Gradkowski to Steelers; Denver adds Welker
Bruce Gradkowski is coming home.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and the free agent quarterback have agreed to a three-year deal that will likely make Gradkowski the primary backup behind starter Ben Roethlisberger. Gradkowski's agent Rick Smith confirmed the deal through his Twitter account Wednesday.
The 30-year-old Gradkowski is 6-14 in his career as a starter with Oakland, Cleveland and Tampa Bay. He spent the 2011-12 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, appearing in five games. Gradkowski has completed 375 of 709 passes for 4,057 yards with 21 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in 37 career games.
The arrival of Gradkowski, a Pittsburgh native, means the Steelers will almost certainly not attempt to re-sign longtime backup quarterback Byron Leftwich.
Leftwich, a free agent, has dealt with a series of injuries in his second stint with Pittsburgh.
The Steelers also released oft-injured offensive lineman Willie Colon, a move that will save them money against the salary cap. The 29-year-old played in just 13 games the last three years due to health issues. Colon missed all of 2010 with a torn Achilles but signed a five-year, $29-million contract in July 2011. He played just one game that season after tearing the triceps in his right arm in the season opener.
Also, running back Rashard Mendenhall left Pittsburgh for Arizona after five roller coaster seasons.
n Wes Welker, Tom Brady's favorite target, is leaving New England and heading to Denver, where he'll join Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Also getting new deals were Reggie Bush in Detroit and Dashon Goldson in Tampa Bay.
Welker caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards and six TDs last season.
Denver added defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, too.
Bush agreed to a four-year deal and could fill a huge hole at running back. The Lions haven't been able to count on Jahvid Best, whose career is in doubt because of concussion issues.
The second overall pick in 2006 by New Orleans, Bush rushed for 986 yards for Miami last season after gaining 1,086 yards in 2011, his first year with the Dolphins.
The Lions also landed safety Glover Quin and defensive end Jason Jones and retained cornerback Chris Houston.
All-Pro safety Goldson gets a five-year contract worth $41.25 million. He receives $8.25 million per year and $22 million in guaranteed money. He spent the past two seasons on one-year contracts with the 49ers, including last year with the franchise tag for $6.2 million.
n Cleveland remained active, agreeing to terms with linebacker Quentin Groves and tackle Desmond Bryant to further bolster a defense that added Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger hours after free agency began.
Kruger is one of many Super Bowl winners to leave the Ravens, including hard-hitting safety Bernard Pollard, who was released Wednesday.
Baltimore signed defensive lineman Chris Canty, offensive lineman Ramon Harewood and running back Damien Berry.
n The Giants signed 11-year veteran place kicker Josh Brown, indicating free agent Lawrence Tynes won't be back.