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Broncos, Patriots ramp up AFC arms race in free agency

When it comes to NFL roster building, there are many ways to skin a cat. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are different cats.

Blessed with Hall of Fame quarterbacks now entering their twilight years, AFC superpowers Bill Belichick and John Elway find themselves engaged in an arms race to beat the play clock on their win-now, pay-later rosters.

Battista: Broncos charge ahead


Denver's spending spree was not your typical free-agency free-for-all. John Elway explains his thinking to Judy Battista. **READ**

At his best, Revis has erased No. 1 receivers like no cornerback since Deion Sanders.

Nearly 20 years ago, Sanders left the Cincinnati Reds in September to sign a one-year, $1.2 million, below-market contract as a suddenly available gun hired to help the cap-strapped San Francisco 49ers hoist their fifth Lombardi Trophy.

A year later, Sanders took his Super Bowl ring and absconded to Dallas for a seven-year, $35 million contract.

The Patriots would take that trade-off if lightning strikes twice with mercenary shutdown cornerbacks.

We broke down the early winners and losers of free agency in the latest "Around The League Podcast."

Walking away?

Now that DeMarcus Ware has swooped in to pilfer the contract that was ticketed for Jared Allen in Denver, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports the former Vikings star is threatening to walk away from the NFL if his salary demands aren't met. You want to rainbow-curve that one by us again? Playing "hard to get" doesn't work if a player, in fact, makes himself impossible to get.

Can an organization handle the departure of a beloved icon with as much hamfisted disrespect as the Panthers? On the same day that Steve Smith's agent acknowledged the best offensive player in franchise history won't return, team sources leaked a story suggesting Smith would be a bad influence in the locker room. Panthers fans won't touch that stinky bait.

Wide receiver movement

The early word on this year's market was that free agents were set to cash in, but that won't hold true for offensive skill-position players.

Eric Decker's contract with the Jetssettles in between those signed by Mike Williams and Brian Hartline in 2012. Even if we're skeptical of the fit, we have no problem acknowledging that Decker is superior to Williams -- and without the knucklehead factor.

Decker's contract wasn't the only bargain among wide receivers. The Lions picked up a heck of a football player in Golden Tate, the first consistent young playmaker to be teamed with Calvin Johnson in Detroit. With that duo and Reggie Bush spreading the field, opposing defensive coordinators will have trouble sleeping at night.

News of the weird

Free-Agent Tracker


Follow all the developments on the NFL's open market with our up-to-the-minute tracking of 2014's free agents. **More...**

Less than 30 hours after throwing an astounding $42.5 million at left tackle Rodger Saffold, the Raiders voided his contract due to a failed physical. Are we sure there wasn't a tinge of buyer's remorse thrown in? Minutes after he was discarded by Oakland, Saffold decided to return to the Rams on a five-year contract.

"One of the worst days of my life as a professional," one Raiders source told NFL Media columnist Michael Silver.

After handing his staff a mandate to start winning and stop making excuses, owner Mark Davis has watched his organization descendinto alaughingstock.

Is this how the Bills recruit players to Buffalo? After handing out generous contracts to a special teamer and a journeyman guard, the team "Instagrammed" a photo that wouldn't look out of place in Siberia.

Musical QB chairs

Mike Glennon became the first quarterback rookie in NFL history to throw at least one touchdown pass in his first eight games en route to the Offensive Rookie of the Month award for November. Four months later, he's out of a job as Lovie Smith gears up for a run at the NFC South title.

The Brownsunceremoniously dumped quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell on Wednesday afternoon. Minutes after that news was released, a report surfaced claiming the Texans are in no hurry to cut ties with Matt Schaub. Coincidence? We think not.

Seattle to Jacksonville pipeline

With our top-14 free agents off the board, lesser names are going to start dominating the conversation. Having already recruited Red Bryant to Florida, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley could take center stage Thursday. Pass rusher Chris Clemons is close to rejoining his old defensive coordinator, and Walter Thurmond in on the radar as well.

General manager David Caldwell's free-agent booty includes a starting running back (Toby Gerhart) and a much-needed upgrade for the offensive line (Zane Beadles). He won't stop there. Caldwell and Bradley have also brought in wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and defensive ends Willie Young and Ziggy Hood for visits.

Thursday will bring plenty of movement outside the AFC South. If we're lucky, the updates will start rolling in on intriguing players such as Hakeem Nicks, Julius Peppers, Jermichael Finley and Jason Hatcher.

*The latest "Around The League Podcast" recaps the wild start of free agency. *

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