NFL Nation: Free Agency 2010

Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe became a free agent at midnight ET, as expected, and now the fun part begins.

Atogwe
Atogwe
There's nothing preventing Atogwe and the Rams from continuing to work toward a long-term agreement, particularly if the sides exercise good faith.

The Rams had until midnight Tuesday to upgrade their one-year offer to Atogwe from $1.226 million to nearly $7 million, a move that would have allowed the Rams to maintain rights to the restricted free agent. But if the team had valued Atogwe at that level, its previous offer probably would have reflected as much.

Instead, the Rams took a calculated gamble. Atogwe is gambling as well. He turns 29 later this month and he's coming off an injury shortened season, so now is the time for him to maximize his value. Whatever the Rams offered before the June 1 deadline could decline in the future. That would be unfortunate for Atogwe if the market fails to bring him a deal more in line with the $6.3 million he earned from the Rams in 2009.

The Rams and Atogwe are victims of unusual circumstances. The Rams' pending ownership change probably makes them less flexible than they might otherwise be financially. Changes in labor rules hurt Atogwe by making him only a restricted free agent this offseason. Related rules left the Rams with rather extreme options -- $1.226 million or nearly $7 million -- as they decided how to value a good but not great player.

One key could be to what extent the relationship between Atogwe and the Rams survives these unusual circumstances. There's still time to for the Rams to keep him in St. Louis if both parties negotiate in good faith.
The Buccaneers just announced that tackle Jeremy Trueblood has signed his tender as a restricted free agent.

Once again, these kinds of moves are really just housekeeping matters. Trueblood drew no interest on the open market and the time for other teams to make offers to restricted free agents has come and gone.

Basically, Trueblood’s only real option was to sign the tender. The Bucs still can negotiate a long-term contract with him, but Trueblood’s not real high on a list of priorities that also includes restricted free agents Donald Penn and Barrett Ruud.
ESPN's Adam Schefter used his Insider mailbag to make a case for Arizona to sign former Rams quarterback Marc Bulger. The way Schefter sees things, Bulger would make the Cardinals the NFC West favorite.

Bulger
The Rams were in a tough spot with Bulger because they knew his time in St. Louis had come and gone. Given the Rams' implosion and his own career nosedive in recent seasons, Bulger could have conceivably been less excited about staying there than some weary fans would have been to see him remain part of the team's plans. An inflated salary made it impractical for the organization to keep Bulger in a backup role.

Yet, as Schefter points out, Bulger does have the skills to be an effective quarterback and a change of scenery could conceivably jump-start his career. The Rams held onto Bulger until other teams, including the Cardinals, had made moves to address the quarterback position on their rosters. There were few appealing options for Bulger once the Rams finally did release him.

The Cardinals were known to have interest, but they couldn't wait around all offseason. The quarterback market would have moved on without them. They showed interest in Charlie Whitehurst, then signed Derek Anderson once Seattle landed the San Diego quarterback.

I'm not sold enough on the idea that Bulger would automatically deliver a division title to the Cardinals. At this point, then, it's a little late to comfortably add Bulger to the quarterback mix in Arizona. What say you?

Video: T.O. still out of work

April, 30, 2010
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The Washington Redskins signed 38-year-old receiver Joey Galloway, while former Buffalo Bills receiver Terrell Owens still can't find a job. ESPN's Adam Schefter takes a look at what's going on with T.O.

Why Westbrook's an option for Rams

April, 25, 2010
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The Rams were among 19 NFL teams that did not draft a running back in 2010.

Westbrook
Westbrook
Seven went in the first two rounds, when the Rams were busy adding building blocks Sam Bradford and Rodger Saffold. Teams drafted only two running backs in the third through fifth rounds (none in the third). Teams clearly weren't willing to reach for players at the position.

That might explain why the Rams did not draft one even though they've needed to upgrade their depth behind Steven Jackson.

Their relationship with former Eagles starter Brian Westbrook could work in their favor. Westbrook visited with the Rams to take a physical and it's possible the team could sign him eventually if the medical side checks out. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, among other Rams staffers, were with Westbrook in Philadelphia for years.

Westbrook is 30 and that tends to be a bad number for running backs, but if he could help in a situational role, the Rams would be better off. Westbrook would also give them another veteran player familiar with their offense. He would fit better in St. Louis than with most teams.

Toler made McFadden expendable

April, 24, 2010
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The Cardinals clearly liked what Greg Toler showed during limited work at cornerback late in the 2009 season.

They liked Toler enough to send veteran cornerback Bryant McFadden back to Pittsburgh with the 195th choice in the draft for the 155th choice.

McFadden was scheduled to earn $4.75 million in salary and a $225,000 workout bonus in 2010, the final year of the free-agent contract he signed with Arizona last offseason. The Cardinals deemed the price too high.

Toler's emergence made them feel comfortable about this move.

Taylor sings new Jets tune: 'Kumbaya'

April, 22, 2010
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Jason Taylor knows he has some fences to mend with New York Jets fans.

The former Miami Dolphins star ragged on the Jets for years. He ridiculed their organization, their chant and their stadium.

Jason Taylor
AP Photo by J Pat CarterAfter years of tormenting the Jets and their fans, Jason Taylor is now a Jet himself.
But at Taylor's introductory news conference Wednesday, he said "I'm one of you guys now."

Taylor is a Jet, and they're going to need to forgive him.

"I think the number one currency in the NFL is what you do on the football field," Taylor said. "If you want to get results, if you want to get something done, if you want to get a new contract, the best way to go about doing that is by your play. That's what I plan to do: Come over here and play my butt off like I have for 13 years in the league and give this organization and these fans everything that I have.

Dolfans still were stung by Taylor's departure. One faction views him as a traitor for jumping to the hated Jets, but most seem to be upset with the Dolphins' front office for mishandling Taylor.

The Dolphins insisted upon waiting until after the draft to address Taylor's future. But there were no promises they would re-sign him, especially if they picked up a blue-chip outside linebacker. And there were no assurances the Jets wouldn't do the same.

Taylor had almost no choice but to take the only offer on the table.

"It is pretty ironic where we find ourselves right now," Taylor said, "but I think God lets things happen in life for a reason, and this is where I'm supposed to be right now. I'm here for one reason, and I'm here to play football as best as I can to help this team win a Super Bowl.

"People in Hollywood spend a lot of time trying to figure out a way to end a movie or people try to find a way to end a book. What better ending is it than to win a Super Bowl? To do it here would be pretty ironic, but it would be awesome."

Jets reporter Rich Cimini caught up with the Jets' most famous fan, Fireman Ed Anzalone, to get his take on the Taylor signing for ESPNNewYork.com.

"I don't like the way he talked about Jets fans, but you have to move on," Anzalone told Cimini. "The bottom line is, Jason Taylor is a competitive maniac. If he plays with the same anger and passion with the Jets as he did with the Dolphins, it could be a marriage made in heaven."

Thomas blasts Dolphins over Taylor

April, 21, 2010
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Zach Thomas is infuriated over the way the Miami Dolphins handled Jason Taylor's departure.

Thomas and Taylor combined for 13 Pro Bowls in the 11 years they starred together for the Dolphins defense. They're also brothers-in-law. Taylor married Thomas' sister, Katina.


Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesZach Thomas (right) was not pleased with the way the Dolphins treated his former teammate, Jason Taylor (left).
So you better believe Thomas had a well-informed and passionate opinion about how the Dolphins handled Taylor's situation and his decision to join the New York Jets.

"Everybody hates the Jets," Thomas told Sid Rosenberg of Miami sports-radio station WQAM. "I hate the Jets. But he has to do what he has to do and get respect. You're driven by respect as a player, especially the good ones. And he's got it from Rex Ryan."

Thomas' comments will resonate with Dolfans. While they ran hot and cold with Taylor over the years because he sometimes was viewed as a pretty boy who made too many commercials and dared to participate in "Dancing With the Stars" and not Bill Parcells' first offseason conditioning program in 2008, Thomas is revered.

Thomas is a Dolphins icon, an everyman overachiever who was drafted in the fifth round and selected first-team All-Pro five times. When I asked readers to select their Dolphins Mount Rushmore as part of an ESPN.com project last year, Thomas received the fourth-most votes behind Dan Marino, Don Shula and Larry Csonka.

Thomas, his decibel level rising throughout the interview, said he's "a Dolphin for life," but alleged Taylor deserved better treatment from general manager Jeff Ireland.

"I mean, all-time sack leader right now as an active player, and you're going to talk about him when you're asked in the media like he's a first- or second-year player?" Thomas said. "[Ireland] should know how to respect guys that's been great to the game. That's fine if you don't have a need for him, but you tell him up front."

The Dolphins insisted upon waiting until after the draft to address Taylor's future with the club. Even then, there were no guarantees they'd have Taylor back.

The move was bittersweet for Thomas, who predicted Taylor will thrive with the Jets.

"He's sad," Thomas said. "He waited as long as he could. Everybody wants to feel wanted. The Jets, they wanted him. They're a team on the rise, and I hate to say it, but they got the No. 1 defense and are going to be even stronger, and you don't think Rex Ryan has a game plan for Jason Taylor?

"It's going to be better than the game plan they used with him [in 2009] because I hated watching it. When they were taking him out on third down, it was like taking Bruce Smith out on third down. That was frustrating for me. I'm a fan now. You don't take one of the greatest pass-rushers of all-time out on third down."

Thomas didn't appreciate the way the Dolphins handled his exit after the 2007 season, either.

Shortly after Bill Parcells took over football operations and hired Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano, they released Thomas after a dozen highly decorated seasons.

Thomas said he had only one request as he cleaned out his locker, to say goodbye to Dolfans with a news conference at the team's facility. The request was denied.

"You've got to respect players that's been good to the game," Thomas said. "I don't like the organization to look bad that way."

Taylor leaves indifferent Dolphins behind

April, 20, 2010
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Jason Taylor got sick of waiting around for the Miami Dolphins.

[+] EnlargeJason Taylor
Scott A. Miller/US PresswireJason Taylor has played all but one season of his 13-year career in Miami.
No wonder he would gravitate to a team that showed him so much love.

Taylor agreed to terms on a contract to chase quarterbacks for Rex Ryan and the New York Jets.

The Dolphins wanted to wait until after the draft to decide what they wanted to do with Taylor. With no guarantees, Taylor jumped to a division rival.

At a Tuesday night news conference at his foundation's South Florida headquarters, Taylor explained his controversial decision.

He mentioned the Dolphins offered him a one-year contract extension in November -- when he was playing with a shoulder injury -- for the same money he was making in 2009. Taylor told them he wanted to negotiate after March 5, and the Dolphins pulled their offer. Taylor and agent Gary Wichard said the Dolphins didn't make another one.

"If I was important enough that you wanted me in November, why wouldn't you want me now?" Taylor said. "I'm better now. I promise you I'm better now than I was in November because my shoulder works. I got it fixed. It works. I can do everything. I can shake hands, throw a football. We can play. If I was good enough then, I just don't understand why I wasn't good enough now.

"But you know what? That's their prerogative to make. They're allowed to make that decision. There is a business side to football, and if they feel that it's better for their team to not have me, that's fine. I have no problem with that. That's part of the game."

Taylor, who will turn 36 before the season begins, probably is embarking on his last legitimate shot at a Super Bowl ring.

His signing is the latest in a series of flashy offseason transactions the Jets have made for the uncapped season.

"I've seen this plenty of times where teams load up, and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't," Taylor said. "All 32 teams will go in with the same optimistic outlook, wanting to win the Super Bowl and injuries, personalities, pieces, leadership, quarterback play, defensive play, all of those things will come into play down the road.

"So do they have a good football team? Yeah, they have a pretty good football team. They got really hot at the end of the season last year and came within a half of a game of going to the Super Bowl, and they added some good pieces.

"We'll see what I have. I think I have a lot to offer, but I think there's only two of us that think that -- me and Rex. But we’ll see. There are no guarantees in this game."

Jason Taylor flips from Fins to Jets

April, 20, 2010
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Some refused to believe Jason Taylor actually would join forces with the New York Jets.

[+] EnlargeJason Taylor
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireJason Taylor is expected to be used primarily as a pass-rusher in Rex Ryan's defense.
Taylor harbored a professed disdain for the Jets from his many years with the Miami Dolphins. In fact, skeptics theorized he visited the Jets two weeks ago as a ploy to get the Dolphins to spend a little more to re-sign him.

So much for that assumption.

Taylor agreed to terms with the Jets on Tuesday afternoon.

The NFL active sacks leader will join Rex Ryan's defense, which ranked No. 1 last year in several major categories. As a complementary piece, Taylor is expected to be used exclusively on passing downs to get after opposing quarterbacks, including Chad Henne twice this year.

The Dolphins wanted to wait until after this week's draft to address Taylor's contract, but there would be no guarantee they'd be interested if they were to draft enough pass-rushing help to marginalize their need to bring Taylor back.

ESPN's John Clayton reports Taylor's contract is for two years but is heavily weighted for 2010. Taylor's base salary is $1.75 million, but he can make as much as $3.75 million with incentives.

The contract was tricky because of limitations placed on the Jets through the "final eight" plan. In basic terms, clubs that reached the second round of the playoffs aren't allowed to sign an unrestricted free agent until they lose one. When kicker Jay Feely signed with the Arizona Cardinals, the Jets were able to pick up Taylor.

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Patriots sign Torry Holt for WR depth

April, 20, 2010
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The New England Patriots have two receivers who rank within the top 11 in career receptions after signing free agent Torry Holt to a one-year contract Tuesday.

Holt
The Patriots added depth to a position they failed to bolster last year by trading for Greg Lewis and signing Joey Galloway. Neither worked out. The Patriots cut Lewis at the end of training camp and cut Galloway after six games.

Adding help at receiver is even more critical for New England this summer with Wes Welker rehabbing from reconstructive knee surgery. The Patriots previously signed old friend David Patten. Sophomores Julian Edelman and Brandon Tate also will need to step into greater roles.

Holt, who will turn 34 years old in June, has more left in the tank than Galloway did. Holt caught 51 passes for 722 yards for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He didn't have a touchdown for the first time in his 11 seasons.

Holt has 920 receptions, six behind new teammate Randy Moss on the all-time list.
Just got off the phone with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. He also thinks the 49ers' deal for Ted Ginn makes sense:
I'm not sure you could find a better kickoff returner in the draft, and he also still has upside as a receiver. They got a returner who can also play receiver. That is how to look at it. Even if he never sees the field on offense, it's probably a good trade. He is very, very talented. At a minimum, he can run around the edges and get deep. That can open up things for Vernon Davis and the other guys.

Giving up a late-round pick, it's a home run even if Ginn does exactly what he did in Miami. A lot of times these kids who are high picks hit bottom. Bill Parcells didn’t like him. He didn't play tough. He steps out of bounds. He is not a banger. He's a finesse, speed guy. I’m sure Mike Singletary isn't going to love that, either. But maybe you get a change of scenery and say, 'Yeah, maybe I do need to toughen up, lower my shoulder, do those types of things.'

Ginn is a smart kid. He might realize this is his last chance. You step back, change your ways and there are far less expectations.

In Miami, he was a deep threat with Chad Pennington as his primary passer most of the time. Not that Alex Smith is Jay Cutler or anything (in terms of arm strength), but it's not Ginn's fault the quarterback can’t throw the ball 55 yards down the sideline. The 49ers get him for next to nothing and if he is one of the top five returners in the league, which he is, it's a good deal.

Ginn averaged 24.9 yards per kickoff return last season, 13th in the league among players with at least 20 returns. He ranked fifth in kickoff return yards with 1,296. He scored two touchdowns on returns, both against the Jets. Ginn hasn't returned punts regularly since 2007, when he averaged 9.6 yards on 24 returns, with an 87-yarder for a touchdown.

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Rest of AFC East leaving Bills behind

April, 15, 2010
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That speck in the AFC East's rearview mirror is the Buffalo Bills.

And, no, objects are not closer than they appear.

Given the circumstances within the division and looming labor uncertainty, it's possible the Bills will have to wait until 2012 to have a reasonable shot at the playoffs.

The Bills went into the 2010 offseason a distant fourth to their three divisional opponents. The New England Patriots are defending champs. The New York Jets reached the AFC Championship game. The Miami Dolphins won the division in 2008.

Those were the facts before offseason maneuverings commenced. After the various signings and trades, Buffalo is lagging even more.

The Bills clearly are rebuilding, and that's OK. They should have embraced that concept years ago. Instead, they treaded below mediocrity, failing to reach the playoffs 10 straight seasons.

As it shapes up now, the Bills would be a miracle playoff team. They not only would need to drastically improve, they'd also have to pray at least two proven AFC East teams crash.

Then there's the serious possibility of a lockout in 2011. Some predict the labor battle could wipe out the season.

The Bills have made some prudent decisions in revamping their front office. They promoted Buddy Nix to general manager and brought in Pittsburgh Steelers pro personnel coordinator Doug Whaley to be assistant GM. Nix hired Chan Gailey as head coach, perhaps not an inspirational choice, but a solid one.

Nix stated from the outset his approach to improving the team would be through the draft. That's the plan he has followed. Their biggest free-agent signings were defensive lineman Dwan Edwards and offensive tackle Cornell Green. They've made no trades. Buffalo is the only AFC East team that does not know who its quarterback will be.

Other AFC East teams have done the opposite, acquiring star veterans that make them better immediately and widening the gap between them and Buffalo enough to make it a three-team division in April.

The Jets have improved on both defense and offense: adding back LaDainian Tomlinson, receiver Santonio Holmes, cornerback Antonio Cromartie and perhaps outside linebacker Jason Taylor.

Miami traded for receiver Brandon Marshall and signed inside linebacker Karlos Dansby.

New England has done little more than re-sign its own players, who happen to be pretty good: nose tackle Vince Wilfork, running back Kevin Faulk and right guard Stephen Neal among them.

Buffalo fans should be optimistic about the new leadership. Nix and Gailey have done nothing yet that contradicts their master plan. They've given no reason to be disheartened about their long-range vision.

But the rest of the AFC East sure has made it tough to expect any Bills thrills for a while.

Reports: Taylor closer to joining Jets

April, 15, 2010
4/15/10
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ESPN's Adam Schefter and New York Daily News reporter Rich Cimini are reporting Jason Taylor is on the verge of deciding he'll sign with the New York Jets.

Cimini, citing a source close to Taylor, blogs that the longtime Miami Dolphins pass-rusher is "leaning heavily toward accepting the Jets' offer, believed to be a two-year contract."

ESPNNewYork.com's Jane McManus also touched on the Taylor situation, among other Jets items on her blog.

It has been a week since Taylor and his wife made a two-day visit with the Jets. Agent Gary Wichard previously said he expected Taylor to take at least until the middle of the week to mull his options.

The Jets need Taylor to act quickly because they're limited by the "final eight" plan that essentially prohibits teams that reached the second round of the playoffs from signing unrestricted free agents until one departs. The Jets finally lost one when kicker Jay Feely went to the Arizona Cardinals. So if Taylor doesn't want to be the incoming player, the Jets would like to pursue someone else.

The Dolphins have told Taylor they want to wait until after the draft to address his future with the club he starred for a dozen seasons.

Reis staying with Saints

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
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Another day, another restricted free agent has signed his tender with the New Orleans Saints.

The latest to sign is safety Chris Reis, the team announced Wednesday morning. Reis has been a backup the past three seasons and has been most significant as a special-teams player. In fact, he was a key figure in one of the biggest plays in franchise history.

Reis was the guy who recovered the onside kick on the opening play of the second half of Super Bowl XLIV. The deadline for restricted free agents to receive offers from other teams is Thursday.

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