Wide receivers grabbed the big money Tuesday, the first day of the NFL’s free agency period.
Vincent Jackson is headed to Tampa Bay, Pierre Garon to Washington and Marques Colston will stay in New Orleans, all getting huge deals. San Diego replaced Jackson by agreeing to terms with Colston’s former teammate, Robert Meachem, according to ESPN.
Miami dealt its top receiver, Brandon Marshall, to Chicago for two third-round draft choices, Josh Morgan caught a hefty contract from Washington, and Reggie Wayne agreed to remain with Indianapolis.
Several cornerbacks also found homes. St. Louis signed Cortland Finnegan, and San Francisco kept Carlos Rogers while adding Perrish Cox.
Three of the premier free agents at other positions – quarterback Peyton Manning, defensive end Mario Williams and guard Carl Nicks – were still available Tuesday night. Williams visited the Buffalo Bills but left without signing a contract.
Jackson got a five-year, $55.55 million contract with the Buccaneers. He will provide a deep threat for Josh Freeman, whose other receivers, Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn, are more short-range targets.
Garon gets $42.5 million over five years from the Redskins, with $20.5 million in guaranteed money, including an $11 million signing bonus. He had 70 receptions for 947 yards and six touchdowns for Indianapolis last season.
Washington, which is losing $36 million in salary cap space over the next two seasons for the way it structured contracts during the uncapped 2010 season, also grabbed Morgan for $12 million over the first two years of a five-year deal, with $7.5 million guaranteed. And the Redskins re-signed defensive end Adam Carriker, a Kennewick High graduate, for four years and $20 million, with $7 million guaranteed.
Hours before free agency began, Colston agreed to a five-year contract worth about $40 million to remain in the Big Easy.
Manning, who was released a week ago by the Colts, still is conducting his limited tour of teams. Wayne, his longtime teammate, had been rumored to be a possible target for whichever team Manning chooses, but he reportedly chose to remain with the Colts.
According to the Denver Post, separate sources said Manning would choose between two teams, with the Broncos being one of them. But the sources identified different teams as the other remaining suitor – one said Tennessee, and the other said Miami.
The Dolphins’ trade of their best receiver, however, could indicate that Miami is out of the running for the four-time league MVP.
“Brandon Marshall out of Miami?” Dolphins center Mike Pouncey tweeted. “Tell me this ain’t true...”
Chicago landed Marshall and later added Jason Campbell to be Jay Cutler’s backup quarterback. Marshall had 81 catches for 1,214 yards and six TDs for Miami last season, when he made the Pro Bowl for the third time.
Among the players re-signing with their teams were Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas, Eagles tackle Todd Herremans, Chargers center Nick Hardwick, Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas, Vikings backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels, Bears cornerback Tim Jennings, Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey, Falcons backup quarterback Chris Redman and receiver Harry Douglas, and 49ers linebacker Tavares Gooden, a valuable special teams player.
SALARY CAP CUTS
Players who were released Tuesday as teams created room under the $120.6 million salary cap included Rams cornerback Ron Bartell, Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman, Texans tackle Eric Winston and backup quarterback Matt Leinart, Cardinals tackle Levi Brown and San Diego tackle Marcus McNeill.
The NFL suspended Packers defensive end Mike Neal without pay for the team’s first four games of the 2012 regular season for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances. … The players’ union wants the NFL to delay announcing any punishment to the New Orleans Saints for their bounty program until it can conduct its own investigation. … Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis took a pay cut to remain with the team.