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What we learned on Day 4 of free agency

Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith were the two most intriguing names left on a rapidly diminishing free-agent market. They both found a home Friday, but Nicks didn't wind up replacing Smith in Carolina as many expected.

Indianapolis' one-year deal with Nicks is one of our favorite to date in free agency. (It would have made this list if Nicks was courteous enough to sign earlier.) It's the perfect prove-it contract for a player that has the skill set to be a No. 1 receiver.

Free agency so often comes down to finding the right fit. With Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen on his side, Nicks is set up for success. He only got $1 million more than Darrius Heyward-Bey did one offseason ago from Indianapolis, but playing with Luck sets up Nicks for a bigger payday in 2015. (Carolina, meanwhile, does not yet have a wide receiver on its roster that had one reception last season.)

Smith also found the perfect fit in Baltimore. The Ravens want Smith's fire in the locker room, and his chain-moving skill set on the field. Too often last year, Joe Flacco couldn't find an option that would fight for the ball on third-and-6. The Ravens have their deep threats in place, but Smith and the return of Dennis Pitta will keep the Ravens' offense moving.

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

Smith is no longer a No. 1 receiver, but he doesn't need to be. He just needs to give the Ravens some late-career Derrick Mason-type production. Get your goggles ready.

Here's what else we learned on Day 4 of free agency Friday:

  1. The Dallas Cowboys are among the teams to have shown interest in Henry Melton.

Dallas needs to plug holes on the defensive line after losing DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher. Melton could be a nice gamble at the right price; Melton is No. 2 on our list of best remaining free agents.

We reviewed all the big news of the week on Friday's "Around The League Podcast."

  1. Last offseason, Packers defensive linemen B.J. Rajipassed on a long-term deal averaging $8 million per season. This time, he had to accept a one-year prove it deal for $4 million. Give credit to Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson for setting a price on Raji and sticking with it. The team is going to move Raji to nose tackle, where he could be a terrific bargain.

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  1. The Miami Dolphins signed undersized, feisty cornerback Brett Grimes to a low-cost deal one year ago after an injury-marred year from Grimes. New general manager Dennis Hickey is hoping that lightning strikes twice, signing undersized, feisty cornerback Cortland Finnegan to a two-year contract on Friday.

We still think Finnegan could have some good football left in him; he was a huge difference-maker for St. Louis in 2012. Finnegan represented himself in the negotiating process, and somehow got $11 million on the contract, according to NFL Media's Albert Breer. We suspect that number is heavily backloaded, or else Finnegan should quit his job as a player and start a career as an agent.

  1. Oakland continues to sign veteran defenders to plug holes in their starting lineup. Defensive end Antonio Smith and cornerback Tarrell Brown were the next two added to the mix. We can't kill the moves; the Raiders need starters. But you can only get so much better when you change half your starting lineup every season.

Brown comes from San Francisco, where he passed on a long-term deal. The 49erssigned former Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chris Cook instead. We like the fit as a low-risk, high-reward type of move.

  1. As first reported by NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport on Thursday, Brandon Browneragreed to terms with New England. The surprisingly big money in his contract indicates he's going to start right away. Browner and Darrelle Revis make a physical duo reminiscent of some early-era Patriots cornerback duos. (Or Belichick-era Giants teams.)

We're not entirely convinced Browner will be an asset outside of Seattle. New England's free agency spending has generally not gone well.

  1. Michael Oher is returning home to Tennessee as a member of the Titans. Tennessee got a league-average starter at right tackle at a league-average price. Expect a lot of Leigh Anne Tuohy crowd shots.
  1. The Bengals extended Marvin Lewis' contract one year through 2015. What a weird tenure in Cincinnati for Lewis. He's had 11 seasons, only three losing campaigns -- and zero playoff wins. The Bengals have averaged 10 wins per season the last three campaign, but Lewis might need a playoff win in 2014 to stick around. Like Rex Ryan, he's year-to-year.
  1. Daryl Smithreturning to Baltimore was my favorite under-the-radar move of the day. He added so much to that defense last year. Wesley Woodyard is going to Tennessee, Charles Tillman is coming back to Chicago and Brandon Pettigrew returned to Detroit.

Thanks for reading Around the League all week. We expect plenty of signings throughout the weekend, so check back here and here often.

The "Around The League Podcast" breaks down all the free agency moves and hands out a fleet of high-octane sandwiches.

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