Jets sign Bridgewater, Williamson, Long; re-sign Claiborne
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
NEW YORK (AP) Teddy Bridgewater is getting a fresh start in a new place that suddenly has a crowded quarterbacks room - and could be adding another signal caller soon.
The New York Jets signed the former Minnesota Vikings star to a one-year contract, making the deal official Sunday.
Bridgewater's signing comes a day after the Jets traded up to acquire the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft from the Colts - likely with the intention of assuring themselves of getting one of the top available quarterbacks. New York dealt its first-rounder - No. 6 overall - along with two second-rounders and next year's second-rounder for Indianapolis' top pick this year.
The Jets have re-signed Josh McCown , who will likely head into the offseason programs as the starting quarterback, but both he and Bridgewater are on one-year deals.
So, the focus next month in the draft will be on finding the future of the franchise. New York also has Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg on the roster, along with Joel Stave, but none appear to be viable candidates for the starting job - and their roster spots could be in serious jeopardy.
On a busy Sunday, New York also announced the signings of former Titans linebacker Avery Williamson and former Redskins center Spencer Long, along with the re-signings of cornerback Morris Claiborne, defensive lineman Mike Pennel and safety Terrence Brooks.
The 25-year-old Bridgewater could give McCown - and presumably whomever New York takes in the draft - a run in training camp if completely healthy. He's 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.
"I'm excited about the direction we're headed in," Bridgewater told the Jets' website. "I'm excited to be a part of something that can be very special and I just look forward to getting to work with the guys and a great year."
Bridgewater was a first-round pick in 2014 out of Louisville and was largely considered a rising star at his position. He made the Pro Bowl after his second NFL season, but his career was thrust into uncertainty when he suffered a serious non-contact knee injury during a team practice the following summer. Bridgewater tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and dislocated the knee joint, along with other structural damage.
For his career, Bridgewater has thrown for 6,150 yards and 28 touchdowns with 22 interceptions and a 64.7 percent completion rate. He has also run for four touchdowns. Financial details were not immediately released, but it is believed to be worth $6 million - not including additional incentives.
The 26-year-old Williamson spent his first four NFL seasons with Tennessee and led the Titans in tackles in two of those years. He'll be the replacement at inside linebacker for 29-year-old Demario Davis, who led the Jets in tackles last year with a career season but signed with New Orleans as a free agent after he said New York never offered him a deal.
Instead, the Jets went with the younger Williamson, who has 11+ sacks and 377 tackles with two interceptions and three forced fumbles. He was given a three-year, $22.5 million deal and will combine with Darron Lee to man the middle of New York's linebacker group.
Williamson was a fifth-round pick out of Kentucky in 2014. He became a starter for the Titans early in his rookie season and was a consistent playmaker during his four years with the team.
"I know the defense," Williamson told the team's website of the Jets' 3-4 defensive alignment. "They have great guys up here that can play. This defense is hungry. You have young guys on it who are talented and I feel like I'm going to fit right in. I just have to get in and learn the playbook and get to work."
The Jets also addressed one of their other major needs by signing Long to a four-year deal worth $28 million.
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.
"It took a lot of adjustment physically and mentally," Long said. "It's definitely different having the ball in your hands. In the meeting rooms is where the big changes came because I grew so much mentally as a player when I had to learn the center position. Ever since then, I've been able to build on a solid foundation. I'm excited. I think my best ball is yet to come at that position."
The 27-year-old Long was limited to just seven games last season, though, as he dealt with injuries to both legs and needed surgery on his quadriceps tendon.
Claiborne rejoins the Jets on a one-year deal worth $7 million, including a $3 million signing bonus. He was the team's top cornerback last season, but will now combine with Trumaine Johnson, who signed a five-year, $72.5 million deal earlier this week, to form one of the NFL's most promising secondaries.
Pennel, back on a three-year deal worth $12 million, was a key backup for Todd Bowles' defense last season. He had a career-high 35 tackles in 16 games.
Brooks, who saw lots of playing time at safety and on special teams, was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after Week 3 with two interceptions against Miami. He signed a two-year contract.
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Updated March 18, 2018