NFL free agency updates: Get the latest news on top players as league year officially begins

NFL free agency updates: Get the latest news on top players as league year officially begins

NFL free agency officially begins Wednesday, but many of the most marquee names expected to be available have already reached deals.

With the league opening its "legal tampering window" or negotiating period on Monday, free agents have been able to seek out deals from other teams and lock them in ahead of the official start of the new league year today. Most of the top players on the market have already agreed to terms, though there are several who entered Wednesday still unspoken for, including offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson, among others. 

Check back throughout the day Wednesday for all the notable updates on free agency:

Bengals make big move for Orlando Brown Jr. 

Despite winning Super Bowl 57 with him at the left tackle spot, the Chiefs elected to move on from Orlando Brown Jr. this offseason. He's now signing with the team K.C. beat in the conference championship game.

Brown and the Bengals have agreed to a four-year deal worth $64.092 million, a person with knowledge of the deal told USA TODAY Sports' Tyler Dragon. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal is not yet official. The 26-year-old is a four-time Pro Bowl selection who spent the past two seasons manning the blind side for Patrick Mahomes after he was traded to the Chiefs by the Ravens.

After beginning his career in Baltimore as a right tackle, Brown moved to the left side when the Ravens' Ronnie Stanley suffered a season-ending injury in 2020. Brown, the son of longtime NFL tackle Orlando Brown, made his preference to continue playing the left side clear and the Ravens moved him to Kansas City ahead of the 2021 draft. He played this past season, which culminated in a Super Bowl victory over the Eagles, on the franchise tag. After failing to reach a deal with the Chiefs – which he had indicated he expected to do in the aftermath of the Super Bowl – Brown is on the move.

He will presumably keep playing left tackle with the Bengals. Cincinnati made big moves to solidify its offensive line – including the signing of right tackle La'el Collins – following a poor showing in Super Bowl 56 against the Rams, but late-season injuries in 2022 hampered what had turned into a stout unit over the course of the season. Brown should bolster that group and his signing is an indication that the Bengals will once again be one of the top contenders in the AFC in 2023. 

– Jace Evans

Orlando Brown Jr. is joining the Cincinnati Bengals.
Orlando Brown Jr. is joining the Cincinnati Bengals.

Patriots bringing in RB James Robinson

New England and Robinson have agreed to a two-year deal worth up to $8 million, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports. Robinson rushed for 1,070 yards in his rookie year with Jacksonville in 2020, good for sixth in the NFL, but a late-season Achilles injury in 2021 coupled with the emergence of first-round pick Travis Etienne in 2022 led to his midseason trade to the Jets. He had just 85 yards in four games with New York and finished with 425 on the year. If he can find his pre-injury form, Robinson – seemingly set to replace Damien Harris – could be a good compliment to Patriots RB Rhamondre Stevenson.

– Jace Evans  

Alexander Mattison returns to Minnesota

The running back will be re-signing with the Vikings on a two-year deal that's worth up to $8 million, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports. Mattison has been the Vikings' second-leading rusher (behind starter Dalvin Cook) each of the past four seasons since he was drafted in the third round in 2019.

– Jace Evans

Panthers find their bell-cow back in Miles Sanders

The Carolina Panthers made a bold trade up to No. 1 to secure their quarterback of the future in the NFL draft. Now, the team appears to have found another new focal points for its backfield as well.

Running back Miles Sanders agreed to a four-year deal with the Panthers on Tuesday, per multiple reports.

Sanders, 25, is coming off a career season with the Philadelphia Eagles in which he rushed for 1,259 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns. But the Eagles opted Tuesday to strike a deal with former Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny.

Sanders' arrival likely spells the end of D'Onta Foreman's run in Carolina. Foreman, a free agent, took on a heavier load after the team traded Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers, rushing for 914 yards and five touchdowns on 203 carries.

– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

Saints bring aboard rushing touchdown leader Jamaal Williams

The New Orleans Saints are adding a punishing presence as support for Alvin Kamara.

Running back Jamaal Williams agreed to a three-year deal with the team, according to multiple reports.

Williams, 27, enjoyed a breakout season with the Detroit Lions last year, rushing for a career-high 1,066 yards and NFL-best 17 touchdowns. The Lions appeared to close the door on a potential return, however, by agreeing Tuesday to a three-year deal with former Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery.

In New Orleans, Williams likely will have a role as a goal-line and short-yardage back as he spells Kamara, the five-time Pro Bowl selection. He could also take on a more substantial role if Kamara faces a lengthy suspension after he was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly assaulting a man at a Las Vegas nightclub in February 2022.

– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

Browns find assistance in secondary with S Juan Thornhill

The Cleveland Browns are looking to the defending champions to help them rebuild their defense.

Former Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill agreed to a three-year, $21 million deal with the Browns, according to multiple reports.

Thornhill, 27, was a reliable contributor for the Chiefs for the last four years, starting 52 games during that span. He recorded 71 tackles, three interceptions and nine passes defensed last year, all career highs.

The Browns are retooling their defense under new coordinator Jim Schwartz. Earlier on Wednesday, the team made expected moves by releasing safety John Johnson III and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

Fletcher Cox's return gives Eagles much-needed help up front

The Philadelphia Eagles found a way to bring one of its longtime standouts back for another run.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is returning to the team on a one-year deal worth $10 million, per multiple reports.

Cox was set to hit the market alongside fellow defensive tackles Javon Hargrave (who signed with the San Francisco 49ers), Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh. But Philadelphia managed to bring back the six-time Pro Bowl selection for yet another campaign.

Cox, 32, was released by the team last March but later worked out a one-year deal to return.

He recorded seven sacks in 2022 for the eventual NFC champions, who tallied a league-best 70 sacks as a team.

– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

Dallas Cowboys restructure OT Tyron Smith's contract

On a day that the franchise said goodbye to one of its mainstays, the Dallas Cowboys kept another in the fold.

Offensive tackle Tyron Smith will remain with the organization after restructuring his contract, per multiple reports.

Smith, 32, was set to earn $13.6 million in 2023 before the maneuver, which will reduce his base salary but allow him to recoup the money depending on playing time, per multiple reports.

An eight-time Pro Bowl selection, Smith has long been a fixture up front for Dallas. In recent years, however, he has struggled to stay on the field due to injuries. He has played in just 17 games in the last three years, including two in 2022 before a torn hamstring and knee fracture sidelined him for the season.

– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

Commanders find veteran QB to add to mix

The Washington Commanders brought a veteran quarterback into the fold to serve as potential competition for Sam Howell.

Jacoby Brissett is expected to sign with the team, ESPN's Diana Russini reported.

Brissett, 30, started 11 games for the Cleveland Browns last season while Deshaun Watson was suspended. He completed 64% of his passes for 2,608 yards and 12 touchdowns with six interceptions.

In Washington, Brissett might reprise the role of veteran backup forced into action that he has played for much of his seven-year career.

Rivera has said that Howell, the second-year passer who started Week 18 in place of the since-released Carson Wentz, would enter the offseason program as the odds-on favorite to be the starter.

Washington was in the market for a backup after Taylor Heinicke decided Tuesday to join the Atlanta Falcons.

– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

Cowboys parting with two-time NFL rushing champ Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott’s time with the Dallas Cowboys has come to an end.

The Cowboys will release Elliott, who was the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NFL draft, to end his time with the franchise after seven seasons, according to multiple reports.

Elliott was set to count for $16.7 million against the Cowboys’ salary cap in 2023, according to Over The Cap, with his $10.9 million base salary not guaranteed. As a post-June 1 cut, his release will save the team his full salary against the cap.

Elliott had four years remaining but no guaranteed money left on a six-year, $90 million extension he signed with the Cowboys in September 2019.

The 27-year-old is coming off a season in which he rushed for a career-low 876 yards and 3.8 yards per carry. It was the first time in Elliott’s career he rushed for under 979 yards and averaged below 4 yards per carry.

Still, the Cowboys star made the most of his opportunities to score, rushing for 12 touchdowns, marking the fourth time in his career he produced double-digit touchdowns in a season.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Elliott had more than 1,300 yards rushing in three of his first four seasons, including leading the NFL with 1,631 yards as a rookie in 2016 and 1,434 yards in 2019.

– Safid Deen

JuJu Smith-Schuster helps Patriots fill receiver void

The New England Patriots are bringing in a notable name to help them boost their receiving corps.

JuJu Smith-Schuster agreed to a three-year, $33 million deal with the Patriots on Wednesday, according to multiple reports. He confirmed the news on Twitter.

"Excited for my next chapter in New England!" Smith-Schuster wrote. "I will give this organization everything I have, thank you for believing in me!"

Smith-Schuster, 26, had the most catches (78) and receiving yards (933) of any wide receiver on the Kansas City Chiefs last season. After helping the Chiefs win the Super Bowl, however, he's now on his way to help Bill Belichick and Co. rejuvenate a lackluster passing attack.

His addition helps fill the hole left by the departure of leading receiver Jakobi Meyers, who left to join the Las Vegas Raiders on a three-year, $33 million deal, per multiple reports. Meyers responded to the news of Smith-Schuster's deal by writing on Twitter, "Cold world lol."

Nelson Agholor, who had 31 catches for 362 yards in 2022, also is a free agent.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, are set for significant change at wide receiver for a second straight offseason. The team will return Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Kadarius Toney and 2022 second-round pick Skyy Moore are likely in line for larger roles. Justin Watson and Mecole Hardman, however, are both unsigned.

– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

Lavonte David back with Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will return another defensive starter who at one point seemed bound to be headed elsewhere.

Linebacker Lavonte David is re-signing with the team on a one-year deal, he told Josina Anderson.

David, 33, has been a defensive mainstay for Tampa Bay, serving as a starter for the last 11 years. But the cap-strapped Buccaneers appeared to be in the midst of a rebuild after Tom Brady's retirement, leading many to believe David would land elsewhere.

Instead, the veteran will return for at least 2023.

On Tuesday, the Buccaneers reached an agreement with cornerback Jamel Dean on a four-year, $52 million deal, according to reports.

– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

Jordan Poyer going back to Bills

The Buffalo Bills lost one notable starter from their defense, but another is making a surprising return.

Safety Jordan Poyer will re-up with the team on a two-year deal, the team announced.

Poyer, 31, had four interceptions and eight passes defensed last season. He sparked speculation that he would be leaving the team in free agency when he said he “would love to go to a state that doesn’t take half my money.”

On Monday, the Bills lost linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to the Chicago Bears on a four-year, $72 million deal.

– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

Baker Mayfield finds his landing spot with Buccaneers

After reviving his career with a late-season stint with the Rams, Baker Mayfield will have the chance to lead a new team.

Mayfield will sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a one-year deal worth up to $8.5 million, according to multiple reports. He'll have the chance to replace Tom Brady, who announced his retirement at the start of February, as the starting quarterback in Tampa. This now means that Mayfield, 27, will be joining his fourth team since the start of the 2021 season.

In five games with the Rams, four of which were starts, Mayfield completed 63.6% of his passes for 850 yards with four touchdowns against two interceptions.

Mayfield will presumably compete with Kyle Trask, the only other quarterback on the roster.

– Lorenzo Reyes

Eagles to part ways with Pro Bowl CB Darius Slay

The Super Bowl runners-up will be moving on from one of their starting cornerbacks of the last three seasons.

The Philadelphia Eagles are set to release starting cornerback Darius Slay, a five-time Pro Bowler who earned a first-team All-Pro selection in 2017 as a member of the Detroit Lions.

Slay, 32, had been given permission last week to talk to other teams about a potential trade out of Philadelphia, per multiple reports, but posted a message Wednesday to his verified Twitter account indicating that he would no longer be with the Eagles.

"Nothing but love Philly!!" Slay wrote Wednesday. "Lets see where we heading next."

Slay started all but one of the 48 regular-season games he appeared in as an Eagle, and recorded 166 tackles, 29 passes defended, seven interceptions, two fumble recoveries and three touchdowns. He earned Pro Bowl nominations in each of the last two seasons.

– Lorenzo Reyes

Saints fortify defensive front with Khalen Saunders

After taking care of their cap situation and in-house concerns, the New Orleans Saints made a move to add to their defensive line.

Defensive tackle Khalen Saunders is expected to sign with the team, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport.

Saunders, 26, had a career best 3½ sacks for the Kansas City Chiefs last season.

The Saints were due to make a move at defensive tackle after losing both of last year's starters to division rivals. Defensive tackle David Onyemata left for the Atlanta Falcons while Shy Tuttle joined the Carolina Panthers.

– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

Hayden Hurst heads to Panthers

Another former Cincinnati Bengals player is on his way to join the Carolina Panthers.

Tight end Hayden Hurst agreed to a three-year deal with the Panthers, according to multiple outlets.

Hurst, who turns 30 in August, recorded 52 catches for 414 yards and two touchdowns last season, his lone year with the Bengals. In Carolina, he should be poised to start, though the team returns Ian Thomas and 2021 third-rounder Tommy Tremble.

Hurst follows former Bengals safety Vonn Bell to Carolina. Former Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton also is poised to join the team as a backup.

– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL free agency news, rumors: Latest buzz on contracts for top players