AFC East: Keith Ellison
That would clarify the market whenever it opens. Rules for the uncapped 2010 campaign didn't allow for unfettered free agency unless a player had been in the league six seasons. Any player with an expired contract and fewer than six years of experience was a restricted free agent, allowing teams to place qualifying tenders on them and receive compensation if another club tried to sign them.
Now it looks like players will be up for grabs -- with former teams receiving no compensation -- after four seasons.
Here are the AFC East players who would've been restricted with the six-year threshold but unrestricted at four years:
- Keith Ellison, linebacker
- Quinton Ganther, running back
- John McCargo, defensive end
- Paul Posluszny, inside linebacker
- Donte Whitner, safety
- Ashton Youboty, cornerback
- Kellen Clemens, quarterback
- Drew Coleman, cornerback
- Antonio Cromartie, cornerback
- Nick Folk, kicker
- Santonio Holmes, receiver
- James Ihedigbo, safety
- Lance Laury, linebacker
- Brad Smith, kick returner
- Eric Smith, safety
- Steve Weatherford, punter
Mankins' situation remains uncertain because we don't know if franchise-tag rules will remain in place under the next CBA. They probably will, meaning Mankins should be back with the Patriots in 2011.
The move is a lose-lose for the Bills and Merriman. The club wasted roughly $1.7 million in salary on a player who didn't play a down. Merriman, meanwhile, cemented his reputation as injury-prone and didn't generate any precious game film needed to show the rest of the NFL what he could do to secure a nice contract next year.
Merriman injured his leg about 15 minutes into his first Bills practice. The San Diego Chargers waived him last month because he was damaged goods, battling knee and calf problems that kept him from regaining his All-Pro form.
Merriman was a Pro Bowler in each of his first three NFL seasons, accumulating 39.5 sacks. He recorded only four sacks since the end of the 2007 season.
I asked Bills coach Chan Gailey on Wednesday at what point would it become counterproductive to put Merriman on the field, when the most he could play would be five games and the Bills seem to be gaining momentum with players who definitely will be part of the organization's future.
"First of all, you've got to take into consideration if a guy is healthy enough," Gailey replied. "In his case, is the guy healthy enough to get on the field? Second of all, if you get good players you've got to try to use them. To be honest with you, I don't care when it is. You've got to use good players, and he's proven that he's been a good player in years past.
"So if it comes to that, if it gets down to the last couple games, I think it's better to know and to let him play and for us to know what he can do in our defense than it is not to know and always be in question."
The Bills might get a compensatory draft choice for their trouble, but the fact Merriman's season ended as it did doesn't bode well for the quality of the pick. The compensatory formula is closely guarded, but we do know a significant factor is how valuable the departing player's contract is. Playing time and postseason awards also are considerations, and not every player lost or signed is covered by the process.
Of course, the compensatory system could be altered under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement anyway.
Saturday's roster move had a positive local twist to it. One of the players summoned from the practice squad was undrafted rookie receiver Naaman Roosevelt, a Buffalo native who played for the University at Buffalo. Also promoted was linebacker Thomas Williams.
The move not only is symbolic of his failure to develop as an NFL pass-rusher, but also must be extra difficult for Maybin to take. Maybin is from Ellicott City, Md., and considers Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis one of his mentors.
Here are the rest of Buffalo's scratches:
Reason for hope: I considered leaving this section blank because it's difficult to envision the Bills making serious headway this year. They're 0-5, have allowed at least 30 points in four straight games and won't play another game at home for about a month. They're not going to the playoffs, and even a game-to-game spoiler role seems ambitious. Owner Ralph Wilson recently said the rebuilding process will take three more years.
Cause for concern: Perhaps most alarming is the "reason for hope" category should be rife with the names of prospects who are contributing, but too many of them have failed to develop. Last year's 11th overall pick, pass-rusher Aaron Maybin, can't get on the field. Top draft choices over the past three years -- Trent Edwards, Marshawn Lynch and James Hardy to name a few -- have been released or traded. Those players should have been the young nucleus of a rebuilding team.
The Bills are weak at critical infrastructure positions: quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive line, linebacker. Their biggest strength heading into the season was their secondary, a unit that helped the Bills rank second in pass defense and second in interceptions last year. Through five games, the Bills rank 11th in pass defense and have one interception. They spent the entire offseason switching to a 3-4 defense, but now they're gravitating back to four-man fronts because they're getting physically overpowered on a weekly basis.
Time to heal: The week off especially will help cornerback Terrence McGee (back), safety Bryan Scott (knee), linebacker Keith Ellison (knee) and tackle Cornell Green (knee). Tight end Shawn Nelson was suspended for the first four games and will benefit from the extra week of practice.
AccuScore forecast: The Bills have not been mathematically eliminated, but AccuScore's computers give them a zero percent chance of winning the division or going to the playoffs. They're pegged for a 3-13 record.
- Running back Rashad Jennings
- Guard Kevin Haslam
- Tight end Zach Potter
- Defensive end Aaron Morgan
- Defensive tackle C.J. Mosley
- Defensive tackle Landon Cohen
- Linebacker Justin Durant
- Safety Sean Considine
After the free-agency signing period began at midnight, the NFL posted the official list.
So, for the record, I give you the Dolphins' tenders.
If another team signs one of the following restricted free agents to an offer sheet and the Dolphins decline to match, then these are the draft considerations the Dolphins would receive as compensation:
- Running back Ronnie Brown, first-round pick
- Tight end Anthony Fasano, second-round pick
- Outside linebacker Quentin Moses, third-round pick
Also, the Buffalo Bills announced the players they tendered Thursday, but didn't reveal the picks. Here they are, courtesy of the NFL:
Bills gave Wilson a second-round tender.
Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Ryan Denney, LB Chris Draft, DB Todd Johnson, G Seth McKinney, WR Terrell Owens, WR Josh Reed, S Bryan Scott, G Kendall Simmons, LB Josh Stamer.
Potential restricted free agents: LB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, TE Derek Schouman, T Jonathan Scott, S George Wilson, CB Ashton Youboty.
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: The Bills are in a rebuilding mode and shouldn't be in too much of a hurry to sign their free agents. In fact, they took the unusual step of publicly announcing they wouldn't offer Owens, Reed or Denney contracts. The most attractive players are Incognito and Wilson. Most of the rest were bit players and injury replacements.
Potential unrestricted free agents: NT Jason Ferguson, CB Nate Jones, QB Chad Pennington, OLB Jason Taylor.
Potential restricted free agents: RB Ronnie Brown, TE Anthony Fasano, OLB Quentin Moses.
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: The Dolphins have a tough decision to make on Ferguson. He'll turn 36 during the 2010 season and is coming off a serious quadriceps injury. Without him, however, the Dolphins have a massive void in their 3-4 defense at a position that's difficult to replace. Pennington, Jones and Taylor all could be gone.
New England Patriots
Potential unrestricted free agents: OLB Tully Banta-Cain, CB Leigh Bodden, OLB Derrick Burgess, RB Kevin Faulk, DE Jarvis Green, P Chris Hanson, G Stephen Neal, ILB Junior Seau, TE Benjamin Watson.
Potential restricted free agents: K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins, OLB Pierre Woods.
Franchise player: NT Vince Wilfork.
What to expect: Several starters are about to go up for bids, and the Patriots can't keep them all. Expect Faulk to be re-signed without much fuss. Neal, Bodden and Banta-Cain comprise a group they'd have trouble replacing. All three could fetch offers the Patriots would rather not match. Don't count on Watson coming back.
New York Jets
Potential unrestricted free agents: LS James Dearth, DE Marques Douglas, K Jay Feely, LB Ryan Fowler, TE Ben Hartsock, LB Larry Izzo, FB Tony Richardson.
Potential restricted free agents: QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, WR Braylon Edwards, DT Howard Green, T Wayne Hunter, WR Brad Smith, S Eric Smith, RB Leon Washington.
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: As a "final eight" team, the Jets have to window shop until one of their UFAs sign elsewhere. General manager Mike Tannenbaum is creative. Don't be surprised if the Jets use trades to upgrade. The key restricted free agent to monitor will be Washington, who received a second-round tender. His agent has been tweeting alarms the Pro Bowler could sign an offer sheet and dare the Jets to match.
They have sent 20 players to injured reserve, adding linebacker Nic Harris to the list Friday.
To illustrate how badly the Bills have been ravaged by injuries, I've put together a complete catalog. The rundown includes one player, receiver C.J. Hawthorne, who's on the practice squad IR.
The rest, however, are on the standard list.
Thirteen of them have started at least one game, as designated by an asterisk.
What you'll see here are players from the opening night starting lineup: both tackles, the right guard, a tight end, two linebackers and both cornerbacks. You'll also see am NFL defensive rookie of the year candidate.
You won't see quarterback Trent Edwards, who probably should be on the list. When he suffered a high ankle sprain two weeks ago, interim coach Perry Fewell said Edwards wouldn't play again. But the Bills have chosen to keep Edwards on the active roster rather than add an extra body.
- Tackle Demetrius Bell*
- Linebacker Marcus Buggs*
- Tackle Brad Butler*
- Safety Jairus Byrd*
- Linebacker Keith Ellison*
- Tight end Derek Fine*
- Running back Justise Hairston
- Linebacker Nic Harris
- Receiver C.J. Hawthorne
- Cornerback Terrence McGee*
- Defensive end Jermaine McGhee
- Cornerback Leodis McKelvin*
- Guard Seth McKinney*
- Linebacker Kawika Mitchell*
- Center Marvin Philip
- Defensive back Lydell Sargeant
- Tight end Derek Schouman*
- Guard Kendall Simmons*
- Defensive end Marcus Smith
- Guard Eric Wood*
Players can't become unrestricted free agents in an uncapped year unless they have six years of NFL experience. The usual minimum is four years.
NFC South dean Pat Yasinskas obtained the list, which includes 19 from the AFC East. The New York Jets have the most with eight.
- Linebacker Keith Ellison
- Quarterback Gibran Hamdan
- Guard Richie Incognito
- Tight end Joel Klopfenstein
- Strong safety George Wilson
- Cornerback Ashton Youboty
New England Patriots
Bills interim coach Perry Fewell lost his debut, 18-15, when Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard tossed a touchdown to Mike Sims-Walker with 56 seconds to play Sunday.
The Bills are in disarray with head coach Dick Jauron getting canned five days earlier and mounting injuries that included Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch and rookie guard Eric Wood during the game.
But the Bills played hard and probably deserved to win.
Buffalo bucked a few season-long trends. The NFL's worst run defense, despite playing without defensive tackle Marcus Stroud and linebacker Keith Ellison, contained Maurice Jones-Drew for most of the game. Jones-Drew finished with 25 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown.
The Bills, criticized all year for not throwing downfield, broke the club record for the longest pass play. Ryan Fitzpatrick connected with Terrell Owens for a 98-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Owens finished with the types of numbers Bills fans hoped would happen occasionally: nine receptions, 197 yards.
Fitzpatrick, named the starter this week ahead of Trent Edwards, completed 18 of his 31 attempts for 297 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions.
One recurring problem did haunt the Bills: a penalty by an offensive lineman. Tackle Jonathan Scott was called for illegal use of the hands to erase a 53-yard Lee Evans catch and run for what would have been a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The Bills punted four plays later.
There was no run game. Lynch had eight carries for 18 yards before he got hurt in the second quarter. Fred Jackson ran nine times for 35 yards.
The Bills on Wednesday activated James Hardy from the physically unable to perform list but have scratched him for the game. They cut running back Xavier Omon to make room for Hardy, leaving themselves with only two running backs (Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson) who carry the ball.
Here are the inactives from both teams:
- Quarterback Gibran Hamdan
- Receiver Roscoe Parrish
- Receiver James Hardy
- Tackle Jonathan Scott
- Defensive end Chris Ellis
- Defensive tackle Kyle Williams
- Linebacker Keith Ellison
- Cornerback Terrence McGee
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills went into Sunday's game with a ramshackle roster.
They're even more dilapidated now.
In Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, the Bills have lost three more players at the two positions they were thinnest: linebacker and offensive line.
Defensive captain Kawika Mitchell was carted off in the first half with a leg injury that looked serious. This week, Mitchell was switched to middle linebacker to replace Marcus Buggs, who replaced captain Paul Posluszny, who suffered a broken forearm in Week 1.
Buggs was carted off the field with a leg injury in the second half.
Keith Ellison is in the middle now.
The Bills also lost right tackle Jonathan Scott with an apparent leg injury. Scott became a starter when Brad Butler went on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in Week 2.
Kirk Chambers, a veteran journeyman cut as the end of training camp, replaced Scott.
Buffalo also is playing without both of their regular starting safeties, Donte Whitner and Bryan Scott.
Bills fans have to love the comments from head coach Dick Jauron. Yes, I'm being sarcastic.
"It was a disappointing night," Jauron said. "The good news is that it's preseason. We knew we had a long way to go, and this should show us that we have a long way to go. We've got to get back to work on Monday."
But why do the Bills have such a long way to go? They opened camp a week earlier than almost half the league and have played an extra exhibition because they were in the Hall of Fame Game.
In the first half, the Bills donated four turnovers, allowed three sacks and had five plays for negative yardage. For the game, they committed 12 penalties for 123 yards.
The Bills' first-teamers should look sharper than their opponents right now. They do not. Reserves and players who won't make the team scored all of Buffalo's points in the second half.
Trent Edwards didn't look any more comfortable than he did last year. Edwards is entering his third NFL season and second as Buffalo's starting quarterback, but he doesn't seem to be developing the kind of pocket presence you'd like to see from a franchise quarterback.
He threw an interception to end the first drive (the ball was deflected to Packers linebacker Brady Poppinga, but that's because Lee Evans was covered), was sacked twice and lost a fumble to end the second drive.
The first-team offensive line had a rough night. On five series, Edwards was sacked three times. Center Geoff Hangartner was whistled for a false start. Left tackle Langston Walker was penalized for holding.
Terrell Owens was missed. The Bills won't normally face blanket corners like Pro Bowlers Al Harris and Charles Woodson, but Owens certainly would have made things easier for Edwards. Owens' bum toe better not be bothering him when the regular season begins.
Despite a shaky camp, Ryan Fitzpatrick put together another strong exhibition performance. Fitzpatrick completed 12 of 16 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown with one interception. His past two games combined: 25-of-32 for 255 yards.
Xavier Omon is making sure he gets one of those 53 roster spots. The second-year back is projected to make the opening-day roster, especially with Marshawn Lynch suspended for the first three games. But Omon is running hard. He had five carries for only 6 yards, but he scored a touchdown and ripped off a 52-yard catch and run.
Two things that stood out to me on defense: 1) I know that linebacker Keith Ellison is listed at 6-foot and 229 pounds, but he really looked more like a defensive back out there. 2) The second-team defensive line outplayed the first-teamers -- relatively speaking. They were playing the Packers' backups, but ends Chris Ellis and Copeland Bryan and tackles John McCargo and Spencer Johnson played with conviction.