August 1, 2011

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End of NFL Lockout Brings Flurry of Activity

By: Anson Whaley

At long last (okay, it wasn’t that long), the NFL Lockout is over. With operations just now getting underway, there’s not much time to lose. Teams are signing players at a moment’s notice and the season will be here before you know it. In only about a week’s time, we’ve seen enough developments to fill up several months of normal offseason activity. Here are the top ten … so far.

10. 49ers Hold Steady with Alex Smith – San Francisco was expected to bring back the underachieving Smith and they did just that by re-signing him. To be honest, I don’t understand this move as Smith has progressed at a pace slow enough to make a snail envious over the past five years. But new head coach Jim Harbaugh was determined to give him another shot so the 49ers will again operate with him under center. Smith does know the offense, but knowing and executing in the NFL are two entirely different things.

9. Cam Newton Signs with Panthers – Sure, Newton was expected to sign, but already? With so little time before camp, Newton didn’t have much leverage if he didn’t want to risk alienating fans. The No. 1 overall pick is off to a fine start by reportedly signing the four-year $22 million deal shortly after the lockout’s end.

8. Reggie Bush Dealt to Miami – As if Ricky Williams’ fate weren’t sealed already with the drafting of rookie Daniel Thomas, adding Bush to the roster all but assured he is finished in Miami. The Dolphins picked up the all-purpose back who should complement Ronnie Brown far better than Williams (Note to self: Do not draft Ricky Williams in fantasy football for the third consecutive season).

7. Seahawks Add Sidney Rice – The Seahawks’ passing game left much to be desired last year – and that’s part of the reason Matt Hasselbeck is no longer with the team. But without a 1,000-yard receiver in 2010, Seattle needed to upgrade its wideouts. They not only will be better with the addition of Rice, but also got younger with the 24-year old.

6. Chad Ochocinco Joins Tom Brady in New England – Johnson, er, Ochocinco, comes with a bit of baggage, but the Patriots had success with another so-called misfit in Randy Moss. Who’s to say history won’t repeat itself? New England needed to replace Moss and Ochocinco is plenty capable of a few more big seasons – especially with future Hall of Famer Brady at the helm.

With Ochocinco on board, Brady has a new deep threat target this season.

5. Santonio Holmes stays put in New York – Holmes was the Jets’ biggest priority this offseason and they got him re-signed. They may have missed out on Nnamdi Asomugha, but signing Santonio gives quarterback Mark Sanchez the deep threat he needs to succeed in the Big Apple.

4. Brett Favre is at it. Again – I really shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore, but, well, call me surprised. Favre had more drama last season than Erica Kane in a Sweeps Week episode of All My Children, and after the disastrous year on and off the field that he endured, I figured there was no way he’d be back in the NFL. But with rumors popping up that Favre could be willing to serve as a backup to Michael Vick in Philadelphia, the Twitter universe exploded. In all seriousness, I don’t expect Favre to make good on this. Common sense, for once, has to win out. Right? Right?!?

3. Donovan McNabb Traded to Vikings – Despite a subpar season last year in the Nation’s capital, McNabb will get another shot at starting as the Vikings’ projected first-team quarterback. How much he has left in the NFL tank is anybody’s guess, but playing in a dome out of the elements eight times a year should help the aging star.

2. Kevin Kolb Traded to Cardinals – The Eagles insisted on a high draft pick in exchange for its backup quarterback and got one in a second-rounder from Arizona. In addition, Philly also secured the talents of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Both teams come out winners in this deal and Kolb should help the Cardinals compete immediately in the mind-numbingly awful NFC West.

1. Nnamdi Asomugha Signs with Eagles – Raise your hand if you saw this signing coming. Asomugha was virtually assured of not being a Raider, but Philadelphia wasn’t one of the NFL teams generally discussed as a viable option. But with his addition, the Eagles have instantaneously improved their chances of winning the conference.

July 20, 2011

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Top NFL Free Agents

By: Rick Jarrell

After news broke last week the NFL owners and players were closing in on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, I honestly was not that excited. Part of me cares more about the NBA, but part of me can’t believe it until it is set in stone. Rumors are rumors for a reason, and while they entertain us, without potential action, it’s pointless. So this spring and summer, usually dominated by NFL and NBA rumors and training camp news, has been extremely boring for sports fans. The typical sports fan doesn’t want to diagnose the various legal matters involved in CBA negotiations.

Despite my skepticism that a deal is actually in place, I’ve begun to give in to the rumor mill a little bit, as it seems a safe bet something will be worked out soon. So here we go, with the top NFL free agents to keep an eye on.

Note: I’m excluding players that are technically NFL free agents, like Peyton Manning and Michael Vick, who we’re 99% sure they will resign with their current teams.

Deangelo Williams

Williams has been a top 10 running back the past few years, despite splitting carries with Desaun Foster and Jonathon Stewart, respectively. The two headed ground attack worked well initially for the Carolina Panthers, but the team has moved into a rebuilding stage. Williams will likely bolt for a playoff contender, where he can potentially be a feature back. He missed 10 games last year, and backs tend to break down as their careers progress, but he’s still arguably the top player available.

Nnamdi Asomugha

Asomugha’s free agency is strange, to say the least. He signed a huge contract with the Oakland Raiders, but after a contractual loop hole, he was able to opt out of his contract. Another tough luck incident for Raider Nation will likely be good luck for Asomugha and whoever signs him. His numbers were down last year, but he still made his fourth Pro Bowl because teams literally stopped throwing in his direction (I refer to this as the Champ Bailey Syndrome, who’s also a free agent). We’ve seen young talented cornerbacks switch teams only to fall out of the limelight, but I don’t expect Asomugha to be anything less than stellar. Every team could use another corner in this pass happy league, we’ll just have to see who wants him enough and who has room under the new salary cap and CBA stipulations.

Sidney Rice

Before last year, I envisioned Sidney Rice as a Viking for life. Not sure why, he just seemed like a good fit there, especially due to his connection with Brett Favre. One year later, we find that Favre is mortal, the quarterback situation is undetermined, and Minnesota may not be a long term home for the team. Rice has every reason to leave for a team that has the opposite of all that.

Randy Moss

Moss is not the player he used to be. No one can argue against that. But underestimating his abilities would be nieve. During the prime of his career, he was hands down the best receiver in the league – and he had not only one peak in Minnesota, but another in New England. Would you be surprised if he was able to resurrect himself for one last run? A lot of teams need a big play receivers – someone will take a chance. The best fit would be with a respected, veteran coach able to get Moss to dedicate himself to football again.