2013 NFL Free Agents: Stars That Teams Must Hold onto This Summer

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIJanuary 24, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 30:  Running back Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 30, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. Jackson reached 1,000 yards rushing for the eighth consecutive season on the play.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

In no time at all, the Super Bowl will have come and gone and it will be time for the NFL offseason. Unlike last year's disappointing group, the 2013 NFL free-agent class is chock-full of talented stars.

And while there are many organizations that want to get their hands on that talent, there are some teams that can't risk parting with their stars.

Here's some of the top free agents that teams can't afford to lose this summer.


Aqib Talib, CB, New England

Not a whole lot was made of the Patriots acquiring Aqib Talib in November. It was obvious they needed help in the secondary, and Talib looked like a solid stopgap for the end of the season.

But Talib blossomed into a stud for New England. He finished his season with 40 tackles, 10 pass deflections and two interceptions—including a pick-six.

The 26-year-old got even better in the playoffs. While his stats weren't amazing—10 tackles and a deflection—he did a stellar job against some of the top wide receivers in the AFC.

His thigh injury after the first quarter of the AFC Championship Game against the Ravens was a huge blow, and it set a defensive tone for the rest of that game—which New England lost 13-28.

Talib fits perfectly into Bill Belichick's system, and his physicality pairs well with the athleticism of fellow corner Alfonzo Dennard.

It's been quite a while since New England had two shutdown defensive backs—and it's shown in the quality of the defense. Without a chance at any of this year's top draft prospects at corner, letting Talib go would be a huge mistake.


Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore

Elite or not, Joe Flacco has the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl for the first time in his career.

Flacco has been with the Ravens for five seasons, and in each of those seasons he has gotten his team into the playoffs.

The 28-year-old may not always have the most accurate arm, but he has one of the strongest in the NFL.

Flacco has compiled 17,633 passing yards in his career, and has averaged 11.7 yards per pass. He has topped 20 touchdowns each of the last four years.

Even if the Ravens don't view Flacco as the best long-term solution, he's proving himself in this season's playoffs.

And without any other solutions—Baltimore will be far too high to draft a competent replacement in such a thin QB draft class—it would be a huge blow to the franchise to let Flacco go.


Dashon Goldson, FS, San Francisco

The 49ers' secondary took a big step forward in 2012, allowing just 202 passing yards per game—compared to 231 in 2011.

A huge part of that secondary is safety Dashon Goldson.

The 28-year-old posted 69 tackles this season, along with three interceptions—tied for the team lead—and 11 pass deflections.

Goldson is one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the league, and he's a perfect fit in Jim Harbaugh's hard-nosed defense.

The biggest issue with bringing Goldson back is that the 'Niners are already flirting with the cap limit. They'll have to work hard to find room to retain their safety.

But if it's doable, San Francisco would be foolish to let the opportunity pass by.


Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis

The St. Louis Rams are trying desperately to turn the corner on their rebuild, and with the right moves they could finally do so.

One of those moves has to be bringing back star running back Steven Jackson.

Jackson is an absolute workhorse, rushing for over 1,000 yards in his last eight seasons. 2012 was no different, as the 29-year-old compiled 1,042 yards and four touchdowns.

He's also effective in the passing game, averaging 369 receiving yards a year—including a career-high 806 in 2006.

Jackson had a clause in his contract that would have kept him around in 2013—since he did not meet the incentives—but St. Louis restructured his deal in October so he'd be free to go.

While some may see this as a sign that the Rams are willing to cut Jackson loose, it could have been a security measure against possible injury concerns.

Either way, Jackson is St. Louis' most veteran presence on offense. He's a hard worker—and a great player—and he'll be instrumental to the Ram's future success.


Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City

After a solid 2011, the Kansas City Chiefs looked like they were on the cusp of rebounding. But they failed to get anything going in 2012, finishing the season with an NFL-worst 2-14 record. 

It's bizarre that the Chiefs were as bad as they were. They have some tremendous defensive players—four of which are headed to the Pro Bowl—and some solid role players on offense.

One such player is Dwayne Bowe.

The Chief's top wideout registered 801 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games in 2012. In six seasons with Kansas City, Bowe has compiled 5,728 receiving yards and 39 touchdowns.

Those are pretty solid numbers for a guy who was spent the majority of his career catching passes from Damon Huard, Tyler Thigpen and Matt Cassel.

KC has the first pick in this year's draft, and there's a good possibility they select West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.

While Geno has some question marks, he has the upside to be a solid QB. If that's the case, the Chiefs are going to want their top offensive weapon around to hold the ship together.


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