Lets take a division-by-division look again at the player movement and how the new players will fit in with their new teams, and we’ll also take a look at the key re-signings of the day.
In the NFC East, the Eagles made what looked to be a minor move by re-signing veteran defensive end Hugh Douglas who is coming back from shoulder surgery. Although he’ll play a limited role for the team, he’s an excellent team leader and his presence will be felt throughout the locker room.
It was a case of one in and one out for the Giants on Thursday. They made it official on Thursday by inking former Washington Redskins middle linebacker Antonio Pierce to a multi-year deal. He’ll take over at a position which was one of uncertainly for the club in 2004. The Giants tried to get veteran wide receiver Ike Hilliard to restructure his deal but since he refused, he was released. The Giants lack veteran leadership at the position besides Amani Toomer and quality depth as well so look for them to address that position in free agency and in the next month’s draft.
While the Redskins lost Pierce, they were able to get veteran wide receiver David Patten in to the fold. With uncertain futures of starting wide receivers Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner with the club, Patten could wind up holding one of the two top spots on the depth chart next season.
One day after reaching a deal with cornerback Anthony Henry, the Dallas Cowboys were able to reel in two solid veterans.
Offensive lineman Marco Rivera inked a multi-year deal and will line up at right guard for his new team. What the club does with last year’s starter at the position, Andre Gurode, remains to be seen.
The other move by Dallas might have been their biggest of the last two days with the signing of free agent defensive tackle Jason Ferguson. With Ferguson in the fold, the club now can move him to nose tackle should they choose to move to the 3-4 defensive alignment which has been rumored for weeks.
The Cowboys still need to improve their situation on offense at right tackle and they also need to add depth at receiver.
The NFC North was quiet again on Thursday with only the Minnesota Vikings making a move. They made the contract agreement reached on Wednesday with free agent defensive tackle Pat Williams official. Williams will play at nose tackle for the club so they can move Kevin Williams to the 3-techique tackle spot. Second-year tackle Spencer Johnson will back up both positions. The moves should help free up Kevin Williams with less double-teams.
Turning our attention to the NFC South, that division was quiet except for the Carolina Panthers, who restored the roar on Thursday. Offensively, they helped shore up their offensive line by signing former Green Bay Packer lineman Mike Wahle to a multi-year deal. He can play four positions on the offensive line. The important thing is now the club has three solid linemen in Wahle, veteran center, and tackle Jordan Gross. They also have a developing second-year lineman in Travelle Wharton.
In the defensive secondary, the club added former Seattle Seahawk cornerback Ken Lucas who will add solid veteran leadership and who is a player that has improved every year in the league. He’ll help bolster a position that was looking very young on paper.
In a minor yet important move, the New Orleans Saints re-signed veteran running back Fred McAfee who is one of their best special teams players. They also released veteran wide receiver Jerome Pathon, who was due a sizeable roster bonus for a non-starter. He still should be able to find a No.3 role with a club in the not-too-distant future.
In the NFC West, the Rams made headlines again at linebacker by reeling in former Minnesota Viking Chris Claiborne. He’s expected to line up in the middle with the club moving Robert Thomas outside. Claiborne had made it clear to anyone who wanted to sign him that he wanted to play in the middle, where he played perhaps his best football for the Detroit Lions earlier in his career.
The 49ers made a big splash on Thursday by signing former Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Jonas Jennings to a multi-year contact. He’ll line up on the left side and they’ll move Kwame Harris to the right side, leaving veteran tackle Scott Gragg on the outside looking in.
The Seahawks and Cardinals have yet to sign any impact free agents. However, the Cardinals did host various free agents from both sides of the ball on Thursday. They will continue their visits on Friday.
In the AFC, the Eastern division saw a few moves take place with the New England Patriots and New York Jets getting on the transaction wire.
The Patriots didn’t sign anyone, but they did acquire veteran cornerback Duane Starks from the Cardinals. Starks hasn’t really played a relatively injury-free season since 2001, but if he can stay on the field he’ll really help the secondary where they are really young at cornerback.
The Jets signed former Kansas City Chief running back Derrick Blaylock, who will back up veteran running back Curtis Martin until he’s ready to retire. Blaylock is a smallish-type back who is very quick and can play in a variety of roles (third down and special teams).
The AFC North saw plenty of movement on Wednesday but was very quiet on Thursday. While teams had visits from free agents, no signings were made.
The Bengals still haven’t received running back Rudi Johnson’s signature on the one-year franchise tender offer.
Turning our attention to the AFC South, the Texans made a move on the second straight day by inking former Miami Dolphin linebacker Morlon Greenwood to a multi-year deal. He is capable of playing inside or outside in the Texans’ defensive scheme, but it remains to be seen where they will play him.
As noted on Wednesday, the Jaguars were able to reach a multi-year contract agreement with free agent defensive end Reggie Hayward. On Thursday, they cleared up more cap room by releasing veterans fullback Mark Edwards and cornerbacks Juran Bolden and Dewayne Washington. Edwards essentially lost his starting job to rookie Greg Jones so the move isn’t surprising at all. Washington started all 16 games last season for the club but his play wasn’t up to par and neither was Bolden’s who was a backup. The Jaguars lack quality depth at the position so look for them to address the position in free agency later on and possibly in the draft.
Finally, the AFC West was quite busy again on Thursday.
The Raiders continued their major signings with former New York Jets running back LaMont Jordan. With Jordan in the fold, teams won’t be able to load up on their receivers with the threat of a running game. The Raiders, at least on paper, could have one of the best and most balanced offenses in the NFL in 2005.
They also continued their salary cap purge by releasing guard Ron Stone and linebacker DeLawrence Grant. Second-year lineman Jake Grove will likely replace stone in the starting lineup at right guard.
While the Kansas City Chiefs continued to host free agents on the defensive side of the ball on Thursday, the Denver Broncos made some big moves on both sides of the pigskin
One day after they acquired defensive tackle Gerard Warren from the Cleveland Browns, the Broncos were able to re-sign starting left guard Ben Hamilton. They didn’t stop there and signed free agent outside linebacker Ian Gold, who started his career with the club in 2000 and played four seasons there before signing on as a free agent with Tampa Bay last season. Gold didn’t like playing on the strong side with the Buccaneers so it will be interesting to see where Denver lines him up this time around. He started on the weak side for the first years of his career with the Broncos.
Closing out the division, the San Diego Chargers inked former Green Bay Packer safety Bhawoh Jue to a multi-year contract. Jue will likely take over the starting free safety job from veteran safety Jerry Wilson who is an unrestricted free agent.
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