Free Agency  

 

Frenetic free agency has separated shakers from fakers

US Presswire
Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie give the Eagles a formidable defense.


The weekend is here after a furious run of player movement and things could even get more frenetic.


The NFL free agency cycle is in full effect, with teams and players agreeing to terms fast as training camps open. Get the latest on all the news right here.

With prize free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha making a stunning decision Friday to sign with the Eagles, the remainder of the cornerback pool could start getting plucked quickly. The running back market really hasn't gotten going and we might start to see the plethora of free-agent wide receivers start to move.

There's been a lot of activity so far, so let's take a glance at the NFL's early movers, shakers and slow players:

Eagles

Andy Reid, Joe Banner and Howie Roseman have formed the most creative and cut-throat personnel staff in the NFL. That doesn't mean it will result in a Super Bowl but they sure have given themselves every chance to get there.

The undercover poaching of Asomugha was a thing of beauty. It came after the free-agent acquisition of defensive end Jason Babin. Before that, it was the trade of Kevin Kolb to Arizona, which landed them a second-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. As with nearly every move they make, the Eagles left themselves with options.

There are a lot of teams in need of a cornerback -- like the ones that lost out on Asomugha -- so now the Eagles have prime trade bait with Asante Samuel, who would figure to draw at least a second-round draft pick in return. If the Eagles could get top compensation, they've got another ace to work with around next year's draft. If not, they've got three standout corners and a second pass rusher to team with sack-monster Trent Cole.

UPDATE: The Eagles kept their free-agent spending going on Saturday by signing DT Cullen Jenkins, a key member of the Packers' championship team.

Championship-ready?
The acquisitions of Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco represent more than risk-reward investments. They also signal the Patriots are in win-now mode, says Albert Breer. More ...

Patriots

Bill Belichick took some of the late-round draft picks he's cultivated and parlayed them into Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco. They could be high-impact players or guys that can be discarded if they don't fall in line or produce.

The Patriots figured to be good without them as it was. These were luxury acquisitions with the potential for huge payoffs. I think Ochocinco will be more than solid on and off the field. Not so sure about Haynesworth, but if he decides to play, he could be a Pro Bowler again.

I'm not sure the Patriots are done making moves, either.

Seahawks

Seattle's signings of wide receiver Sidney Rice and retention of defensive tackle Brandon Mebane -- and expected pickup of guard Robert Gallery -- should help. Rice is a special player but his injury past has to be of some concern. The unknown is what is going to happen at quarterback.

Seattle let Matt Hasselbeck walk and signed Tarvaris Jackson to compete with Charlie Whitehurst. The price tag for getting Kolb from Philly and giving him a new contract might have been too rich. That's understood. Reuniting Jackson with former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell makes some sense.

The question is whether either quarterback can be good enough to get Seattle back to the playoffs. It wouldn't be a surprise if Jackson won the job.

I give Seattle credit for getting Rice to team with Mike Williams because the best way to help an inconsistent quarterback is to give him some good receiving weapons.

Bengals

I spent the day in the Cincinnati area on Friday after Ochocinco was traded and free-agent cornerback Jonathan Joseph was swiped away by Houston, and the fan base was seething. Not because of Ochocinco's departure but because owner Mike Brown allowed a key young player in Joseph -- who didn't draw attention to himself, who doesn't get in trouble and who is among the best at his position -- to leave.

Everyone seemed to understand the transition to a younger core, especially with quarterback Carson Palmer holding true on his promise to retire if he was not traded. Joseph was part of the young core, though. Now, at least if they want to be competitive, the Bengals are going to have to spend in free agency to get a player like Nate Clemens, Antonio Cromartie or Chris Carr.

I had one person with the team tell me that if you're going to pay, pay to keep your own good players. It's what the Packers, Steelers, Falcons, Colts, Patriots and Eagles do successfully.

With linebacker Keith Rivers likely being out for part of the season after recent reconstructive wrist surgery, the Bengals also are in the linebacker market. It's impossible not to understand the fans' frustration. The Bengals have time to recover but it wasn't a good start.

NFC South

Although the Falcons signed former Vikings DE Ray Edwards and the Saints traded RB Reggie Bush, the teams in the NFL's toughest division threw out more than $100 million to re-sign their own players. You can't blame them.

The biggest spenders were the Panthers, who are much more talented than their 2-14 record last season would indicate. Keeping DE Charles Johnson, RB DeAngelo Williams, LB James Anderson, LB Jon Beason and getting Steve Smith to return was crucial. Adding TE Greg Olsen in a trade with Chicago will give rookie Cam Newton a pretty good safety-valve target.

US Presswire photos
Charles Johnson (left) and Nnamdi Asomugha have been the biggest winners so far in free agency.
Largest free-agent contracts of 2011
Player Team Pos Yrs Total Guaranteed
Charles Johnson Panthers DE 6 $72M $32M
Nnamdi Asomugha Eagles CB 5 $60M $26M
Santonio Holmes Jets WR 5 $50M $24M
Jonathan Joseph Texans CB 5 $49M $23.5M
Sidney Rice Seahawks WR 5 $44M $18.5M
DeAngelo Williams Panthers RB 5 $43M $21M
Eric Weddle Chargers S 5 $40M $19M

The Falcons' acquisition of Edwards will help their pass rush and that translates to better coverage on the back end, which they need. Atlanta also brought back linebacker Stephen Nicholas and tackle Tyson Clabo. They lost guard Harvey Dahl to St. Louis, but they've got some players ready in the wings. Locking up cornerback Brent Grimes remains a priority for Atlanta, which remains one of the better built teams in the NFL.

New Orleans had more than two dozen free agents coming into training camp but it immediately locked up three core players, WR Lance Moore, S Roman Harper and OT Jermon Bushrod. The Saints are working on re-signing offensive linemen Carl Nicks and Jonathan Goodwin. The free-agent pickup of Darren Sproles could be a coup after losing Bush.

The fan base that might be as frustrated as the Who Dey Nation in Cincy is the one in Tampa Bay. Bucs fans have been frustrated for years at the perceived lack of ingenuity and aggressiveness in free agency and they are eager to join in. GM Mark Dominik is OK with that because he's sticking to the model of building through the draft and having coach Raheem Morris develop players.

Tampa has already re-signed offensive linemen Jeremy Trueblood and Davin Joseph. I expect them to get into the running back market now that it's stabilized but they're not going to take any big risks. They did that with Derrick Ward a few years ago and it backfired.

Denver and Miami

I'm loving the game of chicken both teams are playing with the Kyle Orton trade. I hate that Orton is caught up in it, though. It can't be comfortable knowing the team you're on is trying to deal you and the team you could be playing for thinks your value is less than what your current team does. That's why the Dolphins won't pony up much in a trade.

I do think a deal gets done in a matter of days. Miami's signing of QB Matt Moore is hardly the move to tank the deal. Then it's Tebow Time in Denver while Chad Henne can either respond to Orton's challenge in Miami or buckle like he did last season when given the chance to start.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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