The Denver Broncos have agreed to a three-year deal with pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, less than 24 hours after he was released by the Dallas Cowboys in a move to clear salary-cap space.
With Broncos executive John Elway showing the same ability to close a deal that he did during his Hall of Fame career as a quarterback — and one he used two years ago to lure Peyton Manning to Denver — Ware left his first team visit of free agency with a deal worth $30 million, including $20 million guaranteed.
He’ll pair with linebacker Von Miller to give AFC champion Denver a pair of quarterback chasers. Elway has been busy upgrading the defense during the first two days of the NFL’s free agency period, adding cornerback Aqib Talib from the Patriots and safety T.J. Ward from Cleveland on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old Ware had 117 sacks and went to seven Pro Bowls in nine seasons with the Cowboys. He had a career-low six sacks last season, when he missed time with a thigh injury, then had offseason elbow surgery.
The Broncos have committed $110 million — $60 million guaranteed — for Ware, Ward, and Talib.
‘‘They’re trying to make a statement — a statement we’re a team to be reckoned with,’’ Ware said. ‘‘Their mentality is a ‘now’ mentality. Not looking forward to next season or the season after that. The time is now.”
‘‘I think you see with Seattle’s defense last year — definitely defense wins championships,’’ Ward said. ‘‘[Ware and Talib] are two great players. I’m eager to get to work with them.
“I don’t know them personally yet, but I know what they do on the field. Those are two players I admire. I think we’ll work well together.’’
Talib flew in from Dallas on the same flight as Ware, not even realizing it until halfway through the trip. He was ecstatic to hear later that Elway enticed Ware to join the Broncos.
‘‘Every year you just want to better your team,’’ Talib said. ‘‘Mr. Elway decided to better his team on defense this year, since the offense looks pretty good.’’
Ware said he has a good relationship with Miller and hopes to get the 2011 Rookie of the Year back on track by serving as a mentor.
‘‘Von is one of those incredible athletes,’’ Ware said. ‘‘If you can really home in on what you do best, and make yourself not think as much when you’re out there, he’ll be an even better athlete.’’
The Cowboys made another move to clear cap space Wednesday, releasing receiver Miles Austin, as expected, saving about $5.5 million. Austin’s release is effective June 1. They also signed free agent defensive linemen Terrell McClain and Jeremy Mincey.
As Day 2 of free agency began to unfold, Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith was waiting to find out whether he would be traded or released. Smith’s agent, Derrick Fox, told the Associated Press that the five-time Pro Bowl pick ‘‘is not going to play for the Panthers next year, I know that. I just don’t know when that transaction is going to take place.’’
Fox said he expected Smith to get cut, although Carolina was trying to trade him.
In other movement Wednesday, Brandon Weeden’s brief and forgettable run with the Browns came to an end. So did Jason Campbell’s, and his was even shorter.
Both quarterbacks were released, just minutes before the Browns were to introduce their new free agent signings at a news conference.
Weeden was let go less than two years after the Browns selected him in the first round of the NFL draft with the idea he would solve a position that has haunted the franchise ever since it returned via expansion in 1999.
Weeden never panned out, partly because the Browns went through a pair of coaching changes in his short time with the team.
Moments after the announcement on Weeden, the Browns cut ties with Campbell, who was due a $250,000 roster bonus Thursday.
Campbell went 1-7 in eight starts last season for the Browns, who signed the 32-year-old as a free agent last March. Campbell has also played for Chicago, Oakland, and Washington.
On Tuesday, the Browns agreed to terms with strong safety Donte Whitner and linebacker Karlos Dansby on multiyear deals. They also signed backup cornerback Isaiah Trufant.
■ The Ravens and wide receiver Jacoby Jones agreed on a four-year contract. The 29-year-old Jones was selected to the Pro Bowl as a return man in 2012 and started 12 games for Baltimore at wide receiver in 2013.
■ New Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey stepped to the microphone and apologized for his hoarse voice, explaining he wore it down in recent days trying to build a winner. Hickey then introduced a succession of big acquisitions in the first 24 hours of free agency: 316-pound left tackle Branden Albert, 300-pound defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, and 305-pound defensive tackle Randy Starks. All signed Wednesday.
■ Safety Antoine Bethea finalized a $23 million, four-year contract with the 49ers, becoming a key new presence in the secondary after Whitner’s departure to Cleveland.
■ The Lions acquired wide receiver Golden Tate, their top target in free agency. He got a five-year deal worth $31 million with $13.25 million guaranteed.
■ After watching a handful of players leave, the Seahawks made additions by agreeing to terms with former Jacksonville wide receiver Taylor Price and bringing back defensive tackle Tony McDaniel.
■ Placekicker Josh Brown and safety Stevie Brown re-signed with the Giants, who waived linebacker Marcus Dowtin. The Giants also agreed to terms to keep linebacker Jon Beason on the roster.
■ Rams guard Chris Williams signed a four-year contract with the Bills, while Bucs linebacker Dekoda Watson went to the Jaguars.
■ Yet another pass rusher became available when defensive end Chris Clemons was released by the Super Bowl champion Seahawks in a salary-cutting move. Clemons was due to make $7.5 million in base salary next season. He is the fourth member of Seattle’s defense to be released or sign with another club as a free agent.
■ Former Steelers tight end David Johnson signed a two-year contract with the Chargers.
■ Running back Pierre Thomas agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Saints.
■ The Steelers re-signed safety Will Allen, long snapper Greg Warren, and offensive lineman Cody Wallace.
■ The Chiefs signed linebacker Joe Mays and offensive lineman Joe Linkenbach while confirming the signing of defensive back and special teams standout Husain Abdullah.
■ The Eagles agreed to deals with two players expected to help on special teams, former Seahawks safety Chris Maragos and former Texans linebacker Bryan Braman.
■ The Bears agreed to a one-year contract with former Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings.