My Thoughts On The Top Available NFL Free Agents

Haran KnightCorrespondent IFebruary 11, 2009

The 2009 NFL Off Season is underway.  Mock Drafts are being formed. Local and National Media "experts" are speculating what each team is going to do in free agency and then the draft.  Die-hard fans are blogging about who they want in their favorite teams uniform come late July. 

While all of these things are going on, there is one constant: Nothing is predictable.  That's what makes it all the more exciting to me.

Most people will get a better feel of what teams are going to do after Feb. 24.  That's when the Scouting Combine comes to a conclusion and scouts have a more permanent idea of where players may get drafted. 

But even before that, Feb. 19 is the deadline that teams can place a franchise tag on potential free agents to prevent them from departing without maximum compensation.

This article is going to focus on the top 10 current free agents(according to and the possibilities of what will happen with them in my opinion.  On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being very low; 10 being very high) I'm ranking the likelyhood of that player getting a franchise tag placed on them. 

I also have an idea where each player may end up if they're not franchised/signed by the Feb. 27 start of free agency......

1. Albert Haynesworth-DT,Tennessee Titans

At6'6" 320lbs, the 28-year-old Haynesworth will be the biggest name signed in free agency.  He is a guy whose presence could change the dynamics of an entire defence.  He wants to remain a Titan, but the fact that he hasn't received a long term deal yet makes it doubtful he'll get one. 

Other teams seem ready to spend half their cap space to pry him away from Nashville.

Likely-hood of franchise tag: N/A.

Haynesworth reached incentives that prevent him from being franchised again.                                                                                 

Likely 2009 Team

While Haynesworth would like to remain a Titan, he's made it clear that money talks. He'll command at least $12 million/year. Tampa Bay is a team with plenty cap space that could use a dominant force in the middle of the line to help with rival rushing attacks from Carolina and Atlanta.

Indianapolis could use him to stuff the middle, making life easier for ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney.  They would have to part ways with WR Marvin Harisson and restructure Peyton Manning's contract to have a remote chance.  


2. Julius Peppers-DE, Carolina Panthers

The 6'7", 283lb Peppers is a freak of nature that can get sacks and help against the run. He's said to want to play in a 3-4 defense to maximize his potential and refuses to sign long-term with the Panthers.            

Likely-hood of franchise tag: 6

Peppers would've been franchised by now if Carolina didn't have to chose between him and offensive tackle Jordan Gross.  If Gross signs a long term deal, Peppers may have a tag placed on him for trade value purposes.   

Likely 2009 team

Peppers will command between $12-14 million/yr.  If he really wants to play in a 3-4 D, Cleveland may be a good fit.  They were 4-12 last year but just one year removed from 10-6.  If they fill a few holes and establish an identity, they may surprise a few people.  Miami is a team rumored to be willing to trade for Peppers if he is franchised.


3. Nnamdi Asomugha-CB, Oakland Raiders

Considered by many the best corner in the league today, the 6'2", 210lb Asomugha is going to be pursued greatly he's unsigned by Feb. 27. 

Likely-hood of franchise tag: 8.5

The Raiders franchised Asomugha last year, but they still don't want to just let him walk.  The main difference maker is Oakland doesn't have the cap space they had last year.

Likely 2009 team

Asomugha will command in the area of $9.5 million/yr.  Being that he'll be 28 in July, he also could be locked down for 5-6 productive years as well. The Patriots would be an idea place because Asante Samuel is missed in Foxboro.  But, the $14 million + tag placed on Matt Cassel makes their cap room tighter than expected.  One team poised to make a run at him is Tampa Bay, especially if they decide to part ways with an aging Rhonde Barber.

4. Terrell Suggs-LB/DE(Baltimore Ravens)

Suggs is one of the most versatile players in the league who could excel in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.  He also turns 27 in October so it's safe to say he hasn't entered his prime yet which is scary.

Likely-hood of franchise tag: 7

Suggs was franchised last season. Of the 3 linebackers approaching free agency, Suggs is the one the Ravens can least afford to lose.  Ray Lewis may be the face of the franchise, but Suggs has a bigger upside.

Likely 2009 team

Suggs will probably command $7-8 million/yr.  The Arizona Cardinals have plenty of cap space and could replace Karlos Dansby or Bertrand Berry with him.

5. Karlos Dansby-LB(Arizona Cardinals)

Dansby was franchised by the Cardinals for the 2008 season and he put up a Pro Bowl season. Negotiations for a long term have started.

Likelyhood of franchise tag:8

Dansby wants a long term deal, but if one can't be reach by Feb. 19th Arizona isn't going to sit back and wave goodbye.

Likely 2009 team

The Dolphins are a team that could use his services to help improve on their surprise season, but Arizona seems adamant in not letting Dansby go. Dansby's seeking a Calvin Pace(Jets) type of deal

6. T.J. Houshmandzadeh-WR(Cincinnatti Bengals)

The knock agains T.J. is that he'll be be 32 in September.  A lot of receivers are still in their prime at that age.  While he's not a downfield 15 TD threat, Housh is a possession receiver with great hands and plays his role well.  He'll bring a different look that can help take pressure off speedy counterparts.

Likely-hood of franchise tag: 2

I put it at 2 because you just never know, but currently it's an 80% chance that T.J. will escape the discombobulated Bengals organization.

Likely 2009 team

While Houshmandzadeh's made radio appearances in different cities saying he wouldn't mind playing in whatever town that is, the Philadelphia Eagles would benefit greatly from his prescence.  They definitely have the cap space to fit in a 3 yr deal worth around $22 million.

7. Jordan Gross-LT(Carolina Panthers)

The 28(29 in July) yr old Gross was franchised in 2008 and made his first Pro Bowl. He enters the off season as the highest rated FA offensive lineman.

Likely-hood of franchise tag: 8

Gross' status ties into what the Panthers doe with Julius Peppers.  Gross wants a long term deal, but if one isn't made the Panthers have to make a decision. A Pro Bowl LT isn't someone you just watch walk away.

Likely 2009 team

The Panthers are the most likely team, but they need to solidify that by getting a deal done.  If Gross is a UFA at the start of the signing period, the Eagles are going to throw tons of money his way to replace Tra Thomas.  5 yrs/$45million($9million/yr) may be an offer he can't refuse.

8. Brandon Jacobs-HB(New York Giants)

At 6'4" 264lb, Jacobs is running back in a defensive ends body.  He's the top running back free agent and once he's signed, teams still looking for backs will look to the draft. The Giants can ill-afford to lose him, but he's been outspoken about wanting Plaxico Burress on the team.  That could play a part in him signing a multi-year deal.

Likely-hood of franchise tag: 7

The Giants may have no choice but to franchise Jacobs because a back his size is irreplaceable.  Do they want t really use $7-8 million in cap space on someone who's not the most durable person in the world??

Likely 2009 team

The Giants are front runners, but other teams may make room for Jacobs.  Where does Cleveland stand with Jamal Lewis? How healthy is Tampa Bay's Cadillac Williams? Would Denver be interested in a trio of Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Jacobs?? We shall see.

9. Ray Lewis-LB(Baltimore Ravens)

Ray Lewis has been the face of the Ravens for over a decade.  The issue is come May 15 it'll be a 34 yr old face.  Lewis has 2-3 years left in his tank and a 2008 Pro Bowl season proved it could be 2-3 productive years.

Likely-hood of franchise tag: 4

I doubt the Ravens will tag Lewis over Suggs, but stranger things have happened.

Likely 2009 team

If the Ravens fail to get a deal done, Rex Ryan is more than eager to woo Ray Lewis to the Meadowlands with the NY Jets.

10. Kurt Warner-QB(Arizona Cardinals)

Warner earned MVP considerations at the age of 37. Of course, it helps to have Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin to throw to.

Likely-hood of franchise tag: 0

Warner doesn't want to play anywhere else so there's no need to put $14 million aside in the cap to force him to stay.

Likely 2009 team

Warner's decision ties into what happens with Boldin, but either way it's the Cardinals or retirement.