Patriots aggressive in free agency

The second day of free agency turned into Patriots' Day, as New England was extremely aggressive, writes John Clayton.

Originally Published: March 1, 2007
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Day Two of free agency should be called Patriots Day. It was a day in which the Patriots spent big for a star linebacker and were also aggressive adding several role players.

For the past year, the Patriots didn't appear to want to spend big. They lost several key free agents and traded Deion Branch when he held out for a bigger contract. But if that was done to clear up cap room for this season, the Patriots can't be criticized for being passive in 2007.

Linebacker
Baltimore Ravens

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
83 64 19 0 11 1
They signed linebacker Adalius Thomas and have managed to keep everyone hush-hush on the amount of the contact. They are planning to sign Dolphins wide receiver Wes Welker, a restricted free agent, to an offer sheet. They also signed tight end Kyle Brady and running back Sammy Morris.

Day Two also featured some hard-ball trades and interesting maneuvering. Here are 10 key observations.

1. Bucs general manager Bruce Allen loves to be a wheeler-dealer. On Saturday, he was at his best. He signed quarterback Jeff Garcia to a two-year deal that will pay him $5 million this year. The total deal is reportedly around $7 million for two years. Then, he traded a conditional 2008 pick to Denver for Jake Plummer, whose threatened retirement held up a trade that was agreed on Friday. Smart business. Hard business. Now the Bucs control Plummer's fate. If he does play, the Bucs could have him compete for a starting job or trade him for a fourth-round pick, the price they established with the first trade with the Broncos. You can never have enough quarterbacks.

2. Garcia's agent, Steve Baker, had a good handle on the Garcia situation. Unlike the past when Garcia turned down the chance to go to Tampa to sign with Cleveland and Detroit, Garcia played the market well. He could have made more by going to Oakland, but he was wise in passing on that opportunity. He doesn't have the deep throwing arm Al Davis likes. Plus, the offensive line is shaky in Oakland. Garcia finally gets to play for Jon Gruden, whom he's always wanted as an offensive play-caller. By going to Oakland first and establishing Garcia could get starter's money, Baker parlayed the situation into a good contract.

Defensive Tackle
Miami Dolphins

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
14 10 4 1 0 0
3. The Broncos have been busy. They didn't send Plummer to Houston because the Texans were reluctant to give up a draft choice. They traded for Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson. They tried to sign Falcons defensive end Patrick Kerney. They signed guard Montrae Holland to a one-year, $1 million deal and have Titans halfback Travis Henry in for a visit Sunday. Three players have been traded in two days. Shanahan has things moving.

4. The Dolphins only had six draft choices on Friday. Former coach Nick Saban traded a number of picks during his two-year reign. Now, general manager Randy Mueller is building back the stockpile of choices. He got a sixth-round choice from Denver for Dan Wilkinson, whom he was going to cut. If the Patriots sign wide receiver Wes Welker to a restricted offer sheet, the Dolphins could pick up a second-rounder. Sure, it would be a low second-round pick, but that's still not a bad choice. Mueller faces an interesting decision on Welker.

5. The Lions are giving the appearance that they might be willing to trade the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. Sure, they could sit at No. 2 and take left tackle Joe Thomas from Wisconsin. They could take running back Adrian Peterson. With Kevin Jones coming off a serious foot injury, that's not a bad option. But they've picked up halfback Tatum Bell and right tackle George Foster, so that could change their draft plans. They also are close to signing Bucs free-agent defensive end Dewayne White. Wide receiver Kevin Curtis left Minnesota on Saturday and flew to Detroit. He might be signed by Sunday. There is a growing chance the Lions might trade out of the second spot in the draft and pick up more draft choices. They have four fifth-rounders and 10 choices.

6. So much for Daniel Snyder not being a big player in free agency. The Redskins signed middle linebacker London Fletcher-Baker and cornerback Fred Smoot to five-year deals. They are talking to cornerback Travis Fisher. Offensive lineman Leonard Davis is deciding between the Cowboys and Redskins. Davis pulled an interesting move. He asked Jerry Jones for a massive amount of guarantees in his contract. When he didn't get them, he left for Snyder's private plane and a trip to Washington.

Wide Receiver
Tennessee Titans

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
Rec Yds TD Avg Long YAC
46 737 3 16.0 39 166
7. Drew Bennett's six-year, $30 million deal could put pressure on the Rams to release Isaac Bruce, but Bennett doesn't think that is going to happen. He believes he will work well with Torry Holt and Bruce. The Rams want a bigger receiver for the red zone. The 6-5 Bennett, who is sneaky fast, is a good fit and he has great hands. Plus, the Rams still have the cap room to keep Bruce if they want.

8. The Chargers aren't going to be players in free agency, but they already are one of the biggest winners of the offseason. They re-signed guard Kris Dielman, a Pro Bowl alternate who turned down more money from Seattle and Cleveland to take a six-year, $39 million deal from the Chargers. Dielman's return keeps together one of the game's best offensive.

9. A year ago, the Seahawks didn't want to make Steve Hutchinson a $7 million-a-year guard and they lost him to Minnesota. Now, they can't even buy a $7 million guard when he's on the market. Dielman turned down close to $7 million a year from the Seahawks to return to San Diego. The Seahawks were furious. Watch for them to be extra aggressive trying to sign Kerney or tight end Daniel Graham. They could even sign both of them.

10. The Raiders are going to keep Barry Sims, who is moving from guard to left tackle, and wide receiver Ronald Curry, who restructured his contract Saturday. But they might lose halfback LaMont Jordan. For the moment, Jordan doesn't want to renegotiate a $4.75 million signing bonus that is due Wednesday. Figuring they could lose Jordan, the Raiders have asked Travis Henry to visit after his stop in Denver.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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