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The Cowboys re-tender receiver Miles Austin

Cowboys WR Miles Austin may soon be entering Brandon Marshall’s pay level

Recently the Dallas Cowboys re-issued their restricted free agent tender offer to unsigned wide receiver Miles Austin — worth $3.168 million.  Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones has smartly said that his organization wants to work out a long-term deal for Austin, who earned his first Pro Bowl selection in 2009 while establishing career highs in receptions (81), yards (1,320) and touchdowns (11).

In my opinion, even though the Cowboys already have pass catchers WR Sam Hurd, WR Patrick Crayton, WR Roy Williams, and TE Jason Witten under contract plus drafting Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant too (1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft) it would be behoove them to get the 25-year old emerging star locked-up.  The former special teamer turned No. 1 receiver was one of the main reasons that Dallas scored 361 points in 2009, set a team single-season mark with 6,390 total net yards and won their first playoff game since 1996.

Austin led the NFL with 8 receiving touchdowns of 20+ yards and he also joined former Cowboys’ greats Michael Irvin and Terrell Owens in the team’s 1,250+ receiving yards in season club. The former Monmouth star, like all other restricted free agents, will have until June 15 to sign his tender. If Austin doesn’t sign, by that date the Cowboys could cut his salary to $1.65 million.

Other prominent restricted free agents recently receiving a second tender offer included: Cardinals OG Deuce Lutui, Vikings DE Ray Edwards, and Packers safety Atari Bigby.

2010 NFL Restricted Free Agent Notes

Here is a team-by-team look at their remaining unsigned restricted free agents along with the RFA’s tender information. 

The Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, SF 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and St. Louis Rams don’t have any unsigned RFA’s entering 2010 training camp.

Arizona Cardinals  

Deuce Lutui, G, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Second Round, $1.759M; Reduced Tender Amount: $588,500; Difference: $1.1705M

Baltimore Ravens 

Jared Gaither, T, three (3) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First Round, $2.396M; Reduced Tender Amount: $506,000; Difference: $1.89M

Le’Ron McClain, RB, three (3) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First Round, $2.396M; Reduced Tender Amount: $506,000; Difference: $1.89M

Dawan Landry, S, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Second Round, $1.759M; Reduced Tender Amount: $1.111M; Difference: $648,000

Carolina Panthers

Thomas Davis, LB, five (5) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First and Third Round, $3.268M; Reduced Tender Amount: $2.42M; Difference: $848,000

Richard Marshall, CB, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Second Round, $1.759M; Reduced Tender Amount: $588,500; Difference: $1.17M

Cleveland Browns

Abram Elam, S, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Second Round, $1.759M; Reduced Tender Amount: $1.265M; Difference: $494,000

Jerome Harrison, RB, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Second Round, $1.759M; Reduced Tender Amount: $588,500; Difference: $1.1705M

D’Qwell Jackson, LB, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Second Round, $1.759M; Reduced Tender Amount: $704,000; Difference: $1.055M

Matt Roth, LB, five (5) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Second Round, $1.809M; Reduced Tender Amount: $770,000; Difference: $1.039M

Lawrence Vickers, FB, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Second Round, $1.759M; Reduced Tender Amount: $588,500; Difference: $1.1705M

Dallas Cowboys

Miles Austin, WR, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First and Third Round, $3.168M; Reduced Tender Amount: $1.6995M; Difference: $1.4685M 

Denver Broncos

Elvis Dumervil, LB, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First and Third Round, $3.168M; Reduced Tender Amount: $588,500; Difference: $2.5795M

Green Bay Packers

Atari Bigby, S, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Second Round, $1.759M; Reduced Tender Amount: $1.6995M; Difference: $59,500

Johnny Jolly, DE, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First Round, $2.521M; Reduced Tender Amount: $588,500; Difference: $1.9325M

Tramon Williams, CB, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First and Third Round, $3.043M; Reduced Tender Amount: $577,500; Difference: $2.4655M

Houston Texans

Owen Daniels, TE, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First and Third Round, $3.168M; Reduced Tender Amount: $3.0712M; Difference: $96,800

Indianapolis Colts

Antoine Bethea, S, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First Round, $2.521M; Reduced Tender Amount: $588,500; Difference: $1.9325M

Kansas City Chiefs

Jarrad Page, S, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Second Round, $1.759M; Reduced Tender Amount: $1.6995M; Difference: $59,500

Miami Dolphins

Ronnie Brown, RB, five (5) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First Round, $3.969M; Reduced Tender Amount: Not Applicable – Tender amount already 110% of 2009 base salary

Anthony Fasano, TE, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Original Round, $1.176M; Reduced Tender Amount: $588,500; Difference: $587,500

Minnesota Vikings

Ray Edwards, DE, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First Round, $2.521M; Reduced Tender Amount: $1.111M; Difference: $1.41M

New England Patriots

Logan Mankins, G, five (5) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First and Third Round, $3.268M; Reduced Tender Amount: $1.54M; Difference: $1.728M

New Orleans Saints

Jammal Brown, OT, five (5) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First and Third Round, $3.619M; Reduced Tender Amount: Not Applicable – Tender amount already 110% of 2009 base salary

Roman Harper, S, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First Round, $2.521M; Reduced Tender Amount: $588,500; Difference: $1.9325M

Lance Moore, WR, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Second Round, $1.759M; Reduced Tender Amount: $1.6995M; Difference: $59,500

Pierre Thomas, RB, three (3) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Second Round, $1.684M; Reduced Tender Amount: $506,000; Difference: $1.178M

San Diego Chargers

Malcolm Floyd, WR, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First and Third Round, $3.168M; Reduced Tender Amount: $1.6995M; Difference: $1.4685M

Vincent Jackson, WR, five (5) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First and Third Round, $3.268M; Reduced Tender Amount: $682,000; Difference: $2.586M

Marcus McNeill, OT, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First and Third Round, $3.168M; Reduced Tender Amount: $588,500; Difference: $2.5975M

Shawne Merriman, LB, five (5) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First and Third Round, $3.269M; Reduced Tender Amount: Not Applicable – Tender amount already 110% of 2009 base salary

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Donald Penn, OT, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First and Third Round, $3.168M; Reduced Tender Amount: $3.0712M; Difference: $96,800

Tennessee Titans

LB Stephen Tulloch, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: First Round, $2.521M; Reduced Tender Amount: $588,500; Difference: $1.9325M

Washington Redskins

Rocky McIntosh, LB, four (4) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Second Round, $1.759M; Reduced Tender Amount: $588,500; Difference: $1.1705M

Carlos Rogers, CB, five (5) accrued seasons

Tender Level, 2010 Base Salary: Original Round, $1.542M

Reduced Tender Amount: Not Applicable – Tender amount already 110% of 2009 base salary

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Not So Sure About L.T in New York, Just Yet by Lloyd Vance

Recently signed New York Jets RB LaDainian Tomlinson has a lot to prove to J-E-T-S fans in order for them to forget former workhorse Thomas Jones

One of the best stories of the 2009 NFL Season was the return of the New York Jets to prominence under brash rookie head coach Rex Ryan.  The J-E-T-S became the darlings of the National Football League by playing the same brand of football that I grew-up loving back during the heyday of the NFC East division in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. 

Remember the Philadelphia Eagles — led by Rex’s Dad, Buddy Ryan — New York Giants, Washington Redskins, and Dallas Cowboys always being in the playoff hunt due to running the ball and playing tough defense.   In fact, the NFC East division from 1985 to 1995 hoisted the Lombardi Trophy 7 times by sticking to this established philosophy. 

Ryan’s 2009 NY Jets squad also focused on the same basics of running the football and using an attacking defense to cause turnovers (42).  In making the postseason for the first time since 2006, the New York Jets pulled off the pretty rare “double” of leading the NFL in rushing (172.3 yards per game) and yards allowed (252.3 yards per game) — eighth team since 1970 to lead the NFL in both rushing offense and total defense. 

The NY Jets (9-7 in the regular season) further proved that playing old fashioned tough football still worked, when they stormed past the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers to surprisingly  face the “mighty” Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game.  Unfortunately after a first half that was very competitive, Ryan’s upstarts fell to the Colts by a score of 30-17.

However even in losing, many people around the NFL believed that the NY Jets still had a bright future.  Young emerging quarterback Mark Sanchez would continue to grow and the J-E-T-S still had their aforementioned strengths of a stout defense and a solid rushing attack that franchise record 2,756 rushing yards.  The big “if” was whether all the pieces from the NY Jets’ 2009 team would be back, which we all know is virtually impossible in the NFL’s era of free agency.

Unfortunately you knew it was going to be tough to keep all of the team’s players this offseason.  And the first tough decision came when veteran running back Thomas Jones, who had ran for a career-high 1,402 rush yards in ’09 to join former NY Jets runner Curtis Martin as the franchise’s only backs to reach 1,400 yards in single season, was due a $3 million roster bonus in early March.

NY Jets GM Mike Tannebaum recently said, “(Running the ball) is important to Rex (Ryan).  That’s our offensive philosophy.”  So surely after 3-consecutive 1100-yard plus seasons in New York including a 2008 Pro Bowl selection, the well-liked Jones would be back.  Well…wrong, after Jones didn’t want to take a pay cut on his roster bonus and 2010 salary of $2.8 Million, he was released on March 2nd to the dismay of NY Jets’ fans and many in the team’s lockeroom.

Jones’ release showed once again that he is one of the NFL’s most under-appreciated running backs ever. Despite having produced 9,217 yards and 62 touchdowns over a 10-year NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Bucs, Chicago Bears, and NY Jets.  However Jones and his representative, Drew Rosenhaus, quickly rebounded as the soon to be 32-year old runner signed a two-year, $5 million deal that will pay him $3 million in 2010 and $2 million in 2011, with another $500,000 available for incentives, on March 9th.

In looking for Jones’ replacement and emerging powerback Shonn Greene’s new tag-team partner, the NY Jets had an assortment of free agent veteran runners to choose from including Brian Westbrook, Willie Parker, Jamaal Lewis, LaDainian Tomlinson, and others.  Ultimately the Jets chose to sign Tomlinson — who turns 31 in June – on March 14th, giving him a two-year, $5.2 million contract with another $500,000 available via incentives. 

The signing of Tomlinson to replace Jones instantly fueled a ton of discussion in the New York market.  In breaking up one of the NFL’s best 1-2 punches from the 2009 season (Greene and Jones), the Jets quickly felt the ire of their fans.  And I have to agree with most of the fans who are questioning the move to not stick with Jones while bringing in an aging Tomlinson. 

Jones clearly showed last season that he had fresher legs than Tomlinson and with both backs being around the same age, the former 1-time Pro Bowl player has 600 less carries than L.T.

Over the past two seasons, L.T’s production has continually fallen – rushed for a career-low 730 yards in 2009 with a disappointing 3.3 yards per carry average.  Plus after a 9-year career of being a workhorse for the San Diego Chargers including 2880 carries — produced a Hall of Fame worthy 12,490 yards — you have to wonder what L.T has left. 

Sure, Greene is one of the best young power backs in the NFL (produced 304 rushing yards with a 5.6 per carry average in the playoffs) and naturally he will get  the lion’s share of the NY Jets’ carries (300+) next season.  Plus scatback Leon Washington is coming back (knee) and the Jets have one of the NFL’s most dominant run blocking offensive lines led by young Pro Bowl players, D’Brickshaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. 

But at some point during the 2010 season, L.T will have to show that he is close to returning to his old dual-threat form in order to push the Jets past the Colts and his old nemesis, the New England Patriots — will now be facing them twice a year in the regular season.   

Upon signing with the NY Jets, Tomlinson said “I will tell you I’ve come here to win a championship, and I believe this team has the ability to do it”.  But not so fast L.T as right now, until you can show more than the measly 24 yards on 12 carries that you put against the NY Jets in the 2009 NFL Playoffs, then you are looking like  to me former NFL great Tony Dorsett playing for the Denver Broncos at the end of his career.   And everyone knows how aging runners like Dorsett, Eric Dickerson, Shaun Alexander and OJ Simpson left the NFL.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

T.O a No-Go in Cincy by Lloyd Vance

After the Cincinnati Bengals said “No” to free agent receiver Terrell Owens, you have to wonder if there will be any other opportunities for him in the NFL

An interesting subplot to the 2010 NFL Free Agency period has been the plight of former league superstar Terrell Owens trying o find a new team.  While the past week has seen receivers like Kevin Walter (Texans), Antonio Bryant (Bengals), Nate Burelson (Lions), Anquan Boldin (Ravens) and others finding homes, the player that goes by the NFL’s most famous initials, T.O, has found lukewarm interest at best on the open market.  In fact the Bengals just decided when weighing T.O versus sometimes problem player Bryant that they would rather take their chances with the former Bucs castoff.

Owens, who is 36 and will be 37 in December, maybe fighting an uphill battle as time and his reputation may have finally catch up with him.  Over the years, the Niners, Eagles, and Cowboys have all had to balance Owens’ shenanigans (petulant lockerroom presence and post-touchdown celebrations) against his incredible on the field performance before finally saying “enough”.  And now the NFL, which is a “What have you done for me lately” league, may finally be telling the six-time Pro Bowl player that he has reached the point in his career where he is not worth the “headaches” that he brings to the table. 

Last season, T.O. while playing for the Buffalo Bills really seemed to finally be showing signs of slowing down despite looking in tremendous shape.  Playing on a 1-year, $6.5 million contract, Owens struggled to beat press coverage and his numbers sagged compared to his final season with the Dallas Cowboys — 69 catches for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008 to 55 catches for 829 yards (15.1 ypc) with five touchdowns in Buffalo.  Some wanted to point to the Bills’ offensive line and multiple quarterbacks as the main reasons for T.O’s decline, but he clearly is having trouble getting separation from sticky young corners at this stage in his illustrious career. 

In further looking at Owens’ 2009 production, there clearly is a huge spike from his best game of the season in a 18-15 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11. Taking advantage of the Jags playing without injured No. 1 corner Rashean Mathis, Owens had 9 receptions for 197 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown of 98 yards (Bills’ record) came when T.O took advantage of rookie corner Tyron Brackenridge getting caught looking into the backfield — high-stepped the last 20 yards into the end zone.  So let’s see, taking away a 9-catch, 197-yard and 1 touchdown performance, T.O had 46 catches for 632 yards (13.7 ypc) and 4 TDs in starting fifteen other games.

Owens said via his Twitter about his recent unsuccessful free agency visit to Cincy, “I wanna thank (team owner) Mike Brown & the coaching staff 4 the visit along w/the possible opportunity 2 play w/carson & 85. I enjoyed the visit.”  Unfortunately for Owens after weeks of Ochocinco lobbying for his buddy to play with the Bengals, team officials felt a younger more explosive receiver was a better signing.   However T.O in addressing Ochocinco on Twitter still believes that he still can get it done and that they could have had something special. He said to No. 85, “I’m en route back 2 LA imagining wht WE could hv done 2gether!! Holy delta skymiles Robin! U talk about unstoppable!!”

The landing spots for Owens seem to be getting smaller and smaller, plus that is even before the NFL Draft in April that includes a solid receiver class.  With Owens recently being told “No Thanks” by the Bengals, it now looks like he and other veteran receiver Torry Holt maybe waiting for a training camp injury to get a call. Maybe while he is waiting, T.O can call his homegirls Mo and Kita to see if they are up for Season 2 of “The T.O Show”. 

However if this is the end of T.O in the NFL…Thanks for the “entertainment” over 15 seasons.  Owens’ Hall of Fame-worthy numbers currently stand at 1,006 catches for 14,951 yards (14.9 ypc) and 144 TDs.  He is current ranks 6th all-time in career receptions and 3rd in receiving yards.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Bengals Sign WR Antonio Bryant by Lloyd Vance

The Cincinnati Bengals receiving corps got a little more explosive and volatile at the same time with the signing of free agent Antonio Bryant

The up-and-down career of receiver Antonio Bryant took a new turn as the unrestricted free agent agreed to terms on a four-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals.  The deal reportedly is a four-year deal worth $28 Million.   Bryant (6-1, 205) will be counted on by the AFC North Champions to compliment star receiver Chad Ochocinco while trying to replace the recently jettisoned Laveranues Coles.

A former second-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2002, Bryant has bounced around the NFL and at times has been his own worst enemy.  He was suspended for the entire 2007 season for missing a scheduled drug test and later failing a test.  Plus he has been known to be a lockerroom malcontent as shown by run-ins with former head coaches Bill Parcels (Cowboys) and Mike Nolan (Niners).  The Bengals will be the former University of Pittsburgh star’s fifth team and it will be interesting to see how he fits in Marvin Lewis’ lockerroom of characters including other former off-the-field problem players WR Matt Jones, DT Tank Johnson, and DE Frostee Rucker.

However when focused, the former Biletnikoff award winner (2000) can be a top receiver as shown by his huge comeback season for the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2008.  During that season, Bryant set career-highs with 83 receptions, 1,248 yards and 7 touchdowns, which prompted the Bucs to designate him as their franchise player in for 2009.  Bryant was paid handsomely last season to the tune of $9.844 million dollars, but he never lived-up to No. 1 receiver expectations due to nagging injuries that limited him to 13 games played — 39 receptions for 600 yards and four touchdowns.

After a season of struggles, the Bucs decided to allow Bryant to enter the free agent market. It will be interesting to see if the Bengals’ new look receiving corps featuring Bryant, Jones, Ochocinco and Andre Caldwell will be able to help Cincinnati’s 26th ranked passing offense overcome the tragic death of receiver Chris Henry.  For his 8-year career, Bryant has 372 receptions for 5,685 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Ravens trade for Anquan Boldin by Lloyd Vance

The Baltimore Ravens may have finally solved their pass catching woes by trading for former Cardinals  receiver Anquan Boldin

Everyone thought some of the teams “supposedly” trapped in the NFL‘s Final 8 Plan during the league’s first foray into uncapped waters would have some difficulty acquiring help with the free agency restrictions imposed on this group.  As the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement wanted to make sure that the rich didn’t get richer, i.e. no George Steinbrenner type owner was going to “buy” all of the available talent on the market – a restriction example is that Final 8 teams can only sign one high-priced unrestricted free agent. 

So going into Friday’s anticipated free agent spending frenzy, everyone figured that the Dallas C owboys, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, and Baltimore Ravens would have to wait until the NFL Draft in April to fix glaring holes on their team. 

The Final Eight Plan restrictions definitely did have an effect on some of the Final 8 teams such as the Cowboys and their deep-pocketed Jerry Jones, who has been surprising quiet so far this off-season.  However even in an uncapped year, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and his staff were determined to improve upon an offense that contributed only 21 receiving touchdowns.  After a season where quarterback Joe Flacco had difficulty finding receivers that could consistently get open and catch the ball, more playmakers were needed at the receiver position. 

To further explain the Ravens lack of production from their receiving corps, other than veteran Derrick Mason’s 73 catches for 1073 yards and 7 TDs, no Baltimore receiver had over 40 catches.  Often Flacco had to check-down to the teams leading pass catcher running back Ray Rice (78 receptions for 702 yards, and 1 TD), because other route runners had difficulty getting off the line of scrimmage and securing catches in traffic.  The deep ball, once a staple with speedy receiver Qadry Ismail when the Ravens won the Super Bowl, also fell by the wayside with Mason and Rice having the only catches over 60 yards in 2009.

Knowing that another year where teams could pin their ears back and attack Flacco due to a lack of respect for the Ravens’ receivers, Newsome creatively went to work.  First the Ravens decided that speedy receiver Donte’ Stallworth’s second chance in the NFL should come in purple.  Then Baltimore probably made one of the most important deals in free agency’s first weekend.  With everyone talking about the Chicago Bears big splash of signing DE Julius Peppers and RB Chester Taylor, some forgot to check out what was happening in the Charm City.

The Ravens instantly put themselves back in the mix at the top of the AFC North division by trading for disgruntled former Arizona Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin (6’1, 217).  The Ravens shipped Arizona 3rd- and 4th-round picks in this year’s draft for the former Pro Bowl receiver and a 5th-round selection.  When I first looked at this deal, I immediately thought the Ravens pulled a fast one on the Cardinals, but Arizona wanted more time for younger receivers Early Doucet and Steve Breaston.  Even with the emergence of those two aforementioned receivers, the Cardinals still are going to miss the former 2003 offensive rookie of the year.  

Boldin — averaged 83 catches and six touchdowns in a career — brings a tough physical veteran receiver to the Ravens that has game-breaking run after the catch ability.  And by all indications, he could be the missing piece for a Ravens team that hung around for a while with the AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts.

The Ravens’ new No. 1 target is a three-time Pro Bowl player, who dearly wanted out of a bad contract situation with the Cardinals and now, by all indications, has a new lease on life.  And did I also mention that the Ravens only minutes after completing the trade, gave the former Florida State star a new four-year, $28 million contract, which includes $25 million dollars in “new money”, and $10 million in guarantees.

After the trade an enthusiastic Boldin (career numbers: 586 catches for 7520 yards, 12.8 ypc, and 44 TDs) said via the Ravens’ website, “I’m a piece of the puzzle for [the Ravens, I believe I can help them, maybe get them to another level. I think I’ll fit in with them. It’s going to be a lot of fun being a Raven.”   Boldin added, “I’m definitely excited. For me, I’ve been hoping for this for a year since I first heard that the Ravens might be interested in me. I even talked with Ray [Lewis] about it a year ago.”

Look for the former second-round pick in 2003 to immediately be moved all around head coach John Harbaugh’s offense and to be a difference maker in extending the career of tight end Todd Heap and helping out in the redzone.  “The Ravens just got better,” Harbaugh said. “Anquan is a significant addition for us. He fits the personality of our team with the hard-nosed, physical way he plays. We love the way he competes. Our fans will enjoy watching him compete, and his teammates will be excited to have him with us.”

So now Boldin (29) gets out of the lengthy shadow of former Cardinals teammate Larry Fitzgerald and expectations for the Ravens offense have been heightened.  But now you have to wonder if stout veteran Derrick Mason – an unrestricted free agent – has played his last game in Baltimore.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

The 2010 NFL Free Agency Period Arrives by Lloyd Vance

The 2010 NFL Free Agency period arrived at 12 AM on March 5th and one of th biggest names available is Carolina Panthers DE Julius Peppers

Remember “Albert Haynesworth”, all you fans out there with dreams of signing a free agent and moving instantly into Super Bowl contention.  Haynesworth was “the” biggest free agent during the 2009 free agency period.  The former  Pro Bowl defensive tackle signed a deal of a lifetime (7 year, $100 Million Contract w/ $41 Million guarantee with the Washington Redskins.  The move made him the highest paid defensive at the time to leave the frugal Tennessee Titans to sign with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder’s “deep pocketed” team. 

The moves of bringing in Haynesworth and fellow free agency pickup corner DeAngelo Hall (six year, $55 million deal with $23 million guaranteed) were supposed to instantly put Washington in the thick of the 2009 NFC East race.  Well, now we know that the Redskins, despite a massive off-season spending spree, did not reach the postseason and  finished with a disappointing 6-10 record with head coach Jim Zorn being swiftly fired at the end of the season.  For all the dollars that Snyder paid Haynesworth (4 sacks) and Hall (4 INTs), he didn’t receive anywhere near the return expected on his large investment

I am sure during the 2009 season, NFL team general managers and owners paid particular attention to the Redskins’ fortunes to see the affect of extravagant free agency spending on a team.  The Redskins and the equally luxurious spending Denver Broncos expected to win after shopping at Neiman Marcus in the offseason for players.  But not so fast…. as both teams didn’t even make the playoffs and it was the New Orleans Saints  fueled by home grown talent cultivated through the draft (Reggie Bush, Jahri Evans, Marques Colston, Tracy Porter  and others) who were hoisting the Super Bowl XLIV Lombardi trophy. 

The Saints proved that building a solid nucleus through the draft with a sprinkling of long term veteran free agents like quarterback Drew Brees is the greatest key to winning in the NFL rather than trying to buy a championship.  The Saints confirmed the same successful formula that the Colts, Steelers, and Giants have subscribed to for years by looking to the draft first to build their teams — did you notice all of these teams have recently won a Super Bowl.  Over the years I have always told disgruntled spend-happy fans, “Good teams fill weaknesses on their roster with solid veteran players and draft picks and bad ones try to make a splash by over spending for ‘Big Name’ free agents and usually fall apart due to non-cohesiveness”.

We will see in an uncapped year whether NFL owners will be more conscious when spending during the 2010 Free Agency period.

Timeframe: Begins at 12:01 a.m. EST on Friday, March 5th and runs to April 21st at 4 PM EST for restricted free agents (last chance for teams to match offers from other teams)

Salary Cap Information:  With no new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) extension or deal between the NFL and the NFLPA in place as of March 5, 2010 , the NFL will experience their first uncapped year ever in 2010 – the current CBA expires in March 2011.  The cap has been in place since 1994 and has helped regulate professional sports most level playfield where small market teams like the Green Bay Packers can compete with the New York Giants of the world. In addition to there being no salary cap, there will also be no salary minimum for the first time too — last year the cap was $123 million and the minimum $107.7 million. So even though everyone is worried that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder will be football’s version of George Steinbrenner, there is a chance some team could try an be like the “frugal” Pittsburgh Pirates. 

Remember TV revenue and profit sharing has dictated that most NFL teams should have similar money to sign or not sign free agents.  Even without the cap as a guideline, most teams are in good shape going into the free agency signing period due to good management decisions.   Solid teams usually made good cap decisions over the years (Cutting of high priced veterans, extending young ascending players, and signing value veterans at the league minimum: $750,000). 

Special Rules for an Uncapped Year:

A) More restricted free agents – This free agency period, players can only be unrestricted free agents if they have accrued six years of service in the NFL (instead of four years in 2010 and five years in 2011). At last count 212 players will be considered restricted free agents — instead of unrestricted — because there is no salary cap in 2010. A restricted free agent’s old team has a chance to offer the player a one-year contract at different levels of pay which determines what level of draft-choice compensation the old club would receive if they lost that particular player. The old team also has the right to match any offer another club makes to a restricted free agent.  During 2009 NFL Free Agency period, not a single restricted free agent changed teams. The tender levels for players with three accrued seasons are $1.101 million for the original round the player was drafted, $1.684 million for a second-round pick, $2.396 million for a first-round pick and $3.043 million for first- and third-round picks.  Tender levels for four-year players are $1.176m, $1.759m, $2.521m and $3.168m. Tender levels for five-year players are $1.226m, $1.809m, $2.571m and $3.218m.

B)  More tags to retain players were available — This year teams were allowed to use one franchise tag and two transition tags (average of Top 10 position salaries and first refusal for a player’s designating team) before the start of the Free Agency signing period (March 5th). There were six players designated as “franchise players” by the February 25th deadline, but there were no transition players named.  Last year a record 14 players were designated as a franchise player.

C) The Final Eight Plan — Article XXI of the current NFL collective bargaining agreement limits the free-agent activity of the last eight teams from the 2009 NFL playoffs.  These rules were put in place, so no NFL team could fatten up on free agents in an uncapped year.  So the four teams from the conference championship games – Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts and the N.Y. Jets – can’t sign any unrestricted free agents from other teams unless they lose one and they can’t pay a player they sign more than the one they lost receives from a new team.  The four teams that lost in the previous round – Dallas, Arizona, Baltimore and San Diego – also can’t sign unrestricted free agents unless they lose one. They also can only sign one free agent for $5.5 million or more in the first year of the contract, while other signings can’t be more than $3.7 million in the first year.

All of the rules were explained recently in an NFL media Q &A document.

Number of Free Agents: The National Football League announced that there are over 400 players who are free agents of some kind including the aforementioned 212 unrestricted free agents. That number also includes the 6 free agents that were designated as “franchise” players.

Possible 2011 lockout lurking – At the 2008 Annual NFL Spring Meeting, NFL owners while crying broke over salaries that now encompass 60% of yearly revenues according to them, exercised a clause (had until November 8, 2008 to do so) by a unanimous vote (32-0) to shorten the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). The vote meant that the CBA that was originally signed in 1993 (Extended several times including the last time in 2006) would expire in 2011 instead of 2013. There have been murmurs of a possible lockout in 2011 – would be first work stoppage since the very ugly 1987 Strike season — if the owners and players cannot come together on a new CBA.  A few key items that will need to be discussed in any new CBA are player revenue sharing, a potential rookie salary cap, NFL retiree benefits, medical benefits,.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said when making the announcement at the ‘08 meeting of opting out of the current CBA, “We don’t need further time to analyze whether this is working or not working. It’s not working”.   The Commish added, “It was the ownership’s view that it’s not a failure of the negotiations, it’s a failure of the deal”. It will be real interesting to see how the whole potential CBA mess is handled now that noted corporate attorney DeMaurice Smith is now the head of the NFLPA instead of the late Gene Upshaw.

Key Terms:

Restricted Free Agent – A player that has accrued six seasons of playing time and their contract has expired.  The player’s team must submit a “qualifying” offer (a salary level predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players). The player can negotiate with any team through April 21st. If the restricted free agent accepts an offer sheet from a new team, his old team can match the offer and retain him because it has the “right of first refusal.” If the old team does not match the offer, it can possibly receive draft-choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed, the player’s rights revert to his old team after April 21st.

 Some of the bigger name restricted free agents:

DL Victor Adeyanju, RFA, St. Louis Rams 

DE Mark Anderson, RFA, Chicago Bears

S OJ Atogwe, RFA ,St. Louis Rams

WR Miles Austin, RFA, Dallas Cowboys 

WR Jason Avant, RFA, Philadelphia Eagles

DT David Ball, RFA, Tennessee Titans

OT Khalif Barnes, RFA, Oakland Raiders

OT Alex Barron, RFA, St. Louis Rams

Safety Antoine Bethea, RFA ,Indianapolis Colts

RB Mike Bell, RFA, New Orleans Saints

SS Atari Bigby, RFA, Green Bay Packers 

CB Will Blackmon, RFA ,Green Bay Packers

WR Steve Breaston, RFA, Arizona Cardinals

OT Jamaal Brown, RFA, New Orleans Saints

RB Ronnie Brown, RFA, Miami Dolphins

DT Tony Brown, RFA, Tennessee Titans

S Melvin Bullitt, RFA, Indianapolis Colts

OT Jermon Bushrod, RFA, New Orleans Saints

QB Jason Campbell, RFA, Washington Redskins

OG Chris Chester, RFA, Baltimore Ravens

WR Mark Clayton, RFA, Baltimore Ravens

C Ryan Cook, RFA, Minnesota Vikings

TE Owen Daniels, RFA, Houston Texans

OLB/DE Elvis Dumervil, RFA, Denver Broncos

WR Braylon Edwards, RFA, New York Jets

DE Ray Edwards, RFA, Minnesota Vikings

OG Jahri Evans, RFA, New Orleans Saints 

TE Anthony Fasano, RFA, Miami Dolphins

WR Malcom Floyd, RFA, San Diego Chargers

OT Jared Gaither, RFA, Baltimore Ravens

OT Mike Gandy, UFA, Arizona Cardinals

K Stephen Gostkowski, RFA, New England Patriots

RB Jerome Harrison, RFA, Cleveland Browns

OG Richie Incognito, RFA, Buffalo Bills

QB Tarvaris Jackson, RFA, Minnesota Vikings

LB D’Qwell Jackson, RFA ,Cleveland Browns

CB Marlin Jackson, RFA ,Indianapolis Colts

WR Vincent Jackson, RFA, San Diego Chargers

WR Michael Jenkins, UFA, Atlanta Falcons

LB Derrick Johnson, RFA ,Kansas City Chiefs

TE Jeff King, RFA, Carolina Panthers

P Sam Koch, RFA, Baltimore Ravens 

OG Deuce Lutui, RFA, Arizona Cardinals

OL Logan Mankins, RFA, New England Patriots

S Danieal Manning, RFA ,Chicago Bears

WR Brandon Marshall, RFA, Denver Broncos

CB Richard Marshall, RFA, Carolina Panthers

FB Le’Ron McClain, RFA, Baltimore Ravens

OT Marcus McNeill, RFA, San Diego Chargers

OLB Shawne Merriman, RFA, San Diego Chargers

WR Lance Moore, RFA, New Orleans Saints

QB Matt Moore, RFA, Carolina Panthers

WR Sinorice Moss, RFA, New York Giants

RB Jerious Norwood, RFA, Atlanta Falcons

QB Kyle Orton, RFA, Denver Broncos

OT Donald Penn, RFA, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

S Bernard Pollard, RFA, Houston Texans

** K Jeff Reed, RFA, Pittsburgh Steelers

DB Carlos Rodgers, RFA, Washington Redskins

LB Barrett Ruud, RFA, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

LB DeMeco Ryans, RFA, Houston Texans

TE Bo Scaife, RFA, Tennessee Titans

TE Tony Scheffler, RFA, Denver Broncos

S Ko Simpson, RFA ,Detroit Lions

OG Rob Sims, RFA, Seattle Seahawks

QB Brad Smith, RFA, New York Jets

QB Troy Smith, RFA, Baltimore Ravens

C Chris Spencer, RFA, Seattle Seahawks

RB Darren Sproles, RFA, San Diego Chargers

WR Maurice Stovall, RFA, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

DE Darryl Tapp, RFA, Seattle Seahawks

TE David Thomas, RFA, New Orleans Saints

RB Pierre Thomas, RFA, New Orleans Saints

WR Jerheme Urban, RFA, Arizona Cardinals

CB Fabian Washington, RFA, Baltimore Ravens

RB Leon Washington, RFA, New York Jets

DL Gabe Watson, RFA Arizona Cardinals 

FB Leonard Weaver, RFA, Philadelphia Eagles

RB LenDale White, RFA, Tennessee Titans

WR Demetrius Williams, RFA, Baltimore Ravens

CB Ashton Youboty, RFA, Buffalo Bills

Unrestricted Free Agent – A player with six or more accrued seasons whose contract has expired. He is free to sign with any team, with no compensation owed to their former team.  These are the guys that should be thanking Reggie White, a key marquee player who fought hard for free agency and eventually was able to sign a huge deal with the Green Bay Packers back in 1993. Over 300 players have this designation. 

Some Bigger Name Unrestricted Free Agents:

QB Kyle Boller, UFA, St. Louis Rams

QB Daunte Culpepper, UFA, Detroit Lions

QB Chad Pennington, UFA, Miami Dolphins

RB Kevin Faulk, UFA, New England Patriots

RB Larry Johnson, UFA, Cincinnati Bengals

RB Thomas Jones, UFA, New York Jets

RB Willie Parker, UFA, Pittsburgh Steelers

RB Chester Taylor, UFA, Minnesota Vikings

WR Antonio Bryant, UFA, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

WR Lee Evans, UFA, Buffalo Bills

WR Muhsin Muhammad, UFA, Carolina Panthers

WR Terrell Owens, UFA, Buffalo Bills

WR  Josh Reed, UFA, Buffalo Bills

WR Kevin Walter UFA, Houston Texans

TE  Alge Crumpler, UFA, Tennessee Titans

TE  Benjamin Watson, UFA, New England Patriots

**K Olindo Mare, UFA, Seattle Seahawks

P  Jeff Feagles, UFA, New York Giants

Craig Hentrich, UFA, Tennessee Titans

OG  Stephen Neal, UFA, New England Patriots

OG  Bobbie Williams, UFA, Cincinnati Bengals

C Kevin Mawae, UFA, Tennessee Titans

NT  Jason Ferguson, UFA, Miami Dolphins

DT  Tank Johnson, UFA, Cincinnati Bengals

DE   Derrick Burgess, UFA, New England Patriots

DE  Ryan Denney, UFA, Buffalo Bills

DE/OLB  Aaron Kampman, UFA, Green Bay Packers

DE  Leonard Little, UFA, St. Louis Rams

DE Adewale Ogunleye, UFA, Chicago Bears

DE  Julius Peppers, UFA, Carolina Panthers

DE  Will Smith, UFA, New Orleans Saints

DE  Jason Taylor, UFA, Miami Dolphins

DE  Kyle Vanden Bosch, UFA, Tennessee Titans

LB Gary Brackett, UFA, Indianapolis Colts

LB  Karlos Dansby, UFA, Arizona Cardinals

LB Larry Foote, UFA, Detroit Lions

LB Scott Fujita, UFA, New Orleans Saints

LB D.J. Williams, UFA, Denver Broncos

CB/S  Dre’ Bly, UFA ,San Francisco 49ers

CB Walt Harris, UFA ,San Francisco 49ers

CB Ellis Hobbs RFA, Philadelphia Eagles

CB Adam “Pacman” Jones, UFA, Dallas Cowboys

CB Terence Newman, UFA, Dallas Cowboys

CB Dunta Robinson, UFA, Houston Texans

CB Deshea Townsend, UFA, Pittsburgh Steelers

S Ryan Clark, UFA, Pittsburgh Steelers

S Sean Jones UFA, Philadelphia Eagles

S Darren Sharper, UFA, New Orleans Saints

Transition Player – A team can designate one transition player (or one franchise player) in any given year. The player’s team must offer a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of last season at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. A transition player designation gives the team a first-refusal right to match within seven days any offer sheet given to the player by another team after his contract expires. If the team matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no compensation.

  • No players were designated as a “Transition Player” this year.

Non-Exclusive Franchise Player – A team can designate one franchise player in any given year as a “Non-Exclusive Franchise” player. The salary level offered by the designating team determines whether the player is an Exclusive or Non-Exclusive franchise player. A “Non-Exclusive” franchise player is free to sign with other teams, but his team has the right to match the offer after 7 days. These types of free agents are offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position as of April.  A Non-Exclusive Franchised Player can solicit deals from other teams, but his current team has first-refusal rights to match within seven days any offer sheet. If the player does sign and his team matches, the old team retains the player. If old team does not match, the old team receives compensation in the form of draft picks (usually first rounders) from the new team depending on the level they were tendered at originally.  The deadline for making these designations for 2010 was Feb. 25th. Here are the anticipated salaries for players tagged with either a franchise or transition tag.  Quarterbacks: $16.405 million (franchise), $14.546 million (transition); Defensive Ends: $12.398m, $10.193m; Offensive Lineman: $10.731m, $9.142m; Linebackers: $9.680m, $8.373m; Cornerbacks: $9.566m, $8.056m; Wide Receivers: $9.521m, $8.651m; Running Backs: $8.156m, $7.151m; Defensive Tackles: $7.003m, $6.353m; Safeties: $6.455m, $6.011m; Tight Ends: $5.908m, $5.248m; and Kickers/Punters: $2.814m, $2.629m

2010 “Non-Exclusive” Franchise Designated Players

San Francisco 49ers NT Aubrayo Franklin

Seattle Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare

Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Jeff Reed

Green Bay Packers DT Ryan Pickett

New England Patriots NT Vince Wilfork

Exclusive Franchise Player – A team can designate one franchise player in any given year as an “Exclusive Franchise” player. The salary level offered by the designating team determines whether the player is an Exclusive or Non-Exclusive franchise player. An “exclusive” franchise player is not free to sign with another team.  These type of players are offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position as of April.  Some teams use the tag as a way to initiate talks for a long-term contract, but usually players and their agents that are designated as exclusive franchise players are extremely unhappy and can cause distractions.  Their angst is due to the loss of an “upfront” signing bonus (guaranteed $$$).  Though they will be paid at the highest level of their position, players typically want the big payday that comes with being a free agent.  In the past we have seen franchised players miss all non-mandatory off season training activities and report late or holdout of training camp (ex. Seattle Seahawks Offensive Tackle Walter Jones in 2004 & 2005). The deadline for making these designations for 2010 was Feb. 25th.

2010 “Exclusive” Franchise Designated Players

Oakland Raiders DE Richard Seymour

Veteran Released players – This type of released players used to be labeled a “cap casualty”, but with no cap that term can’t apply.  These players are usually let go before Free Agency or before their contract bonuses incentives kick-in usually around March.  Veteran “street” free agents are eligible to sign with any team as soon as they are released, thus bypassing free agency period dates.

Some Bigger Name 2010 Veteran Released Players

WR Laverneus Coles, UFA, Cincinnati Bengals

QB Jake Delhomme, UFA, Carolina Panthers

C Hank Fraley, UFA, Cleveland Browns

WR Torry Holt, UFA, Jacksonville Jaguars

RB Thomas Jones, UFA, New York Jets

OT Orlando Pace, UFA, Chicago Bears

ILB Antonio Pierce, UFA, NY Giants

OLB Joey Porter, UFA, Miami Dolphins

WR Antwaan Randle El, UFA, Washington Redskins

S Antrel Rolle, UFA, Arizona Cardinals

OT Tra Thomas, UFA, Jacksonville Jaguars

RB LaDainian Tomlinson, UFA, San Diego Chargers

RB Brian Westbrook, UFA, Philadelphia Eagles

NT Jamal Williams, UFA, San Diego Chargers

Notable players that signed new deals with their old team, thus avoiding free agency

Pittsburgh Steelers NT Casey Hampton

Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski

Kansas City Chiefs LB Mike Vrabel

Atlanta Falcons WR Brian Williams

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Eagles expected to pay Vick’s bonus by Lloyd Vance

Looks like quarterback Michael Vick will be with the Philadelphia Eagles a little longer than originally anticipated

For years, disgruntled former Philadelphia Eagles have left the nest complaining about the front office’s low priority in paying veteran players.  From Troy Vincent to Corey Simon to Jeremiah Trotter to Lito Sheppard, there was animosity towards the team’s management as fans seethed on the radio and message boards about their “thrifty” nature. 

Even recently, “stand up guy” Brian Westbrook had some choice comments on his way out the door. Westbrook said via the Dan Patrick Radio Show, ” The players want to win, but with the management, I would hope winning is the priority – but I don’t know that.  The thing for (the Eagles’ front office), it’s always money. It’s always dollar signs. If they can find someone to do it a little bit cheaper, they’ll go with that guy.”

With the Eagles image of not “paying” veteran players being in the public’s forefront.  All along I thought there was no way that the team would pay spare part 3rd string quarterback Michael Vick’s upcoming bonus.  Vick is due a $1.5 million roster bonus payment on March 5th (start of NFL free agency and new calendar year).

But to everyone’s surprise, people around the Eagles that I have recently talked to definitely believe that the team is indeed strongly considering paying Vick his bonus.  To further solidify my findings, my colleague Geoff Mosher of The News Journal recently wrote, “Multiple league sources have told me that they anticipate the Eagles paying Vick’s 1.5 roster bonus and holding onto Vick for as long as possible to get the best available offer. Shelling out $1.5 million is hardly unreasonable if the team gets a third-or fourth-round pick in return.”

I know most Michael Vick followers will not understand the team paying for basically nothing.  However I have to agree with the team’s thinking in this case.  Everyone around the league already seem to be playing the waiting game with the Eagles at this point, to see if Vick will be let go to become an unrestricted free agent.  Obviously with Eagles quarterbacks Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and Vick all entering the 2010 season on 1-year deals, clearly the under-utilized 3rd stringer has to be the odd man out. Especially at his total price of $6 to $7 Million in 2010. 

Vick’s last season playing time and numbers (passing: 6-13, 46.2%, 86 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INTs plus 24 rushes for 95 yards, and 2 TDs) also clearly show that McNabb and Kolb are the team’s future and not him.  But any trade leverage that the Eagles posses with rumored destination teams — Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings, or Carolina Panthers – hinges mainly on making it look like there is a chance of Vick staying in Philly.  So paying him on March 5th seems very probable. 

However paying Vick’s bonus this week does present another problem.  If the Eagles can’t unload Vick via trade there are provisions in his contract that would make him the costliest 3rd stringer in the NFL.  His $1.5 million roster bonus can quickly grow into a minimum of $2.5 million dollars ($1M of his $3.75M salary for 2010 becomes guaranteed once his option is picked up).  And I won’t even go into the amount of $5.25 million dollars, if Vick is with the Eagles for the entire 2010 season.

Clearly the Eagles have to make a “tough” decision on Friday, March 5th.  But I do believe they will buck their perceived cap-conscious reputation by calling Vick’s agent Joel Segal to inform him that “yes” the check is in the mail. By paying Vick’s bonus, the Eagles will buy some much-needed time to ensure a trade before the 2010 NFL Draft on April 22 – probably a 3rd or 4th rounder in return. 

 Stay tuned as we will see if the Eagles make a dollar sign decision on March 5th.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)