When I was at the Jets I used to have a piece of paper on my desk when free agency was about to start that I looked at 10 times a day during the spring. It said, "Always remember the R's of free agency." It meant, put the right tag on the restricted free agents, re-sign the right players, restructure the contracts that needed to be adjusted, release the right guys, react in time to the ever changing market, and recruit the free agents hard when they visited the facility.
Unrestricted free agency will continue for months but it can't continue at the financial pace it set in the first week. Guaranteed money is being thrown at players and signing bonuses for $1 million go to special teams guys. I asked Cleveland GM Phil Savage if he was surprised at the fast start to free agency and his answer was, "We realized what we wanted to accomplish and we knew a number of other teams were prepared to act quickly so we had to move."
A number of defensive tackles have been traded in since free agency began. The Browns started the trend by trading for Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers. As Savage said, "There has never been a moment in my history with the Browns that there was such a strong consensus to pull the trigger on the trades rather than hope to get quality defensive linemen in the draft." Savage added that, "You would be dreaming to think there were defensive linemen like Rogers or Corey Williams in the second or third rounds of this draft." Savage is a guy who reacted to the market in the first week.
I talked with linebacker Takeo Spikes minutes after he was released by the Eagles. He had no hard feelings because he actually drove his own release by refusing to renegotiate his contract. Spikes told me he has already been contacted by a number of teams who reacted to the termination. The good teams don't wait to go after opportunities. Spikes made a strong case to me that he fits in a 3-4 defense as well as a 4-3; his early days in Cincinnati were in Dick LeBeau's 3-4 package.
Browns on the offensive
Last year, the Patriots went out and built their own version of the Colts' three wide receiver, one tight end, one running back offense. In one week, the Browns have their own version of the Colts offense assembled and it should be very effective.
First, they locked up quarterback Derek Anderson for at least one year and three if all goes well in 2008. They also re-signed RB Jamal Lewis. Then they jumped into free agency and acquired WR Donte' Stallworth, one of the Patriots' offensive pieces in 2007 to complement what they already have in place. Consider their left tackle, Joe Thomas, made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season and this Browns offense has a chance to be great.
Take a look at how all three teams stack up heading into 2008:
The Favre retirement
As well all know, Brett Favre hung up his cleats as this week after 17 seasons. I had a chance on my Sirius Radio show to talk to a number of people about Favre's announcement. Some of the comments were funny, some were insightful and others were a bit sad. Here's the best of my conversations.
1. Dan Marino -- I talked with Marino who spoke about how hard it would be for Favre to watch the Packers take the field without him next year. Marino said, "Hey, there goes my team in my stadium and I'm not part of it anymore. That will be the toughest moment of all."
2. Al Harris -- The Packers cornerback said, "I'll miss Brett walking out to practice yelling over to the defensive backs, 'I'm going to get some of you guys cut today.'"
3. Steve Marriucci - Mariucci asked Favre during Super Bowl week in January if he wanted his opinion on what to do and for the first time in their relationship Favre said he didn't want Mariucci's advice. Mariucci knew Favre was close to deciding back then because Favre knew that Mariucci would have told him to keep playing.
4. Bob Harlan -- The former president of the Packers was part of the team with Ron Wolf that brought Favre to Green Bay. He told me he was very surprised Favre called it quits. Harlan thought Favre was having so much fun and that he would go on for at least another year.
5. William Henderson -- Henderson played fullback during much of Favre's tenure and he couldn't stop talking about how funny Favre was in the locker room. Henderson told me he had a nickname his whole life but soon after he met Favre his nickname was changed by Favre to "Big Stiffy" because he missed a block once. Henderson still hasn't gotten rid of the nickname yet. He also said one day right before kickoff Favre rallied the team around him for a final word of inspiration and shouted out "Yip Cabbage!" No one knew what it meant but they all yelled it with him. Later, Henderson asked Favre what "yip cabbage" meant and the QB told him some old three-tooth guy once said it to him and he liked it.
6. Aaron Taylor -- Taylor was a young offensive guard on the Packers teams that went to the Super Bowl. I asked Aaron about being on the field with Favre the first time he was in one of Favre's famous come-from-behind two-minute drills. Taylor said things were happening real fast, Favre was going no huddle and just grabbing chunks of yards with each play. All of a sudden there was time for a huddle at mid-field and before Favre called a play he looked at Taylor and said, "Did you see that pretty girl sitting in a 40 yard line seat? He made me look before the play was called and he just got me to relax," Taylor said.
One of the most colorful guys to ever play the game is now gone. I hope Favre finds a way to stay in the game.