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News » Big-ticket, bargain & wild-card free agents

Big-ticket, bargain & wild-card free agents

Big-ticket, bargain & wild-card free agents
Just as you're recovering from the hangover that comes along with 96 straight hours of all things NFL Combine, it's time to turn our collective heads to the NFL's free agency period.

At Friday on 12:01 a.m. ET, it will be a mad dash for agents to get on the phones, general managers to ink deals and players to cash in. It's the league's version of Midnight Madness, and though a relatively new sensation to the sport, has become one of the great things for fans to track and follow on their own. Rest assured, both FOXSports.com's Jay Glazer and Alex Marvez will be on all the news, like white on rice, on Friday and throughout the weekend.

The latest on every NFL team


  • East: BUF |MIA |NE |NYJ
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  • South: HOU |IND |JAC |TEN
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  • East: DAL |NYG |PHI |WAS
  • North: CHI |DET |GB |MIN
  • South: ATL |CAR |NO |TB
  • West: ARI |STL |SF |SEA

Nnamdi Asomugha's record deal with the Raiders, inked over the weekend, had jaws dropping from coast to coast. The seven-year veteran signed the most lucrative contract per annum in NFL history. The three year deal will pay him $45.3 million. The first two years will pay him $28.5 million — every penny guaranteed. But don't think that'll set the tone for the rest of free agency. Asomugha's arguably the best cover corner in the league. You can argue that he deserves to be paid as so. More than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning per year? Probably not. But we're talking about Al Davis. And Al Davis is, well, Al Davis.

Which other players will be cashing in? Who might be a nice bargain? Who are the wild cards? Let's break it down.


The Big Money Guy — Matt Cassel: Franchised by the Patriots a few weeks ago, Cassel will cost a ton of money and two first-round draft picks for a team to sign him. If you're the Lions or Chiefs — is this an absurd thing to consider? Perhaps. But what if you're a team like the Bucs or 49ers? Cassel is a (relatively) proven commodity, a rookie quarterback taken in the top three picks is going to cost you a load of money too, and he is more of a sure bet than anything coming out of college this year. With a weak free agent QB class and a light draft class at the position, Cassel — a franchised player — isn't such an absurd option for a team in desperate need of a quarterback with money to spend.

The Bargain Bin — Byron Leftwich: A 6-year veteran and 4-year starter with Jacksonville, Leftwich backed up Ben Roethlisberger and won a Super Bowl ring in 2008. In limited action, Leftwich looked solid. The NFL's all about second chances. A healthy, in-shape Leftwich is an intriguing option for a team with quarterback depth issues. He won't be ultra-expensive, either.

The wild card — Michael Vick: The word coming out of Indy last weekend is that Atlanta will release Michael Vick sometime in the near future. If so, he'll be the most intriguing free agent on the market. Say what you want about the media (and PETA and fan) scrutiny he'll face or what shape he'll be in after several months in jail — but has there been any player in NFL history more geared for the Wildcat formation than Vick?

Other intriguing names: Kerry Collins, Jeff Garcia, Kurt Warner, Rex Grossman, Kyle Boller.

Running Back

The Big Money Guy — Derrick Ward: The Giants' back had an outstanding 2008, compiling 1,025 yards on the year. The "Wind" in the Giants' "Earth, Wind and Fire" backfield, Ward showed a nation of fans what he is capable of with a 215-yard performance in the Giants' Week 16 prime-time 34-28 overtime win over Carolina. Ward could end up being this year's Michael Turner, signing a big-time deal despite being a career backup.

The Bargain Bin — DeShaun Foster: Though it feels like he's been in the league forever, Foster only has six years of NFL experience and is still just 29. Consider the 49ers' season last year a wash. He was backing up Frank Gore, the Niners offensive line was non-existent and Mike Martz's offense was completely pass-first. In the three years prior to 2008, Foster ran for at least 800 yards on less than 250 carries each season. Some team's going to roll the dice on a low-cost contract with Foster. He'll be worth the risk.

The wild card — Cedric Benson: Talk about second chances. After nearly flaming out and burning all bridges in the NFL with the Bears, the former top-five pick found a home in Cincinnati at midseason and played pretty darn well. Having been cut by the Bears for too much off-field drama last offseason, it would be quite the story if Benson could find a new home (his third in the last 12 months) and get a nice paycheck in the process.

The Big Money Guy — Albert Haynesworth: Big Al! There have been some crazy numbers tossed around in the pre-free agency period as to how much Haynesworth will rake in, but that might not be the case. A clog in the middle, Haynesworth still hasn't played an entire NFL season. The team that makes the most sense for him? Tennessee.

The Bargain Bin — Mike Wright: Wright's been a solid bench player for the Patriots since 2005, coming in and doing his job when needed. He's played on some great defenses and learned from some of the best in the game. In 16 games last year, Wright racked up 27 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He could be a welcome addition to a contending team's defensive line and can probably be obtained for a fair price.

The Wild Card — Tank Johnson: Johnson had a solid year with the Cowboys last season, playing in all 16 games and recording 22 tackles. Johnson (surprisingly for some) was a positive force in the locker room and a role model for some of the younger players.

Other intriguing names: La'Roi Glover, Darwin Walker, Rocky Bernard, Jovan Haye, Shaun Cody

Defensive End

The Big Money Guy — Antonio Smith: In a relatively weak free agent year for defensive ends, the five-year veteran may be the big prize. Who is Antonio Smith? Good question. Smith has had back-to-back solid seasons at DE for the Cardinals and compiled eight tackles and two sacks during Arizona's Super Bowl run. He's been on the verge for some time now, and likely will get some cash based on his potential.

The Bargain Bin — Michael Montgomery: When Cullen Jenkins went down and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila was released, the Packers turned to Montgomery and he showed flashes. In '08, his first season getting significant playing time, Montgomery recorded career highs in tackles (59) and sacks (2.5) last season. A bit of an unknown, he could find a roster spot elsewhere and do some damage.

The Wild Card — Kevin Carter: Defensive linemen aren't supposed to last 15 years in the league, but Carter's doing just that. Though he was written off as done a few times earlier in his career already, the old man continues to deliver when called upon. Carter's a rock of consistency. In 14 years in the league, he's never missed a game. In '08, he contributed for Tampa with 49 tackles and 4 sacks. He's got some gas in the tank left for a team that'll pay for the old engine.

Other intriguing names: Chris Canty, Chauncey Davis, Igor Olshansky


The Big Money Guy — Ray Lewis: Can you picture Lewis in any other uniform than a Ravens one? It's certainly hard to picture, but it's also very possible. In addition to Lewis, the Ravens will be working to bang out a deal with OLB Bart Scott. Terrell Suggs is going to want a long-term deal as well. The Cowboys are apparently interested, but there are a few teams who might be willing to spend big bucks on the best linebacker of the past 15 years.

The Bargain Bin — Dontarrious Thomas: The college teammate of Karlos Dansby hasn't had quite the same career as his fellow former Auburn Tiger. After playing with the Vikings for four years, he signed with San Francisco last offseason. The Niners then released him and he ended up finishing the year with Minnesota. Thomas, a linebacker, has only had six tackles over the past two seasons. Is his career a bust? Or does the former second-round pick have a second life in him? A team willing to pay likely the league minimum can pony up to find out.

The Wild Card — Takeo Spikes: Spikes is the Jamal Crawford of football. His teams never win. In 11 years in the league, Spikes has never played in a postseason game. But that's no fault to him. After bouncing from Buffalo to Philadelphia to San Francisco, the former Bengals star settled in with the 49ers last season and recorded 96 tackles in '08, his first 90-plus tackle season since '04. Plenty of teams are looking for a veteran leader that can get the job done at OLB. But are they willing to put the league's version of "The Biggest Loser" on their squad? We'll have to see.

Other intriguing names: Michael Boley, Angelo Crowell, Keith Brooking, Shantee Orr, Channing Crowder, Jonathan Vilma

Defensive Back

The Big Money Guy — Brian Dawkins: From everything I've heard, it's almost a certainty that Dawkins will be returning back to the Eagles for '09 and perhaps '10. But there's been no deal inked yet, and at 35 years old, Dawkins is still one of the best all-around safeties in the league. The anchor of the league's third-ranked defense in '08, Dawkins forced six fumbles and had three sacks last year.

The Bargain Bin — Andre Goodman: Goodman was one of Miami's most consistent performers during last season's miracle AFC East championship run. In Week 17's division-clinching win over the Jets, Goodman made the pivotal interception that put the Dolphins in position to win. Three of the four starting defensive backs from last year's Miami squad are free agents. Goodman — an underrated and talented corner -- could be available at a reasonable price.

The Wild Card — Lawyer Milloy: Recently waived by the Falcons, Milloy had a pretty strong year for one of the league's most pleasant surprises on defense in '08. Now a free agent, the 13-year veteran is on the market and capable of still contributing for a contender. He's got some miles, but still can play the safety spot.

Other intriguing names: Chris McAlister, Jermaine Phillips, Gibril Wilson, Dré Bly, Jabari Greer

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 26, 2009

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Keith Lewis Name: Keith Lewis
Position: S
Age: 26
Experience: 5 years
College: Oregon
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