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.
Several agents said they didn’t expect to sleep Tuesday as the NFL reopened for business after 4 1/2 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 before he signed with San Francisco.
“There are times when you are fielding four or five calls at once,” Linta added. “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 had there not been a labor stoppage.
“I think the best way to say it is whatever you can imagine, it’s probably worse than that,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “There is multitasking at its most furious.”
• Former Carroll College tight end Bubba Bartlett reached an agreement with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent.
Bartlett said he chose the Texans, where he is expected to play the hybrid H-back position, a combination of a fullback and tight end. The former Lakeland High player reached an agreement with the team Monday, shortly after the NFL lockout ended.
Bartlett had 62 catches for 651 yards and six touchdowns as a senior, helping Carroll to the NAIA national championship.
• Linebacker Bryan Braman (West Texas A&M/Shadle Park High) also signed a free-agent contract with the Texans.
• Former Washington State punter Reid Forrest signed a free-agent contract with the Buffalo Bills.
Forrest ranked third in the Pac-10 Conference last year with an average of 45.42 yards per punt.
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