2012 NFL Free Agents: Predicting the Most Expensive Player at Every Position

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst IMarch 2, 2012

2012 NFL Free Agents: Predicting the Most Expensive Player at Every Position

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    Signing a big-name NFL free agent is, well, expensive.

    With an influx of players in the free-agent pool, a never-before-seen madness could possibly ensue this year. 

    Franchise tags are currently being slapped on many players across the league, assuring guys like DeSean Jackson, Dashon Goldson and Ray Rice are among the highest paid at their respective positions.

    Some guys will get their huge pay day by signing long-term contracts with their current team. Others will ink mega deals with new clubs. 

    Which guys will be wading in a pool of the most cash when the free agency dust settles? 

Quarterback: Drew Brees

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    According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are well apart in their contract talks. 

    If they don't come to terms on an agreement by Monday, Brees will be the team's franchise player. 

    Brees is clearly the best quarterback on the free-agent market this year, heck, he's arguably the best quarterback on Earth. 

    The franchise tag guarantees he'll be among the top-paid QBs in the league in 2012, and his one-year deal could quite possibly make him the highest-paid signal-caller in the NFL next season. 

Running Back: Arian Foster

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    Ray Rice was tagged today, guaranteeing he'll make $7.7 million in 2012.

    The Chicago Bears haven't shown they're willing to dedicate a large sum of money in a long-term deal to Matt Forte. He could be the next guy hit with the tag.

    So, in this tight three-man "race," I'll go with the Houston Texans' Arian Foster.

    He's a restricted free agent right now, and after only carrying the full load for two seasons, he's got plenty left in his legs.

    When healthy, Foster's been one of the most versatile and dominating backs in the league.

    Don't be shocked if he inks a long-term extension soon.  

Wide Receiver: Vincent Jackson

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    There are many big-name wide receivers on the free-agent market this year, and Vincent Jackson may just be the most sought after guy. 

    Although he's 29, at 6'5'' and 230 pounds, he's a legitimate deep threat and doesn't come with the knee injury past of Marques Colston. 

    The Washington Redskins will reportedly pursue him, and you know how owner Daniel Snyder likes writing those monster checks. 

Tight End: Jermichael Finley

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    The Washington Redskins made Fred Davis their franchise player today, meaning he's guaranteed to make $5.4 million next season. 

    Jermichael Finley signed his name on a nice two-year, $14 million deal, so he's already won the "most expensive tight end" award for this offseason. 

Offensive Tackle: Jared Gaither

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    The Chargers were overjoyed when they were able to find Jared Gaither as a street free agent after he was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs toward the end of the 2011 season.

    He didn't allow a sack in his final five games. 

    According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chargers are going to make a concerted effort to re-sign the mammoth left tackle. 

    There aren't a ton of high-quality tackles on the market this year, so expect Gaither to receive the most money from San Diego.   

Guard: Carl Nicks

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    Baltimore Ravens guard Ben Grubbs will be an extremely rich man soon, but I've got Nicks as my most expensive offensive guard of the 2012 offseason. 

    He's made it quite clear he doesn't want to be franchised by the Saints, and it looks like Drew Brees will ultimately become the franchise player on Monday. 

    Nicks is arguably the best guard in the NFL and wants to be paid like one. 

    It may be tricky, but in the end, Nicks gets a mega deal. 

    From who? 

    I'm not so sure. 

Center: Scott Wells

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    According to Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole, the Packers are working diligently to re-sign their Pro Bowl center Scott Wells. 

    Although the sides may be far apart right now, they'll eventually get a deal done, somewhere in the $5 to $7 million a year range. 

    He's the best center on the free-agent market, and the Packers don't have a ton of interior offensive line depth. 

Defensive End: Mario Williams

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    Mario Williams edges out Cliff Avril as the best defensive end in the 2012 free-agency pool. 

    He's coming off a torn pectoral muscle that cut his 2011 season short, but he has emerged as one of the premier pass-rushers in the NFL. 

    The Texans can't afford to franchise him, as he would count $23 million against the cap, but they could re-sign him to a long-term deal. 

    Even if they can't come to terms on an agreement, he'll be a hot commodity on the open market.

    A colossal deal for a colossal man. 

Defensive Tackle: Paul Soliai

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    There isn't a wealth of youthful defensive tackles on this year's market, but there are some serviceable veterans. 

    Paul Soliai is the cream of the crop. 

    ESPN's Bill Williamson expects Soliai to draw interest from the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers to man the middle of their defensive lines.

    He made over $12 million last season as the Miami Dolphins' franchise player, and although I don't expect him to make that much, he'll sign an nice deal elsewhere. 

Linebacker: Curtis Lofton

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    Either Curtis Lofton or Stephen Tulloch will be the most expensive linebacker signed this offseason. 

    I have a feeling the Falcons want Lofton back more than the Lions want Tulloch, but there's no real indication as to which guy will get the more lucrative deal at this juncture. 

    Both are underrated linebackers. 

    I give Lofton the edge because he's a few years younger. 

Defensive Back: Brent Grimes

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    Defensive back is another position that's tough to figure out right now.

    Brent Grimes was hit with the franchise tag today, but his according to his agent, he won't sign it in hopes of inking a long-term deal. 

    Either way, Grimes will be very wealthy. Soon. 

    At least, he'll make $10.6 million as the franchise player next season.