Scrambling begins for top free agents

Howard Balzer, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


Let the scrambling begin.
With free agency set to begin at 4 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, an open negotiating period will also commence at the stroke of midnight Friday.
Knowing that clandestine talks were usually held anyway in the past between teams and agents prior to the official start of the league year, the new guidelines were put into effect.
No contracts can be signed and there can't be direct contact with players, but financial parameters can be set for those players that become unrestricted free agents Tuesday.
One player that won't be able to benefit from that is Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed because he doesn't have an agent.
Reed said on NFL Network this week, "I haven't spoken to anyone. Hopefully, that call comes soon."
He was talking about the Ravens because, as Reed noted, "I'm a Raven, I plan on being a Raven. I couldn't see me anywhere else right now."
Of course, he then added, "If it happens, I'm a football player. I can adapt to any situation."
Numerous teams got increasingly busy Friday because all must be at or below the salary cap of $123 million for the top 51 players by Tuesday's deadline. Tenders for franchise players, restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents all are potentially included in the top 51.
Several defensive backs were part of cuts made Friday: Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble, Arizona safety Adrian Wilson, Jacksonville safety Dawan Landry and cornerback Aaron Ross and San Diego safety Atari Bigby.
Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins retained two of their unrestricted free agents, signing wide receiver Brian Hartline to a five-year, $$30.775 million contract and backup quarterback Matt Moore to a two-year, $8 million deal.
Cincinnati re-signed punter Kevin Huber and long snapper Clark Harris. Huber's deal is believed to be in the same neighborhood as the five-year, $18.75 million deal signed earlier this week by Kansas City Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt.
Accounting for recent transactions, the following is the latest list of top free agents available. Those players released are able to sign before the start of the league year. The numbers in parentheses are the franchise and transition tags for each position.

Quarterbacks ($14.896/$13.068 million)
Jason Campbell, Chicago
David Carr, N.Y. Giants
Drew Stanton, Indianapolis
Matt Leinart, Oakland
Brady Quinn, Kansas City

Running Backs ($8.219/$6.970 million)
Steven Jackson, St. Louis
Reggie Bush, Miami
Shonn Greene, N.Y. Jets
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh
Cedric Benson, Green Bay
Ahmad Bradshaw (released by Giants)
Best of the rest: Michael Turner (released by Falcons); Felix Jones, Dallas; LaRod Stephens-Howling, Arizona

Wide Receivers ($10.537/$8.867 million)
Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh
Greg Jennings, Green Bay
Wes Welker, New England
Devery Henderson, New Orleans
Best of the rest: Jerome Simpson, Minnesota; Danny Amendola, St. Louis; Steve Breaston (released by Chiefs); Ted Ginn, San Francisco; Joshua Cribbs, Cleveland

Tight Ends ($6.066/$5.194 million)
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta (expected to retire)
Dustin Keller, N.Y. Jets
Fred Davis, Washington
Delanie Walker, San Francisco
Martellus Bennett, N.Y. Giants
Best of the rest: Jared Cook, Tennessee; Anthony Fasano, Miami; James, Casey, Houston; David Thomas (released by Saints)

Tackles ($9.828/$8.709 million)
Ryan Clady, Denver (franchised)
Jake Long, Miami
Branden Albert, Kansas City (franchised)
Andre Smith, Cincinnati
Sebastian Vollmer, New England
Best of the rest: Phil Loadholt, Minnesota; Eric Winston (released by Chiefs); Gosder Cherilus, Detroit; Sam Baker, Atlanta; Jermon Bushrod, New Orleans; Bryant McKinnie, Baltimore; Winston Justice, Indianapolis

Guards ($9.828/$8.709 million)
Andy Levitre, Buffalo
Brandon Moore, N.Y. Jets
Kory Lichtensteiger, Washington
Lance Louis, Chicago
Louis Vasquez, San Diego
Best of the rest: Stephen Peterman (released by Lions); Ramon Foster, Pittsburgh; Kevin Boothe, N.Y. Giants

Defensive Ends ($11.175/$9.151 million)
Michael Bennett, Tampa Bay
Michael Johnson, Cincinnati (franchised)
Cliff Avril, Detroit
Osi Umenyiora, N.Y. Giants
John Abraham (released by Falcons)
Best of the rest: Robert Geathers, Cincinnati; Kyle Vanden Bosch (released by Lions); Israel Idonije, Chicago

Defensive Tackles ($8.45/$7.039 million)
Henry Melton, Chicago (franchised)
Randy Starks, Miami (franchised)
Chris Canty, (released by Giants)
Sammie Lee Hill, Detroit
Corey Williams, Detroit
Best of the rest: Cullen Jenkins (released by Eagles); Sedrick Ellis, New Orleans

Outside Linebackers ($9.619/$8.358 million)
Anthony Spencer (DE), Dallas (franchised)
Paul Kruger (DE), Baltimore
Dwight Freeney (DE), Indianapolis
Shaun Phillips, San Diego
Connor Barwin, Houston
Best of the rest: Calvin Pace (released by Jets); Michael Boley (released by Giants); Erik Walden, Green Bay

Inside Linebackers ($9.619/$8.358 million)
Dannell Ellerbe, Baltimore
Scott Shanle, New Orleans
Rey Maualuga, Cincinnati
Brian Urlacher, Chicago
Bart Scott (released by Jets)
Best of the rest: Stewart Bradley (released by Cardinals)

Cornerbacks ($10.854/$9.095 million)
Brent Grimes, Atlanta
Sean Smith, Miami
Mike Jenkins, Dallas
Derek Cox, Jacksonville
Cary Williams, Baltimore
Best of the rest: Chris Gamble (released by Panthers); Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Philadelphia; Dunta Robinson (released by Falcons); Bradley Fletcher, St. Louis; Chris Houston, Detroit; Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo; Aqib Talib, New England; Nate Clements, Cincinnati

Safeties ($6.916/$6.002 million)
Dashon Goldson, San Francisco
Jairus Byrd, Buffalo (franchised)
William Moore, Atlanta
Glover Quin, Houston
Ed Reed, Baltimore
Best of the rest: Louis Delmas, Detroit; Kenny Phillips, N.Y. Giants; Corey Lynch, San Diego; LaRon Landry, N.Y. Jets; Dawan Landry (released by Jacksonville); Adrian Wilson, Arizona (released by Cardinals); Eric Smith (released by Jets)

Kickers ($2.977 million)
Phil Dawson, Cleveland
Josh Brown, Cincinnati
Lawrence Tynes, N.Y. Giants
Jason Hanson, Detroit
Nick Folk, N.Y. Jets

Punters ($2.977 million)
Shane Lechler, Oakland
Donnie Jones, Houston
Pat McAfee, Indianapolis (franchised)

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