Money flying on first day of free agency
John Clayton checks in with 10 observations from a wild first day of free agency.
Welcome to the new world of free agency, a time when teams can re-sign core players but guards, tight ends and fullbacks can hit the financial lottery.
Friday was one of the wildest spending sprees since free agency began in the early 1990s. Guards got contracts worth $7 million a year. A fullback got $3 million a year and a $5 million signing bonus. Cornerback Nate Clements became the league's first $10 million a year defensive player with an eight-year, $80 million deal. As expected, the market was fast and the dollars were flying.
Here are 10 observations on the first day of free agency:
1. Has any agent had a better day than Todd France? In one day, he negotiated $153 million of contracts for four players. Clements got an eight-year, $80 million deal with the 49ers. Redskins guard Derrick Dockery got seven years, $49 million from the Buffalo Bills. Ravens fullback Ovie Mughelli became the league's first $3 million a year fullback with his six-year, $18 million deal with the Falcons. The 49ers are going to give Ravens nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin a three-year, $6 million contract that includes a $3 million signing bonus. The Dockery deal is even more amazing because France didn't even go back and forth with the Redskins, who wanted to re-sign him. Normally, agents use the Redskins, who are always quick to spend in free agency. For those who are asking, Clements got $29 million over the first three years of the contract.
2. The biggest loser Friday was the Ravens. Right out of the box, they lost three players -- right tackle Tony Pashos, Mughelli and Franklin. They are expected to lose linebacker Adalius Thomas to the Patriots on Saturday morning. The Ravens stopped some of the bleeding by re-signing defensive tackle Jarret Johnson for around $13 million over three years. Plus, they also have a decent chance of re-signing halfback Jamal Lewis. Last year, the Ravens lost several players in the opening days of free agency but were able to rebound. Can they do the same thing again?
4. The 49ers lived up to their plan to add a number of defensive starters. They get three with Clements, safety Michael Lewis and Franklin. Watch for them to sign Dolphins linebacker Donnie Spragan. The 49ers want to get seven new starters in free agency and the draft. They are off to a great start after handing out around $100 million in contracts.
5. The Bills are serious about rebuilding their offensive line with the additions of Dockery, Langston Walker and backup Jason Whittle. They have the best sleeper left tackle in football in Jason Peters. With that much of a commitment on the line, though, it still makes you wonder why the Bills would trade running back Willis McGahee to Denver, Baltimore or any team willing to give value.
7. A couple of teams that wanted to make a splash didn't. The Cardinals hoped to make a big splash but they couldn't get a deal with Dockery. The Bucs wanted to land Eric Steinbach and they had a trade for Jake Plummer before he said he was going to retire. Still, they were busy re-signing Mike Alstott, Torrie Cox and Phillip Buchanon along with entertaining fullback Justin Griffith and center Jeremy Newberry.
8. The Rams continue to try to improve their defense. They gave up a fifth-round choice for Lions defensive end James Hall. They also brought in linebacker/defensive end Tully Banta-Cain from New England. By the way, does it seem strange to you the way the Lions are dominating the fifth-round? In two days, they've picked up fifth-round choices from the Broncos and Rams. Now, they have four fifth-round picks.
9. The best divisional recruiting battle involved offensive tackle Leonard Davis of the Cardinals. The Cowboys brought him to town Friday and most people expected him to sign for more than $5 million a year with the Cowboys. But the Redskins got involved and talked him to coming to Washington for a visit Saturday. After losing Dockery, the Redskins figured Davis might be a bargain. To add to the excitement, the Giants were in the running for a while, too.
10. The second best battle involves the Seahawks and Broncos. Both teams want tight end Daniel Graham and defensive end Patrick Kerney. The Broncos got visits from both during the first day of free agency. The Seahawks sent coaches to Denver to make sure Kerney gets on a plane to Seattle. Along with that, the Seahawks were trying to lock up guard Kris Dielman. Good action.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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2007 Free Agency
With scouting reports on all of the free agents and teams needs from Scouts Inc. plus analysis from senior writers Len Pasquarelli and John Clayton, ESPN.com has free agency covered:
• Scouts: 2007 free agent grades
• Pasquarelli: Top 30 UFAs
• Pasquarelli: UFA sleepers
• Clayton: 49ers will be active
• Needs: AFC West | NFC West
• Needs: AFC North | NFC North
• Needs: AFC South | NFC South
• Needs: AFC East | NFC East