Free Agency  

 

After initial free-agent flurry, some big names still available

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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The first week of free agency had an unpredicted flurry of signings, and the money used to sign the first 60 players came in about 17 percent higher than last year's first week of free agency.

The players have to be excited that in a year where the free-agent talent pool was supposedly weaker than in recent years the money was still there. The next question is: Has the money dried up and are the rest of the remaining free agents left with little negotiating power?

In some positions that could be true, but in others there is still some guaranteed money to be had for the lucky few. Keep in mind, teams are still releasing players into the talent pool for salary cap reasons, such as linebacker Takeo Spikes and defensive back Kelly Herndon, and there are a few restricted free agents who could get good offers to leave their respective clubs.

The point is, there is still money out there and the signings will continue -- maybe not at the pace of 60 per week, but they will get deals this week and all the way up to the owners meetings in early April. After that, things will settle down and all attention will turn to the draft.

Here's a look at each position and the name free agents still available to teams in need (list in the order of remaining quality at each position):

Quarterbacks

Six quarterbacks re-signed with their respective clubs, four have signed with new teams, and one was traded. There are no starters left on the board but there are a few very capable backups and maybe even a guy who could win a starting job if he signs at a place with open competition for the No. 1 job. Look for these guys to get a contract in the near future.

Who's left: Gus Frerotte, Quinn Gray, Daunte Culpepper, Mark Brunell and David Carr.

Wide receivers

Lots of action with this group so far. Eight re-signed with their respective clubs, led by the Saints and Patriots. Twelve got contracts with new clubs, one was traded, and one was signed after not being in the league last year. In total, 22 wide receivers have new contracts, and there are still some very interesting players available.

Who's left: Bryant Johnson, D.J. Hackett, Reche Caldwell, and Justin McCareins lead the way, and at least two of them should go this week.

Running backs

Six players re-signed with their respective teams and nine guys have switched clubs, led by Michael Turner, who went from San Diego to Atlanta. The multiple running back signings in Seattle probably means Shaun Alexander will be on the free-agency board soon, but for now there are only limited options remaining for the teams looking for a back.

Who's left: Chris Brown, Musa Smith, Mike Anderson and Ron Dayne should all get deals before the draft, but the money might not be very good considering the rich talent pool in the 2008 draft class.

Offensive guards/tackles

Seven stayed home and seven have left for greener pastures. At this point teams are looking for versatile guys to build the back end of the roster. A player with a history of playing guard and tackle who is reasonably healthy will get paid.

Who's left: Jason Fabini, Barry Sims and L.J. Shelton will all find work before most of the guys left on the board.

Centers

Jeff Faine got big bucks from Tampa right away, and early this week Alex Stepanovich found work with the Falcons. Any team looking for help at this position is now looking at just a few remaining players.

Who's left: Casey Wiegmann and Mike Flynn.

Tight ends

This has been a very busy position so far with seven re-signs and nine new teams. With 16 tight ends off the board, there are only a few good names out there.

Who's left: Kyle Brady, Bubba Franks, and Bo Scaife.

Defensive ends

Only three have re-signed, while eight moved on in a very limited pool of talent. Tennessee has lost its two left defensive ends in Travis LaBoy and Antwan Odom, and it could have trouble getting DT Albert Haynesworth under contract, puttting one of the best defensive lines of 2007 in turmoil.

Who's left: The only place to turn now could be Corey Smith or Renaldo Wynn.

Defensive tackles

No position has been dominated by trades like defensive tackle, and for big money, with five players securing well over $60 million in guaranteed money. Seven more tackles switched teams and four re-signed, led by Tommy Kelly's $18 million in guarantees from Oakland.

Who's left: For a lot less money, a team could still go to the street for Darwin Walker, Grady Jackson or William Joseph.

Linebackers

Fourteen signed with a new squad, six stayed home and one was traded.

Who's left: That leaves Takeo Spikes, Clark Haggins, Rosevelt Colvin, Danny Clark, Tracy White and Ian Gold to pick from. A complete physical is a must with many of the guys left on the board as well as figuring out how well he fits into a system.

Safeties/cornerbacks

Forget finding a solid corner, unless you trade for Philadelphia's Lito Sheppard.

Who's left: For safeties, Eugene Wilson and Chris Crocker lead the way. Someone will sign cornerback Kelly Herndon before the season.

Expect some action on the restricted free agent class in the near future. Wideout Rashied Davis is a guy who requires no compensation, OG Jason Brown of the Ravens might be worth a second-round pick, CB Domonique Foxworth a third-rounder, and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick could probably be had for a seventh-round pick.

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