The Denver Broncos locked up a shutdown cornerback, only his name wasn’t Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

The Broncos spent the first day of free agency bolstering their defensive backfield, agreeing to a four-year deal with Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward on Tuesday afternoon and then hours later reaching an agreement on a six-year contract with cornerback Aqib Talib.

Talib and Ward will play in a secondary that will be without Champ Bailey, who was released last week, and may be moving on from Rodgers-Cromartie, who entered free agency without a new deal from the Broncos.

The 28-year-old Talib had quite a season for New England last season, with 41 tackles and teams largely choosing to go the other way rather than pick on him.

Sound familiar? It was the same way for Bailey in his prime.

By agreeing to a deal, Talib seemed to show there’s no bad blood between him and the Broncos after he hurt his knee early in the AFC championship game against Denver when he was bumped by Wes Welker on a crossing route. The league’s officiating chief later ruled it a legal hit by Welker.


ESPN first announced the agreement with Talib, which is reportedly worth $57 million.

Talib will be reunited with cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who’s also a former Kansas Jayhawk. Harris played opposite of Rodgers-Cromartie last season before blowing out a knee against San Diego in the divisional round.

Harris later posted on his Twitter account: “I had to call my Fam Talib to see if it was real.”

Yep, it’s real.

The Broncos also brought in Ward, who had 129 tackles and two interceptions for Cleveland last year.

The Broncos are looking for some stability at a position that got juggled last year, with the loss of Rahim Moore and the inconsistent play of Duke Ihenacho. Veteran Mike Adams, also formerly of Cleveland, started the season as a reserve but ended up in the starting lineup.


“He’s a young, explosive strong safety who is going to bring a lot of energy and toughness to our secondary,” Broncos boss John Elway said of Ward. 

DOLPHINS-49ERS: Jonathan Martin, the offensive tackle who accused a Miami teammate of bullying, was traded to San Francisco and will be reunited with his college coach, Jim Harbaugh.

The Dolphins announced the move on the first day of NFL free agency. San Francisco then confirmed the trade, saying only that it would send an undisclosed draft choice to Miami and that Martin still must pass a physical to complete the deal.

Martin’s move cross country brings him back to the Bay Area to play again, and he has been at Stanford taking classes.

“This is great for him to get back on the field and he’s in Palo Alto right now. It couldn’t be much better,” his agent, Ken Zuckerman, said in a phone interview. “I just think everyone wanted this to happen. It’s a good day.”

An investigation for the NFL determined last month that Dolphins guard Richie Incognito and two other offensive linemen engaged in persistent harassment of Martin, another offensive lineman and an assistant trainer. 


FREE AGENCY: Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert and the Miami Dolphins agreed to a five-year contract worth more than $45 million, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

Left tackle Jared Veldheer and the Arizona Cardinals agreed to a five-year contract worth $35 million, with $17 million guaranteed. Veldheer left the Oakland Raiders, who replaced him by giving former Rams lineman Rodger Saffold a five-year deal.

Left tackle, Eugene Monroe, agreed to a five-year contract to stay with the Baltimore Ravens.

The Jaguars re-signed cornerback Will Blackmon to a two-year deal, traded quarterback Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco for a sixth-round draft pick, and scheduled a visit with free-agent linebacker Dekoda Watson. Gabbert was the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft.

Three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd of the Bills agreed to terms with the Saints on a six-year deal.

The Chicago Bears made a series of moves to try to improve their defense, agreeing to a five-year contract with former Raiders end Lamarr Houston, and a two-year contract with former Steelers and Giants safety Ryan Mundy, along with one-year deals with linebackers Jordan Senn and D.J. Williams.


The New York Giants started rebuilding their offensive line and found a little security at running back.

The Giants reached agreements with former Kansas City guard Geoff Schwartz and Oakland running back Rashad Jennings. Seattle Seahawks linebacker O’Brien Schofield also agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal.

A person close to the negotiations also said the Giants re-signed four players from last year’s team: place-kicker Josh Brown, cornerback Trumaine McBride, safety Stevie Brown and running back Peyton Hillis.

Cleveland didn’t waste any time shoving millions into two defensive holes.

The Browns agreed to terms with strong safety Donte Whitner, a Cleveland native, and reportedly struck a deal with inside linebacker Karlos Dansby.

Denver took another step in the renovation of its secondary by agreeing to a four-year deal with Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward, who played for Cleveland last year.


The Falcons began a major overhaul after a dismal season, signing three linemen, guard Jon Asamoah, defensive end Tyson Jackson and defensive tackle Paul Soliai and re-signing defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. 

RELEASED: Franchise sack leader DeMarcus Ware was released by Dallas to create room under the salary cap.

The Chicago Bears released eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers.

Others released: Bills quarterback Kevin Kolb (who failed a physical), Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley, 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers, Eagles safety Patrick Chung and Bengals center Kyle Cook.

RE-SIGNED: Among players staying with their teams:

RB Darren McFadden was given a $4 million, one-year contract by the Raiders.

KR-WR Brandon Tate re-signed with the Bengals.

PK Adam Vinatieri agreed to a two-year contract with the Colts. Other PKs getting new contracts: Nick Folk (Jets), Phil Dawson (49ers) and Dan Carpenter (Bills).

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