- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009

From combined dispatches

The New York Jets signed safety Jim Leonhard on Tuesday, the second player new coach Rex Ryan has lured away from the Baltimore Ravens.

The 26-year-old Leonhard had 69 regular-season tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown last season, his first with the Ravens. He signed a three-year deal with the Jets, joining linebacker Bart Scott as ex-Baltimore players who have followed their former defensive coordinator to New York.

“He’s a smart player that can get guys lined up in the secondary and was one of the best tacklers on that Ravens defense,” Ryan said. “He’s always around the ball, brings everything he has on every play and will be a great addition to our group of defensive backs.”

The Jets also officially announced they re-signed fullback Tony Richardson, who agreed to terms last week.

Leonhard, a hard hitter despite being just 5-foot-8, is expected to join Kerry Rhodes as the Jets’ starting safeties in Mike Pettine’s defense. Pettine was a defensive assistant with Baltimore the last seven seasons.

BUCS: Tampa Bay, retooling offensively after missing the playoffs, signed free agent running back Derrick Ward to a four-year, $17 million contract.

The former New York Giants backup rushed for 1,025 yards and two touchdowns in 2008 while sharing playing time with Brandon Jacobs, who also gained over 1,000 yards. The Buccaneers cleared room in the backfield for the 28-year-old when they released Warrick Dunn last week.

BRONCOS: Denver insists Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler isn’t on the trading block.

Cutler was angered over the weekend when his name came up in talks involving a three-way trade that would have sent him to Tampa Bay and landed Matt Cassel in Denver. Instead, New England traded Cassel to Kansas City.

New Broncos coach Josh McDaniels tutored Cassel in New England last season when the career backup led the Patriots to an 11-5 record after Tom Brady was hurt in the opener.

BENGALS: Free agent running back Cedric Benson decided to stay with Cincinnati, which gave him the chance to resurrect his career last season.

Benson accepted a two-year deal from the Bengals, who liked what he did late last season and wanted him to stay as their top running back.

Signing Benson became a big priority for the league’s lowest-rated offense after right tackle Stacy Andrews and top receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh turned down offers to stay.

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