Things continue to get crazier as NFL free agency progresses, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
For whatever reason, defenders have been flying off the shelves in unpredictable ways since the market opened, highlighted by Jairus Byrd joining the cap-strapped New Orleans Saints.
Based on the newest batch of rumors, it appears things are far from over in the unexpected category. A couple of big-name defensive backs have yet to find a home, and one massive tackle sounds set to hit the market and create an impact felt around the league.
Brandon Browner Has a Large Market
Going on the age of 30 and suspended for the first four games of next season, some may find it surprising that former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner is drawing lots of attention.
Browner recently struck a deal with the league to receive reinstatement:
I received wonderful news today. The NFL has reinstated me, and I now have the opportunity to (cont) http://t.co/AG0Zbpxpgo— Brandon Browner (@bbrowner27) March 5, 2014
Browner was one part of the excellent secondary that went on to win the Super Bowl before his off-field issues, and his baggage and age mean he will likely come at a cheaper cost than his talents would normally demand.
Once again, the Saints may be about to pull a fast one on the rest of the league, as Browner is one of their targets, according to ESPN's John Clayton (via ESPN's Mike Triplett):
The New England Patriots and Washington Redskins are teams to watch as well, but Browner's fit in the same secondary as Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro is particularly interesting. With the way the Saints are throwing around cash like they don't care about the future in an effort to win it all before Drew Brees retires, Browner may find it easy to take the cash rather than play with Darrelle Revis in New England.
Regardless, Browner is quietly a bargain free agent who fans will hear a lot about near the end of next season.
Antonio Cromartie Finally Gets Some Attention
Formerly one of the most feared defensive backs in football, Antonio Cromartie had a bit of a down year last season and was released by the New York Jets.
In fact, Cromartie ranked as the No. 103 corner in the NFL last season—on a list that graded 110 players—according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Alas, Cromartie was bound to find a market at some point. According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the former star will make a visit to the desert:
Former Jets CB Antonio Cromartie is visiting the Cardinals today, per source. #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) March 13, 2014
ESPN's Josh Weinfuss put it best about Cromartie's potential addition to a secondary that already includes Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu:
As for Cromartie, he'd be an upgrade from Jerraud Powers across from Peterson and would solidify Arizona's secondary as one of the best in the league. It would also prevent teams from picking on Powers, which was often the case last season when teams stayed away from Peterson. More importantly to the Cardinals, Cromartie could be the answer to defending tight ends.
There is an outside chance Cromartie has truly lost a step and is certainly a risky investment as a result, but the Cardinals would be foolish to let him slip away as the reward outweighs the risk.
Vince Wilfork on the Move?
One of the league's best nose tackles, who has spent his entire 10-year career with one team, is asking for his release, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
#Patriots Pro Bowl DT Vince Wilfork has asked that the team release him after 10 seasons in New England, according to sources.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 13, 2014
Now 32 years old and coming off an injury that robbed him of 12 games last season, Vince Wilfork is clearly not happy New England asked him to take a pay cut.
Should Wilfork hit the market, the number of teams interested will be quite large despite age and injury concerns. After all, as Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post pointed out, Wilfork's impact cannot be understated:
The Patriots went from 9th in run defense in 2012 to 30th in 2013, when Vince Wilfork played just four games. Probably just a coincidence.— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) March 13, 2014
Teams in need of a nose tackle, such as Tennessee, San Diego and Pittsburgh, are sure to at least look Wilfork's way in the coming weeks if he escapes New England.
At this point, nothing about free agency should surprise fans. After 10 years with the Patriots, Wilfork will be wearing different colors to finish his NFL career, barring a complete reversal of the dire situation at hand.