2012 NFL Free Agents: Highlighting the Best Player at Every Position
As with any offseason, there is always a Pro Bowl-caliber roster on either side of the ball hitting the free-agent market. Some names may never see the light of day on the open market since many teams are aware of what they would be missing, but every year a surprise takes place.
There are still a lot of questions to be answered regarding franchise tags and which players will and won't be cut by their teams before roster bonuses are due.
As it stands today, here are the best players at each position available on the market today.
Quarterback: Matt Flynn
Everyone in the world is trying to to determine whether or not Peyton Manning will be cut by Indianapolis and therefore become a free agent. However, he can't be called the best free-agent quarterback until he is a free agent at quarterback.
Another MVP-caliber signal-caller is on the market right now in Drew Brees, but whether by re-signing or franchise tagging, Brees is not leaving the Bayou. So teams can cross him off of their wish list.
The truth is that the best quarterback of the free-agent class, who is actually available, hasn't even started an entire NFL season at QB: Matt Flynn.
Flynn offers the greatest upside of any quarterback on the market and will likely command the highest price tag as well.
Running Back: Ray Rice
There are a bevy of great names on the market in the running back department, but many of those RBs are restricted and likely not going anywhere. Arian Foster, Matt Forte and LeGarrette Blount would all look nice in any backfield, but their current teams are not going to allow them to do so.
Another team that would love to keep their superstar but will have a much harder time doing it is Baltimore.
Ray Rice has made it clear that he is looking to be paid like the workhorse that he has proven to be in Baltimore. If the Ravens want to keep from slapping the franchise tag on him, they will need make a deal happen soon before his agent gets wooed elsewhere.
Rice is the best available all-purpose threat out of the backfield, even over and above the other names mentioned above. His addition would make any team's offense immediately better due to the amount of touches he commands and the production he delivers.
Wide Receiver: Dwayne Bowe or Vincent Jackson
The wide receiver market is extremely deep this year, and with the news that Randy Moss wants to return to football, the market is even more crowded.
Mike Wallace is a hot topic in Pittsburgh, but Bowe and Jackson are unrestricted free agents and very much on the market. In the case of Jackson, there is some speculation that the Chargers are going to let him walk into the waiting hands of another NFL team.
Both Bowe and Jackson are capable of producing big-time numbers, but their touchdown production is especially impressive. Either player creates a huge coverage mismatch with almost any secondary they face, and that will fit into any team's offensive scheme for next year.
Tight End: Jermichael Finley
Finley is hands-down the most dynamic playmaker available at this position. In fact, some teams may look at Finley as not only the top tight end available this year but also a player who may rank in the top 10 of wide receivers in this class as well.
Finley has had trouble with health and dropped passes, but the Packers will think long and hard about how badly they want to hold onto him as his matchup scenarios help the Packers offense run on schedule.
Size, speed and incredible route-running capabilities are hard to come by at the tight end position, but Finley can fit into any pass-heavy scheme in the NFL.
Offensive Line: Carl Nicks
For teams looking to solidify the inside of their offensive line, there is no better guard on the market this year than Carl Nicks out of New Orleans. He is coming off of another Pro Bowl season and is somebody that the Saints are very worried about losing.
If Drew Brees is smart, he will make sure that his new contract allows the Saints to re-sign Nicks for his own protection.
Kicker: Matt Prater
The man who may have had more to do with the Broncos' last-minute victories than Tim Tebow is available to make miracles for other teams.
Matt Prater is the biggest leg on the market, and his accuracy in clutch situations could make him the next Adam Vinatieri, provided he finds himself on a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Denver knows a good kicker when they see one, considering they let potential Hall of Famer Jason Elam walk away when they knew they would have Prater, and he may see a big pay raise to stay in Denver.
Defensive Line: Cliff Avril
There might be other names on the Detroit Lions who get more press than Avril, but one would be hard-pressed to find another player who produces like Avril on the Lions defense.
Avril is an aggressive pass rusher and has a strong desire to step out of the shadows of his more famous teammates in Detroit.
Any team looking to upgrade their pass rush will be taking a hard look at Avril.
Linebacker: Mario Williams
The Houston Texans are going to be hard-pressed to keep their former first overall pick, Mario Williams. However, with the success that the Texans had in his absence, they are not going to overspend on the star pass rusher.
That doesn't mean that somebody else won't look to Williams to fill a hole in their defense. Williams has proven that he can be effective with his hand in the dirt or roaming the field, and that kind of diversity is a hot commodity in the NFL.
Defensive Backs: Carlos Rogers and Dashon Goldson
People who think that San Francisco came out of nowhere last season ween't looking very hard at their roster, because the cupboard was far from bare when Jim Harbaugh arrived.
The biggest obstacle for the Niners to make the playoffs again next season is finding a way to keep both of their Pro Bowl defensive backfield members together.
Rogers and Goldson were both Pro Bowl players last season and are entering the prime of their careers. Each player can cover and tackle and would be a welcome addition to any team looking for help on the outside or back end of their defense.