Free agency can get off to a very hot start on Tuesday and Wednesday, but there is still plenty of news going around by Thursday and Friday. Especially when marquee players are released or ask to be released from their current teams. That was the case for one of the last players remaining from the 2004 champion New England Patriots and his desire to walk if the team doesn't want to pay him what he's owed.
Several more veterans hit the open market on Thursday, and teams are still scheduling visits and meeting with players to see if they can help them be Super Bowl contenders in 2014.
Here's a compilation of free agency news from Thursday in the NFL:
Vince Wilfork asks for release from Patriots
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork missed all but four games last season, but reportedly has no intentions to renegotiate his contract for next season. Wilfork has asked the Patriots to release him after 10 seasons, according to Ian Rapaport.
New England will save $8 million against the cap next year by releasing Wilfork, though they will be losing one of the best defensive lineman in the NFL if they do so. Wilfork made the Pro Bowl in four straight seasons from 2009-12 and was a first-team All-Pro in 2012. He tore his Achilles tendon in the fourth game of the season last year and was placed on injured reserve.
The Patriots just signed Darrelle Revis to a contract that will pay him $12 million next season and are coming close to next years salary cap of $133 million.
SB Nation Pats Pulpit is hopeful that Wilfork can find a way to return to the team in 2014.
Justin Tuck signs with Raiders
The Oakland Raiders have a ton of cap space and room to spend money this offseason, but have been unable to attract many marquee free agents. They made at least one significant move on Thursday however, signing defensive end Justin Tuck to a two-year, $11 million contract per Adam Schefter.
Tuck has spent his entire nine-year career with the New York Giants and quietly had 11 sacks last season as New York struggled to open the season and fell out of playoff contention. It was the fourth season of his career with double-digit sacks and the soon-to-be-31-year-old Tuck has 60 sacks overall in his career.
Andrew Hawkins signs offer sheet from Browns
NFL Free Agency
NFL Free Agency
Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins isn't a household name but he probably opened a few eyes on Thursday when he signed an offer sheet with the Cleveland Browns that will pay him $13.6 million over four years, including more than $10 million in the first two seasons. It's a lot of money for a player that has 86 catches for 995 yards over his first three seasons in the NFL, and is coming off of a high ankle sprain that cost him half of 2013.
The Browns seem desperate to find a complement to Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, frontloading the deal in a way that could make it difficult for the Bengals to match. It was reported Wednesday that Cincinnati was going to match the offer sheet, but Albert Breer reported on Thursday that the Bengals had rethought the terms and were unlikely to match.
Hawkins, a 5'7 player out of Toledo that was undrafted in 2008 and spent his first two professional seasons in the CFL, had 12 catches for 199 yards last year. He had 51 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games the year before.
James Harrison released by Bengals
It was a short stay in Cincinnati for linebacker James Harrison, with the Bengals releasing him on Thursday to save $1.434 million against next season's salary cap. Harrison signed a two-year contract with Cincinnati last year after spending his first 10 seasons with the division-rival Steelers.
He had 30 tackles and two sacks in 2013, but Cincy Jungle noted on Thursday that his mentorship to Vontaze Burfict may have been his most important contribution to the team:
It's debatable on how much Harrison contributed on the field. Playing 409 snaps as a strong-side backer, Harrison posted two quarterback sacks and 30 tackles — lowest totals since 2006. He also accounted for 19 pressures. What's undisputed is the mentorship he provided for the young Vontaze Burfict, who became the first Bengals linebacker to reach the Pro Bowl since Jim LeClair in 1976.
Harrison turns 36 in May and his agent says he still intends to play next season.
Redskins sign Tracy Porter in continued efforts to improve secondary
Opposing teams had 29 touchdown passes and a passer rating of 96.1 against Washington last year, so the team has answered by signing cornerback Tracy Porter to a free agent contract on Thursday. Porter has signed one-year deals with the Broncos and Raiders in each of the last two years, and was a full-time starter for Oakland last year, making two interceptions and 13 pass deflections.
The Redskins re-signed cornerback DeAngelo Hall to a four-year, $17 million deal earlier in the offseason.
Porter was a second round pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2008 and stayed there for the first four seasons of his career. He is still just 27 years old.
Hogs Haven had more opinions about the Washington secondary earlier on Thursday, before the signing was announced.
Donald Penn released by Bucs, could draw interest from several teams
Veteran Donald Penn has been the starting left tackle for the Buccaneers since 2007, surviving three head coaches and making the Pro Bowl in 2010, but he won't be playing for Lovie Smith this year. The Bucs released Penn on Thursday and Adam Schefter thinks he should draw interest from teams like the Raiders and Redskins.
Penn rose up from the ranks of an undrafted free agent in 2006 out of Utah State to a player that made the NFL Top 100 in 2012.
Tampa Bay already saved $16 million against the cap next year by releasing Darrelle Revis on Wednesday, but letting go of Penn saves over $7 million more with less than $1 million of dead money left in 2014. The Buccaneers have been perhaps the most active team in free agency thus far and letting go of Penn could signal that they are not done making big changes yet.
Penn, a Pro Bowler in 2010, was not always the most consistent player, and had struggled previously against the run and on protecting his inside (though he had improved on both areas in 2013). He had also had weight issues in the past. Still, he was one of the league's best at shutting down the outside pass rush, and speaking as a lineman myself, I've never seen anyone who could counter and control spin moves as well as him. Of course, he also caught two touchdown passes during his time as a Buccaneer.
Finnegan to visit Miami
SB Nation NFL
SB Nation NFL
Former St. Louis Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan will take a visit with the Miami Dolphins on Friday, according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network. Finnegan was released by the Rams due to his sizable cap hit in 2014 and the significant issues he had in 2013. He didn't play up to par last season, and any time he did start to play well, injuries sidelined his progress.
It's likely he finds a team for next season, and the Dolphins definitely make sense. But he's not going to be making anything close to what he was going to make with the Rams. A return to St. Louis is also possible.
Cardinals visiting with Cromartie
The Arizona Cardinals will host cornerback Antonio Cromartie on Thursday, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Arizona has been in need of another cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson, and Cromartie is one of the best remaining on the market. He was released by the New York Jets due to a high cap hit, but they've been interested in bringing him back at a lower number. The Cardinals could definitely throw a wrench in those works.
Saints take a look at Browner
The New Orleans Saints aren't done with the secondary just yet. After signing Jairus Byrd to a huge contract, they're turning their attention to the cornerback position. The team is looking into cornerback Brandon Browner, according to Mike Triplett of ESPN.
Browner is also reportedly visiting with the New England Patriots and Washington Redskins. Browner is in an interesting situation since being reinstated by the NFL, because he could be facing another suspension to begin the 2014-15 season. It's unclear if he even knows how long said suspension will be, so his contract will certainly reflect that.
Tennessee signs Whitehurst
The Tennessee Titans have agreed to a two-year contract with quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. Whitehurst could be a valuable backup in Tennessee, given that Jake Locker has been dealing with injuries off and on in recent seasons. Locker seemed to be primed to break out last season, but injuries sidelined his progress and the Tennessee season. Whitehurst will reportedly make up to $8 million over those two years, but there's probably an escalator based on playing time.
Photo: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports
Clemens goes to San Diego
Former St. Louis Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens has signed with the San Diego Chargers, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Clemens showed his worth as a backup in St. Louis, taking over for Sam Bradford when injured. Clemens played well at times, and should be a good insurance policy in the event that Philip Rivers goes down with injury. He's coming to San Diego on a two-year contract.
Cardinals cut Moch, sign Ginn
The Arizona Cardinals released linebacker/defensive lineman Dontay Moch, and added wide receiver/kick returner Ted Ginn Jr, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Ginn flamed out as a first-round pick with the Miami Dolphins, but experienced a small revival of his career with the San Francisco 49ers. He was mostly used as a returner there, but finally emerged as a worthwhile receiver with the Carolina Panthers. It seems likely the Panthers want to use Ginn for depth as a returner or to potentially give Peterson a rest there at times, and also as a deep threat receiver.
Colts sign Phil Costa
The Indianapolis Colts have signed center Phil Costa, according to P. Schrager of FOX Sports. The Colts were one of the teams rumored to be interested in center Alex Mack, the top offensive lineman remaining on the open market. Unfortunately, Mack was placed under the transition tag, meaning any interested team would have to give up an awful lot to acquire him. Costa is a starting-caliber center who doesn't compare to Mack, but should be solid for Indianapolis.
Chandler re-signing with Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills re-signed tight end Schott Chandler on Thursday, as reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN. Chandler was considered one of the more desirable options at the position, but it was a weak market to begin with. He has solid potential as a receiver, but probably has the best chance to succeed in Buffalo.
Munnerlyn signing with Minnesota
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is signing a three-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Munnerlyn is coming off his best season yet, and at 25 years old, has a lot to offer if given the chance at a big starting role. He should get that in Minnesota, where they have a whole lot of issues on defense, particularly in the secondary. Chris Cook was a starter last season, but is a free agent as well and Munnerlyn would be an excellent replacement.
Hatcher to sign with Washington
Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher has canceled a visit with the Tennessee Titans and has agreed to sign with the Washington Redskins, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Dallas has been working hard to get Hatcher to re-sign with the team, but with limited cap room with which to work, it was almost inevitable that he'd sign elsewhere. Dallas only recently became cap compliant, but losing Hatcher definitely hurts. There are serious issues along that defensive line, and to see him go to an NFC East rival is a big blow.
Woodley signs with Oakland
The Oakland Raiders have now added outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley to the fold, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Shortly after signing defensive lineman Justin Tuck, the team agreed to terms with Woodley on a two-year, $12 million contract. Woodley was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers for cap reasons, and for the fact that Jason Worilds played well when Woodley was dealing with injuries last season. The combination of Woodley and Tuck should be explosive for the Raiders, who still have a ton of cap space to spend.
Smith to visit Baltimore
Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith is scheduled to visit the Baltimore Ravens on Friday, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Smith was released by the Panthers due to his $7 million cap hit and the fact that his place in the offense was diminishing in recent seasons. Smith still seems to have a lot to offer teams, and the Ravens could use a veteran receiver for Joe Flacco alongside Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.