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Free-agent frenzy looming large for NFL franchises

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Posted: July 26, 2011 10:10 p.m.
Updated: July 26, 2011 10:07 p.m.
Free-agent frenzy looming large for NFL franchises


The free agency free-for-all has begun, mostly with obscure names from the college ranks.

It will get wilder.

Contract negotiations for free agents and draft picks started Tuesday, with draftees able to sign right away. The big names among veterans — Nnamdi Asomugha, Santonio Holmes, Matt Hasselbeck — can't sign until Thursday, but their agents are negotiating deals right now.

Throw in dozens of players who will be cut, such as Dallas receiver Roy Williams and Baltimore tight end Todd Heap, which officially can't happen until Thursday, and it's "organized chaos," according to Colts general manager Chris Polian.

"It's a lot of stress, work, preparation. But it's what we all look forward to. It's our playoffs and our Super Bowl," agent Peter Schaffer said.

Indeed, several agents said they didn't expect to sleep Tuesday as the NFL reopened for business after 4½ months. In addition to their clients already in the league who are unrestricted or restricted free agents, they will have veterans released. And they are trying to set up youngsters, such as college starters safety Winston Venable of Boise State (Chicago) and quarterback Jerrod Johnson of Texas A&M (Philadelphia), with teams after they were passed over in April's draft.

"I always have a lot of guys in that category, and it's been absolutely nuts," said agent Joe Linta, who placed Michigan State tight end Charlie Gantt with the Chiefs and Cal receiver Jeremy Ross with the Patriots on Tuesday. He also fielded calls from a dozen teams for Utah defensive tackle Sealver Siliga.

"There are times when you are fielding four or five calls at once," added Linta. "Multiply, say, 10 guys you are trying to get signed by maybe three to 10 teams interested ... you do the math."

The math adds up to hundreds of transactions in a few days, as opposed to a few weeks.

"I think the best way to say it is whatever you can imagine, it's probably worse than that," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

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