While there were three running backs hitting paydirt, the New England Patriots continued to plug holes with NFL free agency in full swing.

DeMarco Murray, Justin Forsett and Ryan Mathews took their place at the head of the free agency class Thursday, the third day of the NFL’s business year. Two of them, 2014 Offensive Player of the Year Murray, the league’s leading rusher, and Mathews wound up in Philadelphia. Forsett is staying where he made his breakthrough last season, in Baltimore.

A day after New England cornerback Darrelle Revis left for the Jets, cornerback Brandon Browner went to New Orleans for a three-year deal worth about $18 million.

The Patriots picked up cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, a 2011 fourth-round draft pick by the Oakland Raiders, and added defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard and linebacker Jonathan Freeny.

Chekwa, 26, played in 10 games last season, starting two.

Sheard, 25, played four seasons with the Cleveland Browns after they picked him in the second round of the 2011 draft. Freeny, 25, was a rookie free agent who has played three seasons with the Miami Dolphins. He has played in 44 games with 15 tackles on defense and 22 special teams tackles.

But it was the running backs taking the stage for the big deals. Murray, 27, helped the Cowboys win the NFC East while rushing for a franchise-record 1,845 yards, breaking NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith’s team mark. He also set a league record with eight straight 100-yard games to start the season.

“We have great appreciation for his skills, and if there was no salary cap in place, DeMarco would be a Cowboy,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “This came down to an allocation of dollars within the management of the salary cap.”

He’ll combine with Mathews to replace two-time All-Pro LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s rushing leader in 2013 who was dealt to Buffalo by Coach Chip Kelly.

Kelly has been among the busiest barterers in rebuilding the Eagles, also dealing starting quarterback Nick Foles to St. Louis for quarterback Sam Bradford; getting linebacker Kiko Alonso from Buffalo for McCoy; signing cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond III; and releasing offensive lineman Todd Herremans, cornerback Cary Williams, linebacker Trent Cole and tight end James Casey.

Mathews, 27, leaves San Diego after an injury-plagued five seasons. A first-round draft pick in 2010, he played in all 16 regular-season games only in 2013, his best season with 1,255 yards rushing and seven total touchdowns.

Forsett, 29, agreed to a three-year contract with the Ravens. He comes off the finest season of his seven-year career, replacing Ray Rice, and rushing for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns.

“Sometimes you have fortunate signings in this business and Justin was one of those,” Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. “We were fortunate because he became such a vital part of our on-field success and quickly became a steadying influence in the locker room at an uneasy time for us. He gave us more than we anticipated. From what we expected, he gave us unprecedented production.”

The New York Jets also brought back another previous fixture in its secondary, Antonio Cromartie, to team with Revis on the corners. Cromartie, 30, gets a four-year contract worth $32 million in base salary. Revis came back on a five-year, $70 million contract.

The Jets also re-signed guard Willie Colon to a one-year deal, and brought back long snapper Tanner Purdum on a two-year contract.

Another defensive back on the move is safety Nate Allen, from Philadelphia to Oakland on a four-year contract. The Raiders have won just 11 games the past three seasons and have gone 11 straight years without a playoff berth or winning record.

“It’s a great thing and like I’ve been saying, we’re planning on winning now,” the optimistic Allen said.

“We’re not trying to rebuild and try to do this or do that, we’re trying to make something happen now, this year.”

Kansas City released unproductive receiver Dwayne Bowe and saved $14 million against the salary cap.

“This was a tough decision to make,” said John Dorsey, whose signing of Bowe to a $56 million, five-year deal was one of his first major moves as general manager. “Dwayne is a team-first guy and he holds a number of team receiving records.”

On Wednesday, the Chiefs wrapped up a $55 million, five-year deal with Jeremy Maclin, who was drafted by Chiefs Coach Andy Reid in Philadelphia.

Another receiver took a hit when Stevie Johnson was released by the 49ers.

Also Thursday:

 Three quarterbacks got contracts. Tyrod Taylor moved from Baltimore to Buffalo for a two-year deal; Blaine Gabbert re-upped with San Francisco for two seasons; and Thad Lewis took a one-year contract to return to Cleveland.

 Houston signed safety Rahim Moore, who started all 16 games in 2014 for the Broncos, setting a career high with four interceptions.

 Tampa Bay continued to boost its defense by adding tackle Henry Melton and safety Chris Conte. Both played for Bucs Coach Lovie Smith in Chicago.

 Atlanta also went the defense route, signing end Adrian Clayborn, cornerback Phillip Adams and linebacker O’Brien Schofield.

 Jacksonville released defensive end Red Bryant, who was due a $500,000 roster bonus Sunday. Bryant would have counted $4.5 million against a salary cap.

 Trent Richardson’s time with the Colts ended after two disappointing seasons.

The former top-five draft pick acquired in a trade with Cleveland that cost Indianapolis a first-round pick in 2013 was waived Thursday after playing just one snap in three playoff games last season.

Richardson rushed for 977 yards and six touchdowns in two seasons, and had just 1 yard on four carries in three playoff games over those two years.

BUFFALO DEFENSIVE tackle Marcell Dareus failed in his latest bid to reach a plea agreement to resolve criminal charges and avoid trial for an alleged car-racing accident.

Dareus’ lawyer, Michael Caffery, said he and the Erie County District Attorney’s office are still “trying to work it out.”

Dareus rejected a previous offer to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving.

A federal jury on Thursday ordered the NFL to pay nearly $76,000 to fans affected by the 2011 Super Bowl seating mess in Texas, wrapping up a trial that included testimony from Commissioner Roger Goodell and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

The eight-member jury in Dallas concluded that the NFL breached its contracts with seven holders of tickets to the game at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium in Arlington. However, the jury concluded the league did not defraud the fans.

The NFL must pay the money to the seven fans. Five said they ended up with no seats and two said they had obstructed views at the $1.2 billion stadium for the game in which Green Bay won the championship over Pittsburgh. The jury ordered compensation ranging from $5,670 to $22,000.

About 1,250 temporary seats were deemed unsafe hours before kickoff. That forced about 850 ticket holders to move to new seats and 400 others to standing-room areas. The NFL has said it fully compensated displaced fans.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Avenatti asked U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn to withhold her final judgment until he can take a sworn statement from Scott Suprina, the contractor hired to install the 1,200 temporary seats. Lynn said she would alert Avenatti in advance of any judgment finalizing the jury verdict.