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  1. #1
    Prophet Guest

    Need a fix? Here are 15 free agents to fawn over

    Posted 2/15/2006 1:06 PM
    Need a fix? Here are 15 free agents to fawn over
    By Chris Colston, USA TODAY Sports Weekly
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    Now that the NFC beat the AFC 23-17 in the Pro Bowl, on-field NFL action is over until August. The records are wiped clean, and fans across the country can share the same hope: that their team will win Super Bowl XLI. And what happens in the next few months could dictate whether that dream comes true. There's the draft in April, possible trades and, of immediate import, free agency.

    The NFL's free agent period begins March 3. While the list of potentially available players looks solid now, it could take a big hit by Feb. 23, the last day teams can designate a franchise player.

    To refresh your memory: If a club cannot arrive at a long-term contract with a player, it may "franchise" him for a year. The club must pay him the average 2005 salary of the top five players at his position or 120% of the player's salary from the previous year, whichever is greater. He can still negotiate with other teams, but his original club may match the offer — or receive two first-round draft choices instead.

    The top 15 unrestricted free agents (players who have completed four or more accrued seasons and whose contracts have expired) as of mid-February:

    •Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson. If you believe the foundation of every successful team is its offensive line, then the All-Pro Hutchinson is the most attractive free agent — but he probably won't be available. If the Seahawks don't sign him to a long-term deal, they will surely use the franchise tag. Hutchinson turns 29 in November and is in his prime. They simply can't let him get away.

    • Seattle running back Shaun Alexander. The Seahawks have promised they would not assign the franchise tag to the NFL MVP again this year. So either they come to a long-term agreement or he's free to negotiate with other clubs. Yes, he'd be crazy not to stay in Seattle and keep running behind Hutchinson and fellow All-Pro tackle Walter Jones, but he told The Charlotte Observer that Carolina wouldn't be a bad option if negotiations don't work out with the Seahawks. He got along well with the staff at the Pro Bowl, and Panthers coach John Fox loves a strong running game. The rash of injuries to his backs the past two years has frustrated Fox, and Alexander, who will be 29 in August, has never missed a start because of injury. But salary cap restrictions could prevent Carolina from making a strong play for Alexander. Arizona and Jacksonville could also be in the mix.

    • New Orleans center LeCharles Bentley. NFL general managers hate putting the franchise tag on centers and guards. The reason is the NFL lumps all offensive linemen together, and left tackles, which protect a right-handed passer's blind side, skew the salaries up. Saints GM Mickey Loomis is in a predicament; few free agents want to sign with the Saints right now because of the problems caused by Hurricane Katrina. So while he might believe he's overpaying Bentley, 26, by using the franchise tag on him, he pretty much has to do it if he wants to give the Saints a chance. The thing is, Bentley is worth the cash. There aren't many better centers in the league — and he can play guard, too. So, like Hutchinson, he probably won't be available.

    • Indianapolis running back Edgerrin James. He is 28 years old and rushed for 1,506 yards in 2005. He also excels at picking up the blitz in pass blocking. If the Colts can't keep him, Arizona has cap room and could be a player. The Cardinals franchise, historically, has not had many great running backs, so James would be a refreshing addition. Especially with the opening of the club's new stadium in 2006.

    • Tennessee defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. The Titans want to re-sign the big (6-4, 278 pounds), athletic Vanden Bosch, 27, who had 12½ sacks and played in the Pro Bowl. There are few teams that don't need an impact player like that.

    • San Diego quarterback Drew Brees. Although he's recovering from serious shoulder surgery, he probably won't be on the market. The Chargers will likely protect Brees, 27, or sign him to a long-term deal. What's more interesting is what they'll do with third-year man Philip Rivers, their first-round pick in 2004.

    • Indianapolis wide receiver Reggie Wayne. When the Redskins expressed an interest in pursuing Wayne, 28, Colts general manager Bill Polian said it wouldn't happen. He would either sign Wayne to a new deal or designate him as the team's franchise player. He has 160 catches and 2,265 receiving yards his past two seasons.

    • Buffalo cornerback Nate Clements. Clements, 26, is the best of a cornerback crop that could include Oakland's Charles Woodson— who played only six games last season — and Pittsburgh's Deshea Townsend. Woodson will be 30, and there are questions about his attitude. Some feel Townsend was the beneficiary of a strong Steelers front seven.

    • New York defensive end John Abraham. The new Jets regime of GM Mike Tannenbaum and coach Eric Mangini must decide what to do with Abraham, who had 10½ sacks and forced six fumbles in 2005. One option: Slap the franchise tag on him and trade him. He will be 28 next season.

    • Carolina linebacker Will Witherspoon. A three-year starter, Witherspoon is an effective weakside linebacker, and he's just 25. The Panthers want to re-sign him, but they are a little strapped financially. Other top outside linebacker free agent prospects include Indianapolis' David Thornton and Jacksonville's Akin Ayodele.

    • Pittsburgh safety Chris Hope. Hope is only 25. But there are plenty of good free agent safeties available this year, including Adam Archuleta of St. Louis, Will Demps of Baltimore, Marlon McCree of Carolina and Lance Schulters of Miami.

    • Seattle defensive tackle Rocky Bernard. Bernard, 26, couldn't have better timing. After posting 8½ sacks as part of the Seahawks' four-man tackle rotation, he had a strong postseason and helped the Seahawks to the Super Bowl. And this is a weak defensive tackle free agent crop, with Indianapolis' Larry Triplett the only other notable option.

    • Baltimore running back Jamal Lewis. The Ravens aren't sure they want to make Lewis their franchise player. He's coming off his worst year, with 906 yards rushing. With Alexander, James, and possibly Ahman Green of Green Bay and DeShaun Foster of Carolina available — plus runners Reggie Bush, LenDale White and DeAngelo Williams available in the draft — there might not be a big market for Lewis, who turns 27 in August.

    • Pittsburgh wide receiver Antwaan Randle El. Chicago plans to make a big push to sign Randle El, 26. Washington, hungry for a quality No. 2 receiver to pair with Santana Moss, is also interested. If he leaves, he'll be the second Steelers No. 2 wideout to leave in two years, following Plaxico Burress.

    • New Orleans defensive end Darren Howard. Not too long ago, Howard was considered one of the league's rising stars. But three years of injuries and inconsistency have tarnished his luster. He had only 3½ sacks in 2005.

    Other free agents of note include New England wide receiver David Givens and kicker Adam Vinatieri, Cincinnati quarterback Jon Kitna and San Francisco linebackers Julian Peterson and Derek Smith.

  2. #2
    gregair13's Avatar
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    Re: Need a fix? Here are 15 free agents to fawn over

    chris hope is going to make someone really really happy. assuming steelers dont resign him, which is a bad idea.

    /sarcasm on
    i think we should go and sign john kitna. he might be the fix we need at the qb position for years to come
    /sarcasm off
    We're bringing purple back.

  3. #3
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    Re: Need a fix? Here are 15 free agents to fawn over

    Depending on what happens with Culpepper, I wouldn't mind giving Brees a shot for the job. Also Witherspoon would be an awesome pickup for us

    Thanks Josdin

  4. #4
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    Re: Need a fix? Here are 15 free agents to fawn over

    Whitherspoon and Hutchinson would be awesome pickups. that would solve alot of our problems right there

  5. #5
    Tanner_QBRB8 is offline Pro-Bowler
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    Re: Need a fix? Here are 15 free agents to fawn over

    I really think if we get rid of Daunte we have a really good shot at Brees

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    Re: Need a fix? Here are 15 free agents to fawn over

    i'm a little iffy about brees. he just dislocated his throwing shoulder at the end of last season. who knows how he's gonna recover from that. if it was his other shoulder it would be no big deal, but dislocating your throwing shoulder will hold you back for qite awhile. (i would know having done it 2 times)

  7. #7
    MrGopher16's Avatar
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    Re: Need a fix? Here are 15 free agents to fawn over

    Steve Hutchinson and Will Witherspoon are the only ones on that list I'm fawning over right now.
    ;-)

  8. #8
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    Re: Need a fix? Here are 15 free agents to fawn over

    Depending on what happens with Pep, I would love to pick up Drew Brees if his shoulder proves healthy. It is a shame that we will not be able to get Hutchinson. They will for sure Franchise him if they don't come to terms on a long term contract..

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