Jan 29, 2012; Honolulu, HI, USA; AFC wide receiver Vincent Jackson of the San Diego Chargers (83) runs with the ball against the NFC during the 2012 Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

NFL Free Agency 2012: Who Are The Early Winners & Losers?

A full 24 hours of free agency is behind us and there is a lot to take in. You can keep track of every signing with our up-to-date free agency tracker. A handful of teams have made some big moves, while other teams have remained to stay silent during the early frenzy.

Teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been active and aggressive, while teams like the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals appear that they are being held hostage by the Peyton Manning situation.

Who are the early winners and losers of free agency? Let’s take a look.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This is a pretty easy pick. Tampa Bay got the top wide receiver and the top guard on the market, along with adding a very solid corner — Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright, respectively. The Buccaneers may have over payed by some standards, but they  made a statement by opening their check books to show that they want to be competitive now.

Jackson is a much needed weapon in the passing game, while Nicks will pair with Davin Joseph to create a very powerful duo on the inside of the Buccaneers line. Those two signings have to thrill Josh Freeman.

Wright gives the Buccaneers added cornerback depth, and also does not eliminate them from potentially drafting a Morris Claiborne in the first-round of the draft. Tampa Bay has to put everything together — Philadelphia didn’t mesh too well immediately after signing the big names last season — but they have their fanbase excited and the team seems enthusiastic about the upcoming season.

Indianapolis Colts

This one may surprise some people, but the Colts have done a fantastic job this free agency period.

Re-signing Reggie Wayne was a brilliant move that will give Andrew Luck a reliable veteran receiver as he adjusts to the NFL speed. Indy also secured their offensive tackle situation by trading for Winston Justice — all it cost was a swap of sixth-round picks. Justice will pair up with Anthony Costanzo to handle the job of protecting Luck.

To round out the Colts signings, they added defensive end Corey Redding, who is very familiar with head coach Chuck Pagano. Redding played for Pagano in Baltimore. He will immediately improve the Colts rush defense and bring some experience to a unit that is transitioning to a new defensive scheme. Excellent signings by the Colts.

Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos are one of the early winners in free agency thanks to their signing of… no one. How is that possible? Well, without signing anyone the Broncos have kept all of their cap room and will be able to surround Peyton Manning with whoever he wants, if they end up landing the future Hall of Famer.

If they miss on Manning, Denver could make a late play for Mario Williams.

It may be an usual approach, but I like it. The Broncos still have their options open and the money to go out and make a late play in the market after it has settled. I still have the Broncos as the favorite to land Manning, which will keep their status as a free agency winner.

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys had a strangely quiet, but very successful haul in free agency. Immediately after the market opened, they identified cornerback Brandon Carr as their top priority. For a team that needed as much secondary help as Dallas, it was a move that had to be done.

As well as adding Carr, the Cowboys got the veteran backup quarterback that they needed in Kyle Orton, some offensive line depth with Mackenzy Bernadeau and got their fullback with Lawrence Vickers. It is a solid group of players for Dallas that could all have an impact on the team next season.


Houston Texans

The Texans haven’t signed anyone and have not made any noise with visits. It’s not enough that the Texans haven’t signed any playmakers or that they haven’t shown any interest in playmakers, but they cut Eric Winston and Mario Williams is soon out the door.

On top of that, the Texans appear to be losing offensive linemen Mike Brisiel and Chris Meyers. It s a questionable strategy for a team that seems so close to breaking through as a legitimate threat in the AFC. Could they be late players in the market? They better be or they will be set up for a disappointing season.

Miami Dolphins

Once again, the Miami Dolphins appear to be missing out on a quarterback. They are all but out of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, Matt Flynn is flying out to visit with the Seattle Seahawks and Robert Griffin III is headed to Washington after the blockbuster trade with the St. Louis Rams for the number two pick.

They also parted ways with their top wide receiver Brandon Marshall, by trading him to the Chicago Bears. They are now short of offensive weapons.

The Dolphins did manage to re-sign Phillip Merling and Paul Soliai — which is huge. They also signed cornerback Richard Marshall, but it will all be for nothing if they don’t land a quarterback.

Arizona Cardinals

Like the Dolphins, Arizona is poised to miss out on the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. They appear to be waiting around for Manning to make his decision, while all of the free agents that fit their needs are being taken out of the market. Arizona’s only signing to date is offensive lineman Adam Snyder.

The Cardinals also lost cornerback Richard Marshall, which will leave a hole in the secondary.

Arizona will have to make a decision soon on Kevin Kolb, who they will likely end up keeping after missing on Manning. The question is, why did they wait so long on Manning? He cost them the potential to add talent to their roster and they now rank among the early free agency losers.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins were aggressive out of the gate and signed one of the top available receivers on the market. Unfortunately, that receiver was Pierre Garcon — a guy that should be thanking Peyton Manning for his enormous payday. The Redskins vastly over payed for a player of Garcon’s caliber. It may not be a big cap hit,  but it is a lot of money invested long-term to a guy who has not shown the skillset of a number one receiver. The Colts payed Garcon nearly as much as the Eagles payed DeSean Jackson. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

In addition to Garcon, the Redskins added Josh Morgan. Morgan has potential to develop into a go-to guy, but he isn’t there yet and will have no veteran leadership in the receiving corp to help his growth.

On defense, the Redskins threw $20 million at Adam Carriker. It is nice that the team decided to take care of their own, but they payed $20 million to a guy who was rated one of the worst defensive ends against the run last season. That seems like a questionable move.

I will say one thing: all seems right in the football world. Last season, we didn’t get too fully appreciate the free agency period and, this year, the Redskins returned in full force to overpay on mid-tier free agents. Order has been restored in the football universe.

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