NFL Free Agents 2012: Drew Brees and More Players That Must Be Retained

Michael DixonAnalyst IIIJanuary 6, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:   Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks to throw a pass during the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

While we still have the playoffs in front of us, we need to keep one eye on the offseason. That means free agency. 

All of the following players are going to be unrestricted free agents. In some cases, there are better names. But the teams that those players are currently on can get by without them. That's not the case for any of these guys.

Drew Brees

Since coming to the Saints, Brees has turned a perennial loser into a consistent winner and actually, won a Super Bowl. Before 2006, the thought of the Saints being one of the NFL's best teams for a six-year period of time would have been unfathomable. 

Brees is certainly an elite quarterback and is showing no signs of slowing down. The Saints would be foolish to let the future Hall of Famer go. 

It's not going to happen. Brees signed with the Saints after the dismal Hurricane Katrina season of 2005. If he went to the Bayou when the team looked hopeless both on and off of the field, he'll be back now. 

Marshawn Lynch

Let's be clear about something. Lynch is not necessarily the best back on the market. But neither Ray Rice or Matt Forte mean as much to the team's success as does Lynch. 

The Seahawks are nothing on offense without Lynch. They're an offense that would be too dependent on Tarvaris Jackson, and that's not a good place to be in. 

With him, the Seahawks are contenders for a playoff spot. Without him, Seattle is a contender for the No. 1 draft pick. It's that simple. 

Matt Forte

It's hard to remember, but there was a time that the Bears were a lock to get to the playoffs. Then Jay Cutler got hurt. But even though they lost the first game after that, the Bears were capable of moving the ball. 

Early the following week, Forte was hurt for the season. It was then that the Bears offense became hopeless. They didn't win another game until a meaningless Week 17 clash versus the lowly Vikings. 

The Bears need to do everything they can to bring Forte back. He makes up too much of their offense. In a division with the Packers and Lions, the Bears will have a hard time competing without Forte.

Wes Welker

Welker has big play potential, and that's not something that can be overlooked. But what Welker does better than any receiver in the game is extend drives. On a third down, Tom Brady knows that he'll always have the option of checking the ball of to his receiver. 

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24:  Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots runs during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Never underestimate how valuable that is. When Welker arrived in New England, Brady was great. He was one of the best in the game and a certain future Hall of Famer.

Believe it or not, Brady has gotten significantly better. Brady has won both of his Most Valuable Player awards with Welker on the team. He also threw for over 5,000 yards this season and would have broken the single-season passing record were in not for Brees.

Welker is a huge part of Brady's success. There's no way that the Patriots could let him walk. 

Carlos Rogers

Behold the only defensive player on the list. Rogers has been an anchor in an otherwise shaky secondary in San Francisco. As the season has progressed, the otherwise young secondary has improved, but Rogers has been the steady hand all year. 

Rogers' ability has also helped the 49ers' be more aggressive on their run defense. Clearly, that has been a huge part of their success. 

San Francisco will not be in position to draft one of the elite corners in the draft. They need to bring Rogers back.