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The Detroit Lions re-signed Calvin Johnson to an eight-year contract that they said is worth close to $130 million and makes him the highest-paid wide receiver in National Football League history.
Johnson, who had career highs last year with 96 catches for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns, headlined a group of prominent wide receivers to sign new deals since the NFL’s free-agent period began two days ago.
DeSean Jackson got a new five-year deal from the Philadelphia Eagles, Vincent Jackson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Reggie Wayne stayed with the Indianapolis Colts, Brandon Marshall was traded to the Chicago Bears from the Miami Dolphins and Pierre Garcon joined the Washington Redskins.
Johnson’s new deal includes a seven-year extension, which could keep him with the Lions through 2019, and tops the eight- year, $120 million contract that fellow Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald signed with the Arizona Cardinals before last season, the Lions said on their website, DetroitLions.com, citing unidentified people in the league.
“What a tremendous blessing this is,” Johnson, who’s nicknamed Megatron, said at a news conference. “From my family on down, we’re ready to work and very appreciative. I’m looking forward to much success in the future here.”
The contract includes a guaranteed $60 million, ESPN said. His $16.25 million base salary for the 2012 season is tied for the fourth highest for any player in league history, according to NFL.com.
“Glad to have him back,” Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said on the team’s website. “He deserves it and I am extremely excited to get the chance to hopefully play for a long time with him.”
The Dallas Cowboys said they signed quarterback Kyle Orton, who will be a backup for Tony Romo, to a three-year deal. The Cowboys had been interested last season in Orton, who was claimed off waivers by Kansas City after being released by the Denver Broncos. Romo played with a fractured rib for part of last season after missing the final 10 games in 2010 with a broken collarbone.
The Eagles and Jackson agreed on a five-year contract, less than a month after the Pro Bowl receiver was designated the team’s franchise player. The 25-year-old Jackson averaged 45.4 yards on his 30 career touchdowns over four seasons in Philadelphia.
“DeSean is a game breaker,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said in a statement. “He has the speed and ability to score from anywhere on the field, and he has proven himself to be a big threat for our offense.”
The Eagles also reached agreement yesterday with defensive end Trent Cole on a four-year contract extension. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Cole’s 68 sacks over seven seasons with the Eagles rank second in team history behind Reggie White and Clyde Simmons. Among all NFL players, only DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen have more sacks since 2006.
The Buccaneers signed All-Pro guard Carl Nicks to a five- year, $47.5 million contract, adding to a free-agent haul that also includes Jackson and cornerback Eric Wright.
The 6-foot-5, 345-pound Nicks spent his first four NFL seasons protecting quarterback Drew Brees for the New Orleans Saints and was considered the top offensive lineman available this offseason.
With the signing of Nicks, the Buccaneers have given out $140.5 million in contracts in the past three days, after going 4-12 last season.
Jackson, coming off his third 1,000-yard receiving season in the past four years with the San Diego Chargers, signed a five-year, $55 million deal, Tampa Bay said on its website. Wright got $37.5 million over five seasons after intercepting four passes for the Lions in 2011.
The Chargers signed former Saints receiver Robert Meachem to help replace Jackson, and added linebacker Jarret Johnson, who spent his first nine NFL seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and played in a franchise-record 129 straight regular-season games.
San Diego also agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Le’Ron McClain, who has split his time between running back and fullback. He rushed for 902 yards on 232 carries for the Baltimore Ravens in 2008 and then became a lead blocker for the next three years before playing last season for Kansas City. He has averaged 18.8 catches per season during the last four years.
The Bears agreed to terms with tight end Kellen Davis on a two-year contract. Davis has appeared in 64 games in the past four seasons, accumulating 28 receptions for 300 yards and nine touchdowns. Last season, he had a career-high five touchdown catches on 18 receptions for 206 yards.
The New York Giants signed former Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett, who may help them fill the void left at the position when Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum tore knee ligaments in the Super Bowl. The Minnesota Vikings also added a free-agent tight end in John Carlson, who had 55 catches for 627 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie for the Seattle Seahawks last season.
The Arizona Cardinals reached agreement on a five-year contract with free-agent guard/tackle Adam Snyder, who spent the first seven years of his career with the San Francisco 49ers.
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