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Jets fly into free agency with flurry of activity
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
NEW YORK (AP) The New York Jets kicked off free agency with a furious frenzy.
After losing out on the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, they brought back Josh McCown on a one-year deal worth $10 million on Wednesday. They also agreed to terms with former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater - also on a one-year contract, according to published reports.
McCown, who'll turn 39 in July, had a career season last year while setting individual highs with 2,926 yards passing and 18 touchdowns, and quickly established himself as a respected leader in the locker room.
The quarterback wrote in a Twitter post that included a photo by one of his sons that he was waiting for some food at a Chick-fil-A restaurant while signing his new contract.
"Obviously, familiarity on both sides was key and, for me, I've been on a few teams now and changed scenery a little bit," McCown told the team's official website. "To have a chance to come back to a place that I've had an opportunity to build relationships with the people in the building and especially the guys in the locker room I think was important to me. It was hard to pass that up."
Bridgewater is still looking to return from a serious knee injury in August 2016 that sidelined him for most of the past two years. He threw just two passes last season for the Vikings, including one that was intercepted. The 25-year-old Bridgewater was a first-round draft pick in 2014 out of Louisville and was largely considered a rising star at his position before the injury.
New York is far from set at the quarterback position, though. The Jets have the No. 6 overall pick in the draft in April and could add a top rookie to the mix to compete with McCown and Bridgewater for the starting job.
There will be several other new faces on New York's roster this year, including linebacker Avery Williamson and running back Isaiah Crowell. The Jets are also adding cornerback Trumaine Johnson and center Spencer Long, according to multiple reports.
Williamson signed a three-year contract worth $22.5 million with New York after spending his first four NFL seasons with Tennessee and leading the Titans in tackles in two of those years.
The 26-year-old Williamson will be a replacement at inside linebacker for Demario Davis, who led the Jets in tackles last season with a career season but is 29 and left as a free agent. Williamson has 11+ sacks and 377 tackles with two interceptions and three forced fumbles. He'll likely combine with Darron Lee to man the middle of the Jets' linebacker group.
Williamson was a fifth-round pick out of Kentucky in the 2014 draft. He became a starter for the Titans early in his rookie season and became a consistent playmaker during his four years with the team.
Crowell is joining the Jets on a three-year contract, adding depth to their backfield following the retirement of Matt Forte.
Crowell spent his first four seasons in Cleveland after signing with the Browns as an undrafted free agent out of Alabama State in 2014. He ran for 853 yards and two touchdowns last season, and caught 28 passes for 182 yards.
The 25-year-old Crowell complements veteran Bilal Powell and second-year back Elijah McGuire in New York's running game. Forte recently announced his retirement after two seasons with the Jets, creating a need for the team this offseason.
Crowell shared carries with Duke Johnson the past two seasons, but averaged nearly 4.5 yards per carry during that span. He had 3,118 yards rushing and 21 TDs with 96 catches for 770 yards and a score in four years with the Browns. He is a durable back who hasn't missed a game in his NFL career.
Terms weren't immediately known, but Pro Football Talk reported that it's for five years and $72.5 million, including $34 million guaranteed at signing. That would make Johnson's deal one of the biggest in franchise history.
Johnson, one of the top free agents at his position, spent his first six seasons with the Rams and had 18 interceptions while establishing himself as one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL.
Johnson replaces Morris Claiborne, a free agent who could still be re-signed by New York.
Johnson was a third-round pick out of Montana in 2012 and established himself as a solid starter in his second season. His breakout season came in 2015, when he had a career-high seven interceptions.
The Rams used the franchise tag on Johnson the past two offseasons. His man-to-man coverage skills make him a valuable addition to the Jets, where he will again work with secondary coach Dennard Wilson - his position coach with the Rams from 2015-16.
The Jets are also upgrading the center position by adding Long. Wesley Johnson was the starting center last season as the replacement for Nick Mangold, but struggled at times and is now a free agent.
Long was a third-round draft pick out of Nebraska in 2014 and played both center and guard for the Redskins. He became Washington's starter at center early in the 2016 season after a season-ending injury to Kory Lichtensteiger.
The 27-year-old Long is coming off an injury, though. He was placed on injured reserve last November with knee tendinitis.
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Updated March 14, 2018