- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The first weekend of the NFL free agent signing/ period has passed and the only word that comes to mind is: Wow!

Derrick Dockery (zero Pro Bowl appearances): $49 million contract from Buffalo, including $18.5 million guaranteed.

Nate Clements (23 career interceptions): $80 million contract from San Francisco, including $22 million guaranteed.

Michael Lewis (benched at midseason by Philadelphia): $10 million guaranteed from the 49ers.

The list goes on and on. Teams are flush with salary cap space and are throwing around signing bonuses like they’re in a use-it-or-lose-it situation.

Here are five storylines that interested me from the past weekend:

1. Offensive linemen strike it rich

Dockery, Dallas’ Leonard Davis, San Diego’s Kris Dielman and Cleveland’s Eric Steinbach all received free agent contracts worth $45-plus million. And none are left tackles, the spot that was previously reserved as the big-money position along the offensive line. It’s incredible that this much money is being paid for guards. Part of me thinks these guys got money because teams like to run the ball up the middle; the other part of me thinks that teams had money to burn and they had to spend it on somebody.

2. Former starting quarterbacks jettisoned … except for one

Denver, Dallas and Washington made in-season quarterback changes last year, going to a first-time starter. Since the end of the year, Denver has dealt Jake Plummer and Dallas has cut Drew Bledsoe. What did the Redskins do? They bring back the beloved Mark Brunell. So instead of concentrating on the starting job like Tony Romo and Jay Cutler, Jason Campbell should have to look over his shoulder at Brunell knowing Joe Gibbs’ love for ol’ No. 8. The Redskins should have cut all ties with Brunell.

3. The Pats mean business

The Patriots normally aren’t big players on the free agency scene, opting to use the draft and second-tier free agents to build a consistent winner. But they’ve made a splash this year, signing do-everything linebacker/pass rusher Adalius Thomas from the Ravens, blocking tight end Kyle Brady and restricted free agent receiver Wes Welker. And the Pats may not be done. If I’m Donte Stallworth, I call the Pats.

4. Chris Simms should be worried

Tampa Bay’s Quarterback of the Future may be its Quarterback of the Past. The Bucs signed Jeff Garcia for two years and acquired Plummer. If I’m Simms, I ask for a trade to see if Oakland would be a taker. Stockpiling the quarterbacks also shows how desperate Jon Gruden is. This could be it for him in Tampa Bay if the Bucs don’t turn it around. His only postseason success came in his first year (2002) and that was with Tony Dungy’s players.

5. The receivers are saying: “Show us the money, too.”

In this free-spending market, why haven’t any receivers besides Drew Bennett to St. Louis and Lelie to the Niners signed? It seems to happen a lot — teams address needs at positions where there isn’t a ton of quality (such as guard) and then move on to the receivers. Still out there are Stallworth, Tennessee’s Bobby Wade, St. Louis’ Kevin Curtis, Cincinnati’s Kelley Washington and Seattle’s Bobby Engram.

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