NFL Free Agency: Predicting Where the Top 20 Free Agents Will Land
With the draft over and the doldrums of the offseason setting in we can only speculate as to when the season will start and what the rules will be. But what the owners and the players will not be able to take away is hoping that our teams sign that one stud player that will get our team over the top.
This is a look at the top 20 free agents and their probable destination. There is no determination on who is restricted versus who is unrestricted since we don't know for sure yet what the rules will be next year.
This is all speculation since players and teams aren't "allowed to have contact." This is purely my opinion.
20. Matt Light, OT
Matt Light is a cornerstone of the New England Patriots offensive line. He has been blocking Brady's blindside for years.
Unfortunately, Father Time has caught up with Light and he is losing some of the quickness that allowed him to get in front of some of those defensive ends and outside linebackers. Last season alone he surrendered seven sacks.
Light will likely stay with the Patriots as he has been there awhile, and it gives him a chance to get another ring. Light will play on the right side for the remainder of his career, though, and Sebastian Vollmer will stay as the left tackle of the present and future.
Prediction: Re-signs with New England
19. Braylon Edwards, WR
Braylon Edwards had a knack for dropping the ball when he was in Cleveland. He looked like a bust. Then he came to New York.
Maybe Edwards loved the attention. Maybe he was afraid of the fans (more likely). But most likely he was comfortable playing in an offense where he was not the primary receiver, and that allowed him relax.
The Jets may only have enough money to sign one of their free-agent receivers, and my money isn't on Edwards. Edwards will likely see a big contract from someone as a result of last year.
The Redskins have holes across their team. Santana Moss is getting old and is currently a free agent. It would make sense to add a younger deep threat in Edwards.
Prediction: Washington Redskins
18. Charles Johnson, DE
Charles Johnson is relatively unknown because of where he has played his career but make no mistake, after last season people should take notice.
Johnson literally came from nowhere to replace All-Pro Julius Peppers. He surprisingly nearly matched his production, recording 12 sacks last year.
Johnson is young and should command some very persuasive offers. He is a corner stone to the Carolina Panthers turnaround. With the focus of Ron Rivera and company on building a solid front seven, Johnson is key to that.
Prediction: Re-signs with Carolina
17. Paul Posluszny, LB
Coming from Linebacker University, Posluszny is a shining light in what is otherwise a dismal place.
The Bills are focused on making their defense be what they are known for. The days of Jim Kelly are not soon to be back, but the days of Bruce Smith and Bryce Paup may be.
Posluszny battled injuries, missing 13 games in his first season, four in his third and two last year. Even with missing time, Posluszny was able to record 151 tackles and two sacks with little to no help up front.
With the addition of Marcell Dareus, who has a gigantic chip on his shoulder from being passed up by Carolina, Posluszny should have more room to roam and make plays.
Prediction: Re-signs in Buffalo
16. Barry Cofield, DT
The Giants are a contender right now in the NFC East. The defense is a big part of that.
Cofield would be seen as a center piece of that defense to most. A big nose tackle who can get to the quarterback and makes plays, he will be something desired on the open market.
The Giants may be waiting for Cofield to leave. Drafting Marvin Austin, they received a perceived steal in the draft and someone with top 10 talent. Austin may be Cofield's replacement.
Cofield should receive a large paycheck, but there are not tons of teams looking for defensive tackles. The Titans are on the smallish size and could use a big run stuffer like Cofield in the middle to free up Stephen Tulloch.
Prediction: Tennessee Titans
15. Eric Weddle, S
The Chargers are gambling on Bob Sanders being the old Bob Sanders. By that, they mean the productive one, not the injured one. Sanders, if he performs well, could be a steal.
Eric Weddle may be leaving the sunshine of San Diego. The top free agent safety, Weddle has a knack for getting to the ball and making tackles. He was part of the reason the Chargers had the top-rated defense last year.
The Cincinnati Bengals have a hole a safety. They drafted one in Robert Sands, but Weddle would make an immediate impact.
Predictions: Cincinnati Bengals
14. Tyson Clabo, OT
Another big offensive lineman, Clabo is a big reason that Matt Ryan's career has got off to a good start.
Clabo is an anchor on the line, paving the way for Michael Turner's breakout season and a big reason that Matt Ryan has avoided the pitfalls of most rookie and young quarterbacks.
Starting every game since 2008 and every game he has played in, Clabo is a key to consistency. He is a big reason the Falcons are contenders, and it would be strange for them to let him go at this point with the focus being on winning now.
Prediction: Re-signs with Atlanta
13. Antonio Cromartie, CB
With teams afraid to go to Revis Island, teams that wanted to pass had no choice but to throw at Antonio Cromartie. He responded with 17 passes defended and three interceptions, the most since his All-Pro season of 2007.
Cromartie has mouth's to feed, needing an advance to pay his child support. Cromartie would be wise to take top dollar.
The Oakland Raiders are in jeopardy of not re-signing Nnamdi Asomugha, and Cromartie would be a great back up plan. Al Davis loves play makers and athletes, and Cromartie is both.
Prediction: Oakland Raiders
12. DeAngelo Williams, RB
Williams is far and away the top free agent running back, but that doesn't mean he is going to be a good one. He has been injured the past two seasons, playing in a total of 19 out of 32 games. Not exactly feature back material.
Williams will likely not stay in Carolina, where the hope is Jonathan Stewart, and the emergence of Mike Goodson as a complementary back, will replace him—making Williams expendable.
Many teams are looking for a back who can carry the ball like Williams can when healthy. If winning is important to Williams, he should sign with the Patriots; if he is chasing dollars, he ends up in Miami. Either way, he will be in the AFC East this season.
Prediction: New England Patriots
11. Steve Smith, WR
The other Steve Smith is complaining about having to stay through a rebuilding period in Carolina. This Steve Smith is having far worse problems. He is a receiver coming off a knee injury.
Smith has had a very productive career and has been a huge part of Eli Manning's success. His injury, combined with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham's emergence in the passing game, make him expendable.
Smith can be very productive. In 2009, he ended the season third in the NFC and eighth in the NFL in yardage and topped 100 receptions. His 2010 stats saw a decline due to injury, obviously, but his overall yards per game were down almost 20 yards a game.
The Alaskan may look to return to parts closer to home. Seattle and Pete Carrol seem to be making the Seahawks USC North, so Smith may be one more piece of that.
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks
10. Stephen Tulloch, LB
Tulloch is largely unknown, much like list mate Charles Johnson, because of where he plays. Tulloch is no mystery to opponents, though.
Tulloch is the best player on the Titans defense, and yet no one knows who he is. He recorded 160 tackles this year, 111 of them were solo. A steal coming out of the fourth round, if the Titans look to improve, he need to be a piece of their future.
Tulloch may receive plenty of offers, but the Titans probably lock him up for as long as they can. With the Titans focus in the draft being mainly on defense, he will definitely be a priority.
Prediction: Re-signs with Tennessee
9. Davin Joseph, OG
Sure, when you think of offensive linemen you start with the left tackle, move to the right tackle and finally think of the center. No one ever pays attention to the guards. Davin Joseph makes defensive linemen pay attention.
Starting ever since his first professional regular season game, Joseph has showed a nasty demeanor that only true NFL fans could love. Joseph is a big, strong linemen who excels in run blocking schemes. With LeGarrette Blount having a breakout season, there is no reason to think the Buccaneers would want to let him go.
There are concerns about his durability as he has missed time in two seasons with injuries, but he should come back strong with proper rest this offseason. No one generally let's Pro Bowl linemen get away.
Prediction: Re-signs with Tampa Bay
8. Brandon Mebane, DT
Mebane doesn't get a ton of stats, but that isn't always the job of a defensive tackle. Any time you watch Seattle you can guarantee the Mebane will at least get a hand near the quarterback or running back as long as the play isn't run away from him.
Mebane is young and would add athleticism to any defensive line, but only one team truly needs to replace their defensive lineman right now In order to save face.
If the Redskins are able to find a defensive tackle who isn't quite so moody and a team silly enough to take on Albert Haynesworth, then signing Mebane would make a ton of sense. Signing him might be the smart thing to do anyway.
Prediction: Washington Redskins
7. Ray Edwards, DE
Ray Edwards was an absolute beast playing opposite Jared Allen in 2009 and 2010.
Edwards missed two games last year and still got to the quarterback the same amount of times. He is a workhorse defensive end who may have benefited from playing across from Allen and next to the Williams'.
Edwards is a high motor guy and has shown he is in excellent shape despite his midseason injury by boxing this offseason. He is one of many NFL player to do this in his spare time. \
Edwards has an aggressive streak that allows him to stay hungry on the field despite the Vikings' lackluster play for most of the season.
Edwards has been rumored to be a target of the Falcons, and that would be a huge pickup for them. The Vikings lack true depth at defensive end with Everson Griffen not panning out as hoped.
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons
6. Cullen Jenkins, DE
Jenkins is coming off an injury-marred season, but one that ultimately ended with Jenkins and his Packers teammate holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end.
Jenkins is getting older but is still producing, and from what we have seen in the past (Larry Brown and Desmond Howard, we're looking at you) winning a Super Bowl often leads to a pay raise.
Jenkins is a big body, but big bodies break down fast. Jenkins may not be as productive as he once was but could add value to a team who could rotate him in and out of plays.
The Packers spent the back end of the draft addressing the defensive line, and Jenkins may be thought of as already having left Lambeau.
Prediction: New Orleans Saints
5. Carl Nicks, OG
The Saints have a seriously talented offensive line to pair with it's equally talented backfield. It is no surprise that with that offense the Saints are perenial title contenders. The least experienced of those linemen is Carl Nicks, but by no means is he the least talented.
The Saints did not touch the offensive line in the NFL draft, so it would be completely shocking if they let Nicks go in the offseason. Matt Tennant is the only real backup on the line that would fit comfortably playing guard, so the Saints seemed to have placed all their chips on Nicks returning.
Playing in New Orleans and with Drew Brees is a big reason that Nicks will likely be back with the Saints.
Prediction: Re-signs with New Orleans
4. Jonathan Joseph, CB
Joseph is part of the second tier of top NFL cornerbacks. He has proven to be a true ball hawk and adds some run stopping ability, as well the ability to come up and make plays against the run.
Joseph has the speed to keep up elite receivers. The only knock on him is he constantly seems to be getting hurt, having only played one complete season.
The Bengals have some depth at corner back, but none come quite to Joseph's playing level. Leon Hall is a terrific partner on the other side of the defense and Adam Jones has shown that he still has something left in the tank. The Bengals would be wise to keep him but may not be able to if the price gets too high.
Many teams may consider him including the Buccaneers, 49ers and Eagles, as they are all looking to strengthen their secondary.
Joseph may end up spurning all of them to return closer to home and play for the Panthers, who may be without a starting corner if Richard Marshall takes his talents elsewhere.
Prediction: Carolina Panthers
3. Sidney Rice, WR
Coming off a hip injury is no joke, especially when your game is predicated on speed. Rice looked okay last year coming off the injury and had a monster game against Buffalo, scoring three touchdowns and getting over 100 yards receiving, but it is Buffalo.
With the quarterback situation seemingly getting worse, not better, Rice may need to take his talents elsewhere if he wishes to see continued success. Teams outside of Minnesota may not wish to pay a premium for a receiver who may not be what he was for just one season, though.
There were rumors that Steve Smith could end up in San Diego awhile back, and Vincent Jackson's status as a San Diego Charger all depends on whether or not there is a franchise tag in the next CBA or if the Chargers choose not to trade the unhappy receiver.
Rice would fill the void on either team, but his best bet is in San Diego.
Prediction: San Diego Chargers
2. Santonio Holmes, WR
Holmes is the best offensive player available this offseason. Playing for both the Steelers and the Jets, Holmes has made Ben Roethlisberger and Mark Sanchez' lives a lot easier.
Holmes has always played across from another strong receiver, though, so he may not be able to handle the burden if he is the only option in a teams receiving game.
With Braylon Edwards likely gone to receive riches elsewhere, Holmes will be the main focus of the Jets unless they sign another receiver. Randy Moss may be someone that the Jets are interested in picking up.
This would free up Holmes to do what he does best and find open spots on the field and then create.
Prediction: Re-signs with New York
1. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB
The most talented free agent (and possibly cornerback in the league, depending on your feelings on Darelle Revis) would make any teams secondary better. Asomugha would shut down an entire side of the field for a team and allow them to protect the other side.
Asomugha's numbers are not high, only because teams avoid going near him at all costs. Since his breakout year in 2006, teams have left him alone.
That type of respect from opponents is enough to warrant pursuit from several teams. The Raiders may not pursue him even though they are a team on the rise because of Al Davis' stubborness and his own inability to negotiate contracts that keep his best players.
Asomugha would likely want to sign with a contender. The Lions, Eagles, Jets and Packers have all been places that he has been rumored to go.
The Packers, Jets and Eagles all have at least one starting corner who can make the Pro Bowl right now. Adding Asomugha would make each nearly impossible to pass against.
Predicition: Philadelphia Eagles