Bye, Big D: DeMarcus Ware released by Cowboys as free-agency period opens; o-linemen shuffle

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The biggest move at Tuesday's start of the NFL free-agency signing period was a departure: Franchise sack leader DeMarcus Ware was released by the Dallas Cowboys to create room under the salary cap.

With the cap rising $10 million to a record $133 million, a crop of players quickly found new homes as soon as the market official opened Tuesday afternoon — and offensive linemen were a popular commodity.

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, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team hadn't made an announcement.

Albert takes over the position played at the start of last season by Jonathan Martin, who left the Dolphins in October, leading to an NFL inquiry into bullying on the team.

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 Ram Rodger Saffold a five-year deal.

Two guards switched teams when the Atlanta Falcons agreed to terms with Jon Asamoah, who was with the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Washington Redskins struck a deal with Shawn Lauvao, who left the Cleveland Browns.

Also moving: kick returner and receiver Dexter McCluster, who agreed to terms with the Tennessee Titans, leaving the Chiefs; defensive end Arthur Jones, who joined the Indianapolis Colts from the Baltimore Ravens; defensive end Tyson Jackson and defensive tackle Paul Soliai, who both joined the Falcons; and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, who left the Houston Texans to go to the Dolphins.

Still, Ware's exit from Dallas was the most significant early development.

The 31-year-old Ware, who had 117 sacks and went to seven Pro Bowls while with the Cowboys, was set to count $16 million against the salary cap. By releasing him now, the Cowboys, who were right up against the cap, saved more than $7 million.

Ware had a career-low six sacks last season, his ninth in Dallas. He missed time with a thigh injury, then had offseason elbow surgery.

Others released included Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud, Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley and 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers.

Among players staying with their teams thanks to new deals reached Tuesday:

— PK Adam Vinatieri, the 41-year-old with four Super Bowl rings, agreed to a two-year contract with the Colts. Other PKs getting new contracts: Nick Folk (Jets), Phil Dawson (49ers), Dan Carpenter (Bills).

— RB Joique Bell is now signed with the Lions for $9.3 million over three years, with $4.3 million guaranteed.

— LB Perry Riley and the Redskins agreed to a deal worth about $13 million over three years, with about $4.25 million in guaranteed money. Washington also re-signed WR Santana Moss.

— DT Jonathan Babineaux got a three-year contract from the Falcons.

— TE Anthony McCoy got a one-year deal from the Super Bowl champion Seahawks after he missed all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon.


AP Sports Writers Bob Baum, Tim Booth, Schuyler Dixon, Josh Dubow, Larry Lage, Michael Marot, Janie McCauley, Teresa M. Walker, Dennis Waszak Jr., Joseph White and Steven Wine contributed to this report.


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