Five Quick-Hit Observations from Day 1 of 2012 NFL Free Agency

As expected, teams didn’t waste any time making a splash on Day 1 of the 2012 NFL free agency period. (Funny how so many deals get done minutes after the opening of free agency when teams and players aren’t supposed to talk to each other until then.) While the receivers stole the show on Tuesday, the biggest name on the market is still without a home. Below are quick-hit observations from the first day of the NFL free agency period.

1. The Bears and Brandon Marshall are a perfect marriage (at least for now).
Most of the speculation involving the Bears the past 24 hours was centered on Mario Williams. But it was another big name acquisition that rookie general manager Phil Emery had his eye on. The Bears have been without a prototypical l No. 1 receiver for decades but Marshall will change all of that. From what I’ve read, Marshall deeply respects Jay Cutler and the feeling is mutual. Cutler targeted Marshall early and often while in Denver and as long as the latter can keep his head on straight, this trade should benefit the Bears greatly. And while some Chicago fans were clamoring for Emery to sign Vincent Jackson, the Bears’ faithful have to be ecstatic about landing Marshall instead. As for the Dolphins, two third-round picks are nice but Miami is now left with Davone Bess, Brian Hartline and Clyde Gats as its top three receivers. The Dolphins lacked offensive talent coming into the offseason and today they just sent their top playmaker to Chicago. While they may have parted with a headache, they just created another need for themselves in the process.

2. The Redskins overpaid for Garcon, but they’ve upgraded their receiver corps nonetheless.
The Daniel Snyder-led Redskins have been overpaying free agents for the better part of a decade. So when I read that they gave Pierre Garcon a five-year, $42.5 million contract it was hardly surprising. There’s no doubt they overpaid for Garcon’s services, but at least the fit is good. The former Colt is very good after the catch, which certainly suits head coach Mike Shanahan’s West Coast offense. Along with Garcon, the Skins also added Josh Morgan and Eddie Royal, so a team that desperately needed more playmakers on offense has come out of the gates strong this offseason. Robert Griffin III should sleep easy tonight knowing that his future receiving corps just got dramatically better over the last 24 hours.

3. It’s good to see the Glazer Family spend some of the Bucs’ cap money.
Two years ago the Buccaneers won 10 games and nearly qualified for the playoffs mostly because of a weak schedule. So the Glazer Family decided that they weren’t going to spend money last offseason in order to improve a young team that still needed to be tweaked. (Oh sorry, unless you want to consider the six-year, $19.5 million contract they gave free agent punter Michael Koenen.) This year, however, the Bucs made a statement by signing Vincent Jackson on day one of free agency. Even though Jackson could be limited in new head coach Greg Schiano’s run-heavy offense, at least Tampa Bay is actually trying to make improvements to its roster. When healthy and you know, playing, Jackson is a multi-faceted receiver. He’s a deep threat, he has great hands, he runs excellent routes, and he blocks extremely well. He’s the complete package and while $26 million in guaranteed money is steep, at least the Glazers finally cracked open that checkbook of theirs.

4. I can’t see Mario Williams winding up in Buffalo.
If I were Mario Williams I would go on as many visits as were offered to me. Premier edge rushers aren’t exactly available down aisle three at Wal-Mart, so he might as well make the most of the opportunity that he’s been given. Thus, there’s no reason not to go to Buffalo and listen to what the Bills have to offer. Apparently they’re willing to pay him as the top defensive player in the league, which is obviously great for Williams. But at the end of the day I just can’t see Williams signing with a team that’s not a contender. Sure Buffalo came out of the gates hot last year and maybe Williams would be their missing piece. But Ryan Fitzpatrick eventually cooled off and the team’s play fell off a cliff. There’s no doubt that Williams would improve their chances greatly, but there has to be another team willing to pay his asking price. Granted, he may have to take less to go to a contender but at least he would have a legitimate shot at reaching a Super Bowl. With the Patriots in the same division as the Bills, I just don’t see Buffalo contending for a playoff spot soon.
UPDATE: As I was saying, Mario Williams is a perfect fit for Buffalo.

5. Weren’t the Colts rebuilding?
I have no idea what the Indianapolis Colts are doing these days. Last year proved how devoid of overall talent they had when Peyton Manning didn’t play a snap and the team fell apart. And with Peyton off to destinations unknown, the Colts have a long ways to go before being respectable again. After cleaning house last week by parting ways with players like Manning, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai and Gary Brackett, I thought the team was going to start over with a massive rebuilding project this offseason. Instead, they re-upped with 31-year-old Robert Mathis on a lucrative deal and today signed Reggie Wayne to a three-year, $17.5 million contract. Mathis, and to a lesser extent, Wayne, are still productive players but I’m just not sure what the Colts’ game plan is here. Are they rebuilding or are they just trying to hold onto the past in any way they can?

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Brandon Marshall reunited with Jay Cutler

Jay Glazer is reporting on Twitter that the Miami Dolphins have traded Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears for two 3rd round draft picks. This is huge news for Jay Cutler and the Bears, and many are speculating that the Dolphins are clearing out Marshall to make room for Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne. It also impacts the Vincent Jackson sweepstakes. We’ll see . . .

Bears say no on Marshall, but Burress remains an option

According to a report in the Chicago Sun Times, Bears’ GM Jerry Angelo is giving the idea of trading for Brandon Marshall a big fat “no,” but signing Plaxico Burress still remains an option.

Smith, who can’t comment on players under contract with other teams, harshly said ”no” when Brandon Marshall’s name was brought up. Marshall has requested a trade out of Denver, and a reunion with Cutler is a natural storyline, but Marshall has a checkered off-field history, is coming off hip surgery and would require substantial compensation to acquire. Go ahead and rule him out.

Burress, though, remains a possibility.

”Plaxico Burress is a good football player,” Smith said. ”Of course, we all know that. We keep all of our options open. We’re constantly evaluating all the players who are out there. But I feel good about our team that we have right now, and I feel good about the receivers we have right now.”

I doubt that the Bears would be interested in one malcontent (Burress), but not the other (Marshall). Chances are, they’re interested in both, but there are more factors involving trading for Marshall, including putting together enough trade compensation to lure him out of Denver.

If they signed Burress, it would probably only be to a one-year deal for a minimal amount of money. If he acts up or goes to jail, then Chicago could part with him at the end of the ’09 season and not have to worry about carrying his baggage into 2010.

Your daily Plax fill: Burress interested in Tampa

According to the St. Petersburg Times, Plaxico Burress has expressed interest in joining the Buccaneers in 2009. He has already reached out to former teammate Derrick Ward and has also spoken with Antonio Bryant about possibly joining the Bucs (not that either of those players have any bearing on whether or not the team will sign Burress).

If Tampa wants to take the risk on the leg shooter, then they’d have a decent amount of weapons on offense in Plax, Bryant and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. Of course, the three would also make one hell of a combustible combination and any one of them would be liable to cause a distraction at a moment’s notice.

Some believe that the Bears also remain interested in Burress, but I can’t see GM Jerry Angelo pulling the trigger (pun definitely intended) on a move like that. If Chicago wanted to add a pain in the ass wide receiver to its roster, why not trade for Brandon Marshall (assuming they even have enough trade pieces to make a dal) and pair him with Jay Cutler?

Either way, it’s looking more and more than Burress will play next season. His trial case has been adjourned until September, which means he could still play in 2009, although there’s still a good chance the NFL will suspend him, too.

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