Wednesday, February 28, 2007

NFL Team Needs in Free Agency



UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LBs Rocky Boiman, Cato June and Rob Morris; CB Nick Harper; DT Dan Klecko; S Mike Doss; WRs Aaron Moorehead, Ricky Proehl and Terrence Wilkins; RBs Dominic Rhodes and James Mungro.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CB Jason David; LB Gilbert Gardner; Gs Jake Scott and Ryan Lilja; DEs Josh Thomas and Bo Schobel; QB Jim Sorgi; TE Ben Utecht.

NEEDS: DE Dwight Freeney was made a franchise player. The Colts, as usual, are not expected to be a big player in free agency. But they're looking to solidify several spots. Both starting cornerbacks, David and Harper, and both starting guards, Lilja and Scott, could be signed away, although only Harper is unrestricted. Biggest need will be upgrade at outside linebacker, and they may need more than one OLB if former Pro Bowler June leaves. Also look for another running back if Rhodes gets a chance to start somewhere else.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WRs Drew Bennett and Bobby Wade; DTs Robaire Smith and Rien Long; QB Kerry Collins; S Donnie Nickey; RB Chris Brown; OT Seth Wand; LB Peter Sirmon.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: G Jacob Bell; Cs Justin Geisinger and Eugene Amano; LBs Robert Reynolds and Colby Bockwoldt; TEs Ben Hartsock and Casey Cramer; DTs Randy Starks and Tony Brown.

NEEDS: Cornerback already was high on the list before Adam "Pacman" Jones' recent involvement in a Las Vegas melee that resulted in a triple shooting. Now the Titans may have to overspend -- a lot -- to grab a top cornerback in case Jones isn't available or they finally lose patience and release or trade him. A defensive end to ease pressure on Kyle Vanden Bosch would help, and they need to re-sign Smith. Receiver is the other top focus. Bennett is ready to see how much money a once undrafted free agent can earn, and David Givens, a free agent signee last March, is recovering from a serious knee injury.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: TE Kyle Brady; LB Tony Gilbert; FS Deon Grant; WR Cortez Hankton; RB LaBrandon Toefield; DE Marcellus Wiley; DT Tony Williams.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CB Ahmad Carroll; LB Jorge Cordova; QB Quinn Gray; TE Brian Jones; DEs Bobby McCray and Elton Patterson; PK Josh Scobee; WR Ernest Wilford.

NEEDS: Biggest need is at safety because Grant is a free agent and Donovin Darius is recovering from a leg injury. Jaguars could look at Ken Hamlin of Seattle, Tony Parrish of Dallas or Shaun Williams of Carolina, but they probably won't move as quickly as they did the last two years, when they signed DE Reggie Hayward (2005) and CB Brian Williams (2006) in the opening days of free agency. Team probably will try to retain Gray, McCray, Scobee and Wilford. Also look for Jags to sign a speedy receiver.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: TE Mark Bruener; DEs Antwan Peek and N.D. Kalu; CBs Dexter McCleon and Lewis Sanders; OL Ephraim Salaam; DL Lional Dalton; RBs Ron Dayne and Wali Rainer; P Chad Stanley; T Brad Bedell; LBs Troy Evans and DaShon Polk; DT Cedric Killings; S Michael Stone.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Charlie Adams, LBs Shantee Orr and Charlie Anderson; CBs Von Hutchins and Roc Alexander; S Glenn Earl; FB Vonta Leach.

NEEDS: Entering their sixth season, Texans have yet to find a solid left tackle to protect David Carr, who has been sacked 249 times. Coach Gary Kubiak thought Charles Spencer could fill that role, but the rookie's future is in question because of a broken leg. After passing on Reggie Bush and losing Domanick Williams (formerly Davis) to injury, running game sputtered. With the health of Williams in question, Texans need to address that area. Houston could also use a receiver to take pressure off Pro Bowler Andre Johnson. Last year's No. 1 pick Mario Williams could be helped by addition of another big defensive end to play opposite him.



UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LBs Adalius Thomas and Tim Johnson; RBs Musa Smith, Ovie Mughelli and Nick Luchey; WR Alex Bannister; DT Aubrayo Franklin: DE Jarret Johnson; OT Tony Pashos; DB Gerome Sapp.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WRs Devard Darling and Clarence Moore; KR B.J. Sams.

NEEDS: If Ravens lose Thomas, they'll need a linebacker to fill his place on the league's top-ranked defense. Baltimore could also find itself short of offensive tackles if Pashos leaves, especially if perennial Pro Bowler Jonathan Ogden retires. Other positions on offensive line need attention after guards Keydrick Vincent and Edwin Mulitalo missed significant time with injuries. Ravens also are looking for a running back with release of Jamal Lewis, although they could re-sign Lewis for less money.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CBs Tory James and Rashad Bauman; TEs Reggie Kelly and Tony Stewart; QB Anthony Wright; RB Kenny Watson; Ss Anthony Mitchell and Kevin Kaesviharn; LB Marcus Wilkins; WR Kelley Washington; G Eric Steinbach; OL Scott Kooistra; DE Justin Smith.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DT Shaun Smith; CB Greg Brooks; LBs Caleb Miller and Landon Johnson; OL Stacy Andrews; P Kyle Larson.

NEEDS: Cornerback, where James played poorly last season and is a free agent, while Deltha O'Neal also struggled, is a priority. Linebacker after David Pollack's career has been threatened by neck injury and Odell Thurman is still suspended by NFL. Plus safety, defensive line depth (DT Sam Adams had knee/weight problems), offensive line depth (C Rich Braham has retired, Steinbach is a free agent), and backup quarterback. DE Smith was given team's franchise tag.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: Ss Mike Logan and Tyrone Carter; RB Najeh Davenport; WR Sean Morey; DB Chidi Iwuoma; DE Rodney Bailey; T Barrett Brooks.


NEEDS: With Mike Tomlin replacing Bill Cowher, Steelers' priorities might change. Watch to see if they sign a player or two who fits a 4-3 defense (Tomlin's preferred scheme) rather than 3-4 Steelers have played since early 1980s. Steelers don't have much cap room because every key player is already signed. However, G Alan Faneca, S Troy Polamalu, DE Aaron Smith and LBs Joey Porter and Clark Haggans are in final year of their contracts; all won't return in 2008. C Jeff Hartings' retirement frees up $3.6 million in cap room Steelers could use for replacements for some longtime fixtures. Immediate needs are a new punter to replace Chris Gardocki, a backup RB and another WR.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: S Brian Russell; C Hank Fraley; CB Ralph Brown; DEs Nick Eason and Alvin McKinley; Gs Cosey Coleman and Lennie Friedman; WR/KR Dennis Northcutt.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DT Ethan Kelly; LB Mason Unck; OL Nat Dorsey.

NEEDS: A bunch, with offensive linemen and a shutdown cornerback top priorities. Center LeCharles Bentley will likely miss his second straight season with a knee injury, making it critical the club find someone to anchor its weakest unit. Versatile guard Eric Steinbach is expected to be an early target for the Browns, who will have approximately $30 million to spend. DB Gary Baxter's uncertain future following two torn patellar tendons forces the club to look for alternatives, giving Cleveland native Nate Clements -- the best cornerback on the market -- another bargaining chip. Bringing in a veteran quarterback either through free agency, the draft or a trade, to compete with Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson is a strong possibility.



UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: G Kris Dielman; LB Randall Godfrey; WR Az-Zahir Hakim; OLs Cory Withrow and Leander Jordan; LB Carlos Polk.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: RB Michael Turner; TE Ryan Krause.

NEEDS: It looks like Dielman will test the market, and if he leaves, it will be a big blow to a line that helped spring LaDainian Tomlinson to his MVP season. It wasn't just coincidence that Tomlinson ran a lot to the left side, where Dielman helped open big holes. Bolts have locked up a lot of young talent to long-term deals, though. Chargers also could be in market for a wide receiver, safety and linebackers.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: OL Jordan Black; RB Dee Brown; DTs Ron Edwards, Jimmy Wilkerson and James Reed; LS Kendall Gammon; LB Kawika Mitchell; CB Lenny Walls.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DT Jared Allen; LB Keyaron Fox; WR Sammie Parker; OL Kevin Sampson; CB Benny Sapp; LB Rich Scanlon; PK Lawrence Tynes.

NEEDS: Push up the middle, both on offense and defense. The Chiefs want to play Cover 2 defense, but suffered for lack of any pressure from middle of the line. Left tackle Jordan Black improved in 2006, but is still not good enough to start at the position in the NFL. Right tackle also was a problem.

Both starting cornerbacks are well into their 30s. Wide receiver was a weakness when anybody but Eddie Kennison was the target, and Kennison, too, is past 30.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: G Cooper Carlisle; DT Michael Myers; LB Keith Burns; DE Patrick Chukwurah; DL Kenny Peterson; KR-WR Quincy Morgan

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LB Louis Green; FB Kyle Johnson; RB Cecil Sapp.

NEEDS: The Broncos need line help on both sides. They lost former No. 1 overall draft pick Courtney Brown to a knee injury in training camp and the pass rush never measured up. They also need to start thinking about safety, where John Lynch and Nick Ferguson are approaching old-timer status in the NFL. And the tragic death of Darrent Williams means they might have to look at cornerback for backups, with Domonique Foxworth moving up to take the starter's job. They also need help at running back, where the duo of Mike Bell and Tatum Bell never clicked, and at wide receiver, where age quickly caught up to Rod Smith, their career receptions leader.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QBs Aaron Brooks and Marques Tuiasosopo; OLs Langston Walker, Corey Hulsey and Chad Slaughter; DBs Derrick Gibson and Duane Starks; WR Alvis Whitted; LB Grant Irons.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: RBs ReShard Lee and Adimchinobe Echemandu; DL Tommy Kelly.

NEEDS: After scoring only 12 offensive TDs last season, Raiders need plenty of help on that side of ball. Even though team is likely to take a QB with the No. 1 pick in draft, Raiders still plan to target a veteran in free agency; Andrew Walter is the only QB on the roster. The most help will be needed on an offensive line that allowed 72 sacks last season and also struggled in the running game. Oakland also could have interest in a RB to share the load with LaMont Jordan and a WR in case the team trades Randy Moss.



UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Troy Brown; TE Daniel Graham; LBs Junior Seau, Tully Banta-Cain, Larry Izzo and Don Davis; FB Heath Evans; RB Patrick Pass; OL Gene Mruczkowski; CB Ray Mickens; QB Vinny Testaverde; Ps Todd Sauerbrun and Ken Walter.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CB Randall Gay; OL Billy Yates; S Rashad Baker.

NEEDS: Patriots already needed wide receivers last year, and if Brown retires they will need to replace the longtime favorite target of Tom Brady. Also, WR Chad Jackson tore his ACL and might not be back for the opener. Other than Banta-Cain, the three other starting LBs are in their 30s. CB Asante Samuel was designated as franchise player. RB Corey Dillon, 32, who has been increasingly supplanted by Laurence Maroney, said he wants to be elsewhere next season.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: FBs B.J. Askew and James Hodgins; DT Monsanto Pope; OL Wade Smith; RT Anthony Clement.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DE Dave Ball; DT Rashad Moore; TE Sean Ryan; LB Cody Spencer.

NEEDS: A dominant, shutdown cornerback. Veteran Andre Dyson provided stability on left side, but Justin Miller, David Barrett, Drew Coleman and recently re-signed Hank Poteat all took turns at right cornerback. Miller's skills as Pro Bowl kick returner makes him invaluable, but he still struggles in pass coverage. Buffalo free agent Nate Clements could make sense. Jets also looking for big right tackle to replace the veteran Clement, who probably won't be re-signed. Despite having Leon Washington and Cedric Houston at running back, Jets will likely look to add another back who can carry the load after releasing disappointing Kevan Barlow. Could also focus on depth at wide receiver, tight end and defensive line.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CBs Nate Clements and Kiwaukee Thomas; LB London Fletcher; RBs Anthony Thomas and Daimon Shelton; OL Mike Gandy; WR Andre' Davis.


NEEDS: Team with modest budget and major needs must creatively fill some potentially gaping holes to build off 7-9 finish. Unable to afford Clements' high asking price, Bills must find capable starting cornerback and hope Ashton Youboty develops after 2006 third-round draft pick appeared in just three games. Linebacker might become another big need for defense that finished 28th against the run. Fletcher is expected to test market, while Bills haven't yet determined whether to keep Takeo Spikes, who struggled while coming back from torn Achilles' tendon. RB could suddenly become an issue as Buffalo considers trade offers for Willis McGahee. Expect Bills to continue perennial search on offensive line, particularly guards.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DTs Keith Traylor and Jeff Zgonina; DE David Bowens; LBs Donnie Spragan and Keith Adams; S Travares Tillman; OLs Damion McIntosh, OL Toniu Fonoti and Kendul Jacox; RBs Sammy Morris and Travis Minor; FB Darian Barnes; CB Michael Lehan; QB Shane Matthews.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QB Cleo Lemon; S Yeremiah Bell; WR Wes Welker; CB Eddie Jackson; P Donnie Jones.

NEEDS: New coach Cam Cameron says he hasn't decided whether his 2007 quarterback is on the current roster, but he's unlikely to seek help in free agency. Instead, Miami will shop to shore up the offensive line and an aging defense, especially linebacker and the secondary. However, the Dolphins are in the lower half of the NFL in cap space, which will limit their options.




UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: OLs Jon Stinchcomb and Montrae Holland; Ss Omar Stoutmire and Jay Bellamy; TE Billy Miller; LBs Danny Clark, James Allen and Tommy Polley; DT Antwan Lake; K Billy Cundiff, CB DeJuan Groce; RB Fred McAfee.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LB Terrance Melton; DT Rodney Leisle; WR Terrance Copper; CB Curtis Deloatch.

NEEDS: New Orleans has put the franchise tag on DE Charles Grant and likely will retain him. The Saints could be looking for a new cornerback following Fred Thomas' struggles late in season and playoffs. Their workmanlike linebacker corps last season was solid, but not dominant. The starters are all expected back with the recent re-signing of Scott Shanle, but Saints may aim for another LB to add depth and strengthen 23rd-ranked run defense.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: Ss Shaun Williams and Colin Branch; LBs Chris Draft, Na'il Diggs and Vinny Ciurciu; Ts Todd Fordham and Dave Kadela; DE Kindal Moorehead; TE Mike Seidman.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Drew Carter; TE Michael Gaines; DT Jordan Carstens.

NEEDS: Linebacker, with Draft and Diggs free agents and uncertainty surrounding Dan Morgan, who hopes to return after multiple concussions limited him to one game last season. New offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson wants to run, and Carolina may need upgrades at tight end and on offensive line, which was devastated by injuries last season. Coach John Fox likes to rotate DLs, but Mike Rucker is recovering from a torn ACL and Al Wallace was released. S Williams had a subpar year and Mike Minter turned 33 in January. While No. 1 QB Jake Delhomme is likely safe, backup Chris Weinke could be replaced.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: FBs Justin Griffith and Fred McCrary; CB Chris Cash; PK Morten Andersen; DE Patrick Kerney; WR Ashley Lelie.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: TE Dwayne Blakley; QB Matt Schaub; LB Demorrio Williams; C Austin King.

NEEDS: End of the Jim Mora era is also end of the Alex Gibbs era as mastermind of the blocking philosophy, so bigger offensive linemen will be needed for more conventional scheme. Veteran tackles Todd Weiner and Wayne Gandy have played in such schemes, but line needs better pass-blockers. Even with return of a healthy Brian Finneran, the Falcons need help at receiver, especially if Lelie is not re-signed. The team finished the season with only four receivers; more depth will be needed as new coach Bobby Petrino adds balance to the league's worst passing attack.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: FBs Mike Alstott and Jerald Sowell; CBs Phillip Buchanon and CB Torrie Cox; T Cornell Green; TEs Keith Heinrich and Doug Jolley; G Sean Mahan; LB Wesly Mallard; LS Dave Moore; QB Tim Rattay; DE Dewayne White.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CB Blue Adams; G Jeb Terry; S Kalvin Pearson.

NEEDS: With about $24 million in salary cap space, Bucs expect to be major players in free agency for the first time since winning the Super Bowl four years ago. Landing a starting defensive end, a playmaking receiver or upgrading the offensive line, especially at left tackle, likely will impact coach Jon Gruden's approach to the draft, where Tampa Bay picks fourth. Could also use help at safety, where starters Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen have struggled, and linebacker. And don't be surprised to see Gruden bring in a veteran quarterback to compete with Chris Simms, who missed most of 2006 because of injury.



UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: G Ruben Brown; DTs Ian Scott and Alfonso Boone; Ss Todd Johnson and Cameron Worrell; WR Justin Gage


NEEDS: Star LB Lance Briggs was made franchise player and could be a training camp holdout. Bears could use free agency to shore up aging offensive line, but are not expected to make a big splash. Secondary also could use some depth after injuries to Mike Brown the last several years. They are not going after a quarterback like Jeff Garcia despite Rex Grossman's inconsistent play because Brian Griese is quality backup. They are interested in re-signing Brown.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Corey Bradford; RBs Arlen Harris and Aveion Cason; G Rick DeMulling; CB Jamar Fletcher; Ss Terrence Holt and Jon McGraw; FB Cory Schlesinger; DE Corey Smith.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LB Alex Lewis; LS Don Muhlbach; DT Cleveland Pinkney; CB Keith Smith.

NEEDS: Entering his second season, coach Rod Marinelli desperately wants to add speed, especially on defense. Team has encouraged some players, such as CB Dre' Bly, to explore trade possibilities. Detroit doesn't know when RB Kevin Jones (foot) will be back, so adding insurance at RB makes sense. Adding a No. 3 receiver, perhaps Kevin Curtis, who has ties to offensive coordinator Mike Martz, also a priority. An OT and OG would help a lackluster line, too, though Lions might wait to fill one of those needs with Wisconsin OT Joe Thomas with the No. 2 pick overall in draft.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: RB Ahman Green; TE David Martin; LBs Ben Taylor and Tracy White; DT Kenderick Allen; QB Todd Bouman; OL Tyson Walter.


NEEDS: Playmakers in the passing game. The Packers didn't get productivity they were looking for out of tight ends last year -- particularly in the red zone -- and need another productive WR to take some defensive focus off Donald Driver. Team must decide whether to give Green a multiyear deal or move forward with backup RB Vernand Morency and possibly address the position in the draft.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LB Napoleon Harris; WRs Travis Taylor and Bethel Johnson; G Jason Whittle; DT Ross Kolodziej.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DE Darrion Scott; LB Rod Davis; G Anthony Herrera; TE Richard Owens; RB Artose Pinner; DT Spencer Johnson.

NEEDS: Some juice on the outside; mediocre receivers made life miserable for quarterbacks Brad Johnson and Tarvaris Jackson. Some heat by putting pressure on opposing QBs, a constant problem last season; DBs routinely had to cover opposing receivers for too long. A rush end should be a priority. Perhaps even a QB. Veteran Johnson was released, meaning second-year pro Jackson and backup Brooks Bollinger are only QBs on team.



UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: TEs Jerramy Stevens and Will Heller; WR Bobby Engram; G Chris Gray; Ss Jimmy Williams, John Howell and Ken Hamlin; LS J.P. Darche; OL Floyd Womack; LB D.D. Lewis; DEs Kemp Rasmussen and Joe Tafoya; CB Pete Hunter; RB Josh Scobey.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: OT Sean Locklear; WR D.J. Hackett; CB Jordan Babineaux; LB Niko Koutouvides; Ss Guss Scott and Oliver Celestin; DT Craig Terrill; RB Josh Parry; OL Thatcher Szalay.

NEEDS: Letting Stevens go means coach Mike Holmgren foremost needs a pass-catching TE for his West Coast offense, plus a run-blocking tight end. Primary defensive needs are two bigger safeties capable of starting immediately, plus more size along DL and depth at LB. WR is not a need, even with Engram likely leaving and Darrell Jackson being shopped for a trade, because of additions of Deion Branch and Nate Burleson last year.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WRs Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald; CB Travis Fisher; LBs Isaiah Kacyvenski, Raonall Smith and Jamal Brooks; RBs Stephen Davis and Tony Fisher; DT Jason Fisk; DE Brandon Green; KR Willie Ponder; FB Paul Smith; OL Todd Steussie; P Matt Turk.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LB Brandon Chillar; TE Aaron Walker; OL Adam Goldberg; S Dwaine Carpenter; OL Larry Turner.

NEEDS: Defensive line, wide receiver, running back. Leonard Little was the only proven pass rusher last year. Depth may be an issue at WR behind veterans Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce if Curtis, the No. 3 at his position last year, leaves. Steven Jackson had a breakout year at running back, but there's little depth at the position. Rams addressed two areas of need during season, signing Little and LB Pisa Tinoisamoa to extensions.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DL Bryant Young; TE Eric Johnson; WR Bryan Gilmore; C Jeremy Newberry; DT Anthony Adams; FB Chris Hetherington; LBs Jay Foreman, Hannibal Navies and T.J. Slaughter; Ss Chad Williams and Deke Cooper.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: P Andy Lee; OL Tony Wragge; RB Maurice Hicks; S Mike Adams.

NEEDS: With more than $30 million in cap room, 49ers are expected to make a play for several top free agents to supplement a roster still fairly thin on talent despite 7-9 finish. Coach Mike Nolan would love to land LB Adalius Thomas, who played for him in Baltimore, while 49ers also need talented pass-rusher and depth in secondary. On offense, they'll bid for OT Leonard Davis and WR Donte' Stallworth before going after lesser targets. Young is expected back if he doesn't retire, while Johnson will search for a starting job before considering a return as Vernon Davis' backup.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: T Leonard Davis; RB Marcel Shipp; LBs Orlando Huff, Monty Beisel and James Darling; Ss Robert Griffith, Jack Brewer and Hanik Milligan; CBs David Macklin and Robert Tate; WR Troy Walters; OL Fred Wakefield; DE Chris Cooper; OL Chris Liewienski.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: Cs Nick Leckey and Alex Stepanovich; QB John Navarre.

NEEDS: Everything but QB and WR. New coach Ken Whisenhunt was unimpressed with Davis, but team might re-sign him if no one offers big contract he desires. Regardless, Cardinals will go after offensive linemen. CB also was a weakness, with Tate and Macklin unlikely to be re-signed. The team needs LBs and could use a run-stuffing DT. There's also a need at FB and TE, and for a safety to play alongside Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson.



UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QBs Jeff Garcia and Koy Detmer; WR Donte' Stallworth; RBs Correll Buckhalter and Reno Mahe; LB Shawn Barber; CBs Roderick Hood and William James; S Michael Lewis; DE Juqua Thomas.


NEEDS: Garcia was willing to return as a backup to Donovan McNabb, but he likely will get better offers from other teams. Eagles are comfortable with re-signed .J. Feeley as backup. They will try to re-sign Stallworth, but won't overpay because he's been prone to injuries. If Stallworth doesn't return, adding a playmaking receiver becomes a priority. Also need at least one starting linebacker, a power running back to complement Brian Westbrook, more depth on the defensive line, a nickel cornerback, a safety and a returner with game-breaking skills.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: G Marc Colombo; C Al Johnson; LB Al Singleton; DE Kenyon Coleman; K Martin Gramatica; S Tony Parrish.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Patrick Crayton; CBs Jacques Reeves and Nate Jones; LBs Ryan Fowler and Junior Glymph; TE Brett Pierce.

NEEDS: Wade Phillips sure could use what predecessor Bill Parcells called "catalytic players" at the front of 3-4 defense, primarily a quarterback-crunching end. He also could use help in the secondary, primarily at safety but possibly at cornerback if starter Anthony Henry is moved to safety. OL a never-ending concern, even after giving center Andre Gurode a $10 million signing bonus. The Cowboys also will be after veteran quarterback to back up Tony Romo. Maybe the new backup can hold, too.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: PK Jay Feely; C Shaun O'Hara; G Grey Ruegamer; LB Brandon Short; OLs Steve Edwards and Lewis Kelly; TE Visanthe Shiancoe; CB Frank Walker.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: S Gibril Wilson; LB Reggie Torbor; RB Derrick Ward.

NEEDS: Making playoffs with an 8-8 record, having Tiki Barber retire and then releasing OT Luke Petitgout and LBs LaVar Arrington and Carlos Emmons mean Giants need help in all those areas. Season-ending knee injury to WR Amani Toomer and inconsistent play of Plaxico Burress showed the team needs another wideout. CBs Sam Madison and Corey Webster need improvement, and there was no depth at DT behind Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield. If Feely and O'Hara take free agency road, two more positions have to be filled. New GM Jerry Reese is going to earn his pay this year.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: G Derrick Dockery; LB Warrick Holdman; RB T.J. Duckett; CBs Kenny Wright and Ade Jimoh; S Vernon Fox; TEs Brian Kozlowski and Todd Yoder; T Todd Wade.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: P Derrick Frost; T Jim Molinaro; DT Ryan Boschetti.

NEEDS: Defense, defense, defense. Always aggressive in free agency, expect Redskins to quickly pursue and overpay for a cornerback, a linebacker, and perhaps a safety and a defensive lineman to help rebuild a defense that ranked 31st last season. CB Nate Clements and LB London Fletcher are among expected targets. Offense looks OK except (again) at the No. 2 receiver spot -- 2006 free agent signing Brandon Lloyd has so far been a bust.

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Chicago Bears Offer Coach Lovie Smith Less Because He's Black - Chicago Sun-Times

Carol hit it right on the head. It serves as a reminder of the stupidity of racism.

Smith talks make you wonder
Race appears to be factor in contract negotiations

February 27, 2007
BY CAROL SLEZAK Sun-Times Columnist

Is it business as usual for the Bears, or something more? We know that chants of ''cheapskate'' won't shame Ted Phillips or his McCaskey superiors into coming to terms with Lovie Smith on a contract extension. When it comes to lowballing their employees, the Bears really have no shame.
But -- funny thing -- every so often they surprise us by opening up their checkbook. Like in 2003, when they approached middle linebacker Brian Urlacher to talk about a new deal while he still had two years remaining on his original contract. Quicker than you could say, ''He's a Bear for life,'' they locked up Urlacher through 2011. The $56.65 million deal included a $13 million signing bonus, an additional $6 million in roster bonuses and an 18-person suite at Soldier Field. The model for the deal was the $49 million contract that Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis had signed the year before.

''We're very, very comfortable with these numbers,'' general manager Jerry Angelo said at the time about Urlacher's contract.

So why is it so difficult to find a comfort level with Smith? Last year, Phillips said he needed to see more of Smith. Funny, all it took for the Bears to extend Dick Jauron's contract was one winning season. Based on the team's success in 2001, when it went 13-3, Jauron got a new four-year deal in 2002 reportedly worth more than $2 million a season, or more than double his original contract that had paid him $1 million a season.

''It's a fair deal,'' Phillips said. ''Tearing up Dick's last year was the smart thing to do in recognition of the job he did.''

A proven commodity
It turned out to be a bad decision. But then, Smith is not Jauron. I wonder, has Phillips seen enough of Smith yet? Because everyone else knows what Smith has accomplished in the last two seasons, beginning with two division titles and ending with an NFC championship. And everyone else knows what other head coaches are being paid. First-year head coaches Bobby Petrino ($4.8 million a season) and Cam Cameron ($2.5 million), for instance. Career underachievers Norv Turner (in excess of $3 million) and Wade Phillips (between $2M and $3M). And other recent Super Bowl coaches, such as Tony Dungy ($5M), Jeff Fisher ($5.4M), Brian Billick ($5.7M) and Mike Holmgren ($8M).
Smith, who is scheduled to make a league-low $1.45 million next season, has coached his way into the $5 million range. The Bears had no problem ripping up Urlacher's contract to pay him Ray Lewis money. Why are they having such a problem committing Jeff Fisher or Brian Billick money to Smith? He's the best coach the Bears have had since Mike Ditka, and he might be better than Ditka in the long run. Yet, as Smith reminded us last week, he has ''been trying to get a contract done since the start of last year.''

The picture that has emerged, while still blurry, gives rise to a legitimate question: Is Smith's race a factor in the Bears' hesitancy to pay him? If Smith, an African American, were white, would the deal have been done long ago? I'm sure the Bears would rather be called cheap than prejudiced. But they've opened themselves up to this scrutiny by their mishandling of Smith's negotiations.

Ordinarily a coach's contract would not give rise to concern in February, especially when the coach has a year left on his original deal, as Smith does. But Smith's situation is hardly ordinary. He was the NFL coach of the year in 2005, and he brought his team to the Super Bowl in 2006. The Bears have said they want to keep him around, yet they seem to be doing their best to alienate him. At last report, they had offered Smith less than $3.5 million a year. The entire league is wondering what's wrong in Chicago. Damage already has been done.

Smith isn't the only one feeling disenfranchised these days. Instead of an Urlacher-type deal, linebacker Lance Briggs got slapped with the franchise tag. Meaning the Bears want Briggs, who made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons, but they don't want to pay him what he's worth. A reminder, perhaps, that there can be only one face of the Bears, and the Bears have chosen Urlacher.

Lovie's got it coming

The Bears have the right to make their own decisions. But they must know that those decisions will be viewed in a broader context, as they should be. Sports have become a measuring stick for many societal issues. Just last week, for instance, Wimbledon finally recognized that women deserved the same prize money as men. The actual differential between the women's and men's prizes had been shrinking over the years; the paycheck for the women's champ -- $1.117 million -- was about 95 percent of the $1.17 million won by the men's champ last year. But it was still important, if only symbolically, to equalize the prizes.
It's just as important for the Bears to give Smith his due.

Fortunately for the Bears, the organization's long history of penny-pinching has many describing their treatment of Smith as business as usual. But is that really all that's going on here? I'm not so sure.