The NFL's Top Five Available Free Agents and Where They Might End Up in 2009
We're only a few weeks away from the start of training camp, yet there are five free agents worthy of consideration by multiple teams still unsigned. Some are well-established veterans, and some are young players still on the rise.
Let's take a look at the top five free agents still available.
5. Jon Runyan, Right Tackle
At the end of the month, Runyan should be recovered from microfracture knee surgery and ready to continue his streak of starting every game for 12 straight years.
His old team, the Philadelphia Eagles, just finished rebuilding their offensive line in hopes of paving the way for a Super Bowl-caliber offense. If they were to re-sign him, he may not be the starter.
Plenty of other teams could use help on their O-lines, and I'm sure Runyan would rather start than be relegated to backup duties.
Possible Landing Spots: Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers
The team that intrigues me most here is the Bills. Their O-line is in flux after losing Jason Peters, and Runyan could anchor their right side for at least another couple of years if he stays healthy. Runyan could easily challenge Willie Colon for the starting job in Pittsburgh if they decided to address their biggest issue going into the season.
4. Matt Jones, Wide Receiver
Fresh off his best statistical season, Jones seemed poised to finally live up to the pre-draft hype he created a couple of years back. Then the Jaguars cut him.
Inevitably, someone will be willing to take a risk on him. Whether it's before training camp of even midseason, I strongly believe Jones will find work.
His combination of height and speed, as well as his ever-improving hands, makes him a valuable commodity. Not only that, but he's still young and has a lot of upside. I think he could one day be a very productive WR2.
The drawback is he has shown a penchant for getting in trouble, and more and more teams are beginning to turn away from those types of players.
Possible Landing Spots: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears
With all the talk about Plaxico Burress the last couple of weeks, Tampa is obviously looking for a solid option to complement Antonio Bryant. Jones could provide them with the speed and athleticism needed to stretch the field and move the defenders away from Bryant.
Oakland could also use a productive veteran to help DHB learn, and we all know Al Davis loves speed.
3. Edgerrin James, Running Back
Guess what? Edgerrin James is No. 11 on the all-time rushing list. He also appears to have some gas left in the tank, as long as he is splitting carries.
James is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and can still run it up the middle when he's got some blockers up front.
Teams looking for a one- or two-year stopgap in the backfield would do well to consider James.
Possible Landing Spots: New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs
I know what you're thinking: What about Pierre Thomas, Julius Jones, and Larry Johnson? All are solid, but Jones and Johnson both had down seasons in 2008, and the Saints have been linked to Edge already.
I think James could complement Jones or Johnson very well.
2. Plaxico Burress, Wide Receiver
As a Giants fan, I was glad to see Plax get cut. He was too much trouble, and we have rising stars at that position that can fill his roster spot.
That being said, Burress has immense talent, rare size, and above average speed. He will undoubtedly be a starter somewhere once his suspension is up. The question is where?
Possible Landing Spots: Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins
All three teams could really use a boost to their wide receiving corps. Washington's owner has already shown he's willing to take a risk on talented players if it can translate into wins for his team.
Jay Cutler petitioned for Burress when Chicago was linked to rumors of signing him, and we all know Cutler gets what Cutler wants.
I find Miami to be the most interesting though. Bill Parcells has a knack for turning troubled players around and keeping them productive on the field. His team desperately needs someone to draw double coverage to help revive the run game.
For now, they just use the Wildcat, but if they had Plax, more running lanes would open for Ronnie Brown, and that would help keep the playbook more balanced.
Probably not much of a chance of it happening, but stranger things have.
1. Derrick Brooks, Outside Linebacker
Tampa Bay cut their longtime face of the franchise player in the wake of a massive youth movement. Brooks has a few things working against him, like his lack of special teams play, his loss of speed due to age, and his inability to play in the future.
However, what Brooks does bring to the table is leadership and the ability to play the Tampa-Two defense as well, if not better, than anyone at his position. Teams looking for a one- or two-year stopgap should consider Brooks, especially if they have a young defense in search of a leader.
Possible Landing Spots: Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons
The Bills already run a variation of the Tampa-Two, which makes them the most likely candidate in this case. They have a young, hungry defense and could use the sure-tackling, outspoken Brooks to help it take the next step.
Atlanta has seen firsthand the kind of dominating presence Brooks brings to the field. Their linebacking corps was eaten alive by free agency and could use some quality depth. Brooks could help keep the Falcons in contention by improving their pass defense.
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