2013 NFL Free Agents: Players Who Will Set Market Value at Their Positions

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIJanuary 24, 2013

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 23: Reggie Bush #22 of the Miami Dolphins runs with the ball against the Buffalo Bills on December 23, 2012 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Bills 24-10. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

With the Baltimore Ravens reaching the Super Bowl, and Joe Flacco proving to be far more than a Trent Dilfer-like presence under center, there is no doubt who the top free-agent quarterback is this offseason.

While Flacco and other top players at their positions will grab the most dough in free agency, they only set the top end of the market at their positions.

The best second-tier players available will decide the going rate for the rest of the guys looking for new deals.

The dynamics at three of the NFL's glamour positions are especially interesting. Take a look at the top, and middle of the free agent food chain at QB, RB and MLB.



Top Dog: Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

Flacco couldn't have timed his first Super Bowl appearance any better. He's compiled a QB rating of 114.7 in the postseason, thrown eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in the Ravens' run to Super Bowl XLVII.

Win or lose against the Niners, the Ravens have to pay him.

In 2009, the Chicago Bears gave Jay Cutler a two-year extension on his rookie deal that totaled $49.77 million with $20 million guaranteed (Chicago Tribune). And Cutler hasn't had anywhere near the success Flacco has.

The Ravens will have to make Flacco one of the top three highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL.


Middle Man: Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins

Beyond Flacco, this is one of the worst free-agent crops for quarterbacks you'll ever see. Moore had some success in 2011 with the Dolphins, but he gave way to rookie Ryan Tannehill in 2012 as the Fins' starter.

He's only 28 years old, and though he isn't blessed with the strongest arm, he's a battler.

Moore won't get anywhere near the three-year, $26 million deal (ESPN) the Seattle Seahawks overpaid to Matt Flynn in 2012, but he should set the ceiling for the rest of the meager quarterback field.


Running Backs

No. 1 Back: Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins

The former Heisman Trophy winner was spectacular in stretches in 2012, but his services will likely be too expensive for the Fins to retain him. 

He rushed for 986 yards and two touchdowns in 2012. The Fins have Daniel Thomas and rookie Lamar Miller ready to take the bulk of the playing time.

Bush would be an ideal fit for a team like the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers or Green Bay Packers. He's still a playmaker that could add a spark to a team's attack.

Last year Michael Bush signed with the Chicago Bears for four years at $14 million (CBS Sports). Bush deserves to get a similar deal.


No. 1 A: Shonn Greene, New York Jets

Greene rushed for more yards than Bush, but he isn't nearly as dynamic or versatile. That said, his second-straight 1,000-yard season is notable.

For teams looking for a power-running back that excels getting tough inside yards, Greene is the guy.

He'll likely get a contract on-par with, or just beneath, Bush's deal.


Middle Linebackers

No. 1 -  Dannell Ellerbe, Baltimore Ravens

This could be the successor to the great Ray Lewis, but will the Ravens ante up for Flacco, Paul Kruger, Ed Reed, Dennis Pitta and Ellerbe?

All five of those players are set to become free agents in some capacity at season's end. Beyond Flacco, it's hard to say who is more valuable of the remaining four.

The Ravens could very well draft a middle linebacker to step in for Lewis if Ellerbe's price tag gets too high. If he performs well in the Super Bowl, the cost to retain him could go up.

In 2012, Stephen Tulloch signed a five-year, $25.5 million deal with the Detroit Lions (MLive.com). You'd have to think Ellerbe could get a deal in the same neighborhood.


Name or Substance - Rey Maualuga, Cincinnati Bengals

Is Rey Maualuga a better-than-average middle linebacker, or is he still benefiting from his USC reputation? Most would lean towards the latter, but he's still an interesting free agent possibility.

He lacks elite speed in pass coverage, but his run support is good. Maualuga had a career-high 122 tackles in 2012.

David Hawthorne signed a five-year, $19 million deal with the New Orleans Saints in 2012 (Nola.com). Maualuga should get a deal in that same range to set the market below Ellerbe.


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