NFL free agency looks overloaded once again

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"People are going to see a market that's actually not that much different than last year," Joe Banner said. (Clem Murray/Staff file photo)

This year's free-agent market won't quite be the shopper's paradise that we saw last summer following the lockout, when hundreds of top-level players were available. But it's still going to be considerably more attractive than previous years.

The plethora of 1-year contracts signed by so many free agents last summer means they will be back on the market when the signing period begins on March 13.

"Everybody thought last year was going to be a very unique situation in terms of how many players were available," said Eagles president Joe Banner. "In terms of quality, I don't know since we haven't really sat down and talked about it yet. But in terms of quantity, people are going to see a market that's actually not that much different than last year.

"There were an unusual number of players at the end of free agency last year that signed 1-year deals and will come back into the market this year in addition to the normal [cycle of] players. So it'll be a fuller market than what we've seen, other than last year, in quite a while."

The Eagles signed several players to 1-year deals last summer, including offensive lineman Evan Mathis, who started 15 games at left guard, running back Ronnie Brown and quarterback Vince Young.

There are a lot of marquee names on the current list of free agents-to-be, including Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Ravens running back Ray Rice, Saints guard Carl Nicks, Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell and Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

But many of the top names won't make it to market. They'll either be re-signed or be given the franchise tag. In the 3 weeks since the end of the regular-season, though, it's been unusually quiet on the re-signing front.

"I expected to see a little extra activity at the end of the season, but that didn't happen," Banner said. "I have no idea what that means."

Banner declined to discuss his team's own 11 unrestricted free agents, including Jackson. Owner Jeff Lurie said earlier this month that the Eagles would welcome the wide receiver back, "if the right terms develop." But league sources said Jackson's opinion of his worth continues to be night-and-day different from the Eagles'.

While Jackson has said he would be willing to get franchised, the Eagles aren't likely to do that. If he signed the franchise tender, they would have to pay him $9.5 million next year. That's an awful lot of money to give a guy who has just five touchdown catches in his last 22 games.

LAMONTE'S CLIENTS SNUBBED

It hasn't been a particularly good week for agent Bob LaMonte, who represents a considerable number of the league's coaches and front-office executives, including the Eagles' Andy Reid and Howie Roseman.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, another LaMonte client, finished out of the money for the Raiders job, which went to Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.

Two more LaMonte clients, Brad Childress and Mike Sherman were among the cast of thousands interviewed for the Bucs' head-coaching job. Sherman appeared to be the favorite this week until Rutgers coach Greg Schiano was hired on Thursday. And on Friday, Childress was named the Browns' offensive coordinator. Down in Miami, another LaMonte guy, Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, was beaten out for the Dolphins' job by Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin.

Despite that, LaMonte, a former high school history teacher, remains one of the league's most influential people. The Eagles are one of several teams in which LaMonte represents both the head coach and the top personnel man. In Cleveland, he represents club president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert, head coach Pat Shurmur and now Childress. In Minnesota, he reps GM Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier.

"I imagine if it were somebody you didn't like, it might be a problem," Joe Banner said. "But we've been dealing with Bob for 13 years and have an excellent relationship. I think he has a lot of respect for the organization and we have a lot of respect for him. So it's been a mutually good thing for everybody."

FIGURING THE EAGLES

* Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha led the Eagles in penalty yards this season. He was flagged seven times for 98 yards, 63 of which came on three pass-interference penalties. Defensive end Jason Babin drew the most penalties, 13.

* Making Jason Peters' All-Pro performance even more impressive is the fact that he was called for just one holding penalty the whole year. Got flagged for a hold in the first quarter of the Eagles' season opener against the Rams and didn't get called for holding again. Rookie right guard Danny Watkins was flagged for holding just once in 12 starts. Rookie center Jason Kelce and left guard Evan Mathis each drew two holding calls. Right tackle Todd Herremans had a team-high four.

* The Eagles converted 66.6 percent of their red-zone opportunities (14-for-21) into touchdowns in their final six games. They only had a 44.4 percent success rate (20-for-45) in their first 10 games.

* The offensive line gave up two sacks or less in 12 of 16 games this season.

* Eight of Jason Babin's 18 quarterback sacks came on first down. He had six on third down and two apiece on second and fourth downs.

* The Eagles recorded 28 sacks in their last eight games. Last year, they had just 15 in the final eight games.

* The Eagles converted 62.7 percent of their third downs of 3 yards or less (37-for-59). Last year, they converted just 58.8 percent (40-for-68).

QUICK HITS

* A piece of advice for Eagles tight end Brent Celek: Next time you hire a guy to run your bar, make sure he's acquainted with the whole designated-driver concept.

* If, as expected, the Colts decide to pass on giving Peyton Manning that $28 million roster bonus on March 8 and let him become a free agent, don't look for him to sign with anyone for awhile. He's first going to have to prove that he has recovered from his neck problems, and it could be May or June or even later before that happens.

* The Patriots haven't been the only team lining up tight ends in the backfield this season. The Eagles also did it. They frequently lined up Brent Celek and Clay Harbor alongside of Mike Vick in three-wide receiver, two-tight end shotgun formations. They also lined up Celek as a fullback in an "I" formation with LeSean McCoy a couple of times late in the season, though neither Celek nor Harbor had any rushing attempts. That probably doesn't bode well for the chances of the Eagles bringing Owen Schmitt back. Schmitt, who is a free agent, had just seven touches this season and was on the field for no more than 110 of the team's 1,036 offensive snaps.

* Tweet of the week from Redskins wide receiver/philosopher Dontè Stallworth: "Life is too short to worry about what people say or think about you . . . handle your business and keep it moving."

* Still no word on what LeSean McCoy plans to buy the Eagles' offensive linemen for helping him rush for 1,309 yards and earn a Pro Bowl invitation. He didn't take them to Hawaii. Rolex watches always are nice.

* One of the things I would do this offseason if I were the Eagles would be to move Keenan Clayton from linebacker to safety. Clayton played safety his first 2 years at Oklahoma before he was moved to linebacker.

* I am dumbfounded as to why the Giants' highly regarded college scouting director Marc Ross keeps getting bypassed for general manager jobs, just as I am that no one is willing to hire former Saints and Chiefs personnel man Bill Kuharich. One of the best scouts I've been around in the 30 years I've been covering this league, Kuharich has been out of work for nearly 2 years. A pox on the house of Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, who was given his start in the league by Kuharich and now can't be bothered to find a place for him in his organization.

* Hard to believe 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio didn't draw any interest from teams that were in the market for a head coach.

THIS AND THAT

* After watching his team lose four of its last five games and miss the playoffs for the third time in the last 4 years, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said his offensive line must do a better job of protecting quarterback Tony Romo. The Cowboys finished 17th in sacks allowed-per-pass play. "We may have gotten a little overzealous with some young players in the middle of our offensive line," said Jones, referring to center Phil Costa and guards Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski. "We're going to have to make sure we not only have given them a chance to grow and have progress, but we also have to have the kind of protection we want in the middle for Tony."

* Bovada has listed the various prop/bet odds for Super Bowl XLVI. Tom Brady is a 13/10 favorite to be the game MVP, followed by Eli Manning at 9/4, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski at 8/1 and Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz at 12/1. The over-under on how long it will take Kelly Clarkson to sing the National Anthem: 1 minute, 34 seconds. The odds that Clarkson's bare belly will be showing when she sings the national anthem: 3/1. Seriously.

* The last time quarterbacks went 1-2-3 in the draft was 1999 when the Browns took Tim Couch, the Eagles grabbed Donovan McNabb and the Bengals selected Akili Smith. It could happen again this year. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are expected to go 1-2. Ryan Tannehill of Texas Tech is generally viewed as the third-best quarterback in the draft. While he's not rated as highly as Luck and Griffin, the desperation level in the league for quarterbacks right now is high. If Tannehill impresses at the combine and his Pro Day workout, he could be the third player off the board. The Vikings, who own the third pick, wouldn't take him since they drafted Christian Ponder in the first round last year. But there are several teams that would be interested in trading up.

2-MINUTE DRILL

From the Lip:

* "I don't recognize our building right now. There's such complete and total change. It's unfortunate because so many of them have been such a big part of so many big wins here and this is so . . . sudden. Their keys didn't work the next day. There's no other way to do it? I don't know. It's hard to see all these people leaving. And I may be [right] behind them." - Colts quarterback Peyton Manning

* "As Sir Andrew Barton said, 'Fight on, men.' Sir Andrew said, 'Hurt but not slain, lay down and bleed a while, then we'll rise and fight again.' " - 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh when asked what he told his players after their overtime loss to the Giants

* "I talk a lot about spirit and I talk about emotions. I talk about vibes. I talk about feelings. I talk about an atmosphere that has been created by the cooperation of players and coaches and the harmony and the great feeling that exists. It has been that type of feeling that has sustained us throughout the course of the year." - Giants coach Tom Coughlin

BY THE NUMBERS

* The Patriots have just one victory this season over a winning team. That was last week's 23-20 win over the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. They played just two other teams with winning records - the Steelers and the Giants - and lost both .

* Tom Brady is 16-5 (.762) in 21 postseason starts. His 16 playoff wins are tied with Joe Montana for the most in NFL history.

* Eli Manning has a 7-3 postseason record. Five of those wins came on the road, which is the most by a quarterback in league history. Five others - Len Dawson, Roger Staubach, Jake Delhomme, Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco - have four road playoff wins.

* Tom Coughlin's seven road playoff wins (the Super Bowl is not considered a road game) ties him with Tom Landry for the most by a head coach in NFL history.

* The Giants are just the third team to reach the Super Bowl with a 9-7 record since the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. The other two - the 1979 Rams and the 2008 Cardinals - both lost in the Super Bowl.

* Vernon Davis' 292 postseason receiving yards were the most ever by a tight end in his first two playoff games.

* The 96 points scored in last year's 55-41 win by the NFC was the second most points ever in a Pro Bowl game, surpassed only by the 107 put up in 2004, when the NFC won, 55-52.

* Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez and Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey both will be appearing in their 11th Pro Bowl. That's the third most appearances since 1970. Only Hall of Fame guard Randall McDaniel and current Hall of Fame finalist Will Shields appeared in more (12).

* The Ravens gave up a league-best five touchdown passes in the red zone this season. By comparison, the Eagles gave up 18.

THAT'S SAYING THUMBTHING

THUMBS UP: To conference championship game goats Billy Cundiff and Kyle Williams for standing up and facing the media music after their costly gaffes. "I get paid to make field goals, I don't get paid to miss them," said the Ravens' Cundiff after missing a 32-yard field goal attempt that would have sent the AFC title game into overtime. "It'll strengthen me in the end. It'll be tough for a little while. But I've got two kids. I've got some lessons that I need to teach them. First and foremost, that you stand up and face the music. And then you move on." Tom Brady gets a thumbs-up honorable mention for his candid assessment of his play in the Patriots' AFC Championship Game win over Cundiff's Ravens. "I sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us," he said after throwing two interceptions.

THUMBS DOWN: To Eagles coach Andy Reid for continuing to keep everyone in the dark about his plans for his coaching staff while sending poor Juan Castillo down to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. where he couldn't - or wasn't allowed to - tell reporters whether he still is the team's defensive coordinator. "You got to go through Andy," Castillo said. Unfortunately, Andy still is in hiding and isn't returning calls, texts or carrier-pigeon messages. This is part of Reid's nonsensical "one voice" approach to coaching. But doesn't he realize how demeaning it is to a proud man like Castillo, who can't even look reporters in the eye and tell them whether he still has a job?