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Opening Salvos on the Free Agency Front


This is the third in a series of NFL Combine, unrestricted free agency and predraft reports that Real Football Services is filing for    

The action was fast and furious in the opening days of the 2009 free agency signing period. Several teams made significant statements with the signings they made, and the ones they didn't make, and there are still some first-tier free agents out there trying to find deals they are happy with. Here's a quick look at some of the top stories of the first "show me the money" weekend.

Fat Albert

Fat as in his wallet. Former Tennessee Titans DT Albert Haynesworth kicked off the signing period with a seven-year, $100 million contract with the Redskins that can only be described as a bad deal for the NFL and everyone involved. We're not going to get on our morality horse and talk about the economy and how the fans are going to ultimately pay for this deal. Instead, we'll talk football.

There is no way the player can ever live up to this deal in terms of production. While he was the best player on our free agent board, he's not a big-play, big-time sack producer. He's a dominant force on the LOS who can stuff the run and disrupt the interior with his strength and quickness. But in the eyes of the average fan, it will be hard for him to produce enough big plays to be "worth the money", unless DE Andre Carter starts putting up stellar sack numbers due to Haynesworth's presence.

Then there's the fact that these kinds of signings rarely work. It's been proven time and again. Jets fans, do you remember 1993? Ronnie Lott, Leonard Marshall, the trade for Boomer Esiason, etc. We'll be interested to see what DeMarcus Ware commands on the open market next off-season. The Haynesworth contract is really a four-year deal for $41 million. That's what he's likely to see from it. Ware will certainly be expecting more. What do you suppose the next franchise QB to hit the market will be asking for?

The Ripple Effect

What comes about as a result of the Haynesworth deal is that the pricetag for Panthers DE Julius Peppers has gone up. You will now probably see a bunch of teams shy away from Peppers because they won't want to do a trade and sign a deal for that amount of money.

One team that could stay in the hunt is New England. The Patriots have cleared a lot of space under the cap with the trades of QB Matt Cassel and OLB Mike Vrabel, and they could use another edge pass rusher. Peppers has expressed an interest in playing OLB in a 3-4 and he wants to play for a contending team. With just about $20 million under the cap at this point, New England has the means to make that deal happen.

The Warner Saga

Coming off a strong season and a Super Bowl appearance, free agent QB Kurt Warner may be doing some damage to his reputation with the way he and his agent have handled negotiations with the Cardinals.

Immediately after the season, he expressed an interest in coming back only to Arizona or retiring. Expectations were that he would return for something along the lines of a two -year deal at $9 million to $10 million per year. The Cardinals upheld their end of the deal by offering $20 million for two years. But as free agency loomed, Warner's agent began posturing, asking for more than $14 million per season. Then there was the rumor of interest from other teams, and Warner spent Monday with the 49ers in San Francisco.

We're hearing that Warner battled hard with the decision of whether to even follow through with the visit. He did, but the back-and-forth nature of this whole series of events has us thinking there's some sort of disconnect between Warner and his agent. Expect the Cards to hold strong with their $10 million-per-year offer. The Kerry Collins deal ($7.5M per year) just reinforces that they were on the right track with their contract. In fact, don't be surprised to see them start lowering their number as more time passes.

Things That Go Housh

The extended delay in getting a deal done worked out in favor of former Bengals WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh. On Monday he signed with Seattle for five years and $40 million, including $15 million in guaranteed money. The Seahawks reportedly offered $2 million more than the Bengals and Vikings, TJ's other main suitors.

Housh was a flanker in Cincinnati, which is the same position Deion Branch plays. One of them, likely Branch, will move. But the 'Hawks overpaid on this one. Houshmandzadeh has produced big numbers in recent seasons, but he will be playing in a much more balanced attack in Seattle, both in terms of the team's approach to the run game and in the way they spread the ball in the passing game. His team likely won't be playing from behind as often, and at 32 he will have to learn a new offense. We question how successful this new marriage will be.

Best Deal So Far

The Eagles have once again shown that they know how to play this free agency game and play it well. Prior to the start of free agency, the team signed rising DB Joselio Hanson to a five-year, $21 million deal that included $6.4 million in guarantees. Since the opening of the signing period, the Colts re-signed Kelvin Hayden for $43 million over five years, the Ravens signed Domonique Foxworth for $28 million over four years, and the Redskins signed DeAngelo Hall to a six-year deal worth $55 million.

While Hanson may not be exactly at the same level as those players, he is very athletic with great quickness and burst to the ball and shows good lateral movement. He's aggressive and willing in run support as well. And he is a player on the rise who can play as a nickel corner in the slot and also at safety.

Check back later in the week for our take on more free agency news and signings.

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