Thursday Free Agency Overview

The second week of free agency has slowed down a bit, yet some teams were still able to sign some impact free agents while other teams have been concentrating on getting their own players re-signed.

Let's take another division-by-division look at what has transpired in free agency since our last report on Monday.

In the NFC East, the New York Giants continued their pursuit of improving their offense by offering free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress a contract. However, contract discussions ended Thursday after the Giants pulled the offer off of the table. Burress is still looking for a more lucrative deal than the Giants were willing to do.

After having a busy first week, the Dallas Cowboys have shied away from signing any free agents, which isn't surprising since they signed three impact players. They're looking forward to the draft, where they have two picks in the first round.

The Philadelphia Eagles, after re-signing three of their own players last week, have stayed away from the free agency fray in week two. The Eagles are looking to re-sign more of their own players, such as linebacker Keith Adams and possibly signing players to extensions later on, such as safety Michael Lewis.

Rounding out the division, the Washington Redskins made the Laveranues Coles deal to the New York Jets for Santana Moss official by midweek, which was detailed in Monday's update.

In the NFC North, the Detroit Lions, as noted in Monday's report, made two impact signings in bringing in tight end Marcus Pollard and safety Kenoy Kennedy. They're still looking to secure a veteran backup quarterback and depth at receiver.

The Chicago Bears, after signing veteran offensive tackle Fred Miller, have been bringing in players for visits but haven't signed anyone else. They're looking for a veteran backup quarterback at the moment. They were able to re-sign reserve safety Bobby Gray.

The Green Bay Packers, as expected, released veteran safety Darren Sharper who, was due a large roster bonus on March 12. He should find employment easily by next week. It wouldn't surprise us at all if the Minnesota Vikings showed interest in him. Although the Packers haven't signed any free agents so far and have been basically having a salary cap purge, they did get some good news when they learned quarterback Brett Favre would return for another season.

Speaking of the Vikings, the club made a big move by signing free agent cornerback Fred Smoot. Getting an ascending player who is in the prime of his career will be a big boost to their secondary. This will enable Brian Williams to be their nickel and inside cornerback, which is the role he's best suited for. They also re-signed veteran tight end Jermaine Wiggins, which is a solid move as well and he's coming off a great season.

Turning our attention to the NFC South, the New Orleans Saints, after making two big moves as noted in Monday's update (signing offensive lineman Jermane Mayberry and safety Dwight Smith), signed free agent tight end Shad Meier. The club is deep at the position so it makes you wonder what they will do with veteran tight end Ernie Conwell.

The Atlanta Falcons, after making a few moves earlier in the week, signed free agent linebacker Ike Reese. He'll wind up being one of their best special teams players and be a solid backup at more than one linebacker position. Reese is also a solid team leader who will show the younger players that he has a great work ethic that they should emulate.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made an important move earlier in the week when they re-signed veteran wide receiver Joey Galloway. He suffered through an injury-plagued 2004 season, but when he was on the field he was very productive. If he can stay healthy, he really should help their passing game flourish in 2005, as he can still stretch the field.

Closing out the conference, the NFC West saw the Arizona Cardinals still making headlines. They have a new stadium on the horizon and they're really starting to get some key free agents to sign on. After signing free agent defensive end Chike Okeafor, which was noted in Monday's overview, the club signed free agent safety Robert Griffith. He'll be reunited with head coach Dennis Green once again and he'll take over the starting free safety job. Although he has played at strong safety over his whole career, this move isn't uncommon with older players. The free safety position is known as the less taxing to the body of the two positions. They also re-signed defensive end Peppi Zellner, who goes from starting to a backup position with Okeafor in the fold, and they released backup wide receiver Karl Williams and quarterback Shaun King.

The Seattle Seahawks were able to make a key move this week with the re-signing of veteran tight end Itula Mili, who was being heavily pursued by the Cardinals.

The San Francisco 49ers lost kicker Todd Peterson in free agency earlier this week so they signed free agent kicker Joe Nedney to hopefully replace him.

Finally, the St. Louis Rams made a minor move by signing free agent tight end Roland Williams, who spent the first three years of his career with the club. He's a better blocker than veteran tight end Cam Cleeland, who likely won't be re-signed.

Looking at the other conference, the AFC East has been pretty quiet since Monday.

The Miami Dolphins, as noted previously in this space, signed free agent defensive ends Vonnie Holliday and Kevin Carter. With outside linebacker Morlon Greenwood signing with the Houston Texans, the club signed former Denver Broncos linebacker Donnie Spragan. He became a full-time starter for the first time in his six-year career last season. Time will tell if he'll be an upgrade over Greenwood.

The New England Patriots have been relatively quiet in free agency so far but they did re-sign starting guard Stephen Neal this week.

The Buffalo Bills have been bringing in free agents for visits but haven't signed any players this week.

Rounding out the division, the New York Jets made the acquisition of wide receiver Laveranues Coles official on Wednesday. They're also looking to sign a veteran free agent quarterback and perhaps a tight end after Denver matched the offer they made to Jeb Putzier.

The AFC North saw two teams make a few moves and saw two teams stay out of the free agent limelight.

The Cleveland Browns continued to bolster their offensive line with the signing of free agent guard Cosey Coleman. While he's far from an All-Pro, he's a better-than-average lineman who still has plenty of room to get better. They also made the acquisition of veteran quarterback Trent Dilfer official, which was discussed in Monday's free agency overview and were able to re-sign starting middle linebacker Andra Davis. They did lose backup cornerback Lewis Sanders to the Houston Texans. He actually agreed to re-sign with the Browns but changed his mind after the club changed some of the contract terms.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made the signing of kicker Jeff Reed official on Thursday and also signed free agent wide receiver Cedrick Wilson. While not being flashy, Wilson has good hands and is a technically sound receiver. The one area where he's lacking is making plays down field, which is the area where his predecessor, Plaxico Burress, excelled.

The Cincinnati Bengals continued their quiet ways over the past few days. Other than getting running back Rudi Johnson to sign his one-year franchise tender, they made just a few minor moves. Backup linebacker Marcus Wilkins was re-signed and they also released veteran safety Rogers Beckett.

The Baltimore Ravens, after signing free agent cornerback Samari Rolle as noted in Monday's update, made a few minor moves. They released veteran cornerback Corey Fuller and fullback Harold Morrow who was an excellent special teams player. In fact, he led the club in special teams tackles this past season.

Turning our attention to the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans continued to stay out of the free agency landscape, as have the Indianapolis Colts.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, after a busy first week, only made one move. They signed journeyman cornerback Terry Cousin, who is a decent backup.

The Houston Texans re-signed several key backups this week, including safety Jason Simmons, defensive end Corey Sears, fullback Jarrod Baxter and defensive lineman Jerry DeLoach. They also signed free agent cornerback Lewis Sanders, who should provide decent depth at the position because of his size.

The only move of note the Colts made this week was to release veteran defensive lineman Brad Scioli.

Finally, the AFC West saw a few teams make some key moves.

The Denver Broncos matched the offer sheet from the New York Jets that tight end Jeb Putzier signed last Friday. The Jets, according to an NFL source, tried to acquire him via trade but were turned down. The offer was believed to be a fourth-round pick. The club also re-signed long snapper Mike Leach.

The Kansas City Chiefs finally made a move when they signed free agent linebacker Kendrell Bell. If he can stay healthy for a change, he could be the impact player that the club has been missing on defense for some time.

The Oakland Raiders made an important move on Thursday when they re-signed veteran guard Ron Stone, who was released last week for salary cap reasons.

Finally, the San Diego Chargers signed starting wide receiver Keenan McCardell to a two-year extension this week. This is an important move since he would have entered the coming season on the last year of his contract.

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