Free agency kicks off on Friday, so teams will soon be scrambling to make moves in order to improve their rosters for the upcoming season. This may not be the most talented or deepest free agency class in comparison to recent years, but it will still be very interesting to see how things pan out, considering that there is a strong possibility of a uncapped season.
Here’s where I think some of the best players available will end up. Do put in consideration, that this list is in no particular order.
1. Carolina Panthers DE, Julius Peppers
Peppers is one of the most dominant players in the league, primarily because of his tremendous athleticism.
Even though he’s 30 years old, it seems likely that he has at least five years remaining of production. That said, he could very well be signed to a long-term, possibly record-setting contract.
I think the best fit for him, and most likely scenario, would be the Philadelphia Eagles.
Andy Reid loves athletic defensive ends, and nobody better fits that bill than Peppers does.
Moreover, Peppers has the versatility to either play, opposite Trent Cole.
I can see pretty much every team in the league to pursue him, including both 3-4 and 4-3 teams. It will really come down to who is willing to dish out the most money, and whether Peppers is going to prioritize money or the opportunity to play for a contender.
2. Arizona Cardinals LB, Karlos Dansby
Dansby, to me, is the best player available because he is one of the premier linebackers in this league, and, at only 28 years of age, he can still be a cornerstone to a team’s defense for the next six or seven seasons.
A lot of teams could use his services, but I think, in the end, the Giants will pick up the Pro-Bowl player.
The defense took a step backwards last season, and with the release of Antonio Pierce, the team will be looking to add a stud to lead the unit back to its dominant form. In my mind, Dansby would be a great solution to their recent struggles, and it would be a wise investment for them to shell out the big bucks in order to lure him in.
3. Buffalo Bills WR, Terrell Owens
After a one-year stint in Buffalo, the 36-year old Terrell Owens is looking for a new home.
Obviously, T.O. is no longer the player he once was, but he can still make plays, and could be a legitimate No. 1 option for some teams.
I think the franchise most likely to take a risk and land him is going to be the Ravens. I think it’s a perfect fit because the team already has several leaders in an established locker room. There’s no way Ray Lewis would allow Owens to become a locker room distraction.
Moreover, both parties need each other very much, as Baltimore lacking playmakers in the passing game and the only thing missing in Terrell Owens’ Hall of Fame resume is a championship ring.
The Ravens have been close the past couple of seasons, and Owens may just be the thing to push them over the hump.
4. New York Jets RB, Thomas Jones
Thomas Jones may be 31 but it seems that he’s still got some gas left in the tank, and could still be a complementary back.
Cleveland Browns head coach, Eric Mangini, loves Jets players, and during his tenure in New York he loved Thomas Jones.
The Browns have Jerome Harrison, but with the release of Jamal Lewis, they will need to add a bruising type of between-the-tackles back to carry some of the load. Jones, who has been a consistent 1,000+ yard rusher, fits that criteria nicely.
The market for Jones appears to be pretty solid so I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up in a place like Washington or Philadelphia.
5. Miami Dolphins QB, Chad Pennington
Do you remember how Chad Pennington was swept off the free agent market, and was a key ingredient in the 180 degree transformation of the 1-15 Dolphins into the AFC East Champions?
Well, coincidentally, two years later, there’s another 1-15 team in the league. Only difference is this year it’s the St. Louis Rams.
The only certainty for the Rams at quarterback is that they will be relentlessly shopping for one this offseason. Who better to come in and be a stop-gap solution than the man who just recently proved he can do so?
I’m not saying Pennington is a miracle worker and it will be a guarantee that he can turn around the Rams, but if I’m GM Billy Devaney, I’m thinking to myself it’s worth a shot and I’m pouncing on the opportunity.
Don’t forget that what makes this move even more enticing is the fact that, if they, indeed, execute the deal, they can feel more comfortable using the number one pick on the consensus best player available, Nebraska DT, Ndamukong Suh.
As for Pennington, it doesn’t look like he will have many options. He’s got below-average arm strength, and is coming off shoulder surgery. The only other team, in my mind that is even remotely interested may be the Buffalo Bills.
Other notable free agents include:
6. Keith Bulluck: Falcons
7. Kyle Vanden Bosch: Lions
8. Ben Watson: Cardinals
9. Tully Banta-Cain: Chiefs
10. Kevin Faulk: Saints
11. Leigh Bodden: Titans
12. Derrick Mason: Dolphins
13. Ryan Clark: Packers
14. Chester Taylor: Bears
15. Dunta Robinson: Ravens
16. LaDainian Tomlinson: Eagles
17. Joey Porter: Jets
18. Darren Sproles: Redskins
19. Brian Westbrook: Unsigned (due to severe injury issues)
20. Aaron Kampman: Rams
Do note that I expect free agents Gary Brackett, Darren Sharper, and Scott Fujita to return to their respective Super Bowl teams.