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Updating free agency: Observations after two eventful weeks

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Signing Mario Williams and then Mark Anderson lets the Bills refocus elsewhere. (US Presswire)  
Signing Mario Williams and then Mark Anderson lets the Bills refocus elsewhere. (US Presswire)  

What people say and what they do are two different things. The truth usually is in the actions not the words. I like to take a good look at the trends in free agency once a week to see what the NFL is really doing. Here are 10 observations as we close in on the end of the second week of free agency.

1. The Ripple Effect: Peyton Manning signs a big deal in Indianapolis, doesn't recover from neck surgeries in time to play in 2011, the team winds up with the first pick, they release Manning, he goes to Denver, Tebow goes to the Jets, Sanchez feels the pressure, and Stanton wants out of the Big Apple. Just one example of how one situation at a team can run through the league quickly.

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The UFA signings also have a profound effect on the draft. Mock drafts before free agency starts are almost comical. Let the clues of the signings help you understand where teams are headed in the first round of the draft. Here are the UFA signings that will create a ripple in the draft. Starting at the top of the round Matt Flynn goes to Seattle while Cleveland and Miami now have to consider Ryan Tannehill. Buffalo's signings of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson take them out of the DE business and they could turn their attention to a WR or CB or trade the spot to someone looking for Quinton Coples.

Kansas City's signing of RT Eric Winston takes them out of the mix for a tackle, and that could mean Reilly Reiff and Jonathan Martin slide down the round a few spots. With the Bears acquiring Brandon Marshall, they may pass on a receiver like Michael Floyd and look at one of those tackles. The Seahawks acquisition of Matt Flynn and Jason Jones could put MLB Luke Kueckly in their sights. The Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans so they eliminated Kuechly from their radar screen. Tampa Bay has been so active with big signings like Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright that the Bucs could easily move down and gather more picks.

2. Released offensive linemen: Players get released throughout the free agent period usually for contract reasons. Fifty percent of the released players that have signed new deals are offensive linemen. Eric Winston, Robert Gallery, Travelle Wharton, Steve Hutchinson, Cooper Carlisle and Levi Brown weren't out of work long. Getting veteran offensive linemen and building up the backend of the roster is critical to protect the quarterback. Most of these men will start but it also means someone goes to the swing tackle and swing guard spots.

3. Carroll's comments about linebackers: The other day I asked Pete Carroll why the linebackers were moving off the pro personnel board slower than other positions. His response spoke volumes: "Our scouts and coaches really like the draftable linebackers; especially in the second and third rounds, we see guys that can do many things well." Sounds like a number of teams see it the same way but of course the Eagles weren't taking any chances waiting for first-round linebacker, Luke Kuechly as they traded for DeMeco Ryans.

4. Still no V.Y.: Seventeen quarterbacks have been signed in the first two weeks of free agency and none of them are named Vince Young. Considering that 14 of the 17 are backups, it could start to spell the end for Vince. I truly hope it's not the end and I hope a team gives him one more chance. I wonder if he's on the radar screen for Buffalo, Oakland, Green Bay or Tampa Bay?

5. You can still find a guard: With the talent pool at offensive guard being replenished with terminated players throughout the last two weeks, it is still possible for a team to sign a decent player at a good price. Still available: Bobby Williams (Cincinnati), Jake Scott (Tennessee), Eric Steinbach (Cleveland), Anthony Herrera (Minnesota), and Vernon Carey (Miami). All are still full-time starters and considering there should be 6-7 guards taken in the first three rounds, these guys may be ready to listen to offers.

6. April 1 will still have 400 unemployed: The average NFL team has about 55-60 players under contract right now. The draft will select 256 players, most of whom will make an NFL team. That will put rosters close to 70-75. That leaves about 10 spots for veterans per team, which means about 300 veterans will get signed if they are lucky. I know a number of good veteran players on the street already feeling the pinch. This is a very tough year for the marginal pro that plays special teams and is a backup. When April 1 comes around and some form of team activities can start up for teams with a new coach, guys may grab anything just to get on a roster. It is clearly going to be a buyers' market by this Monday.

7. The busy Patriots: The New England Patriots are quietly very busy. While some teams like Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Green Bay are just quiet and not doing much business, the Pats have been stock piling players. They like former No. 1 picks as indicated by the signing of Robert Gallery, Anthony Gonzalez, Will Allen and Donte Stallworth. They also grabbed other players like Jonathan Fanene, Daniel Fells, Trevor Scott, Marquice Cole and of course Brandon Lloyd. Of course, not all of them will make the 2011 AFC championship team but they will be trained and could be recalled in season. Always keep an eye on how Belichick does business. Since he really didn't spend big bucks on most of these guys; he will use the spring drills to evaluate and have an idea of where he has to go in the draft.

8. Houston fans are nervous: I get a lot of phone calls and emails on my Sirius Radio show from Texan fans that are beginning to worry. The fans were split on the possibility of Mario Williams coming back and when he signed with Buffalo they knew they lost a great player. The Eric Winston termination came as a shocker and the loss of guard Mike Brisiel to the Raiders made them feel like the offensive line, which was a strength, is now in question. Then came the DeMeco Ryans trade for modest compensation, and it sent fans into a tailspin.

9. What is Wallace thinking about: There is a story out there that Mike Wallace wants Larry Fitzgerald money. So does every other receiver in the NFL. Mike has a chance to hit a big pay day, but as a restricted free agent he has to decide does he want to present an offer from a team that the Steelers can match or one that they can't and he leaves.

For the record, Wallace can only present one team's offer if he presents one at all. He has to think about the risk of injury in 2012 while playing on a restricted tag. That the 49ers inquired about his services is intriguing to me if he wants a big pay day. He surely could trump the five-year $55 million deal Vincent Jackson signed and he could structure a deal that could satisfy his financial desires down the road in two or three years.

Right now he should be thinking about a deal that averages closer to $10 million to $11 million a year with a big roster bonus in the first year that the Steelers will struggle to match. If he doesn't, he might find himself on a franchise tag in 2013 which should be about $9 million to $10 million and he could be tagged again in 2014 for 120 percent of the 2013 number. What that means is Wallace could see $24 million to $25 million over the next three years from the Steelers or take a deal with a team like San Francisco and collect $30 million over the first three years.


Pat Kirwan has been around the league since 1972, serving in a variety of roles. He was a scout for the Cardinals and Buccaneers, a coach for the Jets as well as the team's Director of Player Administration where he negotiated contracts and managed the team's salary cap. He is the author of Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, and the host of Sirius NFL Radio's Moving the Chains.
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