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Wild weekend: Takeaways before free agency

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NFL free agency officially kicks off Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET. Someone forgot to tell all the decision-makers, agents, players and media working feverishly over the weekend.

The league's three-day negotiating window before free agency opened Saturday, and this weekend included more action than the previous two years combined. Eight players that were on our Top 101 free agents list agreed to new deals with their teams: Devin McCourty, Randall Cobb, Brandon Flowers, Kareem Jackson, David Harris, Mark Ingram, Mark Sanchez and Doug Free will be staying put.

Positional breakdowns

There were also the typical reports of heavy interest in various free agents. These are usually thinly disguised items of propaganda spread by nervous agents. But this weekend had a new twist: The backroom agreements from previous years found their way into the public. Official contract terms and agreements are supposed to be an impropriety before free agency starts. (Even though we knew that all those 4:01 p.m. deals from previous years didn't magically close in one minute.)

There was no more tacit understanding from agents and reporters to stay away from saying a deal was all but "done." Ndamukong Suh, Frank Gore, Torrey Smith, Jeremy Maclin and Orlando Franklin are some of the free agents that appear to be accounted for. Smith said goodbye to Ravens fans in advance for his expected trip to the NFC West. Former Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell took it one step further, saying on the record he was headed to Philadelphia. (His agent tried to backtrack on Twitter.) It will be interesting to see if the league office has any reaction to all the early deals.

All of this action comes on the heels of a week that included LeSean McCoy and Brandon Marshall suddenly traded to new teams. Players like Percy Harvin, Dwayne Bowe and Andre Johnson are expected to be cut Monday. Adrian Peterson and Jay Cutler have uncertain futures.

In short: We're just getting started.

Here's what we learned over the weekend:

Advantage Revis: Cornerback market is dire


Our No. 1 ranked free agent cornerback, Byron Maxwell, told all sorts of people he's headed to Philadelphia. Our No. 2 cornerback Brandon Flowers is returning to San Diego, while No. 3 on the list Kareem Jackson will stay with Houston.

This means that guys like Davon House, Chris Culliver, Antonio Cromartie, Tramon Williams and Buster Skrine are the top names out there. Maxwell will step out of the shadows of the rest of the Legion of Boom and be paid like a superstar. At least he's heading to a city that is sure to set reasonable expectations for him and be forgiving if he starts slow.

The cornerback signings make this year's Darrelle Revis watch that much more fascinating. Can you imagine how much Revis would be paid on the open market with all this cap space floating out there? The Patriots are trying to hammer out a new agreement with him before the new league year starts and there is at least one encouraging sign it gets done. Once New England sees some of the contracts out there, perhaps they really could swallow Revis' $20 million salary that is currently on the books.

The deals that aren't quite deals yet


It feels strange to give analysis for contracts like Maxwell's because teams aren't supposed to have finalized agreements yet. It will be interesting to see if any of the big names mentioned above back out of these verbal "done deals" if another team comes calling near the deadline.

In the meantime, we'll marvel over some of the numbers being thrown around for Ndamukong Suh. The Dolphins are "closing in" on a deal that would make Suh the richest defender in NFL history. NFL Media's Albert Breer reports the Lions were willing to pay Suh $17 million per season, and the Dolphins deal is expected to easily top that. Suh will make more than Peyton Manning and more than all but a handful of quarterbacks.

No one can accuse Dolphins owner Stephen Ross of being passive. He gave out the most money as a team in free agency in 2013, and gave tackle Branden Albert the second highest total of guaranteed money to any free agent in 2014. Putting Suh and Cameron Wake on the same defensive line is frightening; they are both in the top five of their respective positions.

It's Chip Kelly's world


It's almost as if the Eagles coach wants to show everyone he can win without any of Andy Reid's players. In the same week that he dealt away LeSean McCoy, the Eagles will allow Maclin to leave via free agency. We can't blame Kelly for this one. Maclin is expected to sign with the Chiefs for money in the range of Randall Cobb's $10 million per season. Maclin has been in the NFL six seasons, and has one 1,000-yard campaign. Kelly is going to spend on defense (Maxwell), and trust his scheme to win the day on offense.

The more surprising Eagles item Sunday: Frank Gore is expected to join the team. He gives them an incredible between-the-tackles runner and a consummate pro that excels on any down. They won't need him for 300 touches. As the President of the Gore for Canton Committee, I couldn't have picked a better landing spot for the end of his career.

Ranking the re-signings


Before saying goodbye, let's quickly rank the best re-signings of the weekend in terms of impact:

1. Randall Cobb: Rapoport reported that Cobb took less money to stay in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers, Cobb and Jordy Nelson are now all signed together through at least 2018. No one can ever say that Ted Thompson frittered away Rodgers' prime; the best quarterback in the league has some of the best weapons with him for a long time. Anything but a second title by the end of Cobb's contract would be a disappointment.

2. Devin McCourty: There just aren't many true centerfield safeties out there. That's why McCourty got $47.5 million over the course of a five-year deal. The real question now: Can the Patriots still afford to keep Revis too?

3. Brandon Flowers: With Flowers, Jason Verrett and Eric Weddle together, the Chargers quietly could have one of the most talented defensive backfields in the league.

4. Mark Ingram: At $4 million, the price was right for both sides. Ingram showed the ability to carry a backfield last year and deserved another shot in New Orleans. The Saints aren't blowing up their offense yet; Marques Colston will also be back.

5. Kareem Jackson: Who would have thought after 2012 that Ingram and Jackson would both get second contracts with their teams? It's a reminder not to break out the "B" word too early. Jackson has evolved into an above-average starting cornerback, which is worth plenty.

6. Mark Sanchez: He's getting paid like a bridge quarterback, one that isn't making too much to keep at No. 2. Bringing back Sanchez helps provide flexibility to potentially trade Nick Foles on draft day or before. If Kelly can't move up for Marcus Mariota, Sanchez and Foles could compete to start again.

7. Doug Free: This was a rare Cowboys re-signing that looks like a bargain. It was only four years ago that Free earned a four-year, $32 million deal from Jerry Jones. Now he signed a three-year, $15 million contract coming off a solid season.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the Brandon Marshall trade and plays another game of "Go Get My Lunch." Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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