Deep free-agent freeze?


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Jan 22, 2006
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Deep free-agent freeze?

By Charles Robinson, Yahoo! Sports
February 25, 2006
INDIANAPOLIS – The sonic boom of free agency is already in danger of sounding more like a firecracker.

A poll of three team executives – all with backgrounds managing the salary cap – speculated that as many as 10 to 16 teams could be over the cap at the start of free agency if a new collective bargaining agreement isn't worked out in the coming days. While many of those teams could make adjustments to their cap, five franchises stand to be $10 million to $20 million in the red. Among them, the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders figure to sit nearly $20 million over, while the Denver Broncos and New York Jets project to be $10 million to $15 million over.

Such budgetary straits are now expected to put a serious pinch on the momentum of free agency if it starts on March 3. The result could be a slew of unemployed veterans.

"My understanding is there are a fair amount of clubs that are over the cap and need to get under," Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian said Friday. "One way to do that is to release (veterans). Keep in mind, however, that one of the transition rules is that when you release a player, every penny of acceleration counts at the time you release him. There's no June 1 rule. There's no way to release veterans and get 50 percent of the charge on June 2 and 50 percent of the charge next year."

That means steep and immediate hits whenever players are cut – something that seems like such a problem that it still has coaches and personnel people thinking (almost wishfully) that free agency could be pushed back to allow more time for a CBA deal to be worked out. But NFL Players Association president Gene Upshaw said Friday he wouldn't allow that to happen. It's a reality that pretty much has NFL executives shrugging and preparing for roster and free agency chaos.

"There's no way to get around it," Atlanta Falcons general manager Rich McKay said. "It's set in the deal as it is, so my understanding as of (Friday), is unless there is a (CBA) deal by Wednesday of next week then we're a go (on March 3)."

"The longer they can push (the start of free agency) out," McKay admitted, "the better."

What does it all mean? It means half the league could be scrambling to trim salaries, while the other half would be split into two groups: Those that have enough room under the cap to sign attractive free agents from other teams, and those that have just enough room under the cap to bring back their own players.

"I do think (free agency) would be a lot slower, but I speak from one team's perspective," McKay said. "I'm sure there are teams that have room and therefore will be active, but I think there will be less activity. There are a lot of teams that won't have room. We'd love to front-load, back-load, do-whatever load (with new contracts), but we can't begin to load. We don't have any place to put it."

And with the way it's looking, half of the NFL will be in the same predicament.


The Terrell Owens sweepstakes should be heating up soon, but if there's no new CBA, Owens will be hung out like every other free agent at the mercy of strained salary caps. Owens' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is still making the rounds at the combine, though, and as expected – with the Broncos facing some serious cap problems without a new CBA – the Dallas Cowboys are believed to be the front-runner for T.O.'s services. League sources also continue to be skeptical about any trade of Owens, believing that the wide receiver will be cut by the Philadelphia Eagles in the coming days.
"I saw Drew walking by, he had his three phones on, and he said, 'I've got to talk to you,' " Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said. "And I said, 'OK, whenever you stop answering those phones, you can talk to me.' We haven't got together yet, but I'm pretty sure he'll talk to (Chiefs GM) Carl (Peterson) if there's going to be a conversation. To this point there has not been."

One of the funniest reporter/athlete exchanges happened Saturday when Boston Herald scribe John Tomase was talking with Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. The snippet, verbatim:
Tomase: "Someone brought up Rosevelt Colvin earlier. During the (New England Patriots') season, he talked about how much he loved sacks. He said on the field it's all he cares about: 'I want sacks. I don't want tackles or interceptions, I want sacks.' Do you have that kind of feeling on the field?"

Kiwanuka: "Do I think of sex on the field?"

Tomase (mortified): "No! Sacks – SACKS! Good God. I was wondering why you were smiling so much."

Kiwanuka (laughing): "I was wondering where you were going with that."

Tomase: "Sorry – Boston accent."

The Redskins have told quarterback Patrick Ramsey and agent Jimmy Sexton to seek possible trade destinations for next season. Though there has yet to be any progress, it's almost a certainty Ramsey will be no higher than third on the depth chart next year to open the No. 2 quarterback spot for Jason Campbell.
"We're working with Jimmy Sexton and Patrick and moving ahead, trying to see what opportunities are out there for him and also evaluating what's best for us," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "I'm not sure if anything will get done but we are looking and letting them also look and talk.

"(Ramsey) is a very important guy and we've invested a lot in him, but we can say he's frustrated with the situation over the last couple years with us. We've had a good game plan talking things over and we're moving ahead with it."

Pressed about last season's issues with the running game, Arizona Cardinals vice president of football operations Rod Graves said he was encouraged by the late progress of 2005 second-round pick J.J. Arrington. While it's widely believed the Cardinals could be looking at one of the draft's running backs with the No. 10 overall pick, Graves seemed more concerned about the state of last year's woeful offensive line.
"We have already taken some steps to address the running game situation," Graves said. "I believe (coach) Dennis Green has done a good job keeping our staff and players accountable and he understands what needs to be done (on the offensive line). We know that was an area that, had it been clicking last year, we would have been a very different football team.

"We will address it, whether in free agency or the draft and try and get stronger there. We did have a change in the coaching staff (Steve Loney replaced Everett Lindsay as offensive line coach). That's not to say that was the main problem, but we are looking for ways to address it."

In the world of measurables, Oregon's Haloti Ngata has put up the most bench presses thus far, knocking out 37 reps at 225 pounds. Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler set the all-time quarterback record by notching 23 reps.
UCLA running back Maurice Drew and LSU running back Joseph Addai both ran impressive 40-yard dash times Friday, clocking in at 4.39 and 4.4 seconds, respectively. And four offensive linemen clocked below five seconds – Oklahoma center Chris Chester (4.88), Miami tackle Eric Winston (4.94), East Carolina offensive tackle Guy Whimper (4.95) and Boston College center Pat Ross (4.96).

Addai is one of the players who seems to be rising. Considered one of the best pass-blocking running backs in the draft, Addai had a stellar Peach Bowl (130 rushing yards and two touchdowns) and performed well at the Senior Bowl. He also checked in at 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds this week.

Winston drew praise from NFL brass on Friday, along with Ohio State center Nick Mangold, who may have pushed himself into a first-round grade with his stellar overall workouts.

The best two quotes of Saturday:
New York Giants general manger Ernie Accorsi on the team's interview with defensive end Tamba Hali, who related his story of leaving war-torn Liberia and his current attempts to get his mother out of that country: "I tell you what, you could hear a pin drop in our interview room when he was done telling us the story."

Stanford defensive tackle Babatunde Oshinowo on his Nigerian name: "My full name? My full-full name? Actually, I have six names. My full name is Babatunde Oluwasegun Temitope Oluwakorede Adisa Oshinowo … Jr."

Another tidbit about Oshinowo – he may have the most intelligent family tree in this draft. Not only has he already earned his electrical engineering degree from Stanford, but his parents met at the highly acclaimed University of Oxford in England.

Odds and ends: Colts president Bill Polian said the return of Edgerrin James is 50-50. … The extension for Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney will be a priority after the draft is completed. … The progress on reworking the contract between the Tennessee Titans and Steve McNair remains stalled. … Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said he "anticipates" running back Priest Holmes will be healthy enough to continue playing football. … Virginia offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson has delighted teams by showing up to his individual team interviews in a suit and tie.;_y...lug=cr-combinenotes022506&prov=yhoo&type=lgns
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