2011 NFL Offseason: 25 Most Intriguing Free-Agent Options
The 2011 NFL Free Agent mania is brewing. With the season winding down and the playoff picture coming more into focus, we can already start to see some player movement discussions.
And, with an expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement between NFL players and owners, it is not yet known how many accrued years of service will be necessary to qualify for free agency and, thus, what type of free agent a player would be.
But, we're already pretty clear who will be on that list next summer.
So, here are those intriguing players.
Matt Leinart, QB, Houston Texans
Unless Leinart is willing to sign for less money and still accept a backup role, he’s gone from Houston. While maybe not high-profile when it comes to the talent side, Leinart still is a big name that would enter free agency.
He still hasn’t proved he can start consistently in the NFL, but I’m sure more than a few teams would be willing to test that theory.
Adam Vinatieri, PK, Indianapolis Colts
Known more as a Patriot than a Colt, Vinatieri might be getting up in age, but his reputation would still reap him rewards in free agency. It’s a close call for the Colts to sign him as he wants a long-term deal, which I’m not sure they would do.
So, I expect him to be out on the market and get courted by any number of teams in need of a pressure-situation, reliable kicker.
Hank Baskett, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Husband of Kendra Wilkinson of Playboy Magazine’s Girls Next Door, Baskett is now more famous as a husband than football player.
He’s actually a quality guy and valuable special teams player. He’s bounced around but figure he’ll land somewhere else again.
Richard Seymour, DT, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders traded for this guy from the Pats, but to keep him from free agency, they would have to give him the franchise tag. They already have that decision on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha if they can’t re-sign that player.
Oakland can’t label two guys franchise, so I see Seymour going. He’s aging and dropped off from his New England playing level. But, he’s a nice pickup for any team on the D-line.
Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Oakland Raiders
A superstar cover guy, the Raiders will have to exercise a fat option to keep him. Don’t see it happening, and he’ll give free agency a try as an unrestricted free agent, unless Oakland labels him a franchise player.
Not sure if they do that for cornerback. He’ll be highly sought after to shore up teams' pass coverages.
Darren Sproles, RB, San Diego
The other high-profile Charger free agent is one of the littlest guys in the league. But Sproles can play. The Chargers were even willing to let LaDainian Tomlinson walk last year to play Sproles.
Now, expect Sproles to go, too. He’ll be a nice pickup for some teams, maybe not an every-down guy, but he would fit well into some pass-centric offenses.
Darren Sharper, S, New Orleans Saints
He’s probably odd man out in the Saints secondary and will walk. He’s also a 14-year vet but still high-profile. He’ll find another team who will want his leadership and experience.
After a bad knee injury, I’m not sure how much is left in the tank.
Alex Smith and Troy Smith, QBs, San Francisco 49ers
Both of SF’s quarterbacks are free agents this coming summer. That forces the Niners’ hand to choose one. I predict it is Alex Smith.
That means Troy walks.
He’ll be a nice pickup for any number of teams in need of a starter.
Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Minnesota Vikings
With Jackson’s biggest fan, Brad Childress, now fired, don’t expect the Vikings to re-sign Jackson. That doesn’t mean Minnesota doesn’t have issues at the quarterback spot, and unless Brett Favre gives it one more go next year, the Vikings have to really figure something out fast at this position.
They might even trade up in the draft for a shot at a quality pick.
No matter what, Jackson walks and will land somewhere else, probably as a starter.
Matt Light, OT, New England
Light is getting up there in age and New England already has younger guys groomed for his spot. Unless he takes a one-year deal, he’s gone.
He’s probably still got something in the tank, so he could take a money deal for two or three years and then retire. He’ll help anyone’s O-line with his experience.
Kevin Faulk, New England Patriots
He sustained an ACL injury last year and while recovering this season, he’s watched his third-down spot go to rookie Danny Woodhead.
The Pats probably will re-sign Faulk for a one-year deal due to loyalty, but it's not a guarantee. Faulk would make any team better in limited play.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, New England
Green-Ellis emerged as the Pat’s every-down back and has played well. He’ll definitely get some offers, but I expect New England to not let him go, even if they draft someone like Mark Ingram from Alabama in next summer’s draft.
Joseph Addai, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Addai is the Colts' main running back and the risk is far too great to let him test free agency. He’s massively high-profile but expect the Colts to re-sign him.
Champ Bailey, CB, Denver Broncos
Denver and Bailey have been on and off in contract negotiations all season, and it looks like he will test free-agent waters.
He’s high-profile and still can play. Look for many teams who are in need of secondary help to come a callin'.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Miami Dolphins
He didn’t sign an extension offer last summer, so he chose his destiny, which was this upcoming free agency. However, he’s had a less-than-stellar year, so his value may be less.
But, while decently high-profile, I actually expect him to be back with the Dolphins, who have another free-agent decision to make at running back in Ricky Williams.
Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins
Williams has said, repeatedly, he wants to be back in Miami and retire a Dolphin. I’m not so sure. With Ronnie Brown in the mix of Miami's free-agent considerations, the Dolphins can’t afford to lose both of their running backs.
And, while Ricky has played very well this season, he is still 33. But he may be tempted by another team and would be a solid addition.
Terrell Owens, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals' best receiver is also their oldest. TO will be 38 next year, and I can’t foresee him being signed to any signifiant amount of money or longer-term deal.
So, knowing TO and what he wants, he’ll walk. And, rest assured, another team in need of a starting receiver will pick him up.
Regardless of age, TO doesn’t seem to be slowing down much and keeps his body in top shape. He’ll keep on playing until 40, for sure. He’s still productive and that’s all that matters.
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Terrell Owens' running mate both on and off the field, Ochocinco is in limbo on a player option held by the Bengals.
If they don’t exercise, he’ll enter free agency and allow the Bengals to offer up two extremely high-profile wideouts. Don’t count on it, but it could happen.
I see them letting TO go and exercising the option on Ocho. But, it would be fun for this guy to test the waters.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seattle Seahawks
This is a big choice point for Seattle and Pete Carroll. Will they stick with the aging and sometimes-injured Hasselbeck, who fits their offense well? Or, will they part ways and save money?
To re-sign him, Hasselbeck will come at a cost, not as much in money but in a longer-term deal. Not sure if that is the direction Seattle wants to go, so I expect Hasselbeck to be a free agent.
And, a very in-demand one at that.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers
He’s a free agent and a top one at that. But while tempting, there is no way Carolina lets him walk. They label him franchise if they have to.
Especially with the high probability the Panthers will have the top or second spot in next summer’s draft, they’ll take a quarterback and that will pair nicely with Williams. He’d be great on nearly every team and is very high-profile, but he won’t truly be available.
Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens
Almost as important to the Ravens defense as linebacker Ray Lewis, Ngata probably won’t reach free agency. But, wow, his name even on the potential list is exciting.
The Ravens will either work out a deal, or I expect the franchise tag. He’s too valuable to let other teams have a shot at him.
LaMarr Woodley, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
This guy is a potential free agent next season and still at the top of his game. He’s also key to the Steeler defense, so while Pittsburgh doesn’t alway pony up on their own free agents, I expect they will this time and re-sign Woodley.
If not, he will be at the top of the list of free-agent talent.
Antonio Cromartie, CB, New York Jets
He’s a big-name cornerback who will test the free-agent market. But Rex Ryan loves this guy and along with Revis, he gives the Jets two man-up single-cover guys. They’ll probably pay Cromartie and not let him walk.
Too bad, because he could really help a lot of teams.
Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers
Probably the biggest and the best free agent on the list, he’s now a long shot to return to the Chargers after his holdout to start the season.
He’s a Pro Bowler who will improve any team’s passing game, and I expect him to be highly desired. Unless San Diego nails him with the franchise tag, Jackson’s gone.
Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
This guy literally is at the top of the potential free agent list. Except for one thing: He’ll never see the light of day of free agency. Look for Philly to wrap him up, maybe even before the end of this season, like Tom Brady.
If things stall, Vick will get the franchise label. No matter what, if he was to slip out of Philly, he’d be on everyone’s short list.