Out of the league for the past two seasons, Adam Meadows' return to the NFL became official on Saturday evening as ESPN.com learned that the seven-year veteran offensive lineman signed a three-year contract with the Denver Broncos.
The hastily-negotiated deal with the Broncos came after Meadows, who was reinstated by the NFL on Monday and then released from his contract with the Carolina Panthers the next day, visited in recent days with the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers. Meadows also drew varying degrees of interest from several other clubs, including Dallas, Washington and Miami.
It is believed that New Orleans and Green Bay made Meadows formal contract offers. The Broncos were a late entry into the Meadows pursuit.
Complete financial details of the contract were not yet available. But the contract, which was negotiated by Don Henderson over the last 24 hours, has a $400,000 signing bonus and a base salary for 2006 of $850,000. It also includes several escalators, most of them based on playing time, that could increase the total value by increasing the base salaries for 2007 and 2008.
"He loved the city, loved [coach Mike] Shanahan, and really felt comfortable with their blocking scheme," Henderson said. "He could have made more money somewhere else, but Denver, in Adam's mind, had the right combination."
Even with his two-year hiatus, Meadows, who abruptly retired from the Panthers less than two weeks into training camp in 2004 because of shoulder problems, should provide the Broncos depth on the line, since he can play both tackle and guard. Depending upon how quickly he knocks off the rust, Meadows could challenge for playing time and might push three-year veteran right tackle George Foster a bit.
Over the last two years Meadows has built a successful home construction business in his native Georgia and the company is running well. He has built his weight back up as well, to 290 pounds now, from a low of 258 pounds. In his last few seasons in the league, Meadows was listed at 290 pounds, although he probably played a bit heavier.
His shoulders, Meadows said, feel better than they have in years and he is confident that he can hold up physically in camp.
Meadows, 32, played seven seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, including six as a starter, before signing a five-year, $15 million contract with the Panthers as an unrestricted free agent in 2004. But early in training camp, Meadows, projected as the starting right tackle, was bothered by persistent shoulder woes that kept him off the field. He had undergone shoulder surgeries in 1999 and 2003 and, frustrated by his inability to perform at his previous level, opted to retire.
"I wasn't going to steal their money and just try to hang on," Meadows told ESPN.com last week, after petitioning the NFL for reinstatement. "They had certain expectations for me. And my expectations were even higher than theirs. I went there to play football and I didn't think I could do it the way I'd been able to in the past."
Meadows was scheduled to fly home to Georgia on Saturday night to pick up some equipment and clothes, and then return to the Denver training camp in the next day or two.
The reinstatement issue was a formality. But even though Meadows repaid the Panthers his entire $2.5 million signing bonus when he retired, Carolina still retained his rights, and team officials wanted some time to consider whether to bring him back. After a few days of discussions, the Panthers decided on Tuesday they were comfortable with the composition of their offensive line depth chart going into training camp.
"I'm hungry again, plain and simple, and I'm healthier now," said Meadows, whose NFL resumé includes 103 appearances, with 96 of them as a starter. "Maybe had another year gone by, I wouldn't feel this way, because I'd be settled into retirement. But it seems like the time is right for me and that it's the right thing for me to do."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.