Former state players sign contracts

It’s hard to find a winning quarterback for most NFL teams.

With free agency underway and the draft looming in April, teams are looking for answers by signing starting quarterbacks and competent backups.

Former Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones just signed a new two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jones, drafted by the Steelers in the fourth round in 2013, just finished his four-year rookie contract.

Jones was set to jump to another team if he had a good chance to become a starter. He indicated that the only offers he might have would be as a backup, so he chose to sign another contract with Pittsburgh to back up Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger is under contract but the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback has stated publicly that he might consider retiring in 2017.

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said he wanted to keep Landry Jones  in the mix at quarterback. So staying in Pittsburgh was an easy decision for Jones.

“It was really just wanting to be back here,” said Jones. “It wasn’t a tough decision. This place is familiar to me and I am thankful I have an opportunity again to have a job and have a spot to come back to.

“It was the best decision for me and (my wife) Whitney and our family. If all things were equal, I wasn’t going to go anywhere. That was where my mindset was.

“I think it is the way people treat you around here. It is a business, but at the same time the Rooneys treat you great, all of our coaches treat you great. It’s just a great place to be.”

Jones, who was drafted by the Steelers in the fourth round in the 2013 NFL Draft, didn’t take a snap in the regular season in his first two years in the league, but has seen considerably more action the last two years.

“He has a very good understanding of our offense,” said Coach Mike Tomlin during the season. “He is a good communicator. It’s part of the functions of being a backup quarterback, the talking of schematics and the seeing of what is on the field and the communicating of such. He has grown in a lot of ways in that area in the last several years.”

Jones has played in 15 regular season games, starting four, over the last two years. He has completed 85 of 141 passes for 1,071 yards and seven touchdowns.

Last season Jones led the Steelers to an overtime win against the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 of the season. He threw for three touchdowns, the first three-touchdown game of his career, including a 26-yarder to Cobi Hamilton  in overtime to win the game.

Jones said he is happy to have the contract out of the way. Reportedly, Jones will make $2.2 million a year for two years plus a $600,000 signing bonus.

“It’s a huge weight off of my shoulders,” said Jones,. “It was something that was constantly in the back of my mind since we left after the Patriots game. Just to have it done is a huge weight off of my shoulders.”

Another former Oklahoma Sooner has signed a new contract. Safety Tony Jefferson, undrafted out of OU but a star with the Arizona Cardinals, has signed a free-agent contract with Baltimore. ESPN reports that the contract is for $36 million.

Jefferson turned down a more lucrative offer from Cleveland for the Baltimore deal. Jefferson was the sixth-highest graded safety in the NFL last year, per Pro Football Focus.

Jefferson, 25, is strong against the run and covers well.  Jefferson has two career interceptions and six forced fumbles.

The 5-foot-11 Oklahoma product went undrafted in 2013. Last season was his first as a full-time starter and he racked up 96 tackles, two sacks, five passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

Former Oklahoma State Cowboy Russell Okung hit the jackpot with a new contract with a new team.

After the Denver Broncos declined Okung’s 2017 option, the veteran left tackle agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Chargers on a four-year, $53 million contract with $13.25 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

The Chargers edged out the Minnesota Vikings, who were also courting Okung to join freshly signed Riley Reiff.

Okung took advantage of a weak tackle market to revive his value after a disappointing one-year Broncos run that featured too many penalties and QB pressures. The 2010 first-round pick has started 88 of a possible 112 games in Seattle and Denver over seven NFL seasons.

Okung figures to take over at left tackle in Los Angeles, sending King Dunlap to the right side as D.J. Fluker’s replacement.

It pays to be a good wide receiver free agent in the NFL these days.

The Miami Dolphins have re-signed wide receiver Kenny Stills for four years with a contract worth $32 million, with $20 million guaranteed, according to ESPN.com.

“Obviously it makes me very happy and excited for this deal to get done,” said Stills, who played at Oklahoma. “This is what we wanted from the very beginning and like I said, it’s something we wanted from the start – the fact that I wanted to be back here with this team and we were building something special, and so that’s exactly why I’m back.”

Stills started all 16 games for the Dolphins in 2016 and recorded 42 receptions for 726 yards (17.3 avg.) and a team-high nine touchdowns. His 17.3 yards per reception average was third in the NFL and his 13.0 yards at catch average was second. Stills has played in 63 games with 40 starts over his four-year NFL career and spent two seasons with the New Orleans Saints (2013-14) prior to being traded to the Dolphins on March 13, 2015. He was originally a fifth-round selection (144th overall) by New Orleans in the 2013 NFL draft.

While he indicated there were three “major players” when it came to trying to sign him, Stills said all along it was all about the Dolphins.

“There’s always other opportunities out there,” he said. “I was focused on what we’re doing here in Miami and what we’re building here. Honestly, that’s really all I cared about.

“It’s something that I talk about with younger guys all the time. It helps that I had two different experiences with two different teams and different head coaches. I was able to make the best decision that I thought was for me and my family and also something that I knew I was going to be able to live with in the long run.”

Stills was vocal about race relations last year and was one of two Miami players to kneel during the national anthem before every game.