The NFL has rightfully gained a reputation of having a 365-day-a-year news cycle, and Wednesday served as a fitting example. On what was the sixth full day of the new league year and free agency period, transactions were still transpiring at a fairly brisk clip around the league. Here's a more in-depth look at who landed where Wednesday and very early Thursday:
Latavius Murray signs three-year deal with Vikings- Murray's signing occurred in the wee hours of Thursday morning and marked the second notable transaction for the team in less than 24 hours, as they'd also secured the services of emerging receiver Adam Thielen for another three years just hours earlier. Murray's signing is notable in and of itself – he's a quality back who scored a career-high 12 rushing touchdowns in 2016 and has 543 career carries for 2,278 yards and 20 touchdowns – but it also appears to put the final nail in the coffin with respect to Adrian Peterson's chances of returning to the team in 2017. Peterson admittedly looked like he shouldn't have even been on the field in his late-season return, and he finished 2016 with an unsightly 1.9 yards per carry on his 37 attempts. However, the ineptness wasn't exclusive to him, as the Vikings ran for the fewest yards per game (75.3) in the NFL, and also had the league's worst YPA (3.2). For his part, Murray boasted YPA figures of 5.2, 4.0 and 4.0, respectively, in his first three NFL seasons, and figures to be more of a factor in the passing game than AP was, as he's compiled 91 career receptions to date as well. The UCF product is also four years younger (27) than his prolific predecessor and sports nearly the same dimensions, with both backs checking in at 6-foot-1 and Murray officially five pounds heavier at 225. Naturally, the comparisons end there for the moment, but a healthy Murray and an improved offensive line could infuse a badly-needed rushing attack into the Twin Cities and take pressure off either Sam Bradford and/or Teddy Bridgewater next season. Incidentally, one area in which Murray might resemble AP Lite is in the ability to break off big chunks of yardage on the ground– through his first three seasons, he's ripped off 18 rushes of 20+ yards, with four of those over 40.
Adam Thielen re-signs with Vikings as restricted free agent on three-year deal- Sticking with the Vikings, we turn to Thielen, who emerged as one of last season's pleasant surprises with 69 receptions (92 targets) for 967 yards and five touchdowns, a 14.0 YPC, 10.5 YPT, 16 receptions of over 20 yards, and both a 150-yard and 200-yard receiving effort. Not bad for a guy who'd come into 2016 with a whopping 20 catches over his first two seasons. Thielen's return is particularly noteworthy considering that another roadblock to potential playing time in the form of former first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson (and his 70 targets in 2016) has moved on to Oakland. Thielen was highly likely to enter next season as the unquestioned No. 2 receiver alongside presumed No. 1 Stefon Diggs anyhow, but could see an even bigger role next season with that amount of volume now elsewhere. He does have another more recent top draft choice nipping at his heels as the third option, however, as 2016 first-rounder Laquon Treadwell currently slots in directly under Thielen on the depth chart, albeit with a long way to go after notching just one reception in his rookie campaign. Thielen's optimal scenario likely consists of Bradford re-taking the reins of the offense for a second straight season given the obvious rapport he developed with the signal-caller, but considering the savvy route-running and sure hands he displayed as a third-year player, he's apt to thrive with whomever lines up under center.
Travaris Cadet re-signs with Saints- After visiting with the Bills and Jets, Cadet returns to the team he's largely called home in his five-season NFL career. The speedy third-down back's breakout 2016 included career highs in catches (40), receiving touchdowns (four) and targets (54). He also compiled 144 kick return yards, although that figure was actually his second-lowest total of the seasons in which he's served in that capacity. Cadet is a prime example of a player who's realistic about his NFL skill set and who seamlessly integrates into his team's offensive system, making his decision to stay put a prudent one. With single-digit rushing attempts in all but one NFL season, his current spot as the No. 2 running back on the offseason depth chart behind Mark Ingram should be taken with a grain of salt, as the 28-year-old is projected to continue his well-defined role as a passing-down threat next season.
Justin Hunter signs with Steelers- Hunter has had some buzz surround him on a couple of different occasions in his four-year career, most notably in 2014 when he set career highs with 28 receptions for 498 yards and seven catches of 20+ yards. However, he's never been able to move past the role of a secondary option/big-play specialist, despite posting impressive YPC figures of 19.7, 17.8 and 18.9 in three of his four campaigns. He's shown a knack for finding the end zone as well, notching 12 career touchdowns, and he was targeted a total of seven times in the red zone last season in Buffalo, converting four into scores. The 25-year-old's 6-foot-4 frame has certainly helped near the goal line, but in Pittsburgh, he'll have to presumably fight his way through a young and potential-laden bottom half of the receiver depth chart that includes Demarcus Ayers, Cobi Hamilton and speedster Sammie Coates, all who saw the field with varying degrees of success last season.
Robert Turbin re-signs with Colts for two years, $2.7 million- Turbin turned into a goal-line maven last season, finding paydirt seven times on the ground and once through the air as well. He received a whopping 19 red-zone rushing attempts, as veteran Frank Gore frequently headed to the sidelines once the Colts got inside of the 10-yard line in particular (where 15 of Turbin's aforementioned 19 carries unfolded). It was quite the turn of events for the five-year veteran, who'd actually failed to score in any of his first three pro campaigns back in Seattle. Indianapolis' current running back depth chart is rather barren – only 2016 UDFA Josh Ferguson currently resides under Turbin – leaving open the possibility that the latter could reprise his highly successful touchdown specialist role in the coming season. However, it seems a virtual certainty that the team will focus on running back in this year's draft, leaving Turbin's fantasy potential in 2017 highly speculative despite the new contract.
Andre Holmes rumored to be signing three-year, $4.5 million contract with Bills- There was a time Wednesday when it looked like this was a done deal, but both Holmes and a Bills spokesperson indicated later in the day that a contract had yet to be signed. If Buffalo does come to terms with the 28-year-old, they'll be getting an athletic 6-foot-4, 210-pound target for Tyrod Taylor that has shown impressive leaping ability and body control over his five seasons putting in part-time work at receiver for both the Cowboys and Raiders. Holmes looked like an emerging star in 2014 with career highs in receptions (47), yards (693) and at the time, touchdowns (4), but he slipped to just 14 receptions apiece the last two seasons with Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts occupying the top three receiver spots in Oakland.
Jared Cook to visit with Raiders- Cook and the Packers couldn't come to terms on a new deal, leaving the veteran tight end looking for a new home for the second consecutive offseason. He's already paid visits to the Seahawks and Vikings, where he'd have served as a secondary option behind Jimmy Graham and Kyle Rudolph, respectively. The opportunity would presumably be more robust in Oakland, where the talented but still relatively unproven Clive Walford currently occupies the top rung of the tight end depth chart. However, Cook himself has a bit of redemption to strive for in terms of regular-season performance, as he's notched just 39 and 30 receptions, respectively, in the last two campaigns, despite his emergence as a postseason star in Green Bay last January.
Lance Dunbar to visit with Rams- Dunbar and the Rams could be a good fit considering the rather shallow condition of the running back depth chart behind top man Todd Gurley at the moment. The passing-down back showed plenty of play-making ability with 40 rushing touchdowns in three seasons at North Texas and appeared on his way to carving out his NFL niche as an effective third-down back in 2015 with Dallas before a devastating knee injury. Dunbar was back on the field last season and saw 25 total touches, but didn't seem to have the same pre-injury burst. However, as is often the case with injuries of that nature, a player is much stronger in his second full season back, meaning the Rams could snare a talented, speedy asset that would offset Gurley's power running.
Not to be left behind, the defensive players made some news in their own right Wednesday. Here's a lightning round version of what went down on the other side of the ball:
Dont'a Hightower signs a four-year, $43.5 million deal with the Patriots that includes $19 million in guarantees- Following visits to the Jets and Steelers, the 27-year-old returned home to the defending champions on a monster deal. With 372 total tackles and a solid collection of impact plays (17 sacks, two forced fumbles) on his five-season NFL resume, he'll once again make for a higher-end IDP selection in 2017 fantasy leagues.
Terrence Newman re-signs with Vikings on one-year deal- The ageless corner returns for a third Vikings season after totaling 38 tackles, eight passes defensed and one interception last season.
Kyle Love signs two-year extension with Panthers- The defensive tackle is expected to once again play in reserve after logging 16 stops and 1.5 sacks over 10 games in 2016.
Jarvis Jones signs one-year contract with Cardinals- A 2013 first-round pick, Jones couldn't make much of an impact in Pittsburgh over his first four seasons, although he did tally six sacks, nine passes defensed, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries over 50 games. The one-year pact implies a feeling-out process for both player and team, with the 27-year-old certainly still young enough to score a much better deal in Arizona or elsewhere next offseason if he's able to parlay his 2017 opportunity into meaningful production.
Wesley Woodyard signs two-year extension with Titans- Tennessee's fourth-leading tackler from 2016 thus returns to the fold and has an opportunity to earn up to $12.75 million under the new portion of his deal. An above-average tackle producer for IDP purposes from 2011-2015, the veteran did drop to 57 stops last season, but still notched two sacks, five passes defensed and one interception while playing all 16 games for the third straight campaign.
Ziggy Hood re-signs with Redskins- Terms of the new deal weren't immediately disclosed, but it allows Hood to play for the same team for two consecutive years for the first time since the 2012-13 seasons. That pair of campaigns represented his last two in Pittsburgh, which had drafted him in the first round out of Missouri back in 2009. Hood was a durable and solid presence for the Steelers over his tenure (11.5 sacks, five passes defensed, four fumble recoveries) but never quite lived up to the expectations of a first-round selection. He was serviceable in Washington last season with 33 tackles (17 solo), a sack, three passes defensed and a forced fumble) over 16 games and could have a starting opportunity this coming season.