Rumors, Day 3 news, league year starts

Wednesday marks a significant point on the NFL calendar as the first official day of the new league year. All of those free-agent deals agreed to on the first and second day of the legal tampering period are set to become official at 4 p.m. ET – when trades can also be executed and all 32 teams must be in compliance with the $255.4 million salary cap for 2024.

USA TODAY Sports will have updates on all the latest deals and buzz throughout the day, so check back often for up-to-the-minute news from our staff and around the USA TODAY Network on the start of NFL free agency:

49ers to add linebacker help

According to ESPN, the San Francisco 49ers plan to sign ILB Eric Kendrick, who was recently released by the Los Angeles Chargers, to a one-year contract. A nine-year veteran who played the balance of his career with the Minnesota Vikings, for whom he was an All-Pro once, Kendricks has played in 132 NFL games and made more than 1,000 tackles.

The Niners need help at linebacker after starter Dre Greenlaw tore his Achilles during Super Bowl 58, leaving his availability for the 2024 season in doubt.

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Which prominent free agents remain on the market?

Former Dallas Cowboys LT Tyron Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars WR Calvin Ridley and Denver Broncos FS Justin Simmons are among the top players who have not agreed to new deals. Simmons, who was recently released, is eligible to sign anywhere immediately.

Raiders set to save money

Per NFL Network, the Las Vegas Raiders will cut WR Hunter Renfrow on Wednesday, a move that will save them about $8.2 million against the cap. Used sparingly in the offense since being a Pro Bowler in 2021 (103 catches for 1,038 yards and 9 TDs), Renfrow has just 61 receptions since and did not find the end zone once in 2023.

It is also expected that QB Jimmy Garoppolo will be released if no one takes him in a trade. He signed a three-year, $72.8 million deal a year ago. Parting with him now will save the Raiders $11.3 million this year.

Which teams are still having cap issues?

Per Over The Cap, as of Wednesday morning, only three teams are not yet in compliance with this year’s $255.4 million salary cap. The Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills only need to make minor adjustments before the 4 p.m. ET deadline.

However the Los Angeles Chargers still need to clear approximately $25 million. They currently have four players – WRs Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and OLBs Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa – with 2024 cap hits in excess of $30 million, all of them but Bosa headed into the final season of their current contracts. QB Justin Herbert and SS Derwin James both approach $20 million for 2024 and could be candidates for restructures.

What’s going on with the Dallas Cowboys?

“America’s Team” has been among the quietest during the early part of free agency, losing several starters (RB Tony Pollard, C Tyler Biadasz, DE Dorance Armstrong) who have yet to be replaced in a meaningful way.

The major issue is QB Dak Prescott, who has a $59 million cap hit heading into the final year of his contract, which also stipulates he cannot be franchised next year and carries a no-trade clause. Prescott is owed a $5 million roster bonus next week and a $29 million base salary in 2024.

Elsewhere, All-Pro WR CeeDee Lamb is headed into the final year of his rookie contract, and All-Pro LB Micah Parsons is eligible for an extension for the first time. A lot of in-house business for Jerry Jones and Co. to consider in addition to eyeing new players for the roster.

Why are some free agents already signing deals?

The tampering window is open, however some players have already switched teams. Why?

In the case of S Kevin Byard, who reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the Chicago Bears prior to Monday, for example, the Philadelphia Eagles terminated his contract early. That made Byard a “street free agent” and thus eligible to sign elsewhere immediately as opposed to waiting for Wednesday. Former Denver Broncos Pro Bowl FS Justin Simmons is in a similar situation, already eligible to join another club.

Early termination of contracts not only kickstarts the process of clearing cap space, but it’s often a sign of good faith as clubs give veterans a head start on the free agent process.

In the case of QB Russell Wilson, he can’t officially sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers until later this week as the Broncos have only announced his impending release, but it’s not yet official.

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