NFL Free Agency 2013: Breaking Down Top Defensive Backs on the Market

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIFebruary 7, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03:  Ray Lewis #52 and Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens react after the San Francisco 49ers couldn't convert on a fourth down play in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Ravens won 34-31.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The NFL is becoming progressively offense-oriented, with the franchise quarterback being the most vital asset to any team. Which makes defensive backs all the more important.

Need proof? Look at this year's Super Bowl teams.

In 2012, San Francisco had the fourth-ranked passing defense in the league, allowing 200.2 yards per game.

Injuries had the Ravens finished ranked 18th in the league in that category, but they were just a year out from posting the fourth-best pass defense in 2011.

With the offseason well underway, there's plenty of talent available to support any team's secondary.

Here's a breakdown of some of the best defensive back talent featured in this year's NFL free agent class.


Dashon Goldson, FS

At 28 years old, Dashon Goldson is one of the hardest hitting safeties in the league.

Forced to play on a franchise tag in the 2012 season, Goldson responded with 53 tackles, three interceptions and 10 passes defended.

It marked the second year in a row in which Goldson had at least 10 defended passes and 50 solo tackles.

Goldson has been instrumental in San Francisco's secondary. He has kept wide receivers looking over their shoulders, while providing opportunistic turnovers.

But with the Niners pushing the salary cap, there are questions of whether San Francisco can bring him back on more than another tag. Either way, he'll be in for a big pay day.


Cary Williams, CB

Finally thrust into a starting role, Cary Williams has blossomed into one of the league's best cover corners.

At 28 years old, Williams had a career year in 2012. He posted 67 tackles, four interceptions (including a pick-six), 17 passes defended and his first career sack.

He also proved he can handle the postseason in Baltimore's playoff run, notching two interceptions.

Williams doesn't have as good of a resume as other top players, but he had a phenomenal 2012. Sometimes that's enough, especially at a premier position like cornerback.

With plenty of players headed to free agency this offseason, the Ravens have some big decisions to make. If they do bring back Williams, it won't be a move they regret.


Ed Reed, FS

Arguably the best to ever play the safety position, it could be a very interesting offseason for Ed Reed.

The lifelong Raven is coming off one of the most exciting seasons in his career, helping to bring home a big Super Bowl win.

But at 34 years old, Reed is on the backside of his career. Especially since he had to play through injuries in 2012.

Reed's instincts are unparalleled, and he could be a valuable teaching tool to younger players.

The big question remains if any team will be willing to commit long-term, even with the Hall of Fame resume that Reed possesses.


Jairus Byrd, FS

Jairus Byrd isn't the fastest safety out there, but his instincts and toughness are some of the best in the league.

The 26-year-old struggled through some injuries this season, starting just 14 games for the Bills.

Still, the production was there for Byrd. He notched a solid 53 tackles while combining for nine turnovers (five interceptions, four forced fumbles).

The passing defense was the only thing that went right for the Bills in 2012, and there's very little doubt they'll bring Byrd back for 2013—whether it be with a franchise tag or long-term contract.


William Moore, SS

Moore may not have the reputation of other free agent safeties, but he remains a solid talent at one of the NFL's thinnest positions.

The 27-year-old had the best season of his career last year for the Atlanta Falcons, posting a career high 60 tackles with four interceptions and a sack.

Moore doesn't excel in any one area but is a very good complete package type player. Any team looking for a great all-around option at safety would be lucky to nab Moore for its defense.


Honorable Mention

Brent Grimes, CB

As a 27-year-old in 2010, Grimes had a dominating season, posting five interceptions, 23 passes defended and 70 tackles.

Now 29, Grimes is set to be a free agent.

While the talent is still there, injuries have remained an issue for Grimes. He started 12 games in 2011 for the Atlanta Falcons and made just one start in 2012 after tearing his Achilles in the first game of the season.

If he can remain healthy, Grimes could be a solid starter on any team. If anyone is willing to take a chance on him remains the question.


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