PHILADELPHIA — Revamping a secondary that posted one of the worst statistical seasons in recent history clearly is a top priority for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The team signed cornerback Cary Williams and safety Kenny Phillips on Thursday, giving them four new faces in the defensive backfield in a three-day span. The Eagles signed safety Patrick Chung and cornerback Bradley Fletcher on the first day of free agency on Tuesday.
They stayed on defense later Thursday, signing linebacker Connor Barwin to a six-year deal shortly afterward.
Gone are former starting cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Asomugha was released in the wake of two disappointing seasons in Philadelphia. Rodgers-Cromartie signed with Denver.
Williams agreed to a three-year deal, and is coming off a big season with the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens. He started all 16 games, posting four interceptions and 67 tackles. A seventh-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2008, Williams joined the Ravens in 2009 and earned a starting role in 2011. The 28-year-old Williams has started all 32 games for Baltimore since 2011.
Williams and Fletcher are the leading candidates for the two starting spots with holdover Brandon Boykin keeping his spot as the nickel cornerback.
Phillips comes to Philadelphia after five seasons with the rival New York Giants. A first-round selection of the Giants in 2008, the 26-year-old Phillips had four interceptions and 72 tackles in 2011, as New York won the Super Bowl. A former Miami Hurricane, Phillips has battled knee injuries throughout his career.
Phillips will probably compete with Nate Allen to start alongside Chung.
In four seasons with Houston, Barwin had 109 tackles, 19 sacks and two fumble recoveries. Barwin was a second-round pick (46th overall) in 2009. He missed most of the 2010 season with a broken right ankle, then moved to outside linebacker from defensive end when Wade Phillips became the coordinator and converted the Texans to a 3-4 defense.
Barwin flourished in the new system in 2011, leading the Texans with 11½ sacks. He set a single-game franchise record with four in a game against Jacksonville.
Giants add to defensive backfield
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants have taken steps to improve their defensive backfield, agreeing to deals with safety Ryan Mundy and cornerback Aaron Ross in free agency.
Ross, a former New York No. 1 draft choice, played for the Giants from 2007-2011 and started in two Super Bowl victories. He played last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mundy arrives by way of Pittsburgh, where he played four seasons for the Steelers. He played in all 16 regular-season games in each of those seasons, with five starts, and also played in four Pittsburgh postseason games.
Source: Vikings agree to terms with Cassel
MINNEAPOLIS — A person with knowledge of the deal says the Minnesota Vikings have agreed to terms with quarterback Matt Cassel.
The Vikings and Cassel came to agreement on Thursday, the same day he was formally released by the Kansas City Chiefs with two years left on his contract. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal, first reported by Fox Sports, has not been announced.
Cassel spent the last four years in Kansas City. He completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,796 yards with six touchdowns and 12 interceptions in nine games last year.
Bears sign DT Nate Collins
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears say they have signed defensive tackle Nate Collins to a one-year contract.
Collins played in nine games with Chicago last season, recording 13 tackles. He has appeared in 22 games over three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Bears and has 23 tackles in his career.