Friday Free Agency Overview

The third day of NFL free agency started off slow again, but as the day progressed it saw lots of twists and turns.

In the NFC East, the Eagles continued to bring back key members to their next version by inking middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter to a five-year contract. Not only was Trotter a key to their improved run defense, he's one of their locker room leaders and one of the most respected players on their team. Trotter took a little less money to come back, which is interesting since he signed for the veteran minimum with no signing bonus last year. Trotter is now the third player to re-up with the club this week.

The Giants continued to address their need areas by inking free agent offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie to a multi-year deal. McKenzie should help bolster an offensive line that has struggled the past few seasons. He'll stay at right tackle, the same position he played for the Jets. They did lose key reserve defensive lineman Lance Legree to the Jets.

The NFC North was quiet once again on Friday with no signings but had some player visits. In fact, the only team that made a move was the Packers, who continued their salary-cap reduction and released cornerback Michael Hawthorne.

Turning our attention to the NFC South, all was quiet on Friday except for some player visits and a few minor yet important moves. The Buccaneers made a minor move by re-signing veteran tight end Dave Moore. They also got a new deal done with veteran defensive end Greg Spires. His cap number was too high for the 2005 season so the club approached him about getting him to sign a much friendlier cap number and an extension was completed.

The Panthers re-signed special teams ace and backup wide receiver Karl Hankton. He's a player that you won't hear much about but is a key to their special teams coverage.

In the NFC West, the Cardinals made a few moves and one that should prove to be a help to their offensive line. They re-signed backup running back Damien Anderson and released running back Larry Ned, who they claimed off of waivers from the Vikings earlier this week. More importantly, they signed free agent offensive tackle Oliver Ross to a multi-year deal Friday evening. Ross will take over the starting right tackle job with L.J. Shelton on the trading block. Ross started for the Steelers at that position last season.

None of the other teams signed any free agents. The Seattle Seahawks released two players, one of which was a starter, on Friday. Veteran safety Damien Robinson, who spent the entire 2004 season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, and starting outside linebacker Anthony Simmons, who missed 21 games due to injury over the last three seasons, were let go. Both were due roster bonuses.

In the AFC, the Eastern division was busy on Friday.

The New York Jets lost some key players but made a few interesting moves. They signed Denver Broncos restricted free agent tight end Jeb Putzier to an offer sheet. The Broncos will have seven days to match the offer. If they choose not to, they would only get a sixth-round pick back as compensation so it would be a surprise if they wind up not matching it. They also signed former New York Giants defensive lineman Lance Legree to a multi-year deal. He can back up at end and tackle. They also re-signed little-used defensive tackle Alan Harper. The club did take it on the chin when they lost starting offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie to the team that plays their home games in the same stadium. They don't look to have anyone left on the roster who could replace him so they'll have to look to the draft or to the rest of free agency to find their new starting right tackle.

The New England Patriots were quiet on Friday but the Buffalo Bills made a few interesting moves.

The Bills inked former Chicago Bears offensive lineman Mike Gandy to a multi-year deal. He'll compete for the vacant starting left tackle spot but he can also play at guard if needed. They also signed former Cleveland Browns quarterback Kelly Holcomb. He wanted more money than the Browns wanted to pay so he looked elsewhere for employment. Interestingly, he passed up signing with the Browns, who would have given him a chance to start. With Buffalo, he'll back up second-year signal caller J.P. Losman.

The Miami Dolphins signed former Carolina Panthers safety Travares Tillman, who will likely compete for the starting free safety job which was vacated when the club released Arturo Freeman.

The AFC North saw plenty of movement by the Cleveland Browns while the other teams remained quiet.

The Browns started off early and signed former Cincinnati Bengals punter Kyle Richardson to a one-year deal. He was one of the better punters earlier in his career, especially with the Baltimore Ravens, but in recent years his play has fallen off. Later in the day, the rumors that circulated later in the afternoon became fact. In the early evening they surprisingly inked free agent cornerback Gary Baxter. Senior VP and General Manager Phil Savage pulled off a real coup with this one from his former employer. It was just last night that Baxter and his former team, the Ravens, looked to be close to a deal. In fact, sources say, he was expected to sign the deal Friday morning but never did. That started the rumor mill. By 7 p.m. EST, Baxter had agreed to a six-year deal with the Browns. He'll replace his predecessor Anthony Henry in the starting lineup. Like Henry, he's a big and physical cornerback.

Interestingly, when was at the NFL Combine last week, we had a chance to talk to a Raven' assistant coach and we posed the question of who would replace Baxter if he signed elsewhere. The coach said, "you would" jokingly. What he meant was that they didn't have a replacement left on the roster so it's obvious now that they will have to turn to free agency or the NFL Draft.

Turning our attention to the AFC South, it was a pretty quiet day on Friday. The Texans were the only team to make any moves, albeit minor ones. They re-signed backup cornerback Jason Bell, who is a solid special teams player. They also re-upped with fullback Moran Norris who is essentially the starter at that position.

The Colts, Titans, and Jaguars didn't make any moves on Friday.

Finally, the AFC West was much quieter.

Drew Brees signed one-year franchise tender with the Chargers, giving him a salary of $8.078 million for the 2005 season. Brees signed the deal one day after returning from vacation in Australia.

"I was ready and eager to make it official," Brees said. "I am ecstatic. The fact that I get to be here another year and build on the foundation we set for ourselves."

The Chargers also re-signed starting free safety Jerry Wilson and backup center David Brant. Wilson will be challenged by safety Bhawoh Jue, who signed a three-year deal with the club on Thursday.

The Broncos, Raiders, and Chiefs all had quiet days on the signing front.

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