Todd McClure to retire; Falcons sign Steven Jackson

On the day the Atlanta Falcons signed veteran running back Steven Jackson, it appears they lost veteran Atlanta Falcons center Todd McClure.

McClure, a former LSU standout, announced Thursday he plans to retire.

“Huge thanks to everyone for all their well wishes. I am retiring an Atlanta Falcon. More to come at press conference after owners meetings,” he tweeted late Wednesday.

McClure, a former LSU player, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was looking forward to spending more time with his family.

“It’s going to be different not putting on cleats, the shoulder pads and going out there on the field, but it’s something that I’m looking forward to,” he told the newspaper on Wednesday. “I’ve got four kids and my wife, it’s time to move on to the next chapter.”

McClure, 36, holds Atlanta’s franchise record for consecutive starts with 144 from the 2002 to 2010 seasons. He started all 16 games for the Falcons last season.

McClure was selected by the Falcons in the seventh round of the 1999 draft and has played 198 regular-season games with 195 starts.

Meanwhile, Jackson, the top running back in free agency, agreed to a three-year, $12 million deal with the Falcons.

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 Michael 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.

The Broncos have gone on a spending spree for the second straight spring and on Thursday, Wes Welker, among the top prizes in this year’s free agent class, was welcomed to town. He said that while he was sad to leave Tom Brady in New England, he was thrilled to join Peyton Manning in Denver.

Welker signed a two-year, $12 million deal in Denver after spurning the Patriots’ offer of $10 million over two years.

Also introduced at the Broncos headquarters Thursday was right guard Louis Vasquez, who signed a four-year, $23.5 million contract, the largest of Denver’s seven signings so far.

The Patriots moved quickly to replace 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.

In Houston, Reed was picked up by general manager Rick Smith in the private jet of Texans owner Bob McNair. The move was tweeted by the team and then Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips tweeted that he was meeting with the Ravens veteran in his office, too.

Signing Reed would make up for an otherwise disappointing week for Houston. The Texans cut receiver Kevin Walter, then lost tight end James Casey to Philadelphia and safety Glover Quin to Detroit after the opening of the free agency signing period.

Also Thursday:

  • The Colts signed free agent defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, a former LSU player.

At 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, Francois should help stabilize Indy’s run defense.

  • The Eagles began revamping their secondary by signing cornerback Cary Williams and safety Kenny Phillips, giving them four new faces in the defensive backfield in a three-day span. They also signed linebacker Connor Barwin to a six-year deal.
  • The Buccaneers signed former Saints linebacker Jonathan Casillas and receiver Kevin Ogletree.
  • Detroit’s durable offensive lineman, Jeff Backus, announced his retirement after 12 seasons with the Lions.
  • The Titans re-signed kick returner Darius Reynaud to a one-year contract.

Reynaud, a former Hahnville High School player, returned two punts for touchdowns and a kickoff for a third TD, and he ranked third in the NFL averaging 13.2 yards on punt returns. He also was the AFC special teams player for September.