NFL Free Agents 2011: Where Will the Top Free Agents Land?
As a long, drawn out lockout nears its end, this weekend will be the start of the most transaction-active period in NFL history.
Owners, general managers and coaches alike have been planning which players they will try to court for months, and it should not take long for signings to begin.
There will be even more unknown soon to be free agents as teams such as the Dallas Cowboys get ready to trim their rosters due to the new salary cap.
There are superstars in the crop this summer, and certain teams will look to make it over the hump with signings they have been waiting for since the season ended.
The following is a list of predictions on where the top free agents might land.
Nnamdi Asomugha has been the most talked about free agent, and this is a trend that will not stop until he puts the pen to paper.
Every team in the league could use a player like Nnamdi, however only a few teams will be willing to write the check he is looking for. Somewhere between $15-20 million per season that is.
However, there will be a bidding war for this shutdown corner, and ultimately, Nnamdi's contract could set the bar for the average salary of cornerbacks around the league.
The Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles are the two teams that have been talked about the most when it comes to signing Asomugha.
However, teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins will also be in the mix.
Ultimately, Nnamdi Asomugha should sign with the Texans because they run more man-coverage defensive schemes while the Eagles tend to play zone.
2011-2012 Team: Houston Texans
Cullen Jenkins is the best 3-4 defensive end free agent on the market.
Many teams that run the 3-4 will be looking for an end with the skill as well as veteran leadership that Jenkins possesses.
The Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers will be in the mix.
The Redskins are notorious big money spenders in free agency, and signing Jenkins would be a move that would have a huge benefit for a shaky front seven.
The San Francisco 49ers will not be huge spenders, but if Aubrayo Franklin and Ray McDonald were to leave, the defensive line would be without a starting end.
Isaac Sopoaga would slide to the nose, but an end would still be a necessity. Jenkins is a great player and is very underrated in this free-agency class.
2011-2012 Team: Washington Redskins
Ray Edwards is an extremely athletic defensive end in the 4-3 scheme.
Overshadowed by Jared Allen, Edwards has quietly become one of the better pass-rushers in the league.
Many teams will be looking to add Edwards since he is young, skilled and could be cheaper than other players of his skill level.
The Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears are all possible destinations for Edwards.
The Atlanta Falcons makes sense because they need a dominate rusher opposite of an aging John Abraham.
They might lose Tyson Clabo and would have money freed up to add Edwards.
Ultimately, Edwards could decide to stay in Minnesota on one of the most dominate defensive lines in recent memory. However, Pat Williams is on his way out, and this might turn Edwards otherwise.
2011-2012 Team: Atlanta Falcons
Braylon Edwards has had an up-and-down career in the NFL.
He has been a solid receiver, but his talent may be overshadowed by dropped passes and off-the-field issues.
The New York Jets would like to re-sign Edwards but will likely choose to re-sign either Santonio Holmes or Antonio Cromartie over him.
The Miami Dolphins is a logical fit because they are looking for a vertical threat at the receiver position.
Also, the Miami Dolphins could be big spenders in this free-agent frenzy period in an attempt to bolster the roster.
Brandon Marshall would be served well with a player like Edwards who could spread the field.
2011-2012 Team: Miami Dolphins
Jonathan Joseph is one of the most underrated cornerbacks in this league.
Joseph has created one of the best cornerback tandems in the league with Leon Hall, but no blame could be put on the man if he chose to leave Cincinnati.
The Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers make sense as teams known to be looking for a top cornerback.
Ultimately after potential cuts of Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer, the Bengals may have the most salary cap out of these teams.
However, it will ultimately be Joseph's choice to return to Cincinnati.
The Lions will be in the market for a corner, and though they are also looking to fill holes at other positions of need, missing out on a player of Joseph's talents would be hard.
2011-2012 Team: Detroit Lions
Aubrayo Franklin could be the best nose tackle in the league against the run.
After holding out of camp, Franklin appeared out of shape for the start of the regular season.
However, Franklin still played at a high level and will be looking for a large contract.
The Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs will both be looking to add a nose of Franklin's talent, and it will come down to a bidding war.
The San Francisco 49ers may try to keep Franklin but will not feel great giving out a long-term contract and a salary larger than Patrick Willis to a 31-year-old.
2011-2012 Team: Washington Redskins
Stephen Tulloch is a great defender that no one really talks about.
Starting at middle linebacker in Tennessee's 4-3 scheme, Tulloch has anchored the Titan's defense well.
The New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions could all have interest in Tulloch for their linebacker cores.
If Barrett Ruud leaves Tampa, Tulloch could be brought in as a replacement and could ultimately be an upgrade at the position.
Buffalo could be in a similar position with Paul Posluszny.
Detroit needs linebackers and could spend big on Tulloch in a continuous effort to build an elite defense.
2011-2012 Team: Detroit Lions
Manny Lawson has been a disappointment for the San Francisco 49ers, and after campaigning for a contract extension that did not come, Lawson will find himself in the open market.
Although he has not recorded a ton of sacks, Lawson is an underrated outside linebacker in this league because of his ability to drop into coverage.
Lawson could be signed by a 4-3 team like Philadelphia because he has the ability to play end or outside linebacker in the scheme.
Replacing the likely to be cut Ernie Sims, Lawson would join a defense that has long been known for generating sacks.
The Philly blitz schemes could get all of Lawson's athleticism out into these blitz packages.
2011-2012 Team: Philadelphia Eagles
While Eric Weddle is not an elite safety in this league, he is a very good starter and is still an above-average defensive back in this league.
Weddle wishes to stay in San Diego, however there is a large market for the free safety position, and Weddle might leave town for a larger contract.
Jacksonville and Dallas are both known to be looking for a starting free safety, and either team would be a good fit.
Weddle would contribute solidly and Jacksonville or Dallas would not need to break the bank.
Ultimately, Weddle will land in Jacksonville because Dallas has interest in Michael Huff.
2011-2012 Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Michael Huff has underachieved in the black and silver and will likely leave Oakland this weekend.
There is mutual interest between Huff and the Dallas Cowboys, and this signing seems like a no brainer.
Huff will be an immediate upgrade over Alan Ball.
Though Huff is not a great safety in this league, he has shown signs of potential.
Perhaps when he gets on a team with a more proud recent history, he will improve his work ethic leading to a more successful career.
2011-2012 Team: Dallas Cowboys
Malcolm Floyd burst onto the scene in Vincent Jackson's absence and was a solid receiver.
There should be a decent market for Floyd during this free-agency period including San Diego trying to re-sign him.
Perhaps never a No. 1 threat, Floyd can stretch the field and would make a nice addition to nearly every offense.
The Carolina Panthers make sense for Floyd because they are in a youth movement, and Floyd is young enough to fit the bill.
Also, they are looking to add weapons for the "icon and entertainer" that is Cam Newton.
2011-2012 Team: Carolina Panthers
These are just some of the predictions for free agency that I feel confidently about.
This was not a big board list of the top free agents, so please do not comment saying, "where is Sidney Rice."
I hope you enjoyed, and this will be a couple of weeks to remember for all football fans as this unprecedented free-agent frenzy nears by the minute.
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