With free agency scheduled to start at midnight Feb. 29, the scrambling by teams to get their ducks in a row is moving at a fast and furious pace. For what is supposed to be a slow period has been about as hot as any February in recent memory. In just the last 48 hours, several big names have been cut loose and several more have seen their fate sealed – either by being given the franchise tag or being released.
One name that has surfaced linking him to the Vikings is that of wide receiver Marty Booker
, released just days ago by the Dolphins. Booker visited with the Patriots Tuesday but left without a contract offer. Teams said to be interested include the Vikings, Titans, Steelers and Jets.
It's unclear whether Booker will be coming to Winter Park for a visit, but with the front office preparing to head to Indianapolis today for the start of the Combine, it's unlikely anything will get done immediately unless the team has already met with Booker or his agent under the cloak of darkness.
In other moves that have juggled the NFL landscape in just the last 48 hours:
The Saints have entertained linebackers Dan Morgan and Zach Thomas.
Thomas, who has already received an offer from the Patriots, is scheduled to meet with the Texans later this week.
The Panthers put the franchise tag on OT Jordan Gross, who was taken when the Vikings were slow on the trigger in 2003 when they drafted Kevin Williams after the Panthers and Jaguars jumped in front of them following a botched trade attempt with the Ravens.
The Colts slapped the franchise tag on tight end Dallas Clark.
The Ravens intend to keep Terrell Suggs off the market by hitting him with the franchise tag as soon as today.
Another defensive end – Jared Allen of the Chiefs – was also franchised to keep him off the open market.
The 49ers cut LB Derek Smith in order to save $3.3 million against the salary cap.
The Buccaneers met with former Falcons DL Rod Coleman Tuesday and are expected to do the same with TE Alge Crumpler today.
The Bears have made pre-free agency contract offers to LB Lance Briggs, DT Tommie Harris and WR Bernard Berrian. Briggs and Berrian are set to become free agents next week. They didn't, however, pick up the option on DT Darwin Walker and WR Muhsin Muhammad, making both free agents.
Bucs CB Brian Kelly paid out $450,000 to void the final year of his deal and make him an unrestricted free agent.
The Bengals' decision to franchise offensive tackle Stacy Andrews likely means that DE Justin Smith will become a free agent.
The Lions are preparing a contract offer for LB Al Wilson, who was completely out of football last year after being released by the Broncos.
The Texans released former starters C Mike Flanagan, LB Shawn Barber and TE Jeb Putzier.
Keyshawn Johnson is talking about coming out of retirement to potentially reunite with Bill Parcells and the Dolphins.
The Jets signed former Bengals safety Artrell Hawkins.
Wasn't this supposed to be a slow time of the year? If this is any indication of the kind of offseason activity we're going to see, expect to see free agency become like a pack of wolves finishing off a carcass, as teams move quickly to get the players they covet.
This is supposed to be the quiet before the storm of the Combine and free agency, but teams made the most of their pre-Indianapolis sojourn, making a mockery of the term "offseason" with a flurry of activity that has big names coming, going and staying put.