Pre--Free Agency Cap Room
With DT Trevor Pryce (five years, $25
million) and RBs Jamal Lewis (three years, $26 million) and Mike Anderson
(above, four years, $8 million), Baltimore got plenty of bang for its
Overspent at six years, $36 million for
C-G LeCharles Bentley but got good value for DT Ted Washington (two years, $7
million), WR Joe Jurevicius (four years, $10.5 million) and P Dave Zastudil
(five years, undisclosed).
The signing of Edgerrin James (page 112)
to a four-year, $30 million deal is a coup for a perennially disappointing team
trying to sell tickets to the new stadium it's opening this fall. Arizona
needed a stud RB and a marquee player; James is both.
Free for All
In a league flush
with new cap cash, David Givens's roller-coaster weekend typified the wild
As the NFL's 2006
ATM season--also known as the free-agency period--opened at 12:01 a.m. last
Saturday, teams were loaded with more spare cash than they'd ever had. Thanks
to the collective bargaining agreement approved by the owners on March 8, the
salary cap increased from $85.5 million in 2005 to $102 million. Last year the
average team entered free agency $5.6 million under the cap; this year 31 of 32
teams had more than that available, including 11 teams with cap space exceeding
$20 million. "It's like Christmas money, a gift," 49ers coach Mike
Nolan said on Saturday night. "And you know how you spend Christmas
To gauge the
effect of the spending spree on a mid-market free agent, SI tracked the 72-hour
courtship of Patriots wide receiver David Givens, from Massachusetts to Miami
on Saturday, Houston on Sunday and Nashville on Monday--where, as SI went to
press, he was preparing to decide his future.
a.m. Working from his brownstone in Boston's Back Bay, Givens's agent, Brad
Blank, has set up his client's first visit--to Miami, where Dolphins coach Nick
Saban covets a good wideout to pair with star Chris Chambers. Blank's goal is a
five-year, $25 million contract for Givens, a four-year veteran with two Super
Bowl rings who had a career-high 59 receptions as a No. 2 receiver in 2005,
when he earned $1.43 million. But now a storm brews. A report surfaces that
Cleveland has signed Givens. Blank tries to reassure Dolphins G.M. Randy
Mueller that the story is nonsense, that he hasn't even negotiated with the
Browns. (Apparently Cleveland staffers had prepared several stories in advance
of potential free-agent signings, and an enterprising Internet user got hold of
the Givens story and made it public.) Still, teams begin to sense that Blank is
using them. Blank fumes but doesn't change Givens's appointments: a Saturday
trip to Miami, then a visit to Houston on Sunday.
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Givens text-messages Blank, stunned after hearing reports that the Redskins are
not only trading a third-round pick this year and a fourth-rounder in 2007 for
49ers wideout Brandon Lloyd (48 catches in '05) but also giving him $10 million
in guaranteed money.
Saturday, 2 p.m.
New England, which hopes to keep Givens while avoiding a bidding war, has $18
million in cap room. Coach Bill Belichick and vice president Scott Pioli call
Blank on speakerphone to tell him that the Patriots want to be in the derby--at
the right price. Maybe five years, $17.5 million.
p.m. Givens senses he's not going to get an offer from the Dolphins. "I'm
not feeling the love," he tells Blank by cellphone. He's right. With only
$7 million to spend in free agency this year, Saban is focusing on Chargers
quarterback Drew Brees. Givens does, however, get a tasty piece of sea bass at
his dinner with the Miami coach.
Saturday, 5 p.m.
Thinking that Givens had signed with Cleveland, Titans G.M. Floyd Reese was not
going to pursue him. When Reese learns that Givens is still on the market, he
tells Blank, "We want to be in this." Blank gives him the price. A few
hours later Reese counters with five years, $23 million. Blank knows it might
be the best he and Givens can do. But Givens, a Houston-area native who went to
Notre Dame, has never set foot in Nashville and would have to see the city.
Sunday, 8:45 a.m.
Blank hears that the Houston Chronicle is reporting that Givens has canceled
his trip to Texas and is re-signing with New England. He calls Givens, who has
just boarded a nonstop flight from Fort Lauderdale to Houston. "Sir, please
turn your cellphone off," a flight attendant tells him, then repeats it
more firmly. "I thought they were going to kick me off the plane,"
Givens says later. He turns off the cell and proceeds to spend $300 on frantic
Airfone calls to Texans negotiator Dan Ferens and G.M. Charley Casserly, to
reassure them that he's nowhere close to a deal with the Patriots.