Both owners of Super Bowl rings, Kurt Warner and Ray Lewis are staying put in the belief they can add another NFL title to their resumes.
One month after Warner nearly led the Cardinals to a comeback win over the Steelers in the Super Bowl, he decided to remain with Arizona. The 37-year-old quarterback agreed to terms Wednesday on a two-year, $23 million contract with the Cardinals, including a $15 million signing bonus and a $4 million salary for the first year: $19 million guaranteed.
"I love what we've been doing," the two-time league MVP and Super Bowl winner in 2000 with the Rams said. "I love what we've been building here."
Lewis, the face of the ferocious defense in Baltimore since 1996, when he was a first-round draft pick, sticks with the Ravens for three years and nearly $22 million. At 33, Lewis comes off one of his best seasons, which is saying a lot considering he is a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2000 and 2003). Baltimore lost to Pittsburgh in the AFC title game in January.
"From beginning to end as a Raven. ... Wow!" To be with the same team with the same fans for an entire career, that doesn't happen in the NFL," said Lewis, who won a championship with the Ravens in 2000. "I don't think an athlete can have a greater legacy than to be able to stay in one place for an entire career."
Re-signing 10-time Pro Bowler Lewis was a key for Baltimore after it lost linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard to the Jets in free agency. They went to New York to join former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, now head coach of the Jets.
The Ravens also added veteran center Matt Birk to replace Jason Brown, who left for St. Louis. Birk has been with Minnesota since 1998 and made six Pro Bowls for the Vikings.
"To add a player like Matt, who will also give us outstanding leadership, makes us a better team," coach John Harbaugh said. "We're not standing pat. We're moving forward and getting better."
If the Cardinals get just a little better, they will be NFL champions. So keeping Warner was a must after he had a superb postseason in guiding the franchise to its first title game appearance since 1948.
"We're ecstatic about the commitment the organization has made to us," Warner said. "Now it's my job for the next two years to go fulfill my part of the deal."
Warner briefly considered retirement, but once he decided to keep playing, he visited with the 49ers after he felt Arizona's offer was too low. Following the trip to San Francisco, his agent submitted a counteroffer to the Cardinals, and a deal was concluded Wednesday.
"You know the numbers are staggering, and to add to that the economy and where people are struggling, it's tough," Warner said. "But all I know is I've worked hard to get to the point that I'm at, to be in this position and have opportunities like this and I don't regret that fact."
Also in free agency:
_Laveranues Coles agreed to a four-year contract with Cincinnati as a replacement for T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who signed with Seattle earlier this week. Coles, 31, was released by the Jets last week.
"The Bengals were very aggressive right from the start in talking to us," Coles said. "And when a team makes you feel really wanted, that's a factor you're not going to ignore. They said, 'Let's get this worked out,' and we did."
Although he is injury-prone, Coles also is one of the NFL's most rugged and fearless receivers, making him a good fit in place of Houshmandzadeh. Coles caught 70 passes for 850 yards last season and led the Jets with seven touchdown catches in 2008.
Running back Cedric Benson signed the two-year deal with Cincinnati he agreed to the previous day.
_The Saints were busy, keeping one of their own, receiver Devery Henderson, and grabbing former Buffalo cornerback Jabari Greer. Both signed four-year deals.
Henderson generally has been a backup in New Orleans, but the Saints use lots of multi-receiver sets. He has been a deep threat, averaging more than 23 yards per catch in the past three seasons. In 2008, he set a career high with 793 yards on 32 catches, leading the NFL with an average of 24.8 yards and scoring three touchdowns.
The 27-year-old Greer played five years with the Bills, starting 23 games over the past two seasons, but comes off a right knee injury that cost him six games in 2008.
_St. Louis re-signed Ron Bartell to a four-year contract, with $13.6 million guaranteed. Bartell started 14 games last season, had three interceptions and proved he could be a solid cover cornerback. He considered an offer from the Saints before remaining with the Rams.
"We've struggled a lot in the past," he said of a team that went 2-14 last season and hired Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as its new coach. "But I have a really good feeling that things are about to turn around with the staff that we have and with the management that they've brought in and some of the guys that we're bringing in."
_Running back LaMont Jordan became the latest former Patriot to sign with Denver and new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, the former offensive coordinator in New England. McDaniels also has lured long-snapper Lonie Paxton and wide receiver Jabar Gaffney from New England to Denver, and tried to get quarterback Matt Cassel before he was traded to Kansas City.
_The Lions signed massive defensive tackle Grady Jackson to a three-year contract. The 6-foot-2, 345-pound Jackson played most of the past three seasons with the Falcons, starting 15 games last season, with 23 tackles (21 solo) and two sacks.
_Linebacker Takeo Spikes re-signed with the 49ers for two years and $6 million, who also signed veteran quarterback Damon Huard shortly after being spurned by Warner.
Spikes played well for San Francisco last season, finishing second with 96 tackles and making three interceptions.
Huard, 35, was released by Kansas City, where he was an infrequent starter. He also has backed up Dan Marino and Tom Brady and doesn't figure to challenge Shaun Hill for the No. 1 job in San Francisco.
_Kicker Mike Nugent left the Jets for Tampa Bay, and the Jets replaced him with the guy who, well, replaced Nugent for all but one game in 2008: Jay Feely. Nugent injured his right thigh in the season opener, but the Bucs signed him to a one-year deal to compete with incumbent Matt Bryant.
Feely has an 81.4 career field-goal percentage and went 24-of-28 on field-goal attempts for New York. Feely also received a one-year contract.
_Houston matched an offer from Denver to restricted free agent wide receiver David Anderson, who had 19 catches for 241 yards and two touchdowns last season.
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