One day before the NFL’s new year begins, quarterbacks stole the spotlight.
Drew Brees is staying put in the Big Easy, Case Keenum is headed to the Rocky Mountains, and Kirk Cousins will make his first visit as a free agent to Minnesota. The Vikings long have been considered a natural landing spot for one of the most valuable quarterbacks available.
Brees has agreed to a two-year, $50 million extension with New Orleans, with $27 million guaranteed the first year, two people familiar with the contract told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the agreement has not been announced.
Brees is 39 and wants to finish his career in New Orleans, where he has played since 2006, won a Super Bowl and led what has been one of the most productive offenses in the NFL since he and coach Sean Payton arrived.
“I’ll be here as long as they’ll have me,” Brees said after last season ended.
Keenum, a backup when the season began, guided Minnesota to the NFC North title and then into the conference championship game. He’ll cash in with the Broncos.
The 30-year-old Keenum is considered the second-best QB available in free agency after Cousins. He went 11-3 with 3,547 yards passing, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His last-second throw to Stefon Diggs stunned the Saints, 29-24, in the playoffs.
In other moves:
The Tennessee Titans have agreed to a four-year contract with free agent running back Dion Lewis. A person familiar with the deal said it carries a maximum value of $23.4 million.
Veteran running back Adrian Peterson was released by the Cardinals on Tuesday, and receiver Jordy Nelson — Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target — was let go by the Packers.
The seven-time All-Pro running back Peterson began last season with New Orleans but, after barely playing there, was dealt to the Cardinals. Peterson rushed for 134 yards in a win over Tampa Bay and 159 in a win over San Francisco. In six games, he gained 448 yards on 129 carries for Arizona before being sidelined with a neck injury.
Peterson, who turns 33 next week, ranks 12th in the NFL in career rushing with 12,276 yards.
Nelson had 550 receptions and 69 touchdown catches in 10 seasons in Green Bay. But his production declined last season with Rodgers sidelined much of the year by a collarbone injury. He missed the 2015 season with a major knee injury, and then was the 2016 Comeback Player of the Year.
Super Bowl champion Philadelphia lost two tight ends, cutting veteran Brent Celek, then saw Trey Burton agree to a four-year, $32 million contract with Chicago. Five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and linebacker Corey Nelson have agreed to one-year contracts with the Eagles.
The Bears also will be signing Jacksonville receiver Allen Robinson on Wednesday and kicker Cody Parkey.
— Tennessee agreed with New England cornerback and one-time Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler on a five-year deal worth more than $60 million. Agent Derek Simpson told The Associated Press that Butler will sign the deal including $30 million guaranteed once free agency begins.
Butler spent the past four seasons with the New England Patriots and has eight career interceptions. He was benched for the Super Bowl in February.
— Buffalo bolstered its interior defensive line, agreeing to a deal with Carolina tackle Star Lotulelei and re-signing Kyle Williams, who contemplated retirement.
— Kansas City will add wide receiver Sammy Watkins and middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens, filling two glaring needs. The 24-year-old Watkins intends to sign a $48 million, three-year contract with $30 million in guarantees, while the 25-year-old Hitchens agreed to a five-year deal, two people familiar with their decisions told the AP.
— Receiver Albert Wilson is closing in on a $24 million, three-year deal with the Dolphins. Miami traded top receiver Jarvis Landry to Cleveland and has a need. They also are near an agreement with Patriots receiver Danny Amendola.
The Dolphins also cut linebacker Lawrence Timmons after just one season with them. Timmons went AWOL on the eve of last year’s opener, was briefly suspended and played poorly when he returned. He signed a $12 million, two-year contract in 2017 after 10 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His departure clears $5.5 million in cap space for Miami.
— Jacksonville linebacker Paul Posluszny, 33, the second-leading tackler in franchise history, retired after 11 seasons.
Receiver Marqise Lee has agreed to re-sign for a four-year deal worth $38 million.