The NFL free agent market that's about to open is lacking in star-caliber players but that probably won't stop teams, spurred by abundant salary cap space provided by the labor settlement last spring, from doing some fast and furious spending.
The salary cap is jumping from $102 million per team this past season to $109 million per club next season, that after it increased from $85.5 million in 2005 thanks to the collective bargaining agreement hammered out between the league and the players' union last March. If teams want to spend money when the market opens at 12:01 a.m. Friday, they'll have the cap room in which to do it.
Philadelphia Eagles General Manager Tom Heckert predicted recently that "you're going to see a lot of guys get overpaid."
Heckert's team likely will lose quarterback Jeff Garcia when the market opens. Garcia led the Eagles to the NFC East title and the second round of the playoffs after taking over for injured starter Donovan McNabb. But Garcia is eligible for unrestricted free agency and the Eagles have made it clear McNabb will regain the starting job when he recovers from knee surgery. The Eagles re-signed backup quarterback A.J. Feeley over the weekend.
The free agent pool is limited because teams used their salary cap space to re-sign players before they could hit the market. Still, there are players who will draw plenty of interest and land mammoth contracts, likely including Baltimore Ravens linebacker Adalius Thomas, Buffalo Bills cornerback Nate Clements and Atlanta Falcons defensive end Patrick Kerney.
Teams can resume trading tomorrow. . . .
· ELSEWHERE: Chicago signed Coach Lovie Smith to a four-year contract extension through the 2011 season. Financial terms were not available. The team will hold a news conference today. . . . Minnesota released quarterback Brad Johnson. He'd lost the starting job to rookie Tarvaris Jackson at the end of the season. . . . The Texans released wide receiver Eric Moulds. He spent one season with Houston after being obtained in a trade with Buffalo. The Texans also released defensive tackle Seth Payne and guard Zach Weigert. . . . The San 49ers promoted quarterbacks coach Jim Hostler to offensive coordinator to replace Norv Turner, who was hired as head coach of San Diego. . . .
Physician Elliot Pellman has resigned as the head of the NFL's concussion committee. Pellman will remain on the committee.