December 18, 2011; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (83) avoids a tackle by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) during the first quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers won 34-14 Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

First Signings & Events of Free Agency

 Right before free-agency started, the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins executed a trade of Brandon Marshall for a pair of third-round picks. Reuniting Cutler and Marshall creates a huge combination, and a pair of very talented players who already have had a history together in Denver. The Chicago Bears just got a lot better. FYI: The NFC North is REALLY good.

As we passed along earlier, Marcus McNeill was released by the Chargers. This could end up playing into Atlanta’s hands perfectly. McNeill is an all-pro LT when healthy, and that injury risk would keep his value down. I called into Atlanta’s 680 The Fan and discussed the issue. The guys on Chuck and Chernoff graciously took my call, and discussed McNeill. His value was projected at around $4-5 million, and that is right in the wheel house for Atlanta’s salary cap situation. Unfortunately, the Falcons still have not made a big splash with him, or anyone else for that matter, but stay tuned.

 

The Saints re-signed Marques Colston before free-agency opened as well.  The deal is worth $40 million over 5 years. It is believed his 2012 salary cap number will be around $4.5 million. That is important, because it almost certainly keeps the Saints out of the race to re-sign Carl Nicks. Keeping Colston isn’t the best situation as an Atlanta fan, but Carl Nicks will not be around protecting Brees anymore. This also means that other free agents from New Orleans (Tracy Porter, Robert Meacham) will probably sign with other teams, further weakening the Falcons most hated opponent.

The Washington Redskins signed WR Pierre Garcon to a new 5-year $42 million contract. He will doubtless be catching passes from RGIII next season.

The biggest news is the situation that is flurrying around in Tampa. There have been rumors that they might not only bring in Vincent Jackson, but also possibly Curtis Lofton, and on top of that may bring in Carl Nicks. The Bucs have $43 million in cap space, and it would not totally surprising if they brought in additional players on top of those that have already been mentioned. Vincent Jackson would give Josh Freeman a legitimate deep threat, and a reliable receiver. They thought they had drafted those qualities with the receivers they had in 2010, but the production went straight downhill in 2011. Their run defense has also been miserable, and they have been missing a true middle linebacker/leader of the defense for several years. Lofton would fulfill a huge need for them. Another player who they could sign Carl Nicks, would be a huge upgrade on that offensive line. It helps the Falcons that the recent kings of the NFC South would be losing Nicks, but it doesn’t help a whole lot when that player, one of your top defensive players form 2011, and one of the league’s best receivers could ALL sign with another rival. To make matters worse, the Buccaneers will have a top-5 pick in the draft. Tampa was not predicted to have a major signing bonanza, as that has not historically been the style of Tampa’s front office. Even though they were a 4-12 team last year, they would win a lot more games with all three of these players on the roster. This should scare the living daylights out of Falcon fans.

Let me know what you think of these moves, potential moves, or lack of moves by the Falcons. I will keep everyone updated on the goings on in the NFL very soon.

 

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