This Date In Transactions History

This Date In Transactions History: Tony Boselli Retires

On this date in 2003, one of the most underrated offensive linemen in the history of the game called it a career. Tackle Tony Boselli, the first ever draft pick of the Jaguars, retired at the age of 31. 

Soon after being drafted with the No. 2 pick in the 1995 draft, Boselli established himself as one of the best players in Jacksonville. He earned five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 1996-2000 with three First-Team All-Pro selections coming in 97-99. The Jaguars reached the postseason in four of their first five seasons in existence, and Boselli played a huge role in their success.

Unfortunately, injuries started to chip away at Boselli in 2001 and he appeared in only three games that season. In February 2002, the Jaguars made Boselli one of their five exposed players for the Texans’ expansion draft. With the very first pick, Houston took on Boselli’s $6.883MM cap figure, but they did not get the All-Pro they were expecting.

I am retiring because of medical reasons, specifically my left shoulder, which did not continue to improve to the point where I could play,” said Boselli as he announced his retirement.

Boselli’s career was relatively short, but highly impactful. In seven seasons with the Jaguars, Boselli allowed only 15.5 sacks and cemented his legacy as one of the Jaguars’ most important players of all-time.

Boselli signed a one-day deal to retire with the Jaguars in 2006 and became the first inductee into the team’s Hall of Fame. Still, the football Hall of Fame eludes him. In 2018, Boselli was denied entry in his 12th year of eligibility and his second year as a finalist.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Chiefs Extend Matt Cassel

In the 30 years prior to their Patrick Mahomes first-round pick, the Chiefs did not entrust their offenses to homegrown investments too often.

Once 1983 first-rounder Todd Blackledge did not pan out, this franchise proceeded to acquire a slew of veteran quarterbacks via trade or free agency and hoped one of those offseason additions could elevate the team to a long-sought-after Super Bowl return. Steve DeBerg, Dave Krieg, Joe Montana, Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac and Rich Gannon all played key roles in piloting Chiefs teams to the playoffs during their successful 1990s run. Alex Smith helped deliver the most consistency since those years, leading Kansas City to four postseasons in five seasons, and Trent Green was at the controls of an explosive offense in K.C.’s run to the 2003 No. 2 seed.

But a key choice in Chiefs history came to fruition on this date nine years ago. In addition to being the key date on the Con Air timeline, July 14 proved to be a pivotal day for Matt Cassel. The Chiefs traded for Cassel in March of 2009 and signed him to a six-year, $63MM contract just prior to training camp that year.

This proved to be a windfall for the former Patriots backup. He received $28MM guaranteed and saw $40.5MM in that deal’s first three years. Cassel took over for Tom Brady after he suffered a season-ending injury against the Chiefs in Week 1 of the 2008 season. Completing a career-high 63.4 percent of his passes, Cassel guided the Patriots to an 11-win season. The Patriots used a $14.65MM franchise tag on Cassel but shipped him to the Chiefs, along with Mike Vrabel, for 2009’s No. 34 overall pick. (New England used that selection to draft Patrick Chung, who’s started at safety in each of the Pats’ past three Super Bowl appearances.)

In Kansas City, Cassel could not establish himself as a viable long-term solution. Though, the franchise was patient with Cassel at this decade’s outset, giving him 47 starts.

Cassel started four seasons for the Chiefs, but only one of those went well for him. He threw 27 touchdown passes compared to just seven interceptions in 2010 to lead the Chiefs to a surprising AFC West title, but he only started 17 games combined the next two seasons. Injuries and an eventual demotion limited Cassel’s playing time during the Chiefs’ final two Scott Pioli seasons, with a low point coming in Oct. 2012 when a sect of Chiefs fans cheered when the then-starter went down with an injury.

The Chiefs hired Andy Reid and John Dorsey following a disastrous 2-14 season in 2012, and they moved swiftly to add Smith. A day after Smith’s introductory press conference, the Chiefs cut Cassel. However, the Vikings immediately added the veteran as Christian Ponder‘s backup.

Cassel’s been able to land work consistently since. He started six games for the Vikes in 2013 and opened the 2014 season as Teddy Bridgewater‘s stopgap. Cassel was unable to beat out Tyrod Taylor for the Bills’ job in 2015, but he ended up starting seven games during Tony Romo‘s absence that year. He’s since been Marcus Mariota‘s backup and is now at age 36 in position to serve as Matthew Stafford‘s. Interestingly, Vrabel’s Titans decided to cut Cassel this offseason despite the duo’s history as teammates.

But Cassel’s most memorable NFL stay occurred in Kansas City, and he was paid handsomely in an attempt to revive a then-struggling franchise.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Jim Brown Retires

On this date in 1966, one of the game’s all-time great rushers called it a career. Jim Brown walked away from football at the age of 30, citing a desire to be a civil rights advocate, a better family man, and a star of the silver screen. 

In today’s NFL, 30-year-old running backs are usually in the twilight of their careers. That was hardly the case with Brown, who ran for a league-leading 1,544 yards while averaging 5.3 yards a carry in 1965.

As good as Brown was, he had other interests, and those interests did not necessarily align with football. When the filming schedule for “The Dirty Dozen” conflicted with training camp, Brown chose the former. Browns owner Art Modell was furious at his decision and vowed to fine him $100 for every day he was not at practice.

So, on July 13, 1966, it was revealed that Brown would retire from the NFL. He formally announced the decision in a press conference on the set of “The Dirty Dozen” that week, but days earlier, he penned the following letter to Modell:

Dear Art:

I am writing to inform you that in the next few days I will be announcing my retirement from football. This decision is final and is made only because of the future that I desire for myself, my family and, if not to sound corny, my race. I am very sorry that I did not have the information to give you at some earlier date, for one of my great concerns was to try in every way to work things out so that I could play an additional year.

I was very sorry to see you make the statements that you did, because it was not a victory for you or I but for the newspaper men. Fortunately, I seem to have a little more faith in you than you have in me. I honestly like you and will be willing to help you in any way I can, but I feel you must realize that both of us are men and that my manhood is just as important to me as yours is to you.

It was indicated in the papers out of Cleveland that you tried to reach me by phone. Well, I hope you realize that when I am in my apartment I never refuse to answer my phone. The only reason that I did not contact you before I knew the completion date of the movie is that the date was the one important factor. You must realize that your organization will make money and will remain successful whether I am there or not. The Cleveland Browns are an institution that will stand for a long, long time.

I am taking on a few projects that are very interesting to me. I have many problems to solve at this time and I am sure you know a lot of them, so if we weigh the situation properly the ‘Browns’ have really nothing to lose, but Jim Brown has a lot to lose. I am taking it for granted that I have your understanding and best wishes, for in my public approach to this matter this will be the attitude that will prevail.

The business matters that we will have to work out we could do when I return to Cleveland. I will give you any assistance I can and hope your operation will be a success. You know the areas that I can be helpful and, even if you do not ask this help, my attitude will be one that I will do only the things that will contribute to the success of the ‘Cleveland Browns.’

Your friend,

Jim Brown

With that, Brown walked away from football and a yearly salary of about $60K. Brown undoubtedly still had gas in the tank, but he also had little left to prove on an individual level.

In nine years of pro football, Brown won the rushing crown eight times and retired as the league’s all-time leading rusher. Even today, the Hall of Famer is tenth on the NFL rushing yards list, which is extra impressive when considering that the regular season was shorter during his time in the league. And, decades later, Brown stands as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher with 12,312 yards on the ground.

This Date In Transactions History: Mike Vrabel Retires

On this date in 2011, Mike Vrabel traded in his pads for a clipboard and whistle. Vrabel, a longtime NFL linebacker, retired from the Chiefs on July 11, 2011 in order to become an assistant coach at Ohio State.

Vrabel was just a few weeks shy of his 36th birthday at the time and was still a productive player on the field. In 2010, he amassed 48 total tackles for the Chiefs and appeared in all 16 games. However, he wasn’t the same player that he was in his prime with the Patriots, and the time he spent with the younger players in KC nudged him in the direction of coaching.

His genuine love for the game, his preparation, his work ethic, leadership and dependability are qualities you want from every player,” then-Chiefs GM Scott Pioli said. “He is a champion in every sense of the word and I’m confident all of these qualities will make him a great coach. I cannot overstate my respect for him as a person and a football player.”

Pioli was right – he had a knack for this coaching thing. Although Vrabel was hired by interim Buckeyes coach (and his former teammate and roommate) Luke Fickell, Urban Meyer elected to keep him on board as a part of his new staff when he took over in December of 2011. In 2014, he hooked on with the Texans as their linebackers coach. In 2017, he was elevated to defensive coordinator in Houston. This past January, the Titans hired him as their head coach after a quick search.

He was the ultimate team-first player, and he embodies that same mindset as a coach,” Titans GM Jon Robinson said after hiring Vrabel. “He is intelligent, energetic, detailed and a leader whose deep passion for this game will resonate with our players. As a coach, I have seen him develop talent at both the college and NFL level, and put players in position for them to be successful.”

Vrabel might have been able to contribute on the field for a 15th NFL season, but he opted to jumpstart his coaching career on this date seven years ago instead. If not for that decision, Vrabel probably wouldn’t have ascended the NFL coaching ladder as quickly as he did to become the Titans’ new head coach this year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford is a rich, rich man. Five years ago today, the quarterback signed his second lucrative contract with the Lions. It was a three-year pact worth $53MM.

Nowadays, players look forward to these paydays, as the NFL’s rookie wage scale limits their earnings. However, back in 2013, Stafford was already playing on a lucrative contract with Detroit. After being selected as the first-overall pick in the 2009 draft, the Georgia product inked a record-breaking six-year deal worth $78MM ($41.7MM in guaranteed money). Stafford didn’t live up to his contract during first two seasons in the NFL. However, he had a breakout campaign in 2011, throwing for 5,038 passing yards and 41 touchdowns.

While he took a step back in 2012, the Lions still felt confident enough to sign Stafford to the three-year extension in 2013. At the time, the quarterback still had two seasons remaining on his contract, so the new deal effectively made it a five-year pact worth $76.5MM. The extension portion of the contract included $41.5MM in guaranteed money and a $27.5MM signing bonus. Signing Stafford early also allowed the Lions to reduce his impending $19.3MM cap hit.

I want to be about the team,” he said at the time (via ESPN.com). “I want to help the team out if I can in cap space, whatever it is. I want good players around me as a quarterback. It doesn’t hurt to have weapons and, you know, if I can help out anyway I can, I’m happy to do it.”

In the five years since signing his second extension, Stafford had shown a lot more consistency on the field. The 30-year-old hasn’t missed a game during that span, and he’s averaged around 4,388 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions per season. This improvement played a role in him earning his third contract from the Lions. Last offseason, the quarterback inked a five-year deal worth $135MM ($92MM guaranteed).

Assuming he doesn’t opt out following the 2020 season, there’s a good chance Stafford will continue being the Lions quarterback through the 2022 campaign. He could reach free agency when he’s 35-years-old, meaning Detroit might end up inking their franchise player to his fourth pricey contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: John Lynch

John Lynch has had an enviable career in professional sports. He was selected in the first round of the 1992 Major League Baseball draft by the expansion Florida Marlins, and he threw the first pitch in Marlins’ organizational history as a member of one of the team’s minor league affiliates, the Erie Sailors. His Sailors jersey resides in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a result, but he was later selected in the third round of the 1993 NFL Draft by the Buccaneers, and he is probably pretty happy that he ultimately chose to pursue football.

Lynch spent the first 11 seasons of his NFL career with Tampa Bay, and during that time, he established himself as an elite safety. He became one of the most feared tacklers in the league, and he was heralded for his leadership both on and off the field. His playmaking statistics leave a little to be desired, as he tallied just 26 interceptions and 13 sacks in his 15-year career (although he did not become a full-time player until 1996, his fourth year in the league). That could be one of the reasons why he is still on the outside looking in at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but his play went beyond raw stats. He was always someone that opposing offenses had to plan around, and his work earned him nine Pro Bowl bids and two First Team All-Pro selections. He was also a key figure in the Bucs’ only championship, helping the team capture Super Bowl XXXVII.

Tampa Bay released the two-sport Stanford athlete following the 2003 campaign, and he was snapped up by the Broncos. Despite switching from strong safety to free safety, Lynch maintained a high level of play with his new club, as he was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his four seasons in Mile High. He served as Denver’s defensive captain during the 2006-07 seasons, and on this day in 2007, he and the Broncos agreed to terms on a renegotiated contract that would keep him with the team for one more year.

He considered hanging up the cleats after the 2007 campaign, but Broncos owner Pat Bowlen convinced him to come back for one last hurrah. Even at age 36, though, Lynch expected to be on the field for every snap, and it became clear during the 2008 training camp that he would not be used in sub-packages. He ultimately left the team and was signed by the Patriots, though he never played a regular-season game for New England, which released him just a few weeks later.

Lynch formally announced his retirement in November 2008, and he subsequently enjoyed a successful stint as a color commentator for Fox. He was surprisingly named GM of the 49ers in January 2017, and while the jury is obviously still out on his tenure as an NFL executive, the early returns are promising.

Taking over a club in the midst of a full-scale rebuild, Lynch managed to acquire the team’s quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo last October in exchange for a second-round draft pick. This offseason, he (briefly) made Garoppolo the highest-paid player in NFL history, even though the East Illinois product has played a grand total of seven games in his professional career. Lynch’s fate with the 49ers will, of course, be tied to Garoppolo’s, but he has done as well as could be expected thus far. Indeed, San Francisco is being mentioned as a fringe playoff contender, no mean feat considering the roster that Lynch inherited. And while the playoffs may still be out of reach in 2018, one more good offseason of work could get the 49ers back to postseason play.

This date 11 years ago therefore marked the beginning of the end of Lynch’s on-field career, but his involvement with the league after retiring as a player has been pretty notable in its own right. He is a member of the Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor and the Broncos’ Ring of Hame, and he remains a viable candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And while it’s certainly too early to engage in these types of discussions, maybe he’ll one day get into Canton as an executive even if he doesn’t make it as a player.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Kerry Collins

Seven years ago today, many of us assumed that veteran NFL quarterback Kerry Collins was officially walking away from the game. That didn’t end up being the case.

The long-time quarterback really doesn’t need an introduction. After being selected with the fifth-overall pick by Carolina in the 1995 draft, the Penn State product’s professional career would end up stretching more than 15 seasons. Come 2011, the signal-caller was wrapping up a relatively successful tenure with the Titans.

Following stints with the Panthers, Saints, Giants, and Raiders, Collins had joined Tennessee on a one-year contract in 2006. With the Titans having recently used their third-overall pick on quarterback Vince Young, Collins ended up being shuffled in and out of the team’s starting lineup during his time with the team. This included a 2008 campaign that saw him make the Pro Bowl and lead the Titans to an AFC South title.

The Titans got off to an 0-6 start during the 2009 season, prompting Titans owner Bud Adams to request that Collins be replaced by Young. The 2006 first-rounder led his team to five straight wins, although the veteran regained his role the following season. Collins ended up appearing in 10 games (seven starts) in 2010, completing 57.6-percent of his passes for 1,823 yards, 14 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. On July 7th, 2011, Collins ended up announcing his retirement from the NFL, and the Titans reset their quarterback depth chart with Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker.

Collins’ retirement was short-lived, as the veteran inked a one-year, $4MM contract with the Colts in late August. Peyton Manning was recovering from offseason neck surgery (a procedure that would force him to miss the entire campaign), so Collins slid into the starting role for the start of the regular season. He ended up showing his age during his Indy stint, leading his team to an 0-3 record in his three starts. Collins completed only 49-percent of his passes for 481 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

Collins landed on the Colts’ injured reserve after suffering a concussion in October, and he was released by the team the following March. Collins subsequently announced his second retirement, and this time he didn’t back out of the decision. The now-45-year-old ranks in the top-15 all-time in completions and passing yards.

This Date In Transactions History: Larry Centers

Larry Centers earned three Pro Bowl invites and enjoyed a 14-year career which culminated with a Super Bowl ring as part of the 2003 Patriots. His most notable work came for the Cardinals in the 1990s, and his final Pro Bowl nod occurred while with the Bills in 2001.

However, Centers reached an agreement with a second NFL team on July 6, 1999, and he ended up continuing his unique aerial mastery with the Redskins for two seasons. Centers signed a one-year deal with Washington in 1999, and he ended up being part of the only Redskins team to reach the divisional round of the playoffs without Joe Gibbs being involved since 1976.

A former fifth-round Phoenix Cardinals pick out of Stephen F. Austin in 1990, Centers ascended to rare heights as the Arizona Cardinals’ starting fullback in 1995 and ’96 by combining to catch 200 passes in those years. Centers’ 1995 season of 101 receptions and 962 receiving yards still stacks up incredibly well historically. At the time, Centers became the first running back to record 100 catches in a season and was among the first 15 players at any position to do so. While 101 receptions now ranks tied for 70th in NFL single-season history, only one running back (Matt Forte) appears higher on that list.

Although Centers did not quite match the lofty standards of his Cardinals peak with the Redskins, he was a consistent receiving threat.

For the playoff-qualifying 1999 team, Centers delivered 544 air yards on 69 catches. One of those — a 33-yard touchdown grab from Brad Johnson to secure an overtime win over the 49ers — clinched Washington’s first NFC East title since its 1991 Super Bowl season. The Norv Turner-guided Redskins edged the Lions before falling to the Buccaneers 14-13 in the divisional playoffs.

Washington re-signed Centers for one year and $6MM in 2000 — for perspective, only one fullback makes more than $3MM per yer today — and his production that year still ranks atop team record books. Centers caught 81 passes for 600 yards in his second Redskins season; both are team standards for running backs 18 years later. He led the Redskins in receptions in both seasons and parlayed his stop in Washington into a deal with the Bills in 2001.

For more of PFR’s This Date in Transactions History series, here’s the full list.

This Date In Transactions History: Lions Release Stephen Tulloch

On this date in 2016, the Lions bid farewell to one-time defensive cog Stephen Tulloch

Tulloch entered the league in 2006 as a fourth-round pick of the Titans. The linebacker played sparingly in his first two seasons but, eventually, he cracked the starting lineup. Between 2008 and 2010, Tulloch was first-string for 41 games with Tennessee.

When he hit free agency, old friend Jim Schwartz brought him to Detroit with a one-year deal. After he tallied three sacks from the inside linebacker position and 111 overall tackles, the Lions re-signed him to a lucrative five-year deal. Tulloch continued to hold down the fort at MLB, compiling 100+ tackles in 2012 and 135 total tackles in 2013, including a career-high 3.5 sacks.

Unfortunately, his career took a weird turn in 2014. In Week 3, Tulloch took down Aaron Rodgers with a thunderous sack. He then busted out a sack celebration which went horribly wrong. Tulloch tore his ACL, ending his season in September.

Afterwards, Tulloch was asked if he had any regrets about the doomed dance.

Hell, no,” Tulloch said. “I’d do it again, brother. You do it every time. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. Just a matter of time. I’ve played a long time in this league and I understand you’re susceptible to this kind of injury when you go out there and play. Nine years without missing a game is kind of crazy, but like I said I’m positive because I believe in my hard work, I believe in my training and what I do in the offseason and how I approach things, so I know I’ll be back even better than before.”

Unfortunately, that was not the case. On paper, Tulloch had an alright 2015 as he started all 16 games, registered 108 total tackles, and came up with two fumble recoveries. However, he wasn’t quite an every-down player, as he saw time on less than 70% of the Lions’ defensive plays. Tulloch also graded out relatively poorly in Pro Football Focus’ rankings, placing as the No. 54 inside linebacker among 97 qualifiers.

Late in the summer of 2016, Schwartz re-connected with him yet again as the Eagles inked him to a one-year, $3MM deal. Tulloch wound up as a reserve for the first time in years and had only seven tackles on the year. That proved to be Tulloch’s last season, as he announced his retirement in April of 2017.

If not for that fateful game against the rival Packers, the Lions might not have released Tulloch two years ago today.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History Series

For the last several weeks, we’ve been commemorating some of the NFL’s most interesting moves with our “This Date In Transactions History” series. In case you missed any of them, here’s a rundown of every entry: