It’s been a whirlwind week of signings and trades across the NFL as the new league year began on Thursday. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest developments:
■ The most eye-popping signing came on Thursday right as free agency opened. We all knew the Bears needed a quarterback, but Mike Glennon? And $45 million over three years?
A closer look at the deal reveals that it’s really just a one-year pact, then “we’ll see.” Glennon will get paid handsomely for that one year — $16 million guaranteed — and he has a $2.5 million roster bonus due next March that is fully guaranteed. But Glennon is due $15 million and $14 million in cash in 2018 and 2019, and the Bears can move on if they don’t want to pay him.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace was clear on Friday that “Mike Glennon is our starting quarterback, and we’re fired up about that,” but let’s see what happens if the Bears draft a quarterback in the first round. The pressure to play the first-round pick is always immense.
■ The wide receiver market was a boon for some star players, but a bit tight for others. Former Bear Alshon Jeffery, who played on a franchise tag for $14.6 million last year, had a down year with just 821 yards and two touchdowns, and saw it affect his value. He signed a one-year deal with the Eagles with just $8.75 million guaranteed, plus a $750,000 workout bonus and $4.5 million in incentives. Terrelle Pryor wasn’t able to turn his breakout season in Cleveland into a long-term contract, signing a modest one-year, $6 million deal with Washington with another $2 million in incentives. Deep threat Torrey Smith signed a three-year deal with the Eagles, but it’s really a one-year, $5 million deal with just $500,000 guaranteed.
But DeSean Jackson was able to cash in, signing a three-year deal with the Buccaneers with $20 million fully guaranteed that realistically will pay him $23 million over two seasons. Pierre Garcon, discarded by Washington, also signed for $23 million over two years with the 49ers, who had a ton of money to spend in free agency. And Kenny Stills, only 24 years old, re-signed with Miami for $17 million fully guaranteed over two years, plus two more wait-and-see years.
■ The first receiver to sign was Brandon Marshall, who switched Big Apple allegiances and signed with the Giants after being released by the Jets. Marshall signed a two-year, $11 million deal with the G-Men, with another $1 million in incentives. And even though he won’t be doing his “Inside the NFL” gig next season — the Giants practice on Tuesday, when the show is taped — we’re told Marshall turned down more money from the Ravens because he likes being in New York and the exposure it provides.
■ It was a good week to be a guard. The Browns shelled out $55 million in guarantees for Kevin Zeitler and Joel Bitonio, and Larry Warford got $17 million guaranteed over two years from the Saints.
■ Really love what the Browns did. They obviously don’t have a franchise quarterback, but they invested significant resources into the offensive line, paying Zeitler and Bitonio and signing center J.C. Tretter to a three year, $16.75 million contract. Having a great offensive line can help mask deficiencies at quarterback, which the Cowboys and Dolphins learned last year.
And buying an extra second-round pick from the Texans by agreeing to take Brock Osweiler and his albatross of a contract was a stroke of genius. The Browns have more than $100 million in cap space, so the money isn’t an issue, and now the Browns can take half of Osweiler’s $16 million salary, convert it into a roster bonus, and try to trade Osweiler again at a reasonable $8 million salary, collecting more draft picks in the process. That “Moneyball” stuff might work, after all.
■ Left tackle Russell Okung was the subject of much derision last offseason when he decided against hiring an agent and signed a team-friendly deal with the Broncos. Okung was released last week, and many agents snickered, but Okung got his redemption, signing for $26 million fully guaranteed over the next two years with the Chargers. Helping advise Okung was Jimmy Halsell, a former salary cap guy in Washington’s front office.
■ Our favorite signing was Jackson in Tampa Bay, giving Jameis Winston a great deep threat to replace Vincent Jackson. DeSean Jackson still has tremendous speed even after playing 10 years in the NFL, averaging 17.9 yards per reception last year, and Winston now has two excellent receivers in Jackson and Mike Evans. This should be a fun offense to watch in 2017.
Is anyone left for Garoppolo?
Some other notes from free agency and leftovers from the NFL Combine:
■ One small issue with the Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason: Does anyone still want him?
The three potential suitors — the Browns, Bears, and 49ers — appear to have been whittled to the Browns, as least for this offseason. The Bears signed Mike Glennon to what amounts to a one-year, $18.5 million contract and a big “we’ll see” next year, while the 49ers signed Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. Those signings likely signify that the Bears and 49ers have found their veteran seat-warmers and will proceed to draft Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, or DeShone Kizer in April.
The feeling we get is that while both teams like Garoppolo as a prospect, the idea of trading a bevy of draft picks and paying a big contract for a quarterback with just two career starts was far too steep.
Which leaves the Browns as the only team standing, unless Washington gets crazy and trades Kirk Cousins. The Browns released Robert Griffin III on Friday, leaving them with Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, and Brock Osweiler, whom the Browns are shopping and might just release.
The Browns need to start winning, and trading for a veteran in Garoppolo makes more sense than entrusting the team to Kessler or one of the rookies this year. The Patriots certainly haven’t been bowled over by any trade offer yet, but there are still more than six weeks until the draft.
Since the Browns are realistically the only trade partner, neither side has much incentive to put its best offer forward until we get close to the draft.
■ Another familiar face has joined the Texans’ coaching staff: Wes Welker, who will be an offensive and special teams assistant. He reunites with coach Bill O’Brien, who was Welker’s offensive coordinator for four seasons in New England.
“You get attached to players like that,” O’Brien said in Indianapolis. “The way he practiced, the way he loved the game. So, we kept in touch when I went to Penn State — text message here and there — and then when I got to Houston he was toward the end of his career.”
Welker won’t be confined to one position and will help in all three phases.
“He’s going to help us on offense, obviously,” O’Brien said. “He’s going to help us on special teams with our returners. He’s going to help us with some of our DBs, our situational DBs like our nickels, how they play the slot, what the slot’s trying to do.
“Then, he’s breaking down a ton of film, helping us in the draft. He’s doing everything that kind of an entry-level coach would do.”
■ The Dwayne Allen trade from the Colts to the Patriots was fascinating in that it signaled a thaw in the frosty relationship between the franchises stemming from Deflategate. There’s no way that trade occurs if Ryan Grigson were still the GM of the Colts, but the relationship starts fresh with Chris Ballard now running the football operation, and the Krafts have always had a decent relationship with Jim Irsay and never particularly blamed him for Deflategate.
■ Another area in which the teams hold all the cards: restricted free agent tenders, particularly the lowest level. The lowest tender this year — original round/right of first refusal — is $1.797 million. Players such as Patriots swing tackle Cam Fleming and Rams defensive tackle Dominique Easley both received this tender, a salary that is just high enough to scare away other teams from signing them. Easley would also require another team to ship the Rams a first-round pick, Fleming a fourth-rounder.
Yet the RFA tenders come with no guaranteed money, and therefore no roster security. Teams will often approach these players in training camp and demand that they cut their salary to, say, $1 million, and the players have little choice but to accept it.
■ Remember Jaylon Smith, the former Notre Dame linebacker and potential top-10 pick who suffered a devastating knee injury in his team’s bowl game and dropped to the Cowboys in the second round?
Smith missed the 2016 season on the non-football injury list, but Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said in Indy that he expects Smith to participate in the team’s offseason program, which begins in April.
“I know everyone’s confident about the progress he’s made and we anticipate him being part of the offseason program from the get-go,” Garrett said.
■ One team that isn’t ready to look for a quarterback yet is Jacksonville, which is sticking by Blake Bortles despite his horrible 2016 season in which his mechanics fell apart.
“Over the last two years, he’s accounted for  touchdowns — only four quarterbacks have produced more touchdowns than that,” Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell said. “Until we can account for the  touchdowns, he’s going to be our quarterback.”
The Jaguars may be standing by Bortles for now, but let’s see if they trigger the fifth-year option for him in May, which would set him at a salary of more than $18 million in 2018.
Painkiller stats are eye-opening
A lengthy report from the Washington Post on Friday detailed sealed court documents in a lawsuit filed by former players against the NFL, alleging they suffer long-term organ and joint damage as a result of deceptive drug distribution practices by team medical staffs.
The notion that players take an unhealthy amount of painkillers and anti-inflammatories is nothing new, though the numbers are eye-opening. A January 2010 e-mail from a Jets assistant trainer revealed that in 2009, the team used 1,178 doses of the anti-inflammatory Toradol, which has been known to cause kidney damage in high doses, and 1,564 doses of Vicodin, an opioid.
But more than anything, this story shines a light on the NFL’s baffling policy that bans marijuana and cannabinoids. While there is still much to be done in terms of research, marijuana has never directly caused a fatality or overdose and is generally regarded as far safer than the highly addictive opioids.
But the NFL’s ban on marijuana has nothing to do with the federal government or the man in the White House. The league’s drug policies are collectively bargained between the owners and the NFL Players Association, and there’s no law that forces the NFL to test for marijuana.
Both sides probably agree that removing the ban would be good for the game. Not only is marijuana a safer painkiller, but if stars such as Ricky Williams and Josh Gordon are productive football players and staying out of trouble, what’s the purpose of suspending them and taking them off the field?
But the owners aren’t going to give the union anything for free. If the NFLPA wants the league to stop testing for marijuana, the owners are going to make the players pay for it by giving back a percentage point of revenue or some other concession.
Vegas is back, baby. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson pulled his support and his $650 million from the Raiders’ potential stadium deal in Las Vegas, but Bank of America stepped in last week with support for a loan of the same value (though questions remain about the Raiders’ ability to pay it back). The city already has approved $750 million in public funding for a stadium, and it feels like the NFL is going to find a way to use it, one way or another. NFL owners are supposed to vote on the Raiders’ relocation to Vegas at their meetings March 26-29, with 24 votes needed to move.
Circling back to Brandon Marshall, he is 18th all time in receptions with 941. Did you know that of the top 50 players in receptions in NFL history, he is the only one not to play a single postseason game (and we stopped counting at 50)? The Giants could have a heck of an offense with Eli Manning throwing to Marshall, Odell Beckham Jr., and Sterling Shepard, or it could blow up spectacularly, like it usually does with Marshall, now on his fifth team . . . One of the best signings of the week: the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League signing 34-year-old quarterback Vince Young to a two-year deal with a one-year option. “I always wanted to play football again but didn’t know how it was going to happen. God always works in mysterious ways,” he said. Young hasn’t taken an NFL snap since the 2013 preseason, but how can you not be intrigued by this comeback? . . . Seen at the Combine shopping his services to teams: defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, the No. 10 overall pick of the 2007 draft. Only 29 years old, Okoye’s career was derailed in 2013 when he was diagnosed with encephalitis and was placed in a medically induced coma to stabilize his recurring seizures . . . The Patriots’ trade for Dwayne Allen sets them up at tight end for 2017, but with Rob Gronkowski’s injury history, the Patriots should still look to draft one. One idea we like is drafting Michigan’s Jake Butt, a solid all-around tight end and potential second- or third-round pick who tore his ACL in the Orange Bowl in late December. He’ll likely slide down some draft boards, and the Patriots could afford to let him redshirt for a year while he rehabs . . . The Dolphins traded for Rams defensive end William Hayes on Friday. For a guy who believes in mermaids, Miami seems like a perfect fit.
At the Combine, speed always thrills. That was precisely the case with wide receiver John Ross. The former Washington Husky ran a blistering 4.22-second 40-yard dash, breaking the combine record by 0.02 seconds. Here’s a look at the offensive players to run a sub-4.3 40 since 1999, and their primary source of production in the NFL:
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.