Ward signs $1.1 million deal with incentives

Updated: March 15, 2008, 2:51 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The New York Giants, who won the Super Bowl with one of the deepest backfields in football, retained one of their key backups Frday, reaching an agreement with halfback Derrick Ward.

Ward
Ward
Ward, 27, agreed to a one-year, $1.1 million deal with incentives that could allow him to make another $1 million. He stayed with a backfield that features Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Reuben Droughns.

The backfield was so deep last summer that the Giants were able to trade Ryan Grant to the Green Bay Packers for a sixth-round draft choice. Grant helped the Packers get to the NFC Championship Game, where they lost to the Giants.

Ward had five starts last season and rushed for 602 yards and had a 4.8 yard average. He will be entering his fifth season with the Giants.

-- John Clayton, ESPN.com

Eugene Wilson was drafted by the New England Patriots as a cornerback. He became a starting safety.

As a free agent, Wilson will get back to his roots. He agreed to a one-year, $1.8 million deal that includes $500,000 in guarantees to play corner for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs believe he will be a good fit in their Cover 2 scheme.

Wilson was being pursued by the Titans, Jets, Steelers and Vikings.

Wilson, 27, will be a free agent in 2009 and look for a long-term deal. He had 55 starts in his five seasons in New England. Wilson is the third member of the Patriots secondary to leave. Cornerback Randall Gay went to New Orleans. Cornerback Asante Samuel went to Philadelphia.

-- John Clayton, ESPN.com

Free agency creates some unusual reunions -- and that was the case Friday when linebacker Chaun Thompson signed with the Houston Texans.

Thompson, who agreed to a two-year deal with the Texans, played with linebacker Kevin Bentley when he came into the league as a second-round choice in 2003 with the Cleveland Browns. Both were part of a Butch Davis overhaul of the Browns linebacking corps back then. Now, Thompson will have a chance to compete against Bentley for a starting job.

Bentley and Thompson will compete for the strong-side linebacker job that opened when Charlie Anderson left for the Miami Dolphins. Bentley left the Seahawks to sign a three-year, $4 million deal with the Texans. Thompson's two-year deal is for more than $1 million a year.

Thompson, 27, started 28 games in 2004 and 2005 for the Browns. He only started two games over the past two years for Romeo Crennel.

-- John Clayton, ESPN.com

Wide receiver Bryant Johnson has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers, a source told ESPN.com.

Johnson, an unrestricted free agent, was a first-round pick (17th overall) by the Arizona Cardinals in 2003, and had spent his entire career with the Cardinals. Last season, he had 46 receptions for 528 yards and two touchdowns.

-- Michael Smith, ESPN.com and The Associated Press

Derrick Pope signed a one-year contract Friday with the Vikings, leaving the Miami Dolphins and joining a Minnesota team looking to add depth at linebacker.

Pope is entering his fifth season in the league. He will be the fourth linebacker on the depth chart, behind starters Ben Leber, E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway.

Pope started a career-high nine games for the Dolphins last season. His role with the Vikings will include plenty of work on special teams.

"That's one of the biggest keys for me is special teams," Pope told The Associated Press. "That's how I've survived in this league, off special teams."

Pope had 64 tackles and two interceptions for the Dolphins last year. He will help fill the void left by the departure of Dontarrious Thomas, who signed with San Francisco.

-- The Associated Press

Tight end Ben Utecht signed an offer sheet with the Cincinnati Bengals for a three-year contract.

The fourth-year pro is a restricted free agent from the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts can keep him by matching the Bengals' offer within a week.

The 6-foot-6, 251-pounder from Minnesota has played 41 games with 30 starts for the Colts. He has five postseason starts, including the Colts' Super Bowl victory last year. Utecht played in 14 games last season, with 31 catches for 364 yards and one touchdown.

The Bengals said Friday they wouldn't be required to compensate Indianapolis with a draft choice for Utecht, who entered the NFL as a college free agent.

-- The Associated Press

Former Dallas cornerback Nathan Jones signed a two-year contract with the Miami Dolphins on Friday, bolstering their special teams.

Jones has 26 tackles on special teams in his four-year career. He has made only one start at cornerback but played extensively as a reserve last year, when he had 29 tackles and one sack.

Miami earlier signed Keith Davis, another special teams standout in Dallas, and kicker Dave Rayner.

-- The Associated Press

The Lions released safety Kenoy Kennedy on Friday and signed cornerback Brian Kelly to a three-year deal.

Kennedy, an eight-year veteran, spent the past three seasons in Detroit. He started 15 of 16 games in 2007 and had 91 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He spent his first five seasons in Denver.

Kelly spent his first 11 seasons in Tampa Bay. He started four of 11 games last season and had 25 tackles and two interceptions.

Detroit already has cut running back Kevin Jones and defensive end Kalimba Edwards, and traded defensive tackle Shaun Rogers.

-- The Associated Press

Raiders boss Al Davis loves to take chances on former first-round picks in hopes of turning their careers around.

Former Giants first-round pick William Joseph is a perfect candidate for that assignment. Joseph, the 25th pick in the 2003 draft, signed with the Raiders Friday. Terms of the deal weren't available.

Joseph, 6-foot-5, 308-pounds, will be asked to fill the void created by the retirement of defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Tommy Kelly, a converted defensive end who signed a seven-year, $52.5 million contract before the start of free agency, will be given the first chance to start. Joseph will be asked to provide backup support.

Joseph, 28 didn't play during last year's Super Bowl run.

-- John Clayton, ESPN.com