2012 NFL Free Agents: Ranking Every Player on the Market
A project like this doesn't need much window dressing.
What follows is a list of every unrestricted free agent this NFL offseason.
Yep, all of them.
Players are sorted by position and then ranked.
It's simple stuff, really, and a nice illustration of all the data NFL general managers sift through every signing period.
Hundreds of names, dozens of positions and, somewhere deep down inside the ruckus, the potential to change a franchise.
Special thanks to the folks at Football's Future for the comprehensive list. If you have any issue with the way a player is classified, take it up with them.
40. Frank Walker (DAL)
Journeyman has played for four teams in the past five years. He’ll hang out on a depth chart somewhere next year.
41. Pacman Jones (CIN)
Laid low on the legal front, but was just as quiet on the football field. His future in the league is tenuous.
42. David Jones (JAC)
Came over in a trade for Reggie Nelson. Played a bit in 2010, but couldn’t hold a roster spot through 2011.
43. Justin Tryon (NYG)
A half-step above Coe in terms of proven effectiveness. OK, a small half-step.
44. Michael Coe (NYG)
Hasn’t done much in his time with the G-Men. Will struggle to make a team.
45. Anthony Madison (PIT)
The man has played everywhere, and never in one place for long. Has had four non-consecutive stints with the Steelers since 2006.
46. Reggie Corner (BUF)
Fantastic last name; not so fantastic defender. The Bills cut him last year and then re-signed him for depth.
47. Cletis Gordon (CAR)
Hasn’t had any significant run since 2008. Would be a mild surprise to see him on a roster and a shock to see on the field.
30. Travis Daniels (KC)
As cover guys go, there are worse. And plays well on special teams—always a plus.
31. Donald Strickland (NYJ)
He stayed on the field all year as a fourth cornerback. Wants to be back in New York and should be had at veteran minimum.
32. Bryant McFadden (PIT)
It was a mild disappointment that he couldn’t best William Gay. Pittsburgh just released him, an acknowledgement that his best days are behind him.
33. Elbert Mack (TB)
Showed some potential in the slot and will look for a chance to prove more.
34. Will Blackmon (NYG)
The Giants could use an upgrade in the return game. Blackmon has a long special teams resume that ought to catch an eye or two.
35. Jonathan Wilhite (DEN)
Faded towards the end of the season and will probably need to start fresh with a new team.
36. Lito Sheppard (OAK)
Former Pro Bowler was signed off the street and ended up starting seven games for Oakland. Should get a call when the injury bug bites.
37. Brandon McDonald (DET)
Maybe someone gives him a shot to play in the nickel. He definitely isn’t a starter.
38. Pat Lee (GB)
“It probably says a lot about him that while the secondary was falling apart last season he was still never able to crack the rotation.” – ACME Packing Company (Veritable Packers blog)
39. Benny Sapp (MIN)
Miami cut him after Week 1. He caught on with Minnesota, but wasn’t a difference maker.
20. Corey Graham (CHI)
His work as a special teams guy earned him a Pro Bowl spot. Was on the field for a team-high 412 special teams snaps last year.
21. Jarrett Bush (GB)
He provides capable DB depth and plays well on special teams. That's all you ask of a guy like Bush. If the Packers can't keep him, he'll get plenty of offers to go elsewhere.
22. Roderick Hood (STL)
Was an above-average performer that stood out on a bad Rams D. Will boost a team's depth wherever he signs.
23. Dimitri Patterson (CLE)
Proved useful in the slot last year. Don't play him on the outside, though; the Eagles learned that the hard way.
24. Alan Ball (DAL)
It makes more sense for Dallas to fill in with younger guys rather than to retain Ball.
25. Zackary Bowman (CHI)
Couldn't hold off Tim Jennings for the starting job and ended up playing a bit role. Would seem like team and player are headed for a divorce.
26. Justin King (STL)
King started all 12 games he appeared in last year. He's young and looking to play.
27. Leigh Torrence (NO)
Could follow defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to St. Louis.
28. Will Allen (MIA)
Keeps finding a way onto the field. The young guys in Miami haven't managed to bump him from the nickel spot.
29. Kelvin Hayden (ATL)
He isn't a star or even a starter, but he has a good nose for the ball.
10. Aaron Ross (NYG)
He's never produced the type of steady play the Giants expected from a first-round pick and looks to be settling in as an average cover man. While that doesn't excite the imagination, it will generate plenty of interest in a league starved for pass defense.
11. Ronde Barber (TB)
Barber is old, but he isn't dead. If he decides to return, he could fit well in the slot. His anticipation and smarts help make up for his physical limitations.
12. Tracy Porter (NO)
Porter struggled behind a woeful pass rush, but don't give up on him as a starting corner just yet. He's still young and has valuable experience, both of which could serve him well behind a better front four.
13. Eric Wright (DET)
He's stayed healthy, which is more than a lot of the players on this list can say. Wright isn't a phenomenal talent, but he can start for a team that has its priorities elsewhere. For what it's worth, his success count was seventh highest among all DBs, according to Advanced NFL Stats.
14. Jason Allen (HOU)
He was an important player in a much improved Texans defense. He heads into free agency with a positive vibe and some positive play to back it up.
15. Kelly Jennings (CIN)
He's a great tackler and the advanced stats prove it. Jennings struggles to defend the pass, but this far down the list, you'll take a guy with one elite dimension.
16. Marcus Trufant (SEA)
Trufant has struggled with injuries the past few seasons and hit a new low last year, appearing in just four games. Still, the name carries some clout. He's played a lot of downs and been a part of some big moments in Seattle. Someone will give him a shot to turn it around.
17. Phillip Buchanon (WAS)
Drug suspension and injury limited the veteran to just one appearance last year. Most teams would rather find depth on the practice squad than chance it on a backsliding vet.
18. Antwaun Molden (NE)
Molden got the most playing time of his career last year, but it was as part of a poor Pats secondary. New England should get him back for cheap and bury him on the depth chart.
19. Dwight Lowery (JAC)
At this point he's more a free safety, and one that will draw some eyes on the free-agent market. Started 11 games last year and the Jags want to keep him.
1. Brent Grimes (ATL)
Grimes has allayed any concerns about his size and pedigree with stellar play these past two seasons. The Philadelphia native has been so good that he shot past fellow Falcon FAs John Abraham and Curtis Lofton on the team's offseason to-do list. Atlanta is so sold on his skills that they'd rather franchise him than suffer life without his shutdown presence.
2. Cortland Finnegan (TEN)
Finnegan's calling card is his physicality, which skirts the line between admirable and overzealous. Bottom line: It works, and teams like the Cowboys will be knocking down Finnegan's door for a chance at his services. He's a top-10 corner in the thick of his prime.
3. Carlos Rogers (SF)
Rogers was nothing short of brilliant last season in San Francisco, finally making good on his always-apparent talent. Rogers was so improved as a cover corner and a playmaker that one has to wonder if it's sustainable. Can the guy who struggled to catch gimme interceptions for six years in Washington suddenly turn into a vacuum at age 30? Someone is going to pay a lot of money to find out.
4. Brandon Carr (KC)
Stanford Routt's arrival in K.C. marked the unofficial end of Carr's time as a Chief. The fifth-round pick has started all 64 games of his four-year career and at 26 is the youngest premier defensive back on the market. It's a rare combination of youth, experience and durability—one that figures to make Carr a wealthy man.
5. Terrell Thomas (NYG)
Thomas is getting a lot of buzz as a potential second-tier steal, and for good reason. A season-ending ACL injury in 2011 layered atop poor play the year prior killed his reputation, but he was solid in '09 and has the potential to become an above-average starter. At 27, he's the ideal second-chance candidate.
6. Tim Jennings (CHI)
The biggest knock on him is his size, which makes sense for a guy listed at 5'8". But he won a starting job last year and acquitted himself well for the most part. He's a good fit for the Bears defense and is a capable player with the right support and scheme around him.
7. Richard Marshall (ARZ)
He finished the season strong and hopes to carry that momentum into free agency. Critics will say he struggled for snaps early in the seasons. Supporters will note that lots of good players struggled early in a lockout-shortened offseason, particularly those who changed teams. As the season wore on, his talent won out.
8. Rashean Mathis (JAC)
He played well early in 2011 before an ACL injury shut him down for the year. Some observers felt he was playing up to his 2006 form, which makes him a name to watch this spring.
9. William Gay (PIT)
He's a middling NFL cornerback, not the ideal starter but certainly a capable one. He was a key member of the league's leading pass defense.
Running Backs: 37-30
30. Jerious Norwood (STL)
The wheels fell off fast because, well, the wheels aren't there anymore. The speed is gone and so is his effectiveness. St. Louis needed a lot more from him last year.
31. Rock Cartwright (OAK)
The terms "special teams ace" and "awesome name" come to mind. Someone will nab him for depth if Oakland doesn't re-sign.
32. Kevin Faulk (NE)
Bill Belichick has made a career out of unceremoniously dumping players when they've outrun their usefulness. So it's a testament to Faulk's character and locker-room impact that he's stuck in New England so long. That said, Faulk appeared to hit the final wall last year. He never fully recovered from 2010's ACL tear and was not active for the Super Bowl. Retirement felt inevitable, so it comes as a mild shock that he's thinking of another season.
33. Spencer Larsen (DEN)
Caught Tim Tebow's first career touchdown pass. Hope he didn't wash his hands. A solid player who, by virtue of his special teams presence, should skirt the line between practice squad and roster.
34. Jerome Felton (CAR)
With a few prominent exceptions (Vonta Leach), fullbacks have almost no indispensable value. Welcome to the modern NFL, Jerome Felton.
35. LenDale White (DEN)
If he wants it, the name should get him a tryout. Hasn't played a snap since 2009 and hasn't been a key producer since the year prior.
36. Ahmard Hall (TEN)
With Quinn Johnson set to replace him, the locker-room favorite is on the outs. It's been a good career for a guy that got a late start, but the final act approaches.
37. Moran Norris (SF)
The end is nigh. Bruce Miller replaced Norris last year and the market for fullbacks going on 34 wasn't big to begin with. Hard to imagine him in uniform six months from now.
Running Backs: 29-20
20. Mewelde Moore (PIT)
With Rashard Mendenhall still recovering from injury, it would behoove Pittsburgh to re-sign Moore. He won't draw a ton of outside interest and Mike Tomlin seems to like him, so the match makes sense.
21. Ronnie Brown (PHI)
Eagles fans won't forget his attempted pass-turned-fumble on 3rd-and-goal from the 1. NFL GMs won't forget how infrequently the Birds used him last year. Amazing to think he didn't catch a single pass. Like many Philadelphia free agents, he reeks of personal and team disappointment. Destined for smaller things, but has the talent to bounce back.
22. Cadillac Williams (STL)
A blah year in St. Louis leaves him without much leverage heading into a free agency. A smart team will see that and give him a shot at second string. If he can't hack it, move on.
23. Owen Schmitt (PHI)
An average player at a dying position. The Eagles tried to replace him in last year's draft but he keeps hanging on. Still in his physical prime and capable enough to keep his job.
24. Tim Hightower (WAS)
The Redskins must be convinced of his health before tendering an offer. He can be a good contributor, but Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster offer more potential.
25. Sammy Morris (DAL)
Positively ancient by NFL running back standards (35), but has managed to stick around this long. Filled in capably with the Cowboys last year and probably did enough to catch someone's eye.
26. Jackie Battle (KC)
Jackie Battle says he's ready to shop, and who can blame him? His 597 yards last season were more than five times his previous career total. Not career high, mind you, career total. An admirable performance for the injury-plagued Chiefs gives him an unexpected chance at guaranteed money. If he can draw any interest, he'll be gone.
27. Tashard Choice (DAL)
Fell out of favor with the Cowboys in a hurry. Someone will see two promising seasons at the beginning of his career and give him a shot.
28. Steve Slaton (MIA)
Slaton is too young to discount, but that rookie romp keeps getting smaller in the proverbial rear view. He couldn't take advantage of an opportunity in Miami, and needs to find his footing as a change-of-pace back. Feature status is out of the question.
29. Justin Forsett (SEA)
Fell off the map in Seattle heading into free agency. That's a red flag, but he's done some nice things as a third-down back/special teamer. Still only 26 and should find a home somewhere.
Running Backs: 19-10
10. LaDainian Tomlinson (NYJ)
He's still a useful back and an admired leader, so the market is there. Based on his comments at season's end, he's likely leaving New York, presumably to a team on the Super Bowl bubble. The big picture question: We know he wants a ring, but how much longer can LT last?
11. Le'Ron McClain (KC)
2008 was an aberration in terms of carries and yardage, but the big man still does plenty of things well. One of the few blocking backs that can do damage out of the backfield with his legs and hands, Kansas City and Baltimore will compete for McClain's services.
12. Kevin Smith (DET)
Smith revitalized his career with an eye-opening performance against Carolina, only to see the injury bugaboo resurface. Detroit looks like they want to keep the band together this offseason and that attitude would extend to Smith at the right price. At 25, however, he could draw outside interest.
13. Thomas Jones (KC)
Pro Football Weekly says Jones might retire. If he doesn't, he should have a market based on experience and past production. 2011 was a career nadir, but Jones still had flashes of productivity.
14. Maurice Morris (DET)
33 years old, but hasn't broken down yet. An above-average producer for the better part of a decade that has never played less than 11 games. The stats say he's better than many of the more heralded names on this list.
15. Earnest Graham (TB)
Still a serviceable fullback/backup running back. Not a game-changer, but a solid runner.
16. Derrick Ward (HOU)
Far from the player he once was, but still a solid third-string option. Backup duties are a long shot, but don't discount anything with this career overachiever.
17. Jacob Hester (SD)
The career stats don't impress, but expect Hester to draw some interest. The Chargers like his versatility and seem determined to keep him. That's rare air for a fullback, indicating that Hester is an asset at the position.
18. Jason Snelling (ATL)
A valuable third-string back with a couple of prime years left on the treads.
19. Chester Taylor (ARZ)
His four-year run in Minnesota feels like a long time ago. The 2010 face-plant in Chicago signaled the beginning of the end. Going on 32, the actual end can't be far off. He could hold value as a pass-catcher in the right offense.
Running Backs: 9-1
1. Ray Rice (BAL)
Rice led the NFL in yards from scrimmage last year; I'm not sure even that does him justice. Arguably the best all-around threat at his position, with a clean bill of health to boot. He looks like a lock for the franchise tag.
2. Matt Forte (CHI)
Coach Lovie Smith sounds confident in Forte's return to the Bears. More than likely it will be in the form of a long-term deal, but if Chicago gets desperate, they will wield the almighty tag. Bottom line: Chicago can't let Forte walk. Next to Jay Cutler, he's the team's most valuable skill position player. And it isn't even close.
3. Marshawn Lynch (SEA)
Fans love him, linebackers hate him and Seattle wants him back. But buyer beware: Lynch takes a lot of hits and isn't anywhere near as talented as the top two backs on this list. Don't get swept up in the Skittles; long-term investments in contact backs are serious business.
4. Peyton Hillis (CLE)
Cleveland says they won't tag Hillis if the two sides can't reach a deal, making the Arkansas product one of the few top backs that might actually hit the open market. The question for suitors will be how much stock to put in his Week 15 performance against Baltimore. Did a great performance against an elite defense eliminate the stink emanating from the rest of his injury-plagued campaign? Or do you overlook 2010 altogether and focus on how good he was the year prior? That season, according to Pro Football Focus, Hillis was a top-seven RB in terms of catching, running and blocking.
5. Cedric Benson (CIN)
Age (29) works against him, but Benson's resume makes a strong case. Along with Ray Rice, he's the only free-agent RB to top 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons. Teams looking for a run-first back could do a whole lot worse.
6. Michael Bush (OAK)
Bush is the one guy on this list everyone looks at and goes, "Hmmm...I wonder what he might do as a starter?" He can run (4.2 YPC), he can catch (418 yards last year) but can he do both well enough to anchor a backfield? Talent meets lack of opportunity meets market—an explosive combination.
7. Mike Tolbert (SD)
You have to love his skill set—great in short-yardage situations yet athletic enough to catch passes out of the backfield. That combination ensures his fit in almost any offense. He turns 27 next season and appears on the verge of a nice two- to three-year run as an above-average number two.
8. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (NE)
The franchise that wrote the book on running back fungibility could axe another feature back this offseason. So what is BenJarvus Green-Ellis worth outside New England? It's hard to tell, but the market will note that past Patriot backs like Laurence Maroney and Antowain Smith were nowhere near as effective outside Foxboro. If Green-Ellis thrives elsewhere, he'd be the first.
9. Ryan Grant (GB)
It was a small tease, but Grant showed signs of life with 10-plus carries in four of Green Bay's last five games and a 4.85 YPC average in those contests. He shouldn't cost much and those back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons will entice the risk takers.
60. Ikaika Alama-Francis (MIA)
Total ghost in Miami last year. Let the job hunt begin.
61. Matt McCoy (SEA)
Has always had a short fuse, but some coaches like that. Will be lucky to make a roster.
62. Ricky Brown (OAK)
Even by Ricky Brown standards, 2011 was a bad year. Appeared in just three games.
63. Kevin Bentley (IND)
A journeyman looking for one more journey. Played for three teams last year and registered zero solo tackles.
64. Mike Peterson (ATL)
Ended last year on injured reserve. We're waiting for that retirement announcement.
50. Tim Shaw (TEN)
Another Titan special teamer that the team wants back.
51. Patrick Bailey (TEN)
Tennessee plans to keep the special teams man in Nashville.
52. Ben Leber (STL)
A titanic free-agent bust. The Rams released him in November, which says a lot when you consider how much defensive help St. Louis needed.
53. Reggie Torbor (BUF)
Oft-injured and not all that productive when he's been on the field. Needs to plays his way onto a roster.
54. David Vobora (SEA)
He got snaps in St. Louis in 2009 and 2010 and he's only 26. One would think he gets another chance to play defense. Even if he doesn't, he's exceeded the bar set for him as 2008's Mr. Irrelevant.
55. Isaiah Ekejiuba (DET)
Seven years, zero starts.
56. Heath Farwell (SEA)
Never started a game but has four career fumble recoveries. Nice!
57. Keyaron Fox (WAS)
A career special teams player who figures to remain in that role for the next couple of seasons. If not with the Redskins, then with his fourth professional team.
58. Darryl Blackstock (OAK)
Made it back to the league after a three-year absence. Would love nothing more than to make it two in a row.
59. Xavier Adibi (MIN)
Made zero impression in Minnesota last year. Forced fumbles in consecutive seasons while with the Texans in 2009 and 2010. So...that's something.
40. Marvin Mitchell (MIA)
He's a backup, but he contributes. Has played at least 14 games in each of the past four seasons. At that age where other teams will give him a look.
41. Chase Blackburn (NYG)
Great comeback, great interception, but even the Giants don't want to re-sign their Super Bowl hero. If not them, then who?
42. Quentin Groves (OAK)
He's been healthy and active for the first four years of his career. Perhaps at 28 he can step into a bigger role.
43. Erik Walden (GB)
Nice story that's turning sour. Came from street clothes to contribute in 2010 and got the starting job in 2011. Didn't play all that well as the starter and, in the meantime, fell into legal hot water. Without the off-field mess, he would have been a lock for an NFL contract. Now he's on thin ice.
44. Blake Costanzo (SF)
He was the leader of a great special teams coverage unit. That's where his bread will be buttered.
45. Tim Dobbins (HOU)
He's a special teamer, and a pretty decent one.
46. Bryan Kehl (STL)
There's some cautious optimism about Kehl. ESPN Insiders ranked him as one of the Rams' four best free-agent defenders. I know that sounds like faint praise...and, well, it is. But the scouting report suggests Kehl has the chops to stick somewhere.
47. Andra Davis (BUF)
Davis lost his job early in the season and appears on the outs in Buffalo. The longtime Brown needs a new home, and at 33 will have to search hard.
48. Omar Gaither (CAR)
Wasn't healthy last year and that, for a middling linebacker, is the kiss of death.
49. Tavares Gooden (SF)
Early on in Baltimore it looked like he might have a career on defense. Nowadays he looks more like a special teamer.
30. Gary Guyton (NE)
Started in '09 but has been regressing into a backup role since. He's a useful player, but not a starter. Someone will make room for the Georgia Tech product.
31. Chris Chamberlain (STL)
On a miserable team, Chamberlain got a chance to show his stuff. The verdict: still out. At least Chamberlain held down the job. That gives him a chance to look for another opportunity in 2012.
32. Stephen Cooper (SD)
Injury eliminated 2011 and his production was down in 2010. Age is a concern, but it's always possible he has something left from the good ol' days.
33. Jordan Senn (CAR)
Stepped out of the special teams backwater to deliver plus performances toward season's end. Carolina doesn't see him as a long-term starter, but he provides great depth.
34. Brandon Johnson (CIN)
He's a backup, but a backup they seem to like. He's been in Cincy since '08.
35. Ernie Sims (IND)
There's no way around it—he was bad last year. Amazing that he's 27, because he feels so much older.
36. Bobby Carpenter (DET)
Had his moment in the sun with an amazing INT returned for touchdown against Dallas, the team that drafted him. Otherwise, though, he didn't make a big impact.
37. Bryan Thomas (NYJ)
Injury truncated his 2011, but he wants to be back with Gang Green next year. If he can return to 2010 form, he's a plenty capable player.
38. Tracy White (NE)
He's known for his work on special teams, but started to get a few snaps on defense in 2011.
39. Mario Haggan (DEN)
Fell out of favor when John Fox took the helm. He's a capable backup, but not a great athlete.
20. Larry Grant (SF)
Grant had an impressive cameo when Patrick Willis went down with an injury. The market should reward him with an opportunity to start somewhere, or at least compete for a job.
21. Geno Hayes (TB)
He started 43 games over the last three seasons, but the Bucs aren't enamored of him. Tampa wants to upgrade via free agency, and Hayes should be available. He's young (24), has experience and plays well when motivated. On a functional franchise he could be a nice asset.
22. Wesley Woodyard (DEN)
Led Denver in tackles last year and is a safe bet to return. Going on 26 so there's still growth potential.
23. Brady Poppinga (STL)
Following two down years in Green Bay, Poppinga rebounded nicely for the Rams. He won't start for a contender, but he can provide depth.
24. Kirk Morrison (BUF)
Played sparingly last year, but there are indications that might be changing. Buffalo showing a strong interest in retaining him.
25. Antwan Applewhite (CAR)
Carolina likes him and that means he's probably coming back. He's a contributor, but not someone you lean on.
26. Barrett Ruud (TEN)
Lost his MLB job early to Colin McCarthy and never regained it. Heads into free agency for the second time in as many offseasons, but this time with less leverage.
27. Keith Brooking (DAL)
His starts went from 16 in 2010 to 3 in 2011. He's running on fumes, but provides the kind of leadership GMs value.
28. Na'il Diggs (SD)
Should hear the phrase "veteran presence" tossed around with reference to Diggs this offseason. He's relatively healthy for an older guy and knows the backup role well.
29. Brendon Ayanbadejo (BAL)
A grizzled special teamer who should be back in Baltimore for another run.
10. Dan Connor (CAR)
Connor emerged from an injury-depleted Carolina linebacking corps to have his finest season as a pro. As he hits the market, lots of teams will see a young player coming into his own.
11. Jameel McClain (BAL)
In two years at the heart of the Ravens D, McClain's proved his worth. He started every game but one over the last two seasons and amassed 155 tackles in the process. On an aging Ravens defense, he's a much-needed jolt of youth.
12. Joe Mays (DEN)
The potential that first intrigued Denver started to show through last year when Mays picked up 67 solo tackles. Based on his early work, he should get a chance to start somewhere.
13. Jonathan Goff (NYG)
Goff was emerging as the man in the middle for New York until injury whitewashed his 2011. If he can return to his 2010 form, he's a good piece at the heart of a defense.
14. Leroy Hill (SEA)
His recent marijuana arrest sends him tumbling down the rankings. Legal troubles aside, there's ample reason to like Hill. He's a versatile outside backer that plays the run and pass with equal aplomb. But that comes with a heckuva caveat.
15. Philip Wheeler (IND)
Wheeler showed flashes during a trying Colts season, particularly in his work against the pass. As the Colts clean house, he could be a good yard-sale pickup.
16. Jo-Lonn Dunbar (NO)
A special teamer who made good on his opportunity and became a regular. Now New Orleans needs to decide if they want him to keep him long term, and at what price?
17. Channing Crowder (FA)
He's a huge wild card after his sudden retirement before the '11 season, but Crowder says he's ready to re-up. He wasn't a bad player his last year in the league, and there's a chance the rest served him well.
18. Clark Haggans (ARZ)
His production is down and his age is up. Haggans started all 16 games last year, but he didn't make 16 games worth of plays.
19. Bradie James (DAL)
Had the worst walk year possible. After three seasons as a tackling machine his numbers took a nose dive. The Cowboys seem to be evaluating him in tandem with Keith Brooking, which is bad news for James since Brooking is more than five years older.
1. Stephen Tulloch (DET)
Tulloch heads a deep MLB class, taking the top spot by virtue of his superior all-around game. He's a menace no matter the play call, and a sure bet to get the multi-year deal that eluded him last offseason. Detroit wants him, but they'll have to pony up.
2. Curtis Lofton (ATL)
Lofton is an ace tackler and an absolute beast against the run. On the front end of his prime, he should be a premier LB for the next three to six years. The Falcons have a tough decision to make: make a big-money commitment or risk losing him to a division rival like Tampa Bay.
3. London Fletcher (WAS)
Just. Keeps. Producing. I would say something about his age if the exact same thing hadn't been written five years ago. He's a tackling savant and Washington needs him back for the short term. Both sides seem like a good fit for one another.
4. David Hawthorne (SEA)
Hawthorne can play inside and out, but he's made his name in the middle stuffing the run. Like Lofton and Tulloch, he's still young and has room to grow.
5. Erin Henderson (MIN)
Henderson didn't get regular snaps until this year, but when he did he opened eyes. The fourth-year man out of Maryland graded as one of Pro Football Focus' best weak-side linebackers, a remarkable feat for someone so young and inexperienced. He's at the age where he can become a player you build around.
6. Anthony Spencer (DAL)
He's been a steady producer for Dallas the past three seasons and a nice counterpoint to DeMarcus Ware. The Cowboys will think hard about bringing him back, but only at a price that reflects his role. He's a complementary piece, not a core player.
7. Jarret Johnson (BAL)
The Jets expressed interest and the match makes good sense. Johnson played under Rex Ryan when the Jets head coach was in charge of the Ravens D.
8. E.J. Henderson (MIN)
He's an older player with obvious physical limitations, but speed was never his strong suit anyways. Henderson is a strong, instinctual player who can snuff the run with the best of them. Those traits bore fruit in his 110 tackles and top-30 finish among linebackers in Win Probability Added.
9. Manny Lawson (CIN)
Lawson's been a starter for the past three seasons and it isn't by accident. He's a great asset against the run and should get good looks as one of the few plus OLBs in the class.
10. Geoff Hangartner (CAR)
Coming into 2011, most of his starts were at center. He shifted over to guard for the injury-depleted Panthers and helped pace a surprising attack. The combination of the two buoys his value even as he turns 30.
11. Andre Gurode (BAL)
Was clearly miscast last year as a guard. He wasn't the most deserving Pro Bowl designee during his time in Dallas, but he was a good player. Even in advanced age, he can be a decent player again if a team puts him in a position to succeed.
12. Scott Mruczkowski (SD)
He's a backup, but at least he's a longtime backup. Experience counts.
13. Don Muhlbach (DET)
Long snappers aren't much for change. He'll be back in Detroit next year.
14. Ken Amato (TEN)
The temptation to add a "T" in front of his surname is almost too great. Oh and he's a long snapper, of course.
15. Mike Pollak (IND)
He plays up and down the line, but never particularly well. The prospect of him replacing Jeff Saturday isn't an attractive one.
16. Brett Romberg (ATL)
Can play guard or center but his only real purpose is depth. Not someone you want to slot in as a starter.
1. Chris Myers (HOU)
That the Houston offense remained viable through its sad parade of quarterback injuries is a great testament to the offensive line, particularly center Chris Myers. His work drove Houston's second-rated running attack and made matters manageable for third-string QB T.J. Yates. Myers isn't just the best center available in free agency; he's the best center in football. Re-signing him is Houston's top offseason priority.
2. Scott Wells (GB)
The Pack already locked up TE Jermichael Finley, which leaves Wells as their final big target. They won't break the bank for the first-time Pro Bowler, but he's a dang good center and Green Bay doesn't have a natural replacement.
3. Dan Koppen (NE)
The Patriots aren't afraid to let a good man go, and Koppen should get bigger offers from the world beyond Foxboro's doors. The choice will likely be his: take the money or the winning. Whoever ends up with Koppen gets an above-average lineman with valuable postseason experience.
4. Nick Hardwick (SD)
He decided against retirement, but the fact that a 30-year-old was even contemplating such a move worries me. If he's motivated to keep at it, Hardwick is one of the best out there. Few are better at keeping the quarterback clean.
5. Samson Satele (OAK)
Satele is a riser who put together a solid 2011. He isn't the biggest name on the market, but he's in his prime and a proven, above-average performer.
6. Matt Birk (BAL)
He's still an asset, but age is a big concern. If he wants anything long-term, Baltimore has to say no. If he wants to come back for one more crack at the big one, there's no one the Ravens would rather have. It's a fine line, and all potential buyers must be aware of the ticking clock.
7. Jeff Saturday (IND)
Jeff Saturday: 35 years old and still the best player on the Colts offensive line. Retirement looks like a strong possibility, but Saturday has the skills to play at a high level. If he has the itch, plenty of teams would love to have him.
8. Todd McClure (ATL)
He's a poor man's Matt Birk, still effective but working against father time. With no one better in the wings, Atlanta is likely to re-up with him for another year.
9. Casey Wiegmann (KC)
It looks like retirement for the longtime Chief. An ironman for more than a decade, Wiegmann would leave Kansas City with a big void.
Defensive Tackles: 35-30
30. Fred Evans (MIN)
Stuck with Minny for a surprisingly long time, but that run should come to an end this year. Will need to scratch and claw his way onto another roster.
31. Jimmy Kennedy (NYG)
Didn't see a ton of action with the champs this year. The clock is ticking.
32. Mike Wright (NE)
The concussion problems haven't subsided. You have to wonder if he'll play again.
33. Colin Cole (SEA)
Didn't appear in 2011.
34. Ronald Fields (CAR)
Was released by the Dolphins and Panthers in 2011. Would be happy to get a paycheck in 2012.
35. Tony Brown (TEN)
Hasn't played a snap since 2011. The prospects are dim.
Defensive Tackles: 29-20
21. Eric Foster (IND)
He's young and has a few starts under his belt, but there are big-time injury concerns after his gruesome Monday night ankle break.
22. Trevor Laws (PHI)
He's young and the Eagles like him as the last guy in the DL rotation. No reason to go elsewhere and no one chomping at the bit for his services.
23. Brandon McKinney (BAL)
He's a big guy in his prime. Might make a nice bargain for a team with a 3-4.
24. Kelly Gregg (KC)
It's been a good career for a sixth-rounder, but it might be time to hang 'em up. Has 138 starts and a Super Bowl ring to his name. Not bad. Not bad at all.
25. Letroy Guion (MIN)
Young and not totally without talent. One would think the Vikings want to see more.
26. Anthony Adams (CHI)
Chicago didn't have the cash to keep him, but Adams is a locker-room favorite that will play somewhere next year. He's on the downside of his career, but not out yet.
27. Howard Green (GB)
He's as well traveled as they come, playing for 11 different franchises over his nine-year career. Green didn't do much last year for the Pack, but you have to think he'll turn up somewhere.
28. C.J. Mosley (JAC)
He got some snaps with the Jags last year and even earned three starts. It wasn't enough to assure a return, though. He's young enough that he should pop up somewhere.
29. Amon Gordon (KC)
Before 2011, he'd never appeared in more than six games over a five-year career. Last year he saw action in every game and recorded his first two NFL sacks. His best hope is that it gets him onto a roster in 2012.
Defensive Tackles: 19-10
10. Pat Sims (CIN)
He’s a run-stuffer entering his prime. He’s a cheaper alternative to the Bunkleys of the world, but just as young.
11. Amobi Okoye (CHI)
The Bears want him back and feel he's part of a nice young group on the defensive interior. Adept at getting to the quarterback from his position.
12. Jonathan Fanene (CIN)
He's an inside-out guy that's getting a strong look from the Broncos. Notched a career-high 6.5 sacks last year playing primarily defensive end.
13. Gerard Warren (NE)
Proved he can be useful in a reserve role during New England's run to the 'ship. Says he wants to stay put.
14. Marcus Thomas (DEN)
Enjoyed a solid season alongside Brodrick Bunkley on the Denver front line. He's young and seems to have found his place as a productive player.
15. Rocky Bernard (NYG)
He's a backup at this point, but still a decent one. Experience counts, and he's got it spades.
16. Tommie Harris (SD)
Pretty impossible to talk football after his wife's sudden passing. Had some nice moments for the Chargers last year, but who knows where it goes from here.
17. Gary Gibson (STL)
Appeared in all 16 games for the Rams and picked up three sacks, but it has to feel like a step back following a 2010 season that saw him start the full slate.
18. Albert Haynesworth (TB)
There will be a ton of rumors about potential landing spots between now and training camp. If he does land somewhere, don't hold your breath.
19. Andre Fluellen (DET)
He's been a solid backup player ever since the Lions drafted him in 2008. Could take this chance to look for a more prominent role.
20. Daniel Muir (IND)
Muir earned some starts with Indy in 2009 and 2010 and turned that into a one-year deal with the Rams. They cut ties with him before he played a game and Muir ended up back with the Colts. Figures to have little leverage on the free-agent market.
Defensive Tackles: 9-1
1. Jason Jones (TEN)
Everyone agrees Jones was out of place as an end last year. That everyone includes Jones, who says he wants to move back inside. In 2010 he was a pocket-collapsing force on the interior and he should have plenty more good years ahead in that role.
2. Sione Pouha (NYJ)
The Jets can't afford to tag Pouha, which ought to make negotiations mighty interesting. The Utah product is a classic run-stuffer who has become a mainstay on New York's defensive line. And the advanced stats love him, an important distinction at a position that doesn't yield many marks in the standard box score.
3. Paul Soliai (MIA)
Chances are Soliai isn't in Miami next year. The team won't tag him for a second consecutive year and a subtle shift towards the 4-3 means his less valuable to them than other suitors. A run stuffer of his caliber will draw a crowd.
4. Brodrick Bunkley (DEN)
He emerged from the depths of bust-dom to dominate in Denver last year. Simply put, few DTs were as stout against the run as the former Eagle. Now he's entering his prime and out to see what one good season gets him on the market. If the return isn't spectacular, he can always head back to Papa Elway.
5. Antonio Garay (SD)
His 2011 wasn't as good as his breakout 2010, but it was plenty good enough to earn him a big deal. San Diego looks unlikely to keep him, which means 3-4 teams everywhere are salivating. He's a nose tackle with a solid track record and less wear and tear than the average 32-year-old.
6. Shaun Rogers (NO)
He didn't play a ton with the Saints, but when he did he made a difference. His rep is on the mend and he could get one more plus deal before his career ends.
7. Derek Landri (PHI)
On a crowded Eagle defensive front, he got more and more snaps as the season progressed. Low exposure and name recognition make Landri a potential steal.
8. Red Bryant (SEA)
It's hard to classify him as DT anymore since Seattle converted him to the five technique. Regardless of positioning, he had a breakout year in 2011. He started all 16 games and looked mighty comfortable in the 3-4. It's a small sample size, but Bryant should get serious attention.
9. Aubrayo Franklin (NO)
Franklin fell well short of expectations in New Orleans, but he's still just a year removed from a nice run in San Francisco. A change of scenery could do him good.
20. John Greco (CLE)
Provides depth and should be back with Cleveland at the minimum. Nothing to get too excited about.
21. Russ Hochstein (DEN)
Russ Hochstein keeps showing up, year after year. He can play anywhere in the interior and has load of experience, so he should interest somebody. This upcoming year will be his eleventh.
22. Stacy Andrews (NYG)
Could be classified as a guard or tackle, but his health comes first. Blood clots threatened his life last year, just the latest in a series of ailments.
23. Mike McGlynn (CIN)
McGlynn moved from center to guard and the results weren't pretty. He looks like a backup from here on out.
24. Manuel Ramirez (DEN)
Needs to prove he's recovered from the injury that caused him to miss 2010.
25. Jamey Richard (IND)
Young? Yes. Good? Ehhhhhh. He's spot-started in Indianapolis over the years, but there's little to suggest he's anything more than a reserve.
26. Mike Gibson (SEA)
A reserve player who should float between roster and practice squad.
27. Steve Vallos (CLE)
Hasn't started a game since 2009. Will have to earn a spot on the roster.
28. Rich Ohrnberger (NE)
Zero starts and just five appearances in three years with New England. Either Ohrnberger isn't good or Bill Belichick is wrong. I'll take Vader.
10. Dan Connolly (NE)
He's just about average anywhere you put him in the interior—the notable part being that you can put him just about anywhere on the interior. He was probably the weakest link along New England's front last year, but that's a high bar to set. He could be an immediate upgrade for a lot of other teams.
11. Ryan Diem (IND)
Likely a victim of the house-cleaning afoot in Indy. Has started a boatload of games and played both guard and tackle. Has experience others will covet.
12. Adam Snyder (SF)
Snyder wrangled the starting job away from Chilo Rachal, but that was more an indictment of Rachal's poor play than a validation of Snyder's excellence. Snyder is a likable overachiever but not a great talent. He'd be best served staying in San Francisco, where the staff seems to value his contributions.
13. Jacob Bell (STL)
The longtime starter doesn't fit the plans in St. Louis. The Rams need a roster overhaul and Bell ought to turn up elsewhere. That is unless his old coach Jeff Fisher wants to keep a pal around.
14. Deuce Lutui (ARZ)
After starting every regular-season game for three seasons, weight issues forced Lutui to the bench in 2011. He's a proven starter who should be in his prime. If he can slim down, he provides good depth. If he doesn't, he's not an asset.
15. Montrae Holland (DAL)
Filled in and did some decent work for the Cowboys, but he's a contingency plan at best. Someone will pick him up for depth.
16. Nate Livings (CIN)
He's a starter but no one is sure why. Amazing to think they passed on Evan Mathis for this guy. As a backup he'd be tolerable.
17. Derrick Dockery (DAL)
His days as a starter and marquee player are over. There's a place somewhere for a guy with 113 career starts, but it's not on the first string.
18. Tony Wragge (STL)
Started at center on an overmatched Rams line. Better off as a backup guard.
19. Mackenzy Bernadeau (CAR)
Carolina seems to like him as a backup so it'd be surprising to see him land elsewhere.
1. Carl Nicks (NO)
No one questions whether Nicks is the top guard in this class. And no one questions that he's one of the best at his position. The only question is this: What is the value of an offensive guard? With Nicks likely to hit the market, we may soon find out.
2. Evan Mathis (PHI)
He's the only player to make a 2011 pit stop in Philadelphia and see his stock rise as a result. Together with Jason Peters, he formed one of the best run-blocking tandems in the league. The Eagles want to keep star running back LeSean McCoy happy, healthy and productive. That starts with re-signing Mathis.
3. Ben Grubbs (BAL)
Grubbs is above average in every facet of the game—not superlative, but above average. The composite makes him plenty valuable and should attract a long line of suitors. Baltimore wants to franchise Ray Rice, which means Grubbs could hit the open market if the two sides can't agree on something soon.
4. Mike Brisiel (HOU)
Antoine Caldwell played well in his stead, raising major questions about his importance to the front five. He's a good player, but it might not be in Houston's best interest to bring him back. Other teams showing interest will have to decide if he's a zone-blocking savant or an all-around good lineman.
5. Jake Scott (TEN)
Scott is a solid player, but he walks into free agency with Chris Johnson's blood on his hands. As Johnson's numbers plummeted, the interior OL got a fair share of the blame. His pass-protection skills, however, aren't in question.
6. Bobbie Williams (CIN)
He's up there in years and not nearly the player he once was, but Bobbie Williams can still play. Unless they landed Carl Nicks or Ben Grubbs, Cincinnati would be better off with Williams than just about anybody. That's, of course, assuming he stays healthy and doesn't regress much further.
7. Chilo Rachal (SF)
Rachal's roller coaster career continued last year, and not in the good way. The maddeningly inconsistent right guard played his way out of the starting lineup in 2011 and heads into free agency swaddled in question marks. Bargain hunters will note his talent and prolonged periods of past dominance. On a low-commitment deal, he could prove valuable.
8. Jeremy Zuttah (TB)
The lone bright spot along a putrid Tampa line, Zuttah proved himself a capable starter in 2011. That he can also play center is an added bonus, but Tampa sees him as a fixture at guard. Expect Zuttah to stay a Buc.
9. Leonard Davis (DET)
Dallas loosed Davis in an attempt to get younger, but nothing about his past play suggests that he can't be an effective player. That's particularly true in the running game, where Davis provided nice punch up until his final snaps in Big D. He's old, and a bit of a risk in that regard, but may well have one or two good years left.
40. Corey Lynch (TB)
He's a reserve that ought to get some run somewhere. Managed three starts on a dreadful Bucs D.
41. Sean Considine (ARZ)
He isn't a starter anymore and he isn't even guaranteed a roster spot. His money will be made on special teams if indeed it is made at all.
42. Tyrell Johnson (MIN)
Not a part of Minny's plans. They gave him a chance to start in 2009 and he never panned out.
43. Sabby Piscitelli (KC)
Surprised most by staying on the roster all season. That's right about where we can set the bar for next year.
44. CC Brown (JAC)
Recorded one solo tackle with the Jaguars last year. Doesn't look like a starter anymore.
45. Dominique Barber (HOU)
Marion's little brother will be fighting for a job next year.
46. Anthony Smith (TEN)
Well hello there, journeyman.
30. Madieu Williams (SF)
A useful reserve, but unlikely to get another chance as a starter.
31. Matt Giordano (OAK)
Pressed into duty by injury, Giordano produced see-saw results. His five picks displayed a nice nose for the ball, but he often got beat in space. That Jekyll and Hyde performance won't cut it when you're going on 30. Giordano is better used as a reserve.
32. Jon McGraw (KC)
When he's on the field, he produces, but the injuries keep coming. He'll be 33 and hard pressed to find a suitor.
33. Paul Oliver (SD)
He's done a nice job backing up Eric Weddle. Won't get an opportunity to do much more.
34. Reggie Smith (SF)
He should play somewhere, but it won't be San Francisco. The 'Niners look set at the back end.
35. Erik Coleman (DET)
Went from starter in '09 to non-participant last year.
36. Courtney Greene (JAC)
Played sparingly with the Jags last year and doesn't look to be in the starting mix anymore.
37. Derrick Martin (NYG)
Fun fact: Last year was the first time he wore No. 22. He's a special teams player on a good day.
38. Nathan Jones (NE)
Has bounced between four teams and is likely to bounce again.
39. Hamza Abdullah (ARZ)
He's been with the Cardinals for three years and seen his appearances increase with each one. Still, he's no safe bet to make the roster in 2012. Like all special teams guys, he must prove his worth each and every camp.
20. Brandon Meriweather (CHI)
After a flop in Chicago, it's hard to see him getting another starting gig. Chalk this one up as another personnel win for the Pats.
21. Bob Sanders (SD)
Another season, another season-ending injury. It's becoming hard to watch.
22. Tom Zbikowski (BAL)
Bernard Pollard ousted him for the safety spot. His value as a free agent depends on whether teams see him as a defender with potential or solely a return man.
23. Haruki Nakumura (BAL)
Has stuck with the Ravens since draft day 2008 and now figures to look for more playing time.
24. Chris Harris (DET)
Has fallen hard since his All-Pro selection in 2010. Will need to work up the depth chart to get back on the field.
25. Steve Gregory (SD)
San Diego likes him as a second stringer. Why else would they have kept him around for six seasons?
26. Craig Dahl (STL)
Saw a downturn in his playing time. Not sure if he'll stick with the new regime in town.
27. Husain Abdullah (MIN)
The Vikings like him, but recurring concussions throw his long-term health into question.
28. Atari Bigby (SEA)
He finally stayed healthy last year, which was a relief. Perhaps he can latch on as a backup.
29. Jarrad Page (MIN)
Most teams would rather go young at the position, but someone will get desperate and summon Page to camp.
10. Jordan Babineaux (TEN)
He re-emerged as a starter with the Titans and the organization liked what they saw. His team-high 117 tackles make him a near lock to return.
11. Sean Jones (TB)
He's started the past two years and he's been durable. He'll be a fallback option for teams in need of a strong safety.
12. Mike Adams (CLE)
Held onto his starting gig last year, but the years are catching up with him. Had just 41 solo tackles.
13. Abram Elam (DAL)
He just changed agents, which makes me think he's serious about getting a multi-year deal. He started all 16 games for the Cowboys and racked up 79 tackles. But the big plays weren't there. Had no sacks and no interceptions.
14. Chris Hope (TEN)
The former Pro Bowler fell victim to injury and eventually lost his job to Jordan Babineaux. He'd been a dependable contributor the three seasons prior. He should get another chance to start, but no guarantees.
15. James Sanders (ATL)
After the Pats cut ties with him, Sanders ended up in Atlanta, where he made six starts. He can play either safety spot and it makes since for the Falcons to bring him back.
16. Bryan Scott (BUF)
He plays all over the field for Buffalo and made seven starts last year.
17. Gibril Wilson (CIN)
Played in all 16 games and saw some action at safety for the Bengals. Not a starter anymore, but a nice reserve player.
18. James Ihedigbo (NE)
He's a special teamer who was thrust into a more prominent role by injuries and poor design. He responded with some encouraging play and should be back for a low-ish price.
19. Deon Grant (NYG)
He's had a productive, healthy career, but struggled in pass coverage last year. The loss in agility suggests he might have outrun his usefulness.
1. Dashon Goldson (SF)
Goldson has made his name as a ball-hawk and at 27 should be paid handsomely for it. His ability to create turnovers (six interceptions last year) paid huge dividends for a 'Niners team that relied on defense and field position. San Fran's choice to tag him rather than fellow secondary standout Carlos Rogers bears testament to his value.
2. Tyvon Branch (OAK)
Branch is a young run-stuffer trending in the right direction. As his coverage skills round into form, expect to see his name surface in the company of other top safeties. The Raiders love his game and placed the franchise tag on him as proof.
3. Reggie Nelson (CIN)
He never found his footing in Jacksonville, but the former first-rounder put together two solid campaigns in Cincinnati. Last year he started every game and led the team with four interceptions.
4. Thomas DeCoud (ATL)
He's a three-year starter in Atlanta who is still young (27) and improving. DeCoud should be a starter through his prime years and that has value at a volatile position.
5. LaRon Landry (WAS)
Injuries have caused him to miss significant time each of the past two seasons and it puts a damper on his prospects. Since Landry refuses to undergo surgery, any interested party will have to hope that his alternative treatment method proves effective.
6. Michael Griffin (TEN)
The common rub is that he's too inconsistent to trust with a long-term deal. He's had four years as a starter to change that perception, but failed to make dent. Tennessee won't make a big push for him, meaning his services go to the highest bidder.
7. Brodney Pool (NYJ)
He played well, even though the Jets cut back on his snaps. His strength is in coverage, and his strength is strong enough to merit another starting gig.
8. Jim Leonhard (NYJ)
Consecutive seasons ended by injury hurt the value of a player who has had some really bright moments. At times he has played like a top-10 safety, but questions about his health are paramount. If he gets back to full strength, he's a steal.
9. Craig Steltz (CHI)
When given the opportunity, he played well for the Bears last year. He's set himself up nicely as an intriguing, young talent.
20. Quinn Ojinnaka (IND)
Distinguished survivor of the 2011 Indianapolis Colts, for whom he started three games.
21. Pat McQuistan (MIA)
Has one career fumble recovery... won't stop bragging about it.
22. Robert Turner (NYJ)
Dude broke his leg last year, a stark reminder that football can really suck. If healthy, he's a capable backup.
23. Oniel Cousins (CLE)
27 years old and still hasn't made it to first string. Don't see that happening anytime soon.
24. Tony Moll (SD)
Started early in his career but hasn't been able to hold down a job since. Now he's on the backup conveyor belt, bouncing from team to team.
25. James Lee (TB)
Even when starter Jeremy Trueblood struggled, Lee couldn't make the leap. Would be surprised if he developed into a starter.
26. Mark LeVoir (STL)
A career backup with three starts. Will have to compete for a spot in camp wherever he lands.
27. D'Anthony Batiste (ARZ)
A six-year veteran of the league who only plays when the team needs a warm body. Likely to get a call when a team incurs a major injury.
28. Ryan O'Callaghan (KC)
Set to retire. Now I may never know him to pronounce his name.
10. Kareem McKenzie (NYG)
He's a starter, but one has to wonder how much longer that can last. The metrics suggest he was one of the worst pass-blockers in football last year. Age may have been the culprit. At 32, McKenzie was surprisingly durable, but not all that effective.
11. Barry Richardson (KC)
He's a big boy but doesn't use his size well. Not a great athlete and shows surprisingly little oomph in the run game. Not sure he'll be a starter much longer.
12. Adam Goldberg (STL)
A jack of all trades with 66 career starts. Lots of teams will like him as a backup.
13. Dennis Roland (CIN)
Started 24 games between 2009 and 2010 but has been squeezed out of a pretty deep Bengals OL unit. Should be able to get a backup job.
14. Stephon Heyer (OAK)
Started 33 games for the Redskins between 2007 and 2010. Didn't play particularly well in those starts, but game film confirms he was on the field. His age and level of experience make him a desirable backup.
15. Sean Locklear (WAS)
Was a solid starter in Seattle, but those days are over. Looked bad in limited time with Washington and needs to prove he's a capable backup. Forever and always less attractive than Heather.
16. Trai Essex (PIT)
Can play all over the line and it's usually a good sign when a backup sticks with the same team for six years. Hasn't wowed with ability, but won't freak out if the situation calls for a positional shift.
17. Artis Hicks (CLE)
His first name reminds me of Arliss. What an awful show. Has experience at guard and tackle, though his days as a starter in Philadelphia were spent on the interior. Started in a Super Bowl where, depending on who you believe, he either saw or didn't see Donovan McNabb vomit.
18. King Dunlap (PHI)
Benevolent Tire Monarch seeks short-term deal to serve as capable backup. Can play either side of the line. Very, very tall (6'9").
19. Kirk Chambers (ATL)
Has bumped around the league for the past eight years. He's a second-stringer at best.
1. Jared Gaither (SD)
Jared Gaither has gone from bust to baller—all in the past year—and now he's about to get paid. Injury prevented Gaither from playing in 2010. The Chiefs gambled on him early in 2011, but quickly cut ties with the mercurial tackle. Division rival San Diego swooped in midseason and installed Gaither as the starting left tackle. His play became a revelation in an otherwise disappointing campaign, and the springboard for what should be a huge offseason payday. Gaither's talent is second to none, and as the only elite player in a weak tackle class he should have total leverage in the free-agent market.
2. Demetrius Bell (BUF)
Bell displayed tantalizing upside in 2011, and he's the one tackle in this class worth projecting. If he harnesses his athleticism, he's a top-10 player at a premium position. If he doesn't, he's a colossal free-agent bust. Injury has limited his exposure so far, adding to both the intrigue and risk.
3. Jeff Backus (DET)
It's hard to imagine Backus in another uniform, but Detroit needs him at the right price. They've committed a ton to other players and they can't afford to break the bank for an aging left tackle, especially one whose play has regressed in recent years. The Lions want him, but they don't need him.
4. Vernon Carey (MIA)
That he played guard last year is an added bonus, but Carey's done his best work at right tackle. If a team sees it fit to move him back outside, he could be a nice free-agent surprise.
5. Brandon Keith (ARZ)
His performance last year was below average but not atrocious. Struggles against the pass rush hurt him, but he's a competent run-blocker. Arizona, it would figure, wants to get better, but Keith should find a home somewhere.
6. Anthony Collins (CIN)
Stuck behind two of the game's better tackles—Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith—Collins hasn't gotten many reps. But in limited action he's done well, and could be a steal if he can stretch that solid play over a full season.
7. Khalif Barnes (OAK)
He's a decent pass-blocker on the fringe between backup and starter. How much he plays depends on context. He provides depth for a team with a good line and a stopgap for a team that needs bodies.
8. Guy Whimper (JAC)
A miserable pass blocker that made things difficult for rookie QB Blaine Gabbert. Jacksonville needs to get a younger player with more upside. Whimper, on the other hand, appears headed for second string.
9. Max Starks (PIT)
The Steelers summoned him from the couch midseason and he performed just about how you'd expect a semi-retired player to perform. He had high moments and low moments, but a lot more of the latter. More athletic pass-rushers like Tamba Hali and Aldon Smith dominated him and at this point he's a player you call in a time of need—not one you build around.
Defensive Ends: 40-30
30. Tim Bulman (HOU)
He's an energy guy off the bench. Would've expected better from a guy with such a position-appropriate last name.
31. Turk McBride (NO)
His full name isn't Turkleton, in case you were wondering. It's Claude, which is also pretty awesome. Has some pass-rushing ability as evidenced by his five sacks in 2010.
32. William Hayes (TEN)
The Titans aren't making him a priority and neither will anybody else. He can make the rotation, but he isn't good enough to start.
33. Aaron Smith (PIT)
A good player on a lot of great defenses, but all good/great things must come to an end. The Steelers just released him, likely signaling the end.
34. Jarvis Moss (OAK)
Another first-round bust. Why are there so many at this position? Hello...? Universe?
35. Kedric Golston (WAS)
Picked a bad time to get injured. Hard to say if he'll be back with the Redskins until we know more about his recovery.
36. Phillip Merling (MIA)
Highly touted out of Clemson, but never made much of an impact. No sacks since 2009 and has outworn his welcome in Miami.
37. Derrick Harvey (DEN)
An all-time first-round bust. Barely saw the field with Denver, which may be more than he'll see next year.
38. Eric Moore (NE)
Appeared in two games with New England last year. Probably wanted to appear in...MOORE.
39. Victor Abiamiri (PHI)
Never wiggled his way into the Eagles' deep DL rotation. Like the other Victor, no snaps since '09.
40. Victor Adeyanju (CIN)
Never proved to be anything more than a role player in four years with the Rams. Hasn't played a snap since '09.
Defensive Ends: 29-20
20. Trevor Scott (OAK)
Started his career with a bang, only to hit the injury wall. If someone can unearth the pass-rushing skills, he could make for a great value.
21. Anthony Hargrove (SEA)
Can move from end to interior on obvious passing downs. A role player with a few roles to play.
22. Igor Olshansky (MIA)
A backup player with a first-string name. Played well enough during his stint in Miami to merit a second look.
23. Jason Hunter (DEN)
He's a bit player, but not a useless one. His best bet is to stay in Denver, where he's had some success.
24. Jamaal Anderson (IND)
An eighth overall pick notched a career-high three sacks...in his fifth year...with his second team...not good.
25. Shaun Ellis (NE)
Flipped his Jet loyalties for a chance at a ring—and it almost worked. He wasn't much help, though, and at 35 he's a candidate for retirement.
26. Vonnie Holliday (ARZ)
Didn't record a sack last year. He has value as a leader, but not as a playmaker. If he signs anywhere, it would be for the minimum.
27. Tyler Brayton (IND)
A first-round flop that's managed to stick around for nine years. Why not make it a decade?
28. Jovan Haye (TB)
A great athlete who never became a great player. Still, there's a reason Tennessee gave him a big deal in 2009. Think reclamation project, but a long shot.
29. Jeff Charleston (NO)
He's a special teamer and D-II warrior. No shame in admitting that he'll have to fight for a roster spot.
Defensive Ends: 19-10
10. Cory Redding (BAL)
2011 was a good year for Redding—probably his best since leaving Detroit. In Baltimore, he's respected as a team leader and it's hard to imagine him anywhere else.
11. Frostee Rucker (CIN)
The Bengals handed him a starting job midseason and the increased snaps led to the best counting stats of his career. Cincy seems to like him and in Cincy he'll stay.
12. Adam Carriker (WAS)
Enjoyed something of a renaissance year in Washington, proving he can make an impact if he isn't buried on the defensive interior.
13. Kendall Langford (MIA)
Far from a standout, but his versatility makes him an asset. Plays more inside than out, so the sack totals aren't all that relevant. Only 26, so there's some tread on the tires.
14. Dave Ball (TEN)
Eleven sacks in the past two seasons is nothing to sneer at. The UCLA standout belongs at this level.
15. Matt Roth (JAC)
He's reasonably productive, but nothing special. Notched at least 3.5 sacks in each of the last four seasons.
16. Dave Tollefson (NYG)
Played on both Giants' Super Bowl teams. Coming off the highest sack total of his career. Can it get much better for a seventh-rounder?
17. Wallace Gilberry (KC)
Followed up a surprising 2010 with a dud. Now he needs the Chiefs more than they need him, and he's going to have to compete for snaps.
18. Juqua Parker (PHI)
The Eagles did everything they could to draft and trade over him the past five year, and he kept forcing his way onto the field. Was finally overshadowed by the addition of Jason Babin. But when he plays, he's effective, even at 33 years old.
19. Raheem Brock (SEA)
Wonder if there's anything left in the tank. Three sacks last year isn't so bad until you compare it with the nine he had the year before. Going on 34 and running out of opportunities.
Defensive Ends: 9-1
1. Mario Williams (HOU)
He has one of the oddest free-agent profiles in recent memory. He's a former first overall pick who, by most measures, matched the hype. And yet the team that drafted him has little choice but to let him test the open market. Plus he was injured last year. Plus he recently switched to a new position. The narrative is disjointed to the point that it's hard to make any sense of it. The only non-negotiable is his talent. From 2007 to 2010, Williams had the sixth-most sacks in the NFL, and all the men in front of him are at least two-and-a-half years older than he.
2. Calais Campbell (ARI)
Campbell doesn't get enough sacks to merit national media attention, but the 6'8" behemoth finds other ways to impact the game. Last year, he recorded 10 pass deflections, second among all down linemen, and led all defensive ends in Advanced NFL Stats' Win Probability Added. It's no wonder then that the Cardinals plan to tag him.
3. Robert Mathis (IND)
Mathis is a proven pass-rusher in his prime and, at face, one would think the Colts are anxious to keep him. But with the franchise's direction still unclear and the defense transitioning to a 3-4, it's hard to see where Mathis fits. One of the high-profile Colt FAs will slip through the cracks.
4. Cliff Avril (DET)
Young and on the upswing, Avril looks like a rising pass-rushing force. That was good news for the Lions last season, but bad news for their bank accounts. Detroit is straining to fit another long-term deal onto their bankroll and Avril won't settle for anything less than top dollar. Complicating matters is Avril's threat that he'll hold out if Detroit uses the franchise tag. Meanwhile, the other 31 sharks circle.
5. John Abraham (ATL)
Someone will pay him top dollar based on past production and you have to marvel at Abraham's consistency. He's posted nine or more sacks in eight of his 12 NFL seasons, including each of the last two. But he's about to turn 34 and no one in NFL history has posted double-digit sacks at that age or later. Atlanta knows that (or some derivative thereof) and looks hesitant to give him big money.
6. Jeremy Mincey (JAC)
Though it got lost in a lot of bad football, 2011 was a breakout year for Jacksonville defensive end Jeremy Mincey. The Jags leaned on him to provide pressure and he delivered, registering nine sacks and 17 quarterback hits. His play lifted a D that finished eighth against the past. At 28, he should be right in the thick of his prime years.
7. Mark Anderson (NE)
Anderson wasn't as good as teammate Andre Carter last year, but he's younger and healthier. The counterpoint: He'd been awful the four seasons prior. Teams will take note of those inconsistencies before offering big money.
8. Andre Carter (NE)
A true out-of-the-blue year from the Bill Belichick bag of tricks—or was it? Carter has now posted double-digit sack totals in each of the last three odd years, but never surpassed four in the even campaign. Hmmm... Frivolities aside, Carter put together a fabulous 2011 and appears in line for one more payday. He'll be 33 when camp starts, however, and that combined with last year's season-ending quad tear hurt his value. He wants a multi-year contract, but may have to settle for one.
9. Israel Idonije (CHI)
The recent uptick in Idonije's play coincided with the arrival of Julius Peppers, a clear indicator of the attention teams pay to Peppers. That isn't to say Idonije can't play, only to point out that he might not deliver similar numbers while riding solo.
Tight Ends: 24-20
20. Stephen Spach (STL)
Has 22 career receptions. Played for a team that went 2-14 last year. Livin' the dream.
21. Anthony Becht (KC)
Anthony Becht is old. He struggled to stay on the most injury-riddled roster in football. That is all.
22. Reggie Kelly (ATL)
I'm running through about a thousand jokes related to his Kelly Blue Book value. They are all terrible. Instead I'll offer this candid assessment: Beyond veteran presence, he contributes almost nothing. The end of the road draws near.
23. Billy Bajema (STL)
Does his last name rhyme with pajama? Because that would be great. In other news, Bajema isn't very good. As Turf Show Times put it, "He is a blocking specialist TE who can't block."
24. Tory Humphrey (NO)
There was a tight end on the Saints roster not named Jimmy Graham? I hadn't noticed.
Tight Ends: 19-10
10. Bo Scaife (CIN)
Placed on injured reserve before the season started and never played a snap. Now Scaife needs to prove himself all over again. He has some notable years with Tennessee on his resume, but age and injury hurt his value. Could contribute 25-35 catches if fully healthy.
11. Leonard Pope (KC)
Tony Moeaki's injury earned him a promotion to the starting lineup, but he's better suited as a number two. Useful as a pass-catcher, but teams would like to see more consistency in the run game. With some improvements there, he could be a good backup.
12. Daniel Fells (DEN)
You could say his numbers suffered from Denver's run-first approach or that his breakout 2010 in St. Louis was a fluke. Since he's still 28, some team will gamble that it was the former.
13. Alex Smith (CLE)
He was a decent pass-catcher in Tampa, but these days he's more valuable as a blocker. Not a special talent, but a contributor on the back end of his prime. Should find a home somewhere.
14. Dante Rosario (DEN)
In Denver's offense, Rosario was a run-blocker and little more. He did the task well, but that won't make him a coveted free agent.
15. John Gilmore (NO)
He's a decent blocker. Gosh, do you really want to hear more?
16. Kris Wilson (BAL)
His only catch was a touchdown reception in the playoff win against Houston. Infinitely more popular than Kris Humphries.
17. Randy McMichael (SD)
When he wasn't yelling at the Jets, McMichael had a decent year. Proved he can be a second TE into the second decade of his career. Not bad.
18. Donald Lee (CIN)
He's an injury sub for a team that lacks depth, but nothing more. Hasn't been an important player in an offense since 2008.
19. Justin Peelle (SF)
Meh. Good blocker who was a total non-factor in the passing game. You know what you're getting, but you're not getting much.
Tight Ends: 9-1
1. Martellus Bennett (DAL)
I know it looks crazy to put a player that's gone three seasons without a touchdown catch at number one, but Martellus Bennett has too much breakout potential to ignore. He's already a premier run-blocker and at 24 could grow into the pass-catching force many expected when Dallas drafted him in '08. If he leaves Dallas and Jason Witten, he should get a ton more targets.
2. Fred Davis (WAS)
He's without a doubt the most talented receiving tight end still available, and at 26 he's only getting better. That's somewhat mitigated by his piss-poor run-blocking and a late season suspension for violating the league's drug policy. The Redskins are a safe bet to franchise him in hopes that he gets his act together. If he does, his work in space and skill after the catch make him borderline elite.
3. Joel Dreessen (HOU)
He isn't as young or intriguing as the players in front of him, but he's a solid contributor as a receiver and blocker. Advanced age—going on 30—makes a big deal unlikely and positions the Texans to re-sign him.
4. John Carlson (SEA)
Carlson missed 2011 with injury, but when healthy he's an above-average performer at the position. And it doesn't seem like folks around the league are too worried about his recovery prognosis. The Browns are already hot on Carlson's trail and Seattle expressed interest in luring him back. He isn't a game-breaker, but can give a team 45 to 55 catches.
5. Visanthe Shiancoe (MIN)
He's a good pass-catcher and a viable red-zone threat whose output ebbed and flowed with the team's fortunes. All in all, he's good, not great; proven, but nothing superlative. Due to turn 32 in June, age becomes the primary concern. Lots of teams will prefer to develop a tight end than take on an aging one.
6. Jeremy Shockey (CAR)
After some equivocation, Shockey says he will play in 2012. That's good news for whoever can sign the 10-year vet. Injuries capped his enormous potential, but he's hit a late-career second wind as a platoon tight end. No longer the feature guy, he can do a lot of damage on the undercard.
7. Jacob Tamme (IND)
Tamme looked lost without Peyton Manning, which makes him less attractive to outsiders. The Colts can bring him back at a reasonable price, and that seems the most likely course. He's young and could be a nice outlet for Andrew Luck as the presumed first pick adjusts to professional football.
8. Scott Chandler (BUF)
Chandler emerged from total obscurity (one career catch) to play a leading role in Buffalo's offense. That said, his track record remains thin and he isn't the type of athlete to turn heads. He works well with Ryan Fitzpatrick and should be back with the Bills next year.
9. Kellen Davis (CHI)
The Bears are high on this kid, and Lovie Smith seems to think he's got next-big-thing potential. In a league where everyone is looking for the next Rob Gronkowski, Davis feeds imaginations. He's got the size (6'6"), but skill remains a question mark.
Wide Receivers: 52-40
40. TJ Houshmandzadeh (OAK)
BFF Carson Palmer picked him up midseason last year and he had a couple of notable performances with the Raiders. And yet I have trouble seeing why anyone would sign him when they could just as easily find a potential-laden youngster on the practice squad. His upside is nonexistent.
41. Steve Smith (PHI)
A miserable comeback season leaves us with two options: a) the knee injury ruined him or b) he was a product of Eli Manning and his slot receiver addiction. Neither one bodes well for his value.
42. Ruvell Martin (BUF)
His numbers have been on the downswing since those early days in Green Bay. At this point, doesn't give you anything you can't find on a good practice squad.
43. Jerheme Urban (KC)
Great name. Great career for an undrafted FA. Says he wants to stick around, but will need to earn a roster spot somewhere.
44. Bernard Berrian (MIN)
Was an abject failure as a number one wideout, so much so that the Vikes cut him midseason to save salary. The burst is gone and you have to wonder if he has any value without it.
45. Rashied Davis (DET)
Davis played defense last year, which is pretty cool. Other than that, there isn't much to say. He's a glue guy with, at best, two years left in the NFL. Will have little to no impact on the passing game.
46. Bryant Johnson (HOU)
A first-round talent that never took off. Was a total non-factor as Houston's fourth WR last year. He'll be lucky to get a roster spot.
47. Greg Camarillo (MIN)
Made an awesome play against the Arizona Cardinals, but did little else over two years in Minnesota. Last year was the low point (nine catches), and he'll need to try his luck elsewhere.
48. Donnie Avery (TEN)
A combine darling who could've had a nice career if he hadn't fallen victim to injury. Not sure if he has anything left.
49. Courtney Roby (NO)
Hit his career peak as a return man the same year the Saints won the Super Bowl. Good timing, but there doesn't look to be much left.
50. Kevin Curtis (TEN)
Let the record show that Kevin Curtis once had 221 yards receiving in a single game. Good night, sweet prince.
51. David Anderson (WAS)
"David Kent Anderson (born July 28, 1983 in Westlake Village, California) is an American football wide receiver for the Washington Redskins of the National Football League." – Wikipedia
52. Michael Spurlock (TB)
In 2010, he became the first Buc to return a kickoff for a touchdown. Aaaaand that about sums it up. Wouldn't expect to see him in uniform next year.
Wide Receivers: 39-30
30. Mark Clayton (STL)
Do you have a time machine? No? Then don't sign Mark Clayton. Injuries have taken a harsh toll on this former first-rounder.
31. Derek Hagan (BUF)
Caught on with Buffalo late in the season and did enough to impress coach Chan Gailey. A journeyman who can provide depth, but not much more.
32. Chaz Schilens (OAK)
Big body with possession-receiver potential. The Raiders were high on him for years, but injuries limited his contributions. Perhaps he gets a chance to move up the depth chart in another uniform.
33. Mike Sims-Walker (JAC)
St. Louis saw him as a potential long-term running mate for Sam Bradford. Huge swing and miss. He isn't a number one, and now has to hope someone sees him as a number three.
34. Roscoe Parrish (BUF)
Hasn't been able to stay healthy and clearly isn't a focus in the Bills attack anymore. If he can prove he's still an asset in the return game, a spot will open up for him.
35. Maurice Stovall (DET)
Matthew Stafford completed 421 passes last year. One of them went to Maurice Stovall. He's a big body with time on his side, so he's likely to stick somewhere.
36. Donte' Stallworth (WAS)
The whack-a-mole of NFL wide receivers—keeps popping up somewhere. Has played for six teams over the last six seasons. Why not make it a lucky seven?
37. Patrick Crayton (SD)
Has talked a lot less since leaving Dallas, but that hasn't helped his game. Most teams will want to go younger at the fourth spot.
38. Devin Thomas (NYG)
2011 was a low point for the second-round bust until he came up with two fumble recoveries in the NFC championship game, the latter of which punched New York's Super Bowl ticket. May have made a second career for himself as a special teamer.
39. Anthony Gonzalez (IND)
Great start to his career marred by injury. Upon return, he barely saw the field. He's an interesting free agent that has a ton to prove. Should be had for cheap.
Wide Receivers: 29-20
20. Deion Branch (NE)
At this point in his career, he's worthless unless Tom Brady is throwing him the ball. It's no surprise he plans on re-upping with the Patriots for cheap. If New England thinks he's done, he'll retire.
21. Harry Douglas (ATL)
"As far as No. 3 receivers go, he's far from the worst." – SB Nation Atlanta. Douglas has big-play talent, but lacks the track record to land a big-play kinda deal.
22. Legedu Naanee (CAR)
Decent in his debut season as a number two receiver, but not superlative enough to earn a return date. Carolina will likely replace him and leave another team to take him on as a possession specialist.
23. Jerricho Cotchery (PIT)
By cutting ties with Hines Ward, the Steelers made their intentions clear: keep RFA Mike Wallace and re-sign Cotchery. Cotchery isn't a burner, but he's made a nice career out of just getting open.
24. Eric Weems (ATL)
Coach Mike Smith loves Weems for his special teams prowess. Atlanta values him more than anyone else, and there's a high likelihood he stays.
25. Domenik Hixon (NYG)
A good third or fourth WR with return game skills—when healthy. Therein lies the problem. Hixon tore his right ACL in 2010 and his left ACL last year. He'll be back with the Giants in 2012 and out to prove he can contribute.
26. Matt Slater (NE)
So good on special teams that the Patriots are making him a "top priority" in free agency. Has made a nice career for himself doing a little bit of everything.
27. Roy Williams (CHI)
In Vince Carter's words, "It's over." Chicago gave Williams every opportunity to revive his career and he responded with a chorus of drops and misplays. He isn't a feature wideout and I don't see why anyone would pay him to play second or third or fourth fiddle.
28. Devin Aromashodu (MIN)
Fun fact: His first name is Gbolahan. Helped his case with a strong finish and a career high in catches and yards. He could develop into a solid third option.
29. Andre Caldwell (CIN)
His play appears to have leveled off at "so-so third option." Cincinnati needs an upgrade and Bubba will look for employment elsewhere.
Wide Receivers: 19-10
10. Mario Manningham (NYG)
Don't pay for the big catch, pay for the body of work. Pro: Manningham is a talented receiver with growth potential. Con: He's struggled to harness that potential with any consistency. Bottom line: Manningham can be a solid number two with some improvement, but don't expect 1,000 yards a season.
11. Pierre Garcon (IND)
Garcon thrived in a tepid Colts attack, making his case as one of the better young receivers in the game. Indy bid high to keep him. He rejected the deal. Now we'll see how the rest of the league values his skills.
12. Laurent Robinson (DAL)
Went from no-name to indispensable mighty fast—perhaps too fast. We know he works well with Tony Romo, but what is that worth to the rest of the league? I doubt someone pays Robinson to be their number two based on one good season in a pass-first offense.
13. Plaxico Burress (NYJ)
He wants to play in Philly with fellow Tidewater native Michael Vick. No word yet on the Eagles' feelings. Burress proved last year he's still a viable red-zone threat, but the jury is out on his potential as a complete receiver. Were last year's inconsistencies a sign of rust or a sign of age?
14. Ted Ginn (SF)
An overwhelming disappointment as a wideout, he's remade himself as an elite return man. Perhaps that's not worth much to most teams, but the 'Niners play a lot of field position battles. He can win you a war of attrition.
15. Eddie Royal (DEN)
There's a 99.9 percent chance Royal changes uniforms, and the market will be competitive. His extraordinary rookie campaign was a mirage, but he's got borderline No. 2 talent and would be an upgrade at No. 3 for most teams. Plus, he's only 25, with return game bona fides to boot.
16. Braylon Edwards (FA)
The upshot: He can be had for cheap after a miserable season in San Francisco. The downshot: Has spent the last three seasons proving that he isn't an elite WR. Looks like the Jets will land him. Maybe they can scrub the shame off each other's backs.
17. Early Doucet (ARZ)
A good third WR coming off the best seasons of his career, Doucet will get a close look from teams needing depth. You won't find many that see him as a No. 2, but the outcomes say he's a nice third option.
18. Jerome Simpson (CIN)
A talented receiver who was a bit overmatched as THE man opposite A.J. Green. The flip was awesome, but he needs to tighten up the routes and eliminate the drops. He's a good project for a team willing to roll the dice.
19. Josh Morgan (SF)
Showed some flashes before a season-ending injury and looks to be right on the line between No. 2 and 3. Lots of teams like his talent, and he could drum up a mini bidding war.
Wide Receivers: 9-1
1. Wes Welker (NE)
There are about a million statistical somersaults one could do to prove the obvious, but let's just say it: Wes Welker is really good. Welker's production the past five seasons cannot be explained away by Tom Brady's presence. The numbers are too gaudy for that logic. Welker is doing things as a slot receiver that this league has never seen. And he wants to get paid for it. That means an oncoming showdown with New England's famously austere (or notoriously stingy) front office.
2. Vincent Jackson (SD)
Jackson could well be the best player on the free-agent market with a better than 50 percent chance of changing teams. A second straight franchise tag is cost-prohibitive for San Diego, which means outsiders will get their shot at a number one wideout. At 29, Jackson has a few years left in his tank and should draw suitors from Washington to Minnesota to Chicago.
3. Dwayne Bowe (KC)
Even while the Chiefs shuffled deck chairs on their Titanic of a QB situation, Bowe remained productive. That would bode well for his free-agent value if he ever hit the market. Of course he won't, as Kansas City appears a near lock to slap ye olde tag upon him.
4. Marques Colston (NO)
Because it would be stupidly risky to let Drew Brees test free agency, New Orleans will need to franchise him if a deal can't be reached before Monday. That leaves Colston on the backburner, and a safe bet to reach the open market. Once there, the man who has topped 1,000 yards in each of his six full NFL seasons will draw many suitors. He doesn't do much after the catch, but his height and hands make him the ideal safety valve.
5. DeSean Jackson (PHI)
The biggest risk/reward player on this year's market could make or break a general manager. Good DeSean led the NFL in yards per catch two seasons ago. Bad DeSean pouted when the Eagles didn't meet his contract demands. Adding to the intrigue, Philly may franchise him and look to swing a trade.
6. Steve Johnson (BUF)
Depending on your opinion of DeSean Jackson, Stevie Johnson could be the best U-27 receiver in this free-agent class. He broke out two seasons ago and maintained his stellar play last season, even cutting down on drops in the process. Like Jackson, he's raised eyebrows with his behavior, but the consensus seems to be that it's more innocent fun gone awry than evidence of brewing discontent.
7. Brandon Lloyd (STL)
Maligned by his many uniforms (five teams in the past seven seasons), Lloyd has quietly put up Pro Bowl numbers the last two years. Pro Football Focus rated him as the league's best WR last year, eye-opening stuff for a guy oft treated like a journeyman.
8. Reggie Wayne (IND)
Age is the real concern here, not the post-Peyton drop off. Rare is the receiver that remains productive past the decade mark of his career. Since 2002, only four wideouts with at least 12 years experience (Derrick Mason, Terrell Owens, Joey Galloway and Isaac Bruce) have had 1,000-yard seasons. Wayne has 11 years under his belt, meaning any multi-year contract would carry him past that very threshold.
9. Robert Meachem (NO)
I'm not buying the whispers that he's better than Marques Colston, but he is as reliable as they come—especially around the goal line. He's the best No. 3 receiver money can buy, but don't set expectations much higher.
30. Luke McCown (JAC)
Jags thought he was good enough to cover for Blaine Gabbert. They were wrong. He'll be in someone's camp, but nothing is guaranteed.
31. JP Losman (MIA)
Losman has attempted 11 passes the last two seasons. His time in the NFL grows short.
32. Jake Delhomme (HOU)
Remarkable NFL career, but is there anything left? Houston didn't seem to think so.
33. Kevin O'Connell (NYJ)
Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum says O'Connell is "in the mix" for a job with the Jets. That's about as much as he could've hoped for.
34. Jeff Garcia (HOU)
He's still in the league. That's about all that's left to say.
35. Chad Pennington (MIA)
Retirement is all but assured. The announcing booth beckons.
20. Drew Stanton (DET)
Stanton wants to be a step closer to the field. Detroit wants him back as the third-stringer. Key question: If someone offers him a CHANCE to earn the backup role, does he leave his hometown team?
21. Josh Johnson (TB)
RGIII-esque foot speed gives him intriguing potential. The on-field results suggest otherwise. Plenty of teams will bite on the former and interest should be ample.
22. Sage Rosenfels (MIA)
Could see him in a scenario where a team drafts a project quarterback and Rosenfels competes with said project for the backup job. Hasn't thrown a pass since '08, but at least he's looked decent when on the field.
23. Charlie Whitehurst (SEA)
Hope he savored that playoff-clinching win in 2010, because a return to Seattle looks unlikely. Pete Carroll needs a backup with more upside.
24. A.J. Feeley (STL)
Got the big win against New Orleans, but durability is a concern. He'll be 35 when camp breaks, and teams will wonder if he can stay healthy enough to contribute.
25. Caleb Hanie (CHI)
Last year's train wreck erased any memory of his admirable performance in the 2010 NFC Championship Game. In an offense he supposedly knew well, Hanie looked like third-string material. Hard to see anyone letting him hold the clipboard.
26. Charlie Batch (PIT)
He should be back in Pittsburgh at whatever the Steelers can afford. With their cap issues, that could be a pretty small sum.
27. Mark Brunell (NYJ)
It would seem the Jets need a backup that can push/threaten Mark Sanchez. Brunell isn't that guy. He should've retired long ago, and probably would've if he didn't need the money. Sad ending to a great career.
28. Kyle Boller (OAK)
Oakland basically sent the kitchen sink to Cincy rather than letting Boller start. Tells you just about all you need to know. After that brutal performance against Kansas City, he'll be lucky to latch on as a backup.
29. Dan Orlovsky (IND)
Well, he's definitely better than Curtis Painter. Real talk, though: Two wins in five games with that Indy team was no small feat. And the numbers weren't bad either. He at least deserves a shot at second string.
10. Shaun Hill (DET)
Detroit wants him back and with good reason. He went 10-6 over three seasons in San Francisco and boasts a career 84.7 passer rating. Pretty good credentials for a backup.
11. Chris Redman (ATL)
Low ceiling, high-ish floor, Redman knows the Falcons playbook and keeps the offense warm when Matt Ryan can't play. Teams looking for a player with starter potential, however, will direct their attention elsewhere.
12. Vince Young (PHI)
Tried for the one-year turnaround and failed, miserably. Pedigree and career record ought to get him another backup gig, but one far less desirable than Philadelphia's. But hey, he beat the Super Bowl champs.
13. Byron Leftwich (PIT)
Pittsburgh likes him, but others will sniff around. Experience and past production give him some value—if he can avoid injury. Still only 32 years old.
14. Dennis Dixon (PIT)
This far down the list you're always looking for something intriguing—a skill that pops off the page. Dixon's speed is just that, and he could be the type of backup that plays in certain packages.
15. David Carr (NYG)
From No. 1 pick to Super Bowl champ, but not the way anyone expected. Giants were comfortable with him as a backup, and that's his likely role next year—either in NY or elsewhere.
16. Josh McCown (CHI)
The Bears have an interest based on McCown's passable performances in their last two regular season games. The question is whether his brief comeback in Chicago grabbed anyone else's attention. His agent deserves a gold star if the 32-year-old veteran earns a backup gig.
17. Kellen Clemens (STL)
Was distinctly not awful in his limited time with the Rams. I agree with the guys at Turf Show Times: He earned another chance to be an NFL backup.
18. Derek Anderson (CAR)
Everything since '07 has been an unmitigated disaster. The accuracy woes are particularly troubling and show no signs of getting better. He would be a dicey proposition at backup, and probably better suited to third string.
19. Brady Quinn (DEN)
Tebow imbroglio aside, Quinn doesn't have much going for him. There's his pedigree (22nd overall pick), age (27) and low exposure (12 starts), but the results aren't especially encouraging.
1. Drew Brees (NO)
It feels cheap to give him the top spot since he's likely staying put, but he is a free agent and anything less would be an insult to his talents. One of the top three quarterbacks in the league and a near lock for the Hall of Fame.
2. Matt Flynn (GB)
The potential is as intriguing as the sample size is small. Is he the next Matt Schaub or the next Kevin Kolb? Only one thing is certain: He's going to get franchise-QB money.
3. Alex Smith (SF)
The little voice inside me says he'll never be better than he was last year, but it's hard to argue with results. Smith was a great decision-maker all season and a hero when the 'Niners needed him. A player in his prime and in the ideal situation.
4. Kyle Orton (KC)
Look up "average quarterback" in the NFL dictionary and you'll find Orton's likeness. His passer rating index over the last five seasons: 101. League average is 100.
5. Jason Campbell (OAK)
Just when Campbell had some traction as a productive NFL starter, he suffers his first serious injury. Tough break. Now he's on that dreaded line between capable starter and plus backup. Ball security is a strength. He should interest teams with a good defense.
6. David Garrard (JAC)
Garrard's upside is high. Two years ago he completed 64.5 percent of his passes and went 8-6 as a starter. If his health checks out, he's easily one of the league's top 30 passers.
7. Donovan McNabb (MIN)
McNabb won't get a third strike. Failed stints in Washington and Minnesota spelled the end of his time as a starter. If he wants to stay in this league, it'll be as a backup.
8. Rex Grossman (WAS)
It's hard to live with all those turnovers, and Grossman's loose play will frighten playoff aspirants. But he can move the football, and there aren't many backup candidates that averaged 242.4 yards per game last year.
9. Chad Henne (MIA)
He's had his moments—'09 wins against the Pats and Jets come to mind—but the big picture doesn't impress. The Dolphins made it clear they don't want him back—itself a sort of red flag—and he looks destined for second string. But like Matt Moore, the man who replaced him in Miami, Henne is young enough (27) to write a second chapter.