NFL Nation: Best match
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Best match: LB Angelo Crowell
While letting linebackers Keith Brooking and Michael Boley and cornerback Domonique Foxworth walk, the Falcons have been the NFC South's quietest team in free agency. General manager Thomas Dimitroff cautioned that the Falcons won't be big players.
But Atlanta can't sit still forever. The big moves likely will come through the draft, but there are some guys out there who the Falcons could move on to start patching some holes. There are some fans calling out for Derrick Brooks. But that doesn't make a lot of sense in the plan of Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith. They just let a veteran linebacker (Brooking) go. It would make more sense to add a younger linebacker like Crowell.
Best match: WR Ike Hilliard
The saga of disgruntled franchise player Julius Peppers is the big story for Carolina, but it's likely to drag on. Peppers' $17 million franchise tender has the Panthers strapped for cap room. If Peppers gets traded, the Panthers probably will seek his replacement with the first-round pick they'd like to get in return.
But there is some other business the Panthers can take care of in free agency. They could use a little depth at wide receiver. They've got one of the best in Steve Smith, but Muhsin Muhammad is aging and Dwayne Jarrett remains an uncertainty. Again, the Panthers don't have a lot to spend, but a veteran receiver like Hilliard won't cost a lot. The Panthers had a great deal of success when they brought in Ricky Proehl a few years back. Hilliard is very similar to Proehl and could solidify the receiving corps nicely.
Best match: S Darren Sharper
Re-signing linebacker Jonathan Vilma was the first key move of free agency. But even though the Saints don't have a lot of cap room to work with, they're not sitting still. They know they still have big needs in the secondary and they're working hard in that area.
They've got an offer in to cornerback Ron Bartell and are courting Sharper and Gerald Sensabaugh, a pair of safeties. Something should play out with those players in the very near future and that could be a huge boost to a defense that's rebuilding with new coordinator Gregg Williams. Add Bartell and either of those safeties to the current roster and -- at least on paper -- the defense suddenly looks a lot better.
Best match: RB Derrick Ward
The free-agent frenzy so many expected hasn't materialized -- yet. The Bucs made a strong run at Albert Haynesworth before he landed with the Redskins and made an attempt to trade for quarterback Jay Cutler. They still may be in the market for Cutler or another quarterback.
But there are other big needs to be filled in the meantime. After trading for tight end Kellen Winslow and placing the franchise tag on receiver Joey Galloway, the Bucs still are looking to load up at the skill positions and it appears running back is the next target. The Bucs don't have much besides Earnest Graham and they know it. They've got Ward scheduled for a visit Tuesday and also are considering Kevin Jones. Look for the Bucs to make a big play for Ward. They've been cautious with the purse strings so far, but they have lots of cap room to work with. They can't afford to keep finishing second for prized fre
The Bills already had plenty of needs entering free agency and gave themselves another, cutting left guard Derrick Dockery. The Bills hosted several players but inked just two: Center Geoff Hangartner and backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Among the players they entertained at One Bills Drive were receivers Laveranues Coles and Kelley Washington, so you can see what they're after. Both of those free agents still are in play, as are almost all of their other unsigned interviewees: Guard Kendall Simmons, linebacker Jamie Winborn and cornerback Drayton Florence. Running back Fred Taylor was the only one so far who dropped by but signed elsewhere.
That's quite a variety of positions, every broad category except tight end, defensive line and kicker. So who might the Bills want from the remaining free-agent pool? Drop a name, and if the Bills can work out a bargain contract, then the answer probably is yes.
The Dolphins were busy in the days leading up to free agency. They re-signed right tackle Vernon Carey, linebacker Channing Crowder and strong safety Yeremiah Bell, and welcomed free safety Gibril Wilson. In January they grabbed Canadian Football League phenom Cameron Wake. Not bad.
Once free agency began at 12:01 a.m. Friday, the Dolphins mostly sat back and watched. They entertained one visitor and signed him, reserve interior lineman Joe Berger. It looks like they're intent on spackling with draft picks.
But the Dolphins found another hole to fill Sunday. Their starting right cornerback, Andre' Goodman, jumped to the Denver Broncos. If they wanted to find Goodman's replacement through free agency, the top candidates are Leigh Bodden, Shawn Springs, Chris McAlister, Bryant McFadden and Jabari Greer.
The Patriots made some major moves since the free-agency period opened. They added Taylor and tight end Chris Baker, and re-signed safety James Sanders. Oh, and they cleared about $19 million in salary-cap space by trading quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs.
But the lingering need is cornerback, same as it has been since Asante Samuel departed around this time last year. Possibilities include the same as the Dolphins: They already have hosted Bodden and will host Springs.
Didn't the Jets do enough over the weekend? They landed one of the top free agents on the market, inside linebacker Bart Scott. They traded for cornerback Lito Sheppard. They seem to have the inside track on safety Jim Leonhard and might have cornerback Corey Ivy in their back pocket.
The Jets do have needs, but maybe nothing left to address in free
agency. Quarterback is the obvious concern, but management has insisted the three already on their roster will compete. They also are down a receiver after Coles negotiated his way off the team a year early.