NFL Free Agency 2011: 10 Most Valuable Free Agents on the Market
While Nnamdi Asomugha and DeAngelo Williams will draw most of the media attention between now—sorry, I mean between when free agency starts—and the start of the season, they certainly won't represent the best value on the free agent market.
The best teams tend to shy away from big-name free agents because they are very often overpaid. Can you name me the last time the Patriots, Steelers, Colts or Packers gave a free agent $10 million a year?
You won't see it happen often. However, you will see lesser known players arrive and ultimately make a name for themselves playing crucial roles on their new teams.
Here are ten guys that represent the best value for money as free agents.
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With a pair of Jets—Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes—as well as a Super Bowl Champion and pair of former first choice receivers—James Jones, Santana Moss and Mike Sims-Walker—all garnering attention among free agent wide receivers, Lance Moore seems to be falling through the cracks.
Moore is a fantastic possession receiver who has the ability to take the ball to the house from deep. Moore had eight games last season in which he had at least five receptions. This is startling, considering he wasn't even a starter for the loaded New Orleans Saints' offense.
His final totals of 66 receptions and 763 yards are not that impressive; however, his eight touchdowns are somewhat remarkable when you consider who else Drew Brees has to throw to.
Moore has sure hands and runs very good routes that will allow him to succeed in other offenses. He will never be an outside starter but should excel in the slot elsewhere. At 27 years of age, he is in his prime and has plenty of years left to contribute.
He is also a major contributor on special teams, specializing in punt returns.
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For as long as I can remember, David Akers has been a reliable kicker for the Philadelphia Eagles. Akers is not going to return to Philadelphia, who drafted Alex Henery in the fourth round of this year's draft.
He may be 36 years old, but kickers can last into their forties. He is likely suffering from his demise in this season's playoffs against the Green Bay Packers. Akers missed two kicks, but as we later found out, his daughter was undergoing tests for cancer at the time which was likely taking its toll.
To blame him for lacking focus in those moments would be unbelievably harsh. Akers was still a Pro Bowl kicker last season, marking the fifth time in his career he has represented the NFC. In fact, he also has been a first team All-Pro four times while making the second team once. To top it off, he was the kicker for the NFL's 2000's all decade team.
He doesn't have the biggest leg but he is consistently accurate and is a more-than-capable kickoff option.
Akers and Adam Vinatieri will be the most sought after kickers in this year's free agency.
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It's going to be difficult for Arian Foster to repeat his success from last season. He is essentially entering his sophomore season (having sat for most of his rookie season), which is often difficult for players who had early success.
Even more importantly for Foster is the loss of the big man that was clearing his way. Vonta Leach, No. 44 pictured above, has been told that he will not be returning for next season.
Leach was a linchpin in the Texans' offense, clearing the way for Foster to amass 1,616 yards rushing. This is why it came as somewhat of a surprise when the 29-year-old fullback was told that he would not be brought back in Houston.
Foster is a very good blocking fullback who can also carry the ball if needed or catch it out of the backfield. He will be a brilliant addition to any team looking to run the ball repeatedly, or for a team looking for another option on third down.
Leach's blocking and physicality will appeal to most teams in the league.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis' worth to the New England Patriots fell substantially after the NFL draft. The team's running back additions have made for quite a crowded back field.
Green-Ellis has been a good runner for the team through this point in his career. However, he may not want to return to the Patriots, as he could get more money and be more valuable to another team that wants him to carry more of the load.
He is a bruising running back that is suited to see lots of touches in whatever offense he plays in. Green-Ellis is 25 and has very little wear and tear on his body. He is essentially a one-year starter but nonetheless has never fumbled the ball in over 300 career carries.
His 13 touchdowns last season were just as impressive as his 4.4 yards per carry. He is not the most explosive player, but he will give any team that signs him tough running between the tackles with the ability to break chunks of yardage also.
He won't hit home runs from his own half but can run over secondary players and had enough pace to record a career long of 33 yards. The Patriots will happily keep Green-Ellis, but it is doubtful that they would bid against any other team that shows interest.
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Brodney Pool will never set the football field alight like Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed, but he will bring a degree of trust to any football team that offers him a job.
Pool is a very reliable player that is a sure tackler and doesn't get caught out in coverage often. His solid play makes him a good tweener to cover both safety spots or even start for some teams. Pool has been a full-time starter in the league for the Cleveland Browns and even started 12 games for the Jets last season.
His consistency has allowed him to notch an interception in every one of his six seasons, which tells you that he is more often than not getting into the right positions even if he is not the most physically gifted. Pool is the type of player that will always have a role on an NFL team. He looked to be a cut above his teammates in Cleveland and never looked out of place on the contending New York Jets.
The 27-year-old has plenty to give to which ever team signs him for the next five to seven years of his career. It won't be a surprise if the New York Jets try to bring him back, which tells you all you need to know about the type of defender he is.
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The San Diego Chargers had one of the best defensive units in the league last season. They ranked 10th in points, a huge part of which is owed to their perilous special teams play.
Kevin Burnett excelled in starting every game last season for the first time in his seven-year career. His impact from the middle linebacker position was a major coup for the Chargers, who picked him up after he left the Cowboys two years ago.
Burnett seems to have finally clicked with the Chargers and they will likely want to bring him back. However, that shouldn't prevent other teams from taking a look at him. His six sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles make him an impact player who could help any team with his kind of production.
What will hold his price down is the fact that he has only produced on this level for one season. This should not put off potential suitors completely, however, as Burnett is only 28 years old and could still have his best football ahead of him.
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Not many people are talking about Jared Gaither. Gaither's injury ruled him out of last season before it even began.
The Ravens' struggles in protecting the passer should have highlighted just how talented Gaither is, but very few people seem to even mention his name as a premiere free agent. That is, of course, for one simple reason.
Gaither has struggled with injuries the past two seasons. Nonetheless, during his time on the field, he has excelled as a blindside protector. Should his recent injuries prove to just be a tough spell rather than a recurring issue, he will be a great addition to any team looking for a left tackle to rely on.
Left tackles are not easy to come across and a good one costs a lot. Gaither has as much talent as any other in the league, but due to his injury struggles, he won't cost anywhere the norm. The team that takes a chance on him will receive unbelievable value if he stays healthy.
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Kirk Morrison's level of play somewhat dropped off in his new surroundings with the Jaguars last year.
Nonetheless, he remains a reliable middle linebacker that will give which ever team signs him consistency in pass coverage and dominant run stuffing. Morrison is not a highly-heralded name in this free agent class, as he falls behind the likes of Paul Posluszny, Stewart Bradley and Barrett Ruud.
It came as a surprise when the Oakland Raiders—that is, if anything that franchise does surprises anyone anymore—drafted Rolando McClain and traded Morrison. At that point he had compiled five seasons with combined tackles over 100 each year.
Morrison more than excelled in Oakland, but the promise that came with McClain made him expendable. He looked to be a steal for the Jaguars as they only gave up a fourth round pick for a fifth round choice and Morrison.
Whether it was the poor front seven he was a part of or the fact that he just did not fit with the Jaguars' defense, Morrison's level of play dropped off last season. He remains only 29 years of age, and if he captures the form he showed in Oakland over the years, then he will be a huge asset to which ever team signs him to a contract.
Morrison is a proven starter that will probably become a great fit with one of the teams moving to the 3-4 as the second middle linebacker.
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It's difficult to determine how Ike Taylor will fare on the free agent market. He likely won't be considered a top-tier free agent corner next to Nnamdi Asomugha and Johnathan Joseph.
Taylor's value will take a hit because of his poor hands. He has only 11 interceptions in his career, playing for one of the best defenses in the league. Although most fans judge defensive backs by their interception totals, it is difficult to assert how front offices will look at Taylor.
In reality, the Steelers will hope that Taylor is overlooked because they desperately want to re-sign him.
While it is not the most talked-about aspect of a cornerback, Taylor happens to be the best tackler in the league at his position. His value to the Steelers is huge because of that very fact. He cannot come up with the catches on a consistent basis, but he constantly shadows the opposition's best wide receiver and does a brilliant job on him.
Taylor is 31 years of age, which may also deter some teams, but his value will be huge to the Steelers at the very least. Cornerbacks in today's NFL are crucial, and so are often overpaid on the open market.
Taylor's lack of interceptions may actually be helping his team for once.
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Cliff Avril is the forgotten man on the Detroit Lions' defensive line. The young pass rusher has been impressive on a struggling defense for the past two seasons. However, that has been overshadowed by the dominant performances of Ndamukong Suh as well as the leadership of Kyle Van den Bosch.
The offseason addition of Nick Fairley has taken the spotlight away from the importance of re-signing Avril. Nonetheless, the Lions won't have forgotten about him and will be desperate to bring him back.
The 25-year-old defensive end possesses a quick first step and has shown over the past two seasons that he can get to the quarterback. He has racked up at least five sacks per season throughout his first three years despite never once completing a full 16-game schedule.
Avril has his best years ahead of him, and with a stronger unit around him, will break double-digit sacks next year. He is flying under the radar right now as Ray Edwards, Cullen Jenkins and Mathias Kiwanuka all are attracting more interest than he is.
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