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Fresh off the wire

What we learned on Day 3 of NFL free agency

The bottom fell out of the market on Day 3 of NFL free agency. Cliff Avril's deal with the Seattle Seahawks late Wednesday night was a precursor to the bargain free-agent shopping arriving much earlier than usual.

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Young pass rushers like Michael Bennett and Connor Barwin combined to sign for $13 million guaranteed Thursday. (Bennett joins a fearsome Seahawks squad.) Young starting cornerbacks like Sean Smith and Keenan Lewis did a little better, but they didn't get the money they were hoping for in free agency. Running back Steven Jackson went to the Atlanta Falcons for just $4 million guaranteed.

In this flat-salary-cap world, NFL players' contracts are more tenuous than ever. It's a year-to-year existence as a professional football player. Players are compensated well, but every season is a contract year.

Here's what else we learned on Day 3:

The Falcons' offense is ridiculous

Dan Hanzus called the Falcons' offense an all-star team on offense; he's not far off if you just ignore the offensive line. Thirty-year-old running backs rarely make great signings in free agency, but Jackson had plenty of juice left as a power runner last season. He's what Michael Turner was supposed to be the past two seasons, but with passing-down skills. Jacquizz Rodgers should keep Jackson fresh by splitting the workload.

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah noted that Jackson should enjoy life away from seeing eight men in the box every snap. As tight end Tony Gonzalez can attest, playing with wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White can length careers.

About that defensive back run ...

Derek Cox, LaRon Landry and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie started the deluge late Wednesday night. By the end of Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Cary Williams and safety Kenny Phillips, while the New Orleans Saints signed former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis.

The Kansas City Chiefs made my favorite deal of the day, locking up Sean Smith for $18 million over three years, with $10.5 million guaranteed. Smith is a great, physical No. 2 cornerback to pair with Brandon Flowers. Dunta Robinson can play nickel back or safety. The Denver Broncos will be tough to line up against next season with the addition of Wes Welker, but the Chiefs stand as good a chance as anyone. They're a loaded team in terms of defensive talent. Alex Smith knows how much that can help a struggling passing game.

There still are quality names out there. Aqib Talib, Nnamdi Asomugha, Michael Huff, Adrian Wilson and Antoine Winfield remain available. The depth of this market will keep prices down.

About those big-name safeties ...

Ed Reed remains in Houston overnight after being wined and dined by the Texans. I'd expect a deal Friday. Charles Woodson doesn't appear to have any visits lined up after meeting with the San Francisco 49ers. Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke might try to get former Detroit Lions safety Louis Delmas under contract before extending an offer to Woodson.

Longtime Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson, meanwhile, is heading to New England for a visit with the Patriots, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. Wilson is just the type of smart, hard-nosed veteran who Bill Belichick tries to squeeze a final couple years out of.

Quarterbacks of the past

One of the tenets of the NFL: You swing and miss on a quarterback, you get fired. Former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves learned this after their disastrous trade for Kevin Kolb. Now Rapoport reports that Kolb will be fired by Saturday. Kolb won't find many great opportunities out there, although two AFC East teams (the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets) could use a potential starter.

Former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli lost his job in large part because of the trade and huge contract he gave to Matt Cassel. The Chiefs finally let go of Cassel on Thursday, and he quickly landed in Minnesota as a backup quarterback.

The Vikings say Cassel will not compete for the starting job. I believe them. I also believe Cassel will be starting before midseason unless Christian Ponder develops a lot faster than he did in 2012.

Day 4: The Stars

Last night, we said that Day 3 would be all about the defensive backs. As we look ahead to Day 4, we should see some of the last big remaining names coming off the board. Greg Jennings should decide between the Vikings and Green Bay Packers after receiving the star treatment in Minnesota. Ed Reed probably will latch on with the Texans. Jake Long's physical with the St. Louis Rams finally could end.

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Twelve more players were signed off my top 85 free agents overall on Thursday. That leaves 42 players overall, including five of the top 15. We'll create a brand-new list of best remaining players Friday morning, with their latest outlooks.

In the meantime, thanks for reading Around The League all week long. It's a week that drives my wife nuts, but it's one of the biggest reasons I love this job. We'll have all the news Friday, and another rundown recapping it all Friday night.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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