NFL’s new season opens with high-profile releases
All those promises worth millions upon millions to free agents turned into paydays Wednesday when the NFL’s business year began.
Of course, teams needed to clear salary cap space or rejigger their ledgers to make it work, and they’ll still be doing so for months.
While the likes of Drew Brees, Malcolm Butler and Andrew Norwell cashed in bigtime, having reached agreements in the past two days before everything became official, some value entered the marketplace.
Arizona released safety Tyrann Mathieu when it couldn’t rework his deal. On Tuesday, the Cardinals let running back Adrian Peterson go.
Baltimore cut receiver Jeremy Maclin. Detroit said goodbye to tight end Eric Ebron.
But Carolina had more success with a veteran, completing a one-year deal with defensive end Julius Peppers.
The 38-year-old Peppers, who contemplated retirement after 17 pro seasons, remains with the Panthers for $5 million, with $2.5 million guaranteed, a person familiar with the situation said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the team does not release financial terms of contracts.
“I am fired up to have him back,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “It was amazing to have him as part of what we are trying to build and I think he can help us get to the next level.”
Mathieu was due for $18.75 million of his contract to be guaranteed when the league year officially begins. By cutting him, Arizona will save close to $5 million in cap space.
Mathieu became a star in the Arizona secondary after being selected in the third round of the 2013 draft following a troubled college career at LSU. He was an All-Pro in 2015, when he had five interceptions and 17 passes defensed.
But he also has been plagued by injuries and only last season did Mathieu appear in all 16 games.
Baltimore frees up an estimated $5 million in salary cap space by releasing Maclin, who signed on as a free agent in June. But Maclin missed two games with a shoulder injury, two more with knee issues, and finished with only 40 catches for 440 yards and three touchdowns. The 84 receptions he had over the past two seasons (2016 with Kansas City) are three fewer than he had with the Chiefs in 2015.
Then the Ravens agreed to deals with receivers John Brown and Ryan Grant.
San Francisco agreed to a four-year contract with running back Jerick McKinnon and a five-year deal with center-guard Weston Richburg. McKinnon replaces departing starter Carlos Hyde and Richburg could start anywhere in the interior line.
“We see Weston as one of the top young interior offensive linemen in the NFL,” GM John Lynch said.