NFL's free-agent frenzy: wild times in NFL

July 26, 2011 - 4:29 PM
Free Agent Frenzy Football

FILE - This Sept. 19, 2010, file photo shows Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (21) at an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif. The challenge: taking more than 1,000 players and sorting them onto 32 rosters, working out contracts that must be signed and then processed by the league office, with every deal from rookies to free agents fitting under the salary cap and falling within the other boundaries of the new, still-being-understood labor agreement _ and, getting all this done in time for the start of the preseason, preferably by the start of training camp. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

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 before he signed with San Francisco.

"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 had there not been a 4½-month 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."

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AP Pro Football Writer Jaime Aron in Dallas and Sports Writer Bob Baum in Phoenix contributed to this story.