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Osweiler Leaves Denver, Forte Joins Jets As Free Agency Begins

Associated Press
No player has gained more all-purpose yards than Matt Forte's 12,718 since 2008.

Brock Osweiler left Denver. Doug Martin remained in Tampa.

Alex Mack left Cleveland and DeMarco Murray was traded to Tennessee. Mike Tolbert remained in Carolina. Matt Forte came to the Jets.

In a flurry of shuffling and staying put, NFL free agency began Wednesday.

With Peyton Manning retired, Osweiler, his supposed successor, headed to Houston. Broncos defensive end Malik Jackson went to Jacksonville, and linebacker Danny Trevathan is now in Chicago. Denver clearly has been weakened.

At least Super Bowl MVP Von Miller has been franchise tagged.

"We've stayed true to our philosophy of building a team of players who want to be Denver Broncos and want to be here. That's been a successful approach for us," general manager John Elway said.

Osweiler appeared in eight games with seven starts last season for the Broncos. He started the last seven games of the regular season, but was benched in favor of Manning for the postseason.

But the 6-foot-7, 240-pound quarterback showed enough in that short stint after spending his first three pro seasons on the bench behind Manning that the Texans went all-in.

A little closer to home, the Jets found a replacement for Chris Ivory, the AFC's leading rusher who will join the Jaguars, in the Bears' Forte, who agreed to a contract with New York. Forte, 30, has said he wants to play for a contender, and the Jets just missed the playoffs last year.

No player has gained more all-purpose yards than Forte's 12,718 since 2008. He missed three games in 2015 with an MCL sprain, but still rushed for a team-high 898 yards while catching 44 passes for 398 yards.

The New England Patriots signed linebacker Ramon Humber and released linebacker Dane Fletcher on Wednesday. Humber, 28, has played seven NFL seasons with Indianapolis and New Orleans, playing mostly as a backup and on special teams. In 2015, Humber had 47 tackles and one sack in 14 games. Fletcher, 29, spent last season on the reserve-physically unable to perform list.

Carolina, which fell 24-10 to Denver in the Super Bowl, retained Tolbert, an All-Pro fullback, and re-signed defensive end Charles Johnson to a lower salary Wednesday.

All-Pro running back Martin re-signed with the Buccaneers for five years. Center Mack chose Atlanta over Cleveland in other major moves.

Murray, the 2014 Offensive Player of the Year with Dallas, spent a fruitless season in Philadelphia and was traded Wednesday to the Titans. The teams swapped fourth-rounders, but the Eagles cleared Murray's hefty contract from the books.

Johnson, cut last week, received a one-year contract worth $3 million to return to the NFC champions, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. He said Johnson turned down an offer in excess of $6 million from another team.

Johnson, 29, would have cost the Panthers $15 million in 2016 under the cap before he was cut. He has played nine seasons with Carolina and his 63 1/2 sacks are second most in franchise history, behind Julius Peppers' 81.

Tolbert also said he accepted fewer bucks to return to Carolina.

The top player at his position on the market, Martin will get more than $35 million, with $15 million guaranteed, from the Buccaneers. Martin, 27, has had two outstanding seasons with the Buccaneers and two injury-filled years. In 2015, he rushed for 1,402 yards, second in the NFL, and six touchdowns. His 4.87-yard average was the highest in team history.

Indianapolis released veteran receiver Andre Johnson.

Johnson was a mainstay in Houston for 12 years, making two All-Pro teams. But he was a disappointment with the Colts in his only season in Indy with 41 catches for 503 yards and four touchdowns. He caught 1,053 passes for 14,100 yards and 68 touchdowns, often as the only true receiving option for the Texans.

Mack, 30, opted out of his deal with the Browns and gets five years from the Falcons, who have had instability at center since longtime starter Todd McClure retired following the 2012 season.

"Competition is the central theme of the program and the way he plays, man, does he represent that," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.

Headed to Miami was DE Mario Williams, who signed for $17 million over two years. The 2006 No. 1 overall pick struggled last season in Rex Ryan's defense with the Bills, and even criticized how he was used.

The Dolphins released cornerback Brent Grimes and finalized a trade to acquire cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso from the Eagles. Philly sends the 13th overall choice in April's draft and gets the eighth overall selection.

Also:

—The Arizona Cardinals have reached agreement on a two-year contract with free agent safety and UConn product Tyvon Branch, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who said the contract is worth up to $10 million with an $8 million base salary and $5 million guaranteed. The 6-foot, 210-pound Branch played last year for the Kansas City Chiefs after seven seasons with the Oakland Raiders. He played in all 16 games for the Chiefs with 43 tackles, 35 solo.

—Star tight end Antonio Gates is remaining in San Diego with a two-year deal that will allow him to retire as a Charger. He'll get $12 million, with $6 million guaranteed, to keep his terrific combination with quarterback Philip Rivers going. The 2016 season will be Gates' 14th with the Chargers. He turns 36 on June 18. San Diego also agreed to terms with Seattle DT Brandon Mebane, S Dwight Lowery and WR-KR Travis Benjamin.

—Linebacker Rolando McClain is returning for a third season in Dallas. The 26-year-old McClain got one year at $5 million. He also has been with Oakland and Baltimore.

—Tight end Benjamin Watson, coming off a productive season in New Orleans, joined Baltimore.

—Jacksonville agreed to terms with Cleveland safety Tashaun Gipson and Ivory.

An NFL.com report is included.

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