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New Names in Free Agency and for the Draft


Dallas CowboysThis was dump the veterans week in the NFL, with a number of players released in salary cap moves. Dallas said goodbye to Drew Bledsoe, while other teams let go of such players as Joey Porter, Joe Horn, and Keenan McCardell. Here is more complete list:

Here is a more complete list of transactions:

_Wide receiver Keenan McCardell, who turned 37 in January, was released by San Diego. He had 36 catches last year, his 15th in the NFL. San Diego also let go two troubled players: linebacker Steve Foley, who missed the season after being shot by a policeman, and safety Terrence Kiel, who pleaded guilty last month to felony and misdemeanor drug charges for shipping codeine-based cough syrup to Texas.

_San Francisco waived receiver Antonio Bryant, just one season after signing him to a lucrative four-year, free-agent contract. Bryant caught 40 passes for a team-leading 733 yards last season, but repeatedly ran afoul of coach Mike Nolan’s disciplinary standards. Bryant was arrested in November after a wild escapade in his orange Lamborghini, and he later angered Nolan for being late to a team meeting. Bryant ended last season midway through a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

_Pittsburgh cut linebacker Joey Porter, an outspoken sack specialist whose trash-talking was one of the subplots leading up to the 2006 Super Bowl, won by the Steelers.

_Minnesota released three former starters: cornerback Fred Smoot, tight end Jermaine Wiggins and tackle Mike Rosenthal.

_Mike Alstott, the six-time Pro Bowl fullback who considered retirement after each of the past two seasons, signed a one-year contract with Tampa Bay.

_The New York Jets locked up receiver Jerrico Cotchery on a long-term deal.

_Giants center Shaun O’Hara took himself out of the free-agent market on Thursday night, signing a multiyear contract. Earlier, starting safety Gibril Wilson and two other restricted free agents were tendered offers.

_Seattle tendered offers to six restricted free agents, including offensive tackle Sean Locklear, receiver D.J. Hackett and defensive back Jordan Babineaux.

_Detroit re-signed linebacker Alex Lewis to a three-year contract.

A couple of other veterans stayed on by extending their contracts.

One was the oft-injured running back Fred Taylor, who now is signed with Jacksonville through 2010. The other is 35-year-old defensive lineman Bryant Young, the last member of the San Francisco 49ers from the Super Bowl years. Young, who was a rookie on the team that won the title after the 1994 season, agreed to stay on for one more year, to help lead the team both in the locker room and on the field.

Detroit and Denver agreed to a deal that will send cornerback Dre’ Bly to the Broncos for offensive tackle George Foster, running back Tatum Bell and a fifth-round draft pick. The deal, which won’t become official until Friday, when the free-agent period starts, was confirmed by someone with knowledge of the deal who asked to remain anonymous, because it had not yet been finalized.

And Carolina got under the $109 million cap by renegotiating the contracts of quarterback Jake Delhomme, and defensive end Mike Rucker and linebacker Dan Morgan.

Of the players available, the only one who appears to stand out as a possible target would be porter. The official fan forums has a thread on this here, and several fans support going after him.

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As discussed here, the four positions that the Cowboys might target in free agency include offensive line (guard and tackle), corner, safety, and receiver. According to this article on Yahoo, there are a few names that could emerge as potential picks after the combine.

Kansas State senior wide receiver Yamon Figurs: Ran the fastest time (4.3) of any offensive prospect in attendance. Has a very good combination of receiver and return man skills, which should translate well on draft day. So while many evaluators might have him rated as a mid-round pick, he’s much closer to a third-round prospect now than many more familiar names. He reminds some of a younger version of Deion Branch.

LSU senior safety LaRon Landry: While many expected him to produce solid workout numbers, no one could predict the blazing speed which had even his biggest fans glancing several times at their watches. He came across in the mid-4.3 range with some quick-twitch timers having him as fast as 4.29. The ability to use him in a variety of roles – he has savvy instincts, very good balls skills and the willingness to provide ample support against the run – could drive his stock toward the top 10 picks of the draft.

Arkansas junior cornerback Chris Houston: In our original Top 50 rating of the prospects and in a preview of defensive backs for the combine, this was a player I noted to keep close tabs on as someone who would jump to the forefront of his position. Houston did that with a superb all-around workout, including his 4.32/4.35 40-time, 27 bench reps and 36″ vertical. A very well-built cover corner that possesses the best set of man coverage skills in the draft, his rise toward the top of this class could end up with him being a top-12 to top-15 pick.

[Other] Defensive backs: This group as a whole was helped by the fact that NFL teams are genuinely in need of three things right now: premier pass blockers, pass rushers and cover corners. There are a handful of blockers and pass rushers on the free-agent market, but the corner position is almost barren of talent. The fact that we saw so many high-ranked defenders run in the 4.4 range or better bodes well for the group come draft day, as there could be at least two major runs on the position before the end of the first three rounds. The players most impacted by that could include Alabama State’s Michael Coe, UNLV’s Eric Wright, Georgia Tech’s Kenny Scott and Weber State’s Bo Smith.

Among the “losers” identified in this piece, two names showed up on some of the mock drafts.

California senior cornerback Daymeion Hughes: The All-American has great instincts and savvy coverage skills, but what he does not have is workout warrior numbers to match them. Many felt that he would fail to break into the 4.5 range in the 40, but his even slower than expected times (4.7 range) could cause him to fall out of the first round. He’s a fine athlete that consistently makes plays on game film, but zone coverage teams will have to limit how often he gets caught by himself without help over the top.

USC junior wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett: Jarrett said all the right things during the interview portion of his weekend, but he sounded like a player that knew he had limited workout skills since he repeatedly pointed to his stats and production as reasons he should be drafted high. However, by passing on the workout portion of the combine, he has raised a lot of eyebrows. He said that he was dealing with a hamstring injury that arose during training, but one of the other players that has been working out at the same pre-combine training location admitted that Jarrett’s testing times were slower than desired and that waiting another four or five 5 weeks until USC’s pro day probably would allow him the chance to slightly improve his times. However, breaking into the 4.6 range might still be a tall task for the ultra-productive receiver.

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