By Antonino Buccellato, owner of Fantasy Football Maniaxs
Seeking to please a chorus of unhappy fans and nervous “on the hot seat” coaches, team presidents and general managers around the NFL are taking a cheerier tone to free agency spending millions of dollars in bringing in available, supposed immediate help to their struggling and needy squads.
At the beginning of the free-agency period, when supply is shorter than demand as per No. 1 economic rule, aggressive owners like Dan Snyder of the Redskins had to overpay in the tune of $100 million over seven years to beat the competition from signing marquee FA Albert Haynesworth from Tennessee.
As the days went by, supply overtook demand and signing prices decreased tremendously allowing teams to gain more negotiating power.
To illustrate a good example of that, Laveranues Coles’ situation with the Jets comes to mind. The team had denied him a long-term contract extension, which promptly allowed him to test the FA waters. He was still under contract for two more years that would have paid him $5 and S6 million each respective season.
Coles ended up signing with the Bengals, after his release, for almost the same amount of money he would have earned had he stayed with New York. Coles fulfilled his wish to ink a long-term four-year, $28 million contract but the yearly base pay wasn't as lucrative as he wished for when he opted to go into the open market.
Teams such as the Buffalo Bills took the “one-year experiment” approach by signing freshly released Terrell Owens, formerly of Dallas.
His $ 6.5M salary for 2009 is not very burdening considering the potential fast relief he brings to the team hoping to crack the top of a tough division that includes the defensively retooled Jets, the always competitive Patriots, and the revamped and tricky Dolphins.
Other teams rescinded from hefty financial obligations to priced veterans by releasing them to the FA pool. The St. Louis Rams parting ways with Torry Holt and the Indianapolis Colts releasing Marvin Harrison are two of the latest examples of the yearly money saving moves.
Finally, there are the apparently irrelevant moves involving players like fullback Lorenzo Neal. To put that into perspective, it is essential to crunch some past statistics.
Lorenzo Neal’s “seemingly irrelevant” blocking while a member of the 2007 Chargers, led the team to a seventh ranked rushing offense with 2,039 yards. The Baltimore Ravens ranked 16th in the same category with 1,797 yards.
When Neal switched to a Ravens’ uniform in the 2008 offseason, the NFL's casual fan didn’t see the move as an impacting one. However, the move was instrumental in reversing each involved team’s fortunes in the rushing department.
The previously seventh ranked Chargers rushing attack fell to the 20th spot in the league in 2008 producing 1,726 yards, while the previously 16th ranked Baltimore’s ground offense skyrocketed all the way to fourth place when the trio of Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, and Ray Rice amassed 2,376 yards running the ball.
Other teams will wait until draft day to finalize some transactions. The Arizona Cardinals might just do that and trade malcontent wideout Anquan Boldin for draft choices to acquire more leverage and improve their rising team.
There were also some trades that took place already parallel with the free agency frenzy changing some team's landscape.
Kurt Warner remains in Arizona, had surgery to extend his career, and solidifies a passing attack that was in danger of being dismantled when the offseason began.
Matt Cassel was traded to the Chiefs for the ridiculous price of the 34th pick in the draft and supplants Tyler Thigpen (another 2008 wonder) as the starter.
Kerry Collins stays in Tennessee to keep managing the Titans running offense.
He did get some weapons to haul his passes for 2009 in Nate Washington and J.T. O’Sullivan continues his NFL journey and joins the Bengals to spell Carson Palmer should the latter not be ready for the season opener or should he suffer a setback. T.J. Houshmandzadeh won’t be there to help his numbers should he start a few games.
Jon Kitna will back up Tony Romo in Dallas after the Cowboys’ release of Brad Johnson.
Sage Rosenfels will battle Tarvaris Jackson in Minnesota for the starting job after leaving the Houston Texans.
Damon Huard moves to San Francisco in a customary back up role. However, the starting job appears, once again, to be wide open and he could end up starting.
Chris Simms went to Denver to initially relief Jay Cutler, but now appears to have a chance of starting there in light of the imminent departure of Cutler.
Dan Orlovsky will play for the Texans in 2009 backing up Matt Schaub. He replaces Sage Rosenfels as the team’s No. 2 starter.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is now in Buffalo, and should Trent Edwards go down, he will have the luxury of throwing to Terrell Owens.
Brandon Jacobs stays with the Giants, but Derrick Ward goes to Tampa Bay. Ahmad Bradshaw climbs up the depth chart at No. 2 for the Giants and Derrick Ward becomes the starter in Tampa.
That move relegates Earnest Graham to a back up role. Cadillac Williams is now buried as an emergency starter or situational back for the Buccaneers while he heals from his knee surgeries.
Fred Taylor is now a Patriot, actually one of the many New England backs. He will provide a shot of experience to the team and can start should Laurence Maroney have to deal with his annual hamstring injury.
Darren Sproles (franchise tagged) and LaDainian Tomlinson (restructured contract) stay put in San Diego to keep defenses guessing with their diverse running styles.
Cedric Benson will remain a Bengal after searching for a new suitor for his services in free agency. Benson played productively toward the end of last season and if he can carry that momentum into 2009, he could become a nice surprise player.
Maurice Morris goes to the Lions from Seattle to split carries with second year RB Kevin Smith.
Kevin Jones stays in Chicago to back up Matt Forte.
The Broncos cannibalized the few available RBs free agents for hire by adding Correll Buckhalter, J.J. Arrington, and LaMont Jordan to their already stuffed running back arsenal of Ryan Torain, Selvin Young, Peyton Hillis, Andre Hall, and Andrew Pinnock.
Jason Wright goes to 2009 Super Bowl runner up Arizona from Cleveland in anticipation of the Edgerrin James release.
Noah Herron replaces Wright in Cleveland arriving from Green Bay, a place where he figured he couldn’t find starting room.
Terrell Owens signs with the Bills and gives the franchise a new face lift for 2009 with Trent Edwards being the biggest beneficiary. Oops, did I speak too fast? Owens missed the first day of "voluntary" mini-camps. Remorse, anyone? (Bills.) Giggles, anyone? (49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys.)
T.J. Houshmandzadeh goes to Seattle to anchor the receiver corps and try to re-launch the team to respectability after a bleak 4-12 season.
Antonio Bryant remains in Tampa Bay and with the departure of Joey Galloway, he will now be the No. 1 receiver.
Laveranues Coles will be in a Bengals uniform this upcoming season and according to his contract until 2012.
Joey Galloway goes to the Patriots to add veteranship and depth. The 36-year old wideout has only reached the 1,000-yard mark three times in his career, and 2009 looks to be no different on a team that features Randy Moss and Wes Welker as their main threats.
Bobby Engram to the Chiefs brings a new dimension to the team. He will be a capable safety blanket for Matt Cassel and will play up to his WR3 standards as he has only reached the 1,000-yard mark once in his career.
His presence on the field, however, will free up Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez more.
Ex-Saint Terrance Copper also goes to the Chiefs for depth purposes. David Patten signed with the Browns.
Bengals’ Glenn Holt signs with the Vikings.
Bryant Johnson continues his journey and makes Detroit his next NFL stop.
Deverey Henderson will remain a Saint and retains his WR3 role.
Nate Washington is now with the Titans and will try to become a solid No. 2 receiver.
Jabar Gaffney moves to Denver and could see an increased workload to start the season with Brandon Marshall likely to be suspended four games to start the season.
Michael Clayton stays with Tampa and hopes that his role will increase, as it should.
Brandon Jones moves to San Francisco from Tennessee.
Obscure David Anderson stays a Texan.
Kellen Winslow II joins the Buccaneers via trade with the Browns who will receive a second round pick in the 2009 NFL draft. Buffalo’s Robert Royal goes to the Browns as Kellen Winslow’s replacement.
L.J. Smith joins Baltimore and will compete and share time with injury-prone fellow TE Todd Heap.
Chris Baker goes to the Patriots from the division rival Jets. He became expandable after a great season by rookie Dustin Keller who collected 48 passes, 535 yards, and three TDs.
The Saints keep adding TEs to their team as they sign Dan Campbell and Darnell Dinkins. The team already has Jeremy Shockey and Bill Miller under contract.
Other TEs transactions include Will Heller from Seattle going to the Lions and John Owens from Detroit to Seattle.
Anthony Becht will move from St. Louis to an Arizona team that rarely uses its tight ends.
Not much movement on the kicker’s end except for Mike Nugent going to the Bucs from the Jets. Jay Feely resigned with the Jets and Shaun Suisham stays put in Washington.
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