ABOVE PHOTO: Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry speaks during an NFL football Super Bowl team availability, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Phoenix. The Eagles will face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 57 Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt York)
By Arnie Stapleton
Stephon Gilmore is on the move again, Darren Waller is getting traded from the Raiders less than two weeks after marrying Las Vegas Aces star Kelsey Plum and James Bradberry is staying in Philadelphia.
Those were among the biggest moves on the eve of free agency Tuesday, the second day in which teams were allowed to negotiate with unrestricted free agents.
The deals can’t be announced until the start of the league year on Wednesday and therefore were confirmed to The Associated Press by people speaking on condition of anonymity.
In other notable decisions, the Indianapolis Colts will release longtime NFL quarterback Matt Ryan in a cost-cutting move Wednesday and the Carolina Panthers, who own the top pick in the NFL draft next month and are targeting a quarterback, found their stop-gap QB when they agreed to a two-year, $10 million contract with unrestricted free agent Andy Dalton.
While no teams spent as the Denver Broncos did on Day 1, when they committed a whopping $219.25 million in salaries to a half dozen players, there was plenty of action leading up to the official start of the league year, which arrives at 4 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.
The Broncos’ new Walton-Penner ownership group, by far the richest in the league, continued its spending spree Tuesday by agreeing to a two-year, $7.5 million deal with former Bengals running back Samaje Perine.
Denver’s starter last season, Javonte Williams, is still recovering from a knee injury he sustained in 2022 and could miss half of the upcoming season.
That deal followed Monday’s agreements to acquire tackle Mike McGlinchey (five years, $87.5 million), guard Ben Powers (four years, $52 million), end Zach Allen (three years, $45.75 million), QB Jarrett Stidham, (two years, $10 million), TE Chris Manhertz (two years, $6 million) and ILB Alex Singleton (three years, $18 million).
The Las Vegas Raiders were busy again Tuesday, agreeing to a three-year, $33 million deal with former Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who reunites with Raiders coach Josh McDaniels, his former offensive coordinator in New England.
Meyers, who has averaged 70 catches and 800 receiving yards over the past three seasons, was involved in one of the worst gaffes in NFL history when he attempted an unnecessary lateral across the field to quarterback Mac Jones on the final play of a tie game that was headed to overtime in December. Chandler Jones snatched the ball in the air and raced for a touchdown to give the Raiders a win over the Patriots.
The Raiders’ acquisition of Meyers helped make Waller expendable. They agreed to send Waller to the New York Giants for a 2023 third-round draft pick.
Waller, who made the Pro Bowl in 2020, gives Giants quarterback Daniel Jones a major playmaker and an upgrade at tight end. Last year’s starter, Daniel Bellinger, caught 30 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns.
Waller twice has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards, in 2019 and 2020, before injuries cut into his production the past two seasons. In 2022, Waller caught 28 passes for 388 yards and three TDs, missing eight games because of a pulled hamstring.
The trade for Waller, 30, is an effort to boost the Giants’ offensive talent around Jones, who agreed to a four-year, $160 million extension this offseason.
Now the Raiders’ offense includes quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running back Josh Jacobs and receivers Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Meyers. The Raiders agreed to a deal with Garoppolo on Monday and placed the franchise tag on Jacobs last week.
The trade of Waller frees up about $11 million in salary cap space for the Raiders.
In the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys acquired cornerback Stephon Gilmore from the Indianapolis Colts for a fifth-round draft pick. The addition of the five-time Pro Bowler came on the same day Dallas re-signed safety Donovan Wilson as the Cowboys try to further bolster a defense that carried the club at times during a second consecutive playoff season in 2022.
The Cowboys will give up a compensatory fifth-round pick in this year’s draft. It will be the third team in three seasons for Gilmore, the 2019 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year when he was with New England.
The 32-year-old Gilmore played 16 games for the Colts last season, finishing with two interceptions and 11 pass breakups as a four-year Pro Bowl run ended.
The trade pairs Gilmore with 2021 NFL interceptions leader Trevon Diggs, who had 11 of his 17 career picks that season. Diggs dropped off to three interceptions last year.
The Cowboys also continued a trend of preferring their own free agents when they agreed to contracts to keep leading tackler Wilson (three years, $24 million) and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (two years, $11 million) in Dallas.
The NFC champion Eagles agreed to a three-year, $38 million contract to keep Bradberry, a second-team All-Pro cornerback, in Philadelphia.
Bradberry joined the Eagles last year after he was released by the Giants and played a key role in the secondary for the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense. He helped the Eagles reach the Super Bowl but his holding penalty on Kansas City’s JuJu Smith-Schuster late in the fourth quarter set up the go-ahead field goal in Philadelphia’s 38-35 loss.
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