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What we learned on Day 1 of NFL free agency

It's safe to say the NFL never will go back to the midnight start time of free agency. After Tuesday's dizzying cascade of deals, the league might want to considering moving free agency's opening day into prime time. This was great theater, especially if you like watching money being spent.

Let's break down what we learned on Day 1:

The Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns are not messing around

Remember that report by NFL.com's Jeff Darlington last week about the Dolphins making wide receiver Mike Wallace their No. 1 option? That was on point. Wallace agreed to a contract within 40 minutes of free agency starting, and then the Dolphins really started spending.

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Miami added linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler to huge contracts, then brought back safety Chris Clemons. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland is in a contract year, and he's getting desperate. Ellerbe is a nice player, but he has started 13 career games. Wheeler is one year removed from a cheap one-year contract in Oakland. Ireland is buying high.

Ireland doesn't have to look far to realize the folly of paying good players huge money in free agency: He released linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett on Tuesday. Dansby once was the highest-paid inside linebacker in football.

New Cleveland Browns GM Michael Lombardi wasn't as aggressive as Ireland, but he spent big dollars to fix his team's pass rush. Defensive end Paul Kruger and defensive tackle Desmond Bryant were paid $75 million for 32 combined starts. (I like both players. Just not that much.)

This is how the NFL works. A new regime in Cleveland spends big to get the fan base excited. A GM in trouble spends big to save his job. Maybe it will work, but free agency history tells us at least one of these teams will fall flat.

Day 2's big team: The St. Louis Rams

Jeff Fisher outbid the Dolphins for tight end Jared Cook, but the Rams really might make some noise Wednesday, when they host offensive tackle Jake Long and safety Louis Delmas, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

Long will have to take a physical for the Rams, and it's unclear how strong his market truly is. Darlington notes that Long still could wind up back in Miami. Then again, the Dolphins have grown accustomed to losing high-profile showdowns with the Rams.

The Detroit Lions also could make some noise Wednesday, when they host safety Glover Quin and running back Reggie Bush. Dashon Goldson's visit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also might result in a big-money deal.

Not a good day for Ed Reed

We heard heading into Tuesday that Reed was attracting interest from the San Francisco 49ers. By the end of the day, the 49ers were set to host Charles Woodson on a free-agent visit. That doesn't bode well. On a positive note: The Baltimore Ravens should have plenty of money to spend on Reed.

Ravens fans had a worse day

I respect GM Ozzie Newsome so much that I can't criticize him for Tuesday's inactivity. But it had to be painful to watch Ellerbe, Kruger and Anquan Boldin (officially traded) leave town on the same day.

The Ravens wanted to keep Ellerbe, but they weren't going to pay him like one of the best players at his position. The Ravens got this far by drafting, developing and keeping the players they wanted. They wanted to keep Ellerbe, but he is replaceable.

The Super Bowl champions did make a move Tuesday, signing defensive tackle Chris Canty on the cheap. Now that's a Ravens type of deal.

No one knows Bradley Fletcher's name

Chip Kelly's first free-agent acquisitions as Philadelphia Eagles coach came in a five-pack of underrated veterans. That's a good thing.

The Eagles quietly signed five solid veterans, including safety Patrick Chung, tight end James Casey and cornerback Bradley Fletcher. That's Bradley Fletcher, not Fletcher Bradley, as the team sent out in its press release and on Twitter. The former St. Louis Rams cornerback was our No. 56 free agent available overall, but he must not have great name recognition.

His name was repeated as Fletcher Bradley by no fewer than five other news outlets. Fletcher Bradley is the perfect symbol of this new, non-Dream Team Eagles squad.

Speaking of which ...

Nnamdi Asomugha was among the most high-profile cuts Tuesday, but he wasn't even the best cornerback released. Or the second best. Antoine Winfield and Michael Huff both are free to sign elsewhere after being released. Other big Tuesday cuts: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Kevin Walter, Sione Pouha, James Anderson and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Yes, the Buffalo Bills need a starting quarterback. Unless it's Tarvaris Jackson.

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My favorite random signing: The Kansas City Chiefs picked up former Drew Brees caddy Chase Daniel on a three-year, $9 million contract to back up Alex Smith. Daniel is such an Andy Reid quarterback -- I already can imagine Chiefs fans calling for him to start after Kansas City goes 2-5 to start the season. (And then I can imagine Reid trading Daniel for a second-round draft pick next offseason.)

Plenty of talent available at cornerback and running back

The deep cornerback group could work against free agents such as Sean Smith, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Brent Grimes. The only cornerbacks signed Tuesday were mid-tier guys like Fletcher and Greg Toler (by the Indianapolis Colts). No running backs signed, although Reggie Bush is visiting Detroit on Wednesday and Rashard Mendenhall continues to be closely linked to the Denver Broncos.

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In all, six of my top 10 players remain available, if you don't count Tony Gonzalez. The probable Hall of Famer remains unsigned, but the Atlanta Falcons say it's a "formality" before he's signed. While tight ends flew off the board, the top of the receiver market was quiet after Wallace's signing.

The New England Patriots aren't talking to Wes Welker, according to Rapoport. Greg Jennings is weighing offers from NFC North rivals. Danny Amendola probably is waiting for Welker to sign.

In all, 21 of our top 85 players were accounted for after just seven hours of free agency. That's a lot of movement, and it didn't even include a supposedly imminent Darrelle Revis trade. We're only getting started.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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