|Bengals sign QB Campbell to be backup|
|Thursday, March 20, 2014 8:16 PM|
CINCINNATI — The Bengals signed quarterback Jason Campbell to be Andy Dalton’s backup on Thursday, a move that brings the franchise full circle in several ways.
Campbell’s broken collarbone with the Raiders midway through the 2011 season had deep reverberations in Cincinnati.
The injury prompted then-Raiders coach Hue Jackson to lobby for a trade with the Bengals, who sent them Carson Palmer for a first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick. Palmer was holding out, saying he’d never play again for the Bengals.
Bengals’ owner Mike Brown was inclined to keep Palmer and make him sit out. The generous offer from Oakland forced him to reconsider.
The Raiders got the trade but failed to reach the playoffs, Jackson was fired and Campbell moved on to Chicago. Jackson was rehired as an assistant in Cincinnati and was elevated to offensive coordinator when Jay Gruden left for Washington after last season.
Campbell’s familiarity with Jackson was attractive to both the quarterback and the Bengals, who decided to sign their third backup in the last three years.
“He reached out to me but he didn’t want to be the forefront guy that was pushing this,” Campbell said. “He wanted the other coaches to make sure they were on board to make the right decision.
“I came in for a visit and was able to connect and I liked everything and the direction it was going in.”
Campbell started his 9-year career with Washington. He also has played for Oakland, Chicago and Cleveland, where he started eight of the Browns’ last nine games last season.
Dalton has been durable during his three seasons in Cincinnati, with Bruce Gradkowski and Josh Johnson getting little playing time. Johnson was the backup last season and got into two lopsided wins at the end but didn’t throw a pass.
The Bengals have reached the playoffs in all three of Dalton’s seasons and lost in the first round. Dalton has struggled in two playoff losses at Houston and a 27-10 loss at home to San Diego last season.
The Bengals think Campbell’s familiarity with Jackson’s coaching methods can benefit Dalton in the transition to a new coordinator. Jackson is expected to emphasize the run more next season.
“If he asks a question of what Hue is thinking or how did you do this before, I think those are some aspects that I can help him along with because of some of my experience within the offense,” Campbell added. “That really pays dividends.
“On the other side of it, this is a big year for him coming up. I can help with film study and being an extra set of eyes.”
Texans sign QB Fitzpatrick
HOUSTON — The Houston Texans have signed veteran free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick is a 9-year NFL veteran who started nine games for the Titans last season and threw for 2,454 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has appeared in 85 games with 77 starts in his career.
Fitzpatrick played for Buffalo from 2009-2012 and started 16 games in each of his last two seasons with the Bills.
Houston announced the move Thursday
The Texans were in need of a quarterback after benching Matt Schaub last season when he got off to a terrible start and finding that Case Keenum wasn’t the long-term solution. Schaub remains on the roster but it’s unlikely that he will be with the team next season.
Houston also has the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft, which includes top quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel.
Cardinals agree on 1-year deal with CB Cromartie
TEMPE, Ariz.— A month from his 30th birthday, Antonio Cromartie is coming to the desert to face the challenges of the NFC West.
The 3-time Pro Bowl cornerback signed a 1-year contract with the Cardinals on Thursday, saying he was lured by the team’s aggressive pursuit of him and the fact that the team is developing into a contender.
Despite Cromartie’s pedigree, there was no avalanche of interest from other teams when the New York Jets released him on March 9.
Cromartie was bothered by a hip flexor strain the first 12 weeks of last season but added it improved over the final month.
The Cardinals’ move is in line with a flurry of 1-year deals general manager Steve Keim signed players to in his first months on the job last year.
Cromartie called his release by the Jets and the relative disinterest from other teams “big-time motivation” for his coming season.
Cromartie will start alongside Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson. Tyrann Matiheu played the nickel corner as well as safety as a rookie last year before going down with torn knee ligaments. Cromartie called that a formidable trio.
He is the third significant free agent signing for the Cardinals, joining left tackle Jared Veldheer and wide receiver/kick returner Ted Ginn Jr.
Wootton agrees to terms with Vikings
MINNEAPOLIS — Free agent defensive end Corey Wootton has agreed to terms with the Minnesota Vikings.
Wootton and his agent, Mike McCartney, tweeted the agreement on Thursday night. Wootton spent the first four seasons of his career with the division rival Chicago Bears. Wootton has played all 16 games each of the last two seasons when he combined for 10 sacks. He had three sacks last season.
Wootton has a place in Vikings’ lore. He was the defender who drove Brett Favre into the frozen turf at TCF Bank Stadium in 2010. The hit gave Favre a concussion that prevented the quarterback from playing in the final two games of his career.
The Vikings also signed defensive tackle Tom Johnson.
The deal was done Thursday. The 29-year-old Johnson spent the last three seasons as a backup with the New Orleans Saints, playing in 40 games plus four more contests in the playoffs while totaling five sacks.
The addition of Johnson, likely to back up last year’s top draft pick Sharrif Floyd, will probably mean the end of an 11-season run in Minnesota by Kevin Williams, who became a free agent.
Seattle Seahawks sign OL Stephen Schilling
RENTON, Wash. — The Seattle Seahawks have signed free agent offensive lineman Stephen Schilling.
Seattle announced the signing on Thursday. Schilling had been a sixth-round draft pick of San Diego in the 2011 draft. In three seasons with the Chargers, Schilling appeared in 18 games with three starts. He played at both left and right guard during his time in San Diego.
49ers fullback Miller gets three-year extension
SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Miller recalls springtime three years ago when 49ers running backs coach Tom Rathman called to inquire whether he might be up for a position change. Defense to offense.
The answer was simple: of course he would. Miller wanted his best chance to contribute in the NFL as soon as possible.
Now, that well-timed switch has helped Miller earn some job stability.
He signed a 3-year contract extension with San Francisco on Thursday, ensuring the team can keep a key member of its running game through the 2017 season.
The do-everything Miller was lost for the season Dec. 15 with a left shoulder blade injury sustained during a win at Tampa Bay — and his absence left a huge void. San Francisco greatly missed his contributions the rest of the way before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion and rival Seattle Seahawks in the NFC title game.
He has been training and rehabbing at 49ers headquarters and is ready for a full offseason program with his teammates.
Woodson agrees to 1-year deal with Raiders
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Safety Charles Woodson agreed to a 1-year deal to extend his second stint with the Oakland Raiders to a second season.
Woodson was flying to the Bay Area on Thursday night and was expected to officially sign the deal today, according to his agent, Carl Poston. ESPN first reported the deal.
Woodson, 37, came back to his original NFL team last season after spending the previous seven years with Green Bay, much to the delight of his legion of fans who hoped his return would help resurrect a struggling franchise.
While Woodson was able to start all 16 games a year after missing nine because of injury in Green Bay and he brought the leadership Oakland was seeking, he was unable to improve the results on the field as the Raiders went 4-12 for a second straight year.
That extended their run of seasons without a winning record or playoff berth to 11, starting late in Woodson’s first stint in Oakland.
The Raiders have placed a priority on signing players with a winning pedigree this offseason. Woodson joins new defensive linemen Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley and returning safety Usama Young as Raiders with Super Bowl titles in their career. New cornerback Tarell Brown and defensive lineman Antonio Smith have played in Super Bowls previously.
Falcons sign return specialist Devin Hester
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with return specialist Devin Hester.
The team announced the deal Thursday. The 31-year-old Hester is a 3-time Pro-Bowler who last year tied an NFL record with his 19th scoring return in eight seasons with the Chicago Bears. Coming off a dismal 4-12 season, the Falcons are hoping he can bolster a unit that ranked 28th in the league in kickoff return yards and 21st in punt return yards.
Hester has scored on 13 punt returns, five kickoff returns and off a missed field goal. In 2013, he led the NFL in kickoff return yards (1,436) and total return yards (1,692).
In addition, Hester has 217 receptions for 2,807 yards and 14 touchdowns in his career.
Terms of Hester’s contract were not immediately available.
Panthers sign free agent WR Cotchery from Steelers
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers have finally started the process of replenishing their wide receiving corps, signing free agent Jerricho Cotchery to a 2-year contract on Thursday.
Financial terms of the deal were not released.
Cotchery has spent 10 seasons in the NFL, the last three with the Pittsburgh Steelers and brings some needed experience to a Carolina team that released Steve Smith in free agency and saw Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon leave via free agency.
The departure of Carolina’s top four receivers this offseason left the Panthers with six wide receivers on the roster that had a combined five career NFL catches.
WR Boldin wins union’s service award
ORLANDO, Fla. — San Francisco receiver Anquan Boldin’s foundation is the recipient of a $100,000 grant from the players union for winning the Byron “Whizzer” White Award.
The award is given to the player who serves his team, community and country in the spirit of Byron Raymond “Whizzer” White, the late Supreme Court justice the NFL Players Association calls “a scholar, athlete, patriot, humanitarian and public servant — the personification of the ideal to which professional football players aspire.”
An 11-year veteran and 4-time Pro Bowler with Arizona, Baltimore and San Francisco, Boldin’s Q81 Foundation mission is to expand the educational and life opportunities of underprivileged youth.
The foundation begins its 10th year in April and has conducted charitable activities in Phoenix, Baltimore, South Florida and most recently in San Francisco.
NFL tells Steelers they won’t lose draft pick
PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II says the NFL has told the team it will not be docked a pick in this year’s draft for coach Mike Tomlin’s foray onto the field against Baltimore last November.
Tomlin was fined $100,000 for stepping onto the field during a lengthy kickoff return by Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones during a loss to the Ravens on Thanksgiving night. The league said at the time of the penalty it would consider taking away a pick in May’s draft once the draft order was established.
The Steelers finished 8-8 and narrowly missed the postseason, leaving the team with the 15th pick in the first round of the draft.
Carr fights through sickness on pro day
FRESNO, Calif. — Derek Carr fought through an illness and completed 56-of-63 passes as he worked out for NFL scouts at Fresno State’s pro day.
The quarterback woke up Thursday vomiting and nauseous, but after receiving intravenous fluids and medication, he was able to come away happy with his performance.
At least 23 teams were represented, including general managers for two teams.
Among those in the audience were Vikings’ general manager Rick Spielman and offensive coordinator Norv Turner; Raiders’ general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen; and Jaguars’ offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.
Carr is considered among the top quarterbacks available in the May draft class and a candidate to be a first-round pick.
Carr was scheduled to meet with the Vikings and Raiders officials after Thursday’s workouts, with more meetings scheduled with NFL scouts and officials in Fresno through the weekend.