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LITTLE SPENDERS

Fans might think such also-rans as the Bengals, Browns, Broncos and 49ers would dive headfirst into the signing extravaganza. They haven’t.

Perhaps Cleveland, Denver and San Francisco thought changing coaching staffs during a year of unparalleled upheaval was enough, because none of them has been making headlines with any transactions.

The Browns’ most notable move was bringing in Usama Young to start at safety.

“We’re not going to spend a ton of money right now in that (free agent) situation,” GM Tom Hecker said. “For our team, we think we’ve added players who are going to help us. We really do. Are they big-name guys? No.”

Nor are Denver’s additions (Brodrick Bunkley, Derrick Harvey, Dante Rosario) nor San Francisco’s (David Akers).

As for the Bengals, one of their best players, cornerback Johnathan Joseph, left for Houston, and the veteran quarterback, Carson Palmer, says he’d rather retire than stay in Cincinnati. But the Bengals have been virtually silent since the lockout ended.

BIGGEST BARGAINS

It all depends on what you consider to be inexpensive. But Tennessee’s signings of veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to fill a huge void, and LB Barrett Ruud, a tackling machine when he was with Tampa Bay, were huge. Ruud cost $4 million, not at all ridiculous in this environment. Hasselbeck got $21 million for three years, about the going rate for an experienced passer, but much of it is backloaded, protecting the Titans.

San Diego grabbed a still-dynamic linebacker in Takeo Spikes to juice its defense. Spikes played in San Francisco the past three years in a 3-4 scheme under new Chargers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

Kansas City’s addition of receiver Steve Breaston, St. Louis bringing in safety Quintin Mikell, and Detroit signing LB Stephen Tulloch are under-the-radar moves that won’t break the bank, but vastly improved those teams.

BIGGEST GAMBLES

New England risked plenty by trading for Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco. Remember, though, that recent “problem children” such as Randy Moss and Corey Dillon fared well in Foxborough.

“I’ve always been a chameleon, so I am going to blend in and do it the Patriot way, which is win,” the often outlandish Ochocinco said. “We had our talk, and without him (coach Bill Belichick) even having to say anything _ there is no need for some of the stuff I did before. There’s no need for it.”

Also feeling a need to gamble were the Jets on Burress, the Eagles on Young, the Seahawks on Tarvaris Jackson, and the Cardinals on oft-injured LB Stewart Bradley.

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