Allen Park — The Detroit Lions followed a busy Monday with an equally busy Tuesday, reaching agreements with several players, headlined by running back David Montgomery.
Within the NFL’s two-day negotiating window, also known as the legal tampering period, the Lions retained some of their own top free agents — defensive linemen Isaiah Buggs and John Cominsky, as well as linebacker Alex Anzalone — while also reaching agreements with a trio of outside targets, Montgomery and cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley.
Starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday, contracts officially expire and players are permitted to sign with other teams. And just like the last two days, we’ll do our best to keep you updated with the day’s happenings around the league.
Editor’s note: Newest updates will be on top
▶ 4:18 p.m. — A Lions starter is heading elsewhere with safety DeShon Elliott agreeing to a deal with the Dolphins. This isn’t a surprise as he was looking for an opportunity to start and Tracy Walker and Kerby Joseph are penciled into Detroit’s lineup.
▶ 4:00 p.m. — The new league has officially started and signings and trades can become official. You’re likely to see more of the latter immediately, including the Bears/Panthers draft pick swap. Much of the pen-to-paper stuff for the slew of agreements that have been made the past three days will occur later tonight and tomorrow morning, as those players go through standard physicals.
▶ 3:06 p.m. — Another receiver is off the board with JuJu Smith-Schuster agreeing to a deal with the Patriots. Good thing, because New England’s cupboard was just about bare after losing Jakobi Meyers to the Raiders.
Interestingly, Smith-Schuster’s contract parameters are the same as Meyers got from Las Vegas; three years, $33 million. That also means the average annual value of the three top receivers who have reached agreements, looping Allen Lazard into that conversation, have all been $11 million per season.
So if you’re looking at what it will cost to bring DJ Chark back to Detroit, that’s probably a reasonable starting point.
▶ 2:39 p.m. — Maybe we chalk this one up to a hometown discount, but 33-year-old Lavonte David is returning to Tampa Bay for a 12th season on a one-year, fully guaranteed, $7 million deal.
The three-time All-Pro topped 100 tackles for the ninth time last season, while continuing to be one of the league’s better, all-around middle linebackers.
▶ 1:45 p.m. — Sorry for the lack of updates. Had to pop over to Allen Park for a media session with Cominsky. Also, I’m not watching Rodgers on McAfee, but reading through some of the tweets, it looks as if he’s confirmed he’s eventually headed to the Jets once the final few hurdles are worked out between the teams.
In terms of signings, safety Jordan Poyer is heading back to Buffalo, while the Saints re-stocked the interior of the team’s defensive line with Khalen Saunders and Nathan Shepherd, who each landed three-year deals from the club.
Finally, the NFL Network notes Will Harris is receiving a one-year, fully guaranteed $2.58 million contract to re-sign with the Lions. This points to the deal being a veteran salary benefit offer, reserved for players who have spent four or more consecutive years with an organization. It’s a cap device that allows the team to save some cap space while rewarding a veteran player.
The veteran salary benefit allows teams to pay one player (or split between multiple) an extra $1.35 million that won’t count toward the cap. It means Harris will likely count just $1.2 million against the cap in 2023, which is reasonable for a guy who can play several positions in the secondary and contribute on multiple special teams groups.
▶ 11:58 a.m. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have found their Tom Brady replacement. OK, maybe that’s a hyperbolic response to the one-year, $8.5 million deal the team is giving former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield hasn’t lived up to expectations since coming into the league, but he rehabbed his image a bit with the way he finished the season with the Los Angeles Rams. If nothing else, he’s a good leader and can serve as a capable bridge until the team figures out what’s next at the position.
▶ 10:57 a.m. — A little bit of a stunner as the Philadelphia Eagles are releasing former Lions cornerback Darius Slay. He was due to have a massive $26.1 million cap hit, but the Eagles are still responsible for more than $21 million in dead money.
Slay tweeted, “Nothing but love Philly!! Lets see where we heading next.”
After being traded by Detroit in 2019, Slay continued to be highly productive in his new home, earning Pro Bowl honors that year and the past two seasons. He turned 32 in January, but clearly has juice in the tank after holding opposing quarterbacks to a 56.6 completion percentage in 2022, while breaking up 14 passes and intercepting three balls.
The Eagles had given Slay’s agent permission to shop for a trade, but there clearly wasn’t a market for the $17.5 million salary/workout bonus an acquiring team would have had to take on.
A reunion in Detroit would have been fun, but after agreeing to terms with Sutton and Moseley the past two days, the Lions probably don’t have the roster or cap room to make a run at Slay.
▶ 10:27 a.m. — A report out of Dallas indicates the team is set to part with Ezekiel Elliott. If you’ve been following closely, this move has been somewhat excepted and it’s just another reminder how quickly the wheels can fall off at the running back position.
Elliott was a monster early in his career, rushing for 5,405 yards his first four seasons while averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He added another 1,619 receiving yards during that stretch, scoring nearly 50 total touchdowns.
In 2019, the team awarded him a staggering six-year, $90 million extension. But despite continuing to average nearly 1,000 yards per season the past three years, he’s been the second-best back in Dallas, behind Tony Pollard. While Elliott has averaged 4.0 yards per carry during that stretch, Pollard’s been producing 5.3 yards per pop.
Dallas franchised Pollard this offseason, and probably isn’t in a rush to give another massive, long-term deal to a back. Still, it’s become clear they can’t pay both. The Cowboys are going to eat nearly $12 million in dead money to get rid of Elliott, with a reported plan to spread that hit out over two years by designating Elliott a post-June 1 cut. Doing so will save them almost $11 million in cap space this year and another $8 million in 2024.
▶ 10:08 a.m. — Riley Reiff is still kicking around the league a decade after he was drafted. A 10-game starter in Chicago last season, he’s on the move again, with an ESPN report noting he’s reached an agreement with the New England Patriots.
New England will be Reiff’s fifth NFL home. After five years in Detroit to start his career, followed by four in Minnesota, he’s become something of a journeyman with one-year stints in Cincinnati and Chicago the past two seasons. That said, he’s been steady at every stop, so it’s not a surprise there continues to be a market for his services.
▶ 9:48 a.m. — It’s been mostly quiet across the league this morning, but there have been a couple agreements reached.
Shopping for linebacker help the past couple days, the Steelers have found a solution in four-year Washington starter Cole Holcomb. He’s getting a three-year deal from Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, tight end Hayden Hurst is going from Cincinnati to Carolina. In his lone season with the Bengals, he caught 52 passes.
▶ 8:30 a.m. — Obviously, whether you’re interested or not, everyone will be watching what happens with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The expectation is the trade to the Jets will be finalized shortly, but with Rodgers, who really knows. What is known is that he’s joining pal Pat McAfee’s show this afternoon, so maybe this long, national nightmare will finally be coming to an end.
Among the deals reached overnight, the Titans came to terms on a three-year, $21 million pact with defensive lineman Arden Key. The Lions looked at him last year, even hosting him for a visit, before Jacksonville made a better one-year offer. Detroit ultimately landed Cominsky, off waivers, to fill the same role. Now, a year later, it appears everyone won with how things played out.
And in NFC North news, Minnesota has landed a new cornerback, reaching a two-year deal with former second-rounder Byron Murphy. That’s a good get for the Vikings after losing Patrick Peterson earlier in free agency.