Bears sign Peppers; Rolle becomes richest safety

Published March 05, 2010

| AP

NEW YORK (AP) — Julius Peppers found a new home and a big payday as the NFL's free agency period opened with a few teams doling out some serious dough.

The Chicago Bears were the biggest spenders Friday, agreeing with Peppers on a six-year deal worth potentially $91.5 million. Agent Carl Carey said a record $42 million is guaranteed, with Peppers earning $20 million in the first year.

"It's one thing to play football in this league and make a living," Pepper said, "but it's a totally different thing to come to a place with a rich tradition like the Bears."

The five-time Pro Bowl defensive end joined Chicago in the biggest move by a team that showed it's fixated on contending again after missing the playoffs the past three seasons.

The Bears also added running back Chester Taylor from Minnesota and blocking tight end Brandon Manumaleuna from San Diego.

"You always shoot for the stars, and hopefully if you don't get there you're going to wind up high anyhow," general manager Jerry Angelo said.

The New York Giants also got in on the action, making Pro Bowler Antrel Rolle the richest safety in the league in the waning hours of the opening day of the first offseason without a salary cap since 1993.

Rolle signed a five-year, $37 million contract that has $15 million in guaranteed money.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus tweeted the announcement late Friday, offering his personal congratulations to Rolle on becoming "the highest paid safety in NFL history!" The Giants formally announced the deal around 11:30 p.m.

"I'm ecstatic," the 27-year-old Rolle said. "Words can't really express how I feel now. I had five great years with the Cardinals organization. But I felt it was time for a change."

Miami and Atlanta were also active, with the Dolphins agreeing to terms with Rolle's former Arizona teammate, linebacker Karlos Dansby, and the Falcons and cornerback Dunta Robinson also coming to terms.

Dansby agreed to a $43 million, five-year deal, a person familiar with the negotiations said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Dolphins didn't announce an agreement. The contract includes $22 million guaranteed and will pay Dansby $27 million over the next three years.

The deal was part of a big one-day shake-up in the Dolphins' defense. Miami terminated the contracts of disgruntled outside linebacker Joey Porter, inside linebacker Akin Ayodele and free safety Gibril Wilson.

Robinson and the Falcons agreed to terms on a six-year deal, a person familiar with the negotiations said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no contract had been signed. Financial terms of the agreement were not immediately available.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, a former All-Pro who struggled in coverage last season for San Diego, was traded to the New York Jets. Receiver Anquan Boldin was traded from the Arizona Cardinals to the Baltimore Ravens.

The Cleveland Browns restructured the final three years of the six-year deal Pro Bowl return specialist Josh Cribbs signed in 2006.

In other moves Friday, linebacker Gary Brackett, the leader of the Indianapolis defense, re-signed with the Colts; All-Pro fullback Leonard Weaver re-signed with Philadelphia for three years; Oakland re-signed free agent offensive lineman Khalif Barnes to a one-year contract; and Detroit, coming off two wins in the past two seasons, upgraded its defense by trading with Cleveland for tackle Corey Williams and agreeing to a four-year deal with end Kyle Vanden Bosch.

Carolina waived longtime starting quarterback Jake Delhomme — in teary fashion.

A year after the Panthers gave Delhomme a lucrative contract extension, the only quarterback to lead them to the Super Bowl was released to make way for new starter Matt Moore. A career-high 18 interceptions in 2009 and 23 in his final 12 games did in Delhomme.

Cromartie should become a starter opposite All-Pro Darrelle Revis in the Jets' secondary. New York gave up a conditional draft pick for a former All-Pro who has had off-field issues.

"I think this is going to work out for me and the Jets organization," Cromartie said. "I'm not going to let them down in any way."

The Cardinals received a third- and fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft for the 29-year-old Boldin. He caught 84 passes for 1,024 yards and two touchdowns last season and gives quarterback Joe Flacco a much-needed deep threat.

Boldin received a new four-year, $28 million deal with Baltimore in which $10 million is guaranteed.

Cribbs has a new three-year contract after two seasons of threats, broken promises and back-and-forth negotiations. The agreement includes $7.5 million in guaranteed money. Cribbs is the NFL's career leader with eight kickoff returns for touchdowns.

"It's been a long road," Cribbs said. "It worked out. We reached a good compromise. I'm happy to wear this uniform proudly, as I've been saying the whole time."

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AP Football Writer Barry Wilner and AP Sports Writers Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J., Rachel Cohen in New York and Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.

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