A busy Monday: FA signings and analysis

A few more big-name players went off the board Monday, some re-signing with their own team and several making the switch for more opportunity or more money. We analyze Monday's action in the free-agent market.

RUNNING BACK

Jamal Lewis (Baltimore): One of the bigger backs in the game, Lewis has returned from a couple serious knee injuries to continue as one of the best in the game. Coming off a season in 2005 where he did not perform up to his standards, Lewis appears poised to have an off-season without distraction. Still a powerful and punishing runner, Lewis possesses a little "shake and bake" stutter in his style to throw the timing of a defender off when attempting to make the tackle. Runs hard with high leg lift and remains a difficult player to bring down. The signing of Lewis should solidify the state of the Ravens running game heading into the 2006 season.

Chad Morton (NY Giants): Morton excels in the return game and has been steady in that role for the Giants. Due to his limited ability to be an asset in the running game due to his size, Morton can still be of help coming out of the backfield as a pass receiver, if called upon. Morton provides the team a viable weapon in the return game and should continue to succeed in this role.

Mike Anderson (Baltimore): The Ravens were in need of a veteran running back and wasted no time in landing a better than average talent, Mike Anderson. Not the fleetest afoot, Anderson has proven to be a powerful inside, downhill type rusher, which could be a fit within the Baltimore offense, which is expected to take on a different look in the 2006 season. Basically a between-the-tackles runner, Anderson will be counted upon to carry the load for the Ravens until the team adds depth to the position. Anderson should keep the running game alive for Baltimore, but expect the Ravens to add another back in free agency or early in the draft.

WIDE RECEIVER

Eddie Drummond (Detroit): Drummond offers very little in the passing game due to his smallish stature and lack of strength to combat defenders at the point of attack. Possesses excellent speed and vision, which makes his role of a return specialist in Detroit fitting.

Brian Finneran (Atlanta): Finneran is a solid possession-type receiver that understands his role and plays it well. Not a deep threat, Finneran has displayed the uncanny ability to find soft spots in the defense, providing the quarterback an option. While not known as a blocker, he will sacrifice his body and will fight for yardage. The questionable overall state of the Falcons receiving corps needs a stable, experienced influence such as Finneran.

Corey Bradford (Detroit): Bradford has been a relatively inconsistent performer over the past few seasons. Despite better than average speed and quickness, Bradford struggles to gain separation against ordinary defensive backs. Bradford does not run routes fluidly, which is a basis for his average numbers in the Houston passing scheme. Will fight for the ball and is capable of making the spectacular play, though he can be explosive in the open field. The Lions, looking for additional talent on the offensive side of the ball, have added a depth player in Bradford. With a stable of receivers including Charlie Rogers, Mike Williams, and Roy Williams, the signing of Bradford is rather interesting and could be a note that a receiver could be on the move in Detroit.

GUARD

Greg Jerman (Buffalo): Jerman played reasonably well in a backup role in the 2005 season with Buffalo. While not being considered a starting-type lineman, Jerman is versatile, having the ability to play the guard and tackle positions. Displayed surprising agility when playing the tackle position and should be considered a solid backup for the Bills.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

L.J. Shelton (Miami):
Shelton is a large offensive tackle that reclaimed his place in the game with a solid 2005 season for the Cleveland Browns. Shelton was reasonably consistent throughout the season with the Browns, though he still has trouble with speed rushers coming off the corner. An adequate run-blocker, Shelton should be an improvement for Miami and help anchor the left side of the Miami offense line for years to come.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Damione Lewis (Carolina):
Lewis has shown flashes of excellence while a member of the St. Louis Rams, but his career has been marred by inconsistency. Has the size and strength to excel in the middle of the defensive line, either as a nose or defensive tackle, though tends to play at a lazy pace. Despite his size, Lewis has had trouble fighting off blocks and does not play aggressively. A change of scenery will do Lewis well, and Carolina head coach John Fox should be the perfect coach to get this young tackle to play to his potential.

LINEBACKER

Andre Carter (Washington): If there is one thing Andre Carter can do, it is rushing the quarterback. With great speed and quickness for an OLB/DE, Carter has the agility and focus to fight off defenders due to his speed and hand-play. Average against the run, Carter can be consumed at the point of attack in the running game and has shown the tendency to run himself out of the play. Washington sought a pass rusher coming off the corner of the defense, and Carter has had injury issues while a member of the San Francisco 49ers, but the pro's outweigh the con's and he is a natural fit that should excel in Gregg Williams' defense.

Brandon Moore (San Francisco): Moore was inconsistent during the 2005 season, but progressed nicely as the season wore on, his first under the direction of head coach Mike Nolan. Run awareness was improved, though Moore still tends to overreact to plays in front of him, leaving himself out of position. Tackles well, but does not make impact plays. Moore's second season in the Nolan defense should be even better.

Matt Chatham (NY Jets): Chatham is yet another former New England Patriots linebacker that could evolve into a consistent performer, if given the opportunity. A superb special teams player, which is a trademark of the Bill Parcells/Bill Belichick mode, Chatham could be a linebacker that can rush the quarterback coming off the edge of the defense. A heady, aware special teams player, Chatham appears to possess solid recognition skills in his limited playing time on the defensive side of the ball. In New York, the Jets are looking for a stabilizing presence, and a player that has the ability to add depth, and Chatham fits the bill.

Scott Fujita (New Orleans): Fujita is a solid outside linebacker which possesses better-than-average coverage skills and has displayed the ability to play the run. One knock against Fujita is he is rather non-descript, as he doesn't make many impact plays and can be neutralized when bodied-up. Fujita can rush the quarterback when called upon in passing or blitz calls, but can become too aggressive and miss on opportunities. New Orleans needs to improve its run defense, intermediate pass defense, and pressure on the quarterback from other than the defensive line. Fujita should be a solid acquisition for the New Orleans Saints.

Akin Ayodele (Dallas): If the game didn't include the pass, Akin Ayodele could be one of the best in the league. He does not play the pass well, and has difficulty in the backpedal, which is surprising due to his athletic ability. Plays the run well and fights through blocks when engaged, which isn't easy for an offensive player due to his speed and quickness. Physically strong, Ayodele can penetrate the backfield and make impact plays. A well-above-average tackler, he will square up on a ball carrier and drive the player back. Ayodele has the mentality and desire to excel in a blitzing role and is very effective moving toward the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys were looking for a physical defender to upgrade the overall look of the linebacker position. In Ayodele, Dallas has landed that player.

David Thornton (Tennessee): Plays bigger than his size (6-2, 230 pounds) and smaller than his size in pass coverage. A well-rounded linebacker, Thornton has displayed the ability to be very strong in covering a tight end or back in the seam. His recognition skills are good and he utilizes his awareness to its fullest. Tends to wait on blockers to commit and slides around them, which can be detrimental at times. A solid linebacker that should play a significant role in the Tennessee defense.

Clint Kriewaldt (Pittsburgh) Quality backup linebacker and special teams ace, Kriewaldt could have been a player to watch in free agency. Kriewaldt has the look and mentality to be a nice fit for the Steelers defensive scheme. Locking up Kriewaldt provides the Steelers the opportunity to retain a player that is under-appreciated and relatively unknown outside of Pittsburgh.

CORNERBACK

R.W. McQuarters (NY Giants):
McQuarters is a solid run support type of cornerback due to his aggressive nature. In pass defense, he struggles due to a lack of speed and quickness, though he is adapt at recognizing the play and reacting. McQuarters is a serviceable player that should provide depth to a team, like the Giants, looking to improve a below-average pass defense.

SAFETY

Marquand Manuel (Green Bay):
Stepped in when starter Ken Hamlin was sidelined during the 2005 season and played well. Manuel is solid in run support and his pass coverage responsibilities did not overwhelm him. Not the swiftest of foot, but is learning to play angles well Will step in and provide the Packers an upgrade in the defensive backfield.

Omare Lowe (Atlanta): Lowe is a former cornerback that has converted to safety at the professional level. Raw and inexperienced, Lowe is basically a depth and special teams type player at this point in his career, which is what the Falcons expect from him.

Dexter Jackson (Cincinnati): Jackson depends on experience, solid recognition skills and quickness to be successful in the defensive backfield. Will contribute in run support and is a general in the backfield. Makes few mistakes, but can be too aggressive at times when looking to make an impact play. A consistent player, Jackson plays very well when the play is in front of him. Lacking overall speed, receivers can get behind Jackson if he is caught looking into the backfield. In all, a very strong signing for a Cincinnati club wanting to improve their overall talent on the defensive side of the ball.

Quentin Harris (NY Giants): Quentin Harris is an asset as a safety playing the run. Physical and strong, he will attack to get to the ball-carrier, while maintaining a reasonable awareness of his surroundings. Has displayed an improving ability against the pass, but attacking the line of scrimmage is his strength. The Giants are looking to improve the play in the defensive backfield, Harris has displayed an improving resume which could warrant good things in New York.

Adam Archuleta (Washington): Archuleta has displayed the skills set to be a strong player in run support. While his pass coverage skills are often overlooked, Archuleta has displayed the ability to cover a good amount of ground when put in that position. At times he can be too aggressive, causing him to be out of position or not primed to make potential big plays. Being a physical player, Archuleta has struggled with some nagging injury issues, but is expected to be a major contributor in the Washington defensive scheme, lining-up next to the greatly athletic Sean Taylor.


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