- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
On the opening day of the league's first off-season without a salary cap in 17 years, the Bears signed three players to contracts totaling $55 million in guaranteed money. It was an eye-popping move for the normally cost-conscious franchise, which wanted to be aggressive after failing to make the playoffs the past three years and trading away its top two picks in the 2010 draft for quarterback Jay Cutler and defensive end Gaines Adams in separate deals last year.
But when the smiles and celebratory photo ops were over last Friday, one question hung in the air like smoke from a pregame fireworks show: Did Chicago really get better? The same can be asked of other teams that were active on the first weekend of free agency. The answers:
Baltimore filled a huge need at wide receiver by trading third- and fourth-round picks to Arizona for Anquan Boldin and a fifth-round pick, then signed the three-time Pro Bowler to a four-year deal that includes only $10 million in guarantees. That's great value for a 29-year-old wideout who averages 84 receptions a year. If veteran Derrick Mason re-signs, Joe Flacco will have a nice one-two punch. Mason had 73 catches in 2009; no other Baltimore wideout had more than 34.
Rather than spend wildly to compensate for a 2--30 record over the past two seasons, Detroit made smart, strategic hits. Wideout Nate Burleson (Seattle, five years, $11 million guaranteed) will complement receiver Calvin Johnson, and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (Tennessee, four years, $10 million guaranteed) will provide high energy and physical play, plus serve as an excellent mentor if, as expected, Detroit uses the second pick in the draft on a defensive tackle.
Re-signing tackle Chad Clifton (a reported three years, $7.5 million guaranteed) was important for an O-line that needs stability. Green Bay lost Aaron Kampman to Jacksonville (four years, $11 million guaranteed), but the impact will be minimal because Kampman struggled with the switch from 4--3 end to 3--4 outside linebacker.