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Carolina Panthers deal QB Teddy Bridgewater to the Denver Broncos

After acquiring Sam Darnold (not picture) from the Jets, the Carolina Panthers dealt quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (above) to the Denver Broncos on Wednesday.
After acquiring Sam Darnold (not picture) from the Jets, the Carolina Panthers dealt quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (above) to the Denver Broncos on Wednesday.Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

The leaguewide quarterback reshuffling continued on the eve of the NFL draft, as the Denver Broncos on Wednesday traded a sixth-round pick this weekend to the Carolina Panthers for Teddy Bridgewater.

The deal means that the Broncos have Bridgewater and Drew Lock as starting options as they decide what to do with the ninth overall selection in Thursday night’s opening round of the draft. According to a person familiar with the situation, the Broncos intend for Bridgewater to compete for the starting job but remain open to the possibility of using the No. 9 choice on a quarterback.

Bridgewater agreed to a restructured contract as part of the trade. The Panthers will pay him about $7 million of the $10 million guaranteed him for 2021 under his previous contract. The Broncos will pay the remaining $3 million of that guaranteed money, according to a person familiar with the matter, plus a $1.5 million salary for the 2021 season under the reworked deal.

“Acquiring Teddy Bridgewater adds competition, experience and a strong veteran presence to our quarterback room,” Broncos general manager George Paton said in a written statement released by the team. “He’s a talented player and leader who’s had success in this league in a number of different situations. Being familiar with Teddy from Minnesota, he’s going to compete and do everything he can to help us win.”

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The Panthers, who have the No. 8 overall pick Thursday, previously traded for New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold to supplant Bridgewater as their presumptive starter. They’d signed Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million contract last year in free agency to replace Cam Newton.

Bridgewater wasn’t the answer in Carolina, as he threw 11 interceptions to go with his 15 touchdown passes and the Panthers went 5-11 in Coach Matt Rhule’s first NFL season. Bridgewater has thrown for 11,385 yards and 53 touchdowns in six NFL seasons for the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and Panthers. He was a Pro Bowl selection as a second-year pro for the Vikings in 2015 but missed the 2016 season while recovering from a horrific knee injury suffered on the practice field.

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Bridgewater joins Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Darnold among the prominent NFL quarterbacks to have been traded this offseason.

There also has been trade speculation about the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson and the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson. But the Texans have not accommodated Watson’s trade request and he faces accusations of sexual misconduct made by women in civil lawsuits. The Seahawks have given no indication that they will move Wilson.

WR Antonio Brown agrees to re-sign with Buccaneers

Wide receiver Antonio Brown agreed to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a one-year contract that could be worth up to $6.5 million, including incentives, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity Wednesday because the agreement, which includes a $2 million signing bonus and a little more than $3 million guaranteed, had not been announced by the reigning Super Bowl champions.

The agreement with Brown comes after the receiver, who joined the Bucs midway through last season after serving an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, settled a civil lawsuit filed against Brown by a former trainer.

GM Jason Licht was asked last week if Brown resolving the civil dispute would improve the chances of the 32-year-old receiver coming back.

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“We’ve had discussions through the offseason, and as you can tell we’ve put an emphasis on bringing back players from last year that contributed to our success, and he would be no different,” Licht said. “We’ll continue to have talks and see where it goes.”

A four-time All-Pro, Brown had 45 receptions for 483 yards and four touchdowns in eight regular-season games in 2020. He caught a TD pass in the Super Bowl, capping a postseason in which he had eight catches for 81 yards and two TDs.

In 139 regular-season games over 11 seasons with Pittsburgh, New England and Tampa Bay, Brown has amassed 886 career receptions for 11,746 yards and 79 TDs.

The Bucs were already assured of returning all 22 starters from their Super Bowl victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in February. Bringing back Brown ensures Tom Brady will pursue an eighth Super Bowl ring with the entire “band” of offensive playmakers assembled around the 43-year-old quarterback last season.

Licht made good on a promise to keep the team together by placing the franchise tag on receiver Chris Godwin, signing linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Lavonte David to multi-year contracts, and bringing back tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Leonard Fournette and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on one-year deals.

Brady and left tackle Donovan Smith contributed to the effort by signing salary-cap- friendly contract extensions that freed money to help Licht get it done.

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Giants pick up option on RB Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract for running back Saquon Barkley.

The 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year is recovering from a torn right ACL in Week 2 of last season.

Barkley, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2018, ran for 1,307 yards that season and caught 91 passes for 721 yards. He had 15 touchdowns combined rushing and receiving.

Saquon Barkley sounded an optimistic note about his health.
Saquon Barkley sounded an optimistic note about his health.Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Barkley had 1,441 yards from scrimmage in 2019, but missed three games because of a high ankle sprain.

He is hopeful to be ready for training camp this summer.

“Very excited,” Barkley told The Associated Press during the winter. “Obviously things were a little shaky in the beginning of the year . . . I got hurt, they started getting things clicking and I think you saw when we got the running game going, we were very hard to beat. When you have a great running game, a great defense and a great quarterback and talent all around, which I believe we have, we can take that middle portion toward the end of the season when we played some of our best ball and start off with that, I think we’re going to be in a very good place.”

The Giants finished 6-10 in 2020, but barely missed winning the weak NFC East that Washington took at 7-9.

Barkley now will earn a fully guaranteed $7.217 million in 2022.

Colts pick up option on G Quenton Nelson

The Indianapolis Colts exercised the fifth-year option on perennial All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson’s rookie contract. General manager Chris Ballard’s next move to keep one of the league’s top offensive lines is anybody’s guess.

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Nelson, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2018 draft, has started all 48 games at left guard for the Colts and is the first offensive lineman since the 1970 merger to earn All-Pro honors each of his first three seasons. Nelson joined Barry Sanders, Keith Jackson, Lawrence Taylor and Earl Campbell as the only players to achieve the feat.

Before the Notre Dame star arrived in Indianapolis, the Colts had one of the leakiest lines in the NFL. After Nelson was plugged immediately into the starting lineup, Indy became one of the league’s stingiest. The Colts have allowed the second-fewest sacks (71) in the NFL over the past three seasons and also opened holes for two straight 1,000-yard rushers.

It looks like All-Pro Quenton Nelson is going to be sticking around Indy.
It looks like All-Pro Quenton Nelson is going to be sticking around Indy.Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

So paying Nelson roughly $13.8 million to keep him through 2022 was a no-brainer for the Colts, even after they re-signed center Ryan Kelly to a four-year, $50 million contract extension in September.

Ballard is expected to use one of this week’s six draft picks, perhaps Indy’s first-rounder (No. 21) , to replace longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo, the former Boston College standout who retired in January. Right guard Mark Glowinski and right tackle Braden Smith, a second-round pick in 2018, are both entering the final year of their deals, and, of course, Nelson should be in line for one of the biggest paydays for an interior lineman before potentially hitting free agency in 2022.

And while Ballard has repeatedly expressed his preference to build around the offensive and defensive lines first, two-time All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard and defensive linemen Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis are all entering the final year of their deals.

Leonard, Smith, Turay and Lewis were all second-round picks in 2018. But keeping Nelson around for two more seasons was the first of what will likely be many moves over the next 11 months.

“I think you all know our philosophy on the fronts, you need eight to 10 offensive linemen and we feel you need eight to 10 defensive linemen,” Ballard said. “So we’ll continue to add fuel to the fire, but we are not just going to force the issue.”