Monday, March 13, 2006

48 Hours: The First Weekend of the NFL Free Agent Frenzy

Just over two days ago, the NFL free agent signing period began. Already, many of the big names are on the move, or appear close to signing with new clubs. So, without further introduction, here are some quick takes on the moves of the past two days.

For a full list of signings, click here (for the AFC) and here (for the NFC).

Livin' on the Edge
My thoughts can be found in the comments section of Andy's post. This is a big risk for the Cards; they have a really strong pair of young Wide Receivers, but a subpar Offensive Line and Quarterback. I maintain that spending less on a Running Back and upgrading at other positions would have served them better. Edge is a really good back, but he was helped by having a great surrounding cast in Indy.

He is a good receiver out of the backfield, so that should help the passing game in any case.

I like the Kendrick Clancy signing. He still has his prime years ahead of him, and along with Darnell Dockett, gives the Cards a great inside tandem on the Defensive Line.

The Broncos of Baltimore
The Ravens signed two former Broncos - Defensive Lineman Trevor Pryce, and Running Back Mike Anderson. Pryce can play both inside and outside, but at 30 is probably going to start declining. I'm not convinced that he's an upgrade over the departed Defensive End Anthony Weaver, and will probably end up a cap casualty long before his 5 year deal expires.

I should have more reservations about Mike Anderson, being a product of the Broncos' Running Back factory, but I don't. He's getting on in years, but doesn't have nearly the mileage that most Running Backs his age do. He can play both Tailback and Fullback, and is signed at only $2 million a year, making him a bargain. They'll need to bring in another back either through free agency or the draft (especially since Chester Taylor signed elsewhere), but should have the opportunity and cap room to do so.

Dream Weaver
The aforementioned Anthony Weaver signed in Houston. This is a great move for the Texans; Weaver is in his mid 20's and just hitting his prime. It makes sense to target a player like this through free agency, not someone on the downside of his career like Trevor Pryce.

The Texans have a long way to go towards being a contender, but adding players like Anthony Weaver represent steps in the right direction. The Texans also get props for targeting New England Wide Receiver David Givens, another player who should be hitting his stride in the next few years. If they manage to sign him, he'll team up with Andre Johnson to give David Carr two big, talented Wideouts to throw the ball too. Now if only they could sign some Offensive Lineman to keep Carr off the turf...

Pass the Redskin
Washington kicked off the free agency period by adding two Wide Receivers - acquiring Brandon Lloyd from San Francisco in a trade, and signing Antwan Randle-El away from the Steelers. Additionally, they signed Tight End Christian Fauria, who along with Chris Cooley, gives them two talented receivers in the Tight End/H-Back role.

It's no secret that new Offensive Coordinator Al Saunders likes to deploy multiple-receiver schemes, and these new additions give him the personnel to do so. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if David "General" Patten, who has been a disappointment, is cut loose or traded.

In any case, the 'Skins have added an impact player (Randle-El), and a Wideout with lots of promise (Lloyd), who despite his struggles as a Niner is still young enough to fulfill it. They should still make a few moves to upgrade on defense (I've heard Adam Archuleta's name floated around), but are looking like winners so far.

Ramming Up the Defense
The Rams have added three players on defense, in addition to resigning Wide Receiver Isaac Bruce, whom they have previously cut loose.

Two of the signings, Defensive Tackle La'Roi Glover and Safety Corey Chavous, figure to be replacements for the soon to be departed Ryan Pickett "Fences" and Adam "Golden" Archuleta. The third, Will Witherspoon, is a talented young Linebacker who is one of the gems of the free agent class. The Rams showed a lot of tenacity by reaching him before he was to fly out of town and securing a deal.

I'm not convinced that Glover and Chavous are going to be improvements, but Witherspoon definitely makes the defense better. He also has great speed, which is a huge plus playing on the turf in St. Louis.

Little Pieces in Minnesota
Chester Taylor has demonstrated that he can be an effective third down back, but I'm not convinced that he can be the every down back that the Vikings need.

Ryan Longwell is a good, though not spectacular kicker, and Ben Leber is a serviceable player. With all the cap room they have, the Vikings should be bigger players in free agency, or else they shouldn't be surprised when they come up short in the playoff race yet again.

I love the signing of Steve Hutchinson to an offer sheet. Sure they had to make him the highest paid Guard of all time, but he's one of the best in the league, and the opportunity to sign someone of his caliber comes along too infrequently to pass up. If they can land him, it will be a huge coup, and will be a huge boost to Chester Taylor or whoever the feature back is.

Buffalo Soldiers
I like the Bills' signing of Larry Tripplet away from the Colts; he should help fill the void left by Pat Williams and the recently released Sam Adams. The Bills' defense needs strong play from the Defensive Tackles, and I see the Tripplet signing getting them halfway there. They could be targeting a Tackle like Oregon's Haloti Ngata in the draft, which would solve their problems.

Andre Davis and Robert Royal don't figure to be more than marginal players on this club.

Cleveland Rocks
The Browns, who have had problems on the Offensive Line since their reentry in the league, took two big steps towards fixing that on Saturday. LeCharles Bentley has been in a Pro Bowler in New Orleans, and figures to be one in Cleveland for a long time. He's one of the best signings of the off-season. Kevin Shaffer was the best Offensive Tackle on the market, but I wonder if the Browns overpaid for him. He struggles against speed rushers, and having guarded for Michael Vick in Atlanta, is not used to being the blindside protector. Or having an immobile Quarterback behind him - which both Trent Dilfer and Charlie Frye are. Regardless, the Browns' Offensive Line is much improved over what it was three days ago, and they deserve to be lauded for that.

I love the signing of Joe Jurevicius. He's a big, sure-handed target. Not only will he be a great complement for Braylon Edwards, but he provides veteran leadership for this club.

With these moves, a top 15 draft pick waiting, and the cap room to tinker some more, things are looking up in Cleveland for the first time in a long time. I don't think they'll be a contender this year, but if they can boost the defense, they shouldn't be too far off.

Life's a Brees
Drew Brees should become either a Saint or a Dolphin within the next 48 hours. I'll comment more on the man in question once he signs somewhere, but for now I'll note that if he does sign in New Orleans, this will throw a serious monkey wrench into what people were expecting to be a predictable top of the draft.

New Orleans holds the #2 pick, and had been expected to take Matt Leinart, meaning that Vince Young would fall to #3. If the Saints sign Brees, they're obviously going to go in a different direction. They could either trade the pick, or pick someone like D'Brickashaw Ferguson or Mario Williams, meaning Tennessee would have their pick of Leinart or Young (or Jay Cutler, if you listen to Mort). It's worth monitoring.

There is still a lot of action to come in free agency, and many of the teams who have been idle so far will most certainly make their mark. So far though, I think we have to call the Browns and Redskins winners, give a conditional thumbs up to Baltimore, and at best offer cautious optimism to Arizona fans. Everyone, including the aforementioned teams, still has lots of work to do, which will make the next 6 weeks leading up to the draft very interesting to see.

Back with the first of what will be many March Madness posts tonight.

**UPDATE** The Ravens have resigned Jamal Lewis to a three-year contract. Lewis was the best back left on the market, with James having signed, but is coming off a dissapointing 2005 campaign. I guess that's not too surprising, given that his 2005 season was coming off of a 3 month stint in jail. In any case, I'm leaning towards giving the Ravens a thumbs up on this move, though I can't talk enough about how I'm a fan of LenDale White and DeAngelo Williams, so part of me thinks the Ravens would have been better off targeting one of them in the draft.

Draftniks take note, with the Cardinals and the Ravens having filled their holes in the backfield, there are few teams drafting in the first 15 picks that have a need at Running Back. The chances of one of these two stud prospects slipping into the 16-25 range just increased dramatically.

Finally, another comment on the Vikings. With Daunte Culpepper as good as gone, I'm wondering why we haven't heard more about them pursuing a Quarterback like Josh McCown or Patrick Ramsey? Surely they can't be planning to go into camp with Brad Johnson as their only viable option as a starter.

The Vikings are interested in Drew Brees, but have to be considered at best a distant third most likely option for the Chargers QB, since they have the same reservations as San Diego does about guaranteeing him money in the first year. McCown and Ramsey are cheaper, young options who definitely have talent, and could blossom under the tutelage of Head Coach (and offensive guru) Brad Childress.

Of course, this is an organization that looks ready to give away Daunte Culpepper for thirty cents on the dollar, if they don't cut him outright, so maybe I shouldn't be too surprised.

**Monday Afternoon Update** Adam Archuleta has signed with the Redskins. Great pickup. I really like the look of their defense, though they could use some depth at Corner. I have to say that they are the winners so far in free agency. All of the players they have added should give the 'Skins some of their best NFL years. Assuming Mark Brunell doesn't fall apart, the "Skins are looking poised to improve on their #6 seed in the NFC from last year.

If he hasn't completely forgotten about this site, I'm hoping that erstwhile Rams fan Kevin Kimmis will comment on Archuleta's departure, and some of the Rams' new acquisitions. Or he could wax poetic about Antwan Randle-El's tenure in Pittsburgh.


At 4:01 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Apparently the Redskins are continuing their traditional spending spree. I hate Snyder.

As for the draft, what blows me away is how deep it is. I can't believe someone like LenDale White might be around that late. Sick.

At 6:44 PM, Blogger Alex said...

The spending spree continues. The Redskins signed Defensive End Andre Carter today.

White could also slip down the draft boards because he apparently came to the combine overweight, and didn't run in most of the drills.

At 12:26 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I think Kimmis must be dead. He must have choked on Steelers commemorative pretzel balls or something.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger SlobberKnocker said...

I'm of the opinion that the Cardinals are setting pretty. I think they'll draft well and build up thier OL. I believe Warner still has a couple of good seasons in him.


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