Free agency on the horizon: Around the NFL

Scout.com takes a look around the NFL with just a few days remaining before the scheduled start of free agency, with the 49ers becoming a factor in the bidding for some players depending on moves made by certain other teams.

Cincinnati Bengals: According to a team source, look for the team to make a hard run at signing veteran DT Sam Adams who was released by the Buffalo Bills recently. Adams played for head coach Marvin Lewis with the Baltimore Ravens when Lewis was defensive coordinator. In an interesting twist, Adams passed up signing with the Bengals prior to the 2003 season and decided to accept less money to sign with the Bills because he thought they were the better team. As it turned out, Lewis became the headman with the Bengals in the 2003 season and they've been the rise ever since. The source also pointed out that it wouldn't be surprising to see Adams take a little less money to sign with the Bengals if he had to because of his strong relationship with Lewis.

Minnesota Vikings: The smart speculation is that the team has its eye on Carolina Panthers WLB Will Witherspoon, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The weakside linebacker is very important in the scheme defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin will run (see Derrick Brooks and Cato June). With lots of available salary cap space, they could make it very hard for the Panthers or any other team to sign Witherspoon. The 49ers also will be involved in the Witherspoon sweepstakes, but may not go as high in the bidding as a team like the Vikings, who have less all-around needs than San Francisco.

Another player that could attract some interest from both the Vikings and 49ers is San Diego Chargers OLB Ben Leber, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Leber would likely play the strong side for the Vikings if they signed him and vice president of player personnel Fran Foley is familiar with him from his tenure with San Diego.

New England Patriots: Don't be surprised if the team winds up trading veteran TE Daniel Graham before April's draft. The former first-round pick has been underutilized in the passing offense in recent seasons and is on the final year of his contract at only $545,000. The team is very high on third-year TE Ben Watson and likely will increase his role going forward. At the very least, those who follow the team closely say this will likely be Graham's last season in a Patriot uniform.

Philadelphia Eagles: The team usually likes to make a quick strike on the first day of free agency. If free agency isn't pushed back again and it starts on Monday, look for the Eagles to sign one to two impact free agents. The team has been compiling a list of available free-agent centers and also has its eye on ones that will be released, so it's a virtual lock that one is signed. The No.1 target on the Eagles' list to sign at the position is New Orleans C LeCharles Bentley, whom scout.com reported back at the Super Bowl wouldn't be re-signing with the Saints. According to a published report, Bentley denied a report that he'll be signing with the Eagles on Monday. However, a team source indicated to scout.com that Bentley had to deny any association with the Eagles because of possible tampering charges. The source said to expect Bentley to become a Philadelphia Eagle within the first days of the start of free agency.

As scout.com first reported earlier this week, the team has interest in New York Jets C Kevin Mawae who has been told he'll be released. Mawae, interestingly enough, is a playerthe team was very interested in signing during free agency of 1998. Instead, they signed C Steve Everett who was the No.1-rated offensive lineman in free agency that year. According to a team source, the Eagles may also make a run at New England Patriots WR David Givens. It may come down to how much money he wants. Most teams view him as a complimentary receiver not a true No.1. The Eagles view second-year pro Reggie Brown as a No.1 receiver so if Givens wants to be paid like a No. 1, he'll likely be signing elsewhere.

The Eagles also are looking for a veteran backup quarterback and they are said to have their eyes on Jay Fiedler, who was recently released by the Jets, and Jeff Garcia (Detroit Lions). Garcia makes more sense because of his familiarity with the West Coast Offense. On the defensive of the ball, look for the team to sign a veteran weak side linebacker to compete for the starting job against second-year LB Matt McCoy. Possibilities are Jamie Sharper who was recently released by Seattle, Scott Fujita (Dallas Cowboys), and Shawn Barber who was recently released by Kansas City. Barber played one season for the Eagles back in 2002.

Arizona Cardinals: While scout.com noted earlier this year that the team has USC RB Lendale White at the top of their list to select in April's draft, they also are very interested in Ohio St. LB A.J. Hawk. According to a team source, the Cardinals are looking for an impact defensive player on the first day of the draft and also a few second tier defensive linemen in free agency.

Houston Texans: The team has its eye on former Denver Broncos TE Jeb Putzier, and a deal could get done as soon as over the next few days. The athletic Putzier a very good fit for head coach Gary Kubiak's West Coast offense and is the pass-catching threat at the position that the team has been looking for. Should the team and Putzier not be able to come to a contract agreement, look for him to turn his attention to the 49ers and the New York Jets.

Indianapolis Colts: Don't expect the team to make a very hard run at re-signing SLB David Thornton. The strong side linebacker isn't an important position in the defensive scheme that the team runs. If Thornton signs elsewhere, it could be to play the weakside where he's better suited to play.

Kansas City Chiefs: All-Pro G Will Shields is still expected to be released on Sunday evening despite not being released with the other veterans earlier this week. It's believed that Shields is still interested in re-signing with the team and it's his preference to end his career as a Chief, but it may be difficult for the him to reach an agreement with the Chiefs with the money Kansas City wants to pay him. He could earn much more elsewhere.

New York Giants: Barring something unforeseen, look for CB Will Allen to be playing elsewhere next season. The Giants don't have the salary cap space to sign him to a lucrative deal. Look for them to move in second-year CB Corey Webster in to Allen's starting spot next season.

Seattle Seahawks: According to a source with knowledge of the situation, negotiations have intensified between the representative of RB Shaun Alexander and the team. However, the feeling is that if a collective bargaining agreement isn't completed before free agency starts, Alexander probably will be shopping his services to more than Seattle.


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