This Date In Transactions History

This Date In Transactions History: Peyton Manning Retires From NFL

Prepare to feel old, because it’s been five years since Peyton Manning‘s retirement. In 2016, the quarterback left the game as a two-time Super Bowl champion, the NFL’s all-time leader in total wins, and one of the sport’s greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Manning spent the first 14 seasons of his remarkable career with the Colts. Then, came his neck surgery in 2011, followed by spinal fusion surgery. He’d miss out on the entire ’11 campaign, snapping his streak of 208 consecutive regular season starts. After months of rehab, Manning said he could barely throw a football ten yards. Many feared that he was finished at this point, but Manning disagreed. Ditto for the Broncos, who were happy to furnish him with a lavish contract in 2012.

The Broncos backstopped Manning by drafting Brock Osweiler in the second round of the 2012 draft, but it’d be a while before he took the reins. Instead, Manning went on to enjoy a four-year stint in Denver. He completed 66.5% of his passes for 17,112 yards and 140 touchdowns against 53 interceptions. Along the way, he picked up three of Pro Bowl nods, two First-Team All-Pro selections, yet another MVP award, and yet another Super Bowl ring.

When all was said and done, Manning set new watermarks for total wins by a QB (200), passing yards (71,940), and passing touchdowns (539). He also set the record for most single-season TD tosses (55; 2013). All in all, the No. 1 overall pick of the 1998 draft managed 14 Pro Bowl bids, seven First-Team All-Pro selections, and five MVP trophies. Needless to say, he could have called it quits in 2011 and still walked away as one of the NFL’s GOATs. That’s doubly true when considering his lifetime earnings of $250MM+ — not counting his piles of endorsement checks. Still, Manning wanted to go out on his terms, and he did just that.

Manning wasn’t at his personal best in his final season, but he was good enough while teamed with the league’s most feared defense. A few weeks after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, Manning closed the book on his Hall of Fame career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Browns Release Jamie Collins

In January of 2017, the Browns made Jamie Collins one of the highest-paid linebackers in the NFL. Two years later, the organization moved on from the Pro Bowler. On March 6, 2019, Cleveland released the veteran linebacker.

Collins, of course, spent the first three-plus seasons of his career with the Patriots, earning a Super Bowl ring and a Pro Bowl appearance. Despite his production, New England wasn’t too eager to hand the impending free agent the sizable contract he desired. So, in October of 2016, the Patriots traded Collins off to Cleveland. In return, New England received a third-round pick, a selection that’d ultimately pair with a first-rounder to acquire Brandin Cooks (and a fourth-rounder, which was ultimately forfeited due to Deflategate) from the Saints.

Collins continued producing down the stretch of the 2016 season, and the Browns decided to open their check book for him during the following offseason. Cleveland inked the linebacker to a lucrative four-year, $50MM pact, including $26.4MM in guaranteed money, making him the highest-paid traditional linebacker in the NFL. Collins struggled with injuries during his first full season with the Browns, appearing in only six games. However, he managed to appear in every game during the 2018 campaign, finishing with 104 tackles, four sacks, and one forced fumble. Despite the solid numbers, Collins graded out as just the No. 58 ranked LB in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.

The Browns apparently recognized that Collins wasn’t living up to his lofty contract. The team was reportedly looking to move him during the 2018 trade deadline, and they spent the early parts of the 2019 offseason shopping him around. The front office couldn’t find a taker, forcing them to cut bait with the veteran. The move ultimately saved the organization $9.25MM in cap room versus just $2.5MM in dead money.

Predictably, Collins ended up landing back in New England for the 2019 season, starting 15 games and finishing with a career-high seven sacks. That performance earned him a three-year, $30MM contract with the Lions, where he reunited with former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. The 31-year-old started all 14 of his games in 2020, finishing with 101 tackles, one sack, and three forced fumbles.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this? Eh, maybe, but it wouldn’t be some new revelation. If a team’s so willing to move on from a Pro Bowler at the end of their rookie deal, that’s probably an indication that the team doesn’t believe the player will be worth his second contract. There were already reports that Collins was freelancing on defense during his final half-season in New England, leading to questions about the player’s commitment to winning.

The Browns not only ponied up financially for Collins, but they also gave up assets to acquire his half-season before free agency. Sure, Cleveland’s probably not kicking themselves over a lost third-rounder (a pick that eventually turned into Saints defensive end Trey Hendrickson), and the organization is two front offices removed from that 2016 administration. Still, if the organization could receive a mulligan on the trade and contract, they’d probably take it.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Lions Re-Sign Romeo Okwara

Two years ago today, the Lions agreed to a two-year deal with Romeo Okwara. At the time, the move flew under the radar a bit (it got only three brief paragraphs on the team’s website). Fast forward to today, and the new Lions brass is probably disappointed that their predecessors hadn’t made a longer commitment.

The 2016 undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame spent the first two seasons of his career with the Giants, appearing in 22 total games. After getting waived prior to the 2018 campaign, he caught on with the Lions, and he proceeded to have a career year for his new team. Okwara appeared in 15 games (14 starts), compiling 39 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. The defensive lineman was one of the few standouts for a lowly Lions squad, but the team still had some hurdles to overcome in order to retain the player.

Okwara was set to become a restricted free agent following that 2018 campaign. Instead of placing a second-round (or even first-round) tender on the player, the team paid him a bit more in order to retain his services without any competition. The front office ultimately gave the defensive end a two-year deal worth $6.8MM, including $3.4MM in guaranteed money. It was a bit of gamble for the team, as Okwara was solely getting paid off of one productive season.

The defensive lineman didn’t necessarily live up to that deal in 2019, as he was relegated to a rotational role and finished with only 1.5 sacks. However, he rebounded with a career year in 2020, finishing with career-highs in tackles (44), sacks (10.0), and forced fumbles (three). The 25-year-old was especially productive down the stretch; per Pro Football Focus, Okwara finished with the third-highest pass-rush grade from Week 12 on, and he posted the ninth-highest grade for the entire season.

As a result of this production, Okwara is expected to be a popular name in unrestricted free agency this offseason. Detroit would certainly be a suitor…he’ll already account for $900K on their books thanks to previous signing bonus machinations. It sounds like new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is also a fan of the defensive lineman.

“Romeo had 10 sacks (last year),” Glenn said (via Kyle Meinke of MLive.com). “So, he’s a pressure player. Every team in this league, every coach in this league, wants a pressure player. So if he’s back with us, which we hope we get the chance to get him back, we’re going to have him rushing the quarterback. That’s what he does best. Again, we’re going to put him in position to do what he do best and that’s to get after the quarterback.”

Hindsight is obviously 20/20, and the Lions may have raised some eyebrows had they originally signed Okwara for more than two years back in 2019. However, exactly two years after that contract was signed, we’re sure GM Brad Holmes and his staff are wishing they had another year to evaluate the young defensive lineman.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Saints Release Jairus Byrd

On this date in 2017, the Saints released Jairus Byrd. The safety had still had multiple years to go on his six-year, $56MM deal, but, at this point, the Saints had seen enough. 

Byrd joined the Saints as a free agent in 2014, when he was positioned as one of the best talents available in the class. In his previous run with the Bills, Byrd was a star, making three Pro Bowls and intercepted a whopping 22 passes. In New Orleans, he totaled just three picks in three years. For his 33 games (32 starts), Byrd collected $28MM in guaranteed cash alone.

Injuries hampered Byrd throughout his Saints tenure, but he wasn’t a total bust. In 2016 — his age-30 season — Byrd turned in his first 16-start season since 2012. His performance placed him in the middle-of-the-pack among safeties that year (42 out of 89), per Pro Football Focus. So, even though things trending up, he wasn’t worth the megabucks. The Saints recouped $3.2MM of his would-be salary for 2017 but were still left saddled with ~$8MM in dead money.

Unfortunately, Byrd wasn’t able to do much after his release. In the fall, he hooked on with the Panthers to help fill in for an injured Kurt Coleman. After a dozen games and zero starts, Byrd’s Carolina stint marked his last action in the NFL. On the field, Byrd is best remembered for his glory days in Buffalo. In GM circles, Byrd became something of a cautionary tale for teams considering high-priced safeties. The following year, players like Eric Reid and Saints starter Kenny Vaccaro felt the sting of the depressed safety market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Steelers Extend Antonio Brown, Franchise Le’Veon Bell

On February 27, 2017, things were looking pretty good in Pittsburgh. Following a 2016 campaign that saw the Steelers make it to the AFC Championship, the organization committed to two of their offensive stars on the same day. On this date four years ago, the organization extended wideout Antonio Brown and franchised running back Le’Veon Bell. No one knew at the time that both these players would soon be playing for different teams.

By 2017, the two duo had already proven themselves among the top players at their respective positions. Brown was coming off four-straight campaigns that saw him surpass 1,000 yards receiving, and he hauled in 43 touchdowns during that four-year span. There had yet to be much drama for the perennial Pro Bowler; while a 2016 locker-room video led to discipline, Brown had otherwise been a good soldier. As a result, the Steelers felt more than comfortable making him the (then) highest-paid pass-catcher of all-time. The wideout ended up inking a lucrative four-year extension worth $68MM ($19MM guaranteed) that would last through the 2021 season.

“Antonio is a good guy, a good person,” team president Art Rooney II said at the time. “I enjoy our personal relationship. His teammates like to have him on the team. He is a hard worker.

“AB is a big contributor to our success, has been for several years now, and I think he’s capable of continuing to be that kind of player. I think he’s someone who wants to be a great player and works hard to be that. Hopefully, he’ll continue to evolve as a player and as a person.”

Despite only appearing in 12 games during the 2016 season, Bell still put up some gaudy numbers. He finished the campaign with 1,884 all-purpose yards and nine total touchdowns, earning him a Pro Bowl spot. While the two sides were eager to figure out a long-term deal, the Steelers ultimately placed the franchise tag on their star running back, locking him into a $12MM salary for 2017. After becoming the fastest player in NFL history to hit 3,000 career rushing yards and 1,500 career receiving yards, coach Mike Tomlin said at the time that the team wanted to reward their running back for his continued improvement.

“Just understanding how to play the position, the nuances of the position, the protection of the ball, the protection of himself,” the head coach said. “He is a guy that has got some talent, but equally or more important than that he has a desire to be great and a work ethic to boot. He is a much better conditioned athlete today that he was in 2014. I mean it when I say all areas.”

2017 proved to be a fine year for Brown, Bell, and the Steelers. Both players earned Pro Bowl nods after combining for 3,479 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns en route to a 13-win campaign. The wheels fell off soon after. During the 2018 offseason, the Steelers once again slapped the franchise tag on Bell, but the running back refused to sign the tender. Despite occasional reports of reconciliation and a potential long-term extension, Bell’s hold out ended up lasting the entire season. He became a free agent the following offseason and inked a four-year deal with the Jets.

Brown was productive again in 2018, finishing with a career-high 15 receiving touchdowns. However, there started to be some reports of tension toward the end of that campaign. Brown apparently engaged in an argument with Ben Roethlisberger and skipped practices before their Week 17 content, leading to Brown’s benching. We later learned that Brown had become disgruntled with his role in Pittsburgh and wanted a trade. The Steelers agreed that a breakup was necessary, and they dealt Brown to the Raiders during the 2019 offseason.

Things haven’t necessarily gone swimmingly for either player since leaving Pittsburgh. Bell’s stint in New York last less than two seasons, and after cutting cut in October, he settled into a minor backup role with the Chiefs. Brown’s stint with the Raiders barely last six months; following bizarre behavior and arguments with executives, he was released by the team. He subsequently joined the Patriots, but he was cut following allegations of sexual misconduct. Following a retirement, an un-retirement, another retirement, and another un-retirement, Brown was slapped with an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He caught on with the Buccaneers in October, and he ended up hauling in two playoff touchdowns during Tampa Bay’s path to a Super Bowl championship (which somewhat ironically came against Bell’s Chiefs).

The Steelers struggled a bit during the 2018 and 2019 campaigns, combining for only 17 wins between the two seasons. They got back to their winning ways in 2020, finished 12-4 before losing in the Wild Card game.

When these transactions were completed four years ago today, there was plenty of excitement for both the players and the team. We’re sure neither side anticipated how both of these scenarios would ultimately play out.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Jets Release Nick Mangold

After eleven seasons, Nick Mangold‘s time with the Jets came to an end. On this date in 2017, Gang Green released the veteran center to save roughly $9MM against the cap.

Mangold played in a career-low eight games the previous year and had no guaranteed dollars to go on his deal. It was supposed to be the final year of Mangold’s seven-year Jets contract. He was a standout, a fan favorite, and he was synonymous with the organization for over a decade. However, the Jets were one of the league’s most cap-strapped teams at the time.

A two-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler, Mangold started all 164 games in which he played for the Jets. Mangold said he’d continue playing after rehabbing from the ankle injury that hampered his 2016 season. Unfortunately, the issue lingered. Contenders like the Ravens could have used Mangold, but he wasn’t able to answer the cll.

The Jets turned the job over to backup Wesley Johnson, who would find himself with the rival Dolphins one year later. Mangold, meanwhile, inked a one-day contract to retire with the Jets in 2018. Ultimately, the beloved center was unable to bounce back at the age of 34.

Everything that happened from pee-wee football to high school football to having the good fortune to play at The Ohio State University molded me for my opportunity to play for the New York Jets,” said Mangold. “In my 11 years as a Jet, there were plenty of ups and downs but, through it all, I wanted to be the Steady Eddie. I wanted to be the guy that other guys looked at to see how it was done. I learned this attribute from the vets that I played with.”

My biggest regret is not bringing the Lombardi Trophy to New York but, as I retire, I will continue my efforts to bring the Trophy home in a different capacity. I have no idea what that capacity is but I’m sure I will figure something out in the future.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Panthers Release Mike Tolbert

After making a name for himself in San Diego, Mike Tolbert moved on to the Panthers and became an integral part of their offense. But, after the 2016 season, the Panthers released the multiple-time Pro Bowler in a cost-cutting move. Mike Tolbert (Vertical)

[RELATED: Panthers To Release Tre Boston]

Tolbert wasn’t the fastest guy in the NFL, but he was a wrecking ball who knew how to move the pile. In 2016, he collected the third Pro Bowl selection of his career, adding to a resume that also included two First Team All-Pro nods (2013, 2015).

However, there were some signs of decline and he had slipped in the Panthers’ pecking order. Historically, the Panthers gave Tolbert a decent amount of work. In 2016, he had just 35 carries – the lowest total of his Panthers stretch. He was still an adept lead blocker with goal line ability, but the Panthers opted to save $1.725MM against the books while carrying a $2.075MM cap charge.

Tolbert, entering his age-32 season, landed with the Bills in free agency. Other teams — like the Jets — considered the veteran, but other fullbacks with sharper run blocking skills like Patrick DiMarco received more attention. Tolbert made the cut, opened the year behind LeSean McCoy on the depth chart, and averaged 3.7 yards per carry in a limited sample. That would prove to be his final year in the NFL — fullbacks had mostly gone the way of the dinosaur in the 2018 offseason, and Tolbert did not sign another NFL deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Ravens Sign Rod Woodson

By the late 1990s, Rod Woodson went from perennial All-Pro as a Steeler to 49ers cap casualty. The Hall of Fame defender began a memorable second act on this date 23 years ago.

The Ravens swooped in and signed Woodson on Feb. 20, 1998, landing the then-11-year veteran cornerback on a four-year, $11.5MM deal that came with a $3MM signing bonus. Woodson would soon become a critical piece of one of the NFL’s all-time great defenses.

A year earlier, Woodson became a free agent and signed with the 49ers. San Francisco added both Woodson and fellow ex-Steeler Kevin Greene for the 1997 season. The 49ers led the league in total defense and secured the NFC’s No. 1 seed that year; they lost to the Packers in the conference championship game. Both players became cap casualties on the same day in 1998. Shortly after Woodson’s Ravens agreement, Greene re-signed with the Panthers.

Baltimore used Woodson as a cornerback in 1998, but in one of the best position-change decisions in modern NFL history, the five-time All-Pro corner moved to safety a year later. This shift coincided with the Ravens’ defensive ascent. After ranking 22nd in total defense in a 6-10 1998 season, Baltimore ranked second in ’99 — an 8-8 slate. Woodson led the NFL with seven interceptions and returned two for touchdowns in his first season as a safety. That began a run of four straight Pro Bowls for the veteran, who would go on to become an 11-time Pro Bowler.

In 2000, the Ravens elevated their performance considerably. Woodson, then 35, started 16 games for a defense that allowed just 10.3 points per game — the fewest in the 16-game era, breaking the 1986 Bears’ previous mark (11.7) — and lifted the team to a 12-4 record and Super Bowl XXXV championship. The Ravens blended a mix of homegrown young talent — headed by Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Chris McAllister — with veterans to assemble that storied defense, with Woodson spearheading the latter contingent. He finished the 2000 season with four picks and 77 tackles.

The Ravens held onto Woodson through the 2001 season. He signed with the Raiders in 2002 and played a pivotal role in that team advancing to the Super Bowl, leading the NFL with eight INTs. Woodson wrapped his 17-year career after the 2003 season and became a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2009.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Raiders Release Sebastian Janikowski

Three years ago today, Sebastian Janikowski‘s 18-year Raiders run came to an end. The kicker was out-of-contract but, this time around, the Raiders informed him that he would not be re-signed. 

Janikowski’s Raiders tenure was nearly capped one year earlier. In 2017, he initially rebuffed the team’s request for a pay cut — he later caved to keep his place on the roster. Unfortunately, a preseason back injury would sideline him for the rest of the entire season.

Seabass was synonymous with the organization. After being selected in the first round of the 2000 draft, Janikowski appeared in 268 games for the Raiders, a franchise high. And, before 2017, he had only missed a total of four games throughout his career.

Despite his long-running history with team, the Raiders had concerns about his age and possible decline. In 2016, Janikowski sank 82.9% of his field goals and 37-of-39 extra point attempts. He has not cleared the 83% mark on field goals since 2014. At this time, he was on the cusp of his 40th birthday. It’s possible that the Raiders would have cut him in ’17, if it weren’t for the bad PR that would have come along with it. After announcing the move to Las Vegas, losing Janikowski would have made things especially ugly in Oakland.

With Janikowski out of the picture, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was left as the only player from the 2000 Draft to remain with his original team. The kicker moved on to the Seahawks, unseated Jason Myers, and made 81.5% of his regular season kicks. His final play would come in the Wild Card game against the Cowboys — Janikowski missed a 57-yard field goal and suffered a hamstring injury. In April of 2019, Janikowski announced his retirement, capping his NFL career after 19 seasons.

This Date In Transactions History: Chargers Extend HC Anthony Lynn

Oh, how much can change in a year. On this date literally last year, the Chargers officially signed head coach Anthony Lynn to a one-year extension that would keep him in Los Angeles through the 2021 season. If you’ve been following along at home since the end of the regular season, Lynn is no longer the head coach of the Chargers.

Let’s recap where the Chargers were on February 13, 2020. The team was coming off an ugly 5-11 campaign, the worst record of Lynn’s (then) three seasons with the team. Naturally, the head coach found himself on the hot seat, but the organization quickly killed that narrative by handing Lynn a one-year extension. The vote of confidence made a bit of sense; Lynn had some success during his first two years at the helm, guiding the Chargers to a 21-11 record and a playoff victory. Plus, as GM Tom Telesco noted following the 2019 season, the team’s abysmal play shouldn’t have been attributed to coaching. Rather, the 2019 Chargers dealt with a long list of injuries and inconsistent quarterback play from Philip Rivers.

Of course, in hindsight, the one-year extension should have been the writing on the wall. If the organization was truly committed to their head coach, they would have given him a lengthier extension. Instead, they effectively made the 2020 campaign a “prove-it” season for Lynn (or, if the organization hadn’t ultimately fired him, they basically just delayed his lame-duck status for one year). In other words, the front office was clearly already preparing for a potential coaching change when they handed Lynn his extension last year.

The Chargers would get off to a brutal 3-9 start to begin the 2020 campaign, with six of those losses being decided by less than a touchdown. Naturally, those close losses landed on the lap of the head coach. Despite a four-game winning streak to end the season and incredible play from rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, Lynn was fired by the Chargers back in January.

It didn’t take long for Lynn to find another gig. After discussing a role with the Seahawks, the 52-year-old ended up joining the Lions as the offensive coordinator on Dan Campbell‘s new staff. The Chargers pivoted to a defensive-minded coach to replace Lynn, hiring Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to be the 17th head coach in franchise history.

On this date in 2020, maybe there was some optimism that Lynn could end up sticking around in Los Angeles (although the comment section of our article tells a different story). In reality, it was a clear sign that the Chargers were already planning for a future with a different head coach.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.