2011 NFL Free Agency Speculation: Stocks Up and Down for 5 Major Free Agents

Hayden Bird@haydenhbirdCorrespondent IJune 14, 2011

2011 NFL Free Agency Speculation: Stocks Up and Down for 5 Major Free Agents

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    With the lockout still churning out a consistent string of uncertainty, no one knows when regular free agency will commence.

    However, what we can be sure of is that when free agency does occur, it will probably be one of the most bizarre editions in the history of pro football.

    Teams will already have completed their drafts. The implication with this being that free agents will have a much better idea of where they're needed. In some cases, this will mean extra leverage for the player and in other cases vice versa.

    Yet NFL teams must be careful. Not every free agent can be evaluated the same, even though they might look to be the same.

    Also, with the collective bargaining agreement not established, general managers have to be aware that the current framework that they've become accustomed to (rules for restricted free agents, for example) may be different.

    For the purposes of this article though, the intent is to simply highlight five of the major free agents who will probably be available in some shape or form.

    (Keep in mind that the list isnt' necessarily the five best, it's just a look at five major targets.)

No. 5: Ahmad Bradshaw, Running Back, New York Giants

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    His stock: couldn't be any higher in my opinion.

    First because he's young (25 years old).

    Also, he's proven to be an effective rusher, averaging 4.8 yards a carry through his entire career, an impressive statistic.

    Finally, he hasn't been bowed down by carrying the ball an inordinate number of times in his career.

    There isn't as much concern about his legs being shot because he shared the backfield with usually one but sometimes two other running backs in New York.

    And there's also the fact that the Giants would only have to be compensated with a 2nd round draft pick. That's a comparative steal compared with most restricted free agents of his caliber.

No. 4: Ronnie Brown, Running Back, Miami Dolphins

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    His stock: down, but possibly a bargain.

    Brown proved last season that he could stay healthy for 16 games.

    That said, his health wasn't really the issue. His production fell off to a career low 3.7 yards per carry.

    Plus, Brown is 29 and is rapidly approaching the age where running backs become a shell of their former selves.

    However, he still could have some productive years left in him, it just might have to be in the right circumstances (where he isn't the focal point all the time).

No. 3: Santonio Holmes, Wide Receiver, New York Jets

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    His stock: sneaky high.

    The man who won Pittsburgh Super Bowl XLIII (or was at least a huge part in it) will test the market and probably be surprised by the volume of interest.

    If there's one thing that most teams need, it's a clutch receiver. And that seems to be Holmes' calling card (just ask both Jets and Steelers fans).

    Yet there should be a disclaimer here. It's unwise to spend too much on a receiver (check: Peerless Price).

    I would be on something happening with him, if only because the Jets have many other free agent concerns and might not have the money to resign him while remaining under the cap.

No. 2: Charles Johnson, Defensive End, Carolina Panthers

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    His stock: Way up, but is it just more inflated than Enron in 2000?

    In the current setup of the NFL, rushing the passer has become even more important than it used to be (with the defensive contact rules being as stringent as they are).

    So adding someone like Charles Johnson, who had 11.5 sacks last year, would be huge. Teams will be lining up to sign a large deal.

    Yet does Johnson warrant this? He's only had one really good year. Clearly also the fact that he played for a Panthers team that was rarely in the lead (and thus forcing the other team to pass) makes such a season more impressive, but what about long term?

    Can teams be sure that he'll keep this up? I think he can, but committing a long term deal to him might be a bit hasty. I've seen this sort of thing crash before (Bryce Paup).

No. 1: Cullen Jenkins, Defensive End, Green Bay Packers

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    His stock: Inflated higher than it should be.

    Now hear me out. I know he's a Super Bowl Champion. And I know he's a reliable pass rusher in a 3-4 defense, which isn't an easy task for a defensive end.

    Yet he's 30 years old, and while defensive ends have longer life spans than running backs, it's still not a reason to commit the kind of contract that he'll inevitably want.

    Again, I've seen this before. A player has a high value because he just won a Super Bowl, and peddles that into a massive contract over four or five years.

    Maybe the team that signs him will get one or even two good years out of Jenkins. But after that? The answer is that, frankly, nobody knows. And bad contracts kill teams the same way that toxic assets killed Lehman Brothers in 2008.

    Jenkins is a good player, sometimes a great player. Yet general managers have to have their eye on the long term picture, especially in the NFL were things can change so quickly. Someone like Jenkins will command a large payday, and all I'm saying is maybe teams can find someone who might make more sense financially (like maybe Shaun Ellis.)