Posted on Sun, Mar. 19, 2006
CAM INMAN: INSIDE THE NFL
[size=18px]Christmas has come early to NFL[/size]
Some teams receive brand new free-agent toys while others find lumps of coal in their stockings
In the midst of the 49ers shopping spree this past week, coach Mike Nolan knew his team wasn't the only busy buyer on the free-agent market.
"It seems like it is Christmas to everybody," Nolan said. "I don't know if I recall a year with as much active participation throughout the league."
The new labor deal is making players richer, and money is rolling in from across the league, except for a few locales, including the nearby Raiders.
Most high-grade talent is off the shelves. Some high-profile names are still out there, including former 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson, ex-Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson, linebacker LaVar Arrington and cornerback Ty Law, who are all represented by hard-liners Kevin and Carl Poston.
Here's a look at which teams are making the right personnel moves, and which aren't:
Cleveland Browns: Their $100 million-plus spending spree has been capped by the addition of veteran linebacker Willie McGinest. Center LeCharles Bentley, wide receiver Joe Jurevicius and punter Dave Zastudil are newcomers that all hail from Ohio, as does sophomore quarterback Charlie Frye, who'll be protected by new left tackle Kevin Shaffer.
Tennessee Titans: Wide receiver David Givens, linebacker David Thornton, safety Chris Hope and center Kevin Mawae are a nice haul for a talent-thin team that will add even more skill by drafting third overall.
Arizona Cardinals: Running back Edgerrin James won't be a savior, not with the Cardinals still fielding a bad line and an aging Kurt Warner. But James will boost the league's worst running attack as well as ticket sales heading into the Cards' new stadium.
Minnesota Vikings: Not only have they gone on a buying binge for the second straight year, they got their asking price (a second-round draft pick from Miami) for quarterback Daunte Culpepper. The big coup, though, will be if they land guard Steve Hutchinson, whose $49 million contract offer is trying to be matched by the Seattle Seahawks. They've already addressed needs with running back Chester Taylor, linebacker Ben Leber, guard Jason Whittle, kicker Ryan Longwell and kick returner/receiver Koren Robinson.
St. Louis Rams: Linebacker Will Witherspoon, defensive tackle La'Roi Glover, safety Corey Chavous and cornerback Fakhir Brown fill holes on defense for new coordinator Jim Haslett.
Washington Redskins: Go ahead and hate them for overspending yet again. But they still improved their roster by adding wide receivers Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd (traded by the 49ers), defensive end Andre Carter, safety Adam Archuleta, quarterback Todd Collins and tight end Christian Fauria.
49ers: Beggars can't be choosers, and yet the 49ers have an encouraging crop of newcomers (wide receivers Antonio Bryant and Bryan Gilmore, cornerback Walt Harris) and returnees (kicker Joe Nedney and linebackers Derek Smith and Brandon Moore).
Miami Dolphins: Their quarterback hunt resulted in their landing the guy with a rebuilt knee (Culpepper) over the one with a repaired shoulder (Drew Brees). They'll need Culpepper to regain his top form to compensate for the expected suspension of running back Ricky Williams.
Detroit Lions: They got two of the top available quarterbacks in Jon Kitna and Josh McCown, enabling them to finally push Joey Harrington out the door.
Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones is trumpeting what Terrell Owens "brings" to the Cowboys, but wait until he sees how the Cowboys are once Owens leaves them in shambles. No way Owens makes it through this season happy, nor appear in all 16 games.
Raiders: Hello? Did they forget the grocery list? This feels strangely like their coaching search -- wait, wait, wait. One month to go before the Matt Leinart/Vince Young/Jay Cutler raffle.
Indianapolis Colts: They've had almost all subtractions, other than re-signing linebacker Gary Brackett, their leading tackler last season. Peyton Manning still has a strong supporting cast, but the loss of running back James, linebacker Thornton, defensive tackle Larry Triplett and likely kicker Mike Vanderjagt will force the Colts to adjust.
Chicago Bears: Their top-notch defense didn't get the offensive support it perennially lacks. They failed to lure Randle El back to his roots and also were outbid for Archuleta, Carter, kick returner Eddie Drummond and defensive end Kalimba Edwards.
Houston Texans: Rather than bulk up on offense for Reggie Bush's arrival via the draft, they lost two wide receivers (Corey Bradford, Jabar Gaffney) and a guard (Milford Brown). They tried in vain to grab wide receiver David Givens and instead splurged on defensive end Anthony Weaver.
Jacksonville Jaguars: This team is challenged offensively, so naturally it dropped a $10 million signing bonus on former Vikings cornerback Brian Williams. The best offensive help they could get was right tackle Mike Williams, a first-round bust from Buffalo.
Kansas City Chiefs: They've celebrated the arrival of coach Herm Edwards and the 2015 Super Bowl, but no impact players.
New England Patriots: After losing parts of their dynasty last year, the Patriots are at it again, bidding farewell to McGinest, Givens, Fauria, wide receiver Andre Davis, cornerback Tyrone Poole and very likely receiver Troy Brown and kicker Adam Vinatieri.
San Diego Chargers: Once you get over their ditching quarterback Drew Brees in favor of Philip Rivers, you'll see they've done little else and lost out on top free agents other than former Carolina Panthers safety Marlon McCree.
Cincinnati Bengals: They let Kitna leave, which wouldn't be a big deal if Carson Palmer weren't rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Christmas has come early to NFL