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A Free-for-all
April 02, 2012
The football news has come fast and furious over the past two weeks—and it's not all Manning, Tebow and the Saints
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April 02, 2012

A Free-for-all

The football news has come fast and furious over the past two weeks—and it's not all Manning, Tebow and the Saints

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The first two weeks of the new league year were dominated by Peyton Manning's decision, Roger Goodell's hammer and the Jets' curious addition of a quarterback. Lost a bit in the shuffle were other moves and decisions that will have a profound impact on the 2012 season.


The Colts have yet to say whom they'll take with the first pick in April's draft. Prevailing opinion indicates it's Stanford QB Andrew Luck, but some coaches and scouts privately think Heisman winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor has more upside and should go first. At his March 21 pro day, Griffin wowed onlookers, including coaches Chuck Pagano of Indy and Mike Shanahan of the Redskins, who gave up a boatload of picks to move up to No. 2. The last time there was this level of debate over QBs expected to go one-two was in 1998, when the Colts took Peyton Manning first and the Chargers traded up from three to two to grab Ryan Leaf.


For the Bills to make their first playoff appearance in 13 seasons, G.M. Buddy Nix knew he had to upgrade a pass rush that has averaged 27.6 sacks since 2007, third lowest in the league. So he spent $100 million ($51 million guaranteed) on a six-year deal for Williams, the No. 1 pick in 2006, who had 53 sacks for the Texans, then signed 28-year-old Mark Anderson, who had 10 sacks last season with the Patriots, to a four-year, $27 million deal ($8 million guaranteed). With those two bracketing tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, offenses won't be able to slide their protections without creating opportunities that Buffalo's pass rushers can exploit.


Raheem Morris must be shaking his head. At this time last year Tampa Bay was coming off a 10--6 season and had one of the NFL's youngest rosters. But instead of using their abundant salary-cap space to sign a marquee free agent or two, the Bucs stood pat—then went 4--12, costing Morris his job as coach. This year no team was more aggressive in the first week of free agency. Within three days Tampa signed the top available wide receiver (Vincent Jackson), the No. 1--rated guard (Carl Nicks) and a potential starting cornerback (Eric Wright). Total cost: $140 million, of which nearly $73 million is guaranteed.


The 35-year-old receiver ended his one-year retirement by signing with the Niners on March 12. But does he have anything left? In 2010 he was traded by the Pats and cut by the Vikings, and had only six catches for 80 yards in eight games with the Titans. But San Francisco, which ranked 29th in passing yards, is desperate for a downfield threat: In last season's NFC-title-game loss to the Giants, Niners wideouts combined for just one reception, for three yards. If Moss can take the top off opposing defenses, free-agent signee Mario Manningham will be that much more effective underneath and Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis will be that much more dangerous in the seam. Underachieving fourth-year wideout Michael Crabtree might even take a step toward reaching his potential.


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