With the NFL's "legal tampering" period now in full swing, the free agency news and rumors are heating up. It's an odd and pretty ridiculous time in the NFL calendar, with agents and teams talking, but the players can't get involved and they cannot officially sign any deals. It just exists to make things complicated and to make Twitter explode.
Even so, this is an important period because teams begin to lay the foundation for the free agency period. Below, we have all the comings, going and whispers from Sunday's free agency happenings.
After a fantastic season, which was capped off with a Super Bowl title, Dannell Ellerbe has a chance to sign a big deal on the free agent market this summer and he will have plenty of suitors. The Baltimore Ravens used up a big chunk of cap room re-signing Joe Flacco and have decisions to make on several players so Ellerbe may fall out of their price range, forcing the linebacker to look elsewhere.
If Ellerbe does leave the Ravens, he will have his fair share of teams interested. Early on, it looks like the Indianapolis Colts are the leaders in the race to sign Ellerbe, but the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers are all showing early interest as well. His agent confirmed that several teams called about the linebacker as soon as the clock hit 12:01.
Robert Griffin III has enough injury problems at the moment to worry about whether or not he'll get pummeled every time he drops back to pass so the Washington Redskins took a step towards easing those concerns by re-signing Kory Lichtensteiger. According to Mark Maske, the left guard agreed to a new five-year contract that will be signed in the coming days. Lichtensteiger should help keep Griffin safe, as well as helping keep the Redskins running game ticking.
Sean Smith intends to be paid like one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. The question is whether somebody will give him the contract he is looking for.
The Miami Dolphins declined to use the franchise tag on Smith, making him a free agent, and he's hoping for a deal in the five-year, $40-50 million range that Jason McCourty and Brandon Carr got a year ago. But Smith has rarely played like one of the best cornerbacks in the league. He has just five interceptions in his four-year career and last season he gave up more combined first downs and touchdowns than any other cornerback in the NFL.
If Smith does not get the deal he wants, he may return to the Dolphins. For now, he will look around and hope that somebody believes in him to the tune of $40+ million and $20 million guaranteed.
Jordan Gross has been one of the few bright spots for the Carolina Panthers in recent years, but that doesn't mean he is immune to his team's cap troubles. With the Panthers trying to cut salary to get under the cap and maybe even give themselves some money to spend as a team that could use help, they have asked Gross to restructure his contract.
If Gross agrees, he will be doing the team a favor, but it doesn't appear as if this is the kind of restructuring where base salary become a bonus so it can be counted against the cap differently. The Panthers appear to be asking Gross to take a pay cut. Whether he agrees is still a mystery.
Ricky Jean-Francois is going to be one of the more interesting players on the free agent market. A talented defensive tackle who has impressed with the San Francisco 49ers, Jean-Francois has not gotten the chance to start on a stout San Francisco defense. Now that he is a free agent, he appears ready to head elsewhere if it means a chance to start for the first time in his career, even if his stated preference is to remain a 49er.