Last wave of cuts, first wave of FA signings

There are more players now available on the open market and more that are not after recent moves made up to the start of 2006 free agency at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Here's a listing and analysis of the latest player moves.

THE LATEST CUTS

QUARTERBACK

Brian Griese (Tampa Bay): Griese has displayed the ability to be an effective quarterback at the professional level. In Tampa Bay, Griese's career has realized a rebirth under the offensive mindset of head coach Jon Gruden, though the 2005 season ended in injury. Griese wants to remain in Tampa Bay, the team wants to retain his services, so this appears to only be a salary-cap related move to help the team at this time. Negotiations are ongoing at this time and Griese could be resigned soon. If something unexpected were to occur between the team and player during negotiations, Griese could be a very interesting player in the free agent market. Due to his moderate salary requirements and necessity for many teams, Griese could command and expect a starting opportunity.

Kerry Collins (Oakland): The salary-cap strapped Raiders did not have many options in getting below the league-mandated $102 million dollar cap. Collins, due to his large cap number (approximately $13 million), was an easy target. It was reported that he'd be cut at the start of free agency last week, and it finally happened once FA was set to start after a new CBA. Still possessing a big arm, Collins is a vertical game type quarterback and has shown the tendency to be prone to turnovers. While his decision-making process has improved, he still locks on receivers far too often. Collins will receive some serious interest in free agency, as he remains a viable starting quarterback option.

TIGHT END

Lorenzo Diamond (Miami): A diamond in the rough this diamond is not. Does not offer any true threat or significance and should be viewed a role player.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Matt Stinchcomb OT/OG (Tampa Bay): Overall has improved over the past couple seasons. Is not a dominating blocker, can be beaten by quicker defensive linemen, but has improved footwork and positioning. Has the ability to step in and help an offensive line, but should not be viewed as a top-quality talent. Stinchcomb will garner interest on the free agent market due to his reliability and moderate contract expectations, if he does not resign with the Buccaneers.

OFFENSIVE GUARD

Will Shields (Kansas City): Just like a fine wine, Shields appears to get better with age. Still can control his man at the point of attack and run block with the best in the business. Shields plays with the find-you-and-grind you attitude. Even at 35 years of age, Shields has the quickness and strength to pass block well. If Kansas City does not re-sign the veteran lineman, Shields will command immediate attention on the open market.

David Loverne (Detroit): Serviceable at the point of attack, Loverne does not possess the strength and overall skill to make an impact at the guard position. Plays smaller than his size, can be overpowered by larger defensive linemen. Could be a starter on some teams and should receive some attention in FA.

CENTER

Cory Raymer (Washington): At the initial point of attack Raymer is a sufficient interior lineman, the issue for Raymer is his limited mobility and lack of athleticism. Displays the ability to compete with some success, but should not be counted upon as the long-term answer at center for a team in need. Still, he should receive some attention and land with an organization needing immediate help and depth along the interior line.

DEFENSIVE END

Duane Clemons (Cincinnati): Rather undersized as a true defensive end and lacks overall strength. Clemons plays hard is displays sufficient quickness to put pressure on the quarterback at times, though inconsistent. Clemons is average against the run and is an average talent at this point in his career, but productive enough to garner attention in the free agent player market.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Brandon Noble (Washington): A classic overachiever that plays every play as if it is the last. Plays the run well, showing ample strength to fight and clog the interior of the point of attack. Somewhat of a liability as a pass rusher, due to his ordinary speed and quickness, but gives all he has. Noble will garner some interest in free agency due to his consistent play and realistic approach to the game.

Willie Blade (Dallas): Was unable to endear himself to head coach Bill Parcells due to his inconsistency and lack of overall performance. Though athletic for an interior defensive lineman, Blade is easily manhandled and lacks intensity. Should land in another team training camp for depth and could surprise if ever utilizing his physical attributes.

LINEBACKER

Jeff Gooch (Tampa Bay): Doesn't do anything overly well, but is consistent in regards to being a depth type player. Tends to be slow in recognition, has trouble getting off blocks, and can be overpowered.

Barry Gardner (Jets): Marginal backup inside linebacker type and special teams ace.

Willie McGinest (New England): Despite getting up in age, McGinest continues to play the game at a high level. Plays the outside linebacker/stand-up defensive end positions equally well and is an excellent run-stopper. McGinest can pressure the quarterback when called upon and is an excellent leader. May not be as successful in a system change at this point in his career, which lends credence to the notion he could remain in New England, or sign with the Cleveland Browns (Romeo Crennel) or Dallas Cowboys (Bill Parcells). If McGinest hits the open market, the interest will be significant.

Junior Seau (Miami): Age and injuries have slowed this one-time perennial All-Pro linebacker. Seau was never able to equal his dominant play as a member of the San Diego Chargers when arriving in Miami. Due to physical issues over the past few seasons, he should not be counted on to be a major factor for a defense, but can provide experience and leadership in a depth capacity.

LaVar Arrington (Washington): Athletically gifted, Arrington has displayed to be a disruptive force when healthy and in the right mindset. Knee injury slowed his progress in Washington's defensive scheme of Gregg Williams, and was not open to adapting to the new scheme in place. As the 2005 season progressed, Arrington began to surface as a player in the scheme, it didn't hurt that he also tuned down his attitude (was not getting along with the coaching staff). Has the ability to rush the passer and play the run effectively, at times is too aggressive, but should improve with experience and confidence in the defensive scheme. A definite salary-cap related release, but issues with the staff helped solidify his release. Will command immediate attention in free agency and will be expected to be a high-impact signing.

CORNERBACK

Walt Harris (Washington): Played reasonably well with the Redskins in the 2005 season and could be attractive to a team seeking a dependable (not spectacular) cornerback at a good price. Pretty solid in pass defense, Harris is average at best in run support and shouldn't be expected to improve entering his 11th season in the league. With the number of teams seeking help at the corner, Harris should have no problem finding a new team in 2006 (if he doesn't re-sign with the Redskins).

Brandon Williams (Atlanta): Special teams, deep reserve type player.

Brandon Payne (Detroit): Special teams, deep reserve type player.

SAFETY

Matt Bowen (Washington): Possesses solid recognition skills, but lacks speed and quickness, which limits his productivity and worth. Aggressively plays the run and is much better in support. Can start on a team with a need at the position if surrounded by athletic type players in the defensive backfield to minimize his average athletic ability.

Russell Stuvaints (Pittsburgh): Reserve, special teams type player the Steelers really like.

Mike Logan (Pittsburgh): Adequate run and pass defender, has the ability to help a team as a depth player. Should not be deemed a serious starting quality safety, but can step in and fill a gap in the short-term.

THE LATEST SIGNINGS

RUNNING BACK

DeShaun Foster (Carolina): The Panthers are in a precarious position at running back. Foster is everything the team wants in a back, but questions remaining regarding injury issues kept this deal from getting done sooner. Despite the issues, the Panthers are thin at the position and are hopeful Foster can be their workhorse back in the future.

Mike Alstott (Tampa Bay): Due to his versatility and experience, Alstott appears poised to play one more season in Tampa Bay. Alstott fits nicely in the Tampa Bay offensive scheme and his leadership qualities were hard for the team to pass on (as well as a modest salary).

WIDE RECEIVER

Koren Robinson (Minnesota): Robinson took advantage of the opportunity the Vikings provided him upon his signing early in the 2005 season. Quickly becoming a factor in the kick return game, Robinson has become a fixture in Minnesota and was evolving in the Vikings passing game. Under new head coach Brad Childress' offensive scheme, Robinson could play a major role. With his maturity on the rise, now may be the time Robinson begins to play to his potential.

Isaac Bruce (St. Louis): Only due to salary-cap issues prior to the new CBA was Bruce released, then he was pulled back from the cut-list. Due to the CBA, the Rams had the additional funds under the salary cap to re-sign Bruce to a new contract. New head coach Scott Linehan wanted Bruce back and he got his wish, as the reliable veteran has inked a three-year deal with the club. Bruce still plays the game at a high level, while he may not be as explosive as he once was, Bruce remains one of the better receivers in the game, teaming with Torry Holt.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Victor Rogers (Detroit): Needing help along the offensive line, the Lions retained the services of tackle Victor Rogers. Rogers, a large lineman can engulf a defensive lineman, but is often beaten by quicker ends. In Rogers, the Lions keep an average lineman which should help with depth issues.

DEFENSIVE END

Aaron Kampman (Green Bay): The Packers and Kampman worked long and hard to get a deal done prior to the defensive end hitting the open market in free agency. Kampman, very good against the run and a better than average pass rusher felt at home in Green Bay and didn't want to depart. Give credit to the Green Bay front office for stepping to the plate and retaining this popular and consistent lineman. If Kampman would have opted for free agency, he would have been in high demand.

CORNERBACK

Sam Madison (NY Giants): The Giants headed into the offseason looking to improve their below average defensive backfield. In Madison, the Giants have a cornerback that has the ability to man-up on a receiver and at times demonstrates the skills to take a receiver out of the game. While not as dominant as in years past, Madison should be a quality upgrade over free agent Will Allen in New York.


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