GREEN BAY—Some are gone; most are left.
Recognizable names continue to dominate the list of players available in free agency this year. The names that have been erased from that list have joined another list, the list of the wealthy.
Money and salary cap not included – I don’t know how you do that but I’ll try – these are the moves that make sense.
Miami Dolphins—The acquisition of speed receiver Mike Wallace could be the home run of this free agency. Wallace is a deep threat that should make everything about Coach Joe Philbin’s offense better, starting with second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Wallace comes to the Dolphins at great cost – his salary cap number in 2014 is set at $17.25 million, which means he’ll have to be restructured before then – but Wallace has the kind of game-changing speed that could buy time for General Manager Jeff Ireland. Tight end Dustin Keller is a possession receiver likely to benefit from Wallace’s field-stretching ability, and complement it, too. The Dolphins also signed Baltimore linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who made a name for himself filling in for Ray Lewis.
Denver Broncos—Wes Welker goes from Tom Brady to Peyton Manning. Talk about lucky. So what are the Broncos getting, a 100-catches possession receiver on his last legs, or the missing link? The Broncos also added cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, linebacker Stewart Bradley and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton to an already imposing defense. That’s a lot of talent and money all intended to get Manning over the top one more time, but why not? The clock is running on Manning.
San Francisco 49ers—The Falcons considered drafting Glenn Dorsey over Matt Ryan in the 2008 draft; that’s how distinct Dorsey’s talents were coming out of LSU. They have not been that obvious in the NFL, and the Chiefs decided to let Dorsey leave in free agency. In San Francisco, Dorsey will join a star-studded defense that could help him reclaim his former greatness.
Detroit Lions—Reggie Bush might be the perfect complement to Calvin Johnson, which is to say a Darren Sproles-like, Randall Cobb-like pass catcher that can be used in a multitude of roles. Make no mistake about it, the Lions want to throw the ball and they’ve added another weapon in their passing game. The Lions re-signed safety Louis Delmas and added Glover Quin, a young, ascending safety. They also signed Jason Jones, a defensive lineman in his prime who’s likely to reap the benefits of playing on a line with Suh and Nick Fairley.
Seattle Seahawks—On the heels of a trade that brings Percy Harvin to Seattle, the Seahawks dug deep to sign Detroit defensive end Cliff Avril. Avril is a sacks-maker, no doubt, but how much of that is the result of having played next to Ndamukong Suh? The Seahawks defense was high in the rankings in nearly every category last season, except in sacks. The hope is Avril will change that in a division where the 49ers are king. The Seahawks also signed DE Michael Bennett from Tampa Bay, where Bennett exploded with nine sacks last season.
Arizona Cardinals—New Coach Bruce Arians is familiar with running back Rashard Mendenhall from their days together in Pittsburgh. Mendenhall’s season was lost to ACL recovery last year. Arians is betting Mendenhall will be fully recovered for this season. The Cardinals also signed Minnesota linebacker Jasper Brinkley, cornerback Jerraud Powers, quarterback Drew Stanton from Indianapolis and Jets safety Yeremiah Bell. They are as close as you can get to value signings in the first week of free agency.
Tampa Bay Bucs—Dashon Goldson is in the prime of his career and makes a Tampa defense that was last in the league against the pass instantly better.
Atlanta Falcons—Veteran running back Steven Jackson is a patch for a team that flattened Michael Turner’s tires and is desperate to run the ball better than it did last season when it finished 29th in the league.
Philadelphia Eagles—The Eagles went with the safety-in-numbers approach, signing eight unrestricted free agents, including defensive end Connor Barwin, safeties Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung and defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga. Change is in the air in Philadelphia under new coach Chip Kelly.
Chicago Bears—Playing in a division against Clay Matthews and Jared Allen, the Bears spent big to acquire left tackle Jermon Bushrod from the Saints.
New England Patriots—Welker leaves, Danny Amendola arrives. Will anyone know the difference?
Cleveland Browns—The Ravens’ run to the Super Bowl made a lot of money for linebackers Ellerbe and Paul Kruger. The Browns signed Kruger, a dependable and productive defender.
New Orleans Saints—The addition of Pittsburgh cornerback Keenan Lewis brings a young, ascending player to a defense ranked last in the league and in desperate need of help.
More to come.