The NFL’s free agent frenzy began Tuesday, with Mike Wallace, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe among the big names to switch teams for big paychecks.
Several other stars, including Nnamdi Asomugha, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Antoine Winfield, are looking for jobs after they were cut in cost-saving moves on a busy opening day of free agency.
The Baltimore Ravens are paying the price for winning a Super Bowl. The NFL champions lost two key components of their defense in Kruger and Ellerbe. On Monday, they traded star receiver Anquan Boldin, a key to their title run, to San Francisco — the team the Ravens beat 34-31 to win the championship.
Kruger went north to division rival Cleveland for a five-year, $40 million deal, while Ellerbe headed south to Miami for $35 million over five years. Wallace, a star receiver for Pittsburgh, joined Ellerbe in choosing the Dolphins.
San Francisco also confirmed the trade of backup quarterback Alex Smith to Kansas City, a deal that was known for weeks.
Fitzpatrick, the Bills’ starting quarterback, was released 1½ years after getting a six-year, $59 million contract extension. Philadelphia released Asomugha, who two years ago got a five-year, $60 million contract with $24 million guaranteed when he left Oakland as a free agent. Asomugha was a flop in Philly, often victimized in single coverage.
Earlier, Tony Gonzalez changed his mind about retirement and decided to return to the Falcons. The NFL’s career leader among tight ends with 1,242 receptions and 103 touchdowns said he was 95 percent certain he would retire after 2012, but the other 5 percent won out.