NFL Free Agency 100: Top 100 Free Agents Big Board

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 4, 2015

NFL Free Agency 100: Top 100 Free Agents Big Board

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    In the NFL media world, we like to rank things. You'll see plenty of rankings this offseason talking about the best job openings, the best draft prospects and the best free agents available. But how many of these lists break down why a player is ranked at his respective spot in the order?  

    This list does that.

    Everyone wants to know who the best available free agents are this offseason, and we'll tackle that. But we're also looking at what makes the best players so valuable in the same way an NFL front office evaluates available free agents. By scouting each player and assigning a number grade to him, we're able to objectively look at players' value and upside as they hit the market.

    And thus, the NFL Free Agency 100 is born.

    In this series, we'll look at the best available free agents, ranking their production (30 possible points), durability (10 points), intangibles (15 points), upside (20 points) and value (25 points) for a possible 100 overall points.

    Production: This is not just stats, but is the player able to produce if given starting reps? This area looks at on-field ability and success.

    Durability: NFL teams won't spend big money on a player who can't stay healthy. Durability addresses existing injury concerns.

    Intangibles: The "it" factor, intangibles look at a player's presence in the locker room, with the media, in the huddle and how he'll impact the team's chemistry and dynamics.

    Upside: What does the player have left in the tank? Can he improve with better coaching, better talent around him or a new scheme?

    Value: Are we talking about a starter, a backup or a potential sleeper? Here is where we weigh the player's value on the open market.

Editor's Note

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Our final NFL Free Agency 100 big board is the product of several months' worth of scouting and related evaluations.

    Because, while completing these evaluations, we had no way of predicting the future so as to ascertain which players would remain free agents, which would receive franchise or transition tags, and which would ultimately be released and/or signed by other teams in the time between completion of evaluations and publishing of this big board, not every player on these lists is necessarily available on the open free-agent market at present.

    Since these evaluations were completed, we would like to note the following changes.

    The following players have been franchise-tagged:

    • Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant
    • Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas
    • Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston
    • Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski
    • Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul

    The following players have been transition-tagged:

    • Dolphins tight end Charles Clay

    The following players were not considered, as they were released—and thus became free agents—after these evaluations were completed:

    • Bengals defense end Robert Geathers
    • Bengals wide receiver Greg Little
    • Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett
    • Cardinals WR/KR Ted Ginn
    • Chargers linebacker Jarret Johnson (retired)
    • Chiefs tight end Anthony Fasano
    • Colts safety LaRon Landry
    • Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan
    • Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline
    • Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Gibson
    • Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans
    • Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas
    • Falcons offensive lineman Justin Blalock
    • Falcons running back Steven Jackson
    • Falcons defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi
    • Giants running back Peyton Hillis
    • Lions running back Reggie Bush
    • Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk
    • Ravens defensive end Chris Canty
    • Ravens WR/KR Jacoby Jones
    • Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen
    • Redskins defensive lineman Barry Cofield Jr.
    • Steelers wide receiver Lance Moore
    • Vikings guard Charlie Johnson

Top 100 Free Agents

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Top 100 Rankings
    RankPlayer Pos.2014 Team2015 TeamScore
    1Darrelle RevisCBPatriots 100
    2 Dez Bryant *WRCowboys 100
    3 Demaryius Thomas *WRBroncos 100
    4Justin Houston *OLBChiefs 99
    5 Ndamukong Suh DTLions 98
    6Stephen Gostkowski *KPatriots 98
    7Randall CobbWRPackers 96
    8Greg Hardy DEPanthers 95
    9Jerry HughesOLBBills 95
    10DeMarco MurrayRBCowboys 94
    11Devin McCourtyFSPatriots 94
    12Mike IupatiG49ers 94
    13Pernell McPheeOLBRavens 94
    14Bryan BulagaTPackers 93
    15Jeremy MaclinWREagles 93
    16Julius ThomasTEBroncos 93
    17Rodney HudsonCChiefs 93
    18Terrance Knighton DTBroncos 93
    19Jason Worilds OLBSteelers 92
    20 Tramon WilliamsCBPackers 92
    21David HarrisILBJets 92
    22Brian Orakpo OLBWashington 91
    23Brandon GrahamOLBEagles 91
    24C.J. SpillerRBBills 91
    25Byron MaxwellCBSeahawks 91
    26Jason Pierre-Paul *DEGiants 91
    27Mason FosterILBBucs 89
    28Charles Clay **TEDolphins 89
    29Nick FairleyDTLions 89
    30Antonio CromartieCBCardinals 89
    31Stefen WisniewskiCRaiders 89
    32Rahim MooreFSBroncos 89
    33Torrey SmithWRRavens 88
    34Sean WeatherspoonOLBFalcons 88
    35Cecil ShortsWRJaguars 87
    36Brandon FlowersCBChargers 87
    37Jordan CameronTEBrowns 86
    38Dan WilliamsDTCardinals 86
    39Akeem AyersOLBPatriots 86
    40Jabaal SheardOLBBrowns 86
    41Matt PraterKLions 86
    42Rolando McClainILBCowboys 85
    43Jermaine GreshamTEBengals 85
    44Malcolm SmithOLBSeahawks 85
    45Brooks ReedOLBTexans 85
    46Antrel RolleFSGiants 85
    47Brandon SpikesILBBills 84
    48Sam Acho OLBCardinals 84
    49Kareem JacksonCBTexans 84
    50Buster Skrine CBBrowns 84
    51Mark IngramRBSaints 83
    52Nate IrvingILBBroncos 83
    53Walter ThurmondCBGiants 83
    54George JohnsonDELions 83
    55Da'Norris SearcyFSBills 83
    56Mike AdamsSSColts 83
    57Jamari LattimoreILBPackers 83
    58Colin McCarthyILBTitans 82
    59B.J. RajiDTPackers 82
    60Corey PetersDEFalcons 82
    61Brandon MarshallILBBroncos 82
    62Mark SanchezQBEagles 81
    63Michael OherTTitans 81
    64Jared OdrickDTDolphins 81
    65Kenny BrittWRRams 80
    66Frank GoreRB49ers 80
    67Justin ForsettRBRavens 80
    68Perrish CoxCB49ers 80
    69Dan SkutaOLB49ers 80
    70Rey MaualugaILBBengals 80
    71Orlando FranklinGBroncos 80
    72Virgil GreenTEBroncos 79
    73Ryan MathewsRBChargers 79
    74Stevan RidleyRBPatriots 79
    75James CarpenterGSeahawks 79
    76Bruce CarterOLBCowboys 79
    77 Osi Umenyiora DEFalcons 79
    78Sergio BrownFSColts 79
    79Stevie BrownFSGiants 78
    80Chris CulliverCB49ers 78
    81Kroy BiermannDEFalcons 78
    82Michael CrabtreeWR49ers 77
    83Reggie WayneWRColts 77
    84George Selvie DECowboys 77
    85Stephen Paea DTBears 77
    86Eddie RoyalWRChargers 76
    87Shane Vereen RBPatriots 75
    88King DunlapTChargers 75
    89Dwight FreeneyOLBChargers 75
    90Justin DurantILBCowboys 74
    91 Knowshon MorenoRBDolphins 73
    92Hakeem NicksWRColts 73
    93Doug FreeTCowboys 73
    94Brian Hoyer QBBrowns 72
    95Jake LockerQBTitans 72
    96Wes WelkerWRBroncos 72
    97Adrian ClaybornDEBucs 72
    98Ryan MallettQBTexans 71
    99Roy Helu RBWashington 69
    100John AbrahamDECardinals 68

    * Player has received franchise tag designation since evaluations were completed.

    ** Player has received transition tag designation since evaluations were completed.


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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The 2015 offseason isn't a good one to need a quarterback—and that includes both free agency and the draft.

    Teams picking outside the early part of the first round with a need at quarterback may see this list and decide what they have is better. There's not a clear-cut, guaranteed starter on it.

    Mark Sanchez found short-term success in Philadelphia and may be back there as a competitor for the starting job. Brian Hoyer was solid early in Cleveland but was benched at the end of the year for Johnny Manziel. And if you're willing to take a risk on developing Jake Locker, he's athletic but has struggled with accuracy and decision-making.

    See full scouting reports for each player in our NFL Free Agency 100 series.

    Quarterback Rankings
    1Mark SanchezEagles81
    2Brian Hoyer Browns72
    3Jake LockerTitans72
    4Ryan MallettTexans71
    5Matt MooreDolphins66

Running Backs

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The running back depth among free agents is very good. There are several legitimate starters and more who can be impact players as third-down backs or complementary pieces.

    The gem of the group is DeMarco Murray, and the Dallas Cowboys may try hard to keep him in town. C.J. Spiller is a starter-quality running back when healthy, but he's struggled to stay on the field. Mark Ingram and Frank Gore are both power runners. But Ingram has never been a bell-cow back, and Gore is reaching the end of his career.

    How teams view one-year-wonder Justin Forsett will be interesting, but he was very good in a zone offense in 2014 under Gary Kubiak in Baltimore.

    Running Back Rankings
    1 DeMarco MurrayCowboys94
    2C.J. SpillerBills91
    3Mark IngramSaints83
    4Frank Gore49ers80
    5Justin Forsett Ravens80
    6Ryan MathewsChargers79
    7 Stevan Ridley Patriots79
    8Shane Vereen Patriots75
    9 Knowshon Moreno Dolphins73
    10Roy Helu Washington 69

Wide Receivers

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas have been handed the franchise tag, but Randall Cobb and Jeremy Maclin will be allowed to test the market. They're No. 1 receivers with big-play ability and a big payday coming to them. We all know Torrey Smith can be a solid deep threat, but he's a tier below the big four.

    Cecil Shorts may be the sleeper if healthy. He's been a bright spot with terrible quarterback play in Jacksonville, but his injury history is a concern.

    Wide Receiver Rankings
    1 Dez Bryant *Cowboys100
    2 Demaryius Thomas *Broncos100
    3Randall CobbPackers96
    4Jeremy Maclin Eagles93
    5Torrey SmithRavens88
    6Cecil Shorts IIIJaguars87
    7Kenny BrittRams80
    8Michael Crabtree 49ers77
    9Reggie WayneColts77
    10Eddie RoyalChargers 76
    11Hakeem NicksColts73
    12Wes WelkerBroncos72

    Player has received franchise tag designation since evaluations were completed.

Tight Ends

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    Athletic tight ends are all the rage in the NFL, and the 2015 free-agency class has the potential to help teams in need.

    Julius Thomas has to prove he can produce without Peyton Manning, but he's totaled 24 touchdowns in the last two seasons and has been one of the NFL's true breakout players since Manning joined Denver. Charles Clay won't be on the market after receiving the transition tag designation.

    Jordan Cameron has big promise, but his 2014 was forgettable. He was a star under Norv Turner in 2013, though.

    Tight End Rankings
    1Julius ThomasBroncos93
    2Charles Clay *Dolphins89
    3Jordan CameronBrowns86
    4Jermaine GreshamBengals85
    5Virgil GreenBroncos79

    Player has received transition tag designation since evaluations were completed.

Offensive Linemen

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    USA TODAY Sports

    There is no must-sign offensive lineman on the market, but you could easily fill a big hole and find a Pro Bowl-caliber starter in free agency. 

    Mike Iupati's 2014 wasn't good, but he's a powerful blocker with an ideal skill set for a power-running game. Bryan Bulaga has locked down the right side for the Green Bay Packers, and it'll be a surprise if they let him walk. The same goes for Rodney Hudson, who has been the Kansas City Chiefs' most consistent starter and could be their anchor as they rebuild the offensive line.

    Offensive Linemen Rankings
    1Mike Iupati49ers94
    2Bryan Bulaga Packers93
    3Rodney HudsonChiefs93
    4 Stefen Wisniewski Raiders89
    5Michael Oher Titans81
    6Orlando FranklinBroncos80
    7James CarpenterSeahawks79
    8King DunlapChargers75
    9Doug Free Cowboys73

Defensive Linemen

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    USA TODAY Sports

    As this group is currently shaping up, it'll be a league-changing class.

    Ndamukong Suh is one of the NFL's most gifted players. He will see an epic recruiting battle after not being tagged in Detroit. The same goes for Greg Hardy, who has off-field issues in his past but also league-leading talent as a pass-rusher.

    Defensive Linemen Rankings
    1 Ndamukong Suh Lions98
    2Greg HardyPanthers95
    3Terrance Knighton Broncos93
    4Jason Pierre-Paul *Giants91
    5Nick Fairley Lions89
    6Dan WilliamsCardinals86
    7George JohnsonLions83
    8Corey PetersFalcons82
    9B.J. Raji Packers82
    10Jared Odrick Dolphins 81
    11George Selvie Cowboys77
    12Stephen Paea Bears77
    13Adrian ClaybornBuccaneers72

    Player has received franchise tag designation since evaluations were completed.

4-3 Outside Linebackers

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The class of defensive free agents is very good—except at 4-3 linebacker and safety. The talent here is solid, but the majority of the linebackers are either unproven or coming off an injury that makes them a questionable target.

    Sean Weatherspoon has shown Pro Bowl-caliber play in his career, but injuries have decimated his play lately. Akeem Ayers was wasted in Tennessee but found success in New England this year. Is he worth taking a risk on outside Bill Belichick's system? The same goes for Malcolm Smith, an undersized linebacker at 6'0", 226 pounds who won't be a fit for most teams.

    4-3 Outside Linebacker Rankings
    1Sean Weatherspoon Falcons88
    2 Akeem AyersPatriots86
    3Malcolm SmithSeahawks85
    4Brandon MarshallBroncos82
    5Bruce CarterCowboys79
    6Justin DurantCowboys74

3-4 Outside Linebackers

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The 2015 free-agent class at outside linebacker would have been arguably the best ever had it not been for the franchise tag. Instead, the Kansas City Chiefs tagged Justin Houston, who led the NFL in sacks last year with 22. Even so, it's a good class.  

    Jerry Hughes was nearing draft-bust status in Indianapolis but has been a top-tier pass-rusher in Buffalo and has the versatility to play as a defensive end or outside linebacker. Pernell McPhee, Jason Worilds, Brian Orakpo and Brandon Graham all can be game-changers on defense in 2015.

    3-4 Outside Linebacker Rankings
    1Justin Houston *Chiefs99
    2Jerry HughesBills95
    3Pernell McPhee Ravens94
    4Jason Worilds Steelers92
    5Brian Orakpo Washington91
    6Brandon GrahamEagles91
    7 Jabaal Sheard Browns86
    8Brooks ReedTexans85
    9Sam Acho Cardinals84
    10Dan Skuta 49ers 80
    11 Osi Umenyiora Falcons79
    12 Kroy Biermann Falcons78
    13Dwight FreeneyChargers75
    14John AbrahamCardinals68

    Player has received franchise tag designation since evaluations were completed.

Inside Linebackers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    There is no can't-miss inside linebacker in this free-agent class, but there are capable starters and players with upside.

    David Harris has been productive, but he's limited in range and is getting older for a big free-agent contract (31 years old). Mason Foster may not be a typical Tampa 2 "Mike" 'backer for Lovie Smith's scheme, but he could play for many teams and lock down the middle linebacker spot. Rolando McClain was a potential Comeback Player of the Year in 2014, but his off-field issues make signing him a gamble.

    Inside Linebacker Rankings
    1David HarrisJets92
    2Mason FosterBuccaneers89
    3Rolando McClainCowboys85
    4Brandon SpikesBills84
    5Nate IrvingBroncos83
    6 Jamari Lattimore Packers83
    7Colin McCarthyTitans82
    8Rey Maualuga Bengals80


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    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

    Darrelle Revis headlines this list—and the free-agent class—but the New England Patriots can keep him by picking up an option on his 2015 season. And they should.

    Tramon Williams may be back in Green Bay, but he could be a starter in a lot of systems and has the experience to be a leader in the secondary. Byron Maxwell is a lock to get good money and a starting job, and I'd expect the Philadelphia Eagles to be all over him if he leaves the Seattle Seahawks.

    Chris Culliver's play is better than his grade, but injury and off-field concerns are keeping his stock down.

    Cornerback Rankings
    1Darrelle RevisPatriots100
    2 Tramon WilliamsPackers92
    3Byron MaxwellSeahawks91
    4Antonio Cromartie Cardinals89
    5Brandon FlowersChargers87
    6Kareem JacksonTexans84
    7Buster Skrine Browns84
    8Walter ThurmondGiants83
    9 Perrish Cox 49ers80
    10Chris Culliver 49ers 78


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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Devin McCourty is arguably the second-best free safety in the NFL behind Earl Thomas, and you can expect the New England Patriots to make a big push to keep him at a high price. If McCourty heads back to New England, Rahim Moore becomes even more valuable as the best safety in the group.

    Stevie Brown could be the sleeper of this class. He had eight interceptions in 2012 but hasn't had one since. 

    With a weak 2015 draft class at safety and lack of talent in free agency, the top-tier players are more valuable.

    Safety Rankings
    1Devin McCourtyPatriots94
    2 Rahim MooreBroncos89
    3Antrel RolleGiants85
    4 Da'Norris Searcy Bills83
    5Mike AdamsColts83
    6Sergio BrownColts79
    7Stevie BrownGiants78

Special Teams

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Scouting special teams players isn't something I enjoy—it's all about accuracy, power, hang time and statistical analysis. But their value and importance are huge if you're looking at how much a game can change with a good, consistent kicker.

    Stephen Gostkowski is the third New England Patriot to headline his position group, but he's been franchise-tagged. Matt Prater has been inconsistent since serving a four-game suspension early in 2014, but he has a track record of success.

    Special Teams Rankings
    1Stephen Gostkowski *Patriots98
    2Matt PraterLions86

    * Player has received franchise tag designation since evaluations were completed.


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