Early Christmas for Kyle

STEVE MacFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:19 AM ET

The biggest winner after Day 1 of the NFL's free-agent free-for-all isn't a franchise that plugged an important roster hole or one of the players inked to new contracts.

It's Baltimore Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller.

The Ravens yesterday agreed in principle to a five-year deal with former Titan Derrick Mason, arguably the best receiver available, giving Boller the kind of playmaking receiver he needs to have a breakout year.

The young pivot, entering his third season in the league, has -- unfairly -- taken a lot of blame for the team's poor passing attack but should thrive under new offensive co-ordinator Jim Fassell with a top downfield target on the team.

Coach Brian Billick said signing 31-year-old Mason comes at an important time.

"We hope we're working towards and trying to orchestrate the perfect storm, so to speak, in terms of everything coming together," Billick said at yesterday's news conference.

"Kyle is our leader, offensively. Now, adding to the puzzle for him is going to do nothing but enhance his abilities as well."

Adding a solid starting guard has now taken priority for the Ravens -- and a dozen other line-starved franchises -- but don't be surprised if the team attempts to land another receiver via free agency, although the pickings are slim since T.J. Houshmandzadeh re-signed with the Bengals yesterday.

Plaxico Burress is now the at the top of the receiver heap unless you're looking for journeymen such as Troy Brown, Joey Galloway and Troy Edwards.

Teams with cap space that may wind up bidding for Burress include Jacksonville, which isn't hiding its need for a big-play receiver.

Joe Jurevicius and Cedrick Wilson are expected to re-sign with the Bucs and Niners, respectively, barring an offer too good to refuse.

Speaking of wideouts, one of the best in the game was re-introduced to fans sporting Silver and Black yesterday -- and the Randy Moss trade will help the Oakland Raiders in more than the obvious way.

Making an effort to land the Minnesota Vikings superstar, controversial or not, shows free-agent targets the Raiders are serious about turning their team around and makes Oakland a much more attractive destination than it was at the end of 2004 with top receiver Jerry Porter unhappy and unsigned.

Former Jets running back LaMont Jordan will likely sign with the Raiders, as early as today, for that very reason.

If he doesn't, Chicago's A-Train, Anthony Thomas, would easily fit into coach Norv Turner's style of running offence.

Veteran quarterbacks Kurt Warner, Brad Johnson, Jay Fiedler and Vinny Testaverde should all find new roles, along with ex-Calgary Stampeder Jeff Garcia.

Defensively, cornerbacks are the stars of this year's free-agent pool. Former Titans stars Samari Rolle and Andre Dyson, Washington's Fred Smoot, Seattle's Ken Lucas, former Patriot Ty Law and Baltimore's Gary Baxter -- assuming he doesn't re-sign with the Ravens -- should all follow Anthony Henry, who signed with the Cowboys yesterday.

Kansas City, Minnesota, Indianapolis, New Orleans, St. Louis and New York Giants all are desperate for coverage help and will determine the market value of these players.

And the Vikings may be the driving force behind all free-agent inflation this season.

The team, once its ownership issues are worked out, has a lot of room under the cap to work with and needs help across the board on defence.

Oh, and a receiver is on the wish list, too.

But Moss sure left some big cleats to fill.


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