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Falcons finagle four RFAs

The Falcons announced the signings of four restricted free agents Thursday.

Tackle Tyson Clabo, guard Harvey Dahl, guard Quinn Ojinnaka, and running back Jason Snelling are all back aboard on one-year contracts.

Snelling proved last year he can be a quality backup running back.  Clabo and Dahl are both good run-blockers, but Dahl is coming off an injury-plagued year.

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Brandon Johnson signs tender with Bengals

Add Bengals linebacker Brandon Johnson to the gang of restricted free agents that finally signed their tender on tax day.

Johnson will make $1.759 million contract as the team’s utility backup linebacker after signing Thursday.  He played very well last year when given the chance, and started in the postseason.

He will back up Keith Rivers on the weak side of the defense.

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It looks like Kerry Collins will stick in Tennessee

Collins is due $5.5 million this year, which seems prohibitive for a backup.  Coach Jeff Fisher indicated that money is not a concern, and Collins remains his No. 2 quarterback.

“Vince [Young] is the 1, Kerry is the 2 and Chris [Simms] is the No. 3,” Fisher told the Tennessean recently.

Kerry Collins has been absent from Tennessee’s offseason conditioning
program, but Fisher says Collins is slated to be at the team’s OTAs later in the month.  It sounds like the team won’t ask him to take a pay cut. 

The Titans are scheduled to pay Collins and Young $17.25 million combined in 2010.

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Max Jean-Gilles signs his RFA tender

The Eagles have announced that guard Max Jean-Gilles has inked his one-year restricted free agency tender, placing him under contract for the 2010 season.

Jean-Gilles, a fourth-round pick in 2006, has been a key reserve for the team, picking up 10 starts in 2008 and five in 2009 due to injury.

The former Georgia standout was tendered at the level of his original draft position.

The periods for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets with other teams ends today.  There’s no reason to believe that any offer sheets will be signed; only one has been executed to date.

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Bengals have tough call to make on Cedric Benson

C. benson.jpgThe Bengals hit a homerun with their two-year, $7 million contract for Cedric Benson last March.  The question is whether they want to take a crack at another deal for him.

Benson’s contract runs out at the end of 2010, and Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports there is no update on talks of a possible extension.  Benson was philosophical on the issue.

“That would be a great thing. In this business everyone wants to get the
big one
, the big check, Benson said.  “We don’t work to not get paid so that would be a
blessing and that would be great. I would be grateful for something
like that to present itself I’d love for that happen but if it don’t it
will one day.”

The offense is built around Benson, but the Bengals shouldn’t be in a rush to pay him again. If Benson performs well again, they could place the franchise tag on him.

Benson is only 27 years old, but going year-to-year with any veteran back seems like the smart play.

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Kirk Morrison inks his tender

nfl_morrison.jpgEven though linebacker Kirk Morrison led the Raiders in tackles for five straight years, the team tendered him at the third-round level only.

And yet there were no takers.

So with the period for signing players to offer sheets expiring tomorrow, Morrison said tonight, via Twitter, that he will be staying put.

Just walked into the facility and signed my tender
with the Raiders
,” Morrison said.  “I’m excited to see what the 2010 season holds.”

Amazingly, the Raiders could have used a first-round tender on Morrison for roughly the same base salary of $2.5 million.  The fact that they didn’t was a sure sign that he was available.

Morrison joined the team in 2005, appearing in every game and starting all but one.

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Acceleration of RFA tender signings shows that plenty of players don't want to fight

Two months ago, some agents privately were talking tough about the status of restricted free agents, specifically those players who would have been unrestricted free agents if the absence of a salary cap hadn’t pushed the threshold for unrestricted status from four years to six. 

My guys are not going to show,” one agent representing restricted free agents told Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal regarding offseason workouts.  Said
another agent, “If they want this fight, let’s have it right

Meanwhile, plenty of restricted free agents have signed their tender offers, placing them under contract for 2010 and giving them no leverage for a long-term deal.  Though the players are still entitled not to show up for voluntary offseason workouts, the decision to sign the tender is a gesture suggesting that the player wants to be part of the team for 2010, and that he intends to participate in the offseason program.

The frequency of the signings likely is accelerating because the period for inking offer sheets with other teams ends on Thursday.  But unless a player is signing the tender as a prelude to a trade, the decision to accept the tender offer essentially represents a decision to cave in and accept the offer that the team has placed on the table.

Also, keep in mind that signing the RFA tender does not guarantee the base salary, except for Chargers running back Darren Sproles, who had a guaranteed salary in 2009 under the franchise tag.  Thus, the team can rescind the tender before it is signed — and the team can also terminate the contract at no penalty after it is signed.

That said, many players have not signed their tender offers, and they possibly will wait until June 15 or beyond to do so.  But given that the players supposedly aren’t happy with the rules applicable to the uncapped year, more than a few have set aside their frustration and gone back to work.

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Sinorice Moss signs tender

Sinorice Moss rarely gets on the field for the Giants, but he’s had a knack for sticking on the team.

The former second round pick signed his one-year restricted free agent tender Wednesday, per a league source.

Currently the Giants’ fifth receiver, Moss is scheduled to make $1.176 million.

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Marshall gets $24 million guaranteed

Brandon Marshall wanted $10-million-per-year, and he got it.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports Marshall will get $50 million over the next five years as part of a four-year, $47 million extension tacked on to his scheduled $2.5 million salary in 2010.

The deal includes $24 million in guaranteed money, and close to $29 million in the first three years of the contract.  It’s not backloaded, although we’re looking forward to seeing more details to learn if there are any natural outs for Miami if things don’t go well.

This deal essentially matches Larry Fitzgerald’s last contract, although not in guaranteed money.  Still, it arguably makes Marshall the league’s highest paid receiver, depending on how you want to count the money.

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Jammal Brown won't be working out with the Saints

Saints left tackle Jammal Brown, who missed all of the 2009 season due to injury, is a restricted free agent.  He has yet to sign his one-year, $3.619 million tender offer, and he doesn’t plan to participate in the offseason workout program.

I don’t consider it a holdout.  I’m just patiently waiting,” Brown told Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Yeah, it’s not a holdout.  He’s only, um, holding out.  Patiently.

That said, the workouts are voluntary, and Brown isn’t under contract.  That said, he has traditionally taken part in the workouts.

“Of course I want to be there,” Brown said.  “I’ve been there every year in the past.  But I’ve got to let my agent
handle that part of the business.  He’s a good agent.  He’ll get it
figured out.”

It’s unlikely that Brown will sign an offer sheet before the window closes in two days.  And if he wants to be traded (he reportedly hinted at some West Coast teams possibly being interested), Brown will need to sign his contract first.

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Glazer: Jason Campbell will sign RFA tender today

Eight days after trading for the one remaining year on Donovan McNabb’s contract, the Redskins have acquired the rights to another quarterback for one year.

This time, it’s Jason Campbell, incumbent starter and restricted free agent.  Per Jay Glazer of FOX, Campbell will sign his one-year, $3.1 million tender offer.  Campbell was offered an amount that would have secured the Redskins a right to match any offer, and a first-round pick as compensation if they opted not to do so.  No team expressed any interest in signing him to an offer sheet.  (Curiously, they could have tendered him at nearly the same price with compensation in the form of a first-round pick and a third-round pick.)

Now that he’s under contract, he can be traded without delay.  It’s our understanding that this is the primary motivation for signing the tender.

For most restricted free agents, signing the tender offer guarantees nothing.  Franchise players (like Steelers kicker Jeff Reed) see their base salary become fully guaranteed upon signing the offer.

The exception this year is Chargers running back Darren Sproles, who was a franchise player in 2009.  The CBA suggests that all terms from last year’s contract — including the guaranteed payout — applies to the RFA tender.

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Jeff Reed will be signing his franchise tender soon

2008745382.jpgWith the Pittsburgh Steelers apparently adopting a new approach to players who have found trouble, or vice versa, another guy with a history of off-field allegations will soon be taking steps to ensure that his payday for 2010 isn’t yanked out from under him.

Per a league source, kicker Jeff Reed will be signing his franchise tender in the near future.  Reed will receive a guaranteed salary of $2.814 million this year.

Reed has had a couple of incidents since last year’s Super Bowl win.  In February, he was cited for disorderly conduct after beating up a paper towel dispenser at a convenience store.  In October, Reed was cited for public intoxication.

The source says that Reed had planned to sign the tender notwithstanding the recent trade of receiver Santonio Holmes.  Still, to the extent that the Steelers are adopting a “new sheriff in town” approach, it may be wise for Reed to attack the paper on which his contract is printed with a pen.

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Colts have had no contact with Marcus McNeill

Last week, we included in a “five moves that should be made” item for that the Colts should sign Chargers left tackle Marcus McNeill to an offer sheet.

Apparently, the item somehow morphed into a report that the Colts planned to do so.

We’ve since learned — and confirmed — that the Colts have had zero contact with McNeill.  So with only five days and change remaining before the expiration of the deadline for signing restricted free agents to offer sheets, it’s highly unlikely that the Colts will make a move.

In the remaining period of time, they’d have to reach out to McNeill, bring him in for a visit, negotiate a contract, consider whether to include a poison pill aimed at keeping the Chargers from matching the offer, and then work the thing out.  Meanwhile, the Colts are otherwise getting ready for the draft.

It therefore would be a shock if the Chargers fire up the engines five weeks after the period for talking to McNeill started — and only five days before the window slams shut.

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Saints got a bargain in Alex Brown

Free agency is often about timing.

The Saints haven’t been able to spend much this offseason because of the rules governing the uncapped year, but they have spent wisely.

Alex Brown is scheduled to make $5.5 million in his two-year contract, according to the Chicago Tribune.  That’s a very reasonable deal for a starter that played at a high level last year.

Compare Brown’s contract to the ones received by Aaron Kampman and Kyle Vanden Bosch.  We suspect most talent evaluators would prefer Brown to Vanden Bosch, and some might prefer him to Kampman because of injury problems.

Brown couldn’t get that type of money because he was released in April, and the Saints benefited.

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Nick Eason agrees to terms with Steelers

Defensive end Nick Eason will sign up for his fourth season with the Steelers Thursday.

John Harris of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports Eason agreed to terms Wednesday.  Eason started five games last year because of injuries, but should be a backup.

Eason also visited the Cardinals before deciding to stay with Pittsburgh.  (Take that, Whisenhunt!)

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Merriman signs injury waiver, not sure whether he'll participate in minicamps

Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman recently suggested that he’d be signing an injury waiver and reporting for offseason workouts with the team.  Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Merriman and the team have indeed agreed that, if he suffers a season-ending injury while working out with the team, he’ll receive the full amount of his 2010 salary of $3.269 million.

I see no point in not working out with the team,” Merriman said.  “I
wanted to do this.  I’m a big-picture guy. . . .  I’m going to be me.”

Five years ago, Merriman’s commitment to being himself made him one of the very rare rookies to refuse to sign a similar document and participate in minicamps and other offseason workouts before signing a contract.  Then again, it’s presently unclear whether Merriman will be only lifting and running with the team, or whether he’ll participate in on-field offseason practice sessions.

“I don’t know about minicamp or anything else,” Merriman said. “I’m taking it
one day at a time.”

Because he’s not under contract, Merriman can boycott all offseason practice sessions, voluntary and mandatory.  He also can hold out of training camp and the preseason without being subject to a fine.  Because Merriman’s RFA tender equates to 110 percent of his 2009 pay, his tender offer is not subject to reduction after June 15; thus, he can stay away from any and all activities until the eve of the regular season and receive his full salary — unless the Chargers rescind the tender offer.  

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Short-term deal for Kolb could be in the works

Earlier this evening, we explained that the 30 percent rule and the uncapped year prevent, as a practical matter, the Eagles from giving a long-term contract to new starting quarterback Kevin Kolb.

But that doesn’t preclude a short-term deal that would increase Kolb’s pay, via a signing bonus and the maximum increase of his base pay that the 30 percent rule will allow.

We’re hearing rumblings that, indeed, such a contract could be in the offing.  Whether it covers only 2010 or also encompasses 2011 remains to be seen.

Either way, the Eagles apparently recognize that it’s fundamentally unfair to pay Kolb more than 95 percent less than Donovan McNabb was due to earn.  Still, a long-term deal won’t be signed until 2011, at the earliest.

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30 percent rule makes extension very difficult for Kolb

NFL_kolb_250.jpgJason Cole of Yahoo! Sports recently reported that Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb was quietly making it known that he wouldn’t sign a long-term extension with the team if he wasn’t the starter in 2010.

Here’s the reality — it will be difficult if not impossible for the Eagles and Kolb to work out a market-value deal, given the application of the 30 percent rule, which limits the growth of renegotiated contracts in the uncapped year.

A league source with knowledge of the challenges that will be faced in extending deals for the likes of Kolb and Titans running back Chris Johnson explained the situation to us earlier today.  The low base salaries paid to players drafted late in round one (like Johnson) or early in round two (like Kolb) present an enormous obstacle to a renegotiated contract. 

There’s an exception to the 30 percent rule; signing bonuses don’t apply.  Fully funding a long-term deal via a combination of signing bonus and base salaries limited by the 30 percent rule, however, requires the team to pay a huge chunk of money up front.

“The only way a big, long-term deal can get done is with an enormous signing bonus in the range of $60 million,” the source said.  “What team is going to do that?”

For Kolb, the reality is that he’ll play out the 2010 season, and we’ll hear from plenty of writers and broadcasters how the man succeeding Donovan McNabb is making only 4.9 percent of the money that McNabb would have earned this year in Philly.  The truth is that the labor deal prevents a new contract from being negotiated before 2011.

So what if Kolb chooses to walk after 2010?  Though the rules applicable in 2011 aren’t yet known, the Eagles undoubtedly will be able to restrict Kolb in some fashion.  Then, the two sides can work out a fair and appropriate long-term deal.

Until then, Kolb bears the risk of a major injury that could make the Eagles (and any other team) unwilling to pay him big money.

Then again, the Eagles bear the risk of Kolb becoming a star in 2010, driving his leverage through the roof.  But if that happens, we have a feeling the Eagles won’t complain.

UPDATE:  We’re now hearing that a short-term fix could be in the works, aimed at increasing Kolb’s 2010 pay from $550,000.

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Nick Cole stays with Eagles

At a time when more than a few Philly regulars have left the team (voluntarily or otherwise), one player has decided to stay put.

The team announced today that offensive lineman Nick Cole has signed a one-year deal.

He had been a restricted free agent, undrafted in 2006.  Cole has appeared in 64 regular-season games with 22 starts.  He also has appeared in six playoff games, with four starts.

In 2009, Cole started every game, bouncing between left guard, right guard, and center.

The Eagles had tendered Cole at the second-round level.

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Joey Porter's contract details are in

Now that Joey Porter is out of legal hot water, he can focus on football again.

Based on his contract numbers detailed today by Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ website, Porter will have to play at a very high level to remain with the team for long.

Porter is scheduled to make $5.75 million base salaries in 2011 and 2012.  He’s scheduled to earn $1.25 million in base salary this year, although that doesn’t include bonus money.  His total reported three-year deal was $17.5 million, so he’s making $6 million including bonuses this season, at most. 

We said when Porter signed that that it looked like a panicked move for Arizona, but the structure of the contract would say how panicked.

This doesn’t seem so bad.  Porter is going to be paid well this year, but it’s not an outrageous sum if seen as a one-year contract.  Porter going to have to play much better than he did in 2009 (or 2007) to avoid hitting the market again next offseason.

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