NFL free agency gets off to fast start

Jimmy Graham (80) and Buster Skrine were among the players on the move Tuesday.  

Ron Schwane/Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Fast. Furious. Stunning. Expensive.

The NFL’s league year opened at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday and several deals were ready.

The Seattle Seahawks acquired Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham in a trade. The Philadelphia Eagles sent Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams and got Sam Bradford in return. The Baltimore Ravens traded Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions because Ngata wouldn’t take a paycut and because the Lions are losing Ndamukong Suh and probably Nick Fairley, too.

Fairley is reportedly visiting the Cincinnati Bengals on Wednesday. That’s a match that sort of harkens back to the old, wild Bengals days. It also indicates the Bengals know they’re in the "win now or have to blow it up" days.

Tough business.

The Ravens still have cap issues to tackle. They watched wide receiver Torrey Smith go to the 49ers and are probably losing Pernell McPhee from the defense, too. The secondary still needs fixed. Justin Forsett, who kept the running game afloat last year, is taking free agent visits.

The Browns have added Josh McCown to play quarterback and Brian Hartline to bolster what might be the league’s least-threatening receiving corps. Both were cut before free agency, so both moves were finalized before the real stuff started flying Tuesday afternoon.

"Josh can still play," Browns coach Mike Pettine told reporters about McCown Monday night.

Pettine had better hope he’s right.


Hartline believes in Browns vision

That’s the big stuff. On the Browns’ front, they’re watching Brian Hoyer reportedly choose Houston — after the Browns told Hoyer they weren’t choosing him — although no deal has been announced. The Texans re-signed Ryan Mallett, so Hoyer might choose to watch his phone for other calls after visiting with the Texans.

Buster Skrine is gone to the Jets for bigger money than the Browns wanted to pay. The Browns have to hope Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir are ready to play in their second seasons. The Browns should also be considered in the market for cornerback help in free agency and the draft. Reports Tuesday said the Browns were interested in Darrelle Revis, who has a past connection to Pettine, but later came word he will return to the Jets.

The Browns need a tight end, too. The Seahawks won’t be calling Jordan Cameron after adding Graham. Ed Dickson re-signed with the Panthers. Charles Clay has a transition tag from the Dolphins and reportedly had Browns interest, but the Buffalo News reported that Clay is looking for hourses in Buffalo in anticipation that his representation will find him a really big contract there.

It’s not over for Cameron and the Browns. It’s hard to believe anyone would want Jermaine Gresham — the Bengals couldn’t separate themselves quickly enough — but, again, it all comes down to money.

Speaking of Graham and Foles, the AFC North plays the whole NFC West next season. The Seahawks and Rams just got a bunch more interesting on offense.


The Bengals are adding veteran protection in linebacker A.J. Hawk and offensive tackle Eric Winston, who finished last season in Cincinnati. The Browns might not be done at receiver. Cleveland native Cecil Shorts is officially a free agent, and Percy Harvin was released Tuesday. The Browns were rumored to be one of the teams to have shown interest last October when the Seahawks traded Harvin to the Jets.

The Browns didn’t get Trent Cole as the veteran pass rusher chose the Colts. The Browns need to upgrade their pass rush and their entire front seven, really. The Colts are simply ahead of the Browns as a program — and closer to Cole’s home in Xenia, Ohio, too — and the Colts also added Frank Gore on Tuesday, re-signed former Brown Mike Adams to play safety and could add veteran receiver Andre Johnson.

Spending that money and bringing back Adams probably eliminates the Colts as potential suitors for Browns safety Tashaun Gipson, a restricted free agent with a second-round tender. A lot happened Tuesday but many of these deals take time. Teams changing plans on the fly happens all the time. A market for Gipson could develop later. Gipson could end up doing a deal with the Browns.

Remember, it’s always about the money.