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Free Agency Maneuverings

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As the free agency starting line approaches -- only nine window-shopping days until the NFL's version of Christmas -- the rumors are spinning wildly.

-- The Jets have officially franchised John Abraham but are expected to deal him in a sign and trade deal sometime just before draft day or on draft day. The Chargers, Redskins, Browns and Texans have apparently called New York already to inquire about Abraham. New York could try to leverage QB Philip Rivers from the Chargers for Abraham, allowing the team to select Virginia OT D-Brickashaw Ferguson with the fourth selection this year.

-- Abraham's franchising means the Jets offensive liquidation sale will begin, oh, about now. OT Jason Fabini, FB Jerald Sowell and G Pete Kendall were informed on Monday that they were going to be cut sometime this week. Newday reports that C Kevin Mawae is also a prime candidate to be traded or cut. The latter is more likely since he is due $4.5 million this year and is rehabbing a torn triceps muscle. New York's decision to gut its offensive line likely spells the end of Chad Pennington in Jets green. His fragile shoulder is not likely to survive behind a new, patchwork line. It failed behind the experienced one.

-- The Vikings have called the Dolphins and the Ravens to guage their interest in QB Daunte Culpepper. Owner Zigi Wilf says no final decision has been made on Culpepper's future with the team, but it's clear what the Vikings would like it to be.

-- The Dolphins are interested in Jacksonville's David Garrard and are also ready to pounce if Drew Brees hits the market.

-- Tampa Bay may release DT Anthony McFarland if he refuses to restructure his deal. The Bucs would like to re-sign K Matt Bryant but fear they may lose him. The team has started negotiations with Bryant but all bets are off is he is not re-signed by the end of business Thursday. The Bucs are $19 million over the cap and have some serious restructuring to do. They signed Billy Cundiff recently as insurance.

-- Detroit will franchise OT Jeff Backus is he is not re-signed to a new deal by Thursday. Lions GM Matt Millen says the team will not release WR Charles Rogers.

-- The Browns want to strike quickly in free agency. They are following Dallas' plan of development, installing a 3-4 defense and reworking an undermanned offensive line. They're also on the market for a veteran WR. That's no surprise because HC Romeo Crennell assisted Bill Parcells and later Bill Belichick. They bear watching because they're about one year behind the Cowboys and will likely be looking at the same players. Possible Cowboys' draft targets like Gabe Watson and Manny Lawson might be snatched up ahead of them by the Cleveland.

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