The Ravens were the first team to make some notable moves after the end of the lockout. The release of some very reputable players in Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg, Willis McGahee and Todd Heap. None of these are major shocks but I certainly didn't expect Heap or Gregg to be cut. Expect the team to look to re-sign those two at a lower price as well as Derrick Mason who has already said he'd like to return.
McGahee on the other hand should find a new home and will be a worthwhile addition to many rosters as a short yardage complement back.
The Ravens used a substantial amount of that saved cap space on their most significant free agent offensive lineman Marshal Yanda. Yanda can play both tackle and guard and is very impressive at both positions. He is definitely worth the reported 5 year $32 million deal.
Patriots player passing through also.
The Patriots released Tully Banta-Cain, for more on that click here.
Impractical for the Panthers.
The Carolina Panthers obviously don't have an abundance of talent at their disposal and as such have signaled their intentions to aggressively go after the big players they are potentially losing. They made sure that Charles Johnson—the team's best player last season—was going to return by offering him a mammoth contract.
Charles Johnson had an outstanding year last year but he does not have the longevity to say that he can repeat that feat on a consistent basis. His $72 million for six years is not that far off Julius Peppers $91 million contract from last year. Johnson had only become a starter last season and while he was impressive, he was nowhere near on Peppers level. He will need to repeat his performances of last season for the remainder of his career to justify this contract.
It's very difficult to understand what the New York Giants are attempting to do with their offensive line. The return of Shaun O'Hara was something I thought would improve their offense extensively however the team has reportedly told he and Rich Seubert that they will be leaving. This saves the team $6 million in cap space but they are losing arguably their most talented lineman and their best from last season.
It's going to be very interesting to see what the Giants do from here. Nonetheless William Beatty will play a big role somewhere now which casts a cloud of doubt over what was a settled position.
What about the undrafted free agents?
The Giants also made a significant move in regards to undrafted free agents. Check out my top five undrafted free agent signings where you will find Mark Herzlich at number two. Herzlich had a storied college career that was hampered by a successful battle with cancer. He is a 3 down linebacker who had top ten talent before his illness. The Giants are in need of help at linebacker and Herzlich could be the perfect player to give them a reliability in a position that will be surrounding by a lot of impact players in New York.
Pat Devlin was expected by most analysts to be the most sought after free agent once the Lockout ended. He eventually landed in Miami which is the perfect spot for him. Devlin has the opportunity to win a starting job without the pressure of being forced into the position. The Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders were also interested in acquiring him but he would have had to sit for too long with the Colts and could have been killed behind the Raiders offensive line. The Dolphins have a rookie friendly offense with what looks like a dominant defense. It's not crazy to consider that Devlin could become the team's starter before the end of his rookie season as Chad Henne hasn't appealed to many fans to this point.
Former West Virginia running back Noel Devine was supposed to be signing with the Atlanta Falcons but eventually landed with the Philadelphia Eagles. I love this move for the Eagles. The team was in need of a backup running back with Jerome Harrison being let go. Devine comes in at a much cheaper rate(which is something the Eagles are looking to do) and is very talented. As a backup to LeSean McCoy he can give the team reliable snaps and possesses the shiftiness and speed to excel in that offense.
The Chicago Bears addition of Dane Sanzenbacher is very intriguing. Sanzenbacher is a strong possession receiver who runs good routes. He was a big player for Ohio State but was always going to be limited by his size and lack of top end speed. Nonetheless his reliable hands, upper body strength and intelligence will allow him to succeed in Mike Martz offense. The Bears let Devin Aromoshodou go so Sanzebacher has a roster spot to fight for.
Any Nnamdi sightings?
Nnamdi Asomugha remains unsigned and I expect that to continue for a while. However many teams look to be making moves in anticipation of bringing in the former Raider. The Philadelphia Eagles are reportedly not going to re-sign any of their own free agents which is a surprise but should allow them to save a lot of cap room for such a splash as Asomugha.
The Dallas Cowboys have released multiple players that were weighing down their roster such as Marion Barber, Roy Williams, Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo. These moves however aren't going to lead to a Asomugha signing. The team has already agreed to a deal for Doug Free while rookies Tyron Smith and DeMarco Murray will come in for Barber and Colombo.
Quintin Mikell, the first astute signing?
Quintin Mikell was signed from the Philadelphia Eagles to be the St. Louis Rams new safety. The Rams are looking to replace OJ Atogwe but Mikell is predominantly a SS while Atogwe was a FS. What Steve Spagnuolo does with Mikell will be interesting but nonetheless it looks to be a very good signing on the onset.
Mikell and Spagnuolo have previously worked together in Philadelphia so he knows what to expect. Mikell may be 30 years of age but he still has plenty of quality years left in him. The 4 year contract signed with the Rams should allow him to be an important piece of what is an ever improving defensive group.
Redskins are busy as always.
The Washington Redskins re-signed their best receiver from last season in Santana Moss. This was very disappointing to me as I saw Moss as being a great option as a second receiver for many teams. He may be getting paid better with the Redskins but he is not a first choice receiver that can carry an offense. He would however have been an excellent complement and could have excelled as the possession receiver in a passing offense.
The Redskins don't ever learn it seems. The team reached an agreement with former New York Giants defensive tackle Barry Cofield. I have a few qualms with this decision.
Albert Haynesworth—signed before the 2009 season after an impressive year in Tennessee. However, Haynesworth excelled in a 4-3 defense and was inconsistent overall during his career.
Barry Cofield—signed before the 2011 season after an impressive year in New York. However, Cofield excelled ina 4-3 defense and was inconsistent overall during his career.
The Giants tried to trade Cofield in 2009 and some scouts have said his statistics don't reflect his level of play. This just looks like a lesser evil compared to Haynesworth but an evil nonetheless.
Vikings trying to avoid transition period.
The Vikings look all set to land Donovan McNabb but in reality they should forget about bringing in a veteran quarterback and accept their fate to become a team in transition. The defense was on it's last legs last year and the offense isn't talented enough to go to the playoffs. Adrian Peterson will have to be historically good to carry that team behind such an average offensive line. Sidney Rice' future has yet to be determined but even if he returns, he doesn't guarantee anything.
The Vikings did add a nice player in Devin Aromoshodou. Aromoshodou is a reliable receiver that would excel in a wide open passing offense as a slot receiver. Unfortunately I really don't like the fit with the Vikings. The Vikings won't be running many 4/5 receiver sets so it will be difficult to get the best out of the former Chicago Bear.
Seattle looking like a bunch of Misfits.
I actually like Tarvaris Jackson. I always felt he was over criticized with the Vikings and he would have benefited from developing without the pressure of playing on a playoff ready team. However unless the Seahawks improve their receiving corp, it was pointless to bring in Jackson or former Carroll favorite Matt Leinart. It really is a three quarterback fight in Seattle but unfortunately Matt Leinart, Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst are all good backups—not starters. I like Jackson the most of the three and he could be the starter unless Whitehurst has been given the job already.
Plax to the Giants. Really?
There was a lot of talk of Plaxico Burress returning to the New York Giants. The Giants for me where looking like a sleeper to be in the Super Bowl, however their free agency decisions have made me lose all faith in that belief.
The team has no need for Burress. Re-signing Steve Smith should be their focus as he better complements the other receivers. Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks are both rangy receivers and maybe Tom Coughlin is looking to build a San Diego style of offense based around tall receivers but Steve Smith is a much better player than Plaxico Burress at this stage in their respective careers. This just doesn't make any sense, next thing you'll see Tiki walking through the door at the Meadowlands...well maybe not.
Under the radar moves that matter!
You have to give it to AJ Smith, he does know what he's doing. The San Diego Chargers quietly went about their business improving their team on the first day of free agency. Smith brought back Randy McMichael who is a very valuable blocking tight end as well as adding the veteran Takeo Spikes to the linebacking corp. They also tied up Jeromey Clary to an extension to please almost all Charger fans.
Alex Smith, as expected, agreed to return to the San Francisco 49ers. This is definitely his last chance in San Fran and now we will find out just how much of a quarterback guru Jim Harbaugh really is.
Donte Stallworth was a sleeper for me in this free agency. I was hoping he'd go to a solid franchise though and he has ended up with the Redskins. Really liked him as a third receiver but will probably be a two in Washington.
Mason Crosby re-signed with the Packers for 5 years. A reliable kicker is important, the reigning Super Bowl champions now have that.
Worth the Hassel?
Matt Hasselbeck is going to be playing the Kerry Collins role in Tennessee next season. Hasselbeck is definitely a stop gap quarterback and I wonder whether he still has the arm strength to hit Kenny Britt and Nate Washington going deep. Either way that offense is run first and Jake Locker needs time to develop so it's a solid addition.
An average player for an average franchise.
Paul Posluzny really benefited from the weak linebacker group hitting free agency this year. He signed a deal with the Jaguars for a reported $7 million per year. Posluzny doesn't make enough of an impact to warrant money like that. He makes a lot of tackles but for that money you expect more than just a reliable tackle which is all he is.
Much ado about nothing.
Ike Taylor re-signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Taylor must have really wanted to return to the reigning AFC champions because had he waited for Asomugha to fall he could have got much better offers elsewhere. He signed a four year deal which delights both sides. This is big news for a veteran defense that is returning all of it's starters from last year's Super Bowl.
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