NFL Free Agent Frenzy

March Madness generally doesn't apply to the NFL, and for football players, spring training generally refers to either the driving range or rehab. But it doesn't mean it's all quiet on the four-man front. There have been plenty of developments in the last month, you just might not have noticed over the sound of Brett Favre retiring. Now we recap some of the moves and non-moves that could make waves next year ... and a few that won't.


Before I move on, I have to shoot the elephant in the room. Enough has been written about Favre at this point to fill Britannica. But in short, yes, he earned the right to retire when he wanted, not when pundits thought he should. No, he shouldn't have strung the Packers along the last couple years, but then again, beats what they were dealing with before there was Favre. (Name one great player from the Packers from the early 1990s. Or the '80s. Or the '70s.) The fans own the team, so if they want to let him get away with it, no talking head or scribe outside the city is owed an explanation. Loyalty is rare in sports, so with it should come some leeway.

Yes, many national media members apparently loved him more than their own children. And yes, his low-key charm, his human fallibility and openness about it, his freewheeling playing style, and his monogamy with a loving town made him a story worth more attention than his considerable playing ability alone warranted. Great story, even if over-told.

Do the records, MVPs, unique talents, and Super Bowl ring make him among the elite all-time quarterbacks? Yes. Did his shoot-first, ask-questions-later mentality lead to interceptions that held him back from being among the greatest five or six of all-time? I think so. But would he have been the great quarterback he was without that mentality? I don't know, but I like to — and tend to — think not. When the media love-fest is over, he should take his place somewhere after Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, John Elway, and probably Steve Young. But he's right there, waiting for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to join and maybe pass him.

And most importantly, yes, Green Bay will have a great shot at winning a weak North even if Aaron Rogers is average (he's been at least as much in limited exposure). If he is even moderately good, the Packers can be a threat in the NFC.

Good. That's out of the way.


Known the last few years as one of the league's most talented backups, Turner finally gets to emerge from the shadow of LaDainian Tomlinson as a full-fledged feature back in Atlanta. Of course, with Chris Redman throwing to receivers matching his mediocrity, Turner may want to scurry back to the shadow soon.

But after spending $34.5 million on him, and considering they have a talented Jerious Norwood in the backfield (who could actually take some carries from Turner, just not like an L.T.), it could be somewhat of a head-scratcher as to how the Falcolns are going to fill holes at (name any position here). But at least Turner now has $34.5 million dollars, so he really can't complain too much.


After re-establishing himself as a top-flight wide receiver in New England on a one-year contract, Randy Moss went and ... took a pay-cut off market value to stay. Is this still Randy "Straight Cash, Homie" Moss? Maybe he really has matured. And/or maybe he knows what got him back to form as a receiver (leaving Oakland never hurts) and to the Super Bowl. Of course, $27 million in a three-year deal is a nice little parting ... er, staying ... gift.

Surprisingly close to market value, the deal is a departure from the Patriots' build-economically-sound-teams strategy, cutting loose anything that becomes too cap-costly, because hey, he can be replaced with something nearly as good for a fraction of the cost. Guess they thought scoring at will was nice and found 23 TDs tough to replace.


You can't forget about the hogs, especially when they get franchise money. Ten-year Steeler and seven-time Pro Bowler Faneca inked in New York for $32 million over four years. That's more per year than Turner, and more in total than Moss. Damien Woody, the former Lion, signed for five years and $25 million to play right tackle. And don't forget they still have 2006 first round picks D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold on the line, who have played well.

Linemen are recognized as crucial, and are still incredibly under-appreciated. While the signings won't turn too many heads nationwide, you can bet the Jets offense will be a little more efficient than last year. You just may not quite be able to put your finger on why. (Hint: the primary reason won't be the pickups of RB Jesse Chapman or TE Bubba Franks.) Speaking of running backs, could this line be more setup for the Jets to draft Darren McFadden?


Ben Roethlisberger signed the biggest deal of the offseason, picking up a cool nine-figures with change to stay with Pittsburgh. With the exception of motorcycle-gate and the sluggish 2006 it seemed to cause, he has been an ideal fit in Pittsburgh, and locking him up for eight years makes sense. When you hook a big, durable quarterback proven capable of winning a Super Bowl and effectively running an NFL offense, you may as well stop fishing and work on the defense and run game you traditionally emphasize.


The Steelers' rivals, the Browns, were apparently so blown away at the fact that they had an effective offense for once that they had a knee-jerk reaction to throw money at Derek Anderson for not making them wait for Brady Quinn. And they may well be right to do so. Sometimes you can't tell whether a quarterback is NFL material until after the draft, after his first game exposure. (See: Tom Brady, others.) The Oregon State product threw for 3,787 yards and 29 TDs, got the Browns right on the border of the playoffs, and maintained a high level of play long enough to establish that he's not a fluke. A three-year, $24 million deal is warranted for a guy that should only get better than the rookie version.

As for Quinn? Nice insurance policy, but ask the Chargers whether they would rather have the underrated vet that proved his worth or the highly-touted first round pick. Plus, Quinn isn't as expensive to keep around as a backup as Philip Rivers because of draft positioning. Still, think the Chargers wouldn't mind having Drew Brees back?

On top of that, the Browns gave Anderson a new toy, Donte Stallworth. Fresh out of New England, he took some courses from Professor Belichick on how to win (camcorder cost not included with tuition). And although seven years sounds long and $35 million sounds like a lot for Braylon Edwards' sidekick, remember that only $10 million is guaranteed and lengths of contracts mean nothing in the NFL.


The Eagles already had a solid secondary. Now it is going to be a nightmare to throw on them with Asante Samuel in the mix. Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and especially Jason Campbell (if Washington senselessly keeps insisting he is the future) will not look forward to weekends with PHI on the schedule. But again, throwing money at a strength is always questionable in the salary cap era. And $57 million over six years ($20 million guaranteed) counts as real money.


From a time-share on a NFC Division winner to, well, an NFC division winner that already has slew of tailbacks. But this move to Seattle works for Jones, mainly because he was in a situation in Dallas where Marion Barber was clearly the favorite between the two of them. It just might have had something to do with his production slipping last year to career lows.

Seattle, meanwhile, already has effective backup Maurice Morris, and picked up human bulldozer T.J. Duckett to go with Jones, leaving Shaun Alexander feeling about as wanted as cancer. Then again, with Seattle's running game as useless as it was last year, it's hard to argue that the 'Hawks didn't need to bring in help. Someone has to be able to step in and take pressure off Matt Hasselbeck. If that happens — or if they avoid blizzards in the playoffs this year — the Seahawks are a serious and probably underrated NFC threat again.


The move is certainly good for Jerry Porter. Any move away from the quagmire that is Oakland is a positive, save maybe a move to Atlanta. But as far as the Jaguars go, the disappointing wideout doesn't quite have the resume that screams $30 million over six years. Maybe, free from the shackles of his former organization and with a legitimate quarterback in David Garrard, he could develop into what the 29-year-old's talent was slated to become. Or maybe he was a part of the underachieving culture rather than a victim of it.


Javon Walker leaves Denver, and with the most vivid memory of a city being a limo with a dying friend in his arm, it is hard to blame him. Brandon Marshall's emergence as the Bronco's No. 1 receiver didn't help. But Walker ends up with the Raiders, and just ask Porter, Moss, and a few guys we've never heard off, and they will tell you what a black hole for offensive talent Oakland is.

Like draft picks, it's always hard to tell how these pickups will mold with the team and how the change of scenery might effect them. But unlike draft picks, the veterans have proven NFL track records, and we pretty much know what they are capable of. It may not be as sexy, but the more immediate and reliable improvements come via the free agent.

Then again, if they don't pan out, you can just cut them anyway.

Comments and Conversation

March 24, 2008


Garrard. G-A-R-R-A-R-D.

April 12, 2008

Joe Mayes:

Joey Porter is a linebacker for the Miami Dolphins.

Jerry Porter is the former Raiders wide receiver who recently signed with the Jaguars.

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