Browns, Jaguars, Eagles among winners in free agency
John Clayton identifies the winners and losers after the first three days of free agency.
Eighteen NFL teams worked out more $714 million in contracts to acquire 39 players in the first three days of the free-agent signing period. Eight trades were worked out. Nine last-minute deals were completed to prevent free agents from hitting the market on the eve of free agency. Stars Randy Moss (New England) and Lance Briggs (Chicago) agreed to re-sign after free agency started Friday.
Here are the winners and losers so far:
Cleveland Browns: With four of his five draft choices gone in trades, Browns general manager Phil Savage can schedule his vacation for draft day, and he has earned a rest. He beefed up the defensive line with trades for Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams. He added Donte' Stallworth to an already potent offense. He signed quarterback Derek Anderson to a three-year contract and, with Brady Quinn on the roster, he now has security at that vital position. Savage learned to build through the draft when he was in Baltimore, but his unconventional aggressiveness at the start of free agency might turn the Browns from a 10-win surprise in 2007 into the team to beat in the AFC North.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The draft hasn't been productive for the Jaguars at wide receiver. Former first-rounders Reggie Williams and Matt Jones have been disappointments. The Jaguars, who had moderate success last season with free-agent receiver Dennis Northcutt, added former Raider wideout Jerry Porter and traded for the speedy Troy Williamson. To help their secondary, the Jags spent $6 million a year for ex-Chargers cornerback Drayton Florence, who was second to Asante Samuel on the free-agent cornerback list. Cleo Lemon was signed to back up David Garrard at quarterback.
Philadelphia Eagles: It's hard to go wrong when you pay for quality. The Eagles wasted no time signing Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel to join an already talented secondary. Samuel is a playmaker. The Eagles intercepted only 11 passes last season. Samuel had six alone and has the potential to get double-digit picks in any season. The signing that put the Eagles over the top, however, was getting little-known pass-rusher Chris Clemons out of Oakland. Clemons, who had eight sacks last season, is ready to make a name for himself.
Miami Dolphins: Bill Parcells and the Dolphins have been one of the league's more aggressive teams. They've signed seven unrestricted free agents and traded for nose tackle Jason Ferguson. The biggest thing the Dolphins did is get younger. They released five veterans whose average age was 34.2. Those aging vets were replaced by seven free agents whose average age is 26.7. The additions of Ferguson and defensive tackle Randy Starks probably mean the Dolphins aren't going to take LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey with the first pick.
Minnesota Vikings: Former Bengal Madieu Williams was the first to sign, giving the defense more coverage ability at safety. Former Bear Bernard Berrian was costly at $7 million a year, but he has deep speed and should be a steady 1,000-yard receiver. Thomas Tapeh will help at fullback and knows the system -- he played for Brad Childress when he was in Philadelphia. The next mission is to find help at defensive end because of the health concerns of Erasmus James and Kenechi Udeze
New England Patriots: What a tough start to the offseason. The secondary took hits with cornerback Asante Samuel heading to Philadelphia, cornerback Randall Gay going to New Orleans and safety Eugene Wilson expected to leave in the next few days. Even though Moss is staying, the Pats lost WR Donte' Stallworth to Cleveland and Jabar Gaffney is unsigned. Outside linebacker Rosevelt Colvin was released.
New York Giants: The price of success was losing three key defenders from a Super Bowl team. If Michael Strahan retires, the Giants may not be able to overcome all the losses. General manager Jerry Reese must find a replacement for safety Gibril Wilson, who took his 100 tackles a season to the Raiders. The linebacking corps was raided, with Reggie Torbor going to Miami and Kawika Mitchell to Buffalo. Some of the defensive replacements might have to come through the draft.
Chicago Bears: Rex Grossman and the Bears reunited for one more fling at quarterback, but he doesn't have a starting receiver to help him. The release of Muhsin Muhammad was expected, but the loss of Bernard Berrian to the Vikings could be hard to overcome. Options in the free-agent market are dwindling, and it's the offense that needs the biggest boost. Many fans wanted former Charger Michael Turner for the running game, but he went to Atlanta. Lovie Smith talks about making Devin Hester a starting receiver, but is he ready for that full-time action?
Oakland Raiders: The Raiders paid $50.5 million to keep defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and $39 million for ex-Giants safety Gibril Wilson. Those are staggering numbers. But the numbers staggering the Raiders even more are the blank holes on offense. Porter left for Jacksonville, leaving the receiving corps with no speed and limited options to fix the problem. Josh McCown surprised the Raiders a bit by bolting to Miami, leaving JaMarcus Russell with only Andrew Walter as a backup.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs want to get younger, so they skipped the first wave of free agency by signing only Falcons linebacker Demorrio Williams. Maybe it's me, but isn't their linebacking corps one of the strengths of the team? Of course, that's minor compared to the next set of problems. The Chiefs released six veterans in their 30s -- nose tackle James Reed, retired halfback Priest Holmes, offensive linemen Chris Bober and John Welbourn, wide receiver Eddie Kennison and blocking tight end Jason Dunn. Cornerback Ty Law and linebacker Kendrell Bell are the next slated to go. Where are the replacements coming from? The Chiefs have 11 draft choices, so they will get younger, but will they get better?
John Clayton, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame writers' wing, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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2008 FREE AGENCY
NFL teams began shopping for free agents on Feb. 29, with approximately 320 players available. Randy Moss (right), one of the top free agents available, re-signed with the Pats.
• Free-agent tracker
Commentary/Features• Paolantonio: Raiders wasting cash on Hall
• Clayton: Raiders immersed in spending spree
• Yasinskas: Bucs spending wisely
• Third And Short: Free-agent analysis
• Clayton: Best remaining players
• Clayton: Top 10 free-agent gambles
• Yasinskas: Saints rolling dice on Vilma, Morgan
• Sando: Role players cashing in
• Yasinskas: Jets improved, but QB remains issue
• Yasinskas: Browns focused on winning
• Clayton: Moss-Patriots deal meant to be
• Clayton: Winners and losers
• Chadiha: Reese sets the standard for rookie GMs
• Yasinskas: Five aggressive teams in the market
• Pasquarelli: Big payoffs await less-heralded FAs
• Clayton: It's better to keep your own guys
• Research: Top 10 free agents of all time
• Yasinskas: Redskins to try new approach
• Joyner: Evaluating four big names
• Chadiha: Dealing with the franchise tag
• Panthers continue O-line makeover, sign Brown
• Browns help LB depth, sign Orr to 1-year contract March 20
• Pats agree to deal with CB Bryant
• Roundup: Rams re-sign Romberg March 19
• Packers agree with LB Chillar
• Bengals' Andrews signs franchise tender
• Punter Turk re-signs with Texans
• Colts keep defensive end Thomas with new deal