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A Free Agent Review Article


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http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/5427756

 

Good, bad and ugly of free agency

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Adam Schein / Special to FOXSports.com

Posted: 19 hours ago

 

Now that a full week has passed in the NFL's business season, it is time to break down the good, bad, and 49ers in the start of free agency.

 

Three best moves

 

Drew Brees to New Orleans — Chargers general manager A.J. Smith will rue the day he neglected this Pro Bowl quarterback. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis swooped in, outbidding the Dolphins with more guaranteed money, and brilliantly signed Brees to a 6 year, $60 million deal with a $10 million signing bonus. The quarterback is the perfect fit for new coach Sean Payton's offense. And Brees acted as the pied-piper by signing in New Orleans, calming fears that free agents wouldn't want to call the city home after Hurricane Katrina.

 

LeCharles Bentley will help anchor the Browns' offensive line. (Molly Corfman / Associated Press)

 

LeCharles Bentley to Cleveland — When I talked to the stud center at the Super Bowl, his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree in December when discussing the possibility of coming home to Cleveland to play for his childhood favorite Browns. Browns general manager Phil Savage guaranteed Bentley 19 million dollars in the first 3 years to ensure Pro Bowler came home and didn't sign with Philadelphia. His 6 year, $36-million deal with a $12 million signing bonus is the richest contract for a center in NFL history. And it is well deserved, as Bentley adds toughness and credibility to the Browns in the trenches.

 

Edgerrin James to Arizona — It was going to take a mega-buck offer to lure one of the best running backs in the NFL to the desert and the Cardinals made it happen. James got a 4 year, $30 million dollar deal from Arizona that includes $11.5 million in bonus money. James is the perfect compliment to Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin, and Larry Fitzgerald. Now if they can only get some new offensive linemen.

 

10 worst moves

 

Antonio Bryant to San Francisco — While the receiver has talent, Bryant is a knucklehead, and thus, a major underachiever. He was a problem child playing college football at Pittsburgh, tossed a jersey in Bill Parcells' face in Dallas, and managed to aggravate everyone in Cleveland in a year and a half after arriving from the Cowboys in a trade. So what do the Niners do? Naturally they give this headache a four-year deal worth $15 million and a $5 million signing bonus. What happened to Mike Nolan building with character? This made absolutely no sense.

 

Terrell Owens to Dallas — So let me get this straight ... Dallas gives Owens a 3 year, $25 million deal with a $5 million bonus. Did anyone survey Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb, Andy Reid, Brad Childress, Ozzie Newsome, or anybody else Owens drove batty? How in the world could Jerry Jones not remember TO blowing up the Eagles season a year ago? And to give him this type of money without any provisions if he acts just like he did with the 49ers and Eagles is beyond foolish. How can TO get along with Drew Bledsoe, he of the thin-skin and the ill-timed pick, when he couldn't deal with the affable Donovan McNabb? And I wonder what Bill Parcells thinks of TO wanting to be a reality TV star? This is going to be a disaster. Just like it was in San Francisco. And Philadelphia.

 

Chester Taylor to Minnesota — Can he shoulder the load for 16 games? Is he concretely better than Mewelde Moore/Ciatrick Fason? Does this mean the Vikings won't draft a stud running back at 17 in April's draft? Is Taylor worth 4 years and $14 million with $5.6 million guaranteed? There are a lot of legit questions surrounding this pickup.

 

Brandon Lloyd to Washington — Being fair, when I talked to Lloyd he said all the right things about playing for the Redskins and being enamored with Joe Gibbs. But after smartly signing Antwaan Randle El to team with Santana Moss and Chris Cooley, I just didn't understand why the Redskins needed another down the field threat. To get the restricted free agent, the Redskins had to give up a 3rd-round pick this season and next year's 4th round pick. Remember, Washington doesn't have its first round pick this year after trading for Jason Campbell. Lloyd has the ability to make the incredible catch, but with the Niners he dropped too many balls in his hands and seemed to be a bit too interested in his rap career.

 

Kendrick Clancy to Arizona — I really appreciated Clancy's honesty when I talked to him about the move to the desert. The solid defensive tackle said it was mainly about the money. And let's officially call it way too much cash with his four-year, $8.1 million deal. Clancy was a decent run stuffer for the Giants last year, but didn't warrant that contract, especially with Rocky Bernard, Sam Adams, Ryan Pickett, among others, still available at the time.

 

Joey Harrington's future in Detroit remains in limbo. (Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

 

Joey Harrington — Honestly, how clueless can you be? According to the Detroit News, Harrington sabotaged a Mike Martz orientation by not paying attention or drawing plays. As a result, the Lions signed Jon Kitna and brilliantly picked up Josh McCown, who was encouraged to go to Detroit on the advice of former teammate Kurt Warner. McCown is ripe for overachievement (perhaps the next Jake Delhomme) with Martz and multiple downfield weapons. And the Lions finally ditched Harrington on Monday. If Joey needs help packing, I am sure I can find thousands of Lions fans willing to lend a hand.

 

Oakland not signing McCown — The quarterback told Sirius NFL Radio that he was scared off by the Raiders when the brass told him they were interested in drafting a QB (Vince Young) in the first round. Oakland should've never let him leave the complex.

 

Brett Favre not making up his mind — Are the Packers rebuilding or retooling? Do they need to call Brian Griese or Aaron Brooks? Should they have made a move for Drew Brees or Josh McCown? And to be honest, this goes beyond Favre. His title isn't general manager. Ted Thompson needed to put his foot down before free agency started.

 

A second round pick for Culpepper — Now I totally understand that Culpepper emailed his way out of town, and in Zygi Wilf's eyes the love boat stigma attached to his now-former quarterback didn't help, but the Vikings needed to get more than a second-round pick for Culpepper. Extra picks, a conditional pick, a player, whatever! And if I didn't get that, I would've held on to the QB who had the second best regular season (behind Peyton Manning) at the position in 2004. In theory, Brad Childress was hired to make Culpepper even better. While I am concerned about Culpepper's maturity, Nick Saban did everything but use a gun and a mask as he robbed the Vikings.

 

Will Allen to Miami — In essence, the Dolphins trade Sam Madison for a cover corner that couldn't catch a cold if he ran around naked in Alaska. Not that we want to see that. Nick Saban made a bizarre choice when he inked Allen to a four-year, $12 million dollar deal.

 

Most surprising move

 

Jamal Lewis back in Baltimore — My surprise was two-fold; it was the day after Baltimore inked Mike Anderson and I talked to Lewis on February 24th and he said he was done with the Ravens. I guess things changed when James signs with the Cardinals (Lewis' first choice) and DeShaun Foster is back in Carolina. And while this stunned me, Lewis goes back humbled and motivated based on how his contract was structured. I cannot believe I am writing this, but it actually appears to be a good fit. But boy did it shock me.

 

Three instant impact moves

 

Brian Williams to Jacksonville — The Jags were a playmaking cover corner back opposite Rashean Mathis away from being a truly complete defense. Williams, who gets a six-year, $32 million deal with a $10 million signing bonus, perfectly fits that void. The defensive back played well subbing for Fred Smoot last season and is loaded with upside. He will thrive playing for Jack Del Rio.

 

Lawyer Milloy to Atlanta — Let's be honest; the Falcons were horrific at safety last year. Milloy adds credibility, toughness, leadership, a winning attitude, and the ability to make plays to the Falcons defense. Troy Vincent told me that the Falcons are getting a "difference maker" who can stuff the run and defend the pass by signing his former Bills teammate to a three-year $6 million deal with a $2.5 million signing bonus.

 

Will Witherspoon to St. Louis — Desperate for toughness and play-making at the linebacker position, the Rams smartly coughed up 33 million dollars over six years for the former Panther. Witherspoon, who recorded 109 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and 2 picks for Carolina last year, will play middle linebacker for the Rams and instantly add an attitude.

 

Six underrated moves

 

David Thornton to Tennessee— The linebacker got the hot free agency period for the Titans rolling by signing a five-year deal with Tennessee. Colts general manager Bill Polian told me this week he was very sad to lose in the linebacker. Thornton is an ideal fit playing for Jeff Fisher, teaming with star Keith Bulluck on the outside.

 

Will Demps to N.Y. Giants — Regarded as one of the smartest and hardest-working players in the NFL, Demps is a perfect fit playing for Tom Coughlin. The safety is healthy after a partially torn ACL kept him out of the final month of the season for the Ravens. Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi smartly gave his new starting safety a five-year deal worth $12 million and a $3 million signing bonus.

 

Darren Howard to Philadelphia — Eagles owner Jeff Lurie raised some eyebrows when he said, "I can't think of a player we've tried to get harder over the past several years." Now while that might just be hyperbole, Jim Johnson's defense is getting a bookend rusher to Jevon Kearse. And while Howard, like so many Saints, underachieved last season with the chaos surrounding the team, the defensive end does have two seasons where he has sacked the quarterback 11 times. Look for a rebirth in Philadelphia.

 

Kimo von Oelhoffen to N.Y. Jets — New Jets coach Eric Mangini needed this type of winner, leader, and tone-setter to help transition the Jets into a 3-4 defense. The defensive end gets a three-year deal for $9 million to play on the opposite side of Shaun Ellis.

 

Akin Ayodele to Dallas — The former Cowboys ball boy goes home to play outside linebacker for Bill Parcells in the 3-4 defense. I think Dallas got a major bargain and a player who will thrive in this next chapter of his career.

 

Ryan Clark to Pittsburgh — Clark told me he was looking to start, play for a winner, and continue to play for an aggressive defensive coordinator after drinking the Gregg Williams' Kool-Aid in Washington. The savvy and hard hitting safety hit the jackpot on all wishes, giving the Steelers a suitable replacement for Chris Hope.

 

Three under-the-radar moves

 

Dan Campbell to Detroit — At times the Lions couldn't block their way out of a paper bag last year. And at times, the first-round draft picks were lazy. Campbell, a tough-as-nails blocking tight end, who also has pretty good hands, will aid Detroit on the field and kick some butt in practice and in the locker room. He will be a perfect extension of both Mike Martz and Rod Marinelli. This was a strong move by the Lions.

 

Michael Bennett brings his speed to New Orleans. (Elsa / Getty Images)

 

Michael Bennett to New Orleans — We learned in Minnesota that Bennett isn't durable enough to be a bell-cow back. But the lightning fast speed is still there and Bennett will be the perfect change-up from Deuce McAllister. Plus, remember how Saints coach Sean Payton used Tiki Barber when he was the Giants offensive coordinator.

 

Damione Lewis to Carolina — Yes, the former first round pick was a relative bust in St. Louis, but Panthers general manager Marty Hurney gave his defensive oriented head coach John Fox some much needed depth on the defensive line with the addition of Lewis. And the contract is modest; two years, $2 million. And Fox could be the guy to get Lewis to achieve.

 

Top three teams in free agency

 

Titans — Floyd Reese got the ball rolling with Thornton and the great moves kept coming. New center Kevin Mawae adds a mean-streak and a veteran presence to the offensive line. David Givens is a very reliable and big-game-tested receiver to team with Drew Bennett and the Titans' young wide outs. And the versatile safety Chris Hope instantly gives the young defensive backfield a jolt of talent and professionalism. Hope told me it is his job to make Adam Jones "get what it is all about." Hope and Givens have Super Bowl rings while Mawae and Thornton have been in championship games. That type of playoff experience is invaluable for the Titans.

 

Browns — Bentley was just the tip of Phil Savage's fantastic "off-season." Joe Jurevicius is also a Cleveland native and gives Charlie Frye a veteran threat in the red zone. Everyone knows that Willie McGinest is a Romeo Crennel guy from their days together in New England and McGinest will be a team leader. But let's not sell McGinest short as a pass-rushing linebacker. In addition to a major locker room presence, the former Patriot star instantly gives Cleveland a much better pass rush. This was a great move. Cleveland improved in the trenches by plucking Kevin Shaffer to join Bentley on the offensive line and plugging in beefy Ted Washington at nose tackle. Plus, the Browns improved their special teams by stealing Dave Zastudil from the Ravens.

 

Rams — Witherspoon was perfect. The St. Louis secondary was a punch-line last year and the Rams added a play-maker and leader by inking Corey Chavous. And after he was cut by Dallas, LaRoi Glover quickly looked to be reunited with his former head coach with the Saints Jim Haslett, who now heads the Rams defense. I also loved Scott Linehan bringing in Gus Frerotte, who was with him in both Minnesota and Miami. While I am a big fan of Marc Bulger, you have to wonder aloud about his ability to stay healthy for 16 games. Frerotte is not a starter, but is the ideal backup. And playing for Linehan, where he knows the system cold, is a good fit all around.

 

Adam Schein hosts the Afternoon Blitz on Sirius NFL Radio from 3-7 Eastern Time. You can also hear him Saturday mornings on WFAN in New York. E-mail him at adamschein@foxsports.com.

 

Giants related in bold

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Though Clancy was honest it sickens me how professional athletes are so greedy these days and not thankful for what they have. Nothing is good enough. I'm glad we have people like Tiki and Toomer who are willing to take pay cuts to retire on this team. We have some of the most loyal players in the NFL.

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Guest Nutty Sack

Clancy chased the money to go to Arizona but that should be no vindication of Ernie's misguided judgement in this case. This is a double whammy since we have no one to play Defensive Tackle. Ernie should have gotten to him early and he could have kept them like he did with others.

 

We're in big trouble.

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Though Clancy was honest it sickens me how professional athletes are so greedy these days and not thankful for what they have. Nothing is good enough. I'm glad we have people like Tiki and Toomer who are willing to take pay cuts to retire on this team. We have some of the most loyal players in the NFL.

 

I think Clancy knew that the Arizona Cardinals overpaid big time for him. If I were Clancy I'd take the money too. Sure the Giants have a legit chance of getting to the Super Bowl and possibly winning it, but that's not set in stone.

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