A couple of accomplished NFL pass rushers suddenly became available when DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers were released to create room under the salary cap in two of the biggest moves at Tuesday's start of the free-agency signing period.

The Bears cut ties with Peppers, who has 118½ sacks in 12 seasons, as part of a series of moves aimed at improving their defense.

The Cowboys let Ware and his 117 sacks go.

"A decision like this, involving a man who is a cornerstone player in the history of your franchise, is extremely difficult," Dallas owner Jerry Jones said. "We were also in very strong agreement that playing for the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be exploring."

With the cap rising $10 million to a record $133 million, a crop of players quickly found new homes as soon as the market officially opened Tuesday afternoon -- and offensive linemen were popular commodities.

About 5½ hours after free agency began, one of the top players available, three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd, agreed to terms with the Saints, part of a merry-go-round of moves at his position. Other safeties swapping clubs: Michael Jenkins, from Saints to Eagles; T.J. Ward from Browns to Broncos; Mike Mitchell from Panthers to Steelers; Ryan Mundy from Giants to Bears.

In addition to jettisoning Peppers and adding Houston and Mundy, Chicago agreed to one-year deals with linebackers Jordan Senn and D.J. Williams.

Deals for offensive linemen were highlighted by Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert's five-year contract with the Dolphins. Albert left Kansas City to take over the position played at the start of last season by Jonathan Martin, whose exit from Miami in October led to an NFL inquiry into bullying on the team. Another left tackle, Eugene Monroe, agreed to a five-year contract to stay with the Ravens.

Guards switching teams: Zane Beadles was joining the Jaguars from the Broncos, pending a physical; the Falcons agreed to terms with Jon Asamoah, who left the Chiefs; the Redskins struck a deal with Shawn Lauvao, who left the Browns. The Redskins also agreed to terms with Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts and special teams standout Adam Hayward and scheduled a visit with cornerback Corey Graham.

The Jaguars reached an agreement with former Vikings running back Toby Gerhart and re-signed cornerback Will Blackmon to a two-year deal. The deal with Gerhart is a possible indication Jacksonville doesn't expect free agent Maurice Jones-Drew to return.

Kick returner and receiver Dexter McCluster went to the Titans from the Chiefs; defensive end Arthur Jones joined the Colts from the Ravens; defensive end Tyson Jackson and defensive tackle Paul Soliai joined the Falcons; and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell left the Texans for the Dolphins. ESPN reported that former Cardinals inside linebacker Karlos Dansby was headed to the Browns and that former Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib was going to the Broncos.

Amid it all, the Ware and Peppers departures might have been the most significant developments.

The 31-year-old Ware, who went to seven Pro Bowls while in Dallas, was set to count $16 million against the salary cap. By releasing him now, the Cowboys, who were right up against the cap, saved more than $7 million. Ware had a career-low six sacks last season, his ninth in Dallas. He missed time with a thigh injury, then had offseason elbow surgery.

Others released included Bills quarterback Kevin Kolb (who failed a physical), Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud, Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley, Eagles safety Patrick Chung, and Bengals center Kyle Cook.

Among players staying put:

  • Kick returner-wide receiver Brandon Tate re-signed with the Bengals.

  • Kicker Adam Vinatieri, the 41-year-old with four Super Bowl rings, agreed to a two-year contract with the Colts. Other kickers getting new contracts: Nick Folk (Jets), Dan Carpenter (Bills).

  • Cornerback Vontae Davis re-signed with the Colts.

  • Running back Joique Bell is now signed with the Lions for $9.3 million over three years, with $4.3 million guaranteed.

  • Linebacker Perry Riley and wide receiver Santana Moss re-signed with the Redskins.

  • Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux got a three-year contract from the Falcons.

  • Tight end Anthony McCoy got a one-year deal from the Super Bowl champion Seahawks after he missed all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon.