end Mario Williams arrived in Buffalo, where he is the Bills’ first priority in free agency. Williams was limited to just five games last season before he tore a chest muscle.