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A big Little, and other Week 15 transactions

Each week we share insights, analysis, and opinions of the week’s transactions. To see previous posts, click this link and start working back.

The highlight transaction of the week came from a player who didn’t even see the field in 2010 – Rams DE Leonard Little, who retired on Wednesday. Little spent his entire 12-year career with the Rams, piling up 87.5 sacks. While he is primarily known for a drunk-driving incident in his second season that killed a woman, Little remained a Ram throughout his career. He was on the Rams’ Super Bowl winner in 1999 and made a Pro Bowl in 2003, which was one of his double-digit sack seasons. he didn’t play in 2010 and let the Rams know in December that he was hanging up his cleats after a solid career. You can compare Little’s career to the careers of other 2010 retirees in this updated post.

In this week’s other transactions…

Giants (put WR Steve Smith and LB Clint Sintim on injured reserve) – Smith, who has been battling a left knee injury, had to finally give up the ghost and go on injured reserve. It’s a loss to the Giants, but with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham returning to health, at least it comes at a position of strength. Sintim is out for the rest of the season with a torn right ACL.

Vikings (put QB Tarvaris Jackson on injured reserve, add QB Patrick Ramsey) – Jackson suffered turf toe in his first start of the season Monday againts the Giants, and that injury ends not only his season but likely his Vikings tenure. Jackson has talent but has never been consistent enough to be a reliable starter. He could be a high-end backup QB somewhere in 2011, though. Ramsey comes on board to give the Vikings an emergency QB behind the injured Brett Favre and rookie Joe Webb.

Eagles (put DE Brandon Graham on injured reserve, add DE Derrick Burgess) – Graham, the Eagles’ first-round pick out of Michigan, suffered a torn right ACL last week. To replace him, the Eagles bring back Burgess, who spent the first four years of his career as an Eagle. Burgess can still provide a bit of pass-rush pop on occasion and should be a nice fit in a limited role.

Dolphins (put OT Vernon Carey on injured reserve, add WR Kevin Curtis) – Carey, the Dolphins’ standout right tackle, is out with a knee injury. Curtis, the former Ram and Eagle, missed most of the season coming back from testicular cancer that was diagnosed late in the summer. Here’s hoping he completes his comeback with solid play down the stretch.

Texans (put DE Mario Williams on injured reserve, add DE Jarvis Green) – The Texans set down Williams, whose injury recover has been too slow to make it back this season. Green, a long-time Patriot most recently with the Broncos, fills his roster spot.

Titans (put C Eugene Amano and DT Tony Brown on injured reserve) – The bad gets worse in Tennessee, as the Titans lose two starters for the rest of the year.

Redskins (cut P Hunter Smith, add P Sam Paulescu) – Smith, a veteran punter who botched a potential game-tying extra point last Sunday against Tampa Bay, was released in favor of Paulescu. Smith had a lot of good seasons with the Colts, but as a Redskin his punting distance faded as he aged. So it makes sense for the Redskins to bring in a younger guy in Paulescu to see if he can handle the job. Paulescu has punted for four teams, most notably in a 10-game stint with the Cowboys.

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FR: May signings

This post compares free-agent signings from the beginning of the NFL draft to the end of May. For past signings, check out the April signings post and work your way back.

10 – Saints (kept UFA FS Darren Sharper; added LB Clint Ingram and FB Jason McKie) – Sharper returns on another one-year deal after a spectacular first year with the Saints. Sharper not only provided veteran wiles and stability to a secondary that had long been a trouble spot for the Saints; he also was a playmaker who picked off nine passes and returned three of them for touchdowns. Sharper is 34, but he showed he can still perform at a high level in the league. After taking Patrick Robinson in the first round of April’s draft, the Saints could have moved ’09 first-rounder Malcolm Jenkins to free safety, but it’s a far safer bet to spend a couple of million dollars to keep Sharper in place and use Jenkins as a jack of all trades. Eventually, Jenkins will replace Sharper, but the Saints don’t need to be in any hurry to make that switch because Sharper’s play is still superb. Ingram started for the Jaguars last year, but Jacksonville pulled his tender off the table after the draft. After the departure of Scott Fujita, the Saints are thin at outside linebacker, so Ingram becomes a low-cost addition who could conceivably start and hold his own. McKie is a traditional fullback who played well in Chicago but was out when the Bears moved to a Mike Martz offense this offseason.

10 (con’t) – Cardinals (added OG Alan Faneca and CB Justin Miller; kept UFA NT Bryan Robinson) – Faneca, whom the Jets cut just after the draft, now plugs into a system he’s familiar with through head coach Ken Whisenhunt and line coach Russ Grimm, both of whom coached Faneca in Pittsburgh. Faneca, who got a one-year, $2.5 million deal, will actually bring home more cash this year than he would had the Jets held onto him, will be a great leader for the Cards’ line, which has been one of the team’s weaker units in recent years. He’ll give Herman Johnson help developing and will stabilize the interior of the line, and Faneca’s style also fits the run-first persona Whisenhunt is trying to implement in the desert. Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower should high-five team execs for bringing Faneca on board. Robinson is a long-time veteran who will move to a backup role with the arrival of first-rounder Dan Williams. Keeping him around for a year to spell and mentor Williams is a good idea for the Cards. Miller has bounced around in recent years, and he’s not a great defensive player, but he can add some punch to the return game.

9 – none

8 – none

7 – Bengals (added S Gibril Wilson, CB Pacman Jones, and PK Mike Nugent; kept UFA TE Reggie Kelly) – The secondary was a strong suit for the Bengals last year, but they brought in reinforcements. Wilson started for the Dolphins last year, and while he’s not a dynamic player, he’s at least OK. If he starts, he’ll be OK for the Bengals, and the team finally has a good price on a guy who has been overpaid the past two seasons in Oakland and Miami. Cincy also took a shot at Pacman Jones, who didn’t play last season. The former first-round pick has had plenty of off-field problems, but the bigger problem was his mediocre play in Dallas. Nugent, the long-time Jet kicker who filled in with the Cardinals at the end of last year, signed on with Cincy during the draft. He’ll compete against ex-Packer Dave Rayner to replace Shayne Graham. Kelly missed the entire 2009 season with an Achilles injury, but he’s a solid block-first tight end who fits well into Cincy’s run-first approach.

7 (con’t) – Redskins (added WRs Bobby Wade and Joey Galloway, DE Vonnie Holliday, LB Chris Draft, and DT Darrion Scott) – The Redskins are painfully thin at receiver, with Santana Moss aging and Devin Thomas and especially Malcolm Kelly as developmental prospects. So they brought in vets Wade and Galloway to add depth. Galloway no longer has special speed, and he was a bust in New England last year. Wade is not as well known, but he was productive as a Chief last year and could still fit in as a good third or fourth wideout for a contender. Draft is a capable starting linebacker who’s always replaceable but never horrible. He provides a good option for a team moving to a 3-4 in need of linebackers. Scott played for new Skins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett in the UFL last year, and so he could fit in as a backup as Washington moves to a 3-4 defense. Holliday, who played for Denver last year, can step in and start as a 3-4 end. He doesn’t make a ton of plays, but the long-time vet holds up really well against the run.

6 – Broncos (added LB Akin Ayodele and OT Maurice Williams, kept UFA LB Nick Greisen) – Ayodele was a veteran who brought stability but not tons of ability to the Dolphins the last two years. He knows the 3-4, though, and so can replace Andra Davis in the starting lineup. Greisen missed the ’09 season with a knee injury, but Denver’s going to take another look at him as a backup linebacker and special-teams cover guy. With Ryan Clady hurt, the Broncos brought in Williams, a disappointment as a second-round draft pick in Jacksonville who is athletic. Williams provides depth if he can recover his potential.

5 – Seahawks (kept UFA S Lawyer Milloy; added S Quinton Teal and QB J.P. Losman) – Milloy returns for a second season in Seattle, and in doing so he’ll be reunited with his first NFL coach, Pete Carroll, who returns to the pros after nearly a decade at USC. It’s been seven seasons since Milloy starred for the Patriots on their first Super Bowl winning team, but even though Milloy has been on lower-profile teams in Buffalo, Atlanta, and now Seattle, he remained a starter until last season. Milloy should be able to serve as a mentor to first-rounder Earl Thomas, and he provides veteran stability at a position where the only other player with NFL experience is Teal. Keeping Milloy at safety is a safe move that provides a sense of security for Seattle as they seek to develop Thomas into a defensive leader. Teal played some for the Panthers the last three years, but he wasn’t tendered a restricted free-agent contract this offseason.  Teal will provide veteran depth behind rookies Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Losman, a first-round bust in Buffalo, played well in the UFL last year and deserves another shot in the NFL. But he looks like little more than a No. 3 in Seattle behind Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst.

4 – 49ers (added UFA CB William James) – James (formerly known as Will Peterson) started 14 games for the Lions last year and played pretty well, picking off two passes. The nine-year vet steps into a spot that Dre Bly struggled in last year.

4 (con’t) – Patriots (added DT Gerard Warren; kept UFA OLB Derrick Burgess) – Warren, a former No. 3 overall pick in the NFL, never became a huge impact player, but he’s been a regular starter in recent years in Oakland. Now he moves to New England, where he could spell or even play alongside Vince Wilfork. After nine years in the league, Warren isn’t an ideal starter at this point, but he can provide quality as a rotation player. Burgess struggled in his adjustment to New England last year, but he began to produce late in the year with three of his five sacks over the last three games.

3 – Texans (added UFA LB Danny Clark and TE Michael Gaines) – Clark, most recently with the Giants, returns to Houston to help fill the gap after Pro Bowler Brian Cushing was suspended for the first four games of the season. Clark isn’t dynamic, but he makes the plays in front of him, and so he’ll be a dependable option for the Texans until Cushing returns. Gaines is a veteran tight end who faces an uphill battle to make a roster stocked at tight end by Owen Daniels and draft picks Dorin Dickerson and Garrett Graham.

2 – Dolphins (added OG Cory Procter) – Procter isn’t a dynamic player, but he provides nice depth at guard and can start in a pinch. He played OK in Dallas but was let go earlier this month when Dallas rescinded his restricted free agent tender to try to save some money. Procter was a waiver-wire find by Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano in Dallas, so his new team will know what he can do and what he can’t. At the least, Procter will provide insurance in case third-round pick John Jerry needs an adjustment period to the NFL as the Dolphins try to replace the traded Justin Smiley.

2 (con’t) – Jaguars (added LB Freddie Keiaho and LB Teddy Lehman) – Keiaho is a small but speedy linebacker who started two years in Indianapolis but was always a guy the Colts were looking to replace. He wasn’t tendered as a restricted free agent, and now he moves to Jacksonville to compete for a job. Lehman, a former Lion, tries to return to the NFL after playing the UFL last season.

2 (con’t) – Lions (added S C.C. Brown) – Brown started for the Giants much of last year but didn’t play well in that role. But he can help provide depth for the Lions, who have one terrific safety in Louis Delmas but little else at the position. Brown will have to beat out several similarly talented players to win a job, but he at least has a shot of doing so.

1 – Ravens (added CB Travis Fisher) – Fisher has bounced around a ton lately, and he played only part of the year in Seattle last year. But given the Ravens’ problems at cornerback in 2009, it’s worth it for Baltimore to get a look at a guy who has started a bunch of games in the NFL to see if he can help.

1 (con’t) – Browns (added TE Alex Smith and PK Shaun Suisham) – Smith played for the Eagles last year, and he still has a bit of ability as a receiver. Smith will fight for a backup job behind free-agent addition Ben Watson in Cleveland. Suisham is a low-level NFL kicker, but he provides insurance in case the Browns can’t work out Phil Dawson’s contract situation.

1 (con’t) – Cowboys (kept UFA OG Montrae Holland) – Holland didn’t play at all for the Cowboys last year, but the team still brought him back as veteran depth on the offensive line. He’s a marginal backup who knows the system, but if he plays it’ll be a sign of trouble in Dallas.

1 (con’t) – Raiders (added FB Rock Cartwright, RB Michael Bennett, and OG Daniel Loper) – Cartwright, a long-time Redskin, got cut in Washington’s RB overhaul. Now he moves to Oakland, where he’ll provide depth behind Darren McFadden and Michael Bush at running back and behind Luke Lawton (who’ll miss the first two games of the season) at fullback. Cartwright can also return kicks, which helps his chances to stick. Bennett, a former first-round pick, will have to show he still has speed to stick around. Loper started five games for Detroit last year but is better as a backup at guard.

1 (con’t) – Bears (add LB Brian Iwuh) – Iwuh spent four years with the Jaguars, mostly as a backup outside linebacker. He comes in to provide depth on defense and special teams, perhaps filling the role that Jamar Williams had before he was traded to Carolina.

1 (con’t) – Bills (added RB Chad Simpson) – Simpson, an ex-Colt, can provide a little burst in the return game, but he’s not good enough to beat out C.J. Spiller or Fred Jackson or Marshawn Lynch for many carries on offense.

1 (con’t) – Packers (added CB Charlie Peprah) – Peprah, who played in Green Bay from 2006-08, returns to the Pack after a year in Atlanta. He’s got a chance to claim the team’s last CB roster spot.

1 (con’t) – Panthers (added TE Jamie Petrowski) – Petrowski missed the ’09 season with the Colts due to injury, but the block-first tight end gets a chance now to come back in Carolina.

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Free-Agency Preview: Class of the class

As the free-agent market opens (midnight eastern Friday morning), I thought I’d list the cream of the crop (as I see it) at every position. I’m not a scout, so I probably am leaving some people out, but here’s a pretty good list by position. I’ve only included players that are unrestricted on the market, so that eliminates all the restricted free agents as well as the franchise players.

Quarterback – Chad Pennington (Mia.), Jake Delhomme (Car.) – Pennington is the only quarterback in the market I’d consider as an option for a training-camp competition, because he’s consistent and accurate, but Delhomme could find a similiar role.

Running back – Thomas Jones (NYJ), Chester Taylor (Minn.), Ladell Betts (Wash.) – At age 32, Jones shouldn’t get a long-term deal, but he’s a fine option for 2010. Taylor is a good fit in two-RB sets because he’s a good blocker and receiver who can also carry the load when necessary. Both are better at this point than recent releases and fellow over-30 running backs LaDanian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, or Jamal Lewis. Betts becomes an under-the-radar choice as a No. 2 back after being released by the Redskins.

Wide receiver – Antonio Bryant (TB), Derrick Mason (Balt.), Kevin Walter (Hou.), Nate Burleson (Sea.), Terrell Owens (Buff.), Torry Holt (Jax.), Kassim Osgood (S.D.) – Bryant is wildly inconsistent, but he’s the only guy in this group with the potential of being a No. 1 receiver. Mason is still a dependable guy who fits as a No. 2 receiver, and Walter can make some plays in that kind of role as well. Burleson is a little too up-and-down to be a No. 2, but he is a nice option. Owens’ skills are declining to the point that he’s barely a No. 2., and the same is true for Holt. Osgood, a special-teams ace, never got much run at receiver for the Chargers, but he’s big and fast, which may lead someone to give him a chance he hasn’t yet had in the NFL.

Tight end – Ben Watson (NE), Brandon Manumaleuna (SD) – Watson is inconsistent, but he can be a passing-game threat. Manumaleuna is a big, sturdy blocking tight end who would fit as a nice piece with Mike Martz’s new Chicago system or perhaps a Wildcat team.

Center – Kevin Mawae (Tenn.), Casey Rabach (Wash.) – Mawae and Rabach are both veterans who still perform acceptably but won’t get long-term deals. Still, a team with a short-term need has options.

Guard – Bobbie Williams (Cin.), Rex Hadnot (Cle.), Stephen Neal (NE), Keydrick Vincent (Car.) – Williams is a big guard who’s good in the run game and OK in pass protection. At age 33, he’s not in his prime, but he’s got a few good years left. Vincent, who started the last two years in Carolina, is a similar player whose performance is a tick below that of Williams. Hadnot isn’t great, but he’s still a good player who is an acceptable NFL starter. Neal is undersized compared to the other massive guards in this group, but he’s still an above-average player as well. None of these guys will get overpaid, but a couple of them at least should get multi-year deals.

Offensive tackle – Mike Gandy (Ariz.), Chad Clifton (GB), Barry Sims (SF), Tra Thomas (Jax.) – There’s little to no tackle help to be found, as Clifton and Thomas are on their last legs and Sims is a fill-in at best. Gandy is probably the best option. He’s started at left tackle for the Cardinals the last three years, and while he’s better in the run game than in pass protection, he gets by. And at age 31, he’s still an acceptable starting option going forward.

Kicker – Neil Rackers (Ariz.), Shayne Graham (Cin.) – Neither Rackers nor Graham had his best year, but both have been solid in recent campaigns. They could provide an upgrade for teams with inconsistent young kickers. Cundiff

Defensive ends (4-3) – Julius Peppers (Car.), Aaron Kampman (GB), Kyle Vanden Bosch (Tenn.), Charles Grant (NO), Adewale Ogunleye (Chi.), Leonard Little (STL), Tyler Brayton (Car.), Ryan Denney (Buff.)  – This is perhaps the most stacked position in free agency, and Peppers of course is the class of the group. Although he’s 30, he’s still a premium pass rusher, and as a player who has been known for so-so effort, he could be reinvigorated by a change of venue. He’ll get the biggest deal in this free agent market. For teams that miss out on Peppers, Kampman and Vanden Bosch are nice options. Both still have a little pass rushing juice and are sturdy vs. the run. Grant never lived up to his potential as a first-rounder, but he has talent and could get a look as a fresh-start candidate. Ogunleye is a formerly productive pass rusher who has moved into the solid but unspectacular part of his career, while Little is probably just a situational pass rusher at this point. Brayton is a solid run-stopper but not much of a sack man. Denney is like Brayton but even older.

Defensive ends (3-4) – Dwan Edwards (Balt.), Justin Bannan (Balt.), Jarvis Green (NE), Vonnie Holliday (Den.) – The Ravens reportedly want to keep both Edwards and Bannan, who are key rotation players on their front 3, but it’s likely that at least one of those guys will get a big deal elsewhere. Edwards could be one of the big winners in this free-agent market. Green and Holliday are veterans who are solid 3-4 ends and great options for teams looking to fill a rotation spot.

Defensive tackles (4-3) – Tank Johnson (Cin.), Damione Lewis (Car.), Jimmy Kennedy (Minn.), Fred Robbins (NYG) – Johnson is well known for his legal problems, but he was on his best behavior last year in Cincinnati, and he played well too. He’s the best 4-3 tackle on the market by far. Kennedy, a former bust with the Rams, showed some flashes as a backup tackle who can slash into the backfield on occasion. Robbins is more of a fill-in who could fit as a fourth tackle at a veteran minimum salary. Lewis, a late cut, is a pretty productive slashing tackle but is more effective as a backup than a full-time starter.

Nose tackles (3-4) – Jason Ferguson (Mia.), Hollis Thomas (Car.), Maake Kemeoatu (Car.), Jamal Williams (SD) – All of these guys are long in the tooth, but they can plug the nose. With so many nose tackles franchised this year, this is a scarce position, and that may help their marketability. Kemeoatu is the youngest of the group, but he’s coming back from a major Achilles injury. Williams and Ferguson are more accomplished, but health and age are big concerns.

Outside linebackers (3-4) – Joey Porter (Mia.), Jason Taylor (Mia.), Tully Banta-Cain (NE), Derrick Burgess (NE) – The outside pass rushers are all veterans. Porter had 26.5 sacks over the past two years and is still a quality pass rusher. Taylor has slipped a little below that level, but he’s still a quality situational rusher. Banta-Cain had just 12.5 sacks in his first six seasons, but he had 10 for the Patriots last year in what was either a breakout season or a fluke. Some team may outbid the Patriots hoping for the former. Burgess is the consolation prize in this group.

Linebackers – Karlos Dansby (Ariz.), Gary Brackett (Ind.), Keith Bulluck (Tenn.), Antonio Pierce (NYG), Scott Fujita (NO) – Dansby is another prize in this market. He’s a 3-4 inside backer who’s big enough to play on the strong side in the 4-3, and he’s a playmaker with great range at both spots. He’ll get a huge deal somewhere. Brackett is more of a system player, but he’s an impactful 4-3 middle linebacker despite being undersized. Bulluck has been a terrific weak-side linebacker in the 4-3 for many years, but at his age he’s starting to slip. Still, he’s a good starting option who would also be a great leader. Fujita isn’t the athlete Bulluck is, but he’s also a starting-quality player. Pierce has been a top 4-3 middle ‘backer, but injuries are a huge concern. But if he can pass a physical, he can help a team.

Cornerbacks – Dunta Robinson (Hou.), Leigh Bodden (NE), Lito Sheppard (NYJ), William James (Det.) – Robinson has talent, but his production last year didn’t match his franchise-player salary. He’s not a shut-down corner, but he is a talent who will make good money. Bodden had a solid year with New England, repeating some of the success he had in Cleveland. His year in Detroit was a bust, but on the whole he’s proven his worth. James is a veteran who’s good enough to start, although he’ll need help over the top. Still, corner desperate teams could do worse than James. Sheppard is a talent who thinks more of himself than his play merits, but he’s still a top-3 cornerback for most teams if he’s willing to take a role instead of star.

Safeties – Antrell Rolle (Ariz.), Ryan Clark (Pitt.), Darren Sharper (NO), Mike Brown (KC), Jermaine Phillips (TB) – Rolle is a big-time play maker with great range and great size who is hitting the market because his contract is outsized. But he’s one of the few impact players on the market, and that should lead to a pay day. Clark is a big-hitting strong safety who has limited range but still has made big plays for the Steelers in recent years. Sharper had a big impact on the Saints in ’09, but his age makes a long-term contract unwise. Still, Sharper can help. If a team is looking for veteran wiles but can’t get Sharper, Brown and Phillips are options.

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Jersey Numbers: Linebackers

This is our next to last post choosing the best players at each position by jersey number. If you have quibbles, leave a comment and we’ll update this post. And please have patience – this is a big job.

We started this project with wide receivers in this post and then with tight ends in this post and quarterbacks in this post and running backs in this post and offensive linemen in this post and kickers/punters in this post and defensive linemen in this post. Now we move to linebackers, who can wear numbers in the 50s and the 90s with a few exceptions. If a number is omitted, it’s because no linebacker who has played this season wears those digits.

46 – Vinny Ciurciu, Lions – Ciurciu is the only linebacker currently wearing 46. He has played in six games this year, seeing most of his action on special teams. Now with his fourth team, Ciurciu also has a good locker-room nickname (see the bottom of the linked post).

47 – Brit Miller, 49ers – Miller is the only linebacker currently wearing 47. The rookie out of Illinois has played in two games this season.

49 – Zack Follett, Lions – Follett is the only linebacker currently wearing 49. The rookie out of Cal has played in nine games this year, mostly on special teams.

50 – Curtis Lofton, Falcons – Lofton, a second-year middle linebacker, has emerged as a tackle machine for the Falcons. His growth allowed the Dirty Birds to let stalwart Keith Brooking leave via free agency, and now it’s Lofton who will lead Atlanta’s defense for years to come. Lofton is tied for second in the NFL with 118 tackles. We give him the nod over OLB Mike Vrabel, who had great years in New England and is now a veteran leader in Kansas City. Other notable 50s: Russell Allen, Jaguars; James Anderson, Panthers; K.C. Asiodu, Rams; Antwan Barnes, Ravens; Eric Barton, Browns; Monty Beisel, Cardinals; Rocky Boiman, Steelers; Diyral Briggs, 49ers; Isaiah Ekejiuba, Raiders; Vernon Gholston, Jets; A.J. Hawk, Packers; Erin Henderson, Vikings; Lance Laury, Seahawks; Matt McCoy, Buccaneers; Marvin Mitchell, Saints; Rob Ninkovich, Patriots; Ernie Sims, Lions; David Thornton, Titans; Erik Walden, Dolphins; Philip Wheeler, Colts; Will Witherspoon, Eagles

51 – Barrett Ruud, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Ruud has emerged as a do-everything middle linebacker for the Buccaneers, and he’s one of the few bright spots on the team’s defense. He’s fifth in the league with 113 tackles and also has six passes defensed. He gets the nod over Jonathan Vilma of New Orleans, who may be better in pass coverage. Also worth mentioning are long-time veterans Keith Brooking of Dallas, James Farrior of Pittsburgh, and Takeo Spikes of the 49ers; youngsters Jerod Mayo of the Patriots and Paul Posluszny of Buffalo; and injured Seahawks MLB Lofa Tatupu. Other notable 51s: Brendon Ayanbadejo, Ravens; Akin Ayodele, Dolphins; Tim Diles, Chargers; Ryan Fowler, Jets; Tony Gilbert, Falcons; Alex Hall, Browns; Clint Ingram, Colts; Ben Leber, Vikings; Corey Mays, Chiefs; Joe Mays, Eagles; Gerald McRath, Titans; Brady Poppinga, Packers; Dan Skuta, Bengals; Chaun Thompson, Texans

52 – Ray Lewis, Ravens – This is a loaded number that features Pro Bowl-caliber linebackers in Carolina MLB Jon Beason, San Francisco MLB Patrick Willis, and Jets ILB David Harris, but Lewis gets the nod for his long, productive career that continues at a very high level. Other notable youngsters include rookie Clay Matthews of Green Bay, Kirk Morrison of Oakland, Daryl Smith of Jacksonville, and injured Browns ILB D’Qwell Jackson. Other notable 52s: Xavier Adibi, Texans; Eric Alexander, Patriots;  Michael Boley, Giants; Cody Brown, Cardinals; Jonathan Casillas, Saints; Channing Crowder, Dolphins; Chris Draft, Bills; Larry English, Chargers; Cody Glenn, Colts; Chad Greenway, Vikings; David Herron, Chiefs; Abdul Hodge, Bengals; D.D. Lewis, Seahawks;  Rocky McIntosh, Redskins; Jamar Williams, Bears; Coy Wire, Falcons

53 – Keith Bulluck, Titans – Bulluck has long been the emotional leader of the Titans’ defense, and he remains a solid sideline-to-sideline player. His three interceptions tie him for the lead among linebackers, and his 10 passes defensed place him second at the position. He’s also among the top 10 in tackles for linebackers. That’s enough to give him the nod over Atlanta’s Mike Peterson, another long-time, solid performer. Other notable 53s: Marcus Buggs, Bills; Derrick Burgess, Patriots; Khary Campbell, Texans; Na’il Diggs, Panthers; Moise Fokou, Eagles; Clark Haggans, Cardinals; James Holt, Chargers; Thomas Howard, Raiders; Larry Izzo, Jets; Rashad Jeanty, Bengals; Bryan Kehl, Giants; Niko Koutouvides, Buccaneers; Paris Lenon, Rams; Jameel McClain, Ravens; Tyrone McKenzie, Patriots; Steve Octavien, Cowboys; Nick Roach, Bears; Matt Roth, Browns; Mark Simoneau, Saints; Bryan Smith, Jaguars; Reggie Torbor, Dolphins; Jeff Ulbrich, 49ers; Demorrio Williams, Chiefs

54 – Andra Davis, Broncos – This number lost its stalwart when Brian Urlacher of Chicago was knocked out for the season. So among a group of solid if unspectacular inside linebackers, we’ll give Davis the nod for his contributions (72 tackles, 3.5 sacks) in reinvigorating the Denver defense. Other contenders were Chargers ILB Stephen Cooper and Titans MLB Stephen Tulloch. Other notable 54s: H.B. Blades, Redskins; Jasper Brinkley, Vikings; Prescott Burgess, Ravens; Bobby Carpenter, Cowboys; Brandon Chillar, Packers; Blake Costanzo, Browns; Kenwin Cummings, Jets; Zac Diles, Texans; Troy Evans, Saints; Andre Frazier, Steelers; Jonathan Goff, Giants; Nic Harris, Bills; Geno Hayes, Buccaneers; Gerald Hayes, Cardinals; Will Herring, Seahawks; Freddie Keiaho, Colts; DeAndre Levy, Lions; Stephen Nicholas, Falcons; Jeremiah Trotter, Eagles; Tracy White, Eagles; Sam Williams, Raiders

55 – Terrell Suggs, Ravens – This is a tough call, because Suggs has just 3.5 sacks this season and has missed three games. But on the whole, he’s the most complete linebacker at this position, because he can be a dynamite pass rusher and also do well against the run and in coverage. I’d rather have Suggs that Miami OLB Joey Porter, who has eight sacks thus far this season, or Chicago’s playmaking WLB Lance Briggs, who stars in the featured position in the old Tampa 2 defense the Bears run. Other solid vets wearing 55 include Detroit’s Larry Foote and Denver’s D.J. Williams, while youngsters Clint Session of Indianapolis and James Laurinaitis of St. Louis deserve mention as well. Other notable 55s: Jon Alston, Raiders; Patrick Bailey, Steelers; Desmond Bishop, Packers; Alvin Bowen, Redskins; Stewart Bradley, Eagles; Ahmad Brooks, 49ers; Danny Clark, Giants; Dan Connor, Panthers; Scott Fujita, Saints; Stephen Hodge, Cowboys; Kawika Mitchell, Bills; Kenny Onatolu, Vikings; Keith Rivers, Bengals; Justin Rogers, Chiefs; Junior Seau, Patriots; Reggie Walker, Cardinals; Jamaal Westerman, Jets

56 – Brian Cushing, Texans – It’s hard to imagine giving a rookie like Cushing the honor at a highly populated number like this one, but Cushing has earned it. He’s sixth among linebackers with 116 tackles and also has 2.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 12 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles, and a safety. That’s huge impact that earns him the nod over Shawne Merriman of San Diego, who isn’t the same after last season’s knee injury, pass-rushing stud LaMarr Woodley of Pittsburgh, and solid all-around players Nick Barnett of Green Bay and Bradie James of Dallas. Other notable 56s: Colin Allred, Titans; Charlie Anderson, Dolphins; Robert Ayers, Broncos; Quinton Culbertson, Panthers; Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Saints; Justin Durant, Jaguars; Keith Ellison, Bills; Tavares Gooden, Ravens; Tyjuan Hagler, Colts; E.J. Henderson, Vikings; Leroy Hill, Seahawks; Derrick Johnson, Chiefs; Akeem Jordan, Eagles; Kaluka Maiava, Browns; Scott McKillop, 49ers; David Nixon, Raiders; Chike Okeafor, Cardinals; Rod Wilson, Buccaneers

57 – Bart Scott, Jets – New Jets head coach Rex Ryan brought Scott with him from Baltimore as a high-dollar free agent to be the emotional leader and scheme expert in the middle of Gang Green’s defense. Scott has played fine for the Jets, but over the year it’s been fellow ILB David Harris who has emerged as a top-tier player. Still, Scott gets the nod over veteran Dhani Jones of Cincinnati and David Hawthorne, who’s having a terrific season as a fill-in starter at middle linebacker for Seattle. Other notable 57s: Stanley Arnoux, Saints; Kevin Bentley, Texans; Chase Blackburn, Giants; Ricky Brown, Raiders; Victor Butler, Cowboys; Chris Chamberlain, Saints; Jon Corto, Bills; Jordon Dizon, Lions; Keyaron Fox, Steelers; Chris Gocong, Eagles; Mario Haggan, Broncos; Adam Hayward, Buccaneers; Jordan Senn, Panthers; David Veikune, Browns; Matt Wilhelm, 49ers

58 – Karlos Dansby, Cardinals – It’s hard to imagine a better physical specimen at outside linebacker than Dansby, who is a leader on a strong Cardinals defense. He gets the nod over Gary Brackett, an undersized middle linebacker at the heart of the Colts defense. Other notable 58s: Marcus Benard, Browns; Quincy Black, Buccaneers; Thomas Davis, Panthers; Marques Harris, Chargers; Robert Henson, Redskins; Rey Maualuga, Bengals; Slade Norris, Raiders; Antonio Pierce, Giants; Scott Shanle, Saints; Tim Shaw, Bears; David Vobora, Rams; Jason Williams, Cowboys; Pierre Woods, Patriots

59 – London Fletcher, Redskins – Fletcher doesn’t have ideal size, but year after year he is a leader, a reliable tackler, and a playmaker, no matter what team he’s playing for. He’s a great success story as an undrafted player. He gets the nod over Julian Peterson of Detroit and DeMeco Ryans of Houston. Other notable 59s: Spencer Adkins, Falcons; Jovan Belcher, Chiefs; Angelo Crowell, Buccaneers; Aaron Curry, Seahawks; Dannell Ellerbe, Ravens; Heath Farwell, Vikings; Larry Grant, Rams; Gary Guyton, Patriots; Ramon Humber, Colts; Brian Iwuh, Jaguars; Brandon Johnson, Bengals; Landon Johnson, Panthers; Brad Jones, Packers; Cato June, Bears; Stanford Keglar, Titans; Ashlee Palmer, Bills; Brandon Siler, Chargers; Pisa Tinoisamoa, Bears; Gerris Wilkerson, Giants; Brandon Williams, Cowboys; Wesley Woodyard, Broncos

74 – Aaron Kampman, Packers – Kampman, who moved from defensive end to outside ‘backer this season as Green Bay implemented a 3-4 defense, kept his old D-lineman number. Kampman didn’t have a great transition season, with just 3.5 sacks in nine games before suffering a season-ending injury. But he’s still a good player, and he’s the only linebacker wearing 74, so he merits a mention.

90 – No linebackers wearing 90 have played a game this season.

91 – Tamba Hali, Chiefs – Hali is emerging as a solid pass rusher in Kansas City, with 7.5 sacks thus far this season. He gets the nod at this number over Cameron Wake, Miami’s CFL import who has 5.5 sacks in his first NFL season.

92 – Elvis Dumervil, Broncos – In one of the toughest calls of this whole project, we’re going with Dumervil, the NFL leader with 15 sacks, over 2008 Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison of Pittsburgh. Both guys play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, and both add the fright factor to their respective defenses. But while Harrison may be a better player in pass coverage, Dumervil is having a defensive player of the year caliber campaign in Denver, and so for 2009 we have to opt for him. Other notable 92s: Bertrand Berry, Cardinals; Hunter Hillenmeyer, Bears

93 – Anthony Spencer, Cowboys – Spencer has been a disappointment at outside ‘backer since the Cowboys made him a first-round pick three years ago, but as a full-time player he gets the nod over Jason Trusnik, who has moved into the starting lineup in Cleveland after a midseason trade from the Jets.

94 – DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys – Ware is a preeminent pass rusher with nine sacks this year and 62.5 in five seasons so far. Also deserving mention is Lawrence Timmons, an emerging inside ‘backer for the Steelers. Other notable 94s: Arnold Harrison, Browns; Marques Murrell, Jets; Jyles Tucker, Chargers

95 – Shaun Phillips, Chargers – In a close call, the nod here goes to Phillips, a pass-rushing outside ‘backer who has seven sacks for San Diego, over Cleveland OLB Kamerion Wimbley, who has 6.5 sacks. The six fumbles Phillips has forced was the determining factor. We’ll also shout out to Baltimore’s Jarret Johnson, another emerging pass-rusher. Other notable 95s: Tully Banta-Cain, Patriots; Ali Highsmith, Cardinals

96 – David Bowens, Browns – Bowens came with Eric Mangini from the Jets to Cleveland. He has long been an above-average pass-rushing outside ‘backer, and he has five sacks in that role this season. He gets the nod over declining Patriot Adalius Thomas. Other notable 96s: Omar Gaither, Eagles; Andy Studebaker, Chiefs

97 – Calvin Pace, Jets – Pace missed the first four games of the season due to a performance-enhancing drug suspension, but since returning he has continued to provide pass rush off the edge with six sacks. Other notable 97s: Clint Sintim, Giants; Pierre Walters, Chiefs

98 – Brian Orakpo, Redskins – Orakpo, Washington’s first-round pick, has 11 sacks in his rookie season, including four last week against Oakland. That’s the kind of defensive jolt Washington was hoping for when it drafted him. Other notable 98s: Shawn Crable, Patriots; Parys Haralson, 49ers; Darrell McClover, Bears

99 – Jason Taylor, Dolphins – Taylor spent most of his career as a 4-3 defensive end, but he has seamlessly made the transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker over the last few years. After a slow season in his one campaign in Washington, Taylor has six sacks this year for Miami, giving him 126.5 in his 13-year career. Other notable 99s: Kevin Burnett, Chargers; Paul Kruger, Ravens; Manny Lawson, 49ers; Bryan Thomas, Jets; Jeremy Thompson, Packers

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FR: Training Camp Trades

This post compares the trades that happened during training camp. As usual, we’re using a 10-point scale to compare, with the 10 level being the most important trades and the 1 level being the least important.

Check this post for a look at trades from the draft until the beginning of training camp and this post for a look at trades from earlier in the offseason.

10 – Raiders acquire DE Richard Seymour from the Patriots for 2011 1st-round pick – Seymour was once the best 3-4 defensive end in football, and when he played on that level he was the best player on New England’s championship defenses this decade. But his play has declined in recent years, in large part due to injury, and now at age 30 he’s no longer an impact player. That explains why the Patriots, who have also lost long-time defensive stalwarts like Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, and Rodney Harrison this offseason, were willing to surrender Seymour. He should bring a veteran influence to Oakland, although Raider-land is often immune to that kind of positive osmosis (just ask Warren Sapp). The Raiders are paying a high price, giving up a 2011 first-rounder for a guy with just one year left on his contract. So Seymour had better deliver for them on the field and in the locker room, or else this will go down as a major fleecing. The ironic thing is that this trade was made possible when the Patriots got Derrick Burgess from the Raiders earlier in camp. When you look at the trade as Seymour and third- and fifth-round picks in exchange for Burgess and a 2011 first-rounder, the deal swings even more heavily in New England’s favor.

9 – Patriots acquire DE Derrick Burgess from the Raiders for 2010 3rd- and 5th-draft picks – Burgess, who had 38.5 sacks in his four years in Oakland but only 3.5 last year, had become disgruntled as a Raider, and so he’s been seeking a trade all offseason and into training camp. He finally landed in New England (as had long been rumored) in exchange for 3rd- and 5th-round draft picks in 2010. Burgess fits in New England as a situational pass rusher but not much more. Still, given the veteran nature of the Pats’ roster, and given the luck New England has had with Raiders castoffs like Randy Moss, we can count on Burgess finding a nice niche and filling his role well. For the Raiders, a third-round pick, even two years out, is fair value for a player of Burgess’ caliber and age.

8 – none

7 – Jaguars acquire QB Luke McCown from Buccaneers for 2010 fifth- or sixth-round pick – McCown thought earlier this offseason that he would be the starter in Tampa this year, but after the Bucs signed Byron Leftwich and drafted Josh Freeman, McCown became a spare part. Now he moves to Jacksonville, where he has a chance to beat out Todd Bouman and become David Garrard’s main backup. That kind of stability is worth a late-round pick to the Jags.

6 – Chiefs acquire OLs Ike Ndukwe and Andy Alleman from Dolphins for undisclosed draft pick(s) – The Chiefs, who are in the midst of rebuilding an offensive line that had gotten old, looked to Miami for reinforcements. Ndukwe, who was cut by the Redskins in ’06 and the Ravens in ’07, found a home with the Dolphins last year, starting 15 games at guard. The Dolphins were looking at him as a tackle this year, but he projects as a starting guard in K.C. Alleman started four games at guard for the Dolphins last year, so he’ll have a shot at competing for a job with the Chiefs, but he looks more like a backup interior lineman than a future starter.

5 – Chargers acquire DT Travis Johnson from Texans for conditional late-round 2010 pick – Johnson, a former first-round pick, never panned out as an impact player in Houston. He was a starter at defensive tackle the last two years, but he hasn’t been enough of a take-on player to mitigate his lack of impact (two career sacks, one career interception). The talent that made Johnson a first-round pick intrigued San Diego, which can try Johnson as a 3-4 end. That role might fit his talent better, because it will allow him to be a space-holder who makes it easier for the linebackers behind him to shake free and make plays. That potential made it worth a sixth-round pick (which can become a fifth-rounder based on Johnson’s playing time) for the Chargers.

5 (con’t) – Falcons acquire CB Tye Hill from Rams for 2010 seventh-round pick – Hill, a former first-round pick, will have a chance to compete for a cornerback role in Atlanta. He has great speed but never really seemed to get the coverage concept down in St. Louis. Still, he has talent, and so he’s worth a shot for the nominal price.

4 – Broncos acquire OG Russ Hochstein from Broncos for undisclosed late-round 2010 pick – Hochstein has been a long-time backup for the Patriots, starting just 20 games since 2002 but playing in at least 13 games every full season he’s been there. He’ll bring a veteran presence and some versatility to the Broncos. Denver head coach Josh McDaniels knows what he’s getting in Hochstein, and he’s likely matching what he knows about the player to what he knows about his team. Hochstein will make the Broncos and contribute somehow. But if he starts more than in spot duty, it’s a sign that the Broncos’ line depth is lacking

4 (con’t) – Lions acquire S Ko Simpson from Bills for undisclosed 2010 draft choice – Simpson, a former second-round pick, hasn’t lived up to his billing, though he started most of the ’08 season. He hasn’t proven he can be an impact player in the secondary, but he is a solid tackler. Still, he’s an upgrade for a Lions team that remains desperate for upgrades in talent from roster spots 2 through 53. (They’re set with Calvin Johnson.) Simpson, even if he is a backup and special-teamer, could help. And there must have been other interest in him, or else the Lions would have simply waited to grab Simpson off waivers.

3 – Ravens trade DB Derrick Martin to Packers for OT Tony Moll – Martin, a sixth-round pick in 2006, is a big hitter who didn’t really fit at corner for the Ravens and who didn’t make the transition to safety seamlessly. Still, he has potential, and the Packers wanted to give him a try. In exchange, they dealt Moll to the Ravens. He fits a need area because Baltimore needs some backup tackle stability.

3 (con’t) – Saints acquire TE David Thomas from Patriots for undisclosed 2011 draft pick – Thomas, a former third-round pick, is a strong pass-catcher, but not much of a blocker. The Patriots wanted more blocking, and so they let Thomas go to the Saints, which need a second tight end after losing Billy Miller for the season. Thomas could find a role and make some key catches for the Saints pretty quickly.

3 (con’t) – Panthers acquire DT Louis Leonard from Browns for undisclosed 2011 draft pick – After Maake Kemeoatu went down for the season with an Achilles injury, the Panthers had little depth at defensive tackle. That’s where Leonard comes in. After bouncing around the league in ’07, he found a home in Cleveland last year, playing every game and starting four. He might not start in Carolina, but if he can fit into the DT rotation, this trade is worth it for the Panthers.

2 – Patriots acquire TE Michael Matthews from Giants for conditional draft pick – As they were trading Thomas, the Patriots needed a blocking tight end, which is why they spent a draft pick on Matthews. Matthews had played every game for the Giants over the past two years, so he’s a dependable blocker who fits a role for the Pats.

2 (con’t) – Jets acquire QB Kevin O’Connell from Lions for undisclosed draft pick – O’Connell, the Patriots third-rounder, was released late in training camp and claimed on waivers by the Lions even though they didn’t have a roster spot for them. Now we know that the Lions were trying to flip O’Connell, taking advantage of the waiver priority they got by going 0-16 by claiming O’Connell just to get a draft pick in exchange for him. For the Jets, O’Connell becomes a third quarterback and an insider on the Patriots offense who can help in game-planning a couple of times a year. And the Lions get a pick to help to replace the one they dealt for Simpson. The only loser in the deal is the Patriots, who might have been able to get that pick themselves if they had been a little more patient in negotiations.

1 – Broncos acquire DE LeKevin Smith and a 2010 7th-round pick from the Patriots for a 2010 5th-round pick – Smith had played 28 games over the past two years in New England, but he was a bottom-of-the-rotation guy whose roster spot became questionable when the Patriots added Derrick Burgess. So they dealt him to Denver, which now runs a similar defensive system and needs all the DL help and depth it can find. Smith will make the Broncos, which makes the draft pick worth it to Denver. Meanwhile, the Patriots offset part of the price they paid the Raiders for Burgess, and only lose a guy whom they probably would have cut anyway. That’s a win for the Pats as well.

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Training Camp Moves – Week 2

This post is a compilation of additions NFL teams made during the second full week of camps. The timetable for this post opens on August 1 and continues through August 6. You can read a summary of the first week of training camp moves here, and follow past offseason moves from there. Because moves will be coming fast and furious throughout training camp, we’re going to use quick analysis of moves each week during this time instead of creating a massive Football Relativity comparison.

Additions

Seahawks (add CB Travis Fisher and OGs Cory Withrow and Grey Ruegamer) – After cutting ’08 starter Mike Wahle, the Seahawks went looking for interior offensive line depth. Withrow and Ruegamer are both veteran hands, and it apepars that they’ll be fighting it out for one job (at best). Fisher provides depth at an already-deep position, but with Marcus Trufant battling a back injury, Seattle went for some insurance.

Eagles (add LBs Matt Wilhelm and Jason Babin) – When starting MLB Stewart Bradley went out, the Eagles faced a huge gap in the middle. They were fortunate that Wilhelm, a starter in San Diego, was on the market. Wilhelm isn’t an impact guy, but he’s big and can at least help stuff the run. He’ll be moving from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, which could cause some problems, but it’s worth a shot for Philly to see if Wilhelm can adjust and contribute as a two-down player. There probably wasn’t anybody else on the market as good as Wilhelm, so props to Philly for getting this deal done immediately after Bradley’s injury. Babin, a former first-round pick in Houston, has potential as a pass rusher but has never really realized it. Still, he’s worth a look – especially in Philly’s attacking D.

Falcons (add LB Jamie Winborn and WRs Robert Ferguson and Marty Booker) – After losing Keith Brooking to free agency in the offseason, the Falcons wanted a veteran hand in their LB corps. That’s what Winborn brings, along with Mike Peterson. Winborn probably fits in best as Curtis Lofton’s backup at middle linebacker, but he could step into the strong-side role if Peterson were to get hurt. This is a move designed to bring depth, and it should do just that. Ferguson never really broke out as a receiver in Green Bay or Minnesota, but he’s a veteran who can slip into the No. 3 or No. 4 spot in the ATL now that Harry Douglas is out for the year. With Douglas out and Roddy White holding out, the Falcons desperately needed depth, and Ferguson can provide that. The fact that Ferguson can help on special teams as well should help secure him a spot on the regular-season roster. Booker has had a more accomplished career than Ferguson, but his size and lack of speed makes him a lot like current Falcons wideout Brian Finneran. So unless Booker shows a burst he hasn’t featured in recent years, he’s a long shot to make it.

Chiefs (add WR Amani Toomer and QB Matt Gutierrez) – Toomer, the long-time Giant, no longer has any kind of breakaway speed, but he catches the ball when it’s thrown to him. It seems a little strange to have both Toomer and Bobby Engram on the same roster, which could lead to a release down the line. But if Mark Bradley doesn’t continue to emerge, then Toomer is a solid insurance policy. Probably the best-case scenario for the Chiefs is to have Toomer as their No. 4 receiver who can fill in outside if Bradley or Dwayne Bowe has to miss time. Relying on Toomer for more than that could prove to be a mistake. Gutierrez is good enough to be on a roster, but it didn’t make much sense for the Patriots to have two inexperienced backups behind Tom Brady. That appears to be why Gutierrez lost his spot there to Andrew Walter. The Chiefs claimed Gutierrez on waivers to be their third quarterback, which makes sense because he’s coming from the same system as starter Matt Cassel. Gutierrez still has potential, and the fact that new Chiefs GM Scott Pioli knows him reveals the logic behind the move. He’ll upgrade the Chiefs at the No. 3 QB spot and could even make trading promising backup Tyler Thigpen an option at some point before 2010.

Patriots (add DE Derrick Burgess and QB Andrew Walter) – Burgess, who had 38.5 sacks in his four years in Oakland but only 3.5 last year, had become disgruntled as a Raider, and so he’s been seeking a trade all offseason and into training camp. He finally landed in New England (as had long been rumored) in exchange for 3rd- and 5th-round draft picks in 2011 (according to Mike Lombardi). Burgess fits in New England as a situational pass rusher but not much more. Still, given the veteran nature of the Pats’ roster, and given the luck New England has had with Raiders castoffs like Randy Moss, we can count on Burgess finding a nice niche and filling his role well. Walter is a former third-round pick, but his potential never revealed itself during his starts in Oakland. Still, he has a good arm, and his experience provides a better balance to backup Kevin O’Connell than Matt Gutierrez’ raw ability did.

Texans (add CB Deltha O’Neal and RB Andre Hall) – With Dunta Robinson holding out and Jacque Reeves out for more than a month, the Texans were in dire need of cornerback help. O’Neal is a veteran who can attack the ball but also gets burned at times. Still, he can help enough to be worth a look in Houston’s hour of need. Hall has shown flashes of ability in the past, and he has played in a system like Houston’s in Denver, so he could get noticed in the preseason.

Cardinals (add C Melvin Fowler) – Fowler, a center who was most recently with the Bills, is an experienced hand who should provide some stability as a backup. He won’t beat out Lyle Sendelein, but he is a better insurance policy than Donovan Raiola would have been.

Bengals (keep CB Jamar Fletcher) – Fletcher, who played 11 games for Cincinnati last year, was on the outside looking in until David Jones’ injury opened a roster spot for him. The former first-round pick and 8-year veteran faces an uphill battle to make the roster, but at least he’s in a camp now.

Redskins (add WR D.J. Hackett) – Hackett, who showed potential in Seattle but busted out as a big free-agent addition in Carolina last year, hooked on with the Redskins after offseason import Roydell Williams was released because he broke a pinkie finger and would miss the next month. Hackett is big and has shown the ability to get downfield regularly, but his lack of consistency hampers him from being a regular rotation player. Hackett is the kind of veteran who can make a roster and help in case of injury – or in case of slow development of young receivers that are plentiful in Washington. But even if Hackett makes the team, he’ll probably be a game-day inactive until an injury or demotion opens the door for him.

Jets (add WR Aundrae Allison and TE Kevin Brock) – Allison, a former fifth-round pick, had just 18 catches in two seasons, and he was passed by youngsters Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. So the Vikings cut Allison, and then the Jets quickly grabbed him off waivers. He has average size but above-average speed, and that’s the reason he’s work a look. Allison could also figure in as a return specialist at a cheap price. Brock, an undrafted rookie who spent OTAs in Carolina, is a pass-catching tight end from Rutgers. He does what Dustin Keller can do, which should at least make it easier for the Jets to run their regular offensive sets with Mark Sanchez and the No. 2s. He’s a useful camp body, which shows the Jets are actually thinking as they try to prep Sanchez for the season.

Subtractions

Seahawks (cut OG Mike Wahle) – Wahle, a big-time free-agent signing last year who started all season, failed his physical before camp, and he was released. The 12-year veteran is reportedly considering retirement. The main upshot of Wahle’s release could be that second-round pick Max Unger has an easier path to a starting spot as a rookie.

Redskins (cut WR Roydell Williams) – Williams, who looked to be a fifth receiver, was waived/injured after suffering a broken pinkie that will sideline him until just before the regular season. Once he gets healthy, he could land somewhere as a backup receiver. He’s the kind of guy who could also go to the UFL and be a standout to try to enhance his value.

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FR: Holdouts

Every year during training camp, there are holdouts that linger into training camp and start to affect a team’s chances for the season. So now that all training camps in the league are underway, we thought we’d compare the impacts of these holdouts via Football Relativity. We’re using a 10-point scale, with 10 being the most significant holdouts and 1 being the least significant.

(We want to credit this post for help compiling this list of holdouts and this post for updates on draft-pick signings.)

10 – WR Roddy White, Falcons – White has had two huge years in a row and is now a legitimate lead receiver for Atlanta. Now he wants to be paid as such, and he’s training in Birmingham instead of with the Falcons until that happens. Given the youth of QB Matt Ryan, more reps between him and White are still a necessity. The injury to Harry Douglas, the only real optoin Atlanta would have to replace White, makes White’s holdout even more glaring. The Falcons can’t succeed without White, and they need to get him in camp with at least three preseason games left so that he’s completely ready to go when the season opens.

9 – WR Michael Crabtree, 49ers – Crabtree, the 10th overall pick in the draft, reportedly wants a contract equivalent to a top-3 deal. If that’s the case, this holdout could linger, and if it lingers, it will severely limit Crabtree’s ability to contribute as a rookie. There’s even a pie-in-the-sky threat that Crabtree would sit out the season and reenter the draft next year. That seems like an idle threat, but it shows how far apart the two sides are. Crabtree is a playmaker, but he’s the kind of receiver who depends on route-running and body-positioning to thrive, and those are things that are typically hard for rookies to pick up. The more practice Crabtree misses, the worse off he and the Niners are going to be in 2009. That makes this holdout one to watch.

8 – none

7 – CB Dunta Robinson, Texans – Robinson, the Texans’ franchise player, didn’t sign a long-term deal before the deadline, and so his only option for 2009 is to play under a one-year deal worth just under $10 million. But to this point, Robinson is refusing to do so, which creates a logjam with no easy answer. Perhaps a proviso like the Titans gave Albert Haynesworth promising not to franchise Robinson again if he reaches certain goals would help, but because there really aren’t any monetary negotiations that can happen now, it’s up to Robinson when he wants to play. Until he doesn, the Texans defense will be missing a starting-caliber cornerback, which hurts. Robinson isn’t great, but he’s good enough to be noticed when he’s not there. That’s especially true with Jacque Reeves (slated to be Robinson’s replacement) likely to miss the first few games of the regular season as he recovers from a broken leg suffered in training camp.

6 – DB Malcolm Jenkins, Saints – Jenkins is now the lowest draft pick (14th overall) left unsigned, but the negotiation doesn’t seem to be going really well at this point. The Saints really need Jenkins’ athleticism in their secondary this year, but the fact that he can play safety and corner could work against him as he misses practices. In an ideal situation, Jenkins could move around the secondary so that the Saints could best utilize his skills, but a holdout likely quashes that kind of idea, at least at the start of the season. Regardless, for a team like the Saints with high hopes for the season, not having Jenkins in camp on time is a hard pill to swallow.

5- OT Eugene Monroe, Jaguars – Monroe’s holdout is significant, but not necessarily for the reason you might think. Yes, the Jags want Monroe to start this year, but if he’s not ready, Tra Thomas is still a capable starter. But the fact that Jacksonville had such a prolonged holdout with Derrick Harvey, the No. 8 pick last year, means that Monroe’s holdout as the eighth pick brings up bad memories and a lot of questions about Jacksonville’s ability to pay premium prices for players. It’ll be interesting to see if Monroe ends up being the last first-rounder signed like Harvey did.

4 – LB Aaron Curry, Seahawks – Curry is in a tough contract spot, because the player picked before him at No. 3 (Tyson Jackson) signed late, and the player picked after him (Mark Sanchez) is a quarterback whose contract is artificially high because of his position. The signs seem to indicate that the Curry negotiations aren’t contentious, which gives hope now that Jackson has signed, but the time Curry’s missing still stings. Curry should still be able to step in and play, but his ability to be a three-down player could be limited by a prolonged holdout.

3 – NT B.J. Raji, Packers – The Packers need Raji to help anchor the nose in their new 3-4 defense, but his responsibilities will be pretty simple as a two-gap player, and so missing training camp time isn’t a killer. Because nobody between 7 and 12 in the first round has signed, the deal for Raji (No. 9) appears to be a domino who will fall pretty quickly – just not first.

2 – OT Andre Smith, Bengals – Smith, the sixth overall pick in the draft, hasn’t yet come to a deal with the Bengals. Smith is slated to step right in and start at left tackle for Cincy, and he should still be able to do that as long as he gets into camp by mid-August. That limits the damage of this particular holdout.

2 (con’t) – LB Aaron Maybin, Bills – Maybin, at pick No. 11, is another guy who is being held up by the contract squabbles around him. Once he signs, the Bills will try to work him into a pass-rushing role at linebacker, defensive end, or maybe both, but a prolonged holdout could limit his versatility, especially early in the season. That’s probably the biggest cost the Bills and Maybin are facing at this point.

1 – RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos – Moreno, the 12th overall pick, isn’t in camp yet, but running back is probably the easiest position for a rookie to step right in. Even if his holdout goes to the third preseason game, Moreno should still know enough to be the Broncos’ primary running back. In fact, the holdout may save a little bit of pounding on Moreno and help him go a little longer before hitting the rookie wall. So this holdout isn’t yet really impactful, although the Broncos need to get Moreno in the fold before the regular season begins.

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