Rating NFL free agency’s opening day

Free agency brings its share of big-splash deals. It also brings questionable decisions that could haunt teams in the 2010 season and beyond. Here’s a look at significant examples:
 

The Ravens need Anquan Boldin's ability; they also need him to stay healthy.
The Ravens need Anquan Boldin’s ability; they also need him to stay healthy.

Three up

Ravens trade for WR Anquan Boldin: It’s rare to get a big, physical No. 1 receiver on the trade market. Boldin will help Baltimore in many ways, foremost as a top downfield threat for strong-armed third-year quarterback Joe Flacco. General manager Ozzie Newsome also was wise to lock up Boldin with a contract extension through 2013.
 
"He’s a very tough competitor and, with the way he plays with passion, he’ll fit right in with the foundation we have for our team," Newsome told reporters Friday.
 
For this deal to pay off for Baltimore, Boldin must buck history and stay healthy. Still, this is the kind of aggressive maneuver that can put a contender over the top and into the Super Bowl.
 
Bears sign Julius Peppers: So much for a team with a 3-4 scheme signing Peppers and moving him to the unfamiliar, more demanding role of outside linebacker. Instead, Peppers stays in a 4-3 front with cover-2 principles behind it, going from one Tony Dungy disciple (Ron Meeks) to another (Lovie Smith).
 
Like the Colts, Chicago doesn’t like to blitz and that means a high-caliber pass-rush end was critical. "For our defense to be successful, we have to get pressure with our front four," Smith said.
 
Peppers will line up at end and take on the Dwight Freeney-like role, focusing on what he does best — charging upfield and disrupting the pocket.
 
Falcons sign CB Dunta Robinson: Atlanta officials focused on this move in the early hours of the signing period and came through with the right five-year deal to land the Georgia native. The Falcons have a good young front seven, and Robinson gives them a much-needed steady cover man.
 

To live up to his Lions contract, Nate Burleson must show flashes of his Vikings days.
To live up to his Lions contract, Nate Burleson must show flashes of his Vikings days.

Three down

Lions sign WR Nate Burleson: It was obvious Detroit was desperate for a receiver to complement Calvin Johnson, and there is logic behind the signing because Burleson once performed well in a Scott Linehan-coached offense in Minnesota.
 
Burleson, however, wasn’t worth the price of five years, $25 million. He is often injured and never lived up to the big contract the hometown Seahawks gave him.
 
Panthers release QB Jake Delhomme: "It’s been a great run," Delhomme said Friday at an emotional press conference. "I’m leaving with no animosity whatsoever."
 
It’s no surprise the team wanted to move forward with Matt Moore as its starting quarterback after having Delhomme in that position since ’03, but the Panthers should’ve brought Delhomme back in the uncapped year. Competition would have been healthy for Moore, and at worst, Delhomme would be an experienced backup who knows the offense well. After all, the team is paying Delhomme almost $13 million anyhow; why not use him.
 
Bears sign RB Chester Taylor: Chicago needed a versatile back to spell Matt Forte and fit in Mike Martz’s offense but should have gone for a fresh-legged rookie instead of a 30-year-old now former division foe. Even without a first- and second-round pick, the team could have gotten a good backfield value in the third, such as Southern Cal’s Joe McKnight.
 
This story appears in March 6’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only daily digital sports newspaper, sign up today.
 
Vinnie Iyer is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at viyer@sportingnews.com.
Free agency brings its share of big-splash deals. It also brings questionable decisions that could haunt teams in the 2010 season and beyond. Here’s a look at significant examples:
 

The Ravens need Anquan Boldin's ability; they also need him to stay healthy.
The Ravens need Anquan Boldin’s ability; they also need him to stay healthy.

Three up

Ravens trade for WR Anquan Boldin: It’s rare to get a big, physical No. 1 receiver on the trade market. Boldin will help Baltimore in many ways, foremost as a top downfield threat for strong-armed third-year quarterback Joe Flacco. General manager Ozzie Newsome also was wise to lock up Boldin with a contract extension through 2013.
 
"He’s a very tough competitor and, with the way he plays with passion, he’ll fit right in with the foundation we have for our team," Newsome told reporters Friday.
 
For this deal to pay off for Baltimore, Boldin must buck history and stay healthy. Still, this is the kind of aggressive maneuver that can put a contender over the top and into the Super Bowl.
 
Bears sign Julius Peppers: So much for a team with a 3-4 scheme signing Peppers and moving him to the unfamiliar, more demanding role of outside linebacker. Instead, Peppers stays in a 4-3 front with cover-2 principles behind it, going from one Tony Dungy disciple (Ron Meeks) to another (Lovie Smith).
 
Like the Colts, Chicago doesn’t like to blitz and that means a high-caliber pass-rush end was critical. "For our defense to be successful, we have to get pressure with our front four," Smith said.
 
Peppers will line up at end and take on the Dwight Freeney-like role, focusing on what he does best — charging upfield and disrupting the pocket.
 
Falcons sign CB Dunta Robinson: Atlanta officials focused on this move in the early hours of the signing period and came through with the right five-year deal to land the Georgia native. The Falcons have a good young front seven, and Robinson gives them a much-needed steady cover man.
 

To live up to his Lions contract, Nate Burleson must show flashes of his Vikings days.
To live up to his Lions contract, Nate Burleson must show flashes of his Vikings days.

Three down

Lions sign WR Nate Burleson: It was obvious Detroit was desperate for a receiver to complement Calvin Johnson, and there is logic behind the signing because Burleson once performed well in a Scott Linehan-coached offense in Minnesota.
 
Burleson, however, wasn’t worth the price of five years, $25 million. He is often injured and never lived up to the big contract the hometown Seahawks gave him.
 
Panthers release QB Jake Delhomme: "It’s been a great run," Delhomme said Friday at an emotional press conference. "I’m leaving with no animosity whatsoever."
 
It’s no surprise the team wanted to move forward with Matt Moore as its starting quarterback after having Delhomme in that position since ’03, but the Panthers should’ve brought Delhomme back in the uncapped year. Competition would have been healthy for Moore, and at worst, Delhomme would be an experienced backup who knows the offense well. After all, the team is paying Delhomme almost $13 million anyhow; why not use him.
 
Bears sign RB Chester Taylor: Chicago needed a versatile back to spell Matt Forte and fit in Mike Martz’s offense but should have gone for a fresh-legged rookie instead of a 30-year-old now former division foe. Even without a first- and second-round pick, the team could have gotten a good backfield value in the third, such as Southern Cal’s Joe McKnight.
 
This story appears in March 6’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only daily digital sports newspaper, sign up today.
 
Vinnie Iyer is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

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