Status Update: Free Agency 2005

The first weekend of the 2005 version of NFL free agency was kind of slow, but things picked up in a hurry on Monday.

In the NFC East, the New York Giants continued their trend of filling needs by making three moves on Monday. Veteran quarterback Jim Miller signed a one-year deal and will be the main backup for second-year signal caller Eli Manning. According to a league source, Miller worked out for the Giants and proved his surgically repaired shoulder was sound. The club also signed free agent kicker Jay Feely. The former Atlanta Falcon should offer more stability than they've had in recent years at the position. They also re-signed running back Mike Cloud, who looks to be the main backup to veteran back Tiki Barber. He should also see time in short-yardage situations and on special teams.

The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles were quiet over the last three days after making their first series of moves the previous few days.

Rounding out the NFC East, the Washington Redskins finally made the much-rumored move of dealing disgruntled wide receiver Laveranues Coles to the New York Jets for wide receiver Santana Moss. Looking at the Redskins' side of it, they really didn't have much choice. Keep him and you have a player that clearly didn't want to be there and could potentially be a problem. In return, they got a young receiver who has yet to realize his full potential but just two years ago looked to be on the cusp of it. Keeping Moss will be paramount to his success with Washington. The Redskins also re-signed veteran H-back Mike Sellers, who is an important part of their special teams coverage.

The NFC North picked up the pace the last three days with the Lions jumping into the free agency fray and the Bears making another move.

The Lions made two big moves on Monday to help shore up and possibly upgrade a few areas. On offense, they signed former Indianapolis Colt tight end Marcus Pollard, who will take over the starting job from Stephen Alexander, who is a free agent. Pollard is a proven pass catcher and a decent blocker. He'll also be a nice red zone target for quarterback Joey Harrington. Perhaps their best move was to sign free agent safety Kenoy Kennedy, who was being pursued by many teams. He'll take over the strong safety job and should give them a big hitter in the secondary. Teams just haven't feared going over the middle against the Lions — that should change now.

The Bears made a very important move on Monday by signing free agent offensive right tackle Fred Miller. His presence will enable veteran tackle John Tait to move to the left side, which is his best area to play at. They now have two solid bookend tackles.

The Packers have yet to sign a free agent and still might have more salary cap cuts as veteran safety Darren Sharper is due a roster bonus on March 12. So far, discussions haven't gone anywhere.

Turning our attention to the NFC South, the New Orleans Saints made a few very big moves the last few days. On Saturday, the club reached a multi-year contract agreement with free agent offensive lineman Jermane Mayberry. He has placed mostly at guard in recent seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, but he's slated to play right tackle for his new team. Mayberry is a solid lineman who should be an upgrade over his predecessor, Victor Riley. Mayberry will also bring a solid locker room presence to the team. On Monday, they made a big move by signing free agent safety Dwight Smith to a multi-year deal. He'll take over the starting free safety job from Tebucky Jones, who could be on his way out. Smith is one of the better safeties at covering the tight end and he also is a solid tackler.

The Atlanta Falcons finally made some moves. They re-signed veteran punt and kick returner Allen Rossum, who is one of the better returners in the league. By signing veteran kicker Todd Peterson, they're banking on him being more consistent than his predecessor, Jay Feely. Finally, the Falcons signed free agent safety Rich Coady, who will provide solid depth.

In the NFC West, the Cardinals continued to make some very impressive moves. They signed former New York Giant quarterback Kurt Warner to a one-year deal and he'll battle Josh McCown for the starting job. Keep in mind that head coach Dennis Green has had tremendous success with veteran signal callers over the years and his system is pretty easy to pick up. They also re-signed veteran running back Troy Hambrick to a two-year deal. As of now, he'll compete against Marcel Shipp for playing time, but expect the club to either sign or acquire another veteran back or draft one to compete with both backs. The best move of the last three days was clearly the signing of veteran defensive end Chike Okeafor. He'll line up at left end for his new club and he'll team with veteran end Bert Berry to form one of the best tandems in the NFC. Okeafor has excellent speed off of the edge and really has shown improvement as a pass rusher the last few seasons. He had an excellent visit with the club over the weekend and they made a big contract offer to him. In the end, it came down to the Cardinals or to re-sign with the Seattle Seahawks. The Denver Broncos really weren't serious option for him though they did express interest in him. The offers from the Cardinals and Seahawks were similar, but Okeafor bought in to their aggressive defensive scheme run by defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

The Seahawks have yet to sign any free agents but have made another roster move. Besides releasing a few veterans, as outlined in Friday's update, they traded backup quarterback Trent Dilfer to the Cleveland Browns for a fourth-round pick. That selection will be the one that Cleveland acquired from the Denver Broncos in the Gerard Warren trade. The soon-to-be 33-year old Dilfer had an agreement with head coach Mike Holmgren that they would try to move him to a team where he would get a chance to be a starter again and he, as of now, will get that chance. Now the Seahawks will have to shop for a veteran backup quarterback.

The San Francisco 49ers made a few minor moves over the last few days. They re-signed defensive lineman Chris Cooper to a multi-year deal and he showed some promise last season. They also re-signed fullback/running back Terry Jackson, who is a solid backup and team leader.

Turning our attention to the AFC, the Eastern division saw a few teams stay quiet while the other two made headlines.

The New York Jets made the deal as outlined above with Washington. Getting wide receiver Laveranues Coles back where he started his career was a good move, though it will cost them a lot of cash in the end. Santana Moss was in the final year of his rookie contract. Coles played perhaps his best football as a Jet and it wasn't like the team wanted to lose him in the first place. He had developed good chemistry with quarterback Chad Pennington the first time around so the two should be able to pick up where they left off.

The Miami Dolphins made a splash over the past few days by reeling in a few veteran defensive ends. They reached a contract agreement with former Kansas City Chief Vonnie Holliday on Saturday and former Tennessee Titan Kevin Carter on Monday. Holliday had been a disappointment with the Chiefs but the Dolphins feel he'll be able to be productive with them. The deal is laden with lots of incentives so if he produces, Holliday will make out well. If he doesn't produce on the field, the club won't have invested that much in him. With the addition of Carter, they're getting a solid veteran who can play end or at tackle. With the club looking to run at least some of the 3-4 scheme, Carter's versatility will be a huge plus. They also released veteran wide receiver David Boston, who didn't pass a team physical. He was coming off of a knee injury.

The Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots were quiet the past few days. The Patriots did re-sign starting fullback Patrick Pass.

The AFC North saw a decent amount of movement over the last three days.

The Cleveland Browns, as noted earlier, acquired veteran quarterback Trent Dilfer. He'll be their starter this season unless the club spends their first-round selection on a quarterback. Dilfer still has a strong arm and should have a few decent years left in him. He'll provide good leadership in the locker room and will set a good example for the younger quarterbacks to learn from.

The Cincinnati Bengals finally got running back Rudi Johnson to sign his one-year tender offer on Monday. Even if the club can't get a long-term deal worked out, they still likely won't trade him because they aren't sure yet what to expect from second-year back Chris Perry, who spent almost all of his rookie season on the sidelines due to injury.

The Baltimore Ravens made up for the loss of cornerback Gary Baxter to the Browns by signing free agent cornerback Samari Rolle to a multi-year deal. Rolle, who the Kansas City Chiefs were concerned about due to a spinal condition, passed the Ravens' physical. Rolle is still coming back from back from a knee injury and said he's at about 85 percent now but expects to be 100 percent by their first post-draft minicamp practice. Rolle, if healthy, is a small upgrade over Baxter, but health has been an issue for him the past few seasons.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made two important moves by re-signing two veterans. They were able to bring back kicker Jeff Reed and cornerback Willie Williams, who surprised many last year by having a revival of sorts. Williams' return is important since the club released veteran cornerback Chad Scott.

Turning our attention to the AFC South, none of the four teams made any moves over the past three days.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have granted safety Donovin Darius his request and he can seek a trade. The Jaguars will be looking for a first-round pick as compensation while Darius is on record as feeling a second-round pick is probably what teams will offer.

Finally, the AFC West has been quiet as well, with only the Oakland Raiders making a move. They re-signed veteran defensive end Bobby Hamilton, who offers solid veteran leadership is still a decent run stopper.


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