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NFL Free Agents 2013: Best Fits for Top 15 Remaining Players

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2013

NFL Free Agents 2013: Best Fits for Top 15 Remaining Players

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    The 2013 NFL free-agency period has come to a screeching halt, but that doesn't mean there is a lack of talent still on the open market for teams in need. 

    In fact, the top players still available are great options for teams in need of their respective positions. It has taken longer for the remaining players to find homes for a variety of reasons, but that could be nothing but a good thing for the franchises that finally reel them in with a new contract. 

    In the following slideshow, we will rank the top 15 remaining free agents and provide each with a best fit based on a team's needs, cap space and plans for the future as the draft approaches. 

    Not all free agents are created equal, but the following players would give a massive boost to their perfect fits if the two sides can find a way to work out a deal. 

    Let's take a look. 

15. Darrius Heyward-Bey

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    2012 Team: Oakland Raiders

    Best Fit in 2013: Indianapolis Colts 

    Darrius Heyward-Bey was a cap casualty this offseason in Oakland, a team which made the mistake of thinking he was a full-time starter. 

    DHB is a situational player at best, which isn't a bad thing. 

    The Indianapolis Colts need a player such as DHB to stretch the field in certain situations. The depth chart at the position behind Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton is not looking so hot anyway. 

    As a reliable deep threat in Indianapolis, DHB would excel while catching passes from Andrew Luck. Donnie Avery played that role last season, but he couldn't catch a ball to save his life. 

    DHB has been garnering interest from both Indianapolis and others such as the Minnesota Vikings, but expect the Colts to land the talented receiver, as he's reportedly leaning in their direction (per Detroit Free Press).

14. Eric Winston

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    2012 Team: Kansas City Chiefs 

    Best Fit in 2013: Miami Dolphins 

    Eric Winston is becoming all too familiar with the free-agency process now that he is once again looking for a new home. 

    Winston isn't a horrible player by any means, and it's mildly surprising he is still on the market with bigger names such as Jake Long finding new homes (and Andre Smith being stuck in perpetual limbo). 

    Speaking of Long, his former team, the Miami Dolphins, now have to find a cost-effective way to make up for his absence. 

    Cue Winston to Miami. He ranked as the No. 26 tackle last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and graded out well in both run and pass blocking. Miami is working on getting him to come around on a short-term deal (per Miami Herald), and expect that to happen sooner rather than later. 

13. Ahmad Bradshaw

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    2012 Team: New York Giants 

    Best Fit in 2013: Pittsburgh Steelers

    Ahmad Bradshaw has yet to find a landing spot thanks to foot injuries that have plagued him throughout his entire career. As a result, he's only played in a full 16 games just once in his six-year career. 

    Bradshaw had his fifth career foot surgery in January and is still attempting to recover. He's already visited with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team he happens to fit perfectly. 

    The backfield duo of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer isn't going to get it done in Pittsburgh, especially with the loss of Rashard Mendenhall. 

    That's where Bradshaw comes into play. He's a solid all-around back in all phases, whether it's running up the middle, catching passes or staying in to block—he ranked as the No. 6 overall back last season in Pro Football Focus' rankings (subscription required).

    Bradshaw is the rotational piece the Steelers need, and the team plans to visit with him again in a few weeks (per Ed Bouchette).

12. James Harrison

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    2012 Team: Pittsburgh Steelers 

    Best Fit in 2013: Cleveland Browns 

    In a move that wasn't so shocking, the Pittsburgh Steelers parted ways with linebacker James Harrison. What turned out to be a surprise is the team's reluctance to bring him back on a cheaper deal. 

    Harrison is 34 years old, but has enough left in the tank to play as a situational pass-rusher for a few more years. He managed only fives sacks last season, but had been battling an injury. 

    Now that he is healthy and strung together a few nice performances before the end of the season, the Cleveland Browns should be making a move. 

    Sure, the Browns inked Paul Kruger to a deal, but the spot opposite of him is essentially empty considering Jabaal Sheard has never played as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the pros. 

    There's no better way to make the transition to a 3-4 defense than to bring in a player like Harrison. He's not experiencing a friendly market just yet, and the Browns would be wise to swoop in while the asking price is low.

11. Shaun Phillips

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    2012 Team: San Diego Chargers 

    Best Fit in 2013: Arizona Cardinals 

    Shaun Phillips has spent the entirety of his nine-year career with the San Diego Chargers, where he has wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks with his exceptional pass-rushing skills. 

    Now 31 years old, the Chargers appear to want nothing to do with Phillips, who still managed to record 9.5 sacks last season. 

    An ideal spot for Phillips to land would be in Arizona. The Cardinals are weak on depth at the pass-rushing position and didn't have the cash or desire to pursue some of the bigger names available on the market. 

    Phillips won't be ridiculously expensive, and it's hard to hate the idea of bringing in a player for relatively cheap who can give your team almost 10 sacks in a season in a rotational capacity. 

10. Dwight Freeney

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    2012 Team: Indianapolis Colts

    Best Fit in 2013: Denver Broncos 

    The Indianapolis Colts let Dwight Freeney go this offseason after he stumbled playing 3-4 outside linebacker for the first time in his career. 

    Freeney has been pursued by multiple teams, including the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions. Denver makes the most sense for the veteran pass-rusher. 

    What's stopping Freeney from signing? It's not the Elvis Dumervil situation. It has more to do with the fact he's demanding a contract worth $6 million per year, as Ian Rapoport reported on Total Access (h/t Rotoworld). 

    In a 4-3 as a defensive end, Freeney will still bring a lot to the table and fits perfectly in Denver. It helps that the team has Peyton Manning to help lower his asking price. It feels like only a matter of time before the two sides agree to something reasonable. 

9. Nnamdi Asomugha

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    2012 Team: Philadelphia Eagles 

    Best Fit in 2013: New Orleans Saints 

    Nnamdi Asomugha has some credibility issues after ending up as one of the NFL's biggest free-agency busts in history. 

    Aso is reportedly weighing his options between the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers, according to Ian Rapoport. Both are great options, but only one area really makes perfect sense. 

    That would be New Orleans. Aso is from Louisiana and has a chance to be given a lot of credit for helping turn a historically bad Saints defense around next season. 

    New Orleans is on the fast track to a stellar defensive unit with the signings of corner Keenan Lewis and linebacker Victor Butler, not to mention the addition of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. 

    Aso fits well in New Orleans, and if he joins the Saints, the team will be Super Bowl contenders just like the 49ers. Plus, he'll be able to restore his crippled image in the process. 

8. Israel Idonije

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    2012 Team: Chicago Bears 

    Best Fit in 2013: Chicago Bears 

    Israel Idonije may be 32 years old and certainly isn't the biggest name in the NFL, but he's one heck of a player who can upgrade a rotational 4-3 pass rush in a hurry. 

    In the past three seasons, he has racked up 20.5 sacks and has missed only one game in the last six years. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Idonije ranked as the No. 12 overall 4-3 defensive end last season in Chicago. 

    Chicago is making a major mistake if it lets Idonije walk. The team now reportedly has competition from the San Francisco 49ers for his services (per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport). 

    The Bears need Idonije just as much as he needs them—he benefits greatly from playing on the same line as Julius Peppers and Henry Melton. Keeping him around makes way too much sense, but now, Chicago has some competition. 

7. Charles Woodson

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    2012 Team: Green Bay Packers 

    Best Fit in 2013: San Francisco 49ers

    Charles Woodson is a future Hall of Famer defensive back, and at 36 years old, he still has plenty to offer a team if he lands in the right situation. 

    Woodson has lost a step, but has moved to safety and made positive contributions in Green Bay last season. 

    The San Francisco 49ers lost starting safety Dashon Goldson to free agency and could use a veteran player such as Woodson in the secondary next season. According to Josina Anderson, Woodson has already visited with the team:

    Agent Carl Poston just told me Charles Woodson is scheduled to visit the #49ers. Woodson is set to fly out Wednesday.

    — Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 13, 2013

    Woodson had issues staying healthy last season, but he could be the ball-hawking safety the 49ers need in a situational capacity to take the team back to the Super Bowl next season. 

6. John Abraham

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    2012 Team: Atlanta Falcons 

    Best Fit in 2013: New England Patriots 

    John Abraham was released by the Atlanta Falcons this offseason, only to sign a similar player in Osi Umenyiora. 

    Abraham, like a few quality pass-rushers still on the market, has been homeless longer than he deserves as the league awaited Elvis Dumervil's decision. 

    Now that Dumervil is in Baltimore, Abraham will likely find a home soon. The best destination would be with the New England Patriots as a situational pass-rusher so he can be on the field with Chandler Jones to pressure the quarterback. 

    Abraham totaled 10 sacks a year ago, and he is far from done if his play was any indication. He's 34 years old, but he would excel in New England.

5. Antoine Winfield

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    2012 Team: Minnesota Vikings 

    Best Fit in 2013: Washington Redskins 

    The Minnesota Vikings released Antoine Winfield for the obvious reasons such as age (35) and his cap number, but he'll have a new home shortly. 

    Winfield ranked as the No. 1 overall corner in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). His combination of yet-to-decline skills and physicality, not to mention his veteran leadership, make him an ideal candidate for a team in need of a slot corner. 

    This offseason, that happens to be the cap-strapped Washington Redskins. The team knows this much, as owner Dan Snyder, the coaching staff and even quarterback Robert Griffin III sat down for dinner with Winfield in an attempt to persuade him to join the team (per Ian Rapoport).

    Winfield didn't sign a contract, but he'll be back. It's hard to turn down a franchise that needs you that badly on the field and treats you so well off of it. 

4. Brandon Moore

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    2012 Team: New York Jets

    Best Fit in 2013: Dallas Cowboys 

    Brandon Moore was one of the bigger names (literally and figuratively) entering the free-agency pond at the guard position this offseason. 

    So far, Moore has yet to garner much interest. 

    The issue is likely his age, considering he is already 32 years old. That didn't stop him from being the No. 4-ranked guard in the NFL last year (per Pro Football Focus, subscription required).

    There's a perfect team out there for Moore—the Dallas Cowboys. The franchise has a horrific interior offensive line and has to get serious about protecting quarterback Tony Romo, who just landed a staggering $108 million deal with the team (per NPR).

    By the way, the Romo deal freed up $5 million in cap space. If the Cowboys are serious about competing, they'll bring Moore in to protect their investment. 

3. Daryl Smith

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    2012 Team: Jacksonville Jaguars 

    Best Fit in 2013: Chicago Bears

    Daryl Smith missed most of last season with a serious groin injury, which is likely the reason one of the NFL's best 4-3 outside linebackers has yet to be courted by any team in free agency—including his former team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

    Back in 2011, Smith ranked as the No. 2 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL (per Pro Football Focus, subscription required) behind only Denver's Von Miller. He's excellent against both the run and pass when healthy. 

    With his injury presumably behind him and at only 30 years old, the Chicago Bears have to take a look at Smith. The linebacker exodus in Chicago with both Nick Roach and Brian Urlacher gone is a serious cause for concern. 

    Smith would be a stopgap solution, but a great one if he checks out medically. 

2. Karlos Dansby

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    2012 Team: Miami Dolphins 

    Best Fit in 2013: New York Giants 

    The Miami Dolphins parted ways with the 31-year-old Karlos Dansby, as the team needed to make room for the younger Dannell Ellerbe. 

    It was a surprising move nonetheless, even if he was due a lot of money over the next two seasons. Dansby racked up 134 total tackles last season as a four-down starter and ranked as the No. 13 inside linebacker in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    Dansby hasn't seen the market he deserves, but that should change soon. The New York Giants need to infuse some talent into the linebacking corps—Dan Connor on the roster or not. 

    At this point, it looks like Dansby could come cheap. For a team in need of Dansby-type production at the position, the fit makes all too much sense. 

1. Andre Smith

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    2012 Team: Cincinnati Bengals 

    Best Fit in 2013: Cincinnati Bengals 

    Bengals right tackle Andre Smith has went about the free-agency period in a horrible manner. He wanted too much money coming off of his first solid season. To make matters worse, he was treated as a second fiddle to Jake Long, as both offensive tackles share the same agent.

    To be fair to Smith, he was the No. 1 overall rated right tackle in football last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    The problem was how Smith performed prior to last season. His combination of injuries, performance and weight issues caused the Bengals to decline an option in his contract last offseason. 

    According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Smith and the Bengals are still far apart on a deal. The team needs him bad, and Smith needs it considering he has yet to even visit another franchise this offseason, let alone have other teams show more than mild interest in his services. 

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