SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: Wide Receiver Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers runs after the catch against the Kansas City Chiefs during their NFL Game on September 25, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San DIego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
As expected, the big money was flowing early in free agency as Vincent Jackson signed a $55 million deal and the Bills hope to make Mario Williams the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. Here's a run down of day one in free agency.
As usual, several big money deals were done in the first few hours of the NFL free agency period. Vincent Jackson is signed and Carl Nicks may be right behind him. Brandon Marshall was traded and Reggie Wayne returned to Indy. The Redskins were quick to add receivers and Matt Flynn and Peyton Manning are still unsigned.
It was a busy day.
There's still plenty to come as most of the top free agents have yet to sign. Here's a run down of what we saw in day one of free agency.
The Brandon Marshall trade kicks off free agency. Right as the clock was hitting 4 p.m. (ET), news came down that the Chicago Bears had acquired Marshall from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for two third round picks. Talk about a surprise. I didn't see this one coming at all. The Bears were widely considered to be one of the potential suitors for Vincent Jackson but there's no need anymore. Marshall is now reunited with Jay Cutler after the pair spent three seasons together in Denver.
But the biggest surprise of free agency so far is Reggie Wayne returning to Indy. Remember how he and Peyton Manning were going to be a "package deal"? Apparently not. Wayne stunned everyone when he agreed to a three-year contract with Colts to remain in Indy. Wow. I didn't see this one coming. Wayne will now be paired with Andrew Luck, the presumptive No. 1 pick next April.
The Bucs are the early winners in free agency. I know, I know. You don't "win" free agency, as the 2011 Eagles taught us, but the Bucs are adding some major talent. They signed the No. 1 receiver on the market in Vincent Jackson to a five-year, $55 million deal. They've also reportedly signed Carl Nicks, the No. 1 offensive lineman on the market, to a five-year, $47.5 million deal. Oh, and they signed Eric Wright for over $30 million. The Bucs had the most salary cap space of any team entering free agency and they're using it quickly.
The Redskins start adding receivers for RG3. The Redskins are expected to select Robert Griffin III in April's draft and they spent the first day of free agency finding him some receivers. Less than 90 minutes into free agency, the Redskins signed former Colts WR Pierre Garcon to a five-year, $42.5 million deal. Shortly after that, they signed Josh Morgan to a five-year deal. Other reports have them in the mix for Eddie Royal. I thought these weren't the same old Redskins? Mike Shanahan is wasting no time in surrounding RG3 with talent.
Buffalo gets the first shot at Mario Williams. The No. 1 free agent on the board (well, besides Peyton Manning) surprised us and visited Buffalo first. The Bills plan to make him a huge offer that will make him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. Reports on Tuesday night said he has another visit scheduled but the Bills don't want him to leave Buffalo. Bills GM Buddy Nix said earlier this week that Buffalo would make a "big splash" early in free agency and then get out by Friday. Signing Williams would be a good start.
Cortland Finnegan sets the cornerback market in St. Louis. Finnegan is reunited with his former Titans coach, Jeff Fisher, in St. Louis. He agreed to a five-year, $50 million deal. Finnegan and Chiefs CB Brandon Carr were the top two players in what was considered a weak cornerback class. Finnegan got $10 million per year. How much does Carr get if he ends up signing with the Dallas Cowboys?
Matt Flynn market not as hot as expected? We thought Matt Flynn, the former Packers QB, would be a hot commodity in free agency. Maybe he is but we're having trouble identifying his suitors. Reports on Tuesday night said Cleveland was negotiating with him but then a Wednesday morning report said, actually, Cleveland is not negotiating with him. The Dolphins are another team said to be interested in Flynn but they're still hoping to win the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. Maybe Flynn isn't as coveted as we thought.
Saints could replace No. 1 free agent guard with No. 2 free agent guard. The Saints let Carl Nicks, the No. 1 free agent guard, hit the open market. They're now having Ben Grubbs, the No. 2 free agent guard, in for a visit. Nicks is better than Grubbs but not by a whole lot. Grubbs may end up being a better value so I think this could end up being a smart move for New Orleans.
RT Eric Winston drawing plenty of interest. The Houston Texans stunned more than a few people when they released Winston on Monday night. He hasn't had any trouble finding interest on the free agent market as at least 10 teams have contacted his agent. He has visits set up with the Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams. Part of free agency isn't just the guys that are scheduled to be free agents. It's the surprise cuts, like Winston. Someone is going to unexpectedly land one of the top offensive tackles in the game.
Brandon Lloyd hasn't signed with the Patriots, yet. But I think most people still feel that will happen. Lloyd didn't receive a ton of interest on day one of free agency -- he does have a visit scheduled with the 49ers -- and I'm wondering if that's because many around the league felt he was New England bound. Lloyd would be a big coup for San Francisco, who signed Randy Moss this week, but I still think New England is where he lands.
Backup quarterback market is drying up. Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn are viewed as the only two potential starting quarterbacks in free agency. Neither of them have signed. The backup quarterback market is now starting to shrink. Jason Campbell joined the Bears, which means they'll never go through the Caleb Hanie experiment again like they did last year. Kyle Orton is visiting the Cowboys, and a deal could get done there. Chad Henne has visits set up with the Seahawks and Jaguars. David Garrard is still out there, though.