NFL Free Agents 2014: Final Top 100 & Position-by-Position Big Board
What's the purpose of free agency?
For different teams, it can certainly vary, but overall, the biggest purpose of free agency is to restock a team before the draft. We talk draft needs all the time, right? Well, why go into the draft with multiple urgent needs if it's going to force your hand in taking a player you need over a better player you might want?
It's like a crafty better in Vegas hedging their bets.
For teams with new coaches or personnel guys, free agency can also be a chance to bring in some of "your" guys—players who know the system and the terminology and can not only play a role, but also pitch in by teaching the rest of the team. Rest assured that any time a new coach takes over, he's looking down the available free-agent list, connecting the dot to anyone who's been connected to the same coaching tree.
Free agency also gives teams a shot at positions they might believe they can't get at a premium in the draft. Targeting a quarterback in the first round? He'll need receivers, but the receivers at the top of Round 2 might not be quite as enticing as free agents. Plus, when May rolls around, it's always possible to grab a receiver there anyway if one falls.
Free agency is an exciting time of the offseason, and the teams that manage it well year in and year out set themselves up well not only for the draft, but for seasons after. Make a mistake—especially a big-money one—and it could end up costing numerous people their jobs.
For my Top 100, I didn't just rank the "best" players. Instead, I considered long-term impact on potential new teams. For some, that means that age was a deciding factor. For others, versatility gave them a boost.
Players were also downgraded for various "red flags," like injury history (especially recent injury history), character issues, suspensions and inconsistency.
Every player acquisition in the NFL comes down to a risk/reward scenario. What I've done here is ranked players by their reward (i.e. their ability to help a team win football games), hedged against any risk they might bring to the table for a number of real or perceived reasons.
Don't like where one of your favorite players is ranked? Hash it out in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter.
Top 100 Free Agents
Considered but Missed the List: Robert Ayers (DE, Denver Broncos); Owen Daniels (TE, Houston Texans) Dustin Keller (TE, Miami Dolphins); Andre Brown (RB New York Giants); Toby Gerhart (RB Jacksonville Jaguars)—signed (via Adam Schefter on Twitter) ; Ziggy Hood (DT Pittsburgh Steelers); O'Brien Schofield (LB Arizona Cardinals); Austin Howard (OT Oakland Raiders)—signed (via Adam Schefter on Twitter); Mike Mitchell (S Carolina Panthers)—signed (via Adam Schefter on Twitter); Asante Samuel (CB Atlanta Falcons); Kenny Britt (WR Tennessee Titans); Breno Giacomini (OT New York Jets)—signed (via NewYorkJets.com).
1. Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles)
Age (33) and recent declining play gives Vick a tenuous hold at the No. 1 spot on this list. That said, much of the athleticism and arm strength are still there, and he represents a solid (if not inspiring) fallback option.
2. Matt Cassel (Minnesota Vikings)—Re-signed a two-year deal (via Ian Rapoport on Twitter)
Cassel has had serious issues for two years in a row, but he will put up a serious fight with Christian Ponder if the Vikings aren't able to land a QB.
3. Josh McCown (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)—Signed a two-year deal. (Via agent Mike McCartney on Twitter)
A product of Marc Trestman's coaching and scheme (not to mention the presence of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery), I would be surprised if McCown duplicates his statistical production from last year in Tampa Bay. He might give Mike Glennon a run for his money, though.
4. Josh Freeman (Minnesota Vikings)
Maybe the most long-term upside on this list, but he's burned two teams now and he won't get big money at his third stop.
Additional Unranked Players Available: Kellen Clemens (San Diego Chargers)—signed (via Ian Rapoport on Twitter); Matt Flynn (Green Bay Packers); Chad Henne (Jacksonville Jaguars)—re-signed two-year deal (via team report, h/t ESPN); Shaun Hill (Detroit Lions); Tarvaris Jackson (Seattle Seahawks)—re-signed a one-year deal (via Jackson's Twitter account); Colt McCoy (San Francisco 49ers).
1. Ben Tate (Cleveland Browns)—Signed a two-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
Only 25, Tate is often injured. He's been on the injured reserve twice in his short career and played last season with broken ribs. That said, when healthy, he's a perfect fit for the zone blocking scheme that should be coming to town with new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
2. Knowshon Moreno (Denver Broncos)
A low-ceiling but multipurpose back, Moreno will be best served latching onto a team that has a defined role for him that may not include being first on the depth chart.
3. Darren McFadden (Oakland Raiders)—Re-signed a one-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
Injuries have wasted a ton of talent here, and McFadden is hoping he can take a short-term risk to rehab his stock.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars)
A few years younger than his current 28—and maybe a little less familiar with the injury cold tub—and Jones-Drew would easily be first on this list.
5. Rashad Jennings (New York Giants)—Signed (via Dan Graziano on Twitter)
An awesome insurance policy for David Wilson, the Giants would be best served if these two can split carries and Wilson continues to improve.
6. James Starks (Green Bay Packers)
Starks is a perfect "backup starter" in the NFL. Note: That's different from a No. 2 back, which is often complementary or has a specific role. No, Starks is the kind of back who may not get a ton of burn until the starter goes down and then come in and light the place up. Some team, maybe even Green Bay, will find money for him in a hurry.
7. Dexter McCluster (RB/WR Tennessee Titans)—Signed a three-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
McCluster is more of a receiver than a running back, but he'll wear a lot of hats for the Titans who need him to bring some dynamicism to the offense.
8. Andre Brown (New York Giants)
Twenty-seven, coming off of a broken leg and finished the season in Tom Coughlin's doghouse for fumbling. There's some scintillating talent there, but there's also a lot not to like.
Additional Unranked Players Available: LeGarrette Blount (New England Patriots); Ahmad Bradshaw (Indianapolis Colts)—re-signed a one-year deal (via ProFootballTalk on Twitter); Donald Brown (San Diego Chargers)—Signed (per Ian Rapoport on Twitter; Anthony Dixon (San Francisco 49ers), Toby Gerhart (Jacksonville Jaguars)—signed (via Adam Schefter on Twitter); Le'Ron McClain (FB San Diego Chargers); LaRod Stephens-Howling (Pittsburgh Steelers); Bernard Scott (Baltimore Ravens).
1. Eric Decker (New York Jets)—Signed a five-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
I like the Decker signing in New York, not only because he's a good fit and should be a great help for quarterback Geno Smith, but more because they didn't overpay. He's a fringe No. 1/high-level No. 2 and the Jets need to continue to invest in that offense.
2. Hakeem Nicks (Indianapolis Colts)—Signed a one-year deal. (via Ian Rapoport on Twitter)
With lingering injury concerns and a serious lack of "it" factor after being unseated by various players in the Giants' pecking order, Nicks should've been traded last season. Now, he'll look to rehab his image with Andrew Luck throwing to him and Reggie Wayne across from him.
3. Jeremy Maclin (Philadelphia Eagles)—Re-signed a one-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
Coming off of a nasty ACL injury, Maclin will have one year in Chip Kelly's potent offense to give teams a reason to sign him to a massive contract next spring.
4. Golden Tate (Detroit Lions)—Signed five-year deal (via Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com)
Tate gets to go play opposite Calvin "Megatron" Johnson in what hopes to be an improved offense in Detroit after the hiring of Jim Caldwell, Joe Lombardi and Jim Bob Cooter. If those coaches can get better consistency out of quarterback Matt Stafford, Tate could have a monster year.
5. Anquan Boldin (San Francisco 49ers)—Re-signed a two-year contract extension (via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area)
The Baltimore Ravens made a huge mistake letting Boldin go last year, and he was one of the 49ers' best offensive components. San Francisco didn't make that same mistake.
6. James Jones (Green Bay Packers)
A highly productive receiver in whom the Packers never seemed fully invested, Jones should have a chance to latch on as a decent No. 2 option for a number of teams.
7. Julian Edelman (New England Patriots)—Re-signed (via Mike Garafolo on Twitter)
Likely to stay with the Patriots, Edelman should come cheap and know that he's not likely to match his production or role elsewhere.
8. Emmanuel Sanders (Pittsburgh Steelers)
A No. 2 option who can take the top off of a defense, Sanders needs more to his game before he expects a huge payday. In this group of wideouts, with a great draft class, he could end up accepting much less on a shorter-term deal.
9. Andre Roberts (Washington)—Signed a four-year deal (via Mike Jones on Twitter)
One of my favorite unheralded slot receivers in the league, Roberts has the ability to play No. 2 but the lateral quickness to dominate inside. He's also as tough as they come. He has the potential to be a huge asset to Robert Griffin III for years to come.
10. Steve Smith (Baltimore Ravens)—Signed a three-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
11. Sidney Rice (Seattle Seahawks)
When healthy, Rice has been a borderline No. 1 receiver (albeit, not a great one). Released by the Seahawks to save a boatload of cash, Rice is a high-risk/high-reward signing.
12. Doug Baldwin (Seattle Seahawks)—Restricted Free Agent w/ second-round tender.
Baldwin won't likely draw offers on that tender and should be back with the Seahawks as their slot option.
13. Ted Ginn Jr. (Arizona Cardinals)—Signed a three-year deal (via Mark Dalton on Twitter)
The Cardinals lost a receiver already in free agency and needed another vertical threat for Bruce Arians' vertical offense.
Additional Unranked Players Available: Kenny Britt (Tennessee Titans); Riley Cooper (Philadelphia Eagles)—re-signed five-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter); Jacoby Ford (Oakland Raiders); Santonio Holmes (New York Jets); Jacoby Jones (Baltimore Ravens)—re-signed a four-year deal (via Jamison Hensley of ESPN); Brandon LaFell (Carolina Panthers); Lance Moore (New Orleans Saints); Damien Williams (Tennessee Titans).
1. Dennis Pitta (Baltimore Ravens)—Re-signed a five-year deal (via Aaron Wilson on Twitter)
When healthy, he's a huge component of the Ravens offense and a favorite of quarterback Joe Flacco. The Ravens didn't have any option but to open the checkbook.
2. Jermichael Finley (Green Bay Packers)
Coming off a nasty neck injury and a history of costly drops, Finley will likely sign a one-year deal but could be a huge help—especially to a contender with a ready-made offense.
3. Brandon Pettigrew (Detroit Lions) —Re-signed a four-year deal (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press)
Drops and inability to take his game to the next level made him look expendable in Detroit to start free agency, but as tight ends dropped off the market, his deal became a little more palatable. The Lions will hope that better consistency from Matthew Stafford trickles down to his drop-prone tight end.
4. Garrett Graham (Houston Texans)—Re-signed (via John McClain on Twitter)
Highly productive, Graham has supplanted Daniels in recent years and should continue to help the Texans win football games in a larger role under new coaching.
5. Owen Daniels (Houston Texans)
Getting up there in age, but when healthy, a darn good receiving option.
Additional Unranked Players Available: John Carlson (Arizona Cardinals)—re-signed two-year deal (via Ian Rapoport on Twitter); Scott Chandler (Buffalo Bills); Fred Davis (Washington); Anthony McCoy (Seattle Seahawks)—re-signed (via Rand Getlin on Twitter); Brandon Myers (New York Giants).
1. Eugene Monroe (OT Baltimore Ravens)—Re-signed a five-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
One of the better tackles in football that no one remembers, Monroe was traded to the Ravens from the Jaguars last season. If the Ravens didn't end up keeping him, it would have been a rare boneheaded move for Ozzie Newsome and company.
2. Alex Mack (C Cleveland Browns)—Transition tagged, Browns can match any offer (via Adam Schefter)
Though some luster has come off of the name cachet here in recent years, Mack is the clear head of this year's center group and the draft isn't very exciting. The Browns may end up unable to match the offers he'll get.
3. Branden Albert (OT Kansas City Chiefs)—Signed a five-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
The Dolphins clearly needed to do something at tackle after the Martin/Incognito saga, and Albert was the top tackle available for a lot of teams.
4. Jared Veldheer (OT Arizona Cardinals)—Signed a five-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
The Cardinals had been linked to Veldheer for a while, and he's a good enough athlete that this deal could pan out in a big way. He'll be world's better than the Cardinals options in recent years.
5. Anthony Collins (OT Cincinnati Bengals)—Signed a five-year deal (via Ian Raporport on Twitter)
Rarely talked about in the company of the better left tackles in the game, Collins is a very solid player who is still getting better. He could end up as the cornerstone of someone's line very easily.
6. Rodger Saffold (OG St. Louis Rams)—Signed a five-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
The Raiders failed Saffold on his physical, so he's back to St. Louis on a five-year deal to play left guard. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer...
7. Jon Asamoah (OG Kansas City Chiefs)—Signed a five-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
8. Brian de la Puente (C New Orleans Saints)
Overwhelming neither as a run- or pass-blocker, De la Puente is the kind of center who can win in a number of ways even when outmatched. The Saints should lock him up, but if not, the next team that gets him will benefit from their mistake.
9. Zane Beadles (OG Jacksonville Jaguars)—Signed a four-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
At only 27 and coming off of a Super Bowl appearance, Beadles is a prime candidate to be overpaid. Yet he's a below-average run-blocker and a serious liability in the passing game. The tools are there, but the tape isn't.
10. Michael Oher (OT Tennessee Titans)—Signed a four-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
No longer a viable option at the left tackle position, Oher is passable (barely) at right tackle. Titans fans hoping for the kid made famous in The Blind Side should temper their expectations.
11. Travelle Wharton (OG Carolina Panthers)
Getting up there in years, Wharton would be best-served taking a one- or two-year deal with the "devil he knows" in Carolina, where he was very productive last year. If that deal doesn't come, Wharton may decide to hang up his cleats.
12. Geoff Schwartz (OG New York Giants)—Agreed to terms (Via Kimberly Jones on Twitter)
Played extremely well for the Chiefs last season and was looking for a longer-term situation. He found it in New York that desperately needed interior pass-protection.
13. Zach Strief (OT New Orleans Saints)
After a terrible 2012, Strief rebounded in 2013, but he's too old (at 30) to re-sign to a longer-term/big-money deal on one good year.
14. Evan Dietrich-Smith (C Tampa Bay Buccaneers)—Signed (via Buccaneers official Twitter)
The last player on this list, but a player the Packers tried to retain. Instead, he goes to another Bay as the latest of the Buccaneers fantastic offseason additions.
Additional Unranked Players Available: Charles Brown (OT New Orleans Saints); Willie Colon (OG New York Jets); Breno Giacomini (OT New York Jets)—signed (via NewYorkJets.com); Austin Howard (OT Oakland Raiders)—signed a five-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter); Bryant McKinnie (OT Miami Dolphins); Dominic Raiola (OC Detroit Lions)—re-signed one-year deal (via Dave Birkett on Twitter); Chad Reinhart (OG San Diego Chargers)—re-signed a two-year deal (via Ralph Vacchiano on Twitter); Eric Winston (OT Arizona Cardinals)
1. Lamarr Houston (Chicago Bears)—Signed a five-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
The Bears were going to be big players on the defensive line as they lost Henry Melton, and they got a clear upgrade here. Houston was one of the best players on the market and should have a huge impact on a defense that needs it.
2. Jason Hatcher (Washington)—Signed (via Ian Rapoport on Twitter)
Washington struggled to get as much pressure up front as they'd like in recent years and Hatcher essentially replaces Adam Carriker who had overstayed his welcome in D.C.
3. Henry Melton (Chicago Bears)
Melton is coming off of a huge ACL injury, and the concern is that his production in the Bears' previous regime was more about Rod Marinelli's coaching and scheme. He's got a ton of potential to be a huge signing, but teams might want to make sure he has the same explosiveness they remember from 2012.
4. B.J. Raji (Green Bay Packers)—Re-signed a one-year deal (via Tom Silverstein on Twitter)
Though I have Raji ranked higher than most, I (and apparently he) expected to see a bigger market around the big hoss. When it didn't, he returned to the "devil he knew" rather than chase potentially bigger money elsewhere.
5. Randy Starks (Miami Dolphins)—Re-signed a two-year deal (via Jason La Canfora on Twitter)
The wrong side of 30, but he's a great enough run-stopper that he shouldn't have any problems latching onto a team and staying there for some time. He'll be one of the more underrated signings of this offseason.
6. Arthur Jones (Indianapolis Colts)—Signed a multi-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
Jones reunites with Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and improves that defensive in a big way.
7. Linval Joseph (Minnesota Vikings)—Signed a five-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
Young (25) and coming off of a very good year, Joseph will shore up the Vikings run-defense in a big way (pun intended).
8. Paul Soliai (Atlanta Falcons)—Signed a five-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
Tough, smart, plenty of experience and a heckuva run-defender, Soliai will be attractive to teams running either a 3-4 or a 4-3. In Atlanta, he'll do both for Mike Nolan.
9. Red Bryant (Jacksonville Jaguars)—Signed to a four-year contract (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
Though anyone looking at Bryant's massive 330-pound frame would label him a tackle, Bryant plays end in the 4-3 under scheme that both Seattle and Jacksonville use.
10. Tyson Jackson (Kansas City Chiefs)—Signed a five-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
Last season, Jackson took a massive pay cut to stay with the Chiefs and played really well. Now, he gets paid in Atlanta where he will help as an interior pass-rusher a year after Atlanta struggled to get any pass-rush.
11. Pat Sims (Oakland Raiders)
Another big run-stopper on the list, Sims showed in Oakland that he has some of the tools to get after quarterbacks but is most at home taking up and shedding multiple blockers to take down a ball-carrier.
12. Jonathan Babineaux (Atlanta Falcons)—Re-signed a three-year deal (via Atlanta Falcons on Twitter)
No longer a viable threat rushing the passer, Babineaux was probably going to get his best offer from Atlanta, which didn't want to lose its entire defensive tackle depth chart at once.
13. Kevin Williams (Minnesota Vikings)
With his stellar career winding to a close, Williams will end up as a valuable cog in a championship-contending defense.
14. Clinton McDonald (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)—Signed a four-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
McDonald was very good rushing the passer in limited snaps last season. He'll look awfully nice next to Gerald McCoy...even in those new Buccaneers uniforms.
15. Earl Mitchell (Miami Dolphins)—Signed a four-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
Miscast in the Texans' 3-4, Mitchell is getting paid by the Dolphins because many believe he could have a breakout year in a 3-technique role.
Additional Unranked Players Available: Ziggy Hood (Jacksonville Jaguars)—signed (via Ryan O'Halloran on Twitter); Tony McDaniel (Seattle Seahawks)—Re-signed a two-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter); Corey Peters (Atlanta Falcons)—re-signed a one-year contract (via team report, h/t NFL.com); Vance Walker (Oakland Raiders).
1. Michael Johnson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)—Signed a five-year deal (via Josina Anderson on Twitter)
Under 30 (27) and with all the tools of an elite pass-rusher with an ability to play the run at a very high level as well? He and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy are going to be awfully fun to watch together—just, maybe not for the NFC South quarterbacks.
2. Michael Bennett (Seattle Seahawks)—Re-signed a four-year deal (via Ian Rapoport on Twitter)
One of the best free agents on the market for a second year in a row, Bennett now finds a better market for his services and got locked up for a longer period with the Super Bowl champs.
3. Everson Griffin (Minnesota Vikings)—Re-signed a five-year deal (via Ian Rapoport on Twitter)
Griffin is 26 and has had fantastic production in a reserve role behind Jared Allen and Brian Roberson. He was always going to get rewarded this offseason, but the Vikings were shrewd to keep him around, even if it meant opening up the checkbook pretty far.
4. Julius Peppers (Green Bay Peppers)—Signed a three-year deal (via Josina Anderson on Twitter)
The Bears didn't want to keep this productive player, so he heads to Green Bay where he should be a situational rusher and look awfully imposing across from Clay Matthews.
5. Jared Allen (Minnesota Vikings)
Allen's career is coming to a close, and he'll need to wait for the market to play out a bit unless some team is in love with his leadership and doesn't worry he'll lose another step anytime soon.
6. Justin Tuck (New York Giants) -- Signed two-year deal with Oakland Raiders (via Ian Rapoport on Twitter)
The production hasn't been there for Tuck in recent years, but he finished the season extremely strong and has a ton of name recognition. In Oakland, he'll need to not only continue that strong late-season play, but step it up another notch if the Raiders want to come out of this free agency as "winners."
7. Willie Young (Detroit Lions) -- Signed three-year deal with Chicago Bears (via Tom Pelissero on Twitter)
Undersized, but a tenacious pass-rusher, Young's best fit is in an already-stacked defensive line. He may find the grass isn't greener and end up back in Detroit.
8. Shaun Phillips (Denver Broncos)
Aging (32) and slowing down, Phillips was productive for Denver last season and will likely stick around for another shot to get a ring with Peyton Manning running the offense.
9. Corey Wootton (Chicago Bears)
Although he has the tools to be successful when healthy, Wootton shouldn't expect a longer-term deal until he proves he's fully healed from a torn labrum.
10. Alex Carrington (Buffalo Bills)
Turning 27 this summer, Carrington has the raw talent to be a key player on a defense and has played a number of different positions. Coming off a major injury, Carrington will be an underrated signing if he's healthy.
11. Robert Ayers (Denver Broncos)
Known for being a disappointment as a non-factor in pass-rushing, Ayers has become a solid run defender from the end position and could make some team very happy as its strong-side end.
Additional Unranked Players Available: Jason Babin (Jacksonville Jaguars)—re-signed (via Ryan O'Halloran on Twitter); Adam Carriker (Washington); Brett Keisel (Pittsburgh Steelers); Jeremy Mincey (Denver Broncos)—signed a two-year deal (via Nick Eatman on Twitter); Ricardo Matthews (Indianapolis Colts); Matt Shaughnessy (Arizona Cardinals)—re-signed a two-year deal (via Kent Somers on Twitter); Will Smith (New Orleans Saints).
1. DeMarcus Ware (Denver Broncos)—Agreed to a three-year deal, pending physical (via Adam Schefter on Twitter).
Released on the first day of free agency, Ware travels to Denver where he'll be part of a serious push to give quarterback Peyton Manning one last shot at a championship.
2. Donald Butler (San Diego Chargers)—Re-signed a seven-year deal (via Ian Rapoport on Twitter)
One of the better chase-and-tackle linebackers in the NFL, the Chargers were wise to lock the 25-year-old up.
3. Jason Worilds (Pittsburgh Steelers)—Signed Steelers' transition tag (via Adam Caplan of ESPN)
Worilds is essentially the Steelers' other half to Jarvis Jones until the latter's game becomes more well rounded.
4. Karlos Dansby (Cleveland Browns)—Signed a four-year deal (via Kent Somers on Twitter)
At 32, skills are starting to decline, but he's still a high-quality run defender. The Cardinals should have fought harder to keep him, but they may not have enough firepower. Now, he heads to the Browns to help install Mike Pettine's defense.
5. Brandon Spikes (Buffalo Bills)—Signed (via John Wawrow on Twitter)
Looking to get out of New England, Spikes' heads to the Bills as a very good downhill run defender who can't do much else. He'll replace Kiko Alonso at MLB as the young star moves to the outside.
6. D'Qwell Jackson (Indianapolis Colts)—Signed a four-year deal (via Mike Garafolo on Twitter)
A good fit in a 3-4 these days as his speed and lateral movement in coverage are declining, Jackson can still be an important run defender for years to come.
7. Daryl Smith (Baltimore Ravens)—Re-signed a four-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
One of my favorite defenders to watch on tape, Smith has a varied skill set and is always active. Although he's on the wrong side of 30, the Ravens wisely did their best to keep him.
8. Mike Neal (Green Bay Packers) - Re-signed two-year deal (via Mike Neal on Twitter)
A 26-year-old who can rush with his hand up or in the dirt? Expect a bit of a market to coalesce around Neal when more-hyped pass-rushers come off the market.
9. LaMarr Woodley (Pittsburgh Steelers)—Signed a two-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
I don't know if Woodley has enough to still be a star player, but he'll be asked to do that in Oakland as he's the biggest splash they've made to this point in free agency.
10. Anthony Spencer (Dallas Cowboys)
A fantastic linebacker in 2012, Spencer is over 30 and coming off of microfracture surgery. The other concern is that he offers more of a well-rounded game than simply pass-rushing, and teams may not pay very much for that before the draft.
11. Wesley Woodyard (Tennessee Titans)—Signed a four-year deal (via Mike Garafolo)
Woodyard disappointed last season. Still, he's very active and able in coverage and is still young enough (27) to improve his game—especially playing under defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
12. Jon Beason (New York Giants)—Re-signed (via Adita Kinkhabwala on Twitter)
Beason was injured in 2012 and an underachiever in 2013, but was the Giants' top priority and—at only 29 years old—has plenty of good football in him if he can get back to form. The Big Blue D did improve dramatically with Beason in the middle.
13. Perry Riley (Washington)—Re-signed a multi-year deal (via Chris Russell on Twitter)
Not a great player, Riley is young (25) and seemed to be looking for a big payday that may never have been coming. Washington convinced him to stay around before hitting the open market.
Additional Unranked Players Available: Jo-Lonn Dunbar (St. Louis Rams); Erin Henderson (Minnesota Vikings); Jameel McClain (Baltimore Ravens); Arthur Moats (Buffalo Bills); Calvin Pace (New York Jets); O'Brien Schofield (Seattle Seahawks).
1. Darrelle Revis (New England Patriots)—Signed a one-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
Released on the second day of free agency by the Bucs who weren't willing to pay his hefty price tag, Revis has been snatched up by the Patriots who get the best cornerback in the game.
2. Alterraun Verner (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)—Signed a four-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
Verner didn't get the big deal I thought he might get as my top cornerback, but he's become part of a quickly improving Buccaneers defense which has "won" free agency a couple years in a row now, and actually has a coach in Lovie Smith who might be able to do something with all that talent.
3. Brent Grimes (Miami Dolphins)—Re-signed a four-year contract (via Miami Dolphins on Twitter)
At 30, Grimes hasn't lost much of a step and was one of the best corners in football last season.
4. Aqib Talib (Denver Broncos)—Signed a six-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
With his worth officially rehabbed after a nice stay with the Patriots, Talib gets big money as he tries to help Peyton Manning win one last Super Bowl.
5. Sam Shields (Green Bay Packers)—Re-signed a four-year deal (via Pro Football Talk)
The Packers massively overpaid and made Shields one of the highest-paid corners in football, but he's shown elite cover skills at times and, at 26, is one of the best young defenders on a team that shouldn't be losing those.
6. Vontae Davis (Indianapolis Colts)—Re-signed a four-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
The Colts worked hard to keep Davis with all of their cap space after he was one of the best corners in the NFL last season.
7. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Denver Broncos)
At 27 and one of the best corners in the league last year, Rodgers-Cromartie is only suffering from a strong free-agency class. He'll get signed for good money.
8. Walter Thurmond (Seattle Seahawks)
Performed admirably as the Seahawks' nickel cornerback and should be in line for a pay raise and a starting role.
9. Captain Munnerlyn (Minnesota Vikings)—Signed three-year deal (via Ian Rapoport on Twitter)
Vikings have been looking for a cornerback for a while and—if Munnerlyn has the kind of season he did last year—they just found one.
10. Charles Tillman (Chicago Bears)—Re-signed a one-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
At 33, Tillman will likely be playing out his fantastic career's end in Chicago.
11. Brandon Browner (New England Patriots)—Signed a three-year deal (via Josina Anderson on Twitter)
Better than some of the corners ahead of him on this list, off-the-field and suspension issues dropped him lower than his talent would indicate. Between he and Revis, the Patriots cornerback corps should no longer be much of an issue.
12. Tarell Brown (San Francisco 49ers)
San Francisco values him as its No. 2 corner, but he's 29 years old and the 49ers don't have the desire to give him his one last big payday.
13. Chris Cook (Minnesota Vikings)
A maddening underachiever in his career with the Vikings, Cook still has all the tools but is unlikely to see much of a market. Could easily stay with Minnesota on very team-friendly terms.
14. Antonio Cromartie (New York Jets)
Cut by the Jets to open up a ton of cap space, Cromartie had a terrible 2013, and anything more than a short-term deal would be on name recognition alone. If he turns it around though, he isn't that far removed from being one of the better corners in the league.
Additional Unranked Players Available: Champ Bailey (Denver Broncos); Derek Cox (San Diego Chargers); Corey Graham (Buffalo Bills)—signed a four-year deal (via Adam Caplan on Twitter); DeAngelo Hall (Washington)—re-signed a four-year deal (via NBC Washington); Carlos Rogers (San Francisco 49ers); Asante Samuel (Atlanta Falcons).
1. Jairus Byrd (New Orleans Saints)—Signed a six-year deal (via Saints on Twitter)
Byrd pairs with Kenny Vaccaro in what should be a stellar safety tandem for a Rob Ryan-coached defense which is looking better and better all the time. Drew Brees and that offense aren't the only show in town anymore...
2. T.J. Ward (Denver Broncos)—Signed (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
One of the best run-defending defensive backs in the NFL, Ward has actually improved in coverage in recent years. For the Broncos, he'll be an immediate upgrade for a defense that truly needed it.
3. Malcolm Jenkins (Philadelphia Eagles)—Signed a three-year deal. (via Jenkins on Twitter)
Jenkins is still living off of some college hype. Yet, in a safety-hungry NFL, his athleticism was enticing to the Eagles who desperately needed safety help and were connected to most on this list.
4. Donte Whitner (Cleveland Browns)—Signed a four-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter)
A tough in-the-box safety, Whitner isn't going to appeal to every team—many of which are hoping to improve their pass coverage—but he'll end up as an important player on whatever defense signs him.
5. Chris Clemons (Miami Dolphins)
The "other" Chris Clemons no longer (compared to the defensive end), safety Clemons has come into his own as a terrific pass-covering safety.
6. Antoine Bethea (San Francisco 49ers)—Signed a four-year deal (via The San Francisco Chronicle)
Bethea isn't Whitner, but he's a solid stop gap. Look for the 49ers to try and upgrade this position in the draft as well.
7. Louis Delmas (Miami Dolphins)—Signed a one-year contract (via Pro Football Talk on Twitter)
When healthy, he can climb this list in a hurry, but his playing style is erratic and contributes to his injury woes. For the Dolphins, he represents some short-term risk, but a big potential reward.
Additional Unranked Players Available: Nate Allen (Philadelphia Eagles); Stevie Brown (New York Giants)—signed a one-year deal (via Ralph Vacchiano on Twitter); Mike Mitchell (Pittsburgh Steelers)—signed a five-year deal (via Adam Schefter on Twitter); Bernard Pollard (Tennessee Titans)—re-signed a two-year deal (via Pollard on Twitter). Charles Woodson (Oakland Raiders); Major Wright (Chicago Bears).
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