News  

 

The top 50 players in free agency

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
More Columns >

» Kirwan: Top five players at each position | Schefter's top free agents


Every pro personnel director in the NFL has a player board stacked by grade and position in order to react to player acquisition attempts when free agency starts.

Usually, they will place their own players on the board in the position they have them graded. It gives a good visual as to where a team stands, player by player, as it relates to the free agents available. This board will not include the restricted free agents and history says there is very little traffic in the restricted free agent business because most teams are not willing to give up the draft compensation to acquire a restricted free agent.

Here's a look at my top 50 players in free agency, along with the top five players at each position. Medical issues, age, and salary demands all come into play. And there will be constant flux on the talent board due to terminations, which will continue as the offseason progresses. There should be close to 400 NFL players hitting the free-agency market this week, and even after a number of early signings next week the number of free agents will stay constant as teams continue to release players as roster bonuses come due.

1. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee Titans -- Haynesworth will be the highest-paid defensive tackle in football shortly after free agency starts. He hasn't played a 16-game season since 2002, but he is a difference maker.

2. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Cincinnati Bengals -- Houshmandzadeh is a fine second receiver who will be paid like he's a No. 1 receiver. Age is becoming an issue, but he can help a number of teams.

3. Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona Cardinals -- Warner led his team to the Super Bowl and is going to the Hall of Fame someday, but the Cardinals have a generous offer close to $10 million a year on the table and he may want more. He may find out that the best offer is right in his lap. At his age, two years is as far as any team should go.

4. Bart Scott, LB, Baltimore Ravens -- Scott's age and solid play make him a better bet to play the length of the contract he signs as compared to teammate Ray Lewis.

5. Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens -- Someone is buying a legend and he brings a lot to the table, but he is better off staying in Baltimore. Teams can't buy leadership.

6. Derrick Ward, RB, New York Giants -- He reminds me of when Chester Taylor went to the Vikings. He can be a feature back, but better serves his team as a role player. No matter where he winds up, if he gets 250 carries then he will rush for 1,000 yards.

7. Jason Brown, C, Baltimore Ravens -- There is a lot of interest in this young inside lineman who can play guard or center.

8. Antonio Smith, DE, Arizona Cardinals -- Smith had a good year in Clancy Pendergast's hybrid defense. He hit free agency at the right time with half the Cardinals staff going to Kansas City.

9. Fred Taylor, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars -- Taylor is a late entry to free agency for salary-cap reasons. Taylor is best suited for 10 to 12 touches a game at this point in his career. He probably will not command a big contract to get signed.

10. Jeff Saturday, C, Indianapolis Colts -- One of the smartest offensive linemen in the NFL, Saturday would be a big attribute to any young offensive line. His age is working against him when it comes to a big contract.

11. Chris Canty, DE, Dallas Cowboys -- With three teams (Broncos, Chiefs and Packers) all changing to a 3-4 defense, Canty has real value. Five-technique defensive ends with height are hard to find.

12. Kerry Collins, QB, Tennessee Titans -- Collins wants to stay in Tennessee and he will find out that no other team is willing to pay like the Titans. He will find out that a deal close to $8-9 million a year isn't out there.

13. Brian Dawkins, S, Philadelphia Eagles -- The emotional leader of the Eagles needs to finish his career in the Eagles' uniform. Dawkins is probably at a point where a year-to-year contract makes the most sense.

14. Marvin Harrison, WR, Indianapolis Colts -- Harrison refused to take a pay cut and found himself on the street this week. It is hard to imagine him playing outside in the cold with an inexperienced QB.

15. Laveranues Coles, WR, New York Jets -- If Coles turned down a $6 million guaranteed one-year deal to hit the street looking for a long-term deal, he may have made the biggest mistake in his 31 years of life. I don't believe there is a pot of gold awaiting him on the street.

16. Jermaine Phillips, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- This guy has had some medical issues, but he can start for more than half the teams in the NFL. He's 30 years old, but should be good for three to four more years.

17. Bryant McFadden, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers -- The Steelers need McFadden back and may get him resigned. When Nnamdi Asomugha, Dunta Robinson, Kelvin Hayden and Joselio Hanson were taken off the market, McFadden's stock went up.

18. Nate Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers -- Teams doing their homework have Washington up in the top 20 on their boards. He's ready to take on the challenge of a No. 2 receiver.

19. Jabari Greer, CB, Buffalo Bills -- Greer competes and should make a run at a starting job, but can always fall back to the nickel corner. On good teams, the nickel corner plays more than 50 percent of the plays. He could help a team such as New Orleans.

20. Matt Birk, C, Minnesota Vikings -- There's no substitute for a veteran center to shore up a young line or give a veteran quarterback the flexibility to change plays and know the line will make the blocking adjustments. He has to be careful not to price himself out of the market.

21. Igor Olshansky, DE, San Diego Chargers -- A 3-4 defense, five-technique player is an important part of the defense. Olshansky could help the Chiefs, Broncos or Packers as they start to build their new 3-4 defenses.

22. Chris Baker, TE, New York Jets -- Baker was recently cut by the Jets due to issues surrounding his contract and the development of last year's first-round pick, Dustin Keller. This move puts a solid tight end on the market. A number of teams need a tight end, and the draft is months away.

23. Michael Boley, LB, Atlanta Falcons -- He fell out of favor in Atlanta last season, but the year before he played well. Someone is looking at him as an upgrade for their team and a change of scenery is probably the right thing.

24. Jonathan Vilma, LB, New Orleans Saints -- He proved he was healthy in 2008 and he also proved he belongs in a 4-3 defense. I think he returns to the Saints.

25. Brandon Moore, OG, New York Jets -- Moore is a quality starter in a free agent pool that is lean on talent.

26. Khalif Barnes, OT, Jacksonville Jaguars -- The Jaguars ran the ball behind Barnes with success. He's better suited for the right side, and as you may have noticed there aren't many tackles in free agency.

27. Mark Tauscher, OT, Green Bay Packers -- Tauscher is another tackle looking for a big payday. He needs his home team to be after him to drum up business.

28. Domonique Foxworth, CB, Atlanta Falcons -- The best thing to happen to Foxworth was when he was traded to the Falcons and reinvented his career.

29. Sean Jones, S, Cleveland Browns -- He passes the eyeball test and looks like a Pro Bowl safety. The game tapes show a guy more average than that, but he will get a deal since there are no first-round locks among this year's draft class of safeties.

30. Maurice Morris, RB, Seattle Seahawks -- I saw a reel of tape of just his carries and he's much better than he is perceived. He could do more in the right situation. Remember when Derrick Ward came to the Giants from the Jets as an afterthought?

31. Takeo Spikes, LB, San Franciso 49ers -- Spikes wants to return to the 49ers, but he knows football is a business. He's a Mike Singletary-type guy and a good influence on Patrick Willis.

32. Phillip Buchanon, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Former Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin knew how to coach him, and got more out of him than the Raiders and Texans combined. Tampa Bay should bring him back with all of their cap space.

33. Jeff Garcia, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Every player I spoke with who defended Garcia this year said he still has plenty of spin on the ball. Some coaches are reluctant to bring him in because they are afraid he couldn't function as a backup if he lost the competition. He may want to wait for a critical injury, rather than sign a low-ball deal this winter.

34. Keith Brooking, LB, Atlanta Falcons -- Sounds like the Falcons would like to sign him at their price point.

35. Chris Kemoeatu, OG, Pittsburgh Steelers -- Kemoeatu had to replace Alan Faneca last year, which is no easy job. He played better in the second half of the season and his team did win a Super Bowl.

36. Devery Henderson, WR, New Orleans Saints -- Henderson can make a play with the ball in his hands, and some team will take him to be a slot receiver.

37. Mike Brown, S, Chicago Bears -- Another guy who struggles with his medical situation. He can still play, come up and hit or play half-field coverage.

38. Rocky Bernard, DT, Seattle Seahawks -- Not enough defensive linemen in free agency to ignore this guy.

39. Mike Goff, OG, San Diego Chargers -- Goff has missed just three games in nine years. He probably gets re-signed.

40. Demetric Evans, DE, Washington Redskins -- Here's a value pick for a team that does its homework. Evans can be a wave player and give a team 20 to 30 snaps a game.

Best of the rest
As any of the top free agents re-sign with their former club or sign with a new club the following players move into the top 50:

1. Chauncey Davis, DE, Atlanta Falcons
2. Byron Leftwich, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Ron Bartell, CB, St. Louis Rams
4. Eric Barton, LB, New York Jets
5. Jake Groves, C, Oakland Raiders
6. L.J. Smith, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
7. DeAngelo Hall, CB, Washington Redskins
8. Shaun McDonald, WR, Detroit Lions
9. Angelo Crowell, LB, Buffalo Bills
10. Mike Montgomery, DE, Green Bay Packers
11. Atari Bigby, S, Green Bay Packers
12. Terrelle Smith, FB, Arizona Cardinals
13. Cato June, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
14. Michael Jenkins, WR, Atlanta Falcons
15. Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

» Top five players at each position

41. Bertrand Berry, DE, Arizona Cardinals -- At 33 years of age and some medical history, he probably should not be in the top 50. However, his five sacks in limited playing time keeps him alive for now.

42. Jon Stinchcomb, OT, New Orleans Saints -- Stinchcomb is a steady performer who benefited from the quick decision-making and rhythm passing of Drew Brees.

43. Leigh Bodden, CB, Detroit Lions -- Bodden had a contract that forced him out in Detroit. He played a lot better as a Cleveland Brown two years ago, but his contract demands got him traded to Detroit. He doesn't command the big money, but he could win a job on a number of teams.

44. Dre Bly, CB, Denver Broncos -- He took a lot of heat in Denver, but any guy playing opposite Champ Bailey is going to see most of the balls coming his way. Much like Aaron Glenn in the last few years of his career, Bly is backup insurance. He should realize the veteran minimum is waiting for him.

45. Marvel Smith, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers -- Smith swore to me that he is healthy and ready to go. Not sure he is, but if team doctors agree with him, then he moves up this board because there simply aren't many left tackles in free agency.

46. Andre Goodman, CB, Miami Dolphins -- The 30-year-old Goodman started all 16 games last year and had five interceptions. He should move up the board.

47. Stacy Andrews, OT, Cincinnati Bengals -- A medical check changes his status. A year ago, he was a tagged player. Andrews made 15 starts in 2008 before getting injured, but the 6-foot-7, 345-pounder with with five years of experience is young enough to consider.

48. Correll Buckhalter, RB, Philadelphia Eagles -- At this point in his career, Buckhalter is a backup role player.

49. Derrick Brooks, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- I would hope Brooks retires after being cut this week, but he can still make a few plays in a game. Teams will shy away from him at this point, but out of respect he's in my top 50.

50. Derrick Dockery, OG, Buffalo Bills -- Dockery can come in and start for a number of teams and possibly returns to Washington, where he played before joining the Bills.

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15