|GM Buddy Nix beats the odds to land free-agent prize Mario Williams to Buffalo. (AP)|
Free agency usually has a fast start followed by a calming down period and then a rush before the owners meetings. After three days, a couple of things that strike me as interesting about the 2012 opening of free agency.
1. Eight backup quarterbacks signed in two days, and still no Vince Young: David Carr, Dan Orlovsky, Chris Redman, Derek Anderson, Josh McCown, Chad Henne, Jason Campbell all signed in the first three days and no word of any interest in Vince Young.
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2. The inside linebacker market hasn't been touched yet: As fast and furious as signings have been with over 50 players inking new deals around the league, Curtis Lofton, Stephen Tulloch, London Fletcher and David Hawthorne lead a group of inside linebackers at a position not yet touched in free agency.
3. I could build a winning offense with the guys cut: Forget the long list of UFAs that teams were studying all fall in anticipation of free agency. Here's a starting offense just from players released, and they could win games. QB-Peyton Manning, TE-Dallas Clark, Kevin Boss, WR-Hines Ward, Lee Evans, RB-Joseph Addai, Brandon Jacobs, OT-Eric Winston, Levi Brown, Marcus McNeil, G-Steve Hutchinson, Robert Gallery, Anthony Herrera, Eric Steinbach, C-Jeff Faine.
4. You can punish the Redskins, but you can't keep them down: The NFL took $18 million of salary cap space away (or $36 million over two years) from Bruce Allen and the Redskins organization, but they still attacked free agency like nothing was wrong. Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan are Redskins, and this team is far from done.
6. Against all odds, the Bills got it done! If you asked 1,000 people a month ago where Mario Williams would wind up in free agency in 2012, no one would have picked the Buffalo Bills. I loved that GM Buddy Nix said Tuesday, "We're going to make a big splash early." It was more like a tidal wave.
7. Why isn't Alex Smith signed by now: Smith said he was OK with a three-year deal after rumors were out there he wanted a five-year deal, so why is he not under contract by now? It doesn't appear the 49ers were ever interested in Peyton Manning, and the club had $20 million of cap space as of Wednesday.
8. It's not the right time to go after a restricted free agent: It isn't the right time to go after Mike Wallace, or Lardarius Webb in restricted free agency. If a club puts in an offer, the home club (Pittsburgh and Baltimore) has seven days to match and would probably take all seven days. The offering club will be stuck not knowing if the team would match and consequently be on the sidelines in free agency. Teams should attack the free agent class for the next few weeks and double back on the restricted free agents in early April.
9. NFL teams must be leery of wide receivers in the draft class: Nine veteran free-agent wide receivers got contracts before the third day of free agency was even over, and there's more than $100 million in guarantees. It sounds like clubs didn't like the depth in the receiver class of the draft.
10. Drew Brees digging a hole for himself: For the first time since Drew Brees has become a Saint, there is some negative feedback about how he's handling the franchise tag and free agency. I had it confirmed the deal on the table from the Saints was for $18.5 million a year and that he reportedly is holding out for $23 million. Once the Saints lost Carl Nicks in free agency, the PR started to turn against Brees.