March 05, 2010

NFL free agency began at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Refresh this page for late-breaking news and analysis from around the league.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed unrestricted free agent receiver Kassim Osgood, giving them a special teams standout.

Osgood, who spent the past seven seasons with San Diego, signed a three-year, $6.6 million contract with the Jaguars on Saturday.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Osgood made the Pro Bowl as a special teams ace in three of the last four seasons (2006, '07, '09). He left San Diego in hopes of catching more passes. Jacksonville, which parted ways with starter Torry Holt last month, will give him a shot.

Osgood, who signed with the Chargers as a rookie free agent in 2003, has 33 receptions for 647 yards and four touchdowns. He also has 96 special team tackles. He has missed just four games and has played in 64 straight. -- AP

The Atlanta Falcons have signed free-agent cornerback Dunta Robinson, the Houston Texans' career interceptions leader, to a six-year, $57 million contract.

The team confirmed the deal on Saturday. It was reported Friday that the Falcons and Robinson had agreed to terms.

Robinson's signing is important because the Falcons finished 28th in the league against the pass last season. The native of Athens, Ga., had 13 interceptions in the last six seasons with Houston. He will be introduced at a press conference on Monday.

The Texans made Robinson the 10th overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft. He had a career-high six interceptions as a rookie, and has started in 79 of 84 career games. -- AP

Wide receiver Nate Burleson announced through Twitter that he has joined the Lions.

According to reports, Burleson and Detroit were discussing a $25 million, five-year contract.

Burleson caught 63 passes for the Seahawks last season. -- AP

The Miami Herald is reporting that Cardinals LB Karlos Dansby will likely agree to terms with the Dolphins soon, and possibly sign his multi-year contract on Saturday.

The free-agent linebacker will sign for five years and $43 million -- with $22 million guaranteed, according to the paper. -- The Miami Herald

The Baltimore Ravens have completed a trade for Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin, the seventh-year veteran whose name had been mentioned prominently in trade rumors for the past two years. Baltimore will receive Boldin and Arizona's fifth-round pick this year, while the Ravens will send third and fourth-round selections in the 2010 draft to Arizona.

As part of the deal, Baltimore will award Boldin a new four-year contract worth $28 million, or an average of $7 million per year. That's about $1 million per year less than what Boldin had reportedly been seeking. The trade is contingent upon Boldin passing a physical with Baltimore sometime next week.

The Ravens, Patriots and Chiefs were locked into competition for Boldin Friday afternoon, and talks intensified as the day wore on. New England was originally reported to be the frontrunner for Boldin, given that the Patriots own three second-round picks in April's draft -- and four of the top 53 choices.

According to a league source, Baltimore was close to striking a deal with free-agent Texans receiver Kevin Walter Friday afternoon, but that's when their trade talks with Arizona rekindled. "There were definitely negotiations with Walter going on, but (Baltimore) kept all options open throughout the day,'' the league source said. "The Boldin stuff had kind of cooled for a while there, but then they re-started.''

The Ravens are one of the most receiver-needy teams in the NFL, and last month signed former Browns receiver Donte' Stallworth, who was suspended from the league last year in the aftermath of his DUI/manslaughter conviction in Florida.

Boldin has not been able to play a full season since 2006 due to health issues, which is one reason why Baltimore was strongly considering Walter. The Ravens had targeted the Texans' No. 2 receiver in recent weeks, and had done extensive film study on him.

The Cardinals were not interested in paying Boldin the salary he sought due to the large financial commitment they made in recent years to fellow Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Last season, the Cardinals also got increased production from young receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, making Boldin expendable. When Boldin was out of the lineup with injuries the past two seasons, Arizona actually had a better record and higher receiving production without him. -- Don Banks/Peter King

ESPN is reporting that five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers of the Carolina Panthers has agreed to a six-year, $72 million contract with the Chicago Bears.

The deal calls for Peppers to earn $40 million over the first three years, according to ESPN, which cited a source it did not identify. Agent Carl Carey did not return messages and the Bears declined comment before a Friday afternoon news conference. -- AP

Until the Eagles decide to shop one of their spare arms, things look pretty quiet these days on the quarterback carousel. But in the backup market, I expect the recently released Todd Collins to land somewhere fairly soon if he still wants to play. Collins, 38, was part of the 10-man roster purge executed by the Redskins on Thursday, but by Friday the Ravens had already reached out to Collins in the form of offensive consultant Al Saunders.

Saunders was Collins' offensive coordinator both in Kansas City and Washington, and Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron helped coach Collins at the University of Michigan in the early 1990s. The only question mark is how new Baltimore quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn feels about Collins, who he didn't seem all that excited about when he had him in the backup role behind Jason Campbell in Washington.

Ravens backup quarterback Troy Smith has requested a trade or some other ticket out of town, and Baltimore doesn't seem bent on keeping him. They tendered Smith at only his original draft round (the fifth) in restricted free agency, so someone could pick the former Heisman winner up rather cheaply. Collins could well slide into the No. 2 role behind Ravens starter Joe Flacco on a one-year deal.

Other teams that might be a decent match for Collins include the Giants, who are expected to lose backup David Carr in unrestricted free agency, and the Cardinals, who need a veteran option behind newly re-installed starter Matt Leinart. -- Don Banks

• Seattle -- They weren't in the Julius Peppers sweepstakes, they didn't make a move for Chester Taylor as I predicted, and they lost receiver Nate Burleson in about seven minutes to Detroit. As for Aaron Kampman, reports about a visit to Seattle look either premature or flat out wrong.

But don't count out the Seahawks just yet. They're on the trail of restricted Denver receiver Brandon Marshall and will have him in town on Saturday. And then there's Pete Carroll the master recruiter to keep mindful of. He must be schmoozing somebody somewhere today. Right?

• Houston -- After finally scratching their way to the first winning record in the franchise's eight-year history, the Texans can't just sit back and get complacent. They're going to lose both No. 2 receiver Kevin Walter (probably to Baltimore) and starting cornerback Dunta Robinson (probably to Atlanta), and they also finished out of the money in the pursuit of Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (who they coveted, but signed with Detroit).

I'm not sure who they're after, and how much they'll spend, but the Texans have to make a dent in this market somewhere. If only to make sure they keep their forward progress alive.

• Kansas City -- All I know is that Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine that Kansas City would be active in free agency. There are times when Pioli channels his inner Bill Belichick and refuses to confirm what day of the week it is, so when he comes out and proclaims that K.C. will be a player in free agency, I expect a few more moves than just re-signing Mike Vrabel.

• New England -- The Patriots always seem to make some serious headlines in free agency, and other than owner Robert Kraft wanting to batten down the hatches a bit for the storm to come in 2011, I can't think of why New England would go quietly into the March night this time. But you have to admit, there's no one the Patriots seem way out ahead on, as in years past. When are they going to prove once again that they really are smarter than everyone else? Dare we say it? Maybe ... the dynasty ... really ... is ... dead.

• Washington -- They are the Redskins after all. How long can they possibly keep up this sense of restraint? I give them 12 more hours, tops. Then Dan Snyder fires up the private jet, picks up Vinny Cerrato and Joe Gibbs and goes chasing Miles Austin all around the Metroplex, throwing sacks of money at him just for old time's sake. -- Don Banks

The Bears pulled off a double whammy by signing Minnesota free-agent running back Chester Taylor to a $12.5 million, four-year deal that includes $7 million in guarantees. Chicago not only lands a probable starter who should fit nicely in new coordinator Mike Martz's offense, but also takes a valuable role player from a division rival.

Taylor turns 31 in September, but he doesn't have the same wear and tear of 30+ running backs who've been released this offseason. He was a backup to Adrian Peterson the past three seasons and has been a fulltime starter only once in eight seasons, in 2006. He ran for 1,216 yards that season then took a backseat to Peterson, who led the NFC in rushing his first two years and the NFL in rushing in 2008.

Coach Lovie Smith would like to see more balance in the offense, and the addition of Taylor and run-blocking tight end Brandon Manumaleuna accomplishes that. Taylor is a good fit for Martz's offense because he's a threat as a runner and a receiver and solid is in pass protection. Incumbent Matt Forte is coming off knee surgery and will challenge for playing time.

An ancillary note: Taylor's signing could be viewed as payback to the Vikings, who raided the Bears two years ago when leading wide receiver Bernard Berrian was a free agent. -- Jim Trotter

You can't blame Chester Taylor for leaving Minnesota, where he was forced to play behind Adrian Peterson in the backfield. And that's why it's so cool that Taylor signed with Chicago, where he might have taken the roster spot recently vacated by free agent Adrian Peterson.

Sometimes you can't make this stuff up. There may be two Adrian Petersons in the NFC North, but there's only one Chester Taylor. -- Don Banks

Though Atlanta has had nothing to announce yet in regards to its pursuit of cornerback Dunta Robinson, the Falcons are said to be moving toward getting a deal done with the ex-Texan by day's end, a league source said. Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff is working solely on landing Robinson and has no other areas of free-agent pursuit to occupy his attention, as the club hones in on the former Houston first-round pick.

Another good sign for the Falcons is Robinson is not negotiating or in contact with any other NFL club, giving Atlanta a window of exclusivity in the contract talks. Atlanta wants to improve a pass defense that ranked 28th last season, and Robinson, who turns 27 in April, is regarded as the top available cornerback. He reportedly turned down $23 million in guarantees from the Texans last year as part of a multiyear deal to play under the franchise tender for $9.57 million. Dimitroff prefers to build through the draft, but is unafraid of spending on the right free agent if he feels the player is a perfect fit. Two years ago he signed Chargers free-agent running back Michael Turner to a $34.5 million deal that included $15 million in guarantees.

With Robinson secured, and veteran cornerback Brian Williams re-signed this week, the Falcons would then shift their first-round focus in the draft from cornerback to either outside linebacker or defensive end, where another pass rusher is desperately needed. Atlanta holds the 19th pick in the first round, and might be in prime position to land either Michigan defensive end-linebacker Brandon Graham or Missouri outside linebackerSean Weatherspoon.-- Don Banks & Jim Trotter

ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting the Bears and ex-Vikings running back Chester Taylor have agreed to terms on a four-year, $12.5 million deal.-- SI desk

Though it's not known whether contract talks are anywhere near the final stages, the Ravens are believed to be focused on Houston receiver Kevin Walter as Friday's first full day of free agency continues to unfold.

The Ravens are one of the teams most in need of a receiver in free agency or the draft, and sources said they've been targeting Walter, the Texans' No. 2 receiver behind All-Pro Andre Johnson, in recent weeks and doing extensive film study on him. Baltimore has been quiet so far in the opening hours of free agency, but there is increasing speculation within the league that general manager Ozzie Newsome has made an early offer to Walter.

It's also believed the Ravens would rather sign Walter for somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million a year, than give up a third-round draft pick to Arizona for 29-year-old receiver Anquan Boldin, who they would then have to pay in the range of $8 million a year. Boldin has been nagged by injury the past three years, and hasn't played a complete season for the Cardinals since 2006.

The Ravens think the 6-foot-3 Walter will fit nicely as their No. 2 receiver, and with his height, speed and skill set, he blends well with the recently signed Donte Stallworth -- who's more of a vertical, downfield threat. Terrell Owens remains a fallback option for Baltimore, but not a particularly appealing one.-- Don Banks

As it turns out, head man Jim Schwartz wasn't the only Lions coach who hit the road Thursday night to do a little face-to-face free-agent recruiting. The details surrounding Detroit's signing of ex-Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson have emerged, and it's now known that Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was on hand in Seattle to personally woo Burleson.

Linehan, who also coached Burleson as the Vikings offensive coordinator in 2004, when Burleson had his finest NFL season, flew to Seattle on Thursday and wound up taking his target to dinner at around 9:30 p.m. PST. While Burleson and Linehan chowed and talked shop, Lions president Tom Lewand and Burleson's agent talked contract over the phone. A deal quickly came together, and the Lions agreed to terms with Burleson on a five-year, $25 million contract that includes a whopping $11 million in guarantees.

And that's probably not even including the dinner tab that Linehan had to pick up. -- Don Banks

Saints strongside linebacker Scott Fujita, one of the veteran team leaders on the defending Super Bowl champions, will make a free-agent visit to Cleveland on Saturday, a league source told

Fujita, an eighth-year veteran, remains a free-agent priority for New Orleans, but the Saints opted to let him test the market. Their hope is Fujita's desire to remain in New Orleans, where he has made his home and been involved in the rebuilding of the community, gives them the opportunity to beat any potential free-agent offer.

Fujita will turn 31 next month. He played in 11 games for New Orleans last season, missing five due to a leg injury. He finished sixth on the team with 75 tackles, adding one sack, two forced fumbles and three tackles for loss. He joined the Saints in 2006 in the same free-agency class as quarterback Drew Brees, and has also played for Kansas City and Dallas.

The Browns, under new team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert, are looking for upgrades at linebacker, and have targeted Fujita as one of the best available talents in the unrestricted market. -- Don Banks

The Lions' signing of ex-Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch rates a big thumbs-up in my view, even though Detroit is unlikely to get the player who went to three Pro Bowls with Tennessee.

I asked one league source who knows Vanden Bosch well what Detroit acquired with the four-year, $26 million deal it eagerly handed the ex-Titan:

"They're not getting the Pro Bowl player of a couple years ago, but he's still a warrior, and a guy who's just wired differently,'' the league source said. "He's played a lot of snaps in recent years, but I still think he'll be productive for the Lions. He won't be exposed. He's just not quite the impact player he was.

"But the other part of what they're getting is player who knows Jim Schwartz's defense and how the Lions are trying to play a nine technique like the Titans have run for years. You can't just line up and take off up the field on the pass rush in that defense. You have to play the run on the way to the pass, and he knows all those things and will be able to show the other players. He's been there and done that. He'll be a coach on the field in that way. If I'm Detroit, that's a great signing. And that's a win-win for both of them.''

Though the Titans didn't make much of an effort to retain Vanden Bosch, they still thought the 31-year-old veteran had something left in the tank. He's a high-effort, big-motor player, but Tennessee planned to cut into his playing time in 2010, hopefully getting more results from playing him 30-35 snaps a game rather than his usual 50-60. He still could have started in Tennessee, but the Titans wanted to take a less-is-more approach to a player they saw as starting to wear down physically in 2009.

"[Vanden Bosch] played over 1,000 snaps two years ago, and for a defensive lineman, that's ridiculous,'' the league source said. "But he was able to play at a high level for those 1,000 snaps. But at this point in his career, he's probably better off playing about half that amount. After a while you get to a certain point, after so many snaps, the body starts to give way on you.

"So his role was going to have to change in Tennessee, and he knew that. He probably didn't want to hear that, and he kind of made up his mind that it was time to go and try to play for someone else. But as far as leadership, and showing guys how to be a pro and what's expected of them, he's got a lot of value left. He's the kind of player you want. It's a perfect deal for Schwartz and what he's trying to do in Detroit.''-- Don Banks

Just after 11:30 ET this morning, Detroit coach Jim Schwartz waited in an airport with soon-to-be Lions DE Kyle Vanden Bosch to take them from Nashville to Detroit to sign a multi-year deal. "Kyle was our No. 1 priority in free agency," Schwartz said as he waited for the plane to take off. "I sat in his driveway and waited until midnight ET to send him a text and tell him I was there. I think he is going to be a perfect fit for our defense, not only as a player but as a leader for our young players."

Schwartz also told that the deal for Cleveland DT Corey Williams was done. The Lions will send a fifth-round pick to the Browns and receive Williams and a 7th-round pick.

Vanden Bosch and Williams will be part of the new Lions new defensive line that, if Schwartz has his way, might also include whichever defensive tackle falls to them in the draft -- Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy or Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh. -- Peter King

Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch has agreed to a four-year deal with the Detroit Lions.

Detroit coach Jim Schwartz wanted the Tennessee Titans starter to open free agency, and has landed the Lions' top target with a personal touch. Schwartz was waiting in Nashville outside Vanden Bosch's home when free agency began. Vanden Bosch said on a radio program Friday morning the coach left a few hours later with only the final details to be worked out. Schwartz worked with Vanden Bosch when he was Titans defensive coordinator.

Vanden Bosch spent the past five seasons with the Titans, getting all of his 43 1/2 career sacks. He was a first alternate for the AFC last season, despite only three sacks, and played in his third Pro Bowl in January. -- AP

Cardinals defensive back Antrel Rolle reportedly will visit the Giants today. It's a perfect fit on paper -- provided the Giants can jump-start their pass rush.

Rolle, a former first-round pick who broke into the league as a cornerback, is a very good cover safety and has a reputation for making plays when he gets his hands on the ball. His visit to New York is a clear indication the Giants have concerns about whether standout safety Kenny Phillips will return to form -- or return at all -- from 2009 knee surgery. With Phillips out and the pass rush inconsistent last season, the Giants struggled to stop teams through the air. Michael Johnson, Aaron Rouse and C.C. Brown all failed to distinguish themselves, which created more of a need for a player such as Rolle.

Arizona is hopeful of re-signing Rolle, whom they released because they didn't want to pay him $12 million in bonus and salary this season, but the chances of that happening appear remote. Miami, Rolle's hometown team, also is said to have an interest in him.--Jim Trotter

There's still no move toward a trade for Michael Vick in St. Louis, but another former Eagles No. 3 quarterback looks like a solid bet to be wearing Rams horns in 2010: A.J. Feeley.

A league source confirms that Feeley is scheduled to visit St. Louis on Friday, and given the dearth of talent the Rams have at the position, the two sides are expected to reach an agreement.

Feeley, who will be 33 in May, spent last season in Carolina, but did not get into a game as a reserve behind Jake Delhomme and backup Matt Moore. A fifth-round pick of the Eagles in 2001, Feeley spent time in Philadelphia with Pat Shurmur, who is now the Rams offensive coordinator. Feeley has also played for Miami and San Diego in his nine-year NFL career.

If they add Feeley, the Rams would have him and starter Marc Bulger under contract at quarterback, although St. Louis is expected to part ways with Bulger at some point this offseason.--Don Banks

The Atlanta Falcons plan to sign backup quarterback Chris Redman to a contract extension. Terms of the deal, which Redman is expected to sign soon, were not released Friday.

Redman first joined the Falcons in 2007, and went 0-2 as a starter last year filling in for former NFL offensive rookie of the year Matt Ryan. Redman is 4-8 in his career. --Associated Press

Middle linebacker Gary Brackett's reported five-year, $33 million deal with the Colts ($12 guaranteed, according to ESPN) could be good news for the Cardinals.

Arizona wants to re-sign inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, and if Brackett's deal sets the market at the position, then the Cardinals should have a better chance of making a legitimate run at Dansby -- a defensive leader they opted not to franchise for a third consecutive year because it would have cost them more than $16 million for one year. Brackett's deal is much more in line with what the Cardinals would like to pay.

Dansby is scheduled to meet with the Dolphins today and says he will visit with other teams as well. If none offers him more than Brackett received, the odds swing toward him returning to Arizona -- if he indeed wants to return.--Jim Trotter

Everybody will be talking bracket in March in Indianapolis, site of this year's men's Final Four. But why wait for the hoops tournament to start? Colts fans can start getting excited right now, given that Indy has reached an agreement with middle linebacker Gary Brackett on a reported five-year, $33 million deal, including $12 million to sign.

In the past the Colts have never hesitated to let their free-agent linebackers walk if the price tag got too high, as the departures of David Thornton, Mike Peterson and Cato June proved. But there are exceptions to every rule, and the Colts made a wise one in Brackett's case. He's their defensive captain, and the man who is the middle of everything Indy does on that side of the ball. If Indy wanted to keep its Super Bowl window of opportunity as open as possible, getting Brackett locked up just made sense, especially in this year of financial freedom known as the uncapped season.

For me, Brackett's value was never showcased any better than when New Orleans faced that 4th and goal from the Colts 1 in the second quarter of Super Bowl XLIV. Down 10-3 at the time, New Orleans gave running back Pierre Thomas the ball behind the right side of its offensive line, but Brackett knifed in and blunted Thomas's momentum on what could have wound up being the play of the game had the Colts gone on to win.--Don Banks

Things I'm wondering about early in free agency:

• How long until Michael Vick resumes his campaign to get himself shipped to Carolina now that Jake Delhomme is out of the picture? Vick already said he likes the Panthers uniforms, so what's holding up a deal? Carolina has made a decent-sized financial commitment to starter Matt Moore, but when you factor in the almost $12.7 million still owed Delhomme, how much money is owner Jerry Richardson willing to tie up in the quarterback position in 2010? The reality is the Delhomme payoff could prompt Carolina to shop in the bargain section of the veteran backup QB market.

• And how long until the defending champion Saints realize Delhomme would make a much better veteran backup for Drew Brees than the prehistoric Mark Brunell, who turns 40 in September? Delhomme knows the NFC South well, is from Louisiana, and an insight or two from him might just help New Orleans stay ahead of Carolina within the division. The Panthers signed Delhomme away from New Orleans in free agency 2003.

• A no-trade clause request by Chad Pennington in Miami, who's slated to back up Chad Henne? Huh? This isn't 2004, it's 2010, right? Pennington should be pretty pleased with himself if he pushes his NFL career into an 11th season, but how does he warrant a no-trade clause?

• I liked the novelty of the Rex Ryan to Bart Scott's house at the stroke of midnight concept last year, but did Lions head coach Jim Schwartz really need to camp out on Kyle Vanden Bosch's doorstep last night in Tennessee? Maybe Schwartz is having trouble selling his house in Nashville and he was in the neighborhood.

• Is this the kind of free-agent market where Brandon Manumaleuna is a player worth fighting for? If the Bears sign themselves a blocking tight end and wind up trading a quality third-year pass-catching tight end like Greg Olsen, I'm going to question their decision-making. And I'm pretty darn sure quarterback Jay Cutler isn't going to be happy losing his friend and favorite target, Olsen, either.--Don Banks

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Indianapolis Colts have agreed to a five-year deal with linebacker Gary Brackett. The defending AFC champs did not want to part ways with their defensive captain, who was ready to test the market as an unrestricted free agent.--SI desk

If there's one fascinating sub-plot to keep track of in free agency (on's free-agent tracker, no less) it's Baltimore's potential interest in receiver Terrell Owens. I say potential interest because the Ravens don't have Owens anywhere near the top of their list of priority free-agent receivers, but he is somewhat on their radar screen.

Which is pretty intriguing because many have assumed that Baltimore would sign Owens over Ozzie Newsome's dead body. Don't forget, Owens once accused the Ravens well-respected general manager of making a racist comment to Owens' then-agent, David Joseph, while Baltimore was trying to acquire the receiver from San Francisco in the spring of 2004. In a biography of Owens published in 2005, Owens said Newsome told Joseph that "sometimes a black man's gotta be slapped.'' Newsome has long declined comment about Owens' book.

Even though Ravens head coach John Harbaugh last week at the NFL Scouting Combine said Baltimore had interest in Owens, a league source said the history between Owens and Newsome would be a potential hurdle to overcome. It sounded like Newsome could possibly get past the five-year-old rift, but the ball would be in Owens' court as to whether the relationship could work.

"He did call Ozzie a racist at some point in the past, so draw your own conclusions from that (in regards to Baltimore's interest),'' the league source said. "I don't think they're going to be very eager to sign T.O.''--Don Banks

I guess there's still some pockets of silly money available this year, because the Lions were willing to give a reported $11 million in guarantees to ex-Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson in the overnight hours. Burleson is a good but far from great player, and his best season occurred in 2004, which constitutes forever and ago in the NFL.

True, Burleson had that success for the Vikings in '04, whose offensive coordinator was Scott Linehan. The Lions' current O.C.? The same Scott Linehan. But that's not exactly a take-it-to-the-bank promise of production for the Lions, who are determined to find someone who can line up opposite Calvin Johnson and draw a little coverage to their side of the field.

A five-year, $25 million contract for an almost 29-year-old receiver who averaged just 12.9 yards per catch last season (63 receptions for 812 yards and three touchdowns) sounds like the familiar story of a losing franchise having to overpay to attract decent free agents. The Seahawks certainly weren't willing to ante up anywhere near that much for Burleson, whose inconsistency and history of injuries marred his four-year stay in Seattle. In two of his four years as a Seahawk, Burleson posted five and 18-catch seasons.--Don Banks

See, we told you this year's NFL free agency was going to be unlike any other. We're already more than nine hours into the proceedings, and the Washington Redskins haven't signed even one new player yet. The best Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen could do on opening night of the league's annual veteran meat market is invite 33-year-old Packers free-agent offensive tackle Chad Clifton to town for a visit on Friday. Yawn.

That's not going to get it done when it comes to locking up that coveted Offseason of the Year award that Washington perennially runs away with. No Julius Peppers? No Darren Sproles? No Karlos Dansby? No fresh exercise in free-agent insanity? Well, at least we'll always have the Brandon Lloyd and Adam Archuleta eras to look back on with fondness.

I have to admit, I fell for all the rumors the Redskins would jump on Peppers like a Jason Campbell fumble. It had all the makings of a Daniel Snyder private-jet-to-press-conference whirlwind courtship. And when Washington cut almost a fifth of its roster on Friday, whacking the likes of Antwaan Randle El, Ladell Betts, Randy Thomas, and Todd Collins in a 10-man purge, it certainly looked like the Redskins were positioning themselves to whip out the check book and get busy.

But even the Redskins look a bit cautious in the NFL's new uncapped world. Shanahan and Allen are going to go shopping, but there's nothing to suggest a wild spending spree is on tap. If you can't count on Washington to set the market and the pace of free agency, what can you consider a given in a setting that has repeatedly been characterized as -- altogether now -- "uncharted waters?''

As the first full day of free agency unfolds on Friday, I'm thinking the most prescient thing I've heard lately will wind up being what one veteran agent told me a couple weeks ago as he looked into his crystal ball at the NFL's 2010 shopping season:

"Free agency is going to work for less than 50 players this year, whereas maybe it was 100 players or so in years past,'' he said. "And I think that means you're going to only have 12 to 15 guys who are going to get good deals in the open market. That's it. The rest of the premier players will get tagged.

"A lot of teams won't do much because the uncertainty of what's to come in 2011. A lot of teams are going to be cautious. Not knowing what the rules will be in the future, they won't want to commit to anything this year. The vibes I'm getting from everyone is that when we sit down and calculate how much money is spent on free agency this year, it'll be a lot less than it was last year. I'm sure of that.''

It's still early, but the players' bonanza that the uncapped year sounded like for so long is off to a pretty slow start. Even if you happen to believe that Chad Clifton is the answer in Washington.-- Don Banks

In addition to the Jets-Chargers trade, there was plenty of activity around the midnight hour, especially involving the Panthers. Ex-Carolina DE Julius Peppers, the prize of the free-agent market, appeared to be bound for the Bears. And Jake Delhomme, coming off his worst season as a pro, was released. Don Banks shares his thoughts on these moves and more.

The Jets upgraded a position of need by trading for Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who led the league with 10 interceptions in 2007 as a second-year pro but fell out of favor the past two seasons because he shied away from physical contact and had personal and legal problems off the field. In surrendering a 2011 third-round pick that can be upgraded to a second, the Jets are gambling that Cromartie can regain the form that earned him All-Pro honors in 2007, his first season as a full-time starter.

Cromartie won't lack for motivation: He's in the final year of his rookie contract, will get to play the press coverage that he favors, and will have teammates and coaches who'll hold him accountable if he backs away from contact on the field. His failure to even attempt to tackle running back Shonn Greene on a 53-yard touchdown run in the Jets' 17-14 playoff win in January still doesn't sit well with some of his former teammates. But one GM who scouted Cromartie this offseason -- while considering a possible trade with the Chargers -- said Cromartie showed a willingness to tackle in college and his first two years in the NFL. The executive contended that there was a noticeable change in Cromartie after his breakout year in 2007.

Interestingly, several Chargers players said the coaching staff rarely, if ever, called out Cromartie for shying away from contact. That won't happen in New York, where leaders such as linebacker Bart Scott won't tolerate soft play. If Cromartie excels -- which is a possibility because of the pressure the blitz-happy Jets generate -- New York could have the best cornerback tandem in the league with Cromartie and All-Pro Darrelle Revis.--Jim Trotter

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