Quarterback Peyton Manning is officially returning to play for the Denver Broncos after passing his physical Thursday and signing a restructured contract for the 2015 season.
“We’re excited it’s over,” executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway said of Manning returning for a fourth season in Denver. “Glad that we can move on, glad that Peyton’s going to be part of this team and hopefully win a championship next year. I think this time of the offseason is tough for everybody. It’s a tough part of the business and the time of the year we’ve got to put the best football team together that we possibly can, so we’re glad Peyton’s going to be a part of that.”
Manning, 39, agreed to accept a salary reduction from $19 million to $15 million for next season — his 18th in the NFL.
Manning will have the opportunity to make up the difference with incentive clauses tied to team performance, according to ESPN.com. If the Broncos advance to the Super Bowl, he will earn $2 million and can earn an additional $2 million if they take home the Lombardi trophy.
—Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said the New England Patriots informed him they will not pick up the option in his contract.
Wilfork made the announcement on Twitter, thus ending his 11-year run with the franchise and making him a free agent when the league year begins Tuesday.
Wilfork, 33, started every game in 2014, including the Patriots’ 28-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.
Wilfork, who was selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 2004 draft, was due $8 million in 2015, including a $4 million roster bonus Tuesday.
Wilfork, a five-time Pro Bowler who won two Super Bowls with the Patriots, said he plans to play in 2015.
— Tight end Greg Olsen has a contract with the Carolina Panthers through the 2018 season after signing a three-year extension on Thursday.
Agent Drew Rosenhaus told Pro Football Talk that the deal is for $22.5 million and includes $12 million to sign.
Olsen, 29, posted a career high and set team records in 2014 for most catches (84) and receiving yards (1,008) by a tight end in a season. He also had six touchdown receptions and made his first Pro Bowl appearance.
—Former Arizona Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett will stay in the NFC West, signing a two-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers.
According to reports, the deal is worth $7.5 million, with $4 million being paid in the first season and $2 million guaranteed.
Dockett’s 11-year run with the Cardinals ended last week when he was released by the team.
Dockett, 33, missed the 2014 season while recovering from a torn ACL suffered during training camp. In the 10 previous seasons, all with the Cardinals, Dockett piled up 459 tackles, 40.5 sacks, 12 fumble recoveries, seven forced fumbles and four interceptions.
—Five days before he was scheduled to become a free agent, linebacker Rey Maualuga signed a new three-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Maualuga, the team’s second-round pick in 2009, just completed a two-year, $6.5 million deal.
He has battled through injuries over the past two years, missing seven games. But he has been an impact player when healthy. He made 122 tackles in 16 games in 2012, and he also intercepted a pass in each of the past two years.
— The Oakland Raiders released defensive end LaMarr Woodley, adding to an already full wallet for free agency.
Woodley’s departure, along with the retirement of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, gives the Raiders about $7.7 million more to spend under the $143.3 million salary cap. They already had around $57 million to spend.
They are expected to use that money to try to sign some of the top free agents, with Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Denver tight end Julius Thomas and Green Bay wide receiver Randall Cobb among possible targets.
The Oakland Raiders plan to host Suh next week, according to NFL Media’s Mike Silver.
Woodley, 30, spent his first seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, recording 57 sacks in 81 games.
—Veteran running back Maurice Jones-Drew announced that he is retiring after nine seasons in the NFL.
The 29-year-old Jones-Drew spent the first eight seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars before playing his final year with the Raiders in 2014.
In 12 games for the Raiders last year, Jones-Drew was limited to 96 rushing yards on 43 carries and 11 receptions for 71 yards. But he made his mark with the Jaguars, rushing for more than 1,300 yards in a season three times.
Jones-Drew finished with 8,167 yards rushing on 1,847 carries and 68 touchdowns and added 346 receptions for 2,944 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air.
—The Kansas City Chiefs reportedly are trying to trade wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and might release him if they cannot find a taker.
The Chiefs are determined to move on from Bowe, sources told NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
Meanwhile, they did move on from Joe Mays, releasing the veteran linebacker on Thursday.
Mays signed with the Chiefs in 2014 and started three of the eight games in which he played, notching 17 tackles and one fumble recovery. The seven-year veteran also has played for the Philadelphia Eagles (2008-09), Denver Broncos (2010-12) and Houston Texans (2013).
Mays was scheduled to make $3 million this year, including a $600,000 roster bonus.
Bowe, 30, is entering the third year of a five-year, $56 million contract and is scheduled to be paid $11 million in 2015.
— Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, recovering from a torn ACL, said Thursday that he will be ready for training camp.
Palmer, who was injured in Week 10 last season, told AZCardinals.com that his recovery is going well and he’s running and throwing five days a week.
Palmer said he hopes to practice during OTAs or minicamp, but he knows coach Bruce Arians likely will be cautious with him.
“I think I’m ready to go out and do everything. But I’m not, and I know I’m not, deep down,” Palmer said. “You just feel good and you want to do more and more.”
Palmer also said he has agreed to restructure his contract to create some salary cap room if it helps the team. The Cardinals had about $13.5 million in space under the $143.3 million cap on Thursday.
—The Chicago Bears reportedly are exploring trade possibilities for mercurial wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
New general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox have been evaluating their roster and think moving Marshall would help “clean up the locker room,” according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
The Chicago Tribune reported it is not clear whether the Bears are actively pursuing a trade or just listening to offers for the wide receiver, who turns 31 later this month.
The likely deadline for trading or releasing Marshall is March 12, when his $7.5 million salary becomes guaranteed.
—Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy is eligible to sign a free-agent contract even if he remains on the commissioner’s exempt list.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Associated Press on Thursday that there is nothing to prevent players on the exempt list from signing contracts.
Hardy, who recently had domestic violence charges against him dropped, is set to become a free agent Tuesday and can sign with any team.
Hardy met with NFL officials in New York on Wednesday to lobby for his removal from the exempt list. He submitted documents from his domestic-assault case and left the meeting with no resolution.
—New York Giants tight end Larry Donnell was among the 125 passengers aboard a Delta Air Lines jet that slid off a snowy runway at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Thursday.
Six people reportedly suffered minor injuries when the plane — Flight 1086 from Atlanta — crashed through a chain-link fence and skidded to a halt at the edge of icy Flushing Bay. Donnell said he was fine.
“I’m blessed to be safe and sound after our plane skidded off the runway at LaGuardia airport today,” Donnell said in a statement released by the Giants. “I feel fine physically and hopefully all the other passengers did not have any significant injuries. We were all shocked and alarmed when the plane started to skid, but most importantly, as far as I know, all of the passengers and flight crew were able to exit the plane safely.”
—The Miami Dolphins re-signed offensive tackle Jason Fox to a two-year contract.
The deal is worth $2.5 million, according to the Miami Herald.
The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Fox is entering his fifth season in the NFL in 2015 and second year with the Dolphins after spending the first three years of his career with the Detroit Lions.
—The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed cornerback Mike Jenkins to a one-year contract.
Terms of the deal were not immediately known. The former first-round draft pick joined the Buccaneers in 2014 on a one-year deal worth $1.5 million, but he was placed on injured reserve after suffering a pectoral injury in the season opener.
In seven seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (2008-12), Oakland Raiders (2013) and Bucs, Jenkins has started 63 games and intercepted 10 passes. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2009, when he intercepted five passes and broke up 19.
The Buccaneers also re-signed safety Bradley McDougald, an exclusive-rights free agent, and tendered ERFA linebacker Danny Lansanah.
—The Atlanta Falcons signed safety Charles Godfrey to a contract extension.
Godfrey was signed by the Falcons on Oct. 28, 2014, after spending six-plus seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Godfrey played in five games with the Falcons and seven games with the Panthers last season. He recorded 19 tackles in 2014, all with Carolina.
Prior to joining the Falcons, Godfrey played in 82 games (72 starts) with the Panthers, tallying 372 tackles, three sacks, 33 passes defensed and 11 interceptions.
— The Denver Broncos agreed to terms with long snapper Aaron Brewer on a four-year contract.
Financial details were not released.
Brewer joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and was slated to become a restricted free agent on Tuesday, when the league year begins.
Brewer has appeared in all 53 games, including the playoffs, over the past three years.
— The New Orleans Saints released veteran running back Pierre Thomas on Thursday.
The move had been reported Wednesday.
Thomas had signed a two-year, $4 million extension last year and was scheduled to earn $2.1 million next season.
Thomas, 30, played for the Saints for eight seasons, rushing for 3,745 yards, catching 327 passes for 2,608 yards and scoring 40 touchdowns.
— The Green Bay Packers signed linebacker Josh Francis on Thursday.
Francis, an undrafted free agent out of West Virginia in 2013, played with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League in 2014 and recently was with the Wichita Falls Nighthawks of the Indoor Football League.
Francis played for the Mountaineers in 2011-12, starting 13 games and leading the team with 15 tackles for loss in 2012.
— The Indianapolis Colts extended a qualifying offer to restricted-free-agent linebacker Jerrell Freeman and exclusive-rights tenders to outside linebacker Daniel Adongo, running back Daniel “Boom” Herron and outside linebacker Cam Johnson.
Freeman has 516 career tackles, including a franchise-record 203 in 2012 as a rookie, in three seasons since the Colts signed him to a reserve/futures contract. He also has nine sacks, eight forced fumbles, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 44 starts.
Adongo, a former professional rugby player, missed the 2014 season while on injured reserve. Herron has rushed for 384 yards and a touchdown and added 22 catches for 230 yards in 22 games since signing with the Colts off the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad in 2013. Johnson came to the Colts in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. He played in one game last season before he went on injured reserve.
—The Buffalo Bills made exclusive-rights tendering offers to wide receiver Chris Hogan, defensive tackle Corbin Bryant and wide receiver Justin Brown.
Hogan has played in all 16 games for the Bills each of the past two seasons, racking up 509 yards and four touchdowns on 51 receptions.
Bryant has played in 31 games for the Bills the past two seasons, recording 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks, six quarterback hits, four tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
Brown was claimed off waivers by the Bills on Feb. 3. He played in eight games for Pittsburgh, recording 12 catches for 94 yards. Brown, 23, was waived by the Steelers on Dec. 30.
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