NFC East: Free agency 2010

Schefter: Willie Parker to sign with Skins

April, 2, 2010
4/02/10
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Parker

Parker

The Washingon Redskins and former Steelers running back Willie Parker have reached an agreement on a one-year contract with a maximum value of $3.1 million, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Parker will be in an open competition for the starting job with Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson, according to the report.

Coach Mike Shanahan will have a big-name backfield in 2010, but I'm not sure how much production we should expect. Marty Callinan has been hard at work in the ESPN Stats and Information laboratory coming up with some numbers on Portis-Johnson-Parker. Of the 54 running backs in the league who had at least 40 carries up the middle last season, those backs ranked 52, 53 and 54.

Portis and Johnson banged out 2.6 yards per carry between the tackles while Parker checked in at 2.5. Ladies and gentlemen, those are some Next-Level numbers right there. Sorry to dampen your spirits on the Parker signing, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Redskins sign CB Buchanon

March, 29, 2010
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One day after he visited Redskins Park, veteran cornerback Phillip Buchanon has signed a one-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Buchanon could earn up to $750,000 if he reaches certain incentives.

The 17th overall pick in the 2002 draft for the Oakland Raiders, the 29-year-old Buchanon has had a disappointing career to this point. He has 18 career interceptions, five of which have been returned for touchdowns. But he hasn't been able to stick with a team long since being traded from the Raiders.

"We are very excited to add a veteran corner, such as Phillip, to our defensive backfield,” said Mike Shanahan in a press release Monday. “He has had a lot of success in this league and brings with him the ability to create turnovers. He will be a big part of what we are trying to accomplish defensively in Washington ."

The Redskins have avoided the big-ticket items in free agency this offseason, instead opting for veteran players in need of a fresh start. I still think Washington will regret signing a malcontent such as running back Larry Johnson, but veterans such as Maake Kemoeatu and Buchanon make sense. They come at a relatively low cost and they both have the potential to play a significant role on defense.

Buchanon played in 13 games for the Lions in '09 but did not have an interception. He was banged up in a game that caused Browns coach Eric Mangini to launch allegations of the Lions faking injuries to slow down Cleveland's no-huddle offense.

Eagles' Shawn Andrews shown the door

March, 17, 2010
3/17/10
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In perhaps one of the least surprising announcements of the offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles have parted ways with former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Shawn Andrews. The former first-round pick appeared on his way to stardom with Pro Bowl seasons in '06 and '07, but back injuries caused him to miss all but two games in '08 and '09. He was slated to start at right tackle in '09, but he once again experienced back pain and was eventually placed on injured reserve.

Andrews missed the '08 training camp because of depression. Coach Andy Reid gave him every opportunity to get his career on track, but it became obvious that the former Arkansas Razorback wasn't part of the club's plans. That point was driven home when right tackle Winston Justice received a contract extension during the '09 season.

Last offseason, the Eagles signed free-agent offensive lineman Stacy Andrews, Shawn's older brother, to hopefully be a stabilizing force. But Shawn was back in Los Angeles receiving treatment on his back before the season even started. He had a chance to be one of the best offensive linemen in the game, but his behavior off the field was baffling.

Most of his teammates reached out to him when he went public with his depression, but others wondered if it was an excuse for missing training camp. Andrews has been a prolific tweeter, often firing off dozens of messages per day. He also talked a lot about his interest in the music industry.

Fair or not, he got the label of being someone who didn't love the game of football. And that's a tough thing to overcome in the NFL. Reid showed Andrews a lot of compassion but at some point the team needed to move on. There was no way to count on Andrews being available for the 2010 season, so the team finally had to cut ties.

Quite honestly, no one would've blamed them for doing this a year ago. Perhaps Andrews will make the best of a fresh start with another club, but that's being pretty optimisitic. He gave Eagles fans a couple of really strong seasons. But obviously, he'll always be remembered for what he didn't accomplish.

Report: Grossman to sign with Redskins

March, 17, 2010
3/17/10
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The Washington Redskins and unrestricted free-agent quarterback Rex Grossman reached an agreement Wednesday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Grossman worked with Skins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Houston last season, so he has a working knowledge of what the offense will be.

It will be interesting to see whether Mike Shanahan would hold an open competition between Jason Campbell and Grossman. And, of course, you could have a third entry if the Redskins select Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen with the fourth overall pick.

For now it simply means that Colt Brennan's days as a local cult hero are probably numbered. Grossman helped lead the Bears to the Super Bowl in '06, but his career quickly faded after that.

Grossman's certainly not a long-term option. He's a familiar face who could help bridge the gap.

Is Porter a good fit for Skins?

March, 17, 2010
3/17/10
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Now that we know outside linebacker Joey Porter is scheduled to visit Redskins Park on Thursday, let's talk about how he'd fit into defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme. As Rick Maese noted on Redskins Insider, Porter is accustomed to rushing from the right side. He had 32 sacks in three seasons (17.5 in '08) for the Dolphins rushing from that side.

Porter
But Redskins second-year linebacker Brian Orakpo is also comfortable rushing from the right side and it's doubtful that Haslett would want to take him out of his comfort zone. And you also have to figure where Andre Carter fits into the new scheme. Redskins linebackers coach Lou Spanos knows Porter from their time in Pittsburgh. And Haslett coached him for a season before becoming a head coach in the league.

Porter's been a highly productive player in the league, but he's also known for his brash behavior off the field. He filled notebooks in Pittsburgh and then he continued to yap in Miami. If you put him in a role where he can be a pass-rushing specialist, he could easily have seven or eight sacks. But if you expect him to line up and defend the run on a consistent basis, you've got the wrong guy.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland basically came out and called Porter a declining player during the combine. But maybe it's good to have players such as Larry Johnson and Porter who are desperate to prove they still have something left. AFC West blogger Bill Williamson has told me about Shanahan's love of veterans, and we're starting to see that show up in free agency.

Programming note: Our weekly draft series will go live at noon ET today. Topic: Biggest needs revisited.

Skins to visit with LB Porter

March, 17, 2010
3/17/10
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As the Washington Redskins continue to search for pass-rushing help, it looks like former Steelers and Dolphins outside linebacker Joey Porter has entered the picture. Porter, one of the more outspoken players in the league, had 32 sacks in three seasons with the Dolphins, including 17.5 in '08.

Porter will arrive at Redskins Park on Thursday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The 32-year-old has had a very productive and healthy career, but he's not the sort of player who blends into a locker room. His recurring complaints wore on the Dolphins, although general manager Jeff Ireland indicated during the combine that Porter's play on the field is what led to his release.

Porter played for Redskins linebackers coach Lou Spanos when the two were in Pittsburgh and he also spent a season under Skins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. If the Redskins sign Porter, the move will likely cut into Andre Carter's playing time. Obviously Washington's not going to allow Porter to impede Brian Orakpo's progress.

At this point in his career, Porter's pretty much a one-dimensional player. He can still rush the passer, but he has no business being a three-down player. The Redskins have already signed one controversial player in running back Larry Johnson. We'll see if Porter's next.

For an organization that's supposedly building through the draft, signing both Johnson and Porter would be curious decisions.

Eagles sign Bell to offer sheet

March, 16, 2010
3/16/10
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It took a little while, but an NFL team has finally signed a restricted free agent to an offer sheet. On Tuesday afternoon, the Philadelphia Eagles and Saints running back Mike Bell agreed on a one-year, $1.7 million deal that includes $500,000 in guaranteed money, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The Saints will have seven days to match the offer, but that's unlikely given the fact they didn't place a higher tender on Bell. My immediate thought is that Bell's a much better option than 30-year-old Justin Fargas, who visited the Eagles last week.

Bell was part of a pretty talented three-man rotation with the Saints and I think he'd be a good complement to LeSean McCoy. Bell, 26, is a bigger back than McCoy at 225 pounds and he's been a powerful rusher at times. During his rookie season with the Broncos, Bell had 677 yards and eight touchdowns. He gives Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg another option around the goal line.

Bell's the type of back who won't impede McCoy's progress at all. Of all the backs in free agency, I think Bell's probably one of the better fits for the Eagles. He can certainly eat up at least 150 carries and help the Eagles in third-and-short situations.

The Eagles need a tougher identity on offense. Bell will help in that regard.

Scouts Inc.: NT Kemoeatu a good risk

March, 16, 2010
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The good folks at ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. are doing a really compelling offseason series in which they take a deeper look at some of the offseason moves from across the league. On Monday, frequent Beast contributor Matt Williamson talked about what a healthy Maake Kemoeatu could mean to the Redskins' defense in 2010. You need an Insider subscription to read the entire piece, but here's an excerpt:
"Without a guy like Kemoeatu in the equation, [Albert] Haynesworth surely would have gotten the nose tackle job by default. Of course he could excel there, but eating double-teams just doesn't get enough out of what Washington has invested in Haynesworth. Even with the shortage of nose tackles in the league now, Haynesworth is incredibly special, and using his vast skill set in many ways is best for this team."

Williamson also pointed out that Kemoeatu was incredibly effective in the middle of the Panthers' defense in '08 before he ruptured his Achilles' tendon in training camp last season. As you might imagine, the Redskins didn't give Kemoeatu a lot of guaranteed money. But if he's able to take on double-teams like he did with the Panthers, he'll get plenty of money via incentives.

I'm starting to think that Kemoeatu could become one of the most underrated signings in free agency. He and Eagles free safety Marlin Jackson are low-risk, high-reward type signings. Special thanks to Williamson for starting off a new series with a good NFC East angle.

Does Larry Johnson have anything left?

March, 12, 2010
3/12/10
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Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is gambling that former Chiefs running back Larry Johnson will be so thankful to have a job that he won't be a distraction in the locker room. I'm not so sure that Johnson's ability warrants taking that type of risk.

In 2005 and 2006, Johnson was one of the two or three best backs in the league. He had back-to-back 1,700-yard seasons, but in '06, he had a staggering 416 carries. He's basically never recovered from taking all that punishment. So I wouldn't look at him like a typical 30-year-old running back. In fact, I think players in his age bracket such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Willie Parker, Brian Westbrook and Thomas Jones all have more tread left than Johnson.

He's a power back who's not a great change-of-pace back for the Redskins, unless they actually want someone slower than Clinton Portis. Here's what Johnson told ESPN 980 Thursday evening:

"There hasn't been a real good running back tandem in the league [for a while]," said Johnson. "There's always been one guy or three guys. It'd be just like how me and Priest Holmes was way back in the day. It'd be nice to be able to play aside somebody like that."

Hmm...I don't quite see Portis-Johnson rivaling Holmes-Johnson. And it's funny to hear Johnson recall that pairing with such fondness. Johnson and Holmes did not have a good relationship in Kansas City. In fact, Johnson once told a few of us on a conference call before a Cowboys-Chiefs game that Holmes had not been a mentor to him at all.

Johnson was brilliant for two seasons in the league. But the last time he truly helped a team was 2006. I don't see Johnson being happy about playing second-fiddle to Portis, but that's what he'll be asked to do. This will go down as the first highly questionable signing by the Redskins.

Just because they apparently got Johnson on the cheap doesn't make it a good decision.

Skins, Larry Johnson agree to contract

March, 12, 2010
3/12/10
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So much for the lack of intrigue at Redskins Park. Washington has agreed to a three-year contract with former Chiefs running back Larry Johnson that could be worth as much as $12 million if he reaches several incentives, according to ESPN.com's Adam Schefter. Johnson, 30, finished last season with the Bengals. His production has plummeted over the past few seasons and he earned himself a release from the Chiefs with some controversial Tweets regarding coach Todd Haley and some derogatory comments toward a reporter.

Johnson
Johnson
Obviously, this is more of a stopgap move than a long-term solution. I would still expect the Redskins to draft a running back next month. Coach Mike Shanahan admired Johnson while playing against him in the AFC West. And if you've followed Shanahan's career, you know how much he loves older players who've been productive earlier in their careers.

This is the first offseason program general manager Bruce Allen and Shanahan have had, and this is truly open to question. Johnson was one of the best running backs in the league, but he's four years removed from that. If I'm trying to build chemistry in the locker room, Johnson's not the guy I'd turn to. I'm sure the guaranteed money's pretty low based on Johnson's past behavior, but that doesn't make it a good move.

Earlier this week, the Redskins hosted former Steelers running back Willie Parker. I think he would've been a better option. The Redskins will now "complement" Clinton Portis with a guy who's had a ridiculous amount of carries. So now you have two aging backs who've taken way too much punishment over the years.

You guys have a different opinion?

Eagles haven't signed Fargas -- yet

March, 12, 2010
3/12/10
3:54
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Former Raiders running back Justin Fargas spent the morning visiting with the Philadelphia Eagles, but he hasn't agreed to a contract. He's obviously excited to have a fresh start in the league after all the losing in Oakland and it wouldn't surprise me if he finds a home in Philly.

"I've had five head coaches in seven years," he said. "I can adapt easily."

We'll keep you updated on any developments.

Baskett signs with Eagles

March, 12, 2010
3/12/10
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As we noted in the previous post, free-agent wide receiver Hank Baskett has signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. The 27-year-old player was released last September after three seasons with the Eagles to make room for Michael Vick on the roster.

He caught on with the Colts and played in the Super Bowl. Of course, the downside to that story is that he's the guy who mishandled the onside kick that energized the Saints to open the second half. Baskett addressed that topic with local reporters Friday.
"I thought everybody was going to come down on me for it, but ... anybody who follows football knows that one play does not change a game," said Baskett. "It sucks that the first onsides kick in [Super Bowl] history before the fourth quarter had to happen to me."

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman released the following statement regarding Baskett:
"Hank adds solid depth to our wide receiving group, plus is a productive special-teams player," said Roseman. "He is a good teammate and obviously is a positive influence in the locker room and is a high-character person. We're excited about welcoming he and his family back to the Eagles."

Who's still out there in free agency?

March, 12, 2010
3/12/10
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Now that we're a week into the free agency period, let's step back and see which unrestricted free agents are still on the board. Philadelphia Daily News NFL columnist Paul Domowitch has compiled a helpful list that includes his top five players at each position. Ben Watson is no longer leading the tight ends list because he signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Cleveland Browns, according to (who else?) ESPN's Adam Schefter. And wide receiver Hank Baskett just signed a one-year contract to return to the Eagles.

Working off Domowitch's list, I'll offer my top remaining unrestricted free agent at each position:

Quarterback

Jake Delhomme, Panthers

Running back

LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers

Wide receiver

Terrell Owens, Bills

Note: The 29-year-old Josh Reed would be a lot less of a headache.

Tight end

Randy McMichael, Rams

Note: McMichael is 30 but he's capable of scoring five or six touchdowns in the right offense.

Offensive tackle

Mike Gandy, Cardinals

Guard

Ryan Lilja, Colts

Center

Kevin Mawae, Titans

Defensive end

Charles Grant, Saints

Defensive tackle

Jimmy Kennedy, Vikings

Inside linebacker

Larry Foote, Lions

Outside linebacker

Keith Bulluck, Titans

Note: Even at age 32, a highly productive player

Cornerback

Rod Hood, Titans

Note: What a weak, weak group. I used to like Dre Bly, but he's a declining player

Safety

Darren Sharper, Saints

Note: The Giants treat Antrel Rolle like some sort of All Pro while Sharper is on the street. I know Sharper is getting long in the tooth, but he can still play. The Broncos went after an aging Brian Dawkins. Some team should do the same with Sharper. Cowboys, anyone?

Shanahan counting on Portis to be a leader

March, 12, 2010
3/12/10
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On Monday, new Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is hoping for perfect attendance at the start of the club's offseason conditioning program. And that means that running back Clinton Portis, a big fan of the South Beach offseason program, is expected to show up at Redskins Park.
"Oh, I guarantee you Clinton will be there," Shanahan said Thursday evening at a Redskins charitable event. "I know Clinton too well. He'll be there and kick off the offseason on the right note. I want my leaders to be there, and hopefully we'll have 100 percent participation and if not, I'll be disappointed."

The conditioning programs around the league are technically voluntary, but we all know that players who don't attend are "technically" eligible to be released at some point. I'd be surprised if Portis misses Monday's first session. In fact, I'm sure that Shanahan has stressed the importance of the program to Portis, who is coming off an injury-plagued season. He's reportedly been cleared by concussion specialists to resume football activities.

Shanahan also expressed his admiration for disgruntled cornerback Carlos Rogers and free-agent running back Larry Johnson, who is at Redskins Park today visiting with coaches.
"Obviously I've watched him from afar for years," Shanahan said of Johnson, who played in the same division as the Broncos while with the Chiefs. "I coached Larry in the Pro Bowl. I like Larry. I'm a big fan of his."

Shanahan is aware of the Skins' reputation for going after big-ticket items in free agency, but he reiterated Thursday that the club won't rush into things.
"We have a game plan and it takes time," Shanahan said. "We've got a plan; it's not going to happen overnight. We just have to watch the plan take place. But we're going to try to get better every day."

So far, the Redskins have added a versatile offensive lineman in Artis Hicks, a blocking tight end in Sean Ryan and an enormous nose tackle coming off a serious injury in Maake Kemoeatu.

Eagles hosting Fargas, Baskett

March, 11, 2010
3/11/10
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The Philadelphia Eagles will host running back Justin Fargas and wide receiver Hank Baskett on campus Friday. Fargas, 30, had a 1,000-yard season in '07 but his numbers fell off significantly in '09 with the Raiders. I've talked to Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete about Fargas in the past and he loved him when the two were together in Oakland. The Eagles were reportedly interested in 33-year-old Kevin Faulk before he re-signed with the Patriots.

Baskett is a former Eagles player who spent the past season with the Colts. He'll always be known as the guy who mishandled the Saints' onside kick in the Super Bowl, but he's a very capable player. Baskett had 72 catches for 1,080 yards and six touchdowns in three seasons with the Eagles. With the Reggie Brown trade this week, the Eagles needed to add some depth at receiver.

They also signed former Air Force running back/receiver Chad Hall, who's been on active duty the past two seasons. Once Hall negotiates his release from the Air Force, he should be able to join the Eagles' offseason conditioning program. But something tells me Hall's kept himself in pretty good shape at Hill Air Force Base in Salt Lake City.

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