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Archive for Saturday, July 30, 2011

Less time for signings means more excitement in NFL

July 30, 2011

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Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha ... intercepted!

Running back DeAngelo Williams ... brought down deep in his own territory!

Defensive end Ray Edwards ... here comes the sack dance — with two overstuffed bags of cash!

The NFL stormed back into the headlines this week for the right reasons. After nearly five months of bitter arguing with players, and the ever-looming threat of the season being canceled, the country’s most popular sports league stumbled onto something that just works.

Here’s a vote for reducing the free-agency period to a wild few days when players are flying around everywhere.

Asomugha, formerly of the Oakland Raiders, was the prize of this free-agent class. It was widely reported Friday that there were two teams in the running for his services: the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets. Up pop the Philadelphia Eagles and pick him off, capping a 24 hours in which they made another big splash by trading quarterback Kevin Kolb to Arizona for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick.

Carolina’s Williams, the best running back in free agency, decided to stay with his old team, a trend that was repeated throughout the league. Pittsburgh held on to cornerback Ike Taylor. The Jets kept their best receiver, Santonio Holmes. Atlanta right tackle Tyson Clabo will keep protecting the front side of Matt Ryan.

Those same Falcons made former Minnesota defensive end Edwards a six-million-dollar man, signing him to a deal reportedly worth $30 million over five years, an early example of how the new collective bargaining agreement encourages teams to spread money among veterans rather than spending it all on rookies.

That’s another great aspect of this new, accidental week of excitement: the signing of rookies has been greeted with minimal fanfare, as it should be. Yes, a few of them have major impacts in their first season, but most get far too much attention relative to their first-year footprint on a franchise.

When reports spread Friday afternoon that No. 1 pick Cam Newton had reached an agreement with the Panthers, hardly anyone lifted their heads to notice. That wasn’t a knock on Newton, but there was too much going on with players who have already accomplished something in the pros.

What’s more, the money the Panthers will pay Newton is much more in line with what the top rookie should make. The deal has been widely reported as four years, $22 million. A year ago, St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford signed the largest contract ever for a rookie — six years, $78 million with $50 million in guarantees.

In less than a week, we’ve gone from talk of locked-out players to lock-down corners, from gavels to sledgehammers, from legal eagles to the ones that landed Asomugha.

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