NFL’S silly sea­son kicks of­fwith the start of free agency

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY BARRY WIL­NER

Open for busi­ness, wild as it might get. The NFL’S cal­en­dar turns to­ward a new sea­son Tues­day when free agency be­gins. As if there hasn’t been enough news with the Pey­ton Man­ning tour, boun­ties in New Or­leans and vet­er­ans be­ing cut by their teams, now comes the ros­ter feed­ing frenzy.

Four-time MVP Man­ning is, of course, the top free agent af­ter he was re­leased last week by In­di­anapo­lis. So far, he’s met only with Den­ver and Ari­zona.

Man­ning did not show at Mi­ami’s head­quar­ters Mon­day de­spite spec­u­la­tion he would meet with the team.

Dol­phins owner Stephen Ross ar­rived at the team com­plex at mid­morn­ing, and sev­eral play­ers — in­clud­ing quar­ter­back Chad Henne — showed up around the same time to work out. Henne is a free agent and not ex­pected back this sea­son.

A me­dia stake­out at the com­plex be­gan when a lo­cal TV sta­tion cam­era crew ar­rived at 4 a.m. Half a dozen TV cam­eras and a hand­ful of re­porters even­tu­ally gath­ered across the street.

While Man­ning is pur­sued, many other game-chang­ers, such as Ray Rice, Wes Welker, Matt Forte and De­sean Jack­son, were given fran­chise tags and will re­quire com­pen­sa­tion if they switch teams.

Still, there are dozens of en­tic­ing op­tions, from Mario Wil­liams to Mario Man­ning­ham, from Vin­cent Jack­son to Matt Flynn.

“You go into pro free agency to try to ad­dress a need, hope­fully not needs,” Jaguars gen­eral man­ager Gene Smith said. “You want to get a cou­ple of play­ers out of it that can come in here and help you right away. You’re look­ing for a qual­ity starter or maybe try­ing to fill a sit­u­a­tional role on your team. But fill­ing huge holes, that’s not where you want to be.”

Ad­dress­ing those needs is best done in the draft. But that grab bag isn’t un­til late April, by which time many teams will have spent many mil­lions of dol­lars on free agents.

Sev­eral oth­ers will let play­ers walk to clear salary cap space.

A few teams were busy plac­ing ten­ders on re­stricted free agents to avoid los­ing them with­out com­pen­sa­tion. Pitts­burgh did so with Pro Bowl re­ceiver Mike Wal­lace and five oth­ers.

Buf­falo did the same with of­fen­sive line­men Chad Rine­hart and Kraig Ur­bik. San Fran­cisco ten­dered cor­ner­back Tra­maine Brock and line­backer Larry Grant.

Cincin­nati re-signed four po­ten­tial free agents: full­back Chrispress­ley, run­ning back Cedric Peer­man, line­backer Vin­cent Rey and de­fen­sive tackle Nick Hay­den.

The New York Jets said their top pri­or­ity in free agency was keep­ing nose tackle Sione Pouha and the seven-year veteran agreed to a three-year deal Mon­day.

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