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FR: February signings

Here’s a compendium of the major NFL re-signings and additions of street free agents during February, before the official free-agent market opens. Since there weren’t many major moves, we’re simply commenting instead of comparing. We’ll compare signings using Football Relativity once the free agent market opens.

Steelers (kept NT Casey Hampton) – Hampton has long been a stalwart of the Steelers’ 3-4 defense as the nose tackle, as he has started every game he has played since his second season in 2002. At age 32, he has moved from being a penetrating player to being more of a Pat Williams-style stopper in the middle, but he still has significant value in that role. The Steelers were going to follow the trend and franchise-tag Hampton, like so many other teams did with their nose tackles, but instead they signed him to a three-year, $21 million deal with $11 million in guaranteed money. This way, Hampton gets a little more guaranteed dough, while the Steelers get Hampton at a reasonable per-year rate.

Raiders (kept PK Sebastian Janikowski) –  Janikowski, the only kicker in two generations to be a first-round draft pick, signed the biggest contract ever given to a kicker. He’ll get $9 million guaranteed in a four-year deal scheduled to pay him $16 million total. That’s the same amount the Raiders gave All-Pro punter Shane Lechler last offseason. Janikowski isn’t the clear best at his position like Lechler is, but the kicker known as Sea-Bass had a career year in 2009, making 26-of-29 field goals, including a 61-yarder that’s one of the longest in league history. He has one of the strongest legs in the league and is one of a dying breed of placekickers who thrive on kickoffs as well. So he’s clearly a top-5 kicker, if not the very best in the league. While you can argue the wisdom of committing so many resources to one area of the team, the Raiders have ensured continued excellence in the kicking game. At least they’re paying for quality.

Titans (kept OLG Eugene Amano and S Donnie Nickey) –  Amano was ready to become an unrestricted free agent whether or not 2010 was an uncapped year, and so the Titans were in danger of losing him. Instead, they inked him to a new five-year contract worth up to $26.5 million with $10.5 million in guaranteed money. Amano has emerged as a left guard starter over the last two seasons, and he also is able to play center, which is a key because Titans starter Kevin Mawae is a free agent who has already logged 16 seasons in the NFL. Amano’s versatility, and the paucity of starting-caliber offensive linemen who will hit the open market, made him a priority for the Titans (with good reason, according to Daniel Jeremiah of MovetheSticks.com). That’s why Amano got above-average starter money. Tennessee, which has terrific OTs David Stewart and Michael Roos locked up long term, now knows that they’ll have a good measure of continuity on the line with or without Mawae. Amano, meanwhile, gets some financial security and the chance to stay in the same city where he has played his whole career. It takes that kind of win-win to get a deal done this far before the free-agent market opens. Nickey, a key special-teams player as well as a backup safety, took a one-year deal to stay in Nashville as well.

Bengals (added WR Matt Jones and PK Dave Rayner) – Jones got a contract just above the league minimum to return to the NFL after missing the entire 2009 season due to suspension and being released by the Jaguars. Jones was largely disappointing in his time in Jacksonville, although his best season was his last one. But he can provide a big and fast option across from Chad Ochocinco, replacing what the Bengals lost when Chris Henry died. It’s a low-risk, high-reward gamble which makes sense from a football perspective. However, given the off-field problems the Bengals have had, if this blows up in their face it will cause much more scrutiny. So the Bengals are relying on Jones to behave even more than they are relying on his production. Rayner, who has kicked for five teams, looks to be the replacement for Shayne Graham, whom the Bengals don’t plan to re-sign after his playoff failings. Rayner’s no great shakes, but he’s at least worth a shot in a training-camp battle with someone.

Ravens (add WR Donte Stallworth) – Stallworth, who sat out the 2009 season under league suspension, will get his second chance in Baltimore on a one-year deal worth $900,000 and potentially $300,000 more in incentives. That’s not much to pay for a guy with speed and potential. But even before his suspension, Stallworth bounced around to four teams in four years because he never really lived up to his billing. He’s the ultimate workout warrior who hasn’t found a way to really translate his numbers onto the field. Still, Baltimore isn’t paying much to give him a chance, and the Ravens have such a dearth of offensive playmakers that gambling on Stallworth as a third or fourth receiver makes sense. It would be a mistake, though, to rely on Stallworth in a starting role. Meanwhile, from a character standpoint, Stallworth has shown maturity in making up for his mistake over the past year, and perhaps that will help him resurrect a career that is disappointing at this point.

Jaguars (kept WR Troy Williamson and TE Ernest Wilford) – Williamson was a bust as a first-round pick in Minnesota, but he’s shown a bit of promise in Jacksonville despite injuries. The Jags chose to bring Williamson back as a speedy complement to Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas. By signing Williamson now, the Jaguars also get him at less money than the restricted free agent tender, while Williamson gets a $100,000 signing bonus he wouldn’t have gotten by signing the tender. So that’s a small win-win for both sides for a guy who could be a backup but not much more. Wilford, a former wide receiver, played OK in his move to tight end last year, and he took a one-year contract at the veteran minimum to remain in Jacksonville again. He’s played five of his six career seasons in Jax.

Falcons (kept WR Brian Finneran) – Finneran has been around forever, and he’s been in Atlanta since 2000. He’s a special-teamer and possession receiver, and while he’s not a big part of the offense, he’s a nice safety net for Matt Ryan and the Dirty Birds. So keeping him makes sense, especially at a team-friendly price.

Panthers (add DT Ed Johnson) – Johnson started 20 games over the past three seasons in Indianapolis after joining the Colts as an undrafted free agent, but he was also cut twice for repeated off-the-field transgressions. He gets another chance in Carolina now with Ron Meeks, his former Colts defensive coordinator who’s now in Charlotte. Given how many injuries the Panthers sustained at defensive tackle last year (Maake Kemeoatu, Corvey Ivy, Louis Leonard), you can understand them looking under every possible rock for help, but Johnson’s off-the-field history doesn’t match the Panthers’ normal m.o. You have to wonder if Johnson signed knowing he’s on an incredibly short leash.

Vikings (kept WR Greg Lewis) – Lewis isn’t more than a fourth receiver, but he can make the occasional play – as he did on the final play of Minnesota’s miraculous win over San Francisco this year. The Vikings keep him around as a nice insurance policy who knows the Brad Childress/Andy Reid style of offense well.

Patriots (add WR David Patten) – Patten didn’t play last year, but his history with the Patriots and New England’s lack of depth at wideout makes him worth a look as a fourth receiver. We’ll see through the offseason whether Patten still has the ability to contribute at age 35.

Seahawks (add LB Ricky Foley and LS Pat McDonald) – Foley, who played collegiately in Canada, didn’t hook on in his first NFL shot in 2006, but the four-year CFL vet had 12 sacks for the B.C. Lions last year and is worth a look. The Hawks hope he can become a situational pass rusher like Canadian import Cameron Wake was for the Dolphins in ’09. Seattle also added long snapper Pat McDonald from the CFL.

Steelers (add CB David Pittman and LB Renauld Williams) – Pittman, who hasn’t played in the NFL in two years, was a third-round pick by the Ravens in 2006. The Steelers will try to see if his draftable talent still exists. Williams played seven games for the Dolphins and 49ers from ’04 to ’06 and then became a starter for Saskatchewan in the CFL over the past two years. He’s a long shot to make the team, but the Steelers do have a knack for finding linebackers who contribute in all sorts of strange places.

Jets (add PK Nick Folk) – Folk showed great promise in Dallas in his first two seasons, but his 2009 season was marked by inconsistency, and he was finally released by the team. Still, he has a strong leg and some experience, which is a virtue. The Jets face free agency with Jay Feely, and so adding Folk is a nice insurance policy at this point in the offseason. They could do worse than entering the 2010 season with Folk as their placekicker.

Chiefs (kept RB Kolby Smith and QB Matt Gutierrez) – Both Smith and Gutierrez are backups whom the Chiefs re-signed as potential restricted free agents, most likely at rates below the usual tender amounts.

Redskins (add PK Justin Medlock) – The Redskins, who cut Shaun Suisham midway through the ’09 season, are taking a look at Medlock, a former Chiefs draft choice who lasted just one regular-season game with the Chiefs in ’07. Medlock went to Canada in ’09 and thrived with Toronto, leading to another shot with the Redskins. Graham Gano (a UFL import) did a decent job with the ‘Skins at the end of the ’09 season, but Medlock provides competition that should allow Washington to end up with a young kicker with upside.

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Training Camp Moves – Week 5

This post is a compilation of additions NFL teams made during the fourth full week of camps. The timetable for this post opens on August 22 and continues through August 28. You can read a summary of the first week of training camp moves here; the second week moves here; the third week moves here; and the fourth week of moves here. 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 RB Edgerrin James) – The Seahawks’ running game sputtered early in the preseason, and new head coach Jim Mora wasted no time making a change. He brings in James, who seemed to be losing steam during his time in Arizona but did have a bit of a renaissance during the postseason. Seattle can spot James with Julius Jones to keep both fresh, and James’ ability to catch the ball allows him to be a factor in West Coast schemes like Seattle’s.

Chiefs (add OLs Ike Ndukwe and Andy Alleman) – The Chiefs, who are in the midst of rebuilding an offensive line that had gotten old, looked to Miami for reinforcements via trade. 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.

Panthers (add S Kevin Kaesviharn) – With starting FS Charles Godfrey suffering from a wrist injury, the Panthers needed to add safety depth. Kaesviharn, a nine-year veteran, can provide that, and he can be an acceptable fill-in starter if Godfrey’s injury lingers. He’ll have to focus on coverage, because SS Chris Harris is a big hitter who is sometimes exposed dropping into coverage.

Raiders (add LB Napoleon Harris) – Harris, a long-time Raider who went to Minnesota in the Randy Moss trade, comes back to provide linebacker depth. He can play any of the three linebacker positions, which makes him a good backup, but he probably shouldn’t be starting.

Broncos (add OG Russ Hochstein) –  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 in a trade from New England for a late-round pick next spring. 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

Jaguars (add LB Adam Seward and WR Ernest Wilford) – Seward, who has spent his whole career as a backup in Carolina, spent the offseason with the Colts but was a training-camp cut. But he was quickly snapped up by the Jaguars to compete as a middle ‘backer. Seward is big and bulky, so he seems to fit as a two-down guy who plugs the run in the middle. Wilford had his moments in Jacksonville, but he never found a role in Miami despite getting looks both at wideout and at tight end. He fits as a red-zone target, and the Jags’ receiving corps is thin enough that he could carve out a small role.

Cowboys (add C-OG Duke Preston) – The Packers signed Preston as an unrestricted free agent from Buffalo earlier this offseason, ostensibly to compete for a starting job. But Preston instead got the axe in training camp. He’ll then hooked on in Dallas, where he will fight for a backup spot.

Buccaneers (add LB Bo Ruud) – After losing Angelo Crowell for the season, the Bucs needed LB depth. So they signed Ruud, whose brother Barrett is a starter. Bo was released by Cleveland earlier in training camp after missing his rookie season in ’08 with an injury. He could fit in as a backup, given the Crowell loss, but at the least he’ll get to play with his brother for a few weeks.

Lions (add WR-RS Glenn Holt) – Holt is a good return man and OK receiver who had his moments in Cincinnati but never found a role in Minnesota. He was cut by the Vikings but quickly claimed on waivers by Detroit, where he could find a role as a reserve receiver and returner.

Jets (add P Glenn Pakulak) – Pakulak averaged more than 47 yards per punt last year, but his net average was under 38 yards, which isn’t great. He got beaten out in Saints training camp by rookie Thomas Morstead, a fifth-round pick. But Pakulak quickly landed with the Jets, who had major punting problems last year. He has a great chance to win the job there.

Browns (add TE Nate Jackson) – Jackson had his moments as a pass-catching tight end in his six years in Denver, but he’s probably a No. 3 tight end at best.

Bears (add LB Darrell McClover) – McClover, who played in 22 games for the Bears over the past three years, returns to the team. His best chance to stick on the roster is via special teams.

Lions (add PK Billy Cundiff) – With Jason Hanson hurting to the point that he might not be ready to start the season, the Lions had to get a dependable second option at kicker. Cundiff, a former Cowboy who most recently made a team in 2006, is probably at least an accurate guy from 40 yards and in. If Hanson is hurt for the long term, though, the Lions may look at another team’s cut list for a better option.

Bengals (add PK Sam Swank) – While Chad Ochocinco’s kicking exploits were fun, the Bengals can’t risk him getting hurt, and so they found a fill-in for injured PK Shayne Graham. We mention Swank here because he’s a Wake Forest product, and we’re biased.

Subtractions

Seahawks (cut RB T.J. Duckett) – The newly added Edgerrin James replaces Duckett, who scored 10 TDs as a goal-line back last year but had just 61 carries overall. Duckett is little more than a role player now, so don’t count on much when you see him again. The ironic thing is that the former first-round pick had his best success with Mora in Atlanta, but that may reveal that he’s truly done.

Patriots (cut S Tank Williams) – Williams, a former Titan, missed his first season in New England due to injury, and he wasn’t able to find a role this year after the Pats drafted Patrick Chung. That’s a long road down for a guy who was once considered a possible successor for Rodney Harrison in New England.

Raiders (cut CB Ricky Manning and WR Samie Parker) – Oakland signed Manning last week, but a one-week look apparently told them all they needed to know about where his skills are now. Parker was once considered a prospect in Kansas City, but he’s never proved himself, and the fact that the receiver-poor Raiders cut him says all you need to know.

Browns (cut OT George Foster) – Foster, a former first-round pick with Denver who played for Detroit last year, got bounced again this offseason. He’s likely going to have to wait for an injury (like the one to Seattle’s Walter Jones) to find a spot as a backup right tackle. He’s big, but his skills aren’t great.

Chiefs (cut LB Vince Redd) – Redd, who played for New England last year, was cut just before reports of a four-game suspension to start the season began to emerge. The Chiefs decided that such a bubble player wasn’t worth the wait.

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