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