By Arnie Stapleton
The Associated Press
NORMAN — The Atlanta Falcons replaced Michael Turner with another proven, productive running back.
Steven Jackson, the top running back in free agency, agreed to a three-year, $12 million deal with the Falcons on Thursday.
Also getting new deals were backup quarterback Matt Cassel in Minnesota, pass rusher Cliff Avril in Seattle and cornerback Keenan Lewis in New Orleans. The New York Giants signed defensive backs Ryan Mundy and Aaron Ross.
And the Houston Texans were rolling out the red carpet to make their pitch to safety Ed Reed.
Day 3 of the NFL’s free agency frenzy was highlighted by the 30-year-old Jackson moving on from St. Louis after his eighth straight 1,000-yard season.
“I think this is a very big signing for us,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told The Associated Press. “It continues to bolster our offensive firepower. It gives us not only strength, power in running ability but also the versatility to catch out of the backfield, which is a very important part of this offense.”
Jackson would have earned $7 million with the Rams in 2013 before he opted out of his contract to become a free agent. His 10,135 yards rushing for his career are the most of any active player.
The Falcons released Turner, defensive end John Abraham and cornerback Dunta Robinson on March 1. Turner had 800 yards rushing last season, his low total in his five seasons in Atlanta.
Jackson averaged 4.1 yards per carry with the Rams and gives Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan another receiver. Jackson had at least 38 catches in each of his last eight seasons in St. Louis.
“We’re hoping he has his best years ahead of him, there’s no question about that,” Dimitroff said. “We think he still has much fuel in the tank and I know that he believes that.”
The Patriots moved quickly to replace Wes Welker, luring receiver Danny Amendola on a deal that would reportedly pay him $31 million over five years.
Also Thursday, the Patriots announced the signing of running back Leon Washington, who has played seven seasons with the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks.
The Vikings grabbed Cassel shortly after the Kansas City Chiefs let him go, a person with knowledge of the deal told The AP on condition of anonymity because it had not been officially announced.
It was a busy day for the Vikings, who also were hosting Green Bay Packers free agent receiver Greg Jennings for a visit.
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