The NFL’s annual spending spree is almost here.
Free agency is set to officially kick off Wednesday with the beginning of the new league year, but the tampering window – in which teams can make contact with players’ representatives – opens Monday at noon ET. The market could quickly take shape with players coming to unofficial agreements with their suitors. And if the past week of eye-opening trades was any indicator, a flurry of moves could be forthcoming sooner rather than later.
Check back with USA TODAY Spots often throughout Monday and the entire week for all the latest news and buzz on the free-agent market and what deals could be materializing:
NFL FREE AGENCY: 9 bold predictions as action is set to begin
BUYER BEWARE: 10 NFL free agents who could be vastly overpriced
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers cleared $19.1 million in salary cap Monday morning by releasing outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith and tackle Billy Turner.
NFL Network reported that the Packers were releasing Smith. The move reduces the Packers’ salary cap by $15.7 million.
According to another person familiar with the move, speaking to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because it was not yet officia, the Packers released Turner, which gained them $3.43 million in cap space. The release of the starting right tackle was a surprise given how versatile and steady he has been over the past three years.
The Packers cleared $27 million in cap space total and are now about $17 million over their adjusted cap of $215.4 million. They are expected to get a bulk of that from quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ new contract, which will reduce his $46.4 million cap number considerably.
With no surefire quarterback prospect available at the top of this year’s draft, the Detroit Lions are bringing back the duo that led them to a 3-13-1 record for 2022.
Tim Boyle agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $2.5 million before the free agent negotiating period opened Monday. The deal includes $1.75 million guaranteed.
Boyle made three starts in place of Jared Goff last season, completing 64.9% of his passes with three touchdowns and six interceptions. The Lions went 0-3 with Boyle at quarterback, but Boyle played progressively better in each start and said late in the season he hoped to stay in Detroit.
Amid the franchise’s continued rebuild, the Atlanta Falcons are keeping a key figure in the fold.
Left tackle Jake Matthews agreed to a three-year, $52.5 million extension Monday, according to multiple reports.
The mainstay of the Falcons’ offensive line, Matthews has not missed a start since his rookie season in 2014. His extension affords Atlanta some much-needed cap relief in the short term.
– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz
Free agency tends to produce some eye-popping deals … some of which becomes regrettable in short order.
The NFL’s franchise tags already thinned out the ranks of the available players. With several teams flush with cap space, we could see some surprising figures start to roll in soon.
Which players could get overpaid in the coming days? Check out our list of candidates.
– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Preston Smith is signing a contract extension.
The deal is for four years and $53.5 million in new money, a person with knowledge of the deal told USA TODAY Network. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose financial terms.
He can make $75 million total. By signing the deal, the Packers will save $8 million in salary-cap money. He’ll make $14 million in the first year and $27 million over two years. He gets a signing bonus of $12 million.
Smith, who has one year left on his contract, has a salary cap number of $19.73 million and the Packers needed to get it down significantly. Their choice was to restructure the deal, sign him to an extension or release him.
– Tom Silverstein, PackersNews
Before the deals start flying in, it’s time to make some bold predictions.
USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones takes a look ahead to the action and sees a few big developments brewing. Among them: The Los Angeles Chargers look to be big spenders, with New England Patriots star cornerback J.C. Jackson and former Seattle Seahawks great Bobby Wagner among their possible targets.
Check out the full story for the rundown of what could happen.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have their star quarterback back in the saddle. Now, it’s time to get their potential free agents back.
After Brady announced Sunday that he would reverse course on retirement and rejoin the Buccaneers for the 2022 NFL season, Tampa Bay turned its focus to a rash of free agents set to hit the open market.
One big piece is already in place, as Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen locked into a three-year deal Sunday night.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, cornerback Carlton Davis, safety Jordan Whitehead, offensive guard Alex Cappa, running back Leonard Fournette, outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston are among the starters who could head elsewhere if the cap-squeezed Buccaneers can not convince them to join Brady.
– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz
The Cardinals retained a big part of their offense on Sunday, announcing that they have agreed to terms ahead of this week’s free-agency signing period with tight end Zach Ertz on a three-year contract extension.
According to NFL Media, the deal is worth $31.65 million overall, including $17.5 million in guaranteed salary.
Ertz’s return could be just the start of a handful of potential moves by the Cardinals to re-sign some of their unrestricted free agents ready to hit the market on Wednesday when the NFL’s new league year begins.
Other top free agents the club might be close to bringing back include running backs James Conner and Chase Edmonds, backup quarterback Colt McCoy and possibly wide receiver Christian Kirk, although he likely will command a huge payday on the open market.
The Buffalo Bills and Isaiah McKenzie have agreed to terms on a two-year contract, keeping the wide receiver off the free agent market.
The deal is worth up to $8 million total, per multiple reports, quite an upgrade after he played the previous two seasons in Buffalo for about $2 million.
Bringing back McKenzie, who can play in the slot, might be an indication that the Bills will be moving on from the higher-priced Cole Beasley who would count $7.6 million on the salary cap in 2022.
McKenzie originally joined the Bills from Denver in 2018 and began to get meaningful playing time in 2019. That year he caught 27 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed 8 times for 49 yards, prompting the Bills to sign him for 2020.