NFL Free Agency Speculation: 5 Players Everyone Will Want to Sign in 2012
The 2011 season is firmly locked up in limbo and a wise man once said, "There's always next year."
With next year in mind, we are going to take a look at the top-five free agents that 31 teams want to get their hands on and a 32nd team that is trying to keep their guy.
It's not in anyone's best interest to speculate at this juncture as to what will separate the restricted from the unrestricted free agent. They will all be lumped into one pool for the purposes of this topic—franchise tags, while in use, will not be considered. There are some very big names that are going to have huge paydays when next season's signing period rolls around. That is, if there is a next season.
At this rate and with no labor deal in sight, be ready next week for my edition of "Five 2020 Free Agents Everyone Will Want to Sign" as I scour the country in search high school players that teams will be salivating over to create a roster.
Until that happens, be positive, there will be football—someday.
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The third pick in the 2007 NFL Draft to the Cleveland Browns, Joe Thomas has more than lived up to his billing.
Thomas' size, 6'6" and 312 pounds, makes him a mountain of man and he has done nothing to hurt his status as the game's top left tackle. Four years in the league, four pro bowls attended. Without a weakness in his game and many years still left on his body, more than three-quarters of the league would take a flyer on this guy.
Thomas has been criticized for a poor performance against the Atlanta Falcons in 2010, but all the players have a bad game. He has made all 64 possible starts in his career and has been tabbed as the cause for the resurgence in Cleveland's ground game.
Any team looking to run effectively and protect its quarterback's blind side will make a serious push for Thomas.
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Remember when the drafting of Mario Williams was a slap in the face to everything football stood for because Reggie Bush just came off an incredible college career (which now never happened so says the NCAA) at USC?
Neither do the Texans.
The fact is, Williams has done nothing to kill his stock and if the Texans had any semblance of a pass defense last season, Mario could have put up better numbers than his 28-tackle 8.5-sack performance over 13 games.
With a total of 48 sacks over five seasons, Williams has become one of the league's most feared pass rushers.
Every general manager in the league will be opening up their checkbooks and asking, "Ok, what number do you want me to put in this box?"
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Greenway has been a lynchpin on the Vikings highly-rated defense for the past four seasons.
Averaging over 115 tackles a season, 2010 was a very strong year for Chad as he amassed 144 total tackles and one sack.
Greenway has shown he is very effective at stopping the run and also quite capable in pass defense. He plays hard-nosed football the way it was meant to be played. He attacks ball carriers with a fury and is very disruptive in the backfield.
Many teams are looking for players that fit a mold, bring an identity. Teams that need a jolt of life into the defensive unit will be looking to sign this player.
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Grant burst onto the scene in 2007 with the Green Bay Packers with 956 yards and eight touchdowns.
Signed by the Giants as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2005, Grant was traded prior to the 2007 season to the Pack for a late-round draft choice.
In three healthy seasons, Ryan Grant ran for 3,412 yards and 23 scores, aiding the Packers in balancing a very potent offense. Injury cut his season short in 2010.
If Grant can show he is back to 100 percent in the upcoming season, little should stop him from finding pay dirt in his next deal—although, it may be his last contract due to age.
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Every team wants him. Every team needs him. Who wins the bidding war?
Seven years, 613 receptions, 8,204 yards, and 65 touchdowns. Hall of Fame? Most likely one day.
Coming out of college, Fitzgerald had the best hands in the country. In the NFL, he has the best hands in the world. When balls are thrown his way, they find pillow soft hands to land in.
Larry Fitzgerald is still very young (28 on the last day of August), and he is playing a position where age is just a number.
He wants to win and if the Cardinals are not ready to win, he may bolt out of town. He will immediately make the team he plays for better and in the right situation, we could be watching Fitzgerald in the Super Bowl yet again.