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Lance Briggs and Asante Samuel Franchised

The two biggest free agents this off-season are off the market. Lots of sources, so I'll spare you the link.

Seattle was not in the running for either player but the moves do affect the Hawks. Primarily because our division rivals are flush with money and all have needs at either LB, DB or both.

The 49ers were the worst team in the league at defending against the TE in 2006, Briggs' specialty. It's been rumored that Briggs was unwilling to play in a 3-4, but that doesn't matter much now. Adalius Thomas would seem to be the next best fit, and don't be surprised if they break the bank to bring him in. He's decent in coverage, but a force rushing the passer. The 49ers current best pass rusher, Bryant Young, is 35 and though he's seen a bit of a late career resurgence, those tend to end quickly and dramatically. The team needs some young talent in the front seven, not to mention a few play makers on offense. The front office and fans seem to think this is a team on the verge of contending--something I seriously disagree with--so expect them to make waves in free agency. Considering the players still available, I couldn't be happier if they commit big money to some MOR starters or post-decline stars.

The Cardinals would have loved to have either Briggs or Samuel, but more so Samuel. Not only will this likely put them all-in in the pursuit of Nate Clements, but also make them one of the main suitors for Ken Hamlin. Pair Hamlin and Clements with Antrel Rolle and Adrian Wilson and you have a fearsome combination of hard hitters that comprise an elite secondary. Arizona is a team on the rise, with a new stadium in a largely untapped major media market. This gives them competitive currency to go with their 36.7 million in cap space. The Cards have a history of poaching Seattle talent and can offer Hamlin a contract Seattle would be smart to avoid matching. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Clements and/or the Hammer were Cardinals next year.

The Rams are either primed to break out or break down. Given what looks to be a daunting schedule, my money is on break down, but it should be noted that they were the second best team in the division--and actually rated higher than the Hawks according to FO's metrics--while missing premier left tackle Orlando Pace for half the season. The Linehan/Haslett brain-trust will be looking for defensive talent to make one final stab at the title. What they really need is veterans on the defensive line. While the Rams would love to sign up someone like Dwight Freeney, they'll likely have to pry him from Indy's cold, ringed fingers. If Freeney is non-exclusively franchised, St. Louis could attempt to buy him out, a move that would net the Colts two first rounders and essentially doom St. Louis to years of future mediocrity. Bill Polian loves Freeney, so I doubt we'll see him anywhere but Indy for a very long time, but the Colts are facing a cap crunch, so you-never-know. Here's hoping the hated Rams have the opportunity to mortgage the future for Freeney's overrated ass. St. Louis could be in the hunt for Clements and Hamlin, but have a decent internal candidate at free safety in Ron Bartell and virtually no chance of landing Clements.

All three teams are likely to stuff their roster in the second round of free agency after teams have made their June 1st cuts. If San Francisco misses out on Thomas I wouldn't be surprised to see them go hard after Lavar Arrington or Dan Morgan (if he's available).

With FA talent at DB now very thin, I think it's pretty likely Hamlin is headed elsewhere. The Hawks signed Mike Green last season to provide depth at FS, but after suffering a lisfranc sprain his future in the NFL is questionable. The operative word there is "sprain", and Green insists he'll be ready to participate in the June mini-camps. If Hamlin leaves, the job will be between him and Jordan Babineaux. While neither player inspires gushing posts about what-if, potential, or upside, either are vaguely what is defined as a "championship caliber player." That is, a player good enough and cheap enough to be on a championship team assuming a high level of talent at other positions.