With a signings starting to pop like a bag of Orville Redenbacher's in the microwave, one name has been ominously absent – Ray Edwards.
Edwards has been forced to wait to cash in on his prowess as a pass rusher and run stuffer. When the owners opted out of the last CBA, one of the protections that kicked in was that free agency wouldn't begin until a player had six years in the league instead of four. Edwards, who was entering his fifth season last year, wasn't eligible and made no bones about his dissatisfaction with being screwed by the system.
Given his disgruntlement over the Vikings signing his backup (Brian Robison) to a contract extension, Edwards made it clear that he wanted somebody to show him the money. Forty-eight hours into the new-look free agency the NFL has adopted this season, no deal has yet been struck. But it hasn't stopped the rumor mill from churning.
In the weeks leading up to the new CBA, the one team that seemed like a glove fit for Edwards was the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons had the best record in the NFC last year and put a lot of eggs in the basket of wide receiver Julio Jones – mortgaging a significant portion of their drafting future to move up into the rarified air of the top 10 picks to snap up Jones with the sixth overall pick. With Michael Turner as a ground game plow horse, Pro Bowler Roddy White becoming an elite wide receiver and QB Matt Ryan, the Falcons offense appears set. And that doesn't even consider future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, who can still dominate despite being long in the tooth. With the offense settled, many believe all the Falcons need to become not just a Super Bowl contender, but a Super Bowl favorite, would be a young pass-rushing defensive end.
Since the draft, the Falcons and Edwards have been linked. Yet, as the story currently goes, the Falcons not only aren't going to sign Edwards, there may be something they learned in their due diligence that has turned them off of the free agent defensive end.
According to the bow-tie crowd in Atlanta, the Falcons cooled on the idea of offering Edwards a huge contract and believe his will land in Philadelphia. The Falcons are rumored to be more concerned about spreading money around to sign some of their own UFAs, as opposed to raising the bar on re-signing future free agents by throwing eight figures of guaranteed money at "an outsider" that wasn't part of their 2010 success.
While the Falcons apparently have pulled their interest, it hasn't stopped the rumors from suggesting several landing spots.
In Tennessee, word is that the Titans have sent out feelers to Edwards, while Jason Babin, who had 12.5 sacks last year, said Titans poobah Mike Reinfeldt hasn't called him about getting a deal done. The plot thickens.
Word from the bowels of the Rust Belt is that the Cleveland Browns are inquiring and, by some accounts, have either made or are exchanging offers with Edwards and his people. If he signs with the Browns, who appear to have no chance of being at a Super Bowl without buying hologram-protected tickets, we will know where his allegiance truly lies. Be honest. Nobody signs with Cleveland or Cincinnati unless they're just about the money. Whether the Browns interest is legitimate or not has yet to be seen, but the rumor mill keeps on grinding.
Philadelphia is also in the mix, but most of the reports coming out of the City of Brotherly Hate tend to quote stories out of Atlanta with the "thanks, but no thanks" theme.
And now a new contender has emerged – the Seattle Seahawks. Really? They already got Sidney Rice, as well as Tarvaris Jackson. Are they really so ticked off about the poison-pill Steve Hutchinson deal that they're looking to grab another Viking?
Word on the street is that the delay may be the result of the mind-boggling six-year, $72 million deal the Panthers gave DE Charles Johnson, a good, but not great defensive end.
So, where does Ray-Ray land? It looks like it could be whoever offers the most cash.
In an appearance on NFL Network, Edwards said, "I will play anywhere, as long as the team is committed to winning." We will leave it up to you to determine which teams have as a motto, "We're kind of committed to winning" or "Oh, the hell with it. We're committed to making money and could really care less about winning."
A lot of free agents are coming off the board and, as of yet, Edwards hasn't been officially linked to anyone. What is the delay? Perhaps Edwards has given instructions that he wants every dollar he can get.