As the NFL opened its business year Wednesday, veterans Trent Williams, A.J. Green and Emmanuel Sanders prospered.
Some teams officially announced deals that consistently leaked during the “legal tampering” period that began Monday, and others stayed pretty silent. That trio of players with a total of 31 pro seasons made out very well despite not getting big offers immediately.
The 49ers held onto the best tackle who could have become a free agent by giving Williams the richest contract ever for an offensive lineman. Williams is a particularly intriguing case. His agents at Elite Loyalty Sports said the deal agreed to early Wednesday will pay Williams $138.1 million over the next six years, surpassing the $138 million deal David Bakhtiari got from Green Bay a year ago. Williams also will get the biggest signing bonus ever for an offensive lineman at $30.1 million, as well as $55.1 million guaranteed.
Basically, he gambled on himself. Seeking to get out of Washington, where Williams believed the medical staff botched a cancer diagnosis, he sat out 2019. Midway through that season, he hoped to be traded before the deadline, which didn’t occur. Williams was banished from the Washington facility by former team president Bruce Allen.
He landed in San Francisco in a draft-day trade for a 2020 fifth-round pick and a 2021 third-rounder.
"Trent’s a game changer,” said fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who signed a five-year contract to stay in San Francisco earlier in the week. “He’s somebody that teams have to scheme around. They have to change what they’re doing because he’s out there, and he’s a guy that we can just completely count on and know that he’s going to get his job done and then some. You can’t pay too much for a guy like that. Those are guys that really make a difference and put you over the top and and put you into that championship calibre .”
Green joins the Cardinals and ends a decade in Cincinnati, though he has been plagued by injuries recently and sat out 2019. Arizona, which also acquired centre Rodney Hudson from the Raiders for a third-round draft pick, already has a No. 1 receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, and long-time star Larry Fitzgerald has not made a decision on returning for an 18th season. He got a one-year deal worth $8 million.
Sanders, joining his fourth franchise, didn't make out quite so well as he heads to Buffalo. But he gets to join All-Pro receiver Stefon Diggs catching balls from Josh Allen for a team on the rise that went to its first AFC title game since the 1993 season before losing at Kansas City. Sanders also played for Pittsburgh and Denver, where he won a Super Bowl, and spent last season with New Orleans. He'll get about $6 million for 2021.
— The Bills are adding receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who turned 34 Wednesday. He will join his fourth team in three years and gives a Buffalo a versatile presence to go with All-Pro receiver Stefon Diggs. Sanders has played for Pittsburgh, Denver and New Orleans, winning a Super Bowl with the Broncos.
— Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who likes speedy wideouts as much as he enjoys watching game film, added John Brown, recently cut by Buffalo. Brown could be a veteran deep threat in Las Vegas after Nelson Agholor left in free agency for New England. But Brown, who turns 31 in April, is coming off the second-least productive season of his career and was limited to nine games because of knee and ankle injuries.
The Raiders also are bringing back versatile offensive lineman Denzelle Good on a two-year contract and reserve receiver Zay Jones on a one-year deal.
— Detroit took away one of division-rival Green Bay’s offence pieces, giving a two-year contract to running back Jamaal Williams. Williams was a backup to Aaron Jones with the Packers, and figures to fill the same role in Detroit behind D'Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson. The Lions also arranged a trade with the Rams for steady defensive tackle Michael Brockers as they attempt to rebuild one of the NFL's worst units.
— The Falcons acquired tight end Lee Smith from the Bills for a seventh-round draft pick next year. Mostly a blocker, the 11-year veteran has played in 133 games, with 64 receptions for 458 yards and 10 touchdowns.
— Tackle Nate Solder renegotiated his contract with the New York Giants and will return after opting out of last season because of family concerns about COVID-19. Solder was to earn $9.9 million in the upcoming season under his old contract and will earn roughly $4 million instead.
The team also re-signed receiver C.J. Board, defensive tackle Austin Johnson and long snapper Casey Kreiter.
— Washington stayed busy by agreeing with cornerback William Jackson on a contract worth $42 million over three years with $26 million guaranteed. Placekicker Dustin Hopkins will return, as will running back Lamar Miller. Earlier this week, the team reached agreement with 16-year veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to join his ninth team and perhaps replace NFL Comeback Player of the Year Alex Smith, who was released.
AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow contributed.
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Barry Wilner, The Associated Press