The free-agency signing period begins March 5, and it should be a slower process this offseason than in years past, for two reasons. First off, several teams did a good job of tying up their young players; second, more than 200 players that would have become unrestricted free agents will be restricted in an uncapped 2010 season.
Keep in mind, there are many players under contract that are due significant bonuses over the next few months. Some of them will be released instead of getting the bonus and that will sweeten the free-agent pool with some attractive free agents.
Expect at least a dozen veterans to join the free-agent ranks, much like Thomas Jones, LaDainian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook have of late.
Assuming there's an uncapped season, here are my top 50 free agents.
3. Gary Brackett, LB, Indianapolis Colts: I have to think Indianapolis figures out how to keep the leader of the defense.
5. Chester Taylor, RB, Minnesota Vikings: He's been a situational player, but at 30, he has fresh legs from a limited workload. He can do more, and someone will see him as the answer to their running back woes.
6. Darren Sharper, S, New Orleans Saints: At 34, he may be old, but he tied for the league lead in 2009 with nine interceptions and took three back for touchdowns. He also averaged 41.8 yards a return per pick.
11. Derrick Mason, WR, Baltimore Ravens: Would be entering his 14th season and threatens to retire, but what he really wants is a multiple-year contract. He had 73 receptions for 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
14. Leigh Bodden, CB, New England Patriots: The organization tried to get a long-term deal done with him a year ago and it didn't work. He had five picks this season and could start for a number of teams.
15. Chad Pennington, QB, Miami Dolphins (M): There's no denying he's a medical risk, but his name came at the combine. He's still better than a few starters out there.
16. Kevin Faulk, RB, New England Patriots: It's hard to imagine Faulk in any other uniform. He's still a terrific third-down back, and tough to blitz or cover.
18. Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE, Tennessee Titans: He went to the Pro Bowl last season and still plays with great intensity. His production dropped to just three sacks without Albert Haynesworth around, but a team like Detroit might love to have him line up next to possible draft choice Ndamukong Suh and teach the rookie pro football.
19. Ben Watson, TE, New England Patriots: Not many tight ends with upside in free agency. He can still flex his alignment and stretch the field.
20. Keith Bulluck, LB, Tennessee Titans (M): The veteran says he'll be ready for the season, or maybe closer to mid-September. However, if you are willing to wait, he can still play the run and attack an offense. It would be great to see him return to the Titans. Coach Jeff Fisher told me he would like to see Bulluck finish his career in Tennessee.
23. Aaron Kampman, DE/LB, Green Bay Packers (M): Medical clearance is an issue. He may want to go to a 4-3 defense where he had most of his success.
25. Terrell Owens, WR, Buffalo Bills: We all know the risk, and as he gets older (36) the reward isn't the same. Still, he did average 15.1 yards per catch on a team with QB problems.
28. Jason Taylor, LB/DE, Miami Dolphins: He's not going to leave Miami, but he did have seven sacks last season and deserves to be on this list.
29. Bryan Robinson, DT, Arizona Cardinals: A starting nose tackle is hard to find. In a rotation, he would be fine.
30. Chike Okeafor, LB, Arizona Cardinals: He had 4.5 sacks last season and understands scheme defense.
31. Antonio Pierce, LB, New York Giants (M): After missing time with a neck injury, he was released. Pierce says he's ready to play, but doctors will make the final call. He was a starting middle linebacker prior to his injury and really knows how to prepare. The veteran struggles in coverage, but could be a solid two-down player.
32. Joey Porter, LB, Miami Dolphins: With his release expected, the veteran can still supply a team looking for 3-4 help with a situational pass rusher.
Offseason previews for every team
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33. Jamal Williams, DT, San Diego Chargers: Williams was once the best 3-4 nose tackle in the business. He must pass a physical and if he does will be an interesting player for a team like Miami or Arizona.
34. Neil Rackers, K, Arizona Cardinals: Take your pick of the next two guys or work out both of them. Rackers scored 85 points last season and missed one field goal in the regular season.
36. Casey Rabach, C, Washington Redskins:- He's a starting center who is smart and can change protections.
37. Willie Parker, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: The burst looks gone and the title "fast Willie Parker" may not hold up anymore. However, if he works out well, someone will give him some cash.
39. Stephen Neal, G, New England Patriots: He's a starter with plenty of experience. A team looking for a veteran swing guard will study him on tape. A line coach at the combine noted backup linemen in today's game don't have enough experience.
42. Larry Johnson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: Despite the baggage, he averaged 4.4 yards per carry in his seven games in Cincinnati.
43. Jeremi Johnson, FB, Cincinnati Bengals: A team in need of a fullback will study the short list of fullbacks available. He could get the nod, but there won't be a lot of money involved.
44. Antonio Bryant, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The former franchise player would be a good fit for a team like Miami. However, it was a run-in with Bill Parcells in Dallas that started his long journey around the league. If healthy, he can grab over 50 balls in most systems.
45. Mike Gandy, T, Arizona Cardinals: Everyone wants better or younger, but he was a starting left tackle in Arizona the past few years, and you rarely see players at the position hit free agency.
48. Muhsin Muhammad, WR, Carolina Panthers: It's tough to imagine him anywhere but Carolina, where he did catch 53 balls last season.
49. Marques Douglas, DE, New York Jets: This may be a bit too low when you consider he was a starter on the league's top-ranked defense. Five-technique defensive ends are hard to find.
» (M) denotes medical risk.