NFL Free Agency 2012: Possible Moves for Top Upcoming 50 Free Agents

Brian WrightCorrespondent IIJanuary 13, 2012

NFL Free Agency 2012: Possible Moves for Top Upcoming 50 Free Agents

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    When the Super Bowl ends, the free-agency period unofficially begins.

    Teams will take note of they key components want to add prior to the official start in early March. Then, the clubs make their pitches and the players envision the upgrade in pay.

    The 2012 offseason will certainly see its share of moves that will be predicable and unexpected. For the 50 top free agents, here is where they are most likely to end up.

50. Laurent Robinson: Chicago Bears

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    Chicago is where overrated ex-Cowboys venture.

    Robinson had a few big games last season and it's a certainty that one team that has struggled in the pass-catching area will gladly overpay for.

    The Bears will be that team.

49. Ryan Grant: New York Jets

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    He hasn't been the same since the season-ending injury in Week 1 of 2010.

    This year, Grant has been far from a key figure in the Green Bay Packers' pass-friendly offense. The running back can seek more opportunities in the Big Apple, where LaDainian Tomlinson may be retiring and Mark Sanchez is looking for stability in the backfield.

48. Matt Roth: Jacksonville Jaguars

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    The Jags defensive end had 3.5 sacks in just nine games played, as he and many others on the club suffered through injuries.

    In a rough season, Jacksonville's saving grace was its defense. In order to improve, they must hold on to those that they know can fare well in the system.

47. E.J. Henderson: Oakland Raiders

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    The ninth-year linebacker out of Maryland appears to be losing grip on his top spot on the Vikings' depth chart.

    If he wants to play with Oakland, chances are he'll have more playing time at his disposal.

46. Greg Olsen: Carolina Panthers

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    Cam Newton has a fine veteran target at his disposal in Steve Smith, who had a comeback season in 2011.

    He also is blessed with two quality tight ends: Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen. The latter came from Chicago last offseason and the former signed a one-year deal before the 2011 season after the Saints released him.

    Shockey is likely to remain in Carolina due to the potential the club has with its up-and-coming signal-caller.

45. Michael Griffin: Washington Redskins

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    A drop-off in production will hurt Griffin in terms of how much he gets on his new contract.

    The fact that he's 27 and has had three stellar seasons in the pros will remain attractive for organizations (such as Washington) that are seeking out assistance in the defensive backfield.

    The Redskins look good on the stat sheet in terms of passing defense, but they had many showings of weakness in that area.

44. Paul Soliai: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Steelers could use the likes of Soliai in their aging defense.

    Currently a member of the Miami Dolphins line, Soliai had the franchise tag placed on him prior the 2011 campaign, meaning they did not want to renegotiate a new contract at that time.

    There's a chance the Fins won't be willing to keep him again this coming offseason.

43. Jeremy Mincey: Tennessee Titans

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    Mincey is going to cash in off his breakout 2011, one in which he logged eight sacks and 40 solo tackles.

    The Jaguars, his current club, will certainly take a shot at keeping him. Tennessee, though, will make the best offer as a way of improving their defensive line play. The Titans managed just 28 sacks last year.

42. Peyton Hillis: Indianapolis Colts

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    To say it's been a rocky few months is an understatement.

    Hillis faced dissension within his own club due to his missing games with alleged ailments. Now, he would probably want a fresh start.

    The Colts are likely going to be looking to refresh their offense (ex: Andrew Luck) and Hillis can provide a power running game.

41. LaRon Landry: Oakland Raiders

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    Injuries have limited Landry for the better part of the last two seasons, which may result in him getting surgery in the near future.

    It also may make other teams leery to take a chance on the Redskins safety.

    When he is on the field, he can be a punishing defender that delivers hard hits. His style fits the Raiders needs best.

40. Jason Campbell: New York Jets

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    Him under center in Oakland seems like a long time ago, even though it was just Oct. 16, 2011 when he had the Raiders with a winning record before a season-ending collarbone injury.

    With Carson Palmer now in the fold, the chances of Campbell staying on is just about zero.

    He may not get a starting gig immediately, but could find one with the Jets should the beleaguered Mark Sanchez struggle early in 2012.

39. Reggie Wayne: Minnesota Vikings

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    Like all the other veteran members of the Colts, Reggie Wayne suffered through a troubling and unconventional season.

    It's still unclear on whether Peyton Manning will be in Indianapolis come next year. If he does switch uniforms, expect one of his favorite wide receivers to leave as well.

38. Anthony Spencer: Dallas Cowboys

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    He's produced consistently in the past three seasons, but his most recent year is arguably his best.

    In 2011, Spencer had 51 solo tackles, six sacks and four forced fumbles. The Cowboys may lean on the idea that the 27-year-old can improve alongside fellow linebacker Sean Lee.

37. Brandon Carr: Kansas City Chiefs

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    With he and Brandon Flowers, the Chiefs have a promising young group of cornerbacks. The 25-year-old Carr snatched four interceptions last season and has eight in his four pro campaigns. 

    Kansas City is going to lock in the Grand Valley State product for a long-term deal in the Show Me State.

36. Brandon Lloyd: St. Louis Rams

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    This Brandon is also staying in Missouri.

    Lloyd came to the Rams at midseason from Denver and proved to be effective, all despite the anemic team play in St. Louis.

    Should QB Sam Bradford remain healthy, Lloyd will become more valuable and more productive.

35. David Hawthorne: Seattle Seahawks

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    Hawthorne was the beneficiary of three picks, including one that was returned to pay dirt.

    Another return he'll be making is to Seattle.

    The Seahawks need to keep their defense in tact considering it was that side of the ball that was the biggest reason for their solid second half.

34. Cory Redding: Baltimore Ravens

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    After two years in Baltimore in which he compiled 7.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception, the 31-year-old defensive tackle is going to move south.

    The Ravens probably want to move in a younger direction in terms of their defense, but it would be silly to just let this veteran go be an impact player with a different club.

33. Alex Smith: San Francisco 49ers

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    The top selection in the 2005 NFL Draft was approaching bust status prior to a revival in 2011.

    With new head coach Jim Harbaugh guiding him, Smith has limited his mistakes and has led the 49ers to the NFC West Division title.

    Considering what a good thing he has going with Harbaugh after just one year, it would be crazy for him to start over with a different instructor.

32. Chris Myers: Houston Texans

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    With Myers anchoring the offensive line, the Houston Texans had the second-best rushing attack in the NFL with 153 yards per game and 18 touchdowns on the ground.

    If you asked star running back Arian Foster, he would plead for the franchise to hold on to Texans. And that's just what they'll do.

31. Lardarius Webb: Arizona Cardinals

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    After starter Jimmy Smith suffered an ankle injury in Week 1, Webb played to a Pro Bowl-caliber level.

    He, however, went through ailments as well. In his first start as a pro in Week 15 at San Diego, he was picked on constantly by Charger QB Philip Rivers.

    The Ravens have plenty of depth in this area and won't make it a priority to re-sign Webb. That means he can find more cash with other clubs that don't have depth in the secondary.

30. Matt Flynn: Washington Redskins

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    He became far more intriguing, far more appealing and far more lucrative with his performance in Week 17 against the Lions.

    In that game, Flynn set a Packers record for passing yards and touchdowns thrown.

    The Redskins, who may be too far down in the draft order to obtain a top-notch quarterback without trading up, may take a shot at the Green Bay backup.

    It's a small sample size to go on, but it can't possibly be any worse than the mistake-prone Rex Grossman.

29. Terrell Thomas: New York Giants

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    The fourth-year cornerback from USC didn't get a chance to prove himself further in 2011. That's because an ACL injury during the preseason prevented any action in the regular season.

    It's unlikely that anyone would take a chance on Thomas. Therefore, a short-term contract with the Giants sounds very possible.

28. D'Qwell Jackson: Buffalo Bills

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    Jackson produced a career high in sacks when he posted 3.5 in 2011. In addition, he had 158 tackles, three fumble recoveries and an INT.

    The Browns would be prudent to retain six-year veteran from Maryland, but here's saying that the Bills will offer more money and more years to have Jackson be a key component in their linebacking corps.

27. Michael Bush: New York Giants

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    In place of the injured Darren McFadden, Michael Bush stepped in and was nearly as effective for his first couple of games at starter before tailing off.

    With McFadden back and likely healthy for 2012, Bush is seeking out his suitors. The Giants appear to be one considering they had the worst rushing average in the league.

    The prediction is that New York lets go of Brandon Jacobs to make room for the more agile Bush.

26. Brodrick Bunkley: Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Broncos defensive tackle has quietly had a solid 2011 and has been part of a defense that has been one of the league's stingiest.

    Consistently causing havoc in the middle of the opponent's offensive line, he had a solid outing in the wild-card victory against Pittsburgh.

    Look for his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, to make a strong run at bringing him back.

25. Steve Johnson: Miami Dolphins

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    Johnson exploded on to the scene in 2010 when he had 10 touchdown receptions and 1,073 yards through the air. He followed that up with 1,004 yards and seven more scores in 2011.

    With a fantastic upside in talent, he'll be an attractive option for many clubs, including division rival Miami. The Dolphins would love to upgrade their offense and have another pass-catching threat opposite Brandon Marshall.

24. Curtis Lofton: Philadelphia Eagles

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    The "Dream Team's" biggest nightmare was their linebackers. Philadelphia was extremely vulnerable in that area and were exposed regularly by opposing offenses.

    In order to return to the playoffs, they must obtain talent at that position. This could be either by the draft or free agency.

    When Lofton becomes available, the Eagles won't pass this opportunity up.

23. Carlos Rogers: San Francisco 49ers

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    In Washington, Carlos Rogers couldn't hold on to any potential interception.

    For his first year in San Francisco, he had a whopping six picks. Why would he want a change in environment now?

22. Marshawn Lynch: Seattle Seahawks

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    Ever since Lynch came over to Seattle, he's been less out of the trouble he suffered in Buffalo and more a powerful running back.

    A slow start to 2011 ended strong. The final part of the season is more of an indication of what he can bring to the Seahawks.

    The team will bring in another ball carrier, but that will only be to spare Lynch on occasion.

21. Marques Colston: New Orleans Saints

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    Why in the world would you want to leave Drew Brees?

    Colston better not have an answer to that question and simply re-sign with New Orleans. The Hofstra grad could easily hook up with a team that wants WR help and become the No. 1 guy, but he's not going to find a quarterback that's nearly as good at delivering perfect passes.

20. Stephen Tulloch: Detroit Lions

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    The Lions restored the roar in 2011 and will certainly want to keep the pieces that made it happen.

    That includes Tulloch, who pitched in with three sacks, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions over the course of the season.

19. Brent Grimes: Atlanta Falcons

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    From 2009-10, Grimes combined to have 11 interceptions. Last year, he had just one.

    Although the numbers don't show it, he was still an effective member of the Atlanta Falcons secondary.

    With that, the franchise will extend his stay on the only NFL club he's known.

18. John Abraham: Green Bay Packers

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    With 12 pro years under his belt, Abraham is still searching for a title. With 9.5 sacks for the Atlanta Falcons in 2011, remains able to be a leading player on a championship club.

    Granted, the Falcons prove to be a regular contender for a while. The Packers, however, seem to have a team poised to gain another Lombardi Trophy in the near future.

17. Ben Grubbs: Baltimore Ravens

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    Considering the successes that Ray Rice has had coming out of the backfield for Baltimore, you have to provide some reward to the members of the offensive line.

    That, of course, includes Grubbs. After five years as a pro, he'll get an extension and remain with the Ravens.

16. Calais Campbell: Arizona Cardinals

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    Since Campbell has only gotten better as a defensive end, he'll be an attractive option for any team in need of pass-rushers.

    The 2011 season saw him rack up eight sacks and 72 tackles (both career-highs).

    Ultimately, it'll be the Cardinals that will satisfy Campbell financially and keep him thirsty for quarterbacks in the desert.

15. Cortland Finnegan: New England Patriots

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    Like the Philadelphia Eagles, the New England Patriots' glaring weakness lies in the secondary.

    They must improve this area, considering they allowed the second-most yards per game in the entire NFL.

    They'll do just that by landing the biggest cornerback prospect on the market. Finnegan has established himself as one of the more unlikable players in pro football during his time in Tennessee, but his talent outweighs all of that other stuff.

14. Cliff Avril: Detroit Lions

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    In order for Detroit to get to the "next level," it must do something to improve the defense.

    However, getting rid of Avril would be a absolute mistake.

    The free-agent defensive end is going to ask for a lucrative contract that keeps him in the Motor City after making a career-high 11 sacks in his fourth year with the franchise.

    If the Lions are smart, they'll oblige and keep a vaunted pass rush in tact.

13. Mario Williams: Houston Texans

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    The chances of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft staying with the team that selected him is 50-50.

    Without him for the majority of 2011 due to injury, the Texans didn't miss a beat on defense. That could make him expendable. On the other hand, his presence on Wade Phillips' unit can only better it.

    Here's saying that he remains in Houston via franchise tag.

12. DeSean Jackson: Philadelphia Eagles

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    His whining over getting a new contract has gotten quite annoying.

    Nevertheless, his stats show that he's earn a restructured (and more lucrative) deal.

    What's more, Jackson's speed has the capability of elevating the Eagles offense into one of the most dangerous in the league.

11. Jermichael Finley: Kansas City Chiefs

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    His 2011 season was far healthier than his 2010, and it was slightly more productive.

    Finley scored eight touchdowns and totaled 767 yards receiving for a Green Bay air attack that spreads the catches around to a number of pass-catchers.

    He'll be courted by several teams considering his age (25), but it will ultimately be the Chiefs that land him.

10. Robert Mathis: Dallas Cowboys

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    How about the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Robert Mathis breathing down your neck?

    Opposing quarterbacks would have nightmares thinking about it. And this scenario might become a reality.

    For a team that has plenty of money to sign players, Jerry Jones will open his wallet for a veteran like Mathis.

9. Vincent Jackson: Chicago Bears

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    His off-the-field troubles and his bad attitude may be reason enough for the San Diego Chargers to pass up on re-signing one of Phillip Rivers' top wideouts.

    Jackson's talents are great, which can overshadow everything else and cause the Bolts to give him the money. But the bet's on him linking up with Jay Cutler and a Chicago team desperate to to get back to the postseason in 2012.

8. Mike Wallace: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Once a bruising team that liked to pound the football, Pittsburgh has become one that likes to air it out.

    And why not? With Ben Roethlisberger throwing and staying health, the Steelers have a good chance to be annual contenders in the AFC.

    That said, there's no reason to let their speedy young wideout take off to another team.

7. Dwayne Bowe: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Bowe's payday could have been significantly greater had he not gone without a touchdown in his final 10 contests.

    Nevertheless, he'll make good money on the market as a possible No. 1 WR. The team that will give him those extra bucks will be, well, the Bucs.

    Tampa Bay needs to revive its sputtering offense and Bowe could do the trick if he plays like he did two years ago.

6. Matt Forte: Chicago Bears

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    Forte had been pleading this season, prior to his injury, for a long-term deal from the Bears.

    And you can understand his point. Since he entered the pros with Chicago, Forte has averaged 4.2 yards per carry and has also been a reliable receiver out of the backfield

    The Tulane product has vowed to play in the Pro Bowl to show off his skills further. It shouldn't come to that for the Bears to recognize that they need to give him his just due.

5. Wes Welker: New England Patriots

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    It would be silly to say that Wes Welker is more valuable to the Patriots than Tom Brady, but the league's leading pass-catcher is crucial to New England's success on the offensive side of the ball.

    If the Pats can shore up the secondary and continue to feature Brady and Welker in the passing game, Bill Belichick's team can become even more dangerous.

4. Arian Foster: Houston Texans

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    Over the last two years, Foster has averaged 142.3 total yards per game and has scored 33 touchdowns.

    As a restricted free agent, the Texans aren't obligated to give him a long-term extension. That may not matter, considering the potential he's shown so far.

    Foster is the ideal fit for a surging club that has a stellar offensive line.

3. Carl Nicks: New Orleans Saints

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    The Saints allowed just 24 sacks over the course of the 2011 season, and Nicks was the main reason why.

    He has anchored the New Orleans offensive line for the past four years. Nicks will continue to be a mainstay in that group for years to come.

2. Ray Rice: Baltimore Ravens

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    Frankly speaking, Rice was underutilized and his stats don't reflect what he's capable of both in rushing and receiving.

    He could have a major impact on the Ravens' playoff run. That could equal big bucks in the offseason.

    But regardless of his cost, it would be worth it for Baltimore.

1. Drew Brees: New Orleans Saints

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    For the impact he's had on the city since arriving in 2006, it would be impossible to see him play for anyone else.

    Drew Brees is synonymous with New Orleans. He's also the single-season record holder for passing yards. The Saints should give him whatever he asks for.