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Money changes everything

Flush with cash, NFL free agency takes new twists

Posted: Wednesday March 14, 2007 9:52AM; Updated: Wednesday March 14, 2007 2:59PM
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With a guaranteed $16 million coming from the Cowboys, Leonard Davis and his fellow guards have a lot to smile about this winter.
With a guaranteed $16 million coming from the Cowboys, Leonard Davis and his fellow guards have a lot to smile about this winter.
Greg Trott/WireImage.com
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If we've learned anything from the first few weeks of the NFL's unrestricted free agency period, it's that bigger bank accounts usually lead to riskier decisions within the marketplace. The recent increase in the NFL's salary cap -- it has grown by nearly $25 million over the last two years -- has given more teams more license to indulge in the kinds of moves that they wouldn't even consider a few years ago. I'm talking about aging running backs signing for good money and guards -- yes, guards -- finding fat paydays after years of being dismissed as the most expendable components of an offensive line. It's these types of trends that have made this offseason all the more interesting.

Seriously, there used to be a time not too long ago, when free agency wasn't that much fun to follow. Aside from a handful of moderately big-name signings, there was little intrigue associated with the process. It was as if all those teams who spent big money unwisely in the 1990s had realized it was better to invest in their own players than to throw their cash away on some over-the-hill, high-profile player looking for one last big contract. Well, now we know that free agency became boring because the money dried up. And with teams looking to spend more again, it's time to evaluate some of the more surprising trends of this offseason:

1. Running backs playing musical chairs

There really wasn't much to like about the cast of available players at this position when free agency opened on March 2. Former Indianapolis Colts running back Dominic Rhodes was arguably the most attractive talent until a glut of other players showed up on the market. A few weeks later, eight teams had signed or traded for new running backs.

What has prompted the rush on runners? Well, it's apparent that a lot of teams are looking for a running back that can be part of a 1-2 punch. The New York Giants (Reuben Droughns joins Brandon Jacobs), Oakland Raiders (Rhodes teams with LaMont Jordan), Cleveland Browns (Jamal Lewis with either Jason Wright or possibly Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson, if the Browns draft him) and the Houston Texans (Green will be the feature back while Wali Lundy backs him up) will all go that route this year.

As for the teams who should profit the most from their new additions, I like these three: Baltimore (who acquired Willis McGahee in a trade with Buffalo), the New York Jets (who landed Thomas Jones for basically nothing in a trade with Chicago) and Denver (who signed Travis Henry after the Titans cut him).

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