Wednesday Free Agency Overview


Posted Mar 3, 2005


The first day of NFL free agency started off slowly on Wednesday but picked up steam as the day progressed and reached a crescendo in the evening.

Lets take a division-by-division look at the player movement and how they will fit in with their new teams. We'll also take a look at some of the key re-signings by the clubs.

In the NFC East, many Philadelphia Eagle fans were hoping for a big splash for the second straight year. That didn't happen because the team doesn't have as many needs as they did last year at this time. What they did get accomplished was re-signing running back Correll Buckhalter who is ahead of schedule in his rehab from a season-ending knee injury. With Buckhalter back in the fold, the club doesn't have to sign a free agent nor do they have to spend an early round pick on a back.

The Eagles are still hoping to re-sign middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter who visited the Chiefs on Wednesday. If Trotter signs elsewhere, they could turn their attention to free agent inside linebacker Ed Hartwell.

The Giants made a splash late Wednesday evening by reaching a multi-year deal with free agent linebacker Antonio Pierce. He'll give the club a solid answer inside which they had been lacking since veteran linebacker Micheal Barrow signed with Washington last year.

The Redskins were able to secure free agent center Casey Rabach to a multi-year deal on Wednesday. He should prove to be a decent upgrade over Cory Raymer. The Redskins also re-signed defensive tackle Joe Salave'a. He'll provide solid veteran depth at the position.

The biggest day from the division had to come from the Dallas Cowboys. Head coach Bill Parcells said last week at the NFL Combine that the club probably would strike quickly and boy did they. There should be a collective cheer coming from Valley Ranch.

They started off by inking free agent cornerback Anthony Henry early in the evening who will finally solve the issue of who would start opposite Terence Newman.

That was just the beginning as they reached an agreement in principle with free agent defensive tackle Jason Ferguson who now will signal the club's conversion to a 3-4 defensive scheme.

Later in the evening, the club was nearing an agreement with free agent guard Marco Rivera. Dallas was looking for an upgrade on the right side and they should get one with him. What happens to starting right guard Andre Gurode is up in the air.

The Boys' also re-signed veteran defensive tackle Leonardo Carson who likely will either back up Ferguson or play at end in their new defensive alignment.

The NFC North was quiet on Wednesday with the Vikings making the only significant move. They were able to reel in free agent defensive tackle Pat Williams who should really help their struggling run defense. He'll form one heck of a tackle tandem with Kevin Williams. The club was also in the Antonio Pierce sweepstakes so they still might look for help at middle linebacker and have the cash to go after free agent Ed Hartwell should they choose to.

Oh, the long awaited Randy Moss deal became official on Wednesday too for Minnesota. They'll get the seventh selection overall, an extra seventh-round pick, and linebacker Napoleon Harris who likely will man the strong side.

The Lions did re-sign veteran Bracy Walker who wound up being their starting free safety last season.

Turning our attention to the NFC South, that division was also very quiet. Atlanta Falcons General Manager said last week during the NFL Combine that the club would be pretty quiet during free agency since they didn't have many pressing needs. That certainly was the case on Wednesday.

The Saints and Panthers also sat out free agency on Wednesday. The Buccaneers, after having a salary cap purge of late, only made a minor move by inking kicker Matt Bryant. He'll challenge Jay Taylor for the starting job. They also talked to free agent running back Derrick Blaylock on Wednesday.

In the NFC West, the Rams made most of the headlines by signing former Dallas Cowboy linebacker Dexter Coakley. He'll likely line up on the weakside where there's a vacancy created by the move of Pisa Tinoisamoa to safety. The club also is looking for more veteran depth and is talking to several other free agent linebackers.

The 49ers, Seahawks, and Cardinals didn't sign any players on Wednesday. However, free agent offensive tackle Jonas Jennings was in the Bay area and both parties were talking about a deal that would make Jennings a 49er where he would be their new starting left tackle.

The Cardinals are expected to bring in veteran free agent quarterback Kurt Warner for a visit later this week.

In the AFC, the Eastern division didn't see a lot of action on Wednesday. The Patriots actually had a visit from free agent wide receiver Derrick Mason on Tuesday but he actually agreed to a contract with Baltimore late that evening. With the Patriots courting Mason, it tells us that they will either look toward the rest of free agency to help at that position or to the draft.

The Jets, Bills, and Dolphins also didn't sign anyone either on Wednesday but the Jets and Dolphins had visits set up with various players.

The AFC North saw plenty of movement.

The Ravens won the battle for free agent wide receiver Derrick Mason and inked him to a five-year deal. He'll give them the badly needed leadership that they had been lacking from the wide receiver position and he'll also give them down field speed which they really hadn't had since Qadry Ismail wore the Ravens' uniform. Mason will make a great compliment to the size that they will bring back opposite him.

The Bengals surprisingly were able to re-ink wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh to a multi-year deal. Sources close to the team, as of last week, seemed to believe he would take more money to play elsewhere. However, while Houshmandzadeh conceded that he could have made more money playing for another team, he wanted to remain with the Bengals because he knew he had a good situation and knew what to expect. Keep in mind that he couldn't stay healthy enough prior to last season and the team stuck by him and brought the former seventh-round pick back and he finally blossomed in offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski's offense.

The Steelers, perhaps looking to make their move in free agency, were working on restructuring a few player contracts including inside linebacker James Farrior's.

The Browns were finally able to move underachieving defensive tackle Gerard Warren to Denver for a fourth-round pick. But the big news of the day for the club was the addition of free agent guard Joe Andruzzi. He's capable to playing either guard position and would be an upgrade at either spot.

Turning our attention to the AFC South, it appeared that the Texans would lose nose tackle Seth Payne to the Jets possibly as he boarded a flight to visit the Jets. By the end of the day, the oft-injured Payne reached a multi-year deal to re-sign with the club and flew back to Houston. The club was also in the running for free agent defensive tackle Pat Williams.

The Jaguars might have missed out on free agent wide receiver Derrick Mason but they landed a big free agent on defense in end Reggie Hayward. He'll help finally solve the problems they had at the position last season. If things work out right, Jaguar fans probably won't have to see linebackers like Greg Favors and Jason Gildon with their hands down on the ground. They also signed veteran defensive tackle Martin Chase who will back up starters Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. The one negative of the day was with veteran safety Donovin Darius who made his request to be traded public. The team has talked to the Lions about a deal but they want a first-round pick in return for him while Detroit is only offering a second-round pick.

Unfortunately, the Colts had to say good-bye to veteran tight end Marcus Pollard who was released. Should he not find employment elsewhere, the club would love to bring him back.

Finally, the AFC West was quite busy on Wednesday as the Raiders led the noise making by not only acquiring wide receiver Randy Moss from Minnesota but they also were extremely close to reaching a contract agreement with free agent running back LaMont Jordan. The club released veterans running back Tyrone Wheatley and John Parella to make room him.

The Chiefs had free agents middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and cornerback Samari Rolle in for visits. Should Trotter leave town without a deal, they could turn their attention to free agent linebacker Ed Hartwell.

The Broncos not only acquired defensive tackle Gerard Warren but also were close to re-signing Ian Gold to a multi-year deal. Gold played his entire career in Denver before playing one season in Tampa Bay. Gold was released and was looking to play for a team that would give him a chance to move from playing on the strong side as he did as a Buccaneer. With the club expected to switch to a 3-4 defensive alignment this coming season, he could play on the weak side again for Denver with second-year linebacker D. J. Williams moving inside.



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