Samuel signing, Jets trades are the biggest splashes on opening day of free agency Print
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Friday, 29 February 2008 19:48
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 The Philadelphia Eagles landed what was considered the biggest prize in this year's NFL free-agent sweepstakes.
The New York Jets traded an unhappy defensive player to New Orleans and traded for one from Carolina.
Those were the big moves as the NFL's free-agent period began Friday, a day marked by trades that were more interesting than free-agent signings.
The Eagles made the biggest splash by signing Asante Samuel, the former Patriots cornerback who tied for the league lead in interceptions with 10 last season. Philadelphia had only had 11 interceptions all year.
They paid a reported $57 million over six years with $20 million of it guaranteed, comparable to the $80 million that cornerback Nate Clements got for eight years from San Francisco last year.
``We regarded Asante as the No. 1 available free agent in the NFL,'' Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said
But how much that will help the Eagles in the NFC East remains to be seen. They finished last at 8-8 in the NFC's best division, which includes the Super Bowl champion Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, whose 13-3 record was the best in the conference. San Francisco, which spent big for Clements last season, finished 5-11, a record the Eagles hope isn't in their future
Samuel had been protected last season as the Patriots' franchise player, but was allowed to go this year. He was one of the defensive keys last season to New England's run to 18-0 before its Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants. He had an interception that sealed a three-point win over Philadelphia during that unbeaten run.
But he was less than perfect in the Giants' 17-14 upset win in the Super Bowl, allowing David Tyree to get loose for a touchdown and muffing a potential winning interception with less than 2 minutes left during the Giants' winning touchdown drive.
Also, Isaac Bruce agreed to a two-year deal with San Francisco, one day after St. Louis released one of the most prolific receivers in NFL history.
An NFL source, speaking on condition of anonymity because the contract hadn't been signed yet, said Bruce chose to stay in the NFC West with the 49ers after 14 seasons with the Rams. The deal is worth $6 million.
Bruce will be reunited with 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who ran the Rams' offense during the team's two most recent trips to the Super Bowl.
The Jets, meanwhile, traded for defensive tackle Kris Jenkins from Carolina and dealt linebacker Jonathan Vilma, the 2004 defensive rookie of the year to New Orleans. Vilma's problem: a 4-3 middle linebacker, he didn't fit in well to Eric Mangini's 3-4 defense.
In another major trade, Detroit traded Shaun Rogers to Cleveland instead of dealing the defensive tackle to Cincinnati, a person familiar with the moves told The Associated Press.
The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Lions and Browns were not commenting on the trade, said Detroit acquired cornerback Leigh Bodden and a third-round pick from Cleveland after the deal with Cincinnati fell through.
Detroit previously was set to get Cincinnati's third- and fifth-round picks, a deal still posted on the Bengals' team Web site late Friday night.
Vilma, who missed the last nine games of the 2007 season with a knee injury, had 118 tackles as a rookie after being the No. 12 overall draft pick in 2004. He led the NFL the following season with 187 tackles and made the Pro Bowl.
That changed in 2006, when the Jets switched defenses and Vilma had just 116 tackles. He played in seven games last season before injuring his knee and had 39 tackles. The Jets eventually gave him permission to shop for a new home and he found it on Friday. New York will receive a fourth-round pick for Vilma, which with incentives could be upgraded to a third or possibly a second.
``I enjoyed my four seasons with the Jets and thank them for the opportunities they gave me,'' Vilma said. ``But this represents a new chapter in my football career and in my life and I am truly excited and fortunate to be joining a team that just a little over a year ago was one win away from appearing in the Super Bowl.''
Jenkins, whose play fell off the past two years, was obtained for third- and fifth-round draft picks. The 349-pounder is expected to move to nose tackle after signing a new five-year contract worth $35 million, including $20 million in guaranteed money.
``Kris is extremely excited to be going to New York,'' said Jenkins' agent, Tony Paige. ``He leaves Carolina with no malice or anything like that and is grateful they drafted him and gave him a chance to play. He had a lot of great memories there.
Meanwhile, two quarterbacks stayed put: Derek Anderson in Cleveland and Todd Collins in Washington.
Anderson, who came off the bench after the first game to lead Cleveland to a 10-6 record, signed a multiyear contract to stay with the Browns, who traded up to take Brady Quinn with the 22nd overall pick last year. He agreed to the deal hours after he became a restricted free agent.
``This is where I want to be,'' Anderson said. ``I told my agent, `Let's do the right things to get that taken care of.' In my heart, I knew I was going to get back.''
The 36-year-old Collins, who took the Redskins to the playoffs after taking over for an injured Jason Campbell agreed to a three-year, $9 million contract to stay put. Coach Jim Zorn already has said that he will remain Campbell's backup next season.
In addition to getting a deal done with Anderson, the Browns acquired defensive tackle Corey Williams from Green Bay for a second-round draft pick. The Browns then signed Williams to a six-year deal. Financial terms were not immediately available.
The 6-foot-4, 313-pound Williams, who tied a career high with seven sacks last season, was designated as the Packers' franchise player last week.
In other deals Friday:
-Linebacker Kawika Mitchell signed with Buffalo after having a career season in his only year with the Giants. He finished with 3 1/2 sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown and had two more sacks in the playoffs, including one in the Super Bowl.
-Denver released discontented wide receiver Javon Walker and linebacker Ian Gold. Walker spent two seasons in Denver after being acquired in a trade from Green Bay and had 95 receptions for 1,371 yards and eight touchdowns.
-San Diego re-signed backup QB Billy Volek, who led the Chargers to a playoff win in Indianapolis in relief of the injured Philiip Rivers.
-Oakland signed safety Gibril Wilson, who like Mitchell started for the Giants in the Super Bowl, to a $39 million, six-year deal.
-Minnesota signed safety Madieu Williams and fullback Thomas Tapeh. Williams, who played his first four seasons in Cincinnati, replaces Dwight Smith, who was cut and signed with Detroit; Tapeh, a former Eagle, will replace free-agent Tony Richardson, a Pro Bowl player in 2007.;
-Jacksonville formally completed a trade with Minnesota for former first-round draft pick Troy Williamson and signed another wide receiver, former Raider Jerry Porter. They also signed former Dolphin Cleo Lemon as their backup quarterback.
-Kick returner Allen Rossum signed with the San Francisco 49ers, his fifth NFL team. Rossum, who played by Pittsburgh last season also played for Philadelphia and Green Bay.
-Miami signed former Jacksonville wide receiver Ernest Wilford and defensive end Sean Ryan from the Jets and traded for nose tackle Jason Ferguson from Dallas. They also added journeyman Josh McCown to compete for the quarterback job.
-Atlanta re-signed quarterback Chris Redman.
-Houston re-signed receiver and return man Andre' Davis, who had returned three kickoffs for touchdowns last season.
-St. Louis kicker Jeff Wilkins announced his retirement, leaving St. Louis with just three players left from their Super Bowl winner in 2000.
 

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