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Welcome to the NFL Articles section of the Sports Net!  Soon, we should have articles up on hot topics swirling in the NFL world.  Old Articles will be archived, as well.

Free agency is one of the best times of the year. Teams cut players they don’t think can help them anymore, or ones they can’t afford, and other teams sign those same players and hope to make a Superbowl run. As of now, it is near impossible to tell exactly who a team will be looking to sign, but who cares? Let us take a look at all the NFL and see who may be wearing a different jersey next year.

      AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills- It is looking more and more like MLB London Fletcher-Baker will not return with the team next year, as the Bills are not planning on re-signing him. Angelo Crowell may be asked to move to the MLB spot, and the Bills would then hope to sign a big name free agent to fill the outside void, such as Bears LB Lance Briggs and Colts LB Cato June. Cornerback Nate Clements is also expected to be gone, leaving a hole in the secondary. The Bills are also looking to add a defensive tackle and wide receiver, either through free agency or the draft.

Miami Dolphins-First things first, who is the quarterback? Most believe that Joey Harrington will be released or traded, leaving Cleo Lemon to back up Daunte Culpepper. If Ricky Williams returns to the Dolphins, look for at least one, maybe two, of these guys to be gone: Travis Minor, Sammy Morris, and Patrick Cobbs. The Dolphins receivers seemed to have a case of the drops last year, and the only reliable one, Marty Booker, injured his ankle. Look for a WR to be added here. Also, Chargers OG Kris Dielman is expected to be given serious consideration. Defense looks solid, but if DE Jason Taylor retires, look for the Dolphins to try to find a big name replacement.

New England Patriots-Lots to cover here. As of recent years, they have been the poster-child of successful free agent acquisitions. Right now, the Pats have two big name unrestricted free agents that will demand a lot of money in the open market. CB Asante Samuel was tied for the NFL lead in interceptions this year, and the Pats probably will not match any high-dollar value for him. Tully Banta-Cain became a starter after injuries, and had 5.5 sacks. However, the Patriots did not want him on the field in the playoff loss against the Colts, and it seems they do not plan to re-sign him. If TE Daniel Graham doesn’t return, the Pats hope to bring in a bigger, blocking TE. Don’t be surprised if they make a play for Chargers backup TE Brandon Manumaleuna. The Pats are also looking to bring in WRs to battle for starting positions. They also have several players, including WR Troy Brown, LB Tedy Bruschi, RB Corey Dillon, and SS Rodney Harrison who will be unrestricted free agents.

New York Jets-The most glaring needs here are at running back, cornerback, and defensive line. San Diego backup running back Michael Turner is one of the bright spots on the Jets radar. He is a restricted free agent, so the Jets may try a trade. The Jets are also looking to add a true nose tackle to keep offensive linemen off of LB Jonathan Vilma. To fill the cornerback role, the Jets are looking in the AFC East: Asante Samuel and Nate Clements. If the Jets bring in another RB, either Cedric Houston or Kevin Barlow would be released, but not both. Of course, look for them to trim the defensive backfield in search of better coverage help.

      AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens-This may turn out to be one of the more stable teams. The Ravens are looking to keep most of the team intact, with the number one priority being LB Adalius Thomas. While the Ravens may want to use the franchise tag on him, they are also said to be looking at Colts LB Cato June if negotiations crumble. RB Jamal Lewis is due a $5 million roster bonus in March, which means the Ravens are likely to either cut him or re-construct his contract. If he’s gone, San Diego’s RB Michael Turner may look attractive. OT Tony Pashos is expected to demand big money in free agency, but the Ravens do not want to lose him. A bigger problem is that OT Jonathan Ogden is seriously considering retirement. If they lose one or both of these guys, look for at least one replacement to come in free agency.

Cincinnati Bengals-Hmm… hard to tell here since the team is always in trouble. The Bengals are just about set on offense. QB Anthony Wright is an unrestricted free agent but is expected to be back. On defense, the Bengals are expected to be active in free agency in the defensive line. If MLB Odell Thurman can’t return, look for another LB to be brought in. CB Tory James will not return.

Cleveland Browns-The Browns will keep QB Charlie Frye as the starter, for now. If a big name QB becomes available, don’t be surprised if they try to get him. Jeff Garcia is a thought, until you remember how horrible that experiment worked before. If the Browns can find an upgrade at WR or RB (or both), then they will take it. RG Cosey Coleman is not expected to be back. On the defensive line, most were either injured or inconsistent for the whole year. RE Alvin McKinley is expected to be gone. The Browns are expected to be active at finding new DBs. FS Brain Russell is a free agent, but the coaching staff believes he is the unit that holds the defensive backfield together, so he should be back.

Pittsburgh Steelers-Every single starter, except for right OT Max Starks, is under contract for 2007. So yes, the Steelers do not figure to be big players in free agency this year. The Steelers may want to bring in another QB to compete with Charlie Batch for the backup spot, as the Steelers don’t figure to have as much patience with Big Ben this year as last year, although Batch has done an excellent job when called upon. The Steelers have two tight ends on the roster, and they would like to have three. Also look for them to add a speedy WR in the draft or free agency. On defense, LB looks to be the biggest area of concern. OLB Joey Porter may be asked to reduce his salary after an off year. If he refuses, then the Steelers will release him. It is unlikely that a big name LB like Lance Briggs would be brought in, but not impossible. Finally, punter Chris Gardocki looks like he may have finally ran out of gas, and is expected to at least have to compete with another punter for the starting job.

      AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans-Perhaps the number one question is who will be quarterback? It is hard to blame everything on David Carr, as the offensive line has been horrendous. Even once they started to improve, some said it was too late, as Carr is already mentally scared. The Texans are expected to make a big push for Broncos backup QB Jake Plummer. They are also expected to try a find a playmaking WR to line up opposite of Andre Johnson. Tweaks on the O-line will be coming, especially at center. Kickoff returner Jerome Mathis may be gone in free agency due to a nagging injury.

Indianapolis Colts-A bunch of these moves will depend on if the Colts can get Peyton Manning to re-do his contract. If they can, they will gain an extra $8 million to spend and sign their unrestricted free agents. The number one priority is bringing back DE Dwight Freeney. The Colts are expected to use the franchise tag on him if a deal can’t be worked out. OLB Cato June, MLB Rob Morris, CB Nick Harper, SS Mike Doss, and RB Dominic Rhodes are all free agents, and it’s unlikely the Colts will be able to bring them all back. The Colts are not expected to keep Dominic Rhodes. Starting guards Ryan Lilja and Jake Scott are also unrestricted free agents. If any or all of these guys are gone, expect some moves in free agency, but a lot to come from the draft.

Jacksonville Jaguars-Again, QB is the question. Both Byron Leftwich and David Garrard were benched last year. Some say Leftwich may want to be traded, and that Garrard is not the long-term answer. They team is reportedly looking for a cheaper veteran to sign in free agency to compete, and possible start, such as Jeff Blake. Fred Taylor wants more money, and this could turn into a nasty situation. The Jags may have to release him. If Taylor leaves, look for an older RB to come in and continue to tutor Maurice Jones-Drew. One of the major goals is to find a veteran WR to finally fill Jimmy Smith’s shoes. If Kevin Curtis is available, the Jags may try to lure him in. The safety spot is the only thing to watch on defense, as FS Deon Grant has rejected the Jaguars contract offer. The Jags are expected to sign a safety or two to shore up the position.

Tennessee Titans-This team went through salary cap hell two years ago, but it seems they’ve gotten it straightened out now. The Titans are currently on hold in free agency until they get a new general manager, but they should be able to make offers to anyone they want. WRs Drew Bennett and Bobby Wade, DT Robaire Smith, and QB Kerry Collins are all unrestricted free agents. The Titans have only two quarterbacks on the roster, and if Collins leaves they will sign a veteran who can start immediately in case of injury. The Titans are also looking for a veteran MLB to replace Peter Sirmon. Pretty much every position on defense will be looked at during free agency. The Titans will hope to bring in another speedy WR, especially if Bennett is gone, in to help Vince Young out.

      AFC WEST

Denver Broncos-After the tragic death of CB Darrent Williams, the Broncos number one free agent is CB Asante Samuel, who they plan to pursue with a passion. With Jake Plummer likely heading elsewhere, the Broncos will have to find a veteran QB who can come in if Jay Cutler is hurt or starts playing poorly. The running back spot is up in the air, as both Tatum Bell and Mike Bell were inconsistent. Look for them to bring in another running back to compete for some playing time. The defense is solid all around. They may look to add some depth at the defensive line, but nothing too much.

Kansas City Chiefs-The team wants to start a youth movement. Larry Johnson is 27, and is the youngest player on the team. The number one problem on offense can be argued: receiver or tackle? The Chiefs will look at add a deep threat this year, be it the draft or free agency. Also, look for a veteran tackle to be acquired. Defensively, look for a lot of young players, more than likely through the draft. The defensive backs are getting older and older, and someone will have to replace them soon.

Oakland Raiders-What all Raiders fans want: a franchise quarterback. They will have that chance with the #1 pick in the draft. If they get one, watch for either Aaron Brooks or Andrew Walter to be gone, possibly both. The running back position is actually pretty decent. WR Randy Moss is obviously unhappy, and rumors are flying about a trade. Another speedy WR will need to be brought in if Moss is gone. The offensive line has played horrible as a unit, and RT Langston Walker is expected to void his contract with LG Barry Sims not returning either. They had to start two rookies at guard last year, so experience should help some. The Raiders were above average on defense, so just look for a few minor adjustments here.

San Diego Chargers-Donnie Edwards is in the doghouse now after asking General Manager A.J. Smith for a contract extension. He is a free agent, and should garner attention. HB Michael Turner has been great when called upon, and the Chargers would love to keep him; however, someone is sure to make them an offer that will make the Chargers think about it. The WRs were decent, but not great. If the Chargers can add a playmaking WR, they will. The O-line was great, but OG Kris Dielman will test the free agency market, and is expected to see a lot of action. ILB Randall Godrey may retire, and if he and Edwards are gone, that leaves a huge hole. The Chargers would like to start their backups, Tim Dobbins and Stephen Cooper, but will look for an opportunity to improve that spot. Overall, the Chargers may not be active in signing some big names, but in providing them.

      NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys-Looks like WR Terrell Owens will remain on the team. QB Drew Bledsoe is not expected to be back, and a veteran QB will be brought in to back up Tony Romo. RT Marc Colombo was a big surprise, and is now an unrestricted free agent who must be brought back. C Andre Gurode is also a free agent. The Cowboys are also interested in bringing in Chargers OG Kris Dielman. DE Kenyon Coleman had his best season in Dallas, but is just a situational player and may not be brought back. Only CB Terence Newman had a good year in the defensive backfield, so some depth will be brought in and changes will be made. K Martin Gramatica is wanted back, but only at the right price.

New York Giants-C Shaun O’Hara and K Jay Feely are the only two unrestricted free agents of note, however O’Hara says he wants $3 million a year, and is not expected to get that in New York. Running back is a concern with the retirement of Tiki Barber. Backup RB Brandon Jacobs has played well at times, but a quicker running back will be brought in for 3rd down plays and such. There will be a problem on the offensive line if LT Luke Petitgout can not come back from his fractured fibula. Look for the Giants to stock up on O-linemen for training camps. Lots of help is needed at the defensive back spot, mostly because of injuries. Expect the same players to start here, but the Giants will add some depth.

Philadelphia Eagles-QB Jeff Garcia was a huge surprise when he came off the bench, but it is unknown if he will stay or not. No matter what, the Eagles will get a veteran to back-up Donovan McNabb, as he has had a season ending injury 3 of the past 5 years. WR Donte Stallworth may not be back if another team offers him a significant amount of money before the Eagles can re-sign him. If he is gone, the depth at WR is gone with him, and someone will have to be brought in. The team is also looking for a bigger back that can be called upon for short down situations. LB Dhani Jones is likely to be released at some point this offseason. Backup DB William James has intrigued the Eagles with his play, but he is a free agent whom the Eagles will want to keep.

Washington Redskins-Offensively, the Redskins would like to bring in some younger help: a young QB for the practice squad, a young, strong RB to replace soon-to-be-released free agent T.J. Duckett, and a young speedy WR. WR David Patten is expected to be cut. LG Derrick Dockery is an unrestricted free agent, but the Redskins will bring him back bearing a huge offer from another team. LE Phillip Daniels, despite having a solid end of the 2006 season, could be released. If the Redskins do not get a pass rushing DE in free agency, then they may use their top-pick in the draft on one. They are also looking to sign a good veteran MLB. As for the DBs, Shawn Springs, who ended up on injured reserve, may be in danger if his salary cap hit is too much. The Redskins would likely try to re-construct his contract first if that was the case.

      NFC North

Chicago Bears-Number one priority is bringing back OLB Lance Briggs. The Bears do not want to pay him as much as MLB Brian Urlacher, but Briggs could make that much somewhere else. The Bears will consider franchising him. The Bears want OG Ruben Brown back, but his age (34) may make them think twice. The Bears are deep at tackle, but DT Tommie Harris is coming back from a season ending surgery, and DT Tank Johnson is just one wrong step away from serving a suspension. RB Cedric Benson, because of the size of his contract and the prowess he has displayed this year, is unlikely to spend another year backing up RB Thomas Jones. The Bears will look to bring in a bigger, stronger RB to spell Jones every now and then.

Detroit Lions-The Lions will be looking for offensive linemen, a strong pass rusher, a running back, a No.3 receiver, a MLB, and help in the defensive backfield. The Lions running game suffered when RB Kevin Jones got hurt, and his injury may hamper him for the rest of his career. The Lions WR core has been inconsistent, and a speedy No.3 receiver is needed. The offensive line is a mess. Starters would get hurt, then the backups would get hurt as well. Look for a lot of signings at this spot. The defensive line wasn’t any better, and injuries plagued them just as much. DT Cory Redding was the only bright spot. This team will feel like it’s already been through free agency once all of the linemen are healed. The Lions are expected to pursue MLB London Fletcher-Baker as soon as possible. They want a stud MLB and a veteran leader. The DBs suffered through injuries, but another back should be brought in for competition and a chance to start.

Green Bay Packers-The Packers’ two main guys they want back are RB Ahman Green (unrestricted) and DE Cullen Jenkins (restricted). Todd Bowman was brought in just for backing up Favre once Aaron Rodgers got hurt, and he is not expected to be back. FB William Henderson will be 36, and is no longer the punishing blocker he once was, and he may be gone. WRs Koren Robinson and Robert Ferguson may be gone as well, especially if the Packers pull off a trade for Randy Moss. The O-line is set. Backup linebackers and special teams players Ben Taylor and Tracy White are both unrestricted free agents. The team is expected to bring in a young punter and kicker for training camp competition.

Minnesota Vikings-The question on everyone’s mind is who will be the quarterback? The Vikings dismissed rumors that Jeff Garcia would be brought in, and it looks like they will be sticking with 2nd year man Tarvaris Jackson. The Vikings will look to re-do the TE spot, and possibly cutting disgruntled TE Jermaine Wiggins. Some changes will be made at WR, with the Vikings probably going after WR Kevin Curtis or Drew Bennett. The RT spot was troublesome last year, and the Vikes hope to bring in help. It looks like they are also going to release CB Fred Smoot and possibly SS Darren Sharper to allow CB Cedric Griffin and Greg Blue playing time.

      NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons- QB Matt Schaub has proven that he is a good quarterback, is expected to go to another team to at least compete for a starting spot. If Schaub is gone, then a veteran QB would probably be brought in. Dropped passes and inconsistency hurt the Falcons WR unit last year. They are young, and a veteran may be brought in, but the Falcons would like to see the WRs develop. DE Patrick Kerney is the team’s number one guy to bring back. WLB DeMorrio Williams started at the WLB spot when Keith Brooking moved to the MLB is a restricted free agent, but is expected to garner attention around the league. K Morten Anderson reached his goal of most career points in the NFL, and it’s unknown if he’ll be back. If he’s gone, the Falcons will look for a kicker with a strong leg on him.

Carolina Panthers-Backup QB Chris Weinke may be gone after three disappointing starts at the end of the season. RB Eric Shelton has not been given much of a chance to play, and he may be gone as well. Tight end is a position the Panthers will address, with Kris Mangum on his last legs and Mike Seidman a restricted free agent. Receivers are pretty good, but a veteran guy or a guy who can double as a return will be brought in. The O-line was eaten alive by injuries, and the Panthers will upgrade here. They are really looking for a great left tackle. CB Ken Lucas may be cut soon to expand the cap room, but that would leave a lack of depth at DB. SS Shaun Williams is expected to be gone, so a hard-hitting free safety will be brought in, someone like Redskins SS Adam Archuletta.

New Orleans Saints-There are several ways the Saints could go here. The top 5 of the Saints 16 unrestricted free agents are: DE Charles Grant, RT Jon Stinchcomb, DT Hollis Thomas, and WLB Scott Shanle. Speculation says that Horn will be released because of his $4.45 million base salary and injury history. As of right now, the Saints have not released anything hinting about brining back these players. It seems that Jon Stinchcomb wants to return to the high-octane offense. DT Hollis Thomas will attract attention, but should be back as well.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers-QB Chris Simms was quickly re-signed, and is expected to at least be a good backup. Look for a bigger running back to be brought in to spell Cadillac Williams and for some short yardage situations. The offensive line was inconsistent, and the Bucs will look to upgrade that position. The defensive line underachieved all year, but they should all be back. DE Dewayne White is a free agent. CB Ronde Barber was the bright spot in the otherwise dark defensive backfield. Look for upgrades here as well. If head coach Jon Gruden is gone, the next head coach could make several more changes.

      NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals-LT Leonard Davis is up in the air. He has struggled a lot since moving to tackle, and his best days were when he mauled people at guard. RB Marcell Shipp is an unrestricted free agent, but the only short-yardage back on the team. The Cardinals look to keep QB Kurt Warner as a backup, and may try to let John Navarre get a shot elsewhere, as he is a restricted free agent. TE Fred Wakefield, who originally played on the O-line, is an unrestricted free agent. The O-line started to come together at the end of the year, but the Cardinals would like to find a dependable left tackle. The defensive line needs quality depth. CB David Macklin is unrestricted, and the Cards need more depth at the CB spot.

St. Louis Rams-The #1 thing on offense may be replacing WR Kevin Curtis, who is considered one of the top two WRs in free agency this year, and the Rams will have a hard time keeping him is another teams offers him No.2 WR money. WR Shaun McDonald is also unrestricted, and he should be brought back to replace Curtis if he’s gone. The O-line struggled after injuries, but looked great in the last few games. LT Todd Steussie is an unrestricted free agent, and should stay unless another team offers him a starting job. The defensive line is the team’s #1 priority. A RE is needed as well as depth at DT. The Rams also want to bring in another linebacker for competition. CB Jerametrius Butler has been hurt for two years, and may be released. CB Travis Fisher is expected to leave in free agency.

San Francisco 49ers-C Jeremy Newberry will not be offered a contract, and will become an unrestricted free agent. The 49ers would like to re-sign TE Eric Johnson, but he would like to go somewhere and start. The 49ers will need depth at WR. On defense, DE Bryant Young is considering retirement, and a replacement would have to be brought in. DT Payrs Haraison is unrestricted and does not look to be back. The 49ers are looking to move to a 3-4 defense, so linebacker depth is a must. LBs T.J. Slaughter and Jay Foreman are both unrestricted and ended the year on injured reserve. Depth at CB is needed.

Seattle Seahawks-The Seahawks may look for a cheap veteran quarterback to back up Matt Hasselbeck. FB Mack Strong is considering retirement. The Seahawks may look to bring in a speedy, “slashing” type running back to spell the aging Shaun Alexander and for 3rd down situations. WR Bobby Engram is a free agent, but the Seahawks like what they see in him. The Seahawks will also look to find a replacement for the 37-year old RG Chris Gray. Injuries hurt the defensive line and linebackers. Injuries killed the defensive backfield. FS Ken Hamlin is a free agent. 

 

The Sports Net team would like to thank Jonathan Keenum for writing this lengthy, in-depth report on free agency!

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