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NFL free agency tracker: Russell Wilson to Steelers, Mayfield stays with Bucs

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Quarterback Russell Wilson is poised to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency this week, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.

Wilson, 35, will join his third NFL team after 10 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and two increasingly acrimonious seasons with the Denver Broncos. He met with the Steelers on Friday in Pittsburgh after meeting Thursday with the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J.

The Broncos informed Wilson last week that they will release him after the start of the new league year Wednesday. They granted Wilson permission to meet immediately with other teams, giving him a head start on his free agency. Other teams also expressed interest, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. But Wilson made his selection and confirmed his choice of the Steelers via a video posted Sunday night to social media in which he called himself “[g]rateful” to join the team for Year 13 of his NFL career.

Wilson is expected to sign a one-year contract with the Steelers for a modest salary around the 2024 league minimum of $1.21 million for a player of his experience level. The Broncos must pay him $39 million for the 2023 season, minus whatever the Steelers pay him.

The Steelers reached the AFC playoffs last season with Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph each making starts at quarterback. Wilson could vie with Pickett for the starting job next season. Trubisky was released and signed with the Buffalo Bills. Rudolph is eligible for free agency.

Wilson was the NFL’s eighth-rated passer last season but was benched by the Broncos in favor of Jarrett Stidham for the final two games of their season. According to Wilson and the NFL Players Association, the Broncos had threatened in October to bench him for the remainder of the season if he did not agree to adjust his contract to address an injury guarantee tied to a scheduled a $37 million offseason payment.

Lloyd Howell, the NFLPA’s executive director, said during Super Bowl week that the union believed the Broncos “mistreated” Wilson. The NFLPA told the Broncos and the NFL’s management council in a Nov. 4 letter from attorney Jeffrey Kessler that the team’s threat to bench Wilson if he did not agree to adjust his contract was illegal and violated the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA, creating the possibility the union would initiate an arbitration proceeding or litigation against the team and the league.

General Manager George Paton said at the recent NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis that the Broncos had “moved forward” from the issues involving Wilson’s contract, adding: “Everything we did was above board.” The Broncos will avoid making the $37 million payment by releasing Wilson. But they will absorb an $85 million salary cap hit for the move, which they can spread over the next two seasons.

Wilson was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and reached two Super Bowls, winning one of them, while with the Seahawks.

Mayfield agrees to $100 million deal to stay with Bucs

Baker Mayfield revived his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and now he’s staying with them.

Mayfield became the first of the prominent quarterbacks eligible for unrestricted free agency to resolve his status. He agreed to a three-year, $100 million contract to re-sign with the Buccaneers, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The deal includes $50 million in guaranteed money and has incentives that could push its maximum value to $115 million.

Mayfield, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns, helped the Buccaneers reach the divisional round of the NFC playoffs last season before losing to the Detroit Lions. He was eligible for free agency after signing a one-year contract last offseason.

The deal came on the day before NFL teams can begin negotiating with free agents from other teams. Mayfield had been viewed as a potential option for the Minnesota Vikings if they fail to re-sign Kirk Cousins. Cousins’s contract with the Vikings voids this week to make him a free agent, and the Atlanta Falcons are believed to be intent upon trying to sign him.

The agreement with the Buccaneers keeps Mayfield from moving on to a fifth NFL team. He spent four seasons with the Browns before they traded for Deshaun Watson in March 2022. The Browns traded Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers that July. He struggled for the Panthers and was released at his request, then had a short but impressive late-season stint for the Los Angeles Rams before signing with the Buccaneers last March.

After being out Kyle Trask for the starting job, Mayfield threw for 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns last season and was selected for the Pro Bowl for the first time.

Patriots set to trade Jones

The new era of the New England Patriots will not include quarterback Mac Jones.

The Patriots are set to trade Jones, their 2021 first-round draft choice who struggled the past two seasons, to the Jacksonville Jaguars, a person familiar with the deliberations confirmed Sunday. The move cannot become official until Wednesday.

The Jaguars are expected to send a late-round draft pick to the Patriots for Jones, a Jacksonville native. Jones becomes a backup to Jaguars starter Trevor Lawrence.

The Patriots selected Jones 15th out of Alabama in the 2021 draft, 14 picks after the Jaguars took Lawrence at No. 1.

Jones became the starter immediately and was selected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie while helping the Patriots reach the AFC playoffs. But things unraveled from there. Jones’s play deteriorated amid instability on the offensive coaching staff and a lack of playmakers around him. He totaled 24 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions over the past two seasons and lost the starting job last year to Bailey Zappe.

The Patriots have the No. 3 pick in next month’s draft and widely are expected to use it on a quarterback, perhaps North Carolina’s Drake Maye or LSU’s Jayden Daniels. They also could add a veteran quarterback to go with Zappe and their potentially prized rookie.

Lawrence and Jones were among the five quarterbacks taken in the first 15 choices of the 2021 draft. Zach Wilson was taken second by the New York Jets. Trey Lance went third to the San Francisco 49ers, and Justin Fields went 11th to the Chicago Bears. Lance and now Jones already have been traded, and Wilson and Fields could be traded this week.

Eagles’ Fletcher Cox retires

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox announced his retirement after 12 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“After much reflection, I have made the decision to retire from the game of football,” Cox said in a statement. “I gave everything I had to this team and to this city. I don’t know what’s next for me, but I do know that I’m forever grateful for my time here in Philadelphia and with the Eagles organization.”

Cox, 33, was a six-time Pro Bowl selection. He would have been eligible for free agency this week. Instead, he becomes the second Eagles mainstay to retire this offseason, following center Jason Kelce.

Jones to remain with Chiefs

The top free agent came off the board before free agency even began. Defensive tackle Chris Jones agreed to a five-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, he and his agents announced Saturday night.

His representatives, Katz Brothers Sports, announced that Jones agreed to a record contract to make him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive tackle but did not specify the financial details. Jones wrote on social media he would have “5 more years of greatness!” with the Chiefs. The agreement, once it’s finalized, is expected to pay Jones approximately $160 million over five seasons and will include about $95 million in guaranteed money, according to a person familiar with the pending terms.

Jones is a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time all-pro in eight seasons with the Chiefs, amassing 75.5 career sacks. He has won three Super Bowl titles with the franchise, including in 2023 when Jones had 10.5 sacks in 16 regular season games after missing the season opener while holding out as part of a contract dispute.

Broncos to trade for Jeudy

The Broncos agreed to trade wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to the Browns, according to two people familiar with the deal. The Browns will send fifth- and sixth-round picks in this year’s draft to the Broncos. The trade can become official Wednesday.

Jeudy, a 2020 first-round draft choice, had 211 catches for 3,053 yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons with the Broncos, including 54 catches for 758 yards and two touchdowns last season. He joins Amari Cooper in Cleveland to bolster the Browns’ wide receiver corps.



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