What Have Free Agents Done Lately?

Several big-name free agents were making positive impressions in the opening weekend of the NFL. Scout.com NFL expert Randy Taylor points out the top five in that category (including the Vikings' Steve Hutchinson), along with the top five guys that should be searching for their baseball caps as players who performances could have then heading to the bench if they continue.

What have you done for me lately since you were worth trading for or picking up as a free agent?

1) John Abraham (Defensive End, 6-4 256, Atlanta Falcons, acquired through free agency, played for the NY Jets in 2005) is a difference maker. In his first game as a Falcon, he was able to make five tackles, get two sacks, force two fumbles and deflect one pass. That's a career for some. The plays on the field tell only part of the story. Abraham brings an attitude with him and he makes the opponent game plan to stop him, which obviously helps the whole defense get better. Apparently his groin injury isn't too bad and he should be able to play in Week 2 against Tampa Bay. This is more bad news for the Buccaneers.

2) Steve McNair (Quarterback, 6-2 230, Baltimore Ravens, acquired for a fourth-round draft pick in 2007 in a trade with the Tennessee Titans) was 17 of 27 for 181 yards, a touchdown and only one sack and may be the piece of the puzzle to return the Ravens to a Super Bowl run. McNair gives Baltimore a quarterback who can make all the throws, understands the game and is a leader. The formula for getting to and winning the Super Bowl is to have a good running game and dominating defense. It also helps to have a quarterback who can make plays when needed and not get beat. Check, check and check. Oh yeah, and stay healthy.

3) Donte' Stallworth (Wide Receiver, 6-0 196, Philadelphia Eagles, acquired in a trade for linebacker Mark Simoneau and a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2007) is a good addition to the Eagles. They needed a playmaker and Stallworth can do that and has since his high school days back in Sacramento. He's fast, quick and runs good routes. The key for this deal to work out is how long Stallworth will keep his motor in high gear. He has disappeared in the past. This past week against Houston he had a big game, catching six balls for 141 yards and a touchdown – just what Donovan McNabb and the Eagles needed.

4) Steve Hutchinson (Left Guard, 6-5 313, Minnesota Vikings, signed as a restricted free agent from the Seattle Seahawks) lines up next to Bryant "Mount" McKinnie to give the Vikes an all-star left side. The center, Matt Birk, is a Pro Bowler, and the ride side is athletic and young. Hutchinson brings an attitude and work ethic to the unit and could make this group as good as any as they develop together.

5) Deion Branch (Wide Receiver, 5-9 193, Seattle Seahawks, acquired in a trade with the New England Patriots for a 1st round draft pick in 2007) hasn't played a down yet in Seattle, but this gives the quarterback and the rest of the team a sense that the organization wants to win it all now. Matt Hasselbeck was 25 for 30, but just for 210 yards against Detroit in an ugly game. Branch will help the yardage numbers, make the other receivers better and take pressure off of Shaun Alexander because he's another weapon. What the front office has done lately for the team is send the message that the future is now.


Who should be looking for their baseball cap?

1) Aaron Brooks (Quarterback, 6-4 220, Oakland Raiders, acquired as a free agent from the New Orleans Saints) is a big reason the offensive line is listed as No. 2 in this category. Brooks needs to get rid of the ball, make a decision, and use his great athleticism and arm strength to make plays. He was 6 for 14 for 68 yards and was sacked seven times. You know when they talk about a quarterback needing to be mobile, well, Aaron Brooks is, so what's the problem? Get rid of the ball! Make a decision! The really big problem is the backup, Ken Walter, has little experience and the same offensive line.

Oh wait, I forgot to talk about Jerry Porter not playing … never mind.

2) The Oakland Raiders offensive line gave up nine sacks (with the help of the QB, see above) and only 129 total yards on offense. Let's be fair for just a second. They are a young group. Four of the five linemen have only four years of experience, and of those four only Robert Gallery has been a regular starter during his career. I will say this: It is an athletic bunch for the most part, but they better grow up fast and more importantly play to their potential. The one positive is that when they did run the ball, they averaged 4.4 yards per carry, which isn't bad, but they only had 20 rushing attempts.

The best weapon for the Raiders was the kickoff return. They had six returns for 144 yards, not bad. They should try to have more of those!

3) Jake Plummer (Quarterback, 6-2 212, Denver Broncos) threw three interceptions, was sacked four times and fumbled once. Not a great day. I'm sure Broncos fans aren't panicking as last year started much the same way with five turnovers in their opener. By the way, I think Plummer has been great for the Broncos, has accomplished a lot and will continue to lead his team to the playoffs and maybe to the championship game.

However, I look forward to Jay Cutler playing as soon as possible because he could be special. Everything I know and hear about him is that he has the football smarts, the arm strength, toughness and mobility to be good early. He also has coach Mike Shanahan's system, which is made for a quarterback to succeed. He doesn't have to win the game every time out, he just has to play within himself and not make bad decisions that put the team in difficult situations.

4) Drew Bledsoe (Quarterback, 6-5 238, Dallas Cowboys) was a lot like Plummer – three interceptions, a couple sacks and only 16 for 33. Unlike Plummer, the backup is an unappreciated Tony Romo, who doesn't have the physical abilities Bledsoe has or his knowledge of the game. So it looks like Drew is the guy for this year unless things get drastic. The one thing a guy like Romo could have going for him is that he has receivers that can run after catching the ball, so he won't have to make the more difficult throws. The Cowboys and the Raiders may have to battle over a quarterback in next year's draft.

5) Chris Simms (Quarterback, 6-4 220, Tampa Bay Bucaneers), like Bledsoe and Plummer, had a horrible opening game, throwing three interceptions, getting sacked twice and struggling with his decision-making. The difference is that Simms is still young and learning, so there will be bumps in the road but there might not be the urgency to throw a backup in the game. Now this would be fine in a parallel world where coaches don't get fired at the drop of a hat, but it's not, so coach Jon Gruden I'm sure is thinking … what have you done for us lately?


About the author: For the past five years, Randy Taylor has been the leading talent evaluator in California while running Taylor's Scouting Services (TSS). Many of the Top Division One colleges across the country have come to trust Taylor as "another set of eyes" to maximize their critical recruiting time and budgets. A former All-Big Ten center at Illinois, Taylor had been involved in the coaching and athletics department at his alma mater, then moved on to UNLV as an Assistant to the Athletics Director for Football from 1985 to 1987. Randy was named Assistant Athletics Director at San Jose State in 1988, In 1996, Taylor joined UCLA to oversee all facets of the Bruin football program, including the coordination of recruiting. In 2002, Taylor was named by ESPN as the No. 1 Director of Football Operations for recruiting success. While at UCLA, Taylor was also the primary Liaison to the NFL. Having been in the football business for close to 30 years, Taylor brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and unquestioned credentials and credibility to his new roles with Scout.com.


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