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NFL Free Agency 2014: Re-Rankings of the Top 10 Players at Every Position

Ryan RiddleCorrespondent IJanuary 19, 2017

NFL Free Agency 2014: Re-Rankings of the Top 10 Players at Every Position

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Although the draft is the best way to build the core of a football team, signing the right free agent can provide a much-needed boost to a team looking to fill holes quickly.

    With the Seahawks establishing themselves as the dominant NFL power, how will teams structure their rosters to compete against the template that was utilized by Seattle coach Pete Carroll and Co.?

    Now that the NFL offseason has officially begun, it's time to rank the top 10 free agents for every position.

Quarterbacks

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    1. Josh McCown

    Josh McCown had one of the best seasons as a quarterback in the NFL last year—if only he would have had a larger sample size to demonstrate his talents. Teams will view him as a premium backup, but he may end up landing a starting job if he can keep up his play from last year.

     

    2. Mike Vick

    Vick still has one or two more years left to be an effective quarterback in the NFL. He has struggled with injuries and turnovers over the years, but there's no denying his talents.

     

    3. Josh Freeman

    Freeman seems to have regressed from his promising days as the franchise QB in Tampa. Now he needs to prove that he's capable of bouncing back from one of the worst years of any QB in 2013. 

     

    4. Tarvaris Jackson

    Though we haven't seen much from Jackson over the last couple of years, he did pass for more than 3,000 yards in 2010 and has the athleticism to make plays happen when called upon. 

     

    5. Shaun Hill

    Shaun Hill has established himself as an immaculate pro over these many years. Few quarterbacks can come into a game without warning and maintain the momentum. For this, his status as a premium backup is assured. 

     

    6. Chad Henne

    Jacksonville will likely struggle to successfully export one of their problems to a team in need of a QB, but anything is possible. Henne should not be a starter in 2014 barring injury, but crazier things have happened. 

     

    7. Matt Cassel

    After landing in Minnesota in 2013, Cassel eventually unseated Christian Ponder for the starting quarterback job but was up and down in his performances. This vet should have no problem finding another home if the Vikings don't want his services—but he will struggle to land a starting job at this juncture of his career. 

     

    8. Matt Flynn

    Flynn seems comfortable backing up Aaron Rodgers after realizing how difficult it was to survive out there as a starter. The days of being considered a starter are likely over for him. 

     

    9. Kellen Clemens

    It's hard to say whether Kellen did well with his opportunities last year. He threw for a career high of 1,673 yards through the air in just nine starts. Teams considering him for their roster should probably just draft a mid-round project instead. 

     

    10. Colt McCoy

    Colt did not make much of an appearance in 2013, but he does offer a nice combination of youth and experience for teams that are looking to add a quality backup. 

Running Backs

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    1. Maurice Jones-Drew

    Last year was the first time, dating back to 2006, that MJD failed to average at least four yards per carry in a season. Will he rebound from his 3.4-yard average in 2013? Whichever team decides to pay for him will ultimately be acquiring one of the better running backs over the last five years. 

     

    2. Knowshon Moreno

    Moreno used the 2013 season as his coming-out party, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns for the first time in his career. He was one out of only five running backs who accomplished that feat this year. Will the Broncos keep the soon-to-be 28-year-old?

     

    3. Ben Tate

    Houston will likely have to let this young, powerful runner walk. It's his time to shine as a featured back in this league. The question is: Where will he end up?

     

    4. LeGarrette Blount

    The Patriots should do what they can to retain Blount's services. In four years as a pro, he has averaged 4.7 yards per carry. 

     

    5. Darren McFadden 

    McFadden has never played a 16-game season. He is either fresh for his age (26) after all the rest or extremely old from the years of injuries. "Run DMC" has the talent; if he can just stay healthy, he would be a worthy addition at a value price.  

     

    6. Donald Brown

    Donald Brown came to life like never before when challenged for opportunities by Trent Richardson in Indianapolis. He's coming off one of his best seasons, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.   

     

    7. Andre Brown

    At 6'0", 224 pounds, Brown has the physical tools to excel. Whether he does or not will depend on him. This one-time journeyman appears to be headed on the road yet again. 

     

    8. Joique Bell 

    Bell's rise from obscurity is impressive. He's young, talented and a hard-working RB. He should serve as a solid backup. 

     

    9. James Starks

    Averaging 5.5 yard per carry in limited action last season was perfect timing for him to test the free-agent market.

     

    10. Rashad Jennings

    Jennings is the perpetual underdog who knows how to squeeze every last drop out of his talent. He may not be a featured back wherever he ends up, but he'll at least be a great guy for teams that are looking to add RB depth. 

Wide Receivers

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    1. Hakeem Nicks

    This is a strong class of free-agent wideouts, and Hakeem Nicks is the best one available. He brings both youth (26) and rare ability to the negotiating table. He has struggled with injuries lately, which could reduce his value. 

     

    2. Eric Decker

    In each of the last two seasons, Eric Decker has eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark. He also has amassed 24 touchdown catches over the same period. 

     

    3. Danario Alexander

    This talented 25-year-old had 17.8 yards per catch for 658 receiving yards in 2012. He was all set to have a breakout year before getting hurt. Alexander has the speed and length to stretch a defense. 

     

    4. Golden Tate

    Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, this elusive WR leads the league in missed tackles forced, per Pro Football Focus (subscription site). More importantly, however, he has improved each year since entering the NFL in 2010.

     

    5. Jeremy Maclin

    Maclin missed the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL. If he can return to full speed, he would be a nice addition to whichever team rewards his efforts. 

     

    6. Kenny Britt

    Talent has never been the problem for Kenny Britt. Off-field distractions and drama have been his primary downfall. Despite the warning signs, look for some teams to fall in love with his size and athleticism at the WR position.  

     

    7. Anquan Boldin

    Age is creeping up on Anquan Boldin. He did have a great season in 2013, but his time is running out. He is not a long-term answer but can serve as one heck of a Band-Aid should the need arise. 

     

    8. Riley Cooper

    It seems Riley Cooper has wisely managed to shut his mouth and just play football. In doing this, he has been the beneficiary of several big plays this season. 

     

    9. Julian Edelman

    Edelman did his best impression of Wes Welker this year but fell somewhat short in reliability. However, there's talent worth investing in here when you consider he had 1,056 yards receiving and six touchdown catches. 

     

    10. James Jones

    Aaron Rodgers has established a nice comfort zone with Jones over the years, but his time in Green Bay may be coming to an end. Teams that are looking to add depth at the receiver position would be wise to consider this affordable option. He racked up 14 touchdown receptions in 2012. 

Tight Ends

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    1. Jimmy Graham

    Graham is not only the best free agent available, he's also one of the best players in the NFL. There is almost no chance the Saints let this talented tight end go to any other team. 

     

    2. Dustin Keller

    Keller is trying to recover from a gruesome knee injury that he suffered in 2013. He has to demonstrate he's ready to return to his old form before teams will consider him. 

     

    3. Dennis Pitta

    Not having Pitta was devastating for Joe Flacco and the Ravens in 2013. His value comes as a mismatch against most secondaries. The Ravens will likely make him a priority this offseason but may not be able to afford him, considering Flacco's 2014 cap hit of nearly $15 million.

     

    4. Ben Hartsock

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription site), Ben Hartsock is the best blocking tight end in football. Obviously any team that is looking to add a dominating blocker to its roster should consider him. 

     

    5. Brandon Pettigrew

    Detroit could be letting their starting tight end walk this offseason. Pettigrew has good size but lacks a proper feel for zone coverages. 

     

    6. Jermichael Finley

    Finley is ranked so low here because of concerns about his health. This talented tight end might have to go the way of former Lions running back Jahvid Best, after suffering a series of violent concussions. 

     

    7. Fred Davis

    Fred Davis is a talented specimen who has yet to fully materialize in the NFL. He should garner a good amount of interest this offseason. 

     

    8. Scott Chandler

    Teams that are looking for a tall, big-bodied red-zone threat should consider the 6'7" Scott Chandler. 

     

    9. Garrett Graham

    Garrett Graham has had some decent production at Houston but is little more than a guy who is brought on to provide TE depth. 

     

    10. Michael Hoomanawanui

    The guy with the hard-to-pronounce name is still very much in the early stages of his career at age 25. At 6'4", 260 lbs, Hoomanawanui is one of the bigger tight ends in the game and just so happens to move well for his size. 

Offensive Line

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    1. Eugene Monroe 

    Monroe was shipped to Baltimore in 2013, and the Ravens will do everything they can to sign him to a long-term contract. 

     

    2. Alex Mack 

    Not only is Alex Mack already one of the best centers in the league, he's also just entering his prime at age 28. This combination is rare for anyone testing the free-agent market. Expect him to be one of the highest-paid free agents of the offseason.  

     

    3. Jordan Gross 

    Despite coming to the end of his career, Jordan Gross is still an attractive free agent who will get a ton of attention this year. The 33-year-old may end up retiring this year, but he has the talent to keep playing at a Pro Bowl level. 

     

    4. Brian de la Puente 

    De la Puente is an unsung hero on the Saints offense. The Saints have a ton of free agents to consider and may have to make some difficult decisions. 

     

    5. Branden Albert 

    The chances are slim that Albert remains in Kansas City this year. He and Andy Reid got off on the wrong foot when the Chiefs wanted Albert to switch to right tackle and he refused. 

     

    6. Roger Saffold

    Saffold showed off his versatility this year after being moved from tackle to guard. It's unclear what position he'll play in 2014, but he should be in high demand one way or the other.  

     

    7. Zach Strief

    Strief is another one of the many Saints who are set to hit the free-agent scene this offseason. The 30-year-old right tackle is still playing solid football but has seen a subtle decline.

     

    8. Jared Veldheer 

    If the Raiders are smart, they'll hold onto Veldheer for the next five to seven years. This kid is just 26 years of age and has a lot of football left in him. 

     

    9. Anthony Collins 

    This past season was Collins' first year as a starter, as he spent the first four years as a reserve in Cincy before signing with the Colts. He has done a nice job so far and should be rewarded with a long-term contract. 

     

    10. Chad Rinehart 

    Rinehart can play almost anywhere on the offensive line. Last season he played guard for the Chargers, but he has experience all over the front. He struggled at times in San Diego but is still a talented lineman. 

Defensive Line

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    1. Greg Hardy 

    Aside from Jimmy Graham, Greg Hardy could be the most coveted free agent in this class. Over the last two seasons, he has amassed 26 sacks. 

     

    2. Michael Johnson 

    Michael Johnson continues to improve with each passing year. Teams in need of a pass-rusher could end up dishing out some serious coin to guys like Johnson if he doesn't end up re-signing with the Bengals. 

     

    3. Michael Bennett

    Bennett and the Seahawks are likely going to agree on a long-term deal before this talented pass-rusher hits the open market. 

     

    4. Lamarr Houston 

    Houston has quietly been one of the better 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL. Although he lacks the speed to turn the corner, he still ends up finding ways to make plays. 

     

    5. Henry Melton 

    Melton is coming off a torn ACL that happened in Sept. When healthy, this interior lineman is one of the more disruptive playmakers in the game. 

     

    6. Randy Starks 

    Randy Starks is probably looking to get one last big contract before he retires. Expect him to sign with the highest bidder at this point. 

     

    7. Robert Ayers 

    The Broncos would like to keep Robert Ayers on their payroll for next season, but his price may be more than they can afford. As a reserve, he had 5.5 sacks last season and was a key contributor to the defense. 

     

    8. Justin Tuck 

    Justin Tuck might have already lost a step or two, but he can still be an effective pass-rusher. Apparently he is all set to test the market to see what type of offers are available to him, per Dan Graziano of ESPN

     

    9. Jared Allen 

    After six productive years with the Vikings, Jared Allen is likely to test the open market. At 31 years old, he still has some talent worth contemplating. It’s possible that Minnesota will retain his services, considering that he has never had less than 11 sacks since joining the Vikings more than six years ago.

     

    10. Clinton McDonald 

    Whenever you can add a Super Bowl ring to your NFL accomplishments, you're on the right track in terms of signing that next huge contract. McDonald is one of the lesser-known names on the Seahawks defense, but those in the know are aware of his impact. 

Linebackers

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    1. Brian Orakpo 

    After returning from a season-ending injury in 2012, Brian Orakpo seems to have found his stride once again, recording double-digit sacks for the second time in his five-year career. In 64 games, he has racked up 39.5 sacks. The Redskins need to do everything possible to keep him in the nation’s capital.

     

    2. Anthony Spencer

    2013 was a bad year for Anthony Spencer, as he was bitten hard by the injury bug. In 2012 he racked up 11 quarterback sacks. His more natural position is outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. He may be inclined to leave Dallas to play the position he's more comfortable with. 

     

    3. Jason Worilds 

    Worlids has finally begun to emerge after several years of development. In 2013 he set a career high in tackles (56) and sacks (eight). 

     

    4. Brandon Spikes 

    Spikes has become one of the most fearsome run-stopping inside linebackers in the NFL. Several teams should be calling for his name by the time the free-agent period officially begins. 

     

    5. Karlos Dansby 

    The Cardinals' pending free agent tallied 122 tackles, six sacks, four interceptions and a forced fumble in what was the best season of his decade-long career. His production was a pleasant surprise for the fans in the desert. At the age of 32, he is not likely to see any huge contract offers despite his fantastic season. 

     

    6. Shaun Phillips

    Nobody expected Shaun Phillips to produce this late in his career as a first-year member of the Broncos. He was simply brought in as a backup. But when Von Miller missed time with suspensions and injuries, Phillips stepped up to have a remarkable season. The 32-year-old may have earned himself a decent chunk of cash this offseason, but will it be as a Bronco?

     

    7. Parys Haralson 

    The Saints did not make many personnel changes to their defense, but one of the best moves they made was acquiring Haralson. They would be wise to re-sign him for at least a couple more years. 

     

    8. Daryl Smith

    Smith has helped the Ravens by providing a veteran presence to the middle of the defense. Allowing him to leave after just one year would be a mistake.   

     

    9. Desmond Bishop 

    Bishop had another season of bad luck after tearing his ACL as a member of the Vikings. It's unclear whether he'll be able to return to full strength. 

     

    10. Jon Beason  

    Beason is looking to find the groove he once had in the first few years of his career. Injuries and age have taken their toll on his body. 

Secondary

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    1. Jairus Byrd 

    Jairus Byrd is looking for a big payday this offseason, and it seems as though the Bills are going to let him have it. Although it's possible, they aren’t likely to franchise their talented safety for a second straight year and keep a disgruntled employee when they’re much better off letting him find a new home. However, Byrd told the John Murphy Show (h/t BuffaloBills.com's Chris Brown) that he is open-minded about a return.

     

    2. Alterraun Verner 

    The speedy corner out of UCLA finished the year with five interceptions while allowing opposing quarterbacks a passer rating of just 55.8, per Pro Football Focus. He is exactly the type of free agent that can be a huge find for a team that is willing to pay for his services. 

     

    3. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 

    What a great turnaround season for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who ended up finishing ranked fifth among all cornerbacks, per PFF. Hopefully his retirement chatter doesn't scare away potential suitors who will look to make him rich. 

     

    4. Brent Grimes 

    According to Pro Football Focus, Brent Grimes was ranked second behind only Darrelle Revis in overall grades for cornerbacks. He had four interceptions and didn’t allow a touchdown catch all season long. 

     

    5. Tarell Brown 

    Brown could be a cap casualty for the 49ers this offseason, which is terrible considering he is one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL. 

     

    6. Aqib Talib 

    Talib slowed down as the season went on and the injuries began to mount. The big question is whether or not the Patriots will retain his services.

     

    7. Donte Whitner 

    Whitner is not only a physical tone-setter, but he's also a much improved cover guy who has been instrumental in the 49ers' success on defense. 

     

    8. Brandon Browner 

    If his year-long suspension for missing a drug test doesn't scare teams away, they may get a quality player in Browner. His size (6'4", 221 lbs) and physicality are attractive.

     

    9. Charles Tillman 

    Tillman is getting up there in age. His performance this year seemed to decline dramatically. It will be interesting to see which teams show interest in him. 

     

    10. Stevie Brown 

    Stevie Brown emerged onto the scene in 2012 with eight interceptions but missed all of 2013 due to injury. The Giants should have the cap space to retain him if they believe in him. 

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