2010 NFL Free Agency: Sorting Out the AFC's Winners and Losers

Zack NallyCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2010

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 17:  Cornerback Antonio Cromartie #31 of the San Diego Chargers reacts to a play during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the New York Jets at Qualcomm Stadium on January 17, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

With the league's Final Eight Rule in effect and an uncapped year upon us, the 2010 free agency period will take the first hit.

Due to the number of tenders available to each team and the change in rule concerning fourth-year players eying the end of their rookie contracts, the market is slim and the moves are big.

Take a look at which teams in the AFC have already moved some big names and others who may still make a stab at an available veteran before time is up. 


AFC North 

The Ravens took a big first step toward a more prolific offense this weekend when they signed ex-Cardinal Anquan Boldin to a three-year, $25 million contract. The trade gave Arizona the Ravens' third- and fourth-round picks in the upcoming draft for Boldin and a fifth-rounder.

Aside from signing one of the biggest names in the market, Baltimore put into place the pieces to possibly bolster up their draft potential, tagging offensive tackle Jared Gaither and cornerback Fabian Washington with first-round picks and safety Dawan Landry to a second. 

Pittsburgh and the Rooney family have been relatively quiet so far this offseason, practicing quiet collectivity rather than spend gregarious amounts of money on a free agency pool that is shallow, to say the least.

In news outside of the draft, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been charged again for sexual assault. The Steelers organization has never been one to air out its dirty laundry, but a change may be on the way nonetheless—a change that will force the team to make big moves before the market closes up shop. 

The Bengals are on the verge of creating headlines with their confirmed interest in wide receiver Terrell Owens. The loss of Chris Henry and Laveranues Coles has created a need for a wideout, but few are convinced that the prospect of having Chad Ochocinco and Owens in the same locker room is a good one. 

Cleveland is still exploring their options at quarterback but has yet to make an aggressive move toward free agency. In a surprise move, the team opted to retain wide receiver Josh Cribbs, and it's been reported that the Browns have a strong interest in New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita. 

The Browns and 49ers have interest in quarterback David Carr, but it's unlikely a deal with Carr and either team will take shape anytime soon. 

The North was a strong division in the NFL last year, and neither team really needed to make any big moves, but even if Cincinnati does sign Owens, Baltimore is clearly the winner in their decision to add Boldin to an offense that struggled in the postseason.

With all of the Ravens' key role players returning next year and a solid first-round pick in the draft, Baltimore stands to take control of the division next season.


AFC East

New England reached a record deal in its re-signing of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork earlier this weekend, and a high tender of offensive lineman Logan Mankins spoke volumes on where the Patriots intend to focus their energy this offseason. 

The team's release of tight end Chris Baker has left a gaping hole at that position with Benjamin Watson also a free agent, but the Patriots have always had a good scouting team and will likely make the necessary upgrades they need going into next season.

New York has made one of the biggest splashes this offseason, beginning with the release of running back Thomas Jones before the market opened. Then the Jets bolstered up their secondary with the acquisition of cornerback Antonio Cromartie of the Chargers for a conditional third-round pick in 2011. 

The Jets have also traded safety Kerry Rhodes to Arizona for a fourth-round pick in April and a seventh-round pick in 2011. With Cromartie and Revis in the Jets' backfield, though, it's becoming clear that the front office is doing everything it can to help the team return to the AFC Championship next year. 

Miami has also made some noise this offseason, signing one of free agency's biggest names in linebacker Karlos Dansby. The team also opted to bring back quarterback Chad Pennington as a mentor and a dependable backup to Chad Henne and Pat White. 

Buffalo doesn't have a lot of money to throw around, and it shows. Aside from locking up safety Bryan Scott and tendering a few other low-profile veterans, the Bills' ownership views the draft as the primary vessel to improve the team.

Still, Buffalo has needs at defensive end and linebacker and could still look to make upgrades at those positions in free agency. 

While New England's record signing of Wilfork and Miami's acquisition of Dansby are all big moves, New York has clearly emerged as the premiere mover/shaker of the East.

Revis and Cromartie in the defensive backfield is a scary thought, and offenses will have a tough time playcalling against them in 2010.


AFC South

The Indianapolis Colts are once again practicing self-preservation, signing long-time defensive captain Gary Brackett. The team isn't expected to make any big signings in free agency, as the pieces for another Super Bowl berth are set in place. 

On a side note, Indianapolis released its perennial backup quarterback Jim Sorgi, so expect them to explore quarterback options late in the draft.

Houston lost the cornerstone of its secondary, cornerback Dunta Robinson, to Atlanta, but a five-year, $21.5 million contract of wideout Kevin Walter sure made the loss a little lighter.

Walter isn't the most prolific receiver on the team, but his consistency and the security of retaining him on a long-term basis is a good step for the Texans. The team is also reported to be in high contention for Kansas City lineman Wade Smith. 

Tennessee is also slipping quietly into a market where big names are few and far between, but cuts are more popular than ever. The team parted ways with defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, linebacker Keith Bulluck, tight end Alge Crumpler, and center Kevin Mawae. 

There's still a chance that Bulluck, Crumpler, and Mawae may all return, though it's unlikely. The Titans are pushing for a more youthful roster and solid picks in the draft, paired with the re-signing with defensive tackle Tony Brown and tight end Bo Scaife, are all signs pointing to a younger and better team next season. 

So far, Jacksonville has only made a few moves early in the free agency period. The team signed wide receiver Kassim Osgood to a lucrative three-year contract and brought back defensive lineman Atiyyah Ellison and offensive lineman Kynan Forney.

The Jaguars have a high pick in the first round and will likely focus their attention on the draft rather than spend money they don't have on the market.

The South hasn't made any particularly big moves so far, but Indianapolis' re-signing of middle linebacker Gary Brackett really spoke to what the Colts plan to do next year. Brackett is the unquestioned captain of their defense, and having your signal-caller in the backfield locked up is a great move.  


AFC West

The Chargers have been making headlines all weekend, beginning with their controversial release of long-time running back LaDainian Tomlinson and their subsequent release of nose tackle Jamaal Williams. 

In an effort to avoid eradicating their entire backfield, San Diego retained backup back/return man Darren Sproles with a first- and third-round tender, hoping to either keep him for the season or use him to obtain another piece of the puzzle in the draft.

Oakland finds itself in a storm of activity with no real headline. The team tendered several veteran role players, including journeyman quarterback Brad Gradkowski. The Raiders released running back Justin Fargas and tendered cornerback Stanford Routt with a first- and third-round option.

Routt started only one game last year, but Al Davis and Co. opted to slap him with the highest tender a player can earn, another "dynamic" move from Oakland.

The Chiefs are the proud owners of a payroll whose entirety was eclipsed by day one of the Chicago Bears' free agency moves. Needless to say, the folks at Arrowhead still have work to do. 

It's been reported the team has strong interest in running back Thomas Jones. Kansas City recently signed linebacker Mike Vrabel to an extension and is looking to do the same with wide receiver Chris Chambers, who is considering a move back to San Diego. 

Denver is seemingly making all the right moves this offseason, despite losing prolific wideout Brandon Marshall to the highest bidder" target="_blank">Brandon Marshall to the highest bidder. The team tendered quarterback Kyle Orton, guard Kris Kuper, and linebacker Elvis Dumervil with first-round options this weekend.

The Broncos also agreed to terms with cornerback Nathan Jones and are looking to do the same with Baltimore defensive lineman Dwan Edwards. 

Despite retaining the core group of players and tendering Orton and Dumervil, it's a little surprising that the front office didn't decide to take advantage of an uncapped year and work out long-term agreements with at least Dumervil. Instead, the team will face losing them both again next year. 

San Diego, despite losing cornerback Antonio Cromartie, made the smartest move possible when it released Williams and retained Sproles. No matter who they get out of the draft for their backfield, it won't compare to the flash and pomp Sproles can give. Even if the Chargers do lose him, they now have a much wider array of draft picks to use. 

For more coverage on the NFL Free Agency and the 2010 NFL Draft, go to NFL Soup.


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