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Early impressions on a quick start to free agency

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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Some initial thoughts while free agency begins to kick into high gear ...

1. Go slow

The average team in the NFL entered free agency $15 million under the salary cap, but that doesn't mean they should throw the cash up in the air. Most GMs are preparing to go slow and let the market settle down before they get into the game. But a quick flurry of signings, like we are seeing on Friday, will get a few guys moving into the game.

There should be close to 20 players signed to big deals by the weekend, including ones that were traded.

2. Don't react to the Tommy Kelly deal

The Raiders shocked the NFL world when they gave DT Tommy Kelly $18 million in guaranteed money.

While other big-name defensive tackles like Albert Haynesworth and Corey Williams got franchise tagged, the Raiders felt Kelly was the next best defensive tackle on the board and they did not want to get into a bidding war to retain him. They couldn't use a franchise or transition tag on Kelly because they used it on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

Could the rich deal Kelly signed affect other free-agent signings? NFL front office people want to believe it will not but it already looks like it will. DT Kris Jenkins, traded to the Jets by Carolina, got $20 million in guaranteed money from New York, and Corey Williams is expected to get $18 million in guaranteed money from the Browns after being traded by Green Bay.

3. The ripple effect of the Adams deal

Flozell Adams got a fat deal to stay in Dallas. His $15 million in guaranteed money and $43 million over six years sets the table for fellow offensive lineman Alan Faneca. I asked a few contract negotiators around the league and all agreed that Faneca will make more money than Adams got even though he is a guard and Adams is a left tackle.

4. Anderson staying; it's guaranteed

A week ago, Derek Anderson had $10 million in guaranteed money on the table. In the week leading up to free agency it appeared if he became a restricted free agent he would get action from at least two teams, probably the Falcons and the Ravens. Baltimore needed to offer a third-round pick to even be in the Anderson sweepstakes, which they could have easily done. The Falcons, or any other interested team, could have dropped a deal on the Browns on Friday. Cleveland did the right thing by shifting more money to the guaranteed side and keeping their quarterback with a three-year, $26 million deal, including $14.5 million guaranteed.

Browns GM Phil Savage now has to go to work on getting draft picks. He doesn't have a first-round pick and just surrendered his second-round pick in a trade with the Packers for Williams. Savage is one of the best draft selectors in the business and has to find a way to get back into the first two rounds.

5. 49ers out fast but cautiously

Last year, the Niners hit free agency with a big truck load of money. This year, coach Mike Nolan and GM Scot McCloughan hit the street hard again, but this time for less high-profile players.

Signing a running back like DeShaun Foster to a two-year deal for under $1 million a year is a great move to back up Frank Gore. Newly acquired Dontarrious Thomas will add depth at the linebacker position.

This style of signings is a great for the 49ers. Look for San Francisco to still add one big-salary player to the roster with all the cap space it has left. I have to praise the owner for not flinching after last year's signings and the disappointing season. San Francisco continues to push toward a winning team.

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