2011 NFL Offseason: 25 Most Intriguing Free-Agent Options

Pat Mixon@patmixonSenior Analyst INovember 30, 2010

2011 NFL Offseason: 25 Most Intriguing Free-Agent Options

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    PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 21:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs with the ball against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on November 21, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    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

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 14:  Matt Leinart #9 of the Houston Texans looks on before a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 14, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    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

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    INDIANAPOLIS - SEPTEMBER 19: Adam Vinateri #4 of the Indianapolis Colts kicks a field goal during the NFL game against the New York Giants  at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 19, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    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

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    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

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 17:  Richard Seymour #92 of the Oakland Raiders warms up before their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on October 17, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    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

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 17:  Nnamdi Asomugha  #21 of the Oakland Raiders breaks up a pass intended for Michael Crabtree #15 of the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on October 17, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    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

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    SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 31:  Running back Darren Sproles #43 of the San Diego Chargers is pursued by Michael Griffin #33 of the Tennessee Titans in the game at Qualcomm Stadium on October 31, 2010 in San Diego, California. The Chargers defeated the Titans 33-
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    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

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 31: Darren Sharper #42 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates a play during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Louisiana Superdome on October 31, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images)
    Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images

    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

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 24:  Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 24, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    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

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    MINNEAPOLIS - SEPTEMBER 2:  Tarvaris Jackson #7 of the Minnesota Vikings passes the ball during warmups prior to an NFL preseason game against the Denver Broncos at the Mall of America Field at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, on September 2, 2010 in Minneap
    Tom Dahlin/Getty Images

    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

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    DENVER - OCTOBER 11:  Offensive tackle Matt Light #72 of the New England Patriots prepares for pass protection against the Denver Broncos during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 11, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Pat
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    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

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    FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Kevin Faulk #33 of the New England Patriots looks on before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals during the NFL season opener on September 12, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
    Elsa/Getty Images

    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

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    FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 31:  (ALTERNATE CROP) BenJarvus Green-Ellis #42 of the New England Patriots scores a touchdown the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Gillette Stadium on October 31, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Ge
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    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

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    DENVER - SEPTEMBER 26:  Running back Joseph Addai #29 of the Indianapolis Colts rushes against the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 26, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    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

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    DENVER - OCTOBER 24:  Cornerback Champ Bailey #24 of the Denver Broncos runs onto the field before taking on the Oakland Raiders at INVESCO Field at Mile High on October 24, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    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

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    CINCINNATI - OCTOBER 31:  Ronnie Brown #23 of the Miami Dolphins runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 31, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    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

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    MIAMI - OCTOBER 4: Ricky Williams #34 of the Miami Dolphins runs for a touchdown against the New England Patriots at Sun Life Field on October 4, 2010 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    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

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    FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Terrell Owens #81 of the Cincinnati Bengals is unable to hold on to a pass against the defense of Devin McCarthy #32 of the New England Patriots during the NFL season opener  at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2010 in Foxbor
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    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

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    INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 14:  Chad Ochocinco #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals reaches for a pass during the Bengals 23-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 14, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    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

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    SEATTLE - NOVEMBER 28:  Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Seattle Seahawks throws a touchdown pass to Chris Baker in the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Qwest Field on November 28, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. The Chiefs defeated the S
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    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

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    NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 03:  Usama Young #28 of the New Orleans Saints tackles DeAngelo Williams #34 of the Carolina Panthers at the Louisiana Superdome on October 3, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    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

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 13:  Haloti Ngata #92 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after a play against the New York Jets during their Jets home opener at the New Meadowlands Stadium on September 13, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by J
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    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

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    NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 31:  LaMarr Woodley #56 of the Pittsburgh Steelers hovers at the line of scrimmage during the game against the New Orleans Saints at Louisiana Superdome on October 31, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Saints won 20-10 over the St
    Karl Walter/Getty Images

    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

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 03: Antonio Cromartie #31  of the New York Jets lines up against  the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 3, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. The Jets won 38-14. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    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

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    SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 17:  Wide receiver Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers runs with the ball after a catch against the New York Jets during  AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 17, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo b
    Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    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

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    CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 28: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks for a receiver against the Chicago Bears trail the play at Soldier Field on November 28, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Eagles 31-26. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Gett
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    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.