Free-agency winners and losers


The three-day negotiating period that gave agents a chance to shop their clients to teams before the start of free agency accomplished one obvious thing.

Agreements in free agency were faster than ever. In the first three days of free agency alone, roughly 70 deals were reached for unrestricted free agents moving to new teams. In those three days, more than $927 million was spent and more than $500 million of cap room remained.

But there was one problem: the negotiating window needs the help of doctors. Getting a deal can be easy, but the league and the NFLPA must find a way for bidding teams to get some medical reports during the negotiating window. The Oakland Raiders found that out when they had to void Rodger Saffold's five-year, $42.5 million contract because of shoulder problems. The New York Giants agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal for O'Brien Schofield, but apparently he has injury concerns.

Quickening the pace of free agency can be a good thing, but the pace can be too fast for the teams and the players if the medical reports aren't allowed.

Saffold lost money when his contract was voided, taking his $8.5 million-a-year deal off the books. He was fortunate to have the St. Louis Rams ready to take him back, but he lost millions.

The Raiders, in the meantime, were embarrassed. They allowed tackle Jared Veldheer to move to Arizona for $1.5 million less than what Saffold accepted. By the time Saffold had his physical, the other top tackles were gone. They had to wait for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to cut Donald Penn later in the week to get a new left tackle option.

Maybe that's asking too much, though. Teams don't want to lose top free agents. They will know their competition if they receive calls from the teams interested in those players. Plus, the player has to approve those medicals being seen.

Because these pending free agents are all part of a union, maybe a pool of medical information can be available for teams as they approach free agency. What you want to fix is that sick feeling after a top free agent agrees to a big deal and then has it shot down by a doctor.

Here are the winners and losers from the start of free agency.


1. Denver Broncos: How can you not like how John Elway runs the Broncos? First, he picks up Peyton Manning and makes the Broncos an instant Super Bowl contender. Each year he carves out enough cap room to make big plays in free agency. Last year's additions of guard Louis Vasquez, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and defensive tackle Terrence Knighton helped move the Broncos from the playoffs to the Super Bowl. This year he outdid himself. He put up $110 million in contracts and $60 million in guarantees for defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward. The Broncos learned something in the Super Bowl from the Seattle Seahawks.

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