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FR: Free agency weekly review part 2

The second week of free agency started out with a kaboom when Terrell Owens signed with Buffalo. We have many thoughts on that signing in this post. As for other signings this week, we’ve compiled a list comparing them to each other below. (Click through for the opening weekend comparison and the first full week comparison) As always, the following moves are compared relative to each other using a 10-point scale, with 10 being the most impactful move of the week and 1 being a move that’s barely worth noting. Remember that these moves are compared only to each other; this week’s 10 level would have been merely a 5 or 6 last week.

10 – Cowboys (added DE Igor Olshansky and S Gerald Sansbaugh) – Olshansky isn’t an impact player, but he’s a solid, dependable end who does his job as a 3-4 defensive end and allows the glamour players (Shawne Merriman in San Diego, now DeMarcus Ware in Dallas) to rush the passer and get their sacks. Olshansky, who got a 4-year contract worth $18 million,  is replacing Chris Canty and should put forth a performance in the ballpark at Canty’s at a much cheaper price. This is the best way the Cowboys could have replaced Canty. To replace Roy Williams, the Cowboys need options, and Sansbaugh is at least that. He is an acceptable option who might still have the upside to take a step forward in his career. To get someone like him on a one-year contract is another win for Dallas.
(Note: I know that Olshanksy isn’t much of a 10 move. But that’s what you get when you compare moves on a relatively slow week.)

9 – Jaguars (added OT Tra Thomas) – The Jaguars had massive offensive line problems last year (mainly because of injury), and they throttled the Jags’ chances of a successful season. With starting OLT Khalif Barnes a free agent who expects a contract beyond what Jacksonville is willing to play, they had to get a replacement. Thomas, a three-time Pro Bowler who has played left tackle his whole career, is a pretty good one. While Thomas may not be the player he once was, he’s still pretty good. If he can play 16 games, he’ll be an asset protecting David Garrard’s blind side. Plus, Thomas is big and physical enough to be a good run blocker, which is important given Jacksonville’s offensive bent toward the ground game.

9 (con’t) – Rams (added S James Butler and FB Mike Karney) – Butler played for new Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo with the Giants, and he now moves to the Gateway City with Spags to be the run-stopping strong safety in the St. Louis defense. The Rams have focused on their secondary in free agency, resigning CB Ron Bartell and franchising FS O.J. Atogwe, and Butler (who got $17 million over 4 years) gives them another young building block in that area. Karney is a block-first fullback who fills an important role as the Rams move to a less wide open, more run-first offense. He’s a nice player to have around, and the price (3 years, $3.6M) is reasonable.

8 – Cardinals (added CB Bryant McFadden and LS Mike Leach) – McFadden isn’t a big name at cornerback, but scouts are high on his abilities — especially as a second cornerback. Rookie sensation Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be the Cards’ undisputed No. 1 corner going into his second season, and McFadden brings physicality and reliability on the other side. This is a good addition in an offseason marked by departures in Arizona. Leach is a dependable long snapper who will replace Nathan Hodel.

7 – Falcons (added LB Mike Peterson and C Brett Romberg) – Peterson was a longtime stalwart in Indianapolis and Jacksonville, but he clashed with Jags head coach Jack Del Rio last year, and that paved his way out of Jacksonville. But Peterson had great success with current Falcons head coach Mike Smith in Jacksonville, so the fit is good. Add that to the fact that the Falcons have lost OLBs Michael Boley and Keith Brooking, and so there was a big need for a veteran ‘backer in the ATL. Romberg fits in as a backup who won’t kill you if he has to start.

7 (con’t) – Chargers (added LB Kevin Burnett) – Burnett was an emerging linebacker in Dallas, but the Cowboys’ desire to lock DeMarcus Ware to a long-term deal made him expendable. The Chargers run a similar system, and so Burnett has a chance to continue his ascent there. He can be a plus starter in San Diego, and he should step in immediately to help that defense.

6 – Browns (added LB David Bowens, DE C.J. Mosley and CB Hank Poteat) – It was ex-Jets week in Cleveland, as new head coach Eric Mangini brought in some players he knows and who, just as importantly, know his defensive system. Bowens is the headline here – he’s an effective pass rusher as a 3-4 outside ‘backer. Poteat is at this point a grizzled vet who can fit in as a cornerback but shouldn’t start except in an emergency. Mosley will be a rotation guy at defensive end.

6 (con’t) – Dolphins (added CB Eric Green) – After Andre Goodman left for Denver, the Dolphins needed to add a potential starter at cornerback. Green can be that. He started six games in Arizona last year before rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie seized that job. Green isn’t great, but he’s an acceptable guy to start a position competition with.

5 – Seahawks (kept OT Ray Willis) – Willis is a versatile player who could potentially play tackle, although he’s slated to start at guard for the Seahawks. Given the contract that Frank Omiyale got from Chicago, Willis (a similar player) was a good guy for Seattle to keep.

5 (con’t) – Patriots (added CB Leigh Bodden and LS Nathan Hodel) – Bodden has played well in his career, but his play really fell off last year. But was that because his skills are slipping or because he was stuck in Detroit? I tend to believe he has a little bit left, which is why this move is above some others. It’s a steal for New England to get him for a minimum salary. Hodel replaces Lonnie Paxton, who moved to Denver.

4 – Bears (added S Josh Bullocks; kept RB Kevin Jones) – The Bears needed safety depth, and so they’re giving Bullocks a shot. Bears fans aren’t excited, thanks mainly to this YouTube video called “How can a safety be this bad?” Even if he is that bad, the price makes it a shot worth taking given the talent drain in Chicago over the past few years. Jones didn’t play much last year, but he showed talent in Detroit before a major injury. He’s an acceptable backup for ’08 rookie sensation Matt Forte.

3 – Packers (added S Anthony Smith) – Smith got less and less playing time in Pittsburgh last year as the season went on, but he still could be a decent safety option. The Packers have only chased bit-part players in free agency lately, and Smith fits that profile to a T.

3 (con’t) – Chiefs (added CB Travis Daniels, WR C.J. Jones and LB Corey Mays) – Daniels has bounced around a little, but he still could fit as a starter or nickel corner in the right situation. Jones and Mays both have Patriots ties, which made them attractive to new Chiefs head honcho Scott Pioli.

2 – Jets (added LB Larry Izzo and DT Howard Green) – Izzo is a special-teams ace, and Green is a rotation defensive tackle. Both will add depth for the Jets.

2 (con’t) – Vikings (kept CB Benny Sapp and DT Jimmy Kennedy) – Kennedy is important because the Vikings still may lose DTs Pat and Kevin Williams for four games each after the Starcaps issues of last season. Sapp fits in as a third or fourth corner.

1 – Texans (kept S Nick Ferguson) – Ferguson is a borderline starter who did a decent job in his first year in Houston last year, so they opted to keep him. He fits in as a backup who can play OK if called upon.

1 (con’t) – Lions (added OL Daniel Loper and LB Cody Spencer; kept RB Aveion Cason) – Loper and Spencer played in Tennessee when new Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was there. Like Cleveland and K.C., Detroit is filling the back half of its roster with guys the new bosses know.

1 (con’t) – Eagles (added S Rashad Baker) – Sean Jones is the big addition at safety for the Eagles, but Baker, a journeyman who was in Oakland last year, brings depth that’s badly needed after the departures of Brian Dawkins and Sean Considine.

1 (con’t) – Steelers (kept LB Andre Frazier) – Anytime the Steelers re-sign a free agent, it’s worth noting. Frazier isn’t a starter, but he can play the system in case of injury.

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FR: Most impactful cutbacks

 This is part 3 of our free agency preview. We’ve already done a more than full workup on the 14 franchise players, and we’ve been updating our post on key re-signings clubs made so far. (That post was updated through the opening of free agency.) Now, we’re going to break down the most impactful cutbacks teams have made. We’re comparing them on the football relativity scale, with 10 being the teams that lost the most, and 1 being teams that didn’t lose much. We’ve listed only teams that have made salary-cap-related cutbacks, so all 32 are not listed. And this post will also be updated up through the beginning of the new league year tomorrow.

 10 – Buccaneers  (key cuts: LBs Derrick Brooks and Cato June, RB Warrick Dunn, WRs Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard) – This cut list reads like a Tampa Bay’s all-pro ballot from just a few years ago. Brooks is arguably the greatest Buccaneer of all time (only Lee Roy Selmon really has an argument), and he has remained productive even as he has aged. Galloway went into last year as Tampa’s No. 1 wide receiver, and Hilliard and Dunn played bit roles but key roles last year. With the change of head coaches, Tampa Bay is obviously trying to turn a page, but they’re losing a lot of quality players and leadership in the process. These cuts hurt a lot.

9 – Colts (key cut: WR Marvin Harrison) – Indy’s list of cuts isn’t as long as Tampa’s, but the name on the list is as big as Brooks. Harrison’s huge salary-cap number (more than $13 million) meant a cut was necessary, but he’s a loss. Harrison had been passed by Reggie Wayne as the Colts’ No. 1 receiver, but he still was a key part of Indy’s frequently used three-wideout set. The onus is on Anthony Gonzalez to step up for the Colts, and they’ll have to find a third receiver to keep the offense moving. This is another loss (head coach Tony Dungy, defensive coordinator Ron Meeks) that makes me think the arrow is pointed down on the Colts going forward.

8 – Jaguars (key cuts: RB Fred Taylor, WR Jerry Porter, CB Drayton Florence, DE Paul Spicer) – The Jaguars, like Tampa Bay and Indy, had to cut a franchise icon. Taylor has been a productive running back for 11 years in Jacksonville, and although he was clearly No. 2 to Maurice Jones-Drew last season, he was still productive. Spicer spent nine years with the Jags, but he was being slowed by injuries, and Jacksonville had to give ’08 draft picks Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves a chance to sail or sink. The other two cuts, Porter and Florence, were 2 of Jacksonville’s big free agent signings last year. Both were huge, huge busts. After changing general managers, Jacksonville decided to cut their losses on both big deals.

7 – Saints (key cut: RB Deuce McAlister) – We continue the team icon hit list in New Orleans, where McAlister got the axe after eight productive years. This cut is lower on the relativity scale because injuries have left McAlister with less ability to contribute than either Taylor or Harrison have. McAlister doesn’t look to be more than a bit player anywhere else, but the emotional loss that Saints fans will have in not seeing their native son out there is still significant.

7 (con’t) –  Broncos (key cuts: CB Dre Bly, DT Dewayne Robertson, DE John Engelberger, TE Nate Jackson, LB Niko Koutovides, S Marquand Manuel, LB Jamie Winborn) – This list is significant because of its length and because of Bly and Robertson. Robertson was a top-5 draft pick with the Jets who got a second chance in Denver and didn’t capitalize. Bly was a borderline Pro Bowl player in Detroit and St. Louis, but his time in Denver across from Champ Bailey showed that Bly was no longer an elite corner. This is another organization turning the page, and you can tell from the cut list that the new management feels like ex-grand poobah Mike Shanahan left a lot of pages on the roster that needed to be turned.

7 (con’t) – Ravens (key cuts: CB Chris McAlister, DE Marques Douglas) – This McAlister isn’t quite a franchise icon, but he was a key part of the Ravens’ dominating defenses this decade. The question is what McAlister has left. He’ s no longer a true shutdown corner, but can he still be an effective starter? My guess is some team will be willing to invest to see if that’s the case. Douglas was a rotation defensive end but not a huge loss.

6 – Raiders (key cuts: WR Ronald Curry, S Gibril Wilson, FB Justin Griffith, OT Kwame Harris, DE Kalimba Edwards) – The Raiders, like the Jaguars, cut the cord on many of their top free agent signings of last offseason. DeAngelo Hall got the axe during the season, and Wilson and Harris are now gone as well. (Many in the league had chuckled at the Wilson contract and laughed out loud at the Harris contract.) The Raiders are still talent thin, so cutting guys who can play, even if their contracts are way out of whack, still hurts.

5 – Jets (key cuts: WR Laveranues Coles, OG Brandon Moore, CB David Barrett, LBs David Bowens and Brad Kassell, TE Chris Baker) – The Jets had a bounce-back year last season, so it’s a bit surprising to see them cutting contributors like Moore, Baker, and Barrett. But while there’s some volume of cuts here, there’s not a devastating impact – if the Jets can get some young players through the draft to replace the depth. Coles was cut later in what was termed as the Jets “letting him be a free agent.” Don’t be fooled – that’s nothing but a requested release. Coles is decent but not worth the money he thinks he is. The Jets are probably better off just moving on.

4 -Texans (key cuts: RB Ahman Green, LB Morlon Greenwood, DE Anthony Weaver, S Will Demps, OT Ephriam Salaam) – This list is long enough that it’s worth putting on this level. While Green used to be good, injuries have robbed him of effectiveness. No big losses here, but this is another team that must be strategic in replacing depth.

4 (con’t) – Lions (key cuts: CB Leigh Bodden, TE Dan Campbell, WR Mike Furrey, S Dwight Smith) – Another team changing regimes that cut some guys who have been productive. Bodden is notable because he was a key part of the Shaun Rogers trade last offseason. But given the Lions’ utter failure last year, these guys were probably all in roles (and at salaries) that are above their current water level.

4 (con’t) – Bills (key cuts: OG Derrick Dockery, TE Robert Royal) – Dockery was a big-ticket free-agent signing two years ago, getting Steve Hutchinson money (7 years, $49M) even though he wasn’t a Pro Bowl-caliber player. Dockery has started 93 straight games, and so he should hook on elsewhere, but it should happen at a much lower pay rate.

3 – Panthers (key cuts: WR D.J. Hackett, RB Nick Goings, OT Jeremy Bridges) – Hackett was a key signing in Carolina last offseason, but he made little impact and got passed on the depth chart by Dwayne Jarrett. Bridges has played well over the last couple of years but his multiple off-field problems made him dispensible. Goings is a key special-teams guy, but his moment as an NFL-quality running back is gone.

3 (con’t) – Chiefs (key cuts: CB Patrick Surtain, LB Donnie Edwards, QB Damon Huard) – Surtain and Edwards were once stars, but they’ve lost effectiveness, and so in a regime change their cuts are expected. Damon Huard played OK as a starter 2 years ago, but he’s really just a backup, and Tyler Thigpen showed last year that he’s good enough to at least be a No. 2 quarterback.

3 (con’t) – Rams (key cuts QB Trent Green, WR Drew Bennett) – Bennett’s another free-agent bust on this list. He never was able to become Torry Holt’s sidekick for the Rams. Green has been a good player, but his time in the NFL is over. He should go to the broadcast booth next season, because he’ll be good at that, and he’s not a good quarterback anymore.

3 (con’t) Redskins (key cuts: CB Shawn Springs, LB Marcus Washington) – It’s a theme of this list – another free agent bust. Washington left the Colts as a big signing with the Redskins, but he didn’t deliver equal to his contract value. When Springs was cut, he moved the Redskins up a level in this comparison, but not more. Springs was once an elite quarterback, but injuries hampered him severely last season, and had he stayed he probably would have had to move to safety. The emergence of DeAngelo Hall in Washington made Springs expendable, especially at his $8 million price tag.

2 – Giants (key cuts: RB Reuben Droughns, CB Sam Madison, S Sammy Knight) – Droughns was only the fifth-best back on the Giants’ roster, so he’s expendable. Madison and Knight once were good players, but age has taken its toll. They have to hope to catch on for the minimum elsewhere if they want to keep playing.

2 (con’t) Steelers (key cut: OG Kendall Simmons) – The most amazing thing about the Steelers’ Super Bowl run was how ineffective their offensive line was most of the year. An overhaul is due, and Simmons, a former first-round pick, is being jettisoned as part of it.

1 – Bears (key cuts: WR Marty Booker, LB Gilbert Gardner) – Booker was brought into Chicago last year to contribute as a wideout, but he’s no longer effective. Gardner is merely a backup.

1 (con’t) – Cardinals (key cut: LS Nathan Hodel) – This is only notable because Hodel was a college teammate of PK Neil Rackers, and the Cardinals had promoted the fact that Hodel’s snaps helped Rackers succeed.

1 (con’t) – Cowboys (key cuts CB Adam “Pacman” Jones, QB Brad Johnson) – Dallas signed Johnson to be a safe, reliable backup, but when Tony Romo got hurt Johnson showed he just didn’t have it anymore. As for Jones, he got more attention than anyone else on this list last year, but he didn’t play very well at all. This move proves that the Pacman-in-Dallas experiment was sound and fury signifying nothing.

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