The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

March 12, 2014

Ware, Peppers released as NFL free agency opens

— A couple of accomplished NFL pass rushers suddenly became available when DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers were released to create room under the salary cap in two of the biggest moves at Tuesday's start of the free-agency signing period.

The Bears cut ties with Peppers, who has 118½ sacks in 12 seasons, as part of a series of moves aimed at improving their defense, including a five-year contract with former Raiders end Lamarr Houston.

The Cowboys let Ware and his 117 sacks go.

"A decision like this, involving a man who is a cornerstone player in the history of your franchise, is extremely difficult," Dallas owner Jerry Jones said. "We were also in very strong agreement that playing for the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be exploring."

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

About 5½ hours after free agency began, one of the top players available, three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd, agreed to terms with the Saints, part of a merry-go-round of moves at his position. Other safeties swapping clubs: Michael Jenkins, from Saints to Eagles; Donte Whitner from 49ers to Browns; Antoine Bethea from Colts to 49ers; T.J. Ward from Browns to Broncos; Mike Mitchell from Panthers to Steelers; Ryan Mundy from Giants to Bears.

In addition to jettisoning Peppers and adding Houston and Mundy, Chicago agreed to one-year deals with linebackers Jordan Senn and D.J. Williams.

Two of the most sought-after cornerbacks also were on the move. Alterraun Verner, who had five interceptions for Tennessee last season, agreed to a four-year contract with Tampa Bay and Aqib Talib left New England for a six-year deal with Denver.

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