Tuesday’s NFL: NFC North gets shakeup; Packers release Jordy Nelson
Adrian Peterson’s short stint in Arizona is over. Jordy Nelson long and productive stay in Green Bay has ended, too.
Meanwhile, Drew Brees is staying put in the Big Easy, Case Keenum is headed to the Rocky Mountains, and Kirk Cousins will make his first visit as a free agent to Minnesota. The Vikings long have been considered a natural landing spot for one of the most valuable quarterbacks available.
One day before the league’s new year begins, veteran running back Peterson was released by the Cardinals on Tuesday, and receiver Nelson — Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target — was let go by the Packers.
Seven-time All-Pro running back Peterson began last season with New Orleans but, after barely playing there, was dealt to the Cardinals. Peterson rushed for 134 yards in a win over Tampa Bay and 159 in a win over San Francisco. In six games, he gained 448 yards on 129 carries for Arizona before being sidelined with a neck injury.
Peterson, who turns 33 next week, ranks 12th in the NFL in career rushing with 12,276 yards.
Nelson had 550 receptions and 69 touchdown catches in 10 seasons in Green Bay. But his production declined last season with Rodgers sidelined much of the year by a collarbone injury. He missed the 2015 season with a major knee injury, and then was the 2016 comeback player of the year.
“We cannot thank Jordy enough for all that he has given the Green Bay Packers and our community for the past 10 years,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “He has been an exemplary professional and teammate and greatly contributed to our success.”
Brees has agreed to a two-year, $50 million extension with New Orleans, with $27 million guaranteed the first year, two people familiar with the contract told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the agreement has not been announced.
Brees is 39 and wants to finish his career in New Orleans, where he has played since 2006, won a Super Bowl and led what has been one of the most productive offenses in the NFL since he and coach Sean Payton arrived.
“I’ll be here as long as they’ll have me,” Brees said after last season ended.
In 2017, Brees completed an NFL-record 72 percent of his passes for 4,334 yards and 23 touchdowns against eight interceptions. He ranked fourth in the NFL in yards passing and the Saints ranked second in the NFL in total offense.
Keenum, a backup when the season began, guided Minnesota to the NFC North title and then into the conference championship game. He’ll cash in with the Broncos.
The 30-year-old Keenum is considered the second-best QB available in free agency after Cousins. He went 11-3 with 3,547 yards passing, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His last-second throw to Stefon Diggs stunned the Saints 29-24 in the playoffs.
Denver chose to bypass incumbents Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch and go for Keenum, who can’t sign until Wednesday.
Six years ago, GM John Elway landed Peyton Manning, the biggest free-agent prize in NFL history, following his release by the Colts and a series of neck fusion surgeries. Manning guided the Broncos to two Super Bowls and won the 2015 NFL championship. Now, Elway hopes another free agent will replicate Manning.
Cousins will visit with the Vikings on Wednesday, agent Mike McCartney said. ESPN reported that Cousins will sign with the Vikings, but McCartney said no decision has been made yet by his client.
The Jets and Cardinals also made sense as fits for the 29-year-old who played consecutive seasons for Washington on franchise tags. New York, however, re-signed last year’s starter, veteran Josh McCown, and Arizona made a deal with Minnesota’s Sam Bradford.
In other moves:
■Super Bowl champion Philadelphia lost two tight ends, cutting veteran Brent Celek, then saw Trey Burton agree to a four-year, $32 million contract with Chicago. Five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, most recently with the Lions, and linebacker Corey Nelson have agreed to one-year contracts with the Eagles.
The Bears also will be signing Jacksonville receiver Allen Robinson (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s) on Wednesday and kicker Cody Parkey.
■Tennessee agreed with New England cornerback and one-time Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler on a five-year deal worth more than $60 million. Agent Derek Simpson told The Associated Press that Butler will sign the deal including $30 million guaranteed once free agency begins. Butler spent the past four seasons with the New England Patriots and has eight career interceptions. He was benched for the Super Bowl.
The Titans also agreed to a four-year contract with free-agent running back Dion Lewis, a source told AP. The person said the deal for the former Patriots starter carries a maximum value of $23.4 million.
■Buffalo bolstered its interior defensive line, agreeing to a deal with Carolina tackle Star Lotulelei and re-signing Kyle Williams, who contemplated retirement.
■Kansas City will add wide receiver Sammy Watkins and middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens, filling two glaring needs.
The 24-year-old Watkins intends to sign a $48 million, three-year contract with $30 million in guarantees, while the 25-year-old Hitchens agreed to a five-year deal, two people familiar with their decisions told the AP. The Chiefs have needed to pair a playmaking wideout with Tyreek Hill. Watkins, the 2014 fourth overall pick of the Bills, spent last season with the Rams, where he caught 39 passes for 593 yards and eight touchdowns.
■Receiver Albert Wilson is closing in on a $24 million, three-year deal with the Dolphins. Miami traded top receiver Jarvis Landry to Cleveland and has a need. They also are near an agreement with Patriots receiver Danny Amendola.
The Dolphins also cut linebacker Lawrence Timmons after just one season with them. Timmons went AWOL on the eve of last year’s opener, was briefly suspended and played poorly when he returned. He signed a $12 million, two-year contract in 2017 after 10 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His departure clears $5.5 million in cap space for Miami.
■Jacksonville linebacker Paul Posluszny, 33, the second-leading tackler in franchise history, retired after 11 seasons. Posluszny started his career in Buffalo before playing the final seven years in Jacksonville. He led the Jaguars in tackles five times. His 973 stops trail only Daryl Smith (1,089) in Jacksonville’s record book.
The Jaguars are poised to sign All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell to a five-year, $66.5 million contract. Norwell’s deal will include $30 million guaranteed.
Receiver Marqise Lee has agreed to re-sign for a four-year deal worth $38 million.
■As they wait for Joe Thomas’ decision on whether he'll keep playing or retire, the Browns added some offensive line depth. The team reached agreement on Tuesday with former Pittsburgh tackle Chris Hubbard on a five-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations told AP.
■The Raiders have to a three-year contract with free-agent tight end Derek Carrier. Terms were not immediately available.
■The Giants have agreed to a contract with veteran running back Jonathan Stewart, who was released by the Panthers after 10 seasons. Terms were not immediately available.