Anxious all week, Julius Peppers was finally getting some sleep at home in Charlotte, N.C., when he found out just how serious the Chicago Bears were about acquiring him.
The free-agent signing period had just begun and his agent called to tell him Coach Lovie Smith was in town. Soon, Peppers was meeting him at an executive airport.
Now, he’s being fitted for a Bears uniform.
Peppers joined Chicago in the biggest move by a team that showed it’s fixated on contending again after missing the playoffs the last three seasons.
The five-time Pro Bowl defensive end and top free-agent prize agreed Friday to a six-year deal worth potentially $91.5 million.
Agent Carl Carey said a record $42 million is guaranteed, with Peppers earning $20 million in the first year and $40.5 million over the first three. The deal includes incentives for sacks, making the Pro Bowl and winning defensive player of the year.
“It’s one thing to play football in this league and make a living, but it’s a totally different thing to come to a place with a rich tradition like the Bears,” Peppers said.
Besides Peppers, the Bears lured running back Chester Taylor from NFC North champion Minnesota with a four-year contract and blocking tight end Brandon Manumaleuna from San Diego with a five-year deal. Taylor’s contract is worth $12.5 million with $7 million guaranteed, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiation. The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.
The Baltimore Ravens couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add a talented pass catcher to their roster: three-time Pro Bowl standout Anquan Boldin.
Baltimore obtained Boldin from the Arizona Cardinals for a third- and fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft. The 29-year-old Boldin has amassed at least 1,000 yards receiving in five of his seven seasons, including 1,024 yards on 84 catches last season.
Boldin received a new four-year, $28-million deal with Baltimore in which $10 million is guaranteed. He was to set to earn $3 million next season, the last of the four-year, $22.5-million deal he signed with Arizona after the 2005 season.
A person familiar with the negotiations said the Atlanta Falcons agreed to terms on a six-year deal with free-agent cornerback Dunta Robinson, who had 13 interceptions in the last six seasons with Houston.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no contract had been signed. Financial terms of the agreement were not immediately available.
Robinson is from Athens, Ga., about an hour from Atlanta. He visited the team Friday.
Robinson was the 10th overall draft pick in 2004. He had six interceptions as a rookie.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is being investigated in an allegation of sexual assault at a Georgia nightclub, police said.
Officers said the alleged assault occurred early Friday in Milledgeville, about 85 miles southeast of Atlanta. The player owns a home about 30 miles away.
The two-time Super Bowl champion and some of his friends were seen visiting local restaurants and bars Thursday night.
“He’s been identified as being at the scene and there are allegations naming him as the perpetrator,” Deputy Chief Richard Malone said.
Malone said Roethlisberger had been with three other people who were mingling with another group that included the alleged victim. Malone said the woman and her party contacted a nearby police officer following the alleged assault.
Several areas of the bar were considered a crime scene, but Malone would not elaborate.
Roethlisberger and the alleged victim have been interviewed and the woman was taken to a hospital, where she was treated and released, Malone said.
Separately, Roethlisberger has been sued by a woman who claims he raped her in 2008 at a Lake Tahoe hotel. The Steelers star denies those allegations and has asked for counter-damages.
Pro Bowl returner Josh Cribbs finally navigated his way to a new three-year contract from the Cleveland Browns, ending two seasons of threats, broken promises and back-and-forth negotiations.
With little choice but to reward their most popular player, the Browns paid Cribbs.
The Browns restructured the final three years of the six-year, $6.67-million deal Cribbs signed in 2006. He will receive $7.5 million in guaranteed money, and if he reaches incentives, the 26-year-old could make as much as $20 million, according to reports.
The New York Giants have made Pro Bowler Antrel Rolle the richest safety in the NFL.
In the waning hours of the opening day of free agency, Rolle signed a five-year, $37-million contract that has $15 million in guaranteed money.
Agent Drew Rosenhaus tweeted the announcement late Friday, offering his personal congratulations to Rolle on becoming “the highest paid safety in NFL history!”
The signing fills a major need for the Giants, who lost Kenny Phillips to a serious knee injury early last season.
Rolle, who was recently released by the Cardinals, had four interceptions last season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. claimed the pole for the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a blistering speed of 192.761 mph. It will be the first time Earnhardt has taken green at the head of a Sprint Cup field since the April 2008 race at Texas.
On Friday, David Moyes, Everton’s coach, revealed that the English Premier League club has been in contact with Major League Soccer and with the Galaxy with an eye to extending Landon Donovan’s 10-week loan spell, perhaps until the end of the English season in May or perhaps longer.
“I am keen to keep Landon and it sounds initially in America that they might say yes,” Moyes told the BBC. According to the Galaxy, he is expected back in Los Angeles on March 15. But Donovan, who signed a new four-year contract with MLS in December, has played well during his time with Everton, and has indicated that he is open to remaining in England.
If Donovan does remain with Everton, he probably would go straight from the Premier League season into camp with the U.S. national team ahead of the World Cup, which starts in June. The Galaxy had no comment Friday on Moyes’ remarks.
-- Grahame L. Jones
Retired stars Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Lindsay Davenport are joining current women’s player Justine Henin in a second match at a charity tennis exhibition to raise money for Haiti.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will team with retired stars Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi in an already announced men’s match during the “Hit for Haiti” benefit to be played March 12 at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
Tournament director Steve Simon says he expects a minimum of $1 million to be raised for Haiti earthquake relief efforts. A similar event held during the Australian Open raised more than $600,000.
Second-seeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia reached the semifinals of the Monterrey Open, defeating Vania King of the United States, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, on Friday.
Hantuchova will face fellow Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova in the semifinals. The fourth-seeded Cibulkova defeated No. 5 Agnes Szavay of Hungary, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
In another quarterfinal, third-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia defeated Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-2.