The NFL Free agency period kicks off today at 4pm and it should be an action packed afternoon. Some of the big names who will likely switch teams include Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning, Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson, Texans right tackle Eric Winston, Saints guard Carl Nicks, Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon, Saints wide receivers Marques Colston and Robert Meachem and Texans pass rusher Mario Williams.
With March Madness and the NBA Trade Deadline both on Thursdaym it’s going to be a wild week in sports.
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All Signings and Rumors After The Jump:
RUMOR UPDATE (FINALS IN BOLD):
Peyton Manning – QB, Colts - We are hearing that the Ariona Cardinals are the favorites to land Peyton Manning at the present time, with the Titans, Dolphins, Seahawks and others still involved. Peyton played his college ball at Tennessee and Titans owner Bud Adams is expected to give Manning whatever he wants to return to the state. I expect Manning to make a decision by Wednesday, with the Cardinals, Dolphins, Seahawks, Broncos, Titans still having a shot at landing the future Hall of Famer. UPDATE: Manning will work out for the Broncos today.
Vincent Jackson - WR, Chargers – (signs with Buccaneers 5 year deal 55 million) - Early yesterday I heard tha that the Chicago Bears are expected to come out of the gates at 4pm with a huge offer for Vincent Jackson, late last night I heard that the Washington Redskins are expected to make Jackson the richest wide receiver in football today, despite salary cap constrictions. The Bills are expected to go hard after both Jackson and Mario Williams, hoping to talk one of them into heading North. UPDATE: Jackson signing with the Tampa Bay Bucs is almost a done deal, other interested teams have started looking into alternatives. UPDATE: Deal is done. Jackson is a Buccaneer. Details above.
Mario Williams -DE/OLB, Texans - (Signs with Bills, 6 years, $96 million) - Bears, Seahawks, Titans, Cowboys, Chargers, Bucs, Bills, Patriots all have been talked about as leaders to land Williams. He is going to get a huge contract. Word today is the Texans are making a late push to keep Williams, who everyone thought would be gone, because of his high contract demands and the fact that the Houston defense played so well without him in 2011. It’s tough to let the former first overall pick in the draft and one of the most naturally gifted players in the league walk away for nothing. UPDATE: Williams will fly to Buffalo tonight for his official visit with the Bills, who are expected to make him a huge contract offer. Buffalo will make Williams and offer that will make him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. UPDATE: The deal is done, and one of the league’s premier defensive players has joined the Buffalo Bills, who have proved that they can still attract free agents up north. Buffalo still had a lot of holes to fill in the draft, but they now have one of the elite defensive lines in the league.
Marques Colston – WR, Saints – (re-signs with Saints – 5 year deal) The Saints and Colston are working hard to reach a deal before the 4pm deadline, ensuring that he returns to the team, the right move for both sides. Update – Colston re-signs with Saints, 5 year deal is done. Team now trying to somehow keep Carl Nicks.
Eric Winston – OT, Texans - It was a major surprise when the Texans cut Winston unexpectedly yesterday, and he instantly became one of the hottest names on the free agent market. He is generating interest from teams such as the Jets, Dolphins, Cardinals, Chiefs and Chargers. He will become a very rich man quickly. Winston played his college ball at the University of Miami and the Dolphins have a huge hole at right tackle, so this seems like a natural fit. UPDATE: Winston has visits lined up with Dolphins, Rams and Chiefs. Add the Ravens.
Carl Nicks – OG, Saints - (signs with Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 5 years, $47.5m) - New Orleans cannot afford to keep their Pro Bowl offensive guard, and he will be commanding a huge salary on the open market. Count the Bucs, Chiefs, Chargers among the most interested. News has broke that the Saints are trying desperately to bring back Nicks, but the two sides are far apart, and I’d guess he hits the market. UPDATE: The Eagles and Bucs are both interested in Carl Nicks. UPDATE: Nicks has signed with the Bucs. Done deal. Numbers above.
Terrell Thomas – CB, Giants (re-signed with Giants, 4 year deal) - The Champs decided to bring back the cornerback who missed the entire 2011 season and Super Bowl run with a knee injury. An interesting signing, because Thomas was on the verge of stardom before the injury. This basically solidifies that fellow long time Giants free agent cornerback Aaron Ross will be playing elsewhere in 2012.
Cortland Finnegan – CB, Titans – (Signed with Rams, 5 year $50m deal) - Early in free agency, rumors circled that the Free Agent cornerback would decide between joining his old coach Jeff Fisher with the Rams or Dallas to join the Cowboys. The latest rumor has him signing with Tampa Bay. The Detroit Lions are also interested. UPDATE: Finnegan signs with Rams, reunited with head coach Jeff Fisher.
Brandon Carr – CB, Chiefs - (Signs with Cowboys for 5 years $50.1m) – another free agent cornerback, he will likely be forced to wait until Finnegan signs to figure out his potential market. I keep hearing whispers that Carr is likely to end up with the Dallas Cowboys, however the Lions, Bucs and Vikings are interested. Add the Green Bay Packers as a team interested in Carr. UPDATE: Carr signs with the Cowboys for huge 5 year $50.1m contract. Wow, I know Carr is younger, but if I’m going to spend that much money, I would have pressed harder for Finnegan who is the more talented player.
Red Bryant – DL, Seahawks – (Re-Signs with the Seahawks) - An underrated and versatile defensible lineman, who can line up at anywhere along the defensive front, Seattle has realized how close they are to losing Bryant and are scrambling attempting to resign him at the eleventh hour. He won’t last long on the open market. The Patriots, Chiefs and Packers are interested if Bryant isn’t re-signed within the hour. UPDATE: Red Bryant re-signs with Seattle.
Dwight Freeney – DE, Colts - The seven time Pro Bowl pass rusher is still under contract with the Colts for one more season, but with the team undergoing a full youth movement, they will likely trade him. The Jets are reportedly very interested and are offering a third round pick to obtain Freeney, while the Colts are asking for a first round pick as compensation. I have a feeling Freeney is shipped out of Indianapolis at some point this offseason, likely for with a second round pick or a combination of mid-late round picks.
Paul Soliai – DT, Dolphins - The rugged nose tackle is valuable to any team in need of bulk up front. He will not come cheap, and the 49ers, Chiefs and Panthers are among the interested teams. UPDATE: The Broncos are interested in Soliai.
LaRon Landry – S, Redskins - A physical freak with a ridiculous combination of size and speed, Landry looks the part, but his play has never really lived up to the hype. In fact my most vivid memory of him on the field is him getting run over by former Giants tailback Brandon Jacobs. The Redskins want him back, but they will face competition from the Jets, Eagles and Cowboys for his services.
Carlos Rodgers - CB, 49ers – (Re-signs with 49ers, 4 years, $31.3m) Following an outstanding season in which he was signed off the garbage heap by the 49ers on a one year deal, then went on to notch 6 interceptions for the league’s best defense, the 49ers wanted Rodgers back. However the two sides were far apart on the length and dollars of the contract, and the 49ers moved on by signing troubled but talented cornerback Perrish Cox. Look for Rodgers to get interest from cornerback needy teams such as the Cowboys, Vikings, Packers, Rams and others. UPDATE: I stand corrected, it looks like Rodgers will re-sign with 49ers, average of $7.3m per year being reported. Done deal.
Brandon Marshall WR, – Dolphins – (Traded to the Chicago Bears) - in the first HUGE breaking news story of the day the Chicago Bears have sent two third round picks to the Miami Dolphins for Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The Bears are now focused on signing free agent pass rusher Mario Williams. Brandon Marshall is reunited with Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler, the two played together previously with the Denver Broncos. Shocking trade, more to come.
Pierre Garcon – WR, Colts - (Signs with Redskins, 5 years, $42.5m) hearing that he is under contract negotiations with the Washington Redskins. UPDATE: Done deal. Garcon has signed with the Redskins.
Martellus Bennett – TE, Cowboys - (signs with New York Giants, 1 year deal worth $2.5m) former Dallas tight end is in his way to visit the New York Giants who have identified him as their top target and a deal could get done tonight. Bennett is a great blocker, important in the Giants scheme, and is very athletic. UPDATE: Bennett has signed with the Giants for just one year and $2.5 million. A very low risk signing by the Super Bowl Champions, considering how much money John Carlson got from the Vikings just hours earlier. The team was desperate for help at tight end after both Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum tore ACLs in the Super Bowl, and getting Bennett was a great short term signing for the Giants.
Laurent Robinson – WR, Cowboys - the former Dallas wide receiver has the New York Jets interested, but will first visit with the Jacksonville Jaguars tonight. UPDATE: The Chargers are also interested in Robinson.
Josh Morgan WR, 49ers – (Signs with Redskins, 2 year deal worth $7.3m) - on the verge of signing with the Redskins, which does not make a lot of sense to me. More of a possession receiver than Garcon, but similar to what the Redskins already have on the roster. UPDATE: Morgan has officially inked his deal with Redskins.
Eddie Royal – WR, Broncos (Signs with Redskins, 2 years $12m) the slot receiver from the Denver Broncos is about to sign with the Washington Redskins. They are totally revamping the receiving corps for their new quarterback, Robert Griffin III, who will be selected second overall in April’s draft. UPDATE: Deal is done.
Brandon Lloyd - WR, Rams - The consistent wide receiver wants to play for the Patriots, which makes a lot of sense, because he is exactly the type of wideout they need, and he is even willing to take less money to go to New England. The Rams want him back as well.
Mario Manningham – WR, Giants - The man who made the biggest catch in the Giants Super Bowl victory over the Patriots, Manningham thinks he should be paid like a number one wide receiver in free agency. This will not happen. He really wants to return to New York, however the Giants cannot afford to pay him near what he is looking for on the open market. The Vikings are known to have some interest. UPDATE: The 49ers, Dolphins and Bills are currently showing the most interest in Manningham.
Robert Meachem – WR, Saints -(signs 4 year, $25m.9 deal with Chargers) - Was on a plane to Buffalo the second Free Agency started and is vistion the Bills, who want to sign him to start opposite Stevie Johnson. The San Diego Chargers are also interested. UPDATE: Meachem agrees to 4 year deal with Chargers, done.
Matt Flynn – QB, Packers - Aaron Rodgers’ backup is about to become a full time starter. The Dolphins and Browns are in contact with Flynn and will be making him offers shortly. New Miami head coach Joe Philbin was Flynn’s offensive coordinator in Green Bay, so it makes sense that Flynn would head to a system he knows and a coach he’s familiar with in Miami.
Jeremy Mincey – DE, Jaguars – (re-signs with Jaguars, 4 years, $27.2m) - An underrated player who is coming off a fantastic season (which nobody noticed because he did it in Jacksonville) he could be an under the radar signing who has a big impact on the 2012 season. The Bears are aggressively trying to sign him. UPDATE: Mincey decided to re-up with the Jaguars.
Aaron Ross – CB, Giants - A two-time Super Bowl Champion, Ross is best when matched up with bigget wideouts who he can be physical with. The Giants have no desire to bring their former first round pick back. He has interest from the Bengals and Raiders. UPDATE: Ross will visit the Bengals.
Jason Campbell – QB, Raiders – (signs one year deal with Bears) – The Chicago Bears have reached an agreement to bring in Campbell who will finally give them a solid veteran backup behind starter Jay Cutler.
Michael Bush – RB, Raiders - The big back will be leaving the Raiders. The Bengals are interested. UPDATE: Bush will visit the Arizona Cardinals.
Mike Tolbert – RB, Chargers - Many teams have contacted Tolbert’s representation. We know the Bucs are a team that have interest. UPDATE: Tolbert will visit Chiefs as well.
Brandon Merriweather – S, Patriots - The former Patriots safety will visit the Denver Broncos.
Reggie Nelson – S, Bengals - Asking price is high for the safety. Bengals want to retain him, Jets and Dolphins also interested.
Evan Mathis – OG, Eagles - Philadelphia wanted to re-sign the underrated Mathis, who has been great, however they have yet to reach an agreement. The Colts and Bucs are also interested in Mathis.
Stephen Tulloch – MLB, Lions - Another very underrated player, who has matured into one of the better middle linebackers in football, the Lions are working hard to keep Tulloch. Interest seems to be mutual.
Reggie Wayne – WR, Colts (re-signs with Colts, three year deal) - There have been rumors that Wayne will follow Peyton Manning wherever he goes, however the Colts are keeping in touch with Wayne and are considering bringing him back. The Dolphins (Wayne live in Miami and played at University of Miami) is also interested. UPDATE: Colts re-sign Reggie Wayne.
Peyton Hillis – RB, Browns - Scheduled to visit the Kansas City Chiefs, who seem to be looking for a big back.
Adam Carriker – DL, Redskins - (signs with Redskins 4 years $20m) - Re-signs with the Skins for four years, deal can be voided after two years, $7 million guaranteed.
Nick Hardwick – C, Chargers – (re-signs with Chargers, 3 years, $13.5m) - Great move by the Chargers to keep Hardwick, a great center, for a reasonable deal. They lost tackle Marcus McNeil (released) and guard Chris Dielman (retired) so keeping Hardwick was a must. Now they need to replace the other two linemen they lost.
Ben Tate – RB, Texans - Not a free agent, but a very good running back, and word has just emerged that the Browns and Texans are discussing a potential trade that would land Ben Tate in Cleveland. No details on compensation at this time.
Todd Herrmans – OG/OT, Eagles – (Re-signs with Eagles, 3 years, $21m) - Herrmans is a valuable versatile offensive lineman for the Eagles who can start at multiple positions along the offensive line in Philly. Very wise move to keep him, as they may lose other offensive linemen to free agency.
Kendall Lankford – DE, Dolphins - Hearing that the Bengals are very interested and many 3-4 teams will take a look.
Jason Jones – DT, Titans - Sounds like the Rams are in the lead for the underrated defensive tackle, with a reunion with Jeff Fisher likely.
Richard Marshall – CB, Cardinals - The cornerback market is moving quickly, Marshall is on his way to visit the Dolphins in Miami.
Jordan Babineaux – S, Titans – (re-signs with Titans, 2 years, $5m) - Both sides wanted Babineaux to return, so they agreed on a deal quickly.
Chris Myers – C, Texans - The team tried desperately to sign Myers, but he is a hot comodity on the trade market right now, and could get a huge contract offer. The Texans may not be able to match.
Scott Wells – C, Packers - An excellent center, like Myers, and both players should garner a lot of interest on the open market.
Eric Wright – CB, Lions – (signs 5 year deal with Buccaneers) - The Bucs missed out on Cortland Finnegan but were able to recover and add Wright to their defensive backfield.
Eric Weems – WR/KR, Falcons – (signed with Bears) - The Bears seem determined to upgrade Jay Cutler’s wide receiver stable, and adding Weems, who is also a top 5 kick returner is a wise move.
Winston Justice – OT, Eagles – (traded to Colts for a swap of 6th round picks) - Giants fans remember Justice fondly as the tackle that Osi Umenyiora destroyed for seven sacks in a game. Justice is still young and was once a second round pick, and has talent, but has needed a change of scenery since that game. For the Colts, swapping 6th round picks with Philly to obtain Justice was a low risk bargain.
John Carlson -TE, Seahawks – (signs with Vikings, 5 years, $25m) - I had been hearing rumors of this signing, seemed a little strange to me since the Vikings drafted another former Notre Dame tight end (Kyle Rudolph) in the second round of last years draft and they are similar. It’s done though. A pass catching tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend, but they have other needs. They will lose longtime blocking tight end Visante Shaincoe, but I would have used this money elsewhere.
Jared Gaither – OT, Chargers – (re-signs with Chargers) -After releasing OT Marcus McNeil and the retirement of OG Chris Dielman, the Chargers needed to keep Gaither and the two sides were able to work out a deal today.
Jarret Johnson – OLB, Ravens – (signs with the Chargers, 4 year deal) - The Chargers desperately needed to upgrade their struggling pass rush, and Johnson instantly helps that. Many 3-4 teams were interested in Johnson and losing him hurts Baltimore’s aging defense.
Jonathan Fanene – DT, Bengals – (signs 3 year deal with Patriots) - As usual, the Pats make an under the radar signing and grab a player that will contribute immediately on the defensive front. Fanene was an underrated interior pass rusher for the Bengals last year,and will be a great fit in New England.
Ben Grubbs – OG, Ravens – (Signs with Saints, 5 years, $36 million) - I don’t give out grades for free agency, but if I did, this signing would have the highest possible grade. Early in free agency, the Saints looked like they would be losers, however they recovered nicely. They lost Prow Bowl guard Carl Nicks to Tampa Bay, and signed Grubbs for about half the money. Amazing job by the Saints, Grubbs is not as good as Nicks, but he is pretty close. For the money, Grubbs was a bargin bin signing, and losing him has left the Ravens scrambling for a replacement.
Dan Connor – MLB, Panthers (signs with Cowboys) - Pretty good signing for Dallas, Connor played with Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee at Penn State, where they bonded as they hid from the wrath of Sandusky together. Connor will be a two down linebacker and play the run stuffing role in the center of the Dallas 3-4 defense.
Levi Brown – OT, Cardinals (resigns with Cardinals) - Brown had the Cardinals right were they wanted them, they were forced to re-sign Brown, becuase their offensive line is so bad. He is not an elite player, and at times is not a good player, but he is better than the alternativies. The Cardinals MUST protect the quarterback in 2012, and that would have been tough to do without their left tackle.
Brandon Merriweather – S, Broncos (signs with Redskins) - Terrible signing for Washington, if they think that Merriweather can replace the void left by LaRon Landry leaving, the Redskins will be very disapointed. Merriweather is versatile, can play nickel corner or safety, but plays neither of them well.
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