Said Billy Devaney, executive
vice president of player personnel for the St. Louis Rams, "There were
non-starters that got the franchise tender this year. That's because the pool
is so small this year. There's going to be a small amount of players who are
going to get ridiculous money and people are going to say, 'You've got to be
"People are looking and saying, 'We're not going to spend a lot of money on other team's free agents. We don't have to compete with other teams.' I think all the moves are great, teams can tie up their guys, using the franchise tag."
Devaney further believes the draft remains the lifeblood of any franchise, and that free agency should only be used judiciously.
"If you can supplement a little bit by getting a starter maybe a backup, some depth, that's the most you can hope for," he said. "You're not going to build your team in free agency."
As Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner said, "There are certain positions where you only have one good guy that hasn't been (franchise) tagged. "I think you're going to see a very aggressive rush those first few days. I think the first day or two are going to be crazy.
"My own opinion is, there's going to be a very, very short market this year. It's not to say there aren't any opportunities out there, but I think you're going to see the market accelerated ... The second tier of free agency, where maybe that kicked in two weeks into free agency in the past, maybe you're going to see it kicking in three to five days into free agency."
Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell said the team and cornerback Marcus Trufant are at a negotiating impasse because the sides hold "philosophical differences" about the value of Trufant. While Trufant's side is maintaining that as a Pro Bowl cornerback he should be paid among the top cornerbacks in the league since Nate Clements set a new market, Ruskell said he does not believe Trufant is a shutdown corner in the same mold as Darrell Green, Deion Sanders or Champ Bailey.
As such, Ruskell said he believes that Trufant should be paid well -- probably around $7 million a season -- but not among the top players at his position. Ruskell said that Trufant has benefited from a defense that got free-agent additions in Patrick Kerney, Deon Grant and Brian Russell last season, and because the pass rush was one of the best in the league. But he does not feel that Trufant is a player who can shut down his side of the field, in part because he is part of a system that helps him out.
While the Seahawks may be correct in their evaluation, however, Trufant has the leverage because the team chose to give him the franchise tag. With a $9.465 million value, the franchise designation severely restricts the Seahawks in what they are able to do on the free agent market.
In fact, Ruskell said that if the Seahawks want to sign anybody, they are going to have to shuffle around some stuff either by cutting players or by restructuring their contracts. "It's almost a one-for-one deal," Ruskell said.
--WR D.J. Hackett will become a free agent and is unlikely to return to the Seahawks. He played only six games due to injuries last year but has seemingly generated a lot of interest from other teams.
--LB Kevin Bentley is going to become a free agent, and his agent said he is unlikely to return to the Seahawks. He would like to start somewhere and is unlikely to get much time behind the Seahawks' talented LB corps.
--The Seahawks tendered offers to restricted free agents FB Leonard Weaver, LB Lance Laury and FB David Kirtman.
--Free agent TE Alge Crumpler is visiting the Seahawks during the first few days of free agency and there is a possibility the Seahawks could sign Crumpler, released by the Falcons, to a contract.
--RB Shaun Alexander will not be cut or be asked to have his contract renegotiated, GM Tim Ruskell said.
--The Seahawks should name a running backs coach by next week.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are both pretty staunch in our views." -- Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell on the stance being taken by the franchise and free-agent cornerback Marcus Trufant.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY
The Seahawks have two primary free agents they need to re-sign after franchising CB Marcus Trufant: kicker Josh Brown and fullback Leonard Weaver. They have to make a decision on starting split end D.J. Hackett, who was productive when he played but was injured for most of the year and has been injury-prone throughout his career.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks have to make decisions on special teamers Kevin Bentley and Niko Koutouvides, both backup linebackers whom the team likes; utility lineman Floyd Womack, who versatility helps the team overlook his injuries; and defensive linemen Ellis Wyms and Chuck Darby, who was a starter before having his season ended with a knee injury.
1. Running back: Shaun Alexander had his second consecutive
career-worst year and at 30 is on the downside of his career. He also has been
besieged by injuries for two straight seasons. Backup Maurice Morris is not
a full-time starter. The one player many have thought was a natural fit is the
Oregon's Jonathan Stewart, who grew up about 40 miles south of Seattle and may
be available in a draft deep with running backs.
2. Tight end: Starter Marcus Pollard becomes a free agent after a season in which he caught only 28 passes and had two drops and a costly fumble in the divisional playoff game against Green Bay. He likely will not be back. Coach Mike Holmgren stressed after the season the importance of the position in the West Coast offense.
3. Defensive line: Signing Mike Wahle at left guard takes away some of Seattle's short-term concern about their offensive line and allows them to focus more on their defensive line, which was decimated by injuries last season. Rookie Brandon Mebane did a nice job stepping in, but the return of Marcus Tubbs is uncertain and the team needs more depth at the position.
MEDICAL WATCH: WR Deion Branch had successful surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament and is in Birmingham, Ala. rehabbing under the watch of Dr. James Andrews. Though an ACL tear is generally a nine-month to a year recovery, Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell said the team expects him to contribute for most of the year. Branch will miss training camp.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: CB Marcus Trufant (tendered at $9.465M).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--LB Kevin Bentley is primarily a special teams player best known for shutting down Steve Smith in the 2005 NFC Championship game. He is also the team's fourth linebacker. He is likely to come back.
--K Josh Brown was given the franchise tag last season after being unable to come to an agreement on a long-term deal. He had another solid year, interrupted only by instability with the snapper. The Seahawks will try to sign Brown to a long-term deal to keep him if a team like Kansas City doesn't get him first, as has been reported..
--DT Chuck Darby was productive as a starter and is considered a leader on the team. However, a late-season knee injury and the emergence of rookie Brandon Mebane make him expendable.
--WR D.J. Hackett was productive when he played but twice suffered high ankle sprains that kept him out of 10 games. The Seahawks have depth at the position so they may let him go if he gets too expensive. But Deion Branch's season-ending knee injury complicates matters.
--TE Ben Joppru is used almost exclusively on special teams and often is hindered by injuries. The team could take him or leave him.
--LB Niko Koutouvides is the special teams captain and the only backup middle linebacker. He is likely to be re-signed.
--TE Marcus Pollard missed some games with injury, was not as productive as they would have liked and had a horrible divisional playoff game. He will not be back.
--LS Jeff Robinson solidified a position that was a circus all season. However, Robinson is going to be 38 years old. It remains to be seen if he will return.
--RB Josh Scobey.
--OL Floyd Womack stays with the team because while he is short on talent he is versatile, able to play every position except center. He is likely to return.
--DL Ellis Wyms was a solid but unspectacular backup who got time after Marcus Tubbs and Chuck Darby both were lost for the season. Tubbs may be able to come back next year and the team is seeking another tackle, which may make Wyms' future uncertain.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--RB Alvin Pearman (not tendered as RFA) was one of the team's kick returners until a knee injury in Week 4 ended his season. His return is questionable.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--FB Leonard Weaver (tendered at $1.417M with second-round pick as compensation) emerged as a valuable and viable player after Mack Strong was forced to retire.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--RB David Kirtman is used almost exclusively on special teams. He is a player on the bubble of being re-signed.
--LB Lance Laury is used primarily on special teams, but had one of the biggest plays of the year when he knocked loose a fumble against Cincinnati on a kickoff return.
--OG Mike Wahle: FA Panthers; 5 yrs, $20 million, $3.5 million SB, $5.5 million guaranteed. .
--OT Sean Locklear: Potential UFA; $32M/5 yrs, SB unknown.
NFL PLAYER WIRE
Seattle Seahawks CB Marcus Trufant is not any closer to receiving
a long-term deal. Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell said the team and Trufant are at a
negotiating impasse because the sides hold "philosophical differences"
about the value of Trufant. While Trufant's side is maintaining that as a Pro
Bowl cornerback he should be paid among the top cornerbacks in the league since
Nate Clements set a new market, Ruskell said he does not believe Trufant is
a shutdown corner in the same mold as Darrell Green, Deion Sanders or Champ
Bailey. As such, Ruskell said he believes that Trufant should be paid well --
probably around $7 million a season -- but not among the top players at his
Seahawks WR D.J. Hackett became a free agent and is unlikely to return to the Seahawks. He played only six games due to injuries last year but has seemingly generated a lot of interest from other teams.
DE Jevon Kearse was released by the Eagles. He played in 45 regular-season games over the past four years with the Eagles, recording 133 tackles and 22.0 sacks.
WR Isaac Bruce was released by the Rams. Bruce, 35, has 942 career receptions for 14,109 yards and 84 touchdowns. "It's a tough choice for the franchise," coach Scott Linehan said in a statement. "It's like anything else. We make decisions as a franchise on the business side and that's the part that makes it the most difficult." Linehan left the door open for Bruce to possibly re-sign with the team.
FB Lorenzo Neal was released by San Diego. The lead blocker for LaDainian Tomlinson, Neal has played for six teams during 15 seasons.
LT Flozell Adams, who was due to become an unrestricted free agent, re-signed with Dallas. Adams signed a multi-year deal and told the team's website, "I'm just really happy to be here."
LB Tedy Bruschi has agreed to a multi-year deal to stay with New England. The deal is expected to become official Friday.
RB Marion Barber III received a one-year, $2.56 million tender. It's the highest tender the Cowboys could have offered.
QB Derek Anderson received a one-year, $2.5 million tender from the Browns, but became a restricted free agent when he declined to sign it. The Browns have also made a multi-year offer -- $20 million over three years with $10 million in guaranteed money.
Oakland DT Tommy Kelly, a forgotten man in the 2004 draft, signed a contract before the free agency deadline which will at least temporarily make him the highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL. The numbers -- $18.125 in guaranteed money, seven years total for $50.5 million -- are staggering considering Kelly has never settled in at one position and played in just seven games last season before sustaining a season ending anterior cruciate ligament tear. During the first three years of the contract, Kelly would make a reported $25.125 million. In the seven games Kelly played last season, he had 30 tackles and one sack. He was off crutches days after ACL surgery and seemed to be moving and rehabbing well before the end of the 2007 season. In 49 games and 37 starts with the Raiders sine making the team as an undrafted free agent, Kelly has 163 tackles, 13 sacks and has knocked down six passes.
C Jeff Faine signed with the Bucs, according to Tampabay.com. Terms of the deal were undisclosed.
DT Corey Williams became a Cleveland Brown when Williams was traded from the Packers in exchange for a 2008 second round pick, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Williams, who received the Franchise tender from the Packers prior to the start of free agency, is expected to receive a multi-year deal from the Browns.
WR/RS Andre' Davis parlayed a breakthrough season in to a multiyear contract with the Texans. Davis stepped in ably for the Texans when star WR Andre Johnson went down for seven games with a knee injury. Davis not only totalled 583 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 33 catches, he also returned three kicks for touchdowns. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
G Justin Smiley signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Dolphins.
QB Gus Frerotte was released by the Rams.
S Marlon McCree was released by the Chargers.
RT Shane Olivea, who lost his starting job in November, was released by San Diego.
DE Chris Canty received a one-year, $2.017 million tender.
QB Alex Smith had his contract extended through 2010 when the 49ers excercised a multimillion dollar buyback clause in his contract. It equates to a vote of confidence for Smith, who will compete with Shaun Hill for the starting job.
C Mike Flynn, 33, was cut by Baltimore. He was due to count $2 million against next year's salary cap.
DE Antonio Smith received a one-year qualifying offer from the Cardinals and is a restricted free agent with a first-round tender of $2.07 million. He has until April 18 to sign the offer. He can sign with another team, but the Cardinals have the right to match or receive draft pick compensation.
CB Eric Green received a one-year qualifying offer from the Cardinals and is a restricted free agent with a first-round tender of $2.07 million. He has until April 18 to sign the offer. He can sign with another team, but the Cardinals have the right to match or receive draft pick compensation.
OL Elton Brown received a one-year qualifying offer from the Cardinals and is a restricted free agent with a fourth-round tender of $927,000. He has until April 18 to sign the offer. He can sign with another team, but the Cardinals have the right to match or receive draft pick compensation.
FB Brad Hoover agreed to a three-year deal to stay with the Panthers. He was due to become an unrestricted free agent.
CB Kiwaukee Thomas had his contract terminated by Buffalo. He was due to make $750,000 next season after making 37 tackles with an interception in 2007.
LB Jonathan Vilma appears headed to the Saints in exchange for a conditional 2009 draft pick. Vilma, who excelled in the 4-3 defense during his first two season in New York, is a square peg to the round holes of Eric Mangini's 3-4 defense. Vilma is tremendous sideline to sideline but is more crafty than physical at the point of attack. He's not built to hammer gaps, he's built to be one of the better Cover 2 middle linebackers of his era. The Saints have longed for quality linebacker play since the days of Sam Mills, Vaughan Johnson, Ricky Jackson and Pat Swilling. They finally may get another taste of it with Vilma's impending arrival.
CB Ty Law was released by the Chiefs. The former Patriots playmaker is open to returning to the team that drafted him in the first round of the 1995 NFL draft. He was actually in Boston last Wednesday night at the TD Banknorth Garden for a Celtics game and was interviewed during the local broadcast on Comcast Sportsnet. "Hey, you know what? My heart was always with the Patriots. I have always been," said Law, who once referred to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick as a liar during messy, public contract negotiations with the team. "This is where it all started for me. So of course, it's a final step for the Patriots. It's football. I'm just looking forward to playing football wherever that might be, and just play for a contender. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about." Law is a five-time Pro Bowler who played in 16 games last season in Kansas City, recording 39 tackles and two interceptions. "It'll be interesting to see if they're interested," Law concluded of a return to New England.
WR Troy Williamson, a first round-bust in Minnesota, appears headed to the Jaguars in exchange for a 2008 sixth round pick.He had 79 catches for 1,067 yards but only three scores in his three years with the Vikings. He played for three different receivers coaches during his stay in Minneapolis in addition to two head coaches. His biggest asset is his speed, something the Jaguars did not have last year after their fastest receiver, Walker, was placed on injured reserve. But Williamson's problem is his inability to hang on to the ball. Williamson struggles to adjust to deep balls, is weak at catching the ball away from his body on anything deeper than a seven-yard slant, was rarely sent across the middle in Minnesota, and has a tendency to drop accurate passes with no defender within five yards of him.
WR Larry Fitzgerald's contract re-negotiation remains ongoing. The Cardinals are desperate to get a new deal done, even though they insist they can fit Fitzgerald's $14.6 million salary in 2008 under the cap. But that would have serious implications over the rest of the roster. The club would be hard pressed to sign any outside free agents, much less retain their own, including outside linebacker Calvin Pace. The team reportedly is offering a six-year deal with guarantees between $25 million and $30 million. Fitzgerald's agent, Eugene Parker, prefers a four year deal. And the salary in that fourth-year is so high it would drive the Cardinals back to the bargaining table after three seasons. Team officials aren't going to do that. The two sides apparently are discussing a five-year deal now, but no agreement is imminent. Fitzgerald has a considerable amount of leverage in negotiations since he's due $32 million over the next two years: $14.6 this year and $17.4 in 2009. It's going to take a ton of guaranteed money to get him to agree to a new contract.
LB Kevin Bentley became a free agent, and his agent said he is unlikely to return to the Seahawks. He would like to start somewhere and is unlikely to get much time behind the Seahawks' talented LB corps.
QB Todd Collins re-signed with the Redskins. Collins received a three-year, $9 million deal to remain in Washington as Jason Campbell's backup.
LB Jon Abbate (failed physical) was waived by Houston.
OT Joe Toledo (released by Dolphins 2/12) was added to Green Bay's roster.
OG Joe Berger received a one-year, $927,000 tender from the Cowboys.
RB Tyson Thompson became a free agent when the Cowboys declined to offer him a tender.
Pittsburgh WR Nate Washington received a one-year tender offer, meaning the Steelers will have to right to match any offers he may receive from other teams. The tender is believed to be worth more than $1.4 million.
OT Trai Essex received a one-year tender offer, meaning the Steelers will have to right to match any offers he may receive from other teams. The tender is believed to be worth more than $900,000
S J.R. Reed signed a one-year deal to remain with the Eagles. He was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Reed said he chose the one-year deal over a one-year tender because it means he won't impact the salary cap as much, giving him a better chance to make the final roster.
FS Ken Hamlin took the gamble last season and signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal in hopes of parlaying that into a multi-year contract extension. The Cowboys promised him as much. He did his part, earning the Pro Bowl. But he didn't get his multi-year contract extension. The Cowboys didn't agree with his contract demands and slapped the franchise tag on him, guaranteeing him $4.4 million next season. The two sides will still try to work out a long term contract.
LB Zach Thomas is coming home, of sorts. After being released by the Dolphins, the 12-year veteran agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal to join the Cowboys. Thomas spurned offers from New Orleans and New England because his family wanted him to play for the Cowboys. Thomas grew up in Pampa, Texas and played at Texas Tech. He grew up a Cowboys fan and his family is made up of huge Cowboys fans. He is expected to start opposite Bradie James at inside linebacker, supplanting incumbent Akin Ayodele. Ayodele is currently in Brazil on vacation. But according to people close to him he will not be happy. They expect the Cowboys try to trade or release Ayodele. The Cowboys are saying they are only trying to add as many good players as possible. But there is no doubt if Thomas is the player he has been for the last 12 years, he is starting.
RB Marion Barber is highly coveted by the Cowboys. So much so that the team is discussing a long-term contract with his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, even though Barber is a restricted free agent. Despite reports that he will get the highest tender possible in the interim of $2.56 million, which would give the Cowboys a first and third round pick if he signs with another team, the Cowboys are only going to tender him at the first round level of $2.017 million. They plan to continue to talk about a long term deal.
DE Michael Strahan, the 15-year veteran of seven Pro Bowls and the team's all-time sack leader, has yet to announce his plans for the 2008 season. He had always said that he would continue to play until he got a Super Bowl ring, and now he has one. "I'm just not sure," he said, "but I am not going to drag this out. It wouldn't be fair to the team (something he didn't seem to consider last summer when he staged a training camp-long holdout). I'll make a decision by the end of March." But if Strahan returns -- and he has been seen in the Giants Stadium weight room working out -- then all systems are static. "Don't put too much into seeing me in the weight room," he says, smiling his signature gap-toothed smile. "I just love to work out, it doesn't mean anything yet."
DE Adrian Awasom, who was sent home from the Super Bowl after being stopped for driving under the influence in Arizona three nights before the game, is a free agent who is absolutely free to go anywhere. The Giants did not offer him a tender. He's gone.
DT Mike Patterson was arrested on February 16 and charged with possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana. Patterson and his brother Tyrone were sitting in a parked car along a road in Marlton, N.J. at 6 a.m. According to the police report, a patrolman saw the vehicle with some visible damage caused by a minor motor vehicle accident. During the investigation, the patrolman smelled what appeared to be burning marijuana coming from inside the car. Patterson, who was the driver of the vehicle, admitted that the marijuana was his. His brother was arrested when police discovered minor outstanding warrants against him. Because of the arrest, Patterson automatically will enter the NFL drug program, but isn't expected to be suspended. He led all Eagles defensive linemen with 114 tackles last year.
DE Jevon Kearse was released by the Eagles. Kearse, who signed a $60 million free agent deal with the Eagles in 2004, was a major disappointment for the Eagles. He played in 45 games and had just 133 tackles and 22 sacks. Kearse missed most of the '06 season with a knee injury. He returned last season, but his weight was down under 240 pounds and he was manhandled by opposing offensive tackles. He seldom played in the second half of the season. By releasing Kearse, the Eagles will save about $3 million of cap room. He was scheduled to earn more than $6 million this season.
WR Brandon Lloyd was cut by the Redskins on Feb. 26 after he produced just 25 catches, 379 yards and no touchdowns in two years after being acquired as a restricted free agent from the 49ers for third- and fourth-round draft choices. Lloyd, whom the Redskins gave a six-year, $30 million deal in April 2006, counts $4.2 million against the 2008 salary cap.
RB Tatum Bell was left out of the lineup the last 11 games last year, but the Lions are trying to re-sign him. He probably will leave.
S Dwight Smith received two years, $5 million from the Lions. Smith, a seven-year NFL veteran released by Minnesota, played for Tampa Bay from 2001-04. He won the Super Bowl at the end of the '02 season when coach Rod Marinelli and defensive coordinator Joe Barry were on the Buccaneers' staff. Smith has had a number of off-field issues, but Marinelli said: "I've known him for a long time. He'd be a guy who can come in and compete. He's been a very high level safety in this league. He's also played some corner. He's got unbelievable ball skills."
WR Bobby Wade was recently in Minnesota to have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Wade injured the knee in October and played the rest of the season despite being hobbled. Starting left defensive end Kenechi Udeze has been diagnosed with a form of leukemia and is not expected to play in 2008. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
LB Heath Farwell received a second round tender from the VIkings, worth $1.4 for the 2008 season.
LB Josh Stamer is interested in landing with a team where he can play more than special teams, he told the LeMars, Iowa Daily Sentinel. "I think it will be best to try to move on to bigger and better things," he said. "I think I can be more."
RG Rex Hadnot, arguably the Dolphins' best lineman, will be allowed to test the waters in free agency. It appears he is not Parcells kind of guy.
SS Yeremiah Bell will test the market, however agent Drew Rosenhaus is keeping the door open for the Dolphins to re-sign him. Bell sustained a season-ending Achilles' tear in the season opener. "The Dolphins would like to have him back. ... He would be interested in playing in Miami, but we're going to keep all of our options open," said Bell's agent, Drew Rosenhaus.
LB Rosevelt Colvin was cut by the Patriots. Coming off a season in which he ended the year on injured reserve with a foot injury, and due to carry a $7.6 million cap number in 2008, the combination of injuries, high salary and less-than-elite production forced New England to sever ties with a guy who started 39 of the 61 games he played in during his five years with the Patriots.
CB Asante Samuel is expected to be one of the hottest targets on the free agent market when bidding kicks off Friday morning at 12:01 a.m. The fifth-year All-Pro is reportedly looking for a deal that will top the one the 49ers gave Nate Clements last spring. That could mean that Samuel's deal will including $20million-plus in guaranteed money, $30-plus million over the first three years and average better than $10 million annually. Samuel will visit with the Eagles sometime today (2/29).
RB Kevin Faulk was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession this week in his home state of Louisiana. The nine-year veteran was reportedly on his way into a suite at the Cajundome for a Lil Wayne rap concert when a random search found four hand-rolled cigars filled with the illegal substance. Faulk was not arrested but agreed to appear in court to face the charge. "We're aware of the report, but we don't have any additional comment at this time," Patriots spokesman Stacey James of the story first reported by KATC-TV in Lafayette.
S Eugene Wilson, a five-year veteran set to hit free agency on Friday morning, thinks his career with the Patriots has come to a close. The former second-round pick got off to a great start in New England. Drafted as a cornerback, Wilson switched to safety as a rookie and was a key playmaker in his first two seasons with the team while earning a pair of Super Bowl rings. But injuries and a lack of plays turned Wilson from a budding-star to a healthy-inactive over the last three seasons. "I'm looking forward to moving on, and at the same time, I wish the best of luck to the Patriots because I don't think I'll be back there this year," Wilson told the Boston Globe. "I'm excited to get into free agency and see what is out there."
WR Justin McCareins was released by the Jets. McCareins, a seven-year veteran acquired from Tennessee for a second-round draft choice in 2004, was a starter his first two seasons with the Jets, but saw the field much less the last two seasons. He had 19 receptions in 2007, but his season was punctuated by two drops of potential touchdown passes, at Baltimore and at New England. McCareins was scheduled to make $1.08 million in 2008, and was due a roster bonus of $2.5 million in March. It's possible McCareins could wind up back with the Titans.
LG Jason Brown, who is a restricted free agent, received a second-round tender from the Ravens. If Brown signs an offer sheet with another team, the Ravens would have first right of refusal to match it. If they decline to keep him, the Ravens would receive that team's second-round pick as compensation. With a second-round tender, Brown would earn $1.47 million this season, a steep raise from last season's salary ($435,000). Brown is considered one of the cogs in the Ravens' developing offensive line, especially if offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden retires.
RB Rudi Johnson, limited to nine games and 497 rushing yards by a hamstring injury, is determined to return to the form that made him a 1,500-yard runner in 2004 and 2005. To that end, Johnson is adjusting the lean diet that saw him shed inches and pounds. The question: Was Johnson, a between-the-tackles runner, better off 10-15 pounds heavier? "He said he wants to make sure he does a better job ... of adding the strength and girth to withstand the NFL game and run through guys," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said of Johnson.
WR Tab Perry, the Bengals' sixth-round pick in 2005 and top kickoff return man the past two seasons, was not tendered as a RFA. The problem is a hip injury that limited him to two games in 2006 and 2007. Offensive tackle Adam Kieft was not tendered; he has not played in one game because of a serious knee injury suffered in his rookie training camp, followed by a foot injury last year.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, acquired in a trade right before the start of the 2007 season from St. Louis, received the draft-status RFA tender of $927,000. He was the Rams' seventh-round pick in 2005 from Harvard and is Carson Palmer's top backup. The Bengals announced their tenders over the noon hour on Thursday, Feb. 28.
S Madieu Williams, a UFA, could be headed to Minnesota for a reunion with Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who held the same job with the Bengals when they drafted Williams in the second round in 2004 from Maryland.
DE Orpheus Roye was released with two years left on his existing contract. The 12-year veteran was due $3 million in 2008 plus a roster bonus of $1.5 million in March.
QB Derek Anderson was given the high tender of $2.562 million when contract talks bogged down on the eve of free agency.
Travis LaBoy, who's benefited from playing fewer snaps and being used as a pass rush specialist, wants a bigger role. LaBoy could struggle with a new team if he is regarded as a pass rush ace and doesn't have the benefits of playing on a line with players like Kyle Vanden Bosch and Albert Haynesworth.
RB Reggie Bush failed to show up for a scheduled deposition on Feb. 25, the latest twist in the civil lawsuit against the former Heisman Trophy winner who allegedly accepted cash and gifts from sports marketers while playing at USC. Sports marketer Lloyd Lake is seeking to recoup some $291,000 in cash and gifts the star running back and his family allegedly accepted from Lake and his former partner, Michael Michaels, while Bush was in college. Watkins said he received a fax from one of Bush's attorneys saying Bush would not be at the deposition. Bush's attorney, David Cornwell, would not comment. Watkins requested that Bush bring extensive financial records, including those documenting the purchase of a car, as well as canceled rent checks for the suburban San Diego home where his parents lived and for a condo in Los Angeles. The NCAA and Pac-10 Conference are investigating whether Bush and his parents took improper benefits during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Bush has not met with NCAA and Pac-10 investigators and has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
C Andy McCollum is an unrestricted free agent, and he will likely retire. However, coach Scott Linehan said there's always a chance he could return. Said Linehan, "I did talk to Andy and he said he will stay in shape in case we get in that position where we would have to go there and sign him if we needed him. He's not ruling out coming back and playing. Andy is as salt of the earth kind of guy as there is but I thought that was a good plan." McCollum lost his starting job to Brett Romberg last summer, but ended up starting seven games at center and three at left guard because of the injuries that hit the team's line.
DL Isaac Sopoaga never made it to free agency. Just two days before he was scheduled to hit the open market, Sopoaga signed a five-year contract extension with the 49ers, reportedly worth $20 million. Sopoaga would have likely been the most highly sought-after defensive tackles in free agency after Albert Haynesworth and Corey Williams were tagged as franchise players by the Titans and Packers, respectively. The 49ers figure to lose both defensive ends. Bryant Young, who is retiring, and Marques Douglas, a free agent, both started 16 games last season. Sopoaga was a backup nose tackle to starter Aubrayo Franklin, but he also has the versatility to play defensive end in a 3-4. It is also possible the 49ers could switch to a 4-3 scheme, in which case both Franklin and Sopoaga would start side-by-side at defensive tackle.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew may be the Jaguars' back of the future, but coach Jack Del Rio isn't ready to turn the job over to Jones-Drew at this point. When asked about his double-threat at the running back spot, Del Rio offered this comment to writers at the college combine in Indianapolis last week. "We like the idea that both of them are still playing at a high-level right now," Del Rio said. "We also know that at some point, Fred (Taylor) will get less (carries) and Maurice will get more but there's no reason to rush that. "Right now, we're very happy to have two guys that are great teammates, they're both explosive and it gives us a very strong 1-2 punch. When we take one guy out and go to the next guy, it doesn't drop off. You have that explosive guy that can make a defender miss and go the distance. "So right now it's a luxury for us, one we're enjoying."
K Jason Elam spent the week leading up to free agency waiting for substantive talks with the Broncos, but there weren't many negotiations. Both sides expressed that they wanted to get a deal done, but Elam has always expressed that he won't be bitter if the Broncos decide to go in a different direction. "I've always said, whenever I finish, my main hope is that I can go upstairs and shake everybody's hand and everybody feels good about everything," Elam said late last season.
CB DeAngelo Hall, who has one year and $4.2 million left on his contract, wants out because he says the team seems more interested in trading him than signing him to a long-term extension. Atlanta hasn't found any trade partners willing to give it what it wants. However, things could change once the pay scale gets set by New England free agent corner Asante Samuel. Once Samuel's terms get solidified, a team will have a baseline to either decline or pursue Hall -- the Falcons included.
RT Todd Weiner said he is recovering ahead of schedule from season-ending micro-fracture surgery to his left knee. Weiner did not say if he would be ready for training camp because he still has quite a way to go with his rehabilitation. He is not expected to participate in many offseason mini-camps or OTAs.
QB Matt Leinart's recovery from a broken left collarbone is progressing well and he's starting to throw at the team's Tempe facility. He was seen working out last week with receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
LB Dontarrious Thomas signed with the 49ers. Thomas served as a backup at all three linebacker positions for the Vikings last season but has a good chance to start for the Niners.Terms were undisclosed
RB DeShaun Foster, the Panthers' starter last season, signed a two-year, $1.8 million deal with the 49ers. Foster was cut by the Panthers on the eve of free agency.