2012 NFL Free Agents: Ranking the 10 Best Offensive Players Available

Jennifer Eakins@@themondaymommy Contributor IFebruary 27, 2012

2012 NFL Free Agents: Ranking the 10 Best Offensive Players Available

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    In ranking the top offensive players who are about to hit the free-agent market, I decided to include only the guys who are truly going to be available come March 13.

    That means you won't find Drew Brees, Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Matt Forte, Mike Wallace, Wes Welker or Dwayne Bowe on this list.

    Here's a look at the top 10 guys on the offensive side of the ball who have the real possibility of playing for a new team next season.

10. Brandon Lloyd, Wide Receiver

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    It seems like Brandon Lloyd has been in the league for longer than he has. At 30 years old, he still has some good years left in him and can make a difference in a team's offense.

    It wouldn't be too surprising to find him playing in New England, where his former head coach Josh McDaniels is now the offensive coordinator. He was playing for McDaniels during his career-high 2010 season, when he finished with 1,448 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.

9. Michael Bush, Running Back

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    With an injury to Darren McFadden in 2011, Michael Bush was able to step in and prove himself as a viable option at running back for the Raiders.

    He ran for 977 yards and seven touchdowns, with an additional 418 yards receiving.

    If he re-signs with the silver and black, Bush will most likely find himself behind McFadden on the depth chart. If he wants to be a starting back and get paid like one, he will probably need to look elsewhere and make a deal with another team.

8. Scott Wells, Center

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    Although Scott Wells fits in perfectly with the Green Bay system, he may test the waters to see what kind of money he is offered elsewhere.

    Wells has played in 111 games, including 100 starts, in his eight seasons in a Packers uniform. He is a brick wall, an excellent pass-blocker and makes great snap decisions.

    A stud center is hard to find in this league, so when Wells comes available, expect teams to throw some tempting offers his way. If the Packers have any intention of retaining him, they will have to match any deal proposed, and it is still uncertain whether they are willing to do so.

7. Marshawn Lynch, Running Back

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    The Seahawks traded for Marshawn Lynch three games into the 2010 NFL season.

    He had a total 747 yards during that season and played a large part in the 41-36 playoff upset over the Saints in his first career playoff appearance. Last season, Lynch was a workhorse on offense for the Seahawks, rushing for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns. If he continues to play in "Beast Mode," he could make an impact in the rushing game of many teams around the league.

    It is unclear whether the Seahawks will offer Marshawn enough money to keep him in Seattle. They may decide to spend that cash addressing other team needs, such as quarterback or receiver.

6. Jared Gaither, Offensive Tackle

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    Throughout his NFL career, Jared Gaither has never been short on talent. However, injuries and off-the-field issues have clouded his success, leading to two teams releasing him over a two-year span.

    Gaither was claimed off waivers by the San Diego Chargers in Nov. 2011. In the five games he played for the Bolts, he allowed no sacks and only three pressures.

    If a team believes in him and allows him to play at his preferred left tackle position, Gaither could shine and become one of the best offensive tackles in the league. The right team could score the bargain of the offseason in Gaither, as his off-the-field issues will probably lower his contract value.

5. Marques Colston, Wide Receiver

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    As one of several Saints players about to hit the free-agent market, Marques Colston may find himself wearing a differently-colored jersey in training camp.

    It is still unclear if the Saints will franchise tag Drew Brees, Carl Nicks or Colston. Will they spend the big bucks on Colston or decide to move forward with Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles fielding the bulk of Brees' passes?

    In Colston, a team would gain an elite ball-catcher who has gained over 1,000 yards in five out of his six seasons in New Orleans. There are many rosters in the NFL that can use that kind of production and are willing and able to pay for it.

4. Chris Myers, Center

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    Chris Myers was snatched away from the Broncos as a restricted free agent in 2008.

    He has since started all 64 regular-season games as a Texan and has been one of the anchors of arguably the best offensive line in the NFL.

    Myers is an unrestricted free agent whom the Texans would love to retain. Unfortunately for Houston, they may not be able to afford him. Both Mario Williams and Arian Foster are also free agents and most likely priorities, leaving very little room under the salary cap.

3. Matt Flynn, Quarterback

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    Matt Flynn is arguably the most intriguing player in this year's crop of free agents. Despite only having two games under his belt as a pro starter, there are a number of quarterback-anemic teams looking to make a play for the signal-caller.

    In those two starts, he went 55-of-81 for 731 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. He has had the good fortune of learning from Aaron Rodgers and is looking to make his own mark in the NFL.

    Flynn presents the opportunity for a team to get their franchise guy. Former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is now the Miami Dolphins head coach, so it would not be surprising to see him land in South Florida.

    Regardless of his destination, it will be interesting to watch Matt Flynn during free agency and see how it all plays out.

2. Vincent Jackson, Wide Receiver

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    The Chargers and Vincent Jackson have had their share of contract disputes in the past several years. Jackson has been seeking the compensation that top-tier receivers in the NFL make, and this offseason is no different.

    Vincent is a big-play receiver who has had three 1,000-yard seasons over the past four years. At 6'5" and 230 lbs., he is built like a tight end with the speed of a wide receiver.

    Many teams around the league would love to get their hands on Jackson this offseason. It will certainly be interesting to see where he ends up, if not in San Diego.

1. Carl Nicks, Guard

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    After signing Jahri Evans to a seven-year, $56.7 million contract in 2010, the Saints are now faced with doling out similar money to keep guard Carl Nicks in New Orleans.

    Nicks is one of the best guards in the league and is well worth the money. However, the Saints also have Drew Brees to re-sign, and a large percent of their money under the cap will go to his new contract.

    Nicks is excellent at both run- and pass-blocking while drawing very few penalties—a hot commodity in an NFL guard.

    There are many teams that could use his expertise and are willing to pay for it. It is tough to tell where Nicks will end up, but it most likely will not be in a Saints jersey.