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FR: Preseason trades

In this post, we’ll compare the significance of trades made during training camp and the remainder of the preseason. We’ll update this post throughout the preseason. For earlier analysis of post-draft trades, check out this post.

10 – 49ers trade DT Kentwan Balmer to Seahawks for 2011 6th-round pickBalmer left the 49ers during training camp, and it became clear that he wasn’t going to make the opening-day roster. So San Francisco was fortunate to get a sixth-rounder in exchange for the 2008 first-round selection. Balmer never really fit in as a defensive end in San Fran’s 3-4, and so a new start in a 4-3 defense could be a benefit. And having a believer like former 49ers GM Scot McCloughan in Seattle’s front office won’t hurt either. For the Seahawks, Balmer is a low-cost gamble on a former top prospect, and that’s one way for them to upgrade a talent base that is sadly lacking.

9 – Seahawks trade DE Lawrence Jackson to Lions for 2011 6th-round draft pick – Jackson, a former first-round pick, apparently didn’t fit the Seahawks defensive system under new head coach Pete Carroll despite the fact that Jackson played for Carroll at USC. Jackson played in every game during his two years in Seattle and started 24 of them, but he had just 61 total tackles and 6.5 total sacks. With this trade, the Seahawks replaced the sixth-rounder they traded away for Kentwan Balmer, and basically state they’d rather have Balmer than Jackson. But Jackson’s talent is worth a shot for Detroit, which needs playmakers who can get after the passer. Perhaps Jackson serves as an understudy for former Seahawks LB Julian Peterson, who is Detroit’s jack-of-all-trades and pass-rushing linebacker. Even if it doesn’t work out, the deal makes sense as the Lions seek to continue to upgrade their talent level with a former hot prospect.

8 – Eagles trade OG Stacy Andrews to Seahawks for 2011 seventh-round pick – The Eagles imported Andrews from Cincinnati at big money last season to stabilize their offensive line and help his brother Shawn Andrews rebound from depression. But Shawn Andrews was cut this offseason, and Stacy’s performance didn’t match up to his price tag. So in their continuing effort to get younger, the Eagles shipped Stacy to the Pacific Northwest. In Seattle, Stacy Andrews could become a starter at guard or even right tackle for a team that needs OL help. In Philly, the Eagles will rely on recent acquisition Reggie Wells to start until youngsters emerge.

7 – Dolphins trade WR Greg Camarillo to Vikings for CB Benny Sapp – After injuries benched Sidney Rice for half the season and put Percy Harvin’s season in question, the Vikings (who had already lost WR Jaymar Johnson for the season) dealt for reinforcements. Camarillo, a former undrafted free agent, established himself as a solid receiving threat with 110 catches over his last two full seasons. While he has only averaged about 11 yards per catch during those two seasons, he’s a dependable possession receiver who provides depth for the Vikings and who may eventually fit into the slot if Rice and Harvin return. If nothing else, Camarillo’s acquisition ensures that the Vikings will still be able to run multi-WR sets effectively. In exchange for Camarillo, the Vikings sent Sapp to Miami. Sapp started a career-high seven games last year, and he’s proven to be a decent nickelback and special-teams player. Since Camarillo was likely losing prominence in Miami after the addition of Brandon Marshall and the development of Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline, it makes sense for Miami to get a solid role player in return for him.

7 (con’t) – Seahawks trade CB Josh Wilson to Ravens for conditional 2011 fifth-round draft pick – Wilson started 24 games in Seattle over the past two years, but he wasn’t able to lock down a starting job under the new Pete Carroll regime. So instead of keeing Wilson as a nickelback, Seattle traded him to Baltimore for a conditional fifth-round pick. After losing Domonique Foxworth, the Ravens need a ton of quarterback help, and Wilson (who went to Maryland in college) is at least a starting-quality guy.

7 (con’t) – Ravens trade WR Mark Clayton and an undisclosed draft pick to Rams for undisclosed draft pick – Clayton, a former first-round pick whom the Ravens expected to develop into a No. 1 receiver, never supplanted Derrick Mason in Baltimore, and this offseason Baltimore brought in Anquan Boldin and then T.J. Houshmandzadeh at receiver. So Clayton heads to St. Louis, where he will step in for the injured Donnie Avery and give Sam Bradford an NFL-quality receiver. Clayton hasn’t been great, but he has a 67-catch season and three other 40-catch seasons on his resume, which makes him a more qualified veteran than any other guy on the Rams’ roster.

7 (con’t) – Chiefs trade S Jarrad Page to Patriots for undisclosed draft choice – Page, a four-year vet who missed two-thirds of last season with a calf injury, refused to sign his restricted free-agent tender with the Chiefs  until the last minute because he wanted out of town. Finally, the Chiefs made a deal to send the three-year starter to New England for a late-round draft pick. Page becomes a senior member of the Patriots’ young secondary, and he could become a factor at strong safety for the Pats. It’s worth it for a contender like the Pats to add a veteran like Page if they think he can help, even in a minor role.

6 – Cardinals trade OG Reggie Wells to Eagles for 2011 6th-round pick – Wells, who has started all 16 games at guard for the Cardinals in five of the last six years, now moves to the Eagles to provide depth in case OGTodd Herrmans and C Jamaal Jackson struggle to return to form after injuries or even to start in place of the since-traded Stacy Andrews. Paying a sixth-rounder for him is a good investment for the Eagles. Wells lost his spot in Arizona after the Cardinals added Alan Faneca last year and Rex Hadnot this offseason and after Deuce Lutui returned as a restricted free agent. The move saves the Cardinals $2.6 million.

6 (con’t) – Cowboys trade WR Patrick Crayton to Chargers for 2011 seventh-round pick – Crayton is a dangerous punt returner and a decent receiver, but with Miles Austin’s emergence and Dez Bryant’s arrival in Dallas, his playing time was going, going, gone. He requested a trade or his release, and the Cowboys finally got a little something in the form of a seventh-round pick from the Chargers in exchange for Crayton. For the Bolts, it’s a good deal because it provides more protection against Vincent Jackson’s holdout. Crayton will fit in nicely as a third receiver behind Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee.

6 (con’t) – Broncos trade CB Alphonso Smith to Lions for TE Dan Gronkowski – The Broncos gave up their 2010 first-round pick to take Smith, but they gave up on the diminutive but speedy cornerback after just one year. Smith was a big-time playmaker in college, but in 15 games as a rookie he broke up just three passes for the Broncos. Still, he’s got talent, and the Lions are so talent-poor at cornerback that Smith is a good acquisition. Smith could eventually fit in as a nickelback for a solid defense. In exchange, the Broncos get Gronkowski, one of three NFL-playing brothers. Dan had just one catch as a rookie after being a seventh-round pick last year. He’s little more than a role player, and not nearly enough of a player to salve the sting of the wasted Smith pick in Denver.

6 (con’t) – Jaguars trade S Reggie Nelson to Bengals for CB David Jones and a conditional draft pick – Nelson, a former first-round pick, started his career well in Jacksonville, but after his first year or two he fell out of favor especially because of his subpar tackling skills. But Cincinnati loves to take chances on talent, and Nelson still has that. In exchange for Nelson, the Jags pick up a developmental cornerback in Jones who could make the roster and a conditional draft pick.

5 – Broncos trade RB J.J. Arrington and conditional 2011 draft pick to Eagles for LB Joe Mays – Arrington, who was a key contributor to Arizona’s Super Bowl team two years ago but who didn’t play last year, moves from Denver, where he was behind Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, to Philly, where there appeared to be a clearer shot to a third-down role behind LeSean McCoy and Mike Bell. However, Arrington was released at the final cutdown. That means that the Eagles will get a 2012 sixth-round pick in exchange for Mays. The timing of the trade was a bit unlucky for the Broncos, because Moreno and Buckhalter got hurt on the first day of training camp just after the trade, which caused Denver to add LenDale White and Justin Fargas for RB depth. Mays was just a special-teamer in Philly, but Denver needs depth at linebacker in its 3-4 system, so he becomes a candidate for playing time there.

5 (con’t) – Vikings trade QB Sage Rosenfels and RB Darius Reynaud to Giants for 2011 fifth-round draft pick and conditional 2010 draft pick – Rosenfels, whom the Vikings traded for last offseason to compete with Tarvaris Jackson before Brett Favre was in the picture, was a waste as a No. 3 quarterback. He’s not the most consistent player around, but while he makes mistakes, he has starting experience and a good arm and can provide a nice spark as a backup. The move also allows the Vikings to keep rookie Joe Webb as a developmental No. 3 quarterback. The Giants, who lost free-agent signee Jim Sorgi to a training-camp injury, didn’t trust youngster Rhett Bomar and so they traded a fifth-rounder for Rosenfels. It’s a solid move for a team that fancies itself a contender. The Giants also gave up a conditional draft pick in 2012 for Reynaud, a running back and return man who has spent the last two years in Minnesota.

4 – Falcons trade OL Quinn Ojinnaka to Patriots for an undisclosed 2011 draft pick – The Patriots face an offensive-line depth issue with Logan Mankins holding out and Nick Kaczur injured, and so they traded for Ojinnaka, a fifth-year player who has played both at guard and tackle for the Falcons. The Patriots have an idea of what they’re getting, because they recently held a series of practices with the Falcons and got an up-close look at Ojinnaka. Ojinnaka is good enough to be a backup at several positions, and he can start in a pinch, so it’s a worthwhile investment for the Patriots – even though Ojinnaka faces a one-game suspension to start the season.

3 – Lions trade OT Tyler Polumbus to Seahawks for undisclosed 2012 draft pick – Detroit took advantage of its waiver-claim priority to claim Polumbus, who started half a season in Denver last year. The claim ended up netting them a draft pick when they sent Polumbus to the Seahawks, where he will be reunited with offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, who was in Denver in Polumbus’ rookie year. It’s good transaction math for Detroit, and Polumbus helps a Seattle team that needs tackle depth because of rookie Russell Okung’s ankle sprain.

3 (con’t) – Redskins trade CB Justin Tryon to Colts for an undisclosed 2011 draft pick – Tryon, who had spent two years with the Redskins, starting two games, moved to Indianapolis on cut-down day in exchange for a draft pick. Tryon’s a nice prospect with good speed but below-average size at 5-foot-9, but Indy’s defense makes use of corners of that size.

3 (con’t) – Ravens trade DE/OLB Antwan Barnes to Eagles for 2011 seventh-round pick – The Eagles, who have been adding pass-rushers all offseason, got another one in Barnes. Barnes played mostly as a 3-4 outside linebacker in Baltimore, and that experience will allow him to bring a new dimension to the Eagles’ defense. They’ve liked Barnes for a while, according to Mike Lombardi. Philly has made several small trades this offseason, so dealing a seventh-rounder for a player they expect to make the roster seems like a good investment. For the Ravens, instead of cutting Barnes, they add a seventh-rounder that will help make up some of the draft picks they’ve dealt in search of a cornerback.

2 – Eagles trade FB Charles Scott to Cardinals for CB Jorrick Calvin – After the Cardinals lost FB Nehemiah Broughton for the season for a knee injury, they traded for Scott, a rookie out of LSU who played tailback in college but will have to move to fullback in the NFL. In exchange, they gave Philadelphia the player taken immediately after Scott in the sixth round of April’s draft – CB Jorrick Calvin out of Troy. Calvin has a chance to make the Eagles as a kick returner and extra DB.

2 (con’t) – Cowboys trade OT Pat McQuistan to Dolphins for undisclosed draft pick – McQuistan is a big, burly tackle who joined the Cowboys when Bill Parcells was in charge but never started a game in four seasons. He became expendable in Dallas as Doug Free developed and Alex Barron arrived. Now he moves to Parcells’ new home in Miami, where he will back up OTs Jake Long and Vernon Carey.

2 (con’t) – Eagles trade LB Tracy White to Patriots for conditional 2012 draft pick – The Patriots stockpile draft picks, but they used one to get White, a special-teams ace. The Eagles pick up an extra pick for a player who wasn’t going to make their roster.

1 – Ravens trade QB John Beck to Redskins for CB Doug Dutch – Beck, who was once a second-round pick in Miami under head coach Cam Cameron, tried to rebuild his career with Cameron (now an offensive coordinator) in Baltimore. But when Marc Bulger came in to be Joe Flacco’s backup in Baltimore, Troy Smith beat Beck out for the No. 3 QB job. He moves to Washington, where he will try to usurp Rex Grossman as Donovan McNabb’s backup or at least win a roster spot as a No. 3. In return for Beck, the Ravens get Dutch, a practice-squad cornerback last year who may have a chance to make the roster at a very shallow position for the Ravens.

1 (con’t) – Redskins trade FB/TE Dennis Morris and a condiational pick to Rams for DE/OLB Hall Davis and a conditional pick – Morris wasn’t going to make the Redskins’ roster, so they traded him to the Rams in exchange for Davis, another rookie who will get a shot at outside linebacker in the Redskins’ 3-4. Morris was a sixth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech in April’s draft; Davis was a fifth-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette. Davis was immediately cut in Washington, so St. Louis won’t be seeing the conditional pick coming its way.

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FR: First week signings

The opening week of free agency wasn’t quite as frenetic as usual, but there was still a ton of news that emerged. So we decided to compare the impact of each team’s signings using Football Relativity, with 10 being the team that helped itself the most and 1 being a team that barely made a ripple. This post covers signings between the opening of free agency on March 5 until March 10, when the secondary market began to form.

Note that trades are not reflected in the comparison. We compare all 2010 offseason trades, including Anquan Boldin, Antonio Cromartie, Corey Williams, Kerry Rhodes, and more, in this growing post.

10 – Bears (add UFA DE Julius Peppers, UFA RB Chester Taylor, and UFA TE Brandon Manumaleuna) – The Bears, who don’t have a pick until the third round of this year’s draft, went whole hog in free agency and came up with their top three targets. The prize, of course, is Peppers, who’s still an elite pass rusher at age 30 and will make a huge difference for Chicago. The Bears had a bunch of so-so rushers but no studs, so Peppers provides that top-end rush and should help guys like Alex Brown be more productive across from him. Sure, Peppers isn’t always completely into games, but he still performs at a high enough level that he will help. He’s overpaid with $40 million guaranteed in the first three years of his six-year deal, but the Bears had to overpay to lock him up. That made it worth it. On offense, Chicago added Taylor, who’s a solid all-around back who complemented Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. Now Taylor will earn more of a 50-50 split with Matt Forte, and Taylor’s pass-catching skills look to be a fit in Mike Martz’s new offensive scheme. Taylor is 30, which makes a three-year deal with $7 million guaranteed and $12.5 million total a little dicey, but he has always been a part-time player, which could extend his career a bit. Manumaleuna is a block-first tight end who better fits the new Martz scheme, which isn’t always great at protecting the passer. He got a five-year deal and $6 million in guaranteed money. Chicago’s spending spree is out of character, but the pressure is on head coach Lovie Smith and GM Jerry Angelo, and with no draft picks free agency was the only way to infuse talent into a mostly mediocre roster.

9 – Dolphins (added UFA LB Karlos Dansby, kept UFA QB Chad Pennington and UFA NT Jason Ferguson) – Dansby was one of the big prizes on the free agent market, and his bruising style on the inside is a great fit for the physical 3-4 style the Dolphins use. Dansby can support against the run and drop in coverage effectively, and he’ll make a big play too, as he did against the Packers to win a memorable playoff overtime thriller. He becomes the heartbeat of Miami’s defense with his five-year, $43 million deal that includes $22 million in guaranteed money. Pennington nearly left Miami because the Dolphins wouldn’t give him a no-trade clause, but the team gave him a one-year $2.5 million with a $1.5 million trade kicker in case he has to relocate during the season. Pennington becomes the mentor and understudy to emerging young starter Chad Henne, and he’ll be one of the best backups in the league at an incredibly fair price. Ferguson is a solid nose tackle who fits Bill Parcells’ scheme like a glove, but he will miss the first eight games of the 2010 season on a suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Still, he could provide a late-season spark, and playing half a year may actually keep him healthy.

9 (con’t) – Giants (add S Antrel Rolle and QB Jim Sorgi) – Rolle broke free from the Cardinals for money reasons, not performance reasons, and coming off his first Pro Bowl he broke the bank with a five-year, $37 million deal that will pay him $22.5 million over the first three years. Rolle is a physical freak, and he developed into a playmaker once he moved from cornerback to free safety. He fills a huge need for the Giants, who fell apart in the back end last year after Kenny Phillips got hurt. With Rolle and Phillips, safety becomes a strength for the Giants, who need to get back to playing defense at an elite level to return to contender status. Sorgi, who was released by the Colts, will compete with Rhett Bomar to back up Eli Manning.

8 – Falcons (add UFA CB Dunta Robinson, kept UFA CB Brian Williams, UFA QB Chris Redman, and UFA LS Joe Zelenka) – The Falcons’ secondary was a huge problem last year, especially after Williams went down with a season-ending injury. So it’s no surprise the Dirty Birds broke the bank to add Robinson from the Texans on a six-year, $57 million contract with $25.5 million in guaranteed money. Robinson is a talent, but his performance isn’t always consistent. Still, the former first-round pick is well above the league average, and he was undoubtedly the best corner on the open market. Keeping Williams on a one-year deal adds some veteran stability across from Robinson and gives the Falcons more depth. Redman got a two-year, $5.6 million contract to remain as Matt Ryan’s backup. Redman has resuscitated his career in Atlanta and proven he’s a good emergency fill-in and short-term option. Zelenka came in at midseason last season as a fill-in long snapper and did a decent job. It’s always good to see a fellow Demon Deacon get a gig.

8 (con’t) – Lions (add UFA WR Nate Burleson and WR Bryan Clark, UFA DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, and CB Jonathan Wade; kept UFA OT Jon Jansen, UFA TE Will Heller, and UFA LB Vinny Ciurciu) – The Lions didn’t get as crazy as their NFC North rivals in Chicago, but Detroit tried to take another step forward in adding talent to their roster. Burleson, who got $11 million guaranteed in a five-year, $25 million deal, was up and down in Seattle, but at his best he’s a really nice No. 2 receiver. The Lions plan to put Calvin Johnson and Burleson in as their starters with Bryant Johnson at No. 3 to help Matthew Stafford continue to develop. On defense, the Lions add Vanden Bosch, who played for head coach Jim Schwartz’s defenses in Tennessee and should be a good leader for a young unit. Vanden Bosch may not produce commensurate with his four-year, $26 million contract that pays $10 million in 2010, but he will play hard and set a tone for a defensive line that also added DT Corey Williams via trade and that should be adding a big-time rookie force at tackle in either Gerald McCoy or Ndamukong Suh. The Lions still have a long way to go, but it looks like they have a plan now under Schwartz, and that’s a positive sign. Detroit also maintained some depth by re-signing Jansen, Heller, and Ciurciu to short-term deals. None are core players, but they all filled roles acceptably last year and helped to shore up the bottom of Detroit’s roster. Wade, a former Ram, and Clark, a former Buccaneer, were not tendered as restricted free agents by their teams but still might provide an upgrade at the bottom of the Lions’ roster.

8 (con’t) – Jaguars (added UFA DE Aaron Kampman and UFA WR Kassim Osgood; kept UFA OG Kynan Forney and RFA DT Atiyyah Ellison) – The Jags have spent a ton of high draft picks on defensive ends lately, but they haven’t been able to generate a pass rush. So they sign Kampman, who thrived in Green Bay until the Pack switched to a 3-4 defense. Kampman, who got $11 million guaranteed in a 4-year, $26 million deal, is coming off a knee injury, but he has 54 career sacks and is known for his high motor. The Jags are hoping not only that Kampman performs but also that his example inspires Quentin Groves and Derrick Harvey to prepare better. Osgood is a special-teams ace who longs for a chance to play receiver, and the Jaguars are thin enough there that Osgood could find a role behind Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas. His deal is worth $6.675 million over three years, but the deal has up to $4 million in incentives if Osgood thrives on offense. Ellison, a backup defensive tackle, signed his restricted free agent tender, and Forney returns as a backup as well.

7 – Broncos (added UFA DE Justin Bannan, UFA DE Jarvis Green, NT Jamal Williams, and RB J.J. Arrington; kept UFA OG Russ Hochstein and UFA WR Brandon Lloyd) – Bannan was a solid backup 3-4 end in Baltimore who looks to have the ability to move up to a starter level, and he’ll get the chance to do so in Denver. He’s solid against the run and holds blockers well to allow others to pass rush. That could make him a good complement to Green, who is more of a pressure producer as a backup 3-4 end. Both guys improve the Broncos’ defense, which started hot last year but fell apart as the season progressed. Green got a four-year deal worth a maximum of $20 million with $7.5 million paid in the first two years, while Bannan got a five-year deal worth $22 million with $10.5 million guaranteed. Williams was released by the Chargers after a great career there, and if he can stay healthy he still should be an effective nose tackle on run downs. He got a three-year deal worth $16 million with $7 million in guaranteed dough. Bannan, Green, and Williams may give the Broncos an entire new starting defensive line, which will really help the depth of that unit and shore the Broncos up against the run. Hochstein came over with Josh McDaniels from the Patriots last year, and he ended up starting 10 games at guard. He’ll remain as a veteran presence on a very solid line. Lloyd is a fourth receiver who may step up if Brandon Marshall departs. Arrington signed with the Broncos last offseason but wasn’t healthy after microfracture surgery. Denver released him then, but obviously still wants to see if Arrington can provide the spark he gave the Cardinals during their Super Bowl run a couple of seasons ago.

6 – Chiefs (added RB Thomas Jones, UFA DT Shaun Smith, and UFA WR Jerheme Urban; kept UFA LB Mike Vrabel, UFA WR Chris Chambers, and RFA RB Jackie Battle) – Jones ran for 1,400 yards with the Jets last year, but the team decided to save money and feature youngster Shonn Greene instead. Now Jones lands in Kansas City, where he will be used in tandem with Jamaal Charles, last year’s breakout runner. Jones is a great teammate who is still pretty productive on the field, and his presence will help to keep Charles healthy, which may help Charles maintain his effectiveness through the Chiefs’ rebuilding project and into what the team hopes is a renaissance. By giving Jones a 2-year, $5 million contract with another half-million in incentives, the Chiefs get the right to use up the rest of the juice in Jones’ legs, while Jones gets a chance to go out on his own terms. It sounds callous, but that’s as much of a win-win as a 30-plus running back can get in the NFL nowadays. Smith is a talent who can rub organizations the wrong way, but he’s big enough to play as a 3-4 end, which is a plus. Urban played for Chiefs head coach Todd Haley in Kansas City and is talented enough to be a solid No. 3 receiver for the Chiefs behind Chambers and Dwayne Bowe. Vrabel, brought in last year to help the Chiefs change their culture, will return on a one-year deal worth $3 million in salary and roster bonuses. After starting 14 games last year, Vrabel looks to play a key role this year as well. Chambers, a late-season waiver pickup, thrived after coming to Kansas City, and the Chiefs rewarded him with a three-year, $15 million contract with $5.9 million in guaranteed money. He’ll be Matt Cassel’s deep threat. Battle played just five games last year but should provide depth and special-teams ability.

6 (con’t) – Bengals (added UFA WR Antonio Bryant; kept UFA DT Tank Johnson) – It seems like Johnson’s repeated transgressions are ancient history, as he found a home in Cincinnati and had a really good ’09 season at the heart of the Bengals defense. Johnson turned around his career to the point that the Bengals gave him a four-year contract. While there will always be a risk associated with Johnson, rightly or wrongly, because of his history, the Bengals simply couldn’t afford to lose such a good player. Bryant is a big-time talent who has had some terrific seasons, most recently in 2008 in Tampa Bay, but who has also been a problem child at times. Cincinnati has had some success with this type of player, and in terms of talent Bryant was the best available wideout. He has the speed to open up the field across from Chad Ochocinco and the ability to become the kind of playmaker the Bengals lacked on the outside last year. Bryant got a four-year deal worth $28 million, which is really good receiver money, but that’s probably a number the Bengals had to get to in order to seal the deal.

5 – Patriots (kept franchise UFA NT Vince Wilfork, UFA CB Leigh Bodden, UFA LB Tully Banta-Cain, UFA OG Stephen Neal, and UFA RB Kevin Faulk; add LB Marques Murrell) – Wilfork is an elite run-stuffing nose tackle, and that makes it no shock that the Patriots franchised him. So it’s no surprise that they locked him with a deal reportedly worth $40 million over five years. He’s a key cog in making the Pats’ D work. Bodden revitalized his career in New England with a solid year at corner. His more physical style fits the Pats’ scheme, and after looking around on the market he got a solid deal to stay – four years, $22 million, with $10 million guaranteed. Banta-Cain broke out with a 10-sack season in ’09, which made him desireable on the open market. The Pats rewarded him with a three-year, $13.5 million deal that will pay him $7 million in 2010 and that includes an addition $4.5 million in upside. He’s a bit player, not a core player, but his performance was good enough to be rewarded. Neal remained a starter in New England, and the Pats keep him on a two-year deal. Neal’s a strong player who’s good in the run game, and he was one of the better guards available on the open market, so it behooved the Pats to keep him. Faulk has been with the Pats for his entire 11-year career, and he continues to be a solid third-down back. He’ll return for yet another season and seems to want to retire as a Pat. Murrell wasn’t tendered as a restricted free agent by the Jets, but he’s a solid special-teams player, which will give him a shot to make the Pats’ roster.

5 (con’t) – Colts (kept UFA LB Gary Brackett, added UFA OG Andy Alleman) – Brackett made it to the open market, but the Colts ponied up $12 million guaranteed in a five-year, $33 million deal to keep their defensive captain. Brackett is a horse for the course – he excels at middle linebacker in the Colts’ scheme but might not fit many other systems. The Colts perhaps could have gotten him a hair cheaper, but owner Jim Irsay made keeping Brackett a priority, and in an uncapped year that approach works. Alleman has bounced around, but he’s big and versatile enough to be a backup at all three interior positions or even start in place of the recently released Ryan Lilja. The Colts moved so quickly to add him that you have to figure they saw something in him.

5 (con’t) – Packers (kept UFA OLT Chad Clifton and RFA S Nick Collins) – The Redskins took a big run at Clifton, but he ended up sticking around in Green Bay for $20 million over three years with $7.5 million guaranteed. That’s a premium price for an older player, but Clifton is still an effective (if not overpowering) blind-side protector. Given the beating Aaron Rodgers took over the first half of last season, losing Clifton would have been a huge detriment to the Pack’s playoff hopes. Collins, the Packers’ Pro Bowl safety, signed his restricted free agent tender.

5 (con’t) – Texans (add UFA OG Wade Smith; kept UFA WR Kevin Walter and UFA P Matt Turk) – Walter was perhaps the best wideout to hit the open market, and he got a serious look from the Ravens before Baltimore pulled the trigger on the Anquan Boldin deal. So Walter went back to the Texans to be Andre Johnson’s running mate. Walter got a five-year deal worth $21 million with $8 million guaranteed, which is a nice haul for a No. 2 receiver. That makes sense, because Walter excels in that role. Turk is in his 40s, but he had a nice year for the Texans, and they rewarded him with a one-year deal worth $1.85 million with $400,000 in signing bonus. That’s a nice but not ridiculous deal for a solid punter. Smith, who was a Chief last year, is versatile enough to start at guard or center or even fill in at tackle. The Texans believe he can be an interior starter for them, which is why they gave him a four-year, $12 million deal with $6.25 million guaranteed.

4 – Browns (added UFA OT Tony Pashos and UFA LB Scott Fujita, kept UFA S Ray Ventrone, renegotiated KR Josh Cribbs) – The Browns looked to add solid veterans by paying Fujita $14 million, $8 million of it guaranteed, over three years and giving Pashos $10.3 million over three years. Fujita is a good leader who played pretty well as an outside ‘backer in New Orleans’ 4-3 but may move inside in the Browns’ 3-4. His leadership outpaces his play at this point in his career, but Fujita is still OK. Pashos can play right tackle or even move inside to guard if the Browns spend the seventh overall pick on a premium tackle. He’s not great, but he’s physical enough to get the job done on a line that has premium players in Joe Thomas, Alex Mack, and Eric Steinbach.  Ventrone is a backup and special-teamer who got a three-year, $2.2 million deal. The Browns also tied up a huge loose end by finally getting a long-term deal done with Cribbs, their stud kick returner who’s getting a bigger and bigger role on offense. Cribbs will now get $7 million guaranteed as part of a three-year, $18 million deal.

4 (con’t) – Redskins (added UFA OT Artis Hicks, UFA TE Sean Ryan, and NT Maake Kemeoatu; kept UFA C Casey Rabach, UFA DE Phillip Daniels, UFA OT-OG Mike Williams, and RFA LB Lorenzo Alexander) – Hicks is a versatile offensive lineman who can play either tackle or guard position, and his versatility makes him a nice addition. The Redskins, who have huge offensive line needs, could try Hicks at left tackle if they don’t draft one early, but if they do Hicks will find a starting spot elsewhere. For a three-year, $9 million deal with $3 million guaranteed, that’s a find. The Redskins also kept Rabach, a solid center, on a three-year deal worth $12.3 million, and brought back former draft bust Mike Williams on a three-year deal. The moves don’t make the Skins’ O-line elite, but they do provide some solidfying pieces that will look good if the Skins get Russell Okung or another prospect at the top of the draft. Alexander got a three-year deal worth up to $3.8 million with a $1.1 million guarantee to serve as a backup outside linebacker and special-teamer. Daniels got a two-year deal worth $2.16 million to be a backup defensive end in Washington’s new 3-4 scheme. Kemeoatu, who was cut by the Panthers, is coming off an Achilles injury, but when healthy he’s a run clogger big enough to play nose tackle in the Redskins new 3-4. With a two-year, $7 million deal, Kemeoatu becomes a price-friendly option at nose tackle, which is really a position of scarcity. Ryan is a block-first tight end who provides depth behind Chris Cooley and Fred Davis.

3 – Titans (add LB Will Witherspoon) – Witherspoon, who was cut by the Eagles, got a three-year, $11 million deal with $5 million guaranteed to come to Tennessee. He’s a weak-side linebacker who’s good in coverage and still has pretty good range, and he can play in the middle in a pinch as well. His arrival may mean that Keith Bulluck’s long and storied Titans career is over.

3 (con’t) – Eagles (added CB Marlin Jackson; kept RFA FB Leonard Weaver and RFA WR Jason Avant) – Weaver was a nice surprise as a fullback for the Eagles last year, making plays in the run game and the passing game. His bruising running style will be a nice complement to LeSean McCoy as the Eagles begin a new era in the backfield sans Brian Westbrook. The deal Weaver got – three years, $11 million with $6.5 million guaranteed – shows that Weaver will be more than a traditional fullback going forward. Avant, who emerged as a solid No. 3 receiver, got a five-year deal worth $18 million with $8 million in guarantees as the Eagles try to keep their young trio of receivers – Avant, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin – together to bridge from the Donovan McNabb era (whenever it ends) to the Kevin Kolb regime. Jackson never panned out as a first-rounder in Indianapolis, but the Eagles believe he can make the move from corner to free safety to solve a spot that has been a problem since Brian Dawkins left. It’s a low-cost move worth $2 million this year but potentially worth $6 million over two years if Jackson becomes a quality starter.

3 (con’t) – Steelers (kept UFA S Ryan Clark; added UFA S Will Allen, UFA WR Arnaz Battle, OT Jonathan Scott, and WR Antwaan Randle El) – Clark was one of the underrated prizes of the free-agent class, and Pittsburgh couldn’t afford to lose him. Keeping the big-hitting complement to Troy Polamalu is a boon for the Steelers, and the four-year, $14 million contract isn’t prohibitive. The Steelers also added Allen from the Buccaneers as a backup safety on a three-year, $4.5 million deal with a signing bonus of $975,000. Allen gives insurance against Polamalu’s injury history and also could plug into a nickel corner role. At receiver, Pittsburgh added Battle, a rangy receiver and special-teams ace from the 49ers, and brought back Randle El, who thrived as a slot receiver in Pittsburgh before becoming a big-money bust in Washington. Battle got a three-year, $3.975 contract with a $975,000 signing bonus, and Randle El got a three-year deal as well. Those two signings, along with the presence of Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, and Mike Wallace, could mean the release or trade of former second-round pick Limas Sweed. Scott played under new Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler in Buffalo the last two years, but he didn’t get a tender offer from the Bills. Given the Steelers’ lack of O-line depth, he could stick in Pittsburgh.

2 – Rams (added UFA DT Fred Robbins and UFA QB A.J. Feeley; kept RFA S Craig Dahl and RFA TE Daniel Fells) – Robbins played for Steve Spagnuolo with the Giants, so it’s no surprise that he got the call to come to St. Louis for up to $12 million over three years. Robbins is more of a run stopper than a pass rusher inside, but he played well for Spags before. Feeley got $6 million plus escalators over two years, which is above-average backup money. But if the Rams draft a quarterback as expected, Feeley may be a place-holding starter as 2010 opens. Dahl is a backup who plays well on special teams. Fells made a few key plays last year and got a deal potentially worth $1.5 million if he shines this year.

2 (con’t) – Ravens (kept UFA WR Derrick Mason and RFA DT Lamar Divens) – Mason was the Ravens’ No. 1 receiver last year, but with Anquan Boldin coming over via trade he’ll move a peg down the hierarchy. But that may be the best for both Mason and the Ravens, since at age 36 he’s slowed just a bit. Mason is still a solid receiver, especially on shorter routes, and he’ll be a reliable option across from Boldin who teams will still have to account for. That’s worth a 2-year, $8 million deal with $3.5 million paid in the first year. Divens is a backup defensive end who could get more run with the departure of Justin Bannan.

2 (con’t) – 49ers (added UFA QB David Carr; kept UFA LB Matt Wilhelm) – Carr revitalized his career a bit as a backup with the Giants, and the Niners opted to add him to replace Shaun Hill behind Alex Smith. Carr got a two-year deal worth $6.25 million with $1.87 million in incentives. That gives San Fran two former No. 1 overall picks at quarterback. Wilhelm bounced around a little during last season but became a useful backup and special teamer for the Niners once he arrived by the bay.

2 (con’t) – Bills (kept UFA S-LB Bryan Scott; added UFA OT Cornell Green) – Scott, a former safety, was pressed into duty as a starting outside linebacker last year, and he held up pretty well despite being undersized. Having started both at strong safety and outside linebacker makes him valuable to the Bills, who trust him enough to put him on the field. So they’ll pay him $3 million over two years (a little over the minimum) to keep him around. Green, who once upon a time won a Super Bowl ring with the Buccaneers, started as a Raider last year but was penalty-prone. Still, given how young the Bills’ line is, getting any help – especially at the penurious price of $9 million over 3 years – is a bit of a positive sign.

1 -Cardinals (kept UFA TE Anthony Becht and RFA TE Stephen Spach) – Becht was a first-round pick once upon a time, but he’s bounced around a lot in recent years. He found a home in Arizona, though, starting 10 games last year as a blocking tight end. He’ll return on a one-year, $950,000 deal to continue opening holes for a Cardinals offense that appears to be shifting more and more toward the run game. Spach is also a quality blocker who has a little more juice in the passing game. They form a serviceable but not spectacular duo.

1 (con’t) – Chargers (kept UFA TE Kris Wilson and UFA DE Alfonso Boone; claim RB Marcus Mason on waivers) – Wilson became more valuable to San Diego when Brandon Manumaleuna left for Chicago. He’s a block-first tight end who complements Antonio Gates nicely, and at $1.7 million over two years, he’s barely making above the minimum. Boone is a solid backup in the Bolts’ 3-4 and knows Ron Rivera’s system well. So his two-year deal provides stability among the reserves for San Diego. Mason was a Redskins backup who has a bit of promise but didn’t fit the system Mike Shanahan is bringing to Washington.

1 (con’t) – Raiders (kept OT Khalif Barnes) – The Raiders did not tender Barnes a contract as a restricted free agent, so the one-year contract to which they signed him is probably at a cheaper level than the tender would have been. Barnes, a former Jaguars starter, played in two games and started just two last year. Still, he has physical ability, and that always makes the Raiders drool.

1 (con’t) – Saints (kept UFA S Pierson Prioleau, UFA C Nick Leckey, and UFA CB Leigh Torrence) – Leckey, Torrence, and Prioleau signed one-year deals to return as backups for the Saints. Prioleau was the team’s top tackler on special teams.

1 (con’t) – Jets (kept UFA TE Ben Hartsock) – Hartsock, who came to the Meadowlands from Arizona last offseason, did a good job as the Jets’ best blocking tight end. He provides a nice complement to receiver extraordinaire Dustin Keller last year.

1 (con’t) – Vikings (added PK Rhys Lloyd; kept UFA S Benny Sapp) – Lloyd, who wasn’t tendered as a restricted free agent by the Panthers, is a kickoff specialist who will take some pressure off of Ryan Longwell, now age 36. Sapp is a nickel back who started seven games in relief last year. He’s a nice extra piece to have, but he shouldn’t be a core starter.

1 (con’t) – Panthers (added WR Wallace Wright) – The Panthers are in cost-cutting and age-cutting mode, but they did add Wright, who didn’t get tendered by the Jets as a restricted free agent. Wright is a special-teams dynamo who had 45 tackles in the last two seasons.

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Arrington axed

This was worth commenting on… The Broncos released RB J.J. Arrington today, just a few months after they signed him as a free agent. Here are some thoughts on the cut; you can see how it compares to other post-draft releases in this post.

The Broncos added Arrington as part of their free-agency binge, and even with the glut of running backs Denver brought in – Arrington, Correll Buckhatler, Lamont Jordan, and rookie Knowshon Moreno – Arrington looked to have a solid role based on underrated his triple threat skills. But Arrington had a knee injury in Arizona, and he never was healthy enough to pass a physical in Denver. But Arrington had a knee injury in Arizona, and he never was healthy enough to pass a physical in Denver. The Broncos lost about $100,000 but had protected themselves against a greater loss by the way they structured Arrington’s contract.  His departure won’t be a huge blow at running back, but he would have helped if he had been healthy.

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FR: Triple Threats

One of the best things about Twitter (yes, I’m on there) is that you can follow people whose stream-of-consciousness thoughts you would never hear otherwise. One of the people I’m currently following is agent Alvin Keels, who reps Jets RB Leon Washington. He’s trying to get Leon a new deal, and as part of his Tweet-aganda, he compared Washington to other players in the NFL who are dangerous three ways: as runners, returners, and receivers. He came up with a list of seven, and I added a few more names of my own based on research. That’s enough to do a relativity comparison of these triple threats. So that’s what we’re going to do, with 10 being the most dangerous all the way across the board, and 1 being the least impactful of this group of players.

The criteria for making this list is scoring at least one return touchdown in ’08 or ’07, either as a punt or kickoff returner, and also having at least 10 receptions and 5 carries in ’08. That criteria included Keels’ list of Washington, Devin Hester, Darren Sproles, Maurice Jones-Drew, Reggie Bush, and DeSean Jackson. Keels also suggested Percy Harvin, but we’ll omit him until we see what he does in his rookie year. I then added Joshua Cribbs and Roscoe Parrish via editor’s decision, because they fit the spirit of this comparison. And please remember that this comparison is as triple threats, not as players as a whole. So Maurice Jones-Drew, while a huge impact player on offense, falls down the list as his return role diminishes.

One more note before we begin: We’ve done similar lists comparing receivers and quarterbacks already, if you want to check them out.

10 – Reggie Bush, Saints – Bush is still the class of the triple threats because he’s so dangerous in all three areas. His best attribute of the three is probably as a receiver; he’s had at least 50 catches in all three of his seasons (he had 52 last year despite missing six games). Plus, he’s a dynamic punt returner who had three touchdowns on returns last year and has three in his career. While Bush isn’t an every-down, carry-the-mail back, and his yards-per-carry average has never been 4.0 yards in any of his seasons, 19 percent of his carries go for first downs and he has 12 career rushing touchdowns. The only thing missing from his resume as a triple threat is kickoff returns; he has none in his career. But when he does get the ball, he’s always a huge threat.

9 – Darren Sproles, Chargers – Sproles, who had been a dangerous return man since entering the NFL, exploded as a running back last year, stepping in for LaDanian Tomlinson at times and even supplanting him in the Chargers’ playoff win over the Colts. Sproles had 328 all-purpose yards, including 105 on the ground, in that breakout performance. In the regular season, he averaged 5.4 yards per carry, and more than 24 percent of his totes resulted in first downs. He also caught 29 balls and averaged nearly 12 yards per reception, which is a really high number out of the backfield. That’s why the Chargers staked $6.6 million in keeping Sproles as a franchise player. But he doesn’t quite compare with Bush because he has one year of that kind of production vs. Bush’s three-year resume. He also has one fewer return TD than Bush (4 vs. 3), although Sproles does return both kickoffs and punts. We may see Sproles take another step forward this season now that he has defined his role as Tomlinson’s complement, but we could also see Sproles fall out as teams see more of him and get to take more shots at his diminutive 5-foot-6 frame. 

8 – Leon Washington, Jets – Washington has been a triple threat for three seasons, but last year was his best as his yards-per-carry (5.9) and yards-per-catch (7.6) averages both increased, and as he scored 8 offensive touchdowns, more than doubling his career total of such scores. He proved his impact as a returner with three kickoff returns for TDs in 2007, and he added a fourth to his career total last year. Washington is a great change of pace to Jets starter Thomas Jones, and he can fill the same role if rookie Shonn Greene replaces Jones. Washington isn’t yet the threat that Bush is on offense, nor has he shown he can control a game like Sproles did in the playoffs. But he’s a definite weapon no matter how you get him the ball.

8 (con’t) – DeSean Jackson, Eagles – Jackson is the best wide receiver on this list, as he showed by starting 15 games and catching 65 balls for 912 yards and two scores as a rookie. He also had 17 carries with a 5.6-yard average and a score along with one punt return in 50 attempts. It’ll be interesting to see what the Eagles do with Jackson moving forward. He should remain a starting receiver, and the pattern with such guys usually is to wean them off of returns. (Carolina’s Steve Smith would be the ultimate example of this.) Also, Jackson only had one kickoff return last year, and rookie Jeremy Maclin figures to get most of those attempts in ’09. So while Jackson is an emerging player, this may be the highest he ever ranks on the triple-threat list because his return role figures to diminish as he establishes himself as a receiver in the future.

7 – Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars – Mo-Jo is another guy whose offensive role will knock him off this list eventually, but you could argue that over his first three years, he’s been even more productive than Bush. Jones-Drew has had between 160 and 200 carries each year, never averaging less than 4.2 yards per carry in a season, and he’s had at least 40 catches each year, including a career-high 62 last year. He had 36 offensive TDs in his first three years, which is far more than Bush. But Jones-Drew had just 20 total returns last year, down from 30-plus his first two seasons, and he failed to score on a kickoff return in ’08 after reaching the end zone in both of his first two years. Now that Fred Taylor is gone, Jones-Drew will become the Jaguars’ top running back, and they just won’t be able to risk him on kickoff returns except in desperate situations. So his days as a triple threat are probably over, but it was fun while it lasted.

6 – Devin Hester, Bears – Hester didn’t have a return touchdown last year after amassing 11 in his first two seasons (four on punts and seven on kickoffs). But he played a more significant role in the receiving game with 51 catches, 29 of which went for first downs. He’s still growing into his game as a receiver, but the Bears believe he can be a true No. 1 threat in the passing game. Hester only had six carries, but he’s dangerous getting the ball that way too. If he were solely a returner, Hester would probably be the best in the league at it, but the Bears want his dynamic playmaking ability available on offensive snaps too. That makes him more of a triple threat but lessens his impact on special teams a bit. If Hester continues to emerge as a receiver now that Jay Cutler is flinging the ball his way, he’ll move up this list.

5 – Joshua Cribbs, Browns – Cribbs has been one of the better returners in the league since his rookie season in ’05, and he has 6 career return touchdowns, with at least one each season. Over the last two years, he’s started to get more of an offensive role. He had 29 rushes and averaged 5.8 yards per carry last year, mostly out of the wildcat formation. He also had two catches, which isn’t surprising considering that he found his offensive role under center. Cribbs is a guy who needs a few more offensive touches to move up this list, but his returning prowess makes him a lot of fun to watch.

4 – Ted Ginn Jr., Dolphins – Ginn might never live up to his top-10 draft position, but he’s become a nice weapon in Miami. He had 87 returns in his rookie year and just 39 last year, but that’s still a significant role. His lone return touchdown came on a punt in ’07. While his return numbers decreased, his offensive role increased, as he notched 56 catches in ’08 after having 34 in ’07. His yards-per-catch average also went up from 12.4 to 14.1, which is a positive sign. He only has nine career carries, but he took two of his totes for scores last year, which speaks to his threat level in that role. The Dolphins don’t really have a No. 1 receiver, and Ginn can’t fill that role, but he can be a deep threat and a gamebreaker.

3 – J.J. Arrington, Broncos – It might surprise you to see Arrington’s name on this list, but after several disappointing seasons as a second-pick in Arizona, he finally proved his worth last year – just in time to leave for Denver as a free agent. He averaged six yards per carry as a complement, first to Edgerrin James and then to Tim Hightower, and also had 29 catches and averaged 8.8 yards per reception. Arrington also had his second kickoff return touchdown in his career. It’ll be interesting to see what role Arrington carves out among the glut of running backs in Denver, but his performance last year suggests that he can be a third-down back and returner who takes a little pressure off rookie Knowshon Moreno. The question will be whether Arrington can beat out Correll Buckhalter and others for the carries that role could provide.

2 – Harry Douglas, Falcons – This rookie also was a surprise to make this list, but he fit the category and actually scored as a runner, receiver, and returner last year. Of course, two of those three touchdowns plus a 69-yard catch came in a single game against the Panthers. But that game marked the start of Douglas’ emergence. He finished with 23 catches and a 20.0 yard-per-catch average, 12 carries for a 5.8-yard average, and an 11.9-yard average on 19 punt returns. He’s a guy to watch in the triple-threat category moving forward.

1 – Roscoe Parrish, Bills – Here’s the stat that shocked me when I was researching this piece: The NFL career leader in punt-return average is Parrish, who passed Hall of Famer George McAfee in that category last year. At 13.96, Parrish averages more than a yard more per punt return than anyone else in league history. (Thanks to the Hall of Fame’s site for the numbers.) That’s an impressive stat. He also has punt-return touchdowns for each of the last three seasons. Offensively, Parrish was a third receiver last year who had 24 catches for 232 yards and a score. He also had two rushes. So while he’s not much of a triple threat, he’s a huge threat on punt returns. He should focus on that role this year with Terrell Owens joining Buffalo’s receiving corps with the underrated Lee Evans as well as Josh Reed and James Hardy.

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FR: Free-agency opening weekend

As always, free agency opened with a flurry. After the first weekend, here are how each team’s moves from the first weekend compare. Teams that have not made key signings since Friday are not included, nor are franchise-player moves or re-signings before free-agency began. (Those are covered in the posts that are linked.) We’re also covering trades separately ina post later this week. We’re using a 10-point scale to compare the moves, with 10 being an instant impact and 1 being no impact at all. This post includes moves between Friday, February 27 and Monday, March 2.

10 – Redskins (added DT Albert Haynesworth and OG Derrick Dockery) – Dan Snyder was the big spender of the first weekend, inking Haynesworth to a 7-year, $100 million contract. Haynesworth was the best defensive player in football last year, and if the Redskins can fit their scheme to this talented player, he’ll make a difference. Dockery gives depth on the offensive line as he returns to the team he had his best success with.

9 – Giants (added LB Michael Boley, DTs Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard) – The Giants didn’t hit the home run, but they had three doubles that could turn into triples if things turn out right. Canty is a solid run-stuffer who will have to change from a 3-4 to a 4-3. He’s talented, but is he a fit? Boley and Bernard are better fits. Boley gives the Giants a younger linebacker who can make plays. Bernard probably shouldn’t start, but he’ll flash with big plays as a rotation tackle. This defense is better because of these three moves.

9 (con’t) – Broncos (added RBs Correll Buckhalter and JJ Arrington, WR Jabar Gaffney, Safeties Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill, CB Andre Goodman, LB Andra Davis, DT Darrell Reid, LS Lonnie Paxton) – The Broncos are following the Patriots’ plan circa 2001 to rebuild the team quickly. That year, New England signed 17 free agents to improve depth and consistency, and it worked as the Patriots ended up in the Super Bowl. None of Denver’s signings this year are dynamic, but they will help. Dawkins is the biggest name, but Goodman (a starting quarterback) got the biggest deal and will make the biggest difference on defense. Buckhalter and Arrington, along with holdover Ryan Torian, give a backfield that was battered beyond belief last year a lot of help.

8 – Jets (added LB Bart Scott, kept OG Brandon Moore) – Scott is probably the second-best player to move in free agency thus far. He knows new coach Rex Ryan’s defense and will be a difference-maker. His veteran presence should help fellow ILB David Harris, a former first-round pick, better as well. Moore and Lito Sheppard (who came over in trade) are also solid starters who help.

7 – Rams (added C Jason Brown; kept CB Ron Bartell) – The Rams need a lot of help, so this single move doesn’t address all their issues. But it’s a start in an area that needed tons and tons of help. Brown was a solid center in Baltimore, and he can play guard as well. He’ll be a cornerstone as the Rams seeking to do a full remodel of the offensive line. Bartell quickly became one of the top cornerbacks available on the market, but the Rams were able to talk him into staying instead of taking an equal 4-year, $28M offer from New Orleans.

6 – Texans (added DE Antonio Smith and QB Dan Orlovksy; kept S Eugene Wilson and TE Joel Dreesen) – The Texans got one of the up-and-comers of free agency in Smith, an impact defensive end who should partner with Mario Williams to give Houston a fearsome pass rush. This move could help take the Houston defense up a level.

5 – Patriots (added RB Fred Taylor and TE Chris Baker, kept S James Sanders) – The Patriots don’t need a ton of help, but Taylor could be an upgrade as a rotation running back. Baker gives the Pats a pass-catching tight end option that they didn’t have last year. Both are bit players, but they should provide an additional spark for an already potent offense. 

4 – Titans (kept QB Kerry Collins and DB Vincent Fuller) – It’s hard to rate a team with no additions and some significant losses (Haynesworth) so highly, but the Titans deserve some credit for locking Collins up. (After all, the Cardinals and Kurt Warner are still negotiating.) Collins at least gives the Titans a chance to carry over their success from last season.

4 (con’t) – 49ers (added WR Brandon Jones and FB Moran Norris; kept LB Takeo Spikes and CB-RS Allen Rossum) – Jones is the big move here, because the 49ers are in such need of a receiving threat. He’s probably a quality starter, but he’s not a No. 1. That’s something the Niners haven’t had since T.O. left town. But for a team on the uptick, this is a move that helps.

3 – Cowboys (added LB Keith Brooking) – Brooking is a solid pro who will help some on the field but might prove to be more valuable in the locker room for the Cowboys. He’s not a Pro Bowl-caliber player anymore, but he’s dependable on the field. His presence will help to allow the Cowboys to continue to turn DeMarcus Ware loose.

3 (con’t) Saints (kept LB Jonathan Vilma and OT Jon Stinchcomb) – The Saints need to add help on defense, but they spent the first weekend of free agency making sure they didn’t lose two key contributors. Vilma was in demand, and Stinchcomb is a solid player at a position of need on this year’s market. Both retentions were necessary, so the Saints should get credit for getting them done.

2 – Steelers (kept OG Chris Kemoeatu and FB Sean McHugh) – The Steelers outbid the Jets to keep Kemoeatu, who was part of an offensive line that was far from special. But they view Kemoeatu as part of the solution, and being able to keep him was a plus.

2 (con’t) – Eagles (added OT Stacy Andrews) – The Eagles let both starting offensive tackles, Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, enter free agency, so there’s a gaping hole to be addressed. Enter Andrews, a hot prospect last year before tearing his ACL during the season. Andrews probably fits in better at right tackle than on the left side. His presence can’t hurt his brother Shawn, a former Pro Bowl guard who battled personal problems last season.

2 (con’t) Ravens (added CB Domonique Foxworth) – The Ravens have been raided so far, losing Bart Scott and Jason Brown. But they did address their cornerback issues by signing Foxworth to help replace Chris McAlister (cut) and Samari Rolle, who battled injuries all last year. But here’s the question: Is Foxworth a starter? He wasn’t in Denver at the beginning of his career, and he started only part time in Atlanta next season. The Falcons weren’t going to pay Foxworth as a starter, but the Ravens did (4 year, $28 million, $16.5 million guaranteed). A cornerback move was necessary, but Foxworth as the move has some bust potential.

2 (con’t) Seahawks (added DT Colin Cole) – The Seahawks lost DT Rocky Bernard, but they replaced him with Cole, a run-stuffing tackle. They still have bigger fish to fry, but this move mitigated a key departure, which is a good thing.

2 (con’t) Jaguars (added S Sean Considine; kept C Brad Meester and CB Scott Starks) – Jacksonville, like division rival Indianapolis, was able to keep its center at the last minute. Meester has been a solid pro for the Jaguars for 9 years, and they didn’t want to lose him.

1 – Bears (added OT Frank Omiyale) – The Bears had to get an offensive tackle after the retirement of John Tait and the free-agency of John St. Clair. Omiyale can be a decent starter, and now Chicago has the option to pair him with ’08 first-round pick Chris Williams. If the Bears resign St. Clair, Omiyale could move inside or become a swing tackle. He’s a handy guy to have around, but he has to start to be worth the 4-year, $11.5 million deal he got.

1 – Lions (added RB Maurice Morris, WR Bryant Johnson, CB Eric King) – The Lions need a lot of help and a lot of depth, and so they’ve gone the bargain route in free agency. All three of these guys will at least play, even though they’re probably not ideal starters. Still, having some more professionals around can’t do anything but help.

1 – Bills (added OL Geoff Hangartner, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick) – The Bills are another team that’s lost more than it gained, and more losses (notably CB Jabari Greer) are likely coming. Hangartner is a versatile lineman who’s good enough to start inside, and Fitzpatrick is at least an average backup QB. But neither of these moves will matter much in the long run.

(Note: The Miami Dolphins made most of their moves before the weekend; you can read about them here.)

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