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NFL Free Agency Winners and Losers

Mar 2, 2009 – 11:10 AM
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Ryan Wilson

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The first weekend of NFL free agency is in the books and FanHouse, never one to wait around, crowns the very early winners and losers.


Winners

New York Giants
While the Giants continue to see what the United States justice system has in store for Plaxico Burress, they used the first weekend of free agency to make their already good defense formidable. Defensive linemen Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard, and linebacker Michael Boley will all have immediate impacts and more than make up for the loss of a slew of mediocre defensive backs the team chose not to resign.

Added bonus: one more year of Mittens.

Washington Redskins
The Redskins have a history of going bonkers in free agency only to see it blow up in their face during the fall. The Dan Snyder era is littered with high-priced missteps -- Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jeremiah Trotter, Jeff George (!) and Adam Archuleta immediately come to mind. There have also been successes -- Shawn Springs and London Fletcher, for example -- but the perception (based in reality) remains: Snyder falls in love with big-named, high-priced, possibly over-the-hill talent. Often.

The most recent example came last weekend when the Redskins signed Albert Haynesworth to a $100 million contract, except unlike most of his free-agent predecessors, Haynesworth is in the prime of his career and arguably the best defensive tackle in football. Last season, Washington was the worst team in the league at pressuring the quarterback, and Haynesworth fills an obvious need.

Of course, the 'Skins also gave DeAngelo Hall $54 million, which seems like a lot given that he's been nothing more than average during his five-year career. The team also brought Derrick Dockery back to Washington after a two-year stint in Buffalo.

Overall, it's hard to say that Washington isn't a better team right now than they were Thursday evening. And even though it was an expensive weekend, maybe this will be the year Snyder finally gets it right. The audacity of hope, people.

Denver Broncos
Some wild and wacky stuff going on in Denver, but apart from the whole "hey, let's trade Jay Cutler for ... Matt Cassel!?" drama, the Broncos made out pretty well last weekend. The club's Achilles heel was its defense, and Josh McDaniels wasted little time in addressing the problem. Linebackers Andra Davis and Darrell Reid will bolster the front seven, and Brian Dawkins will improve the secondary by sheer force of will. (Safety Renaldo Hill and cornerback Andre' Goodman were also signed.)

Cutler -- assuming he's still on the roster come September -- will benefit from having Jabar Gaffney, who comes to Denver from New England. And JJ Arrington and Correll Buckhalter give the Broncos two quality running backs.

New York Jets
The only person unhappy with the Jets' weekend is Ray Lewis. New York gave Bart Scott a nice chunk of change to man the inside linebacker position, and in the process eliminated Lewis as a free-agent target. The team also worked a trade for cornerback Lito Sheppard, and that should allow for more blitz-happy schemes from new head coach Rex Ryan, an M.O. he perfected during his time as the Ravens' defensive coordinator.

Losers

Baltimore Ravens
It's only been three days, so it's premature to declare the offseason lost, but the Ravens certainly haven't improved in the last 72 hours. Gone are starting center Jason Brown, safety Jim Leonhard, cornerback Chris McAlister, linebacker Bart Scott and while we're waiting for Ray Lewis to make up his mind, cornerback Samari Rolle has decided he's had enough and wants out of town.

During the egress, the club did manage to sign cornerback Dominique Foxworth, although he's basically a younger, less skilled version of Rolle.

Again, there's plenty of time in the coming weeks and months to add quality players, but so far it hasn't happened for Baltimore.

Cleveland Browns
In general, free agency isn't the quickest road to the playoffs. The Redskins are perpetual proof of this. But the Browns, fresh off a four-win season, and a coaching staff turned upside down, haven't made a peep early in the process. Linebacker Andra Davis left for the Broncos, but other than that (and new head coach Eric Mangini trying to lure Shaun Rogers back into the building with promises of all-you-an-eat buffets), it's been quiet.

Just like the Ravens, the Browns will have opportunities to stock the roster, and maybe that's Mangini's plan: let the other teams haggle over top-of-the-list talent and then sift through the leftovers looking for undervalued players. Just like Bill Belichick taught him. The only problem is that the other teams in the division seem to be taking a similar approach, and Baltimore and Pittsburgh combined for 23 wins last season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When we look back on Raheem Morris' head coaching career, his first offseason could be -- for good or bad -- what defines his legacy. Just prior to free agency, the 32-year-old coach released five players -- all veteran contributors -- and it sent a clear message that this was no longer Jon Gruden's team. Gone were Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. And in January, the club made it clear that Jeff Garcia wouldn't be back.

On the plus side: Antonio Bryant was franchised, Michael Clayton was re-signed and the Bucs worked a trade for tight end Kellen Winslow, one of the league's most dangerous middle-of-the-field pass catchers with one noteworthy caveat: He's struggled to stay healthy during his five-year career.

Very early results: the roster is younger but it's hard to think the '09 Bucs will be better than the team that faded down the stretch last season and ultimately cost Gruden his job.
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