There is a deep class of free-agent defensive backs looking for a new home, and the top-tier players at the position will be snatched up quickly.
Teams in desperate need of a revamped secondary will have to act quickly to sign a difference-maker, and competition for these players will be heated.
Free agency starts on March 12, and the best cornerbacks and safeties may have new deals before the sun sets on Tuesday.
Here are the defensive backs who will be signed quickly once free agency begins.
Aqib Talib, CB
Aqib Talib’s size and athleticism give him the ability to be an elite cornerback, and at 27 years old, he is just entering his prime.
However, character concerns may hurt his stock and cause teams to hesitate before signing him to a long-term contract. Still, getting a player like Talib—who can be a high-quality starter for several seasons—through free agency is a rare occurrence.
He played exceptionally well for the New England Patriots this past season after being traded there from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Talib is too talented to last long on the open market, and he will have a home shortly after free agency beings.
Sean Smith, CB
Teams in need of a cornerback that are scared off by Talib’s character concerns will be all in on Sean Smith.
As Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole notes, a few franchises are already lining to sign him away from the Miami Dolphins:
Leading candidates for CB Sean Smith, as if this moment, appear to be Tampa Bay, Arizona and Pats. But things are fluid.— Jason Cole (@JasonColeYahoo) March 9, 2013
The 6’3”, 218-pound corner has exceptional size and at 25 years old, he also has a bright future ahead of him.
He has improved throughout his four seasons with the Dolphins, and there will be a team willing to bet big money that this trend will continue within a few days of free agency starting.
Dashon Goldson, S
Among the safeties available in free agency, Dashon Goldson has the best chance to land a big-money long-term deal.
The 28-year-old has made two consecutive Pro Bowls and has unleashed his physical style of play on the San Francisco 49ers' opponents during this time period.
NJ.com’s Jordan Raanan reported that the Philadelphia Eagles are interested in having Goldson anchor their secondary and noted that the team has plenty of cap space to bring him on board.
With teams like the Eagles willing to spend on quality players, Goldson will go quickly after March 12.
Charles Woodson, S
As far as aging safeties with exceptional leadership qualities go, Ed Reed is the best bet. However, he will not take his decision on whether to leave Baltimore lightly, and he may choose to take time to think about his decision.
Woodson, in contrast, knows his days with the Packers are over, and he will have plenty of other suitors. ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported that the following teams have Charles Woodson on their radar:
NFL sources tell me that the Seahawks, the Dolphins, the Jets and the Giants are among teams that have called to discuss Charles Woodson.— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 7, 2013
He is not the dynamic force he once was, but he is still an exceptional tackler and a savvy defensive back who can dominate slot receivers.
But his leadership is the key characteristic that will cause him to go quickly, as any team with the means would be wise to add a competitor like Woodson.