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This year's free-agent bargains


The first-day signings will steal the show, but it's the players who turn out to be bargain signings that distinguish teams' performances in free agency.

Bernard Berrian, for example, won't be a bargain. If Berrian becomes the best receiver in the league, he still won't have been a bargain because he's going to break the bank in free agency. The same can be said of cornerback Asante Samuel and guard Alan Faneca.

So what players might represent the bargain acquisitions in free agency this year? Here's one reporter's list.

Cleo Lemon—He's got nice size, a good arm and some mobility and last season Lemon got some legitimate playing time. He threw six touchdown passes on the league's worst team and did some impressive things. A former undrafted free agent, Lemon has finally established a career and is worthy of a backup role.

Musa Smith—Good size and speed numbers. Smith had a big outing in the regular-season finale and appears to be all the way back from a broken leg.

LaBrandon Toefield—Dependable runner with surprise-you size and power. When he knocks off the rust, he might surprise somebody.

Terrance Copper—Undrafted free-agent wide receiver who made some important catches in the Saints' Cinderella 2006 season. A short, stocky receiver, Copper will make the tough catches over the middle.

Kris Wilson—Former high pick has shown flashes of being the receiver the Chiefs envisioned, but it's difficult establishing yourself at tight end on the same team with Tony Gonzalez. Wilson makes impressive catches and has H-back potential.

Maurice Williams—If Max Starks is worth a $6.895 million transition tag, then Williams is a bargain at any price. He's a veteran right tackle who stepped in at right guard and did a top job last season.

Randy Starks—The Titans made a major mistake in allowing so many of their defensive linemen to come free at the same time. Starks is an accomplished run-stuffing defensive tackle and here's the best part: He's only 24.

Clark Haggans—High-motor pass-rusher for a 3-4 team. He may not be cheap but, relative to what pass-rushers get on the open market, Haggans might represent a bargain.

Calvin Pace—The same can be said of Pace. No one's quite sure what he'll command in free agency, but he offers more bargain upside than most pass-rushers. A former number one pick, Pace has a great first step and may only need to find the right team and the right coach.

Sammy Davis—A former high pick, Davis was an under-achiever with the Chargers. He still has top tools and some team might find a way to use them.

Chidi Iwuoma—Top special teams player who won't embarrass himself at cornerback. Hard-nosed player for a team that needs one.

Michael Doss—He's not as big or as fast as you'd like, but he's tough, motivated and knows how to play the game. He'll please somebody as a third safety.

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