2011 NFL Free Agency: Sidney Rice and 10 Others Who Can Shift Balance of Power
With the NFL lockout still in full effect, this year's free agency has a different feel to it. There are elite players on the market who seemingly don't have jobs despite being some of the best players in the world.
Many of these guys, such as Sidney Rice, could cause an immediate shift in power if they were to sign with a new team.
This year's class features not only the best corner back in football, Nnamdi Asomugha, but also some top tier receivers and a few players who quarterbacks wish to never come in contact with.
Once the lockout is lifted, it's sure to be a free agent frenzy trying to court some of these players to a new team in what will be a short amount of time.
I'm going to take a look at not only the top-10 free agents who would shift power from team to team, but a possible landing destination for them.
1. Nnamdi Asomugha
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This is where all of the free agency buzz will be once Nnamdi can start talking with other teams, and it's for good reason.
It's about as rare as a solar eclipse to see a ball thrown Asomugha's way. If you were to look at his stats you might think you were looking at the wrong player, but it's hard to pick the ball off and get deflections when quarterbacks don't acknowledge your side of the field.
The lock-down corner for Oakland is one of the best players in the league despite not being a household name.
Nnamdi will be looking for a new place to shut down receivers next year and finally get out of Oakland to contend for a Lombardi trophy. There have been talks of him teaming up with close friend Charles Woodson in Green Bay or forming a dream team corner duo with Darrelle Revis for the Jets, but I think he goes a different route.
Tampa Bay comes to mind. They are a young but good team and with the addition of Asomugha they could be great. The Bucs finally have a good offense that can score points and their defensive line will be young but solid. Their only glaring weakness is in the secondary.
Tampa Bay is way under the salary cap and could throw some serious money Nnamdi's way. If they do this the Bucs will be in immediate contention with division rivals New Orleans and Atlanta.
2. Deangelo Williams
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Deangelo may have had a forgettable year in 2010 to state it nicely but the Panthers offense was an absolute mess with virtually no passing game.
In Deangelo's previous season he had a monster year with 1,115 yards with 18 touchdowns so he is still clearly the best free agent running back.
It's hard to gauge where Williams could possibly end up if he chooses to leave the Panthers. If Miami loses both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, theb the Dolphins could be a possible landing spot, although I don't really see what would lure him to the Dolphins.
I think the most likely destination for Deangelo is with Peyton Manning and the Colts. If the Colts elect not to resign Joseph Addai that would leave them with Donald Brown and Mike Hart. Brown would obviously be the starter but the Colts would love to be able to upgrade to an elite back like Williams.
If the Indianapolis Colts could land Deangelo Williams that would put them back in Super Bowl contention. Peyton Manning throwing the ball, Deangelo Williams running the ball and Reggie Wayne catching the ball would make for must-watch T.V.
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This was a close one between Santonio Holmes and Sidney Rice. I went with Holmes because he has proved to be the best clutch receiver in football.
Holmes, who was traded to the Jets last year from the Steelers, can burn past secondaries and has the ability to make a five yard slant a 75-yard touchdown reception.
Despite missing the first four games of the season for the Jets, Holmes managed 52 receptions for 746 yards and six touchdowns. In 2009 with Pittsburgh, Santonio had his best year as a pro with over 1200 yards receiving on 72 catches.
Holmes will be on many teams' wish lists but at the end of the day I don't see him leaving the Jets. Holmes stated last year that he loved playing for the Jets and more importantly gets along great with head coach Rex Ryan.
Santonio will demand some hefty cash but the Jets can't afford to lose both Braylon Edwards and Holmes so they'll do whatever necessary to keep the speedy number 10 a Jet.
4. Sidney Rice
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Sidney Rice had quite a memorable year in 2009 with Brett Favre slinging him the ball (83 receptions, 1312 yards and eight touchdowns) but he was sidelined with a bad hip injury for most of 2010.
Rice is already one of the best possession receivers in the NFL and if he could duplicate his successes from two years ago that would solidify him as a top receiver. Just look how good the Vikings were with him, and how bad they were without him.
The Vikings drafted Christian Ponder in the first round of this year's draft but the question is whether or not Rice wants to gamble on Ponder being a reliable quarterback option for Minnesota. If Rice is a believer in Ponder, I think he stays put in Minnesota. If not, teams like Seattle, Chicago or San Diego come to mind as possible destinations.
Rice is a restricted free agent so at the end of the day the Vikings have the last say in it all. Either way I would bet on Rice wearing a Viking jersey for years to come.
6. Johnathan Joseph
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Johnathan Joseph has proven in the past couple of years that he is an elite cornerback in this league and will be for years to come.
In Joseph's past two years with the Bengals he has intercepted nine passes and has been involved in 28 pass breakups.
The Bengals will do everything they can to keep the six-year veteran, but if Joseph does decide to try his luck with another team, maybe one that can compete on a weekly basis, teams will jump at the chance to add Joseph to their secondary.
In reality there are about 15 teams that Joseph would make sense on, but the Eagles, Buccaneers and Texans stand out to me.
Of those I like the idea of Joseph in a Texans secondary that is so desperate for a shutdown corner. The Texans have a young but good offense and a really solid defensive line.
Joseph could be the missing piece to put the Texans over the top, but many other general managers will feel the same way about their respective clubs.
5. Ray Edwards
Ray Edwards had a big year for the Vikings in 2010 recording eight sacks with 37 tackles. Therefore he will be on opposing teams' radars with the potential to help turn a defensive front around.
Ray Edwards has said that he won't play for the restricted free agent amount of $2.8 million, and that he wants a three year deal good for around $15 million.
It appears that Edwards is on his way out and he has the talent to make a good defensive line great. Many teams will be in contact with Edwards but I think Cleveland has a good shot at landing the 26 year-old defensive end.
Edwards is an Ohio native so it would be a chance for him to play in his home state. Also, Edwards would be a good fit for the Browns new 4-3 defense.
Cleveland has been building it's defensive line through the draft so they are young but have the potential to be really good in the next couple of years. Adding Ray Edwards would speed up the process.
The main issue with Edwards going to Cleveland is, well it's Cleveland.
Sure they seem to be an up and coming franchise but there are other teams out there that are contenders and will want Ray, so Cleveland will have to convince him he can win in his home state.
The good news for the Browns is they do seem close to having a breakout year so they could sell it to Edwards that if he suited up with them he could be their missing piece.
7. Stephen Tulloch
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Stephen Tulloch has become one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL and is by far the best free agent linebacker available.
Tulloch exploded for 159 tackles in 2010, giving him 280 tackles the past two seasons. Tulloch was by far one of the brightest spots on a disappointing Titans team.
Tulloch will be making a boatload of money wherever he plays football next year, and nearly every team would have interest in him.
The Detroit Lions have been the rumored team with the most interest, but the thought of a mega free agent like Tulloch landing on Detroit by choice just fails to sit right with me, though Detroit does seem to be headed in the right direction.
The Buccaneers again come to mind.
They have a ton of money to spend and if Tulloch is indeed on his way out of Tennessee the Buccaneers would be crazy not to go after the big man.
8. Mathias Kiwanuka
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Mathias Kiwanuka combined for 80 tackles and 11 sacks during the 2008 and 2009 seasons and looked poised for a Pro Bowl-type year in 2010 before sustaining a neck injury. Kiwanuka started the season with four sacks in his first three games so this was devastating for the Giants organization.
The Giants have a really talented front and I think Mathias will sign with a new team during his free agency.
Kiwanuka will earn good contract when he does sign, although his past injuries will be on general managers' minds.
I think the Patriots would be a good fit for Kiwanuka and he could help the Patriots regain the AFC power they once had. Mathias would become a star playing for the Patriots and he could really make his mark on the NFL there.
9. Eric Weddle
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Eric Weddle is one of the top safeties in the league, and most people don't even know about who he is.
At only 5''11' and 200 pounds, what Eric Weddle lacks for in height he makes up for in being one of the smartest defenders in the league.
Weddle has over 350 tackles in his four years with the Chargers and has also picked off six passes. Eric Weddle is just one of those guys that is constantly around the ball, and he is about to cash in on his abilities.
If the Chargers are not able to keep their star safety, although I find it hard to believe they would let him walk, the Jaguars appear to be the early favorite to acquire his talents.
The Chargers would be foolish not to put on the full court press to keep Weddle because if newly acquired safety Bob Sanders is able to stay healthy they could be a special safety duo.
10. Barry Cofield
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Barry Cofield is hands down the best interior defensive lineman available on the free agent market.
Cofield had 54 tackles and 4 sacks last year, and at only 27 years old his best days are upon him.
Cofield wants a long term deal and all signs point to the defensive tackle signing on the dotted line for a different team next year.
I like the Chicago Bears to pursue Cofield hard. Julius Peppers lining up on the end with Cofield at tackle would be an elite combination.
The Rams would also make sense as St. Louis head coach Steve Spagnuolo was Cofield's defensive coordinator during Barry's first three NFL seasons. The Rams are a promising young team with great potential and if they could sign a guy like Cofield that would put them right in the playoff picture.