Abraham, Turner latest stars now free

The free agency frenzy doesn’t begin until March 12.

Tell that to general managers who have begun flooding the market
with veterans they have cut – guys who can sign with any team at
any time.

Joining that group Friday were such former Pro Bowl players John
Abraham and Michael Turner, released by Atlanta along with
cornerback Dunta Robinson.

Also available is 2009 Defensive Player of the Year Charles
Woodson; the Green Bay Packers let the defensive back go last
month.

While players whose contracts have expired can’t change
addresses for another 11 days, the so-called ”street free agents”
now out there can joins teams immediately. That’s already happened
with former Buffalo safety George Wilson, who signed with the
Titans, and it certainly could occur again before the likes of Mike
Wallace, Jake Long, Reggie Bush and Greg Jennings on offense or
Dwight Freeney, Anthony Spencer, Paul Kruger and Cliff Avril on
defense become available.

Wilson was coveted by Tennessee for reasons that stretch beyond
the field, and Woodson also could fall into that category. Listen
to what Titans general manager Ruston Webster says about Wilson,
who twice was Buffalo’s Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee:

”George is a quality veteran player. He will contribute for us
on the field, but his contributions also will come off the field,
in the locker room and in the meetings rooms. He was respected as a
football player and a leader during his career in Buffalo, and he
will bring that veteran presence to our team.”

The 36-year-old Woodson would be a nice fit in a young secondary
needing a boost of savvy and physicality, most likely as a safety.
Such landing spots as New England, Cleveland and Indianapolis could
work.

Abraham has a history of nagging injuries and he’ll most likely
be a situational pass rusher at age 35 next season. Still, any club
looking for such a boost could do worse than Abraham, who had 10
sacks as a part-timer when the Falcons went 13-3 last year.

Turner no longer seems capable of being an every-down back, but
his power and quick feet could help a team that has an established
starter but no proven backup. Or an offense with a speedy running
back and not much inside presence.

Oft-injured Ahmad Bradshaw, late of the Giants, also fits that
category. No one competes harder, but that has been a detriment for
Bradshaw, too, because his style makes him vulnerable to getting
hurt.

Tennessee, Cleveland and Green Bay could find them attractive at
the right price.

Ah, price.

A major reason these players are unemployed right now is salary.
Atlanta saved about $16 million in cap space with its three cuts
Friday. The New York Jets freed up $31 million when they released
linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott, safety Eric Smith and
tackle Jason Smith last month.

Naturally, there are other factors, including age, health, depth
at a position, a change in coaching staffs and, of course,
production.

Players such as Packers center Jeff Saturday and Carolina DT Ron
Edwards simply might be at the end of the line. Kansas City tight
end Kevin Boss got onto the field for only two games in 2012. The
Saints’ David Thomas was expendable because Jimmy Graham is among
the best tight ends around, and New Orleans prefers to load the
field with wideouts along with Graham.

Philadelphia released DTs Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson when
Chip Kelly was hired as coach.

The Jets’ Pace and Scott and Chiefs receiver Steve Breaston
became overpriced when their on-field contributions slipped
dramatically.

Oddly, many of those players currently available figure to be
left waiting until weeks into full free agency before they find new
homes. Some teams will give out huge bonuses and long-term deals to
Jennings, Kruger et al. Then they will seek ways to fit in the
others.

And don’t be shocked to see a few of the current free agents
wind up back where they started – for much less money.