Money changes everything (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday March 14, 2007 9:52AM; Updated: Wednesday March 14, 2007 2:59PM
2. Guards are getting paid
It wasn't that long ago that a guard could count on one thing when free agency arrived: He wasn't going to get top dollar. But that trend changed when Seattle's Steve Hutchinson signed a $49 million deal with Minnesota last season, and it's still yielding significant dividends for his peers. This year alone, three guards have cashed in with seven-year deals: Dallas' Leonard Davis ($50 million with a $16 million bonus), Buffalo's Derrick Dockery ($49 million, $18 million bonus), and Cleveland's Eric Steinbach, ($49.5 million, $10 million bonus). It's starting to look like offensive tackles aren't the only linemen who can break the bank at this time of year.
3. San Francisco is making the best moves
San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan continues to put his team in position to challenge for a playoff spot.
Last season the offense matured with the emergence of second-year quarterback Alex Smith and Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore. This year his defense has a chance to improve dramatically. By adding cornerback Nate Clements, who was arguably the best available player in free agency, Nolan ensured that his secondary had a proven playmaker who can hold his own against the likes of Torry Holt, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Deion Branch in the NFC West. The 49ers also scored by landing outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain and strong safety Michael Lewis, who should benefit from a change in scenery after struggling last season in Philadelphia. If Nolan can get Lewis back to Pro Bowl form, the 49ers could be the most improved team in the NFL this coming season.
4. Joey Porter moves South
It wasn't surprising that Pittsburgh cut Porter earlier this month. What was eye-opening is that he wasn't even offered a deal by his former team. Porter says former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher promised him that the team would at least make an attempt to sign him to a new contract before free agency arrived. But Porter says he had one phone call with new Steelers coach Mike Tomlin -- who was excited to have Porter on his defense -- and the next call he received a few weeks later was the one bidding him farewell. But as Porter says, "I've seen that team get rid of Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Jason Gildon, Chad Brown, Earl Holmes and Levon Kirkland. There's a pattern there."
5. Ovie Mughelli gives hope to fullbacks everywhere
Mughelli's six-year, $18-million deal in Atlanta (which included a $5 million signing bonus) is perplexing because he plays a position that is clearly dying in the NFL, at least in its purest form. Most teams only use fullbacks on 20 to 30 percent of their offensive plays while others are more inclined to play an undersized tight end at the spot when necessary. But new Atlanta Falcons coach Bobby Petrino clearly has plans for the position, and Mughelli should be a nice addition, one who could do for the fullback market what Steve Hutchinson did for the guard market.